September 19, 2014
Why do flies fall for my achilles heel?
In Mumbai, I’m stirred, shaken, submerged. I’m not sure if I’ll remember anything.
What I’m afraid to forget are the blue tarps over city slums, hands clutching metal, fine fires burning infinite orange, goats, gay couples by the Mahim Bay Shore (or rather, boys holding hands, which I’m told is their sign for close friendship), an everlasting honk symphony of bumblebee rickshaws, cows on vacation from beef, colored coconut flakes of garbage, saccharine sugar cane, and unsweetened eyes: the teenagers who grind the cane into juice stare your throat down as you drink.
Why do you get to have your life like you have it?
I’m pummeled by their egg whites. Now I know how actors feel: the only other white person I’ve seen has been a manikin.
September 22, 2014
I’m in the backseat of an able, geriatric motorcycle in Udaipur, with traces of food poisoning, after seventeen hours aboard my second class train car, crammed with body parts that fit into every wrinkle of space. It’s nothing personal, only toes to your face; and if you leave for the pisser your seat is as good as flushed. I sit clogged-up and still for all of it and eat nothing but peanuts; my stomach has called off the revolution, for there is no poetry in burps.
Is it the spices?
I’ll endure again as long as I have my buttcheeks.
September 23, 2014
. . . and the poisoning continues. It is difficult to lie on your side. I’m hoping Depeche Mode will get me over the hump.
Today I dance for schoolchildren, all dressed in white and navy uniforms; dance the Russian Standard, bellowing an old folk song. Never ever have I been attended to by so many people: Where are you from? What is your name? Rassha. Rushya. Russia, I say.
I trade my penmanship technique for smiles; I’m left handed, and I show them my crooked tweezer-claw style of holding the pen, the paper angled, me hunched over like candy cane. I show them my blue notebook cover of glued coins, ones from Turkey, Bulgaria Macedonia, UAE, USA; The Euro, The Kuna, The Grosz, but they want to see the Ruble (I almost write Rubble here). I have no Russian change aboard this wandered Peter Pan express. Their teacher writes his name on a two-rupee coin and gives it to me for my currency collection. I can’t make out his name. It washes out, but by his email I’ll call him Songara1994. He’s probably twenty — just older than Alex, my dear brother.
I learn their Hello: Namaste!
There are grad students here too; I tell them before we part that I have no girlfriend, no job, and no family. They laugh and shake my hand. I don’t get their names or how their hands write them.
I sit with a Thumbs Up Cola by Lake Pichola. I look at the children splash and dump their palms into pools of afternoon felicity; the palace on the other side of the water appears to be their chaperone, and the mountain range behind it reminds me of gums that turtleneck our teeth.
How can one distinguish or discern Nature?
I have take care of myself like in an airplane instructional for oxygen masks — put yours on first and then help others.
October 9, 2014 (Darjeeling)
Evicted. Almost. Thanks. To. A. Lightbulb.
Awoken . . .
by bangs on the door.
The Landlord stands pointing to the heavens, or rather the porch-bulb above my head.
Why is the light on? (It was morning)
I’d never bothered to turn it off — ever — as many homes here leave theirs on.
Get Out! Last Day! (I think he thinks I don’t think).
A Misunderstanding . . .
Every day he had pointed above and asked me to turn off the heavens. I’m mortal, so I was careless; and so, got an immortal earful. Christabel calmed his spirits with my hundred rupee apology. I’ve bought one more night on the top floor of this cement lighthouse. It’s beacon will be off tonight. thought I’d move into Christabel’s place next door, but I’m here, at her friend’s place, for another day.
. . . and so my bag is packed. I’ve slept off my brandy ride up to Tiger Hill, where I gulped the first rays of our sun in awe of the snow crown of Mount Kanchenjunga.
So . . .
I’m high, but not quite as high as the mountain. Maybe I’m too low, too mellow, too soft, like microwave reheats. I’ll take gusts (my spell check incorrectly corrects me: guests) through my pipes over smoke through my mind, and yesterday, as Aaron and I cut up terrain on his dirtbike, pulsing higher and higher, round and round and round the Babylonian Tower that is this castle-town — past turns of no return, wheels nipping the dirt-road-edges of Darjeeling — I’ve felt at last my kind of elevation.
Different ages, different peaks.
Aaron, I assume, is twenty, and he studies filmmaking in Kolkata (I’m going there tomorrow). He is fascinated with substances. While he hunts for highs, he will be successful at the ground level if he applies himself, like they tell us in school sometimes. If he was inspired by “Landscapes In The Mist,” like he told me, he’ll do just fine.
Yesterday I fell three times, though the first two were solitary acrobatics — my last fall was my first motorcycle first, an enterprise only five meters in distance. Wright Brothers Riabov, but with wheels instead of wings. I braked too fast, too hard, earning my shins several strips of blood. While hIGH, I spilled coffee at the hill observatory, and while Low, we spilled onto the street, honking home. No broken bones yet; and when Aaron apologized for my mishap, I told him about the power of three (or my compulsivity with odd numbers) and its unavoidable tally as we ate shafalay in an alley-bar.
Christabel (Nepalese?) I believe, is my mother’s age, and not your typical local. Her parents run Glenary’s: an institution of baked goods and scenic serenity, and she runs her own cafe, Tom & Jerry’s, with two cooks my age. She had left to Italy for the nunnery at an early age, left for Nepal to work in with wildlife (Chitwan National Park), left for Delhi (Divorce), and came back to work with heroin addicts. It’s taxing for her, she confesses — more so during her patients’ relapse, but this sweet, hospitable, and selfless woman seems to have found her own beans and brewed her spirit.
Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Picko 1, Happy Valley Tea Plantation.
Here I learn about the five second brew, brewed from the very tips of the bush. Still, I prefer the black bean and always for breakfast. It’s funny how the mind remembers. If I close my eyes, I am in Plainfield, Connecticut, drinking Eight-O’-Clock Coffeee with Dr. Herb Smokler back in his house-in-the-woods. He’s eighty now, having celebrated his next on-deck decade two months ago. My Babushka is eight-five; her birthday is this month too and I wonder if she likes tea or coffee. I’ve got to write to my good grandmother and ask.
I hope the landlord doesn’t see me brewing.
October 13, 2014
Tonight is my last tonight in India.
While I'm ready, I'm already missing all of the India’s I’ve seen and smelled these past four weeks. I won’t cry over the honks and the horns, but I will for the magic masala in clay pots while maintaining my preference of drinking water out of silver cups.
It is o-so-cold and o-so-fresh.
In Kolkata I stroll. I like her, city of proper sidewalks. Her yellow soap-dish taxis remind me of Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." Maybe he's got a gig here, after a fender-bender Midnight Special in Times Square. Maybe he drives a rickshaw. What a sequel that would be.
I imagine DeNiro complaining again: “. . . all the animals come out at night: goats, cows . . . unsanitary.”
. . . and Daisy working for Modi, The President. Can somebody say Masala Oscar?
I'm dreaming of the scent of split sugar cane, the Pani! (water), the chants of train platform vendors (their Chai-Chai-Chai!), men relieving themselves in utter darkness, me dangling my feet out of #13148 (The Uttar Banga Express) as it expresses its locomotion, standing and sleeping, watching men bathe in underwear on the rails between the platforms, with hoses and soap, and maybe even shampoo.
I remember, remember, remember: accidentally brushing my teeth with shaving cream, black salt on bananas and papayas for breakfast, corn flakes with hot milk for lunch, pet white rats (not) for dinner, Muesli In Delhi(!), Hero Hondas & Royal Enfields, Maruti Suzuki Vans (In Darjeeling), and the story of the twelve-thousand dollar ruby necklace when before my flight a sleazy salesman asked me to come to his shop for a chat between "good hearts." Mahboob Of Shop #53 is a terrible judge of potential income -- I need a shave, not an Emerald Collar. I left him with his stones still in his hands.
These few favorites I don’t mind rereading, and I won’t.
October 14, 2014
By Grace Of God, I'm ABOARD.
. . . traffic of infinite F's. I leave one bus for another: gallop, pray, swallow livid spit, and smile at check-in; and after one last Where-Are-You-From-? (Russia!), I sit in blue and sink into better welfare.
I'm in good hands, my own, and this is the emptiest flight I've ever been on. I'm by the window, ions of sweat glands removed from second class compartments, wondering if blue really is the warmest color.
I’d spent three nights with Pankaj: film buff, worshiper of Juliette Binoche, dreams for the absence of Bollywood, Marxist, owner of mail-order-bride website, sweet man but salty guitarist, and an admirable historian of his city. His copious itinerary for me included the Victoria Memorial (obligatory and worthwhile), the Esplanade Mansion (too bad it was off limits), St. John's Church (with plaques for fallen soldiers), and the city’s first restaurant, Feluccini’s, I think.
I'm pulling for Pankaj to tug his dream and keep tugging. He wants to direct and work in France. It doesn't take much to direct, just commitment, but for him it’s paperwork and bureaucratic nightmares. I’m fortunate in this regard — not entitled, but entitled because of my passport. I’m a lucky crow of an immigrant. Maybe I'll want to make something at the end of this commitment. I have six hundred and sixty dollars left; let’s see for how long I can commit.
. . . and back home our bedrooms are rented: Alex bussed up from Washington D.C. over the weekend and showed our childhood apartment to potential roommates (or whomever would take it off our hands for now) — at least we won't lose it, at least not now.
It's the anchor of our life in America.
. . . . and mom is still at Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Hospital. I’m clueless as to when she'll check out, or check-in to her world as it was.
What I miss most is so far away that I am loosing faith in its adjacency to my existence.
I've sunk my pain below into indigo. I’ve taken the sedative and plunged beneath the waves. When will I float to the surface? I've no clue, for if only the airline offered free food; here, only water is offered, and accepted.