The next couple of days Buddy kept away from me. He just wasn't around the neighborhood at all. I was a bit pissed he put me in a position where I had to actually refuse to drive with him, and he was so damned stubborn about it, but I'm not the type to hold grudges, nor stay angry for long periods of time, and can see humor in even the worst of experiences. I just swore never to ride anywhere with him again, drunk or sober. We, my wife and Sis and I had a laugh over it, happy it had all worked out okay and no one was hurt. Case closed. How the hell Buddy made it home that night is beyond me, although God looks after drunks, small children, and dumb animals, or so they say. I heard from my wife that when Buddy's wife saw the damage to their new truck she threw a nutty. I also heard that Buddy's wife is the boss in their house, no matter what Buddy tried to show to the world and the neighborhood to the contrary. He was a pussy when his wife was angry, and a pussy in many other ways I was to learn over the next three months. Another couple of Thai guy neighbors told me a word in Thai for this. They call it being ‘pussy face’. We in the states call this ‘pussywhipped’. Not a title most men relish. Same same in Thailand it seems. No man wants the guys to think he's pussywhipped. It just ain't cool.
I found out by talking with my wife and her sister that Buddy was a bit of a phony bastard, and was very much a show-off where status was concerned, and also one who lords things over others less fortunate than himself. I saw this for myself over the months there, and it was the main reasons that Buddy and I never really became true ‘buddies’. I don't like people who act as he does in these ways. I was always nice to him, would sit and chat with him and have a couple beers, and swap language lessons. But, I would not consider him a friend, or even someone I'd go out of my way to hang around with. He's just a neighbor and an acquaintance. He, though, wants to be my good friend, which, without just coming out and telling him to fuck off, can be a pain in the ass.
He seeks me out, and if I am outside he always tries to befriend me with small gifts, and endless dialogue of a boring and discomforting nature. He tells me he loves me! As an American guy we don't really take to these open displays of affection. It's not manly to us, at least us older Yanks, and causes discomfort and awkward moments, which we try to avoid. Besides, how the hell can he love me? He doesn't even know me, and I know what he is talking about is the ‘love’ of a friend, maybe. So, no, it's not like I think he is gay. I've noticed a few Thai men saying this, that they ‘love’ me. I think it's their English, not that they have such deep emotions for me. Either this or I am irresistibly attractive to Thai men! :-) What they mean I think is they ‘like’ me, or find me friendly (and of course who wouldn’t). They are just using an inappropriate word for their true meaning. A language problem this is it seems to me. As I don't know much Thai I can't compare the language enough, or know enough, to decipher their true meaning when they use the word ‘love’ in this context, but I believe they do mean ‘like’, at least I hope so. Haha.
While talking to my wife about Buddy a few things came out about him. One, he is considered a snob by my wife and my family. He's a government worker, mid-level, and thinks he's hot shit, as we say. He thinks he's better than others, and I saw this expressed by him many times while seeing him interact with those of a ‘lower’ position and economic standing than himself. He can be rude and mean and nasty to those below him in status. Not just dismissive and snotty, but down right ugly. Not my way, and not my kind of guy.
Secondly, he is a wimp. He talks big, but never backs up what he says. He keeps complaining about the high-school kids who rent rooms around the corner from us. These are high school aged boys who live in a rooming house. Another separate rooming house ‘houses’ the girls who go to school in Surin. They do tend to play loud music on the weekends, and some get drunk and raise hell. Hell, they are kids away from the authority of their parents, and no one else has much control over them. It's not the kids fault so much as the parents leaving them unsupervised. These kids are from outside of Surin. They’re mostly village and small town kids going to the high schools in Surin for the better education that their parents have the money to pay for from the private schools in the ‘big city’ of Surin.
The problem with some of these kids is they seem more into partying every night and getting drunk and playing music, LOUD music at that, than they do in studying. Typical kids really, and they can get loud and disturb the neighborhood with their antics at times. But to me they seem like nice kids … mostly. They are polite to me when they come in our shop, or when I see them on the streets. There are maybe two that I don't care for, as they seem like wise asses and wannabe tough guys. Buddy is always ranting and raving about these kids, always threatening to go over and kick some ass, which he never does of course, and when he sees these kids he usually fades away until they leave. He's a loudmouth pussy.
Thirdly he's a drunk, a functioning alcoholic, barely functioning I might add. He drinks every day, not that a lot of the other guys here don't do this, or even myself at times (I do drink a couple beers every day, and have been known to tear off a weekend bender when I was wild and single.), but Buddy gets trashed almost every day, and on his days off from work he gets drunk by suppertime every day. By drunk I mean inebriated to the point where it is noticeable to most everyone. And the drunker he is the more his ‘bad qualities’ come out and manifest themselves. By barely functioning I mean that his drinking is causing him problems. He fights with other neighbors. He fights with his wife, and she disrespects him and makes him lose face in public during these fights and arguments. His young son even disrespects him when trying to get him to leave his drinking buddies and go home to dinner when his Mom sends him to come and get his Dad home. Sad to see really. He misses a lot of days from work because of the drinking too from what I've noticed, but being a government worker it seems he can get away with doing this pretty easy. Basically he's a drunk with a good job that will be hard for him to lose, making good money, and not even thinking about slowing down or cutting down his drinking, or stopping. Buddy has a problem, but he is nowhere near to admitting it to himself. He's really the same as the neighborhood drunk, Oak (of who I'll talk more on later), but Turt/Buddy works, usually, and has a good enough job and high enough status due to his working for the government to be able to get away with his problems and drinking and actions. No one will say anything to his face. It's all discussed in whispers or behind closed doors quietly. Once you've been in Thailand a while you'll begin to notice that a lot of whispering goes on. Thais are notorious gossips.
I've seen this because with my new restaurant and shop most of the neighborhood gents and ladies hang out at our place and eat and drink at night. On the weekends they do this all day and night, mostly because we have a nice new place, good ice cold beers (Chang, Leo, Singha, and some newer one I can't remember the name of right now, as I don't like it much, and don't drink it. Tiger beer, maybe.) We have plenty of snacks and foods and goodies to eat, are the closest place around, and my wife and Sis are great cooks and the foods are cheap and tasty. Most of the families don't bother to cook themselves since our shop fully opened in the newly built place. They just buy their foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner from our place, either eating in our shop or taking it home to eat. This means I get to see most of the neighbors daily and interact with them daily now due to the shop and restaurant. This has its good points and its bad points for me, but the place is doing well, and keeps my wife and her sister working and busy, and makes some baht (money) for them.
It's pretty busy most times of the day; with down time in between breakfast and lunch, lunch and school letting out, then maybe an hour or so until dinnertime starts after the school kids leave. Plus my wife got the nurses and doctors from the hospital near us ordering their lunches from our place every day, which they prepare and deliver to the hospital by motocyke just before the noon lunch rush hits. When I have some time I spend it in the shop/restaurant helping my wife and Sis do odds and ends, and get to meet the people frequenting our place. It's nice, and I find it fun, amusing at times, and I do get to be known by the neighborhood people. There are a lot of good people in the area. Some of which I will talk about in later parts of this story.
Buddy and his antics are just the first in a series of stories I'd like to do on this middle class neighborhood I now live in. I miss the village life, but being here in Surin has a lot of advantages and interesting experiences, and a lot of funny things to observe and write about. Surin is just a collection of neighborhoods all acting like separate villages themselves, and has a lot of nice restaurants, shops, shopping centers and businesses, all centrally located. I like the city. It is a beautiful place, with a thriving, energetic and friendly populace. For a farang there are many more places to find what one would desire to buy, eat, entertain one's self, and at least it is very near some decent hospitals if there is a problem.
In the village you are out in the boonies as we say and far from help if it is needed. Plus the schools are much better for our daughter, and it is much easier and more profitable to run a business here than in the village. In the village there isn't much money available for a good part of the year for the villagers to spend. Many want you to extend them credit when they buy your foodstuffs and shop goods. Many will never be able to pay you back, or think that because my wife has a ‘rich’ (some think all farang are rich) farang husband that the money isn't needed to be paid back, or at least paid back in a timely manner. And some think this way even if there is no farang involved. There are a lot of ‘bad debts’ and unpaid loans in the village, which causes many hard feelings and problems. Not for me and my family. It's rare that we would extend credit except to those known to be good risks, and rarer that any ‘loans’ would be given to anyone except our closest friends and family, and then only if it was a small ‘risk’ to do so. More on this topic later. I've seen a lot of problems these people, villager and city dwellers, have gotten themselves into, and will describe them further along in this story.
When Buddy finally showed his face a couple days later he was all apologetic to me. My wife had told me after this fiasco with him that she had no idea he had been drunk, or drinking heavily earlier. She found out later from his wife and a couple neighbors that he had been drinking steadily that whole day before I went out with him. Being a daily drinker he has a decent tolerance level to his alcohol consumption, and hides his inebriation well. The last couple of beers must have put him over his daily ‘limit’ and hadn't truly taken effect until we were on our way out of the city. The beer at his brother's shop had put him way over the bend.
Buddy was contrite and charming, and tried to laugh it all off, saying he thought he was maybe ‘sick’ that night and somehow it affected him and his driving. I told him it was okay, no problem, but said, "If we ever go out driving again I will be driving." He laughed at this, although seemed a bit peeved. Fuck him; he wasn't getting off that lightly with damned near killing my white ass on some dark and dusty Isaan road in his drunken stubbornness. I let him save face, accepted his apology, but also drove a few barbs into him as jokes, and let him know I was ‘not happy’ as the Thais are wont to say. They never say they are angry, they always say that they are ‘not happy’. When in Rome, and all that. No sense in pushing it though, as I'd have to live here for a while with him as a neighbor, might need something from him one day as a neighbor and him being a Thai government worker, with some pull, and friends with pull, and also because I knew, even if he didn't, that I would never fucking step foot into a vehicle he was driving again!
Live and learn. If you survive.
I got to learn more about Buddy as a man, a father, a husband and a neighbor over the next couple of months. I wasn't impressed really, and we'll never be good friends.
The same night Turt/Buddy came and apologized I got to meet another of the local characters in the neighborhood. Oak. Like the tree his name sounds. Now here was another Thai guy that had some serious issues to deal with. Nice guy, but.
(To be continued)
(The Central Scrutinizer)
© Written in the year 2003. All rights reserved by the author.