I found myself in Thailand (again) in August – I was actually in Bangers for six days, three to sort out my visa for China; then three days in China on business, and three more in the Big Mango mixing (business and pleasure) before I returned home. The business in Thailand was minor but useful to assist my continuing research in a possible future endeavor…
Honestly, I could have delayed or even avoided the trip altogether, the business had zero immediate requirements. I could have waited or even avoided most of what I actually performed. Yet, I was compelled, by an unknown internal force, an OVERWHELMING, yet, mysterious calling to GO! I “HAD” to be in Thailand and China, I HAD TO GO! A continuous subconscious urging raged in my head…
But why? What the hell was it? What was calling me? I knew if I went, I would find it! I had experienced the feeling before and each time I had this feeling as strongly as I did this time, it had produced wonderful results… But then again, I have been having lots of strange thoughts lately; what is that all about?
I had just made a very similar trip to the orient in January (Thailand, China, Thailand); the conditions/environment had not changed significantly, it was not as if I really needed to be there… Plus, my wife was struggling with a slight case of post-partum depression, and needed help with our almost two-month old little boy, and I truly enjoy being around/with the baby. I almost didn’t go, but I had that nagging feeling that I MUST GO…
After some consternation and deliberation I eventually did what any normal, healthy, red blooded man does when they get a chance to go on business to Thailand à I headed to the airport post-haste! But I stopped on the way to purchase the required items of; Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Chocolates (large box) and condom-ints (large-box)!!!
Then the trip was over; I am on the airplane, on the way home, still wondering – what the hell did I do, did I miss it? Why did that unexplainable force DRAW me to Bangkok, China, Bangkok? Did I accomplish what I was supposed too? The whole time I was expecting the epiphany that never occurred… Additionally, in my previous trips to Thailand, I had never been in a hurry to leave. But, this time I had even attempted to curtail my trip and called to get an earlier flight back home, weird!!!
Looking back – I had a great trip! I met up with my old friends, and made a new one — Union Hill – a great guy! Intelligent, witty, a gentlemanly scholar, or better yet; a scholarly gentleman! Not afraid of a beer or two, has the local knowledge you only get from experience, (which is very useful to a limited experience guy like myself) and he has an optimistic outlook on life! Exactly the person you expect him to be if you read his submissions. Moreover, he really knows how to enjoy life! A new friend acquired! It is impossible to have “too” many friends! Excellent! But not “IT.”
Overall, the trip had its highlights, just like all trips to the Mango! But not that apocalyptic moment I was seeking. What was IT; never before had I such strong feelings that were unanswered. Was I being too aware? Looking, waiting, maybe too much!!! A case of “unable to see the forest because the trees were blocking my view?” Perhaps, but there had been no moment that I felt “IT” ???
Although, I did find that new masseuse, she fixed that pinched nerve thing that had been troubling me for the past three months, two different chiropractors had misled me out of over thousand bucks and had not provided the relief that one ten dollar session with Pa provided. She was GREAT! I saw her daily… She was not the most attractive specimen, but it was as if she was psychic, she knew exactly where the pain was and alleviated the pain. X-rays, scans, electro-shock treatments and dozens of chiropractor visits later –I could have saved hundreds of dollars if she had an office in Honolulu… So much for modern medicine—RIGHT? Happy and grateful to be pain free – I am! Nevertheless, I am sure that wasn’t “IT.”
I was only able to free up one day for golf, but that day of golf was one of the great days of my life! The conditions were perfect – greens, fairways, tees and bunkers were in well-kept condition. The pace of play was ideal, the weather fantastic (clouds, no rain, nice and cool). My caddy was cute, and ran to and from the beer stand to ensure my Heineken was cold for drinking, knowledgeable and kept giving me the right club again and again! Fairways and greens most of the day—a sterling day of golf! The company was unrivaled. Overall, the day was nothing less than majestic! Still, that wasn’t IT…
Met the most fascinating person I have ever met in my life. I was in a small bar playing pool and this whirlwind of a guy accompanied by four beautiful women starts playing at the next table. Before you know it we are all playing together and I am a part of their birthday party celebration. He is an engineer from (of all places) Belfast, I was in Belfast a couple of times; it is a hard city, makes children old at a very young age. The history of Belfast is well known – a wrong word in the wrong place can get your ass pounded in a heartbeat, and possibly even graveyard dead quick! Fortunately, he had a thick skull (his words); he had “escaped”; engineering degree from the University of Ireland; moved to the U.S. worked on the Apollo space program, then the patriot missile program; his specialty; solid fuel propulsion systems. He had lived all over the globe; Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc… He had found Thailand five years ago; migrated two months later; and was already working on his third Thai wife (this one is 21-years-old, and stunningly beautiful, I have never seen one more so – equal – yes, but not more so). He also had two failed white women marriages — (Okay, so he was/is a TOTAL IDIOT with women! It is a common occurrence, especially in Thailand!) He makes lots of money and likes to spend it; the tab was ALWAYS his! He was 57-years-old, but had the body, mind, and spirit of a 25-year-old. He told the best stories and funniest jokes. Seemed to know everyone, everywhere, and everyone certainly knew him; parking lot attendants, door attendants, bartenders and bar owners loved him (as mentioned earlier, he was very generous with his money)! He also drove the bus (a van actually) of the (very pretty) girls and (the not so pretty) me from bar to bar/disco to disco. He had charisma that I can only write about! He was the best dancer I had ever been around—TV good, he was! When he was on the dance floor, all eyes were on him and his (stunning) girl. A person with his achievements and accomplishments could easily be pompous and aloof. Yet, he was quite the opposite – unpretentious and selfless; treated the parking lot attendant the same way he did the bar owner. Did I mention he was crazy as a loon — loved telling punch-up stories — not in a bragging way, in a matter-of-fact way. He grew up in Belfast; it was the only way to survive, I am sure he could (and would, if required) still go a couple rounds… I could write a book about the eight hours that I drifted along in his wake, within his aura — it was priceless! Good on him! But it is not how I want to spend my life! He not so much lived life, as he ABSORBED it – FAST AND HARD! Hell, I felt a year older after the one night! He lived at a pace that I could not even pretend to maintain. I could not then, nor can I now – figure out if he will die before he hits 60 or live to be 100. Probably the former, but I hope the latter is true! FASCINATING! But not “IT.”
Have you ever driven a bicycle built for three (vertically challenged people) along the south China coast? I have – it is a HELL of a lot more difficult than you think. Especially if you have two Chinese women riding behind you, bouncing, and singing, (very loudly, in a Chinese tinted version of English that is barely understandable to a native speaker) “Christmas, – (yep that’s right) – Christmas Songs.” And to top it off; they followed “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night” and “Frosty the Snowman” up with “Auld Lang Syne” (which translated from the original Scottish means “Times Gone By” which I think is accurate for this occurrence), and seemed perfectly logical at the moment. It was the middle of August and was the perfect song to follow up Frosty. I sang too – couldn’t help myself, (I believe that if you and I were in a bar, any bar, anytime, and I belted out the first half verse of Jingle Bells you would join — in your mind if not verbally). I am still not sure how I got to that point in time, never in the wildest dreams of my conscious mind did I think –
“You know what I am going to do? I think I will run over to Xiamen China grab a couple of girls, head to the park, jump on a bicycle built for three (dwarfs) and ride along the coast singing Christmas carols”
It just happened… How do they know the words? — Do they teach those songs in English lessons or something??? Is it mandatory for all communists to learn Christmas songs??? A very surreal experience! (for those who are curious – these girls are quite affluent, business (low level) executives/management from well established companies and families; we were on a quite civilized walk in the park, before the bicycle and sing-a-long began…)
I would like to add that the sea we were riding beside was the nastiest seawater I have ever seen! The seawater in Pattaya is drinkable in comparison! But that “little fact” had NO AFFECT on the ocean goers — the ocean was full of people! More people than I have ever seen in the water – peasants from the countryside (it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon) had come from far and wide to splash about in this cesspool of ocean water.
There were tens, (if not hundreds), of thousands of them in the mud brown, trash strewn, sickly, stinking, diesel fuel and disease ridden, incredibly unsanitary seawater. They were 20 to 50 deep, babies, teens, adults and senior citizens as far as the eye could see, (from the hillside, I could see at least 2km in both directions). The roads and sidewalks were full of people/cars/bicycles/mopeds too. I am happy to report that we had nary an accident. However, there were many, (too many to count) dangerous, (every few hundred yards or so) narrow escapes! When the person on the rear of a bike built for three (pygmy’s) leans out, that is the direction the entire bike goes (regardless of where the driver wants it to go).
It was GOOSE BUMPS weird! First off, they do not get many white-skinned, round-eyed people there; (especially not driving a bike built for three (very short Mxther Fxxkers, my knees bounced off of the handle bars with each half-turn of the sprocket – nothing was adjustable; seat, handlebars etc…), with two girls behind singing- LOUDLY!
Unashamedly, I will admit that, it is the kind of experience/adventure that I love (bruised knees being the exception); spontaneous, weird, and exciting! If I live to be 150 years old, it will be an experience that I will ALWAYS remember and be able to relive with vivid clarity. Fun – SURREAL even, but definitely not “IT.”
I had other great experiences too; not of the goose-bump-surreal variety, but memories that when the time is right, and I relive them, they make me smile and feel good! Treasureable experiences they were, but none were – “IT.”
Before when the feeling was this strong, I knew IT, when IT happened. I was sure “IT” had not happened and I was almost home… WTF???
So as the plane is on its final approach; I reviewed the purpose of my trip;
1. Shore up the personnel side of the business in China – CHECK!
2. Explore the other investment possibilities in Thailand, research, ask my friends that live there what they think – CHECK!
3. Talk to a lawyer, research the current market – CHECK!
4. Relax, take it easy, read, get a massage, recharge the batteries – CHECK – CHECK – CHECK – CHECK – CHECK AND CHECK!
5. Visit with my friends that live there and catch up on old times; drink a few beers to include trying the Stickman lauded – “Beer Lao” – (its okay; a bit “OVER RATED” by my estimation) and enjoy the freedom of not having a mobile phone, or worry about emails! CHECK! (Note: after the third day, I really missed my mobile phone, and I checked my email daily, even though sometimes I did not respond immediately!)
While I accomplished those things and added a couple of great experiences to my life, I still had not experienced “IT”… What did I miss?
Now I am in the immigration line ready to re-enter the U.S. and got the horrible blue “S” on my re-entry form, I watched the immigration officer write it, I KNEW he was going to do it… I asked him why? Why, was I selected for the dreaded luggage inspection? He said; “Go stand in that line”— oh well, I have nothing to hide, but it is still a pain in the ass. I can’t help but wonder – why the hell am I SO often singled out on my way home? I am showered and clean shaven, I wear a sport coat and slacks, all of my paperwork is neat and in order… This makes seven out of the last ten times… bummer! I wait in line to be called by the fat, ugly, bitchy, female immigration officer.
Immigration officer (IO) (as she is hastily emptying my luggage, eagerly looking for the non-existent contraband): Are you glad to be home? Where did you go?
Me: (I have learned that it is my best interest to be nice to these people, so in my kindest voice I say); Yes Maam – Thailand, China, and Thailand?
IO: (as she is opening my suitcase); Where?
Me: I have to explain, and do so (as nice a manner as I can; it is exactly what I told the jackass that put the “blue S” on my form – thinking, “I am glad I forgot to pick up those Cuban cigars…” contraband in the U.S.)
IO: (as she is completely emptying the suitcase); Were you on business or pleasure?
IO: (as she is picking thru my dirty underwear) What?
Me: Again, I have to explain and do so (in a less than nice tone of voice, thinking “this is bullshit!”)
IO: (as she is picking thru my dirty socks); Did you buy anything?
Me: (WTF! Not so nicely I say), “YES, I purchased the items listed and claimed on the form.”
IO: (focused on my stinky boxers and socks); Do you have the receipt?
Me: (still restrained, yet – semi hatefully) “I handed you the receipt with the form, it is in your hand” (thinking — “YOU DUMBASS!”)
IO: (after scrutinizing my receipt and forms, she again picks thru my dirty underwear and checks for hidden compartments in my empty suitcase and finally says) “You can go.”
Me: (as sarcastically as I can muster — and after 20 years in the military I can be one sarcastic SOB); “THHHAAAAANNKKKSSS!”
I re-pack my luggage and head out the door… Trying to figure out why I keep getting searched on my re-entry, but in the back of my head I am still thinking about “IT.”
As I exit the doors, my four-year-old sees me and starts running as fast as his little legs will carry him while he is YELLING at the top of his lungs; “DADDY, DADDY, DADDY!!!” He literally leaps into my arms while running at full speed, almost knocking me over, while squeezing me as hard as his little arms can muster, says; “I missed you DADDY!” We are walking towards the wife, who is there with a lei (green leaves and kukui nuts – it is a Hawaiian tradition that epitomizes the Aloha spirit!) presents it too me as it is meant to be done; with a gentle kiss on the cheek as she puts it around my neck. She lifts the baby from the pram, smiles as she waits for me to pry the four-year-old from my neck, so that I can take the baby. I take him, kiss his forehead and look directly my infant sons’ eyes that (don’t quite, yet, almost) focus, and he smiles; a wonderful lopsided (exactly like my – long since passed away – Dad’s, mouth slightly agape) grin, and that is when “IT” hits me.
To be continued…
Nursing a splitting headache so no comments on submissions today. Sorry.