As anyone who has ever been in (or near) Monkey Club knows, "If you're feeling up, it's Monkey Club." But apparently, per my experience there on Saturday night, if you're feeling like throwing a full mug of beer at someone else's face...well, that's Monkey Club, too.
I was sitting at the head of a large table against one of the back walls of Monkey Club--I was at the head not out of respect, but because that is where the fewest number of Thai people have to talk to me. There were about 9 people at the table, and I guess we were all pretty drunk. At one point, two girls came over, from the table behind us (about three feet behind us)--a cozy set up--and said something in Thai to the people in the middle of the table. I didn't catch any of it.
My friend and Charles and I got up to order some drinks at the bar. We were there for about ten minutes, and when we turned around to walk back, everyone at both tables was standing up, hollering at each other, pounding their chests and whatnot. For some reason, my friend Van kept on saying "Jason, sit down. Sit down. Sit down." Not in any hostile way, but he was just saying that everything was all right, and that I could sit. Meanwhile there are 20 Thai people not two feet from my chair all beating their breasts and shouting. So I didn't sit until everyone else did. Cooler heads prevailed.
At least I thought so. About two minutes later, while I was still trying to figure out what the argument was about, another guy, who was still very upset about something, suddenly turned around from where he was standing, being consoled by a friend, and threw his full mug of beer at my friend's head. It missed him by inches and shattered against the wall. He was led out by security. Everyone stood up again, and shook hands. No one seemed that alarmed that someone had been nearly murdered by a projectile drinking glass--the mug was thick, fake-crystallized like a beer mug, and the speed at which it was thrown combined with the distance was enough to do lots of damage. Luckily, Thai people like soccer and not baseball, and he missed.
No one was ever able to describe to me what had happened. Something about ex-girlfriends and jealousy. I didn't catch any of the Thai, except for one phrase--one of the girls from the other table said to my friend Frame, "Yim arai? Yim arai?" -- what are you smiling at? I asked if he knew this girl--she was a friend of a friend, he said. That will teach Frame to smile so much. Jerk.
About an hour after the ruckus, when I was leaving, my friend Van wanted to know:
"Jason, if there was a fight...what you do?"
I assumed he wanted to know if I had his back, if I would have thrown down. This being the only country in the world where I am even close to being an intimidating size, I assured himt hat I had two years of schoolboy wrestling experience and that I was ready to rumble for him, because he was a good friend.
"No, no," he said, "I mean, you are a teacher at the university. You have to go."
Apparently I am too respected in Thai society to be involved in a brawl at a nightclub. I don't ever feel respected or revered--Van spends much of his time, in fact, whispering to me about exploits with girls and how much he likes to drink and smoke, which I would never share with any professor (besides, of course, Joyce Carol Oates, who I could share anything with under the assurance that she A) was not listening and B) would forget about it in 10 minutes). And yet, here I was, at a nightclub at 2 in the morning, with tequila shot glasses and large beer bottles and mugs in front of me, hanging out with the same potheads I hang out with every weekend--and I was too respected to fight with them! They were worried about my reputation! To be seen with them was no problem, these red-eyed hoodlums, these skirt-chasing, foul-mouthed no-good-niks, that was okay--but to be near them, even during the build-up to a fight that never happened, was totally injurious to my person and unbecoming of a professor.
Not that I wanted to fight, mind you, or that I would have thrown a punch--though the process of beraking my nose for free is tempting. But man, what a strange society this is, to be regarded, after all of these months of friendship and debauchery with those guys, Van and Frame and Sit and Tie, to still be regarded as one who is deserving of respect--ah, how did I feel. I was feeling strange , I was feeling conflicted, I was feeling bemused, I was feeling needlessly honored.
It's Monkey Club.