Saturday, March 26, 2016


Sometimes all it takes to be happy is an open window and a rooster’s crow. Woke up in the arms of my Dutch wife (it’s a pillow), the clickety-clack of a fan, the distant sound of thunder. Heaven. Once again a small part of God’s grand creation.

My hotel room in Singapore was all forced air, no openable windows, that self-enclosed artificial human creation that defines our modern notion of comfort. Each morning I went down to an excessive and expensive buffet breakfast, out into the air-conditioned cab driving trafficked roads to an air-conditioned school with more closed windows, then the cab and my hotel room again at the end of the day. I’m used to it.

But where is the soul that comes from birdsong and the gentle buzz of people in the village stirring to start the day? Setting out flowered offerings, sweeping the front of their open-air restaurant, children walking the roads to go to school or fly some kites. The sounds of insects and roosters and barking dogs, the smells of early-morning cooking, the distant music of West African drums, Indian singing or Balinese gamelan. That’s the travel I’ve known and miss so dearly.

And it’s not just Ghana or India or Bali that it brings me back to, it’s my childhood in New Jersey waking up on a summer’s morn. Yes, we had a TV and air-conditioning downstairs (but only a fan in my bedroom) and later a dishwasher, but the bulk of the day was spent roaming the nearby park, sitting on the front stoop, mowing the back lawn with a hand-operated mower, lying in the hammock. How grateful I am for my analog and natural childhood!

And so here at my dear friend Zukhra’s house on the outskirts of Bangkok, I notice that I’m much more interested in stepping outside and watching the dawn break than checking the news on my machine. How refreshing to look at a tree instead of Trump! Read the news of the day that the breeze blows in, see if there’s any news from a real fox. I’m more inclined to savor the world than save it today. Isn’t that refreshing.

And it’s Easter Sunday. Good to begin the day resurrected back to my old familiar and welcome self. Thinking about going to a Holi Festival, the Indian celebration of Spring with people splashing colored powder and paints on each other. Went to one in Rajasthan in 1979 and kept the splattered T-shirt for years. Also oddly was here in Bangkok for Easter that year also, when my wife and I made the terrible choice of going out to see the movie The Deer Hunter, a brutal film about the Vietnam war. Bad idea that was.

Now the music of rain on the roof, the family dog coming in to greet me, the light breeze of the fan and renewal of life lived close to the skin. It’s enough for happiness.

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