I was up at 7am. I slept some (there were dreams but I don't remember them). I wasn't up all night wired, as is usually the case on my first night of any trip. Outside the hotel, Delhi smelled like burning. But not that Mumbai smell that lingered on my clothes for weeks afterward.
At 7:45am I got on the metro. Single rides use plastic tokens, which I thought were primitive until I realized there's a chip in them and you swipe them at the turnstile. After a 20-minute trip to Chandna Chowk via Rajiv Chowk (Rs 16 each way, equivalent of 73 cents for a round trip), I was somewhere in the vicinity of the Red Fort, but my small map and the lack of street signs forced me to walk somewhat randomly until I sort of figured out which way to go. I arrived at the Red Fort at 8:30am. A tuk-tuk driver gave me unneeded help in getting in, and offered me a sightseeing ride later. I said it would depend on how long I spent in the fort.
Lahore Gate, the west (main) entrance to the Red Fort.
Just inside the gate.
Chatta Chowk, a bazaar between the gate and the fort proper.
Fort interior. There's a lot of open space and historical buildings. It's not really fort-looking.
I saw a white girl in a sari here. I can't tell if it comes off as embracing local culture or parodying it. Kind of like blackface.
Zafar Mahal. I assume this was filled with water long ago.
I don't remember what these are. I think the baths were in one building.
Right around here I started getting the urge to go somewhere less Indian next year. Meaning less complicated and hot. To borrow from The Rooster and the King (classic SNL short film on the Negro Leagues that I can't find online), when it's 110°F and everyone around you is speaking English, it doesn't seem so hot, but when they're all speaking Hindi...it's hot. I found it all the more laughable that a week ago in LA people were posting on Facebook about the heat when it was only 80°. Most of the US is hotter than LA in the summer. Philly's hotter from May to October I think. Get out of LA every now and then and you'll get a better understanding of the word "hot". Pussies. Also, I'm running out of places like India that are more suitable for independent single travellers. I need a travel partner for different types of places.
Hall of Public Audiences. The first of many I would see on this trip. There were a few white people walking around the fort and I was trying to guess if any of them were in my tour group. Right here I saw an independent-looking redhead who had a Gap air about her. I guessed well.
Delhi Gate at the south end. This was a couple minutes by foot from the rest of the complex and I was the only tourist down here.
Outside Delhi Gate. Back and to the left are barriers to entry. Only vehicles come through here...no tourists.
Up in the north part of the fort complex are some structures, some of which might be residences, and beyond them are Salimgarh Fort, which most tourists evidently don't visit. This is more fortlike. Past the entrance is a bridge over the railroad. Fort wall is visible in the distance.
Some Indian hero was imprisoned here. I forget what the sign said.
I was amused by these wee squirrels, and found out later that they're chipmunks. I'd never seen one in real life.
Inside the jail.
This pigeon stayed absolutely still when I entered the cell. Probably chose this nesting place based on the probability of a human never being here.
I could have died in one of these cells and no one would have found me for days. That's how remote this was.
I left the Red Fort at 10:30am and sure enough the tuk-tuk driver spotted me and expected me to follow through on that sightseeing ride. I said I no longer had time and needed to get to the hotel, avoiding eye contact with him of course. He followed me for a bit but gave up.
From 11:21am to 12:11pm I checked the Internet in a cafe near the hotel. (I jot down times to give you an idea of the pacing of the day, and I'm more exact with Internet cafes since they charge by time.) James Durbin was eliminated from Idol! Didn't see that coming. Maybe America is embracing Haley's fuck-you attitude toward the judges. She's soothing to the eyes.
Before the meeting I showered and found a blood blister on my foot, which had been causing discomfort since my Hong Kong sightseeing. I managed to lance it, and a perfect sphere of blood formed on the outside. When I turned on the shower I saw a tiny insect struggling to avoid being swept into the drain, and I'm pretty sure I saw a scorpion tail on it. So now in the shower I have to watch out for scorpions in addition to not swallowing any water and not dropping the soap, although with a single room I don't see how the latter applies, but better safe than sorry I guess.
We had our meeting at 2pm. Jane was already at the table and seemed relieved to meet a group member. The rest trickled in: Karen, Jamie, Lucy, Gabi (the only one other than me who was on the message board before the tour), Izaak, Abdulla, Megan (redhead from the Red Fort!) and Emma. A couple and two girls would be joining us later. Four Americans, 2 Aussies, 3 Canadians, 4 English and 1 Welsh. So the ratio is 9 girls to 5 guys, or 8 to 4 without the couple. Sweet. The ratio, age (18-34, and then me) and quality make up for several past trips. Tour leader is Varun, a tattooed and rat-tailed aspiring Bollywood actor. We got a hip one. He's been leading tours for 3 years, first with Intrepid and now with Gap. Seems like I had a few rookie tour leaders before, although they were all excellent, so that doesn't mean anything.
Jane had her own room and said there were two bottles of water in there. I had only one! So I took two more out of a box in the hall.
Later on we took the metro to Delhi Gate. Janie arrived at the hotel in time to join us. Along the way I informed Megan that she's starting off on my bad side because her last name is too close to that of my 7th & 8th grade music teacher Michelle Przybylowski, by far the cuntiest teacher I ever had. I informed Lucy of the same, for obvious reasons.
At the opposite end of the boulevard from Delhi Gate is Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President's house) flanked by government buildings. Right around here I purchased a Mountain Dew, which was my first nourishment in 24 hours. India appears to be a Pepsi-only country (this would later prove untrue).
Not to be confused with Gate of India in Hollywood, which is very very good.
Writing a movie is on my to-do list, but my notebook is full of sight gags and one-liners, and no real plot ideas (although that didn't stop Grown Ups from getting made). One vague idea in there involves some type of competition between friends, and one of the guys spends all his time building an Arc-de-Triomphe-type thing in anticipation of victory rather than actually working toward the goal.
Susanna Hoffs herself would be in awe of this.
I just remembered that Clem Alulis (who had a brief Acme stint) liked Eternal Flame.
I expect to see TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS at the bottom of this. (I made that Memorial Stadium reference in my Yugoslavia travelogue and asked people to identify it. None did.)
A local woman took our photo here. When she examined the photo immediately afterward she shook her head back and forth like Babu's brother when he says "too fruity". The book says it's a sign of agreement.
At Connaught Place we went to dinner at Zen (except for Karen and Megan, who were walking way ahead of us and we lost them). I had chili garlic noodle with chicken and ate almost all of a huge bowl of it on account of my 24-hour fast. And 2 640-mL Kingfishers. Seems like every country but the US has made 12-oz or 330-mL beers a distant memory. The whole group already knows I'm a comedian. I shouldn't have let this out. I think Gabi announced right away that I'd be doing standup at some point on the trip.
Izaak, Janie, Emma, Gabi, Jamie, me. I thought about cropping this and just showing Gabi's face full-size, but I'll be nice.
Back at the hotel we had more drinks. I had two Long Islands, and a sip of someone's strawberry daiquiri which was very good. There was some discussion about my status and friends from previous tours. Varun: "I'll find you a new friend." Nice of you to follow through! Or maybe you did, and I missed out on obvious hints. I do that a lot. Another Gap tour leader joined us for drinks. He thanked me for Osama bin Laden. I said it made Pakistan look bad, and though it's usually wise to avoid political discussions in other countries, he opened up with vitriol about Pakistan and how the raid exposed their hypocrisy.
I brought one roll of Charmin from home just in case, and I had to dip into it right away because there was only a little bit in my hotel room. Fortunately I never had to use it again.
Leaving at 5:15am tomorrow, so midnight bedtime.