‘Sup reader, my name’s Bangkok Seven and this is my blog. On Friday’s I like to harken back—to ‘frowback,’ if you will—to past points of pertinence in my life, especially ones that helped lead me inevitably to this blissful existence in Thailand. For the past several (and next several) Fridays, this journey has come in the form of excerpts from my first (and so far only) self-published mediocre novel titled “The Suburbs of Babylon.” This week takes us to Mexico, and recounts (with mostly non-fictional musings) a watershed moment from my past…
Now it’s the same room but everything’s different.
You can fight the sleep but not the dream.—Crowded House
It is 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday, our third day down here this time. I’m sitting outside the sleeping Rosarito Beach Hotel, a place I swore I’d never torture myself by visiting again. The streets are empty now, but three hours ago they were precariously teeming with young, drunk Americans, many of whom finished off the night’s festivities with a Federale’s flashlight to the back of the head before disappearing into a Mexican paddy wagon. The sheer danger of the town is surreal, but we’ll come back to that later.
I am the only gringo not asleep right now. My sole company is a smattering of languid locals and the arriving hotel work force, who eye me sideways with the bitterness that has become so familiar here it’s almost comfortable.
The reason I’m not slumbering like everyone else is because Alvin staggered into our room an hour ago, passed out and promptly began snoring so loudly that it would be impossible to exaggerate. After twenty minutes I could endure no more and have sought peace in the lobby, the very lobby where I emptied out my bags for the alcohol patrol on a previous trip. I’m waiting for the restaurant to open.
I can’t really afford breakfast, but I figure I deserve some gratification for being forced back into the dreamy world after only two hours of dreamless sleep. I’d make Alvin pay for it, since it’s his fault after all, but he’s impossible to get money out of, especially when he owes you.
Three loud, fat Mexican girls have just planted themselves next to me. Their explosive cackling and operatic belching are rattling my skull. Though there is definitely something satisfying about a hangover. It’s a reminder that I abused myself profusely and survived, and it pleases me to know that by creating misery for myself I can thereby eclipse the miserable state I was already in, which I did not create. I have been more intoxicated the past two and a half days than I have ever been before, mostly because of the discovery that tequila immediately chases away any unhappy thought that breaks the surface. Presently I feel as though I am a walking aquarium of sorts, filled to the rim with Hornitos, my miserable thoughts floating harmlessly within like quiet little fishes.
This is odd. I am shocked to find around me an increasing number of geriatrics. They must only come out in the morning, since I’ve not seen anyone over thirty around here before. The party starts early here, the liquor and half-naked women flowing in currents under the baking sun. I fail to see what could lure the sixties set to this college playground. Even the idea that they may recapture their youth is ridiculous, since this place is not so much a vacation spot as it is a seething asylum of debauchery and empty pleasures.
The actual hotel is old, compared to the rest of the town. In the 20’s and 30’s it was a casino, and it the 50’s and 60’s a hideaway for the likes of Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, and the architecture retains that air. I am nursing coffee now with a view of the veranda (soon to be littered with the bare golden flesh of unassuming women), beyond that the dark blue ocean and in the distance a lonely rock of an island. . .
No man is an island. But I can imagine myself to be. I’m as lonely as one most of the time, the brief happinesses of my life coming and going like ships, maybe. My trouble was I always tried to hold fast to whatever sailed through my sightline, constantly scanning a mirage of a horizon, desperate for what once was and had gone. I fancy that I have just recently learned not to reach out for those colorful ideals that float easily by. But the truth is, no one is an island because we can move around, after all. We can go places, chase after what we lost or have not yet discovered. That is why I come back here. It is why I went to the peninsula, to Santa Barbara and Vegas. Though for me it was equally an effort to escape my pain, or to be distracted from it. But I didn’t need to tell you, I’m a textbook case. My uniqueness is not in the fact that I am pathetic, rather it is the colossal depth and height and breadth of my depravity that marks my individuality. I search like everyone else. I pine and wax and call myself jaded by experience. But anyone can look at a map of my mal-adventures and see that I don’t really go anywhere. I don’t really try. I amble, or rather ramble. I look at my shoes and walk in circles and voice my poetic woes. In this way, I can claim the right to whine without truly risking anything. If I choose failure, as desperately as I yearn for happiness, then at least I can go on living. I can forget—wait. Wait a minute. Yes, I have forgotten what it was I can forget, and I refuse to try to regain it again (my apologies to the reader), though I’ll say it had something to do with the notion that there might not really be an answer to the dream, anywhere on the map, and if that is true then one may as well kill oneself. And that someday I really will go somewhere, someplace far away and I will not ever come back, but now I must go have a tequila.
The time is now 8:40. My pancakes, eggs over-medium, bacon, orange juice, and coffee were quite satisfying, as was the bowel movement that followed. I am lounging in the sun and basting my bitterness with Hornitos, having checked in on my roommates who somehow got Alvin to be quiet and are now all sleeping soundly, or soundlessly. I debated about limping out to the beach but decided the early morning breeze is too cold. I say limping because in the last ten drunken hours I’ve managed to pull my left calf, tweak out my right knee and crush my right little toe. If I can walk out of here on my own tonight (we have to be in L.A. by 9:00) it’ll be a miracle. I don’t recall how I acquired these injuries, but I believe the knee happened during yesterday’s “encounter” with an old (long-time extinguished) flame from college who I ran into on a fluke and now regret ever laying eyes on.
Her name is Annais, and while it is beautiful, the girl it belongs to doesn’t do it justice. She is aesthetically stunning, with a physique like a supermodel, but lacks any mental quality one may deem necessary to carry on a conversation. So instead of conversing, we went to my room (the boys were playing basketball) and fell to what we always fell to, a lustful clamoring over one another that could very well have ended in sex, had we not been interrupted by Alvin—after which I found myself wanting to retch. It was all I could do to get rid of her. I tried not to let her take a piece of my soul with her as she went, like she always did before. Sex without love is like a tiny door to hell. You pass a bit of yourself through it each time. And even thought it hadn’t come to that this time, I still felt angry at myself for not denying her at the start.
Out here by the pool is another previously undiscovered age group—children. Screaming, desperately unhappy children and their unaffected parents. They have even less reason to be here than the old people. I could be getting some blessed sleep right now, but each time I doze off I’m shocked awake again by a wailing kid. One little boy can’t stop telling everyone at the top of his lungs that his dad just farted. He seems quite amazed tht the god his father should commit something so blatantly human. I shudder at the potential unraveling of this kid’s psyche as the years teach him just how imperfect his father really is, information that will not come soon enough to spare him a lifetime of dysfunction. But maybe not. Maybe he will escape the mistake of thinking dad is the last word because of this little imperfection. Maybe his life will be saved by a fart. At any rate, the parents all around are delighted by the boy’s senseless chanting, which is conjuring images of murder in my head. I must move. . .
I am now alone by the second pool, but I’m not unscathed by the journey. I hurried past the kids just in time to see one babe leaving his cloudy excrement in the hot tub, and then on the arm of his mother as she plucked him from the now murky water. And just before sitting down I stubbed my big toe on the chair. My right leg is almost useless now.
Looking at the three generations of tourists around me, I realize something. Every human action on Earth is aimed at filling the void. Kids run from one tantalizing façade to the next the same way we twenty-somethings run from bar to bar, or girl to girl. Nothing suffices, so like flies we busy ourselves jumping back and forth between shit piles. People have families in an effort to find completion. Seniors retire and travel the world hoping that maybe they just missed what they were looking for the first time around. True nobility in life I think is simply the ability to live day to day in truth, the bare truth of life, without ever killing anyone.
OK, well, the damn children and their contemptible parents have followed me here and are swarming around me once again. I will not stay to watch the poop fly a second time. I’m leaving. I am being run off. I limp away.”
I often think of this hotel, which is now closed, and the feeling of freedom and leisure that came with being there. It’s a feeling I feel all the time here in Thailand, especially when on an island, or in a beachside town like Pattaya. A beach hotel in an exotic locale is like a drug—one that I relapse to again and again.
Tune in next week for the conclusion of this chapter, and between now and then keep your glass full, your balls empty, and check out Sunday’s blog if you have time. Cheers.