Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut, Sometimes You Don’t
I think I missent this so I am trying again. if you don't wish to use it, fine. Have a nice trip to Pattaya. Roger
Sometimes You Feel like a Nut, sometimes you don’t.
Before I begin this sermon, turn in your hymnals to the following jingle. Make sure to read all of the verses out loud.
(From a popular Candy Commercial from the 60’s)
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Sometimes you don't
Almond Joy's got nuts
Almond Joy's got rich milk chocolate
Coconut and honey nuts too
Mounds got deep dark chocolate
Chewey coconut ooh
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Sometimes you don't
Almond Joy's got nuts
Peter Paul Almond Joy's got nuts
Peter Paul Mounds don't
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Sometimes you don't
And then to the scripture:
“Ya gotta get your head right, Luke, ya gotta get your head right!”
(The warden to Luke, from the classic movie “Cool Hand Luke”)
And now, my tale:
I have been living here permanently in Thailand for the past eight and a half years and prior to that I had visited here two or three times a year over the time starting from January 1989 until we came to stay for good in January 1998, I often wonder what a different life it would have been if I hadn’t set foot on Thai soil in the first place.
I returned to Saudi Arabia in October 1988 for the second time after a three and a half-year break from that original period of madness—not really willingly to go back to that loony bin and veritable kwazimoto chamber of horrors— I felt forced back due to deep economic pressure and emotional burnout. Where else could I begin my financial recovery? Coming from a teaching background, I easily found work as an English instructor amidst the dunes of Dammam in October 1988. I had just turned 41 the
week before getting on the plane.
Prior to my return to Saudi I had experienced a series of reverses: a painful break-up in my second marriage the year before, the loss of my business in late 1986 due to inability to keep up with the loan payments and lack of customers, added to the loss of my leased car (oh I hated that painful drive to GMAC to turn over the keys), and compounded by the deaths of my father in late 1985, and my fine father-in-law in early 1986, a man who had been my staunchest ally and friend before succumbing to lung cancer. My ex-wife had reacted in a bizarre fashion to the unexpected death of her father, she started by securing and using nearly three dozen credit cards. The final blow that sent us into divorce proceedings in May 1987 was the loss of the home that I had cherished and on which I had been paying for a number of years. I had been in Saudi before, accompanied by my second wife, where I had saved a reasonable nest egg in the three plus years I had worked there before— they were the good old days when salaries for mid-level managers there were double or triple the US scale and the US tax rate for overseas workers was non-existent below 70,000 dollars per year. I had returned home in February 1985 with visions of starting my own business, but in less than 2 years after I had returned I had seen all my hard-earned cash disappear because I had foolishly started the wrong kind of business at the wrong time and in the wrong place. West Texas was on the verge of recession starting from the month I returned from abroad, and it hit big time just as I opened the doors for my business. From day one to a mere 18 months later it sucked me dry of all substance no matter how hard I tried to make it work. Live and learn the hard way I suppose. My timing had been off completely. Another time, another place. So it goes. Not so easy come but for sure easy go.
Well, here I was, as I said earlier. (I tend to repeat, it’s a sign of Old Timer’s Disease, so bear with me)It was in October 1988 once again back in the armpit of the world, the backside of Satan’s unbecoming backside, the land of the ever-shifting sand dunes, exposed to incessant and incredibly stifling heat and humidity, and struggling to endure what could be best described as a basically boring existence.
Here, amongst shiftless people, and encompassed about by a lot of other losers from the West (myself included mind you), you know the type: inveterate boozers without a clue to what life was supposed to be all about, save for subsisting on rot gut homemade god-awful homebrew. I was not a drinker then or now (so I am peculiar, what the hell are you?) so I couldn’t begin to blot out the horrors of this place but so many of the other took up the cause. Bottoms up. But be careful of which bottom. Certainly not in this place, please.
I cannot fail to mention who were among my colleagues: the bevies of queers — “so many men, so little time” a napkin which we found in the abandoned quarters of one of the queens, a supervisor that the “straights” nicknamed “the Fudgepacker” and who had been deported shortly after my arrival after he got busted for touching the wrong guy in the wrong way. (They later got rid of many of the ladies there but not completely—including the chief supervisor Clitoris and his notable assistants: Elmer Fudd, Lady Hamilton, Queen William the Absurd, Johnnie Boy the defrocked priest-in-training also nicknamed “the opera singer” Jackie the swishy-sashaying-pastel-overed lawyer turned English teacher, Arthur the lithe ballerina-would be who switchedfrom regular shoes to satin slippers after which he would proceed to pirouette around the dining hall at lunch time, bowing to his uninterested but captive audience, Nick the trash hound- dressed in the hottest weather in a heavy trench coat, dark glasses, a detective hat like Peter Sellers and Canon wore—wow was he ever weird- he actually had a Ph.D. from Columbia University in Medieval English Literature— no joke. They finally nabbed him for stealing trash from a dumpster near the Saudi equivalent of their FBI building —the Saudis jailed him first as a spy then realized after a few days of interrogation that he was a goner and sent him packing. Steven Spielberg would have had a field day, mind you.
There were quite a few of these so-called teachers who were gay by persuasion (and they were convinced they were pretty, too. (Sorry ladies, it was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, not Adam and Steve!) And there were seemingly always on the prowl out for new meat (“oh look! new teachers have arrived!”). There were drifters, for sure, and rhinestone cowboys and ne’er do-wells without any other place to hang their hats. People running back and forth across the dining hall, swatting flies, screamers, constant complainers and belly-achers, whiners, skin heads, babblers, spoon players, grave robbers— archaeological types, you name the condition or inclination toward the absurd and unbelievable, it was here somewhere. Yep, a veritable freak show full of fruits and nuts just waiting for their options to be picked up by Phinias T. Barnum. Talk about One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
This place was as I said earlier, a veritable haven for the truly weird, the misfits, the damned, the burned out shells of men shattered by their life experiences, plus a smattering of total eccentric types (whacko's), religious bigots, white trash, etc. and amongst all these— yep, you guessed it, even some of the poor old beaten down ex-husbands with debts up the Kazoo.
And now, this time, I was on my own, without a family to insulate me or sanity to protect me in an overwhelmingly male dominated environment. To add insult to injury: I was working for far less than half the wages that I had earned before back in the heydays before oil prices plummeted to 14 dollars a barrel (oh now do I ever wish they would fall back to those levels!) Life in this zoo was at best under the worst and most demeaning conditions imaginable.
The leadership there at the Saudi Naval School (Located under the toilet bowl in contrast to over the rainbow, in the Land of Oz (not Aussie Land, sorry mates! Oye, oye, oye.), I faintly remember wondering if they had employed the Tin Man here too? I failed tomention the name of this place: TINS—The Technical Institute of Naval Studies (They should have spelled it “navel studies” as far as I can recall, and oh yeah, these elegant Saudi specimens who bore the rank reminded me in a way of the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Wizard, all properly dressed in there fine Saudi Naval Uniforms, and surrounded by the cadets, those beloved munchkins who sang melodiously: We welcome you to the Lollipop League, the Lollipop League, the Lollipop League… They all seemed basically ignorant of life outside the one dictated by their overzealous imams who screamed and ranted constantly against the evils of the West from their podiums and through the loudspeakers at the mosques, the poison of their vitriolic and anti-western propaganda (see we got freaks such as Osama Bin Laden and the likes of his followers from that place) wafting across the ever shifting sands attempting to blot out everything the reeked of normality. “Bring me back the broomstick of the wicked witch of the west. Oz has spoken!” Alley akbar!
The Saudi staff possessed no work habits recognizable in a western culture—they appeared to us as totally screwed up in many ways and completely disorienting to those who have some sense left of what life could be. I had noticed the Saudi officers who sat in the office were often engaged in watching cartoons- while they were supposed to be working–loony tunes were their favorites obviously, and it didn’t take me long to discover why. To my chagrin, even the Western supervisors who were supposed to represent and reflect western culture and breeding were often burned out as well. No ambition save breathing, eating, sleeping, picking their noses and seats and farting, I suppose. The only hope for us all: vacation escapades away from Saudi, which came around three times a year. Temporary passes issued to the real world. “Promise me you’ll come back.” Many never did. Disney Land. Some of the escapees never returned. They made a real escape, often leaving their belongings to be picked over by the survivors who returned. Those who went to LOS cried real tears as they reluctantly boarded their planes once more to return to KSA. “Stay the course, sailor.”
Day after miserable day, I managed to survive in this drab but remarkable existence. As soon as the teaching day was over, “wake up Ahmed, stop picking your nose, Khalid, Hussein keep your hands off your crotch, Ali be a good boy,” (5:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday— “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise.” Ben Franklin said that, didn’t he? (Oh, by the way, Ben, you forgot to include, “boring.”) I headed for the dining hall, forced down a quick lunch before withdrawing to the solitude of the four walls of my dorm room. I locked the door behind me as soon as I entered the safety of the room, closed the curtains so I did not have a view of the outside, all in hopes of blocking out as much of this perverted place as I could.
I slept for two hours every afternoon. Then got up and began a two hour exercise regimen that made me feel better about myself. Then off to teach for 12 bucks an hour—2 more hours of fun and games, at retard (retread) recycling training class. I am. You are, He is… “Hello Forrest, sure I’d like a chocolate. What two days begin with “t,” students? Today and tomorrow. That’s right. But only in some cases. The answer is everyday if you come from England. Everyday begins with tea. In America they all begin with coffee.”
As I said, I tried to fill each waking hour with something that would occupy my mind to keep me from going off the deep end. Every day was a struggle to get through, but those bloody still unpaid debts we had accumulated related to the business failure and from my western ex-wife’s uncontrolled spending habits prior to our divorce (credit card abusers take note) had to be repaid somehow. I concentrated on paying off the mountain of bills she left me with as quickly as possible. (I had been stuck with some 25 K worth of debt by the court as part of the divorce settlement) and she, the ex-wife, had gotten all the remaining usable property—thanks to those god-awful creatures spawned and trained in hell, called lawyers. She got the elevator, I got the shaft.
A few years before coming out to Saudi the first time, while I was still in the states, I took one of my daughters who was about six at the time, to see the movie, Jurassic Park. Just as the T-Rex grabbed the slimy lawyer hiding in the outhouse, my daughter jumped up and screamed at the top of her lungs making sure everyone in the theatre could hear her clearly, “Eat the bloody lawyer, eat the bloody lawyer! My dad hates lawyers!! Ain’t it the truth?
Back to my tale: The only thing the she-wolf, the ex- didn’t get were my goolies and the house, only because the bank had foreclosed on that earlier in the year since I had mortgaged it as collateral to secure my loans which ended in default. The bank sold my merchandise too at 10 cents on the dollar. Naturally the bank staff got first pick on everything. I hate bankers, too.
Back to those CC’s. (Those beloved credit cards—34 of those little plastic puppies from hell that the ex- had saddled me with, all with the number “666 —gotcha” emblazoned and engraved on their shiny little plastic skins– as I remember) by lining the bills up and with a vengeance paying off those with the highest rates of interest first along with the bills with the lower balances. Slowly but surely, I reduced the debt by as much as $2,000 per month, until eureka, the nightmare was nearly over. After a year and a half of forcing myself to forego anything that cost any amount save an occasional Pepsi or a shwarma sandwich, I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The bill reduction system was working.
ESCAPE TIME COMETH
I had taken on some extra tutoring for two hours per day five days a week, in the late afternoons in November and December 1988 and up to the last few days before departure on leave in Mid-January. I had to return to the same daytime navy classroom to try to salvage as many students who simply couldn’t keep up with the regular classes. (Hell, it was 12 bucks a hour extra— the price of a b-g in Thailand at that time, oh, my time passes, (“tempus fuegit) which I wisely set aside for my own holiday plans as we had two upcoming vacations and I sure didn’t want to spend them on base, including that two week (actually 16 day) break scheduled in mid-January 1989 and a full six weeks for the Ramadan period in the early March to mid- April time frame. Hotels were fairly cheap in Bangkok at the time as recall, 300-400 baht per night– I was well on my way toward systematically reducing the debt but I knew if I didn’t relax somehow I was heading for the loony bin as well. Even with the two trips to LOS in January and April and surprisingly again for another two weeks in July 1989 I was still able to pay down that mountain of bills except for a very small amount which eventually became manageable. “Repeat after me students: He is, she is,” oh, no, teacher” the reply came, “don’t talk about women, haram, haram (forbidden, forbidden).” “Ok” I said, “let’s talk about donkies, it is…. They are,” “that’s better, teacher.”
Well, amidst the struggle I received a letter in December 1988, just two months after I had arrived in the Madhouse, from a friend I had known in Saudi on the first go round and who invited me to come out and visit him in Thailand. I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t prepared for the things I saw when I got here.
In the eighteen months since the divorce in May 1987 until the time of my departure from the USA for the KSA in October 1988, I had only managed to secure a single but most unrewarding and distasteful date (a one night score with a waitress who would have probably removed her clothes and done the dirty with just about any male of the species who happened bye—so much for western women!) By the way, at the time of this once in a lifetime experience, her husband was off in a prison somewhere nearby, serving time for an attempted murder charge and due to get out soon thereafter– is the best way to describe it I guess) I was ready for a change in my luck.
Perhaps some of your American readers remember a stupid show on in the USA in the 60’s and 70’s called "Hee Haw"? There the characters sang a song with the lyrics, which went something like this:
Rue, despair and agony on me Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all, Rue despair and agony on me. That was my theme song for nearly two years.
HOW I GOT TO THAILAND
Well, disappointingly, my friend JH who had asked me to come out to help him start a school for kids completely controlled my first foray into Thailand. He did not want me to go carousing about at night with the local Thai girls as it was against his strict religious upbringing to encourage the likes of a desperate man, a sinner by nature, you know the type, in need of an available good loving woman, willing, ready and/or able to deprive a man of his hard-earned cash. He knew I had gotten divorced and he was prepared to apply the male chastity belt as soon as I arrived at Don Muang. Remind you of Manchurian Candidate? Torture time.
But during that first short two-week break he didn’t blindfold me, I could still see what I could see and I liked what I saw. In other words, I did start to look around. I wasn’t blind although I was controlled. Remember that I was seriously damaged merchandise and hadn’t gotten my head on right. (Gotta get your mind right, Luke…) I was still smarting from those previous defeats. But I was determined to take my second vacation and come back to Thailand unfettered and carefully avoided letting my friend who was living up country know I was coming back to Thailand the next time. No handcuffs could have kept me from breaking loose this time. (I don’t care if it rains and freezes as long as I got….) ~I did return reluctantly to KSA, stillfacing piles of bills. “And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” (Robert Frost).
In April 1989, I now was on my second visit to the magnificent Thailand I had only been able to see, not experience. I arrived in LOS with several of my straight teaching colleagues aboard the same flight— fortunately, all of these guys were normal, straight, horny and weird red-blooded single males ready to score. We were in the minority at the navy base. Without my previous friend to hold me back I was amongst the proverbial farang waiting to be singled out and manhandled by any clever Thai woman who could smile in my direction. Just smell those pheromones.
Naturally, I succumbed to temptation the very first night and took a young miss back to my hotel room. No details. Let the real mongers have their two cents. I had checked in to the Prince Hotel on Petchburi Road. This particular gal knew her stuff well for a twenty-one year old, and surprisingly it only set me back 500 baht a night longtime back then and I was prepared to pay a whole lot more but I found I didn’t have to. I kept her around for five days and then discovered she had another fellow or ten in the wings and I wasn’t ready for that. Education doesn’t come cheap.
I am a quick learner at times. After sending the first girl away I sat quietly in the hotel restaurant drinking a cup of coffee and planning my next move, when I felt the hand of a young, presentable but not so good looking woman come to a rest on my knee. I never did notice her approach the table I was so deep in thought. She smiled and asked if I wanted company for the evening. I had just sent the other girl away only thirty minutes before and I was still smarting from waiting for her most of the day to have her finally show up at my room smashed out of her mind—- I didn’t know at the time how devious and underhanded some of these BG’s could be– so I invited this other sweet young thing to my room. She was okay. She was a freelancer though, no bar fine necessary; she kinda just hung around the hotel lobby I guess.
In her broken English she talked my ear off and I kept her around for four days, because she gave me a bath, etc and acted sweet and looked after me pretty well, before sending her on her way. By that time I was feeling a whole lot better about myself. Surprising what a whole lot of relief occurs when you finally let go.
Still, later than week, I went back to see another of my older friends who had come out from Saudi from the same place as me but he had been on a different flight. He had married a girl of dubious background he had met the previous year, several years after his first wife whom he had truly loved had died of cancer. He was lonely, as are most mid-50’s guys. He and his Thai wife had rented the back of a restaurant (private dining room) for a party and asked me to join them there. During the party I saw many girls milling around but noticed one particular young lady with incredible dark eyes, smooth, flawless, dark brown complexion, a gentle disposition and the biggest broadest smile I had ever seen. (Yes, an Isarn lass, for sure).
My friend and his wife did not know since she had been brought to the party as a tag-along. They found out her name and then promptly introduced me to this lovely miss who I eventually ended up with, to my surprise, and not to ruin a perfectly good twisted tale— whom I did end up marrying some three months later. No regrets. I did it my way.
I sent her to school and language school, came back in July, deplaned at 6:30 a.m., was met by my sweetie, her parents, brother and sister who after breakfasting in a nearby restaurant accompanied us to the Amphur in Bangkok where were married by 9:30 a.m. Vacation passed quickly upcountry. But the application for passport went smoothly and I was able to get her a visa to KSA where by November she joined me. Somehow the TINS was a little more bearable after that. I actually ended up staying an additional two years and then on to the UAE for 6 more years, able to bear what came our way and allowing our bank account to become real again.
The Navy folks came through. They had to because they were losing so many teachers monthly and they couldn’t maintain any sort of program. They even cleaned out all the truly weird ones, sweeps in the afternoon followed by same day departures. Not all of them were gone, but certainly enough to make the place livable. They even raised my salary. The Saudi officers continued to watch their cartoons.
We moved into a furnished house on base away from the student areas in a quiet area overlooking the Persian Gulf. It was there that we started our own life together. What continued to pass as absurd remained so, but it no longer bothered me. I was insulated, surrounded by love and immune to the other effects around me.
Fortunately while in Thailand, I had paid a very low sin sot to her family —the very amount that her mother asked for— 800 dollars in total since she had been married before (20,000 baht at the time 25 baht was a dollar), with a child, but surprisingly her Mother gave us a piece of land— deeded it right over mind you, and worth every bit of that amount and never asked for any money after that. But I still gave her some anyway. We built a small home and let her Mother live in it until she died of cancer in 1996.
In 1997 I threw in the towel. It was time to leave the Middle East for good. We came back to live in Thailand permanently in 1998, renovated, upgraded and expanded this home that we now occupy. And, believe it or not that little gal has turned out to be a truly fine wife and mother. I adopted her son (he was two and a half at the time I married her) We have now been married more for 17 years at this point (just this month) and have two
more great kids now. She’s a keeper, she is.
Remember, Life ain’t all that bad— it’s all what you make of it. There’s always some dung where there are buffaloes. Just be a little careful where you step. And remember, it wears off with a good soaking. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Would I change what happened? No, I don’t think so. Good luck to the rest of you guys. Remember:
“Ya gotta get your mind right, Luke.”
Sorry, the 24 hours in today is almost up….no comments.