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We started from Urbana on a sultry weekend afternoon. I am unusually excited when I see corn fields. People don’t get it kind of excited. I like the uniformity and the green and light blue go so well together. But its different when you drive through corn fields for five hours straight.

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A stop at Columbus broke the monotony. An unexpected turn of events resulted in sleeping in the car and eating left over pizza for breakfast.

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We finally reached West Virginia next day in the morning. Also known as the ‘mountain state’, it was fun to drive across complete with ups and downs and blind turns. The trees got taller and greener before the Monongahela national forest.

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We stopped at a restaurant with a view of Seneca rocks and also got gas because it was inexpensive like most other things in this state. A detour to see the Spruce Knob area lead us to a small village where its a custom to waive to every passing car. People waved at us from their porches and from the sidewalks.

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West Virginia was raw and close to nature. The people were friendly. We continued on our way to the east and when we finally reached Richmond, Virginia at nightfall, we were thoroughly exhausted. And thirsty.

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The nearby Walmart was the only place open in the suburb where we were staying with the most hospitable hosts I have encountered. We rushed to an attendant in the store, looking for alcohol.

Me: Where can I find some beer?

Attendant: We don’t have any beer.

Me: What? No beer? What do you mean?

Attendant: We don’t sell beer after 12 in the night.

Me: Like in Walmart.. or ..

Attendant: No alcohol is sold in the state of Virginia after 12 in the night.

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He later elaborated on how all stores, gas stations, really everything you can think of, except restaurants which were all closed, wouldn’t have any alcohol at this hour. We later encountered places which sold no alcohol on Sundays, but this was a shock for starters. Its magnified when you are exhausted from driving for 10 hours straight and badly need a drink. But we had a relaxing few days ahead of us. To be continued.

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Like I have said before, I am an obsessive planner. But I have never planned for an eight day long trip covering 2000 miles. Unlike R, who finalizes everything before hand, even deciding which parking lots we are going to use, M is rather chilled out. To give you an idea, he is one of those people who decide what they want to eat and then get into the long line at the restaurant. If you don’t get the joke, congratulations you are not obsessive.

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my planning at work

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But the most fun we had on our road trip from Urbana to Washington DC and back last week was on the road and because of lack of planning. Everything panning out according to your plans is hardly fun. Besides, you have the rest of the month for that kind of stuff.

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Screenshot from 2013-07-07 13:04:29

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We went through big cities and small towns. Different accents and time zones. Architecture and road signs. One thing remained the same, the sun was roasting all the seven states and the capital with matching enthusiasm. The good old P supported us all through our journey.

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M at mile 8: Do you want to stop for a coffee soon?

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Our first stop was the forests in West Virginia. But that was after we cruise controlled through long straight patches of freeways in Indiana and Ohio. To be continued.

It was my first time being out of India. An IT professional I had met in Bangalore, on a direct flight to Paris assured me- France is a great place to visit for the first time out of the country.

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But I was totally unprepared for any kind of travel, let alone to a developed country with no ‘coolies’ and cabs I couldn’t afford. After a super cool (yet to see it matched anywhere) smooth connection from the airport to the small local railway station in Lozere, I landed on a bridge, with a long flight of stairs in front of me.

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lozere, paris

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No escalator in sight.

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Flowing skirt and high heeled shoes designed just to make things more difficult, I couldn’t even pick up my heavy suitcase. So I dragged it down the stairs, stopping it with my knee after every step. And before I could claim to have been tired, a handsome African man came to my rescue, picked up my suitcase and placed it at the end of the staircase. .

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When someone does that in India, they are usually planning to steal your stuff. So I hurried and followed him. And there it was, my suitcase, safe and sound. The man had left before I could even reach it. Lost in the crowd.

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I was almost taken aback by this kindness. It was new to me. I revived my mind for the French word for expressing gratitude, for the next time someone did something nice to me.

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I ended up using it a whole lot. Out of courtesy as well as genuineness.

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Have you ever lost an opportunity to thank someone? Have you ever wondered if they were aware of your gratitude?

Lately I have noticed that I am drinking alcohol more often than usual after coming to California. I think its all the waitresses’ fault who, when you go to a restaurant, ask

So what would you like to drink today?

Of course, I can just as easily say “water please”. Instead, I have to order some wine, much more often than not. So I have decided to abstain from alcohol for a whole month. Now, now, I don’t really have to do this. Its not like I am addicted to alcohol or anything.

Alcoholics Anonymous cartoons

Well, surprise! I am not a drunken bum, in spite of the name of my blog and my recent resolution.

So this is more than anything, to just see if I can do it, not drink for a month. I know this is going to make me hate myself, especially on the weekends and all the other days in the week.

I know there are resolutions of more serious nature requiring lot of willpower and having much far-reaching consequences which people undertake. But if you know me, you will know this is not going to be easy!

davis in march

Davis in March

Meanwhile, let me end with a picture, admiring nature. Something sober people do. I suppose I have a lot of that in store for me this month. And coffee.

We will discuss my coffee addiction some other time.

The Getty Villa in Malibu  is an elegant little place, overlooking the ocean and with a grand entrance. One can go there to see some beautiful Greek and Roman artifacts or amazing architecture modeled after a first-century Roman country house in Italy or to check out the papyrus plants among others. Let some pictures do the talking.

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Going to the museum was an interesting experience, even with my objectionably little knowledge of history and the Roman Empire. We saw so many beautiful things that people were capable of making thousand years ago. The Greek mythology and culture is evident from the sculptures of Satyr and head of Medusa and the numerous sarcophagi intricately carved with mythological stories.

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They have activity rooms for kids too. And an open air theater. Definitely worth a visit.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t keep up with the pace of social media. I slept through the shelf life of MySpace and resisted Facebook for a long time.

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I shrieked when YouTube asked me to ‘log in’. I simply can’t afford to let people know that I secretly like Justin Bieber. Doesn’t everybody?

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Today a friend asked me for a small favor. Would I please like this group (or bird flock or something) on Twitter? It would really improve the group’s visibility, she said. Unfortunately, I do not have a Twitter account.

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the real thing

the real thing

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I think we live in tricky times. Individual opinion is as important as common knowledge. But does the later restrict the dimensions in which the former can evolve?

The structure of social media seems to only widen the drift. It encourages the idea of forming a consensus and simplifying opinion. A like and a share is all it takes. Having an opinion couldn’t have been simpler.

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I think I am going to go ahead and create a Twitter account. I might just get a username I like owing to my rather uncommon name. I can also then manage to follow my friend’s group.

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Recently M announced that he is disgusted by Facebook. I meekly replied that it is rather alright. Certainly not worth so much thought and disgust. But really, this is what instigated my thoughts.

Don’t worry, my Facebook account is intact. Last week, I successfully overcame the Facebook Nanny. I disabled the extension within four hours.

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Meanwhile, I will continue to blog, trying to write more than emoticons and hash tags to explain myself, giving a reason behind a ‘like’. I blog for this reason.

P.S. I find nothing wrong with more means of expression. The more the merrier.

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Happy long weekend everyone! Hopefully none of you are reading this and have fun things to do. I on the other hand, am still here, in good old Goleta.

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The Proust questionnaire was filled by Marcel Proust and has since (or later sometime) become famous. I wont[1] blame you if you are more interested in his answers than mine. But if you do want to fill out the questionnaire for future reference, please do so before you read his answers (mine won’t hurt I think). Coz let me tell ya, they are good. He was also only thirteen then.

I am going to refrain from being smart alecky in my answers and be sincere instead. I am not sure if that is important for the questionnaire or if the questions even have any significance. After all, they seem to routinely appear in Vanity Fair.

I wonder what my thirty year old self will have to say about this.  The second part of the questionnaire, which can be found here, will appear on this blog seven years later if I am alive, to which I can almost hear my mom saying “StrawberryM, please don’t say such things !”

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les diablerets

in the company of clouds, les diablerets

So here goes..

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Not finding yourself worthy of love.

Where would you like to live?
A Paris filled with English speaking French people.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Bath bombs and wine

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
A pleasure-seeking short-sighted attitude

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Tuvok. It is a recent development.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Lokmanya Tilak

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
My mother

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Dagny Taggart. Although I read the book years ago.

Your favorite painter?
Cézanne.

Your favorite musician?
Beatles

The quality you most admire in a man?
Humility and honesty

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Strength and beauty

Your favorite virtue?
Optimism

Your favorite occupation?
Day dreaming

Who would you have liked to be?
An artist, a painter.

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[1] I have just found out that ‘wont’ is an English noun/verb which means ‘being used to’. But because of my low vocabulary and an apostrophe eating habit induced by instant messaging, I have been using it erroneously to mean ‘won’t’ for as long as I can remember. Embarrassing !