Tuesday, December 15, 2015
In Alaska, break up means a prelude to spring, when the river ice begins to thaw into big chunks and water starts to flow again. This used to often be a violent time when the water-born ice took out bridges, and a hopeful one that spawned the Nenana Ice Pool, when people would bet on the day and time that the ice would break.
I keep reminding myself that breaking up means change, motion, and renewal, and I've had do that a lot recently. My latest trip to Bangkok ended a 20-year love affair with that city and when I returned home, I began to separate myself from the Chinatown neighborhood where I have lived since 2004--with a hiatus of several years when I moved briefly back to Bangkok.
I believe that the day I stop changing my life in some significant manner is the day that I begin to die. Loss means a new beginning. Finding something new to love, to explore, to inhabit is a crucial process for me and I look for a chance to do that every few years. But it, up until now, has always been a matter of my own choice.
Leaving Chinatown became inevitable with my last rent increase but I was lucky to find a new spot to call my own in an area that is still relatively ungentrified, thanks to an old friend with a vacant guest room. Right now my days are schizoid ones--setting up a new space while dismantling the one in which I still live. The act of moving could easily be done in several journeys by taxi; the act of letting go is significantly more difficult. I tell myself I'm a quick 10-minute walk away from this place that I've loved. This is true but soon I won't be walking through a generous sprinkling of neon to get home at night.
Bangkok? I knew I'd find changes there on my first visit since the Junta took over but I had to see that for myself. Coups have come and gone in Thailand as a matter of routine in the past hundred years or so, but life on a daily level has gone unchanged. Not this time, not in Bangkok. Market by market, the city is being erased, and personal freedom is disappearing with it. It hurt me every day of the month that I was there, and for the first time ever I was happy to return to Hong Kong on my journey homeward.
I still can't write about the city that I've lost, not yet. Instead I focus on putting objects into bags, assembling furniture from Ikea at the new house, finding new facets of the neighborhood that will soon be mine.
It's Break Up time. Bridges will be broken, but not burned,