Seeking Redemption in a Lifetime of Regrets
"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”
— actor John Barrymore
I freely admit to dwelling in the house of regret – an inner sanctuary now disturbingly comforting in its familiarity. In hindsight, two early forks in my life’s journey have played their part in steering me to an unforeseen destiny – of being a sexpat in Bangkok in my twilight years.
The first fork occurred more than 40 years ago, when I was about age 21. I was walking in Honolulu’s Chinatown area in the late afternoon. I had just finished browsing in a magazine shop and was walking back to my car.
I paused at the entrance to a bar with an unusual façade – white Greek columns framing the doorway. The darkened interior was concealed by hanging curtains. Curious, I parted the curtains and entered the darkness.
I descended a short narrow stairway to a ticket booth. It was a pornographic movie house. Feeling sickly nervous, I paid the cashier five dollars, and stepped through the curtain. A few men were sitting in the flickering darkness on a small set of bleachers in a large room, which smelled of stale cigarettes and beer. On the screen a porn movie was playing. Wow, what a trip. Naked people having sex right there on the screen!
My only previous encounters with pornography were buying an occasional “dirty” magazine from run-down stores in seedy areas. But I had never actually seen a porn movie. And it was in the daytime too!
I vaguely recall the sickly thrill I felt at watching people having sex. It is very likely that I was stoned at the time. I had started smoking marijuana by then, a mildly euphoric escape from reality that gradually escalated to a full blown addiction by my late 20s.
Thus began a decade-long ritual of going to porn movies in seedy theaters while high on dope. I remember the discomfort of being inflamed by sickly lust, but unable to masturbate freely in a public theatre.
Mind you, this was the dark ages of the 1970s.There was no such thing as the internet. The idea of a personal computer was not even remotely conceivable – it would have been like Neanderthal cavemen thinking about inventing the airplane.
Watching porn back then meant doing the “walk of shame” in disreputable areas of town, and sit silently amongst other loser lowlifes in grungy theatres. Later in the 1980s, the porn industry entered the high-tech age with the invention of VCR videotapes that could be rented.
At last! Demented loners could now masturbate safely in secrecy in their own homes. Instead of sitting through boring plots and dialogue, you could even fast-forward the tape to get to the hard core parts. You could even try to time your orgasmic release to match the porn stud on screen!
I do regret, however, that there are no “healthy” alternate choices with porn, which is solely about male fantasies of violence and degradation of females as objects. There are no depictions of the blissful sexual union between a loving man and woman. The more extreme sadistic porn episodes I have witnessed could be aptly described as legalized rape. I sometimes would sadly wonder what kind of unseen physical damage had been done to those compliant females, some of them gamely pretending to enjoy their obvious pain while being brutalized.
Repeated exposure to violent sex has tainted my psyche. I am not a kind and gentle lover as an aging sexpat loner. I instead tend to emulate the uncaring and rough porn studs I have seen, conditioned by a lifetime of sickly desperate fantasies in all those hours sitting in darkened theaters and my bedroom.
In the age of the internet, porn is now a contagion that can’t be curbed. Who knows what people are doing nowadays, including teens and kids, in the privacy of their bedrooms? How many will end up being a warped old man like myself, no one will ever really know, I suppose.
The second fork in the road occurred maybe a year later. It seemed inevitable that after my first porn movie I would encounter my first hooker.
It was during some kind of street festival in Chinatown. High on dope, I was following a voluptuous Asian dressed in a Cheong Sam tight shiny gown. At the intersection I smiled at her, but in return got an icy glare that shriveled me inside. Feeling the sting of shame, I started walking back to my car.
It was still early evening and the sidewalks were crowded. Ahead of me was a tall big-boned woman with short red hair, wearing a green sweater and short black skirt. I stepped up my pace until I was alongside. We glanced at each other, and it felt comfortable to say something.
“Howzit going,” I said. “Did you go to the festival?”
“No,” she replied. “How about you? Are you just cruising?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“You want a date?”
“A date?” I asked, startled. I hesitated, then said, “Yeah, OK. How much is it?”
“I have a place we can go to. It’s not very far.”
I followed her excitedly. My first whore!
We reached a shabby two-story building on Maunakea Street, where people lived above the shops. We went upstairs to a small room, with one section partitioned off by a small curtain near the doorway. As I walked past the curtain, I saw a small old Filipino man lying silently on a bed smoking a cigarette. He was gazing at the ceiling and did not look at me.
I followed her to a single bed by the window. I waited briefly while she went to say something to the man, and then came back. I felt weird, knowing the old man was nearby and could hear any noises we might make. She stripped, as I looked at her big and soft lower body with pasty white skin. She slipped a rubber on me and began sucking. I suddenly no longer cared about the old man and plunged into her.
After we finished, I was surprised to find out that she was from a local high school, and not from the mainland USA, as I had assumed. As I drove home, I began wondering how a local girl could end up like that, blinking back unexpected sudden tears at our loss of innocence.
Over the ensuing decades, I have lost count of the subsequent whores I’ve had. While my normal peers began finding mates and raising families, I had remained frozen in the emotionally stunted state of a young horny man, high on drugs, mindlessly seeking sex.
Sadly, that description still fits me now, amended only slightly – “emotionally stunted old horny man, high on alcohol, mindlessly seeking cheap FL sex.” And yet, in my lifetime of accumulating regrets, my biggest one right now is that I did not become a sex tourist much earlier.
As a university student, I came across a poem by Walt Whitman, “You Felons on Trial in Courts.” I never forgot its lyrical ending, which so aptly describes why I am here now.
derelict man lying on sidewalk in front of Golden bar
You felons on trial in courts;
You convicts in prison-cells . . . chain’d and hand-cuff’d with iron;
Who am I, too, that I am not on trial, or in prison?
Me, ruthless and devilish as any,
that my wrists are not chain’d with iron, or my ankles with iron?
FL ladies by Nana Hotel sign, and a man talking to one of them.
You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs, or obscene in your rooms,
Who am I, that I should call you more obscene than myself?
butt shots of Coyote bargirls at soi Cowboy
I acknowledge—I exposé!
The tattoo on the back of a girl in hotel room
O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me!
you make me wince,
I see what you do not—I know what you do not.
blowup of my face
Beneath this face that appears so impassive,
hell’s tides continually run;
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me;
I walk with delinquents with passionate love;
a FL undressing in a hotel room, next to an illuminated TV screen
I feel I am of them—
I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself,
And henceforth I will not deny them—
for how can I deny myself?