It’s widely agreed that the most important foreign-language question for travelers is, “Where’s the nearest bathroom?” Having read of Delhi Belly and the Mumbai Trots, I want to be perfect in my annunciation of this need, and even more important, be able to understand the answer.
Earlier today I visited a client of my web site business in Lower Manhattan. Their office is a few blocks walk north of the World Trade Center.
Few New Yorkers, other than media types and those peddling goulish day tours, refer to “ground zero.” Like many others born and raised in Jersey City, I hold self-appointed dual citizenship in NYC. We New Yorkers stubbornly call it the World Trade Center, partly out of memory but largely out of defiance and a refusal to allow the 9/11 scum to think they took away anything more than the physical.
It’s another insight into local character that, until that day, both the World Trade Center and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, were seriously disliked and even reviled, by most New Yorkers; one for ugliness, the other for arrogance (you figure out which is which; could be either or both). But once something of our own is attacked by “outsiders,” it immediately becomes beloved. Well . . . maybe that’s too strong a word; try “tolerated.”
For all of New York’s alleged modernity, we do not easily abandon place names. We require a little time before we accept a name change. That may explain why Sixth Avenue, whose name was changed only 64 years ago to Avenue of the Americas, is still Sixth Avenue on local maps. The West Side area between 23rd and 42nd streets that real estate developers want to call “Clinton” remains “Hell’s Kitchen” to the rest of us.
It was no surprise that bureaucratic post-9/11 attempts to change the World Trade Center PATH Station name to something else met with cries of outrage in the distinctive local accent.
This morning, as usual, when the PATH train from Jersey City pulled into the open wound known as “the washtub,” the deep space at the foot of the former towers, I averted my eyes. I can never look.
The one time I did that, in 2003, on my first visit since 2001, as I stepped from the train to the platform, I was clobbered as if by Gorgon’s Gaze of mythology.
Oh, that was a close one. It’s now Sunday, Sep 10, 2006. For weeks I have been telling people my first outbound flight is Friday, September 14th.
Earlier today I was speaking on the phone with a friend. She asked, “Are you ready for Thursday?”
“What’s happening Thursday?”
“You’re leaving on the 14th, right?”
What a ridiculous conceit, to research India, armed with a Google search button, a Barnes and Noble discount membership and a Public Library card. I don’t want the pale lightbulb of vicarious information; I want the fire of experience.
I know that even a few weeks of that will be inadequate. After all, India is the source of the cautionary tale of the blind men invited to describe an elephant after running their hands over the part nearest at the moment. The one at the trunk said it was a firehose; men at the legs said it’s a tree; the man at the tail described a snake, etc.
For those who may not know, Craig’s List is the Google of the online classified advertisement world. In just a few years, it has become such a powerful free tool that many newspapers around the world are losing serious revenue to its superior and cost-free service. I’ve never used it before now. I’m looking forward to discovering how well it works – or if it works at all.
In years past, when I’ve taken trips of similar length, I’ve either left my apartment vacant or participated in a home exchange through one of the online services that facilitate them. The home exchanges have been great and satisfying and have expanded the range of friends around the world – but this time I’ve decided to sublet for the 6 weeks I will be traveling.
The Emperor Franz Joseph famously complained that Mozart’s music has “too many notes.” My version of that, probably as lazy and ill-informed as his, says there are too many choices online for buying air tickets.
Defining an itinerary and buying the air tix are a test of the sincerity of one’s belief that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. Every step is an act of faith in someone else’s integrity and competence.With that, I realize that the preparation phase too is part of the reason we travel. We travel, not only to find ourselves, but to find others; “find” in the sense of discover, uncover, reveal.
An important segment of this trip is the journey across a portion of India. Simply finding someone to sell me the tix I want has been revealing.
My web site hosting service has two clients whose web sites promote their discount air ticket selling businesses. They are commonly called a “consolidator.” After a fruitless month of trying to get each of them to quote me a price, I gave up and bought the tix from one of their competitors (Air Treks.)
So I have the tix.
On September 14th I’ll fly out of Newark Airport on Malaysian Airlines, headed east to Sydney, Australia via Stockholm, Sweden and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ve been on this route before and prefer it over the traditional route of flying west to Los Angeles or San Francisco, then non-stop across the Pacific to Sydney.
It’s not only cheaper, but the planes are much less crowded, the crew is larger and more attentive, and the two breaks along the way are more comfortable. The less obvious advantage of the less crowded planes is that I can almost always find a row of 5 empty seats in the back of the plane. Put up the armrests and you have longer, flatter bed than First Class.
I usually sleep on each of the three segments. The trip may be longer but I arrive fresher and with less jet lag. This particular itinerary sets me down in Sydney around 8:00pm.
After clearing through Oz customs and immigration, there’s time for the usual hugs and hellos with family and friends before the yawning sets in. I’ll get a full night’s sleep.
Yep, I prefer this routing.
Around Oct 15th I’ll get on Thai Airlines at Sydney, do a layover in Bangkok and then fly from there to Delhi, India. I’ll spend about two weeks riding the famous India rail system. I’ll visit Agra (the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Varanasai and Mumbai.
Around October 30 I’ll catch a British Airways flight to London, layover at Heathrow just long enough to hate it – and then slide into Newark. By Nov 1st, I’ll again be breathing the pure bracing air of Jersey City.
Yes, I hear Jersey City neighbors and friends asking, if you want a good goat stew curry with a Mango Lhassi, why not just go over to Rosi on Newark Avenue? Spare yourself the jetlag, not to mention (please do not even mention) Delhi Belly or the Bombay Trot.
Ask me that question again on November 2nd.
. . . in my pants. Sand in my shoes. Wander in my lust.
It’s been an entire year (August 2005) since I lived out of my suitcase and I’m getting horny for it’s intimate embrace.
Of course, thanks to the war criminals in the White House, our economy – and more specifically – the value of the US Dollar as international currency, has declined near to that of toilet paper. When you persist in an illegal war that costs billions per month – and hide its fiscal consequences by failing to either raise taxes or sell war bonds to pay for it, your currency suffers.
It’s a good thing I prefer to travel on the cheap. Other than air fares, not much of what I need during travel has greatly changed in price. Of course, what with the war crimes commited in our formerly-good-name by the Bush-Cheney administration, there’s much more hostility to Americans. One of my small ambitions as traveler is to give a face and voice in opposition to the terible things done in our good name.
So, I should go, right? Isn’t “should” a four-letter word with baggage?
Go? As in Samuel Beckett’s, “Waiting for Godot.” ??
Estragon: I can’t go on like this.
Vladimir: That’s what you think.
So, I’ll go . . . on.
Sprangle – (definition: “going in all directions“) That’s what I’m doing. No, this is not about my uncontrolled waistline, nor does it refer to my expansive ego. It’s about travel – travel in many directions, local and far – and in many modes, formal and informal. BTW – speaking of “all directions” that’s not a rug in this photo, just a lousy haircut.
On Sep 14th, 2006 I’ll be off again on another pilgrimage from Jersey City, NJ USA to Manly Beach, NSW, Australia. In addition to the 4 weeks in Oz, I’ll finish up that trip with my usual sprangle (see what a great word it is?) with a few weeks in India
BTW – in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve tweaked the blogging code so the entries read in true chronological order (not reverse chrono as blogs usually do). This is the way a travel journal should work.
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Destinations may be closer than they appear.
Next year’s Sprangle, around June 2007 or so, probably will be more civilized and with better food, to a more accessible destination, such as Tuscany or Spain. I’m looking for 5 or 6 simpatico travel companions of the same sensibilities and senior age range, both genders, to enjoy its simple pleasures. Maybe we’ll rent a villa for a month. Click above on “Contact Joe” if you are interested.
UPDATE – 2009 – Things happen. Here we are closer to three years later and I never made that trip to Tuscany. But that’s on now. Still looking for travel buddies.
UPDATE #2 – Well, I did it. Most of the month of September 2009 was spent in Tuscany. As of today (Sept 30, 2009), the new web page describing the trip (www.twoweeksintuscany.com) has only an introductory page. Over the next few weeks I will fill it in as a travel journal, together with photos.
UPDATE #3 – return to Australia – In January 2010 I got back to Australia despite the attempts of Virgin Australia to interfere (the scummy bastards). That visit has a small web site here
UPDATE #4 – Coming mid-August, 2010. a few days in a holiday house at the Jersey Shore with cousins I have not seen in about 60 years. This should be Interesting. There will be a web site, if I survive.
“So we sprangle on, boats against the current . . . ?(corrupt version from last chapter The Great Gatsby)
(with love, respect and thanks to FSF)