I first met Bar Philips, or was it someone else, in the cavernous offices of the Bangkok Post. I couldn’t figure out how to operate the computers, I was here writing up an art review, so I poked my head into a tiny smoke filled office where a guy was tapping away on a Remington.
He didn’t have a clue how to operate a computer. He was the columnist of the Whore Owl and was smoking a cigar and nursing his big gut, while he typed away at his next column.
He was very helpful.
‘Can’t help you buddy.’
When he wasn’t writing about which number was the best fuck for the week, he’d throw in the occasional book reviews.
He mumbled something about Bar Philips.
‘I’m the real Whore Owl reporter.’
But I righted him on that.
Maybe he was, but I first met Bar Philips in The Big Mango. He now made an appearance in The Laundry Man. Jack acted on good faith and helped Bar in investing his recent windfall. Even Jack Shepherd never questioned where the money came from. A wise call.
I told Bernie I knew where the money came from. And that the tradition of Bar lived on, even into a new series.
That got Bernie going.
‘I’ll never review that fucker who wrote The Big Mango.‘
You don’t have too, I said, that’s the beauty of it. Just keep on reporting where the free BBQs are and who is the best fuck, and you’ll do just fine.
Howard the Roach was found dead, hanging off a rope on Taksin Bridge, only a stone’s throw from the Marriott and the Shangri-La.
I took a tuk tuk across it. I recalled seeing another body hanging off it, and without a head. That must have been in A World of Trouble, with dark shadowy connections to the Muslim Insurgents in Southern Thailand.
The Bridge of Kings or Politicians, the symbolism was rich with pageantry and those who had fallen out of grace with the Face Savers. If you got a grievance and want to show it, Taksin Bridge is the location.
King Taksin defeated the Burmese and overtook the capital. He then executed the Burmese instated governor and made himself the first Sino-Thai King. The battle against the Burmese was on the other side of the river in Thonburi .
It’s a commemorative bridge gloating the Thai’s defeat of the Burmese who had wrestled Ayuthaya from them. So if a Thai says they were never colonised, it’s just horse manure, and even the Japanese will vouch for that.
It’s a symbolic bridge too, completed in 1984, it’s also used for the occasional bomb throwing – the last one didn’t go off, about the same time of the Erawan Shrine bombing where over 20 people died, mostly Chinese tourists.
When there’s something going off, the bridge, or even the pier, is as good as any place to send out a message.
The bridge’s name also conjures up a recently democratically ousted Prime Minister. Most locals will call it the Sathorn Bridge, as any association with the recent Taksin gets many Thais into a rabid rage. They didn’t string him up on the bridge, though many would liked to have; and in tradition of disgraced politicians, he was given the nod and allowed to make a slip into exile.
My bet is that the next body to be found will be under the Rama 8 suspension bridge that connects Old Bangkok to the Malls , brothels and karaoke bars across the river in Pin Klao.
The Chao Phraya has always been a good river for floaters, from dead buffaloes to some unfortunate soul who crossed someone.
‘You read too many crime novels,’ said Bernie, who let out a big blue cloud of cigar smoke that signalled the end of our conversation.
And I read some history too, thinking Taksin Bridge could be the nexus from Bangkok’s bloody past to it’s tumultuous present. But I could be wrong.
‘You are,’ said puffing Bernie who poked his head out of his office again,’ and for the records, I doubt you’d know the difference between Matisse or Monet.’
They were Dutch artist, weren’t they?
‘I rest my case.’
Bernie exits computer room.
(Noise) Slammed door.
Bernie cut me out of his life. And I was never invited back to write for the paper, ever.
((Sound track)) One Night in Bangkok