“Wat” A Day!

Pattaya

When my girlfriend Lawt proposed my visiting a Buddhist temple with her, I could not hide a snort of derision. What place do religious beliefs have in here in Pattaya, the Sodom and Gomorrah of Thailand? But when I realized the temple was far closer to my apartment than hers and might end up with her spending the night with me, I decided I was being a tad too judgmental.

The monks in Thailand have taken a vow of poverty, relying on public generosity. (Much like the homeless in Seattle, but without the public urination.) For that reason, Lawt brought along two bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. I suggested we also include some chips and salsa for the guys to enjoy as they followed the NFL playoffs on ESPN2, but Lawt felt this thoughtful gesture might be misinterpreted.

We rode to the temple on a pair of motorbike taxis handled by drivers with a rather flexible interpretation of the traffic laws. Any double yellow lines, for example, are ignored if there are no oncoming vehicles. Traffic lights are mere advisories and crossing pedestrians dive for cover. As a helpless passenger, all I could do was hold onto the driver’s shoulders and pray his body would absorb most of the impact of a collision.

The grounds of the wat contain a series of residential dwellings circling the central temple with its white pillars and gold-trimmed windows. Narrow, dark red rooftops radiated out from a blue and gold spire. (It made me wish I had brought a camera.) Our destination was one of the small houses on the far left-hand side of the compound. The stroll there was uneventful until we came across a small dog that let Lawt pass unmolested, but for some reason began barking at me. Snarling a bit myself, I nevertheless backed away. As it began edging closer, I pulled out one of the mangos we were taking to the wise man and made throwing motions. Apparently fruit assaults are a common form of canine discipline as the mutt retreated.

When we arrived at the house, I elected to stay outside, fearful that the monk would ask about the mangled mango. A few minutes later I found myself wishing I’d kept it when a second dog began barking at me. But this one was too lazy to get up and advance upon the heathen intruder. At this point I began to wonder why supposedly gentile and peace-loving men kept such mean animals for pets. The only kind of enlightenment I could see coming from a dog bite would be an intimate knowledge of the rabies vaccination series.

Lawt’s session with the monk took about fifteen minutes. When she re-emerged from the house, she went to a small tree growing in the front yard and sprinkled water at its base. This act seemed to bring her a measure of inner contentment. I did not have the heart to tell her that while she was inside, one of Buddha’s Fidos had already watered the sapling. For all I know, that could have been part of the ritual.

Victimized!

Pattaya

It was not supposed to turn out like this. I was simply walking home after a shopping trip, anticipating an evening of pool at a local bar I’d come to like. You know, the kind where everybody knows your name. Suddenly, I heard that name being called.

“Monte! Monte!” It seemed to be coming from somewhere…above me? Yes indeed. Waving from the top floor balcony of the hotel above the corner restaurant was my old drinking foe Lawt. I knew the girls from the bar where she worked had rooms there, but did not expect to run into any of them. Least of all her.

A quick glance around confirmed there was no place I could easily hide. The large tree next to the road did not afford enough cover. Same with the parked motorbike. There was a sewer grate that had partially slid off its foundation, but I did not like the symbolism. So I had to face the music. Turning up towards Lawt, I forced a smile, resisting the impulse to raise both arms in surrender. Yet she was happy to see me, a smile of her own breaking out on a dark face framed with that flowing black hair I like so much in women.

It is hard to make conversation with someone perched three floors above you. We swapped greetings, to which I added that I would stop by her bar that night. Just being friendly. It would be foolhardy to upset a woman whose balcony I have to walk under half a dozen times a day.

I showed up that evening later than usual, hoping that my admirer might already have a customer to keep her occupied. But of course not (and just where was the Viagra Brigade when I needed them?). Oh well, there are worse ways to spend an evening than having drinks with a Thai lady. In fact, when Lawt began complaining about the exhausting hours she was having to work (and the conditions are not that pleasant), I found myself actually feeling sorry for her. Almost impulsively, I made an offer.

“How about coming back to my apartment, and I’ll give you a massage?” Just a massage. I was a bit tired myself and in no mood for any special gymnastics.

“OK, but no boom-boom.” Meaning no sex. Looked like we were on the same page.

“No boom-boom,” I agreed, making it official.

It figured to be a normal evening featuring my trademark smoothness. I’d make sure she had a relatively clean towel — sans perfume from my last date — for her shower. Then maybe a slow dance or two before I put her out for the night with my magic hands. If all went well, I’d be fast asleep myself by 11:30.

But this woman confounded me. The shower, the music, and the rubdown all went like clockwork. Lawt seemed to be well on the way to slumberland. I got into my side of the bed, laid back, and congratulated myself on being such a fine person. But when I glanced over, Lawt was lifting the covers, beckoning me closer. One thing led to another and before I knew it, sleep was the last thing on either of our minds.

Afterwards, however, I was annoyed. I had paid this lady to not have sex with me and dammit, should have gotten my money’s worth. The women over here do not appear to understand that when a horny, middle-aged man gets into bed with them and says “no”, he means it. Well, sort of.

At least I am not going to take this abuse lying down. From this day onward I will draw a line in the sheets, beyond which they will never again pass. And I highly resolve that my bruised self-image shall see new birth of confidence, and that this fine Thai city, of the dirty old men, by the dirty old men and for the dirty old men, shall not perish from the earth.

A Close Encounter

Pattaya

My arrival in mid-October had predated the busy tourist season by a few weeks. With the “hot” women yet to arrive in numbers, the ones manning the neighborhood bars were not very high quality — raucous, bawdy and with intimidating tattoos. One night, after two Rum & Cokes with a lady who had an image of a dragon disemboweling a naked man on her right thigh, I decided to try the live music bar just down the street. In the past this had featured Thai waitresses attired in uniforms worn by high school girls. I have always been a supporter of education and decided to see how their, ah, classes were progressing.

To my disappointment, school was not in session. In place of the young “students” I fondly recalled was a somewhat dispirited collection of older (as in over twenty-five) ladies mulling about. No Westerner was in sight, so I had the bar entirely to myself. 

The gun-chewing waitress who came over to be my intellectual stimulation for the evening was named Lawt. To help break the ice, I got out the Thai language cheat sheet I use for basic communication. It has the usual greetings, names of Thai dishes, and useful questions that together allow me to function in this country. On the back are more sophisticated phrases to be employed when extending the hand of friendship towards the opposite sex. Some examples: “What is your name? How much for one night? Will you come home with me now?”

Lawt ponderously examined the first page (I was not going to let her see the other side until after she’d had a few drinks). There was none of the usual admiration Thai bar girls effortlessly fake upon meeting a foreigner trying to learn their language. No reaction at all in fact. It seemed a long evening was at hand.

But I am nothing if not ambitious. Adopting a slow, sustainable pace with red wine coolers, I encouraged Lawt to order any kind of concoction she wished. When she confessed that her miserly boss partially deducted any alcoholic drinks the girls had from their pay, I offered to make up the difference.

The hours passed and the band played on. Slowly I could sense a subtle change in Lawt as the alcohol began to work its magic. For one thing, it became harder to sip my coolers as she leaned into me, pinning one arm against the chair while she pawed at the other. Clearly the time had come to make my move, especially since I was losing feeling in my extemities. It was then, just as I had managed to re-extract my cheat sheet and was stumbling through my “please come home with me” line, that things took an unexpected turn. It began when Lawt, taking advantage of my liquor largess, had a huge bottle of beer brought to the table with two glasses of ice. Turns out this was not for us to share, but for her and one of the other waitresses.

Well all right! For a brief moment, I had the heady feeling of someone who has baited a mouse trap and returned to find it has ensnared not one, but two of the lovable little creatures. In this, the very bar where I’d once learned the importance of having a backup lady. But it bothered me that Lawt had not asked permission to get an extra glass for her friend. And the choice of beer did not sit well with my proud self-image as a Pacific Northwest wine taster. What unpleasantness would I have to endure next, I wondered.

When Lawt offered me a sip, I tried to pass, explaining I preferred wine. She responded by grabbing the back of my neck and forcing my head down towards the glass. It felt like I was pledging a fraternity. Desperately I tried to hold on to my Seattle haughtiness by frantically reciting names of famous varietals: “Chardonnay! Bordeaux! Boone’s Farm!” But my dominatrix remained unrelenting.

In the end I escaped by breaking from her grasp, stepping to one side and pretending to dance to the live music. The girls mistook my gyrations for an epileptic seizure, and I regret I’ve had to take advantage of this ruse so early in the season. But it was either that or a bottle of iced, San Miguel Light. My self-respect would never have recovered.

Thai Tigress

Pattaya, Thailand

“Nice to meet you. My name Neon.”

When entering a Thailand watering hole, I first look for a pool table, then a halfway cute partner. Failure to select someone means you will likely be paired with one of the less attractive girls while the bar proprietor keeps the “lookers” stationed out front to draw in more suckers. Neon clearly stood out, then further impressed me by taking one out of three games of Eight Ball. As one who has little patience with women who whiff shots then giggle uncontrollably, her left-handed, no-nonsense pool stroke was refreshing. I quickly bought her a beer as I nursed a Jim Beam and coke.

Unlike the U.S., when you buy a woman a drink in a Thai bar, the question is not if she will go home with you but when. It definitely cuts through the BS one runs across back home and most important, eliminates the need for the guy to have some dynamite pickup line. (Me, I could not talk an alcoholic into entering a liquor store.)

With the booze flowing, we soon were having a merry time, not really caring who won each game. Soon I broached the idea of our going home together, with Neon quickly consenting. Paying her bar fine (the fee for taking a girl out of the establishment), I gallantly escorted her around the corner and up the street to my studio apartment.

In my room I already had the usual weapons of mass romance in place: candles, Elton John’s greatest hits, a used towel immaculately folded, a used toothbrush carefully inserted back into its wrapper… For one frightening moment I feared I had misplaced the condoms, but when I brushed against my suitcase and it rebounded off the wall, I realized where they were.

Nevertheless, there was one unforgivable oversight: I had forgotten the wine! What was Neon going to think, entering an apartment that lacked a robust Chardonnay?

There are moments in your life when you stand at the precipice. When the difference between ruin and redemption hinge on a few well-chosen words.

Neon supplied them: “You have whiskey?” A pretty, lithe, brown woman with a mischievous smile asking if I had hard liquor?!?! This was beyond anything I had ever fantasized about. Nervously, I suggested that though I was out at the moment, perhaps a run to the nearby 7-11 could be done to pick up a bottle (or two or three).

Neon said that was fine and while I was out she would take a shower.

The neighborhood 7-11 is right around one hundred meters from the front gate of my apartment building. I made it there in .03 of a second under the gold medal time at the Beijing Olympics.

Arriving back at the love nest with the booze, I immediately poured her a Seagram’s and water, then hurriedly took a shower of my own. A few minutes later I was back in the room and noticed her empty glass.

This concerned me. Had she spilled it? Seeing no evidence, I decided to make her a second drink and stood slack-jawed as it quickly vanished.

“I corny! You make me very corny!”, Neon suddenly and repeatedly exclaimed as she climbed onto the bed and began sliding towards me. (And just what the hell was she saying? Horny?)

To my horror, and far too late, I realized the monster I’d created. Grabbing the Seagram’s bottle (the one non-organic object with a chance of sustaining her attention), I slowly backed into the bathroom. In a last, desperate attempt to stave off a sexual version of the Alamo, I raised it over my head. “Stop!” I cried, trying to keep the terror out of my voice. “You try boom-boom me, no drink more whiskey!”.

My neighbor found me the next morning. The door was partly open and I was curled up in a fetal position in a corner of the room, mumbling something about Davey Crockett. I was taken by a friend to a local physician who prescribed some sedatives while gently poo-pooing the idea of a woman with an uncontrollable sex drive. While intrigued to have met a Thai who had obviously married an American girl from the Midwest, I nevertheless tried to convince him of the lethality of the local species and the need to warn other foreigners. But it was an exercise in futility. Finding his condescending attitude infuriating, I finally stormed out of the office.

That afternoon I left an envelope addressed to Neon at her bar. Inside was the doctor’s business card. I figured he deserved a walk on the wild side.

asian-tigress

A Languid Day in the Life

Pattaya, Thailand

My flung beer bottles from prior mornings having missed their target, my aforementioned little winged friend has become more pugnacious with shrill, predawn chirping; a kind of feathery alarm clock. But I am getting used to it, plus getting up in the tropics is a simple affair with a minimum of clothing and effort: roll out of bed, don a t-shirt and shorts, gulp a few swallows of beer along with a slice of leftover pizza (part of this complete breakfast!), and I am all set for the new day.

The rules at the apartment require the residents to leave their high heels, shoes, and sandals outside on the front steps. My half-decade-old tennies are always recognizable by the encircling pile of dead ants and roaches who ventured too close in the night. A Thai Pest Control company has contacted me about selling my footwear. I’m waiting until there are holes in the soles of both shoes.

But before I tally up the Nike body count, my first chore is to sneak by the lady in the lobby who handles the apartment business and serves as my informal Thai teacher. Every morning she has a new, practical, but largely incomprehensible phrase for me to learn, making me feel even more foolish than usual. Slipping past her unnoticed is the only reliable way of avoiding my lesson. I tread lightly and quickly.

First up is a stop at the local laundromat to pick up my clothes. For some inexplicable reason, each time I drop off my laundry, it takes them longer to do it. It used to be around twenty-four hours — ready by 10:00 a.m. the next day. Then the time slid to noon, and now it’s approaching late afternoon. At this rate I’ll soon be needing a lunar calendar to follow the schedule: drop off during the waxing crescent moon, pick up when it’s full.

There’s always some uncertainty about the garments I’m getting back. This time I am surprised to re-discover my ragged Las Vegas t-shirt! This had disappeared after the last cleaning, and I’d assumed Thai health codes had forced the laundress to condemn it. But no, it had been simply misplaced. Perhaps to atone for that mistake, the woman has this time added a pair of low-cut, white socks with ‘Elvis’ labels on them. Out of curiosity I try them on, and the fit is so comfortable I decide not to make a fuss.

There is a spring in my step as I continue down the street, now attired in the latest Thai fashion. Elvis has left the laundromat!

Twenty-one years as a programmer have infected me with a technology craving, satiated through a few hours in an internet cafe. On Youtube, I bring up Al Stewart’s 1977 song of Asian infatuation (Year of the Cat) and let the haunting melody and searing instrument solos wash over me while I check my messages, my gaze continually sliding off the screen towards the Thai waitresses. Being in the midst of the real thing causes the tune to resonate in a way that no video could hope to achieve. Soft memories from my college days (when the word “cat” referred to a pet) overlap with the pleasures of the present. The immature, twenty-year-old, girl-crazy student merges with the immature, fifty-something, salivating old man I have proudly become. True lust never dies!

Following the morning’s chores (and a lunch at McDs), it is time for a well-deserved afternoon siesta. To combat the stifling heat in my room, I position an electric fan no more than five inches from my head and set it on high. Calvin Coolidge, the largely inert thirtieth president of the United States, made a habit of these kinds of snooze sessions. Imagine napping in the White House… A man must never lose sight of his dreams.

For the evening, I decide to stay home and watch some sports on TV. I’ve become especially interested in the game of cricket after having seen a televised match while in Cape Town early last year. Last week I was able to tune in and catch the end of it. There’s a new match this week between the Aussies and England, but I may be in the U.S. in eighteen month’s time and will therefore not be able to catch the conclusion.

Eventually, middle-aged drowsiness and the sudden barking of the dogs beneath my window signals it is time for bed. I re-position my shorts and t-shirts on the same chair as the night before, pour all the leftover beer into a single bottle, and stuff the three slices of pizza into the vegetable bin of the refrigerator (they do after all have green peppers). With my valuables thus safely secured and my earplugs in, I sleep soundly.

messy-apt

Be it ever so humble.

4 Dog Night

Pattaya, Thailand

It is the beginning of calendar winter as the tropical morning sun peeks into my window, warming the room. Having declined to find a companion the evening before, I permit myself the luxury of sleeping in, stretching out over the double bed.

I am awakened, as I have been the past three mornings, by the frenzied warbling of some exotic bird. It sounds like he is right outside my window, sharing with me his joy over the new day.

If he stays there any longer, I’m going to peg the noisy little bastard with a beer bottle.

But no, I had promised myself that I am stockpiling that ammunition for the local dog chorus whose performance begins around 10:30 each night in the vacant lot next to the apartment building. Usually it begins with an impassioned solo by a mixed-breed Rottweiler, reaching out to all other canines within hearing and inviting them to add their yelps of yearning.

For the second movement, two bedraggled Fox Terrier tenors from across the street add their mournful laments. Harmonizing with the Rottweiler like water in Gravy Train, the trio builds towards an irresistible, ragged crescendo that can briefly restore hearing loss.

It is the French Poodle’s staccato-like outbursts which define the third and final movement. Rising above the drawn-out howls, its endless yapping radiates a shrill warning for postmen everywhere. As the ferocity gathers, the maelstrom begins to crowd out all other night sounds. The universe has become an all-encompassing cacophony of barks and yelps from which there is no auditory escape.

The silence that follows the climax is stunning in its emptiness. Slowly, hesitantly, other animals begin filling the late evening with their gentler serenading. The simple chirping of the cricket, the lonely meow of a distant cat…..and the warbling of that damn bird!

The evening’s guest soloist.

Advice From A…Ladies Man?

Pattaya, Thailand

First, some forthright Pattaya candor is called for. The ladies are here for the money. To take a bar girl home costs anywhere from thirty-five dollars for a few hours (known as “short time”) to the entire night for maybe twice that. Note that the prices will, from your perspective, fluctuate in accordance with the exchange rate. Not that this really enters into the calculations once you’ve had three Tiger beers and the girl is rubbing your arm and looking at you like you are the most handsome man she’s seen in years.

So how does one handle an evening with a woman more interested in the wallet in your back pocket instead of anything on the opposite side of the body? Here are some of my secrets honed over the course of almost ten nights of diligent study.

Apartment Setup
Toothbrushes
Have three or four in the bathroom ready and waiting. Recommend you keep a separate one for each of your special friends with their name on it. Do not be afraid to leave them lying out. This lets your date know you are a bona-fide Ladies Man (called a “butterfly” in Thailand) and gives you a bit of leverage in what is, after all, a business relationship.

Wine?
Do NOT make the mistake of getting some fancy-pants French vintage that you can barely pronounce. This only would confirm a Thai’s view of you as a rich wimp who cannot get girls without a barrel of alcohol. You might as well just open your wallet and shake out the bills.

Instead, consider Thai wine. Or Listerine Mouthwash to save a few baht. They taste about the same.

Condoms
The real challenge here is not in avoiding the life-threatening STDs, but rather the tenacious cellophane wrapping the packages come in, which seem to have been designed to withstand a terrorist attack. Begin your efforts to open these early in the afternoon while still sober. Use a sharp knife, or if the seal is particularly resistant, explosives.

Hitting The Streets
Choosing A Bar
Amble slowly down the street, keeping an eye out for ones that have a few attractive faces with hardly any foreign customers, thus assuring that you will have the bulk of their attention. This is called the “lone rooster in the hen house” approach and is one of my favorite methods.

Choosing A “Date”
As you enter the establishment, you will be confronted by a harem of smiling ladies. Slow down and give yourself a chance to select one that strikes your fancy. Do not worry about reciprocal feelings. Despite her attentions, she’s there for the money.

Now here is how the game is played: she will encourage you to buy a few rounds for the two of you. Do not take offense; this is part of her job. To pace yourself, go with mixed drinks, which the bartenders water down to the level of Kool-Aid.

Eventually, if you have not made any moves, she will ask if you would like to take her home. Hypothetically speaking, you now have a decision to make, but in reality you are as much in control of the situation as Custer at Little Big Horn. Do not waste precious energy deliberating. In many ways, the choice was made the day you bought the plane ticket here.

Home Again, Home Again
For most of the men in Pattaya, foreplay begins and ends with the sound of their trousers being unzipped. I would like to go beyond that pseudo-Neanderthal approach with a few romantic suggestions.

Music & Slow Dancing
For the first date, let her dial in one of the local radio stations to find something she likes. (All Thai music is going to sound the same to you.) Then, when a halfway slow tune is played, gently take both her hands and ask if she likes to dance. If so, try to keep it simple. The awkward, stuttering steps you learned in the junior high school gym will suffice. Pattaya is basically a bunch of middle-aged men reliving juvenile fantasies anyway. As you embrace and she rests her young head trustingly on you shoulder, run your hands through her hair and reflect that this could not happen to you in a hundred years in America. At least not without risking arrest.

I call this move “embracing diversity”. Keep this phrase in mind when you return home and are interrogated about your vacation.

Candlelight
This can really make a good impression, probably because fire was only discovered in this country within the last century. However, it can be difficult to start if you are using one of those cheap lighters from the 7-Eleven. Be especially careful if you are somewhat intoxicated; you might get the fire going, but in the process lose your balance and set more than just the candle ablaze.

The Act
Remember when those touchy-feely books came out with advice on how to give a woman ecstatic pleasure? Forget about them. Instead relax and immerse yourself in the moment. Get in touch with those inner feelings!

The Morning After
In many ways this is one of the best times. The lady sleeps in, then takes a shower, grabs her purse (along with your money) and is gone. No guilt or remorse. No concerns regarding whether you are emotionally available or are struggling with “issues”. No demands about being respectful of each other’s needs. Just the sound of the door closing.

Suggest going right back to sleep. You will be needing the energy, for tonight the game begins anew!

james-bond