August 21, 2008
it's the rainy season and I'm like a mirage you could learn to hate
I'm in Varanasi (aka Beneras aka Kashi). Its the center of the Universe if you're Hindu and it's also the place Buddha gave his first speech. Mark Twain visited here when he went round the world and said in "Following the Equator", "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together".
It's monsoon season which usually means a nice rain that keeps the heat down, but a couple days ago it rained for 12-13 hours non-stop. Heavy rain that killed about 9 people here. Collapsing walls, roofs and knocking down power lines. I haven't been able to log onto this site to update until now. I can check email but had problems accessing this site. I go to Nepal tomorrow night so it might be a while before I update again.
So this is an old post. I might be able to post again tomorrow before leaving for Nepal where I'm off to get... Nepal-itan ice cream. Zing! Don't blame me, blame my lawyer for pun-ishing me.
I spent 18 days in Delhi (minus a weekend ride with the 60kph Club - mostly Enfields, but there were a couple Pulsars on the ride (one 150cc, one 180cc). We rode to Rajasthan, to a dam with an abandoned temple where we camped. Ashwar (not his real name) wrote a little about it, and posted plenty of pictures, so check out the direct link. Check out that site and look at the pictures. Don't worry, I'll patiently wait.
It was my first ride through Delhi and traffic here is crazy. That's an improvement. When I first showed up my description of traffic was "bat shit insane", but after riding through traffic for a couple days it improved to "crazy". My fat ass broke part of the frame. Well, not the frame exactly, but the part that supports the pillion's weight. Probably because I ride bitch like an American which means I sit back as far from the rider as possible and act like luggage, that combined with the rough roads got the frame to cry uncle. I got too many names in too short of time so I don't remember most of them. I'm sorry. I rode down with ? from Mumbai and I ended up riding back with a couple different people. First was the Captain, who's an ex-major but has the nickname "Captain". Second was with sObby.
Like I said, most of the bikes in the club are Enfields. There a status symbol here. Lots of torque and built to handle the crappy Indian roads. They're also popular with Sikhs. All Sikhs are Punjabi, but not all Punjabis are Sikhs.
Ashwar looks a little like Groucho Marx and he's a member of 60kph. He's the last one to sleep, and the first one to wake. ?, was wearing riding gear that looked like reinforced denim. I told him in the US, when someone is wearing a denim jacket with denim pants, that it's called a "Canadian Tuxedo". He said that in India, Punjabi is the term for redneck, so I started calling him Punjabi Tuxedo.
I want to re-produce some tanks and a few other parts. If I have them done while I'm here, I can make sure they're good. I've been talking to custom motorcycle mechanics and mechanical engineers (from the US, Australia, and India). I've had advice on how they should be made and what to check for. If you have any advice, feel free to email or comment. If the tanks come out crappy, I might do a few 12v alternator conversions for Ducati narrowcase singles. At least one for me.
I'd like a few Ducati Elite (jelly mold in the USA, jelly mould in the UK) tanks, along with some full-sized 750SS tanks. We'll be doing those in steel and alloy in 18 gauge. There's also a demand for some British tanks - Matchless, Norton cafe, and Trident tanks. We'll also might do some finned primary covers for a Triumph 500 and 650 and some Triumph fenders. This is as long as the tanks are good. If they turn out so-so, then I'll skip it and probably end up with a job teaching in South Korea.
I'm open for suggestions on what people would like to see re-produced. Most of the feedback I've gotten on British and Ducati vintage bike lists have been good, but I've also been told that I'm a lousy entrepreneur (which makes sense because I'm sure as hell no businessman), that I'm no Ted Simon, and also an asshole who should piss up a rope. Mostly that was from one guy, who oddly enough, wasn't the guy that built my bike the first time. Suggestions noted. Rope has been found. Beer going down. Pissing to start.
Anyway, the India Day of Independence comes up on August 15th (chosen by Viceroy Mountbatten because that's the same day that the Japanese surrendered in WWII - but with the date change, the US celebrates it on August 14, which is my sister Cary's birthday).
I think (hope) that's when my Ducati is due to show up in Delhi. There's a several day holiday that weekend so it'll be around the 18th to 20th before I can get my bike out of the Delhi airport customs. All with some luck, some baksheesh to smooth over trouble spots, and many cups of chai.
So yeah, I'm in Varanasi annoying my friend Jennifer. I've known Jennifer 10 or 12 years. I met her and her first husband in the Mopar world. There's not many people who like Dodge Darts, Plymouth Valiants and the first couple generations of Barracudas. Her and her first husband are from the San Jose/San Francisco area and also grew up as punk rockers in the 1980s.
We're staying at her friend Christina's apartment. Christina is a Canadian nurse working here. She's on tour raising money for the health clinic she works at. It's a huge 2 bedroom with a great balcony for 4,000 rupees (US$100) a month. It's the top floor of a house owned by a retired doctor (he comes into the story in a later entry).
The maid just showed up to see how often we wanted her since she hasn't been working here since Christina is re-Canucking. Once a day? Twice a day? We said every other day and are trying to get that pushed back to once a week. I'm uncomfortable having a maid, but she's inexpensive and it helps her out. There's lots of jobs in India that seem like it's just to help out and give someone a job. I should've married a girl who was a maid in California but by the time I got my shit together and asked, she was off to marry someone who's as much of a fuck-up as I am, only in a different way.
There's so much poverty and so much wealth in India. A zillion different languages, religions, backgrounds. Almost everyone is super nice, but there's still bombings. It seems very solid but I wonder how it's held together since India and Pakistan have nukes. Hindus and the Moslems and the Sikhs have battled for centuries where they've taken turns sacking each others temples and rebuilding their own on the spot. Not to mention the attempts at genocide.
Ghandi (first mention of him I think I've made) used to tell the British to keep India one country and if the Indians decide to start wiping each other out (Hindi vs Moslem vs Sikh vs Christians vs everyone else), then let them.
That didn't happen. Ghandi also said the Jews should've walked up to the Nazis to get wiped out to make them feel bad, that the Indians should've turned the sea red with their own blood to make the battle with Japan in WW2 more meaningful, and that the English should've let the Nazis into England to wipe them out too. Most Westerners have a problem with letting themselves get wiped out just to make the other side feel guilty, and so do most Indians, which is why Indian independence from the UK sparked horribly bloody fights that still haven't ended 61 years later.
It didn't work at Gallipoli in WWI when the Turks and the Brits and the Aussies and the Kiwis and the Indians fought it out. But Ghandi was right about Pakistan and India having a decades long battle if the Hindus and the Moslems wouldn't return to living together as brothers in one common nation.
Anyway, it's monsoon season. Varanasi is a good spot for it since it's located well about the Ganges River. The rains are often warm and they haven't been cold. I've been hanging out with Jennifer's friend Raju the bicycle rickshaw driver. He'd fit in at home in Sacramento since most of my friends are musicians (which means, wait staff, bike messengers, arthouse movie theatre employees and the like).
If you know my close personal friend, Ed Hunter, you probably found out that his brain tumor was successfully removed. And Mike R Mike and his lovely ball and chain, Heather R Mike, had a baby girl named Rina R Mike. I really wish I was there to hang out with Mike in the hospital while he flipped out. I'm sure Heather handled it no problem.Posted by gornzilla at August 21, 2008 09:09 AM