This is a book about choices. Ironically, I didn’t set out to write a book about choices, meaning technically I didn’t choose to write this. Meaning (fuck), I’m kind of a hypocrite and probably shouldn’t be trusted.
This may need some explaining. Not that there’s anything complicated in here. Far, far from it. Still, you could probably use a little something to keep you from going “What the fuck?” every other sentence.
Also, bleeding baby dicks.
Okay, I’m really embarrassed about that. That was a genuine What the fuck?, and right out of the gate too. Not to mention super gross. I’m so, so sorry. I feel like we just needed that out of the way, if for no other reason than to look you square in the eye and assure you that yes, that was the worst of it, and that yes, it’s all uphill from here.
Rest assured, there aren’t any stories about baby penises here. I repeat, there are zero prepubescent dicks of any kind in this book, hemorrhaging or otherwise. I know... I said there were a minimum of What the fucks? and then there I go tossing a bloody dick grenade right in your lap. And I feel terrible about that. Like, for real. But that was the worst of it. I swear. It’s all smooth sailing from here.
On the off, off chance that you’re some weirdo pining for more bleeding baby dicks in your life, you can bug my friend Molly for the whole story, but she’s a heartless crone and will probably just throw a cat at you. If you happen to be holding a baby when she does it, and your natural reflex is to shield yourself with that baby while the cat flails wildly in the air with its claws out—and the infant you’re holding to your face is a boy infant, as they occasionally are—you might draw your own conclusions. But they would be wrong.
No, this is a book about choices, questionable ones in particular. Like writing bleeding baby dicks on the first page of a book. Choices that some people, most people—those of us blissfully uninfected with end-stage syphilis—tend to shy away from. Choices that seem perfectly, obviously bad, at least on the surface. But are they really? Bad, I mean? Yes, usually. But not always. Sometimes they’re the best thing ever.
They’re funny little things, choices. Hundreds, thousands of little tracks we switch between every single day. Some mean nothing on their own yet add up to great things. Others loom monstrous in the moment but don’t amount to much in the end. And still, others involve cake, namely which flavor to eat for lunch instead of a salad.
Others include (but not necessarily in this book): Should I go to the bathroom at home or wait until work? Should I have children? Whole milk or two percent? “What? There’s chicken fetus on the menu? Should we try it?” Is it wise to let drunk fishermen believe I steal cars for a living? Should I steal cars for a living? Is it wrong to falsely suggest I may be a close, personal friend of Barack Obama’s in order to secure a discounted psychic reading in India? Is successfully receiving said discount an indication that I should probably find a new and better psychic? And finally, is it a good idea to sneak up behind wild armadillos and pet them?
That last one I’ll go ahead and answer. It’s a fantastic idea.
And right there is another choice. Do I go off on a tangent about how armadillos are known carriers of leprosy? Should I recount the day I discovered that icky fact after literally years of stalking armadillos while they rummaged for bugs in the Florida dirt, utterly blind to their being hunted by a teenager with an armadillo fetish? Furthermore, why use the word fetish? That makes my perfectly natural fascination with the noble armadillo sound like a sexual thing, which I assure you it most certainly is not. Not even with the ones that look like Darth Vader from behind. Which is all of them.
To top it off, do I now choose to somehow tie this whole rambling mess together, to make a point about how one person’s Damn Fine Choice! is another’s How the Fuck I Got Leprosy? And how, as far as I'm concerned, neither one is particularly right or wrong? And of particularly particular concern, does it really matter anyway?
That’s what this is all really about, once you get down to it. Whatever direction you choose, whichever seemingly crazy train track you commit to, you’re always right. Or never right, rather, because there is no right. Only what feels right. Right and real and honest. Even if you contract leprosy. Because let’s be right and real and honest here, we’ve all got Obamacare for the moment, so everyone can just stop whining how I gave them leprosy and go get a fucking penicillin shot.
This book is about doing what feels right, about following your intuition, no matter how weird/stupid/pointless it may seem to anyone else. Those people aren’t you, after all, so how can they know what’s in your best interest? Despite arguments to the contrary, it’s a rare thing for any living person to know you better than you know yourself. Not even if you once journeyed through the various tubes of that person’s crotch.
Please note I said living person. If great-grandma Josephine floats into your bedroom tonight glowing like the moon and whispering Powerball numbers, you might want to do whatever she tells you. Especially if it’s to give this book another shot. (Not everyone makes it past bleeding baby dicks.)
To be fair, there are limits to this whole Do What Feels Right thing. I don’t advise you sell your children to finance a secondhand rocket launcher to blow up an ex’s wedding, no matter how right it feels. If your right hurts yourself or anyone else, then by all means do what feels wrong.
When Katie and I decided to move to Thailand in 2014 with our labradoodle Chloe, sacrificing good jobs and our beloved Berkeley apartment in the process, lots of people, very important people, thought we were crazy. “Not enough hookers for you in San Francisco?” some of them asked, perhaps imagining some large, hook-nailed variety of Southeast Asian armadillo I would pass the hours stroking. Those poor, poor fools. Thailand has much bigger, more exciting game. Like tigers. And mango farmers.
I mean, armadillos are cool and all, but I’d happily sneak up and tickle the heck out of a mango farmer, and then eat all the mangoes he dropped. Because nobody can manage an armload of mangos and a surprise tickle attack, not at the same time. That’s science. Armadillos only poop when you tickle them, which is considerably less delicious than mangos on pretty much every kind of lunch cake. That’s also science.
Things got really awkward when the Thai army launched a coup a few months before our arrival, installing a military dictator in the prime minister’s chair. Now they’ll come to their senses, our Very Important People assumed. Surely Katie and I would acknowledge how thoughtless and irresponsible we were being and move somewhere safer, like, I don’t know, Orlando. Or Parkland. Vegas? Especially now that guys with machine guns were in the picture.
But no, we went anyway. It felt right.
It’s about that too, this book. Moving to Thailand in the middle of a revolution. Which, incredibly, turned out to be a pretty good idea, one we’d never have considered had we been stuck on the “smart” choice.
To be fair, we did nearly die at one point, but come on. You can get molested by a tiger anywhere. Did you see The Revenant? That was a grizzly bear, sure, but still. Same size genitals. Probably. And I’m sorry, Mr. DiCaprio, after our tiger run-in I can honestly say I saw that bear coming a mile away. In the NC-17 version, at least.
But that’s life, right? Lions and tigers and bears (oh, shit!). There’s some of that in here too. Tigers, that is. And shit. Couldn’t be avoided.
Not that I’d choose to anyway.