Thursday, February 28, 2008

How They Do It In Goa
We’ve relocated to the rat-free Resort Melo Rosa, just around the corner from Rolf and Marci’s. Last night was the first in our new digs. I sacked out at about 8:30 (I know, I know: pussy). I could just barely hear the dull, repetitive 130 BPM thud of techno coming from a top-floor room in a building across from ours. Dudes were setting it off!

I woke up this morning at 4:30 and went about my morning routine. I left for yoga practice a little after 6. They were still setting it off! The music was still bumping, a couple people were chilling on the balcony, and I could even make out the flickering on-off pulsing of a strobelight.

I got back from yoga at 8:30. It was full daylight outside and the hand of summer heat was beginning to push down.

Motherfuckers were still partying! I could hear the music, and the soft but distinct murmur of voices. A couple hardy souls were out on the balcony, staring down the morning.

Now that, my friends, is how you party.
Things I Am Into In India That Otherwise I Would Not Be Into
1. Pepsi.
It is so fucking hot that I have had a mega-epiphany, which is like a Super-Sized Big Gulp epiphany: ice-cold sugar syrup with a gallon of caffeine is absolutely fucking brilliant.

2. The Dog Whisperer
Marci has turned us on to this show and we’ve been freebasing like, three episodes a day, easy. Carlos Millan, the Dog Whisperer in question, is serious skill in action. We’ve also started incorporating his techniques into child-rearing. Sh!

3. Goa Trance
When in Rome.

4. Eat, Pray, Love
Yeah, I read that shit. My favorite part was when she goes to Bali, and her sensuous older Brazilian lover introduces her to the joys of anal --- wait, maybe I’m thinking of another book?

5. Jackie Chan
I’ve never been a big Jack fan, because while I think the stuntwork in his films is brilliant, I can’t stand the oafish clowning he tries to fob off as “comedy.” Still, I bought a couple of those bootleg DVDs that have 14 movies on 'em, and one of ‘em had nine Jackie Chan movies on it. I watched Crime Story and City Hunter and was seriously feelin' 'em. I watched 'em without subtitles, too, just straight-up Cantonese. Gangster.
Things That Will Disturb Your Meditation During Finishing Poses On Rolf and Marci’s Back Porch
1. A fly landing on your eyeball.
2. A mosquito on your lower lip.
3. A fly in your ear.
4. A mosquito on your urethra.
5. Discursive thinking about numbers one through four above.
6. Recursive thinking about numbers one through five above.
Ascending Hierarchy of Pain Relief, as Provided by the Chemist, per Single Pill
1. Ibuprofen, 400mg.
2. Ibuprofen, 400mg, plus paracetamol, 400mg.
3. Tramadol muscle relaxer, 50mg.
4. Tramadol muscle relaxer, 50mg, plus ibuprofen, 400mg.
5. Tramadol muscle relaxer, 50mg, plus ibuprofen, 400mg, plus paracetamol, 400mg.
Why We Moved Out of Our Flat
“There’s a mouse in the pool, Daddy,” the kid tells me.

“A mouse?”

“Yes, Daddy, a mouse! A mouse!” She says the last bit slowly, plaintively, making sure I understand. Tara and I had done the Kid Handoff at the yoga studio, and Rowan and I had just pulled into the driveway of our flat.

Sure enough, she’s right. There is a mouse in the pool. The “pool” is a small pond at the head of the driveway, and serves as the center-point for the two flats and the large garden that make up our little compound. The pond is about a foot deep, with a foot-and-a-half lip. It’s perhaps 5 feet in diameter, and has been tiled with blue and white shards. An incongruous maple leaf design made from blue tile pieces sits in the white bottom. A short palm hangs its leafy arms over a pedestal with a statue of Mary on it, and Mary in turn looks down on the water. The 18-inch statue has been placed in what looks like a large glass ampule, as though perhaps a giant will amble by one day and toss back the mother of Christ like an ibuprofen.

Queenie Fernandes, the owner of the property, has three turtles that she lets flap around in the pond; the lip is high enough that there’s no risk they might climb out. The turtles have thick red swatches around their eyes, which you can see when they extend their heads from their shells. They do this when Rowan and I lean over and reach towards them. They’re fearless turtles, apparently, and it’s almost like they want to be petted. Queenie feeds them puffed rice, and once a week lets them eat some meat.

The turtles only swim when Queenie is at home, though. “People will come to steal them,” she tells me. “I can’t leave them in there without someone around.”

On the day Rowan spies a “mouse,” however, the turtles are not in the pool. It’s not actually a mouse, of course. It’s a dead rat that’s a foot-and-a-half-long.

The rodent must’ve fallen into the pool during the night and paddled about ineffectually, unable to claw its way up and over the lip. I hadn’t seen it that morning because I leave for practice when it’s still dark.

Let me tell you something about rats: where there’s one...

Goa was for a long time a Portuguese colony, and the Portuguese influence is writ large across this part of India, from the Spanish surnames and churches to the Christianity and the architecture.

Many houses are built with front-gabled roofs covered with red tiles. They slant upwards at a 45-degree angle on either side to meet in the center, which is different than, say, Mysore, where most houses have flat roofs. The ceilings are unfinished inside the flats, so you can peer way up to see the support ribbing and the underside of the tiles.

I don’t know if this is common, but in our flat there was perhaps a foot of overlap where the roof hung down and over the walls --- meaning there was a foot of open space through which moths, mosquitoes and flies could pass.

In our bedroom, part of the ceiling tiling had been replaced with sheets of corrugated tin. We would wake several times in the night to the tik-tik-tik of rat paws scraping across the roof, rat paws doubtless belonging to some 2-foot-long rat. And at least twice a night there would be a loud, rattling thump as something big and heavy landed on the tin. Dust, dirt and leaves would flutter down on our beds, and Tara and I would lie there, staring upward, waiting to hear if whatever was on the roof made its way into the house. I began sleeping with a broom stick next to the bed.

The open space between wall and ceiling meant that one morning, after I had gone to yoga, Tara was awoken by a furtive, panicked rattling in the kitchen. She woke up Rowan, and the two of them stood outside the darkened kitchen as something rocketed about, trying to find a way out.

“Mommy was freaking out,” said Rowan. Tara hurled a few empty water jugs into the kitchen, and whatever was there managed to find its way back out.

It’s gotten particularly bad during the last week, so much that Tara has been lying in bed, wide-eyed, staring up at the ceiling, unable to sleep. We woke up three times last night to rats on the roof, and that was it. We moved out. We’re spending our last week at Resort Melo Rosa.

I tend to be fairly ambivalent about pests --- hey, as long as I’m asleep when they’re around, I’m good --- but Tara does not like rats (or snakes), and by “does not like,” I mean “is pathologically terrified of.” But you gotta draw the line somewhere, and really, finding rat droppings in your bedroom was the final straw.

On the day we found the dead rat in the pond, we returned from breakfast to find that Queenie has thrown in the turtles. The dead rat is still there, and the turtles are beginning to eat the rat, nipping and pulling at it, worrying it with their mouths. That week, they got their meat a little early.

After that, Rowan and I don’t reach out to touch them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Chemist
Okay, we need to talk about the chemists in India. They’re these hole-in-the-wall little storefront shops, much like any other in India. But inside is a plethora of magic. In India, it’s assumed that if you can afford medicine, you know what you’re doing with it. So you can go to the chemist and buy two pills, or 10 pills, or a hundred pills, of whatever you fancy you need. It seems that most medicine is sold by the strip, and not by the bottle.

What’s incredible is that you can get anything --- and I mean anything --- but opioids, straight-up, over the counter. No questions asked and no prescriptions necessary, which makes this place unlike even Tijuana, where you have to go through the formality of paying a doctor $30 to write you a prescription.

I haven't been getting too crazy, but as Goa is a mecca for moonlight partying, the guys in the chemist shops start trying to sell you stuff the moment you walk up, which is how I became fully aware of the potential of these places. "Hey, hey, you want pain-killers? Sleeping pills? You want ephedrine? You want steroids?" the guy asked. "You want ketamine?"

Over-the-counter ketamine? Holy shit. You'd better believe all my friends are getting strips of Viagra.

I'm trying to convince Tara that we should become the hopelessly decadent 70s couple, with a stand-alone mirror-top bar in the corner of our house and bowls placed strategically around the house, bowls that hold a rainbow plethora of pills: uppers, downers, in-betweeners, 'luudes, Xanax, Prozac, Nembutal, Percocet, Percodan, what-have-you.

Don't worry! We'll keep the bowls out of reach of the kid.

We would also need a disco ball. Ah, the good times we could have.

I have been using this medicated heat balm that is the hot fire! It's some sort of unguent made from equal parts napalm and the sun's chromosphere.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Know Your Goans
Dangerous over-generalization? Why not? There are roughly three camps in Goa you will find rocketing past you on motorbikes, clogging the restaurants and beaches, and stumbling homeward on the road-side, wildly inebriated.

Firstly, you got your hippies who washed ashore Back in the Day and never left. They might be a bit older, a bit grizzled, their skin cured and tanned to a terrific beef-jerky like consistency. They might wear orange fisherman pants with a yellow kurta covered in om symbols; they have, in a word, "gone native."

Next, you got your crusties, basically the extras from the Babylon rave scene in Matrix Reloaded. (Remember, in the future we will all listen to techno.) Distinguishing characteristics include fierce black dreads down to the ass, which I imagine to be an incredible comfort in 30-degree weather (that’s Celsius), as well as tattoos and piercings. Crusties tend to be garbed in torn, tattered and multi-layered clothes constructed from the surplus uniforms of all the world’s armies. The more utility pockets, the better.

Finally, you have your tourists. You can spot them fairly easily ‘cause they just look so fucking lost and out-of-place and sunburned wherever they are.

Where do we fall in these categories? I don't know, though the scooter rides and incessant heat have put paid to my Bowie-circa-Ziggy fringe-and-earflaps hairstyle --- riding the scooter is like driving into a molten hairdryer, which leaves my hair shall we say quite Kramer-esque. Thank god I am married, and Tara is forced to both do my bidding and find me attractive, or I would have a lot of time on my hands for meditation.

It is so goddamn hot, though, that I find myself eyeing loose, billowy, white India-style shirts and fisherman pants every time we go out because they look so comfortable, though both Tara and I have a standing policy not to buy any clothes we can't and won't wear anywhere else in the world.

Note: I resisted, strongly, the urge to use the title "Goan Crazy!" for this entry.
Tolerance for Roughing It
As I age, my tolerance for “roughing it” decreases. The two are so directly related that one could derive a precise mathematical inverse proportion that could be graphed. My enthusiasm for, say, sleeping in my car at a music festival, or sleeping under the DJ booth at a three-day beach party, or sleeping in a Las Vegas hotel’s poolside deck chair has greatly diminished. I’m not saying I need the SoHo Grand, mind you, I just don’t need foot-long rats in the kitchen at 4 a.m.
Again, Mosquitoes
Rowan, at age 3, has the metabolism of a small thermonuclear reactor, and as a result radiates waves of molten heat. Every mosquito in a one-hundred-meter radius homes in on that heat.

Our 3-foot-tall pile of magma is also so fair-skinned as to be translucent, so the host of mosquito bites she received in our Mumbai hotel room swelled to an angry, impossible red. The bites on her face made her look puffy and disfigured, although she smiled and laughed through all of it.

Thankfully, I’ve acquired a fantastic anti-itch cream from the chemists, we’ve secured netting for her bed, and now also liberally coat her with Odomos anti-mosquito gel when we head out at dusk. She asked what the family on the Odomos tube was doing --- the picture is of a fair-skinned Indian man, woman and child, holding each other and high-beaming pearly white smiles as, surrounding their heads, a shimmering shield of Odomos anti-mosquito gel repels the insects.

“They’re under a mosquito shield,” I told her.

“I want a mosquito shield for our family, Daddy!” she said.

The industrious little fuckers still find places to bite her, though. She came home the other night with three new bites, all on her fingertips, where the anti-mosquito gel had been rubbed off.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

>Mega Photo Fun Issue!
Fuck Avedon, this is where I get all Frank Capa/Robert Frank on your asses! Welcome to the Mega Photo Issue of Leaping Lanka.

I’m currently nibbling on stale samosas at Cafe Coffee Day in Calengute, washing them down with a windshield-wiper-blue ice drink called a Granita, which bears a striking resemblance to a blue Slurpee from 7-11. Just to keep things yogic for the idlers in Mysore glued to the blogs like bystanders at a car wreck, I’m conscientiously engaging ashwini and vajroli mudras, and a touch of mula bandha --- that’s like, three koshas, bitches --- gauging how much writing I can fit in before I have to sprint for the toilet in this, the latest round of intestinal Armageddon.

Calengute, by the way, is a little town in northern Goa that was apparently the first beach-head of the hippie invasion in the sixties, and which has subsequently become a relatively blown-out and disgusting package-tour destination for British pensioners.

Let me just say, I thought Southerners in the United States took the record for most outstanding rolls of sunburned neck-fat, but as I mentioned in a previous post, the Brits are seriously holding it down! Good work.

Snaps, Round I

Our luggage. Look at all that shit! I tried to convince the wife we should just take the clothes on our back and a Swiss army knife (or a Leatherman multi-tool, her pick), but she put her foot down and demanded “a change of clothes” and “clean underwear” and “toys for the kid” and other sundry non-essential (i.e. wussy) gear.

Judging by the fact we had a window row, this was the flight from Portland to JFK. Note that despite the blurry, or what I like to call “artistic” quality of the photo, neither Tara nor I look appreciably haggard, this despite rising at 3:30 to catch a 6 a.m. flight. Casey Palmer, at the time addressing his own jet lag, or as I call it, The Lag, was kind enough to ferry us to PDX.

We had a grizzly layover at JFK --- seven fucking hours. We mounted up, rode the subway into the City, and emerged from the tunnels into the daylight of the Village, blinking like the gnomish tourists we were. We ate pizza and risotto at a corner Italian restaurant that offered a completely gluten-free menu. Fucking fruitcake New Yorkers, they’re worse than Californians.

I don’t recall sleeping much on the 14-hour flight to Mumbai. I was too engrossed in this little game called Bookworm that was available on the monitor in the headrest of the seat in front of me. It was sort of like Scrabble plus Tetris plus a word search. Shit was crack-rock. I’m sayin’, though, they had mad kid’s shows --- Dora, Hannah Montana, the works --- and Rowan was occupied almost the entire time.

We hit Mumbai, and after an interminable time spent trying to find a hotel from the airport --- please note: book ahead --- we scored room 12 at the Ace Hotel, where we would spend the next 12 hours.

Unfortunately, none of that is revealed in this photo. What is revealed is that, despite our trials and tribulations, and the fact that at this point we’d slept perhaps 2 hours of the last 36, my wife looks fantastic.

Which reminds me, traveling with a kid is like being an adolescent all over again ‘cause you have to fucking sneak around like teenagers in order to make out. I’m a grown-ass married man! I shouldn’t have to feel like a sneak-thief when I wish to fondle what, I keep explaining to Tara, technically I own, i.e. her person.

So we arrived at 10 p.m. Friday night. The flight to Goa wasn’t until 2 the next day. Naturally, we all had a strong dose of The Lag, so everyone was wide awake at 4 a.m. Our hotel was near the airport, so there was fuck-all to do. We lapped the block once to confirm that yes, we were in India, then headed back to the room, where we spent 9 hours watching Indian TV.

The crib, in all its glory! You’d be hard-pressed to find a place more uncomfortable than this!

Bamboo furniture, minimal padding? Check.

Hard-ass marble surfaces everywhere? Check.

No screens on the windows? Check.

Top-floor placement, for maximum heat containment? Check.

Foot-long rat in the kitchen at 6 a.m.? Check.

Have I mentioned the smell of human shit that wafts through the bedroom window every hour?

I also forgot the oppressiveness of the naked glare of a fluorescent bulb, which gives our flat the charm of a police interrogation room or bomb shelter.

Perhaps my favorite amenity is our bed. It is exactly, precisely, painfully 4 feet wide by 6 feet long. I am 6-feet-2 inches tall. Lest you think my wife laughs her 5-foot-4-inch frame to sleep every night,, please take into consideration that the mattress, if it may be called that, is actually a giant sack of concrete, or perhaps a reproduction Spanish Inquisition-era torture device. This is Goa, after all, which was for a long while a Portugese colony, and I know that repro furniture is all the rage with the kids these days. If only they’d gone Eames instead of Torquemada.

Lodging in Goa is a tough call --- we could’ve spent the dough for a “resort,” but most of ‘em would’ve cost more than a month’s rent in Portland. We could drop some dough in getting some bedrolls and cushions for our place, but incentive is pretty low because we’re only here a month.

It’s easy to whinge. But it’s India, what did we fucking expect?

The ladies like to keep it lovely; this is the entrance to the bathroom, in which Rowan has observed Daddy peeing directly into the grate in the floor.

“Daddy, why are you peeing on the floor?” she asks.

It’s important to be honest with them. “Well sweetie,” I say, “it’s because I can.”

Rowan is scoping out our porch. Jesus, that is one psychedelic dress.

Rowan shows off some of her latest watercolors.

Rowan models her motorcycle helmet. The kid rides shotgun on the front of the scooter. She’s like a dog in a pickup truck --- hands on the dash, face out in the wind like the carved statue on the prow of a pirate ship, wind in her eyes, tongue no doubt out and lolling to the side. You will note the copious heaps of toys in the background, as well as the laptop, which was no doubt playing Princess Mononoke or My Neighbor Totoro or The Last Unicorn.

We’ve been frequenting this spot called the German Bakery. I will say one thing for Goa --- you can get cappucino everywhere! The food here is so off the Richter --- tofu, real croissants brushed with egg white that just flake apart in your hand, fucking salads with lettuce even. I think I’ve had Indian food once, and it’s not for lack of trying --- everything here is so geared up for tourists, it’s ridiculous. But everything is fresh made from scratch and just so tasty.

You’ll note that Tara is, in this photo, looking a wee bit fatigued at having to cater to Rowan’s every whim. The Lag, plus massive input of new stimuli, plus disruption of regular routine means that we, or should I say Tara, gets a few days of a weepy, clingy, mood swingerific child. A bit of hatching took place shortly after this photo was snapped.

A pre-yoga practice pic, snapped by Rowan! Diane Arbus, look out. Er ... anyway, Rowan hasn’t quite figured out how to get people’s heads into the frame yet. She wanted a photo of Ella the elephant and Mommy in baddha konasana.

Monday, February 11, 2008

We Made It
The journey was long --- so very, very long --- but uneventful. Rowan went on blackout during a huge chunk of the NYC-to-Mumbai leg and I became ensnared in a little game called "Bookworm" that I played on the TV mounted in the seat in front of me. In-flight TVs are absolutely frigging genius --- the kid watched Spongebob, Hannah Montana and sundry other Time Eaters and Tear Preventers.

Got a bit of the hotel runaround trying to book lodging in Mumbai, and had a Layover: The Extended Remix before flying out to Goa the following day. Goa is trippy --- very spread out, but very Indian in that when there are towns or villages, they're incredibly densely packed. There are several beaches up and down the coast, and we're still trying to sort out which nationality runs what beach. But hey, don't be fooled --- we're still very much in India.

Jet Lag

The kid has been holding up very well, but the Lag means she runs from zero to meltdown in perhaps 45 seconds flat. She also fell asleep face down on the scooter speedometer yesterday, mid-scooter ride, which I didn't actually believe possible until I saw it happen. Jet lag to a 4-year-old looks a lot like narcolepsy.

I just got to give a big shout-out to all the Brits, Kiwis and Aussies out here in Goa --- you know, us Americans get all the credit for being the fattest fucks on the planet, so lemme just say I'm glad to see you people holding it down lovely! It brings me such a thrill to see you people trundling around shops and restaurants, sun-burned bellies pouring over your hastily purchased fisherman pants, sucking down frightening quantities of lager, chips, and especially chicken curry.

Yoga with Rolf?

Day one: flying.