Monday, February 27, 2006

at home behind the sun

As part of the step back and collect program, I watched Lagaan this weekend. I am not going to critique the movie, but I will say this: it was four hours long, its entire premise hinges on a cricket match, and I still do not understand how the game works. Am I the only Indian on earth that just cannot figure out cricket? As a sports enthusiast, this has always troubled me. All I have ever managed to grasp is this- people yell out wicket & sixer periodically. I think a sixer is a good thing, since my father has always used it as slang. If someone has cracked a particularly good joke or really taken the piss out of someone, my father likes to say, in Gujarati, that they've "hit a sixer." As for wicket, I am still not sure. Is it like a strike? Ow... my head hurts again.

I got what I needed out of this weekend, without much alcohol consumption, for those of you monitoring for the optimal time to stage an intervention. Also, something was in the air on Saturday that took the bro-seph, me, and the Chinese woman who runs the laundromat across the street from me out, fully out of commission, thanks to some nasty allergen. Because of this, I am not at all opposed to the torrential rainfall of the last 48 hours. As JP would say, "I love it when it rains, washing all the urine out of the Mission." Ah, my GBF, he is quite the poet.

On Saturday morning, my friend MM and her husband visited from SoCal. We met fairly early in the morning. I grumble about getting up to meet people at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, but once I have actually gotten out the door, it is always rather lovely. When I got to the restaurant, MM and h-unit were still on 280. So, I signed her name onto the waiting list, and pulled out a book. A few moments later, a dead ringer for Mark Ruffalo approached me and said, "Are you MM's friend?"

Mark Ruffalo-light was a friend of theirs who lives in the East Bay. We chatted for a while before the couple arrived, and he embodied the Ruffalo more and more over time. Okay, let me just say first that, even though he appears in craptastic film after craptastic film, I have a thing for the Ruffalo. You Can Count on Me? Come on. He has earned a long grace period thanks to that film.

Here's the problem with a Ruffalo in real life though. What do you like about the Ruffalo? You like that he wants to get it together, but hasn't quite managed it yet. You like his quiet, understated way, and the fact that a lot may be going on underneath the surface. Um, yeah- in real life? That is not nearly as charming. In fact, after about ten minutes of semi-awkward conversation, I nearly bear-hugged MM when she showed up. Mark Ruffalo-light, we hardly knew you. And maybe that was plenty.

See, I am not a nice person.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I got sh*t

I think I am going to regret this:
  • Red-eye on a Thursday night to get to Newark at 7 am on Friday morning. Nothing like the smell of refineries and car exhaust first thing in the morning.
  • Returning home on Sunday, when Monday is a holiday. The good: flights will not be insane, and I'll have a day to relax. The bad: certain people in NJ are going to have my a$$. Let's just hope they don't find out I was in the area in January, or I may never live to hear the end of it.

Something I will not regret? Going to NJ to see B walk down the aisle. I have become exceedingly lax about attending weddings over the last few years, but this is not one I would even consider missing. I think I might have crashed it were I not invited. Actually, I might be crashing it for all I know.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for you), I have a block at the moment, and just cannot write anything worthwhile. I have thought long and hard about it, and have surmised the following root causes:
    Problem #1: My inability to FTLOG (TM Abhi) quit my job is paralyzing my brain from writing coherently.

    Problem #2: I need to read at least three journal articles this weekend, because I have lost touch with the thing I adore most, and that has contributed to an exacerbated effect of Problem #1.

    Problem #3: An overwhelming feeling of late is making me want to shut myself in my apartment and turn off the telephone. This one is probably the least easy to make sense of in any meaningful way. I do not know why I sometimes feel like people are trying to swallow me whole, or why it causes me to recoil into a cocoon. I suppose it is a whole lot of self-possession. W once accused me of being afraid to be known. This from the person who knows me best is certainly damning. This problem is really causing my brain to bend and twist, and come up with very few solutions. Do I blog for the beautiful anonymity of it all, or do I blog to really be known and understood? And what does blogging have to do with the problem, anyway?

Prognosis: negative. But since I do not have time for psychotherapy, I'm prescribing myself a Sunday, a vodka tonic, a little baking, and a lot of reading. That should make me more comfortable during the inevitable decline.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

turning into something you are not

In a brilliant display of the time wasted on stupidity at work, during a "workshop" today I was asked to write about orchids in a vase. This is what I wrote:
White orchids sit in a clear vase in water. They have a yellow center. The orchid appears to have six blooms and two buds. Green stalks surround them.

I know- you all fell asleep just reading that. Even though the entire exercise and "workshop" was an utter waste of time in terms of work productivity or learning anything about work, it did demonstrate something to me.

This job is dangerous. I know this blog may be proof to the contrary, but I do not consider the above excerpt to be a fair representation of my typical writing style. Something inside of me seems wholly cramped when I am at work. All my normal inclinations are suppressed. I spend considerable energy trying to be some sort of chameleon.

That smacks of trouble. If you sleepwalk through life, you could wake up one day and find yourself somewhere you never wanted to be. But what seems more frightening still is to spend your life pretending to be someone you're not, only to find out one day that you're no longer capable of being yourself.

Congratulations. I think I just transferred my headache to you with that truly dizzying logic (TM Princess Bride).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I suggest you step out on your porch

You know this quote from a very quotable movie:
I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

I am always yearning to go on a rant like that when someone asks me what else I would like to do. I already know what I want, just like Lloyd Dobler knows that what he wants is Diane Court. Deal with it. Of course, if I do not get what I want, then deal with the fallout, and trust me when I say it will be ugly. When I flop on my face, or fall into my next brick wall, I am hoping it will stun me into silence, for the sake of any readers.

But we need not concern ourselves with such things today. Today I am having the usual daydreams that come with sunny San Francisco days. On such days, anything feels possible. So, a trip to Spain seems an inevitability.

There is a reason I keep harping on this trip to Spain, which to some probably seems so commonplace that it is banal to even mention. However, in the days of my youth, I did not have the means to do much traveling. When I was very young, times were fairly tight, and my parents saved up so that we could visit family in India every few years. Aside from that, we drove to places where family or close family friends lived- exotic destinations like Michigan, upstate New York, and Winston-Salem, NC. In my college years, tuition was punishing me pretty severely. My inner Guju could not grasp the concept of just shrugging off growing debt. Instead, it gave me ulcers.

When I started working, I still lacked the means. What I made up for in money, I lost in time. The reality of being close to extended family means two weeks of vacation just barely covers appeasing everyone with visits. Especially when I was living on the east coast, a day here or there would be exacted from me as mandatory for keeping myself from being excommunicated. Then again, when I was on the east coast, I was a different person. Back then, I was easily coerced by guilt trips.

But then a funny thing happened. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that I did not have the means to travel. I just assumed I would never get to travel much, that I was just one of those people who would never go to particularly interesting places. Having written the possibility off, I came up with some of the worst excuses imaginable: I have no one to go with or I don't have time to plan it or I don't speak the language.

This attitude towards traveling was indicative of my attitude towards life in general in those dark days. But I did break out of it, finally. Underneath the ocean, plates were starting to shift. They did not pick the best time to finally stir: one cold Christmas, I jumped on a train to Montreal, and spent four days wandering around the frozen city and its tunnels by myself. It was not the most action-packed vacation I have ever had, but it was a catalyst. Or maybe the catalyst came before it. But it was the beginning of a series of fortunate events, that brought me to where I am now.

I may not always be happy now, but I never feel stuck the way I once did. I may feel conflicted, and caught between a rock and a hard place, but I am always aware that I can make a seemingly permanent situation quite temporary. Five years ago, Q and I talked about going to Spain, and I entertained the notion for a millisecond before brushing it off as thoroughly irrational. Now, I embrace the irrational, and will go to Spain this year without fail.

For some reason, knowing that dampens the impact of brick walls.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'll be your mirror, reflect what you are

Today is momentous, and not just because Chai is taking the bar today (kick a$$ and take names, chiquita!). And it's not just because I did a happy dance last night upon catching a trailer for the new season of The Sopranos. No- there's an odd coincidence about this day that I absolutely adore.

I still remember my first chemistry class in college. As was always my way, I arrived to the lecture early, and sat near the front, but not in the front, near the middle, but not in the middle. People filed in, and among one of the first to sit next to me was W. He was wearing a Red Sox cap. All the other freshmen were chatting each other up. My head was buried in my notebook. W sat perfectly still, looking straight in front of him. This guy seemed the kind of guy who should have been slapping another guy on the back and remarking about how this class was wicked retahded. Instead, he sat there like a zen master, impenetrable. I was intrigued by this fellow loner.

The problem with loners is that, when you recognize one of your kind, you are at a loss for how to connect with each other. The lecture still had not started. I looked over at him, made a crack about the burden of being a Red Sox fan. He smiled wryly, and said something that amounted to: "Yeah." I cringed and returned to writing on the margin of my notebook. W would later admit that he used to ask to copy my notes specifically so he could see what it was I was scribbling on those margins. You can all probably guess what they contained more often than not.

I imagined that W would be one of those people I would shake my head at. One of those people who you knew would be a great person to know, if only you could convince them you were worth knowing. And of course, convincing someone of that is impossible. Lucky for me, W turned out to be easy: me breaking two beakers and a graduate cylinder within the first five minutes of lab the next week turned out to be too hilarious for him to let pass without snark.

W did not know back then how smart he really was. And I did not know how much I really adored science. If we had never met, neither of us might have come to our respective realizations. It is W's birthday today, and he is on a different continent, living a different life, a complete tangent to my existence. But it is funny how that changes nothing.

Two years before W was born, on this day, my parents tied their fates together forever, circling a fire in Mumbai. They had been on one date previously, supervised by a mutual family friend. My father had been so bold as to suggest walking my mother home. My mom thought he was a bit of a fool for behaving out of turn in this manner. She did not understand why my father should need to speak to her without a chaperone. There were no professions of love on that walk home, but somehow it was enough.

I am always a little in awe of my parents' marriage. Not in some kind of romantic sense. In fact, quite the opposite. My parents have inspired in me a (I think) healthy fear of marriage, and an idea of all the things you really ought to know when you walk into the arrangement. But I also marvel at how they have managed to keep two loosely stranded pieces of fabric meshed together in permanence. They may not always like each other, but they know each other with excruciating precision. Right now, I have no doubt that my mother has, somewhere along their three month of tour of India, derailed my father's plans to see the next temple in favor of shopping at a nearby sari shop. And my father is drinking a cup of tea in the sari shop, listening to imaginary music in his head instead of the sari merchant's explanation of how fine the unfolded sari is, no doubt annoying my mother. And it will be like this for as long as they both shall live. They have made a habit of annoying each other over the years, and it leaves me a bit dumbfounded to see that they have come to depend on that habit. Still, after all these years, I cannot decide if that is sad or endearing.

In the spirit of today and optimism, I will go with the latter.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I don't believe in the sun

You know what is ridiculous?
  • When you work at a really great company, but want to quit.
  • When you get accolades for your work, but want to quit.
  • When the accolades you receive for work are inversely proportional to the amount of real, tangible work you actually do. Funny, but you want to quit.
  • When it's raining outside, which should have no bearing on your life or work really, but you want to quit.
  • When you get rewarded generously for your work, but want to quit. And feel depressed. And a little dirty.
  • When you go from just another to a peon to a supervisor, but want to quit.

Anyone want to open up a bakery?

Also, the class I am taking right now is not satisfactory. In fact, it is so unsatisfactory that I sit during lectures pondering whether I should try teaching organic chemistry. After all, I lurve it. Furthermore, I have the necessary distance from it now to be able to explain it to the uninitiated in a coherent language. Or so I would hope.

Then again, these are just part of the many daydreams I occupy myself with, the better to prevent myself from writing my resignation letter. Another daydream is going to be a reality: Spain. Seriously.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

half of what I say is meaningless

times I even forget to be blue

I don't know, people. I am starting to feel like Bruce Willis back in the day. Remember how, for every Die Hard, he'd follow it up with three Color of Night's? That is how I have been feeling about my blogging of late.

I am, however, happy to report that no tears were shed last night, since I did (albeit at 10 pm) get my act together and do some baking last night. I have not made scones for a few months now, but when I took stock of what was available in the pantry and refrigerator, scones were the best bet. No, it does not frighten me that I had all the raw materials for scones handy. What? You don't have a fresh carton of heavy cream available at all times? No miniature chocolate chips? What if you had a baking emergency?!? You have to be prepared.

Anyway, I think I need to use the psych-out technique I used yesterday on myself more often. For example, I should tell myself that I will burst into tears if I don't clean my apartment this weekend. Let's see if it works.

The bro-seph is a little cross with me right now because I keep teasing him about how he is, to use his own vernacular, all done. This is the phrase he uses to refer to all people who are either married, or as good as married, or have otherwise lost the will to go out and think separately from the joint unit. I used the term on him because he dropped the bombshell on me today that he is going to invite his chiquita on our family torture tour cruise this summer. The image of him bringing her to this reunion with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins has me tickled so much that I could not stop laughing at him on the phone today. He threatened to hang up on me, but I still could not stop laughing. Much hilarity shall no doubt ensue.

As for the usual Wednesday night fare, Lost did not cause me to dive headfirst into depression this week. And there was lots of Naveen. I think he might be the only man that I will permit to cry. Usually, I am vehemently against it. However, I was not sure what I was supposed to make of it. Good thing the US army taught you to torture people in unspeakable ways, since it will come in handy on a supposedly deserted island someday? Um, yeah, not so much.

As for the other show that is my Wednesday night crack, I have only this to say: now there is a waste of the perfectly flawless Iman. I think she & David Bowie might be my idea of the perfect couple.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

in the wildwood trees the wild wind blows

I was happy, which is not like me at all

Sifting through the usual mundane bills and junk-mail, this little envelope appeared as if by magic. From the picture, you can deduce a few things:
  • I have no patience when it comes to opening letters that are personal in nature.
  • The card inside is shiny and pretty. Precious. We likes it!
  • A teeny-tiny sparkly sweet star was affixed on the seal of the envelope. From that alone, you should know who sent it. I am not sure if Anna timed the card to arrive on V-Day, but I am going to pretend she did anyway.

Rather apt that I should hear from the blogheroine last night. Not just because I lurve her, but because of what else I had on deck. You should know that Anna is the reason I have mustered the cojones to meet random blogospherians. Had meeting her not been the experience to end all wired experiences, I might have continued on with my tendencies towards reclusivity.

Twenty minutes after I tore open this card, oodles stopped by the crackhouse, and the two of us braved the gale-force winds to head over to Medjool. There, we were joined by maisnon, ads, and Roopali. I think I may have had it with Medjool, even if it is in my most beloved neighborhood. Last time I went there the food was excellent, but the drinks were lame. This time the drinks were satisfactory, the food was satisfactory, but the service was the suck. Furthermore, maisnon had made reservations well in advance, and yet we were seated about six feet from the door in no man's land. Okay, okay, fine, let me just admit to the real problem- when oodles and I sidled up to the bar, I ordered my usual drink of choice and the bartender said, "I'm sorry, we're out of Grey Goose." WTF?!? oodles thought I was going to have a panic attack.

Roops was super sweet with her I love the V-Day (you have to imagine that VH1 "I love the 80s" jingle-theme in your head like I do when I write that) attitude, and very thoughtful giftcards. oodles brought cookies from my favorite bakery. ads showed up in pink. maisnon showed up with her hair did. Me? I brought my ability to whine and my inability to smile normally at a camera. Good times.

This morning, I discovered that the twice-yearly Castro bollywood extravaganza is quickly approaching. This year's first at-bat looks more promising than the complete strikeout stinkfest that was Paheli last fall: Parineeta plays on March 18th. Maybe this means that the fall 2006 schedule is ill-fated. Anyway, for those of you that are more about high-brow cinema that is actually about more than sparkling and dancing, Deepa Mehta's Water plays on March 19th. While I'm all for seeing both, I have to confess that seeing a bonafide, cheesy Bollywood film at the Castro theater is really the higher priority for me. The possibility of witnessing catcalls at SRK or Saif Ali Khan? Sign me up. I'm class-ay like that.

In other news, if I do not bake something tonight, I might burst into tears. I cannot explain this problem of mine, but I figure admitting that it is a problem is the first step.

Oh, also, 8 a.m teleconferences? I loathe you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

it's just a city and I am just a girl

The broseph hands out tips for singletons feeling a little vengeful this Valentine's Day: "Call a bunch of high-end restaurants a month or two beforehand and reserve as many tables for two as you can. Cancel at the last possible minute." He should know, since he suffered many failed attempts at making reservations when he embarked on V-Day planning three weeks ago. Let me repeat: three weeks ago. This is a BFD for the hermano. He is second only to me in procrastination, and first only to me as far as lack of consideration for others goes. I think he might be in (gasp) lurve!

I am not feeling vengeful. I do not really feel anything. I wanted to swoon all day, but work threw up the necessary obstacles to thwart all tendencies towards fainting fits.

However, Saheli tagged me to do something that is simplicity itself on Valentine's Day- talking about my neighborhood. Anyone may know my regard for my place of residence. And it is, in fact, more specific than just San Francisco. A 10-minute walk home from BART last night made me heady, hallucinating more stars than there really were in the sky. The moon was so bright that the rooftops glowed. Dogwoods (or what I thought were dogwoods) bloomed like punctuated explosions, and their scent lined my path. Even in that light, the color of my neighborhood was not lost- terracotta adjacent to cornflower blue, mint green behind lavender. And yet, it is not a pretty neighborhood, and that is why I like it even more. It has the appearance of a well-worn book, familiar and welcoming, not intimidating.

But demystifying it down to its data, as Saheli decrees, reveals five interesting factoids as well:
  • 69.7% of my fellow neighbors rent, as compared to the national average of 33.8%. Unfortunately, this is a sad commentary on the unreasonably expensive cost of housing in the Bay Area (the median value of a single-family occupied home was ~362K as compared to a national average of ~120K, although please show me the home that is 360K in my zip code, and I will buy it today). This is further evidenced by the 3.1% vacancy rate in housing versus the 9% rate on average in the US. And now you know why I will not be moving out of my crackhouse any time soon. At least it seems I am in good company.
  • About 57% of my neighborhood speaks a language other than English at home, while about 18% of people nationwide have the same tendency. As Ben Stiller would say, "Como estan, b*tches!?!"
  • 23.3% of people in my neighborhood are defined as some other race, compared to the national average of 5.5%. It is unclear to me as to whether the census simply lumped all the others into the category some other race, or whether that was the actual choice. If it was latter, that simply tickles me even more, because it is so individualistic: "I'm not Asian-American. No, I'm not African-American. You can't define me!"
  • While nationally, foreign-born residents make up 11.1% of the population, here they comprise 41.6%. That is pretty dramatic. Interestingly, it doesn't seem dramatic in my day-to-day life. There does not seem to be a huge us vs. them vibe. Well, unless you are talking about our feelings about the Marina, that is.
  • Finally, just especially for Valentine's Day, only 35.7% of men and 34.8% of women are married, compared to 56.7% and 52.1%, respectively, on national average. So, you may have left your heart in San Francisco, but it turns out that if you stuck around, it's unlikely you closed the deal.

I will not harangue any of you to do this, but if you lurve your neighborhood as much as I do mine, you'll want to do it. Gauntlet, thrown down.

Even though my neighborhood is my official Valentine, I am also sharing it tonight, with oodles, maisnon, ads, Roopali and anyone else who cares to be in my locale this evening.

Monday, February 13, 2006

and not be seen until I cease to exist

maisnon was amused that I pulled a weekend update a week late, and later than her own, but I can be even less logical about recounting events, and I am about to prove it. Apropos of nothing, let me also add that maisnon always says something to make me lurve her even more every time we talk- last night’s gem was “I really think she might be too dumb to live.” Just try and tell me you don’t lurve her too.

My cousin M mentioned, during my visit to Brooklyn, that when we were very young, we thought being Indian was the same thing as being Gujarati. We did not know that anyone from India spoke anything other than Gujarati. I nodded along absent-mindedly at the time.

But when I recollect my youth, I know it was blatantly the opposite for me. M had spent her formative years in Queens. Since my parents chose EBF as their place to plant roots, they found it hard in the early days to meet anyone Indian, much less Gujarati. My mother would spot any Indian man walking into a bank, and she would tug on my father’s sleeve, urging him to stop the car, to go make the man’s acquaintance. I blame that conditioning for my father’s current tendency to strike up conversations of inappropriate intimacy with complete strangers. But I also contrast that to my guardedness about people, and have to admire their inclination to give anyone Indian the benefit of the doubt. Xenophobia aside, there is something innocent and hopeful about it that I completely lack.

In those early days, before they found all the Gujus in the greater New England area, my parents had a variety of friends. They befriended a bachelor. To this day, I do not know what part of India he is from. He lived with his girlfriend (!) and his girlfriend was not desi (double !). He had a collection of motorcycles, and an affection for antique clocks: eccentric, impractical things that were unthinkable to my parents. He used to sit me on his lap, when I was but six or seven, and say, “Listen carefully. I have a lot of education, but do you know what really gets you somewhere in life? Bullsh*t.” My father would laugh nervously, shaking his head. Y uncle would insist on it again. Bullsh*t. I am telling you, *****. Remember it.” It was the first curse word I had ever heard an adult utter, and I somehow felt special, because Y uncle deemed me mature enough to hear it. Little did I know that it was the wisest thing anyone would ever tell me about the corporate world.

It was through Y uncle that my parents met a South Indian couple who went on to become their most steadfast friends. These were the first South Indian people I had met, and I knew that they were not like us, for a number of reasons. They only spoke in English with my parents. Their accent had a different lilt. They both had PhDs. A auntie did not wear flashy saris, and G uncle was more interested in carpentry than Camrys.

This couple had two sons, one just younger than my brother, one just older than me. Both were straight-A students. But it was not like our other family friends. Their parents did not harass them, demand of them those perfect grades. Whereas most of my Guju friends who were overachievers toiled and shut themselves in their room to do well enough, these two seemed to just glide through high school. While my Guju friends would compare grades competitively, these two would not even mention grades. We would only find out later, after they had graduated as valedictorians or spanked the latest standardized test they had attempted. Not only that, they also had hobbies, were well-balanced. And that was how I came to develop an inferiority complex in relation to South Indians.

If you are going to develop an inferiority complex in life, this was not a bad one to have. Instead of trying to out-brag the competition, I was always trying to quiet down about grades, about status, about economics. Most of my ideas about women, education, and identity are tied up with A auntie, who was always my champion. And most of my determination to be okay with roughing it is related to G uncle and his sons, who seemed to have a zero tolerance policy for high maintenance women.

I have since managed to set aside such sweeping generalizations about Gujus, South Indians, and any other group of people, but the things we carry with us are hard to discard. In many ways, I have never shaken the feeling that those two sons, specifically, were just superior to my brother and me, that we could never equal their accomplishments or talent. Over time, that feeling became irrelevant, except for the occasional reports we would get about them- U had just been awarded a prestigious fellowship, S had just traveled through Southeast Asia for three months. Things like that would reassert how we could never measure up.

Even then, none of it would have mattered, until an afternoon in DC a few weeks ago. My work obligations had completed such that I had a free afternoon to waste time in H&M and Barnes & Nobles. On my way back, at a crosswalk on Wisconsin, I saw S across the street. We were both waiting for the walk signal. From my periphery, I sensed that he had glanced at me a few times. But I still was not sure it was him. It had been at least five years since we had seen each other. The walk signal lit. When we crossed each other, I looked straight at him and recognized him immediately. He looked away, and kept walking.

The moment brought back a flood of memories. He was the older of the two sons, always the more aloof, the more disdainful. It was one thing to feel inferior to those sons. It was another thing to have it confirmed by the way S would look down upon us. And yet, he was always doing things I found immensely cool. He drove across the country in a dilapidated Subaru, sleeping in his tent at campsites along the way. He spent a summer in the Florida Keys, after which, he convinced himself he could sail around the world. He ran out of money one quarter of the way through. He would get frustrated with his work, and quit to get one degree after another.

My cousin M observed, since moving to Brooklyn, that there are a lot of people doing neat things, like working a daily grind and writing screenplays at night. But she also observed something I have been trying to articulate for a long time: “Just because you are doing something outwardly interesting, it doesn’t mean you are an interesting person.” It is always the biggest disappointment to meet people who are doing what I find noteworthy, only to discover that they are incapable of carrying a conversation for longer than ten seconds.

I do not mean to imply that S cannot carry a conversation. Maybe he can; I do not know. I do wonder if we would ever have anything to talk about, if we actually did meet today. But I think the encounter that afternoon cured me of the last case of awe I have ever held for anyone. I was trying to live up to someone who does not actually exist. What is more- the entire premise is flawed. Trying to be more or less than S should have never been the goal.

Friday, February 10, 2006

she simmered so soft with her weapons of tin

Operation Unsweetened Shredded Coconut is successfully complete. Best part of the mission? I did not actually acquire the target- bro-seph fetched it for me instead. This is highly unusual for the hermano. The big sister-little brother dynamic dictates that the younger of the two is the leech. However, bro-seph argued with me when I told him I could buy shredded coconut at Trader Joe's. Apparently, unsweetened coconut is a hard-to-find item. He claimed that it could only be purchased in specialty stores. Then, since it was beautiful outside yesterday, and since he wanted to rub in the fact that he was working from home, he visited a nearby Indian grocery store. I still believe Trader Joe's may have carried the item, but it was one less errand to run.

My cousin K and I were talking last night about all these endless goals we keep setting for ourselves. Real undertakings that require carving out a piece of yourself to go the extra mile. We have both been at this for awhile now, and we are both tired. We both have been stuck in a rut of feeling guilty about not being more productive. But I realized last night that, while we both beat ourselves up about that, we are both employed full-time in fairly demanding jobs and are trying to make radical changes in our spare time. Maybe this is not the time to allow myself a little forgiveness, but when I realized that, I suddenly felt a little less weary, a little less rundown. Something about recognizing that some of these tasks are herculean is strangely comforting.

Last week I took what felt like a vacation. Following on the heels of A N N A's birthday celebration, I again saw Chai, mind-bendingly enough, on the west coast. It really was a convergence, everyone arriving from every which direction: maisnon from the Peninsula, ads by BART from the East Bay, Yasmine from Walnut Creek by car, Chai by taxi from downtown, and me predictably by foot.

Just in case anyone from the blogosphere should ever meet me again, I should point out the running joke that is a well-known fact to most everyone who knows me: I am so territorial about my neighborhood, it is ridiculous. I try foolishly transparent tactics, like suggesting restaurants in a three-block radius of my apartment, or convincing people that the places in my neighborhood are highly BART-accessible. When that does not work, I try what I like to now call the Williamsburg-approach, which basically boils down to "but my neighborhood is just cooler."

Technically, dinner last Friday was not in my neighborhood, just slightly out of the normal bounds. Lime is slightly too polished, just a bit too loud for my neighborhood. The restaurants in my neck of the woods are loud, but it is because of chatter, not because of music. Even given the techno-style, I liked the place- at this point, maisnon selects restaurants better than I do. Give that girl a key to the city, because she is a local at this point.

A pack of women asked me if I knew it was Women Wear Red day. I actually did know, but I fibbed and said I did not. Why? Because I was not wearing red, and, well, because I am a jerk. In exchange for this lie, I received a commemorative pin from the women. Talk about your negative reinforcement. Anyway, the incident immediately convinced me this restaurant was a good selection.

Everyone rocked, as usual. I do not know if I am blessed with good fortune, but every person I meet from the blogosphere has been wonderful. Chai has so much positive energy, I am afraid she is going to open her mouth and blind us all with sunshine. Maisnon has a million things to say that will cause your sides to split with laughter. ads makes subversive comments that always make you feel like you are in on the joke. Yasmine, who I had met for the first time, was flawless and had the kind of style that makes me sigh and think- why do I have four pairs of athletic shoes and one pair of earrings? But in a good way. I had nothing to contribute, except a railing diatribe about some inconsequential encounter from work. However, as is often the case, everyone was patient and kind. How many patient and kind people do you meet in the world? Even though I like to issue disclaimers about how meaningless this space is, I should note that I remain grateful at the interactions that have resulted from it.

As is often the case, I walked home with my iPod serenading me. It was late, but just late enough that things in the Mission were coming alive. Hipsters were spilling in and out of bars. Yuppies emerged from taxis. Couples fought and made up on the sidewalk; I sidestepped them on my way. I was still wearing the pin from Lime, shaped like a red dress.

When I go on such walks, my mind jumps from one thought to another. My thoughts turned to the red dress, which reminded me of the term the silent killer. And that reminded me of the joy that kills. And eventually, that story led to one last foray in 55:
If it was a matter of joy that kills, for what was she joyous? That remained the question, decades later. Was it the promise of freedom or the return of her steady companion that surged through her veins with such force? Her troubled heart gave out, perhaps from confusion: which had she really wanted more?

To maintain a truly randomized post, I will leave you with a crazy portion of an e-mail exchange with SP, who is still harping on about climbing Kilimanjaro:
We have to do something. Remember how fun almost getting jacked by the taxi guy in Lima was? Good times.

I am thinking that going on a short hike with her this weekend might quiet her down for now. Or add fuel to the fire. That is the trouble- you never can tell.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

like it would kill you just to try and be a nicer guy

The reason I have not written in a timely fashion today is not the pile of work that I have been sifting my way through. That pile exists, and I have been getting things done, trying not to hyperventilate, but it is not the reason. The reason is not my propensity for planning and infrequency of doing. I have been planning up a storm today. There has been the fun kind of planning, like devising strategems for buying shredded coconut. I am allergic to coconut, but that is not going to stop me from my ultimate mission. Will I need gloves? A face mask? Time will tell. There has also been the not-so-fun flavor of planning, tasks which fall into the category of more likely to be shirked. The reason is not the guilt that overcomes me when I do not tend to what I need to get done. I feel that guilt, but it never stops me from writing, unfortunately for anyone who reads, since I then whinge on in a self-pitying fashion about my own inadequacies. And yes, I am aware of how incredibly fun that is to read.

No. The reason I have not found myself able to write today is so stupid that I have been embarassed, nay, ashamed to state my confession. You see, I have nothing witty or angry to write about Lost. Perhaps I should try to concoct some theory regarding why Kate's mother appears in a flashback scene with Sawyer. Maybe I should gripe about the continued underutilization of 'Veeny.

But I find myself unable to do it, and do you want to know why? The why is the truly pathetic part. Because I find myself depressed by the show. Not because it sucks (which it really has, of late). Not because I am allowing this show to influence my mood (which it really ought not to be able to do). No. A much more shameful reason. The bro-seph would shake his head at this admission of mine and say, "You do realize it is only a television show, right?"

Yes, I do. And I know I must be unhinged for somehow finding myself entangled in this mostly nonsensical show. But it just dawned on me last night, after over three decades on this planet: sometimes the jerk really is a jerk.

This fills me with a sense of loneliness that is undoubtedly unreasonable. But if the good guy is really one's best bet, folks, I am in big trouble. A jerk like me cannot really deal with good people. I find them self-righteous, and well, far too good- wtf am I supposed to do with that?

By tomorrow, I am sure I will have successfully reprogrammed myself, to believe that, for every jerk, there is an anti-hero. But for now, I cannot stop wondering: why is the jerk unable to bring himself to be the anti-hero? Oh, and that question right there- that is the reason it takes me light years to give up on people that seem like undisputed lost causes.

And thus, a little more insight explaining how extensively screws are loose in my head.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

whining and pining is wrong and so

Here is one of the many problems with working with people who know too much about illness-
    Richie Rich: Are you okay?
    me: I am not long for this world.
    RR: Me neither! I think I have the flu.
    me: I am pretty sure I have strep throat.
    RR: I have a cold sore, indicating immunosuppression.
    me: Yes, but I am dying.
    RR: Whatever, I think I have Kaposi's Sarcoma.
    me: Well, I think I might be coming down with a mild case of sepsis.

We do this until one of us breaks out into laughter. It is admittedly infantile and in incredibly poor taste, but such is the way of the working drones. Especially those that are sufficiently under the weather to feel like a$$, but sufficiently well enough to put out the everburning fires that present themselves.

Even though I would thoroughly revel in the opportunity to bore everyone to tears with tales of my sinuses, tonsils, and congestive issues, I will limit myself to this observation: I really like the Gujarati word for cough. Some words in Gujarati just have better onomatopoeia than the equivalent in English.

Even though my head is foggy, I still feel confident in stating that I am listening to a brilliant song. I could and maybe will someday write an entire post about the first line of the song: once I wanted to be the greatest. That, alone, is perfection when set to music. Do you know it? If not, hold tight until next week- I feel certain that it will be keeping the dream alive then. Apparently, some people do not like it, but to them I say- your heart is made of colder steel than mine.

I want to write about unseasonably sunny days in Park Slope, spent drinking ginger-peach juice in a sweet restaurant and wandering around Prospect Park for hours. The familiarity of New York juxtaposed on the incongruity of visiting M there, M who is usually found in much warmer climes. M's referencing "blobs" and Brad Pitt, both wildly uncharacteristic mentions from her. The late night chats about why Williamsburg is not all that, breath-catching crushes, and choices in history that only family can share with such precise and overanalytical depth. Revelations that slipped out ten minutes before the train arrived to part us.

But that is the trouble with cramming so much into so little time. It takes space to decompress all that ground, to relax the memories into digestible portions. Or perhaps working out what it all meant is just not palatable. Some things are more beautiful as mysterious blurs, are they not?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

you like to think that you're immune to the stuff

One evening in Cuzco, A, SP, and I went to a lounge called Los Perros that was so perfect, it made me delirious. Okay, it may have been the altitude that contributed to that wrongheadedness as well. Whether it was the jewel-tone painted walls, or the lack of oxygen in the air, I went a little loopy. This resulted in me eating things that I would have been careful to avoid the entire previous week. Nothing bad could happen to you in a place so warm and inviting.

The next morning, I discovered my propensity for misjudgment. My digestive system scoffed at me, rebelled, and had its way for the next two days. This was cause for some anxiety, as it all happened a few days before we embarked on a 4-day hike. A & I were both out of commission, while SP with her constitution of steel suffered a mild stomachache. The joke was on her, since she wound up on duty as a result, fetching us electrolytes and saltines.

I was curled up in the bed of our hostal when SP left on one such dispatch. After she had been away for fifteen minutes, I sat up in a huff. And then I did the unthinkable. I peeled open a stack of chocolate wafers, and ate them up as if I was in danger of dying of malnutrition. Five minutes later, I was writhing in pain on the bed.

SP returned and was dismayed to see that I was worse off than when she had left. Unable to bear the sympathy, I confessed to devouring the cookies. "Oh my god- what is wrong with you?" she asked. Mind you, this is not the sort of person that makes a habit of saying such things, or starting questions out that way. She was sincerely horrified with me. And personally, I cannot explain it. I knew the chocolate wafers were not on the acceptable consumption list. I knew they were not going to agree with me. But I had to eat them. Some people lose their appetite when they get ill. Not me. I have had severe allergies, had surgery, had stomach flus, had walking pneumonia, and all I have ever wanted to do is eat. Feed a cold, feed a fever, that is my approach.

So, it is with great concern that I must report to the blogosphere that I found myself uninterested in consuming dinner last night. Not too tired to fix dinner, or too feeble to buy dinner, but actually, bonafide, uninterested in eating. Now, I am not going to get all maudlin and tell you to read me the last rites or anything. But, I will say that there are icicles in the devil's lair at present.

In other news, I think this post serves as an excellent example of all that is wrong with blogging. Just for future reference.

Monday, February 06, 2006

we sat around the pile, we sat and laughed

Yesterday, during the Superbowl, when I really should have been reading for my latest adventure in torture education, I was scrawling down random notes. I feel the need to excerpt the first note here:
    Why is it a Bittersweet Symphony that the Seahawks are in the Superbowl? Wait until at least your third or fourth visit to the big game to be bittersweet about it, b*tches. Right here, Right now: a much better choice for an opening run. I’m glad I wound up picking the Steelers to cheer on, since, at the very least, they have better sense with music selection.

And really, although they made me regret writing that at many moments during the game, I stand by the Steelers, mostly because of one heart-squeezing gadget play that changed the whole dynamic of the game, in my opinion. It was not an impressive game, though it did remain a nail-biter up until the gadget play. Am I the only one that finds Randle El an odd name? I know when you're comparing it to names like Lofa Tatupu and Polamalu, it doesn't seem all that weird. Still, Randle El seems like a name you get on the Planet Krypton.

The practice of placing mic's on players really needs a cease-and-desist order. Jerome Bettis has never done anything for me previously, but after listening to his jabbering on the sidelines, I actually celebrated his retirement announcement, with the hope that I will never have to hear him again.

My cousin B and I decided that, when our family is going on our self-imposed exile cruise this summer, we are bringing along t-shirts that read: Brown and Bubbly. Thanks, Pepsi. It almost makes up for having to watch Mohr, Chan, Diddy, and all sorts of other morons.

Allow me to also rail against the Rolling Stones for a moment. I know I should give Jagger credit for copping to his own irrelevance by introducing Satisfaction with the observation that it could have been played at Superbowl I. However, over seventeen years ago, I went to my very first concert. It was indeed the Rolling Stones playing, in what they promoted as their "final tour" (Steel Wheels, for those of you keeping track at home). Even though this should garner my nostalgic affection, it only makes me loathe them more. I knew my anger had reached new levels when I found myself hoping for "special guests" to appear on stage and break up some of the doledrum. Yes, Britney, come on out and massacre Satisfaction. Hell, bring out K-Fed, and let him have at it for all I care.

Also, by the end of the Superbowl, I wanted to scream: Stop! I do not care what a CODE BLACK is. I'm never watching this show!

Oh, and for you Seahawks fans, that Roethlisberger touchdown was totally shady. Even as a steadfast AFC supporter, I have to admit that.

Okay, I will bore you no more with the other four hours worth of mundane observations I made during the game. I cannot really believe I watched it with such interest, given that I had no strong allegiance to either team involved.

You know, I always thought of myself as Beaker or the grouchy dudes in the balcony, but I guess this probably fits the bill just as well (especially the manic tendencies part):
You Are the Swedish Chef

"Bork! Bork! Bork!"
You're (spelling corrected by me, so how seriously can we really take this test?) happy and energetic - with borderline manic tendencies.
No one really gets you. And frankly, you don't even get you. (the latter is certainly true)
But, you sure can whip up a great chocolate mousse. (um, maybe, except I have never technically made chocolate mousse)

Friday, February 03, 2006

like a boa constrictor, babe

On Thursday morning, I woke up at about 3:30. This might have been a good thing, since I had to leave for the airport at 6 a.m, and had not yet packed. Also, no matter how early a flight, or how unprepared I am, I always take a shower before embarking. Flights are so desiccating that some moisture ahead of time is a must. But why did I wake up at 3:30? As much as I would like to claim that I am just that spry, just that filled with motivation, I am afraid I must admit the sad truth that I fell asleep around 6:30 the previous evening with the full intention of catching a nap. I should know better. The world is divided into nappers and non-nappers, and I have always been in the latter camp. By the way, I rather despise that expression- the world is divided into (x) and (not-x), and I do not know why I saw fit to use it just now.

Normally, waking up at 3:30 in the morning would be cause for much amusement. The disorientation that accompanies the slow realization that an intended nap turned into a slumber just seems ripe for laughter. It is so absurd. I convince myself I have control of my life, of my destiny, and then something as simple as my melatonin levels overturn all those assumptions with a nearly audible scoff. B*tch, please, they say. Did you really think you could mess with biology?

But the realization was sad that morning, because it meant I had dashed all chances of seeing Anna before I left for the west coast. I have a tendency to convince myself I will always meet the best people in my life over and over again. And while that is uncharacteristically optimistic, it is also dangerous, since it means I am far too casual about opportunities to see them. Every time I move, I tell everyone I will see them one last time before I move, but then I never do. I always follow that shirking of farewells with, "but it's not a big deal, because I'll be back to visit." And sometimes I am telling the truth and sometimes I am lying. And usually, I do not know which until years later.

At 6 in the morning, the air was so cold that it felt magical, like it was slowly freezing every part of me it touched as I inhaled. The cold tunneled into my stomach and into my head. I could nearly picture little crystals forming inside of me. After all, I am an ugly bag of mostly water. Is that something about the winter? Maybe I was more solid, more in place when I was experiencing winters annually. Maybe the west coast has turned me into a watery mess.

Later, I was in the air, told that I was above Cleveland, and reading How We Are Hungry, in particular, a short story called The Only Meaning of The Oil-Wet Water. And here stood a line that summed up so much of its sense of wonder: Planes and American imperialism make the world smaller; everyone is just a flight, or two, away. To be reading this on a plane, having just seen acquaintances new and old on the east coast, took the story to a different level. Because I, too, was amazed at the world we live in, if for a moment.

When I stepped out of SFO, it was neither warm nor cold. Exactly as it should have been. The familiar humidity touched my nose, my neck, my mouth- San Francisco's welcome lei's. As the cab bounced over bumps along the 101, the sun peaked in and out amidst fog that appeared like small, fallen clouds on the hills. There is nothing particularly beautiful about the 101, but everything was beautiful about the 101 nonetheless. Yes, I melted again, into a watery mess. But the thing is, I think I like the chaos of water over the order of ice.

I think that is how you know you have found your home. Never have I been sad to return here, even at times when I had been happy to leave.

Just to make sure I make at least one off-topic observation, let me mention this. Do you know what makes perfect sense? To get your teeth cleaned. And then to eat a burrito.