An Absurdly Beautiful Day


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the ruined temple next door to our house

 

The weather is perfect. There’s a soft drone of crickets and insects who live in the grass. The Goldfish have already gobbled the food I gave them.  It’s late enough in the morning that the roosters have calmed down. A lone dog barks in the distance. A few cars pass by on the road outside.

 

If I can’t be happy today, when can I be happy? I’m not under criminal investigation. Nobody’s suing me. I don’t owe anybody money. I’m in good health, after a breakfast with friends I’ll probably go swimming and then get a massage.

 

 

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Gone and Completely Forgotten


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I will not be remembered long after I die, for my Facebook posts will cease, and that is the way most of the world knows me. Where I am, what I’m doing (or not) and most importantly, what my political views are. I’ve never had many strong views about politics, other than a lingering bad taste in my mouth caused by Nixon and a general distrust of those who profit from war, a category that seems to include almost everyone except me. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to thrive on political opinions.

But as to the real me, the whole me, the me that doesn’t translate into social media posts, I don’t expect my legacy will linger long. If somebody doesn’t tell Facebook or Google that I’ve passed, I suppose my blogs will linger for a few years while my Facebook pages continue to accrue likes, until someone realizes there’s no money to be made off me any longer. No, I will never pay to boost this post. Stop asking.

Then, when my pages are hacked and over run by those who copy identities in order to sell copies of Ray Ban and Oakley sunglasses online, a bot somewhere will close my accounts. No servers will store my data for free. My entire electronic library of silly stories and goofy pictures will vanish in a wisp of electrons.

Ex Libris Dan Coffey. My profile picture will go dark. My electronic wallpaper will curl.

GETTING ORGANIZED


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I’m trying to disentangle myself from all my confused, shortsighted, and unprofitable affairs before I leave this world. I don’t want to leave a mess behind for someone else to clean up.

Not that I’m in ill-health. To the best of my knowledge, I’m in the best physical condition I’ve been in years. Like all of us, I’m not getting any younger, and sixty-eight is a perfectly reasonable age at which to simply drop dead.

When my mother died, she left behind no mess at all. Everything was neatly handled and packaged. My father dropped dead while walking the dog. He had just turned sixty-four. Fortunately for his chemistry students at the community college, he had just finished grading their final exams and entered their final grades in his grade book.

I’m more at peace now than I’ve been in a very long time. I have fewer things to be anxious about. I’m not necessarily happier than I’ve ever been, but I am less worried than at any time I can recall, and that seems odd because I’m also closer to death than I’ve ever been.

Aren’t you supposed to fear death?

I don’t.

I’m more curious than apprehensive. Dying is sort of like traveling to a foreign country that nobody knows anything about. Will it be fun? Will the inhabitants be nice to me? Whatever it’s going to be like, my advance opinions about it don’t matter in the least regarding the outcome. It is what it is. And it isn’t what it isn’t. Will I meet Grandma and my long-deceased pet kitten in the Great Beyond? Dunno. Either way, it won’t be a tragedy if my expectations are dashed. On the other hand, it may be better than I’ve ever let myself imagine.

Facebook Time-Out Jail


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Facebook has informed me that I can’t post for the next 24 hours because there has been unusual activity on my account. All of a sudden I’m invisible. The main way I’ve been communicating with the outside world has been removed.

If I’m not the guy who posts funny pictures on Facebook, who am I? I can’t promote my blogs, because unless I link to them on Facebook, nobody knows they exist.

I was once put in quarantine for posting a picture of a woman’s breasts. It was a woman of old Siam, back before World War II when the Japanese took over and the lackey collaborator in charge of the country decided that from now on Thai women had to cover their breasts in public. A great loss for the nation. A boon for bra manufacturers.

I hope they get to the bottom of this soon. Probably some Pakistani guy sitting in a cave stealing passwords and identities.

 

 

Vegetarian Rip Off


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The street outside is swarming with people, locals, backpackers, privileged youth who are drifting around the world on their parents’ dime, and none of them realize at this moment that I’m the most important person out here. Sure, they think they are, but that’s merely delusion. It’s me.

This is Khao San road, the Haight Street of Southeast Asia. I thought I had seen a dense population of massage and tattoo parlors in other cities, but nothing comes close to this. Within a kilometer of my hotel there may be two hundred of each. They’re open twelve to fourteen hours a day. Probably two thousand people, mostly women, make their living here in this way.

I stopped into the first vegetarian restaurant I found as I left the small alley that connects my hotel to the main street. We have plenty of vegetarian restaurants in my home city of Chiang Mai, and they’re always very inexpensive. I didn’t even bother to look at the prices when I sat down and ordered.

Fortunately, I had enough cash in my wallet to cover a Thai iced tea and a quesadilla. Almost nine dollars. This is about nine times more expensive than it would have been in Chiang Mai. Looking around the room at the other diners, mostly European young people, I could tell I was the only one who noticed.

Everything in Bangkok is a little bit more expensive than in other cities, but this won the extortion prize.

Fresh Eyes


Rainy season is winding down here, so we took advantage of that fact to ride the 500cc motorcycle to Pai. It’s a 3.5 hour drive that takes me 5 hours, because I have to stop and rest three times for half an hour. Very difficult riding, hairpin turns galore. Spectacular scenery. It’s sort of like being on the set of a King Kong movie, but the dramatic drop-offs are as real as the danger.

Pai is a little town that has been promoted into a hippy mecca. Twenty-five year-olds abound. There are other towns closer to Chiang Mai, namely Mae Chaem which probably resemble what Pai was thirty years ago, before the rush to play hippy and all the money that could be made satisfying that impulse took over. But we went to Mae Chaem and Mae Sariang last week. This week we finish the northern part of the four day ride from Chiang Mai known as the Mae Song Hong Loop. This being retired and tempted by scenic motorcycle rides is not a bad life.

After Pai, the road really gets spectacular. Usually we ride another four hours onward to Mae Hong Son, but this time I decided to make our life easier and simply to to Lod Cave, which is located where the dramatic forested hills seem to reach their peak. It’s like driving through a Dr. Seuss painting.

With this shorter day, we could relax more and return to our already-booked room in Pai. We would also be closer to our Chiang Mai home, instead of eight or nine hours away the next morning.

Wipa had never been in a cave before! Lod Cave is very large and historically significant, for they found the teak log coffins of neolithic era people inside it. As this is rainy season (witness the recent near-fatal expedition of fourteen boys in a wet cave in Chiang Rai) we had to enter the cave on bamboo rafts. They hire mountain people from a nearby village to act as guides. Older women are in charge of holding kerosene lanterns and men from the village pole the rafts.

I had never before been in a cave that hadn’t been adulterated with electric lighting! It was a much better experience than the usual colored lights and signs warning you not to touch anything. This being Thailand, they usually place Buddha statues in caves. None here!

And the lady with the lantern had two jobs, to help me walk on an uneven surface and dodge stalactites, as well as administering the typical cave guides speech, “and there is the formation many people think resembles a giant frog” Wipa laughed and took pictures with her cell phone. She had absolutely no cynicism about this at all. I had a lot more fun seeing this with fresh eyes.

As I age, I’m going to remember that I have more fun when I try to do less. We got back to our room in Pai by mid-afternoon in time for my customary nap.

 

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