|June 16, 2012 | Asia, Recent Events Dictate, Travels
A comment by G., who used to play drums in a band you like, and is currently in another band which you also probably like, kick-started a powerful desire in me to go back to SE Asia, and to really, you know, have it this time ( that’s a thing British people say : having it, having it large, meaning to live life to the fullest; the answer to the question-to-self am I having it? is usually, sadly, no ).
He said, if you want to see Cambodia, you’d better do it now, and he was referring to the rapid modernization of that country. Am I one of those people who is under the impression that natives in colorful traditional garb, and rice paddies and water buffalo, and crumbling roads represent a more authentic travel experience than gleaming high-rises and new highways? No, but I want to see the water buffalo. And then maybe I’ll go back in 20 years and look at the sparkly buildings. And I will go, as soon as the worst of the heat and the rains are over. Angkor Wat, man, Vientiane. Fuck, are you kidding?
When I was in Hanoi a couple of years ago, I came across a street full of guys hand-carving wooden chop-mark stamps. Chinese astrological symbols seemed to be popular, so I got one for myself with my sign, which is the horse – not the sexiest thing to be ( although my yang is fire, so, rraaaarrrrr!! ), underscored by the stamp I had made for a friend, whose sign is the dragon. The horse is growing on me, little by little. I sign letters with it. I somehow misplaced the other coolest thing I brought back, which is a souvenir t-shirt from Ho Chi Minh’s tomb. Filing past Uncle Ho’s waxy, eternal body – that was something. That was having it.
The bottle of wine with the real cobra in it, though, that’s here. The customs agent in Houston didn’t want to let me keep it, but he was a nice guy and we talked about it for 20 minutes, and I acted in a way that sometimes works in such situations; a kind of easy-going, down-home, straight-shooter, smile-a-lot demeanor which is not natural for me ( I grew up in a northern city where it is very cold and, well, ” easy-going ” and ” smile ” aren’t words which come to mind ), but which, the longer I live in the deep south, is becoming the way I am.