I’ve kept a journal for the last fourteen years. I started after I left Canada because I thought my life was going to be a lot more interesting than it had been up until then. I was proved right. Keeping a journal made me focus on the minutiae
of my life and what I observed of others' lives. It is only by observing and interpreting at this level that one can hope to see the patterns of life emerge and for me, once I can see a general pattern, I feel a kind of understanding begin
to emerge. Over time this produces what passes for my wisdom – but I admit it is only my wisdom. I have strong views that political correctness in the West has just about killed off real conversation to the point that we fear to express our opinions
in case we might offend someone. People who find themselves in that position have no way of validating what they think about life or keeping in touch with what changes in life. Some people call me outspoken, but I love a good conversation if for
no other reason that it helps me do a reality check and keep me on track. It all sounds so heavily philosophical as I write it, but I know it to be true. Well, all of that brings me to Bangkok, the world’s most politically incorrect city.
I think you might have seen in my piece about my month in my home town that life there was turning me into a zombie. I am not looking for trouble with people who live where I come from, but their level of day to day experience simply cannot approach what happens to us in Thailand. We live on a much faster learning curve here simply because so much goes on. There is so much to look at, there are so many characters around, and we are simultaneously connected to our original culture and to this Thai culture that at times seems to be completely at odds with what we have been told is the zenith of modern civilization. For me, in my daily life, I simply love how being in this floating 'quantum theory' universe produces so much unexpected irony.
The other night I went to Cowboy with a half plan to meet a special someone. I settled in at the bar outside Sheba’s for a couple of warm up beers and minded my own business. A farang about my age, a little unsteady on his feet came by, stared at me with drunken hesitation as he was trying to download an idea onto his tongue.
“You look pretty good. Why aren’t you dressed like these other guys?” he said as a couple of singlets stretched over beer guts wandered by.
“You’re rather nattily dressed yourself,” I replied, just into my first beer. He took a seat at my table though uninvited after he shook my hand to make sure I was real and not an apparition. He straggled out a finger to point at some younger guys across the way at Cowboy 2.
“And so what about those guys, what are they here for?” The conversation then went into bullshit mode about women and life for a bit until he asked, “So, how long have you been here?”
“About nine and a half years,” I said.
“Nine and a half years. Why would you say nine and a half?”
“Because it’s not yet ten and I sort of thought, why exaggerate.”
“Yeah, but why nine and a half?”
“How long you been, here?”
“Now why would you want to know that?”
“I’m just making conversation. I don’t need to know anything. Where are you from?”
“Need to know. That sounds like military to me. I think that doesn’t matter at all. Where a person is from doesn’t matter. You’re an American.”
“Nope. What state are you from?”
“What state? Why would you possibly want to know that? It isn’t important. Nine and a half years. I just don’t understand why you would say nine and a half years.”
“It sounds like more than nine. Where do you live?”
“How long you lived there?
“Fifteen years, but been coming here for thirty.”
“You told me thirty before. Are you trying to mislead me? Oh, you a Vietnam War veteran?”
“Something like that. Are you a sleeper?”
“The company. You’re a sleeper, been here a long time. Yeah, you know what I mean. I think you’re a sleeper.”
Well, Stick, you just can’t make this stuff up. And this guy, from a country that has enshrined freedom of speech in its constitution, who was prepared to defend that freedom, could not, in the final essence, exercise it. I don't care what he used to be, but the thing is in his mind he hasn't stopped being whatever he was that made him a black hole for information.
Last night, after returning knackered from a visa run to Poi Pet, I sought to reinvigorate myself in Nana Plaza. I walked into Mandarin Bar, the same place where I had my barfine returned a few days ago. I couldn’t get a seat in front of the stage because every seat was taken by a touring group of American lesbians! A wall of lesbians, a veritable dike of dykes holding back the men from flowing into their natural habitat. Actually, I like being in this bar when the lesbians come in (there is someone local who speaks very good Thai who comes to the bar from time to time) because we are both after the same thing, yet they see their appetite as somehow free from base emotions and more understanding and sensitive in its appreciation of the dancing females. But they can’t escape the fact that if the dancers were not fashioned as they themselves were, they wouldn’t come.
The contrast between these eight to ten lesbians and the girls on stage could not have been starker. The visitors all had the standard short haircut, baggy men’s body covering, no makeup and a pinched look of severity on their faces, that look I remember so well from the nuns who taught me in primary school. They reminded me of untended garden allotments you can see from the train as you leave London for the north – they are fertile but nothing harvestable is growing there. The girls on stage, big bodied though they were, and some tattooed were shimmering compared to their lesbian sisters. The latter came alive a bit when YMCA was put on by the DJ, but soon they were on their way with their rucksacks slung over their broad backs.
I have some questions here of the lesbians. What were their thoughts about female exploitation – were they hoping for some but feared the consequences to the women’s movement if they slept with someone and paid them? Or did they see themselves as guardians of the female sex and just wanted to make sure the dancers weren’t too badly beaten down by their oppressors, the male sex? Or were they just tired of the drabness of their own community and wanted to see what that inner woman might break out to be if they were not so bound up with each other in their serious society? And what the hell they were carrying around in those bags-a change of gym clothes, an extra pair of shoes in case someone suggested racket ball? Those big, clumsy bags, so emblematic of the heavy burden each of them was carrying, were in fact the modern lesbian’s answer to the handbag-practical, Goretex strong, shapeless, able to carry way more than a compact, hairbrush and lip gloss-who needs that crap anyway. But they can’t fool me – girls will be girls and even these hybrids wanted to look at real women and be close to that heady perfume of femininity that they have denied themselves for so long. I like that they like what I like.
Later, in Erotica, without any prompting from me I got a rundown on the relative size of the phallus amongst Thai, Japanese, and farang men. The lovely New told me that she was afraid to go with me when I paid the barfine, but then told me cheerily I was lek and no problem for her. I had only been with the girl once and that was two years ago, but why she thought her little anecdote would help me, is anyone’s guess. I put it down to her wanting me to know what a relief it was that I had not injured her. Still, when she told me it was after I had already handed her a tip and you would think a little building up would have been good, wouldn’t you? She reminded me of the lovely Bua, formerly of Suzie Wong’s, who once pointed out a guy in the bar, a mountain of muscle who was grandstanding by tossing around a girl like she was a Barbie doll. She had feared going with him but he turned out to sport little more than a short pinkie-she even showed me using her own little finger. I don’t know why women want to tell me this stuff, but I can tell you that more than the odd guy felt compelled to tell me how big his Johnson was. Maybe I didn’t grow up right, but the absolute last thing on my mind is the size of anyone’s equipment. Say, you don’t think New is pointing me out in Erotica, do you?
Reports of trip reports around the bars are usually so drab, but you make them so interesting and always a good read.