Milestones (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Pong)

Howdy-Ho, reader. How’s life treating you? Good, I hope. I hope this pandemic hasn’t got you down. I hope you can still live out at least some happy moments. As for your boy Seven, things are just hunky-dory. Sure, I’m probably witnessing the slow death of the gogo scene in Bangkok—a scene that has helped give me a reason to live. But I’m no longer worried about what might happen if the gogos close. The only constant in this world is change.

Eight months after moving to Thailand, I turned 40. It was a milestone, not because of the number (I don’t ascribe any significance or meaning to age) but because by then I knew that, after visiting 25 countries on 4 continents, I’d finally found home. That was a decade ago, and this week I passed another such stone. Yes, I turned 50, but again that’s not the important part. I also happen to be wrapping up my first public art show, titled “Patpong Dangerous,” in the Candle Light Studio on Soi 2 (which closes tomorrow so you still have time to check it out).


Thanks to the efforts of Michael, owner of the Patpong Museum, who saw something he liked in my work, I’ve completed a sort of bucket list with this exhibition that will allow me to die happy. The show can’t be called a resounding success by any metric. Of 40 or so pieces, only 4 have sold. But I’m not disappointed. Just getting the pictures on the wall was an accomplishment. And to be honest, I’ve become accustomed to creating art in obscurity.

Since I was very young, I’ve had a penchant for creativity, to the shock and bewilderment of all my Thailand acquaintances. They understandably thought that all I did in my free time is monger. In truth, since a young age I’ve been expressing my inner self through drawing, painting, writing, and photography, always to a low level of acclaim and always to an audience of under 20 people.

In high school, I composed a book of poetry that my English teacher loved and that no one else but her family read. While at university, I wrote, directed, produced, and acted in a play that I believe 15 people came to see. Fresh out of school I wrote, directed, produced, and acted in an independent film that approximately 19 people watched. Around the same time, I produced several oil-on-canvas paintings that my roommates (flatmates, for you British readers) raved about and which no one else ever laid eyes on. In the early 2000s I wrote and self-published a novel that four people read (it might be up to 20 now, as I’ve been force-feeding it to readers every Friday on this website). Even this blog, to which I’ve posted faithfully for three years, garners only the most casual of glances in the smallest numbers imaginable.

So when the chance came to exhibit a collection of photoshopped images of some of the loveliest gogo dancers in Patpong in an exhibition IN Patpong, I jumped at it, knowing it would receive no attention, knowing I wouldn’t come close to recouping costs, and knowing that I’d slip back into obscurity within minutes of its closing. My buddy Jack from BKKNites saw me at the opening and said “You look nervous.” But I wasn’t. I knew no one would come to the show. It was probably just indigestion. I’ve grown accustomed to the notion that I’m destined to die in anonymity. Like Van Gogh, except after I’m gone my work won’t rise in value.

Will the gogos close? Who knows. Will I ever be able to quit my day job and be a full-time artist? Probably not. But it’s OK. Life in Thailand is its own reward. I have no aspirations for notoriety. Just getting the pictures on the wall was, to me, a crowning achievement. And so now I can go to my grave knowing I made a film, put on a play, published a novel, and held an exhibition. The fact that no one noticed isn’t important. What matters is, I did it. And now it’s done.

Which raises the question, what’s next? I’m not quite ready to croak yet. My junk still works, my brain still works (for the most part), and this is the most exciting, beautiful, serene country in the world. Shenanigan’s serves a lamb shank that goes perfectly with an Australian Cab for sale at Foodland that goes perfectly with a Cuban cigar. Clearly, I can’t just give up and kick the bucket yet. So what’s next? I’ve been learning to play the ukulele, but I doubt I’ll ever be good enough to perform for people.Maybe Sweet Patpong will provide something. She hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Maybe it’s enough to simply Pong every night and splurge on lunches every day while bedding beauties in between. Maybe there are no more creative worlds to conquer. Maybe this blog will suffice, where I can leave little nuggets of gold and/or shit for a small, very intelligent readership with excellent literary taste.

Full disclosure, I’ve picked up some blank canvases and water-mixable oils, so maybe I’ve already answered my own question.

And I still had a kickass birthday, by the way. Or at least, kickass by my standards. It started off in Le Bouchon, where I had a glass of white with some goat cheese spring rolls, followed by a glass of red with the slow-cooked beef cheek in red wine and vermouth sauce. Just excellent. Then I hung out with three of my off-duty harem girls in Black Pagoda, where they surprised me with a cake (lovely lasses). Then I slid over to XXX Lounge with a bottle of Shiraz and a Cuban Partagas Serie 4, which I consumed with gluttonous pride on the terrace. All-in-all, a pretty nice 50th. I wouldn’t want to’ve been anywhere else with anyone else. In fact, I think that’s my fourth birthday in a row spent in a Patpong gogo bar. If all goes well, I’ll spend the next 20 in the same place doing the same thing with the same folks. Cheers to another year above ground in the greatest country on Earth, and to hoping this pleasure streak lasts.

Swing by next week for another shoutout from the Pong, and between now and then keep your balls shaved, your pencil sharpened, and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate what you’ve got. Peace out.