Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weighing in on Gaza

I picked an auspicious day to return to the Israeli Consulate. With all the Gaza mess going on, there had been a protest outside the previous day and a protest and counterprotest in the works for the day. It was nice to see all my old friends at the Consulate, see the files in the exact way that I had left them and get to give a little insight into the press officer position to my successor three-times removed. Had I not been leaving town, I almost got drafted into the hasbarah effort by both the Consulate and the Jewish Federation.

The reality is that this whole operation was a long time in coming. Hamas was fooling itself to think that Israel would sit back forever and get hit by rockets. Now that Israel gave Hamas a proper pounding, the prudent thing would be to cut the operation while it is on a high point. This would be the antithesis of the 2006 Lebanon war, when Israel started on top but got bogged down as the conflict waged. The longer the conflict goes on, the longer Hamas holds on, the likelier they can spin this as a victory simply by surviving ala Hezbollah. The longer this goes, the more likely Israel may snatch public diplomacy defeat from the jaws of military victory. Nothing too insightful in what I am saying, simply put that the need is to declare victory and get out.

In other news, the rest of my pictures from Mexico are up:

Monday, December 29, 2008

There and back again

"This is in large part due to the fact that, fear being a leifmotif of all good propaganda, aboout 75% of Americans are convinced that any trip south of Texas will involve some combination of bribery, kidnapping, armed revolt, the most toxic GI disease this side of Congo, knives pulled in macho bar duels, and probable colonoscopy at the border."
Chuck Thompson, "Smile When you`re Lying"

After a quit last night, we arose early to make our way north of the border. With the Monterrey metro (Metrorrey) closed, we hopped a cab to the bus station. We accidentally got a luxury bus out, and sat on plush leather as we rode to Nuevo Laredo. The ride between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo is one of my favorites. The road is littered with Joshua trees, branches aimed to the sky in silent prayer. The scores of them lead all the way up to the Sierra Madres, and make a stunning scene. Even more so under the pearl gray sky of a new day.

Our border crossing was surprisingly easy. Searched benignly by both Mexican and American border guards, but no rubber gloves involved. Once we crossed the border, that's when our trouble really began. We arrived at a little before 10am for a 10:45 bus, but sat in a line. Since we are in the US and not Mexico, there was only one line heading north, Greyhound. They were apparently sold out for the day. It took me 45 minutes of standing in line to find this out, cause there was no sign, simply a nonmoving line. Since we had to get north for Harry's flight, I immediately began searching out alternative options.

There were a number of other Mexican bus lines scattered around the city, and I went searching from location to location to find a ride north. They had either already left or didn't have any buses. It looked like our best option was going to be a night bus to Houston. Finally, I managed to find a ride to San Antonio on a Turimex bus, the same line we had used a bunch in Mexico. The bus was leaving ahorita, so I got them to hold it and made Harry take a quick, expensive cab to the bus place to catch the bus they were holding for him and I.

The ride north was fine. I read and stared at the Texas landscape. Something so comforting about Texas, her soft clouds in her expansive skies, her rich terrain, her simple grace.

We arrived to San Antonio and were told that a bus to stopping at the location may have places to Houston, and should be there any minute. An hour later, we took our last steed into fair Houston. We arrived around 8pm, some 14hrs after we left this morning. First thing we did was grab Whataburger, whose sign was shining like a beacon in the night right next to the bus stop. We were picked up by my friends Maya and Guga, who offered us hospitality for the night. So it ends, so it goes.

"¡Pobre México! ¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!" (Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!)
-Porfirio Diaz

Dear Mexico, so surprisingly close for an adventure, so fascinating, and always so close to my heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What the World Costs- Mexico

gratis: Museo Incografico de Don Quixote (with student card);Harry being hit on by a 50-year old gay Mexican
2 pesos ($.15): D.F. metro pass
4.5 pesos ($.35): Monterrey metro pass; bus to Guadalupe from Zacatecas
5 pesos($.38): chunk of dulce de batata
7 pesos ($.54): small glass of horchata; 1 hour internet at cyber cafe
9 pesos ($.69): one gordita; a bottle of Sol cerveza
10 pesos($.77): glass bottle of coke; entrance to Casa de Diego Rivera
12 pesos ($.92): four tacos on the street
15 pesos($1.15): student entrance to Museo Rafael Coronel
20 pesos($1.54): entrance to Museo Frida Kahlo (Casa Azul)
22 pesos($1.69): 1.2L Cevesa Indio
23 pesos($1.77): bowl of birria (goat soup)
25 pesos($1.92): ticket for cable car ride in Zacatecas
30 pesos($2.31): student entrance at MARCO in Monterrey, which by not wearing I was hounded by security
31 pesos($2.38): rickety hour bus ride to Teotihucan
35 pesos($2.69): four huge pastries and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice
40 pesos($3.07): cancion at Plaza Garibaldi; lucha libre ticket
45 pesos($3.46): student entrance to Museo de Mummias in Guanajuato
48 pesos($3.69): entrance to Museo Nacional de Antroplogio
50 pesos($3.85): entrance to lookout at the Torre Latinoamerica
53 pesos($4.08): Partagas cuban cigar
90 pesos($6.92): hostel bed in Zacatecas
100 pesos($7.70): hostel bed at hippy haven in Guanajuato
140 pesos($10.77): hostel bed in Mexico City; cubierto (ice bucket) of seven cervesas in Zona Rosa- D.F. luxury area
180 pesos($13.85): Fine Bolivar and Sancho Panza cigars, enjoyed on the roof in Guanajuato (finest I`ve ever had)
197 pesos($15.15): 8 hr bus from Zaca to Mexico City
269 pesos($20.69): 11 hr bus from Nuevo Laredo to Zacatecas
273 pesos($21): worst, most overprice meal in Mexico (Damn Yuppies!)
302 pesos($23.23): 11 hour bus from Guanajuato to Monterrey
310 pesos($23.08): breakfast for two at posh Sanborns
455 pesos ($35): 6 hr greyhound bus from Houston to the border
610 pesos ($46.92): lavish last supper at El Rey de Cabrito, the king of baby goats in Monterrey

El Fin

Dean and I are wrapping up our trip south of the border today. Or perhaps a more fitting opening would be: so Don Pablo Quijote and Sancho Harranza trudged north to the border on their metal steeds, hoping to fight the windmills that line La Mancha on the Rio Grande.

It has been a wonderful trip. Sometimes it was a little trying, as it isn´t always easy to travel with a snarky, obnoxious little brother who knows everything and nothing at the same time; sometimes it was fascinating to be traveling with a bright, engaging and curious man-child who is precociously wise beyond his years. Always it was a fantastic time in an enigmatic land just a few hours south, and always a world away. I think we both learned a lot.

For Harry, it was his first time backpacking, and I´m sure it won´t be his last. He loved it, and gained an appreciation for the joys and surprises that setting out on unknown paths can bring- perhaps he even gained a little understanding of why his brother is the way he is. For me, I had the opportunity of traveling with someone else, something I rarely do for an extended period. It was truly special to travel with someone so special to me, and we had moments that I will never forget. I enjoyed seeing Mexico through his brilliant-yet-neophyte eyes. It was a great bonding experience, and next time we will try to include our sister, who was invited but had prior plans.

Now we make our way north. Soon to be posted is everyone´s famous: La Cuenta, the bill or "What the World Costs"

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Monterrey, MARCO & El Rey Del Cabrito

A long overnight bus and we arrived tired to Monterrey. Nothing like a younger brother when you are overtired. We took the metro to the Micro Plaza and found a hostel in the Barrio Antigua, a new place since I had last been there. We kinda checked in, but not really. We showered, had an okay Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles and Huevos a la mexicana. Neither were as good as the recipes look. The hostel had no space, but said it would work with us to find us a place and we could leave our stuff. At that point, we headed back on the metro and out on the town.

We first went to the Cuauhtémoc Brewery. We were early for a tour, and I was underdressed in the rarity of shorts and flipflops and was told I couldn´t do the tour. No worries, since i did it in the past. We passed our time waiting at the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame. O` hallowed grounds. O`Cooperstown south of the border.

From there, we got the extended lecture and Harry went on the tour while I sat in the garden and read "Zen." After a few free beers, we returned to visit the phenomenal MARCO. It is a stunning museum of contemporary art that was closed last time I spent time in Monterrey. The museum was fantastic, there is such a way that contemporary art can play with you. There were reflections in pools, of lights and men and windows. There was an outdoor area which was a super hot pink and verdent green, and there was a face in the mountain, which could really only bee seen when we were lying on our backs on the marble. The lips of the mountain were chapped, but there was a hidden chapstick. There were also hidden figures, and pink slits reflecting the sky along with buttons of a shirt in lights. Pink and pretty. Shafts of pink. Very impressionante

Harry took a nap, but when I woke him, he was grumpy and later huffed off saying the museum was stupid.

I kept wandering, through forests of wood people, and through a room that was like primordial man coming out of the depths. The next room was pan, bread, covering all walls. The nex was small little figures, hundred of thousands of little ones like the meerkats from "The Life of Pi." I was having puckish fun, enjoying the different perspectives.

It was around this point I ran afoul. I had found an extra green ticket (sticker) on the ground, so I put it in my journal since it matched the outside green; I also put my student sticker (pink like the wall) in my journal. Under both MARCO stickers, I wrote "Polo." However, since I now no longer had my sticker on person, the museum thought I snuck in. First, a security guard asked, and I showed him in my book. Then another asked and I showed him as well. Then I heard another security guard talking about it, so I put it back on. At that point, they were being dicks and following me as if I snuck in. The vibe changed real quick, as all these security cabrons were eying me and following in a non subtle way. Blah, they bothered my enjoyment.

Harry and I left, and Monterrey seemed shady too. We walked through the main area, but were getting non-friendly glances. We had a great capuchino at a slow hippy place. The barrio antigua seemed dead and empty like a ghost town. We hung out until we were sufficiently hungry and hit up what returned us to the environs in the first place: El Rey De Cabrito- the king of baby goat. Its crown lit up the night sky, and we chowed on delicious crucified baby goat. I tricked Harry into eating goat balls! We are exhausted and don´t really feel like going out tonight. We finally did get some millitary fold up bedding for a cheap price from the hostel for our nightly sojourn.

So ends our trip tomorrow, as we try to cross back into the EEUU, assuming Mexico will let us out and the US will have us back. Many kilometers to go before we sleep. A proper sikkum to come later on the trip as a whole.


4.0, bitches! Got straight A`s! Luv it! And not like when BCC Highschool put me in the Washington Post for being a straight A student for my one AP Euro class. The real deal.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fairing far better

After a day of resting and struggling to keep down Korean soup from Xena, I feel far better. Harry and I had traditional jewish xmas dinner of chinese food and watched movies all night. An okay flick by Tarantino called "Deathproof" and a movie with Sean Connery called "League of Extraordinary Gentleman."

Today I woke up feeling like a million pesos. I got my atm card back, no problem. Then Harry, Xena and I went to the Museo Don Quixote. Just as wonderful the second time, if not better. I saw more of Don Q and Sancho. The Don and sidekick on eggs large and small; on an ostrich egg and on breakfast. Glass quijotes, brass quijotes. Quijotes scrabbled and scrambled. Quijote on a leaf and a prayer. Quijote of chess, of smoke and ash. Also a correction. In my previous blog, I mistakenly noted of Quixote fighting power lines. It was actually Don Q fighting oil towers, entitled "Quixote globalizado." The artist was Silvia Barbesco. A more apt demon to fight, a more apropos windmill to chase. Symbolic of the windmills of our day and age.

There were two passages from the patron of the museum that were very moving:
-"Sometimes the sand of the beath Turns into the plain of La Mancha and I see Don Quixote and Sancho Panza As if they were real characters. I touch them, I hear them, they are with us. Cervantes made them immortal. Oh! Real the Quixote, its so peaceful! Read it at the concentration camp. As a minute hand of human hours, As a place to discover ideals that jusyify the craziness of the genius, to get back the control to reason."

"Undoubtedly, Cervantes created his characters to keep them alive through his readers.. The epitath couldn´t be more illustrative than the one that the creator dedicated to Don Quixote: "Nor in his death could Death prevail." This lesson make us travel among windmills to Creptina and Montiel, to the plains of La Mancha and to the high Sierra Madres.

We would live to turn barbed wires into holm oak and holm oaks into spear shafts"
-Eulalio Ferrer Rodriguez (Museum donor)

Subtracted from his concentration camp diary om Barcares, France July 12 & 16, 1939

After the museum, we went to the beautiful Teatro Juarez and enjoyed the Moorish interior of the fine theater. The swirling patterns and bulbs radiated beauty.

After, we sat on the steps as Xena was sidekick to a clown, who stole kisses from her. We parted company as Xena went to the market and Harry and I went to Diego Rivera´s boyhood home. It was good but nothing incredible compared to all we had seen of the artist. After, we had lunch in the market. Caldo de Pollo for moi (chicken soup, the Jews do it better) and carne asada for Harry. We stocked up for dinner, and grabbed to more cigar treats. We enjoyed the luxuries on the roof, washed down with a Bohemia obscura. Life at its best, as I had a Bolivar to Harry´s Montecristo. We reflected on our journey and shared a moment of quality.

I left Harry to read while I met up with Swiss miss that I had met two days prior. We had coffee and crepes and wandered around town, and in the subterranean world of Guanajuato. Subterranean blues for me, as the swiss miss had a swiss mister. A swiss kiss goodbye would be the extent of my luck. Now off to Monterrey and back to Houston to end our fair journey to La Mancha.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

El Peor Resaca

Ay dios mio, I have the worst hangover ever from the worst mexican jug wine ever (California- stay away!). I didn't think I drank that much, but as I was once told "menos o mejor," less or better. I drank the worst of the worst, and oh my, I feel awful. I have slept and rested in the hammock all day. I almost killed a Mexican family that was playing instruments in the street. Drums and a clarinet. I gave them 15 pesos to go away.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chasing Windmills

A much needed and long sleep preceeded the morning light. Harry and I awoke and headed our separate ways, first getting a roll and empanada de atún for breakfast.

I went to the Museo Iconografico del Quijote, and found a stunning collection of the Man of La Mancha. Housed in an old colonial building were paintings, portraits, mosaics, murals sculptures and statues. It was fascinating, usually museums have a concept or theme that works eminate from, but this was a multitude of different visions of the same idea: a man riding off to do battle with his destiny and the windmills and monsters that stand in the way. Some images were abstract, some classical, some romantic. There were pensive Quijotes, there were brave Quijotes. Quijote with his trusty sidekick, or facing his demons alone on his horse. A grafito version was particularly stunning. Cubist man o´la Mancha , and a Picasso version of our dear hero. Also there were there abstract ones of a modern Quijote battling modern turbine windmills, and another battling electric lines. I really loved the Toledo black-and-gold plate imagery of Don Q. Also the ones of the Don heading off into the fiery windmills. So many different styles and forms, it would be impossible to name them all; something out of a Cervantino Dream. Truly beautiful.

My day took a less beautiful turn as a cajero (atm) took my bank card and refused to give it back. I refrained from taking out my lance and slaying my own windmill. I grabbed some wonderful fresh food in the market to make a sandwich from a fresh role, boiled egg, soft cheese, cactus, onions, salsa and avocado sandwich. I sat on the roof with a bohemia and listened to a Mexican-accented Jim Morrison sing all sorts of rock classics in a Mexican accent. Harry and I squirreled away Chinese food for Xmas, and he made delicious schnitzel tonight. We ate like two kings, then wandered through the surprisingly packed streets. After a night of searching, we managed to find stellar cigars in the most unlikely of places: a perfume shop. Tubes of cigars below expensive perfume caught my eye, and we got some of Fidel´s favorites. Two delicious cigars called, aptly so, ¨Sancho Panza.¨ We enjoyed probably the finest cigars I have ever had, as we watched the ministrel groups sing. Feliz Navidad to all, and to all a good night.

PS: A good article on State´s new pub d efforts. Nice to see they are finally getting it, although I am not wowed with the efforts. We shouldn´t be applaiding you for getting on facebook or tweeting, this is something that any 14-year old does these days.

Things Found

-An ¨aleph,¨ Borges´ object of infinity. Borges found one under the stairs, and saw infinity within its midst. I found my aleph on a silver carving ashtray on display at the Dolores Olmeda museum.

-A Mexican Jenna Umansky. No joke, exact match. Harry pointed it out to me, so there are witnesses. Jenna, you may need to talk to your father about his wild days south of the border.

-Lions and leopards inhabiting the streets of Guanajuato.

-Globalization, in the form of the shwarma style grill/spits imported from the Middle East and now being used to make tacos. The world is a far finer place when we can share ideas.

-A whole bunch of new pics up.

-A shock of blue from Diego River in the form of three Russian children, the likes of which I have never seen. Blue that cannot be explained but only appreciated. Electric would be the closest definition, but that is not even close.

-Colonial blue, seen in the sunlit eyes of a hunched over Doña, taking her osteo-withered bones slowly along the street. Her brown skin and braid displays her heritage, her eyes show her pedigree.

-A sea of space, limited in time but a blessing for a brief moment.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The gem of Guanajuato

We escaped from D.F., and not a moment too soon. It was overwhelming at the end, and we couldn´t take any more. We headed out amid the crowds coming in to the Zocalo, and made our way to the Terminal Del Norte. Getting out was a challenge of fighting lines and finding a bus to Guanajauto as there were few. We found one, expensive but the only game in town. We collected the guava and tamarind juices and lunch bags, and got out of the hectic.

Our bus was fine, I read Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maitenance and chatted with some nice Canadians sitting next to us. They mentioned their excitement of Obama and how much they like their healtcare service. We arrived to Guanajuato, and were shocked at how expensive the bus tickets to Monterrey were. Luckily, we found a promotion for cheaper and got our way north taken care of. We then took the bus in town, through the snaking corridors of the city and were in a whole new locale.

We found a hostel and a Japanese guy who joined us to go out. As we walked to the main plaza, our friend Zena (a blond Korean) jumped on me. She was here too, and we went out with her friend who was also from Korea. We stopped at a supercool bar with great pictures on the wall and chatted with an American expat who lived down south and had some great expat stories of dysentary and other maladies found south. There were roving bands of Estudiantinas black-caped ministrel singers and guitaristas that circled through the city and were followed by their followers.

After, we made our way to an awesome reggae bar, and chilled out to Matisyahu and Marley and played foosball as we sipped Bohemia, the best there is. Harry got a bloody nose from a karate chop by Zena and we headed home.

Today, we switched hostels to a superchill place that Zena was at. After settling in, we headed out through the beautiful streets of Guanajuato. The place is a real gem, an old colonial masterpiece that was once the richest city in Mexico from its silver and gold mines. We wandered through the city, and up to a museum of mummies. They had a gothic surprise of preserved mummies. We wandered past the dead, old and preserved. The skin hung taut and the mouths hung open. Teeth still on old boney gums, hair still hanging on the scalp. Some of the old ones still even had public hair, that creeped me out. There were baby mummies, that were so creepy. These dead babies, with lashes and hollowed out eyes. Impressionante. Strange world to find, a gothic macabre feeling when you are surrounded by the dead.

We headed back down through the winding way and grabbed food in the markets. We bought avocados, tomatoes, onions, cactus, soft cheese, bread carrots, and salsa to make for sandwiches on the roof. We sat out drink red Bohemia (nectar of the Aztecs) and eating wonderfully fresh fare. Now off to watch the sun set over the hills and plenispheres of this colonial gem.

PS: We trudged our way up to the top of La Pipila, the outlook point over the city. From above, the city reminded me of a combination of Valparaiso, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Zacatecas all in one. It had blue, red, pink, purple and tangerine punctuating the landscape. We watched the light leave the city, and stayed until the lights of the city turned on one-by-one. It was like watching the stars come out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Done with D.F.

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah, and we were luckily able to find an Israeli named Guy in the hostel who had brought a menorah, candles, and a dreidel. We lit the candles and spun the dreidel for pesos.

Jarri and I are getting out of dodge, and are ready for it. The sensory overload that is D.F. has become too much, and we are happy to get to quieter pastures. We had some expensive breakfast at Sanborns at the beautiful Casa Azulejo, an azul-tiled palace with beautiful murals. The food was just okay, and rendering our two expensive meals to be not nearly as good as the many street meals we had. 'Twas a fun run in the city, but time to go. Heading north to Guanajuato, vayan con dios.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jazz, Peacocks and Lucha Libre

I got back early from my day solo and waited for Harry. We were supposed to meet around 6pm. By 6:30, he wasn't back and I was turning Jewish marm-ish. I was wondering how I would find one gringo in a city of 25 million. I sat reading and worrying as the minutes ticked by. About 7pm, he arrived, with a bloody nose and torn jeans. He said he got mugged and wanted to leave immediately. Shit. It took 20 secs of Harry's bs to realize he was messing with me, that he had a great day and got messed up playing futbol. Apparently he got nutmegged on his first play, but held his own after.

After we got freshened up, we headed out to find torta on motalinia. Our find was delicious. After, we wandered around looking for a jazz club mentioned by my friend Dina. We found a Mexican rock club and a bar with good dark beer (obscura) but no luck with the jazz. As we were walking back, we spied a place that sounded like it might have some live music. We peeked in, and found it was the jazz club we had been looking for. After bargaining on the cover, we headed in to a swanky jazz bar. The music was fantastic, jazz fusion bordering on funk. We had Bombay Saphires, Fernet and Cola and Caipairhinias as we enjoyed the music. Harry had a Glenfiddich and felt plush. Nothing like living the high life in low places.

After a late start this morning, we grabbed some sopes and headed down to the southern suburbs to the Museo Delores Olmedo. We somehow found ourselves transported to the Garden of Eden. There were peacocks wandering the ground, and we found them even up in the trees. We wandered the sculpture park outside and past the giant cactus. The place was phenomenal, with orange trees and giant purple flowers blooming above the regal peacocks. We saw some incredible works by Diego Rivera, and saw the whole scope of his talent from cubist to the more grandiose mural style. The best were a series of sunsets from Acapulco, and there was one that was truly striking of one single star above the setting orange sun. There were also some great Frida Kahlo pieces, including one amazing one called "the circle." There was also an amazing exhibit of giant wax sculptures of faces, and beautiful Dia de los muertos art. Outside, a play was taking place in the garden that could only be described as "Brokeback Aztec". There was also an amazing dia de los muertos exhibit that was the best I have ever seen. Her house too was incredible, with giant carved ivory tusks and beautiful works of art.

From our highbrow afternoon, we had a decidedly low brow evening. We found our way to a Lucha Libre match. At first it was stupid, but once we had enough beer to suspend our disbelief, it was so cool. We were cheering and screaming for the matches. There was a group of highflying midget wrestlers, a fat gay wrestler who tried to kiss his opponents and some colossus gringo wrestler named Marco. There were even some wrestlers who got hurt and had to be carted off in stretchers. It was a big change from the afternoon, and plush bar the nigh before but also lots of fun and truly something different.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sabbath solo

Harry and I went our separate ways today, for a day solo in the city. We laughed about if we ran into each other, the music would start playing for a duel. I left him and walked to the Alameda, the leafy park area near Bellas Artes. I was still trying to shake the melancholy from the previous night. I grabbed some dunkin donuts coffee (the best!) and wandered through the casa azulejo while I had a cd burned. Then headed through the park, stopping for a quezadilla of chicken before I reached the Museo Mural de Diego Rivera. There was a huge colorful mural from the artist, featuring Mexico´s long history. It was free for me with my student id, so it was even better. The mural room had classical music playing and plush chairs and couches to lie in so you could enjoy the mural. Upstairs there was an exhibit featuring the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico. This helped give me perspective on the previous nights events, which I added to my tales piece. As I was standing outside, listening to the sounds of the street and feeling the warm mexican wind on my face, it all made a little more sense and I was able to find restored sabbath peace.

From there, I grabbed a yummy taco of boiled egg and rice with salsa, and a fried chicken taco with white cheese and red and green salsas that made a mexican flag. I wandered down the busy street, past all the little stands of tacos, magazines and other assorted stuff, and found a little craft market that I wandered through for a bit. It was nice to be lost in silence, listening to the sounds of the city reverberate. I wandered to La Merced, a huge market area filled with all sorts of stuff. It was packed, probably due to the coming Christmas. I snacked on rice pudding and fresh coffee, and took in the commotion. Back to the hostel for a brief saturday nap, and now I am uploading pics.

New pics upn enjoy.

I am so taken by the sheer preponderance of people that fill the streets. I have only seen something like this in China and India. It is so overwhelming to see the human wave filter past. It is simply dizzying to stand still and watch the waves crash by.

Things remembered

The ebb and flow of the waves of humanity as the crush of people bounce softly in step. The benign police state that is Mexico- the presence of the multitude of gendarmes not unwelcome. Swimmingly silently through thoughts, memories and dreams that are my own. The beauty of solitude surrounded by the incredible mass of people that inhabit this megalopolis. The gentle kiss of the muse, who sings silently in my ear amid the din of the city.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mariachis, Frida, Diego and Leon

Harry and I made our way to Plaza Garibaldi to take in the mariachi spectacle. The place is one of my favorite on the planet, it is a whole square filled with mariachis. Groups of black-clad mariachis belt out canciones for some pesos, and their voices, guitars and trumpets fill the night air. We grabbed some micheladas and took in the spectacle. The strings flew and the trumpets blared, and we even got a group to sing us a song for 40 pesos ($3). It was a norteño band in red cowboy suits to play a song for us, and they rocked out on standup bass, drums, guitar and accordion.

After, we walked back towards the center of town, and found our way into a rockabilly bar with a pompadour-hairstyled Mexican dude crooning Elvis and Richie Valens. I cut a rug with a seniorita and Harry and I received shots of tequila from some people at the table we were sitting at.

Today, amid a tequila-induced resaca, we were joined in our tour of the town by a lovely Finn named Anni. We went down to San Angel and walked past a huge monument to Obregon and to Diego Rivera's house and studio. The place was cool, it had a fence of cacti. Diego had his house, painted red and Frida had her own house, painted blue and there was a walkway above that connected the two houses. His studio was an eccentric mix of relics, huge papermache statues and tools. Interestingly, the house was exhibiting very little of his work and had someone else whose name I forgot. We lounged in the sun on the terrace that connected the two houses, and enjoyed the day.

After, we took a wonderful stroll from San Angel to Coyoacan down the cobled street Avenida de Sosa. The sun played shadows on the old houses, wrought iron windows, lavish doors and immaculate houses. The walk was incredibly peaceful and serene, and was a real break from the DF din. We stopped for coffee on our stroll and I saw a great quote from Talleyrand:

Cafe es negro como el diablo, caliente como el infierno, puro como un angel, dulce como amor

Coffee is black like the devil, hot like the inferno, pure like an angel, sweet like love.

We made our way to Leon Trotsky's house, and saw the place where his life was ended with an ice pick. Fascinating to see his pictures and read about his life and exile. Also to see the bullet holes in the wall from the assassination attempts against him. From there, we went to Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's home. The place was a beautiful azure tone, and had her collections of things, thoughts and pictures by Diego Rivera, but surprisingly few of her pieces. So Rivera's studio doesn't have his work, Kahlo's house has Rivera's work but not her stuff. Go figure.

We left Anni and went to go to synagogue. That was when things turned tragic. I haven't the heart to recount it, read in my tales blog. In my fury, I pronounced that I was going to go eat bacon and hook up with shiksas (ok, the second wasn't any change), but decided that my quarrel wasn't with Judaism but rather the scared state of the Mexican Jewish community. To add insult to injury, we tried to get some comfort food, but ended up with the worst, most expensive meal. The night has sadly ended in a rather dejected fashion.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The place where men become gods

Woke up nice and rested and got Harry up. We headed to the market to get some provisions for our day at Teotihuacan, the largest, oldest pyramid structures in pre-gringo world. We grabbed a tamale in a roll for breakfast, they are fantastic. Then we wandered through the markets, grabbing all sorts of goodies. Harry had never been to a market like it, he loved it. We then headed on the metro and switched three lines to the Terminal del Norte bus station to catch a bus to Teotihuacan in the State of Mexico.

We arrived at the huge pyramid structure and walked around the ancient ruins. First we climbed up the citadel, and took pictures of the huge pyramid of the sun and pyramid of the moon in the distance. Then we walked along the "Calzada de los Muertos," Avenue of the Dead, past the platform pyramids that lined the way. We climbed up and down the little steps of the ave o' dead until we got to the huge pyramid of the sun. We tried to run up it, but the combination of smog, altitude and out o' shape got us and we didn't make it more than two levels. We huffed out way up the remaining levels until we arrived to the very top of the pyramid and took in the view across the smog-filled valley below. We stayed up there to eat our lunch of avocado, tomato and oaxaca-white cheese tortilla. We had added yum with bananas, grapes and lime juice added to the mix, as we stared out into what had been. There was a time when Teotihucan rose above the lands, as Rome expanded and Judaea revolted. These ruins were ancient even to the Aztecs, who gave it the name of the blog.

We climbed down and on to the pyramid of the moon, and sat and watched the Mexican school children play before we climbed down and back past the benign hawkers before we caught a bus back and a few metros to Zona Rosa. Zona Rosa is the posh neighborhood, and we sat out drinking beers at an Argentine restaurant as the long day ended. A few incredible tacos and a china-style full metro ride back, and we were back in our area. We walked from Pino Suarez, through the shopper-lined streets and grabbed a half rotisserie chicken ($2) for dinner, along with some leftover tortillas and a giant bag of salsa that we were given by a taco stand that was closing. When I say giant, I mean like we have prob about 3 kilos of salsa in the hostel fridge. Vamos a la marcha, as we head out for some mariachi music.

Day One in DF

After a brief nap to ward off the bus exhaustion, Harry and I went wandering around the city. First we stopped at the jagged Metropolitan Cathedral at the Zocalo, which is the largest church in Latin America- located in the second largest plaza in the world. From there, we went to the Palacio Nacional to check out the fantastic murals by Diego Rivera. The murals are vivid in their portrayal of Mexico's history, with all of the players and cast of characters in Mexico's long-running drama making an appearance in the works.

From there, we wandered along to the Torre Latinoamerica- once the tallest building in Latin America. On the way, we grabbed some blue corn quesadillas filled with cheese, frijoles and chicken. Also a tlacoya, which is similar to a quesadilla, only it is filled with frijoles and covered with white cheese. We ascended the tower, and took in Mexico City in its smoggy glory. The city had a grey haze that made it impossible to see far, but the circular view was still impressive. After staring out over the city, and walking through a photo history gallery, we walked past the immaculate Palacio de Bellas Artes and through the park next to it- stopping for a delicious sope along the way.

We then headed through Chapultapec Park and on to the immense Museo Nacional de Antropologico. The museum has room after room of indigenous arts, crafts and history. We visited rooms with artifacts of the Toltecs, Olmecs and Aztecs, as well as the other various groups living in the region. It was fascinating to see what was. Such intricate and fascinating societies that are simply gone. Gone for plunder, pillage and conquest. Sad. To be sure, the Aztecs were pretty warlike, and that is putting it mildly. It is just sad so see all that was lost which once stood here. It also took me back to Peru and Chile, visiting the museums and ruins of the great Inkan empire. Something about the eyes of the carved statues looking out across the void of history, demanding to be remembered for their greatness.

On back to the metro, where a kid with speakers in his bag was selling a cd with the Doors and Rolling Stones as Harry and I were the only ones rocking out to "Break on Through" and "Paint it Black" on the otherwise silent metro. Back to center of town for the hustle of foot traffic and a strong, sweet coffee and not-very-good flan. We sat around with some Germans and an Brit, chatting about travels and sharing a few beers, before we headed off on the metro to meet my friend Dina.

Dina was on the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship with me, she is a Mexican Jewess who does work promoting the UNDP millennium goals in Mexico. We arrived to her place, and Harry was shocked at how similar it felt to our home- with the assorted judaica on the wall. She even had a few of the judaica plates that we have at home. We had a delicious dinner of home cooked Mexican food. Calabazita (squash) covered in cheese and in tomato sauce, mexican rice, potatoes, quesadillas with sweet chipolte. We also tried a napole, a cactus that has a tangy/sweet taste and a consistency like tough green beans. We had a great time hanging out and chatting, then got a ride home from her Mom through town, down Reforma- the street laid by Emperor Maximilian to make his Mexico a little more French, and past the golden angel column and back to the zocalo, which is bathed in christmas lights.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All roads lead to....

Mexico City! We have arrived to the crown jewel of out trip, El DF. The heart of what was the Aztec empire is upon us. We got in this morning after a decent night bus, and found a hostel near the Zocalo. We started at one, but it was way too crowded and more expensive, and went to another around the corner that was nearly 50 pesos cheaper. We headed out foraging and had tamales in rolls and drank atole- a hot, sweet rice milk drink. We had tried the stuff last night, mixed with guava and fell in love with the concoction. It is sweet, warm and thick. Yum. Now on to the city.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Our morning began with a saw. Rational progression from our night of gallivanting with people from our hostel. Harry and I went out for dinner for some tacos, and he had some hot sauce that turned him a bright red. After we were back at the hostel, on the roof having drinks and playing music under the glow of the cathedral lights. A Mexican Jack Sparrow named Ivan played the bass guitar, while a dreadlocked frenchman played a regular guitar. We all joined in with a variety of instruments ranging from spoons to bottles, and made merry all night. There was the aforementioned pirate, a fellow who looked like a Palestinian Jesus (Christ in a kaffiyeh), and an assortment of French girls, a blond Korean, some other Mexicans and an Argentine. After a trip to the bar, we basically took over the streets of Zaca and then back to the hostel where we proceeded to almost burn the place down by setting a lamp on fire- the cloth cover was on the bulb. One of those nights- luv the hostel world.

From there, Harry and I awoke to the hungover prospect that he had locked all our stuff in the locker, including the keys. It ended much better then imagined, as a hacksaw took care of things. From there, we went on to the market for some birria, a regional specialty. Nothing like spicy goat soap to cure a hangover. It was a yummy, with onions and cilantro, and tortillas steaming through the cloth cover of the basket holding them. After brunch, Harry and I debated heading on to Mexico City (DF), but decided to stick around for the day and take a night bus.

We then headed over to Guadalupe to visit a Church of Guadalupe. We had thought that the church would be some giant affair in the middle of the desert, but were dissappointed to find out it was in the middle of a city. The church was slightly interesting, with pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe and a gold filigree cuppala. It wasn´t overwhelming, and we grabbed some horchata (cinnamon rice milk) and rampope (an eggnog like drink with eggs, milk and vanilla, in the color of a creamy yellow) then hopped on a rickety bouncy bus back to Zacatecas.

We wandered our way to an amazing museum that really made our time in Zacatecas worthwhile. It was called the Museo Rafael Coronel. The museum occupies an 16th century Franciscan convent that had deteriorated and been bombarded by Pancho Villa. The building ruins and gardens made a beautiful maze of brick and arches. We met a Columbiana and an Argentina that joined us as we walked through the museum´s 1,500 different masks. The masks were incredible, with horns, fangs, mustaches, beards, pointy noses and braids. They were an impressive array of different style, some with piercing eyes, some with horrific smiles or scowls. It was really impressionante.

After the museum and a surprised kiss goodbye from the girls, we headed back to the hostel, to take some sun and suds on the roof. Some of the frenchies were eating, which made us hungry so we foraged out to find gorditas and split a half-dozen filled tortillas with barbecued meats and potatoes and molé (bitter chocolate sauce) with rice. Yum.

Now just killing time before a night bus to DF. Journey on.

Monday, December 15, 2008

a la Republica de La Rio Grande

´Tis so nice to be back on the road again. Harry and I left Houston early Sunday morning from the Greyhound station. The greyhound station is possibly the most dangerous location we will encounter in our trip. Actually, to be fair, it had cleaned up a lot since I was last there. We headed out west across Texas, past the verdant, vast openness that make me love the Lone Star state. Past the oil derricks and cattle grazing, and in to San Antonio. After a quick stop, we headed south, down to the Rio Grande Valley. The green turned a dessicated brown, and the landscape filled with cacti.

We arrived to Laredo, the once-capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande. Founded on the auspicious day of January 7, 1840, the Republic of the Rio Grande was a breakaway republic encompassing two northern states of Mexico and part of the Rio Grande valley. The Republic of Texas sent arms and support, but Mexico was able to crush the nascent republic.

Anyway, we crossed the Rio Grande and made our way through Nuevo Laredo. I luv to be back in Mexico. It is always a gentle assault on the senses, not a fierce attack like India, but still so full of flavor. The smell of the pan and tortillas the wind, mixed with the smell of diesel and gasoline; the gooey dulce de batata; the greasy tacos slathered in salsa, dripping sauce on your fingers.

We made our way through the crowded streets of Nuevo Laredo to a little bus station and hopped a rickety bus to the bus terminal. Harry was impressed that he could see the wheel through a hole on the bus floor. Harry was shocked that once we got away from the border, NL looked like Rockville with its Applebees, Blockbusters and Dominoes. We were dropped off at the main station and beckoned to buy tickets from the various companies. We got a cheap night bus to Zacatecas, and were told after we bought the tickets that the bus wasn´t actually leaving from the station and we would have to take a cab to another station. It seemed semi-shady, but we were willing to go along with it. We killed time over some dinner of flautas (fried tacos with chicken), rice and beans and some tecates.

Sure enough, the cab was fine and took us a few blocks to the nice, new terminal where we caught our night bus to Zaca. Harry slept well, but I tossed and turned. Guess I am out of practice. We arrived in the morning to our city sojurn. We found a cheap hostel in town that was near the city center and had some coffee on the roof that overlooked the giant cathedral. We wandered around the city and found some awesome huevos rancheros and cinnamon-spiced cafe con leche in the market. We walked around the colonial city´s little alleyways, it reminds me of Sevilla or Grenada without the moorish charm but with the cathedral grace. We climbed our way up to a cable car that connects the mountains and rode our way over the city to the Cerra La Bufa. From there, we could see out over the whole city, as it disappeared into plains and mountains in the horizon. The mountain top had been a fortress home to one General Pancho Villa as he held out against the government. We toured around a little museum and took in the long views, then climbed down the mountain and back through the labyrinth.

We stopped at a semi-interesting museum about some peyote-seeking Indians and their rituals, and a bunch of saints. We gave up being touristy after that and retreated back to the roof cafe to share an indio and bask in the sun. I have been off wandering through the markets, looking for a lock and clock, and finding everything else I have been so missing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back in the Lone Star

The Angels cried as I left the city, with a slight rain shower to send me off. My flight was beautiful, as we took off over the Santa Monica shore and the mountains surrounding. I forgot that I lived near the beach. We flew over the plenispheres and mountains and over the river beds that looks like veins. I napped and woke up to sprawled lights of Houston. The traffic lights reflected off the glass buildings as we pulled in to my old stomping grounds. I arrived to the missed largess of Houston, big bellies and blonds with big hair and boots. I missed Texas and it was good to be back.

I was picked up at the airport by Sofia, my old co-worker from the Consulate. She already snagged Harry, and we headed off for Texas barbecue. Forgot how good that could be. Smoked beef and honey-glazed turkey,smothered in tangy barbecue sauce. Potato salad and pickles on the side. Yummmm.

"Y'all go to hell, I'm going to Texas."
-Davey Crockett

done and gone

Well, I think I am pretty much done. After days of wallowing in academic grief and self-pity, I got my act together enough to finish my paper in what I hope will be a successful second attempt. For all my previous arrogance and vanity, I really deserved the shot I took. A little humility lesson never hurt anyone, moi included.

So it appears I am essentially done with my first semester at the skate park that happens to double as a university. It seems that it was a modestly successful semester. I made some friends in my program and house. I explored LA and know parts of it more than most locals. Still there is so much more I felt I should have done. There are whole swathes of the city I didn't see. Also so much more of California to explore. I also didn't make any headway on a photo exhibit. Although I attended a fair amount of events, I still feel like I should have done more. Also, I didn't get involved in any clubs. To be sure, I tried to contact a whole bunch, but got no response. It seems the cricket club and Pakistani Students Association don't really believe that I want to join.

Now I am off to my old Texas stomping grounds for a quick stopover in Houston before heading down south of the border with my little brother. I'm taking him under my backpacking wing, and we are trekking down by bus to Mexico City. There and back again. DF, here we come!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knocked off the academic high horse

I received a swift kick to the academic nuts today. I had finished my Qatar paper early, and submitted it to my professor for some editing points since he had mentioned possible submission for publication. I met with him this afternoon and got it back shredded. Ok, not exactly shredded as he still liked it enough to mention possible future publication with considerably more work put in, and was still willing to consider co-signing it to some prestigious scholarly journals. It was called "a good base," but not yet in an acceptable "academic" form. Kinda serves me right, as I had been thinking up to this point that Brandeis had been more difficult. As always, hubris is man's eternal downfall. Ugh, back to the drawing board.

After my meeting, I was in a cloud of gloom. I returned home, and shared my travails with my roomies. I went for a jog to kill stress, but warned the roommates that if I wasn't back in an hour, it meant I had gone running in traffic. The run did wonders, and I am off "the watch."

I also found out from my roommate Roberto that his mother was denied a tourist visa to visit from Brazil. She was coming to visit her dear son, but the State Dept, in their infinite wisdom, denied her entry. She presented her apt mortgage papers, letters that her son was in school, return ticket and all other evidence to support that she didn't plan on a one-way trip. So we have an economic crisis, and yet we are barring good tourists and their dollars from visiting. Morons!

Continuing my gloom streak, check out this terrifying article about what China does to whistleblowers.

Ending on a positive note, I had a story pitch accepted by Marketplace on Time Banks and the "value of time." As Milo of the Phantom Tollbooth was told, "all time wasted shall be refunded."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The War of the Roses

Two households both alike in dignity, In fair Verona where we lay our scene.
-Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"

Actually Pasadena was where the scene took place. The USC-UCLA rivalry had been heating up as of late, as my friend Miles and I made our way out to the Rose Bowl. We took the metro there, and planned to take the shuttle bus, but the snaking lines made us change our minds and walk to the stadium. We made our way on the golf course-turned-parking lot that was a sea of blue-and-gold, cardinal-and-gold. We met up with some of Miles' friends who were tailgating for UCLA. Beer and burgers have no allegiance, and we enjoyed the festivities. We played some flip cup matches of USC vs. UCLA (we crushed them) and followed the yellow brick road back to the stadium to arrive before halftime of what would be a rout. As USC was piling on the points, we headed back for some more tailgating.

As the stadium was clearing out, we decided to forgo a ride from his friends to the metro and see if we could find a USC shuttle back to campus. We did indeed, as we came upon the players' buses. We tried to get on the first bus, claiming to be from the Daily Trojan, but the security told us to try a bus farther back. We walked onto the third bus, which was filled with the JV squad. We sat down and acted like we belonged, and received a police-escorted ride back. No, we we didn't end up in the back of a squad car, rather the buses had police escorts that literally stopped traffic on the highway so we could pass unimpeded. As if I deserve anything less than a police-escorted motorcade....

From there, we headed on to a German party held by a global comm student named Laura. There was hot mulled wine and various Euro-delicacies. We stuck around there for a bit, then headed back to Miles' place to watch a movie calledThe Fall. My parents had watched that movie and said that it reminded them of my travels. I understand why, as the film was shot in locations like Jodhpur, Jaipur and Prague, and had imagery of the Taj, Great Wall and Pyramids.

Now, I am just working on my final projects in the library and need to get back to it.

PS: an article in Slate about the moneda shortage in Argentina. Forgot about that, jaja. Also, another good Slate article about the Canadian political crisis.

The gipper

I went out to the Reagan Library with my friend Dr. Kenya to do some research on my "Let Poland" paper. I had to stop by the Center for Public Diplomacy to pick up a book, then I figured I could catch the campus shuttle down to Union Station. Unfortunately, that was an hourly shuttle, so I began my run of the gamut of public transportation. I hopped on the Dash, paying my stupidity tax of a quarter for not checking on the bus schedule, then the metro from blue to red to gold out to Pasadena to meet Dr. Kenya. She scooped me up from the highway overpass, where I had been watching cars speed under like schools of fish.

With the top down in her volvo convertible, we headed out to Simi Valley under a cloudless blue sky. We got a little lost, but finally found our way out to what was the home of the Rodney King trial- interesting how names of places get imprinted with certain connotations. The dusty mountains and hills were surprisingly beautiful as we weaved our way around. A quick stop for lunch at Tommie's, a hamburger joint for chiliburgers, then on to the library.

At the Reagan library, I got to watch the "Let Poland be Poland" program, which they had on beta(!). The program was as cheesy as imagined. Frank Sinatra crooning in Polish was pretty memorable, as was a cantankerous old Orson Welles giving a gritty reading of Donne's "No man is an island." There was a bit of diminishing return on the repeated statements from the world leaders, since all were basically saying the same thing, over and over. The whole thing was a bit kitsch and too long, but still an interesting Cold War footnote.

Meanwhile, the view from the Reagan library was expansive and stunning. The hills and mountains that surrounded were bathed in light as the sun set slowly in the west. In the distance there was a valley with white haze that sat over like a cloud.

After the research, we headed down to Ventura to grab some Mexican food on the beach. I had a huge pescado burrito, covered in green salsa and cheese, and washed it down with couple of pacificos. Yum.

Today, I am taking a reprieve from my studies to head to the Rosebowl to watch the Sharks and the Jets duke it out, the Montagues and the Capulets come to fisticuffs, the Hatfields and the McCoys take arms- USC vs. UCLA!

PS: Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Israelis at the mall. I should have thought to do a piece on that, but I forgive myself for not coming up with it first since I never go to the mall. Thanks Abba.

Also on a far darker note, a disturbing article in the LA Times on the disturbing incident where the guard got trampled at Walmart. Truly sad and pathetic.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

last days

I had possibly my last day at Marketplace today. I'm torn about if I want to continue there. I was frustrated by the fact that too many times I went David Copperfield, ala hat in hand looking for work to do ("Please sir, do you have some work for me?"). I also don't like economics. And getting up too early, which I always cursed. On the other hand, I liked the people I worked with (I think I have a crush on Stacy Vanek-Smith). I also loved the staff meetings, where they talked about the show's rundown as the economic meltdown ensued. I always found it surprising that the trepidation I found in the meetings didn't always get communicated amid the tone of irreverence. Actually, that might not be true, because I didn't get to listen so often since I was in class when the product came out.

I'm not sure if I will go back, I was a little frustrated at the menial nature of the work I did. I guess that goes with being an intern. Without being too narcissistic, I almost felt that they didn't value my time enough. I could have been doing more, and was frustrated that I wasn't being better utilized. However, I was starting to do more interesting stuff. We'll see, no decisions need to be made now.

We have been going through the last week of classes. My last 502 was tuesday, and we had a good discussion about the future of pub d. 504 on wednesday was intense. We were doing an exercise on disinformation, and fell victim to it immediately as we did the project. The assignment was that we would get the assignment day of, and have to do a campaign against the disinfo. What we got was a scenario that we (my group) was the US embassy in Belarus, and that there was a pro-democracy protest was going on outside. The protesters wanted to meet with the Ambassador, but the riot police came in and cracked heads. There was a body outside of one of the protesters, before the riot police carted everyone off. The situation escalated amid disinfo and updates and we had to be on the firing end of an intense press conference. Other groups were different scenarios, but we all got the bullseye aimed at us. A fun and intense way to end it.

Today, I had the aforementioned (possible) last day, plus a presentation on Qatar's PD efforts. I talked about the crux of my paper of Qatar as blessed peacemaker of the Middle East.

Topped off with:

That was an ice cream advert featured in Lebanon after Qatar mediated the accord.
My slide read: 3 scoops of PD.
I need to get off to work....

By the way, while nobody noticed, Canada had a parliamentary crisis.

Winding down

The semester is winding down, and I am busy with my final work. I stopped this morning at the Beit Chabad near school to do tfillin in honor of Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife. I thought it seemed like my own way of honoring them. I find the whole thing so sad and disturbing. Tom Friedman had a great point in his column today:

"After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets."

There was also an interesting article in the LA Times about the security implications for Chabad after this attack.

One last piece I will post, not related to Mumbai, but to intolerance against Mormons in the wake of the passing of prop 8. Although I did not support Prop 8, and found its passage to be saddening as I hate to see rights curtailed, I have found the behavior afterwards to be unfortunate.