As conversations go, even by Bangkok’s eclectic standards, that evening’s was certainly a strange one. Without invitation, Jim had introduced himself as a former police officer from New York, three years retired and now living in the Missouri Ozarks: “What about Trump?”
I’d arranged to meet friend and fellow motorcycle traveller Greg Frazier for our annual evening of drinking and bullshit on Sukhumvit Road, but due to the unpredictability of Bangkok’s transportation network, I’d arrived almost an hour earlier than planned. Intent on conversation, Jim had found me on a random barstool killing time with an over-priced beer and desperately trying to avoid all forms of human contact. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to speak unbroken English once in a while, it’s just that I don’t particularly enjoy interacting with the kind of people who tend to frequent the bars on Lower Sukhumvit Road, the sin-centre of Bangkok.
Feigning deafness, I’d successfully dodged his political opening question, which experience tells me is a reasonable tactic to employ anywhere in the world, but avoidance of his follow-up would’ve appeared a little too rude, even for somewhere like Sukhumvit Road: “So, what brings you here?” When I’d replied “I actually live here”, I’m sure he’d almost winked at me. But, before I’d had time to qualify what ‘here’ had actually meant, he’d placed my second beer on his account and in doing so, had successfully hijacked the next thirty minutes of my life.
The following morning, as the alcoholic haze had finally begun to disperse, my mind had wandered back to that conversation with Jim. During recent summers in California, I’d encountered several people with a similar outlook on life to his; genuinely successful, sane and intelligent people who for often undeclared reasons, believe that the total breakdown of civil society is an imminent danger, and whilst leading seemingly normal lives, are discreetly preparing themselves for any eventuality. I’d always referred to these people as ‘survivalists’, but Jim had preferred the term ‘prepper’, describing himself as a person prepared, both mentally and physically, for whatever event might lead to geographical and social catastrophe on a global scale. In fact, Jim’s 10-day vacation in Bangkok had, according to him, been part of his private preparations, a final chance to flex certain muscles before, well, whatever lay ahead for the world. As for the causation ‘event’ that Jim considered most likely, it wasn’t the socio-economic meltdown and subsequent violent revolution that I’d suggested, but a catastrophe caused by forces originating from far beyond our own solar system…… “Oh, you mean aliens?” I’d asked.
Had Jim responded positively to my admittedly slightly sarcastic question, I could’ve easily walked away without ever casting my mind back to our conversation, but sadly, he hadn’t. Instead, he’d encouraged me to do my own research, to investigate certain natural phenomena using scientific data from such institutions as European Space Agency, United States Geographical Survey and NASA. The fact that Jim hadn’t quoted extracts from Revelations had certainly increased his credibility, but that, unfortunately, had made his departing advice slightly more chilling than it ought to have been.
Apparently, from December 24th to 27th 2016, I need to be well away from Bangkok, or any other place in the world that isn’t located at least 1,000 feet above sea level and ideally, as far away from tectonic fault lines as possible. In this part of Asia finding such a location would be difficult, but a little research tells me that a home in somewhere like the Missouri Ozarks, would be almost perfect.