Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mammoth Caves caping trip, Day 0 (April 9th 2009)

Late Wednesday afternoon my boss suggested i take the Friday off as it was not worth driving for 1 hour each way for just 4 hours of work, ( nice boss, right!!) as my workplace was having a half-day in lieu of Easter celebrations.I was mighty glad to hear it as I have worked hard for the last three months at my new workplace without a single vacation day (i.e. apart from the weekends which usually race past doing household chores and getting some much needed rest ). My new workplace doesn't allow any "paid" off-days for the initial six month period, at the end of which I get 1 day, and at the end of the first year I get total four off-days (sucks big time!! ). At the end of the next year I will be eligible for eight to nine days, but it seems like too far away to even think of now. These vacation days are so less that I can’t even think of taking them to go to India at least not after the end of the 3rd year, when it becomes like eleven to twelve days. So looking at this year ahead and seeing very few chances of going anywhere this was a welcome relief. I’m not complaining (on second thought ,maybe a little !!!) but merely stating that it’s no use going camping on regular weekends as the big National Parks are so far away. I do plan to go on day trips or one day camping trips in the summer weekends to nearby Sate Parks in Illinois,Missouri or Indiana. Anyway as soon as I found out about it, I frantically started to look around for a one. Over the last couple of months I had done some research on National Parks and have categorized them according to the number of days it would take:

  • Weekend trips – State Parks in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana etc.
  • 3 day trips – Mammoth Caves National Park, Big South Fork National Park etc.
  • 4 day trips – Badlands National Park, Shenandoah National Park etc.
  • > 4 day trips – Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park etc.

By the looks of it "> 4 day trips" are not going to happen this year.

I needed to decide on a NP by Wednesday night, as I had to pack all my camping stuff so that I can go directly from workplace on Thursday. My first choice being Big South Fork National Park near Kentucky and Tennessee border. As I wrote on my face-book regarding my impending trip a friend inquired if he could join, which would have been nice, but as it turned out he couldn't’t as some urgent work came up which he had totally forgotten. Unfortunately i take along a huge amount of stuff with me while camping:

  • A Big Suitcase with my tent, sleeping bag & pad, gas stove, lantern etc (permanently stays in my car);
  • A Small Suitcase full of clothes,as there are very few chances of taking a shower i prefer to change clothes at least once a day (contrary to what i would do if had stayed at home for the whole period..hehehe!!) and my slow poke laptop (which i plan to switch from XP to Ubuntu pretty soon to see if that runs any faster);
  • Video camera $ camera bag along with the tripod;
  • 2 comforters, a pillow and a woolen blanket (vinmo's "soft" blanket liked by many a delicate!!), which are also a permanent part of my car now;
  • A shoulder bag full of different kinds of chargers for all my electronic gadgetry;
  • A Backpack full of utensils, first aid and paper towels.

The last two were also a permanent part of my car until they were stolen recently :( (my fault being, i kept them in the back seat rather than in the trunk).After packing all these stuff in my car I went to work Thursday morning eagerly awaiting the end of the work day so I can start my first journey of the season. But during the lunch break I found out that there were severe thunderstorm warning throughout the weekend for Big South Fork. This drastically changed my plans and I started to look for another place. Not eager to go to a weekend designated trip (look above for definition) on a 3 day vacation I finally decided to go to Mammoth Caves even though rain was forecast over there as well, but on a less severe scale and sporadically . I guessed if it is raining outside better to go and visit the caves as it will be too soggy and dark outside anyway. But photography inside the caves brought forward me having a bright lens ( unfortunately all my lens, apart from the 105 MM macro are dark, i.e. have a small aperture size). As my friend had mentioned that he had bought a 50 MM f/ 1.8 lens and that I could borrow it if I needed to I decided to ask if he can lend it to me for the weekend. Luckily he said yes if i could pick it up from his place on King’s drive, which i gladly agreed too.

I studied the NP map and decided to stay in the main visitor center campground so that I don’t have to worry about the ferry timing which controls the time to go to the other part of the national park where most of the "above the ground" trails, bluffs and scenic drives are. I even called them up to confirm if they allowed after our campers. I also tried to reserve a site but only the "first come first serve" sites where left. I looked at which cave tours were available for the spring season and printed them out, but decided against reserving them online as I thought there won’t be too many people at this time of the year (and you can't imagine how wrong I was about that) .

The big disadvantage of picking that 50MM lens was that the detour took me extra three hours driving through traffic. It’s weird that I get heavy traffic similar to that of on Friday (which is understandable) on I 55 south. I think its because Thursday night is college night! and people start to celebrate the weekend long before it actually starts. Anyway to get to Mammoth Caves I had to cross Indiana, which is straight drive to the south through Indianapolis. It’s surprising that in the last seven to eight months where ever I have gone apart from Saint Louis I have passed through Indianapolis. After a six hours of "just driving" I reached the camping site at around 2:30 AM. The ranger was not there, but they had all the paperwork ready for after hour/ late arrivals. The campsite rates where $ 17 per night and I was supposed to put the money and a filled out form in a kiosk, but since I wanted to pay by credit (did not have the exact change anyway), I decided to just find myself a quiet site to camp and pay up in the morning like I have done so many times before.

I took a campground map from the kiosk and drove around the farthest camp loop twice o look for a secluded spot so that the noise (from pitching a tent) does not disturb nearby campers in deep slumber. On second time around the loop I found a place to my liking and as I pulled up in the parking spot I saw a small family of deer’s grazing at the place. As I stepped out of the car the deer’s give me an innocent look or two before quietly walking away. It was a warm, clear, star studded night and I felt amazing (almost as if this was my home) to be out in the open under the sky after a long time. Recently while searching for camping "tips and tricks" I stumbled upon “ Widow Maker” which refers to dry overhanging branches during fall winter and early spring which are susceptible to fall on innocent campers :D. Looking up, I only saw dead branches like a witch’s fingers covering the entire site. I Looked around for some evidence of previous such happenings on the ground and finding nothing decided to camp underneath the thickest of all the overhanging branches (don't know if that was a stupid idea, I am open to suggestions) . I kept the engine running to provide me with some light (I forgot my lantern batteries and my torch) to get the base of the tent pegged down, but later as my eyes got used to the darkness I switched it off and finished putting up the tent by the moon/ star light. It was already 3:30 AM before I got everything inside the tent and got ready to go to sleep. I decided against waking up early for sunrise as that would probably have given me around two hour’s of sleep at the most (not a good idea at the start of the trip) ,thus putting an alarm for 7:30 AM. I felt stiff but not sleepy ,but as I lay on my comfortable bed (made off comforters) listening to the sounds of night (occasional chirping of some night bird, rustling of the leaves and breaking of tweaks under the feet of some animals or just plain old wind and tiny drops of rain hitting the tent) i don't know when sleep crept in.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It has been a BAD BAD!! BAD!!! week

"Ravings of a Restless Mind" !! well the mind has been pretty restless over the last few months but it hasn't raved at all , and maybe that's why it has been so restless, who knows !!! . As i forcefully drag myself to start writing a new blog post on paper before i type it out (if i do it at all). The way things have been ( i haven't posted anything since Jan 4th), it might be never :D. I feel bad that i have started so many series but haven't completed even one :(. Most of the times be trying to be a perfectionist to post all the blogs after i have sorted and retouched out all the pictures ( and there's a lot of them) which has converted this blogging thing a dead zone. So from here on i write down the post and will update it with pictures and videos later as i go along. Lets see how long this plan lasts!! lol!!.

It has been a BAD BAD!! BAD!!! week :
  1. Somebody broke my car window over the last weekend (found out Monday morning while going to work);
  2. Initially i thought only my backpack with some utensils and first aid kit was stolen but later found out he/she (can't be gender biased these!!) have taken my 2nd favorite FOSSIL bag along with all my electronic gadget chargers and a single leather glove(and as promised on FACEBOOK will mail the other if contacted, as it a waste for both of us).
  3. Got a toll violation (crime committed 3 months ago) as my I-pass failed to act when i was driving the rental car because some girl named "Nancy Fast" (not kidding , true name) rear ended me with her sonata, her reason being she braked but the car didn't stop. But off course Miss Fast!
  4. Got a late payment fine for house rent because it took the check (USPS) 8 days to go from Lincoln Park to downtown. I think if i had just dropped the check on the street it had a better chance of getting there on time..hehe!!.
  5. Got a parking ticket for parking 15' near fire hydrant. Now this particular Fire Hydrant on Deming Street is towards one side of the 30' yellow "No Parking Zone" mark on the pavement. I thought since its not encroaching the yellow mark its OK , as otherwise there will be 45-50' of no parking space, which in L Park is a crime. I am contesting it , lets see how it goes. But the city being bone dry of funds(so they say!!) i don't expect logic prevailing over orthodox legal rules.
  6. Plus some family related issues , made the whole week one of the real BAD one in recent past.
Since I haven't been raving about personal things for a long time, guess it's time i do a short recap of the last few months.

Well i started working at a new place since early JAN 09 in a company called USADrives Inc. specialized in making urethane belts. The work place is 26 miles away from my place in L.Park and my daily commute takes me through lake shore drive and I-55 the two worst traffic areas, which gets rock solid with cars when it rains, snows or even drizzles. BTW, worth mentioning is that i got a speeding ticket on my first day at job, just outside the office (made me 1/2 hr late) and it was a harsh one (my boss warned me of the cops in the locality but alas too late). For those people who are pragmatically strict about rules, YES!! i was speeding . I was over the speed limit by an earth shattering 10 MPH (driving 40 mph at a 30 mph zone). Luckily the fine was just $65 and a 3 month probation (at the end of which points against my DL would be removed if i didn't have any more moving violations). I hope that's the case (3 1/2 months have passed) and haven't received/got any of those yet. But with my bad luck going on it might show off next week.

The second most important thing was that i got over my recent crush/infatuation. I am an emotional weakling in that section and it makes me imagine the person involved to be too perfect in everything. My infatuated delirious mind rejects every good advice from friends and family and puts the said person on a pedestal believing that she has the same ideological believes i have and is willing to die or live by it. But when these delirious cloud faded away i saw the truth, as her portraying to be something she is not. I fell for a girl thinking she is the one who likes to walk against the traffic but guess its was just a facade to try to be different and was (still is) very good at keeping it up, and that's what i hate the most (i.e false portrayal). Anyway i sound bitter but i would say i am lucky!!. :D.

Another thing i have noticed is that people don't like to return other peoples money (guess its a good trait if you have it yourself ,not the people you lend money too..hehehe!! but unfortunately i am a sap in that department too). I have heard excuse like "they are waiting for meeting me next time "(which unfortunately doesn't happen frequently) , but there are numerous other way to send money if you really want too without meeting physically. Miss CM owes me some money, but she always says she will give it the next time we meet, and as its not that frequent , she starts with a line that "she forgot". On one occasion "she said she forgot and will give it to me the next time", when we were in her apartment (she could have just given it to me right then :O). And guess what, this is the same girl who used to transfer money as soon as possible when we were just mere acquaintance. Looks like the closer you get to a person the more hard it is to get money back from them (shouldn't it be the other way around... lol!!). And she is not the only one, Miss R and Mr GG are in line....Guess its the peoples mentality that if you ask them politely (i.e without any dramatic fanfare, they presume you must not really really want it back :O). Why can't just "i can't" be enough and mean what it means and i don't have to add words like "really" to make it more believable. If i mean "i could/should/would/might" i would use "could/would/should/might". We are stuck in world where we need things to be hyped to the nth degree to seem natural/normal. Seems like we are "screaming wolf" all the time and we all know how that is going to end.

Like it has been said life always throws curve ball at you when you least expect it, sometimes this brings a lot of misery and sometimes it brings a minuscule smile , which at the end of BAD BAD Week seemed like a oasis in a desert (hyped up!!! :D). And a concerned voice from a totally unexpected person did the same on a gloomy Friday work day.

P.S: I did go camping on the Easter weekend, details of which will be coming long in the next post.(soon i hope!!)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chicago-St. Louis-Philidalphia-Washington-St. Louis-Chicago....part1

So many things have happened since my last blog. Even though i have started to write some but haven't been able to complete them, plus there are so many other travel blog series i started and posted the first one,but haven't been able to add to it that it seems almost futile to start another of those series.
But the highly optimistic streak in me keeps on telling me that its the right way to go. So i find myself staring at another defeat of logic against my whimsical idiosyncrasy. Anyway, making the best of the situation i made some small ground rules to make the thing go faster, but from my past experience i have learned that some how my mind is programmed to break the rules...hehehehe.

So to start off i drove to my sisters place in my Black Volkswagen Jetta (very nice car but the upkeep is back breaking..:( ) on Dec 24th' 08 afternoon. The drive was quite uneventful apart from the fact that i got the car back from the service station in the same afternoon. On 25th went to my BIL's sister's place and spent some quality family time. We also watched a Hindi movie "Golmaal Returns" which was full of cheesy jokes , but since i have lost my sense of enjoyment of Hindi movies it was little bit of a bother but luckily there were just 2-3 songs and they skipped the songs, so was not that bad. As we watched the sunset in their backyard while sipping tea and munching on some Indian snacks, i felt sad to be living far away from family.

sunset from the backyard in Chesterfield, near St. Louis, MO

We left after having dinner and chit chatted some more. Luckily i had my GPS with me, which even though is slow to "recalculate" ,at least makes sure we reach home eventually :D. The closing down of the I-64 for 3-4 miles near my sister's places makes it a nuisance to move around as i have to switch of the highway avoidance in the GPS for the part of the way or completely.

We were planning to leave next day 26th Dec'08, evening (as my BIL had to go to work) and stop near Columbus, OH for the night before driving on to Philadelphia, PA next day. For information's sake the drive time to Philadelphia is little bit more than 14 hours and Columbus is almost in the middle.

Since there was nothing much to do in the morning i decided to go to the St Louis Art Museum, in Forest Park quite close to my sister's place. Forest Park, which says it is the bigger than Central Park is very nice place with winding roads and bridges and small ponds or fountains. Since it was in winter the trees were bald and were not much of a view but my sister tells me that the park is very nice in fall.

I probably did half of The Saint Louis Museum as its not a big museum (the biggest ones in US so far encountered by me is MET in NYC and the Art Museum in Philadelphia; Chicago is smaller but its artifacts are of the same level as the other two), but it still has some good artifacts in patches.
Head of Christ, French or Flemish,1500-50

Head of St. Roch,French,late 15th century

St. John the Evangelist,German,c.1500

Diptych with Virgin and Angels and the Crucifixion,French,Ivory,c.1340-60

Augustus Saint-Gaudens:1859-1907,American, Bronze,"The Puritan" ;c.1899

They have some good painting from the masters like Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne etc , but just on of each. But the big (covering a entire wall) by Monet is their centerpiece. The simplicity with which Van Gogh makes his painting (without putting much paint, sometimes you can see the bare canvas below) , but depicting the scenario or expression with the strokes is absolutely astonishing.

Claude Monet;1840–1926,French, "Water Lillie's",c.1916-26

Vincent van Gogh;1853–1890,Dutch, "Stairway at Auvers",c. July 1890

Pierre-Auguste Renoir;1841–1919, French, "The Dreamer",c.1879

Paul Cezanne ;1839–1906,French, "Bathers",c.1890-92

I am very meticulous about giving proper captions to pictures in put of artifacts from museums even though it takes me a hell lot of time to find all the details. But i spent a lot more time in for these stuff as they don't have a updated collection list/catalog on their web page ( which is surprising but quite expected as they definitely don't have the financial power the big museums got. So i found myself spending countless hours painstakingly going through each entry of their catalog twice before i proclaimed them not having an updated list. So, if you see artifacts not marked up,its just because i didn't find the exact detail of it, but they are all from St Louis Museum.

The have some good Asian (mostly from Chinese origin) stuff and just couple of Indian sculpture (an ardahnariswar and one nataraj, both probably from the Chola period). The mask below is one of their flagship artifacts and is on their flyer's but not on their online catalog (which is bad as per me)"Decorative Applique",Chinese(Western Zhou dynasty),Bronze,1050-771 BC

"Wine Vessel",Chinese(Western Zhou dynasty),Bronze,late 11th century BC

"Grain Vessel",Chinese (Eastern Zhou dynasty),Bronze,first half 6th century B.C

"Guanyin",Chinese(Northern Song dynasty),Wood,11th century

"Covered Censer in the Form of a Lion-Dog",Chinese, Yuan Dynasty(1279-1368 AD) or Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD),Bronze with gilding

"Usnisavijaya" (in the back), Tibetan,Bronze,19th century

"Bust of an Unknown Man",Roman,Marble,A.d. 160-180

"Reclining Pan"(in front)attributed to Francesco da Sangallo(1494–1576),Italian, Marble,c.1535
"Judith and Holofernes"(Rear front);Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574),Italian, Oil on Panel,c.1554
"St. John the Baptist"(Rear back);Michele Tosini(1503–1577),Italian, Oil on Panel,c.1570

"Powder Tester";Picino Frusca (1640–1704),Italian,Gilded bronze, steel, and wood,2nd half 17th century

"Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland";Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775)
German, Porcelain and bronze with gilding,c.1736

"Corn Set";Russel Wright (1904-1976),American,Chrome plated glass and brass,c.1934

The museum also had a lot of contempory and modern art, but me not being a big fan of thoose , so concentrated on the other stuff, but will cover them on my next visit. I think the major section i missed this time is the african artifacts and portions of the european stuff along with american and native indian art.

It was nice to see many people in the musuem as i strongly belive on can not proceed in present and future properly without knowing ones past (and i am saying it in a very broad sense, meaning not my immediate past as an indian, but my entire past as a human being).

Anyway after i came back from the museum and resrved a hotel for the night, we had to wait till 5:30 pm before starting off as BIL couldn't come back early enough as he had hoped. On our way to the hotel "Days Inn" on I-70 near columbus, OH we stopped at Denny's (as per my plan to introduce to my sis and BIL to all the food joints..:D). But i can promise you my sister is not going to enter another Denny's anytime!! its was beyond too greasy in her view. we reached our hotel around 2PM as they are one hour ahead of us :(. The hotel was nice for the price and we had a good nights sleep before starting the next leg of out journey in the morning, but that's a different post (keeping my fingers crossed that it will be the next one, and not become the first entry of a series blog like so many others before it).

P.S: added two ancient Chinese artifact details :D (Jan 14th 2009)

Copyright@ 2008 Rahuljit Pal

For more pictures please visit

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pointless Rumblings (Chapter -winter'08, Part-turmoil, Section-Waiting time before the cricket game starts) :D

I know i have tons of other stuff to do like go through and organize massive number of pictures from the last two camping trips (gosh !! one of the was in July.. i am really lazy!! like i didn't know that..hehehe). BTW the cricket game i am talking about is India vs England 4th ODI, a make or break one for England as far as the 7 match series is concerned (for those no cricket followers). Since i am on the topic of cricket would like to mention couple of things. Firstly i find Kevin Peterson (the English captain) a really optimistic fellow(after the 3rd consecutive ODI lose to India he said at least the margin of runs is going down from 158 to 54 to 16 in the last one...:D) Which is good as you don't loose your focus come what may. Secondly i came across the Guardian's sports blog (the UK one) and have become a instant fan of it because of the blogger's sense of humor and taking the sport as a sport not as a war ,of course when the game is finished(during the game its all fair if they become like Ozzy let loose on a flock of doves or bats for that

One of the piece from their ongoing India Tour Diary -"is it so wrong to keep players up late getting drunk" where the blogger tries to justify with an example of Ian Botham "
....bludgeoned 122 from 55 balls with 15 fours and seven sixes, after being totally drunk the night before. It was especially brilliant as it had the desperation of a man with a terrible hangover, half wanting to succeed, half wanting to get out and go and have a lie down." is absolutely hilarious. :D. He goes on describing the some of those nagging travel experience you have in India where things starts to go wrong and then everything just falls in place in one of the most unusual way. Like when he got a lift from a guy named Siddhant on his motorbike because the taxi wasn't allowed to wait because of security reason. ("..Siddhant would particularly like to say "hello" to his girlfriend in Canada via this diary. I'm happy to oblige. She has chosen well. How many Indians walking out of a day-night international at, say, Edgbaston, and struggling to find a taxi back to the city centre, would be offered a free lift from a young Brummie on a motorbike with the comment: "It is my city, it is my gift''? I rest my case."). Its also very funny to see how at least some of the "Western Civilization people"(i always use these words with a snare..:D) see how ridiculously over blown their fear of security is in any other country apart from their own. ("Because England were in the adjoining hotel, police lined every yard of the route, except that England players never leave their hotel for officially-induced fear of attack from someone vaguely connected to the Axis of Evil.")

Another piece by Barney Roney(reminds me of "The Flintstones" ..hehe) "How do you get Yuvraj Singh early" made be crack with laughter specially when he mentions one of his dreams
"Only yesterday morning I found myself waking up from an uneasy dream in which I was playing beach cricket with a stick of rhubarb while Nicolas Sarkozy whispered repeatedly in my ear "On doit rejêter Yuvraj tôt" only to open my eyes and find myself dressed in nothing but a pair of batting gloves and scrawling the words "You've Got To Get Yuvraj Early" on the wall with a bright red lipstick. I was so shaken up I had to get off the bus."

The most surprising (in a very funny sort of way )piece of them all was "Meet the Bolly Wags". It talks about the Bollywood GF's of the current Indian cricket team. Cricket has always has a history of attracting Bollywood actress's (Patudi and Sharmila Tagore being the most famous up till now). But take a look at the current line up and all you can say is there must be something behind girls falling for fame and money, at least till they last!!.
  • Dhoni + Deepika Padukone (previously with Yuvraj Singh) - Do you see the move towards a much more famous and riches. :)
  • Ishaant + Katrina Kaif - the current most promising 20 yr old pinup guy (who just signed for $900,000 in IPL and currently the most talked about guy in the cricket world, of course was not a reason) with a 24 yr old pin up actress
  • Sreesanth + Lakshmi Rai (i have no clue who she is!, but she was linked with Dhoni before..hehehe) - don't need to say anything here , if you have gathered the trend you know she had to grab the next best available as the previous one went higher up.
Its has been the case since the beginning of mankind , hot, sexy and attractive women will fall for the rich and famous and vice verse (of course the women have it little bit harder as they have to look at least good up to some level :D). The above examples also prove my point that fame and money always makes a guy look nicer and cuter (nothing wrong in it , if we accept the fact), without those added stuff all these guys will be considered creepy by these girls.
Whatever people say in the talk shows, books or other media about this thing being not true and "NORMAL" people won't do the same but if we are honest enough we will agree that we would have done the same in their position and probably 10 times faster. For all those delusional people who believe it's all about "LOVE" well they are so far away from the truth that nothing i can say will make any difference.

The fact remains that it's all those people in between rich and poor, famous and nobody that talk about inner beauty and connection and all that emotional mambo jumbo.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pointless Rumblings (Chapter -winter'08, Part-turmoil, Section-nothing better to do) :P


Let me clarify the "Chapter -winter'08, Part-turmoil, Section-nothing better to do" thing before i go on with my actual objective for those incoherent readers :P ( now!! now!! don't pout!! you are reading my blog ..what else do you think my first expression will be :D) . It all started with the inspiration to put down few of the million pointless things that go around in my head day in and day out, and since i needed some kind of categorization to see if there is a psychopathic trend there (all those psychology cuties (girls only !!! i am 100% straight with no intention of straying from the path).if you do stumble upon this and see some eccentric pattern, please leave me a comment with your phone no. and email ID along with a min 2"X 2" picture (larger size pictures highly appreciated). Pictures are for "once in a blue moon" kind of situation when i have to decide between two or more!!!. Anyway back to explanation, Chapter- explains the weather and year (as you can by yourself see , no need for explanation); Part- explains my current mood/life condition (has to predominantly exist for more than 2 weeks to qualify) and Section- explains the current condition. I think i have found a categorization of which even Freud would have been proud of (boasting of course.. he would have found we a total nut job right away).

Chapter -winter'08, Part-turmoil, Section-nothing better to do

Life seriously has been in a turmoil this last month or so (come to think of it the whole of 2008 has been a turmoil and i have been suffering from an unprecedented form of feeling comprising of sadness and restlessness). I have also been suffering from sudden bouts of "no social contact syndrome". I am not anti social, on the contrary i thrive in social gatherings, if people can overlook my first expression of a creepy guy ..hehehe. It probably has something to do with the "sadness and restlessness" feeling i was talking about ( Cute female psychology student, don't u think i am the best character study for you next class project, leave a COMMENT NOW!!! :P).

And to top it all i have to go to work everyday 2Hrs commute to the south of the city (i live on the north side of the city). I always used to make fun of hordes of people commuting to the southern suburbs when they lived in the norther burbs or vice a verse , but now it has come to bite me on the ass and say "ahhh u thought you were smarter than us". Well i am not complaining about the commute and work, its OK. I just cut down on stupid TV stuff i used watch endlessly just to waste time and now i watch only the things i adore. Like couple of days back i watched "Godfather" for the umpteenth time. This movie which i can watch umpteen times more still gives me pure movie watching pleasure. Even though this movie has countless memorable quotes (come to think of it everything is famous) but the ones i like the best are :
  • "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse- Don Corleone "- its ranked second most famous quotes , but the credit goes to Brando for making a simple line memorable.
  • "Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever. - Michael Coleone"- this one is one of my favourites specially because of the conviction with which it is delivered by Pacino.
Well i can go on and on about all the other quotes as there are so many and it difficult to choose , but you get the point.

The other movie i just watched again is "A fish called Wanda". I don't know how many of you have seen or heard of it , but its one of my favourite comedy(i term it eccentric comedy- do you see a pattern emerging now!!). Kevin Kline richly deserved his Oscar.

These quotes lead me to the AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes. i generally agree with their rankings of the quotes apart from some major ones like (which should have been higher):
  • "After all, tomorrow is another day!"-Scarlett O'hara from Gone With the Wind
  • "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" - Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate
  • "Bond, James Bond" from any Bond movie
  • "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."-Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca.
Another thing i differ with their rankings is that of Humphrey Bogart. He is a damn good actor and is definitely in my top three its just that i prefer the smooth gentlemanly Cray Grant and soft spoken timid Jimmy Stewart before him. Of course i totally agree with their top three.
First being "Frankly my dear i don't give a damn" by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, and third being the "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am" by Marlon Brando from The Waterfront.

Anyway..its past 12 AM and i need to go to sleep like a good little boy i!! will continue this Rumbling series ..

PS: i haven't abandoned the Fall trip series, just need some time to sort out the pics :(

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Camping Trip-"The Great Smokey Mountains": Day0


Its been quite a long time since i have written a blog. I haven't even completed the two series blog i started namely "the wilderness trip" and "books that shaped" me which is so typical of me as i start things with a lot of exuberance but i fail to keep it up all the way through. Well my life has been in quite a turmoil most of the previous month(details are too personal to mention in here).

One of the major reason for this delay is because previously i haven't written down the day to day happenings during my travel on the same day and have waited for to get all the pictures and videos sorted out. But this time around i have written my blog before turning in to sleep after a day of travel(and i think i like it and intend to do it all the time from now on).

Anyway i did promise myself to finish both the series of blogs before 2008 ends(giving myself lot of time and keeping it real, that's the new me these days(don't know yet whether it for good or worse).


I decided to visit my sister in St. Louis on Friday (October 24th) evening before driving to the Smokies on Saturday. My plan was to leave early morning on Saturday and reach by afternoon and visit the Ripley's Aquarium before setting up tent in the evening. But Friday not being a very lucky/happy day for me because of the cancellation of a very nice job offer due to government cut backs on funding for their space programs(this reminds me i have to check up the details of Chandrayaan I, the Indian moon rocket after i get back).

"I am overjoyed at the successful launch and progress of the Moon orbiter and am really looking forward to Chandrayaan II to launch a Russian made rover on moon surface and then to have an Indian astronaut sent to moon. Its good to see that the space mission in India is going so good , which makes the third party design work given by NASA to small companies makes a very distinct and realistic possibility of similar thing happening in INDIA."

So i spent an evening with my sister and Nirvik dining at a very nice restaurant close to their house. As my visits to their place each time ends up experimenting with different kind of foods that they haven't tried so this time we ordered some prosciutto covered figs in cheese as appetizers and a big bowl of lobster bisque (which was good but still quite naturally the best one i ever had was in Nova Scotia ). We tried the Riesling 2007 wine which was really good (little bit pricey though for $29 , but it was in a restaurant so ..kind OK) even though it was a screw cap wine :D. My sister and Nirvik really liked the semi sweet and fruity flavor of the wine and i think that wine with bits of smoked ham,green apple and Gruyere cheese tit bits will be a great meal starter.
As an entree we ordered BBQ ribs (St Louis style :D), trout with white beans in garlic butter sauce (its one of the best fish i ever had )and chicken pot roast.I have always liked the western kind of fish rather than the indian variety which i can't withstand.

The drive from St Louis to Elkmont campground in Smokey Mountains(Tennessee) was 442 miles. I drove at about 10 MPH above the sped limit over the entire length was able to make quite good time, stopping for only gas and at Walmart to get some propane tanks for my cooking stove and steel tent pegs (the southern accent of the people over there always makes me laugh, don't know why-no disrespect to anyone though). The day drive was a trip full of nostalgic moments. During the drive from St. Louis to Smokies i passed through Nashville and i crossed the Hotel Preston where me and Miss CM spent a night(actually 4-5 hrs) because of the flight fiasco from Florida to Chicago during our spring break trip to Miami. While driving from Nashville to Smokies i passed the hotel we stayed at on my 2005 spring break trip there (Smokies was just a day halt in a week long road trip, my first ever in US). Before entering the Elkmont campground i drove around the little river road, which brought back (and i think i stopped over at the right place, approximately) where me and Victor Broto jumped off in the below zero spring mountain river water on our own accord :D (i didn't knew swimming then as well). I think all my roaming around in the Smokies will keep reminding me of the 2005 trip.

Anyway i reached my camping site by 8:30 PM and set up the tent within 30 minutes ( with everything done almost properly this time). I am getting good at this . This time around i have brought lots of comforters/blankets to make my bed as comfortable as possible. Didn't cook at night but will start off the morning with some heated up soup or tea and cake:D. The camera bag has become really heavy with my new addition of 105mm Macro lens and a 70-300mm lens along with the rest of the lot. I need 3 more lens,another camera body and a nice sturdy tripod/mono pod to be almost happy with my equipment (of course there are small attachments you keep needing as you progress :D). After setting up the bed i looked over all my previously printed out details and maps of the Smokies(these days i like to do my home work you see my nature changing? do you? :D) and decide to go to Oconaluftee.

Somebody said that they have seen some bears on the camp ground entrance. I hope i am able to get a picture of one of them(not a 400 lb ,10 feet near me kind of thing though). Last time i saw a black bear was in Apostle Island campground,Wisconsin but couldn't take a picture then (it was past dusk, so was pretty dark as well). That trip is memorable for another reason than that though, and boy was it a funny one in retrospect...heheheh :D.

BTW i found out now for sure that even the less visited state parks in Canada have better facilities than the best and most visited National Parks in US( don't know whether it's the people or the government..hehehe).

Anyway will go to sleep now , but have to remember to pick up some firewood, soap and hand sanitizer.

good night!!
bunes noches!!
good nuit!!

to me!
and hope the bears don't come knocking on my tent .. :D

setting up tent at Elkmont Campground (Smokies)-took me about 30 mins

inside my tent talking arranging things and talking to myself i guess..heheheeh

Saturday, October 11, 2008

books that shaped my life.....part1

During my last blog entry, i was reminded of how literature (English, Hindi and Bengali) has shaped my beliefs and behavior. I had started to read novels quite early in my life, most of the time not even understanding 50% of the lines and completely missing out the depth of the of matter in hand or the "in between the line's" stuff which makes a book far more interesting than any other form of media. But subsequent re-reading of my favorite stuff as i grew along, made me understand the authors view point far more precisely. I personally think that the best way to enjoy a piece of writing is when you can identify yourself with the protagonist and actually can relive the whole story within your mind. Of course you need a certain level of imagination to achieve that goal but once you are the protagonist you can truly feel and enjoy the "in between the lines" (which of course depends on the persons interpretation, which makes it even more enjoyable).

Before i go on blabbering about more literary complicated author's and their novels that shaped me, i will like to mention that i did read a lot of "Hardy Boys", "Nancy Drew", "Famous Five" and similar kind of books along with numerous comic books (ranging from Tin tin, Asterix
Chachha Choudhury, Pinki, Phantom,Tarzan, Superman, Batman..etc) before moving on. Surprisingly enough i still like to read comics of superheros as no other written material gives me simple uncluttered childish pleasure.

  1. Frank Baum: "The wonderful wizard of Oz" is probably the first children book i read and it triggered my imagination with its "Emerald city". But until recently i always presumed the Wicked Witch to be the most evil witch of all times. But after watching the play "WICKED" it made me realize the old saying "all that glitters is not gold". BTW i recently found out that some so called hip people haven't even heard about OZ and some knew it by watching the movie. Don't know what the hell these people were doing when they were kids:O.
  2. Charles Dickens:Similar to a lot of people i started my journey of more complicated literature with Charles Dickens. The first time i read Oliver Twist, it was in those small pocket size books which had sketches on one side of the book every few pages(i think i got it as a birthday gift from somebody :D). As you read through Oliver Twist, David Copperfield you start to feel the highly idealistic and immensely optimistic way of story telling. Great Expectation is one of his novels which i actually understood in depth, when i re-read an unabridged version at a later age. But the novel which defined what love is for me was "the tale of two cities". Both the books opening line (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....) and the ending line ("It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.") are the words that still shake me up time and again. This novel secured by belief of "unrequited love being the purest form of love" (a definition i still adhere to ) as it encases my firm belief that when somebody gives without asking anything in return it shows of pure love. Another of his book worth mentioning is "the ghost of Christmas carol" which showcase another optimistic view point that it's never too late to change.
  3. Alexander Dumas: The "Three Musketeers" whose hallmark quote "one for all, and all for one" laid down my first beliefs about loyalty and friendship. Though as i grew older, and the initial innocence faded ,the quote become "one for all, all for one*" (* conditions apply). His other vastly influential book being "the Count of Monte Cristo" which still remains my all time favorite adventure novel. I actually didn't know how complicated and important all the characters and the links in between them were till i read the unabridged version from remains my best source of unabridged classics).
  4. Herman Melville: The only book i have read from this author is "Moby-Dick" and is my3rd most favorite adventure tales. This being my 2nd Pictured pocket book, which probably led to my fascination towards whales (i finally got to see one on my trip to Nova Scotia this summer). It's one of those long books whose symbolic (biblical and otherwise) and metaphorical meaning came to me later, after re-reading. The image of captain Ahab's standing on the deck and asking everybody to attack the white whale still lingers in my head.
  5. Mark Twain:"The adventure of Huckleberry Finn" and "the adventure of Tom sawyer"being by first glimpses into American lifestyle. I could really identify with Tom sawyer, the naughty prankster where as Huckleberry Finn introduced me to the Black Slavery situation in America. His books sparked my long time dream of going down the Mississippi. Mark Twain truly kick started the American literature scene.
  6. R.K.Narayan: "Malgudi days" being one of the those books which i read after watching it on T.V. Normally i am very skeptical about this kind of thing, but the simplicity of "Malgudi Days " is amazing and Swami remains my most liked Indian child protagonist.
  7. Thomas Hardy: No single author has as much impact on my thinking as much as Thomas Hardy. All his novels were on social structure and I think he was way ahead of his time. He wrote of things that people are facing now but were considered unthinkable at that time. The first work i read was "Tess of d'Urbervilles: A pure woman faithfully presented" and is one the books which i first read the unabridged version (almost 400 pages or so). It opened my mind towards the sexual double standards that our society suffers from for such a long time. He long wrote against the norms of Victorian notions of female purity which plagues our society even now as it's so deep rooted that people who are trying to stand up against it get crushed by the society. The other book that greatly influenced me was "Jude the Obscure", which i think is more about Sue Bridehead than Jude himself. Sue is a picture of a modern day independent women, who are complex yet irresistible and mystifying (at least in my POV) as long as they adhere to their own independent thoughts and ideas, but eventually fall prey to the so called social norms under everlasting pressure of social scrutiny and destiny (as Sue Bridehead embraces religion at her time of crisis and goes back to her husband but dies within). Sue is the most sexually free thinking heroine in the entire history of literature. These days writers are proving their free thinking by describing the actually sexual act rather than the turmoil and the beliefs behind sexual freedom. Sue also portrays in my POV the constant duel within a women to like her stability or normality of marriage yet yearn for the passion and turbulence of sexual freedom. Some of the conversations between Jude and Sue will linger in my mind for ever as it showcase woman's capability of withstanding some extreme adversity with defiance yet totally crumbling down under some. I think men can never have this wider range of strength or vulnerability. A woman's strength is probably her extreme weakness as well. I strongly believe when Sue Bridehead say "Because no man would touch a woman unless she gives him a reason to. A touch or a look that say come on. If you never look, they'll never come. You are the timid sex." I am always attracted to girls or women who believe in their own thoughts and freedom yet am frustrated to see these same women submit to the social norms. Most of the women i have meet who had a strong conviction eventually ended up with a total submission which destroyed their individuality and their independence. Unsurprisingly these two books(his last) caused a major uproar at those times and will probably have the same reception if people read it nowadays. His other books that i have read and liked are "the mayor of casterbridge" ,"the return of the native" and "far from the maddening crowd". I can go into details of my thoughts on each of his books but that will be too much :D. I also believe that Hardy is partially to blame for my being an atheist and having a very sarcastic view point towards GOD and all his followers. Thomas Hardy remains among my top five favorite authors.
  8. Lewis Carrol: "Alice's adventure in wonderland" and "through the looking glass" really ignited my passion for fantasy land. His word play and logic behind the utter gibberish is absolutely breathtaking. The hall mark of a true fantasy is when the reader starts believing in the fact that it might be true, which the so called modern day famous writer like J.K Rowling can never achieve. She might be earning a lot of money and fame but that doesn't make her work worth noting, similar to the fact that a master or Phd degree doesn't make a person educated(both of which are taken as granted by the so called society of ours).
While writing this post i found out that its going to be a long post so have decided to crop it into parts.

End of Part 1