Monday, March 31, 2008

India, the Verdict

So, was I right about anything? Of course not. Welcome to my world. If I stay worried and paranoid, look how pleasantly surprising everything can be.

1. The smell. Ha! NYC still reigns supreme in the hotvomitchumchowderpowdereddonutpoopstain odor competition. Chennai and Bangalore had plenty of air pollution, but it wasn't particularly exotic. An interesting smell that greeted us often was that of jasmine, which is not objectionable in the least. The real pollution? Noise pollution. Car/tuk tuk/motocycle/truck horns are used primarily to say "Here I am" which means it does not stop, ever.

2. The poverty. It was not as clear cut as you would think. And I only saw one naked baby butt...and it really was a fat baby butt and not really a big deal at all. Only one child begged for money, but it seemed more automatic than desperate. This happened just outside the big Kapaleeshwarar Temple, a big tourist area (aside from the heavy traffic of devoted who come to pray). Crumbled buildings, garbage, scantily clad and skinny old men were everywhere in Chennai...and evenly interspersed between shiny, modern buildings and people of every collar on the way to work. If anything, it was a matter-of-fact coexistence.

3. The heat. It was there, but we were inside most of the time. The only time we were really "in" it was at the end when we were strictly tourists. It was about 95 to 100 degrees and we were sweating like mad, but it was fine. I was woozy and nauseated during two of the days, but that was due to general anxiety, exhaustion, a degree of dehydration, and just being all jacked up from travelling so far and doing so much.

4. The panic attacks. The nausea days threatened to bring it on, but I bore down and willed it away. Booyah!

5. My boobies. And womany womanhood. I shook all the hands, and to hell with it. As far as I could tell, we only incurred true bastardy sexism at the airport. And the guy had his Big Man Uniform and Hat on, so he could hardly help himself.

6. Sacrilege. I did almost commit one act of totally sacrilegious faux pas. When the Hindu priest told us to touch the grand and marvelous bull on his side, I reached out with my LEFT hand, a.k.a. the DIRTY hand. He said, No no no no! And I was shamed and completely freaked. But I did not touch the bull with the dirty hand, nor did I make kissy faces at him.

7. Kali will destroy me. She's totally gonna love me when she sees what I got her. Trinkets of glory!

8. Food. Totally was not a tool, really. There was one cracker thing made of pure pepper that burned my face off, but after the vendors stopped laughing we all realized what a fine time can be had when someone cries from pain. Otherwise, the food was UNBELIEVABLE. Even on the plane, the Indian cuisine was something special. The heat did get to me, but I soldiered through (save the devil cracker - kill it), and I really enjoyed most of what we ate.

9. OCD. I went zen on the hand-shaking thing. As well as the rare opportunity to wash with soap when we were out and about. I had no choice, which was somehow more calming than having a sink, soap, and paper towels nearby.

10. General idiocy. It was a total lovefest. I really had nothing to fear.

11. My favorite moments: The Bull Temple (despite my faux pas), the Kapaleeshawarar Temple, the dance recital, meeting the vendors, the food, the beach, and the SHOPPING! Oh, and never forget the stinky monkeys of the Bangalore Botanical Gardens.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Video

Here it is!

Bharatanatyam Moment

CLICK or see above. Thanks, You Tube, for breaking my spirit! But more important...

One of the last things we did in Chennai was attend a young woman’s Arangetram, or premier dance recital in the form of the Bharatanatyam. Why only 16 seconds? It was a personal event, open to the public, but we were foreigners nonetheless. I took a few pictures, as well, but in every one the dancer is a golden figure, like a magical creature some trinkety camera could never capture.

About the dance, she spent years perfecting this form. A quick survey of You Tube clips tells me that what we saw was truly special. Our dancer made a few tiny mistakes, but she was nearly perfect in execution. Even my dull senses told me that. Click here to see more of the dance, done well by another performer. Something I could not seem to find was a fair representation of the facial expressions and eye movements. It was bewitching.

About the dancer…how to explain? She was exquisite. She was certainly one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d gotten a better picture, or a better video. Kanne, our guide throughout, promises to send us the write up in the newspaper should she find one.

More to come! I am so tired!

Monday, March 24, 2008

And Finally, One of the Holy Trinity

Because how else can I sign off? No doubt this will be playing on my Ipod somewhere over the Atlantic.

I am a Professional

Here's a preview of my forthcoming presentation to the vendors in India.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tick Tock

It is after 2 pm on a Friday afternoon. In a short time, we'll catch a ride to JFK International Airport. We'll go through the rites of passage (give us your liquids! throw out your gaaabage!) and maybe even get wanded. Then we'll wait for probably an eternity for the flight to begin boarding and, eventually, take off.

Did you know that I used to cry when travelling by air? For the duration of the flight? The duration? Then I found Happy Flying Pills. When I moved to NYC I had to kick that habit, just bear down, and by force of will repress and kill all feelings of panic and worry. And I did it!

Then a year and some months ago I started having the infuriating panic attacks, always during ground travel, usually on the damn subway. I have my theories as to the whys and whatevers, but I've managed to pretty much control that, too. Not 100%, especially when I'm all nerved up like now, but where there's a will...well.

If you've known me for a long time, you'll also be very aware of my general worried state of mind. It is a trait I share with my grandmother, who could spiral with the best of them. Again, I force myself to settle down and just bear it, but it's second nature to me, much like a squirrel must vibrate.

Now as I sit here watching the clock, I realize that I'm kind of like one of those animals that goes into shock when you startle it. You know, the kind that dies of fear? Except for mustering up whatever countermeasures I have, which keep me blissfully vertical and swimming in a vast bowl of cold soup that is my brains, I'd probably be catatonic right now.

It is hard to explain to those that fear nothing what it takes to manage fear, but I do hope that those of you who have listened to me fret and yammer these past few weeks can sympathize at least to some degree. Even if you don't, send me your wellest of wishes, or prayers, or whatever voodoo gets you through and I will promise that, once I get there, I will stop, breathe, and open my mind as far as it can go.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thor, The Mighty God of Thunder

Who told me about this? I don't remember. There's a large community of women who find Vincent D'Onofrio unbearably hot. I didn’t understand it until Criminal Intent, but now…well, what can one do? Resistance is futile.

But I never realized that Bobby Goran (or “Booby” to his favorite crazy lady on the show, played by Olivia D’Abo) also played Thor in Adventures in Babysitting. Everyone remembers poor Gomer Pyle, but what a weird moment on his resume, ya? Thor? Remember how scary he was? Love that blonde wig, though.

Not sure why the video is coupled with the Highlander soundtrack, but I love Queen, even crazytown Queen on the edge of the precipice.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Two weeks from today, I will board a plane to India.

I know, riiiiiight?

I am not a particularly adventurous soul, but after several conversations and a lot of contemplation, I realized that I really had no choice. It is an incredible opportunity, made all the more amazing by the fact that it is paid for by my company. Now, if they would just open up a branch in Tokyo.

I have fears, ranging from vaguely disturbing to really very upsetting. I won't quantify them, but I will list them. Being a whitey, I tend to assume that I am always in a state of general ignorance, whether it is about race, culture, or anything described as foreign. So, this list may cover things that are clearly naïve – I wouldn’t attempt to deny that. When I return, I will address each fear and let you know my experiences, perceptions, and everything I’ve learned.

1. The smell. This is not special to India…odor is a big factor in travel, believe it or not. I’ve heard that Moscow has a striking odor, solidified by the toxic levels of pollution. New York City also has a shocking array of smells that leave newcomers slightly nauseated and more than a little disillusioned. Chennai is a huge city, full of traffic and people, and it is going to be 95 degrees while we’re there. I’m betting on a memorable odor.

2. The poverty. It will be unavoidable. I hear that it is not as bad in Chennai as Bombay, but it will be there. Begging children will be difficult to bear. They say you see everything in NYC, but I’ve never seen dirty, naked, begging children. I’ve heard that is a possibility in India.

3. The heat. I am terrified that I am going to take a dive right in the middle of our business meetings/ tours. Which will suck.

4. The panic attacks. Being non-adventurous, it seems foolhardy to travel to a place like India, which is so different from anything I’ve ever known. If the godforsaken subway makes my vision go tunnel and my heart go BAMBAMBAM, what the hell do I expect to experience in India…or the eighteen hour plane trip, for that matter? One of my tricks is to bear down and start berating myself harshly in my head (“How can you be so weak? You are a fucking idiot, now suck it up” etc.) but it would be difficult to maintain that for eighteen hours. We’ll see how it plays out.

5. My boobies. And womany womanhood. I’m kind of clueless here. What is the actual status of women and their rights in India? Will they respect me? Should I shake a man’s hand? What are the pitfalls, the things I’m not aware of that I cannot seem to find in any online guides? I keep thinking I am going to do something unbecoming a woman…mostly because I feel like I do that every day here in the US and A.

6. Sacrilege. I want to visit temples, see the sights and people, take pictures, and hopefully not cause an international incident. If we get to see the Bull Temple in Bangalore I promise not to make kissy faces at it.

7. Kali will destroy me. Just kidding. That’s just a shout out for my shi shi. Holla!

8. Food. I am not very familiar with Indian cuisine. I am really relying on my right hand to take the lead here. I remember how annoying it was to dine with people completely ignorant of Chinese food (“We’ll just have rice” – I shit you not) and I just do not want to come off like a major tool.

9. OCD. My obsession with clean hands is going to have to be put on hold for one week. I’ve decided that this is the only way to deal with my fear of ooey gooey germs and greasy grimy dirt. Am I assuming that the whole country is enshrined in crap? Not exactly. It will comfort some of you to know that one of my least favorite aspects of the interview process is the hand shaking. Sorry, my kittens. I love you, but I know that finger was just up your nose. Or elsewhere.

10. General idiocy. My experience with our Indian counterparts has convinced me that they are far more formal, practiced, and careful with their speech and interaction than I ever have been. My tendency to smile like a fighting monkey whenever I’m in a strange situation will either come off as friendly (I hope) or slow witted (I fear). Since one of my deepest, darkest night terrors is not being smart enough to hold my own in a cocktail conversation, it stands to reason that I’d fear this almost as much as passing out from the heat…or a panic attack…or from basic womany megrims.

Yippee-ky-crazytrain! Don’t judge, y’all. I will be honest and tell you exactly where I was right and exactly how I was wrong. Two weeks!

Monday, March 03, 2008

i can has weight gain?

. . . oh FINE, I will attempt to be thrilled with making my one year anniversary. And I am very impressed with myself, for sure, albeit not so much H-A-P-P-Y. But Festivus is past, so I shall shelve my List of Grievances for the time being. Perhaps it will just take me longer than one year to get past all of the by-products of quitting smoking.

Granted, I have to admit to an addicted soul. No restraint, no fear, little remorse. Part of my aversion to trying gambling is the possibility of addiction . . . and because I am no sucka. Suckas.

I suppose I celebrated the only way I really could, though it wasn't much different than what I usually do, which is to do what I want, when I want, how I want. I didn't plant my face in a cake, though I dreamt of it. Repeatedly. I also dreamt of smoking, and that was pretty fine, too, I have to admit. Most of my smoking dreams involve me lighting up and having a few drags before remembering that I am not supposed to, freaking out, and feeling serious remorse. This time, however, I sought them out and lit one up with spiteful relish. I don't know who I think I am defying here, except myself, that smartmouthed, know-it-all hooker who should shut up, okay, for once.


I will mark the date in another year's time. Maybe then I'll be truly and really cured. Until then, I still ain't smoking, no cheating, neither, so kiss my toe ring.