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02/10/2003 - I CAME, I SAW, I WROTE


Dear Friends,

I can't imagine that many people have checked in and kept up with the column, especially given that I just threw in a five-month hiatus for the hell of it. I ended up going to Thailand and Vietnam for a couple of months. Just to indicate how demented I am, the major reason I have returned home is that I want to write another spec script. Writing is not a hobby or even a career. It's an affliction.

To summarize my travels: I was just living life differently for a little while.

To be a bit more descriptive, I'm going to post my five travel journals here in my column space. These were e-mails that I periodically sent home to family and friends. I would have posted them while I was out and about, but, well, I didn't. I blame malarial fevers and bad internet connections. I'm lying. I was just lazy. (This is not an exercise is narcissism or laziness -- only a clumsy way of communicating the message that we writers have to remember to balance writing with living.)

Anyway, here is the first installment, which I originally wrote October 31st, 2002:


Hey Folks,

I know, I know -- I've only been out of the country for nine days, and yet here I am already, cramming my first update into your e-mail in-box. Reason is, I'm getting ready to go into a meditation retreat for 10 or 11 days, so I figured now would be a good time to write, before I went in there, became egoless, and started communicating only through telepathy. (I'm also planning on levitating a lot more from now on.)

Speaking of spiritual pursuits, I guess the first thing I should share is my most memorable moment to date. (I apologize to those two of you who have heard some of this.) I was at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on about Day 3. I was jet-lagged, and faced with seeing something like my tenth big-ass golden Buddha of the day. A peddler offered me some caged birds for a couple of bucks -- nine finches or sparrow-like creatures . . . all part of some symbolic thing wherein the birds flying away represent freed spirits. I wasn't into the religious aspects of it, and didn't exactly love the ethics of it, but bought the birds anyway so I could film it (I know, what admirable values I've developed). So I set the cage on the ground, set my video camera close to the opening, and opened the cage door. The birds all flew out toward some nearby bushes, where - and this is the fun part -- they were set upon by stray cats! A cat comes trotting out of the bushes with this bird -- this "free spirit" -- in its mouth. The other bushes were convulsing with activity, too. I was laughing so hard that I was crying. My on-camera reaction, which is badly out-of-focus, is something along the lines of "that's not gonna help my karma much."

Bangkok's Grand Palace and best temple were extraordinary, but my jet-lag and Bangkok's permeating stench (which, in my estimation, was a combination of septic tank and bad lunchmeat) didn't make good dance partners, so I flew south to Ko Samui, a resort island. Things instantly got better. I schooled some local kids on the pool table -- beating their shark in three out of five games, even though the table was more like a Pebble Beach putting green than a level surface. I ate at some great restaurants for far too little money, and mostly looked at the ocean while listening to my iPOD (thank you, MT!).

In any case, I suddenly found myself with about five free days before I had to get to the meditation retreat, so I decided to get my scuba certification, a four-day course. Trouble is, they didn't have any local classes that started on Sunday. So I agreed to go to a nearby island. I
packed my daypack, thinking it was just going to be a short boat hop away. A driver picked me up 20 minutes later, and I soon figured out that I was headed for a 1.5 hour speedboat ride to Ko Tao, a diving resort. I had just one outfit and a few essentials.

Long story short, it didn't matter, because Ko Tao is terrific. Small enough to have genuinely friendly people, and yet big enough to have lots of activities. My dive class just ended -- I'm certified -- and I've had a great time learning. The whole side trip was a happy accident that came at the perfect time.

(Incidentally, Ko Tao is also very close to the island where they hold the year-end Full Moon Party -- the "Asian Burning Man," from December 15th - 29th. If anyone's heading over this way, let me know. I haven't decided if I'm going yet or not, but the more, the merrier.)

There's lots more happening, but I'll mercifully sign off for now. Today, I head back to pick up my bags at Ko Samui, then off to the mainland to Suan Mokkh, the Buddhist monastery that will serve as my home for 10 days (you can look it up on the internet at www.suanmokkh.org, if you're really interested). After that, I might head to Krabi and take rock-climbing lessons, before picking up my Vietnam visa in Bangkok and going to Vietnam for a while. Then again, I might not. I've grown averse to planning things.

I send my best thoughts and love . . .


P.S. Oh, I've also learned to deal with con men and pushy peddlers the same way I deal with
telemarketers at home, which means I basically act either mentally ill, profoundly stupid, or whatever else comes to mind. It's like street improv, and I'm having so much fun with it that I now seek out areas where I'll be hassled, at least a little. Instant joy.

Back home,

P.S. Reach me at EmailGrady@aol.com with insults, heckles, or travel stories.


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