mahmud rahman's pages


Category: travels (Page 2 of 2)

Signs in the mountains

I kept seeing the signs. On Overland Avenue in L.A. near where I stopped to visit my sister and nephew, as I walked each morning towards Venice Boulevard to get my morning coffee, I passed three small houses with signs. Psychic. Readings by Maria. Palm readings. Tarot cards. During earlier visits, I'd passed by those houses many times, but this time a part of me wondered, "Should I enter one of these houses — just for the lark of it?
    I'm a hardcore skeptic, finding it hard to believe that lines in your hands or a random pick of cards from a deck can tell anything about your life.
    The skeptic in me prevailed. I kept walking.
    In Boulder I would make a different choice.

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Driving through Utah

I drove today from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Green River, Utah. In Utah, especially on I-70 headed eastward towards Colorado, you see some of the most spectacular vistas: mountains in formations that look like human-built monoliths, ranges that change color from shades of red to gray and black, twisted trees, and rock arrangements that look like children put them together. Here's some of my favorite photos:



I hit my first thunderstorm soon after turning off to I-70 from I-15 North. It wasn't too bad.



“Vegas is king, baby.”

"Vegas is king, baby. Woo hoo," my friend W. wrote back from New York after I'd dropped her a line saying I was in her favorite vacationland yesterday. She grew up in Hawaii. I remember her telling me the playground city in the Nevada desert is the destination of choice for many Hawaiians when they migrate to the mainland U.S. When traveling back home to Maui herself, W. often stops there.
    Perhaps Vegas is king if a) you're a gambler; b) you're not just stopping there on the way to someplace else; and c) you go there with company.

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Heading towards Los Angeles

Nothing really to say, but here's some photos from the drive down to Los Angeles. 


Heading south on 101 from the Bay Area 

 101South 2

Zen? It felt so. 

 Morro Rock

I stopped for lunch at Morro Bay. For several summers I used to come down here from Oakland to write for a few days.


My traveling companion who accompanied me from Providence to Oakland in 1997 has come along for this ride too. Say hello to Celia.

Farewell to Oakland

A paper cut. A pain between the shoulder blades that felt like I'd been stabbed by an instrument of torture. Too many sad partings with friends and favorite places. Such are the scars with which I drove away from my home in Oakland at 6:27 p.m. on the last day of July.
    Thanks to two band-aids, the paper cuts are history. The back pain worsened from sleeping on an air mattress that I had not fully inflated — blame the exhaustion — but with a rest from driving, a letting go of tense muscles, and a few doses of naprosyn, that too shall be memory.
    The scars of saying goodbye are not so easily healed. The pain was for the moment anaesthetized by the anxiety and bustle of storing or getting rid of accumulation. It hasn't really hit me yet, but I know it will get worse before the edges are dulled and the sorrow becomes the kind of memory that brings a wistful smile.

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At the AWP in Austin

The first week of March I flew to Austin, Texas.
    When I stepped out of the hotel to find something to eat, the sun had  disappeared. My ears were immediately assaulted by a cacophony of bird sounds. The trees swarmed with birds that looked like crows but didn’t sound anything like crows. What birds were these?
    For dinner I chose the closest place I could find, The Boiling Pot on Sixth. It served crawfish, crabs, and shrimp, boiled up Cajun style. When my order was ready, the young waitress, all smiles, tossed it on the sheet of butcher paper that she had earlier rolled out on the table. With a friendly pat on my arm, she said, “You eat with your hands here.” No problem, I’m used to doing that where I come from. Next to me, four Japanese men snapped photos of their meals. I’ve done that too, but my dinner wasn’t photogenic. It tasted great, though.
    I was in Austin for the annual conference of the AWP (known today as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs). When I was in the MFA program at Mills College, I was familiar with the AWP through free copies of their magazine, the Writers Chronicle. But I’d never considered attending their conference.
    This year I was invited by the novelist Sorayya Khan to join a panel of South Asian writers on “Writing War, De-scribing Empire.”  Last year I had reviewed her book “Noor,” the first novel by a Pakistani writer to focus on breaking the silence on the Pakistani war that birthed independent Bangladesh. We came to discover that we shared an interest in writing about war, specifically the war in 1971, for me the defining moment of my coming of age. As it turned out, the same panel would also present a reading the day before at the University of Texas.
    I wasn’t sure what to expect in Austin, but I’m glad I went.

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How far is Penang from Dhaka?

On my last trip back to Dhaka, Bangladesh, nearly a year ago, I flew in via Singapore.  At that airport, dozens of Bangladeshis came on board.  I sat in an aisle seat, and a young man with a mustache took the window.  After we had finished the evening meal, I asked him where he was coming from.  Malaysia, he said. He had flown in from Penang, where he worked in construction, setting up elevators.
    There are perhaps as many as 200,000 Bangladeshi laborers in Malaysia, just over half that number having legal contracts to work there.  Most are employed in construction.  Through our conversation I learned something of the conditions in which they lived and worked.

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On a street named Moliere

On my last night in Mexico City this July — I was visiting at the invitation of an old college friend — I went out with my host family to a lovely restaurant on a street named after Moliere. I was surprised to find that the streets in that neighborhood were named after figures from other countries – from the world of writing or art or politics. Moliere was just off the main road named after Masaryk. Not far, I was told, were roads named after Jules Verne and Voltaire. Earlier on my trip, I had walked past statues of Tito, Gandhi and Churchill along Paseo de la Reforma near the wonderful National Museum of Anthropology. Downtown I had walked streets named after the countries of Latin America and I have learned that in the Zona Rosa there are roads named after world cities.

I did not get a chance to find out how universal this naming was: perhaps it was heavily oriented towards Europe and Latin America. I would be curious to know if the celebration extends further.

But still.

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