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6 years
ago

 

Buddha Envy

You know how they say everything’s big in Texas? Mofos ain’t never been to Thailand.

New York never sleeps? Bangkokers make Manhattanites look like my grandmother after an afternoon mahjong game.

This city is bigger and hotter and more crowded than everywhere else combined, and the throngs of humanity everywhere make virtually every moment claustrophobic. Half the people seem to be street performers, which in Bangkok leans to legless men paddling around on skateboards singing into a microphone…

6 years
ago

 

Tusks of Gold

An elephant walked past me on the sidewalk today. He was just strolling down the street, looking kind of bored, like he was on his way to the 7-Eleven on the corner for a Slurpee, when our cab passed him.

“Did you see that?” I asked Sarah, who was busy looking out the opposite window at lines of old women skewering chickens on the sidewalk, sending unruly streams of smoke into the air…

6 years
ago

 

Swimming With Sharks

Ever hear of Eileen and Tom Lonergan? They were a couple from Baton Rouge who went scuba diving off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998, and accidentally got left behind due to a faulty head count taken by the boat crew. No one noticed they were gone until their bags were found in the boat two days later. A vast search followed, but they were gone. Eventually their empty wet suits, tanks, and dive jackets washed ashore. Most likely they met a shark or…

6 years
ago

 

Flex Time

Good parenting, as anyone will tell you, is all about flexibility. And bribery. And Cheerios. Yes, that’s it: flexibility, bribery, and Cheerios. Am I forgetting anything here? Oh, yeah, mindless repetition. If you haven’t the ability to listen to the same mind-numbing song, read the same stupid Elmo book, or feed the baby the same icky goop over and over again without…

6 years
ago

 

Tropical Depression

While sitting at our private table on our private island, sipping cold drinks under our private umbrella, our toes in the warm private sand that no one else’s toes are allowed to touch, I had a terrible thought. This is not paradise I find myself in. It’s hell.

OK, stick with me here. I’m going to go off on a navel-gazing existential rant—which makes no sense given the fact that…

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6 years
ago

 

Green Heaven

The Great Barrier Reef. You hear a lot about it, but what do you really know? It’s in Australia and it’s visible from outer space: that’s about the extent of it for me. I always associated the reef with sharks and scuba divers, two species that don’t terribly interest me. As we were taking a ferry from Cairns, the city nearest the reef, to some island resort where Sarah had made reservations, a refrain from the Old 97’s entered my head: “What’s so great about the Barrier Reef?” I sang it repeatedly to Sarah, who finally told me to shut up…

6 years
ago

 

The Meltdown

Beyond swearing allegiance to the Taliban, the quickest way to make yourself a social pariah in America is to take a baby to a restaurant. Only on airplanes, and, perhaps, movie theatres are infants more loathed. I’ve seen servers argue with hostesses after getting a baby-centric family seated in their section. Once, for no apparent reason, I witnessed a waiter passive-aggressively kick the stroller that we had placed behind our table. Not that I can blame him…

6 years
ago

 

Animal Magnetism

Everyone knows that a child’s early years are the most crucial developmentally of her whole life. This fact seems to scare the hell out of most new parents. We’re constantly worrying that we’ve managed to screw up our child in some profound, irreversible way, the kind of issue that won’t be pinpointed until the kid is on a therapist’s couch in 25 years trying to make sense of what went wrong.

Therapist: What about your childhood?
Hannah: I don’t know . . . My parents took me to…

6 years
ago

 

More Songs About Chocolate and Immigration

Cool town, Melbourne. It’s a clean, cosmopolitan city of nearly 4 million, and routinely lands on those lists of the most livable cities in the world, usually second to Vancouver. The skyline glitters at night, and everywhere we go are these sort of half-indoor, half-outdoor malls and cafés. Even the alleys are cool-looking.

One problem. Everyone pronounces Melbourne “MEL-bin,” which makes me think of Melba toast, which…

6 years
ago

 

Spy Games, Suburban Home

Rhain, my oldest friend in the world, is only 36, but he has lived dozens of lives. The best high school tennis player in Kansas history, Rhain eventually went pro, where he ascended high enough on the tour to play some real opponents. “Pete Sampras beat me 6-0, 6-0, 6-0,” he says, proudly. Soon, though, he shattered his ankle, and it was all over. Next, he went to…

6 years
ago

 

Hannah and the Chocolate Factory

As I mentioned before, my wife planned this entire trip, and I did nothing but show up. If you’ve got a spouse who likes to take the reins, and you’re lazy like me, I highly recommend such an arrangement. Every day is like a surprise party. Today, Sarah drove us to the northern suburbs of Hobart, Tasmania, for a tour of a massive Cadbury Chocolate factory. Hannah and I were delighted…

6 years
ago

 

Oi, Oi, Oysters

The best thing about traveling with a baby is that every stranger who passes us says hello and smiles. You start thinking the world is full of nice people.

The worst thing about traveling with a baby is that a high percentage of these strangers want to stop and chat. And then you just want those nice people to go away…

6 years
ago

 

Tasmanian Super Bowl

Here’s how terrified we are of our waking our child: Rather than open the creaky door to our youth hostel room, Sarah and I both peed in a sink in the corner. It was dark and our aim was suspect, at best. But it got the job done. I can’t wait till Hannah is older and I can tell her that her mother stripped from the waist down, climbed on a chair, and let loose in a sink two feet away from where she (Hannah) was sleeping. Somehow, I can’t see my mom doing that.

Apart from the sleep thing, the kid’s an ideal travel mate so far. She’s always smiling. She hasn’t begun crawling…

6 years
ago

 

Melons and Felons

When you’re living in a youth hostel with a toddler, even the smallest things become complicated operations. Take bathing, for example. We’re currently sharing bathrooms with the rest of our floor, and you kind of need your own bathroom with a little one, so we’re forced to get creative.

After much deliberation, we decided the most effective course of action was for Hannah to go in the shower with Sarah, who got her clean while I waited outside the women’s bathroom door with a towel. After my ten minutes of playing the Creepy American Guy…

6 years
ago

 

The Coolest Island on Earth

Take a look at a map of Australia. The country is big and solid and resembles some kind of tubby beast, grunting and straining and drawn into itself. Tasmania is the reason it is grunting. It looks like a very small dropping out the back end of the beast—the sad, unsatisfactory result of much intestinal exertion.

Though it appears you could get a running start at Victoria and jump there, Tasmania is actually 150 miles from the mainland…