Saturday, September 20, 2008
I walked south out of my apartment complex to On Nut square. The chang beer area was its usual evening quiet. In a few hours the dancers would get on stage as a singer would croon out the latest thai pop hits. There were two singers, one a thirty something rotund man and a petite thirty something thai woman. The man would dress down, usually in jeans and a polo, while the woman would wear a cheap sequin dress. The dancers would wear skimpy outfits which was quite amusing considering the variety of their body shapes. Their was a skinny dance, a thick dancer, a medium dancer, and a lady boy. When I'd shuffle by the stage the lady boy would cat call me. After a week I quit blushing.
The beer area also served as an open air market with usual wares. There was a booth for food; som tum, som blah, and tod blah. Several cheap clothing stalls were set up. They had sandals, underwear, thin shirts, and shorts. Most of the clothing was for women. Of the 5 or so clothing stalls only one was for men. There was a little stall that sold pirated dvds and cds. One could purchase the latest thai blockbuster or foreign import.
I moved through the market and to On Nut square proper. The front of the square was a tiled area that served beer. The square itself was a covered building with air conditioning. Inside were more clothing stores, again mainly women's clothing. I sat outside and ordered some beer. I liked the atmosphere outside in front of the building. There was a small stage on which a dj performed. The music wasn't too loud. I could still hear the chatter of the staff as they lounged around. The staff of the beer area was uniformed in tiger and chang beer outfits. The tiger outfits were flattering blue dresses that came to mid thigh on the young thai women who wore them. The chang beer uniforms were tight small shirts that clung to the nymph like frames of the other workers. I sat in silence as I drank my beer and looked at a mixed couple a few tables away. The girl was dark, with a flat nose, she looked slightly lao and I figured she was from Isaan a poor province to the northeast. The man was blonde haired and tall. He had a slight gut from drinking and spoke to her in an Australian accented English.
I drank another small jug of beer and felt a mild buzz. The beer was a cheap lager and was a session beer. A fair amount could be drunk before one was drunk. I got tired of the loneliness of being by myself and got on the BTS. The BTS, skytrain, is the above ground railway system that runs through Bangkok. The fare is charged by distance but is kept pretty affordable. The On Nut stop was at the end of the line. I got on the train and rode to Asoke. Asoke is in the downtown financial center of the sukumwit. The sukumwit is a long northwest-southeast running road that houses most of the foreign financial businesses. Asoke connects with the underground MRT, the other extensive public transit system, and also is surrounded by large malls.
I got off of Asoke and looked around. I decided to have some more beer and went towards soi cowboii. The small side street off of the sukumwit is well known for its go go bars. The go go bars are small brothels but have more of a strip club feel to them. I went into one on the left hand side of the street and was guided by the mamasan to a seat by the bar. The club was small. Running along three of the walls were booths, in front of them were small tables. The center of the club had a small stage on which a dozen young thai women danced. They slowly moved about to the thai pop that was played on the house stereo. Dressed in skimpy white bikini's I wondered if they were cold. I tried not to look at them in the eye, and when the mamasan came over I ordered a beer. I drank the beer and looked the women's legs as they danced around. Most of them were in cheap converse style flats that offset their more luxiourous looking outfits. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing here. I thought about indulging in a woman but decided against it. I stared at their legs for another drink and then got up from my chair and went out. The street was a little busier having hit 11 o'clock. A small elephant the size of a volkswagon bug walked on the street led by a young thai man. I moved around the beast and started walking down the sukumwit. The sukumwit had quite a few falang bars, mainly english style pubs. I ducked into the first one I saw. That's where I met Molly.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
White Horse - m4m Sat night (berkeley)
Just want to say a few words to the guy who was wearing white t-shirt and tan pants. He was working as cleaning and putting glasses away. We had few glances and wanted to say you have a nice cute smile. I wish we had a moment to chat but knew you were busy. Drop me a line if you wish. I'm in the red shirt (Old navy shirt) and light blue jeans. If you're not comfortable. It's cool.. take care and have a good Sunday.
"Hey," I answered.
"Hey, do you have some time," she asked me. Her voice was slightly shaky.
"Sure, I'm just sitting at home playing video games," I responded. I didn't know what to expect from this conversation. We'd been in decent communication, a few emails, some letters, a phone call or two. I didn't trust her anymore, and she'd done nothing to attempt to earn my trust. We seemed to be going through the motions. The distance between us had grown after she exposed her long going affair. We had tried to patch things together, but she seemed to be riding the fence. She still talked to the TA and I didn't doubt that they were sleeping together. Part of my desire to go to Thailand was to get away from her. It seemed like I couldn't quit her, it made me feel weak.
"I don't know how to say this...," her voice trailed off.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Go ahead."
"I'm moving out of my apartment."
"So what's the big deal about that? You've been talking about how you've disliked your roommate for several months now."
"Well I already gave her notice, and I don't have a place to go yet."
"Ah," I said with conclusion. She was going to move in with the TA. She had few friends and cared more for her immediate comfort than our relationship.
"I'm moving in with Rich."
"That makes sense," I said with comfort.
"Yeah, you have no friends because you've spent the last year sleeping around rather than focusing on one relationship and making friends. Now you have nothing to fall back on but Rich, who is far more lenient with you than I. You've been hedging your bets for a long time now. Biding your time til one of us quit the game and then you'd stick with the other."
"Are you mad?"
"Of course I'm mad. You're not holding up your end of the relationship at all. We said that we'd be single until I came back and then we'd try to start things over... remember?"
"But I don't know what you're doing over there," she pleaded.
"I've told you before that I don't have a girlfriend. I've done nothing over here. I wander the city, I read, I drink occasionally, its g-rated."
"Our agreement makes me feel restricted. I don't like you telling me what to do," her whimpers had turned to anger.
"It was an agreement. It was something that you wanted as well."
"You're so far away... I need something now."
"I'm not there. There's nothing I can do about that. I can try to stay close to you in other ways, but part of why you're not here now is because you cheated on me, on the relationship. I don't want to be in someone's life who is going to back out of every agreement, who won't stick it out."
"But its hard, I'm having a hard time right now, I'm lonely."
"What can I do about that? I can write you, I can call you, I can email, what do you want?" My tone had turned towards vexation. At some point my feelings had turned. Maybe it was when I boarded the plane to Tai Pei, maybe it was during the flight from China to Thailand. Maybe it was when I was wondering in the Pat Pong district, eating lunch at the MBK food court, watching a fight at Lumpinee stadium. It was quite possible that they'd turned that day during that phone call. At some point my feelings for her had turned, they'd become stale. I no longer felt attached to her. It was my sense of commitment that had kept us together. My desire to see things through. That will buttressed my emotionally confusing and unwanted entanglements. She was my first long term girlfriend, I'd been happy I'd cared. I was no longer happy with her, I no longer cared.
"I don't know, I don't know what you can do, I don't know what to do...," she started to sob into the phone.
I held the phone away from my ear for a moment. I wondered if she was faking her tears.
"You never know what to do, so you do what's easiest. You don't break off a relationship even if it comes into conflict with another because it would be too hard. You don't bring the truth to light because its too hard. You can't be alone because its too hard. What was it you said once? 'If I was in a relationship with myself I would end it.'"
"This is your fault, this is your responsibility. You've made choices. You chose to cheat on me. You chose not to try to gain my trust. You chose to hedge your bets. That said I made my own choices. I chose to leave, I chose to try to patch things up, I'm not saying that I'm clear of all the wrong but you've made choices."
Again there was silence on the other end of the phone. I was getting tired of the conversation. It had an emotionally exhaustive quality to it. We sat in silence.
"Its my fault," she said with no tone.
"Is that a question or a statement. I believe its the latter." I nodded my head and looked at the wall. I was sitting on the edge of my bed. The video game before me looked alluring. Outside of the window came the sounds of Bangkok's constant construction. I'd like to remember that last bit being the way the conversation ended. Instead there was more silence, more wasted time.
"I've got to go, the supermarket is closing soon and I need to pick up things," I finally said.
"Isn't it noon there."
"The supermarket closes early today, some sort of election thing," I replied. I hung up the phone and sighed. I laid down on my bed feeling relieved. It was as if I had just bathed after descending into a New York City sewer or a Bangkok Khlong. I sat back up and started playing my video game again.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The first time I was in this airport, waiting for this airplane, I was swamped with thought. Now there wasn't a thought in my head. My mind was preoccuppied with the nervousness of travel, and still scattered from things between myself and Amy. Amy was my college girlfriend.We had first met at a party. We were attending CCA, an art school in north Oakland at the time. It was an embarassing social gathering of pimple faced rejects, berets, and pretensions. I thought she was cute, if a little plump and invited her to see "The Maltese Falcon," which was playing up on Shattuck.
Our relationship was a casual friendship at first and we spent much of our time discussing art; the lines of De Stilj, the vacuity of surrealism, the explosion of Dada. We painted together and our first art shows followed. Our relationship became more serious as are time together increased. With the passing days we had more and more in common. We planned a trip to Thailand together. We would take the time off of our schooling in order to focus on our creative enterprises along with traveling. I'd never been out of the states, she'd never been out of california.
Our plans fell apart when I learned she'd been cheating on me consistently for several months. She'd started hooking up with a TA in the film department. He thought he was her boyfriend as well. He liked Goddard, she liked sleeping around and lying. Our falling out was uneventful. I wanted there to be blood, smashed heads, crucifixitions. It was a bit of stamping about, huffing and puffing, and taking back a few of the items I'd given her. I cancelled her plane ticket to Thailand.
I started to spend time with my friends again drinking and complaining for a couple months. I finished a few paintings, and started talking to Amy again. I felt we were young, that people made mistakes, that I'd screwed people over before yet still wanted them in my life. She was still leading the TA around an a short leash and so our relationship was one of limbo. I was leaving for thailand, she was hedging her bets. Before I left I told her that if she was single during the time that I was in thailand and available when I came back I would consider getting into a serious relationship with her again.
I took up an apartment in eastern Bangkok and rarely left the city. I enjoyed the grittiness of the capital, the crowded streets, the dangling wires from the broken telephone poles, the constant construction that was unguarded. It was a stark contrast to the safety of college, of school, of art professors, and lectures. I wandered the city for hours, following the klongs, the sewage filled canals. I would try to count the number of houses on the canals, the number of tuk tuks on a busy street. I rented a motorbike for a few days then decided that it was far too dangerous, and I simply didn't have the courage to risk my life in the haphazard traffic.
I met Molly Tolliver the same week that I had my parting phone call with Amy.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
McCain has been fighting for boxers
Boxers are told to protect themselves at all times inside the ring but they often have trouble doing the same outside the ropes.
The history of the sport is littered with examples of boxers being cheated out of their money by people who were supposed to be looking after them.
How often do we hear about fighters ending their days penniless or being forced to carry on for too long because their money has gone?
It's not just small-time pugilists either as many big names fall victim to the same system.
However, while watching the current US presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain, I was reminded of the hard work McCain has done to try and clean up the sport in his home country.
McCain boxed for the Navy as a young man but it is his work as the Republican senator for Arizona that endears him to many fight fans.
Twelve years ago he completed an initiative in the United States to try and free fighters from the grip of promoters and self-serving sanctioning bodies.
The Professional Boxing Safety Act was passed as law and subsequently amended in 2000 as the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
McCain follows the sport closely and his legislation recognised that many boxers were being exploited and had little chance of redressing the balance.
They were tied to unfair contracts that meant their handlers could siphon off cash with impunity.
One of the best things about boxing is that it gives a chance to the poor to earn money and to make something of themselves.
But the people who are supposed to be guiding them can use the system to their own advantage.
The senator also raised questions about how sanctioning bodies like the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO compiled their ratings and how they handled fighters.
McCain's hard work in passing these laws in the United States helped those who were previously at the mercy of people interested in lining their own pockets.
He recognised that the biggest problem facing the sport is the fact there is no central control which focuses primarily on the fighters.
His law obviously only applies in the USA but hopefully other elected officials will take up the baton around the world because the sport is in desperate need of independent regulation.
Some boxing commisions are strong and are able to keep wayward forces in check, but many more are not and they need help.
Many years ago, managers complained that they had to give money in brown paper bags to the right people to get their boxers ranked.
But is that very different to having to box continuously in dubious title fights to rise up the ratings while the sanctioning bodies take their cut?
There is also the issue of genuine belts being devalued.
Thailand currently has two world champions - WBC strawweight king Oledong Sithsamerchai and WBC women's light-flyweight holder Samson Sor Siriporn - yet the WBC has also allowed Nicaragua's Juan Palacios and Japan's Naomi Togashi to win "interim" belts in the same divisions despite Oledong and Samson being perfectly fit to defend.
That is an insult to both Thais.
The WBA crazily has super, normal and interim world titles in circulation at super-flyweight.
These are the kind of situations that McCain wanted to try and stamp out and clearly there is still a lot of work to do.
In an ideal world McCain's ideas could be implemented around the globe to help fighters everywhere, but that seems a long way from happening.
It has also taken a back seat in the US as McCain tries to become the next president in the face of serious competition from Democrat Obama.
There are far more serious issues at hand, but at least McCain has tried to help boxers because of his respect for the sport. I don't know if he will win the election but McCain's contribution to boxing should not be forgotten.
Julian Turner is the Bangkok Post's Deputy Sports Editor.
Friday, September 5, 2008
The bartender was clad in a pair of blue jeans, a white tank top and a paint of gloss on her lips that made them look like a puckered rose. Her latina characteristics came out in her slightly arched, painted, eyebrows along with her jet black hair. She had more curves than a windy mountainous road. She was strolling behind the bar like a caged tiger, waiting for something to catch and play with. A perverse desire made me want to be her mouse.
I shook my head and took a sip of my beer back. I'd been off the drink for 30 days but hoppen back on the wagon tonight. For the last twenty years I'd been drinking regularly, I figure the amount of time my ole mare was drinking while I was in the womb counted double. Her teats reeked like alcohol when I suckled on them.
I took some time off from the bottle to get myself back in shape. I still had passing thoughts of making it back in the ring. I know I'm too old now, my reflexes have faded, my nuckles are gnarled and the only thing that I can foretell in a bout is what the evening's weather will be like. My dreams of making it big kept me jogging in the mornings, while the harsh rocks of reality kept me at my job.
I worked as a baker at a bread company in west berkeley. I made the rice of the west with a handful of latino guys in the early mornings. We'd use huge machines to mix the flour, water, and yeast together. The air would get so full of flour and dust that we wore face masks. It paid shit but I liked the hours, it was hours that would keep me in the gym, not that I ever went anymore. I took my paycheck every week and put part of it in the bank, part of it towards my gut, and part of it towards buying hbo specials of the latest bouts. I could only catch about one fight a month due to my being on the lower end society's pay scale.
Tonight I was letting my stint at sobriety lapse as my one of my favorite fighter had lost his bout. The fight was an atrocity. The boxers looked like back up dancers for a boy band. They jabbed, bob, and feint one another off balance. Neither of them could have hit hard enough to wake his gradma out of a light doze. The crowd booed, rightfully, and the referee tried to spur the action to no avail. Disappointed with the pugilism I had come down here to drink my sorrows and more of my money away.
"I don't get why you're always pushing me away," said the blonde haired goon sitting next to me. He was addressing a blonde angel. She was lithe and swan like. She had a plait of golden hair that rested on her head like a halo. Her mouth was sweet looking like a peppermint, her cheeks were red and lightly spotted with orange freckles. I could only see the back of the goon's head but he had a linebacker's shoulders.
"You're an incorrugible lout," she replied. "I just wish you'd leave me alone."
"What are you talking about? Just like week you said you loved me."
"We were in front of your parents, I didn't want to make you look bad."
"That's what I love about you, you're willing to put others before yourself."
"You fucking prick," she turned away from him and downed her drink. She waved at the bartender for another.
"I think you've had enough," the goon said grabbing her wrist. I scootched my stool a little away from the couple afraid that their lover's spat might interrupt my alcoholic shots to the liver. "We should get going."
The bartender eyed the couple and signaled to the bouncer. The bouncer a stocky lad with a soft face was met with the goon's right cross as he opened his mouth to interrupt their scene. The bouncer dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
"You dick. Now I'm not going anywhere with you," the blonde shrieked. The bartender got on the horn and looked to be calling the police. I eyed the bouncer on the floor. He was groaning which meant the punch couldn't have been that hard. I sighed. The blonde pushed her lug of a companion. He fell back into me. I fell over onto the floor with the goon on top of me. I pushed him off of me and dusted myself off after rising to my feet.
"I'm sorry," the bartender mouthed to me and then spoke into the phone. "Yeah I've got a bar fight at the missouri lounge, yup san pablo and parker in berkeley. Fifteen minutes great."
The goon had a bit of a harder time getting back onto his feet. He looked around the room and swayed slightly. He turned around and faced me. "What are you looking at," he said salivia shooting out of his mouth. "Why'd you knock me over you ass?"
I shrugged and he took a swing at me. I could see his big right haymaker coming but that didn't spur to me to do much about it. At the last second I covered the side of my head with my arm cushioning the blow. My eyes went out for a half a second and as soon as I regained composure my fists shot out. My trainer always used to tell me that you can't knock a guy out with a jab. I proved him wrong that night. I threw a right cross right into his nose. It made my knuckles ache, and his nose bust open like a faucet. I threw a left uppercut to his liver that doubled him over with a resounding "oomph." For my finale I threw a straight left jab right into his testicles. The last bit is what put him down for the count. The goon slumped to the ground.
The blonde looked at me with horror, and then at the bouncer, then at her goon. She started to shriek. "What the fuck did you do?" She spat venom at me and started to slap me. I shoved her off me and went back to my chair. She bent over and started sobbing into the goon's chest. The bouncer came to a minute later and the bartender gave him a sack of ice for his face. She looked at me and winked.
"I'll buy your next round," she said with a purr. Maybe I just imagined that throatiness at the end but it looked like it might be a nice night after all.