Thursday, December 30, 2004

so big, it could crush this town

My mind just can't get around what has happened in South Asia. There's no way to even process what has happened, or the implications of it. And I don't know what to do, which just adds to my confusion. If I try to write about it, I'm sure something stupid will tumble onto this post, so I will resist the urge.

But okay, time to stop being so coy (point taken, Abhi). And this is also for J, because she was right.

Turns out, Houston is sort of worth it. I've only ever lived on coasts, east and west, so I always approach Texas like an alien visiting another planet. Actually, I approach a lot of things like an alien observing another planet, but that's a story for another day. And in this case, it's with good reason, because Texas is its own weird world.

But it turns out Houston has a ton of redeeming qualities. I guess it all depends on your perspective, on your context, which is an idea which took center stage in the many late night talks my cousins and I had all week. I've been to Houston before, but I was much younger. We went to such mind numbing places as The Galleria mall, and drove around the city looking at the high rises. That's what happens when you're younger though, I guess. Thinking back on it, until I was about 12, every visit I made to New York City gave me the impression that it was just filled with Indian apparel and food stores, since we spent the whole time in Jackson Heights. Similarly, I saw Houston from the eyes of my parents, and my uncles, and so it seemed devoid of anything stimulating.

Seeing it this time, through the eyes of my cousins, who are so amazing that it takes my breath away to talk to them some time, gave me a newfound respect for Houston. I kept ranting about where this money was coming from, but there is a lot of money spent on the arts in Houston. We went to a sculpture garden flanking the MFAH and the CAM, and there, in this small little clearing are sculptures by no less than Giacometti, Miro, Rodin. Downtown, on Main street, more sculptures. Even more still peppering the medical center (which is something of a city unto itself).

There are two chapels by the Menil museum in Houston that are weirdly amazing. The Rothko chapel is something you could easily make fun of on the surface. Rothko in general is easy to jeer. Somehow, though, sitting in the chapel is really evocative. Similarly, the Byzantine chapel is an experience. Both places feature, in some ways, very spare art. The Byzantine chapel has an amazing fresco in it, but what's really impressive about both chapels is the way the very design of the chapels enhances the entire atmosphere. Odd, in a city like Houston, with so many cookie cutter condos and high-rises, to really get a sense of what architecture can do to a place.

My cousins also took me to Project Rowhouses, another place that just gives the feeling that there are a lot of possibilities, that there are people making things happen in real time. I don't know. I just know that this trip was very energizing for me.

Of course it was also very relaxing. My cousins and I regress into this adolescent behavior, or maybe it's not even adolescent. I think we just really have a love for words, the three of us (yes, I know that may not be apparent from the way I craft my posts)- there is something we all seem to relish about the impossiblity of translation. So when we get together, it becomes this bizarre mish-mosh of as many languages as we can manage. English, Gujurati, really lousy Hindi, and a little Spanish thrown in for taste. And then of course, words we make up. One of my cousins came back from India recently, and picked up the word bond as an adjective. She isn't completely confident she's using it in the correct context, but we just decided to take ownership of the word, to create our own definition. So whenever someone does something kick-ass, something ballsy, it's "so bond."

We talked every night until 2 in the morning. We went to a bar that is a clothing store by day, cool ass bar by night. We went to different cafes every day, and none of them were Starbucks. We stayed up one night baking scones because we were so wired, we needed to expend our energy. We cheered each other on, talking about 2005, what lies ahead, the disappointments we have had, the possibilities that lie before us. We acted like idiots, we had deeply intellectual discussions. We understood how each of us have really different constraints in our current situations, how different our contexts are, and yet how many similarities there still are tying together our experiences. We sincerely wished each other well, which is something that you learn is rare in this world when you come right down to it. We said we'd meet like this again, but we knew it was a unique moment in our histories, a time that will likely never come again. It was the perfect way to end the year.

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