Oh those whacky Asians! Here’s two months’ worth of Ingrish-isms…
Wow! What a birthday party. What an orchestration. I turned 50 on February 5th and decided to have my big celebration at Ing Doi guesthouse in Pai, Thailand. I was pretty sure no one would come except maybe the residents of the guest house. Well, I was wrong.
G Schulz came from Santa Cruz and we rented the big house (above) and I asked Mink (owner of Ing Doi) if she would cook for us. She and La cooked all day and rolled out a fabulous spread (see video) of Italian and Thai food. Dianna helped with the travel logistics of friends. Anon and Mark from Om Garden brought the fabulous carrot and chocolate cakes. Meka and his friends Layard, Malek, and Michael (from the States) came and decorated the house with flowers picked from around the property. Sebby was the most incredible DJ keeping us dancing until almost 1 am. Larry came from Portland. Prairie and her hella cute son Sean and daughter Hope came from Beijing. Dianna came from about 100 feet away where she lives at Ing Doi. Mike came from Pai and Meh the local massage therapist came with her friend A. Paul the Hat provided candles.
Most dear of all the guests was Sebastian. I hadn’t seen him in 2 years. He ended a self-imposed communication blackout by showing up in Pai. I was so nervous with anticipation of his arrival. But when I saw him at the bus station amid the bustling crowds, everything settled down. I was delighted to see him and hear his voice in person. The period of non-communication was a very valuable tool in letting go of him once and for all. The flames simply had to be put out and I had to go on with my life which I did and actually had an enormously good time doing so. Sebastian’s coming to my party cemented a life-long friendship for the future…a friendship of closeness and support and most importantly independence. He had his cabin. I had the big house. This was more than just a small gesture. Sebby is now happily teaching in Hong Kong and promised to visit me in Kuala Lumpur when I achieve my half-century resolution of becoming an ex-pat. (Sorry, America, you lost your way.)
Saying goodbye to Sebastian has always been a terribly painful ritual at airports and train stations, drenching his shoulder with tears. But this one at the Chiang Mai airport was strangely easy and cheerful. We waved at each other as I went through security bound for Bangkok and he for Hong Kong. He left with dry shoulders. I went on to Bangkok to continue my celebrating at Babylon.
I apologize for not making the most wonderful video but I was a bit consumed with something called ENJOYING MYSELF! This party was the first party I’ve had that I really got to just let go and have fun. Thank you so much to those who made it happen: G, Sebby, Larry, Jake, Mink & La, Dianna, Mark and Anon, Layard, Malek, and Meka. You all rocked the big house, the rice paddies, and my heart. Fifty sounds old but it isn’t. Watch the video…
Here’s a montage of photos. Click on one and then use the arrows to advance through them.
A little epilogue...
Funny but years ago ensnared by melancholy and feeling ugly and unloveable, I told my friend Ida that I didn’t want to live beyond 50. I was certain that 50 years was enough struggling through a life I wasn’t that committed to. But a few things happened about a year ago: paying off the house I found some financial independence at last. In addition I made peace with my limitations — a big relief for a perfectionist and idealist. One other thing happened in Thailand this year…it just kind of hit me on the head: bad circumstance happens all the time but resentment about it is a choice. Whoa. Where did THAT come from? When I got that piece of wisdom suddenly I felt that I could free up a lot of space in my brain that was previously reserved for being angry at those who don’t meet my high expectations.
I’ve heard about this legendary midlife easing. Is it that we just become too worn down by life that we can’t expend the energy being irritated by it as much? Is it that we realize our statoin in life and make some peace with what we can and cannot do? Is it hormonal? Probably all the above but now I can definitely feel it. I sorta wish it had arrived in my angst-filled 30s and 40s but alas, there are no shortcuts in life. And I’m not resenting it, right?! You get to that peaceful place when you do. If you do. I hope you do. (And it comes and goes, honestly.)
My newfound financial freedom in concert with being unshackled from melancholy and resentment are hard-earned evolutions in a life. Let this not be misconstrued as smugness. I’m EXTREMELY grateful for the resilience and lightness in my heart as I head into the second half (hah!) of my life. Many people have helped me get to this point. Here’s a short list: my parents Gaye and Don Gilmore, my grandfather Philip DeSanto, my little brother Sean, Jean Sward, Tom Truss, Trish Haines, Nancy Barton, Ida Plotkin, Sebastian Bock, Alex Matuszeski, Rob Zonfrelli, Richard Szubin, Liz Sparks, Leza Carter, Erik Revere, Angela Hagen, Jeanne Nader, Gillian Kendall, Larry Hermsen, Lois Manowitz, Dianna Wiegner, Gerald Schulz, Habib Kritt, Michael Wells, January Handl, Marjana Stanko, Therese Bagshaw, Charlie Seltzer, Collin Brown, Amrit Donaldson, John Brennan, Steve Prenzlauer, Jun Chai, Ning and Jinjing, Conrad Johnson, Sky Evergreen, Bill Fultz, John Johnson, Nancy Reeder, Gregg Cassin, Lawrence Grodeska, Scott Simmons, Grant Howard, Ben Haggard…gosh the list of people living and dead is really long.
Generally speaking, thank you to anyone who has ever hugged my skinny body, held my hand when I was scared, looked into my eyes when I was crying and said a kind thing to me when I needed to hear it. Thank you to those who told me I had some value in this world, slept next to me, sang with me, created some art with me, called out my name in a passionate moment and told me you loved me even if you only meant it in the moment. YOU are why I am alive. And for those of you who didn’t, who pushed me out or gave up and left because I might have been too much of a handful for you, don’t worry, I get it. Forgiveness is the better part of joy.
Next stop Tucson.
Another long lost friend came to celebrate my birthday (well, a little early). Kevin Horton, my neighbor in Hawaii whom I really didn’t get to know much until the last minute when I had already decided to abandon ship. I felt bad because I felt we had a nice connection and was honored that he came all this way to see me. Actually he and his wife are staying in the Thai islands and so it wasn’t like coming from Hawaii. Anyway, he and another good friend G Schulz from Santa Cruz flew with me to Pai for their first visit here. We rented motorbikes and tore up the countryside. Here’s a little video of the 2 days…
And here’s a photo mosaic of 2 fun and wild days zipping around the greater Pai area…
Was sorry to see Kevin go. G is still here and we’re gearing up for the arrival of a bunch of other friends and a special guest appearance from a most beloved in the next few days. It’s all very exciting for me…and of course I’m losing sleep over it. Been waking up at 3 am with mild anxiety “visitations.” Will everyone be happy here? Will they have the bungalow they want? Will they find the place? Who’s gonna cater the birthday? How will it be for me seeing some folks I’ve not seen in years? How will it be after it’s all over?
Oy vey. It’s hard being neurotic. Back to the present! I’m in a beautiful place with lovely people and I’m happy. Happy to have made it to the half-century mark with such good fortune and health. For that I’m grateful!
Parting is often such sweet sorrow. Sometimes it’s a big fat good riddance. Saying goodbye to Chiang Mai is usually mixed. Often a bit poignant to part with some folks I am fond of. I have some sweet connections with a few folks here, but it’s time to head out on the journey…Pai and my birthday beckon. Chiang Mai has just grown enormously without any regard for the environment or infrastructure, and is suffering from it. It’s often just noisy, polluted and smells like sewage. So I am focusing my attention elsewhere in the future…like KL or who knows where else?
For now, the goodbyes…
Goodbye to the Fat Albert Buddha.
And hello long lost friends.
Next stop, Pai at 50.
Here’s a little video of my friends Michael and Layard eating bugs on the street in Chiang Mai:
We went out exploring on bikes. He introduced me to his friend Layard. Lovely American guy. Three gay, skinny farang in our 40′s cycling around and goofing off, eating whacky foods, and trying to speak a little Thai. Such a great time!
Here’s the temple where I was recently seduced by a monk. Yes, it’s true. I’ve heard of it happening and was always incredulous. And then it happened. I was just sitting and texting and a monk (not a novice, mind you) came up to me and started chatting with me about where I was from and if I was married. Then I got invited back to his room for a demonstration of his Thai massage technique. My heart raced and I followed him walking through the temple grounds with my bicycle…far be it from me to turn down any adventure (except eating bugs). Since this is a rated PG13 blog, I’ll just say the massage was a rather focused experience and for a moment I felt I had achieved enlightenment and then I was back out on the noisy street asking myself, What just happened? Really? Did it? Yes it did. And I didn’t initiate it, I just went along for the ride.
A couple days ago I discovered a temple I hadn’t seen before: Wat Ket.
Next to the temple is a little free historical museum that has some wonderful relics from way back.
On a lighter note….
Meanwhile back in Chiang Mai…
As far as the protests in Bangkok…I personally am unaffected by them. I watch them on TV with curiosity. The politics of this country mystify me so I don’t have a side in this case. The democratic rebellion seems to be in the hands of the wrong people. Just like at home! Anyway, the scene is pretty isolated to Bangkok which is over 400 miles away.
Been a little behind in v-blogging. Here’s the video of New Year’s in Pai. You’ll see my new Austrian friend Derrick in the video. And the little orange dots in the sky during the fireworks are all flying lanterns. At the end there’s a drag show in Chiang Mai and some American with very long fingers who was wandering the streets playing love songs on the ukulele. I heard him for several nights from my hotel just walking loops around the block singing. My heart went out to him and then one day I just walked with him for a while and he sang a song that seemed so apropos to me and my search for love. I adore these precious moments and these magical people when traveling. He and the boys singing about the fox at the night market…this is why I travel:
Can anyone identify that song?
And here’s a little video Sebastian and I made together 3 years ago. It has sadly only gotten 38 hits. I think it deserves a few more, so I’m posting it. This was a fun video project he and I worked on together during our first trip to Asia. Brings back lots of great memories of a creative partnership that I cherished so much…
It’s in Malaysia, that little country south of Thailand and north of Indonesia. KL as it’s known is a throbbing tropical city of about 3 million. It’s a wonderful hodgepodge of Indians, Malay, Chinese, Bangladeshis and Indonesians that more or less get along. Unlike smiley Thailand, KL is edgy and swarthy showing its underbelly. Corruption is formidable. Taxi drivers will take you for a ride (literally and figuratively). People scowl at you and stare as you pass. The Chinese will shove you aside. Indians will spit on the sidewalks in front of you as an expression of territory. Toothless pimps sit on stools guarding the entrances to their dark whorehouses which I’m sure are nothing more than a mattress on the floor where migrant workers from Bangladesh seek comfort away from their women back home.
And yet with all that darkness, I have to say I really liked Kuala Lumpur. I might even say I loved it but I have to go back and spend more time to be certain. It has all that Thailand lacks: great public transportation, reasonably clean air, and authentic people. The “Land of Smiles” can get on your nerves sometimes. I statements only, please. OK, “Thailand gets on my nerves sometimes.” I appreciate that Thai people are generally speaking, gentle folk. But I find them to be silly and emotionally vapid, intentionally missing the chance to connect deeper. Much of it is a language problem. A lot of it is class and poverty related. And yet Thailand has a strange pride about itself. I’ve never met a Thai person who was like, “Get me outta here!” Bangkok is a city of over 6 million and in my opinion a dreadful place choked with traffic and exhaust. And the Thai people love it.
Not so in KL. Many people I spoke to said they were just there for a short time to save money and leave. They think it’s a rat race. And I think it’s wonderfully civilized with its museums and monorails. The traffic and pollution is nothing compared to Thailand. Malaysia has the benefit of being an former English colony and so nearly everyone speaks some English, many quite well. (I didn’t see one goofy “Engrish” sign. Not one.) As a result they are taken more seriously on the global economic stage and have a higher standard of living. They are more likely to complain about quality of life issues…because they can. Thai people are mostly grounded by poverty and immobile because they can’t get visas to travel.
The net result for me as a tourist in this country was that I had more deep and interesting conversations and deeper connections to the people I met in 4 short days than I have had in all my visits to Thailand, combined. So I will be going back to explore it more. My instincts to find an English speaking Asian boyfriend in Malaysia were right. I think he’s here and we haven’t yet met. I came very close with an extraordinary Sri Lankan man. We had the nicest dates together, dressing up and going out seeing the town. He was gentle, educated, warm and kind. Alas, he has a boyfriend and so I stepped back. Meeting him though was like Cupid’s arrow was fired across my bow. An angel had come down to me and said, “Daffyth, here’s what’s possible for you. You don’t get this one but your man is close so don’t give up the good fight.”
Here’s a little video compilation of my quick visit:
And here’s a little photo compilation. You can click on an image and scroll through them.
I was apprehensive about traveling to a new country all by myself. But I talked myself into it and took the leap and in the end I more than just survived. I had a blast.
I was grateful for the time there and for the lovely people I met. I think there’s more to come for me in Malaysia. Thanks to Brian the Lion for the photos.
How do you know when you’re a textile queen? When you’re at the Islamic Art Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and you weep as you move from case to case viewing the collection. It was a spectacular collection of one of the oldest and most beautiful decorative arts on the planet. Amazing that such a violent religion has such beautiful art. See below – you’ll find some gorgeous pistol handles and knives — hey as long as you’re cutting off people’s heads, you might as well do it in style, eh? You’ll also see some pottery, tiles, belt buckles, powder flasks, and some calligraphy from a special exhibit. Click to enlarge and then use right or left arrows.
“It’s Hard to Be Down When You’re Up” was the slogan on a poster that hung on my bedroom wall for most of my teen years. It was printed with a fish eye view from the top of the World Trade Towers in New York. When I see them now, all I think of is the attacks that changed the world. But if you think back before that, what did you think of them? Personally I thought they were just plain ugly. Boring. Two monoliths side by side with nothing appealing other than their sheer towering height of 102 stories. Nonetheless, I was spellbound by their height. We went there on a family vacation in 1978 and I got that poster in the gift shop. I was so proud to have been to the top of the world’s tallest buildings. Years later I worked in the south tower as a temporary office worker in a law firm. It was so exciting to me as a 21 year old to ride up to the 82nd floor or was it the 91st? It was damn high and it had a view of that famous green statue holding her torch at the harbor’s entrance. Liberty, I think her name is. Yeah we kind of forgot about liberty after the towers came down. ANYWAY. Years after the shock (and awe) of losing those towers, I reflected on the event. And I thought, you know, the biggest loss of 9/11 wasn’t really an architectural one. New York’s skyline, in my opinion, is better off without those dull slabs of glass and concrete that were out of scale and lacking in imagination. The “Freedom Tower” is a much more attractive addition to lower Manhattan than the WTC Towers were.
Today I got to indulge my architectural fetish with another set of twin towers. After the WTC’s demise, at 88 stories the Petronas Towers are now the tallest twin towers in the world. And they’re gorgeous!
I’ve always admired them and never even knew where the hell Kuala Lumpur was and why would some place I can’t even say have such riveting architectural wonders? Odd that I found myself at the top of it today. It was a lofty experience! It starts out with an informative video projected onto a smoke screen (literally) that is blown from one side of a hallway and received on the other side.
Then you take an elevator half way up the building to the sky bridge that loosely connects the two towers. I say loosely b/c it’s actually on rollers and with room on each side for the towers to sway without causing the bridge to drop. Goody goody. I like when a 750 ton bridge that I’m standing on is resting on wheels and designed not to fall if one of the buildings sway. If? They do.
The buildings are KL’s signature skyscraper and other than the Burj Khaliffa, I think it’s the most attractive pair of skyscrapers standing. They capture the essence of an Asian Muslim country seeking to present itself to the world as a developed nation.
They were designed by Argentinian architect Cesár Pelli and finished in 1998. They are faced in aluminum and stand 1,232 feet and were in fact the tallest buildings in the world for several years.
I always have fun photographing people photographing something.
Thought the shadow was kind of funny. Who is right at the tip of it?
The super fast elevators whisked us to the ground with hardly any feeling of movement. They project a video on the sides of the elevator that depicts what it would look like if we were in a glass elevator. It’s an amazing effect. The whole experience costs 80 Malaysian Ringit ($26 USD) unless you get your friend you just met on Grindr (who works there) to get you a discount. Nice to have friends in high places.
Been holding off on uploading a small collection of temples and Buddhas. I’ve found that temples are about the only place you can find tranquility in Thailand. And honestly, if there weren’t temples here, there wouldn’t be that much to do, except get in people’s biness…and make clothes, and eat like a pig, and get massages. You can click on each image to enlarge it…