Stickman Readers' Submissions November 14th, 2001

They Come And They Go

The Come And They Go

Sometimes the events that change one's life most profoundly, for better or worse, come at you out of nowhere, unpredictable, unexpected. The knock of opportunity is at your door. Making no promises, offering no guarantees and giving no rhyme or reason for the shutting grin and the 3 megawatt gleam in a pair of eyes that are sporting no small amount of delight, as they offer you a roll of the dice for a variety of yet unexplained prizes to accompany your complementary admission into the Twilight zone of South East Asia.

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A year and a half of hard work, and uncharacteristically sustained good behaviour was on the verge of being rewarded, Buddha it seemed had taken a "shining" to me. 19 months earlier, a pure chance meeting with a beautiful 24 year old Chinese businesswoman, on the once in a "blue moon" occasion where I happened to be wearing a newly purchased 3-peice suit. I had jokingly promised my father, who insisted I needed at least one such outfit for special events, that he swore the law of averages would someday require. He even ended his pitch with the classic "Listen to me". Mark my words, I know what I'm talking about!

You can count on your ears the number of times in what now is 23 years the number of relationships you can expect to have with hot Chinese girls whose net worth is several times your own, and to have one who is never let a day go by without telling you how she felt, is an experience I've never duplicated. Her English was flawless and was honed by living a year and a half in Burbank, while spending a year at Cal. State Northridge. Which I'm sure played a large part in her being so totally at ease with letting any Thai in Bangkok know she was in love with a farang and didn't care who knew it. Her parents after several Sunday afternoon dinners where I eventually met the most distant branches on the family tree. They made sure other dinner guests knew I was working for a fraction of my state side salary and that while working for a year in Indonesia with Vietnamese "BOAT PEOPLE" AND ALL GUESTS WERE REMINDED that roughly 60% of these Boat People were ethnic Chinese. Nuff said. At 5 feet 5 1/2 was sure I had meet with acceptance when Grandma commented on how tall our children would be. This after a few moments of silence, had heads nodding that this indeed would be tremendous good fortune. In true Chinese fashion, wealth was never flaunted, but evident in low profile ways. Pensri loved Springsteen, jazz, and classical. Very little Thai music in this house. She owned controlling interest in a silk factory in Chiang Mai where she flew 2-3 times a month to deliver custom pattern and special dye mixtures. There were always 15 or so Isaan girls weaving at any given time in This massive old wooden house, and about 50 feet away there was a small house up on stilts. Just a bedroom a bathroom and a large porch where I used to pile a bunch of pillows, drink ice tea and watch/listen to the sound of the looms. Some of the most peaceful memories I have in Thailand were of staying all those mellow days at the silk factory, the girls bringing up my lunch and ice tea. Isaan girls who had never been spoiled by the big city and were so warn (sweet – Stick) and kee-eye (shy – stick) with the genuine Thai smiles and laughter. One night while Pensri and I were eating at the vegetarian restaurant there was an actual tremble or small earthquake. We could see the chandeliers swaying for 10-15 seconds before sub. I was kind of surprised by the event, but it really wasn't a big deal, considering I live in LA. We drove home on the old 125 cc bike to find the girls in near hysteria, they were crying and holding on to each other, the rationale for their fear was a conviction that a giant pee (ghost) was outside and shaking the house. But any Farang having spent even a little time in an Isaan village will have no doubts as to the validity of this story, Isaan and Lao people being as superstitious as any people n Buddha's GREEN EARTH. One trip from Nan to Chiang Mai I was looking to buy a 250 cc dirt bike, which is the ideal vehicle for the kind of driving I had to do to get to some of the more remote villages THAT WERE ONLY ACCESSIBLE 8 MONTHS A YEAR BECAUSE OF THE HEAVY MONSOONS. One time 2 of us loaded with vaccines etc, drove as far as we could till we got to an. The villagers took the 2 bikes across by raft, and 5-6 of them carried these bikbickes by hand up a good 60 foot steep river bank to where we could continue driving. all the while during s torrential downpour, Nobody else had ever come out there. they were so grateful that somebody cared enough about their kids they tried to give us a small pig in payment, It was this kind of thing that made the heat, rain, mosquitoes and the fact I was making 15-20% of what I made in California, seem more than worth it. As I originally started out saying something about how quickly important things in one's life can for no apparent reason just sometimes appear out of nowhere, and I remember like it was yesterday, lying in bed one Saturday morning in November 1982. Pensri sleeping with her head on my shoulder as usual and she had on that black Teddy, her 800 Baht permanent that was braided like some Thai / Rastafarian. I was thinking about how particularly good the last 3 months had been with Pensri. And trying to count the squares on the ceiling. Anything to avoid dwelling on the 3/4 this of her that was increasingly covering less of her. I knew that once a certain point of no return was reached in my mind, I could rationalize absolutely anything to avoid getting out of bed, as more than once I had never managed to get past the bathroom till after sundown. The maid could be sent for food and beer. A plan was already starting to develop in my mind, I needed to try to catch 2 friends, that could only be found home on weekend mornings. I’d have to move soon but maybe not quite yet. 3 months earlier we had gone to Sri Lanka for a month, Pensri's ticket was a freebie as she had managed the plum assignment of hand delivering "special" tickets to the former sri Lankan ambassador to Malaysia in Columbo. It was great timing as 6 months later and to this day the country has been torn apart by the Tamils and the Singalease, such a pity. The people look like Indians but lack almost all of the aggressive, scheming intensity a trip there a year before to India revealed. The country folk were nice but the city dwellers strategy was to nag you relentlessly. Worse than any country I've ever been. Anyway Sri Lanka was such a pleasant opposite. Took the train up to Kandy and on to the mountains where a town that sounds like Nervala elya at 6-7 thousand ft. Had this most amazing hotel. It was called THE HILL CLUB ,and was an old English Hill station. Almost like a castle. It was expensive for us at $30 – $35 but what class. White gloved waiters Fire-places in all the rooms. They would come personally to announce that Sir and Madan-Dinner is served. Great food. When you decided to return to your room. The fireplace was lit and when you pulled back the covers on the bed there were 2 large hot water bottles, as mentioned you were up around 6500 feet. A peasant getting a taste of such class at what was really a bargain price, doesn't forget [if anyone out there knows of this place or what has happened to it please let me know]. We than took the train on to a place called Horton's Plains where there was a government guest house. we had to hike up the mountain through the bush, but there is a truck available. About a 2-3 kilometre hike from the guest house is s place known as land's End. Just a trail out there with few signs. All of a sudden you come to a straight drop off of 1 mile straight down. No railings, nothing. Its in the range of a small slice of the grand canyon or the view from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Fear not friends, I'm coming to the original unexpected life changing events and choices. Hang on we're on our way back to Thailand.

While working up in NAN province at The Tom Dooley Hospital, located at Baan Nam Yao
It was next door to a U.N.H.C.R Refugee camp of 12-14,000 hill tribe people, primarily Hmoung, but also Pie, Tinn, yao, which are easily identifiable as the woman wear tops, or jackets trimmed with pink boas. They wear coins as every conceivable form of jewellery. With a diet containing more solid pig fat and turnips, its amazing they aren't all dead by 25 with arteries clogged rock solid. They are animists who center their religion on sprits who reside in the forests, the sun, the moon, and the former tenants of any dwelling. They make Thais look like atheists. They recognize no borders. The Hmong in particular were praised by the CIA, as brave and loyal fighters against the Lao who along with Russian encouragement tracked down or ran out of Laos, all they couldn't outright kill. A number of people carry justifiable embarrassment in and outside of the intelligence community about abandoning the Hmong and thus allowing their tragic ends to be met when they were left out to dry.

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I do not claim to be the most morally or ethical guy to come down the Soi, but I do adhere to a certain set of guidelines or "rules of the road if you will". I don’t claim that they are any more or less superior to any other Farangs on the playing field known as the LOS. One is that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you or has helped you out for no other reason then they were a decent person, and in a position to lend a hand to another Farang. One does not hit on any present or former love interest who is remotely considered a friend or former benefactor. Exceptions being given express consent or perhaps if the girl is a very active player on the night circuit and even then she should be avoided if the guy no matter how ill-advised still has "feelings for her" [Couples once deeply involved do on occasion reconcile. You do not screw the girlfriend or wife of even a casual friend or acquaintance, just because the opportunity may avail itself. and your sure you could "get away with it" Should you find yourself in the unanticipated circumstance of having to borrow money. You must make every reasonable effort to pay it back, as this is to be considered a priority [or should be} Bar girls can be particularly slick with a multitude of motivations. Don’t get suckered into anything that in any way could emotionally wound even a friend of a friend till your reasonably sure you aren't fucking over a regular guy at a watering Hole you enjoy frequenting. Don’t let your inflated ego get you into deeper shit, you handsome, sexy man -you. Basically, just use common sense with woman your friends have a history with. Show respect to a guy who shows you respect. There's no shortage of Pussy in Thailand. There is however a shortage of trustworthy farang friends, one farang friend you can count on in a pinch is worth more than 98% of the women you'll meet after dark in Thailand. If you live in Thailand or make regular visits. Your reputation is your most valuable asset. Sad but true – allow nobody to use their real or imagined friendship with you as currency to conveniently be in the same spot and time as a woman you really care about more than seems genuinely coincidence.

Here's an now old but true story involving the old time-used two be love of my life Miss Pensri and how 2 friends [one a FRIEND since childhood, and 1 who was barely earning enough to survive in Thailand at lowest rung. While working up at Tom Dooley Hospital there were a few relief agencies with small staffs doing such things as training refugees how to make artificial legs out of Bamboo. {a skill in great demand due to the literal millions of land mines scattered over what was once known as Indochina. There were a few Germans constructing and teaching low tech water purification projects, and a few medical people from Europe and down under. And there was this guy named John from Australia who was a wheat farmer, who had some university agricultural training who wanted to stay in Thailand, but was unable to hook up with any relief agency but managed to get a small grant from the Agricultural college in Chiang Mai and a minuscule stipend that in total amounted to about $200.00 a month. Not much for a farang even in rural Thailand. He'd have to make his own way around and had no set place to stay, whereas I lived with 2 Registered Nurses in a nice, roomy 3 bedroom house. Pensri would come over from Chiang Mai on a Monday night and we'd go back to Bangkok late Friday afternoon once a month. I'd stay till Sunday night and take the overnight bus back to Nan, Pick up my bike and drive the 60 kilometres to camp. John was trying to show the locals how to grow wheat and make bread. Some of the locals learned how to bake bread and make some badly needed baht. John was barely surviving and losing weight as he had to pay for the supplies, seed, etc. I got permission for him to use a building a couple of Canadians built and was empty since their project ended. So he had a place to build an oven and sleep. As his work had some potential to do some good people thought it was a good idea and he was pretty much excepted as part of the group. We took turns having him over for dinner so he'd get some meat and a bit of variety and social interaction. But after Pensri's 1st visit his visits got on an almost nightly event. I didn't think too much of it as except to eat and be a bit sociable over a glass of wine, then retire to my room to listen to music, watch some TV, or take the motorcycle into the little town of Pua for a little change of food, but that had to stop as the couple places that stayed open till 10 or 11 were filled with solders, which wasn't a real problem. The problem was that The troops that had the weekend off would invariably watch the mountain road with binoculars every Monday morning as the lads who had time off showed up back at base Monday morning with several cases of the Bangkok Flu, and after I started packing a half dozen vials of procaine penicillin in my Black Bag, I rapidly became one very popular farang, because the boys were really grateful to keep this kind of illness out of their permanent records. I couldn't even go out at night for a pack of smokes as soon as they saw me there was the chorus of you eat! you drink! We pay and the 15 minutes I told my roommates I’d be back in turned into 2-3 hours and I’d be weaving the 3 kilometres home from one shoulder of the road to the other. The local movie house had a private screening room that if you could get together 10 farangs, They would play the genuine English language version. The 1st movie we seen with our farang contingent was 'Crusin', a movie about homosexuals, starring Al Pacino. I still find this quite amazing that this little town of Pua with maybe 2,000 people would show this movie not long after its original release.

Then things started to get a bit uncomfortable for us as people started telling me that John had been trying an end run and was asking about my schedule and where was Pensri. Was she going to Chiang Mai this week. Every once in a while I’d have to do a weekend. I’d arrange to make a last minute switch so nobody really knew my schedule till the last minute. She made a pint of talking about how we were planning to live in either Los Angeles or in San Francisco as I had worked there through the registry between overseas contracts, so I could get work there fast. I had mentioned where her house was shortly after I met him and the guy actually had the balls to show up there, but we were already in Pattaya. She told him never to show up unannounced, as her mother often came for the weekend. I finally had to tell the guy to stay away, as did she saying we'd been together 1 1/2 years and were making plans. There was no room for a third person. Even that wasn't enough as he got a business card from the travel agency and showed up in Chiang Mai babbling that he had to go to the college to get another grant. She blew up telling him she didn't know how or why he had got the idea in his head that just because she had briefly talked to him a couple times when she had come to stay with me. He seemed to think that the time his Thai was marginally better than mine, that she should by some strange logic that she would be more interested in him. Her English was perfect. He went as far as to rent a motorcycle and try flowing us up to Doi Inthanon. It was then that I told him that he needed to turn around and walk away while he still could. and that he so much as tried to call her he'd be meeting some motorcycle taxi boys, and had best get used to eating through a straw. Violence usually gets you in more trouble than its worth, but sometimes there just comes a point where enough is enough is enough. I started becoming less and less of a nice guy. Unless she's the kind that can be easily replaced or you sense she's the kind that might take a seemingly better deal if it was offered. In which case she wouldn't be that much of a loss, and fairly easily replaced anyway. Many guys in Thailand having only met girls from the "entertainment' section believe there is only one kind of Thai girl, so you take what you can get ,wherever and from whoever you can get it from. And for sure there are enough girls of similar mind who can't be trusted to go to the store alone. but you don’t have to be around long before you can peg who is who. The second guy I had known since I was 12, and had hung around with throughout my teenage and college days. Every girlfriend I had ever had that was a more desirable person than what he had come up with, sometimes they were just better looking, but always they had more intelligence and personality. He had 1 or 2 that were dancers or gymnasts, but were dumb as house plants, other friends would tell me he wanted what I had. He never seemed to be able to keep any really desirable woman interested over the long run. And the fact that the girl I lived with through 4 years of college, was pretty much the complete package always seemed to bring out his most aggressive sweet mouth routine, stopping just short of something you could really make an issue out of. She graduated 6 months before me and was going to graduate school out of state. That seemed to mark some kind of open season on attempts to hustle some action.

She told me about this as it happened as did another childhood friend. It was well known that this was a recurrent problem with him trying to hit on his best friends woman. His two brothers were exactly the same, but as everyone pretty much knew what was always to be expected, everyone took care to keep a close eye on him. too bad as other than this one major flaw [eventually fatal] he was a solid guy. As I had to make a visa run to Penang he was supposed to meet me in Bangkok and we would head down by train and taxi. He called o say he'd be a day late, I said I had to be out of dodge in 48 hours and would meet him at the Swiss Hotel in Penang in a day or 2 when he could get a train. Pensri almost never would go to the airport after dark, it took a lot of persuasion and the maid as a companion to convince her to go out there. I wanted to meet him as he was flying halfway around the world, so knowing Pensri My only concern was her fear of night time taxi travel to the airport. A week later I got the storey from Pensri. This was twice, and what kind of friends did I have? In 1987 I moved back to the money of LA with my new Thai wife, and this friend had me a job before I even hit town. A year later he made a move on my wife, and since September 11th 1988, I have not seen nor spoke to him. The message I guess is there's a nightly banquet with enough for all, how much are your friends worth. There's enough venues where anything goes, first come first served. Money, youth. Every contestant gets a prize, some nights are better than others and sometimes neither extreme good luck or bad can be explained, and whatever way the night goes there's always tomorrow in Bangkok. Don’t get to caught up in the game to remember where your loyalties and priorities are or should be.

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Stickman says:

A valuable lesson to be learned from this…

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