Sunday, September 25, 2011

Make Hunter proud!

Guys, we are only a few days away from our H-8 B-Wing reunion trip to Vegas, and I thought I would take the opportunity to inspire you to great feats.

Hunter S. Thompson did not write Fear and Loathing in Columbus, OH. Columbus, OH, has gambling, shows, drinking and prostitution. But it is not Las Vegas. And we, señores, are going to Las Vegas, which brings up the question: What are we, as individuals and as a group, going to do that will have to stay in Vegas: something that will make HST proud, Las Vegas what it is, and ourselves, laudably loathsome?

Now, you don't have to transgress my boundaries, leave alone those of HST. All you have to do is transgress your own. Let's consider some examples of transgressions that won't count.

  • Lose more money gambling on this trip than your previous high. (Unless it is greater by an order of magnitude.)
  • Eat till you are sick and have to be hospitalized. Obviously, this proscription applies only to Raj A. and Sanjay U., for everyone else, this is a fair challenge.
  • Plain and simple vomiting. Unless
  1. You do it from the top of a ride
  2. You do it from a gondola into the canals of Venice
  3. You first drop your glasses and then puke on them.
  • Make a fool of yourself. This blanket proscription is in place because
  1. It is too non-specific
  2. You've done it before – Dude, we know you.

Let me throw out some ideas.

Gambling: Remember the order of magnitude rule. You have to risk at least 10 times your previous maximum net loss. OK, it doesn't mean you have to end the weekend with that much net loss, just that at some point during your stay you have to be down by that amount. You can, and in fact are encouraged to, stay at the table so you can win back your losses. This has the advantage of potentially lowering the amount you'll be obliged to risk next time you are in Vegas with us, a factor of 11 marginal benefit. For example, say your previous maximum net loss on a trip was $10. This time you have to risk $100. You play till you are down $ 101 and have met your goal. But are you satisfied? Next time, you'll have to risk $1010. Whereas if you stay at the table and win back $10, so that your net loss is only $91, next time you'll only have to risk $910! That is an overall saving of $110 over this trip and the next!

What does this translate to for me? $2.50! Why? Some decades ago, in a desperate attempt to read the romantic tea-leaves as it were, I played 3 quarters in the slots, one each for myself, for my fiancee at the time and for TWIWF. The quarter for TWIWF won back 50 cents, my fiancee and I broke up, and TWIWF went back to her cheating hubby. Isn't astrology amazing?

Climbing: Being jilted doesn't make you a better climber, it just makes you less concerned about your own mortality, makes you give even less of a shit. Within the space of a few months I'd repeatedly taken a 30 foot whipper on a 5.10+ trad route and one 35” whipper on a 5.10d sport route. My previous hardest climbs have been a 10b/c trad and 11b sport. So in Red Rocks my goal will be to do either a midlength 5.9+ or a very long 5.8. How exactly is this “upping the ante”? In the increasingly inaptly named Yosemite Decimal System, the grades go from 5.0 to 5.15a, passing through grades like 5.8+ (harder than 5.8 but not quite 5.9) and 5.9- (5.9, but just about) and grades like 5.12a, 5.12b, 5.12c, 5.12d after which comes 5.13a. Somewhere we also have 5.10b/c, and we also have qualifiers like sport vs. trad, a length scale from I through VI+ and a safety scale : PG, G, S, R and X. So now it should be perfectly clear why a long 5.8 is going to be a wordy challenge for me.

Sex: In increasing order of merit:
  1. Pay for sex
  2. Fall in love with an escort
  3. Fall in love with an escort without realising his/her profession
  4. Get into a barfight with the pimp in an attempt to “save” the person in question
Where am I on this ? I've struck-out on AshleyMadison, so (1.) will be a good goal for me. However,
mitigating circumstances exist. 

I'll be attempting to climb one of the tall, free standing, erect, towers in Red Rocks, and as any half-decent Freudian knows, that is an expression of my deep-seated and suppressed homo-erotic fantasies. For women, (and just by the way, why aren't there any women in our reunion?) the equivalent would be to climb in Owen's Gorge or the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Plus, after I'd taken that 40' whipper on the 5.10d, and Orlando had driven himself into a drunken black funk on New Year's Eve by expecting Las Vegas to be like a “plaza in Spain” and, hungover, had properly dishonoured himself on Fear&LoathingIII by dogging and pulling and hanging his way up, we were quietly getting stoned on the drive back to Santa Barbara, when he looked at me and said, “Hombre, if you were a woman, I'd kiss you right now.” To which I'd replied, “O-man, you are so beautiful I would have kissed you back.” Then we'd stopped just before the CA border, at the last chicken-ranch in NV, imagined the girls in the back rooms and looked up at the curtained windows. “Last chance!” he said. “No. Our cheating bitches will be pleading for us when we get back.” said I. And it was true.

That is when you know you are well and truly fucked, when she pleads for you, when she lies and promises and cajoles her way into your bed before washing herself off and going back home to her BF or husband. She can afford rejection from you because patient, kind, loving, or, this is a good one “He understands me!” is waiting for her at home, to comfort her should you be smart enough to reject her. She can afford to give you a choice which is no choice because you'll never, never, in that moment, say “no!”, because before that deeply miserable and lonely night you will have glory, and if you say “no!” you will have no glory and only slightly less miserable and lonely a night.

And O-man and I made a pact, that we would climb more, waste less time on the women who respectively and respectfully had us by the balls, a pact that we knew we wouldn't keep, because we would be admired for our bruises, for our sunburnt skin, for our stories of valor and failure, for our twisted, bent and damaged but strong fingers and other words would be said, words which would atrophy our brains but swell our heads and one other body part each. Where are you O-man?

So I'll give myself a pass on this one. What do you guys think?

Other, innocent ideas:
  • See the wild burros in RRSP
  • Listen to the coyotes howl in the desert
  • Confess to us something that none of the rest of us know about you. (And fukinn make it good, I don't want to hear about some stolen patent or how you fired a 100 people, not unless you stole their panties and screwed half of them first.)

To conclude: You guys are all Masters of the Universe, goal-setters, accomplished followers of Stephen Covey. Set a goal, make a plan to accomplish it over the weekend and publicize it so you can be held accountable. Recall what Prof. Isaac, then Dean of Student Affairs, said to us: “You represent India's best. You are the brain in 'brain drain', you are the cream in 'sour cream'! You've floated to the top, like shit or Sorrow.”

And as Gandhi said, “If you don't plan to make an ass of yourself, you won't!”

Acknowledgements: This work was supported in part by Arun Yethiraj Patron of the Arts Grant LV-SEP2011.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I hardly know you!

As the party wound down after the dancing, we made our way outside to the cool air, the sweat clamming to our bodies. R went back inside to fetch me a drink, and Cathy and I watched him silently till he disappeared.

“Where did you find him, Cathy?” We'd been to high school together, we had both been under-the-radar smart ones, but we'd been in equally peripheral and non-interacting cliques – separated by god knows what! We'd even fought at the prom, when her date and I ended-up dancing together in the crowd. No big scenes, but she'd quickly and firmly interjected herself in between and hustled him off, leaving me alone on the floor. I was without a date, so it wouldn't have hurt her to let me have one dance, but I suppose it had been difficult enough for her to find her pimply-faced date. We'd then been thrown together and grown closer together in college, room-mates in fact for 3 years until the incompatibility of our boyfriends (her two or three always callow anglos, and mine -more frequently changed- graduate assistants of all available kinds) caused us to live apart, not without regret on both sides.

So it had come as a complete surprise to me, first that her 'guy' was, as her grand-mother (and, I will add for generational context, Cathy's high-school aged children's great-grandmother) put it, “not really Hispanic”. That bitter bitch's bile should have left her dead long-ago, maybe soon after that humiliating Thanksgiving I spent with Cathy, but at least it had brought her to confront the image of her own favorite grand-daughter being stuck on someone brown. … and second, after R had been considerate towards me ever since I'd arrived for the wedding, that when R had asked me to dance (and he was a surprisingly poor dancer!), Cathy had given us this peculiarly smug smile; and I don't think she was thinking “threesome” - we'd tried kissing each other one mutually bereft Saturday night in college, and had found comfort but nothing more. Either her divorce or the meditation she'd taken up or R himself had worked wonders on her.

Since we'd watched R enter the bar-area, Cathy had continued staring silently at me. “That's always been your first question. This is the first time it isn't tinged with 'What rock did you find him under?' ”.  I'll admit the truth of that, but … ohh! differing tastes I guess.

“Some years back, at our baby-sitting coop's annual camping trip, this guy gate-crashed with his two young daughters … I guess Anne-Marie's husband -one of only two dads with us- had helped him set-up his tent, and then Margaret quite independently invited the girls over for s'mores. Within minutes Emilia, his older daughter, was playing with our kids at the fire, and Silvia, who must have been 5 at the time, had snuggled up to Anne-Marie, and he was chatting us all up, in Spanish and English, even faking French with Anne-Marie. Soon enough it became "known" that he was recently separated and that after some years as a “full-time mom” he was in career transition. Almost immediately Cawley had gravitated to him and was giddily throwing herself at him, hanging on his every word ( and he had plenty of those!) and spouting her 'man-ego-builders' at him: “... this is the place to be for someone as smart as yourself … I've always found genetics fascinating … my boys were asking about cloning, would you explain it to them?”. Somehow they got talking about Cawley's career change to social media marketing and then 'gender-neutral writing'.”

I asked Cathy if she herself had been immune to his charm then, and she actually blushed. I suppose a 45 year old now can blush if a 40 year old then could have “giddily thrown herself”. From what I'd seen of Cawley on my visits to Cathy, she had struck me as a fairly no-nonsense woman.

“Any fool but he could see Cawley's infatuation with him. There were even moments when she was not worriedly shepherding her boys, you know how she's become so over-protective after her divorce. … but then he stopped flitting amongst the women like a hummingbird between flowers, once he got a good look at what Cawley was flaunting!”

“Cathy, not that I'm one to defend men, but aren't you being a little harsh?”

Cathy continued as if she hadn't heard me. “When it was time to put the kids to bed, he approached me and asked if I wanted to go for a walk afterwards. Jack wasn't feeling to good and I didn't really like the idea of leaving Jess and Jack alone without me in the tent ...”

“... 'and it will take me a while to get them settled and it could get quite late and won't your girls need you with them n the tent?' ...” I finished for her, she'd always been so predictably tentative.

“Lynn! Really ! … I did agree to go for a short walk, but back in the tent, I had second thoughts, because of Jack, and because of Cawley.”

“How loyal!”, I thought to myself, but kept a lid on it.

“When I came back out and walked towards his tent, it was moonless and all quiet and I didn't see him till he stood up from the rock he'd been lying on and greeted me. I told him I would have loved it, I really liked the idea of a walk, but I didn't feel comfortable leaving Jack without me in the tent with him.”

I just hoped Cathy hadn't apologized to him, and told her so.

“He wished me goodnight and started off down the path. After a few yards he turned back, called softly and came back to where I'd stopped. He came up close and thanked me for coming back out to tell him that I wouldn't join him on the walk. I said “Of course” or some such thing. The star-light, it must've been that, threw light through the trees, and his face was partly visible. Then he leaned in towards me, and I said “No! I hardly know you!”. He laughed silently -I've never seen anybody so pleased at a rejection- and said, 'And I don't know you, but have a good night!' and then turned around and walked away.”

I was getting confused by Cathy's story, and thirsty for my drink. I looked around, one or two cigarettes glowing in the dark, the unhappy looking middle-aged couple silently nursing their drinks...  I heard the lapping of waves in the pool as someone climbed out. “... and he showed up for the pancakes with your group the next morning?”

“He didn't seem to be awkward about it when he walked Silvia to the bathroom in the morning, the rest of the kids were all over the place … he greeted Cawley and myself and chatted quite happily, if a little subdued. Though it might have been something else …”


“Cawley said he wrote to her, and mentioned something about realizing that “... he was going to die under unfamiliar stars...” and his feeling of "soudade" at knowing us ... I've held on to that word ever since.”

I love that girl, but seriously, where in a comfortable upper-middle class married with children drive them to swim lessons is there room for soudade? If I have my loneliness to bear, can't she leave soudade to me? “Have you never asked him about it?”

“No... that morning he came up to us ...”

“To who 'us'?”

“Cawley and myself. We found something in each other that morning..., AnneMarie claims we were almost in a huddle, that even she didn't want to interrupt us”

What a guy, I thought, helping females bond.

“ ...He came up and apologized for his actions the previous night.”

and what a 'SNAG' he was! I couldn't imagine the R I'd met today doing that … he seemed too proud, all things nice, but a bit of the torero in him. “.. and then?”

“Nothing, he went off to play with the kids, and then I could watch him. He played their games, by their rules, except when he wouldn't and would cause them to scatter in mock-fright. He hung upside down from Hanna and Jess' flimsy jump-rope obstacle course tied off the trees, never once seeming to test the strength… breaking every rule we'd set for our kids. He fought them to the top of their hollow tree-stump castle”

That I was sure none of the other adults had set foot near …

“ … and stood there a while, arms on his hips, ignoring the taunts of the kids, leaning over as if ready to fly, … an aging Adonis with a Peter Pan complex...”

You could never imagine that Cathy had been a Lit. major; didn't they have rules against such mixed metaphors? Her current tech-writing job suited her. Besides, from where I am, an aging Diana with what? a "Wendy" complex? (surrounded by a band of younger men), “an aging Adonis with a Peter Pan complex” sounds pretty good.

“... he never removed his shirt, it would have ruined the whole effect had he! … then they started sword-fighting, he went out of his way to get the girls involved in the rough and tumble. The older kids, his daughter Emilia included, formed one team, but Silvia was always on “Daddy's team” and the two of them sword-fought like the 3 Musketeers! Each time he let himself be disarmed, Silvia was magically there with an extra stick for him, which she would somehow manage to get to him through the pack.”

“Are they here now?”


“His daughters!”

“No! Why would they?”

I'd always known Cathy as rambling, but this was … I decided to let her go on. “You were creaming yourself looking at your Adonis, standing there in a shaft of sunlight under the evergreens, then what?”

Cathy had brought her wine out with her, and she took a sip before replying. “As we were all packing up, Cawley gave him her contact information and asked him to send her “that information”. He'd forgotten what she was talking about – the “gender-neutral language”. Here she is, studying to be a marketeer to the social web, and she can't think of googling that herself? ... Then when we were finally all packed up and it was time for us to go he looked at me very directly and said, “Find me … if you are interested.” as if he was starring in some French movie.”

Or a Spanish film, Julio Medem perhaps, but Cathy had never made it past Almodóvar and "Sexo y Lucia". Besides, if 9 year old girls can be continually narrating and starring in their own bio-pics, why not a grown man? Now after all that vacuous gallantry and courtesy I'd been subjected to this evening, I was finally beginning to find this guy intriguing, so I 'gently' pointed out, “Cathy, wasn't this around the time you were in your “eat olives, drink red wine, pray, love under the Provençal sun” phase?”

She was silent a minute, and then contritely apologized, adding, "I don't know what came over me.". Honey, I got news for you, I certainly don't know either.  “So then what did you do, Cathy?” I was almost shrieking at her slow indecisiveness!

"I thanked him."

"You thanked him?! You silly woman, you are supposed to stare them down! What favor is he doing you?"

“... Lynn, you sound as if you hate men. Besides, that afternoon we bumped into each other again at a cafe in Saratoga. While Emilia and Silvia joined our kids at their table, he declined my invitation to join us, saying he could see Cawley and I had a lot to catch up on. Over lunch Cawley and I gossiped about it all, while he sat with the kids and scribbled in his notebook until Emilia borrowed it from him.”

She sighed, “It took me a week to ask Cawley about him, since that afternoon, we'd always stepped around that topic. Then she somehow didn't get around to replying for a week, saying she thought she'd deleted his e-mail. Finally I noticed she'd already friended him on FB, and sent him a casual request. When I did get in touch with him, over the phone, he said he would be happy to have play-dates for the kids, but he'd already started seeing someone! Lynn, are we all that interchangeable to them?”

I didn't answer, " 'they'  are, to me!" I am quite happy with a pale, blond, goateed barista with artistic pretensions one week and a visiting professor on sabbatical from Europe the next. We can all be unique, and still be good solutions.

When did the two of you get together then?”

We never did. We had a couple of play-dates for the kids, once I even met the woman he was with, and he played wing-man for Cawley for a while, until she met her “techie” - a classmate of his from India, I think they are all good friends.”

But Raúl...?”

Raúl? I wasn't talking about Raúl! This was some Indian guy who'd walked in on us that night at camp!”

"... and why Spanish? Why was he speaking Spanish? His daughters' names?" 

"Lynn, his ex was Latina, didn't I mention that?"

I could have shaken her! No!, and neither that this wasn't Raúl she'd been talking about, nor that this guy was Indian! “Cathy! How did you meet Raúl?”

... At a birthday party. He'd been hired to do a science show for Jess' friend's birthday. I was helping him pick up when out of the blue he invited me to have dinner with him that night." 


"I said, “I hardly know you, but I will. Can I bring the kids?” ”

I looked up to see Raúl approaching us with Cawley and an Indian guy hanging on to her. “Look who's finally made it to the party!”, Raúl said, as he handed me my red wine and a plate of olives.

Some women have all the luck!