What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An American Odyssey - Part Four

Part One
Part Two
Part Three 

Southern Breakfast Again!

Man, I got to hand it out to the southerners for having awesome breakfasts. Add to it the upscale elegance of a Hyatt you have another outstanding breakfast experience. Of course there were the biscuits and gravy, the love of my life. There was the usual stuff, cereal, toast, muffins, bagels, oatmeal. But then there was more, fancy scrambled eggs, pieces of juicy ham, varieties of hot sauce. Now to think of it, I think I should stay at these complimentary "BIG" breakfast places for all my travels. The rooms maybe expensive and out of budget. However, if I gorge myself on breakfast, sneak some English muffins in my pocket - I'd be saving forty dollars a day by never eating a meal. Perhaps my next travels should be titled the "Hotel Diet". I'm not a cheapskate, not when it comes to food, but the current economy deems some experiments I feel.

Everything is Big in Texas

(Even the balls it sucks)

This is the first leg of our journey that is going to be entirely in the state of Texas. The last time we were in Texas was eight years ago in 2002. Way back in the day we were enamored by this hot and sweaty state, in some sense it reminded us of India. That was when we were young, naive and innocent. Today, we have lived and grown for years in our beloved Wisconsin. We carry that Midwest in our hearts and the south is no longer as lovely as before.

For one everything is big in Texas. They don't lie, it is big. Like real fucking big to the point are you shooting the entire state with some giant growth hormones and steroids.Take their roads and highways for example. They are giant ass, stretching wide like football field. Our I-90 stretch in Chicago is a modest highway. A two lane highway till the suburbs and then four lanes in the city to accommodate traffic. Texas for some reason feels that it needs six lane highways wherever it can. Lets throw in eight for good measure in the cities. Thankfully the rural stretch between Dallas and Houston is a normal two lane highway like I-90.

Not only do they have wide highways, they have construction going on everywhere. In some places its EXPANSION CONSTRUCTION!!!! Is this where they are pouring my precious tax dollars, giving Texas a fatter, wider highway than they already have. To complicate matters even the orgies of highways are bigger, like giant anacondas writhing around in a snake pit. You could enter the highway in one lane then you have to cross six lanes in 30 seconds to get where you are going. It would be simple if people drove normal cars like the rest of the nation, but Texans drive trucks, vans, SUV and any other giant as make of car you can find in the market. I don't think you can find a single Prius or SmartCar in the entire state. I'm glad we took our Rendezvous. Had it been my little Corolla, I'd have felt like a man with a tiny penis.

The worst thing about Texas highways is that along with big highways, big intersections, big cross highways, big cars - it does not have big bold and easy signs. It has ordinary signs, nay bad signs, nay abhorrent road signs that say things like "Left lane Houston, Exit on Right, Don't change lanes, Keep Straight". Even the GPS with its picture illustrations on how to Exit in Texas is not helpful. We toured downtown Dallas and other parts of Dallas before finally catching the highway to Houston. Maybe we are just small town Midwestern hicks, but Texas sure sucks balls.

McDonald's, I'm lovin it

We had sworn no fast food during the trip. Unfortunately, we broke our own promises by eating Arby's at Little Rock. Our bigger pact was to never eat McDonald's though. The only time you eat McDonald's is when you visit another country to check on the Big Mac index and see what unique flavors the nation offers. As expected that did not last very long.

After a failed attempt to use TripAdvisor again and the lack of cooperation from parental units in being adventurous we found ourselves in a McDonald's for lunch in Huntsville. Luckily for us the south is part of a test market/special market for some new flavors. Hot and Spicy, Onion Cheddar and Cheddar Jalapeno chicken sandwiches. These sandwiches are spicy, flavorful and a delightful treat in something different at McDonalds. So even though it was lame old fast food, it was something different and we enjoyed it.

The Truffles

Ah the truffles, our mother's day gift on the road. Every woman loves chocolate, my mom and grandma love chocolates too. We got my mom a dark chocolate mint truffle, and my grandma milk chocolate truffles. My mom is a huge fan of After Eight mints, so this was perfect. Grandma enjoys milk chocolates. We should have seen this coming because women are not the only ones with sweet tooths. My sister and I had resisted like good kids and had not even asked mom for a taste of truffle, and no we had not got any candy for ourselves either. We should have seen this coming because we are the only good kids. On the road my father annexed one of grandmas truffles without even asking her, and when called out on it he claimed that it was a gift from his mother. That compelled our mother who felt bad for us to give one of her mint truffles to share. We indeed are a terrible terrible family, who buys terrible mother days gifts and eats half of it. Not my fault I say.

The South, not for us

I won't go into details and explanations, but the South is not for us. The awe that we had as teens about Houston has faded away. Theres something different about the fabric of society there and how they perceive the world. My sister and I often joke, every time we think we are swinging too far to the left - we travel and rediscover - why we believe what we believe.

Snuggling in

Three days of travel were done. We were finally in Houston with family. We would be here for a few days before we traveled again. My sister and I slept on giant air beds in a guest room. God blessed me with sleep, I blissfully sleep.

An American Odyssey - Part Three

Part One
Part Two

Blessed

God has blessed me very well. Often it makes me feel like I'm some sort of chosen one, very few people have this gift. I'm blessed with the gift of sleep, I have deep blissful slumber with beautiful vivid dreams. Most people complain about insomnia or being unable to sleep away from home. Thats not the case with me. I have a clean heart and an even cleaner and blank brain. Other people have complicated wiring that takes to long to shut down. My brain just goes poof, and I'm sleeping. I can sleep on command, I can sleep standing in a bus, I can sleep anywhere. I've even slept suspended between two seats on a bus with my butt on a stove. So needless to say I slept well.

I'm also blessed with a gift of time as well. Its an uncanny gift of time. I don't give importance to the monotony of school, work and other timely appointments that hinder with my life. Vacations, trips and fun events take precedence and I'm up bright and early in a flash. So just like the times I woke up at 5 AM because my friends though morning walks by the creek were fantastic fun, I triggered awake at bright and early throughout my vacation.

Revelations

After being awake bright and ready, I just pondered around my room to pass the time till everyone was ready for breakfast. I decided to flip through the information brochures to see what was around worth seeing in Little Rock. While we were not planning on spending time sight seeing, I always think its good to know. Who knows, I may come back to Little Rock again.

Then there it was staring right at me - the Clinton connection. Little Rock, I knew is the capitol of Arkansas which means that Bill Clinton governed the state here. He was born close by in Hope, Arkansas. The city is now home to the William Clinton Presidential Park and Library. That was the bell ringing in my brain. My brain was ringing Bill Clinton, and I did not get it. It felt good to finally have that settled.

Biscuits and Gravy

Damn! The south maybe a bunch of racist confederates, but boy can they serve a good hearty breakfast. I've stayed at many hotels in the states, and I've delighted in many complimentary breakfast. It usually is the same - waffles, muffins, donuts, oatmeal and all the sweet delights I revel in. They don't stick to the usual in the south though. You have no idea how delighted I was at seeing hot biscuits and creamy savory gravy at the breakfast buffet. I piled my plate with biscuits and plenty of gravy. What more does one want in life? What better way than to start a day with biscuits and gravy? I wish I could find a southerner who will serve me biscuits and gravy on demand.

Rockfish Grill

Its been way too long and I seem to have erased most memories of who was driving by now. I think Sigmund Freud calls it repression or regression or something of that sort. So I apologize that I am unable to share some of the driving experiences of this leg of our journey.

What I can share is the grand and beautiful use of technology. I had downloaded the TripAdvisor application on my Droid before we set out from Madison. I put the application too good use as we approached Irving, TX. I looked up places to eat. Conveniently, we found a place just blocks down the road from the hotel where we would be staying at.

Rockfish Grill is a Texas seafood restaurant chain. They have a great selection of seafood at very reasonable prices. Seafood is expensive in the Midwest. We do have good fish here, but its usually freshwater fish like catfish and trout. Otherwise all seafood delights like crabs, lobsters, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops are usually frozen and restaurant entrees super expensive. As someone who grew up on the coast, I often crave these delights. It might not be exiting to a coastie, but we really had a delicious seafood lunch at a great price at Rockfish Grill. I had scallops, my favorite.

Hyatt Residency Suites

The benefit of being Indian is that you have friends and relatives in every part of the globe. I'm sure that there is someone I know at the observation station in Antarctica. That is why despite having extensively, traveled I've not stayed at hotels much. Usually, we stay with relatives or friends. If there's no one else around, I'm a cheapskate who stays at hostels and seedy Econolodges. My family prefers quality budget hotels like Comfort Inn or something. I've never ever stayed at a suite in my life. They are far too expensive.

In Irving Texas we stayed at the Hyatt residency suites. It was my first suite life experience. My dad's cousin from India who is younger than me, that is my uncle who is younger than me (got to love Indian families) was working in Irving at the time. It was a one month assignment of some sorts. Through him and Goldman Sachs we were able to secure corporate discounts on a suite making it really affordable.


These suites are really nice. They are designed for long stays and you can literally live there. They have stoves, microwaves and all the nice things. They even have cocktail hours with hor d'oeuvre  during weekdays. They are elegantly designed and quite spacious really. Now I'm considering the Marriott Residence suites close to our place that were recently converted to condominiums. Maybe I should consider buying one of them. They are suite, I mean sweet. Our suites in Irving had lovely manicured gardens and the most beautiful Magnolia flowers and some weird sawdust like grass.







The Simple System

May 8th 2011 also marks the birth of my simplified family tracking system. It is so awesome that I should have it patented sometime soon. Unlike Americans who like to live like hermit crabs in a shell on their own personal islands, we Indians are very social and familial creatures. We have large families, large extended families, large extended families with relatives so removed and distant that they would crash the most sophisticated genealogy software while constructing the family tree. Somehow we even have names for unique relations, mama, bhanja, chacha, tauji, bua, fufa, navasa, jija, jeth, salha, and what not. I think we Konkanis have a dozen more thrown in just for fun.

It completely baffles me why we do this. So while my family tried to connect some family tree dots for me, I devised my simple system. I'm sure young Indians all across the globe will appreciate me for coming up with this simple system.

The system is based on some base relationships mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, husband, wife. These base relationships exist in any nuclear family. Perhaps in consideration for gay families I should replace husband and wife with spouse or partner. I'll stick with partner now, you will see why.

So we have the base symbols derived base relationships. Mo, Fa, Da, So, Si, Bro, Pa (or Hu, Wi). Partner has the vowels I need.

All relationships are expressed as an equation of these base symbols.

Your maternal grandfather simply becomes Mo+Fa = MoFa, and similarly your paternal grandfather is your FaFa. Your grandmothers are FaMo and MoMo.


Any relationship is the derivative of these base symbols. All you need to do is setup some simple equations and you're done. I derived that the uncle we visited in Irving was my FaMoBroSo. Its also more explanatory and explicit in relationship tracing. Uncle is so abstract and uninformative. FaMoBroSo can be broken down into the derivative equation Fa + Mo + Bro + So do determine the path of the relationship. The system is also limitless as you can add on as many degrees to the equations as you wish.

You could have a FaMoBroSoDaSoWiBroMoDaHuSoSo or whatever. Seems complex but just break down the sum to the derivative bases and trace the lineage. I should like get an Oscar for this. Its probably more Nobel material, but I'd really like an Oscar.

A Mall, A Dinner, & a Movie

My sister, myself and our FaMoBroSo spent some time at the Simon mall in Irving. The time was utilized to buy a hasty mother's day gift on the road. We got my mom and grandma some chocolate truffles, the fate of which you will hear about the next day. We saw a JC Penney Outlet store for the first time. I've not been to outlet malls, but it was tacky and kind of white trashy. Are all outlet malls like that?

For dinner we went to an Indian restaurant - Taj. Despite its regal name it was a kind of a dingy looking place with the most chaotic pager ordering system in the world that only Indian engineers could understand the logic of. On the bright side there was a wide choice of foods, it was ultra delicious and super cheap as well.

Have you ever heard of Indian Chinese? Indian Chinese involves dishes like Manchurian, Schezwan, Chili and Hakka noodles with a lot of Indian flavors and styles. The only meat dish is chicken, otherwise you get a variety of vegetarian choices like cauliflower, paneer or mixed vegetables. One notch above Indian Chinese is South Indian Chinese. Now south Indian foods have coconut curries, coconut chutneys, rice in the form of rice, idlis and dosas. You add Chinese to it and you get a whole new love child of culinary lovemaking. One such love child is a Chinese dosa. It takes our regular Masala dosa, tosses the regular potato stuffing and replaces it with a Chinese stuffing and makes you mouth go holy-moly. The railway station in my home town had one such place and the combinations you could get with Dosas and Chinese were exponentially out of this world. At Taj I had a Manchurian Dosa. Since it was a pure vegetarian restaurant, so it was made with anonymous vegetable balls. It was delicious.

My dad also ordered the Falooda which is a sweet drink with rose syrup, creamy sweet milk and tapioca pearls. The God's recipe for Ambrosia is just the falooda.

We capped the night with a viewing of new release Thor. I was shocked at the number of Texans who watch movies on a Sunday night leading us to crappy seats. Clearly, they don't have much to do like we do in Madison. I already knew plenty about Norse myth. However, I learned a lot about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. Movies can be educational you know.

I'd talk more about Thor, but you can hit up the reviews or watch the flick or just read a book on Norse myth. It was a relief to see Natalie Portman with a deserving hottie after Your Highness. I'm still waiting for the day when they will have Natalie Portman make out with Kiera Knightley.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

An American Odyssey - Part Two

As expected, despite carrying my laptop I was unable to make any posts on our Odyssey. Not that we did not have internet connection. In fact there is internet connection everywhere these days, as you will see, and in the strangest possible places. It is just that road trips and travels are extremely exhausting. In the hustle and bustle of the trip, I barely had time to connect and type.

Even now it has been well over a week since we returned. You fall back every time you are away for a long time. Now that I'm settling back into the daily pace of school, work and scheduled slacking, I'll slowly unfold the mishap and mayhem of road trips.

Part One


Toto, we are off!

On Saturday May 7th, I was up bright and early. I was washed up and ready for travel right away. That is quite surprising because, I'm clearly not the morning person. Moreover, I stayed up late the night before catching up on all my shows. After all theres a lot of things you can forget and live with like leaving the lights on, leaving the stove on, leaving the doors unlocked, but you will never forgive yourself for not catching up with your shows. In fact you might be forced to spend your vacation squirming in agony wondering what had happened. In an even more surprising twist, I was ready with my bags and all before everyone else in the family. That is even odder because my family wakes up at 5:30 and packs their bags one year before a trip. I packed the night before and threw a last minute backpack together in the morning.

Shortly after 7:00 AM, I was at the wheel of our Rendezvous and we were off on the road, meandering to our adventures.

Dubuque

The first major city in our drive was Dubuque. In my opinion Dubuque, IA is the most gorgeous and pretty American town you will ever come across. Nestled on the banks of the river Mississippi, Dubuque has a rustic old world charm of an era gone by. Majestic red brick buildings, factories from the past, a towering cathedral here and there, Dubuque surely has a picturesque landscape that is unlike any other modern city. As drive over the bridge over the Mississippi into Iowa, the breathtaking site that is Dubuque majestically unfolds. I'm not sure why I'm so enchanted by Dubuque. I might even want to live there someday.

The barn

Somewhere by the highway between Dubuque and Davenport, is an old barn. There is nothing special about this barn. Its just another barn like the thousands of barns scattered across America. There maybe parts where there are more barns than people per square mile. To be honest, I no longer remember where exactly this barn is anymore. Couldn't tell you the intersection or township this barn is located.

You see this barn was not a full barn. It was half a barn. Once upon a time it was a full barn, not to long ago. However, when we saw it there was half of it built of rickety old wood, standing strong. The other half had its roof blown off and was all twisted and contorted. So there was this half barn sitting solemnly on a pristine and beautiful untouched lush green farmland. Almost as if when the big guy was vacuuming his green carpet, he accidentally vacuumed this barn set on the floor. Yep, thats exactly what had happened, natures big vacuum cleaner.


Davenport

Our next major thoroughfare was Davenport, IA. Davenport is another river city at the border of Iowa and Illinois. While not as large and stately as Dubuque, Davenport has its own small world charm. I've never understood why the Midwestern cities and towns in Iowa, Wisconsin or Minnesota don't get enough attention. Everyone is so absorbed in the great American cities, and the major sites and landmarks there. Over time I've learned that the real America lies in the heartland, the farms, the prairies, the small towns and their quaint friendly atmosphere. Most of Davenport is kind of drab like any other city. The river is where the magic is. Lined along the Mississippi are the cutest cottages in the world, and as you drive along the banks you will be secretly wishing that this sleepy scenic riverside town was your home. You could watch the Mississippi every morning from your windows, you could walk aimlessly on the paths that trail the banks. I've seen New York, Chicago, San Francisco, the big cities et all. If you really want to see American beauty, come to the Midwest I tell you.

Drab Old Illinois

Due to the way our states are positioned and shaped, you can't just stick to Iowa to get to St. Louis. The highways make you drive through a good chunky length of Illinois. There are other ways, but they are longer. So we were forced to make our way through Illinois. At least, at least (and this is the part I really feel very good about) we avoided the state approved daylight robbery that takes place repeatedly on I-90 and innocent travelers are hijacked for insane and hefty tolls. I won't mind the tolls if I-90 was a good road but I-90 can be a shitty road at times and the traffic you hit in Chicago sucks balls.Although to give credit where its due, you won't find any rest area in the country as awesome as the Oasis built on I-90.

We had lunch at a Cracker Barrel in Springfield, IL. I like country cooking, especially the greens. Its not great gourmet food, but homey stuff that comforts you on the highway. If you drive between any two points in America, there will be a Cracker Barrel en route. They are everywhere. In fact the Cracker Barrel website helps you plan road trips with their stores in route. We did not do that, but if you are an unadventurous cracker moseying your way across the country, there is a barrel everywhere for you.

Noah's Ark at St. Louis

St. Louis is a city in Missouri famous for their finger licking good barbecue and that massive steel arch by the river. But I bet you have never heard of Noah's Ark at St. Louis. In fact you might wonder what the heck is Noah's Ark doing in St. Louis now. Its their biggest landmark. You see when you travel with my family that is half deaf and half ADD, arches turn to arks. It does not take long to have Noah enter the picture, God knows how. So ultimately what we have is that Noah built a massive steel structure in St. Louis Missouri. Thats his arch/ark whatchayamacallit. When the world was flooded all animals climbed up the arch and survived.

Our family tradition mandates that we get lost in St. Louis. That is why despite detailed GPS directions my dad took a wrong exit in St. Louis. The result of that wrong exit gave us a scenic tour of downtown St. Louis before we headed back to the highway. The last time I was in St. Louis my wrong exit gave me a scenic tour of what could only be described of the ghetto stretch of St. Louis. They have an endless ghetto stretch. I think my family is relieved that they did not have to do a ghetto stretch. I can't understand why.

Ozarks

The stretch between St. Louis, MO and Little Rock, AR is stunning. Highway 67 is a gentle highway that rolls up and down the Ozark mountains. Theres very little traffic making it a very relaxing drive. Civilization is also minimal as you soon get enveloped by green mountain forests on all sides. As a result your drive is full of uphill climbs, lovely gorges and breathtaking views of valleys in the Ozarks. We were just on the major highway and it was stunningly beautiful. If you have more time and adventure in your spirit, you could take some of the other scenic byways that take you through the state park, scenic spots and other points of interest in the Ozark mountains. Its too bad my family prefers to rush things. I'm definitely a scenic byways kind of person. Maybe some other time.

Flood Zone

Although it is probably wise that we stuck to the highways this time. The scenic byways may not have been a good idea considering the devastating flood and storms in the southern Mississippi regions. A good chunk through 67 we entered a mix of construction and flood zones. Initially it was not bad, the highway is being expanded so traffic was diverted two-lane. In some parts along with construction there were diversions due to one lane of the highway being submerged under water, so traffic was moved to the other side of the highway.

All this would have passed without second though it I was not convinced that my father was driving on a death wish. I've never had a day when I thought I would die so many times. I've lost count of my near death experiences on highway 67 that fateful day. I think my father mentally regressed for some reason into a time where he was a youth in India and would weave his way through the ghats overtaking dozens of Ashok Leyland trucks on the way. The only problem is that the speed limit on ghats is half the speed limit here. Add to that the fact that he is 50+ and slowly turning old and senile, with diminishing vision and depth perception (although he is convinced that he is 20 something and agile like a ninja). At least there is a God, who finally answered my prayers as eventually he had to stop to use the restroom and my sister could take over the wheel. I guess it was not our time to go that day.

The next leg of the journey was for more heartbreaking as we found ourselves in the real devastating flood zones. We drove through a stretch of highway where it literally felt that we were driving on water, as acres of fields around us were submerged in water, the water just a few millimeters from the highway. Heartbreaking and shocking it was when we found abandoned villages and houses half submerged in the waters. We passed a small town where a children's playground was under water and you could only see the top bars of the slide, swing and jungle gym sets. We lost quite a bit of time due to one way traffic and diversions. My sister handled this crappy part of the drive with much patience.

Prior to this I had only seen disaster on the news. Even my New Orleans trip was well post Katrina. This was the first time in my life I was seeing the effects of natural disaster with my own eyes. It was an eyeopening and changing experience. I can't describe it, but a part of me was moved and changed forever. Of course I'm a terrible person and it will never stop me from making politically incorrect statements like "God hates those who say God hates gays" and something like that, for its no coincidence that most of America's natural disasters effect red hick states. But apart from being a horrible person, I developed a deeper respect for mother nature and a greater concern for America and pride in her resilience no matter what our differences.

The fight

It was a long day. I woke up way earlier than I normally would. I had stayed up way later than I should have. I was under the duress of having experienced repeated near death expenses. I'd felt the second hand bitch slap of mother nature and was wrestling with my soul with confused emotions over God, nature and evil/good people of red states. It was past seven and I had not had dinner yet. I was locked in a tin can with my half deaf, half ADD family for 12+ hours. I was meant to explode. I might come across as whiny, childish, rude, immature, cranky, neurotic and all that good stuff - but in my defense near death experiences at the hands of your own father are very traumatic and I'm a very sensitive little pussy like that.

Little Rock

Finally by the grace of God we were delivered safely to Little Rock, AR and found our Comfort Inn with ease. There were no tornadoes, rain storms or floods that mutilated us. All head on collisions and death spirals into valleys were miraculously avoided. I wonder if this is common in the south and hence their deep beliefs. Unfortunately, there was no place open late night in Little Rock so our final meal of the day takes place at Arbys. For the first time in my life I ordered a Reuben. It was calling out to me. Another divine intervention I say, I found a new sandwich favorite. Must be the Hebrew in my name, although I don't get why Reuben is associated with Hebrew foods when it has corned beef and swiss cheese. Beef and cheese, I'm a heathen Hindu and a heathen Jew.

As I went to bed that night questions lingered in my mind, of course why is Reuben associated with Hebrew cuisine. However, most importantly why does Little Rock ring a bell in my head. Its famous for something, I just cant place my finger on it though.

Friday, May 6, 2011

An American Odyssey - Part One

My bags are packed, or so I think. Perhaps, maybe, I think I have enough clothes. I'll probably remember somethings right in the morning. I'm a good traveler, but I definitely suck at packing. I actually kind of hate lugging around bags and stuff. Thats the beauty of road trips though. You simply throw a bag together of stuff you think you need. If you forget anything, there are stores and places along the way to find what you want. Best of all your car never charges you for bags or places restrictions. You can stop, eat, stretch all you want.

Our first American road trip was to the east coast. We drove through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pensylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, New York into Canada and then back home through Michigan. It was a blast. A couple summers ago I ventured south to New Orleans, Louisiana through Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi following along the Mississippi river. That was an incredible trip with incredible Herculean driving stories. I survived the south in a Toyota Corolla with the HRC sticker sticking on the bumper with pride. America is actually an incredible country really.

This time around I'm following down south. But instead of Louisiana, we will be meandering through the Ozarks into Texas. Then while coming back I'll be traveling through some new states for the very first time Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. It will be long hours, it will be lots of driving, it will be jam packed, it will be exhausting, it will be fun though.

Most importantly the trip will be Gleetastic as well as Gagatastic. I just finished burning ten discs of pure Gleekdom sprinkled in with some Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha and some others here and there. And ain't technology grand too. Our previous trips were using google maps, this time around we will have GPS. I'm planning to exploit the maximum out of my android too. Lets see if I can work it without breaking it.

I've got my laptop snuggled in my backpack. If I have time and connection, I'll be posting updates. If not Part two will be in a week. Now I got to run, shower and sleep. Its a long day ahead tomorrow. Heartland America, here we come. 


View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Solemn musings

The past forty eight hours have been eventful. My eyes have welled up in tears, but I've felt immense joy. I've felt soulful and moved by a power greater than me, but most important of all I have felt optimistic and hopeful. Never in my life would I have imagined that the death of a person, a death of a person I had only heart of but never seen, heard or known could have such an overwhelming effect emotionally.


Two days ago I was reflecting on the inability of American culture to revel in the royal wedding. I lamented over the United States lack of history that can limit our perspective and search for joy in the simple things of life. The United States of America may not have a rich long history and culture like some other nation. But turns out sometimes you don't need history, the Americans of today are blessed with the opportunity of creating history and living through it. We don't need a royal wedding, our moments of joy are captured in the hearts of the common folk, the thousands of common folk who stormed the streets with their American flags chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A". Our moment in history was captured in the revelers in New York City who finally got their due, their country had killed Osama Bin Laden the man who once brought the city down to its knees.
I know many people across the world are shocked and disgusted by this outburst of loud ecstatic celebration. Many people wonder what sort of savages we might be to celebrate the gruesome death of man. The world maybe wondering why people were bringing their children and grandchildren to celebrate war and death. What has our world come to when we celebrate death?

To be honest I'm a very softhearted pacifist myself. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined experiencing these emotions. I do look in the mirror and ask myself what sort of person I am to take comfort and solace in death. I don't have the answers. But then again I did not live through the horrors of 09/11. I was not one of those people who saw those planes fly into the twin towers. I did not have dust and debris pour upon me as I saw the heart of my city crumble. I did not endure the pain of losing a loved one. No I did not even spend hours clutching the phone, waiting for a call, praying and hoping for someone to call and let me know my loved ones are safe. I was not a rescue worker who put blood, sweat and tears into helping people. I had been in America for just a little over a year. I did not know what it meant to be an American. I was not even a citizen then. I did not even understand the symbolism, the pain and impact it caused the in the hearts of Americans. I did not know how it wrote the history book for America. Neither do the people who question the celebrations, for if they did, they would not ask.


However, today I've lived over a decade in the United States. Madison, WI is the place I call home now. This is the country where I grew up from a teenager to an adult. This is the country that shaped my life as a young adult. This is the country where I learned to stand on my own feet and be my own person. And through this shaping experience, I have learned what it means to be an American. So perhaps Osama Bin Ladens death is not as significant to me, and like any other global citizen its a terrorist eliminated. On the other hand, watching the tears of joy in the eyes of my fellow Americans, feeling the emotions that run through their veins, empathizing with the overwhelming emotions, experiencing a piece of American history - that matters, that makes a difference. That is why today even me the softhearted pacifist will applaud a gruesome death.

The sheer magnitude of this event is not only in the sense of justice and closure that this event has caused. What makes this event great and larger than life is how it brought us together as a nation. Before this we were divided. Before this we did not know what was our common grounds. In the beginning of the year a Congresswoman got shot in the head. There was mud slinging from all sides. Over the next few months we argued about budget, about spending, about class warfare and a plethora of other dividing social issues. We were literally at each others throats. Today we are American again. We have never been closer and together hand in hand we express pride and gratitude towards our armed forces and our President.



For the truth is what we have in common is that we are American. It does not matter if we are rich or poor, republicans or democrats, conservative or liberal, wall street bankers or main street workers, gay or straight, young or old, man or women, Christian, Muslim or Hindu, Midwestern, southern or a coastie, a farmer or a business man - all of us each and every one of us we are American. We feel the pain and joy of America. When those twin towers collapsed we all lost something, we all felt the pain, someway somehow we all were affected, we all lost things that we loved. Today when that loss has been avenged, we all felt the relief, we all felt what it meant, we all felt hope, joy and happiness. The bipartisan support, the media on both sides commending the efforts, the genuine awakening of bridging the gap and finding middle path solutions is what really moves a lot of us. After ten long years we are all like estranged brothers and sisters coming together as a family.

That is why I even though I try to be moderate and reasonable and nice, I'm going to so fuck you conspiracy theorists, fuck you Osama Bin Laden mourners, fuck you America haters, fuck you those who want to divide us and bring us down. Don't you dare rain on our parade.

Sidebar: I did not want to take up too much room with politics and other things, in the honest emotions above. so am adding a sidebar.

  • George W. Bush first started the war on terror. Even though I am a progressive liberal who will never vote Republican, he deserves credit for the initiative. 
  • The aggressive approach of George W. Bush and other Republicans in foreign policy gave USA the ability to operate such a high profile operation. 
  • However, George W. Bush was completely wrong and misdirected with Iraq. That war is our biggest mistake and should never have happened. In fact I think Bush misled the nation with that. 
  • The Bush administration not only made a mistake declaring war on Iraq, but actually was extremely inefficient and incompetent in the oversight of it
  • Bush and Co are still guilty of water boarding and other means of torture. 
  • Barack Obama, Joe Biden & Hillary Clinton were the few politicians who spoke aggressively about Pakistan and the willingness to take action there
  • It was under the Obama administration that he withdrew troops from Iraq and increased them in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he deserves full credit for that
  • Leon Panetta and the Obama administration obtained their information from sophisticated intelligence, regular interrogations and procedures. They did not use torture or unethical means
  • Considering where Osama was killed the Pakistan government is either involved or incompetent in regards to terrorism
  • The United States needs to finally end all military aid to Pakistan
  • I still have faith that the people of Pakistan like several ordinary people across the middle east are simple honest and peace loving folk who want to live a normal life. However, like in other countries they too live under an oppressive and corrupt regime which is too involved or incompetent to protect them from terrorism. The suspicion of Pakistani authority should by no means be reflected on the actual innocent people of Pakistan. USA is and always will be an ally to peace loving people.
  • I disagree with my fellow progressives who say bring troops home. I am sure Osama Bin Laden has over the past decade established a massive network of terror through the region. Now with the chain of command broken we ought to waste no time to go full force and do as much damage as we can. Even if it means more troops in Pakistan. If you need help ask India, they will be more than happy. 
  • Muslim Clerics who are upset over the burial at sea need to decide - Is Obama an actual Muslim and a true representative of the religion who needs that respect or is he a heinous person who destroyed the religion and made life for Muslims difficult across the globe
  • America is not an enemy of the Muslim world. The Obama administration has done all it can to bridge the gap between our worlds and cultures. Even if its not up to par, one has to appreciate the sincerity and effort. Several progressives like Obama have even stood up for Muslims in America. As a nation we do make mistakes, we have screwed up. Muslims ought to realize that the mistakes like Iraq and some of Bush policies do not reflect Obama or all Americans. 
  • If you are an American Citizen, vote for Obama in 2012 (Just kidding please research your candidates, and vote for who you truly believe will be best for all Americans and for the future of America and the world)




Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden With That

Osama Bin Dancin Like that
Osama Bin Laden dancin no more
Osama Bin Laden, no more, no more.

Last night a friend told my sister on the phone that Osama Bin Laden was dead. At first we did not believe, so she checked CNN. It was true. The headlines confirmed his death. Obviously oblivious to the manner of his death, I immediately asked "Earthquake, Tsunami or Tornado". Hey, given the state of nature, that was actually a more feasible thought. Its kind of surreal to think we actually got the guy. In fact I'm actually still rooting for Tornado. I just want to imagine Osama going "We're not in Kansas anymore".



Now some people say that the death is faked. It is indeed surreal to believe that after ten years of incompetency they actually caught the guy. However, such massive elaborate cover ups are the realm of movies not reality. I did not expect so many people globally to be enamored by Indian soap operas where the dead resurrect with new lives and new faces.

At this junction I want to take a moment of sombre seriousness. For ten years families effected by 09/11 have been waiting for their scars to heal. For ten years our soldiers have been dying for what was long thought a futile cause. Politicians maybe unscrupulous, but I don't think our honorable soldiers would do something that would betray the trust of their fellow Americans, or their brothers and sisters who died fighting. I'm genuinely proud of the Navy Seals and what they accomplished. I'm a big cynic of this war, but today they did make it worth it. I don't dare take away this from them. They deserve nothing but gratitude.

Anyway, coming back to the usual goofy humor that is our modern lives in these here fine United States or this fucked up Planet Earth. Many Muslim clerics are upset that Osama was buried at sea. They need to make up their mind - was Osama a Muslim whose actions represented Islam or is he just a son of a bitch who ruined your religion. If I were Muslim I'd hope Krakens were still there because we could feed the Kraken.

However, I am a bit bothered by this burial at sea. Its not about Islamic rites, and its not about the fact that we did not see the corpse. It is just that Megatron was buried at sea. Osama is resting with Megatron. Does that mean the revenge of the fallen next? The world could be in for some serious shizzle. This Osama was some shit for starters, I wonder how much his fallen can pile on us.