11PM On A Side Street In Chiang Mai


It’s late but today’s ‘power nap’ has spun me. I dig through my tiny fridge and the pickings are thin. I need ice, bread and cheese. I’ve just invested in an electric wok for my room and midnight-hour grilled cheese sammiches are high on the list of things to shovel into my mouth-hole.

Normally, I’d just walk across the street and grab ice and beer from the Mom-n-Pop but they’re closed at this hour. The matriarch, who I just call ‘Mama’ would normally sell me a bag of ice, shoveled from a large cooler for 5 baht. And she always says “Ice. five baht!”. I could buy 500 baht’s worth of beer and she wouldn’t say a thing but for some reason, she insists on reminding me that ice = money.

She’s bent double. A handful of decades spent picking and planting rice have left her unable to stand up straight. This is common throughout Asia. I try to help and sometimes she lets me shovel the ice into a bag. Sometimes she slaps my hand and does it herself. Pride is pride and it blankets the world.

But she’s (hopefully) in bed now and I have to walk the back streets to the Tesco Lotus, some 10 minutes away. Bread, cheese, booze, ice — most everything you want on a quiet night…

Midway I pass two Thai men, sitting by the edge of the soi, obviously shitface drunk and laughing boisterously. The one to the left has timed it right, catching his buddy with a laugh just as he’s taken a sip of whiskey.

The poor guy is struggling not to lose it and his friend is pouring it on — I can’t understand a word but I know: there is no greater joy for a smartass than making someone spray liquid through their nostrils. I have no idea why this is but I’ve found it to be pretty universal. It’s like the “pull my finger” joke. Everyone knows it.

I find myself laughing out loud and my smartass buddy notices me for the first time but continues his verbal attack. We nod at each other and both instantly know:

We are kin.

The grilled cheese is good, later, but it can’t top that.

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