Monday, March 31, 2008

waiting at Heathrow Airport: the mandatory Indian prison sentence

In some countries there are compulsory rules that all kids must go through. In countries like Israel and Turkey males have a mandatory stint with the army.

For ABCD's (American Born Confused Desis/Indians) we have our own tryst
with destiny. It is a painful one. It is an unbearable one.

At some point every ABCD has endured the famed 8 hour layover at Heathrow on their way to India. While their are direct flights now and better timings which eliminate or minimize this Rite of Passage, most people can anyone who had traveled to India prior to the new millennium has undoubted faced this.

As a little kid a stopover in Heathrow brought up a mixed sense of emotions. In the beginning the notion of being stuck at LHR brought about a sexy aura of coolness. When telling relative and friends of your travels (non-Indians in the states always says "ohmygod India is sooo far away!) You would actually casually infer that your sentence at Heathrow actually equated to a trip to London itself....and yet you would always mention the airport's name in your description. It's a very quirky thing if you think about. "....Yes then we go to London at Heathrow airport for half a day and then we go to Bombay....". I've traveled a wee bit and I don't know of
any other international city where I give such direct recognition to the individual airport.

Does anyone say "yeah so then we head through Paris where we have to hang around at Charles De Gaulle" ?

I think not. Did anyone ever want to actually hang around Charles De Gaulle the actual person. I think we safely say "no" to that as well.

But once you do the trip once the stopover at the center of neo-modern western civilization loses all allure. First of all, like all airports there is nothing to do there. And lemme just remind you something which everyone knows: the shops that exist in terminals today are a far cry from the nonsense that existed just a few years ago. Plus if you are stuck with your parents it's not like you can really buy anything because of them anyways. And it's not like you can text your friends or email random people. In the olden days when you were stuck somewhere you were physically AND mentally stuck there. No escaping here matey, plant yer brains in ye seat.

The hidden element of pain for all these trips was that the Heathrow stopover was preceded by some painful stop at New York's JFK airport- an airport which took the joys of conc
rete and lack of natural light via proper windows to dizzying new heights. If you grew up on the East coast then you have been mercifully spared this gem because it too inevitably was worth about 5hrs of waiting. By the time you got to LHR you were just shattered.

So today as I sit at the airport here at 7am on the tail end of a weekend that saw me visit 3 cities over 48hrs, manage to get only 7hrs of sleep including 28hrs straight, being at Heathrow is like confronting an old nemesis.

Terminal 5 delays withstanding I know this foe can't cause as much psychological harm as it did to me a decade or so ago, after all. Although spotting those weird Euro toilets and urinals always makes me cringe.

To this day the first thing I notice when I return from abroad, which makes me glad to be home, is that we have normal bathrooms.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Greetings from Liverpool (Anfield)

Everton vs. Liverpool, at Anfield

Yes, that's my glorious face...and Liverpool won 1-0.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Weekend Plans: how to kill yourself in only 23 easy steps

My goal this weekend is to bementally and physically shattered. While a noble and worthy pursuit in it of itself, this feeble attempt is not without additional merit. Yours truly is going to meet up with some friends for a bachelor party.

However the only debauchery that will be occuring outside of drinky drink is shooting each other and seeing a soccer game. It's the compactness of the schedule which creates the element of surprise here. This is the game plan:

Friday (today)
  • 5:30am - get up for work
  • sometime before 10:30pm - end work
  • 10:30pm - leave for Manchester, England
  • 6am - arrive in Manchester
  • 6am to 10am - find a way to get to Liverpool (probably by train or cab) which is 30 miles away
  • 10am - arrive at Liverpool
  • meet up with 15 people English people, 11 of whom I have never met, who traveled from London the night before at our hotel
  • noon - leave for a lunch and then....drum roll...wait for it...wait for it... PAINTBALLING in England! at noon, only 5'ish hours after I had landed
  • noon to evening - get shot at by British people after I pass out from sleep deprivation
  • evening - return to hotel. clean up. go out.
  • night - drink
  • middle of the night - lose one hour due to the observance of Britain's daylight savings time
  • morning - sleep
  • morning to afternoon - recover
  • everytime in the middle - drink liquids
  • afternoon - go see soccer game: Liverpool vs. Everton @ Anfield
  • evening - take train right after game to London
  • night - spend night in London
  • leave first thing in the morning to go to New York
  • arrive back at home in the early evening some time
  • make a mad dash to the Indian Consulate to try and get my Indian Visa
  • collapse from exhaustion
  • 5:30am - get up for work
  • sometime before 5:30am the next day - end work
Details to follow...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cloud 23 @ Manchester. Sunday night

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

C'mon United!

Okay so I've been to World Cup games before, but seeing United in person was something else...You've gotta love the fact that people literally sing for 2 hours straight without any prompting from a scoreboard.

Is there any chance of topping this? Well yes, perhaps next Sunday afternoon at Anfield in Liverpool...

Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Spot A Desi: #54

It's the day AFTER Easter and you see someone walking in the street wearing a pink bunny hair band in the city....

Click the picture on the right to enlarge...

If it were a Japanese person or maybe in the Lower East Side this would be a non-event. But no my friends, this is the sign of the brown color of my people coming out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

greetings from the Theatre of Dreams

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

...that's right I spelled it "theatRE" not "theatER"...when in Rome I guess, err England...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

greetings from Manchester

Tomorrow's clash between Manchester United and Liverpool on what has been dubbed Grand Slam Sunday is what brings me to Madchester.

As I sit right now watching "Beverley Hills Cop 3,"a British classic, I figured I'd write to my adoring masses. Upon landing here I started getting a strange desire for Indian food, and as such I figured I'd get some for dinner.

After chatting with my cabbie, who was desi naturally, he guided me towards Akbar's. Allegedly it was one of the first trendy Indian restaurants in the city center and upon arrival the facts seemed to check out.

My adventures this evening included these noteworthy events:
  • Pounds Are Heavy - After ordering a rum and coke at the bar the dude handed me a glass and said "3.60 sir." I said "3.60, are you sure you put alcohol in that. Boy that's cheap." And the guy looked at me like I was high." He gave me a blank stare. What the hell was going on?.....ah yes...3.60 pounds. That's about 8 Americano bucks. Hmph.
  • Desi Star Power - I walked in and the two girls in front of me asked for a table for 2 to which the wait was allegedly an hour. I asked for a table for one and the guy said "don't worry boss, just wait for 5 minutes and we'll seat you..." The only other time that's ever worked is at Pongal in Murray Hill in the city. Non-desis get a nice 45 minute premium to their wait versus desis..
  • Keep Your Asian Street Cred - After ordering butter chicken the waiter told me "Mate you're Asian, you must eat spicy food. The butter chicken ain't spicy. Here let me bring you another chicken dish"
At this point I'm sure a lot of you are left wondering the same question.... Shakes what does it look like when you dine by yourself? Well, I'll tell you. It looks like the picture on the left. Basically you sit in one seat and you dress up the opposite empty chair with your fleece. Having a hard time imagining it, look at the pic to the left (click to enlarge).

That's why I'm the writer and you're the reader. You have to always keep your head in the game to think of funny pictures to take.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

in secrets we trust

Right now the House is holding a secret, closed door meeting right now. It is their first closed door meeting in over 25 years. And what are they meeting about you ask? Federal surveillance laws.

Ironic, no?

The government is debating in private whether they can invade people's privacy. House Republicans requested the secret section.

The quote of the day from Rep. David Obey a Wisconsin Democrat who also took part in two previous secret sessions in 1979 and 1980, "And I think the great utility of having another one, given the mumbo-jumbo I heard in the last three, is to demonstrate the almost total uselessness of secret sessions."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

...our political note of the day

"I'm glad to see the Obama campaign finally pointing out the fraudulent claim that Hillary Clinton has all this foreign policy experience. Based on the Clinton logic I should be allowed to perform surgery because my dad was a neurosurgeon and I often watched him prep for surgery and talked to him about it afterwards."

- Dalton (March 11th, 2008 10:51 am ET, on )

And with that note, here's an interesting article appeared on which says that Hillary's highly tauted political track record which makes her more Presidential is...well...slightly inflated at best.

  • Clinton claims to have "negotiated open borders" in Macedonia to fleeing Kosovar refugees. But the Macedonian border opened a full day before she arrived, and her meetings with Macedonian officials were too brief to allow for much serious negotiating.
  • Clinton's activities "helped bring peace to Northern Ireland." Irish officials are divided as to how helpful Clinton's actions were, and key players agree that she was not directly involved in any actual negotiations.
  • Clinton has repeatedly referenced her "dangerous" trip to Bosnia. She fails to mention, however, that the Bosnian war had officially ended three months before her visit – or that she made the trip with her 16-year-old daughter and two entertainers.
  • Both Bill and Hillary Clinton claim that Hillary privately championed the use of U.S. troops to stop the genocide in Rwanda. That conversation left no public record, however, as U.S. policy was explicitly to stay out of Rwanda, and officials say that the use of U.S. troops was never considered.
  • Clinton's tough speech on human rights delivered to a Beijing audience is as advertised, though Clinton herself has been dismissive of speeches that aren't backed by solutions.

I'm not trying to be a hater, I'm just saying you should call a spade a spade...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Waldo would suck ass as a friend

As a kid the "Where's Waldo?" books were the best. There was nothing funner than trying to spot a nerdy white guy who looked like his wardrobe was the cross between K-Mart and the rejected Fall '85 catalog of J-Crew.

But as cool as he seemed in book-form, Waldo would be the worst person to know in real life. Ever. Can you imagine going out with your friends and Waldo and he keeps on getting lost? I mean every time you turn out, Waldo gets fucking lost.

I mean I imagine the first couple of times it's kinda cute in the hey-guys-we-have-another-crazy-story-about Waldo kinda way. "Oh snap, we lost Waldo, again!" But after a couple of weekends of going out, you'd be like "Fucking aye, Waldo's missing... let's ditch his sorry ass."

Waldo would be that guy who would call you several hours after you leave a bar and be like "Hey can you guys come back and get me? I'm wearing the same stupid hat red and white hat. Try to find me!"

Fucking Waldo.

Not to mention that Waldo's insistence on wearing the same clothes all the time would piss me off. I mean you couldn't even go to most nice places if you're buddy kept on wearing emo-rocker jeans, brown boots (not even Timbs!) and a cane.

Where's Waldo? Hanging out by his own loser-self is the answer. Waldo has to figure out his own shit and stop getting lost. I know I ain't driving his ass home any more.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

the Endless Summer

One way to miss California a lot on a windy monsoony winter's day in NY is to watch old surfing movies . While it gets your mind off things it basically has the lovely effect of making you more depressed about life. As my recent bout with homesickness has hit fever pitch tonight I popped in a classic to the DVD player, "The Endless Summer." The point of the movie is to basically travel around the world to surf...and avoid winter.

So the next 90 minutes unfolds with a trip around the world and how they choose their stops is beyond me. But what's just as cool as watching surfing is hearing the announcer (it's a quasi documentary) make weird comments about the various locales they end up on. It's like listening to a time capsule of a view of the world that is light years away from ours...even though it was only a generation-and-a-half ago. For example the cost of gas in Ghana at $1 is considered to be absolutely ridiculous. And any view of Africans is followed by the expected tribal music. Good times. Oh the 1960s...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

word associations: desi style

Today my brother and I played a game of Indian word associations. It's fun. It's exciting. It's America's fastest growing desi craze:

[15:11] HBshakes: that is weird

[15:11] My Brother: what?

[15:11] HBshakes: i dunno

[15:11] HBshakes: i just wanted to say "that is weird"

[15:12] My Brother: are you saying it with an indian accent?

[15:12] My Brother: veird?

[15:13] HBshakes: virds

[15:16] HBshakes: hmm

[15:17] My Brother: other indian words

[15:17] My Brother: sayings

[15:17] My Brother: mannerisms

[15:17] HBshakes: schemes.

[15:17] My Brother: crore

[15:17] HBshakes: lakh

[15:17] My Brother: lbw

[15:18] HBshakes: maths.

[15:18] My Brother: upper post secondary

[15:18] HBshakes: upper kg.

[15:19] My Brother: horn ok please

[15:19] HBshakes: cool cab

[15:20] My Brother: bryan adams: waking up the neighbours

[15:20] HBshakes: deep purple

[15:20] My Brother: dacoit

[15:20] HBshakes: fundas

[15:21] My Brother: oooh

[15:21] My Brother: good one

[15:21] My Brother: mobile

[15:22] HBshakes: breach candy

[15:22] My Brother: strolley

[15:22] HBshakes: amarsons

[15:23] My Brother: benzer

[15:24] HBshakes: hero honda

[15:26] HBshakes: suppandi

[15:26] My Brother: bisleri

[15:27] HBshakes: filum

[15:28] My Brother: Doodarshan

[15:28] HBshakes: DD2

[15:28] My Brother: which always struck me as a BBC rip off

[15:33] My Brother: IST/PCO

[15:34] HBshakes: hahahahaha

[15:39] HBshakes: Crocin

[15:41] My Brother: vicco turmeric ayurvedic cream

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

greetings from Phoenix

Today my flight from NY to Phoenix saw the display of an event which had never occurred in the history of civil aviation. Next to me in my window seat was a white guy (middle seat) and Chinese guy (aisle). After passing out for an hour I woke up, looked to my left when BLAMMO the Chinese guy was sitting next to me. I was like WTF just happened?

The white guy had gone to the bathroom and the Chinese guy felt the most efficient thing to do was to slide over instead of having to get up when Whitey returned. This was bizarro. I'd never seen anyone voluntarily give up their aisle seat mid-flight. BUT WAIT there's more.

The Chinese guy (who we shall refer to as "the Chinese guy") had to later go to the was a 5hr flight you know...and Whitey scooted right over. They were rotating who had to sit in the middle based on what was most optimal

These two strangers had somehow decided to conduct a real life example of the academic concept of finding the Pareto Efficient solution. They were able to make a decision that made each one better off without taking away the utility of someone else. Who would've thunk.

And it is with this incredible knowledge that I was able to give them my peanuts. They did their part to make society a better place and I felt the need to rewards them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

the award for weirdest email of the day...

"The Wire" is awesome. It's unbelievable. Well actually I don't really know this, but everyone who watches it says so....and as such we were talking about it at work about a month ago when I admitted that I wanted to rent the box set and watch the whole thing series

After this short TV discussion interlude, I proceeded to go back to my own business at work when I received this errant fax in my inbox:
No sooner than 5 minutes after talking about it, a producer for HBO's "The Wire" had accidentally faxed me the contract for one of the show voices/announcers. You can pretty clearly see Souzan Alavi's signature at the bottom there. All of this is for Episode #9 this season.

Not too shabby of a gig for some guy (who's name and social security number I blocked out) who got paid $454 for 30 minutes of work. I faxed the form back to Innovative Agency and mentioned that they had made a small mistake. Sadly the woman didn't offer me a free DVD box set of Season 6 for being a good samaritan. Oh well.

On a sidenote whoever created the technology for faxes to automatically be turned into scanned emails is a genius.