This picture was taken some time during 1966-67. What you have here are a couple of high-school friends who were posing for someone’s mom. I’m not sure where the picture was taken. I got a copy of it in May of 2011. That means I had to wait for about 45 years before I got to see it. That might make me a little upset if not for the fact that I’m just glad to have the picture. This is Tom, a friend who recently passed away. I’m very glad that I got to spend some time with him over the years. We were good friends in high school and roommates in college. He would eventually go to Albuquerque to work at Sandia Labs. I stayed in Oklahoma to be a computer grunt. The last time I saw Tom was a couple of weeks before he passed. God have mercy on his soul.
There was one whole day when I got interviewed by about five groups of English students who were instructed by their teacher to roam the streets of Medan, find a native English speaker, capture them and do an interview. I was about as obvious a native English speaker as you could get in Medan. This was one of the groups that captured me. They were really nice and I’m glad I got to participate, but by the end of the day I felt like some sort of celebrity and it wasn’t as much fun as I might have imagined. The first two interviews were stimulating, but by the end of the fifth one, I didn’t need another one.
This is what makes Luang Prabang so special in my mind. It’s the sidewalk cafes that are everywhere. This town just operates on a totally different set of biorhythms than so many other places. Sidewalk cafes like this one are so inviting. They just lure you in. This one overlooks the Mekong River and I can sit for hours and watch the river roll by and the boats go up and down the river and the tourists and townspeople walk by. That’s the trouble with Luang Prabang. It just sort of sucks you into that lazy lifestyle. I get up in the morning for that Lao coffee and a late breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. I walk around a little. See some stuff. Then I go back to the guesthouse a little after the noon hour for a cold shower and a nap during the heat of the day. I go back out on the streets in the late afternoon for a little more sightseeing and then dinner at one of the stalls at the night market and end the day with a few Beerloas and some good conversation at another of the local sidewalk cafes. I got out of that city as soon as I could.
I didn’t get to talk with them. They were having lunch in a restaurant. I wish I could have heard about their trip but I didn’t want to be a bother. Touring cyclists have the greatest of stories. They’re the real adventurers of the world. I think bicycle touring is so cool. So why don’t I do it? Primarily, it’s because you have to be prepared to sleep out "in it" almost every day, whether it’s cold or hot or wet or whatever and I just don’t see that as a really comfortable way to travel. Granted, I don’t always sleep in the most serene of places, but at least I stay dry most of the time. Maybe some day I’ll get up the nerve to try it.
This little girl walked past me wanting some money. She was dressed up as a Hindu goddess and she was cute-as-a-button. I asked her if she would take a picture with me and she said yes. That cost me 10 rupees, but I don’t get too many opportunities to be photographed with Indian goddesses. I asked a British guy who was passing by to take my picture with her and he responded "For fifty pence," He’d been in India way-too-long. My question to the little girl would have been "Does your mom know you’re out on the street begging?" But, who am I kidding? It was her mother that dressed her up so cute and put her there.
They were a bunch of old guys, sitting around in the morning smoking and drinking. Sounds like my kinda’ guys. I was out walking around with my friend Ricardo, who was snapping their picture. They seemed to like having their picture taken so I snapped a few as well. I think this is the morning coffee shop ritual for these boys.
I mean, I’m walking down the street when I hear something behind me and turn around to see that I’m being rapidly overtaken by an elephant. For people like me, who aren’t accustomed to watching an elephant heading for their backside, this can be a little unnerving. This isn’t something that happens to me on an everyday basis in India, but it has happened previously. This time, however, I must be getting a little more acclimated, because I had the wherewithal to pull out my camera and get a shot if rambling merrily onward. My questions to the driver would be simple. How do you start it? How do you stop it? How do you turn it?
You’ll see it in all the big cities in India. They are homeless people living on the street in a little nook somewhere. They may have a lean-to or a makeshift house made out of sticks and cardboard. Who knows how creative people can be? They exist. Usually with a few naked to half-naked kids making merry. Small children don’t understand poverty, but neither do I. I see people living like this and I wonder about the reasons for the situation. I think there’s a streak of sociologist in me.
I don’t know about you, but I like this picture. This is my second trip to the Taj. I went once by myself. I then went on a guided tour. It was a little pricey to go both days, but what the heck, I’m a big-spender. Tickets to Taj cost foreigners about $17 a day. They cost Indians less than 50 cents. I’m not sure how the Indian government justifies this, but I guess they don’t have to, do they?