The Suburbs of Babylon Chapter 18 Part 4

Happy Frowback Friday, reader. Below is the fourth and final installment of Chapter 18 of my self-published meh-moir titled The Suburbs of Babylon. There are only a couple chapters left to go, and if you’ve stuck with it till this point, you have my personal thanks and gratitude. I know it ain’t Hemingway, so the fact that you put up with it this long is a testament to either your dediction or your Friday boredom. At any rate, let’s pick up where we left off last week, shall we? …

“I want to say something here about beauty.  It is so enslaving to men.  To me especially.  A beautiful woman can make my knees go weak.  I get speechless and sweaty in the presence of one.  Why is that?  Why does the physical aspect of a woman hold so much power?  I think it’s because it represents something unattainable, or unachievable.  Ever since I was a boy, I have been fighting two opposing voices in my head.  There’s the one that said, “You’re an orphan.  You’re unwanted, you’re worthless, you have nothing to offer anyone.  You are unlovable.”  That was contrasted with the voices of my teachers, who called me a genius and told me what great things I would do in this life.  In the end, although they meant well, I think just I wanted my teachers to shut up.  That would explain my sudden academic decline.  I chose not to fulfill their expectations.  That, at least, I knew I could do.  I could fail with flying colors.

That is why beauty, the thing a man longs for, the thing that he is not, is such a powerful elixir.  It’s a wonderful poison that can just as easily kill as cure.  Knowing all this, it seems like the way to break free is to simply find a way to stop being a slave to it.  But as any man will tell you, that is impossible. So I suppose that means we are all doomed.

*   *   *

            So I had two mortifying discoveries the other day.  First, I realized that while developing a sophisticated palate for fine wine has added countless small moments of exquisite pleasure to my life—namely the seconds-long series of smelling, tasting, swirling, and swallowing a mouthful of God’s very nectar—and vastly improved my taste for superior vintages, I have unfortunately at the same time made it impossible to feed my habit cheaply, since the better wines cost an arm and a leg, and killed any possibility of becoming intoxicated through the use of other alcohols.  You see, wine is generally two to three times more potent than your average beer, and since I now refuse to pollute my body with anything less than the best (“best” being relative, since the truly best would be a Chateau Haut Brion or Screaming Eagle, the latter selling for two grand a bottle, which I could never in a million years afford), I have inadvertently made getting drunk a near impossibility.  Constant wine drinking has made my alcohol tolerance high enough to impress even an Irishman.

The second discovery that chilled my bones was this:  I paused in front of a mirror, and discovered just how ugly I have become.  Now, before you judge me, allow me to explain.  You see, now that I have aged into my late twenties, I have been forced to come to grips with the fact that my best years—aesthetically speaking—are behind me.  Every day I find a new gray hair, my face gets more jelly-like and amorphous in its appearance, and my gut extends further out into the world.  Admittedly, this could be attributed to the fact that my meals of late have consisted of the following routine:  no breakfast, home-made nachos for lunch, microwave kettle corn for a snack, and a quesadilla and cookies for dinner, followed every night by either a bottle of wine with cheese or a bottle of wine and bowl of ice cream.  I never was much to look at, but during my best years, which I spent with Jane, I wasn’t exactly an eyesore.  Now, however, I can barely stand the sight of myself.  And what’s worse, I can’t seem to work up any desire to do anything about it.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, to change my situation, I would have to give up Wild Horse, Orin Swift, Smith Haut Lafitte, Latour, Katheryn Kennedy, the Cutrer, Conundrum, and Opus One, and I’m just not willing to do that.  Plus, who’s to say that if I did put the bottle down, and ate right, and exercised, I would after all that effort even find a woman to love me who I in turn gave a rat’s ass about?  No thank you, mister, I’m happy with my legal addiction and my fat, misshapen, rapidly deteriorating face.  If the only drawback is suffering through the unpleasantness of my reflection, so be it.

*    *    *

In spite of this brave, detached soliloquy about my fading looks, I have, in fact, begun working out again.  Call it the L.A. in me, but I can’t abide the thought of letting myself go, no matter how bad things get.  So I’m running and lifting weights, going hiking (mostly to get tan), occasionally swimming in the ocean.  It’s amazing what an impact just a little bit of self-care will make.  And the endorphins released through exercise are like a small bonus.

Although to tell the truth, feeling good makes me a bit paranoid.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  For the inevitable bad news.  “I’m afraid it’s cancer,” or “we’re repossessing your car,” or come to find out, Jane gave me HIV.  Something like that.”

I cann’t help but smile when I reread just how pessimistic I used to be. And why wouldn’t I? LA is a harsh place to live if you’re poor and average-looking. It brings the point home yet again how momentous and life-changing it was to move to Thailand, where a poor farang is rich, and an ugly one is a king–at least, in the red-light district. I see no reason to ever leave this Paradise, especially now, given the fact that the Viader vineyard was apparently consumed by fire this year, plus the myriad other reasons, not the least of which are the members of my lovely harem. Thank God for TLOS, am I right, reader? Raise a glass, if you have one. Cheers to the girls of Patpong, who don’t care what you look like, as long as you’ve got money to pay the check bin.