My flung beer bottles from prior mornings having missed their target, my aforementioned little winged friend has become more pugnacious with shrill, predawn chirping; a kind of feathery alarm clock. But I am getting used to it, plus getting up in the tropics is a simple affair with a minimum of clothing and effort: roll out of bed, don a t-shirt and shorts, gulp a few swallows of beer along with a slice of leftover pizza (part of this complete breakfast!), and I am all set for the new day.
The rules at the apartment require the residents to leave their high heels, shoes, and sandals outside on the front steps. My half-decade-old tennies are always recognizable by the encircling pile of dead ants and roaches who ventured too close in the night. A Thai Pest Control company has contacted me about selling my footwear. I’m waiting until there are holes in the soles of both shoes.
But before I tally up the Nike body count, my first chore is to sneak by the lady in the lobby who handles the apartment business and serves as my informal Thai teacher. Every morning she has a new, practical, but largely incomprehensible phrase for me to learn, making me feel even more foolish than usual. Slipping past her unnoticed is the only reliable way of avoiding my lesson. I tread lightly and quickly.
First up is a stop at the local laundromat to pick up my clothes. For some inexplicable reason, each time I drop off my laundry, it takes them longer to do it. It used to be around twenty-four hours — ready by 10:00 a.m. the next day. Then the time slid to noon, and now it’s approaching late afternoon. At this rate I’ll soon be needing a lunar calendar to follow the schedule: drop off during the waxing crescent moon, pick up when it’s full.
There’s always some uncertainty about the garments I’m getting back. This time I am surprised to re-discover my ragged Las Vegas t-shirt! This had disappeared after the last cleaning, and I’d assumed Thai health codes had forced the laundress to condemn it. But no, it had been simply misplaced. Perhaps to atone for that mistake, the woman has this time added a pair of low-cut, white socks with ‘Elvis’ labels on them. Out of curiosity I try them on, and the fit is so comfortable I decide not to make a fuss.
There is a spring in my step as I continue down the street, now attired in the latest Thai fashion. Elvis has left the laundromat!
Twenty-one years as a programmer have infected me with a technology craving, satiated through a few hours in an internet cafe. On Youtube, I bring up Al Stewart’s 1977 song of Asian infatuation (Year of the Cat) and let the haunting melody and searing instrument solos wash over me while I check my messages, my gaze continually sliding off the screen towards the Thai waitresses. Being in the midst of the real thing causes the tune to resonate in a way that no video could hope to achieve. Soft memories from my college days (when the word “cat” referred to a pet) overlap with the pleasures of the present. The immature, twenty-year-old, girl-crazy student merges with the immature, fifty-something, salivating old man I have proudly become. True lust never dies!
Following the morning’s chores (and a lunch at McDs), it is time for a well-deserved afternoon siesta. To combat the stifling heat in my room, I position an electric fan no more than five inches from my head and set it on high. Calvin Coolidge, the largely inert thirtieth president of the United States, made a habit of these kinds of snooze sessions. Imagine napping in the White House… A man must never lose sight of his dreams.
For the evening, I decide to stay home and watch some sports on TV. I’ve become especially interested in the game of cricket after having seen a televised match while in Cape Town early last year. Last week I was able to tune in and catch the end of it. There’s a new match this week between the Aussies and England, but I may be in the U.S. in eighteen month’s time and will therefore not be able to catch the conclusion.
Eventually, middle-aged drowsiness and the sudden barking of the dogs beneath my window signals it is time for bed. I re-position my shorts and t-shirts on the same chair as the night before, pour all the leftover beer into a single bottle, and stuff the three slices of pizza into the vegetable bin of the refrigerator (they do after all have green peppers). With my valuables thus safely secured and my earplugs in, I sleep soundly.