Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 130

  • Written by Dana
  • April 22nd, 2006
  • 14 min read



PROLOGUE TO AN OPEN LETTER:
THE RECKONING by Robert Service (1874-1958)

It's fine to have a blow-out in a fancy restaurant,
With terrapin and canvas-back and all the wine you want;
To enjoy the flowers and music, watch the pretty women pass,
Smoke a choice cigar, and sip the wealthy water in your glass.
It's bully in a high-toned joint to eat and drink your fill,
But it's quite another matter when you
Pay the bill.

It's great to go out every night on fun or pleasure bent;
To wear your glad rags always and to never save a cent;
To drift along regardless, have a good time every trip;
To hit the high spots sometimes, and to let your chances slip;
To know you're acting foolish, yet to go on fooling still,
Till Nature calls a show-down, and you
Pay the bill.

Time has got a little bill — get wise while yet you may,
For the debit side's increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They're all put down; it's up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill.

LIKE THE CASINO LUSH . . .

Ok, Stickmanites; so the deal is that the bill in life always comes do. Nobody ever said it better than Robert Service. He was a poet who was able to make a living from his poetry and spend his later years in France. Pretty high living for an obscure and not well remembered rhymer. But even he never forgot that the bill always comes do. You can dance and sing and over borrow and over indulge and over risk but eventually a car is going to pull up in front of your house and a big guy called Life is going to get out and lumber up the front walk and knock on the door and tell you it is time to pay the bill.

And the chances are 99% that you can't pay the bill. That's when things get ugly. But of course you knew all of this. In fact it was one of your discharged duties as a parent that you passed on this wisdom to your children to protect them from the ugly parts of life.

Don't you wish you could get your bargirl companions in Thailand to read this poem and heed the message? Of course you do. They live like the children you weren't in charge of. The children you couldn't reach. They gamble and they do drugs and they eat without thought of nutrition and they choose alliances unwisely and they hook up with guys who are not good for them and they drink and smoke to excess. It's the list of the fool and the child. Living on impulse and for the moment without a thought for the future. Giving birth to unloved children. Not practicing safe sex. Not saving money. Not thinking of career. Abandoning family and community for an ephemeral dream in a far off place. The risk taking behavior of the loser. Nothing reads and dreams with more excitement than risk and nothing promises loss with more guarantee.

Do you know who made the fortunes during the Goldrush in the United States? The merchants who sold housing and food to the miners. The risk takers lost everything. But you can't get your bargirl to learn from this poem because she does not read English. She's got a good reason for not benefiting from the wisdom of Robert Service.

But how about you?
What?
I said, "How about you Mr. Expat?"

What in the world are you doing? You step on the bargirl's back to lift yourself higher and belittle her adult life of childishness and foolery but how are you different? Haven't you abandoned your family and your community for an ephemeral dream? Remember the trips to friends and neighbors and family when you gave everything away before coming over? The posturing and the brave talk about a new start in a happy place. Isn't that what she did in Chiang Rai or Hat Yai or Korat before coming to Phuket or Pattaya or Bangkok? Only difference is that she didn't have anything to give away.

Well, she did give away her pride and her baby.

And excess? Now that you are miles away from cultural restrictions and imagined chains on your so special self are you living the life of a sainted mendicant or are you eating and drinking and loving and recreating based on a desire to satisfy impulse? If you used tampons once a month most people on Mars would not be able to tell the difference between you and the bargirl; the bargirl you use as an example of untutored undisciplined uneducated foolish living based on hormones and perceived present needs.

Think about it. If the telescopic observers on Mars or Pluto or Uranus can not tell the difference between a bargirl and you maybe you should reexamine your behavior. The biggest difference between adult and non–adult behavior is the perception of and ameliorating of risk. Thoughtful adults seek to limit risk. Limiting risk limits loss and pain and uncertainty and increases the odds of pleasure and a long life. No reasonable adult could counsel against limiting risk.

And yet look what you have done. You have left your language and your culture and your community and your family and come to a place where you can not communicate and you can not be appreciated and you can never fit in and you can not be successful socially. In addition you can not protect yourself and you have no way to accurately gauge social signals and you have no legal rights.

And you are judging the bargirls? You actually have time in your busy risk filled day to judge others? Hey jackass, I've got an idea–why don't you look in the mirror. Is it any wonder the bargirls don't respect us? We belittle them and patronize them and compare them to children and we are behaving the same way only on a bigger scale. Don't you think they know that? Of course they do. Do you think they respect guys with no family connections and no careers and no sense of community and no parental obligation and apparently no children and no love.

Well, do you?
No they don't.

I have often had bargirls say things to me after I had spent some time with them that shows they are thinking of these things:

Where is your wife? (Do you have love in your life?)
Where are your children? (Do you have someone to love?)
What is your job? (Do you have any value?)
Why are you not with your family? (Are you all alone and why?)
Why are you here? (I can't think of a reason for you to be here–can you?)

Are these the wonderings of trivial undeveloped human beings or are these reasonable thoughts from intelligent people? So the next time you see a bargirl who you think is being foolish and profligate with her money and her health and her time and her emotions maybe you should look in the mirror. She doesn't respect you because she can see you for what you are. Someone who is not so very different than her. A risk taker. And risk takers are losers. She might have a good reason for her behavior. She might have a story to tell. Do you?

You are in Thailand. Maybe it is time to go home.

NOTES FROM A DIARY:

"In the Ming Ding bar a mamasan named Song introduced me to a woman named Boo Bang Dong from Nong Song Hong who wanted to go Bong Bong Bong. She said she had a phi phi named C. See who would do a B.J. So we went to the A.A. and we took an ab nam and then both did me smoke smoke. Afterwards, I gave them baht baht for same same and taxi taxi."

Did you write this? Is this what your life has come to? Is this your life? Remember when you came to Thailand and you started your expat years that you also started a journal: a personal diary that was going to be a testament to your new life and your adventures and your philosophy and the new you? Or haven't you made many journal entries lately?

You are a reasonable intelligent educated person right? Well, is that an attribution based on class or on performance? Because reasonable intelligent educated people do not court risk and call it adventure. Reasonable intelligent educated people do not laugh at jokes that are not funny. Reasonable intelligent educated people do not see charm where no charm exists. Reasonable intelligent educated people do not lie to their friends and pretend things are cheerier than they are. Reasonable intelligent educated people do not forfeit their dignity and costume it in politically correct culture vulturism. Reasonable intelligent educated people do not thrive in the company of unreasonable unintelligent uneducated people. What are you doing? What are you doing in Thailand?

People go to Antarctica to see the penguins and the blue ice but no one in their right mind would stay to live there or move there. People visit Machu Picchu on the mountain top in the Andes to imagine what the city meant or what the lives of the inhabitants were like but no one in their right mind would give up their language and their personal history to go and live there. People go to the Great Wall of China to contemplate history and the folly of empire and hubris and architecture but no one would contemplate selling their cars and houses and giving away their favorite things and camping out at the base of the wall. Think you know where I am going with this? Then that is because the notion is already in your head.

What in the world are you doing on the planet Thailand? The great food? What a joke. Most of the food is inedible unless your mother's milk had spice in it. If you want great food go to Italy. The smiling people? They hate you. The beautiful scenery? Almost every country in the world has more beautiful scenery than Thailand including most probably the country you left. The beautiful women? They laugh at you. The charming innocent children? Their parents are training them that you are a devil. The language? Unless you can learn to speak tones 100% fluently there won't be any Thai language for you. Yes I know some farang learn to speak Thai fluently. They are exceptions. Are you an exception? In your own country people one town over did not know your name. You have not lead an exceptional life and you have never been an exception at anything. What makes you think that since you have deplaned in a place that eats dogs that suddenly your chromosomal makeup is going to change and your IQ is going to shoot up? You will not master Thai and in Thailand it is all or nothing. Ninety nine correct tones and one incorrect tone and you get complete goggle-eyed incomprehension. Three legged dogs can be trained to juggle faster than Thais can be trained to understand foreigners.

So what are you doing? What are you doing in Thailand? After the self-congratulatory postcards have been sent home and the lying letters have been posted and the visitors and friends visits from the old country have stopped after two years what are you doing there? It's been two years. What have you got to show for it? Have you made three good solid friends? Ok, how about two good solid friends? One? Have you had a single successful mature relationship with a woman? Can you say in Thai:

"Honey, the holiday bus schedule says that the bus leaves at 7:17a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays but it has this information printed on the p.m. page with an asterisk but no accompanying footnote at the bottom. Can you explain this?"

I'll bet not one in a thousand ex-pats can flawlessly say this sentence in Thai at the end of two years. Too hard you say? An unfair example? It's a bus schedule nimrod. You can not speak and read Thai. Period. But you are going to be different right? No, wait a minute; let's not get our tenses wrong. You were going to be different. But now it has been two years and you are not different. Not only are you not different then the average farang that you pledged to exceed in class and style and breeding and deportment; you are not really that different from the average bargirl. Observers on Mercury and Jupiter notate that you and bargirls have different genitalia but few other differences. Losers. Nobodies. Average.

", and for him losing is just a form of winning. A loser, after all, is still in the game."
(David Denby).

Is this you? So blinded by delusion and hope that you imagine that because you are 'on the field' that you are a winner and that you are 'in the game'? Making the same mistake the Thais do by assigning character to field placement rather than by whether you are carrying the ball across the goal line? Taking morbid pathetic delight in a continuous series of losses and failures and disappointments and humiliations? Do you think when the great conquerors and the great generals and the great novelists and the great inventors and the great visionaries and the great politicians and the great businessmen sit in bars and talk they talk about their failures or their successes? They talk about their successes. They have already forgotten their failures. And they are imagining their next successes. Is that what you do with other expats in bars or do you delight each other with stories of self-flagellating misery and despair and incompetence? Are you like the casino lush who keeps losing and losing and losing but says,

"He loves the game."

as if he has some kind of philosophy? Is that what Thailand is for you Mr. Bigboy? A giant life events casino you can lush around in making man noises to drown out the sound of 'Loser': to distract yourself and others from the fact that you are losing losing losing?

Hey, I've got an idea. I just thought of something that will lift your spirits. Here I come. I'm a tourist. I'm only going to be in the Kingdom for three weeks. My clothes are clean and my pants are pressed and they have a crease down the front of each pant leg. I'm in a happy mood and having fun and glad to be on vacation. And I am now walking into the bar you are in. You can make fun of me. That's right. You can make fun of me. That will lift your spirits. Having fun at my expense will illustrate your superiority. Hey, I'm all for it. I'm just a visiting sacrificial node for every expat who can find time in his busy successful expat day to make fun of short term visitors. So have it. Make fun of me. Loser.

Maybe it is time to leave Thailand. Maybe it is time to go home.

"Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily." Napoleon Bonaparte

You'll have lots of exotic stories to tell and a bottomless well of believable lies that you can trot out. But after a while you will notice that people are not really listening and not really asking you any questions about life and risk and adventure half way around the world. It is just not that interesting. It never was. Time to get out the seed catalogue and plan the garden. And when you do go home to Bahrain or Christ Church or Montreal or San Francisco or Tokyo or Edinburgh or Galway send me a postcard. I'll believe that one. I never believed anything you sent me from Thailand.

If you are in Thailand and you are reading this maybe it is time to go home.

Remember:

"Time has got a little bill–get wise while yet you may,
For the debit side's increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They're all put down; it's up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill."

Sincerely Yours,
Dana

Stickman's thoughts:

Still in Phuket…