Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some New Drugs

A few days ago, I wrote about the houseguest. After that post, her family arrived in the form of a husband and two children and suddenly everything is different. For starters, she is now a vegetarian again, eschewing meat and non-soy milk products. The television, which in this time of unemployment, job searching and American Idols, has been my sanctuary and my rock, has now been taken over and is basically on twenty-four hour Nickelodeon. These children don’t seem to know, or worse care, who Tyra Banks is and who is still in the running for America’s Next Top Model.

The good news was, that they were only staying for two days, and scheduled to leave this very evening by seven. But now, breaking has it that they will be staying a bit longer. An entire week longer. I want to pull out my hair. Don’t get me wrong, I love children. I do. I am the first one to break out the Legos or give Barbie a makeover. But this house was not meant for so many people. It is perfect for four people. Not for seven. And certainly not for about ten days. We have marble floors, high ceilings and almost no furniture. Sound just loves to bounce around the walls at elevated volumes.

Unemployment does have an upside and I have gotten very used to having my days free. My days are mine. Ten hours or so each day of just me, me, me. There is a season for everything, and this is my season to the selfish on a personal and non-greedy level. I can wake up, lounge about the house in whatever previously worn clothing I happen to grab off the floor next to the bed. I can listen to music. I can watch TV. I can read a book. I can sit quietly and ponder life. Even when there are other people in the house, I can always retreat to the bedroom for a bit of quiet. I need quiet. I like quiet. Not all the time, but I like a nice frothy cup of quiet every now and again, it just makes the day go down a lot smoother. It helps keep me sane.

Yet now, even as I type this while hidden away in the bedroom with the door closed, I hear voices. I hear kids yelling. I hear people talking. I hear Nemo plotting his way out of the aquarium. I hear complaining. The only consolation right now, is that these voices are not in my head and I now there is an end to the insanity. But, I am not without a bit of help, I just got a stash of some amazing mood-altering drugs to get me though: Over 8GB worth of newly downloaded Hed Kandi, which I have just started playing while typing that last sentence.

The world is once again looking something like a mirrored ball…

For now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The SIMple Life

Have you ever played any of the SIMS videogames? In case you haven’t, it goes something like this: You make a bunch of characters, give them various personalities and put them in a house together, where they get on each others’ nerves, get married, get divorced, have babies, get jobs, get fired, get into fights and basically live a life of trailer park ecstasy. And all the while they get thought bubbles over their heads so we can see what they are thinking. If they like someone, they get a plus or two in the bubble and the relationship gets a bit better. If they don’t, then they get negative marks and the relationship slightly deteriorates.

I have spent the last month living in this video game. I don’t mean I have spent the last month living for the video game, I mean I have been living it.

It all started when Manuel asked if a new colleague of his could stay with us for a while, and as I am usually overly friendly and hospitable, I said “sure”. After all, two Spanish cooks in the house can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Well, it isn’t bad, it is just odd and for some reason, I find her questions at the end of the day intrusive. Things like “how was your day?” and “What did you do?”, “have you found a job yet?” I feel like saying its none of your business, actually, but I smile and say things like “I’m fine” and “No news” and she smiles and tells me everything is going to be OK. And then she talks about this and that and I suddenly see the thought bubble above my head. It has negative signs in it. She is a nice woman, but something about her is most definitely grating on my nerves.

And like most Spaniards, she is a good Catholic, so it puzzles me when I see her in front of the little Indian temple full of Ganeshas we have in the living room, sitting cross legged and lighting incense, and then meditating. With the television on. She does this twice a day. She is also a strict vegetarian who eats chorizo, pate and ham.

On her first day she said our house had great energy but needed to be Feng Shui’ed. And guess who just happens to be a master at Feng Shui? Yep! But after a month, she hasn’t so much as aligned the silverware. All that energy is just going here and there, and none of it being directed or optimized the way it is supposed to be.

It has only been for a month, and it is all coming to an end so I really shouldn’t complain. But you know me and I like to complain. I also seem to be a late bloomer. I have recently gotten into American Idol. Normally I would not watch it, but now that I, like most people am doing whatever I can to save money, TV has come to play a larger role in the entertainment part of my life. Isabel likes American Idol too, but she doesn’t get it. Every week she is surprised about one of two things. The first one being that they are the same people as the week before. Second, there is always a contestant she doesn’t recognize and wants to know where they came from. It makes me scream. She watches TV commercials and then asks “What was that about? I don’t get it.” It was funny the first few times, now I just want to scream at her to use her brain for just a few seconds, to dust it off and give it a drive around the block.

And the whole thing about two Spanish cooks? Boy, was I wrong. She can’t cook anything more complex than a fried egg. If Manuel doesn’t make dinner or I don’t arrange dinner, that is exactly what she eats, fried eggs. OK, to be fair, she does also toast bread every now and again. If this was actually a game, I would just hit delete and give her a new personality, one that cooks and doesn't ask stupid questions. Oh yeah, and has better hair.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Just Say Yes

I was in a bookstore yesterday and came across “Yes Man” by Danny Wallace. I like Danny Wallace. I have read other books of his and enjoyed them thoroughly if not with a bit of envy. “Why didn’t I have that idea?”, I would think to myself. So when I saw his name on the cover, I picked it up and read the back. Then I opened it up and read the first few pages. Then the conversation started. “Maybe I should say ‘yes’ more often”, I said to myself. “Maybe I should say ‘yes’ to everything I am even remotely interested in doing”, I heard myself whisper not so discreetly. “You know what you’re your problem is?” I screamed at myself while waving a mental finger in my face. “You don’t say ‘yes’ enough!”

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I don’t say ‘yes’ enough. The trouble is, I am scared. That probably surprises most people who know me. They see me as the guy who just does what he wants to do. I woke up in California on a Wednesday and decided I was moving to Denver in 3 days. A year later, around lunchtime, I decided I was done with Denver and left that evening. Two months later I ended up in New York, until I decided I was moving to Amsterdam. A city I had never seen in a country I had never visited. Two weeks later I was touching down at Schiphol Airport. And of course, everyone knows that I was asked to come to India and pondering for less time than it takes to drink a decent cocktail, I did it. And here I am today. People see me as a cat. I have always landed on my feet. Maybe not delicately or with a lot of grace, but on my feet, nonetheless.

Al lot of those things happened not because I was brave or sure of myself, like so many people seem to think, they happened because I was scared. I am scared of being a boring person. I am scared of looking back on my life and being able to ask the question “I wonder what would have happened if…” I heard that from my mom. I heard that from other people. I was scared of missing out on life. I was scared of just being like everyone else. I was scared of being trapped in a life I didn’t create. I love being asked where I am from or where I live. I never have to say something boring. And I have stories. Lots and lots and lots of stories. I love the fact that I can start sentences with “When I was on a dive safari in the Red Sea…”, “When I was on a camel in the middle of the desert near Pakistan…” or “I was petting a live cobra one day…” – All true.

So my life until now hasn’t been so much about saying “yes” to the possibility, it has been more about saying “no” to the alternative. But now, suddenly, I wonder what would or will happen if I say “yes” to possibility, screw the alternative and forget the possible negative consequences. I mean I spent twenty years working and sacrificing and learning and doing everything I could do to make sure I would never be unemployed. “How great will India look on my CV?” is the question that went through my head when I got the offer. And now, here I am, just as unemployed as if I had never done those things. Sure, I will be more employed when this whole recession thing passes over, but when will that be. First they said it would pick up early 2010. Then I heard it was not supposed to bottom out until well into 2010. The fact is, nobody knows. So what to do?

For me, I am going to say ‘yes’ to saying ‘yes’ a bit more and see if I can take that pink slip and make something cool in origami. I can’t let all the other thoughts about all the other things come in, because no matter what I do, all those other things will be just as possible. In a way, life seems a lot like bungee jumping. The most intense part of bungee jumping is not the fall. It is not speeding head first to a very solid ground. It is not wondering if the cord will snap or if something horrific will happen. It is that moment when you have to let go. It is convincing yourself to do it. To say ‘yes’ and just do it. That is the only part of bungee jumping that a person can control. Once you say ‘yes’ and let go, the rest just happens.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Yesterday evening as I left the house on my way to Urban Pind for drinks, I noticed I was being followed. By puppy. Since being in India, I have learned to ignore stray animals as they are everywhere, but something about this one caught my attention. I stopped and the little puppy came up to me and then curled into a ball at my feet with sad puppy eyes looking up. It was a blatant example of guerilla sales techniques and it worked like magic. I was sold. I phoned Manuel who had gone to the corner market and since he did not answer, I stayed with the puppy until I saw him coming back down the street. I called him over and within seconds, the deal was sealed.

We had no intention of keeping the dog, I know we are most likely leaving India in just a few weeks, but I couldn’t do nothing. We brought the puppy inside and gave it some milk which it drank with abandon. As I had to go for an appointment, I tasked Manual with going to the pet store and getting flea spray, puppy soap and food.

A couple of hours later I came back to a newly clean pup curled up in a ball in the new bad Manuel had made from a box and a towel. While Manuel had told me the puppy was a girl, I came home and discovered it was a boy. But our little boy had no energy at all, like a little rag doll and he kept groaning like he was in pain. We decided he just needed a good night’s sleep and then he would be back to his puppy self. I didn’t sleep at all, listening for him to make the slightest sound, any excuse to get out of bed and play. But apart from whining for a few minutes a couple of times during the night, he didn’t make a sound. At one point I checked on him and he wagged his little tail and I melted. We had a real puppy. I went back to bed and forced myself to pretend to sleep until seven.

When I got up, I discovered he had not had a bite of food in eight hours. I tried to get him to eat, I tried to get him to drink, but he wasn’t interested at all. He just stayed motionless, groaning. I decided to take him to the vet. My first goal was to get him healthy and then find him a home. I also figured that with the right records, puppy could come with us to wherever we moved.

I went to the Defence Colony SPCA clinic where I got the lowdown on puppy. He is between five and six weeks old, has worms and is actually a she. I suspected the worm part, but a girl? I wanted a girl and had resigned myself to a boy. But now a girl. I swear I looked, and they looked like a little wee wee… But I have to admit, I was wondering why he was peeing like a girl. But suddenly, she went from having no name to being Penelope, right there on the exam table. I was told she would need medication a few times a day for the next month. She would also need feeding with a syringe every few hours. I bought the medication but something in me knew I should leave her there, at the SPCA. I don’t rally know anyone who would be interested in adopting a dog. I also spoke with a doctor and getting a dog out of India takes some doing, mostly due to possibility of bringing in a disease. I was also told that at the SPCA, she would probably not be alive much longer than the next fifteen days, due to the viruses from other dogs and her current medical health. The best hope was for me to bring her home. And even if she did survive, her future means being released back on the streets in a few months.

I wanted to, but knew that ultimately it was the wrong thing. It would mean her being around someone all day, everyday and then suddenly having that taken away. I started calling people I knew would tell me to do what I knew I had to do, but didn’t want to. I phoned Manuel and then I phoned Lata asking if she knew someone who might want to adopt a tiny puppy. I knew what the answer would be before I phoned, but I had to give it one last chance. Lata told me the best place was the shelter where I was standing.

So, I held her for awhile and signed the papers giving her to the shelter. I know it was only fifteen or twenty hours she was here, but I really bonded and I really hate the fact I could not bring her home. But, if I do get a job and stay in India, the first thing I am doing is going to get her, if she is still alive. I feel like I have sent her to death, but I know I could not have given her a life. But then maybe I could have given her a fantastic month. I am not sure I did the right thing, but logically, it seemed the best thing to do. And as I type this, I wonder what it would be like to have Penelope sleeping against my chest.