Pondering Isaan Life And Thailand
(One day, much like every other day, I woke from an early morning nap on the couch up-country. I find I sleep at the drop of a hat, or a bit after the drop of a skirt, when in the village house. Things can be tiring there. What with my jobs of taxi driver, falang-fare cook, house painter, bartender, furniture mover, bicycle repair man, bank teller, bug and rodent exterminator, soccer coach, English teacher, television technician, father of many who aren't biologically my own, husband, lover, and beer taster, my times are very taxing in the village and I need some extra rest every so often. Plus it's hotter than hell, and I'm sometimes fighting off the effects of my beer tester and taster employment.
This one morning my lady woke me with her beautiful nagging voice, "Honey, you sleep? Darling?" "Huh? … wha? … no. I'm not asleep. Just testing my eyelids for leaks and cracks. I only sleep with my eyes open around here, baby." I mumble , bitch, and moan to her smiling face. For some reason I can never really get pissed off at her. Must be love, I guess. "What Wife? What you want?" I say to her, wiping my eyes, and reaching for a perspiring plastic bottle of water. "My sisters and friends want to see you. Want to drink some beer with you. Come see them!" she exclaims, pulling my hand until I sit up on the couch. "What? Again!" I moan. Such a chore these village drinking bouts are.
I shoo her away, promising to come next door to see her lady friends and relatives after I grab a quick, refreshing, ice-fucking-cold ladle shower. She grins and laughs, and runs off, after securing my promise to be quick. "Fucking woman'll be the death of me yet." I grumble to myself in my still sleep addled excuse for a brain. "What the heck time is it?" I think, and glance toward the clock on the vcr. 10 a.m.!! Shit, the lushes are starting early today. I hope the beers are at least semi chilled today. Warm beer Chang just doesn't sit well with my Thai breakfast of noodles and squid and peppers. Fuck, I feel sick just thinking of this.
I take my ladle shower, screaming like a little girl once the cold water first splashes on my naked and sweating body. Damn!! How the hell can that water get so cold when it's like 90 freaking degrees outside all freaking day, and night too. I actually shiver. I ponder this, and other anomalies of living in Thailand, as I soap myself clean.
I ponder and ask myself for the umpteenth time a question that still bothers me to this day. I wonder where the hell the Thai baht bus drivers got that laminated paneling shit they use for the inside of the roofs in the back where customers ride of seemingly 90% of the baht busses in Pattaya. You know the stuff I'm talking about? It's the ceiling laminate of the New England farm house and barn, in fields of snow. Where did they get this shit anyway? Why did they choose to use this stuff on almost every baht bus? How much does it cost? Can I get enough to panel my village bathroom in this soothingly chilly scene? Does Ripley's know about this? I wonder. Would they believe it? It's doubtful, but this is Thailand after all.
I douse myself fully with some more chilly water of a doubtful cleanliness and rinse off the shampoo, trying not to get said doubtfully clean water in my ears. I've had at least three ear infections since starting to stay in my lady's village. Always the left ear for some strange reason. I'm thinking of buying ear plugs like some people wear to swim. I wonder if they sell these in Thailand.
I start to ponder about another thing that amazes me. Who the hell makes those concrete table and chairs that seem to be everywhere in this country? You know the ones I'm talking about I'm sure. The ugly fucking orange, and yellow, and brown ones, with the same god-awful colored ugly, uncomfortable benches that go with them. Why this color? Why these specific tables and benches? Is there some type of Buddha thing going on with these nasty looking things? Are these holy colors? Who thought these would be cool looking in every beer bar in Pattaya anyway? And in Chiang Mai as well? Is the guy who makes and sells these a baht billionaire? Does he have salesmen who go around trying to sell these throughout the country? Are they available in purple and green? Are these for export, or are they just for Thailand? Can I get one on sale for my yard? How much are they anyway? Has Ripley's seen these?
I finish my shower and lightly towel off the moisture. Might as well let evaporation cool me down for awhile. I jump into a tank top shirt and a pair of shorts. Fuck it! This ain't Bangkok. My Dockers shorts are probably worth more than the combined total of the clothing in half the village. Slipping on my Teva leather sandals outside the door I amble over to the shack next door. Oh shit! All the lady drunks are around today. This could be a rough day for poor old Cent. They all spy me and call me over to the wooden "party platform" as I call it. Sawasdee's are passed all around, and a small plastic stool is placed in the dirt before the open air shack for me to sit on. A seat of honor really. A bottle of J.W. Black is magically produced, and a drink, sans ice, at my bequest, is prepared lovingly by my sister-in-law-to-be's skilled hands. I ponder on my seat of honor, about my seat of honor. Are these plastic stools made by just one company? Are there many competing companies around the country making these things? Do they come in any other colors besides blue and red? Will it support my falang ass for an extended period of time? Could I start a plastic chair company and make a better stool, with a back to it? Are these stools the reason my back hurts now all the time? I wonder.
I spread my "Chok dee krups" about liberally and sip my drink. Strong, like I like it, but it ain't even noon yet. In between rice planting and rice picking seasons there isn't much else to do up in the village really. Plus the booze helps one sleep through the hottest part of the day if one wishes to grab a siesta. I slip my 4000 baht Vaurnier sunglasses down over my eyes, and my eyes thank me, as the sun beats down relentlessly on my seat of honor, placed, for some reason I can't quite fathom, outside the shade of the rusting tin roof, in the blazing sunlight. Is this a test?
I glance down at the dirty, red, dusty ground between my legs. There on the dirt, directly between my feet, is the rotting carcass of a small rat. I watch the ever present ants feeding and marching about with their miniscule rat bits of treasure, and feel my gorge rise. Fuck. I wash my gorge back down with a healthy swig of my Black and Coke, and move my wonderfully comfortable plastic throne to a place in the shade, under some nearby trees and bushes, where I may be at less risk of contracting some strange and horrible tropical disease. Do Thai's own rakes? Does anyone else even notice the dead rat here? I know they don't have rat traps in the stores. I've searched high and low here, and never found a one. I had to bring some all the way from the states on one trip over.
Wasn't a pig slaughtered just the other day on the ground where the dead and rotting rat carcass now lies? At least there was an old tarp under it at the time. Didn't I eat some of that swine? Will I ever again? Depends on how hungry I am, I guess. Can I have another Black and Coke, please? What keeps me here in the village? What is the attraction, besides my lady? Can I teach these people some sanitary precautions? Will I die if I keep eating the food up here? What are the initial symptoms of Dengue Fever anyway? How much would an apartment in Surin cost me? Why didn't Buddha write about sanitation, as the god of the Jews did? Did Buddha live in a village like this once he swore off his riches and left his Prince-ship behind? I think I read somewhere where Buddha was a rich guy once. Did his father own a plastic stool producing factory? Well maybe a wooden or bamboo stool factory anyways? How long will I have to sit here drinking whiskey before I can go back and grab another nap? Can I talk my lady into a "nooner" while here in the village? I look over at her to see what she's drinking. Hmmm. Wine cooler. Spy.
I'm gonna have to get her drinking the Black today.
I sit in the shade, and continue drinking and pondering. It's what I do best, really.
(The Central Scrutinizer)
Written in the year 2000.
My crap comments to follow.