Okay, this isn't really from America. I've already returned home to Bangkok from one of my infrequent trips there to visit my family. There was something a little different about this trip, a feeling of melancholy in some ways. Of course, a big part of that is the increasingly undeniable fact of my mother's mortality. At 88 years old, she has survived adult-onset diabetes, breast cancer, and four marriages, but it's become clear that she's on borrowed time. I couldn't help thinking that my next trip to the States could well be for her funeral.
But there are other things in play that made this trip even more complicated. I spent a lot more time in Portland, where I grew up, on this trip. I always end up spending a lot of money when I'm in the States, buying things I just can't get in Bangkok, and over the last few trips I've realized I can get most of the things I need in Portland for less than I pay in San Francisco, which is always my other stop in my trips.
Portland is a really nice city, although it's changed a lot since I left there more than 30 years ago. There's now a train system that can get you almost anywhere in the city and neighboring counties. The trains even have bike racks for the many people there who seem to like riding their bicycles rather than using cars. Sitting on the train, in the unseasonably sunny weather, I couldn't help thinking how 'easy' life would be back in the States, compared to the challenges of living in Bangkok. But then a crazy / drunk / homeless guy would get on the train and remind me of some of the things I don't have to deal with in Thailand.[caption id="attachment_1019" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Postcard: A pretty example of a California Department of Transportation standard-issue ice plant."][/caption]
There's more to this than simply the desire for an 'easy' life back in my own culture. Like the character David in Holding On, I wonder more and more if I can find the kind of happiness I came to Thailand looking for twenty years ago. I've become jaded by a culture that seems to place material benefits above real feelings in relationships, as well as grown tired of guys that can't seem to make up their minds about anything.
Then there's my increasing fascination with D/s relationships and BDSM, and the strong suspicion that it will be difficult to explore these feelings here in Thailand. It's not that there isn't a BDSM scene here. I know a lot of gay Thais who think that sort of thing is a Western fetish, but the truth is I know a lot of Thai guys are really into it, but there is no scene for it to speak of. It's all rather discreet. There are no leather bars, and only one little leather shop that's usually deserted. Finding someone I'm attracted to who also shares these feelings seems to be a daunting task.
The contrast with San Francisco couldn't be greater. Of course, things have changed there too. I used to live across the Bay in Oakland back in the early 1980s. Back then, the Castro intimidated the hell out of me. If you weren't young and pretty (a 'twink' in modern parlance, although the term didn't exist back then) you didn't belong there. I was young enough, but never have been 'pretty' so I was as good as invisible.
Things have changed, it seems. Like me, the rest of the population of the Castro has aged. There are still a lot of young pretty things around, but older, out of shape men are no longer an invisible minority. These days, you'll see a lot of men in their 30s, 40s and 50s out and about, walking the dogs it seems everyone has now. I get not only noticed, but talked to when I walk into shops in the area, which is a big change from even ten years ago.
And then there's the leather shops, full of people openly fondling the merchandise. I ventured into the Mr. S Leather store in Folsom for the first time. What an eye-opening experience, seeing for real all the 'toys' I've only ever read or heard about on-line. I could easily have dropped a bundle in the Locker Room section alone - I love wearing inappropriately short-shorts to the gym, and they had quite a selection. Unfortunately, I'd already spent more than I planned (I always do) so I had to stop myself from buying any more.
I know it sounds like I'm making a case for quitting Thailand, and to be perfectly honest I'm probably closer to that than I have been at any time in the last twenty years. But I'm not quite ready to give up on it just yet. For one thing, I know many of the factors making things difficult at the moment are temporary. Things might look very different in as little as a few months from now. Then, of course, there's the issue of how I'd make a living if I moved back to the states. My income from writing, which allows me to live comfortably if modestly in Bangkok, probably wouldn't get me a bed in a flophouse back in the USA.
So, in summary, this is really just a bit of a whinge about how crappy life has been for the last six months or so. No changes are imminent.
Now, to get back to writing. I'm finally starting to feel in the mood to work on the next David & Gun story.