Expat@Large

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

(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.)

"My Boyfriend The Sex Tourist."

Posted in Bruce, hookers, stereotypes, Thai girls, Thailand by expatatlarge on March 6, 2012

Something of a stereotype breaker – at least as far as the “trafficking” situation of some of the working girls in places that cater to mostly westerners is concerned.

At least you can see that not every bar-girl in Bangkok has been dragged off the farm by marauding snakeheads and chained to their beds in a cardboard dungeon. Well, yes, no, not every bar-girl…

via

~~~~~~~~~

It would be an interesting exercise to study the expectations, feelings and motivations of these boyfriends in more depth (say, to the bottom of three bottles of Hennessy) and in a less stereotypical way… If that is, um, like, possible. Nah.

~~~~~~~~~

Bruce of course has had some experience of less salubrious working conditions

~~~~~~~~~

It is depressing and frustrating to wander the streets by yourself in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, browsing in the shopping malls or checking out the temples. You are old, fat, bald, generally unattractive. You are wearing cargo shorts, a loose shirt or tee, and sandals. You know that everyone in the world is making the assumption that you a sex tourist.

It is even more depressing and frustrating when you admit to yourself that this is exactly what you are.
Bruce (in a more contemplative mood than we are used to.)

~~~~~~~~~

Gustave Flaubert, the man who was able to look so profoundly and convincingly into a woman’s heart, was a completely sleazy sex-tourist on his trips to Egypt, reveling in his debauchery… Not that this is any form of excuse…

E@L

Say It Right In Thai

Posted in Bruce, hookers, pathetic old man, romance, sad old man, Thailand by expatatlarge on February 25, 2012

E@L has a book of this title in the desk in front of him. Nothing to do with the previous post.

Without wishing to bore you with the maudlin regrets of a superficial, middle-aged, single man, he wishes to bore you with the maudlin regrets of a superficial, middle-aged, single man. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Say it right? Say it RIGHT?

E@L can never say anything right to women in whatever language of love you suggest. Thai, English, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog or Hindi. He is completely hopeless at preventing his hopes of love from being dashed on the rocky shores of lust whenever he opens his stupid mouth. Which is why he never gets to fuck can seduce the women (should there be any) he might wish to.

Even with all silver-tongued the advice from that super-experienced chat-up man, our Bruce, he does not succeed. Because, as when packing his bags for a trip, he gets all anxious and leaves something out, or brings the wrong item. “I find you very attractive, enjoy your company and would like to get know you (or ‘your body’ – optional) better,” as advised by Bruce, somehow comes out of his mouth as, “Let’s fuck like they do on the Discovery Channel,” with gestures and body language to support the unintended effect – of a blank look of terror, followed quickly by drink over the head and either a kick to the scrotum or a standard dose of pepper-spray to the conjunctiva to finish E@L off.

When E@L approaches a lady and is feeling romantic, it’s stand back and avoid the shrapnel as his improvised seductive devices explode. Lines like that might be OK when you are in midst of each of each other and unmaking the bed (or couch, or kitchen table), but in a bar at 7pm with someone you’ve just met? In all likelihood, nope.

Say it right? E@L? Blurt it right out, more like.

So the conversations people like E@L might prefer to implement, after having made fools of themselves time and time again in legitimate circumstances, becomes more appropriate to the expectations of their intended female companions when augmented by the alluring soft plonk of a ping-pong ball falling into a glass, to the crisp slap of a mock-truncheon on various glutei maximi, to the just-audible hiss of a body slithering up-side down on a chrome pole, to the alluring perfume of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes.

When these things turn his thoughts to thoughts of love, out pops the perfect Thai phrase, finally. Here are words that exactly express his feelings and carry no offence, quite the opposite. As the purloined letters of Cyrano De Bergerac did for Christian and Roxanne, these words will have the lady swooning her loins into his loins…

“เท่าไหร่ดีบาร์คืออะไร? Charisma Card(tm) ok, krup?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Getting married at 19? Don’t do it if you are contemplating getting divorced 20 years later. They’ll remake Swingers all about you. You’ve never done the dating thing as a kid, and now you’ll never scale-up enough chat-up skills before it gets too late for you, you’ll never shrink to the right kind of small talk, you’ll never polish away the rough edges of your wannabe smooth lines.

You’ll be paying someone else to do the polishing instead when and if you make it to E@L’s age.

E@L.

* How much is the bar fine?

* OK they weren’t “stolen” as such, but purloined is a great word and needs to be used more often, though with proper syntax whenever possible.

On The Prowl

Posted in exercise, hookers, Singapore by expatatlarge on February 15, 2012

Walking all the way back home from the pub quiz in Robertson Quay tonight, 4-5kms – a good hour of solid perambulation for E@L, if he can make it*. Much better shoes and sandals, lots of drugs for his bad feet and the determination to get more exercise after the shame and dishonour of wasting his recent Japan ski-trip (only one day of five on the slopes) because of his damnéd cardio-pulmonary impotence…

E@L has been pumping the asphalt (or doing c-p stuff in the gym; HR at 125bpm or so) every day, mostly, for the last two weeks. And is off the grog. It’s merely a matter of willpower, of becoming the person who you have chosen for yourself to be in the power of visualizing… yada yada. He’s on a diet and a get fit kick. Maybe it’s the massive negative incentive of having committed to give $5k to a cause he detest (maybe some TCM university studying how best to exterminate endangered species for fun and profit when aspirin or Viagra would work just as well – sorry, I mean would work; maybe the Scientology nutters…) if he can’t knock 10% off his body-weight in three (3, count ’em) months. Bruce is holding the signed cheque and will make the decision about where the money goes. Seriously, no muckin’ abart…

OK, fine. But why walk so far so late at night? It’s near enough to 11pm, for crying out loud. Who in their right mind would stay out this late? Get home and get to blog.

Ah. Taxi.

Or *no* taxis, more like. Never any taxis when you need them; you can wait in the queue as long as you like, hang on the phone as long as you like, send as many SMS bookings as you like. Nuh. None. Zip. Nada. Fuck it, may as well head off on shanks’ pony, in civilian clothes, man-bag over shoulder, see if he can make it all the way again, as he managed last week.

But the first serious bit of effort comes quick: the small hill that comes up from Mohammed Sultan to River Valley Rd. Know it? Maybe 200m of mild incline, perhaps 5deg. Not much, but it’s nearly enough to have him clutching as his chest, screaming for a Code Blue! E@L’s calves are burning just a bit more now as he treads firmly, refusing to slow down (he’s walking at snail’s pace orredy lah!), keeping that old ticker, um, ticking over, when…

~~~~~~~~~

In front of one the older condos, by the driveway at the gate, are several – five, six – women. They are dressed pretty damn fancy; LBDs, CMF boots, draped in lights scarves, extremities be-ringed and be-bangled, ungulates adorned with painted-on scenery and pasted-on jewels. These ladies are not coming home from somewhere, they are heading out. Faces are made-up to show off high cheekbones, even if there aren’t any high cheekbones, eyelashes and eyebrows trimmed to augment the double eye-lid, the almond eyes, the exotic mien.

E@L feels he should be impressed with the effort that they have gone to.

All are smoking. Two are talking to each other with the precise clipped tones of Beijing Mandarin (it’s hard to tell if the words are friendly or not); the others are standing alone, looking away, looking for the taxis that E@L couldn’t find either. They appear hard, arms folded across their chests; harsh; they look older in the streetlight than they will; dim lights and alcohol will make them appear gorgeous in the early hours in the Japanese karaoke bars (they speak fluent Japanese, can drink sake and Chivas and sperm till the sun comes up) or in the dim black-light glow downstairs in Brix (at The Hyatt). Mainly they stand apart, they see enough of each other thanks, sleeping six to a room.

E@L plods past determinedly, almost breathless. Here’s another condo, here’s another pride of lionesses. None of them appear to notice him. These are not girls on the prowl for expats on the street; E@L is not part of tonight’s Target Demographic.

Maybe it was the way he pulled at the crotch of his sweaty underpants, new rash on the burn, phew, still going uphill, that said to them: “Not me, honey. At least not tonight.”

~~~~~~~~~

Happy Valentines Day. Feeling romantic, obviously.

E@L

* got about halfway, road-rash settling in nicely thanks for asking, took the train at Somerset.

(Been glancing through You Bright And Risen Angels; William T “Voluble” Vollman; hence all the semi-colons.)

The Whole World As The White Man’s Brothel

Posted in books, defenestration, despair, expats, hookers, sex, stereotypes by expatatlarge on March 20, 2011

I swear by the holy hand-grenades of Antioch, I think I’ve heard in bars, clubs, pubs and dinner parties throughout Asia, in Hong Kong, Beijing, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Dubai, Saigon, Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane (and I haven’t even been to Laos!) and Singapore, EVERY one of the comments, and a few more, that are contained in the following text. It is an excerpt from a book I am reading which reviews the history of Western attitudes to their experience of sexual life in what we historically call “The Orient”.

Nothing is new under the sun, nor under the sheets (Japanese pornography excepted).

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Flaubert’s sexual adventures in Egypt were exceptional in his life and not repeated. For Burton, however, Eastern sexuality was a life-long preoccupation. To be sure, it was always a fascination among a minority of Western men, with the vast majority falling in love with, and being sexually drawn to Western women. But Burton prefigured something that would happen when the mixing of civilizations became common and some men would develop a veritable cult of the Asian woman, who seemed to them more sensuous, less inhibited, more sultry, slender, fragrant, feline and languid, less competitive, less demanding of absolute fidelity, and for some or all of these reasons, more desirable than Caucasian women. Burton felt that way. The cult of the Asian woman among Western man – her erotic elevation – didn’t originate with him, but it received validation from his writings and his experience. From the very beginning in India, he and others like him extolled the virtues of the bibi over the white women back home, both because she caused less trouble and because she was better in bed. None other than Anglican bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, admitted that he had difficulty keeping his eyes off the local Bengali women he saw bathing in the river at dawn, confessing that “the deep bronze tint was more naturally agreeable to the human eyes than the fair skins of Europe.” With slightly different reasoning, first Viscount Garnet Wolseley, field marshal in the British army, admitted that he consorted with an “Eastern princess” who fulfilled “all the purposes of a wife without any of the bother” and that he had no intention of marriage with “some bitch” in Europe, unless she were an heiress.

The East, The West, And Sex: A History, Richard Bernstein. Vintage 2010, pg 117. (empahasis mine)

More about The East, the West, and Sex

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course some Asian ladies still find the antics of the sex-pat, the modern equivalent of Flaubert and Sir Richard Burton (the explorer not the actor, you philistine!) to indicate that the perfidious perpetrator is some kind of abberation, to be despised and/or mocked, as he (it’s always a he) is doing something unheard of and shocking! (Hollyjean’s post is perhaps not the most sterotypical example of such sterotyping there is, but it is indicative of the genre.)

The “can’t get laid at home” sex-pat, or indeed sex tourist, might just enjoy the East for EXACTLY that reason: they cannot get laid at home. But this is nothing new at ALL!

Sigh.

It may not be comprehensible to the beautiful people of the world, the modern world and the old world, those of them who climb all sort of exotic (ha, means ‘from another country’!) sexual territories in order to shag other models and other six-packed atheletes exclusively, but unattractive people do have sex drives, similar to theirs.

Ugly people (old, bald, beer-bellied: people like E@L, in short) like to fuck too. Not only do they like to fuck, they NEED to fuck. They should fuck, and if they can fuck, let them fuck. They were commanded by God The Creator in the Garden Of Eden to fuck. And they can fuck, thanks the sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil, for as long as they fucking want.

Can’t get laid at home? Can get laid in Wanchai, the 4FoW or Nana Plaza. Problem solved. And with a lady whose beauty and demeanour may complete utterly their deepest sexual fantasy. Why the fuck not?

~~~~~~~~~~

[E@L doesn’t want to stir up a fist-fight here, he just being honest about it from a certain Occidental point of view. He is completely aware of the horrors of sexual slavery, people trafficking, and child exploitation, drugs, etc… but these things are not limited to Asia or to the last 40years and the book I am reading is at pains to point out. The Americans soldiers on R&R in the 60s and 70s did not invent the concept of the caravanserai of mobile brothels following troops on their marches to war. “Hey you pedites, and even you, old bald fat general, you’re all probably gonna die tomorrow, gimme a coin or two and let’s FUCK!” (So I can feed and educate my children back in Rome, living with my mother.) Nor did the modern sexpat invented the concept of the harem, as Bernstein points out. Once the secret key to the mystery of the harem was limited to the Sultan, now it available to anyone with 2000Bht. But the fishbowl of Ratchadamburi Rd is still essentially a harem.]

~~~~~~~~~~~

Other complications may arise (no pun intended) for the sex-starved and often love-starved sex-pat. The repeated [Rule of Three, blog to come] plaintive statements of real need and the earnest protestations of true love can burn through the rational misgivings (they pretend to like you, and you pretend to believe them) of even the most cynical owner of the hardest heart and create new neural pathways in his dopamine driven brain.

When this happens, as it will, the cannot-get-laid-at-home man no longer distinguishes the “lub you long time” of an exploitative (and exploited, of course) bar-girl, from the “I love you oh so passionately, Roger, my heart melts as I swoon in your arms, and I’ll never leave you, kiss me, you fool,” of something from Jane Austin or from some other trash Romance novelist.

And before you know it, reality intervenes, as does our exploited lady’s boyfriend, and our sad and tragic hero is doing the Pattaya swan-dive* from the twelfth floor of his lost-love hotel.

But such dramas are not for discussion here…

E@L

Related Posts: The Fishbowl, Brad Pitt and E@L – Separated at Birth?

* Hat-tip to Chuck Woww.

The Fishbowl

Posted in Bangkok, Bruce, hookers, Thailand by expatatlarge on January 14, 2011

So there we were. Smashed in Bangkok. Again. Bruce narrowed an eye even further, if that were possible, and said, “Let’s go for a massage. I know a place that gives a great soapie.”

“Oh Jesus, Bruce, not Annie’s again. Anyway, I’m hammered. It’s late. It’s what – 4am? Everything will shut. I am so way past all this. I’m going back to the hotel,” said Stuart.

“One more, one more,” said the grimy faced urchin (who claimed she was twelve) to Stuart as she restocked the trays with pink and yellow disks. “I beat you, I beat you good mistah. You not so smart, but I like you!” Stuart, having been out-thunked six consecutive times, knew that he had met someone more than his intellectual match and that at this point, going back to the hotel and throwing up the toilet was the better part of valor. And that Connect-4 was way too complicated for him and that he was going to sell his chess textbooks the minute he got back to Hong Kong. He picked up his plastic cup and drained the last of his sour gin-tonic. He patted the disappointed girl on her head and said goodbye with a 50baht note.

That left Bruce and E@L. Again. Stuart was always crashing early (well, relatively early).

But it was hardly a minute, or hardly another futile move in Connect-4 against the determined-to-win street savant, before a revived Stuart was back. He was escorting a large green dress which contained a goodly proportion of, but certainly not all, the body of a hair-braided freelancer from Africa. Stuart could barely contain his glee. The street kid stared at Stuart like he was yet another inconstant lover.

We invited her to sit down at the small tables on one of the remaining fold-up chairs. Her face was a soft, shiny velvet-black. She was very pretty, thick-lipped, not so broad a nose and her forehead sloped back roundly into the back-cut braid, but her tits were enormous and overflowing in the too tight dress, her belly bulged out (not that we are slim, eh E@L?) and her butt ballooned out the back.

‘Mo-anie’ shrugged and spoke softly in a strong African accent when we asked some polite questions about herself (28, Sierra Leone, no kids), and then about her preferences in film (which was her favorite Harry Potter?) and politics (red shirts, yellow shirts?). Eventually she realized we were just drunk funny-guys all taking the piss, mildly enough and in good fun, but still there was no tricks to turn here. She excused herself and hustled off, rather shaken by the experience if he movement of her large bubble-butt was anything to judge by.

“Massage!” said Bruce. He called for chek bin khrup and Nit, our young waitress for these early mornings libations at the yellow trolley-bar (which would be folded up neatly into itself and wheeled away in a few hours – assembled and open 6 till 6) brought over a scribbled reckoning. Bruce paid. “It’ll all work out over the weekend.”

We scuttled the 12(?8,?16) year-old girl off with an initial offering of 50baht, but she pointed out that Bruce owed her another 10baht each for the five games he had insisted on gambling against her and lost. She had won at least half our Connect-4 games. She left with 100baht, probably enough to live on for three days, or for her mother to go gambling with.

Amazing kid. Sharp mind. Good at Connect-4.

“Imagine what she could have done with her life if she had ever gone to school,” mused Bruce.

“Or been born in another country,” E@L countered. (Frackin’ social conscience, E@L’s Achilles testicle.)

“Like Sierra Leone,” double-whammed Stuart.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Everything’s shut, Bruce. Nothing will be open. Stuart is right,” E@L said. Indeed the whole strip was much quieter than just 45 minutes before when we had first sat down at the street bar.

“We need maaaSSSSAAAAaaaaaage!” cried Bruce.

“And I know where we can get a fuck at 4;15 in this god-forsaken megalopolis!” He may have thrown a few extra “ol” and “al” syllables into that last word.

He led the charge across the legendary shifting pavers of Sukhomvit, over the legs of stacked-away stalls, of chairs at other temp bars and those of sleeping soi-dogs. We turned the all-too familiar corner where the fried locusts stall had been two hours earlier. The Nana clubs and bars were supposed to be closed by now. Even the trolley for the best hamburger in town was packed away and gone.

“I know a place,” he said. “Open 24 hrs, but don’t tell the police. You’ll wake them.” Ho ho. Bruce always had some new snippet of knowledge of the local debauchery scene to amaze us with, and a joke to follow.

Stuart, earlier adamant that he been heading for bed, was with us E@L realized, however his energy was fading fast after the fun of bringing the exotic hooker to our little table. We waved to the last of girls who called out to us from bars that were obviously shutting up shop and dodged the crotch grabs of the last of the katooeys still manning(!) the front of the Nana Hotel. After a few short blocks of the typical Bangkok shops (tailor, laundry, foot massage) stepping up and down at pavement and road, Bruce unexpectedly turned down a soi to the left. We had expected to go right, didn’t know there was anything to the left.

“If this placed is closed, I’m heading straight back,” complained Stuart. “Seriously, I’m fucking tired.”

At the entrance to the soi, Bruce hesitated at first. “This is the one” he said, unconvincingly. “C’mon mate, nearly there.” We walked slowly to the end of the soi, where it progressively became darker as we moved out of the street-lights and glowing signs on Soi 4 and moved behind the rear of the taller buildings on the left. Finally, maybe two hundred meters in, we made out the low rise block on the right side that E@L guessed Bruce was looking for. On the very last verandah a dim, solitary red light hung in front of a door and it silhouetted a row of pot-plants. “Here,” said Bruce, quickening. We stepped up. It was dark but not dark enough to miss the four-foot high electric sign with a plastic sign and curly fruit-loop Thai script on it and, tellingly, the outline of a naked lady in a bath-tub. But the sign was up on the verandah behind the plants, turned off. The place looked closed up. Bruce shrugged and walked up to the door confidently. “It’s always open. The locals know about it,” he said.

A knock, a wait, the sound of foot-steps. A look. A female face. “You wann massagee? Welcome!”

The welcome lady, maybe a kind fifty, maybe a harsh twenty-five, hard to tell in the dim light, was wearing a light-colored evening gown with a low-cut top. She gave Bruce some directions which he hardly needed as he was already on his way up the stairs. We walked up on worn red(? – also hard to tell) carpets to the third floor, behind him. There was a bar directly in front of us as we reached the top. It was almost pitch dark in here as well, but with the blue-tint of ultraviolet lights that reflected from the mirrors behind bottles of spirit (Mekhong, SongSam, Johnny Walker Red, cheap but expensive gin and vodka) and liqueurs (two of them, both Baileys) and empty beer bottles (Heineken, Tiger, Chang). The strange light made the dandruff on our dark t-shirts light up, our teeth glow and our eyes go smokey, but didn’t really help illuminate much around. We could just make out large-hewn, darkly lacquered wooden stools at the bar. As our eyes adjusted, down at the far end we made out the form of a person in a brown uniformed leaning forward on one of the seats, his peaked cap on the bar, his head on his cap and his arms outstretched around them both and a half full/empty bottle of Johnny Red. Bruce and E@L raised eyebrows at each and gave a silent high five! There WAS a sleeping policeman here!

The lady who looked up over her reading-glasses from behind the bar where she was toting up large pile of thousand baht notes, a lip-balanced cigarette wavering in her now-smiling face, greeted Bruce as an old friend. After a soft catch-up chat in pigeon-Thai, Bruce introduced us to Mrs Samathinporn or something like that, or not like that, and ordered more gin-tonics. Stuart’s face dropped. He really did not want more alcohol. But the tonic in our gins lit up, electric in the blue light and Stuart took a long sip. And then Bruce asked something that sounded like “Is the bowl still open?”

“Of course, Mistah Brut.”

She smiled warmly(?) at Bruce and put out her cigarette. She made a phone call that needed only a single number and then screeched rapidly into the handset. We heard a sudden loud scurrying behind the walls, like mice playing basketball, like girls putting on high heels.

“Solly, take time, girls rest, watch TV.” Practice Connect-4, thought E@L.

To the right of the bar, at the end of the room, the wall flickered into light. This wall was in fact made of two full-height glass windows that looked into into another room that was where the fluorescent globes were coming awake. There were three rows of stepped seats, up against the three walls in the room, all painted white and with cushions and stuffed toys on them. The cause of that scurrying sound became obvious as fifteen, maybe twenty, girls walked in quickly from an adjoining room and took their places in a well-understood arrangement.

“The fishbowl,” said Bruce.

Mrs Somethingporn led the three of us over.

Several of the girls were looking out towards us through the glass walls. Some were waving, some adjusting their low-cut dresses even lower to their push-up bras and some smiling falsely as if they were listening to a bad joke, but some sleepy-eyed ones were quite sullen and had just plonked themselves down. E@L noted that the welcome lady was sitting there as well, unambiguously older in the harsher light. Many of them appeared stunningly beautiful, but it was well after 4am and Bruce, Stuart and E@L had been drinking since lunch (oops) dinner.

“Is OK,” said the bar-lady to reassure Stuart and E@L, as we must have looked uncomfortable, “they cannot see you.” E@L, even now and having been back a few times, has no idea if she was lying or not. “Take you time. You look, you look. Take two lady Mistah Brut? Very pretty tonight.

“Girl this side of room,” she explained to Stuart and E@L, “are model, very beautiful, 2500baht. One and half hour massage, you very clean. Girl this side, very pretty also, special price, 1700baht. Take two for massage, only 3000baht.

“Please take a look. Very new girls. All very new.”

Bruce smiled. Stuart blanched. E@L wondered where the hell they got the idea for this!

~~~~~~~~~~

Harem, Thomas Rowlandson, 1812.


Caged Prostitutes in Japan, 1890-1900 via Flickr

~~~~~~~~~~

All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
Ecclesiastes 1, 8-10. ~250BCE.

E@L

Toes

Posted in anatomical variants, Bangkok, books, David Foster Wallace, hookers, knees, literature, toes by expatatlarge on November 12, 2010

I was going to write a piece about Thai bar girls’ ugly knees (a Bruce story) and the strange looking toes I noticed on one of my colleagues (on her feet to be exact) – they were long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes, gecko-like, Gollum-like, and they really freaked me out – until* I read the opening lines of David Foster Wallace’s Broom Of The System

Most pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metelman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. They’re long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes… etc…(No mention of Gollum)

Sigh.

More about The Broom of the System

(Wrong picture – I have the new Penguin Ink edition, cover art by tattooist Duke Reilly)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Finally, yes, I’ve started to dispel the fog of guilt in which I have been literarily (new word?) lost, never having read Infinite Jest. [And now I’ve purchased BotS! What an fracken idiot!]

When Wallace ended the universe of himself – rope, neck, kitchen ceiling (I believe) [I wonder if he wore shoes when he went, or were his toes exposed? Were they pretty toes or ugly ones?]- a few years back, I thought, heck I’d better read it, in memoriam you know? But immediately he went, all his books evaporated into the libraries of similarly motivated but more prompt aesthetes, and I failed in my epicish (new word?) endeavour to obtain an edition of IJ, indeed any of DFW’s books, in Singapore. Consider the Lobster I eventually found in Bangkok, but still it sits unread on my unread-over-weighted shelves. Then, slippery cerebral circuitry, Infinite Jest escaped from my mind for a while.

I was reading about infinity a while back and trying (failing) to come to terms with the Aleph of infinities proposed by George Cantor in the late 19th century, when I saw in the science/mathematics section Wallace’s book on infinity – Everything And More – grabbed it, read it, but it didn’t really help, only frustrated me more. My fault of course – glazed eyes? you have no idea.

Izzy’s friend Tom (hey dude) is a maths prodigy (compared to me, compared to anyone), and he helped; but he was amazed that I hadn’t read Infinite Jest. So, by now it was far enough away from his funeral for the new editions to have returned to the Kinokuniya shelves, at his insistence I took one home. Unread. Guilt. Fog. Book become invisible.

Then on Tuesday (this Tuesday, last Tuesday I mean, a few days ago, remember?) at a pub quiz – beers, pizza, imminent victory, jaws, defeat – the conversation inexplicably turned to DFW. Did I start it**? Maybe I did. Two of the guys, one Welsh (another mathemetician) the other American, went quasi-orgasmic over Infinite Jest. They seemed to have read everything of his, but they didn’t know which week Thanksgiving falls in! So again me, with guilt/inadequacy. Fog. Shuts up. (But I read today – I should be working, not blogging or reading interviews, I know – in an interview with Arundhati Roy that she hadn’t read any William Faulkener, so hey… [oops, neither have I])

So now, two days later E@L is about fifteen pages into IJ; autistic/savant tennis players, dope fiends… and skipping around about too, to sample what’s ahead.

EVERY SENTENCE IS AMAZING and requires you to think and puzzle, find the joke and the wit and the genius, but somehow it is enjoyably readable (once you let it flow, as you have to do with Proust). At one point while browsing ahead, I hiccuped into spontaneous laughter – fat woman’s buttocks inextricably wedged out the window of a bus toilet! One minute hyper-intense, 60 seconds later slapstick.

And I only have 1000 pages of this stuff to go!

More about Infinite Jest

It took the below footnoted David Eggers a month to read it he confesses in the intro to my edition. Ha! That’s what my McSweeney subscriber said as well. As I struggled and wanked my way for fifteen years to eventually get over Gravity’s Rainbow, (somewhere, oh that’s right, in Phuket) I doubt I will be that rapid in my reading…

E@L

* the “I was going write”, not the freaked out bit

** Oh that’s right, I had mentioned McSweeney’s in a facile attempt to make me sound smart (iron, Eiffel tower, who woulda thunk?) a propos who the frack knows what, but one of the guys had been a fracking subscriber to McSweeneys (embarrassment, curl up, ball), and then the question (not from the pub quiz) as to who was the editor of McSweeneys (I thought Rick Moody, but fortunately kept my mouth shut) and then up (on my Google phone) came David Eggers and he subsequently led us through the garden of fracking allusional (new word?) paths of semi-drunken one-up-manship to the topic of the works of one David Foster Wallace (deceased).

Bull Wang Gib You POWER!

Posted in 4FoW, Bangkok, cialis, herbal medicine, hookers, medication, Singapore, TCM, Thailand, viagra by expatatlarge on February 12, 2009

File this under Travellers’ Warning.

Yesterday’s mood distortion was not caused by a batch of fake Cialis from Thailand, though some was offered to me on the street last time I was in Bangkok.

“Where you go? Body massage, girl, DBD porno, Viagah, Chalice?” is the chant of the superfluous tuk-tuk drivers along Sukhomvit Rd as they accost me on each Soi corner. Meanwhile I try to avoid stepping on the ragged women beggars, sitting cross-legged by the steps to the train, drugged children comatose on their laps. And try to avoid twisting my ankle on the Indiana Jones-like stepping-puzzle they call a footpath here.

Rather than the usual worn fold-up ad for a three-girl soapie and massage, the tuk-tuk driver may hold open a plastic bag, showing me the blue or orange box of the potency drugs.

I don’t buy anything from these guys. No matter what you do or where go on a tuk-tuk these days, you will be ripped off. When I first came to Thailand they were a legitimate form of transport, much cheaper, faster and more available than taxis. Now, with the traffic at lock-jaw levels, tuk-tuks are just as stuck as ordinary cars. And they charge enormous amounts of money. Demands of 200Bht for a trip that would cost 45Bht in a A-C taxi are not to be believed. A motor-cycle taxi is the only way for serious commuters to weave through the cars, though chances of smashing a knee are pretty high. As often as possible, I take the sky-train.

Tuk-tuk drivers can only make their money by scamming you, the wide-eyed, wet-eared tourist. Selling erectile dysfunction medication is their latest beat.

On the odd occasion I might have made discreet purchases of ED drugs while travelling, it would have been in a “legit” pharmacy in Bangkok while getting a top up on my other medications: blood pressure, cholesterol and nerve-pain. Mmm, I hope they were legitimate drugs (Don’t we? You know who!) I bought. They certainly cost enough – like full price, but without the added cost and embarrassment of seeing a physician to get a ‘script.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can’t bring myself to get some here. I imagine my cute female GP asking me, “How much do you need? When will you use it? How often?”

What am I going to say – the truth?

“I don’t KNOW, I DON’T KNOW! Cheeerist woman, leave me alone with your incessant cataloguing of my personal failures! I KNOW I AM OVERWEIGHT, alright!? I KNOW that’s the cause of almost all my problems, alright! I just need to have some Viagra handy in case I get so despairing in my pathetic lonely existence that I am prepared to suffer the ignominy and shame of picking up a bored and desperate Triad-run hooker in the ultra-sleazy 4FoWs and attempt to have sex with her even I don’t even know or like her and she speaks no English and when I can’t get it up… again… I’m a failure because I’ve wasted $250 not to mention taxi fare, and my life is shit, I don’t know why I even bother breathing…!”

~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, moving on…. I think we can all agree it’d be for the best if I pick the occasional batch up when I get to Thailand and avoid that scene all together, right?…

~~~~~~~~~~~

So this article in the New England Journal Medicine is a bit of a warning:

An Unusual Outbreak of Hypoglycemia

Pasted from NEJM

To the Editor: The off-label use of drugs for the enhancement of sexual performance in persons without erectile dysfunction is a phenomenon that is increasingly recognized.1 These drugs are available in illegal forms, including counterfeit versions of brand-name drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction and purported herbal remedies containing synthetic phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.2 We describe an outbreak of severe hypoglycemia in Singapore; this outbreak was associated with contamination of illegal sexual-enhancement drugs with glyburide.

Between January 1 and May 26, 2008, a total of 150 nondiabetic patients with severe hypoglycemia were admitted to the five public hospitals in Singapore. All the patients except one were men, and they ranged in age from 19 to 97 years (median, 51). Seven patients remained comatose as a result of prolonged neuroglycopenia, and four subsequently died.

Glyburide was detected in blood or urine samples obtained from 127 of these patients (85%). On specific questioning, 45 patients (30%) admitted ingesting illegal sexual-enhancement drugs before the onset of hypoglycemia. Drug samples obtained from these patients and from drugs seized in police raids were analyzed by means of high-performance liquid chromatography. Four preparations were contaminated with glyburide in amounts ranging from 13 to 100 mg per tablet (Figure 1A). These drugs included a counterfeit of Cialis (tadalafil) and three herbal preparations for the purported treatment of erectile dysfunction (Power 1 Walnut, Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule, and Zhong Hua Niu Bian).3 All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet. Santi Bovine Penis Erecting Capsule and Zhong Hua Niu Bian also contained trace amounts of tadalafil and sibutramine.

Translation: Travellers in foreign climes be warned. The Cialis and crap Chinese copies/clones/competition you buy off the street in towns like Bangkok are pirated and could possibly contaminated by substances like glyoburil which is a diabetes drug that is harmful to non-diabetics. In Singapore, in a three month period in 2008, nearly 200 people were admitted to hosptial and four people died from these sprurious medications. There was a similar though more restricted experience in Hong Kong at around the same time. The NEJM article does not say where these medicines were purchased.

“Zhong Hua Niu Bian” means Chinese Bull Penis. “Saint Bovine” also hints at the non-herbal origin of the source of these pseudo-TCM’s “Penis Erecting” power. [This just screams for a ‘Truth In Naming’ case-study.]

Of course, eating the (herbal) penis of any dead animal is a total waste of time in a pharmacological sense: a) they’re really chewy, b) just don’t. The TCM idea of like for like is patently illogical nonsense to my Western eye. Eat a big penis get a big penis? What a – dare I say it – wank.

Penis munchers, you might HYPNOTIZE yourself into a placebo effect, but note that these “herbal” products are also stuffed with various amounts of tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) which DO actually work in many cases of ED. So if some of these herbal remedies eventually work, it’s because they are packed surreptitiously with the REAL medicine, not because of the TCM’s magic properties!

But note too the potential dose range across the products seized: “All four products also contained sildenafil in amounts ranging from 0.5 to 110.0 mg per tablet.” At least if you buy the genuine article you know that the dosage is going to be close to that stated on the package, and the results can be assessed in a reasonable light.

With any herbal concoction, not only are the doses basically random due to the typical slack QA at these snake-oil producers factories , there is also a higher risk of contaminants, such as occurred with the glyburide.

Of course these products were probably stamped together in a filthy backyard factory in Outer Nowheresville, China, perhaps near a slaughterhouse for a steady supply of bull products. They could contain anything, and usually do. The milk scandal is another case of un-policed Chinese regulations allowing producers to get away with, literally, murder.

If you would consider buying such drugs off the street you should first get a mirror and some Viagra eyedrops – then take a long, hard look at yourself.

E@L