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In search of Genghis Khan and apple pie

No, I didn’t take Dr. Chandra up on his offer to go fly fishing for Taimen in Mongolia and go eagle hunting with Genghis Khan’s descendants. However, last month the great spirits decided to deposit me in Los Angeles and were kind enough to give me a few hours of self exploration. I was going to see my dear brother David (he of Lucky Baldwin fame) and a worm hole in the universe directed us both from West Los Angeles to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley. Since my recent book winds through a good part of Mongolia, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see the great display on Genghis Khan now showing at the library.

On our way we could not pass up burgers and a piece of amazing pie at our favorite pie icon, The Apple Pan on Pico BLVD in West LA. It has been satiating pie lovers for over 70 years at the same location. Our cousin Byron claims to have been going there since the 1940’s, while David has only been going there for the last 40 years. The horseshoe counter and red seats and menu have hardly changed in all those years. We lost little time devouring our barbecue burgers and both inhaled our pieces of apple pie a la mode. Just a heads up - they still take only cash as recompense for their stellar treats.

Genghis and Mr Reagan were waiting, so off we went to Simi Valley. Thankfully the traffic gods smiled on us and soon the statues of President Reagan and his dear wife Nancy were greeting us in an idyllic setting. We did forgo the visit to Ronnie’s Air Force One at the library since I was anxious to dip my toes into 13th century Mongolia.

The Genghis Khan exhibit was well presented and informative without being boring. Contrary to many people’s perception of Genghis Khan as a blood thirsty barbarian, he was a brilliant military strategist and ruler. True, he was not adverse to slaughtering thousands of his enemies if he felt it was necessary, but he did live by a code of ethics that he summarized as the Laws of the Yasa. He would encourage enemy forces to join his troops and structured his government valuing loyalty, courage and technical skill.

Though Genghis ruled some 900 years ago a significant account of his life was preserved in a book, The Secret History of the Mongols, written in 1230 and discovered in the 19th century. This, along with verbal history, document just some of the mongol’s many innovations, including: the development of the “Silk Road” - connecting Europe to Asia, modern warfare techniques, a postal system, religious freedom, lowering taxes, establishing a regular census, diplomatic immunity for ambassadors, the pony express, use of passports, printed money, charcoal and even hamburgers. It gave us pause to think what our world would be like without the Great Khan’s existence.

Leaving Ronnie and Nancy and Genghis behind I was overwhelmed by the thought that through history a small number of remarkable (or horrible) people can change the world in vast ways. Certainly Genghis was one of these and it is scary to think who is ready to climb into our global driver’s seat for the next spin around our galaxy.

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