Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 112
TIME TO START RUNNING
The calculation was that from Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands to Goose Green on East Falkland island would equal a certain number of miles factored by average speeds. ETA estimates were made and food was laid in. Pushing hard with the lee ama pressing always pressing the trip could be done in less time than the food calculation. That was the plan. Things do not always go according to plan. Mistakes were made. Things happened that were not planned on. Things do not always go your way. There were too many slow days. And some days with no wind. Days of pissing down rain and tramp steamer smoke on the horizon and the steady thumping from the boats engine.
Home: Only a three hulled maritime speck under an umbrella of stars at night and sun and clouds and sky in the day but happy–so so happy. Home is where the heart is. Pissing rain and smoke on the horizon and thumping under my feet. Home. Then becalmed off Cape Horn of all things and then unseasonably slow up to the Falklands–ran out of food 11 days before harbor. You can go 100 days without food but only 10 days without water. So 10 days without water is a door knock from death but 11 days without food is only an inconvenience. Your stomach shrinks. There are some good things. You lose the sugar bloat and then you lose the water weight and then you start to drop some fat you have been carrying around for the last 30 years. Your kidneys and liver and stomach and intestines and colon get a break. Some good things. The stomach shrinks and feels tight and you feel light after the hunger pains go. You feel like you have regained some lost youth. The prehallucination and lethargy state of the starving. Some good things. Life is a balancing act–the good with the bad.
Pushing south on what the maps call Highway 2 and driving hard just fifty miles from Nongkhai with eleven future bargirls in the van I hadn't had a good meal in a couple of weeks. Hanging out in Hilltribe country way to the west and north I just couldn't stomach the local food so I stopped eating. Then dysentery kicked in so that cleaned out the other end. Then there was the Dengue fever scare followed by drugs and side effects and fear. Dengue fever scare. If you've never been scared witless to the marrow of your bones you have missed out on something that does not bind us together. The politically correct muttonheads with the Save the Whales stickers on their baby carriages sporting full stomachs and living safe lives imagine that every individual experience can also be a nurturing bonding experience. "Let's All Hug." But 'cornered rat fear' is so private and so personal and so dehumanizing that it does not admit of social translation. Your death dream is your own. Anyway, I recovered. The doctors finally gave up and landed on Etiology Unknown, the great landing strip for all lost doctor diagnosis planes; and the illness got bored and left me for another. Stripped down and lean now. Feel light and tight and youthful. A long ways from taking upper rim moon sights off Cape Horn but that same wonderful feeling of flying light and moving fast and all things possible. A different kind of voyage but a new adventure none-the-less. The testosterone declines over the years but the cells and the brain stem and the hopeful heart retain memories of youth. When the burning season started in the hill tribe mountains I finally opted out. Too much smoke and too little scenery. Stumbled out broke and caromed into a pimp in a shack bar who wanted me to deliver eleven girls to a place in Bangkok. We both knew what for. I needed the dough. If you are judging me now then you haven't been broke and sick and scared long enough in the Kingdom. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Delivering eleven future bargirls was like delivering eleven three year olds all on different pee schedules. Except it was eating. Every thirty minutes we had to stop and eat. I paid. They had no money. They ate like sharks. A feeding frenzy. A 38 kilogram wonder could eat 40 kilograms of food. Thirty minutes later she was hungry. I started to calculate miles and meals and girls. I hadn't negotiated well enough. Nice guys finish last and I was going to finish last again. There was no longer any money profit in the trip. An uneducated predator pimp with dead eyes and a pistol and cash had taken advantage of another farang. I was delivering eleven young girls to Bangkok for approximately nothing plus the heartache and the risk. Fool.
You should have seen them. Some were dressed country bumpkin poor and others were trying to look hip and modern and urban in clothes given by all their well wishing friends but it was all the same–the missteps of the ignorant and the poor and the 'not included'. They might as well have been holding signs that said, "Take Advantage Of Me"–sad and pitiful. Two conditions that get you nowhere. Again, you should have seen them–with their teddy bear backpacks and sacks and bags and boxes and bits of tired ass poor people's luggage and their mother's and older sister's gold they were hiding in their new little bras. One wide eyed innocent hopeful had a sheet wrapped around a lifetime of nothing and tied up with jute string. Jute for Christ's sake. I didn't even know they made that stuff anymore. My next door neighbors in the States got married in 1908 and one of their wedding gifts was a trip around the world on a steamer. In India the Mr. got offered a job as manager of a jute plantation. Stayed 20 years. So I grew up hearing exotic stories of India on a jute plantation. But jute in the 21st century? What would be poorer than that? I don't even know. Tying up bundles with vines? Bicycle inner tubes? Old fan belts? Ripped out rubber door gaskets from junked refrigerators? Anyway . . . There was no money to be made and I was sick at heart about the whole thing. I knew what I was delivering the girls to and they didn't. You should have seen their faces and their eyes. All youth and hope and innocence. Father's daughters. Future loving mothers. Womanhood in the future that only wants to love and be loved. Made me sick. The harder I pushed and the longer we drove and the more they laughed and whispered and starred out the windows the more unstable I got. Finally I cracked.
Bangkok be damned. I went east and stumbled into a big Isaan city. All no-name bars and a no-name city in this story fellas. I don't feel like trumpeting anything. Usually naming names is just a way to brag. "Look at me, Mr. Bigstuff–I was at the Pussy Lips bar and picked up Porntip and we bonked at the Heavy Breathing guesthouse in Phuket." Four names dropped in one sentence by the guy from Manchester who Human Resources has to pull a file on to even figure out what department he works in. Just nameless bars and nameless mamasans and nameless bar owners in a nameless Isaan city in this sad story. And unfortunately later: nameless girls. Later I can't remember one name of one father's daughter that I palmed off on others in the belief that I was doing the right thing. I figure that is my punishment for getting involved in something slimy in the first place. My memory has been taken from me. Truth be told I can not remember most of their faces and it will all fade away. Not a gift to the guilty but a punishment. Take away someone's memory and you take away their life.
"Is this Bangkok?" they say, knowing the answer. "No" I say, "That will come later." They don't believe me. They are quiet now and restive as I drive. Holding each other's hands. Smiling and laughing done. The life gone out of them. Not even traveled the distance from their homes to BKK and already hope and innocence and trust being sucked out of them. I check us into a hotel and treat them to a nice sit down dinner. Still no smiles. Then they follow me to a karaoke bar. Later, back at the hotel I leave them in their room playing cards on the floor and ordering room service food and messing with the TV. They are starting to smile again. Misplaced trust. I have become a monster. I start cruising the nightlife venues and by 11 p.m. I have found bar owners and club owners and restaurants and mamasans who will take all of them. I pocket the money and start returning to the hotel room one at a time like a lioness for her cubs. By 1:00 a.m. I have them all out and in the arms of their new lives. Some smile and wave goodbye. Some don't. I can taste everything I have eaten that day in the rising gorge of self-loathing in my throat. "This is better for you girls." I said to myself. It was. All of these pokey little upcountry places were better for these upcountry starvelings than BKK. At least I believed it then. Plus I got paid again.
I check out at 2:00 a.m. A mile outside of town I stop the van. Too tired to sleep. Too shocked to cry. My parents were Quakers and I was an Eagle Scout and now this. Like the empty hermit crabs you see on the beach that have been tipped over and feasted on by seagulls I am now nothing but a shell. I deserve nothing. Each lungful of air is an unearned gift. I have danced with the devil and feasted on strange fruit. Everything I have done in this town was because I was convinced that the girls would be better off here than in the smog and pollution and noise and confusion and indifference and brutality of Bangkok. Now I am not so sure. More and more that has become the Thai experience for me. I am not so sure. About anything. I am now like a wandering asteroid without name or number or trail. Reduced to sitting in what amounts to a stolen van with no destination and no future. I have left behind eleven birds on a branch in a cold rain without homes or hope. Some good may come of it. They may never trust a farang again. I start to get the dry heaves but nothing will come up. I'm a hollow shell. A farang devil running on empty.
Twenty two hours later I make the final turn and can see the ocean through the windshield. Pattaya. Any port in a storm and this place looks good to a lost soul. Cruising down Beach road in a pissing cold rain I can see some girls standing outside the Tahitian Queen bar smoking cigarettes. Like little lost tramp steamers in the rain–staring out at an empty horizon and wondering what the sunrise will bring. Smoking whores and pissing rain and the thumping music under my feet. Home. Home is where the heart is. It's good to be home. Turned left into the alley of The Right Spot hotel at the bitter end of Walking St. and glided down to the parking yard in front of the bungalows. It would take a while to find me here. Time enough to sell the van. I have an expat friend named Gary who is a little condo king in Jomtien. He'll take it. He'll cheat me but hell it's not even mine. A thief’s deal. More smoke and mirrors. There is no dance like the money dance. So I would have the van money and the money from dumping the girls in Isaan and the half contract amount I got at the start. And I felt better. I had done the right thing morally. Bringing the girls into Bangkok to be deceived and abused and to have to work as prostitutes was wrong. I think.
OK, now I'm not so sure. There is no opportunity for girls working in upcountry shitshack bars and restaurants and massage places. In Bangkok for the lucky ones there is opportunity. The chance to wear new and fashionable clothing and jewelry and purses and cell phones and nice shoes. The chance to live in more dignified surroundings and to make enough money to have to learn about banking and savings accounts. The opportunity to meet different men who will treat you differently. Maybe travel overseas. Maybe fall in love with a man who does not come from a culture that condones wife beating and minor wives and excess drinking and gambling. Next morning I go across the street to the Chinese run convenience store and get some orange juice drinks and some yogurt and some nuts and one of those weird made-up pre-packaged Thai mystery sandwiches. Back to the car park at the The Right Spot hotel. Open my door so that the maids can slip in and out and pull one of the under-the-eave chairs out into the sun near the big tree. Sitting in chair in the early morning sun spooning yogurt and eating nuts and drinking orange juice I am no longer sure I did the right thing. Maybe I should have swallowed my pride and swallowed my financial loss and brought the girls into Bangkok to the pimp contact at the Grace Hotel on Soi 3. Maybe I wasn't doing the right thing morally at all in Isaan but just getting rid of a problem for me and picking up money to cover my losses. Maybe I'm not a nice guy at all.
Jesus, this country is starting to give me dementia. It's getting so that I can't tell up from down or in from out or right from wrong anymore. A funhouse of smoke and mirrors where the farang always loses. But it is not hard to figure one thing out. There is now a contract on my head. And all stupidass farangs eventually wash up in Pattaya. In a day there will be some hard-eyed Bangkok guys with punched up faces in a sedan with blacked out windows and bogus plates heading for Fun City. If they are smart they will post one guy on the boardwalk near Soi 7 and Soi 8, one guy opposite Swenson's Ice Cream, and one guy at the head of Walking Street under the sign. Then sit and wait and watch. It's only a matter of time. They'll find me.
It'll be the standard contract killing. One guy driving the motorcycle, the shooter on the back. The Darwinian specialty of poor countries everywhere. They'll find me. I'm a dead man. Time to sell the van and get out of the country. It's all over. I had a good run. Didn't do too much damage. Meant it every time I told a woman I loved her. Had the sex and laughs and libido pleasure of one hundred men. That is what I was supposed to do. Lived like a man. When I get to Heaven's gate Saint Peter will ask me if I lived like a man and I will be able to say "Yes, St. Peter–I lived like a man."
"Well then, Welcome to Heaven." he will say.
Life is a balancing act–the good with the bad. There has been a lot of good. Now there is going to be a lot of bad. Things do not always go according to plan. Mistakes were made. Things happened that were not planned on. Things do not always go your way. I am so so smart and so so wise but I always seem to be scratching myself up from the bottom. A mystery. Musing on this while sitting in the sun under the big tree full of chirping and chattering birds I can feel the future slamming into me. The first low velocity slug will take me down and the second one will finish me off. Mai pen rai. Time to start running. Time to start digging down deep and husbanding my resources and saving my money and charting my plan.
It'll be like the old days. Stripped down and lean now. Feeling light and tight and youthful. I can go eleven days without food. Another voyage is about to start.
I liked this quote. "And all stupidass farangs eventually wash up in Pattaya."