I began this story in an earlier blog called “Bangkok, Bongs, Bars and Booms!” but never finished; leaving you with no way to know how “The Kid Got Away.” Here’s Chapter Two:
The plan was, “I don’t have the foggiest fucking idea how I’m getting out of here.”
The compound was surrounded by a high, chain linked fence. There was a lot of barbed wire along the rim. There was only one way in or out. It was narrow; just about wide enough to fit a really small Toyota truck. Overlooking the entrance was a bamboo tower maybe eight feet off the ground. It was always manned and he was always armed.
The goal was to somehow get from my cabana, across the compound to the entrance, past the guard, down a long dirt road through the jungle to the main street, find a cab and get to the crossing point on the Mekong where there was a little hut that housed the office where you could get your passport stamped and hire a tiny fishing boat with an engine the size of a Waring blender to take you across the river to Thailand. All of this before Papasan knew I was gone.
Piece o’ cake.
It was a black night.; moonless and starless, with enough cloud cover to block out any light. I grabbed my gig bag and a backpack. I noticed a scorpion about the size of my hand in the corner of the room, tail flaccid but ready. I don’t like scorpions. Bad sign. I took a deep breath and headed out the cabana door.
The next time you hear “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and the woman sings “…In the jungle, the quiet jungle…” call bullshit. The nighttime jungle is filled with sound. Insects the size of jackfruit singing love songs, four legged creatures in the underbrush that see you as part of the food chain and, in this case, little guys in pajamas with M16s that see you as target practice. Luckily for me, the cacophony kept my footsteps relatively unnoticed as I crept towards the bamboo guard tower.
I couldn’t see a thing through the darkness but I could hear something. It was something deep and rhythmic. It was coming from the direction of the guard tower that loomed over the entrance to the compound. My mind was on fire as I imagined what that terrifying growl could be. As I tiptoed through the blackness, I expected the source to pounce, probably tearing my throat out. In a flash I realized what it was. It was the sound of the tower guard snoring away, dreaming of whatever heavily armed Laotian guards dreamt of. Though I had a long, long way to go to freedom, a smile stretched across my face.
I honed in on his snoring and it led me right to the entrance. I hugged the tower and made it onto the dirt road outside the compound. I was on that road for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t move too fast or some little guy in pjs might take a shot at me. I had to move steadily. If they caught me, my story would be a very short one. Every inch away from Papasan and his henchmen meant another step towards survival.
When I finally got to the main road, I made a beeline for the bar the CIA guys hung out at along with the war correspondents. There were always cab drivers ready to overcharge a drunk foreigner a bloated fare. I grabbed one and told him to head for TahDoo. I had a pocketful of Laotian kip adding up to about five bucks. That would be enough to pay the cabbie, bribe the official at the crossing, hire a boat to cross the Mekong, get an entrance visa on the Thai side, sleep at the bus station and get a ticket on the next chicken bus out of town. The dollar went a long way in a war zone.
As we approached the “Customs” hut, I began to feel a special kind of relief. “I just might make it out of this alive.” I reached for my passport. All the air was suddenly sucked out of my lungs and out of the night. My heart stopped. In my rush to get out of my hut I’d forgotten the one thing I had to have besides my cash and guitar: my passport.
(to be continued next week. i promise.)
I figure I’m done with the first two-thirds of my life. I’ve been calling these next years my “Third Trimester.” I intend to live life to fullest, learn as much as I can, and check off an impressive bucket-list that’s about fifteen pages.
I am happy. I walk around most of the time with a big goofy smile on my face. I am in love. More specifically, I’m in in love with life. Each day, I walk out of my little casita and look up at the sky. It is almost always strikingly blue. Usually, there’s not a cloud in the sky. Most of the time, I stroll. I power walk up the hills if I feel a need for exercise but most of the time, I just stroll. I say hello to everybody, whether they acknowledge my greeting or not. They usually do. Mainly, I think, because of the goofy smile that’s beaming out at them.
I have guests in town visiting. My dear friends of many years Barry and Maya and some friends I haven’t connected with in many years, Bob and Pam. I took off for Mexico City on Thursday. (Mexico City always makes me think of Frida Kahlo.)
I had a great time climbing the ancient Pyramids of Teotihuacan, reportedly 1500+ years old.
I met a lovely woman from Brazil whom I gave the traveling name Ojos (“Eyes”), because she has those unusually beautiful hazel eyes that are so very Brazilian. We hit it off right away and climbed and climbed.
We visited the Basilica of the Lady of Guadalupe.
Catholic folklore says the Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared and left her now famous imprint on a cloth.
I’m back in San Miguel de Allende, ready to meet as many people, explore my new home and have as much fun as the law will allow…and then some.