Saturday, December 27, 2008

Welders Weld, Singers Sing, Writers Write


Vientiane, Laos - Went out onto the street today determined to make everyone I encountered laugh.

Remember that grade school game? I can MAKE you laugh. I can make you blink first. I was walking down the street, thinking, ‘I can make you laugh.’

It happened. Everywhere I went, people were laughing. The housekeeping staff, the people at the desk, the heavy set lady watering the plants at the Lao Hotel. She turned, saw me, and busted out into a bigass smile.

Those kids on the sidewalk next. Then the guy and his sister at the buffet place on the avenue. I had to make sure I had the translation correct. “How do you say, ‘Why are you laughing?’” I asked.

I had it right. And then I began asking, “Why are you laughing?” to several people.

“I feel happy inside,” one said.

“She laugh at YOU,” said the guy of his sister. “Why?” I asked.

“She say she don’t know. Just happy.”

The police at the corner ‘police box’ for whom I demonstrated the crip-step when I saw one bobbing his head to music blaring from a electronics promotion across the avenue; the taxi drivers giving me opposite directions to immigration, then holding their sides in laughter when I responded by holding up three fingers and saying ‘three’ as I walked away, when one of them asked me if I wanted a ‘laydee’; the four schoolgirls unhesitatingly surrendering their camera for a group shot; the people inviting me to join their pig-on-a-spit dinner; the teenagers waving me over for inclusion in their photo at the fountain; the Lao couple allowing me to photograph them with their toddler daughter at Patuxay monument; the Japanese couple, the guy in the truck on the passenger's side, little kids on the backs of motorbikes, catching my eye, laughing and waving as they passed, everyone, laughing.

Something must be up. “What day is this?” I asked the lady at the coffee corner. “Saturday,” she said, laughing.

“And why are you laughing? What funny?” I asked, thinking I must have had rice or something stuck to my face, green vegetable fixed in my teeth, a ‘kick me’ sign on my back.

She just shook her head and looked away, big smile on her face.

Maybe it was just universal affirmation, I don’t know. Maybe they were already laughing, and I just got on board. Returned to my room and showered, took a dog nap, thinking to sleep through the night, reluctant to return to the street for dinner for fear the magic had ended.