It was the Batphone ringing, a.k.a. Skype. My long-time bud from the old days was dialing in. I clicked open the line.
"What's up, man? Haven't talked in ages," he rightly noted.
"Ain't much. I fell and racked my shoulder, I've got a boil the size of a golf ball on my butt, a half-dozen spider bites on my leg that hurt like a sumbitch, and I've been having palpitations. Other than that, it's going great!" I cringed inside for sounding like a travel brochure for topical life. "What's up with you?"
"Oh, the usual. Kid's got some kind of slime coming from his right eye and left ear. The wife's got mange, but just on the back of her head. I've got athlete's foot behind my ears, for some reason, and a rash in my arm pits, but otherwise it's all good. I was bored playing Sniper, so I thought I'd give you a holler."
"You know it's 3:13 in the morning here, right?"
"Yeah, but I know you always get up that early. Besides, I wanted to ask you if there's any work over there. Things suck here and the wife and I are thinking about bugging out."
"At 3:13 in the morning? Couldn't you think about it at, say, 9:27 at night?" Fortunately, sarcasm doesn't bite as much when you've known someone for 30 years.
"Yeah yeah, get over it. Besides, we're 12 hours apart. There's never a good time to call you." He had a point. "What're things like over there?"
"Well, you're about 3 years too late, I think," not wanting to get his hopes up too high too fast. "The place is being overrun with Europeans looking for work, too. When I first came here, no one knew where Indonesia was, much less wanted to move here. Even you asked me if Indonesia was in Bali. Back then, this was a third world Hell hole, and the States were the Promised Land, as far as anyone was concerned."
"You're about to remind me of the crap I gave you when you said you were packing up, aren't you?" He wasn't the only one. In 2008, this was the ass-end of the Universe. Now, the business sections are trumpeting Indonesia's economy and the States are the dirty end of the stick.
"Don't need to go there. Already slapped you upside the head with it years ago." Success does have an ego, doesn't it. "In fact, all of Asia is getting over-crowded with westerners looking for work. There was a time when all you had to do was speak English and you could get work. Now, most countries require at least a bachelor's in your subject, and a few are starting to require masters. Guess western educators are piling up in the pubs now, since that side of the world is swirling the toilet bowl."
"Figures," his voice trailed off.
"The hard part in all this is all the damn immigration rules," I griped. "Here in Indonesia you can't sponsor yourself. They make you get a job or go through all these hoops to set up companies and put money into the tax coffers. If you marry an Indonesian, you can get a 5-year visa sponsored by your wife, but that still doesn't give you the work permit. Go figure."
"That's bass-ackwards," he astutely observed. "What about other countries?"
"Well, Thailand is inundated with falong. Everybody wants to move to the paradises. I hear Cambodia and Vietnam are ballistic right now, and no one wants to move there, so there's actually recruiting."
"Can you say 'killing fields'?"
"That was a long time ago. Now the killing fields are in Chicago and Tampa. You could always move to Greece or Spain."
"Touche. So what are things like in Indonesia?"
"You remember when we went to the Czech Republic? It was like a year after the Velvet Revolution, and there was that feeling of hustle with everyone excited and running around with ideas and ready to bust out onto the scene."
"Yeah, dude, I loved that place."
"Well, it's like that here, sort of. The middle class is exploding. People are running around buying cars and gee-gaws. Credit is cheap and easy. It's a lot like the States in the 80s, when Reagan caused the greed-o-lution. Everybody was on the make and there was music in the cafes at night."
"Yeah, those were the days. I'm still paying for them on two of my credit cards. So what can I do to get something going? I mean, this hand-to-mouth grind is getting mighty old. All the media production is drying up. The film business has become even more protectionist than it was in the good ole days. Everybody and their brother has a video camera and production software these days and the quality of the product is sliding into Ed Wood-land."
"I sent you the scripts I wrote. Two TeeVee pilots and a movie. I've got a great production company here that does quality work. All we need is the money. You find some and I can get you the immigration paper as producer."
"Where the hell am I going to find some money? I throw everything I got into the damn gas tank, anymore. Everyone around me is the same. Nobody has capital anymore. I've tried pitching a couple of my own ideas, but the nets won't even answer the phone now, and the indy houses are all strapped, too."
"I hear Japan is paying teachers pretty well right now."
"Japan?! Aren't they living through another Nagasaki right now? No thanks."
"Well, you could sell all your assets, buy a big sailing boat, and spend the next 10 years cruising down to South America and writing about the experience."
"I think my wife might object. She gets sea sick in a swimming pool. Besides, the kid's gonna start school soon."
"Mmm...nothing like the American schooling system to kill a spirit quick."
"But what am I going to do if I can't get out of here?"
"How about South America, speaking of South America? I know a bunch of people that have settled down there. West coast, not east. Hell, even the Bushes bought up a massive ranch in Uruguay. You could be Shrub's ranch master."
"I don't know jack about ranching."
"Breed cows. Move cows to different field every month. Round up cows for shots and branding once a year. Easy."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm serious."
"I know, dude, but you saw what I did. I sold everything I owned, packed up a suitcase (only 1) and I pulled the trigger. Granted, I spent seven years thinking about where I was going to go and what I would do when I got there."
"Yeah, but I have the wife and kid. I'm worried about health care and education and all that."
"Hmmm...health care: eat healthy, take your vitamins and get some exercise. As for education, what could be a better education than travel? Learn foreign languages and cultures, get new ideas, experience the world."
"Sounds great in theory..."
"More experience than theory."
"The alternative is that you can hunker down where you are and start changing the world one square foot at a time. C'mon, you've got the same background in media that I do. Start producing some. Throw down a garden in the backyard. Get together with the neighbors and discuss things like forming a co-op. Damn man, put your pirate hat on again! You can fight back in a thousand tiny ways, and it's just as effective, if not more so, than a full-on land war."
"Blah blah blah..."
"You remember how we used to light off marine flares in downtown out of my convertable? Remember how we used to yahoo beer and chips and find no end of trouble to cause? What happened to that spirit?"
"Dude, got the wife and kid now."
"So do I. But I know your wife is as much as pirate as you are. And the kid...well, he's got your genes, God help him."
"You know...I've been thinking about some videos I could post to YouTube. I know how to do it anonymously."
"That's the spirit!"
"I've been going around catching cops on video doing stuff...you know, STUFF."
"Run with it, dude. Dust off the eye-patch and strap on your sword. It's time to start feeling like a man again! You remember that film 'Brazil'? Ya gotta get Harry Tuttle again."
"Yeah, dude, you're right!"
"Of course I am. By the way, do you stir your coffee clockwise or counter-clockwise?"
"I'm doing an unscientific poll. I think people who live in the northern hemisphere stir clockwise, and people who live in the southern hemisphere stir counter-clockwise."
"Where do you come up with this shit?"
"You're dangerous when you do that."
"I know. That's the point."