The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”
The Bangkok of the late 60s/early 70s was a wild and very corrupt place. You could get ANYTHING for the right price. Immigration was no different.
Things were getting pretty hairy by 1973. I had a family to think of. My concern grew as I watched planes fly low over my house, strafing students as they peacefully marched in protest against the leaders of a coupe that never delivered a promised constitution. “Protestors shot” Viet Nam was a wreck and threatened to spill over into Thailand. Laos and Cambodia were no better. It was time to leave.
The only way you could stay in Thailand without a permanent visa was to pay someone with connections to send your passport up to Laos, pay a bribe and have the passport stamped with a new visa. This was costly but the only way to do it. My guy was Anand a slippery, swarthy character seldom seen without his armed security guys. He reminded me a lot of Sidney Greenstreet’s portrayal of “The Fat Man” in Casablanca.
I needed an exit visa. I climbed on my nephew Chong’s motorcycle and we headed for the Dept. of Immigration. As we entered the parking lot, the corruption became only too obvious. The average salary was maybe $500 a month. The lot was filled with expensive, late model American cars. Hmmm…
I presented my passport to the official and requested an exit visa. He checked the records and said he couldn’t find any record of my getting ANY extensions and told me to “…sit right there.” He went inside a bigger office and had a heated discussion with what seemed to be his boss. Visions of Thai prison began to dance menacingly in my head. Overstaying you visa was a serious offence. I whispered to Chong, “Let’s get the fuck out of here,”
We slipped out the back, and took off on his motorcycle. We promptly proceeded to pop a wheely and crash in the parking lot, We righted the vehicle and headed back. I had no exit visa and knew that Immigration would be hot on my tail. Those menacing prison dancers began whipping themselves into a frenzy inside my head. I knew what I had to do.
(To be continued in Blog #103)
One of my songs, “Better Alone” is a self-assessment in which I sing, “I’m a complicated man with a short attention span.” It’s true. I am a very unpredictable, restless soul in constant need of a challenge. Like most Capricornian goats, I just can’t stop climbing.
Over the years, this has caused friends, lovers and family a lot of pain and frustration. I’ve given up long ago trying to predict my own actions. It’s almost as if they are dictated to me by my angels and I try my best to follow through. I simply trust myself and put one foot in front of the next, keeping my eyes open for the signposts. They are often too small to see. Sometimes they are disguised as something that barely stands out from its surroundings; or someone whispering directions or simply pointing the way. Often, I am too busy, too distracted, or simply just too dumb to decipher my next marching orders. Luckily, my angels are patient. The wanderlust has hit me. I’m feelin’ mighty antsy.
So, I’m writing more. I’m trying to move my band, SpyBoyZ, up the food chain to bigger and better venues. I’m gonna hang in Mexico City (or D.F., as it’s known as here) for a bit. As a former New Yorker, I think I may just need a respite from this beautiful, sleepy little pueblito called San Miguel de Allende. I need to get me a little sensory overload. I’ll meet some cool people, eat some great food and listen to some good music. I may even make some of my own. D.F. is one of the great cities of the world. So much art, so many museums, so much stimuli. Yep, Mexico City here I come!
I’m also planning my trip to Motherland Cuba. Looks like sometime in December and January. Yeah, Christmas in Havana sounds pretty interesting to me. After that, a week or so in Walnut Creek, CA with my three year old granddaughter…
Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.