Readers' Submissions

The Chivas Life




This morning I was riding my bicycle to school. I’ve taken to leaving my home a little earlier in order to avoid the morning rush hour. When you don’t have to spend every moment just trying not to be run off the road, you have a little more time to actually relax and look around. I have been riding past one particular sign for over a month without really noticing it. Today I saw that it said, “Live the Chivas Life”. For the rest of commute I contemplated what the simple phrase meant, not just for me, but to the thousands of Thais who drive by it daily.

Chivas of course is probably the best known premium whiskey here in Thailand. While there may be a few Thai connoisseurs who are familiar with much more “rarified” whiskeys, for most locals Chivas is the top of the line. I have a pretty sensitive palette although I stop well short of calling my sense of taste (and smell) “ultra-refined”. In other words I can tell rotgut from something better than average, but that’s about the limit of my “tasting skills”. The sense of taste is pretty damned subjective anyway. I have always found that one man’s favorite food or drink can make another man want to gag. Thais almost universally love nam-pla (fish sauce). They smack their lips while put that fermented concoction on everything; I on the other hand absolutely loathe the stuff. Oh well, differences are what make the world go around.

Anyway, back to the booze. Thais are hardly the only ones who are brand “conscious”. All over the world, including Farangland, using the “right” product is for many synonymous with belonging to a higher social class. This has been going on since the day when Og’s wife bitched and moaned until she had the bone beads that her neighbor was strutting around wearing! We may be living in the Space Age, but “keeping up with the Joneses” is still a game that’s played; even here in The Land of Smiles.

That’s one of the things that keep advertising agencies in business. It’s simply not enough to extol the virtues your product. You need to convince the masses that not choosing your brand is tantamount to wearing a sign around your back that says. “I am an ignorant bumpkin who has no taste whatsoever.” Thus is born slogans like “Live the Chivas Life.”

Somehow I have visions of svelte gods and goddesses lounging around an Olympic sized pool, a country club tennis court or perhaps a magnificent golf course. A Jaguar or Mercedes is parked nearby. Then again this whole scene could be taking place aboard a splendid yacht. The men are dressed in “smartly casual” togs, while the woman in their designer threads are displaying bodies that only can be achieved with the eager assistance of a personal trainer. All have an expensive crystal tumbler in hand filled with that libation which only the select are permitted to imbibe. Ah, this is the Chivas life! Unfortunately this particular vision makes me want to vomit. Even if I were unimaginably wealthy I would rather slit my wrists than be forced to hang around with this crowd!

What comes into the average Thai’s mind when he reads this ad man’s drek? Do visions of the good life, “Thai style” float through Somchai and Somporn’s heads? What are their dreams anyway? I sure as hell hope they’re not basing them on what they see on the Thai soap operas, because what I see there is bland and boring beyond belief. Every “mansion” I see there is a testament to bad taste, or rather to no taste at all. These homes are utterly generic. The fixtures may have cost a small fortune for all I know, but are devoid of any character. They sure as hell don’t look as though they are even in Thailand. There is no Thai artwork visible (not even the obligatory picture of HRM), no Thai silk, no Buddha images or shrine, no teak furniture, and in fact nothing Thai. The men and women’s clothes are undoubtedly expensive, but look as “white bread” as the world in which these folks live. They are wealthy, but haven’t a clue about having fun. It’s hard to imagine them “letting their hair down” and boogie. Their many serfs, I mean servants, sure aren’t having much fun either as they endure day after day of groveling at the feet of a bunch of spoiled brats.

So then is this “The Chivas Life”? All I can see is a bunch of bored rich people stumbling through yet another meaningless day, striking poses while telling themselves how good they’ve got it. Well of course they are not exactly breaking a sweat, which has to count for something to folks living the “Non-Chivas Life”. When you work like a dog for most of your adult life. Sitting around doing nothing sounds pretty damned fine. Then of course the rich folks portrayed on the tube and in magazines all have lily white skin. It’s ironic that many people in Farangland shell out big bucks to tan while Thais want to look as though they have never stepped out in the sunlight. Here of course in LOS, having dark skin means that you must labor under the sun. Your social status index is directly related to your skin color. If you look as though you just crawled out from “mushroom land” it must mean that you can afford to be idling about, undoubtedly with a glass of Chivas in hand.

Unsaid in all the advertising hype is the fact that every high-so Thai would immediately turn up his or her nose in disgust at any social “inferiors” who attempted to raise their glass of Chivas in a hearty Chai-yo! That being said, plenty of Chivas is being swilled by any Thai who can plunk down enough baht on the counter. If folks actually enjoy drinking Chivas as opposed to Thai “whiskey”, hey more power to them. As for me, my dreams are of a modest nature.

Stickman's thoughts:

Actually, I think most Thais probably aspire more to Johnny Walker black than Chivas.