The last train ride

5:05 pm.  Friday afternoon in Bangkok. I’ve just gotten off work from my job in Ekamai.  My last student lolligags around in the room, packing up his bag and probably prolonging the only break that his parent imposed study-intensive schedule will allow.  I try my best to get the hell out of dodge as soon as the clock strikes 5, if not 5 minutes before, so I can get home as soon as possible to enjoy the few daylight hours I have before the night time sets in.  Alas, the lolligagger prevents.

I make my way to the BTS metro train, and a lady cuts me off, because she’s on her phone.  Then, the gate security decides to search my bag, even though he sees me everyday.  I don’t say any of this to harp on, only to explain how the universe aligned for me to be at the exact place I was at the exact moment when my perspective on life was forever altered.

At approximately 5:09, I arrived at the the train platform, looked across at the other side, and noticed a man.  His presence caught my attention because of his frantic behavior.  He tapped his foot with fervor and from across the tracks I could see him sweat.  He looked me in the eyes and smiled a look that screamed pain and quiet suffering.  In my commiseration I chalked it down to a long days work in a smelly, smoggy city.  He broke my gaze by pulling out a cigarette, lighting it, and taking a deep drag.  People took notice at this gesture of rebellion, and begin to whisper to each other.  I myself admire this act of bravado, and the rail attendant screeches into his whistle and begins ambling over in rapid steps.

The train is coming.  I laugh to myself at the absurdity of the situation.  When the train looms in the distance, the man stubs out his cigarette. Then he looks up.  Directly into my eyes.  He flicks it into the track, and in that moment, I sense that something otherworldly is happening.  Something unexplainable by rational human thought.

Before I can consider, I feel a sting on my face of wet and grit and warmth.  People scream.  I laugh a whimper of a confused laugh.  I reach up to my face, wipe, and look at my fingers.  A deep shade of scarlet with little bits of white and grey mixed in.  The train whistles a melancholy tone of prevention.  It is too late.  My life and how I view the world has yet again been changed forever.  Corrado by Miles Davis drowns out reality, ringing like a gong in my ears.

Hand-gesture dinner

Sitting with legs crossed in a cab on the way to a karaoke club with my friend Goyoh.  We were supposed to go all the way to on nut 42, but he got impatient and told the driver to pull over.  The fare is 60 Baht, but he slams down a 100 and yells okay!  As is his custom.

We enter into a seedy bar with a microphone illuminated on the sign and the girls greet him as if they know him as a regular.  This place smells like 200 cats inhabit it and urinate in it on a regular basis.  We sit down and two girls quickly attend to our booth.  They try to talk to Goyoh but he speaks neither English nor Thai and generally tends to yell in Japanese to the complete dismay of any bystanding individual.  Goyoh keeps trying to metaphorically take all of the girls teeth out to signify that they are too old for his taste.

I buy a pack of cigarettes to take the edge off.  I’ll smoke 3, and leave the pack behind because I’m trying to quit.  We continue drinking.   Goyoh insists on paying for everything.  I do not object.  The dancing with the girls becomes more frantic; more lubricated by the alcohol.  They run to the 7/11 to buy some Chang beers after we close our tab.  They dip towels into the melted ice buckets and rub our bodies under our sweaty shirts.  I’m not sure if this is because they expect us to pay for them or if they are really enjoying themselves.  We rub our full bellies.  They dance more.  I have work at 10:30 tomorrow morning.

I hope the bird didn’t die in my lobby.

Bangkok; A city like no other

IMG_6618 (1).jpgI was alone this evening with no plans, as my significant other was off doing whatever it is she does when she feels like she needs a night to herself. I enjoy the time alone as well. I haven’t had it in a while, and It gives me time to clear my head and experience life from the fresh perspective of individualism. When I am alone I can interact without dualistic impression on others; it is only I that can make the decisions and dictate how others perceive me. I decided that I would indulge in a sole meal from my favorite corner-throw-up, always packed with people, might or might not have diarrhea for a month restaurant.

Nestled in the heart of Phra Khanong/On Nut area is a quaint little spot, settled on the sidewalk, on a corner adjacent to the corner with the large Tesco Lotus sign looming over it on Sukhumvit soi 50. This restaurant is a family-run business and they do serious numbers, day in and day out, with a smile and the quickness. They enjoy a sense of pride in their work, as they put their tent-covered opponents on the opposite Tesco/market corner to shame.

Their dish specialties are som tam thai(papaya salad), gai yaang and kaw moo yaang(marinated and grilled chicken and pork neck), and gang hed(mushroom soup). Simple. The family knows me well, as I used to eat there at least three times a week, being that our apartment was less than a block away. We downsized about a month ago to save money for an embarkation to Australia that we have planned, where we will pick fruit for three months in order to live an the back of a 4×4 Pajero Sport. Go figure. Long story short, we don’t venture out farther than we need to for dinner. They were overly enthused to see ol’ pasty standing in line for a table with his shit-eating farang grin. Farang means “foreigner”.

After 10 or so minutes, they called me over and went over my order with me: “som tam thai”(no sugar, no small shrimp, not spicy), grilled chicken with good ol’ “Nam Jim Chaew” sauce, grilled pork neck, and sticky rice, along with an iced cold Leo tall boy and glass of ice, because Bangkok weather is anti cold beer. They guided me to my old table, right on the street corner so I could watch the traffic go by. They always knew that I liked to sit close to the sidewalk. I enjoy watching having a seat where I can see the traffic go by, because the chances of seeing an accident are high, and the occasional opportunity to witness an accident in Thailand is an experience worth relishing.

In Buddhist-influenced Thai culture, conflict and sudden displays of anger are instantly eschewed, which makes for awkwardly funny situations if you’ve one’s just been rear-ended. So I sit, and I watch.

After about ten minutes, my beer comes, and in another five, my food has arrived. I make haste in chowing down. A minute or so goes by when I make eye contact with a passing pedestrian, and he sits right down at my table. He says hello. Within seconds, I can tell that something is off with this fellow, but I can’t quite pinpoint what. However, opportunities like this rarely arise when I am with my significant other, as Thais of either gender are hesitant to approach a random farang that’s alone when together if not prompted.

He asks me in broken English if I am good, and I politely respond that I am feeling quite well. Without asking, he calls for another plate and cup, and digs into my delicious pork neck. My initial reaction is to shoo him away, but I soon justify that if this guy with the crazy eyes is in the position to sit down at a random farang man’s table and chow into the man’s meal without remorse, I have to concede to his courage and hold on for this one.

Between bites, he makes small talk. Mainly about how his brother is sick or something along those lines. My thai extends to ordering delicious food, giving basic directions, and saying that I like lots of delicious foods and numbers and other random useful information. So I chalk all of five sentences to this being the gist of it.

He motions over to my som tam, but then complains about it afterwards, explaining in thai that it “lacks in taste”. I laugh at this because just previously I had told him that we wasn’t going to like the “som-tam farang”. He motions over to the last grilled chicken piece on my plate, and I give him a cringing nod. At this point, I’m semi-relaxed. The guy isn’t making a huge issue, so I have surrendered myself to the moment at hand.

When I pour myself another glass of beer, he tells me that drinking beer is not good, but I kindly explain that for me, drinking a bottle of any alcohol to myself is a very, very enjoyable experience. After a couple more bites of food, he drains his glass of water and asks if he can fill up a glass of beer for himself. I say no because I see this as 1: a complete contradiction to his what he just said and 2. a complete intrusion into my happy solitary beer bubble. He smiles at me and urges me to drink more of my beer. I smile back, drink down some beer, and smile inside about how I am going to politely end this conversation. When he finishes eating his fill and asking me how many pairs of shoes I own, he asks me in thai:

“how much”.

He says it with a huge grin on his face.  It’s a comment which I’m not expecting at this point in the meal. At first I think that he’s asking me how much for my ratty Nikes, by then I had forgotten about miniscule things like why this guy randomly sat down at my table and started eating my food.

“Mai Pen Rai”, I respond with a genuine smile. It doesn’t matter. He nods, gets up, and waddles this strange jive out into and across the line of fast-moving traffic in his suede canvas shoes, and disappears into the night. After he leaves, I glance around to see if anybody else had just noticed how random of a conversation/interaction had taken place.

When I finished my beer, I paid my meal and walked back the quarter mile or so until I reached the quiet street that we live down at the end of.

I usually catch a 10 baht motorcycle taxi, but tonight I decided that I am going to walk. As I walk down the street, I notice for the first time that most of the houses have a mango tree in their yards, if the trees are large enough to overshadow the massive fences that guard these massive dwellings. When I pass one of these high-walled, barbed-wired, compound-like fortresses, a boy has the door open in order to drop a bag of trash onto the street. I take a quick glance inside and see 50 or so classic cars stacked on top of each other on loading racks, waiting in line to be serviced. Two 12 year olds on motorbikes whiz past on the street, shrieking through the neighborhood on their muffler-alterated noise machines. The commotion stirs the 10 albino peacocks hanging out in the rafters of the opposite house across from me, and they make screeching noises that sound like an angry toddler yelling “oh NOOOOO, oh NOOOOO” in a high pitched tone. I chuckle to myself and find it hard to wipe the shit-eating farang grin off my face that has been present since leaving dinner.

Bangkok is a city like no other.

College, the purgatorial life.

I am currently sulking around my quaint efficiency apartment with the air conditioning on full blast.

A shameless attempt to dodge the fury of the Texas sun, enough heat to make sidewalk and prunes sweat.

I am a twenty-something above-average dependent who wishes he knew what he was doing, who wishes he didn’t over-analyze every situation in his head.  Who wishes that he could pick up the piles of laundry, clean all the spotless dishes, and head out into that Texas fury with a head held high ready to get done the things he knows he should be doing.

Alas, I am sulking around in the cold darkness, waiting for the limelight to come to me.

And it never will.

22 years in prison

I walked home from the bus stop today just to collect my thoughts meanwhile saving some money.  On my way, a man inquired as to whether I knew where he could find the nearest jewelry store was, so he could “sell his watch”, as he flashed me his gold Seiko.  I smiled and pointed east, explaining that anywhere across I-35 he would be able to find a plethora of jewelry stores and pawn shops that would be more than willing to help him out.  I’m not exactly sure how the conversation retained it’s vitality, but he ended up accompanying me on my way home.  He began explaining how crazy everything looked and how much the world had changed since he had been away.  I figured that he had been out of the country, so I asked him where he had been.  The previous week this man had been released from a 22 year stint in a federal penitentiary, due to new laws releasing life without parole prisoners for good behavior.  He had made some mistakes as a kid and was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had ended up losing a large segment of his life to confinement behind bars.  He sighed as he told me how hard it was for him to acclimatize himself with a world that had changed so much from the one he knew when he was previously free due to the effects of technology and scarcity of resources as a result of time.  His tired smile flashed bright teeth when he exhaled the drags from his cigarette, and his gaze constantly shifted when he spoke, almost as if some unseen force could pounce on his being at any second.  I asked him what the best thing about being out of prison was and he told me that being deprived of the company of women had been tough.  On the day that he got out, he was entered into Breckenridge hospital for a much-needed surgery.  While in the waiting room, he noticed a beautiful Latino woman walk in.  The kind that “makes you gawk like a damn fool.”  He gave her a smile and she immediately walked over and took the seat beside him.  They began talking and he ultimately ended up getting her number.  That night he called her from a payphone and they got together for drinks.  One thing led to another and he was in her hotel room, then kissing, then she started groping him.  He attempted to return the touching, but she continued to sheepishly refuse.  Finally, he managed to coax her into letting him “cop a feel”, and he lightly joked that she had “a fat pussy, almost like some nuts!”  Apparently, she didn’t enjoy the humor and told him to stop.  They wrapped things up awkwardly and he left.  After not hearing back from her for three days,  the man began to feel as if he had done something wrong.  After countless phone calls she finally picked up.  He immediately began his apologies, but after a few minutes the woman abruptly cut him off by saying that  she was actually a “he.”  The man turned to me and smiled as I stared back silently.  “Ain’t that some shit.  But it could have been worse.”  And we parted our ways.

Revolution of the press

“I think there is a very good chance of a prosecution” under the Espionage Act, said Washington lawyer Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA. “His actions are not those of a responsible journalist that would enjoy the protection of the Constitution. He solicited people to commit a crime by sending him classified information. And then he disclosed it on a transmission belt.”

How ridiculous is it that regardless of whether something is clearly wrong, conservative media groups will publish statements from people that are deemed to be “intellectual” just because they worked for the CIA or a higher organization.  Enjoying the protection of the constitution as a “responsible” journalist  does not mean censoring true happenings that might happen to be controversial.  The protection of the constitution extends to all true information.  Being informed with the truth is the only way to live comfortably in a society.  Knowing that there is a completely different subculture that governs and has access to all of the secrets is a cause for deep concern.

Mic stand in Midland

The atmosphere in the room is very calm, as if there are auras of good vibes all around. People politely chuckle when the poet says something funny, and he is smiling. The lighting is low, which gives somewhat of an element of suspense to the poet as he relates his story. This kind of setting sets the perfect stage for a poet to subliminally get his messages across. It is easy to see that some people do not read into the deeper meaning of a poem, and I came to the conclusion that the reason a lot of poets have such a hard time getting heard by their audience is because they do not know how to aesthetically engage their audience.

People love to hear things that they can relate to being mentioned in a public place. It almost makes them feel as if they were standing in front of the mic, right next to the poet. Their heart might even start thumping in their chest, and they are engaged. They love it. It makes them look for a deeper meaning, and before they know it, the meaning will hit them like a ton of bricks. Not because the message was so powerful, but because they have realized that the poem was not about them all along. Nevertheless, the pain to their ego will soon subside and they will be left with the message that the poet intended to relay to them.

I think that it takes a lot for a man to step into the role of the poet, in front of the microphone, as my heart’s frantic thumping in my throat from being up there can attest to. Honestly, it felt almost vertigo. I stumbled up to the podium with my ipod falling out of my lap and clattering to the quiet floor below. Someone made a side comment, but I’m not sure what they said because I was too focused on seeing straight. Why was I getting so afraid to verbalize something that I wrote in front of an audience? I felt completely out of character. I went up there and read my poem with as much sincerity as I could muster. But my legs still shook a little bit. When I was finished, I exited the podium area and tripped over a cable. Now I’m sitting in my seat wondering why I bored my soul to people who stared back at me blankly through the dim limelight and clapped on cue when I finished. But who knows, maybe someone’s sub-conscious screamed inside to tell the true thoughts that came naturally instead of what they thought they should.  I’ll never know. They clapped nervously as I wrapped up my poem. Maybe it was too harsh. Yeah, maybe.