The kid just turned 18

The kid who lives in my house just turned 18. He has grown his hair till it falls over his shoulders, he thinks it’s cool, I think it’s nutty. You can’t make it out in this photo, due to the lighting. Here he is, like a million other kids, cutting his cake that marks the advent of adulthood.

18 is considered the age of majority in Canada, the age when a person stops being a minor, when a kid is considered finally by law to be no longer a kid, but an adult.

I remember my 18th birthday. It was February 1973. Oh yeah, a long while ago. But some days kinda stick. My college dorm-mates had thrown a party in my room. That was at a time when the Indian state of Tamil Nadu didn’t have prohibition. Booze was everywhere in the dorms. They plied me with ‘feni’ a 50-proof concoction from cashew nuts.

With feni, it doesn’t slowly get you high. Its soft and cuddly and doesn’t do a thing to you until you’ve downed the quarter of a full bottle. And then you do something – maybe light a cigarette, or just get up from your chair to go take a leak.

That’s when it hits you like a battering ram and you’re floating….. Feni is cruel. Feni is a chemical weapon. If you ever visit India, be very careful of feni. Make sure you’re with trusted friends, in a safe environment. Ensure that those around you won’t tell the outside world what you said or did, because – trust me – feni will turn you into a jerk.

When my dorm-mates gave me feni, the result was catastrophic. All I recall is the postman at the door with a telegram from my father and Vernon (a classmate) reading it out unsteadily to all the spaced out guys sprawled around the floor, high on not only feni but Kodi grass, ” Hey, here’s what Bong’s Dad has sent……’Happy Birthday, Jobbu!’ Hey, who the fuck is ‘jobbu’?”

Here I am, 45 years hence and it’s my son having his 18th birthday. He doesn’t smoke and is a teetotaller. He believes in virtue and fairness and he strongly believes that ultimately merit wins. He is an agnostic (like his father), though he respects his mother’s devout Muslim leanings, like his father does.

When I look back, it’s not about what I’ve been able to teach him. I have taught him nothing, the sinner that I am. It is all about what he has taught me, ever since he was little. Let me give you an example…..

It was 2002, he was just shy of 2. We were inside a bus in Westmount, on the way home from his ‘garderie’. When an old woman got in, he got up so she could sit in his place. No one, I swear, no one had ever told him it is the right thing to do to give your seat to an old woman.

A colleague at work just had a baby son. She is amazed at how good natured her baby is, always sunny and happily gurgling, never crying, never waking them every ten minutes. She says she feels unworthy………..

I have always been unworthy.

More lessons for the kid

The kid who lives in my house is coming home after spending time with his Maman’s folks in Iran. The Persian woman is staying back a wee bit longer, so the kid is travelling back all by himself – alone, for the first time in his life.

I felt he needed ta know stuff about travelling alone, so here’s what I conveyed to him over Skype………..

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“Important: Take a scan of your passport (all filled in pages) and a scan of your drivers license. Upload them to your gmail, google drive or Icloud. Take prints of each and put them in a separate pocket from the one that has your passport and D/L.

The above are just to ensure that in case you lose these documents, you’ll at least have something with you to show.

Next, your credit or debit cards – take down the details, like number and the phone number to call in case of problems. Stow that slip of paper in a separate pocket. Wear that pair of jeans which has pockets all over, with the velcro.

I’ll be waiting for you at the arrivals right next to where folks come out. There might be a wee delay there since there’ll likely be a jam of people stopping ta stare at me. Face it, yore pappy is just so good looking.

We’ll take a while at that point as I’ll be kissing yore cheeks and hugging you and tellin’ you that I missed you. And then we’ll drive home.

At home there’ll be Oreo ice cream samwiches with chocolate chips, just like you love them – well, fingers crossed, hopefully they’ll still be there. I bought them at IGA today and there’s still two days ta go till you arrive. Oreo ice cream samwiches have a short half life. But there’ll be shrimp curry, rice/nans, milk, and whatever the f— …er…. else you need ta eat. (Excuse the langwage. Comes from having a blue-collar dad).

I forgot the most important thing. You are taking Turkish Airlines. Turkish broads are gorgeous, so the stewardesses will be awesome. Take it easy. Don’t get carried away and do anything fresh. Remember, you’re just seventeen and haven’t yet bin told about the birds and the bees. So relax till yore Pappy clears everything up for ya. But if a gorgeous woman wants to take the seat next to you, I really don’t mind if you tell her you just turned 18. I would, if I were you…..”

Model dad, ain’t I?

 

 

 

 

One way ticket

Do you associate music with events that happened to you in the past? I do. When I first heard Andy Williams sing “Speak softly love, so no one hears us but the sky”, I was in my fourth year of Engineering.

A year earlier this had been the theme music for The Godfather II. I was at the Safire, a movie theatre on Mount Road, in a city in India that was then called Madras. The year was 1975. I was twennie. I was with Sushy.

Every detail of that evening is etched in my heart. I had fallen head over heels. Sushy was a Stella Maris girl, two years younger, game for anything. She was tiny and at the same time a handfull. She wasn’t stunning or anything but she had beautiful hands and feet.

And ankles. Indian women in general have crappy ankles. But Sushy’s were chubby, with thin silver bracelets that we Indians call ‘payals’, on them. Her toes were delicious. Lacquered purpled and flawlessly shaped, they sent me into shattering orgasms. From then, I fell in love with the color purple.

No attraction can last unless it is at least a bit cerebral. Sushy mirrored my tastes – in film, music, reading……..sex. Yes, didn’t you know? Sex is cerebral. Cunnilingus is yucky but when I went down on Sushy, I made it feel like I was tasting elixir. It’s all cerebral, no question about it. Why do you think they call it ‘giving head’?

I wonder where Sushy is now, coz I am now 63 and have been married to someone else a long long time, a dear woman who cares about me. So, take it easy, my wonderment is simply idle conjecture, actually. Didn’t I say I’d be candid on my blog. How much more fucking candid do you want me ta get?

Still, the occasional pang persists – the sudden desire ta find out where she is these days, whether she got married, fucked, had kids or became a CEO and said she had a headache whenever she felt his hardon against her butt, that kinda thing.

Sushy was very loving. It didn’t take a lot to bring her to tears of compassion. I am blessed to have known her.

Be that as it may.

One Way Ticket” (See above video) reminds me of Sushy and the dance floor at that disco on Nungambakkam High Road where we went wild and where I went broke by the sixth of the month.

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Ps: If you ever meet an Indian Tamil woman around 61 named Sushy, please, don’t show her this blog.

Ah, I love the f-word. Smackeroonies, even more.

A funny thing happened today.

I won’t name the establishment because I don’t want the guy representing it who spoke to me getting into trouble with his employers.

There’s this organisation – a famous world wide thing that is everywhere – which I, like a lot of others, am a member of. They have a points card and the more you use their card, the more the points accumulate. (I have a grand in Canadian smackeroonies in my kitty by now).

The catch is that you can’t just ask them to hand over the money. The only way you can use, no – redeem – your points is by buying something, like maybe an air ticket or a cruise or something.

I called them today to find out whether there was a ceiling on the number of smackeroos I could accumulate or if they expired due to unuse after a certain time had lapsed.

The guy on the other end went,” You can pile up as much as you want, man, it’s cool. Why, just the other day there was this dude on the line who had two grand in and didn’t know what ta do with all those smackeroonies.”

The tone and language kinda brought me up a bit. ‘Man’, ‘dude’, ‘ta’, ‘smakerooney’ – these are the kinds of words I use daily at work with my blue-collar buddies. I felt an instant connection.

“You’re kidding me. This dude has two grand he doesn’t know how ta blow it?” I was warming to this guy.

“Yea, man, I toal ‘im he could do whatever the fuck he wanted with it. He could let it be and watch it keep groan or he could spend it on a crooze with a broad with big tits.” And he chuckled. I burst out laughing.

“Thanks, bud!”

“You got it, man. Now if you’ll only respond favorably to the pop-up survey on my services after this, I’ll be grateful.”

“I sure will, dude, I sure will.” I left the survey a glowing heartfelt rating.

In that instant I realized that how you say what you say is so fucking important.

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Ps:Nomenclature Clarification – One smackeroony is 1 Canadian dollar.

Jamai Shashti

I clearly remember ‘Jamai Shashti’ of 2000.

Jamai Shashti, a Hindu tradition, is the day when Bengali sons-in-law are feted and feasted. In Our culture, the Jamai (son-in-law) is like God on earth. There is no parallel celebration for the daughter-in-law – perhaps a pointer toward the stark patriarchy that rules India.

If you’re a Bengali man, on Jamai Shashti you get invited to your in-laws and they mollycoddle you and stuff you with the choicest hilsa fish in a bed of ground mustard paste and red chillis, heap your plate with seaming rice. Sweetmeats out of cottage cheese round off a lunch that will take at least 48 hours to travel through your intestine. That’s not all – you go home loaded with presents.

If you are not from Bengal and your daughter is thinking of getting married to a Bengali, Jamai Shashti might set your bank balance back a bit.  

With me Jamai Shashti has been different. If I said anything about Jamai Shashti to my mum-in-law (I call her Maman), she wouldn’t know what I was talking about. She’s Iranian, a dear woman who brought up a small army, five kids, one of whom was lassoed and reeled in by this Bengali cowboy. At the time of writing this, she remains lassoed proper.

On Skype, weekends, my mum-in-law chatters away, bubbling with news and repeatedly asking after my welfare.

“Salaam, jan, holé shomo khubé?” (Hello dear, how are you?). The ‘jan‘ added after the name stands for ‘dear’.

Mèrci, mamanjan, man khubam. Shomo khubee? Aghajan khubé?” (Thank you, Maman, I’m fine. How are you and father?)

That’s where my Farsi begins showing cracks in it’s foundations and while Maman chatters on, I look around helplessly for Farah and wait for her to come over and translate. While I’m waiting, I catch some familiar snatches like ‘love you very much’, ‘waiting to see you in Iran’, ‘look after your health’, ‘don’t work too hard’. The sort of thing that parents say to you.

After our son was born, Maman flew down to lend a hand. She stayed a few weeks and we have no idea what we’d have done without her. She cooked, scrubbed, cleaned, washed and waited. This was her first visit to India but all the while that she was there, Maman never once asked to be taken out sight seeing, go shopping or anything else.

On the day she left, I accompanied her in the Deccan Queen Express to Mumbai for her Iran Air flight back, while Farah stayed back in Pune with our baby son.

Most of the way she was quiet, huddled in her seat with her nose touching the window glass as she stared out the window at the countryside rolling by and I sat next to her with an issue of Time magazine that I’d picked up at the AH Wheeler’s and listlessly leafed through it. That morning even Joel Stein’s irreverently funny column, which was on the recent Tech bubble bust, couldn’t make me burst into laughter and I wasn’t even an investor.

Soon the DQ cleared the Lonavala platform, clattered over multiple track changes and finally settled on one as we ran lickety split into the Western Ghats.

At one point, the coach suddenly swayed a bit more vehemently than normal. My shoulder bumped into Maman’s. Turning to apologize, I saw she was quietly crying. I reached around and held her gently by her tiny shoulders. She turned, sighed and rested her head on my arm, the tears now rolling down both cheeks.

“Thank you for everything, Maman,” I whispered to her softly. Even though she doesn’t speak a word of English, she nodded. Her head was still nestled on my shoulder when the DQ sallied into Dadar Central, platform-4 and eased to a halt. We took a cab to Sahar, reaching there just when they were announcing check-in and security for the Iran Air flight. It was on time.

Those days, if you were seeing someone off at Mumbai’s Sahar International Airport, you couldn’t go in. Because of horrific terror attacks through the previous decade, entrance was barred for all except for passengers and crew and folks who worked inside the airport. You had to say your goodbyes from behind a barrier at the entrance to the departures area.

At the barrier, Maman loaded her one small bag onto a trolley and started toward the Iran Air counters. I don’t usually do this but I tarried and I craned my neck to catch a last glimpse of the small, dear, scarfed woman as she disappeared round the corner of the hall with a pause and a wave.

Maman is still around, back in her native Isfahan. Only, now she has receded into the background, mostly ignored, letting her children and grandchildren run her sprawling home, venturing out rarely and only to pay a visit to the neighborhood mosque. 

The most important people in our lives are always the ones who occupy the quietest corner of our hearts.

 

A sudden break from the gloom….

The children are safe. A week ago a flickering video had depicted frail, wraithlike figures, some sitting cross legged, some on their haunches, little angels with everything but fear playing on their faces.

Where did they get the courage to endure, to dispassionately go about carving a nook in the cave wall so they could huddle and stay warm?

Really, what a story! What a deliriously happy ending!

Sacrifice, chivalry, teamwork – look what can be achieved when these are in abundance!

An Australian on vacation there, who just happened to be not only an expert cave diver but also a selfless doctor who was among the first to go in and join the kids and the last to exit the cave. The Australians want to award him their highest civilian award ‘Australian of the year’.

A navy seal who had retired but arrived, to help because wanting to make a difference still burned inside him. He died a horrible death, his lungs devoid of oxygen.

A coach who wouldn’t eat because he wanted his charges to have what little rations were left and refused to be evacuated until the last child had been removed from that ledge in the cave.

For a brief instant in time, it seems as if an increasingly impotent, dying God has desperately flailed his arms about, trying to convince us that there is still some goodness left in the world, that the ability to inspire still lives within us all.

His last-ditch effort does afford God some credit. After all, who else do we have to thank for holding the rains at bay while the heroes scrambled to save? Didn’t one of the pumps collapse minutes after the last kid had been brought out? Didn’t the World Cup finals wait so the kids could join in?

Lizzy of Isaleigh Grange

When you are browsing second book stores for antique hardcovers, sometimes you got ta choose between a famous but not so old (maybe 60-70 years) book and an authentic antique whose content sucks, written by some jerk.

Let me tell you about one I got yesterday that falls in the second category – it’s a racist harangue, “Germany and the Germans – from an American point of view,” by a turn of the 20th century white nationalist American bozo named Price Collier. The book was published in 1913, in Toronto. So, why Toronto? Maybe because it was a year before the start of WW1 and German U-Boat activity was already beginning ta hurt American merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, pissing off the Americans. American publishers would hesitate to publish a pro-German rant in that milieu, wouldn’t they?

It all kinda ties in neatly. Jeeze, I coulda been a forensic behavioural sciences specialist. If you need ta figure things out, give me a call. I charge $300 an hour and I’ll figure anything out for ya.

It is highly likely that this Collier dude was one of the thousands of German-Americans who wanted President Woodrow Wilson to intervene on “their side”. Woody would have joined on the German side, given the massive German-American voting bloc in those days, but when Fritz began sinking too much American merchant shipping around the North Atlantic, he couldn’t justify it.

In case you would like ta know what happens when somebody hurts American commerce, just ask the 1950s Guatemalans about the time when they told the American giant, United Fruit Co. to shove it. In case you’d like to be further enlightened about it, type “The banana conflicts” in the search box of my blog ‘spunkybong.com’. Go ahead, its free, though nothing stops you from sending me money.

Getting back to Germany and the Germans, the book rages on about how the demographics have been growing darker over the past decade, how in 1882 almost all immigrants were white Christian protestants from Europe, how there was law and order then and how today (1913) one in four newcomers is an “Asiatic or Turk, rampaging through America, unchecked, killing our innocent young white women”.

Fuck you, Prick Collier.

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The feel of an antique book is overwhelming. The binding is almost invariably sturdy, the type bold and double-spaced, the font-size large, sprawled over thick beige paper. Bring it up to your nose and sniff it and you will detect a certain innocence, even in bigotry. Hold it in your hands and you will feel the weight of history in it.

On the inside front cover of “Germany and the Germans” is a beautiful piece of handwriting, with a flat-tipped fountain pen of the type that is used in calligraphy. It says….

Elizabeth J. Greenshields

“Isaleigh Grange”

Danville, Jan 2

1916

The book wasn’t gifted. It has no ‘To’ and ‘from’ in the writing. Elizabeth Greenshields bought the book and therefore had to have been in her late 30s/early 40s at least, to want to read the crap that this Collier guy had written. If she read the book in 1916 as her handwriting suggests, I figure Lizzy was born sometime around the late 1870s and had been living in Danville, today a town of 4000, situated a two-hour drive east from Montreal. Isaleigh Grange is shown in the Statistics Canada website as a “locality” in the town.

The fact that Elizabeth Greenshields spent money to buy right wing propaganda tells me something. But then, she also popped up in a Google search. Old Liz and her descendants apparently started a foundation in the early 1950s, then supposedly well into her 70s, to help underprivileged aspiring black and native American artists in Quebec. Remorse, then the search for redemption? Understandable. They say that within every bigot is a soul crying out to be proved wrong.

And within every old Bengali, is a sleuth, with the urge to express himself (and/or make an ass of himself).


It’s Archimedes’ Principle, silly

Sunday at the riverside was a near perfect day, the sun out and blazing, not a wisp in the sky, which itself was an impossible turquoise blue. Loitering girls in off-shoulders and flip-flops, their faces flushed and joyful, cuddling chihuahuas in their arms, their armpits invitingly sweaty (the girls’, not the chihuahuas).

In other words, it was a perfect day for kayaking. Now, before I tell you what transpired, here’s some tips on kayaking….. You have ta have a wetsuit on, or at least waterproof shorts, because kayaks are made from ultra-light polyethylene, with holes in the bottom to relieve the sudden momentary upward pressure from the water when your weight settles on it or if you fidget around while you are in there. Those holes let the water in and out, thus preventing the kayak from becoming unstable and capsizing. It’s plain and simple Archimedes’ Principle, really. (If you haven’t heard of Archimedes, don’t worry. You cannot be expected to be as brilliantly well-informed as me).

Capsizing…hmmmm… where have I heard that word before? Right now of course, I just said it and that’s where the next rule comes in…. always be aware of your surroundings. If a large cabin cruiser looks as if its going ta pass too close, steer clear. Otherwise the wake from the boat will toss your kayak and you around like a rag doll. And if you were oriented broadside and you weren’t paying attention – maybe you were leaning on the other side, to photograph a broad in a bikini who had just removed her top, while sunning on top of another boat or something – your kayak will surely tip over from the very first wave that hits you.

If you do capsize, forget about trying ta save your Iphone. You were holding it in your hand and taking pictures of those girls in the previous paragraph. It now rests at thirty fathoms. Meanwhile the waters are 5°C(approximately the temperature inside a refrigerator) and fookin deep. Time is of essence.

Here’s the other things you can forget about……

Forget about your Apple Watch, your Bose headphones or even your Nikon D7200 SLR that had been on sale when you had been smart enough ta purchase it for just $750. You didn’t lose them in the spill. You still have ‘em but they are all goners. You can hear water sloshing around somewhere inside the Nikon. Your headphones are only emitting a screeching noise now, a day later, even after you have dried it. And you don’t dare look at the Apple Watch. You had lost your shirt buying it.

Forget about the dangers of ingesting the river water. This is Canada. You don’t get raw sewage or dead bodies bumping into ya, like in Varanasi. A little river water may even toughen up yore immune system.

Forget about that flask of tawny 12-year old Porto Rei that you had been swigging from. It was the one single thing that had been responsible for your inattention and had led to your toss-up. By now, it must be nearing the Antichosti Island and two baby belugas are probably playing with it.

Forget about getting back onto the kayak. It is virtually impossible to right an overturned kayak and get on it by yourself, without a counterweight on the other side. If you know how ta swim, surviving a kayak spill isn’t a big deal really. Find the kayak (that has by now drifted fifty yards further from you), grab onto it and drag it to the shore. This time of the year, the water’s freezing cold – uncomfortable, but manageable and its not as if you are in the middle of the Atlantic. The shoreline is just a coupla hundred yards away.

Oh, before you go grab the kayak, don’t forget ta look for the oar, or it’ll drift away outa sight and you’ll never be able ta discern it in the swells (A new oar can be upwards of fifty of your hard-earned smackeroonies at Reno Depot).

But then again, things can turn out quite differently if you don’t know how ta swim. Imagine this is all going down near Pointe Claire, where the St Lawrence is half a mile wide and to make matters worse dusk has settled. Your tired muscles are unable to break through the strong current and you cannot even distinguish the shoreline beyond the wave crests. You should just let go and ride the waves. You’ll floated down to the Atlantic in a week – bloated, your eyeballs picked off by brown-necked gulls.

All’s not lost though. You’ll find yourself perched on the edge of a cloud, strumming on a harp, clad in a flowing milk-white chiffon toga with no underwear, while ravishing women with wings on their shoulder blades float by, with breasts that you cannot actually feel bobbing up and down as a reaction to the flapping of the wings.

I am not absolutely certain about the bobbing though. I am just assuming Newton’s Third Law works in heaven too.

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PS: A day later….

My Iphone and Apple Watch still work!!! Ah, those beautiful bastards at Apple!!!

PPS:

What? Did I tell you my Iphone sank to the bottom? You know I lie. All the fookin time.

Ale, Malamud and the Hadzas

Bigotry and the search for morality …… and decadence. That’s Malamud’s ‘The fixer’ and the pint of Rickard’s Red.

Red ale is decadent, specially when a plump, pink-cheeked Quebecois girl – with a cleavage you could ski down – serves it to you with a twinkle.

And Malamud’s Yakov Bok is actually me. Jeez, how did Malamud know I would grow into a Yakov Bok?

But wait, that’s a kinda first impression. I have just started on the book. I am on page 45 of 271 pages. Maybe by the time I reach page 271, Bok will be a stranger. The reviews say he redeems himself in the end.

I don’t see me redeeming myself ever.

I bought the book at Nova, the 2nd hand book store by the riverside, because it had that old Penguin paperback smell that reminded me of once being young.

I really need a refill and have ta walk up to the bar since Miss Chubby TwinkleEyes isn’t looking in this direction. And why would she? There’s a hunk in a soiled paint-spattered construction worker outfit chatting her up.

I wish I was sweaty and hunky. Dear female readers, are women turned on by sweaty, smelly men? The Hadza women are. Hadza men don’t bathe for weeks in order ta smell desirable. Read this if you don’t want ta believe me……

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2009/12/hadza/

But hey, wait a second. I might have got it the other way round. Maybe its the Hadza men who insist that their women go without a wash for two weeks before they can consider having sex with them.

Heck, what’s the difference? If men are able ta get a hard-on only with stinky women, obviously women like their men to be stinky too. The two cannot be mutually exclusive.

Dear readers, do answer this poll, though. I’ll decide ta stop bathing on it’s basis.

There, see what you did to me? I was talking about this amazing book by Bernard Malamud and you waylaid my thoughts. So, toodle-oo!

A.O.G

It seems like a hundred years have passed since that night.

The kid’s room, 9pm, I’m done reading to him. He’s tucked in, barely awake, breathing settling down. I switch off the bed lamp and start to rise, when I feel his little paw on my arm.

“ChooChoo.” (don’t know how he started calling me that).

“Yes?”

“I want you to take me to your work. I wanna see what you do.”

“Geezers, that’s exactly what I had in mind. I need yore help.”

“Really?”

“We have an ‘AOG’ situation and I sure could use your expertise.” My voice has dropped to an urgent whisper.

“What’s an ‘AOG sichwashun?” wide awake, on his elbows now, big eyelashes fluttering and making it a bit windy in there.

“Aircraft On Ground.”

“No kidding!” mouth agape now. I gently shut his lips lest a fly should do a low level sortie.

“We have a rotor, taken off a crashed F-117 turbine. We did a PPDP on it at 250 cycles. Found a .30 positive indication with some sticky pink FOD at the bottom.”

“What’s an effohdee?”

Foreign Object Damage. Jet engines sometimes stop workin’ because stuff get’s inside the rotor blades, y’know. Highly dangerous, life-and-death sichwashun….”

“How’d the effohdee get there?”

“Oh, it was a Tomcat, coming in to land on the Abraham Lincoln. The pilot was a rookie – he had the FOD in his mouth, against regoolashuns. He opened his canopy to spit it out and it went in through the intake.”

“What do you want me ta do?”

“Thought we could bring you in, deputize you and you could run a sample thru’ your extensive bubble gum database.”

“ChooChoo!” exasperation, realizes I’m kidding. Giggles anyway. I tuck him in again.

A shadow suddenly looms across the doorway. It feels like one of those huge alien ships gradually blanketing the earth in ‘Independence Day’. The room is suddenly cold and I distinctly hear a wolf’s baleful howl… oooouuuuuh! I shiver. Seems like Halloween is a bit early.

The shadow belongs to the Persian woman who lives in my house. She looks cross at my keeping the kid past his bedtime.

I beat it quick. Phew!