Category Archives: 2013: Oct—Dec

Streetwalker Profile: Paw the Pixie

I caught Paw on a good night. When I rang, she was with one of her regular customers, a sixty-three-year-old Aussie. Living with his Thai wife somewhere out in the rural boondocks, he escapes down to Bangkok on occasion for a week or two of carousing. (I assume this is done with the little woman’s consent.) Paw will often spend the night with him at whatever hotel he is staying at.

This time, the deed having been done and said customer soundly asleep, Paw was ready for a break in the action and was at my door within ten minutes. (Which was barely enough time for me to tidy the place up.) As she entered, she quickly discarded her high-heeled sandals, then began removing her clothes in the same casual manner a visitor would discard their overcoat. Since we usually do nothing beyond massages, cuddling and kissing, I’m considering suggesting in the future she save herself the effort of disrobing. 

Paw’s figure, which she obviously has no reticence in displaying, is elf-like, almost emaciated. It’s like one of Santa’s helpers decided to become a triathlete. She also has a beak for a nose, meaning she is not one of the in-demand ladies who congregate outside Nana Plaza in the middle of the night. I, however, appreciate her unflagging good spirits. Being a streetwalker means standing around for hours on end waiting for a customer — who may prove to be a thoroughly miserable experience. Despite this, Paw is always cheerful and smiling as she regales me with her latest adventures, her English being fairly good. (On the other hand, Thais can be reticent about displaying disappointment or sadness, so I could be getting the sanitized versions.) This is also one of my special friends whom I can easily get a laugh out of, something I enjoy almost as much as they do.

For this particular visit, she described her Aussie customer for the first time. The thought that she’s helping him cheat on his wife contained no moral revulsion. It’s simply a business transaction from her perspective, nothing more. There even was an element of fondness as she mentioned a couple of his foibles. 

When it came time to leave, Paw was trying to decide whether to return and sleep with the Aussie or go back out on the street, trolling for new prospects. She has said that I’m good luck; that on the nights when I call, she often has more customers. Glad to help out. Perhaps for that reason, she elected to do some more hunting, slipping into her tiny pair of jeans and performing strategic tugs on her blouse as she checked her makeup in the mirror. Exiting the apartment, she flashed me a bright goodbye smile.

I know it’s only Rock & Roll (but I can’t find it) 

Visitors to this wondrous Thai megalopolis often wax ecstatic about the food, shopping and entertainment. Much of this praise is well deserved as Bangkok does have much to offer. In fact, it can be argued there is something here for everyone, provided they look hard enough.

Except for vintage Rock & Roll. 

Some might dispute this statement, pointing out that a few of the bars on Soi 4, for example, feature this retro music. But alas, not on any regular basis. It is certainly true you can on rare occasions catch whiffs of The Who, Stones or some 1970s genre pop on this street as you weave your way around the streetwalkers. But by the time you’ve entered the bar, settled in, and are halfway through your first drink, Roger Daltrey is but a distant memory. In his place are some angry-sounding black guys spitting out f-word expletives.

What about the live bands? No shortage of them in this city, and if you don’t mind hearing a spirited group of Filipinos mangle the lyrics of a golden oldie, you can have a reasonably good time. But performing a credible version of Behind Blue Eyes, to cite but one example, is a level or two beyond their talent. Then when they retire backstage for a break, at least one establishment — Check Inn 99 — plays hip hop. Maybe this is to ensure the band receives an enthusiastic welcome upon their return.

This leaves the go-gos as a last refuge for the rock-deprived oldster. It is a daunting scene. As best as I can determine, there’s a city ordinance prohibiting them from featuring rock, pop, heavy metal, or even grunge. In other words, anything that might contain even a whiff of a melody. Ambling around Nana Plaza at night, with nothing but electronic thumping emanating from every open door, is the auditory equivalent of a mugging. Little wonder that the tiny pharmacy across the street is always out of Excederin and Advil.

There is one notable exception to this: Pretty Lady located on the left side of Nana Plaza’s ground floor. Rock & Roll is not played all night, but at least there’s a fighting chance of reliving one’s musical adolescence. Unfortunately, the place is at present undergoing yet another renovation. Or maybe the Bangkok Hip Hop Preservation Police are attempting to shut it down. 

At my favorite pool hall down on Sukhumvit (Sports Academy), the floor above is being completely remodeled. Even into the late afternoon there is sometimes heavy, deafening drilling that causes the hostesses to cover their ears, as if this racket is somehow more offensive than the hip hop that is too often inflicted upon the customers. The good news is that the remodeling will soon be finished and the fellow making all that loathsome noise with the drill will begin a new career as a go-go DJ.

Talkin’ bout MY generation.

Harem Housecleaning

As I begun another year in Thailand, the idea of meeting alluring new women — whom I run across seemingly every day — has powerful appeal. But will there be room for them amongst the many special “friends” I already have? With little experience juggling even casual female relationships, I certainly don’t want to risk launching too many balls into the air. There are frightening stories circulating about involving cheated-on Thai women cutting their foreign ex-boyfriends down to size, so to speak. 

It’s therefore a sense of self-preservation more than my inherent neatness that has inspired me to take a look at reducing my “harem”, which in truth is but a loose collection of Thai ladies I have met and befriended to varying degrees. As it turns out, there are some sound reasons to cut back beyond my aversion to becoming a sudden soprano.

Rasamee
Background: My first Thai girlfriend, whom I officially broke up with over two years ago. But despite repeated efforts — including a couple of blunt requests early this year — I’ve never been able to persuade her to leave me alone. Instead she tries to stay in touch via friendly emails until the next financial crisis hits, whereupon I feel obligated to step in and provide a cash infusion. While her misfortunes are not a result of greed or foolishness, this type of relationship is unhealthy. 

Action: Early in July, I provided a very generous sum of money; enough to pay off the remaining debt on her house, send her daughter to the U.S. to study English for a few weeks, and cover the tuition for her son’s remaining three semesters at the university. With this being well above the call of duty, it seemed a good time to cut the strings. To remove myself from future calamities, I’ve deleted my old gmail account so she has no way of summoning me anymore. 

Paw
Background: I had thought things were all hunky dory between us. But she has not responded to my last two text messages inquiring if she was available for the evening. I have no clue as to what’s going on. 

Action: None required since it appears she has pulled the dumpster lever first. 

Fern
Background: Was one of the waitresses at Hustler’s Pool Hall, whom I first saw back in February. We’d shared plenty of laughs playing Eight Ball late into the evenings and it had become one of those rare instances where I found myself liking a Thai lady without really being interested in sleeping with her. (Will wonders ever cease?) 

The trouble could be traced to a day just prior to my departure to the U.S. Fern came to me wondering if I could help pay for her year-old daughter’s day care. Knowing I was leaving the country for a couple of months, I decided to shell out three months’ worth of “support”. But instead of using the money for that specific purpose, she ended up quitting her job four weeks later, then began anxiously awaiting my return in hopes that I would sign on to be her boyfriend. What I had intended as a simple act of assistance had nudged the relationship into “serious” territory. 

Action: For someone like me, supporting a young Thai with her baby has all the appeal of a two-decade prison sentence (though with presumably better sex). But I cannot share this insightful metaphor with Fern. The tactics will need to be more subtle and less likely to cause a loss of face. For example, not returning her phone calls and avoiding any visits to  Hustler’s for a month or two in the event she returns to work there. Yes, this will hurt her feelings, but I don’t wish to inadvertently give off the wrong signals. I am emphatically not interested.

Lessons Learned
For Thai women, money and love are often hopelessly intertwined. To avoid this stickiness, perhaps I would be better advised to re-direct my financial generosities towards the local charities rather than my female admirers.

Related Posts You May Enjoy
Rescuing Rasamee (Again)   Streetwalker Profile: Paw the Pixie   Making the Rounds

The New Newt

Thai women who interact with foreigners on a regular basis here usually come up with a special one syllable name so the Long Noses can more easily pronounce and remember them. Usually this is a derivative of their real name, which we dimwitted foreigners cannot even begin to spit out. For example, “Porn” instead of, say, Pornswalansomesai.

For this reason, I have come to know two “Newts” (three if we count Newt Gingrich, but I’m not interesting in dating him). The first girl is one I sometimes play pool with. The second works as a masseuse in the hotel adjacent to my apartment building and is the one I’m going to talk about.

In an earlier post, I’ve described this Newt as sentinel because I sometimes encounter her late at night on my way home. I like to ply her with chocolate to try and stay on her good side, especially since I have not had her over for a very long while — and that was for a massage only.

Following my vacation, and despite her work proximity, I did not see my guard duty woman until I’d been back in Bangkok almost a month. Then I went to the 7-Eleven for some milk. As I entered the store, I stepped around the back of a lady with shoulder-length light brown hair wearing a short, tight skirt that quickly gave way to a pair of long, shapely legs. Of course women dressed in this manner are by no means a rarity in my neighborhood — indeed, that’s why I live here — but this one had none of the slightly grubby, worse-for-wear aspect that overtakes so many of them. All the pieces were still firmly in place. It was only after I’d passed by that I recognized Newt’s slow, syrupy voice.

I made a quick beeline for the candy section for some chocolate, but by the time I’d grabbed a Hershey’s bar and turned back towards the door, my Newt had departed. I got my milk, paid for everything, then quickly stepped out onto the sidewalk, anxiously scanning in both directions. I needn’t have worried; it was impossible to miss her. Even from over two blocks away, strolling into the hotel, Newt’s suggestive outfit shined like a kind of sexual beacon. I swiftly covered the intervening ground.

Our brief “chocolate reunion” went so well that Newt asked if I wanted a massage (back in March I’d tried to schedule an impromptu one, only to have her spurn me by hiding in a back room). This time I agreed and she came over to my apartment at eight that evening, wearing a traditional long Thai dress that discouraged notions of any hanky-panky, at least for this session. 

This was not the same lady from that first massage I’d gotten over two years before. Her English had dramatically improved, and her manner was warmer and friendlier; less predatory. As I received a delicate oil massage, we were able to cover a few topics such as her kids (of course) and the types of movies we prefer. To my surprise, Newt isn’t a fan of romantic flicks — they make her feel bad about her life. She’s much more into horror. As we shared the thrills of being scared witless, the shower head in the bathroom (which Newt had not fully re-attached to its holder when she freshened up) suddenly dropped onto the tiled floor, causing us both to jump. 

Over the course of the hour-long appointment, I found myself experiencing a degree of comfort and sympathy towards the woman that I’d never felt before. And when she mentioned that some nights she watches for me because she doesn’t have enough money for dinner, it tugged at my heartstrings. (As I’ve mentioned before, the pay these women receive is abominable. For the oil massage, New would get but one hundred baht ($3) with the remaining four hundred ($12) going to her miserly boss. To help even the score, I provided a tip equal to the entire price. Screw you, Ebenezer.)

As the rubbing gradually wound down, I could not resist the urge to show Newt my small collection of horror DVDs. She asked to borrow a couple to help pass the long hours spent waiting for customers. Delighted to find someone who shared my morbid tastes, I lent out Evil Dead and the 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London. Perhaps the gruesome cover photos combined with the shower head crash had spooked Newt — she asked me to walk her back to work, about a twenty meter stroll. Ever the gentleman, I was pleased to keep help the monsters at bay.

Related Posts You May Enjoy
Making the Rounds  Never a Lender Be

Deciphering Indian Restaurants

Before I attempt to play food critic, it’s important to establish my lack of credentials: I have trouble distinguishing between a croissant and a cupcake. Whenever I go out to eat, I invariably choose one of the cheaper items on the menu; something I recognize and can pronounce. I almost always have water to drink except on the wild occasions when I order a Coke. To say I have simple tastes would be an overstatement.

This does not mean I’m devoid of standards, however. At the far end of Soi 4 where I live, there are at least three establishments I no longer frequent due to poor service or an overt emphasis on the tourist trade (such as shamelessly high prices or seafood displays that take up sidewalk seating). A fourth restaurant (at the Woraburi Hotel) has for some reason concluded that its customers would occasionally appreciate music similar to the pounding, headache-inducing rubbish that infests the bars and go-gos down the street. If I had to eat there on a regular basis, I’d become anorexic.

The Indian eateries, on the other hand, have proven much harder to categorize. I’ve lately become a fan of the cuisine with its delicate blend of spices and flavors, and living in a tourist area means there are numerous choices within walking distance. But the experiences have been uneven, forcing me to devise a checklist to improve my chances of a pleasurable meal. To assist others in sorting out this culinary confusion, I’ll share of few of my insights here.

1. A well-dressed Indian man standing by the door, attempting to usher people inside. 

    Meaning: Just another run-of-the-mill joint. With the locals having no interest in eating there, they hire a tout to try and lure in gullible tourists.

2. Prominent pictures of various dishes, but no prices. 

    Meaning: They will charge you an arm and a leg, maybe even your firstborn, for the meal.

3. A fancy, well-designed interior with fake wood panelling and clusters of shelves supporting an extensive collection of wines and liquors.

    Meaning: An attempt to create an atmosphere, drawing your gaze to the exotic-looking booze in hopes you’ll begin drinking and subsequently overlook the substandard food and glacially slow service — while paying through the nose for it.

4. The meal is served in miserly portions, though exquisitely arranged.

    Meaning: Style over substance. If you are after beauty, go to an art museum. It will be cheaper.

5. Children are galavanting about.

    Meaning: Do you like eating your dinner to the patter of little feet scampering past your table? Then you are in for an enchanted evening.

At this point, it can be easy to surrender to despair and opt for the Golden Arches, KFC or some other fast food abomination. But the purpose of visiting (or living in) a foreign country is to have new experiences and the cuisine is always worth exploring. The advice here should help you avoid potential disappointments. Bon Appetit!

Hold on to your wallet!

Hello, how are you? I need money!

It is the phone call or email that any Westerner who has had even a brief fling with a Thai lady inevitably receives. The initial reaction can often be one of pleasant surprise, hearing from a woman with whom they had shared a few days together, full of sightseeing and pseudo-romance (the so-called girlfriend experience). Those fellows who are especially new to the game may even be flattered (“She has not forgotten me!”).

Well of course she hasn’t. But her sudden interest has nothing to do with your charm; you have simply been pegged as someone she thinks she can get money out of. Most likely she has a list of “donors” and your name has come up. Time to make the pitch.

Her reasons for needing help are usually family related: her mother is ill; her daughter requires school money; her grandmother has died (again). On occasion the crisis may actually be real, but that is beside the point. These predicaments, which have been polished and successfully tested on earlier flings and boyfriends, are simply devices used to elicit knee-jerk sympathies and pry open wallets.

Nevertheless, the need for money is quite real. For many women, there was a past boyfriend or husband who left them with children to raise and no support. Others have family obligations such as parents (or maybe a lazy sibling) to take care of.  

But this does not explain the entire picture. Many go-go dancers actually make good money, especially if they service a customer at one of the short-time hotel rooms a few times a week. The problem is that the girls have cash management skills that would make Enron blush, lending to friends and spending frivolously. Money does not merely slip through their fingers, it dissolves there. 

Another reason for the perpetual poverty stems from people’s attitudes. The Thais’ idea of long-term planning is deciding what to order at McDonalds. The Aesop Fable about The Ant and The Grasshopper would find no traction here. Why save for the winter when there in fact seems to be no ultimate season of grim reckoning? Just get by…day by day.

So what to do when one of your former one-and-only true loves tries to get back in touch? The best solution is to ignore them, though their persistence may surprise you. One of my ex-communicated harem members, after a month’s hiatus, recently called me three times within a five minute interval with a dozen rings per attempt. She was both desperate for more money and fully aware I was avoiding her. Her neediness oozed out of my ringing cell, making me want to hide behind my sofa. But I have not heard from her since, meaning I can safely venture outside.

money-spelled

Obtaining a Thailand Driver’s License

When my birthday rolls around in five months, the driver’s license issued to me by the State of Washington will expire. Not being a bona fide Seattle resident anymore, I decided it was time to bite the bullet, so to speak, and get one issued from the country I’ve been residing in for most of the past three years. 

Up to now my dealings with Thai bureaucracies (outside of Customs) has been limited to the annual visit to Immigration to get my retirement visa extended. That process runs fairly smoothly assuming you have all your paperwork in order. Now, however, I would be mingling with the masses, trying to decode procedures designed for the locals. Fortunately I would have an American ex-pat with me (Tod) who speaks the language and specializes in escorting fellow farangs through the labyrinth of rules that must be followed here to get something done.

The fun began at the Department of Land Transportation Office, a large and rather imposing-looking building located a good five minute walk opposite Sukhumvit 62/1. Crossing the threshold into the cavernous main area is like entering a giant ant hill with waves of Thais scurrying about in all directions. I came to an immediate stop, dumbfounded as to where to begin. A girl at the nearby Help Desk, taking mercy on me, provided directions and the required form.

Paperwork is a necessary evil when interacting with any level of government, but the officials in this country have an insatiable appetite for it. I had brought five pages to feed to the lions covering my health, residence, passport info and current driver’s license. But even that meticulously put together package did not keep me out of trouble. After waiting in a shifting column of people for some fifteen minutes to get to a clerk, I discovered that my Certified Letter of Address from the Immigration Bureau needed to be “re-certified”. (WTF?) For this transgression, I was banished to an upstairs office for the procedure, which cost me my hard-earned place in line. Tod fortunately got us back in the ballgame when we returned by butting in and tossing my paperwork on top of a stack of forms waiting to be processed. I would not have had the audacity to try this, which is why I brought him along. Getting a Thai Driver’s License is not for the fainthearted.

I now had to wait for the clerk to call out my name and return the papers Tod had sneaked in. A number of anxious minutes passed as I watched one Thai after another solemnly march up to the desk to receive their documents. It was like witnessing a graduation ceremony. Then the clerk began reading off names in an uncertain voice, indicating that she was now working through the packages of foreigners who had applied. If no one showed up right away to claim their prize, she quickly moved on to the next name. I edged closer to the desk and when I heard my mangled surname, nearly pounced on her.

Besides all the papers and forms I had brought, the returned bundle had a mysterious blue tag attached to one corner with a number written on it. With no signs directing us to the next station of our quest, we decided to go over and join a bored-looking crowd milling about in front of a pair of closed doors. On closer inspection, both had an attached sheet of colored paper containing a range of numbers that changed every fifteen minutes or so. This had to be the place. We settled back to wait for what would be my Big Moment: taking the Thai Driver’s Test. 

There was a knot in my stomach some two hours later as I and around fifteen other applicants finally entered one of the sacrosanct chambers to match my driving skills against four machines which would determine my future. To my relief, the first test was simply identifying the colors of a traffic light. I would have liked to have replied in Thai, but feared making a pronunciation mistake. For example, there’s a slang term that sounds very similar to the word “yellow”. It means a kind of adhesive. Thus, I could have ended up answering: red, green, red…sticky?…which might not have earned me a passing grade. 

The second challenge involved depth perception: aligning a pair of upright chopsticks from ten meters. I found this annoying, not because of any intrinsic unfairness, but because the cutlery reminded me I had not eaten since an early breakfast.

Tod had prepared me for the next — and most dreaded — ordeal: the infamous Gas Pedal Machine. One puts their foot on an “accelerator” and gently depresses it. A few meters away, an ascending serious of white lights begins to build until a red one suddenly pops up, requiring you to immediately take your foot off the “gas” and put it on the “brake”. If your reaction time is on the slow side — say more than fourteen milliseconds — you are in trouble. According to Tod, this fails more applicants than the other tests combined. 

When the red light came on for me, I hit the brake pedal so abruptly and decisively my right foot was sore for the next half hour.

The last hurdle I like to call A Visit to the Optometrist. You get seated, then gingerly lean forward until your forehead touches a bar. Off to either side lights begin flashing and you tell the operator when you see them. This seemed straightforward enough and I eagerly settled in, positioning my chin on a metal base and easing my forehead into the bar. Wrong! It was not my chin, but my nose that needed to be touching the base, which was yellow with wear. Gross. What are they testing here, one’s peripheral vision or immune system?

It was at this final contraption I had my only real trouble, missing a flash or two. The lady in charge pointed out the errors in an annoyed tone, then reran those sequences so I would learn my lesson. 

Limping out on my aching foot, but with “pass” marks on all my tests, we happily journeyed to the final stop at the opposite end of the hall where a Thai license would be bestowed upon me. This was simple and straightforward: heft up the bale of papers I’d accumulated onto the main reception table, receive yet another number, and wait to be called. Unfortunately, the fellow at the desk I was assigned to didn’t speak hardly any English and had a difficult time communicating that I needed to push my chair back a bit for the photo. (Tod came to the rescue.) But that was the final bit of confusion. All that remained was confirming my personal information on the computer, whereupon the long-sought plastic card was birthed out of a small machine in the center of the work area. 

There is always a sense of relief after I’ve navigated the obstacles of Thai officialdom. These people hold my life in their hands and if so inclined could make it truly miserable. But that has never been the case and unless one of my former Thai girlfriends gets a job with the Transportation or Immigration Departments, I anticipate continued smooth relations.

Can’t wait to join these people: the Freedom of the Open Road.