The City of Shiva, or Holiest of the Seven Sacred Cities

VARANASI, INDIA: I feel that India does not have much to offer beyond the religious and five star services one comes across in their travels. To walk around the cities you find the desperately poor, repeated over and over again, the squalor and begging, the hustling for money is so prevalent. You try to see the culture and the arts, none of that seems to exist now. Where is it? There may be more to what meets the eye but if you are not a local it is difficult to see. Being hounded every minute you walk outside to purchase unwanted trinkets and faded postcards from every man, woman and child on the street is the memory you are left with.

Sleeping monkey man
Sleeping monkey man

I feel a prisoner of the hotel – although it is a beautiful one. The little monkey man outside the window looking in from his naps with understanding eyes. You want to pet them but you know they can be vicious. No need to tempt them. It could be very different if I were a man, or traveling with a man I expect. I would not get as much harassment. This was once a king’s palace, the place where I am staying, on the Ganges, my exotic prison from the heat, the begging and the poverty.

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Remembering Tragedy

I suppose too some realisations come a bit late. In recalling the days that followed 9/11 I spoke to my friend about how so many people rushed to the local hospital to donate blood, then as time passed it became more apparent this was in vain – there would be no survivors who would need the transfusions.

DELHI, INDIA: Today I was speaking with a friend about nothing in particular when the conversation drifted towards my time in New York and recalling what it was like to live there under mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as one elected official transferred power to the other during 9/11.

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When I feel stupid

Did I do the right thing? Why else am I an expat if not to learn from being in a foreign land? Why should I have these expectations that a driver need to speak a language that is foreign to him and not that of his country? Why couldn’t I just learn a few words in Hindi?

GURGAON, INIDA: Okay, maybe not stupid… that is just my cheap clickbait headline. I do feel silly, and sad… and actually, yes, I feel stupid.

Why? That’s a bit of a story, a story that begins prior to my landing in India.

So when I landed I had a driver pick me up… he was funny, youthful if not a bit overly confident, and well-spoken for a driver. When I say well-spoken, I mean he spoke very good English. I was skeptical because he insisted I remember his name and “make a good reference” about his driving and customer service to his employer, the vendor hired to provide car services to our growing Gurgaon based workforce.

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First Impressions

The pollution is no joke. Haze, dust from endless construction, smoke from crop burning, coal fire power plants, gas generators, cars… all combined with a thick humidity.

GURGAON, INDIA: The pollution is no joke. Haze, dust from endless construction, smoke from crop burning, coal fire power plants, gas generators, cars… all combined with a thick humidity. This mixture of smog permeates the sinuses leaving one with a constant dry, chalky taste in their mouth.

I arrived with no problem. My driver was prompt, helping me with my nine suitcases. He was chatting away the entire drive over about his service and experience (he used to work at the US Embassy). His name is Arun Kumar. I have to try very hard to remember people’s names as it does not come natural to me. Continue reading “First Impressions”

My Fourth Ukulele

LONDON, UK: I’ve picked up the ukulele again, this time it seems that it might stick a little longer than in times past. The first time I purchased a ukulele was way back in 1999. It was a starter and like many of my purchases, it was a whimsical decision. I don’t recall the influence exactly. I was really into jazz, swing and lindy hop back then.

There was a great little place in the LES ran by two friends of mine, called The Piano Store. As you would guess, it was in the basement of a piano store. The weekly dancing and socializing was a huge part of a young subculture, a fun, sophisticated community which aspired to live out life from 1940s Manhattan through to 1960s Las Vegas. The dance was the center of this, with a small set of cocktail connoisseurs holding up the bar. I would like to think we were the one’s who started the current cocktail culture. In New York we certainly were.

It was on one fabulous night that Casey MacGill played at The Piano Store. The night had a feeling of 1920s speakeasy (before speakeasies were brought back into style), everyone decked out in their retro best, the dance floor smooth and the bar in tiki decor. Casey and his band were the real McCoy. My memory of Casey later that night, meeting him downstairs, drink in one hand and what looked like a beat up ukulele in another. Do not underestimate a beat up uke by the way, the age and styling were more simple in the 1920s and 1930s, but the sound hasn’t changed, and the price will attest to that. Continue reading “My Fourth Ukulele”