A Sailor’s Last Dance
Today was one day when I wrenched myself away from working on Thai songs at the computer keyboard and sat listening to tracks on CD by Queen and Mark Knopfler, while sipping on a couple or three bottles of Bia Chang. I like my music to be loud enough as if I were in the concert venue where those tracks were recorded – but, really, the truth is I was in Thailand in my thoughts – wishing it was a case of "fair winds and following seas" as I looked back on 14 years of mostly good memories.
I love the sea but I have never been a sailor, even though I wanted that as a young man starting out on that great voyage of life – but you know the story – things get in the way and you have to change course for a different port. A few times, while listening to the music, a feeling of sadness crept over me – but it wasn't a feeling of regret for not realising the hopes I had for the association with Thailand – what I now see as my "one last dance". It was more to do with the impossibility of having those times again – all of those times that I would love to live through – oh, forever, I guess.
Thailand has been my emotional saviour – giving me everything that has enabled me to be a stable and mostly very contented person with no regrets since finding that Land Of Smiles.
Digressing here for a moment to highlight a point:
Strange how we always come back to our roots, no matter how many hoops we jump through or how high we fly on the trapeze – we always end up back on the ground playing the part of the clown.
I was particularly struck by this after listening to a new 2-CD set from Mark Knopfler called "Privateering" (available at CD World, Indra Arcade). Now I have long admired the man's ability as a guitarist in the days of Dire Straits and on into the live concerts he started to perform after Dire Straits disbanded – more particularly "A Night In London – Live" on DVD. "Privateering" has taken a giant step forward and yet backward at the same time – like splitting oneself in two.
Seems that the older we get, the more we return to basics – particularly when it comes to thoughts. We grow older and expect things to be simple, yet that is never the case because the more technology we introduce to "make life easier for us <???>" the more complicated life becomes.
Back in the days of the old Saturday-night Dance Hall, the last dance was something regarded as being very special. When you asked a lady for the last dance, it was usually that she would allow you to accompany her to walk to her front door – and just maybe, you would get a goodnight kiss. Mike McClellan produced a vinyl LP back around 1974 called "Ask Any Dancer" – the last track on the album being a song called "Saturday Dance". If you are ever lucky enough to hear it you will understand the etiquette and emotions at play in that situation of the Saturday Dance.
Back then, we are looking at a whole different set of accepted rules and values – a more civilized way of living and acting in social company. Henry Lawson wrote a poem about his deceased Love, Hannah Thorburn, titled "Do You Think That I Do Not Know?" The poem was put to music by Chris Kempster – and one verse in particular describes how strong values and respect were at that time (probably from around 1890 to the 1930s or so):
Our love burst came like an English spring
In the days when our hair was brown
And the hem of her skirt was a sacred thing
And her hair was an angel's crown
Fat chance of finding that attitude in The West these days – but maybe in some parts of Thailand still – although certainly not from the monger set or anywhere in the big cities. Maybe in some isolated parts of Lanna could you still find those values. I think so.
How times have changed for the worse. Sex is expected on a first meeting by most couples these days, when very few people are interested in getting to know their partner and it is quite often just a one-night stand. If people do marry now, it is normally just with the idea of extracting as much money as possible from the welfare system by having as many kids as possible (probably with both parents out of work and on Welfare as well – and quite happy to stay that way). Women from the "Bogan" set <baby factories> are quite happy to produce as many offspring as possible for the same reason – but often with a number of different male partners. Very few people seem to have any class any more. Even for those who do go through the "correct" channels of engagement, marriage and children (when they can afford to have them), it is truly amazing how many of these marriages end up on the rocks. What in hell has gone wrong with the human race? It seems to me that we are reverting back to becoming no better than animals – but I should apologise for that remark about animals – at least they have values and rules governing behaviour. We seem to have lost all of that.
Back to where I digressed:
I am writing this in the year 2014 – and the world is in chaos wherever one looks. Violence is rampant on the streets at night and shootings and stabbings occur even during daylight hours. Rape is an everyday occurrence and the use of alcohol and drugs is largely responsible for all of this. Nobody respects anyone else's property and theft by muggings or housebreaking is accepted as normal for the type of society we have created.
I often think it would be nice to go back to the Thailand of the period between 1890 and 1930 – when life was so much slower and there were social values in place that cemented people together under the umbrella of Buddhism and love for King. When I look at Thailand as it now is, I sometimes wish it were easy to find figures on social demographics from that earlier period – just to study the patterns of relationships / marriages – and compare the past to now.
The Thailand of today is changing rapidly. The unfortunate thing is that Thailand could never have been exempt from the effects of Westernization that has done very little to enhance the social mores of Thais – quite the opposite. It's as if Merlin appeared from "The Other Side" and cast a spell over Thailand that would change it forever – to become a nation totally trapped by consumerism and all the negatives in the bag of changes that was dropped on their doorstep.
What would Thailand be like today if The Vietnam Conflict had never happened? Would it be so hooked on consumerism – or would it still retain a large segment of National individuality? Without the gigantic influx of American Servicemen on R & R, airfield personnel based in Thailand – or the clandestine operatives of The CIA present, perhaps the changes could have been postponed for a decade or more. I think I would like to see that Thailand in the present – but, of course, that is an impossibility. Still, I have no complaints of what I have experienced in my time in The Kingdom. Yet, I do look back to the times when it was safe to make your way home from Sukhumvit (on foot and half drunk) – down narrow back sois to your digs in wherever that was (in Patumwan or Pratunam) – and you would never expect to be accosted, robbed or murdered. Today is different – and only a maniac would do such a thing late at night or in the early hours of the morning. How much responsibility for those changes should we hang around the neck of The West? Perhaps it is easier and more convenient and palatable for all concerned to blame it all on Merlin – after all, don't most people these days live in a world of total fantasy?