Party Time with the Mayor and His Cronies
One night on the island, after being carted around from healings and land settlements, the plans for the evening were similar to plans of the day and that was to hop in the back of the Thai family's pickup truck with little reason other than some nebulous visit we were to make. As usual, I had no idea what to expect. But obeyed with curiosity and easy-going lustre.
This time a large group from the local family was going along with us. The whole household, even the cook. So we piled in the back of their shiny gray pick up and it went bounding up the main road, again, past all the tourist hotspots, and over the mountain around to the dark, less inhabited isle where the jungle enveloped the scene and the lights of the stars twinkled and shattered the darkness all around. I had the wind in my hair and stars up and above sometimes there isn't much more than a person may need.
I understood that we were to make some visit and usually this entailed us just sitting around in Thai homes on mats while long conversations ensue that I couldn't at all understood with Nina, who was usually the center of the discussions, performing her accupressure on the stressed muscles of the people present and laughing with the joy of life.
But we were going further and further out from where any civilized lights were beckoning, and to where you could almost hear the tropical birds calling to one another and the stars singing, if stars do sing, to each other. We took some wrong turn and this let me know that wherever we were going, the driver as well as our whole party didn't go visiting here very often.
But soon we arrived at a large house that would be found in a suburban neighborhood in the US. And as we hopped out of the truck, I could hear the light beat and plasticy organ sound, we were approaching a karaoke party with all the frivolity and merriment that karaoke parties include.
The back patio was where this was all going down. There was a table full of middle-aged men sitting around with lavish platters that they were dining on and a plethora of bottles, some empty, others full and unopened, but still others half full and empty. The bright lights of the patio probably attracted every kind of bug on the island, but there were so many lights they flitted high up above us that this wasn't a problem. A lady greeted us whose English was very good. And then a gray-haired man who looked pleasant enough said hello and greeted us with palms together and a bow, the traditional Thai greeting.
And I began to figure out through what was told to me, that this man was the “leader” or mayor of the island and that he had just won a re-election and that this was the celebratory party being thrown to commemorate this 2nd victory. And this table full of beer-gutted men who were probably his cronies and perhaps some type of leaders and officials in the hierarchy of this island as well.
The karaoke songs picked up and several men of this table began to belt out their songs to the rest of the small audience. They were all Thai songs that everyone seemed to know but Jeorgen and myself. I began to wonder why if this man was re-elected and voted as a popular majority why the party was so slim. But I guess it was a private party, so in that respect what an honor and privilege to be rocking out to Thai classics and drinking Chang beer with those present. The mayor's wife, the lady who spoke good English was an immaculate host and brought us out large beer bottles. Jeorgen, who doesn't drink a drop, took soda instead. I, often, was curious about the story there, but never really asked him. And next thing we know, several from the table of the men, come over and they lay down some of the food that they had no ability at forcing down their already full bellies. What comes to my mind mostly was this large fish, head and all, with a type of rich seasoning on it.
In the front of the house, though, there was what seemed to be another party going on. For they rarely socialized with us and they weren't interested in singing songs or eating large fish. These guys were all young and they were all playing intense card games. Gambling. There must have been 3 games going on at once. And everyone had a wad of cash out and were slapping the table with their hand of cards or with their money and possibly their fists if the first two were bad. But they were up a ways from our karaoke party. Every now and then, I could see a large fat man who walked around with his shirt off showing off his gut. I felt that he was the ringleader of the bunch probably called “Bigdaddy” or some such. This was all interesting for as Jeorgen told me, playing card games and gambling is illegal in Thailand. And can be strictly enforced. And here we were at the mayor's party and probably some chief of police was among us not caring at all.
The mayor's wife sat down near me and began to talk to me about all the places that she had traveled in America and Europe. I think she was intent on letting me know that she had a lot of money. And when she found out that I was an English teacher she strangely asked me if I could help her out with a local law interpretation involving taxes. I asked her if the law was in English, but she answered it was in Thai. I declined my assistance, even though deep down I really wanted to try to get involved in this intrigue. I think she wanted to find a way to get around paying some type of tax or penalty and thought that an Englishy person, or a person that reads and writes, should be able to find the verbal loophole in the document after it was translated to me. I think she was being penalized for something and wanted to find a way out of it, but I didn't accept for my aspirations of being a lawyer have never been very acute.
But I didn't turn her down when she bade me to sing into the microphone that night in front of everyone. Yes, I didn't even have to be nudged. But leaped up when the chance was given and rushed over to the computer where the song list was and the whole karaoke fun was orchestrated. But to my consternation and annoyance, they didn't have any good songs. I mean, it was the most defunct and decrepit karaoke machine I believe that I've ever run across, and I've run across some pretty bad karaoke selections in my crooning romps about Asia and America. We call them, KTVs in China, Norabangs in Korea, and just Stupid, Ridiculous Honky Tonks in Alabama, They didn't have Elvis. That pretty much is an offense to the glitzy karaoke deities. And every time I typed in the Beatles “The Long and Winding Road” kept popping up which I don't like at all. I was getting pretty agitated and I think they could sense my agitation. They had not a song I typed in the machine.
And then one guy suggested “Hotel California”. And I could tell by the enthusiasm of the crowd that that was one of the glorious staples. What I mean is, it was a type of classic that a particular country will know and latch onto and if you pick that song its sure to please everyone. In Russia, it was the Beatles “Yesterday”. In South Korea it was John Denver's “Country Roads”, down in Alabama..depending on the crowd its either, “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” or “I Like Big Butts.”(I don't think I've done either one of those. Notice I intentionally left out any Skynyrd..to avoid the obvious) In China. its Adele. And the world over its “Gangnam Style”..well, if you can sing Korean. Looks like its “Hotel California” in Thailand.
Now, I don't think that I've ever done Hotel California. Why, I mean it is the most overplayed song in the universe and I'm never one to want to add to its number. It's not a horrible song. And I once liked the song way back in 8th grade...but here I saw it as the only song that would bridge that gap between myself and the celebratory bigwigs on this island. But the pitch started off way too high, and Don Henley's voice is already way too high. So “On a dark desert highway...”was an embarrassment and made me sound tone deaf. My face was turning red. I usually can throw down some good tunes. But my confidence was disappearing, which is the absolute one thing you don't want to happen with karaoke, so I began to down more glasses of beer. Which makes my face turn redder. By the time, I got to where, “there were voices down the corridor and I thought I heard them say-ay.” My voice box was aching, running for the door. But I pushed through. “What a nice surprise.” and got into, with acting it out, my favorite verse of the entire song which was interesting considering we were dining at the mayor's, “and in the Master's Chamber, we gathered for the feast, they tried to stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast.”
After this, I sang another. “Hey Jude”. Another classic the world over. And an actual song that I like listening to despite it being played everywhere as well. But by the time I got to the 23rd “Nananana” at the end, my voice was shot for the pitch on this song was too high as well.
Nina meanwhile was doing her acupressure on various people at the party making some relax. Making others yelp. I was hoping that Jeorgen, the rather stoic Dane, would sing some crazy song by Barry White. They kept pouring me glass after glass of beer. I didn't want to be rude or wasteful, so down it went.
As we left the party, I recall standing and the room spinning. I normally, always refrain from drinking too much. But when I am at a sort of ceremony and there are high officials present and they are bidding you to drink as a guest, (this isn't the first time), I guzzle it down. In China, it is rude to stop drinking when a higher person keeps pouring. As we left the party, the cook was absolutely wasted. And as we sat in the back of the pickup once more and it brought us around the island underneath the stars once again, this cook was singing loudly and moving her arms around that made me think of a chicken. I think that I started clapping with her singing.
More to come...
Wow. Did I really just quote a bunch of Eagles on here. I apologize.