You’ve Arrived!


Notice to Recipient: You’ve Finally Arrived

All your struggles have ended. You efforts have paid off. Finally, after long last, you have received the rewards you so long deserved.

It only gets better after this. The pleasant surprises keep coming. Just when you think delight can’t get any more delightful, it does. Hoo boy!

You want to share the good news with friends and family, but then you remember that they might not have it so good, and you don’t want them to feel envy. There are too many of them for you to intervene in each of their lives and make them better. No, they’re going to have to find their own way, the same way you did, after all these years of wrong turns and outright stagnation.

No reason to focus on the negative or even remember painful parts of your past. That’s all behind you now! Forgive and forget!

The hardest forgetting you’ll have to do is to not dwell on the past. Your past mistakes can haunt you. Forgiving yourself will be out of the question if you dare dwell on them. Yes, you’ve squandered opportunities, let people down, been dishonest, acted like an addict. Let it go. Start fresh.

There’s a word for you! “Fresh.” Air that isn’t stale is “fresh.” Nobody’s breathed it before. A natural breeze has brought it your way. It might possibly be part of the “winds of change.” An atmosphere of hope.

But you can’t enjoy that breeze if you’re still repeating the same old routine. Tired routines are enacted in a sealed chamber, in dim light, often in secrecy. Open the door to that room and stride outside. Anything’s better than what you’ve done before. Any air is fresher than what you’ll find down there.

People like to think they’re more adventurous than they really are. They loudly lament boredom, but secretely crave routine. They want the comfort of the familiar spiced randomly with the unexpected. Not too much suprise, but just enough to keep things interesting.

And so it was in this mindset that Recipient-of-Notice Sherry left her house with the vague intention of looking for a job. Any kind of job, so long as it wasn’t demanding or laborious. The word “labor” gave her the creeps. She had the distinction of having been fired from every job she had ever held. Usually, this would happen at her thirty-day review. Bosses were diplomatic about it, often saying things like “it’s apparent that your talents lie elsewhere.”

Truth be told, she had no talents, at least not obvious ones. She was more of a customer than a content-producer. If you gave her money to spend, she could manage that, but her ability to earn money was quite limited. Almost zero.

She had once been engaged to be married, but they never got around to setting a date. His lack of enthusiasm grew as time passed, mirrored by her own. “Oh well,” sighed her mother “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

“Huh” said Sherry, who was watching television.

“You and Brad were not destined to be together,” said Mom.

“Who’s Brad” Sherry, asked.

Sherry was rarely fully engaged by anything, even of her own invention. She was always acutely aware of how arbitrary all choices ultimately proved, how rarely anything really important ever came about. In an earlier era, one would have calleld her “jaded.”

Her mother Marge didn’t know what to make of her. She kept hoping the girl would catch fire and take a genuine interest in something or someone. After all, the girl was approaching thirty. No longer a teen or a college student. Youth could no longer be used an an excuse for non-performance.

Lucky Me

I’ve been alive for a very long time, and this shows no signs of coming to an end any time soon. Who knows, I might live to be a hundred. Hopefully, I’ll discover some kind of medicine or supplement that makes my remaining tenure more pleasant that I’ve been used to as of late. Lately, I ache all over and everything seems too hard. I make no plans, because bringing them to completion would just be exhausting.

Has all this life experience made me wise? Good question. Compared to some I’m always been clever, but as for wisdom, no. I’m just lucky to have survived. I remember in high school learning that there were special hospitals for boys who had broken their necks by diving into shallow water. They were paralyzed from the neck down and would be until they mercifully passed away from some unrelated condition. “That could have been me,” I thought.

In my crowd we had the usual number of young men who drove their motorcycles into trees at high speed. I went to my share of funerals. I witnessed many a grieving parent.

Eventually, with my youngest son, I became that parent.

There are many experiences that are common to some which I have not yet sampled. I’ve never been to prison. I’ve never killed anyone, nor have I been shot or stabbed. I know among certain populations those are common experiences, but they weren’t for me, and for that I am grateful.

Thailand Isn’t Perfect, But…

It doesn’t seem to be suffering the same way America is. When we get a new Covid case confirmed, it’s national news. The U.S. has 4,000 people a day DIE!

Thailand has had many coups since the monarchy was modified to a constitutional monarchy in 1938. But I’ve never seen the prime minister or the King urge on a band of rioters to attack the Parliament, and then laugh as they watch it on TV.

Brains Don’t Help

Brains don’t help in most situations. In fact, they’re often a liability. People don’t like smart guys, they like sincere, hard-working normal Joes. So if you happen to be extremely intelligent, don’t wear your smarts on your sleeve. Keep them secret and use them in situations where a favorable outcome will make you seem simply lucky.

All the best film actors know this trick. Play stupid and you’ll make the audience feel smart. Let them see you strain to make sense of your character’s predicament. Allow them to see the wheels turning in his or her tiny brain.

Sympathy begins to have a chance when you stop threatening people. Stupid people know this deep-down, and use it to their advantage whenever their intelligence fails them. They affect a puppy-dog look complete with big, watery, sad eyes.

Be Not Afraid

People all over the world are self-isolating with a steady diet of takeout and fear porn. Is it any wonder we can’t offer each other advice about what is real and important? Instead, we are caught in an echo tunnel of rumor, opinion, occasional malice underpinned by self-loathing.

It’s time to reach for Perry Como. Listen to the soothing murmur of his voice. Sink deep into his sonic sea of tranquility. Be not afraid.

Us vs. Them

When I first came to Thailand, I was working in Bangkok on a month appointment. Had a few days off, and decided to get out of town, so I went to MoChit station and took a bus to the Cambodian border, where there is a casino and a big used goods market. On the way back, I noticed the bus was stopped and borded several times by army officers who scanned the faces of the passengers, ordering several off the bus. They ignored me. Then I learned they were looking for Cambodians. Since this was my first time in southeast asia, I hadn’t yet noticed any differences in the looks of people here. But these guys could spot a Cambodian across a crowded bus.

Now I live in Chiang Mai, where the “foreigners” are mostly Lao or Burmese. In any case, they are the underclass, doing work that Thais would prefer not to be bothered with. If I see a truck carrying twenty people crowded together in the back, they are Burmese workers on their way to or from a construction site. The maids in hotels are almost all Burmese. The Burma border is very close.

Now, thanks to Covid 19 (here they pronounce it “Covid-Nineteen” in English, to emphasize that it comes from somewhere else) fear of foreigners is once again in favor. People from Myanmar keep their heads down. The Minister of Health railed against “dirty farang” a few months ago, using the word they use to describe caucasians. Asians aren’t farang. Don’t know what the word is for non-Thai asians.

Lazy Boy

Beautiful Northern Thailand

I have a lot of free time and own a motorcycle. There’s virtually nothing holding me back from entertaining myself.

No one knows the day or the hour, so we just act as if. We breeze along, oblivious to the forces that conspire to kill us. I am as guilty as the next guy. I drive a motorcycle multiple times a day in a country that has the highest motorcycle fatality rate after Libya, which really isn’t a country anymore, just a launching spot for rubber dinghies full of desperate refugees headed for Italy.

Yes, I continue to make plans, albeit tentative ones. If I’m still around tomorrow, I plan to stop by a nearby hospital and have some tests done. They’re having an “end of the year” promotion, and the common blood and urine tests combined with a few others will set me back about seventy dollars. Since I am seventy years old, that seems like a prudent thing to do. But maybe I’m over-reacting. After all, when my number’s up, it’s up.

I could do a lot with seventy dollars. I imagine I could enjoy ten to twelve hours of Thai massage at that rate. Of course, I’d have to spread it out over time. Twelve hours of Thai massage would probably prove fatal.

Pick Your Battles

You can’t fight on all fronts all the time. Decide what’s important to you and then focus on what you can do about that. Everything else is simply a distraction.

Time spent scrolling through social media is largely wasted. You might as well flip through the pages of a catalog hoping to find some bauble to buy that will make you feel less like a loser. Any effect shopping might have will prove highly transitory.

Especially with the advent of the Internet and cellphones, focused attention is at a premium. Without the ability to concentrate, we can’t expect to accomplish much. The only times during the day when I feel the benefits of one-mindedness are when I’m swimming laps at the pool, practicing the piano, and writing. I wish I could add reading to that list, but most of what I read is skimming, to see if I can find something worth my time to slow down and actually peruse.

Do I Really Need A Challenge?

My opinions don’t matter much. Not even to me, but I can’t imagine anyone else taking them seriously enough to consider their merits. Who cares about my opinions if I don’t?

Things are the way they are, probably for a reason, but even if not, why should that be a matter of debate? Why is our opinion about what actually exists newsworthy? Only the most narcissistic of us would imagine that to be the way things should be.

How infantile. How vain. How completely lacking in proportion. A volcano explodes. How do you feel about that? Would you like to share your feelings with others? Speak directly into the microphone. Meanwhile hot lava runs down the side of the mountain and fans out into the streets. The sky turns back from pumice. “I’m not sure I approve.”

“We’ll be back in a moment with the opinions of other people, some of whom might have understood our question. Others will simply talk to hear the sound of their own voice. Hopefully, they will ultimately feel shame for wasting out time with their nonsense, but even prattle has its place in contemporary discourse, because nobody’s really paying attention. We’re overwhelmed with uninformed opinions. So, in order to further distract you and for your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture of a moose mating with a picnic table.”

The world is ending, but I forgot to notice that fact until it was too late for me to do anything about it. Not that there’s much that I could have done. Forces are at work that are greater than my power to affect them. Like chicken little, I could have sounded an alarm, but nobody pays much attention to my Facebook posts. If I show a picture of a cute kitten, I can get a few “likes.”

The good news is that it’s not my fault the world is ending. Lots of things are my fault, like my lack of gumption, get-up-and-go, and the fact that I had to retire early to a third-world country because I forgot to make much money when I was working. I could look at that as a “bad thing,” but I could just as easily count myself fortunate that I ended up here in Thailand. If I had been any more of a “success” this might not have been a logical choice. I could have ended up in a big house in the suburbs of a Midwestern city, polishing one of my many vintage cars and watching my wife vacuum our vast expanse of indoor carpeting.

My life here might not be perfect, but it doesn’t involve bondage to too many items that need constant maintenance. I remember talking to an Iowa farmer and he told me that he finally realized that he had to maintain over nine hundred tires on multiple machines, cars, tractors, motorcycles, trucks, lawn mowers, etc. And that wasn’t counting all the engines that demanded frequent maintenance, all the blades that needed to be sharpened. No, compared to him I’ve got it easy.

OK, so I’m getting fat. I can’t stop eating donuts, cookies, drinking sodas and it shows. As much as force myself to exercise, I can’t work off all those extra calories. Yes, I’m obviously bored. I need a challenge.

Maybe I don’t need to do more, but rather less. Relax and let things unfold as they are. Nothing really stays the same, but my fears of boredom make it seem that way. Nothing much is required of me. Acceptance is my job now.