As I made my way through the various stages of security throughout the Bangkok Airport, I walked straight through the Metal Detector ...
You see, I feel that I have become somewhat of an expert at "preparing" at this point.
The belt has been removed. Pockets emptied. Any and all jewelry safely tucked away in my backpack which was rolling through the x-ray scan at that very moment...
I've also got this one nailed. The X-ray machine/carry-on routine.
Computer removed and placed in it's own little 16x16 slate-grey security scan X-ray-machine tray (and while we're at it the Kindle, too. Probably not even necessary, but I say, NAY to the naysayers! Kindle be damned! Into the tray with the Asus!)
NO liquids - why even mess around trying to squeeze shampoo and such into stupid little 3 oz. bottles. Bullshit I say!
No nail clippers. No sharp objects. No questionable items that, more than likely, will have to be tossed or mailed...
Fast and efficient! No beeps. No alarms. No arms held uncomfortably in the air while airport security waves the "magic wand" past my genitals. No worr.....
"Excuse me, Sir...". The X-ray lady beckons.
All right. No problem. I've already seen a couple of carry-ons get randomly searched. I'm early enough that it's no big deal.
"Excuse me Sir.... Is this your bag?" She asks, smiling....
Not usual x-ray scanner-lady protocol.
As I smile back indicating that yes, it is in fact my bag, she raises both hands to her mouth as if she's eating a tiny little ear of corn and slides them back and forth slightly in unison.
"OH! Harmonicas!" (there are about 10 of them in my bag). "THE HARMONICAS?"
Yeah, there was a part of me that had given this some thought earlier as I began packing them away in my carry-on. I had fantasized the possibility of a scenario involving M-16's pressed to my skull as I was forced to choke out shrill-chaotic melodies through bone-dry, nervous lips on each and every one of the harmonicas proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that they were not filled with plastic explosives or poison gas...
But, no. She's still smiling...
She's not questioning. Not suspicious....
"The harmonicas! You're talking about the harmonicas!"
"Oh, wait! OH, I get it! You also play harm...!"
She's already walking away, blushing and smiling.
DAMN! Now if that ain't a beautiful random moment, I don't know what is!
I can't even calculate the odds of ending up in the security line run by what is probably the only Thai female-harmonica-playing-X-Ray scanner in all of Southeast Asia but I am willing to bet my next full-body pat-down/frisking that it is PRETTY damn rare.....
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
I just arrived in Chiang Mai via the overnight train. Prior to leaving the station in Bangkok they arrested some guy sitting not two feet from me. I was blaring away on my harmonica and didn't even notice. After they got one of the cuffs on, the guy - the arrestee somehow determined that that would be the ideal time to try and resist the arrest. They ended up slamming him to the ground and grinding their knees into the back of his neck like you often see on cop shows.
I began taking mental wagers on whether or not the severely torn pants that hung from his thin frame were gonna "go the distance" or fall off of altogether - and, at which point this was most likely to happen.
The pants won out in the long run.
I tried to provide the soundtrack to the somewhat brutal arrest via my "harp" before I realized that it was it was probably not appropriate and that I was probably annoying everyone involved.
The experience of traveling by train - unlike the buses on which I had traveled throughout most of India - was pure joy.
Unlike bus travel, puking on the train is generally held at a minimum; it is actually possible to get a decent nights-sleep (in your "overnight sleeping compartment");one gets to pee at their own discretion and there is plenty of food offered for purchase.
I arrived in Chiang Mai this morning at 8:30 a.m. feeling pretty good. As is usually my policy, I find the easiest, closest guesthouse on arrival, settle in and get a little more sleep and then go hunting for the "right place" to stay. This one isn't bad for starters.
As I eat breakfast in the Guesthouse's restaurant, numerous, endless versions of Sting's "Fields of Gold" (including Sting's original) blare on in the background. I can't believe how many versions there are of this song!
Funny - my body still feels like it's on the train with its constant stops and starts - similar to the sensation one feels after being on a boat for a while. Kinda freaking me out a little....
After I was in Bangkok for a couple of days, I began to wonder WHAT it was that I was actually doing there. I mean this was supposed to be a spiritual journey, right.
At that moment, in the midst of that large, busy city, there didn't seem to be a lot of spiritual stuff going down for me.
So, I did a little reflecting.
Karma Yoga - the "yoga" (action) of turning everything that happens in our lives into our spiritual practice was a concept that I was re-introduced to during the Vedanta course that I did in Rishikesh, India.
Recognizing the role that this plays in our lives, and the awareness of what viewing our lives from this perspective brings, are invaluable.
My new mantra, as taught to me in the ashram became thus, "A Karma Yogi has preferences NOT demands.
Taking this mantra into my heart, I started to relax a little.
As I walked down the busy Bangkok street I pulled out my harmonica and started to play as I walked. The reaction was immediate:
From wealthy people, to police officers, to beggars to prostitutes, my horrific, squawking harmonica playing seemed to put a smile on every one's face. Not the fake smile that we generally see that comes with a "price" on a hidden agenda.
No, these were authentic, genuine, and totally disarmed smiles.
The beggars no longer wanted money...
The prostitutes stopped viewing me as a potential client....
Cops and security guards dropped their "tough-guy" acts....
Everyone simply just 'was' for those briefest of moments . We truly "connected", beyond our facades, even if just momentarily.
I just made my first "tip" playing harmonica on the streets of Bangkok.
It wasn't intentional, mind you...
The truth is that I am just so psyched to be playing harmonica right now that I am finding it very difficult to stop. The fact that it was midnight certainly wasn't about to dissuade me...
So I found a pedestrian crosswalk over one of the main streets.
With the metro blaring away just above my head, I played on, non-stop for about two hours.
Before I started playing I had casually set my backpack right next to me along the crosswalk. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, some guy stopped and slapped 20 baht on top of it.
Then came another.
I probably could have made more money but I was too self-conscious to actually put a "real" hat out.
I gave my "earnings" to the homeless lady with the little girl at the bottom of the stairs . Then I played next to them for a little while trying to earn them some more money. Unfortunately it had dried up by then...
Yeah - trust me, you don't wanna be hanging around me right now. It would be like, "Oh Christ - Ron's taking out his fucking harmonica again. For Buddha's sake, put that damn thing away!"