I guess it all happened because Dad got depressed. And not your average boo-boo either. The real kind. The kind that includes hospitals and break ups and electric shocking.
I drop out of college. Move into the trailer in the front yard, surrounded by potted cactus Dad snatched from Baja, and he lets me park my motorcycle inside the house. (I love him for this)
I think he’s already on meds. Is it still Lithium or is it Ativan now? I don’t know. And I don’t know what to do.
Sometimes I ride down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, back to taste an old life that’s warm and happy in my memories. Surfing and Jon and hopping freight trains. Of course everything is different now, so my visits are more like tepid and strange.
After a few months, or maybe it’s just weeks? It becomes obvious that my glorious presence alone is not going to snap him out of this. I ask for his credit card; tell him we’re going on a trip. I probably could have said I’m pregnant and going to dye my hair blue and move to Alaska and he would have said, okay honey. So I book two tickets to Bangkok. (Which is famously one of the most unsafe airports in the world. When it was built, a lot of the money allotted to construction went into the pockets of those administering the process, and sub par materials make up this fragile plane parking station.)
San Rafael, California, waiting for the Airporter. A little testy hmmm?!
I celebrate my 21st birthday at 30,000 feet, somewhere above the dark water near Tokyo. A gaggle of Japanese stewardesses whisper me a very happy bert-day while everyone else snores under scratchy gray blankets.
Thailand! You can buy eels slithering around in plastic buckets. Giant metal men hold traffic lights. The river in Bangkok has more squirming black catfish than water. But anyway.
Woohoo! This piece of art just outside our room reminds me that it wasn’t just the Romans that raged like rock stars. Kinda makes me feel more normal.
There are pictures of the Thai Royal Family or whatever everywhere. It’s like the whole country is their living room.
Let me just say. Telling someone who’s never done it that you rode is elephant is cooler than actually riding an elephant. Keyword: Sloooow.
Get it straight people! Monks first!
Everyone gets around on scooters in Thailand. Including babies, chickens, and families of 3 or 4. One culture on two wheels. So what the hell, I tried it too. Having been a motorycle rider, this scooter stuff is weird. All my extremities were supposed to do different things now. One time dad and I were riding up a steep hill to some temple, and in my muscle-memory confusion, when I revved into a different gear I did such a big wheelie that it flipped dad off the back and thankfully, onto his feet on the road, while he and a gaggle of local women clutched their stomachs with wave after wave of laughter. Whatever.
We (I) made the mistake of going to Phuket. Probably my least favorite place on earth. Whores, neon lights, cheap food and tourists. It gave me the creeps, and we escaped the next day. But um, what is that on the bar?
We visit more temples, Koh Phi Phi Island by ferry (meh, lots of tourists again but a physically stunning place) from our home base of Krabi. Don’t make Krabi your home base. I chose it because of its central location, without considering, uh, if it’s a nice place to stay. It’s not. These are our side trips.
After a week, Dad has to go home. I decide to stretch this shit out. I’m going to Bali!
But somehow I fail to notice that my layover in Kuala Lumpur is actually overnight until, uh, the day before my flight. Guess who’s going to Malaysia? Surprise!
Flying in to KL, there is nothing but perfectly spaced date palms as far as the eye can see, and the air is orange. Or more like brown. It’s a sea of haze that looks like it must stretch to China. Like a computer generated palm desert from hell.
“Palm oil,” my seat mate grumbles without taking his eyes off his magazine, and shakes his head.
Then I have a little inside freak out while I’m in line to get my Malaysian visa. I read the fine red print: “Be forewarned, Death for Drug Traffikers Under Malaysian Law.” Scenes of Brokedown Palace swarm me. Please God don’t let me have any orphan buds in any of my pants pockets! This is one of the reasons normal people actually plan which countries to visit, I remind myself. Malaysia is a total contrast to Thailand, where you can order a “special” pizza and stumble back to your hotel high as a kite.
I’m riding into KL from the airport, and it’s crazy muggy mixed with the smell of burning. There is a sudden downpour and instantly a crowd of hundreds of scooter and motorbike drivers gather under a freeway overpass. At first I think, it’s a party! People shake the rain off like ducks and start selling drinks and snacks to each other, while other groups break off and play cards, smoke, laugh. Right there next to the eight lane highway I am speeding down. And then the sun comes out, and as quickly as the crowd appeared, it is gone.
The day I arrive is Chinese New Year. The whole city is glowing with lanterns.
Yay, my first terrorist sighting!
(Um, kidding. I hope you’re smiling. But if you’re not, it’s probably because humor has a grain of truth in it. And racial profiling is real and widespread. Which is why that was funny! Or least at was. Not anymore. Damn.)
I’ve never been an a Muslim country before. I certainly didn’t bring clothes for it! Oops. Looks like the mannequins fucked up too.
School girls inside the towers.
View from the Petronas Towers, the tallest buildings in Asia. And this is only halfway up!
A big WTF.
Do you wear a Lady Loo Urinal Bowl… or use one?
Speaking of questions and WTFs.
So does Dad get better? Well, yes. Was it because we took this trip?
That’s the thing about questions. They need answers and I don’t got em.