A Perfect Life
John is retired and living in Bangkok, he has what I consider is a perfect happy life. But it wasn’t always like that. Before we get into his present life style, here is a brief history of John and his life before he retired.
John and myself worked together for many years. We’re both engineers, worked in Sydney Australia, primarily for the oil and gas industry. We became good friends, generally downing a couple of beers on a Friday evening after work, or tinkering with old motorcycles in his garage on a Saturday afternoons.
John married a beautiful woman, Mary, she was a Sophia Loren look-a-like, very pretty. All the guys were envious of John. I liked Mary; she was funny, outgoing, and above all very sexy. But…yes isn’t there always a but….all was not well in paradise.
Over the following years she became caustic, finding fault with everything John did, or didn’t do.
I had no idea what was wrong until several years later we were enjoying a beer on a Friday evening, I asked him why they had no kids. He looked off into space, saying “Mary’s baby making parts are broken, and can’t be fixed”
I apologised for intruding on his private life.
He smiled with saddened eyes “No, no not at all mate, don’t worry about it”
I’m not a phycologist, but women who find they can’t have children sometimes become very depressed and lash out at anybody, in this case John.
Things slowly deteriorated. John was no fool and knew divorce was looming on the horizon.
Several years before he was married, his sister who lives in Europe became ill, and was hospitalised. John flew home to be with her. While he was back in his old country, he took the opportunity to open a bank account, figuring it might be handy to have cash on hand if he ever holidayed there. He opened the account making sure it had internet banking.
That old account in Europe was to become very important. Mary knew nothing about the account; in fact John had almost forgotten all about it.
He realised his Sydney account had a balance that was way too high, he slowly began to siphon money to the old account in Europe.
Back in the day, we would be paid bonuses or expenses separately from our normal salary. John would immediately send these payments to his European account. Over time he managed to build a healthy bank balance in Europe.
Luck was on his side, Mary never really got involved with the day to day home finances, John paid for almost everything. Mary had a generous allowance and a credit card for clothes, cosmetics or other items, and she had her own car, which John would fill it with fuel, check the oil, tyres and make sure it was road worthy. His own car, a 10 year old Camry, was reliable, but he was thinking of buying a newer or perhaps brand new one.
Divorce rumblings were in the air. John was still trying to surreptitiously draw down the Sydney bank account.
He decided to re-decorate the house, hiring a relatively expensive company to carry out the work, the result, although expensive, was impressive, Mary even begrudgingly agreed. Next was his car. He decided to buy a new car, and instead of another Camry, he went for a Lexus.
Between the house improvements and the new car, the bank account was looking a lot lighter.
Almost right on schedule, Mary announced she wanted a divorce.
The resulting dragged out court battle was toxic, venomous and emotionally taxing.
John had hired one of the best divorce lawyers in town. He was not cheap, but John would admit later “Worth every penny”
Mary finally was paid about a quarter of what she thought she would get. She was angry, screaming obscenities at him in the court room, necessitating the judge to warn her if she couldn’t be quiet she would be removed. John managed to keep the house. He made a big deal of having to organise a re-mortgage to pay her out. Once the divorce was finalised, and Mary had left the house, he easily paid off the temporary mortgage with funds from the European account.
I tried to console him, but he was shattered, emotionally drained, he hated western women. He would call them “A dried up bunch of card carrying feminists who wouldn’t know a good man when they saw one”
(Australian women are very pro-feminist, almost to a point that men are losing interest in any sexual attraction, no matter how pretty they are. Guess why a lot of the mongers in Bangkok are from Australia)
John was in his fifties, and was very bitter, he wanted out of Australia. He was considering returning back to Europe, but he hated the winters there. He once told me that “he didn’t like the wind, rain and cold during the winter, or the long dark miserable days”
One of the guys in the office suggested Thailand, saying its Expat friendly, cheap, and has very nice extra-curricular activities, in other words, rather interesting after dark exercises, which was accompanied by sniggers from the other office guys.
John initially dismissed the idea, but it took hold.
He decided to take a look. Flying to Bangkok for a week. Once she sampled the delights of the pretty little Thai females, he was hooked.
He returned to Sydney, put his house on the market. It sold within one month, and for an amount that far exceeded his initial estimate.
He relocated to Thailand, on a retirement visa. Initially he wanted to be reasonably close to the night life, renting a condo a couple of blocks from Soi 4 at the western end of Sukhumvit Rd.
At this point, John figured he had landed in heaven, he was cashed up and living in the land of smiles.
He began to drink in as many of the bars as he could find in the nana area, he became a familiar figure on the club scene. He would head out to the bars and clubs at five in the afternoon, staggering back at ten or eleven pm with a girl; or sometimes girls in tow.
His drinking increased, from three or four beers to seven or eight. Leaving him totally drunk. Amazingly even though almost totally legless, he always managed to arrive back at his condo with a young beauty.
All this drinking was having a detrimental effect on his health. He developed a horrible rattling cough.
Sometimes he would go into a coughing spasm where he needed to hold on to something, as black spots began to float before his eyes.
Still he continued drinking and mongering at full throttle.
His days consisted of waking at nine or nine thirty, with a blinding headache. Shuffle around the apartment looking for alka-selzer and aspirins. Drink litres of water. When the hangover started to lift, get the household chores done, pay bills and buy food, if he needed any. Although he had become a regular customer at Carls Jnr close to Soi 3, he loved their burgers.
All the fast food and beers had a drastic effect on his weight, and waste line. Both ballooned. His good quality Australian clothes no longer fitted, instead he wore cheap knock off jeans and T-shirts bought from a street trader, the once shiny loafers he regularly wore were discarded for cheap plastic flip flops.
John was now a shell of his former self. But worse was to come.
One night after drinking more than normal he was mugged as he staggered home on a dark street. The attackers hit him over the head, stole what money he had left and dumped him on a piece of scrubbed waste land in front of an old building. John lay there unconscious until it began to rain, the raindrops splashing on his face pulling him out of a deep dark pit. He staggered to his feet, unable to remember what had happened. He tried to see what time it was, but his watch was gone. With a pounding headache he was a sad forlorn figure staggering along in the rain. Somehow he made it to his apartment, and passed out on his bed, still fully clothed.
Next morning the guy with the jackhammer inside his head told him this pain was not beer, something was wrong; He opened his eyes, but had double vision. Feeling the back of his skull revealed a large bump almost he size of half a tennis ball. Try as he might he couldn’t get his vision to focus. The double vision was making him nauseous. He discovered if he closed one eye, the double vision disappeared, but what was left was blurry.
“Jesus, what the fuck happened?” he said to himself.
He made it to the kitchen, the pounding headache was debilitating, with shaking hands he eventually managed to find Alka-Seltzer and aspirins, drinking down the lot and sat unsteadily at the kitchen table trying to remember last night.
Glancing at his wrist he noticed his missing watch, which brought back the memory of waking up in the weeds.
Suddenly the realization hit him, he was mugged, he shuffled back to the bedroom, and searched his jeans pockets, his bill fold clip was gone. But luck had been on his side, he’d forgotten to bring his passport and wallet, all they stole was probably a couple of hundred baht, a hundred dollar watch that was several years old, and a small stainless steel bill-fold.
Relieved he hadn’t lost too much, but also aware he now needed medical attention to fix his double vision. He showered , which was an arduous affair, if he bent down the shower seemed to spin, in all kinds of odd movements, “okay “ he said to himself “No bending down”
Eventually showered and dressed, he taxied to the hospital.
The young doctor, shone a light into his eyes, then held up one finger and asked “How many fingers can you see”
John confidently replied “Four”
He had suffered mild concussion. After several medications, the double vision cleared. The medical staff wanted to keep him in overnight, John decided he was okay. After paying the bill, returned to his condo.
He was now nervous, he had considered Bangkok was reasonable safe, but it seemed not as safe as he thought.
At this stage a normal guy would curtail his alcohol consumption, not John. He figured all he had to do was drink earlier, and get home before dark….duh!
He now started to head to the bars at noon, wobbling home at five or six pm. However this presented a problem, he quickly found the number of lovelies available greatly reduced. It seemed the prettiest girls only arrived after dark. Not perturbed, he widened his search to some of the other soi’s, eventually finding girls that were working during the day.
The only down side was, when he used to staggered home at the old time of ten or eleven pm, the only concierge on duty would be a single guy who barley looked at him as he passed with a different girl almost every second night. The problem with the six pm arrival was the concierge team in the lobby comprised of a couple of women, who made their feelings blatantly obvious as they gave John distasteful stares when he pulled a young girl along passed the front desk.
But John didn’t really care, it was his apartment, and his life. He was going to live it as he saw fit. All was going well, or more correctly three sheets to the wind well, but …there goes that but again…
One afternoon he was drinking in one of the bars that opened on to the street, where you can sit and watch the world go by. John was thinking about heading home, it was just past five pm, he had consumed enough beer and it would be sun-down in about one hour. Just as he was about to leave it started to rain. He thought no problem, he would have another beer, and wait for the rain to stop.
Typically the tropical downpours in Bangkok last about 30 minutes give or take. It will pour down, cats and dogs as they say, the deluge will sometimes flood the streets.
This time the rain was accompanied by a thunderstorm. John watched as lightning tore at the air. Thunder claps so loud it rattled the windows. Street traders ran for cover, people huddled under awnings or in doorways. John watched in awe at the display Mother Nature was putting on. Water cascaded off the roof like a waterfall.
The problem was it was getting dark, and the rain showed no sign of easing, he was still drinking beer, he shrugged to himself, what else was he going to do. Eventually after two hours the rain began to ease. John, now totally legless, wobbled out of the bar, and began to walk stagger home. He was using the walls and store windows along the street as a method of keeping upright.
He came to a driveway opening in the sidewalk, it was full of rain water, john nonchalantly stepped into the void, suddenly realising it was deeper than he thought, the sudden drop made him pitch forward and he went into a run, crash tacking a concrete gate post on the other side, a rugby team would be proud of the move. A sudden searing pain erupted in his shoulder, and is leg seemed to have hit something.
A woman saw him falling and rushed to help, but when she noticed his drunken state she hurried away.
Somehow he made it back to his apartment. In the bathroom he looked in the mirror, a drowned rat looked back. He was soaked his shoes were full of water, stripping off his shirt, he inspected the red bruise on his shoulder. He slipped off his shoes, and that’s when he noticed his right shoe, it wasn’t water, it was full of blood.
“Fucking hell” he exclaimed.
He struggled to get his jeans off noticing the bottom of the leg coated in blood. Once off he saw the injury. A long deep gash had opened up almost the full length of his calf. Blood was flowing freely. “Jesus” he moaned as he grabbed towel and wrapped his leg. Between the booze, the pain in his shoulder and now his leg he felt nauseous and light headed. He needed a bandage. His first aid box only had Band-Aids and small bandages. He decided to cut up a sheet and make a bandage, instead he found a pillowcase in his closet. Somehow with shaking hands he cut it into strips and wrapped his leg, the bleeding seemed to stop.
He knew he should get to the hospital, but he was so drunk, the thought of going back out onto the streets was not an option. He fell into bed out cold.
Next morning he woke, sunshine streamed in thought the window, the room was hot and humid, beads of sweat tricked down his face. His head hammered in concert to his racing heart. He had forgotten to switch on the air-conditioner. He tried to reach the air-con remote on the bedside table, and that’s when his shoulder exploded in pain.
“Jesus! “ he exclaimed. “what the hell”
He gently explored his hurt shoulder with his hand, it was very tender, but nothing seemed to be broken, then he remembered his leg. With maximum effort, he sat up in bed, and looked with horror at the blood soaked bandage. Dried blood was caked to the roughly wrapped material. It had soaked the sheet and the mattress.
The sight almost made him pass out, as the bedroom suddenly started to sway. He closed his eyes and waited for the dizzy spell to pass. He struggled to sit up and swing his legs towards the floor, the movement not only sent hot pains through his shoulder, and fiery darts of searing pain were erupting in his leg.
John realised he was in bad shape, he needed a hospital. He managed to get to the bathroom, in the mirror a ghost looked back. His skin had taken on a strange grey pallor, dark circles surrounded his eyes which were sunken in his face.
“Christ” he said to himself “I look half dead”
He knew what was wrong, he had lost a lot of blood. His shoulder had an ugly dark blue bruise that ran from his neck to the top of his arm, He looked at it with a sigh, although it hurt, he wasn’t too worried, it would heal in time, his leg however was a totally different issue. He needed water aspirins and Alka-Seltzer . He kinda hopped to the kitchen, each hop felt like his head was going to explode. Drinking down the seltzer and painkillers he collapsed into a chair just in time. Suddenly the kitchen felt like an inflatable dingy negotiating white water rapids, swaying a spinning all over the place. The dizzy spell lasted for a couple of minutes, but felt a lot longer. He sat there for an hour, willing the tablets to work faster.
Okay he said to himself, its hospital time. He had to get his led looked at.
Getting to the hospital was an arduous affair, especially trying get into and out of the dam small taxi. Once inside the hospital the pretty lady doctor gave him a local anaesthetic. Then they worked on him for almost two hours, cleaning and stitching his wound. Finally he was put on an IV drip for dehydration, given pain killers. He stayed in the hospital overnight, arriving back at his apartment midmorning the next day. Strict instructions were given, one of which was absolutely no alcohol.
Over the following week he visited the hospital every day where they changed the dressing and checked for infections.
The lack of alcohol had a dramatic effect, firstly he started sleeping a lot better, and the alcoholic fog that he had been living in for almost a year started to lift. John was thinking clearly for the first time.
He knew his life had been circling the drain, and if he stayed with booze and bargirls he would probably not survive another year.
As engineers we are trained to apply logic to solve problems. John’s logical brain came back to life. The steps are, firstly study the issue. Identify the problems and solve them.
The first issue was his proximity to the red light area, sometimes euphemistically called ‘the swamp’. This area is located at the western end of Sukhumvit road. Its bordered by Soi 3, 4 on its western side, and Soi 8, 15 at its eastern side.
Inside this relatively small area is a vast array of hookers, bar-girls, ladyboys, boys, drug addicts and god knows what else. If you’re not careful, the swamp will chew you up and spit you out, and John was living right in the middle of it.
His first order of business was to get out of the neighbourhood.
He contacted a real estate agent, and eventually found a lovely apartment away from the girls and bars. It was big, actually huge 240 Sq metres. I’ve been in smaller houses.
It had three big bedrooms, two bathrooms, new kitchen and is fully air-conditioned. Security was good, with guards on the front gate, twenty four hour staffed front desk, and swipe card secure access to all the floors.
He immediately took the apartment.
His next issue he needed to deal with was personal health. Prior to his relocation to Bangkok, John had never been in hospital. But since he began his live in Thailand he’d been hospitalised twice, all in the space on one year. The common tread to both visits was alcohol. Actually not alcohol per say, but the amount he was consuming, and in John’s case it was way too much. It was blatantly obvious he needed to reduce his drinking, and get in shape.
He discovered a park near his new apartment, and began a regime of walking every day. He would walk for one hour.
Within a couple of months his normal trim figure had returned, and with it his feeling of wellbeing.
Happy with the way things were going he still needed to do something. Hanging around all day doing nothing was a recipe for drifting back to the bars and girls.
He thought he might try working part time for some of the local engineering companies, after all he was an experienced engineer. The problem was he was on a retirement visa, which didn’t permit him work in Thailand.
One morning while walking in the park he hit on an idea.
Myself and others had told him he should write, become an author.
John is a natural word smith. Back in Sydney his engineering reports were a joy to read. He became the go-to guy to proof read and edit any report, especially ones going out to clients.
That faithful morning in the park, John decided to write a book, but what was the subject matter, he had no idea. As he walked along he decided to write a kinda autobiography. He had a lot of material, and he could spice it up a bit, no he grinned, sex it up a little, actually a lot. He laughed out loud, much to the surprise of others walking close to him.
He also decided to learn the local language, subsequently enrolling in a college that gave him a fluent speech in Thai. He told me that learning Thai had opened up the country to him, he delighted in chatting to the people, taxi drivers and street food vendors.
John immediately began set out the book, and after four months of work, he had it finished, but now he hit a problem. He had no idea about the publishing world, or how it all worked.
Researching the issue he discovered E-books, and the new world of online publishing. He figured why not, and subsequently published it with Amazon under a pseudonym . Encouraged and delighted, he set about writing another book, and again published it online. The next year he published three books and the following year two more. John had become a prolific writer. The royalties began to flow into his account.
He was not completely at ease with the money flowing into his Thai account, subsequently redirecting it to his European bank.
Two years ago he had enough to purchase an apartment in Europe. He grinned at me when we discussed this, saying “I’m like one of those migrating birds, flying south when winter approaches”
John is happy with his life.
When I visit Bangkok, I generally stay in John’s apartment.
His day is, to say the least, slightly unconventional. He rises at five am. Makes himself green tea, and goes straight to work. He will re-appear at nine am for breakfast, which normally consist of toast, cheese and more green tea, Twenty minutes later he is back at work.
At roughly noon, or one pm, he will re-emerge from his office, shower, and announce we’re heading out to lunch. Dressed in a casual cream pants and navy blue cotton shirt, we stroll a couple of blocks to a nice restaurant.
I go for a Tom-yam-koon, spicy prawn soup with rice. John has chicken fried rice.
I watch in fascination as he eats the dish with chop sticks. His dexterity with those two wooden sticks is surprising. If I tried to eat a rice dish with chopsticks, I’d probably starve to death. Halfway through lunch he suddenly stops, puts down his chopsticks, pulls a small notebook out of his pocket and quickly jots down some notes.
Noticing me looking at him “Sorry” he says apologetically “I just thought of something, I like to get it down non paper before I forget it”.
“Do you carry that everywhere?” I asked, pointing at the notebook
He nods smiling, “Yeah, always, you never know when an idea will pop into your head”
Resuming his precision with the chopsticks, I ask him about the methods of writing a book.
He tells me he has the ability to see the story in his head like a movie, and when he writes he goes into his zone, while in this state he becomes oblivious to what happening around him, it’s just him, the keyboard and the story running in his head. He says sometimes he’s surprised to discover that he’s been writing for four of five hours non-stop. Later he researched his ‘zone state’ and found it was actually called ‘Flow-state’. Apparently a lot of creative people have this ability.
After lunch we amble back to his apartment, and John goes for a one hour nap. At three in the afternoon he re-emerges and spends the next hour researching material. His new book is about a detective working in the London metropolitan police. We search through a lot of information about the British police force. At four thirty, he showers again, and dressed for an evening at Soi cowboy.
I’m surprised when he walks into the kitchen wearing a tailored charcoal grey suit, crisp white shirt and dark blue silk tie complete with gold tie pin.
“John” I chuckle “You’re heading to Soi cowboy dressed like a banker?”
He smiled “You’ll be surprised the reactions you get when you dress like this”
I shrug ”Okay” I replied “This I have to see”
To say the reaction was surprising would be an understatement.
To watch all six feet of John, resplendent in his tailored suit, collar and tie, stroll into Soi cowboy as like something out of a movie.
The screeches of excitement from the girls was comical, all wanted to talk to him, and he obliged, stopping and chatting and laughing with them. What should have taken us five minuted to get to the bar, took almost twenty. John stopped and talked to everybody.
Eventually we make it to the Tilac bar.
Inside John orders a gin and tonic, with beer for myself. It’s still relatively early, the sun has just gone down and the street neon is flickering into life.
As we sip our cold drinks, I ask him if he will ever go back to Sydney.
He shook his head “No, I don’t think so, you can’t replicated a place like this in Australia. Besides I can’t stand all those bloody feminist down there”.
“Are you going to stay in Thailand?”
“For the time being” he winks “Life has become very easy here. I guess I might head back to Europe at some time in the future, but for now, I’m happy here”
Suddenly a very pretty little girl walks up behind him, throws her arms around his neck and kisses him in the cheek. He grins, as she comes around and plonks herself down beside him. She a tiny little thing, still dressed in her street clothes, consisting of blue jeans and white blouse. Shes very pretty. Long shiny raven hair, worn in a fringe style, large sparking almond eyes, above a tiny button nose. Perfect cupid bow lips glisten with pink lipstick. She has no boobs, at least I don’t notice any bumps, just hard nipples that are reacting to the artic blast of frigid air from the air-conditioning.
John introduces her as ‘Bee’ She smiled and then does the traditional Thai wai, a slight bow towards me, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. I wonder what age she is.
John and the petite Bee begin a rapid conversation in Thai. After which he gives her a bunch of baht currency, she kisses him again and trots off towards the back of the bar.
I watch the tiny retreating figure.
When I look back John is watching me intently.
He smiled “Before you ask, she’s 27” he holds up he hands in surrender “Alright I know, she looks like 12 or 13, but she’s actually 27”
“I’m not judging you John, In fact I think she looks beautiful, a tad small for my tastes, but very pretty none the less…er …the cash…barfine?”
“Yeah” he winks “She’s great in bed, and because we’re early, she doesn’t have to bother spending the next hour putting on makeup, and she’s already in her street clothes”
“Okay then, I guess I better try to find a partner for the night” I glance around the bar, most of the girls were sitting at the far wall putting their makeup.
“Er….John, do you have a spare security swipe card for the apartment?”
He extracts a card form his wallet, and handed it to me.
“Thanks, I’ll try to be quiet when I get in.”
“Oh don’t worry mate” he grins “I’m not taking Bee back to the apartment, In fact I never bring any of the girls to the apartment. I like to keep a separation between my home life and the girls, Oh you feel free to bring back a girl, just don’t let her into the office”
“Where are you talking her?” I ask.
“I always use a nice hotel that relatively close to this place, it’s very handy”.
Bee returned and as John rose from his seat he said “I’ll see you in the morning”.
We exit the Tilac at the same time, I watch as John, looking like James Bond, walks down the Soi, holding the hand of the tiny Bee. They turn right on Soi 21 and disappear from view.
I try several bars, and finally try a girl form the Dollhouse, just a short time back at the apartment, then I hit the sack and sleep like a log.
Nine am next morning I’m in the kitchen waiting for the bread to pop out of the toaster, I hear the front door opening. In strolls John, Looking like an executive.
“You’re looking very chipper this morning” I remark grinning “A good night?”
He chuckles “Oh yes, that little girl can do things, if you know what I mean, no inhibitions”
“I get the picture” I reply “I’m making toast, want some?”
“No tea will be fine, I already had breakfast at the hotel, I’ll just go change”.
He ambled to his bedroom, when he returned wearing a track suit pants and lose T-shirt, the appearance as almost as dramatic as seeing him in a suit.
“Wow clothes really does maketh the man” I remarked.
“Indeed” he replied “I told you about the effect the suit would have on the street”.
“You did, and it was impressive” I smiled.
I handed him green tea. “So what are your plans for the day” he asks
“Oh that’s right” he remembered “Your flying out tomorrow”
“Yeah” I sighed “Time flies, as they say”
Back in Sydney, and the nine to five grind, I envy John’s life and the freedom he has achieved. Few mongers have managed to pull themselves out of the downward spiral, and spring back as spectacular as John. He continues his writing and spending his summers in Europe.
In my opinion he now has a perfect life.
The author cannot be contacted.