Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Got Chased by a Snarling Snapping Pack of Stray Dogs

This beach in south Goa India is full of spectacles that don’t exist on American shores: dred-locked French hippies that look oh-so-punchable; fishing boats whose hulls are sewn together with thick black thread; cockroaches the size of mice in the bathroom; men bathing their water buffalos in the surf; palm trees as far as the eye can see; big sea snakes washed up on the sand, and; thousands of stray dogs that pack together to chase Mr. Douchebag Tourist riding his bike across the sand.

I got bored lying in the sun flipping through songs on the ipod so I rented a bike for a dollar to cruise south down the beach. I first came across cute kids crawling on an old fishing boat. Their mothers soon began trying to sell me beads and shawls as I was taking photos. I ended up buying all the kids ice cream cones instead.

After biking across the packed sand only feet from the water -- without warning -- four dogs were on me, barking with teeth bared and jaws snapping at the air inches from my skin. My initial reaction was to coast along with my feet on the handlebars to avoid teeth from hitting legs, but I would start to lose momentum. I tried peddling in hard spurts, then quickly lifting my legs, but the dogs kept their pace with the same level of aggression and the barking and snarling continued. On we went. I even tried to bark back for a moment, to no success. After a while, they got tired and all peeled off at once, simultaneously –- dogs, after all, are good sprinters, but not long-distance runners. Luckily, none of them landed a bite.

Ok, there was a small chance I could’ve gotten bit and landed my ass in some backwoods Indian clinic with 25 rabies shots in the gut, but that didn’t happen –- making this a pretty mediocre story, I admit.

My wife is so tough that she actually picked this thing up:

Beach kids enjoying the ice cream I bought them:

These kids are hustlers -- hawking beads and shawls for the parents and craving ice cream. And damn cute:

I love the hull construction on these fishing boats -- just rope and black tar, like 200 years ago:

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Pretty Obvious Conclusion: Yes, There's Plenty of Burning Trash in the Third World

I recently got an email complaint about my profile tagline from someone named Karen S.:
"...'Oh yea, and I love the smell of burning trash in the Third World. That just gets me going.'
Coming from an open minded person I can't believe the last sentence in your profile...I find it very offensive....Would you consider removing it? you are implying about the smell of third world countries... I was raised in one of the countries you are talking about...I just think you have to be a little more careful with your choosing of words."
I responded:
"Karen - I'm not implying it; I'm saying it. In all 3rd World countries I've visited, people often don't have regular trash pick-up services like we do in the rich world so therefore they often burn their trash outdoors in a pile. It's just a fact of life. I'm saying that I like that smell -- a smell I've experienced in every poorer country I've been to. The smell reminds me of some good times I've had in those places. - LB"
Smells do that, don't they -- sticking with you undetected for a long time, bringing back memories faster and more potent than the visual ever could.

The point of this post is really the above picture -- a photo I took yesterday on a regular street in Bhimavaram, India: a scene you can find in thousands upon thousands of places throughout the global south. It's neither something to be ashamed of or proud of -- and certainly not worth being squeamish and skittishly PC, like the above Karen S.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yoga = Primordial Snake Worship and Underwater Lead Ball Grabbing

I used to think yoga meant urban yuppie-hippies in the US doing stretching and breathing exercises on purple mats, but after I spent a day in Coimbatore India, I discovered that yoga actually means worshiping a gigantic snake statue coiled around a black penis-like structure, then hugging an underwater ball made of lead in a subterranean pool.

After a business meeting, we had some time to kill so my distributor took me to the Isha Yoga Center near Coimbatore. Driving toward the mountains, the paved road ended and our Ambassador (Indian car) bounced along a winding dirt road -- red dust coating everything -- nearly giving me motion sickness. Along the way were billboards of a man with a long white beard, referred to as “the mystic and visionary Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.” He looked like a cliché version of a cult leader and I started to wonder what the fuck we were about to do.

I knew we were headed for some “yoga center” and figured I’d humor my hosts by doing stretching and ohming for half an hour. But as we pulled into the dirt parking lot alongside a tour bus, I saw a sprawling complex of oddly shaped buildings scattered throughout the woods at the foot of the nearby green mountains, and I knew things were gonna get weird when I saw people dressed in white cult-style robes.

Wait, yoga is some kind of primordial religious cult??

We checked our shoes and socks and started the tour. The guide explained in a soft sincere and serious voice what we were about to see, and made sure we knew not to speak while viewing the statues -- very important.

The bottoms of my feet burned as we walked on sun-scorched stones toward the first building. It was a subterranean swimming pool, reached by descending brown stone steps underground where half-naked men were swimming in murky water and hugging a submerged lead sphere. No one was speaking -- just the sound of water. Soon, I felt the urgent need to leave so I climbed back up the wet stone steps with my bare feet and pant legs rolled up to my knees.

Next, we approached a brick dome structure. I entered, and was directed by a bare-footed man in a white robe to place a flower in the shallow water surrounding an eight-foot tall coiled snake statue. The snake was protecting a big black monolith. All along the circular wall were square cutouts set back three feet and people were sitting in them cross-legged, silent. If someone had proceeded to sacrifice a goat at that moment, it would not have seemed out of place.

I am not religious or even a “spiritual” person. I have a high level of difficulty believing in anything beyond the natural world. I sat there in the lotus position facing this giant snake and phallic statue and felt increasing uncomfortable -- but mostly, just silly. It was like I’d stepped back 4,000 years to worship idols; something in my Christian upbringing was telling me to run. After four minutes, I couldn’t take it any longer. These silent ohmers and their false idols were giving me the creeps. I headed to the outdoor cafeteria to get my free food eaten without silverware.

I’m glad I got to witness all this. It’s like seeing how religions were before monotheism. But I suppose praying toward a snake statue isn’t so different from rubbing beads together and praying toward a statue of a woman who supposedly was the only person in history to have a virgin birth.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Climbing on a Shrimp Farm Aqueduct in India

I visited a huge shrimp farm in India today. It employs 700 people, giving them free breakfast, lunch and dinner. The farm is fully integrated, with their own hatchery and feed mill to boot -- big and sprawling across the sun-baked southeastern Indian coast.

This was the first shrimp farm I've seen that had such a large concrete aqueduct system carrying quality seawater for the shrimps, stretching far from the beach -- further than most fishing piers in the USA.

Of course, I insisted on checking it out thoroughly by climbing it with the farm manager and my local guys. Here he is, talking to his employees by walkie-talkie. You can see the reservoir and shrimp ponds in the distance. This coast was hit hard by the tsunami and various cyclones now and again, but they told me it only killed about 20 people in this area:

Here's me at the end of the reservoir in the lower pumping area. They pump the seawater upwards toward the aqueduct and then let gravity carry it to the inland reservoir before being allowed to drain into the ponds by dikes.

This is one of the 600 horsepower electric motors that powers the pumps. These fuckers are BEASTS. These pipes are like two feet in diameter:

A view of the beach from the end of the aqueduct. This is about 300 km north of Chennai India -- an empty beach that no tourist ever sees or would desire to visit:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Got Myself a Stingray-Skin Wallet in Bangkok

I know you're jealous:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Borat-Style Kisses from a Mustachioed Iranian Trout Farmer

You've probably stopped reading from the title alone, rolling your eyes at another questionable story from ole Lonnie B, but this happened to me no fewer than five hours ago -- I swear.

I'm in Bangkok promoting a mineral product used in animal production. All day I make sales pitches to people in this industry: farmers, distributors, feed formulators, and all that.

Found myself barely being able to communicate with three farmers from central Iran who culture trout in the mountains -- I was able to decipher that much. Through a combination of hand motions, a little knowledge of recent Iranian politics, and a mutual dislike of G.W. Bush vs. I'm-A-Dinner-Jacket (current president of Iran), we developed some rapport. Oh, and our man Obama. We all liked him -- that was clear.

Anyone who's spent more than 10 minutes trying to communicate with someone who speaks fewer than 10 words of English can sympathize with me. Tediousness and patience. Otherwise, don't even try. Years of teaching ESL in the late 90s helped tremendously.

So we're hand-motioning a mix of Iranian and American politics and fish-farming stuff and getting along great, smiling and laughing, when out come the cameras. I guess these Iranian farmers wanted to show their friends that they met some actual Americans.

The chatting ends, and we're shaking hands goodbye when one of the fatter farmers with the black thick spiky mustache grabs me by the shoulders (as I was reaching to shake his hand) and gives me big Borat-style kisses. He just swings his head around mine confidently and gives me hairy, mustachioed kisses on either side of my neck like he's done it all his life to any man he meets.

It's hard to describe what a strange feeling this was -- like having an animal crawl up the back of my neck, yet the sense that the animal really likes me, with the stunned feeling of something completely outside my sphere of comfort.

Later, I re-thought what had occurred: I'd been given big sloppy double-kisses from a fish farmer from Iran -- a country that borders two other countries under military occupation by my country. That would be like if Canada and Mexico were under military control by Iran, then Iran had been implying it would bomb Boston, New York and Los Angeles unless we stopped our development of any believable defense of such threats. If you are stupid enough to dispute this comparison, please first double check where Iraq and Afghanistan are located (and no, I'm not saying there's a moral equivalency between our two political systems, you nitwit).

I get this kind of affection from a common person from Iran? Mustachioed kisses and group pictures to show his friends and family? Extraordinary.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The world’s largest restaurant in 1992 by Guinness Book World’s Records"

I went to a massive massive restaurant tonight in Bangkok -- the Guinness record for restaurant size (as of 1992, the sign brags). The food at a restaurant like that cannot be good, especially when it's Chinese. I'm not talking USA Chineses; I'm talking the texture of jellyfish tentacles on your tongue.

Sometimes in my life something occurs that's a bit weird, but almost not weird enough worth re-telling. Also, I just think people won't believe it. But since lately it seems like I'm writing into the internet emptiness, I'll tell it anyway:

At one point during dinner, almost where I didn't notice, this guy dressed up in traditional Chinese garb -- golden embroidered robes and a pointy hat -- came flying over all the tables on a 200-foot-long zipwire that ran the length of the restaurant. He was holding a flaming bowl of soup. Flames about a foot high, off this bowl of soup on fire. He was holding a pose like he was in mid-run, just flying about 12 feet over everyone's head. I swear to god.

A second after that happened I thought to myself, did I really just see that? I guess I did: I was at the largest restaurant in the fucking world as of 1992.

The awesomeness of this place is clear from the restaurant's own website. I'm going to go ahead and leave out the "(sic)s" -- too many are required:
"Royal Dragon Restaurant, Mang Korn Lung , is the seafood restaurant. One of the Greatest in the world. It was recorded as the world’s largest restaurant in 1992 by Guinness Book World’s Records. We have unique style of serving that you have never experienced before, such as serving by walking on water, flying on the sky, and skating for speedy service and save time. There are also Thai cultural shows which are Thai music and dance, Thai boxing and fighting, and so on. Now we have 2 rounds a night, starting from 6.30-7.30 pm. and 8.00-9.00 pm."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

God Bless Sales of Single Cigarettes

Now and again, I enjoy a cigarette -- a single one, not a whole pack.

Man, nothing tastes quite like a Lucky Strike while strolling through a hot, humid, sunny outdoor Asian market and crunching down some roasted spiced grasshoppers and grilled cuttlefish while chasing them with cold Thai beer that I bought for 80 cents. Luckies are a touch more buttery and less bitter than most smokes. Ah, so nice.

Yes, they still make Lucky Strike cigarettes -- sold mostly outside the USA, for some reason. I always buy this brand when I'm abroad because it brings me back in time, making me feel like they've been issued to me while fighting in World War One.

It's a shame they don't sell individual cigarettes in the States like they do over here in Bangkok. You can just walk up to a vendor who has 10 open packs spread out on a table; just take your pick. I never want an entire pack of 20 anyway.

I'm one of the few people who really can smoke just one -- have for years. You jealous?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You Already Know About Dubai. Unless, That Is, You Live in the Woods.

You already know this: there's a richer-than-fuck Arab kingdom called Dubai that has so much god damn money that they built the only seven-star hotel on earth shaped like a sailboat.

Unless you suck applesauce through a straw or stick your dick into the hole in your rolled-up sleeping bag on a regular basis, you probably don't need to be informed about the series of man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree in Dubai.

Hopefully you're not ignorant of the fact that there's a ski slope built in the desert here, either.

I have never seen so many cranes on top of skyscrapers in my life. I'd say three fourths of the buildings in this town are under serious construction -- looming cranes on each one, all the facades looking skeletal. And this goes for the tallest building the world too.

The weather is so inoffensive -- 75F and winds at 5-10 knots. It's like this perpetually, except in July and August. Perfect rich person weather.

I saw a Ferrari on the street in the brief time we went driving. I'm told this happens all the time.

We drove onto the palm-shaped islands and it made me wonder if I'd be this boring if I got rich. Nothing much more to say: it's a synthetic beach resort where Michael Shumaker owns a house with an underground garage that accommodates 20+ cars.

75% of Dubai's population is foreign. The place doesn't feel like a country. But that's not a complaint about it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Kill Bill: Uma Thurman's Feet are Freakish & Disgusting

Finally got around to seeing Kill Bill and the action scenes and extreme violence are terrific but I had to avert my eyes during the numerous close-ups of Uma Thurman's gnarled, finger-like feet. Terrible.

And her toes on each foot don't match! I couldn't find any pictures of them next to one another online, but one of her big -- BIG -- toes is curving off to the west, while the other leans clearly to starboard.

Also, check out the LENGTH of that toe next to the big one. Good lord.

I'm gonna reveal something personal about myself: I have a thing for women's feet. And it's not like I appreciate any old feets -- just the opposite. Only 2% of all the female feet in the world meet my standards, and Uma Thurman's fail miserably.

Dubai, Bangkok & Chennai for a Month. Get me out of this cold-ass country.

The length of winter this is the time of year drives a normal man insane. Spring is just around the corner, but for four more grueling weeks mother nature is an annoying punch in the stomach every time you step outdoors. Thank Christ I'm leaving the USA Wednesday -- to return the second week of April. Check out tomorrow's weather differences between DC and the three cities I'll be visiting in the coming weeks:

Washington, DC:

Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

Bangkok, Thailand:

Chennai, India:

I'm not lugging a winter coat all over tropical Asia so I'm going to have to triple-up on clothing for the trip to Dulles airport. And I am going to sail the SHIT out of April when I get back. Now I have to deal with two more days of DC winter before I'm off.

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