6. How Bicycles Cause Earthquakes by Colin Cotterill
I was coming down the doi at 600 kph (that's how it feels) when up ahead I saw a truck pull out of the naval station. It was a way off and soon got moving so there was no danger of me running into it. Not, that is, until it decided to stop dead for no apparent reason in the middle of the road in front of me. I wobbled and skidded and swerved and avoided smashing into the tailgate by no more than a centimeter.
As I was passing the driver's window my mouth may have yelled something. It has a habit of shouting out rude words before consulting my brain. I guess it's a spontaneous reaction to almost being killed. Through the truck windows I saw four big naval warriors glaring back at me. I hoped they couldn't speak English.
Now, if you've been paying attention so far, you're probably asking yourself what the hell a naval base is doing on a mountain a thousand kilometers from the gulf. I have a theory about that myself. I'm guessing it has something to do with global warming. As the ice caps melt and the sea level rises, the navy probably worked out it wouldn't be long before its other naval bases were under water and not much use for anything but counting fish.
By then all the residents of Chiang Mai would be camped out on Doi Suthep and the naval base there would technically be on the coast. It took several glasses of Saeng Som to come up with that theory but there is a lot of evidence to support it. Why else would the local authorities give building permission for so many high-rise condominiums surrounding the doi ? Why else would they give the go ahead for cable-car projects on beautiful unspoiled mountains if not to quickly ferry people up to higher ground? We may have seriously misunderstood the motives of our local government.
The naval base disguises its real purpose by calling itself a Seismic Research Station. That's a good alias as Chiang Mai really is on a fault so we get the odd tremors. I was woken one morning by the sound of empty coat hangers clanging together in my wardrobe and the lady upstairs falling out of bed.
But it doesn't happen often – certainly not often enough to justify a whole research centre. Which probably explains what happened to me
that morning. Every now and then they obviously need to test their equipment so they wait till they get a blip on their radar screen of something flying down the doi , drive their truck out into the middle of the road, and wait for the bang. It gives them a reading on their chart and justifies their existence.
They missed me but I'm afraid the Yakult lady coming down behind me might not have been so lucky.
Think about it,
THERE ARE MANY TIMES WHEN THE TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION. BUT IN THE HANDS OF CERTAIN PEOPLE, THE TRUTH IS FICTION.
24. Don't Go Breaking My Endorphin by Colin Cotterill
My body's incredible. Really. You should see it. I'm not boasting here, either. My body isn't any more incredible than yours. Your body's a living marvel too. Take a good look at it some time, and while you're looking, think about all the parts that could go wrong.
I bought a telephone answering machine on special last year. After two weeks it broke down. Two weeks. Imagine what a state we'd be in if nature showed as little care for detail as that phone company. Can you see it? New baby. You haven't been home from the hospital ten days and it goes wrong. Its nose falls off. You take it back to the hospital and queue up at the service counter. The clerk notes down the registration number.
“Yeah. This happens all the time. It's the climate. Leave it with me and we'll get a spare part from head office. Give me a call in a couple of weeks and we'll see if it's working. Okay?”
How would we ever make it to 20, to 30, to 40? By then the warranty would have expired so long they'd laugh at you if you tried to exchange yourself for a new one.
Yet, here I am somewhere between fifty and sixty and I'm riding a bicycle up the mountain in the heat of April. On the journey I often think about how amazing my body is; how muscles and joints still function after all these years of abuse. How can my heart continue to pump five liters of blood around my body every minute for fifty-two years? That's…well, I don't do maths but it's probably enough to fill a Great Lake . My Suzuki jeep got through two pumps in three years.
This morning I stopped in the shade of the Royal Airforce sala at kilometer twelve and listened to my heart thumping, or perhaps I just imagined I could hear it. It felt so strong and defiant. It was almost thanking me for giving it the challenge. I think it was then I worked out why the heart is a symbol of love. It has nothing to do with chemistry or biology. The heart doesn't give off electrical impulses or scents or erotic fluids in the presence of a loved one. It largely ignores her.
Indeed it would seem more logical to use the shape of a lip, a ripe endorphin molecule, or a testicle on the front of a Valentine's card, (although perhaps it wouldn't sell quite as well). Yet we continue to use the shape of a heart. Why? Because as long as we live, the heart continues to beat. We do everything we can to test it but still it pumps away. It endures. Even when our lips are dry and unkissable, our endorphins have lost interest, and our testicles shrivel up and vanish, our hearts are still beating proudly.
That's the symbol we want to associate with love. We want it to last forever. Even when we reach the age when his stomach spreads all the way round to his back, and she looks like Pavarotti before she puts on her makeup, we want to continue to feel that love pumping through our veins to the end. (Sorry, guys. This column was a bit sickly, wasn't it.) I love you all.
Think about it.
MOST OF US DON'T START TO TAKE CARE OF OUR BODIES UNTIL THEY LOOK RUN DOWN AND UNATTRACTIVE. IN MOST CASES THAT'S THIRTY YEARS TOO LATE.