Saturday, June 30, 2007

NBA Draft Results, Last 10 Years

Here's a list of the top 5 players as of now, according to me, from each draft since 1997 and where they were selected.

1997 - 1) Tim Duncan; 3) Chauncey Billups; 9) Tracy McGrady; 43) Stephen Jackson; 2) Keith Van Horn.

1998 - 9) Dirk Nowitzki; 10) Paul Pierce; 5) Vince Carter; 4) Antawn Jamison; 32) Rashard Lewis.

1999 - 1) Elton Brand; 3) Baron Davis; 9) Shawn Marion; 4) Lamar Odom; 7) Richard Hamilton.

2000 - 43) Michael Redd; 1) Kenyon Martin; 8) Jamal Crawford; 18) Quentin Richardson; 17) Desmond Mason.

2001 - 28) Tony Parker; 31) Gilbert Arenas; 3) Pau Gasol; 5) Jason Richardson; 13) Richard Jefferson.

2002 - 9) Amare Stoudemire; 1) Yao Ming; 35) Carlos Boozer; 10) Caron Butler; 23) Tayshaun Prince.

2003 - 1) LeBron James; 5) Dwyane Wade; 3) Carmelo Anthony; 4) Chris Bosh; 7) Kirk Hinrich.

2004 - 1) Dwight Howard; 2) Emeka Okafor; 9) Andre Iguodala; 17) Josh Smith; 7) Luol Deng.

2005 - 3) Deron Williams; 4) Chris Paul; 1) Andrew Bogut; 5) Raymond Felton; 40) Monta Ellis.

2006 - 6) Brandon Roy; 1) Andrea Bargnani; 8) Rudy Gay; 7) Randy Foye; 2) LaMarcus Aldridge.

Friday, June 29, 2007

2007 NBA Draft Recap

Me: Just before the Bobcats picked they went to commercial and the theme song for the draft was 'It ends tonight'...
My brother (very disappointed): Oh no.
Me: ... and you're still a Bobcats fan, they picked Brandan Wright.

Not Joakim Noah. The Bobcats later traded Wright for Jason Richardson. Though Stephen A. Smith doesn't like the trade, I do. If they can resign Wallace, they'll have a couple of outstanding versatile players surrounded by a lot of good young talent.

I'm on record as saying that Durant end up better than Oden, but I think they'll both be great. Seattle got Durant and Jeff Green via trade, both from Maryland (the state not the university obviously). Seattle probably won't make the playoffs this year, but they'll be very good in a few years. Boston got Ray Allen and that very well may put them in the bottom tier of playoff teams.

Picks I especially liked (for that spot):
Oden, Durant, Conley, Jeff Green.

Corey Brewer found a perfect fit if the Wolves keep KG. I like Brewer next to KG and Foye. They still need a lot more, but it's a start. Julian Wright is a great fit with the Hornets who had injuries and inconsistency at forward last year. Chris Paul will only make Wright better. Nick Young is a good fit for the Wizards, who granted do need a big post threat. But another offensive threat at the 2 guard is nice.

Daequan Cook, but not crazy about the fit in Miami. Fazekas could be another Matt Bullard (10 years in the league front he 2nd round is nice). Big Baby Davis won't be great, but worth a second round pick. Taurean Green will have an NBA career from the 52nd pick. D.J. Strawberry will also have an NBA career from the 59th spot.

Picks I don't like:
Spencer Hawes is this generation's Todd MacCulloch. Thaddeus Young doesn't fit in Philly and will be a bust. Fellow Yellow Jacket Javaris Crittenton won't be much either and doesn't work with the Lakers.

I like Al Horford, but I don't think he'll be able to turn around the Hawks with their current roster. The Hawks pegged Acie Law and got him. I like him too, but he's not the right pick for Atlanta, unless they get a good veteran point guard to start now.

Yi Jianlian should be a good player and I'm interested to see how he'll play with Milwaukee and Bogut. The key for the Bucks is Michael Redd's health and who will be their point guard?

I thought there will be a small chance that Brandan Wright won't be a bust. With Golden State, he won't be. It's just a perfect fit. Conversely, I like Al Thornton, but he seems like a smaller worse version of Elton Brand.

The Knicks:
We traded for Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau. It looks great on paper. How is anybody going to guard the low post duo of Eddy Curry and Randolph? We need a true point guard off the bench and I'm high on Fred Jones as a reserve. But Randolph was a 20-10 guy on a team that stunk. Will he help the Knicks win or just put up numbers? He's also had off the court problems. So I have reservations about Randolph, but it's still an upgrade.

We gave up Channing Frye, who had a terrible year. Sad to see him go, but this would be the time to see him leave. Most importantly we got rid of Steve Francis! The air is sweeter and my dark nights have been replaced by sunshine. We drafted Wilson Chandler who could be a nice role player.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2007 NBA Draft Preview

The biggest suspense is whether or not the Charlotte Bobcats pick Joakim Noah. If they pick Noah, my brother will no longer be a Bobcats fan, because of his extreme hatred for the former Gator.

I think Corey Brewer will be a stud in the NBA. He could be a great sidekick on a contending team in a few years. At the very least he'll be better than Corey Brewer, the former Oklahoma Sooner picked 51st in the 1998 draft.

It's been said many times, but this will be a very good draft. There will probably another Tayshaun Prince picked late in the first round and a high number of second round contributors. And of course, the front of the draft is very strong. I don't think there are 10 franchise players, but a number of guys who will be good ball players when it's all said and done. That's better than most years.

I have confidence that the Knicks will get someone good. Cook from Ohio State is high on my list. I also saw Green from Florida, most people think that would be a reach, but i would like that pick. I don't like Byars from Vandy. I didn't see Almond from Rice or Chandler from DePaul play, but they might be good picks too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Misdirected Bigotry

In America, we make fun of the way Muslims dress. Some of us give dirty looks to Muslim men and women wearing their traditional cultural garb. This is wrong.

I can't understand why someone would mock a man wearing a salwar kameez when there are people out there with mullets. Get your priorities straight, the mullet is far more hideous. In fact, the salwar kameez is cool. It's just a long fancy shirt over some equally baggy pants. Baggy was the 'in' thing in Karachi several hundred years before it was in Brooklyn. The mullet has never been 'in' and should, and hopefully will, never be.

What's with that stupid pencil-thin porn mustache you people wear? Can't grow a beard like me and many Muslim men? Like a real man. A cowboy hat is stupider looking than a Turkish fez, a turban, a skullcap, and whatever Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah wore. Yes it is. Yes. Listen, I'm not listening to a fucking douche with a mullet like you.

Muslim women are chastised for wearing a headscarf while no one comments on those stupid over-sized sunglasses women here wear. I understand that women wear sunglasses to avoid unwanted attention and accidental eye contact (usually with men sporting the mullet), but did you really have to buy some tinted some clown glasses? You look ridiculous.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Evil Leaders League, Season 2

This is the second season of the Evil Leaders League. The league will continue to consist of 8 evil leaders, three of which are new. This is a round-robin league, much like the English Premier League soccer, not a tournament. There will be a playoffs at the end of the regular season. This season's Evil Leaders League (ELL) is dedicated to Saddam Hussein, we'll miss you, and Robert Mugabe, who flexed his evil muscle just a few days too late last season.

Let's meet the competitors:
Omar al-Bashir - in charge of Sudan since 1989. Champion last season.
Kim Jong-Il - top dog in North Korea since 1994. Finished 2nd last season.
Hugo Chavez - president of Venezuela since 1999. Finished 3rd.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - president of Iran since 2005. Finished 4th.
Alexander Lukashenko - president of Belarus since 1994. Finished 5th.
Islam Karimov - leader of Uzbekistan since 1991. New to the ELL.
Vladimir Putin - president of Russia since 1999. New.
Nicolas Sarkozy - president of France since 2007. New.

Week 1
Kim vs Putin
Kim Jong-Il of North Korea had bypass surgery according to a South Korean intelligence agency. The surgery may have done wonders for Bill Clinton's sex life, but it doesn't help in the ELL. Russia's Vladimir Putin has been a rising star in the Evil Leaders minor leagues. He's killing journalists with such frequency, I'm even scared to say something bad about him. Plus, he's cock-blocked George Bush's foreign policy objectives so many times, Bush has resorted to jerking off to old tapes of Margaret Thatcher invading the Falkland Islands.
winner: Putin

Chavez vs Karimov
Hugo Chavez, the leader of Venezuela, has predicted a guerilla war against the United States in the coming years and he's getting his troops ready. Chavez is either a prophet (perhaps a self-fulfilling prophet) or he's insane. That's like the Detroit Lions picking on the Indianapolis Colts, you've got to admire the balls, but it's still ridiculous. Meanwhile Uzbekistan's leader Islam Karimov boils people. It sounds funny, unless you're the one being boiled. In a huge upset...
winner: Karimov

Ahmadinejad vs Lukashenko
A Taiwanese newspaper reported that Iran was cracking down on dissent. When a newspaper from Taiwan is concerned about freedom of speech in another country, you know it's bad. Even in the off-season Ahmadinejad continues to use language to get a rise out of people. He wants to "wipe Israel off the map" even though "Israel" isn't on any Iranian maps. Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is just taking care of normal business. He's constantly meeting with leaders of various countries, dealing with the ebb and flow of his country's relationship with Russia, and while on the toilet he's thinking about putting a hyphen in between Luka and shenko. It would just be easier for all of us.
winner: Ahmadinejad

Omar al-Bashir vs Nicolas Sarkozy
The defending champion, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, is back for a chance to repeat. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes that the threat of sanctions on Sudan should remain. The reason might be because of the genocide being committed by government-funded militias in Darfur. Sarkozy is the newly "elected" president of the evil French empire. He is a strong-willed politician, who also understands the meaning of diplomacy. He's curbed Turkish immigration into EU countries, but he also successfully mediated the recent dispute between the twin Polish gargoylish leaders and the German chancellor at the EU summit. Because of that and many other reasons, Sarkozy is the darling of the world for the moment. But never forget, he's French.
winner: al-Bashir

al-Bash 1-0
Ahmad 1-0
Putin 1-0
Karimo 1-0
Chavez 0-1
Kim-J 0-1
Lukash 0-1
Sarkozy 0-1

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm From Moldova

In India, I was asked which country I was from about a million bazillion times. Sometimes I didn't feel like talking and didn't trust my inquisitor, so I answered, "Moldova" in a perfect American accent.

Here is the beginning of each conversation:
"Ah-lo (British-inspired version of Hello), which country?"

The rest of the conversations:
1) After the guy asked "which country?" 4 more times (and I continuously answered Moldova) he says,
"In English please."
"Moldova, that is English!"

2) "Which countries is that near?"
"Romania and Ukraine."
He has a puzzled look.
I ask, "Do you know them?"
"No." He's still looking at me like I just split the atom.
He asks, "How many languages do you speak?"
"Two. Moldovan and English."
That makes sense to him. He finally collects himself, "Want to buy a hat?"
"No, not allowed."
"Not allowed?!"
"Yep. No hats in Moldova."

3) "Mundoba?"
"Yeah yeah, Moldova."
"Oh. Moldova?"
"Yeah. Lemme ask you a question. Do you ever feel like you just want to crush a man with your bare hands?"
A bit frightened, "Yes."
I scream and point at him "Yes! That's what I'm talking about! Hold on a sec, I wanna buy something."
He says, "Oh, shopping?" I turn around for a second and then turn back; he's gone.

I sincerely apologize to the nation of Moldova and the Moldovan people for how I represented you during my stay in India. I portrayed you as a psychotic bunch of hatless freaks and I'm sorry. Fortunately for you, you still won't run into many people in India who have any idea about Moldova.

Friday, June 22, 2007


If you are an idealistic young person who wants to save the world, go to India. You'll learn fast that you can't help everyone. I once estimated that in 35 days, had I given everyone who asked for money just 1 rupee, it would have cost me between $10-$20. That's an average of about 10-20 people a day. And almost no one was asking for only 1 rupee.

Oddly, no one was able to guilt me into giving them money (I gave, buit guilt never played a role). The trip made me a little harder. I learned to walk past people with no legs begging for money and not give them a second glance. Sometimes I yelled at kids who wouldn't leave me alone. I tried to wave and smile after they got the picture. By the end, there was almost no one who I was going to give my money to.

Like everyone else in the world, I want to give my money to worthy people. I was very weary of being scammed. I was also told that even old people might be (unwillingly) working for gangs. So I've decided to find a charity working in India and donate a small amount. The only reason I'm saying this is for other people in a similar situation. It's easier not to feel guilty walking past a legless woman that might've had her leg cut off by some gang and all the money given to her might go to them, when you've made up your mind to give to a reputable charity.

But it gets the point where you start judging people's afflictions. "Oh you've got some spots on your stomach. C'mon man, everyone comes up to me. I've seen some shit. Spots on your stomach is nothing. Come back to me when you lose a couple of limbs." Turns out I'm not the savior for the poor in India.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jews of India

There have been three distinct Jewish groups in India. The first group to arrive in India were the Bene Israel who may have come to the Konkan coast as early as 722 BCE or as late as 175 BCE. Regardless, they were cut off from Israel for centuries. Having left before the Maccabean Revolt and the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE, they had no knowledge of Channukah or Tisha B'av (called Birdacha Roza in "The Jews of India").

In around 1700, a Jew from Cochin came up to the Bene Israel community still located near Bombay. He noticed that they kept several Jewish traditions. He asked them to make fish for dinner and realized that they kept kosher. That was the final straw and he screamed, "Aha! You're Jewish!" which garnered a different reaction than if Hitler had said the same thing. He taught them about Judaism (the Jew from Cochin, not Hitler) creating a religious revival among the Bene Israel.

The Cochini Jews may have migrated from Spain as early as 370 CE or as late as 1000 CE. They originally settled in Cranganore (north of Cochin). The sixteenth century brought tumult to the Jews. Muslim traders attacked them in 1524 followed by the Portuguese decimation of the Jewish community in Cranganore in 1565. The Dutch eventually took over from the Portuguese and the fortunes of the Jews, who had moved to Cochin, changed for the better. The Raja of Cochin was supportive of the Jews. He put his palace next to the major synagogue. Much like the Bene Israel community, the Cochini Jews adopted the customs of the local Indian population.
The Baghdadi Jews, who migrated from many different Arab countries (so don't be fooled), came to India in the late 18th century. They lived in the state of Maharashtra, mostly Bombay and Pune, and Calcutta. David Sassoon arrived in 1832 and gave the Baghdadi Jews a sense of community and built several synagogues. They tended not to incorporate local customs into their culture.
I think this line is from "The Jews of India" is funny: "Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is customary to visit friends and family, and to exchange halwa and puris." I love the differences among Jews. I'm sure creplach and matzo ball soup is foreign to those Jews.

Estimates put the current Jewish population in India at around 5,000. There are about 55,000 ethnic Indian Jews in Israel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Women in Burkahs

Surprise! There are a lot of Muslims in India. You'll find people who follow the Islamic faith in just about every city, town, and hamlet in "Hindustan." Well, I did.

Many women in India wear burkahs and are fully veiled. I saw one woman in Mangalore lift up the part of the veil covering her face and spit. A few feet later she did the same thing, unconcerned that I was walking right behind her.

Women in burkahs walked in and out of designer clothing stores. Most of their kids were wearing "western-style" clothing. I found several designer burkah stores.

In the Kuwait airport I sat across from a woman in full veil. Sticking out from the bottom of her burkah was a beautiful light blue dress and I noticed that she was wearing exquisite shoes. On the airplane, another woman who was fully veiled in the airport had pulled the veil down exposing her face.

Basically, the wearing of burkahs is not as rigid as we might think. The burkah was originally a cultural article of clothing that has become associated with religious extremism. But the burkah is not a singular symbol of fanaticism.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Indian Poetry

Part of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore articulates one pervasive emotion I felt while in India:

I forget, I ever forget that I have no wings and am bound to this spot.
Eager, wakeful, I am a stranger in a strange world.
My breath comes to me whispering of impossible hope.
My tongue is known to my heart as its very own.

Evidently I lost touch with reality. But being in India was my new reality.

If I were to write poetry about my experience (it would really suck) but besides sucking, it would consist of me struggling with my inherantly imperialist presence in India in opposition to my journey becoming a man.

Sleeping in bird shit is fine as long as you're with loved ones.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The 2007 NBA Finals

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to none to win their fourth NBA championship in the last decade.

Though the Cavs were a two seed in the East, they were the surprise team of the finals. Led by the extremely young star LeBron James and a bright young coach Mike Brown, Cleveland entered the 2007 NBA Finals a few years earlier than expected. The Spurs have three stars, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, one of the best coaches in the league, Gregg Popovich, and a plethora of perfectly placed role players. The Spurs were the three seed in the West, but still finished with a better record than Cleveland.

Game 1 set the stage for the following three. Cleveland's defense was quite good, but the Cavs still couldn't stop the Spurs' big three and couldn't figure out the Spurs lock-down defense. Tony Parker flew through the lane and twisted his body resulting in numerous easy baskets. LeBron couldn't match Parker, Duncan, or Ginobili and the Cavs never really had a chance. The highlight was when Parker threw Duncan a blind ill-fated alley-oop while crashing to the ground. When Parker got up, he learned that Duncan had missed the pass. Parker's eyes expanded as he said, "You missed it? Shit." Duncan gave his teammate a hug and the Spurs cruised to victory.

The Spurs demolished the Cavs in Game 2. Reminiscent of the Spurs-Jazz series, Cleveland stormed back in the 4th, but it wasn't nearly enough. Lebron scored more points than in Game 1, but his play still fell far short of expectations. Parker continued his excellent play.

Game 3 was the series. The first Finals game ever held in Cleveland came down to the end. Anderson Varejao took the fate of his team on his shoulders which proved not as broad as LeBron's. The Spurs can win in any form or fashion and Game 3 was no exception.

The writing was on the wall before Game 4 for the Cavs. They knew they had peeked. The Spurs knew they would end this season as champions. Tony Parker once again led the Spurs. He won the Finals MVP, ruining Tim Duncan's 3 for 3 streak. Duncan was the second best player on the floor for the series. The Spurs are simply a wonderful team, one for the ages. They've brought back great tough-nosed 1990s defense in an era where David Stern would prefer to see scores in the 150s rather than great basketball. The Spurs provide the latter.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


When I left the hotel in Margao (which feels like a lifetime ago now), the strange man nearly started to cry. At the train station I had a bit of an argument with the internet cafe guy, who wanted me to keep my bag outside of the door and I wanted to keep it with me. I finally convinced him to let me keep it with me.

Then was a 14 hour train ride starting at 8:30am. I only slept 2 non-consecutive hours the previous night, but I was able to sleep an hour at a time on the train. When I got to Mumbai, I walked about a mile to another train station that would get me close to the airport. I met a guy on that train who helped me out. At my station I turned back to him and waved. He gestured, "Go, go," so I jumped off the train though it was still moving.

I got to the airport by midnight and waited until 3am to check in. The line to check in was long and filled with guys going to the middle east to find menial jobs. They asked me for help filling out their immigration cards to get out of India. Mahmoud from Hyderabad wanted to talk to me and asked if I spoke Urdu. He was disappointed when he learned David from Washington DC did not.

It was clearly the first time most of these men had been on a plane. The flight crew was overwhelmed and I tried to help get people in the correct seat. One guy sitting across from me kept watching me every time the flight attendants gave me something so he'd no what to do. For the previous 5 weeks, I would've been watching him for the same reason.'

I was very nervous that I'd miss my flight to New York and be stuck in Kuwait. The flight to Kuwait was delayed. Luckily they held the flight to New York. I can say now that it's over and I won't scare the hell out of my mom that we flew over Baghdad both ways. Donald Rumsfeld is right, the whole country doesn't look like it's on fire when you fly over it. It looks like clouds and sky.

I have a feeling that story will progress like this:

Me, now: I flew over Baghdad during the war. Kinda cool.

My kids: My daddy was in Baghdad during the war.

My grandchildren: My grandpa fought in the Iraq war and killed 23 people himself with his bare hands.

I made it to New York, stayed for a few days. And now I'm home.

Monday, June 11, 2007

In Margao

This was my 10 minute walk from the internet place to my hotel last night:

Lawrence Taylor once said, "Let's go out like a pack of crazed dogs (and have some fun)." Well I didn't run into the New York Giants from the 1980s, but I did walk into a pack of (wild) crazed dogs. They weren't too happy to see me either. I scurried past them into another canine feud. Then in the dark alley towards my hotel, I slipped on something. It was another giant dead rat.

I made it into my hotel and bumped into the receptionist. He had been nice to me upon arrival (maybe a little too nice). He was intent on having a conversation with me and lightly grabbed my wrist, just like, as I've mentioned, is customary among men in India. Then he gave me a very passionate tight hug out of nowhere, as if we had been dear friends. I thought, 'Ok, that was weird.' Then he placed his hand on my tummy. My brain sent out a high alert warning: Make sure his hand doesn't fall any lower! Then he gave me another big hug and asked, "Do you know where your room is or do you need me to come up with you?" I said I knew where it was and went to my room alone.

I woke up at 6:30am to watch Game 2 of the NBA Finals. But the fucking cable was out! I asked the staff, but no one could help me. Finally I told that same receptionist. He said the cable was out in all of Margao. I told him about the game and he said, "Oh, so sad." Listen buddy, your family dying is "so sad," this is a fucking catastrophe! The cable's still not back and I haven't check the score in hopes I can catch a replay today. I had a premonition that Cleveland won 91-87, but that goes against my belief that the Spurs will win the series easily.

Margao (also known as Madgaon) has one of the highest populations in Goa along with the capital, Panaji. Yet is has the second least population of any place I've been in India (Hampi has fewer people), including Hospet. Margao is different from the other places I've been in India and I understand that it's also very different from the rest of Goa. It's nearly as hectic as Bangalore (maybe a bit of an exaggeration). There is a subtle and not so subtle Portuguese influence for sure. Buildings seem to be in better shape in general, but I can't say that they're "western style." People know how to deal with tourists here, which is good and bad. The rickshaw drivers and various tourist van drivers are worse than Mangalore (not a fair comparison), but not unbearable. There's a couple of nice malls even. And a Domino's pizzaria! But it's still in India and has all of the familiar sights of elsewhere. Plenty of vendors. There are cows on the streets (like just about everywhere, strangely not Mangalore). There's Indian food. I had chicken vindaloo (a Goan dish) for lunch and it wasn't great. I see more "western style" clothing on people's bodies here.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Mumbai. I should arrive, G-d willing, at around 10pm tomorrow. My flight, hopefully, takes off 6am on Wednesday. I'm praying everything works out.

"So when I find a pot of gold I solemnly swear to share everything I've seen and everything I've heard, everything I've touched and everything I've learned." Treason (from NC) - More.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mangalore to Margao

On Friday, I went to the front desk of my hotel to complain that the remote control wasn't working. A man tried to fix it on the spot, but had to take it to work on it some more. A few hours later a little guy bust through my door carrying a TV. He replaced the original TV with the new one and handed me the same remote. I guess in that hotel when the remote doesn't work, they switch TVs instead.

My train to Margao, Goa was scheduled for 12:10pm according to my ticket that I bought 10 days ago. I checked online, 12:10pm. I got to the station, they told me 2:40pm. Then it took 7 hours instead of 6. Not a big deal, but all day I had only munched on snacks until I arrived here in Margao and had dinner.

Before the train ride, in the waiting room, there were tons of cute little children. It made me wish I had a child. Then one very small kid threw up some milk chunks. That's it for having kids for a while. A British girl also saw the kid throwing up and we laughed about it. I saw her and her friends again when we boarded the train. They were going to sit near me, but it turned out their tickets were for a sleeper car (I travel in style). So the girl and I said bye to each other for the second time. Later the ticket guy came up to me and asked if I had friends that I wanted to sit with a couple of cars over. "No." Like all Great men, I prefer comfort and crushing loneliness to companionship. Just kidding.

The train ride brought a cast of characters. There was Steve an old Indian guy from Goa. His ticket had been canceled and in the mad dash to get another one, someone stole his two bags which had 8,000 rupees worth of clothes for him and his relatives. Even so, he was only guaranteed a seat half way. I asked him about the recent local election in Goa. He was very upset at the corruption taking place in the government, both in local governments and in the national government. He traced it's origins back to a few bad apples in the wake of independence. That initial corruption was never checked and it has continued to snowball. He also blamed the leaders at the top for knowing what was going on and not having the courage to stop the corruption.

Steve was quite the bitter man. But I cheered him up after he told me the story of his recent plight. He said, "I must have done something really bad to deserve this." I replied, "Maybe you're in store for something really good in the future." That seemed to make his day. Steve left and the next guy I talked to is working on a tsunami warning system. We talked about politics as well. We agreed on Bush's brash foreign policy and how it has hurt America's perception around the world. We talked about the Kashmir situation. I think he wants it divided 60% for India and 40% for Pakistan and different from the current LOC. He said that even that would force Pakistan to change their budget and would be a real headache for them. I think it's a "headache" they're willing to deal with. I asked him about the Kashmiris who want independence. This seemed to be news to him and he gave some rather unconvincing excuse, for a man of his intellect, for why that wasn't a reasonable option. Then he left.

Next was a couple of families (the area became crowded). One couple was Malayali and had a 2 year old girl who took a little time to warm up to me, but eventually did. We had a lot of fun and like most females I meet, she slapped me in the face. The other couple had a little baby, who kept smiling every time she looked at me. We played too. The father of the Malayali girl was particularly nice.

When I got Margao, I tried to find a way over the train tracks. I accidently stepped on something and heard a squeek and the air being let out of something. I thought it was a water bottle. I looked down and it was a giant rat! Welcome to Goa.

India's been nice, but I'm looking forward to heading back to the good ole USA and seeing my favorite people of all... short Jews.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Joe Biden, Moth Attacks, and More

I was taking a dump. There are two small hooks attached to each other placed up on the door six feet from the toilet. I took my shorts off and threw them trying to get them on one of the hooks. A perfect shot! I meant to take a picture of the feat from the toilet, but after I wiped I absent-mindedly took the shorts off the hook and put them on. But I felt it necessary to share my amazing accomplishment.

Afterward I went back to the first hotel to ask the woman out and she... wasn't there. Then it rained. I took it as a sign.

I had crab tandoori for dinner. It sounds better than it was, but it was still good. Hard to eat though. Pretty cheap. The vegetables were shaped like hearts. I took it as a sign. Soon I will have my true love: basketball and slurpees. I expected to come here and find the 7-11s stacked with American employees. In fact it's so bad, when you go into 7-11 you have to talk in an American accent, I'm not kidding. Why is Joe Biden still in the race? Advocate for Darfur from the senate buddy. Oh, I haven't seen any 7-11s.

Last night the largest moth I've ever seen flew into my room through the window. It was like a small bird. After some tense moments, I managed to usher it out the front door. Whew.

I take back what I said about Mangalore; it's not like Mysore. It has it's own weird character. I can't put my finger on it. The vendors and rickshaw drivers are real laidback here. They hardly ever bother me, especially compared to everywhere else I've been in India. Sometimes, sometimes I get a good feeling, like when I walk around the curvy Manglorean streets and find my way back to my hotel. There are a few fancy buildings here, but many burned out and abandoned buildings as well. The stories from the newspaper are a trip. In the last 2 years, the glasses have been stolen from the statue of Gandhi 3 times! There are reports of pretty girls telling sob stories and coming away with lots of money on the very street that I'm on now!

Something's going on in Hampi since I left. I didn't really understand the article, but there's some protests going on which have driven away thousands of potential tourists. There was also a terror suspect, Imran Bilal, arrested in Hampi. Looks like I went just in time. Tomorrow it's off to (sigh) Goa for a day and a half. Then on Tuesday night, I'll be in Mumbai for a few hours until my flight leaves Wednesday morning. So the trip is winding down. Looks there'll be 2 or 3 more posts from India and so much more to say.

Friday, June 08, 2007

In Mangalore

I'm starting to think that Mangolean seafood is like french fries, polish sausage, or french toast. It's just an adjective devoid of any connection to the actual place. I tried to find a restaurant with seafood to no avail. I think the woman I talked to at my hotel was the manager. She convinced me to eat there.

Sometimes the perception of the stupid foreigner works to my advantage; I can get away with things because of it. Sometimes it doesn't, like when I have a specific question. "Where is a Mangolorean seafood restaurant?" turned into an explanation of what fish curry is. I know what fish is. I know what curry is. I've lived off of fish curry for the past week. I had it for lunch. I think I have an idea of what fish curry is.

The woman was very nice to me, even coming up to check on my meal. When she came up she thought I'd finished eating, but I hadn't even been served. She berated the waiters over it, very sweet. The meal was far too expensive though. And the fish was too anatomically intact. Have you even eated fish face? Until yesterday, neither had I. I'm not sure where the body ends and the face begins, but I'm pretty sure I crossed that threshold.

I caught Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Cleveland's defense was impressive, particularly in the first half. But they couldn't stop Tony Parker's penetration into the paint. Between him, Duncan, and Ginobili, The Spurs just have too much fire power. In truth, it was the Spurs superior defense that won the game. We know that the Cavs can't win if LeBron continues to shoot 4-16 from the field (which includes a decent shooting 4th quater). We also know that he won't contnue to shoot that poorly. The Spurs have had a smooth road in the playoffs. The Jazz and Cavs are good (some may say the Nuggets too, not me), but the Suns have been the only Spurs' opponent that can be considered great.

After the game I checked out of the hotel. I noticed that the receptionist had been giving me the eye every time I asked her a question since I arrived. She was very attractive and didn't appear to be with someone. Sometimes while playing basketball I'm in such a zone that I play outside of myself, meaning that I play better than I'm usually capable. This was a little different. I thought about asking this woman out, but seemed to leave my body and watch this tremendous failure as it was happening. She made conversation and I tried to engage, but the debacle was on. I thought to myself, 'I'm only going to be here for two more days, what's the point. You'll have someone to hang out with for 2 days you idiot, that's the point. But what about this, but wait that, and this, no that.' I left and felt like such a schmuck.

It was a horrible display. I read all the signs, but still failed miserably. I felt pretty bad about it. But I know the sight of an Indian (especially woman) with a white (especially male) foreigner of the opposite sex is just not done here. I've only seen one Indian-white couple here and the man was Indian and clearly an American. So perhaps I dodged a potentially scarring moment. Doesn't make me feel like less of a schmuck though.

A few more quick thoughts... Finished Musharraf's autobiography- he won't be in the Evil Leaders League (at least next season). Went into a book store and saw a book about Anne Frank, tried to buy a couple of used books but the guy would only sell them to me at full price which was actually insulting, I knew they weren't new. Do venders really think yelling "HELLO!" after I just looked at their merchandise is going to make me want to buy anything from them? And breathe, I'm done.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cochin to Mangalore

My plan was to check out of the hotel at 8pm, walk for a while to a restaurant and have dinner. Then I would walk to the train station and wait for about an hour there for my 11:30pm train. Of course it didn't work out that way.

After I checked out of the hotel I was thinking to myself about how I've met many kind people in Cochin. I met one guy from the Himalayas who moved to Cochin a year ago and was pleased with how nice people were generally (although he said they're nicer in his town). He also said that you'll find good people and assholes everywhere, which I firmly believe. But I also believe that there is a pulse to a city, state, or country. There is a general attitude, although it doesn't dictate everyone's actions. I came to Cochin with a Mysore frame of mind and I felt like a jerk on a few occasions. I went to return a defective bootleg cricket video game and was prepared for a battle. Instead the guy gave me my money back with no fuss. There went my dreams of.. "You never gave me a receipt." "Sorry, you can't return it without a receipt." As I reach into my pocket and pull out my fist, "Oh wait, here's my receipt." I never got a chance to use that one.

Just as I was thinking that on my way to dinner a guy starts yelling at me and called me a fucker. Suddenly I was surrounded by 4 guys. Two were apologizing prefusely for the man's actions. The other was a little old man who was instigating, probably emboldened by the presence of his 3 yound friends. Had I thrown a punch and missed, I still think I would've killed the little old man. I looked into the eyes of the original asshole and he was gone. Probably on some hard stuff. He tried to blow smoke into my face, but I was too short. Eventually the 2 sane guys pulled their friend away and he called me a fucker again at which point I picked up a rock and the 2 sane guys frantically continued to apologize. Fate is a wonderful thing as I had my very heavy bag on which prevented me from doing anything stupid.

After dinner I had way more time than I anticipated. I made a fateful decision to walk to the dock, which was out of the way from the train station. I got there and sensing rain I left for the station quickly. That's when I got caught in the heavy rain. I tried to wait it out. I even tried to get a rickshaw but they were ripping me off big time so I declined. Eventually a man (I think his name is Shahaub) offered me a ride. His ride turned out to be the back of his motorcycle (no helmet of course) with my very heavy bag on my back through the flooded Cochin streets. I thanked him so much and offered him money. He freaked out and I apologized for offering. He wished me a good trip. What a lovely person.

I laid down in the train and realized that I was wet and smelly. Of all the times to actually have A/C, of course I had it while I was soaked.

Mangalore reminds me a bit of Mysore as far as the grittyness, but it's not as bad. Big modern buildings replace Mysore's historic buildings. I ate lunch for 70 cents and half of that was a Coke. But I checked into a nice hotel for a day. Shahaub warned me about robberies in Mangalore, but I doubt the threat is any worse than Mysore (or Washington DC!).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hard to Get Used To

I keep telling myself that the swastikas everywhere in India represent good luck and had that meaning well before the Nazis adopted the symbol. But excuse me, it's a hard adjustment.

Another thing that's hard to get used to in India is when (quite possibly homophobic) heterosexual men walk down the street holding hands or are wrapped in each others' arms. I've seen (heterosexual and again probably homophobic) dudes laying on each others' lap. It's a tough thing to get used to. I mean, if I knew they were gay, it wouldn't be anything, but considering that most of the country is probably not gay and the attitudes towards homosexuality in India, it's very weird. But it just goes to show you that homosexuality is not a stagnant universal idea. But I still can't imagine talking to a buddy, "Hey, did you see the Nats game last night? It was awesome; they won in 11." And my friend replies, "Yeah, let's hold hands."

Yesterday I was in Fort Cochin sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away, while listening to music. A guy sat down right next to me, "Insects." I took on ear phone out to hear better, "What?"
"Gay sex?" That made more sense than 'Insects.'
"Ohh. No." As if declining a rickshaw ride.
"Fucking." Usually a component of gay sex.
"Just boys." The other major requirement for gay sex.
"No." Then the guy sat their for about 30 awkward seconds and left. I must admit it takes courage to go up to a stranger and ask for sex. That kid has balls. I just don't want them in my mouth.

Afterward two separate old guys offered me weed. One by the police station, the other waiting for the ferry back to Ernakulam. I don't what it was, maybe the Nick Johnson shirt I was wearing. Then today at lunch I got fish curry in my eye. The waiter asked if it was too spicey. "Nope, just got some in my eye."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Smelly Skin

Yesterday I noticed that my hotel room stank. I know I don't smell great- I sweat through my shirt everyday and then put them back in the suitcase- but I didn't think I smelled that bad. Plus, don't you think I'd get used to my own smell? But I started to become self-conscious. I openned the windows and fell alseep.

When I woke up the room smelled much worse. I went outside and realized the bad smell was coming from there. My hotel is near the city landfill and there's open sewers all over the place. I tried to buy Febreeze for my clothes but the concept of Febreeze seems to be unheard of here. I was offered cologne, deodorant, and starch. I told one guy that I didn't want cologne. He said, "No, not cologne. Perfume." Oh, well in that case... idiot. I finally got the hotel guys to spray the room. Ah, much better.

Throughout my time in India, I've been uncomfortable with what my skin represents. In some cases my skin gives me opportunities, such as eating at fancy restaurants while wearing shabby clothes. My skin is a status symbol. It means money and a willingness to spend. As a result I sometimes receive service above and beyond. It's true that many things are cheap in India compared to America. A liter of water here is about 37 cents. Water is the extreme, but even expensive soda, a regular sized bottle is only between 50-55 cents. So there is some truth to the fact that my skin equals money.

Sometimes my skin is a target for sellers and scam artists. I'm approached by an inordinate amount of people solely because of my skin. The most common is by rickshaw drivers who sometimes nearly run me over to take somewhere. "Where do you want to go?" "You're mother's house."

My skin also represents imperialism. Sometimes whatever someone's particular world view is they project it on me. I get dirty looks just for visiting their country. I can't blame them on the one hand. It's easy to think, 'Judge me as an individual,' but that is the cry of the people in power.

Because of my skin, sometimes I'm looked at as a monkey in a cage. Three guys (possibly unintentionally) kicked a bottle at me and all three walked right into me and then laughed. I didn't want to get into another confrontation. They guys walked up the stairs on the waterfront and kept looking and laughing at me as I staired them down and screamed "asshole" at them. It was time to "come out of the cage" and confront them. Of course, the main culprit stuck his hand out and said, "Sorry, sorry." I shook his hand, said fine, and began to walk away. I turned back I saw him laughing, so I told him to stop laughing and that he was rude. I passed by them later, but ignored them. Let's provoke the monkey in the cage, after all he can't come out. Wanna bet?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mughuls in Kerala?

Last night on the ferry ride back to my hotel, I met a 22 year old man named Sha Jahan, who is a driver and likes three women who don't like him back. I asked him, "Sha Jahan, like the (Mughul) ruler?" His reply was an emphatic no. But his name is Sha Jahan like the (Mughul) ruler. He thouht I was crazy for taking a bus from Mysore to Cochin. He told me he lke Mysore, but he hated the people there, because they're assholes (check previous posts for my interactions with them). Then he relayed a story about them being assholes, which I didn't understand a word of.

Sha Jahan speaks Hindi when he's in Mysore, because he can't speak Kannada. I as shocked to learn that he can't speak the language of Kerala, Malayalam, which is the only language in the world that's a palindrome in English and is also the longest single-word palindrome in English. Sha Jahan gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. Listen, if it was the Mughul ruler himself or a beautiful woman that I instantly fell in love with, I wouldn't call him/her. I don't like talking on the phone, especially calling people. This guy's got no chance. He did tell me to meet him somewhere in Fort Cochin that I didn't understand at a time that I'm not sure of. Eh, I didn't make any promises, we'll see what happens.

Being in Cochin is rather bizarre for me for certain reasons. It's quite surreal and hard to get past.

Sometimes equally as bizarre is television in India. They have Seinfeld and Simpsons and as I mentioned many channels with Hindi movie music clips. It's weird, the American Idol finale and the Miss Universe pagent were live, but next week there's an "all new" Frasier. All new Frasier? That show's been off the air for like 10 years! There's also a ton of wrestling on tv. Yesterday a guy asked me if the wrestling was real, once he learned that I as American. I had a tough time convincing him it wasn't. I've been watching it a little for the first time in 15 years. What is Shawn Michaels still doing wrestling? Where's my boy Razor Ramon?

Some internet caes are winners and some aren't. Yesterday, the keyboard had the letters taped on. Today, this computer is running slow... oh and evidently there's porn being downloaded on it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

In Cochin

Cochin, now known as Kochi, is made up of a few different parts. Ernakulam is on the mainland and similar to any other city in India in many ways. My hotel is in Ernakulam. While walking the streets there, I really had to pee. I entered a bar and a man sitting at the first booth said, "No, locals only." That was his way of saying, "I don't want you in this bar based only on the way you look and where you're from." But fuck him, I went in anyway, asked the bartender the location of the toilet and peed my little heart out. I was planning on confronting the douchebag on the way out, but only his glass remained.

Fort Cochin is on a peninsula that can be reached from Ernakulam by a hot-ass ferry that cost 5 rupees. Fort Cochin is where I currently am now. It's quite different than Ernakulam. This is the tourist area. Mattancherry is on the same peninsula as Fort Cochin. From Fort Cochin, it's a straight shot to Mattancherry, unless of course you're me. Then you walk forever until you ask someone, "Where's Mattancherry?" and the guy says, "You're in Mattancherry." to which you reply, "Where's the synagogue?" and the answer is "Right there."

Mattancherry is where the famous synagogue and surrounding Jew Town is located. I went into the synagogue which was orignally built in 1568. We had to take our shoes off, which was puzzling to me. When I asked why, the man who works there told me that Israelis always get upset at having to take their shoes off, because it's not Jewish custom. The man said that once he tells them it's for the sake of the white tiles decorated with beautiful scenes, they relent. The synagogue is still active but only has 13 members. There are only 150 Jews in Kerala and at least one family seems to leave for Israel every year, according to the man. I forgot the number he told me of Jews in Kerala before the existance of Israel.

The walls of the synagogue are white and blank. But everything else is colorfully decorated. There's gold railings and about 20 chandeliers in this little room. There's a balcony for the women to pray, because it's an Orthodox synagogue. I had to ask for a yarmulke and of course I knew to ask for a kippa, guessing no one was familiar with Yiddish. Many people came into the synagogue, mostly Indians, and no one else wore a yarmulke, which also surprised me.

I also went into the Dutch palace located in Mattancherry. Compared to the Maharaja's Palace in Mysore, the Dutch were slumming it. Cochin also consists of several islands that I don't plan on going to. I've found on this side of Cochin that people are friendlier than in Ernakulam. Well, at least friendlier than the guy from the bar.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mysore to Cochin

A woman sat down next to me in an internet cafe in Mysore. "We've met before," she said in a German accent, "In Hampi, you were scared of the elephant." Yep, I didn't even tell you about the elephant in Hampi.

In the big Virupakshu Temple that overlooks the Hampi bazaar, there's an elephant. If you put a coin in the elephant's trunk, it swings it's huge trunk over to its trainer and gives him the coin. Then it takes that trunk and thanks you by "patting" you on the head. At one point the elephant turned to face me. I grabbed a small boy to shield myself from the elephant and eventually threw him at the huge beast and ran for my life. Ok ok, the part with the boy didn't happen, but it's a better story than: "I took a few fright-filled steps back."

I never got to see the Australian guy, Trent, again. I left him a note wishing him luck with the rest of his trip. An Austrian guy joined me at the end of my dinner last night. I saw a cute nerdy American girl checking into my hotel just as I was grabbing my bag to leave for Cochin. We both smiled and gave each other a shy "Hi." Of course it would work out that way.

I was sitting at the bus station when this nice looking white bus pulled in. I hoped that was my bus. Then a broken-down pink bus pulled in front. I walked to the white bus and sure enough that was mine, 'Whew.' I got to my seat and it was broken. That's David-luck. I don't get the shit side of the stick; I get the good side that happens to have shit on it. The seat was slanted as if the right side was smashed in. But on the bus, in the broken seat, I got a good feeling. I appreciate my life and my situation. I've been able to take my dead relatives and show them India, because I know they're here with me. I am protected. I thought about the miracle that is a loving family and loving friends, especially ma. I know I am blessed not only to be here in India, but alive. Praise be to G-d. The guy next to me (a nice guy, who helped me see my CD player with the light from his cell phone) eventually left and I took his seat.

Right now I'm on Jew street in the Ernakulam part of Cochin. There's nothing Jew about it. I think fish replaces chicken here and the food is spicier than Karnataka. There are also more Vegatarian restaurants. That's really all I can say about Cochin for now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Melancholy Goodbyes

I've been in the state of Karnataka since back when I came to Hubli. The locals have asked me quite frequently and in a thick Indian accent, "Canada?" The natural answer would seem to be, "No, American." Actually, the correct answer in my case is, "No, English." Kannada is the language spoken in Karnataka. I've been surprized how little Hindi is used here, especially compared to Mumbai.

I got into another argument. The novelty of winning an argument and crushing another man's manhood has worn off. I ordered chicken curry. The waiter tried to convince me to order something more interesting (and more expensive). I won't cave. I also ordered butter naan. He said, "Ok, 2 butter naan." I got agitated and told him that I never said two; I only want one. The waiter came back and told me that the tandoori oven wasn't working so they couldn't give me naan, only rice instead. I asked how much the rice was and he said 12 rupees, which was cheaper than the naan, so I said ok.

So far the waiter had 2 strikes against him in the "trying to charge me more than I wanted to pay" category and 1 check in his favor in the "honesty" category. The food came and the waiter told me that it wasn't chicken curry. It was a better fancier dish. "Does it cost more?" I asked. Yes was his reply. I was angry. I made it clear that I wanted chicken curry and it was 28 rupees and showed him in the menu, even though he told me it wasn't in there. It rose to the point where I screamed, "This is bullshit," and every single soul in that restaurant turned and looked at me and then stared. The waiter was very flustered and finally offered to pay the difference of 20 rupees between the dish he gave me and the dish I ordered. At a different place, I had the famous Mysore special for dessert. It's like extremely sweet crumbcake without the cake.

Mysore smells bad, there's trash everywhere, many of the people are fucking assholes, and I was very sick here, but I'll miss this place. I become nostalgic walking down that now familiar road parallel to the palace. Tonight I'm off to Cochin in the state of Kerala. On a bus no less. Should be an experience. Not a good one. But an experience.