Category: 2013

Harem Housecleaning

As I begun another year in Thailand, the idea of meeting alluring new women ‚ÄĒ¬†whom I run across¬†seemingly every day ‚ÄĒ¬†has powerful appeal. But will¬†there be room for them amongst the many special ‚Äúfriends‚ÄĚ I already have? With little experience juggling even casual female relationships, I certainly don‚Äôt want to risk launching too many balls into the air. There are frightening stories circulating about involving cheated-on Thai women cutting their foreign ex-boyfriends down to size, so to speak.¬†

It‚Äôs therefore a sense of self-preservation more than my inherent neatness that has inspired me to take a look at reducing my ‚Äúharem‚ÄĚ, which in truth is but a loose collection of Thai¬†ladies I have met and befriended to varying degrees. As it turns out, there are some sound reasons to cut back beyond my aversion to becoming a sudden soprano.

Rasamee
Background: My first Thai girlfriend, whom I officially broke up with over two years ago. But despite repeated efforts ‚ÄĒ¬†including a couple of blunt requests early this year ‚ÄĒ¬†I‚Äôve never been able to persuade her to leave me alone. Instead she tries to stay in touch via friendly emails until the next financial crisis hits, whereupon I feel obligated to step in and provide a cash infusion. While her misfortunes are not a result of greed or foolishness, this type of relationship is unhealthy.¬†

Action: Early in July, I provided a very generous sum of money; enough to pay off the remaining debt on her house, send her daughter to the U.S. to study English for a few weeks, and cover the tuition for her son’s remaining three semesters at the university. With this being well above the call of duty, it seemed a good time to cut the strings. To remove myself from future calamities, I’ve deleted my old gmail account so she has no way of summoning me anymore. 

Paw
Background: I had thought things were all hunky dory between us. But she has not responded to¬†my last two text messages inquiring if she was available for the evening. I have no clue as to what’s going on.¬†

Action: None required since it appears she has pulled the dumpster lever first. 

Fern
Background: Was one of the waitresses at Hustler‚Äôs Pool Hall, whom I first saw back in February. We’d shared plenty of laughs playing Eight Ball late into the evenings and it had become one of those rare instances where I found myself liking a Thai lady without really being interested in sleeping with her. (Will wonders ever cease?)¬†

The trouble could be traced to a day just prior to my departure to the U.S. Fern came to me wondering if I could help pay for her year-old daughter‚Äôs day care. Knowing I was leaving the country for a couple of months, I decided to shell out¬†three months‚Äô worth of ‚Äúsupport‚ÄĚ. But instead of using the money for that specific purpose, she ended up quitting her job four weeks later, then began anxiously awaiting my return in hopes that I would sign on to be her boyfriend. What I had intended as a¬†simple¬†act of assistance had nudged the relationship into ‚Äúserious‚ÄĚ territory.¬†

Action: For someone like me, supporting a young Thai with her baby has all the appeal of a two-decade prison sentence (though with presumably better sex). But I cannot share this insightful metaphor with Fern. The tactics will need to be more subtle and less likely to cause a loss of face. For example, not returning her phone calls and avoiding any visits to  Hustler’s for a month or two in the event she returns to work there. Yes, this will hurt her feelings, but I don’t wish to inadvertently give off the wrong signals. I am emphatically not interested.

Lessons Learned
For Thai women, money and love are often hopelessly intertwined. To avoid this stickiness, perhaps I would be better advised to re-direct my financial generosities towards the local charities rather than my female admirers.

Related Posts You May Enjoy
Rescuing Rasamee (Again)   Streetwalker Profile: Paw the Pixie   Making the Rounds

I know it’s only Rock & Roll (but I can’t find it)¬†

Visitors to this wondrous Thai megalopolis often wax ecstatic about the food, shopping and entertainment. Much of this praise is well deserved as Bangkok does have much to offer. In fact, it can be argued there is something here for everyone, provided they look hard enough.

Except for vintage Rock & Roll. 

Some might dispute this statement, pointing out that a few of the bars on Soi 4, for example, feature this retro music. But alas, not on any regular basis. It is certainly true you can on rare occasions catch whiffs of The Who, Stones or some 1970s genre pop on this street as you weave your way around the streetwalkers. But by the time you’ve entered the bar, settled in, and are halfway through your first drink, Roger Daltrey is but a distant memory. In his place are some angry-sounding black guys spitting out f-word expletives.

What about the live bands? No shortage of them in this city, and if you don’t mind hearing a spirited group of Filipinos mangle the lyrics of a golden oldie, you can have a reasonably good time. But performing a credible version of Behind Blue Eyes, to cite but one example, is a level or two beyond their talent. Then when they retire backstage for a break, at least one establishment ‚ÄĒ¬†Check Inn 99¬†‚ÄĒ plays hip hop. Maybe this is to ensure the band receives an enthusiastic welcome upon their return.

This leaves the go-gos as a last refuge for the rock-deprived oldster. It is a daunting scene. As best as I can determine, there’s a city ordinance prohibiting them from featuring rock, pop, heavy metal, or even grunge. In other words, anything that might contain¬†even a whiff¬†of a melody. Ambling around¬†Nana Plaza at night, with nothing but electronic thumping emanating from every open door, is the auditory equivalent of a mugging. Little wonder that the tiny pharmacy across the street is always out of Excederin and Advil.

There is one notable exception to this: Pretty Lady located on the left side of Nana Plaza’s ground floor. Rock & Roll is not played all night, but at least there’s a fighting chance of reliving one’s musical adolescence. Unfortunately, the place is at present undergoing yet another renovation. Or maybe the Bangkok Hip Hop Preservation Police are attempting to shut it down. 

At my favorite pool hall down on Sukhumvit (Sports Academy), the floor above is being completely remodeled. Even into the late afternoon there is sometimes heavy, deafening drilling that causes the hostesses to cover their ears, as if this racket is somehow more offensive than the hip hop that is too often inflicted upon the customers. The good news is that the remodeling will soon be finished and the fellow making all that loathsome noise with the drill will begin a new career as a go-go DJ.

Talkin’ bout MY generation.

Streetwalker Profile: Paw the Pixie

I caught Paw on a good night. When I rang, she was with one of her regular customers, a sixty-three-year-old Aussie. Living with his¬†Thai wife somewhere out in the rural boondocks, he escapes¬†down to Bangkok on occasion for a week or two of carousing. (I assume this is done with the little woman’s consent.) Paw will often spend the night with him at whatever hotel he is staying at.

This time, the deed having been done and said customer soundly asleep, Paw was ready for a break in the action and was at my door within ten minutes. (Which was barely enough time for me to tidy the place up.) As she entered, she quickly discarded¬†her high-heeled sandals, then began removing her clothes in the same casual manner a visitor would discard their overcoat. Since we usually do nothing beyond massages, cuddling and kissing, I’m considering suggesting in the future she save herself the effort of disrobing.¬†

Paw’s figure, which she obviously has no reticence in displaying, is elf-like, almost emaciated. It’s like one of Santa’s helpers decided to become a triathlete. She also has a beak for a nose, meaning she is not one of the in-demand ladies who congregate outside Nana Plaza in the middle of the night. I, however, appreciate her unflagging good spirits. Being a streetwalker means standing around for hours on end waiting for a customer ‚ÄĒ who may prove to be a thoroughly miserable experience. Despite this, Paw is always cheerful and smiling as she regales me with¬†her latest adventures, her English being fairly good. (On the other hand, Thais can be reticent about displaying disappointment or sadness, so I could be getting the sanitized versions.) This is also one of my special friends whom I can easily get a laugh out of, something I enjoy almost as much as they do.

For this particular visit, she described her Aussie customer for the first time. The thought¬†that she’s helping him cheat on his wife contained no moral revulsion. It’s simply a business transaction from her perspective, nothing more. There even was an element of fondness as she mentioned a couple of his foibles.¬†

When it came time to leave, Paw was trying to decide whether to¬†return and sleep with the Aussie or go back out on the street, trolling for new prospects. She has said that I’m good luck; that on the nights when I call, she often has more customers. Glad to help out. Perhaps for that reason, she elected to do some more¬†hunting, slipping into her tiny pair of jeans and performing strategic tugs on her blouse as she checked her makeup in the mirror. Exiting the apartment, she flashed me a bright goodbye smile.

Staggering Back to Bangkok

It had been a busy, but agreeable two month vacation in the U.S. and I was fully refreshed to take on the biggest challenge of 2013: the twenty-one-hour ordeal required to fly from Seattle across the Pacific, then down to Thailand. This has always sapped my strength and last week was even more of a struggle than usual. Through Expedia, I had booked the flight on ANA (All Nippon Airways) which in turn was operated by United. It all sounded straightforward enough, but appearances can be deceiving.

When I arrived at SeaTac airport a few hours before my departure, I had assumed I had to go and wait for the ANA desk to open up when in fact I should have immediately gone to the United kiosk to check in. By the time I had been informed of my error by a Japanese ANA employee, any chances of reserving a window or aisle seat for my flight had vanished. I ended up spending some ten hours wedged between a Japanese businessman and Korean college student. In my younger, more energetic days, I would have attempted to make conversation with either or both of them. Instead, I glumly programmed some vintage rock and roll from one of the music channels and melted into my seat. A few hours later, after having listened to David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel for the fourteenth time, I switched gears and watched Iron Man 1. Events slid into a sleepy blur after that.

I had a four hour layover in Narita airport outside Tokyo. Since I’d once lived in Japan, there was a sense of nostalgia seeing all the neatly dressed ladies in the upscale stores selling jewelry, tobacco, or chocolate (all non-dutiable!). Even the girls working at McDonald‚Äôs exuded an air of controlled prettiness. And of course everyone was excruciatingly polite and friendly. Entering the plane for the flight down to Bangkok, I had to battle back an urge to bow to the stewardesses.¬†

From Narita, it’s a six hour flight down to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Because¬†there had been a recent typhoon in East Asia, we had to endure¬†seemingly endless intervals of low level turbulence. My two seatmates slept through the bumpiness while I could only glance over¬†in envy as I took in¬†yet another movie, my hands firmly clutching the armrests. When we had finally landed, it was a real effort to let go.¬†

By the time I’d cleared Thai customs, I’d had maybe two or three hours of sleep in the past forty-eight (I rarely rest well the night before flying out, and have never been able to sleep on a plane). This grogginess led to my leaving my debit card in one of the airport ATMs after wrestling with it to extract some Thai baht. I didn’t notice the loss until I was almost to my apartment. Fearing the worst, I hailed another taxi and sped back out to the airport, swearing under my breath the entire twenty-five minutes. Thank heavens it was the middle of the night and I did not have to contend with any traffic jams. The extra stress would probably have resulted in some kind of stroke. 

Unbeknownst to me, ATMs are now programmed to ‚Äúeat‚ÄĚ any card that remains¬†in the slot for a certain period of time. It was therefore a straightforward matter¬†for one of the girls at the currency exchange booth next to the machines to get a key and open the one I thought I had used. But my card was not in there! It turns out there are two¬†groups of ATMs on the ground floor of the airport and I had gotten them confused. The girl had to walk down to the other pair to retrieve my card, a bit annoyed at my stupidity. I didn‚Äôt blame her and even offered to pay for her trouble ‚ÄĒ¬†a standard gesture that works well with the kind of ladies I‚Äôve come to know in Bangkok. But she couldn‚Äôt accept it and was far more interested in filling out the required paperwork to get me out of her hair. I walked back out to my taxi driver who‚Äôd been waiting and for the second time that night rode from the airport to my apartment. Upon arriving I was so keyed up from the stress it was a good two¬†hours before I was finally able to plop¬†onto the bed and drop off. (I spent the time unpacking.)¬†

Why do I endure such misery? As I am always telling my friends, Thailand is not really my cup of tea. Too disorganized and raucous. At no point have I seriously considered spinning out my retirement years in this country¬†and someday I will pull up stakes and go. Then again, others may view my actions and come to a different conclusion. As she handed me the apartment keys, signaling the beginning of my third year in Bangkok, the office manager gave me a knowing smile. “Welcome home,” she said.

Two visits in one night — becoming a regular.

McMansions

As part of my annual U.S. vacation, I fly to Iowa, then down to Texas to play some serious golf with each of my two younger brothers. Growing up, our family had a lake house in Northern Iowa and during the summers dad would take the three of us out golfing at one of the small town courses in the area. (Considering whan an exacting and frustrating game golf turned out to be, I sometimes wish our father had instead introduced us to bowling or maybe shuffleboard.)

My youngest brother lives in a town called Ankeny on the north side of the Des Moines metropolitan area. It’s a classic example of how a once self-contained, no-frills¬†community became engulfed in the tsunami of suburban growth. Driving to the Otter Creek Golf Course ‚ÄĒ¬†which used to mark the edge of town ‚ÄĒ¬†a person now goes through or past multiple subdivisions of box-like houses that have sprouted like mushrooms on what was once fertile Iowa farmland. Some of the more elaborate homes feature¬†two car garages with an attached single car structure. It is nice to know that despite America’s homeless problem, the country’s vehicles (at least the ones owned by the well-off ) have a place to spend the night.

These treeless outposts hold little appeal for me. There are no restaurants, parks or bike trails within walking distance ‚ÄĒ¬†things¬†I’ve come to value from living in Bangkok. There’s just the lonely, sometimes biting wind coming off the prairie. Encircle¬†these enclaves with¬†a high barbed wire fence and¬†guard towers and they¬†would resemble¬†a state¬†prison.

A similar, though much larger,¬†sprawl is unfolding near my middle brother’s town of Frisco, a remote suburb of Dallas. As part of our golfing outings, we always play a round¬†at¬†a course we especially enjoy¬†only fifteen minutes from his home. Along the way, off in the middle distance, are row upon row of lot-busting behemoths stretching towards the horizon. And for those Texans with a little extra money and a desire for privacy, there are immaculately landscaped, gated communities (if that is the right word) offering homes¬†priced from three hundred thousand up towards three quarters of a million dollars. The American dream: nicely packaged¬†and padlocked.

Passing by these fortresses, I cannot help but recall my ex-Thai girlfriend Rassamee’s modest¬†home. You enter into a cramped but comfy-looking living room beyond which¬†is a narrow, dark¬†kitchen (whose roof used to leak during the rainy season). Off to one side are a pair of tiny bedrooms. Not very impressive, in fact probably borderline claustrophobic for¬†most Americans,¬†but a¬†place where Rassamee has managed to raise her two children and send them both off to college. It makes one wonder if a third garage is really necessary for a happy home.

Is there room for my Winnebago somewhere?

The Homeless of Seattle and My Aunt Ginny

Welcome to Seattle, home to such world-famous companies as Amazon and Starbucks. A city with a proud tradition of liberalism and bold entrepreneurship, its gleaming skyscrapers and mammoth sports stadiums a source of wonder and awe.

Then there are¬†the homeless… Walking a mere two or three blocks about the downtown core guarantees your coming across someone in need of help. Stop at a storefront window or an ATM, and sooner or later¬†one of them will sidle up and ask you for money. It can be uncomfortable for a first-time visitor.

I am of course no stranger to panhandling, living as I do in an area of Bangkok frequented by¬†rich tourists. At any time in the evening, there are maybe a three or four¬†Thai beggars camped on the sidewalks along¬†my street. Their spiel¬†is well-rehearsed and effective: outstretched hands, pleading eyes…maybe even a barefoot, malnourished child who trails you for a few steps, rattling coins in a plastic cup held out in front of her. My least favorite of these performers is an emaciated elderly man who, when ignored, will bang his metal cup upon the curve to try to embarrass his target into making a contribution. Someday I’m going to swat that utensil right out of his hand and into the next district.

By contrast, the destitute in Seattle are not anywhere near¬†as organized as their Bangkok counterparts. Some of them simply display¬†crudely made signs soliciting contributions as they sit on public¬†benches or lean against sheltered storefronts to escape the rain. Others merely amble about in damp, worn¬†clothing, occasionally muttering to themselves or shouting profanities at invisible entities. From the perspective of the workers and shoppers hurrying by, they are largely indistinguishable from the¬†discarded McDonald’s hamburger wrappers or Starbucks paper cups that blow¬†along the pavements. This sad scene repeats itself in every¬†medium to large-sized U.S.¬†city, and it is both puzzling and shameful that the richest country in the world should have a transient problem which¬†resembles a¬†developing nation like Thailand.

Perhaps my¬†aunt Ginny can shed some light on the situation. She is¬†bi-polar and for a number of years after her husband left her, lived the life of a street person in various towns and cities in Southern California. From those locations¬†she would¬†often write or call my father, attempting to wheedle money out of him. The family eventually decided¬†to¬†fly Ginny back home¬†to¬†Iowa in order to provide upfront help, but this proved a failure. The¬†“counseling” sessions turned into a wrestling matches as Ginny resisted well-meaning, but amateur¬†attempts to get her to fly right. Soon everyone basically threw in the towel and Ginny¬†once again drifted from one town to another, this time in-state, occasionally showing up at the doorstep of an embarrassed sibling.

The quandary was that we could not force Ginny to get help. There are understandably strict laws against involuntary committal, and she was adamantly opposed to any inferences that she should be seeing a¬†professional health care¬†worker. In other words, if she wanted to live the life of a vagabond and not take her medication, there was nothing we could do to change that self-defeating behavior. The same is generally¬†true of homeless, mentally ill¬†sufferers throughout America. There doesn’t¬†exist a standard, reliable¬†process to re-integrate them back into society.¬†

Ginny’s story does have a happy ending, though. After returning to the West Coast, she entered¬†halfway house and from what I’ve last heard, has begun putting her life back together. (My father’s passing removed all remaining hope of obtaining¬†handouts from the family.) Obviously a very patient¬†person or persons at the house are¬†providing the support¬†Ginny¬†so desperately needs. It’s too bad there aren’t more of these¬†types of helpers. The desperate people left¬†out on the streets and¬†their myriad of needs will always be with us.

homeless-sign

Hearing from an Old Flame

Two months ago, after some deliberation, I gave my¬†email address to¬†one of my¬†high school classmates who is compiling a list of everyone she can find for our reunion in 2015. A couple of my old friends have since¬†gotten in touch and¬†it’s been a delight reconnecting with people I have not heard from¬†in almost¬†forty years.¬†Then, one of them passed on the word that¬†my high school girlfriend wanted to contact me.

“June” and I had¬†had¬†a checkered past. We started going together in the 8th grade after slow dancing during some junior high outing. It was first love for both of us, full of the usual adolescence dramas and desires. Then just before our sophomore year of high school, I callously broke up with her. Having what we nowadays call¬†a “hot” body, it was only¬†a matter of¬†weeks¬†before June was dating some¬†upperclassman while I, trapped in my awkward scrawniness, could only look on in envy from the social sidelines. On occasion I would bang my head against my locker, asking myself just what the hell I had been thinking.

This aggravating state of affairs lasted for two years as June seemed to move effortlessly from one boyfriend to the next. My feelings throughout this, a kind of dating interregnum for me, ranged from mindless jealousy to genuine concern over the things she was getting into such as (horror of horrors) drinking. Little did I realize at the time what an important tool alcohol would someday become in my own dating arsenal.

Then came our senior year when lo and behold, we got back together! This was entirely June’s initiative. In fact, she broke off an engagement and I almost got beaten up by the jilted groom-to-be, who happened to be a black belt. Yet despite my surviving this brush with death, we could never quite recapture the¬†old¬†magic. I suspect it was largely because our high school experiences had made us different people. Whatever the reason, it was June who this time around broke up with me. To this day, I cannot recall the reason; I only remember sitting in the passenger seat of her GM Vega, sobbing. My hurt eventually turned¬†into meanness a few months afterwards¬†when¬†I put¬†a nasty note in June’s locker, accompanied by her senior photo with the “b” word etched across her face. These insightful¬†items got mailed to my home, causing me to receive a stern lecture about writing down¬†stupid¬†remarks for all the world to see. (Such as I’m doing now.) Determined to have the last word, or at least the final gesture, I then¬†gave my ex-girlfriend the finger following our graduation ceremony. Such classless acts did not sit well with me and I eventually mailed her an apology¬†letter. It was the last communication for thirty-eight years.

Which brings us to the present. Through our mutual friend, I learned that June wanted to tell me about some painful issues she’d¬†had to deal with in high school, of which I was unaware of at the time. More than a little curious,¬†I emailed her directly, encouraging her to share. I’ll leave out the details of what I discovered, but will say that the cards were certainly stacked against us back then. Interestingly enough, both of us were now concerned that the other was still angry and holding a grudge, which happily is¬†not the case at all. I was in fact impressed with her honesty¬†and the manner in which she’s handled the challenges in her life. I was also surprised to¬†learn that our past troubles were, from her perspective, not my fault at all. (I still think was a jerk, however.)

There remained one concern. From the tone of her messages, it sounded like¬†June was wanting to re-enter¬†my life, probably as an email buddy. She would not be the first “ex”¬†to become curious about me. But in spite of my newfound understanding¬†of our history, I felt there still remained baggage that would prevent¬†a healthy friendship, and explained I¬†was not interested in staying in touch because of that. This reasoning earned me a well-written rebuke sprinkled with such therapeutic-sounding words as maturity and growth. In essence, I was accused of lacking¬†the ability to work through our issues.

But why would I want to? Here in Bangkok I have all kinds of young female friends for all occasions: playing pool, visiting a¬†go-go, watching a DVD while snuggling on my sofa,¬†getting a slow, sensual massage…and one other activity I can’t recall at the moment. It’s an interesting¬†reversal from high school, when June had all the attention. Not that I’ve evolved into some kind of Don Juan; it’s simply that being a decent person here in Bangkok counts for more than back home. If you are kind, occasionally thoughtful, and keep your hair combed, why, you can have¬†all kinds of lady acquaintances. (And if you open your wallet, the sky’s the limit.) The idea of stepping outside¬†this utopia to deal with accusations from a woman¬†I haven’t seen¬†in¬†four decades has decidedly limited¬†appeal.

Wishing June all the happiness due her…
sunshine-happiness

Nursemaid

Soon I will be leaving for my annual¬†U.S. pilgrimage. This will involve the usual¬†family and friends visitations plus¬†some serious decompressing. (Bangkok can take a toll on a person.) When I informed the apartment manager I’d be checking out (I lease¬†month-to-month), I mentioned that after I’d left, there would be many women crying in the bars on Soi 4. She got a kick out of this. I laughed too, not realizing how true the joke would turn out to be.

I had been out doing some late-morning chores which included getting a haircut and a bit of shopping followed by a hamburger lunch. (Strangely, I hardly ever eat Thai food.) I was returning to my room when I happened to see Noy #3 (I know three Thai women named Noy), a casual acquaintance, waiting for customers in the parking lot across the street from Nana Plaza. A couple months had passed since our last tryst during which time I hadn’t stayed in touch, so I was not surprised to see her appear faintly annoyed as I approached. As I began talking with her, however, it became clear she was actually very upset.

It’s important to take a moment and review the rules of engagement here. If, after a roll in the hay, the farang customer wishes to see his one-and-only again, it is entirely his choice. There are no obligations unless the woman has somehow wheedled one out of the guy. Both parties go their separate ways. Noy #3¬†I had seen twice in May, but prior to that it had been two years outside of a few brief hellos.

Yet somehow I had transgressed.

“You not talk to me for two, three months. But I not come to your apartment. Maybe you have mistress. Not want see me.”

I attempted to explain that I had not been feeling well, which was quite true. But more than that, I simply wasn’t interested. My prerogative. But I could not say any of this outright¬†as it could be construed as a loss of face and¬†I was afraid how she’d react.

“You good man. I not come here every day. Today I come, hope see you. I have good man before from Singapore, but he die fourteen years ago.”

No kidding? Not quite sure where this conversation was heading, I tried to regain some control. Gently, I inquired why she had not called or sent me an SMS if getting together was so important. But that went nowhere given her emotional state. Soon I was standing on the sidewalk next to a Thai woman crying her eyes out. (Much later I would find out she is from Laos. Not that that made any difference.)

“You talk good long time with me. Two years (sob). I lucky see you today.”

If so, she was expressing her gratitude at her good fortune in an unusual manner. Not wanting to leave her there, shedding tears on the pavement for all to see, I took¬†her back to the apartment. As we entered, she suddenly kneeled to remove my shoes and socks. This “servant girl” routine was her way of trying to rekindle my affection. But sadly all I could do was gently dissuade her and offer extra Kleenex to staunch the tears that soon¬†started up¬†again, accompanied by her litany of woes. Searching for a way to somehow turn off the hydrant, I told her of my upcoming U.S. vacation, explaining that all my friendships here were coming to an end (at least temporarily). No luck. I was not able to comfort her in any way. She was pining after a connection that in fact had never existed between us.

I ultimately got her to leave by telling her how tired I was. In response, she offered to stay and give me a massage, but I wanted an end to the soap opera. Being turned down, she accused me of liking lady boys (Thai men who dress as women). This struck me as so silly I actually chuckled, then abruptly stopped when I saw her unsmiling face.

She walked out the door without looking back.

Rescuing Rasamee (Again)

I¬†don’t believe my Thai ex-girlfriend of two years ago would mind seeing her name in one of my posts. Especially since I have recently¬†sent her a generous amount of money paying off the remaining debt on her house, with the leftover proceeds intended to help her son and daughter¬†finish college.

Somebody had to do it…

Rasamee¬†and I met in October of 2010. I had just moved¬†to Thailand and was living in a simple studio apartment in the city of¬†Pattaya, which is a kind of sexual Disneyland for middle-aged Western men. She was working as a hostess in one of the neighborhood bars, going by the name of Lawt (easier for the soused customers to remember) and claiming to be in her late thirties. Though she was in fact some seven years beyond that, her dark looks fooled me completely ‚ÄĒ¬†and this was before I’d had anything to drink.

Both of us being new arrivals in Sin City, we quickly hit it off. I found her very easy to be around, mostly because she wasn’t some calculating twenty-something¬†Thai girl who views foreigners¬†as winning lottery tickets. This was simply a woman trying to make extra money to pay off her debts and send her children to a local university back home. Besides the bar, she was also working overtime at a nearby restaurant. I admired her commitment and was soon pitching in to help the cause.

Though she was technically my girlfriend, I didn’t have her move in with me, preferring a measure of privacy. Nor did I support her full-time. She continued to work at the bar and¬†sleep in a large dorm-like room nearby where¬†most of the girls stayed. At times, when she was especially tired, she’d use my place as a crash pad for an afternoon nap.¬†

It was a pleasant¬†arrangement for me. For our “dates”, I would pay her bar fine and we’d go out to eat and play some pool. Later, we’d¬†retire to the apartment for maybe a movie and night together. In many ways I was a good friend, always willing to lend a hand such as when she needed a new foam sleeping pad. We went shopping and I purchased one for her, then proceeded to drag the unwieldy item seven long blocks in the suffocating heat back to her room.

Unfortunately the good times did not last. After six months together, I moved to Bangkok and broke things off when I decided I didn’t want to get serious. However, I continued to provide her with money when crises arose, such as last year when the bank was about to repossess her home. Rasamee’s¬†ex-husband, whom I hope someday ends up¬†with testicular cancer, had years before left her and the kids for a younger woman, not bothering to provide any support whatsoever. Though¬†it took¬†some persuading, I eventually stepped in and paid off most¬†of the outstanding loan. A sister covered the¬†remaining amount and though this saved the house, it still left Rasamee with what was by her standards a large debt to her sibling ‚ÄĒ¬†a condition I have just rectified.

Despite my good deeds, I am no saint. As the post title implies, I am not always thrilled at what seems to be a never-ending stream of problems and requests for help and often wish it would all go away. At the same time, I recognize that having a place to live and providing one’s children with a good education are not unreasonable wishes. It’s clearly a time in her life when some charity can make a difference.

Rasamee with Family
The Reluctant Bread Winner & Family

Zimmerman Verdict

At Sports Academy Pool Hall

Rat (Chalking up her cue): You not say much today, kun-Montre**. You have girlfriends problems?
[**¬†“Montre” is the way my Thai friends address me, which is the closest their language allows them to pronounce my name without twitching.]

Me: No. President Obama want Americans to not be angry about Zimmerman, so I am quiet.

Rat (Preparing to break): Zimmer..man? What is Zimmerman? 

Me: Hispanic man. In America he shoot black man (mimic a gun firing in conjunction with Rat’s energetic break). Kill him. But not get trouble.¬†

Rat: His…pan…ic?

Me: Family from Mexico; come work in America. Some Americans not like.

Rat (Smartly banking the one ball while still looking puzzled): What you mean?

Me: Same same Cambodians come to Thailand. 

Rat: Ah, kao jai. (Thai for “I understand”. The Thais, like many Americans and perhaps most people in the world, look down their noses at their neighbors.)

Newt: Why Americans angry?

Me: If Hispanic man shoot black man, or white man shoot black man, not good.

Newt: If black man shoot black man, Americans angry?

Me: Ahh, mai ben rai. (Thai for “not a problem”. Might as well try to be honest.)¬†

Newt: Are you angry?

Me: Yes! I miss easy Eight Ball shot last game. Very stupid.

Rat: Let’s have another tequila round! Make you feel better about Eight Ball and the Zimmerman.

And so life manages to go on for me here in Thailand’s capital despite the verdict, though CNN seems determined to keep the controversy simmering. Living overseas, it’s harder to grasp (much less explain), the way cross-racial violence and justice continues to be a flash point in the U.S. and the manner in which it detracts from more serious concerns. While many Americans are outraged over the shooting of an unarmed black by a Hispanic, each year over thirty thousand of their countrymen (Hispanic, black, white) are in fact killed by guns. Yet nobody gets upset, aside from the occasional schoolchildren massacre, and even then the resulting outrage is fleeting. Far easier to let CNN define what one should be angry about.

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