The Suburbs of Babylon Chapter 3 Part 1

Greetings fellow quarantine/totalitarian/Orwellian nightmare victims, it is I—Bangkok Seven. Former and hopefully future Patpong whoremonger. Below is the first part of Chapter 3 of my ongoing Friday frowback offering better known as “The Suburbs of Babylon,” or the novel I wrote in my 20s and 30s that nobody bothered to read. I’ll be honest, it ain’t great. But if you’re stuck in Covid-19 lockdown and have nothing better to do, I offer the following distraction. If you haven’t read chapters 1 and 2, I suggest going back to my homepage and skimming through them first. It will help shed light on the miserable events to follow…

“Chapter Three

‘There’s a pub if you’d like to go.  You could meet somebodywho really loves you.’—The Smiths


            I’ve always had the feeling, as far back as I can remember, that no matter where I was I should be somewhere else.  Nowadays I quell that feeling by taking as many trips as possible, staying away as long as time and circumstance will allow.

This time it is Mexico.  What is happening now, as Art, Norman, Alvin, and I are sloughing through traffic down the 5 freeway, is what usually happens on these short, pointless journeys.  I have the preoccupying notion—not thought, really, because it never fully forms in my mind—more like an unfinished picture—of the premonition of my death.  Or some forthcoming catastrophe.  A sense of imminent doom.

The first time I remember having one of these was one day when I was six or seven.  The orphanage I was in had a picnic at a nearby park, and I knew for some reason that I shouldn’t go.  But at that age you’re never given a choice.  Fifteen minutes after we got there, a bulldog pounced on me and bit my face, and I had to get eight stitches in my lip.  Maybe the dog could sense in some way that misfortune lay ahead for me and saw the bite as its duty in nature, or maybe I brought it on myself—self-fulfilling prophecy.  Either way, I knew something bad was going to happen before it did.

Since then I’ve had the “fatal feeling” many times.  Sometimes something happens, sometimes it doesn’t.  Which makes it hard to tell when I’m actually being prophetic and when I’m just being paranoid.  I’m sure a lot of people have visions like these, out of their fear of death.  They see themselves crashing on a plane, or they see the train hurling off its tracks, or worse, smashing full force into an oncoming train and being buried alive, half-crushed between the cars and the tracks.  Mortality is a common thing to wrestle with, so I embrace these black thoughts.  They seduce me.  They prey on the mind, dancing in the imagination like flames, or rippling silently like dark water.

I must give some attention to these predictions since my experience has been that I am at least partially psychic.  And sometimes, like this time, the feeling is unusually strong.  In spite of this, and even because of it, I know I must go.  I am inexorably bound to the instinctual obsession to fly headlong into destiny.  Melodramatic as it sounds, it is really as simple as the need to feel alive—to have a basis upon which to define death, especially living death.  And whatever my fate is, I know I cannot escape it.

*   *   *

            …Well, I didn’t die, anyway.  But my premonition of bad happenings was right on the money.

At the hotel where we were staying, there is a rule against bringing in alcohol.  They want you to buy from the hotel bar, which costs a fortune.  So Norman said to me, as we pulled into the parking lot, “We brought our own stash, and we’re going to sneak it in.”  I went around to the trunk and saw that there were two cases of Keystone and a twelve pack of Sam Adam’s.  As I stood there wondering how we were ever going to get so much beer past the front desk, Norman informed me, “We’ll just put the cans under your clothes in your suitcase.  They never check.”  He was very confident about this last point.

So we got ready to go in, and I had about a second to wonder why my friends elected me and me alone to smuggle in the beer before we hit the lobby, not nearly enough time for me to get a grasp on the situation, and lo and behold, what should I see but a team of security guards checking bags.  “Don’t sweat it,” Norman assured.  “Just play it cool and walk on by.  And before I could say OK, my so-called friends had sped off around the corner without so much as a backward glance.  The bastards left me there as I was forced to empty my bags onto the lobby floor.

“What you think you do, lie to me?” asked Ernesto, the security guard.

“I didn’t even know it was in there!” I screamed, my voice embarrassingly shrill.  “It’s not even my bag, I’m just carrying it!”

Then he says, “Look, that’s tree times today you try to sneak by me.”  And I think, What, do all Americans look alike to this guy?

“I just got into town,” I replied.  “I haven’t been here in two years.”

“Oh,” he said, and it struck me that this guy was hardly a rocket scientist, and if I had put an ounce of thought into this I would’ve gotten away with it.  It’s just that I believed Norman when he said they never check bags.  In fact, even after the detailed inspection by the security team, I still got in with three Sam Adam’s and a whole case of Keystone.  Don’t ask me how.  Maybe the guards felt bad for me.

About ten minutes later, Art finally came looking for me, after I’d been wandering around with no idea where the room was, and asked me if I got busted.  And I though, Hmmm.  Yeah, I’d say I got busted.  Thanks so much for looking out for me, you ungrateful bastard, but out loud I said, “Yeah, but I still got a case in one bag!”  And we went back and polished it off before heading over to Papas & Beer.  This was in the first hour.  Plenty of time for things to get worse.

I’ve been to Rosarito many times over the last ten years.  It is interesting to see what things change, and what stays the same.  In the last two Spring Break seasons, four new huge hotels catering to American college co-eds have been erected.  One or two sort of lean to one side, indicative of the laxed Mexican building codes, especially for gringo hotels.  Who cares if one falls on them, eh?  Heh, heh.  One hotel was made to look like a giant wooden roller coaster from the outside.  It is green, orange, and purple, with a courtyard that looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland—the bad shroom trip version.  The ground is laid with black, white, and red-checkered tiles; there is a large plaster worm, black and white striped, looping around the square like Dr. Seuss’ Lock Ness Monster.  Various other anomalies, such as enormous plaster fruit, decorate the scene.  It is positively nauseating.  The gap between American pop culture and what Mexico perceives as pop culture is a sickening, harrowing cavern of misunderstanding.  Imagine your worst carnival killer-clown nightmare and you have Rosarito’s tourist campaign.

But we pass all this, taking refuge in the oasis that is Papas & Beer, where every year the women get prettier and the party gets wilder—and this year was no exception.  This could be dragged on and on, but one example will sum up nicely.  At one point, Norman and I were dancing with some girls on the crowded dance floor.  One of them was going wild, gyrating and swaying with drunken abandon.  Norman and I moved in for a sandwich move, a thing that any girl with a sense of humor would find amusing, and at first she seemed to be having a ball.   She swung an arm around my neck, thrusting her hips at Norman.  But then suddenly she straightened up punched me in the chest, pushed Norman down, and resumed her wild dancing.  Now, this is something I see often in the behavior of females and don’t for the life of me understand.  They behave one way one minute, and then for no reason, completely reverse themselves.  And to put a finer point on it, this girl was, as I have seen a thousand times before, seeming to project a desire to be pursued.  Her intoxication, coupled with her erotic grinding and pawing of the men around her were clues to any reasonable person that she was not at all coy.  Yet when approached, she shunned man after man with an aggressive satisfaction, as if her only goal were to see how many people she could reject in one evening.  Now, most men know this comes with the territory.  Women seldom if ever mean what they say, or more specifically, tell men the truth.  I think it’s because they have no idea what they want, and don’t know what to do about it.  And that makes them angry with men.

At any rate, Norman and I took it in stride, and when she got close enough, body slammed her into a crowd of drunken frat boys.  She went down hard, disappearing behind a wall of cheering Neanderthals.  A few minutes later, though, we saw her talking to a couple of hulking apes at the bar, and when they came our way, we made a hasty, swaying, intoxicated escape out onto the street.  We had no idea where Art and Alvin were, but that wasn’t unusual.  People vanished all the time in Mexico.  If they weren’t asleep in the room in the morning, then we’d worry.

On the way back to our hotel, we decided we were famished, a not too shocking discovery considering how plastered we were, but were hard pressed to find an open restaurant at three in the morning.  But as luck would have it, right next to our hotel was a small cookery where an elderly senora was standing over a flaming stove, chopping beef on an old worn wooden block.  The aroma was irresistible.  We pulled up to the counter and ordered two quesadillas asada con crema, and there on the dirty main street of Rosarito, ingested the single greatest-tasting meal of our lives.  Whether it was the booze, or the wooden chopping block, or the crema, or the magical recipe of the old senora we could not say.  But we both agreed we have never eaten anything better.  We stumbled back to our room and were asleep before our heads hit the pillow.”

These little trips to Mexico in my youth were a clear precursor for my eventual world travel, as well as my love for exotic, foreign locales. I often wonder if I’d have had the courage to come to Thailand had I not tasted these first bits of freedom in Baja California. I can’t help but feel some nostalgia when rereading these events, both good and bad. At that time, I was young, foolish, insecure, and inexperienced. I put women on a pedestal, and to some extend did the same for my selfish and undeserving friends. Since then I’ve shed both bad qualities. I don’t fear the rejection of women, and suffer no fools in my life at all. Call lessons learned.

Tune in next Friday for part 2 of this chapter, and in the meantime keep your chin up, your head above water, and cheers to the inevitable end of this pathetic pandemic lockdown (pathemic lockdown for short, copyright BKK7). Peace.