Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pad Thai, Sukhumvit

[I dearly love putting my personal musings out for any and all to read while you should be working, but I also should be working, so I’ll be limiting these spewings forth. They won’t disappear, they’ll just get shorter, I hope. Please don’t feel slighted, and don’t stop checking in on me. It’s just that I have a book to finish, and then when it’s done reading that will feel pretty much the same as reading these, but on paper instead.]


It’s warm. I’m warm. I’m relaxing by degrees, in the other direction.

There’s a lot to say about Bangkok and Thailand and how it’s changed since I’ve been here and all of that commentary on the fast pace of modernization, how change affects a place, and me, a visitor to this one.

But, I’m not up for all of that. (If you want more of that, there are doubtless other blogs you can find which would say very much what I would have said.) Besides, my novel has plenty of that crap in it.

There are other things more worth discussing. One of them, of course, is Pad Thai. There’s something about a metal folding table and a plastic stool on a greasy stretch of concrete that accentuates the dining experience for me. I’m not sure why. It’s not just that it’s cheap – about 75 cents in this case -- I think I feel that if I’m there on the street, I won’t miss anything. And even if there isn’t “anything,” there’s always the ambient low-key drama of people going about and hanging about.

The woman at the noodle stand asked me if I was writing about Pad Thai, which I wasn’t, but I said I was, just to avoid having to explain what I was writing, which was that tropical air seems to have an immediate and irresistible narcotic affect, and that this effect is likely to ease my transition from Tokyo, which was really a head trip for me, having lived there for four years and then been away for fifteen.

Then, since I said “yes,” I decided I’d better at least write something about my first Pad Thai in Thailand in at least ten years. I wrote in my notebook: This Pad Thai tastes like the barnyard. By that I mean the whole yard – scratchings and all. Hot spots, sour spots, pretty far from the homogenous NYC norm.

I meant all of that in a nice way, by the way. It’s virtuous to have a variety in the pad thai. Just like for spaghetti; what’s the point of making it the same every time?

The nice lady showed me all of her ingredients, which were set out in bowls on the front of her cart: dried little shrimps, sugar, peanuts, crumbled hard boiled eggs, dried ground chilies, and something that looked like chopped pickles. There was also a bag of something green chopped up, probably cilantro. Pretty much exactly what they put in our Pad Thai in the US. But this particular pad thai, here on this street at this table, was so different that most people at a restaurant in the states would have sent it back, assuming there’d been a mistake.

I asked if taking a photo would be all right, and she was delighted to oblige. She grabbed her husband, who then took up the pad thai tools and posed for the photo. I don’t know whether he made my pad thai, but I suspect not. (In any event, I have the photo to upload, but I forgot to put it on my little zip chip to bring with me to the Internet joint. Please check in later for it, and many more fun photos from Bangkok.)

This thick magical tropical air, a six-hour flight, and the fact that I’d been up nearly all of the night before drinking, bathing, and getting exfoliated (no euphemism here) had me in a state of mind that otherwise only comes to me with valium, beer, and sex; usually two of the three. I wandered further down the street to one of the grooming salons for foreigners and got a haircut, but the friendly English speaking woman overseeing us kept asking me if I was all right, so I decided to head to my room and call it a night.

My room, by the way, is just fine. It costs about $12. I am fine as well, and can be had for cheaper than that, depending upon the circumstances.


doodles said...

Food always taste different when you're abroad. Dunno why, I don't think it has anything to do with being on "vacation" or such. I think it has more to do with just being abroad.

Meredith said...

happy to know you're eating well, and that you finally got that haircut.

you're worth a lot more than $12, but i'm glad you can be had for free 'cause some of us are poor. :)