"How are you feeling?"
Dr. Pingot, squeezing the patient's wrist, counts the heartbeats. 110. Much faster than the 48 beats he had measured only minutes earlier. Since then the color had gone from the man's face, a moist sweat had broken out on his palms and forehead, and the antiseptic smells and florescent lights of the doctor's office had overpowered his senses as a swirling indistinguishable one-ness.
"Would you like a piece of candy?"
"Here, it's cassis flavored."
As the sugar melted in my mouth, I could feel the world putting itself back in order. The strange smells and colors of another continent were finding their way back into the guidebook. There had been no pain; in fact, there had been no real discomfort at all. But all the same, the thought of a needle usually brings on a shock reaction in me that most doctors find unsettling. Getting up, I thanked Dr. Pingot, and made an appointment, in two weeks, for my next shot. I could see him laughing to himself at the thought of it.
All of this for a trip to India. Mind you, none of the vaccinations I put myself through were required- only "recommended." But recommended by everybody. "You should get a shot for this and a shot for that..." "And don't drink water, or eat food, or breathe..." I feel like I should go out and buy a space suit.
The next preparatory step is my visa. Last Friday I made my way to the Indian Embassy in Paris for the customary three hour wait for a two minute transaction followed by an eight day delay. My passport is still in Paris but can be picked up next Monday with visa affixed. Three days later I will climb aboard Air France flight 134 from Paris to Bombay, or Mumbai, the new official appellation.
There I will join Alf, Annie, Chris, Cam and a host of other family members for my first tour of India; indeed my first time in the role of passenger on an Alfine Adventure. I'm seized by an unfamiliar sense of anxiety but there is nothing to worry about. Everything is taken care of. Everything is organized. Nothing will go rong. WAt can go arrrrye? does this mean;;fjwie[oio[
T-minus 5 days and counting.....
Dear Reader, though Mike and Annie will be carrying this weight for the next couple of weeks, neither of them has NEWNES or Glenway Wescott to whisper in their ears when the going gets slow.
Though NEWNES notes that a lot of big people died on this date (more than were born, incidentally), not many important things happened in years past on November 9th ... at least in those years earlier than 1944. Oh sure, the Kaiser abdicated back in 1918 and a year earlier Clemenceau was elected Premier of France. But, you have to go back to 1907 to find a really meaty event:
Scraping the pail, NEWNES hiccups weakly with:
It was also a dawdling day for saints:
Giovanna the shepherdess had a gift of healing children. When she was thirteen, she gave up her flock, established herself in a cave, and devoted all her time to her little patients. On Easter Monday in her town, children still ride to church on donkeys in her honour.
NEWNES, being all huffy and pretending that he knew this stuff all along:
Moving away from NEWNES' obsession with creative people, Wescott reminds us that just plain bad luck can easily twist one up in one of Alf's trivia bits. Ill-fated Andrew unquestionably was worthy of his halo after this dreadful mistake:
A lawyer in the ecclesiastical courts of Naples. Having had to tell a lie in court one day, he was so ashamed that he joined the Society of the Love of God, or Theatines, vowing to resist his own will and to make some progress in virtue every day.
His death was not martyrdom, but a mistake: he had a seizure of some sort while celebrating mass. His pulse stopped beating; the continued rosiness of his cheeks and the brightness of his eyes were regarded as miraculous manifestations rather than signs of life; no one knew any better than to bury him, probably still alive.
Prayers against sudden death are, very suitably, addressed to him.
Understandably, Italian grave robbers were probably the first ones to discover that Andrew hadn't quite made it the whole way to death before being slipped into his box. Whether these night workers were in the innocent business of supplying out-of-the-way churches with budget-priced relics or were merely interested in lopping off fingers to get at the rings…well, they probably were pleasantly surprised to find that Andrew's lid was well scratched on the downside surface. This could only mean, at least to these superstitious suppliers of church necessaries that this premature tenant had definitely made it back to life before being done in finally. That being the case, the remnants were a good find.
Closing that ... and turning toward today ...
In about 90 minutes Annie will get off the Seattle "red-eye." And a few hours from then we'll both take the early Air France flight from Miami to Paris ... and, from there to Bombay.
Sleek, fast, modern, smooth, clean, comfortable, convenient. All of these words can describe the TGV, France's high speed train that is making Europe a smaller place. The first leg of my journey begins with a 190 mph train ride: Beaune to Paris, normally four hours by car, takes only two hours. As the train pulls into the Gare de Lyon, the golden vineyards of Burgundy are already but a blurring memory. With bags packed and inoculations complete, my sights are set on India.
On this, my last pre-Voyage evening in Paris, I'll dine with friends at Del Papa, an Italian restaurant on the rue des Ternes. Over a simple but delicious penne al pomodoro, the itinerary of the Voyage is passed around, read and re-read; the pages transporting us on the wind of memory and imagination to Bombay, Udaipur, and Pushkar as Max and Marc-Michel relive the excitement of their own adventures there and I anticipate my own. "Think of me when you take the boat to the Lake Palace! It is the most beautiful hotel in the world!" And "... try to remember: 'rambramji' means hello in Rajastani, not Hindi mind you, so don't use it in Bombay, but you can use it in Rajastan." And "... be careful to drink only bottled water, eat no fruits ... you're going to love it!"
Modern mass transportation is hardly noticeable when it's working; and this is nowhere more true than in France. In the absence of strikes, holidays, breakdowns, bad weather, and security alerts, life is barely disturbed as various conveyances move you thousands of miles.
The weather outside being cold and windy, I spent a quiet day today, mostly indoors. Let's see... I got up, cleaned up, read in the Herald Tribune about a new computer virus that can infect your computer from unopened email, then most of Time which also focused on computers and cyberspace, before having a late breakfast of pain au chocolate with hot chocolate. Finally, I decided to go for a walk before answering a few emails. Afternoon and evening disappeared into a nap and a couple of videos.
At 11:30PM we landed in Mumbai.
Early Photos from India Now Available
Next: Mike's India journal ...
Also: Alf's non-journal ...