Your Yurt, Or Mine
Your Yurt or Mine.
Being Jewish on Christmas Eve is not so much fun.
Sipping green tea while waiting for Chinese take out for his dinner from The China Villa Restaurant and wishing the owner Shirley a very pretty Chinese woman and her husband and son a Happy Holiday, They thank Jewish people for their support during the Christmas holidays says Shirley.
It’s about 8:00 pm in the evening when Isaac decides to go back to his office at Ketchum McCloud and Grove Advertising Agency located on the twenty first floor of the Gateway Building. With a view of the entire city lit up for the Christmas holidays. Buildings windows lit in the shape of a Christmas tree or a star.
Isaac, a 24 year jewish young man, who is an art director for an ad agency with a reddish rough bearded unshaved face and dark curly hair. At the ad agency, he had a reputation as a fun-loving, wise guy with a bit of a clown to him— he actually rode a unicycle in the halls of the ad agency, at this time his career is going great and having fun and making lots of money for his age. Creating ads for clients such as Rubbermaid, Clorox, Bank of America and Evenflow a baby bottle nipple account. Issac comes up with ideas for both print and television advertising. His small office walls were made of baby bottle nipples sheets stapled to the walls before the rubber nipples were cut out and put on baby bottles. His fantasy is to bounce off the walls. He had a fake palm tree with a real parrot in a cage hanging from it. Magic markers on his drawing board for creating storyboard art. Many cups of old coffee and tea lingering on his desk. Sometimes he wore a super wide tie that looked like Peter Max drew images of the Yellow Submarine characters on it.
The creative department was fun place to work. Secretaries in mini skirts and fake eye lashes. Tattoos, and pink hair. Across the hall was another art director with a total dark office smoking a joint.
Isaac’s advertising career grew fast after art school and he made good money for his creativity. Earning more money in one year than his immigrant father Handsome Harry the barber, as his friends called Harry, earned in ten years owning a barber shop. Isaac, did not want to follow his fathers footsteps to cut hair so he went to a commercial art school. Taught mostly by professionals who worked in the advertising business.
Empty halls, dark offices and blinking lights.
As Isaac walks past the dark empty offices decorated with tinsel and Christmas reefs and Santa with fake presents at his feet, In dark hallways only lite by Christmas lights blinking, he felt an emptiness in his heart and a longing for a lady friend. He seemed empty and wanted someone to share the holidays with. He wishes for a lady to have dinner and go to watch Christmas movies at the old Manor Theater and share reheated popcorn. Or walk through the holiday lit department stores with fake snow inside and Bing Crosby singing “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” the smell of perfumes in the department store lobby with store employees spraying perfume on you wether you wanted it or not. People rushing up and down escalators past manakins dressed in the latest cruise wear clothing in frozen manakin poses, shoppers trying to get their last minute presents gift wrapped with big bows and decorative holiday wrapping papers wrapped by little old ladies on the third floor. Scarfs and ties, sweaters and necklaces, books and electronic gadgets. And even fancy gold watches. Or maybe he could hold her hand while ice skating at the nearby city ice skating ring. He would show her how he could skate backwards and forwards and they would skate side by side to the organ grinding music. And eventually fall on their buts and laugh. But that was only a thought.
At the ad agency Isaac met many beautiful young ladies working on the three floors of advertising agency. Women from all over the world. Some with pierced nose rings, some with big tattoos of angel wings on their back or words tattooed “Don’t look back”, he tried to date them. He went to a few parties and ended up in an apartment complex swimming pool with a few topless women, where you had to bring your own alcohol to drink. He flirted with them. But somehow it never worked for him. “Can’t fish at the company pier” his uncle Joe told him. He went to bars, and met many women who looked desperate but was not sure if he wanted to date a smoking and drinking lady. Sometime he would find some comfort and paid for companionship, but afterwards he felt less respect for himself.
Art is his love
Isaac was mostly alone. He enjoyed his life that way even though he seemed popular. The loneliness creeped into his brain and played weird mind games with him. Isaac painted at night in his art studio at home. His paintings were filled with loneliness, and imaginary women. He got attracted to Asian women. Almost an addiction. Would go out of his way to try to meet them. Often walk through China Town or Asian communities and admire their family ways. Eat at Chinese restaurants, Japanese Sushi Bar or Vietnamese Phoe and Thai Noodle places. Hoping to meet the woman of his desires. He liked the way they looked, their walk and manors and black long hair. Started up conversations with Asian waitresses and his mind would wander and thoughts about going home with them, meeting their families. Most of them lived with their families far from the commercial tourist area of China and Japan Town or Little Siagon.
At the office he was fun and outgoing, he dressed sloppy, mismatched socks, and sometime would wear the same clothes for three or four days in a row, even food stuck to his sleeve. Telling jokes and bringing cookies and dozens of jelly filled donuts for the secretaries. He would show off his latest paintings. Isaac loved to paint. Landscapes, still life and sometimes portraits. Once he did a self portrait down to his waist and somebody hung a pair of underwear under the painting. Everybody liked Issac and pulled him aside to gossip with him. Even the owner of the company would come and sit in his office on a broken love seat with springs sticking out. At meetings he was the first to come up with ideas. He never took notes and often would look out the window as clients talked about their advertising needs. His brain produced ideas long before the clients finished their conversations. His ideas were very good and often he would upset the agency by speaking up with his ideas to soon. He could draw well and show his ideas on a chalk board. He was also very good at designing on a computer. He knows the latest graphics programs and how to repair his frozen Mac computer. Directing photographers on photo shoots and directing film crews on tv shoots to what he wanted to produce. Issac would argue with film directors on the camera angles or how the actors delivered their lines. Clients liked his energy because he would have more ideas than they expected. Account mangers would try to ruin his ideas but Isaac insisted what he thought was right. And usually he won.
Isaac’s parents both passed away when he was attending art school. His dad from cancer and his mom from coma, both died within a few months of each other. His Uncle Joe helped raise him. Joe had his own home and lived close to him and also lived by himself. Joe would check in on Isaac every Wednesday and Sunday. It became a tradition. Uncle Joe worked with Issac’s father both as a barbers. Joe continued to run the barbershop after Harry past away.
Isaac lives by himself in a big house left by his parents, about twenty minutes from his downtown office.
A big turn of the century house built in 1902 with three floors and a basement. Wood beams across the ceilings and wooden oak floors with tiled fireplaces in every room. Built in dish cabinets in the dining room filled with bone china dishes rimmed in 24 karat gold trim, and bay window that looked out onto the porch with a wood bench swing that hung on chains. There were two pine trees in front of the house. One tall and the other small. Harry used to say the tall tree was him and the smaller one was Sarah his stepmother.
The house was untouched since his parents passed away and was becoming run down. Plastic still covered the couch. Antique dishes in the cabinets. boxes in the closets. High school yearbook on the shelf. Old shoes in the hallway. The VCR still blinking12:00 for ever, most furniture was the same as when his parents were alive. A Chinese black lacquered bar with bright red walls inside holding shot glasses with dragons painted on them.
Sara and Harry, Isaac’s parents took many photos. Photos of them as a younger couple were still on the mantle above a tiled fireplace that was never used. A painting of a portrait that Isaac did in art school of his uncle Joe is still hanging on the wall next to the easy chair recliner where his father Harry used to sit and watched TV. Sometimes Harry would fall asleep in that chair. Sara was in the kitchen cooking. This was a happy home for the immigrant family. Humble and paid for by his fathers hands clicking scissors cutting hair in his barber shop. Sara cooked most meals and even brought food to the barbershop to save money. They were frugal. Sara hand made noodles and home cooked almost every night.
Since they had passed. The house had become run down and has a need for a woman’s touch, also a plumber and a contractor. The kitchen had hardly been used by Sara. paper bags in the dishwasher. Sara put in a new kitchen a few years back before she passed away. She cooked in the basement where the old stove and refrigerator ended up next to the washer and dyer so as not to get the new kitchen dirty. On the second floor, next to the dark wood winding stairs. Are four bedrooms. Issac’s room looked unto the street. His bedroom furniture now had become very old. The bed was starting to sag in the middle. Issac had great memories growing up in that house. Harry’s bedroom had a cracked ceiling and was never repaired until one night it crumbled and fell on their bed while they were sleeping.
Isaac would come home at night and see the full moon in between his and their neighbors house. In the back of the house there was a rundown garage that Isaac converted into an art studio. Cold evenings would be warmed by a 300 watt light shown on the canvas. Sometimes he would hire a nude model and draw her. He made over 1000 drawing from one dancing model. She danced to music and he drew her.
He always had a canvas on his easel that he was working on. Sometimes painting large sunflowers. Sometimes painting traditional still life, or impressionist landscapes. He always was painting. Most evenings he stayed at home and painted.
Search Engines Find A Perfect Match.
At the office that Christmas evening Issac searches the internet on internationalcupit.com a site that features mostly Asian women when he stumbles upon a Mongolian Match Maker site. He saw most women in Mongolia were beautiful, Chinese plus Russian mix. Dark hair with almond dark eyes and great features. Some were born with a blue spot on their lower back. Names like Jargalsaihan, Dawka or Khadsuren and Lkhagva. One was as beautiful as another. Ganges Kahn had done well spreading the seed to produce beautiful women. Issac clicked on many photos but nothing over inspired him.
On this site he sees a beautiful photo of a young lady named Saruul from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia he could not believe how beautiful she was. Instantly he fell for her. Elegant in her dress and posture. An innocence about her captured him. She was everything he wanted, exotic lips and round black eyes. She did not look like she wanted to be a model or movie star. But as beautiful as any model or movie star she was. She seemed to just want to meet a nice guy and become friends. Isaac makes contact with her. Tells her she is the most beautiful woman he ever saw.
At first she is shy, and asks him many questions. Is he married, have you been married she asked. What he does for a living, and shortly she begins to trust him. She enjoys chatting with him. They send many photos back and forth. She thinks he is funny, smart and like his easy natural conversation. She tells him she is vey religious and believes in going to church. Jesus is her belief. This is ok with Isaac even though he is Jewish, because he thinks everybody needs something to believe in their life. To help him get through the night. His belief is in art. Painting is his religion. God comes through his brushes he tells her.
He asks her why she is so religious and she said after her break up with her last boyfriend she decided to go to church for comfort and savior.
After a while he is very infatuated with her. He tells her almost daily that she is the most beautiful woman he ever saw. Saruul a thin, tall and has beautiful Asian / Russian features. long fingers and dresses very well. Saruul always dresses very nice and her make up is pretty. Sometimes her Asian eyes would hurt her from to much eye shadow. Or looking at her Nokia phone screen for to long.
She is his dream woman. Isaac thinks of her almost every moment. Almost in a fog over her. At work and when he is home painting he thinks of her. He painted a portrait of Saruul. Reddish dark brown hair, soft big lips with lavender purple lipstick and beautiful brown black eyes. A turquoise swirl background to add emotions to his painting. They both couldn’t wait to talk to each other every day. She shared photos of Ulaanbaatar with busy traffic streets, mountains in the distance covered with snowy peaks, the green hills at the foot of the mountains and ger or yurts and how people lived. She worked at her mothers grocery store. Lunches that were under one dollar. Also photos of her at church and with friends.
He also shared his feelings and photos of him and his paintings.
He liked to watch old Woody Allen movies, and get ideas to talk to her from the films. While watching “Play it again, Sam” he listens to Humphrey Bogard tell Woody to go kiss her, and he tells Saruul he wants to kiss her. She replies only on the head and never on the lips.
He sent her presents and was happy to be her friend, and she also was happy to be his friend and sends him a toy Yurt. This went on for 3 months. He chatting with her in the middle of the night (her daytime). Sometime he felt she was next to him. He longed for her scent, her perfume, her body oils and wanted to touch her hair. But had only to imagine what that would be like 5051 miles away.
Saruul tells him about Ulaanbaatar the city she lives in Mongolia and he tells her about his world in San Francisco. He loves art and shares his paintings and photos of him.
Saruul family comes from an ancient tribe the Shiwei which dates back to the 14th century.
Her day job is working in a grocery store that her family owns. Groceries in boxes on the floor. Potatoes, cabbage and meat. Mongolians eat lots of meat. Pure Mongolian beef is healthy to eat. No pesticides.
They both talk every morning when she wakes up and mostly every evening when she is ready for bed and he is waking up. They share their thoughts, their feelings, their stories of their day. She is on his mind every minute. All he wants to do is talk with her. They developed a true trust. A true friendship and love for each other.
Saruul is very religious. Goes to church every Sunday and belongs to church group. Most of her friends are church friends. God is in her life. In her spare time she goes to small villages nearby and try to recruit Mongolians to become Christians. Plays guitar in a group and sing songs about Christ. Sometime at a town square or a small mall.
Mongolia is big flat country with mountain ranges in the distance. I don’t think there is a tree in sight. Roads end and villages of yurts or gers as the are called appear from nowhere.
The Other End of the World
Camels bellowing, moan and groan against the bright starburst sunlit sky, men in fur hats and leather faces chanting and cheering. Women and children watching intensely. The smell of meat cooking on hot coals. Men on horses riding kicking up dust of the plains. The blue sky with big white puffy clouds touch the snow peaked mountains in the distance.
Two Mongolian wrestlers are throwing each other on the grassy field. Up to 1024 wrestlers challenging each other during the Naadam festival They pounce on each other. Grunting and breathing heavy. They grab each other by their wrapped cloths. Zodog their clothing are called. In the background there are Throat Singers singing in three octaves. A big festival with tents and yurts in the backdrop of the Mongolian landscape.
Genghis Khan considered wrestling to be an important way to keep his army in good physical shape and combat ready. Wrestling is the most important of the Mongolian culture’s historic. Folk wrestling as it is called Bökh or Khapsagay means “durability.
In the crowd men dressed in deel which is still commonly worn by both men and women both outside major towns and in cities, especially worn by herders. Deels are mostly worn by elderly people, or for festive occasions.
Saruul cheers on as she watches her brother Bymbaa wrestle to win the match. Bymbaa is big and strong also very clever. He can fix most mechanical things that breaks. When you are out in the plains of Mongolia if it breaks you have to learn to fix it yourself. Truck motors, flat tires and washing machines.
His sister Saruul throws a towel over her brother Bymbaa. And congratulates him on his strength and physical power to win the match and tells him to hurry because she has to go home and chat with her American friend on the computer. It’s getting late in America so she doesn’t want to miss him.
Saruul rushes into her parents Yurt or Ger as they are called and hurries to sit down to chat on her ancient Dell computer that shares wifi from another yurt 50 yards away.
Her mother tells her dinner is ready. Her mother Naraa serves a dish called Buuz (steamed filled pockets with meat.) But Saruul instead grabs a piece of byaslag (cheese) as she is to excited to eat. Starts chatting with Issac her new American friend.
How to Live in a Yurt
A yurt (ger) is a very basic, traditional tent-like structure favored over centuries by nomadic Turkic peoples stretching from Mongolia to Central Anatolia. The yurt has traveled well over time from basic living quarters for nomads and soldiers.
Inside the yurt there are rooms divided like a pie. A metal oven with a chimney for heat.
Winter in Mongolia can be very hard. Average temperature is 40 degrees below. With climate change possibly 60 below.
Living in a ger or sometimes called a Yurt. Life in a ger is not easy. Privacy is lost fast.
Saruul changes from her western clothing and put on her tribal outfit. Headband with feathers, dress made from leather and puts on her boots. Warm fur lined coat and fur boots. She goes to the foothills of the mountains and sings a prayer song to find a true love. A man who will take care of her. The white clouds seem to move swiftly as she prays and sings.
He thinks of Suruul as absolutely beautiful. And not just another girl. She was meant to be for him in this great big world. Some of his friends say that he should maybe move on. They teased him about sending her an airplane ticket to come visit him. She probably is a guy, haha they laugh.
Then one day he gets enough courage to ask her if she will come to San Francisco to see him.
Saruul tells her mother Naraa that she has been invited to come to America. She is so excited and starts thinking of what to take clothes to pack. Is it warm, is it cold she asks herself.
Winter in Sunny San Anselmo
An average of 60 degree weather in the day and 35 at night. Issac is dressed in a ski hat puff jacket, shorts and flip flops. He get’s into his old 450sl Mercedes sports car and drives to the airport to meet the woman of his internet life. Finally he is going to meet her in person.
Issac arrives at the airport gate holding fresh flowers and a hand written sign reading “Your Yurt or Mine” As the gate opens his heart starts to get excited.
There are many asian people getting off board with surgical masks. He is looking for her.
Then comes a big Mongolian wrestler dressed in a deel and a fur hat, next to him is a elderly elegant woman also dressed in traditional Mongolian clothing. With head dress and colorful clothing both wearing surgical masks.
Their colorful clothing stands out in the crowd. Issac sees them and wonders where Saruul is. They see him and recognize him from a photo she is holding. They walk towards him and talk to him in broken English “we are pleased to meet you I’m Zaya and this is Bymbaa a Mongolian wrestler” The wrestler picks him up and gives him a big hug. The elderly elegant woman has a surgical mask over her face. She takes of her mask and revels her beautiful face. Black brown eyes that mesmerize him as she looks into his eyes. and hands him meat filled buuz as a present. He thinks to himself how beautiful she is. Long flowing dark silver hair, blown by a breezy air conditioner at the airport hallway, as they stand gazed at each other’s eyes. He realizes that she is much older than her photos on the internet. And is wondering if this is Saruul, the woman he has been talking with romantically with for the past three months. Or is she someone else. He thought that his mind was fooling him. At first Issac is confused and overwhelmed. Where is his beautiful young Saruul. And who is Zaya? Has he been duped?
They insist on going to his home. He feels he has little choice as they all squeeze into his little green sports car with six large oversize leather suitcases strapped with a mans belt and package tape. The elegant lady sitting in the back sideways and the wrestler barley squeezed into the front seat. They drive down the 280 freeway from the airport with the car limping like a old wounded complaining camel. Issac point out the city lights from the view crossing the Golden Gate Bridge through fog thats building up through the rainbow tunnel entering Marin.
They arrive at Issac’s house. An old house with a heavy oak door and a porch that has broken wicker furniture and a swing bench hanging from the porch ceiling. Two cats come meowing for food. Issac shows Bymbaa and Zaya their rooms for them to spend the night at his rundown house with broken leaking dripping plumbing and wobbly table. He points at a painting he made of Harry and Sarah and some leaning against the wall halfway unfinished.
In his mind he thinks he has been taken advantage of and she is not the young Saruul and wants them to leave in the morning but he is mesmerized by this elegant beautiful woman and her gentle manors. Her quiet voice. Her way she prays for him. She says she will pray for their happiness while they stay with him. Issac is not used to religion. His family would go to attend the high Jewish holidays and sometimes they lite candles on Friday nights. But not overall a religious family.
In the morning, Issac’s Uncle Joe arrives wanting to meet this beautiful woman from Mongolia. When he is startled by this beautiful elegant elderly woman. And feels welcome with her gentleness. He whispers to Issac. “Zaya is quite a beautiful elegant lady.
During the night Bymbaa fixed the wobbly table and stopped the dribbling leaky rusty faucet in the kitchen. The house was clean and breakfast smelled great. A Mongolian breakfast.
Issac has to leave for his day job at the ad agency, but first he shows her his favorite room, a converted garage. His painting studio. a big canvas on the easel waiting for paint. An old black leather sofa sitting on an oriental rug. Chrome lamps and baskets filled with props such as old glass bottles and wooden bowls for setting up his still life to paint from. Sometimes he paint persimmons and oranges or green apples.
Maybe he paints classical still life with fruits and bottle of wine and books on a oriental carpet. Or maybe sunflowers like Van Gogh.
She says that maybe a painting of Saruul the way you feel about her. Yes he says, I will start tonight if you will be my model. But Zaya says use your feeling of her, don’t copy from a model or a photo.
At the ad agency things get hectic and deadlines are overdue. Meetings and more meetings. Time sheets and empty cups of coffee. Storyboard drawings and copy writers making last minute changes. The smell of markers and the sounds of printers spitting out images of ads. Computers overworking and sometimes freezing up. Secretaries bringing in lunches. Some Chinese food and some are eating burritos or salads.
Issac is approached by fellow workers. Did you pick up your friend from Mongolia at the airport last night? Was it a guy. Haha
When are you going to bring him in for us to meet? Asked another.
Issac changes the subject.
His mind drifts and he is thinking of Zaya and what happened to Saruul?
Painting from the heart
As Isaac was painting one night. Zaya walked in and looked at his painting. She said the painting lacked emotions. Art should come from your feelings and not from your brain. Your paintings look to much like the masters are standing behind you and telling you how to paint. Get rid of Rembrandt, get rid of the classical painters. They are dead and come from another time. Be yourself. Issac had no clue to what she was talking about. All his life he thought he was a good artist, able to draw and paint good paintings. Painting like in the history books, or museums. The Pope on a horse, dark landscapes, following rules. Sometimes copying paintings from old books. He would even trace pictures and transfer them to a canvas. He looked for approval from his parents when they were alive, also from people who didn’t understand art. They liked how real it looked. The art school he went to mostly taught technical how to paint and very little self expression. How to apply paint to canvas and mix colors or composition and perspective. Very boring art.
Zaya asked him where is Isaac? Where is the real artist? Isaac, sheepishly would look at her with less confidence. Almost wanted to hide behind his canvas. or have Zaya leave. He did not want to look inside of himself. Most people don’t. Scared to express their feelings. But Zaya said we are all humans with emotions. Isaac was still confused.
She decides to ask him to create an abstract painting. No subject, no images, only colors texture and shapes. He is not sure if he wants to paint an abstract. His response is anyone can paint an abstract. Just throw paint on a canvas and walk away. Or drive a motorcycle over the canvas.
Then Isaac put a bright yellow color on the canvas and says I meant to pick up red paint but somehow I chose yellow. Zaya says you pick a color because you really wanted yellow, Your brain said red but your first instinct was yellow.
Isaac painted for over an hour, fighting subject that would appear and blocking out suggested faces, suggested landscapes, he was wrestling with himself and fighting off images. His canvas was completely covered with textures and colors.
Zaya takes the canvas from Isaac’s easel and hangs it on a nail on the wall.
They both look at it and she asks “what do you see in those shapes and colors?”
He tells her he sees this beautiful woman, a woman of his desire and how much he longs for her. How she could not be with him and wonders where she was.
Then Zaya tells him to focus on one part of the painting. He picks out a part that looks like a profile face of a woman. and points to it. Zaya tells him to do another painting of that area but not copy it and to paint it from what he feels.
Isaac paints on a large canvas. He throws his emotion onto the canvas. His shoulders get big, his breath is hot and his feelings are expressed. He almost is throwing paint onto the canvas. Again no subject just shapes and colors. He works fast and is breathing heavy. The painting is gaining energy. Much stronger than the old paintings leaning against the wall. Now the door opens to a new world. He paints with emotions and strong inner feelings. No longer staged paintings. Colors become brighter and cleaner and more vivid.
Then Zaya puts him to the test and asks him to point again to part of his new painting and again paint a new painting.
Isaac puts on a new large canvas on the easel. This time he turns up the music that is playing in the background. He turns it full blast and picks up a large brush and with a powerful emotion he slams a big shape of purple color then hot pinks and bright greens surrounded brilliant reds and oranges. Colors so bright and strong. He is painting pure and feels like nothing can stop him,
Zaya is amazed she sees his body has become an instrument of his painting. He is dancing to the music and painting brush strokes that are dancing to the music.
The shapes take form of a beautiful woman.Her eyes look directly at him and the face is of beauty that only a fine artist can paint with true emotions. Her hair is flowing like ocean waves with colors of orange and pink with green threads. Her lips are pink and juicy with white highlights. She is wild and lose, she is soft and colorful, she is sensitive and mature. Isaac is smiling while he is painting and feels he is in a glow or a zone.
Then he stops. Exhausted he leaves and goes to bed and tells Zaya he will see her in the morning.
The next morning Isaac is up early and is drinking a cup of coffee he made with his French coffee press.
He is feeding one of the three cats he has when he hears footsteps coming down the steps and thinks its Zaya. but he looks up and sees this beautiful young woman. And he can not believe what he sees. Escorted by Bimbaa is Saruul, dressed in a beautiful traditional Mongolian outfit, bright teal silk with hat and tassels and little gold slippers. Zaya took off her old woman make up to fool Isaac and became Saruul this wonderful beautiful woman that Isaac had wanted. And she wanted him but wanted to make sure he was true.