Luang Prabang, Laos

I fell in love with the Birdman just south of the Mekong River when he wandered into a bar a couple of hours before midnight, fired up a cigarette, and told me a few details: twenty-one, studied neuroscience in Boston, had a passion for evolution theories, and was heading to Ho Chi Min to visit a rich businessman who had five house servants and a grand piano. I took an instant liking to him; rare, since I usually crossed the street when I saw foreigners coming. But the Birdman was different. I loved his opening salvo about being on heroin in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, when he accidentally opened the throttle of a rented motorbike he was returning and drove it straight through the front window of the rental office.

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