Sunday, January 29, 2006

Poem #4: Exposure

It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead, I walk through damp leaves,
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,

Imagining a hero
On some muddy compound,
His gift like a slingstone
Whirled for the desperate.

How did I end up like this?
I often think of my friends'
Beautiful prismatic counselling
And the anvil brains of some who hate me

As I sit weighing and weighing
My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people?
For what is said behind-backs?

Rain comes down through the alders,
Its low conducive voices
Mutter about let-downs and erosions
And yet each drop recalls

The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer;
An inner émigré, a grown long-haired
And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

Escaped from the massacre,
Taking protective colouring
From bole and bark, feeling
Every wind that blows;

Who, blowing up these sparks
For their meagre heat, have missed
The once in a lifetime portent,
The comet's pulsing rose.

- Seamus Heaney

Friday, January 27, 2006


Saw an elephant walking this morning in the middle of a 6-lane road, circling India Gate. Pre-dawn by just a few minutes. The mahout was gently, assuredly swaying on top, directing her forward. My taxi driver waved his hand and just said "it happens, in the morning..."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Republic Day

It's January 26, which means it's Republic Day across India. Here in Delhi, I finally understood why all the roads are so wide and why the design is so imperial - it is designed for pageantry. Boy, does Delhi bring it. As a guy who's seen a few Rose Parades in Portland, has seen the pomp of July 4th in DC, and was even a french voyageur in a Northern Minnesota parade, well there was no comparison.

Where to begin? First, there may well have been a million people on the streets waiting for the parade. I got an invitation via the embassy, and was allotted a seat near the final parade presentation podium. I started walking from my house around 7:45 and finally got to my seat around 9:00, after being misdirected and told to wait in long lines. The parade began at 9:57 am precisely, as announced in the program and over a battery of loudspeakers. ("Officers, synchronize your watches on my count - 10, 9, 54321, Mark.")

I thought there would be some floats and bands. No, no. India is one of those countries where they believe in illustrating just how proud they are to be Hindustani. They paraded the army, navy, air force, and other paramilitary services. Helicopters, planes, missiles, tanks, camels, elephants, dancers, bands, acrobats - the works. The announcer had a great baritone and an even better script - "And now, the army, India's pride - an iron fist wrapped in velvet. When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Actual quote, and indicative of the whole thing.

One of the many highlights for me was seeing actual missiles on the streets. This is the Agni 1, I think, followed hard on by the even longer Agni 2. Its dimensions and firing range were announced in another swell of rapturous commentary. Around this time there was also weapon locating radar, 155mm guns, reconnaissance vehicles, a demining vehicle, an amphibious bridge deployment system, more guns and more missiles. I believe all of these wind their way through much of New Delhi.

Watching the many marching contingents, each with its own band and theme song was great, too. Each contingent had its own very distinctive parade uniform, all of which were in striking colors - reds, bright oranges, greens - and many of which included great head ornaments. The Sikh regiment looked great in their parade/dress turbans. All marched in precise synchronized step, arms swinging in time to their band's beat. Most impressive, though, was that they got the camel corps to march in near lockstep as well.

After the military paraded, the cultural pageant began, starting with the elephants. Seated on top of the elephants (they were not quite in lockstep; harder to do with an elephant I think) were children who had won national awards for bravery. Then there were many floats showing traditional Indian culture and the bright future that is Indian modernity. I wish I had a picture of some of the floats. There were floats showing off the new subway, one with a giant computer mouse and a finger clicking on it (the finger moving up and down was almost creepy), lots of traditional dancers, an homage to bamboo, and my favorite, the float for the Ordnance Factory Board ("the Power that Packs the Punch").

I kept thinking the parade was over, but it kept going. It finally wound up with some flyovers in formation from the Indian Air Force (very loud). Everyone started to leave. But just like the people in the movie theater who know there's something more after the credits, some folks stayed glued to their seats. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later came the motorcycle acrobats. There were guys like this in formation, and there were also people standing on a ladder mounted on their cycle, a fellow reading the paper while riding handless... and backwards. These guys were the real hit and may have gotten the biggest cheers.

Overwhelmed, impressed, and slightly anemic, I lurched away and joined the hordes of people exiting. I walked back to my house, ate my zucchini and tomatoes, and dreamed of pizza. What a day.

Off the Wagon

So, I can choose to be positive about this, or negative. Naturally, I choose to be positive. Therefore, allow me to say: what a great 5-day raw food cleanse that was!

The not-so-subtext is that I was just feeling too tired, too low to do much of anything. So, I just had a bowl of muesli, some raw almonds, and some banana bread. Not exactly uber-sinful, but gee it tasted good. I think I'm going to continue the cleansing elements for the next 5 days, but not exclusively. For all the promises of doubling my energy, I felt the cleanse was doing just the reverse. It was never meant to be a fast, but rather an energy and mood enhancer.

I am a little confused, and I do wonder if I had given it a couple of more days, if perhaps my energy level would have shot up, exploding upwards as promised. But today was Republic Day, a holiday, and part of me just wanted to sleep the whole day away. I felt so lethargic, even as I watched an amazing parade (more on that in the next post). Then I remembered, wait a second, I didn't feel bad before I started this. I had quite a bit of energy. Then a friend of mine made a joke about bacon, and I almost started to cry. (Well, ok, that's overstating it, but I certainly felt an overwhelming fondness for crispy bacon... Sigh. All this after a measly five days. Am I a weakling, or just sensible?)

So, my new plan surrounding raw foods is to broaden my sample size of people who are doing it, and get their experiences. If you are a raw foodie, you have my admiration. Would you mind telling me - did you feel a marked energy drain at the beginning of your diet switch? I tried eating more fruit for the good carbs, but it wasn't enough. Perhaps I just needed to eat even more. I certainly learned quite a bit regarding fats, carbs, and proteins in raw, "living" food.

And I think the idea of raw foods is still intriguing; the possibility that raw foods are more alive, are processed by our bodies more easily, and allow us to live dramatically lower on the food chain is very appealing. I just know I wouldn't be writing this post right now unless I had eaten the aforementioned forbidden food.

I also admit to wondering: are some people just, metabolically speaking, a better fit for veganism, raw foodism, or even vegetarianism? Is there something to the whole blood-type diet, perhaps? I'm O+, which puts me in the omnivorous slot.

Any thoughts? In the meantime, I think I'm going to have a veggie pizza and complete my fall from living food grace.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Poem #3: As I Watch’d the Ploughman Ploughing

As I watch’d the ploughman ploughing,
Or the sower sowing in the fields—or the harvester harvesting,
I saw there too, O life and death, your analogies:
(Life, life is the tillage, and Death is the harvest according.)

- Walt Whitman

Day 3 - Not Dead Yet!

So, I'm almost done with Day 3 of "the cleanse," and... well... it's not as easy as I thought it would be, this raw food thing.

I actually don't feel as hungry as I had feared I might, which is good. But I've also felt tired and a little weaker than normal. Apparently, the experienced, faithful raw foodist knows this is the point in the cleanse one's toxins are being mobilized. This is the dark before the dawn. In a classic "is this genius or doubletalk?" moment, I found this on the web about cleansing:

"Once these poisons are gone, you will feel energetic, vital, happy and healthy. It is the poisons that make us feel tired, mentally confused, irritable, unhappy, depressed and ill. Consequently you should look forward to detoxification."

So I've got a bunch to look forward to! Alright!

Tomorrow is Day 4. In the morning, I'll have a delicious liver flush drink, which consists of:

1/4 tsp of cloves
3 springs of parsley
2 oranges/tangerines
2 lemons (indian size, which are much smaller)
1/4 cup filtered water
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1 clove of garlic (peeled)
1-2 inches of fresh ginger
2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Throughout the day, I drink the "master cleanser," which is a liter of water with the following:

2 indian lemons
1 1/2 tbsp of honey
1 pinch ground clove
1 pinch cayenne pepper

I believe this is all designed to peel the toxins from your intestines like so much old paint and unwanted wallpaper from your living room. If you liked that paint and wallpaper, tough.

More good news is that my dreams are sure to be delicious and cooked-food filled tonight. I may wake up with tears on my pillow. But perhaps tomorrow dawn will break and my food fears will be gone? I'll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Cleanse Begins

Today is day 1 of the Raw Food Cleanse. Yes, I have decided to join a small group of friends who are eating nothing but raw foods for the next ten days. No loopholes, no jokes, the rocket is off the launch pad. Now let's see what happens to the old body. Option 1: increased vigor, a system flush, and better immunity. Option 2: Some hunger, but no permanent damage. Option 3: Brain-eating tapeworms. Place your bets.

Luckily, very luckily, I am not in charge of this whole program. My friend Soorya is considering opening a raw food / vegan restaurant here in Delhi, and we are her guinea pigs. She has been eating only raw foods for some years now, and she looks great. She looks much younger than her 56 years and certainly seems to be flush with energy. As part of the package, she tells us what to do, gives us four kundalini yoga classes, and even makes lunch and dinner for us every day. How could I say no?

So why would one do this? Well, the theory goes that raw foods are chock full of helpful enzymes that aid your body. With cooked food, your body wastes quite a bit of energy breaking down the dead (i.e. cooked) food and transforming it into needed enzymes. With raw food, the body gets what it needs at a lower cost, and passes the energy savings on to you.

For more information, check out this site.

I have no idea if this will work or not, but it seems worth it to give it a try. How bad could it be?

I'll report on the results, unless I die, in which case the tape worm will take over this site... Cheers!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poem #2: Odysseus' Decision

The great man turns his back on the island.
Now he will not die in paradise
nor hear again
the lutes of paradise among the olive trees,
by the clear pools under the cypresses. Time
begins now, in which he hears again
that pulse which is the narrative
sea, at dawn when its pull is strongest.
What has brought us here
will lead us away; our ship
sways in the tinted harbor water.
Now the spell is ended.
Give him back his life,
sea that can only move forward.

- by Louise Gluck

Monday, January 16, 2006


I spent the weekend with two friends in that queen of the hillstations, Shimla. Shimla is most famous, I think, for being the summer capital of the Raj. Every summer the Brits would pack up everything and go to Shimla, which is at about 8000 feet and considerably cooler. They traveled by mule train, which just shows you how desperate people are to get out of the plains.

Although we too discussed taking mules, just for the sake of historical accuracy, in the end we elected to go by train. We took the night sleeper to Kalka. There we sleepily boarded the Shivalik toy train, which has been running for over 100 years, albeit very slowly. This (very) narrow-gauge train is charmingly, arrestingly slow, but the view is fantastic, especially with the sun rising over the mountains and valleys.

We reached Shimla and checked into our hotel, a Quality Inn, which staff apparently chooses to abstain from use of any heating products. It was cold! We were encouraged by this to get moving and go see Shimla. (They eventually provided us with a space heater, which was a life-saver.)

Shimla is not that big, but the view of the mountains is wonderful. It feels very much like Mussoorie, where I stayed last time I was in India, especially with the combination of the pine trees and the view of the Himalayas. The architecture is that familiar mix of barely-preserved Raj-era buildings and newer concrete/aluminum dwellings. We strolled along the mall and made a few stops to drink chai and coffee.

We debated the merits of our two favorite stops, the very modern Barista and the very traditional coop, the Indian Coffee House. While the coffee was much better at Barista, the atmosphere at the ICH couldn't be beat. It seemed as though it had not changed its decor in at least 50 years, down to the promotional posters:

Of course, all the kids hang out at Barista, and all the old fogeys hang out at the ICH. Count me in with the fogeys.

Sufficiently caffeinated, we hiked up to the Jakhu Temple. In the Ramayan, this is the place where Lord Hanuman (a gigantic monkey, and one of the big heroes of Indian mythology) is reported to have briefly rested on his way to save Lakshman from the demon Ravana (who lived in Sri Lanka, naturally). While Hanuman dozed only briefly and then went on to Lanka, his helper monkeys all stayed asleep. Thus, the temple in Shimla is said to be populated by the descendants of Lord Hanuman. The local population comes to the temple for pooja (worship) and really reveres the monkeys.

Said another way, there are a bunch of coddled, aggressive monkeys here who get ornery when they're hungry. They want your food and your bags, and they'll come after you to get it. I got jumped by one monkey who saw I had a little food for the temple offering. He got the food. On the way down, we saw some monkeys grab a hat and a purse from a group of Indian tourists. Much screaming ensued. (The monkeys really aren't that dangerous, but they are quick and they hiss and scratch.) We got the purse and the hat back, which made us feel good. We rewarded ourselves with more coffee.

Lord Hanuman, father of many monkeys...

There weren't too many other highlights of the trip, besides a trip to the Oberoi hotel for lunch. I'll write more about the Oberoi and other such hotels later, but they all seem to celebrate the Raj era. The Oberoi is dominated by large pictures of Lord Kitchener in full regalia, and the staff all dress in period costume. A little unsettling, but fantastic brook trout. These hotels are all quite expensive, but they also offer a real respite from that daily feeling of chaos that envelops you in India. But it is still surreal to see what feels like an unapologetic nod to a different era.

Some more hiking about and a little more coffee later, we caught the return versions of the toy train and sleeper train back home to Delhi. Today is MLK Day, so we are off. I'm back on the consular line tomorrow. Happy MLK Day!

Friday, January 13, 2006

You're Twins??

So here I am in India, and I miss my twin brother. Now, he and I are very different in many ways, and we've always been cast that way (not least by ourselves). But over the years, I think we've each started, now and again, to crib a page from the other's notebook. We are, after all, twins.

I remember tromping around in the Philippines together when we were about 6 or 7 years old, making up games and drinking orange juice through our noses (well that may have been just me, but it's more indicative of the kind of thing we'd do than of one particular event. Ahem.). Or making up a new alphabet and trapping crayfish when we were 13. (We never knew what to do with the crayfish, but it was fun to do, I guess.)

Or him poaching my girlfriends in high school (ok, again, that was more me, but he made up for it after college). After high school, we lived together for a year, working in a bakery and a restaurant. We explored Portland and defied death in a 1975 VW Beetle that taught us the meaning of the phrase "caveat emptor!" We split to go to different colleges, which was a good idea. It also started a trend of missing each other more. Starting in college, first he and then I got involved in a crazy Indonesian martial art called Poekoelan.

After college, we both moved to San Francisco. We stayed out way too late in weird warehouses before getting up to go make video games together. He stayed in California when I moved back to Portland, but we did get together for one fateful trip to Europe and North Africa in 2004. Here are a few pictures from that memorable trip, which surely show why I miss my twin.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Happy Eid!

We at the embassy receive 20 holidays a year, the maximum allowed by State. Were there no maximum, I'm sure we'd have over 25, what with the combined Christian, Hindu, and Muslim holidays. Well, today is Eid ul-Adha, the second Eid of the year. The first Eid marks the ending of Ramadan. This second Eid, as Wikipedia explains it, is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

I believe that son is Isaac and that God at the very last minute stayed Ibrahim, thanked him for his steadfastness (and willigness to sacrifice his son), and then provided a goat or two to finish the sacrifice. Without going into the question of what kind of God would test a person to that degree, it is quite an illustration of putting your trust in God.

But who ever asks in Sunday School, "But what happened to the goat?" Well, the goat got no reprieve, and apparently that's carried on for generations. Again turning to Wikipedia for guidance:

The first day is the primary holiday, on which men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing and perform prayer (Salah) in a large congregation. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice; this sacrifice is called "Qurbani." The meat is distributed amongst their neighbors, relatives, and the poor and hungry.

So at least the meat goes for a good cause.

Anyway, as today was a holiday, I ventured out to Old Delhi, which is the main area in Delhi in which Islam is the dominant religion and where Urdu is spoken and written. I love the streets of Old Delhi, which are packed with people, full of life, and which often end up as mini-labyrinths. I made many friends whenever I took a picture, and I cemented the friendship by saying "Eid mubarak ho!" They responded in kind, and we would chat in Hindi/Urdu for a minute. It's a simple ritual, but really very pleasant. Here are a few of the pictures I took:

Here I'm approaching the Jama Masjid (or "Friday Mosque"). Check out the traffic. The cars were dominant at first, but gave way quickly to the bicycle rickshaw and scooters. In the alleyways, it ended up being dominated by pedestrians, camels, and goats. Finally, I got to the mosque itself. People were milling around, and many were in their finest clothing, mostly long white kurtas and pants for the men. (Some were playing cricket in their finest clothing, in a field to the side of the mosque, but hey, it's a holiday, right?)

The Jama Masjid is impressive, as are most of the mosques and monuments made by the Mughals. Most of the work done in that era seems to me to be a great combination of masculine and feminine architecture, what with the solid, almost menacing bulk combined with the intricate engraving and ornamentation. I can't wait to see the Taj Mahal...

I did have one funny, then sad moment. At first I thought it was great the way many of the goats had festive necklaces on. I didn't realize that this was their last moment of celebration before reprising their ancestor's "No, no Isaac, allow me" moment. As a result, there were large hunks of fresh goat meat all around, as well as bloody pelts. Don't scroll down if you don't want to see the next two pictures...

Happy Goats


Mission Accomplished! (Sorry goats...)

Just so I don't end on that gory note, I'll share one more thing I like about Delhi, namely the multi-lingual signs. Throughout much of Delhi, you'll find signs in three or even four languages. In Old Delhi, it's Urdu, Hindi, and English. In New Delhi, it's Hindi, English, Punjabi, and Urdu. This is a sign for the Hotel Deluxe in Old Delhi, and a bad picture of the road sign by the Embassy. I'll try to get a better picture of Punjabi, because it looks like it's written by martians...

Happy Eid!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Three Reasons to Love Consular

My friend S. has been on the consular line for about 6 or 8 months now. I asked her if she had heard anything unusual, if she had any good stories. She agreed as how you get into the strangest conversations, like...

1) The time when she heard one of her fellow consular officers shouting "Stop staring at me like a monkey! You're staring at me with those monkey eyes. Stop it!"

2) The time when an applicant kept telling her that he needed to go to the US to rescue his ex-girlfriend from her parents. He kept saying that he knew if he could just see her one more time, she would follow him back to India. He knew she was being trapped by her parents' mind control. S. was a little disturbed by his voice, the way he was so insistent. She told him that she couldn't issue him a visa unless he had something else to show her. At this, he said that yes, he did have something else. She asked 'what?', and he slid a piece of paper through the window opening. Then she saw it was a letter professing his absolute sincerity and his love for his girlfriend - written in his own blood. (Needless to say, she dropped it immediately, reached for the hand sanitizer, and denied his visa.)

3) The time when an applicant said he needed to go to the US for an operation. S. asked why, as India has many excellent hospitals, all much less expensive than those in the US. He said, well, it just isn't working. What isn't working, she asked? This isn't working, he said, and he popped his eyeball out of his socket. It bounced once and rolled right under the window. As she jumped back, she said, Sir - it's never going to work if you keep doing that. (Then she grabbed the hand sanitizer, and you know the rest...)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Poem #1: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

A poem from Wendell Berry:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Joining the Raw Food Club

I am now a member of the newly-formed RFC - the Raw Food Club!

At first, I was just an associate member, I think. One of my neighbors was hosting a dinner, and he was kind enough to invite me along. We enjoyed delicious raw versions of ravioli, cold corn soup, tortilla chips and salsa, salad, stuffed tomatoes, and desserts. All the food was made by a very interesting, slightly older woman named Soorya. An expat american who's been living in India off and on for the past 35 years, she is (I believe) a converted Sikh who came to India as the 60s were waning to follow a spiritual teacher. She teaches yoga off and on and seems to be something of a local legend. Everyone knows Soorya K. Certainly she has quite a presence. Although she is quite short and slender, her white turban, a penchant for wearing flowing garments, and her tight, almost austere facial features give her a unique look. Anyway, the food was great, and I was converted, at least to the idea of eating raw food.

Preparing raw food, on the other hand, was a different matter. Round 2 was tonight at Soorya's house, and this time we were each to bring a dish. Turns out raw food "cooking" is really all about soaking, dehydrating, and blending. It's not too hard, but it helps to have a dehydrator, and to be organized enough to soak nuts and such for 24 hours before you're going to "cook." I do not have a dehydrator, and I didn't really get the part about soaking for 24 hours, so I was in a bit of a jam this afternoon when I started. One purchase of a food processor and a bunch of nuts and fruits later, I decided to make a... fig and nut lemon torte! It actually turned out very well, especially considering it was really just a huge oily lump of mixed nuts and raisins sculpted into cake-like patties, with lemon fig "frosting." Quite surprisinly, it was a big hit at the party. (I was afraid I was going to get kicked out for bringing sad food, but it all came together...)

We spent much of the night listening to two young Russian musicians Soorya invited over. They live in Delhi and study classical Indian music. They played tabla (drums), guitar, and a variety of bamboo flutes, and it was incredible. I wish I could have recorded it. Indian music is much like jazz in that there are some overarching structural forms, within which you improvise. These two young musicians live together and practice every day, with performances at night. The Indians in the room were fairly well stunned to see these two young Russians playing traditional and fusion music so well.

By the end of the evening, I had had several of those moments where I asked myself, wow, how did I get here again? After talking with the expat converted Sikh yoga teacher about taking kundalini yoga, comparing urban renewal stories with the man from Chandigarh, meeting the ex-Hindi TV soap opera actress and newscaster, exchanging contact info with the Russians, and pledging to join in on a big group 10-day raw food cleanse, my head was spinning. (NB: The raw-food cleanse starts in a week or so, I think, and we'll see how that goes!)

Monday, January 02, 2006


So, for all y'all in America, has the A&E reality TV show Rollergirls come out yet?

Rollergirls is based on one season of the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls League. TXRD is an updated version of 1970s roller derby, complete with jammers and blockers and a banked track roller rink. Now it's all women, and they are tough, great women who like to basically skate, get into fights, and drink.

When I was down in Austin in early 2005, I became good friends with a couple of the skaters (one Hellcat and one Puta Del Fuego). It was a real ride to hang out with them for a few months. While I was there, A&E was always around, filming the teams for the show. I almost forgot about it, and then today I saw a story about it in Google News. I think tonight is the premiere. If anyone gets a chance to see it (or even better, tape it!) I'd love to hear about it. After meeting a bunch of them, I think it would be great to see them on TV, especially in reality TV-mode. How crazy.

While I was there, it was pretty astonishing to see how hard many of the rollergirls partied. There's a real rockabilly sensibility in many of them, not to mention in Austin generally. I wonder if that comes through. I saw them get pretty wasted when the cameras were around, and I have a feeling some people are going to get a little embarassed on (semi) national TV. It was also interesting to see how some of them were oblivious to the cameras or pointedly didn't care, while some acted like attention-starved kids acting out, and still others had natural charisma muscles that they flexed. I also saw the camera-folk interrupt them and say, "Uhh, that was a great conversation, but we didn't get any of it. Can you do that again?"

From what I saw, the people in the league were all incredibly devoted to the success of TXRD. I know four of the PDFs have PUTA tattooed on the inside of their lower lips. Crazy. Anyway, I hope it's a good series. Maybe some of them will get 15 minutes of fame.

P.S. Oop! Looks like there's some good news and bad news. Good news is that the New York Times just did a review of the series, so that's a bunch of publicity. The bad news is that they really panned the whole thing. Third-wave feminism is great and all that, but the series comes off sounding pretty thin and sophomoric. Oh well, that's just the Times. It may still be a big hit...

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Happy New Year! It's early afternoon here, we're doing radio checks with the Embassy, and I feel a little groggy from last night's shindig at Thai Wok. Thai Wok is on top of a rickety four-story building in the south of New Delhi, near Qutb Minar, a beautiful 800-year old red sandstone tower. The Thai food was excellent and the company was good. Of course, the power went out about 20 seconds before the New Year, so we celebrated in sudden darkness. It was pretty cool, in its own way...

So, I'm scrapping about for some resolutions. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Don't die. Sure, this may be a little morbid, but at least it's pretty achievable. It's good to have one resolution more or less in the bag. Unfortunately, it's not a given. I saw a dead body on the drive into work a few days ago. I think one of the many tiny, teeming little rickshaws got hit by a bus. The way they skitter about, it's not really surprising, but it was shocking to see. The man had apparently been thrown from the rickshaw, which was half-crushed. He was lying on the ground, and a crowd was quickly forming. We drove on.

2. Write more. This blog is a start. I really want to record what's going on around me here. I don't know if my parents kept a journal when we first went to the Philippines in 1975, but I would love to read it if it exists. (I know my father always had his Day-Timer with him, and those notes alone could make a great book...) I'd like also to write a cable or two this year. As a Vice-Consul, I do visas, pretty much exclusively. We Consularites are in a different building from the political section, and sometimes it feels like a different world. The folks in Political spend their days becoming policy experts and writing cables to Washington on the latest developments. It's almost impossible to spend all day on the visa line and understand a topic well enough to write a cable that merits being sent to the mother ship. Still, my hope (no, my resolution!) is to get out and have some unique experiences that will translate into an interesting cable.

3. Learn Hindi. Ooo, just writing that hurts. It is easy to get around India, especially New Delhi, without speaking Hindi. Still, my Hindi is very basic, and it will be hard for me to be an intrepid reporter without knowing the local language. (I admit to having visions of T.E. Lawrence reading local newspapers and understanding the "real" situation on the ground in Arabia. Cue the music.) Even better, I might actually be able to make some friends outside of the Embassy circle. Since "learn Hindi" is really pretty vague, I'll refine it a little to "be able to watch a Bollywood movie without the subtitles, and really understand it."

4. Join a Community Group. I'd like to get involved with a group that is helping people in need here. Just driving around Delhi is a constant reminder of my good fortune. It would be great to get involved with a local community group or NGO and understand how to help at the local level.

5. Read one poem a week. Make that one good poem a week. Sounds easy, but I rarely do it.

Ok, that's it! Goals laid out. Forward into 2006!

P.S. I'd love to hear other resolutions... any takers? Or any favorite poets to read?

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