Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cracks of Uncertainty


I found a cracked uncertain place
And watered seedlings there, with grace
A forest grew, with flowers fair
Upon inspection, nothing there!

The crack since sealed, and now shuts tight
Tho forest tries with all its might
To grow in that unholy place
But without water, only waste.

And hear the forest creak and moan
With sigh and rustle, cry and groan
Where nothing but the wind seeps through
The vines that twist my heart askew.

I'll walk beyond that crack one day
And laugh upon that sordid play
But now it seems there is no chart
To bridge the cracks upon my heart.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Separation Illusion



From the bottom of the glass
The bubbles surround you in a sea of illusion,
And then you see the contents,
Joy! Connection!
And reach out to touch them.
But from within their world, there is only pain
And yet,
Hands push against the barrier,
And give you hope!
But the weave of the cloth is thick
And black,
It reeks of smoke and ash.
In fear, their hands retreat,
Only their eyes are visible now,
Empty and lost, they do not seek to find you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reflecting Pool



Light springs from darkness
Deep in the reflecting pool
Beauty transpires


on Christmas Eve, 2008
Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Solstice Offering: The Spirit of Unity



Our love is the light
In our heart we hold the thread
That joins us as one

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Boneyard


Artwork "New Places" by Christopher Lem, www.jankywino.blogspot.com

In the Boneyard

Come dance with me in the boneyard,
On a wild and stormy night.
The wind will be our song
As we dance with the dead,
The trees will swirl,
The stars will twinkle,
And the full moon and passing clouds,
Will be our ball and strobe.

Come dance with me in the boneyard,
Where the world is stripped away
With your memory of flesh.
Take this boney hand, and follow,
Step into the yard with boney toe,
And with our boney faces we will laugh
As we sing with our fleshless throats,
Becoming the whistling wind.

Come dance with me in the boneyard
We’ll paint walls of shimmering light,
With a timeless portal into anywhere.
We’ll come and go as we please,
Zipping skin on as we leave,
And only we will know,
In our magical realm,
Where we dance,
and why.


This poem is dedicated to Bunni S, an even older friend than Face who just happened to pop into my life for the first time in 35 years, just a couple of days ago. Bunni is another friend who could create magical worlds with me in childhood. Divine timing?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gratitude and A note to Laura's daughters

I want to thank all of you for your postings and letters supporting me in the loss of my friend. It was profound the effect your missives had upon me, allowing me to grieve and be joyful in my memories, both, and I am very grateful. I am lucky to have such friends as you all are.

And though the loss was huge for me, it is minuscule in comparison to the loss her daughters are facing, and her boyfriend and all those who were present in her life. I know what they will go through in their grief will be a long process full of many kinds of emotions.

Amy, Heidi, Jennifer, Julie, my heart is with you beautiful young women right now. I hope that you will all stay on top of this in your lives, perhaps you can get DNA testing, do they have that option now? I would be heartbroken to see this happen again in your family as it has now to two generations.



Note to readers: Due to the personal nature of this post, and out of respect for Laura's family, I am disallowing comments for this post.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On the passing of a friend

For Laura Ann Miller Wilson
October 30th 1959-November 26th, 2008




Every once in a while a rare soul enters your life and becomes your inseparable twin and soul mate. That in itself is so rare and so great that the rest of your relationships pale in comparison. It might take half a lifetime before you realize that you may only reach that kind of union with that one person, and only at that one time in your life and that time happened 30 years ago. I’m not talking about romance here, I’m talking about friendship. The kind of friendship where you and that friend are all alone in your little imaginary world, and only the two of you understand it. In that world you two are free, you laugh, you cry, you sing, you shout, you can’t imagine a day spent without the other, everything that happens to you outside the friendship is fodder to talk about, laugh about, and make you closer. You called her ‘Face’ because looking at her, you saw in her face, the very mirror to your soul.

Every relationship since then that you tried to form holding that friendship as an ideal had the other person running away screaming because they could not take the intensity, and for you it was so normal. After a while you acquiesce to a compromise because you realize that you aren’t going to have that friendship ever again with anyone else, and you want friends, even if they exist outside of your private little world. In fact, you begin to realize that pretty much all healthy relationships exist outside that private little world. And yet you and that twin are still friends all these years later, although you see each other very rarely, living several states away. And still, after all of those years of separation, there are things about the two of you that are eerily similar, even though your lives took completely different turns.

“You guys are exactly the same.” Her daughter accused us as she took our photograph only a short year and a half ago.

I was driving through the state of Washington where Laura lived, and planned to come by for a visit. It just so happened that the day I arrived was the day she found out that she had cancer. I sat on the sofa with the family as she told her four daughters, who all seemed to take the news quite well, as if they were completely covered in cotton gauze. It’s a strange kind of news, Laura didn’t seem sick at all, and she was imbued with a sense of optimism as she felt she could cure the growing creature in her breast with positive thinking and raw food. I could tell that her daughters carried that positive sense of optimism with them, and rightfully so! I wanted to support her choices but I also wanted to carry her down to the operating room right then and tell them to cut it out. I knew in my bones that she was going to die, as her mother did before her, and yet I could not speak of this.

I left after the photo shoot, and I never saw her again. She had the surgery and went through chemo, and nothing could save her from her genetic fate. She died two weeks ago. I did not go to her and hold her hand as she died, I did not call her and get every last detail of her dying activities. I knew she was dying and something, my own fear of losing my twin perhaps, kept me from talking to her more. I did talk to her the week before she passed away, and she fell asleep on the phone. This caused one final laugh between us as her favorite memory from our youth was the one where I fell asleep on the phone and she came to my house and found me lying asleep on my bed with the phone cradled between the pillow and my ear. I woke her up from her drug induced sleep and we giggled for a minute as I teased her about finally getting me back for that. We exchanged love and I told her I would call every week.

She died before I called her back. God rest her soul, and God bless her beautiful daughters. My twin is gone from this life.

Face,
Always laughing
Always loving,
Always singing,
Me and you, one in two
Strength together
Finding tunnels through
Horrific youth
Burdened, abused
A child stepmother
Raising in ignorance
A vibrant you,
Navigating boys
Beaches, classes, friends
Together, like a one
That was two
We were a song
In Harmony

I will miss you Laura Ann Miller -Wilson, my precious Face. Please save a spot for me on the bus. I’ll see you at the other end and we can dance away eternity together.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Song of the Peacock

If I spend my days
Showing you all my colors
Will you love me then?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trial by Fire

I wander for water in no-man's land
But searching there gains none,
Instead I find the dragon's breath
My cheek licked by his tongue.

With slap and sting the tongue's fork scorched
The hollow in my face,
Now branded there, my voice shrieks out,
"My shame, my life's disgrace!"

The dragon speaks, voice low and deep
With rumblings all around,
Yet voice upon voice, with echoes, lost,
I can not hear a sound.

In fear I tremble as I seek
Approval in his eye,
I hope therefore, by pleasing him
He'll spare me this goodbye.

With furrowed brow, his eyes bore deep
I know that I have lost,
He squints them tight as jaw grows wide,
Demanding by fire, my cost.

My flesh begins to melt away
From skin on down to bone,
I scream in pain as flames expose
All hurt I've ever known.
...

I wander naked through the woods
I do not know my name,
For all that was before is gone
And only bones remain.

________

In gratitude, this poem was inspired by many blogs I've been reading lately: Thanks to Rick from The Writer and The White Cat for the dragon inspiration. Thanks to Jason, from The Clarity of Night on getting in touch with your pain, and thanks to K from Old Mossy Moon for reminding me how much I love rhyming and how fun it is to read. All the links are on the right side of my page under the heading "Blogs in my community".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you to the Blog-Unity

Dear Readers,

I am very much in gratitude for your eyes, and for your comments, and for your blog postings. It is an odd friendship we all share here in the Blog-Unity. Known by words only, and yet with so much depth as all the writers here know how much you have let your heart flow into your posts. I am honored to be a part of such a great community. A very Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

With love,
Cat

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Monkey Mind Paints


With a quiet mind, she stepped out into the room, a paint roller in hand, and started to spread the color on the walls. At first it nibbled at her thoughts, and as she slowly began to replace the worn and dirty white walls with color, she could feel the effect overcome her like a wave, it was visceral. Words that would be poems started to swirl through her mind like leaves falling off the tree in the whistling autumn wind. Instead of writing them down, she edged into the corners with her brush…

I don’t know if it was the quickening of my heart
As you looked over my shoulder at the screen
Perhaps it was the sound of your voice
Falling like silk over my ears
I didn’t mind the coffee on your breath
Or your hair all asunder, the holes in your sleeve
Something unseen, unknowable was pulling me toward

“OW!” She screamed as the cat bit her ankle. Chasing him as he bounded across the room, she noted that his back was coated with yellow paint. She managed to grab him by the tail just as he was about to jump onto the sofa. “Into the bedroom with you,” she said after cleaning him off. She deposited him into the room and closed the door. She paused and glanced around the room noting the play of colors before picking up the roller again to continue the task. She rolled on the stuff, up and down, over and across…

Listen to the wind howling through the windows
Lying here next to you on this cold winter night
My hand under my pillow as my finger reaches
Toward your face, I find it is compelled
to trace the outline of your lip
You awaken at the touch of

“Damn!” she explicated as she lost control of the roller and painted a large swath of the wrong color on the ceiling.

Gone, you never wanted me,
You were repelled at the sight of me
I am just an aging tired woman
Desperate for passion
In the final days before the bleeding stops.
I am worthless, I am vile
I

The phone rang. She put the roller down and ran toward where she thought the phone might be. It wasn’t there. She followed the sound like a homing beacon until she found it. “Can you bring the chicken downstairs, I’m hungry”, her father beckoned from the downstairs apartment. She went to the refrigerator, got the leftover bird and brought it downstairs. Returning through the basement door, she stopped at the landing and surveyed the living room, now completely clothed in its glorious new coat. She stood staring at the walls, feeling the living blood returning to her cheeks.

You are exquisite in your own right
You are color, I invite you in
Possess my thoughts
Inhabit my soul
Inspire my hands
To be your servants
Quiet my drunken mind
With your cool watery blues
Enliven my blood with your rusty reds
Bring my thoughts
Into to the light of your golden sun.

She let the cat out of the bedroom and stooped down to build a fire in the stove. As the coals warmed the air, the two of them lay blissfully entwined on the sofa and she fell asleep to the song of his purr.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gone Blog AWOL

Poetic form: Dr. Suessian

The poet leaves cyberspace momentarily to participate in creating order in the real world.

Where is the poet?
Is she here or there?
I don't see her anywhere!
Why she is AWOL can't you see?
Back in the real world being busy!

She's painting her walls, one two and three.
This will make the poet wax so happy.
One wall is rust red, to warm her with heat,
One wall spun in gold to stay light on her feet,
The blue wall inspires creativity
Look watch her dance! She is filled with such glee!

Please be patient oh readers,
She will return soon
With a mind full of color
And perhaps with a tune...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Blood of my veins



From the roots began
The quest to thrive
Long fingers reached down
searching in vein for a place to drink
But all was dry, no water could be found
Wilted, defeated, dying...
In her final hours she cried out!
Her face beaming red in the heated blood of passion
Her shout so loud the whole world stopped,
Becoming utterly still...

Slowly, a leaf fell from its branch and fluttered to the ground.

One by one the tears began to fall
And the oceans rose
And the streams rose
And everything that was living drank from the waters
And returned to the depleted Earth
Nourishing her soils to receive
The seeds of tomorrow's children
The roots of my ground,
the blood of my veins.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A New Era Dawns


Good Night! I say to the setting sun
Adieu to the seasons gone by.
With you, oh past, deep wrinkles have formed
Hairs are grayed, Bones swelled,
And even the wind aches with pain,
Yes age has drawn its etchings
As we watched helplessly with furrowed brow,
The transgressions of yesterday.

Perhaps a part of the natural order,
or so a wise sage would speak.

And how can I speak ill of you, oh wretched past
For you have brought profound meaning to the music
Which shall ring out in the new morn
As a thousand million peacocks trumpeting across the desert
"Behold! A Brand New Day"

On the historic win of President Elect Barack Obama.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Clarity

Somewhere,
I heard the thought
That from the highest plane
The confusion becomes undistorted
And is all a part of the perfect order

I would like to dedicate this poem to Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother. I'm sure she is up there now on that highest plane helping to put order into things down here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Guardian of the Gates


I am calling you to this plane
Naga Kanya, guardian of the gates
The twisting of the serpents
Has wrung dry the waters of your ocean
It is time for you to return
And bring the moisture of compassion
To this parched dry land
Your protection is needed at this time
To return us to the intended path
With your sacred offering,
Let the tides wash clean our shores
And usher in the winds of change
To heed our collective call

To Judith, I thank you for the inspiration...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Free to Choose



It is hard to fathom their extinction
There are so many
They are so free!

Will we choose wisely
A leader who would see the smallest beauty
And realize its importance to the infinite?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Elemental


From high atop the mountain peak
It was an impossible miracle
The way you rose from the earth

Defying gravity, you came,
beginning an endless journey
to merge with your kind

And who will you touch as you roam?
Who will you feed in your endless quest?
What fires will you quench before you finally find the sea?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Forest Walk


As summer has fled, and chill sets in,
Gone with the warm lazy days, my languid moods,
My bones, they ache, I need to move.
My spirit longs for you and I obey
Wandering through your stately groves.

Once, in a moment not too long ago
You were young, green, and your leaves airy and bright
Now, fire has crept into your veins
Growing darker by day, yet rich in splendor
Your blood rescinds, back into the earth
Shedding your colors to the forest floor
To feed your feet in the coming storm.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Death of The Golden Age

It is natural, this death,
Our pillars are not immune,
The illusion of power
In the image of gold
Is sure to crumble, is crumbling
Will turn to dust again.

Where will we find our happiness
When the last golden leaf is gone?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Dance of Living


We dance the steps of the living
And for each step, we are grateful, we are joy.
Moving through each reality
With mindful paces
We are fleeting
Turning away, we are gone

Thank you to the monks of the Rambok Monastery, Sikkim, India.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

There are days when the camera is better left behind; days when it is better to see with the eyes, than through a lens.

In The Forest

The day was cold and crisp, and the sun was hiding away behind a cover of clouds. I had been out into the forest just days before, late in the afternoon with the sun low and the shadows playing. I tried to capture the forest then, and to some extent I did, but her true glory remained elusive to my eyes until this day.

I was struck by a light that emanated from deep within the forest. The light shimmered, and as I walked closer, it began to multiply as thousands of leaves formed a canopy that was spun in 24 carat gold. In obeisance, lower layers of reds and oranges faced the golden tree, fanning her royal branches with gentle breezes that could not be felt with human skin. Rebellious though complimentary, flashes of green, those last holdouts in the golden age of this arboreal society, made their statement of attempt to remain what they have been, though they too will change, and they too, will fall.

I didn't capture what I saw into digital perpetuity. Am I to be faulted for this?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Autumn Glory


Because we truly are dying
And have spent so many seasons
Hiding behind a cape of shade,
Perhaps that is why we have chosen this time
To let passion touch our faces
Without running from what we are.
Knowing that next month
The season will have changed
And we will once again be asleep.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Word to the Three Graces


Each morning as the dawn arrives, my cat, Marlow, jumps off the foot of the bed and goes to stare out the window at the dawn and the first birds of the day. I pretend to sleep a while longer, staying huddled under warm covers. Finally he can't stand my slothful inattentiveness anymore and he jumps back onto the bed, walks up toward my face and then jumps off the bed as I reach out to pet him. He sits just below the bed and stares up at me, occasionally calling out to me as if to say "Get up! The day has arrived!" Suddenly the light hits the window and I am charged with energy in a way no animal can inspire. I run up the stairs with my camera, to see how The Graces across the field will look today. I am in awe of their stature and beauty as they are struck by the first rays of the morning sun.

Solidly rooted, you remain unchanged,
as the world around you swirls.
Every day you remain unchanged,
but through my varied lenses,
I perceive you differently.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Morning


How lucky I am
To wake up to this beauty
Dancing in the dawn

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Freedom


In the fenced in field in which we live,
we presume to be free.
We will run quickly and kick our heels high,
and though the late shadows chase us,
we will not see them.

In the end, the night will fall,
and we will sleep deeply,
even through the howling wind,
we will not awaken.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red


Red, creeps up her bark
Lit and flamed in ardent fire
The forest ignites

Friday, October 10, 2008

A rainy day


It is difficult to think, in this season, of anything but the dismal gray of politics and the economy. Wouldn't it be nice if instead our thoughts danced on about how good the grass tastes when it is wet, and how the mountains look with a light mist shroud? I'd like to set my mind alight with those kinds of things...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Losing weight: Notes from the Kitchen

I'm totally off of sugar which feels great. For the most part I just eat nothing sweet, but when I NEED to have it, there is an (albeit expensive so you will want to conserve if you aren't rich) product called Organic 0 by Wholesome Sweeteners which is almost as sweet as sugar, and is made from sugar, but does not harm you, it is an organic and naturally occurring process.

I'm off of butter and have reduced other milk fats. I'm eating a non-transfat spread from the health food store which is just fine. I am eating non-fat Greek Yogurt and that is just as yummy as whole milk yogurt, I want to make it myself so that I can save $. I eat reduced fat organic cheeses and they are just fine. Olive oil and nuts, etc. are fine fats that help, but milk-fat doesn't do anything for you. I still have half and half in my coffee. Fat free half and half seems to have corn syrup which is evil.

I don't have wine every night, but switch between red wine and kombucha, which I make myself.

I eat cacao nibs instead of sweetened chocolate. Last night, I made tapioca pudding with unsweetened chocolate powder. I used the Organic 0 to sweeten it, and I put cacoa nibs and greek yogurt on top. Yummy. I gorged. Today I was less than yesterday on the scale. I love that.

It is gently raining outside right now, a wisp from the far off distant tail of Gustav which is currently over Louisiana and ruining everyone's life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hope

What means this Hope?

Hope is a future that is entirely sustainable.

Hope is a green energy policy that will bring us beyond oil.

Hope is an abundance of good jobs to implement a sustainable future beyond oil.

Hope is a passion for local food, and the end of unsustainable corporate agribusiness that use unstainable farming practices and unstainable energy practices to bring guilt ridden, unhealthy food to the table.

Hope is a healthcare policy that will include all Americans as their inalienable right.

Hope is our youth never having to go to war.

Hope is ethical banking and credit practices that don’t give credit to those who can’t afford it.

Hope is a coming together of people from all races and religions to a cause higher than prejudices of the past.

Hope is a joining of all nations to unite in a common cause of peace, justice and liberty for all.

And Hope is the Global turning back of the environmental mess we have made, so that end the end there will still be someone left…

to Hope

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Drink of Water

After a long dry summer, Fay appeared to cry all over Western North Carolina.

And that will be nothing compared to the tears I will cry if Obama loses this election.

Monday, June 30, 2008

My new home

The thunder crashes down every afternoon where the roots have just been planted.
Ticks run to bite and copperheads lurk in the fields but no twisters here.
A kitty that once was free now roams his North Carolina prison, purring happily.
The bedroom has been painted where Green Tara and Quan Yin will rule the nest.
The nameless shapely goddess with no face spreads her arms to the world.
With the twist of a wire the music fills the floors with sound.
Mahler’s fourth with an echo of tears wanders up the stairs.
Friends and family so precious and dear are far away now.
I gaze out at the mountain, the soft and rolling mountain,
My eyes wander to the plant outside the window.
And wonder if the leaves will survive the plight of the Japanese Beetle.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

From the Aerie

FEBRUARY


Orange covered sky
Winter's rising from the bay
Warming hints of blue



MARCH




Dawn, the rising sun
On the Vernal Equinox
Vallejo Stonehenge







Moon follows sun's path
Full face smiles on Spring's first eve
Crane points to Aries






APRIL












Rising moon looms full
Shades of pink and grey tint sky
Where has the month gone?












Moon lantern through lace
Cable car flies up the tracks
Am I to sprout wings?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chores Will Set You Free

The Government will not set you free, CHORES will set you free.

This is a phrase I heard for the first time while visiting Asheville, North Carolina last month. I attended a traveling puppet show by a talented group of young folk. Their show was reminiscent of 1960’s style counter-culture troubadours and was a delightful breath of fresh air. Sadly, I’m not remembering the name of the troupe, so if anyone knows it, please let me know and I will gladly credit them on my blog.

Meanwhile, the phrase seems particularly pertinent in light of the latest political grumblings in regards to Obama’s choice of the word ‘bitter’. You all know what I’m talking about, bitter, so they turn to guns and religion instead of government, bla bla bla. Does anyone actually think the government will come to the rescue? I think not. Rescue won't come until people are ready to rein in their spending habits, and get out there in their back yards, if they still have one that hasn’t been repossessed by the bank, and grow themselves some food!

Eat local. Grow your own food. Don’t spend more than you have. Vote for Obama if you agree that the last 20 years have given us bad government, at least he’s honest about that, maybe he'll actually bring something better. But don’t think of him or any presidential choice as a savior. It ain’t so. Do your chores, use that elbow grease, help out your neighbor, be active in your own community. I think that’s what it's all about.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Impact Dreams

I don't usually write about dreams on my blog, but this one seemed important somehow. For the record, I'd have to say this is about the 4th or 5th dream I've had in which Barack Obama played a positive role. I've never dreamed about Hillary Clinton or any other political figure. I find the dreams a little odd, I don't idolize Obama, although I do hope he becomes president. Remember when reading, it is a dream, and it is strange as dreams are...

The Dream:

I had a doctor’s appointment, and I intended to keep it. I had heard that President Bush was going to be coming to the First Methodist Church on Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa, and I wanted to go, just to see a President. I was standing on the street in a crowd when Obama walked by, followed by some noble people in orange/red robes of justice. He stopped and pointed to me and another person and motioned for us to follow. I thought about my doctor’s appointment, but being hand picked to follow behind and become a part of his council, I felt I had to continue walking behind Obama. When we got to where we were headed, I told Obama that I had an appointment but I would be happy to cancel. He nodded his head, and left to go to Mars for an important council of leaders. As he left, a large part of earth was sucked out of the atmosphere like a ball, like the moon.

There were scenes of Obama in this place, making important decisions with consequences for the survival of the planet. And there was concern about the consequences of the hole in the atmosphere, and the ball of earth just rolling off and disappearing like it did.

Awaiting the return of Obama, there were large crowds of people in the place where I was. I was standing by the ocean. It was chaotic and frenetic and very dark. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and was afraid. If the ball were going to come back into the atmosphere and hurtle toward Earth it would crush us all. There was a fearful knowing of this among the people. Suddenly the air was raining objects, and the ball came into sight, green and blue like a little earth, it could be seen far off, spinning and coming quickly, its shadow looming over us as it approached. I reached out and took as many as possible into my arms, and everyone else was doing the same. The impact came as expected, but it wasn’t painful. Instead, it was as if we were all released. My cells felt the sense of intermingling, oneness. The missing part of the earth rejoined itself.

And then it was peaceful, and I was walking by the sea. Everyone I passed held up their hand and we touched hands together like prayers, and looked into each other’s eyes. We recognized each other and although we were strangers, we knew each other. We also knew nature, and when I breathed, I could feel the cleanliness of the air; the Earth was restored. That’s not to say there weren’t those who didn’t believe, I could hear comments of non-belief of the restoration being spoken by some. But they would soon see that it was true, because the evidence was everywhere.

And then, as is the usual final course of any dream, I woke up.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Walking with Pappy

Yesterday my father and I stepped out of our flat on Russian Hill in North Beach to walk down the hill to have lunch at a nearby Afghani Restaurant. It has been a dream of his for a while to go have their lunch buffet, and although he attempted it last week on his own, he found it closed. He made the mistake of assuming it was closed because of the massive crane that was up on the hill directly behind the building. So we decided to try again and walked down the three flights of stairs and down the street toward the restaurant.

Normally, for me, this is a 5 minute walk, but no matter how slowly I walked, I could not keep pace with my father. I had to stop every few feet and wait for him. My father has spent his entire life walking around this city, and it is a little disconcerting that it should be so difficult now. I remember when he first began slowing down; it was several years ago, and seemed to contain itself to the hills. However, as he has aged, so has he slowed. It is almost like a battery running down. Rue the day that he can no longer walk.

The restaurant was closed permanently, it seems they have moved locations, we won’t be going to the new one. Instead we went to a Chinese restaurant next door, which although it was a Hunan place, it was not so hot. My father took the bus home. I walked back home, stopped first at a couple of stores, and was still home at least 15 minutes before he was.

He’s a slow ol’ geezer, but I love him.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roots and Fire

Since I returned a little over a month ago, I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching the highway of ships moving in and out of the bay. I am drawn constantly into the little back porch that has that view, hypnotized by Alcatraz’ spinning beacon which casts its distant beam across the eyes in 5 second intervals.

Since the back porch is my favorite place to be, I’ve painted a picture, and also happened to make the room astoundingly clean. The picture is an oil painting of a burning forest at night reflected in a body of water.

I am longing to put down roots.

When I leave the back porch, I retreat to my room; a cave like room really. It’s almost in the dark save for one lone window that looks into an air well. I keep the top half covered with a huge stained glass piece of red, gold and blue. The lower half of the window is covered with a sheer golden curtain that is draped with shawls and fabrics. The walls of my room are covered with wall hangings and fabrics I collected while traveling. The floor has two Indo-Persian rugs from Agra. These three photographs that are a backup group for my Pegasus Theatre showing, are hanging on the wall, with their title cards. Also hanging on the wall is the burning forest painting. It seems fire and water at night is a theme on the wall of the cave which is my room.

From the group, Evening on the Ganges:

1. Rowing to Arti
2. Floating Prayers
3. Night Ride to Nirvana



From a desire to roam to a desire to nest. That is what has become of me.

In my room, I dream of putting down roots. Long tap roots that go into some deep crystal studded aquifer and take in the life giving mineral elixir. Growing green and strong as my branches reach out into the surrounding community, participating in art, music, dancing, gardening, friendships, openness, trust and …

Openness and trust…

Two days into my adventure, (and I am speaking of the very beginning of my trip which is well documented in the US Travel Writings portion of my website, www.catvibe.com), my father and I were in the parking lot of the Lincoln Motel in Austin, NV when I ran into Corinne, a Sebastopol poet I had interviewed several years before. She and her husband were off to visit their land in Colorado. We talked about my pending adventures, and Corinne, a huge fan of travel, was very encouraging, explaining that she and her husband had spent many years traveling, and there were times when they didn’t own any keys, opting out of homes for the sake of freedom to roam.

The funny coincidence is that two days after I returned from my travels, I went to Aroma’s Café in Santa Rosa, and ran into her as she was coming out of the restroom. I told her I had just returned from traveling around the world, and reminded her of our Austin meeting.

She told me she was addicted to travel.

“You know what I wish?” she mused. “I wish I could just keep that openness you feel when traveling,” she touched her heart.

“Yes”, I replied, “and the way you just let things go, even relationships, you just really enjoy people and then never see them again. Sometimes you don’t even learn their names!”

She nodded her head, “and you're really appreciating that person or that conversation on the bus or in the café, .”

“Savoring it,” I said.

Then we hugged and said goodbye. I wonder if I’ll ever see her again…

And trust…well that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Trip Ended

But not the adventure.

Ok, I went to Angkor Wat, back to Thailand for two days, and then I came home. The high point was really Chiang Mai, so why have a long drawn out ending?

I came home, and it took two weeks to peer out of my room, and another week before the next adventure was planned: two weeks in North Carolina with my mother in March. I'm thinking of moving to Asheville. It was written that it's one of the happiest places on Earth (Eric Weiner, "The Geography of Bliss"). We shall see....

Meanwhile, I've been busy preparing a photography show of some of my photos from India which will be displayed in the lobby of Monte Rio's Pegasus Theatre during the performance of their latest offering, The Perfect Ganesh. Directed by Peter Cooper, the play set in India runs from February 23 to March 22. The play also features audio and video I recorded while in India. Please come and check out the play and the photos. http://www.pegasustheater.com/

Some have asked me if I've experienced culture shock since returning? Everything costs too much in this country! Especially food. It is appalling to the senses. Food and medical assistance should not break the bank. Nor should your mortgage. One needs time away from work in order to slow down long enough to watch the flow of water.

Stay tuned for more USA centric blogging.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Kiss in Chiang Mai


One of the best purchases I made in Bangkok was a used mobile phone, found in a stall in the hectic electronic section at the MBK: A Thai mall that defies Western sensibilities. When I got to the Chiang Mai bus station, I took out my Lonely Planet guide and called a list of moderately priced budget options, but found them all booked. Then I noticed a very basic one that a friend had recommended, Sara Guesthouse, and gave them a call. “We have a room and we’ll keep it for an hour,” said a female voice with a British accent. ‘Must be Sara,’ I thought to myself. “I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” I said. I picked up my bag and walked over to the Tuk Tuk driver who was sitting in his rig with his feet up. He came to attention as he saw me coming, “Where you go?” he asked. “Sara Guesthouse,” I showed him the address. We sped off in some direction and arrived a few minutes later down a very quiet soi (alley) in front of Sara Guesthouse.

The room was basic, but clean and quiet and with an attached bath. You can’t do better than 250 baht a night in Chiang Mai (about $7.50). I never did actually speak to the woman who answered the phone, she was always off doing something, but instead I talked to a Thai woman who seemed to be managing the place. I asked her if there were any good cooking schools, so she gave me a brochure. I called and made an appointment to take a two day cooking class beginning in the morning, then went out to see where I was.

I was in a vibrant and interesting city with temples and pagodas on every block, some of them very ancient and rich in history. I was in a shopping haven with everything from well crafted soft cotton clothing to Thai silks to laquers and silver and Hill Tribe antiques and oh my god! And I thought Bangkok was enticing. I was in an outdoor adventure advertisement arena with trekking, rafting, elephant riding, and more being advertised on every door front, there is no lack of things to do in Chiang Mai.

And I was signed up to spend all of the time I had in a cooking class.

In the morning, the minivan came to pick me up for the class. We drove to the market first, and had a tour of the kinds of foods used in Thai Cooking. Then we went to the school, which was set up, as Tom, a fellow student said in his German accent, “Like a military operation.” The staff was completely efficient at teaching a group of about 15 of us in a very assembly line manner, each group of 5 had its own assistant to teach a particular dish. We learned all the basic elements of Thai Cooking, sugar, coconut, fish sauce, chili pepper, kaffir lime leaf, basil, lemongrass, ginger. Once you have made a few dishes you realize that the above ingredients are used in every single Thai dish in varying proportions. We ate all of what we cooked, and we were all completely stuffed. I realized one day was all I needed, and got out of my two day commitment so I could spend more time exploring Chiang Mai.

I walked back to my guesthouse to freshen up, and then went out to take a walk, looking specifically for Wararot Market where I heard there might be some good silk deals. Winding my way through the streets to the market, I found myself in a Chinatown. It is always very obvious when you’ve come to a Chinese section of town, although the people look similar, the landscape changes. Suddenly everything is lined with red, red lanterns, red trim around the store, Chinese characters appear in the signs, and the population of the very small area increases by hundreds, it's difficult to miss. In any case, the Wararot market was a bustling food market by the time I got there. There were many kitchen utensil stalls behind the food markets, and although there were fabric stores, they only sold fake silk.

Around the market are many alleyways that are adorned with stores, and in some of those stores I found some astoundingly good deals on beautiful cotton clothing. It was on one of those little streets that I wandered into a store and noticed all of the Indian and Nepali things being displayed. The storekeeper had his back to me when I asked him if he was Indian, but when he turned around I knew I had it wrong. “Close,” he said “I am from Nepal.”

“Oops! Yes you are!,” I said, “I saw you from behind, I can see you look Nepali.”

“Thank you!,” he smiled.

“Where in Nepal?” I asked. It turns out he comes from a village up the same Nepali road where my bus crashed last Spring, a common occurrence there, so we got to talking.

The conversation moved on as it usually does, where do you come from, what do you do, etc., ‘I do media, bla bla bla’ I handed him my business card.

“Can you sit down and talk for a while?” he asked me, pulling up a chair. Always feeling a bit on the defensive with salesmen, I wondered what he had to sell me, this sitting down technique was employed by many Indian and Nepal sales folks I have encountered. Instead, he asked me more about my work, and about traveling, and we talked about the frustrations of traveling in India; a never-ending source of storytelling.

“Can I take you to get some dinner tomorrow night,” he asked me, “to chat?” I don’t remember doing this consciously but somehow at some subliminal level I must have been taking in his creamy youthful delicate skin, his warm brown eyes, the lovely shape of his lips.

“Sure,” I said without thinking, “why not?”

He smiled. “Six O’Clock” he said. “I can pick you up at your guesthouse?”

“I’ll come here,” I said, thinking that would be easier than trying to explain where my guesthouse was.

It did not hit me until halfway through the next day that I had agreed to go on a date, a recognition that immediately brought a shot of panic into my system. I had spent half the day walking through the section of town that sold silver, and then crossed the river into the inner moat section and explored all of the temples and pagodas therein, photographing signs advising ethical behavior which adorned some of the temples. By late afternoon I was completely exhausted and I began to feel my date fears really set in hard. It would have been very easy to cancel it at that moment and I almost did, but instead I called him and asked if he would come to the guesthouse and we could go somewhere close by. I gave him my phone number so he could call me when he arrived.

At about five minutes after 6, I heard a cat crying. It was very loud and regular and it was extremely close. I opened the door of the room to see if it was out on the balcony, but as I stuck my head out the door, I noticed it was farther away. That’s when I remembered that I had set the ring tone on my cell phone to ‘meow’. My date was calling, he was just outside the gate.

He picked me up on his motorcycle and took me up to a beautiful restaurant in a flowering garden overlooking a lake in the foothills of the mountains around Chiang Mai. We really did have a lot in common it seemed. He studied journalism and at one time had a radio show in Kathmandu until he was kicked off the air for interviewing a Maoist Folk Singer, someone who is now in favor. He told me gruesome stories of his days reporting, of the Maoist rebellion and of friends lost.

It was my last night in Chiang Mai, I had an early morning plane ticket. Things moved quickly for lack of time to move slowly. We tried to eat the banquet he had ordered but it seemed neither of us had much of an appetite, we nibbled. The mood was sweet. His eyes beaded as his smile broadened and the twinkle in his eye melted any last puritanical thread that might have been holding me back.

Despite the overwhelming desire to accept the kiss he was leaning in to give me at the restaurant, I remembered the sign in the monastery making it clear that such public displays of affection were strictly not acceptable in Thailand, so I held him off. “I love you,” he said as he stole a kiss from me in the dark outside the restaurant. ‘I don’t know what love is, but this sure feels good’ I thought as I melted into his arms and returned the kiss. I pushed him away as the lights of a car attempted to reveal our secret transgression. “Let’s go,” I said, putting on the motorcycle helmet.

I held on to him tightly as we navigated the way back through the city. The night air was thrilling as it rushed past my face. As we wound our way through the alleyways to the hotel, my eyes met a woman who was hawking at a massage parlor. I had seen her several times while out walking. Her glance and smile implied her suspicions of our intentions. I smiled back, confirming her suspicions. Weaving our way through the maze of alleys, we arrived at the guesthouse, parked the bike and walked up the stairs towards my room. I fumbled with the key and finally got it into the lock and the door opened. We walked nervously into my room and closed the door behind us. The sign on the back of the door was prominent:

“Guests who are not registered at Sara Guesthouse are not allowed in room.
Sara Guesthouse takes no responsibility for consequences as a result of not heeding the above rule.”

...

He gave me a delicate kiss before leaving in the wee hours of the morning and I shut the door behind him. I listened as he made several attempts to kick start his motorcycle before the engine eventually caught and the silence swallowed up the sound of him riding into the night. If I slept at all, it was superficial.

In the morning, he was gone, I had a plane to catch, I went to get a cup of coffee and some breakfast at a little restaurant down the street. Eva Cassidy’s lilting vocals came over the café speakers singing ‘Fields of Gold’ and that’s when I felt it; that pang of desire to hold on to that sweetness, that passion, to kiss those lips again and again, that hope that maybe Love really is in there somewhere and maybe a little piece of it could be ours…if only I could stay in Chiang Mai a while.

Oh hell…that song always makes me feel that way, even if there is no particular person I’m thinking of. And besides, I CAN’T stay in Chiang Mai a while. I finished my coffee and paid, ran back to the guesthouse and got my bags.

I caught the Tuk Tuk to the airport, spent one crazy day in Bangkok at the dentist and the tailors, caught up with my son James for a few short hours in the middle of the night, endured negligible sleep rations, and then flew off to Cambodia early the next morning to explore the treasures of Angkor Wat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mae Salong: Just In Time for Tea

"You should go to Mae Salong." said Alberto the Italian as I was fleeing Phuket. "I bought a teapot," he patted his bag which held his newly purchased teapot which was insulated on all sides by large bags of Oolong tea, "you will like it there".
High in the Northern Thailand hills lies the peaceful little Chinese village of Mae Salong. It sits on a ridge just under a high peak, the nose of which is capped by an ornate Chedi. I went up to the Chedi on the advice of a couple of travelers I had just met and joined for coffee. They had been in Mae Salong for a week, and I had only one afternoon and evening there. “What is the best thing to do with one afternoon?” I asked. They glanced at each other and both agreed, “The Chedi”, they said in unison. And so after a bowl of pork noodle soup, I climbed up each of the 700 steps that led the way chanting ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, one word for each step.

Halfway up the steps I was approached and propositioned by a group of relatively harmless young teenage boys who were accosting the town with their Bangkok attitudes. “Thai boys?” said the hotel owner when I told her about it later, “not sound like local boys.” The local boys are all Chinese, of course, and probably have manners. At the top of the steps I was greeted by a Hill Tribe woman, selling her wares in front of the Chedi. She let me know she was the mother of 5, so I felt sorry for her and bought her offerings. I went up into the Chedi and took a good look around at Burma and all of Northern Thailand as well as the birds-eye view of the village and tea plantations of Mae Salong.

It wasn't until midway through the day that I knew I would end up in Mae Salong. I had caught the bus back to Chiang Rai from Chiang Khong, and took a taxi masquerading as a Saengthaew to catch the boat going to Tha Ton. I didn't think I would have time to do both Mae Salong and Tha Ton, and I liked the idea of a boat trip up the river through the countryside, so I chose Tha Ton. However, I had apparently missed the daily boat a half hour earlier, and the other option was to rent a private boat for 2500 baht (about 75 dollars). I didn’t feel like being so extravagant so I huffed and got back into the Saengthaew and told the driver just to take me back to the bus station, I would go to Chiang Mai. He said, “I can take you to Tha Ton”. I turned him down, but the fact that he would drive that far made me think…

“How much for you to drive me up to Mae Salong?” I asked, sticking my head through the back window when the truck had come to a stop. “1500 baht”, he yelled up toward me. “No that’s too much!” I exclaimed, pulling my head back into the truck.

Next stop, “How much you spend?” the driver asked me. “1000 baht,” I answered. “Not enough,” he said, “I have to drive long way, drive back, gas expensive,” he asserted, “1200 baht” (about 35 dollars).

“Ok” I said. “Pull over so I can sit in front.” The driver pulled over and I settled into the front and ate the bananas he offered me as we made our way up the windy road to Mae Salong. The scenery was magnificent and I knew immediately that I was going to wish I could spend more time in those hills. You can get there cheaply if you have time to take the bus and then wait for the public Saengthaew, but I was feeling short of time so this was like a miracle for me. I had only one afternoon in the town, and I wanted to make the most of the time.

When I came down from the Chedi, I walked from one end of town to the other, wandering through the hill tribe market stalls, and the multitude of tea shops before the sun set and I made my way back through the town to my hotel.

The hotel, The Mae Salong Villas, was a red lantern trimmed very ornate Chinese affair with a huge banquet hall. They are a tour group hotel, essentially the only one in town, so they often have a full house. The other options were some inexpensive guesthouses closer in to town, but I decided to splurge my one night in the mountains.


My room had a spectacular view and was as clean as a hospital, and about as warmly appointed, you can’t hand it to the Chinese for their interior decorating skills. The gleaming whiteness of the walls however, made it very easy to hunt and kill the evening mosquitoes, a task I’ve become very good at, occasionally using one hand to grab and squish one right out of the air in one agile movement. This movement has become quite the impresser to those lucky enough to witness it. I’ve yet to meet anyone who thought this activity was cruel.

The banquet hall was crowned at the back by a wall of tea and a facility for tasting. The owners have a tea estate and sell all their own teas at the restaurant. I had a long talk with the owner and found out that the tea is picked by Hill Tribe folks. “They are very clever,” said the owner, “We used to pay salary, but they were very lazy and did not pick enough tea. Then we switched to paying them by weight, and they started picking more stems because stems are heavier. This is a great problem later because we can’t use stems to make the tea. We have to supervise very closely to make sure they pick only leaves.”

Unlike the plantations of India, the workers here are not supplemented beyond their salaries in theory or reality. They get paid for their labors and that is all, and then they go home in the evening, to their Hill Tribe villages. Also unlike India, here, the tea industry seems to be thriving. How do the laborers fare? Good question.

The next morning, after buying much tea, I hopped on the public Saengtaew down to Tha Ton, changed to another one that went to Fang, and hopped on the bus that took me through the sharp pokey mountains down to Chiang Mai where it seems I’ve left a little piece of my heart.

Oh, Alberto, you were right... and I also bought a teapot.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Making it to the Mekong

Where I am now, the Mekong river provides the border of Thailand and Laos, and I am sitting on the porch of my bungalow looking at Laos as occasional boats make their way up or down the river heading to their various destinations. This town is Chiang Khong, a legal border crossing between the two countries therefore making it a backpacker stronghold in Thailand’s North. From here, you can take a boat to China.

Getting here from Chiang Rai was an interesting journey. I arrived in Chiang Rai after a day of delayed plane rides and airport people watching activities. In Chiang Rai I had the late afternoon to explore the bustling downtown area, and the next morning to do an early morning walking tour of the temples. Then I checked out of my hotel and hopped on a bus to Chiang Saen. I got off and the Tuk Tuk driver was waiting for me (as usual) and I asked him if he could take me on a quick tour of Chiang Saen’s ruins and temples because then I wanted to take the Saengthaew to Chiang Khong. It didn’t cost too much and was a lot of fun, and then he dropped me off at the Saengthaew which was about to leave.

A Saengthaew is a small pickup truck that is lined with benches in the back. The Saengthaew was full so I sat in the front squished between the driver and a middle aged Thai woman. Neither of them spoke any English. I listened to them talk trying to pick up the occasional word or so. The Saenghaew was a manual drive truck, therefore I had to keep my knees to the left to avoid getting in the way. I was not comfortable with leaving my backpack with it’s computer occupant on the top of the truck, so it was also squished into the front and on my lap. The scenery was beautiful however, as the truck wound its way along the Mekong. “Aihhoooooga” went the Saengthaew’s bell, letting the driver know that one of the passenger’s wanted off. The Thai woman and I looked at each other and laughed. I was enjoying this ride.

We reached a town that was in the middle of nowhere and the Saengthaew driver pointed to a waiting area and used his hands to tell me that I should wait there for the next Saenghthaew that would take me the rest of the way to Chiang Khong. I waited for about 20 minutes when another Saenghthaew appeared, and he used his sign language to tell me that he wouldn’t be leaving for about an hour and a half.

I went for a walk to find some food, and found a little grocery store where I bought some kind of stale rice cake for 5 baht. I sat at a table in the store and ate the cake and then started looking around the store, I guess it was the town’s grocery store, although it wasn’t much in the way of supplies. The woman who was keeping the store opened up a banana leaf package and ate a little piece of what was inside, some dark sticky rice with coconut on top. She used her hands to invite me to try some. I did and it was delicious, she gave me the rest. Her friend showed up with an orange that she divided up into three parts, which we ate, throwing the seeds off to the side. They taught me a couple of words in Thai, which I promptly forgot.

I said Khorb Kuhn Ka and Sawatdee Ka (Thank you and Good day) to them and waved as I walked off in the direction of a sign in English that said Hand Weavers -->. It took me down a long road past a schoolyard full of Thai children of all ages learning dances and just having fun. The road took a sharp right turn right on the cliff that looked out over the Mekong, so I stopped and enjoyed the view for a minute, noticing a tobacco plantation growing near the river’s edge. I found the weavers studio and went in to find the cutest old ladies wearing delicate turban like hats and sitting at their looms, weaving.

“Sawatdee Ka” I said, holding my hands up in the prayer position and bowing in the traditional Thai manner. “Sawatdee Ka!” They repeated the gesture, bowing twice as deep and laughing, using gestures to invite me in. I took off my shoes and came in, looking at their handiwork and oohing and ahhing. I picked out a couple of things and found that price can be discussed easily without using words. One of the women pointed to the scarf I was eyeing and held up 1 finger. 100 baht. This was something she made herself on the loom. At the beautiful hill tribe embroidered fabric I was eyeing she held up five fingers, 500 baht. I bought them both, I didn’t bother to try to barter. Not so expensive for beautiful things and lovely people. And this place didn’t look to me like it saw much tourist traffic.

After posing for pictures and thank yous and goodbyes, I made my way back to the Saengthaew stand and waited for the truck to leave. It finally left about a half hour after the agreed upon time, and wound it’s way along the Mekong until we got to Chiang Khong, right before dark.

So here I am, enjoying a day off along the Mekong in a sleepy little backpacker stronghold with lovely bungalows that cost only a few dollars a night. The only problem here is Laos. Laos is really loud in the morning, broadcasting Buddhist prayers on the loudspeaker system all day long starting at about 4:00 in the morning.

Day 2

No noise from across the river except a peaceful bell early in this morning. Apparently Buddha Day is over and Laos is back to normal. A stunning sunrise greeted my day, my bungalow faces East.... From my balcony retreat, I could hear the occasional sound of music wafting over from the other side, a drum, a flutish thing, some kind of hammered tonal instrument. Someday I must go there, not this time.

I rented a small motorbike and headed up to a hill tribe village about 8 km outside of town. I didn’t want to take a motorbike, and tried waited almost two hours for a Saengthaew which never appeared. While waiting, several people asked where I was going and made motorbike gestures, pointing at me. I finally succumbed and went to a place where I could rent one, cheap. The shopkeeper gave me a lesson and I learned in five minutes how to drive one. Luckily the roads are easy and other traffic is scarce, which is good because the signs alone are enough to scare one off the road. Obviously I lived to write this blog. Actually, the freedom and the breeze in my face was quite nice...don't tell my father.

I went up to the hill tribe village and found that there really are places that tourists don’t frequent. The scenery of palms, vines and banana trees, giving way to wooden shacks and laundry hang to dry. “Hello” shouted the occasional child practicing English, “Sawatdee Ka” I replied. Smiles, giggles, and the occasional dirty look from the occasional unwelcoming villager. I stopped and had sticky rice in banana leaf at a store, and bought some chili peppers as I had seen many drying in the villages.

I learned on this trip that almost anything wrapped in a banana leaf and sold as food is probably delicious.

I am having a hard time wanting to rip myself away from this bungalow, which comes with it’s own personal cat, albeit a cat with fleas, but a cat never-the-less. And the cat loves me, it can barely get enough of me. As I write this now, from my porch looking over the Mekong, the cat is asleep in the hammock I have recently abandoned.

Tomorrow, a new adventure…I will leave this lovely town by bus and make my way to another place.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Get me the Ph** out of HERE!

Ok, here’s the deal…after spending a delightful week with my son James in Bangkok, I went North to Ayuthaya to see the marvels of the Ancient Kingdom of Siam. Amazing temples, Buddha’s head being enveloped by a tree, ruins of ancient temples with rows of headless Buddhas, stuff like that. Then I intended to go further North, but could not get a ph***n ticket because, as the man at the bus station said “No ticket, because Happy New Year Thailand” (say in Thai English inflection or you totally lose the idea). Apparently all of the Thai people take the rare holiday opportunity to visit their families in the North, and who can blame them? So the wonderful woman at the Baan Lotus Guesthouse, (a wonderful place to stay in Ayuthaya by the way), recommended I go South, to Phuket. Another traveler from the guesthouse, a lovely man from Italy named Alberto who happened to be going to Phuket, and I hopped on the train back to Bangkok and were going to take a train but found out that we could take a pretty cheap flight instead and so hours later, suddenly I was in Phuket. Way down South.

It was dark when we arrived and we took two rooms at the first guesthouse we came across. I was satisfied as it was clean and cheap, even if the showers were not hot. We then, because it seemed Alberto was enamored with the idea, allowed a Tuk Tuk driver to recommend an expensive restaurant by the sea where we went for seafood and wine and ambience. One whopping hell of a commission later, he brought us back toward the hotel where a fell into my room and watched the continuing saga of the devastating news about Benazir Bhutto on BBC news. After spending night after night watching her battle through the last few months while I was traveling around in India, I felt a closeness that I can’t explain. I am really sad to see her struck down. A shining light for Pakistan, and for women of Islam has been darkened. But again…I digress.

In the morning I walked out of my room at 7:30 in the morning to find Alberto standing outside my door about to knock. Primed to go find coffee and then try to make the 8:30 boat to Koh Phi Phi, we both shot out of the hotel and went on the hunt. Not an easy thing to find coffee before 9:00 unless you like Thai coffee. We ended up in a busy Thai food market eating dim sum and drinking Thai Coffee with the locals. That was my favorite moment in all of Phuket. We missed the 8:30 boat as we decided to relax and aim for the 10:00 boat which made for a more relaxing morning.

When we got to the pier we bought tickets to Koh Phi Phi, which left at 11:00 instead of 10:00 so we waited. More and more tourists showed up until it was obvious to me without even going to the island that I was going to really hate it there. This was NOT my scene, young 20 something babes in miniskirts and tattoo covered men with shaved heads, jet setter families with tow heads and golden tans, not a single Thai person to be seen. My stomach began to get tighter and tighter. I’m not the partying kind, I’m more the lying around with a book kind. I’m the 300 baht a night kind, not the 3000 baht a night kind; the only option on Koh Phi Phi. I was obviously about to be with the wrong people. Alberto wanted to go there to say to his friends that he had been there. He was heading out the next day. I thought I wanted to go with him for the same reason, but the more people that showed up, the tighter the knot in my stomach became. The boat was late. I ran back to the reservation booth and cancelled my ticket, apologized to Alberto and kissed him on the cheek, said bye bye and hopped in a taxi back to Phuket town and to the airline ticket office to get tickets North. By tomorrow night, I should be in Chiang Rai, where I really want to be. Temples, mountains, rivers, Thai people. One or two tourists, not BILLIONS.

But since I was in Phuket, I thought that maybe I could find a nice quiet beach for one night. Even if it cost me a little bit more than I’d like to spend.

Um. No. Read my lips, DON’T COME TO PHUKET TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL. If you want this vibe, just go to Venice Beach. Seriously! If you go anywhere, I hear Krabi province has more hope for peace. But even then, really, avoid Thailand at Christmas and New Years. Just don’t come here.

So then, I paid a good deal of money to a taxi man who took me from beach to beach to find a hotel, and every supposedly dreamy beach looked like hell to me. This was from the tsunami of people and development; the other tsunami’s damage is no longer visible. I finally landed in Patong Beach, probably the most chaotic of them all. I Ph***n hate it here. Get me the Ph*** out of here. “Tomorrow morning, first thing,” says the God of the North.

Oh, and by the way, Phuket, in case you didn’t know, is pronounced Pookette.