What I notice immediately—after the stifling heat, the humidity that fogs glass, the stray dogs—are the temples. They are part of the Thai landscape, like the rubber trees, the wild green jungles, the red mountains of the north. Each temple is unlike the other, constructed by the community’s money and faith and devotion. According to a count done in 2004, there are well over 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand, 40,000 temples in a country that can fit into Texas.
In the summer of 1975, in the southwest Chicago suburb of Burbank, my parents finally became homeowners when they bought a condominium unit in a brand-new development comprised of eight buildings. The cost: $25,000. First, however, we had to break our apartment lease and move out in the middle of the night. I was nine years old, carrying my toys down the stairs to my father’s pick-up at three in the morning while everyone else, our friends and enemies, slept soundly. In every apartment building we’d ever lived, we always had friends and we always had enemies, and we never lived in any one place for longer than two years. Things were finally going to be different.
In the Field behind the Condo Where the Fat Boy Plays