Orchard Rd, Evening Street Scene

Posted in 4FoW, Bruce, coffee, hookers, Orchard Rd by expatatlarge on September 17, 2012

Bruce sucks up his ice-blended coffee on Orchard Rd, runs the mouthful of sweet crystals around for a taste, swallows. The Coffee Bean and Tea-Leaf. Not his favorite coffee shop, but OK, it passes, and it’s convenient for an hour or two of quiet contemplation before things start, before he finds some dinner, before he kick on across the road to the 4FoW. A Spinelli (San Francisco’s best) Spin would suit him better, the ice is finer, the coffee less bitter, but outlets seem few and far between these days. He makes a mental note to Google their locations.

The table has a nice vantage of the footpath. Young Singaporean girls in their ultra-short jean, inside pockets visible, their white singlets and push-up bras, chatting with friends, briskly gesticulating, walking fast. And those ambling ones, generic Asians, maybe even in a cheong-sam, a tight skirt, nothing ostentatious, and a tight top, an LV handbag and a lean hungry look. And so slim, narrow waist, trim buttocks (as they say, there’s a Latin term for this), thin thighs.

Bruce loves this town. Old man, single, financially secure so long as his job lasts. Lecher. Typical nomad, it’s his new word for ‘expat’. Is it merely because they are slimmer that he finds these girls so attractive? Discuss.

It is after work on Wednesday and evening is hanging around like these hookers, it’s half-light, it’s a half-real world. He feels sticky and warm, man we’re in the tropics, and so welcomes how the ice-coffee cools the inside of his body, at least as far it can get down into his throat. Every now and then when he has cold drinks like this his oesophagus goes into a spasm, as it does now. The drink is too cold. He pauses from drinking, it’s sitting – just – there. And he waits, sighs. A central chest pain. Another heart attack? He can’t belch, his stomach is unavailable. Then the mucosa warms the ice, melts, his body heat, and the constriction eases, the ice-coffee slips past. GORD. Is there no health problem he doesn’t have?

Birds, the feathered ones, in the many plane trees (not fruit tree, there is no orchard here anymore), have begun their evening chirping, and slowly, as it builds up to a 76 trombones effect without him noticing, their combined song has become a roar. It covers the bursts of traffic that flow according to the traffic light’s rhythms. Maybe not throat-singing Ferraris and Maseratis, let them scream, let them roar. White noise. He has one of his several thousand unread books in his hand and he is not reading it carefully.


A person is beside him. Her presence sudden, blue sparks, ozone, she’s here to hunt him down, that’s all she does.

He looks up at her and sees the thin ridge of angular cheeks, smile showing small teeth constrained in expensive wire, bright green eyes and a line of mascara going up at the outer edge to emphasis her exotic face, as if she needed that. She is one of those women who had been walking in front of him, parading past several times, up and back in the previous half-hour.

She had at last caught his eye, his Nordic blue, hers emerald green, held his gaze past that special time, into the who’s going to be the first to break zone, and then smiled at him, the killer. However he had been lost in reverie, not in his book, but somewhere else, even further away than Cloud Atlas. Some place where a tightness in the chest from ice-choke didn’t mean impending death, myocardial infarction, spilled coffee and an unpaid bill. He had hardly been aware that he had been making eye contact, and every working girl looks at him like that anyway, like he was target demographic. He was now looking away, into a nowhere, but she didn’t notice that he was more than day-dreaming, he was willing himself to stay alive. She only saw a man. With a wallet and a sex-drive. Or perhaps she saw more. Probably not.

“I can join you?” she asks. Slim, in a dark green, eye-matching, body-hugging top, white skirt, tight.

”I’m sorry?” The background bird chirping, he didn’t hear. “Of course, of course,” he says, ever the gentleman. He shuffles his chair back and nudges the table so that she can slip past the pole onto the chair opposite him. It doesn’t have to slipped far, there is not much to her body.

And soon the banalities are out of the way. The special massage price, so cheap, how come?

“Tomorrow, I go back Hanoi. Need have some money.” The implication is that she hasn’t been making much. Good English, pleasant GFE personality, nicely faked sincerity. He is surprised, genuinely.

“Why do you not have so much money? Such a pretty lady!”

“It very quiet, too many girls. And I spend my money on my plane ticket, need always to be work. Work, work. Go to home and come back only three month after. And,” she tapped at her mouth, “my teeth is expensive.”

“You should marry someone here. A dentist maybe.”

“Yes, yes,” she urges. He seems to have pressed a button. “I need husband for come here. Get visa for many entry.”

“Well you would need that, I guess. So many entries,” smiles Bruce.

“If can get marriage with local man, can get visa. Ten thousand dollars.”

“What is ten thousand dollar?”

“For husband. We pay ten thousand dollars for Singapore man get marry.”

“You pay the man ten thousand dollars if he marries you?” Bruce immediately thinks of E@L as a likely candidate for an arrangement such as this.

“Yes, he get money. And girl get visa.”

Bruce drums the table with his empty coffee container. This too, is hard to swallow. He texts E@L.


The evening is advancing quickly enough, no hurry. E@L was otherwise engaged anyway. She knew of a Thai place, we wonder where, for dinner. She ate slowly, noodles, picking sprouts form her braces. She is not in a rush now. Her flight is early in the next morning, one customer tonight – Bruce – and that’s enough. And they stand to move away, collect their stuff, her LV, his man-bag with iPad, and walk across the road to the Hilton where he is staying as usual.

“You have condom?” she asks before they get too far from a 7/11.

“Me? Why? Don’t you have a condom, surely you can claim it on your tax!”

She smiles, gets the joke. “We cannot carry condom. Working girl on the streets cannot carry a condom. Police. You know this, I am sure.”

“No, not at all. Really? Why not?”

“Police can make arrest against you if you have a condom. For being prostitute. It illegal for girl to work on streets, so we don’t carry condom.”

Bruce shrugs, impressed. He’s never thought of that – why would he? – and it makes sense. There are so many of these details in the world, where the devil lies in wait. Have a condom, must be a prostitute. No condom, must be a charity worker seeking donations.

“You don’t have condom?” she asks again.

“Yes, yes, I have several in my room. The hotel supplies them,” he lies.


Within two weeks of this mythical incident not having taken place, the immigration department cracked down on these marriage scams – she wasn’t joking about the $10k. And then, later, local newspapers talked of the aggressive tactic of streetwalkers on Orchard Rd.)

Laws To Penalise Sham Marriages. Today Online.

“… Pointing to the increasing number of sham marriages – from four to five cases a year in the past five years to 12 cases this year – Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran said this is a “significant rise” and is “probably symptomatic of a larger trend”.
“So we want to introduce new laws to send a strong deterrent message to individuals who contemplate entering MOCs (marriages of convenience) for the purpose of obtaining an immigration facility such as Permanent Residency, long-term passes and visas,” he told the House.
But, while there is a “desire for vigorous enforcement” in clear cases of marriages of convenience, he cautioned against unfairly penalising genuine marriages.
Several Members of Parliament were concerned over how gratification could be proven.
…” [My emphasis]


Streetwalkers getting more blatant at Orchard Road. The NewPaper

“Foreign women touting sex services are no longer just operating around Orchard Towers.
They are now covering areas as far as Far East Shopping Mall.
The minute they spot a potential customer, usually a male tourist, they would approach them with offers of ‘massage’.
Said one expat: “It’s like running a gauntlet. If you make the mistake of looking at them, they’ll be all over you in seconds.”
[My emphasis]


Anywhere up to eight years ago, walk anywhere from the Marriott to corner of Tanglin Rd, and E@L would be given the look, sometimes a question. Then it went quiet for a few years, or perhaps he didn’t walk there as often as a resident, but yeah, as this hypothetical and nowhere near 100% true story suggests, it might be “on the rise” again in the areas not immediately adjacent to the 4FoW.


(E@L knows the birds aren’t in the plane trees, but the other ones. Larches? Elms? Jesus, E@L knows fuck all about treeology. And those trees are down further anyway, by Paragon.)

Molly Bloom? YES!

Posted in books, coffee, hipsters working in bookstores, literature, wankers by expatatlarge on October 28, 2011

Two guys, P & T, go into a bookstore, browsing.

– I always like to read the last sentence of a book before I buy it. I find that it tells me most about the book, says P.

– Yeah, me too. Most people grab a book and look at the first sentence, or a bit of the first few pages, agrees T.

– Mistake. First few sentences writer dude’s trying hard to grab the publisher’s attention, you know, like publish this book and give money, sorta thing. It’s not actually what the reader would like he’s thinking of, but what he thinks the publisher will think the reader will like. You know how many subsequent classics have been knocked back by wanker publishers? Lots, it’s fucking criminal. The first sentence can be annoying, but the book still amazingly good. Or the sentence good but the book crap, like the stuff you read.

– Ha ha. But yeah, never thought of *why* I do it, but you’re spot on there. The last sentence or two are about tidying up the plot, the characters. Dude’s only trying hard to impress the reader, make the reader satisfied. Well not always of course, but you know what I mean.

They nod. Such perfect agreement between people is rare.

T, a genre fiction addict, recommends to P a couple of science-fantasy-speculative-horror-magic/realism cult books which he thought everyone should read, but P hasn’t.


“He never saw Molly again.” *

” ‘Don’t ask me why, old sport,’ said Stoney, ‘but somebody up there likes you.’ ”

“I know nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”

“He walked away and he kept on walking.”


And a few others of varying merit.

P, a pretentious autodidact who uses words like “autodidact” in general conversation, recommends some slipstream books which don’t quite fit the genres, as well as some modernist and post-modernist classics which everyone should read but, naturellement T hasn’t.


“And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out.”

“For a long time there is really nothing to be seen; but after Golgotha’s been burning for an hour or two, it becomes possible to see that underneath the shallow water, spreading down the valley floor, right around the isolated boulder where Randy’s perched, is a bright thick river of gold.”

“And all that is left to me is the sound of snow underfoot.”

“It was summoning all the barges on the river, every last one, and the whole city and sky and the countryside and ourselves, to carry us all away, the Seine too—and that would be the end of us.”

“Now everybody—”


And he picked up one more of the recommended books and held it open in his hands… And he started to read the last sentence.

P paid for his handful of books, had them demagnetized, placed in a biodegradable bag. He waited by the entrance.

Still waiting, he browsed some more new releases that tempted him. The Pale King. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet… He moved his biodegradable bag from one hand to the other, scratched at his groin as a pubic hair seemed to caught over the end of his cock. This irritated him. It was too long since he had last shaved his balls.

He wanted to call out to T to hurry the fuck up, but in a bookstore such as this one in Carlton, it is like a library but with allegedly cool people who have eyebrow studs and ponytails (males) and pierced lips and blue hair (females) behind the counter, and not little old ladies who always recommend Agatha Christie. It is not cool to yell here.

P gives up. Fuck, I’ll go have a long macchiato, he thinks. I’ll met T in the coffee shop he loves, the one next door..

His second long macchiato is down, some biscotti down. Despite his shaking hands, he is in a dream world, reading one of the books he has just bought. It is completely weird; moralistic, simplistic, and funny, and he was hooked by the expression “chrono-synclastic infundibula.” T is still not back. P sighs, pays the black-clad, blue-haired waitress with the stud though her lip and heads back to the bookstore and find T, last seen reading over 30 minutes ago.

T is standing where he left him, still immersed in the book, turning a page.

– Come on mate, I thought you were only going to read the last sentence!

– I am.

– What the fuck book are you reading?

– You recommended it, man.

He turns to book over to show P the cover.

P groans.



[Sorry about that folks – it was just meant to be a three line joke but as usual, I got carried a way. The real Tom, from whom this completely imaginary conversation originated when he joked about the title of this post being on a t-shirt somewhere (or something like that), has neither (all) the characteristics of the hyopthetical T nor (all) those of the hypothetical P, but he is a well-read bastard. Both characters, says E@L, c’est moi.

And there is purely the smug satisfaction of being a wanker dilettante like E@L for those who can tell me which books are quoted above: they are last lines, of course. OK, a candy bar or a Guinness, your choice, if you can get more than five. I’m presuming most people I know will get the book T is reading… If not, I’m getting some new friends.]

* The author added this sentence as an afterthought in order to prevent him from writing a sequel, as in — hey, she’s dead. It didn’t work. (Thanks Paul.)

Coffee, Breakfast, Thailand – more of the same

Posted in breakfast, coffee, internet, Thailand, toast by expatatlarge on August 20, 2010

E@L was in a “coffee” shop in a place slightly to the left of the middle of nowhere, the town of Phrae, in the province of Phrae. E@L has been up in this area before: Phitsanulok, Nan. Driving here is mountain, valley and river, mountains, valley and river, etc… Not that impressed with the valleys. The mountain are fantastic except that E@L has slept through most of the drives.

E@L has essentially given up on Thai coffee, on coffee in general in fact, and he is drinking a ‘jasmine’ green tea as he drafts this post with the morning sun over his shoulder (left, or was it right?). The slim, fawning waitress had initially poured condensed milk into the mix of tea and hot water she offered, and he sent it back perfunctorily. He was in a perfunctorial mood again. She deferentially delivered (she was now in a typically Thai deferential mood) the fresh cup which on first taste seemed to contain no jasmine. It was mostly green tea. Not completely. About 40% of the cup was sugar syrup, streaky clear stuff that spiraled through the tea, slowly diffusing. This sucrose vortex would be enough to upset his endocrinologist no end, who was on a quest to stave off E@L from metabolic syndrome – i.e diabetes, if E@L ever told him.


Coffee, tea, can they ever be right? Toast, breakfast in general, ditto.

Breakfast – the coffee was fine, breakfast coffee usually is because it’s not espresso – was missing just a few things last week in the Sheraton Krabi Resort (closer to Ao Nang actually). E@L noticed the absence of a prepared fruit salad. He had to chop his fruit up on his plate at the table, clinkety clink, must annoy the people nearby. E@L is nothing if not considerate. And there were cinnamon bagels but no Philly cream cheese. WTF? Not that E@L should be eating bagels – see above re: metabolic syndrome. Wholemeal or whole grain toast with their low glycaemic indices are fair game, and they were both present, so OK.

Fecking idiots who put their bread onto the circling treads of the toaster’s tray and then stand in front of the toaster, blocking other people from inserting their carbohydrates, those feckwets were ALSO milling, like litigious movie lawyers outside movie hospitals.


But, Krabi? That was LAST week, this is THIS week. Having jumped (via taxi) from Suvarbumi to Don Muaeng (the old international airport in Bangkok) E@L Nokked up to the Central/Northern provinces of Thailand. Two demos, two deals, but who is one to puff oneself up?

Uttaradit, Phrae (see above), and now Phitsanulok. E@L mused that you know you’ve been in some shitholes* of late when you consider Phitsanulok a respite, a haven of sophistication, a safe port in the northern storms which have flooded heavily and stirred up Dengue fever epidemics in the previous few weeks (Google it). No-one’s ever heard of any of these places, have they? No-one of any importance E@L means, of course.

Breakfast in Phitsanulok is a different story to the Sheraton’s minor glitches (and aren’t all unhappy breakfast stories unique?) Even before E@L arrived from his room, a plate had been placed for him at his assumed chair, opposite his more punctual colleague. On the plate was the plaster imitation of a circular fried egg, two precisely aligned steamed sausages of uncertain – perhaps porcine – provenance, two slices of white bread glued together with butter substitute, and two triangles of long-simmered (now cold) “ham”. E@L was fortunate and foresightful enough to bring with him two bananas, two tubs of yoghurt and an apple. E@L eschewed the chilled still life and passed his coupon to another colleague, one who had slept elsewhere. (500Bht was excessive, he felt.)


Five THOUSAND Bht a night at the Sheraton, with cable internet an extra 530Bht for 24hrs. Last night in Phitsanulok, a reasonable room (OK, the toilet door kept locking whenever it closed, but so does Izzy’s old one at E@LGHQ – you learn to live with it, or she did anyway) was 500Bht, and yet the WiFi was free.

The internet seems to get cheaper the lower you go in hotel stars. Weird.

E@L will be writing a note of severe castigation to the Sheraton HQ, where heads will asymmetrically roll (as heads are wont to do – anyone remember Polanski’s McB… Scottish Play?).

It is totally indefensible to charge the amount they do. There is no excuse he will accept, nothing they can say that will convince him that such a charge in necessary. He will never accept this insulting financial infringement again!

Exception: tonight. E@L is paying 600Bht to present you with this electronic missive in a 3,300Bht room at The Landmark – awesome breakfast BTW!

Life can be weird and E@L is not always consistent.


* not that E@L cannot tell these small(ish) Thai towns apart anymore; they all look desperate, distant, hungry and the same.

(Does this post make ANY sense?)

Coffee Crisis

Posted in airport, coffee, left-handedness, Thailand by expatatlarge on August 15, 2010

Bloody Suvarnabumhi (Suvaboomi to the locals) Airport is, I repeat, a shocker. It was 700m from the gate to the baggage carousel, the first 400m of that with no travellator. I’ll correct that: no travellator going in my direction. There is one going out, but none coming back. (Something like Muldoon Manor in Tom Stoppard’s hilarious “The Real Inspector Hound,” where, due to a quirk in the local geographic strata, there are roads leading TO the Manor, but no roads leading FROM the Manor – misty moors, fog rolling in from Pirate’s Cove, mysterious strangers, mixed identities, love unrequited, dead body under the couch, no-one shall leave the room sort of thing).

As I was saying before I was distracted, bloody Suvaboomi… The scale is just wrong. It’s huge (lengthy) in the places it should be more compact, tight as a fish’s arse in the places that it should be more expansive, like the reception area. AND half the time for domestic flight the planes are way out in a tarmac parking area and you have to bus out – this is a brand new(ish) modern airport and you still you have to bus out to the plane – amazingly backward. I was fortunate today as my Krabi flight came to the terminal, but still, it’s the principle.


I am supposed to be headed to extremely flooded Uttraradit now, but the plane leaves from the old Don Muaeng airport on the other side of town. Even though it is three hours to my flight, I’d better head off soon. Taxi!!


Regard the above hinted at coffee issues: just quickly, I have decided to eschew the espresso paradigm and seek my caffeine solace outside its restricted, esoteric and pompous purview. I ordered a Viennese coffee here at the airport and received a cup of whipped cream. I was told that there was a smidgen of caffeine bearing liquid at the bottom, but by the time I removed 95% of the pseudo-dairy product and stirred the remaining 5% into those few drops of brownish fluid, it was cold and horrible and gone in a large sip. What happened to the days when a Viennese coffee was a cup of coffee (a CUP!) with some fresh cream floating on top? (Some say this was the precursor of the cappuccino? The coffee part of a cappuccino should be dark brown btw, the colour of the monks’ robes.)

Why can I not find a coffee establishment that serves the type of coffee they give you for breakfast at a hotel? I have been knocking off the majority of a mug of brewed java every morning. Fantastic. You get a large plunger at the Excelesior in Hong Kong. Fantastic. There was drip filter machine in my hotel room in Krabi with free sachets and filter papers. Fantastic.

You can get a CUP of coffee from these devices.

That was the way it used to be. Thanks to the bloody Italians and there hegemony over the coffee zeitgeist, every coffee for sale in every coffee shop in the world is a variation on the espresso. OK espresso is nice; strong, sip sip, gone, but what about if you want a FULL CUP of strong coffee? An Americano (espresso topped with hot water) is disgusting BTW.

I want to drink plunger coffee, percolated coffee (what I brew up for our post-Christmas dinner chats – and tea-towel throwing championships -around the table), freshly brewed coffee, instant coffee, even fucking Cafe-Bar coffee! Anything that fills a freaking cup!

One day (I’m just a young kid with a crazy dream) I’m going to open an international coffee house (they are licensed to print money these places, all profit, it’s unbelievable!) that serves the entire range of way to prepare coffees, delivered at your table according to your preference… Let’s break this espresso paradigm!


There is a restaurant in Singapore that serves its coffee (espresso based) in cups that have an oblique finger-hold (what do you all those things? The handle? But it’s not for hands, it’s for fingers – the fingle?) This work fine so long as you hold the cup in your right hand; lovely, comfortable, stable. In case no-one suspected this, I am left-handed. If I try to pick up this type of cup in my left hand – WHOA!! – it tilts at an angle frighteningly close to pants-scalding.

“Please, may I have a left-handed coffee cup?

I’ve always wanted to ask that.


Coffee Grounds For Divorce

Posted in coffee, dentists, fortune-tellers, horoscopes, teeth by expatatlarge on January 24, 2009

Unlike some cynical readers of this blog, I DO have great faith in horoscopes (Chinese and, um, non-Chinese), just as I find Divine Intervention a useful tool when I misplace my house keys (a quiet prayer up to St Anthony and hey presto!). I also believe in Santa Claus, transubstantiation, virgo intacto parthenogenesis of male children, routine miracles at Lourdes, ocular bleeding of statues, pigges bones*, papal bulls, touching wood, avoiding black cats, Babylonian haruspicy, and of course the venerable Tooth Fairy, who is playing me a fair treat of late with this fucking dental cap (about half a tooth actually) which keeps falling out.

Three times tonight during a Lebanese meal at the famed (and nearly empty) Abu Ali Restaurant the bugger came loose. There must be something happening. The remnant tooth is cold sensitive without the cap firmly pressed into it. I really need to put several hundred dollars under the Parkview pillow of my Tooth Fairy Dentist when I get back (if ever) to Singapore, to sort this out this entire buccal mess once and for all (or until the guarantee expires).

So, at dinner tonight, as I am fossicking in my mouth yet again to resite the errant ceramic, one of the local ladies offers to read my future from the dregs in my coffee cup!

Of course I trust her that the patterns in my life will play out according to (or caused by?) whatever patterns the dribbling coffee dregs will make in my cup. It only stands to reason. Perfectly normal thing to believe in…

– Thurth, I say. Bru moth thuum warrrn. (Sure. But you must tell me all!)

So when the tooth-cap is pushed relatively firm into its cavity, I turn the finished (not empty) cup of thick mid-sweet Turkish brew upside down in its saucer and several kilograms of cosmic dark matter, err, mushy coffee sludge slides down the inside of the cup, creating (I presume) forms and appearances of great moment and significance for her to divine. I pass the cup, still upside in the saucer, across. She waits for a minute or two, then turns it over.

– You are in love, Sir Ekpat, she says right up.

– I am? Who with? I look around. Laughs, smiles.

– You are not in love?, asks one of the other ladies, one I was careful NOT to look at – a bit too eagerly, I think.

– Not that I am aware, no, I am not in love, I laugh.

– Well, you have a big heart, a wide heart full of love, says the coffee reader, nodding as if that was what she meant in the first place.

– Of course I love all of *you*, I say. (Thinking, big heart? Maybe she has seen some evidence of long-standing hypertension induced cardiomyopathy?)

She tilts the cup around and looks at it from another angle. She peers into it with concentration, she seems almost embarrassed by it what she finds there. What is it? I have a pornography obsession? I will die a Mulder death?

– There are two women.

I sigh…

– Well, I *was* in Bangkok earlier this week, and it’s only natural, a man has his urges, irresistable really, and when it doesn’t seem to upset anyone, and the price is reasonable…

– You are in love with two women, she says.

Coos and laughter from around our section of the table…

– Well, no, I am not in love at all, I insist.

– There are two women though.

The other lady leans across and looks into the cup. – Yes, she is right. There are two ladies.

Why do I get the feeling I am being set up here?

– Well maybe it is my mother and sister. They are the two women in my life…

– Yes, maybe that is what it means, she shrugs, unconvinced.

She passes the cup to her friend, whispers to her and smiles back at me.

– She knows what will happen in your future, how you will live long time, when you will die, from this, says the second lady, smiling also.

– Yep, sure, I say. I believe you. The tooth falls out again as I try to chew a tough slice of babaganoush rolled in very thin bread (fed in with three fingers).

– Nnuth knellm unn urrr nf nnnn oooh zaarrr. (Just tell me where and I won’t go there.)


* Ne was there such another pardonere.
For in his mail he had a pillowbere,
Which, as he saide, was our Lady’s veil:
He said, he had a gobbet of the sail
That Sainte Peter had, when that he went
Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent.
He had a cross of latoun full of stones,
And in a glass he hadde pigge’s bones.
But with these relics, whenne that he fond
A poore parson dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he got him more money
Than that the parson got in moneths tway;
And thus with feigned flattering and japes,
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But truely to tellen at the last,
He was in church a noble ecclesiast.

Pasted from http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext00/cbtls12.txt