Encountered In: Chiang Mai, Thailand
“Jeeesus Christ, Steve!… Jesus Christ!”
–– Logan, after dinner at Lahhhrry’s
Murder was in the air the night we met Couchsurfer Lahhhrry for Shabbat dinner.
The first taste of bloodshed coincided with our entry into his abode, and his father – seconds away from his centennial and seemingly constructed from withered, man-shaped custard, medical tubes blooming like unwanted life-sustaining tendrils from his sinuses – asked Steve to kill him.
“Are you here to give me the needle?” – his greeting.
“UH….” Steve joltingly started. Assuming Lahhhrry’s dad had the same bleak, self-deprecating sense of humor of his Nana, he interpreted this as an invitation to put the old man out of his misery, and not wanting to be a party pooper, played along accordingly,
“Ha, sure… Nice to meet you.”
But the old codger, apparently a skilled improv performer, took it further.
“Which arm do you like?”
“I… well, I like my right one, I guess.”
“Wait, d’you mean which of my own arms do I like?”
“Which arm do you like?”
This was quickly turning into the most baffling and harrowing conversation in the entirety of the trip.
Lahhhrry’s nonagenarian mother interrupted to inquire about our travels and origins. We spoke to her for a few moments, and then in probably the fifth of countless awkward pauses that evening would hold, Dad grabbed Steve and demanded, eye to glazed, seeping eye.
“But are you going to give me the needle?”
Jeez, talk about commitment to the joke.
“I, uh… coul-”
But before Steve could mumble any further, Lahhhrry – who up until this point had been shuffling in the background, praying loudly in Hebrew while nodding violently before various Orthodox wall ornaments, setting up the Shabbat dinner table, and butting into the conversation whenever G-D gave him a free chance – finally interjected and set his father straight, right into his ear,
“NO DAD! HE’S NOT THE NURSE! YOU ALREADY HAD YOUR SHOT!”
With that thankfully cleared up, it was time to move into the evening’s second chapter, in which everyone started to kind of want to kill Lahhhrry. After meeting the Spanish couple who had taken our desired free spot on Lahhhrry’s surfable couch, yarmulkahs were plopped onto our domes and we sat down to fifteen minutes of prayer and song, which Lahhhrry’s parents, whose depth of adherence to Orthodox Judaism was never really clarified (perhaps they’d outlived its contractual requirements), occupied by drudging through some challah and broth.
While the hallowed ceremony and its ancient rites was without doubt an informative experience, and unusual given its tropical context, it will remain forever embedded in our gray matter for other reasons. Mostly awkward. For instance, during the traditional “Blessing of the Son“, when Dad’s blessing amounted to the slow planting of a drool-y smooch on his son’s head and wheezing out, “You’re the… you’re the greatest, Lahhhrry”, and then later on when it was unclear whether or not Dad thought we were his divorced Swedish wife and daughters (“I’m so proud of you, son. You have a beautiful family.” “Yes, Dad, we have some terrific guests. We’re so happy to have them!”), and then later on when Manischewitz was spilled all over the tablecloth, and then when the Parents abandoned the table because they couldn’t hear or understand us and the obligatory “No, stay, stay with us!” conversation went on far too long.
Sacraments fulfilled, we commenced the traditional Jewish pastime of eating Asian food, delectably prepared by Lahhhrry’s maids. We learned more about our host, and more and more, and more, as he discussed his translation business, Thai professor girlfriend, admiration for Slovenia, the aesthetic genital perfection of certain ladyboys, his estranged daughters, how he had mastered the Upgrade feature of frequent flyer miles, how he longed to and almost did join the Mile High Club, and his theories of the various ways it could be accomplished. We also learned about the many loopholes in Kosher law and how they apply to Orthodox life in Thailand – for example, Lahhhrry had to set up a deal with nearby coffee shops so he could pay on credit on Saturdays, in order to circumvent restrictions against carrying items outside of his ‘Eruv‘, or enclosed area, in this case his gated community. One can only imagine how that proposal went…
“Hi! Sawatdee kraup! So, listen – no, I don’t want a tuk tuk – Sorry. So, a couple thousand years ago a bunch of people in the Middle East made up some laws so they could differentiate themselves from neighboring ethnic communities, and over the years these laws were arbitrarily assigned theological values, and some of my ancestors decided to keep them, and others didn’t, and well… long story short, I’m just going to come in here on Saturdays and buy coffee and not pay you because my idea of what God is kind of said that I could… I’ll pay you on Sundays though.”
As his wisdom and opinions were further expounded, the guests grew ever more weary – the Spanish couple, tired from a day exploring the city by foot, hunched over the table far enough to eat from it, the Boys, exhausted by eight hours of motorcycling through mountains and lethal traffic, internally yawned without cessation. All were pooped. All except one.
Steve, who had arranged for the Boys’ visit via Couchsurfing, felt for whatever reason compelled to keep the conversation/soliloquy running far beyond its organic limits.
In the rare moments Larry’s yammering halted, the guests’ eyes would brighten with hope that the aural onslaught was over, that bedtime — be it alongside a cute-enough Spanish traveler girlfriend or wedged head-to-toe among three smelly blog writers too cheap and disgusting to spring for more than a single full mattress. Yet seconds later, those eyes would go dark, the heads containing them would fall to the table, as Steve with an almost autistic lack of awareness shattered the silence with brand new open-ended questions for our host.
With a seemingly eternally lubricated throat, Lahhhrry obliged his eager tutelage – now the object of communal hatred – for three intoxicating hours. At which point, the lady of the manor arrived, and Lahhhrry redirected his energies towards heavy-handed PDA and a meandering, highly animated recitation of his famous “Camel Joke”, a blue anecdote about a man masturbating a camel. We also were treated to a detailed historiography of the joke, which included Lahhhrry’s personal history with it and a recounting of several different times he’d told it to great effect. You know, times when the audience’s stifled yawns weren’t so plentiful.
It was around this time that the final, “Wellll… we should prooob’ly get going…” crawled from our throats and our buns disconnected from seats for the last time. We hastily gave thanks for the meal, vowed to check out a $3 vegetarian buffet Lahhhrry had recommended (which we actually followed through on, and it was incredible), made immaterial plans to come back for another Shabbat, took a group photo, and jumped on our motorcycles to revel in the hot Lahhhrry-less night air.