August 2, 2005
Dumb & Dumber (2005)
On the flight to Mumbai, I asked the man to my left if he knew of hotels by the airport. He listed a couple, and the guy next to him mentioned a couple more. I was relieved; I would have a place to sleep. I had the loperamide (stops diarrhea), ciprofloxacin (stops bacteria), and doxycycline (prevents malaria) pills in my pocket and coffee in my system. It's a no-brainer -- I was armed and fabulous.
After a plain dinner, I deplaned the plane and walked eagerly to Passport Control. The goal was to pass past Passport Control, but as I learned in London, they have no sense of humor.
"Where is your visa?" the agent asked me. "You don't have a visa? You have to go back." I smiled and said okay; either he was joking or I could call the US Embassy or STA Travel or...
Or my objections wouldn't matter, my questions would be irrelevant, and I would be on the next plane to Amsterdam, leaving an hour after I arrived.
What's worse is that I had to pay for the flight. What's worse is that it was expensive. What's worse is that they played Miss Congeniality 2 on both flights and I couldn't help but feel dumb and dumber for being subjected to something so cruel and unusual. Come on -- Regina King didn't have to wait to the end of the movie to to finally wipe off her sour face. She was in Vegas; her role was never the one back in Amsterdam.
August 13, 2005
A Perfect Line in Sukhumvit
Jet lag had me on Amsterdam time when I first arrived in Bangkok. Wide awake at midnight, I asked the receptionists at the hotel if there were any legitimate bars nearby in Sukhumvit. "You know, with no sex," I said. Maybe they heard "How wide is the line of a perfect circle?". They were genuinely perplexed.
Just around the block was Soi Cowboy, a street in Sukhumvit lined with cocksure hookers smiling, holding signs, and luring in potential sexpats with imperfect lines like "Hewwo, koot!". The surrounding streets were filled with "massage parlors" and women knocking on the bar windows at the irresistibly koot.
(It's on Soi Cowboy where Ani DiFranco's internal dialogue on "Living in Clip" comes to my dialogue internally: "No, Ani, those are not women. They look like women." "Wow, they're purrrty.")
Somewhere along the line, I didn't wait for the receptionists to recommend a bar. The question was intended to be simple. I thanked them and went outside when I understood that their silence was an answer. Bar none -- that's a perfect line in Sukhumvit.
August 16, 2005
This faded picture of Sumitra, your uncle, and their half-brother, this picture was taken during Sumitra's last visit to Bangkok. This is her when she was 17 or 18 years old. This picture you're photographing -- this is her accepting her degree at graduation.
This gas station, it wasn't a gas station before, this is the house she was born in. And this car repair shop, imagine each garage being a separate room, this was the house she spent most of her life in. This Sri Lankan tree outside the monestary, your uncle used to play in this tree and Sumitra would pass by on the street.
And this life, she created this life at 41 years old. It's the last thing she did. To see her now you need only to look in the mirror. Now just piece these fragments together and presto! You have your mother. Kind of. Well okay, not at all.
August 25, 2005
The Truth About Roaches
The roaches are large in Bangkok. I was taking close-ups of a roach when a woman passing by asked me if I hadn't seen a roach in America. I said I had but not that big. The topic quickly shifted from roaches to an offer of alcohol at an outdoor street bar with her and her friends. Sure, why not. It was 1am and Soi Cowboy had closed; my camera couldn't capture anything telling.
At the street bar, the company included two Japanese men and the prostitute whose time they bought for the night. The men went off to find cannabis and I drank rum and coke with the woman I met and two of her prostitute friends.
Sitting nearby on the sidewalk was a young girl, maybe 12, dressed like Barbie and a midget, her pimp, standing in front of her and looking around. I was anxious to ask a woman at my table if that little girl was really a prostitute. Call me naive but I must know: did the rum hit me that quickly?
I used to think truth was an objective, self-sufficient, and separate existence from our own. But it can only exist with the subjective interaction of its participants. It's impressionable and can be molded by your opinions, decisions, and actions. The question is less how to find truth -- it's everywhere -- and more how to see it. And no matter how you see it, you can always improve it.
Asking whether I choose to see the positive or negative, the humorous or tragic, the midget pimp or young prostitute is irrelevant. I see roaches. All my roach pictures came out blurry and there's just something too gross to ignore about them. I have to go out and take another shot.