15 November 2010


Those two pictures are from the path on my walk. The first photo is a picture of the subway station that I get on every morning.

Today, at least four people let me know in no uncertain terms that when they think about food/cooking, they think of me. It made me feel all warm and glowy inside. I'm "that food obsessed guy" in my friends's lives.

14 November 2010

I quit smoking and can smell things more clearly. This is not an asset on the subway platform. I can pick out four different deposits of stale, ripe, dry urine,

04 November 2010

Not missing much

I haven't really bothered watching TV in the past couple of months. There's a couple of shows I used to follow fairly regularly, like Simpsons, South Park, or Top Chef. I don't feel like I've been missing much. Maybe this means we'll just cancel the cable when the contract is over?

02 November 2010

Weekend recap

So, Saturday was (I think) about the most sensible kid's birthday party I've attended in a very long time. This is, of course, in Falls Church, VA, where my brother (Kumar), sister-in-law (Sowmya), nephew (Vinyakak), and niece (Nithya), along with their neighbours the mom (Shobha), dad (Rajesh), daughter (Neha), and son (Rishul). For reference, Nithya is 8, Vinayak is 6, Neha is 6 and change (or is she 7 already?) and Rishul is 5 (turned 5 last week, and was having his birthday party on Saturday).

We went about an hour out of Falls Church to some tiny little town with a bunch of trees and fields and such. I guess they need a lot of space for this play place, because it was enormous. Essentially, it's a giant room full of bouncy castles, bouncy obstacle courses, and bouncy slides. Everything is bouncy. And there's a music in the background, a rack where you dump your coats, shoes, etc., and pretty decent carpetting everywhere. The mix of children were pretty decent, so they actually liked playing together, and there weren't any (that I recall) tantrums or the like.

For the better part of two hours solid, you've got the children running, jumping, climbing, sliding, and laughing their heads off. Add to that the fact that the facility encouraged parents to go join their children, and you've got a clear recipe for every child in there really giving it their all to take advantage of fun time. When mommy and daddy (and a fair few of the parents did partake of all the festivities, as well as Steve and I) are crawling through the obstacle course, or sliding down the enormous slide, or jumping in the bouncing room, it somehow amps up their energy even more.

Fortunately, a lot of fun for the nephew and niece is having their uncle come watch them do something or other, so I could happily park myself somewhere, make appreciative faces, cheer when appropriate (yes, that really /was/ an impressive jump), and make sure nobody's trying to do something dangerous (rare, because everything is soft and bounces). After a good two solid hours of this, it was time to get everyone in the room to eat pizza and cake. Steve and I had eaten at home, so we were fine by then.

Anyone who's been to a child's birthday party can generally forsee how things will end up. Someone is going to get into a screaming tantrum at some point. That one screaming and fussing is going to rile up the rest. Then, nobody really wants to sit and eat, so the parents fret, because now they know the child is going to come back like 30 minutes later to whine that she/he is hungry, and why can't you get me something NOW NOW NOW.

No. Nothing like that here, thank you. After spending two hours running and giggling like loons, one tends to be ready to sit and eat. Then, once your tummy is full, and you've seen all your friends, and had a good time in general, you'll take your cake, your goody bag, and your balloon (Kumar saw to it that those got handed out to each child). There was minor fussing, but that was mostly tiredness and a readiness to go home and get some sleep. I'm very sure that the other parents had just as easy a time putting theirs down for sleepy time as we did.

Sunday was Halloween, and my mother's birthday, as well as the eve of Sowmya's birthday (her birthday was the reason that I had planned the trip that weekend). Steve's friend Rehmah was going to come over, because she lives in DC area, and it's a lot closer to hit up the train for like 30 minutes or so, than to get on a bus for 5 hours to get to New York.

Sunday was also trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving day. Sowmya, being wary of those enormous pumpkins, snagged fairly small one for the children. Each child got one that would be carved by one of the adults. No harm, no foul. First came the cleaning out part. That in itself can take a fair bit of time. Then came the carving part. I hadn't a clue what I was doing, so as soon as Rehmah came in, I promptly conscripted her to the task of carving Vinayak's pumkin, while Somya and Shobha made quick work of Nithya, Neha, and Rishul's pumpkin.

Then, off to scatter for changing, shower time, and costume putting on. Because the two houses were so close, there was the inevitable ferrying back-and-forth of various pieces of make up, hair product, and the rest. By around 6~ish, everyone was ready. We all trooped over to Shobha's house, for Sowmya's surprise party. Her friends were over, there was a small cake, but Rajesh and Kumar weren't back yet. So cue the children playing and carrying on for a few minutes until the fathers did arrive. Once Kumar and Rajesh came back bearing dinner from an Indian restaurant a short distance away, Rehmah, Steve, and I headed back to my brother's house to pass out treats from there, and the rest all went off for their door to door thing.

Apparently, the mothers on this block plan it so that said trick or treating starts promptly at 6:30, and ends in about a half hour, give or take. The efficiency was stunning. Seriously. When you have all the children in a two block radius descend for treats in a 30 minute period, it leaves you much more time for socialising, and hanging out. I sincerely doubt that it's even about the candy, because the parents are pretty good about keeping a keen eye on how much sugar the children are guffing down. Essentially, the limit is one piece per day, full stop.

We got plenty of children coming over. Sowmya didn't pass out candy, but instead had a large selection of spider rings, bracelets, stamps, pencils, mini puzzles, all sorts of things. Neat thing is that the children /were/ excited by it. Other neat thing is that Sowmya had bought a /lot/ of the stuff, so she said, "Be generous. Let them take however much they want. I don't want it sitting around my house, so get rid of as much as you can." Happily. When you see a child's face light up at being told, "Take as much as you can carry", it makes you remember back to when you were that age, and a stamp or pencil or some other junky toy was the Coolest Thing Ever at that moment.

Once trick or treating was over, everyone trooped over to Shobha's house for the cake (see how they planned it? cake at the end of the night, so you're done eating, running around, and playing, then you're ready for sleep). Once that was all done, and clean up was finished, we went back to Kumar's house to settle the children in for bed time, and for Steve and me to get packed for the trip back to New York.

After all the excitement for that weekend, Vinayak was more than happy to settle in quietly with his book, as I was with mine. For about half an hour or so, we read quietly. Then, we joined Sowmya, Nithya, Kumar, and Steve in the living room to park in front of the TV for a bit. I had Vinayak next to me, and he conked out promptly in five minutes. Nithya and Sowmya followed suit soon after.

For what happened after this, the previous entry tells about our adventures on the journey home.

01 November 2010

Next time, let's spend the $10

We got to the train station well in time, around a little past midnight. Apparently, others had the idea to catch the overnight bus back to New York. I think there were about five or six people (at the most) in front of us. I’m blaming that rally for the full bus, but the rest is just a function of being anywhere out at that hour in a city that seems to shut down around 11 PM on a Sunday.

As soon as we queued up behind those other five, we were treated to a loud, drunk, sobbing Mexican guy carrying on to his girlfriend on his mobile phone. Along the side where the pre-boarding people are to stand is a long power strip (about 20 outlets or so) where people can charge their devices. This guy thought he was plugged in, but the actual plug itself was on the floor, as he loudly and openly wept on the phone.

I, being the ever so considerate person, quietly plugged it back in for him, because I didn’t want the soap opera to cut off early. I also quietly texted Steve a translation of the Spanish, so that he didn’t feel left out. If you thought you’ve seen bad overacting in Bollywood, you haven’t seen anything yet. It started with “I’m dying, because of all the pain you’re putting me through …” and wound up around “You’re so cold and heartless my love, my life, my heart is tearing into pieces”, etc etc, interspersed with plenty of “Why do I even live anymore? I work at a bar! AT A BAR!” All the while most of the people are completely oblivious, and only see this guy sobbing a lot.

Clearly, he missed the part where working at a bar meant that he’s getting all the drinks he can get through, because he was well and truly flying in the clouds.

Apparently, he was also on a really bad phone card, because the call would drop frequently. So he’d stop crying for a few minutes, while he’d sort out how to dial the innumerable. It was like watching a young child throw a really bad tantrum. He looked around and asked if he could borrow a pen. I politely offered mine, and the use of paper, should he need. Always helpful, right?

That went into another 15 minute crying bawling fit to try to get her new phone number, so he doesn’t have to go through this rigmarole every time he’s trying to call her. She wouldn’t acquiesce, and he’d continue the waterworks. One of the greyhound employees tried to break in, and he stopped crying long enough to explain in broken English that it’s a long distance call, while pointing to the phone card. She seemed to get the picture.

So, it gets to boarding time. Suddenly, the pre-board side fills up, as if by magic. The entire lot of them had paid the $5 extra to board early. There were all of five or six of us who didn’t. While those people were all getting on, as we silently wondered if Greyhound is in the habit of overbooking, I asked Steve to snag some water. Of course, we had completely forgotten to fill our bottles at the house before leaving. That would be too easy, right?

He searched up and down the station, to see that every machine was flat out empty of water. All except the machine directly in front of us. I guess rather than spending $4 on two bottles of water, the rest of the folk heading to New York decided to spend $5 on guaranteeing a seat. I’m not sure how much I care for that, but that’s neither here nor there.

Finally, all the pre-boarding people were on. We got on to a completely full bus. Again, I’m blaming the rally, but whatever. It seems stupid that we got there that early, and were basically the last ones to get on. It seems even more stupid that a trip out of DC in the middle of the night, when the Metro isn’t running, and half the state is asleep would be quite so full. Take my word for it when I cast my doubts about the ability for the folk sharing our bus home to be able to get a rental car or taxi happening. I’ve seen what those things charge.

As seems to be tradition by now, Steve was seated at one end of the bus, and I’m on the other. Fortunately, because the hour was so late, both of us promptly conked out, and slept until (more or less) arriving in New York. Had it not been for the half hour of nervously watching the bus fill up, and hoping that we actually /get/ a seat, we’d have not really minded the wait at all. The screaming drunk guy was actually entertaining, because he was fairly skilled at changing up his diatribe enough. I also got plenty of time to charge my computer and iPod (neither of which I used, because the bus on the way home didn’t have wifi, and because I was sleeping).

I woke to see New York out the window, which meant that we’d be home shortly. There was absolutely no traffic on the tunnel in, and there was no traffic to get into Port Authority Bus Terminal. This meant that we got into the bus terminal and out of there in minutes, and were on the way to the subway station.

At 5:30 in the morning.

And the entrance to the subway via the bus terminal doesn’t open until 6 am.

We walked out around 42nd and 8th (basically, the west end of Times Square, which is still very well lit up at that hour) to realise how hard the cold has set in. Neither of us was prepared for that bone-chilling blast of cold air, having just come from DC, where it was pretty pleasant and mild. We managed to make it to the subway platform in a minute or two, but only well after having been chilled to the bone. This is after both being seated next to snorers.

At some point that night, Steve said, “Next time, spend the $10.” Fair enough. Either that, or book that Megabus or that Bolt Bus and the heck with the weird pick up locations. At least the drop off location isn’t that bad (in DC side).

We made it home fairly quickly from there, even though the train took like three or four minutes to get there, and was running local. I conked out for a second nap (I don’t leave for work until 9:45, and it was around 6:30 by the time we walked into the apartment). Steve did his coffee thing, and something else, but I was well into sleepy time by then. Three snooze buttons later, I threw on a pot of rice, and went out the door to work. I got in about 5 minutes late, but that was fine, because I was still on time to get to the stack of stuff that piled up from the weekend. It didn’t occur to me until about 11:15 that my boss wasn’t coming in on time today for some reason. Oh right. He had a meeting with investors who wanted to get some capital to expand the business.

A meeting that’d last well into the day.

As the waitress is telling me that the state Kosher inspector is there, and needs to be dealt with. Thankfully, I remembered where everything was, and he was suitably satisfied about our Rabbi’s inspection records from the previous months. Just as he’s walking out the door, and I just managed to get the soup on the stove (there were about three servings of the previous one, and blistering cold days like this on whet t the appetite for soup), I get a call from the accounting firm to sit down with me to show me how to handle deductions and work the new QuickBooks something or other. An hour after chatting to “Vincent” and “George” (I surmised by the accents that were coming through that it was likely Vijaykumar and Gopalakrishnan, but try saying that to one of the Caucasian persuasion, and watch the wholesale butchering of the names), I managed to finish off the list of the cooking that needed to get done that day, and got out the door only one hour later than usual.

Next time, we’ll spend the $10 and sleep properly in the bus.