The rabbis of Bangkok, Part Two

The rabbis of Bangkok, Part Two, by Douglas A. Konecky. A live sex show reveals more than flesh to an American musician in Thailand.


Douglas A. Konecky
November 25, 1998 1:00AM (UTC)

It's Thursday night. We've been out to the Floating Market in a little rowboat, we've seen a cobra fight a mongoose in a cage, we've seen the Emerald Buddha, the People's Buddha and the Royal Buddha, and we've had at least 500 offers to see the Thai Full Body Massage and/or Live Sex Show but have avoided them both so far.

Yosi and I have played together for 10 years, but tonight is our first gig ever on the continent of Asia. We're excited, nervous and sweltering, heading down Sukhamvit 22 in a tiny taxi searching for SamSoiThamNip 3, the street where Rabbi Karpas' synagogue, kosher food store and new kindergarten are located. Steam sizzles off the fender as the driver bangs a pothole and turns right. It has been trying to rain all day, but it can't, because God and Rabbi Karpas won't allow it.

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Rabbi Karpas took care of the weather last night, as he and Rabbi Chrane and Yosi and I huddled under an overhanging archway trying to avoid the thundering deluge that was causing rain to knife down in blinding sheets, fountains of spray to shoot three feet in the air, dirt streets to turn into lagoons of mud. This was the same rain that had been forecast without letup for the next two weeks and was already causing monsoon flooding on the Yangtze River, not that many miles north of here. No matter. Rabbi Karpas stuck his hat and head out into the downpour, turned to the heavens and shouted:

"It will not!!
rain tomorrow night!"



Satisfied, he then ducked back under the overhang and said: "OK, it's settled. God will protect us."

So far today he has been technically correct. It's not raining, but it's that last sodden step before rain, the humidity is 99.999 percent, the streets are like a steam bath where the steam is engine vapor and it's hard to breathe without a straw. I unstuff myself and my synthesizer case from the back seat of the Hyundai, joining Yosi and his guitar case on the hard-packed earth sidewalk in front of several white buildings partially hidden behind a six-foot white stucco wall. If you peer over the wall you can see a mosaic Star of David in the front window of the front building, but you have to look closely to see it. This is the synagogue itself. In the rear buildings are housed the Bangkok Chabad Community's brand-new kindergarten and store, for whose formal dedication tonight we have been hired to play.

Carrying our instruments, we pass into the backyard along the lush grass at the side of the building and see the Thai sound company waiting for us -- the finest in Bangkok, Rabbi Karpas has assured us. "Hi," we say, but they don't answer. We have noticed that young Thais do not like to be addressed in English. "Suwatdee," I try, which is "hello" in Thai. One of the two sullen 16-year-old boys in tank tops, who make up the entire sound company, hears me trying to communicate with him and cocks one eye, almost perceptibly.

We spot our rented equipment: two speakers that look as if they've been salvaged from a shipwreck, a mixing console with lots of buttons (scary -- the more buttons the more likely they don't work) and a sea of cables patched with electrical tape that are strung out all over the concrete patio in the back of the synagogue. In a little more than an hour guests will be mingling, eating and tripping over these cables as they try to dance.

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No English. We'll have to do this by hand signals. But we've done it before, and we've seen a lot worse gear. I unlock my British travel case and bring out my Japanese synth and American reverb unit as Yosi sets up his Spanish guitar, then we go through the usual hectic connection nightmares that occur when the power of the country is 220 volts, which will burn your instruments to black, plasticky ash in two seconds flat if you don't make sure every cable has a 115-volt transformer between it and the power source.

It is amazingly hot and humid. The sweat is gushing off my face. I might feel sorry for myself if I weren't feeling so sorry for the weather, because it really, really wants to rain but can't because God won't let it. If it should start to shower while we are playing we will probably be electrocuted when the transformers malfunction, but I think it won't rain. If it isn't raining right now it just plain can't rain.

Rabbis Karpas and Chrane are inside taking care of last-minute
preparations: praying. The tables have been packed with eggplant
salad and hummus and all manner of Israeli food with a Thai accent,
like the chicken knudeln soup with ginger and coconut; folding chairs
have been set up on the concrete patio and we are just about ready to
play. Approximately 50 guests now straggle over and take their
seats, the lights are turned on with a crackle and it is time for
speeches. Rabbi Karpas, moving in a slower, more pensive manner
tonight, takes the microphone, head cocked slightly sideways, and
speaks in a loud, clear voice:

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"Good evening," he says. "I would like to talk to you tonight
about 'unlikely,' 'improbable' and 'impossible.' What would our
grandparents have said if someone had told them there would someday
be a state of Israel, where all Jews could live together and worship in peace?"

"Not bloody likely," someone says from the audience.

"That's right. Unlikely." He bends his head in the other
direction. "And what did everybody we know say about the odds of
success in founding a Chabad community in the middle of Bangkok,
Thailand, on the continent of Asia, where they don't know a Jew from
a canoe?"

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"Good bloody luck," the same guy says. Rabbi Karpas
answers: "That's right again. Improbable."

A baby cries softly in his mother's lap. The heat is gaining in
intensity behind the rain that can't fall. It is uncomfortable to be
sitting in one place for long. I keep wiping my forehead with a
handkerchief but the perspiration splashes onto my keyboard.

"And what would you have said," thunders Rabbi Moshe
Karpas, now thrusting himself ramrod straight, "if I told you, just last
year, just last month even, that today, Aug. 6, 1998, we would
all be here, together, dedicating a kosher food store as well as
a brand new kindergarten? That we could be assuring our
children's health as well as their education, in this not very likely,
highly improbable and almost impossible community in
Bangkok, Thailand, on the continent of Asia? And not only that, but
that we would have two Jewish musicians who have traveled all the
way from America to play for us?"

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"Impossible!" someone screams from the audience. "Can't
happen!" screams another. I think they've heard this speech before.

"Yes! That's right," says Rabbi Karpas, and smiles the way
Chabad rabbis do, with eyes only. They save their lips for prayer.
"Not only unlikely, not only improbable, but impossible! And yet --
here we are! We ask God to hold back the rain, He does it for us!

"Yes!" says someone in the audience.

"We ask Him to bless our community and let us prosper -- and
tonight we open our new school!"

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"Hallelujah!" shouts someone else.

"And at the very moment I am racking my brain, trying to
figure out how our tiny community, who miss so much the things we
once knew, could possibly have a proper celebration to match this
momentous occasion, what do I get in the mail? Yosi and Doug's
flyer! They don't know who we are, but they'll come to Thailand!
Why at that moment? Why just then? Does anyone think this could
possibly be by chance?"

I am enjoying this speech a lot, especially since we're in it, but
really I remember exactly why we sent that flyer: to try to get more
work. I have been thinking all along that we all just got lucky. But,
standing at my dripping keyboard, ready to play when Rabbi Karpas
gives the signal, which will be the first time we know whether the
system will blow up when the sound man throws the
switch, I am more and more inclined to agree with the rabbi. If we
have had some extraworldly help in getting this gig, so much the
better. Yosi stares over at me. He looks nervous. I'm not. What are
the odds? If they can have a Thai baker making pumpernickel
caraway rolls, and there is homey kosher eggplant salad in a bowl on
the table, it will not rain and the electronics will not fail.

Rabbi Chrane gives a benediction in Hebrew, and then Rabbi
Karpas drops his arm. The sound boy throws the switch and the power
surges on, along with the lights. Yosi starts playing a hora beat and I
follow him. The people get up to dance, men with men and women
with women, each in their own circles in the Orthodox manner, and we
all start to sing. The joy is intoxicating. Every single person here is
suddenly dancing, in all this heat. Everyone is singing, children,
parents and grandparents; all are sharing in the joy of achieving the
unlikely, the improbable and the impossible, until there is a
tremendous burst of static, all the lights blink out, our instruments turn
off and our mikes drop dead.

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We are now standing in semidarkness as the Thai sound
engineers start laughing and laughing. They point up at the buildings
around us. We look up; the whole neighborhood -- the whole world
-- is dark.

I turn back to the noisy audience -- and realize they haven't
stopped dancing. Chrane glides by and shouts: "It's just Thailand.
Don't worry. Five minutes. Keep singing."

The rabbis are determined to dance and no power failure will
stop them. So Yosi and I continue singing, without microphones,
clapping our hands for the beat as the dancers continue to dance,
shouting out the words to all the songs themselves. Inside of five
minutes, as Chrane has forecast, the power surges back on again, the
lights come up and our instruments are working once more, so we pick
up right where we left off. Nothing has been damaged. We seem to
be protected here.

The joy is so thick I would like to bottle it and sell it in their
kosher food store, take a few bottles home myself for later. A rhyme
appears in my head, which I sing in English:

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The rabbi spoke


The chazan prayed


The women made food


and the band played.

That's us. Today we're part of the shtetl, the community, in
the old-country sense. There's a kosher butcher and a caraway roll
baker and a Hasidic shoemaker and today there are also a guitar
player and a piano player. Everybody knows and does his job, rain or
shine. It feels very good to belong to something like this.

We're in Bangkok, Thailand, with a deluge lurking overhead
behind the dark clouds, now and then grumpily thundering its
displeasure. But it can't do anything but watch. A small community
of Jewish pioneers in Asia is busy dancing up its own storm, and
the Tel Aviv Band is honored to be able to help them. It feels like
sunshine to me.

Now the strangeness begins. We shake everyone's hand, wish
and are wished a hundred good-luck "zai gezunts," then go back to the
hotel, carry our instruments upstairs, take a shower and change into
cooler clothes. We decide to take a walk. It's around 10 p.m. but still
quite hot, even though it has finally started to rain. The rain began the
moment we got back to the hotel. God was thoughtful enough to let us
get the instruments inside first.

The minute Yosi and I walk onto the street, of course, we are
surrounded by young boys and old men trying to drag us into either of
the two backbones of the Thai tourist economy. I feel like a kid from
Cleveland visiting New York: Empire State Building or Statue of
Liberty? Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building? I want to see
one or the other, because if I don't, won't I always be curious about
what I might have missed? But which one? Thai Full Body Massage
or Live Sex Show? Live Sex Show or Thai Full Body Massage? The
massage sounds better but a bit more dangerous, because we'd
probably be naked and I don't want to climb into any hot tubs of
steeping disease in this day and age. And I'm a married man. The Sex
Show sounds seedier but a bit easier to control. So when teenage
Raji drives up in his tuk-tuk and flashes his big smile, we let him make
up our mind.

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"Hey Meester Live Sex Show 500 baht Take you there Bring
you back Look at pictures Thai Full Body Massage 1,000 baht
one hour, 1,500 baht one hour and half Look at pictures?"

"Which one's better?" we ask him.

"Sex show cheaper," he says, putting away his pictures.

"OK, but 400 baht, there and back, you wait for us, deal?"

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"OK, for you, I make deal. How about 400 baht? Please to get
in."

Four hundred baht is $10. We climb onto the metal seat in the
back of the tuk-tuk. Raji revs his little lawnmower engine and we
careen into traffic. It is exhilarating for the first minute. Thailand
keeps sending me songs. I find myself singing Ethel Merman as we
zoom through the streets:

There is nothing like a tuk-tuk


Nothing in this world

But soon I stop singing. The next 20 minutes are
hair-raising and lung-defiling. We are clearly trapped in a rickety
motordingus open to the stink of traffic and the threats of imminent
vehicular catastrophe, where only if we collided with a bicycle would
we be the more substantial partner. Raji drives like a Frenchman out
of wine. I am overjoyed to arrive, alive, at a warehouse whose parking
lot is filled with cabs, tuk-tuks, bicycles and Westerners. This must
be it.

"You go in, Raji wait for you here," Raji says.

"You'll be here when we get out? For sure?"

"Of course," Raji says, amazed we could doubt him. "This
what I do."

Yosi and I dismount from the tuk-tuk and walk in a side door --
it feels like the service entrance to a Circuit City -- and we enter a
little anteroom with 15 Thai men watching music videos on a
black-and-white television hanging from the ceiling. They are all taxi
and tuk-tuk drivers, obviously waiting for their return fares, who are on
the other side of an interior door painted brown. Blocking the door is
a middle-aged Thai man wearing a red University of Oklahoma
sweatshirt.

"600 baht each," he says. "You go take free look."

"400 baht, we take free look."

"OK, 500 baht, you take free look."

"No, 400 baht, we take free look."

"OK, 400 baht, but no free drink, you take free look."

We push open the brown door for our free look. It is dark
inside except for the lights on the stage. I see a tall Asian woman in a
lime green two-piece bathing suit doing something on the stage that
involves writhing. Oops, excuse me, bathing suit top only. She is
using her ... very hairy ... I think ... I don't think ...

"Are those Magic Markers?" Yosi whispers.

"Yah, I think so."

"Oi vayz mere."

The door slams shut. "OK, OK, no more free look, 400 baht,
no free drink, you go inside," says the doorman.

"What the hell's she doing with those Magic Markers?" Yosi
demands.

The man laughs. "You go inside, see for yourself. Four hundred baht,
OK, free drink too, whaaaaaaaaaaat the hell."

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat the hell," chant the taxi drivers behind
him, busting up double laughing. This is a good show already. I open
my wallet, take out two 200-baht notes, hand them over. Yosi does the
same.

"You boys have good time," the man smiles, and goes back to
watching the music videos with the other guys. I hear Janet Jackson's
"Danger" dubbed into Thai.

We open the door, walk through the dark room toward the
stage. As my eyes become accustomed to the darkness, I make out
other customers, either groups of men or couples. The men lean
forward and laugh. The wide-eyed women sit cross-legged in their
chairs with their hands over their mouths.

The stage is elevated, and in the round. The tall woman who
was performing before is just now finishing up her act. Yosi and I sit
down in the second row and two young girls immediately come up and
stand behind each of us and start massaging our shoulders. "Hi, you so
sweet," mine says. The barman brings us our free drinks, two beers in
cups the size of a thimble. Two more girls come over and sit down at
our sides, massaging our hands in theirs. "You nice, I love you very
much," the second one says to me. Meanwhile the girl onstage is
squatting over what appears to be a piece of white poster board. She
appears to have a large marker inserted in that place only a
women artist would have, and is able to control it well enough with
her hips to draw detailed pictures on the poster board. Every minute
or so she screams, "Whoooooop!" stands up, removes the
marker, fastidiously pops the top back on, takes a different colored
marker out of a little tin can, wets the side of the marker with her lips
like she's blowing on a smoking gun, then ploop, slams it in her
holster, squats back down over the poster board and continues with
her artwork.

Meanwhile, our girls are getting friskier. "You buy me drink
now please?" the one on my left says. "Me too, you so handsome?"
says the one behind me.

I don't like being had. It makes me uncomfortable to have
these shills cadging me for drinks. On the other hand I am curious to
know if Rembrandt up there is going to produce something
museum-quality and anyway, the massaging of shoulders and
fingers doesn't feel half bad. "OK," I say, and before I can even nod
my head three drinks are slapped down on the table in front of me, one
for each of them and another for me. The same thing happens to Yosi.

"My name Mai, you like me?" the one on my left says. "My
name Oui-a, you like me?" the one behind me says. I swivel my head
to look at her, and the second I do that Mai disappears and Oui-a sits
down where Mai was. I seem to have chosen Oui-a. "Whooooop!"
says the art major on stage, undeploying and popping the top back on
red, and wetting then freshly deploying blue. Whatever she is doing
will involve several coats of many colors.

The taped '70s disco music plays, the artist in residence creates
and my hard-working companion tries everything she can to get more
drinks out of me. "Where you stay?" she says. I'm not about to tell
her.

"The American Embassy," I say.

"Where you from?"

"China."

"I thirsty much," she says. "You buy me more drink?"

"Oooh, I like you, you thirsty more?" I hear Yosi's girl say.
"What you name?"

"Luigi," he says, and then without thinking about it he says,
"and this over here is my friend Rabbi Karpas."

He doesn't mean anything by it, it just pops into his head.

"Rabbi Karpas? In here?" I say, and we both start to laugh
hysterically. At that moment it seems very funny. But it doesn't stay
funny long, and very soon it's not funny at all. We now each have a
firm picture in our minds of old Rabbi Moshe Karpas, sitting on the
elevated stage staring at us, wagging his finger with a disappointed
scowl on his face.

"Thanks a lot, Yos," I say, and knock back my beer. I don't
want to be thinking about God and Rabbi Karpas when I'm in this
place. I haven't forgotten where I was barely two hours ago. We Jews
think too much and this is not the place to be thinking deeply. I look to
the stage. Rabbi Karpas is gone. The artist formerly known as Girl
Without Bathing Suit Bottom is back.

"Whoooooop!" she goes, finishing her act with a flourish. She
now prances around the stage in a circle, like one of those Las Vegas
molls between rounds of a prizefight, only barefoot and without pants,
displaying her finished poster over her head. On the top she has printed
"Beautiful Thailand" in red block letters, and under that she
has ... sketched ... green pine trees, blue sky and brown ground. It's
really not all that bad. And the thing is, her hands are free. She could
probably juggle while painting. Now she jumps off the stage and a
man and a woman in blue bathing suits jump up. The taped music gets
louder, so these must be important performers.

Four more drinks appear in front of Yosi and me.
Mine is beer. The girls' are probably ginger ale. "I didn't order
these," I say. Oui-a is pouting. "You no like me?" she whines. "Why
you no buy me more drink?" Meanwhile the lady onstage has got her
hand in the man's bathing suit and is kneading him like a challa, with
a bored look on her face. She looks like she's thinking about eighth-grade civics. But it's obvious he has been paying some attention,
because now as he removes first his bathing suit and then hers, he
appears to be approximately halfway inquisitive. So he lies down on
his back on the stage, and she goes to her knees, puts him in her mouth
and begins to slurp him like a Hࢴagen-Dazs.

"You first time in Bangkok?" says Oui-a.

"Holy mackerel!" I say. "Uh, yeah, uh, first time." I am trying
to be polite by glancing at her as I speak, but I would actually like to
watch these two at work, thinking that for a guy who probably has to
do five sets a night he is performing admirably. "Do you love me a
lot?" Oui-a says, her fingernails poised on the inside of my hip.

"Uh ... excuse me?" I say, craning my neck to try to see past
Oui-a, who has been eagerly attempting to nibble my ear. A strained
look of hurt sweeps over her face, and I see the bartender motioning
for her. She slams down her empty glass and walks away. I'm glad
she's gone. I don't want her to get in trouble, but I don't desire
17-year-old Oui-a. I came to watch the show. I'm not here for sex,
strange as it seems. The atmosphere inside the club is not a sexual
one; it's more like that snake show we saw when we went to the
floating market. They're up there with the cobras and we're down
here on the chairs. We are comfortable remaining observers. Going
further is uncharted territory, not a territory I wish to explore too
closely.

Oui-a stomps past Yosi on her way over to the bar.
"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat the hell," Yosi says.

Now the man onstage grabs the woman by the hips and lifts
her three feet off the ground, facing him. The music gets faster. She
splays her legs outward, and as the women in the audience laugh
nervously, some covering their eyes, then parting their fingers so they
can keep looking, he lowers her down so that his now fully inquiring
organ enters her while she is still suspended in the air. Holding her
hips he manually pumps her up and down a few times, then swivels 90
degrees to his left, pumps a few more times, swivels 90 degrees more,
pumps, then swivels the last 90 degrees and raises and lowers her the
last few times, until he is sure the entire audience has had a chance to
see. We clap politely, like these are compulsory figure skating
positions.

It's like vaudeville. They're an acrobat team, without the
costumes. Ed Sullivan could have used them, except he would have
had to focus the cameras up around their ears.

Next, she lies down with her rear end on a towel and puts her
legs around his shoulders. He applies what would have to be called
the Lethargic Missionary Position. He does the in-out thing for a short
while, swivels her on her rear end 90 degrees, does it some more,
swivels again, in-outs, and then swivels the last 90 degrees, both
performers constantly twisting their necks to make eye contact with
people in the audience to make sure everyone has had a proper
viewing angle. It is all very showmanlike. If her butt weren't on a
towel she would have splinters.

They do it standing up, sitting down, lying down, upside down,
and in a corkscrew like braided ropes, four 90-degree swivels per
position. Neither performer pretends to be in the grips of passion.
They're more like the guy who brings the accordion over to your table
at the Italian restaurant. I fully expect them to start asking for
requests. Each time, after the fourth swivel, the audience claps
respectfully. In the end the two run offstage to mild applause. If this
were America there would now be a beer commercial.

There is no sexual tension here, no undercurrent of violence,
no seedy racial overlay like in America. It just keeps getting more and
more bizarre. New women performers begin to parade to the stage,
one at a time, each removing her bathing suit and then doing
weirder and weirder things with her body. They stick in Ping-Pong
balls and try to shoot them into bottles. They pull out little jump-ropes
with the red plastic handles still attached. They squat over candles
and try to exhale with their abdomens, blowing out the candles. It
gets outlandish and funny pretty fast. But they are not trying to be
funny. This is their job, it's what they do. Thankfully, no one laughs.

I feel a new, warm hand on my arm. I appear to have another
friend, who has taken brokenhearted Oui-a's place. I look over and
realize with a shock that I know this woman.

"Ahnee!" I cry. "What are you doing here?"

In this light Ahnee looks older, wiser, even prettier than she
did in the hotel, in that Thai way of chiseled cheekbones and powerful
chin. She sits next to me like a big sister, hand on my arm, no
conversation. It actually feels good to have company. "How did you
know we would be here?" I ask her and she laughs. I get the
inference: I am just a man.

I mull that over. "Do you want a drink?" I ask her.
"Whiskey," she says. The bartender brings it over. I get personal:
"How old are you?" I ask.

"32 year," she says. I don't believe it. She looks around 20.

"No way," I say, and she nods: way. "How long have you
been doing this?" I ask.

"Do what?" she shoots back, eyes like hot chili. I turn away,
look back at the stage. She sips her whiskey. "Long time," she says.
She takes another sip. "I go college, two kids at home."

I stare back at her. "You have two kids?"

"Yes, daughter 14, son 9. Husband kill in car. I live five mile
outside Bangkok, take bus morning 5 a.m., work in factory until 5 in
evening, then work hotel, then come here, work till 1, take bus home."

"Every night?"

"No," she sighs, but does not clarify, just finishes her whiskey
without asking for more, puts her hand to the side of my face, then lets
it settle on my arm as she leans back in her chair and closes her eyes.
I am touched by the simplicity of that gesture.

I have a 14-year-old daughter too. I can't imagine what it
must be like to raise children alone, much less to try to do it here.
I'm no longer watching the stage, I'm staring at Ahnee. She seems to
be dozing. Then she opens her eyes, sighs again.

"Hard for family here. You from America, yes?"

"Yes," I say. "California."

"Oh, Cali-fornia. You lucky!" she says. "Diza-nee-land!"

"Yeah, Disneyland," I answer, thinking: Fantasyland.
Adventureland.

I don't want to be here anymore. But I'm not sure where I want
to be. Ahnee reads my mind.

"Please," she says, "we go now?"

"Ahnee, I'm married," I say to her. I am thankful to be able to
say that, as if it's some kind of mossy rock I can try to cling to.

"Yes, everyone here marry," she says, gestures with her hand
to include all the guys watching, the employees, the performers. She
pats her chest. "I marry too."

My antennae jerk up in the air. "I thought you said your
husband was ... you know, that he was ..."

"Yes, husband he dead. But I still marry to him. I never not
be marry to him."

This is getting very confusing now. I'm afraid to look at the
stage anymore because Rabbi Karpas might be sitting there again. I
know that in my heart I would like to take Ahnee back to my hotel, be
good to her, leave her with money that means nothing to me,
everything to her.

I know I'm not going to. I also know I can't change anything.
This is the way things are. I'm not Rabbi Karpas. I can't make it rain
or not rain. I'm not the king of Thailand nor the prince of America.
Some things are just impossible, no matter what the Chabadniks
believe. I would like to meet Ahnee some other day, in some other
place, in some future life. I would like things to be like the Buddhists
believe, that if we are good in our hearts in this life we will enjoy our
next life on a higher plane. I would like to believe that.

A spotlight hits the stage. The taped disco music has faded into
silence. I hear a muted drum roll, but it doesn't seem to be coming
from the speakers overhead. Something is about to happen. What's
next, I wonder? Where do we go from here?

I look over at Ahnee, then turn and stare at that spotlight. I
look away, then back again, slowly, as if I'm peeping through my
fingers. As I stare at the empty stage, at the brilliant light illuminating
this puddle of lighthearted sleaze, I realize: This is about me, isn't it?
And God, and Rabbi Karpas, and the Emerald Buddha, and Thailand,
and Jews where there are no Jews, about Buddhists and Muslims and
Hindus and Cath-a-licks, it's about the poverty and majesty of the flesh,
and the soaring divine spirit that keeps dancing even when there is no
music.

I'm swirling. Maybe it's the beer. Maybe it's this whole night,
the plates of tacky yang that can't quite cancel out the glorious buffet
of blessed yin. The spotlight is blinding, but it's not God. He would
never make it this easy. It's not Rabbi Karpas. Rabbi Karpas isn't
God, he just works for Him. So do these girls. So does the guy in the
Oklahoma sweat shirt. So do I.

Bangkok tosses me another rhyme:

Think and it all comes clear

If God was There, then he's Here

God at the Live Sex Show? Well, why not? He's portable,
isn't He? If He's anywhere then He's got to be everywhere, not just
in selected, convenient, sanitized, kosher locations. He could be
sitting in this audience, standing on that stage, right here, right now.
It's not impossible.

The spotlight is still empty, waiting for someone to step into it. I
reach in my pocket and pull out a pile of bahts. It is much of what
Rabbi Karpas paid us the other day. Ahnee stares at the folded bills.

"No," she says.

"Yes," I say, "but not for now. Tomorrow night. Tell your boss,
so you don't have to work here. Instead, you and I, we'll ..." I don't
have to finish the sentence.

She stares at the money on the table, thinking, then takes it,
holds it in her fingers, stares directly into my eyes, not smiling, not not
smiling. I can't tell if she knows or not. The disco tape has wound
itself back to the beginning. The show is starting over. The spotlight
has gone out.

Raji is asleep in his tuk-tuk when Yosi and I walk outside a few
minutes later. It has cooled off some, it's drizzling lightly. Raji sticks
his head out of the driver's well, glances up at the moonlit clouds and
smiles.

Tomorrow night Yosi and I will be in Singapore playing for the
fancy wedding, not here. Ahnee will have some money she didn't
expect, and I'll make more down there. Maybe I dried up a little rain
for her too. Maybe it proves that Rabbi Karpas is right after all.
Nothing is impossible.

The moon is almost full. The tuk-tuk passes briefly into a puddle
of moonlight. For a brief second we shine like Golden Buddhas, then fall
back into darkness as we speed toward the expressway and home.


Douglas A. Konecky

Doug Konecky is a songwriter, musician and essayist living in San Francisco.

MORE FROM Douglas A. Konecky

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