Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Men of Shiva

I love being in a country where so many people are so demonstrative of their faith, and everyone else is so accepting of it all. Where I come from, people generally only paint their faces for halloween or for football games.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tara Cafe

(Photo - Varanasi Barbershop - see also at Tiny Pink Frog)

Life is good.

It’s raining. Lightning and thunder. This is a crowded little four-table café on one of the three main drags in McLeod Ganj.

It’s 4:20 PM, and it’s not supposed to be dark until 7:00 PM, but the clouds are so thick that the streetlights are on. I’m especially pleased that it’s raining, because there is a monkey poop on the balcony roof right outside the table in the back of the Community Center where I often write, and it has really started to reek. If it rains hard enough, I might be able to work there again tomorrow.

There is a French couple at the table next to me talking to two European girls about Southern India. “Ah, OK, Mysore was the temple with the bool.”

At another table, two Tibetan guys are reading a magazine; one of them starts singing a song in Tibetan every once in a while, but he seems to forget the words.

At the other table, one of my favorite modern-day trends, a Caucasian American woman with dreadlocks. She’s the quasi-girlfriend of Jackson, a fellow laptopper who is working on his PhD thesis but had to retreat to Delhi to get his hard drive repaired. She is talking with a friendly and charmingly unattractive pudgy European college girl whom I often see here. She is cozy with the Tibetan dudes who hang out here. This café is a hangout for young Tibetan guys because the tea is cheap and the managers don’t make them leave when they’re finished.

This is my workplace. Not just here, but this kind of place. And if I’m in the mood for a view, I might go to Llamo’s Croissants (but avoid the baked goods there) or that place at the end of Bhagsu Road where they play opera and everything is made of stone.

I have my faithful Mac out on the table, a glass of “black tea” and my novel up and running. (I’ll get back to it in a moment.) This feels good. Surprisingly good.

Welcome to my new life.

It’s hard to explain, but somewhere between Tokyo and India I realized that I really didn’t want to stop writing anymore just to make enough money to pay for a lifestyle (and not even an extravagant one) that wasn’t really that much fun anymore. More importantly, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to.

The upshot of it is that I write now full time, which is to say five or six days a week, three-to-five hours each day, the best chunk of the day for me – morning into afternoon. AFTER that, if I can make a few bucks, turn a few tricks, rob a few banks, that’s fine.

I’m not waiting to come back to the US to do this. (In fact, I don’t need to come back to the US to do this.) I started four months ago and I don’t plan to stop doing this when I get back. And yes, I’m coming back.

I feel kind of silly constantly coming to this blog and spewing forth what’s been going on in my head, but I feel compelled to explain myself for some reason. (Hey, it’s a blog.)

So before I get carsick from this public display of introspection, let me finish up and post. A few things contributed to my coming around to this kind of lifestyle, and I’ll briefly put them down here and then get back to work. One: The passage of time. The cocky guy inside me who wanted to be a hotshot from day one finally wore himself down to size. It’s not as embarrassing to me as it used to be to be poor and/or unfamous. Two: Self Confidence. I realized that my own fear of depression and poverty was keeping me in a very depressing and uncreative rut. This kind of fear is eminently conquerable, as it’s all in one’s head.

Sure, coming to Asia this time has changed me, but just having time to think and sort things out was probably the biggest factor.

There is still the nagging angst that it’s all going to go terribly wrong once I get back to the US, but deep down I know that there’s nothing to fear. When I’m in good spirits, it’s very uplifting and freeing. When my stomach is hurting, which is surprisingly often, I dread coming back to the rat race. Lucky for me, it’ll be summer when I arrive stateside, and if there’s no work I can live in the mountains until at least October.

Speaking of conquering fear and all that, I saw the Dalai Lama today. He departed McLeod Ganj, his “temporary” residence, the day I arrived a month ago and just now returned. He waved to us all from the front seat of his car (that road’s a bitch, I ride in the front when I can, too) like a pope without hat, returning to his Vatican. Our town has it’s raison d’etre back.

The power has just gone out, and my screen is now the only source of light in here, glowing brighter than the windows. They’ll be bringing around candles in a moment. Until then, I’m the bluish-lit writer in the corner. Welcome to my new life.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Moo vs ooM

Varanasi, India

I must admit, I love the cow thing. We did it with plastic in NYC, but India's always had the original version. A big touch of calm in the most hectic of places. A dada masterpiece, in toto. Easier to pet than a dog.