[Events took place circa June 2007]
‘1200 plus Highway, I take you’. ‘No, 1200 everything – I sit in front and play with your gear-shift.’ The last bit didn’t quite register, but his eyes narrowed. ‘Okay, okay! Me take. What your name?’ ‘Reecharrd’, replied my buddy Rich. ‘My name Bang-Bang’. A name for a taxi driver that did not inspire confidence. ‘I come hotel, OK?’
Bang-Bang lived up to his name. The usual white-knuckle ride to Pattaya reached new heights of terror, our driver bucking and lurching wildy across highway lanes, a man possessed, lost in a diabolical dance with concrete barriers and trucks stacked high with live pigs’ asses. Punctuating this loon’s driving tics and spasms was a tale about a Japanese man, presumably named ‘Anatat’ since it was mentioned at least 150 times. ‘I call him, I say ‘you no remember me, Anataaaat! Me velly poor, you leech (rich) man.’ Yep, he seemed to be stating that the Jap guy, not only saddled with monthly stipends to one or more lady friends, was also obliged to send instalments to his ‘regular’ Bangkok taxi driver. Bang-Bang was outraged that the checks had stopped arriving. We told him not to take it lying down. ‘Don’t take no shit from those stingy tightwad Japs, they’re famous for it – doorstep him in Kyoto if you have to’. Jeez, what next – bell-hops on retainers?
The rain began lashing and we aquaplaned at least three times – this only encouraged Bang-Bang that he was making good time. Rich roared at the fruitcake to slow down, but it was futile. I’m unfazed by all but the most deranged driving – but by this stage I was busily fretting on Bang-Bang’s dreadlocked braids that were poking through the head-rest. Mercifully, we encountered tail-backs. After a long while spent crawling single-file, we saw flashing lights and the Boys in Brown up ahead. We passed a man lying supine in the center lane, his limbs ordered neatly by his side, a tiny trickle of blood leaching from his skull. ‘Dead!!’ barked Bang-Bang helpfully. Cover him with a blanket maybe? I guess the cops had other things to worry about. Half an hour later, while I was changing a CD (an iPod is at least 5 yrs away) I heard Bang- Bang, out of the blue, say to Rich, ‘Dead, Alive..same-same’. Great, 10,000 Buddhist cabs in Bangkok, we find the Nihilist.
Our decision-making shaken somewhat by the journey, we made a snap choice on accommodation – a large, crumbling peach-colored hotel on Beach Road Soi 2. The rooms were huge but the place was deserted, save for three reptilian seniors and their lady companions frolicking in the pool. I still treasure the memory of that place – scene of the best romp of my life with a nubile nympho siren – but that said, it was the crummiest hotel I’ve ever stayed at in Thailand. We were in Pattaya for 4 days (yeah, I know, this was my second visit to LOS), and the first two days passed eventfully but entailed nothing I’m sure you’ve never heard a million times. The third day, however, was somewhat different…….
Rich, normally a breakfast geek, was nowhere to be seen on the morning of Day 3. It was my first attendance, and was keen to see what they had on offer. I took my cereal to a table and the waiter arrived with milk. He began to pour the merest trickle before withdrawing. I signalled to him to pour more but he didn’t seem to quite understand, instead hovering with the milk-jug over the bowl without dispensing anything. In the end, I cupped a hand under his elbow and helped him pour. From the resistance in his arm, I knew this was not appreciated and the murderous look on his face when I was done suggested my actions were like going to the Erawan Shrine, spray-tagging the Pagoda, groping the dancers Benny-Hill style and then slapping a few monks on the head for good measure.
Rich arrived at the pool and we acknowledged it was Groundhog-day. His second LT payoff had been as troublesome as the previous one. The tale of my milk-jug skit lifted his spirits slightly, and before long we agreed to hit the Go-kart track. En-route, it began lashing rain and halfway there, we reasoned it would be pointless and suicidal to continue with the karting plans. Rich claimed that he knew of a ‘soapie’ very close to where we were, so we paid off the taxi, waited under a canopy till the rain eased off, then started out on Plan B. This became Plan C when it transpired that Rich had no fucking clue where this alleged rumpus room was. We passed a bar that had 5 or 6 pool tables towards the front, a few punters, and crucially, through the gloom, we could also make out waist-length silken hair attached to spinner bodies. We went in, and our eyes adjusted to the dark. The two ‘spinners’ were already engaged, and the other free agents….probably had nice personalities. On the screens, delayed live coverage of the previous day’s Brazil GP was playing. Both being F1 freaks, we stayed.
Our first pool-game was interrupted halfway through by an above average-looking girl and a Troll. Troll did most of the talking, and drinks were hustled but refused due to her rudeness. The nicer one asked ‘We play you pool?’ I could see Rich quite liked the other girl. But then that meant so did I. ‘If you want them to stay, its every man for himself, right?’
Agreed. Introductions were made – Bim (troll) and Bat (cute-ish). My name begins with ‘K’ which proves to be a problem with Thais. Bim couldn’t say it. ‘Just call me Dave instead’ I suggested. But no, she persisted in trying to say my proper name, becoming increasingly irate. ‘Killeh?’ ‘Killah?’ she screeched. No, keep trying sweetie. They said they didn’t work for the bar, but came there regularly to play pool. They were decent players and before long, we had some rivalry going.
‘Bat’ was clearly receptive to whatever else was on the cards that afternoon but not pushy either. Both of us were cock-jaded and I’d said to Rich – you go for it, I need to rest up Percy – and a few minutes later he’d say the same thing to me. Bim the Troll plainly had a screw loose – one minute making a small effort to be more agreeable and the other scowling ‘you gay!’ when one of us made a good shot. Sportsmanship, along with sanity, were not her priorities.
We played a few games by ourselves as the Glimmer Twins took a som-tam break but they hung around close-by. At around this juncture, a foxy Japanese-looking chick with short hair and dressed slightly more tastefully than the average bargirl appeared in the bar. Our jaws slackened – in this joint, her presence was incongruous to say the least. The other guys noticed her too, and she was amused by all the appreciative attentions. The Glimmer Twins, awakened by this impostor, became territorial and were suddenly interested in us again. They wolfed down their chow and returned to their posts
‘Not like her….see she before. From Bangkok’ flounced Bim. ‘Who is she?’ we asked. ‘Not know why she come here – friend of owner’. ‘Girlfriend?’ ‘Maybe. Not know. He married.’ None the wiser, Rich turned to me and said ‘there’s no way you’re gonna steal her…’ ‘Oh yeah?’ I went to the bar, ordered drinks and struck up conversation. She (name forgotten) said she worked at Bumrungrad hospital and her parents lived in Pattaya, she was in here to see her friend, the farang owner. Who wouldn’t be here for a while…..
Rich made a play as well and bought her a drink. ‘I’m so in there’ he announced coming back to the table. Relations with the Glimmer pair seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. Bat, the ‘nicer’ one was now noticeably more spiky, Bim was heading to the next level of crazy – Defcon 4 to 3, but from what I’d experienced already with bargirls, I wasn’t unduly concerned. Rich kept relations alive with the short-haired hottie at various intervals in play. Bim and Bat began whispering and cackling in conspiratorial manner. A group of Thai guys entered and, once a pool stick has been sourced for them, began playing nearby – they said ‘Hi’ to our companions.
At some point around here, Bim disappeared. Rich went to take a shot, but couldn’t find the cue. More time to work on the short-haired chick. I zoned in on the closing stages of the GP. Bat eventually sighed. ‘Bim crazy, I go look for her.’ They came back, we played on. Our concentration had wavered during the afternoon and our game suffered – to the point that they appeared to be laughing at most of our shots. Eventually, the Thai guys on the other table were chuckling too. ‘We’ve been hustling these jerks all afternoon and now they’re drunk and we’re embarrassing them.’ we imagined them saying. We were a bit drunk, but not missing the cue-ball drunk, and then I twigged they were laughing even when we smashed in a long-shot. ‘What’s so damn funny?’ They would then howl with mirth…..and the Thai guys were equally amused!
We played on a bit more and continued to enquire as to the nature of their revelry. The short-haired chick must have heard something being said and started shaking her head and put her hand to her brow. ‘What, Goddammit?!!’
Rich said he was going to the 7-11 for smokes, he said something to the short-haired chick – she seemed less receptive now – and departed. While he was gone, the amusement continued to escalate and eventually reached a crescendo. Bim came around the pool table, handed me the stick, and, as she sashayed back to her stool, said ‘Why not you smell hand.’ At first I didn’t think I heard right – she repeated herself and then mimed the action, putting her palm to her nose. I did this and recoiled – to the hilarity of most of the assembled. What I discerned was the unmistakeable whiff of French Snuff, otherwise known as…..shit. I nodded in slow realisation. I lifted the pool stick and stared closely – I made out the visible grain on the wooden shaft. I could also see that the grain was now suffused with excrement. I noticed that Bat had another pool cue in her hand – a second pool stick had materialised along the way and we’d been sharing the shitty one. The whole thing appeared highly practiced.
I placed the pool stick carefully on the table. I noticed the Thai guys getting slightly hopped-up and antsy as if expecting imminent trouble. Rich is a bit of a hot-head, and also spent 6 years with a cleanliness-related OCD condition so he sure as hell won’t see the funny side of this, I thought. I check-binned, and not waiting for change, I left the bar quickly to hoots, cat-calls and the grabbing hands of a couple of Katoeys sitting outside. I saw Rich at the front of the line at 7-11. When he came out, I said ‘Walk. Just walk.’. In the taxi back to Beach Road, I told him. ‘Motherfucker!!!! Ughhhhh! Jesus Fucking Christ!!!!’ he hollered.
We retreated to that big Irish pub on Second Road (near Mike Shopping Mall) to freshen-up, re-group and gather our thoughts. Somewhere above our table, the Beach Boys’ lush harmonies washed down from a loudspeaker – ‘I guess I just wasn’t made for these times’. Indeed.