I want to talk for a few minutes about failure. After all, this is Bangkok and Bangkok is home to many very elegant masters of this much under-appreciated art. The kind of man with a couple of unpublished novels gathering dust in his sock drawer and at least half a dozen business schemes that didn’t quite work out but who bears all this with equanimity and a bottle. Some are born to fail. Some have to work at it. The lucky ones have failure thrust upon them.
You need to sidestep away from accepted wisdom to truly appreciate the art of failure. Every day the media fills our impressionable minds with turgid success stories. The guy born with nothing but a dodgy lung who then went on to write the songs that make the whole world sing. The guy who got to the North Pole ignoring the fact that he’d lost most of his toe and one testicle to frostbite. All these heroes who triumph over adversity and win just seem put on Earth to make the rest of us feel shitty about our lives. As far as I’m concerned there’s no art to that. No grace. No elegance.
The true failure has to have had a go of course. If you want to be a failed writer those unpublished novels or unproduced plays and screenplays have to exist. You don’t make it as an unpublished author if all you’ve done is think about it. Similarly to be a failed businessman you have, at some point, to have started some kind of business that didn’t work or at least have a business plan that the bank refused to put up the money for claiming that you were some kind of imbecile. You have to have something to feel bitter about it (although the art of a failure means you won’t remain bitter – drunk and philosophical, of course, but not bitter). Of course the root source of much failure is most likely to be a woman; but more on that later.
Some of the most interesting failures I’ve met in Bangkok have been Americans. The thing about Thailand, at least from the perspective of a Brit, is that it does seem to encourage some degree of self belief. In the UK we can assume that things won’t work well in advance of them not working and then when the 90% of things that don’t work don’t work we use this fact as evidence of our worldly wisdom (we ignore the 10% of things which do work because, let’s face it, they’re just flukes). Thailand, in encouraging endeavour, seems to allow men to fail on a grander scale before it pulls the rug out from under their feet forcing them to flee the land of the free as tax exiles. That’s why the American failure tends to blame the world he has been born into for not supporting his abilities while the British failure tends to blame himself for having been stupid enough to have a go. The Australian failure usually just blames his dick (“if only I hadn’t fucked that stupid whore I’d be a fucking millionaire”).
On the subject of women: There is no greater accomplice to the contented failure’s status than his “bitch of an ex wife”. Let’s face it. If we all had wonderful wives who understood us and took care of us and put up with our shortcomings in Farangland then the chances are we’d have never ended up here in the first place. We wouldn’t be sitting on these beer stools surrounded by playful girls in numbered bikinis. We could sit in our living rooms regarding the kind of men who go to Bangkok and sit on beer stools surrounded by playful girls in numbered bikinis as an embarrassment to our sex while secretly wishing our wives would chuck us out so we could be equally embarrassing. Of course not every man whose marriage has broken up counts this as his failure. Many men who have escaped from bad marriages seem pretty much agreed that farang women have lost touch with whatever it was that women were supposed to be in the first place. In America, I’m told, they have feminazis whose one aim in life is to prevent the male sex from knowing any kind of happiness or security. As a Brit I can’t comment too much on this. English women are all lovely and kind and caring and generous and I may be forced to go back and live there one day so I don’t want to piss them off.
The thing is that most expats and frequent long stay visitors to Thailand soon develop just as great a weariness with prolonged exposure to Thai women as we did with farang women. They watch too many crap soap operas and spend way too much money and why the fuck can’t they learn to cook bangers and mash just the way we like it. The truth is we don’t really want women. We want beer and women. We want the kind of women who come with beer and go away with hangovers. Women don’t understand style or poetry. They all want to transform us into successful people and that is the last thing we want; the last thing we need. If there’s money for food, drink and… more women, then that’s quite enough success thank you very much.
Some successful people might accuse me of sour grapes. I’ve already admitted to being something of a failure myself. By aggrandising the art of failure aren’t I just placating the needs of my wounded ego?
Well… Maybe… But who cares? I mean okay so my book only sold twelve copies placing it among the worst sellers of all time. So my attempt to export beautifully crafted tables to Hampstead types might have been hampered by a completely unexpected infestation of wood worm. So I’m not exactly suited to the world of business or art? So what? Big deal… What a tragedy.
For I am pleasantly drunk, my clothes are agreeably loose, I’m surrounded by women I only know a little bit yacking in Lao about something I can only understand a little of. There’s a big bottle of beer on the table with plenty more in the provision shop. And I’m in the company of some of the finest failures you could ever have the pleasure to meet.
© Turk Fist. All rights reserved by the author.
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