Archives for category: Travel

Haresh Shah

All I Want To Do Is To Take A Beak

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As I roll off the QE II in my Buick from the port of  New York city, my plan is to drive cross-country with the destination of Santa Barbara, California. Or more precisely, Mark and Ann’s (Stevens) farm house in Goleta, some twelve miles north of downtown Santa Barbara and a stone’s throw away from the carefree Isla Vista off UCSB campus. Awaiting me is the culture and the people so unlike the America I have known so far. Three years earlier, just before Playboy offered me the job, I had planned a long vacation to explore the California Coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Instead, on the very day I was to fly west, I end up making a sharp hairpin turn to fly east over the Atlantic. I owe it to California to make up for my sudden turn.  But I am not in a hurry. And I am open to any other possibilities that may exist or arise.

Chicago awaits for me with its arms wide open. Lee (Hall) throws a staff lunch for me and am treated like a homecoming war hero. He has even arranged for me to meet with the Photography Director Gary Cole. Lee thinks very highly of me and feels I would make a good photo editor for Gary. Gary is congenial, but not so sure. He has probably agreed to speak with me more out of courtesy than to consider me for a position he didn’t have in the first place. As devastated as Lee is at having to let me go, this is his way of demonstrating that it wasn’t his decision or within his power to keep me.

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My First Taste Of The Feral Passion Of Soccer

Haresh Shah

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We are in Rio de Janeiro for Playboy International Publishing’s conference, being hosted by our Brazilian publishers, Editora Abril. Other then sweating all day long in the windowless conference room of Rio Sheraton, which is also where we are staying, this is also an opportunity for the local hosts to showcase their country and the culture. Introduce us to the best of everything Brazil and Rio have to offer. Combined with organized and free social outings, we get to eat in various restaurants about town. Among them, Chalet, Churrascaria Carreta, Hippopotamus. But time and time again we end up at the Sheraton’s in-house churrascaria for their cornucopia of grilled meat and fish.

You can’t be in a city like Rio and not hit some night spots. The one we are most impressed by is their world famous Samba House, Oba Oba.  Doused in the blinding flash and sparkle, the show mainly features the most beautiful, built-solid-like-a-brick-shit-house bronze skinned mulatas. An exotic mixture of the African and the Portuguese stocks. Young and pretty with their quivering tight bundas, doing Samba costumed in narrow strips of bling to the Afro drum rhythms is the sight to be in awe of and behold. The speed and the motion glaze their shiny skins with oily slipperiness. To watch the sweat dripping like the rain drops running down the smooth surface of ebony illuminated by swirling spots is spellbinding. And they certainly can dance and move their booties in a way that leave you breathless.

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The (Interim) End Of The Longest Cocktail Party

Haresh Shah

 

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The night before the sailing, I have checked  into Hotel du Louvre in Cherbourg, France, right across the street from Gare Maritime – the port from where I would sail away on board the celebrated Queen Elizabeth II. Am I excited? Nah! It’s been hard, having to leave Europe. I would have liked to stick around a little longer, but my residence permit is to expire tomorrow and just the idea of having to deal with the German bureaucracy is painful enough to dissuade me even to attempt an extension. Might as well, because I have accomplished writing an entire book containing of 455 A4 size typewritten pages. It still needs to be edited and revised, something best done after a certain time lapse. Geographical distance wouldn’t hurt either. As for my charmed life at Playboy, to be honest, I am not sure how much longer I would have been able to take it. As abruptly as it has ended, it did on the right note and at the right time before I burned myself out.

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A Postcard From London Carrot

Haresh Shah

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Keiko (Shirokawa) of Ray Falk’s office takes me out for what I thought to be the most expensive Chinese dinner. Apparently, what is French cuisine is to us in the West, in Japan, Chinese cuisine is considered a notch above any other kind – exquisite and exclusive.

After dinner, we stop at a cozy little whiskey bar. It reminds me of the Booze & Bits in Chicago, located right in the heart of the hubbub of Rush Street, invisibly tucked away behind an inverted L-shaped narrow passage north of Oak Street. Must have been a storage room turned into a nice little watering hole for the people in the know. A bunch of us at Time Inc. used to hang out there frequently and collectively we all had incredible crush on Sherry – the blonde bombshell of the bartender. No one could ever touch her, but she did well with her smiles, excellent service and bit of a coquetry thrown in.

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Scattered Gems Of Practical Wisdom

Haresh Shah

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The train pulls up at some unknown station. The peacefulness of the night turns into a little puppet show for those few minutes. The flickering dim gaslights illuminate the platforms, the guard blowing his whistle, the signal man running in front of the locomotive with his red and green flags, the tea and food vendors reciting their sales pitches, “chai garam babuji, chai garam, garam garam bhajia, khalo saab, aisi puri bhaji aage nahin milengi, pani, thanda pani. (hot tea, hot hot fried dumplings, have some, you won’t find them as delicious at the next stop, cooled water)The people getting off the train and running to the water fountains to fill up their water flasks with fresh drinking water, some sipping the piping hot delicious local chai in clay cups, some savoring the spicy puri bhaji. Sudden burst of activity, the train will pull away in a few minutes, the station would doze off once again. If there is another train arriving in an hour or so, they would just sit around puffing on their chillums, and the next puppet show would begin at the sight of another approaching express. It’s amazing to watch all those people moving around in such synchronized harmony, like in a well choreographed musical. Everyone has his own place, his own kind of product to sell, his own price, his own lyrical voice to recite and get his product to his consumer’s ears and eyes who only have seconds to make up their minds. Make a quick sale. And then once again, they disappear, they fall asleep. The train moves on.

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Or How To Raise Quick Cash

Haresh Shah

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I am between the bookends. My first year of living in Santa Barbara, California. Or more precisely in Goleta, twelve miles (17.2 km) north along the Pacific Coast off the UCSB campus. I am jobless and slumming, actually writing my novel The Lost Identity, and yet surviving with a certain style with four hundred some dollars a month I collect form the unemployment benefits. I kick in an extra hundred from my savings in order not having to struggle too much, almost half of the total goes towards the rent. I have rented a decent apartment because I like the feeling of space. It’s a spacious two bedroom apartment with an ample terrace outside the large glass sliding doors overlooking San Ynez mountain range. I am only a walking distance from the Pacific shore and the ocean front Enchanted Forest.

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Lost In The Labyrinth

Haresh Shah

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I am at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, temporarily delayed because of the cancellation of Alitalia to Frankfurt, which is where I was to connect with Lufthansa’s overnight Frankfurt-Johannesburg flight. They have re-routed me on British Airways to London and then connecting there to onward journey to South Africa. Suddenly I have a couple of hours to kill. I avail myself of the first class lounge, leave my belongings there and venture outside to check out the renovated expanse of the airport. As I am walking down the glass walled passage bridging two wings of the terminal, I hear a timid female voice trailing me.

‘Uncle, uncle. Please! Please!’

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