[VOID] Songs in an Eastern key...

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Mon, 05 Oct 1998 11:11:02 -0700

Somehow, Toi's manages to retain its charm for me in spite of so many
charmless VoIDposts datelined here. This may or may not be one of them...


As of Friday afternoon, it was official: I hadn't heard from Adam all month.
We haven't had a work discussion since IETF Chicago, nor even evidence of
sustained breathing after the Labor Day wedding. Not that the deadlines went
anywhere -- nothing too impossible to cover for, though. Just a week or two
of solid effort after wondering where the !&@&#$% he was.

My dad's point was the most likely: five years or no, eight years or no,
Marriage is a different state. All kinds of new decisions might be made by
the Rifkins, including a graduate-now ultimatum that would preclude any more
extracurricular research. I could understand, but it would help if he'd at
least tell me. Instead, radio silence.

Trying to get an RSVP for the housewarming party last weekend with Very
Special Guest, I even tried Michelle.Gardner@kp.org in some hope, since Adam
hadn't logged in since September 3rd, presumably deep into life-rethinking
mode. I got even more panicked that email address had been deleted from kp's
server. Took a week for the tweety-bird to chime in that, like, duh, it's
Rifkin now.

Not that I heard back.

So by Friday afternoon, I'm not in too stable shape. A profound part of
myself has been missing for *quite* a while. Mother, wife, boss, colleagues,
all silent as to his fate. Must have been something I said -- I don't think
an off-registry hand-knotted Kashmiri pink-roses bedspread could do that in
one stroke. And I needed him bad, for more than RDF. VSGs are difficult
things to integrate into the Geeking Life, you see. There was also the small
matter of munchkins-and-life-research-planning, which still affects us both.

If you knock one leg off a tripod, you have some major life adjustment to
face up to. I decided I needed some quite time at the Malibu temple to cool

Bad move: four and a half hours of traffic for 80 miles.

Partially because I stopped to take care of an errand in West Hollywood,
ducking in for six minutes for a six-dollar item and getting slapped with a
thirty-nine dollar parking ticket on a meter that said "8-6pm". There was a
sign twelve feet up saying *that particular spot* was closed from 3:30-6.

[I'm here at Toi's with an extremely tight, extremely bright orange spider
ring clipped to my glasses. I'll miss you, basmati-bag-annie :-]

But I eventually made it, just at dusk with the moon rising over the golden
tip of the shrine. The temple was founded fifteen-odd years ago when I lived
in Thousand Oaks, and has been a gravitational well ever since. Not too
often, though. I'm not into religious explanations of the world or
consequences or origins -- Hinduism means ethics and cultural traditions to
me. I remember going there the day Jan did himself in. About twice a year
otherwise, I'd say. But it looks right, smells right, sounds right, tastes
right. Some childhood memories stick with you no matter that none of the
legends or statues or chants do.

I found some peace, physically at least. Indo-cal showiness means the place
is deserted outside of festival hours. It's in Las Virgines canyon, right
past Mulholland -- a stunning setting flanked by the Santa Monica national

One of the things I've always told myself is that I'm strong in the face of
change and take new cities, new situations, new friends easily -- that I can
slough off an entire identity with little effort -- nay, enthusiasm. I
remember how much I convinced myself I was sick of A and *wanted* to move to
B. Ithaca to India (for a few months at 1 yr) and back and Knoxville and
Boulder City and Thousand Oaks and Timonium and Columbia and Pasadena and
Cambridge and Irvine, not to mention UNLV and Lancaster and Carlisle and
Harvard and Towson State in between. I didn't have any traumatic separation
from friends because I didn't make any. I made friends with the teachers and
librarians, like a good little suck-up & knew it would only be for a year
anyway. Got to know a lot of librarians.

Anyway, I was trying to reconstruct life in Thousand Oaks and came up pretty
blank. What the heck, how 'bout an archaeological dig? Let's see if getting
over Adam would be as easy as I feared...

I got off a few exits later on the 101 and tried to reconstruct where I
lived. First reference point: the mall. It was harder to find the Oaks than
I thought, though. Then down the facing street, past the hospital (aha! I
remember my mom cutting her hand once here... warmer). Then: Wildwood park.
Got it: it was Wildwood Elementary School, right... found the driveway, the
outdoor lunch tables where a few students a week volunteered to set up so
you could get out of class a few minutes early, the outbuildings where I
crushed both sides of the debate class, the space between fifth and sixth
grade where the handball courts were (though I skipped fifth in a month and
moved out of sixth soon after), the library, the bike path...

[Got into a long Powerbook/Photoshop demo lightening the "crappy" shadows on
a 35Mb shot of Shane by a hot tub with Robert, the house photogeek at Toi's.
Memo to Tim: he'd never, ever even take the shot without a fill and a silk

After wandering aimlessly around the subdivision in the dark for a while,
one of the street names finally clicked, and with it the address. All kinds
of trivia locked in the attic: 3327 Storm Cloud. There were three streets in
a row with an Indian family each, and that was our little circuit. The three
kids in those other households were older, though, so I was the only one in
elementary school. I pulled over to Rainbow Creek and saw the light on in
one, and rang the bell.

This isn't as implausible as it sounds -- our families have stayed in touch
-- but I've never visited an Indian family out of the blue like this. Good
timing, though, since I was invited in for dinner and found out their
daughter was getting engaged on Sunday! I'd heard she'd finished law school
after women's studies at UCSD, and she was to be betrothed to an orthopedic
surgeon-to-be from undergrad days.

So not only did we do a lot of catching up, I was ordered to be back on
Sunday :-)

Today, there were about 30-40 people there, a significant fraction of which
remembered my parents or had been told about them over the years in Thousand
Oaks lore, and got the usual round of oh-my-how-you've-growns. It was fun
chatting up his family and her 80's American friends (One word: Duran.
Repeat.) Usual polymathic interest in everyone else's work:
showed off by leveraging scant knowledge to counterprogram a middleware
developer, water quality chemist, mall marketing manager, public health,
solar cell engineer, and an investment banker. Cheap thrill, flooring people
who think the computer geek knows nothing about their line of work. Best of
all: met a boy who's in the same grades in Wildwood Elementary. Ms.
Obendorfer's still teaching, I hear. Spelling bees and science fairs and
tetherball and all the rest: we had a great time. Of course, even then,
there's no such thing as an straightforward sharing moment: it was painful
to remind myself that this well-adjusted eleven year old chatterbox
struggling to pronounce Juneau felt so like me... but that I entered high
school at twelve. Sigh.

I don't regret that for a second, mind you... but enthusiasm for skipping
grades and moving cities wasn't really negotiable in our little
self-contained family. I'm beginning to be suspicious I can't recall *any*

[So one of Annie's friends dropped by looking for her, an Oxy student. It
turns into a bar-length panel examination of her stalled sex life (two
waiters and us two customers). An old boyfriend managed to seriously destroy
her self-esteem in bed, and she currently has a life of meaningless
encounters. She's brilliant and very aware of the persecution he inflicted,
but is still living the consequences. Saddening, and very timely: by
comparison, my life is *nowhere* near fucked up! So we can add that to the
pile o' shame, too: getting worked up over problems of my own that don't
even merit anyone's attention.]

[Interesting ethical question: is *anyone*'s privacy being violated in the
above excerpt? I'm not sure... I *am* sure, now, that it's very difficult to
hit on someone once they've spilled their deepest hangups and willing
interest in a quick fuck...]

So anyway, after the engagement ceremony -- lots of gifts and foods and
blessings and bangles and colors and referees! -- I headed back to the
temple on my way to Universal to find tickets to Lata Mangeshkar. Lata has
recorded over 25,000 songs. Just turned 70 and has been recording for 56
years, number one every year or so -- heck, just won a 1998 MTV viewer's
choice award this year... anyway, a legendary voice. Of course, the rest of
the Mangeshkar clan is squeezed onto the bill, but it's still a stunning
package. The point is, this ended up as one of the most Indian days in a
very long time. Even a Hindi audiobook in the car all day long -- I haven't
spent that much time out of English in a year. An odd cultural shift, one
that would appear to an
observer to be a "crisis of faith".

Faith. hmm...


PS. As of now, I still haven't heard from A. Best guess, by way of
third-hand rumors: severe asthma attack, and I'm just being dropped from the
need-to-know list by the remaining Rifkins. Get well soon, Adam... we need
you back. (& if for no other reason than to graduate and move *out* of the
killer smog.