Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I awoke a few seconds before the phone rang. I had not at all anticipated that I would wake 4 hours after having falling asleep almost involuntarily at 930. It was an elderly lady at the other end who opened with a friendly and very drawn out “Helllllllo”, before plunging into rushed Mandarin. It was my Singapore cell and the only reason I had picked it up was that I wasn’t sure whether it was some payment I had forgotten about again. It wasn’t and, in my relief, I was unable to get angry at the old lady. “Wrong number”, I had interupted. “O”, she said, sadly. “Wrong number uh ?”. I shared her feeling of disappointment, of having missed a cue, cause I was after all awake at 1:42am. I had added 3 hours to compute alternate times based on what both my phones were indicating, as my travels have left me unable to trust atomic time synced miraculously on my phones. A long time ago I once turned off the sync option and had had to add hours and do the whole am/pm thing before my heart had picked up where my calculations left off, as I had realized I was horribly late. It is amazing how debilitating technology dependence can make you. Anyway, I was wide awake and it was 142 am local time indeed. I decided to listen to “Big Two Hearted River” so I could waft off into sleep again. I almost had until the vivid descriptions of coffee and sweet cake and canned apricots that “tasted better than fresh ones” got me hungry. I tossed around several options and decided that I ought to at least get up and shave and then maybe do yoga. Getting up made me even hungrier and I decided that I’d head out to Denny’s for breakfast. Many a times when I have found myself away from home and hungry at this hour, Denny’s has come instantly to mind as the first and only option. A fat omelette with grilled tomatoes and sizzling hashed browns and a tall orange juice was just what I needed. I knew there was one near my office but that was a cab ride away. I postponed thinking up an answer to the question of how I would get a cab. Something would happen and I’d be all Denny’ed up shortly, I was sure. My trusty warm North Face and yesterdays clothes and I was all ready. Sonia at the front desk was very pleasant. Her hair was slightly dishevelled but I cut her some slack as it was 230 after all. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that Roxy’s would be the only place I could get breakfast. “It’s like Denny’s, just not a chain”. “Wait, it isn’t Monday is it ? ” to which I had replied confidently based on my recent time and date calculations – “No, it is Tuesday”. To Stark between 11th and 12th I was soon headed. The thought of Denny’s and all my cab issues disappeared.
The coolness was most pleasant. Lucky I was to have Gurbani streaming live to me as I walked totally deserted streets. A homeless guy crossed and I crossed over to the other side to keep my distance from his likely unpleasant odors and criminal intent. I walked on the streets and kept to the opposite side from where I saw any wanderers in the distance. I felt very smart that I had almost no cash on me and was therefore not likely to lose much in case of a stick up. I saw the large lighted sign on Stark that didn’t say Roxy so I decided to cross over to where 4 young men were huddled. This seemed perfectly safe at the time especially since I didn’t have much cash. 3 doors down I was told. Another similarly dressed man about my age approached the door and we both reached the locked door almost simultaneously. “How can they close a 24 hour restaurant” he said, trying too hard to be funny. “Do you know of any other ?” I asked. He mentioned some other name that he said he was going to. Unstated in his response was an invitation. It must have been paranoia brought on by lack of sleep, as I walked rapidly away from him saying I’d go back to my hotel. Visions of a gay serial killer came flooding to mind. I looked over my shoulder several times on my way back. I would be stern but not rude with Sonia for sending me off to a closed restaurant, and would ask her to get me a cab. The cleaning lady gave me a “you’re not welcome here” look mixed with a “you’re weird to be here at 3AM” look as I entered the lobby. I guess I was stepping on her freshly swept and still damp floor and she resented my presence. I paced in front of the front desk but Sonia was nowhere to be seen. Something would happen, I thought, as I headed back out. No cab out front – come to think of it, it would have been very weird if there had been one.
I saw a couple of normal looking but obviously homeless men chatting on a street bench – again, weird but not scary. I waved to a cab which was standing with lights on near the Marriott. It was a toasty 73 degrees in there and my glasses fogged up as I asked him to take me to Denny’s. We pulled up and the place looked closed but my mind would not process this. I gave him a handsome tip and pulled at the locked door as he pulled around the corner. This is the first Denny’s I have ever seen that closes at 1AM. Now I was in a proper jam, I thought, with no cab in sight to get me back to my hotel. Something would happen, I thought, as I started walking and followed the train track route that I was familiar with. The freeway traffic was very loud as I crossed under the bridge. I reassured myself that this was safe as it would have to be a pretty incompetent thug to wait for his victims at this place at this hour. A cyclist in front of me stopped and seemed to circle around waiting for me. I was alarmed but then I realized he was circling back to get on the sidewalk of the bridge and onto his bike path. I followed. A young woman with a babbling old man passed close by me on the narrow shoulder. She smiled a little too friendly and I disconnected eye contact as I hurried past, sensing an imminent indecent proposal. I snapped several looks over my shoulder to ensure that they were receding away from me. A seemingly full moon was hidden behind thin cloud cover and the river water sparkled in the soft light. Eternity was docked absolutely motionless and the darker tone on her lower half had seemed like a water reflection of the upper half until I passed closer. The Gurbani stream disconnected at what seemed like precisely halfway across the bridge and I momentarily panicked. A few paces ahead and I was back online.
As I entered the city, I heard the loud street cleaner truck and tried to avoid it by progressing up more Y-coordinates instead of the X’s that intersected it’s path. It is a grid, and like most cities, much easier to walk than drive on because you don’t have to worry about the one way streets. A cop car slowed a half block behind me and then sped off. My X-Y meanderings brought me to the corner of the famous Voodoo Doughnut shop. I had heard that on weekends, lines allegedly snaked for blocks around the place as tourists and locals alike queued for it’s crazy good doughnuts. As I had crossed the bridge and now felt I was almost home, I decided to peek a look. Truly astounded I was to find the place open. Although sweet doughnuts were not exactly what I had in mind, I thought this might be a good starvation blocker. I had walked about 2 miles and my face was quite cold although my hands and neck and the rest of me were nice and warm in my trusty North Face. The relative frozenness of my face made me even harder to comprehend. So the lady behind the counter dismissed my small talk with un-rude unfriendliness. “Roxy’s would be your best bet”, she said as I inquired about breakfast places nearby. “O that’s right they’re closed on Mondays” she had said when I told her it was closed. I raised no objection to her calling a Tuesday a Monday. It was Monday indeed as it was too early on Tuesday to be Tuesday. My faith in atomic time got a lot weaker right at that moment. I asked to eat in but then changed my mind. No cards, cash only – which I had, just not in excess. 2 takeaway in a small white unmarked bag. I saw cabs, which had alluded me on the other side of the bridge when my need for one was at its zenith, wandering uselessly all over the place. The Westin lights never looked better. I saw Sonia at the counter as I entered the hotel lobby. It must have been the cold or maybe the jet lag or maybe the whole experience of wandering around the city at such an hour – “Roxy’s was closed, Denny’s was closed. I got you doughnuts.” I placed the white unmarked bag on the desk. “Thank you. That is so nice of you”, she said.
It is 524 now and I think I will go down and get some breakfast.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
KM loves legos. Not the 5-12s (implying abnormal 5 as well as 12 year olds) but the 7-12s – this I have to admit is my contribution to his Toys R Us Lego-rack analysis algorithm. And it has to be Star Wars. He built an amazing ship thingie last weekend – that contraption would’ve taken me a weekend and a manual to figure out. He did it in 4. Hours. He’s definitely got the engineering gene, and it’s mutated in the transmission from bring labelled “second-class” to “first class with distinction”. He spends literally hours flying his plane – sounds and realistic trajectory and all. He is thrilled when I tell him in the morning that I had to “rescue” his soldier from in front of the TV to the dining table in an emergency evacuation procedure. Or that I had to perform an emergency landing of his jet fighter in the middle of the night from in front of the sofa (where I had stepped on it) to his bookshelf ledge. These are second hand army toys handed down from revered IM for his recent birthday. He’d had his eye on them for a year and the wish was finally granted when IM realized he had outgrown them 5 years ago. Anyone else trying the hand-me-down procedure is snubbed but anything and everything previously used by the-phenom-known-as-Bhaiya is not only readily accepted but treated as better than new.
Last weekend he had an elaborate F1 event organized in his room – tracks, ramps , the works to go with incredibly elaborate security arrangements. He had snipers hiding in bookshelf crevices, hanging from cork-board pins, even one on the small fan electrical plug on the wall – “he can see everything from up here Dad”. There was an emergency helicopter evacuation area, and grenades concealed all over the place – one in a small hollow house and one in the gap between two slightly broken wooden floor tiles. These would be “activated” in case of an emergency.
Anyway, back to the Lego situation this weekend. Last weekend, he had finished the spaceship and was accompanying me to the Coffee Bean in Paragon – IM was out at a friends so it was just me and him. He was glowing from the shine of his recent accomplishment –
KM : Which of my Legos do you think is the best ?
MM : Your best is the one you are going to do next. (dialog lifted from SRK answering a reporter’s question on which one he thought was Amitabh’s best film).
KM (smiling in acknowledgement of impressive response, makes his move) : Can I get the next one today ? Impressive manouver considering that we are walking towards the largest Toys R Us on Orchard Road. Coincidence ? I think not. Just the workings of an advanced intelligence. Plotted, I believe, when he was requested by Mom to accompany Dad to Paragon about 20 minutes ago. Game, set, Lego.
MM : OK. But next weekend. If you wait for something, you enjoy it more.
KM : Promise ? Formal deal closing manouver – also impressive – trust but verify.
MM : Promise.
KM : Thanks. 1000-watt smile bright in a very sunny Singapore sun.
Next weekend. Vivo Toys R U
AM/MM : You have 2 lying at home. Why can’t you use those ? One dinosaur one and one…
KM : I don’t like DINOSAURS (disdainful facial expression). You promised Dad.
Cashier : That will be 55.90 Sir.
KM : I low you Dad. Deliberate Indian-pronunciation play on “love”. Impressive manouver to break the “this is a waste” ice.
KM : Dad, Dad – The power of Low.
Laughs, hugs, iPhone pic on AM’s phone which I have to download. If I can figure out how. If not, I can always ask KM for help.