|Soi 8 Cyber Café – 12/29/02
I got to Pattaya last night. It took 31 hours, door to door to get here from Tucson. It was 4 a.m. when I finished unpacking. The new Interior Minister has been in the news the last few months, enforcing a 2 a.m. closing for every bar in the country. I couldn’t imagine Soi 8, a 24-hour street if there ever was one, closing up! So, it seemed incumbent upon me to investigate. I learned (Shhh!!) that at 2 a.m. the bars turn off their lights, and turn off their music, but the wait staff is SO dedicated that they stick around all night. And should a weary traveler stop by for a beer, how can they possibly refuse? To reward their dedication, I bought them each a drink – all six of them. They liked the first round of tequila so much that…well, anyway, I overslept, so I lost a day gathering material for the article you wanted.
Soi 8 Cyber Café - 1/1/02
Happy New Year! It must be close to midnight where you are. I had dinner with the Danes – Karsten Neilsen, Morten Daugbjerg, and Thomas Holm – at Somboon’s (the site of the preliminary events). Mountains of food, gallons of bottled water, a couple of dozen beers (we had Bruno Orsuni lending an Italian hand – or is that throat?), two bottles of wine, and it ran less than eighty bucks. (I think; Karsten grabbed the check. Vive la Denmark!) Then, Bruno gave me a lift to the 19th Hole to meet Vilai. Good thing we drank all that beer or the encounter our motorcycle had with that truck when we were passing in the oncoming lane might have seemed frightening. We ran into Joachim there, just back from Sweden, so it was after midnight when Vilai and I got to Hopf. Bruno was leading the band in a medley of Italian favorites. The Thais in the crowd didn’t know the words, so Bruno had to do all the singing. We got to Soi 8 around 3 a.m. It being New Years, no bar was closing. We found a table along the street. Given the crowds, I couldn’t imagine why it was vacant. Couldn’t imagine until, they set off the next string of firecrackers. Remember the firecrackers you blew off when you were a kid? Well, these were no lady fingers! Each cracker was two inches long, and the strings were as long as a Lincoln Towncar (though they blew up more like a Pinto). Our table turned out to be at Ground Zero. We beat a retreat to the hotel. Too bad, as the entire world seemed to be partying on that street: Vikings in horned hats, jugglers, sambaing South Americans, two Scotsmen in kilts. (One of the bar girls decided to find out whether the rumors about what Scotsmen do, or do not, wear beneath their kilts, were true, and in doing her research, edified the entire street. It’s true! It’s true!)
I think I played some backgammon yesterday. I’ll ask around, and see if anyone remembers.
Soi 8 Cyber Café – 1/3/02
The qualifiers started yesterday. I didn’t qualify, but have another crack at it today. There’s plenty of action here, so I’m sure I’ll get material for the article you wanted. Meanwhile, I wonder if you noticed the news that the Euro is now, as of January 1st, the official currency of the European Union. No more francs or marks or lire. Oh, they’ll be tucked away in a few piggy banks (schwein banks?) back in Europe, but the currency exchanges here in Thailand won’t take them anymore.
It’s a shame the old currencies are gone! As an American, you may wonder why I care? It’s because, on the German 1000-mark note, instead of some bewigged politician, or epauletted general, they honor Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm. Yes, the Brothers Grimm! Other honorees are Clara Schumann, and Karl Friedrich Gauss. You can get a liberal arts education just by spending money.
I learned this because of what happened in the chouette last night. Khun Kim was in the Box. These days Kim is better known locally as “Jerry Kimdell,” because of his creative plays. Does Snowie only show you the top 20 plays, and you want to know what comes after? Just watch Kim for awhile, and he’ll show you. Usually when he is Captain, and you can’t talk yet, because your cube hasn’t been turned. “Just read my book!” He exclaims. It’s most famous line “If you hit me, I hit you also!” has become the watchword of the chouette.
Anyway, it was the end of the night, and Kim was not doing well. Perhaps you recall my article “The Town Crier, Captain Blood, and the Butcher of Barcelona?” (Found in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FOUR-POINT!) In that story one unlucky player got into the Box at the end of the night, and was allowed stay in for the last three games, despite getting gammoned by everyone the first two. You may recall it, but Kim obviously didn’t. Proving Santayana’s dictum that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, Kim entered the Box down sixty points or so, and lost to everyone, then begged to stay in the Box for the last game. After losing a gammon, he begged again, and we agreed to play one more game, with him retaining the Box.
Kim may have forgotten history, but we hadn’t. Years ago our mistake had been, with the Box not changing, permitting the same player to remain as Captain. That player, the Butcher of Barcelona, had then feloniously failed to leap a 3-prime for three turns, causing us all to get gammoned, and costing us 100 points. This time, we rotated. In fact, for the final game, we brought in a completely new shooter. Vilai had just won 17 points in her chouette, and flush with triumph, and bolstered by her now healthy bankroll, she announced “I play!” (Seventeen points from her chouette, after all, would stake her to one entire point in our game, with enough left over for a deep-fried scorpion.) (At least, they charged me 10 baht for MY deep-fried scorpion, but sometimes there is a better rate for locals.) So, she substituted for me as Captain. Leading the team to a gang-gammon, she won enough for two complete outfits, and a pair of shoes. And Kim wound up on the wrong side of the three-digit mile marker, which is how I wound up providing a home in my wallet for Jacob and Wilhelm and Clara.
Soi 8 Cyber Café – 1/4/02
Still no material for the article, but I have got to show you this position!
|This was the last game last night. Schmude was in the Box, I was Captain, and David Brown was on my team. Earlier I had given David some “1-Carlsberg gammon insurance.” Playing with David involves so many deals that it is best to bring a lawyer and an accountant just to keep them straight. Anyway, saving the gammon would let him buy his own Carlsberg, for at least a day or two, and probably a whole bag of fried scorpions to munch on. But, he must have been extremely thirsty, as he called for Schmude to roll “66!” (Actually he cried out “Chang!” which is the Thai word for elephant. This is the proper way to ask for 66 here.) (However, not only do you never get boxcars when you yell “chang,” it is rather amazing how consistently you get a certain other number. Jorgen Grandstedt, after watching for the last two weeks, said: “’chang,’ that must be Thai for ’21!’”) (But there are exceptions.) Schmude, even without encouragement, is a deadly roller, and with encouragement, popped out 66. If you care to trace the roll’s path, you’ll see that, while rampaging around the board like a mad elephant, it hits on the twenty-point, then bears off two men. I rolled 54 off the bar, then Schmude rolled 44, and backgammoned us. I went home to lick my wounds, after buying David his Carlsberg, and hearing how unlucky he was not to have dreamed up “2-Carlsberg backgammon insurance” for situations like this.
Soi 11 (Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok) Cyber Café – 1/15/02
Sorry Carol, but I’m back in Bangkok, and I never did get that article written. My flight home leaves early tomorrow morning. Only twenty-six hours on the way back, if I’ve figured the time changes right. Just now I’m going to take a stroll. They’ve renamed Soi 15 “Clinton Plaza” in honor of a certain internationally famous statesman. Germany may know who to fete on their money, but Thailand knows who to name their bar districts after. I will pay them a visit, as research, if you will. And speaking of research, next time you’ll have your article, I promise.