Tuesday, February 08, 2005

1/29/05: Welcome to SouthEastAsia:
Introduction to the city at 2am, via one of my old rockband friends**... now ex-pat and loving it, living in the epicenter of Bangkok... He was cool to let me stay a night or 2.... as i was otherwise just passing through on my way to the islands... (objective: RV-free, to sit still a while amidst inspiring beach-scapes.... laptop studio style, and work on my forever upcoming DVD series, finish up one disk if at all possible, working title: Earth Address Optional). So mid-December's decision: Sit out the winter in LA, or take some gear to Thailand? no-brainer.

**(As testament to and despite the passing of time, the changing of ways, my Bangkok friend and I, fast forward to 2005 and we're both living out the latter part of these "rave" days... in parallel, partying plus adventure travel, both miraculously still single... and thus still kicking it! But Bangkok? nice place to visit or crazy place to live, which one is it? This is sure to be an interesting visit.)

Dropped off by $10 airport cab, doorbell, elevator, big handshakes, dump my backpacks, shave, splash water on my face to rejuvenate after 24 hours straight... in transit... I have to bust open the frozen lock on my rucksack so we can all do an imported top-shelf tequila shot (!) headrush, and we're off... out into the night... 2:30am... Outside: still probably pushing 80 degrees, and everywhere, solid humidity.... ceaseless traffic, a tropical city. Just the expectation has me feeling 15 years younger, and we're wandering around like we're back in college... catching up, talking the talk, and its a big fast talk indeed, 'cause you see, according to my friend, this city represents the Promised Land (or perhaps maybe Armageddon).
The Thai night vibe is like BladeRunner's vision of the future LA: Sidewalk sights and smells, barbequed mystery meats, strange fruits, steam out of sewer grates, rats, big neon lights, baby elephants playing horse and buggie, beggars, hustlers and of course the more obvious and desperate of Bangkok's trademark prostitutes wandering the streets. Stop at streetside cafe with the whole mad rush of city traffic on your left, the human onslaught of 3am Bangkok literally brushing up against you on the right... and everywhere: girls making eyes at you... a surreal addition to the late-night scenery. After my 2nd drink, I'm surprised how easy it is to be taken in by simple eye contact, smiles, ie) flattery in this artificial world of women, or is this the way it should be? Jet black hair and ultra-cute in a Siamese cat kinda way, somehow seeming innocent despite everything obvious (why else are they out at this hour?) My friend knows the routine, and the pitch is like this: As a foreigner, there are 3 forms of interaction with Thai women: 1) the most common low-brow cliche being the drunken-sailor-style all-out prostitution, where the price is named in advance 2) the flirtacious rapport with some young lovely... and they'll respond sometimes quite aggressively, sometimes enticingly reserved, but one thing is understood: as "farang" (foreigner) of course you pay the way for the entertainment that evening: dinner, clubs, cabs (all totally cheap by US standards), etc. And later? Wait a minute, whoa: if she gives it up, she's irrevocably "yours"... and you have to be similarly prepared to stick with her, as anything otherwise is the ultimate act of disrespect and might get you beat up by her brothers; or 3) apparently the most common and subtle (to mutually disguise any essence of sleeze) option: you give her a little bit of extra "cab" money in the morning. You establish that fine line. Unspoken prostitution... (ah HA!..), but when you think about it, the sexes, the economics... the temptation / justification: How different is this from the general ways of the world anyway?? (Make note to self: 1) don't let these interesting observations side-track 2) always carry camcorder to capture the essential trippy imagery 3) save self-respect and quickly get out of this city!)

So 4 hours after landing and an epic barrage of the senses later, already i get it: I've pretty much passed the first chapter crash-course in the overall vibe of modern day Bangkok. Enough for one evening, for this non-drinker: 1 tequila and 3 beers while talking a 200 word per minute clip, and i've reached saturation. We stop at a 7-11 hawking knock-off brands of junk food for a fraction of US convenience store price. Back home i NEVER shop at convenience stores, but somehow this perfectly caps off the night, kid-in-candy-store style: I get some dried mango packs, brightly wrapped and labeled with cryptic logos and lettering, like manufactured on some strange planet... for 30 cents each.

Time to crash... jet-lag notwithstanding, I close my eyes and I'm running through those same streets in 3D broad daylight, a magic carpet ride.... smiling to myself, having brought my 3-chip camera... the good microphone... the spirit-catchers... the smiling girls and wandering eyes.... zzzz... but wake up, wait a minute! what's the function of this trip? Am i a tourist? (ick!) I've got work to do. I'm here to write... to make DVD(s)... and in motion. Yes! Then to buckle down in some bungalow, set up my studio and "produce" the experiences and storyboard of the most recent past (Eklektro Karavan)... and of course, all along, the auto-pilot objective, electrified: to capture fresh new ambiance.... To do both is the challenge (inspiration can be a distraction), and so back to those final days of LA stress:

I bit the bullet when it was time to pack (1000 gigs of hard drives winning out over my electronic drum, sorely missed), 8 grand alone in one of the bags... cords, connectors, decisions... risk. And so down to the last minute, pay the last bills, cancel the car insurance, store the RVs, turn off the cellphone (fuck YOU Sprint!): Last week's big-pack dilemnas were instantly resolved once i stepped onto that 6am shuttle bus bound for LAX, my "studio" of the next 10 weeks and 2 bottles of contraband (tequila -gifts) packed solid to the tune of 100 lbs. on my back: Gear, have no fear! and I've even got back-up gear along for the trip, having brought 2 laptops. And so I'll give myself a week before i head to the islands, 'cause right now, DIG this city, and I'm ready for ALL the elements.... i step onto the Bangkok Metro talking on a Thai cellphone, half-way across the globe (and what time is it?)... Now minus my RV, i'm on the STREET as opposed to THE ROAD, but either way its the pavement... foreign soil certainly, and unavoidably breathing deeply this otherworldly smogbrew formula = sunshine + overcast, to the power of 8 million urban inhabitants in the mix... the mix... the visions... i give in... tomorrow... tomorrow it all begins... a strange pillow under my head, a backpack nomad on an impossible shoestring budget mission... i'm a Bedoin... drugged by exhaustion... techo-babble... Babble-On, baby... 4:30am... and some car stereo off in the distance... drifting into armageddon... "Love... Only in my dreams..." (Debbie Gibson?)... post-modern, the mantra... mantra... I sink into the deepest sleep of the strangest Siamese dreams.

Good morning... coffee... shower off the sticky candy-coating that comes with traveling... Hard to dry off when its so humid... probably 90... but i'm acclimated already with the kick of the caffeine, writing....
Thank GOD for sleep, as mental cleansing, the sorting out of the psyche...
Now, where were we? Oh yeah, Asia... I'm hungry.