Tuesday, April 21, 2009

six on one hand

...half a dozen on the other. Any one place was as good as another ('good' meaning 'on a par with'), as far as I was concerned last year when choosing a place to travel to. India tipped the balance because it was cheap, exotic, and I found a permaculture and natural building workshop to attend, giving me the focus I wanted and fulfilling a desire to learn more about (and participate in) sustainability.

If I had been able to examine my needs more closely, I would have chosen a full-on vacation in, say, the north of Thailand. The visual beauty and tourist infrastructure and accompanying friendliness, I hear, is practically unbeatable. But that was then and this is now and hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. India was a trial. Okay, it was many things, some beautiful. On balance it served to amplify every insecurity, doubt and question that's been brewing up inside of me for months. Could be a good thing, and it probably is, but the experiences need to probably ferment a bit longer for the fruit to be fully born.

It's not just India, of course it's not....I have meltdowns independent of which country or continent I'm in! In fact, I had one yesterday, and I'm back home in Eugene. The difference is...today I am feeling so much more at peace and rest than I have for millennia. Maybe it's the aftereffects of the THC I inadvertently ingested yesterday. I was royally out of my mind all day, with a white-knuckled peak in the mid-afternoon, but today I feel very certain that all is full of love, man. Every little thing is gonna be alright!

So let me break it down for you. I was packing up my stuff after staying with some friends overnight and suddenly I felt







far away

and my heart started racing to beat the devil. I couldn't imagine what the PHREAK was going on. I raced into the kitchen for some assistence, surprised I didn't have a straightjacket on. I was feeling very loony but not in a fun Roger Rabbit sort of way. One of my friends asked me what I ate for breakfast. I thought hard about this.


....................on my..........


"Did you eat any brownies?!"

Well I guess you all know the answer to this one.

"How many did you eat?"

In a small voice I manage, "Two."


"They're small!!!"

And my friends were all laughing, but they were really concerned too, and saying I'd best just go along for the ride because there's nothing to do for it except maybe try and go throw up. Since that wasn't going to happen (my insides are already on my outsides, people! I'm tripping hard!), I concentrated on breathing, slowly and evenly, and reminding myself that at least it's not acid and people don't die from eating two brownies.

One other of my friends said, "You just can't go eating stuff out of people's fridges!" and he's shaking his head. I scraped together my linguistics and logistics and countered, "But you guys said to make myself at home and eat whatever!"

"Didn't the container alert you?" they chorused.

"Yeah, well, no! It's a Trader Joe's caramel dessert container!"

"But they're not caramel!"

Again with the scraping: "Well yeah but I when I have leftovers, I put pasta in old salsa containers, say...."

"But they're brownies....."

"But it's not on my radar....."

They were all really cool though. One Friend even offered to twist one up and smoke it so I wouldn't be alone in my highness even though she hadn't planned on doing that so early in the day...I accepted her offer for company. I did choose to ignore the, "You're gonna be so high all day," comment by Another Friend and instead concentrated on biofeedback: I will metabolize this quickly. And really, I was laughing along with them, when I wasn't focused on how freaked out I was feeling.

Some of you might be scratching your heads. Why wouldn't I want a free ride to the moon and back? The answer is: set and setting, baby, set and setting. My mental set and my emotional setting is not such that the bud works kindly on me any more. Oh, no. No no no. It's all anxiety and feeling even more unmoored than I already have been feeling. I want very much to remain present, it's very difficult, and with spiked brownies, I feel so removed from everything and everyone. For me anymore, it's a barrier instead of a gate. I do not like being stoned.

It was a really long strange day yesterday. It's okay, you can laugh! I did when one of my friends grabbed stool to sit on since there were no more chairs around the kitchen table to occupy. Here is the stool and she really did sit on it for quite some time and quite comfortably, too:

Nothing like putting your feet up after a post-breakfast snack! Can you believe I actually managed to operate the camera, and point and shoot it? Ha ha! I was such a wreck!

After the worst was over, I left with Jacque who had come to pick me up, and we spent the rest of the day working in her yard, planting things that grow and are not of the cannabis family. It was really good to put my hands in the soil. I just felt so bad that not only was I wasted on brownies, but the brownies were wasted on me.

An added comedic twist: yesterday evening I was looking at the David Minor theatre lineup (locally owned theatre with more off the beaten track films, the theatre was built in honor of David Minor's life before he was killed in a bicycle accident) and what do you know, at least three stoner films (Dazed and Confused, Reefer Madness, Up in Smoke...) were being shown for free. The date yesterday? April the twentieth: 420. Har dee har har! No really! That is some funny shit!!!

So yes! I am back in Eugene, and how sweet it is!!! Everything is coming on strong, the blooms and the buds, the trees are fletching out in green, and it's warm and sunny. It smells so good here. I arrived saturday evening...today is tuesday, right? Yeah, tuesday. A stellar homecooked brunch with reunited friends on sunday, and yardwork, and today I just rode all over the place on Megan's purple bike running errands and visiting people. So good to be back among familiar surroundings, and on the bike paths along the river. With the trains sounding off at regular intervals...didn't realize how much I missed the sound of the trains and the horns.

Here's a little bit of Eugene:

We stopped to look at this house because Jacque pointed out that the paint job/colors are really nice (they are - peach and hues of burgundy) and the tree coming into bloom out front really brings all the colors together. We'll be painting the exterior of Jacque's house this summer! The picture doesn't do much justice I'm afraid.

I'm looking for a place to live. I still want to travel, but for now, I need to stay put for awhile. I don't know how long this will be. I'm open to ideas, eventualities, potential and intervention. The next time I travel, my sense is that the set and setting will be different.

As for Tucson! It's too dry for the likes of me. If you are an astrologer or think that your zodiac signs have anything to do with what kind of climate you'd feel kindred to, you'd know that this Pisces double Cancer likes a little more water in my diet. Too humid in India, too arid in Arizona, but juuuust right in Eugene (at least outside of the heavy winter rain months, water affinity notwithstanding!). But, I made some good friends and reconnected with family and folks were mighty kind to me. I'll be uploading the remainder of the Tucson pictures to the album (link at top on right) tonight hopefully.

One of the nights while staying with Ricia and Rocky, we went to some of their friends' place to see a documentary on Robert Johnson. Did I get that right? Legendary blues musician, the founding father I'd wager (sorry, I'm not up on my blues history). Met some really great people there. Rocky teaches music and Guido is taking some lessons from Rocky. Damn I wasn't even stoned, and what was Guido learning to play?? It was a reeded wind instrument, and I sketched this while they did their thing before the show: Ummmm it doesn't really look like Guido, but he unwittingly provided me with the springboard for Guido In B Minor.

Myra, Guido's wife (close enough?), told us about the International Film Festival starting tomorrow (that would have been thursday last) and the first show was for free, at an outside venue. Rocky and I went, it was unseasonably cool, but I didn't mind so very much after the intense heat of India - and the movie was Veer, which chronicled three seasons' worth of bicycle culture/club/community in Portland Oregon and Multnomah County!! It was one of the best films I've ever seen.

I mean, did you guys know about The Sprockettes?? Or Zoobombing? Or the Ben Hurt chariot wars? Bicycle activists and educators abound! Right here at home, of course. Oooh I can't wait to find and purchase a bike for myself.

Oh my god you guys. I was just reading the Sprockettes website and one of their members, Holli, was in a motorcycle accident in Pondicherry on my birthday (late Feb)resulting in a coma. I was in Pondicherry just a few days before that. Looks like she is back in the US now and regaining use of mind and body. Long slow recovery. We can donate through Help Holli Heal blog.

I'll close now with a picture or two from the Coronado State Park where Ricia took me on saturday, before she drove me to the airport. It was a beautiful day. We hiked down into the gully where there is always at least some measure of water, and therefore, a bit more of the green foliage and coolness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Phar Out!

Wow it's windy today. Gusts up to 45mph! Ricia says it's never this windy for this long and did I bring this weather with me?? I wonder, myself. We're not going out this afternoon. It's too blowey, and on the blowing is lots of grit and pollen. I have to laugh. I was practically driven indoors in India due to high temps and humidity and now I'm indoors again for different reasons.

Really, I'm laughing!

It's fine to kick back, my body obviously needs to rest and recouperate from whatever airborn nasty I contracted on the plane. I did go for a walk earlier, to buy some beets (to use in the henna for my hair), restock our supply of ginger (Ricia makes a mean stir fry with tons of ginger and garlic), and snag a bag of organic carrots (at damn near Indian prices). Rocky is currently at a doctor's appointment and is swinging by Trader Joe's on the way home (Rocky is fine). I suggested dumpster diving to determine our evening dining menu. I am serious! But I think he's just going with my other suggestion (shrimp, to aid the veggies).

I can't wait to dive in a dumpster again though. Ricia didn't bat an eyelash when I asked about the local dumpster venues. Rusty, the guy who just vacated the room I'm staying in and who rents from Ricia for the winter before returning home to Slovenia or somewhere, would bring home loads of food from TJ's dumpster. Huzzah! I guess they don't lock 'em around here! If it's not too windy tomorrow and I'm feeling finer, I'm going to ride over and check it out (since I am not accompanying Rocky this afternoon).

Yesterday we traveled over Gates Pass, west, to Terra Sante and checked out the scene. They're doing some pretty cool things there - a bioharmonic sweat lodge is in the making at present:

Bruce, Ricia, and Janice (in the foreground, at right).

The idea is to sweat, and to bioharmonize. The round bump-outs you see are where people can sit and hum or talk. I guess these are pretty big news? I haven't googled, maybe you'd like to. There is even a shower head on a pipe sticking up out of the ground a few feet away, which I have no doubt works.

I call this place, Little India. There are pictures over here on flickr. There is stuff strewn all over the place, and things happening in the most unlikely places and ways, seemingly at random. A mixture of madness and magic? It's a desolate sort of area too...lots of mesquite, but nothing is really blooming, stretching for miles and miles. Why do people choose to cultivate land that is so inhospitable for supporting lots of human life? It can't be solely for the sheer numbers of us. I know that people have been living in the desert for eons, but on such a large scale? It seems so unnatural.

They sky is so dramatic, I love it:

Which is a nice foil, I think, to the relatively homogenous groundcover and colors.

So, backing up a bit here: I neglected to write that last week while I was at my aunt and uncle's, we visited an outdoor museum/learning lab sort of place called Tohono Chul. My uncle is a wonderful photographer, he's really into it and belongs to the community club. We all went to 'Chul for photo ops..here are a couple I snapped and the rest are up on the arizona flickr page (link to the left on the sidebar too):

Tree bark, top, and brilliant red flowers below. Some of the brilliance has been lost in jpg land transferring back and forth. Drags!

The last one reminds me of a nudibranch! Those undersea slug creatures, that come in a myriad of colors and often with tufts of fringy looking antenna and whatnot.

And as long as I'm playing catch-up, and am staying indoors so that I'm not colonized by pollen (there is actually a law against planting too many olive and something else trees, because of the pollen count!)...I'll transcribe more of my flight out of India:

11:30pm Delhi 26degrees (that's almost 80 degrees fahrenheit)

We've landed, I've used the toilet, I'm watered, and the gentleman at the help desk has told me "Not to worry " (in Hindi). He smiled and continued in English for me to wait just there for my bus at 23:40.

Many more men than women wandering around, and on balance, they're lighter, leaner, and more, ummmmm....western-looking here in the North. Arriving now, I almost wish I had just booked a flight for the North. seems a shame to leave the continent altogether. It's not broiler-oven hot (yet) and there is what feels like NO humidity. My skin is lacking that 24 hour sticky sheen. I've reached Nirvana!

But really.....I'm surprising myself by thinking I want to stay. (editor's note, as I'm transcribing...damn straight you're crazy.)

I listened to music on the plane - one traditional Indian number after another. Just beautiful. Tablas, you know...chanting. not the hi-pitched "Minnie walking on coals" wail (Lucy Bent (?), author of "Yoga School Dropout" coined that one) but the male singing -- reminds me of the Muslim prayers which I love.

I keep hearing how harsh the north is, how soft the south is by comparison. But a month in Dharamsala.....

And I remind myself that I can return. Really my time in India is complete, at least for now...the bus has started moving now. The Indian woman across the aisle finds me very curious.


Seated on the airplane now (no air conditioning yet). Just went through a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit, after being taken on tour in a coach to reach our port-of-call ten thousand leagues from our port-of-entry. Actually, the coast (bus) ride (which involved at least one double-back, as the airport is under what looks like a constant state of in-repair and renovation...what airport isn't??) started out fun. I even swallowed my momentary panic: "Are they mistaking me for a tourist? who wants to see Delhi? tonight?! Where are they taking us??!!"

This is one big-ass airport. With leagues of in-progress construction to give evidence of more big-ass-ness.

So, upon docking in Delhi airport proper, I'm told that I need to pay a Rs 1,300 development fee. Do they really think that petroleum is a renewable resource? In a few years I bet all air travel will come to an airbrake-screeching halt. What is my Rs 1300 paying for, anyway?

The man behind the counter insists I need to pay. I've already changed the bulk of my rupees to american dollars, back in the Land of Chennai. I need to hit the ATM and then pay at, "The window, just there." (did I mention that our flight from Chennai was delayed?) (forty small minutes remain to liftoff, from Delhi, which is where I am, STILL IN INDIA!!).

The window he gestured to I found at first to be non-existent. He clarified, "The small window." Oh yes right, the Orwellian peephole with steel bars!

I stopped by to confirm the price. You can't blame me. One lesson I've learned here is that most times when you ask the same question of different people, you get different answers.

He answers the same as the fellow at the check-in counter. I think they're in cahoots.

I run my numbers through the ATM, but they're sorry, and unable to process my request at this time. I recall a quote I heard recently: Fear is just excitement without breathing. I manage to hold it together. Not out of breath yet.

I ask Mr. Thomas Cook if he'll change my money and he says something negatory but strangely comforting (maybe it's his smile?). I am able to correctly interpret that the State Bank of India fellow next door is my sure bet. So I plop down my bag and chirp a hello (still breathing) and try to make myself understood, explaining the Situation. Mr. Bank of India's fatherly gaze (read: uncompromising and stern) delivers a reminder of just whose country I am in.

"Ten dollar minimum."

I pass the bucks and he passes me back Rs 490. Not bad. I only lost Rs190 (the rate and fees in Chennai were damn near dismal). Then I take the money, and run - back to the man behind bars. I stuff the bills under the bulletproof glass window, after peeling them off one by one and counting very deliberately. He asks for my ticket. I oblige.

Everyone who I hand my ticket to (okay except for those two nice girls who welcomed me at Chennai...god, that seems like a lifetime ago) inspects it gravely. What are they looking for? Is it in code? No matter, I have all the time in the world. You are carrying a very large semi-automatic weapon, Joe.

-oh hang on, a public service announcement: they're spraying our luggage with 'a completely harmless spray' JOY! At least it doesn't SMELL toxic-

Back at the barred window, I'm trying hard to not jiggle or tap my foot impatiently but I may have said Hurry the fuck up under my breath that I was trying not to hold. Mr. Bars begins to fill out a form. With great deliberation. My receipt. He says something like, "You go and ask price." I say, "Yes I've been to the ticket counter, he sent me here," and Mr. B keeps gesturing back to the check-in chap at the ticket window. Finally I say, "Yes, yes, he told me thirteen hundred rupees!"

Didn't we just run through this before I dahsed off to the ATM an eternity ago?!

this satisfied him and he resumed filling out my receipt. Then the phone rang and I clamped my mouth shut. I did, however, continue to breathe through my nose. Nothing like a little excitement to cure the midnight sleepies!!!!

The form completed, he passes it

(sorry I need to pick a tense and stick with it)

back through the slot. I restrain myself from tearing it out of his hand altogether, and practically bolt back to the check-in desk. I'm relieved when he's holding out my boarding pass, at the ready. I don't think I snatch it out of his hands; I do think to ask what I need to do next.

Mr. Man-Who-Previously-Smiled-At-Me hands me a form for Immigration and points in that general direction. He does not offer me a pen. I tractor my way to the Immigration compoind, fish a pen from my new shoulder satchel and grab a square inch of desk. In the queue, I choose the slowest. When I queue-hop to a newly spent line, a woman toting two or three children cuts in ahead, looks me square in the eye, "Sorry." I want to say, "Don't add injury to insult," but remember David's admonition: if you're running late and you're way down the queue simply cut ahead -- everyone does it.

A dog's year later I'm spat out the other end, heading for the home stretch: The security gate. I show a man my ticket, he joins me in my haste when he sees the boarding time (VERY SOON NOW), actually helps me to the correct gate. Only I've not acquired new luggage tags. I try not to whine asking the guard to admit me forthwith and nonetheless. He will have none of it and re-asserts that I need fresh tags and gestures vaguely, "Just there."

More confusion and rapidly rising blood pressure.


okay that's it for now; I've been typing on and off for several hours, and have even left the house to join Rocky with some friends, Myra and Guido, to see a documentary on Robert Johnson, father of the Blues. More about that later, we had a wonderful evening and I'm completely knackered. Nighters!

Monday, April 13, 2009

when it's ajar

The question is, 'when is a door not a door?'

I could go forth with all sorts of existential, philosophical appendages on that one but I won't, because I have much else to impart upon you, gentile reader.

I moved out of Uncle Chuck and Aunt Marti's, and am now being hosted by two very fine folk, Rocky and Ricia (see below), who I found through CouchSurfing. Ricia met me with open arms into her garden, told me to make myself at home and explore, has loaned me one of her chick mystery novels (yes it's yummy, just the bit of fluffy nuttery goodness I wanted), and cooked us a wonderful meal: oodles of fresh greens, broccoli, and rice.

Rocky (pictured on the left) came in a bit ago waving his arms about TerreSante, a community outside of town, which his friend Bruce is involved in. As I tuned in to the conversation, I recalled that TerreSante is featured in the North American WWOOF'ing roundup - what a great coincidence! Ricia has tomorrow free (she is a close-caption writer...she's doing a Charlie Rose live interview right now!) and suggested that we tool on out there to see what's going on. Apparently it's a work party day, so we can elect to roll up our collective sleeves and dig in, and also be fed some tasty organic TS-grown food!


Ricia has since cut off most of her hair and I have yet to hear the whole story.

This house is compact, and colorful. Each room has been painted different colors. It's very informal and many couchsurfers are hosted here. I love it! Somewhere outside is a persistent round of music, like an ice cream truck's - first there were Christmas songs, and now it's Old MacDonald. It's not loud or obnoxious, but I am very curious. There's a sauna outside too, and in the garage, some bikes. Ricia set me up with one already, and drew me a map of the area with points of interest (namely, the library and the natural foods stores, and the university block).

I was waaaay to burnt to go out this afternoon; this headcold has kicked my arse-end and I've been feeling pretty emotionally spun out. I think I'm coming around now; Rocky and I discussed my new novel. He has already told me that my Preface is done - after I told him about how I envisioned going to India to be a big bang, ultra epiphanic,

(hey I think that actually IS an ice cream truck!!!!!)

soul-moving exclamation point and all that, and it...was not. No quantum leaps. Dammit!!

Then he asked me who would play me in the movie. I named Molly Ringwald, and he launched into how she was really a francophile. She learned french, moved there, married a french guy...he knew so much about Molly, I had to know why, and he said Well because all guys have a thing for Molly Ringwald, I have no trouble admitting I have a thing for Molly Ringwald! Fair enough. *who wouldn't, after her lipstick-applying trick in Breakfast Club?? You knew that was coming!*

I also learned that Rocky was in a grunge bank in the 80s, called the Cottonmouths, and they toured the northeast. He was in his 40s - said he had a great time. Yeah, I bet! You didn't need much to be in a grunge band...people expected raw and ready.

So now we want to know: who will play Rocky in the movie??

Rocky suggested that the whole book I'm going to write be just Chapter Ones. I like it! It suits me!! With Fun (or, as Ricia suggested, Phun) in the middle. Okay, so here is the first Chapter One, lifted straight off my journal from last monday and tuesday, traveling from India to Tucson:

Monday April 6 2009

Driving away from Auroville, passing through Palliachavadi. Sign on a derelict building: WHATEVER! Your Friendly Coffee Shop.

More signage: GO SLOW-ACCIDENT ZONE, with a partial road barricade and just beyond, a small billboard at eye level picturing a leg in a cast with 'get well soon' written on it.

A sign that reads: My Town, My Pride, I keep it clean and green. The paint is faded and peeling.

A short row of shops surrounded by a wasteland, stunted scraggly trees. Only one shop is up and running with a wall of glass front doors and shiny new scooters for sale inside.

We pass one billboard after another advertising beach resorts and oceanfront property for sale. Between the signs -stuck on white walls surrounding acres of just dirt and trash- and the ocean is maybe where the resorts were planned to be built? There is nothing in sight but the dirt and the trash. I'm unsettled. It's almost post-apocalyptic.

We pass a sign: "Don't fly on road. Fly abroad." and then pass more impeccably painted and maintained buildings shoulder to shoulder with those in ruin, dilapidated, in various states of disrepair. Also, palm-lined pavement-less promenades that march to the sea - they're empty, but fenced areas and remind me of abandoned movie sets. And school buildings built in featureless concrete the color of the surrounding dirt. The buildings are named Science Block, Computer Block...it's like a prison with Cell Blocks.

After all this comes a wave of absurdity: beach resorts with names like ABC's Baywatch and Country Club Jade Resorts featuring hulking buildings circa Star Trek era with whole walls, ten stories high, finished in dark blue tinted glass.

As we enter the city, a sign proclaims that 'Chennai traffic police welcomes you' and there is a strange ray of hope in the next one reading 'National Institution of Empowerment for those with multiple disabilities.'

That's the end of my journal entry into Chennai, there's more to come. Basically I sat in the airport for four hours and spent Rs35 on one single samosa! It was good, but not that good, and it was airport food. (mind you, it was also bigger than street samosas, but the going price for a samosa on the street is about Rs5 each) At least I was out of the intense heat, never to feel the sticky humidity of South India again. I keep marveling at how smooth and unencumbered my skin is now (and marveling at how I've managed yet another leap to an extreme..it's so NOT humid here, my nose is bleeding).

My Uncle gave me the book I picked up and started reading while enjoying their hospitality...it's Eckarhdt Tolle's newer one (I just royally botched the guy's first name I think) on Awakening to your life's purpose. For me at this point in my elliptical quasi mid life crisis state, it's pretty powerful stuff. Reading it, I'm reminded of similar paradigms and ways of framing (or is that 'phraming', Ricia??) concepts but the way he's presenting it is a way that I can absorb. It's a real mind-bender and challenges us to question pretty much everything we've been taught or lead to believe is true - basically you're waking up to the whole sleepwalk of Ego.

I'm going to read my fluffy detective novel now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

parting shots

Well howdy. I think my shit has finally hit the fan! Well, at least one more revolution's worth. When I traveled TO India, jetlag lasted only a couple of days. This time around, it is a doozy. With an added bonus of sinus infection, yet another existential crisis, culture shock (how come it's more now than when I landed in India??), and what else can I bitch about? I mean oh my everloving shiva, my emotions are pistons....freaking exhausting! :)

I have yet to transcribe my journal into blog floormat, two days' worth of travel. But for now, I'll give you a few shots from the the road as I traveled to the airport in Chennai in a taxi:

Wow that really does seem like a long time ago. Weird. It's all so twilight zoneish. No not even 'ish'. It IS.

I drew this guy inside 'everything bad is good for you', a kick-arsey book I was reading in the Chennai airport:

Today I have been lying around sniffling, eating, and talking with the folks in between set lists. My first number lasted through breakfast, 'cry me a river'; the second out on the back porch, 'there's a tear in my beer'; the third right before a nap in the midmorning hours, 'don't cry out loud...' What the hell am I doing.

I'm going to CouchSurf tomorrow! Heading into Tucson to check out the scene and scee what I can scee! Then, the plan is to hook up with Carol Ann, the proprietor of the now-closed Casbah Tea House, a kickin' little veg restaurant (I mean ex-restaurant) in Tucson. She says she could use some help sorting through all the stuff from the restaurant. A little work exchange arrangement, and a trailer with a sleeping bed in it out back for my accomodation. We'll see what happens! Tomorrow's CouchSurfing looks to be interesting, it always is. I'll let you know.

Some pics of the folk and the neighborhood from yesterday morning's walk, and I bid you all adieu, achoo!

Catching up...

Friday, April 10, 2009

hello from the Snorin' Desert

Greetings fellow sybarites, snack-a-holics and simulation-seekers! I give you salubrious salutations from Heritage Highlands, in the northwest corner of Tucson, where the bobcats saunter down the street and the cactus wren are active in their calling; where the quail and the hares eat from the same rock, where my Uncle Chuck spreads grain for them on a daily basis. Awwww so sweet.

Aren't quail just the sweetest?! I need to take a picture of one of those dear little critters. I love their curly-cues.

So. Yesterday's swim! The pool was so warm, and filled with very enthusiastic (and slightly proprietary) water-walkers, bobbers, floaters, floppy pink hats on suntanned octogenarians. I love it. I accepted a personal challenge (mine) to stay ahead of one guy in a baseball cap who jogged around the perimeter, doing very proper whoo-whoo-whoo out-breath and pumping his arms appropriately. I was doing the dog-paddle, and my version of the backstroke and the side crawl. In my nautical bathing suit (navy blue and white, with a white sailing cord type of shoulder and neck strap).

One of the things that just tickles me is that everyone is noodling around (on the planet, in a pool, down the supermarket aisle), doing their own thing/s. I mean, I've lived alone for so long, I rattled around the apartment with no other people around me (in my immediate/everyday environment) doing their normal people-stuff. I think I may have expressed to someone, or in a post, about how when I was staying at College Guest House in Auroville, I was happy to just chill out in the room not interacting, if I wasn't feeling social...because I could hear people outside talking, or gardening, or sweeping, and the birds, and the dogs play. (however, other people noises like blaring TVs, motorcycles, and screaming aren't on my like-list)

Then I bundled myself into the golf cart and wheeled myself home, to be greeted once again by my...family!!! yay for family!

You all know how happy I am to be reunited with family. I just had a thought - maybe we're not 'real' family until we have a big-ass fight! okay! Hmmm...nahhhhhh.

Uncle Chuck likes naps:
hee hee! I love this one. He used his sweatshirt to cover his feetsies and leggies! He was tuckered out after our extra long walk/hike this morning (so am I, but I am mightily determined to power through this jetlag, and continue to stay awake during the day - I'm still up at five a.m. no matter what time I fall asleep though).

Uncle Chuck graciously let me play around on his Native American flute, which I played like an Irish piccolo at some points (gotta mix it up a bit, right?) (I hope the Navajo flute spirits employ a good sense of humor). Here is a picture of the flute:

From the inside!

I love being introduced by my aunt and uncle: "This is my niece, Tor"..."This is our niece, Tori". It's been so long since I've been linked to anyone in a familial fashion. I really love this.

From time to time I play a game, where I think of ways I identify myself:

I am a/an customer, employee (er, past tense), traveler, artist, jogger (ok that one is past tense as well), daughter (haven't thought of that one for a long time), friend, clotheshanger, typist,....that sort of thing. I am glad to add 'niece' to the list of active identifiers!

Our walk this morning was beautiful! The wind was balmy, the sky is huge and filled with sweepy clouds, and Marti is a great plant-identifier, having been raised in the southwest and owing to an interest in plantology and such. I'll provide a picture of her soon. Walking briskly is perfect, and just at my aerobic level right now, after spending weeks on my hind-end eating Indian sweets and sweating in the sun.

toodles for now, I'm off for a swimmy swim before my butt falls asleep

Thursday, April 09, 2009

touch down

It feels very weird and all wrong to be wearing shoes inside! And to sit on a western toilet, and even though in Auroville I mostly used utensils to eat, still feels weird even now.

I miss being in buildings that have no closed windows. It's strange to feel encapsulated. On balance, I'd have to say I prefer structures without closed windows and more open-air features. I'm so accustomed to being more in touch with what's going on outside at any given moment. Right now I'm sitting in the Wuthering Heights Community Club House, there is forced air, the a/c is rattling a bit, I'm in my sandals (and sweatshirt! ha ha haa!). Such a different experience than two or three days ago, and for the past three months!

Okay, it's actually...what the heck is the name of this place my aunt and uncle live in? How long can I use jetlag as an excuse for poor memory? Details, details....

I drove a golf cart to the clubhouse so I could use the computer and do a bunch of blogging and picture uploading without hogging my Uncle Chuck's computer for hours on end. Unfortunately I cannot upload pictures from the clubhouse computer. But back to the golf cart! It's all good fun! (my birmingham brother Matt says this; sometimes I've wanted to hit him for saying it, especially when I want some sympathy, but more often than not, I end up laughing instead of staying in pity mode)

I would totally trick out that golf cart if it was mine. I wrote to my friend Camille that it'd definitely have an Indian-style garland or two wrapped around the front and back end, and crazy decals and shit, just like the auto rickshaws there. Everyone has a golf cart for buzzing around the community here. So I hopped in with my new bathing suit and headed over here for a dip in the pool, maybe the jacuzzi too.

hang on hang on - no way did I drive here in the bathing suit!!!

My uncle and I went to Trader Joe's today and loaded up on food! Good times! So good to be back in the US! (although, okay, I do miss a good open-air market and I aim to find out if there are in fact farmer's markets here in Tucson like I've read rumors of) Then I went next door to Marshall's to find that bathing suit. I was so happy to hear some catchy 80s pop music being piped through the store. And to find clothes that actually FIT ME.

In India, many of the clothes - at least the ready-mades - are all geared for very slim and small-boned people. Which is not me. I found two articles of clothing in India to purchase that actually fit me and that I like; the rest (even the ones I hired a tailor to make) I left behind.

So I'm back in America, and I found a skirt that I absolutely adore (the grow-and/or-shrink-with-you kind). And a tank top (also stretchy). It's hilarious. I spent like a bazillion times more money on my bathing suit, skirt and top than I did for two weeks' accomodation in a nice guest house. Too funny.

I am really feeling like I am on vacation here though. That is also funny. And curious.

As for my family reunion: I felt very teary for about a day solid, and weepy in my heavenly comfortable bed the first night with fluffy pillows, because I am now fully realizing just how much I've wanted family and missed that in my life. I'm not talking about close-friends-family. I mean blood family. I keep looking at my Uncle and seeing ghosts of my mother, and familiar familial features. Uncle Chuck and Aunt Marti call me Tor (or Tori - my Uncle Chuck is the one in the family who has always called me Tori), which I respond to in a very visceral way. No one has called me Tor since my mother died (well, I've seen my dad once since then and he calls me Tor). I love it. I have really missed that. And I am also feeling happy sad a lot. Regret that my mother didn't keep in touch with family, and that I never really thought to, even after we were estranged and I didn't live with her; even after she died. I didn't even realize I missed any of it until very recently. I'm also experiencing a resurgence of grief about the deaths of my brother Christopher and my mother. But I think now that more of my feelings aren't in shadow, this can be a healing time for me.

I have had the idea that I wanted to be greeted at an airport by family. I thought about this when I first set out to travel. The thought of arriving solo and unknown, anonymous, in foreign and far-off airports, hasn't been very appealing to me at all. There is a part of me who is very adventurous and loves to go off exploring and doesn't mind doing things alone. I haven't honestly realized that I've been lonely for family, for the missed experience of being surrounded by family and the shared/accumulated experiences and memories.

Uncle Chuck and Aunt Marti greeted me with a sign! Just like I wanted! I didn't even have to ask. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them both. They're a real kick.

I have some harrowing travel-here stories to tell you, but now I'm hungry AGAIN (this happens when I am on the road and traveling, I've noticed) and I still want to go for a dip in the pool. So, it'll have to wait. Same with the pictures.

And I have to say with great relief and much happiness, how nice it is to be warm but not boiling and poached and stinking all the time no matter how much I shower. My skin is actually not-sticky everywhere all day and all night. I LOVE IT.

It's good to be back.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

cleared for takeoff

My last hours in India! I'm actually starting to feel just a little bit teary! Here's a partial list of things I will miss:

crazy, beautiful round the clock birdsongs
the sky at night
the sky at sunset
open air outside showers, with beautifully tiled floors and lots of vegetation draped around
the food!!
some of the people, okay?

My friend Marsha emailed and said that she's succesfully done my taxes for me, woo hoo! Well, they're not complicated, but it's a real load off to not have to worry about how they're going to be completed. Thank you Marsha! She wrote that I'm actually receiving bucks back from the feds, and I'll owe some to Oregon. I don't think I've ever received a refund from anyone!

So now, I have another good reason for spending a lot of rupees for a taxi to the airport tomorrow, in addition to that carbon footprint I mentioned.

I found Romeo. Yeah! I hardly ever visit the main house at our guest house, but the evening that I wrote the previous posting (see previous posting about Romeo), I cruised through and saw a DVD sitting on a ledge. It's an India and Walt Disney animated co-creation called Roadside Romeo. Ha ha!!!

haaaa haaaa!!!

okay maybe not that funny, but I sure think so.

Folks at lunch today kept asking me when I'm returning to India, and Buddha Smiles, for more fun and games in the roasting hot sun digging swales and puking my guts out. No no okay, they didn't insert those last bits, and actually Sugar didn't ask me when I'm returning (she knows better). But I practically sprayed my words, "Are you kidding? I'm so outta here I'm never looking back!"

On relfection, I allowed that I could perhaps see myself coming back, exploring the north. In another lifetime, in another body. Since cells regenerate themselves on a cyclical basis and maybe even my neurons and synapses will reorganise themselves as well...it is entirely conceivable that I'll come back in a few years!

My friend Camille asserts that I'm hooked even though I don't know it. I am curious and intrigued as to how this will manifest itself.

Yesterday we convened in the main house at College - which is actually named, if you'll recall "Joy NVC Family and College Guest House" - for an NVC practice session. It was...it was profound, in a quiet way. Set and setting, for sure.

The day before, I had sauntered through looking to ask if I could borrow an internet connection since the cable for the internet cafe had been cut (for the eleventeenth time) (maybe I already bitched about this one?) (I'm sure I did to someone). Ali, who is staying with Laura (who owns the place...well not really owns, since nothing is OWNED in Auroville), offered me her laptop after a really great conversation. Then more women came in and sat down and we were all hanging out in this beautiful home with a beautiful breeze and birds and cats and man, the vibe, 'twas so kind :) No but really! I found a didge and a drum....

So these last hours in India are being very wonderful.

Now, I need to go hose myself down again, because every pore in my body is oozing sweat and mingling with the humidity in a most unseemly and gross manner.

My next post will probably be from Stateside! And who knows what will happen. I feel excited about What's Next. Maybe I'll join a community there. Maybe I'll learn Spanish. Maybe Tucson will springboard me to Mexico. Sugar says the art and working artist community is very strong in Tucson. I saw an ad on HelpX for a woman who owned Casbah Tea House (the restaurant has closed down) which is now a traveling caravan in the summer, touring festivals up and own the west coast, making falafel and bellydancing.

ciao for now!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Hey! Wow! Finally I made it back. How was everyone's week? What the hell happened to the last seven days?! Yack.

I'm dedicating the last of my days in India to a new routine: rise early, go for a nice long walk in the coolness, spend the next several hours indoors under the fan plugged in to the internet, eat some cooling fruit salad, sleep during the heat of the day, go for another nice long cool walk, and stay up late so as to enjoy the relative coolness again. Why didn't I do this sooner?! Yack.

I'm growing ever grumpy with my college guest house mates. I'm just like Thomas, only not so good at having fun with my grumpiness. Thomas is from Austria, and has been in Brazil for the last several years. He loves being a tourist, he likes playing (harmless) tricks on folks, and he regularly slings himself into his hammock (at his self-made Kodaikanal, if you'll recall) to escape 'the kitchen chit-chat'.

At first I loved the kitchen chit-chat. I love hanging out with people and yakking. But lately, I'm feeling inharmonious with the chit-chat. Because a lot of it comes from white male lesson-talk. You know, it's not really conversation, it's when someone interjects on every subject, in the form of a lesson, instead of a conversation. How's that for a circular sentence?

Oh I know, as a blogreader, you probably want to hear about the good times; and as a blogger I feel a certain responsibility to convey that. But right now, I am overheated, my shit has never stank so bad, I'm swollen with the humidity, disappointed that India and I aren't simpatico, feeling very frustrated with the difficulties I'm experiencing just trying to communicate and understand people, even with people who speak English, and....

Hey wait a minute! I'm leaving on Monday! Isn't that great news?! I think so!

I'll be visiting my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Marty in Arizona. Ha ha haaaa! Where it's hot! No, but not as hot as here. And not as humid. Uncle Chuck contacted me out of the blue last December, just as I was readying flight plans for India. Haven't seen these folks since I was a young'un...Chuck visited my mother and I in San Diego when I was 12 years old.

They live outside of Tucson, which looks like a fairly fun and happening place. Huzzah!

In the meantime, I'm going to cut loose some baggage (It's true that when you stay in one place it is easy to accumulate stuff), eat some Indian food, kick back in the hammock listening to the myriad bird calls....and count the minutes until my departure.

Romeo don't come knocking now, because I really mean it: I am leaving India!

Last night, I was up so late, and there were birds of all sorts still singing. It was so strange, and surreal. I liked it though, it's one thing that really drives home to me that I'm in a completely different place, on a completely different continent. I mean sure, I see Indians all day long, and the smells are different...but there is something about the bird sounds. There were even different ones last night that I hadn't heard before. I guess I was up really late.

Hey I forgot what a great weekend I had :) Here are some pictures, thank god I took those! On saturday I hit up the market outside Solar Kitchen - great organic food and amazingly cheap kombucha (a big bottle of soda with rose petals 'for cooling' is about fifty US cents). There was a beautiful rangoli outside

And I saw Anna, who is a ceramics artist and in a past life, a librarian also:

On sunday I showed Kathy, Clemens and Victoire the way to Johnny's. He's the Australian guy who lives in the woods (uh....don't we all, here? but him, moreso than others) and has been here since The Beginning. He wears a turban and a lungi (the skirt) anywhere he goes. Even London. I'm not kidding. And he makes kick-ass dosai. I found a wall of didjeridoos, grabbed one, started playing and getting a groove on...Clemens and a young lad joined in with drumming, Kathy did some of her signature booty-shaking (she does claim to be a channeler of sorts and I totally believe her), and so did Victoire. The obligatory photos around the Shiva were in order as well.

I love the cymbal. Typical Johnny and Company. I'm always relieved when I see a bit of the irreverence around here. I think that The Mother has a healthy sense of humor. Had. She's passed on and way now. But they say her eyes are always watching....

Here's Kathy

I love her haircut, I am trying very hard to coax and cut mine into a similar semblance. So far very little joy in that arena. It's been a nearly year-long hair crisis for me, folks!

Victoria/Victoire, as shot by Kathy.

And Johnny (guess which one is Johnny), with the young lad who has a keen sense of rhythm, actually!

The other night I went to Kirtan. It's a chanting circle. Two hours of chanting. Initially I was reticent. Skeptical. Scornful even. Anything that reminds me of singing in church gives me the willies. But I was told this was light and fun. Well I think I am hooked! We sang stuff in Hindi, or Sanskrit, or something very old and ancient, and felt old and ancient. Certainly the tones, the chants, feel vibey and good to me. And Jivan, who is a resident music maker and soul shaker, led most of our chants in his amazingly sweet and resonant voice. Ok. I could just sit and listen to him for hours. It was nice to chant in a language I don't know -- I think the syllables carry a sort of power in them anyway, but instead of focusing on a meaning I could focus on the feel and get out of my head and into my body. Kathy certainly did! She popped right up off her cushion and danced in a circle around us, shaking her head and her hands and hopping around like a bird. It was great.

Last night I tired of the kitchen chit-chat and went to a movie. The News and Notes (a weekly publication in Auroville) outlined a french film WITHOUT subtitles (they used caps). I figured why not go, maybe I can just get out of my head and into something else, watching the actors and body language, yeah? So off I rode on my newly configured bicycle, to an air-conditioned, soft-cushion-seated theatre...

(David, the Englishman who gave me a cigarette a few nights ago, and who is very kind and very a lot of thing and very good at talking in lessons and who I told I would want on my Trivial Pursuit Team, fixed the front fender on my Hercules mountain bike, which was dis-attached and clanging against the metal bar it was supposed to be affixed to - for the last two weeks, yack. Also the chain kept slipping off and I kept spewing very unladylike epithets when this happened. Fortunately every time it happened, I was either in the broad of daylight, or near enough to a rare streetlight in the dark of night, and manage to put it back on)

The movie was subtitled after all. Typical :) Hee haw!

No really, it's so typical. Around here, and in India, you just have to go for it, and see what happens (I guess that is true the world over, but I am really with it in my face here, as Camille would remind me). Maybe if I could overcome even a little bit more of my anal-retentiveness (I've come a long way, baby, believe me), I would enjoy my Indian carnival ride even more. Or, if Romeo and I had hooked up before I left. Anyway, the movie was good enough (Yael would love that...it wasn't perfect, it was good enough - you can read about that a few posts back), which was good enough for me, and I felt chilled out, which was also good enough, and the weather was cooling down enough so that my chubby thighs didn't chafe together with sweat when I walked back to my newly configured bike! Yay!

So now I am off to eat that fruit salad, after I check the bulletin board at the Solar Cafe, to see if anyone is offering a taxi share to Chennai airport on monday. If not, I'll book one myself and post an ad for share-riding. It'll be worth it (about thirty bucks! I'm so in the red with my carbon footprint now, even with the years of bike riding, public transportation, and carlessness!!). I'm not up for the bus. My flight leaves at 8pm from Madras (Chennai), to Delhi, then on to Chicago, Phoenix, and finally Tucson. That oughtta keep me on my toesies. Yack!

**teriadoo is a really bad phonetic spelling of the Tamil word that translates most accurately into "I don't know"

ps - no I'm not smoking cigarettes. I mean yeah I smoked one the other night, and it was FABULOUS, but I haven't taken up the habit/haven't smoked any others. Also, I gave up coffee and have now recovered from the after-effects. I hadn't been drinking coffee on a regular basis for years (since I was a smoker) but several weeks ago picked up the habit again. Decided I needed to quit that shit before I became too addicted and had to kick another bad habit. I spent the other day drowsing in a hammock with a headache, but now I am one hundred percent better!