As of last month we were averaging four to five a week.
It’s flying season here in Thailand. This is the time of year when foreign men, usually in their sixties, leap off the balconies of their condos in three main Thai cities, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok. Many times they fly of their own volition. At other times they have obviously had help getting aloft, reaching terminal velocity with a shove from the family or boyfriend of the women they’ve been sexually involved with and financially supporting.
During flying season many a caucasian body is found at the base of a high-rise apartment building. The season begins in December and ends in May, when for some reason many of these old fellows either choose or are allowed to remain alive. If a note is left behind, it usually refers to health or money problems.
There are two on-line forums where surviving ex-pats can keep track of this activity. Thaivisaforum.com and stickmanbangkok.com. When the Thai police investigate, they always conclude it was a suicide. In one notorious case, the man’s head was found in a plastic bag thirty meters from his body. “Suicide,” the police report read.
Thailand serves the same function for the world at large that California served for the United States. It’s the place you wind up when you bomb out of every other place. I remember I had an uncle who abandoned his family in St. Louis and drank himself to death in San Francisco. He was not alone in this, for there were legions of men just like him in California’s coastal cities, using alcohol to dissolve the shackles that bound them back east. In Thailand, these men are from all over the world, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States. They leave their third or fourth wife behind and come to the land of Rent-a-Wife. If they have an addiction or two, they find to their surprise they have brought it with them. If the addiction itself isn’t their undoing, it does a bang-up job of demoralizing them along the way, and thinking with their wrong head, they make poor choices. Many a man with a substantial retirement account has limped back to the airport in Bangkok to head home, minus most of his savings. Those are the lucky ones, for they were spared the ten seconds of exhilaration their flying fellows knew as they soared off the balcony.
And then there are those of us who haven’t done that badly here, though it sometimes seems we are in the minority. I have met a few mentally healthy men who have taken an active interest in Thai culture, who have gone to the trouble to learn the language, and who seem to have meaningful relationships with their communities.
But these men don’t make the papers. Mostly they gracefully age and die here, or scramble back to their home country before they become too infirm to fly.