Day 3 In India–I Wonder If It’s Like This In New York

February 17, 2011

Taxi rides are almost a white knuckle experience.  The cab routinely misses motocycle riders, other cabs, and pedestrians by inches.  Sometimes by inch.

Pedestrians have no right of way.

There is constant horn blowing by the taxi, which I think means, ‘You can’t blame me if something happens, I warned you’. 

One the way back to hotel there was a wagon blocking up too much of the street to pass.  The cab driver just about held down his horn until the wagon driver ran out.  The cab driver gestured toward the wagon with his hand open and palm up as if to say, “Seriously?”

Once inside the office building (I’m still struggling to remember to walk on the left) the elevators cram full.  Not full with respectful distance, but full with no respectful distance.

I felt better today, yet still somehow crashed for three hours as soon as I got back into my hotel room this evening.  That’s from about 6pm to about 9pm local time. 

This afternoon you could see the smoke, but I was late to hail the taxi that had been waiting and didn’t snap a picture.  I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.

They’re building some cement buildings that will be part of a college.  They use felled trees, about 3 inches thick, with their limbs lopped off and lash them together to create the scaffolding on the outside of the building.  They use this scaffolding to build the building from cement.

Chennai has a movie industry called Kollywood, much like the Bollywood industry, that is becoming popular for its musical movies.  The ChennaiTimes section of the newspaper is generally about Kollywood star news.

I heard today about a 2000 year old temple in the outskirts of the city that I might be able to visit, but it’s about 30 miles away, out of range of renting a car for the day.  Maybe I’ll spend the weekend by the pool.

If I had this to do over, I’d fly out on Wednesday, arrive Friday morning, and adjust over the weekend.  The partial day I had alloted myself was insufficient.

I saw kids on the streets on the way home today in their school uniforms.


Art’s Adventure In India–Day 2

February 16, 2011

Today was the first day of real ‘work’, in the training room with my trainees.

My foremost thought at the end of the day is that perhaps it isn’t a good idea for a deaf-in-one-ear-and-can’t-hear-out-the-other to travel to India to give training.  I need more hearing.

2011-02-16_16-52-45_299Unless the Indians are a taxi driver (with an American passenger) talking to the motorcycle rider he just almost ran over the general rule seems to be to talk rather low.


I don’t think I’m having a problem interpreting the accent.  It’s more the volume.

2011-02-16_16-53-09_917I was able to place another component to the smell here, and I think it’s a hint of incense or other kind of fragrant smoke.  At times it is a bit spicy.  In the office building I smelled tangerine, but traced that to a fruit bar nearby.

I saw cows in the street on the taxi ride to the hotel tonight, but the taxi passed them too fast to snap a picture.

The choices in the office building food court were fried Indian veggie cuisine, Chinese, Pizza Hut and Subway.  Distressing options considering I listened to a book convincing me to give a low carb diet another chance.  I chose garlic chicken, with rice, but only ate a small portion of the rice.

The security turnstile to get into the office building had a ramp and turnstile designed for handicapped with a sign that said, ‘Differently abled people’.  I thought that rather left it open for interpretation.

When conversing with the locals they shake their head, like they are saying ‘no’.  As I am explaining something, they shake their head no, but they aren’t meaning no.  I’ve not decided what they mean, but it isn’t no.

I find myself swimming upstream walking down hallways on the right side.  When a country drives on the left, you should walk down the left side of the hallway.

2011-02-15_11-05-12_581I returned to the hotel tonight barely conscious and collapsed on my bed for a quick hour nap.  After the hour I crawled under the covers cursing myself and telling myself I needed to wake up or put off acclimating to the time zone another day.  It took me an hour to convince myself the validity of this argument, wondering if it was already too late, and dragged myself out.

My stomach is churning a bit tonight.  I am not sure if it’s all the Diet Coke I’m drinking, the local cuisine (as neutral as I’ve tried to keep it, there is still the local interpretation), or the adjustment to the attempts at reducing my carb intake.  I decided to have a steak, went down to the restaurant and was seduced by the options on the dinner buffet.  Fried cauliflower, long beans (green beans with bacon), fried shrimp, chicken and mushrooms, chicken kebob, braised beef.  It was delicious.

The dinner buffet cost Rs1200 (1200 rupees).  This is about $26 with global exchange rates, but there is no tipping at dinner (although the taxis do not refuse, and neither does room service).  Most menu-ordered meals cost about Rs500.  The buffets are more expensive.  The steak would have cost Rs750.

Live music was being played by a couple with a karaoke set-up.  The songs are familiar oldies, but I couldn’t name them, although I wasn’t really trying. My only impression is that one of them was a Kenny Rogers song.  I was trying to listen to my audio book, but I couldn’t concentrate on it, either.

The plethora music videos on TV wasn’t because it was 4am.  HBO has commercials.  The Discovery Channel has become my favorite channel to watch, even though the shows are late night lion porn.

Art Stanton’s No Reservations–Chennai, India

February 15, 2011

When I got off the plane and in the airport I could smell India.  It isn’t a bad smell; it’s a distant smell.  Now that I’ve smelled it I can easily see myself associating it with scenes in movies that take place in exotic locales, like Casablanca or Anaconda.  My first impression of it was ‘smoke’, but then I shook my head.  Smoke, but not quite smoke.  More than smoke?

Driver’s wheel is on the right.  Not sure why that surprised me.

So far I’ve only been in and around my hotel and 200 feet down the street.

There is a walk-through metal detector and a bag-scanner to get into the hotel.  I wonder if this is new… since the Mumbai attacks?  The equipment looks fairly old.

The hotel employees are very VERY hospitable. Everyone serving you is very hospitable. People who aren’t, aren’t. 

The road outside the hotel is very busy, always.  Mostly motorcycles (no helmets) and buses.  The white lines on the road are there for decoration, not function.  There is an article in the paper about a man killed on his motorcyle by a bus.  The bus driver got arrested for negligent driving.  Seems like that would happen a lot.

Other articles in the paper, “Inflation eases to 8.23% in Jan”, 2 suicides, Jokes: “Q: How many yogi’s does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Into what?”, political stories, “Proletarian god to get temple in TN (Tamil Nadu)”, cricket.

80% (estimate, not scientifically proven) of the 75 channels on TV are Indian music videos.  Maybe because it was 4am.  HBO is censored (they were showing Airplane II and I KNOW that scene had boobs in it).

The ATM I walked to 200ft down the street had a guard in front. I walked towards the glass-enclosed ATM and the guard let me in. Then rushed me when I didn’t finish fast enough because someone else walked up.

There is a lot of chocolate for sale in the hotel.

Out of the 30ish people working in the hotel that I have seen, only 2 are female.  They work at the front desk.  The population on the road seems to support that ratio, too.

A Fine Familyful Feasty Day

November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 064Just returned from the southern-more states where we stayed with Teresa’s parents in Lillian, Alabama.  It’s about a sneeze and a Cam Newton first-down lunge away from Pensacola, Florida.  It was the feasting holiday, and a day to be thankful for things like a close family, a crowded house, and plates piled high with food.

Sleeping arrangements consisted of multiple pull-out couches, an inflatable bed, and a chilly camper with a space heater.  One common room housed most sleepers, and I’m sure people are headed back to their lives with tales of snoring and dogs walking around at night wearing tap shoes.

Thanksgiving 2010 069The days were full of cooking, and forays into Pensacola for important things like whipped cream (that was forgotten), pickled jalapeno peppers, bacon, sausage, and even frozen biscuits that ushered in a new era in the traditional Davis family breakfast of biscuits and gravy.  They weren’t the best at sopping, though.  There were several different varieties so we may need to experiment before we find the perfect kind.

Diets were put on temporary hiatus as the war between fridge space and leftovers tempted everyone to consume, and consume often (especially when it came to desserts).  It didn’t help, though, because two more pumpkin pies were crafted the next day.  One disappeared very quickly.

Thanksgiving 2010 001Walks and bicycle rides around the block occurred daily, and one resulted in more than a dozen hitchhiking ticks returning to the house with the dogs after the nature trail.

One afternoon was spent looking for a wandering Harley, who had snuck out a screened doorway while the cooks were trying to air out some of the cooking heat from the kitchen.  Harley’s wandering is nothing new, but is rather tiresome.  Multiple trips around the community were fruitless, despite a sighting by security.  I even stopped and asked people if they had seen him.  A family had sheltered him, and on my ‘one last time’ around the block they flagged me down.

Thanksgiving 2010 046Larry sacrificed his TV and his recliner for two days in a row as football reigned with the NFL on Turkey Day, and the Iron Bowl on Black Friday.  The kids mostly had their noses in the screens, with the XBox 360 and several laptops around, but there were outside forays.  The previously mentioned bike rides, and the grand-daughters played outside constantly.

The troops dwindled slowly.  The girls left for home on Friday, and on Saturday the elder Stanton’s, along with Dean, Kyle, Julie and Ethan all headed home.  Saturday afternoon was a quiet day, and a stop at a wing joint and pizza place supplied the evening meal; a much-deserved relief from cooking.

Sunday was our turn to head home, and through timely use of technology we were able to avoid two large traffic jams along the way, getting home with plenty of time to go and discuss our holidays with Chris and Veronica across the street.

Meandering Post

October 26, 2010

Not sure if this post will have a specific point, but I wanted to make sure I put in an update.

In fact, I want to do this every few days, rather than once a week.  I really want to get into the habit of writing.  I’m making no predictions, or promises.

November is coming up, and so is the buzz around NaNoWriMo… National Novel Writing Month.  Since I follow writers on Twitter, and have writing newsletters land in my e-mail inbox I’m getting tempted have a go at this this year.  I’ve got an idea kicking around in my head.  I’m mulling that over.  Going to see if anyone else is planning on it for perhaps some support.  Twitter just might be a good source for that, since you can find people that do just about anything you like to do on Twitter. 

I’ve been listening to a bunch of D&D folks on Twitter lately, and they have great tools, review the latest releases from Wizards of the Coast and it’s just overall pretty cool listening/watching them talk about their D&D games.

It’s fall… and the weather has been beautiful.  Our air conditioning has been off, and haven’t needed the heat for almost a month. 

Had a great weekend.  Decorated the house for Halloween, even though we won’t be here for trick-or-treating.  Webs on the bushes, half-buried skeleton and gravestones in the bed.

Finally moved the mulch I’ve needed to move for several weeks in order for our yard guy to lay down pine straw.  It’s so nice to have a yard that looks nice.  One of these days we’ll need to get a new lawn-mower and take it back over ourselves.  Sigh.  Not looking forward to that day, but hey, maybe it will count as activity points for Weight Watchers.

Yeah, started Weight Watchers again.  Self-guided dieting is wrought with pitfalls and failure, so Teresa and I went back to WW last night.  I did great on it before, so I’m looking forward to working way back to my 36 waist jeans (and beyond?).

Mountain Life–Perimeter Men’s Retreat

October 19, 2010

The men stood around, their hands warmed by the coffees they were holding.  Their breaths cast misty clouds into the crisp air.  Golf clubs sat beside their vehicles.  A plastic crate of day-old baked goods is passed around.

I guess the day-old gives it away that this is not a scene before some golf tournament.  It was the parking lot of Perimeter Church as we were standing waiting for all the members of our group planning to carpool to a Men’s Retreat, hitting up a golf course along the way.

Paul’s wife Laurie was gracious enough to let me use her clubs.  It really is saying something, considering my history of ‘borrowing’ things from the Farley’s.  Somehow, someway I seem to trash the items that Paul has let me borrow, carry, move (although the soft-pine end-table being kicked into the parking lot incident was not me) things over the years and sadly, more often than not whatever it was has been returned in worse condition (if at all).  This time was an exception, though. (phew!)

I had bought some golf-balls at Goodwill and made a friendly wager with my neighbor Chris concerning how many I would lose.  He bet 18, or more.  I thought that number was ridiculous.  I hadn’t seen the course.

We played Cider Ridge, in Oxford Alabama.  One comment while golfing was made that any golf course with the name ‘Ridge’ in it is bound to be a monster.


It was a beautiful course, even though the front nine were closed so we played the back nine twice.  The second time through we played from the blue tees in order to have the course play different.  The idea is great.  The fact that we actually did it could be called ‘foolhardy’. 

I’m not real sure how many golf-balls I lost.  It wasn’t just water holes.  The out of bounds was pretty rugged, and swallowed balls even when you knew precisely where they went.  I only used two sleeves, I think.  The rest of the golf-balls I lost were scrounged by a couple of guys with us that didn’t play.  At least I wasn’t the only one donating.

We played pretty relaxed golf… who knows what I scored.  I didn’t do too badly considering it was the first game in years.  Got tons of exercise… probably two or three times as much as your average pro would get, if you add all the practice swings.  Had some great swings and some good shots.  Those seem to stick in my memory more than the bad ones, which out-number the good ones considerably.

The next day we played paintball.  I wore the loosest clothing I could scrounge up, and only came away with three and a half bruises (my wallet saved me from half of one).  And it was really only from one attack where I was crawling through an empty creek-bed, and got ambushed by someone with the same idea.

Most memorable was standing on the hill firing down as the other team charged into cover right below me.  I got to take down a couple of the other team at once.

Talking with another player in passing the next day I asked about his bruises.  “They’ll fade, but the glory will last forever”.  Maybe he meant the glory of God, since it was a church retreat, but it still makes a lot of sense as the glory of the day, too.


The weekend was awesome.  Spending time with Paul is a rare treat.  In many ways we fell back into our familiarity very easily, and what a great thing it is to have a friend like that.  Thanks for the invite, Paul!

Sometimes you feel like a nut…

October 12, 2010

Even though I’ve already told all the people who would listen (and some who probably didn’t want to) about the camping weekend, I still figure I’ll put down some words about it.

Cameron and I went camping with his Webelos den this weekend up at Unicoi State Park in a unique section of the campground called the Squirrel’s Nests.

Ana Ruby 002We started with a hike up to see Anna Ruby Falls.  It was a nice hike, on an asphalt path which made it a bit easier on the feet.  No tripping over roots, or rocks.  It followed the creek all the way up and there were great little babbling brook waterfalls.


Ana Ruby 017Ana Ruby 033

It wasn’t a bad hike at all, really.  Bit of an incline, but it was the beginning of the weekend and we all had plenty of energy.

Then it was off to the campsite.  I have no pictures of the campsite at all because I had left the camera in the van, and the camera and the memories we would have forever about the camping weren’t worth the hike back to the van to retrieve it.  Either that, or I was just too exhausted from carrying cooking gear (made of iron) through the Georgia mountains to consider it.  But it does look exactly like the picture on the website.

Couple aspects the picture on the website doesn’t capture, though.  One of them is the constant bombardment of the campsite  with acorns by the majestic oaks that kept the site shaded.  Even at night.  The second is that those stairs are double-height and rather random size.  Yeah, stair-masters ain’t got nothing on those stairs.

Which is why I don’t have any pictures from my phone, either, because I had left my phone in our ‘nest’, at the top of the stairs.

I would venture a guess that if I lived in these Squirrel Nests for two weeks I’d drop at least 10 lbs.  It was the most physically challenging camping event I can remember.  I slept very well up there in that nest, although the moaning spirits in the area woke me up a couple times throughout the night (there were some seriously weird sounds that night).

The ground was just about covered in acorns, and what always happens when you cross a pack of boys with a ready supply of ammunition happened, many times.  If we go there again we’ll definitely need to take some cans and a slingshot.

Ana Ruby 001Very few squirrels, though.  Maybe they come out during the week.  Or maybe because again, boys with a ready and virtually unlimited supply of ammunition are something squirrels avoid.

This squirrel was stuffed, in the gift shop at Ana Ruby Falls.

We and boys had a great time, and we all had some great food.  They had a large role in preparing the food, and they got to cook their own pancakes Sunday morning.  They also cleaned up all the gear after the meals.