Songkran

Blessed and fortunate: I'm a man!

My first blog post was a short one, and included this: 

my 40th birthday will not be spent in the same way any other (of mine) has been. It won’t even be spent in the same hemisphere.

One way ticket. New priorities.

Boy it looks profound in those big italics, doesn't it? [no]

Back then I was looking at 40. Now I'm seeing it inside parallax just before it hits me in the nose.

my occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around

And I say "back then" because even though I posted that just 10 months ago, my life has gone down a completely new path--yet again. I traded the stability of golden handcuffs to bet on myself, I waved goodbye to a relationship that breathed like oxygen but ultimately sustained like cyanide, and I learned how much I love and miss my family and a handful of dear friends.

I also set out on a truly once in my lifetime experience, to see parts of the world I'd only dreamed of. In the 5 months since I left, I've seen stunning natural beauty in Cambodia and Chiang Mai and Vang Vieng; breathtaking works of manmade art in Bangkok and Chiang Rai and Vientiane. I've also seen man's inhumanity to man in Kanchanaburi and Saigon.

I got soaked with strangers during Songkran, knew joy with old friends and family over coffee and beer, and made new friends and relationships I'll forever treasure.

And I have written, because that's what, above all, I came here to do. 

 

On my 25th birthday I was working in the coolest job ever with the coolest people ever. I thought I'd found my path. But I also wanted love, and I'd reconnected with the woman I was supposed to be with. Three months later I would move to Washington, D.C., and we would forge a new path together.

On my 30th birthday I was in a job I hated, but using it as a stepping stone on the new path for more. The woman and I had been through a lot together (and at times apart), but we had made it through. We were on the same path. And I was starting to taste a bit of the good life she promised--we were even making plans for my first trip outside the U.S.

On my 35th birthday I was a freshly minted MBA, stressed out in a lucrative job with a massive learning curve, but excited for the challenge. I was newly hitched to that woman: we'd been through so much, and now all the hard work and stress and struggling was paying off. We'd had a lovely wedding and honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, sparing no expense. Living the dream that we had built. We'd built me into something more than I ever could've imagined. I even thought I was happy.

On my 39th birthday, that path was gone. The job had become even more lucrative, but it led down a path I wasn't willing to walk much longer. I'd survived a divorce, and was in a beautiful, intense entanglement with a Girl who happened to have a boyfriend. I'd given The Ultimatum, trying to convert myself from ho to housewife (so to speak).

I didn't act right

And it was around that 39th birthday that I realized this new path I'd imagined, walking hand in happy hand with this new Girl while figuring out the next stop in my six-figure professional tour was destined to be like those before--not a dead end, per se, but one from which I would have to turn in order to continue my journey.

I don't regret any of these twists or detours or dead ends, just as I don't regret my childhood plans for being a pro baseball player or POTUS not panning out, nor when at age 14 the first girl I really fell for LYLAB'ed me, or when at age 18 my first real girlfriend cheated on me with my then-best friend and his girlfriend ("Dear Penthouse Forum, you'll never believe how I got cuckolded").

Far from regret, I am thankful for all of them. Because without the love, the loss, the opportunities, the rejections, the false promises, and my own personal failings and "mistakes", I wouldn't be right here, right now--exactly where I am supposed to be. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be: writing and traveling.

Now I know what happy is. Because I Am Happy.

 

Rudyard Kipling wrote a lot about what it takes to be a man. His words, along with a few others, helped sustain me during my divorce. In leaving everything behind on this Next Episode of my journey, I drew on those words and inspiration from sources diverse as fuckable friends and Stewie Griffin and the Rocky movies.

 

And now, as the days between me and four decades on earth reduce to single digits, this path that I have walked has led me, not only to deep gratitude and appreciation for all I have become, but to a sincere understanding of what the great philosopher-king Gundy the First said:

Songkran day 2 and ugly Americans

radical tourism

radical tourism

This is me. I'm from the United States.

This is Rahman. He's from Yemen.

I met him during Songkran and he didn't kill me. Did not even try.

I also met two Americans who bragged about the previous night, when they were at a club and poured beer over a fence into the mouths of 15 year old girls as reward for flashing tits.

But don't forget, we're the Good Guys. America First.

A good day

My best travel days have lows to go with the highs. In Agra on Holi morning I announced to our travel group I was going to play in the streets, then asked who was joining me. Our guide recommended against this, as one doesn't know what is in the colored powders sold on the street, but the hotel would put something together for us. I looked him in the eye and reiterated "I flew 8000 miles to be in India. I may never be here again, much less for Holi. I'm going to play in the streets. Who's joining me?"

don't I look young and hopeful?

don't I look young and hopeful?

It was an incredible experience. Later that day we visited the Taj, where a young street urchin hit me up for change: in exchange I'd get a dinky keychain Taj Mahal snowglobe. Never mind the anachronism (where highs average 100+ that time of year), we were instructed not to buy beggar's trinkets and who was I to disobey our guides?

I told the boy I had no money (lie). He held out the trinket, pinching the ring between tiny finger and thumb, and said "No money. For free. For friendship."

I nearly cried on the spot. This was the "India moment" our instructor assured us we all would have at least once, when the country's beautiful chaos converges with emotions to overwhelm even the toughest Westerner (which I am certainly not). Then we walked and talked on my way to the bus. I still have that keychain, and it remains one of my few and most prized remaining possessions. I think of my friend anytime I recall the Taj, India, or snowglobes.

portion control

portion control

Yesterday I woke alone, a gnat in a giant, scary new world. So after lying in bed panicked and miserable, I converted my negative energy into blog words. That helped, and I feel blessed and fortunate for it. Then I went out into the world on the first day of Songkran 2017. On the streets of Bangkok's Si Lom neighborhood I gave a street vendor 30 baht and received a bag of fried dough half the size of my head.

And a text from Girl.

Soon it was water time.

(This could never work in America, by the way--we'd commercialize and monetize it to death, and any remaining shreds of joy would wither under complaints from wet blankets whining of environmental impact.)

not as young, just as hopeful-looking

not as young, just as hopeful-looking

I gave as good as I got and walked home hours later, soaked to the bone, sunburned, and exhausted from laughing. I met great people and shared in a new year's celebration of pure fun.

It was a good day.

my AK

my AK

Calendar of events

Here are some things coming up:

Soon: Betty Goldblazer puts a sign in my yard

A few weeks later, give or take: something corporate job something. Something.

Before or after, depending: Moving Sale Of A Lifetime (mine, at least)

Next: Tell Girl see you someday, maybe.

Then: Go for a drive.

At last: Check no bags.

Also happening, perhaps unrelated: Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration and water fight. Can you imagine being caught in that as your introduction to the country?