Thursday, December 09, 2010

Figuring It Out

It has been over four months since I have written anything. Anything at all. Not sure why, it just seemed too much effort to write anything longer than a text message. I have had no inspiration or desire to write at all. Even now, I don’t feel the inspiration, but feel I should do something, start somewhere and see if maybe, just maybe, it comes back. Or not. Perhaps a part of the reason is the fact that since I have arrived in Istanbul, I have basically been working. Usually seven days a week, morning until night. It is wearing me down and burning me out, but it doesn’t matter. After two years of being unemployed and everything that comes along with that, I find myself working even when I know I should say no.

I have also spent quite a bit of time over the past months deconstructing India and the past few years. I experienced things I never imagined possible and things I never imagined I would ever get through. Now that I am here, in a different but not sure if better place, I find myself constantly comparing, wondering, going over the details of what happened and what I might have done different. I ask myself if I could have done anything differently and of course, for many things, I could have.

I also find myself still trapped in that space in India. I am in a different place in different circumstances, but I live as though it were all still happening. I have a hard time enjoying anything. I have a hard time opening up to anyone. I have made a few friends, but I haven’t let anyone in. Not really.

Even photography seems laborious now. After keeping my camera packed away for over 2 months, I have finally started taking pictures again. I am not sure I enjoy it right now. Again, I don’t know why. There are so many beautiful places in Istanbul and yet my interest is sorely lacking. I don’t feel depressed or anything, I just find myself having troubles re-integrating into life as I would like it to be. I can’t talk about it with anyone, because nobody I know truly understands what happened, what I experienced. I don’t even really get it myself.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Istanbul

Almost all the free time I have had since arriving in Istanbul has been spent on foot, walking and walking, seeing what I can discover and learning my way around the tiny, twisting streets that run up and down hill and back and forth, creating a Dr. Seuss-like confusion. It’s an easy and wonderful place to just wander around and get lost.

The first day, I went in search of a store to buy a towel. I am staying in a sort of apartment hotel and everything but towels are provided. I didn’t find a towel store, but I did find was the Galata bridge and Suleymaniye Mosque further in the distance. I was in love. The Galata bridge is two layers, one with traffic, and below that, one with restaurants and seating areas where you can have a drink, smoke a sheesha and watch the boats pass as the sun sets behind Suleymaniye. One thing I have missed while living in Delhi, is living near water. In my opinion, it brings a magic and personality unlike anything else. During the day, kids are jumping from bridges and docks while the fishermen wait patiently for that ever-elusive bite. At night, lights reflect in the water giving the whole city an air of mystery and majesty.

The place I am staying is in the heart of the going out area. I stay just off of Taksim Square. Istiklal is the main street in Taksim, pedestrian, full of shops and cafes and crowded with people. Off the main artery of Istiklal, are tiny winding streets climbing up and down hills in all different directions, crammed with tables and people playing backgammon, which seems to be the national sport. Beer, sheesha, football games, dinner, drinks, music. Everything is happening all around and the sounds and smells are smashed together in a most delicious way.

In the week I have been living here, walking around and just seeing where I end up has become one of my favorite ways to pass the time, and there are lots of bookstores with cafes for tea to camp out in and relax.

I haven’t really made any friends yet, a few people from work and a couple out of work, but the language is definitely a barrier. That and the fact that in India, just due to the color of my skin, I never really had to initiate contact. I was always approached. Now, I go out and have no clue what I am doing. My breaking the ice skills, while always a bit lacking are now non-existent. But, speaking of my celebrity status, it has not entirely disappeared. I have been asked for my photograph a few times and have even had an indecent proposal. It was on my second or third day, and I was walking down Istiklal with what seemed like the entire population of Istanbul when this guy came up to me and started talking:

“Where are you from, my friend?”
“California. The US.”
“Oh, America. I know Fontana. You know this Fontana?”
Yes.
“You like get some?”
“Get some what?”
“You want suck me?”
At this point, figuring I had heard wrong and lost something in translation replied with “what?”
“You want suck me?”
I hadn’t misheard, but was quite stunned. In any case, I said “No!”
“Why not? I think you like suck me.”
“Um, I have to go.”

And with that, I called it a night…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Loneliness


Throughout my life, there is one feeling that has always been there. Sometimes it is overpowering and at other times it lingers just below the surface, and I can feel it, waiting. Even now, in the one of the most populated places on the planet, I still feel so lonely. It is the feeling I wake up with, the one I carry around all day and one I feel when I go to sleep. Even when I am laughing, it is there in the background. It is not a feeling of loneliness that is about the longing for the company of other people, but more a feeling that there is nobody who truly knows me, nobody who is truly there.

Sometimes it is the most intense when I am with someone else. How is it possible to physically be so close to someone and yet worlds apart. Why is it the people who are most important to us can, without even knowing it, make us feel so completely and painfully invisible and alone? And then I don’t know what to do. So often I want to reach for a hand, just to hold it, to feel another person, but then there is the fear of them pulling away and the loneliness is so much easier to deal with than the potential rejection that seems inevitable.

And so I go it alone, even in the company of others. I am there with them, but not really, not totally, not in the way I would like to be. I see so many people that seem to effortlessly connect with others and I don’t understand them. I know people think I am that way. They see an exterior that looks shiny and polished, but the fact of the matter is, I have just learned to fake it. I shut people out as much as I can, and when I have to, I put on a huge smile, tell some jokes and tell the world that everything is fine. But it is all smoke and mirrors, slight of hand and it is getting more and more difficult to pull the rabbit out of the hat. When I do talk to people, I am clumsy and give the impression I am making everything all about me. But the fact of the matter is, I am just gasping for air, trying to stay afloat.

I hate feeling lonely, but I am not sure how to feel any other way. I am tired of putting on a smile when all I really want is just to be held, really held and cry. I want to feel safe, heard and seen. But it doesn’t happen and so I go on, waiting and wanting but growing more confident that it is never coming. And I am not sure I would know what to do if it happened anyway. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Bit Of This And That

Lately, I have just found myself at a loss for interesting things to write about, so I have decided to bore you with the things that aren’t so interesting… Just be warned before you read further, this is probably the worst blog post ever written in the history of blogging… Well, maybe almost…

I moved. Finally! I did! I said goodbye to the landlady and the rest of her annoying but often entertaining brood. Of course, I have only said a partial goodbye. See, there is still that little issue of the security deposit they need to refund to me. They have tried everything to get out of it. They claimed I hadn’t paid rent in months, when in reality, at one second past midnight at the start of the month, the stalking begins and they start using two of their most favorite words in the English language; “Robb” and “Money”. Usually it is in one sentence “Robb, Money!” while they make the appropriate hand gesture. I used to pay them perfectly on time, but decided to start annoying them a bit in the only way I could, so I would pay a couple of days late, watching the sweat beads on their foreheads get more pronounced as the seconds ticked later and later into the month. The second trick they tried, was saying that I should give it as a gift for their daughters wedding. This was made clear by the sentence “Money gift wedding?” When I ignored it, they pointed to their daughter who was looking all premarital as she sat next to them and said “Daughter wedding” to which I replied “I don’t care, it is not my problem.” It may sound rude, but at that point I had been there for 20 minutes and this is after the three hours of conversation (yelling, finger pointing and shopping at my going away market) the day I moved out. Between one translator and having to call two friends to talk to them on the phone, it finally got sorted and I just need to wait a few more weeks and then the goodbye will be a lot more permanent. Had I known this, I would have just not paid the last month… Anyway…  Oh, and while I was at their place, landlord was wearing my old and worn out MiuMiu sandals and a pair of my discarded socks. It was a bit surreal to be in their place, seeing my former possessions and current rubbish so proudly displayed in areas of prominence all around their flat. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff they pulled out… I would be surprised if anything I threw out made it to a trash bin… I am sure they will point to it and say something about that crazy firangi who used to live on the top floor. Anyways…

I did move, but at this point, it has been the move to nowhere. Or somewhere. Noida, actually. But nowhere near where I was supposed to be going. See, I did a course where I got certified to teach English (and scored top of the class, thank you very much) and within a few days of completing my exam, I had an offer. An offer for a real job with a real salary and I would be a real teacher. Employed. Hating my boss. Complaining about my co-workers. In desperate need of a vacation. Good times! I had a start date of July 1 and today was the day when I was supposed to be boarding a plane to spend a year in China, YES, China! And then suddenly and quite disappointingly, it all fell through. The plan was to stay with Ankit for a few days and then ship off to Chongqing (pronounced ChongChing) and now that has been a little extended while I start looking for another job that won’t fall through at the last minute…  But it can’t be that extended, as my Indian visa expires in a few weeks, so I am leaving for an as of yet unknown destination.

But as long as we are talking jobs, I did get called from the school where I did my certification and I am now a substitute teacher. Perhaps it might lead to a more permanent gig in a couple of months when they move to a new location… Is Delhi trying to keep me here?

After the whole six days of subbing (we in the teaching biz call it that) are finished, I am off to Chandigarh to help a friend work on a film. Only this time, I will be behind the camera doing some pre-production/gofer/sounding board/friend/cheerleader/ego-fluffer kinds of things instead of being the one in hair, make up and waiting for my close-up.

And speaking of close-ups… I did a film last week and I think I now have as many celluloid close-ups as my BFF Julia. And Julia and I are all set to make our first cinematic appearance together in August. I have recently learned that August 13 is the release date, just one tiny little day after my very own birthday (I will be turning something-something). Better that way, ad that gives me one more day of personal celebration before the tabloid intrusion that is sure to take place the second the first frame flashes on the screen. But my film last week was great. It was all about anger, and I got to smash computers and a full length mirror, beat people up, yell, scream, eat pizza, drink beer and burp, all on camera… I can still feel the surge of testosterone pulsating through my veins.

So there you have it, all the things I thought were too boring to blog about. I can hear you snoozing, so I’ll just tip-toe out…

And then slam the door!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Drama At Number 48

If you happened to be looking toward Delhi this afternoon and saw a mushroom cloud, I can explain...

I find myself at one of those times in life when everything changes quickly and one of the changes is that I am moving (more details on where, when and why later – for now, I am keeping things a bit on the DL). And like many things, what seems easy and organized well in advance becomes a nuclear meltdown in the last seconds without the benefit of having a single one of Charlie’s Angels around to kiss some serious ass of those who are suddenly all over my nerves. It all started when the landlords got word that I was moving. I told them, via a translator and even that seems to have gone completely in one ear and out the other. But, once they saw that I was separating things and using my terrace to organize boxes, suddenly my life turned into a market. I would catch them looking through stuff while asking “go?”

So today, just when I am about an hour or so from getting the last few things out of the house, they bring up the electricity bill which I have yet to pay. Yet to pay since I agreed with their son, via the same translator, that they could take out of the security deposit. No sense giving them money only to get a lot more back two weeks later. I thought everything was cool. Suddenly, the entire family is upstairs, claiming I have not paid rent, mad at me for selling my bed to someone else instead of them (not that they once asked me about it, mind you) and going through the last of my things, which I have promised to someone else, telling me I should give as a gift for their daughters wedding. As if they even know what to do with champagne flutes. And that is after paying the most rent for a year, having the least amount of privacy.  And the shopping went on.

“You keep?”
“I take?”
“Stay?”

Each question accompanied with hopeful expressions as though they were holding the key to happiness in their hands and I was the only thing standing between them and sheer bliss. Who knew a dish drainer could create such joy? Or that an empty bottle of L’Oreal shampoo would get smiles and looks of longing so extreme, I could almost imagine her flinging her hair around saying “I’m worth it!” And while that was happening, their little dog was running around, jumping on everything and kept making a mess of things while everyone else decided they were thirsty from all the discussion of money and luxury goods shopping and started asking me for water. I had about seven bottles sitting out since my fridge had just been taken away, so I could hardly say no. I had visions of throwing the full bottles at them, but instead I yelled at everyone to get out, I did try not to yell, but nobody was paying any attention to anything I was saying. The only thing I have left is that they fear me when I get angry, it seems. That is only thing they seem to understand and understand perfectly. Don’t mess with the gora or he will cut you!

I finally got them all out and shut the door so I could calm down. A few minutes later, there was a knock and I opened the door to the question, “Face cream?”, which came from the son who can never come upstairs without asking for a beer, face wash, sunscreen, cigarette (even though he knows I do not smoke) or complimenting me on how young I look in what little English he speaks. “You very nice sir” is one of his more regular comments to me. He compliments my skin, my hair, my body, my clothes and it all just makes me so uncomfortable. Then the mother comes back up and starts shopping again. These are people who are complaining about two or three hundred rupees (about four to six dollars) and yet want me to give them everything I am not taking. They want the power inverters, and all sorts of other pricey electronic equipment, but they want it for free, as though I should give it as a gift to them for letting me live here with almost no privacy, paying 15% more rent than anyone else. Yeah, it seems like a good deal to me. It is that kind of “gimme, gimme, gimme” mentality that just makes me explode.

Anyway, it all got sorted and now I am just waiting for a friend to arrive and to get the rest of the stuff out of here and then I am off to the first stage of a new life and a new adventure…

Stay tuned... More details coming soon…

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wasp Happening

Picture it if you will, me, sleeping all peaceful and innocent like, visions of sugarplums dancing in my head interspersed with Glee inspired numbers breathtakingly choreographed around yet another perfect rendition of some song I pulled out of my very own show choir catalogue when the unthinkable happened. It was just before five this morning when suddenly I felt a stab in my arm. Maybe not so much a stab, more like a hot poker skewering my hand. I jumped up, turned on the light and there they were, the two or three wasps sitting on one of my pillows, just millimeters from where my face had been. As I took in what happened, I noticed that my room was buzzing with Airbus 380 sized wasps which seemed to have taken an interest in me. I pulled on some shorts and t-shirts and then the dizziness started. The room seemed to move and I noticed the sweat on my face and my body felt cold. I figured I knew what was coming.

When I was a young boy, I had been stung by a wasp and a minute or so later, I passed out cold. I felt this was what was going to happen again, but I didn’t want to collapse in a wasp-infested room. I decided I would try to go outside and put a bit of distance between them and I before I fell into an unconscious heap. It turns out I didn’t collapse, but I suddenly found myself outside at five in the morning, with no water to drink and no shops open and my whole body pumped up on adrenaline. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go home, and this being Delhi, nothing opens much before ten. Sometime before six, I spotted my landlord outside having a cup of chai and joined him while trying to explain about the wasps. Nobody in their family speaks English and I don’t speak Hindi, so I tried using hand gestures and simple words… “many bees… very many… make the sting, sting, sting… Ow, o wow…” which was received with a warm smile and calls for more chai. Finally I got hold of Lata who then spoke with the landlady in Hindi. The landlady for some reason thought Lata was talking about a bunch of cats that had come in the night. I finally dragged them upstairs and when I opened the door, it was like something out of a movie. It turns out, there was a nest in the small hole in the wall just under my window. There was another nest inside the electrical hole in the ceiling just outside my door and to make matters worse, another big nest I had not yet seen. Wasps were everywhere. So what does my landlord do? He takes a broom and starts swatting. Then he takes some newspaper and using a large branch, tries to smoke them out. The wasps were not having it started dive-bombing the place while I decided it was time to vacate the scene. An hour or so later, he called me back up and it seemed they had gone, so I went back to bed all wasp free… Or was I?

About two hours later, I head out to meet Lata for lunch and I see them, the wasps were back. They were already visibly rebuilding the nest that had been knocked down, and there were dozens on the wall next to the newly sealed off hole where their nest had been. So, I decided to take matters into my hands and bought some bug spray, came home this evening and let my inner Terminator run rampant. I sprayed a random corner hear my window and was SHOCKED when about fifty or so of them came bursting out. I had no idea they were there, obviously nest number four. I stood on my terrace and kept spraying, soaking down every nook and cranny and any wasp who dared cross my path, including the one that had the audacity to land on the front of my shirt, causing me to scream a bit like a girl and run back, stumbling on the floor, bug spray going out in every direction. But now, two hours after that ordeal, there seems to be not a single wasp near my place. I do imagine them, all lined up along a wall, binoculars pointed at my window, just waiting for the opportunity to make their move.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bugs in the Night...

Has this ever happened to you? You wake up in the morning and go to brush your teeth, only to discover that some spider has used the bristles of your toothbrush as an anchor point for its recently spun web? Has it? HAS IT?

Well, it happened to me just this morning. I was in a rush to get to class and there it was, the web hanging off my toothbrush. And it wasn’t some beautiful, Charlotte’s Web kind of web, this was the web of some retarded spider who flunked out of web-weaving class. It could not have even been mistaken for a form of individual spidery expression. And did I mention it was dangling from the bristles of my toothbrush? The very part I have to put in my mouth?

I hate spiders. I hate them. They give me the heeby-jeebies and make my skin crawl and if I even think I can hear one in the house, I can’t sleep. I imagine it in my hair and on my face and then I have to run and take a shower. Two showers. With scrubby gloves from Body Shop.

And wouldn’t you know it, I needed to leave early and there is not a single place in my area to buy a toothbrush. For that, I need to go to another market and there is nothing open until 10am, the same time my class starts. So I was confronted with a choice… Either I could leave the house without brushing my teeth or, I could shake off the web and just bite the bullet, so to speak…

So, faced with these two options, neither of which I was really looking forward to, I asked myself what the guy in Man versus Wild would do. And then I did it. I dusted off my toothbrush (which was brand new, I might add, with all the latest and greatest tooth-brushing technology known to man), gave it a quick rinse and brushed away.

Then I realized something… I have no idea what happens to my toothbrush while I am sleeping… Any number of insects, spiders, cockroaches and other things could easily be using it as their preferred stomping ground, drawn to it by the hint of minty freshness left from the toothpaste.

I will never look at my toothbrush in the same way again…

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shooting in Style, Baby

It has been so long since I was here, I doubt anyone is still lingering around… In fact, I can hear the echo as I type and the dust on this blog is making it a bit hard to breathe. So I figured I should stop by, take the plastic off the verbal furniture and basically spruce things up for spring.

The reason I haven’t been writing so much? I’ve been shooting pictures like a mad man and that means spending less time on the Internets and the Google. Yes, I do still spend an obscene amount of time doing the Facebook dance, but Facebook fits in my pocket. Have you ever tried to write a blog on an iPhone? Oh, and I did create my very own website to show my very own photos that will help me become my very own Annie Leibovitz. If you work for Vanity Fair and you need some images, please stop by www.robbselander.com - And even if you don’t work for Vanity Fair, you can still totally check it out…

But yes, I have been spending a lot more time with my camera. So much, in fact, that my camera might just file suit against me in a case of domestic abuse. Not that I slap it around, but it has been working day and night. But how na├»ve was I? I thought that when one was a photographer, all one needed was a camera. Well, that is just so not the case and now I find myself carrying more stuff around town to take pictures of a flower than I would need if I was going to climb Mount Everest. And then the unthinkable happened… I arrived home one night and realized I had left some of my camera stuff at a restaurant. Luckily for me, I left it there and not someplace in Old Delhi or on a train or bus, but it made me panic and I realized I needed to streamline and yesterday I finally got a new camera bag. And just because I can hear you asking, here is a list of the things I carry with me almost all the time:

  • 1 Canon DSLR
  • 1 18-55mm lens (with attached UV filter)
  • 1 75-300mm lens (with attached UV filter)
  • 1 Extra camera battery
  • 1 Battery charger
  • 1 MacBook
  • 1 MacBook charger
  • 1 USB modem for Internets on the go
  • 1 250GB external hard drive
  • 1 Polarizer filter
  • 1 remote release (for those moments when movement just won’t do or when I am trying to take pictures on the DL)
  • Connector cables of all shapes, colors and sizes to connect all sorts of things to all sorts of other things
  • Lens cleaners and brushes
  • 1 pair of Tom Ford sunglasses (Well, the sunglasses are usually on my face, but their faux velvet case is in the bag)
  • 1 Tripod
I need my camera for pictures, I need my computer for the occasional bit of tethered shooting (If you have ever seen America’s Next Top Model and seen that the pics from the camera immediately come up on the computer screen so someone can “oooh”, “aaah” or put a finger down their throat… That is tethered shooting… I can totally control the camera from my laptop, and that makes me feel all powerful). I also need to be able to whip out my laptop and any time and share pictures with potential clients, and then there are the pictures people ask to see which invariably tend to be on the external drive. Of course, none of that works without the myriad cables needed.

But thanks to my handy, dandy camera/laptop bag from Case Logic, I am all set to go now. Instead of having my camera bag, laptop bag, tripod hanging off of whatever and my camera hanging around my neck, (which by the way would all swing around and shift position every time I leaned forward or kneeled own to take a picture and which I would have to reposition every time I was finished with previously mentioned shot) it is all packed away nice and neat and with lots of padding that makes my equipment feel it is on holiday and keeps everything in its place.

And did I mention it is black and grey with orange detailing? And we all know how much I loves me some orange.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At The Top That Is Not The Top

I wanted to be one of the first, but in an unexpected turn of events, I was one of the last. At least for awhile…

Last week I was in Dubai on a last minute trip to get away, have a change of scenery and spend some time with Ulco, who was sick of the snow and cold of St. Petersburg. I arrived Monday night and on Tuesday morning we booked out tickets to go to the top of Burj Khalifa. The first availability was for Saturday afternoon, and thanks to Saturday evening flights, we were able to go.

After a week of lounging at the pool at the base of the 800+ meter tower and evenings spent watching one or two of the water fountain shows at the lake, we finally went inside to go to the top. Well, for starters, “At The Top” as it is called is not at the top at all. It is on the 124th floor of a building with over 160 floors. There is, in reality, an entire skyscraper above you when you are on the 124th floor. Yes, it is high up, but it is not the top. It is so high, in fact, that one loses perspective and it is more like looking out the window of an airplane. Any other building in the area is no taller than one-third of the height we were at.  That, combined with the desert made for a pretty underwhelming experience.

Add to that, the fact that the outdoor observation deck was closed due to maintenance and you can imagine we felt a little let down. After about ten minutes on the 124th floor, we came down and went to pool to look up at the top. Viewing it from below is much more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful building inside and out, causing my camera to complain of abuse, and the views were vast, but it just didn’t have the impact of being at the top of other buildings like the Empire State.

Now, the tower has been close until further notice. A friend tried to book it for his upcoming trip this week and was told they were refunding what tickets they had sold and were currently not selling any others at this time. It seems we were lucky in the fact we got to go to the top which is not actually the top, which in itself was a most unusual experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Photography

Anyone who knows me, is aware that I am having a hot and steamy love affair with my camera. So, taking a lead from Ulco's photo of the day idea, (click here and then click on "1per24" in the menu to see them...) I have decided to start a new blog, that just focuses on two of my favorite subjects, photography and me, or more accurately, my photography.

Don't worry, I am not posting albums and gobs of images everyday, just the ones I really love and enjoy for one reason or other, and I will write a little about each image, like where it was taken, why I shot it or what I like about it. I will try to post one each day, but as I am not disciplined enough for that, and I don't always have the internet to do that, I can't commit...

The look of the blog is still kind of under construction, but stop by, check it out and let me know what you think...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When Things Fell Apart

I haven’t been blogging that much lately, and there’s a reason for that. Lots of them, actually. When I started blogging, it was all about being funny, making myself and other people laugh and recording the adventures I shared with my wonderful friends. And then just over a year ago, things started changing. I lost my job, my relationship came to an end, I moved from a big beautiful house to a one room not so beautiful place, could not find a job, had a number of potential projects fall through and I spent the better part of the year sliding in and out of a depression that was sometimes paralytic. Everything I thought I had and knew about my life fell completely apart in that time. There was nothing to rebuild or repair, I had to start all over again, from scratch. I thought I would go crazy. I cried a lot, the really-big-ugly-mascara-running-down-the-face-cry. I spent more time alone this past year than I probably have in the past decade. It was often all I could do just to get out of my bed in the morning, an at times I failed at that. I rarely had the energy to be funny or witty and I am sure for the people that were actually in my company, I have not been very much fun at all. Most of the outward fun that people saw was more smoke and mirrors than a true reflection of anything going on inside. I avoided responding to emails and messages on Facebook. I ignored SMSes from people and just tried to hide away. I wasn't trying to be rude, I just didn't know what to say.

I have had people tell me I should just write what is true, what is real, but the fact is, I didn’t want anyone to see. I was embarrassed. I also didn’t want people to worry, and the people that did know what was going on, I didn’t want them to worry more. I don’t know what depression is like for others, but for me it is a very dark and grim place, and when I do something I like to make sure I do it really well and over the top, even if it is not a good thing. There were times I didn’t think I would make it, but I did. I am.

Now things are coming around, improving and looking up. I have learned a lot about myself and people in the past year. Lessons I would probably never have personally chosen to have, but now that I feel I can actually start breathing again, I am grateful. The hardest thing I have learned is to ask for and accept help. It is not an easy thing for me. The prideful person in me would rather starve than ask someone for food. I was raised to be self-sufficient and independent, and while those are great qualities, I have learned they can also work against a person. I would not have made it through without the help from a few wonderful people who were there and a couple who even threatened to knock down my door and drag me out kicking and screaming if that is what it took. I won’t name them here as they would yell at me, but they have my gratitude and unconditional love. I hope I am more compassionate, more understanding and patient. I hope I am a better friend and better partner. I hope I am a better person.

Today, at this moment, I am feeling good. I am feeling more like myself, but like a self I never really knew before, or maybe I wasn’t before.

Slowly, I feel like laughing, really laughing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beautiful People

I was at the Coffee Bean in Delhi, sitting a couple of tables over from a monk in red and orange robes who was being kept warm by a Burberry scarf and entertained via the iPod earbuds he had in his ears as he nursed what looked like a large white chocolate latte. I looked down at my own imitation blue-themed Burberry polyester that is supposed to feel like cashmere scarf  and got back to the busy work of aimlessly browsing around the internets looking for something interesting and worthwhile that would help me pass a few hours and let me think up some ideas to write about… So, there I was, minding my own business, when I discovered the site beautifulpeople.com, where I was greeted with the following text:

Welcome to BeautifulPeople
The sexiest website in the world today

  • Do looks matter to you, when it comes to selecting a partner?
  • Do you want to guarantee your dates will always be beautiful?
  • No more filtering through unattractive people on mainstream sites
  • Meet beautiful people locally and from around the world - now
  • Attend exclusive events and private parties

I tried to hide my enthusiasm and appear as cool and calm as possible outside while my insides where waving pom-poms, doing the wave and screaming YES to the above questions! I signed up immediately and pasted a picture of myself on the site. The very same picture you see here on the left...
Then the stress began. See, one does not merely sign up and then start meeting people as happens on other sites.

A few seconds after I had registered, I got the following email:


Dear Robert,

Your BeautifulPeople profile has been successfully activated.

During the next 48 hours your profile will be rated by the existing members of the opposite sex. If the majority finds your profile attractive, you will be granted coveted membership.

Please note that you are able to mail members while your profile is being rated.

Monitor your profile rating status:

During the 48 hour rating period you can monitor your running status in the rating section.


I was sure that everyone would agree with my mom and rate me as totally adorable. My blonde hair. Blue eyes. And did you see those teeth? Could they be any whiter? If I was on Grey’s Anatomy, I would be known as McAdorable, causing people to code with just a smile. It was with this level of confidence I decided I would be able to wait out the 48 hours. 48 whole hours. 48 times for the energetic cuckoo to pop out and do his little cuckoo thing. Time does indeed go by so slowly. I kept trying to log in to see how fabulous everyone thought I was, but I was always denied due to the high volume of people accessing the site, people I was sure were voting for me. Picking me. Choosing me. Loving me.

Then this morning, after a whole week, the results were in:

Dear Robert,

Unfortunately, your application to BeautifulPeople Network was not successful. The members of BeautifulPeople did not find your profile attractive enough.


Surely, there must be a mistake. I checked the picture again and yes, I was still looking good, shiny skin and white teeth. I decided to log in and check out the site, see these beautiful people that had rejected me. As I was browsing and clicking on picture after picture, a line from The Color Purple kept going through my head… It was Miss Shug saying “You sho is ugly!” I have not seen a bigger collection of ugly people anywhere since that one time I went to a professional wrestling match in Los Angeles in the late 80’s. I also checked to see who voted. Nobody. I checked to see who visited my profile. Nobody. But somehow, I rated a 4.89 out of a possible 10.

Well, I decided that one rejection was not going to hold me down. Nobody puts McAdorable in the corner! I resubmitted my profile for a re-vote. I am sure that since I have now added witty text and fully intend to post messages everywhere to drive traffic to myself, I will get voted in.

And then I will dump them.