Day 9: Shake dat funk
A drone offers a spectacular view of the coastline. I can't wait to get it up over Myanmar. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
[No WiFi delayed this post going live -- Ed]
THE suns bursting through the suicide windows of my hotel room, rousing me from bed by 7:30am. After the cave-like darkness of Casa Luna, the morning light is a welcome wake-up call.
The dice and I have a full day ahead of us: no plans etched in stone, no plans carved into wood, in fact, no plans even lined up in the dust.
I open a copy of Luke Rhinehart's The Dice Man. It's preposterous that I've not read the book all the way through yet. I'm on my second attempt with it and only about halfway through.
“Dr. Rhinehart should have known when Mr. Mann [previously his mentor and professional supervisor, so to speak] summoned him to his office at QSH [a mental hospital] that there was trouble,” he writes. Dr Rhinehart, The Dice Man, has been participating in his own sex experiments. He has been using psychiatric patients. They and others are asked to voluntarily commit “immoral acts”. There has been one rape. Mr. Mann gives him an ultimatum: stop, or he is career is finished.
“I should have known when Lil [Dr Rhinehart's wife] sat me down on the armchair opposite her without even touching her champagne that there was trouble,” he writes. The die had Rhinehart playing the lover for the last week, pulling out the plugs and doing everything in his power to make her happy. Their love rose back to the surface, though she knows it will disappear just as quickly with no explanation. He feeds her a half lie about an experiment on eccentric behavior. She gives him an ultimatum: stop, or she and their two kids leave.
“Dr Rhinehart should have known when Mrs Ecstein [his colleague's wife, his mistress and fellow Dicer] invites him to her living room couch that Wednesday that there was trouble,” he writes. She's pregnant, with his kid. The die is going to determine who she tells people the father is; it's going to determine if she tells Lil about it; it's going to determine if she's going to tell Lil who the real father is.
Fuck me, this isn't what I need first thing in the morning as I begin my own dice journey. Yes, I've set down a clear outline of not letting the dice drag me to immoral areas I'm not willing to be, but reading the chapters in quick succession is like watching a boxer you'll be fighting next give some other helpless bum a quick one-two to set up for a brutal hook to the temple.
Not what I call inspiring.
I'm already in a bit of a funk from Julia and I attempting to navigate the troubling waters of letting go.
Last night, I reminded her how necessary it's to let go.
It was a video call. The first time I'd seen her face since I left and my heart warmed at seeing her enormous, beautiful eyes. Her smile was shy, but wonderful.
She has to let go, not because I don't love her – I do – but because it is inevitable that other women appear on set this year. It's inevitable that somewhere a future blog will have me fawning over someone's eyes, someone's hips, someone's breasts, someone's every word and thought.
It's not a fun conversation to have with someone you love, but is necessary. It's necessary not to let her be blindsided.
No, nothing has happened yet.
Maybe it's best for her not to follow the blog. Then again, it's something we both want to share. She's already allowing the dice to play little bit in her life, which is always a delight to hear about.
There was no conclusion, as the conversation was quickly moved to another topic, which was fair enough. Yet this morning, somewhere in the back of my mind the conversation weighs on me. I don't like the idea of people I love being hurt.
I jump on the bike to clear my head and get a lay of the land. It's flat, a mix of what feel like ancient flood planes and estuaries. A few small bungalow “resorts” have signs along the main beachfront road.
The beach of fine white sand isn't terribly impressive due to the 100 meter tidal zone that leaves a handful of small boats stranded in the silty sand while the tide is out. The water itself is flat, the top lightly ruffled from a sea breeze. A single island not more than a kilometer out dominates the northeastern horizon.
I roll a die for my morning coffee: fresh milk.
I must stop putting out outlier options because I think they'll be be funny. I had three types of coffee, two types of tea and fresh milk in the mix. I mostly stopped drinking milk after the Phuket Today Six Week Six Pack Challenge. But milk instead of coffee is what I'll be having.
The milk isn't fresh milk, but 2% that, ironically, is mixed with some powder to make it taste like fresh milk. The woman serves me a complimentary banana with my milk. It's a wonderful world to live in when your neighbors, landlords, friends and even strangers often opt to give you a bundle of fresh fruit out of pure kindness. Even this sort hospitality can be regularly found on Phuket, if you're not living in a tourist or expat bubble.
Back in the hotel, I'm exhausted. There is no excuse from it other than the constant narration of my life to this point is draining. It's an effort to see the world and try to solidify each moment with words. I'm sure it's a practice that one can only get better at with time.
After a nap, I pack up – always at least a 45 minute process – checkout, leave the giant kangaroo behind and search for a seaside bungalow. I finally settle on set of bungalows with a name written completely in Thai script. It's not significantly cheaper, in fact the bungalows right on the beach are slightly more expensive. However, it's not as sterile as the Jingjo Hotel. That's important. I give up the nice bathroom with the hot shower that doesn't smell faintly of urine for this room, not to save 150 baht, but because now it doesn't feel like I'm at 3-star hotel on the side of interstate back in Indiana.
My funk continues.
I go for lunch at a seaside place. Sitting alone at a large round table beneath a thatch roof I watch the ocean. I listen to the sea breeze. I fiddle with a deck of cards, hands mindlessly moving through a couple basic tricks.
I feel a lost.
I jot down some options of what to do.
I scratch them out.
I scroll through a PDF about Chumphon that was created by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It's an incredibly interesting source of what my options are in the less-traveled province. There are some hot springs, caves, beaches a Royal Project with a number of rare plants, which I very much want to see. I also noticed the Shrimp Genetic Improvement Center during my morning drive. There are options, but I'm drained. I don't feel like dragging myself or the bike anywhere in particular.
I consider putting an option on the die to just lay in bed. I worry about then feeling trapped in bed.
I pick at a massive, delicious serving of squid in yellow curry with egg. The dish is most often served with crab, known as Bu Pad Pong Karee. Being allergic to crab, I have it with the squid.
The die chose the dish, not a bad choice.
In an attempt to break the funk, I unpacking the drone. It will be my second time flying it.
It's blades whirl, kicking sand up as it hovers about a meter above the ground. I try to remember how the controls work. In moment, it's out of sight, lost in the white clouds high above the ocean.
It hits me. How do I fly it back? It's out there over the water and I can't remember exactly what these little nobs do.
I look at the flying display.
I push one lever and see the altitude start dropping.
Okay, that's not a good idea.
I stay calm. I try to stay calm.
Slowly, I start remembering how the controls work. I notice in the bottom, left-hand corner of the screen there is actually a map showing the drone's position to relation to mine. I carefully bring it back.
A bit more confident, it's time for another flight, I start recording.
The world is beautiful with a bird eye's view. It seems unbelievable that an untrained civilian who isn't backed by some Universal Studio budget is able to capture such stunning views of Mo Boa Beach. I accidentally enter a no-fly zone – Chumphon Airport is nearby. I turn the drone back and then send it up, up, up and away. It's nearly a kilometer above me, looking down on the coastline.
The battery level drops and the drone goes into red alert. It's coming home. Nervously, I get it settled away from the casuarina trees in front of the bungalows.
I feel better. Not fixed, but better.
An evening drive puts me on a well-marked scenic route. What it's a scenic route to, I'm not sure, but I'm in rush to get anywhere in particular. The drive gets longer and longer. Too long for having hopped on the bike in flip-flops with no helmet.
Winding away from the coast, the oil palm plantations give way to line after line of narrow, straight trunked rubber trees.
Back in the parking lot of the Jingjo Hotel. I sit myself down for a conversation.
“Stop being so hard on yourself. Relax,” I tell myself.
I buy an Almond Snickers bar, a pack of Oreos, some nuts and soda waters. No, this doesn't fit my current diet, but I'm supposed to relax, so a little junk-food therapy is what this doctor is calling for.
“Excuse me sir?” a young man in a flat-brimmed baseball hat and a loose-fitting sweatshirt says as I walk back to the bike. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for kids who dress punk or gangster, but have upstanding manners. It's a pleasant blend that shows so much complexity right there on the surface.
He wants a picture with the bike. I love it. He tries to take a selfie with the bike, which I already know from experience is damn near impossible. I take his phone for him, and tell him to mount the bike. Kneeling down, I snap few nice shots of him giving the thumbs up.
I really love this sort of thing. I can only imagine it will become more frequent the further afield I go. When my friend and I were doing the Hanoi to Ho Chi Min Vietnam trip on our 125cc Hondas a few years ago, we'd pass through some villages and people would come out and wave to us. It was like being a rock star, but without the need for talent or a stupefying amount of dumb luck.
To completely snap the funk, I need to workout – get physical. I need a run. I set up a base run of 20min with the the four-sided die adding an extra 10min to the run for each pip. The die walks the line with a two.
At the end of the run, I've not really run since I finished the Ironman 70.3 back in October, my shirt is drenched with sweat.
I shower and crawl naked into bed with a jar of Jiff peanut butter and a pack of Oreos. How I managed to get to the ripe age of 30 without knowing the pleasure of Oreos dipped in creamy peanut butter is beyond me.