The planet Venus rotates once every 224.7 days and night on Venus lasts 121.5 Earth days. Tonight feels like that. As i am sure you know, the planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and much like the feeling of love, a walk on Venus would be quite heavy seeing as the atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is 92 times that of the Earth.
I really wish I could sleep.
The night just seems to drag itself into the next day and apparently it needs me to watch. With the authority granted to it by factors such as season, latitude, longitude and time-zone, it seems that my role in this is trivial at best but nonetheless I am an unwilling witness to blah, blah , blah….
I even bore myself.
I really wish I could sleep.
I’m dripping wet, my sheets soaked through. My clothes cling to me as if their life depends on it. I need out. I need moving air. I wade through a steady stream of mopeds, pickups, cars and tuk tuks towards the night market near the north gate of the old city. Walking on the edge of the road is the safest thing to do here. Sidewalks are for selling.
The market is heavy in sent. Fish, alive in tanks and freshly dead hanging from small metal hooks to the sides of makeshift food carts fashioned from wood, steel and old bicycle tires. The delectable aroma of chicken, songbirds, racks of pork, cow and goat, stir fried, boiled, simmering and deep frying. Each stall contributing to the dense, low hanging fog of aromatic pleasure.
Rows of metal, plastic and wood tables sprawl out between vendors. Small plastic stools nested, waiting beneath each one. Almost anything you want is here.
I know what I’m looking for. The fabled lady with the cowboy hat. I first found this stall on my last excursion and spent countless hours drooling over her food and revealing in the idea of having found near perfection. My love for her is completely irrational. Maybe it’s the hat or that she seems immortal, somehow unagging, maybe it’s the complete control of the machete sized cleaver that she wields effortlessly, not a drop of anything on her apron after hours of standing on a small stool, endlessly chopping pork on a tree trunk size butcher block all the while smiling and looking regal. It could be all of those things but it’s probably the food.
Her khao kha moo is literally one of the best things in this living world that one can put in one’s mouth. Stewed pork shoulder in a sour, chilli master sauce whose origin may be heaven itself. Served over rice with pickled mustard greens, a soft boiled egg and chilli vinegar.
Finally, I can feel sleep as a possibility.
Having had the whole day to catch up on reading and writing, I feel great. Energized as i make my descent down the stair to the street, Ice-T straight up braggadocious in my earbuds. OG is amazing walking music, I feel confident as I twist and wind my way to the outer rim of the old city, passing my favorite cowboy hat lady on the way slowing down enough only for a small bow of respecting salutation. It’s tuesday night and i’m playing the first set before the jam session.
The gig happened.
I feel a bit defeated. The music was dead tonight. The spontaneous, collaborative, instantaneous, congealing intensity that I long for simply didn’t happen. Maybe it’s the confidence in what the now SVU star bellowed in my ears on the way over; the firsthand intention and unwavering belief in what he was saying.
I didn’t believe a thing that I had to say tonight.
I am still having problems with this set list. It feels over to me. A music that was once a direct and immediate reaction to a specific culture and exact geological location seems entirely false here and most places for that matter. I have been listening to contemporary musicians play this stuff trying to find my answer but it still feels forced in some way. Normally on a Tuesday night, I stay until the wee hours participating in the jam session, the usual night market hang follows, conversation waxing and waning until the moon finally starts gracefully to point out the path home. Tonight, leaving early, armed with two dollars worth of fried chicken over rice with fresh cilantro and cucumbers parcelled in paper and sitting snugly in a plastic bag filled with glorious chilli sauce and a small portion of rice soup, I begin my mile long walk, grateful for the space to think through things. The breeze off the moat, although malodorous is welcomed as Q-Tip explains the coordinates of his wallet in my headphones.
Tomorrow is another day. And even though it is set to contain one of my least favorite activities, I look forward to it. International travel has to be one of the most humiliating processes of modern life. Hearded like sheep and then stuffed like sardines into a cramped tin tube, filled with recycled air and immeasurably bad food and almost always, even worse television. It’s also amazing. That isn’t lost on me. I have just had way too many flights in the last few months.
As I walk into my flat, I am pleased to hear that Miles at the Blackhawk had been left on. An old friend whose stories you always appreciate. I sit down with my chicken and am soon ready for the next day.
Tomorrow. It’s almost never what you think it is.
Originally published at caseyobrienmusic.com on August 22, 2016.