Handsome Furs – Chiang Mai 2010

[showtime]

CHIANG MAI. August 20.

Our hot breakfast arrives wrapped in plastic. I poke at it a little before figuring out how to unseal my fried rice. Dan’s hallucinatory hangover helps him to say these unintentionally poignant words: “I feel like Charlie Sheen in Apocalypse Now.” And I laugh. A perfect mistake.

Our delayed flight delays our arrival to Chiang Mai but it is beautiful once we get there. Gary takes us to the most beautiful hotel we’ve been to on tour and allows us time to unwind and acquaint ourselves with the circular bathtub built for two. To too grubby punks mid-journey it feels like a spa dream come true.

We rejoin Gary, Archie and soundman Nicki for a Northern Thai feast of crunchy bullfrog, stinging papaya salad and a smoky-heat stewed curry. At Guitarman, we hang out with bar diva extraordinaire Pinky and the boys from Sonnet and Alcohol. Pinky can down a bottle of beer in one chug – “no hands!” she informs me while clapping – and can generally kick the ass of anyone who lacks her salacious breed of humor or anyone who has the misguided sense of humour to think it’s “hilarious to be a Ladyboy.” I am enthralled by her immediately. The rockers from Sonnet and Alcohol have an aloof cool that is instantly broken when I go over and gush about how excited I am to play with them. They are generous and nice but I know they’ll be tough as hell on stage. We take turns shaking hands. I circle around Dan and say, “I feel amongst freak kinfolk.” One gigantically lucky thing about being in this band is that it allows me to meet people who are not like me but are unlike everybody else in a way that I feel a common genuine alliance with. I find this in friends, fans, fellow bands and artists and writers and promoters that have any interest in us. We are surely “not for everybody,”· but the few we are for, I really feel at home with.

In a car with soft leather seats and good – current! – music humming – cleanly! – from the speakers, Gary drives us through hills and winding mountains and thick jungle to where the white elephant died and the temple was erected. We arrive to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep just as the sun fully recedes from sight. Walking up the hill, adolescent girls choreograph a dance routine and families cluster at the entrance steps, holding on to the dragon-scaled railing for prime photo-taking. Once we have climbed the steps and entered the sacred grounds, there is no one left. We all take our own sojourns around the temple, marveling at the fact that we are experiencing the quietest time we’ve had all tour. Even my heart relaxes. And just as I think, “This is as close to spirituality as I get,” Buddhist monks quietly enter and begin a long chanting. I don’t believe in anything except for the potential of everything and, here, I feel that all too rare feeling of hope. I let all my guards take a break and, like a sucker, even my brain stops fighting and my heart takes a pause and I wander around thinking that maybe there’s a point to everything and not all the points are sharp buy cheap cialis australia swords. For a while I even watch the monks singing, then I return them to their privacy and myself unto my own. I listen from the speakers and then dazedly drift over to the barrier’s edge. And it really does look like all the stars have fallen from the sky onto the city below. Chiang Mai is a glittering sight. I feel swept off my feet. I read somewhere that writing about beauty is so much more specific than writing about melancholy… which is perhaps why I can never find the exact right words. I can write volumes on a single bruised moment (and do!) but this journaling of the Good Times often has me lost. I don’t know how to be artful when joyous. Hopefully one day (there it is again, that strange emotion), I’ll know what to do with it. I suppose it is during these times that I should put my gnawed pen down and just enjoy… but I don’t know how to do that either… And, with that, I am successfully returned to my forever-conflicted self. Dan and I frequently swap sarcastic autobiography titles: Stab Stab Stab: The Dan Boeckner Story, No Picnic: the Life and Times of Alexei Perry Cox. Be Generous. Too Smart To Live, Too Young to Die. Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana. It Was All Exercise For a Good Death. The Mysteries of Pickles and Spice. Condemned to Live… Until Death. That’s Mr. Zero to You. Up here, I’m wondering if I’ll ever figure out how to write the autobiography “How to Be Happy While Alive.” And, for just long enough, I think I will.

We descend the staircase smiling at the monks and the wildly bizarro events of my life then lead us directly into an interview. Fortunately the journalist is thorough and kind and open to sudden gains in spirituality.

Back at GuitarMan, they are forced to close the road because there are so many people in the street but cars continue to squeeze through. Slowly. Honking happily. There is an unprecedented turn out for the show and we are bowled over in disbelief. Sonnet and Alcohol are amazing every minute.

For the entirety of our set, I get electrocuted every time I touch the drum machine. The shocks are so bad, I have to hide tears. It happens so consistently that I think I might die. But because I have decided that there is sooooo much to hope and live for, I allow myself to continue being electrocuted. Over and over. I am too happy to want to prevent this punk show from being pulled off. Nicki tries to help fix the problem. People throw towels on stage to lessen the blows. Pinky tries to find a rubber mat. But most people don’t notice. Immediately afterwards I run off stage and sob into Archie’s arms. (For days, my nerves are frazzled and I frequently wonder whether I’ll get all sensation back between my right wrist and shoulder.) And, in another valuable lesson of the day, I relearn (as I frequently do) that excruciating pain also makes you feel very alive.

Pinky turns a Handsome Furs shirt into a sexy little mini dress and proves to me that she really can do “that thing with a beer bottle.” She wins our chugging competition hands down with no hands.