For some time, I had heard of The Writer's Club in old Chiang Mai. ---Chiang Mai, Thailand: my adopted home. It was founded by long-time journalist Robert Tilley and today is still considered a haunt of journalists and writers of sorts. It's a smallish place, decorated in a long-ago-British-club style. 'Decorated' is not quite the best word. It is not 'decorated'; rather, it just 'is'.
Although being aged, the gentleman had quite a bit of life. He was of good smiles and constitution. And even though he moved quite slowly, he did so with assurance and an air of 'belonging' -- belonging right there. He toddled to his table and 'his' chair, which happened to be two steps across from the first fellow - the one who would 'seem to know' all about Chiang Mai. I could tell from the first man's gaze at the new arrival that they did not know each other. It did not take long before the first man was regaling the new arrival with what he knew about authors, the Writers Club itself, and of the Friday night writers’ watering-hole-gatherings and-and-and, and just anything that came into his head, it seemed. His decades younger female friend’s interest seemed to drift listlessly as he carried on.
"Oh, yes I came here in 19da de da." "Oh, yes I've taught da de da." "Oh, yes, I've written da de da".
After a small bit, the new arrival quite gently corrected the talker on a point. The talker had a small, but controlled, visual taken-aback. The new arrival said, "You see, I've been here since the 1950s. I'm Roy Hudson." It meant nothing to the talker. But, I heard. And, my eavesdropping antennae went to full extension. I slid my Leo beer a bit aside as I propped myself further forward over my table in order to hear better and hear more. For, I knew about Roy Hudson! An accomplished writer, soldier, historian, an icon.
At the time of this encounter he was 92! Having been a Chiang Mai resident for about 58 years, as I calculated. His "resident papers" dated from that time were stamped with the official number --- # 1. As their little conversation filtered down, the ‘talker’ began to realize he was 'bested'. And there would be no conversation from/with me. I was sitting at Major Hudson’s blind side unseen by him (I thought).
The restaurant staff, being only two, were stretched in readying the three lunches already on order. So, they were mostly absent from the view of us customers. Major Hudson, having sufficiently sipped on his Mekong & Soda, had been ready for awhile to add his order to the list, but no staff seemed to realize. Time passed. Major Hudson strained to turn in his chair, failing each time to find any server whose eye he could catch. I was just about ready to walk to the kitchen curtain to summon someone myself, when the phone behind the bar began ringing. "Good", I thought. "This will bring someone forward." Upon answering, the pleasant server/hostess/cook said several "Hello", "Hello"s. To which Major Hudson called-out, "I'm over here!" He had rung-up in order to get attention! Quite spry and sporty of him, I thought. After a bit, (perhaps in response to my staring at him hidden from behind) he turned in his chair to smile and say, "Please do forgive my back to you....". I politely affirmed all was well, no exception taken, and that I enjoyed his little telephone prank. His eye twinkle brightened me. Makes me look forward to being 92....here in Shangri-La!
All for now from old Chiang Mai.
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