Thursday, December 28, 2006

If it isn't snowing, it must be Christmas

The title refers to global warming and the fact that it was 70 degrees during Christmas and there was no snow, so please, people, listen to Al Gore and stop creating carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is fine. You there, with the sulphur dioxide, quit it.

There was a time about two weeks ago when I realized that I was burnt out. The burn was due to work and everything else. It was about the same time that I discovered that being a "self-referential" blogger was apparently not a good thing to be and the fact that I had been called one in the past (that too, by an IISc professor) made it even worse. Plus, add to that the wife being gone to India for a two week long vacation and that I couldn't be with her because of the vagaries of that American institution formerly known as the INS, later known as the BCIS and presently known to no one except their own selves as the USCIS, not that it matters.

So it was that a nervous wreck took over the reins of my holidays and that was me. I took the Christmas week off, not knowing what to do except in the short term, consume as much alcohol as was humanly possible and try not to think about that constant ache in my head. The ache began one day when I was lifting weights with my legs. I have observed that people who lift weights do so using every muscle in their body except the ones in their legs. Apparently the fact that the lower half of the male body is perpetually covered with fabric dissuades most health-conscious men from exercising their legs. But not me because I am a non-conformist.

So as I was lifting this extremely heavy weight with my legs, doing what they call a squat, I experienced a sudden twinge of pain somewhere in my brain between the second and third ligaments, speaking as a professional. And ever since, my head has been hurting. Apart from the vague realization that I might be dying due to a burst cerebral blood vessel, there was also that irritating perpetual headache. All in all, these factors made life very unpleasant during Christmas week. Plus, no one to complain to, wife being in India and no contact with my graduate advisor for the past 6 years.

When faced with adversity, most men face it. Some run away from it. Since I am a twentieth century adversity guy, I drive away from it.

I decided to take a long drive. To New England. Every few months in my life, there is this itch that builds up in me with regards to New England, where I first landed on the Mayflower in the form of the Amtrak Vermonter. New England will forever be my ideal place to live in the US. In large part, it's because I spent my graduate life there. Also, since it's the very first place in the US that I found myself in, now, even after seeing the rest of the country, my subconscious still associates everything that is magical and beautiful about the US with New England.

So, a few times every year, this irrational itch drives me to visit Massachusetts and my university, UMass Amherst, and haunt the surroundings for a day or two. And now, since I had a weeks worth of spare solitary time, I decided to indulge the itch.

Renting a car, I drove north. Why rent a car? Well, my own car is a stick shift. And to travel from Philly to Massachusetts, you have to pass through New York City. Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Also, where there are miles of traffic backup where you have to keep clutching and de-clutching if you have a stick shift. No, I needed an automatic. Plus, I was planning on covering some heavy mileage.

After catching some heavy traffic on the NJTP, I wondered whether I should visit my friend zambezi who lives in New Jersey. If they call it living, that is. I called him at 3:30 in the afternoon to see if he was in the mood for a few beers. But I got no response. He was in a meeting or something, busy driving the economy for the rest of us blue collar workers (he has people working under him *awe*). When he finally called back, I was well past the George Washington Bridge (that bright young thing that connects New Jersey with New York City) after having spent the better part of an hour on the bridge, clutching and de-clutching in my mind because the car was a sweet automatic. Zambezi asked me to turn back and come see him because his wife was out for the weekend as well, and he needed a drinking buddy. But seeing the traffic on the other side of the road, I refused. I had had enough of George Washington, with all due respect to the bridge guy.

I reached Amherst at 8:30 in the evening. I decided to bunk in the Quality Inn at Hadley, about a mile away from the university. The receptionist made it a point of telling me that they had an indoor swimming pool. The temperature was 30 degrees Fahrenheit, or -1 degrees Celcius. Yes, the time was ripe for a swim.

I went to what used to be my favorite haunt in Amherst, the Amherst Brewing Company. If you are ever there, order the stuffed chipotle chicken jalapeno poppers. They are jalapeno peppers, stuffed with cheese and chicken, an unusual situation for a bird to find itself in, inside a vegetable. Usually it's the other way around.

Hey, if any of you live in Massachusetts or surroundings, this is what I would like you to do. Drive to Amherst. If you are in Boston, take the Masspike W to 91 N, then the Northampton exit and route 9 E to Amherst. If you are in Connecticut, take 95 N to 91 N. If you're in Vermont, first build yourself a road that goes south. After you reach Massachusetts, drive on 91S and take the Northampton exit. If you're in New Hampshire, drive north away from Massachusetts because c'mon, we all know how you feel about Massachusetts.

But anyways, coming back to the point, when you reach Amherst, visit this pizza joint called Antonio's in downtown Amherst village. It has the best pizza in the whole wide world. And I'm not just saying it because I invested in it, which I haven't. Basically it is gourmet pizza. For example, spicy chicken with blue cheese. Or barbequed chicken bacon with ranch dressing. Steak and mushrooms. Who the fuck makes pizzas like these? No one. Also, you will be immortalized on film. They have a live webcam on the premises. By the way, I just found out that they also serve other university campuses like Texas A&M and Brown University. So instead of doing the Hajj this year, travel to Antonio's Pizza in Amherst, MA instead. Not getting killed in a pilgrim stampede will be an additional bonus.

(To be continued)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas gift

Haven't yet decided on a Christmas gift for that special African-American in your life who yearns to be a white superhero? Here, bling. Bling bling. You're welcome.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Waving to strangers

The thing I like the most about this country is the extraordinary friendliness of its natives. Virtual strangers will hi and hello you at every opportunity they get. Sometimes it can be a problem for social outcastes like me who are not used to this level of camaraderie from their fellow inmates. It is therefore second nature for me in such cases to react with a precise amount of witlessness that is calculated to curdle the milk of this human kindness and turn it into the yogurt of hostility.

I was sitting in my car at the train station waiting for the Amtrak to roll in. I saw a woman running along in order to cross the tracks and reach the train on the other side. As I stared in her direction trying to gauge whether she would make the trip in time, she smiled and waved in my direction.

Perplexed, I pointed to my own face inquiringly because my intense inferiority complex disallows me from assuming that when anyone is waving in my direction, they are, in fact, waving at me. The woman pointed back, yes you.

It was then that I turned my neck in order to enact that well documented move where you look behind to check the presence of someone behind you who could be the target of somebody's attention and not you. This appeared to be the final straw. The woman slapped away an annoyed never mind and continued to race to her train. That will probably be the last time she is friendly to a stranger. Too much red tape involved.

And needless to say, this will continue to happen to me time and time again as single-handedly I continue to make Americans more xenophobic.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fly Eagles fly

I opened my dryer and the shiniest dime I've ever seen popped out. (insert joke about money-laundering here).

The fucking Eagles won tonight. Getting drunk on monday night is a lot of fun.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don't stop your swaying

We were eating lunch in an Indian restaurant, me and my American colleagues. Some trashy song from contemporary Bollywood was playing. One of my colleagues was obviously enjoying it to the extent that his head began to sway to the rhythm.

"Do you have this cd?", he asked me.

"No", I replied.

"Why not?"

"Frankly, this music is garbage", I replied.

"Really? In what way?"

"Well, it is exactly similar to the thousands of other songs being churned out currently in Bollywood", I said.

"I see", he replied.

I noticed that he had stopped swaying to the music. I felt bad.

"Listen", I said, "you don't have to stop swaying just because I said the music is bad. Please continue your swaying, don't mind me".

"I stopped swaying to eat", he said, but I wasn't buying it and even after putting food into his mouth he continued to not sway. Now I felt really bad. After a while, a different song came on, I don't remember what the fuck it was, but I liked it.

"Okay, this is good music right here", I said to the swayer. "This would be a good song to sway to."

"Shut up", he replied with a noticeable lack of gratitude.

Sometimes, the best gestures go under-appreciated.

Song of the day

Dayaghana by Suresh Wadkar

Original song here.

Excellent, excellent cover of this song by another artist that I found on the internet here.

Listening to this song always, as we say in marathi, "erects a thorn on the body". Translated into English, it basically means that the song gives you goose pimples. The song is composed in Raaga Poorvi. Since I already have an Indian classical music post this week, I will postpone my reverent paean for this raaga to some other time.