Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Same As It Ever Was

Phuket, Thailand.
In February, the dust settled just long enough for me to look around the tropical paradise of Phuket and ask myself how did I get here?

The last time I remember having some semblance of an idea as to what I was doing, I was in Rishikesh, India on the heels of a peaceful month at an ashram in the Himalayas. Out of the blue I was struck by what my Phuket neighbor Baz calls 'The Stalker Effect', and it goes something like this:[bxA]

Fiona Stalker wrote Ali Flint (11 November 2009, 2pm):

Tomorrow I'm flying out to KL and then heading down to Port Klang to meet the fleet for the Raja Muda regatta. That's a combination passage and day race regatta ending in Langkawi on Nov 21. What I suggest is this: you meet us in Langkawi on November 21 for the final party of the Raja Muda regatta. We are then spending a few leisurely days cruising up to Phuket and it is a gorgeous trip, really really lovely.

Once in Phuket we'll be racing the Kings Cup which runs Nov 28 - Dec 5 and is a day race regatta (back to the same place every afternoon) and has wicked good parties. Then I'm hanging out in Phuket through Christmas and New Years at Barry's place…you would be more than welcome to stay at Baz's place.

Back to the sailing: Sirius is a gorgeous old wooden schooner… full galley and comfortable bunks, heaps of room. Skipper will charge a small per diem … I think you'd be looking more around a max of $100 for the trip up (4 or 5 days) and I'm not too sure of the regatta fees but it ain't too crazy.

And then your costs in Phuket over Christmas will probably amount to buying Baz a bottle or two of wine. And maybe helping out with the Christmas pantomime (play) that the theatre group is involved in. I've volunteered to help paint sets etc.

If you're keen let me know asap.

Rishikesh, India - the road outside the internet cafe (November 2009)

Ali wrote Fiona (11 November 9):

okay, i'm gonna sleep on this. the 21st is a bit soon but i'll think about it. or, could i meet y'all closer to the 28th and sail with you then? i need to think...but it's doable. would be fun to get out of india and sail with you!

Rishikesh, India - Sign on the walk from Ram Jhula to Laxman Jhula (November 2009).

Fiona wrote Ali (12 November 6am):

No drama - you could meet us in Phuket anytime from the 28th onwards. The Kings Cup runs till the 5th.

Fiona wrote Ali (12 November 2009, 6:01AM):

But the sail up from Langkawi to Phuket is *really* nice.

Rishikesh, India (November 2009)

Ali wrote Fiona (13 November 2010, 1pm):

Okay, I want to meet you in langkawi on the 21st. I'm going to try to arrive on the 20th and have a day to prepare for the party;) I'm pricing tickets now. Do i need to have a round trip ticket to get into the country? Ugh! There is of course still a slim chance I won't make it, but I'm planning to book my ticket later today. Am waiting for one friend who I want to see while in India, but assuming his schedule fits mine, I'm on way! Are you sure it's okay with the captain if i sail with y'all to Phuket? Do i need to contact him? I'm so excited!!!!

Rishikesh, India - Swami Sivananda at the Sivananda Ashram (November 2009)

The plot then grew as thick as molasses.

Rishikesh, India - Mischievous monkeys along the Ganges River (November 2009)

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

- The Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Soul Man

5 February 2010 – Phuket, Thailand.

After a handful of days in Phuket I found myself recording radio ads for the Phuket Blues Fest and hanging out with legendary blues man Charlie Musselwhite on the upstairs porch at 91.5 Phuket FM Radio. Charlie was recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and Dan Aykroyd says Charlie was his inspiration for his role in the Blues Brothers. [bxA]

Charlie’s eyes are as blue as the Phuket sky and he’s about the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. I wasn’t thinking it when he walked up, but the minute we started talking I was totally excited that he’s American. I’m never around Americans and I spent Christmas in Thailand which means I’m totally freaking homesick.

And so, for me, hanging out with Charlie in the tropical paradise of Phuket was mostly about feeling connected for the first time in a long time to my roots, my country, and most poignantly, my past.

Rockefeller's Hall (formerly Rockefeller's), 3620 Washington Ave., Houston, Texas

Charlie told me great stories about his migration from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago, where he got snubbed for ordering a glass of ‘wurder’ on the posh side of town, but moved to the South Side where people 'loved the same music and same food'. And by ‘people’ he means guys like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. Then we tried to figure out if he ever played Rockefeller’s, the best little jazz/blues club in Houston (circa 1979-1997) and a big huge fat gigantic chunk of My Life Story (but I didn’t bore him, promise). I remember seeing his name scribbled on a manila file in the metal file cabinets of the third floor business offices at the club, but could have been a promo file, not a contract file. Charlie remembers playing Fitzgerald’s on the other side of Interstate-10.

I could have talked to Charlie for hours but he was whisked away to do an on-air interview...

...after which we said goodbyes then I was whisked into the sound booth to record the ad for the concert.

And so began a month of convergence of all things from the continuum of my past to my ever uncertain future. The afternoon with Charlie flooded me with memories of about a decade of my life built on the foundation of a bankrupt jazz club…a time that delivered me into nearly a decade of a pretty cushy banker life. Meanwhile, the four Millennium girls (who climbed aboard a sailboat set for Madagascar this time last year) converged on Phuket for a reunion of sorts. Then, about halfway through the month, my high school best friend killed herself, leaving me profoundly sad over a bunch of happy memories of yet another almost-decade of my life (circa 1984-1993).

Cy Twombly: Four Seasons

Charlie said something about how people think listenng to the blues is about being sad, but for him the blues is about the music making you happy.

I definitely had the blues in February.

“When I was sixteen I was pretending to be Charlie Musselwhite.
I had a long raincoat on, my hair slicked back, and the shades.”
-Dan Aykroyd