Know that I have been thinking of you, even as my life has become a cacophony of waterfalls, temples, and long bus rides. Accidental 5 km hikes. 20-cent beers by the riverside. Photos of monkeys. Bowls of soup. Chinese-language karaoke singers in the middle of crowded footcourts. Watermelons and elephants, and sometimes elephants eating watermelons. Elderly Australians drinking shandies. Bare feet and sunburns and mosquito bites. Boats and trains and motorbikes. Chopsticks and chopsticks and chopsticks. My hair is long, to the point that I get more offers for marijuana than I usually would. I’ve lost 20 pounds. I’ve forgotten most of the days of the week. Is it Christmas or Halloween? I wouldn’t know.
Your plaintive wails for succor have not gone unheard–know that I see new subscribers, that I read comments, that I check my stats on the regular, here even in the depths of whatever jungle or bar or Mekong river or whathaveyou. (Sidebar: my stats are as good now as when Writing Was a Thing I Actually Did, which is either very good or very bad. Does the aloof, withholding blogger thing seem romantic? Does my absence seem even more captivating than my regular, bloated presence? Must investigate further.) I have words for you. Lots of them. Too many. They are positively seeping at this point. I write to you now as a sort of depressurization mechanism–I feel heavy with so much unused verbiage. My need to spill some of these words is an aching, a cyst that must be lanced so all the linguistic goo–this metaphor has taken a turn. I got lots to say, and also lots of pictures, and know that when the time comes, I will smother you with them.
For now, here are some fragments from the road. Let them tide you over, let them soothe and salve your chapped and hungry souls, until I can sit down with a laptop and mealy-mouth the shit out of y’all.
I hope you’re all doing well. It’s Saturday night, I’m in Vietnam, and the storm has broken.
We drift down the river alone, cement pillars being torn down in our wake. We link hands and
make a chain at a rickety, birdbone-frail bamboo bridge. Lao initiate monks wrap their saffron robes into loin cloths ad leap from the high ledge into the river. The summer sun is hot, and the boys practice their
English before we slip down the water.
We are in a deep valley between tropical mountains and absolutely no Australians are high on crystal meth, despite previous expectations and all assurances to the contrary.
When we drive to the Big Buddha, our path grows misty as the road climbs the steep mountain. We seem, with every moment, to be driving into the sky. At the peak, a shrouded figure looms, resting on an enormous, half-assembled lotus. Everywhere he is crosshatched with bamboo braces, generating or deteriorating, it is impossible to tell. He rises into the clouds and out of sight. We are surrounded by rubble, by mist, by rebar, by cement, and the wind carries the distant sound of bells. We are in Phuket, circa 3714, after the end.
The clouds soon part, and the city peels out before us, like a new home sought by pioneers. Could this be ours?
The streets are different at this time of morning, when the sun is still gone. THey are wider now, older–they speak of a town that was here before shoes and suits and bootleg DVDs. There are lanterns, fragments of old language, aged roof tiles, people in those early hours who thrive in the still. Outside of the city, women practice tai chi with crimson fans under the milk-and-tea sky. Markets unfurl. People begin the day, the world, over coffee and condensed milk.
My Son. A holy land. Somehow Hinduism has found its way here, has survived all this time. Shiva, Uma, Ganesha rest in these old bricks, underneath the shade of a foreign mountain, aside the cool wind of a foreign river. Far from home, amid deep bomb craters, they are solace for a whole different people–they became a new understanding in a totally new place.