My expectations of what it will be like for my wife and I to have a real baby are pretty limited. When I try to imagine it, I can only think about a few things: the baby crying, the baby being hungry, feeding the baby, the baby wanting to be held, holding the baby, the baby pooping, changing the baby’s diapers, the baby sleeping, us wishing we could sleep.
And aside from the 80’s sitcom stereotypes, I of course am well aware, thanks to everyone who has ever been a parent and given me any advice: There’s nothing in the world more rewarding than being a parent.
In November I will begin to feel like a real parent (once the kid is born). Until then I won’t really truly be able to understand or fathom this most rewarding thing in the world.
It’s funny to think that eventually we won’t be comparing our baby to the size of a certain fruit. (This week our baby is the size of a naval orange.) Eventually, our baby will be the size of a baby. Interesting thought.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The Thai version.
After recently revisiting some memories from the summer of 2004 in Thailand, I must have tapped in to some sort of parallel between my life now and my life at age 24, because there is some therapeutic and natural about replaying those stories out loud (or by typing them out and reading them).
It all started a few days ago when my friend and former college roommate Josh Taylor sent me a text message asking what the best phone number to reach me was. A few texts later, I was jogging his memory (and mine) with a reference to “monk footprints”…
During our week long vacation from teaching at Bangkok’s Global English School (all schools had a mandatory closing for a week due to the International AIDS Conference being held in Bangkok that year), Josh and I decided to take an excursion to Chiang Mai and Koh Samui by overnight train, motorcycle, and plain.
In our overnight train ride to Chiang Mai (Thailand’s 2nd largest city) up in the North, our seats converted into beds for the night. Right across isle from us on the train was a middle-aged Buddhist monk, dressed in his drab orange robe, marked with animal tattoos all over his head (to fend off evil spirits). Despite the loud bangs and rumbles off the tracks throughout the 12 hour ride, the monk’s constant religious chants were a bit distracting (and kinda creepy).
But when in Thailand, you learn just to go with it.
As nighttime approached, the train attendants came through the isles to transform our seats into beds. The monk headed to the restroom. When he returned, he used Josh’s bunk bed (which was on the bottom) as a stepping stone to get up on his top bunk. He wore no shoes. His bare feet, which were caked with dirt, left “monk footprints” on Josh’s white bed sheets. Moist, mud-infused footprints.
Therefore, the phrase “monk footprints” will always be a legendary term between Josh and I.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai early the next morning, we rented “motorcycles” (a loose term in Thailand, as it basically often means a glorified moped) by paying $4 a day and handing over our American driver’s licenses as a security deposit (which does seem a bit risky; turns out, a few weeks later I spent two weeks in South Korea with my sister and my passport was stolen). After a day of exploring (and getting a little lost) the city, getting curious about what the Chiang Dao Cave was as well as what the “live monkey shows” were all about.
Because the school in Bangkok we were teaching at is a Christian school, we were able to have it arranged that we could sleep in a church in Chiang Mai for free. Can’t argue with a free shower and bed for a few nights. Of course, the shower water was ice cold (which isn’t a horrible thing in a country with a climate similar to Miami). And as for the sleeping arrangements: two plastic sleeping bags on a cold, slick cement floor on the second floor in a building with no air conditioning and a garage door as the main entrance.
The best part though, was the fact it was impossible to stay asleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. Not because of the heat alone, but because of the tiny little biting ants from whom we evidently were invading their space.
And yet I count all of these as fond memories. Backpacking through Thailand for me was a rite of passage. An adventure that will always be part of me. Maybe one day when I become a rich, successful author with a book on the New York Times Best Seller List, I can manage to find the money and time off to go back.
Until then, Thailand remains a magical, mysterious place that sometimes I think of as a dream world in a parallel universe that only exists in my mind.
In a world of so many weird and funny Internet clips begging for our attention on YouTube, one that started circulating in the fall of 2008 has officially become my all-time favorite. I proclaim it my favorite “Clip of My Lifetime”.
I suspect that I’m not introducing this to anyone for the first time ever, but my intentions are to be a guide and companion as we try to squeeze this orange for all it’s worth. Please enjoy “Jesus is My Friend” by a rockin’ band called Sonseed:
Well first of all, it’s from 1983 so automatically how can it not be awesome? The lead singer, Sal (whose wife is the piano player), is quite a cartoon squirrel. His token head nod after every over-pronounced verse is so charming. And the pouty look on his face as he delivers each Vacation-Bible-School-line just warms my heart. It’s almost like watching a 4 year-old boy in the form of a 24 year-old Italian man. (Though he was actually 30 when this was filmed.)
I’ve seen cases of some of today’s popular actors either getting their start in Christian entertainment (or resorting to it once they realize their career is over). One theory is that Sonseed’s snazzy lead guitar player is the young Paul Giamatti. (In reality, the guitar player’s name is Frank Franco. That is stellar in itself.) And the drummer may very well be Will Ferrell’s first cousin. Hard to know for sure.
Depending on what day I’m asked, the back-up singers may be my favorite part of this short film. Having his next-door neighbors jump in at the last minute was a plan that came together after all. The first lady it shows is the answer to anyone who says “what’s the worst that could happen?” when being set on for a blind date. You just know things are bound to get awkward. I’m sure she’s got a heart of gold, but she really looks like she should be a SNL character. Did I see her as an extra on Napoleon Dynamite?
Next is perhaps her husband. I can see him being a youth minister on a weekend retreat in Kentucky. I would definitely want to be in his raft on the white water rafting. Mainly just because a red plastic vest would befit him. Back home he probably had a Petra poster hanging up in his office so that the kids in his youth group could relate to him more.
All I’ve got to say about the next lady is that I’m proud of her for being able to drag her husband out of the house. It takes a positive spirit like hers when being the other half of someone who can’t even memorize one line, “Jesus is a friend of mine”- he’s looking down at the lyric sheet the only time it zooms in on his face.
And then there are the actual lyrics to the song. Universally, the favorite line tends to be “God is like a mounty; He always gets his man”. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly a mounty is and how to spell it. I think it’s a word for a Canadian policeman. But of course the cherry on top of this whole nostalgia-fest is “Zap!!!” That defines the whole video.
When I was first introduced to this video I just watched it repeatedly. The day after I saw it the first time, my wife came home to find me watching it in a trance. There’s just so much to take in. I found a website where I was able to download the whole album. I’ve got it on my iPod now but “Jesus Is My Friend” is the only song of its class, like “Hey There Delilah” on The Plain White T’s CD.
I can’t imagine any YouTube clip ever having more character than Sonseed’s. But I do also highly recommend “The Renewed Mind is the Key” which was recorded from some hokey adult-contemporary Christian musical in Branson, Missouri. That’s only if you want to see a long-haired white guy moonwalk across the stage, then put his hand over his mouth as if he just “passed gas” and is embarrassed by it, the way a 58 year-old woman from Georgia wearing a sundress and matching hat would do. He is accompanied by two women wearing Hillary Clinton pant-suits who have learned a sort of snap-dance from someone who got their degree in “Modern Dance” from a community college.
And here’s the whole song…
And finally, a must-see is the dog that was born without his front legs; yet his owner taught him to walk on his hind legs. If anything ever looked fake but is completely real, it’s Faith, the Hind-Leg Walking Dog.
I’ve struggled my whole life with the phrase “red head”. Ronald McDonald has red hair. But as far as natural hair color, the “reddest” I know of is Carrot Top, and literally his hair is dark flaming orange, not red. And while there are people with a shade of brown hair that has sort of a red hue to it, those aren’t the people we give the name to. Red Heads do not exist. Only Orange Heads. But for some reason Red Head is the term that stuck, and the whole world (with the exception of me) is okay with that and doesn’t question it.
Last week I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for the first time, having been hypnotized by the theme song montage of Full House that the Golden Gate is the most awesome bridge ever. The bridge is one of America’s most easily identified and popular landmarks. But like Red Heads, it’s not red either. It’s “international orange”. The “Golden” Gate Bridge is actually orange though most people think it’s red. Colors are confusing. The human equivalent to the Golden Gate Bridge would be a Red Head named Sunny. And then Sunny wins American Idol.
Despite its superstar status in our country, I have to admit I find the Golden Gate Bridge to be overrated. I had always imagined that it was a huge bridge that crossed miles of water. When in actuality it’s only 4/5 of a mile long. And the bridge is only one of five major bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s not the main one.
I was surprised when I later crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge a few miles away, realizing it has the same design as the Golden Gate except this is the double-decker version, over twice as long, and is painted a bland silver (because the city pretty much is consumed by a murky fog, it actually gives the bridge more of an off-white color). But no one ever pays attention to it.
Strangely, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place in America (and arguably of the world) to commit suicide. According to Wikipedia, approximately one person every 14 days ends their life by jumping from the bridge. Over 1,200 deaths were confirmed by 2005 (since the bridge’s completion in 1937). The success rate of suicide for jumpers from the bridge is close to 98%, with only 26 survivors ever. Though the time it takes for a jumper to hit the water only takes four seconds, the speed of the jumpers reaches around 86 mph. Only Chuck Norris breaks necks quicker.