Eternal Summer’s Version of Christmas

It is that time of the year again where the night sky is lit up with tiny lights and images of people bundled up against the cold get plastered on the side of every established business. Songs about melting snowmen and chestnuts roasting over a fire play over the lobbies of hotels and speakers at gas station all around the world. Kids bundle up in new pajamas as they make their lists for toys that they would love to have from the jolly fat man from the north, and parents fight holiday crowds and their bankbooks to make those dreams come true.

It is truly a magical time of the year.

I will admit that when I was younger that this was my favorite time of the year, and probably contributes a lot to my love of snowy days. One of my fondest memories growing up involved a Christmas Eve blizzard that trapped us in our house on Christmas day. I was very young at the time and I always thought that it had to snow on Christmas Eve and the light flurry of flakes that fell that evening as I walked outside in my new Christmas pajamas to pick up the night edition of the paper confirmed this belief. It started out innocent enough, but when I woke up on Christmas morning there was a big surprise of a couple of feet of snow that had not been on the ground before. I don’t remember at all what I got that Christmas because the snow was the greatest gift we could have ever recieved.

I have since grown up and after many brown Colorado Christmases, I now know that snow on Christmas Eve is not a guarantee. In fact, there are many places in the world where seeing snow on Christmas would be considered crazy. Some of the more memorable ones I have spent in recent years have come while I have been on the other side of the globe in Australia and New Zealand. It was a strange feeling enjoying the holiday in a place where I knew that it would never get cold.

I am soon discovering that this year will also be one of those years that will not have a chance of feeling like the picturesque holiday season. It won’t be completely bad because Thailand loves to celebrate this holiday just like any other country in the world. The malls are packed with people and deals, and they tend to pump Christmas carols everywhere you go. The stores also try to outcompete each other to show who can make the brightest of all of the holiday light shows. I wasn’t expecting it much, but I did feel that magical spirit start to bubble up inside of me while I walked around downtown and viewed all of the Christmas displays wherever I went.

The only difference is that I will never feel that cold that I so cherish this time of the year. I won’t even feel a cool breeze that might hint at a chilly Christmas evening. The closest I will be able to get will be to turn my air conditioning on high so I can bundle up under a blanket and watch some Christmas movie where they get to experience a white event. Despite this small problem, it will feel more like Christmas than a lot of places around the world. There will still be the people taking the time to spend with each other, the children excited about the arrival of Santa Claus, and the endless celebration that takes place during the month of December.

I know I am looking forward to it either way, and I hope that wherever you find yourself this holiday season that you are able to make the most out of this month as well. Have a great holiday season, and I will let you know about what is happening in the land of eternal summer as I enjoy mine.

Black Friday

Ever since I have moved overseas, Thanksgiving Day does not mean as much to me. It is not that I do not appreciate the holiday. It is just that the holiday is a very American experience and other places in the world do not celebrate it or even acknowledge its existence. Because of this, I have had to work on the past six Thanksgiving Days, and after the sixth time, it is hard to get excited about this day.

It fills me with sadness when I recognize this fact because for a long time it had become my favorite holiday. It was the one day where we stripped away all of the pretentious behavior of our daily routines, and get together with family to share a delicious meal and make memories. There was also the looming consuming beast of Christmas looming right around the corner, but we could put that aside for a moment to just enjoy being with the people we love. I know that other countries have holidays that are comparable to this, but it is hard to get into the spirit of them when they jump out at me from nowhere and I am expected to understand the traditions of these days. The traditions of my past are the ones that stick with me and which I yearn for every year around this time.

There are other Americans at the schools I have taught at that help to keep this tradition alive. I have had one Thanksgiving dinner already and I will be experiencing another one this weekend, and I appreciate that people take the time to make sure that this holiday makes it across the ocean. But since I have moved to Asia, I have started a new tradition that makes me just as happy. It involves the day after Thanksgiving which in the United States is one of my least favorite days of the year. It is not because I am working off my turkey coma or I am depressed because I find myself without my family again. It is because I believe that this day brings out the worst of Americans as they push and shove to get crazy deals on crap that they really don’t need. It is fodder for the television news broadcasts and every year it gets just a little worse. Hopefully, with Covid ravaging the land, people will take it a little easier this year, but the current state of things has proven that many people would not let this tradition pass them by no matter what danger may loom in a crowded room.

The way I have avoided the pain of this day is to take in the meal that I usually miss because I have been stuck at work during Thanksgiving day. I have had the fortune to have the next day off, and the Asian countries though they ramp up the shopping experience during Black Friday, it is no where near the insanity that can be found in the United States. The restaurants are still open and this is a great day to hop from one to the next as I indulge in a little bite at each one. It allows me to get out there and see a bit of the holiday spirit as it takes over the community while not fighting with people over a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. This is the tradition I would like to see take off for this holiday. We need to step back from this idea that stuff will make Christmas perfect and look back at the holiday we have just enjoyed. It is about family, and all holidays should take Thanksgiving’s tradition to heart. This is what my new tradition would be about because you do not go out to spend money on people, but you meet up with them at various restaurants to enjoy their company.

I hope you all found yourself in a wonderful spot on this holiday and that you are taking the precautions to be safe during the next month. Be thankful for those people you have in your life no matter where they may be.

The Bookstore Experience

If I wish to know about the culture,
I just need to find the local bookstore.
The imagination, here, they nurture,
And discover what these large tomes are for.
All the mythology and history
Gather together in neat little rows.
Here I can unpack a new mystery
As my knowledge of the old country grows.
Opened books come with an enchanting smell
Of adventure and anticipation.
Within its musty pages I will dwell,
Exploring all the corners of this nation.
On my trips, it’s a box I like to tick
‘Cause reading is a hard habit to kick.

Never a Real Winner

Can you still be considered a winner
If they have to change the rules just for you?
Your management makes you a bumbler,
Looking for a free handout and a clue.
All players can follow regulations
Agreed to everyone involved.
You think you deserve a stipulation
Because you are old and haven’t evolved.
Whether you look to your network of spies,
Or you make your plans with deflated balls,
Your success relies on a pack of lies.
Even false giants will receive their falls.
Though you keep track with your expensive rings,
Their tarnish will never give them their blings.

Buddha’s Man Cave

Pay attention to the sign at the gate,
And only allow the right clientele
Entrance to my silvery estate.
Certain genders are unable to tell
Deeper understandings of my design.
I wish to tell the stories of heroes
Who are admired by those of like mind,
And have been treated in life as zeroes.
They’re the ones who truly knowing suffering
As they travel the path to nirvana.
It is the pilgrimage they are taking
That brings them to this temple of mana.
It is here where they know how to behave
In the place where we built Buddha’s man cave.

What It’s All About

When the death of thousands does not matter
‘Cause it does not directly affect you,
It makes your agenda even sadder
Because you did not act on what you knew.
Now that you use your elite position
To make risky investments on a cure,
It shows that your financial intention
About saving this country is not pure.
Your goal is to stuff your pocketbook
And dance on the grave of America.
I weep for the integrity you took
Behind the obvious lie of MAGA.
It will take many years to recover
From the way you left my home in tatters.

Paradise Defined

Why do all paradises have to look
The same? Where does it say that palm trees
Need to sway next to a babbling brook
And the views have to have the bluest seas?
Maybe sights a little more dramatic
Is where my soul will find the peace it seeks,
A wintry landscape that’ majestic
With the earth torn asunder by peaks.
The gathering clouds threaten a snowfall,
And I beg for them to release their might.
We are protected from its bitter call
In a cabin perched on the mountain’s height.
I start to long for a different view
When I am in the one thought of by you.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

As I close up on this vacation, I reflect back at the great time I was able to have in this northern city of Thailand. According to Wikipedia, it is the country’s second largest city, but it is so much smaller than Bangkok and so much more intimate. I do not feel the hustle and bustle that goes on constantly in the country’s capital, and it reminds me more of the city that I grew up in. It does not only have to do with the mountains that are always looming to the west of the city, or the slower pace that the city likes to enjoy. But it is the smaller town atmosphere that comes with Chiang Mai. Though it does sprawl along the base of the mountains, it does not feel like you are very far from any place else and if you wanted you could walk across the main parts of the city and come across a few people that you know while you are doing it.

I also have to count myself lucky that I landed in a country that has a variety of cities to go and visit during this uncertain time in human history. Thailand has done a wonderful job of keeping this pandemic out of its borders, but it is doing it by making sure there are strict rules set in place about who can enter and under what conditions. It is also stressed on everybody the importance of frequent temperature checks as well as wearing masks to keep the whole population safe. Things have loosened up every day because of these precautions, and even though wearing a mask is sometimes a little annoying, it is a small price to have to pay in order to enjoy these freedoms.

I also feel lucky that I am able to enjoy the sunsets over the beach towns in the south of Thailand during one excursion and turn around to enjoy the cooler mountain air of Chiang Mai on another one. The temperature out here has never gotten to the point where it is too chilly to go outside, but it was definitely cooler than the oppressive heat that we have been experiencing in Bangkok.

As we head into the holiday season in a part of the world that celebrates it a little differently than what I am accustomed to, it is nice to know that we have moved on from the quarantine struggle at the beginning of the year, to a time where I can go out and enjoy what the holidays have to offer. I still miss the opportunity to take a quick trip to my home country, but I know that as things progress that there will be a day that I will be able to see it again, and it means that I just have to take in stride all of what this part of the world has to offer me while I am here.

Even though it is a part of the world I have been to earlier, and I am already planning on coming back again for the lamps during New Year’s Day, it is nice to be able to take in Chiang Mai a second time around. The first time I was out here as a tourist, trying to experience all of it that I could as fast as I could, but this time around I get to savor the moments a little more. I was able to revisit the places I really enjoyed the first time here, and I got to find new places to look for the next time I am out here. And I found those little things that made it an even better experience, the art that amazed me, the people that made me feel welcomed, and the signs that made me laugh because of their loss of translation. It has been a great trip, and I am happy that I have been given opportunities to take moments like this when they are not always available to everybody.

No matter where you are, things will open up again some day, and we will be able to travel the world again. Until then, make the most of what you have and enjoy the experiences that are given to you. I have, and it has made life just a little more interesting because of that.

Wat Sri Suphan, Buddha’s Man Cave

From the first glance, the temple looked like any other temple you would have seen anywhere in the world. Yes, it has a unique design, and it was made purely out of silver, but it was still an example of how too much could be spent on something that was intended to give a religious figure praise and attract thousands of patrons to bow down in homage. All religions do this, and it is a marvel to see the designs that are produced from the various faiths.

But Wat Sri Suphan is not a temple that should be passed by quickly. You need to take a little bit more time to really inspect what is going on in this temple that was built on the site of a sacred older temple in 2004, and it took into consideration the modern age when it came to its design. From the intricate artwork carved into the silver to the wooden steps leading into the main part of the temple that looks like water pouring out of the doors, there is always something to look at.

Unfortunately, this work of art is only open to men as there are many signs at the entrance that claim that women are not allowed to enter. I know it is not fair, and there is still a lot on the outside of the temple to keep everybody entertained. There is also a pair of virtual goggles on the outside that women can wear to see what it is like on the inside, but it still doesn’t do it justice. One must go inside to truly appreciate the design that went into making this temple.

Upon entering, you are greeted with even more beautiful pieces of art, but that is when you start to notice that things are not quite what the seem in this temple. Is that an electric guitar that this sea deity is clutching on to?

That’s when you want to take a closer look at all of the pieces of art found in this place. You start to recognize what appear to be space ships zipping around on the floor, and you start to think that this can’t be right. There shouldn’t be U.F.O.s in a Buddhist shrine. They have to represent something else. That is until you start to see a couple of these ships filled with aliens, and pictures of aliens etched into the silver on the floor.

The surprises keep on coming. The designers must have been Stan Lee fans or Stan Lee himself because pictures of the Avengers start popping up. It makes you wonder why these were placed there in the first place and what they have to do with this ancient religion.

And why are the faces of these modern day heroes portrayed proudly while the face of Jesus is turned around from one of the most iconic locations on Earth. The list on bizarre things continue. It becomes like one of those pages in the old Highlight magazines where you had to find all of the items hidden in the cartoon picture. You can list them all down and you could spend a day looking for them all. There are the seven wonders of the ancient world, the six wonder of the modern age, important cities from all around the world, Thai mythological creature, and Buddha himself. By the end of the time spent here, it becomes one of the most memorable sites in all of Chiang Mai, and worth going to no matter what your gender might be.

The whole thing makes you wonder if the place wasn’t designed as a luxurious room for Buddha in the first place, a little man cave where he can feel comfortable with all of the images that surround him. Or was this just a place where they let middle school kids have a little fun as they design a temple? Either way it is a great place to visit and is a must see for anyone visiting Chiang Mai.

The Man with the Purple Socks with Golden Doughnuts on Them

The center of town is the place where most tourists come to when they visit Chiang Mai. It is the place that holds all of the wats that they want to visit, and has the best restaurants, and sites. The most impressive site is a a large wall that surrounds this square section of town the sits over an ancient moat. The moat is all there and they maintain it nicely, and there are still a lot of the sections of the wall left but mainly on the corners of the square and at the places where the ancient gates used to be. Despite it being a cool thing to check out, it is also a way of designating places as they are located near certain parts of the wall. This is how I ended up at the North Gate Jazz Co-op last night.

Jazz clubs can be an interesting place to go to because the term jazz is used very loosely these days. It can mean anything from rap, rock, blues and what most people traditionally think of as jazz. The problem with this definition is that most of the time, you do not get to see jazz at these clubs because it is the one style of music that brings in the smallest crowds. The places try to fancy themselves up as a lounge that really has nothing to do with the origin of the music style, and most of the artists that play in these clubs are good but could never let the moment take over them as they let the music just pour out of them. It isn’t like the traditional places that are holes in the wall with a small stage and musicians showing up to join the house band to make some great music.

The North Gate Jazz Co-op is one of those places in the world where you can experience a more traditional jazz experience. They do have bands that are scheduled to play at certain times and they are strong musicians with great musical theory that allows them to explore a song for all that it has to offer them. The musicians progressively get better as the night goes on. You can tell that sometimes the musicians have not played with each other before and they don’t know where they can take a musical thread. There is a lot of handoffs with the song and nods of approval as moments of brilliance are played out on the stage. And there are the special guests that have just popped in and join the band for a song.

This is where the guy with the purple socks with golden doughnuts on them comes in. He stood on the periphery of the club the whole night and would have been easy to miss if it wasn’t for the fact that other guests came up to him to get there picture taken with him. The other musicians would step away from their songs to talk to him for a minute before making it back for their turn at the mic. He seemed like somebody important, and it was in the middle of one of the sets that he finally showed his worth.

I know it is not the best picture of the guy but if you look closely you can see the socks I am talking about. Despite the fashion choice, he did grab one of the mics and impressed the crowd with his ability to improvise a scat mixed with a rap. It was good, and the crowd loved it. After his one song, he returned to his seat and the rest of the set went on as normal.

It begs the question as to who this guy was. Is he a famous Thai singer that just happened to be in the area that night and decided to join in for a song like what happens at all of the great jazz bars in the world? Was he a local favorite that happened to stop by and would do so again in the near future? Was it just some random guy that convinced the band that he was good enough to join them and proved it with his chops? Or was it a musician that plays at the Co-op from time to time and just decided to come down this night to have a little fun? I have no idea but it added a little flavor to the evening and made a great experience even a little more fun.

The North Gate Jazz Co-op is a must if you are in town. The music is great and it is a favorite of locals and tourists alike, and you never know who might pop in to share in on the fun.