30 January 2011

“When life gives you lemons, just say 'F--- the lemons,' and bail.”

(Published 13 October 2010)

Yesterday I was lying on a beach chair using my right foot to flick sand from my left when I thought, What day is today?  I let the thought spin slow and answerless before turning to the four or five people lying on the beach next to me to ask if they knew.  They didn’t.  They each responded with a disinterested shoulder shrug.   Before I could think of a new tact I got distracted by something else, storm clouds, passing tourists maybe, I don’t remember.  I’m glad I didn’t figure out what day it was though, if I had I inevitably would have started wondering what time it was, and who needs all that?

This thing I’ve got going is pretty sweet.  You know life is trending toward extraordinary when you have the luxury of forgetting the day.  But, I don’t want you thinking my life is all warm seas and sweet drinks.  The road has its pitfalls.  Here are just a few:

Toilets - Toilets in Asia are an unmitigated disaster.  The nice ones are awful, the awful ones are a horror writer’s dark place.  There is no toilet paper.  I don’t mean the roll is always empty, I mean it doesn’t exist.  TP is a weirdo westerner thing here.  That leaves you with one of three options:

#1  Western style toilet with a bum gun.  WTF is a bum gun?  It’s a short hose next to the toilet with a pressure handle on the end.  When you’re finished you aim the gun, squeeze…don’t pull…squeeze the trigger and jettison yourself of what may come.

#2  Western style toilet with a hose.  The same as the bum gun scenario minus the pressure handle.  If you feel as though the situation warrants pressure you’ll have to partially block the end of the hose with your thumb.  Be careful, if not properly aimed this can necessitate a change of clothes.

#3  Squat toilet with a water scoop.  Basically a porcelain hole in the ground, the squat toilet is a big hit here in Asia.  Squatting takes all the leisure out of dropping anchor.  You will never experience the joy of discovering that someone has left the sports section in a squatter.  And when you’re done and ready to stretch your creaky knees the only finishing product is a water trough and small bucket with a handle.  Get your head around that. 

It’s a weird feeling the first time you walk into a bathroom and think, Damn!  No bum gun.  But, I suppose it could be worse.  I met a Dutch man named Neils who told me that in parts of central Asia people squat into a river and wipe with a rock.  Neils has tried this and swears that a good smooth stone is far more effective than leaves and grass and such.

Unholy trekking shoes - After my trek in Chaing Mai I put my muddy, rain drenched shoes into a plastic bag and tied them to the outside of my backpack.  I left them sealed up and tied off for three days.  What crawled out of that bag was not shoes; they had become something unholy, something foul.  Over a two day period I doused them with an entire bottle of Lysol.  I had to.  Every time I walked into the room I got hit with a swamp stench uppercut.  With spray can in hand I attacked them with reckless abandon.  I must have looked like someone trying desperately to finish off a cockroach that refuses to die.  Did the Lysol do the trick?  Imagine throwing an orange peel on top of a heap of hot garbage and shitty diapers.  Doesn’t accomplish much does it?

First Bed Syndrome - The Lonely Planet guide isn’t foolproof.  Sometimes their suggestions suck.  But, their guides are the backpackers bible so you always start there.  Occasionally on your travels you will get off a twenty hour bus ride, go straight to the Lonely Planet “Our Pick” guesthouse and find that the room looks like Satan’s outhouse.  Your mind will be screaming, “NO..NO..and HELL NO”  Meanwhile your mouth will calmly say, “Yeah this is fine, thanks.”  When you’re carrying two backpacks and coming off a long bus/train/plane ride the last thing you want to do is shop around.  You just want to set your bags down and shower off.  I’ll find a better place tomorrow you tell yourself.  No, you won’t.

Missing - It’s different that you think it will be.  You don’t miss being home.  You miss home being with you.

Broken flip-flops - The pain fades quickly enough, but it stings something fierce the moment your good friends pass.

Cambodian Pop Music - An endless stream of videos with beautiful Cambodian people dressed in horrendous 50’s era nightclub attire singing songs (which to the western ear sound indistinguishable) with the words scrolling across the screen.  It is choreographed karaoke.  It is current and yet comically out-of-date.  Oh, and it plays over and over and over on every bus in Cambodia.  It plays at 4am on “sleeper” buses.  All of the songs on my iPod are now tainted by the memory of faint Cambodian monotone sing-song in the background.  I love it.  I love it so much.  Actually there is one song I do like, but that is irrelevant.  You’re tempted to download it or at least youtube it.  I know you are.  Don’t.  Do not. 

Textless - In the beginning I often reached for my phone to send the boys a “you won’t believe this!” update only to find my pocket empty.  I no longer reach, but I do still wish I could thumb-type with brevity and exclamation marks the moments that don’t belong on Facebook or this blog.

Skol beer - 5% alcohol.  95% laxative.  All vengeance.  I hate you Skol.

Sleepless nights - Life on the road is not always a well rested life.  Reasons I have tossed and turned include:

Pigs squealing
Roosters roostering
Dudes building a new porch on the next cabana over
Dudes putting a new roof on my cabana
Pillows that seem to be stuffed with Styrofoam blocks
The chilling realization that I am actually staying in this room
Rain pounding on a metal roof
Drunk people coming back even later than me
A couple not coupling as quietly as they think
Cats brawling against my door
Sweat.  Lots of sweat.
Skol beer

So you see it is not all splendor on this side of the blog.  I have things.  Now if you will excuse me it is a beautiful day, whatever day it is, and I have warm seas and sweet drinks to attend to.