Top Gear

Posted in autobiography, cars, gears, reminiscence, taxis by expatatlarge on March 9, 2011

Now I has been around for a while. No, not round, *A*round. OK, maybe just round as well.

One of my first memories is that of being in a car and turning into the street of the house in which I would grow up. If my memory serves me right (what were we talking about?) I was in the back seat, either that or “in the back” behind the back seat, in the luggage space of our blue Hillman Hunter (sorry Milos, no relation), similar to the one below, but an Estate (wagon). Hence the child accessible rear space. I used to love it back there. A playroom as we drove! Before mum told me off (crazy woman thought it was unsafe!) and I had to crawl forward to the rear seat, or even over again to the front seat. There, I’d put my head in mum’s lap as she drove and I’d go to sleep. Snug, safe. Those were the days of wonder and innocence.

But one thing troubled me about driving with mum from Colac, or from Melbourne, back home. How could she stay awake for over an hour? It was beyond me. My sister and I counted the lines whisping underneath us (or so it seemed – I hope mum wasn’t driving in the middle of the road!) one whisp, two whisp, three whisp, bored. Asleep in three minutes. Maybe someone else came in magically and drove for her, maybe there was an auto-pilot that only came on when I was asleep… I’d wake up and we’d be home, turning up the drive.

The car, back to the car, would have been a 1956 vintage, or maybe an earlier model. My father died in 1957 and maybe it was his car. Was it? [Maybe my sister will correct me on this. ADD: No, mum bought it when she came back to Colac – Dad worked and died in Shepparton]

I have always held this memory precious as one of three that I recollect from when I was aged three years old. The other two are not relevant here (though I do miss when our pretty young maid used to bathe me so gently, so slowly and so comprehensively.*)

OK then, the real second: Grandmas’s birthday was one day before mine, and there was an upsurge of disappointment I felt when the penny dropped that this big family gathering at my Uncle Ed’s was for her, not me. For my birthday I received a plastic pencil holder, full of colored pencils, that was shaped like a pencil. I recall holding it, and stifling a sob. I recall the emotion as vividly as I recall the party.

Third: looking at a dark brick house, up near Geelong College primary school, that I think Mum was considering buying before the house in the other street, (car, corner, remember)? This was an emotionally neutral occasion, thankfully.

Mum was changing gear as we turned the corner. I can see the car from the outside, in a wide-view, turning past the empty block on one corner and the Smith’s (not that name but I can’t remember) on the other. How can I have seen this view and remember it so vividly when all the while I was in the car? Spooky mystic weird. It’s a mystery.

Since that time I have been in many, many vehicles. I remember being driven to the Saturday morning Legacy children’s group in Mr Grenville (name? Paula help me out, again)’s Mercedes. His model had a speedometer like a barber’s pole – weird, eh? It was the first car with automatic transmission I had been in. I was maybe six or seven. I was cheeky, I was restless, I was who I am now, only more-so (as I have said before.)

All the other cars mum owned (a 1966 Holden HR, registration JPZ-367, a 1972 Datsun 180B – second hand) or any that my older sister owned (can’t remember the makes, but one of them was so light we nearly got blown off the West-Gate Bridge when I borrowed it one time [or was she driving?] – another time we were stoned/pissed and got pulled over by the police, and I talked my way out of it, amazing since I could hardly stand up [don’t tell her OK?]) when I was growing up (to the point of getting married, the growing up stopped) were manual transmissions.

Mum gave me the HR when I left school so I could drive to LaTrobe Uni (and to the beach), and she kept the 180B (which was the car I did my license test in). I promptly lost my license for speeding in the HR two months later. I used to run out of petrol all the time too. I once put 42c of petrol in and expected to get to Bell’s Beach and back… Idiot.

The first car I bought myself was after I was married (or just before). It was a Triumph TC2000. It only broke down four times a month. The sump cover was held on with three bolts (one stripped) and a mess of gasket-goo rather than four bolts. It had a nice 4-gear stick-shit in the centre console and was great fun to drive. Once, early on, the transmission seized in the middle of an intersection in Torquay. I had gone surfing. The car just froze and people started tooting. I tried to push it out of the intersection, but it wouldn’t move, downhill even. It wouldn’t come out of second gear and the wheels wouldn’t turn. The road was semi-blocked by my car, which had a surfboard sticking out the window, until a tow-truck from an RACV garage came, an hour later and took it away.

We figured that the sales-yard had used the old trick of putting banana skins into the gear-box to silence the noise of wear.

It was not a station-wagon, though there was one in the yard but that one was beyond my meagre loan acceptance earnings. I have beautiful pictures of No1 son, then a curly-haired, rosy cheeked, completely lovable cherub of three himself, standing in the open rear trunk of this car. Why? I think we were packing for a picnic or unpacking from one, and had put him in there to keep him out from under our feet for a while. So funny. Note, it was not a station-wagon but still here is evidence of an hereditary need to get “in the back”.

Eventually all the breakdowns were getting too much for us and we had to get rid of it – note the wood panelling the doors! – before it drove us (ha ha) broker than what we were.

The next one that came was a Chrysler Sigma; yes, a station wagon (estate). And a big drop back in social status. Most of this model were branded Mitsubishi as they bought Chrysler out at about this time. It was Japanese car under the bonnet anyway. It turned out to be an ex-rental and I determined that the yard had wound back the mileage, as the service manual showed it had had its 30,000 km service while the clock read only 26,000km. I took photos of this. I got $400 bucks off (about 5% of the purchase price) when I threatened to take them to some authority or other and sue the bums. That was the first time I sold my soul, btw.

Then over a few years (maybe eight) as the Sigma started to fall apart, I sensed the embarrassment No1 son was feeling whenever I parked next to the Mercs and Beemers and Land Cruisers as I dropped him off at college. So I dumped it for next to nothing and went for a Holden/GM Berlina (the 5 litre V8 of course) – again a station wagon (notice the melancholy search for the warmth of love, the reassurance of having a mother [Dad had died, remember], of not being ignored as kid, of moving away to Geelong from those horrible people who hurt my feelings in Colac – as represented by my love of station-wagons. The fact that I could put my surfboards AND my golf clubs “in the back” had nothing to do with it) but this had an automatic transmission. I bought it at a big, reputable dealer this time. I was told it was an ex-rental. I was told the rear-end – the differential (another long story) – needed work. I was told that the electronic drive for the rear-left window was not going working. But at least it was not falling apart and it was presentable enough at school. This beast took me up and down from Melbourne to Sydney many a time after I had run away from home at 38 and had moved up there to work at Westmead Hospital.

No, I didn’t ever crash – I chose that photo because it was the same colour (white) and everything!


Once, on a holiday to Ireland, way before this car (was it late 1983 early 84?) we rented a car. There were five of us crammed into one the smallest cars in the world at that time (model?), even though we had ordered a medium sized vehicle. Another fucking shyster. As I was driving around, occasionally I would have to drop a gear, back into 3rd, say, whenever a leprechaun or a whiskey distillery jumped out in front of us. But sometimes, only sometimes, the car would unexpectedly lurch down, the engines would rumble instead of whine and the RPMs would DROP significantly. WTF? My father-in-law accused me of fucking up the gears, riding the clutch or something, basically calling me a bad driver – even though he was a mad dangerous skill-less killer himself behind the wheel. Then it happened to him and he realized something other than MY clutch-work was amiss!

We had been told (and it was etched into the gear-stick! and in the driver’s manual) that this car had a transmission with four gears. Guess what? It had an undocumented fifth gear! A fifth gear was a rarity in those days, a new luxury that had trickled down from the big boys. This is why we didn’t suspect it straight away. Four gears were new enough! The fifth gear had a lower ratio that, of course, was not meant to be engaged when I was trying to slow down, but rather when I was cruising! My father-in-law failed to apologize to me, btw.


And in my first few years here in Asia, taxis and the people driving me around all had manual transmissions. Then HK taxis went automatic, we guessed it was because so many drivers were fucking up their clutches, riding them up the steep-ish Cotton-Tree Drive towards Mid-levels or up to The Peak. So I moved to Singapore where taxis are still mostly manual. And here the drivers tend to ride the clutch too, but as there no hills in this Euclidean plane (i.e. two dimensional… i.e. flat) city/country, it’s not such a big strain on the gear-box…

(Made of candy-floss – will melt and disappear in rain)


Point of excessively long preamble down memory lane:

There is a very large, but finite and countable number of automobile gear changes that I have experienced in my life. Lots. Down – Up. 1>2>3>4>5<4<3<2<1 … Up – Down. Real lots of them. 53 years (nearly 54 – pay attention to FB) of driving or being driven in manual transmission cars. Think about it. So many changes of gears. Sure, sometimes you cruise for miles and miles without a change, but if you're in traffic you change (or you should) as the flow demands (or in an automatic, the car does it for you). There has been a lot of drive chain ratio changes that I have experienced. I'm thinking hundreds of thousands, if not more. Several trillion. Got the point? Let's move on to the punchline.


So, Monday (tonight is Wednesday) the plan is: drinks with Madame Chiang and Indy at a bar in the Esplanade Theatre complex, then I’m gonna be walking over the Helix Bridge to the Elvis Costello concert at the MBS, right? I SMS a taxi with my new Galaxy/Google Singapore Taxi app. Works well, SMS comes, my taxi is on its way…

E@L: The Esplanade.
TaxiDriver: Huh?
E@L: The Esplanade. The theatres.
TaxiDriver: Huh?
TaxiDriver: Huh?
TaxiDriver: Huh.
E@L: The ESS PLAR NARD. The Big Durian!
TaxiDriver: Oh, oh, OK. Durian, yes, can … We call that the Esplanade.
E@L: *aaaaarrrgggghhhh*


So we head off.

We start in 2nd gear and in the first 5 metres he has changed up to 3rd. Huh? As we come out of the driveway, he drops back to 2nd, then moves onto the road which requires 3rd obviously. As we putter forwards about 15km/h he goes up to 4th. Then we cruise down a slight incline and he goes down to 3rd, to gear-brake perhaps. He pumps the accelerator a bit, then back to 4th. We approach the intersection at D****** Rd and he pumps again and brakes at the same time, creating an inertia neutral event, but he doesn’t quite stop as the traffic comes along. He creeps in with the car in 2nd and as soon as he finds a slot between the oncoming cars he goes to 3rd. Before he straightens the wheel to follow the road he is in 4th. Pump. This is weird.

He drops back to 3rd again. The traffic light ahead is green so he moves up to 4th and down to 3rd again just to be sure. Obviously he is not certain. Pump. Because he shifts up again to 4th, and decides to go back to 3rd. Maybe 4th was better after all. Pump… I KID YOU NOT!

This went on for at least 15mins until I got to the Durian/Esplanade,(near the new Marina Bay Sands). Gear change, pump, gear change, pump. Relentless. At least four to five changes as we went past Chjimes (a small block) at 40km/h – maybe 4 secs.

There is something wrong here. This man has a psychological problem. That is why he was deemed suitable for a career in the taxi driving profession!

He is one of the millions and millions of taxi drivers in Singapore, and Hong Kong to be fair, who are fucking nutters, with ticks and jerks and obsessive-compulsive disorders. One of my friends thought I was joking about this, that I was making it all up. Then one night, as we shared a cab to Clarke Quay, I nudged him to look up – the taxi driver was sweeping his hand back over his greasy hair every five seconds. Sweep. Sweep. Tourrette’s.

There’s something going on. I was told today that I sound like a conspiracy theorist. There’s nothing like the facts – someone IS sending these crazy people to drive me around for a goddamn reason! And it can only be that the GAHMEN tracking my movements, in case I do or say something seditious!


Meanwhile, back to gear changes…


Sigh. I kid you not.


* wasn’t this a case study from Freud?

Not Self-Aware (I Am a Tourist In My Own Life)

Posted in autobiography, tourists, travel trouble, writing by expatatlarge on July 10, 2009

I have real trouble turning off my internal narrator. The enthusiasm of this continuous monologue is what first made me think I should try my pen at writing/blogging. Then I found out most people have a voice inside their heads who comments on the action, that other people have their own internal narrators and that I was not unique after all. How disappointing, I thought it was just me. But no, we all have one.

Except for those people who, as Izzy insists, are Not Self Aware.

Like the guy tonight that everyone in our cheap Outback style Chiang Mai restaurant found out was from Las Vegas. He lives here, we all leanred, but those people he was with before, they were not his FREINDS, they were his NEIGHBOURS. The Vegan guy would not shut-up. He kept talking continuously at indiscreet volumes to the two Thai girls at his table. On and on he goes. “That happened to my mom, who is,” he leans forwards and speaks slowly, “EIGHT EE SIX YEARS OLD.” They kept eating, not looking at him. Wondering, what the fuck is he yelling at us about? No doubt. He then sends back his steak because it is “a touch more medium than well done. I prefer it more WELL-DONE/medium than medium/well-DONE, as I requested, so could the chef please JUST COOK it a little bitty MORE, thank you sir, I’d appreciate that.” The blank-faced waiter nodded and took the meat back to the kitchen, shrugging his shoulders to the chef.

My waiter rolled his eyes. Tourists. Not self aware, as a species.

This guy could not be self-aware as the voice in his head would not be able to get a word in edgewise. I often wonder, are people who talk incessantly like this capable of… like, *contemplating* anything? Can they ever stop… and just… think? Ever? Are they afraid of what their inner narrator might tell them?

I’m trying to get rid of my inner narrator. I was once told he is slowing me down. Then again, other people say that I think too much. I’m not doing any thinking, of course, I’m just listening to the inner narrator. I’ve been presuming he’s been doing the thinking for both if us and therefore knows what he’s doing, and ergo facto, so do I.

Perhaps I should study my Eckhart Tollë a little more, eh? BE in my present. Stop listening to that inner voice. Stop worrying about the future and regretting the past (which is what my inner voice is or should be talking about, according to Tollë, rather than saying mundane things like “Long shot: Phillip picks up his fork and examines it for traces of dirt”).

And keep those cheques and money orders coming in, says Eckhart.

Yes, I should stop being an actor in the movie that is my life and just live it without awareness. Like a brain-washed new-age zombie. Like a tourist.

As long as I am alive to live it that is.

I just hope that they way to achieve this inner calm is not by talking loudly to uncomprehending people in restaurants, like a total wanker.


The country town of Nan was a bit quiet last night.

Street market at 9pm. More street than market.


My narrator was haranguing me on helium for the drive back from Nan (on the Nan river, same river that flows through Phitsanulok from two weeks ago) to Chiang Mai; he was having a field day. I only wish I could recall some of it for you. Passages of great descriptive power, episodes of dramatic irony and then some of irony and drama by themselves. Discourses of great social and political import. All of them concerning feats of dangerous driving even more harrowing than earlier in the week. Feats to leave you gasping. More knife-edge curves and split-second swerves… More good luck than good decisions on the corners… It got to the point were E@L had to say, “Please DON’T text while you are driving at twice the recommended speed, on the wrong side of the road, going into a blind curve, with the setting sun right in your eyes!!”

Reply; a pleasant “Hoka-ay. No ploblem. Solly.”

As I couldn’t sleep due to anxiety for the first hour of this trip and due to a full bladder for the last, I also wish that the pictures from my mental camera could be downloaded to share with you. Other than close-ups of oncoming trucks, I mean. Snaps of rice paddies reflecting the burnished clouds of sunset and the silhouettes of the hills.

Oops missed the rice paddies.

Snaps of the teak jungles draped in a suffocating omnipresent vine infestation. Snaps of village markets, rickety shanties on those hillsides, plus large modern mansions with satellite antennae. Snaps of the weather-beaten, lined and tanned face of the man pushing a tractor-tyred cart to the market, or the weary grandmother in traditional hill-tribe dress keeping a hand on the exhuberant children under her supposed control right by the road-side.

I think next time I’ll go by bus.

This bus pulled up next to us at the lights in Lampuang.

Somebody, please explain.


Nan — With The Lot II

Posted in autobiography, Bruce, Thai girls, Thailand, travel trouble by expatatlarge on July 8, 2009

E@L was kidnapped today. Taken from the Chiang Mai airport, whisked off in a dark van by a person who spoke no English, and driven for hours into places unknown.

“Are we going to my hotel?” asked E@L. “Le Meridien in Chiang Mai. I have booked on the internet for tonight until next Friday.”

The driver looked confused. “No go Chiang Mai. Tonight I go witchew Nan.”

Nan. That was the name of the hospital E@L was to do the demo at tomorrow.

“But tonight I stay Chiang Mai hotel, right”

“No, no. I take you Nan.” It is a very long ‘a’ in Nan: Naaaaaaahn.

We had been driving for two hours already, which is why E@L thought he had better check.

“Nan is, tree, tree… tree tousant kilometer. Take [he held up three fingers] four hours more to drive. You go Nan two day, Chiang Mai I drive you Friday.”

Shit. For some reason, E@L had done this trip’s accommodation booking himself, online. That means he had to pay in advance. Shit. He had no idea that Nan Hospital was not in Chiang Mai. That there was actually an entire province, 200km (not 3000) from Chiang Mai, called Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn.

E@L had confirmed with the Thai team about the trip twice, to makes sure there’d been no schedule changes. Yes, you can book, schedule no change. But no-one mentioned that Naaaaaaaahn was a separate place, distinct from Chiang Mai and that a separate hotel booking had to be made.

Shit. Why had E@L decided this one time to book himself and not just turn up, expecting everything to have been done for him? Mainly because they normally put him up in a shit hotel (the Imperial Pei) when he goes to Chiang Mai (which is rarely).

So he’s gone searching online for nice deals at better establishments – like maybe a Lanna Villa somewhere, or maybe there’d be a special at a top-line hotel, seeing as how the Thailand Tourist Industry is a basket case at the moment. And there was. The lady who organizes his Thai trips could not get a better corporate rate than the on-line rate for the classy new Le Meridien in the heart of town, so she said he could book it himself. She neglected to tell him that he’d only need it from Friday, not from Wednesday.

Shit. Amazing drive though, over three mountain ranges. Fantastic scenery. Village tribes in hovels, kids playing by the side of the road, water-buffalo being driven up paths, terraced crops on the hillsides, wild jungle in several national parks, waterfalls,… As mentioned, it is about 200km as the crow flies, but more like 350km by road. Long and Very Winding Road. And it was lock to lock for the entire freaking trip across those mountains. E@L tried to sleep but was getting tossed awake at every corner. Sleep would have helped him not see the danger at each glance where his driver cut across the double yellow lines or overtook slower vehicles on the approach to a blind corner or a crest. And going as fast as he could, of course. Eventually, as they were coming into yet another blind hair-pin bend at speed and the driver pulled out across double yellow lines to overtake about 40 yards before the corner, E@L had to cry out: “No, no, pull back! Please, stop trying to kill me, OK?”

“OK, solly,” the driver said, and from there on in he went like a grandmother going to church on Sunday. It took nearly six hours.

p.s. The hotel in Nan is shit.

(…but it has free Internet.)


I swear to doG I am going to die on one of these business trips. I’ve told you before. Check the old blog. Forget the immense cardiovascular risk factors, strokes, heart-attacks and prostate cancer.

E@L has his date with destiny as a passenger in a Datsun.


(Something to tide you over. From The Chronicles of Bruce)

Bruce finished his burger, licked his lips and scrunched up the burger-juice-filled paper to place it in the ash-tray.

Remember ash-trays? Remember cigarettes?

“True story,” he said. Immediately I went into disbelief mode. It must have showed. “I kid you not.” And he put on this butter-wouldn’t-melt look which was quite hilarious on someone with his school-of-hard-knocks appearance. Big shoulders and arms to match his belly, a huge red head with no hair and a bristly goatee and moustache on his acne-pocked face. His thick fingers hardly seem long enough to wrap around the stubbie holder of Beer Chang, but he had already put two down while nibbling on his burger.

“OK” I said, “the hamburger story, let’s hear it.”

“Righto,” he laughed and wet his whistle. “You know Soi Cowboy, right? You’re not a total beginner here, right?”

I nodded. I knew it. I fingered the label on my coaster.

“Here’s the set-up: This is a few years ago, before I was living here. We had this work do in Bangkok, training, marketing, whatever. We’d been at it in the conference room all day, so then we moved on and had few beers and some Thai nosh at Cabbages and Condoms , you know it? Soi 16, not bad grub if it’s your first time in Thailand, not too pricky. Know what I mean?

Prik is chili, isn’t it?” I half-guessed, the bulge of a Thai phrase-book in my pocket.

“Correct. Full points. And afterwards, we put the most of the ladies into a couple of tuk-tuks, while the boys and I, plus one or two of the more… adventurous, or maybe broad-minded is what I mean to say… anyway two of the ladies from the company joined us, and we crossed over the road to Asok and went to Cowboy to check out the show at Long Gun. We stayed there a while, watched the banana popping show and the lesbian show… The girls thought it was hilarious, but tame. It could be pretty gross for some I guess, but not as bad as it used to be at over the road there at Nana, pre-Thaksin. But these ladies they thought it was a tame! They wanted to see some real on-stage fucking. I swear to God, women, I’ll never understand ’em. I had to take the girls to a gay-boy show next night, see some real action, but that’s another story.

“Anyway, it was getting late and no bird in the bar had really taken my fancy. I suppose I was in one of those moods, you know how it is. You can get so over the whole girlie bar racket, right? Some of the other lads had hooked with a bar-girl each and had already headed off to some short-time hotel, or maybe they’d risked the 1000Bht surcharge for a guest at the hotel, I don’t know.

“There were four of us left, the two company ladies, and one other guy – we called him L-G (or Algie, like from that Oscar Wilde, some play…) We called him that because it was his idea to come to Long-Gun tonight, as it’s his favorite place – obviously it was, because he knew the girls’ names and he had already picked up his favorite, a girl called Pim, he’d taken her out a few times before. Actually there were five of us, counting her. And then there was me, with no lady… We were walking along the Cowboy strip up to Soi23 past all the theme bars to find a taxi when L-G noticed a hamburger stand right at the end. There was a girl buying a burger there. She was in normal clothes, a bit suggestive, but not in the uniform of one of the bars on the strip.

“I said – They looked good.

” – The hamburgers or the girls? Long-Gun asked me and everybody laughed.

“I said – I meant the burgers.

“So he said to me – Why didn’t you get one?

” – Burger? I asked.

“He said – No, the girl! There’s one right there for you, and you can share the burger with her as well. It’s a bargain!

“This pretty girl, she was a stunner actually, had paid and was just collecting her burger and turning to walk away when Long Gun approached her. I swear to God he said, – My friend is very shy, he would like to take you home tonight. Indicating to me. She stopped, looked at me for a second and smiled, and then she nodded!

“Well as you can imagine I was very embarrassed, but I got over it. We got in the taxi together with her still eating her burger. We went back to my hotel, I paid the excess and she stayed the night. And she was brilliant in bed. I kid you not, some of the best sex I’ve ever had. Just a random girl who happened to be standing at a burger stand. And she was lovely and polite, and had this perfect body. It was amazing.”

Bruce was rubbing his chin and staring out over my shoulder.

“Did you get her name, her number?” I asked him. “Did you ever go with her again?”

He gradually focused back on to me. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t want to have her number, I might be tempted to call her. That’s not how I operate. I’m not like L-G. Gotta keep a distance. Variety keeps you safe. You never know, otherwise I might fall in love with one of them. And that’d be the fucking end of me, wouldn’t it?” He laughed and knocked back the last third of the beer.

“Bloody L-G, you know he married that bloody hooker, Pim. Stupid fuck-wit. She took for a grand ride alright. But that’s another story, too…

” ‘Nother one, love!” he called to the fierce-eyed waitress who was upset because Bruce could never seem to recollect her name.


With The Lot

Posted in autobiography, Bruce, food, Thai girls, Thailand by expatatlarge on June 26, 2009

Bruce had an added exaggerated loll to what had once been called his “unfortunate” gait this evening. Four hours in the car yesterday morning, an afternoon on the vinyl seat in the cop-shop’s backroom, cheap sheets in the hotel last night and no talcum to lubricate the creases (it had been a rough and spontaneous trip to Buriram to bail a mate out of prison), then another fours hours in the car back to Bangkok, to deliver the chastened mate off to his non-too pleased wife, and then through the traffic jams to his own apartment off Wireless Rd. Sweat rash, flaring around his tackle. “Out of action” until this settles down. In his immuno-suppressed condition he was susceptible to such hazards. He made his way slowly to the pharmacy on Sukhomvit Rd just up from the Marriott where Pei, the lovely attendant, found some of the appropriate cream – part hydrocortisone, to take away the itching, and part mycolytic to kill any fungal spores – in fact the base cream probably did most of the hard work.

Pei was big-boned girl for a Thai, well-fed with it, though she presented an amazing, classically beautiful face that kept drawing your eyes back to it: the gentle line of her nose, her full lips, her huge almond eyes and those not-too-high cheekbones. To the Thai men however she was too brown-skinned and hence working class. In a westerner like Bruce’s opinion, she should get an eating disorder or hit the horse and become a cat-walk model. She should be selling magazine covers, instead she was selling people like Bruce lotions to rub on their balls.

Bruce usually picked up his medications – a wide range we won’t discuss here – from small shops like this. Girls like Pei and the splendidly grumpy pharmacist Boochit (Bruce’s called him Bullshit) made the effort of topping up his prescriptions a pleasant chore.

He came around the corner into Soi 4 slowly, past the fried cockroach and locust stands, gingerly stepped down to the road to avoid a herd (two) of baby elephants on the footpath and waddled eventually to the entrance to the infamous Nana Entertainment Plaza. He looked in briefly, saw the gaudy sign of Pharaohs and thought back to the pre-Thaksin days when all sorts of things counted as “entertainment” and how the shows were now a poor shadow of their previous shadowy hyperbole.

He had a sour stomach from the food in Buriram. There were locust stalls there too – this was not just a Nana phenomenon to shock gullible tourists – but the hot and sour Isaan soup he’d had for early lunch had sat there for hours. He needed a western food fix.

The small stall stands squarely at the Plaza entrance. You have to walk past it to go in, but Bruce was not wasting him time tonight as he couldn’t take a girl (or two) home with this broad purple rash (it looked like a bruise in the dim light of his bathroom) all around his arse.

Minn was a short girl, as chubby as Pei, but with a square puffy face and not at all attractive – except when she smiled. Any slight joke would break her face in half with immense perfectly aligned teeth in a captivating and contagious smile. Bruce gave her a wink, and she recognized him at the rear of the solid contingent of European men around the front of her stand.

Sawaddee na klhup, khun Minn,” he wai-ed to her. Her hands were full of utensils so she could only continue her brightest of smiles. She had on a yellow ‘We Love The King’ polo-shirt under her grey apron.

Sawadee kaaa, khun Bruthe, she said as she flipped three burgers over on her hotplate.

She arranged another bun to toast at the side of the hotplate, pulled up a patty and dropped into a small puddle of fresh oil, cracked an egg into a ring and laid some bacon down. The usual for Mr Bruthe.

“Best burgers in town,” said Bruce to the big fella in front/next to him who had noticed the special attention given to him by the short-order chef and was staring blatantly. “You live here, or are you a tourist?”

In a soft Aussie accent the embarrassed man replied, “Live in Singapore, come here one week a month. For work… Look didn’t mean to stare, just that… well, your Thai is very good.”

“Yeah, this is the place for burgers in Bangkok. Fuck McDonalds and Burger King, eh? I been living here since 2003. All my mates we… if we are in this part of town, we always come here for a burger. You’re an Aussie too, eh?” asked Bruce.

The other man nodded. His 70Bht burger was delivered wrapped into a tight triangle of butcher’s paper with a perfect one-third of it exposed, just begging to be chomped into.

“Certainly looks good,” said the man as he admired its tidy presentation – lettuce, onion, tomato, beef patty, squirt of mustard, squirt of tomato sauce, fry-toasted bun, neatly tucked into the white paper which was folded in such a way as to hold any juices.

“Come over to the bar here, grab a beer to wash that down,” said Bruce. “If you got time.”

“Yeah, I’ve got time.”

“Wanna tell you story. True story. What’s your name, lad?”

The man, no longer a lad, had dripped some juice from his first bite of burger onto his goatee where it eventually fell onto the striped t-shirt stretched over his protuberant stomach, and it joined a stain from his lunch, or breakfast, or yestrerday’s dinner… “My mates call me The Expat at Large,” he said. “Please to meet you…?”

“Bruce,” he said. “You can call me Bruce…”

“Like the sketch in Monty Python,” laughed


Novel Idea

Posted in autobiography, writing by expatatlarge on June 19, 2009

I have decided (another decision made at 2am when I couldn’t sleep due to the new meds being pathetic and making things worse) to stop writing on this blog before lunch and twittering away on Facebook and to spend at least two hours every morning – 9am to 11am, for example – writing a novel. Not necessarily my novel, mind you. ANY novel would do. Even a story, short medium or long. This enforced sitting with a pen from my new writing kit (see above) in hand and my novel-writing notebook (a present from Mercer Machine almost exactly two years ago) in front in me seems to be the only possible way I get to make a start.

I think that if I get to the office on time, this would the ideal place to perform this task. I can’t do it at home as I probably just keep organizing my pron files, cataloguing them by number of participants, number of observers, language (mainly Japanese), flora, fauna and the amount of squint-eyed defocusing that allows me to perceive the relevant anatomy through the typical Japanese hatching. I don’t know what Japanese genitals actually look like. Fuzzy things with anti-aliased chequered outlines I can only presume. Having a cock with all those edges must hurt. No wonder the girls (dogs, horses, etc…) all go “ooh, ooh”, and look away, their eyes closed in pain. I don’t know how the Japanese manage to find the will to procreate, it seems such an unpleasant experience. Plus by the far the majority of their spermatozoa seem to end up in procreatively neutral places, a finding that explains the current downturn in birth-rates in Japan.

So with blank paper in front of me, not pron, I hope soon to make a start. I think it might be best If I follow the sage advice of many wise dead writers and “Write What You Know About”. What DO I know about? Japanese pron! I might start my novel with a story about two (or more) fuzzy genitaliated Japanese people who have weird sex on public transport. Now, at last, I’m in my comfort zone…


Shagging in Public

Posted in autobiography, Bruce, flatmate, public, sex by expatatlarge on October 4, 2008

Here’s a meme that should score some hits…


It was confession time this morning. A friend of mine who is no longer famous admitted to having shagged by the Singapore River late last night, near the multi-colored bridge not far from Gallery Hotel. I pressed her for details (natch! I’m always thinking of you guys!) Not just oral; full sex. With a friend, she modified, not some random guy. She seemed to think herself quite the outrageous tart…

“I once had a shag on a public bench in a park, surrounded by squawking swans,” I casually countered, placing a coffee sachet in the new (2nd hand) Philips Senseo. I was in my late 30s at the time, hardly the over-hormonized youth, but still capable of outrageous acts…*

Her chin dropped. “Oh my god, really?”

E@L you wild action-adventure hero! I didn’t mention that it was nighttime and I was petrified and drunk at the time and that the swans were more likely ducks or geese (I couldn’t tell in the dark) that had been trying to sleep until our shenanigans disturbed them.

I had to drag the two of us into a park in order to gain some privacy, as afforded by the nocturnal conditions, for my partner (the sexual aggressor in the situation) seemed intent that it would be neither here nor there if we should do it outside the nightclub on the footpath, in the lights of the traffic streaming down Main St. Maybe she thought the pulsing lights meant we were still on a disco-floor, one of her other preferences for deeply intimate contact.

I decided that ‘there’, at the side of a billabong, in a nearby park, under some coolibah trees possibly, rather than ‘here’ on the street would be the safest bet for not getting arrested for public indecency and interfering with protected wildlife. I found a bench just out of the street-light, and a few ducks, geese and/or swans scampered away from us. In the fevered breathing and fretful searching among disheveled clothing (it is freaking cold in country Australia at night, this was not a nekkid thing) we managed somehow expose the appropriate regions of engorged flesh sufficiently to unite them briefly for some awkward but cathartic grunting…

Another safe bet would be to find a condom, but in the struggle to achieve our physical unification, one of the aggrieved bloody swans took it! (Not really, but wouldn’t it be funny if…?)


I press the blue light on the coffee machine and a shot of espresso moistens the bottom of my cup. I seem to recall that the bench-top conflagration didn’t last quite as long as it took me to prepare this nice coffee.

I seem to recall also that the lady in question sort of came to her senses (omni animale sunt embarrassed post public coitus) at this point, and horrified at what had happened (again) started off at an exceedingly brisk pace in search of her hotel, in which direction she knew not, with E@L following up the rear shouting directions and apologies for allowing himself to be raped by her (again)…


I retire to my room, feeling a mixture of smugness and shame, and commence this blog.


So where, gentil reader, have you “done it?”


* (I’m not counting the semi-public performances of horrific indecency perpetrated by Bruce and the myriad others who write under the E@L pseudonym that have occurred behind the velvet drapes of certain clubs in Wanchai (HK), not to mention Manila, Phuket, Hanoi, Kiaoshung, Beijing, etc…)