Back At The Beginning
Last night, I discovered the roots of my Thailand Odyssey – way back in early 2000. It was in a simple cafe/pizzeria/restaurant, where I played guitar on a regular basis – a venue frequented by many other musicians who would gather to let off a bit of steam by chewing the fat or just veging out. I called in last night, just off-the-cuff and was greeted by the warm handshake of the owner, Steve Hall. I ordered a Heineken beer and asked Steve to come and sit for a chat over a couple of drinks. He’s the boss so he can leave the work to his employees. Whenever I would be back from Thailand, I always made a point of calling in to see everyone at the restaurant. Of course, Jo had left by then- but I would always greet Steve with a handshake and ”How is the richest man in Paddington tonight?”
My, how things have changed. Admittedly, it was mid-week but there were few patrons occupying seats at tables and that made it better to be able to have a decent conversation. Back in 2000, there would be patrons hanging out of the doors and there was a real sense of urgency in the air.
As Steve sat down with a glass of red, I opened the conversation by saying “You keep your ear close to the ground – do you see much of David and my Daughter Leah?” Steve cracked a smile and said “Oh I often see him on that crazy little bike he rides. He gets around sometimes with a tall blonde woman – so I assume that must be your Daughter”.
Astounded, I said “Bike? … Steve, the last time I saw David he was driving an imported Porsche with a Boxster engine. He bought it LH drive from America and had to get it converted to RH drive.”.
Steve smiled … “Well, these days, he is driving a Ferrari”.
My Daughter has lived with David for a long time now but, back then, she had only become a Flight Attendant for QANTAS and she and David were just settling down to life as a couple.
Steve had to take an incoming call on cell-phone, so I let my mind wander back to 2000 and I began thinking of Jo, the young waitress who always managed to find time to sit with me before she began her shift. She was so lovely – a friendly person and I always felt toward her as if she were my own Daughter. At that point, I almost wished I were back in that period again – sitting and chatting with Jo as I tuned my guitar and moved The Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand just out of the way.
Jo asked me if I would visit Thailand and I told her “I am almost certain I will go there quite soon”.
Her eyes lit up and she said “Oh, that is so wonderful to be able to do that – to just decide to do something and then do it – you must do that – just go!” She was so excited and happy for me.
I knew she was doing Environmental Science at University, so I decided to give her the name and contact of a Professor in Environmental Science at ANU (whom I knew personally) because I wanted Jo to have all the help possible to be really successful in her choice of career. Like most things, it often helps more with who you know rather than just what you know.
When Steve finished his call I asked him “Steve, do you know how Jo is now going – you know, Jo – the young waitress who worked here back in 2000?
Steve smiled and began “Yes, I know that Jo has made a very successful career in marine biology – she is right into diving and does it very well. I know she works in North Queensland on The Great Barrier Reef. I heard she was in a relationship with some guy whom she thought was special – but it didn’t work out. Thank goodness there were no children involved in the break-up”.
I began to feel sad for Jo – I do hope she is now happy.
I never forget my last night at the restaurant, where I had to do my last few sets on guitar. Jo had said to me, before we started work, “You know, I’m going to get you drunk tonight, don’t you?”
I had started the evening on Cointreau – and Jo kept bringing me shots to keep me well primed. God, love her, I just wanted to hug her and tell her how much I loved her. I really think she knew that anyhow. How could anyone not love Jo?
My God, I would love to see her again. So many times, since that night, I have thought about her and wished she really was my Daughter and we still had contact. They were magic days and nights – practise hours with another guitar picker during the day, on a new song or two, and playing practically all the nights. It was like living a dream. I really don’t miss the guitar playing but I do miss all the good friends from that period. Some of them are dead already from a life of excesses or just damned bad luck through illness.
I intend to visit Steve again and we will have a meal and a few drinks (on me) and just pick each others’ brains for laughs and bloody good memories – and, you just never know – but I may be lucky enough to say “hello” once again to that lovely little waitress Jo.
I will go back to Thailand early in 2017 – and it may be to my beloved Bangkok – or it may be to that little bar on Kotchasarn, in Chiang Mai. I don’t know if Wan and I will even be able to share a drink or two. I would like that – but, if it doesn’t happen, I will still have a few million memories of that amazing Thai Odyssey – and the special memories I will always have of my Dear Jo – the lovely person I will always thank for prodding me to go in search of the dream. God bless you Love – may you have a long and very happy life.
The author can be contacted at : [email protected]