Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Life During Wartime
"And the categories are ..."
Free and easy use of the "n" word among white expats in Thailand
Invasion of the Monitor Lizard King

"Alex, I'll take "n" word for 500."

Okay, you're a bleeding heart white liberal who, though despite graduating from a high school class of 500-some Caucasoidz + three blacks, only one of whom could be remotely described as a friend, thought he was making a difference w/$10 mo to the NAACP for a couple years following college and 13 or so years writing occasional odes to the likes of obvious American soul, R&B jazz and blues masters.

Now you're overseas for 4 years and suddenly noticing that, unlike the rootlesss, law dodging expat scum in China and Hong Kong, in Thailand you're encountering an even lower form of expat. After nary a peep elsewhere, you're suddenly hearing the "n" word and variations like 'wog' almost on a daily basis from UK and related Empire castoffs, especially after they've had a couple or 4 pints of "nig-nog" beer and deep into complaining about how "thick" and "lazy" the Thai govermental visa renewal and private service industry and Thais in general are. (And they wonder why there seems to be an increasing distaste for foreigners here ... )

What do you do?

"Hey, you know, excuse me, but I'd really appreciate it, 'mate', if you'd stop throwing that word around."
That's my polite approach, usually met with derisive laughter followed by a witty rejoinder like "Wha' word? You mean n****? That word? Why, you got a n***** gran'fatha' or sompthin', have you?"

Then I go into my 'it's a dangerous, ugly, loaded word where I come from used only by bigoted scum and, in the case of blacks themselves, yeah, sometimes, but it's their business and nothing for whites to be tossing around' rap.

Then comes the "it's only a word" or "they use it" and "What do you call them anyway, 'Colored?' 'KNEEGROWS?' It's the same thing almost ... and what are you lecturing us on bigotry when your country is bombing the shite outta little brown wogs in the Middle East..."

Ugly, any way you cut it. It's then that I long to mystically conjure up W, a black American occasional e-mail pal of mine from New York. He's Ivy League educated, white collar and very large and very articulate. "Don't mind me, Justin," he said to me once during some kinda excitable, good-natured (non-racial) barroom discussion in New York. "I'm just a big, angry black man." He'd explain it terms they understand.

But moving on, let's try Thai Monitor Lizard Kings for $200. I was lounging on a low slung couch, my back to the floor-to-nearly ceiling front window of my Faulty Towers lodgings last Sunday feeling tremendously stupified, hot and generally guilty while watching the History Channel.

Here I was in the exotic Land of Smiles, an entire day to do whatever I choose - visit another temple, practice Thai with natives, watch the waves, do volunteer work at the local discarded dog shelter or orphanage - and instead I'm zombied out watching a show about WWII Japanese germ-warfare experiments in China. Maybe I should see what's on Oprah?

Then came a scratch-scratch-scratching on the window. I was alone as far as I knew and wondered who-what-the-hey might ... turned slowly from the horrific black and white archival footage of Unit 731 to confront another sort more immediate primal horror. It was a beady eyed, lengthy dragon-like lizard which had reared up on its hindquarters enough to peer in the window and claw, with what appeared to be enormous talons, at the glass. Its tongue snaked out as I yelped and lurched back, nearly falling from the couch.

"Fuggin' hell!" I screamed to no one in particular. What to do? I vaguely recalled seeing something similar in a seedy Florida reptile farm, a Monitor Lizard - a form of the dangerously swift and occasionally lethal Komodo Dragon.

I don't think a broom handle would cut it, I thought glancing around for something, anything to evict the prehistoric looking unwelcome lodger and finding nothing suitable such as a stun gun, I ran. Out the back, across a dusty lane scampering to Faulty Towers II where I found only the 20-year old maid/waitress/Girl Friday with minimal English skills. "Ah...big! Big! Animal!" I gasped. "My house! Help me? Please?" She was puzzled. "Jussin make no happy same-same shiny toilet?" she asked. "Gin? Jussin happy I make gintonic number one boom-boom gintonic?"

"No!" I gestured towards my quarters. "Big no-good bad animal!" I pulled out a tattered generally useless Brit-centric pocket Thai phrase and vocabulary book bequeathed to me by a leaving expat and flipped through the vocab pages..."lessee, 'Leprosy', 'Leprosarium' no., 'Lice', no, 'Litigation,' uh...damn, no 'Lizard.' None. 'Bangers and mash,' Useless. Phrases ... okay, 'I would like to book a business class ticket to Glasgow promptly Thursday next at 3 p.m. ...' No. 'Excuse me, is your sister, Promporn Rojjanasukchai also the lass who observes Boxing Day?'

Eventually, I pulled her over to the house and pointed out the window at Godzilla's little brother. She gasped and smiled. "Ahhh! (String of Thai followed by ..) Good! Taste very good!"

The local Monitor Lizard Police were eventually phoned as a small crowd grew outside Faulty T-I's gate to watch the action, which initially wasn't much. I kept my distance and the King Hell Beast continued to mindlessly scratch at the window before giving up to slowly sort of lope/swagger around the area.

I recalled reading that Monitor Lizards are 'carnivorous' and 'highly intelligent, with some possessing the ability to count.' This did not reassure me as I imagined it tallying up the two legged interlopers and cleverly calculating the odds of escape + meal. The real action began when the MLP arrived in thick gloves, helmets, jack boots, a large canvas sack and a snake choker on a very long pole. A flurry of what appeared to be experienced Lizard Snaring followed and the 3 1/2 foot creature was soon dangling from the snare above the gaping sack as onlookers cheered and he was photographed before disappearing, flipping and twisting into the bag.

I asked later what had become of him. "Police eat him, I think," was the reply. I was not surprised, only a little saddened. He'd put up a good struggle and deserved better.


Ben said...

Now, there's a story I'll be just as happy to never be able to tell my grandkids. At least the imminent threat of facing your mortality at the, claws..of a four-foot lizard added some spice to an otherwise dull afternoon, huh? Maybe they don't like the taste of bleeding-hearts and he was more in the mood for some red-neck expat flesh.

Always a pleasure, Justin

John said...

Brings to mind an old friend in Boulder who had a "pet" red and green lizard that could run faster than Hermes, had sharks teeth, ate meat (of ANY kind), and could run across ceilings and leap tall buildings.

Scared the shite out of his mom so he thought it was a great pet.

Patrick said...

"Jussin make no happy same-same shiny toilet?"

Best. Sentence. Ever.