May 5, 2005

Atlas Shrugs and Atlantis Beckons - Part 2

A few years later I would find myself working near the Houston Intercontinental airport in the freight business. I had started out working in the warehouse driving the forklift and worked my way up through the ranks and into the office hammering out airway bills. A few short years later I would find myself working in sales for the company and with that, the opportunity for travel. One evening having just arrived back from a trip to Caracas, Venezuela my boss walked into my cubicle and threw an envelope on my desk. I was now off to Singapore for two weeks.

As the plane approached Singapore, I slid over next to the window and peered out. An small island of green surrounded by turquoise waters which turned a deep azure farther from the coast. Here it was, the base of our operations in Asia Pacific and the springboard into the oil fields of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. I would spend the next few weeks meeting with our customers and assisting them in sorting out their logistical requirements from Houston.

Henry one of our company's agents met me at the airport. I took my bags from the carousel and as I stepped outside into the thick hot humid air, Henry stepped forward and shook my hand "Welcome to Singapore". As we sped down the highway to town Henry told me that we had a very tight schedule. We would go by my hotel to check in and leave my bags and then off to Jurong to meet a customer.

Past the crates and pallets of oilfield equipment Henry and myself walked through the yard back to the office where I was to meet Joe. As we walked into the offices I heard a man with a Texan accent yell out "You got my Pace Picante sauce there boy?". Joe stepped forward wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots and invited us back to his office. As we sat down, Miss Ling would come in and offer to bring us coffee. We would end up staying the rest of the afternoon sorting out the logistical problems and later that night I would join Joe for dinner at the Raffles Hotel.

Joe and a few other Texans had for the most part taken over the run down Raffles Hotel which at the time was falling apart. The rooms were dirt cheap and Joe and a few others were living there as long term guests. Back at the hotel, Joe called one the old Hainanese cooks in who once served the British military during the colonial days, and asked him to prepare us two chicken-fried steaks for dinner.

The expatriate community at that time was very small, almost everyone knew each other and most were either from Louisiana or Texas. I got the chance to meet many of Joe's friends, a group of highly intelligent people, "thinkers" who had, in the words of Joe, "taken the bull by the horns". Many people who had chosen to control their own destinies. For a moment I had almost forgotten where I was at, I felt as if I had stepped back in time, the times of our forefathers and ancestors in America and Texas. I had not only discovered a small piece of Texas here on the other side of the world, but something else, something that in recent years in America has been in short supply. The group of people I met had that pioneering spirit, the romance of which I would come to find both alluring and seductive. The night before I left, we got together for beers and shots of duty-free Cuervo Gold, Joe played the guitar while his friend Miss Linda an Englishwoman sang Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee". I bid my farewells that night promising to return.

The sky was overcast as the plane approached Houston and I found myself back home and yet feeling that I had left something behind. It was a part of myself that I had left behind, a part of my soul. As I got settled back into my work in Houston, I felt myself surrounded by "the mob" and overcome with feelings of both animosity and isolation. I felt it difficult to understand the mentality of many people around me, people with no spirit who had sacrificed their freedom for a sense of security. I didn't see them as being free anymore, I saw them as nothing more than indentured servants.

Before my eyes I was seeing a nation of people that once took pride in innovation and invention becoming a nation of cannibalism and consumption. A nation with a growing population of self-loathing people that were consuming themselves to death and being overun with personal injury lawyers and race-baiting hucksters salivating at the prospect of capitalizing on another's misfortune. Self proclaimed saviours who in actuality do nothing more than enslave their own misguided followers.

The lifeblood of the nation and the engine of commerce was beginning to slow as it started to become hopelessly entangled up in a neverending "rainbow of diversity" woven by lawyers and politicians all with special interests in mind. The legal departments of many once great companies were becoming in many cases equal to in size to their production and sales departments. Is it any wonder that the spirit inside many good people would begin to slowly flicker out?

Several months would pass before my boss would walk back in and tell me I was needed once again in Singapore. This time I would be required to stay a bit longer to help sort out some problems.

When I arrived back, times were booming, there was a lot of work to do. Up at 7am for breakfast and then on the road until 9pm or 10pm at night. It would be a few days before I could meet up with Joe who had now moved out of the Raffles Hotel and into a nice house. I called Joe up on Friday afternoon and let him know I was free to meet up. He invited me over to the new house for dinner and drinks.

After work, I managed to grab a taxi and head on over to Joe's place. Miss Linda and few of their friends were over as well. Over dinner the talk was about business and such, one of Joe's friends had recently set up his own company in Singapore to help service the oil field industry and needed Joe's help in securing a project in Indonesia. Miss Linda was talking to another friend who was planning to move to Shanghai and set up a small factory manufacturing low priced cosmetics. As I listened to the conversations, I became once again facinated by this worldly closely knit group of highly intelligent like-minded people each with an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit and passion for what they did. These were people who had the pioneering spirit and had chosen to "take the bull by the horns".

Everything had become clear. I wasted to no time in going back home, quitting my job, selling everything I could and moving on over.

Since then my feelings of anger and animosity have since faded away. Now guided by a sense of morality and the fulfillment in knowing that not only do I exist, but that I am not alone.

Atlantis beckons. Come and join us.

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