Tropical Kool-Aid


Listen, I know it’s been a long time, and I’m really sorry.  I guess we knew this would be difficult, and had warned one another innumerable times prior.  Perhaps “innumerable” proved insufficient.

In any case, I just wanted to let you know that I’m here, and that I miss you.  I can’t be dishonest: I don’t think of you as often as I used to.  There are these little flashes behind my eyeballs upon waking, little flashes of your colouring, of your smell, even, if that is possible.  Sometimes I want to relate your stories to my new friends, whisper your jokes to my room, write your history on the classroom blackboard.  I never do.

To be honest, it’s all about sincerity, about the better distortion of reality.  I hate to say it, I really do, for all of the good times we’d shared, but, well, I’m here now, and it’s great.  The wind today, as I sat at the crow’s nest of the island ferry, blanketed me in this fine, ashen salt, each bump from the rifts in the ocean floor sending up a kiss of marine dew.  These are the kisses to be missed, not yours.  A deep breath here is for pause in the midst of euphoria, perhaps a chance to drink up the bright blue of it all, maybe the most feasible way to feel it all, eyes closed, mind empty.  With you, such feeling left toxins in my lungs.

This is not all true, Los Angeles.  Sure, you don’t exactly afford much that the new girl might.  Sleeping on the beach in your Long Beach, for example, might set me back a mighty bail fine, less one kidneywallethairpiece, or a faceful of tar.  Here, however, Long Beach means sleeping in the spun sugar, heavenly tangle of a mosquito net, the saviour of your existence, atop a lumpy flea-ridden bed and a stained pillow, with your dear friend Kelly. This Long Beach is a leaky longtail ride away from Ko Phi Phi, one of the most notoriously serene, incomparably beautiful islands on this known earth, to an even more secluded speck of football and bug spray and kittens wrestling little crabs on the brittle concrete lobby floor.  This is a land where dinner is twice the price of the hotel, and that dinner — a giant, deep-fried, as-yet unidentified fish, a side of jasmine rice, and a tall Chang lager — sets you back less than $10 (exceeding the previously held record cost of ration by nearly three times).  This is a land that swallows one of your sandals from 35 feet below, somewhere in the inky blue sea, just before you hurl yourself off that jagged volcanicesque cliff (twice) to find her, landing with a thunderous CLAP and an empty promise.  This is also a land that gifts, in sorry consolation, two right sandals, one red and at least six sizes too small, the other black and fleecy and snapped in half, for your scraped left foot.  This is a land that permits your walking around the largest city in the region all day, all night, and all morning, with two bloody right feet, without a person noticing or caring.  Streaking bits of podiatric blood in our department stores?  Sawadee khrab.

Apart from cliff diving, Los Angeles, I also snorkel, getting encircled by thousands of neon fish as they swarm like aquatic ants for a floating banana peel, bumping into you, nipping at your ankles, saying “ah, pardon me, brah,” as the gaze at your with the eyeballs you’ll eat, fried, only a few hours later.  Diving below the surface offers views of pulsating acid-turquoise clam mouths buried in fuzzy crags, nibbling at the passing krill or whatever it might be.  What to nondescript, bright blue water lips eat, anyway?  I’m no marine biologist, but I am George Costanza.

My roommates are good.  There was a little hooker scare for a moment, but thankfully nothing came of it, and everyone gets along very well.  There’s Travis from Alaska, Dan from Minneapolis, Eban from Maine and Colin from Boston.  We all like beer, food, and, I’m sure, other things.  Beer and food are two things sufficient, and have spent many a night in the common room discussing bullshit and politics (or am I being redundant?  Oh, joke!).  I watched some of the debates today, by the way, and I’m here to say that both McCain and Obama are frustrating candidates…I’m completely withdrawn from this bullsh, and am waiting for even the slightest snifter of candor and sincere, intellectual invention from any of them.  It is frustrating.  Anyway, I’ve made friends here pretty quickly, and most shall be living around Bangkok, as I will, too.  Some of them seem to be having great difficulty transitioning into this new lifestyle, though Phuket is really quite tame in regard to culture shock (far moreso than Florence, dare I say), but most of them are of great mindset for new experience, without baggage or preconception or demand.  I’m taking notes from a friend that is the most  , relaxed, gentle person I’ve met…plenty of me to learn still, I think, in this regard.  There hasn’t been much time for true cultural immersion by any means, but it is frustrating to see some people so stuck in their habits, whether it’s the stubborn inability to try new foods or the general reserve to be read on their faces.  In any case, again, 98% of the group is wonderfully open-minded and daring, thoughtful and interesting, and even the 2% is pretty cool.  We’re all here after all, aren’t we?  I have as much in common with these people, I think, as I have with any others I’ve met in my life.  Spending a lot of time with married couples…go figure.  Did I mention I might have fleas?  Just kidding, mom.  Sort of.  I bumped into an old friend, Cait, out here the other day, and we had a pleasant talk and dinner and frisbee sesh.  She did this whole thing over the last six months, up there in Isaan, and is off to New Zealand right now.  We each possess a photocopy of the other’s itinerary.  She gave me the head’s up on a meditative, 11-day retreat way up north, and I’m thinking of doing that…11 days of no speaking or writing, waking up at foud every day, eating rice and meditating…think I can do it?  It’d be good to strip myself of my insecurity, of my showy, empty intellect, to dress like everyone else and go without all of my bad little habits for a little while.  I think it’d be great for me.  I’ll have to decide if I want this or a trip to Vietnam or whatever.  It’d be nice to get away from the groups for a while.  Something to think about.

I’m no Bourdain, no MacGuyver, but in the face of my inherent bashfulness, my deep-down desire for the comforable and the known, I would like to think that I’m doing pretty well thus far, and haven’t gone for want much at all.  I only wish I hadn’t brought so much stuff.  I deplore spicy foods, so with my first meal here, I pop that little red pepper straight into mouth (and then I sweat my shit out of every pore, straining to maintain my sanity over the next excruciating five minutes).  I dislike loud and obnoxious drunkenness, cultural voids, and, I guess, find the sexual marketplace at the opposite scale of appealing, but I went to Patong last Sunday.  I haven’t had the chance to eat anything weird — today I had a cake filled with powdered pork, much like eating a donut filled with salt, and immediately pooped that out.  This poop was like chocolate mousse, all gaseous and fluffy, with a scent somewhere between crayons and vension.  Other than that, the aforementioned fish eyeball, a little fried tail, the near-illegal durian (which caused a peculiar fight aboard the chartered boat that my friends and I rented…) a bag of clams bought from a street vendor, mixed with chili and basil, served (intentionally or otherwise) at room temperature, it’s been pretty quiet on the culinary front.  Unfortunately, most of the stuff around here is pretty normal, but maybe when I get to Ayutthaya I can challenge myself with bamboo worms or ant larvae or something.  I’m still unsure if I can eat the live spiders as they do in the northeast (or so I hear), but other than that, I’m ready for it.  I only list these things because this is my version of being adventurous: by nature, I’m pretty low-key, I think, so perhaps the stories won’t get much crazier than cliff-diving and insect cuisine, but I guess we’ll see what’s offered.  I just don’t want to feel scared of things anymore, and I don’t want to walk away wishing I had the gall to try this or eat that.  It’s also different when you’ve a job to think about.  We’ll see how the rocky mountain oysters fall.

Meanwhile, I have class very early tomorrow, so I have decided to say goodnight to you, city.  Wish my fantasy baseball team luck — by morning, I shall know if I have any chance at first (it’s looking grim, but I’m holding onto hope…come on CC Sabathia) — and wish your family very well.  If you’re reading this, humans, and I know you, be assured that I miss you (I hope you miss me, too).  Give my best to Keesha, and give the person next to you on the subway a high five because, hey!, the Dodgers won the NL West!  I’m a happy teacher-in-training.

Jim Lefebvre,

Eric BM


~ by nearhelsinki on September 28, 2008.

One Response to “Tropical Kool-Aid”

  1. That was quite romantic. So much so that Im even hesitant to write a response for fear that it will look measly next to the poetic descriptions of your own shit.

    I do, in fact, miss you too. Its always hard to be in such a new place and not be able to share it with everyone that matters, we both know this.
    I hope you wont forget us anytime soon.

    Update often.

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