Pretty Long, but Every Word the God's Honest Truth

1:27 AM Thursday, December 2, 1999

Got the smella Wella surrounding my head. I bought some Flex Balsam and Protein shampoo and conditioner last night and I just used it. If you're not familiar with it, it smells so good it makes you want to yelp. When I stand up quickly, the air swooshing down through my hair is so Flexy I almost swoon. They say that smells are more memory-evoking than anything else. It is the smell of Flex that takes me back to 1981. It makes me think of those nights I washed up and put on the polyester disco shirt, feathered my hair and went to the dance at the Masonic Temple.

When I take a shower here, I walk into the bathroom, go over to the knob on the wall, turn it and stand under the water. There are no bathtubs. The bathroom is one big shower. There is one drain at the lowest point in the room and the sink empties out onto the floor and runs into it. That's pretty much how it works in all tropical areas with nicer facilities.

Most middle and lower-class Indians bucket shower in the same place you wash the dishes. The bathroom is more of an outhouse and the only thing you wash there is your butt. You wash the rest of your body in the general "wet area" of the house. After he gets home from work, Dad walks over near the drain in his shorts and squats down and dumps water on himself and then lathers his entire body. I mean he really lathers up moving his hands like greased lightening over his body. He doesn't use shampoo. Mom is cooking dinner 5 feet away. She bathes with her clothes on also, I think usually before dad gets home. It's different to look at somebody after you've seen them wash themselves. You kinda know exactly how clean they are. That's not something that westerners usually know about a person.

One other thing: I think most humans, if they had the chance, would enjoy bathing with heated water. I've seen water heated in a bucket by a pair of wires that hang straight down from the plug and the exposed ends are wrapped around a ceramic tube. You let it hang in the water and use some common sense so you don't kill yourself. Flick the light switch and 5 minutes later you got a hot bucket shower.

So the reason I'm dissertating about showers is that I just took one. I had to because I had a whole day's worth of Bombay road grime covering my body. I guessing not many people reading this know how much petrochemical waste that is. Remember how dirty those guys in that movie Mad Max were? Anyway, it's more than you think.

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About noon I headed out on my bike and was riding around Chor Bazaar looking for the front end of a taxi. (we're gonna put it on the wall make a lamp out of it). You actually can buy the front of a bitchin' old-school Fiat, sawed off to your specifications, with working headlights and a chrome bumper in Chor Bazaar. It is the coolest place I've ever been to. The guy quoted me Rs.2000 (about 50 US dollars) but I'm gonna take my friends back there and try to get a better deal. Still, that's less than the guy in the shop next door is asking for a piece of shit 80's-vintage VCR.

After I'd been to my 5th or 6th shop (car parts shops are literally MADE out of car parts when you have 2 or 3 Indians breaking apart junked cars by hand for RS.50 a day, guess what the cheapest raw materials available are) I turned around and saw my friend Sajid standing in the street. He smiled his huge smile and held out his arms. He already knew what I was doing there. I told him about our plan last week while on the train to Pushkar. I wasn't really surprised either, but I was glad to see him. He was visiting Bidi, who lives there. He asked about the pictures and I told them that I got them back yesterday and they're absolutely fabulous. He said all the boys were meeting that night near his furniture shop, which is just down the road, and that I should come around 8. I didn't know if I would but I told him maybe.

I rode around Bombay, near the Crawford Market and through some really crowded streets in the Muslim section of town. I think it's becoming my favorite. I'm about as conspicuous as a guy riding a 6 foot unicycle and juggling would be. Once I was stopped, sitting on my bike and leaning against a pole in an intersection on Mohammed Ali road and an older woman came up to me and started speaking pretty good English to me. She really liked me. She really charmed me. She offered me some sweets and shook my left hand and then turned it over and kissed the back of it. Right on my cycling glove. Then she shook my right hand and kissed the back of it. She was scrawny and looked like she had some skin disease but that was the most flattering thing that's happened to me since I've been here.

So I after a couple of hours of riding I went to meet the boys. They were all hanging out on the street and I sat out there and met about 40 people, all friends and relatives. I'm not sure of the details but I think Abdullah helps run an orphanage and he also stays there. Every single person and there were hundreds within two blocks knew who I was friends with and what I was doing there. I let most of the kids that were swarming around me ride my bike. After they brought me tea and samosas and water, which I ate sitting on the hood of a taxi (like the one soon to be mounted on my wall), we all went for a ride.

That's what a lot of young men do for fun in Bombay. That's what a lot of young men do for fun all over the world. They were on motorcycles but I kept up on my speedy western bike. We jammed across town down to Naramin Point and hung out, you know, like guys with motorcycles hang out, and then up Marine drive to Chowpatty beach and hung out. These guys are fun to hang out with. They're mellow, they give me my space, they're in their element, they're kool kats.

Then it's back to Swaraj Terrace to pester y'all with about 15 kilobytes more personal e-mail than a truly conscientious worker should be reading in a day.