Spies on Bikes

This is our last day in India in 2020 and what a wild ride it’s been. Our friend Prakash came to visit us this past weekend to say goodbye and we all got a big laugh out of our new conspiracy theory. It’s the one where everyone in Thiruvanathapuram (including the Air Force machine-gunner who hangs out, finger on trigger, in front of the gate sometimes) was thinking that we were American Spies in disguise as tourists struggling through the insane Indian traffic on bicycles. We were here gathering information on the cutting-edge space tech and the flagrant abuses of the word “communist”. Of course, what we discovered was ethnic cleansing in the form of Modi and in the mode of Trump and Bonsaro, Johnson, etc etc. In India, the acronyms du jour of hatred are CAA and NRC, but those newish sectarian horrors have a familiar bitterness to the tongue. It’s a bad spy that gets most of their info from news and from stumbling on protests and starving on nationwide general strike days. This time, our third, we completed our co-written manuscript entitled Indoor Boh. I (James) finally finished my pirate radio adventure story called FUCC 89.1 FM and Dena started her new sexy novel The Pound. We had one last Meal at Kochi Peedia out on the highway, this year’s favorite meals haunt. They had all of our favorites today as if they were anticipating our celebration. Samba rice, thick and imperfectly hulled, papadum, avial, kappa, beetroot theyal, pachadi, chimundi, salt-pepper, fish curry, sambhar, the keynote flavor pulissery, and payasam. Daaaaamn. Chitra made us what she calls (for our benefit, I’m sure) fruit salad, which also has chia seeds, sweetened condensed milk, peanuts. Another last-day win. It’s a time of plenty here now that the monsoon is[…]

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All the stories in India

Telling stories is a lot harder than I (James) ever thought it would be. I mean, you do something, you live through it, you think about the event, you relate to it and then you tell it as a story… Right? How hard can that be?! In the late 1990s I (James) did some stuff that I thought was pretty cool. I traveled a lot, played some music on an illegal radio station (we called it pirate back then) and hung out with some sexy people in a misty rainforest on the other side of the planet from where I am now. One day, I decided to write that story in a format some of us know as fiction. I wrote some stuff, then I wrote some more stuff, then I did some research and somehow I lost all understanding of the story I was telling. As it turns out the above calamity is the factory of failed writers. I got Lost in the Funhouse, the Mobius Strip of creation…The more you research the more you know, the more you know the more you write, the more you write the more research you need, STOP! Then the mirror started to warp and I got further and further away from that little story about the cool thing I did once upon a time. The next thing I knew I had thousands of words, great words, about some very interesting shit that had absolutely nothing to do with being a cool, sexy pirate in the ’90s. I got so frustrated with the sheer volume and boring convolution of the piece that I ultimately closed the file, once and for all, with nary a glance for almost 11 years. Here in India they have a storytelling medium that combines music and body movement.[…]

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A Night at the Opera

We started the day off with a great idly/sambar at Muthoot Homez Akkulam, one of our haunts along the highway. It’s a cool little place across from the big-ass mall construction site and it’s also one of those quintessential Kerala dining experiences, meaning it’s little more than a lean-to with a kitchen…and totally packed. The food is excellent and fresh and the clientele is always in a hurry. Just our kind of place. The whole point was to get to the Lord’s Hospital queue early and get a number before the crowds showed up. Not to worry, friends, we’ve both been wanting to see a dermatologist while we were here to get some things checked out and see if we could get some grooming surgery done. Once one is no longer young, the skin, it changes. Dena had done some research and found this hospital, which was close to us and had a pretty good rep for that kind of thing. Anyway, the dermatologist decided to take the day off so we rode away. Since a broken water main had washed out the road to the left, we went back the way we came, headed west. We came to a crossroads and I (James) barked ahead, “You want to go left to the beach?” I (Dena) smiled and bolted around the auto-rickshaw/Bajaj delivery truck tangle that had held us up. It doesn’t take much convincing to get either one us stoked for a beach adventure. The breeze was nice, the Arabian Sea was calm and kind, and it was a work day so not many people about. We rode north along the coastal route and dipped into a few different photogenic spots… And ultimately ended up behind one of the christian monstrosities before shrugging and pointing our wheels back home.[…]

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Homes of the Decade Past

Baltimore, Maryland Essex, Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland) Edgewater, Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland) Underway Yarmouth, Maine Portland, Maine South Portland, Maine Underway Groton, Connecticut Noank, Connecticut New London, Connecticut Underway Jersey City, New Jersey New York City, New York Underway Wessagusset, Massachusetts Boston, Massachusetts Hingham, Massachusetts (Wessagusset,Massachusetts) Underway Somes Harbor, Maine Underway Southport, North Carolina Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina Wilmington, North Carolina…too ugly for photos Underway Annapolis, Maryland Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (India) (Annapolis, Maryland) Underway Manteo, North Carolina Underway (Annapolis, Maryland) Underway Robinhood, Maine Underway (Portland, Maine) Underway Three Mile Harbor, New York Underway (Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala)

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The year, the decade…the fuck?!

I love this retrospective shit, it’s just so… I don’t know, everything! …And indeed the teens were everything! We started the decade off in Baltimore, Maryland, and learned some hard lessons about living aboard in cold climates. We were definitely up for the challenge but a challenge it proved to be. S/V S.N. Nomad was an awesome boat and Baltimore is a pretty cool place but if we were going to be off-the-grid in cold we were going to have to figure out our onboard heating system. Once again, the proof was in the solution. We discovered that living aboard is not about bringing your great big old life down to the water, it’s about the reduction of life’s needs… The smaller your needs, the more manageable the solutions. …So we went sailing! In retrospect, this decade was about the adventure of sailing for us! We logged countless nautical miles underway from the Chesapeake Bay to the wilds of Maine and south (eventually) as far as Hilton Head, and along the way we learned how to reduce our needs to suit our lives. In 2014, we became professional sailors as cruising editors for a publication called the Waterway Guide. The money isn’t enough to actually live on and we’ve had our issues with the publication itself but we love the work and it keeps us underway. We’ve edited the guide from Southport, North Carolina, to Eastport, Maine, and it’s kept us yo-yoing the Eastern Seaboard of the US for five adventurous years now. We went back to India twice in this decade. Once to get me (James) some new teeth back in ’17… …and then again this year to finish a co-written manuscript we started back in ’17. The writing turned out to be an incredible experience for us both.[…]

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Writing in Asia

The first time we came to India was way back in 2008 and that move inspired us to actually start the blog that you are reading today. It was a momentous decision that led to one of the most inspiring events in our lives. Prior to that first India trip we were down and out, wage-slaving in the armpit of the Pacific Northwest, Moses Lake, Washington, in hopes that we could make some profound changes in our lives. We were apartment dwelling and saving up to get back on the water after selling our boat in Hawaii to pay off all of our debts. The plan worked for the most part. We saved up some money and we even ended up recording some pretty good music with Dena’s dad but Moses Lake is a disgusting well of conservatism and we both felt like being there was a step backwards in our lives. (I didn’t take a single photograph while we were in Moses Lake…That’s how uninspiring that shithole is!) One night while grabbing a bite at a local all-nighter Dena said to me (James), “I hate this place, I hate this country and I hate not being inspired. Let’s go to India and write our books!” So we did. We sold everything we owned that we couldn’t carry on our backs and moved to India. We traveled the northern subcontinent from Amritsar to Varanasi and the experience was a lot less inspiring than we had hoped. Dena broke her foot in a bum-fuck little city called Allahabad so we made our way south to Kerala. We traveled all over Kerala but ended up loving a little neighborhood in Thiruvanathapuram called Kallatamukku. We rented a flat on the second floor of an empty six bedroom house and wrote our books, though[…]

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2 Days at Mahabs

What should we do for James’s birthday? The shopping area can’t hold our attention for long. I know… More stuff to haul 12,000 km… Hmm, the lighter, the better. How about the 7th century rock carvings and cave temples up the street? How ’bout those teeth!? I (Dena) am rolling on slow waves of happiness. This is the good stuff. And I, the guy behind the camera above, am just blown away by the art of technology attitude behind the thing, it’s a cool place to go but there’s also no shortage of cool breezes from the Bay of Bengal at the tops of all the cool stuff, well, weird stuff for sure and the weirder the better so, yeah, cool! Mahabs is another place that draws Indian tourists from all over the country. What’s it all for? Corn?! This has to mean something to somebody, right? Too bad I don’t read this language. I keep imagining it all as astronomical measuring tools in grand scale. I know for a fact there’s a place like that not too far from here. I mean, look at this: There’s a place with a sun (maybe): Opposite what I think may represent a moon. Or fire and water? Or… I (Dena) know this one! Shiva lingum as the birth of the universe (below, silly!). This thing! The meaning of the huge scene is debated, but I especially love the lady on the left’s hairdo and the stretching cat under the elephant tusks. The serpent-woman is a Naga. By the way, the elephant? It’s life-sized, as are the human figures. I’m figuring this for a shallow basin to hold a Shiva lingum and then…the oil bath? Or is this a giant oil lamp? Or an astronomical measuring device? This one is definitely nautical. Yeah,[…]

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