Sunday, June 29, 2008

Delhi Pride

Yesterday I missed a huge event here in Delhi. It was the first gay pride ever in the city (at least what I am seeing from some news reports). Normally I am not a fan of pride, probably due to the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in very accepting places like Laguna Beach, Denver, New York and the Netherlands. Gay pride was just another reason for people to pour onto the streets, get overly drunk and make passes at people they wouldn’t talk to any other day of the year. I also have always felt that gay pride tends to work against the community. For years, at least in the US, there were always the arguments from gay people saying how they/we were “just like everybody else” and then when they have the television cameras pointed at them, and the uneducated public watching, so many people go out of their way to show that they are not at all like everyone else. Then they spent the rest of the year whining and complaining about how they are treated different. Shows like “Ellen”, “Will and Grace”, and “Sex and the City” started showing gay people being just like everybody else.

There is a very long way for India to go. I was talking to a gay Indian friend of mine the other day, asking him if his family knew. He told me his family doesn’t even know what it means. I think that is true for a lot of people in India. It’s here, but people don’t know about it. They don’t know what it means. As far as I have seen, and I am happy to be wrong, is that it is somewhat “accepted” if a young guy fools around with his guy friends, as long as he gets married and has children. I have met a lot of these men here. It makes me sad. They spend their lives hiding a secret and I can’t even begin to imagine how terrified they must be that someone may find out. And I am not talking about poor uneducated people living in isolation someplace. I am talking about people running their own businesses, heading up companies, people that are respected in the community. I know that happens everywhere. It almost happened to me.

Between the ages of thirteen and twenty one, I didn’t know what gay was. I didn’t know I was gay. The only gay people I saw were the really flamboyant ones like Liberace, guys like Freddie Mercury, cross dressers that would appear on talk shows or the really girly types shown in movies. I didn’t relate to them. I didn’t see myself in them and so came to the conclusion I was not gay. I didn’t know any gay people and I knew that I could never, ever tell anyone. I was very confused and frustrated and I felt so isolated and alone. I had absolutely nowhere to turn. I turned to religion and spent hours each day praying that it would go away. I spent hours each day reading the bible trying to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it. And each time I would have a thought, I would hate myself more for it. I didn’t know what was going on, but I hated it, whatever it was and I was determined it would not happen to me. I forced myself to date girls and when I got older, started talks of marriage and children. How it all worked out is for other blog entries. But the reason I mention it here is that I know how significant of a step this is for people in Delhi, in India and in other countries where gay people are treated as non people. I wish I had been a part of it. I wish I had been there to cheer people on.

The turnout yesterday was only a few hundred or so, but from what I have heard, there were no protests and there was no violence. I heard that masks were provided for people that weren’t out yet and that a lot of people chose not to wear them. I also read that the musicians had basically no idea in what they were participating, they were just there to make music. India has a long way to go, and while my friends that are married and my friends with children may not ever know what it is like to live in a place where they don’t have to lie, pretend or live in fear of someone discovering their secret, perhaps their children or grandchildren will. Perhaps this will help one confused person know they are not alone, know they are not a freak, know that they are normal.

If I am in India next year, I will be there. I will stand with my friends who have never experienced the freedoms I have had. Gay pride in India is not about the party it has become in other places, it is not even about gay rights or gay equality, it is about human rights. Human equality. I have had a few issues with being in India and being back in the closet to a point. It is hard, but nowhere near as hard as what so many other people go through. I have a choice. I can stay here, I can move away. I can be out without any family drama and I have great friends who are always cheering me on.

This is definately one huge step in a very important direction.

A Monkey's World

I have nothing to write about today. I won’t bore anyone with tales of my move from Defence Colony to East of Kailash which is proving every one of Murphy’s Laws to be true. I am sure nobody is interested in how the AC guys have managed to destroy every newly painted wall in the flat, even ones in rooms where they aren’t working. I shouldn’t go into the fact that in spite of specific instructions and the use of three translators, they managed to mess up the installations. I am sure you don’t want to know how my white marble floors are covered – and I do mean covered – in brick dust from where they broke through the walls. Do you really want to hear about the neighborhood peacock that I have yet to see, but can hear, making that annoying mating call sound thing they make? Or perhaps the discovery of neighborhood monkeys, meaning I will not be able to leave windows open unattended, clothes out on the balconies to dry, the birds out alone to get some sun or any food laying anywhere in the open. I am sure nobody is interested in the fact that the house looks like it is weeks away from being finished and yet everything is being moved at 11:30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow being the last day of the month, there is no choice on that whatsoever.

And then I read on Ms. Sizzle’s blog about a little black mold problem going on in the building she manages. Black mold. That’s it? I will see her black mold and raise her a pack of monkeys, an annoying peacock and the brown cow outside who keeps looking up and sneering at me when I am on the balcony. I am so frustrated and stressed, I am ready to go to Seattle just to bang on her door in the middle of the night and have her sort it out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mother Goose

I was having a bit of a chat the other day about rising oil prices, spiraling economies and female presidential candidates. I realized the world I know is spiraling out of control. I want to blame television. I wanted to blame music. Too much violins. Not enough drum. Most of all I want to blame video games. But as my mind began to wander as it is wont to do, I discovered a more disturbing issue that I feel is the cause of the state of the world today. Fairy Tales. Bedtime stories. Bear with me for a second…

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Goldilocks who was frolicking in the forest. She happened upon a house with three bowls of porridge at different temperatures. She tried them all and ate one up. Then she discovered the chairs. She tried them all and found the one that as just right. Soon after, she tried each of the beds and fell asleep in one until she was discovered.
What does this story teach? It teaches it’s OK to just walk into someone’s home when they aren’t there, help yourself to food, jump all over the furniture and sleep in some stranger’s bed. The story clearly glorifies breaking and entering, stealing and smoking crack – I am convinced it was being strung ot on crack that made her fall asleep in the first place. It’s all good as long as you are a cute little blonde girl. And what about the porridges of varying temperatures? If they had all been made at the same time, they would have been equally as hot. But Mrs. Bear made three different batches, one to hot, one too cold and one just right. Girlfriend was overworked and unappreciated. And then to have that little bitch come in and eat it all up.

Then we have the story of Hansel and Gretel. They ran away from home to escape their step-mom, discovered a house of candy and started eating it up until they were invited in by a nice old lady they tossed in the oven.

This story shows clear disregard for authority. They ran away from home, probably stole those breadcrumbs they used. The nibbled on some sweet old lady’s home without any permission and then as a thank you, they toss her in the oven. Do you think they got jail time? Nope, they got away! What does this teach young kids? If you don’t like someone, toss ‘em in the oven. You’ll get away with it as long as you are cute.

And then Snow White. Don’t even get me started with an unmarried woman shacked up with 7 little men, not another woman in sight. We all know what kept Happy so happy.

Little Red Riding Hood. Strolling through the forest on the way to grandma’s house. Too stupid to see it’s a wolf under granny’s glasses. This tells young women it’s ok to dumb themselves up and then call a murdering woodsman to clean up the mess they made. And what happened to the woodsman once he killed the wolf did he go to jail for poaching? This tells young guys it’s OK to poach, as long as you are doing it to impress a girl.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, who let down her hair so just any guy could climb up and get busy with the princess. She was grounded and locked up in her room for a reason. Perhaps for being a loose woman. I have a feeling this is where blondes became associated with cheap and easy sex. I am not disputing the fact we are cheap and easy sex, I just think this may be where it started.

So when you see the horrible things happening in the world, don’t blame TV. Don’t blame music. Don’t blame video games. Blame Mother Goose.


Yesterday afternoon I found myself sitting in 360 at the Oberoi, having one of my favorite drinks, the “Japanese Martini” which is a magical blend of gin, sake and the required three olives, served so cold it leaves frost burn on the taste buds. I originally stopped by the Oberoi to check out the new Hermes boutique. As my birthday is rapidly approaching, I find myself consumed with ideas about what to get myself and decided on a certain watch. I am almost 41 and it is high time I got me some nice watch. I have my eye on the Hermes with the double wrap band. It is not so expensive, just over a thousand Euro. But Toto, we are not in the real world anymore and somebody has dug up the yellow brick road and replaced it with a concrete grey subway line. We are in India, and that very same watch which should cost about 50 thousand or so rupees is costing over 130 thousand. For that price, I can fly to Paris, stay a couple of nights, purchase the watch, debut it over dinner at Buddha Bar, fly back and still save money. Luxury items do tend to be a tad more expensive, but more than double the price is just unforgiveable.

Coffee Confusion

I am sitting at Barista, once again living dangerously with a Lavazza Latte, the Cranberries “Linger” playing in the background getting me all ready for another day at the office. Today it is surprisingly quiet. The guy ordering before me created a scene of complete chaos. He asked for a drink to be served in a larger glass. Confusion clouded the woman’s face. I’ve seen that look before. I was at Café Coffee Day a few weeks back. All I wanted was an iced latte. This is the conversation between the counter guy and me.

"Yes sir, can I help you?"
"I would like an iced latte, please"
"Sir, I am sorry but we do not have iced latte on the menu"
"Can you just make me a latte and then add ice?"
"No sir, we are not allowed to change the recipe"
"Can you make a latte?"
"Yes, sir"
"Do you have ice?"
"Yes, sir"
"Can you make me a latte and make me glass of ice. When the latte is finished, pour into the cup with ice"
"No sir, we are not allowed to do that."

Ultimately I ordered a cup of ice and a latte. When they arrived, I poured the latte over the ice in the other cup while the counter guy watched. Then, being ever dutiful, he asked if I was finished with my empty coffee cup and if he could clear it. Since then, I make it a point to order an iced latte every time I am in a Cafe Coffee Day, just to spice it up a bit.

Every morning here sees the regulars. The ladies who French. Well, they are not “Frenching” in that sense, but they speak French, mostly complaining about this and that. Manuel sometimes translates for me. Then there is the English guy who comes in every morning either fresh from or on his way to the gym. And then, and then there is that woman!

Every morning in the flat just below where I am currently living, the landlords hold a chanting session. It’s “Ohms” all around and it lasts about an hour. Then, that woman comes, direct from the chanting session into my Barista. And she always has a complaint. The AC is too high. The AC is switched off. The music is too loud. The TV is on the wrong channel. Her coffee is taking too long to get made. Her coffee is too hot. Her coffee is too cold. And then she sits there, unsatisfactory coffee in hand, angry look etched across her face, shooting looks at anyone who glance her direction. I would have thought that all that positive energy in the morning would make her feel happy and calm. Then I wonder if she is just such a miserable bitch that what I am seeing is her good mood.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Am I "Special"?

On the way home from work, I was stopped in the usual traffic. To pass the time, I scanned the sidewalk on my left and there was an ambitious black ant, the size of a small bus, making his way over the pavement. He was carrying something far larger than he should have been and as only able to go for a few steps before pausing, catching his breath and then starting again. A couple of minutes into it, he seemed to finally be doing fine when all of a sudden, a passerby stepped on him and smashed him and his cargo into a little black smudge.

And then, I am not sure why, but I suddenly remembered that my mother drove a school bus. And not just any school bus, a little yellow one. The same little yellow school bus I used to take to school. This was before the little school buses were dedicated to the “special” kids. And we lived in a small town in North Carolina, our house standing tall and proud on the corner of Nowhere and Who Cares. There were only 100 or so people in my school. We didn’t need big busses. We didn’t need to have normal people busses. Or at least I think so. I started to panic, was I “special”? Was I the kid in class that had issues getting his dried macaroni to stick to the colored cardboard? Is it possible that instead of attaching the macaroni, I was busy eating the glue? Did I have a problem coloring in the lines? If I was “special” then, am I “special” now? Is that why this evening as I type this I am also strangely interested in what happens to Stuart Little? Perhaps I just don’t know I’m “special”. Perhaps I am just living in my own little bubble of presumed normalcy. That’s something I will have to ask the voices when they start talking to me later.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Past 24 Hours

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor, looking down onto the park below. It is just past eight in the morning. Six goats are running around, playing their goat games. Two of them have Dalmatian spots. From here, two of them look like little wind-up cows, all white and brown. The last two are black. One of the black goats looks like he is wearing white socks. I want to smile but I can’t.

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor. If I look a bit further out, beyond the park I can see Qutab Minar, one of my favorite sights in Delhi. It is far higher than anything else in the panoramic view over South Delhi. The height makes it seem closer than it actually is. Coming through the window are the faintest hints of the traffic below. The fragment of boulevard I can see from here is surprisingly empty.

I am sitting front of a huge window on the sixth floor. I am at Max Super Specialty Hospital in Saket. Room 3629. I am looking out the window as I write. Behind me, Manuel is sleeping. One of nurses has just been by to start another round of IV antibiotics. Manuel was admitted yesterday evening with a fever of about 39.5 (over 103 F). His fever has been lingering for a week, yo-yoing between 37.5 and 39. I forced him to the doctor on Tuesday and some tests were taken. Malaria, which came back negative and some blood cultures for which we are still awaiting results. Yesterday evening I phoned the doctor as his fever had stopped yo-yoing and instead was climbing at a steady pace in spite of the anti-fever medication he had been given the day before. The doctor admitted him because of the fever and borderline severe dehydration.

After he was checked in and in bed, I grabbed a late dinner with Ankit, went home and pretended to sleep for a few hours. Now I am back at the hospital sitting here, looking out the window trying to keep my mind occupied with something, anything other than the possible results. At this time, there are a few things pointing to Typhoid and later today those tests results will finally be back. In the meantime they are pumping him full of antibiotics and in a few hours he goes for an ultrasound.

It is hard seeing him lying in the bed. I guess I figured I would be the one in the hospital at some point. Both of my parents have had cancer. Twice. My mom has diabetes and a slew of other health problems. Now that I am past forty, these things start becoming points of concern for my doctor. I have been mentally prepared to be in the hospital. Not that I want to be, I am just prepared in the event it becomes necessary. But I hadn’t considered that maybe Manuel would be in one. Certainly not before me. I guess it was a possibility my mind just didn’t want to consider.

So now there is nothing to do but wait. And think. And wait. And worry. And wait. It is one of those cruel tricks of nature that when we are having a great time, at a concert, on a fabulous holiday, time moves so quickly it seems if you blink it will all be over, a memory. But then when things are not so fabulous, the clocks seem to stop and time seems to hang. I can see it moving outside. I can gauge it with the coming and going of the nurses and attendants. I can gauge it with the traffic, the boulevard now more congested than a few minutes ago. Was it only a few minutes ago? I have been here for almost two hours this morning and it feels so much longer. Nothing to do but wait.

The doctor was just here. Manuel’s fever is heading back up again. His liver enzymes are spiking but still no definite diagnosis. Another round of blood tests have been ordered and Manuel will be staying here at least one more night. Nurses in Santa Fe green scrubs are here to take the bood. More needles. More test tubes. More bottles of fluids. The nurses leave and Manuel’s skin is getting hotter to the touch. Cold washcloths to the forehead, face and neck. Trying to bring the fever down. His heart is beating so hard his body seems to react to it. His eyes are quite watery. The dietician is here asking questions about Manuel’s eating habits. He doesn’t like Indian food. If he had his way, he would live off of pudding and ice cream. Right now he is fasting and is not allowed any food until after the ultrasound. He’s not hungry. Seems to be a typical symptom when the liver is having major issues.

I flash back six years. My father. His liver gave out. It was the end stage of the cancer he was battling. I know this is not what Manuel faces, but the memories are there. They swirl around inviting me to indulge them for a bit. I can’t. I need to stay composed. I need to stay positive. I know myself enough to know that any cracks in the armor can be disastrous.

I am sitting in front of a huge window on the sixth floor. The goats have moved and are now invading the Cricket game in the park. For the first time I notice that the park has very little grass. It is mostly dirt. The boys chase the goats off and the goats decide to chew whatever tiny patches of grass are growing here and there. Grey clouds hang in the sky, taunting with the threat of another pre-monsoon rain. The occasional bit of sun shines through, but only for a few moments. There is a miniature forest just to the left of the park. Lots of trees. Lots of green. Not the kind of green you find in Singapore or Holland or California. It isn’t that bright, vibrant green but rather a dusty gray green. Almost like the green itself is a bit too tired to really shine. Manuel’s feeling a bit better again. Part of the cycle of the past week. He feels great for an hour and then miserable for five.

A Mynah bird is sitting on the ledge looking into the room through the big window. He squawks and looks as if he is trying to tell us something. Isn’t one Mynah bird supposed to be a bad omen? Or is it two? I always forget those kinds of things. Thirty more minutes until they take Manuel for his ultrasound.

Half past twelve and waiting for them to come take Manuel for the ultrasound. The pendulum has swung back the other way and he is once again feeling miserable and trying to sleep it off. I am hungry but want to make sure I am here to go with Manuel whenever they decide it is time. He doesn’t want to go alone. Backflow in the IV. Blood in the tubes. I quickly get a nurse. It looks far worse than it is. It is actually nothing, just looks like something. I ask about the ultrasound.
The ultrasound is over quick. We are in a room with a big sign that informs that pre-natal sex determination is a punishable offence. From the next “room” come the sounds of a baby heartbeat. I am in the room. I see Manuel’s kidneys, spleen, pancreas and liver. I wonder if I am looking at something that means something or if everything is as it should be. Back in the room the Mynah bird keeps coming to the window. Outside a small boy in jeans and red t-shirt is walking three goats through the park. A minute later and they have all disappeared beneath the canopy of dull green trees. We wait now for the results.

The ultrasounds are normal. Manuel manages to eat a miniscule amount of food and wants to sleep. I head out for a bit of air. I go to the market, I buy some magazines to give him something to do. He’s too tired to read but perhaps he can look at pictures. I am tired but can’t sleep. Every fifteen minutes someone knocks on the door. More liquids. Check the temperature. Check the IV. Bring in the parade of doctors to ask the questions.

I am sitting next to the big window. It is now evening and the sun is setting. The curtains are drawn to keep the room dark so Manuel can sleep. The IV has been moved from the right hand to the left. The Mynah bird has stopped visiting. Manuel is finally eating little bits of food here and there and sleeping. Still don’t know exactly what is causing the fever. The temperature seems to be on a very slow yet steady decline. Yet to dip under 100, it is heading in the right direction.

A few hours later. Manuel is sleeping, his temperature rising again. I just ordered dinner from the sandwich shop downstairs. Subway Club on oregano. I’ll stay here tonight on the sofa bed in the room. It is now 9pm and the next assessment is sometime after 10 tomorrow morning. Thirteen hours from now we will hopefully know more…

Just before 6am. The nurse has been in an out all night. Lights have gone on and off making sleep even more impossible than the sofa bed itself was doing. Manuel’s fever went back up to 103 and back down again to 100. 6am. Open the curtains just a bit and take a peek outside. Already Cricket is being played in the park. Muslim guys dressed in white, wearing skull caps. Green parrots bouncing between the trees, their bright color standing out against the gray green leaves. 6:45 and we are up. Sheets are changed and the sofa bed tucked away until next time. A boy cycles through the park and stops to watch the Cricket. The temples from Chhaatarpur peek above the trees on the horizon like a distant mountain range. The trees are moving. A breeze is blowing. A lone kite with red and blue stripes dances nervously above the houses across the street. Above the onion domes of the mosque. Another antibiotic injection to further reduce the fever.

9am and the doctor comes in for the morning consultation. Manuel needs to stay at least one more night. Not yet sure what is causing the fever or liver fluctuations, but the causes are getting narrowed down. Typhoid has been ruled out. More blood results this evening and hopefully then an answer. Three kites fluttering in the wind. The Cricket game continues in the park below. The boulevard is becoming congested and Qutab Minar stands tall, overseeing everything. I try to anything to keep my mind busy. I don’t want to think. Now we wait again.

Manuel has been released from hospital. Lots of bedrest and starchy foods for the next couple of weeks. Turns out it was just a nasty viral infection. It will run its course on its own and leave Manuel immune to ever getting it again, with no chronic issues at all...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just Rambling

This morning I feels like ramblin'... Nothing particular on my mind, so let’s see what bubbles up…

At this very moment I am sitting in the Barista in Defence Colony Market, having my morning Lavazza latte. Normally I have it iced but today I decided to start my day on a dangerous note and drink it hot and frothy. One table over are two Buddhist monks dressed in the burgundy and saffron dress of the monk types with shaved heads, specs and sandals. I always thought that one of the principals the Buddhist monks aspired to was separation from the things of the world. To live a simple and meditative life. To achieve Nirvana.

Why then do I always run into them while shopping. Always at some luxury mall or market, never at the cheapy places, shopping bags in hand, saffron shirts branded by United Colors of Benneton and sandals by reef or Nike or Reebok. Not casting any stones here – If anyone lives in a glass house, it would be me – it is just that it contradicts what I thought the whole monk thing was about. I acheive Nirvava via shopping and cocktails, but I thought monks were different. And I thought I was always right. Could I possibly be wrong? The thought of the possibility of it cuts through me to my core.

Whats next? What is there to talk about? Oh, I know… Same-Sex Marriage. What are people so worked up and worried about? It’s not as if it affects them. If they don’t agree with same-sex marriage, then I have a piece of advice, make sure there isn’t someone of the same sex waiting for you at the altar. All this talk about protecting marriage is crap. My parents’ marriage was not ruined by people of the same sex running out and getting hitched. It was pretty much ruined by divorce, which followed the infidelity, the inability to communicate, the refusals to apologize and the fact that my parents should probably have never been married in the first place. But it was the sixties and there was Vietnam and that’s what people did. They graduated high-school, got married and had babies. If people really want to change the laws to protect marriage, then ban divorce, make infidelity illegal. Make lying to your spouse a punishable offense. Would there be anyone left on the streets?

And then there is CNN. Have you seen the polls on their site? The world is full of war, disease, famine, crimes against humanity and on and on I culd go and instead of motivating people to get involved and make a difference or at the very least become informed, they ask questions like:

  • Britney Spears: Is She America’s Most Important Cultural Figure?
  • Would you rather live in the country or in the city?
  • Linda Hogan is dating a teenage: Do you think it will last?
  • Do you think Tyra Banks is the new Oprah?
  • Do you care what your cabin crew look like when you fly?

I have looked and looked, but I can’t find the option that lets me respond with “who gives a fuck?!”

Except for that last question. I have been watching the show “The Ghost Whisperer” lately - half-way through season one - and am suddenly very aware of “earthbound spirits”, those people who have unfinished business and can not yet cross over. What if the plane I am on goes down? What if I crash? I do not want to be stuck here roaming the planet with some ugly flight crew while waiting to step into the light. I start eyeing up my possible after-life companions as soon as check in starts. I think things like “Will that hottie be on my flight?” or “God, I hope they don’t put THAT person next to me”, which always means THAT person will be seated next to me. And THAT person won’t have taken a shower in days. Or used soap if they did. Don't even get me started on the lack of deodorant. And they will invade my space by using more of the shared armrest than is politely appropriate. And they will want to talk to me, or they will fall asleep on my shoulder.

I think airlines should change their class specifications… Economy, Business, First and Hot. I would pay extra for that option. Checking in should be like Facebook. We can adjust our status – Married. Married but who cares. Single and hard to get. Single and easy. Slut. We can check out the pictures, see if they are hot and if not, see if they have any hot friends. We could choose who we want sitting next to us. But then I begin to wonder… Would anyone pick me to sit next to?

And then I begin to think perhaps some things are just better left to chance.

Call Now!

Manuel has a new little hobby. He likes to watch infomercials. In Hindi. Not that he speaks or understands a word of it, he just gets mesmerized the second he flicks a channel and intercepts one… I have seen the inflatable sofa bed being driven over by a truck and, guess what? It doesn’t puncture. Then we have some capsule shaped food processing device. The Sauna Belt for all those wanting to sweat off the weight without the inconvenient hassles of going to gym or a simple change in diet. And it’s a great product which can be worn under a suit to the office or under a slip dress when out on a date. There is a also a device that gives all the benefits of jogging and all you have to do is lie flat on the floor and put your feet into the special machine that moves the lower body around like a snake. A few short weeks later and, surprise, six-pack abs.

And at this very moment in front of me, there is a formerly dark skinned person on the screen enthusiastically telling everyone how much better their life will be if they just bleach their skin. In fact, it goes so far as to convince women they have a better chance of landing a husband if they can just shed a few unwanted shades of brown. The visual references are such that there is nothing lost in the language barrier.

Not that I have anything against infomercials. I am a big fan of Rapid White Pro which made my teeth three shades lighter and made me irresistably popular. I also have a stunningly beautiful friend named Ann who looks eerily like Nicole Kidman and who once made an infomercial for a vitamin drink - and it was so tasty too, just like candy. It was while I was living in Amsterdam. At one point she was looking for a name to use for the taping. We were both kind of worried that it might come back to haunt her, and if she had an alias then she could always deny it was her. After all, she had no distinguishing marks or facial tattoos. Who would know? We tossed a bunch of names around and I suggested she go with either Britney Houston or Whitney Spears. Those were my idea and the ones I personally liked best. She politely denied and ended up using her own name. I still think that was a missed opportunity. At the time she was single and a big, I mean BIG smoker. And there she was on television talking about healthy eating and pushing the product with all her might. The whole thing culminated in the one line none of us will ever let her live down: “And as a mother, I wouldn’t be without it!”

One Thursday Ann and I were on one of our usual label collecting tours of the Hague. She was into Chanel and I thought it was just a bit too “little old lady” and so we went out and got her some Versace and Prada. It was while trying on a full-length shaved mink coat that felt like buttah that one of the sales people approached and asked of Ann “have I seen you on television?” Ann smiled not so coyly, brushed her fallen bangs behind her ear and said “Yes, you have.” She then bought everything the sales person showed her and became a piece of furniture at the shop.

The next Monday I had a stack of brochures on my desk. Ann was incredibly photogenic and she had been ont he cover of a number of our internal communciation pieces. And there they all were in a stack on my desk, each one personalised just for me.

Upon each one was written “Good luck with your career. Lot’s of love, Ann”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Indian Customer Service

Customer service in India is an amazing experience, one that I think everyone should try. This is a conversation I had when I phoned Tata Sky after they changed their channel packages one night. I discovered the changed 5 minutes before “The Missing Link”. I was not happy.

Me: What happened to the BBC channel? It was working yesterday.
Agent: Sir we cancelled it from your subscription to save you money.
Me: I paid for three months in advance and I don’t want you to save me money. I didn’t ask you to save me money.
Agent: I agree with you, Sir, but we are saving you money.
Me: Why would you cancel my channels without informing me?
Agent: I agree with you, Sir, I can add that channel for you for an extra cost.
Me: But I don’t want an extra cost, I want the channel I paid for. The channel you turned off.
Agent: I agree with you, Sir, but we are saving you money. It’s a big saving to you, Sir.
Me: How much money are you saving me?
Agent: Sir, old package 300 rupees a month, new package 230 (basically the difference comes to 1 USD per month) I can add the channel for you for 60 rupees.
Me: So you are doing all of this to save me 10 rupees? (10 Rupees is about 20 cents)
Agent: Yes, I agree with you, Sir, we are saving you money.
Me: Why didn’t you just give me 10 rupees credit and keep my channels as they were.
Agent: I completely agree with you, Sir, I can add the channel now if you like and have the same working immediately for a total monthly fee of 290 rupees.

And on and on it goes until they work you into a place of desperate and exasperated submission.

And it is not just over the telephone. I was in Nautica yesterday and wanted to try a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I wasn’t sure if I should take a medium or small, so took one of each and a pair of jeans to try on. This is the conversation I had as I held 2 t-shirts and a pair of jeans:

Me: I want to try these on.
Sales guy: Yes Sir, I will show you the trial room.
Sales guy then takes one of the t-shirts off my little stack and hands me one shirt and the pair of jeans
Me: I would like to try both shirts as I am not sure how they will fit.
Sales guy: This is the right shirt for you.
Me: How do you know?
Sales guy: This one will fit.
Me: How do you know if it will fit the way I want?
Sales guy: I agree with you, Sir, I am certain this is the right size.

I tried it one and I didn’t like the fit. Instead of trying the other, I handed everything back and left the store, walking over to Calvin Klein.

In Calvin Klein, I was just browsing, looking at whatever caught my attention in that way that browsers all over the world do. I had had my hand on a pair of jeans at the time and as giving them the once over:

Sales girl: Those are our denims.
Me: Thank you.
Sales girl: You want to look at denims?
Me: I’m just looking.
Sales girl: We have more denims in back of store.
I touch a white shirt
Sales girl: We have same in black.
Me: Thank you.
Sales girl: You want to see the shirt in black?
Me: No, I'm just looking.
Sales girl: (Pointing) More denims are right over there.
Me: Thank you.

But my all-time least favorite company to deal with is Airtel. I had disconnected my phone during the first week of February. In person and in writing at an Airtel Relationship Center. They kept barring my services every time I left the country and when I was in Europe over the Christmas holidays, it was just too much. At the end of May I got a bill for monthly access charges for May to June. I call Customer Service and after five minutes navigating through an IVR system, I get customer service rep on the phone:

Me: Can you please tell me why I have a bill and why I also have access charges for the time of May 25 to June 24?
Agent: That is your rental fee.
Me: But my phone has been disconnected since February.
Agent: I completely agree with you, Sir, but you have to pay the rental fee for this time period.
Me: Why? I don’t have an Airtel connection.
Agent: I totally agree with you, Mr. Robert, but this is your bill.
Me: But I don’t have a phone.
Agent: I agree with what you are saying and this is the rental fee for the period from May to June.
Me: I disconnected my phone on February 6 or 7.
Agent: Sir, it was disconnected on 11 February.
Me: Then why are you sending me a bill now?
Agent: Sir, I am explaining to you that you have to pay the rental fee.
Me: But you just told me my phone has been disconnected since 11 February. I don’t understand.
Agent: Please be informed that I agree with you, Mr. Robert. Would you like me to request someone to pick up the payment?

Movies with Abdul

I spent the better half of yesterday with my still twenty-something friend Abdul. It was his birthday a week ago and instead of spending it in Paris like we planned last year, we spent a celebratory day in the New Jersey of India, Gurgaon. We were off to see Sex and the City. Abdul is the first friend I made in India and we hit it off immediately, thanks in part to Sex and the City. We especially bonded over Amalita Amalfi, Carrie’s international Euro-trash party-girl friend. The same one that made her ask the question “where is the line was between professional girlfriend and just plain professional?” And so it was a given that we would go see this movie together. India being India and Sex and the City being a non-singing, non-dancing, non-Bollywood production meant that after one week in the cinema it was almost impossible to find playing anywhere. But we did manage to get tickets for the brand new PVR Cinema at the brand new Ambience Mall in Delhi.

I don’t know when it happened really. My life used to be played out against the backdrops of trendy lounge bars, pool parties, cocktail hours, red carpet events and great lighting. Now it is spent trawling the new malls of the new and emerging India. The development kings of India seem to be on a mission to out-testosterone each other. Each mall built and marketed as some sort of phallic shrine to the man who built it so they can each claim theirs is the largest. Each new mall screams “Mine is bigger than yours!” Bigger luxury, bigger stores, bigger space, bigger brands, bigger entertainment, and all in the biggest climate-controlled setting. It leaves us mere mortals chanting “more, more, more” as we flock to the newest and shiniest of the retail temples.
The Ambi mall, as it is known to us local types is one of the newest and anchored at one end with a BMW showroom, it promised an unparalleled up-market retail experience. The reality could not have been any different. It was basically a parking garage with retail space. Low ceilings, water leaking everywhere, paint peeling off the walls and ceilings and escalators out of order. The mall isn’t even entirely finished yet. Stores are still opening and already it is falling apart. And, thanks to the children’s play area, it is jammed with family types who bring their overly hyper children to run around slamming into unsuspecting shoppers like myself. I have nothing against children as long as they are behaved. I have absolutely no patience for unruly children. If I had run around like that when I was a child, there would have been a Candies’ sandal dent on the side of my head.

But we were there for the film, not the stores and before we knew it, we were settled into our seats and the lights went dark. Cue Fergie, the title sequence and cut to Carrie. Going to the movie with Abdul is something of an experience. He can’t sit and watch the movie, he needs to participate. So after every few lines, he would either repeat it so as to store it in his memory banks for later usage, or he would comment on something. I am one of those who don’t say anything from the time the lights dim until I am back in the lobby. But Abdul was nowhere near as annoying as the late-comers.

Time in India is always an “ish” thing. 9 means anytime before 11, and in the event of a movie, 2:05 seems to mean get there around 2:30 and then spend the next 15 minutes asking your neighbors what you missed. And of course, they were all sitting either in my row which meant I had to get up, or in the row in front. And India being India, it is all assigned seating and of course almost nobody pays it any mind what-so-ever so 45 minutes into the film, the shuffle starts because some new arrival will insist on their assigned seats which then creates a ripple effect through the entire auditorium as everyone is in the wrong place. I commented very loudly and Abdul elbowed me.

But those are not the worst part of the film. Oh no! Someone had brought a young child. In this, the most prude-ish of countries, someone brought a young child who, as you can imagine, got bored during the film and started talking, laughing and playing.

After the movie finished, Abdul and I decided we needed some retail therapy and so wandered the uninspired halls looking in stores I don’t even care to know existed, checking out brands that I don’t think should ever have been launched. Abdul was “ooohing” and “aaaahing” over the cute muscled sales boys that seem to be popping up all over the Indian retail landscape. They stand in front of the mirrors adjusting their hair and checking out if the t-shirt is tight enough.

Soon we could take no more, so we sat in the leaky Barista and had a latte while complaining about all the bad architecture around us. And then we set off into the pre-monsoon rains and headed for home.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feeling Better

And then another day arrives and I don’t feel as wintry as I did.

Yesterday, a meeting took place in my rather large and embarrassingly appointed office. I am currently located on the C-wing, right between the CEO and CFO. Basically, you go up the stairs to Boring, hang a right at Uninspired, walk through the third non-descript door on your left, though the room my assistant would be using if in fact I actually had an assistant and you enter into my dull and overly air-conditioned room. Look around and you will see a wrap around desk in one corner, a little round table which I actually use as my desk, a sofa for two and a matching chair. Add to that a non-functioning oscillating fan and a permanently stained white board and you get a feel for how my office looks. There is the one fire extinguisher hanging on the wall just in the event I type so fast sparks begin to fly.

There was a small group of us, only four holding a meeting here in my office. One of the group was the new General Manager for the agency. He sat in the chair that matches the sofa. He was well turned out in his perfectly pressed blue striped shirt and perfectly creased trousers. We were engaged in a rather serious discussion about one of our clients and for a second I looked down to collect my thoughts. And there they were, the white gym socks shoved into the leather shoes.

I ended the meeting as quickly as I could and started to laugh. Not at him, just in general.

And I felt a bit better.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Just Me

Sorry, but I don't feel like being funny. In fact, I am not sure I have any funny left at the moment. I feel like crap. I suddenly feel like I am in way over my head. I wonder if I made a mistake moving to India. I feel like I am living a bit of a half-life here... There is nothing in the house that is "me", nothing that makes me feel at home. After a year and a half, I still feel like a visitor and I feel a bit out of place. I find myself feeling depressed and am not sure how to pull out of it. It's affecting everything and I feel like I am slowly losing control, slowly losing myself in all of this. I feel as tough I have painted myself into a corner and I don't know where to go from here. I try to talk about it and I just don't know how. I am tired of putting on a happy face when all I really feel like doing is hiding under the covers, waiting for this all to pass and wondering if it ever will.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ramblings From a Socks-ist

I have been privileged in my life to have travelled all over and seen things I never even dreamed of and had adventures beyond anything I could have imagined. I have ridden camels in the ancient city of Petra and climbed the uneven steps of the Great Wall. I have snowboarded in the French Alps, jet-skied in Mexico and come face to face with sharks thirty meters below the surface of the Red Sea in Egypt. I’ve explored the Forbidden City and seen the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. I have been chased by angry monkeys and a mad cow. I have had champagne on yachts in the south of France, turned thirty at the casino in Monte Carlo and gone mountain biking in Nepal. And during all the travel and adventures, I have come to learn three non-disputable facts of life:

  1. People are basically kind at heart. They will welcome you into their homes and make you a part of their family, sharing their meals, their stories and their beer.
  2. If people don’t speak a word of a common language, they will always repeat themselves, speaking slower and louder, completely convinced it will make all the difference in the world.
  3. Men everywhere, regardless of class, race, religion or financial situation wear white socks in situations that should be considered illegal.
The first point has made my travels unforgettable. To actually experience a culture from the inside, not as a tourist, but as a close friend is amazing. At times it is odd not really being able to communicate, but the friendliness is there. And the food. Wow. I have had some of the best meals of my life prepared by total or almost total strangers. Except for that one time when Mrs. X made me an entire pan full of liver and rice. I hate liver. I hate the smell of liver. And then after piling it onto my plate, I realized that nobody else ate liver. It was just for me. I ate the entire plate in very small bites that would allow me to swallow without chewing.

The language barrier has sometimes been one both a source of extreme humor and frustration. It usually happens in one of two ways. Either, the person is trying to explain something, that the look on their face highlights as being of dire importance, a matter of life and death. Off they go, speaking in a language I don’t understand or have any clue about. Hindi, Bengali, Chinese. I give them the shrug of the shoulders and say very slowly “I don’t speak ______” and they respond by speaking louder and adding a tone of frustration to it, pleading with their eyes for me to understand. Or perhaps they are calling me a stupid idiot with their eyes and I am merely misinterpreting.

Other times I come across people who want to practice their English: “I Chinese art student… Study hard... You like see Chinese student art studio? No pay... Only looking... Maybe like... Very close... Yes? Only look... I try draw you picture... No ask pay... Very close... You want massage?”

The last point is the one that really grates on my nerves. Take a look around. I guarantee there is a guy within your close proximity wearing white socks when he should not be. Just for the record, I am not trying to be socks-ist (ok, maybe I am just a bit). I have nothing against white socks as long as they are seen only in the gym... Or perhaps in porn. They are called gym socks for a reason. They belong in the gym. Not sure how they became a staple in porn films, but that is neither here nor there… The point is, they do not belong in a pair of leather shoes. They should not be worn with jeans, trousers and certainly not mixed with a suit or business casual attire. There is simply no excuse for it. Black socks cost just the same as white ones, so if one can afford socks, one can afford socks of an appropriate color. And for Pete’s sake, don’t ever, ever wear socks of any color with sandals. It does not make you look cool. Makes you look like an idiot is what it does.

Just for the heck of it, I Googled “white socks” and came up with this from

After conducting a survey with over one hundred beautiful women on their most hated fashion no-no's, the big winner was by far "white socks with pants or jeans". The basic response was that not only does it reflect major lack of fashion sense, but complete lack of class. Of course, wearing white socks does not automatically make you a hick, but image is everything nowadays. You have exactly three seconds to impress a woman when she sees you. You don't want her to spend 2.9 of those seconds staring at your socks.

And if trying to impress a more sexually open-minded man is your thing, then you have even less time than that. In less than a micro-second, we have judged you on hair, eyebrows, teeth, eyes, nose, pecs, biceps, abs, hands, package, labels, shoe size and last but not least, your socks.


I am currently going through old stories of my blog to see what material I can possibly use for a book of short stories. What I didn’t expect was the impact this little trip through my memories would have and suddenly I feel sad and quite alone. I miss Christina, Nik, Marco, Ulco, Mark, Joe, Saskia, Musta and others. I miss the jokes, the fun, the long heart to heart talks when one of us had a broken one. I miss Marco’s ugly T-shirts (which actually weren’t that ugly) and everything that is quintessentially Nik. I miss Ulco and the comfort of being with someone that knows everything about you and still chooses to keep you around. I miss the Sunday afternoon cocktails, the brunches, the fun gossip, the weekend trips and shopping adventures. I miss feeling that people are close, even if we don’t actually see each other. Just knowing a cup of coffee or walk or movie is always possible.

Then I made the mistake of looking through old emails. I never delete an email. The relationships, false starts, disappointments, family matters, promises, betrayals, jobs, travel, lies, hopes and dreams, all the things that make up life. I have over 3000 emails in my Gmail inbox, all personal, all relating to times, events and stages of the last couple years of my life. Things I had forgotten about, things I would prefer not to remember. They are all there. When I come across people I have lost touch with, I wonder if I should email them. I wonder if they would care. I wonder if I even care. What would I hope to accomplish? What would I say? “Hi, how are you, been a long time…”

Part of me wants to relive them, but I know that isn’t such a good idea. Part of me wants to delete them, but I know I never will.

Manuel's Mess-Up

Last Saturday evening, an Indian guy approached me at the gate of my house. He was asking if I knew where “Martin” or “Marvin” lived. I told him I had absolutely no idea. Then he asks “¿Hablas tu Espanol?” as he thrusts a piece of paper under my nose. I see Manuel’s handwriting and mobile number and assuming the guy is a colleague of Manuel’s from the Spanish embassy, I invite the guy upstairs. Manuel seemed a bit surprised to see him but they immediately began chatting and I thought nothing of it.

Soon, I was getting hungry and needed to make dinner. The problem was, the guy didn’t seem to be ready to leave anytime soon, and I did not have enough food for the three of us. On top of that, he seemed to be naturally aromatic in the most non-inviting kind of way. At one point, Manuel asked me what time my friends were coming over and being clueless as I am, I said that nobody would be stopping by. After all, I was trying to accommodate Manuel and his embassy friend.

Some time later, the guy finally left and the story comes pouring out of Manuel. A few evenings earlier, Manuel had gone to a play with some friends from the embassy and after the play, they were all standing outside speaking Spanish. A guy walks up and says he speaks Spanish too and asks for Manuel’s mobile number. Manuel didn’t want to give it to him, but didn’t want to be rude, so wrote the number wrong by one digit. Then, for reasons I shall never be able to explain or understand, he suffers a temporary yet highly debilitating brain freeze and gives the guy our address. Our real address. So what happened? The guy calls Manuel and can’t get through and so shows up at our gate. Why he gave any address at all is beyond me, but to give our correct address? He may as well have given the guy rickshaw fair and a map. Anyway, Manuel mentions none of this to me in advance, so when I see this Spanish speaking guy asking for Manuel, no alarm bells go off.

Two days later Manuel receives an SMS from the guy that reads “I love you” which means now that Manuel most likely has a stalker. That is at least how all my stalkers here began – except the one I had originally hired as a driver who turned out to be a sociopath. Fortunately for us, we are moving to a new flat over the next couple of weeks, so he will not know where we live, but I have a sneaking feeling we have not seen the last of him. He has Manuel’s number and he knows Manuel works at the Spanish Embassy. And apparently, he’s in love.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Group Sex

It was in the fall of 2006 that I had my last group Sex. It was during one of my then regular weekends in Brussels and a group of us were in Nik’s flat, lounging all over place, eating pizza from Momma Roma and shaking cocktails like there was no tomorrow. There we were, pillows scattered all over the floor, relaxing after an exhausting day of exercise, which in those days often consisted of trying on tons of overly expensive designer clothes and then doing cocktail curls at Fontaines.

Nik didn’t have a television, instead he had a beamer, a huge empty wall and a great sound system that made watching even the most mediocre of commercials a cinematic experience so we decided to raid his video collection for something to watch. Someone suggested the “L-Word” which I immediately shot down. I was in no mood for flat shoes and flannel shirts. Suddenly someone shouted “How about Sex?!” And as usual, Sex won.

“Sex and the City” has just been released in India and Manuel, Ankit and I made plans months ago to make it a group experience. And in my opinion, nothing goes better with group Sex than red leather. OK, a Cosmo would have been nice, but this is India and alcohol and cinemas don’t mix. I was just happy they didn’t edit all the risqué parts out, leaving us with a movie only slightly longer than the trailer, although there were a few moments of really abrupt editing. Yes, there we were, six of us in the PVR Gold cinema, once again stretched out in our over-stuffed red leather recliners. Our seats were in the front and second row and all I could think was “Oh my God, It’s HUGE!” Ankit, Manuel and I were joined by Poul, who stand about 2 meters tall and was happy to at last be in a cinema were his knees aren’t shoved up under his chin, Doug and his wife Sarah who was the lone girl among us. It was very Samantha of her. Sarah came like a professional. Not only did she immediately curl up in her recliner, but she became the envy of us all when she covered herself in a pashmina and tucked in for the film. Next time I am taking a teddy bear.

The movie started out great, but just as things started getting a bit intense, we were faced with film slippage and suddenly the faces were cut off on the bottom of the screen while at the top of the screen, mics kept appearing. The first time the mic appeared, I thought it was an editing issue. Then when it kept happening, I thought maybe it was some sort of weird dream sequence, and like Pamela Ewing before her, she would wake up and we would learn that none of this had actually happened and everything had been a dream. Finally Ankit went and got it sorted.

All-in-all, I really liked it. Manuel wasn’t so keen, Ankit was less enthusiastic than I would have imagined. I think he was jealous about the Lacroix. It wouldn’t surprise me if he spent a good portion of the film thinking “that would look so much better on me with my coloring.” I won’t give away anything about the movie as I hate it when people do that. People that spoil things like that for others should be stepped on by an elephant...

But one thing that surprised me was how people had aged. They all aged well, it was just the fact that they aged. And if they aged, that means I have as well and that is just not possible. Manuel and I just re-watched season 6 a few weeks back and suddenly, in the movie, everyone is older. And we are all at that age where every month starts leaving its mark so as to be remembered. Thank God for Botox-induced amnesia, which I have decided is going to be one of my little birthday presents to myself, and I will get it done on August 1, so I can be smooth as a thirty-something for my birthday. I am certain that a less wrinkled face will go so much better with the Hermes watch with the wrap-around band that I am planning to slap on my wrist come mid August.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gramatically Yours

i just read 1-2 paragraphs and found lot of grammatical errors as well.
honestly, i dont like the style.

I received that message from someone to whom I had given the link to my blog and decided to copy and paste it here for the world to see. It humored me how someone who isn’t bothered to use capital letters or proper punctuation is the first to make a comment like that. Honestly, I was a bit upset when I read it and immediately wanted to attack the person that would shove such a cold and sharp dagger into the heart of my ego.

But then I took a step back and looked at it in a different way. I know I don’t always spell correctly. I know the grammar in which I have chosen to write would make my old English teacher’s hair fall out in clumps. I write to be funny, not correct in a grammatical, punctuational or any other way for that matter. Like Pee Wee, I am a rebel and a loner. A lone reed. A lone reed standing in a sea of something, blah, blah, something. I forgot the rest of the quote but it is from the film “You’ve Got Mail” so feel free to look it up at your leisure.

I like using commas. I would even go so far as to say I like abusing commas. I like inventing or modifying words when I can’t think of an existing one that fits. Sometimes I like short sentences. I do. Really. And other times I like to run on and on wherever my mind wishes to wander not caring if the subject matter or focus changes mid sentence or makes sense to anyone but me. And I like to start my sentences with “And.” I don’t know if the end of sentence punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks, but I don’t really care. If everyone who wrote concentrated on those details, we would not need editors and proofreaders. I like getting my ideas out. I like that I have ideas to get out, and every time I write in my blog, I think of my friend Christina who encouraged me to do this in the first place. In fact, she used to be my audience of one and it was in the wee hours of a San Francisco morning that I sat in her amazing living room up in the hills off Castro with a straight shot down the middle of the Bay Bridge, all jet-lagged from my previous day’s flight from Beijing that I started this blog by posting a few of the stories I had emailed her over the years. She was the one that edited my profile after I typed it out, cutting it down by half.

Perhaps this means I have arrived. In all the years I have been writing stories, I haven’t had anyone say anything negative. In fact, total strangers like Stephen and Pierre have become friends. I have met people like Suzy who already knew things about me, things I had forgotten I had written about. But that little message made me realize something. At some point I stopped writing for me and started writing for other people. I started writing what I thought would make someone laugh or be about something they wanted to hear instead of just writing about whatever popped into my head.

I have also become a bit lazy and instead of setting aside a reasonable amount of time to actually write the way I like, I steal five minutes here and there and quickly post it online. I miss having the time to sit and just let it happen, but that is my own fault. I spent two years without a television. I moved to India and had no friends and everything was new and surprising and exciting. Everyday was an adventure and lately it seems to be about work and coming home and eating and watching show after show until it is time to sleep so I can wake up and do it all again the next day. My life has become routine, dull and predictable. And that is saying something when living in India.

So perhaps that little grammatically incorrect, capital deficient and poorly punctuated comment has some use that goes beyond puncturing my ego. Maybe it’s a challenge to stir some things up.

The Afterlife

Years ago I discovered that the secret to a fabulous life is proper lighting. But since I began walking in the shoes of a forty year old, I have been wondering about that one highly guarded and secret ingredient that ensures a glamorous afterlife. I’ve looked high. I looked low. I watched Oprah and checked under the cushions on the sofa, all to no avail.

Then out of nowhere, the answer came from the most unexpected of places; The Procter and Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was reading about Fredric J. Baur, the designer of the Pringles potato chip container, who passed away early last month and had a portion of his cremated remains placed in a Pringles can which I assume was for Original flavor as opposed to, say, Spicy Guacamole. And suddenly everything popped and all the crumbs fell into place. If life is about lighting, then afterlife is most definitely about packaging. Duh.

The possibilities are not only mind-boggling, they are downright scary and should not be left to others to sort out. One must take one’s afterlife into one’s own hands to avoid an eternity in a sack of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with a twist of lime. Those nasty, SHOUT!-proof cheese stains are enough to give Bree a nervous breakdown and don’t even get me started on what they do to a person’s breath. The last thing anyone needs in their afterlife are cheese stains and wake-the-dead breath.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Sex Tape

Last night I made a Sex tape. That’s right, move over Paris. Step aside Pamela. Robb’s got a brand new tape and it’s all Sex, all the time. My much loved iPhone rang around five yesterday evening while I was winding things down at the office. It was Ankit and he was desperate. He wanted to make a Sex tape and needed some volunteers. Always one to help out a friend in need, I said “sure thing!” It was at that very moment I realized I had nothing to wear. I ran home and scavenged through my closet tossing designers this way and that. This was Sex, and any old designer would not do. Stores were closed and my bank account was empty. Was life replicating art?

It was just after eight when Ankit and camera crew arrived. I may be a bit exaggerating when I say “camera crew” when in reality it was camera person. They were set up in no time and suddenly, without hair or make-up, there I was all DSquared and Dolce, propped up in front of the camera like some overgrown Cabbage Patch Doll. And leave it to a friend to know enough of your innermost secrets and how to pull them out of you for public consumption. I felt shy, violated even, and nothing I could do could keep my secrets from issuing forth from my pouty lips.

Questions like “What is your favorite Sex and the City episode?” and “Who is your favorite character?” It was invasive and offensive. Until then, Sex had been my dirty little pleasure and now there it is, on public television for the masses to see.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hero Worship

The year was 1981. I was on the cusp of fourteen, nerdy, shy and worst of all, I had a bad perm thanks to a beauty school graduate mom who embraced all the latest trends regardless of how embarrassing they may be. I didn’t know it at the time, but I as about to be transplanted, however briefly to the dense, lush rain forests of the eastern slopes of the Andes, the place known as "The Eyebrow of the Jungle" before catching the flight to Nepal and then onto Egypt. I was unexpectedly taken on a quest for the mythical Ark. I decided then and there that I not only liked Indiana Jones, I wanted to BE Indiana Jones. Of course, not as much as I wanted to be the toast of Broadway, but then life is full of cruel choices and having my name up in the bright lights was a tad more appealing than digging in the dirt. And, of course, there was Olivia Newton-John just waiting for me to kick start her career with our yet to be recorded duet and appearance on Merv Griffin.

Then 1984 came along. I was a much more mature seventeen year old. I had been to London and stood outside the Hippodrome. I had been to Harrod’s and had eaten my first Indian food in SOHO. In my mind I was cool, hip and happening teenager of the world with my very first Vidal Sassoon haircut. I had yet to discover the actual act of sex, but had discovered that one need not wait until a partner comes along. I was taking matters into my own hands every couple of hours, and it was with those same raging hormones that I entered “The Dragon” nightclub in Shanghai. Soon after it would be elephant rides in Mayapore and a roller coaster ride through the Temple of Doom. Once again I temporarily questioned my station in life and future goals and once again the promise of a standing ovation and a part in “Cats” or “A Chorus Line” won without much of a struggle. I had, after all, already written out my Tony acceptance speech and was strategizing how to parlay my Broadway success into a Hollywood career.

I was a seasoned twenty-one when Indiana embarked on the last crusade, dragging me to the library in Venice with the giant X on the floor that would ultimately take us to Berlin, face to face with the Fuhrer himself and then onto the long lost city of Petra. By now I had really changed. I realized I didn’t want to BE Indiana, I wanted to DO Indiana. And just now I wonder if perhaps that is where my later fascination with leather and whips began? But at that moment in time, I was sad to see him go. It was the last adventure before he hung up his fedora and put away his whip forever.

Ah, Indiana Jones. I always knew that someday he’d come through that door. I never doubted that. Something made it inevitable. And last Saturday, there we were, reunited again. India it seems is not part of the actual world, and therefore was not included in the world-wide release schedule, so I spent most of last week dodging reviews and spoilers so I could go in pure of heart, my mind an empty canvas, every line of dialogue and turn of plot a delightful surprise. And it was not disappointed. Sure, it was no Raiders, but then what is? Still, I thought it was an entertaining way to spend two hours and even after all these years, having seen the older movies countless times, something happens when the theme music plays and I become almost fourteen again, ready to embark on my own adventure.