Why Stickman Will Be Back
Perhaps the best way to start this is from the very beginning, 11 years ago this month. Back then it had already been ten years since I first had the desire to visit Thailand. I enjoy the Asian culture and had visited the Philippines twice prior to my interests in Thailand. I was looking forward to checking out the golden temples, elephants, and whatever other things Thailand had to offer. Meeting and becoming good friends with Stickman was never even considered, but the way things turned out was very different than planned. Also living in Thailand was not planned, but here I am.
Being the type of person who likes to be informed in order to avoid stepping in things that leave a bad odor and a mess on your shoe, I searched the internet and found this site and the reader submissions that you are now reading. Back then there were far fewer submissions but nevertheless still a wealth of knowledge and experiences. I found myself reading most of them over the next few months. It provided me with a good feel of what Thailand was like, and I felt sufficiently prepared for what was ahead.
I also made a point of making some female Thai friends online that I could interact with. In the end it all boiled down to 2 Thai friends. They agreed to be my guide and I had no problem paying them. One was an accountant between jobs, and the other worked at a duty free shop at the airport in no man’s land. Both of them lived in the area of Don Meuang Airport in northern Bangkok.
As it would be, the hotel I selected had over booked me and I got an email from them just hours before I was to depart the states for Thailand. I asked the accountant what to do as I had not bothered to look at other options. I had chosen the Nana Hotel because it was in a part of Bangkok that English was spoken. Not knowing a single word of Thai, I felt Nana would be my launching point. The accountant offered to let me stay at her apartment for the first night and then go hotel hunting the next day. I very happily accepted her kind offer. It was from that I concluded that things in Thailand don’t always go as planned.
The accountant met me at the airport and she was very tired. Wheels down put me at the gate just around midnight. By the time I got past immigration and customs it was already after 1:00 AM. I met her and she and I grabbed a cab to her apartment some 6 km away. When I arrived I noted that other than her glassed in bed, the apartment was not air conditioned. She told me I could sleep in her bed and she would take the sofa. I looked at her king sized bed and at her being so small and petite, she barely made it up to my armpit. I told her the bed was very big and she could sleep on one side and me on the other and sill have room enough for a third person between us. I told her I was not looking for sex and did not even consider having sex with her as I saw her only as a friend. She agreed and we were both fast asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
About 2 hours later I rolled over and discovered she had snuggled up to me as my hand discovered her body inches away. Where my hand accidently brushed her was very wet, and needless to say that triggered the second thing that I had not planned to happen. So here I am just in Thailand for a few hours and had not even seen the sun rise yet, romping in bed. I was soon to discover many things would not go as planned in Thailand.
The next day she took me to Nana to hunt for a hotel. As it would be I ended up deep in Soi 4 at the Nana Thai Hotel and I would go there the following day as we opted not to haul my luggage around while hotel hunting. So needless to say we went back to her apartment and made the best of the wonderful Thai greeting I had in her bed the night before.
The next morning the other Thai who I had looked to hire met me and escorted me to my hotel. This girl I now see as my sister and she met Stickman as well some time later. I never had sex with her, but to this day she is the only person other than my girlfriend who has a key to my apartment. She is also gifted and has a near vertical learning curve and that is part of why I like her so much as a sister.
The next few days she showed me around Bangkok and we hit the usual tourist spots. Between that I had discovered Nana Plaza, and ended up barfining a service girl who turned out to be a gem. I told her what I did for work and she said the manager of her bar could use my help. Being on holiday, I did not mind and once again something else that was not planned was about to happen.
As it turned out her boss was none other than Dave the Rave. So doing my thing, I got Dave sorted out in short order and we became friends as he was very grateful for my help. A few weeks later it was Dave the Rave who introduced me to Stickman and he said he would only have done that if I was a quality person. He knew that Stickman likes to be anonymous in the crowd so he can do his thing without being hounded by readers. We did a simple greeting and talked just a few minutes and that was it.
Over the next few weeks I bumped into Stickman more and more and we became more acquainted and also got to be casual friends. I did not know this at the time, but I was gradually finding my way into Stickman’s inner circle of friends, however that would not be fully realized for a few more months.
Being now friends with Stickman and Dave the Rave, I was slowly being introduced to the other people in the inner circle that included the authors Dean Barrett and Stephen Leather who penned “Private Dancer”. It was turning out to be the who’s who of well known people. This also started to let me see the other side of Stickman in who he really is, as a person and not the Stickman persona you see on his website.
Being very good at what I do and according to my colleagues I am amongst the best of the best. So when the Thai Government found out I was in Thailand, they made a point of asking me to stay to teach them a few things. That too was not planned. What was to be a 2 month getaway quickly changed to living in Bangkok inside of 2 weeks of me being here. That all happened just around the time I first met Stickman in August 2004.
Part of my skill set is being able to read a person and I could see that Stickman was starting to show the early signs of burnout. Doing what he does to feed his website with fresh material every week was taking its toll on him. He had been at it non-stop for nearly 4 years. It was now March 2005, and the first real look at the man who is Stickman was when Dave the Rave experienced an unscheduled job change and friends were coming together to support Dave.
Stickman’s underlying personality is to be helpful where he can but not to overextend himself. He often writes about this as after all we are guests in Thailand and subject to the whims of the Thais. Meaning nothing is a sure bet and the goal post is consistently being moved. So to overextend is risky as the person you are looking to help is also far from being in control of the governing situations.
It took about a month or so and Dave the Rave found himself the new manager of Angelwitch. About a year after that Stickman found himself the victim of a stalker who turned out to be a mentally disturbed paedophile. Once again the tight nit circle of friends pulled together and helped Stickman. Citing his obviously increasing burnout, it was suggested that he take a break and after some consideration and checking with a doctor in the area of mental health, he shut down his weekly column from November 2006 until April 2007. It was during this time a different side of Stickman emerged.
For the first time Stickman was off the clock. There was no need to do the rounds to get material and other tidbits for his weekly column. He was happy to go out, kick back and just enjoy the company of his friends and for a change be a bit of a tourist. His stalker was already well on the way to self demise and delusional he had caused Stickman to stop publishing. The fact was Stickman was giving thought to taking a break long before the stalker came along. Although Stickman did not want to talk about his stalker, several of his friends were behind the scenes assisting the stalker to a quicker demise as well as many of Stickman’s fans who he did not know. So by the time Stickman resumed publishing, the stalker had become impotent and clearly mentally ill to even the most casual onlooker.
In the down time of early 2007, Stickman felt free of burden of the pen. Being free is no less refreshing than working for someone. Being able to sleep in or stay out late is reminiscent of the days when you first moved out of your parents' house. But after a while you start to get bored and look to resume some tangible activity, and Stickman was looking to fire up his keyboard again.
It was about this time Stickman did some weeding and sorted out the people who were good friends and those who were just fair weather friends. Seeing who had his back when the stalker thing was at its peek more or less selected the short list. The list that survived the cut had only about 6 names on it according to Stick, including my own.
From then on we were best of friends and went out on assorted adventures inside and outside of Bangkok. I really knew what made Stickman tick and how he responds to different situations. I could see he really enjoyed fresh scenery and the section of Sukhumvit he regularly covered was losing it’s appeal. That was a contributing factor to his desire to get out of town to see some new places. Those places included Cambodia, Vietnam and other places between Bangkok and Auckland.
Stick started doing more and more column openers from places other than Bangkok. They pointed to a growing desire to find new turf for his camera and keyboard to sample. Stick even made a few trips to New Zealand and only told a few people. Those friends did the look and see footwork for material for his column while he was away. As far as his readers were concerned Stick was still in Bangkok and the only clue he was away was the time of day he responded to reader emails.
We also had a few frank talks about where his life was going and what his options were. He enjoyed his trips home to Auckland, but I told him those experiences were the exception and not the rule. All his mates from back home were happy to see him and they went out of their way to spend time with him. For the most part it was not the true experience of being back home. Many of his friends had moved on in their lives and Stickman was not necessarily high on their list of their day to day priorities.
As time went on Stick wrote an opening piece about Bangkok being his home and he had changed enough that his life in New Zealand was not necessarily appealing. Like all people who have been away for a while, they remember how things were and not as they are today. When Stickman first came to Thailand mobile phones still had protruding antennas, no camera, and the blinding speed of 1G and not today’s 4G. Back then you also felt the need to carry a wad of toilet paper with you as finding a fully equipped toilet was touch and go to say the least. Thaksin was in office and his huge amount of corruption had a few years to go before it broke the surface and could no longer be hidden from view.
Time went on and few things changed. Stick really went to town on his photography hobby and the quality of his work shows in the large photos in his column. A new top end camera body and an expensive selection of glass to bolt to the front of the body was his new thing. The only thing that I noticed was the start of the burnout look again. He had been at it again non stop for 6 years, and the photography hobby was just as much about being creative as fending off burnout.
We had a few more talks as time went on and I could sense Stick was confused as what to do. He talked about moving to some other country. But once again that was more about being burned out and looking for some new stimulation. He took trips to Pattaya and was searching for that kick to relight his fire. We never really dwelled long on the topic and it was not needed. I had enough dots to see Stick was on the verge of making a major decision. But as I saw it, it was more of an experiment as he still did not know what he wanted or needed, much less how to get it.
In some ways me telling him my view about him going back to New Zealand to live bothered him. He knows I am a very good reader of people and often know things about people before they themselves even know it. So by me saying he would not be happy living back in Auckland bothered him. He saw me make predictions and see them come true before his very eyes on more than one occasion.
The next thing was the passing of a mutual friend. We both knew him well enough that we could sit and chat about things with him that were both funny and annoying and find a reason to laugh about both. Most everyone in Stick’s inner circle of friends knew him too. It is hard to say but that seemed to have an impact on Stick, as it seems to have struck very near to his own life as this person was more or less seen as extended family. Stick had written about many people passing away here or there but this was different and he acted different after the passing. This was a friend who was near the inner circle but not in it. It was shortly after this that Stick made the announcement he was bringing it all to an end and moving back to New Zealand.
First off, the ex-pats that are living in Thailand forget about some of the man made hells from where they came from. For example there is no political correctness in Thailand. If it is here it only exists in small gated communities that brought a piece of where they came from here. All of that causes excessive stress along with premature ageing and that is not Stickman’s desired environment. Personally I think that is part of the draw as to why Stick’s weekly column is so popular because it is not politically correct and it may even offer therapy for some.
Many people outside of Thailand have also copped an attitude and clearly not exercising their smile muscles. Thailand is not called the land of smiles because smiling is common around the world. That too is something that Stickman will have to deal with if he goes home. Simply ex-pats that have been in Thailand for a long time have long forgotten about those assorted unpleasantries and why Thailand is seen as an oasis from much of that.
Also ex-pats that leave Thailand with a round trip ticket don’t worry psychologically about coming back. They know they will be back so their mind is at ease. Anyone who has been sitting at a gate at the airport will often notice conversations between men as to when they will be back. There has never in the time I have been in Thailand that I did not hear conversations about Thailand and wonderful and interesting stories that would re-invite someone back. The thousands of reader submissions here is testimony to that.
On the other side, many suicides are tied to having to leave Thailand for good. Many can’t bare going back to where they came from for whatever reason and decide to exit a building from some other floor than the ground floor.
When asking Stickman his plans, he says he doesn’t have any at the moment and work-related decisions don’t need to be made right away. However as he does not have a return ticket to Thailand he will not have the same psychological mind set as others. After the initial excitement and euphoria wear off he will be face with the ‘Now what?’ question. The reality of that decision will not hit him right away and perhaps be delayed for a few weeks as he settles in to whatever lifestyle awaits him. Between the lines this says leaving Thailand is more of a reaction and not a well planned chapter change in the book of his life. <What ought to be considered is that this is the *5th time* in my life I have decided it was time for a change, have stopped what I have been doing without great regard for what the future may hold. Every time it has worked out fine! Some people plan, some don't, possibly because they have confidence in their ability to make things happen. Figure me in the latter camp – Stick>
I can’t see Stickman going back to a more traditional job of working in a fixed location. That involves limited options for food and freedom of movement that he has experienced in Thailand. He could never venture far from where his new work leg chain would be anchored. Once you have had the taste of freedom that Stickman had being able to travel and make his destination the opening topic for his weekly column, being chained down sounds as appealing as leftover pizza that has since dried out in the fridge.
For the most part everyone that Stickman and I know has said he will be back. He has had a taste of the good life and the freedom that comes with it. He has no restrictions to speak of and few people in the world can say that. As long as he has access to the Internet, he can operate from any place and tend to his website.
Another thing Stickman is trying not to think about is how many people actually depend on his weekly column. For one bar owners and managers see him as a double-edged sword. If Stickman writes a positive review about a venue, the venue does well. The opposite is also just as true. <It absolutely IS NOT – Stick> Also if Stickman makes a positive comment about a particular girl, she soon disappears from sight as she is likely to have back to back bar fines for months on end and may even be scooped up as a permanent take away for one man. Often the girl has no clue as to why her luck has suddenly changed so drastically. I have seen this happen time and time again. In many ways Stickman is far better than Trip Advisor as Trip Advisor is mostly powered by visitors and not locals.
So by Stickman just being Stickman, he has helped countless people avoid undesirable situations by reporting on assorted bar rip-offs as they appear. But once again Stickman will deny he has that much influence and just tries to pass it off as an over enthusiastic opinion. I feel the reason for that is once you are placed in a position of trusted authority, it is hard to go back to being just one of the guys. So by bringing his weekly column to and abrupt end, it does leave a hard pill to swallow and a significant guilt trip.
By his own words the column was created to keep his friends at home informed about his adventures in Thailand be they good or bad. It is just that now thousands of people now look to Stickman to steer clear of unnecessary and undesirable negative experiences cause by self serving people who try to rip off customers.
By Stickman writing about various less than desirable situations, some bar bosses wanted his head on a skewer for informing the public and for being honest and calling it as he sees it. That says bad behaviour was its own self defeating reward and that Stickman does weald the power of the pen. In today’s world, social media is very powerful and has even been known to help topple bad governments. In the case of Stickman, he is a single focal point that people can go to for pertinent information. So an over enthusiastic opinion about the power Stickman has, I think not. Where money is spent depends a lot on what Stickman says in his column.
Then there are also people who visit Thailand regularly once or twice a year and are sitting back home reading his weekly column who can take a walk down Soi Cowboy or other bar areas in their mind while waiting for their next visit. That alone brings back memories and acts as a magnet feeding the flow of people to Thailand and helps the economy. Their one or two weeks away from the real world is looked forward to for I dare say thousands. Although Stick would deny this, I know otherwise. I have asked many new faces in the bar area how they found this place, and Stickman came up more often than not.
There was one time in particular that Stick and I were exiting Tilac bar and walked passed 3 guys talking amongst themselves. The part of the conversation we over heard was that according to Stickman Tilac was his favorite bar so they should make a point to check it out. We just looked at each other, smiled a bit and walked on to our next stop of the evening.
So it is a mixed bag of emotions as he tries to deny he has that much positive influence as it leaves him feeling guilty and self serving to some extent when he shuts down the column. But as the column’s nature is to point out good and bad, it is hard to deny he did not put himself in that position.
So if you look at all of this you can piece together enough dots to see the underlying picture as to why people who know Stickman say he will be back. Yes he does need a break, of that there is no doubt. I for one am happy he can have one to get his head together and recharge his batteries. If someone was to ask about it I would have to say Stickman needs a vacation from his vacation. Some no doubt see Stickman as a horse running back into a burning barn wondering why he would want to leave a place so many long to come and live. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence and all those idioms do apply in this case.
So as the underlying theme of this submission is all about things not going exactly as planned, Stickman going back to New Zealand to live and be happy there is likely not to go as planned as well.
Like I said in comments I made within the article, I have a pattern of upping and moving on from things in life and this is far the first time I have done this. My reasons for leaving Thailand are numerous and I don't think you have done very well at identifying the reasons, rather have talked about just a couple of parts of the lifestyle here, things important to you but less so to me. It's nice that some people get some pleasure from the column and it's nice that the site in general provides people outside of Thailand with a feeling of connection to the country. At the same time it is not my responsibility to keep it all going. There are other Thailand sites out there.
There are MANY factors I considered before making the decision to leave and I think you have really only looked at the website / living in Thailand angle. We all have a very different set of factors that influence the big decisions in our lives. Some put a greater weighting on lifestyle, others on the amount of money they make, others on family etc. Unless you really know all the factors important to someone it's hard to understand how they reached the decision they did.
One thing I wanted to comment on was you saying that my column can hurt or harm a bar. Certainly, a glowing review can help a bar as readers might be inclined to go along and check it out. As for hurting a bar? No, I don't think so. What percentage of all customers who visit a bar each week regularly read the weekly column? Very few, I'd say. Even if I wrote a particularly scathing review – which I never would – and everyone who read it vowed to stay away, that's still only a very small percentage of the venue's customers who would refrain from visiting.
I am making no plans about what the future may hold, but at the same time I don't think it's likely I will be back any time soon. And even if I do return at some point, I think it would be VERY unlikely that I would crank up the column and continue it. There was a time when I really thought the column was worthwhile. There was a time when people generally seemed happy – both the girls were happy and the guys were happy. These days that doesn't seem to be the case and there's a lot of bitterness on the side of the ladies and a lot of disappointment on the side of the men. The way things are going in the industry and the way the world is going, I don't see things turning around, and I don't want to be covering an industry in decline. Where once I felt that what I was doing was genuinely worthwhile, these days I am not so sure that it is. The land of smiles moniker used to appropriate whereas these days, hmmm, I am not so sure. It was great to be amongst so many happy, smiling happy-go-lucky people but that's very much a memory. Thai people are now more focused on business, their careers and making money – which is a good thing – but at the same time it means the place is not as much fun as it used to be (and I am not necessarily talking about the bars here but the country at large.) Believe me, when I am back in my corner of Farangland people are happier, there are more smiles and those smiles are genuine! Besides, I need a new challenge and getting away from Thailand, away from my comfort zone, will provide that.
The bottom line is this: Don't count on seeing me back in Thailand any time soon for anything more than a short holiday.
* It should be noted that it's only the weekly column that will stop. So long as submissions continue to come in they will continue to be published.