Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Between Ohio and a Hard Place

We've been back for a week now, and all's well. I came back with a nasty cold from Mumbai, it sort of laid me low for most of last week. In between bouts of coughing and such, I began packing up all my stuff for my move out to Cincinnati. I have found the packing was getting me a bit down and anxious, and only realized last night what the problem might be. I've been only packing up my stuff, my books, my desk, my clothes, and the rest of our apartment here is, for the moment, staying as is. I realized it feels a more like I'm moving out, as if in some alternative reality, we split and I'm off to Cincinnati without him. Now that I've identified what felt so odd, I can sleep better, and pack more happily. Still don't know quite where I'm going once I get there, but things are packed, U-Haul is ordered, and route is google-mapped.

But a little more about Mumbai--Friday night we had shabbat dinner at the Chabad house, though we wandered around for an hour and a half looking for it. Everyone we asked directions of sent us off to a different compass point, mostly because people there want to help, they just don't really have the information. Finally we walked over to the Oberoi Hotel and the concierge knew exactly where we were headed. Part of the problem is that the Chabad House has also moved after the November terrorist attack and, though it is still called The Nariman House, the old place is called Nariman House as well, and there is a Nariman Building, and a Nariman Baug, not to mention Nariman Point which really isn't anywhere near where we were headed, well not close by anyway. But dinner with Chabad was sweet, though not as sweet as shabbat morning services in the sky-blue beautiful Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. We met up with the Jhirad Family, one of the stalwarts of the Bene Israel community that help keep this Baghdadi Synagogue running. The two Jhiradi sons are quite impressive, leading services, reading torah, running a Jewish learning camp. And they all talked glowingly about our friend Leon Morris who spent a lot of time in the community years before, and had a major impact on it. All day Saturday, we just sort of wandered around, made our way back to Chabad for a little visit, and looked at the great, and somewhat crumbling, architecture. Here are a few pix from the pride parade. Also, check out a longer gallery of shots from the trip here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Out and Proud in Mumbai

Filling in quickly--pictures will follow later. Today. As it turns out, wouldn't you know it, we were here in Mumbai for the Gay Pride Parade, the first ever in Mumbai after the courts have declared the colonial anti-gay laws unconstitutional. So we marched along. How about that. Steve wore a sign that said in Hindi, "Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Christians, Heteros, Homos, all Brothers". They were missing the "Jews" part, so we felt that we had to stand up for our co-religionists and make sure they were represented. We figured having the rabbi carry the sign more than made up for our written absence. We danced with hijras from Tamil Nadhu, to drums and reed horns, met a wonderful woman who was there carrying a sign stating "I'm proud of my Gay Son!", though her son is currently in Atlanta, she had to come and marched by herself. So we grabbed her and took some photos, and hugged her, and told her we were proud of her! It's very hard for people here, the cultural taboos are extremely strong, so she sort of stole our hearts. We also ran into a man Bruno, from Paris, whom we had met early on in the day, totally by chance as he was lugging his suitcase up the stairs in the train station in Bandra. He tried to help us with directions, huffing and puffing and sweating, and then there he was, marching along!! And you thought the Upper West Side was small.

Anyway, off to the airport. We'll post photos and more stories later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's the end of a couple of intense days here in the urbs primus of the subcontinent. I'll try to be as succinct as possible, and yet try to capture all that's been happening. On Thursday, we moved from the somewhat suburban area of Bandra in the north, to the main area of the city, a bit further south on the peninsula. By the way, we have had very little rain here in the monsoon season, which has been somewhat pleasant for us, but a terrible sign of the drought which has been waging war on the crops of India. The only thing that dominates the news of drought in the papers is the somewhat ridiculous hysteria surround H1N1 "Swine" flu. I hadn't mentioned before, but before we even went through passport control at the airport here in Mumbai, we had to pass through a basically perfunctory flu check, with a document that had to be filled out stating we weren't ill. Many of the baggage handlers and all the people at the flu desk were wearing surgical masks, which we continued to see all over the streets of Mumbai. The only positive thing about this, is that it gave the street hawkers something else to sell on the trains and streets besides boxes of tissues from Dubai, and Indian Flags for Independence Day, which was today. I make light of the swine flu thing but I did catch something on Friday, and of course started to panic that indeed I had gotten sick with it. I'm still feeling a little coughy, but I hope by tomorrow I'll be up and running.

But back to our days. Thursday we took the train down to our new hotel, which is really not what we thought it would be. The place isn't terrible, it's just on a terrible street, right near Bombay Hospital and some sort of masjid (mosque) that I think must be a shrine of some sort where people pray for health because it is always busy and there are lines of people camped out all night with every imaginable infirmity you can think of, crippled, limbless, blind, just plain poor, and they are always begging as you go by. Anyway, we checked in and took off for Elephanta Island and the cave temples there. The boats leave from a dock right be the Gate of India, and the Taj Hotel, so we had our first views of these pretty impressive monuments. The ride out to the island is quite hot, but we made friends with a young kid from Bangalore (Anil) on holidays with his mother, who I think was feeling he'd rather hang out with the couple of cool guys, than visit shrines with his mom. He spoke English really well, and wanted the chance to gab with native speakers. We hung out with him all day, his mom sort of trailing behind. We also met a group of social workers from Orissa, who also loved chatting with us. The truth is, there aren't many westerners around, so people enjoy talking with the foreign tourists. The main cave at Elephanta is pretty impressive, a huge Shiva shrine, with a couple of impressive carvings and large lingams. On the way back to the boat to leave, Anil lost his mom and had to go back to find her, so we parted ways, and instead, picked up a lovely family from Mumbai, husband, wife, and two adorable boys, one whose name was Raz, which means 'mystery' not only in Hindi but in Hebrew as well! Pretty remarkable. After the boat back, it was high tea at the Taj Hotel, and then dinner out with Vikram (at Swati Snacks, a great Gujarati, meaning vegetarian, restaurant) who runs one of the Gay Indian groups which is one of organizations which petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to knock down the anti-gay law recently. Anyway, that's a lot for now. I'll fill in the next few days tomorrow before we head back. There is only one other thing I must mention. I'm trying to capture a little of what we're seeing and experiencing, and the photos will help with the sights, and I can describe the sounds, the honking and the honking and the cawing of the ominous crows. But the smells would be hard to put into words, both bad and good, the urine and waste, the incense burning on the food carts and in the temples, the wood fires that are used to make the tea that tea-wallahs cary around...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Look Mumbai

We are here, we are here, we are here!! That's a quote from 'Horton Hears a Who' for the those Suessically challenged. I was thinking of that as we dove into the mass of humanity that is Mumbai. So many people, and so many vehicles crammed into what is a fairly small place, except that it takes you over an hour in traffic to traverse just a little of it. But more on that later. We had a great flight, long, but fairly pleasant. We both had complete rows to ourselves so slept for a big chunk of it. We were attended to by a trio of wonderful airline stewards who loved the fact that we were going to Mumbai to start a family and took very good care of us. The only thing wrong with the flight was that it was very late leaving because of weather, and then we had to circle Mumbai a few times because a dog got on the runway. So by the time we got in it was 1:30AM instead of 9PM. Then when we got to our hotel, Steve realized that we had left his passport at the currency exchange back in the airport (The guy there never returned it after making a copy!) so he had to take the car service back there to get it. Meanwhile I settled us in to our hotel. Today we got up and after breakfast walked over to Rotunda, (that's the clinic). The place is great, all the nurses and assistants are very helpful. There's a big Ganesh (the elephant headed god, son of Shiva, remover of all obstacles) by the front door, and a mezuzah on the door frame. Feeling very comfortable, all bases covered. All went well there. There's no big news to tell, but we'll let you know when there is, God willing.

After, we went searching for coffee and finally found a nice Cafe Lavazza place. Good caffeine at last. Then had some wonderful Indian veg food for lunch. Back to the hotel on a tuktuk (one of the little three wheeled motor rickshaws that rule the streets of Northern Mumbai. Then a hour cab ride in traffic downtown to Balbunath, a big Shiva temple, one or two downpours, lots of sun, and then another hour and half cab ride up to an Italian Veg restaurant called Little Italy. I don't think I can do justice to the constant movement of the mass of people in the streets. It's like a more chaotic New York, with really bad air quality and lots of horn honking. Drivers use the horn here just as a way to announce their presence, whether it's needed or not. And everyone does it. The best thing I think so far about the city is the attitude of the people. Everyone smiles at you. They flirt with you as well, and offer to pose for pictures, but mostly, they smile. One of the tuktuk drivers adjusted his mirror just so that he could look at us in the back...and smile. There also seems to be very little theft, you don't feel like you're being scammed all the time, and when you ask for help, people actually are happy to do so. OK, jet lag is finally catching up. I'll just put in some pics. Oh, one last thing, since we stated this with a reference to a children's book, I'll finish up with another. One odd thing is, I keep looking at every person who's Indian and thinking about what their parents look like. This was a phenomenon that we both experienced as we were trying to choose the egg donor. The funny thing is that when I was in Cleveland just a few months ago, I was living in a building downtown, very near Cleveland State University, and the building was filled with students from India and Pakistan. It was sort of a South Asian dorm. This was right in the middle of trying to choose, and I kept staring at everyone. I get on the elevator with 3 or 4 Indians and I would just stare, completely unconsciously. When I would catch myself, I would start to apologize, but then how do you explain, "Well, I'm staring at you because all I have to go on as I chose the biological mother-donor for our child with my partner is a few scant pictures and some basic educational and medical information, and I keep comparing you to the pictures we are looking at." But as you can see, it wasn't very effective. Last evening in Newark Airport, I had the realization that it was an odd version of that book 'Are You My Mother?' that I could entitle 'Are You My Child's Biological Mother?'

OK, tried to post a few pix but it wasn't working. Promise more soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


So I've been having dreams. They mostly follow like this: I'm going to meet my friend Noa and I get off the subway and am in an area of NY I have never seen before. None of the streets are at right angles like they should be, there is a big parking lot near by, but not even a paved one, just dirt and gravel. I keep saying, "I have no idea where I am. Where is this? This doesn't make sense." I keep telling Noa to hold on, I can't continue talking until I figure out where I am. I ask someone where Broadway is and they point, but I look and it's not there.

A couch for this one is superfluous.

Some friends of my common Hebraic persuasion have reminded me of the tradition of not talking about babies and such, so as not to bring the Ayin Harah (Evil Eye), and they're absolutely right. We plan on holding on to that tradition, like not bringing baby stuff into the house until the baby is home and safe. (Maybe we'll bring the stuff into the garage. Oh my God. I'm going to have a garage.) And of course I don't really want this to be such a public thing. It's just that blogs were so helpful for us as we made our way through the planning of India, and I want to be available for the next couples as they plot their way. So I guess what I'm saying is there will be posts about India and such, and God willing about progress later on, but don't expect a lot of news about the baby until much later. Like you don't ask a lady if she's pregnant. Don't ask us. We'll tell you when there's info. But as for the all the other stuff that's going on, be ready for minute details. And here's a little something to ward of the Ayin Harah in the meantime. It's designed by Mike and Mike, another geminously named couple who have twin girls (No, the girls aren't named the same. Don't be silly.) and are designers. If you like it, you can buy it from their site, The Spawn of Mike and Mike. We own one ourselves.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


OK, I wasn't sure I was going to do the blog thing, but once I got a subtitle for the thing, it pushed me over the edge of indecision. The subtitle is thanks to Barron Reinach, with whom I have been playing squash once almost every week for the better part of a couple of years. One of the nicest, crankiest New Yorkers I have ever known. (I can say this because I consider myself in the club most days. And I hope Barron's reading this.) We have more than squash in common, a couple of people that we share in our lives in different circles. Anyway, thank you Barron. So our adventure. Steve and I are embarking on not one, not two, not even three, but at least four major changes in our lives in the next year. We figured we should just pile them all on and get them over with. First off, we're moving out of New York, place of my birth, where I have really lived since I came here for university in 1982 and where collectively Steve and I have spent about 60 years. My sister has informed me she just can't picture it, she can't imagine me living anywhere but New York. So that's one. Two is not only are we leaving New York, but we're moving to the mid-West, Cincinnati to be precise. Yup, Cincinnati. Home of P & G, Macy's, Graeter's Ice Cream (pretty damn good), the Reds, and most topically, the College Conservatory of Music (known less formally as the Cincinnati Conservatory) where I have accepted the position of the Weinberger Chair of Acting in The Lyric Theatre. This means I'll be teaching acting to the opera and musical theater students in what is one of the finest conservatory programs in the country. That's me, Professor Goldstein. I'll also be directing operas and musical theater pieces with the students. I'll still perform around the country, and hopefully locally in the Nati (Do they even call the city that?), as they want someone who still works in his/her field. But I'll be spending a lot of time in the company of students, hopefully learning from them as much as they learn from me. I applied for the job because my friend Robin Guarino runs the opera fellows department, and basically she wants company out there, so she recruited me. So that's two. Three is not only are we moving to a small mid-Western past-its-prime-but-on-the-verge-of-a-comeback (Didn't anyone see the NY Times a couple of weeks ago? check here and here ) city, but we plan on buying a house for the first time. We've been very close to finding the one, but haven't quite hit the nail on the head. So that's three. Four's the biggie. On Monday next, Steve and I leave for India to begin the surrogacy process at Rotunda Center for Human Reproduction in Mumbai. We will be leaving a little genetic material there, to complete a cycle of IVF and hopefully have a baby (Or maybe two. Help.) by the end of June or so, 2010. Though we're going next week to Mumbai, we're holding off the IVF and embryo transfer to the surrogate until the end of October/beginning of November to try to stack the deck in our favor, so that we'll be parents at the end of June. Therefore, school will be out, we'll have the summer to get into some sort of groove, and then school will begin again in September. I know, 'mann tracht un Got lacht' (Man plans and God laughs.), but we'll at least try to do this on a schedule which would be helpful. Some people are saying we should wait, do it in a couple of years, get settled in Cincinnati first, but I feel we just aren't getting any younger, we'll feel all out of sorts in Cincinnati anyway, we might as well have something to distract us. So that's the beginning.