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Not Such a Long Way From Home

Category: , Posted:01 Jan 2014 | 06:00 am

It's that time of year again – Christmas. And while Phuket's idea of a whiteout is sand swept beaches, I find it hard not to get into a sentimental mood as soon as the calendar rolls around to the twelfth month of the year. Somehow the pace quickens in December, year in and year out.
A few weeks ago my travels took me to a place that was my home for what seemed at the time to be eternity. Strange feelings overwhelm my senses as the great bird comes down to roost after the long sleepless journey over the ocean.
Staggering off the plane, while trying not to arouse the curiosity of Homeland Security and TSA, remain key to making it out of LAX in one piece. Firstly, never make eye contact. But for God's sake how do you answer the probing officers' questions coherently while they thumb through all those faraway stamps in the passport?
Lost for words, and more lost in translation, the goal remains a quick exit and the promise of a cool winter morning – remember the last time you stuck your head into a deep freezer? Worse yet is what stands ahead in the middle of the road, blocking a return to normal – jet-lag. There is no cure for that evil menace, and after countless nights of tossing, turning and flipping, it all starts to blend into a cohesive pattern of
disorientation.
By now I've become a reincarnation of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man, though my height makes the comparison somewhat tenuous. Being shorter and closer to the ground provides an instinctual advantage to come to grips with an altered reality. In this case my height, in the holiday panic, ensures that I am forced to place shiny metal objects onto the wilting tropical plastic Christmas tree.
During my dazed and confused week, one task on the to-do list was drive by and check out the house where I had grown up. Let's not call it stalking or anything creepy, but with the spirit of the season we can perhaps chalk it up to a whim of nostalgia.
My parents have been gone for a number of years and the house that was our home has traded hands a number of times within recent memory. Sadly, the new owners have not cared for the place in the same way we did all those years ago. Weeds, faded colors and the odor of decay paint a disturbing picture that clouds the senses along with any hope of sensibility.
With one last glance in the rear view mirror, my foot finds the accelerator and attempts to drive away the disappointment of the day. Rolling down the windows is only a vain attempt to stall the inevitable heartbreak. Memories are, after all, a two-way street. Good times, bad times. Pausing at a stop sign to curse the gloomy weather provides a momentary diversion.
Nothing in this life stays the same. Whether it's Darwin and his theory of evolution or
the constantly changing channels on TrueVision's network of mayhem – where did the Premier League go and will it be back? These many questions are doomed to be repeated, so let's move on.
As time marches on, so does the need to return to Phuket and Thailand. For all its troubling chaos and inevitable charms, a place I can proudly call home. One quick side trip that remains, is a comment on the strange American procedure of making it so damned hard to enter the country, but when you leave they don't even stamp your passport. The act of fleeing the country rests solely on your ability to take off your belt, your shoes, your laptop and even your dignity, and again, don't make eye contact – this will only heighten suspicion.My seatmate on Thai Airways is of course jet-lag in reverse. And the journey home is exactly where I started from seven short days ago. Driving into my front yard in Cherng Talay, where the weeds have been pulled
and paint is not yet peeling, a sense of rightness in the world comes over me. Peace, good will and the return to my very own family puts life back on the right path. Maybe I'm not so far from home after all.

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