It is not uncommon for westerners who live in Asia to become alienated from the culture and hemisphere from which they originated. I gradually lost contact with my family and friends after a few years. I wrote long, sometimes illustrated, letters, but I seldom sent them, feeling them somehow incomplete; above and beyond not mentioning some highly illegal aspects of my life at the time.
I had a sense of futility in trying to explain things so far outside the references of their existence. I couldn’t find the context within which I could relate my evolution, nor did I fully understand it myself. Consequently, after 1975, I more-or-less became a missing person. Understandably, after two or three years, this caused my mother a great deal of distress
One afternoon, in 1979, two years after Deer hunter’s release, there was a knock on my door. At the time, I was living, with my dog Rastus, in an apartment in Bangkok. When I opened the door there was my sister, and a woman I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen Andrea since 1970. “Hey,” I said, “how ya doin’? C’mon in and have a beer,” as if she lived just down the street.
My mother evidently had heard a rumour I’d been seen working on the Deerhunter. She managed to get a telephone number for Mike Cimino, called and asked him if he knew her son. The name John Learned didn’t ring any bells. She described me, as I was when she last saw me when I was twenty, and mentioned I spoke Thai. Then he asked her, “Does your son like fishing?”
He gave her some contacts in Bangkok, who confirmed I was alive and well, but didn’t know exactly where I was. And so my mother sent my sister Andrea on a detective mission. I was not too difficult to find.
For the next ten days I was a guide, first introducing my sister and her girlfriend, they later got married, to Bangkok’s neon nightlife, good restaurants and places of interets. I then drove them, and Rastus, up to the River Kwai to stay at the floating lodge, which Andrea, equally passionate about nature, loved. And for that, I thank Michael Cimino. Also, I would never have met Barry Butler, who remains a good friend to this day, forty years after our days of beer and Deer hunting on the River Kwai.