With the wind in my hair, the dirty klong was spitting muddy water at me.
‘A klong don’t spit, and what the fuck is a klong anyways?’
The outboard motor kicked up a wake of water, waves cascaded into other waves, threatening to spill over the walls of the water highways and byways.
‘Now what the fuck are you on now?’ asked Bernhard, ‘thought I saw you pop some pills before we got on this long boat.’
From the Chao Phraya, the boat zoomed and nearly flipped on the wake of a passing long-tail that was playing chicken with us and refused to slow down.
”Fuck this water stinks.’
Bernie got a good splashing as our driver heaved his sinewy body into the pole that had a throttle attached to it, which supported the exposed blades at the end of the twenty-foot pole.
These long tails attached to long boats are faster to get around than a taxi and a tuk-tuk and never get gridlocked. This trip took us to the heart of Bangkok’s facade and to the other side, where we could see the wooden supports that keep the smiley illusion from falling.
‘Stay off the fucking pills, will you mate, before I piss myself with laughter and fall into this muddy water.’
We were nearing Sukhumvit. I knew the dilapidated wharf well.
‘I suppose that’s where you got a few firecrackers up your ass.’
I ignored that snide remark as we got off the old rickety pier, the trick was to watch your step, in case you stepped on a rotting board and went in for a drink. Getting on and off these boats was also a skill. And yes, when fireworks were legal, it was warfare during Songkran, not only did you have to avoid buckets of acid thrown at you, but you also had to duck from well-aimed little pyrotechnic rocket launchers that could maim or kill you.
There was no better way to see Bangkok than on these long tail boats.
‘And Soi Cowboy is just down the road, off Asoke,’ said Bernie, who like a shark smelling the scent of blood, was honing in on the scent of scanty dressed go go dancers.
We made it on time, I said. All we need to do is find a comfortable chair, not too far, nor too close, and enjoy the fireworks.
So what bar are we looking for asked Bernhard? He was quite composed and had no hint of a high pussy fever.
The Green Latrine and I’m not talking a pissing trough, I said.
Now the part about the Captain, pay attention and stop eyeing up that ladyboy.
‘But her hooters are so big.’
Headlights, numbskull, and were they blinking at you?
As I was saying, the way the author introduced him. It was some small temple compound two hours north, south or east of Bangkok. Harry Austin blended in like a local. It was brilliant.
“How could it be brilliant?’
Well it’s obvious you haven’t hung out at many of the small town temples. Nothing ostentatious about them at all. It’s just another realistic touch that author felt he couldn’t dispense with.
‘What you are saying that there was no embellishment and it’s the way it really is.’
Few authors go the extra distance to get these kinda details right.
Another point I wanted to make, did you read about the author’s street characters. Look, I pointed to a young boy and old man, playing tandem blind, ‘they were not overlooked.’
What about the whores, asked Bernhard.
I shrugged, I really had no idea.
Bernhard continued, ‘take a look.’
‘They are all fat,’ he said, like a revelation, asking, ‘ where have all the waifs gone.?’
It was more a statement than a question.
The wily bastard had also read Don’t Get Caught, ‘caught you out hay.
Instead, I said, ‘the waifs are at Dunkin Donuts fattening up for the slaughter.’
I really didn’t have a serious answer to that one.
And are you pissing in the wind about The Green Latrine Bar? asked Bernhard, who was being more than inquisitive today.
Well the author of The Big Mango wasn’t, apparently it was the bar of choice for those who liked a good local bar.
‘You mean it attracted spooks, spies, and mercenaries.’
Well I suppose so, if you put it that way.
‘I was drinking there before you were out of diapers.’
Anyways, bravado posturing aside, the place is now called Baby Dolls.
“And underneath the bar, there’s a tunnel that burrows its way to Asoke, that’s the rumour that’s been floating around since the 70s when the Yanks came here to grow roots.’
‘You mean the soldiers who didn’t’ want to go home?’
‘You might act dumb,’ said Bernhard, who winked, to emphasize that he wanted to say something belly laughing funny, ‘ but boy when you use your brain, it’s a marvel to witness.’
Keep your eyes peeled, I said, as four Gooks made their way down Soi Cowboy towards the soi 23 end. We were sitting on flimsy stools outside a 7-Eleven, on the corner of the east end.
We had front row seats.
There were two white Vans, and three guys hiding behind them.
All we could hear was the ping of silenced bullets. Then a guy lobbed a grenade.
The gooks stopped in their tracks, expecting a loud explosion.
Then a yellow gas started oozing from the grenade.
And the beat got louder. The lights started strobing.
Man, I really shouldn’t mix Tramadol with Tiffy’s.
‘They have 30 milligrams of pseudoephedrine per tablet.’
Cut out the crap I said, as I took a big slug of a long neck Chang.
Watch and learn from the best, I eventually said. This only happens once in a lifetime.
What happens once in a lifetime, asked Bernhard, who wasn’t sure where I was going with this.
‘That Soi Cowboy goes off.’
Bang, fragments of jagged steel flying all over the place, one whizzed past my head. But we were unscathed.
‘Did they get away with the booty?’ asked Bernie.
Hah, I got you, so you did read The Big Mango.
He nodded and took a big slug of his beer.
It was the first of July, I noted.
‘And Soi Cowboy went out with a big bang.’
And no one was the wiser, a blast, flairs, and the old punters thought it was just another ruse to attract young punters.
We kept on watching. The two white vans eventually left, with pink smoke coming out of their exhausts, another subterfuge. And a Beastie Boys song was wailing full blast out of a very good sound system in the last van.
‘I know that tune,’ said Bernhard.
‘So you fucking should,’ yelled out Bar Philips who was just about to leg it down the soi, ‘it’s my favourite fucking song.’
It was Sabertouge, Jake Needham style.
Oh my god, it’s a mirage
I’m tellin’ y’all, its sabotage
The End, apparently.
But then a guy got out of the first van and ran up to us.
‘Nope, not the end yet,’ he said, ‘I just want to thank you for rooting for us.’
Well fuck a duck.
‘And if you ever are in Phuket, look me up.’
Where in Phuket, I asked.
‘Just read The Laundry Man, enough clues there,’ he said, shaking our hands then running back to the van to finish off his last scene in the book.
That was cryptic as fuck.
‘What else would you expect from Eddie Dare.’
I bet we could find him at a short time hotel.
I thought he was pretty straight forward but when he needed to play espionage, he could ham it up with the best.
What an ending, on or off drugs, I said to Bernhard, who was now chatting up a ladyboy who had the biggest tits. He was telling her that he had a bar in Indonesia and if she wanted to work there, he’d take her tomorrow.
Things were really developing.