Monday, January 31, 2011

Running in a holiday town engenders a particular set of problems. I really need to get a shirt that says "Hey, I like to drink beer, too." Or "My exercise is not a condemnation of your cigarette." Old punks can be fit, too, right?


Oh dear.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


And then other mornings, I wake up in my guesthouse, alone, and think, "What kind of life is this?"

And then I think, "A free one?"

And then I wonder how long that can be enough. For a long time, maybe.

But these minor blues are just temporary. My birthday is coming up and scaring me slightly, and most of my favorite CITs from Camp LPB happen to be out of town at the same time. (Plan things better next time, will you?)

Leaps unbidden to mind of the day

Leaps unbidden to the mind of the day:

G could never remember the English word for pimples and always called them pimps.

“Mischa, why am I having these new pimps on my shoulder?” Add this one to the scale that says the world is a wonderful place.

I'm actually hoping to see G and his mama J when return I to Chiang Mai in February. It's been a very long time.Remembering as I type that I recently gave him the address of this blog. If you're reading this, baby, it's all out of love.

Tunisia/Egypt/Jordan/Yemen/Sudan? Not lumping them all together, but in this sense lumping them all together: fists clenched, eyes closed, thinking 'go go go go go.' Heart engaged.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is it Sunday?

So far:

Picking up my laundry, I chatted with a Lao teacher/guesthouse receptionist with a lazy eye (detail is important!), who wants me to donate a few copies of the book I'm currently writing to the LP library. Excellent idea.

I rode toward the market behind a tuk tuk full of rocks. Ahead of me were two Lao women squatting by the side of the road in what appeared to be a very intimate embrace. As I passed them, I saw that it was just a streetside lice inspection.

At the market a glob of tubercular spit missed my flip flop by inches. I got my usual ninety-cent assortment of corn, noodles, parasites, and much-recycled cooking oil.

I've made a nice coffee for myself at the bar and opened the tall french doors to let in the light upstairs. I notice I left a big, sweet, sticky pa dek stain on the table I usually sit at. Strangely, no bugs have found it yet. Maybe they're more concerned about their health than I am mine.

The orchids from Bahrain via Bangkok are still full and fluffy in their vases downstairs. They're over a week old by now. Small miracles make the world go 'round.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Camp LPB

I loved my week in Chiang Mai, but there's something lovely about waking up in the grayish morning and walking down streets that no one else is on. Small town beauty: having a whole road mostly to myself.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thai hospitality

Chiang Mai, 9 am.

It's already wintertime hot.
A hideously fat man in flimsy shorts and a tee shirt struggles to get from the backseat of a car up the curb to a bar. His legs are white and dimpled and spotted with red; bandaged strangely around the knees. His bumpy scalp is visible through the few curling grey hairs covering it. He leans on his cane and one Thai woman pulls him by the arm toward the bar while another supports him from behind. As he makes it over the curb, the woman supporting him reaches down and with her nails lightly kneads a small circle of the expanse of ass.

As they disappear out of the sun into the dark, I hear the man rasping “Now, two girls,” and the women echoing “Yes, two girls...”

10:15 am
I go for a bikini wax while I'm here, because they just don't exist in Luang Prabang. I've forgotten that in Thailand one generally takes everything off for the process, so this is already a more intimate encounter than I'd bargained for. Then somehow the limits I'd described were misunderstood, and the procedure becomes unexpectedly intrusive. (I'm pretty sure that just briefly, there was penetration. Full disclosure: at this point, I really don't mind.)

So I'm lying on my back, much more exposed than I'd expected to be, being tugged at in places I'd thought were well hidden, when there's a knock on the door. And the door opens. And another Thai woman wanders into the room, talking to the waxer. She walks over the the table and plops her hand down on my (unshaven) leg and begins absently stroking it. They talk in Thai; I lie on the table, defeated. After a few minutes, she asks if I want my legs waxed. No, I'll just shave them, I reply, as if they care about my hair-removal choices. Her hand stays on my leg. They continue to chat. All I can understand are numbers. She moves down toward the foot of the bed so the waxer can continue her truly unnecessary spelunking, but instead of releasing me, she slides her hand down to rest on my foot.

After two months of flip flops, I have the feet of a farmer and the one pedicure with my best girlfriend B has long faded. I'm mortified. Her hand stays, though, and she amazingly does not insist on giving me a pedicure before I leave—perhaps she thinks I'm a lost cause. I have one woman's face inches from my crotch and another one who won't stop touching me in the only other places I'd really prefer no one notice. And I'm paying for this.

The waxer at one point patted my stomach and said “No baby. Very good,” which was an improvement over the only other comments that I've gotten, both from the tailor I took a shirt to to have copied. When I came for my fitting, he commented that I have “big arms.” (I assume he meant 'long,' which is better, but not much.) Then later, he told me my friend was very pretty. Thank you so much, sir.

I suppose it's as good a time as any to go back to Luang Prabang.

Sans fards

Question of the day: should I just put on some make up? Is it time? I've been slouching around Chiang Mai sans fards for three days and I like it, I feel comfortable—but I don't need to look like shit on principle. I feel like it's nearly time to consider whether I should just accept that little bit of help, day to day.

Having not decided that yet, though, I haven't put myself through a cold-water hair wash, since it would still just be cosmetic at this point (five days, perhaps?), and I just can't be bothered making my hair look better when nobody's looking.

Chiang Mai on a budget, with a purpose, is really calm. I wake up, I walk to a market or a coffee shop, I write essays for the book because I'm still all out of fictional inspiration. I write emails, I get food, I drink late afternoon beer, I get eight hours of sleep; I do guesthouse yoga.

The two big Dalmatians in the yard I pass every day wear padded vests. It's fully hot even in shorts by ten am.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tummy rubs

It's been a while. I recall promising to get to some underbelly, and now I have. I got to kick off 2011 by getting robbed--of rather a lot of money, and very nearly every penny I had here. And I found this out the day a good friend finished his trip, leaving me doubly bereft. (Luckily, I was pretty anesthetized by the time I got home and found my big backpack dragged halfway across the room to the window with its slit screen, through which the thief had been able to stick his arm out far enough to get to the money sock. Yes, I realize there are other--some would say better--ways to store one's money.)

So back to the thrill of poverty, temporarily (I hope). I've been saying that I had the money so briefly that I hadn't had time to get attached to it. I've been saying that, hey, it's just money; it could happen anywhere; there's no use crying over something I can't change; I'll earn it back soon enough. What I'm not saying, and trying not to think, is "This is me and money."

The thing is, this really quite unpleasant event has ended up showing me how many people out here really care. The Aussie couple are falling all over themselves trying to offer me gifts (not loans) of cash. I don't know what I'd do without them, even if I'm not taking them up on their offers. B. is ever-present with beer and an ear; even G., the baby Frenchman with a knack for the accidental insult, came in to cover my drinks at the after hours bar the other night. A. refuses to allow my new penury to derail our plans to meet somewhere ex-Laos and insists on bearing most of the burden of a trip to...well. Where, exactly, is still up for discussion. But when your options are beautiful hippie mountain town or beautiful beach, straits are really not what one would call dire. A fundraiser in Turkey has been offered.

(And, of course, because I want to make myself commit to Laos for a while, suddenly Turkey and the Middle East are calling again. But no, not yet. I don't think.)