Lucy & Ricky Ride Again
I Love Lucy was in reruns even when I was a kid; if you were home from school with a cold on a weekday and your mother let you watch TV to keep you out of her hair with your moaning and whining, you inevitably became familiar with one of Lucy’s hare-brained schemes that backfired and caused immense canned hilarity. Even as a child, I knew that these episodes were sheerest fantasy – a fantastic concoction of cross-cultural and gender stereotypes that had nothing to do with the real, workaday world.
And then I moved to Thailand to teach English . . .
And fell in love with a lovely Thai lady . . .
It started with a girl friend of hers from Khorat.
A nice gal. Her Thai husband had passed away a few years ago (or run away – it’s hard to pin Joom down as to what exactly happened to him, except that he is gone, and good riddance to him.) There is one child, a boy, who stays with his grandmother while the mother is looking for work in the Big Bad city of Bangkok.
Naturally Joom wanted to help her girl friend, who we shall call Kwan, and thought that nothing would be better than to get her hooked up with a kind-hearted, older farang.
That is where I come in.
Joom thinks I am on a first-name basis with every Fortune 500 company CEO in the Western Hemisphere. Of course, I must admit I may have exaggerated my own importance back home; dropping casual mentions of my marlin-fishing with good old Billy Gates and randy nights on the town with Donny Trump (he’s a cheap tipper, by the way.) Be that as it may, Joom insisted that I could help out her dear old friend from Khorat by getting one of my farang tycoon friends interested in Kwan. Kwan is a good girl; doesn’t drink or smoke and is a world-beater as a cook and housekeeper. It would be a good deed, and, as the Thais unfailingly proclaim when they are poaching your time and money, “tham dii day dii”. You can translate that many different ways; I think it means “there’s one born every minute.”
I tried brushing her off, buying her off with nights out at the local hotpot shop (89 baht per, with all you can eat – including tree fungus, klong weed, and gelatinous blobs of liver) and finally, in a fine imitation of Ricky Ricardo himself, blustering that I’d have nothing to do with her crazy scheme. She bowed her head humbly before me, her farang lord & master, and scurried off to fix my sticky rice and somtum.
The next week we had an “unexpected” visitor – well what do you know about that? Kwan just happened to have a week or two free and comes to visit Joom. What a profound coincidence! Naturally we take her to the local beaches, where I run into some farang friends. As we are shooting the breeze Joom suddenly appears at my side with Kwan, all smiles and giggles. I introduce them briefly. Joom gives me the stink eye – that international female signal that stormy weather threatens if I don’t give it the old college try. So I lamely explain that Kwan is “between boyfriends” at the moment, and leave it at that. As I excuse myself to go find a shark to eat me alive or something else to end my embarrassment, Kwan latches on to one of my friends – we’ll call him Tom – and they stroll down the beach; she chattering happily in Thai, he nodding his head and keeping his eyes on her generous bosom.
The next day Joom reminds me that I owe Tom a dinner – he’s had us over to his condo, now we need to reciprocate. I call him to say I know he’s probably way too busy, and that Joom is a lousy cook anyways, but if he happens to be free, and really can’t think of anything on cable TV he’d like to watch instead, he can come over for dinner. He accepts, the dope.
Our houseguest Kwan fawns over him, keeps his plate full of pad thai and his glass full of mineral water, and we spend the evening after dinner out on the veranda, swatting mosquitoes, eating fried bananas, and listening to an expiring frog or two while Kwan remains as mum as a sphinx and Tom fumbles his few Thai phrases.
Still, Kwan is rather pretty, and Tom is rather lonely – and so nature takes its course. They hook up and Joom cannot help doing a victory dance around me while yelling like a banshee.
A week later I run into a rather haggard-looking Tom down at the Tesco Lotus and ask how things are with him and Kwan. He looks at me with bloodshot eyes and shudders before replying. Kwan, that sweet, sweet girl, developed a sudden and inexhaustible thirst for Blend 285 – drinking it every night until it poured in fountains out of her ears. She couldn’t cook anything except greasy omlettes, and somehow she even managed to burn the rice. She demanded thousands of baht each day for vague, amorphous necessities. And finally, when Tom told her he didn’t think things were going to work out between them and offered her something for her time and trouble, plus bus fare back to Bangkok or Khorat or anywhere she wanted to go, she gave him a ringing blow to the head, packed her skimpy belongings, and stalked off into the inky Thai night. Not, however, before collecting on Tom’s good-natured offer of ‘something for her time and trouble.’ She wasn’t that upset.
Surprisingly, Tom is still my friend. And I’m still fond of Joom – who now claims she knew all along that Kwan was ‘jay rai’ and had a Thai boyfriend on the side waiting for her back in Khorat, and why did I have to push poor Tom into such an unhealthy relationship in the first place?
So I’ve been demoted from Ricky Ricardo to Fred Mertz.