Marry Christmas!

Each December the girls in the Apartment Office have baskets of goodies delivered to some of the tenants. But last month’s gift (with its amusing holiday greetings), was noticeably smaller than usual. Nor had there been any Christmas lights strung up on the trees next to the swimming pool. Upper management is getting stingy.

But this did not diminish my desire to provide an evening of good cheer for my three female friends at the Sports Academy Pool Hall down on Sukhumvit Road. One of them, Lat, was leaving in a few weeks to spend three months in America with her Illinois boyfriend, so this would also be a bon voyage party of sorts.

While Sport Academy (like most bars) does offer wine, it comes in a box, whose vintages are labelled by month instead of year. Fermented mouth-wash. To avoid this packaged purgatory, I brought with me bottles of an Australian Shiraz and a tame Cabernet Sauvignon from the snooty Wine Section of the Villa Market grocery store a few blocks away.

Since Lat was playing Nine Ball with another customer for much of the night, the festivities centered on the trio of myself, Fone and Nui (both pictured below). Fone’s French boyfriend would not, alas, be making it to Thailand for the holidays while Nui’s relationship with her Thai husband seemed to be on the rocks. These were two women in real need of a good time.

I had not expected the girls to go into raptures over my “refreshments”, but was pleasantly surprised nonetheless. I had initially poured partial glasses for each, but these were emptied before we’d played but a few pool games of “Killer”. Thereafter I made it my job to keep the vineyard open. (Fone assisted by liberating the second bottle from my sidebag on her own initiative.)

The Aussie grapes worked their magic. After an hour nobody really cared what the score was or even whose turn was coming up. Limiting my own intake, I played the jovial role of the Ghost of Christmas Present, adding sunflower seeds and cookies to the party while exchanging affectionate holiday hugs. As things began winding down, Fone and Nui kissed me on each cheek, then Lat came over and topped it off with a smooch on the lips — a pleasure denied the fabled ghosts of A Christmas Carol.

Having all three girls at my table, I decided it was a good time to present them with their Christmas gifts: an envelope each with three thousand, ninety-nine baht (@ $90; the 99 baht was for good luck). This represents more than a quarter of their monthly salary and earned me yet another round of happy embraces. But even before I showered the money upon them, it was clear they were having fun. In fact, I don’t recall seeing all three in such good spirits.

It was the best of times.

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