A French Marine
Now, for those of you of a gentle and easily shocked nature or for those of you with weak stomachs, then I suggest that you miss out this true tale of drunkenness and debauchery.
O.K.- that’s got your attention so let us continue.
In our happy little commune there lived a Frenchman who trogged around doing his thing with frequent disappearances to parts unspoken but was, when resident, convivial company who enjoyed a noggin or three and a laugh.
He had a friend who would appear from time to time, this chap being a Marine and built like the side of a house and who it may be said, had an unusual hobby. This was to look forward to his boat docking in Portsmouth or indeed any Royal Navy depot so that he could get ashore and declare war on the British Marines. This he quaintly described as ‘recreation’, and when not involved in this pursuit he seemed to spend a fair amount of time in various parts of Africa trying to stop the locals butchering each other.
His stops in Bangkok only ever lasted for a couple of days and would be filled with intense conversations between himself and Alain in high speed French which led the rest of us to a belief that they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about or that perhaps Alain had got his sister pregnant. This had led to the lamentable state of affairs of a French Marine never having had a run ashore in the Big Mango and the opportunity to sample the night life for which it is justly infamous.
However, Alain mentioned one day that his pal, henceforth known as Jean, was arriving shortly, would stop over for a couple of weeks and indeed desired us to give him the grand tour of the fleshpots. Strange, but he seemed to be under the impression that
we knew something about this.
He duly arrived, loudly as was his wont, and pronounced himself ready for whatever Bangkok could throw at him, though little did he know as he was only one Marine amongst a million Big Mango Commandos.
We had assembled the team to greet him and sort out an agenda for the evening with a few knowing glances passed between us as Alain poured drinks and gave us the silent, ”The works, boys”, look.
Robin raised his glass and chuckled a really evil Robin chuckle then said, ”Cheers, Jean been nice knowing you…."
Now, Jean’s grasp of English wasn’t just too great, in fact it was nearly non existent so Alain was going to have his work cut out translating our English and the locals' Thai which probably explained why he poured another round before
suggesting that we get moving.
After the walk up the gloomy Soi and along Nana we arrived at the controlled mayhem that is Nana Plaza, the noise, lights, screams, shrieks and mass of people creating the sort of sensory onslaught that could unnerve those of a nervous disposition. The flickering interiors of bars well hidden behind curtains and a grinning wench would tantalise the stranger of the imagined delights inside whilst a heavy heat incited a thirst that justified entering a suitable spot,”……..Just to look and get a cold beer, you understand……..”
We’d seen it all a million times and surrounded Jean tightly as we made our way up the second floor and our usual haunt lest he dart off into the mass and be lost for all time. Or until his money ran out.
We managed to get him into DC-10, (best bar for a reprobate ex-aviator like me, David was often heard to say), and found that the Ugly Sisters had already made space at our favourite tables and so sat Jean down near the bar where we had space to look
around and were not liable to lose an eye from the more energetic exertions of the girls on the go-go stage.
Mind you, when we were there they tended to merely lean against the poles- but unload a bunch of newbies straight from the airport and boy did they pick up speed. From coma to hyper activity in milliseconds. Jean sat agog as some of the girls made eyes in his direction, the prospect of another sponsor in the offing being an incentive to their demeanour and the rest of us smiled as Tik brought the drinks over.
Shortly we were joined by Ae and Som who sat down for a news and to enquire who the stranger was. Tik, Ae and Som being our pals there as they knew from long experience that we weren’t in for the rent a wife game, being as we were far too mean for that and in any event mostly preferred to hit bars for beer and a laugh.
They had their jobs and we had ours, except Alain of course who never admitted to doing anything.
Within minutes Jean was surrounded by girls as they sussed out that he was buying lady drinks for whoever wanted them and we laughed as Robin started on the theme tune to Jaws.
Already we could see that Jean was working out how to cash in the Navy and retire to Nana to revel in the company of lovelies, wine and sunshine.
We ordered another round of drinks on his bill and sat happy to watch his reaction and to chat away with the girls until we felt that he was anaesthetised enough to move on to our next port of call, which we had decided had best be a surprise. Like, a
big time surprise.
After a few more drinks Alain suggested to Jean that we go, but Jean was having none of it as he was already in love many times over and could see no further reason to explore further until Robin put on his best leery voice and leaned close to say, ”It’s a special bar mate; Things you wouldn’t believe go on in there. Trust us."
Alain translated at some length and we noticed Jean’s eyes narrowing as the explanation, (lie), attracted his interest. Rob nudged me then whispered in my ear, ”Now we’ll find out the truth about French Matelotes."
“Why are you whispering in a go-go bar Rob?”, I shouted back, "And anyway, he’s a steely eyed Marine, a bundle of death incarnate, warlords tremble when they see his bulk. Strong men wilt and the wimin’ swoon. You know Rob- not like us”.
Rob smiled, ”Yea- right. Of course. I think it’s easier the wimp way though”.
Jean had paid up by this time and the girls were professing their disappointment as we led him out, much though a cat does when the mouse tries to escape, but I assured them that he would be back in short order when he saw where he was bound for.
As usual the walkway along the second floor was a heaving mass of the drunk, the goggle eyed drunk and the tourist drunk all trying to look through the doorways whilst avoiding each other thus we took the easy route alongside the balustrade where the occasional resident leaned quietly watching the antics of the crowd below, beer bottle in hand.
In single file we cajoled Jean in the direction of our destination with Alain keeping a hand on his shoulder in an effort to stop any attempts of escape into the bars that we passed until we reached the corner where it was obvious that very few people remained stationery in this particular area of Nana.
And for a very good reason. This was Katoey corner and a good place to lose your wallet, perchance your sanity as well. ‘Women of the second category’, as they are known in Thailand. Transsexuals to thee and me. Within this bar, which was always empty, one could observe a selection of body forms from the basic male model right through the range to fully trimmed, tucked and anatomically correct females. (Minus the addition of a womb need it be said?)
It is a sight to behold and not for the faint of heart as Katoeys are awfully promiscuous and the sight of 20 or so of them charging with shrieks towards you on entering the bar is liable to unnerve the stoutest heart.
Here was Jean’s big surprise: Something to regale his shipmates with on those long lonely nights camped in the Rwandan bush or trudging around the Pacific in his frigate. Something that they’d never believe until they saw it with their own eyes.
We shoved Jean in, waited for the screams then wandered in after him which caused the odd curse to be aimed our way as the nice people there knew that there were to be no pickings from us that night. Or any night for that matter.
The place was as always empty except for the employees, most of whom had surrounded Jean bringing forth to my mind the picture from some natural history documentary of a swarm of barracuda circling an ailing sea lion.
Robin strode to the bar and after waving an arm in the international symbol for ‘give us beer’, shouted to the bar boy/girl, “Y’know the problem with place don’t you?"
Not bothering to wait for a reply, he continued, ”Most people come to Nana for beer and bints…..not feckin hock and homos”.
We laughed and grabbed our bottles then laughed again as a couple of faces peered through the entrance curtain who then rapidly recoiled in horror.
Chaise lounges were strewn around and grouped in intimate circles and the mirrored walls reflected nothing but the dark tackiness of the joint.
Dow, (our Katoey neighbour), wandered across for a natter and to scrounge a cigarette and if truth be told, to try to get an ‘in’ with Jean without fighting off the competition to do so. We sipped quietly until Rob gave me a nudge and a
nod and as we looked we saw Jean cosy on a sofa and who it seemed was carefully examining the female additions of the couple who’d managed to lure him to their zone.
A grin of mammoth proportions lit his face as he checked, checked and then rechecked the assets of his ambushers as glass after glass of Mekhong Coke went down his throat.
“Too much Mekhong too quick,” muttered Alain.
We all nodded in agreement, but hey- here was a big boy who was over 21 and a French Marine to boot. However, with multiple Mekhongs it isn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when…… (Do I hear sniggers from my more disreputable friends?)
At the bar we tried not to make our observations of Jean just too obvious, being as we were entertained by Robin’s opinion of the place. (”Feckin’ Vatican rest camp this place is for sure.") However every new discovery of Jean’s and every new addition to his posse was met with giggles and splutters and before long Alain began to look a tad uncomfortable as we began giving him long stares and odd nudge. National pride is an appalling affliction and not one that I suffer from luckily.
We got more beers in and asked the boy/girl to put some awful old 80’s disco music on, feeling sure for some reason that Jean would like this and as the Mekhong began to take effect we could see the well practiced arts of his companions beginning to have an obvious physical effect on a particular part of his anatomy. All those hands and lips brushing ever so lightly over his crotch as a glass was lifted to his ever eager lips.
We had a sort of a cumulative wince when we cottoned on, but as I noted in a spirit of democracy that we hadn’t been bobbing up and down on the Pacific on some rusty frigate for the past four months surrounded by stokers with shaving rash and a
funny look in their eyes.
Rob laughed and said, ”Looked at yourself recently mate?” The show was obviously going to last a bit longer so I excused myself for a few minutes to wander across to that haven of peace, quiet and tranquility, the Woodstock to try to entice Nang once more into joining me on a visit to the movies. The Woodstock being a bar restaurant with pool tables, not a go-go joint and my place for a thoughtful beer once in a while. I’d become aware of a new cashier a while back.
Classic Lao face, sandalwood skin, long, long hair and face full of even pearly teeth that were always exposed in laughter had caused my heart to instantly tumble, though my pleas of undying love had been so far met with smiles and coy raises of her eyelashes, I still retained hope that I could convince her that to be the mother of my children was a good career move.
It appeared that the lovely Nang had more sense than to believe me, or maybe someone had been gossiping. There are some bad, bad people out there you know.
Nang bid me ‘Sawatdii Caa’ and laughed that lovely throaty laugh when I suggested that we get married on the morn, but failing that, how about a movie on Saturday?
She’d ring me she said and after checking that she did actually still have my number, I made my excuses then left to return to the den of Dr Frankenstein.
Rob and Robin were still propping up the bar as I entered but of Alain and Jean no sight was to be seen. "Left have they?”, I asked.
“Actually no”, Rob replied, ”Jean headed off to the bog with a couple of Katoeys and Alain has followed on to slit his throat."
Robin laughed that half drunk Robin laugh…….’Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo’, and I just knew that something was in the offing.
Then, Alain was standing beside us once more, his eyes wide and unbelieving as he gulped his beer then to point in the direction of the toilet door.
Thinking perhaps that Jean had wound up the Katoeys with the inevitable result, Rob and I took the necessary steps towards the toilet door in expectation of finding a swill of blood on the floor inside with an anguished and slashed Jean awaiting transport to hospital or morgue.
But, then the thought hit me, that if he’d been seen off, then Alain would have been bloodied or creating all hell. Knowing Alain as we did.
Rob seemed to arrive at the same conclusion at more or less the same time and as we looked at each other we deliberately slowed our pace then ever so slowly pushed open the toilet door and peeped around the entrance. Seeing nothing we crept slowly inside and as Rob looked at me in question I shrugged my shoulders until a noise caught my ear: Then noticed that the end cubicle door was closed and that the noise seemed to be emanating from that area. We stood silent opposite the door and listened to the bumps and gasps that emerged from it and again, we looked at each other as if to say, ”Eh?”
It wasn’t a fight, it wasn’t a murder, and we began to fear the worst:- Could it be a buggery? (Remember, this was all happening in stealth mode.)
Rob looked at me so I raised my eyebrows and nodded in the direction of the middle cubicle which he accepted as a cue and followed by me slowly made his way through the door where I gently helped to ease him up to stand on the toilet seat to look over the partition that separated the two.
As he observed the scene below him, Robert’s face froze in disbelief before he bit down hard on his lower lip and gently lowered himself back to the floor. Fighting hard to stifle a giggle he mouthed, “Robin”, and nodded in the direction
of the bar before pointing at me then to the toilet seat.
As he tip-toed towards the door I slowly got onto the toilet, gently raised myself into a position where I could observe the scene of the action and was met with a sight that almost beggared belief.
A Katoey was standing astride the toilet, hands resting on the cistern whilst Jean fondled his/her artificially inflated breasts from behind, and may it be said, whilst in the process of buggering him to boot. Behind Jean stood another Woman of the Second category, and who appeared to not have had all the snips and tucks done as he was enthusiastically groping Jean given the space limitations imposed upon them.
When I ducked down I noticed Robin had arrived in invisible mode , (It takes time but after a few years in the Mango it becomes second nature), and he quickly took the position before stepping down with a hand clamped over his mouth and tears brimming
in the corners of his eyes as he pointed whilst shaking his head.
We stood transfixed as the grunts and thumps seemed to increase in tempo and as they did so Alain appeared silently through the toilet door bearing a basin which appeared to be full of water mixed with ice cubes.
Handing the basin to Robin he stepped up then motioned for it to be returned and as we shuddered in silent laughter he raised it above head level then dumped the contents onto the participants next door with a shout of something incomprehensible but obviously obscene.
The screams of surprise were mingled with sundry crashes and bumps as the guilty sought to disengage themselves and escape the freezing water that had covered them. We legged it from the toilet as shouts of outrage, murder, revenge and mayhem began to
fill the room and as we ran past the bar, Alain paused briefly to say that Jean would pay the bill in a minute before we fled to the Heidelberg and collapsed in fits of laughter.
Common sense decreed that returning home in the near future was probably a bad idea so we ventured forth to Soi Cowboy to take refuge in our bolt hole there. For a week there was no sighting of Jean, he’d either gone to ground or left town, but whichever, he was maintaining a low profile.
On the evening he had been due to depart Jean pitched up in Soi Zero and looking suitably shamefaced he apologised for his behaviour saying that he hadn’t realised the strength of the local grog………and so on ad infinitum.
We played the game and looked on stony faced whilst Alain launched into a diatribe which to Rob’s and my High School French, seemed to consist of nothing but the words that we had to look up in extra curricular dictionaries whilst Robin stood chuckling and throwing in the odd comment about, ”Feckin’ French Marine arse bandits.”, and, “The Liberace Liberators”.
Alain wandered away and returned after a few moments with a bottle of Mekhong, ice and coke and as he poured drinks Jean looked visibly ill but gamely managed a few glasses before heading into the Soi so thence to the airport……..
As we stood outside waving, ’Bye-bye’, to his fading back we smiled lovely smug smiles in the knowledge that his ordeal was only just beginning. Poor Jean.
Dow, (our resident Katoey), had been most agreeable when we asked if we could take a few happy snaps of his by now well developed upper chest and indeed was most obliging to pose in somewhat provocative poses depending on one’s tastes!
Alain found someone who could process the film, we could have postcards made for a price and guess what? That’s what got done.
Dow was most impressed with the results and we could see that he imagined a future in glamour modelling- the thong being a nice touch and proof that she was still only half a she, if you get my drift.
Luckily Alain had Jean’s folk’s address and after a few weeks he received details of the FPO (Field Post Office), where mail for Jean was to be sent.
Naturally a wee boat like a Frigate has a mail room and as the crew is small in number, postcards are going to be glanced at if not read, and as a steady succession of postcards made their way to the South Pacific written in appalling purple prose, signed,
’Dow’, we could only imagine the results that they were having as various members of the postal supply chain read them.
Sometimes they contained pleas for money, to continue with the surgical transformation, sometimes messages of a graphic personal nature, but always, always we had fun writing them.
After some months a letter arrived for Alain postmarked Polynesia and sent registered post. It looked fairly hefty and on opening it we saw that it contained a short letter with one hundred U.S. in cash.
Alain said, ”Jean says to give this money to the Katoey if he will agree to stop sending those damn postcards”.
We laughed agreeing that this was a very good thing.
Alain stood then walked across the courtyard and out the gate to the shopette where he picked up one case of beer and one of Mekhong and after making, ”Pay after change money”, noises, walked back and placed it all on the porch.
Then putting his hands on his hips he smiled broadly then said, ”Mission accomplished- postcards stopped………..Enjoy!”
Some months later Jean re-appeared and told us the sad tale of the abuse that he had suffered at the tongues of his shipmates and fellow Marines. Most of it sounded quite funny actually, but remaining sympathetic to the last we, ‘tut-tutted’, at the appropriate times and offered every sympathy about the behaviour of those bad, bad Katoeys.
Whilst all the time keeping his glass well topped up with Mekhong- coke….
Then Robin hove loudly into view and seeing Jean he walked up to us, poured a drink then asked; ”How’s the haemorrhoids mate?”.
Many a farang has come "unstuck" in Casanova Bar.