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Man I’ve got a lot of time to kill.

AS I WALKED slowly back to my office I pushed Dollar, Just John, and Howard the Roach firmly into the back of my mind.

I read that line a few times thinking what a colorful role call of  names.

And then Mango Manny? Sounded like  someone I wouldn’t want to meet. Even Jack Shepherd questioned having Mango Manny as a loose net around his meeting at Took Dae Dee tonight with Bary Gale:

‘Just let me be sure I understand what you’re telling me here,’ I said. ‘Just because you can’t find a couple of references to Barry Gale in your magic machine, you’re seriously proposing that I get some screw-up cockney hit man turned godfather to the Thai marijuana trade to work security for me when I go to the Foodland tonight to meet a dead guy. Have I pretty much got it?’ 

I downed a few Changs  at Cheap Charlie, trying to muster up the courage to venture down a few more Sois to  a place called the Q Bar.

Cheap Charlies wasn’t anything to write home about. Alright, they sold  cheap beer. But I could get even cheaper beer at Seven Eleven.

‘But you don’t get the same service drinking at a 7-11,’ said a stranger sitting next to me. He carried a briefcase. I pegged him as a corporate English teacher.

Then he winked at me, and slyly  filled up his Mekong and coke from a bottle he had stored in his briefcase. I’d have never pegged him for being that kind of Cheap Charlie.

But do I care?

I looked around.

‘It’s gone, isn’t it,’ said the English teacher. He was from Scotland and said he’d been here for years, ‘long before they built that elevated rail line in the middle of Sukhumvit.’

What’s gone?

‘Cheap Charlies.’

What about Wong’s?

‘It’s still going, but Wong is  having problems opening up the bottles.’

You mean he’s pissed all the time?

‘He’s gone deaf from the loud music he plays, so when you order a drink, it’s pot luck what you get.’

Now that’s a new one for Bangkok, I thought, from women dressed up in skimpy office outfits in a bar called The Office, to this.

‘The Office is long gone too,’ informed my drinking buddy, we were sitting outside 7-11 doing our own Cheap Charlie routine, ‘ and so are the oil and gas boys who have all  fucked off to Vang Tau in Vietnam for the cheaper booze and whores.’

I thanked the Scotsman who told me his name was Block Head. For all I knew, he could have been Stickman and  a Kiwi. I  didn’t have the heart to tell him that I  knew him  in my past life. He just went along like we were complete strangers but he least he had  the courtesy to give me his Bar Name. I reciprocated by saying I was Fuck Head Frank. He didn’t bat  an eyelid.

It had been a while since I  was here last, but the times were ‘a changing.’

‘They are building a condominium there,’ said Block Head. He pointed to where Cheap Charlies use to be. I feigned surprise.

I’m sure some travel writer will  find it cute and wax lyrical about it in some future date.

‘Only if it has a spirit house.’

I saw his point, The Thai Spirit House.

‘It’s a name of a trendy bar,’ said Block Head  who I knew would be vanishing soon, like another faded memory,  ‘just next to Q Bar.’

Bangkok was getting risque, I really had to say that for the city that was always reinventing itself.

We parted ways like a  burning 500 baht note that  goes up in smoke. Puff. Our meeting had just become another distant memory.  Yet I  was quite chuffed about this expat exchange, who knows, I might be able to uncover more dirt on this town that use to be my remand playground.

I had read that Jack was a Cheap Charlie man.  I tipped my cap and said, see you soon Big Jack. It sounded childish,  but no worse than saying ‘catcha later Doll.’

I had a change of plan. Was Johor calling as I picked up my phone?

‘Yes, and a milky tea is waiting for you.’

That was Mustafa. He knew  I was missing the Causeway and all it stood for.

Bangkok just seemed a bit too whacked even for me. Maybe I was getting too old for this shit.

Can one outgrow Bangkok?

It looked like it.

The place felt  like a ghost town.

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