Friday, July 23, 2010

Babylon in Decline


It is extraordinarily interesting, this process of coming back to life. It might well be worth seeking out, if only you did not have to be dead so often, and for so long.

The first day I am not even slightly human, the second day I cannot hate myself enough, the third day there are glimmers here and there, a few trees in living color, then back again to the prerecording. The fourth day I am so sick I can barely move across the room.

Today I am still shaky, but I can feel the breeze across my face, and I know that the color in the world is going to win. Every hour it is kicking the heavy radio of worthlessness, self-loathing boombox, and sooner or later, a good stout kick will come and the radio will cut out – and I will not be depressed again for months.

As if Bangkok did not have better things to do than to bring me back to life.

At my favorite restaurant the proprietor says, “19 dead? Bullshit. 400, maybe. They came in with their guns and --” He makes the motion of gunning down a crowd.

“And the government says the Red Shirts they pay the protestors 1000 baht a day. 1000 baht. I’d close my restaurant, send my workers to go make a good salary. Here they only get 200. If the Red Shirts they pay 1000 baht, they have two, three million volunteers in no time!”

I asked him if he’d had to close the restaurant, which is only a five minute walk from Lumpini Park, the center of the protests.

“No, no, we stay open! Every day packed with customers. We hear gunshots from the park and the Red Shirts drive in the street shouting Turn off your lights! What can we do, we have customers. And so we eat by candlelight! Two days no electricity. Gun shots all the time. But we stay open.”

In Sathorn and Silom there are few obvious signs of trouble now – except some businesses have closed – and tourists remain sparse. Of course, there are still some – Bangkok is too integral to SE Asia – and many people’s addictive patterns – to remain neglected for too long.

As for gay Bangkok, of course the sex-addicted golden-agers and the aspiring pedophiles are still here. As well as the flight attendants and the English teachers, those ineradicable mercenaries. We keep our eyes on the ass in front of us and try to pretend everything is as it was before.

There can be no doubt however: Babylon is in decline. The Babylon Sauna: Bangkok’s legendary sex club, with its grand pool and glass walls, with naked pharaohs presiding over the gym equipment and elegant bars amid palms. Now a large disco ball blocks off the hot tub and half the shower stalls are closed. The men cruising the halls reach a locked door and peer through the window: there is construction that does not appear to have been touched in months. Men do not talk about anything else, “This place has really gone downhill, hasn’t it?” They lower their voices. “The owner. . . he has gone mad. Paranoid. He is a pure egoist. Like a diamond. He is entirely out of his mind.”

Nonetheless, we do our best to go on consuming each other, one man after another. The sexual delivery system becomes ever more efficient. Unlike our queer fore-uncles, we needn’t suffer unloved in small towns.

Henry Miller estimated he’d slept with 40 to 50 people in his life. Henry Miller, the cuntstruck libertine! In his life!

I reckon many gay men here do better in a week. With plenty of help, or course, from Viagra and the Internet.

Of course, unlike Henry Miller, we do not have the liberty of actually paying attention to the people we’re screwing. That’s the trouble with men nowadays -- they are so hard to see. You have to really squint, turn up the lights, hold him down by the wrists, to catch a glance at the man in your arms. Mostly the men come and go so quickly they are impossible to see or tell apart, like the blades of a fan.

We consume each other and you can see it in our eyes: good enough, not good enough, good enough, not good enough, good enough, not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.

I am going to sit very quietly now and wait for the color to return.

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