The other day I went out to a local restaurant alone and struck up a conversation with two 20-somethings who were interested in New York. Our conversation was brief but we exchanged numbers and I asked them to go out to dinner on Wednesday night. They took me into the nice part of town to get Chinese BBQ and beers and the food was absolutely delicious. Mushrooms, clams, eggplant, egg soup, weird meat, and everything else you could think of.
Klaus (that’s his real name in China) tried to pick up the whole tab but I beat him to it and suggested instead that he buy a round at the next bar. So we ventured off until we arrived at an expat bar on a side street. We talked about their school and what they study (art design), and I found out that they weren’t a couple, just friends. Feeling a buzz coming on I started to push my Chinese into past tense and began digging into their past. There is a game Bayer and I like to play back in Brooklyn where we ask people the full names of past friends and girlfriends/boyfriends and then try to paint a picture in our minds of that person based on the inflections they put on the names. High school names just sound different weighed down with personal history. I asked Klaus about his past loves – a girl from highschool that he broke up with three years ago – and what her name was, when he suddenly put his head down, changed his mood and then said he didn’t want to talk about it. God damnit Jim! Here these people brought you out to dinner and are being the sweetest friends in the world listening to your crappy Chinese and you have to go and ruin it all with a stupid mind game. “Can I tell you secret?” He said leaning in closely.
“Sure Klaus, what’s up?”
“I think maybe. . . maybe. . .I don’t like girls,” he said shyly.
“Oh, you’re gay? Great!” Gay artsy people, my favorite type of friend. “Well that’s awesome man. Hey, buddy, come on, you think I care? I’m an actor in New York, Klaus. I’m at least 15 percent gay by default.” The word default took forever to explain but he got the picture and we were right back on the friend train.
Look at them, so sweet, right? I know, they’re the best. Now take a look behind them.
It’s my opinion that, while traveling, you meet the coolest, and the worst people in the whole world. Traveling attracts many different personalities, from the person just trying to escape, to the adventure junkie, to the sex tourist. I have met the most wonderful people in hostels around the world; open minded people trying their best to push themselves out of their comfort zone and see the world from as many angles as possible. I’ve met doctors and businessmen building orphanages and theater teachers bringing Shakespeare to the poorest parts of South America. BUT, I don’t want to talk about them, I want to talk about the others. Theres a special breed of expat – one that every traveler in Asia has been exposed to. My first exposure to them was in Thailand back in 2007. I was at a restaurant when I walked by two Australian men pushing 65 holding hands with two teenage girls. Just out in the open, their fat hanging over their belt and khaki shorts, holding hands and walking around like they didn’t think anyone would judge them for their clear sex tourism. My 20 year old self was completely baffled. What pathetic losers, right? But they weren’t alone, and traveling around Asia one can see they’re everywhere. One time a married man and I struck up a conversation in a bar and when I started to ask him about the 15 year old to his side he said, “You’re young, you wouldn’t understand.” That’s it. That’s all I got.
The two guys in the back of the picture represent the worst of it. I could smell these two the moment I walked in the bar. They sat there yelling at the waitresses and bartender, smacking their asses whenever they came over, and just being awful. Fat, prostitute-addicted, can’t cut it in their native country, low self esteem, drunks found in every major city. Men with their red, swollen faces, stained teeth and triple chins who, in any other part of the world be forced to sink into the bar corner and destroy themselves in solidarity- now, living like kings, with China as their kingdom and Chinese women as their concubines, come out of their holes to treat women with the kind of disrespect they’ve been fantasizing about for years while alone in their beds searching for their miniature penises. Australians, Brits, Germans, Kiwis, French and, unfortunately, more often than not, Americans.
I sat there, forced to endure – my only wish being that I actually worked at the bar so I could threaten to smack the stupid grins off their faces if they didn’t shut up.
But who am I to judge? They act this way because they’re allowed to act this way. The bar and the women are obviously profiting from them. Aren’t we all prostitutes in some capacity? I know bartenders in New York who make $800 a night working at Wall Street bars putting up with the worst people on the planet. A few months ago I came into the winery to open the bar, and there was a drunk group of Long Islanders left over from an afternoon party getting pretty routy. They were cursing loudly and calling each other “F-ing faggots” and demanding more beer, so I cut them off. Then they threw down $120 and asked for four beers. Thats a $100 tip. Yup, here you go sir.
Walking soundtrack for the past two days – August and Everything After