Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fountain of Youth (Brief Anecdote)

Two days ago my Farang friend Chuck and I rented motorbikes and drove about an hour to Doi Inthanon National Park, home not only to the world-famous Princess Sirindhorn Neutron Monitor (which is a real thing) but also to some of the more spectacular waterfalls in Northern Thailand. We decided to go to get out of Chiang Mai for a while, out of the city, and "into nature," whatever we thought that meant.

When we arrived at the first fall, the Mae Ya Waterfall (Mae Ya--ya'll don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance), we were the only people--not just the only Farang, as usual--but the only people on the entire grounds.

"We can do whatever we want here," Charlie marveled, staring upstream at the peacefully gurgling water.

"Just think," I continued his thought, similarly hypnotized, "I could take a poop right in the waterfall--the Mae Ya Waterfall--and no one would ever know."

We shook our heads at how lucky we were, and started our trek toward Mae Ya.


We changed into our swimsuits and agreed that, should a park official point out a "No Swimming" sign, we would pretend to be Germans and not understand. Luckily, the "No Swimming" sign looked like this:

and so we could have pretended to be Americans and not understand the sign.

Anyway, I took a few pictures by the shore, including my first step. I took a photo of that first step into the cold, still water, because just then I remembered the old Oriental saying: "A journey of 1000 seconds thrashed helplessly underneath jagged rocks begins with one step." And so I wanted to capture that one step. Here it is:

After that, of course I was forced to leave my camera beside the trail, as we waded upstream toward the waterfall, the rushing water sometimes as high as our pointed man-nipples, the tide sometimes pushing us backwards.

And though our muscles creaked and our bodies struggled due to our almost total lack of exercise and proper vitamin intake, we both remarked that we felt so, so young, like the boy scouts we never were: we were hiking in the wilderness, marveling at the wildlife, pointing out bugs and creepy crawlies. I even collected a few rocks to store on my bedside table forever and forever.

It was then, I think, that the sad realization came: that, for many men, Thailand does make them feel like young men again, though for reasons not nearly so pure as the rush of nature or memories of backyard explorations, that their Fountains of Youth come from much more human sources, drinking in the women they could never have, the young girls, the beautiful girls, who, for such impure, unnatural reasons, bring them what I can only imagine is the same feeling of a lost time that I felt.

I know there are differences, of course: chief among them, while the youth that I felt has associations of innocence, the youth of White Men in Thailand is anything but.

This guilty pensiveness did not ruin the hike, nor the majesty of solitudinous nature, nor the giddy innocence of re-finding boyhood--nor did my bruised ribs, dis-aligned jaw, or turned ankle--it is only a curious side-shoot of a thought that I had, which I hope can only be symptomatic of my present location and culture, and not a rather insignificant upcoming birthday. Looking back at my nightstand, I can still smile: turning 23, I will still have my rocks.

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