After a month in the quiet comfort of Ithaca, Celia and I set out for the chaos of New York City. The intention was to enjoy a weekend in Brooklyn with Celia's old college friends, apply for a visa at the Indian embassy on Monday and leave for Paris a couple of days later. We got more than we bargained for at the outsourcing company that handles the embassy's visa apps and ended up having to delay our flight with Air India. Not only did we incur a (supposed) $325 penalty each, but spent the next days in excruciating anxiety running around the city with the worst of future visions running through our heads. The visa ordeal was a crash-course in Indian culture that has helped us survive thus far...More on India later.

While in NY I hit up the gargantuan B & H Photo headquarters for a new 50mm/1.4 lense. Man was that an interesting experience... Like stepping into a crowded Orthodox-Jewish neighborhood in Brookyln! Salesman squawking in Yiddish over overwhelmed shoppers. A photo equipment candy store...A nightmare for a photographer wanting to save money for upcoming world travels.

We pressed for help at the Indian embassy - they guarantee same-day visa service - and luckily ran into a nice guy transporting passports from the embassy to the outsourcing office. Long story short, he found my passport with a stamped visa in a "suspicious persons pile," gave us a call, and we met at the corner of Madison Ave and 64th to exchange the passport for our receipt. Very cloak and dagger, or so we imagined.

And guess what? At Newark airport the Air India counter told us we only owed $75 each and upgraded us to business class due to overbooking. The irony (and free glasses of wine) kept us laughing all the way to Paris.