Out in Chiang Mai

 |  March 1, 2011

Denny and I were sucking on fat cigars and sipping Scotch on his Floral Condo balcony with its panoramic views on another pleasantly cool Chiang Mai evening. This is a regular pleasure carried over from our days as legal eagles in Boston.

“Ah!” he ejaculated with evident satisfaction, ice clinking in the crystal and a luxurious halo of expensive blue smoke about his noble head.

“Ah, indeed,” I replied, “so much better than that other place.”

“What other place?”

It was a fair question. We’ve both been around.

“You know,” I said, teasing, “That P place.”

Since Denny’s recent MRI at the Ram had revealed ‘plaque’ in the brain, he had become aware that he was, these days, less aware, and he looked puzzled, took a time buying puff on the Cuban and an unhealthy slurp of Chivas before hesitantly venturing a tentative stab at the answer, “Pakkaya? Phutet?”

I ignored what he describes as, ‘the mad cow’. “That’s it,” I said, sympathetically, “I thought you might miss the Sun, sand, sea and…”

“Don’t miss it at all,” he interrupted, emphatically, “only an hour on the ‘plane. Besides, too many undesirables down there; commies, A-rabs.” Denny’s sole reservation about George Dubbya was that, maybe, he was too soft. My friend’s penchant for the politically incorrect had not diminished. “It’s what makes Chiang Mai G.R.E.A.T!”

Typical Denny. No mention of the clement climes. No talk of gentle, friendly locals or the hi-energy generated by the thousands of students from the city’s universities. The buzz of the cafe society on Nimmanhaemin, the exquisite Lanna architecture, the lack of commercial pressure in those bars, the fine eateries, the galleries, live music and surrounding bucolic beauty; all this seemed lost on Denny. What the city doesn’t have was far more important than what it does, to him.

“How was your day? I went to a spa. Adam’s Apple tonight?”

“Busy, Denny, very busy. Writing.”

He frowned, disapprovingly, “You write too much. Think too much,” he seemed to have gone native. “What’s it now?”

“New gay column,” those words were music to the ears, “for the best magazine in town.”

“Really? There’s a surprise,” he said, not disguising the sarcasm, “I don’t want you writing about us. Me.”

“You know I’d never do that, Denny.”

James Barnes is editor-in-chief of OUT in Thailand magazine, and this is the first of his new monthly columns.