Saturday, January 27, 2007

Love Like at first sight

Last weekend I had gone to my friend V's place for lunch. V's mom had just arrived from India that week. The purpose of my visit was to sample all the snacks and sweets from India (of course) plus partake of V's mom's cooking (double of course :-D).

When I arrived, V's baby boy, R, was asleep. I munched on all the snacks while watching Sun TV (ah-ha :-)) on their huge TV. After a while, shrill wailing announced R's waking up. V brought the baby to the hall. Immediately I jumped out of the couch and ran to the kitchen sink calling out,"I am coming, I am coming! I will just wash my hands before carrying R."

V said, "No problem, take your time. R takes some time to adjust to new people and does not go to strangers easily. In fact, he refused to let mom push the baby carriage at the airport." Oh :-(!

In any case, being determined and everything, I plonked myself right beside R (sitting on V's lap) and started talking to him and making funny faces.

R stared and stared at the newcomer viz. me. I continued to talk and grin at him. After a couple of minutes, I put my palms out towards him. R looked at me for a long moment - then gave a cute smile, stretched his little arms towards me and propelled himself into my outstretched hands :-D.

V and her mom were surprised by this immediate bonding. I was of course, flattered to the core :-D. Talk about being a baby magnet :-P!

For the rest of the time I spent at V's place, I was R's complete slave and danced to all of his tunes.

And enjoyed every single minute of it :-)!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life is like that

Having a grumpy, irritated and particularly weird-looking picture of yourself on your driver's license.

Making a black and white photocopy of the above driver's license and realizing that the weirdness of the photo has now been enhanced ten-fold by it showing only two eye-whites and the tip of a shiny nose even a teensy bit clearly.

Faxing the above photocopy to a travel agent who has never seen you before. I am sure the agent's office-folk gathered around the fax machine trying to figure out if the picture is that of an alien or not.

Like Calvin says, "That's one of the remarkable things about life. It's never so bad that it can't get worse."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Socket Science

Sometime last week, one of the electrical sockets in my bedroom stopped working. Now, that particular socket is the one the music system in my room is plugged into. I was very disappointed about not being able to listen to music in the room.

Amidst lots of confusion at work, I finally managed to make maintenance request to my apartment Manager on Thursday last week. She said she would send someone to fix it on Monday (yesterday).

Last evening, when I entered my apartment, I remembered about the socket - ah, if they had fixed it, I should be able to listen to music in my room again, yaaay :-)! I looked at the entrance to my room and sure enough, a maintenance info-sheet tag was hanging on the door knob.

I could distinguish some faint notes on the sheet. Oh no, maybe this was a big problem and would take some more time to fix. I peered closely. This is what the lines said:
Need to turn switch on above your bed. Thank you.
All I can say in my defence is the switch is on a wall entirely different from the one where the socket is located. And I have never before had to turn on any switches for the socket to work for the 1+ years I have stayed in this apartment.

I was so embarassed. Still, it did not stop me from collapsing with laughter :-D!

Happy Pongal, all :-)!

Monday, January 15, 2007

An encouraging trend

For the tons of articles out there which go on and on about how the IT boom in India is restricted to the urban population and how it has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, here is a heartening one:

Outsourcing Heads To The Outskirts

Thank you for the link, Floridora!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Guru - the review

I went to see Guru yesterday. It being a Maniratnam (MR) movie, there was no doubt about whether I was going to see the movie - of course I was. The question was more along the lines of when.

After seeing Aishwarya Rai's hair-rising performance in Dhoom-2 (which left me wanting to pluck out all the hairs which had risen), I was kind of wary about catching Guru (also featuring Ms. Rai) on the big screen where there is no scope of moksha in the form of a remote control - but I finally decided to go.

So, how was the movie? Well, while I found a lot of points to pick quarrels with, the movie as a whole is a decent entertainer and good timepass. The story is exactly what the rumors predicted - it tracks the rags-to-riches story of Gurukanth Desai, a villager who goes on to become one of India's leading industrialists. On the way, the media starts questioning his methods which involve quite a lot of law breaking. How Guru faces these accusations form the latter half of the story.

The movie has a lot of things going for it - good director, good music and big actors. And thankfully, all of it has not been squandered away. The cinematography is simply excellent - each scene is framed beautifully. The actors do a great job playing their roles.

Mithun Chakravarthy (MC) plays the role of an upright newspaper editor who always stands for his principles - whoever thought that I could actually appreciate the performance of an actor I have always referred to as frying-pan head (for the forever slicked-back oily-look MC's head used to have). Abhishek Bachchan as Guru starts off portraying his "middle-aged" mannerisms even when he is still "young" in the movie. This jarred a bit but as his age progresses in the movie, he started fitting it well. Madhavan looked cute :-D and delivered a very sincere performance. Vidya Balan is mostly wasted - but she does well in whatever little role she got.

Which leaves Aishwarya Rai. Oh boy! I couldn't believe it was her! I don't know how exactly MR managed it but she is NOT annoying and actually displays something like acting in this movie! Her role is that of a strong-woman-behind-her-man. I confess, I actually liked her in that role most of the time. I especially liked the scene where Abhishek suddenly collapses when they are alone together. Instead of losing her head and yelling to the Gods to intervene and save her mangal-sutra (like desi heroines usually do), she keeps her head, calmly loosens his tie and after reassuring him, runs for help. And then, without melodrama, she stands by his side and supports him as he slowly mends.

That was about the lead performers. What about the rest of it? Most of the songs are randomly inserted except for the ones which play in the background. Doesn't MR usually do a better job of transitioning to songs?

The "Barson re megha" song has Ash dancing to it. She looked supremely uncomfortable doing it. Maybe it was because of her ultra low-cut cholis or because she looks a trifle too old to be dancing girlishly in the rain. The "tere bina" song picturization is not bad - but neither of the playback singers' voices suit Abhishek/Ash who lip-sync to it on the screen. So it looked kind of weird. But none of the songs were terribly picturized either (we still have that guarantee in MR's movies :-)). And really, each of Ash's lehengas and cholis while she is in the village look like designer wear worth thousands of rupees. How many village belles wear such designer clothes?

As for the story itself, neither me nor the friends I went with could quite figure out what exactly it was focussing on. Following Guru's rise to the top? Or the media's role in society? Or a call to industrialists to have more integrity? All these topics are touched upon but none of it is really gone into in depth - so at the end of the movie you have this "Huh, what did I see just now" feeling.

But what took me totally by surprise was the ending (this is really not a spoiler, but skip this paragraph if you are very particular about not knowing anything about the movie). The message I got there was "It is okay to break the law as long as you are progressing and causing the country to progress along with you". Really? Who decides whether it really is progress you are making? Or for that matter, to what extent is breaking of the law okay and under what circumstances? What was funnier was how the inquiry commission in the movie seems to be swayed by this senseless argument. Oh well, this is just a movie - still that message jarred quite a bit. I shall just take it as entertainment and not dwell too much upon it.

At the end of the day, I still feel the biggest achievement of Guru as far as I am concerned is actually making me appreciate Ash Rai. You would realize what a milestone that is if you have read these posts ([1], [2]) of mine :-)!

So, should you watch the movie? Certainly - it is worth one watch at least. It is definitely not MR's finest movie but you should watch it at least to see how a director can make a world of difference to actor's performances.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Alligator spotting at Everglades

Continued from parts [1], [2], [3] and [4].

The next day was our sleep-in day. This was to avoid a horror situation involving three zombies walking/driving in the streets of Miami (there are enough traffic horror situations in Miami as it is without our additional input). Around 10.00am, D's alarm rang. As usual, we followed our routine of ignoring the alarm until S suddenly remembered - if we did not get going soon, the hotel's cafe would soon be closed for breakfast. That woke us all up pronto!

There was no time to shower. So we all went downstairs in our gypsy states of the previous day. Mercifully, some people in the restaurant had showed up their pajamas - so we did not look too out of place! Deciding to make the meal "brunch", We dug into the breakfast buffet which had a hefty price but a decent collection of food - the pancakes and freshly squeezed juice from Florida oranges especially come to mind :-).

After a leisurely breakfast, we got ready to go to Everglades National Park - that marshy/swampy area where they have alligator farms. We first made sure that the airboat rides were open on Xmas day - mercifully they were!

The directions to Everglades were more convoluted than those to Key West, but we managed to reach there just fine without any getting-lost episodes. It was a cloudy day with threats to rain which never materialized, at least during the noon. Hmm, how is it that Florida has such copious rains just when we decide to visit it? Ah well, as we all know, it rains a lot where good people are present 0:-) - heehehhehe!

The airboat place had a cafe attached to it where they were selling, I kid you not, gator tail sandwiches!!! Whether these really referred to alligator tails or not, no one had the courage to find out. We bought the tickets for the airboat ride and waited for the next boat.

While we waited, we looked around at their collection of snakes (how many of you feel your skin creep when looking at snakes? Mine always does) in cages. There were also a wide variety of birds flying around - peahens, ducks and so on - it was a very peaceful garden. Of course, we set about taking lots of pictures.

We were called to board the boat about 10 minutes later. The airboat could carry 16 passengers and was built in a special kind of way to allow travel in the marshy backwaters. Normal boats would not work in such places. We were also given ear-plugs for use during the part of the ride when the boat's engines became too noisy.

We set off slow. Everglades is very famous for its abundant flora and fauna. Unfortunately I don't recall the names of all the bird varieties we saw. But the osprey, the egret, some kind of eagle and a bird dubbed as snake-neck bird (because of its long snake-like neck) were among them. We also saw a turtle.

And of course, we came across alligators. Of the first set we saw, one alligator was lying in the shallow water, its yellow eyes staring lazily at us. Another alligator relaxed on the mud on the shore. They did not look that dangerous from the boat - but no, I would not have got out of the boat for love or money!

The boat guide was happily telling us survival tips in case we found ourselves abandoned on one of the marshy islands - things like what to eat, what to drink, where to stay etc. Hahahahahaha - I doubt I would have recovered from the shock and fear to even necessitate knowing any of the other stuff!

Anyways he also said that the place abounded in snakes though we did not spot any. Then was the most fun part of the trip - the boat-guide gunned the engine and we went zooming through the marshy land. He also did a couple of sharp spins and turns - it was like being in the chase scene of an action movie :-D - totally cool! Of course, my hair looked like Medusa's after that trip - but yeah, it was totally worth it :-)!

From the air boat ride, it was on to an alligator show. We were ushered into a small enclosure. The show-host then said that he was looking for volunteers to wrestle with an alligator. Of course S, D and me immediately put our heads down religiously and pretended to not exist. I was whispering to D about how this reminded me of one of our classes in undergrad where the instructor used to randomly pick out students to answer questions and all of us used to have our heads buried into our notebooks in the fond hope that the instructor would not notice us.

Well, it did not work back then and it did not work now either. D was picked as "volunteer". The show-host then proceeded to tell her that he would demonstrate how to wrestle an alligator and she could then do it based on the instruction. D nervously giggled and said he was joking. I was asked to position myself beside the enclosure to capture the "fun" on camera - oh well, as long as it was not me doing any wrestling :-).

Well, the guide wrestled the alligator - again, as I have said before, I don't like shows with performing animals, so did not like it too much. But at the end of it, D was told that she need not wrestle the alligator and just needed to hold a teenager (bigger than the baby gator but smaller than an adult) alligator with a band around its snout for safety reasons - though the guide did remove the band for a short period when the gator was still in D's hands. I busily clicked pictures.

After the show, we all could take snaps holding the teenager alligator. Though I was so not for it when we entered the enclosure, I held the alligator too - it was not at all yucky as I thought it would be. The alligator was pretty heavy in spite of its small size and its skin had a cold and rubbery (not slimy) feel to it! So now we all three have alligator-women pictures :-)!

After the patel pics, we spent some more time browsing through the store and buying some more knickknacks - pretty chains, souvenir magnets etc. Then we were ready to go to South Beach where we were planning to spend the rest of the day.

To be continued...

Post script

1. D said that she had a sudden urge to hold the alligator's head against her cheek and pose for a picture. But then she thought that she wouldn't like it too much if the alligator decided that it wanted a taste of her ear and so abandoned these plans.

2. On an entirely unrelated note, it is unfair enough that if you love to eat, you HAVE to exercise too unless you are okay with looking like a blimp and/or dying of some obesity-related disease. On top of that, while it takes at least four weeks of regular exercise to get your body to even very basic endurance levels, it takes only two weeks of not exercising to absolutely lose ALL the endurance you gained with the prior months of exercising. I should know - all my fitness classes restarted this week after the holidays and I am SORE. I am re-recognizing every muscle group in my body and currently, any change of position requires lots of ouches and light, ginger and gentle movements. This ain't fair, I tell ya - *sigh*!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ten things which made me smile yesterday

1. Having a colleague look at a photo from my Florida trip, which is on my computer's desktop and exclaim "Oh, you look so young - just like a kid!"

2. Eating everything from the tofu in the miso soup to the salad and sticky rice with chopsticks at the Japanese restaurant - and not making the table look like a one-year-old had just finished lunch at the end of it.

3. Watching Neosporin ointment work wonders on a rather deep paper cut on my hand. I can almost see the cut closing before my eyes!

4. Having an Indian neighbor with whom I have just exchanged hellos with so far drop by my apartment and give me a box of sweets from her recent trip to India.

5. Seeing pictures of my cousin's new-born baby boy! I can still recall my cousin, my sis and me running around in pattu-pavadais and fully powdered faces during numerous relatives' weddings when we were kids like it was yesterday.

6. Getting stuck in a terrible traffic jam on the way back from work, remembering an unreturned phone call from a friend, returning it and absolutely not noticing the 15 long minutes it took to cross two blocks.

7. Receiving emails from two not-so-much-in-touch old school friends on the same day.

8. Looking at the the glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling glow after I turned out the lights - yeah, my mental age still hovers around three.

9. Slipping back inside the warm cocoon under my multiple comforters after dragging myself out of it to get a drink of water.

10. The fact that this list took up less than ten minutes to come up with and I have not even put down all the smile-worthy 'events'.

... and yesterday as a whole was not even anywhere near "good" as days go.

I guess what makes life even more sooooo worth living is all these little "ah-ha" moments :-)!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Key West - USA's Kanyakumari*

Continued from parts [1], [2] and [3].

Tin-tin-TIN. Tin-tin-TIN.
The alarm rang with monotonous regularity at 7.15a. It was just some five hours since we had closed our eyes and none of us budged. Finally, that morning, I gave up fight first and went off to shower. We were going to Key West (a 3.5 hour journey away) and we had to leave reasonably early since we were planning to return the same day.

As usual, we breakfasted at the hotel cafe. Given our tightly planned schedules, for the duration of the entire trip, we never did manage to fulfill our ambition of going somewhere else for breakfast! After getting the surprisingly straightforward directions (go out of the hotel, turn right and keep going straight till you hit Key West), we set off.

Initially, the journey was mostly on roads with traffic signals. We got to see a good bit of Miami (and Miami traffic - that deserves an entire post by itself). That day was even hotter than the previous day. The sun shone mercilessly and we turned on the air conditioning full blast in the car. Simultaneously, S and me made the decision to buy t-shirts, shorts and slippers once we got to Key West to prevent baking/evaporating in the heat.

After a while, the commercial buildings on the sides of the road began to reduce in number. Soon, we had reached marshy areas on either side of the road and the road had changed to a two-laned one (in some places a one-lane one). Then we got to the bridges.

The tip of Florida consists of a series of "Keys" - each key referring to an island. The keys have names like Key Largo, Long Key and so on. Some of the "keys" are joined by a series of bridges. The southernmost key, which is also the southernmost tip of mainland United States is called Key West. End of Geography lesson :-).

The bridges were over the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic ocean has such a beautiful blue-green color to it - we all feasted our eyes on it! We hardly noticed the long journey - the beautiful vistas around us and the interesting anecdotes (read gossip :-P) we had to share kept us fully occupied for the entire duration of the journey.

On the way, D had located a Jamaican restaurant in the Key West guide book for lunch. So when we reached Key West around 1.30p or so, we parked as close to the restaurant as we could. As usual D and S were stuck with eating veggie wraps (though they said it was different from the usual wraps in a nice way) while I had a fish entree (yummy).

The next stop was for summer clothing. We were midway through our shopping process when we realized that the shop had the most leching set of salesmen ever X-(! I did not get the name of the store, so cannot warn you, but it was on Whitehead road near Mallory Square and offered supposedly "great" discounts. Anyways, at the end of that shopping expedition, S and me had finally gotten into more summer-type clothes and flip-flops :-D. This trip also resulted in me walking barefoot for a short distance on the streets of Key West (don't ask how X-(!).

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Now we were all set. We enquired from our parking garage attendant about getting to the Southernmost tip. He said it was a 30 minute walking trip from where we were. But we also wanted to see the sunset which was supposed to be best viewed from Mallory Square in the exact opposite direction. Now, it was already 4.30p and and the sun set at 5.30p . The parking attendant gleefully said that there was no way we could make it for both (we wanted to see the southernmost tip in daylight).

Ah, well, we decided to see about that :-)! We set off towards towards the Southernmost tip. On the way we saw lots of quaint cottages - wish I could live there! We also saw lots of roosters *all over the place* - some of the crowed too. It felt like a village in India :-)! We walked right past Ernest Hemmingway's erstwhile house! It was a lovely walk in the fast approaching dusk. In 20 minutes, we were right up at the tip where an extremely colorful (read garish) marker proudly proclaimed "90 Miles to Cuba. Southernmost Point. Continental USA". In front of the marker was a queue of people patiently waiting to take Patel pics! So, if you ever make a really garish sculpture of some sort and want it to get a lot of attention, just put it at some significant landmark :-P!

Of course, we joined the queue too and had other people take snaps of us. We also spent sometime peering hard to check if we could spot some bit of Cuba by some chance (we couldn't). Then of course, we had to journey back to Mallory Square. That was even further up north than our parking place - so we set off at a brisk pace. The clock was close to 5.25p as we neared Mallory Square. There was a sunset festival going on - with lots of shows, food and crowds.

A huge crowd of people had gathered to watch the sunset. S, D and me happily joined the crowd too and started watching the sun, when, all of a sudden to all our dismay a gigantic cruise ship, docked near the shore, started moving and halted, effectively blocking out the sun for all of us on the shore! A collective groan went up and mercifully, all our curses seemed to have reached the ship's captain. The ship retraced its steps and left a full view of the sun again allowing us to observe a beautiful sunset (and take some excellent pictures :-))!

Once the show got over, the crowd began to disperse. We wanted some refreshment after our rapid trotting to two ends of the island. We found a restaurant which served coffee and also ordered Key Lime Pie which seems to be a speciality of that region. That revived us. We were good to go again :-)!

We freshened up a bit to get ready to go for the Ghost tour. Unfortunately, a call to the tour operators let us know that it was cancelled on account of Christmas Eve - darn!

So there was nothing to do but find a place for supper. Our attempt to find an Indian place did not meet with success so we went to an Italian place instead. The food was pretty nice. This place had weird decoration - one dollar bills were stapled all over the place, ostensibly by the restaurant patrons - each of the dollar bills had signatures/messages of people. Even as we ate, a couple stapled a new dollar bill to one of the beams on the cieling. I was busy for a while trying to calculate how many dollars the total of all these disfigured bills would come up to (and whether I could buy a condo on Fisher Island with the money ;-)), but my brain refused to cooperate and I gave up!

Satisfied with the dinner, we set off to our car. Since we had walked a fair distance to the restaurant, we strolled back in a leisurely manner, browsing through the various stores, buying knickknacks, taking pictures and chatting.

Finally, we started from Key West around 9.00p. The first part of the journey went off in conversation but as it got late the conversation slowly died down. S went off to sleep in the back seat. D as navigator (and of course, driver me) kept awake. Finally, around 11.40p, we were nearing Miami Downtown. Ah, a couple more blocks and we would be at the hotel!

Right! All of a sudden, the road split into two without any warning and of course, we were on the wrong fork and went off into some freeway. We had a vague idea of where our hotel was from there - so we set out tracing our way back to it. And being lucky souls, we went around in circles, rectangles and other geometric shapes without finding the hotel. Now what?

Finally S (who had woken up to the sound of D's and my agitated talking) spotted the lit up sign of the hotel on a building some way behind us (as D said later, thank heavens we chose a hotel which prominently stood out or we could still be wandering there) and so we traced our route back. After one more wrong turn on a one way street and an almost wrong entry to the parking lot, we made it back almost 45 minutes after our inital expected time of arrival!

We trudged back to the hotel looking like tramps - our faces were muddy and our hands and feet were grubby after all our walking. We looked wornout and tired and pretty much like something even a cat wouldn't drag in! We were half worried that the hotel management would throw us out thinking we were trespassing but thankfully it did not happen :-)! Once back in the room, we had quick showers (no amount of sleep could help in putting off the need to feel clean).

We had had a lovely day. But to say we were darn tired would be an understatement. We were utterly exhausted! And thus, we were all deep in slumberland a short while later.

To be continued...

Post scripts

1. I drove both to and from Key West. Since both the onward and backward journeys were done without *any* breaks, it marks the first time I have driven some 340 miles on a single day in two continuous stretches of about 3 and 3.5 hours each :-D!

2. Florida seems to have a lot of Cubans. Since Indians look somewhat similar to Cubans, at some places we were mistaken to be Cubans and had Spanish sent our way (of course, our blank, dumb and uncomprehending expressions soon corrected the misconception).

3. How many of you non-veggie's out there knew Grouper was a kind of fish? At the Jamaican restaurant for lunch, I asked the waiter what a grouper was (thinking it was a group of all kinds of meat - in retrospect, yeah, that sounds dumb - thankfully I did not spell out my thoughts) and the waiter just stopped himself from rolling on the floor with laughter when asking "You don't know what a grouper is? Really? Hehehehehehe!" Hmph X-(!

4. Women-folk, next time you find the adult-sized generic souvenir t-shirts too broad/long for you, look in the Youth section - those t-shirts fit much, much better! Thanks to S for making this brilliant discovery!

* Kanyakumari is the southernmost tip of India.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Miami Heat (and rain) - II

Continued from parts [1] and [2].

So we bought our tickets for the bay cruise and jumped onto the about-to-leave cruise boat. It was a flat vessel with two decks. The lower deck was enclosed while the upper deck had all sides open and plastic chairs on it. We obviously chose to sit on the upper level. Initially everyone was staidly seated but as the boat began to move into the bay, everyone became busy taking pictures.
Miami Skyline

We had a good view of the Miami skyline. It was not anywhere near as breathtaking as that of that of NYC, Chicago or all those places - nevertheless it had a charm of its own. The islands (manmade and natural) at Miami are apparently home (okay, one of the multiple homes) to many of of the rich and famous.

Condos on Fisher Island
We first saw Fisher Island where condos sell at upward of $(insert crazy number here) million per unit. A bit too hefty a price maybe but apparently you can rub shoulders with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Boris Becker and other such people if you own a place there! Oh well, California lottery is still open I hear :-)!

Gloria Estefan's modest ;-) house
We were also entertained with lots of interesting anecdotes from the recorded voiceover and were busy clicking pictures. We also saw another of the insanely rich housing communities on an island called, appropriately, Star Island. Gloria Estefan, Shaquille O Neil and a bunch of other celebrities own homes there. After some time of hearing prices of those houses, $5 million began to sound very cheap to me :-)!

The biggest (and priciest) house on Star Island
There was a brief lull in the sightseeing when we were travelling in the ocean and the captain invited us all to take pictures up front if we wanted. Being true Patel-snap enthusiasts, S, D and me immediately rushed into the cabin and took pictures posing with the captain's cap and holding the navigation wheel (er, what is the correct term for it - tiller?) of the ship :-D.

M who had been watching over our stuff for us (she being a Miami-resident and all refused to do touristy stuff like that - hehehehe) told us that a bunch of male passengers had been laughing at the Patel-picture-taking antics of us "silly girls". Well, sometime later, we saw them sneak to the captain's cabin to take pics too - hah and double hah :-P!

Cruise Ship!

Miami is also apparently called the Cruise Capital of the World. Many, many cruise ships depart from its shores. As proof, we could see multiple cruise ships (they are HUGE - did not realize they were quite so big!) docked by the shore!

Cruise ship behind waving palm trees

By now almost an hour had passed since our departure. The diffused sunlight was playing on the waves and formed pretty sparkles. A mild and refreshing breeze blew around us. The gentle rocking motion of the boat seemed like a lullaby. Yeah, you guesed it, M and D fell fast asleep in their chairs :-))!
Some bridge

But they woke up after a pretty quick cat nap. The rest of the cruise consisted of seeing some more pricey homes (and absolutely no occupants of those houses - really, do people live in those houses?) and cruise ships. Then, we were back on dry land! We decided to spend sometime looking through the stores in the Bay Side area. Everyone bought minor things.

We then spotted a stall selling fresh juice of all kinds. And guess what, they were selling freshly pressed karumbu (sugar cane) juice. Yipeeeee :-D! We decided to try out with one glass first - but soon the number of orders had increased to three (D, woman of steel, refused to succumb to temptation). I blissfully savored that long forgotten taste - *yummmy* :-D!

Give me a book and a deck chair and I would be all set in this place!

We wandered some more and took a lot more pictures. It was awesome to see the bay fringed with palm trees. Since we had plans of clubbin' that night, we had to conserve some energy. So we decided to head back to our car and then back to the hotel. A was to pick up M from the hotel (she had to leave as she had guests coming over to her house the next day and being a married woman and all was making an elaborate dinner).

S, D and me decided to find out more about the night life in Miami. Enquiries at a Starbucks (the ask the locals policy) brought recommendation for a dance club called Space. So, Space we decided to go! But first, a break at the hotel!

On reaching the hotel, we bade goodbye to M and went back to our room. D, S and me - all of us had, true to our "seasoned traveler" tag, smartly started packing only after 10.00p before the night of our trip - this process had gone on for a while resulting in a big sleep deficit for all of us.

The bed looked very inviting and S and me crashed immediately and slept well for around 30 minutes while D channel surfed. After that it was time for dinner. We decided to check out the hotel's restaurant and finally went to their sports-bar for food (the proper restaurant did not have any veggie options but the sports-bar did)!!

After dinner, we decided to spend some time by the outdoor pool. It was wonderful balmy weather and we talked about all random topics under the moon :-)!

Around 10.30p we decided to get ready to go night-life checking and took a cab to Space. The music was mostly middling to downright bad. The dance floor took some time to warm up but the crowd began to gather after a while. So we were finally safely able to lose ourselves in it and dance with the least danger of being seen :-D! We had good fun dancing (or more accurately, waving hands and legs about) for an hour before we decided to call it a night. We were going to Key West the next day and so had to get up early.

Once we got back to the hotel, we all hit the sack without any further ado!

To be continued ...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Miami Heat (and rain) - I

Continued from here.

The next day morning dawned bright and clear. Actually, I am guessing on that. Of course, D and me were still fast asleep at dawn :-D. When the alarm rang at 8.20a, we both pretended to not hear it (it was just 5.20a for us west-coasters) and snuggled further into our respective comforters. D finally gave up the fight first and went off to shower - after all we had to get ready soon to be able to pick up S from the airport at 10.00a.
The outside was cloudy - but from even within the airconditioned comfort of our room, it looked hot outside. Stepping onto the balcony confirmed my doubts. Unfortunately, given my brilliant winter-clothes packing skills, I had no choice but to slip into my long-sleeved shirt and pants and shoes.
When D (dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and shoes) and me descended down to the hotel lobby, we stuck out like sore thumbs in a sea of people in bermuda shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. Oh well, we had to show we are even more touristy than normal tourists, right!

After a fairly leisurely breakfast of cereals and coffee, D and me went to the parking lot. We were still walking around in circles, trying to locate our car in the spiral parking structure when my cell-phone rang. S' plane had just landed at the FLL airport - oh shucks!
Bucking up, we set off. The ride to the Fort Lauderdale city was fairly fast. But once we got into FLL airport, our nightmare started. Four lanes of jam packed vehicles greeted us. We inched forward millimetre by millimetre. After some 25 excruciating minutes inside the airport, we finally made it to terminal 3 (the journey from Miami to Fort Lauderdale city itself had taken only fifteen minutes) where S was waiting.

We spotted S - but of course, amidst all that chaos, the only car the airport officers could think of regulating was our poor car. A female officer kept banging on our car to move on even as we tried to tell her that S was right behind the car. Finally, in a thrilling sequence, S caught up with the car and jumped into the back seat with her suitcase and all even as D slowly maneuvered the car away from the kerb. Phew!

The third travelling musketeer had also arrived :-D!

On the way back from the airport, I called up M who lives in Miami for directions to her apartment - we were spending the day with her. Her husband A had politely declined our offer of chauffeuring us around (hehehehe, I bet he could have though of only about a gazillion better things than taking a bunch of giggling girls around downtown Miami).

As we made our way to M's place, like the cloudy skies of the morning had foretold, the heavens opened up into furious rain. We reached M's place in the pouring rain. M and A had gathered umbrellas and other rain paraphernalia to guide us to their apartment in a dry state. The moment we all safely reached inside the apartment, it stopped raining. Grr!

M commented on our (and specifically my) highly-religious-Arab-woman like clothing (hmph X-(- read postscript 3 below for explanation). However, S said that I had lost weight since the time I had met her in May - yipeeee (S, I love you gal :-D). S, D and me then eagerly pounced upon the fruitcake M and A served us. After some more chit-chat and snap-taking, it was time to set off to Bay Side.

Bay side is situated in downtown Miami and is something like Pier 39 in San Francisco. It has lots of restaurants and shops and is also the starting point of cruises around the Miami Bay. M confidently said that she would navigate us to the place. M displayed such excellent navigation skills that we drove right past Bay Side and realized that only a mile later. Finally we wound up parking our car about a mile away from Bay Side! But mercifully, it had stopped raining and we had a pleasant walk.

Ah, I must mention the weather! Forget about warm winter temperatures! The muggy and sunny weather could have easily rivalled some of the summer time temperatures of the California Bay Area! This is the first time in the US that I have been to such a warm place in winter and it was bliss :-)!

Once we reached Bay Side, D made a clothing stop at Guess while the rest of us wandered around and took enlightening pictures under a gigantic banyan tree. Oh, I should mention - the whole of Miami reminded me so much of Chennai! Both places enjoy tropical climate - hence the houses, trees, etc. seemed to look very similar.

The next stop was for lunch. A had told us about a Cuban place (we wanted to try Cuban food) - unfortunately they did not have veggie options (D and S are vegetarians). So we finally wound up at Hooter's restaurant instead - the choice had been between Chilis and Hooters - we chose the latter because we wanted to see what all the fuss was about ;-)!
Lunch done, we set off to buy tickets for the cruise around Miami Bay.

To be continued ...

1. Yes, I intend to make it a microscopically detailed "travelogue" - so please to have your popcorn and soda ready (I sure hope at least one soul reached till here *bambi eyes*).

2. I never realized extremely humid air could play so much havoc with hair (considering I am originally from super-humid Chennai). Within 2 hours of being outside in Florida, my poor hair's texture had reached that of coconut fibre and only using a hair-band stopped it from looking like a sparrow's nest. Hmph! So much for spending time straightening it before I left California X-(!

3. If you want to find out weather forecast for a place, find it on a weather website. Do not ask your friends who live in that place. When I had called M the previous week, she had told me that it was slightly chilly. I had done all my clothes packing based on that (agreed, I erred on the side of way too much caution). After being in Miami for only a couple of hours, I concluded that there was no way that the place could even get near chilly and M must have been hallucinating when she said the weather had been chilly - the last day of stay proved me wrong though! So lesson for the day is: check for weather forecasts on weather web-sites!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Yaaay, 2007!

Happy New Year :-D!

2006 sure went zooming by - can't believe I am already in 2007! I thought I should do a recap of 2006, but really, what with old age and all, I am unable to remember most of it without putting in some amount of work and you know lazy me :-P. The one thing I DO remember without effort is that I travelled a lot in 2006 and I loved it. Hehehehe - that was a quick recap :-)!

I'm just beginning
The pen's in my hand
Ending unplanned
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

These lyrics are a part of Natasha Bedingfield's song Unwritten which often plays on my local radio station. I love the lyrics and the singer has done a great job of singing the song. The lyrics are kind of appropriate for the New Year with its promise of a brand new start, don't you think :-)?

Today, I made the mistake of hunting out the song's video on youtube. Ladies and gentlemen, *drum roll*, here is yet another example of how a perfectly nice song can have terrible picturization:

I think I could have stood it better if it did not feature a smirking Natasha Bedingfield. Oh well, lets be thankful that she is still focussed on her singing career and has not decided to become an actress yet (as far as I know).

As I was saying, Happy New Year all :-D!


Alert blog-reader Deepthi has brought it to my attention that the above video is not Natasha Bedingfield's video. In the highly unlikely case you are reading this blog (hehehehe), sorry Natasha for my earlier rude remarks! I think this is the original video:

p.s. While is way, way, way better than the other video, I still think it could have been even better. Oh well, some day, when I write my own song :-P!