Wednesday, April 29, 2009

i almost got stuck here

Soo, the agent who set up my ticket from Delhi to Bangalore, where I would catch my flight, booked my ticket one day too late. he thought the train to Bangalore was 18 hours, when, in fact, it is 40 hours, meaning i would miss my flight. So, i promptly flipped my wig (it's reversible), sweated through my waistecoat, ran around town and found out i could change my flight the next morning at 9am at the Air India offices, which are in this insane experimental building 5 minutes from the train station. phew.

i had to find a hotel on the totally insane filthy Main Bazaar in Delhi, and I ended up at the Traveler's Inn, which I think means that you have to "travel" up five stories of stairs to reach the rooms. the only people i saw there were sweaty, bellied Indian men in towels, watching blaring Indian TV, who would wander out of the rooms every few minutes to sweat on the balcony, looking like killer villains b/c their figures were lit only by the light from the TV.

something about India: in India you go to sleep between 9 and 11, b/c you cannot sleep past 7am b/c it gets WAAAYY too hot; you awake naturally in a spit bath of your own secretions, parched.

so, the power kept going out in the night, which, in India, means that your ceiling fan stops working and you wake up feeling like you have ebola or pac-man fever or the mutaba virus, like your flesh is melting off in a hot lava bath. i've taken to keeping a pitcher of water by my side while i sleep, which i can douse myself with in the heat of the night in order to cool off. but, if the fan stops working, this just means that you are hot AND wet in a hard bed.

each time the power went out, by the time the heat awoke me, the man from the reservations office would stumble up the four flights of stairs with a flashlight and flip a bunch of switches and start screaming at this club house of old men at the end of my hall, who were watching TV. i think i gathered that they were turning off the power to the other rooms so that they could have power for...something. i dunno what. anyways, they kept screaming and arguing all night, the power would turn on and off, i would wake up hot and shitty feeling. all the sweating and cement walls and shitty TVs and sreaming old grizzly men in towels with cigarettes, i felt like i was under cover as an errand boy for a tropical drug cartel.


i am talking w/this man about where the bus station is. a severe-looking Israeli woman approaches us and asks the man, in a stern tone, "where is the McDonald's?!" he says it's like a 15 minute walk and she says she would have to take a taxi. then he says "well there are a lot of restaurants just there." and she says "yeah, yeah, i know, i don't want that, i want McDonald's", at which point, she stormed off in a hungry huff to flag down and be swindled by a rickshaw driver.

one thing about young Indian men:
they LOVE LOVE LOVE sappy shitty romantic pop ballads and will play them OVER AND OVER, on repeat for like 2 hours. i have witnessed this MANY times here. today, in particular, while at a coffee chain called Barista Lavazza (i think it's India's Starbucks, i keep seeing it around), the "barista" switched the stereo to play Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from the Titanic soundtrack. it started to play a second time and i didn't really notice, i thought it was just still going. and then it played again. and then a few more times. and then i couldn't even read this book i'm reading b/c it was so mind blowing how much this guy LOVED this 10 years old SHITTY song from Titanic and ...i donno, it was so distracting i had to leave.

another thing about pop music in India:
a bunch of songs that you thought you'd never hear again, from Jr. High and High School, are still played VERY FREQUENTLY in India and people love them. Brian Adams, Mandy Moore, late 90s Bon Jovi, the Backstreet Boys (not even N*Sync, the B.B.), music from like, the Kevin Costner's Robin Hood soundtrack, very early Britney Spears, it's so strange. Cool dudes LOVE the stuff.

I am loving it:
I finally ate at McDonald's today. i been meaning to, but i haven't really been in any big cities. they have all this crazy shit, like Veggie Surprise burger, Aloo Tikki burger (holy shit!!), Paneer Masala wrap. And, by India standards, McDonald's is REALLY expensive. It was 109 Rupees for a combo xtra valu pak meal, which is like $2. And, yesterday, I ate at a VERY fancy, nicely lit and decorated, foo-foo restaurant where the food was very fine indeed, and, with a very fancy drink and all this stuff, it was only 100 Rupees. Usually, at a tourist hotel, where prices are a little inflated, you eat for 50-75 rupees, with a drink & stuff.

Well, I ordered a straight up McVeggie burger combo meal. I can say this about that: the fries were just as shriveled and tan as always, the mayo was applied just as liberally, the Coca-Cola was just as watery and gross (no ice!), the lettuce was just as wilted and anemic, the bun just as sesame and the ketchup was still in packets (though nice, unwrinkled packets. sorta like the diff btwn new bills from a bank and crumbly sticky candy store change bills, AND they have a receptacle for unused packets! to be used again!!). the only thing really different was the patty inside had some unsettling spices inside. just something you don't expect inside a burger. i did get to watch insane Indian TV on a big flatscreen though, that was cool. they also really push the soft serve here in India.

other stuff:
Delhi has some really insane Modernist buildings. i really like them a lot. it's actually pretty nice, like a nice Canadian city, when you go the right parts, away from the train stations.

I also went to the National Museum of India, which was very cool. antiques and artifacts. i hella wanna watch Indian Jones. and play Magic the Gathering. GIGANTIC evil scimitars, spikey elephant traps, look like the Sarlac's mouth, long needle-like daggers, strange old square coins with really crappy printing on them, elephant armor, ancient cannons which are mounted on elephants, weird Predator claw weapons, extremeley ornate, 6 ft long rifles. and outside is this insane rolling temple, which is like a giant, heavily decorated octagonal wooden thing on big cart wheels, it's so cool. i took a picture. i saw one on the street in Hampi as well, during the election march.

ok, g2g, figure out the bus to the airport so I don't get ripped off by a cabbie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the moslem guys in india have a really good style. they all have insane beards, really long, formal, off-white shirts, and short hair with this fancy little cylindrical cap on top. a lot of them have glasses.

the old men with money look amazing. they have very colored turbans and long extremely soft&cuddly-looking beards. i donno how they get their beard hairs like that. well, then they curl out their big white mustaches. it's like a bunch of santa clauses on a tropical vacation or something.

the tourists at the taj mahal were goddang hilarious and INCREDIBLY entertaining. i watched them for like an hour until i realized i would be late to meet my driver at 9:30. there were tons of pasty korean and chinese ladies with big curly dos and hilarious bucket hats, big ol shorts, posing for the worst looking pictures i've ever seen. red/brown peeling italian and spanish ladies with freckled chests and big black sunglasses, loose, sultry dresses kneeling and smiling in front of the taj mahal for the Indian photographers, who rip off everyone. their tall bald husbands stand by, admiringly, in crappy Hawaiian shirts and gold watches. you can never seen anyone's eyes, b/c they've all got terrible sunglasses, except the Indians. they rarely use sunglasses. huge confused flocks of old pasty german couples, bumbling around with their hands clutched up at their chests. the americans and canadians are always the most prepared and the dorkiest; bucket hat, walking stick, cargo vest, cargo shorts, off-road sandals, camera, map, trail mix, etc.

THEN i saw two chunky old Italian ladies, both with thematically similar huge white sun hats, black sun-specs and flamboyant black&white striped dresses, tottering around the entryway. AND THEN i saw their third companion, dressed in the same way. what is wrong with people??

So, for two people, a hotel is usually between $4 and $8. but, it's probably a little dusty cement room with a VERY FIRM bed taking up most of it. you share a bathroom and shower with everyone else there. electricity is only on for part of the day. the food caters to foreigners, so it will NEVER EVER be spicy. it will probably be kind of sucky. and then they have all these bizarre hybrid foods that, i guess, western people like: mix fruit porridge, chocolate porridge, banana porridge, fruit salad, banana pancakes (a giant piece of fried crispy bread (like a crepe) rolled up with something in the middle), masala pancakes, nutella pancakes, corn flakes (EVERY hotel has this), museli. actually they all have almost the exact same menu.

some inspiring menu items i will take w/me:
lemon ginger tea: you pour boiling water over ginger and honey, and then devastate some lemons into it, and sometimes spices. hella good.
lemon soda: destroy like 6 lemons into a cup with honey, then pour sparkling water over the top of it.
nannari: some weird drink made from the red syrup of some root, mixed with salt and spices and honey and sparkling water.

A band of overheated men in matching blue velvet 3 piece suits, preceding a wedding parade, playing a very sloppy marching band-type set. the organ sound was awesome though, i think b/c it was coming out of a tiny keyboard blasting through some megaphones.

Me, getting bitten by an insane scabby street dog in Delhi. it done run up and chomped into my lean calf meat, i turned around and screamed at it and it run off. didn't break my skin, thank Krishna.

Laurel was trying to get a summation of my trip to India out of me, and i was being difficult, b/c it doesn't make sense to me, err i don't think i can consciously make statements like that, too conflicted. there is some really cool stuff here, but a lot of stuff that i find extremely unpleasant.

she asked me a funny question, which was "in one sentence, how would describe Indian people?" I don't remember what I said, but it was something like: Indian people are very social and curious and shameless and uninhibited, and, sometimes, oppressively giving. the men seem very attention-starved, like bad jr. high students in men's bodies. they are very religious and unquestioningly adherent to social rules; rules about conduct, respect, men&women, etc... they have no shame about staring at a stranger or asking them personal questions, like "why are you so fat?" "why is your face so red?", or giving advice, like "this haircut does not look so good, you should cut shorter here" or "i dont like that beard so much, you should shave here and here." they are very unafraid to appropriate technologies and tools for whatever uses they need them for, despite the intended purpose of the thing. men are not ever friends with women outside of their family, ever, it is very inappropriate. people seem to frequently mob or move in a big group, and the movement seems to be, everyone for himself, push or dodge your way through. if one kid says hello to you, and runs over to you, 30 more will come and totally surround you. if you take a picture of a family, as soon as the shutter clicks, everyone standing nearby will rush in and crowd around the camera. at a snack bar or ticket window, you do not wait your turn, or you will never get a turn; you force your way up to the counter with your money in your hand and shout what you want. people want to give you things and want you to give them things, and they will ask for them, a pen or a drink or a piece of jewelery that you have. if someone is feeding you, they will keep feeding you as long as you keep cleaning your plate, even if it is painful to your body. if someone offers you something, and you don't want it, you have to refuse without smiling or laughing, otherwise they will give it to you anyway. you have to refuse very firmly and decisively. you have to re-learn how to refuse things here.

everyone is also extremely friendly and wants to talk to you about..anything really, just about you and what you are doing. but that friendliness is VERY OFTEN manipulated by shitty scammers and rickshaw drivers, in touristy urban/market areas, to make you think that they want to be your friend, and then they maybe help you out in some way, or give you a great tip, then ask for money, or else lure you into some scam. it's very weird and confusing. sometimes you want to talk to everyone and be everyone's friend, and then someone tries to rip you off and you hate everybody and don't trust anyone and think everyone is full of shit. and i've seen, a couple times, this weird friend jealousy thing, that i mentioned earlier, where, if you make a friend on a train or in a village or something, then you want to leave them and go see something else or talk to someone else, people can get very weird and mean and jealous, but it does not come out in a straight-forward way, it comes out very passive-aggressively. i'm still very confused about this thing and i dont understand it.


goddamn, i am SO BORED in Delhi, i dunno where anything is, it's hot as heck, i have 8 more hours until my train leaves.

Monday, April 27, 2009


PS - anyone get any packages/postcards from me yet?? i been mailing out stuff for the last two weeks, sent something to everyone who gave me an address.

IAN - I just mailed your letter out like 5 days ago cos i had no address and then i was out on a camel safari for a while, so it's probably not there yet. i don't need a ride from the library. at least not right now. i might someday, hopefully the offer will still stand. and, i don't need a ride from the airport. i was planning to just take bart. if anyone feels inspired to pick me up from the airport, they may do so. i'll check-a my email when i get to the airport, see whassup. my flight gets in to SFO at 1:00pm on Friday.

TEEJ - HAH, turds. i should have a couple left with Indian stuff inside, if you need. no one got anything yet. i think it just takes hella forevers to get there.

agra & jaipur, the taj mahal, the raj mandir

in agra, i finally saw the taj mahal. it's way cool. it's so huge and round and elaborate and decadent. the inside is like a big snowy echo cave. you can't hear anything in there, it all echos around into oblivion. actually, i saw a bunch of other stuff, and i think i liked that stuff even better. i think that it size and shape and solitude of the taj mahal is what's amazing to me.

i saw some other tomb, which i don't remember the name of, but i took pictures of it. it was incredible. it was just a big white gold and red mosque/tomb/temple thing. it looked like it was made by bees from cream and scabs and liquid gold.

i also saw the agra fort, which, honestly, i think was the first REALLY sincerely astounding insane thing i've seen in India. i've got pictures, i'll put them up some time. it's like this gigantic, dust red, ornate, curvaceous walled city that's full of these secret quarters and temples. all of the doors are huge thick and wooden, bound with metal, there are big white terraces with honeycomb walls cut out of stone with big golden brass insect shell roofs. there's a part, which is closed now, called the mirror temple (i think) which you can peek at through this door. it's a totally enclosed chamber with tiny holes in the walls that are filled with glittery glass so that all the light comes through these tiny diamond holes, and the interior is all cream & gold colored.

you can stand out on these turret/terrace things that overlook the lower part of the fort, which is basically a giant wall enclosing a huge forest inside of the fort. i guess they've just let a big forest grow inside of this fort. it's totally insane. also, there are some fenced off areas that are like a large open courtyard with tiled floor and a giant, ancient, ragged tree growing in the middle. and one half of the fort is supposed to be off-limits i think, but it's all crumbling and decayed and there are stone stairways that lead to nothing and doorways that just lead straight off the edge of the fort down into the walled forest.

i'll just have to post pictures, it's so crazy.

our driver was a very smokey, surly man named Malik. he was very kind with a smokey deep voice, wrinkled brown face, piercing frog eyes. he drove us around for a day. i need to draw a portrait of him for you to see. i have this strange image of him in my mind, sitting at a rooftop cafe in front of the taj mahal at dusk, smoking a cigarette and offering us deals on tours and then staring out at the city for several minutes.

i think toward the end of the day, he ran out of things for us to do, so he took us to some sleazy upscale jewelry dealers and a fancy clothing store. then to a place where they make marble tables and all kinds of other fine marble objects. the man there was very nice but then became disgustingly set on us buying some very expensive marble bullshit. it was so excruciating and embarrassing, he kept offering me all these things to buy, and i was just like "i do not like this stuff, i dont want it at all, not even a little bit, please stop," but it just went ON AND ON for like 40 minutes, even as i was leaving, and he agreed to not sell me anything else, he suddenly started trying to sell me some figurine. it was horrifying.


so, Laurel and I wanted to see a movie and stumbled upon the illustrious Raj Mandir theatre in Jaipur, purportedly the most divine, extravagant theatre in all of India:

it was so incredible inside. awesome looking. there was this amazing bust in a glass case of a man in a turban and specs, who i think built the thing, and a miniature of the theatre in a case as well, and i didn't photograph them b/c i thought i could find a picture online, but i can't!!! they were so cool looking.

everything in the snack bar was HELLA cheap. they had samosas, weird vegetable burgers, terrible shitty godawful Indian chocolate, popcorn for like 50 cents. the movie ticket was $1.40. the movie was three hours with a 30 minute intermission. all Indian movies have an intermission. hilarious food advertisements before the movie.

the movie was called 8x10 tasveer. it was about a hunky Indian forest service agent living in Canada who has the ability to travel into a photograph and experience the one minute that followed the taking of the photograph. it was really not that good, but a totally lovable hilarious idea for a film. also, every Indian movie I've seen so far involves identity swapping and either twins or plastic surgery to make one guy look like another or Mission Impossible masks or two people who happen to look the same.

here's a ridiculous music video from the end credits for you to watch. it's horrible:

btw, if you hang around in Mumbai, Bollywood agents will approach you, if you are white, and ask you if you want to be an extra in a movie. almost every white person you see in a Bollywood movie, playing a dancer or a villain or something, is just some tourist of the street who gets paid like $2-$5 to be in a movie. it would be SO COOL to be a villain in a Bollywood movie, holy shit. some guy asked me while I was there, but I was leaving in like an hour.

ok, i think i have to go. i still have a lot more stuff to tell about, i'll write at the airport maybe. i am about to embark on like 72 straight hours of traveling, by bus, train and airplane.

Dog versus Hog

a lot of times at night, you can hear dogs or pigs squealing and screaming as they're either run over by a motorbike, kicked, or in some kind of brawl with another animal.

so, here's a bunch of little things i keep forgetting to write about:

villages: see last entry about the village wedding
kids: see last entry about camel trek & village wedding

in India, you see lots of things that you've seen before, but in combinations that you have never seen:
-temples with solar panels
-old men in hot pink turbans riding motorcycles
-dignified old women in extravagant saris & jewelery wearing a baseball cap
-old men with awesome curly old mustaches with their hair died bright orange from henna.
-goats and cows dodging motorcycles and tuk-tuks
-gorgeous people with totally fudged up, un-salvagable teeth

white bulls are maybe the most amazing, powerful, divine, intimidating looking creatures i've seen before.

every door in India is locked by this funny big sliding metal thing with a big padlock in it. there are no doorknobs.

there are the most adorable hairy little goats running around everywhere. they are scared of everything.

almost every car horn on a bus or truck plays some hilarious little melody. the buses and trucks and rickshaws are always covered in stickers, tassels, weird paintings, big rainbow letters, etc... it's a weird entrepreneurial thing, like the vehicle owners are competing to have the most festive vehicle to draw more attention and more business.

tuk tuk trucks are the craziest most adorable little round pick-up truck things. it's like a tuk-tuk with a truck bed in the back.

there's these huge monkeys with gray/white fur and black faces that steal stuff from stores and jump around the shop roofs, looking for trouble.

the kids in this cyber-cafe are watching some movie called Ravan Raaj, holy cow, if any of you out there have the means to rent it or something, please do, it looks totally amazing.

the milk here is totally unprocessed, visibly full of creamy fat, because it is always just delivered by some farmer nearby, possibly extruded from a divine teat only hours earlier.

men dress SOOO much better in India. lots of fitted dress shirts, old-fashioned parts in their hair, tight-fitting undershirts, awesome striped polo shirts, fitted slacks with bell-bottoms, mustaches. there is a weird horrible AWFUL SHITTY style that some men have of weird long frosted shaggy hair, crappy polo shirts with screen printing on them, like 1995's Claire's 13-year-old girl jeans with awful embroidered designs and fake wear in the knees & buttocks. oh gawd. make-a-me sick.

men hold each other hands and put their arms around each other frequently. it's weird but kind of adorable. they're all best pals and have no insecurity about such things.

the traditional formal style for Indian men is also really good. there's like this reaaaally long shirt thing with a short collar that sticks up and buttons in the front with long sleeves, and these fitted linen pants that bunch up at the bottom. it's a really good look. i think, though, that when MOST white people try to pull this off, they just look like shitty hippies. i think it's called a Punjabi shirt or something. usually it's an off-white color, but sometimes it's bright red or bright orange or some other insane fantastic color.

all of the clothes in India fit my bod very well. it's so easy to shop, in that sense.

actually, i have to apologize to everyone i did not find a gift for, because, in another sense, shopping here is a total horrendous, nerve-wracking nightmare, and i've been avoiding it as much as possible. you walk down these big flea-market streets and everyone yells things at you, everyone is like the most pushy, shitty, obnoxious salesman you could ever imagine, and they all want you to come to their shop. if you do stop at someone's shop, they will almost never let you leave without buying something, and they will try so hard that it is just like painful and totally embarrassing for everyone. sometimes there are really nice merchants though, who don't give a hoot and will just let you shop. i really hate shopping here.

one night, me and Laurel did find an awesome little tiny grocery/convenience store hybrid thing, and it was such an incredible relief from the way shopping usually is. we just wandered around in there for like an hour looking at all the weird stuff. it was very cool inside.

tourists, in huge groups, are usually way more fun to watch than the attraction that they everyone is stopping to see.

sex tapes

california, please take me back, i'm ready to return to you. goddang i want some peanut butter right now, holy cow. i'm gonna eat hella salads and falafel when i get home. no salad here. more than appreciating India, the trip has made me a patriot, i <3 USA. India is very cool, but ain't my home.

i finally got sick! no barf, no liquid dumps, just abdominal cramps and extreme fatigue, fever. i was real sick for one day, and i vowed not to eat until i was better. i went on a camel journey through the desert, felt a lil better, tried to eat the injun chow that my camel boys made for me ('twas good eats), and every time i eat now, i feel ill again. so i'm not eating for a few days i decided.

secret life of camel jockeys:
during the "camel safari", our horny, attention-starved, malnourished camel boy (who was 26, getting married next month), named Seti, revealed, in a private & uncomfortable moment between him and Laurel, while i was away at a midnight Indian wedding (details later), that much of what camel guides do is have sex with foreign women who are traveling alone.

i really wanted to interview him about it, but an opportune moment never arose. anyways, this is what i gather:

Seti has been a camel jockey for 15 years. in these years, many women from all over the world, have demanded that he make the sex with them. he says all kinds of girls, they want to go on the camel trek alone, then seduce him by the fire. holland girls, spain girls, england girls, israel girls. one spanish woman wanted him to "love her" and he said he didn't want to, and she became very angry, and then they got a bit drunk and had sex seven times. another woman from europe came WITH her husband, secretly tried to seduce Seti, and became VERY VERY angry when he wouldn't put out, and decided to leave the camel safari early. all of these tourists pay a lot of money for these safaris. are they paying for some injun boning as well?? hmmm. is this a secret travelers tip in the international women's witchy inner circle?


he's very excited to get married, but is involved in a secret sex trade. he has never met or seen his future wife, claims to not know her name, but called her incessantly during the trip. in a particularly disgusting moment, after everyone was drunk on gin and pepsicola (wtf?) around the desert fire, and everyone, but me, passed out, seti awoke and then awoke laurel with some vigorous, uncomfortable shoulder massaging. she pushed him away and said "stop" and passed out. then he awoke her again with some more awkward fondling and she moved her sleeping arrangement to my side instead of his. an hour or so later, he awoke us both by canoodling his way through the sand to be by Laurel's unwelcoming side again, and snaking his tiny arm onto her shoulder or something. then she had to just get up and move to the other side of me away from the perv-zone.

hopefully, he was very embarrassed. i was.

what's sad is that Indian men have this shitty perspective on white girls, that they are super easy, ready to bang, just heat 'n' eat, and the men are VERY forward, shameless, sleazy, totally corny ("your face is beautiful, like cauliflower." "hello george-ous." "i love you."), which had totally baffled me and Laurel, and we both hate it. it is totally annoying to walk around and have an EEENNNDDLESSS stream of dweeby dudes get romantic on you while you're trying to just walk to your hotel or something. but that's not the sad part. the sad part is that i think they are totally justified in their position on foreign girls, b/c i think that a lot of them really do come here and just bang away, wanna get an exotic, tropical hump. what a bunch of shit. makes it impossible for any honest travelin' broad. i think when people are traveling they do a bunch of weird stuff they wouldn't normally do, drugs, promiscuous goings-on.

during my illness, i longed for a rocking chair, so bad. in India, it seems, especially while on a "camel safari", there is no comfortable way to sit. you are either laying down, half-laying down, sort of squatting, cross-legged, all ways which either make your back or your knees or your stomach hurt.

why does no one talk about asian toilets?? no one i talked to about India said so much as a peep!

toilet lowdown:
"dropping the turds off at the pool"
"ordering a #2 w/fries"

sometimes there are normal western toilets. other times there is this weird flat toilet material in the ground, sort of looks like a urinal that was caught in a dimensional rift and ended up sideways in the floor. so, you squat over this thing, and your pants are pulled down in a weird way so that you think you are going to either whiz or turd all over you pants, but you dont. it's not so bad. it's actually kinda easier to shit when you're all cramped up like that. in India, they believe in a lot of things, but T.P. is not one of them. why does no one explain or talk about this before you come to India??? every toilet has a tiny faucet sticking out of the wall right by the floor, with a little pitcher under it. the purpose of this is that, so, when you are done shitting, you can actually just take your left hand and literally scrape, with your fingers, any leftover shit off of yourself, and then drizzle lukewarm water over your hand from the faucet. the pitcher then fills up, and you dump the pitcher into the urinal toilet thing, and this flushes all the bad things away, down a wretched little, putrifying drain hole at the end. so i only forgot my TP a couple times and had to scrape my own shit off of myself with my own hand. it's pretty weird. what's weird is that, when you're squatting like that, not that much shit is left over, it's cut off pretty clean, so it's not actually very messy at all, just very weird feeling. why does no one tell you about this?!?!?

shucks, i got pix to upload, waaayyy more stories to tell, but this shitty half-pint brat who's running this cyber joint just said "how much longer you want be here?". i guess he wants to go home and play cell-phone video games or something. i'm gonna look for another place...

so, i don't know if i'd recommend going on a camel trek to anyone. maybe for just one day instead of three. you may get sexually harassed, it's very hot, you travel VERY slow, you may get stuck with creeps for three days. if you're with young guys, there is EEEENNNDDLLESSSS goddamned cellphone usage, both for calling and for playing 5 different shitty Hindi pop songs OVER AND OVER, most of the time with both guys playing two different songs at the same time, because...b/c i dunno, b/c they can't agree on one song, so there are 2 AWFUL songs playing at the same time through tinny horrible cellphone speakers.

camels are very cool though. they have long eyelashes and are fur-bearing giants. that's cool. it's really good to ride a camel. they are SO tall and will always walk slowly and they can't even run very fast so you don't have to be scared of them having an anxiety attack and running off or bucking you or something. they walk w/one foot in front of the other, it's an elegant step, and like a dancy trot. their feet are like a floppy fur pancake. they reach up and eat off tree branches while you're traveling, that's funny. they don't want to do anything that you want them to. when the camel boyz would need to make a camel sit or get up, it would holler this star wars monster groan and try to bite the man. they always want to stop and eat stuff. at night, instead of sleeping, they sit and eat ALLLL night, and it is a very disgusting, farty plunger, water bucket, sloppy hair-clogged drain sound. when they drink it's a giant monster blood-slurping sound, and then a sound of an office water cooler blasted through a Victrola cone. you can see these lumps traveling backwards up their gullets into the water hump zone. sometimes they sigh when you're riding, and their torso inflates under you, it's like when you lay on an inflatable mattress and someone fills it up, or like if you were sitting on a giant sleeping dog and his breathing almost pushes you off onto the carpet. or if you've ever had a big sleeping dad or uncle or grandpa and you crawl on top of him, it's like that.

one horrible, exhausting thing about camel trekking is cameling, very slowly, through villages. EVVEERRYONEE waves to you and yells things to you, you have to wave back, respond, mobs of kids run out of every house and surround your camel, laughing and yelling things at you in Hindi, sometimes throwing water or rocks at you. at first it's fun, and everyone is funny and adorable, and then you do it like 20 times, each time for like 15-30 minutes and it's like being a shitty hero in a ticker tape parade. i felt like jfk. just have to keep waving and waving and shouting to people.

also, if you are in the camel car, you sit directly behind the camel's anus. whenever he feels the need, he shits. staring into the maw of a shitting camel's shitter looks sort of like a hand made from of bright pink bubblegum pushing grass snooker balls out of a time vortex.

definitely the best thing about camel quests is walking around in the desert in the dark after the camp is set up, or when you're trying to sleep but it's hard to stop looking around at all the black palm tree silhouettes and floppy desert plant shadows and the big blue sky dome with the stars. it's a lot like "Blue Shadows on the Trail" from the Three Amigos, and a little bit like in Super Mario Bros. 2 when you throw a magic potion bottle and go through the door that appears, which takes you to the nighttime desert world until your time runs out. there's either enough moonlight or enough light coming from the nearby villages to light your way if'n you wish to walk around. i kept thinking the moon was about to come up, but it was just the light from a wedding in a village a few miles away, behind some mountain.

the first midnight walk, we went to a village that the camel jockeys had some friends at b/c there was a wedding going on there. i really wanted to see it, but wanted to wear a mask or something, b/c i knew people would be drunk, offering me endless water/tea/booze/snacks wanting me to take photos, wanting me to dance, wanting me to be everybody's funny white man toy. but i went anyways.

lemme explain a little about Indian villages. they are scattered around the desert, with little dirt roads connecting them by miles. when you get close to one, there are cows and goats and chickens and ducks and dogs running around all over the place. people live in these big square thick cement buildings, painted insane colors. lots of people have cellphones and motorbikes and tvs and ridiculous stereo systems, but water is pumped from a well, people sit on mats in the dirt, the roads are dusty dirt, clothes are washed on stone slabs, cow urine is drunk straight from the steaming urethra b/c of it's purity and holiness, food is baked on the ground, bags of grain are dumped out on the pavement and cleaned of pebbles and dirt, people chew this horrible intoxicating leaf that turns your teeth red and erodes your gums into nothing, etc... people are not ignorant of modern things, modern ways of living, b/c they adopt parts of it, but only the parts they need and that are useful to them: motorized transportation, phone communication, electricity.

anyways, the wedding was over, so it was just the party going on. it was a bunch of girls and women in very nice vermilion saris, full of gold jewelery crowded in the dusty dirt around one side of a cement patio, lit by big, unshielded, rented lights, and a mean gang of young dressed-up gentlemen crowded around the other side, while, on the patio, huge speakers pumped up the hindi jam and veiled ladies danced around. there was a hole in the wall where the men could see it all. directly in front of the patio there was a big empty dirt area where one VERY drunk man was dancing like an exotic idiot and beckoning to me in confusing fluid hand gestures. i think i figured out that he wanted me to smoke Bidis, get drunk, photograph him, smoke weed, eat something, drink sweet magic water AND dance with him. so, my camel jockey pals snuck me through the middle of the wedding w/everyone staring at me, over behind where all the boys were crowded, into a dark corner of yard. all the boys surrounded me, tugged on my shirt, shouted questions in Hindi, laughed at me and took me to a little Indian lawn chair thing.

lemme explain quickly about Indian kids, and Indian boys in particular. they travel in gangs, they are shameless, they will crowd around you, throw rocks at you, laugh at you, ask you to take photographs, ask you for money, even if they don't need it, ask you for pens, give you funny, sincere compliments, stare at you for minutes at a time without saying anything, and, if you do take a photograph, as soon as the camera click sounds, they will charge you to look at the camera screen to see what the picture looks like. they can do this for hours if you indulge them. they are a bunch of rascals and rapscallions, hard to control, but if an adult runs at them with a stick, they scatter in fear. i think that the attitude of the boys continues into young adulthood, as far as i've seen anyways.

ok, then my camel pals shoed them away with a broom, and moved the lawn chair over to a better spot where i could see dancing. a kindly, smiley, bearded ol' robin-williams-looking Indian man became my friend and my protector. he told me what was going on, that i could take pictures, and guarded me from the drunk Indian men. he was very nice. he also told me, during a break in the music, when the dance-patio was cleared and a single woman dancer took the stage, that the woman dancer was not a woman but a cross-dressing Indian dude. he was a real good dancer.

so, Laurel enlightened me, a couple weeks ago, about the state of Hermaphrodites in India. all Hermaphrodites are taken from their parents to live together in a big commune thing. when they grow up, they dress as women and wander through markets and trains and crowded places asking for money. if you do not give it, they will put a hex on you or your family. everyone gives them money b/c everyone knows that there is no possible role for them in normal society and their "job", basically, is to ask for money. everyone accepts that they must support these people, like a civic duty or social responsibility that everyone takes on. also, they are often hired to dance or sing at weddings, births, funerals, etc... on the train a few days ago, we spied one of these enchanted creatures dressed in black walking through the train cars.

shortly after the trannydance, the power went out on the wedding. the power goes out frequently in India. all that was left to do was for the very drunk dancing man, that i mentioned before, to ask the gang of boys how to say phrases in English and he would try to say them to me, and I didn't understand, but the boys thought it was cackling hilarious. then some older Indian man passed out backward on the patio and people rushed in to pour water down his mouth. then we left.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

hot pix

cool pix. i hate this slideshow thing, but it's way easier than pasting all of the images onto the page.

ok, it's late, took like an hour to figure out how to put photos up. here are some quickiez:

it's election time in India, and politickin' is rampant. the political pamphlets look a lot like rave fliers. people scream and beat drums in the street, it's like a parade, strings of firecrackers and then these giant festive BOMBS go off every few mintues, totally deafening&horrifying, the politicians speak into megaphones, old timey.

all of the glass soda bottles get sent back to the factory to get re-used, so they all look ancient and beautiful and have awesome old SLICE and 7UP logos on them, the really cool early 80s ones. also, they have rust around the mouth part, from being re-used hundreds of times.

i've seen a few ladies with amazing big heavy brass spectacles. usually they are cutting fabric.

at some station between mumbai and agra, there were giant megaphones blasting this tinny old tyme ragtime piano music while all these merchants were running around the train windows yelling "panni! water! frooti!", "chai chai chai.", "maaaah-sala!" they kind of sing it like at an ol baseball game, or like a bunch of towne criers.

between gokarna and mumbai, naked kids with rat-tails were throwing rocks at my train from a trench of garbage between the train tracks and the stone wall that separates it from the city. men were squatted every few hundred feet to either turd in a garbage field or scrounge for goodies.

i met a woman at the big station in mumbai who talked in emphatic busted english about vegetarians, "hippy" as a religion (among hindu, moslem, christian), beards, barack obama (ps - everyone wants to talk about barack obama) and who said my skin is tough but inside is so sweet, then she grabbed my face and screamed "LIKE SWEET CHOCOLATE BABY!!"

if you want to make a phone call in India, you look for a big giant yellow that says "STD" in huge block letters. i imagine inside the booth is a crotch grabber machine than implants whatever std you like. i haven't tried yet. also, you can send faxes from anywhere. anyone want a fax?? gimme yr fax number.

i spent 20 hours on a train with these three totally insane men. not sure if i've got the energy to get into it now, but they were like gigantic teenagers in formal business clothes. we just stayed up very late making funny, woke up, made more funny, they wanted to talk and talk forever, they said my beard was good, it looks cute, that i have very good nice eyes, that i look smart, that i look just like a Bollywood star, not Hollywood. twas exhausting. big boisterous braggarts. i felt like Bilbo when Gandalf invites all the dwarves over to his house for that psychedelic party. it was kinda like being around a new friend in jr. high that you think you know well, but then, you invite him to sleep over, and he won't leave and stays all day the next day and you don't like him as much as you thought. there was no escape. except for this army guy i met:

on the train, i got secretly drunk with a very neurotic, skinny, giggly 29 yr old India Army grunt, who I thought was 19 or 20. he snuck me up to the top tier sleeper bench, and opened his gigantic duffel bag to reveal it was full of army-issue raisins and "Wine", which is a generic term meaning any ol booze. he had ttooonnns of bottles of rum and whiskey and beer, and they were all stamped with red ink "for use in Indian army issue only". I guess it's really hard to get booze in India, but they issue it to soldiers, so it's a very prized commodity that they keyster out of bootcamp. he could note drink "wine" without "snacks", so we had to wait until the next stop so he could buy some "magic masala lays" with ridges and 7up and fried battered wonderbread. anyways, here shared with me his booze, his bread, his weird life. the bread was battered and deep fried bread, battered with liquid bread?

speaking of new friends, there is a weird friend jealousy thing in India. when people are very hospitable to you, i feel like they expect you to hang around them forever, and if you go off somewhere else and meet a new friend, they get very weird and jealous. it's happened a couple times. it's very disturbing and upsetting. all of your new friends get mad at each other. the first men would not let the army guy sit with us, told me he was a bad person, making me stupid, that i would get arrested for drinking with him, showed me a press pass one of them had and said i would be all over the Indian newspaper tomorrow. that sounded cool actually. but, they wouldn't even talk to this nice guy. it was so weird, like a buncha shitty cousins.