Bathroom reading

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I received monthly flyers from the Scholastic Corporation. These flyers announced the release of Scholastic most recent batch of books, and they came complete with orders forms, so parents could more easily be strong-armed into buying whatever new iteration of Goosebumps, The Magic School Bus, or Animorphs was being peddled that month.

Although series like these kept the lights on at Scholastic HQ, they occasionally had other, more unusual books for sale. I remember one such title with particular clarity: a little book called Everyone Poops.

I found out this week that, long before America imported Dragonball and Pokemon to pacify its children, we were borrowing something else from the Japanese: a little homespun notion about the ubiquity of feces that would shape impressionable generations of schoolchildren for years to come.

Written in 1977 by Taro Gomi, whose last name fittingly means “garbage” in Japanese, Everyone Poops is a silly little story in which a wide variety of people and animals colorfully void their bowels for the reader’s edification. While the message is unmistakable–that we needn’t be ashamed of our bodily functions–it is likely that no children’s book before or since has packed so many anuses into so few pages.

A hallmark of a truly great children’s book is that, when you go back to read it as an adult, whether aloud to a child or just for nostalgia’s sake, you recognize messages and nuances that you missed as a child. By this standard, Everyone Poops is on a par with the very best the Newbery people have to offer.

Because the thing is, even if you know that everyone poops, you don’t fully understand this fact until you go to Thailand with a five other dudes. Under these circumstances, the undeniable, incontrovertible truth rises right beneath your nose: everyone–and I do mean everyone–poops.

Not that we all poop the same. Oh, goodness, no. Some of us poop explosively in a hut near a public beach without any toilet paper in sight. Some of us spend long hours hovering in the vicinity of our bungalow like children waiting for the mailman to deliver a bad report card, knowing that the impending disaster is less a matter of if than when. Some of us won’t fart because we just can’t risk it. Some of us can check two more countries off the list, having clogged two birds with one stone in Bangkok’s Korea Town. And some of us are trapped on a never-ending bus ride with a little girl who is taking her sweet goddamn time in the only available restroom, which incidentally is also lacking in toilet paper, as seems to be very much in vogue these days.

But rest assured: everyone poops.

There are stories I could tell, about massive parties on beaches; about tuk-tuk drivers and bespoke tailors; about night markets and nonexistent Vietnamese restaurants; about mellow mountains and Muay Thai fights; about men with machetes and women who aren’t women; I could tell all these stories.

But I won’t. Instead, let me make a recommendation: when you go to Thailand, don’t eat the street meat. Yes, it tastes good. No, it’s not worth it. Because the best-case scenario is 72-hour read-through of Everyone Poops. And the worst-case scenario is missing your first week at a new job because you got salmonella in your blood-stream. Cause that’s a nickname that’ll stick.

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Postcards from Thailand

Well. It’s taken two weeks for me to reconstitute myself as a human being, during which there has been much soul-searching and mirror-staring, as I try to reconcile the debauchery of my trip to Thailand with the community-pillar self-image that I’ve been cultivating at home in Japan.

Although a write-up on the speakable portions of the trip is in the offing, whistles must be wetted after such a long layoff. So, in the interim, I give you Thailand, in pictures: