The women working at the pool halls in the entertainment district are often very tough players, as I have learned through innumerable defeats. Since I am quite competitive myself, I’ve had to come up with a few spe-cial tricks to give me an advantage. To help other unfortunates who may one day find themselves going up against these felt felines, I will share them here.
2. Once play begins, ply the damsels with plenty of alcohol while you stick to water. Though experience has shown that booze can inspire wild and unexpected four or five ball runs, it also induces happier, more care-free behavior as you remain sharp and focused.
So proclaims Rat, one of the Thai girls who works at Sports Academy, a pool hall down on Sukhumvit. That attitude, combined with long black hair, shapely legs and a face that causes double-takes, makes her not only entertaining to play Eight Ball with, but easy on the eyes as well. When I first began playing with her, those looks intimidated me; I’m far more comfortable with women who have a kind of girl-next-door appearance. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I no longer feel like a high school dweeb trying to hang around the homecoming queen. In fact, I would not mind mingling with her outside of work, except for the fact that her American boyfriend, who makes irregular visits to Bangkok, is a gun enthusiast.
A second girl, Newt (far left), has also become one of my regular pool opponents. Like Rat (sitting next to me), she has the long hair and well-proportioned figure, but the pretty face lacks the hardness that so many girls in the entertainment (and pool hall) business acquire. There’s also a certain kindness in the way she suggests what ball for me to shoot at next, even if it is to her detriment. Perhaps she simply feels sorry for me. On the nights where she wears her ruby high heels, I sometimes feel like I’m playing against Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz fame.
But we are not in Kansas anymore. Both of the hostesses are seasoned, no-nonsense pool players. This comes from taking on the farang cust-omers night after night. They are especially adept at pocketing long shots on the nine foot billiard tables, a feat I approach with trepidation. (When I ponderously line up one of these, the girls begin chalking up their cues.)
My favorite contest is when I team up with a fellow American expat named Alex, who worked with me at the same company back in Seattle long ago. Once each week we square off against the Duo Damsels, glee-fully vowing to show them who’s boss. Idle boasting. After but twenty minutes we are hopelessly behind, the girls are sticking their tongues out at us, and Rat is crowing about the damage she is inflicting upon our glutei maximi. To try and salvage what little dignity remains, we start buying them Rum & Cokes, reasoning that our chances will improve if our opponents become a little tipsy…
Sometimes this tactic works: one or two of them begins to feel no pain. But there have been occasions — and this is kind of scary — where the more the girls drink, the better they play. I on the other hand, having had but a single shot of tequila, am leaning against the table to steady myself. The cue ball is blurred.
Despite the inevitable outcomes, I enjoy the outings and always tip Newt and Rat one hundred baht each ($3) at the end of each mauling. Being soundly thrashed by better-playing women is not something that threat-ens my masculinity. Quite the contrary; the challenge only serves to mo-tivate me for next week’s clash. One of these days Alex and I will show those haughty girls what a pair of doddering middle-aged men can do.
Having been a gay bachelor for so many decades (and is that the proper phrase?), I had long since abandoned any notion of falling in love. Sure, there had been a few opportunities along the way, starting with my junior high girlfriend. Slow dancing to The Carpenter’s Close To You, it seemed we’d always be together and in fact we were, right up to the first week of high school at which point the upperclassmen (meaning guys with cars) muscled their way in. It was an early, painful lesson about my lack of sex appeal, a trait endemic to the people in the IT profession whose ranks I would one day join.
With women out of the picture, it became necessary to find new venues of entertainment. During the solitude of the early years of my career, it was the TV and local movie theaters. Then, with the advent of personal computers, my focus shifted when I got my shiny, new Gateway 2000. Many an hour was spent parked in front of it, playing games or surfing the ‘net. These activities became such a source of comfort that upon re-locating to Thailand two years ago, I made sure I brought a laptop along. It was a wise choice; were it not for my Compaq PC (and the two dozen or so bar and go-go girls I’ve gotten to know), I’m unsure if I could have survived life in tropical Asia.
It was therefore a sad day two months ago when my Compaq, after a long period of steady decline, passed on. I had done all I could to nurse it back to health, but with no luck. Towards the end it had become so enfeebled, it could no longer write to any of my antique diskettes and when I shut it down for the final time, there were tears in my eyes.
Losing a PC is something we all go through at some stage of our lives and like most, I despaired of ever finding a new one that I could feel the same affection for. But then a friend recommended a special Apple-spon-sored support group for people suffering from technical bereavement. It was there I found it was indeed possible to start anew with another PC. In fact, Apple just happened to have a few machines I might be interested in. Talk about coincidences.
Apple’s Online Store operates in a similar fashion to a dating website such as Match. Both feature intriguing offerings with the difference being that with Apple, you know exactly how much you are going to be shel-ling out up front. Having no interest in a one-night boot-up, I spent hours looking for a stable laptop that would understand me and not treat my outdated technical skills with disdain (like a particular Redmond, Wash-ington-based operating system we all know).
I will never forget the afternoon of November 14 of this year. As I was lounging by the apartment pool with my Thai girlfriend, working through my grief, a red-and-gold jacketed DHL man delivered the MacBook Air I had ordered the prior week. Tossing aside both my towel and lady friend, I eagerly took the package and rushed up to my room. Carefully, I opened the maze of boxes the shipment came in until finally, I beheld my new companion! It was so slender and lightweight, I at first mistook it for a user’s manual.
Since that magical day, it is like a void in my life has been filled. My Mac is gentle and understanding with a pleasant learning curve. When I make mistakes, I don’t feel like I’m being scolded. And if I have esoteric questions, there’s an online support community. I have to confess, it is hard to put the thing down once I turn it on and begin playing around.
But maybe the allure is too great. It’s admittedly been a few days since I’ve showered or shaved and my girlfriend, whats-her-name, hasn’t been by in maybe a week. But that is alright. Her concern over my disheveled appearance and the Mt. Dew and Snicker’s Bars meals are entirely mis-placed. Clearly the woman has never been in love.
Somewhere in Tehran, Iran
Good morning class! It is a true pleasure to see your smiling faces, eager and willing to lay down your lives for the Supreme Leader of the Iranian People. As you know, our topic this morning is the recent aborted mis-sion in Bangkok and the lessons we can learn from it.
Let us first be sure we understand our goals: our government has decided the best way of convincing a sceptical world of our peaceful nuclear in-tentions is through the murder of Israeli diplomats. Why Israelis, you may ask. Well, we have to kill someone, don’t we? Might as well be the Zionists.
On to today’s main topic. The terrorist cell we had implanted in Bangkok consisted of three of our finest agents: Shish, Kebob and Morondai. I think it is fair to say the first error they made was in accidentally blowing up the house where they were making the detonation devices. Even in a self-absorbed city like Bangkok, this can — and did — attract unwanted attention.
Inexplicably rattled by the event, the trio’s mission quickly dissolved into a wild exodus from the premises. It was here that the second mistake was made. When a taxi refused to pick him up, Morondai lobbed one of his homemade bombs at it, demolishing the vehicle. While this has not met with universal condemnation — I hear a group of Westerners living in Bangkok, fed up with cab drivers not willing to take them where they wish to go, are putting together an award for him — this lacks the kind of subtlety we expect from our operatives.
Morondai’s second target — a Thai police car — was also ill-considered. However this time his aim was slightly off. Rather than connecting with the blue and white, the device rebounded off another vehicle before rol-ling up to his feet where it finally exploded, taking off one of his legs. (The other was later amputated at a Bangkok hospital — all praise to the Supreme Leader!).
This entire mission was, frankly, an embarrassment to all involved. In the words of a Western commentator, it makes us look like a bunch of bomb-throwing Keystone Kops, whatever that means. But we will not be deter-red! As I speak, Shish and Kebab are at work developing a way to cripple the Thai sex tourism industry via exploding silicon implants, while the wheelchair-bound Morondai is now employed as a Hazardous Materials Coordinator with DHL (a freight forwarding company). Even if he con-tinues to accidently dismember himself, there’s at least a chance he will take a fellow employee or two with him.
The infidels will yet feel our righteous wrath (or at least aggravating mis-deliveries)! Class dismissed.
These entertaining usages (and misspellings) of the English language are being presented with the confession that I, in my infinite wisdom, cannot even begin to formulate a proper sentence in Thai.
T-shirts the Bar Girls Wear: No Money No Honey
Eating and Drinking
Nick the Pizza
We Are The World Beer Bar
Please remove your shoe
Please closed the door
Driving Should Be Generous — People Acroos The Street
Sorry for the inconvenience. We are under the renovation period.
Corporations & Slogans
I Am International Clinic (Skin & Relax)
Let’s Grown Together!
The advertisements without the registration will not be allowed to put on the board.
Should not abandon the garbage — cigarette buttocks in this area.
Sex: Yes [_] No [_]
With Whom? M [_] F [_] Either [_] Both [_]
Reason For Visit
Business [_] Education [_] Tourism (wink, wink) [_]
Kindly Answer Below Questions
1. You bring sharp edged objects (like ex-spouse) into country? Y_ N_
2. You bringing bad drugs into country? Y_ N_
If answer no, would like to buy some?
3. You have any pornographic materials? Y_ N_
If no, why not? You want only to eat Thai food?
4. You carry more than $10,000 USD in currency or condoms? Y_ N_
5. Any vegetables? Y_ N_
Must not bring: Carrots, cucumbers, zucchinis. Make girls nervous.
6. How long be in Thailand?
a. 14 days.
b. 30 days.
c. Until I find a bar girl to go home with me.
==>Attention: Duty Free bar girls available in customs area!
d. Until the statute of limitations runs out back home.
Please write name if telling truth: __________________________
If not tell truth and only want women, write “Bill Clinton”.
We hope you visit give good memories.
Please again come when you healthy and have more money!
Pyongyang, Democratic People’s blah blah blah of North Korea
Greetings comrades! Today I understand we are making history with me being the first non-kidnapped foreigner to be lecturing at the Kim Il Sung Center for the Performing Arts and Regimental Rifle Practice. As you all know, this convention’s theme is the promotion of World Peace through the annihilation of the wicked United States. It seems to me that with the recent financial crisis, the country is doing an adequate job of imploding without any assistance. But who am I to dissent, especially with these leg irons I am having to wear?
Anyway, let’s get started. First, a bit of personal background is in order. I grew up and was educated in the Imperialistic U.S. However, I have also lived amongst the Militarists in Japan and the American Lackeys in the south. With the exception of chronic dysentery, I am thus well acquainted with all your foes.
I will now take questions. My translator is holstering his pistol and will be writing them down in English for me to answer.
The difference between our country’s leaders? Your current numero uno, Kim Jong Il, ascended to his position only because his father had been running the country. Sadly, Mr. Kim the younger has turned out to be a mediocre and stubborn man, unwilling to alter his world views in the face of increasingly contrary evidence. By contrast, President George Bush Junior is…er…
Let’s move on to the next question, shall we?
No, the 1987 action movie Predator, that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger along with Jessie Ventura, is NOT a nominating film used for selecting our state governors. It only seems that way.
How to foment unrest in America? For Seattle, where I come from, take away everyone’s cell phone, or hold another meeting of the World Trade Organization there.
The most vulnerable place to invade America? That’s easy, Alaska. Just be sure your troops hit the beaches wearing big “Palin for V.P.” buttons. They will be warmly welcomed.
A sporting event that offers maximum propoganda value? How about holding a college bowl game here in Pyongyang? Call it “The Kimchi Bowl”. But unlike the contests in America, instead invite the two worst NCAA Division I teams. Make them play outdoors in January as a form of humiliation and punishment — treatment I understand you people take special delight in dishing out. It might even be worthwhile to lock in the Washington State Cougars to a long term commitment.
Oops, my apologies. I just realized I have left the blueprints for building a ballistic missile with multiple nuclear warheads in my backpack at the foreigner’s hotel. But don’t despair. I doubt any thief is going to slip in through the barred windows. Perhaps I could be unshackled and allowed to run over there and retrieve the documents? It will only take a few min-utes. I’ll be right back…I promise!
Taejon, South Korea
Letter to the South Korean Minister of Education
Dear Mr. Kim,
To begin with, I am writing to bring to your attention to what I consider a serious error in my recent selection as Foreign Teacher of the Year in South Korea. As I valiantly tried to point out to the awards committee, I was only visiting this country for a month and was simply helping a few of the Sisters at the St. Mary’s High School with their English. Teaching a class of nuns does not strike me as being worthy of any kind of special recognition. For one thing, I had no discipline problems at all. And yes, I refrained from becoming romantically involved with any of them, but it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.
I will admit that during this time I was working without a salary, but the committee’s declaration of this as a shining example for other foreign in-structors here to aspire to strikes me as misguided.
In any event, I have reluctantly decided to accept the award: a round-trip ticket to Tacoma, Washington (also known as “The Paris of South Puget Sound”). Strange that the second place winner will receive two round-trip tickets. But I will try to use them as soon as I receive them.
Now, at the risk of causing an international incident, I must nevertheless continue to protest your decision to present the award next week at St. Mary’s school. The 8:00 a.m. time in particular strikes me as especially inappropriate. I mean, have you ever actually SEEN an early morning Korean high school class? Some of the students (most of whom study four to five hours a night before leaving the school at ten) wobble in like twelfth-step alcoholics following an all night binge. Others lie sprawled across their desks, semi-conscious. An ambulance team presented with this scene would find itself performing emergency triage.
May I ask what, exactly, are you preparing your students for, extended POW internment? High School should be one of the best and happiest times of our lives (and would have been in my case if it wasn’t for the acne attack my junior year). From what I have seen of your educational system, it’s only a matter of time before President Bush sends over a hostage rescue team, then orders a follow-up air strike. Do you really want to visit Guantanamo Bay that badly?
I know, I know. Foreign teachers in Korea, like small children, should be seen and not heard (and maybe not even paid). I just felt it my place to use my brief, exalted status to speak my mind. And having the Education Ministry Police confiscate my passport will not change my views nor my plans to escape. For I, along with a dedicated group of seventeen-year-old freedom fighters (who, by the way, have permission from their par-ents), are determined to break out of this educational hellhole, bound for a place where we can teach and learn in genuine harmony. Under the co-ver of darkness we will boldly strike forth…for the Worker’s Paradise of North Korea!
With Best Wishes for Your Health,
A Determined Foreigner
Somewhere in SE Asia
When visiting another country, it can be difficult learning the customs, eating the food and understanding any of the language. But the greatest obstacle, and arguably biggest threat to our safety, comes from a simple act we take for granted in the U.S.: going across the street.
From the time the first Australopithecus attempted to wade across a shal-low creek on the African savanna and stubbed his big toe, making it safely through moving obstacles has been a hit-or-miss proposition for our species. With such things as the domestication of the horse and inv-ention of the automobile, the risk has become much greater. Stop signs and traffic lights should therefore be regarded as two of mankind’s best and “brightest” achievements.
Unfortunately, traffic signals nowadays have become subject to various interpretations across the globe depending upon the local culture. To aid the wary — and weary — traveller, some of the those rules and suggested safety tips will be covered here to minimize confusion and avoid the possible loss of life or limb.
It’s a little-known fact that many of the forty thousand taxi drivers in Buenos Aires are former rugby players, usually angry over their too-short careers. They vent their frustration through aggressive, almost homicidal driving. Therefore, the first rule in Argentine street crossing is to look in both directions for the black and yellow cabs. If one is sighted within a hundred meters, stay on the corner until it has passed. In fact, we suggest taking a few steps back from the curb.
The traffic lights follow a red, yellow, green, yellow pattern which we will explain.
Red: Heavy cross traffic. DO NOT CROSS.
Yellow (1): Gentlemen, start your engines! DO NOT CROSS.
Green: Taxis are making vicious right or left-hand turns into the “scrum” of any pedestrians. DO NOT CROSS.
Yellow (2): Last minute drivers frantically trying to make the light. DO NOT CROSS.
So what can a person do here? The rule is simple: wait until there are no cars coming, then make a mad dash for the opposite corner similar to a base runner attempting to steal second. Take deep breaths and keep your motions fluid. Do not look behind you and above all, do NOT stop to assist a fellow crosser. If they stumble, they are beyond help. Save your-self!
More than most countries, Brazil is a melting pot of many different races. Natives, Negroid, Asian and Caucasian. This blending is best symbolized by the traffic signals found in the town of Foz, near the world-famous Iguasu Falls.
The first thing you notice is that the signals have a double row of flash-ing, alternating lights. Also, there are four colors: the usual red, yellow and green with a snazzy orange thrown in for some reason. (We suspect these devices were manufactured by a U.S. company whose specializa-tion is Los Vegas slot machines.) The local drivers somehow are able to make sense of these kaleidoscopes and know when to stop, go, or don sunglasses to reduce the glare. For you as a pedestrian, we recommend waiting until you see double green. This means it is either safe to cross, or you have just won the local lottery. Keep an eye out for any gold coins tumbling down the pole.
In regards to the other color combinations, contact a fortune teller or your horoscope to see which are most propitious for a safe crossing.
No need for special explanations; many of the stoplights simply do not work. They stand on the corner like metallic totem poles. In vain you will supplicate these traffic gods for guidance, but will be rewarded only with silence. Here you must proceed on your journey unaided, relying only upon your reflexes. Fortunately, most of the automobiles in the country are still owned by slow, white drivers.
Special Warning! People in this country drive on the left (as in wrong) side of the road. If you are from America, you’re instincts will have you looking in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic. Recall your grade school advice and look both ways.
This ultramodern city-state features charming little cookie-cutter figures beneath most of its traffic lights. Below are the meanings.
Green Man: OK to cross.
Flashing Green Man: Time is running short. Better get the lead out.
Red Man: Do we really need to explain this one?
Flashing Red Man: Don’t even think about it…
Flashing Red Man In Handcuffs: Whom are you going to contact for your one phone call?
Important Reminder: Jaywalkers, along with drug dealers, serial rapists and people who chew gum in public, can receive the death penalty in this country, so pay attention!
The wild traffic here is so deadly street corner vendors sell cigarettes and blindfolds to waiting pedestrians. The locals will usually cross halfway, then balance precariously on the thin yellow dividing line while tuk-tuks, cars and towering, multi-story tourist buses go rushing by in both direct-ions. Definitely not for the faint of heart or slightly overweight.
The key here is patience. Don’t overreact when you look down the street and see a mile-long line of vehicles storming your way. It might take a few minutes, but an opening will appear. When it does, scamper through! It’s especially helpful if you’ve had experience as an NFL running back.
If all else fails and you find yourself totally befuddled, simply follow the crowd. Try to position one of the more obese locals between you and the oncoming traffic as a sort of human air bag. And be careful not to get de-tached from the herd: stragglers are far more likely to be picked off.
Ultimately, you must keep in mind that you are a guest in these strange, hectic nations and confrontations are never a good idea with an adversary encased in two tons of rapidly moving steel. If the stress starts to get to you, take a deep breath and raise your right hand…to hail a cab.
If you can’t beat ’em, ride with ’em!