The Suburbs of Babylon Chapter 7 Part 1

Happy Friday, all. By the time you read this, I’ll be packing a suitcase in anticipation of boarding a repatriation flight back to Bangkok. Provided they don’t deny me for being farang, and provided it doesn’t crash, I should be back in TLOS and checked in to a quarantine hotel by 11 pm Saturday night. Fingers crossed.

But right now, it’s time for a frowback. Here’s part 1 of Chapter 7 of my enigmatic yet uninspired self-published tome of tedium titled “The Suburbs of Babylon”…

“Chapter Seven

No revolution, maybe someone somewhere else could show you something new about you and your inner song.—Tears For Fears


Thursday is a bad day for me.  Jane left me on a Thursday, and every Thursday since then something terrible has happened.  Last week I got a 55-dollar jaywalking ticket. The week before that I ran out of gas on the freeway.  The week before that I threw my back out and couldn’t get out of bed for three days.  The week before that a group of black teenagers tried to start a fight with me because I was white, and the week before that I got food poisoning.

Tonight I hung out with Liza—a girl who flits in and out of my life randomly.  She’s an old college friend, gorgeous, headstrong, and not interested in me romantically.  I finally gave in to her persistent invites to have dinner, even though I didn’t feel much like company.  Eating with her is always a bad experience.  She lives in West Hollywood and insists on going to these faux chic Melrose cafes because Johnny Depp or someone eats there, and that and the high prices somehow make the food better.  I could be happy with a couple tacos from El Indio, or even a local food truck.  Or better yet, I’d rather eat in, where I could make pasta and stew some tomatoes and sausages with a little Wild Horse Nebbiolo in the sauce.  But instead we’re crowded onto the patio at Luna, and I’m forced to choke down a poppy seed gouda cheese pizza soaked in balsamic vinegar while being treated like garbage by our angry, self-righteous, flamboyantly gay waiter.  (I sent the pizza back just to see him tremble with rage.)  Yet the alternative would have been sitting around thinking about my Thursday curse, so I went, hoping Liza would shine some sunlight on my melancholy state of mind.  Plus there’s that notion that the one night you don’t go out you’ll miss the most exciting event of your life.  It’s a total lie, though.

I ended up with a multi-grain calzone for fifteen bucks plus a 30-dollar parking ticket.  But what had begun to look like a typical Thursday suddenly took a turn for the better when we were met by Liza’s friend, Beth.  She was absolutely delightful in tight blue Levi’s, a shrunk black t-shirt wrapped around huge bosoms and a pair of big plastic shoes that added five inches to her height.  Her look was decidedly Hollywood—hair radically bleached and weaved with pink (including eyebrows), dark red lipstick, no mascara, porcelain skin.  She was positively hip, impressively tough, admirably wise.  Shamelessly sexy.  Her attitude was one of cynical smoothness, confidence, wit and grace.  She seemed to see herself as a parody and had no problem with it.  If she took herself seriously, she’d just be another tacky slut, but to her credit, she achieved the opposite.  She reminded me of Jane—and of me.  I told her this, to which she responded, “I really am a man.”  She wasn’t, really, but I could she what she was getting at.  She had an aggressiveness and a crassness that is usually attributed to men around here.  And most women like her don’t impress me with their words like she did, or possess the kind of understanding of the male dilemma that she had.  (We conversed freely about the conflicting messages women and society give men in regard to roles and behavior.)  But where her demeanor may have been interpreted as masculine because of its involuntary power, I must say that her appearance was completely, adamantly, spectacularly female.

I was stimulated by her thoughts and fascinated by her complex beauty.  Liza hinted that Beth and I would be good together.  At first I saw this as an excellent opportunity to test my theory about decadent trysts with meaningless women.  But in truth I am not in the position to give even a feeble effort to a relationship.  I’m like a socket without a bulb.  I expressed this to Beth, and she replied with some allusion to filling her socket with my bulb, or something to that effect.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about her proposal, not knowing how many bulbs may have burned out in that particular socket.  I got the feeling that if I let her, she’d suck the life right out of me in time.

I said nothing in return, and went on eating my calzone.  A moment later, though, I created a stir when I craned my neck to look at the bare back of a passing woman.  Liza threw the usual male-bashing rhetoric at me—typical horny male, all balls and no brain (even though she knew better of me).  What she didn’t understand was that I wasn’t interested in meeting the woman or talking to her, or having sex with her.  I didn’t even care to see her face.  What I saw was long, brown hair flowing over delicate shoulders, and that was all I wanted.  Other men may undress her mentally, make a crude comment or even accost the poor girl.  But more often than not, the momentary glimpse is enough.  Like a fleeting portrait.  Jane never understood that, either.  She was always paranoid that I was cheating or wanting to cheat.  Or even finding other women attractive, as if that should never happen.  She would get so bent out of shape over the most insignificant things.  The fact is I look at attractive women knowing I’ll never see them again.  All men do, every day.  We simply enjoy setting eyes upon someone or something beautiful, wherever and whenever possible.  Of course, sometimes we look to covet, but that is always followed by pain.

Pain is such an interesting element of life.  We run from it, spend so much energy avoiding it; develop, concoct, discover new and quick ways of recovering from it.  Yet in spite of such an ardent campaign, it is inevitably in vain.  Because pain never really goes away.  It is like a forgotten but ever-present appendage.  A third arm.  There’s no way to rid ourselves of it—we can only cover it up, or temporarily distract ourselves from it.

I like the way Beth thinks.  It is evident by her attitude that she has been through the ringer and come out of it with a perspective I can identify with.  The way she quietly holds her pain instead of denying it, her comfort with the obvious presence of sadness and the unapologetic humor she reins it in with are quite beautiful to witness.  Like a meal for my brain, this woman is, and I gravitate to her, but only for a moment, because even as I am melting around and settling into the form of her and truly enjoying every aspect of her, I know it is futile.  Even if I could love her, she would break my heart as sure as I would let her.  So rather than torture myself with the taste of her fruit (and Beth really was quite ripe) I left them, and tried not to think of what Liza said as I went, about what a good lover Beth is, as if the mere sight of her didn’t scream that fact.  The flesh is willing, but the heart is impotent.

After coming back over the hill, I met up with Alvin and Norman at the Cat.  The place wasn’t busy, it being a Thursday, and we decided to get a little loose and drink a lot of beer.  This is more daring than it sounds, because the bartenders at the Cat only bother to clean the taps once in a blue moon, which makes the beer a bit more potent (and musty) and insures a raging hangover the next day.

One of our favorites, Raven, a dark-haired lass with perfectly round fake breasts, decided that she could no longer tolerate the dust build-up on her fan, which hung over the stage tousling her long mane.  So she grabbed a chair, stood on it, dismantled the fan, and cleaned it, blade by blade, in all her naked glory.  Evidently things were more relaxed on Thursdays.

The women were also a lot friendlier.  The lack of customers made for a lighter atmosphere, and the girls took advantage of it.  Every stripper at one or more times in the night came over and sat with us, talking about everything from school to their kids.  One thin young blond flirted so openly that I was actually a little embarrassed.  I’m trained to think that there is no possibility for anything with these women apart from the business relationship in the strip joint.  Which in itself is tricky, because it’s a fake enamourment.  The girl pretends to like you for the three minutes she’s on stage, and you pay for her attention with ones and fives.  Still, you get used to this fakery, until the rare moment when a stripper actually is attracted to you, and then you don’t know what the hell to do.  Having been put in the position, I did what I always do: I ignored it, though it only served to strengthen her resolve.  I even began to wonder if she’d ask me out and actually warmed up to the idea, until she told me her name.  It was Jane.  I excused myself, and went to play darts with Raven.

It was, all in all, the best time I’ve ever had at the Cat.  The girls were unbelievably chummy.  They drank with us, went to the men’s room with us (which was less traumatic than it could’ve been, since I was so drunk), joked and laughed with us.  I was struck by how down-to-earth these girls were.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them have serious cocaine habits, and will stab you in the neck at the drop of a hat.  But we were totally at ease, and were I think as much a breath of fresh air for them as they were for us.  All in all, it was a night of general stupidity, but that’s got to happen every once in a while.

*   *   *

The other day I went to buy some oil paints and a couple canvases—painting and charcoal drawing, mostly the nude female form, is a sporadic hobby—at an art store in Encino.  While standing in the checkout line, who should be right behind me but Pamela Anderson.  She had a handful of fabric flowers, some watercolors, and markers, I assumed for her kids.  She was talking to her friend, complaining that she was having trouble getting her son to learn his multiplication tables.  Without thinking, I turned to her, said hello and that I was a teacher, and that I’d be happy to recommend a tutor or even offer my services.  She looked shocked for a moment, then thanked me, and took my phone number.  Then I made my purchase and went to the car.  A moment later, Pam came out and walked to her convertible black Corvette, which was parked a few spaces away from me.  Thinking I would offer a tip or two on learning times tables, I took a step toward her and opened my mouth to speak.  Suddenly two large men came out of nowhere, blocking my path.  “If Pam wants your services, she will let you know,” said one of them.  Then she was driving away, followed by the two bodyguards in a black SUV.  At first I was flustered, but given all the harassment Pam’s endured, I suppose it’s a necessary evil.  Then as it dawned on me that she would never call, and probably already had expensive tutors and private teachers, I couldn’t help but feel a bit embarrassed.  Her world and mine were never meant to intersect.  It would only serve to remind me of my low and pathetic state.”

Ironically, one of the things I’m most looking forward to when I get out of quarantine is to settle back into my apartment in Silom and do some painting. Oil on canvas. But what a difference Thailand makes. Instead of painting some nude woman in my house in Los Angeles, where it would go into a closet and never be seen by anyone, my future artwork will be hung for exhibition in the Candle Light Studio in Patpong. Provided the plane doesn’t crash.

Here’s to no crashing planes in my immediate future, and here’s to Thailand—the greatest country on Planet Earth. Cheers.