>>YUTO:: Thank you. Nice to meet you too.
Optimism is hard to find when you wake up one morning and find out you are fifty-eight. It now takes twenty-nine seconds just to count the number of birthdays I have already had. I remember my twenty-first birthday well, even though I was quite drunk at the time. It was held in the Tiger Bar on Soi Cowboy in 1982. A Vietnam War veteran made the toast, 'that one day I would live to be as old as I looked,' and everybody agreed it would require a miracle. I think now we can safely declare, Mission Accomplished. In the wee hours, the police tried to arrest me for riding an elephant down Soi Asoke with a girl in a bikini on my shoulders. They let me, and the elephant, and the young lady go when they found out it was my birthday, and I was appropriately drunk; even the cops were friendly back then. That was thirty-seven years ago, as hard as I find that to believe, and now the wench is dead, and the elephant never wrote – not even a birthday card.
I mustn't complain, I wasn't supposed to come this far. Two bottles of vodka a day, driving with my foot on the floor, and collecting every tropical disease known to man, is hardly a recipe for longevity. Mad? I was certifiable. But here I am, and not so crazy after all these years. I'm domesticated now, and my only vice is smoking a pipe of perfectly legal Virginia flake or a Dunhill Balkan mixture. My vodka days are long over, and I sold my last sports car years ago. I finally learnt to stand still and take in the view. To understand the improbability of my still being here, you would have had to have been there, but all that were are dead and gone, so you'll just have to take my word for it. After such a long journey, it would be unwise to question the destination, so here I am and, as my dad used to say, it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative. Life is good.
I was going to spend my fifty-eighth birthday working. I am tidying up the manuscript to a follow up of Bangkok Rules, and the new book should be ready to go by the end of the month. I make sure I work on it every day now, but it's not happening for me today, and when I tried to edit chapter 30 this morning, my brain froze. I sat in front of the screen, puffing on a Dunhill Zulu pipe, and nothing came. The words were just shapes on the screen, with no meaning. I think I should take the rest of the day off. Rumour has it, my children conspired with their mother to play truant today, and are planning something. Chapter 30 can wait until tomorrow.
What does it mean to reach fifty-eight? How the hell would I know, I just got here. I'm not even sure if I feel old, perhaps this is just what it feels like to be sober. The first few decades of my life were a blur, and I wonder if this is just about finally being able to discover what the world really looks like. Before I started work on the soon to be finished book, I thought of writing an autobiography. The plan was to put an ad in the classifieds asking, 'Can anybody tell me what I was doing between 1977 and 1992?' But before I could place the ad, Carl Engel monopolised my thoughts again, and fiction won the argument over non-fiction. Carl's latest case is called A Farewell to Paradise, and the book will be launching soon. The madness of my youth is Carl's madness now, and I get to watch his harum-scarum existence and dangerous antics from behind a safe desk; better him than me - I gave already.
NEMber who posted this article