Tepoztlan

Sitting across the aisle from me on my flight from Dallas to Mexico City, Ulysses said to me “You go to Tepoztlan. That’s your place. They have Queso ice cream there.”

I was in.

He told me the metro to take to the bus station and which bus to take where. It would be a couple hours. It was a Sunday morning and it was sunny. It was perfection- warm in the sun, with a hint of a chill on each breeze. It was September of 2015 and the town was straight out of a movie, set in another time. 

 

 

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Brussels

I find myself so angry today about Brussels. Generally, I can keep world events from effecting my mood, but once or twice a year it all becomes too much and you want to throw your hands up and just walk away. If there was another planet to escape to, I’m sure there would be no seats on the spacebus tomorrow. But, I live here and so I have to listen to music until I feel better. I can’t even imagine the grief of living through this, or the fear after surviving it and trying to carry on like life is the same tomorrow.

One thing I notice about myself is the more I travel, the more I empathize. I suppose that should be obvious but it happens without you noticing. I have been lucky enough to go to a few places overseas in the past two years and it’s given me a lot to reflect on. When I was in Turkey, I met people from Belgium seemingly everyday. We travelled together, sometimes for a day, sometimes something as simple and brief as having breakfast on a hostel rooftop with one another. And you leave, you leave and you remember that you, some huge guy from South India with no connections to Europe whatsoever found great conversation with a young Belgian couple over something as trivial as where the jam on our bread comes from each morning. We smile, we shake hands, and we leave closer to one another, and closer to humanity because we realize we’re all out here to see some things, to learn some things, looking for special moments, seeking personal discoveries, and we all want to have the biggest laughs. Nothing feels the same as knowing that you were so far from home, and you made a friend. Kindred spirits.

“…They took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love
What more in the name of love “

5 David Bowie songs I like.

I used to devour those British music magazines in the 2000s. Q, Mojo, NME, ate them up and each of them always referred to David Bowie reverentially and most often as the thin white duke.  Unquestionably, discovering and exploring his musical catalogue was a damn odyssey in my life and though I couldn’t get into the Berlin stuff, I thought David sang with more soul than most people gave him credit for. Yeah, I just called him DAVID. First time I saw him I think was a video on MTV Classic of Let’s Dance. Young me thought in my little brain “That guy is on drugs.” I was mostly right but when I discovered Changesbowie in high school, it was a wrap. I felt then and now that that album is the single best Greatest Hits album of all time. And please know that I recognize this is a very serious claim.

This one is my favorite Bowie song to play on a jukebox. And an amazing live performance from the man I proudly share my birthday with. (Birthsake?)

Gee, my life’s a funny thing!

This is my favorite Bowie movie moment. With respect to The Prestige, Zoolander, and others, his musical accompaniment to the dance scene in A Knight’s Tale was pure gold. Puts a smile on your ole kisser every time.

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel

For somebody who doesn’t change much and has had one “look” in his life, I still feel like Bowie and I are totally in sync on this anthem. I have sung this in the car countless times and that sax at the end, ooh boy. That’ll do, Bowie, that’ll do.

And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds

By far the funniest Bowie ever. He absolutely slayed it in what is one of the funniest tv scenes ever. And the song is actually catchy too!

The clown that nobody laughs at

This one is just one that always comes to mind. So rich with imagery and such a kick ass rock song. The lyrics are below the video and look like a poem, the gray letters on white. Memories of driving in New Jersey and ending the night with this on in my old Toyota.

We were so turned on and you thought we were fakers!

The Telltale Pot

Well, if you want to know what happens when you want some tea and put a pot of water on the stove to boil and then leave the room to get your headphones and then plop down in bed and forget about it completely – eventually the loud interspersed banging and beeping permeates the music and convinces you that it’s NOT part of the beat and then you run out and the water’s all evaporated and the bottom of the pot is burnt and you cover the handle with a towel and throw it in the cabinet and go answer the door and tell your neighbours and landlord that you don’t know why the alarm went off but the reason it went off for so long is that you had your headphones on so you could study and you have to because of said neighbour’s loud music and you remind her in front of landlord that her smoke alarm went off at 3am last month and you had to sleepwalk over there and switch it off since she couldn’t reach it and you wondered who bakes at that hour but you make a joke of it like “heh heh lot of false alarms lately, must be going around” and then they start talking about you in Spanish but that’s actually cool because you don’t understand so you say firmly “OK I really have to go study” and politely shut the door and then you draw the curtains closed and pull the telltale pot out of the evidence locker and boil some more water because after all you still want the tea, in fact now more than previously, but this time you watch it like a hawk and then it comes to a boil and then you blog about it while your lemon green tea cools. Fin.

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What I’m listening to as I watch the shadows of the steam rising from my much awaited piping hot tea dance up my wall:

On Humanity

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” -Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity

‘Ground Zero Mosque’

In 2010, in New York City, the construction of a mosque is being halted under the guise of sensitivity. Since when has “It’s a sensitive issue” been a legit reason to deny someone their rights? I keep hearing “They have the right to build the mosque there but we’re asking them to be less insensitive.” What? Since when do feelings and sensitivity matter so much? Here we are, the same country that watched New Orleans rot in the days following Katrina- but we’re justifying stopping a mosque/community center from being built two blocks and nine years removed from 9/11 because it’s insensitive?

If you need an example of the venom and ignorance people are exhibiting, watch and listen to this crowd.

I’m amazed at the grace this guy showed here. Turns out his name is Kenny and he’s a carpenter…working at ground zero. Maximus would probably say “There was a dream called New York City. This is not it! THIS IS NOT IT!”

This mass hysteria has reminded me of events in India circa 1992. Here’s a brief recap. In 1528, the conquering Mughuls defeated the Hindu kings and enforced Mughal rule over the population of Uttar Pradesh among other places.  The story goes that the Mughals then chose to build a mosque in the place of the temple in Ayodhya. The temple had special significance in the eyes of Hindus because legend has it that it was built on the birthplace of Rama, a Hindu God. The mosque was built, named Babri Masjid and there it stood for over 400 years. India became independent of the Brits in 1947. By the mid 1980s, Hindu nationalists spoke out about the mosque and how it stood on sacred ground. This culminated in the events of 6 December, 1992 when the government granted permission for a “non violent protest” at Babri Masjid which  turned out to be 150,000 people storming the mosque and reducing it to rubble.

Hindus "non-violently protesting" Babri Masjid

This incident resulted in the death of 2000 people at the site as well as escalating Hindu-Muslim violence across the nation. For weeks, or maybe months, people fought and died in the name of Ayodhya. I clearly remember school closing for weeks because buses were being burned and stoned. With people in them.

We didn’t talk about it much. I didn’t bring it up with my Muslim friends. I didn’t bring it up with anybody. An elephant in the room, in India no less. I certainly thought about it but I brought it up only once. I was staying at my uncle’s place in Kerala and we used to wake up early and read the newspaper in the garden. After reading of Ayodhya violence yet another time, I asked my uncle what he thought about it. He was a religious man. He smiled his huge smile and I sensed that he hadn’t spoken to anyone about it either. He said to me “Maybe Hindus are at fault, huh? Maybe we could try to forget what happened hundreds of years ago?” I was so relieved when he said that. It gave me faith that people could put aside their own beliefs and fears and focus on the bigger picture -the question of what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s best for the future. Of course I was a little kid so for the most part, I was just happy he agreed with me.

The “Ground Zero Mosque” issue reminds me of the Ayodhya issue. Once again, more than 17 years later, people are protesting the construction of a mosque on sacred ground (btw 4 blocks from an existing mosque). It’s even more ridiculous this time. In India, there have always been high tensions between Hindus and Muslims and it all exploded under the storm of circumstances that was Ayodhya. Also, as amazing as India is, it’s never been known for freedom.

Here and now, what is our excuse? The USA has been synonymous with freedom my entire lifetime but how can we claim to be protecting freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq if we don’t protect freedoms right here in New York City?

I’m fully aware of the tragic events of September 11th. I’ve met people who lost parents in the towers. It’s heartbreaking. Still, Islam as a whole is not responsible for that. Blaming an entire religion is like blaming an entire region or state or country for an individual’s actions.

The first I heard of any of this was Mayor Bloomberg’s very well-written speech in front of the Statue of Liberty.

He delivered it here because of the symbolism involved. Today, the Statue maintains it’s status as a symbol of freedom but for how long? How long can we call ourselves the land of the free and the home of the brave if we surrender our principles at the first sign of fear? America used to carry itself with strength. Since 9/11, a lot of Americans have felt vulnerable for the first time and our strength and confidence has given way to paranoia and ignorance. And people seem proud of it sometimes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT0OqHr3wHQ It’s as if being attacked by terrorists gave us the right to stop holding ourselves accountable. Nothing could be further from the truth. ‘An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind’ as the saying goes.

Not only are we discriminating against Islam by making these organizers jump through hoops to build something that is their fundamental right, but we are also now using ‘Muslim’ as an accusation/insult. This obsession with “Is Obama a Muslim?” is one of the most pathetic stories I have ever seen.

I remember being disgusted by “the accusation” during his campaign. It was a pathetic attempt to attack him by specifically appealing to those who would hold it against him whether true or not. Today, according to polls, 1 out of 5 Americans believes he is a Muslim. This belief is of course attached to the belief that this must be the Apocalypse what with a Muslim President and all. Impeach him! He’s a secret Muslim! Impeach him and then deport him! This paranoid fear is pervasive. Protesters cite 9/11 as their reason to fight the “Ground Zero Mosque” but what about all the other mosques being protested across the country at this moment? What are they two blocks from? I recently heard a talking head on TV say that mosques give terrorists a place to meet up and plot. Really? They can’t do that in a hotel room? Perhaps they’ll deny Muslims hotel rooms next. What about parks and restaurants after that?

In the days after 9/11, the media popularized an expression. It stated that post 9/11- if you behaved differently in any way- then “the terrorists have won.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_terrorists_have_won If you stopped shopping, they won. If you stopped eating out and drinking and hooking up, they won. If you didn’t go to Daytona Beach for Spring Break, they won. It was a stupid, overused jingoistic expression. Well, on a serious note, if they prevent this “Ground Zero Mosque” from being built, those terrorists won.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

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1:25 – 2:40 mark: Our old friend Chris explains how discrimination disguises itself as patriotism.

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http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/30/weve-seen-this-movie-before/?scp=4&sq=mosque%20individual&st=cse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWRJ17he__I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPC-isxrhTs

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/351603/august-26-2010/you-mosque-be-kidding

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babri_Mosque