Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freeing Willy

When you are out in cold weather for long there is a challenge that needs to be addressed. This is probably a design problem that is not solved yet.

When sleety wind stiffens your face the tips of your ears feel numb. They feel as if you can break them off like crackers to feed a carnivorous Polly. Given this circumstances you have to wear a lot of layers. I wore long johns, thermal vest that extended over the crotch, t-shirt, jeans, sweater, fleece and a windcheater. Now when you feel cold you also need to ‘drain your lizard’ as often as you can. And when it is cold your manhood is challenged and your willy shrinks.

Picture this. You run to the men’s room, find the urinal and frantically rummage through the layers to locate the diminishing appendage and ease yourself. This challenges motor coordination, accuracy, estimation of trajectory, performance in moments of stress and every possible skill that you have honed over the years to do a simple everyday task. Pee.

Mid West Mid Life

The room windows open out to the wrong side of downtown – open with a big sky. Small mounds of snow on terraces, a faraway belfry and the comfort of the room with outside temperature at 12 degrees below zero on the Celsius scale.

I was way too tired to keep awake in the United Airlines from Chicago to Minneapolis. I slept from Bangalore to Frankfurt and was unable to sleep on the spanking new A340-400 from Frankfurt to Chicago. I was pacing up and down, watched movies, read a book and was wondering about the dope that designed the toilets in that plane. (All the toilets are one flight of stairs down accessible through a narrow passage making it difficult for old people and parents with children to reach. What was Airbus thinking?)

Later I woke up for the landing at Minneapolis, had no mood to take the train and bought a shuttle ticket to the Hilton. The lobby was a typical Midwest overdone horror house of mirrors and the cat-threw-up marble. The rooms were good and I pass out. Woke up very early to see the brilliant view.

Breakfast at French Meadows – an organic breakfast bar little away from the downtown that serves Granola, yoghurt, organic farm eggs and good coffee. Pleased. I finished my morning meeting and met Brad at noon. Brad had been talking about this place called Bullwinkles and they serve the best Coney Island Hotdogs on this planet. And the place was a legacy, an institution that made people come back after years. A Coney Island Hotdog is a long sausage in warm fresh hot dog bun with Chili, hot sauce and onions. I loved it and washed it down with Bass Ale. We went straight into a meeting in a conference room at Pete’s office. This involved intense discussions. We were done late that evening and were due at Runyons.

Runyons is an old bar with dark woodwork, tall ceilings and walls full of framed pictures of the patrons wearing Runyons t-shirt all over the world. There were a few at the Taj, Agra. More Bass Ale and nuclear wings. We were supposed to meet Brad’s friend Jarvis there. Our parking time ran out. We went out to put some more coins into the parking meter and on our way back Jarvis is standing on the other side of the road. He locked his keys in the car with headlights on and the engine running. A small chaotic introduction, planning and Brad decides to wait at the car. Jarvis and I head out to his house to get the spare keys. Jarvis is a middle-aged friend of Brad who runs an energy management company in Minneapolis. In that short ride we talked about the similarities between Judaism and Hinduism. I already liked the man. Post reclaiming his car Jarvis takes us to The Yacht Club that is deep inland and has no indication of any water body around it. This is a seriously local bar with middle-aged regulars. A basic happy place with talkative dumpy bartender, lone neon sign on a white wall, a pinball machine at the far end, a pool table, wire mesh shutters on doors and plenty of bar stories. Very American and very warm.

One such story involved sumo wrestlers being invited to the bar by a regular and the whole place was filled with people wanting to see them perform. There was another guy called Big Frank – a massive native American who used to sit at a corner. Somebody decided that Big Frank would fight a sumo. There was an uncomfortable silence and somebody ordered a round for everybody. This made the air lighter and the tense mood slackened. Then there was party.

As I left Jarvis gave me a dollar bill and asked me to give that very bill to somebody who needs it back in India. I will carry that with me.

This was a good sample of a typical mid west local bar. I will remember this for long.