The rules of engagement …

…Are indeed the rules of thumb in the Indian traffic “system”… System! Ok… So, last night we were in a mood of celebration being as though we had just moved into and furnished our new digs. So we decided to go out for a nice meal. On the way there we got caught in probably the worst traffic jam I’ve ever seen, much less been in! Ok, in the San Fransisco Bay Area there is a place called “The Maze”, it’s the confluence of traffic going in and out of San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley, CA. On average the California Highway Patrol log one death by auto accident every single day in The Maze, EVERY DAY!!! Well I’ve driven in The Maze thousands of times but I have never I MEAN !!!NEVER!!! seen anything like I saw (and lived through) last night in Trivandrum, Kerala, India! There we were just humming along down M.G. (Mahatma Gandhi) Road when all of the sudden we were literally surrounded on all sides by cars, rickshaws, motorcycles bicycles and peds coming straight at us in all directions at once and the most amazing thing about it was, when we finally came to a dead-stop everybody all at the same time broke out laughing and started talking all at once!!! “Hello!” “Where are you from?” “Welcome to Kerala!” “Nice Bike!!” It was the best nightmare I’ve ever had, and not a single person died or even got pissed off enough to start shooting… You know we’ve got a saying Dena and I, “Let ’em honk honey!” And that is exactly what it is they do with my slow ass. I stay to the far (Left) side of the traffic and go just a little slower than the flow. It’s working out great so far and[…]

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Why James Lane should never own a motorcycle…

Ok, on Friday June 2 in 1989 I was invited over to a client’s house to view the wedding photos that I shot at her shin-dig only a few days earlier. She was all proud of herself because she was going to make a big “vegi-mexican feast” and we were going to go through her contact sheets and I was going to give her my ideas for my personal favorites, I hate weddings… Anyway the client was paying me $1,200 bucks which at the time was a fortune so I’d pretty much put up with anything she could dish out including her version of a “vegi-mexican feast”. So I straddled the ‘ol ’81 GPZ 750 and headed East up 108th to Pen in OKC on a thick 5:00 crawl. Just past Greystone it opened up and I was running a little late so I goosed the GPZ up to about 40 and cruised through the Green at Pen and 108th. 17 year old Kelly Smith (not her real name but she never cared enough about me to give me her name but for some reason that is the name I have always given her…) was running a little late for her senior prom because she knew that she wasn’t going to be able to eat at the Prom itself and she could just forget about scoring a meal between the prom and the after party so she’d have to settle for a cheese burger at Mc Death’s on Pen at 108th. She got the burg, a large order of fries and an extra large diet Dr. Caffeine and slammed her shit-brown 1978 Buick Le Sabre into drive. Kelly was wearing a beautiful Pink frilly ball gown and unforgettable (please-fuck-me-from-behind) 5 inch lighting-blue, stiletto-pumps. She threw a hand full of money[…]

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Found a Place to Live!

We found a place!  It’s a flat – the second floor (or first storey) of this beautiful house.  Unfortunately for us, but I’m sure they feel differently, it’s Ramadan, and the landlords are Muslim.  This is the very end of Ramadan, so it’s impossible to get anything done quickly.  We’ll be signing the papers and taking possession on Monday, the 30th.  We’ll take a bunch more pictures as we slowly clean it up and add some furniture and such. Basically, it’s a marble floored, beautifully teak wooded, seriously windowed (and positioned perfectly for cross breezes), and comfortably spacious flat.  The owners do not live in the house at this time and might move back from Singapore in a couple of months.  So we have the whole house to ourselves – not that we have access to the whole thing, but there’s no one to be bothered if we stomp around.  Wait – with marble floors, I bet they won’t be able to hear us anyway… Okay, back to the description.  The basics: Two bedrooms,each with attached bathrooms, ceiling fans, windows that swing out toward the wide-open space above the neighbor’s house, and built-in wardrobes of some dark-red wood of unknown type but with capacities that will shame our pitiful collections of clothing. They’re maybe 200sqft each, and the bathrooms are sizable, with sit-type toilets and the usual full-bathroom shower setup.  We’ll sleep in one and set the other up as a shared office.  There’s no hot water heater, but the water tanks are black plastic and situated on the roof, so the water gets hot by mid-afternoon and stays that way for a while after dark.  Not that I’ve ever, since we arrived, turned on the hot tap in any place I’ve been… Kitchen, at the back of the house,[…]

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Planes, Trains, and Bicycle Rickshaws

We’ve done it all – or very close. We haven’t been in a helicopter or parachute or glider. We haven’t (yet) been on a motorcycle or scooter. (Actually, James test drove a motorcycle, but that doesn’t count as travel.) Here’s what we have done, and what I thought of it: Cheap-Class Airplane We flew to Mumbai (named after the goddess Mumbadevi, rather than the Portuguese’s Bombay after Bom Bahia or good harbor). This trip took 15 hours of airtime – maybe 16.5 hours total with waiting time at JFK before we were cleared for takeoff and taxi time on the Mumbai end. It was sardine-style flying with (luckily) a relatively small older woman next to me. My greatest fear in anticipating that flight was someone with an ass the size of mine or bigger…ay – what a pain that would have been! Instead, we boarded the plane at 9:30pm and read, ate, and tried to sleep. The Indian Airlines flight attendants were nicely available, but not overly friendly. Chipper isn’t what I was after, though. There was a child – as you will already know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while – who was in great discomfort due to the pressure drop. Sleep was far away because crying was so near. When we arrived, the customs check went smoothly and we didn’t have to fill out a single form. This was surprising to us, as we’d heard much about the Indian bureaucracy. Summary: if you’re rich, by all means pay for the bigger space. We would have spent more on the tickets than the entire rest of our trip had we gone with a real bed, but oh – did they look luxurious. Basically, long-distance flights will never be comfortable. Indian Airlines was no better or worse[…]

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India and the Tome

When I first started seriously thinking about coming to India in December of 2007 I knew that I would be coming here for the primary purpose of finishing the work of fiction that I have been writing for the last 10 years. It’s an epic adventure story about FM Radio and the people that made it, and made it great. Like I said it’s been in the making for ten long years and I knew that coming to a place where I didn’t speak the language and all I had to do was travel, read and write was the only way that I would be able to direct my focus enough to finish this incredible story that so deserves to be told. So to keep my baggage to a minimum I figured I would have to bring along the one book in my life that has haunted and inspired me more than any other work of literature that I’ve ever read, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow- A musical Novel about a guy who can see the future when he gets a hardon (among many other things…) was published in 1973 when Pynchon was 36 years old and the lies and folklore around the creation of that incredible work of fiction are almost as funny and interesting as the book it’s self, ok maybe not, but there are some very funny things about the life of Thomas Pynchon in the 10 years that it took him to write GR. During the writing of Gravity’s Rainbow Pynchon went to Cornell University in up-state New York and studied engineering but dropped out after his second year and the death of his best friend Richard Ferina to join the U.S. Navy, after that but still during the writing of GR he wrote[…]

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Children Aren’t So Bad

From 9/15 Oh, have I ever hated children! All of the whining, screaming, sobbing, screeching, happy, sad, bratty, loud, spoiled, and inconsiderate versions of childhood. I spent years without having children in my life except when they were imposing in restaurants, stores, buses, airplanes (the worst), etc, etc, etc. When I realized that their happy noises were unbearable to me…I knew I was right not to have or adopt any. And that’s before any considerations of overpopulation, which I believe to be the source of all evil in that it represents a pushing of finite resources that encourages selfishness, protectionism, isolationism, hoarding and discourages sharing, openness, caring. Even though overpopulation has encouraged exploration, the pressures it creates demand an exploration by conquerers, pillagers, and settlers of already occupied lands. I was afraid that a country of one billion people would turn me off because of the children. Because of the having of children, partly. But also just because of the children. A billion people, and how many of them under 12? I would ordinarily say too many. Enough that population experts are positing that India’s population will surpass China’s by 2050. Not exactly the best way to make India #1. But in an honestly foreign environment, where I am constantly aware of my insufficient melanin, sweaty clothing, and complete illiteracy (about which more later), nothing makes me feel better than the reaction of children. Children mean more to me now. Willingness – to smile, engage, react, enjoy. To react. I can’t say that I’ve stopped wincing at the start of a hungry infant’s wail or an angry toddler’s scream. I still hated large parts of the (oh-so-comfortable, air conditioned class, chair car) train ride from Ernakulam to Trivandrum on Thursday the 18th. We’d paid the extra for the reserved seating[…]

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Hey, Wha-Hopp’n

…To that guy that was traveling in India with the rock star of this site? Last we heard from him he was bitching about some shit on a train… Well, in less then a month I’ve traveled from one side of the Indian Sub-Continent to the other! I’ve been from Amritsar to Trivandrum… …From The Ganga to the Arabian Sea… …From the desert to the rain forest… …From the Monsoon to the drought… …And I’ve only been here for 5 and 1/2 weeks! I love this place more then I ever thought I could. The smiles are easy, the judgment is slow, the price is right and the travel is more inspiring then I can keep up with with my feeble grasp of this stupid language! Wow, India!!!

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