Indian Beauty

2:30 AM Tuesday, March 28, 2000

I'm watching the Oscars in Calcutta in a Jain hotel on Mahatma Gandhi road. The headache is almost gone. I think I was environmentally poisoned today. I had the same headache my first day in Mexico City and boogers that look like crude oil. I'm glad I came to Calcutta. It's even more India than any place in India I've been. Or maybe it's just the last place I've been and I see more India as I go along. It's hard not to see a lot.

You know the dancing 3-D baby that was all over the place a year ago? You probably got it emailed to you. Well, today I saw a baby standing naked at the curb. Urine shot out of his penis and into the street, tracing a perfect quarter circle and echoing the arc of his distended belly. I stood there watching. I've seen a lot. The man next to me made the baby stay...."stay, stay" the curb while he crossed against the light. They have walk signals in the downtown part of this city. In fact, the first time I passed this corner on my way to the Sikkim tourism office, I thought how much it looks like an intersection around 1st Ave in the East Village in NY: white striped crosswalks, yellow cabs, red brick buildings, and 3-way stoplights on yellow posts.

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The baby didn't cross right away when the walk signal came. Neither did I. I was watching. At the end of the cycle, he headed out as a wall of taxis started their engines and roared across the intersection. I had 3 cameras and 1 video camera in a bag hanging off my shoulder and I stood there watching. I'll snap a drunk guy or an old beggar lady or even a dead body washed up on the shore of the Ganges with his face eaten off but I want to let you know that all the babies in India getting run over don't get filmed by me.

The baby was 3 or 4 white stripes from the other side when it looked like the cabs weren't going to let him make it. Traffic follows the laws of the jungle here: size wins and I'm Not Fucking Kidding. I went my eyes when all of a sudden baby thrusts his left arm out defiantly, never turning his head to look, to stiff-arm, NY-style all those cabs. His arm bends backward at the elbow like little kid's arms do and his little booty jiggles from his purposeful stride. And when he makes it to the other side, he wastes no time and starts playing on the hand railings installed in the sidewalk. He was trying to get his leg up on the bar and that's when it occurred to me that I should film it.

When Kevin Spacey won the best actor Oscar he said, "This is the highlight of my day" and that naked kid was the highlight of my day. I never saw who was taking care of him - he was swallowed in a crowd. Now that everybody in the world is going to see American Beauty, if they haven't already, I have no where to go as an artist. My "too much beauty to handle, eeewwww look at that plastic bag swirling around" sort of schtick is going to be old by this summer's blockbusters.