Elephant Ride. . . . . Check!


Near the top of the  list of  desired adventures in India for the students was to ride an elephant.  Jaijpur is  the place to do it..   You can stand in line  for hours at the Amber Fort and have the dramatice ride into the fort.  We chose to visit the fort longer and go to the Elephant Village later in the day. There were all sorts of packages, feed the elephant, paint on the elephant, bathe the elephant for additional money  but our kids only wanted a ride on an elephant.  David and I did this last trip and once was enough, honestly.  Pretty uncomfortable lumbering along. Plus there was some uncomfortable drama with our elephant last time when she couldn’t see her mama in front of her. Loud, head back, trunk up trumping and turning to see mom.. Pretty scary from our position.  Anyway, I was going to…

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A Too Quick Visit to Amdavad

Image result for images from Welcome To Ahmedabad

David and I were in Amdavad from January 13 – 23 for a world wind of work for him and a  flying around trying to visit all our favorite sites and seeing as many as possible of special friends.   Well, you may have noticed that I have been back for nearly a month and haven’t posted on the trip.  It has been a very unusual month. . . . . for several reasons. . . .

First, I was very sad. . . yes maybe depressed not to be staying in India.  David had decided he would let someone else go with the students this trip, but because we were there, I met and fell in love with the new group!  In just the short time we were there with them, they adjusted happily and easily.  The students who chose to do their abroad semester in India are quite adventurous and independent.

One problem we had to address was first mice in two of the rooms in the hotel where the program is housed and then reports of a rat!   This was India but that is not acceptable. But we wondered what was the solution in conservative Hindu Gujarat?  We thought to kill the uninvited guests was not on the list of solutions but we were surprised.  We were assured that there was some electrical device with a high piercing sound that would keep away the rodents. But they also said that poison was used.  I guess that tourists win over rodents.  We have heard nothing about rodents returning! And happily, no more sightings!

David went over to ensure that the new plans were indeed in place for Ted, his wife, Jean  and the students.  He thought since he was working, there was no need for me to go!   Oh but I had different ideas.!   I had to go. . . and promised not to bug him or insist on holding people’s hands to cross the street!   Each time I leave India,  I think this is forever, that I will never get back and that make me ever so sad.    I remember having a very hard time with that sad or depressed feeling both in 2013 and 2015 on returning to the States after a semester in India.

The other real challenge both while in India and when we got home was severe jetlag!   And I mean severe.  On our arrival in India after nearly 30 hours of traveling, we didn’t want to waste a minute, but just pushed through fatigue but found ourselves wide awake at 3 am.  It was remarkably easy to stay awake because we were so happy to be there.  Slowly, we slept a little more, enough to keep us going but with long periods of being wide awake during the night.  All along we kept thinking, we can sleep when we get back to New York.

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Well, guess what?   We had double jet lag when we got home and it lasted for days and days and weeks and weeks.  Poor David had work to do and lectures to give, and meeting to attend so he didn’t have much time to be depressed with the cold and the snow.  But the 3 AM question was, “Are you awake, too?”    Slowly, we have now been acclimated back to normal here. But especially I miss.Incredible India. ( At Joey Fala’s recital, we met an international pilot who shared a formula to avoid jet lag. I don’t remember the details, as I never do, but will remember to Google it before another trip. )

The first morning we arrived in Amdavad and were riding around in our rickshaw in the chaos of the city. .  of the country, in and out of cars, rickshaws, camels, elephants,  monkeys, and motorbikes.

I felt at home. .  . .   I was home. . . .   I hope to return again. . . . that is my dream!

India steals a place from your heart and you are never the same again anywhere else.

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“Departures” The 2009 Japanese Best Foreign Film

Image result for images from Departures Japanese film

The other day I had a response to my world faith blog on Reincarnation and Mummification.  People are very interested in death rituals and beliefs, the unknown aspect of what happens after death.


My memory was jostled by the thought of this film I saw in a foreign film class I took in the local library in the near past.   The background story is that of a young musician who desperately needs a job.  He finds work in a most unlikely place, assisting as a Nokanshi or traditional Japanese mortician. This produces conflict in his family and friends due to the Japanese public’s shunning of those who are involved in death rituals.

For me, it was a touching and gentle story of the passing of a family member whose death preparation takes place in her home, surrounded by loved ones,  for her final journey.

The idea for this film was an India death ritual near the Ganges which I have seen in Varanasi. ” Departures” is not depressing, but shows the calming, beautiful, and dignified work in Japan after the departure of a loved one.

This is the only access I could find on Youtube.com.  I hope it works for those of you who might be interested.

I would love to hear your reaction to this idea and film about death in Japan.


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“Lion”, a film

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Dev Patel, as the  man Saroo Brterley searching for his family.

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This is Saroo as a child played by Sunny Pawar who almost stole the film from Dev and most assuredly stole the audiences’ hearts!

Sunny Pawar in Lion – the Indian actor has reportedly been denied a visa to visit the US for the New York premiere of the film.

Eight-year-old Sunny Pawar and his father were denied a visa to enter the US for the premier in New York and Los Angeles.   Shame on the US State Department.

Lion is the true story of an Indian man who got lost as a child.  It is a simple but incredibly complex story of a little boy who through no fault of his own ends up alone and on the dark streets of Kolkata, unable to speak the language of this state far away from his own. He is forced to steal, sleep on the street with other homeless Indian street children just to survive.   He barely misses being taken as a sex slave.  But all through his journey Saroo Brierley, whose story is told, never stopped dreaming about his family who had been left behind.

Lion is up for the Academy Award for best picture.  Garth Davies is an Australian director who worked until this film directing television. Dev Patel is the Indian actor so prevalent in films popular in the west. He was first seen in Slumdog  Millionaire, which did win the best picture.  He was also in The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Life of Pi. Interesting aside is that Dev was born and lives in London.  This film may have attracted him as a journey film of his own life. He was willing to work hard on an Australian accent and gain weight and work out to be a believable athlete.  In Indian films and in real life, the women in India have the most amazing thick long hair, but Dev has the spectacular thick long curls in Lion.

Google Earth plays a prominent part of the plot and is how Saroo was able to unlock the mystery of finding his village in rural India, based on his memories of his fateful train trip.

Faith is evidenced through in the background.  There was a call to prayer, a brief stop at a Hindu god and characters speaking of being blessed.  I have mentioned before that in India, 98% of the population claim a faith system and it is a very important part of  the culture.

Lion is a wonderful example of the films that Indians do best,  films filled with inspiration. It is a strongly moral, pro-family movie with emphasis on the mother-child relationship both as the birth mother and adoptive mother. Just as India is very transparent to visitors both positive and negative aspects of their culture such as poverty, orphans, street people, internal strife of right and wrong, family, love, adoption and the meaning of love.  Actually, like many Indian films . . . . this film is about life and that is what the Indians get. . . and live. . . . And inspire the rest of the world with their insight.

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Senior Recital at Yale University/Joseph Fala

The program is 60 minutes long.   My favorite is the joyful finale of the  Dupre  Prelude in B Major.  I would love to hear all those notes played and bouncing off the marble finishes  in one of the Baroque Cathedrals in Rome or Prague.

And my favorite. . . .

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A National Treasure

On Sunday, David and I drove to New Haven to see  Joey Fala’s  senior organ performance for his Master’s Degree. We had a delicious lunch at Tarry Inn on Park Street with extraordinary Italian cuisine and happy banter with  Joey, Kathy, his first organ teacher from Hawaii, and Gary another organist in the Troy area.  We planned to leave immediately after the recital because of an early morning class David had to teach on Monday morning, so dinner was not an option.

The campus of Yale is amazing.  It was my first time there and we both thought it is more impressive than even Harvard.  Yale is nestled into the city fabric with parts of the old campus surrounded by wrought iron and period architecture. I have no idea what the relationship with the city is,  but imagine it is the usual suspicion of   “town and gown” in most university towns.  The appearance, though,  is one of integration

We had only time for a brief visit to the British Museum designed by Luis Kahn. He is an architect we both enjoy.  My favorite art is Italian and other art rarely meets that standard.  I did love the Long Hall with floor to ceiling paintings in a dramatic “Long Hall.”  each space had skylights for natural light.  Kahn worked his magic at Yale.  His theory of design was to “ask the bricks what they wanted to be!! This creative unorthodox design theory often needed tweaking by more practical architects. When Kahn was in India designing IIM, a spectacular campus, Doshi had to point out that the orientation needed to be changed to avoid the boiling afternoon sun.

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The British Museum at Yale.

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The Long Gallery.

After walking 7000+ steps, nearly 4 miles, we sat in the car waiting for the 7:30 recital. It is not yet on Youtube, but there is a piece played by Joey at an another concert on my previous, included, post. ( See link below the final image.)  I will post his hour-long recital when it is available.

Here are images of Woosley Hall where there are 2500 seats for various events.   Joey told us that people sit only in the back balcony of the hall for organ recitals to hear the most perfect acoustics.

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For one hour on February 05, 2017, Joey Fala and The Newberry Memorial Organ made music as one.  The program was varied and dramatic from jubilant to haunting.  This Orchestral Organ absolutely has tones and sounds of the orchestra and volume to fill this giant hall.  No matter the perfection of the instrument, the organist makes it happen. Joey Fala was the man of the hour and played with perfection.

In the last three years, Joey Fala has or will have completed two degrees in Architecture including  a Master’s Degree in Lighting from Rennessalaer and in May a Master’s in Music in Organ Performance from Yale.

What are his plans for the future?  He was uncertain or vague when I asked at lunch. There are lots of possibilities and I am sure his hard work, humility, and talent will open many doors for Joey on his life journey. There is no doubt that he will continue to inspire and bless many people along the way.

Thanks for the memories and God speed, Joey.  You are a National Treasure!

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Tragic Fact of Life Today

A heroin story, full of heartache; Image result for image of heroin

Jimmy Galante OD’s at 26

Updated 9:35 am, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This now familiar but still  tragic story has a face, a story, a young addict, his family’s pain, all cursed by heroin.  Jimmy lived in a middle class bedroom community of Albany, the state capital of New York just across the Hudson from Troy.  Another community hit hard by  heroin deaths is Postenkill to the East of Troy and the home of my daughter and her family and is  another middle class community.  Most of the victims are in their 20s who got hooked on powerful prescription pain pills when they were teens. Now that the doctors have limited these prescriptions,  the cheap and available drug is heroin which costs only a few dollars. Along with the severe addictive components is the fact that the heroin is laced with all sorts of unknown substances unknown to the buyer who only wants a high and many die in the process.

To emphasize this as a worldwide problem, in 2017, a new version of “Trainspotting” is planned for released. The first film was released in 1996 and is available on YouTube.com. The tragic problem is still around!

Jimmy Galante almost broke free from the hell of heroin.

His mother found him two days after Christmas, in his bedroom at her home in Latham. There were needles and tiny empty glassine envelopes on a desk near his body. He was 26 years old.

He had been an altar boy at Saint Ambrose Church in Latham, where his funeral Mass was held the day after New Year’s. He was laid to rest in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery.

His father is a retired Albany cop, James Joseph Galante Sr.

Jimmy was on the road to becoming a heroin success story and living a happy, drug-free life. He had completed 16 months of intensive residential treatment at Hospitality House in Albany and had been clean for more than two years before his fatal relapse.

He had been blessed with second and third, and more, chances at sobriety.

He stole cash and jewelry and prescription medication from his mother and burned a lot of bridges.

He had been brought back from near-death with Narcan in a hospital emergency room a few years earlier. He had spent time in jail after washing out of several rehab programs. Drug court gave him a fighting chance.

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Fundraising information

Galante’s family has set up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign for Hospitality House. For those wishing to contribute in Jimmy Galante’s memory, go to


He had dark eyes, soft cheeks and a shy grin.

There was a life before the wreckage of heroin, a happy one. He was a Cub Scout and played Little League baseball. He was a good guitar player and loved heavy metal music. He joined a band, Lycanthrope, and they got a gig at the old Saratoga Winners.

He was wicked smart and won a free trip to Disney World put up by a high school teacher who was amazed after Jimmy aced a practice Regents exam before they had even covered the material in class.

He took classes at Hudson Valley Community College and worked as an installer at a window company and was a star employee. Until heroin dragged him down, once again, in its toxic undertow.

Recently, he had been having heart-to-heart talks with his mother, Marytheresa Galante. He spoke frankly about his heroin addiction, which started with snorting it for the first time six years ago to try to impress a girl he had a crush on.

He eventually shot up as he “chased the dragon,” seeking an ever-elusive high. His addiction soon enough became less about achieving euphoria and more about keeping at bay the horrendous and intense flu-like symptoms of withdrawal.

“He told me that when you’re dope-sick, you’ll kill your mother for $100,” Marytheresa Galante said.

His drug use morphed from smoking pot with buddies as a teenager at Shaker High School and Christian Brothers Academy. His parents transferred him to CBA his junior year because they wanted more discipline for their wayward son and to get him away from druggie friends.

“I was so naive back then,” his mother said. “It was just a better class of drug user.”

Heroin does not recognize ZIP codes or adhere to any kind of social boundary. It has left a long trail of heartache, devastation and death on dozens of families across the Capital Region for the past few years.

In a notebook his mother recently bought him, Jimmy wrote the names of friends who had died of heroin overdoses. The list, incomplete, stopped at 14. Four others were in prison.

He was friends with some of those whose harrowing heroin stories I have written about, including Dan Flood and Patty Farrell’s daughter, Laree, who died of a heroin overdose at 18 in 2013. Flood, 26, of Guilderland, who failed a dozen treatment programs and has spent time in jail, is homeless again in downtown Albany. He is a familiar sight as he panhandles just off Interstate 787 at the Madison Avenue exit. Galante always stopped to talk to Flood when he saw him out there by the highway, holding a rumpled cardboard sign. He would pass his friend a few bucks.

Galante’s father and Farrell, also a retired Albany cop, went way back. His mother has a snapshot of Jimmy with Patty Farrell at a Halloween party when he was about 3 years old. Jimmy was dressed in a little policeman’s uniform.

“It breaks my heart every time I see it,” his mother said.

Ironically, at 15, Jimmy came home from a friend’s house with a tattoo on his leg: XXX Straight Edge. It was their pact never to do drugs again. That friend, 22, died of a drug overdose at his parents’ Loudonville home in 2013. His family has not publicly shared his heroin story.

His mother posted this on Facebook last week: “Heroin addiction is a tragedy for the person it has control over as well as their family. Time to stop all the shame and secrecy. Before one more child dies.”

She got a message from a Shenendehowa High School teacher who said she knew seven former students who died of heroin overdoses in the past two years.

Young Do has been a counselor and clinical director at Hospitality House for the past 11 years. He’s seen the clients in the 72-bed facility on Central Avenue in Albany shift from primarily alcoholics in their mid-30s to mostly heroin addicts in their early 20s. Dozens are on a waiting list. Officials are searching for a larger building in the wake of the heroin epidemic.

“It’s still getting worse,” said Do, noting there has been a recent surge of new stronger, cheaper synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which have flooded the local market with a grim lethality.

Galante’s family is raising money for Hospitality House in Jimmy’s memory.

“They gave me my son back, at least for a little while,” his mother said.

She sobbed when she looked at a photograph of last summer’s family vacation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Jimmy was clean. His younger brother and sister were there. It was the first time in six years they were all together. She hadn’t seen him healthier or happier in a long while.

Jimmy Galante ultimately could not escape what his mother called “this terrible demon.”

He was just a sweet kid from the suburbs.

May he rest in peace.


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