Midnight Express Into the Lion's Den

Written and compiled by Michael Day, Founder of The Tiger Trust; Principle Field Researcher Sanjay Ghosh
Written and compiled by Michael Day, Founder of The Tiger Trust; Principle Field Researcher Sanjay Ghosh | Source

This story began under the title of My Untold Short History With Oliver Stone. Please go to this link to read it: http://hubpages.com/entertainment/My_Untold_Short_History_with_Oliver-Stone

Part 2 continues under a new title: The AntiChrist Returns to The City of Angels. The link is here: http://hubpages.com/entertainment/The-Art-of-Silence-and-Genetic-Karma-Part-2

Disclaimer: This blog is based on a true story and my recollection of events, to the best of my knowledge. To protect the privacy of certain individuals, some of the identities have been changed or are composites.

“Quant’è bella Giovinezza
Che si fugge tuttavia!
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia
Di domani non c’è certezza”

“Oh how beautiful is youth
Which escapes nonetheless
Let who wants to be happy be
As there is no certainty of tomorrow”

~ Lorenzo de Medici ~

This famous Italian poem was referred to in Richard Rutowski's screenplay: Surrender, which I read in 1992. I added the English translation.

This is part of a poem that I mailed Oliver Stone and Richard Rutowski many years ago. I read the poem to Richard over the phone, asking him if it was OK if I read it at a Slam in Denver. He said that it was OK and that he liked the poem.
This is part of a poem that I mailed Oliver Stone and Richard Rutowski many years ago. I read the poem to Richard over the phone, asking him if it was OK if I read it at a Slam in Denver. He said that it was OK and that he liked the poem. | Source

Phuket, Thailand - 1992 Sunset

"You know...he has a dark side," Richard said. Rutowski was referring to Oliver Stone. I'm not sure why he pointed this out to me. It was clearly obvious in Platoon and Midnight Express, the only two movies that I had seen written by Oliver Stone.

I walked out of Richard's bungalow and watched the sun descending into the sea. It was a long drive back across Phuket, giving me plenty of time to think.

The act would have to begin again. The lies. The vicious crazy cycle that I couldn't break free from, had once again....begun. I couldn't tell Eric what had happened in the bungalow. I would later, but not now.

Back in my corner of paradise at Kata Beach, I dug out an old poem titled Predator, which I had written many years earlier. I would leave it at Richard's bungalow the next day. He wouldn't be there, which was for the better. He had told me that they would be filming in Phang Nga until late into the evening.

Predator by Prisana

My Mind is ablaze,
with the Fire of Flight.
My wings are crippled,
the bones shattered.

I stand a helpless feast,
for the Earthbound Predator.
His tongue salivates with hunger.
I stand alone, undaunted by my fate.

Our corneas meet in locked stares.
The Wolf sees my power
and bows his head to me,
retreating to the Shadows.

My form changes into that of Mankind.
I cannot move to the shelter,
far from the dusty heat.
I am alone and broken.

My lips are parched and swollen.
The wolf returns and confronts me.
Dark pools gaze deep into my being.
I raise my body to worship him.

His form changes with the sweeping
motion of wind and sand.
Dark wrinkles travel over his aged face.
He motions me, but does not move.

Days I walk,
with blistered feet,
clenching the pain with each step.

At night, I heard his howl.
I dreamt that he heard mine.

Together we killed a thousand hours,
leaving the corpses to Time,
the untamed Beast inside of man,
unwilling ever to die.

I took this picture of a pet tiger for my Bangkok Post Article in Phuket in 1992. Tragically there are only a few wild tigers left in Thailand.
I took this picture of a pet tiger for my Bangkok Post Article in Phuket in 1992. Tragically there are only a few wild tigers left in Thailand. | Source

Hunger Pains

Phuket ~ December 1, 1992 ~ Noonish

I was at the Yacht Club Hotel sitting in yet another hotel room, with a Norwegian man I barely knew (who wanted me to work for his Public Relations Company), when I decided to give Richard a call the following day.

"Great poem," he said. "I'll give it to Oliver."

Richard was my bridge to Stone. I knew he had played this role countless times before.

Had Stone read my letter?

"Yes, his publicist will call you," Richard replied.

His publicist. Translation: If you thought the great Stone would call you himself, you are truly delusional.

I smoked my cigarette on Anders' balcony and stared out at the sea. The annual King's Cup Regatta was upon us, bringing hundreds of yachts back to Phuket for the festivities and races. I had met Anders a few weeks prior in Bangkok and was shocked when I boarded the airplane in Bangkok (a few days after meeting him) and saw him sitting in the seat next to mine. What are the chances?

During our one hour flight to Phuket, we discussed his job proposal. I didn't really want to work in the Public Relations field, but it paid significantly more than working as a freelance journalist.

My dream had always been to become Jacque Coustina -- a female Jacque Cousteau, making documentaries on all of my beloved ocean friends. I wanted to work for National Geographic and travel around the world filming lions in Africa and tigers in India.

When I was 21, I wrote a letter to National Geographic and was quite surprised to see it published.

My letter to National Geographic
My letter to National Geographic | Source

No One Gives A Damn About Your Bloody Tigers!

But dreams fade and reality follows. I never even applied to National Geographic. I switched from pursuing a degree in Marine Biology over to Journalism, after only one semester at the University of Hawaii. I was excelling in all of my courses, except the one that mattered the most: Marine Biology was killing me.

No matter how hard I studied, I just couldn't get the grades that I needed from the course, or my lab work, and eventually had to drop it to keep my 4.0 GPA. Nearly failing Marine Biology 101 destroyed my dream of being a biologist, but later I realized it wasn't the subject matter, it was the course which was a million times harder at the University of Hawaii, than the University of Colorado. I took the same course in Boulder the following semester and barely opened the book and got a 4.0.

Coincidentally, President Obama was attending the same University in Manoa, the same year that I was there. Too bad we never met. I don't even remember seeing any black students at the University, which was a shock. I had expected a more racially mixed student population. Whites were a minority among the nearly 90% Asian and Hawaiian student body. Blacks were non-existent. A tall black man walking around a campus of mostly Asian students, would have definitely stood out. Hard to imagine that we never crossed paths during my months of starvation.

I say starvation, because I was nearly always broke that semester. My friends and I would go out late at night and pick avocados and papayas out of people's yards. Some days, all I had to eat was wheat germ mixed with peanut butter.

Even though I often managed to grab bites of whatever I could find inside the large walk-in refrigerator during my shifts at Bullwinkle's Bar and Restaurant, my belly was on constant growl mode on my days off. Life in Oahu as a poor college student was tough. Everything cost a fortune on my small budget. My mother had helped me to pay for the tuition, rent and books, but what she generously gave me wasn't enough to pay all the bills.

Living in Phuket was proving to be equally tough on my bank account, mainly because I was sending my two children to Phuket's only International School and the tuition was eating every last baht I had.

Ander's job offer was an option, but standing there on the balcony, I felt the familiar trepidation. I knew that once I re-entered his hotel room, I would get more than a job offer. Sooner or later, they would almost always come on to me. "They" being too many men to count.

I opened the sliding door and stepped back inside. The wine glasses were full. This time no caviar. The last time I was discussing a job proposal was in Bangkok, only a few months earlier, with yet another man. Christian was my father's wealthy friend from Geneva, Switzerland, who was interested in me for a Human Resources position. Preceding what was suppose to be an interview, I was offered champagne and caviar. The interview never happened though, because I came to my senses on the taxi ride to his hotel and realized there was no way I could ever work and live in Bangkok. I rejected the job, before it was even offered.

Both Anders and Christian were big shots in their respective countries. As was Kerry Packer, Australia's wealthiest man. As was Oliver Stone in Hollywood.

I was a little shot with an unimpressive resume and a small bank account. Just a thirty-something freelancer trying to figure out a way to save the last remaining wild tigers in Thailand. I knew we were losing the war and that my beloved wild tigers were on the brink of vanishing. I tried to get the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to help me in my quest, but one night my close friend who was somewhat of a Bigshot Director from the TAT decided that I needed to wake up to the truth.

Whilst drunk on whiskey, Khun Niti said: "Listen Prisana, no one gives a damn about your bloody tigers." No one. He was wrong and he was right. Years later, I would tragically realize that he was more right, than wrong.

Pictures and words by Prisana Nuechterlein
Pictures and words by Prisana Nuechterlein | Source

Tiger Temple raid opens door to positive changes

Denver, Colorado - July 4, 2016 1:18 AM

I am back in Denver having just returned from a whirlwind 3 weeks in Thailand, where I had planned on spending many hours working on this book/blog/eventual screenplay. Plan A was to devote myself to regaining my health by escaping to Khao Tao, a small fishing village about 3 hours drive south of Bangkok, where I would stay at what my Thai Mom refers to as our "Clubhouse", also known as the Manatee House (a play on words which in Thai means to come in a minute).

I had pictured myself eating mangoes, swimming in our salt water pool and spending my time tapping away at this book, but in reality most of my time in Thailand was spent in taxis going from one meeting to another. My TO DO list was a million miles long leaving little time to relax anywhere. I was running so hard from place to place, that I didn't even have one minute to work on this project.

Well...that isn't exactly true. I could have written a few words, but I knew that it was more important to BE in Thailand and not in this book. However, if I am ever to finish my 24 years book project by the end of this year, than I must follow in the footsteps of George Orwell and commit at least a few hours every day to writing this story.

I read a fascinating article about Orwell the other night. I had no idea how sick he was whilst writing 1984. In the midst of working on his book, he was diagnosed with TB and the treatment he underwent nearly killed him. After regaining his health, he wrote at a feverish pace on a typewriter racing against the immortal coil. Death was standing over him and I wonder if he felt it coming? Maybe. He died shortly after his famous novel was published.

My health is still a bit fucked up. I am now into my fourth month of 24/7 pain. I know eventually the pain will end, but there are moments when I feel completely done. The pain is all I can see and feel until the Tramadol takes affect. I suppose I am now "dependent"...dependent not addicted. A kind stranger at Costco, saw me standing in the parking lot trying to deal with the pain that was making my body spasm. My entire body jerks in reaction to the pain signals. I can't really control these spasms, but the Tramadol helps. The stranger, who was using a cane, told me that I was "dependent" on pain killers, which meant that I needed them to function.

Moving along at warp speed, I am fast forwarding from my conversation with Khun Niti about "no one giving a damn" to people finally giving a damn. Never in my life did I think we could shut down the infamous Tiger Temple, but the raid was successful and all of the 147 Temple tigers have now been rescued.

You would think, the credits could roll and I could relax with a Happy Ever After perfect ending to my story, but life is a bitch and the credits cannot yet roll.

I landed in Bangkok a few days after the Tiger Temple raid and met Sybelle Foxcroft, the founder of Cee4life and Phil Davis, her friend who is actively working on Tiger Conservation in India. Over many beers at the popular Robin Hood Pub on Sukhumvit Road, we traded stories and puffed on our cigarettes out front, trying to share as much information as possible in the span of barely 2 hours. Phil did not puff with us, wisely choosing to enjoy the air con inside and the company of David Swartzentruber, another journalist whom I had been corresponding with for the month preceding my Thailand trip.

Duke (another former journalist and well known Phuket local) was also there, which was a real treat since I was planning on calling him, or finding him and there he was; "I thought you were in Burma Duke..." No, the larger than life Duke wasn't in Burma, but he was on his way to Laos. More on Duke later, when I have a few years.

In any case, it was a bit crazy entering the bar, seeing Duke and then a few tables away shouting hello to Sybelle and Phil and then also meeting Swartzentruber, who was sitting at the table next to Duke and his friends. I caught up with Duke, exchanged contact info etc. moved David over to Sybelle's table and the rest is history, or should be.

In the weeks that followed that meeting, I dug and dug, much like my trainer Rocky aka Richard Parker (my Rottweiler buddy who use to walk me to his favorite Cherry Creek stream, to endlessly and energetically dig and dig in the river bank.) The deeper I dug, the more shit I found and although I was elated by the Tiger Temple shut down, I realized the battle that I thought was nearly over, had just begun. I was functioning on fumes, sleeping in 2 to 3 hour increments and often forgetting to eat. I tried to eat from the fruit trees at my family home in Khao Tao, but only the coconuts were ready to be cut down. Everything else, my Burmese house attendants told me, was not nearly ripe enough.

Most of my days in Khao Tao, were spent looking for food and walking back and forth to the 7-11, which was on the other side of the village on the main highway, about one mile away from my house. To reach 7-11, I took a dirt trail from my house to the stone path that circled the small reservoir, built by His Majesty the King of Thailand, who had consulted my Thai grandfather on his first reservoir project back in the 1950s (I will find the exact year later).

To reach the dirt trail, I had to pass the house with the seven big barking dogs. They barked menacingly in the morning, but usually were sleeping on the roadside in the afternoon. On the dirt motorcycle trail, I passed the squatter's hut on the lake with the smaller less ferocious pack of barking dogs, turkeys and ducks. Some mornings, I would see the two huge monitor lizards swimming in the reservoir. They looked like small alligators and appeared like clockwork, making their way from the fishing nets to the pier, where the paddle boats were docked.

Most of the residents in Khao Tao are Thai, however, there is also an ever growing farang (foreigner) faction. The Thais say hello by asking you; "Pai Nai?" meaning go where. I would say 7-11 and they would ask me if I wanted a lift on their motorcycles. I have a deathly fear of riding motorcycles in Thailand, ever since my friend Jackie was killed on one in Bangkok, so I always refrained from taking rides. If I was lucky, my favorite lady with the delicious fried bananas would be cooking in her wok at the midway point of my walk. If she wasn't around, there was always the coconut guy whose round coconut treats (kanom krok) could be found near the railway tracks.

In the evenings, I would walk by my friend's restaurant, across from the temple and have a glass of wine with the Thai owner's British relative. I learned a lot during my wine sessions with John. His insight into Brexit (before the vote to remain or exit from the EU took place) taught me more about what was going on, than I could ever glean from any articles that I had read.

After my brief sojourn in my ancestral village, (my grandfather lived in Khao Tao for 10 years and is fondly remembered by the older villagers) I took a taxi back to Bangkok. My morning routine at our 101 house in Bangkok, was to scan through the Bangkok Post which was delivered every morning by some guy on a motorcycle. One morning whilst reading the Bangkok Post, I was inspired to write a letter to the editor of The Nation.

I have no idea why I chose to email The Nation first. Maybe I wanted to reach out to someone who didn't know me. I knew the Editor of the Bangkok Post - not well - but when I first moved back to Thailand in 1990, my Mother (who was the Chief of Foreign News for Channel 3 in 1990), introduced me to her close friend, Khun Pichai Chuensuksawadit, who would later become the editor of The Bangkok Post in 1994. It was hard to believe that he was still the editor, after all these years - 34 to be exact.

I was 30 yrs old when I first met the esteemed editor and upon learning that I was a journalist, he gave me one piece of advice; "Never write about politics." I assured him that I never would and instead most of my stories were focused on animal conservation. Over the years, that topic became as dangerous as writing about politics. A few of my friends in animal conservation died mysterious deaths. Others kept calm and carried on.

Dripping with sweat and puffing on too many Malboro lights, I tapped my declaration of sorts onto my Mac laptop. I felt my letter had a slim chance of being published, because I broke all of the letter to the editor rules. The guidelines were easy; write 300 words or less (my word count was roughly 700), include your address (I did not), and sign your name (I forgot to sign my last name but managed to write my first name). Lastly, the content was perhaps too strong.

I emailed my letter into the great void of cyberspace, where it would land in someone's in box and most likely stay there. The following morning, to my utmost surprise, I got a text from my journalist friend David S. saying that he had read my letter in The Nation. I was floored. Even though they edited the original letter, they kept most of the good bits.

This was the original version:

Jun 20, 2016 at 5:13 PM

Dear Khun Thanong Khanthong,

I recently posted a comment on Sybelle Foxcroft's Facebook page and feel it is important to share it with a wider audience.

Sybelle Foxcroft is the founder of Cee4life , (Conservation and Environmental Education for Life) an Australian based Nonprofit, whose investigative report of The Tiger Temple led to the recent raid.

Cee4life had presented the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) in Thailand, two reports documenting with supporting evidence; numerous accounts of illegal selling, gifting and international transport of tiger body parts by the Tiger Temple.

My FB comment to Foxcroft was inspired by several emails and phone calls that I had received from Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, who was actively trying to discredit Foxcroft by ranting about her, rather rudely to me in our first ever conversation and then continuing his negative opinion of her via emails.

Instead of replying to him directly, I chose Facebook and wrote several comments sharing only my side of what felt like a verbal ping pong game. Eventually, I did reply to him directly via email after receiving an email from him that focused more on helping the tigers, rather than using his energy to discredit Foxcroft, whom I had only met a few days before seeing Edwin at the FCCT panel discussing Tigers and Tourism.

With this background story in mind, I hope my FB comment as follows is not confusing:

FB COMMENT To Sybelle Foxcroft:

I admire your passion, commitment and perseverance. The focus now must be on the tigers and the continuation of what you have devoted your heart and life to for the past decade.

Why waste precious energy defending your report to a small group of people who have missed, what in my humble opinion, was something short of a miracle. Your report was what convinced the police and the DNP to FINALLY take action. The Tiger Temple has finally been irrevocably exposed for the hellish corrupt abusive disgusting place that many of us knew was the real truth behind the monk's protective robe.

This story has huge repercussions to follow for other facilities and corrupt temples etc. throughout Thailand.

Tiger Kingdom should also be closed. On the list of course is also the Sriracha Zoo. It takes immense courage to expose these crimes and vision to find a solution that helps protect both the tigers and their surrounding environment.

Thailand closed parts of the Similan Islands over a decade ago to "protect" a few areas, but there is evidence that the closure of these reefs was not to protect them, but rather to exploit them and destroy them.

I am Thai and proud of Thailand, but I am not proud of the rampant devastation that I have witnessed these past decades.

What are Thai values?

We enforce non-smoking laws but do not enforce laws to prevent child slavery and prostitution.

We enforce do not buy wine during certain hours of the day, but if you want to buy tiger parts or breed them like pigs and sell these parts to China, even though there are laws forbidding whatever, we all know "no problem."

I am heartsick that Thailand has a reputation that everything here is FOR SALE.

Where does this inhumanity end????? Tigers are valuable. Children are valuable. All children whether they are Burmese, Thai, Laotian, Syrian.

I am sick and tired of a world that accepts genocide and unfathomable atrocities. So yes Sybelle, I support you -- because we need more people willing to stand up and speak out and defend the defenseless.

Kindest Regards,

Prisana Nuechterlein

I honestly thought my original version of this letter to the editor of The Nation (Thai English Language Newspaper) was too strong and didn't have a chance of getting published.
I honestly thought my original version of this letter to the editor of The Nation (Thai English Language Newspaper) was too strong and didn't have a chance of getting published. | Source

Denver, July 15, 2016 - 12:53 AM

Rocky aka Richard Parker, our ex-room mate's Rottweiler is staying with us for the next 2 weeks while his owner Vanessa is off exploring Greece with a friend. Joe is in Iraq training the border police on IED recognition. He's not sleeping enough...we chatted over FB about the world losing its collective plot. I am in Denver with my mind in the past and present simultaneously.

In our nanosecond, soundbite CNN and Fox news world, the body count grows higher every day. We watch in horror as each day brings forth more deaths, atrocities and what feels like perhaps a new level of insanity. And in between all of these LIVE stories, are the all important ads. That is the reality - the more sensational the story, the more money that can be generated from one endless tragedy to the next.

Trump is a master media manipulator....he will say anything...anything, to get free press time. The more outrageous he is, the more our focus is on him. And as our attention is on Trump and company, we often miss that ticker tape on the bottom of our screen about Syria, Iraq, the South China Sea, Korea, Iran etc etc. Sometimes it feels like that is the goal. Keep us distracted. Keep us dumb and on Facebook and shopping...keep the American public in the dark, so they can easily be controlled. Like a dog on an invisible leash, Americans are being choked by a collar that they can't even see.

***********************************************************************

The Baan Rim Pa Restaurant Phuket ~ After sunset ~ December 1992

Oliver Stone, Richard and about 4 other people are sitting at a long table directly behind Eric and I. Tom McNamara, the American owner of the Baan Rim Pa, had told me the night before that Stone would be eating at his restaurant. Tom was a friend of mine (my mother and I had met him when he first opened his restaurant in the 1980s). Tom's young daughter Fleur was a classmate of my children at the Phuket International School.

When we first moved to Phuket (at the start of the Gulf War in 1990), it was a tiny fishbowl. In fact, we had been living in Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand for only a month when the International School that I had enrolled my children in suddenly closed for an unknown length of time, due to security issues. We decided to take a vacation in Phuket and heard about a small International school. The school house was in Chalong, not too far from my mother's condos at Kata Beach. Funny, the Gulf War indirectly changed our lives, because we ended up moving from Chiang Mai to Phuket that week.

Tom knew that I was trying to get an interview with Stone, as had the GM of the hotel where Stone had his cast party and even though Tom normally kept strict confidence about his famous patrons, for some reason he invited me back to the restaurant to give me another chance at talking to Stone. Tom had seated us at the bar before Stone arrived, knowing that Stone's party would be seated directly beside us.

Note from Michael Day, author of Fight for the Tiger
Note from Michael Day, author of Fight for the Tiger | Source

Eric is drinking his Singha beer and looking at the menu. He is not in the best of moods and doesn't want to be at the bar. I haven't told him that Richard and I have spoken nearly every day since we first met at the cast party. Richard is intrigued by my "crazy life". Sometimes in the midst of talking to me, he stops to write something on his yellow lined notepad. It's hard to know if what he writes has anything to do with our conversation, or if he is just trying to remember whatever has just popped into his head.

I know he is working on an ultra-top secret screenplay with Oliver. Richard wouldn't tell me what it was about, but he was reading the Bible the second time that I saw him at his Pansea bungalow. That night he gave me a few music cassette tapes. Jude Cole was my favorite artist.

Earlier in the day, after I had just finished another interview session about Thailand's vanishing tigers with Sophy Day at Kata Beach, I got a call from Stone's publicist, who kindly explained why my interview with Oliver could not be approved.

It didn't matter. I still could reach Stone. I had not given up. He was on my island and I knew his every move. I knew about his night out with Richard to Phuket town; what he ate, what he said....I had friends all over the island who kept me updated on a number of Stone stories.

Prince Henrick of Denmark with Prisana Nuechterlein in 1992.
Prince Henrick of Denmark with Prisana Nuechterlein in 1992.

I stood to greet Prince Henrik of Denmark, whom I had met a few days ago at a King's Cup Regatta event. It had been a busy week and I was feeling overwhelmed. I knew at least a dozen people sitting at various tables around the restaurant.

Supposedly, Stone had read my letter and now knew WHY I had wanted to interview him. Not that it mattered. I knew that he was busy with Heaven and Earth and most likely my heartfelt words did nothing more than make him "horny."

Excerpt from The Confession by Silvio Valdez

Why? Let me think. Why do I hate admitting that I went over the edge for a few minutes when the man who was like a father to me was killing himself. - or I thought he was?

I don't know. I guess because I think you could probably deal with it. Everybody else was dealing with it. Dolores, Richard all of them. They were dealing with it. They weren't insane. But then they weren't losing their mother and their girl at the same time...or were they? Maybe people are going through that kind of thing all the time - you know - some kind of double knock-out punch and they keep it together. They go on, they don't lose it. But see, it was different for me. It was. Cesar hurting himself like that was the third thing and you know, three is too much. It was too much. Jesus, why am I crying? Why did I cry yesterday?...

...None of them can save me. And like you said, I don't really respect them for trying. Maybe that's right. End of innocence for Hector. Welcome to the real world for Hector, right?

....YOU WANT ALL THIS. YOU WANT ME WALKING AND TALKING...all this talk about my family and all he wants is for me to get pissed-off and crazy on the witness stand?

NOTE: This story continues under the title of Break On Through My Shaman Friend http://hubpages.com/entertainment/Break-On-Through-My-Shaman-Friend

She was teaching me how to Love

© 2016 Prisana Nuechterlein

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