R.I.P. Roy Schneider
Bruce is in a street/path beer-bar in Chiang Mai, rheumy eyed, perched on a teak stool.
The Chang beer stubby-holder holds half a Heineken. His Heineken receipt holder is nearly full. His fading-blue cornea have faded even more lately (if you haven't seen him for a year or two) with a white corona of arcus senilis. He needs his glasses to read the paper: he's not seeing well and not looking good either.
The leathery skin stretched over his wasted shoulders, exposed by a stained singlet, and over his bony knees and shins is blotchy, tanned but red with scarcely healed dark sores. His hair is thin, his legs are thin, so too his arms, though his belly remains protuberant. But it is only the pathological remnant of his once much larger self, now merely the false fat of an ascitic accumulation. His last tap was Saturday, 2.2 litres...
The doctors should tell him to stop drinking, but instead they say, why bother.
A tuk-tuk rattles past the moat-side main strip like the clash of a thousand shields, a water-spout mimics a cheap fountain, a story in the Chiang Mai Times has come into focus and Bruce's heart begins to pulse loudly, rising to a crescendo. The force of the beat is building, storming him, from across the disturbed waters of the moat (a child has jumped in), from the 2-strokes puttering along the streets, a thump that charges down from the cloud-shrouded mountains nearby: it's so loud, it's so threatening, it must be audible outside his body, it must permeate everything, everyone should scream and run away...
He fossicks into the depths of his extremely weathered cargo shorts (no point in buying new clothes now, he claims) and takes out his phone. His thumb finds its own way around the keypad blindingly fast, which is lucky because old Bruce is not that far from being blind drunk as well as clinically blind, and he sends a text, ironically through a Temasek company he cynically smiles, down to Singapore, to his mate E@L, who just happens to be watching a movie at home (on Starhub).
« I c ur m8 Roy Schneider passed on »
A short-legged lady in even shorter shorts wants to sit on his lap. "Koon Bweth, you buy me drinn now?"
"Minute, minute, dai dai, later," he brushes her away politely, he is reading, texting, texting, reading, he's busy. She laughs and sashays her dimpled thighs back to the rickety table and chairs (moulded plastic) where three other ladies are sitting, eating spicy paw-paw salad with spoons. She's already drinking Mehkong Whiskey and ice-water with them while they play cards and call out to passing men, young, but mostly old...
"You wann somtam, mitha Bweth?"
He shakes his head, but knows he needs some time, some more time to write it all down, not just to make jokes all day...
Bruce's phone soon hums and dances on the small makeshift (solid teak) bar. Bruce puts down his paper and holds the phone display to his face.
« My mate? I can't dance. Yes sad. SO??? » is E@L's response. E@L always knows an SMS from Bruce is going to be more than just an SMS.
Flashing thumbs in Chiang Mai...
« u no he got a load of pussy from that movie »
"Koon koon, com yang derm, kuhp." The rather short, rather plump lady smiles with a lot gum, raises a lot of painted-on eyebrow and moves those thighs to the fridge to find the jai dee farang his next beer, as requested.
Bruce's phone hums and dances again and he takes a slow sip of the painfully frigid beer.
« What movie. klute? all that jazz? What are you talking about??? »
Flashing thumbs, a roll of aquatic inertia wobbles in his belly from a suppressed laugh. What's wrong with making jokes? Like it matters. Da dump. Da dump. It's back, just when you thought it was safe to drink the water, Bruce's sense of humour is back.
« he defeated snatch from the victory of jaws »
Giggling now, he winks at the girls. Snatch at their snatches, mitha Bweth.
"Oy!" they all laugh back. "You horny now, Koon Bweth?"
"Dai dai," he laughs back, does a little dance on his stool, just as his phone does on the bar again.
"I'm horny. I'm horny. Horny, horny, horny..."
« not funny! ok a little funny is good!! in fact VERY fucking funny. cheers mate! » are E@L's final words to Bruce.
The music plays on the tinny speakers by the bar, scaring rather than enticing customers. To Bruce it sounds good all of a sudden, for he has made a joke. It sounds like...
Wasting away again in Mehkong-whisky-ville...
Not such a bad thing after all, not a bad way, not a bad place to die. A woman who pretends to like you, you pretending not to notice the pretence... Warm weather, enough cold beer, and who gives a rat's arse if it's rat's arse on the barbie for dinner tonight?
Talent, fame, riches, where do they get you? Along comes a little cancer, a little infection, a giant shark... You're just as dead.
Enjoy it while you can.
Isn't that right, Roy?
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Ooooh I like that one. Say hi to Bruce for me.
Dick: you're soooo predictable... a bit of beery expat anomie and a flash of potential thai pussy and you suddenly approve... ;-)
Writing about depression is so much fun!
An anonymous bonhomious anomious existentialist once said to me: "Good, sigh, so?"
(now if I could just turn that into a multilingual pun, I'll be starting my own E@Linngans Wake.)
hahaha...that article on rats was front page news of the Bangkok Post only 2 weeks ago...you were there, surely you read it?
Indy: I was there for work, not for journalism!
There was the usual insecticide bain-marie in Hua Hin, but no...
wait for it...
Your humour is on fine form today :-)
Indy: Yes it been rumbling in the hills of Singapore coming to get me- I just hope it isn't in the water like a giant shark on Saturday on the junk trip!
But the quick joke in the comment section is so much more rewarding than the hard slog at writing a real piece for a post... imho. Just like the quick anonymous shag is so much more satisfying than a boring long term relationship with someone you love... dull dull dull!
Writing is bloody hard work! Do you have any idea how hard it was to get that lazy bastard Bruce to send some SMSs just so I could crack that Jaws joke for example??? I am so stupid, to make myself work so hard. I could have written it as a one liner instead and be done with it, but no no no, instead I had to drag it out with bullshit about old farts dying slowly in some Thai backwater, being pandered to by fading whores not only interested in their money, but also concerned about growing old alone. How unrealistic is that?
Mind you I could have 1500 words around the rat-a-katooey joke and cadged another smile out of old Dick Headley...
Ah, I must face up to the facts... That's my role here on Earth. To make 15 people on the internet smile...
btw Bruce, though nimble and quick, is not a God of Texting, unlike some people I know.
"Just like the quick anonymous shag is so much more satisfying that a boring long term relationship with someone you love... dull dull dull!"
I know you didn't mean what you said there - it was a mistake! You're not 'shallow', nor lacking in depth of knowledge, life experience, nor wisdom...
You meant "than" rather than "that"!
Nor am I lacking a sense of humour... (I changed the typo btw!)
Maybe you should read again the message in my second BitterSweet candies...
Well yes the content hit home but I like the style too....present tense....lots of witty asides and tangenital (what happens if you sit in the sun with no undies) tributaries...
Thanks mate. Sans sub-culottes is a given, for sure.
A problem with writing SE-Asian or any exotic fiction is that it relies so much on the enchantment inherent in the locale that the incidents and the story itself can become almost secondary - a warning that was given to Burgess.
e.g. "They were have an argument in the tuk-tuk in Bangkok when he slapped her across the face."
The drama of the action is diminished because the reader is going "what's a tuk-tuk?" "Bangkok, is that in South Amercia?" "Why are they in Thailand, are they drug runners?" etc. --- hey, guys - he just SLAPPED her!
Stanley Fish (NYT occasional op-ed) wrote about buying books in the airport - if the first page doesn't mention the setting and if the setting isn't America, he won't buy it. I guess for the flight he wants the story only and the setting of a familiar place, with familiar names, familiar social meilieu(?sp) makes it an automatic tableau for him. He doesn't want the brain work of trying to imagine a new architecture, new flora, new fauna, some new cultural baggage to make sense of the actors motivations in its setting. Bit of a lazy dick our Stan, but typical of so many readers.
If the characters were in a New York Cab and he slapped her, it'd be "hey, wow he SLAPPED her!"
Mind you, writers who use all those 60's London references (with the occasional anachronism) and names would similarly not ingratiate themselves with Mr Fish.
You know what? Fuck Mr Stanley Fish!
Some very good points there E@L. It explains why the South East Asian type of novel is destined to remain forever of limited appeal. I do, however, think any mention of Mr. Fish in an embryonic novel about Sixties London is less a question of ingratiation than a stab at a bit of sartorial detail. Pete Carey has a new one out I see.
I am sure this is also why Paul Bowles is not top of the pops, lit-wise (except probably amongst white people). Because of the exotic locations in Sheltering Sky, for example, the weirdest things can happen but you shrug and say, "After all this IS Casablanca" (sorry for mixing cultural references) and just accept. If you die of a liver fluke and no-one cares so your girlfriend runs off with a camel trader to work in a brothel, big deal! Travel With My Camel Trader sort of thing.
Re: PC. I am catching up on I Am A Fake because I had not finished it earlier, distracted, oh look pretty cover - buy new book, and I have the new one as well on my list and on my bedside table.
A prophet in his home town, you know the story - Christ he's just a kid from Bacchus Marsh, he set a novel (Illywhacker) in a house I know in Villamanta St, Geelong. All his novels are about liars and people hiding out or pretending to be someone else. I worry that this is an autobiographical Freudian slip. It'll turn out Mr Chubb is really Peter Carey ir really Ned Kelly is really Lucinda Wotsername is really Jack Maggs is really Peter Carey and/or vice versa.
Is he that good really? What does Amis say?
Sheltering Sky was a strange book which didn't fit anywhere. Ahead of its time I think. Though it did have an influence on people like Burroughs and Kerouac.
I watched an interview with Pete on BBC the other night. Very interesting. He said whereas Hughes, James Greer et al had to leave the cultural wasteland where they got nothing but abuse he, Pete, was welcomed as a local boy made good. Have a beer mate. He became an American citizen because it was convenient not out of any great loyalty to the US. His ambition is to write something beautiful.
I'm not sure where he stands with Amis. Might do a bit of research when I get a chance.
Yes, true, he's been the best received at home of all the expats. Seriously I admire the shit out of him, he's terrific, canny, brave and bloody good. White is still my favorite, still the most artistiv writer from Australia, though I doubt he'd let my buy him a beer, maybe a sherry...
You know what? Fuck Martin Amis.
I did a cursory search to see if Martin has anything useful to say about Pete. Bugger all turned up and I think I have exhausted the topic.
as I said... fma.