Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand (www.imagesoftheworld.org/thailand.)

The beginning of an international diatribe

When I was a sophomore in college, I chose to do a travel abroad program in Thailand. Basically, as far from the norm, and the US as possible - my parents were convinced I wanted to give them a coronary, but that wasn't the main reason. I figured, when else am I going to be able to spend six months in southeast Asia? I could go to Europe anytime. I imagined Thailand as a hot, sensuous country filled with resplendent greenery and beautiful fabrics, clear water in the canals for the teak boats to travel upon, and friendly smiles. I couldn't have been further - While it was hot (we were drenched in sweat the instant we exited the plane), it was also extremely humid - not the sexy, glowing type of heat. It was the type of heat that made you want to kill yourself, permeating every pore, and leaving your belongings hot to the touch when you went indoors. Rarely was there air- conditioning, it being considered a luxury and only present in large shopping malls and western hotels. The only green present was the fruits and vegetables sold directly off of the steaming, putrid streets. There were almost as many beaten-down cars as people, both clogging the streets and sidewalks with the efficiency of a large sponge. The canals were sewage passages filled with decaying animal bodies, garbage, and human waste, and the boats used to travel down them were rickety, broken affairs with detachable plastic awnings. The smells were unreal, causing retching from more than one visitor.
As disgusting as I've made it sound, it was also incredible. It was a cultural slap-in-the-face - it made you appreciate convieniences of your home and covet the rich history of Thailand's immense religious and national pride. I was left speechless after visits to the many temples, adorned with intricate and expansive glass and mirror mosaics, left entirely speechless when asked by a homeless man to take his kitten at one of these wats, thinking that I could give it a better life than he could. Which was true. I loved the strands of flowers used as offerings, their bright purples and reds and thick whites. Thailand is a country full of colors - gritty gray and black of the streets, rich tan of the people, bright oranges and saffron yellows of the monks' robes, and heavy gold of their offering bowls. It was not unusual to see a monk walking barefoot through the street, holding in front of him the bowl used for collecting the kindnesses of the people.
The country itself is a living contradiction. Its beauty and its ugliness are in stark and visible contrast with one another. The loveliness and hospitality of its people were contradicted by their treatment of animals: as lower beings, there was little regard for them. It is a city populated largely by homeless dogs, who scrounge around on the streets eating whatever is deemed inedible by the many homeless people. I was irate one day after hearing a rumor that one of the guards at our school had poisoned some of the dogs by offering tainted meat, as a way to clean up the problem. It was horrifying and a wake-up call. I saved that kitten, though. She was covered in fleas in ticks and skinny as a little noodle when I got her. I picked the ticks and fleas off with a tweezer and brought her to the vet. She lived in my room until I could find a home for her. I proudly report that she is a fat, happy cat that's spoiled rotten by her new owner. Go, me.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I em liking de cheecken, no?

No me gusta el gato

Herrow. For dose of jus who are not nowing me, mi nombre es Rocky. I am a leetle chihuahua meex who has de long legs and de beeg eers. Last night when mi mami was sleeping, I am going to the computer to make dees post. She is not knowing dat I be making it. I am writing dees becas I is not getting enuf espace in de bed for me to make good sleep. I am having de long legs, and am needing much espace to be sleeping good. I also no like de gato, who is chasing and hitting a mi all of de time. He is having some sort of e prolem with the Rocky, ju know what I say? I am thinking he eez jelous becus I am still having my cajones, ju know? And da gato, he no have them. De one dog, dey call heem Peep, he ez not so bad as de gato. De Peep, he sometime is being nice to me becus I am liking to cry all of de time. I have un poco secret to be telling ju alls: I am not be crying becus I am of the sad, I am be crying becus I be knowing dat my mami be pettin me alot when I be crying. And dat be makin de gato bery mad.
If ju know what I be talkin baut, pleas be sending some pesos a mi, entonces, I will hire a man to be taking da gato far away. He weel sleep wit da feeshes, no? I think I got me some eyetalian relativoes, somewhere. Or you can send cheecken, whish I like too.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Final comments

Here's how I feel today: Shitty. That's right, folks, I capitalized the S for emphasis. My life for the past month or so has been an exercise in futility. Without getting into it too much, it seems like I've been struggling up a mountain that has an artificial ceiling at the top. You can't stand on the top, and you can't go over the mountain either. Every step you've taken to get as far up the mountain as you have is erased by the person who stands at the top, who doesn't really want to be bothered with you in the first place. No matter how many times you've tried to show the top your efforts to dig your bleeding fingers into crevices, to get higher up on the mountain, it doesn't matter - the top never wanted you to succeed in the first place. Futility. The person at the top only wanted the answers, and didn't care about how you got there. Even if you didn't have any idea how to get there. And the only way you would know how to get there is to be shown. You aren't born with the map to the answers. There's no X marks the spot.
I'm sorry about the ambiguity. Is that even a word? I don't particularly care - it says what I want it to. The ambiguity is required, however, because of my intense paranoia and respect for the matter at hand. The sum of the story: I am completely fucked.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

wool socks, Rocky's little dome head, caffeinated diet beverages, speaking in a foreign accent, the way my new boots look, Matt Damon in the Bourne Identity and ONLY the Bourne Identity, the Killers, learning new stuff like in-situ hybridization, Reeses sticks, sneezing, www.savemouse.com, www.dooce.com
peanuts (actually, nuts of any kind, including the dog kind), when my eye itches and I'm wearing mascara and I smudge it all over my face, feeling irritable, the way my new boots feel, the fact that Heather's not coming this weekend and I miss her, Pipp chewing off the eyeball to his polar bear and gutting its stuffing all over the living room rug

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Rocky's Slammin new Threads

Rocky Balboa and Mr. Bojangles

My friend Alice, who works at the vet hospital pharmacy, was standing in the hallway on Monday afternoon with this little brown dog, who was shaking like he was withdrawing from heroin. I expressed the slightest interest and POOF: little brown dog is shaking in my living room. The little brown dog was actually a chihuahua/italian greyhound/miniature pinscer mix, maybe, and began whining the instant I set him down. For some bizzare reason, the cat took an immediate disliking to him (and, I imagine, in some sort of European accent, said, in animal talk: "YOU! Who eez you? And wwhhy eez you in my houz? You look like some leetle rat, and now I make it my job to make you meeeeserable!") The cat waits behind the shower curtain for the little dog to come by, and then pops out and smacks him on the ass.
Someone left this little tiny 7 lb dog tied up on Penn's campus. He was covered in fleas and wasn't neutered. His hip bones and vertebrae jut out through his fur. An undergrad took him in for the night, and brought him to the vet hospital the next day, where my friend Alice offered to care for him. I hand-fed him chicken the first night (and to Cricket and Pipp as well, to establish equality. They were just excited about the chicken.) He whimpered and cried all night long that first night, and I wanted to pull my eyeballs out of the sockets the next morning on the way to work. He walked like a rabid rabbit on the leash, pulling until he coughed and couldn't breathe. I found out, however, that he did know how to sit. Who the hell would leave some little tiny creature tied up for anyone to find? Who could abandon a dog like that? People truly suck.
I tossed around names for a little while: Chico, Topo Gigio, Melvin, Frank, Elmo. I finally settled on Rocky for lack of any better suggestions and also, because that was one of the dog's names on Saturday Night Live's skit, "Dog Show," where Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell dressed like nuts and banged drums with their dressed-up tiny dogs, Rocky Balboa and Mr. Bojangles.
Rocky and I drove over to City Line Ave to the Petco, where he whined at the cats in the cages up for adoption as I tried to fit him into some jackets. He shivers still, and I can't decide if he's cold or neurotic. It's probably a little of both, since as soon as I put him in his jacket it subsided a bit. Cricket thinks he looks like a tool.