Thursday, June 16, 2011

Selections from "Thai Travels" No. 4

"...I experienced a series of highly visceral hallucinations. I felt as if I flew high above the jungle upside down. The trees, the banana palms, the noisy yet euphonic hum of insects, the replicative green - everywhere green - whirled around me with dizzying splendor...Jiminy Cricket served as our guide. He taught us the ways and protected us from the gravest dangers we may have encountered. Undoubtedly my view of the jungle has been permanently altered by meeting it under such tumultuous circumstances...

"I had already seen the muddy river below my dangling feet. But now we got deep in the muck. Our captain fancied that he was a Jack Sparrow, he heard voices, he talked to himself and he led us down the current feet first. I was prepared to dunk my head in the drink, I was ready to drown.

"The day had not yet ended and my venturesome delusions now took shape as avatars - tigers first, and then ultimately elephants. I feel no shame admitting that I am terrified of anyone who is capable of tearing my face off and eating my flesh like so much lettuce. The tiger, he is capable, but the tiger can be approached...

"The next morning, the visage of the elephant became my delusion's North Star. We were all entranced by their gentle comic majesty. Sympathy for these enormous beasts anguished me - normally my soul harbors few warm feelings for animals. I deal with them as a technocrat deals with reams of collected data. I analyze rather than pet...[The elephants] took us on slow, stuttering roller coaster ride through the jungle.

"My sister and I rode on a houda atop the elephant. Her name was Wan Pen and she was a hard working 31-year-old. She climbed like hell. She ate using her highly articulate trunk. My feet were on her back, occasionally I placed my foot behind her ear. The jungle around us made way for these hulking wanderers. Again the resounding buzz of insects surrounded us, but this time Wan Pen's ears flapped back and forth to ward them away...

"The long chain of visions that Chiang Mai induced in me ended while visiting a working silk factory. These little slugs - born to transform - provide, in their yearning to become another, a fine fiber that Thais (among many other peoples) weave into threads. We wear these threads for fashion and comfort. After examining the worms in their various stages of development as well as the fibers, the threads and the wooden machines that women work to weave the silk, I entered the adjacent retail shop that sells the finished goods. My dream ended with the stark juxtaposition of a hot silk factory and an air conditioned retail shop. Nearly every shop I have entered in my life has had a sweat shop behind its wares, but the connection had never been so clearly dramatized. I felt a vague sickness; a hangover of unearned luxury infested me like opportunistic mold."

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