Thursday, September 30, 2004

clownyclownclown - A TALE OF TWO CIRCUSSESESZZ

clownyclownclown, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

one night in nasik we were invited to the circus with two french friends currently living there. suprisingly, we recognized a few midgets and dwarf clowns. POPULAR OPINION IS THAT NASIK IS BORING, BUT THEY DON'T KNOW. . . these were internationally known midgets from the famed documentary,'starkiss: circus girls in india.' THERE WEREN'T ANY CLOWNS THAT LOOKED LIKE THIS, THERE WERE MOSTLY SAD CLOWNS. small sad deformed clowns. THEY WERE MOSTLY MIDGETS OR DWARVES WHO DON'T HAVE TOO MANY JOB OPTIONS, AND A KID WITH A BIG ADAM'S APPLE WHO HAD HIS BOWTIE TIED AROUND IT. and they had hunchbacks and bowlegs and hit each other with bats. THEY DIDN'T HIT EACHOTHER THAT HARD WITH THE BATS, THE BAT HAD A SPLIT IN IT THAT THEY WEDGED A ROCK IN SO IT WOULD MAKE A SLAPPING SOUND--ONE TIME THE ROCK FELL OUT AND IT DIDN'T MAKE THE SOUND AND THE CLOWN THAT GOT SPANKED RUBBED HIS ASS FOR REAL. there were lots of butt jokes. and camels. there were camels and elephants. ONE ELEPHANT GOT DRUNK AND FELL DOWN AND THEN ANOTHER ELEPHANT THAT WAS DRESSED LIKE A DOCTOR CAME AND LISTENED TO ITS SIDE WITH A STETHOSCOPE AND IT WAS MIRACULOUSLY CURED AND EVERYBODY CLAPPED--WELL WE CLAPPED. another -or maybe it was the same in a different outfit- hit a soccer ball with a cricket bat and knocked over people and chairs in the audience. REVENGE IS SWEET MO FO'S, THAT'LL TEACH YOU NOT TO CLAP FOR THE GOOD DOCTOR. SHEEIT. the animals seemed well treated enough, though - the three dalmations leaping through rings of fire were terribly overweight. IT LOOKED LIKE MA, PA AND BABY SHARED THE SAME PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS AND GREAT GRANDPARENTS IF YOU KNOW WHAT WE MEAN. i learned that camels are strangely graceful when they pirouette. I KIND OF HAD THE HOTS FOR THE LITTLEST ONE, BUT THERE WERE ALSO A LOT OF INTERESTING TRAINED PEOPLE IN THE CIRCUS WHO DID ACROBATICS AND CRAZY THINGS WITH BALLOONS AND CUPS AND PLATES AND BUCKETS OF WATER. especially buckets of water - this one guy can drink about 2 buckets and then spray it back out his mouth like a firehose. IT WAS FREAKY, BUT HE'D BE A GOOD MAN TO HAVE AROUND WHEN YOUR CIRCUS TENT CAUGHT ON FIRE. i wish i could do circus tricks on a fixed wheel bike like them..... WHO SAYS NASIK IS BORING. I HOPE THE CIRCUS NEVER LEAVES.

this was an exercise in joint posting. one of us wrote in caps and one didn't. can you guess who was eating popcorn.


....sometimes i DO use caps.....

POP! a RAT see?!

photo, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

these little fuckers are everywhere. (oh yeah, I'm supposed to capitalize because laureL doesn't so you can tell us apart--I'm the boy). I swear to goodness, anytime you go to a party with Rajeev or Rohan, even a private little birthday party, there are more guys with cameras than there are guests. in your face. Laurel is always hiding from them so they keep on taking pictures hoping that she'll open her eyes and they'll get the most beautiful woman in Mumbai on CCD.

We were on a trance truck for the Ganpati festival--kind of mini love parade that a couple of muslim dj's put on to counter the Hindu Nationalist overtones that the celebration has been taking on recently. It wasn't very big, and the cameras were everywhere. I went on a counter attack and started flashing them (with my camera) as quickly as the flash could charge. There were too many of them. I was overwhelmed and out-gunned in the ensuing melee. The more I flashed, the more excited they got.

Well, here's to you boys. You may not have put my picture in the paper, but I put yours on the web.

(the woman on the right is Valerie, Sula's french winemaker)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

hand of god. and heads and rats and bellies...

ganpatidebris, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

hand of god

hand, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Ganpati is celebrated for a week, mostly in Maharashtra. Altars are built all over, table size to building sized, in tents of bright cloth hung with fairy lights (they're not called xmas lights here even though they may still play terrible tinny xmas songs from a little box on the plug). For a week statues of Ganesh are carried through the streets with chanting, incense burning, throwing of dye powder, and dancing down to the beach where they are carried out into the water and left. We went fairly early on the last big immersion day, before it was totally packed with people. you could see the heads of the larger ganeshes above the water further out and the beach was completely littered with little hands and trunks and sequinned headdresses off the ones that had already begun to dissolve. they're made of plaster of paris (covered with paint and flocking and whatnot) and cause a fair amount of environmental concern... but the beaches here are bad at the best of times anyway.

and here is our lovely tasting room

winery in progress, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

here's the shell of the tasting room a little while ago. now they've poured the balcony slab (everything is cement here). inner construction is due to start this next week. for us this means meetings meetings meetings. terrible long boring meetings where everyone interrupts each other and goes off topic and denies things they said at the last meeting.

winery construction crew

working, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

everything here is done by hand. these guys are digging out an area to install a partially underground bathroom for outside parties at the winery. i was taking the picture from an upstairs window and one of the women resting in the unfinished room called down to them so they happily posed. one of them climbed the wall and in through the window to be in a picture with the woman and her friend, too. digital cameras are great to have here because people are often so excited to see themselves in the little screen afterwords. we're hoping to make some prints and bring some back for them to have. sharing the display at least, and hopefully the prints, makes it feel a little more respectful to take photos.

redbird in the corner pocket

andy's talking me into showing some of my stuff (maybe on a little window ledge or behind a lamp, im thinking) in london, too. eeeeeeeek. this is a little bird i carved out of part of a ball i found in the park i worked at. i'm also carving fossils of city wildlife (pigeons, rats...) into bits of urban debris.


Blow, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Look Ma (i know you are out there)! ART!!
Me and loLo is going to London to show us some Art. That's what this is. Some of you might know this fellow, in some instance, you might be this fellow. Some people think I have some kind of nose fetish, but I don't. I've got other kinds of fetishes.

Friday, September 24, 2004


I can't help it. I think Anil Pimple is a funny name. It's been cracking me up for a month or so now since we found it in the phone book and had a teenage moment of wondering if we should call him and recommend that he not move to america.
Anil Pimple. Heeeheeeeheee

Thursday, September 23, 2004

tuktuk in motion

tuktuk in motion, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

autorickshaw in nasik, schoolkids in the background

a REALLY long story a few weeks overdue

ajanta falls.JPG, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

So we finally made it on our first little trip out of town (not work related). I feel a bit more like a real traveler now, had a few more intense moments of wow and ohshit and appreciation and irritation. I even, in the end, got diagnosed with dysentery a few days after returning, making me feel quite the intrepid and worldy explorer.
We went to Ajanta to see the Buddhist caves that were carved there in 2 periods, one 100 BC to 150 AD and one 462 AD to 480 AD. We were already in Nasik working on getting a temporary retail shop ready in the winery and had a great evening out on the town (Nasik is a million people and has a movie theater but is mostly dominated by farming, religion, and big industry factories). We went with Adrian and Alika, two Mumbaites from the office, Valerie, the winemaker from France who has been living on the winery and exploring the area on her scooter for the better part of a year, and a driver, Dattu, who was refreshingly open to socializing with us. We walked to the dam with the winery dog and puppies, drank wine on the patio of the guest house, ate good food at a pleasant open air restaurant, had ice cream at a nearby shop, and then tried (under their insistence) a digestive treat called paan made of a betel nut leaf rolled around coconut, limestone paste, fennel seeds, rose petals in honey, betel nut, etc... You're supposed to stuff this enormous thing in your mouth and then chew it for a long time, slowly swallowing the flavored juices until it's mostly dissolved down, then swallow it. I was glad it was dark enough to spit most of it out without anyone noticing and was immediately nauseous but put it off to too much food for the evening and kept smiling. Unfortunately whether it was the paan or something else I woke up in the middle of the night with chills, sweats, achey muscle cramps, and all the more messy aspects of food poisoning. While I spent the next day in bed, getting up only to stagger to the bathroom periodically, Andy finished up (and added to) the temporary retail room plans. So we delayed our trip for a day and took things a little slow. I hate paan.
We went to Fardapur, right down the road from Ajanta, by bus and train. I got a little more of the experience of being the white novelty than I had in the bigger cities (though there's a lot even there). We stopped for a coke in a little shop on the walk from the train station to the bus station and it immediately filled with little boys in brown and white school uniforms who surrounded us with big eyes. We sat by a few teenage girls to drink our cokes who very sweetly worked up the courage to ask my name and shake hands. On the bus two little girls caused a mini aisle jam by stopping by our seats to stare for awhile, then sat behind us and climbed up on the back of our seats with their elbows on our heads to exchange smiles. I like it better when people who are staring will smile back, it's unnerving and eventually irritating to western manners to be stared at constantly with no return expression. Kids are usually the most fun.
Anytime you get off a bus or train you're immediately rushed by men trying to get you into their car/ hotel/ shop and Fardapur wasn't an exception. It was better than some of the bigger areas, though, where tiny teenage girls holding listless babies, old women with no teeth and cataract clouded eyes, and men with no legs on rolling carts come at you from all directions holding up their palms, pointing at their mouths, and breaking your heart. We ended up walking around with one man in matching purple pants and shirt (lots of these matching suits, usually in khaki or navy, though) who claimed us as his own right off the bat and showed us around the town, which is set up in and around an old stone fort. He was rightfully proud in telling us that the town is 50/50 Muslim and Hindu, but they get along peacefully. We walked through goats and chickens and boars and their piglets with a parade of little kids behind us saying 'hello hello,' sometimes running up to shake hands and trade names in struggling English with much giggling. Word got ahead of us so that as we walked, heads poked out of all the little houses along the alleys to say,' hello hello.' Nice town. Later we got to sit on the rooftop of a hotel and listen to the Muslim call to prayer floating over the town and fields along with Hindu chanting - very beautiful while watching goat herders and boars, piglets, dogs and water buffalo wandering through the grass and boys playing cricket in the fields.
Ajanta is a tourist destination and so trains its young men to speak Japanese, English, and German and not take no for an answer. The worst of it is at the entrances to the cave and surrounding ravine area where you are, even in off season like this, swarmed by 5 -10 men holding newspaper wrapped packages of crystals (their 'shops') and trying to put geodes and stone necklaces into your hands in any way possible. They want to give you a small crystal as a token of friendship so that you'll come see their shop (an assortment of stones and maybe postcards displayed on newspaper nearby). No buying, just looking, then holding, your hand please, then good price! They want to guide you to the bottom of the hill or through the caves. They want to tell you about their brothers/cousins shop at the bottom of the hill or hotel or restaurant in town. They want to meet you later to bring you there. Years of tourists have taught them to get as many sales from people just wanting to get away as from any honest desire for their products. We managed to get free of all but 2, a younger guy who bounced down the slope to intercept us on the trail and an older man missing a few teeth with the grubby little white sailor/ghandi hat and overall look I've heard is typical to the ghati, or hill people of Maharashtra (our state), who decided that he was our guide no matter what we said. So we walked down a beautiful slope with amazing smooth stone bowls and falls carved by a little river among the green trees and occasional wandering band of black faced monkeys. We lost the younger man but picked up two little boys from the neighboring village who begged for rupees, then gum, then candy, then, oddly, gold pens until we pointed out a larger band of tourists we could see on the next slope over and they promptly ran after them. With the stone smoothed into deep hollows and ravines and green foliage dripping down along the sides above the river it was spectacular. A little further down and we could see the bend in the ravine where the caves are carved out, so after a little photo break with our guide and another young man who'd appeared and an exchange of addresses and promises to send them copies of their photos, we entered the cave site.
We lucked out in that our trip coincided with the stay of Professor Walter Spink, a charming and eccentric gray bearded man from Michigan who has been coming to India for over 50 years and is the foremost scholar on the Ajanta caves. We ended up having breakfast with him, then dinner and a bottle of wine, then breakfast again and a walk (complete with mongoose sighting, yay!) - he even loaned me a few books and posed for Andyâ??s art project in front of his books, pills, and whiskey bottles. Everyone in the village knows and likes him and has a story about how well he can dance or how he helped them or their family in some way. He lives in a hotel there close to half the year and even has two very sweet Indian dogs, Chumpy and Jumpy, that follow him wherever he goes (though Jumpy eats shoes and is so isn't allowed to sleep in his room on a chair as Chumpy is). I bring him up at this point because his stories and observations helped to flesh out what we were looking at into a whole new level. Beautiful statues and caves carved out of solid rock (basalt) complete with decorated pillars and paintings are impressive to start, but he pointed out many little details not to miss and threw in his theories of its creation as well. He says that most of the 29 caves were cut in less than 20 years, mostly during the reign of Emperor Harisena. Hindu artists did much of the work, hired by wealthy Buddhists who wanted to make offerings. He pointed out that you can tell that at a certain point work stopped due to political turmoil. The artists went to work in a safer area where the stone happened to be sandstone instead of basalt and so learned different techniques that they used when they returned. I also learned that the floors were carved to have reflecting pools to give light to the artists working in the back. It had a lot more life and interest with his stories added. Pictures will describe it better than I can, though.
Our trip home took a less pleasant bent during our 2 1/2 hour wait for a late train in sweltering heat in Jalgoan. I'm going to switch in between quoting Andy's writing about this experience and my own just to confuse everyone since I was kinda out of it with dysentery weakness and a growing migraine and Andy really stood up to the situations:
Andy - Our train was over 2 hours late which gave a group of young lads at the train station a chance to send every crazy or boozed up person over our way to see if the 2 foreigners would freak out.
The first guy to come our way was some wiry dude with wire-rimmed glasses that still had the price tag on them in a way that seemed like it would significantly obscure his vision. He seemed like a mix between a crack addict and a shaman. He had just a few rotten teeth, a hoarse creaky voice, and a manic glint in his eye as he whispered all sorts of unintelligible nonsense wisdom. All I made out at one point was, 'you are rich and she is poor (pointing to Laurel) and your money is in her pocket.' That's the second or third person to infer Laurel is a gold-digger or expensive and immediately lose all credibility for being able to read people.
Laurel's note: when Andy left for a few minutes to buy water and try and find out about the train this guy returned and locked onto me for long enough to speak in several completely different voices, from guttural demon style to the usual hoarse whisper to high pitchedâ?| about what I have no real idea but it wasn't pleasant stuff. The crowd stood around and watched, some laughing. After I was starting to lose all politeness and just turn away and ignore him he suddenly looked at his watch, turned around, and ran and jumped on a train moving through the station. Very Freakin weird - almost Jacobs Ladder kinda weird.
Andy - We had a brief period of sweating, water drinking, biscuit eating, and wondering where the hell our train was. The crazy dude had chased us from the more remote end of the station we had been told our train would arrive at to the more densely populated middle section of the platform. At some point we wandered back to where our car was supposed to stop and found a seat. After awhile an Indian guy comes up and asks in broken English what we think of his country. In a flash we are surrounded by about 30 young guys all looking down on us - slightly intimidating. The first guy seems agitated and keeps saying that his friends want to know what we think of Indians and asking why we are here. I tell him that we find Indians nice and friendly overall. He flips and flops between seeming friendly and seeming pissed off. I start to suspect he's kind of drunk and maybe slightly whack. He keeps trying to infer that we look down on the Indians because we come from a superpower and they all dropped out after 11th grade or something, but I just say it was nice to talk to him and shake his hand, then have to shake hands with everyone, and the crowd disperses.
A few minutes later someone starts pinching my leg. I look down and there's this little middle-aged man beaming up at me. He hesitates and then in timid English says, 'I want you.' I look at him and repeat, 'you want me?'
'Yes. I want you to stay at my house tonight.'
Laurel and I alternately try to explain that it's a very nice offer but we have to go to Mumbai tonight so that we can work tomorrow. Our boss is a slave driver, etcâ?| Every time it seems like he's gotten it he grins again and says,' you go to Bombay tomorrow. Tonight you stay at my house.' It's dawning on me that this guy is not the brightest bulb and he's drunk, to boot. In the meantime a good portion of the earlier crowd of young men has gathered to nudge each other and watch.
Then the first guy returns and starts asking the same questions about his friends wanting to know what our opinions of Indians are while the gang of onlookers closes in on us and leers down. He whips out a piece of pare and starts asking me about Nefertiti and what she means to us and mummies and shit and demanding to know what the word 'revelt' means. I tell him I don't know. He keeps switching fro being antagonistic to friendly. I decide to change the subject and ask him if he is a painter since his arms have flecks of blue and yellow paint on them. He starts getting agitated thinking I'm passing judgment on him and talking about some guy who sounds like a religious figure who 'makes all the laws' and I should remember that. We're both getting pretty tired of it, and Laurel's been fighting off a migraine all day, and the guys are sort of leering down, jostling each other, so I decide to stand up and equalize the balance of power. So I stand up, which has the desired and slightly gratifying effect of everyone stepping back and sort of letting out a gasp. The 'conversation' continues in the same vein a little longer, and then I thank them and ask them all to please clear out and give us a little space. The whole time this has been going on the little guy has been pinching my leg or, when I stand up, my elbow and saying positive things about what the other guy has been saying. He starts in again about us staying at his house, so we get up and leave. He follows us around pinching my elbow and, just when I think he's got it, turning to Laurel and starting in on her. We finally shake him. Laurel has been watching the crowd dynamic and says that a bunch of the guys had been revving the painter/Nefertiti weirdo up to talk to us. We settle on some packages waiting for the same train and enjoy a 30 minute lull before the little pinchy-pinch stay-at-my-house fucker shows up and starts in again. Laurel points out the group of guys and says that he'd just been hanging out with them. He seems drunker and soon gives up and wanders off. I decide to just cut it off at the source and start staring at the guys who seem to be spurring these madmen on. Anytime one of them looks at us I stare him down. Laurel is doing the same. Pretty soon no one is looking at us and our train finally arrives. Of course, after all that time of enduring the boondocks of the station and its loonies, we're standing in the wrong place and have to hustle it through the crowd along the train looking for our car. We catch it just as the train is pulling out. Our first catching of a moving train. How great is that?!


buddha, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

....and inside the caves....

ajanta caves

caves, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

coming round the bend from the waterfalls you see the caves

monkey island

monkey, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

A few weeks back (we'll be all discontinuous time stream 'til we catch up) we took a day trip to Elephanta, an island off the coast of Mumbai (which originally was made up of islands anyway). Very touristy. You take a ferry from the Gateway of India, a big showy structure the British built to recieve some royalty I can't remember, and climb long stone stairways through a gauntlet of bamboo and blue tarp tourist stalls trying to sell you the same stuff you see in chinatown in SF. The draw is the buddhist caves carved out of the rock of the island, but they're in pretty bad condition for the most part. It's always impressive when people use hand tools to carve magnificent statues and columns and chambers from solid rock, but it's kinda depressing when they're broken down and shot apart by armies and have peoples names carved in their chests. Not the point of this story, though. This story is about MONKEYS. I'd only seen a few since we got here, either cruising through garbage dumps or walking down the street on leashes so Elephanta was a bounty of monkeys beyond belief. A few strolled by near the first caves, but it's up by the viewpoint that they really show their forces. I tried to take pictures and movies of every one at first, overcome by monkeyhappiness. As I was filming a female and her babies a male walked up and climbed on her back and I realized that to the eyes of the nice Indian families nearby I was filming monkeyporn. I swear it was accidental! There were monkeys leaping in the trees, monkees sprawled on railings, monkeys walking next to you holding tiny babies and staring up hopefully....At the end of the paved viewpoint there were several tough looking older women who would scream, "Monkey! Banana!" repeatedly at you if you came near. I lingered there captivated by a puppy by my feet and the monkeymom holding a tiny baby that was especially good at looking sad and cute until, feeling touristy-silly but having to do it, I bought a banana. As I turned back around with my banana the old lady I'd bought it from shot the puppy between my feet with a slingshot to make it go away, causing it to dart out squealing and almost trip me, and the monkeymom, baby clutching her stomach fur, leaped straight up at me about 4 feet in the air to try and grab the banana. I didn't really get a second to recover before I realized that the whole scene had taken on an ominous air, all monkeys in the nearest 20 feet were slowly advancing towards me with focused intent and glittering eyes, some big scary males included.... beyond my banana's sphere of influence I realized that other tourists were being chased by monkeys so that they'd drop their bananas or throw them in fear. There was no cute holding out of banana pieces to be gently received by clever monkey paws and fed to their strange wrinkled babies - these monkeys knew when to use their cuteness and when to whip out the creepy scary factor to their best advantage.
And so my dreams that all the people who told me that monkeys are freaky and scary were wrong in some way, that they just didn't have the right animal understanding to soothe and calm the monkeys and make friends, that I was special and the monkeys would sense my supreme inner peace and become my unholy army of the night.... dashed. Gotta go to plan 2.
maybe lemurs?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


monkeez, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

it's good to have friends to spend the afternoon with.....

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

more mumbai info....

If you just find that our li'l blog is just wetting your appetite for more Mumbai, check out the just released Maximum City:Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta. We just went to the release party and got a copy - now we're tussling over who gets to read it in our little bits of spare time.
But, of course, the ultimate travel tale to be found at


ganesh, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Ganesh lives with a gecko (seems symbiotic, the light attracts bugs, the gecko eats bugs and thus performs altar maintenance) in Nasik at the guest house. He usually has a few frangipani or other flowers in one set of his hands, crystals from the nearby hills near his feet, sometimes he's surrounded by piles of red hibiscus blossoms. This is his big week - everywhere we go streets are being decorated and temples with bright cloth and flashing lights built up. Inside they build a (usually plaster of paris) statue that they will carry through the streets and immerse in a body of water - preferably the ocean. We're pretty excited to watch and get some good pictures.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


boy, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

the winery we're designing the tasting room for is in Nasik, about 4-7 hours depending on road condition from Mumbai. it's good to get out of the crowded conditions and air pollution of mumbai now and then and spend some time in the comfy guest house on the property while we have meetings with architects, etc., on site.
the day i took this pic we went for a little hike, followed by the guest house puppies in all their rolypoly mud splashing poo eating glory. we passed cows (they call them cows but they're sure not american cows, i think we'd call them zebu according to a book i bought) with egrets on their backs and herds of water buffalo. this boy was standing with an umbrella watching over the herd and singing - i tried to record the sound with my camera but just got the wind whistling. we hiked past a meditation center and up to a small run down temple where an old man in a baggy lungi (kinda like a cloth diaper) who was breaking rocks with a sledgehammer yelled at us, maybe for approaching the temple wearing shoes, we weren't sure. we walked through replanted forest area owned by the village and saw lots of colorful butterflies. the puppies rolled down a steep hill we climbed down, just rustling grass and an occasional glimpse of ears-tail-feet-ears sliding by.....
nice. except for the part where we tried to get the puppies not to eat piles of human poo behind the winery construction workers shacks. that was pretty gross.


goli, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

this is goli. she hung out with us when we stopped for a coffee after walking through the bandra street fair for awhile. she and her friend were hanging out on the steps of the cafe in their school uniforms and we traded smiles on the way in. i sat outside and we had, some more smiles, and some 'hi's as andy got his cappucino. i guess because of the uniforms (all the school kids wear them, in different colors for the different schools, some dark and light blue, some even red and pink) i was a little suprised when her friend did the ubiquitous begging mime (touch belly and then mouth, tilt head to side and nod, looking very sad, nod some more, then repeat) and she asked for rupees. it's more typical to get that from half naked dirty kids carrying listless babies. it's heart breaking and confusing and i'm sure i'll rant about it soon. there are millions of people in mumbai living in extreme poverty - many come because the areas they're from are even more poor, and at least here there is a chance (and there aren't too many mass beheadings in cities as compared to villages). they might sift through garbage and sell cardboard or bottles for recycling, they might end up in the sex trade, maybe they'll find some kind of labor in construction or pulling carts of goods, lucky ones might end up as waiters, bus boys, or servants where they have a place to stay and clean food (many waiters sleep in the restaurants at night). the severely handicapped, old women, young girls with babies, and children often beg. and you want to help. you REALLY REALLY want to help. it's not a simple issue, though, or obviously i'd hand over all the money in my pocket. i may not be rich by american standards but i'm not suffering from brain damage from malnutrition, am not likely to have boiling water thrown on my face for not bearing a male child, and am pretty sure i won't be forced into the sex trade in a country with sky rocketing HIV rates any time soon. so i want to help. but there is SO much poverty here that if you give money to someone, generally 3 more people see it and swarm you and you turn into a walking ATM - how do you choose between the man with no arms or toes and the 4 1/2 tall blind old woman with no teeth and the desperate eyed girl holding a baby on her hip and 2 toddlers by the hand? besides the controversy of perpetuating a begging culture, many times these people are basically pimped out by someone who takes the rupees away anyway and you really don't want to perpetuate that. so are you helping or long-run hurting? so far andy and i have tried to help those who are obviously too handicapped to work (does that encourage maiming of children to create better beggars? i hope not), not give too much in tourist areas where a lot of the scams take place, are talking to a new friend who works with what she refers to as 'kid jails' about where to best donate larger sums of money to try to make a real difference, and are learning to evaluate each situation, not always correctly to be sure. for the most part we say no and try to stick to it because they'll follow you for blocks yanking on your arm or clothes and you really don't want to encourage that. a white face is an invitation to begging, understandably, but if i emptied my bank account and walked down the street giving it away it really wouldn't make as much difference, i think, as finding a way to help a few kids go to school through a charity. anyway, enough with the beginning rant and back to goli.
some kids seem to just beg when they see a white face because they see other people get money that way, so at first i thought she mgiht be doing that. we joked around with her, she said,' 2 rupees, please,' and when we said no she tried for 10 and made us laugh. andy asked her about school, and she spoke enough english to say yes very proudly and chant most of the ABCs. sometimes the cafe workers would come out and make a motion and she'd back off the steps for a minute and point to the ice cream vendor across the street. her friend wandered off to lie down on a wall down the street and i noticed that her uniform was clean but worn out and her hair ribbon was just a dirty scrap. i remembered reading about kids that beg in the evening so that their families can keep them in school during the day, adding a whole new layer of difficulty to knowing what is right and wrong. i don't think it was a school day, either, so they may have been her only clothes. whaddyagonnado? so i showed her my camera, she smiled and posed, i took a pic and showed her (always brings huge smiles and bright eyes), gave her a couple rupees and shook hands. she said,' good night,' and ran off as we walked back to the fair.

the story of a package

miguel hair, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

This is a photo of an illustration of a person who reminds me of a famous person who reminds me of a friend aka SuperSize Sonny Bono aka Miguel Nelson. However, this is the story of a package, not HIS package, just your average old package.

In keeping with a device oft used by Indian newspapers, the photo does not relate to the story one iota. You see a compelling photo, usually with some half dressed attractive person, and begin to search for the story. The story below is about potholes. The story to the left is about schoolchildren or the suicides of poor farmer.

August 28th, 2004 Nasik, India

Laurel and I are waiting fot our train from Nasik to Jalgaon to see the caves of Ajanta which are supposed to be spectaculary beautiful, especially during the monsoons when all the waterfalls are in full effect.

We just spent the last couple of days in Nasik designing a temporary tasting room that I'm pretty sure will look nothing like what we spent the last few days designing. A frustrating little project where there is too little time to do something interesting and too much time to just hack something together out of whatever is lying around. Laurel has her first bad case of food poisoning and was laid out for a day and a half. (Later Laurel's condition was diagnosed as dysentery which made her feel wicked tough and worldly) I started feeling a little achey and squidgy, but managed to make it through with just a few terrible farts.

We had a good night in Nasik with Adrian, Alika and Valerie from the winery. We put away wine and replaced it with some Cannon 10,000 Super Strong Beer. Super Strong Beer would be an alkies best friend with its alcohol content of 8% and a nice mellow flavor all for the price of a regular beer. At the end of the night we tried pan. Pan is a betel nut leaf filled with all sorts of flavors including limestone paste, fennel, coconut, rose petals in honey, betel nut, a bunch of other stuff and a maraschino cherry. You take the whole leaf packet and shove it in your mouth and start chewing. Flavor after flavor squirts down the back of your throat as your gag reflex tries to stop you from swallowing the whole package and asphixiating. The whole event lasts about 5-10 minutes and is supposed to very restorative for your digestive health. I don't recommend it when you are drunk. The pan might have been what pushed Laurel's gut over the edge.

Anyway, the package. So we are waiting for the train because we got to the station a little early. The driver at the winery drives his Mahindra SUV like a madman. One heavy foot on the gas, one hand working the meep meep horn. Gas more gas swerve and gun it. Mahindra took over a jeep factory here and the Mahindra SUV is pretty well put together unlike Rajeev's dad's Ford Excessive monster mo' fo' that makes me feel shame whenever I see it.

So we are waiting for our train and an earlier train pulls in to the station. We're standing near second class and people surge towards the doors as the people inside surge to get out. The two forces meet at the cramped doors and an epic battle ensues. Children and packages are volleyed over the heads of the crowd. Old ladies gasp and swoon in the crush and the train eventually pulls out with people still pushing to get in. Stragglers run alongside grabbing the clothes of the people hanging in the doorways to try and pull themselves in.

In the meantime, in a quiet little door that leads to the freight section of the train, a man is casually lobbing packages about 6 feet onto the concrete. Laurel and I remark that we should take note for future packaging. Just then the baggage handler realizes that the last thing he has to unload is a motorcycle wrapped in burlap and pieces of foam. He climbs out of the car, eliminating my theory that maybe his feet can't touch the ground, and begins arranging the packages he has just defenestrated(detrainestrated?) It takes a moment to realize that he is stacking the packages to create a makeshift ramp. Sure enough, he gets up and pushes the motorcycle out of the car and whump whump whump down the levels of packages to safety.

and that is the story of a package as illustrated by a barbershop sign resembling supersize sonnybono in hair and mustache if nothing else.


bike, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

this pic's for my buddy, scott. almost all the bikes here are pretty much identical to this one. imagine riding carrying a 6 foot stack of crates of eggs or full sheets of plywood. little kids ride them, too, by sticking one leg through the frame to peddle if they're not long enough to reach otherwise.


babydisposal, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.



Life is valued differently here.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


societyboy, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

I really didnt know what to expect and tried to just keep an open and receptive mind while coming here - even so it was pretty suprising to end up being taken to all the hottest restaurants and clubs. The building we live in also houses Sachin Tendulkar, India's most beloved sports star, and the most desired woman in India, Aishwarya Rai. Our friend and host here, Rajeev, took us along to the opening of a new boutique where we met several models and TV personalities and tried to keep straight faces as the media popped flashbulbs in our faces and someone tried to interview me for a fashion tv show. ME. I trim my hair with Rajeevs tiny beard scissors when I have the uglies. Life is funny and strange. The next day we were treated to Andy's angelic countenance on the society page of the city paper.

mt mary ferris wheel

mt mary ferris wheel, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Addresses here are a combination of street names and directions from popular landmarks so that the postman can actually find it. We live in Bandra, near Mount Mary Steps. Today we finally found the steps and the church they lead to. Mount Mary Church is celebrating it's 90th birthday. The streets around us are lined with stalls selling sweets, clothing, toy machine guns and all sorts of weird blinky crap. Laurel, our most recent birthday girl, has been pretending all the banners are for her.

Perhaps they are.

The streets are packed with fair goers and every courtyard, playground and construction site has grown ferris wheels and little trains with funky Mickey Mouse-who-looks-more-like-a-rat icons. Mount Mary has appeal to folks of all religious denominations. Many offer wax icons of whatever it is they want to have g(G)od(s) give them. Houses, tuk tuks, hearts, arms and legs, babies, you name it. Even boob jobs and dolphins. Women here seem to have pretty big boobs, at least in the gym which is populated by aspiring Bollywood actresses, but maybe they have all been blessed by Mount Mary.

So anyway, this picture is in the playground of the Catholic school right around the corner from our apartment (see the red cross). They crammed 5 or 6 creaky groaning whirly things into it and created a spectacular collection of things that spin filled with people who go "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee". We ended up putting a group of 5 little street kids on one of the smaller, hand powered ferris wheels. It made them happy and gave us a chance to wander unencumbered until our magnetic personalities attracted the next bunch.

That's all for now. I just can't tell you how excited I am that we finally have a bloggy thing. This can only be attributed to Laurel's persistence in sorting through the various options to make it happen. We'll see if my excitement lasts.