Saturday, October 31, 2015

Spiral Jetty, part deux

So excited to visit Spiral Jetty at the Great Salt Lake for the second time.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hopscotch in Oakland

Oysters with salmon roe and sea urchin gonads. Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket.

You are either with us or against us.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hello Hong Kong

I had the option of delaying my connection in HKG for twelve hours, and I took it. I've never been outside the airport before.

What do I think? I think I need to come back. Typhoon Mujigae has been buffeting the island all day with heavy rain and gale force winds. Sites were difficult to get to, and the legendary views non-existent.

That's okay. I took the airport express to Central and met my old friend Trac at the Apple Store (motto: bringing people together across the globe). We went to high school and college together, drove across Canada, starred in each other's plays and films, and got too drunk too many times in New York to count. He's now the point man for Goldman Sachs TV Asia, having just moved here with his wife Nicole and 20-month-old Julien. So we went shopping for dinnerware and refrigerators safely indoors.

But not before lunch. Spicy cashew shrimp, dan-dan noodle, soup dumplings, pork buns, jellyfish, fried rice and black fungus in Chinese black vinegar. Somehow, we ate 90% of it, likely because it wasn't Indian.

He showed me his new place in Happy Valley, then we went shopping for dinner. Half a goose, plus roasted and Chinese BBQ pork. Picked up some Chinese broccoli at the wet market. Back at the ranch he made rice and we got fatter with glee. Don't worry; they've got leftovers.

Caught the MTR back to the airport. Clean, fast, efficient. In fact, I'm struck that the whole city seems to operate this way. There wasn't a hint of litter; construction sites were orderly and well kept; the trolley was cute.

I hate to feel jaded having arrived from Earth's largest cesspool, but there it is: both were British colonies for centuries; both struggled for autonomy, though the circumstances were vastly different; one has more natural resources, but surveying the population, it's hard to argue one is more homogeneous. Perhaps it is size that matters; perhaps it is appropriate governance. But Hong Kong has built a city on a hill, while India struggles to build a single, viable sidewalk.

I'm going to go get on a plane now and dream of perfectly roasted geese and squandered potential.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bye-Bye Bangaluru

Ram picked me up from the residence for dinner, but first we stopped at the new statue. It was fenced off, maybe the result of an earlier ceremonial unveiling. In either case, it's only the second picture I've taken in India that has no people in it.

Dinner was slim pickings. Any establishment serving alcohol was closed by law, leaving street counters and chaat bars. Still tasty.

Now I'm at the airport, waiting for the counter to open. Hopefully there will be no hassles, but it's India, so don't relax until you're on the plane.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's Quiet Today

All the government offices are closed, most businesses, and many shops. It's Gandhi's 146th birthday. I was looking for some weirdness, but except for a statue unveiling on the other side of town, there's not much going on. Even the traffic has been downgraded from apocalyptic to merely ridiculous.

It's just as well. I woke up yesterday with the traditional Indian upper respiratory infection and have been enduring the Trial by Green Snot. Maybe I'll take a nap. In 12 hours I leave for Hong Kong.

Stuck in the Indian DMV. Again.

This happened last time. With a day to go I find myself standing in front of a counter of surly public servants waiting for some magistrate to approve my exit form so I can leave. They require your passport, a copy of your passport, four passport photos, the signed original employment contract, a signed and stamped letter from your sponsor vowing for your good behavior, a signed and stamped letter of residency from your hotel, and a filled online form. When you fill out the online form, you have to print it, sign it and bring it with you. You also need to upload a scan of your passport photo and a PDF of the signed and stamped residency form. All to go home.

[Think about this: first, fill out and print the online residency form; then sign it and stamp it; then scan the signed and stamped version and convert to PDF, then reduce to 200k, the maximum size allowed, then upload it again, then make a copy of it. That's one form. Wash, rinse, repeat.]

How this is possible unless you're a) proficient in Adobe Creative Cloud and b) have access to photography studios, printers, scanners, and important individuals who possess official stamps is beyond me.

Once you're done with the online shenanigans, they give you an appointment. Mine was for Monday, but since I leave Saturday I needed a driver to take me to this state-sponsored form of limbo. They told me to come back Monday. I lied and said I had surgery scheduled for Tuesday. They sent me to the principal's office.

So this dude is hanging out with his buds watching cricket, but after hearing my plea he called his help desk lackey who gave me a note to take to the receptionist. That put me first in line.

The next 30 minutes I spent sitting there as all the paperwork was reviewed three times, answering dumb questions, and eventually writing a confession explaining silly details. They told me to come back in 90 minutes.

Now I've been sitting here for two hours while they process the paperwork for what must be half of Rwanda. The view's not bad, though, and it gives me plenty of time to concentrate on writing cranky blog posts.

The best part is where, on the drive here, you pass a coliseum-sized wedding cake of a building, over the entrance of which is inscribed "Government Is God's Work." I always knew the guy was kind of a dick.

Addendum: Around 5pm, the principal came back into Indian DMV wearing his yellow and black gym attire plus a lot of gold chains. He picked me out (it's not hard) and yelled at one of his lieutenants something to the effect of "Why is the white dude still here? Fix this! He's going to blog about it!" Ten minutes later everything was in order and ready to go. I get to go home.