Readers' Submissions

The Epiphany! – Postlude



For anyone who was expecting a great and profound prophecy, I am sorry to disappoint; my epiphany is only that “I am moving my family back to where I grew up in rural, Podunk, backass, Alabama.” I am going to become repatriated (as the word is used here on the old Stick site when talking of departing Thailand and returning to the homeland). Here is the background and the buildup of how/why the wave of certainty descended upon me.

Since I retired from the U.S. forces in 2003, life has been very good too me! Over that time I have been lucky; (some of the luck was hard earned; I finished my undergraduate and graduate degrees in evening classes while I was still active duty), I also made some good investments; bought a business, started a couple other ones, and while none of them are overwhelmingly successful, they all provide steady income. I am in a place financially that I did not expect to be in. Coincidentally, I am in a place with my family that I never expected to be either. Life is good, but still somewhat uncertain, the cost of living here (Honolulu) is restrictive to say the least, and I have been mentally debating about where I want to live, where I want my young sons to have their childhood for some time.

As a 44-year-old, semi-intelligent, semi-mature man, I believe I should have found my place in life. Although I am comfortable with who I am, and actually like the guy (damn he’s ugly) I see each morning when I shave, I still feel kinda like a dumbass 20-something-year-old that is still trying to find his place in the world. My search continues and the epiphany I had is just a continuation of my search… Perhaps it is a mid-life crisis? I have no idea, I certainly don’t think so, but who knows? I have ever had one of those before, and therefore have nothing to compare it too.

“Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans” is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It is by John Lennon, and as I get older, (now 44) and continue to look back on my life asking the question “how the hell did I get here?” The quote is more and more profound! My second favorite quote is “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Benjamin Franklin wrote that – it is no coincidence my youngest sons’ name is “Benjamin”… but I digress…

I have two young sons that I never thought I would have; here is the background on how they came about; I really didn’t “think” I wanted anymore children, as a matter of fact I was dead against it! I have a daughter (17-years-old) from my first marriage. Hell, I didn’t think I would ever MARRY again! But I was WRONG about that too! So then, after being married for seven years, my second wife’s clock was ticking, and she convinced me to agree to have a child by attacking Mr. Happy two or three times a day until she became impregnated. My first son was born when I was forty years old.

Over the next three years I experienced joy and happiness that I never imagined! Just by hanging out with him, I was able to re-experience being a child through his experiences. We played; (we still play! It is great being a kid again!) We (not he) WE have toys on top of toys; we, have RC cars, trucks, boats and motorcycles. We have puzzles, leggos, and building blocks of many types. We have balls and bats, swords, pistols, rifles and Jedi night light sabers. We have learned to read, swim, to ride a bike, catch and throw a baseball, football, how to dribble a basketball and shoot hoops… etc… etc… etc… It was/is magical and it just keeps getting better!

Fast forward; three years later; my wife is a couple years shy of 40 the clock is ticking again (rattling the walls is more like it), and she announces to me that; “if we are going to have another child we better have it now.” Then she starts attacking Mr. Happy morning, noon and night again… and now I am 44 and I have another son. And I might be as happy as anyone on the face of the earth. I had no idea I was going to feel this way… and certainly did not EXPECT to have my insides damn near explode with joy and happiness when I am around “my BOYS”. That still sounds strange to say – “my boys” – but I like saying and hearing it!

I have been a steady, yet, infrequent (once or twice per year) traveler to Thailand over the past twenty years. One of my favorite things about the visits is the unique individuals I meet in the bars. Let’s face it; Thailand gets the crème de la crème of the strangest people on the planet. (“I should know – I are one!”) I am a professional bar patron. I like beer, I like bars, and I like meeting new people. Beer drinkers are drawn to one another like bugs to a bug zapper. Invariably the people I meet (usually beer drinkers) on my visits to Thailand are intriguing with life stories that are more often than not – spellbinding. I like hearing their stories and usually learn something valuable thru their experiences. Mostly what “not” to do, but either way, the stories are captivating, especially, when I ask many questions and get to hear the parts of the story they didn’t mean to tell.

The most common theme of the conversations is either when and why they migrated to LOS or how they are preparing to migrate. Everyone reading this is familiar with the theme of the stories, and I will admit that after my divorce I toyed with the idea myself. More often than not, it involves a bad relationship and a visit to LOS. That is all it takes; they immediately went to their Anglo Saxon “home” sold their shit, packed it in, and moved to Thailand. Hell, probably half the people reading this has done, or is in some process of this theme. My epiphany is the result of many of these stories; actually, an accumulation of these life stories that led to my current epiphany.

I am a philosophical optimistic person. It is not something I chose to be, it is something I am! I am not eternally optimistic; my optimism has a sound, realistic, reasoning associated with it. Not sure how all of the heredity and environment matched up to make me a pragmatic optimist (I believe it is because I had good parents) but if I was given a choice between optimistic or pessimistic I would chose optimism EVERY TIME! I am not sure how all of that works and quite honestly; I don’t give a shit. What is – IS! My personal opinion is pessimism SUCKS! More appropriately, pessimistic people SUCK! Ever notice that MOST (there are exceptions to every rule) beer drinkers are optimistic? Old Ben knew what he was talking about I reckon. (Mai pen rai, lets go get a beer… )

Like most everyone (all optimistic people) in the world I wake up everyday and try to make the proper decisions to help make “my world” a better place. “My world” is “all-inclusive” meaning anything near and dear to me “family, home, work, etc… etc… ” This is how I got to where I am in life and in this submission. I trust my instincts; for the most part, they have been good and reliable my entire life! That is how I found myself in Thailand again in August. Although, what I thought I was in search of was something different from what I found.

I have always had a severe case of adventure/wanderlust. Even as a child in the woods of Alabama, I was always the kid that ventured over the next mountain top, or down the river first. I was the first in and explored further into the cave than anyone else. I was the first one off the new rope swing into to creek, and I was the first one to welcome the new kid into our small country school. I trusted my instincts…

I left the woods of Alabama twenty-three years ago as a naïve, ignorant, semi-bigoted, dumbass hick. That wanderlust has taken me from my very simple, rural, upbringing to over thirty countries all over the globe. By trusting my instincts and being open and honest, I have had a GREAT twenty-three years; made hundreds of friends and I have a closet full of “Been There – Done That” T-shirts while gaining an incredible amount of knowledge thru those adventures.

Based on my personal experience and beliefs; the insight and knowledge gained from travel and meeting new people from different cultures; seeing how they live, believe, act and often finding out what you “THOUGHT” were truths your whole life, aren’t truths at all, allows your mind to work more freely. It opens new worlds and allows you to actually THINK, absorb information and understand things without having preconceived, incorrect, beliefs! The knowledge gained from travel is much more valuable than anything you will learn from a classroom or a book. Korski is by all accounts a very learned man, but I believe his has attained more wisdom from his travels than from his earned degrees and classroom studies.

I go home (to rural backass Alabama) almost every year to visit family and childhood friends. Most of them have never been more than a couple hundred miles from their childhood homes. Most don’t have mobile phones; (my favorite quote is my brothers response when I asked him about getting a cell phone – we were in his garage and as he was pointing to the rotary dial phone on the wall and said “I hate that mxxther fxxker right there, why the hell would I hang one from my belt?” As my phone often rings every ten minutes or so, I sometimes think he has a good point!). Many of them also believe that computers are only used for porn, that NASCAR races and Southeastern Conference Football events are real reasons to take a vacation. They also believe that shooting more than what you are going to eat is sacrilegious and should be against the law. They think only a pansy would allow another person to work on their car, and adding a room to your house can be done by you and your buddies, while consuming a couple cases of beer on the weekend.

These are good people with good hearts; they work hard, and enjoy life. Just because they have no experience, it doesn’t mean they are stupid, they are just a bunch of blissfully ignorant hicks. Ignorant has many negative connotations associated with it but it really shouldn’t. The term “blissfully ignorant”, is a term that I really like, and sometimes prefer to be. Blissfully ignorant can be a great thing. When you gain knowledge and become aware of an unknown, it can cause you great consternation. As an example; I recently attended a high level briefing from the Center for Disease Control about H5N1 (Asian or Bird Flu) and now I have an in-depth knowledge of the origins, how it is transferred, how it mutates, and the likelihood of human-to-human transmission and what little is required in order for a pandemic to develop. While I am an optimist and believe/hope that the pandemic doesn’t transpire, the truth is I was much happier not knowing this information and wish that I had not attended the damn briefing. My point is that most people in rural Alabama where I grew up live in a cocoon of sorts, and prefer “not to know”. They live simple happy, basic lives, similar in nature to the rural Isaan stories so often written about on this site.

Arguably, I currently live in one of the best places on earth. Honolulu has fantastic weather, food, culture, golf courses, activities, overall health and life expectancy is the highest for any U.S. State and it is a great place to raise children etc… I could remain here and have a good life. Additionally, I could move to many other places (wonderful places) and have a good life there too, but human nature being what it is, I am drawn back to the place where I grew up. Of course, it won’t be the same as when I grew up; Thomas Wolfe said it best when he wrote “You can’t go home again” but all of my family and the in-law family is there, and after being gone for twenty-three years it will be nice to be with family during the holidays again.

The following words are excerpted from a Hank Jr. song called “a country boy can survive” The words have elements of truth in them and pretty much sums up how many of my friends/family believe and think, and why I want my sons to grow up there;

The interest is up and the Stock Markets down
And you only get mugged
If you go down town
I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive
A country boy can survive
I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke too
Ain’t too many things these ole boys can’t do
We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot line
And a country boy can survive

The epiphany that transpired just outside the airport is that I need to slow down and enjoy the great things in my life. I will take my boys back to Alabama and let them grow up there, they will only be young once, I’ll only get one chance to be a good Dad. I knew it when my infant son smiled at me (with my Dad’s grin)…

“My World” is moving to Alabama, because “my boys“ deserve to have the room to be free. They will have the opportunity to be the first one over the mountain, down the river or deepest into the cave (if their instincts tell them too). I want them to grow up like I did, it was a wonderful childhood! But most of all the reason I want them to have their childhood there is; after my travels and experiences all over the world (more NOW than ever before) I think it is important for them to learn the basics of life; grow, catch, cook, build, fix, repair… etc…

In a deliriously wonderful way, I figured out what “IT” was…

Stickman's thoughts:

I had better go back and read the first one before I can comment on this follow up.