I'll be putting up the last few entries about India in the next few days. Then I'll try to skim through the pictures and post a link to a collection of them with commentary.
I needed to post something current to bring up the India posts that I'm a wee bit late in finishing up and posting. 6 months have gone by since I updated it.
I go to Oregon in a few days, then stop by Chicago on my way back to California. Of course, that depends on how my Ducati 250 feels.
Here's Alan Cathcart on the Daytona winning Irving Vincent I watched him run round the track at Phillips Island last November. He only broke it a little, but I'm sure the belly pan would've fallen off anyway.
First a link to him going by. I didn't take this.
Had to close off comments again. Dang spammers. I need to update to a better version of Movable Type. I'll try that when I'm in Korea, I reckon.
Hey, haven't I been home since Thanksgiving 2008? Why yes, yes I have. I should've put up these last posts months ago. I think there's another 2 or 3 left. I still need to do the bit about my tour of the Enfield factory and Hyderabad. I'll try to get off my ass and do these in the next few days. I'll be riding my Duc 250 up to Oregon to a motorcycle meet for other foreign country kooks over at Tynda's place. I've never met a Tynda before so this should be fun. Then I'll probably swing by Chicago on my way back to Sacramento. Then, yes another then, in 6 to 8 weeks (allow for shipping), I'll be heading to Korea for a year or two.
Stuff I love and stuff I hate about India
The first thing I hated about India were the same basic comment from the peanut gallery, "Good luck finding yourself".
I'm not here to find myself. I love old shit and was hoping to find a pre-war British bike with girder forks. I know there's barnyard Vincents here and luckily (and unluckily) Indians don't advertise. I love old cars, old motorcycles, vinyl records, 8-tracks, ghost towns and basically more of the same outdated old shit. I'm that creepy guy in the antique store who looks hopelessly out of place but who laughs outloud at the current Red Stripe or Rolling Rock bottle with the $5 price tag just because the label is painted on. Wherever the hell "I" am can just sit there and wait since I'm not looking for it. I think people that need to "find" themselves are the same sort that become lost in themselves and need to find booze, drugs, god, AA, non-stop video games, the Republican Barmy Army, or whatever it takes for them to be comfortable with themselves without taking responsibility for themselves. I'd just as soon have a bicycle that uses connecting rods instead of cables.
I hope that makes sense. Really, if you can't learn from your own mistakes, then hell, really, blame pills, God or Bill W or whatever it takes to get yourself through your daily life. But if you ask me for my opinion, I'll forever say "Get a hold of yourself and take responsibility for your own actions". Which of course has led me to riding old motorcycles round the world in spurts because love comes in spurts and I don't have the money to do it at once. I get hopelessly homesick which'll stop me from ever being an expat as much as I love them. Yes, I'm irresponsible about my responsibilities which is one of the contradictions that makes me human.
I said I was going to do a photo gallery of stuff I love about India but that'll be a bit before I spend a day drinking and captioning. That's mostly been cars and bikes and motorcycles that are brand new but were designed in the 1930s and have been made the same ever since. Flathead engines in cars and pushrod motorcycles and bicycles with connecting rods instead of cables. Brand new Vespas and Lambrettas (with different names), and these great 3 wheeled giant things that look like a cross between American Graffiti and Mad Max. Of course I don't have a picture of that, but maybe I can find one on teh interwebs and post a picture. Single cylinder like a giant scooter engine and about the size of a Ford F150. Simply amazing and awe inspiring. I don't have any good pictures of any of that stuff. What I love most about India, is, I think this is as close as it will ever be to growing up in the 1930s with British Upper Class as your goal. A place where a sarcastic Salvadore Dali moustache is king.
That's not sarcastic at all, no matter how it sounds. If I see Lawrence of Arabia riding his Brough Superior in a race against a Bristol Fighter, I will not be surprised even though if I were to see that, that would mean the Bristol and the Brough were still in production here and the metallurgy would probably be crap. If the sun makes an appearance at 2am, I will not be surprised. It's a land with the largest percentage of poverty in the world, there isn't a single city here with safe tap water and they invented the number zero, martial arts, have four of the ten richest people (according to Forbes magazine), just sent a rocket to the moon and plan on landing someone on the moon by 2015. It's a weird life here. I swear, "British Upper Class from the 1930s" vs "Current" still catches me off guard since it constantly reminds me of Monty Python. Hello sir, may I ask your good name?
India English is a weird form of English. It shows up best in newspapers. They use words that only roughly mean the same as current US or UK English but maybe it was 1930s English. In orphanages, they call the orphans "inmates". Dacoits (aka bandits) "vanish into thin air" when they can't be found. I've even seen the phrase "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" in the paper and not in an column.
I keep a bit from an Indian paper in my wallet. It's pretty random but all-telling.
Hacked to death
Puducherry: An anti-social Ghandi (35), a resident of Anitha Nagar, was hacked to death by a 10-member gang on Wednesday night near the railroad cross at Mudliarpet.
I just thought "anti-social Ghandi" was funny because if you're American, there's only one Ghandi. He sort of ruined the name for other Ghandis.
I went to see a local movie with an old guy and someone who might be his grandkid in the US, but I don't think he was. Just a poor kid out working for a living. Kollywood, not Bollywood, since I was in Pondicherry and there's 3 major movie areas here. The movie was about a guy falling in love with a single lady and her kid. Once again, I yelled out at the screen, "Fuck you, India, I don't need this shit again". Oh yeah, you should also realize that my lawyer ended her retainer. No, that sounds like she offed herself. Howzabout she removed me from her retainer? She's got a kid and it reached the point of "Figure it out, Davesmith" and Davesmith said, "When I'm given the choice of being a dad, I'll say no".
I have a name, Dave Smith, that has always been referred to as "Davesmith". One word. It's a great name, like John Doe or the name I was going to change it to, which is "Jesus del Diablo con Carne". That's high school Spanish for "Jesus the meat devil". What am I blathering about? I was actually, not kidding, super close to changing my name to be: Dave Uh... "Smith". Yes, with the quotes around Smith. The best way of hiding yourself is to make yourself completely open. I've had some pretty good friends who've known me for years who still ask, "What is your real last name anyway?". One of my favorite things to do is to answer, "What's your name?" with, "Dave uh... Smith". Pure comedy gold that in legal situations means pulling out a drivers license and even then, they assume it's fake. I also like meeting other Dave Smiths so I can say, "No really, what is your real name?" So far I haven't met a Dave Smith that thought it was funny. I know you are, but what am I?
I don't remember where I left off. I know it was sick in Ft. Cochin, but what did I mention before that? I'm not near the internet so I can't check. Is India driving a crazy man crazier or is it driving a crazy man saner? Should I continue writing posts while drinking beer brewed in Bhopal? Really, Khajuraho super strong lager. Manufactured in Bhopal. Always a sign of quality. Ask the 35,000 people killed by Union Carbide industrial accident there.
Let's see. Ft. Cochin, then to two days on a house boat. Then back trying to find my bike. India railway lost it between Delhi and Ernakulum. They found it and only screwed it up a little.
I'll start back in Varkala. Sunburned by the tropical sun. I usually avoid the sun and forgot that the anti-seizure drugs make me sensitive to light. I became the "sell me red" that cars and bikes are painted for a quick sale.
I went down to the beach with Ilsa (not her real name), a girl from a Nordic country. Nice, friendly, good company. Ilsa had a lousy life and has some good stories. I'd bet they come across even better if I spoke her language, but her English is pretty good.
She was locked up in an institution after stabbing a guy. She said the guy had it coming. Some sort of playing around with the guy. He was on speed, she was on downers. He broke her rib, and she shanked him.
As she said, it was a mistake for her to have been locked up, but the police didn't want to deal with her. Three years she was in a mental institution. That's where she met her best friend who killed a guy. Later she let it slide that she got out fairly recently.
She told me she had her hand read by an old guy with his arm in a cast. She'd live to 84. Her health was great. Life would be rough for her until she was 35, and she'd have a medium sized family.
The same guy came up to me and read my hand. Same exact fortune. I saw him give the same exact fortune to an Irish guy. The fortune teller was making a killing.
I left Varkala and made my way south down to the southernmost point of mainland India. It's a huge Indian tourist spot called Kalayalam. It's where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea. After I left I heard there's a beach where you can see three different colored sands but I didn't notice it when I was there.
Maybe you can notice the color change.
Here's a pic of the building that was built at the spot Ghandi's ashes where at. It's built so the sun highlights the spot where his ashes were placed which is highlighted on October 2nd which is Ghandi's birthday. Indians and Mayans are the two cultures that came up with "zero" so they're very good with math. And there's evidence they were in contact with each other. So sayeth the Indians.
From there, I headed North of course. There's no other way but north. I ended up riding through a monsoon for about 4 hours. That's where I found that my waterproof tank bag, my waterproof saddlebags and waterproof BMW clown suit (aka Aerostich) aren't very waterproof. I enjoy riding in the rain which was my doom. Riding through the US and short bits in heavy tropical rain have been fine for the Aerostich. I need to find someone else who has one to see if mine is bad because it's 2nd hand and old or if they all leak. As it's said, they're not in my pay scale. Maybe when I'm back I can borrow a suit and stand in the shower for four hours to see how that goes.
Tropical rains are warm which was nice. You don't get cold when wet, but my iPod 160 which I bought before going to India and listened to about 20 hours of music, and my very hard to find Indian road map book didn't enjoy their bath. I hope I can get a refund on the very expensive iPod. I enjoy the sound of engines so I rarely listen to music when I drive. But once the iPod died, I really wished I could ride and listen to the hodge podge of very old blues, old country and 1970s, 80s and 90s punk rock. It was a sad day in India when I could no longer ride and hear Robert Johnson, Hank Williams and Hickey in a row.
From there I dried myself for a few days in Mudarai. I wanted to spend just one night but the rains kept up so I stuck around three days. I ate some of the best food in India here. This crazy almost croissant thing and some super good rice dish. I was also jonesing for a cup of coffee, not nescafe, so I made my way to Pondicherry, the ex-French colony. That's where I went to the movies with the guest house workers that I mentioned earlier.
After a week there, drinking good coffee and eating sacred cow steak cooked French style, I went to Chennai. It wasn't really sacred cow, it was water buffalo. That's where I am now. I plan on visiting the Royal Enfield factory but they only do tours on Saturday so I have to stick around for a week. It's India so something that seems simple such as going to a tourist office and asking for the Enfield phone number so I can arrange a tour took all day. When I finally got ahold of Enfield after many a wrong number and a tourist office that doesn't have a phone but luckily I have an Indian mobile, they said, "Call back in the morning". That call got me the "wait until Saturday". Times running short and it's not a place worth a week visit, but I'm here since seeing the Enfield factory was on my list of things to do.
I went to a dealership to check into buying an Enfield 500 and a sidecar for myself, plus a sidecar and an extra engine for Doug. It took forever to find a dealership, forever and three days to find out how to get to the dealership which turned out to be vague at best (the across from the mosque on Greames street doesn't mention that there's at least three mosques on Greames), and forever plus forever to get an autorickshaw drive there. I show up and they say "not possible" to buy an Enfield 500. Not possible to buy an engine. They had a waiting list for bikes and extra engines. I ask about other dealers and they say they own all the dealers in Chennai and no bikes or engines. They did show me an email from an Aussie who wanted an engine, so that's two people they lost money on.
If I had any pull at Royal Enfield, I would set up something so foreigners could tour the factory, maybe watch their bike get built, get a list of dealers and good mechanics they can take the bike to, and arrange shipping the bike back to the home country. They could charge a Western price for that bike which is probably double the local dealer price (if local dealers ever get Enfield 500s). I'll try to mention that at the factory but I'm sure I'll be told "not possible". People dream of doing that, but show up and Indian traffic rightfully scares them.
I was also invited to be in a Kollywood movie. That's good because I was trying to figure out how to get to Mumbai to see if I would be asked to be in a Bollywood movie. Kollywood is close to Bollywood so that counts. Sadly, and in many ways this is the saddest of my trip, I can't make it to Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives. With a pun stolen from my now ex-attorny, Hivey Birdman: Attorney at Law, that means no post called, "The Salvadore Dali Lama". Anyway, I get paid 700 rupees, or 14 bucks, to be in a movie. Stay tuned to India to see my moustache on the big screen. In celebration of a plan actually working, I went and got a haircut and a fancy shave (10 rupees extra for shaving cream from a can) for 50 rupees -- 1 dollar -- at a fancy place. I tipped the guy an extra dollar. I had him shave the top of the moustache which barbers hadn't been doing so that really brings out the Dali part. Everyone, even the cockroaches, laughed at my moustache.
And I found that there will be cricket games through Monday in Hyderabad. I've been told by Americans and Brits to make sure to see a cricket game even though I won't understand it. Cricket makes no sense, but they said it's worth seeing a match in India.
I've also had some not serious complaints about using European English instead of American English. Sorry about that. Text messages as SMS, switching between my half-assed metric vs US standards. I haven't started spelling "color" as "colour" so I think I'm safe.
Oh and another India thing, I was offered by a local middle aged man (thinking about that, I'm middle aged at 38, only this guy was crowding 50, not 40) to get me a couple beers at 80 rupees a beer. They're 120 in a bar. He said he was doing it because when he tried to sell me pot, I said I just drink. It's this weird sort of "respect" you get, even when the person is stoned, when you turn down pot. I tried to find the beer store for 20 minutes but couldn't find it. Wandered around asking directions that never panned out. They're 60 rupees at the liquor store so he still made money off me.
I think I'll post part of a letter I wrote to a friend. Everything in India is confusing. It seems as if it's on purpose, but it's probably just a foreign culture that kind of speaks English, so you assume they'd think close to the same way. Stuff like this occupies every single day, every single transaction I need to do. It's why after four months, I'm burned out on India. It's still a great country and I'll be back.
Letter to Misha (yet another girl I wished I married in this, a blog of broken hearts, lost opportunities, weird irony (or is it coincidence?) and travel. Only she's not interested in me and won't leave Chicago -- I can't stand sub zero fahrenheit).
Now I'll write tiny notes to you since I'm in a French restaurant by myself This spaghetti is horribly overcooked. It's like ramen on the boil for 10 minutes, but the sauce is great. One pack of spaghetti ramen and a beer isn't enough. I'll order more food.
Tomorrow is Halloween. I hope your doing something fun. I was woken up at 6am this morning by explosions. They were followed by an air raid siren. I thought it was yet another bombing (it's the hip new thing to do), but now I think it was part of the Duwali Celebrations. That's 5 days of M-80s and fireworks because good beat evil at some point in the past.
Speaking of beating evil, Michael Jackson is huge here. I rarely spend time in a town or village without hearing something off of "Thriller".
I got up this morning to ride to Chennai. I'm in Pondicherry now. The coffee shop was closed, so I somehow ended up drinking beer under the thatched roof at a shitty French place. Really, the food in Pondy as it's called, is hit or miss. I'll leave tomorrow.
Here comes my garlic chicken sandwich. They cut off the crusts in India and all the meat is weird. There's woodchucks next to me fighting or fucking or both. They ran off before I could get a photo.
Th waiter said, in his rote English, "Should I open this beer for you?". I say, "No, I'll do it later after I finish this beer". He says, "Thank you" and opens it. I can't complain about that, I play bass by rote memory.
Maybe when I leave, I'll run into the fat Canuck girl (Canuck = Canadian). I thought she was American because she's loud and pushy. I was invited to her place last night for a dinner party. Me, some French guy, an Indian from Bangalore who lives in Seattle and is very "mystic" in the way that gets him laid, and a Chinese girl with an American passport. I walked over to the Canuck's place, stood outside her door for 10 minutes, but couldn't bring myself to knock. I went to an Indian bar instead and had 2 giant beers. I don't remember the name, but they claimed it was a famous American beer. Many Indians open beer with their teeth, but they're always happy when I offer a church key to them. Do you even read these things? Sometimes I think I should go back to writing Terri Garr. That sounds like I send these notes to you all the time. Just pretend that I do.
By the way, some jerk stole my Ultraman and Ultragirl toys I had zip tied to my bike. Was it you? It happened in Varkala and I know you love southwestern Indian resort towns. Or probably they rattled off. I always assume the worst.
I wish I saved some of those french fries to feed that crows that keeps looking at me. It's hoping I'll die so it can peck my eyes out. I'm down the street from "The French Connection" but up the street from "The Golden Shower Guest House". I need to get a picture of that sign.