are terrible. absolutely terrible. there’s a soap opera here too about people in the medieval ages, i think. they wear helmets with horns and have swords and breastplates of unbearable awkwardness so i think it’s something like that. they jabber at each other all the time and almost chop each other’s heads off every 15 minutes. there is a lot of fake lightning too.
in my entire career of digital picture taking (i use career here as a measure of time, not meaning to infer occupation or wage) i have printed a grand total of 3 pictures. they are from a trip i took to new york my junior year of college and serve to remind me that there is a place in this world populated by good friends and wrapped in cold weather.
today i printed nearly 200 pictures. i don’t really know how to describe how it feels to have hung them around the room and look through the moments captured. it begins like a fog, but not one in which i’ve become lost.
I have always intended to live forever; but not until now, to live now. The moment I have done one or the other, I here swear, no one will have to drag me, I’ll come but never will I agree to burn my words.
i just finished reading a farewell to arms by hemingway for the first time (i know) and my there’s now a dull ache hovering in my chest.
here are a few parts i enjoyed.
“We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say that we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has happened to me like that once. I have been alone while I was with many girls and that is the way that you can be most lonely. But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started.
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
“’My life used to be full of everything,’ I said. ‘Now if you aren’t with me I haven’t a thing in the world.’”
“’You’ll get other things.’
‘No. We never get anything. We are born with all we have and we never learn. We never get anything new. We all start complete..’”
“’I couldn’t be any happier,’ I said. A fat gray cat with a tail that lifted like a plume crossed the floor to our table and curved against my leg to purr each time she rubbed. I reached down and stroked her. Catherine smiled at me very happily. ‘Here comes the coffee,’ she said.
“’Hell,’ I said, ‘I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?’
‘Yes. I want to ruin you.’
‘Good,’ I said, ‘that’s what I want too.’”
“That’s what you did. You died. You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you.
Once in camp I put a log on top of the fire and it was full of ants. As it commenced to burn, the ants swarmed out and went first toward the centre where the fire was; then turned back and ran toward the end. When there were enough on the end they fell off into the fire. Some got out, their bodies burnt and flattened, and went off not knowing where they were going. But most of them went toward the fire and then back toward the end and swarmed on the cool end and finally fell off into the fire. I remember thinking at the time that it was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out where the ants could get off onto the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log, so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants.”
in spain we lived in an apartment and from the window we could see the ocean and sometimes the clouds would gather and the wind would blow off the ocean and the rain would fall.
when the rain fell over the ocean it looked like a gauze was being spread over the horizon and it would move and then it would be on us falling hard against the apartment window’s glass.
there were metal shutters we could close and when the rain fell against them it made a sound that was louder than it seemed it should be and we would imagine the rain falling but we could not see it.
in the morning when the storm had passed the sky was clear and the clouds were gone and sun glinted blindingly off the surface of the ocean and the children played on the toys in the park.
sometimes i would draw the shutters against the window in my room and they would make it completely dark and even when it was past noon the room would be dark and i would sit inside and be alone in the dark.
the apartment always smelled like smoke but no one would smoke in the house. it was the wood of the furniture that retained the smell of generations past, people who were now gone from that place.
in the mornings i would walk on the boardwalk that ran along the ocean in the predawn dark and stop at a cafe for a coffee and a baguette.
the coffee was strong and the bread crisp and the air was clear and cold and the cold made the hunger strong.
after a bit of walking the sun would begin to show over the ocean’s edge and the sky would turn pink and orange and grey and blue but it would still be cold and i walked quickly to stay warm.
when the tide was high there was a place at the end of the walk where the waves would crash under an outcropping and then explode up and through metal gates placed into the boardwalk.
the spray would go high into the air and then the mist would fall and even though it was cold it was beautiful and when the water that had mixed with the air fell on our faces we would feel alive.
the last few weeks have been intense. every since leaving the orphanage just about three weeks ago it’s been go go go. i think rather than just going from place to place in a big strung out travel itinerary i’ll give you the destinations and forms of transportation.
night bus from chiang mai to ayutthaya - lauren cried her eyes out over leaving the children and all the thai people looked at us funny.
ayutthaya - the old ruined capitol of thailand. a nice relaxed city where lauren broke into our guesthouse early the morning we arrived. the old lady that ran the place was upset and kept saying to her, “very bad.” we slept in hammocks strung over a lotus pond with a million and a half (i’m not joking) catfish lurking just below the surface.
bus from ayutthaya to chumphon - seven hour ride in a bus so hot it must have come straight from the lower depths of hell. sweaty. gross.
night boat from chumphon to koh tao - awesome. we get off the bus and head to the docks to catch the midnight boat to koh tao (an island) and get there way too early. sit around at the docks eating spicy food and drinking beer and listening to music for hours while smoking and shirtless thai men loaded the boat with all sorts of cargo. eventually we crawl into the cramped space for sleeping and see that our beds (thin pads on the ground) are about 6 inches wide. lauren had a dog sleeping next to her. i had an old thai lady that kept putting her arm in my space all night. before falling asleep i sat out on the front of the ship and watched as we cut through the black water towards a piece of land i couldn’t see but believed was there.
koh tao - scuba diving is neat. the place is small and beautiful and under the water there are all sorts of crazy things exclusively designed to blow your mind. you should go.
night boat from koh tao to surat thani - a freezing slave ship. air conditioning is nice when you have a blanket or a jacket. travelling through southern thailand, i had neither. sleeping in a room so cold it could snow on a boat with 150 other people crammed all around you is nuts. try it.
suratthani - got an airbrushed picture taken. pretty glamorous. lauren called and said she’d lost her wallet and needed me to head out to koh samui. i said ok.
boat from suratthani to koh samui - big giant ferry ship. tons of people. the coast of thailand is really beautiful and as we got further away i saw it slip into the water and hover dimly on the horizon. i sat on top of the boat and drank a beer.
koh samui - huge. biggest effing island ever. not as big as australia, but damn big. taxis are expensive and so are places to stay. beautiful, yes, but more expensive than beautiful. we went to a show with a hypnotist and he was terrible. there was an ice bar but it cost a lot of money, so we didn’t go in. lots of western bars, western people, and pretty young thai girls dancing around on poles. yeehaw.
boat from koh samui to suratthani - uneventful.
suratthani - three hours spent packing lauren’s things up, retrieving laundry, and getting the eff out of dodge.
night train from surat to bangkok - rotten. i hate those trains. all night spent sitting up with the lights on. on time, but freezing.
bangkok to siem reap, cambodia - this was complicated and basically involved taking a bus to a thai border town, taking a truck taxi to the actual border, being accosted by people trying to sell us expensive visas, having to bribe the actual border people because i forgot to bring a passport photo, getting into a bus on the cambodian side and heading to a taxi station and finally getting into a 1982 carolla driven by an insane cambodian man who drove on the wrong side of the road for just about 93 percent of the time.
siem reap and angkor wat - cambodia is nuts. people are very poor, very nice, and most speak very good english. siem reap is a nice town, lots of western style stuff, but nice nontheless. there’s a river running through it that’s filthy as they come, but that doesn’t stop people from bathing and fishing in it. it was really relaxed and even though the seemed like it was 10 feet above you the entire time, pretty great. there was a market in the old part of town selling all sorts of great souveniers including two dollar beer t-shirts, 10 dollar calculator watches (score), and pretty little pots to smoke opium out of. angkor is freaking incredible. crumbling temples with the sun rising over them, jungle temples with trees growing out of them, and big tall temples with steep stairs that made my leg cramp up halfway down. there are pushy little children trying to sell you stuff everywhere you walk and if you say no enough times, they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms what they think of you (i’m talking about the eff word. shhhh).
boat from siem reap to battambang - this was advertised as a picturesque way to get to the next city we were heading to. it was either a 3 hour bus ride, or a 5 hour boat ride. boats are nice we thought. this will be fun we thought. maybe even an adventure we thought. somewhere between the seventh and eighth hour i realized that we had thought wrong. after an eventful night of drinking on a balcony sitting just out of reach of the rain pouring down outside onto the stone streets, we woke up at six to head to the dock. the boat on the ticket is a nice large two story fishing style boat. the boat at the dock was a sizeable canoe with a motor on the back. maybe 25 feet long packed with 20 people on two benches running the lenghts of either side knees touching the entire time. the water was so low the boat got grounded and we had to get out and push, feet sinking into the sucking mud just inches below the water while the sun blazed away on the canvas roof the entire day. the up side was that for almost the entire trip we were passing people who lived on floating houses along the river. not what i had imagined, but looking back, something i’d probably recommend.
battambang, cambodia - it’s said to be the place in cambodia where remnants of french architecture are most readily apparant. i think someone played a joke on us. the streets were busy and dusty and the first night we got sucked into a ghetto hotel where shirtless smoking cambodian men yelled all night long right outside the door. there were some nice places once we got out into the countryside though including a monkey inhabited temple on top of a pretty big hill from which you could see miles and miles in any direction and a giant white buddha statue sitting peacefully in front of a temple that the khmer rouge had torn down but had been mostly pieced back together not entirely successfully. also, the markets in thailand don’t have shit on the markets in cambodia. fish scaled and cut open seconds after being taken out of the water (at least you know they’re fresh), eels writhing in plastic bags, baby sparrows plucked of their feathers and tied together by the feet, shell-less pregnant turtles with eggs visible in their stomaches, skinned frogs glistening in the heat and fried snakes curled around the wooden sticks they were tied to. during the walk through fish blood and scales from a particularly violent knife wack exploded onto lauren’s leg. she loved it.
also, did you know there’s a channel in cambodia that plays nothing but wwf wrestling twenty four hours a day?
battambang to bangkok - same as getting there, only this time entering bangkok was a nightmare. people had been killed in the riots the night before so highways were shut and traffic was immobilized. the subway was shut down and having a train to catch, we jumped into a cab and were prompty in gridlocked traffic. after a half hour of speaking english to a man who only spoke thai and having thai spoken to people who only understand english he finally understood where we were going and what time we needed to be there and got us to the train station with 20 minutes to spare with a triumphant hooray and fist pump. a very nice man indeed. lauren and i got on our respective trains, said a rushed goodbye, and woke on opposite ends of the country. so it goes.
three weeks of travelling: two islands, five boats, eight buses/four hour taxis, two overnight trains, nine cities, two cans of budweiser and one can of miller high life consumed, thirty something pictures taken with a diana camera that probably won’t come out, one red bracelet made from string put around my wrist by a lady in a temple in the forest, and some seriously dirty clothes.
i realize i’ve switched tenses a few times through this. i feel ok about it.