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Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 106

  • Written by Dana
  • November 5th, 2005
  • 20 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

PROLOGUE

", by attaching a stringent, mordant vocabulary to a series of precise and horrific events, a species of gallows humor which is a defeated man's last pride, the pride that he has, at least, not lost his bitterness. So it is the sort of humor which flourishes in prisons, in the Army, among junkies, race tracks and pool halls," (Norman Mailor)

And expat hangouts in Thailand. OK, broken-down expats can be funny. They can be mordant–"biting and caustic in thought, manner, or style: incisive." (Webster's). Sift the bitterness and dashed dreams through the filter of wit, add some alcohol; and you are going to laugh until you think you will lose control of your bladder. The patina of barely suppressed depression is forgotten in the convivial bonding moment as two speakers of the same language trade stories. And it is not just silly story or clever joke laughing. It is the 'us against them' humor that makes you feel so smart, so superior. Laughter that feeds the ego and restores your pride and hope. You're a winner surrounded by losers and the proof is that you can be so witty and funny about it. But a little can go a long way. You wouldn't eat just pepper. Pepper is just something you add to your food for spice. Sometimes you can be too smart–too clever–too intelligent–too knowledgeable; and lose the plot. That's when the laughing stops. When you lose the plot. Never stop laughing.

TOO SMART

Sometimes you can be too smart and know too much. And all of your friends can be too smart and know too much. Especially if you are a farang from a highly developed country. In my case I am from a highly developed country so I know everything and I am way too smart. And all of my friends and most of the resident farang I meet in Thailand are also too smart and know way too much. Sometimes this gets in the way of having fun. Sometimes we forget that we did not fly half way around the world at great expense and inconvenience and not a little risk to be little professors about everything. But it is hard to escape who and what you are. That is why sometimes it is helpful to just lean back and reappraise what you are doing and how you are living and why you came to the Kingdom in the first place.

Here are some examples:

1. When I first came to Thailand to settle in as an expat I did what most farang do and used the project mentality to get my life going. I made up a ‘to do' list and started a rolodex of important numbers and started a list of important vendors and started cultivating friendships that would be helpful to me. That is what everyone does. You need to find housing and get the phone hooked up and install the computer and start language school, etc. Across the street from the hotel I was staying at was an all British expat bar named Visakay's Mistake. The sign hung from an old Triumph Bonneville motorcycle that someone had torched in half and bolted over the door; and the mirror behind the bar was surrounded by blood tests from the hopeful and the newbie and the alcoholic and the delusional and the deceased. And stuck in amongst the paper blood test forms were hundreds and hundreds of photos of bargirls. Bargirls in hotel rooms and bargirls praying at a temple and bargirls riding on a motorcycle and bargirls at the Arrivals lounge of a faraway farang airport and bargirls on their marriage day and bargirls holding the farang-Thai baby and bargirls smiling. Pictorial testaments to love lost and dreams broken and hearts ripped to shreds. Curled and cracked and brown with age or glossy new photos of Thai women who hurt farangs. And at the bottom of every picture was an inscription like 'Heinrick's Mistake' or 'Lonnie's Mistake' or 'Pablo's Mistake' or 'Vinjay's Mistake' or 'Oyo's Mistake' or 'Adam's Mistake' or 'Marcel's Mistake' or 'Xiaoping's Mistake' or 'Phuolendu's Mistake' or 'Luigi's Mistake' or 'Amargein's Mistake' or 'Dana's Mistake' (Yup, Noi's picture is up there–don't even ask–I'm crying while I'm typing) or 'Hideaki's Mistake' or 'Abjul-Hakeem's Mistake' or 'Calibra's Mistake' or 'Ben Dover's Mistake' or 'Gary from Pattaya's Mistake' or 'David from Jomtien's Mistake' or the 'Wizard from California's Mistake' or 'Union Hill's Mistake' or 'Chiang Mai Kelly's Mistake' or 'Asian Diver's Mistake' or 'Jurgen's Mistake' or 'Peter and Kurt and George from Washington Square's Mistake' or '500 Baht Walt from the Nana Lounge's Mistake'.

The first date hadn't been a mistake. That you could put down to charm and innocence and lust. But the second date had been a mistake and believing the sick buffalo with prostate disease story had been a mistake and buying her thoughtful gifts (where's the gold?) had been a mistake and opening up your heart had been a mistake and excitedly sharing your happiness and dreams with friends had been a mistake and visiting the rural parents had been a mistake and sending money back from Alberta or Dubai or Shanghai had been a mistake.

Mistakes not explainable to a non-participant because the facts examined in the cold reason of a farang winter were so preposterous. You are doing what? She said what? You believe what? But still you teetered and stumbled under the anesthesia of her attentions. The wedding had been a mistake and bringing another human being into the world had been a mistake. Your mistake. You can't be smarter and more worldly and better educated and not take responsibility for your actions. It was all your mistake.

Like legions of farang before you had been maimed or wounded by a Thai woman. As a locust pestilence descends on a healthy crop they eat up all before them. You are now one of many. I suppose given enough time and enough honesty every farang who has ever entered Thailand would be able to post at least one picture around the mirror of the Visakay's Mistake bar. I would venture to say that 100% of the farang players in the Thai nightlife scene have gotten their hearts broken at least once and they still remember her name. If every broken hearted farang who has ever come to the Kingdom posted a photo of his lost love on this bar wall it would have to be reinforced with two feet of plutonium and carbon fiber reinforced concrete with stainless steel rebar just to take the weight.

Visakay's Mistake bar was the only theme bar of it's kind in the Kingdom and a welcome respite for farangs who were older and wiser and poorer and lonelier. A refuge and talkarium and sanatorium for those who had to settle for a life of alcohol and laughter and philosophy. Anyway, now that I was setting myself up as a resident I thought this expat bar of authentic and experienced British gentlemen would be a useful place to get reliable phone numbers and information for doctors and dentists. A sign on the door said, "A free blood test with every 100 beers–ask for Frank". I figured smart friendly marketing would mean smart friendly people.

So I go in. And I start slow because I am an American and not really in the right fish tank. Chatting with the fellow next to me I happened to mention that I liked the experience of buying fruit off the street. You can sample various fruits you would not get at home and you can do it cheaply and the fruit is good for you. He puts his antique wooden darts with the shredded grey goose feather vanes down and turns and looks at me as if I were a Cyclops. As if from the hotel across the street to this bar I have gone from having two eyes to only one eye in the center of my forehead. Then he gets the fellows around us involved in this. I am surrounded by boney Celtic faces and big red veiny noses. He repeats what I have said. They all look at me goggle-eyed. Aging British neck wattles shake in wonder at my American stupidity. Then others are pulled in and the story is repeated. About how I like to buy fruit from sidewalk vendors. Then as the father to the child it is explained to me:

It turns out that Thailand is a developing country which is just a fancy word for Third World country which is just a fancy way of saying nation of idiots and they spray the most virulent lethal insecticides on all of their fruit. And when they are not spraying; they are soaking or painting stuff on the fruit. Sprays and chemicals that developing nations stopped using years ago because of documented cases of cancer and birth deformities are used with gay abandon by the rural rustics of Thailand. Eating fruit off the street in Thailand is a virtual suicide pact with yourself and no knowledgeable farang would ever do so. I am obviously an idiot. An American idiot–a Yank; hey, it was a British bar. This information is delivered with passion and facts both anecdotal and clinical. The conclusion is incontrovertible to an educated man. Don't eat the fruit of Thailand unless you first take it to a major hospital and have it irradiated and then cryogenically frozen and then put through the machine that the surgeons use to sterilize their instruments. Then it should be wire brushed and dipped in boiling sterile acid. You still shouldn't eat it until you make a trip to the local wat and make a heavy fruit baht donation. Now you can eat that mango.

So I don't eat the fruit of Thailand. And they took away my fun. I was having fun and happy but facts and being smart got in the way. Now I am not having so much fun or so happy. I never did ask for a list of doctors and dentists. Too scared.

2. I was planning on making an inter-Thailand flight and it was going to be on a Thai owned and managed little airline. I made the mistake of mentioning this at the bar in the Nana hotel while a sixty year old farang expat next to me was watching the TV and making local and knowledgeable comments on the politics of contemporary Thailand. He hadn't had the time for me before because he knew so much and I knew so little but now he said,

Expat: I wouldn't do that if I were you. . . !
Me: Do what (I'm amazed you even deign to talk to me)?
Expat: Fly on that Thai airline.
Me: Why not (oh exalted smarty-pants elderly expat)?
Expat: Because. . . . .

And then he starts in on a fact by fact, blow by blow, accident by accident, anecdote by anecdote recitation of why flying the Thai airline is dangerous and foolhardy. I should take the bus instead. It turns out that he is an ex-pilot for Christ's sake and can present and relate and expound on and illustrate airline safety facts in ways that a lay person like myself just can not argue with. So I ended up taking the bus. I hate buses. The bus trip was awful. Horrible. I wouldn't be surprised if the destination on the ticket said HELL. But I took the bus because now thanks to the Nana hotel bar elderly expat I know too much and I am way too smart. Of course the silver lining to this black cloud is that I can now hang around in bars and impart my knowledge to newbies and ruin their happy days and practical travel plans but that is slight compensation. The convenience and fun of taking little inter- country airlines was taken away. I still do it sometimes but I think way too much about it when the plane is taking off. Sort of like the preacher's son who knows touching himself is wrong. The fun is gone. I came to Thailand to have fun and to relax.

3. When I first arrived in Thailand I once stupidly made a harmless comment about tuktuks being convenient and interesting. Something like that. It was a social throw away line of absolutely no importance. This was at one of the big round breakfast tables at the Nana hotel at around 11a.m. in the morning. There were no single tables available so I decided to sit at the table populated by guys who obviously knew each other. What could happen? So it was table of elderly farang and me. I had to open my stupid mouth and make the tuktuk comment. THE TABLE WENT SILENT. You would think I had just blurted out the underground bunker location of Churchill. Or given away the North Atlantic code for Hitler's submarines. And then it started. Tuktuks. . . ! It turns out that tuktuks were perhaps more dangerous than a pocket full of plutonium and they were driven by a criminal underclass of deranged monsters thought too dangerous for Bang Kwang prison. Consorting with them was delivering yourself to a certain future of indignity and abuse and thievery and possible murder. I did not know that. I thought they were three wheeled vehicles that offered a taxi service. These expats had facts and figures including the most recent weekend's hospital entry triage figures for tuktuk farang related accidents (and deaths I assumed) at Bumrungrad and 7th Day Adventist and Samitevej hospitals. These guys could have gone toe-to-toe with the airplane guy when it came to facts and figures. A table full of white haired guys with pale blue eyes staring at me. I had sat down with the dual plans of eating too much bacon and also possibly making a friend; but when I got up I was so exhausted I had to go back to my room and lie down. OK. I get it. I don't take tuktuks anymore. I'm nobody's fool and I ain't gettin' involved with that shit. Instead I take motorcycle taxis! Afraid to ask about that.

4. I once made a comment about condoms being a good idea to the fellow next to me in line at Foodland. Foodland has always been a happy place for me and sometimes my extroverted personality gets a little talky. Years later I can't for the life of me remember what the social occasion was to cause me to blurt this fact out to a total stranger but I did. Incredible mistake. Lighting a match in the helium filled airship Hindenburg would not qualify as this big a mistake. The Titanic hitting that iceberg? Not even on the mistake chart compared to the stupidity of this statement. You would think in these politically correct times that a pro-condom behavior comment like this would be a ‘no-problem' kind of thing to say. You would be wrong. It turns out that this gentleman was some kind of multiple PhD medical person with more degrees than a thermometer factory who was an expert on latex molecular structure and condom macro-structures. He had a ring around his eye from all of the time he had spent looking at condoms through a microscope. And while we waited in line he treated me to an incredibly detailed lecture/seminar/monograph/recitation/school lesson/education on the fact that if you place the average latex condom under a microscope you can see that it is full of holes. Not accidental holes but holes that are a function of how latex is made. The Condom Is Full Of Holes!

Ok, this is once again information I kinda wished I didn't know but now that I do know it I can't really ignore it. And it is my fault for talking to another farang from a developed country. All the farang from developed countries have way too much education and know way too much about every damned thing. They are party killers. I came to Thailand to have fun.

5. I was once overheard giving advice to a newbie off the plane about the wisdom of using the hotel safe behind the lobby desk for important documents and keys and money and stuff. An expat was listening. Big mistake. I should have taken the newbie to Jomtien beach and the two of us walked into the ocean until we were up to our necks and we knew there was no one listening before I tried to be friendly and helpful. I'll know next time. Sometimes the paranoid mobster personality is the most appropriate. By the time the expat had finished telling us stories about hotels stealing from the hotel lobby safe deposit boxes the newbie and I were both scared. Now I stuff money into the backs of ninety million watt-volt-amp TVs and balance on the edge of the tub in the bathroom taking the shower rod down so that I can stuff money in there. Much more sensible. You know, I have never actually met anyone who has had a bad experience in a hotel with the lobby safes but you can't be too careful. What do I look like–an idiot?

You know; all of this western educated farang fact stuff can be a little wearing. I came to Thailand to have fun and to relax.

6. OK, now the big one. Bargirls. Actually any Thai woman. I could easily type out a 10,000 word treatise on why consorting with Thai females is not a good idea and it would not require any rewrites or editing. I have heard every negative thing there is to know on the subject so many times that the fact bits are like chiseled stone tablets in my mind. In fact I doubt if any other subject in the world has more negative text associated with it than Thai females. Genocide? Cancer? War? Child Abuse? Only pretenders to the throne when it comes to negative text. The Thai female reigns supreme when it comes to total negative text. Text filled with anecdotal sad stories and tears and lost hope. Only one problem. Have you ever seen a Thai female? Nuff said.

A Thai female could stand right in front of me and tell me in detail all of the terrible things she is going to do to me and it wouldn't matter. As soon as she put her hand on my arm I'd be dead meat. But it is OK; I came to Thailand to have fun. I'd crawl over jagged glass with my ass on fire to get near the average Thai female so I don't want to hear any knowledgeable nonsense about how it isn't a good idea. I'll just let my dick make these decisions.

CONCLUSION

So there you have six examples (there are hundreds) of being too smart and knowing too much getting in the way of fun. I miss buying and eating fruit. I miss tuktuks. I like the convenience of small airlines. I kinda still think hotel lobby safe deposit boxes are a good idea. But once the teredo worm of doubt is planted in your smart westerner's head you are doomed. You can't be different than what you are.

I once made a five hour bus trip during the hot season to a remote guesthouse in western Thailand. The bus made no stops and I had no water and I have some health issues. By the time the bus pulled up in front of the guesthouse I was so dehydrated that I was starting to get major muscle cramping and the inside of my mouth tasted like sandy metal. As I rounded the corner of the building I could see that the guesthouse was on top of a hill and the property ran down to a huge lake. The lake was so huge it ran right to the horizon. Without thought I dropped my bags and stumbled down the hill, crashed though the tall grass at the water's edge, and plunged face first into the water. It's called impulse. It's called living. It's called fun. It's called natural behavior trumping intellectual cautions. But it wasn't enough. Using my hands to cup water to my mouth I could see my reflection in the water. And like the father to the child in the reflection I said, "What have you done?"

I knew two things. The first thing I knew is that in Thailand where the rubber meets the road; where the land meets the water, is prime snake habitat. I was probably lying in a nest of snakes. Little snappy two-footers and a great black fifteen-footer within licking distance. The second thing I knew is that in Thailand they just run the sewage pipes from the house or the business or the hotel or the guesthouse right down to the water. Probably within ten feet of me were bathroom sewer pipes. I was drinking sewer water. So the impulsive natural fun moment was ruined. I pushed myself up from the experience and climbed the hill and checked in. It's hard to be a farang.

So try not to forget why you came to the Kingdom in the first place guys. There is no God and Life has no meaning. We are insignificant carbon based life forms on a cooling rock hurtling through an indifferent space towards an unrecorded future. All that you think and that you believe and that you ponder is self-serving and of no value. Your children that you trumpet as your life's greatest achievement and proof of your species value were acts of unthinking selfishness. The world did not need any more children. Here is the sum that they did not teach you in arithmetic class: You will not be remembered. You can make no contribution because nothing matters. Your morals and absolutes and lines in the sand and personal constructs that you prided yourself on and were willing to take a bullet for are of no consequence. The quacking of ducks. Your pile of toys by your death bed and your weeping loved ones are little to show for someone who had such a high opinion of himself.

So first make yourself happy. Happy people make other people happy. It makes no difference to the universe but it does keep the level of social tension down so it has practical value. And don't call it philosophy. Just do it. Your reading and education and cocktail party chatter accrue to nothing. The cemeteries are full of men who lived longer and had more fun and knew less. Stop the measuring and the thinking. No one is keeping score. No one cares. Nothing matters. Just be. And smile at a child. You came to Thailand to change your life. To look at your wrist watch less. To live more simply. To have more fun. To relax. You can't remake who you are 100% and you wouldn't want to. But try to remind yourself why you came to the Kingdom in the first place. And I bet it wasn't to be Mr. Professor about everything. On your death bed no one is going to ask you how much you know. Relax. And the next time some smartass expat sitting beside you opens his mouth–Run; Run Like The Wind.

Stickman's thoughts:

If only I had time.