The Suburbs of Babylon Chapter 18 Part 2

It’s Frowback Friday here at and for these occasions we like to shed light on how and why and when and by what means both physical and psychological a man might be driven to relocate to TLOS. For the past several–and starting to feel like eternal–Fridays, that’s meant a snippet from Bangkok Seven’s self-published, much maligned (mostly by him) semi-autobiographical tale titled “The Suburbs of Babylon.” It’s not an overt explanation for his expatriation (explatriation for short, copyright BKK7), but it does provide a basis for the kind of mindset that drives someone into the arms of Thai gogo dancers. What follows is a continuation of Chapter 18, so if you’re not caught up, you might want to take 5 minutes, go back to the home page, scroll down, and reat Part 1 first…

“When Jane first left, there were times when I’d come home from an irrelevant place to find a message from her on the machine, this after not hearing from her for weeks.  She’d usually says she was calling to see what I’m doing, as if she would consent to see me between her other men, but she’d never call from home and wouldn’t leave a number, so I’d have no way of reaching her.  This caused in me a reflex urge to turn and run into the wall, skipping heart funneling love at light speed to a body with nowhere to go.  What followed would be a shutdown as the live blood sunk back through the muscles and settled in the guts.  I may as well have been orbiting the Earth, having no purpose on it.  Too much gravity, preoccupation with the grave, or with graves.  Silly, I know.  Whiny, sappy, loony, willy-nilly, ninny, nincompoop.  Unhappy.  These colorfully put me into perspective.  Pitiful yet unworthy of pity.

Worth.  A word.  Make an “O” with the lips, an “R” with the tongue.  Wor.  Like whore.  I work for worth but worry that the world is worse for my cowordice.  What would a worthy porson endore in the unsmiling force of lorve?

I have decided to cancel my phone service.  No one really calls, anyway, and I don’t want to give Jane a chance to leave more cryptic messages.  I can reopen my own wounds, thank you very much.

*   *   *

Here is something.  I will call it redundant epiphany.  It is the phenomenon of an artist of my generation, late 20th Century, discovering an ideal that has been voiced a thousand times over the last two millennia by famous artists of the past.  But the Gen-X artist-slash-thinker has discovered or re-originated this old thought on his own because, in this modern age, he is grossly undereducated and has had no previous exposure to it aside from his own experience.  He might have read To Kill a Mockingbird in the 10th grade, and perhaps Catcher in the Rye, but Henry Miller?  Douglas Coupland?  Tolstoy?  Nabakov?  Not in the public school I remember.  Ignorance is holy in the classroom.

So I find as I revel in my revelations, in the pages that I have extracted to this point, that it has all been said before, and better than I am saying it now.  And yet, I wonder, what is better?  To be well-read enough to know that nothing is original anymore?  Post-modern pessimism.  Or maybe we need to not be teaching the great works anymore.  Let our children find the ideas and the art again in their own way, and see what new creation they can birth from them.  See what Emerson might have said if he had been influenced by Rock music.  It is an interesting notion.  Which is why, after reading Life After God, I am not putting away my pen and dropping these pages into the ocean.  Cross your fingers for me, reader.  I hope you are not as literate as I. . .

*    *    *

Today is Friday.  I haven’t subbed in ages.  I am sitting at the beach bar in Malibu again, the one Jane used to work at, sipping Cabernet Franc and picking at calamari.  The sun is shining, so instead of having the patio to myself I’m shoulder to shoulder with Hollywood wannabes, foreigners, and frat boys come to ogle the waitresses.  My favorite, the caramel-colored Samantha, isn’t here.  The ocean is pleasantly calm.  In the distance, sailboats line the horizon like children at play.  It is easy for me here to pretend all is well.  Malibu probably comes the closest to heaven on Earth.  There are never any problems here.  It’s better than Disneyland in that way.

*    *    *

Confidentially, I’ve been thinking about suicide again.  I mean, I’d never do it.  I couldn’t do that to Art.  I’m one of his only friends.  Cris might be upset, too, although we haven’t spoken in a while.  Damn the hangers on.  Haven’t I made it clear enough that I’m trying to cut loose?  The goal of course would be to rid myself of anyone who might be adversely affected by my demise, but try as I might, I can’t shake them all.  I think at some point I’ll have to pick up and go to the Sudan or somewhere.  Some place where I could casually slip off the planet and no one would be the wiser.  Art would simply get a letter saying I slid off a cliff while taking photos of wild bison mating rituals and that would be that. In the meantime, though, I’ve taken to walking close to the edge of the street during rush hour, shuffling erratically, hoping some loose change will fall out of a pocket so I can chase it carelessly into traffic.  And when I drive I sometimes press a little too hard on Loretta’s gas pedal around a precarious corner, crossing my fingers for a puddle and a perfectly placed tree.  Although with my luck, I’d probably just end up paralyzed or missing an eye.

I keep looking at what I have made for myself—at my little triumphs, at cursory events.  I think of how little it really matters.  I find that my fabricated life has been mostly pathetic melodrama and self-absorbed angst.  And I don’t see any relief from what seems to be a movie genre ruling my life (deconstructive after-birth), yet there is just enough satisfaction (administered by strippers, wine, and Loretta)—a faint, candy-like taste in the back of my throat—to keep me going, sputtering like a car out of fuel.  But the speed of this nowhere journey is blinding.  I seem to be disappearing in the spinning spokes of a timeless wheel.  So I take the tiny tastes of the shadow of joy like a starving child, fantasizing about crashing my car, because to dream of happiness is just too morbid.

The Pacific is remarkably calm today.  The sight of the slow-rolling waves is tranquilizing, and the green of the water and the blue of the sky are almost too beautiful to be believed.  Across from me is a table of blondes—four of them, drinking, chattering, thoroughly enjoying themselves.  The ocean, the sky, the sun, the blondes.  And the Cab Franc.  I could almost forget my nightmares.

I love my failure.

That is what I tell myself, since it is something I cannot change, and if I fight it I’ll only lose my mind.  So not only do I accept it, I say that I like it this way.  I want this agony.  I enjoy despair.  I find comfort in anguish.  So whatever Fates are punishing me, I’ve outsmarted you because I welcome it.  So you can give up on me, because I’ve beaten you.  I hope this pain never stops because I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Perhaps you can sense something in these words.  This sad self-indulgence.  The harder I try to make sense of things, the more I grasp for the sane, the sensible, the tangible, the more normalcy seems to taunt and dart away (or daunt and ‘tart’ away).  Stand aloof.  Drift off into the atmosphere.  If this keeps up much longer, I don’t know what I’ll become.  But I’ll accept it, if it is an escape from this world.

The blondes across from me typify the women in Los Angeles.  They’re all thin, tanned, immaculate.  They’re all wearing tank tops with no bras.  They all have tattoos on their lower backs.  Somewhere there are men that sleep with these women.  It punctuates my isolation.

I always thought there’d be a payoff, at some point, while I was still alive.  I know about the half-assed theory I had of finding purpose in death, and I still hold to that, but I secretly thought there would be something else, other than whatever task God or Fate wanted me to complete before I am mercifully ushered on.  I thought there would be a series of trials, or failures, at the hands of strangers or evil people, or women, after which a light bulb would turn on, and I’d graduate into something, or the right woman would finally appear.

But now it seems that life is nothing more than a series of encores, a Puerto Rican goodbye that never reinvents itself.  It is the same very time.  My love floods its banks for some stupid girl that doesn’t deserve it.  I give her everything short of my kidneys and she struts off without even a thank you.  And then I either walk in circles muttering nonsense, pupils like eight-balls, licking the carpet, or I dive right in with a new one—anything to forget what I should have learned from.  Like a broken record, I am.

The sun is sinking lower, and the bar is emptying out.  The calm before the nighttime rush.  The tide is rolling in—waves are crashing hard enough to spray over the rocks and sprinkle the patio.  I’m faced with the choice of staying or going—the choice I am eternally faced with—conflicted over what to do.  I’ve given up on seeing Samantha.  I suppose no matter what I choose, the result will be the same.  I will end up drunk and alone.

So this is where I am.  In the middle of something that has no climax or denouement, no arrival, no satisfaction.  No fruition.  I long for something else.”

In re-reading this mildly-average effort from me, the point has been driven home yet again and again so clearly that what I needed in my youth was simply to board a plane and come here. Perhaps this mediocre memoir deserves a sequel that narrates the other side of the happiness graph of my life–how living the last decade in Thailand has reversed all of the despair and angst of the previous three. I bet at least 11 people would read it. Anyway, tune in next Friday for the conclusion of Chapter 18, and between now and then keep your balls warm, your beer cold, and cheers to another week above ground in this, the greatest country on Earth–Thailand.