General and Travels12 Mar 2008 11:23 pm

So this is kind of a weird long story.

In February, when I picked up Mike from his retreat at Suan Mokkh, he was a talking machine. I mean, who wouldn’t be after 10 days of silence? He talked for almost 6 hours straight, telling me about the training he underwent, the ups and downs of bathing from a basin, sleeping on concrete and pains from meditation. He also told me about his fellow meditators which greatly interested me, as a people watcher.

At the end of the retreat, the participants were given an opportunity to speak about their experience, and he said a few people stood out, including a man in his 70s named Al. He said Al looked great for his age and had been to the retreat many times over. He had lived in Bangkok for many years, and was basically just enjoying life and keeping his health up by attending the retreat and practicing deep breathing. Pretty impressive.

Al gave Mike his contact info, and he sounded like a genuinely interesting fellow, so I encouraged him to look Al up. We set up a meeting with him at a pub on Sukhumvit on our second last night in Bangkok. I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what the hell, it was happy hour and the beer was brewed in house. We’d have a drink or two, then go out for dinner, parting ways.

That isn’t what happened at all.

First, it must be said that Mike’s tolerance was greatly decreased by the fact that he hadn’t had a drink in quite some time. So we were both halfway through our first pints and feeling glassy eyed. I was hoping Al would come quickly, because I had a feeling he might want to have a few drinks with us as well and I wasn’t sure how long I could hold out.

Luckily, the man appeared quickly. The waitress brought him his drinks without him ordering, and he quickly launched into how great he was feeling post-retreat, and how no one ever took him up on his offer to meet up in Bangkok, so he’s glad Mike did.

The man was a 70-something-year-old dynamo.

Scowling about Thailand’s new smoking laws, he went outside to light up his cigar.  When Mike went to visit the men’s room, he told me about why he was so intrigued by Mike at the retreat; his sunglasses. He said Mike would arrive (to the dining hall/yoga etc), with his sunglasses on, scan the room, look like a robot, then sit down and eat or meditate or whatever. I think he used the word “Terminator” to describe him.  Naturally, I asked him to put on Mike’s sunglasses.  (Note the unbuttoned shirt.)  I don’t know how long we stayed at the bar. We originally had plans to go for dinner on the other side of town, but it was getting a bit late (this always seems to happen to me when I drink in Bangkok). Al said he knew a place we could go for food, but I asked him what he was doing, and would he join us? He sheepishly admitted that he was going to Soi Cowboy, one of the city’s *ahem* entertainment districts. I asked, could we join him? He seemed taken aback, but quickly hailed a cab and we all clambered in. 

Al immediately told us he was “looking for his friend Henry” and said we had to go check the ‘clubs’ for him. So, we walked in and out of several go-go bars, with women in various states of undress on the stages, looking for “Henry.” We never found him, the old bastard, but we sure did see a lot of other… people.

Mike perfected the “White Man in Sex District” look of astonishment.

Finally we settled in at a small club where Al knew the owner. We sat on the patio so Al could smoke and we could people watch.

Al got us some bugs to eat from a cart that passed, so I tried a huge sort of water skimmer / roach I think.

He showed us how to eat them, as well.

We hung out with him for some time, shooting the crap with oil field workers coming in and out of the place, and just watching the mayhem on the street. Eventually Al said he had some business to attend to, and we parted ways as he went off, saying something about “…finding Henry.”

We walked down Soi Cowboy, bathed in the eerily Vegas-like neon lights and into the Bangkok night.

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