13 August 2018
It's no secret that I don't go out much these days. When I first transitioned to Thailand I spent a lot of time at Babylon and practically lived in Telephone Bar. I was 20 years younger then, and it was all new and exciting. These days it's neither. My knees are bad and I work 12/7. My cheap thrill of the week is an outing to the supermarket on Saturdays, and an occasional dinner out. And I do have two big flat-screen TVs with Sling, Prime and Netflix and a huge video library to keep me entertained. But I did find some time a few nights ago to meet a visiting friend in Soi 4. When we were seated the waiter informed us that someone wanted to send us round of drinks, "to remind you that you have not blogged since last September." The tone implied an unstated "you lazy bitch" following "September." But I felt like a celebrity to be recognized, especially without a bra and a giant hair.
Honestly, I am painfully aware of these blogless ten months, and I do appreciate being reminded by a benefactor who did not reveal his identity to us. I suppose you can attribute my writers block to Donald Trump.
As I have said in the past, I do not want to use this blog as a platform to denounce people. Sure, I have reminded you repeatedly that Jerry Falwell is still dead. I have stood up to the NRA and condemned gun violence. I have suggested that people not react to Donald Trump, thereby depriving him of the oxygen he consumes to keep our attention. I have followed tragic/ridiculous/comical/inconvenient/nail-biting events in the evolution of Thai politics. I have whined about being served unprofessionally by a purveyor of fashionable optical frames. But I have never wanted this blog to become a weapon.
So I have been absent from this blog for some months because I have been way too busy with other things, and also because I did not want to start a discourse that would go on and on and on about Donald Trump, the most dangerous man in the world. (Go ahead. Send me death threats. I'm old and I don't give a shit.) How I feel about him is pretty obvious, and I assume that practically everyone who reads this probably agrees to some extent. He is a charlatan leading a cult of idiots. I am not going to launch a diatribe about The Donald, his mental state, his relationship with the truth, his climate denial, his massive corruption, his racism, his homophobia, his xenophobia, his sexism, his hypocrisy, the crooked and inept people he has in his cabinet, his shocking supreme court nominations, his tiny penis, his "Hillbilly Nurenberg rallies" (you can thank Bill Maher for that). his hideous comb-over, or the outstanding work he is doing on behalf of The Kremlin. For that, you will have to Follow me on Facebook, where I have had an ongoing daily rant for more than one year. I don't mind denouncing people on Facebook.
Find Your Own Planet to Fuck Up, Please
I grew up in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco. It's well known for its redwood forests, rugged coastline, fine wines and the birthplace of high octane pot. Now it's also known for the biggest, most destructive fire in California history. It's horrific watching the place where I grew up turn to ashes from the other side of the world. I still have family members there. Fortunately they are all safe, although some have lost everything.
Meanwhile, The Donald spins a lie about California not having enough water to put out fires because of the state's environmental policies (which he is trying to destroy with changes to vehicle emission regulations).
When are people going to get it that fires like this are due, in part, to our own willful destruction of our environment? Coal-powered plants, gas-guzzling SUVs, and climate deniers in Washington are making this planet uninhabitable. My great nephews and great nieces will survive this fire. But they may not survive the demise of planet Earth when it eventually chokes to death on its own excess.
So why should I be careful about the environment by reducing or eliminating plastic in my life, limiting use of automobiles, being mindful the electricity I use (particularly air conditioning, which is also a major polluter)? Why should I pay someone to plant trees every time I take a commercial flight to offset the carbon I dump into the atmosphere? Why should I stop using aerosol products of any kind? I'll probably be dead in twenty years, so it will be someone else's problem anyway. But by then we'll probably have met our end in a nuclear conflagration considering the reckless mindset of a madman on Pennsylvania Avenue. Maybe the universe would be better off with the extinction of our species anyway.
But I am hoping that human beings are better than this. The phrases "climate change" and "global warming" have been a part of our vocabulary for almost thirty years. This is no longer something that is going to happen fifty years form now. It's happening today. Look at the heat wave that has been punishing Japan these last few weeks. Rising sea levels. Catastrophic fires in Greece and Portugal. The death of most of the fish in the Rhine (or was it the Danube?) because of the heat. Drought in Central Europe. The vast algae bloom in Florida. Melting glaciers. Dwindling penguin, polar bear and orca populations. Will it take a massive hurricane and flooding that destroys Mar-A-Lago to convince Trump about climate change? Probably not. He'll probably be dead by then, so why should he give a shit?
But you can. Just consider what you can do without. Walk or bike instead of drive. Buy an electric car. Have trees planted, even if you don't make long air trips. Shop with a reusable bag. Don't buy water in single-use plastic bottles. Fight the EPA's destruction of air standards. Eat less/no beef or lamb. (They fart a lot, which is killing ozone layer). Don't buy Chinese goods--they are the world's hugest polluter (almost twice as much as the United States). Just do something. If you are doing nothing, you are killing off the rest of us.
Cashing the Gay Travel Dollar (pound, euro, yen and zloty)
About two weeks ago I got a call from Hilton Hotels Thailand. The caller said 'we want to start getting more gay business.'
He could not explain how he wanted me to help Hilton do this. Should I rip up all of our current Thailand hotel contracts and replace them with Hiltons? (That would never happen anyway. I don't remember us using a single Hilton hotel in Thailand before). Did he want me to dispense 15 minutes of my deepest secrets about selling travel to the LGBTQ market? Free? He was not exactly sure what he wanted or how he got my private cell phone number. I sent him to my website and have not heard from him again.
About six months ago I received a series of emails from a presumably-large tour company in France announcing that they were going into the gay tour business and that they would be using Purple Dragon. OK. Fine with me, but I never heard from them again. Many companies like this think they can cash in on the gay market merely by calling their tour/cruise/hotel "gay."
In June, Reed Expositions put on its first international LGBTQ travel trade show in London along with a series of what they called "master classes" (each of which lasted a whopping sixty minutes each including Q&A), for people working in tourism and hospitality businesses who want to cash in LGBTQ market. I was invited to present a "master class" there. I was not paid, but Reed made enough money on this "expo" that they plan to do it again in Brooklyn, NY again next year. I am not convinced that anyone who attended will become a big player in the gay tour business from a one hour class. But it will probably become a big money spinner for Reed.
As of this month, I have been involved in Purple Dragon and its predecessor as a partner, and for most of this time as its major shareholder for twenty years. I don't have a house in the countryside (I work seven days a week so I would not be there much anyway) or drive a Mercedes, or any other car for that matter. I haven't devoted 20 years of my life to this business to "cash in" on anything. Sure, the LGBTQ market has impressive spending power, but it's just as much hard work as any other market.
As Purple Dragon reaches our 20th anniversary I have been thinking quite a bit about what I have done the last two decades and the impact that Purple Dragon has had on the lives of many of our customers (and family of employees) over the years. The percentage of our guests who return to travel with us again (and again and again) is staggering. The email we get from people about their experiences is immensely humbling and rewarding. We have begin to put some of these on the Purple Dragon website. (Many thanks to all of you who wrote.)
While emails about the impact our work has had on other peoples' lives does not buy me a new $1,000 refrigerator, it does remind me precisely why I continue to do this: I love it. It's fulfilling. I feel like I make a difference. I meet wonderful people. It's challenging, and it's even fun sometimes. How many people can say that about their job?
A few months ago I took a customer to dinner, which is one things I love to do when guests I do not know well are in Bangkok and have time for a meal. After we said good night, he walked away, but ran back to where I was trying to hail a taxi. He grabbed my hand and said something like "I just want thank you for the fantastic travel experiences you have given me. They have meant a lot."
They have meant a lot to me, too. Hilton Thailand will never have that gratification, nor will the company in France that is planning to stick a "gay" label onto its non-gay tours for quick buck. I think I look at our customers in terms of people who need a (transformative/ inspiring/educational/evocative/regenerative/uplifting --you pick the adjective) experience, not just wallets with legs.
If you are in the tourism business and want to earn the gratification that comes with happy, loyal LGBTQ customers, hire me and I'll teach you a thing or two. I really do want to buy a new Bosch refrigerator. The kind with the wine rack and the freezer on the bottom instead of the top. I can't work for love but I am not very expensive: www.douglas-thompson.com/consulting/
The Demise of Bhutan Boy
Yippie/Darn, I am single again, for the second time since this blog was born. Practice makes perfect.
Jamyang, AKA "Bhutan Boy" made his occasional long-term migration to Bangkok in May for a bit longer than a month. He was supposed to have been here over the holidays. "Soon," kept telling me. It never happened, which left me with shattered Christmas/New Year plans. I live near ground zero of one of the world's largest NYE celebrations, which makes it impossible to go out anywhere on my own due to the complete gridlock of my neighborhood. And I didn't want to go out of town alone.
But he showed up in May, claiming to miss me and my cooking.
As a tour guide in Bhutan he meets a quite a few Thai travelers, many of whom he stays in touch with on Facebook. He lets them know when he plans to be in Bangkok, and gets many invitations for dinners and little trips to places like Chiang Mai, Koh Si Chang and Singapore. In the end, I didn't end up doing much cooking because of his frequent guest appearances.
When he wasn't dining in restaurants I cannot afford with people he obviously did not want me to meet, his full attention was on his telephone, which he poked endlessly. During his stay a pipe broke under my kitchen sink, creating an epic flood. While I cannot exactly run, I made haste to gather every towel in my condo to begin soaking it all up, and I have lots of towels. He sat on the sofa during this pandemonium, poking away on his phone. He left behind an iPhone 6 that obviously been poked to death.
It became obvious a one point (when he sprayed himself with obscene amounts cheap cologne before going out) that he had actually made this trip to spend time with Thai (and at least one Singaporean) women who had been on his tours. They were getting poked, along with his telephone. But was I? Eventually, he left without saying goodbye, leaving a catastrophic mess, luggage filled with new clothes he couldn't take because he had bough so much other crap (including a 50+ inch TV), and a dead iPhone.
(Check in for a Drukair flight to Paro and you will see Bhutanese people pushing two carts piled with luggage. Their checked luggage allowance for economy class is 30kg, not that they really enforce it. They just started charging $25 extra to carry TVs over 50 inches.)
I am sad for Jamyang because he has few real social skills. He is charming but not well educated. I tried to help him grow up, but I obviously had very minimal impact. He's losing his hair and his looks. By the time he's 30 he'll look 40. I hope he finds a nice girl to marry before he ceases to be a catch. I wish him luck. Just don't name any children after me, please.
Long-time Thailand resident John Glines passed away last week. I have known John since he fled the U.S. around the same time I did.
John was an inspiring, colorful gentleman who had a very big life. He wrote for both Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street. On Broadway he produced Cats and Torch Song Trilogy. One conversation I had with him fifteen or sixteen years ago reminded me that every day is a new opportunity to live more, live bigger, and have experiences that I should not be afraid of. Because of people like him I live on the edge. I have tattoos. I take motorbike taxis through nightmarish Bangkok traffic, eat street food, write as much as I can, and continue to try to make big dreams and wild ideas a reality. I'd like Darika to have a cooking show on TV. I still have big plans for our travel company, including Taiwan and two more websites. And then there's the refrigerator....
A lot of people will miss John for his classy manner and the sparkle in his eye. I look forward to his obit in the New York Times. You don't meet guys like John Glines every day.
And to the guy who bought my friend and me a round of drinks at Balcony Pub about a week ago, thanks for the reminder. I hope this was worth it. I had fun writing it, and hope you noticed that I did not mention tomatoes or cheese even once.
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