Post: Aug. 15
On Wednesday night we travelled into the heart of Chennai to hear Shyam's band, 7even, perform at the Taj Mount Road Hotel. This hotel is a 5 star so it looked and felt like a swanky Yorkville hotel but with subtle Indian differences. To be honest, it was nice to get into an urban landscape and have a western culture experience. The last experience I had in Chennai was of washrooms with no toilet paper AND no soap!
The hotel had a choice of 5 restaurants within the hotel and the one we chose had a diverse menu of Western, Thai, Italian, and Indian food which was well-prepared and also absolutely delicious. (I had the spring rolls.) The hotel bar where the band was playing was pretty surreal. The decor was just as swanky at the rest of the hotel and included some comfy lounge couches that looked (disturbingly) like they were made from buffalo hair. There was this moment where you just had to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation- here we were, sitting in a swanky lounge, drinking cocktails while sitting on buffalo hide couches and listening to Shyam's band play Van Halen's "Jump"... IN INDIA. Wow.
I also must give kudos to the Taj's restroom. It was the best I've visited here so far as it was just like a fancy bathroom from home! Toilet paper AND soap!!
On the way there, amidst the insane rush hour traffic, we stopped at a wonderfully magical store called "Nuts & Spices". It's a small, modern supermarket that sells not only nuts and spices but also many delicious western foods and treats. We all stocked up on snack foods and drinks and I even bought a box of Special K. Now all I need is the milk....
Here's a fun story: on the way home traffic was much better. There weren't many cars on the road since it was 1am. We drove without much alarm, relatively speaking, until about halfway home when we passed what looked like a festival at a roadside temple lit up with Christmas lights (you see temples decorated with Christmas lights a lot- it usually means there's something going on or it's a significant religious holiday). There were about seven or eight men standing in the middle of the road holding what looked like decorative sticks with palm fronds and coconuts on the end of them. Our drive slowed down to avoid hitting them and they began beating our car with the sticks! It was pretty alarming but we were all just sitting there stunned at what was happening. David, one of the faculty members who's from L.A., had been asleep in the back seat up until this point. Suddenly, as the men began knocking on the van windows and doors, all we heard was David commanding from the back seat "Drive! Drive!!" in such an authoritative voice the driver didn't hesitate to get us the heck out of there. We all sat there pretty stunned for a few moments, then began laughing hysterically (because what else could you do??). These guys were obviously drunk and it would have been dangerous if they had got us out of the car. They probably would have taken our money and offered it to the gods (or said they would...) or worse. Good thing David reacted quickly. But afterwards the ridiculousness of the situation- a small group of villagers armed with sticks with coconuts attached to them hitting the sides of the car (which wasn't too damaged afterwards- the beatings sounded worse than they were)- it all seemed like something out of a Monty Python movie.
So that was some excitement making for a good India story.
In other news, it's been blues week here at SAM. The students have been learning to play a blues form and how to stick to it even when others in the band get lost in the form. Tuesday and Wednesday were "Freddie the Freeloader" days and yesterday was "Watermelon Man". on Monday they'll have to demonstrate that they know and can play and solo over the blues form. It's been fun to hear the students develop over the week. It's also been a great learning experience for the faculty as we've all been workshopping the students together- so good to hear what the other teachers have to say.
Most importantly, I’d like to give a big shout out of congratulations to one of my best friends, Misti, and her HUSBAND, Adam, on their marriage yesterday. So sad to not be able to be there (I was supposed to be a bridesmaid...) but best wishes (and a lifetime of leverage from yours truly)!