Thailand is known for many things. The food is amazing, the people are kind, honest and friendly; and of course the Thai women are beautiful. But beware, all of the beautiful women are not actually women. Ladyboys, or Kathoey as they are known here are transgender adventurers, from simple crossdressers to actual pre-op and post-op transsexuals. I’ll say at the outset that I’m a pretty open-minded guy when it comes to most things, and while I’m a strongly hetero guy, I have managed to purge myself of much of the homophobia that our society injects its into its men, but still, the whole transgender thing remains a mind-boggler for me.
I can relate to some the erotic appeal of being a transvestite, but when it comes to drugging the male body to make it act like a woman, or actually going under the knife for implant breasts or to surgically remove some of the male anatomy (gasp) that’s where they lose me. My ever-present question is… “How can you be so sure you want to be a woman when you can’t possibly know what that means? How can any man, with the limited perspective that engenders, be so certain that he’s a woman and needs the appropriate equipment or a facsimile thereof?
But that’s OK. It’s not about me. My girlfriend Marie likes to define a pervert as “Someone who would do something that YOU wouldn’t do.”… and isn’t THAT the truth?
In Thailand, the kathoey is far more accepted in the community than the transvestite in the west. I’ve seen no good explanation to why this is, but I have my own theory: People respect quality. And the very convincing job that many of these ladyboys have done making themselves look like females is extraordinary. I recently went out dancing here with a group of Thai friends whom I had recently met. We were all dancing together and having a great time, but I was particular attracted to one skinny girl who was dancing up a storm with me and had a great energy and wow, could she move her ass. Hours later, one of the group just casually mentioned to me (as if I had already known), what a phenomenal ladyboy this girl was.
Wow. Had I missed that one.
The night of dancing was already complete, but the next day I wondered how would my emotional response would have differed if I’d returned to the dancefloor with this cutie after I realized she wasn’t a girl? I knew that my response would be different, and frankly I was not really satisfied with that. Because lets face it, dancing, romance and even sex had a huge component of fantasy attached to it. Most of us, most of the time give that reality very little consideration, but it doesn’t diminish our pleasure to become aware of it. Its very clear to me that a playful approach to all of it yields unexpected dividends.
As it turned out my evening of dancing with a cute ladyboy showed me I still have demons yet to purge. The cool thing is that, in this realm, the purging happens on it’s own. All we need do is see.
“In twenty years you will regret more the things you have not done than the things you have done.”
—Mark Twain (Possibly)
But anyway why should words be more profound just because someone famous said them?
I follow a Thai food importer website because of my interest in international street food. The site has some great videos if you are one of those naughty folks looking for food porn. www.importfood.com
Just a couple months ago a post there caught my eye about a foodie area of Bangkok unknown to tourists but very popular with locals. So, I brought along a map and descriptions from the website with me to Bangkok and we’ve poked around the area known as Saochingcha three times to great success. Frankly, we’re not at all sure that we have found any of the restaurants described on the map as EVERYTHING is in Thai script which is indecipherable to me in this life. Each time we have dined we just try to communicate that we want something common or popular and usually there is a smiling high school aged member of the family to translate for us. Lunch today was roast pork and rice and a bowl of some sort of greens and for both of us was 175 baht or about $6. Later, I bought a bottle of fresh squeezed orange juice that was absolutely the sweetest most wonderful orange juice I’ve ever had. Bottles sell on every street for about 80 cents for about 10 oz. and it’s squeezed right there from oranges that look very much like limes, about the same size with only a bit of yellow and orange on the skin, but wow are they good. It was pure luck or providence that Saochingcha is mere blocks away from where we are staying.
We invariably end up at a sidewalk table, as these small open-air restaurants are sweltering, even in this their winter. The tables are small and often perched so close to the traffic whizzing by that you feel you could reach out and touch the cars and tuk-tuks. But then a few minutes into a conversation with Dwight and you’re no longer even aware of the traffic. My riding partner Dwight is a true adventurer and though we’ve admired each other for years, I feel like I am just scratching the surface of a near bottomless pit of adventure stories. During the last 15 years, Dwight has made as many international trips on bicycle. Prior to that he traveled by any means necessary. Last night during dinner Dwight was telling me about a trip he made to India several decades ago. When I asked him, ”Why did you go to India?” He immediately fired back in that playfully superior way of his, “Why didn’t YOU go? Equal question!”
Touche. I howled in laughter. Why indeed?
Just over 36 hours into our stay in Bangkok, and it feels more like a week, or even a month, though today was fairly lost to recovery from a late night at a great little dance club on Khao San Road. Some how, four of us managed to polish off the better part of two bottles of Tequila. I’m partial to Patron Silver, but the bar had Sauza Black which while quite drinkable, certainly did more damage to the following day. A bar tab that would have been $1,000 in South Beach was $75 dollars in Bangkok, which perhaps oddly, helped make me feel a little less dirty, regardless of the in-your-face, Bangkok sex trade.
The many roles that we play in life each demand their own special way of being if we are to extract their maximum enjoyment. The learning of how to “be” in each situation is part of the great experience of living. I felt as though I was channeling my old friend Robin Donenberg last night in this thumping club on the other side of the world. Marie and I met Robin in Miami and he taught us the finer points of enjoying the South Beach club scene. Thanks Robin, I know you didn’t feel like you were schooling, but I was taking notes.
Anyway, Dwight and I had a ball dancing and shooting tequila with the with the beautiful and exotic Thai girls, and new friends from all over the world who just happened to find themselves together in that one unique and perfect moment. May those moments come as often as we have the capacity to appreciate them and may we continue to experience them in all their sacredness.
Lardo made from the pure white back fat of a large pig is a traditional delicacy in Italy, where it sliced paper-thin and spread on toast instead of butter. It’s something like a supercharged bacon with no lean.
It can be eaten right out of the cure, no cooking necessary, or a quick fry will yield amazing crispy salty little morsels that can be sprinkled on anything from salads to mac and cheese.
We start with this back fat from a large boar that we slaughtered at Loesch Farm on this past Sunday.
Here I have rubbed the back fat strips with a slurry of garlic, rosemary and juniper berries. Then salted with Kosher salt. I’ll add another layer and pack it all with salt. Then it goes into the cooler for a minimum of three months. By the time the crocuses are popping up, we’ll be enjoying lardo.
Our meat came from our boar named Loesch Hill Sam, who was a sweet and wonderful pig. He had a great life and a pasture all too himself that was right next to my garden, so we spent quite a lot of time together. I’d often pick him a ripe tomato or two that he would take gingerly from my fingers with his powerful jaws.
He grew from a baby to a powerful 700 lb boar in just 18 months.