When I encountered this book in a store, I only briefly glanced at the title and made note of it in my LifeDrive to borrow from the NYPL.
Ah, Asia! Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China. It would be fun to read about her encounters with Japanese group behavior, pachinko machines, and the culture clash therein.
It wasn’t until I got the book from the NYPL and brought it home that I discovered she meant the Other Asia — those places that are somehow lumped in with those other countries, but aren’t: Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, and India. What I consider to be Scary Asia. And with good reason:
I skip my way to the bathroom. This must be my lucky day. I sit down, and for the first time since I arrived in Asia, have a nice, sturdy shit. I wipe with purpose, savoring the touch, and toss the sandpaper to its death, looking down for confirmation.
And then I see them.
Long, stringy worms hanging out the sides of my poop. I watch them crawl animatedly this way and that, as if the crevices of my shit were cozy alleyways in Paris.
There it is in a nutshell: Why Mike Cane Will Never Venture Into Anything Beyond The Second World (which is anything outside New York City that isn’t the Third World).
That isn’t even the worst of it. That happens in that wild and crazy place, India:
[…] The liver I ate on day one has been rejected by my system, along with a lot else it seems, as I’ve somehow lost over fifteen pounds in under five days. I’m pretty sure I shat out my spleen last night. Which is fine by me. I’ve no room for superfluous internal organs anyway.
Her traveling companion harangues her to get to a hospital. She does. She gives a stool sample:
[…] [The nurse] disappears into the lab in the back with what looks like a pink timecard in her hand.
When she returns to me a while later, the card is full of check marks.
“I don’t know how you are even standing up,” she says.
“What do you mean?” I ask, confused.
“Well,” she says, showing me the time card, “You have: 1. amoebic dysentery, 2. bacterial dysentery, 3. two kinds of worms, and 4. giardia. That’s why.”
Wow. Who knew one body could support so many organisms?
“How do you feel?” she asks, still in disbelief that I haven’t collapsed midconversation.
“I feel great!” I say, meaning it. “I’ve adjusted to the fluidity of my excretions and have embraced its perks!”
They want to admit her for a few days of treatment. But that would put her travel plans off. She goes on her planned trip — untreated!
If Iris Bahr ever reads this, she’ll probably wonder, “I wrote an entire book about sex, drugs, and my collection of festive neuroses — and this guy only remembers my shit?!!?”
Well, not just her shit. Also her encounter with a banana, then one with a cucumber, how she never used drugs before she went on this adventure, that Israelis tend to like to travel into Scary Asia (I guess after being surrounded non-stop by nations who constantly plot your death, what’s a few intestinal parasites?), and that seeing a sign that reads Moomlatz is a good thing.
Also that Iris Bahr has written a very, very funny book here:
The crisp air pierces my psychopathologies like a knife.
I reach into Tomer’s boxer flap, ready to venture toward the unknown of all unknowns: the hand job. My first. What if I pull too hard and it comes off?
The first stop on our day tour [in Vietnam] is the War Museum, or as the Vietnamese call it, See How the Bastard Americans Fucked Us Up Museum.
What? You were expecting detailed descriptions of local flora, stimulating observations about local customs, recommendations of where to eat (or not!) and to sleep? Forget it. Get what Iris used: the Lonely Planet guide. This book is nothing but her adventures traveling in the It-Will-Kill-You Third World, trying her best to find a man suitable to break her hymen. With occasional observations about Israeli travelers and her childhood.
If you want to laugh out loud, get this book. If you want a book that will convince someone that venturing out of the First World is a bad idea, get this book — and highlight all the passages about parasites!
You’ll also have to get the book to understand this post’s headline.