Morning on Market Street - painting by Mike Hill

Crisp, looming chill arrived at the scene,
riding on autumn wind that came bristling in,
hugging sun-drenched walls of a bustling city
buried in busy humdrum of the workaday din.

Oblivious to falling leaves of road-side trees,
emerging from their edifice of ambitious schemes,
indoctrinated workaholics hustled through avenues,
chasing castles in air for amelioration of dreams.

Engaging masses traded with eagerly dealing vendors,
ambling through the market, amused by the street clown,
with wheels of city commerce spinning as planned
– a center of social labyrinth is this downtown.

Tugging into their rag-tag coats and scuffed shoes,
are loitering street bums in nooks and corners,
bracing for a painful winter, craving for joints and smokes,
begging for a buck or two from sight-seeing foreigners.

Raging locomotives clamored along congestive roads,
with tripped up commuters trapped in self-made riddles,
as touring day-trippers gazed at marvels of mankind
– conquerors of wild, architects of these concrete jungles.

In an aimless journey with destination unknown,
arrived a lonely traveler by flippancy of fortune,
– allowed to be on his own, left to survive all alone,
he found a haven in a teeming maze, living in isolation.

Buried in this amalgamation of hopes and miseries,
are the audacious few, laughing at those anxious and agitated,
living in fleeting joy-rides on wheels of instinct,
mocking at the upright uptight with tribulations inflated.

On an autumn day ushering season’s changes,
dreams and despairs converged to display,
in a specious sense of power and intellect,
social nexus of species, its civilization in play.



Beck Hansen had immediate success with his debut, Mellow Gold, when he sang his way into the hearts of the 90s slackers and college loafers all over, with his folksy hip-hop hit “I am loser Baby, so, why don’t you kill me?“, which still remains his biggest hit to-date. But what was more impressive was how he backed it up with Odelay, the album that revealed to the world that behind his penchant for experimental fusion of musical styles, the chords he strums seem to connect the right dots through all the genres.  It also killed any remote notion that existed at that time that he was a one hit wonder, proving once and for all that behind that anti-folk slacker drawl and beyond the deception of someone throwing everything but the kitchen sink at his music, there is a sophisticated artistry to his work.  Odelay proved that Beck was the real deal.

Devil's Haircut

Devil’s Haircut, a single from Odelay, is not only a catchy tune, but also for my taste, one of the coolest videos made, thanks to Mark Romanek, the acclaimed music video director of K D Lang’s “Constant Craving“, Michael Jackson’s “Scream” and Johnny Cash’s “Hurt“, to name a few of his many winners. The music itself is an ecclectic blend of delightfully weird lyrics(“a really simplistic metaphor for the evil of vanity” according to Beck), and a terrific mix of guitar riffs with drum beats and breaks in the midst of well placed background cacophony. You would have to try really hard not to enjoy this video.

Outside of my insatiable attraction to mountains, one of my life long dreams is to hike the Grand Canyon. For years, I looked at the pictures of Grand Canyon and imagined what it would be like to experience that landscape through a regular day hike or with overnight backpacking. My desire for the Canyon hike was so strong that I didn’t want to ruin the excitement by merely visiting the rim without hiking. So in spite of being in the vicinity of one of the natural wonders of the world a few time before, I decided to not do the standard rim tour.

This summer, specifically two weeks ago, I ventured on a long road trip out west, a road trip that would require me to drive about 5000 miles in a week. My initial plan was to check out the Rockies, settle in around the Estes Park area and hike the mountain trails for the entire week, but it didn’t make sense for me to drive all the way to Colorado from the midwest and not get a good feel for for Colorado plateau province, the Four Corners unique landscape in the South Western United States made up of elevated deserts and forests along the southwestern corner of Colorado, northwestern corner of New Mexico, northeastern corner of Arizona and southeastern corner of Utah. So, I decided to sacrifice my hiking plans and charted out this loop from Denver limited to a drive-through site-seeing through the Rockies, Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon with a stop in Vegas before returning back to Denver.

Road Trip through the Colorado Plateau Province (Rockies :: Arches :: Grand Canyon :: Vegas :: Rockies). Click on the pic for a HD view

Draining water through out the plateau is one major source, the mighty Colorado river, which starts with snow melting from the Rocky Mountain peaks and flows southwest through the plateau, eventually merging with the Pacific Ocean in the California gulf. The overlay above is a hack job and a rough approximation, but close enough for this journal. I couldn’t find an overlay of rivers in Google maps to provide a cleaner view, but it should suffice for the purposes of this blog.

Day 1: To Denver

I arrived in Denver after a lengthy and boring drive through the cornfields in the midwestern plains of Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska, but what lay ahead was well worth the full day driving marathon that took me there. Driving through Western Nebraska along the green prairies of North Platte leading up to the Colorado foothills was my first look at a barren green landscapes with grass and shrubs and no trees anywhere for as far as the eye could see, different from the fertile irrigable farmlands dotted with tall trees I had been over-exposed to for the past 24 hours. These North American prairies are a result of Rocky Mountain rain shadow, a dry area created due to blockage of the rain producing weather systems by the mountains causing only dry air to advance in, resulting in an ecosystem that kills any trees.

Day 2: Rocky Mountain National Park

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
– America the Beautiful, by Katharine Lee Bates.

It is a beautiful day in Colorado. I have no idea why anyone would live anywhere else? I visit other places, and every now and then I meet a few people who actually claim that they live there by choice. Can you believe? By choice! I don’t know why but I an not going to waste my time attempting to rationalize insanity…“, boasted a local talk show jockey on the Colorado air waves as he started off his daily show. Tuned in to the channel while driving through the rocky mountain terrain, I stared at the spectacle that unfolded in front of me and and couldn’t agree more. The alpine-sloped hills with sharp-edged rocks and snow-capped summits glittering in the bright summer sunlight left me giddy with excitement. The purple mountain majesties that inspired Bates to pen America the Beautiful is evident in all its glory. As I got closer, I slowed down for the a stream of cyclists riding in front of me while a horde of runners cut right across the road at the stop sign and started heading for the hills directly, along some narrow running trails by the hill side. Why wouldn’t everyone want to live here?

On the way to the Rocky Mountain National Park (Click on the pic for a HD view)

I entered the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, about an hour away from Denver, and took the Trail Ridge Road, which is a stretch of US Highway 34 and the highest continuous highway in the US reaching a maximum elevation of 12,183 ft.

Trail Ridge Road Entrance (Click on the pic for a HD view)

As you can imagine, the road is closed during winter due to heavy snow and is an extremely popular and busy route when it is open, weather permitting, mostly during late spring and summer, as was the case on this day. Going west from Estes Park, it winds through several breathtaking overlooks along the mountains and finishes in Grand Lake, CO in the west. My plan was to head out south west from Grand Lake and spend the night in Grand Junction, CO.

The views along the road are spectacular.  Here’s a small sampling.  Click on the image to view a HD version of it.

Views along the Trail Ridge Road (Click on the pic for a HD view)

From one of the overlooks (Click on the pic for a HD view)

No shortage of crowds.. children enjoying the mountain top views (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Nearly one third of the park is above treeline. Above 11,400 ft of elevation, the conditions are too harsh for trees to grow, resulting in the rugged rocks covered with ice that melts through out the summer producing a river system that drains most of America. Missouri river flows east from the Rockies originating in Montana whose watershed covers over two-thirds of American Great Plains and Colorado river originates in Colorado Rockies and flows west through the Colorado plateau province draining the American South west.

Mountain top with frozen tundra.... on the Trail Ridge (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Rocky Mountain beauty (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Rocky Mountain Snow Caps (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Alpine tundra is a complex of high-elevation meadows, fell (barren) fields, and talus (rock) slopes above treeline. Grasses and sedges dominate the meadow communities, and fens (a type of wet meadow) and willows exist in wet soils. Vegetation in the alpine zone is similar to that in the Arctic.

These meadows below are that subsection of Rocky Mountain alpine tundras that the Trail Ridge traverses through. It is truly a unique experience to get to witness these changes in climate and ecology by being able to get to such heights within an hour to two by car. These summits are the same areas the Trail Ridge hiking trails lead the hikers to, and while there is no substitute to the hiking experience, the drive up here is a close second.

Trail Ridge Road at the height of its elevation (Click on the pic for a HD view)

The rugged mountain tops (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Too cold for any vegetation (Click on the pic for a HD view)

View of the valley from one of the overlooks (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Bull Elk feeding in the pastures (Click on the pic for a HD view)

After that breathtaking trip through the Rockies, the Trail Ridge finished in Grand Lake, CO. It was time for me step on the peddle and drive Southwest to Grand Junction, CO.

Glenwood Canyons:

An unexpected surprise on the way to Grand Junction was the I-70 section through the Glenwood Canyon. This is as scenic a stretch of interstate highway as I’ve driven through anywhere in the country. My only regret was that I couldn’t spend more time there since I wasn’t prepared for it. I wouldn’t even have noticed it if I hadn’t stopped at one of the rest areas entering into that stretch and at the visitor center read the details of what was essentially a blue-eyed project from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The highway itself weaves in and out of tunnels through the canyon, with the Colorado river flowing right next to it accompanied also by an old rail track through out that beautiful stretch.

Scenic Glenwood Canyons through I-70

This road system is the primary highway link between Denver and the states to the west, and the complexity of squeezing in a modern 4-lane freeway into a gorge that could barely allow two lanes was solved by building two elevated roadways, one on top of another with 40 bridges and viaducts stretching over 6 miles, 15 miles of retaining wall and 4,000-foot-long tunnel with bores for traffic in both directions, creating a scenic beauty surrounded by imposing canyon walls all around. If you ever drive through this stretch, there are about 6 rest areas through out the 12.5 mile stretch, and it is worth every minute of your time to spend taking it all in by stopping at a couple of them and driving through it at speeds below the speed limit. You can read all about the history and background behind Glenwood Canyons from this DOT site here.

Weird exit names during this stretch
Hot Sulphur Springs:

No points for guessing what you can find in this town.

Hot Sulphur Springs, CO


Granted, it is home to a gypsum wallboard products manufacturer, but do you really want to name your town after a mineral?

Gypsum, CO

No Name:

No Name Exit on I-70 (Pic source unknown.. not taken by me)

This one’s a classic. It is a census designated place (CDP) so named after I-70 was constructed. I could make all sorts of jokes here, but apparently there is a reason for the name.. or.. no name, and if you are interested, you can read about the history behind it here.

No Name, CO

I got to Grand Junction late in the night to get a few hours of sleep before heading out for the Arches next day.

Day 3: Arches National Park

How many weary centuries has it been
About those deserts blown!
How many strange vicissitudes has seen,
How many histories known!
– Sand Of The Desert In An Hour-Glass by H.W. Longfellow

I am not sure how many times you’ve been to Utah. This was my first. Prior to the trip, if I played a word association game, the first thing I would have come up for Utah was Mormonism. After all, 60% of Utahns are Mormons and the influence of Brighan Young as a major Mormon pioneer that spread the influence and membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is still very visible in the street names and church names wherever you go. But, after my visit, I can only see red when I think of Utah. Utah is Red Rock state, the landscape that defined the rugged western looks in Hollywood, the grand vistas and sprawling deserts with red sand, red stone and red lands everywhere is as much the identity of the state as its religious homogeneity.

Entering Utah (Click on the pic for a HD view)

By the time I crossed the state borders from Colorado into Utah on I-70, the change in the landscape is quite evident. The heat index went up, the trees got smaller, the sand got drier, the land looked arid and the vistas got broader, and I can tell the desert land awaited me.

I took the US-191 S exit on I-70 and headed south. Arches National Park is right off of US-191 in Moab, Utah.

View of US-191 at the entrance to Arches (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Arches National Park is home for over 2000 sandstone arches and other unique red rock formations naturally sculpted by forces of nature.

Red stone monoliths (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Natural erosion of slabs of red rock (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Red stone wonders (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Impressive and implausible landscapes (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Remarkable structures created from nature's magic (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Tall sandstone fin (Click on the pic for a HD view)

After staring bewildered at these red rock sculptures from nature’s hands, I turned to the material handed out at the park entrance to get a sense for how these rocks are formed. Here’s the explanation from the geological types..

About 300 million years ago, a sea flowed into this region and eventually evaporated, depositing a salt bed thousands of feet thick in places across the Colorado plateau. Over millions of years since, residue from floods, winds and the oceans that came and went blanketed the salt bed. The debris was compressed as rock, at one time possibly a mile thick.

Salt under pressure is unstable and the thick cover of rock in this region caused the salt layer to be shifted, buckled, liquefied and re-positioned, thrusting the rock layers upwards as domes and causing whole sections falling into cavities.

Geological story of Arches (source: NPS, Arches National Park)

Faults deep in the Earth made surface even more unstable, causing vertical cracks contributing to the development arches. As salt’s sub-surface shifting shaped the landscape, surface erosion stripped off younger rock layers. Over time water seeped into superficial cracks, joints, and folds, ice formed in the fissures, expanding and pressuring the rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Wind later cleaned out the loose particles, leaving a series of free-standing fins.

Wind and water then attacked these fins until the cementing material in some gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many of these damaged fins collapsed, but others hard enough and balanced, survived despite missing sections. These became the famous arches.

This is the possible story of the Arches National Park and they are sticking to it though the evidence is largely circumstantial.

Balanced Rocks.. the precarious one on the left is about 3 school buses tall (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Arches.. one of many in the park (Click on the pic for a HD view)

In case you are wondering about the reason for the color being so red, it is due to Hematite, a common mineral form of Iron Oxide. The presence of Iron in these regions causes the release of Iron Oxide with exposure to air and water. The surface coating of this Iron Oxide on rock and its grains is the reason for the redness of the rock.

I did found it curious that they have campgrounds at Devil’s Garden, the interior site of the park. I am all for a camping experience in a forest or a mountain, but I am not so sure about it here. With 100 degree temperatures a commonplace in summer and the sun beating down mercilessly with few clouds in site and the glaring red rock radiating more heat around, you’d have to be a die-hard enthusiast of these rocks to pitch a tent there. They do claim to get about 1 million visitors a year, so, the interest must be much more substantial than I am assuming.

All in all, it was a worthy trip to the Arches, one of those visits that you can do once to experience the uniqueness of the place. When I first charted out the plan, I was considering visiting one ore more of Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands national parks. I tried every combination I could to see if it was feasible to squeeze in a visit to Bryce Canyon, but it just didn’t fit into my tight schedule. Only practical option was the Arches, so while I was a bit circumspect coming in, I left well satisfied with the visit. After wrapping up the 25 mile course back and forth through all of the Arches sites, I was ready to drive to Arizona for the big finish next day. The plan was to spend the night at Williams, AZ, south of Grand Canyon and west of Flagstaff, AZ, and head out to the Grand Canyon South Rim in the morning.

As I got closer to Utah-Arizona border, the desert got a lot flatter, with long stretches of flat and straight roads with few cars and nothing but scattered and tiny shrubs on dry and sedimentary soil with distant pillars of sand of various different canyons scattered across the scenery. It was a picture of a landscape depicted in many a rattle-snake-infested, wild-west desert shot of Hollywood, though I didn’t see any dead rattlers on the road or any live ones since I didn’t stop to checkout the desert in search of one. I did see many tumbleweeds roll across the road, a staple for any movie shot foreboding impending doom in a desert scene — perhaps an escaped convict is about to arrive for a secret rendezvous at a desolate bar nearby or a drug lord was arriving with his posse to settle a score against a rival gang, or may be if I paid proper attention, I would have noticed Brad Pitt shooting down a knelt-down-smug-faced Kevin Spacey with Morgan Freeman pleading him not to…. but I digress.

What I did find as I got closer to Arizona border is an increase in Hispanic presence in the small towns along the way and one or two mobile homes with trailers and small Indian habitations scattered in the middle of nowhere across vast stretches of completely empty desert lands. As I crossed into Arizona and approached Flagstaff, I saw the San Francisco Peaks, a volcanic mountain range that imbued a greenery to the surroundings that has been absent for the past several hours. Flagstaff with nearby Williams is a pleasant towns surrounded by several hills with moderate temperatures and with its relative proximity to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, they are a popular spot for a growing number of people who call them home as well as tourists from Vegas who make the town a base for their South West trips to Utah and Grand Canyon.

Weird exit names during this stretch
Mexican Hat:

Not sure why I find this funny, I might even find a town in New Jersey called Indian Saree and perhaps a town near seattle called Japanese Kimono.

Mexican Hat, UT

Day 4: Grand Canyon (South Rim)

Be a provenance
of something gathered, a summation of
previous intuitions, let your vulnerabilities
walking on the cracked sliding limestone
be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty
for understanding what’s about
to happen. Stand above the Seven Streams
letting the deep down current surface
around you, then branch and branch
as they do, back into the mountain
and as if you were able for that flow,
say the few necessary words
and walk on, broader and cleansed
for having imagined.

– The Seven Streams by David Whyte

There is no way to prepare for it, no way to anticipate it. You hear that it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, so it must be large, but just how large and how deep? As you park in one of the 3 large parking lots at the visitors center close to the park entrance (they get an estimated 4 million visitors a day), and start walking towards Mathers point, the nearby viewing area at the visitors center, you start imagining a hole in the ground, deep and wide.. based on the post cards or blown up posters you are exposed to.. but still, there is no way you can anticipate the sensation you are about to feel.

You finally get to the viewing area, shuffle in between the crowded visitors towards one of the railings and stare at the landscape in front of you in jaw dropping amazement. The immediate feeling is a mixture of awe, shock, exhilaration and incredulousness. You notice that the crowd, huge crowd, that is witnessing this with you is not very noisy. You see people murmuring, almost whispering to each other, as if they are in some sacred grounds. Depending on your views and believes, you might even say it is a hallowed ground. You are witnessing deep time.. millions and even billions of years of nature at work.. right in front of you.

Mathers point - spectacular views (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Naturally carved canyon walls (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Another perspective (Click on the pic for a HD view)

A view from the side (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Spanish Discovery (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Near here, in late summer of 1540, soldiers from Spanish expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado became the first Europeans to see Grand Canyon. After journeying for six months, Coronado’s army arrived at the Hopi mesas, east of Grand Canyon. From there Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, guided by Hopi Indians, led a small party of men to find a reported “great river”. After 20 days, they reached the south rim of Grand Canyon, emerging from the forest to stand on the edge of this vast chasm.

Around 1560 Pedro de Castaneda, a soldier with Coronado recorded his memories of the expedition 20 years earlier. It is from him we have our record of Cardenas’s discovery of Grand Canyon. Castaneda reported frustration and amazement:
“After they had gone twenty days they came to the banks of the river (the canyon rim)…. They spend three days on this bank looking for a passage down…. It was impossible to descend…. the three lightest and most agile men made an attempt to go down at the least difficult place, and went down until those who were above were unable to keep sight of them. They returned about four o’clock in the afternoon, not having succeeded…. Those who stayed above had estimated that some huge rocks on the sides of the cliffs seemed to be about as tall as a man, but those who went down swore that when they reached these rocks they were bigger than the great tower of Seville.”

An overwhelming experience (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Canyon walls tell an impressive story (Click on the pic for a HD view)

The sheer enormity of it all with humongous walls of sand carved down the elevated plateau by the Colorado river, day after day after day, for millions and millions of years, and the result is a masterpiece in front of you. You gape deep down into the middle of the canyon to locate the snaking Colorado river, that looks like a mini-creek from up near the rim, and you wonder how it could have caused all this and you gaze up and down, wide and across,  all over the canyon and you are overwhelmed by it all.

Desert View - Colorado river at work (Click on the pic for a HD view)

Rain in the distance (Click on the pic for a HD view)

One of the unique features of climate around these parts are views like these where you seem to be able to see black streaks of rain coming down from afar, something new for me. As these rain clouds passed over the canyon, bringing with them a short period of rain accompanied by brief thunder and lightning, while scurrying for shelter, I overheard a teen yelling excitedly to a group of friends “Hey, if this lightning strikes me, make sure you take a picture of that and put it up on Facebook.” That just about summarizes the social network hysteria of these times.

Desert View - A view from the gift shop inside the tower (Click on the pic for a HD view)

I am an anti-hype scoffer of anything and everything that is even remotely overrated and over-hyped. I can’t help it, its in my blood.  Yet, this is one place that is beyond any description that could be construed as hyperbole. It is above all description, and imparts a feeling that can only be experienced and not explained. As I drove out of the park and headed towards Vegas, my resolve for coming back to the Grand Canyon for a proper hike only grew stronger.

Weird exit names during this stretch

At this rate, By the time I am back home, I wouldn’t be surprised if I drove through the entire Periodic Table of Elements.

Chloride, AZ

Day 5: Las Vegas

I went for a walk along the Vegas strip late in the night for the normal touristy thing of checking out the fountain show at the Bellagios and the volcano show in front of the Mirage and the pirate show near the Treasure Island. Drinking on the streets is fairly pervasive, and if you walk long enough, you will see thinly veiled solicitation from prostitutes and pimps working hard at the street lights, providing the right constitution for that sin city texture Vegas prides itself on.

Each time I am here, I see a couple of new high-risers boasting something new to outshine the competition, and the average age of the crowd on the street seems to go down a few years. It seemed like there were more teenagers than adults on the street. I remember staying at the Luxor a few years ago when that sphynx-shaped casino was hailed as a cool attraction. I am told it is outdated now. As I watch the glitz and glitter of Vegas, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. After the experience at the Grand Canyon, it just looked jaded and inconsequential.

Day 6 and 7: Back to Denver and back to home

This was clearly the worst part of the trip when I started questioning the sanity of my choice to drive 5000 miles within a week. Until now, the anticipation of visiting these great places and witnessing the great new landscapes kept me excited and fresh, but now I was left with the omnipresent cornfields of midwestern flatlands on a very long stretch of a return trip that I was not looking forward to. By the time I was done with it all and reached home, I needed another vacation from my vacation to recuperate, but I was very happy with the trip. And those Rocky Mountains and Grand Canyon, I am already looking forward to the next time I will be there.. with a backpack.

photograph from: Mathew Tauzer

I am a residual fleck in an ash cloud,
over the crater of a simmering volcano,
dancing in the smoke of gushing plumes,
breaking free from the molten glow.

I am a skipping stone over a still pond,
propelled by the flick of an aimless hand,
happy to skim over shallow waters,
spinning to get to the surface land.

I am a soaring hawk high above the peaks,
gliding from dawn to dusk and into the night,
swooping into snatch an unwary prey,
just to stay alive for a listless flight.

I am a lone wolf out of a raging pack,
wandering the wild in reclusive release,
away from the crowd in search of self,
in a discording journey longing for peace.

I am a gentle droplet of a descending torrent,
pouring down the skies in a turbid haze,
soaking the soil and joining the deluge,
of streams and rivers merging with the seas.

I am a solitary leaf on a withy branchlet,
born out of a stem revived by spring,
brought back from dead in time of light,
with a song of hope and a shine of green.

I am a shuffling amoeba beneath the decay,
just a pocket of energy of forms diverse.
I am a passenger along in a fleeting ride,
just a random speck of matter in universe.

CWC 2011

The event that was an Indian obsession for the past couple of months, called the Cricket World Cup 2011, has come to an end. It will forever be etched in desi memories, just as any Indian Cricket fan that watched the game can replay the shots of that remarkable 83 final from their memory banks. As an Indian fan, I enjoyed this tournament thoroughly, and yes, Indian team lifting the cup at the end has a good deal to do with it. Nonetheless, there are also a number of reasons why I am glad it is over, not the least of which is to stop embarrassing myself in the company of my friends.

If you watch Cricket matches with friends and family, you must be familiar with that character who is an amrchair analyst, you know the one I am talking about, the one who knows what is better for your team at all times. He knows best what the team composition should be for each game based on the pitch and the opposition, he knows what the right batting order is, he knows the type of shot each batsman should and shouldn’t play based on the situation and bowler, he knows who should bowl when and how may overs they should bowl, he knows the right line and length on every ball of every over for every batsman, and he knows the right field placement for them all. He not only knows all this, he never fails to let you know that he knows all there is to know about Cricket. He doesn’t second guess, he first guesses and lets everyone else know that he predicted the results with the greatest Cricketing knowledge any one person can possess, outside of Ian Chappell. Essentially, he is the most annoying company that you can have the misfortune to watch any sporting event with, not just a Cricket match. I hate to admit it, but I am that character. Cricket and only Cricket has that evil power to transform me into that a-hole. Looking back now, I admire my parents for their patience in resisting the temptation to kick me out of the house during Cricket matches. I would have never put up with it myself – son or no son. While my family clearly enjoyed this world cup better because of my absence, as I gathered from the phone calls during and after Indian matches, I ended up subjecting my friends here to this annoynace, the ones who had the misfortunate to watch this World Cup with me. In order to dilute their pain, I thought I will share my genius with the rest of the world with a mere sampling of my reactions during the finals.

Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy – WTF?

I like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, I really do. I liked their music from the first time I heard them in Rockford, and their work in Mission Kashmir and Dil Chahta Hai. For the most part, they’ve managed to maitain a high quality and a different sound, but the tripe they dished out for this world cup theme song was just plain abominal. Now that it is over, I am thankful it cannot be forced down my throat again. I expected better from a really talented band for such a huge occassion.
Listen to it and tell me if you disagree.

Finals Toss Gate

CWC 2011 Finals Toss Gate

What really happened during the toss? Did Sangakkara call Heads or Tails? Dhoni thought he called Tails and told Shastri they were going to bat. Sangakkara claims he called Heads. Jeff Crowe, whose only purpose there was to listen to the call, said he couldn’t hear anything due to the noise. Michael Vaughan from BBC TMS tweeted that Sangakkara was up to some skulduggery as he, just like Dhoni, heard Sangakkara call Tails. Well, I always thought it was a good toss to lose. While the pressure of chasing a potential 250+ score in the world cup finals can be huge, with dew about to accumulate under the lights, combined with the strength of Indian batting, I was hoping they would chase, even while Dhoni would have preferred to bat if he won the toss. After this intentional Randiv no-ball to deny a Sehwag century in an inevitable Lanka loss, I wouldn’t put it past Sangakkara to commit such hera pheri, but he is the only one who knows what truly happened. You know what they say about Karma though.

Sreesanth? Seriously, Sreesanth?

Sreesanth? Seriously?

Ok, Dhoni is off the hook for finding his form in the nick of time to take India past the finish line, but seriously.. Sreesanth? What was he thinking? Sreesanth? He could have picked any decently athletic spectator from the crowd and would have done better than that selection. How can you take an off-hand gamble that somehow he is going to take 5 wickets and win the match for you in the FINALS when the only game he played was the opener in Mirpur against that powerhouse Bangladesh team that was knocked out for a grand total of 58 by West Indies, but managed to plaster his out-of-control, listless crap to a tune of 5-0-53-0! Wasn’t there one sane person in that Indian think tank who stood up against this insanity? What did poor Ashwin do to deserve this snub. He seems like an intelligent, level-headed young man with an added variety to his bowling who gives an honest effort on the field. His omission through out the tournament has been quite inexplicable and to discard him for Sreesanth, might warrant a suicide watch on him.

Zaheer.. yes, you’re the man!

Zaheer Khan, yes, you're the man!

I can’t get enough of Zaheer Khan’s reactions when he takes a wicket! For a batsman, he has the look of a man who knows he has your number and better yet, he knows that the you know he has your number. Arms out, a cocky smirk on his face, as if to ask, did you enjoy that performance? All this, while the other guy who opened the attack was being smacked around like a red-headed stepchild, no offense to any stepchildren. Yes sir Zaheer, you are the man!

Man hugs gone out of control!

Man hugs gone crazy

I understand it is a big occassion and you ought to be thrilled when you take a key wicket, but whats with Yuvraj and Raina and their excessive man hugs.. it is beginning to get just a bit ackward. What happened to a simple hand shake, a high five, or a pat on the back.. though if Yuvraj promises to take wickets like this for the rest of his career, he could plant full blooded chummas on Raina’s face for all I care.

Take a bow Jayawardane!

Jayawardane - A classy knock from a classy guy

Class shots, class innings, class game, and an all around class guy! Unlike an almost abnormal suspicion that festers within me against Sangakkara, I’ve always liked Jayawardane and his batting. A touch artist, who rarely bashes the ball, he reminds me of a John McEnroe or a Miloslav Mecir in Tennis, who sliced and diced their opponents to death with timing and placement. Alas, with the power game taking over, those days are no more, but here’s a tennis fan’s delight – Mac vs Mecir.

Not sure if Mrs. Jayawardane got enough air time.

Mrs. Jayawardane, quite a coach.

I don’t think people saw enough of Mrs. Jayawardane during her husband’s innings. Once is cute, twice is tolerable, thrice is stretching it, but you show her more than you show the players on the field, it gets to be bloody irritating. Yes, I know.. behind every successful batsman, there is a woman who coaches her husband how to be a better batsman, or like my hero Siddhu said in the post-game chat quoting Maryon Pearson – “Behind every successful man, there is a suprised woman”

What’s with Sangakkara and that Donald Duck helmet?

Sangakkara and his helmet

Alright, what is the story behind that Donald Duck helmet Sangakkara wears? Is it his fashion statement? His unique look? What is the deal? As a Cricket know-it-all, I need to know. If it is part of his smug, slick persona.. thats fine, but I’ve been watching it for a few years now, and still no one ever mentions anything about it even when it stands out like an eye sore.

Fan reaction to Sehwag wicket

Fan distress at Sehwag's wicket

No suprise that the crowd reacted to every Indian wicket like a death in the family. People covering their faces, women stuffing their mouths with sarees, Aamir Khan glaring with bloodshot eyes like he is chasing bad guys in Sarfarosh, I guess it is befitting a home crowd in a World cup final with their home team playing for all the marbles. The atmosphere was electric and you could feel the tension from the crowd seep through the TV set. Perhaps a little overboard, but this unscripted drama is what makes sports great and I’ll take this over some apathetic hand clapping in between some pretentious book reading that is a norm in some other countries.

Run Malinga run!

Malinga - jubilation after Tendulkar wicket

You are the guy your team is looking to make an impact with. You already took out the most dangerous hitter on the planet. 35,000 crazy people are screaming like there is no tomorrow because a living legend that they automatically expect to score his 100th 100 tonight is looking in sublime touch. You just shut them all up into a pin-drop silence by sending that guy back to the dressing room. You are entitled to run around the ground with your arms stretched out to see if you can fly. Lanka lost because they didn’t have enough Malingas. He was awesome as advertised. Indian strategy was simple. Survive Malinga, target the others. Kulasekara and Perera were crap. Sri Lanka evened out the dumb decision making from their counter parts, perhaps with some over-analysis of their own when they made four changes for the final, and brought in two pacemen to replace their two effective and successful spinners in Ajanta Mendis and Rangana Herath. Go figure.

Catch of the night

Dilshan - super catch.

Dilshan’s catch of Kohli was stupendous. Here’s a guy in Dilshan who was a bit unfortunate in the way he got out, but came back just to produce a breakthrough and managed to pull off a stunner to keep his team in the game. He is still young enough, has loads of talent, has a golden arm, is a great fielder and a devastating batsman. When it is all said and done, I think he will manage to surpass the great Jayasurya.

Shot of the night

Gambhir - shot of the night.

This shot from Gamhir, as he heaved a Perera pie over midwicket was the best shot of the day in my book. He charged the ball, like he does often to seamers, got into position and swung across the line and caught it flush. With the sweet sound of that perfect contact combined with the left hander’s elegance, it was a treat to watch the ball blast over the inner circle into the ropes.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Gambhir - gone

This time, he wanted to get to his 100 with an inside out swipe over cover, off Perera again and got an inside edge onto the middle stump. As much as the experts have admonished him for that shot at that time, it is a major part of Gambhir’s arsenal. In many ways, his innings was perhaps more valuable than Dhoni’s.

Aamir Khan and that ludicrous moustache

Aamir Khan and his ridiculous moustache

All I can say is, even with that ridiculous, fake-ish moustache he is sporting, I’d rather it be Aamir Khan and not that media whore, Salman Khan. It would have ruined my night to see Salman and his overacting histrionics in the middle of world cup finals.

A shot heard around India

Dhoni - blasting the winning six!

..ball from the winning hit soaring into Mumbai night

After all his curtailed flair as he dibbed and dabbed through out his winning knock, once it was all over but the shouting, Dhoni unleashed his power to send a Kulasekara ball soaring into the Mumbai night to end the game and win the cup, sendinng the lathered up crowd into utter delirium.. a perfect ending to a dream tournament for the hosts.

That somewhat creepy looking Tendulkar fan with the cup

Tendulkar sharing the cup with his "#1 fan"

I read the story where this guy, a self proclaimed #1 Tendulkar fan, goes to every India match with a free ticket from Tendulkar. I guess, it is generous of Tendulkar to recognize a fan and pay him that type of attention, but something about the guy makes me uneasy. Is he ever not in this costume? How long does it take for him to paint himself like that? What does he do for a living? Does he not have a job to go to? Does he plan to retire from this gig when Tendulkar retires? Has anyone ever dared to ask him that question or are they going to give hime free tickets for all games and let him retire at his own free will like his idol?

Coolest shot with the cup

Cool shot! Kumble sharing the cup with Sachin (cricinfo)

This is my favorite shot of the cup. Kumble holding it and Sachin whooping it up. With two of the top 3 Indian Cricketers of all time (Sachin, Kapil, Kumble, Sunny, Dravid.. in that order for me) sharing the moment, thats a rare shot of unbridled joy among two individuals whose achievements span across two decades of excellence.

This Indian team and these group of cricketers will be kings for the rest of their lives. They’ve been able to win this tournament without their esteemed batting lineup clicking on all cylinders, and their bowling that was mauled early did just enough to keep them in games, and they got timely contributions from everyone on the team. As for Dhoni, if you go by the airtime he gets being on every other ad on Indian TV, he might still be a bit overrated as a batsman, but his accomplishments as a captain speak for themselves. The T20 world championship, #1 Test ranking, IPL championship, T20 Champions league, and now the World Cup at home, he has done it all.. and chalking off everything to luck is getting to be more and more difficult. Beyond just having great players on his teams, at some point, the entire package of natural leadership, an instinct for tactical nous, a determination to succeed and a cool head at all times has to be acknowledged over mere luck behind the heights his teams have scaled. He is already the best Indian captain by miles and whether he can keep this up or not, he will forever remain up there among the top Indian sporting greats with majority of his career still ahead of him.

Angst - lithograph by Edvard Munch (1896)

An afflicted romantic in love
is perishing in a poison pit,
in a dereliction of self,
with a destruction of spirit.

Feigning eyes of a pretender
luring the heart to survive,
swimming in shallow waters,
longing for a hope to revive.

A dreamer stuck in a fantasy
in a blazing glow of silverlight,
is buried in a beguiling fancy,
of a fickle flight in blind night.

Waiting for a sign to arrive
from the void of nugatory eyes,
glossed in the color of pretense,
with images of idyllic paradise.

An idealist is defying a compromise
of settlement to aggrieved inurement
as turpitude of character on heart
that beats only to perfect sentiment.

From the depths of the worldly ordeal,
is kindled a hope of perfect journey,
clinging on to delusions of mirage,
trudging through the sands of ruin.

A castaway spirit searching for its soul
is looking for a current to ride,
wading in the water of life,
to reach its land on a shore tide.

In a graveyard of emotional angst,
in that land of utopian guise,
is where that cherished soul lies,
it is where that cherished soul dies.

William F Kirk

Cricket World Cup is underway where there is not much separating the top six teams. Baseball Spring training is also underway with hope springing eternal, except in perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Since I am a fan of both the events, and what they represent, I present this poem from William F Kirk, a baseball writer and humorist from early 1900s. The poem is among a collection of baseball ballads titled Right Off the Bat that was published in 1911 and very recently released on Proect Gutenburg, a site I am utterly addicted to. It presents a simple and humorous contrast in the spirit with which the two sports are played, or more specifically Kirk’s notion of that spirit from back then. Cricket has tried desperately to cling on to the nature of mannerly Captain Edgerton (must have been a stereotype even in 1911) while baseball managers have changed little since Manager McDuff.

Cricket And Baseball by William F Kirk

The cricket game was over and the sun was sinking low,
    The players in their blazers plodded homeward in a row.
They stopped within the clubhouse for a final cup of tea,
    When up spake Captain Edgerton to Bowler Basil Fee:

“Jolly well tried, old chap!
    You lost as the greatest can;
But whether you win or whether you lose
    You’re always a gentleman.
Have a Scotch and soda, old fellow–
    It will drive off the blooming blues;
Keep up your stride, you jolly well tried,
    And a man can’t always lose.”

The baseball game was over and the home team had been skinned,
    The players slunk across the field while sundry knockers grinned;
They hurried to the clubhouse for a bath and change of garb,
    When up spake Manager McDuff, and each word was a barb:

“Fine lot of high-priced athletes!
    Most of you ain’t alive!
I could pick a team from the Soldiers’ Home
    And beat you four out of five.
Be out here at ten to-morrow–
    That goes the way that it lays;
Any mixed-ale sport that doesn’t report
    Will squat on the bench ten days!”