Singapore Slingshot

12:00 PM Sunday, April 30, 2000

Checked the heavy stuff. The really heavy stuff. Photography is strictly prohibited here in Bombay so I'll pass on the self portrait until I get to a less paranoid airport. That's it. I'm done. Got so damn nervous these last few days. Luckily, Tunia came down and visited me and the Mystery Woman for the last hour before I had to go. Tunia is the MW's sister-in-law and I didn't really describe her before cause I didn't think I could do her justice. I still don't. She's going to the US to join the MW's brother in New Jersey. I think she'll really bloom in the US. She has the perfect temperament. That means nothing to people who don't know her or have never been to the US but I don't really care. She brings the life-force like a middle linebacker filling the hole.

Zoom, swoosh. Planerides are worse than the dentist. I think I'll make an appointment when I get home.

Just took that self-portrait. I'm in Singapore. Bletch. I'm so tired. My last day in Bombay was completely emotionally exhausting. As usual, the Mystery Woman figures prominently in all that happens. The red-hot Mumbai love affair has been going 90 miles an hour ever since we met. We've been living together ever since the 4th or 5th date and putting all the pressure on ourselves we can. I tell ya, get a couple of 30-somethings together and let them get in their heads that they may have a significant relationship on their hands and things get damn heavy. Anyhow, we'll see how things shake out when she comes to stay with me in SF in June. We tried to shake things out as much as possible in the last few days and now it feels like all the blood in my body has taken up residence in the smallest capillaries of my eyeballs. Tired.

I'm whipping through Singapore airport the way a planet speeds up when it comes close and zings around the sun. My two hours pushing the cart across the carpet has gone too fast. I didn't even get through the magazine selection at the bookstore. I wish I could stay here and the earth would just rotate underneath me. It's the perfect airport, except there's no US-compatible power plugs here in the D32 boarding gate. Now I have to get on an Airbus with a drained battery and spend my second night sleeping in the chair.

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I suppose I should sum up the last 7 months, as if I hadn't already made enough sweeping, generally negative statements about India. That's what happens at the end. Here's what I suggest: go back and read Swinging for the cheap seats. That one was my summary and mission statement for the trip. I still feel the same as when I wrote it. Actually, I think I got a little too negative the longer I stayed and now I need to get out of India more than I need to get back to the US. I've carved out (or filtered out?) a little bit of what I like most back there in the US. My little world. It takes time and effort to get that no matter where you are.

I'll enjoy my bed and that crap but what I really miss is the ability to resist swallowing, whole-hog, the culture that's fed to everyone. At first I loved the fact that I could ditch my critical eye and kick it with outwardly glamorous people and yell small talk over disco music while I held a drink in my hand that is equivalent to most people's daily wages. I thought: I'm getting better. I'm more tolerant. I can enjoy shallowness for exactly what it is. After all, the two magazines I brought with me to India this time were "Wallpaper" and "Surface". I've always been into appearances. Why be so picky? It's better to be with people, no matter what they do than to be alone and only into my own shit. Yes Dorothy, self-destructive rebels can become good-time yes-men. Mmmm Fashion!

It seemed I had no choice but to accept the bowlingdisco culture as my friends had accepted it. But I always had hopes for finding a refreshing spark in India and kindling it. My plan for a "multimedia onslaught" show died when I realized how much a TV costs here. I never got the front end of a Taxi for Brian. Got him a camera instead. I never went up to the Raspberry Rhinoceros to see the thrash metal and hang out with the kids. And thus, I'm still not a card-carrying member of the Bombay Rock Association (Yeo BRA, waddup!). I never made a skateboard video. That was the big dream and I held it limply until the end. I didn't take the trucks off my board and pack it until I was in the taxi on the way to the airport.

In the sappy book "Tuesdays with Morrie", by Mitch Albom, Morrie says "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say, if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create your own. Most people can't do it." In India I don't seem to be able to avoid the feeling that I'm acting in someone else's dream. Yep, you got yer choice: Busch or Budweiser! I think it's even worse for women, where the roles are defined so starkly by men. If they don't buy into the traditional India, the purdah that women wear to hide the shame of their face, their alternative is a sleek black dress, wrapped around their skinny ass in a chilly AC restaurant in a glitzy hotel. Ok, that's extreme but I had a hard time fulfilling Morrie's suggestion in India. I don't know, maybe I was never any good at creating my own culture back in the US and there were simply more less-offensive examples to choose from. I know it feels better on Valencia street. Less smothered. I want to be more humane and have a community that I can palpably feel wrapped around me. I don't think that happens much in India outside the family and it's hard for me to fit into India because family is where I tend to come up short.

People go to other places to get a fresh perspective and I've been away so long that going home is like taking a trip all over again. I guess the point is that I'm going to the other side of the planet and I have to evaluate a whole life - my life - every part of it - every day. Which things do I want to keep and which do I want different? Apartment? Car? Job? Friends? We all have these choices laying on the end table next to our bed when we wake up but they don't look like choices. That juicy, sweet gum that you stuck on your bedpost last night (last year?) is now hard and dry. Why is that? What I've figured out is that I have to pick a few basic beliefs, like loving other people lots and building community, and let my focus on them renew the choices. They keep the gum soft. Why waste the money on trips?

I don't feel the need to take trips any more. I used to take tons of acid and ecstasy but they don't appeal or affect me any more. Things were already in great shape when I left home. I can pop from one leisure life in Bombay to another in SF and it doesn't change much. End. I took lots of cool pictures and I managed to bang out a few emails to my friends.

Uh oh, _Being John Malkovitch_ is on. "The truth is for suckers, Johnny boy." God bless China Airlines. God I miss the movies.