Monday, January 31, 2005

fireworks and solid gold dancers and palaces, oh my

we've been priviledged to tag along with an indian wedding party for a few days in udaipur. wow. there is no party like an indian wedding. they held a party last night in palace grounds for a few hundred folks that included not only tons of great food, gorgeous clothes, djs, flower petal decorated footpaths, a few live bands and singers and a dance troup with several changes of sparkly outfits, but the soon to be wed couples entrance was announced with a full fireworks show. not just sparklers, mind you, but at least the equivalent of a mid-sized town 4th of july celebration. udaipur has been a great experience with several moments of extreme beauty and travel-mystery. one of those was watching the fireworks overhead exploding above the palace walls while the bats went crazy and flickered and swooped against the sky. another was walking across a dry lake bed today, surrounded by palaces in the near distance, camels in crazy outfits walking by with striking men in long coats and orange turbans, water buffalo tended by tiny old women in white and young women in bright pink s, greens, and blues with baskets of cow dung on their heads, and listening to the rythmic broadcasting of the muslim prayers roll across the landscape. very very cool. tonight we get on a 12 - 16 hour bus journey to jaiselmer where we hope to do a little camel safari......

Saturday, January 29, 2005

plans plans plans

so we're off tomorrow early morning for rajasthan, we get back the day before the tastingroom opening party, then 3 days in mumbai and we come home. where did time go? why didnt i learn hindi and take yoga? how will i ever describe the immense emotional, visual, emotional, world shaking, auditory, humongous experience this all has been to people who ask politely at parties?
we'll be home (though, personally, i'll have lived longer in india than in SF) on feb 24th. we have an art show in mid march to prep for so will be pretty distracted for the first 3 weeks but then y'all gots to come help us readjust. and you must cook delicious food for us because we are thin now. we'll post rajasthan pics (camel safari! tigers! mustaches!) asap when we get back to mumbai but won't have a lot of internet access between now and then. stay tuned......

bar from deck

bar from deck, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Zoiks. It's almost finished. Here are a bunch of photos of the tasting room, reasonably complete, but still very dusty.

You should come and see it. Really.

view from behind bar

behind bar, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

glowy bottle wall in progress

glowy bottle, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

view from entry

view from entry, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

merchandising area

merchandising area, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

merchandise area interior

merchandise interior, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

America's worst

americas worst, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

We've been meaning to post this since the election. This was the headline of a major indian newspaper the next day. The talks of America's isolation from the rest of the world at a time when some major economies are developing continue to make me sad. For all you rabid conservative Americans who might just randomly happen upon this post, please don't use us as a sounding board to express your righteous indignation that I don't know what I'm talking about. I didn't write this headline.
We're heading to Rajasthan tomorrow to begin a little traveling. Floating palaces, camel treks in the desert near Pakistan, lion safaris, bike riding through bird sanctuaries and the Taj Mahal are all part of the itinerary. Our friend Maurice is going to join us for part of the trip. We wrote him a little note to help him get safely and happily to us in Bundi about some lessons we have learned (mostly re: taxis) and figured we'd just post it here so it looked like we were writing a lot.
Advice for maurice:
1. don't bring too much baggage, or leave some in Bombay with your computer ie set of nice clothes. We'll be hauling things around quite a bit and it's a lot easier to shake a pack of rickshaw wallahs when you can bob and weave.
2. Bring some warm clothes (not Chicago warm) for the AC trains because they can be freezing cold in the heat of winter.
3. Don't take any gifts from anybody. They are usually attached to the giver by serious strings verging on ropes.
4. If someone tells you you can't go or do what you want to do, don't believe them. You probably can, but they won't make any money unless you do it their way. People will tell you the hotel you want is closed or there are no buses and you have to take a taxi and they will be lying. Sometimes someone with no commercial interest in you will be very helpful, but they are hard to discern from the rest.
5. If someone approaches you they will likely have a commercial interest in you. If you approach them, they are more likely to be helpful without wanting money.
6. Ask taxi and rickshaw wallahs about the fare before you get in. Ask a few drivers to see if the fare is fair or not. Mumbai taxis always use the meter, but in other towns you might have to negotiate the fare. Baggage up charge in Mumbai is 3 rupees per bag (maybe 5) but sometimes they will ask for up to 20. Mumbai taxis have a fare card they should show you at the end of the ride. The meters are very old and fares are roughly 15 x the meter for cabs and 10x the meter for rickshaws. The red column is for the night rate which is from midnight until 6am. Sometimes a cabbie will point to the red column to get more money if he thinks you don't know any better, but now you do. The last few days, they all seem to have cards with only the night rate which they show foreigners. If one way of scamming you fails, they will often try two or three more.
7. Make sure the taxi wallah makes eye contact with you when he says he knows the destination you want to go to. Make him repeat it. Many times they will just nod you into the car without really knowing the destination and just start driving and then ask you questions as to where they should turn. If you don't have an answer theyĆ¢??ll jump out and ask people at random following their advice hither and thither until you finally reach your destination. This is less likely if you have a fixed fare.
8. Don't let anybody pick up your bag or take it out of your cab or your hands. They will always want money for carrying it even if it is just from the trunk to the curb.
9. Don't let people guilt you about tips. Most Indians don't tip and if they do it at a restaurant it's tops about 10%. If someone carries your bag, Rs20 is good. Cabbies get a few rupees tip but we generally give them 10% because their job sucks.
10. If you give change to a beggar word will travel and you will have many more. We usually still give some rupees to the severely handicapped....
11. Don't believe little girls who tell you they don't want any money, just milk or baby formula or whatever. They'll take you to a store where the owner will jack you on the price and then they will return whatever you've given them and split the money with the shopkeeper. The baby won't get any special food. We got nailed with this one when we first got here much to the amusement of our flatmate.
12. Don't let anyone clean your ears, or if you do, know that the big ball of wax they show you at the end to let you know how useful they are is actually the accumulation of earwax of all those who came before you.
13. Expect mice and cockroaches on trains, but mostly only cute little ones (at least for the mice, cockroaches are never cute.)
14. The omelets and veg cutlets and tomato soup on the trains are tasty and okay for eating. You might want to wipe the fork off or dunk it in your boiling tea for 10 seconds to sterilize it. They'll often hand it to you straight from their pocket.
15. Don't let this list scare you, we were having fun writing it. You'll be fine. Did we mention the lepers?

my new rajasthani mustache and a dream

This is a photo of my new mustache. I met this famous Indian actor name Amir Khan who had a very sporty stache. He was a nice guy and I had just been planning to shave my deliverance mustache, so instead I just shaved part of it. Now people look at me and say Amir Khan which is funny because I look less like an american but people here pronounce it ameerican which is very similar. Ha ha ha get it. Yah. Okay.
So I had a very lucid dream before I had the mustache. Here it is. Now this is like a real blog where we share our inner secrets and post them for the world to see and then look hurt if someone makes fun of you or talks about it at a cocktail party.
A Dream
It begins in a giant shopping mall. I'm shopping with a couple of women and 2 gay guys who all seem to be friends of mine. We are looking for a present for someone. I think it's somebody's birthday or wedding. The store is immense and we keep going from room to room filled with racks of cloths and dishware and towels and all manner of stuff. It seems endless, sometimes the rooms are cavernous and lit with fluorescent lighting, sometimes they are a series of small rooms with openings between them . We go through one door and find ourselves in the middle of a huge auditorium facing a giant movie screen. The auditorium is at least a football field in size, maybe two and already filled with people. We find some seats and sit down to wait for the movie. We wait for quite a while and then somewhere in front of us an old woman stands up and begins to sing a song of unrequited teenage love. As she's singing I begin to hear a voice in my head. It is an ominous male voice narrating a story. It's own story about wanting to destroy the world. It is searching for a body to take over. As he is narrating, we approach a middle age man in a suit and hat. It goes momentarily dark and then I hear a struggle between the man and beast. There is the sound of a door opening and someone screaming as they are kicked out. The door closes. The voice mutters 'Goodbye sucker' and now me and the evil guy are inside the man's head, staring out through his eyes. I understand that the man's soul has been kicked out of his body.
So now my viewpoint is through the body's eyes. The voice is narrating. We walk through a strange house and into the garage. Now all I have to do is get to the office, get inside and find the weapon access codes. We get into an old, meticulously maintained 50's land yacht that reminds me vaguely of my grandma Hope's old car. Now we're driving. We approach a military compound. If only they see my pass, I'll be through the gate and on my way. We approach the guard and the body holds up a pass while looking at the passenger seat so that the guard can't tell that the body has turned invisible. I guess without a soul the body still exists, but the face can't be seen. The guard waves us through and we drive a little farther and park the car.. We walk to the edge of a steep rocky slope. There is a steep and craggy path down to a concrete building about 500' down. It's the man's office. In the middle of the slope, a large dead oaklike tree stretches out from the slope face. Our walk down is slow and vertiginous and the voice is slightly manically repeating it's plan. All of a sudden I feel a push from behind. I am left standing on the slope as the body with the evil guy inside falls away from me. As it falls, it hits s tree branch and the head pops off. All of as sudden there are hundreds of wooden looking heads wearing fedoras falling with the body towards the compound below. The body lands, and the heads land like a bunch of nuts shaken from a tree. When I look again, the body is gone and there are the fallen bodies of a boy and a girl. As I stare down I realize that the body of the girl is body of the old lady in the theater in her youth. All of a sudden I am back in the shopping mall with the two gay guys. They are still looking for a present.
Then I wake up and take a leak. Did I mention I had a flu and had taken some cough syrup with codeine in it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

don't worry mom

cops, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

Well. Just the other day, we were driving up to Nasik to check out the tasting room--which is looking fine I must say. A bunch of folks from the winery were coming up for a meeting so Sula hired a couple of Toyota Qualis (SUV's) and drivers to get us all to the winery. I felt like a giant, slightly lighter due to earlier food poisoning, doo doo because I had been bequeathed Stefanie's only whiteys get it flu that involves delirium, 102+ fevers and all that fun stuff. I had really planned on bailing on the trip, but somehow ended up in the car at 6 am and didn't know how to get out so away I went with all the rest.

Our car was packed and, luckily for the rest of us, laureL actually likes the very back back seat. Not only that, she can read back there on windy mountain roads. So off we go, horn a honking, car a swerving, vehicle a passing. Our driver seemed to really believe he could not be harmed. After a few close calls where we were passing trucks into oncoming traffic and actually forcing oncoming traffic onto the shoulder, we all asked the driver to chill out. This seemed to have some effect and, lulled into a false sense of calm coupled with the fact that we'd all gotten up before even the most confused roosters began crowing, we all started to drift in and out of sleep.

I can't really say what the sound effects were, but I opened my eyes just as a large white Ambassador (an Indian car whose design hasn't changed since the 50's) was deflected off our front fender with a sickening crunch of metal which could only be rivaled by the sound of crunching metal on the other side as we bounced into the side of the truck we were passing. Basically, we were squeezed out between the two vehicles like a big square metal bar of soap. We shot out sans our sideview mirrors and some paint. As the driver regained control, he began accelerating despite our protests to pull over and do the right thing.

I think laureL and Stefanie and I chose to follow the lead of our Indian counterparts and when they stopped protesting and just accepted that we were continuing onward, so did we. Hell, I don't have this country figured out yet that's fer sure.

We continued winding our way up the mountain at a slightly more leisurely pace for about 15 minutes until we are overtaken at high speed by the white Ambassador which proceeds to cut us off so that we are forced to stop. In the heat of the moment, it seemed like 20 guys (probably 4 or 5) piled out of the Ambassador and start beating on the car. One guy has a hammer and is threatening to smash things. Another guy picks up a big rock and tries to smash the windshield but only succeeds in cutting his hand and bleeding on the car. People are yelling.
Women in the back seat(but not the very back one) are screaming. Fists are pounding. They want the drivers blood.

The driver starts to open the door and someone reaches over the door and tries to pull his hair out. Adrian, who is sitting in the front passenger seat, opens his door and someone climbs over him and takes a swing at the driver. To be honest, I think everyone in the car kind of wanted to take a swing at the driver too, but we didn't think it was appropriate. I can't blame the guys in the Ambassador for being mad, but it was beginning to seem a litte too much. Meanwhile, a group of men begin to cluster around the car. There are a few motorcycles parked, but nothing that could transport the 20 or so additional guys that appear. It seems like some serious mob violence could happen.

The driver gets out of the car and starts getting man handled by the guys from the Ambassador. Adrian gets out to try to talk to people. I get out to reduce the threat of violence to the driver and start actively discouraging people from hitting him and see laureL, calmly holding onto one end of the hammer man's hammer telling him "no." "No." "No." until he lets his hammer arm go limp. Now there is shouting and gesturing all around. People are milling back and forth. People are yelling at the driver. People are yelling at Adrian. People are yelling at the guys from the Ambassador. People are yelling at people who weren't involved in anyway. The threat of violence seems to have subsided so laureL and I get back into the car. The tide seems to have turned and now the people who just appeared are yelling and threatening the guys in the Ambassador. 1 guy from the Ambassador climbs into our front seat to ride with us to the police, but the crowd outside is getting more hostile to them, so his buddies take off and he gets out of our car and starts yelling and getting yelled at and then suddenly hails a cab and splits. All of a sudden everything is calm. People are smiling and shaking hands and patting the driver and Adrian.

What the *$%@!

Adrian gets in the car and explains that all the random dudes are villagers. They are upset because the Ambassador guys were threatening to hammer us in front of their village and they don't want the bad PR. Our accident happened in front of someone elses village. It turns out they were threatening to tie the guys in the Ambassador up and then just leave them in their car as punishment for the behavior but Adrian convinced them not too (or so he says).

Anyway we all get in the car and start off again. This will be the end of part one of this story. I'll finish it later. I apologize for running on and on in a very non poetic fashion. Sometimes the words just flow out and sometimes each one is a painful burning sensation.

fairy tale tree

FAIRY TREE, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

this is a tree we passed a few times on our way to rajeev's favorite beach - i thought it was jackfruit from the road, but up close i couldn't tell what it was....maybe some sort of buckeye/chestnut relative. i though it was beautiful, though.

new years eve

new years, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

this pic is missing rohan and priya, integral parts of a great night (and i'm not smiling despite it, as i said, being a GREAT night).... but here's stefanie, rajeev, andy and i on new year's eve....

spot the dolphin

dolphin, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

one day we took a 'no dolphin no pay' boat trip from near our house that motored around the bay for a few hours. we all sort of expected our guide to point at a distant black shape and claim it to be a dolphin sighting or some terrible reject mechanical dolphin to flounder by. it actually turned out to be a great trip, the guide was a lot of fun, there was free beer and goan bbq, we finally got to see the other side of the shore across our river, inmates waved at us from the local prison (ok, that part was kinda strange, especially when we found out that some of our new mumbai friends had spent some time there), and we all took dozens of pictures of brownish green water right after beautiful pinkish gray dolphins leaped through it. we saw lots of them, tossing fish in the air, jumping and even doing sort of backflips, sometimes pretty close to the boat. then on the flight back to mumbai we could see them far below in the ocean as we rose above the ocean, a nice parting sight from goa.

goa again

shells, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

did we talk much about goa before? ummm, let's see... long time colonization by the portuguese and then a hippie invasion in the 60's followed by a rave explosion in the late 80's and general tourism has added some interesting flavors to the mix. the food tends to be diverse and tasty, lots of local fresh seafood and more safe fruit and vegetable choices than most of india (though andy and i did get pretty sick, maybe from fresh salad). it's definitely a party scene and heavily touristed, from fat sunburned retired europeans to intense stoned israelis who look like jesus, but the locals are some of the wealthiest in india, overall, and seem very happy and relaxed (though with an unusally high rate of alcoholism). you don't see the kind of poverty that you do in mumbai. even local women wear knee length skirts regularly; it's just more relaxed and was definitely a welcome break for us over the holidays. we flew down with rajeev and were soon met by rohan, priya, and rohan's friend from new york, stefanie - a really good mix of friends to spend the new year celebrations with.
my side story regarding goa is that i bought a few baby anklets on the beach from one of the kids that peddle goods there. i have a cousin who was adopted from india as an infant and who has never been here, herself. in fact, she was adopted by mormons and may be one of the only indian mormons in existence, i would guess. she just had her first baby and is curious about her roots, so i thought that the baby anklets would be a good present. after i got them i found out that this cousin was actually born in goa, so her new baby girl will have something from her mother's birthplace. i like serendipity, wheeeeee

Saturday, January 08, 2005


piggy, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

the same mama pig as i got a pic of last time we stayed in goa - her babies are as big as her now. she's a strange grunty creature with a wiggly nose who can be tempted closer with bits of bread and her eyes are strangely endearing and gentle, but she still scares me just a little.


goa, originally uploaded by seamonkeylifeboat.

here's the view from the remains of an old fort (portuguese, i assume) in goa, overlooking vagator beach and anjuna, i think