September 12, 2014


Me: There's a notice posted on the door of my apartment elevator asking people not to leave their garbage inside.

Friend: Arnab, are you OK with these restrictions on your freedom?

September 07, 2014

Tales from the Taqueria

Despite being plagued by a string of natural and man-made calamities ranging from drought and destitution to earthquakes and tech geeks, the Bay Area does have some redeeming qualities. Chief among them is the authentic Mexican fare found at franchises like Chipotle or at the many mom and pop taquerias dotting neighbourhoods like the Mission. The tacos, burritos, nachos, and a barley/rice based concoction known as horchata are all delightful menu items. Ordering these can get a bit messy when the service staff have accents thicker than a scoop of guacamole.

Me: Can I have super nachos with chorizo?

Waitress: Is that for here or to go?

Me: Chorizo.

Waitress: No, do you want it for here or to go?

Me: To go.

Waitress: With chorizo?

Me: No, to go.

August 22, 2014

I Can't Believe It's Not Better

Korean man: I'm the piece of better that is melting on the frying pan which name is you.

Korean lady: Butter.

August 10, 2014

Scam Francisco

San Francisco's red hot real estate market has drawn many rats out from the woodwork, and I am not referring to those that zip around the kitchen floors of restaurants in its historic Chinatown. While trawling the web for leads on any affordable and decent accommodation, I would sometimes find places that were both livable and within my budget. All of these turned out to be scams. The contact person would concoct various reasons as to why he could not give a tour of the place, but request a deposit or first month's rent to secure the rental property in my name. I did not fall for such tricks:

Exhibit 1 - The Turkish Family
Please be informed that the apartment is not available for immediate viewing or move-in until June 29th as the apartment is currently been occupied by a Turkish family and before they rented the apartment they requested for complete privacy which I granted. If the timing works for you and you do not want to miss renting the apartment, then you can have it reserve for you until you view/move-in with the payment of the first month rental fee plus the refundable security deposit.
Exhibit 2 - The Man from North Carolina
I will be very happy to have you as one of my potential tenants because i believe we will have a cordial relationship together. I will reserve the apartment for you till your move in date in order for you to be rest assured i want you in the apartment but i will need a serious confirmation or commitment from you because i will be coming all the way from Graham, NC to show you round the apartment/handover the keys to you because that's where i work. Secondly, as you know people are also making inquiry regarding the apartment and business is based on first pay first serve. Have had some difficulties with some tenants in the past who claim to be serious in renting my apartment but unfortunately, it all proof abortive and this has been causing some damages to me and my work because i need to travel all the way from North Carolina down to the city and i dont my coming down to the city to be like a waste of time which had happened to me in the past. There is everything needed in the apartment for you to live comfortably. Your details will be used to prepare your tenancy agreement form once we have reach an agreement. Hope you understand me clearly? Await your reply so that we can proceed further.

August 03, 2014

The Streets of Mexico

"I'm asking myself am I really doing this? Is it really the best idea to be going to Mexico with you?"

My friend Abhay was thinking out loud as we drove down the highway from San Diego to the Mexican border 30 miles away. I assured him nothing could possibly go wrong as we passed a large green billboard declaring "No guns allowed in Mexico". Not allowing an American to bear arms is the same as asking a Korean not to carry a smart phone, so a few U.S. citizens are rotting in Mexican prisons after being caught with firearms.

My friend is a cautious fellow so we did not drive into Mexico, opting instead to leave the car at a parking lot near the border crossing. We saw a stream of Mexicans heading our way and walked in the direction they were emanating from. We crossed a footbridge and followed the arrows, zigging and zagging through some pathways and past a couple of armed guards, emerging in what we realized was already Mexico.

There had been no actual border control where our passport or any form of identification was checked. We saw a kilometer long lineup in the other direction of folks trying to make their way back into the promised land. It seemed only the American authorities were interested in checking passports and verifying identities.

A few taxi drivers immediately descended upon us as we entered Mexico, offering to take us to the seedier parts of the region which old white men are apt to visit. We instructed them to drop us off at the Tijuana city center, which was not too far off from the border crossing. We paid $5 for the ride, inclusive of a $4 foreigner premium.

Tijuana was very walkable, with the touristy stretch only lasting a couple of blocks. There were a lot of dental clinics and strip clubs on each street, catering to American visitors who could not afford healthcare or happiness on home soil.

I tried to convince Abhay to have lunch at some of the dirty looking local eateries, but he wanted something clean and preferred returning to one of the tourist restaurants we had passed by earlier. We walked several more blocks until I found an establishment that was both local and clean, satisfying both requirements. I ordered an item that I had never heard of before. It ended up being a large portion of liver.

The World Cup was on and radios blasting live coverage of the soccer match could be heard as we wandered the streets of Mexico. We drifted from one bar to another, as the goalless match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica extended into extra time. The partisan crowd was disappointed as Costa Rica fell to the Dutchmen on penalty kicks. As the match ended, we caught a taxi back to the border crossing knowing full well that it would be a lot harder to get into America than it had been to get out.

As we approached the kilometer long lineup of souls waiting to enter the States, we were approached by a fellow holding a ticket to bypass the queue. Within minutes we were stuffed into a van with a dozen other people, which was something I had imagined would happen at some point during a trip to Mexico. Almost two hours later we made it to the border checkpoint.

I had prepared for a potentially long wait in line by bringing some snacks in my backpack, including some pears. I explained to the American official that my pears were from America. "Once your pears go to Mexico, they Mexican." he stated. The security personnel took my passport and made a note on their system. "Now Interpol will think I am a pear importer." I complained to Abhay. "Not a pear importer..." he responded, "A pear smuggler!"