Gorogoro means to be lazy or to hang around in Japanese. We named a dog Gorogoro soon after meeting him over two years ago. He belongs to the landlady of the “green house” we’ve lived in three times now during our visits to Nong Khai. The house is unforgiving in many ways. Institution green, concrete, huge barren bathroom with a cold shower, staircase on which it’s far too easy to bump your head arriving at the second floor landing. But we fell in love with the house, the large upstairs balcony, the outside kitchen the landlady allowed us to use.
We slowly fell in love with Gorogoro too. He’s a very nervous dog. He yelps at the slightest hint of foreign intrusion, and when you try to get close, he runs away, usually to a spot underneath the neighbour’s house (the green house is attached to the landlady’s house on one side, and on the other, a house belonging to an older Thai woman who tends to her garden with grace and precision, and who has the largest breasts either of us has ever seen.)
Gorogoro let the neighbour and the landlady near him, and no-one else. Eventually, he stopped barking at our approach, but every time we tried to get close he would run away. We eventually accepted that this dog would never let us into his family; he simply couldn’t. We named him Gorogoro (we don’t know his actual name because our landlady doesn’t speak English and we don’t speak Thai) because he never leaves the little stretch of soi (sidestreet, more of a bright, gardened alleyway in this case) from the street-gate at one end and our neighbours’ house on the other.
Then, one day in our third stay at the house, the unthinkable happened. He still wouldn’t let us near him, but once when we had the front door open because we were cooking outside, he simply walked in. We thought he would be mortally terrified of being inside strange property. But he took what would become known as ‘his spot’ under the table by the stairs, and let us pet him and talk to him. He looked calm, assured, maybe a little sad. He let me give him Reiki.
He stayed for hours, only leaving when the landlady got home. He started doing this fairly often, and even stayed the night once. But nothing ever changed the day after, and he would still never let us touch him outside the house. Did he used to live there? Was there something about us he felt comfortable being around? I remember Gorogoro now because as we rode to breakfast this morning, we found him quite far from home, sniffing garbage, not noticing us at all.
E. T. and Me
I was eight years old when the film E.T. the Extraterrestrial was released. I’d never heard of its director, Steven Spielberg, who’d only made a small handful of movies by then, including one about a deadly shark. You know the one. To be honest, I’m not sure I had the slightest idea that movies were made by people, let alone famous would-be-auteurs and masters of cinematic imagination. Without question, I didn’t have a clue that pieces of spliced celluloid could be put together, mounted on a reel and shown through a projector to produce the spell we fall under when the lights go down and the curtains part (I’m not getting into the whole digital thing here – it’s still cool and ephemeral, watching movies). I was blissfully unaware of the hard work that goes into just about everything. It was 1982. Drew Barrymore was an adorable tot with famous, handsome ancestors whose tumultuous, triumph-over-adversity narrative arc had yet to unfold. Henry Thomas, who plays Elliot, the protagonist of E.T. was, and would remain a virtual unknown, though I’ve since seen him more times than is probably necessary in the Brad Pitt epic, Legends of the Fall. But none of this matters. The big draw here was the inordinately cute alien with the enormous eyes yearning to make a phone call to his loved ones in outer space. And we weren’t disappointed. To this day, its images are fixed in my memory: E.T. dressed up as a doll hiding out in Elliot’s closet, not getting spotted by Mom, who fails to notice there’s an alien in her house; the trail of Reese’s Pieces (product placement? What’s that?) Elliot uses to lure E.T. into the house for the first time, and of course, E.T. powering Elliot’s bicycle as they surge up into the sky and glide in front of the moon. I saw the movie with my mother and sister and we all loved it. Did we eat popcorn? I don’t know. Were there any ads or trailers before the movie? No idea. But I do remember that when we came home, I went to my room and saw the most magnificent thing. I shouted to my mother and sister to come join me. We stood at my big window overlooking the street, staring out in wonder. There in front of us was the very first rainbow I’d seen in my life. My mother stood between my sister and I, holding each of us by the hand. For a few moments I forgot all about the movie and its kindhearted aliens and cool spacecrafts and bike rides into the sky. The rainbow – this impossibly beautiful sum of light rays hitting raindrops – was the most magical thing in the world. It still is, though I’m happy to watch many movies, and be utterly moved by the best of them, until the next rainbow comes.