We the modern bedouins were en route to SFO with a ten minute delay at our storage unit 7am last Tuesday during an irksome downpour. Morning rush hour and foul weather caused Uber to surge up the wazoo — $125 for what is usually $35. Our young Filipino driver mentioned he’d like to retire in the Philippines; total cost for his dream house, 3 million pesos, 60 thousand USD — $23k more than that brand new red Lexus he was driving. An answer arrived concerning where do America’s homeless population seek shelter in heavy rain heading south on Polk Street. In the middle of the sidewalk, completely covered under an odd pattern drenched comforter was one such despondent soul, lying, knees bent upright over a circular grate; warm soot thrusting upward from grimy turbines beneath his shivering bones. Responding to my inquiry regarding a homeless crisis in the Philippines, our driver claimed his country does not share America’s deplorable issue. Not only his culture, but many other cultures around the globe, close-knit family still remains a fundamental life component. Something to ponder throughout the journey we were about to embark on boarding a (past its prime) Cathay Pacific airliner. An SFO TSA greeter who directed us to his associate verifying passports and boarding passes asked, “How many?” I felt we’d soon be riding the Cyclone at Coney Island.
Midway through flight 879, during my third movie, our Boeing 777 transformed itself into a gigantic martini shaker, shook full force, bouncing up and down, back and forth simultaneously, eight miles above the vast Pacific Ocean. Malaysia flight 370 crossed my mind more than once. I hoped our pilot might find altitude with smoother air, if he tried, the severe choppiness only worsened. LouLou’s palms were dripping sweat, Jeanette scrunched her eyelids, I hyperventilated while others around us thrashed like rag dolls throughout an hour-long living nightmare. Hours later, the night sky over Hong Kong International Airport was thick with clouds; minutes prior, the pilot announced rain with 16 mph winds. Runway lights appeared, our rear tires skidded, jolting passengers when our aircraft slid into a fishtail motion, regaining control as the front landing gear met Hong Kong’s slick tarmac. The public rarely hears about these near fatal mishaps; who can keep up with approximately one hundred thousand daily flights worldwide. I trembled most of our ninety minute layover; took off once again, landing in Bangkok three hours later without incident, unless anyone would count Cathay Pacific’s particularly gross meal service.
Lerk, our assigned driver was exactly where we’d been told he’d wait, speaking as much English as we speak Thai. He had a black and gold artificial serpent placed on his dash, indeed symbolic; Lerk slithered through Bangkok’s 1am traffic, delivering us safely forty minutes later (700 baht, 20 USD) to Saphan Khwai — our six week buzzing enclave. Before leaving different friends kept asking the same question, “What makes you return to Bangkok every year?” “Two excellent reasons: Kung and Lek.” For the past four years, these warm-hearted sisters Jeanette stumbled across on Airbnb never disappoint. This rental of several they own in neighboring buildings is on the 33rd floor. No surprises here; this condo is fastidiously maintained, quiet and as always, the sisters go beyond any call of duty, stocking enough healthy snacks for most weary travelers until they’re prepared to face Bangkok’s exotic elements.
We tried to fall asleep about 3am after unpacking and finished showering; however, Thailand’s fifteen hour time change from Pacific Standard Time in no way could’ve fooled our body clocks it wasn’t the day before at noon. By 7:30am famiglia di Schiavo decided a swim was in order — wandered to the bank of six elevators, entered, pushing 52. What Lampedusa is regarding swimming in the Mediterranean, our generous pool at the Rhythm building towering above Bangkok wins top honors — blue ribbon for best urban swim.
Something else enticing about the roof deck here: although its dizzying height has humans below appear a quarter inch tall, street cart food wafts high, blending pungent spices, herbs and smoldering incense from outdoor altars. Different, for example, than Manhattan’s aroma, from my nasal point of reference, seemingly a city imbued by the subway system.
Following our first day’s lunch, I asked Jeanette if she would set the alarm for an hour and a half, waking us at 1:45pm. When her phone alarm eventually went off, I was startled out of a comatose slumber, inadvertently whacking innocent Jeanette on her chest. Needless to say the hour and a half snooze was hardly enough; all three of us conked out again till 6pm. In a lethargic stupor we entertained ourselves, zoning out watching Fracture with Anthony Hopkins, alongside Ryan Gosling. We hit the hay at 9pm, then bolted wide awake around midnight, reconvening, finally seeing A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. Our second morning here woke after a broken sleep, swam, had breakfast, got caught up: LouLou with studies, Jeanette’s emails, alongside bills, I opened and dusted off Inner Sanctvm, then we lunched. I noticed this article’s first draft was completed at 2:15pm, recognized none of us had napped yet. Oh well, just when we figured our jetlag was licked, along came another magnetic pull to collapse again. Our biological mechanisms probably aren’t designed to be flung across the planet overnight at 550 mph, but as a multitude of other cravings, many, including myself, simply can’t control ourselves and do it anyway.