1 March 2011
The Oldest Guy on Grindr
About a year and a half ago I stood outside a restaurant on San Francisco's Castro Street with two long-time friends. They both had iPhones--the ultimate adult toy I have only recently come to appreciate--and were using an "app" (application... it's a little program you can download) called Grindr. More than one million gay men around the world have profiles on Grindr, which displays thumbnail photos of the guys who are near you. The iPhone uses GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) technology to determine somewhat precisely where you are on the planet. It's not 100% accurate, though. Recently I have identified a couple of guys who were "zero" feet away, resulting in a frantic and thorough search of my bed, which turned up nobody. A couple of times I have accidentally found guys 8,000+ miles away. Go figure.
Grindr is mostly for guys three or four decades younger than I am. I have not seen profiles in Bangkok for anyone older than me. I really stick out, which may or may not be such a bad thing. I'm not sure yet.
Anyway, my friends were discussing other people who also happened to be waiting outside the same restaurant who had profiles on Grindr. "This guy's into B&D." "The guy sitting down over there says he likes lingerie." Boy, was I hooked.
It took me a few months to afford a new iPhone 4. They cost more than $800 here, and sell out by the hundreds as soon as they clear Customs. So far, Apple has sold about one hundred million iPhones. I don't know how I ever lived without mine, which I have dubbed "the sex machine".
You can send instant messages to any of the people you see profiled on Grindr, so it is very addictive since you can also see who is online when you are. I admit I have had more than a couple of dates as a result. At first I found Grindr to be a troubling example of what virtual social media products have become. On any given day my entire persona is judged by hundreds of people for one or two seconds based on one photograph, a headline, and 15-20 words of text. This takes speed dating to an incredibly swift and shallow level. I found it demeaning until I watched a very persistent male pigeon on my balcony trying to convince passing females with displays of is manhood that he was a good catch. So I suppose Grindr only imitates what happens in nature.
Although I have been out of commission for two years following the tragic demise of my previous marriage, I am now dating a 21-year-old, which is more complicated than I could have imagined. It will take me a while to get used to be called "Pa" (which means either "dad" if its "papa" abbreviated, or "auntie" in Thai) We met on Grindr. And I have to admit that it's nice to have someone to hold hands with in a movie, not to mention the novelty of dating someone nearly one third my age. He likes my cooking, so I may keep him.
Miraculous Resurrections via Facebook. A couple of years ago, joining social media sites was the thing to do. So I joined Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter, Linked In and probably others I don't even remember. I have never had time for any of them and, to tell you the truth, I have not taken these virtual institutions very seriously. After all, there is something very suspect about people whose primary form of communication with the rest of the world is Facebook. (When was the last time you received a hand-written letter?)
My attitude changed completely in January.
The first of several surprises was a Facebook "friend request" from the Princess of Dade County, who had shared my home and my bed more than 25 years ago. He had twelve pairs of Gucci loafers and one pair of socks and liked to run off to New York when we had little misunderstandings. I ran after him, of course, and we had great make-up sex under the blankets in the last row of first class on the TWA red eye back to San Francisco. I thought he was dead.
Within days of that surprise, I heard from a former roommate, who had moved back home to the American Midwest nearly thirty years ago. For Christmas in 1978 he gave me his own copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I still have and still use and sometimes read just for inspiration. I thought he was dead, too.
The surprises continued. The French/Tunisian guy I fell in love with in 1973 suddenly emerged on Facebook. We were companions on a road trip from London to Kathmandu that changed my life forever. Following my recovery from whatever disease I caught skinny dipping in the Ganges, I went to see him in Paris. Later, he came to California 1976. I have not heard from him since 1977 and, you guessed it, I thought he was dead.
The final surprise did not come on Facebook, but via the "Argue With Douglas" form attached to the last episode of this blog. Someone named Terry Nichols in Canberra liked the blog and asked if I remembered him. Nick, as he was known more than thirty years ago, was a driver on the same route to Kathmandu. His Skype profile says he is "very, very old." He must be 80 now. I had heard about five years ago that he had died. It's a miracle!
I am not sure what strange planetary aspects caused all of these people to be returned to the realm of mortals during just one month. Maybe Facebook has attained powers most of us are not yet aware of. This would make a great Stephen King novel, but he's dead, isn't he? Maybe not. I'll have to look for him on Facebook.
Oh, while you're on Facebook, send me a friend request: BKKEXPAT. And please tell your friends about this blog if you enjoy it. You could be my next miracle.
I'm OK, You're OK. The oddest thing has been happening lately. Quite a few of our regular customers and friends reappear in Bangkok every winter. It's wonderful that they take time to stop by our office just to say hello (and sometimes even bring me gifts of Velveeta). This year, however, there seems to be a recurring theme in our conversations.
"I just want to make sure you are OK," seems to be the common theme. Maybe I am overly sensitive since I turned sixty last July, and none to gracefully, I might add. "Have you lost weight?" It's normally secret code for "you look terrible, you fat old slob." After my last marriage I regret that I cannot afford a face lift. But I am still alive. Just check Facebook.
"I'm not dead, and I'm not bankrupt," I say. "Things could be worse." Either or both of those conditions could change at any moment with yet another series of unpredictable planetary alignments.
Actually, business could be a lot better, but it's been worse. More people buying trips right now would certainly help. The Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts are up to something, and a repeat of last year's crisis could be fatal for us. Thailand and Cambodia are shooting at each other over something amazingly idiotic, most probably to give the masses the illusion that the government is doing something for the fatherland. After all, politicians need an enemy to make them worth keeping. Thai politics, the world economy, Agoda, and the inflated value of the baht are making me lose sleep, but not as much as a twenty-one year old boyfriend.
Thanks are in order for the kind gifts customers have carried across the water for me over the last couple of months. Mark B. brought a huge Costco Monterey Jack cheese and a jumbo bag of walnuts, without which I cannot make the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet. Brad brought all the shredded baking coconut he could find in Portland. (Seems like coals to Newcastle, but you can't find it here.) Eve and Dan K. brought two heaping bags of goodies, including food supplements, an opera DVD, Rit dye, and other treasures not seen on Bangkok's supermarket shelves, Peter W. brought a bottle of Germain-Robin that he had bought in Gualala, near my home town in Northern California. Richard H. brought two very nice bottles of old rum from his home in Puerto Rico. And just this afternoon Peter D. dropped by with a big chunk of Tasmanian Red Square (a lovely washed rind cheese with grassy and floral notes) and a piece of Saint Andre, probably the world's most perfect cheese. My most faithful personal shoppers are Mark and Jeff, who have over the past years carried embarrassing quantities of things from San Francisco, including shoes and even some cookware. I'm going to have my own private cheese tasting party tonight and lift a glass to all of you.
Happy Ending. My friend Darika Watchalottaporn is back. Her most recent husband finally transitioned to the great country club in the sky. The SS Darika, which they had sailed around the Caribbean for the past two years, was auctioned at Christies, and she has returned to the Land of Smiles (a bit out of pocket thanks to the IRS). The good news is that she is again writing an advice column, this time for Out In Thailand, a deliriously-attractive new gay magazine that is run by actual professionals with actual high standards. How long will it last? Darika and I are keeping our fingers crossed.