The car doors slam. A lady and her husband walk to the edge of the prairie while putting on their jackets. A squeal of delight comes from the old man as he finally looks up, the lady laughs and tells her husband something. They smile at each other then look forward as they talk.
Their conversation quickly trickles, then stops. They stand in awe, barely remembering to take a picture before they leave.
I’m leaning on my car door, watching as James sets up his tripod.
The air is sharp and cold, but the snowstorm hasn’t started yet. My body is warm.
The field is quiet.
-Chuang Tzu "Wandering on the Way"
It was dark as we plodded along the dirty lanes of Vang Vieng, the path before us illuminated by the flickering bulb of the nearest banana pancake stand.
The grid was down, and our receptionist told us the power would be back by 6 PM. It was now 8, and the only power in the 10-block radius came from the one bar clever enough to invest in a generator.
It was packed, the squeaky voice of Ross and the laugh track from “Friends” barely audible over the whir of the generator and the hum of its lounging patrons.
As we passed, I wondered why everyone liked Friends so much.
My thoughts turned quickly to the next stretch of darkness. Ahead, more sandwich and pancake carts dotted the roadside like welcoming beacons of safety, promising culinary ecstasy for the stoned and stumbling crowd that wandered around bleary-eyed and shell-shocked, having survived another day of tubing and heavy drinking.
A group of Dutch girls emerged from the night, laughing at an unknown joke, or maybe at the shirtless Aussie dude in drunken fetal on our left — my head swiveled sub-consciously after the girls. Bad head.
Meanwhile, we climbed steadily up the slope, the unvoiced destination looming ahead of us at last. The bucket about to be ours.