So the beret brigade arrived around 6 on Friday evening as night and drizzle fell – bareheaded to a man, though, and soon unshod as well to enter my unholy cell, in which I often wear shoes farang fashion. (The beret, in case you wonder, is a secret sign of complicity in this generation of blossoming poets who’ve embraced free verse and will only indulge in classical versification to show their elders that they too can commit literary murder by respecting convention.)
I lost count of them all, being unused to such society events, but the next four hours were a lot of fun, with food and booze and puns and laughs and barbs and tittle-tattle and even some eager discussions carried out sotto voce from kitchen to porch on the fate of Thai poetry in the universal scheme of deleterious things. To those who had threatened me with their presence were added a few more I had expressly invited to act as mindguards. But I shan’t name names this once, since I failed to ask for permission to party in these times of emergency rule which forbids gatherings of more than five hotheads. No, Chamlong F wasn’t here. Neither was Nai Viang, more’s the pity.
The hotheads in question had come with their own food and fuel. They knew I drink neither beer nor wine nor liquor other that dreadful pastis that tastes to them like childhood laxative. (By the way, Khun V, the brand name I was racking my brains for is Fanny®.) When time it was to eat, as the unoccupied half of the too small table where I daily toil wouldn’t accommodate more than three pairs of elbows, dishes were simply laid out on the living room parquet and one and all sat around a meal of saffron rice, oily stewed beef, zest ox tail soup and various kinds of sweetmeats – Southern fare that left me with enough to gorge on for the next morning’s breakfast and two more dinners over the weekend. I only contributed the crockery, and dried figs and prunes from California via [Think of Food Think of] Foodland. Before they left, they even cleaned the place! I can’t wait until they’re back. Two bottles of soda and a can of beer they left behind will be awaiting them.
I’ve been here long enough to take some typically Thai sallies in my stride, such as when one of my honoured guests’ almost first words were ‘From your pictures I thought you were thinner’. I appreciated the candour and sad truth of the statement and answered that yes, I’ve lately put on weight.
Sometime later, I was told with a grin that my choice of translated poems in my blog was poor in literary terms. I laughed that one off: indeed, I had gone for those poems I figured would be easiest to tamper with – laughs and nodding of heads all around.
Since I gave as good as I was given, I reflected later that some of them must have been more shocked by my farang ways than I had been by theirs. Yet no offence was meant – nor taken, I hope.
In the end, they all insisted on proclaiming me a poet and that really embarrassed me: I told them I was nothing but a wordsmith … and a copyist at their mercy as creators. The drizzle had stopped by the time they fled the scene.