August 1, 2001: It was my birthday, another birthday spent in Shaolin. And, more important, it was love at first site. Yes, love. And it was grand.

And it was obvious. That first look, that longing gaze into the eyes, the almost certain evidence of overwhelming yearning desire. Yes, it was obvious. I had seen it before. One certain and unplanned step into a local wushu school, here in Dengfeng, China, near Shaolin, and there she was. A younger woman, of Chinese descent, who functioned as a teacher of mathematics and Chinese. And she was beautiful, with her dark engaging eyes, long brown hair, and that absolutely incredible smile, one that I started to think, she only reserved for me. All packaged in a slender and slightly transparent white cotton dress. And, a twinkle, yes, a twinkle in the eye that would have put the north star to shame. Yes, love was in the air, and it was obvious.

Of course, it had helped that I was a relatively older and experienced man, well seasoned in the various aspects of love, courtship, and relationships, but it had also helped that I was a trained medical professional, one who had learned all the various physiological responses that one sees in normal human anatomy and physiology. And, much like any other environmental response, most human bodies respond to these things in similar fashions, fashions that, after the appropriate training and experience, are so very easy to identify. Oh, it was just a beautiful thing to observe. The sudden increase in respiratory rate, the slight pursing of the lips, the occasional swipe of the tongue over the lower lip, the dilatation of the pupils, the various and sundry alterations in cutaneous skin vascularity that resulted in flushing of the face, and engorging of various types of erectile tissues, the increased sweating of the palms, the gentle and slow heave of the chest, the oh so quiet but slightly audible sigh that emanated from the lips, and the barely noticeable movement of the extremities, as they maneuvered and fidgeted aimlessly and purposely; all evidence of a physiological response that coincided with that ever-present longing for love and companionship. I could smell the veritable hormones in the air, as they surged through the body, looking for their various target organs in order to prepare them for the almost inevitable and awesome act which was soon to inevitably follow. As I gazed upon her face, a face which was atypical in its design and presentation, I could only think of what the future might bring for both of us. I could tell, through my well educated and insightful powers of observation, that this was definitely going to be quite the experience. And yes, I could see all these physiological signs of incipient and overwhelming love from distances normally not appreciated by the human eye. I was that good.

But I just couldn't see any of them on her. I even suspected that she might have despised me.

But, despise, hate, love, what the hell. They're all feelings. And, better a beautiful woman despise you than not care at all. At least, I had felt, that a feeling was a feeling, and, it was something to work with.

It didn't help that she spoke only Chinese, and I spoke, only English, and, might I add, occasionally a version of unintelligible New York English, but, I had felt I had had a chance. This was an opportunity I was just not going to let go of.

So, over time, we started to converse. And, after a half an hour, we had known each other's names. I couldn't pronounce it, and I certainly can't remember it, but, it most definitely had a sweet melodious tone. I asked her to write it on my forearm, right next to my list of things to do the next day. But, a milestone had been reached. She knew my name, and I couldn't remember hers. And names, they just are not important. For, it is what I call, the "look", that matters. It's all in the eyes. And the smile. And you really know that you're getting somewhere when those eyes shine. When they twinkle.

Oh, let's get back to business here. No, you're not stupid. Yes, this isn't August 1st; actually, it's more like December 1st. But damn, I've been busy. Busy with home and backyard projects, busy with PBS television specials, and busy with visiting monks from Hungary. And, praying at night. But we won't talk about that.

There's a lot of new stuff for this update, which I'll get to in a minute. But first, let's review a bit of a milestone here. August 1st is basically two things. First, my birthday, which, I might as well remind you, you forgot. Hell, at this age I don't like being reminded of it anymore anyway, so, I'll cut you a little slack. But, more importantly, August 1st represents one year from when we started counting visitors to this website. Well, it's when the server started keeping accurate statistics. So, that's when we started counting. And, way back in June and July, when we had hit the 200,000 visitor mark, the big question of the time was, "Will we hit a quarter of a million visitors in the first year?"

And, the answer was, yes. Barely.  250,107, at least, when I checked it, from Shaolin. On August 1st. Hell, everybody had forgotten my birthday, so I had nothing else to do that day. Quite the accomplishment for a small insignificant web site. Talking about insignificant, let's get back to our story.

Oh, damn, she was cute. I just wasn't going to let this go. Having decided to continue with my newfound success, and having run out of the five Chinese words that I knew, I decided to make a sudden advance. No sense backtracking now. Too much ground had been gained, and it was most definitely worth the risk to try to get more out of this budding relationship. I went for the book.

Yes, the book on the table. It had pictures in it, pictures of Europe. Pictures of France. It was then that I had realized, quite sorrowfully, that this book might actually have pictures of French people, a thought which brought me back years and years ago, in my mind, reminiscing about one of a few trips to France, and Paris, that I had made. And I started to think to myself about all those years of schooling, both in high school and in college, during which I had taken many, many courses in the French language. Yes, I had been quite the little "Parley-vous Francais" French speaker back then. And I had traveled Paris quite a bit back in those times. And I had spoken to many, many a French mademoiselle during those trips. God, talk about beautiful women. They are most definitely a sight to behold. Beautiful, oh so immensely beautiful, with attitudes to match, but also, and I hate to say this about so lovely a group of human beings, stupid. Yes, no doubt, they were stupid. I just could never understand why, despite how many times I had tried to speak to them, they could not understand their own language.

But the reminiscing stopped, and my mind and my attention returned to, oh, I forgot her name. She kind of noticed that I had forgotten her name, so, she quite busily, found a small ball point pen, and started writing her name yet again. This time, on the side of my bald head. I thought about that for a while, and wondered how the hell I was supposed to read that.

We started turning the pages of the book, with me sitting on the couch next to her, with her, sitting on the couch next to me. One small delicate lovely smooth thigh next to one large rough ugly hairy one.

"This is a castle. Can you say 'castle'? It is a big house. A fang tse". I figured I would impress her with my overwhelming knowledge of all five Chinese words I could remember.

No response. Just a lovely little smile, and that ever-present twinkle in her eye.

Oh, that twinkle. It just sent shivers up my spine. It really made it difficult to concentrate. But, let's get back to business here. Lot's of new updates to the site, probably far more than you've got time to spend with. Here's just a brief listing of some of the new and exciting things you can spend your time with:

    * Ever wondered about some of the life histories of some of my monk friends? Well, you can read some rather dry, INS visa application quality bios of some of the main guys here, at least, from Shi De Cheng's camp. Read the bios on Shi Xing Wei, Shi Xing Xi, and Shi De Cheng,  in the Monks bio section. It will give you an idea of where these guys came from, and what they do with their lives. Actually, interesting stuff to some degree. Now, if you really want to read a bio that will twist your panties, you should read mine. One day, I'll even think about writing something down.
    * Oh, the emails never end. And the topics just seem to get better and better all the time. "Should I go to college or become a monk?".  The Shaolin abbot's "new" view of gong fu. A youngster's fight with alcohol addiction and it's devastating consequences.  The dastardly influence of yours truly, uh, me, on the sacred Buddhist nature of the monks. Oh, it's good this issue. Damn good. Boy am I in trouble. And it's all  in the Topics section. Make sure you read them, and be prepared to talk about them, in the Discussion Forum. There will be a quiz.
    * Talk about talking. You asked for it, and you got it. Yet another Chat Room, though, this time, one that will follow you around as you traverse through the web site and the Discussion Forum. So, head on over to the Russbo Chat Room, log in, "disengage" the chat room from the browser page, and start reading all the rest of this shit that I'm publishing this episode.
    * Oh, there's more. And you're probably wondering what happened to the babe and the castles. But first, news of a very well written diatribe on the realities of fact versus fiction versus tradition, entitled Stories, written by the well known author RJ West, in the Shaolin Scholar section. Who's RJ West? Funny you should ask. I didn't know him either. Still don't. But, he's become quite the intellectual email buddy. It's about time I had one of those. And we spent quite a bit of time together working on his new upcoming book on Shaolin history, and history of the martial arts in general. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present, RJ West. A new contributor. And buddy. Pretty soon he's going to want to go to church with me....

So I turned the page. "Oh look, another castle. Did you ever figure out how to say 'castle'?"

No, she didn't. But, I did get that awesome smile, and that gazing look into my eyes, with that ever-present twinkle.

I figured I had better move on, for fear of losing her up to now undivided and longing attention. I turned the page.

"Wow. Cool. Another castle..."

Smile. Twinkle.

She started to remind me of all the great success I had had with the French babes.

Oh, the French babes. One of these days girls, I'm coming back to your little country, with all that tremendous food, and all that stuff you're famous for. You know, that French thing that you're famous for. Now, what the hell was it again..... Oh yes. That French bread. Yes, one day, I shall return. My return is going to put MacArthur and the Philippines to shame. I can just imagine the conquest now. And, all that French bread. But, back to more updates:

    * Now that you know who RJ West is, let's look at some of his works. And they're all good. If they weren't, they wouldn't be here. He's got some history of Tiger Crane, from an ancient manuscript, which I've published in the Shaolin Scholars section. And, also in the same section, some interesting, enlightening and educational stories about some of his travels to Asia. Four great little stories, each with their own flavor and subject, and, of course, principles to learn, by RJ West, entitled China, Nepal, Thailand, and Philippines, all in the Shaolin Scholars section. If you're in the traveling mood to that part of the world, make sure you check these out.
    * Our veteran travelers to Shaolin, Kevin and Suzanne, write about their last journey with you know who to Shaolin, during DocTour 2001. OK, so it wasn't an official DocTour, but, everybody seems to be calling it that lately. Especially the guy that spent most of the trip with his head in the porcelain throne. Make sure you check these out; some journals written by people who have been there: one from Kevin, and another from Suzanne. We're still waiting for the Jeff stories to come. He's been putting bits and pieces of his gut wrenching experiences in China with us on the Discussion Forum. Harass him there for more details.
    * Talking about harassment, we're still waiting for Arhat's story about his journey with Shi Yan Ming to Shaolin this summer. Head on over to the Discussion Forum and give him hell.
    * Oh, and our famous "father of god knows how many children", Wong Fei Hung, submits not only one, or two, or three, but, god knows how many books on ancient Chinese culture, and, one on Manchu history, all to be found in the Foundations section. If you want to get smart, like our favored Mr. Wong, make sure you read these. If you want to find out how many kids he really has, or, what he's done to have so very many, you had better talk to him. I stay out those things.
    * Another tremendous piece of literature, which ties together the various aspects of ancient Oriental thought with Chinese culture, in Foundations/Culture, also submitted by Wong Fei Hung (father of how many?), in the Foundations section.
    * Another book, this one in Adobe Acrobat Reader form, on The Fundamentals of Mediation Practice, submitted by James Howard Jones. You can read it in a new section of the site, called the Library. OK, so few of us have ever set foot inside one of those. It really isn't all that scary a prospect. Now, this book is really a good read, but, before you start it, make sure you've got plenty of time. It's a biggie.  And if you don't have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, I'm surprised at you. You can get it here, or download it while you're in the Library. Oh, and no talking while you're in there. I've met the librarian. Nasty little one is she....
    * Noted author and email buddy RJ West submits some of his suggestions for excellent reading, this time, on the realities of life as a monk. You can find his choice picks in the Bibliography section. Some of these suggestions are hard to find, so the best of luck. Try hard though, he's never let me down when it comes to reading material. And if anybody finds the Goullart book, please let me know.
    * Our noted Buddhist disciple, and one of our favorite contributors, Fa Hui, writes a beautiful response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, a day which will not be forgotten for a long time. It's a "must read".
    * Guess what's coming? Yes, all the stuff I promised the last time. Like, a whole barrage of new gong fu videos, from Shi De Cheng, Shi Xing Wei, and the rest of the gang. Once I get around to producing them.... A virtual tour of the Shaolin temple, once I get the software figured out.... Doc diatribes on Fear, and Life in Dengfeng, once I sit down and write them.... PIctures from my last journey to China, including travels to Xinjiang province and the Gebitan (the Gobi Desert, for those of you who know less then five words of Chinese). And the DocGear store, which will be online soon, provided I don't screw something up (again).....

Yes, it was yet another castle. I slowly inched my thigh closer to hers. My elbow brushed next to hers as I slowly turned the page. You could feel the magic in the air, the freshness of a newly found relationship, the joy of embracing the warmth of an absolutely wonderful female, the pleasure in knowing that she was not only cute, but, she also weighed less than me. What an opportunity. What a new experience! Oh, such a warm bubbly feeling was erupting in my chest. What a joy to be alive! To travel all these miles, through all these hardships, and all that time. To be sitting next to such an angelic creature, so capable of loving and warmth, so full of love and desire. I energetically turned the page, all the while thinking of the next few weeks, training during the days, walking hand in hand during the evenings, up and down the night market streets, watching all the people eat bugs and other inedible shit. Oh, what a vision. What a romance. What a story this was going to be.

"Look. Another castle."

Damn French. What ever happened to the L'Arc De Triomphe? The Napoleon War Museum? Le Louvre? The Paris sewers? Where were the pictures of the good stuff?

Smile. Twinkle.

She was enthralled.

Yes, next time I go to France, I'm going to have to look for those damn castles. To hell with the French babes, I'm going to find me some castles. Been to France five times in my life, and I only saw one damn castle. That big thing out in the ocean off of Normandy. Not much of a castle. No dungeons, no vats for burning oil, no beautiful princesses to rescue anywhere. Just some fat French women eating too much French bread. It was another French hood as far as I was concerned.

    * Whores in Bangkok. Ugly Chinese women in Hong Kong. Inquisitive Chinese students in Er Mei Shan. Driving and the rules of the road in China. William and the famous "F" English language in Shaolin village in 1997. Life in the Shaolin Temple wushu guan. Stories of monks of before and after the Cultural Revolution. Experiences with Traditional Chinese Medicine and qi gong. It's all here.  The very beginnings of, which are described in the doc section. The journals that started it all. Lost for years, and just recently found. The emails that started this whole god damn mess. All reprinted, in Shaolin 1997. All from the days when I could write intelligently. Read them. They're history.

Yes, she was quite the creature, so full of love and warmth and desire, so capable of making a man feel like a man, feel like, like a god! And no doubt, that's what she did. He really didn't make any impression upon me when he walked into the room. He was short, with the typical befuddled and wrinkled old worn out poorly tailored Chinese suit. It's not that he was ugly, because he wasn't. He certainly wasn't handsome, because he wasn't. Calling him plain wouldn't have been fair, because he wasn't that either. And it's not that he smelled, though he did. Actually, badly. With some nicotine stains on his rotting teeth, and dirt on his little child like hands, he definitely gave me the impression that he wasn't man enough to fill the dirty little sneakers that he was wearing. And when he walked though the door, he coughed and hacked and prepared one hell of a lugie for a future projectile. I certainly didn't want to be around when he hurled that one. Yes, she was so full of love and warmth and desire. But, it was for someone else.

As they walked hand in hand out the door, for their little daily lover's walk, I sat alone on the couch, and turned the page.

"Wow. Another god damn castle."