Monday, August 31, 2009

God is not a She

I don't understand these so-called progressive women who like to refer to God as a She. Or the men who do it in order to get to know these women better. Ladies, I understand that you wish to rebel against this society of patriarchs by implying that the person who created this world is a woman and gents, I understand your deepest desire to get laid, but come on, by referring to God as a woman, aren't you really putting down the entire female gender?

For God is an asshole. The biggest asshole ever. Look at God's record. Doesn't matter which resume you are looking at, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or Judaism, they all conclude that God is definitely a very shady character, prone to senseless acts of violence, has anger management issues, is needy, jealous and lacks any sense of personal responsibility. God even thinks menstruation is a curse and forbids you from appearing in God's presence for the entirety of its duration. Wtf is with that? By implying that God is a woman, what you're saying in essence is that these Godly character flaws are all feminine traits. Why would you do that? That will only re-empower the misogynists and the sexists and defeat the very purpose of conferring Supreme divinity on your gender.

To conclude, there are better ways of fostering a sense of feminine self-worth than cultivating the belief that God is a woman. Cultivating the counter-belief that God is a man would be a good first step. Men are assholes. Men wage wars and engage in wanton bloodshed. Men like to create stuff and then blow it to smithereens. Men don't have a green thumb and can never be left alone with any living organism in need of loving care. Men are afraid of menstruating women.

Just like God.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Following Bryson II : The Pinnacle

(continued from here)

As I re-entered the woods on my way to the Pinnacle, the only thing on my mind was big rattlesnakes that moved through leaves. The trail was covered with leaves that were moving. It could have been the wind or it could have been rattlesnakes. Or it could have been rattlesnakes breaking wind. Fuck you, hiker guy, for your well-meaning warnings.

The problem with keeping an eye out for anything while hiking the AT in Pennsylvania is that it is virtually impossible to do so without inflicting grievous bodily injury upon your person. This trail is a fucking rocky mess. It demands intense concentration from you, the hiker, at all times. You cannot withdraw your gaze from the path immediately preceding you even for a split second, because by doing so, you are inviting permanent disability upon your ankles and any other body part that embarks upon a collision course with the ground as a result. Therefore, while you're on the trail, you may not admire the scenery. You may not observe the serene verdancy of the surrounding foliage. You may not even turn around to check if that grunting growling sound that has been following you in close proximity for the past fifteen minutes is an harbinger of doom or merely a benevolent fellow-organism desirous of initiating contact with you with the benign intent of accompanying you in your adventures.

The end result is, on the trail, you turn into a quivering bundle of nerves. Anything your peripheral vision makes out to be an object of even a remotely reptilian nature, be it a twig or your own forearm, spooks you out. Finally, after being startled by a log for the twentieth fucking time, I realized that I needed to have a talk with myself.

"Listen up", I said. "No matter how many times you shit your pants at the sight of a log, if it has been written in the stars, the snakes will still get you. Look up, do you see any stars? No? It means you're safe. So get back to work, chickenshit". I even tried to shame myself by doing the chicken dance. It worked.

"Yes Sir", I said to myself and began to walk again, feeling less terror-stricken.

This feeling lasted until I reached the boulders. Again, those fucking boulders, as far as the eye could see. I thought I was done with the boulders but here they fucking were again. This time it was even worse because snakes in crevices had gone from being just an old wives tale to cold hard reality. Well, there was nothing to do but keep forging ahead. So I forged ahead.


For about twenty minutes or so, I never touched the ground, flying over the tops of boulders like a hovercraft. Finally, I stepped over the last boulder and was back on level ground. I saw a guy approach me on the trail from the opposite direction. He looked like a good old country boy in very unhiker-like clothes. In fact, he looked like he had just finished painting someone's house and having extramarital sex with the home-owner's wife. He accosted me from afar.

"Go Phillies", he cried out to me in a very cheery, fraternal manner.

I realized that I had my bright red Phillies cap on. So I replied with equal enthusiasm saying, "Yeah, Phillies" or something similar, although I might also have said "Yeahhohey". I think all that boulder jumping had caused me to displace my tongue.

On seeing me up-close, he stopped and gave me a curious look. I had seen that look before. In bars during Eagles games, me with my Eagles cap on and my Eagles jersey on, screaming E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES with the rest of the bar crowd, with everybody giving me that same look, thinking, hello, what have we here, an ethnic looking guy cheering for our beloved sports team? Where's he from? He looks like somebody who should be following "soccer" and not football.

It was that very same look.

Still continuing to subject me to close scrutiny, the guy said, "So gonna be a good game today huh? Who are the Phillies playing, the.....", and trailed off. I got his drift. He was giving me a test. A test to prove I really was a Phillies fan. A test to prove I was authorized to wear official Philadelphia Phillies team apparel on my head. But I was ready for him. Bring it on, homie, I said to myself.

"I think they are playing the Marlins today", I said confidently.

"Yeah, yeah, the Marlins", he said pensively. "I wonder who's gonna start today. Probably the new guy, right, Pedro........". He trailed off again.

"Pedro Martinez? Yeah, probab.....", I said and then paused. Hold on. This was a trick question. I mulled it over for a bit.

"Nah, I said. "I don't think they'll start Pedro today", I said.

"And why's that?", asked the guy, feigning ignorance.

I took a deep breath.

"Because before they allow him to start a game, the Phillies will probably need Pedro to pitch a couple of bullpen innings first with an existing good lead. You know, just to get his confidence up before throwing him into the high pressure situation of a starter. Besides, Cole Hamels is due because his last start was five games ago. So no, I don't think Pedro's gonna start today. It's most likely gonna be Hamels"

I had nailed it. I could see it in his eyes. I had passed the legitimacy test. Wishing me a good hike, he waved goodbye and I continued on the trail.

The trail climbed some more along the side of the ridge, until I finally reached Hiker's Mound which my friend from Pulpit Rock had told me about. This is a large mound of rocks on the trail that has been created by hikers. Apparently every time you reach this point on the trail, it is customary for a hiker to add another rock to it. I wished to make my contribution to this structure but no matter how diligently I combed the area, I just could not find a single rock. Hikers before me had swept it clean. I decided to continue on to the Pinnacle and import a rock from there.


To get to the Pinnacle from Hiker's Mound, you need to follow the blue trail (Another blue trail?? Sure, why not.) This isn't really a trail at all and involves more bouncing along more boulders for another fifty feet till you reach the Pinnacle.


The Pinnacle is a bunch of large rocks resting upon the edge of the cliff, standing on top of which allows you to partake some excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Churches, farmhouses, distant hillocks and even a cemetery. Although it was a bit hazy, the view was as pretty as the reviews had made it out to be.


After spending a few minutes enjoying the view, battling the wind, enduring some egregiously sappy love talk from the couples canoodling on the rocks and spotting (what seemed to be) a freshly moulted snake skin on the ground, I decided to embark upon my return trip. I was gonna continue on the AT, which does a sharp hairpin turn at Hiker's mound, and then make a left onto the Furnace Creek Trail (The Blue Trail, yes, another blue trail) that would take me back to the reservoir and the parking lot.

I returned back to Hiker's Mound, added my own rock to it and after spending some time searching for white blazes, began the descent back. This section of the trail was quite broad and ideal for normal walking. On the way, I met a group of hikers who asked me, "Do you know how to get to the yellow trail?"

This time, to be more accurate, I replied, "Yes, it's over there", waving my hands vaguely over my head through an angle of 360 degrees. After conferring amongst themselves, the group chose an arc sector of 15 degrees out of my 360 and started walking in that direction.


The Furnace Creek Trail diverges from the AT at, what my Pulpit Rock friend had called, "The Helipad". The "Helipad" turned out to be a misnomer. It's not like I had expected a fully functional runway, air traffic control tower with a brewpub restaurant at its base with fifty different beers available on draft and pretty barmaids eager to pour you a long cold one, accompanying it with small talk, oh to heck with you, so what if I did?

Anyways, there was no such thing there. The "Helipad" turned out to be an unkempt grassy meadow that suddenly appeared in the middle of the forest. To show my displeasure at being bamboozled, I emptied my bladder right there in the center of the meadow where the "helicopters" would be landing.

The Furnace Creek Trail ran alongside a mountain spring called, I'm assuming, the Furnace Creek, because if not, it would have been a shitty choice of name for the trail. It was lined with gigantic rhododendron bushes and was in general, the perfect trail for a nice leisurely walk. At one point where the trail crossed over the creek, I filled my bottle with fresh spring water, having being informed by online reviewers that the water was perfectly potable and 99% hanta-virus-free. And so it was, and quite delicious too. I realized that it was the first time I had suckled from mother earth's untreated teat.


The trail led down to Hamburg Reservoir, a small artificial lake created by damming the Furnace Creek. A sign on the side of the lake said "No animals allowed in the lake", which was very impressive to me because for the past year and a half, I've been trying to teach the deer in my backyard how to read English, but they still have problems differentiating "dessert" from "desert". The wildlife in this area must have evolved from a different gene pool.

Finally, I walked down the reservoir road to the parking lot and my car. My stats according to my newly acquired pedometer were :

distance walked : 7.2 miles
calories consumed : 950
steps walked : 18,000
survival rate : 100%

All in all, I would call it a successful hike.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Following Bryson II : Pulpit Rock

So there I was, once again at the base of the Blue Mountain Ridge, this time about thirty miles west of Palmerton, near a small lake called Hamburg Reservoir. I was going to hike up the mountain on the Appalachian Trail to a place called "Pulpit Rock" and then push on to "The Pinnacle".

View Pinnacle Hike in a larger map

The Pinnacle is a scenic outlook on the Appalachian Trail that is said to possess some of the finest views the trail has to offer in the state of Pennsylvania. Through careful online research, I managed to uncover the following salient facts with regard to this particular hike.

1.> It usually takes about 3.5 to 4.5 hours to complete the 8.5 mile round trip.
2.> You may encounter copperhead snakes on the trail.
3.> You definitely need lots of water.
4.> You may encounter rattlesnakes on the trail.
5.> If you fail to follow the trail map posted in the parking lot with adequate discipline, you may get lost and find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
6.> The rattlesnakes that consider this trail their home are of exceptional quality, if what you look for in a rattlesnake is girth and bloodcurdling ferocity.


Armed with these helpful facts, two bottles of water, brand new leather hiking boots and a camera, I drove up to Hamburg Reservoir near the small town of Hamburg, PA, where you can hop on to the AT. To get to the AT from the parking lot, you have to walk uphill along a service road that leads to the reservoir. The AT intersects this road about a half mile up the hill and enters some woods after crossing a stream on a wooden bridge. Heeding the advice of online hiking reviews, I looked for copperheads sunning themselves on the creek stones but I saw none, which wasn't a disaster because I really fucking hate snakes.


I had decided to hike up the AT to the Pinnacle, then descend back down along the Furnace Creek (Blue) trail, which forms a loop to the parking lot. About half a mile into the woods, the Blue trail branched off the AT. Immediately thereafter, the AT began a steep climb up the side of the mountain. After an initial shock to my cardio-pulmonary system during which I aged twenty years within the span of twenty seconds, I settled into a nice rhythm.

About a mile into the hike, I ran across my first fellow hiker. She was twenty yards ahead of me, an amply proportioned woman, also climbing up the trail. As I caught up to her, I saw that she was arguing with somebody on the phone. Just as I passed her, she turned to me and asked me, "Do you know where we are?"

"We are on the Appalachian Trail", I replied, not hugely surprised by her question because she looked like somebody who had just stepped outside to get a cup of coffee and somehow inadvertently managed to end up on the Appalachian Trail.

"I need to get to the blue trail", she replied. "I've been walking all morning, trying to get to the white trail that leads to the blue trail".

"This IS the white trail", I said. "But why are you climbing up? To get to the blue trail, you would have to climb down".

"I climbed up the blue trail and I made a left on to the white trail and now I need to reach the blue trail to climb down to my campground, so I'm climbing up again", she said. "Do you see now?"

"I see", I replied, not seeing at all. "The blue trail meets the white trail at two different locations, the closest of which is a mile down this trail."

"Oh damn", she exclaimed in disgust. "Alright, thanks", she said, turned around and began to walk down.

After marveling for a moment at how anyone could get lost on such a clearly marked trail, I walked on.

A few minutes later, I came to a blue blazed trail branching off the AT to the right. Another blue trail? Perhaps the mysterious, mythical blue trail the woman was looking for?

Now here's my problem and it is a very general problem that I have faced many times in my life. I have a pathological desire to assist mankind through the generous dissemination of my knowledge. The problem is that frequently, I lack knowledge of any kind. In such a situation, I manufacture knowledge through the process of theorizing and deduction and in my defense, there have been numerous occasions when this method of knowledge manufacture has served me well and earned me accolades.

Apparently this wasn't one of those times.

"Fuck", I muttered under my breath because I had just been hit by a severe pang of hiker's conscience. Quickly, I did an about-turn and jogged back down the trail to see if I could find the woman and inform her that I had discovered a blue trail that might be the one she was looking for, but she had disappeared. I never saw her again. They say her spirit still wanders these woods at night, giving unwary hikers false directions in a fake Indian accent.

As I continued to hike up the AT, it continued to get rockier, with more and more boulders appearing on the path. As I mentioned in my previous post, Bill Bryson has called the PA Appalachian Trail a place where hiking boots go to die. After reading his description, my initial impression was that the AT in PA was probably akin to an old age home for footwear, where already decrepit boots would be allowed to die quietly with dignity, catheters being disengaged at regular intervals, culminating with the final unplugging of the dialysis machine.

And my experience on the Delaware Water Gap section of the AT had only served to confirm my hypothesis. After I returned from the hike, my old shoes which were already well past their expiration date, called it a day and kicked the bucket.

But this trail was different. In fact, for this particular section of the AT, a more apt comparison would be to Vietnam. Young, healthy shoes being sent off to battle for a lost cause and be slaughtered like sheep. I felt a deep sadness for my new Timberlands. They were not having the best of times. I could sense their muted suffering through my Dr. Scholl's insole.

It began with the appearance of a few rocks on the path. I snapped a picture, thinking hey, that's cool, so this was what Bryson was talking about. A few steps ahead, these turned into boulders. I snapped another picture, thinking sweet, I am THE MAN for doing this trail alone. And then, the path disappeared entirely, turning into a field of giant rocks, climbing up the side of the mountain like a stairway to hell and identifiable as the Appalachian Trail only by the white blazes painted on trees surrounding them.


My problem wasn't merely with regard to the technical issues involved in climbing up a rocky mountainside. I also knew (again, from online research), that the rattlesnakes of this region, displaying uncommon enterprise, often occupy the empty space between two rocks, staying still for prolonged periods of time and awaiting rodentia or human limb to succumb to gravity and fall in. Therefore, as I jumped from rock to rock, I could almost hear hollow fangs clicking away in anticipation all around my feet.

As I was standing on one of these rocks, trying to catch my breath, my cellphone rang. It was my dad.

"Why are you sending us money?", my dad wanted to know.

"Who else will I send money to?", I replied.

"We don't need your money, we are relatively well-off", replied my dad.

"Dad, I already sent you the money, so donate it to the poor or something", I said.

"Okay, I will send it back to you, then", said my dad.

"Dad, I have money now, I am no longer poor", I said, "But anyways, I'm standing on a rock surrounded by snakes right now so I gotta go, I will call you later, bye" and hung up.

After carefully leaping from rock to rock and making my way up the ridge for another twenty minutes or so, I finally emerged onto a flat area on the edge of a cliff with a nice view of the surrounding countryside. This was probably Pulpit Rock. I confirmed my suspicion by asking two women lounging around on a couple of flat rocks at the edge of the precipice. One of them was lying on her stomach, peering through binoculars at the birds of prey circling the cliffs around us.

"Is this Pulpit Rock?", I asked.

"Yes, it is", the non-birdwatcher replied. I walked up to the edge of the cliff to take pictures. Down in the valley at a distance, I could vaguely make out the "Blue Rocks", a boulder field supposedly deposited there by glaciers during the last ice age.


The woman who had replied to my question got up from her roost and at the same time, a skinny guy in well-worn hiking attire emerged from the trail. He immediately walked up to the rock the woman had been sitting on, carefully scrutinized it and then broke out in smiles as if he had just spotted an old friend.

"There it is", he said, "There's usually at least one in there".

"Where is what?", I asked him, puzzled.

"A copperhead", he replied. "It's coiled up inside the crack between these rocks you ladies are sitting on."

This revelation caused the birdwatching lady to temporarily suspend her ornithological activities in favor of leaping to her feet and saying, "AaaaA. Where?" I have never seen anyone transfer body weight from belly to foot with such agility.

The man pointed to the crevice between the two rocks. I stepped onto the ledge at the very edge of the cliff to spot the serpent. A sudden attack of vertigo hit me. Carefully, I backed off and tried to get to it from another angle. As I raised my camera and moved my hand towards the crevice to take a picture, I asked the guy, "Where is it"?

"Stop right there", he said. I froze.

"What?", I said.

"There's one right underneath your hand", he said.

I looked closely at the crevice my hand was passing over and sure enough, right there among the leaves was a curled up copperhead. It was quite difficult to spot due to its amazingly camouflaged skin. There were two of these snakes, in the very same crevice.



"Sometimes there are so many in there that they get stacked up on each other", said the guy. He had obviously made a career out of studying the relaxing habits of Appalachian Trail copperheads.

"That's nice", I said, thinking otherwise. "Are they venomous?".

"Yeah", he replied. "Also, the babies are more dangerous because they keep biting and inject more venom than the adults."

I decided never to hand-feed a baby copperhead. Sure they are all cute and scaly and all, but on the whole, it's just not worth the risk.

"We've been sitting here for a while now", said one of the women. "We never knew it was in there."

"You were lucky you didn't drop anything into the crack and try to retrieve it", I said.

"I know", said the woman, "My water bottle was right there".

After taking a number of copperhead pictures, I put my camera away.

"Anyone going to the Pinnacle?", asked Hiker Guy.

"Yeah, I am", I replied, "Why?"

"Watch out for rattlesnakes", he said. "People have seen big ones among the rocks there".

"B...B?", I said.

"Excuse me?", he said.

"I said B...B", I explained. "I was actually trying to say 'B..B..Big?' in a terrified voice."

"Yeah", he replied, "You might also run across them on the trail. I saw one the other day, moving through the leaves. Just make sure you keep an eye out for them."

And so, after taking some more pictures of the view from Pulpit Rock, I took my leave of these good folks and headed out towards the Pinnacle.

(continued here)

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Today I did my once-every-five years pilgrimage to the DMV. I already had a license and merely needed to renew it. Therefore, the paperwork I needed to take along with me caused the destruction of a smaller swathe of the Amazonian rain forest than usual. Along with my passport, H1B documentation and I-485 receipt, I merely included my mother's birth certificate, my dad's fourth grade essay competition gold medal and my great grandfather's 1920 tax returns from his goat-herding business. I was ready to renew.

When i entered the DMV office, I saw that there were a mere ten people ahead of me, praise the Lord. After taking a number, I busied myself with attempting to discover a free wi-fi connection for my phone to climb on to. After "HMP500" and "TestyTestMan" both failed to provide me with unsecured internet access, I decided to go with the tried and tested method of staring at the floor. I wondered if there was any paint drying in the vicinity.

Finally, when my number was up, they called me to the photography chamber where the lady behind the counter gave me a computerized questionnaire consisting merely of (a), if I wished to answer (b) in Spanish and (b), if I wished to be an organ donor. After I had answered yes to both questions, the lady, in a tone implying her belief that I had misunderstood the second question, asked me, "You've stated that you want to be an organ donor, is that correct?"

I replied yes, accompanying it with a look that I hoped would communicate to her my view that if people wished to help themselves to the much abused and heavily shredded cables of my mortal coil, hey, more power to them. I really hope she got that look because I put considerable effort into its manufacture.

With all formalities completed, I settled down into the chair for my picture to be taken.

"You may smile if you wish", said the lady, "Please look at the camera".

Since smiling in photos makes me look sheepishly apologetic about my presence on the planet and not smiling in photos announces to people my intention of invading their house while they're asleep and raping their pillows, I offered her my standard "fuck all government issued documents" glare. The camera clicked.

But something appeared to be amiss. The lady called one of her coworkers to her desk. I could hear them whispering and I thought I saw her point to my picture on her screen and say, "Does his (inaudible) look tiny to you?"

I looked down to check if I was wearing pants, which I was, so it had to be something else that had violated the good lady's sense of proportion. I listened more closely in order to make out their conversation. This time, I heard the words shiny and nose.

"Excuse me", I said, "What's wrong?"

"Your nose looks too shiny in the picture", she said to me. "Is it too shiny for a license photo?", she asked her coworker.

"Hold on, my nose is too shiny?" I said. I wanted to be sure that I had an exact understanding of the problem.

The room laughed. I realized that I had been too loud. Reflexively, I wiped my nose on my shirt sleeve. "Shit", I said to myself, realizing too late that wiping it would only serve to augment its reflective properties.

The coworker finally came to my rescue.

"It's okay, his nose is fine", she said.

"Yeah, i guess so", said the picture lady. "I think i was too picky about your nose", she said,turning to me.

"That's okay", I said. I guess it is a good thing that the world contains people willing to burden themselves with the task of maintaining societal nose glitter within manageable limits.

I seated myself beside another Indian guy who had yet to have his photo taken and waited for the production of my new license card to be completed. I noticed that the guy next in line after me had already received his card. The lady behind the counter explained to the Indian guy sitting next to me, "It's because your card needs to be reprinted." Seeing his puzzled look, I explained, "She's speaking to you, but she's actually talking to me." We were both brown so I can understand her confusion.

Finally, my card was done. I walked to the counter to retrieve it. I wished to check on the shininess of my nose first-hand. Well, I couldn't see anything because I was blinded by the light emanating from my nose in the picture. My license picture looked like a miniature solar system with my nose providing life-giving light and warmth to my eyes, ears, forehead and chin that were revolving in elliptical orbits around it. My chin appeared to be simultaneously rotating about its own inclined axis, thereby leading to perfect conditions for the birth of hair. I named my eyes Klaxon and Zorn and drove home humming the Star Trek theme song.

I wonder why no one's ever mentioned anything to me about my shiny nose before. Are you people blind?