Friday, September 9, 2011

Bed, Bath, and BEYOND

Ever wonder what the 'Beyond' actually means?

I always assumed as a young teenager that the ‘Beyond’ referred to a secret and sexy passageway, through which one would find the erotic accessories adults coveted while alone in the previous rooms in question. Whenever I accompanied my parents to the triple B’s, I always ventured out on my own in search of this arousing Atlantis.

One day, I found a door clearly deterring customers from entering. I burst through with the awkward exhilaration of an overstimulated adolescent. I was finally going to achieve my masculine maturation via our consumption economy. God bless America! I rounded the corner only to find two overweight Bed & Bath staff making out in the employee lounge.

So there you have it. The ‘Beyond’ refers to the circumstantial sexual suppression of America's youth. Also, see the Church, Michelle Bachmann and too much Indian food.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Saturday, November 21, 2009

History Lesson

I was very proud of my last post. I considered the spontaneous connection I was able to draw between my upcoming travels through south India and the Russian culture I was curiously dissecting wise beyond my years. Turns out it wasn't even wise beyond my days.

To be fair, I did suggest that all evidence cited was purely anecdotal. And I still stand by the first half of the sentiment, where I stated, "In south India, one finds it to be the most uninfluenced of Indian culture..."

Not an inaccurate generalization.

A mere three days later I was in Kerala, in the southwestern corner of the subcontinent. The epitome of "south India."

It's the second half of the above sentence where I'd like to re-draw your attention as I strayed from 'andecdotal' and clearly attempted the vein of 'historical'. I concluded, "...predominantly untouched and unconquered throughout it's history."

As we toured Kerala's largest city of Cochin, our guide rattled off a few statistics:

  • The Dutch conquered Cochin in 1663
  • The Portuguese conquered Cochin in 1502
  • Pre-1502 Cochin was influenced by the Arabs and the Chinese whose fishing nets still line the coast.
The area of Cochin is a relatively small one in the vastness that is southern India, and the history of one city does not completely disprove a general argument. Still. I may have screwed up just a little. And I am sorry.

Stay tuned for my next blog, when I detail how the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu teamed up with the Klingons to save Christmas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Russians Are Coming!

Too late - they're here.

I think the Russians are a misunderstood people whom seldom receive the credit they deserve. If you think about it, they're trendsetters for America. They drink vodka, now we drink vodka. They invade Afghanistan, now we invade Afghanistan. And as they pour into Goa more and more every year by the bus load (or plane load, as is logistically more likely) maybe one day it will change the tide on American travel to Goa as well.

But I hope not.

As with any on-the-fly travel writer, the evidence for the following is purely anecdotal. But I find Russians to be of two worlds. The first are the cold women and surly men who wear their attitude on their sleeves - or for the cracked out sweating ravers whom long ago lost their shirts - on their chest hair.

The women in this category (the surly and cold, not the sweaty and shirtless) often dress as if they're partying like it's New Years in Amsterdam and they're on the clock. Which is about right, for it seems to be conventional wisdom that some of the Russian women in Goa are indeed prostitutes. And here I thought the 12 inches of leopard print dress struggling to cover the necessary body parts was the "in" style in Moscow. I'll have to cancel those plane tickets.

The surly men almost angrily occupy their own personal bubble in the most inconvenient pedestrian spaces and will forcefully brush you aside at the bar to order their drinks. For the later my strategy is to dance until I sweat like the monsoon rains. Nothing like the disgusted expression of a douche Russian who just got slimed, Justin style.

But most traveling Russians are like anyone else - here to party, relax and have a good time. They're happy, playful and some can dance like it's 1933 and prohibition has just ended. Though I guess Russia circa 1933 was less a boozy celebration and more a famine for tens of millions due to Soviet grain confiscation. Both good reasons to dance.

I find Russians to be fascinating, because their culture over the last few hundred years and possibly beyond has lacked interference by foreigners. In south India, one finds it to be the most uninfluenced of Indian culture, predominantly untouched and unconquered throughout it's history. Not to say the north of India is any less Indian - but the British influence and the Mongol influence is not only obvious but an ingrained part of the culture and tourism.

Russia in that vain is much more like south India. Even more so, they've been the Empire conquering other lands - the second largest contiguous empire in history (1st being the Mongols) and the third largest empire ever (British and Mongols). They've had intruders on their territory, but none long enough in recent centuries to reshape who they are. Which may explain why they are often more unique and less familiar than most other tourists I meet. Also, the hats.
Sadly, the Russians I befriended left too soon after we met, before I could extract countless tales and anecdotes to further my personal definition of Russian culture. But my favorite three notes from our conversations are the following:

-The Cheburashka is a cartoon bear-like creature from a Russian children's story. As it's told, he is accidentally shipped from Africa to Russia, where he has awesome adventures. He's essentially the Russian mascot, roughly the equivalent to the American bald eagle. But so much cooler.

-When it is your birthday and you go out to dinner with your friends, YOU pay.

-They pronounce the word Catholic "Cat-o-lick." And it's adorable.

For more on Russia, consult your local library. Or just come to Goa.