Delhi, India. "Damn this place is a shithole. Why am I here again?" Sitting on the balcony overlooking an alley off of Paharganj, this question rolled through my head again and again. I couldn`t find a reasonable answer. I am no longer playing the hippie, and have since segued through Computer Geek, Hipster, Teacher, Metrosexual, and Expatriot. My memories of India were five years old, but buried somewhere deep in my heart was the promise to return which I`d never questioned. And thus I was no closer to understanding Why [thefuck] I was back in India, other than to fulfill that promise. I remember vividly the plane`s wheels leaving the tarmac in the last days of August, 2000. Tears fell from my eyes and I`d uttered the promise I`ve just fulfilled. And though I`ve given a thousand answers to a thousand people as to why I was returning to India, I never really meant any of it, though I meant all of them in a way. The real answer is just this: I promised.
So, getting here was no small feat. Many other minor promises had to be fulfilled. First I had to quit my job, which I enjoyed immensely, then I had to break up with Miyuki, whom I still love. Then I had to visit my family, and friends who are also family. But bigger still, the time had come to return to homelessness yet again. I had to leave the home I loved for the homelessness I love even more. So, I left beautiful Japan, boarded a plane for Seattle, three days later flew to Charlotte, and then back to Seattle after a week for two weeks, and finally arrived back in India...
Seattle, USA. Arriving in Seattle at noon, Beth met me at the airport. Immediately I was swept up into the maelstrom of memory. Seeing faces I hadn`t seen in two years, I was swept away by the tide of continuum, thoughts muddled by clouds of ganja and oceans of beer. Our paradigms colliding and coexisting as we have all changed yet not at all. At Stella`s Pizza or was it Stellar pizza... well, at any rate it is stellar pizza, and all the fine ales topped with bud so blinding green... In a daze, I couldn`t lift my eyes more than three feet off the floor or the view floored me. Eventually, after a couple of days I could meet people`s eyes.
And again my love, my delight, my joy, bowling. Reunited with my ball after two years, it was like getting back together with a lover. My fingers nestled in her holes, my arm and she swinging as one, we rolled and rolled and rolled. The lane, the pins, my heart, and she, we all became one.
I don`t remember much more... there was sword fighting, there was magic, there were long meaningful talks...
Charlotte, USA. My parents met me at the airport and drove me home in my mom`s new car, the envy of boys everywhere of all ages. We had a few hours to catch up before bed and the following morning`s adventure. Mike, fresh out of the Navy and a divorce, whom I hadn`t seen in seven years or more, drove down to see me on my 31st birthday. Mike and I played in the sandbox as kids; it was with him that I had my first confrontation with authority. As much as we tried to reassure them that it was okay with our parents that we "dig to china" and get dirty, the "Powers That Be" at "Raggedy Ann n` Andy Daycare Center" would hear nothing of it. They tried to pursuade us that we were setting a bad example for other kids whose parents would object to the sullying of their clothes, and forbade our to-china-digging exploits. Our tunneling was forced underground and we lurked from then on in the darker corners of the playground, surrepticiously excavating. He`s beginning a new job with Siemens as an X-ray technician and has a resume that literally glows in the dark, having worked on the reactors of the Roosevelt, recently returned from tours of duty in Afganistan and Iraq. A war veteran, we swapped stories; my time in Kashmir, his in the Persian Gulf, mine in Serbia, him in the Arabian Sea. Its hard to fathom how much had come to pass since the last time I saw him, on his wedding day, so hung over he could barely stand.
That night, we were joined by Josh and his new wife, whose wedding I was not invited to, but which took place shrouded in still unexplained secrecy. Josh is now a family man, with an 11 year old son, and a very strong-headed wife. The two of them, living in Charlotte, also came over for the party. A later arrival, Justis, vetran of several startups in the Research Triangle area, and erstwhile linux geek, came late with his new wife, having gotten married only three days previously in a civil wedding. My sister, her husband and my parents also were in attendance. In all, I was the only person in Charlotte it seemed who was not now nor had never been married. But it was stranger still, Josh, Mike, Justis and I have all been friends for 12 years and I still don`t fully accept that I`m old enough for that to be true. It was a birthday to remember.
The following day was a party with all of my parents friends, most of whom I also know. I saw again my dad`s good friend Jeff with whom we travelled in Italy last fall. The next day my parents and I played an uneventful round of golf on a very beautiful course, my favorite in Charlotte. Its a "natural" links course, modelled on the Scottish model apparently. It has the most unforgiving rough of any course I`ve played on. We lost a lot of balls, some lost in plain sight. But I just love the grasses and meadows; they look right. The next two days were devoted to a project I`d longed to do for a long time. My sister bought a house while I was in Japan and had wanted shelves built in her office. Seeing her "plans" I knew I could do more, and do more we did. With Wes as my apprentice, we constructed a rather nice set of shelves, and brought the project to a reasonable stage of completion for her to sand and paint with my mom`s assistance the weekend that I left back for Seattle.
Julie also found time to come up for a visit. Though our visit was mostly platonic, owing to the fact that she`s currently involved in a relationship, it was great to see her. I drew a roadmap of my next five years, somewhat as a salespitch, hoping to pique her interest in some facet of it. I`ll see her in November, and we`ll travel through Laos and Cambodia. Then, perhaps next summer we`ll move to San Francisco together. It was not enough time. But it never is.
And before I new it I was back on a plane to....
Seattle, USA part two. If the first episode was a blur, the second was all swirls for much of the same reasons as before. There was party following on the heals of parties. The third of July party nearly finished us all. Beth had a barbeque that went into the dawn of the 4th. And on the fourth of July everyone was too wasted to celebrate. I was the only one who could motivate to get on my bike and ride the 18 miles round trip to see the fireworks from Gasworks park. I like taking photos of fireworks. Some of them turned out alright.
I think it was the following two days that I spent at WiL`s house where I built a really really sweet barbeque table -- kotatsu table -- thingy, a table with a barbeque integrated into the center. Its the sort of thing I`ll have when I grow up. WiL`s house came complete with a pile of lumber, and when I saw the tongue-and-groove floorboard scraps, I knew just what I had to do... Found lumber is like a puzzle for which you`ve lost the picture. We did the majority without nails or glue, but in the end, I screwed the legs on, for we had cheated on the joinery and they were a little unstable. Next time...
Then came Sheila, who is an event as much as a friend. Karaoke at the Comet was where we were reunited. I sang the Australian anthem, Charlene, "I`ve Never Been to Me" to the wonder and surprise of all. Those hipsters and punks didn`t know what to do with that, but the guy who`s got the lower cap hill karaoke racket cornered was surprised, knew the tune, and drew attention to the video as being especially bizarre. Saturday was the barbeque in Sheila`s honor. Her "boyfriend"
Conner came with her, a really sweet guy. They met in Brooklyn, if I recall, and he lives on the other side of Lake Washington? Sheila is always in transition. Beth, Sheila, Conner, Scott and I did battle on an old broken fence in her backyard, and won, but not before sending Conner to the hospital for stitches. We cleared a monster of a blackbury bramble and expanded Beth`s back yard by ten meters, and by linking it with the neighbor`s yard, made it seem even more spacious.
Sunday was WiL`s birthday party at the Rendezvous (I`m a few days older than him). He had reserved the upper room, and had some of his work friends come; I was with the Southpark contingent; Scott, Beth and I came up together. A later arrive was Yusuf and his date. Yusuf and his friends came through the belly dancing lessons which WiL got Carie some time ago. I think. Anyway, he single-handedly installed Persian culture in Seattle, for better or worse. Also, some of his friends from Starbucks came out Parties in an individual`s honor are often interesting for the cross-section of society represented. WiL has some diverse friends. His intent for this party was to get plastered, which he never does. But he was admirably successuful, though he was lost to the world the next day...
Monday, Frank drove up from Utah to visit me, and if driving 1600 miles out of your way to visit a friend for an afternoon is not love, I don`t know what is. We went around shooting some photos, chatting, catching up. He`s so much more relaxed than when we were working for The Dark Side together.
... and next think I knew I was sitting on a balcony in Delhi, India wondering what the hell I was doing there. Somewhere on the way I got searched in Japan for drugs, cause I mentioned India I think, a search that included a stomach xray... which came up negative, of course. I never travel with drugs. It was strange `cause it was the first time I`d ever even had my bags searched, much less been given an invasive medical exam. I slept in the airport that night, and the next day made my way to Paharganj in Delhi. I was fully braced for my arrival in India. The indelible memory of my first arrival in New Delhi had haunted me for five years. The chaos, the smog, the noise that all hit you at once. This time, I got government taxi, the smog wasn`t so oppressive, the noise a bit reduced, the traffic through the city seemed slow and sane, And I was able to pass through the crowd in front of the New Delhi Railway Station without harassment. I found a good hotel on the first shot, but did due dilligence and checked out two others before taking it.
Then I sat back, popped open a beer I`d saved from the plane, rolled a smoke, sat back and thought, perhaps said, "What the fuck." I couldn`t tell if my trip had just ended or just begun. Its all become so disorienting. When leaving Japan means leaving home, and going to The States is going on holiday, then what is spending a year in India? Its not home, but its not holiday either. So, just what am I doing here?