Friday, April 23, 2004

Jan's show was last night, and it was fantastic. She had 36 paintings displayed; the museum in nearby Amstelveen was a wonderful venue. There was space for Jan's largest canvases to spread three across with room to breath. Filling various spaces and winding paths everywhere one walked there was an encounter with beauty. Jan was recognized as a modern landscape artist bringing a unique style to the field. How incredible it all was. The people attending were quite lovely. After most had passed on to other engagements, a small number of us made our way across the street for a toast and a bite. The evening was an overwhelming success, and we all raised our glasses to Jan's success.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Chiang Mai was really good to me. It was restful. I read a lot. I practiced more yoga than I have in a while. I have been sitting more. I also enjoyed their upcoming Spa services as well as Thai massage. The food was great. I enjoyed lots of juice shakes, including coconut, which I hadn't had until there. Although, it was much the pina colada without the rum. It was a nice stay. I wasn't in the mood to visit the wats that Josh suggested, and I couldn't find some people he mentioned I should see. I got to a couple restaurants Howie suggested, and I even made a few friends of my own. It's nice when traveling is a collective effort. This time was more about being alone than anything else though. I have spent so much of this trip with other people that it was nice to wake up solo and decide where to head off to.

I'm in Bangkok now, and I'll be here a couple nights before heading far Westward. The several times I've been here I've acquired a few favorite spots including a pizzeria which rivals those I found in Florence. And, they have amazing movie theaters here, so I'll try to get caught up a bit.

I saw Big Fish the other night, and for those that haven't seen it I highly recommend the expereince. Tim Burton is a personal favorite of mine, and he's really done an amazing job with this film. Fancying myself as a bit of a storyteller, this film makes my jaw drop. I laughed, I shuddered, I shed tears too. The film has it all.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Initially, I didn't believe this week would make me a hermit. However, Thailand's Songkran festival was in full swing. Songkran or Thai New Year is supposed to be a three day affair. This year it fell on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So, add Sunday and Monday to the mix, and you have quite the holiday. An essential component to this celebration is dousing one another in water. In other words the city turns into a barage of pickups marauding the streets with all varieties of water. There is clear water, mucky water, smelly water, chilly-cold water, and my least favorite of all, all of it. Have a water war is one thing, but when it's involuntary and one is unable to merely walk down the street without some giggly swarm of people dumping bucket and gun loads of water on you it becomes obnoxious. Multiply that by five days, and you have your explination as to why I spent many many hours holed up in my room. Now, that in itself was not entirely bad, but it wasn't voluntary. On the plus side so many thousands of people loved it, and I too had a good time. Really though, I didn't need five days of it. I met some lovely Chiang Mai University students who daily could be found outside the beauty parlor owned by one of the group's mother. Yesterday, the last day of the festival, I headed over to the parlor armed with a bottle of San Som (Thai Whiskey), and we sat around imbibing for a bit before all loading up into a pickup and heading off for the festivities. It wasn't long before the cab of the truck was gushing water from every bit, and we were soaked to the bone. This was the part I expected, and I had seen where a lot of the water came from before, so I wasn't too surprised that this bit smelled a little. There is a moat surrounding the old part of the city, and you guessed it, that's where a lot of the water comes from by the bucket load! After leaving the moat we went a couple other places including some hotel shopping complex where the streets were bumper to bumper. We parked the car and joined in the celebration. I witnessed a mob of about thirty chasing perhaps one or two over zealous revelers which was broken up by the police in short order. I even restrained somebody in a separate incident where about five to ten were pounding brutally on one or two. My involvement was short lived as my friends told me everything was perfectly okay and that I should relax. I told him he was correct, since we weren't getting the ever loving shit kicked out of us, everything was okay. The principal English speaker of the group was probably the drunkest, and he couldn't stop apologizing for five hours. I get a bit fed up with him and in particular being soaking wet without being able to leave. I was ready to reach the hotel about three hours before I actually got there, but c'est la vie. I saw how the party goes around this time, and I assure it is a holiday you couldn't pay me to return to. All that being said it is beautiful here in Chiang Mai, and now that I can freely walk the streets with only my sweat to drench me I plan on seeing more of the city. I really love moats except when they're encroaching on me!

While I was in Delhi Karim had talked about his awe of Muay Thai, Thai Boxing. He asked me repeatedly in the several weeks we spoke to attend a match. It was something Dana and I spoke about doing last time we were here, but I was pretty so so about the idea. Well, okay, Karim asked me to go, so I did. Not long after arriving the host at the hotel asked if I would be interested, there was a fight this past Tuesday. I got the ticket, and I went to the four hour event somewhat early on. I saw the juvies fighting, and it was not too pleasant for me. As I sat there watching gloves and bodies connect as well as shin to shin I shuddered. I had this horrendous thought of splintering bones and tears began to role down my face. I really hate violence so much. I sat there a couple minutes longer then decided it was my time to exit. No point in arguing with the guy who wanted to mark my hand for re-admittance it was over before I could gesture. And, I had a pleasant walk back to the hotel. Wow, I couldn't stand it, and I didn't even see the big guys fight. The little kids were enough to re-affirm any disliking for that sort of contact. I am pretty finicky about the contact I don't mind. This is the reason I never played basketball in high school. I got an elbow in my back going for a rebound and decided it was not worth my aggravation. Karim, I went, and I just can't say I see the same beauty you do in boxing, Thai or otherwise.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

India was inviting to me on many different levels. An area that spoke to me most was hospitality. I was trying to put this into words the other day, but it was difficult because the sentiment is so strong. It was difficult to leave for this very reason. There was so much emphasis to welcome and host, "Oh, what do you need?...Can I?... What do you?" As a guest you it takes a while for this to settle as your role. From then on everything runs at an amazing pace. People often note the streets as one place they are completely out of place. Bombay had small streets with people and motorized vehicles absolutely positively everywhere. With some luck Delhi has wider streets from the development in their post independence days, but the streets are more likely to be shared by cows more than pigs. Lucknow has more of the pigs, and generally the traffic there is not to bad if you're not near the main market. Streets don't need paint because nobody complies with notions of lanes. This is something Prashast and I often disagreed about. He would drive up the left side to the front of the traffic then scootch a bit to the right to be in front and follow the right turn arrow. Though obnoxious the manuevers were rarely unsafe. There is a process of merging or turning which is confounding to me. In the states there are three rear view mirrors. In India, a car rarely has two; even if the second one is there (driver's side) it is often tucked in because of the perpetually nearly sideswiping passerbyers. So there it is, always looking forward, listening to what is happening. We almost always drove with the windows down, and there was no music system in the car. It was only in the last couple days that I understand better how this operation worked. Two cars passed by simultaneously, and Prashast explained how disorienting it was when the noise doubled like that. Otherwise, he's understanding where everything is by listening and seeing ahead. Somehow, even with all the mirrors I haven't figured out how to avoid causing serious damage to my own vehicles and unfortunately others' as well. I spent some time on the roads particularly in Delhi. It is something else compared to anything I have to use as examples. By far the most concerning was the rides through the mountains. Left Right Left Right Tires gripping the pavement for dear life, and you'd often see an accident or two. Amazing how the reckage of two trucks folded into one another with realities biting permanance. They often hit with such force that there is a play drawn out in their final motions. Any other kind of accident and the cars move along where possible. These I am recalling have nowhere to go. They seemingly become part of the landscape at least forever that way in my mind. There's an incident on the road I will likely take to my last days, and I still wonder how it turned out. Prashast and I were off to meet his sister Gayatri and her boyfriend Jayant. As we came down a flyover past the Delhi Golf Club we noticed a guy crumpled in the middle of the street. Without much confidence I asked Prashast if we should stop to help him in some way. We pulled off to the side backed up a bit then got out to see what was happening. Prashast went for the security guard, and I stood a couple feet away from this guy and guided traffic away from him. Judging from how close the trucks and cars were coming to me standing in the middle of the street directing people away this poor soul would not have lasted all that much longer. For whatever reason several more people now joined Prashast and me to assist this guy. One person came up to me and asked if the guy was still alive. I told the questioner that he was. This guy then proceeds to lift the man from the street by lifting up under his arms and crudely repositioned him to the sidewalk. I didn't want to move this injured person for fear of futher hurting him. The other guy explained to me that it was India. He tried to ask the guy a couple questions, and one that was later translated for me shocked me. He had asked if the injured man wanted more drugs. Shockingly, the police didn't have much more sympathy than this. When they arrived 20 some odd minutes after we called them they explained the injured was a beggar and a doper. They said no hospital would except him, and they were content to leave him there. Prashast and I didn't stick around through the resolution of the incident. We decided to head on to our engagement for the evening. I couldn't help the way I felt. I was grieving, and then somebody asked why I hadn't stuck around if I was so concerned. They asked if I had done everything that I could do. Jay was amazing for me that night. We left the loud music and drinks I didn't want to have any part of and we walked around to chat a bit. His words were healing in a time that I needed them so much. He said anytime I wanted to he would take me to parts of Delhi that would forever change my perception. I never took him up on the offer, but seeing what I did has had the same effect even if only a single incident amongst a billion people.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Hello and love from Thailand! I am in Chiang Mai now. I arrived at the hotel around 12 this afternoon, and I slept until 8:30. It was amazing how quiet it was. India taught me a great many things amongst them that life is not quiet. That's all good and well except a brother needs some sleep now and again. This past week has been a whirlwind doing all the things Prashast and I had been talking about but not necessarily doing. Karim and I went head to head in some more chess matches, and there was also another guy that started coming in the last week, Amrendra. I told Karim that if he kept beating me then wanting to play for money that he was a hustler. Well, the other night I took him to the internet cafe to teach him about yahoo chess, but he told me that he didn't have enough money to use the internet all the time. Then, I find out after he left that evening he had bet Karim 500 Ruppees that he would again beat me. Some people have it all mixed up. I however don't; India was amazing for me. The people, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the FOOD. It was all there, and I reveled in it each day I was there. I will spend some time this week trying to purge some thoughts because there are so many accumulated.

To everyone that I met there and whose company I enjoyed so dearly, I say thank you. It was a pleasure. I promised many people I will return one day. There is so much more of the country to see. All in good time I say.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Delhi has been treating me well these past weeks. As the temprature has risen my movements have become a bit more calculated. It reminds me of the days in New Orleans where you step outside and you've once again showered. The heat is the same; although, Delhi is dry, dusty dry. It's not my favorite climate, but luckily I won't endure the summer here. I can't imagine it getting up to 115-120F, whoof. Next stop Thailand. Early Saturday morning I will leave Delhi headed for Bangkok, then I'll switch planes and head for Chiang Mai. My good friend Josh spent some time there participating in retreats and the like. I don't expect to get involved in anything like that for such a short period, 8 days. But, I will likely find some yoga or other modes to just relax. I took very well to the Thai style of massage. Dana and I had an amazing time last we were there in this regard. A couple days in Bangkok after that, and once again I'm airborn off to Amsterdam for Jan's art show. Alright, I may have mentioned it before, but I am incredibly excited. I love supporting my family and their efforts. I draw so much strength from everyone, and it is beautiful to be able to celebrate our talents and successes together!