Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hello from Bangkok!

sa-wat-dee jahk grung tep!

After a furiously relaxing Thai massage I'm en route to Hua Lamphong to escape Bangkok and all its filthy charm, but am looking forward to a taxi ride through the city on the way to the station. Hope to catch an overnight train to Surat Thani this evening. Everything going well, in good health, though it's disgustingly hot. Check blog for updates, and some photos on flikr.

dit dor mah na! (Keep in touch!)


26 October 2007NY, NY

Slept quietly most of the way to New York and was birthed on to steamy seaweedy Canal St. in the spitting night. Find a back alley Chinatown soup-kitchen noodlehouse and get heaping plate of white rice, seaweed with black tofu, hot chicken, and some kind of fried white root, on styrofoam platterplate scooped up with chopsticks, for $4. The peasant soup makes me feel kind of like a sad little bum--mostly tepid water with salt and a few floating pieces of celery and onion in a styrofoam cup. I watch the Chinese kid with his girlfriend across from me drink it down. I try to stifle my laughter at the Chinese music videos playing on the tv--American songs sung by Chinese people; somehow I can't take it seriously. It is strange, though, feeling like a foreigner before I have even left the country.

I meet Mel at her apartment on St. James Place and we catch up over tea in the kitchen after a half hour talk with her landlord about the ten Chinese people living in the one apartment above leaving the water running. It's been about three or four years since I've seen Mel, and she is as gorgeous as ever. We go to Little Italy around 11pm to get some dinner, and talk about her recent trip back to India, and about sex and chastity, and her father's new koi pond. I kid her about being a saint and she viciously rebukes me; rightfully so, but there's some truth there nonetheless.

27 October38,000 ft. above Anchorage, Alaska

One of the movies on the plane is "License to Wed" and I can't help watching it in silence, Mandy Moore looking so cute and grown-up Disney and getting, married. And I get a little sad but then I remember when Ray Smith says, "pretty girls make graves," and it makes me feel a little better. To help myself back it up, I cut all my hair off two nights ago. Kate came over and I thought she was going to do it for me but she said (to my initial chagrin, since she promised) "no, you have to do it yourself." And then I realized she must be some kind of boddhisatva angel come to help me by refusing to help me. I said "okay." I pushed the clippers across my scalp like a lawnmower; bristly clumps of hair floated down into the sink. I felt no sense of consequence and actually it was kind of like a sighing mechanical Fuck You to no one in particular for having been put in a grave in the first place. Kate navigated from a distance, but never did it for me, just stood there with a wry smile like a pleased buddha and assured me "everything will happen as its suppossed to happen" and I experienced a little burp of enlightenment, like when Ray discovered "you cannot fall off a mountain." Then she went home and I threw my hair in the trash and packed my rucksack and then ate some food in the quiet kitchen, because I was hungry, and was still kind of high.

28(?) OctoberTokyo

10 Minute Narita

In Narita airportthe toilets in the men's room are like porcelin sand pits.
I snap a picture in amazement of novelty;the janitoress is agahst.At first I was afraid she thought
I was an American spy,but then realize it was becauseI had robbed her of the chance to clean it first.
She continues to laugh and scold me with her fistas I dry my hands and slirk out.

28 Oct., 21:00Bangkok

On the road to Banglampuh--my apprehensions melt away. The white lines passing underneath the busare like ghosts quickly forgotten;exhaling sighs of gasping repose,time no longer coursing through their veins,they pass into the nightlike snakes into the forest.


I now have one goal on arriving in Bangkok: escape Banglampuh and its backpacker ghetto enclave, Th Kao San (thanks Tim). Lights and noise and hawkers and gold buddhas--it is the Tijuana of Bangkok, sans the Red Light, and has me feeling like a frightened bhikku trapped in a cage. I know now why Buddhahasa Bhikku fled the city to found the Wat Suan Mokkh in the docile forests of the south.

Things do go pretty smoothly when I arrive, though; I find a cheap room right next to the 7-eleven for 400 baht ($12)/night. A German guy tries to ask the receptionist when she gets off work, but she shuts him down politely by saying, 'Midnight. I'm going home.' I point to the sign on the desk that reads: CHECK OUT 12:00AM (NOON) and try to explain to her that 12:00am is actually midnight, which I think she finally got after a while.

I drop my stuff in my room, which in its poverty (the 'shower' is a faucet connected to the wall and a drain hole next to the toilet) still sports a bidet attached to the toilet and clean, thread-bare sheets on the mattress. A ceiling fan pushes the warm stale air around the plaster-and-wallpapered room. I think of Thomas Merton and his early electrocuted end, which could have happened in a room like this in Bangkok some forty years ago. Some American band across the rooftop is playing covers of James Blunt and Alabama. In the distance I can see the Democracy Monument and the jutting gold spires of buddha fortress Wat Ratchanadda piercing the red sky.

There are a million and one bars and cafes, so I just go to the one next door and order a papaya and crab salad with red chili and a yogurt shake. I had every intention of sitting and eating and writing for a bit and then crashing, but a Thai girl sitting alone at a table nursing a beer asks for a light and so I invite her to sit down. She is gaunt thin, wearing a blue dress, and when I ask her name she says 'Pu' ("like the crab in your salad!" she laughs). We talk about family and a few things but she is quiet and I am quiet so the conversation is a bit strained. I ask her if she has a boyfriend and she shakes her head no, "I am ugly," she says without laughing, and it is heartbreaking in a way. She works in a shopping center. I talk with a South African from the same town as Charlize Theron watching the soccer match who has been here for three years who says, "This country is awesome, but get the fuggoutta Bangkok mate." I intend to do just that. I pay my tab and decline an invitation from Pu to go to another bar and leave her looking gaunt and splendidly beautiful in the alone lit night smoking and wondering about everything that is, but I'm too tired to talk anymore and head to bed. In the lobby a girl in pink (thanks Jeremy) follows me into the stairwell asks where I'm from; I tell her America but that's about all I'm going to tell her besides, "thank you, I'm good," as I head up alone to my room. I hope it is an accurate double entendre as I lie in the wide bed in the thick air of night staring at the gently convusling ceilng fan. I hope to secure a sleeper car to Surat Thani first thing in the morning; that is, if the night gives way to to a respite of sleep.

29 Oct. 07:00

Th Kao San never really slept last night, at least as far as I know--day and night stitched together in one seamless blanket of activity. I rouse up at six and from my window watch the dusty orange robed monks padding along the freshly swept thanon, making their morning rounds with alms bowl in hand.

I go next door to the bar for breakfast: fruit and yogurt, porridge w/ banannas, and iced coconut milk. I watch a man across the street get a Thai massage in a plastic lawn chair. When the boy working on him hits a nerve in the neck or side, the man throws up--neon green pellets making a 'splash' in the street. I ask the waiter about it. 'Ah," he says, 'proahly too much to drink,' which would make sense. Tak taks--three wheeled death traps driven by sheisters looking to pick up tourists--choke down the street alongside wimpy looking scooters and olive-drab military men riding pink bicycles. It is hot already.

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