Sri Lanka is India without the hassle
By Russell Johnson
"It is India without the hassle." - Arthur C. Clarke
I could see what he meant about his adoptive country. The people are fine featured, well educated, and it doesn't take five of them to complete a simple task. You see poverty but it doesn't grate at your conscience in scenes of maimed beggars. And once out of the capital city of Colombo, the world dissolves into a lush green dream. Banana and pineapple, teak forests, queues of brightly coloured umbrellas bobbing through rice fields. Elephants blocking traffic.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

I stopped at an elephant orphanage and watched a herd bathing in a river. It was led by a curmudgeonly bull who snorted elephant epithets when I violated his space. I raised my camera to take a picture and heard hissing behind me. I swung around to make eye contact with an enormous reptile. This was not the gecko on the shower stall. The monitor lizard looked to be about five feet from his first lethal incisor to the last bony plate on his tail and walked with the gait of a constipated pit bull. It "monitored" me, (rolling its eyes like Groucho Marx) dismissed me as a wimp and not worth the trouble, and swaggered away.

I brushed by Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth where elephants dress up and have a grand gala every August and where I lodged at the musty but marvelous old Hotel Suisse. It had grand hallways and huge rooms with shutters that swung open and a circular bar tended by a gap-toothed man with greasy black hair slicked back over his ears. I went to Sri Lanka's "cultural triangle", the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Mihintale and Polonnaruwa, and walked in the rain amongst acres of some of the most inspiring Buddhist heritage sites I have ever seen.

Now I know why my Sri Lankan friends - who have lived the foie gras of New York and San Francisco and Singapore - all say they want to go back to their villages to retire.

But Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital city, does not evoke such images. It is noisy, petrol-stinky. Driving requires a sort of entrepreneurship endemic to South Asia. My driver leapfrogged smoke-spewing busses, nosing back to the proper lane barely in time to avoid trucks that came roaring from the other direction blasting warnings from their airhorns. We slalomed around circuses, leftovers from the Brits who claimed this as one of their outposts (along with the Dutch and the Portuguese). We drove past police checkpoints, reminders of a civil war that despite ceasefires and periodic bursts of optimism still nags and kills. "Our little problem," as Sri Lankans call it, has had little direct effect on travellers aside from scaring them away. We dodged past statues depicting, in the European tradition, Great Leaders gesturing their right hands into the air like opera singers belting arias. One G.L. had enormous ears.

Arthur C. Clarke lives in a neighbourhood called Cinnamon Gardens where, as in many matured cities, fashionable homes have been converted to embassies, advertising agencies and schools. Leslie's House, named for Clarke's late longtime companion, is located next to a girl's school. It looks as if it has been a work in progress for the thirty some years Clarke has lived here. Modern appendages clash with colonial charms. A garden in back has served as his salon for the world of good men and great who have come to call. Friends such as the late Isaac Asimov who wrote him a limerick:

Old Arthur C. Clarke of Sri Lanka
Now sits in the sun sipping Sanka
And taking his ease
Excepting when he's
Receiving pleased notes from his banker

Clarke says he is especially fond of the time he spent with American newscaster Walter Cronkhite and the good old "man-on-the-moon-days" when together they shed tears on first touchdown.

"I hope you are not intimidated." said Clarke as I entered his office. He was referring to the yipping chihuahua that charged toward me.

Pepsi skidded to a halt about three feet away.

Clarke introduced me to the tiny beast he originally named Pepe. His Sri Lankan friends couldn't pronounce it, however... always adding an S. So the name of the cola stuck. Clarke got up from his chair and called Pepsi. The dog hesitated a moment and came to me instead. I have an extreme negative predisposition to two animals on this earth: monkeys and chihuahuas. When I was a child, my best friend owned a shrewish little mutt that made shreds of several of my pantlegs so I expected the worst. Pepsi, however, was more like a housecat. He nuzzled my hand when I leaned over to pet him.

We walked into the garden and talked.

Clarke's mind moves like a ballet dancer, jetéing from one subject to another, but always returning to earth in the right spot.

Following talk and tea we headed back to his office. He wanted to show me a computer programme he was using to landscape Mars the way he thought it would be when it was colonized. I had a 3D modelling/virtual reality program on my laptop. We were a couple of little boys comparing captured bullfrogs (You show me yours, I'll show you mine.) Clarke talked about his friend Mandelbrot and fractals (which I have yet to grasp either technically or spiritually) and rendered one Marscape after another. -Connected Traveller

Laugh Zone
Escape from prison
Three women escape from prison... one is a redhead, one a brunette, and one a blonde. They run for miles until they come upon an old barn. They decide to hide in the hayloft and rest for the night. When they climb up, they find three gunnysacks and decide to put them over their heads for camouflage.

About an hour later the sheriff and his deputy come into the barn. The sheriff tells his deputy to go up and check out the hayloft. When he got up there the sheriff asked him what he saw. The deputy told him he saw only three gunnysacks.

The sheriff told him to find out what was in them so the deputy kicked the first bag, which had the redhead in it. She said "Bow-wow" so the deputy told the sheriff there was a dog in the first one.

Then he kicked the one with the brunette in it and she went "Meow." The deputy told the sheriff there was a cat in the second one.

Then he kicked the one with the blonde in it and there was no sound at all, so he kicked it again and the blonde said, "Potatoes."

Ransom note
A blonde woman was down on her luck. In order to raise some money, she decided to kidnap a kid and hold him for ransom.

She went to the playground, grabbed a kid, took him behind a tree, and told him, "I've kidnapped you."

She then wrote a note saying, "I've kidnapped your kid. Tomorrow morning, put $10,000 in a paper bag and put it under the pecan tree next to the slide on the north side of the playground. Signed, A Blonde."

The blonde then pinned the note to the kid's shirt and sent him home to show it to his parents. The next morning the blonde checked, and sure enough, a paper bag was sitting beneath the pecan tree.

The blonde opened the bag and found the $10,000 with a note that said, "How could you do this to a fellow blonde?"

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