Going Up Country – Thai Style

Back in the 60s during their Woodstock concert Canned Heat had a small hit GOING UP COUNTRY.

“Going up country, baby, do you want to come along?”

After Altamont longhairs abandoned the rip-offs, bummers, and downers of the big cities to establish Aquarian communes in the hinterland offering free love, organic food, and reefer to establish a democracy on the foundations of the new age agrarian revolution, unfortunately few of these utopias lasted past the past the winter of the Moral Majority after the Summer of Love.

Why was well-portrayed in T. C. Boyle’s novel DROP CITY about the collapse of a Northern Californian commune and the surviving members’ exodus to Alaska, but that didn’t keep hippies from coming together for another try.

Like Alan Lage in Encinitas. 1974.

The Iowan had survived cancer as a teen and was living with an LSD professor on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I dropped acid with him and his blonde girlfriend on Black’s Beach. Leslie looked like Pattie Hearst, the kidnapped heiress turned bank robber. The cops raided us as SLA revolutionaries. The acid was on paper. They touched it. Within twenty minutes the officers were getting a rush. We left town that night not wanting to witness the cops’ wrath in the morning. I said good-bye to Alan and his girl on the PCH.

“We’re going to Marin live off the country.”

I almost joined them, but the cops up north would be after Pattie Hearst too.

A year later he showed up in Woodstock New York. Leslie had been replaced by Nona, half-New Jersey/half-Filipino. Skinny as Olive Oyl and smelling of cinnamon. They had a commune of two in a chicken farm. Grass, organic food, and John Lennon. Nona danced to Alan’s guitar. Her sinuous body weaved a trance invading my dreams. She was Alan’s chick and while I might covet my friend’s chick I wasn’t going to steal her, because I only break one commandment at a time and this night I went home with a fat girl I met at the Joyous Lake Bar. Babs had big breasts. We had sex in her bathtub next to a babbling creek. Later in her bed we committed sodomy. I should have stayed, but had the ambition to become a writer in New York.

And I thought writers needed to live in the city.

Not the country.

Almost 35 years in Boston, New York, LA, Paris, Hamburg, Bangkok, Pattaya.

My first Thai wife doesn’t like Pattaya.

She preferred living in Ban Nam Phu west of Chai-nat.

2 hours by bus from Pattaya to Morchit. Another 3 hours to Chai-nat, then a 50 kilometer car ride.

Over our years together she has bought 20 rai of land and ten cows. The land was being prepared for a teakwood forest, so we can sell carbon rights to polluting factories and harvest the timber in 15 years. I went up once a month to visit my wife and daughter.

Crossing the river at Wat Sing we entered a land without farangs.

Rice paddies, egrets, buffalos, butterflies, pigs, trees, mountains, dirt roads, and early evenings drinking beer with rice farmers under a billion stars in the sky.

“Going up-country, baby, do you want to come along?”

Sometimes I think it’d be nice.

Smoke a little weed, drink a lot of beer, but what would I do for work?

Grow rice?

Only to brew lao-khao whiskey.

Teach English.

The headmaster of my daughter’s school would like that.

10,000 baht/month.

Nature. Quiet. Wife. Daughter. Farm. Beer. Reefer.

But then I ask myself what would happen if civilization collapsed under the weight of global warming. No electricity. No cars. No airplanes. No way to get back to the West.

The sea would flood Pattaya and Bangkok. People would flee inland. I would head up to my wife’s farm. It was on higher ground. 110 feet above sea level. My daughter would be happy to see me. My wife would view me as another mouth to feed.

“What can he do?”

Back in 1995 I was in Tibet with my friend Tim Challen. The road to Nepal had been smothered by a mudslide. We were sort of stranded in Lhasa. He asked, “If the world fell apart, what would be do to live here?”

The choices were simple in Tibet.

“Become a monk or a clown. A clown like Sean Connery and Michael Caine in A MAN WHO WOULD BE KING.”

Tim liked the idea and several years ago I had everyone laughing at a family dinner telling them about getting a penis transplant from a horse and charging everyone 10 baht to see the farang with the ham ma yoow or long horse cock.

20 baht to touch it.

A hippie freak show clown.

That would be my calling after the Armageddon.

“Going up-country, baby, you want to come along?”

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