Friday, March 10, 2006
My friends, the book is progressing very well. Things are going according to plan, which is a little disconcerting, to be honest. Mornings I wake up when I wake up, which is usually between seven and nine. I putter around until I’m awake enough to do yoga in my room, and after yoga head out with my laptop. I usually find a place where I can write for a couple of hours, then often move to another where I can have some sort of lunch and continue writing.
I spend a large part of any trip looking for shady tables with a view. This trip even more so, the novel rides my psyche the way my laptop rides in my daypack. Sometimes the view is a busy market street and the goings and comings keep me entertained. Sometimes it is off hours at a sleepy restaurant, and the staff hanging about keep me company.
This is a shaded table overlooking the Mekong River. Long boats chug up and down with cargo or passengers every twenty minutes or so; kids on inner tubes float downstream about as often, shouting and splashing. Across the river, patches of vegetable gardens on the wide sandy banks below the high water line. Above them, a few homes with tin roofs, and above them, dusty dry trees fading into a smoky light blue sky.
There is a huge tree over me. Its branches reach thirty feet out over the banks and even below me. The sun lights up the leaves from behind, light green. On the main road, there is an occasional motorcycle. A plaintive folk tune on someone’s sound system.
This is the middle of the afternoon. It is hot. There is only a vague breeze from time to time. My short-sleeve linen shirt is usually damp in the back. No one is out and about. If you arrived at this time, you’d think the town was asleep or abandoned.
I have a cup of hot tea, French fries, green papaya salad. The salad is good to have in the heat. The chilies make one sweat, and I like to believe they are too fiery for some of the bacteria that might have designs upon my gut. Unfortunately, the cook has given this papaya salad a liberal dose of fish sauce and the smell is almost more than I can bear, let alone eat, especially in this heat.
Fish sauce notwithstanding, I am happy, eating well. A bowl of fresh tropical fruit costs less than a dollar no matter where I go. That was my breakfast this morning on the patio of our place, the Pousi Guest House (you can imagine how it’s pronounced) with Nick and Nubina, friends from the boat ride with whom I’m sharing a room. Across the quiet road is a temple complex (see photo), and we are within walking distance of all there is to see in Luang Prabang, a UN-designated World Heritage place. I could probably live here the rest of my life from this point on, should I choose to, making just enough money as a writer or a dilettante “guide”.
The boat trip for two days down from Chiang Kong, Thailand, was stressful and uncomfortable, but nourishing the way hard travel is supposed to be. Traveling by river is almost always good for the soul, and the Mekong is somehow especially potent for the type of dreaming that makes river travel so good. It’s as though the poppies are working their magic through the flow of the water.
The tea feels good, harmonious in temperature, and it will help me focus for a bit more work, which I feel I must insist upon myself. For two solid days on the boat I did practically no writing, and only a bit of mental work on the book. I’m not opposed to taking a vacation, but I’m afraid to loosen my grip on the threads that I am weaving together for this thing.
Some insipid vocalist is powering through now from the café downstream. Amplified music and TV are the bane of my quest for peace in Asia. I have asked them to change the CD, an idea that is puzzling to the staff. I just pray that it’s not a double CD. Funny how much worse bad music is than no music at all.
After just about two months away from home, I now feel as though I have been delivered back to myself and from this port I am free to choose where to go next. I feel as much a writer as I ever have; more so when you consider the fact that I know so much better what being a writer is about now. Screenplays and novel ideas to be made real continue to pile up and when I think of them I realize how little I can afford to fuck around with things that have nothing to do with my work or my well-being.
On that note, the hassle of living in New York is looking more and more like an obstacle course I can’t afford to keep running. Trouble is, I don’t have any better ideas.
I send hazy sun, and peaceful waves from the banks of the Mekong to you wherever you read this. Thank you all for being with me in spirit. I feel it.
at 2:46 AM