Monday, September 23, 2019

Food and love

Meandering back through the Valley last night after a hearty and nostalgia-inducing Portuguese dinner (it was a special occasion) we began to see, on various corners, street food stalls of the kind that used to delight us back in India. This being LA, we soon realized that they were all offering Mexican foods, but had the same plastic-table, tent-and-cooler-drinks vibe that we have been missing so sorely. The gods must have been smiling down at us- we were so earnest about finding the same corners next weekend for dinner- because there was one such fine establishment right on our own corner.
The good J was seized by the spirit of the thing. Never mind the 23,000 calories we had just consumed;"let's go get some tacos!" he declared. Astonishingly, we did just that.
Why is it so satisfying to sit on a plastic stool and eat good food from a stand that will disappear in a few hours? I don't know. I proudly ordered in Spanish. Other people slurped unabashedly at their food with that goofy look of the truly soused. *Several drinking establishments are within weaving distance.* A man with an Irish Wolfhound walked past, the dog enthusiastically curious about the food. Two yoga-slim oldies, hands full with heaping orders, leaned on the mailbox and chatted about some place from their heyday in the 1960s.
How very LA, and yet this has been missing, missing for so long. And at some point during the very delicious but tiny meal ("solamente dos tacos?" the good Paco kept prodding) we both said at the same time, "Bourdain would have loved this!"
And so it was that we finally, finally wound up watching him later at home. He was in his beloved Uruguay. To us, it felt like Sunday night again. And today I am happy, with a spring in my step. Bourdain is back!
How foolish we are sometimes. But the Valley feels complete now. And so do Sunday nights.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Back to the future

Sometimes, it pays to be a mad clown.
As demonstrated by Medvedev, Daniil during a nonsensical 5-hour battle with the apex predator of the tennis food chain, Rafael Nadal.
Asked how he produced such a level of play as to knock every pair of socks off in the stadium, he answered that he fueled up on the energy of the crowd. This crowd, admittedly, greeted him with scattered boos upon his entrance into the stadium itself; then, feeding off each other, the mad clown and the iffy audience each drove the other on to produce a US Open final match that nearly killed both parties.
The only one still standing at the end of it all, as usual, was the Rafa. Or rather, not standing at all but flopped on the hard court that many said is his unfavored surface, sobbing wildly into his ultraviolet-colored shirt. Then they started playing this frankly ludicrous montage of his 19- gasp -19 Grand Slam victories, and he sobbed some more.(He nearly put out an eye while trying to hold back the tears, though.) I was back on the couch at this point, having run away earlier when things took a drastic turn in the middle of the fourth. Pointlessly ironing clothes, rearranging the dishes and beating the carpet to an inch of its life, I stayed away for much of that set and the fifth. It was J, rooting rather robustly for Med, who called me out of the kitchen while I was sticking my head deep into the pantry in order to restack the cans of beans by color. Against any other opponent, I too would have been in J's camp: after all, to quote Rafa himself, "the way he played, the way he fighted, was a champion way."
Indeed. Ladies and gents, the future of men's tennis has arrived. Who woulda thunk that this lanky, erratic trickster would rise to such heights, head and shoulders above his much-heralded peers? With a  shape-shifting game, a cunning strategist's mind and the airy movements of a (somewhat unwieldy) bird, he has it all. Now if only he keeps up the endearing, goofy-jester act that he pulled out at his final speech, I can safely say that he will be one to root for post-Big 3. Involved in a spat two years ago with peer S. Tsitsipas in which he infamously told the Greek player to "shut your fuck up", he has a temper; but I still feel that it is a quick burn- the impetuous rage of a child- smoothed over subsequently by a dimpled smile and green pixie eyes that sparkle while admitting, "I was an idiot."
But enough about mad clowns and their green eyes. The hero in this piece, ultimately, somehow, is still Nadal. Covered in glory, deafened by the thousands chanting his name. I am frankly bored by all the chatter of his catching up to Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slams. Who cares?
While it is undeniable now that we have to look to a rapidly-approaching change of world order, I am rather firmly ensconced in the present for now.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

New York nights

Here we are, to quote the man himself. The Last One Standing, so to speak.
Djoko, who I correctly predicted would not win this thing this time, timed out with a shaky shoulder. His skinny little arms, powerful as they are, needed to be treated mid-match against Stan Wawrinka and shortly thereafter he ran away from the stadium so fast that the uncomprehending crowd booed him.
The Great Vampire had a rusty start to the whole tournament, but picked up considerably by round 3. He destroyed the unfortunate Dan Evans, which was why everyone was extra pumped as he came in to face Baby Fed otherwise known as G. Dimitrov in the 4th. Yet, as the commentators kept harping, Father Time waits for no one, and Fed's ancient back finally acted its age.
And here we are. Last night Rafa played the indefatigable Argentine Diego Schwartzman, whom I am now compelled to call the Amazing Diego. He simply refuses to give up, much like a bulldog hell-bent on an extra slice of cake, to misquote PG Wodehouse. Witness his slow mauling of one A. Zverev in the previous match. (Although at this point literally anyone has a chance against Zverev, and Diego is a superior talent.) And so he gnawed and scratched at Rafa until the latter was reduced to a snarling, error-prone and erratic version of himself. That first set was ghastly from Rafa, but equally luminous from Schwartz.

Here too the commentators made about a 100 references to Diego's height- 5 foot 7- until I got so annoyed that I muted them. Of course that meant depriving myself of the roars that accompanied the second set as Diego repeated his gnaw-and-scratch, sending Rafa into a thundering fury that ended with Rafa winning that set by just a small whisker. In the end, he prevailed. Big respect to Schwartz. He is higher on my list of favorites now.
And next? Italian bambino giant M. Berrettini. Vamos Rafa!
Incidentally the outfit this time is particularly fetching- in a shade I've grandly named 'electric violet', and a great offset to the frankly dull (Schwartz), outright hideous (Medvedev) and indifferent (Berrettini) fashions that the others are showing off.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Filmi Friday: Love per Square Foot

After the effervescent "Always be my Maybe", this flick (the first from Netflix India) proved to be another cute surprise. I am turning into my dear late dad-in-law, who when asked his opinion for any movie he had just watched, would answer with that boyish shrug, "It was cute!"

So then. The title here refers to the fact that in Bombay, it is possible to live your entire life literally underfoot of someone or other. Plaster from the upstairs neighbor rains on your head when they er...move. The bathroom is so small that a bucket would crowd you out. And so wonder then that our lead pair's most desperate wish, separately, is to move out. Get a new place, even if it measures 550 sq. ft., and thus begin a life by taking a breath and claiming a space in that teeming metropolis of 24 million souls.

Never mind that neither qualifies, income-wise, for a loan. Never mind that the apartment our boy has his eye on is under a special offer only for newly married couples: Naturally, after their initial meet-cute at a wedding both soon find themselves unencumbered. And thus they launch the somewhat hare-brained scheme of jointly purchasing a place under the false premise of being a married couple. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Next to Ex

Not to be harsh, but is Next Gen already Ex Gen?
Case in point: Coupe Rogers, Montreal 2019. A 33 year-old with suspect knees thrashes, nay, MAULS a bright star on the Young Tennis firmament in the final. (See: Nadal vs. Daniil Medvedev, 6-1, 6-0.) The most classic comment someone made on this score-line is below.
Nadal: Here, have a breadstick.
Medvedev: No! Bagel me, bagel me!
Nadal: Okay.
Moving along, we are in Cincinnati now, where:
  • Newly-turned-nineteen star Felix Auger-Auliassime is kicked out by one Kecmanovic.
  • Next, Dominic Thiem pulls out citing fatigue.
  • Stephanos Tsitsipas succumbs to J. Struff albeit in three sets.
  • Denis Shapovalov loses to Lucas Pouille.
  • Surprise, surprise, Alexander Zverev loses, this time to aforementioned Kecmanovic.
Daniil Medvedev, seemingly brushing aside his shellacking at the hands of R. Nadal less than a week ago, is the only one of the crop still going strong. (Should one count Frances Tiafoe as part of the promising bunch? I don't know.)
Then even Kei Nishikori has exited. (Hilariously enough, Nishikori lost to Nishioka. A good day for Japanese tennis, I say.) Wawrinka too, lost to Andrey Rublev.
All this losing is getting exhausting, guys. And leading to a very very strange phenomenon indeed. I am now rooting for - gasp- Nick Kyrgios. Yes, it has come down to this. Knowing that Djoko and Fed play tomorrow, Nearly Headless Nick is now the only one with a chance to bring any zing into these proceedings. (He plays big hitter Karen Khachanov. A popcorn match for sure.) But I will be happy for anyone to otherwise inject some new blood here- David Goffin? Alex de Minaur? Diego Schwartzman? Anyone? Anyone?
As to my somewhat pessimistic title of this post, what I mean is, by the time Next Gen gets around to winning a Grand Slam they will no longer be in the first flush of youth, thus falling short of all the promising futures augured for them. And the way they are going, they won't even get a single non-Grand Slam title in 2019 away from the Three Old Goats. Sigh.

Edited to add: Rooting for Kyrgios turned out not to be fun, at all, as expected. He is a man in trouble and it became increasingly more difficult to sit through the rantings and ravings. Someone get him mental health assistance!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Back of a Woman

A curious phenomenon, this. Long having been interested in book cover design, I noticed this pretty quickly. Rooting around on the trusty Librarything site for yet more recommendations, this is what popped up. Now admittedly the original recommendation is not something I am likely to read, but I still poke through all the ones that come up along with it.
14 of the 27 covers on this grid feature a woman's back, or a pair of women's backs. Most of them are tagged 'women' 'relationships' or even 'WWII'. (Of these I tried to read the first one and put it down after about 45 pages.)
Now I'm wondering if, in addition to my ill-tempered but disconcertingly accurate 'author name' judgment criteria (i.e. the name of the author instantly lets me know the book won't be to my liking) this will be another one.

But since the last two books I have picked up have been disappointing- one was like a wet sock and the other a hyperactive, jam-packed and hectic piece of cleverness- I might as well start judging books by their covers.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Tokyo Nights

Owing to a bout of travel-planning-related foolishness, J and I landed in Tokyo in the midst of a very torrid summer indeed.
Why foolish? Oh, heat, schmeat, declared J exuberantly, we must go to the Land of the Rising Sun, and what better occasion? (It was his birthday.) And yours truly, ever the sucker for a good sales pitch when delivered by a handsome boy, fell in enthusiastically.
Alas and alack, our dreams vanished in a haze of delirium-inducing temperatures. Mid-morning when we set out the first day, we were buoyed by a very excellent breakfast spread that included marvelous coffee and a picture of J that will go on to become a true classic. No wonder then that we were reluctant to admit, just a few minutes into the jaunt, the painfully obvious fact: an excruciating death was at hand, failing which, a gigantic embarrassment brought on by fainting in public like the couple of foreign fools that we were.
Tokyo, you see, is hell itself in late July. It wrings the very will to live with each step, never mind the marvels all around. And the good Japanese, bless their hearts, did not see fit to install benches anywhere in this wondrous city: so once out of the chilled environs of the hotel, one is cast, vulnerable and weak, into the wilds of a pitiless, dehydration-inducing urban jungle.
Sigh. Post-sunset, post-cold-shower, we would stagger out gingerly. And it was only then that some slight signs of life would return to our veins. The city slowly lit up with its famed neon horizons. Alleys with little eating places and elegant signs glowed yellow and white, ancient beside the vending machines. The locals, the very soul of courtesy and good behavior, swirled past in their orderly millions. And finally we felt that little spark that comes only in foreign lands: Look where we are, look at this place!
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