A Very Hindu Valentine (Business and Sickness)

While my wife’s guts and mine recover from our trip to India, I must leave those who follow this silly blog with quite a cute story regarding a completely different part of India’s business culture with which neither of us were aware.  My wife, Britt, and I went to India for two specific reasons.  She went for business, and I went to get sick.  I’ve already documented my sickness, so let’s go for some funny business.  Traditionally, in the United States, although many people ignore this, relationships within the place of employment are frowned upon by the Human Resource Department (usually ran by a robot) and cherished by those who love good gossip.  Generally, it’s just not a great idea.  This is what made India so interesting this time around.

Britt’s first day of working in Bangalore, India brought a few surprises.  With much disbelief, just prior to entering the 9th floor office, she was notified this office required a dress code since it was the most Holy of Commercialized Days:  Valentines Day!

I’m not joking AT ALL.  Following is the dress code for this work day.  These are only color dress codes representing ones love status:

Pink:  you are looking for love

Red:  you are in love

Yellow: you are looking for opposite sex friendship in the work place

Orange: It’s complicated

She had a quick response to the man chaperoning her to this new office:  “Seriously?”

“Oh yes, yes.”

Now, of course, my wife, not knowing about any of this, was wearing the loudest and prettiest pink blouse in the room, meaning she was definitely looking for love in all the wrong places.  They took this wildly seriously.  Showered with flowers, she was THEN (this is after flying 22 hours for a “serious” business trip) called upon to be the master, or mistress of ceremonies ending the day.  This required her to name all of the couples who had matched up on this day.  Additionally, some were dedicating love songs to their co-working matches made in India.  Ultimately, Britt informed me they didn’t do a lick of work.  Suspended in disbelief, she could only relate by thinking of those second grade Valentine’s days when your desk was littered with cards from secret idiots.  It was just too cute for her to be mad.  When we were youngsters at school on this day, parents would bring cookies, teachers and janitors would be pissed about the party atmosphere, and absolutely no work would get accomplished.  This was quite similar to what my wife witnessed on that day.

Returning to the hotel room two hours late, and after she had previously informed me, via e-mail, of this sacred dress code, I could only assume she had found someone new to love.  Fortunately, I was wrong.  She was merely forced to be the judge and jury of the office decoration campaign.  Someone was to be honored for how well they decorated their cubicle.  (I’m not shitting any of you)  I believe there were eighty cubicles to be judged.

It made my day in the hotel room feel much more simple and boring.  All I was required to do was crap and puke.  I’m no stranger to either.

By the way, she noticed I was accidentally wearing a red t-shirt on that day.  It was actually a crimson shirt representing Washington State University, meaning:

Just wait until next year.



What Day is This?

Roaming the streets of India can sometimes be a bit unnerving.  It can also be funny.  White guys become confused with the time and days in India.  We don’t know if it’s Hare Christmas, Easter, or Dinner Time….(that’s my favorite holiday).  I asked a wonderfully nice Hindu, “What day is this?”  Her response.  “Yesterday”.  I actually have this on film.  Who’s the idiot in this country?

Looking for my wife one day, I asked what street I was on.  The response was “yes”.  I felt compelled to ask another question.  “Where am I”?  Response:  “yes”.  They speak the English language, but they don’t hear the English language.  Neither do I.

I don’t blame them.

Stop Looking at Me (a trip to the zoo)

Walking through the streets of India, I believe the white man is recognized as someone going to the zoo.  It’s sad.  Everywhere we go, we wish to fit in.  I do enjoy experiencing anything new, but sometimes, you get that strange feeling you are not wanted.  You laugh too much.  Your hat and jeans make you look pretentious and borderline offensive, your hair is dirty blonde, you walk on the wrong side of the dirt, and you ask too many questions.  This is when you should know it’s time to leave the party.  At the zoo, I believe the animals appreciate your presence and affection for about five minutes, then wish you to leave.  Quite understandable.

In India, when anyone of our color shows up, we are initially a novelty item.  One of those trinkets you purchase for three dollars and seventy three cents, only to enjoy it for about ten minutes.  Then you get tired of it and send it to someone in another part of the planet so they can get tired of it too.  Nevertheless, it’s out of your sight and quietly out of your mind.

Colors, pictures, smells, sounds and sights resonate through our television and texting senses.  We forget touch.  That’s when it becomes scary.  If you see an animal on television, you think it’s cute.  When you touch one at the zoo,  sometimes, they get a bit agitated.  And, they should.  We are trespassing on their property.  We are invading their space.  It seems fun for about two hours, but you sense when it’s time to leave or retreat to the hotel.

Visiting a developing country is not always fun and games.  I look at people and smile.  Sometimes, they smile back, but other times they look at me with distain, wishing for me to leave.   That’s why I’m not the one going to the zoo.  Rather, I’m the one in the zoo.  The stares consume you.

Initially, I thought I was the one going to the zoo in India.  I was peering, taking pictures, using a camera in disbelief, ………..and then I noticed I wasn’t at the zoo, I was in the zoo.  I was the one maintaining the funny voice making them laugh at me.  I was the one wearing funny clothes making them chuckle.  I was the one they wanted to take a flight, back to where I belong.

It’s time to go home.


Remembering the Alley

For those of you who know me, I wrote something almost a year ago about an alley. For me, it provided meaning, substance, and an unworthy completion to this world.  Luckily, and happily, I’ve lived another year to see it again.

I can still see the alley, but not from my room.  I wish for it to remain in my thoughts and dreams.  My wife, Brittney, and I are staying at the same place I found my fortune in peace one year ago, and she told me to visit Cricket Alley once again. I wish my sister, Maggie, and my brother, Tom, and so many friends could visit.   They can’t.  I can’t.  Sometimes, you don’t wish for good sequels, because they don’t come true.  Rather, you dream about them, only to believe the second one is that much better.

Rocky Two was ok.  Jaws Two stunk.  India Jones, although entertaining, compared to the first, was The Temple of Doomed. I took a peek at our Alley today, and I knew it was meant for One sacred day. I left our alley alone.  There are no sequels in India.


Immortality in India

Three days of sickness in India makes one wish to be safe in a hospital anywhere but India.  We leap to conclusions while serving time in the bathroom.  “I’ll never eat again!!!  I’ll never drink again!!”  Typical eating and drinking hangover phrases. For those three days, I’d pretty much written my will, cashed in my chips and called those I love to say “goodbye”.  Today, I’ve never felt better and I’ve figured it out.  If you drink the India Cool Aid, you develop an understanding of the India Cool Aid.  Suffering for three days is much like penance.  “If you eat our food and survive for three days, you are allowed to stay for an additional thirteen days, and enjoy yourself because the worst is behind you.”

My brother, Steve, an immortal, taught me something about getting sick when fishing on the open sea.  It also applies to visiting India.  In India, you are always waiting to get sick.     If someone jumps on a boat, thinking they will be tossing their breakfast from here to there, well that’s what will happen.  With this mind set, you are, inevitably, going to get sick.  Steve, in the holiest of words once said, “Drink a bunch of beer, throw up while you’re catching a fish, and keep fishing, you pansy.  Your mind shouldn’t be worried about your stomach.  Your mind should be worried about other things like having a good time!  WOOOOOOO!”  I’m just quoting that from my brother, Steve’s, Bible.

After those three days of illness, I really have felt exceptionally better.  I’m having fun with my fellow Chennai brothers, eating anything I want, not wishing to die or provide a will and testament, and having a great time. Lessons sometimes follow pain.  Ultimately, with certain sacrifices, those lessons should remain fun.

In the name of the Father, Son, The Holy Sprit, and Steve…….Amen

A Guide for Traveling Simpletons (me)

Do you remember those educational films we watched in elementary school regarding etiquette in the classroom, cafeteria, playground, or bathroom?  Perhaps you’re not old enough to recall these, especially if you don’t know what a projector is.  These films were highly acclaimed short movies, including scripts displaying Steven Spielberg type quality. They made you want to be a well behaved boy or girl at Pastywood Elementary in any white picket fenced neighborhood throughout the country. Those films were both brilliant and quite entertaining.  Six, seven and eight year olds were held captive, I mean captivated by these dingy, gray screened masterpieces during the course of about one half of a delightful hour.  However, I’m a bit upset today with these productions, although maintaining profound reverence for them, because they never provided one for traveling abroad.  Here’s a script I will present for students all over the USA, hopefully enhancing their global travels.

(Only requiring narration from a man or woman, there is no dialogue from the actors, other than mouthing words)  In order to properly get a kick out of this, you must be 30 years of age or older and use the corny voices of the narrators..while using your imagination as to how stupid these actors were made to look…….here we go…….10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  ….projection scramble…..and action.

Look, there’s Ben and his wife Brittney packing for a long trip to India.  See the smiles on their faces.  They look healthy and happily married.

Once fully packed, Ben and Brittney sadly say their goodbyes to their dogs, Jack and Etta.  Oops, don’t forget cats, Jazz, Lola, and Grandpa Dennis.  (insert narrator chuckle) Doesn’t this seem like one big happy family?  Off to the Airport.

Before entering the airport, they take one last look to see if they have their passports, plenty of reading material for a 22 hour flight, and Brittney’s plastic flask containing only three ounces of liquid.  Be careful, if you take more than that, those squirrels of authority figures may confiscate it.

Uh oh, here comes the strip search.  Look at how well behaved Ben and Brittney are while being subjected to such ridiculous measures.  They take it in stride and are prepared for flying.

Ben and Brittney ate a hearty meal prior to taking the flight because, “ouch”, airplane food can sometimes be scary, kids……..almost as much as the flight.  They seem to be taking all the steps necessary for a fun and safe flight, minus the scary food.

Twenty hours into the flight and, “wow”, they’ve almost made it.  Brittney looks like she can see the finish line, but, “hmm”, Ben has a strange look in his eyes.  Looks like twenty hours is far too long for flying without food for Ben.  Take a good long look at Brittney’s gesture towards her husband while he suggests such nonsense. (overacting with a scowl and shake of her head) Seems to me, the wife may be the one with the most common sense in THIS family.

After finishing his inflight meal, by the look on Ben’s face, I’d say he made a poor decision, wouldn’t you, kids?

Uh oh, look at that. Considering those hand gestures, well it seems as though Ben’s recognizing just what a fool he’s been.  No, those looks from side to side are not just to peer at his pretty wife or stare at the foreign fellow sitting next to him.  Rather, Ben’s clearly looking for a restroom sign before the fasten your seatbelt sign comes on.  Ding.  Remember, safety first.

Exiting the plane, even with that grimace on his face, it looks like Ben will make it to the proper place of doing what all of us sometimes have to do.  Now, he just has to make it to the hotel.

Upon checking into the hotel, the happy couple doesn’t look as happy as before, do they?  Brittney seems agitated, almost as though she wants to pick a fight with her silly husband.  That wouldn’t be a good start to this trip, would it?  They have to be in India for 16 days.

Why is Ben clutching his stomach while walking to find their room?  That’s right, he has to go good potty.  Well, Ben sure must be a lucky traveler, because he makes it to the room without an accident.  However, his raising a fist in triumph is only bad Karma for what is to come of the next three days.

Whoa! Brittney should be polite and turn up the volume on that television set, because Ben’s heading off to the bathroom again.  As you will learn, sound travels well in a small hotel room.

Oh no, Ben is now washing his hands with tap water!  That’s a no no in India.  Now he looks as though brushing his teeth is a good idea.  Don’t grab your toothbrush, Ben, unless you use bottled water to rinse out your mouth.  Poor, uneducated Ben looks like he’s made another vital error.

Ben’s mouth opening and closing in a fetal position like a fish out of water are not those of one talking or singing.  Those are referred to as groans.  We’ll speak more of those noises when we next approach, “The Guide to Deep Sea Fishing”, subtitled, “Just because You’re Fishing, Doesn’t Mean You have to be Puking”.

Spending the next three days in bed, amongst one other more familiar place close by, should we feel sorry for Ben?  No, because he didn’t follow the simple rules of traveling abroad.

(Most of this is relatively true.)


Travel Fatigue

Staying in London, Britt and I have discovered one aspect conquering our journey to India.  London has terrific two ply toilet paper.  Other than this observation, sadly, without being a grinch or an Ebeneser Scrooge, our travel limit has reached its peak.

Yesterday, we spent the day in London, where I found the richness of the Lindsey Buckingham Palace far less rich than anything we observed in India.  Perhaps the sleep deprivation has skewed my attitude on everything.

Previously, I was going to name this blog, “Signs of Travel Fatigue: Divorce”.  Britt and I are now getting along quite nicely after I was a bit of an ass yesterday.  She is currently looking over my shoulder and asked me to kindly rephrase that last statement.  She thought, more appropriately, the statement should read, “I was a gigantic asshole”.

My dear sister, Mary, is notorious for meltdowns.  We all make fun of her for this.  It’s never a violent gun wielding rage, just a verbal tirade of her displeasure with society, and or family.  Unfortunately, I inherited some of Mary’s genes.   While not directing any of my anger toward Britt, I was merely unfulfilled with the transit system, the people and the food in the “Land of Royalty”.

Britt and I are still laughing and happily married, rejoicing the fact that we will be   returning home on Easter Sunday.  When arriving to our humble home, housing two dogs, two cats, a wonderful wife and one louse, it will be then, when I will be resurrected……just a little less than Christ.

India Reality

Britt and I have both witnessed and observed such a wide variety of culture in India that, sometimes, the heart gets dizzy and outweighs the brain.  This is our last day in Chennai, and we are headed for London.  Maggie, one of my sick, I mean six sisters, would be loving to see the Royal Wedding. I won’t. She will also appreciate, I think, and as a practicing and well respected nurse, the difference between witnessing and observing.

Witnessing and observing are wildly different concepts.  We witness children playing in dirt and feel sorry for them.  We observe the look beyond their eyes and know they are, for some unfathomable reason, happy.

Sadly,here, the adult males don’t take too handsomely to white intruders.   During this stay, I guess I always had children to protect me.  This morning, I was saying my last goodbyes, or high fives to my cricket friends, when they started yelling, “go go go!”  I had my wallet in my pocket and was taking one last picture of my friends when several men approached me with disdain in their eyes.  Fortunately, I am much better at running than cricket.

You witness people participating in sports, their work, everyday life, but you observe their behavior while looking into their eyes.  It’s the first time I’ve been scared in India.  Unfortunately, the adult males, even with smiles and howdy doo’s on their faces don’t care for the white man.  I observed it from the very beginning, and tried to sway their attitude, but it’s hard to do that to a billion people.

Many of the adult males didn’t appreciate my laughter and smiles.  I could understand that and even reserved it when walking the streets.  However, I couldn’t contain it when playing with those children.

All they could do was witness me.  If they looked beyond my eyes, they would stop and say, “okay, this is a mere idiot just having fun in a country he knows nothing about.  Let’s not steal from him or kill him.”

I’m not dead, just still learning,


India: Cricket Alley

While semi communicating in India via e-mail with my brother, Tom, he asked me if I had experienced anything here resembling the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”.  He was referring to the culture, not the television show representing nothing about this culture.  I couldn’t quite respond to Tom with a “yes” even after spending 7 days here.  Ironically, the very next day, Britt and I experienced something similar, yet this experience seemed far more powerful…..since it was reality.

Sarcasm and cynicism is in my blood.  For Gannons, it is sometimes our nourishment.   Without it, we tend to be far too emotional….sort of the “if I weren’t laughing, I’d be crying” scenario.  This is a ridiculous statement because we are all wildly fortunate.  Positively reinforcing this notion is witnessing the living standards here in India.

Within my writing and former blogs, I have commonly amused myself and others as well as offended some by making fun of India’s culture.   My simple writing is meant to entertain.  This particular blog is not meant to degrade any form of human existence, and it has no comedic significance.  Rather, it is an eye opening and closing, heartfelt, perhaps life changing recognition of how wonderful life is, whether you have everything or whether you have nothing.

After 7 days in Bangalore, Britt and I took a flight to Chennai, India, located on the Bay of Bengal.  In Bangalore, recognized as the garden spot of India, when mentioning our next destination of Chennai, people of Bangalore would cringe and say “very hot and stay in hotel”.  Considered one of the hottest and more poverty stricken cities in India, we knew, quite certainly, it may be a tremendously long 5 days.   Needless to say, our adventurous excitement level went from 1 to none.  However, with regard to the first day in Chennai, our expectations, most definitely for me, elevated from a level of none to love.

Flying from Bangalore to Chennai was a meager 40 minutes.  Passing through customs, security and rude humans required an additional three hours of anger, balanced with 4 hours of patience.  Britt and I handled it all beautifully (this will be another blog) and we arrived safely in Chennai.   My wife, Britt, seems to fear nothing when traveling abroad.  Therefore, I fear only some things: her life and mine.

Traveling an hour in a cab, suffering from pinching hot conditions, Britt located our hotel before the cab driver.  Always making me chuckle, my wife is capable of locating geological areas in a foreign country after being there for an hour before taxi drivers, living here for a thousand years, are able to do it in a thousand years.  I refer to it as her BPS. ( Brittney Positioning System )

As everyone knows, after traveling for 5 minutes or 5 days, it’s always a relief to check into the destination’s hotel.  Ours’ was no exception. It is fabulous, save for a few minor details:  North of the hotel is a slum.  West of the hotel is a slum.  South of the hotel is a slum.  And, East of the hotel, also a slum.  This became my paradise one sweltering evening.

Soon after checking into our hotel, I went to the window and, peering out of our third story room, I witnessed two scenes which most of us could only describe from a movie.  Changing my idiotic and offensive perspective on life as we think we know yet don’t know it, I removed the joking and the seemingly witty quips replacing them with silence.  For almost an hour, my observations occurring on this dirt ridden path enveloped me with interest and desired inclusion.

A boy, maybe 8 or 9, along with his sister, probably 6 or 7 were attempting to ride a bicycle for the first time without a father figure or brother to assist.  Britt looked at me and told me with her eyes I was not to interfere with what happens in this area, as told by security.

Six or Seven boys were participating in a Cricket game on the same dirt alley.  Rather than speaking to my wife with pleading eyes, I told her of the backyard wiffleball games Tom, Greg, Aaron, I and whomever wished to play in the neighborhood would participate in countless days when there wasn’t snow on the ground. This cricket scene reminded me of those fabulous days.  Britt still suggested, upon orders of  hotel monarchy, I should remain in the room.  Just then, I saw the young boy trying to ride a bike for the first time take a spill.  He was wearing pink pajamas, and his sister was laughing at him.  It was then when I told Britt, I was going to teach a boy how to ride a bike and show these cricket clowns how to throw a ball and swing a broken fence post.  (They don’t have the money to buy a bat or a real ball)

Getting past security was easy.  They simply said, “You’re on your own”.  Gaining the trust of the children was a little more difficult.  I requested they let me play, and they accepted, trying to hide their smiles.  The children gave me the wooden fence post and chuckled, knowing a cracker like me would embarrass myself.  I did not disappoint.  The India version of “chuck a ball at me” even a juiced up Barry Bonds couldn’t have hit.  I missed it by about five feet.  They laughed hysterically at my insufficiency with the fence post.  Keep in mind, I have only hit a ball zero times when it is supposed to skip off the ground before you take a hack at it.  This is cricket.  Requesting one more chance at making contact with the ball, the children relished the chance of, yet again, demoralizing this paleface from Spokane, Washington.  I hit the next pitch into outer space, or in their terms, beyond where we could retrieve it.  They cheered more for my success than they did for my failure.  That’s when I fell in love with them.

I decided not to try my luck any further with the lumber, but I played catch with them, pitched to them, and we communicated not with words but, rather, high fives, fist pumps, smiles and laughter.   After close to 15 years of teaching, that one hour of sweat, smiles and laughter ranks amongst the top.

Britt could see me playing with them, but she was a bit concerned with my safety.   I returned to the room to receive a lecture from Britt (she never gives me lectures) Instead, the first words out of her mouth were, “I love you”.  That’s when I knew I could convince her to meet these children and take this picture.   The only deal was that she wants to adopt the smiling cute child with the blue and white striped shirt in the front of the picture.  He was hilarious.

Some of the elderly ladies witnessed the fun we were having and wanted to show us their grandchildren.  They were all extremely sweet and adored Brittney’s blond hair.  It’s funny, we learn universal languages and some of the words are tainted with hatred.   All of us in this “slum” didn’t speak one word the other would know.  Yet, there was no poor sportsmanship of any kind.  They were simply pleased to play a game and return to their homes for a humble dinner.

Initially, amongst the laughter, concrete, dirt and fun, watching the children crawl through windows, 8 or 9 at a time, my heart sank.  The only time I have to crawl through a window is if I lock myself out of my own house.  Following this experience, my heart rejoiced hearing the boys and girls laugh while hopping through the windows of those dilapidated shelters waving Britt and me goodbye.

There’s nothing better than seeing a smile on a child’s face or hearing laughter from their belly.  Perhaps, they do have more than us.

I never taught the boy and his sister how to ride a bicycle.  However, they remained cheerleaders on the side dirt.  Speaking of teaching, I learned far more from all of them than they could possibly learn from me.

Disconnected in India

Gannon’s Blog, 2 thousand and something:

Decided to take a walk and get water and a sandwich.

Elevator was out of commission.

Chose to take the fire exit.

Alarm went off….not kidding.

Ran away from security who didn’t recognize me.

Happy ending:  Found water

This just gets better each day.

How are you?

(The power goes off 8 or 9 times a day here in India, therefore I am commonly disconnected from any network system . For those of you who are following this site, I am doing my best to keep it updated, but this hotel restricts me from certain days of usage)

Still alive,

Ben and Britt