Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Porn Files

Yesterday I picked up the recent issue of Marie Claire India Edition. It was the cover story “The X-Files- Porn Films in India” that caught my attention. I was with my friend Ankit at Select Citywalk at the time and when I showed him he merely said “There is no porn in India!” I reminded him of my Palika experiences, walking through the DVD section being offered TV shows, movies and porn where the man and the woman make very nice the hanky panky. But there it was, one of my favorite words on the cover of a magazine.

I jumped into the back of my car and ripped open the magazine wrapping freeing the smooth, milky white cover from its binds. I began to breathe deeper and faster as my fingers gingerly swept across the silver letters sending shivers of anticipation racing through my body. I could wait no longer, I had to go in. I opened the magazine up like a cheap tabloid and to the casual observer, I perhaps looked like it was my first time. But it wasn’t. I had done that before, with countless magazines spanning a wide variety of topics and target audiences, but this was the first one since the Madonna covered Vanity Fair from last month, so you ca imagine the built up tension. Finally I found what I was looking for and let my eyes linger before devouring the article in reckless abandon.

It was like rewinding to the early 70’s. It was focused mostly on a woman named Shakeela, a “vacuous buxom woman” who performed extreme fellatio. What, I asked myself, is extreme fellatio? A blow-job with teeth? A Lorena Bobbit? Reading the rest of the article was a bit bland with all the usual clich├ęs one uses when writing about porn.

Now this may come as a surprise, but I have danced with the idea of doing porn and on several occasions have actually been approached. The first time I was 18. I was desperate to be an actor and so answered an ad in a local LA paper looking for young men. Undaunted I drove up to LA and found myself on the lot of Paramount Pictures. I had hit the big time. The guard could not find my name on the list, but let me onto the lot and pointed me to a place for further directions. It was my first time on a major film studio. Any film studio for that matter, but this was Paramount, home to Indiana Jones and there I was wandering around just knowing that a director was going to pop out and promise to make me a star.

However, my dreams were soon to be smashed on the cold hard reality that is Hollywood. I was at the wrong studio. I need the dodgy looking building down the street. I hung my head my shame and drove off the lot, pausing for just a few minutes so anyone driving by would get a good view of me leaving the lot. I was scared that perhaps my 15 minutes of fame had happened without me. I arrived at the other studio, had a very nice interview with the nicest man who was full of smiles and compliments. Then he asked me to take off my clothes. There I was, virgin me (2 years before that status would change) being asked to shuck the shorts. I was just over the trauma of displaying my belly button on the beach. I turned seventy five shades of red and left.

Fast forward to several years later, a more confident me in my mid 30’s. I had been working out hard at the gym for about 2 years, just had my braces off and there I was in Palm Springs sunning it by the pool. I had decided to let Sparky and the boys out for a little fresh air and some local color. A few minutes later and I was talking to a guy from Falcon. Then there was the man representing Titan and Hot House. They each asked if I would be interested in a screen test and then most likely a movie. A movie. Me! I was already casting the other parts in my mind and videos from porn movies past looped through my head. Pictures and names swirling around. I had no idea where I would start, but I didn’t really care. I was as excited as a boy with a new bike "look ma, no hands!"

I got back home to the Hague and got in touch with another studio that wanted me to go to Berlin. It was too much. I was in demand. Then I decided I was going to do it. I made the arrangements to go to Berlin and also made an appointment back in California with one of the previous studios. I was ready and willing to be objectified. I wasn’t looking for a career, I was interested in the experience. I just wanted to experience it once. I wanted to know what it would be like to do such a thing. Of course I decided that the experience would be at least one chapter in the book I will one-day author.

But soon the attraction wore off. It was enough for me that they were interested. It was confirmation that I was indeed a little hottie they thought could melt some celluloid. And believe me, I would have. However I decided that some fantasies are better left just as they are.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Morning Drama

Once again I was the victim of early morning terror. Held hostage in my own bathroom by my worst enemy, a spider. And boy could this one jump. I was in the bathroom doing my own thing and minding my own business when I saw him, black with white things moving in the front. I suspect they were detachable fangs used for shooting poor victims such as myself. I held my breath so as not to create awareness of my presence and close proximity. Then without warning he jumped three times and made it clear across the little bathroom after which he staked out his territory right smack in the middle of the shower. I did what anyone in my situation would; I gave him some privacy to do whatever he wanted in the shower. I came back a few minutes later and there he was, still holding his position, a smug look on his face that said “you wouldn’t dare!” And actually I didn’t. But then I realized I cannot be a victim forever. I suddenly felt like the little engine that could. I snuck around and turned on the water. And the itsy bitsy spider was washed down the drain.

Even after watching him go down the drain, I was still a little shaken. I scrubbed and scrubbed to get that feeling of being watched, stalked even, off my skin. I washed twice with Lifebuoy soap just in case there had been any airborne bacteria, or worse, venom. I live in India, why can’t I just have normal problems like a cobra under the bed or monkeys stealing the clothes off the terrace as they dry?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Clean-Up in Aisle Seven

I have never been a fan of grocery shopping. In fact, I hate it and if it wasn’t for the fact that I simply don’t have the time to grow my own veggies and meat, churn my own butter or milk my own cows, I would never step into a grocery store. Ever. It was bad enough in the US, with the over sized stores, numbered aisles and checkout counters spanning as far as the eye can reach and they were open 24 hours day. I used to do my shopping at 23:30. I preferred Vons Pavillions with their fabulous Deli and the best chicken salad I think I have ever had.

When I moved to Holland, I was shocked. The stores were only open from 9 – 6 and closed on Sundays. Not only that, but I had to bring my own bags or pay for new ones. And I had to bag groceries myself. How was I supposed to know that the eggs don’t go on the bottom of the bag

The local grocery store was the size of the 7-11 I lived near in New York, only without the 32 ounce Big Gulp and not a Slurpee in sight. No longer could I choose from 500 different types of ketchup, I got what they wanted to offer. Skippy Peanut Butter? Out of the question. Fruit Loops? No way. I couldn’t even get Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I know, it was a barbaric existence.

But then I moved to India which took grocery shopping to a whole new level. No aisles. No carts. No hand-held baskets. Being in a store meant being in a human sliding block puzzle. Everyone had to move in a certain way in order to get through the store. One wrong move and we were all stuck. At Malik Brothers in Defence Colony, where we normally do our shopping is a bit smaller than our flat, a rectangle with 3 meter ceilings and goods stacked from floor to ceiling like a Junga game. Pull out the wrong item and it all comes tumbling down. In the middle is a little island crammed with more stuff that gives the store 2 aisles. Well, aisles is putting it a bit strong. They are very narrow passageways with a one person occupancy rule. And there are usually 50 people in the store at any given moment. The one thing I do love about shopping in India is the fact that one can strand at the counter and other people will run off and get whatever you want. Manuel, however always feels the need to browse as though he is there for the very first time. He will spend long minutes lingering over the three brands of soap. Each time he makes the same path through the store and each time he “ooohs” and “aaaahs” over the same products and laments about the available selection.

Last Saturday we went to Gurgaon, the dust bowl to the south of Delhi. We were on a mission to check out a new grocery store named Spensers’ Hyper. I had fallen for the hype of gourmet stores here before and so didn’t really have any high hopes as we pulled up to the MGF Mega City Mall, a rather small and unglamorous mall. Spencers’ was in the basement. We walked down the ramp and soon we were standing in a store unlike anything I had ever seen in India. It was a smaller version of Carrefour. Television, the largest bookstore I had ever seen in Delhi, DVDs, appliances, clothes, and groceries. Everything in wide aisles with room for shopping carts. We wandered here and there, taking it all in and then made a mad dash for the international section. Tabasco brand Bloody Mary mix. Blue Diamond Almonds. Campbell’s Soup. Wasabi peas! It just wasn’t going to get any better.

But suddenly, through the plate glass walls where the new bakery will be going, I saw it. That very specific color of yellow that can only be found on a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. I made a mad dash over the wine section, and there it was, a yellow labeled bottle of bubbles, flanked on one side by Moet and the other by G.H. Mumm. It was the first time since moving here that I found champagne anywhere outside of a restaurant. Normally it has to be brought in when returning from abroad. And suddenly here it is, just in time for my birthday which now I can guarantee will be a bubble filled bash.

After the emotional overload of shopping in grocery store heaven, we went upstairs into the mall for a bite of lunch in the food court. I have always thought of Gurgaon playing the part of New Jersey to Delhi’s New York. This point was driven home, and hard, the moment we walked through the main doors of the mall. It was Hannah Montana day. There were larger than life banners and flat screens and a stage upon which children too young to audition for Idols were doing their best Bollywood karaoke. The highlight was the girl singing “Salaam-e-Ishq.” I almost choked on my chicken shwarma.

Enough was enough and so we went back to downstairs for groceries. It as then I realized the problem with Spencers… Nobody understands the rules of shopping cart etiquette. The vegetable aisle was worse than a Delhi traffic jam and it seems that some tings are universal. Parents everywhere seem to find it cute when their toddlers push the shopping cart into others. For the record, it is not cute, and neither are the sneakers that make sounds with every step. They are annoying, should be illegal and considered a crime against humanity.

We finally had enough excitement for the day and so sped home to Delhi, where I made a very yummy BBQ thanks to Lawry’s Louisiana Marinade and the BBQ we received from Stephen and Pierre.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

America's Next Top President

Summer in Delhi. It was great while it lasted, but now we have temperatures in the mid 20s and Wednesday was cooler than the average temperature in November. But over these past few days it has been raining cows and stray dogs, flooding streets and knocking out the TV. That meant no American Idols finals for me last night. It was the only reason I got out of bed yesterday and I spent the evening sitting lonely and depressed on my sofa wondering exactly what the meaning of all this is. The weather is supposed to hold this pattern until sometime next week. The creek/river/drain across the street seems dangerously close to spilling into the street. Thankfully we live on the top floor. However, it seems we have a bit of a clogged drain and the water on the terrace is rising. It will be okay as long as there are gaps in the rain, but a solid downpour of a few hours and we could easily be looking at a partially flooded flat, so have to make sure that there is nothing electrical on the floors. It wouldn’t flood more than a centimeter to so, but that would be enough to cause a bit of an electrical inconvenience. One can never be to cautious when faced with the possibility of putting one’s pedicured foot into a puddle of electrically charged water. What I want to know is whatever happened to the good old days of global warming? I was enjoying the relentless heat. The kind that makes the house so warm that by the time I am done toweling off after my morning shower, it is time to shower again. Ah, the good old days.

Speaking of American Idols, there is one thing that absolutely amazes me. In the US presidential election of 2004, a total of 122,267,553 votes were registered. In the US, the majority of states have a 12 hour time frame in which people may vote. That boils down to 10,188,963 votes per hour in a 12 hour day. The American Idols’ finale registered over 97,500,000 votes in just 4 hours, meaning an average of 24,375,000 per hour. If this number is extrapolated across 12 hours as is the US Presidential vote, then total votes for the American Idol would come out at 292,500,000 - more than double that of the last US Presidential vote.

So I have a suggestion. We need an American Idols type presidential race. Let any eligible person “audition” for the role of President. Then, after being narrowed down to 10 or 12, we can have them participating in all sorts of contests which could range from finding the US on a world map to naming the capitals of all 50 states in alphabetical order. As far as judges go, I would keep Simon – “Your speech on foreign relations was worse than a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction” and the oft teary Paula – “Hillary, I think your hair really moved tonight, you are what this presidential race is all about... I salute you!” but I would replace Randy with Paris Hilton “Obama’s hot!” or Tyra Banks “I have two candidates in front of me, but I have just one Oval Office.”

Personally, I think it would be a HUGE improvement.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cinema and the City

One evening in 1986 found a much less wrinkled version of me in a small screening room on the lot of 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles. I was there to see the not-yet-released-soon-to-bomb film “Wisdom” with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore. My friend JoAnna - who worked on the "Late Show with Joan Rivers" and got us seats whenever anybody interesting was on - and I were the only ones in the cinema for about 30 or so people which was kitted out with overstuffed seats equipped with their own phones. I had never seen such a place before.

This was before the day when everyone brought their own phones into the theatre treating us all to the requisite once-every-movie experience of “I can’t talk right now, I’m in the cinema… Ironman… Not bad… I can’t talk right now… Blowing stuff up… Yeah… Uh-huh… I can’t talk right now… What are you saying??!!” No, these were phones that would be used to summon the likes of Scorsese and DeMille, to order yummy treats from Spago. I wanted to pick one up and scream into it “You GO Demi, girl… You're gonna be huge. HUGE I say!” I had been a Demi fan since she started as Jackie Templeton on "General Hospital" and had run into her a few times at the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, waiting for her to drop a crumb I could sweep up and call my own. I once tried to hold open the door for her as she left a store in Century City, but instead she changed her mind and went to look at something while a rude Christina Ferrare walked through in her place without so much as a "thanks" and then as fate would have it, I never saw Demi in person again, but I ran into Christina almost everywhere I went for about a month. Tell me, is there anything worse than repeat B-list celebrity moments.

That screening at 20th Century Fox was an amazing experience that ended with a stroll through the New York City stage - which was so much better than that sky wall that greeted everyone entering the Paramount lot, although I never got tired of seeing it loom over me as I stopped at the security booth for my pass - and was the first and last time I was in such a luxurious cinematic setting...

…Until last Saturday, that is. Against my better judgement I went to see “Prince Caspian” with Manuel. I had not been too impressed by the first one. I loved the books, I just think the story worked better on paper and in the imagination rather than on a big screen. But whenever we would pass by a poster of Prince Caspian, Manuel would start foaming at the mouth and in an awe-filled tone say things like “that has to be amazing!” So when the movie finally came out, I caved in and off we went to the PVR at Select Citywalk, already voted Mall of the Year for 2008. A bit presumptuous, but who am I to say anything.

At the PVR Citywalk, there are two counters around which people crowd, PVR and PVR Gold. We had no idea what PVR Gold was all about, so decided to ticket up and check it out. We entered the theater and were directed downstairs to a low-light lounge type bar to wait for the concierge to come and seat us. About 10 minutes before the start of the film, Manuel and I were taken into the cinema that has only 48 chairs. And these weren’t just any chairs, they were overstuffed red leather electronic recliners. I took off my shoes and pressed the button to raise the leg rest. If the button is pressed long enough, the chair completely stretches out into a very inviting nap-time position. There is a small table shared by each pair of chairs which the concierge then places a flute of bubbles.

Surprised, we yanked up our glasses and almost smashed them as we enthusiastically clincked and toasted our new cinematic discovery. And to make the situation even better, we each had a call button and without that inconvenient airline hassle of having to reach up over your heads. Nope, these buttons are located right next to the twitchy fingers longing to order up some popcorn, nachos, fries, wraps and mocktails, all delivered to the seat and put on the tab for our own convenience. Seemingly miles away from out closest neighbors, it was like watching a film in our private screening room. Of course, these tickets don’t come cheap. As the normal ticket prices are about Rs. 150, these are Rs. 750 each, about the cost of cinema tickets in Europe.

The only downside is that there are only 2 of these in Delhi, so the movie opportunities are not huge, but we are hoping to be cheering and raising our Mock-o-politans to Carrie and the girls from our incredibly luxurious seats.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Crimes Against the Alphabet

I have just been going through some of the older stories on my blog, reminiscing about past adventures, trials and tribulations. Living vicariously through my past self on this overheated Saturday morning. The air conditioners now finally installed and working properly, but having to pull double duty in this heat. Like my driver, I am sure they will hit me up for extra money just for doing their job. But while going through my blog, I was completely taken aback, agog and aghast. I came across typo after typo. Before I realized it, I as swimming in a murky puddle of misspelled words and wrong tenses. Fortunately for me, almost nobody reads this thing, so the damage is controlled. I now feel the need to pour through each and every story, dusting here and there and tidying up the mess of inaccuracies.

Making matter worse is my aversion to alphabetical wastage. Tossing out letters here and there with no thought as to what might happen if we run out. I worry that there is an alphabetic Chamber of Guf and once the Guf is emptied of all letters, the literary world comes to an end. And now I am faced with the dilemma of a lifetime. Murdering the scores of innocent letters in the typos and replacing them with proper ones is nothing short of alphabetical genocide. Will my need for correct spelling turn me into the Milosevic of the blog space? I guess as my defense I could point my finger elsewhere, blaming it on the cocktails, the nightlife, the boogie.