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Penang was also where I bought Penang "bullets," as they were called --marijuana rolled in waxed paper, each about the length of a rifle bullet.  Very powerful!

I spent a week or two there, then went on to Bangkok, a place that at first disturbed me by its size and busyness.  It was a huge city.  Many of the main streets were former canals, and it was as much as your life was worth trying to cross one of them with or without the light.  Bangkok was an all-night city, with plenty of glittering coffee shops where ladies of the evening were waiting to entertain you.  I bought a number of bootleg cassette tapes here, mostly old rock of the sixties and seventies.  Finding books was more difficult, but I did find some.

After about a week in Bangkok, I went on to Chiang Mai, the northern capital.  I liked the size of this city -- it seemed almost comprehensible -- and soon found places where I could get my morning coffee and my curry lunches and dinners.  I also found a large Buddhist temple on the edge of the city.  Going there to sightsee, I met an English-speaking German monk who had been in residence for a number of years.  He had quarters of his own on one side of the temple compound, a one-room place overlooking a small stagnant lake.  He was calm, friendly, and seemed happy with his lot.  I tried to learn his secret -- if that's what it was -- because I was a long way from being satifsied with my own lot.  He had no particular advice for me, but his presence was calming.

I wish I could tell you the story of how my unruly mind became pacified by the wisdom of the East, but such was not the case with me.  I had no desire to become a Buddhist priest, or even a Buddhist.  I was already what I wanted to be -- a freelance writer.  But if I had what I wanted, why was I so unhappy?  That question was not to be answered at that time, and maybe not even now.

During my stay in Chiang Mai I became friends with a Thai who wanted me to buy an empty lot alongside the Chiang Mai Hotel -- best hotel in the city.  My friend said he and his family would build a restaurant.  He would cook.  Their food would be better and less expensive than at the Chiang Mai inn.  We would make a lot of money.

I was interested, but not very.  Writing and selling words is the only business I've ever followed, and the only one I want to follow. I might conceivably have raised the money to buy this lot.  And then my story might be a lot different.

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Robert Sheckley's Autobiography

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