In Fortune Hotel, a new anthology of alternative travel writing, Scottish graphic novelist and playwright

GRANT MORRISON finds a different kind of enlightenment in Karachi and Kathmandu.

'.'.’::'-::s: Grant Morrison

KARACHI, PRE-DAWN. THE PLANE'S BEEN ON the 'l'armae for an hour. reliuelling. Through the \\'llltlt)\\'. darkness resolVes into ttlt'porl huildings. I‘lat root‘s. do/ing aireral't. limergent sunlight is developing the eity like a photograph in a tray: grain) I'orms sharpen to l’olat‘oitl pt‘eeisiott. :\ eit_\‘ that looks like none I‘Ve e\‘er seen hel'ore is slo\\’l} I'Ioodlit until e\‘er} little stone and partiele ol' tlttst easts a I‘ieree hlaek shadow.

‘A'ril'ui'lli . . .‘

It isn‘t the first time either oI~ tis hate stated the linking oln‘ious and l I‘ear it won’t he the last.

Me and in} old pal l'li‘ie haVe deeided \\ e need to Visit Kathmandu. Ile and .Ianiee hax'e a hahy on the \\a_\': this ma} \\ ell he the last time that we get to do something this stupid. A ten- amhient alhums into the deeade and new eome all the way Irom (ilasgou' to elaim the almost—instant enlightenment promised in a reeent Sunday-night (iotl—slol speeial. \shieh l'olloued a Iikeahle man in a hat doun Irom Kathmandu to the plains ol' India in the l‘ootsteps ol‘ the Buddha.

II‘ Buddha eould attain enlightenment at age thirty-In e. then surer nothing eottld stop us attaining it right now. .-\re \\ e not totinger and se\ier than I’rinee Siddhartha'.’

In Kathmandu there is a sin/m h} the name ol' S\\a_\amhhtmath. \thieh demonstrates one ol'the dil'lieulties inherent in writing ahout this part oI‘ the \\t)l'ltll it all turns into Rud_\ard l‘ueking Kipling gi\ en hall the ehanee. 'I‘he promise is gi\ en that an} pilgrim \\ho dares ascend the temples three hundred and si\t}— the stairs \\'I'I’II()I"I‘ ().\'(‘Ii S'I‘()I’I’I.\'(i 'I‘t) RIiS'I‘ is guaranteed enlightenment in this lil'e.

I’s_\ehede|ie post—mods. e_\ nieal and \xonderstruek. simultaneousl} helie\ing e\er_\thing and nothing. \se ha\ e old} one eoneern in our minds.

ll'lmI/Urm ii'il/ our ('n/ie/m'n/nvnl Iii/w.”

104 THE LISTJ z. '

'Kathmandu smells of damp plaster in the cellar, of piss and cinnamon.’

Grant Morrison

I’m laughing sareastieall)‘ no\\ as the plane goes tip into the dawn and hate no idea that I‘ll he returning home in a week with the eom ietion that the strueture of space-time has heen explained to me by in} own unl'olded tiIth-dimensional sell'.

‘\\‘e‘re on the wrong side to see the Ilimala}as.’

'I‘he eaptain's just rela_\ ed the had news. 'I‘here's a moment of horror that our ol‘I-the-peg (ion/oheatnik adrenture's in danger ol' getting oil to a Hat start and then we settle haek to View the most horing seenes a\'ai|ahle to amone in a plane tilting o\'er the planet‘s most impressixe mountain range. The sk_\' momentarily tie—d}ed applegreen. sal'l'ron. like paint atomi/ed aeross a eam'as.

'l‘he pilot‘s l'lghl.

JUST AROUND THE eorner from the K(iII [Kathmandu (itlesl Ilousel. on (‘hhetrapati 'I‘hamel. the Blue Note har does jam and hlues t'or \\'annahe heatniks. 'I‘he Vodka’s like \xater. so rum and (‘oke looks like the hesl het. lip on the root garden. glasses are ehimed.

"I‘he s_\ stematie derangement ol~ the sensesl‘

‘I .et‘s he drunk for ex erl'

.\'o diee: the Blue Note sheds its customer at hall—past ten. \s’hereupon l'lrie and I hit the streets and emhark on an impromptu (/t'rirt'. losing ourseh es in a sodium-lit sliado\\—eit_\ ol‘ rotting garhage heaps. eratered \\;t\le lots and lallen \\alls. .v\ll eolours are the same eolour. The roads are deserted. Kathmandu smells ol' damp plaster in the eellar. ol~ piss and einnamon. (‘rumhling paintiohs are held together h_\' torn posters l‘or loeal e\ents and Indian l'ilms. 'I‘he uhole ell-Vs smouldering like ineense in the night’s radiant heat. haunted h} Ilindu gods and hodiless 'I’ihetan masks. Kathmandu tllssttl\ ing in the dark.

\Ve ehanee upon a proeession. glimpsed in the \ertieal (‘inemaseope hetueen houses. \Veird. shining rites in (ierman l{\prcssionist al|e_\s. 'I'he sleighhell sounds and de\otional ehants mesmeri/e its. like eliildren draun to the glamour of an adult part}. ('andlelight throus I'laring \lltltlo\\s and seintillates ol‘l‘ sequined saris. \Ve mom in. The light and ehanting get eloser. and something like a merr}-go—rotmd is sailing to\\ards tis doun the lanes. .\ eirele ol‘ shimmering daneers eloses in.

Extracted from 'It Was The 905' by Grant Morrison, one of a selection of stories in Fortune Hotel: Twisted Travel Writing edited by Sarah Champion, published by Hamish Hamilton on Thu 3 Jun at £9.99. © Grant Morrison 1999.