Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 7
Thai Anecdotes And Thoughts Part 7
1. I am in a state of euphoria. I love elephants and I am going on an elephant ride and I am about to do the 'step-over'. The 'step-over ' is what you do to get into an elephant basket. Instead of ladders, this operation has built elevated platforms. They bring the beasts in next to the platforms, like trucks being brought in under grain chutes. The tourists are loaded from the top. You 'step-over' the basket rail to get in. It's me and two old ladies. The Thais are friendly and the sky is blue. What could go wrong.
My elephant is huge!! Much, much bigger than all of the other elephants. I know that African elephants are even bigger than Asian elephants but this mother is huge. Dinosaur huge. Dominent huge. 'Ain't takin' no shit' huge. I'd like to see the big boy that could handle this honey bunny. Think of a Sherman tank with a vagina. And her baby is coming along.
This trip is going to be great. We amble along through the jungle for a while. It will be slow and dignified with time to pass the camera around to take pictures. The two old ladies and I will become friends. Then we stop and take an oxcart trip around a village. It will be even slower and even more relaxing with charming village children running alongside and smiling and laughing. Then back on the elephants. More slow ambling followed by a splashy scenic river crossing. Then home to the clearing and up to the disembarking platform. Minutes after leaving the loading platform, someone throws a cosmic switch and the program changes! The sky becomes grey and then black and then purple. Monkeys and birds shut up. Moma is flapping her ears but it's not 'cause she's hot. The hairs standing up on the back of her neck look like toothpicks. Then the heavens open up and down it comes. Not heavy rain. Or really heavy rain. Or raining 'cats and dogs' rain. It is pissing down. Imagine heaven full of ten million elderly men just pissing on you. The baby elephant stops screwing around and falls in behind her mother. Then the forks appear. Forks of lightening. Quickly followed by the sound of thunder. Cracks like bullwhips and the smell of ozone. And moma takes off. No more ambling. She is running. The mahout sitting on her head is jabbing her behind the ears with his feet and sticking her in the head with his steel hook but it is a waste of time. Moma is going home. And it looks as if she is taking shortcuts. The path disappears. We are bashing and crashing. We burst out of a rain squall like a liner on the Grand Banks. Ahead is the village. Waiting are the oxcarts and the oxcart guys. Some are holding the noses of the oxen and some are squatting under the carts smoking cigarettes. One look at the tank with a vagina and they scatter like chickens. "Fuck the oxcart ride." says moma. We streak through the village. No begging kids today I quess. More jungle bashing and crashing. One old lady is crying. The other old lady is screaming. I am grinning. The mahoot has his knees jammed behind the elephants ears and he is just hanging on. Up ahead is the river. Moma slides down the muddy bank and splashes in. Don't close your eyes or you'll miss it. We are across and she is pounding up the bank. You can smell the ozone in your nose and the whole world has gone black and white with the on and off of lightening flashes. The two ladies and me are being pounded to bits in the basket. I look back and can't see the baby. Minutes later we burst into the clearing and she brings us up to the loading platform. As we are unloading, I see her crane her head and her neck and look behind her. The baby is staggering in.
2. It's unbelievably hot and humid. Bangkok hot and humid. April in Bangkok hot and humid. And I am in Chinatown. The most hot and humid place in the most hot and humid city and in the hottest month. A place God sends people just to punish them. It is so hot and so humid and so crowded and so stupid and so noisy and so filthy that it almost defies description. I figure the reason I don't see more people is because all the others have just killed themselves. I would. If you think I am exaggerating, do this the next time you are in Chinatown in Bangkok. Pick any main or side street. Your choice. You know; a typical street, where the shops are at the street level and the people live above the shops. Look up at the windows of the rooms and the apartments where the Chinese people live. Do you know what you will not see? AIR CONDITIONERS. That's right. These filthy, retrogressive humanoids are so cheap they won't even buy air-conditioners for their babies, and children, and families, and elderly, and sick. Now someone is going to Email me and tell me I am an ignorant Westerner who doesn't understand the greater world and these people's poverty. Bullshit. They've all got money in the bank. It is a point of pride with them. Their private or public bragging story. Their only accomplishment in lives that will be instantly forgotten. And like all Asians the world over they love to tell the westerners about their love for their children and their families. As if they had stumbled across the wheel of human emotion and meaning and love. As if somehow Asians had a special gift or desire or intent to love their families and offspring more than other peoples. Hey, I've got an idea. After you've had your firecracker holiday, and your new moon festival, and your blessing the chickens fiesta; why don't you have a BUYING AN AIR CONDITIONER FOR THE FAMILY holiday. . . . !
3. I've got my free breakfast coupon and my 'long-time' honey bunny and I'm at the buffet at the Nana Hotel. And I am pretty full of myself. I hope everybody is looking at me and taking note of a real man. Yessiree, I spent the night with this woman who is next to me and we had sex. I am a real man. A couple of minutes later, I happen to look over Na's shoulder and I see a Frenchman who appears to be about 60 having breakfast with TWO women. And I realize with a jolt that I have seen him having breakfast with two woman every morning this week. Suddenly I feel diminished. Because I have already looked within myself and taken inventory and I realize that I couldn't handle two women. Who is this guy? How does he do it? What exactly goes on? How does he do it? And if he can do this now, what the heck was he like when he was 25? Fucking Christ, there is always a bigger story. Always someone to burst your balloon. Then I spot Na playing with her food and I settle down. What difference does it make. Right now with Na here at the Nana hotel in Bangkok I am on the top of the Mount Everest of my life. That's all that counts.
4. Some moments are Magic Moments. Personal. Untranslatable to others. But meaningful to ourselves. One of my magic moments always occurs on the second day I arrive in BKK. I leave the Nana and start down Sukhimvit headed towards the crossover bridge. The heat and the humidity and the noise and the squalor and the people and the beggers and the women are all new and all familiar at the same time. I feel like I'm home. And I am headed for the bookstore on the other side of the street. It is small and crowded, but also complete and friendly. I used to buy cards for girlfriends there and the girl clerk would help me by writing lover's messages in Thai. I go in and I buy the Post and the Nation and a Thai picture book of some kind. I buy some Thai fashion magazines and Thai youth oriented magazines and some farang magazines. I buy the Pattaya Mail. I buy five or six paperback books by Thai based or Thai themed authors. I buy postcards and maybe a Phuket video. And then I stagger out of the store with all this stuff–this completely trivial tourist loot–in bags. And I am happy. I am back in Thailand. It is a personal moment.
5. I am staggering around the streets of Chinatown. I am doing this because I believe most of what I read, and every tourist book I read on BKK tells me that I should go to Chinatown. It is exotic. It is charming. It is unique. It is the Old World preserved. Blah. Blah. Blah. Well, I wish the faraway authors of these tourist books were here right now so that I could reach out and strangle them. Because the Chinatown that I am wandering around in is not friendly or accomodating, not connected to the planet earth in any meaningful or interesting way, and not remotely knowledgable about how to display and sell goods. These people have been merchants for 500 years and have apparently learned nothing. I am trying hard to have a good time but I am not really having a good time. The only reason I don't leave is that I have been lost for the last hour. I am doing circles. Then I spot a store that looks interesting. It's display window is full of things that might interest me. I go in. It is a shotgun store. A blast through the front door would go right out the rear door. Sitting in the back room a woman is watching TV. She comes out. No hello. No smile. No head bob. No eye contact. Nothing. She is 30ish. Could be attractive. Dressed Chinese poor. You get the impression she has been wearing the same underpants for five years to save money. I start to look around. The place is stuffed with 'stuff'. The display cases and counter tops and walls and floors of this little shop are stuffed with stuff. I see something in a case I would like to see. She can't find the key. Undisturbed dust is on everything. She finds the key. But she can't get the door open because twenty-five other things are in the way. They have never been moved. It is a little jackknife. Now that I am holding it in my hands I can see that it is just junk. And the price looks as if someone is on crack. I ask to see something on the wall. She can't find the stepladder. It takes so long to get the item off the wall that I can feel my hair growing longer. Another piece of junk. I try to get to something I see on the floor in the corner. Getting to it is like threading my way through a minefield. No help from old underpants. Then it hits me. I have a revelation. It hits me like a plank in the face. THEY DON'T EVER SELL ANYTHING. They don't want to sell anything. Nothing here is really for sale. This isn't really a store. She is just waiting in her patient Chinese way for me to leave. What was that place. . . . ?
More wisdom from Dana…