Steel Notes Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 81

Steel Notes Magazine “That’s a lot,” I said. I was used to paying less than 10 rupees a night. Then I said, “We could share it.” “Well, I don’t know. What do you think…we could, I guess.” She thought out loud. “Why don’t we go and look at it,” I said. “We could take it for the night and then look for something cheaper.” “Okay,” she replied, “but you have to promise not to molest me.” “I’ll promise not to molest you,” I smiled, “but you don’t have to promise not to molest me.” Her name was Penelope, and she was Australian. She had been living in Calcutta for some time. An archeologist, originally on her way to Afghanistan, she had been side tracked by the Russian invasion of that country, and had settled in Calcutta, studying Hindustani classical singing, with the august guru Bimmel Da. She was sharing an apartment in Calcutta with Jon, another Australian, who had been living in India for about 10 years. Jon was a musician and some other Australian musician friends, a couple with a child, had been in India giving concerts. They were booked to fly to Bangkok in about in about a week, on the same flight I was leaving on. Since they had a child, Penelope had offered to give up her room in the apartment and get a hotel room. That’s how she happened to be at the Modern Lodge. We were together for those seven days and fell in love. As I mentioned before, my six-month visa was expiring, and I had to leave for six months before I could get another visa to return. We made vague plans for her to come over to Thailand and meet me, but she was rath- er anchored in Calcutta and we had no real plan. There was a total eclipse of the sun on the day I left for Thailand, which the Indians considered very auspicious. I arrived in Bangkok with no visa and a tola, 10 grams, of hash shoved down my pants. I hadn’t known I needed a visa, and the customs men took me into a small room where they interviewed me. I was given a short, about three-week, temporary visa. At least they let me in the country. Now my plan was to head down to Malaysia where I could get a new visa for reentry into Thailand. A song I’d written that was the title cut on Juice Newton’s first album for Capitol Records, been accruing some royalties, and I’d asked my mother to send them to me. I had to go to the American Embassy to collect the funds and while there the consul I spoke with filled me with horror stories about Muslim separatists, who hijacked the busses from Bangkok, stole everything and often killed many if not all of the passengers. I took that bus ride several times over ensuing mon ths and years and never had a problem, but I didn’t know that then, and considering the official source I took the warning fairly seriously. I also wanted to get back to India, which I missed, and the woman I thought I had fallen in love with. I was staying at the Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok, where I met its owner and founder Dr. Max Henn. Dr. Henn was an amazing man. He had been in the Luftwaffe in the 1930s when Hermann Goring had told him that since he was Jewish he better get out of Germany. Thus began a trek that included helping the Maharaja of Bikaner establish an air force, sojourns in Tibet, and finally coming to Bangkok in the 1940s, where he eventually built the Atlanta Hotel. Quite a prize when first opened, its later incarnations included being an R & R haunt for American GIs during the Vietnam War, and then, by the time I got there, a hippie/traveler hotel, with rooms for a few dollars a night. Dr. Henn also ran the Western Union Travel Bureau out of the hotel, and over the coming years I was able to get some fantastic tickets through him. Twice I bought tickets for a few hundred dollars that went from Singapore to Jakarta, Indonesia to Noumea, New Caledo- nia, to Sydney, Australia, to Papeete, Tahiti to Los Angeles. The ticket was good for a year, I could stay as long as I wanted at any of the destinations along the way, and it was on UTA, which was then the Pacific wing of Air France. I didn’t get involved in the Bangkok life very much on this trip. But I did spend one night at the infamous Grace Hotel, which was full of Westerners and Thai whores. I wasn’t looking for a prostitute, but it was there I met Supranee. Although a prostitute, she never charged me, but rather would come to my room, often bringing some fruit and flowers, and always wonderfully powerful Thai sticks. Steel Notes Magazine 81