Archives for posts with tag: Travel

The Domestic Arrangements South Of The Border

Haresh Shah

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I met Pepe Morales during a Playmate promotional jaunt in Acapulco. Our publishers have hired Pepe to cover the event – a young Mexican photographer and socialite of some renown . He seems to know everyone we run into and is greeted with the warmest abrazoz and pats on the back, while he bumbles around following the Playmates and documenting the weekend, with me taking additional photos whenever I am able to sneak some shots without neglecting my duties that of the Playboy executive on site.

Pepe and I hit it off right away. When back in Mexico City, we meet one evening for dinner. We have fat juicy steak dinners at Barbas Negras during which we drown three bottles of Los Reyes. Feeling absolutely no pain, Pepe asks:

‘What would you like to do now?’

‘I don’t know. This is your town. Maybe go cunt chasing?’

‘Why not? Let’s just get out of here and together we’ll paint the town red,’ he proclaims.

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Haresh Shah 

How Can You Not Fall In Love With Them?

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‘And now ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the home of one of the most colorful characters of our country: Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, the adventurer and the author of the Republic of Venice and the autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of  My Life), which is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century. But as many of you certainly know, he is mostly known as the great lover of women. Yes, the great lover and the great liar.’ We are on a gondola site seeing tour navigating through the narrow canals of Venice. On our right is a long curving three story flaming rust colored brick building with elaborate balconies protruding out of the walls and huge windows overlooking the the canals down below.

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Body And Soul Union

Haresh Shah

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Actually our destination this Sunday is Las Mañanitas, more in line with an all day weekend outing for Playboy executives to spend a leisurely afternoon in the lush gardens of one of the most beautiful hotels and restaurants in the world. Enjoy sumptuous Mexican delicacies washed down with Tequila Sunrises and Daiquiris. Only a short half an hour drive from Mexico City, the town of Cuernavaca is heralded the City of Eternal Spring by the geographer, naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, is a perfect escape from the dense clouds of pollution, swarms of crowds and the constant dint of noise of Mexico City. It is the pride and joy not only of the town of Cuernavaca, but of the entire country. We sit under the open sky and under the cooling shades of the trees and sip on our psychedelic tropical drinks. We are surrounded by  the tall royal birds among them the proud peacocks gracefully prancing up and down with their iridescent tails spread out into magnificent round throne like fans. Prancing along are other long necked beautiful birds swaying and strolling while jumping monkeys frolic up and down the tree branches. It feels like being in paradise, the garden of Eden as one would picture it. The only other time I would come upon such an exotic place would be several years later on my first visit to Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

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Haresh Shah

Of Pinot Noir And The Burlaping in Boonville

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The year is 1995 and talking of California wines to the Europeans is somewhat of a joke like the early transistor radios made in Japan were to everyone. Never mind that almost twenty years earlier on the day of America’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, the world’s wine experts were asked in a blind tasting to compare six California Cabernets and Chardonnays along with as many of Bordeaux and Burgundies and to everyone’s horror and American wine makers’  delight, California’s best stood shoulder to shoulder with the French on everyone’s scorecards, putting them instantly on the world map.

While the wine professionals of  Europe took a note of it, the wine consumers of the Continent remained oblivious to even their existence. Frustrated, California’s vintners decided, the time had come to make the world aware of the lush Napa Valley and its wines that were growing by leaps and bounds off the northern California Coast.

As a part of the broader push, California Wine Institute has invited the Dutch edition of Playboy to experience California’s wine country in all its glory, including its rapidly emerging cuisine and enjoy their steadily growing warm hospitality industry, in hopes that Playboy would take the message to its upscale demographics in Holland.

The editor-in-chief Jan Heemskerk himself takes upon the project and picks me to accompany him and assigns me to write a major piece for his edition. Not because by any dint of imagination I am a connoisseur or even an expert of wines, but because he thinks of me as someone who knows his wines, especially the ones from California.

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Haresh Shah

The Strike Italian Style

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I land in Milan for the very first time in November of 1972. This is my first week on the job. Having survived Munich and Essen, I spend a couple of days in Milan to meet up with Gerrit (Huig), Don Stewart and the people at Rizzoli – the Italian Playboy publishers – before returning to Chicago to wrap up my personal affairs. I have all of ten days to do what needs to be done, including several meetings in Chicago office and be ready for the moving van to pick up my possessions.

We have already landed at Linate. As we are about to deplane, we are told that we are to pick up our own checked-in baggage from the tarmac and carry it to the terminal. The ground crew is on strike, including the bus transfer from the plane to the terminal. I have with me my largest and the heaviest suitcase. They have not yet invented wheeled baggage. I somehow manage to drag it to the terminal, find a cab and check into the Grand Hotel. Dump my suitcase in my room and take another cab to the restaurant where Gerrit is waiting with his wife Barbara and Donald Stewart. Two days later, on Friday, I am at the airport waiting to board Amsterdam bound KLM flight which would connect me with its flight 611 to Chicago.

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Haresh Shah

Usurped By The Occupational Hazard

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Pascual at the Hotel Ritz reception in Barcelona hands me my room key, and along with it a few folded telexes and messages from my mail slot. I walk a few steps to the elevator and as the tiny old timer cage rises, I unroll the letter size message. It says HAPPAY BIRTHDAY HARESH. Repeated umpteen times inside a white Playboy rabbit head computer graphic on the grey background. The margins are annotated and signed by everyone in my department. As slow as the elevator is, it’s still a short ride up to the fourth floor. Something about that electronically transmitted birthday card on a flimsy fax paper triggers an enormous emotional and physical outburst into me. My hands are shaking as I slide open the folding metal door of the elevator. I rush to my room, barely manage to open the door. Slam it shut and I have a total breakdown. I throw my weight in the middle of  the bed, and sink into the hollow of the sagging old mattress. First I start sobbing uncontrollably.  Then my whole body begins to shake violently and I feel cold sweat oozing out of every pour of my skin. And then I feel hot, like a pre-heated oven, ready for baking. I pull the blanket over, try to control my convulsions and break out into wailing sobs and a desperate cry.

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Haresh Shah

In The Journey Of Life One Meets Only To Part

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When I first  notice her, she is standing next to me in the check-in line, fidgeting and shifting her weight from one foot to another. Her face looks pretty in profile. With Milan’s Linate International Airport fogged-in, we are bussed to their standby Malpensa, which is in a big mess as ever. Despite the throngs of crowds and the chaos that normally prevails, and amidst the multiple delays, things somehow work out at this remote airport.

I check in, go through the immigration and the security check and on to the other side of the security wing. Pick up some duty free booze, look around for a while and with the first call make it to the gate # 7. And there she is again. All wrapped up in her leopard skin coat and her knee-high black boots. Her pretty face floats in the air propelled by her swan like long and delicate neck. On the second call, we move closer towards the gate to get on the bus.

I notice her staring at me. I stare back. They have called the flight for the third time and the bus still isn’t anywhere in sight. Us just standing there, waiting, our eyes discreetly catching a fleeting gaze of the other.  I want to strike up a conversation, probably so does she. But we maintain our demeanor. The fourth call and the bus still hasn’t arrived. She looks at me and lets a slight smile cross her lips. I smile back.  Neither of us says anything. We continue to steal glances at each other every few moments.

A few more minutes have elapsed and the bus still hasn’t arrived. Everyone is getting antsy,  with the possible exception of us two. We are enjoying our little charade. I watch her fiddle with her pink boarding card. The lady is traveling in first class. She sort of looks rich all over, from her head to her toe. It is sweetly awkward just waiting and stealing glances at a stranger. She has moved sideways, bringing her a couple of steps closer to me. I want to move even closer and talk to her. But don’t know how to break the ice. The way we are taking each other in is discomforting.  And yet, there seems to be an unspoken insinuation between us that its alright.

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