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Cutting to the Core

Saved by the English

The irony is not lost on me that as I write my column before our nation's 233rd birthday, this edition of Cutting to the Core is all about the English, and how much I love those pale faced Limeys.

Some Brits I recently met from across the pond brought me out of a funk that nearly ruined my hard earned vacation.

Recently my wife and I packed up the Piper Cub and flew to Thailand. We hadn't been back to my wife's homeland in nearly four years and Piper had never been there.

We had planned to do all the fun stuff, like hit the beaches, maybe dart into Laos or spend some time in Thailand's mountainous north, which is inhabited by several different indigenous hill tribes.

But like all my trips overseas this one never followed the pre-thought out, unwritten itinerary. Within two days of landing in Bangkok we were in Pak Chong staying with my wife's family, instead of hitting the beach first. My father in law's ill health changed our plans.

Our plan was to hang out in Pak Chong and then spend the last two weeks of our time in Thailand traveling. That never happened. Instead we spent the rest of our time there.

That normally would have been okay as I used to love going to Pak Chong for a weekend away from Bangkok when I lived there. Pak Chong has fresh air, it's cooler than in Bangkok and the atmosphere is much mellower than the frenzied pace of the bigger city. But this time was different.

Two days in the scorching weather of Bangkok was not enough time to acclimate ourselves to the weather. Especially since when we were in Bangkok we stayed in an air-conditioned room with cable television.

Pak Chong was hot, man. I mean hot. It just sucked the life out of me and made it where I could barely eat, had absolutely no energy and was basically feeling miserable. There was no air-conditioning at my in-laws' house. There was cable television but my sister-in-law didn't have the English package. That meant I had 33 crisp, clear Thai language channels to watch.

The heat and humidity were relentless, even the Thais were remarking about how hot it was.

And that's when the English saved me.

There was Marcus, a young English chap in his late 20s who, along with his wife, owns and operates the Sport Bar, Pak Chong's only decent choice when it comes to scarfing down some western food and participating in great conversation in English.

There were also Pete and Mike, two blokes I met on my first night in the Sport Bar. A guy named Glenn was always good for some conversation over a few beers, as well. And Steve, a tall guy from the south coast area of England who made me laugh. He also saved me from a night of conversation with one of the most annoying Kenyans I have ever met in my life.

No Sunnyside, it wasn't Obama, this guy was named Chris.

I had been searching for a hamburger in town for a couple of days before I first learned of the Sport Bar. Each promising tip only led to disappointment as time after time I failed to score a hamburger.

The heat, it seemed, had only gotten worse and I had finally succumbed to the idea of just drinking beer all day. The heat and boredom of Pak Chong can easily be washed away with a few beers, I learned. It was during one of my many trips to the neighborhood store to get beer when the owner, Dang, asked me who I was drinking with.

She asked me in Thai, though and I had no idea what she said. Fortunately, another lady was in the store/hair salon who spoke English.

"She asks who you are drinking with," the helpful lady said.

I laughed and told them I was drinking by myself. I pointed to my bald head and wiped a layer of sweat off with a swipe of my hand to indicate how hot it was. I pointed to the 50 or more mosquito bites on my legs and arms that just never seemed to stop itching.

"I'm bored," I told them. "What can I do?"

That's when the helpful little Thai lady asked me if I'd ever been to the Sport Bar.

She told me all about it, where it was and who hung out there. Though an English pub, there were Australians, Americans, Scotts and just about every English speaking fool you can imagine there, all calling the Sport Bar their neighborhood pub.

That afternoon I set out to find this rumored oasis of fun. Although the lady's directions were a bit off, I eventually found the place. A bamboo, open-aired, little slice of heaven situated off a main drag of Pak Chong.

After that things were good. The open air and fans made it comfortable to sit in the place, even with the scorching heat. A hamburger, chicken burger, steak or spaghetti was just minutes away. Satellite television was on hand and best of all I could ramble on in conversation and whittle the hours away.

The stories these guys had were fun to listen to. Hearing their opinions on everything from God to America to Thai politics held my rapt attention.

Soon I was bringing my wife and Thai friends to the place, though mostly it was just me. My daughter loved the frogs that ran around at night and the two dogs that made Marcus' pub their home.

The weather cooled a bit after I found the Sport Bar, which, along with the new acquaintances I met made living in Pak Chong fun again. I actually remembered that my wife and I had always wanted to live there. It spurred us to get back on track and focus on preparing for our return to Thailand.

Would I have snapped out of my funk without the help of the Sport Bar and its patrons? I don't know. I do know that when I celebrate this year's Fourth of July festivities I'll be giving a wink and tipping my glass to our allies on the other side of the Atlantic.

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