Denver Bar Association
February 2006
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The Reunification Express: Part Four

by N .

Bangkok smoldered in the dark like a centuries-old Colorado coal seam fire.

From the immigration counter to the swarming street were only steps, but the transition felt like a rock concert when the curtain rises, lights glare, and sudden volume leaves you struggling for breath. Under a night sky as low and black as caked soot, several kinds of music blared; wilting farangs1 wrestled with oversized baggage; numberless food vendors hawked skewered squid, coconut-rice bamboo sticks, or rambutan fruit; taxis jostled for position; touts — selling transportation, sightseeing tours, lodging, souvenirs, cheap sex — pulled at Logan, and the grumble of traffic was an incessant descant to all the other din. For the first time since his travels had begun, Logan felt lost.

But in the strange magic of Thailand, the sensation was not entirely unpleasant. Indeed, decades before, on a hastily-arranged R&R, the thought that a person of any race, color or creed could disappear into the anonymous soup of Thailand’s ‘City of Angels’ and never return to mud, mealy rations, gut-wrenching fear and footrot — the American war — had been as seductive as a pretty girl’s smile. For a moment, Logan was like a tsunami victim losing his grip in the flood; and when an old man in Don Johnson sunglasses and a beige Armani sportcoat gripped his arm, he followed along gratefully.

"So, where to, Buddy? Hotel? You want tour? I give great tour. Wat Po? Grand Palace?"

Logan found himself being ushered into a battered green tuk-tuk, one of the tiny, three-wheeled cabs common to Bangkok and known as much for their noise and pollution as their ability to thread through traffic. He squeezed in beside his overnight bag, his laptop on his knees.

"Swedish?" And when Logan did not respond immediately, Miami Vice, as Logan was now mentally calling the driver, launched as effortlessly into a series of Swedish phrases, the only part of which Logan could identify was "Wat Po." Logan wondered idly if there was a Swedish
cognate for "Buddy." Wat Po, he recalled, was the colorful temple near the river with the gigantic, reclining gold Buddha, a priority sightseeing stop for Thai and farang alike. The enterprising spirit of a Thai tuk-tuk driver who wanted to take his passenger touring at midnight made Logan smile.

Miami Vice, who was looking back at Logan more than the crammed roadway ahead, caught his smile and laughed.

"Ah, you are American," the Thai said happily, and, although Logan could not see what had led the man to this conclusion: "You have been here before!"

And just that easily, the characteristic Thai warmth, fragrant night air, and kaleidoscope of sights and sounds brought back a nearly unbearable sense of nostalgia and the memory of a woman whose assured gaze in the first moment he had seen her seemed to tell Logan that she understood him better than he understood himself.

"Hotel Erawan," Logan said. "Hotel Erawan."

He had not really planned it, but now it made sense. The Thai faith in reincarnation and the cyclical nature of life could, Logan remembered, make the American concept of reality seem nonsensical, time illusive. A five-day leave could seem like a lifetime, and a single night decades ago could rotate to rematerialize in a lawyer’s aging heart as if only minutes past. The Hotel Erawan was where he had fallen in love with MiWan.

"OK. Erawan. Good! No worries, Buddy." Miami Vice approved the choice. "You are a rich man I think!"

Logan wasn’t sure what Miami meant by this last comment. Although it carried a golden aura in memory, the Erawan Hotel, as best Logan could recollect, had not been fancy. He thought it might even be a bit below the standards to which this infantry grunt-turned-lawyer had grown accustomed. But he also remembered that in Thailand most Westerners seemed exorbitantly wealthy. Miami Vice rattled on.

"You know the name of our city? Not just ‘Bangkok!’ No. Much more!"

Stay tuned.....

1 The gently pejorative Thai term for foreigners.

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