Monday, August 28, 2006

All Good Stories Start in the Middle

In my opinion, all good stories start in the middle. Sure the classics begin at the beginning, but it’s so much more interesting when you’re dropped into the street with two quarters, some hard rain, five burnt-out streetlamps, and a hero who doesn’t know what he’s looking for yet.
The problem with starting in the middle is choosing which middle to start with. Take my story. I could start with me writing an article for a humor magazine, surrounded by stray childhood toys, tons of books, a fortune from a fortune cookie tacked into a bulletin board that claims I’m the ‘chosen one’, and everything else in my room reading over my shoulder. Or maybe I could start when I’m onstage with some of my best friends in a play, with me pretending to be drunk for the audience and spouting a monologue in Russian. Or I could make it really interesting and start when I was soaring a couple hundred feet off the ground on a zipline in the Costa Rican rainforest, outpacing a parrot flying by.
I won’t. It’s flashy, but it’s careless. It’s not what you’re here for.
This tenth of the show is about me in India. I’m not leaving for India until September 20th. Today, the day I’m writing this, is August 29th. So if I try to tell you much about India, I’ll make whatever I say here sound silly now with what I say later, (which will be much more informed and interesting).
So, in terms of things to write about now, that leaves: me.
The basics: I’m Joel. I’m from Seattle, WA. I go to school at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, IL. I'm six feet tall and weigh about 160 pounds and can scarf about that much ice cream in one sitting, (more if it’s chocolate chip cookie dough). I act, write, snap photos, and do a couple dozen other things I’m not very good at but have a blast doing anyway. I was a benchwarmer on my high school basketball team and spent a lot of time helping some of my teammates and our friends with their homework. I could read before I turned three, though my dad claims I couldn’t talk until I was about eight. I don’t smoke and never will. I love kids, animals, and the outdoors, and spend as much time with all three as I can. I’m the biggest sucker for the word ‘adventure’ you’ve ever met. I’ve been to at least seven different countries on three continents.
I’m about to add India to the list. You’re coming with me.
I’ve never been to India or anywhere near it geographically or culturally. I’ve been reading things like the Ramayana, Samskara and stories by Rohinton Mistry, Mark Tully, and James Cameron. Yet the more I read and research where I’m going, the less I feel like I know. People who have been all over the world have told me India gave them the biggest culture shock of their lives, bar none. I’ve been told that the scenery is breathtaking, the poverty is everywhere, and the mosquitoes carry malaria, dengue fever and other fun-filled goodies (which, luckily you folks won’t have to worry about. Unluckily, I will).
I will be in Pune, Maharashtra, a city of over 2 million people located 110 miles SE of Mumbai (aka Bombay). I’ll spend time on the road as well so you won’t see just the one city. I’ll be there until early December. I’ll be taking classes on Indian religion, politics, history, and culture, as well as a basic Hindi language course. All of these will be through The University of Chicago and the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS).
I think that’s enough. If you have ideas, questions, comments, insults, whatever, comment here on the site. I’ll be busy working at my job in the Woodland Park Zoo, studying Devanagari script, and of course, packing, but I’ll respond the best that I can.
PS. One last thing: yes it is true I will be capturing some of my trip on camera for the show. However there are a lot of things you can’t see or do when you’re holding a camcorder. I intend to try a few of them. The way you get to hear about those things is by reading this blog. So if you only watch the video episodes, you are going to miss out. A lot of the coolest stuff will be right here. I’m willing to bet that that will apply to all ten of us out there, so keep that in mind.