Where do you go for sustenance? Relaxation? Oneness? Since I don’t drink, and can’t really claim a religion of my own, and my last massage sent me over the edge in not such a nice way, it’s hard to say. If you’re curious, stick with it to the end. Sing along with me, wontcha?
“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but their pearls ain’t free,”
Rice Timothy Miles Bindon, Andersson Benny Goran Bror, Ulvaeus Bjoern K
If the bar is a temple, then perhaps the bartender is the gospel-spewer. They’ll listen, as long as you pay up. The bartender has also likely seen and heard it all, so you probably won’t be judged too, too harshly, at least not to your face. And don’t forget to tip!
The menu is the Word. And the bar stool is a pew. And the bathroom is for rejecting those things that don’t agree with you. Clean-up, aisle you! Ew. (Ahem, that last potato skin, kitchen-sink drink, or suds, mayhaps.) Double yuck.
And the fellow patrons are parishioners. Finally, the naysayers (teetotalers like myself, but more preachier) are the sin patrol. Renouncing, denouncing, announcing last call? You don’t hafta go home, but ya cain’t stay here.
The line about “…everything but Yul Brynner” gave me pause. Yay for lyric websites. I looked him up and apparently he didn’t know who he was, either. Or, more likely, he may have, but he just wasn’t telling anyone. He claimed lots of different lineages and heritages. He played nondescript baldies with un-pin-down-able accents. The ultimate everyman? Or something sadder? Not knowing where you fit in is a real bear.
I grew up in the Irishist of Irish towns outside of Ireland, that is, which is located in a small hamlet in NY. So Hamlet, let’s play! You leave the car running while picking up takeout, parking’s a nickel, and they paint the streets green for the parade. Said parade, side note, is the 2nd largest in NY and 3rd largest on the east coast.
We’re only part Irish, so that’s not my ID. We’re also sorta Jewish, so that’s not my ID, either. It wasn’t until way later, when I figured out who I am. No labels, thanks.
The song talks about all the different goings on, but seems to center around chess. What a cerebral game! There’s also angels and devils walking and sliding about. More religion. Unfortunately, the song is whatever the opposite of an homage is, but it’s still catchy as heck. It talks about what a shame it is to be focused on the (chess)board as opposed to the, uh, earthly delights surrounding you. “…tea, girls, warm and sweet…not much between despair and ecstasy.” Side note because where would we be without digressionals? Tea girls, as in girls who bring tea a la cigarette girls, or tea, girls, as in tea that’s hot & sweet, and girls who are, too? Oxford comma, schmoxford comma, amirite?
Let’s keep going, shall we?
The song talks about how the “muddy ole river,” or “reclining Buddha” aren’t as interesting or impressive as said game of chess. This could be Dharana, or Concentration, or Pratyahara, or Withdrawal of the Senses. Should we focus on what’s in front of us, or zoom out? Or both? Or neither?
The narrator is: “watching the game/controlling it,” much as Tamas, one of the three Gunas, is destroying things.
“…but the pearls ain’t free.” Do the work, put in the time, and maybe, juuuust maybe, if you can survive a night among the tourists, “whose every move’s among the purest,” tumbling tough guys, devils, angels, and queens, you just may find your oyster after all. Who else gets their kicks “above the waist, sunshine?”
Saucha, or purity/cleanliness is what comes to mind here. This refers to literal cleanliness as well as spiritual cleanliness. Tourists are typically innocents. They don’t speak the language. They hold no currency. (“You can call me Al,” Paul Simon.)
Now sometimes they’re wearing socks with sandals, cameras adorning necks, loudly tramping through ruins as if through some big-box retailer. Other times they’re reverent, dressed appropriately, whispering their awe to an underpaid bartender. Uh, tour guide 🙂 You decide.
For me, sustenance comes from my yoga practice, my meditation practice, a walk with a neighbor, or grabbing that mic for karaoke…or back in the day, a standup set. Your turn!
If this resonated with you, please feel free to comment below or drop me an email. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.