Monday, October 25, 2010
I just want to eat my green curry. I just want to eat my vegetarian green curry at the plastic table by myself--I've got no taste for alcohol at the moment and I just want to eat my way through my few last hours in Bangkok. There's a likely looking fellow at the end of said plastic table--long experience has made me sensitive to potential danger--but the curry was too tempting. I parked myself as far as I possibly could from the hunched, shirtless, wispily-white haired gent sitting and staring off into space near the street, got out my book as a tasliman, and hunched over myself. Trying to take up less space. Didn't work.
"What kind of prayer would you say, then? Buddhist, Christian, or Jewish?" Oh god, please don't be a rabid Western monk.
"All three?" Wan smile. No eye contact. I earn myself a few more minutes of peace as he looks off down the street. Still white, quite square, and very, very naked from the waist up, naked in that slightly frightening, slightly sad old man way. It makes me uncomfortable, like I've just walked in on my grandfather in the bathroom.
"Ever had dengue fever?"
Oh for pete's sake. "No. Sounds bad."
He latches on. "It is bad. It just hurts. Went down to Phuket and got it. No cure for it...out of antivirals" blah blah blah. Please, please don't ask me for money. Or do, and then go away. Book hovering between open and shut. I'm bad at outright rudeness, particularly if it means I might get yelled at and have to eat my curry standing somewhere in the street, away from him.
And then it begins. Where are you from? The USA. America! Then, because I have some idiotic travelling pride, I scramble to point out that I used to live here, I was in Taiwan for a while, I'm on my way to Laos, I'm not some large, lonely American girl eating curry by herself in the Khao San cesspool.
"Taiwan? Only thing I hear from Taiwan is dictatorships and corruption." Well, it's a bit different now. "Been to China?" No. "Ah, China..."
And from then I was treated to world affairs, religion, and, oddly, movie reviews.
Apparently, China's combination of Buddhism and Maoism is what the world needs. (I protested weakly that Confusionism and saving face are crap; was ignored.) There's no democracy in Taiwan; there's no democracy in America or in the world. Americans are a "naive" people who believe everything the mass media tells them. OK, not a lot of argument from me, I've got to say. But when I asked what people weren't naive, we were upgraded to a nation of "psychotics," "whores," "prostitutes who spread our legs for a buck." "It all began with bounty hunting in the Civil War." Really? Wait, tell me more about that. But no, "it all began with the American Revolution." Ah. Not a controversial statement, that. But again, no follow up. "Everyone in America should leave and spend six months abroad for deprogramming." Not a bad idea, really. Possibly to Israel, which 1) has no nukes, 2) does awful military business with the USA but "transcends" our military-industrial mindset, and 3) "ought to divorce America before it goes down." Just weird.
Canada's better, of course. Had I heard that Randy Quaid and his wife are trying to escape to Canada to find some peace? I had. Not unlike the soldiers who fled to avoid the draft. Sure. Except that Randy Quaid (who I love; hi Randy!) are escaping "Hollywood murderers" who have "bumped off" several of their friends in mysterious and sinister fashion. (Reading internet gossip finally pays off!)
Canada's too cold, I say. And I eat my curry and look sadly at my open book. But there's no respite.
What's good about America, incongruously, is James Cameron. James Cameron, I repeat. Avatar, my friend says, represents the last beautiful streaking spark of a dying America. Cameron "broke every rule" and inserted twelve "subliminal" scenes into the movie, which is why you have to watch it several times to really get it. Cameron shows how we have fucked our mother and how Americans are "the biggest motherfuckers of them all" (not to be defensive, but China's getting a big old pass here. Guess those Yangze dolphins don't count. But I, for once, digress.)
So, Cameron good. Thought I guess Sigourney Weaver was just spreading her legs for a buck. Tarantino, on the other hand, is the horsemen of our apocalypse. Kill Bill represents the psychosis of the nation perfectly, while Inglourious Basterds was just offensive, utter shit. "How can you turn Adolf Hitler into fantasy?" Well..."No, it's like learning that your mother has cancer and then making a movie out of it." Ah. OK.
But enough about film. Religion: Most Buddhists are professional beggars. Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Anyone who knows what Buddha said before he died is a real Buddhist; the rest are just beggars in robes. (I guess this guy was around back then.) I should stop trying to do something with my life and half "half a dozen kids and fulfill my biological imperative." Which, he hastened to say, is a male imperative too.
And they, they, they, they, they. They, Americans, every single one, it always came back to us, not the US goverment, not the monied fist of multinational corporations, but us. The pluribus. This sick (have I mentioned half-naked?) mad old man--I didn't necessarily disagree with him on a lot of things. But it's hard to have a conversation with someone who repeatedly refers to one's entire population as insane at best, but mostly craven, where we lack the boldness to be fully evil. Americans are essentially the army of the living dead, he insists, ready to eat their own in the name of national security and profit. "And when a good one comes along, they bump him off. Like John Lennon."
I think, "But Lennon wasn't...."
But really. What would have been the point?
I've met people who engage these folks fully. I can't quite manage it. It is a fearsome thing to see, though, as you toss them a reaction like a piece of meat for them to clamp onto and shake violently, like a dog, until any possible reason or meaning has been shredded and chewed. I suppose it was more interesting than my book; spicier than curry without bile. He saw me off quite cheerfully. I wished him a speedy recovery. As I said, we didn't disagree on all that much.
And now I've a bus to catch.