Thursday, April 24, 2008


Remembrance day, November 11, the date chosen is the date that marked the end of WWI, a day to remember armed forces of the British Empire, it is called Veteran's day in the USA. One of my first memories of poppies. I never saw a poppy in my life till I moved here. Every year on Nov 11, the English would go out on the streets to sell paper poppies. I grew up in a British colony, North Borneo. The slogan is 'a poppy is to remember' or 'lest we forget'.

I get excited seeing red poppies growing in fields in Italy. Pictures and drawings of red poppies evoke in a lot of people fond memories of Europe. The last trip, in March to Rome, it was too early for those poppy fields but I did see a small patch behind fences at the Teatro Massimo.
Why poppies? It is the time of poppies in Southern California, the ubiquitous orange colored California poppies are every where. Every garden seem to feature Icelandic poppies. I was walking around my neighborhood one day and found these poppies growing openly. These are opium poppies, you can see the seed pods, I don't think they are legal in California but the home owners are just using them as an ornamental plant. Wow, opium poppies up close and personal. I am familiar with the resin of these poppies. My grandfather was for the major part of his life an opium addict. I know first hand the ravages of drug addiction on families. My father at the age of 13 when the Japanese invaded had to be head of household. My grandfather lived with us till he died at 84 or till the day he killed himself. There was never a day of peace, when he needed money for his fix, he didn't stop nagging. We cut our teeth on confrontation. He used to take me to the opium den, I'd wait outside while he went in for a smoke.
Yesterday I went to Youtube to do some research on poppies, found some disturbing videos on poppy growing and opium addiction. The growers of opium are themselves and their families addicted to the resin of the beautiful poppy plant. I watched Afghan women smoking opium pipes and blowing the smoke into the mouths of their toddlers. I saw Asian women smoking with their toddlers with them. I'm not surprised because while growing up, we had neighbors who processed opium resin and had their kids involved. Even today, the many mini 'Meth' labs that operate at home involve their children.
I watched videos of junkies. One thing that struck me was they are so boring, they don't do anything, they just sit there or lie there. They just space out. What's the fun in that. As Julia Child said, 'life's the perfect binge.' Life is the perfect binge.
I had wanted to write about my love for the poppy flower because it is a reminder of Europe and I digressed into a whole different topic.

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