My first gig in India, a rave, and sweet goodbyes.

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Monday, March 6, 2006

My new guitar became permanently attached to me in the first day of ownership. So good to have music again after a couple of weeks without.
Down at the surf club again, after a long day in Arumbol, I entertained my friends with song. Maggie, the owner came over with her guitar, and we played a song or two together, the patrons tapping their feet and listening respectfully. When Maggie sings, you better listen, or she will give you a what for. She's a bit like the tough lady with the heart of gold--she barks loudly, but never really seems to bite, only a little nip here and there to make sure you keep in line.
After this I was invited to play on Friday night, when the surf club has a "party" with music and buffet food. Bars around Arumbol have parties on certain nights, so if one is observant, one can catch live music every night at one place or another. There is a sort of understanding that this night belongs to this bar, the next to another, and so on, so that no-one really steps on the others' toes.

Friday rolled around and I started the show at the Surf Club. I think I played pretty well, the people all seemed to enjoy it, starting a show is the toughest slot. There was not a large crowd there, about thirty, and that is kind of tough as well, it is always easier to play for a large crowd than a small one. My little guitar held up like a champ, it's internal pickup sounded good when EQ'ed properly for the room. Sweated a lot, almost forgot how much work it is to perform. .
After I finished I loaned my guitar to the cause, there were a couple of women singers next. The first one, a russian girl with a pretty folksy voice played two of her own songs (quite nice) and then launched into some familiar chords. . .Oh, no, I thought to myself, she's not playing that! Sure enough, when the vocal started, I knew the worst had happened, she had played #3 on the "forbidden songs" list. . ."Bobby McGee. . " Yuck. That ruined 7 good years of avoidance of that overplayed marvel. . . I joked with Turtle about the 7 years and the list, and mentioned that if she played "Ripple" another 5 years would go down the toilet. The next song was "Helplessly Hoping" number 63. OK, I'll accept that, but two more songs down the line there it was: The unmistakable Dreadful Grate of "Ripple" Both Turtle and I would have fallen on the floor laughing, had we not already been sitting on the floor in our cushioned corner. . .

I thought this was a good cue to go and talk at one of the outside tables with Heath, an energetic American fellow from Colorado with a fondness for the huge fireworks they seem to sell everywhere in India, and of which he would blast off at least five every night. . I told him about the "list of forbidden songs," number one of course, being Stairway to Heaven, closely followed in second place by Freebird. His beautiful russian girlfriend and her friend sort of laughed along, though how much they got I do not know, as their English was not so strong.
We were joined by three Nepalese, who had almost no english at all, and when Heath got up to get a couple of more beers, we were sitting smoking Indian cigarettes together and struggling to communicate.
It is funny how well one can learn to crack jokes using only sign language. I have found out that the Indian cigarettes burn so quickly, one can light it, take a puff, and look away for a second, only to have one's hand involuntarily flinch in pain as the cigarette burns the fingertips. They may not burn quite that fast, but it is damn close. They come ten to a pack for the Red and White brand, which everyone seems to smoke, and you can just stack a pile of ten packs on the table in front of you and watch your tower shrink bit by bit over the course of the night until there are no packs there ( this takes two hours or so). Anyway, using sign language I related this to the Nepalese, who were quite literally rolling off their chairs laughing. Of course, whether they understood or not was beside the point, they found something I did funny.
After hearing # 8, # 43, and #67, the party died down and we all headed off to bed, fingertips blistered and a litter of Red and White packs on our table, stacked like a monument to nicotine addiction.

Saturday morning at about 5 am, I awoke. Rumbling. . "Here it comes.. Oh, shit!" I thought, and that's exactly what it was. Gonesh's revenge had finally hit me. After an extended squat on my crossover toilet, with twice my body mass exploding out of my backside, I went back and slept for a couple of more hours. .about 7 am came another wave, then 8, 9, and pretty much on the hour every hour after that. Knowing enough to keep myself hydrated, I must have put away two gallons that morning, and when Turtle came knocking at about 12:30 I was finally feeling as though I had been through the worst and was almost fully evacuated.
Though I was feeling a little drained and woozy, my stomach was grumbling for food, and since I had no fever, I thought maybe this was just a "passing" episode.
{If one ever has diarrhea with fever, this is indicative of a more serious immune reaction, so one should treat the fever, and if it does not subside within 24 hours or so, immediately seek medical help or take antibiotics. . }
Anyway, it was time for food, so gathering up my things for the day and twisting like a contortionist to make sure that I had most of the trouble taken care of, we went and had a nice lunch at the Ave Maria. . Vegetable paneer and Chapati. . After an initial uncertainty, my stomach accepted what I gave it, and I began to feel better.
Wo wtih half the day wasted already, it was back for a quick nap and down to the Rice Bowl later to play pool with Mick, another acquaintance from the UK, and James, another of same. Mick and his wife Sue have been coming here for over 7 years, and know the territory well. James is on his first time, but has travelled extensively elswhere. All in all, delightful company, and we get most of each others' jokes. .
While at the Rice bowl, someone came by handing out flyers for a party outside of town in the bush. A famous Goan Rave! There is one of these almost every night during the high season, and Goa even has it's own type of trance "music" aptly called Goan Trance.
Still feeling a bit tired, I had my misgivings about staying up all night, but when midnight rolled around and the Rice Bowl staff wanted to go to bed, Turtle and I started the 5k walk to the rave. I heard myself utter some familiar words: "I don't want to stay long, I want to take it easy and get some sleep tonight. . . "
Finally after many barking dogs, a couple of stray taxis, and much puzzlement over the map on the flyer, we reached the top of a hill that had cars parked there. As we grew closer, the map was no longer necessary, we just followed the Thump Thump Thump of the music. "200 each," said the two young men at the door. Apparently they had spent quite a bit to bribe the police, who generally close down parties that don't kick back a little to the bobs.
Turtle, already well-seasoned in the ways of haggling, got them down to 100 each, so we paid up and began down a steep trail, dusty and rocky and lit by candles. I had only had a few over the course of many hours, and so negotiated the trail easily, but it was not quite so for poor Turtle, who had quite a nasty fall on the way down, getting a little scraped up and putting a nasty bruise on his arse, which still plaguing him when he left for the train on monday. .
Getting to the rave there were blacklights, a makeshift bar, and gigantic speakers pumping out the Goan Trance. A little faster than other forms of techno I have heard, and a bit psychedelic as well. At least interesting and listenable for someone for whom it in not their bag, if falling short of making me want to dance.
We found a place to sit on some bamboo mats, mostly Indians were there, a couple of westerners jumping to the beat in the center of the sound. On the mats was a sort of makeshift tea kitchen, with a matronly looking Rani running the chai operation. We had some Chai, then Turtle went off to get a couple of beers, and came back with not only that, but a bottle of Old Monk, the local version of spiced rum, and highly drinkable. Knowing that in his present state someone would have to remain relatively sober, I declined, having a taste, but sticking to water and some beer.
We got into a conversation with a couple of nice Indians, two young men with good English, one of whom worked tele-service, a coveted job here, outsourced from America.
It was from one of them I learned the story of Gonesh, and the Elephant head he was affixed with, as all of the human heads were on back order in Mumbai, and were not expected for another week or so. .
James showed up later with a couple of the rare Americans, and jokes and laughter were the modus operandi of the night after that. I will not say that I did not shake a leg a little bit as the supplies became sorted. .
Once, when I went to the bar to get a beer, I was paying, and as the fellow took handed me my change, another alarmed-looking Indian ran up, said a few frantic words, and the cashier reached into the box, grabbed the money and ran. . As I was relating this story to my friends back at the mats, the music suddenly stopped. This could only mean one of two things: either someone had tripped over the extension cord, (this happens frequently, sometimes putting whole towns in the dark) or the police had come. Or possibly the police had come and one of them had tripped over the cord. .
After watching bright headlights shine out from far above on the hilltop, and much commotion among our Indian hosts, finally the music came back on. All was well, the bribe had worked.
Perhaps the police commander had chastised his men: "Three thousand rupees?!?! Haven't I taught you bumblers better than that?! Go back and get two thousand more!! My wife needs a new blender!!" In any case, we were safe, and began to enjoy ourselves again.
We finally started to leave around 4 am, with an Aussie who's name for the life of me I can't remember.
We walked a little way towards town, and the Aussie somehow remembered that he had a scooter back in the parking lot, and so went back to get it. Pulling up on his tiny scooter, we followed an old Indian tradition, Three on a Scooter. Our driver, the Aussie, was in good shape, as he did not drink, and I had been taking it pretty easy, so no problems there. Turtle, on the other hand, had nearly polished off the whole fifth of Old Monk, so we decided to put him in the middle where I could hold him up if he began to lean too much. This arrangement turned out best, as with Turtle whooping, holding his arms wide with a king's in one hand and the Old Monk in the other, even 10 km/hr seemed like 100. . .
Miraculously we made it back to the Villa Elena, and upon entry to our little "courtyard" we ran into my mysterious neighbor Joy, whom I had seen kept odd hours, and twitched a lot. Turns out the Aussie knew him from Bangladesh, and so we all sat on the railing of his front porch and smoked, talking until almost sunrise. That is, all except our old friend Turtle, who fell asleep on the concrete and would not be roused.
I awoke fairly early and had a nice relaxing day, ending up back at the surf club for dinner with Phil, Maggie, Theresa and Ray at the big table. They said they saw Turtle hobbling about with a bamboo cane, hunched and squinting, and generally looking like the name of the rum he had drank--Old Monk. After a bit, the Old Monk himself came in and sat with us, and to the chuckling of all declined a beer, saying he would never drink again. . It takes many mornings waking up saying that before it finally sticks.
I stayed up until about midnight talking with my friends, the three of whom would be taking the train to Jaipur for the festival in the morning.
After breakfast and a good and sweet goodbye, they put their packs on and off they went, Theresa giving everyone a kiss and a warm hug. Perhaps we shall meet again. Stranger things have happened. . . .
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