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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Colors of White

The White Mountains beckoned me seductively as I greedily drank in the view. Fall. Trees ablaze with every shade of green, yellow and red. I didn't think I could take in so much color. Dan parked the car at the bottom of Mt. Pierce and started to change his shoes as I shrugged on my camera backpack and hooked my water bottle into the chest strap.
"These are the easiest of the mountains in the Presidential range," was what Dan had to offer as we started to cross the surface road to reach the hiking trail. One more step into the hiking trail and the world behind us faded completely away. All I could hear were the trees talking to each other.
The early morning frost bit into our faces as we moved further into the trail losing civilization behind us and strode deeper into the sunlit forest. The canopy above us littered with reds and golds of Fall was the most beautiful that I've seen at all.
I felt at peace. Periodically, we would pass others along the trail, some resting from the climb others racing along to move past us and head for the summit. Why, I wondered, couldn't people move slower, take time to watch the grass grow instead of racing headlong to the summit which was just another destination. It had been 9 A.M. when we had started up the trail and now, at 9.30, I started to feel warm enough to take my hat off my head and allow my sweat stained hair to dry off, not that I had enough but it was enough to feel the coolness. Below us, the rocks were cold to the touch as we stumbled occasionally and reached out to steady ourselves.
Dan strode on, feeling neither the cold nor the heat. He'd done this in winter and we were doing it on the perfect day. Occasionally, we stopped to take a breather or a photograph and while we panted, Dan exclaimed over the light and the color, snapping picture after picture in his usual extremely professional way.
Periodically, we'd come across little streams of run off which we would be careful to step across fearing the slip that would send us down, not in a fatal way but fatal to our hike itself. I didn't want the day to end.
I was pleasantly surprised by a pair of Canadian Jays that fluttered up close to us and sat there expectantly surveying us. Dan later said they were probably fed by people who hiked these mountains and were, therefore, fearless. One of them sat in the branches just out of my reach and fixed me with a beady eye as if to say, "so? Where's my birdseed? Or have you some bread crumbs instead".
We didn't have any, so they flew heavily off, perhaps to ambush the next group of hikers.
The forest floor was littered with the hues from the trees above with a leaf falling every minute, shaken by the wind or perhaps even by a staggering body holding on to the tree for support. Here and there red berries hung adding to the color in a green, gold and red existence.
Late morning saw us at the top of Mt. Pierce from where the bald dome of Mt. Eisenhower was clearly visible and behind it, Mt. Washington with the tell tale sign of smoke exiting the chugging Cog Railway that takes the scenic route for lazy travelers who want to take in the Fall scenery without the effort of the climb. Perhaps I shouldn't say that since the Cog Railway is perhaps one good way of seeing all of the Presidential range quickly and without losing sight of the wonder that Nature really is.
We decided to give Eisenhower a miss and press on in a different direcion. A short rest, brunch and a few minutes of looking around at Nature's bounty and we were off.
We stepped down briskly enough and were soon standing at the Mizpah Hut, the log and stone cabin which houses at least 60 people if they want to stay the night in fairly rustic quarters. There're bunk beds and, for entertainment, an old organ along with a little library. Food is served for those who wish to stay overnight and there's all sorts of information about the White Mountains available to say nothing of the wonderful people who live and work at the hut.
I met this very beautiful lady whose accent I couldn't place but whose eyes lit up and her soft, lilting voice sang paens of praise to the almighty mountains. She was delighted to talk about the trails, about the places she'd been and not once did she press anyone to buy anything. I could have stood there and listened to her all day long.
The supplies to the Mizpah hut have to be brought by foot. There are no roads to drive up to the hut and the huts remain open as long as the mountains are open which means that come winter and the huts are closed. Winters are not a good time to be out there anyway. Though there are a few, like Dan, who feel the need to challenge themselves, put on their snow shoes or crampons and tramp on into the wilderness.
We had to leave or be left behind so, on her advice, we went South to Mt. Jackson. We descended some very steep sections of the trail and then ascended some very steep sections. The easiest, Dan had said, and we didn't find them easy at all. And all the while Dan strode on, for all the world seeming as though he was walking on airport tarmac.
This was the steepest I'd done and I hadn't done any hiking in a long, long time. Pulling along to the summit, it really seemed as though I had left all reason behind, but the forest still beckoned. Families of grandparents, parents, kids, and grandkids climbed easily and went up laughing and wondering at the grandeur of the sight before them and we took our time, trailing behind, enraptured by the little flowers, the tiny leaves and the ice slabs in the water which hadn't melted despite the strong sunlight.
Mt. Jackson was spectacular, offering a full 360 degree view of the range around us. We could still see the smoke on the top of Mt. Washington, like some crusty old man was puffing angrily at his pipe while, no doubt, he awaited news of the war. Mt Pierce was there to the left, benign and sobering considering our first climb there. There in the far distance was the Mizpah hut. Had we really climbed that far? I was astonished. My binoculars were out and I examined the surroundings with them, drinking in the view and the quiet.
But we weren't reckoning with our host of the moment - Mt. Jackson. The climb down, begining with the first steps was to provide a precursor to the whole experience, something that I neglected to think about at that time.
Steep drops littered our path and the punishment was beginning to tell on us already. We had to press on. It was 2.30 P.M. and we wanted to get as much of the sunlight as we could so Dan could take us to some of the sights he knew would thrill us.
To cut the, now long story, short we dragged ourselves down to the road where we collapsed while Dan sauntered away "about three-tenths of a mile to where his car was parked so he could drive it down to pick us up. Muscles protesting every move, we launched ourselves into the car from where only a strong crowbar and, perhaps, dynamite might have evicted us till we reached our beds.
PS: I know I keep promising to post pictures but I need a little more time before I can. Perhaps I'll do it this weekend.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


She was beautiful. It was love at first sight but, sadly, not to last. Sam and I wandered up to her to strike up a conversation but I was struck dumb, grinning stupidly from ear to ear. She stood there all alone, in the afternoon sunshine, swaying gently, a priceless pearl among the aseptic vessels that dotted the Boston Harbor. She was The Liberty Clipper and I was just waiting to board her for a short jaunt in the harbor.

As we boarded her, I walked around on her deck while Sam went below, ostensibly to check out the facilities. I couldn't keep my hands off the ropes, the seats and her woodwork. Thick hawsers held her fast to the jetty but we were soon to be off.

A quick blast on the horn and a motor started up to take us out. We put about and all passengers helped launch her, of course, I pretended to, since I was desperately hauling away at the ropes which were being fed back to me by six others in front of me. As the last man, I was trying to coil them and making a bigger mess of it.

A quick snap told us the sail had caught the wind and was pulling the clipper away, not as fast as we would have her go but fast enough. The skipper kept asking for more wind and asking us to wish for more wind and I couldn't resist telling him to feed everyone bean burritos. I guess he thought I was some kind of a smart aleck. Come to think of it, I might have been a pain.

Then along came this very pretty young woman. Deborah Samson, one of the few women to fight alongside men against the British in the American war for independence. I won't tell you her real name but those who know her will definitely know who she is. It was her last trip aboard the Liberty Clipper and she enthralled us with her narrative of her role in the war.

As we circled the harbor, just staying inside the mouth and catching glimpses of other sail boats (The Roseway was making her stately way across the harbor), Deborah launched into the Boston Tea Party exhorting volunteers to help cast the "British Tea" overboard. Of course, no one was dressed for the part since hostile Indian costumes were in short supply, but she did get two volunteers one of whom obligingly threw the crate overboard.

In case you're concerned that the water has been permanently polluted by the tea, the crate had been carefully tied to the rail of the clipper to keep it coming along until it was pulled up. Talk about oversized tea bags.

What was most enjoyable about it all was the relative calm of the clipper, the light, cool breeze that sprang up as soon as we were off and kept us company till we finally stuttered into port.

That was one of her last trips in Boston for this summer. If you want the Liberty Clipper, she's off at Key West, Florida where she'll join her sister ship, the 80-foot all wood schooner that I would have loved to have sailed on.

Sigh! Triple sigh. But, then, as someone once said, all good things must come to an end.

PS: Pictures will be posted. But I'll take some time to upload the images.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This one's without a picture

I met him at the West Entrance of the North Station in Boston. He was ugly, lame and aggressive. But there was a certain charm in the way he fixed you with his beady eye, neither demanding nor requesting, but knowing that you will give him any scraps that you certainly don't need. His attitude was one that reflected absolute clarity about his position.
I called him Oswald. Why, I don't know. But the name seemed to suit his personality as he limped aobut among his brethren, avidly devouring anything that even remotely pretended to be edible.
Then, a thought struck me and you could knock me down with a feather.
What if Oswald was a female?
You see, I can't tell the difference between a male and female among pigeons.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

One miserable morning

It started off by being rather cold, not cold as cold goes in Boston, but cold enough to cause a mild fit of cursing. I set off, camera in hand to Boston's North End. The quest of course was the battleship - The USS Constitution. She was lying to where they had tied her up and was scrubbed to shine like a new penny. Naval personnel of all ranks were gathered in and around her, proudly saluting the flag that hung over her stern and then turning to salute the senior most officer on board that morning.

I stood there mulling that Old Ironsides was home. It must have been that way for a number of sailors who had, aboard her, swabbed the decks and fired off her cannon. The helm was shining. Somehow, squeaky clean wasn't the phrase that leapt to mind when I looked over the line of cannon. One youngster was on board in period costume, most probably a volunteer, she looked too young to be in the Navy but then again what do I know. Her face shone in her earnestness when you asked a question about the ship. She knew her history all right.
The ship's bell was another attraction. I longed to own it and knew enough to be aware of its price in the market. Authentic and definitely not the kind of silverware you're likely to have at your table.
Sadly, my time on board Old Ironsides wasn't enough for me to go below decks along with the tour but, I will, one of these weekends and you can certainly look out for more photographs and perhaps a better write up than this patchy piece of writing.
There is another side to my story of the miserable morning that I enjoyed in Boston but that must wait till I can get around to penning it down.

Like I always say, good couch potatoes know how the story is best kept a mystery till it's time. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back in Boston

I'm back in Boston after a hiatus of about two and a half months and enjoying the warm air, getting to sniff the flowers and watching the bees go about their business.
British Airways are wonderful. I must say that. Their service is excellent and efficient though they ask you a question and insist you answer yes or no. Like food for instance. But then again, you don't want to muck up the issue with these people. They're doing a job that would have me tearing what's left of my hair and diving out of the emergency exit at 30,000 feet. One of the stewardesses serving coach was scalded by tea that she was serving and all that I could make out was the wince on her face. Not a sound came out of her. "We've got thick skin," was all that she would say when I commisserated with her.
Security at Heathrow was good. I was under the impression that we'd have to put all our stuff, wallets, jackets, shoes, and all the contents of my little backpack into separate trays before I could pass through the bleeper doorway. They let me leave my camera in the bag but asked me to pull out my laptop. Shoes went into the tray though and I padded through the doorway in my socks. And other clothes.
Bleep! My cellphone caught their attention. It went through the scanner and I was through. That was it. The big burly security men with their guns were everywhere. But it felt secure rather than intimidating. The flight was uneventful. I slept through most of the way. Logan was inviting. Get to bed was the only question on my mind. I slept through the rest of the night as well. Us couch potatoes need our sleep.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Experiences tell...

The Happy Traveler is a blog that records the travels of a family all over the world. Nicely written personal experiences that help in understanding this huge, complex structure that we live in. She recounts experiences that range from the happy to the frustrating and the terrifying.
I read the latest post in which she narrated her family's harassment at the hands of unscrupulous people who deliberately put their lives at stake merely to extort money from those that they see as wealthy.
It was also very interesting to read the comments that were posted. However it isn't just in India that such incidents are known to happen. Unhappily, human nature is one that doesn't change with time-zones and geo-political boundaries. Haven't Americans in Britain been sold the London Bridge? Haven't the gullible in New York been sold the Brooklyn Bridge?
While we sit here and pontificate, isn't it also human greed that leads to such incidents? There must be an effective action for such a reaction. In the case of the Happy Traveler, I am reasonably sure that some wealthy person, on the way to the temple, may have flung a large sum of money at a very real victim. This would have led to an enterprise being created on the spot and the entire village full of people may have got together to scheme on a new means of livelihood. I can imagine that one of the village is elected to fulfil the duties of the victim each time. I cannot for even one moment think of anyone volunteering for the job. But, I digress, the greed of the village is what has led to this scheme of extortion. I can simmer in rage over such an incident but feel completely impotent in the knowledge that nothing can be done.
It's also heart-warming to note that there are good samaritans too, as an earlier post on the Happy Traveler recounts.
I'm now looking forward to reading Alaskan Adventures from Travelin' Tracy. As a couch potato it is imperative that I derive vicarious pleasure from those who take the trouble to travel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's been a while...

It seems to me that it's been a long, long time since I wrote my meaningless meanderings. Of course, there's no one looking but on the off chance that someone is, I keep putting in my two bits here.
Flying out of Boston and heading towards a rising sun over an erstwhile empire was hair-raising. That was because the plane I was supposed to be on "was hit by lightning a dozen times" or so the manager of the airlines said. Of course there was this collective gasp and in the middle of all the yelling voices, someone was heard to ask, was anyone hurt? That could have been a caring query or a hopeful statement. I like to think it was the former. Someone should have mentioned that scientifically, the so-called bolt of lightning is really several bolts of lightning so, in reality, it must have been one lightning strike that the plane suffered. Suffered it did, since we were told that the undercarriage had a hole in it, one that the technical expert dismissed as too insignificant to stop the plane. The manager thought otherwise and had the plane grounded till the next day.
Sure, one day late but the destination within reach was the philosophical shrug of the shoulders among many.
Flying into to Heathrow was beautiful. The golden dawn lit up the aircraft's wings and engines so beautifully that it could only be the work of the higher power to give us such a beautiful sight. Alas, what He gives, he also takes away and as the plane descended through the clouds we realized that there is such a thing as being unfair. London was under a thick cloud and the sun barely managed to get the light through.
Dawn gone but the dusk of America remains one of my most loved sights. Remember my last? The picture of the bridge over the freeway to New Jersey? This is another one I got out there. Nature was kind enough to help me with a thick cover along the way but left me a vista of blue mountains - the Adirondacks - looming in the distance. A thing of beauty, a joy for ever.
London was dull but that was because I was stuck in the terminal. I did meet up with a former marine who was going home to Indiana and a lovely woman who was going on to India to meet her husband. We wined and dined together, and exchanged little dos and don'ts of how to cope with things and then she slept all the way.

Monday, May 08, 2006

...Where I am...

I'm lazy. That's what's wrong with me. I'm so lazy that I'd rather sit back with my feet up and dream of all the things I could do than get out and do them.
I was pushed to travel and New Jersey it was. My boss was driving and I loved just sitting back getting snap happy with my camera stopping occasionally to look at the rolling Adirondacks and the sprawling countryside. Crossing little brooks and the large Hudson, I began to quieten down and just drink in the scenic sunset that had just begun putting out its golden wings as the sun sank lower and lower behind the trees.
There is something to be said about the shock and awe capabilities that Mother Nature has at her beck and call. She beckons and we respond with our inner animal, changing our human natures to respond in an animal sort of a way to quiet, intense silence that allows no thought of future, past or present to invade. Just the smell of flowers, the song of the bees and the hum of the tires on the road beneath.
Bruce Springsteen soul sang out on the car's audio system but it's magic too was worked over and chased out of my conscious hearing by the beauty of the world around me.
I reflected on absolutely nothing and heard almost nothing. Pausing the moment in the fast-forward world of business and pleasure -- this was bliss. I was just living the moment, travelling forward only physically and remaining abosultely still in a very zen manner.
That was when the bridge came to sight and I lost the zen. My stilled mind was filled with a furore that only in conjunction with the ubiquitous one could such a view of sheer magic be built. And then, the unthinkable happened.
I fell asleep.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The first...

This is my introduction. I prefer to stay safely tucked away in my couch, travelling vicariously and living a life of absolute abandon. Sure, it's unhealthy and I'm not defending it. In fact, I don't defend myself, usually.

Amateur photographer pretending to be great, writer of sorts, and philosopher in waiting, is how I could describe myself.

People who know me, and many don't, think I have a sense of humor and suggest that I could do with a little make-over. Me, if I've a sense of humor, I'm yet to find it. It's probably tucked away somewhere in some closet that I've forgotten.

I believe there's more to life than rushing about trying to make money and derive pleasure from painful escapedes like driving, golfing, running away to the seaside or a jungle resort, exercising....
This is not a satirical blog. I haven't even started. In fact, I don't even know where it will go from here. Go with the flow, I always say. The more you fight it, the more it will tire you.

I started this blog to put down my thoughts. Perhaps, one day they'll trash it all and say, "he was a great blogger. He wrote nonsense." If you think I'm cynical, you're probably right. If you think I'm not, you're probably right again. Besides, I haven't decided what kind of a personality I should take on and here I am rambling away like a rose without a thorn to its name.

Future posts, I promise will be more meaningful and I shall attempt to discuss various topics of general interest.