This Ain’t No Place for the Weary Kind
This ain't no place for the weary kind
This ain't no place to lose your mind
This ain't no place to fall behind
After fifteen years of living here it was inevitable that I would, eventually, get around to visiting Soi Cowboy. I’ve passed by the entrance on Asoke Road on many occasions and rubber-necked the neon stretch, which runs between sois twenty one and twenty three, but the other night was the first time I’ve actually ventured into any of the bars along this institution of Bangkok’s red light districts.
To be honest it’s been quite a while since I’ve gone into a beer bar of any sort; I realized a while ago that the only way to really stay in shape – to avoid getting a gut – when you’re on the wrong side of fifty, is to stay off the booze. That, plus the fact that it’s been years since I had any particular affection for the bar scene, had me avoiding this buzzing stretch of neon that I was about to enter. I didn’t really have any set location I wanted to check out but Stick’s reports of the famed soi had one bar, the Tilac, firmly embedded in the grey matter, and so, it was there that I headed to first.
Entering from the Asoke Road end I made my way up the soi checking out the action. It was Saturday night and the high season; the place was a hive of activity. About half way along, on the left, I found my intended destination; the Tilac bar. I made my way across the outdoor seating area and opened the felt curtain of the entrance into the gogo bar. Going into gogo bar in a sober state is probably never a good idea but, as I stepped inside and stood there looking around for somewhere to sit, the only thing I had running through my mind was that I was stepping back in time. I was looking at my past; a past that was saying to me been there, done that, got the T-shirt, it’s time to move on. Perhaps I’m a dull bastard these days but standing there looking at the dance platform and all the frenetic, pissed up activity before my eyes I couldn’t help but think that the whole scene looked rather pointless; a bit like a frantic dog tied to a fixed chain and running around in circles chasing its tail.
I stepped back out, took a seat at the outdoor bar and ordered a Heineken. There was a smartly dressed, slightly inebriated, farang sitting next to me. We struck up a conversation. He was a long term, resident expat involved in some fairly solid type of business operation. We talked for a few more minutes and, as he got up to head back inside, informed me there were a couple of gogo dancers fighting over him and he had to decide which one he wanted. I smiled. Is that what it becomes for long term resident, cashed up expats, is it? Your Saturday nights having a couple gogo dancers fight over you.
After the recent ongoing debate regarding the morality (or the lack thereof) of the ‘industry’ and its participants, I have to say, from an objective and initially sober viewpoint, there’s very little that’s positive that I encountered down there. I don’t really think the issue of whether, or not, it's moral has much to do with it; the whole thing appears to me like a black hole that just sucks the life out of anyone that spends too long there and the enjoyment factor only seems to increase as one consumes greater quantities of booze. It’s a false world. When you’re selling love you sell a small part of you each time until there’s nothing left but a world devoid of compassion. The girls all smile and look happy enough on the surface but, when you look at their eyes, there’s a great deal of sadness and disappointment looking back at you. I guess the mindset of mai pen rai and living for the day helps them get through it but the fact is I would lay a bet that each and every one of them, given the option of making the equivalent amount of money doing something else, would be out of there in a heartbeat. And, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? The great, enduring hope they all have; that they’re going to meet that one guy who’s going to get them out of there and be theirs, and their families, life line to a better life.
I ordered another beer and began to consider my own situation. Stick's closing comment on Dana’s Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes 242 had me going through some sobering introspection. If anyone had told me that I’d be in the situation I was in now, when I first arrived here seventeen years ago, I may have considered them to be stark, raving mad. Maybe Anna Leonowins’ peers had it right after she advised them of her intent to take up a post in this land of layered realities: “what madness is this you are entering in to.” Still, looking back on the time line of life, there are those critical moments when decisions are made which put you on another path to which you may, in hindsight, have preferred not to be on. Poor option taking does not forgive, it just wears you down. And, being worn down, in this pitiless land, is something that affords no sympathy, just an assault on the very soul of a man. Remorse can be an engulfing thing and many a man has looked for a salve to his soul in more of the same. There is no long term salve in more of the same though just temporary relief on a downward journey into a place of darkness.
And so it was, for me, sixteen years ago. Going bareback with that eighteen year old gogo dancer seemed a good idea at the time. It’s funny how good ideas always seem better than they really are when you’ve got a skin full of booze. Two months later, when I was informed that the small human growing inside her stomach was mine, I realized that it was a very poor idea. However, being from a place where a man is always expected to do the right thing, I stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for my uncalculated actions. Any doubts about who the father was were dispelled when the four kilo, screaming bundle of arms and legs popped out seven months later. The problem was, of course, it was a relationship that wasn’t built on any real substance, just a liaison due to an accident. Doing the right thing eventually becomes a burden when the interest in each other is minimal. Even more difficult when there’s not even a physical attraction. And so, just like many other farang living in this land of temptations, you begin casting your eyes about for something more delightful to the eye.
I spotted Ning in a gogo bar in Pattaya (history repeating itself) and she was delightful to the eye. Lithe and physical, she was highly sexed and about the closest thing to a nymphomaniac I’ve met in Thailand. The wife had taken the kids back to the village during the school holidays and so; I spent the next two weeks enjoying the most torrid, passionate sex I’d ever had in my life. By the time the wife arrived back, I’d started organizing the mia noi deal for Ning in Bangkok.
I had the perfect setup to be able to spend time with her on a regular basis due to the fact that I worked in the offshore oil and gas industry. On the way out, I’d have a few days with Ning. On my arrival back, in Bangkok, I’d spend up to two weeks with her before returning to Pattaya. I was living the ultimate double life, a Jekyll and Hyde bouncing between, for all appearances, a normal family life in Pattaya and the emotion testing life with a mia noi. Days become months, months become years and one day you realize that there’s some issues you need to come to terms with. The dysfunctional family environment has become apparent; the son you hardly converse with because your Thai language is as poor as his English. The mia noi that, for the first couple of years, seemed totally focused on you is now developing some all too familiar traits. Traits that you can read about time after time on this site and which you find yourself, begrudgingly at first, saying; I know that guy, it’s me. Eventually you understand that no matter how much you give/pay for/buy; enough is never enough and it’s no surprise to find that you’ve been dumped for an upgrade.
The pain is very real and you come to terms with many of the submissions that you once derided. A man’s self esteem is challenged when you realize that you were just a stepping stone on her quest to a better life. There is no pity from the other side just the cold, hard finality of “it had to be done, my family come first.” It takes some introspection and clear thinking to move on. Ron L. Hubbard’s analysis on the human condition helps to make you stronger again. The idea that each individual has a limited amount of space around him that can be occupied by other humans is worth considering. If some of those spaces are occupied by people who have a continual negative effect on you then your vital energy, or very life source, is being drained from you; negative influences can be physically and mentally destructive. Do not allow energy drainers to be around you; only let people with a positive effect into those spaces because they will lift up and sustain you. Carl Jung also said that if you break all matter down to its minutest, all you’ve got are light particles. Light particles are, essentially, just energy and, all energy is interconnected to some degree. In other words, all energy sources influence us; negative energy will tire us and positive energy will give us a boost.
You start to realize that there may, in fact, be something in the idea that people are only compatible with certain people and that something which, at first, may seem like bizarre ancient, superstition may have merit in it after all. When you type in the birth details, of you and your ex, into the Chinese horoscope compatibility calculator, it’s no surprise when you’re informed you’re heading for an unmitigated disaster. Hindsight, of course, is a beautiful thing but it is helpful when you begin to cast around again. The hard lessons learnt from past serve to strengthen you in the future. Forewarned is fore armed and knowledge of the type of person you should be looking for make you far more discriminating. Sometimes it happens in a moment; that certain one. The smile is genuine. The attitude that tells you that she’s happy just to be with you; that there’s no hidden agenda behind the eyes. When you see that moment you grab the bull by the horns and begin to think that Buddha has decided to smile on you again. A quick check of both of your birth details on the good old Chinese horoscope compatibility calculator reveals that you’re a perfect match. Your positive energy has returned.
Pick up your crazy heart
And give it one more try.
I love these submissions where the writing comes from the heart. Great, powerful stuff.