I’m listening to Al Green sing Love and Happiness, reminded of seeing him preach and sing at his church in Memphis. I was there twice, the first time forty years ago, the second time last year. He had, of course, aged during the interval, but he could still sing and burst into song when the spirit moved him. This occurred without warning, so the band had to be ready to fall in behind him, and in whatever key he chose.
I’m sitting on the front porch of our little bungalow on the beach at Go Jam, an island near Krabi. Everyone who lives here is Muslim, but all the tourists are Europeans and Americans. Lots of scowling Germans. I can always tell a German a mile away by his expression.
There’s a mosque right across the road from our guesthouse, and the call to prayer is really, really loud. Maybe they don’t want to leave anything to chance for the hard of hearing. Fortunately, the man who is singing has a sweet voice, and he sings on key, hitting the notes in that Arabic mode that is so distinctive.
Like most of Thailand, this place is is really inexpensive, and even though this is everybody’s idea of a tropical resort island, we’ve found private bungalows for as little as $8 a night. They’re not airconditioned, but a fan suffices, especially if you’ve first rinsed off in the shower.
No complaints, except that hanging out on the beach is boring. People who live in these places are too busy making a living to hang out on the beach, and even if they could, they wouldn’t want to. They consider the sun an enemy. During the heat of the day, they seek shelter. At twilight, suddenly the single road is full of motor scooters, often holding whole families, zipping to and fro. The children here seem really happy.