Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I immediately began to fret over expenses to fund my mission. I resolved that if need be, I would sell my trusty Toyota, which had stuck by me on long desolate highways through the Midwest and among the sea of combustion that is rush hour Los Angeles. I could live rent free with local friends until May, when the trip was scheduled. Now it was March. That left me with two or so months to secure a passport and $3000 dollars. One way or another, I would end up having to beg for help from my mother and father. Again.

As I began to write these words, I knew that I would have to show them to my parents as proof that I have invested myself into this project and committed myself to it. Much rode on these very words. If my parents were impressed, they may sponsor me. If they perceived these words to be anything less than exemplary and displaying of potential and talent, I may be anchored to the lower forty-eight for who knows how many more years, and this prologue would be nothing more than practice.

I knew that I would have culture shock upon arrival in Thailand, but now, safely in Seattle where I could live rent free and keep writing and acting, without anything written in stone and no commitment to the Thailand trip yet, I fantasized about staying there. I wanted to stay in Thailand before I even got there, learning the language, the culture, the people. I had yet to research the exchange rate and find out just how far I could make a dollar stretch, but perhaps I could eek by on the $300 a month that I got from my parents as a sort of allowance for me to help fund my journey of self discovery that I seemed doomed to be stuck in for the duration of my prolonged adolescence.

I thought about my mother's recent trip to Bangkok on business, and how when she returned she reported that it was polluted, dirty, and stiflingly hot. Almost unbearably so. My mother, who had taught me to love travel, had barely one good thing to say about a country that had held my fascination for many years. She returned unexcited, eager to get home, and lacking in the overall wanderlust that she had passed on to me.

Then I thought about my great cousin Russel, who years ago practically disowned himself from our relatives in Texas to move to China, where he fell in love with the place, learned the language and married a local woman. I never knew the whole story, but for some reason this adventurer and black sheep seemed to have given up, divorced his wife, and moved back to Austin to work in the family business with his moderately racist father who would go into speeches at the dinner table about Russel and his 'ching cha chow chop suey' wife. What had driven Russel to reverse his course in life in such a drastic manner, after becoming so intimate with a culture, language, and woman of the far East?

I thought, if Russel can become another man, I can do the same. I was monolingual, and it made me nearly seethe with jealousy when I heard another North American speaking in foreign tongue. I had been left out of far to many conversations between acquaintances who were bilingual to go the rest of my life only conveying myself to other human beings in the nounal based categories that were English.

"I'm going to Amsterdam for awhile to view some of the last remaining legal mushroom farms. The government's shutting them down." It was John, and he was referring to psychedelic mushroom farms, of course.

"Okay John, I'm going to do some research and see if I can't come up with the cash."

And with that, we hung up.

I hated to think about it, but John seemed to be a remnant of a dying era. He was a friend or acquaintance to some of the greatest psychedelic pioneers of the sixties. Leary, Owsley, Garcia, Watts. Either he was a master weaver of tall tails or he had dined on the fruits of the gods with most of the superstars of hippie mythology, and, in an anomaly of the given formula, lived to tell about it.

And now John himself was dying. He had diabetes, which was a new revelation for him when we spoke. He complained about numerous health issues, but that did not put a damper on his energy over the phone. He could go on and on.

"I just don't know what happened, I started craving sugar, drinking chocolate milk by the half gallon and COKE! I hadn't drank a coke for twenty years, but all of a sudden I had to have it." He was describing the process most diabetics go through of having their blood sugar go haywire and thus experience bouts of carb cravings. I didn't bother to ask about his heart and cardiovascular health. He had been overweight since he gave up cigarettes, and when I implored him to walk more he complained about his feet hurting. It is truly a vicious cycle, the process of getting out of shape and becoming so unfit that one can not exercise to get back in shape without severe discomfort.

Amazingly he had put all his faith in doctors. When I ran off my list of advice, which I had gleaned from many years of my unorthodox interest in medicine and distrust of medical physicians, he stopped me short.

"I am not going to make any dietary changes until I talk to the dietician next week at the V.A. hospital."

Amazing how someone that has lived as such a rebel was so lacking in a rebellious mindset towards Western medicine, which I viewed as faulty and profit over truth driven to no end. What doctor in their right mind would recommend anything but a high fat, low or no carb diet for a diabetic? They were instructing him to watch his carbs and his fat intake. What was his body supposed to run on for a fuel source? Nutrasweet and caffeine? But alas my advice was falling on deaf ears, all because I was not endowed with the magical M.D. before my last name that allowed me the powers of all knowing wisdom regarding health.

"At least drink black coffee." I said, citing ample evidence that coffee combats diabetes. But he shut me down again. I resolved to email him links supporting my assertions, though I had lost faith in Johns capacity for critical thought regarding the matter.

I knew that this could be one of my last opportunities to join a living legend in the psychedelic community on one of his fabled Thailand tours, which encompassed a full immersion in not only the mycological aspects of the country but also the culture as well. He had been traveling Thailand for two decades, leading perhaps a hundred people there over the years as a guide and shaman. He was well connected and knew many locals and officials in the country. This was indeed the opportunity of a lifetime. I was excited.

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