Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 191
The auction was held at the old East Asiatic Company building on the Chao Phraya river south of the Oriental Hotel. The auctioneer stood on the top step under the central arch, and the bidders stood on the three descending staircases. The steps were packed with hopeful Thai and farang greed mongers looking to pick up something to which they could apply the maxim:
Buy low . . .
Of course the Thai variation on this is:
Cheat everyone . . .
Downstream, rice barge tows reminded people of Siam, and the mid-morning blowtorch sun hung suspended as if to make a mockery of man's inventions. I just went with my friend Felix to observe. It was an auction of seized merchandise. In a wonderful Thai perversion of standard hundreds years old, universally accepted, and well understood business methods all the bidding was blind. I do not mean that the bidders could participate anonymously. I mean that the contents was anonymous; that is, you had no idea what you were bidding for. All blind bidding–no way to examine anything ahead of time for content or value. Hell, that would take time and respect for the customer, we are in Asia now. So it was a little like picking up a fully clothed freelancer on Sukhumvit. Could be a bargain. Could be a trip to stretch mark hell.
Items might be marked thus:
Item # 5998 — 782 sealed drums of liquid.
Fun huh? Could be wine, could be urine.
Item #21 — 17 trucks, contents of snake farm.
Ok, a little more information here; still, are the snakes dead or alive?
Item #776-B — 40,219 thousand pounds contents miscellaneous.
Ok, not much to go on but one wily bidder happened to notice origination paperwork from the Hat Yai Condom Co. What do condom companies want to unload? Faulty condoms?
Item 0098SL — Contents one railway car.
Ok, no idea–who would be crazy enough to bid on this? Buying blind on a carton, or a box, or a sack, or a basket of something is a fun thing. You spend money you can afford to lose and you might get lucky. Who knows–it might be a bunch of toys that you could donate to a good cause. But a whole RAILWAY CAR of something. Now you are in lunatic territory. Remember, the winning bidder has to do two things: he has to pay and he has to take delivery. Do you really want to take delivery of forty tons of rotten cat food? How about dead horses stacked floor to ceiling and end to end that never made it to the glue factory? Where are you going to put 15,000 vacuum cleaners that were damaged in a fire? How about opening the railway car doors and finding barrels of fish paste that has fermented and gone off. The barrels have all burst and you own them. Think you have a use for a railway car full of fish paste? Ok, how about sliding the doors back on both sides of the railway car and being confronted with hundreds of angry hot sweating screaming feminists. All right, I'm being silly now but you get my point. Bidding on a whole railway car of 'something' is not smart.
At any rate, I went for the experience and because Felix interests me and amuses me. He is one of the animals in the expat jungle to be found down through the ages no matter what country or what century. He never seems to work and he always has money. No money is being wired in, and except for charm and energy, he has no obvious skills. In addition his name: Felix– is so generically exotic with it's impossible to place accent that you can reach no conclusions about his background. Could be German, could be . . . could be Transylvanian, could be some kind of Mediterranean person, could be some kind of second generation immigrant from Paraguay or Argentina or the Azores. Don't bother asking. Felix belongs to that class of expats that can happily talk to you and offer up no information. Me–I'll let you read a newspaper though my foreskin just for asking. Not Felix. Always has the cards close to his vest. He is clever though. I am not clever. Typically after not seeing him for months he might announce:
"I just sold my business."
I didn't even know he had a business and no further details will be forthcoming. Was it a road kill processing plant and butchery? Was it a string of franchise cobbler shops that specialize in resoling Go-Go girl Frankenstein shoes? Was it a Hua Hin beach concessionaire with a government contract to pick up horse plop? No idea and I'll never find out but 'he sold his business'. Or he might say:
"I just made a killing on a cement deal in Soidogburi."
We are sitting next to the front window in the Old Dutch restaurant on Soi Cowboy and this shoots out of his mouth. A cement deal? In Thailand? What does that mean? How can farangs get involved with cement deals in the Kingdom when I can't keep the ice cream guy from shorting me on the scoops? A cement deal? In Thailand? I want so much to get some details on this but I know it is hopeless. Besides, he is paying for my drinks. Why be rude?
Anyway, my friend Felix was a clever businessman–a winner. The name Felix means 'happy, fortunate' and that was my Felix. I liked tagging along with him.
Well, Felix never disappoints. He put in a bid on #0098SL–an entire railroad car of something. No documents on the contents. He was the only bidder so he now owned a railroad car with contents mysterious. Could have been fifty tons of used underpants. Might be toys for tots covered with lead paint. The doors to the railway car might open to reveal the caskets and bones of a cemetery that was being moved. Who knew? Bidding in Thai style blind auctions is a little like a bargirl dancing on a stage with too many women. You have to shimmy and bounce and keep on smiling.
We found the railroad car on a siding in the rail yard on the Thonburi side of the river a couple of days later. Grass that screamed 'Snakes live here' grew higher than the wheels, and Burmese construction workers had set up camp on the roof. We went there with the auction ownership documents, some cold chisels, some sledge hammers, and some trannies. Some trannies? Who knows? Maybe Felix was working a tranny deal. Cement? Trannies? Hey, it's the Kingdom.
The railway car doors had been spot welded shut so the cold chisels and the sledges came in handy. Then the trannies boosted us in and we pulled them up behind us. Light poured in from both sides of the car and through the fiberglass panels in the roof.
There we stood: Felix and I and the two trannies. Transfixed. Stunned. And staring back at us from one end of the light-and-dark shadowed railway car to the other end of the light-and-dark shadowed railway car were 46,000 one-eyed teddy bears. You had to be there. Spooky does not begin to describe it. And everyone of the 46,000 one-eyed teddy bears was looking at us. Actually, I am convinced they were all looking at me. Confronted with one of life's original moments Felix looked thoughtful, my hands started to shake, and the trannies hugged each other. I was all for cutting and running but my clever alpha male farang business genius Felix had other ideas.
"Dana, this is great. Fantastic. Awesome. Unbelievable. Apparently, there was a miscommunication between the buyer and the supplier . . . "
"That's an understatement Felix and I am personally attracted to the word unbelievable. On the other hand this is Thailand so no wacky conclusion can be discounted and . . . sweet sufferin' Jesus Felix: look at that tranny bending over in the shaft of light."
"Steady on mate . . . and for almost no money I now own 46,000 one-eyed teddy bears."
"Well, ok Felix–you've got to help me here. Before you have 'I now own 46,000 one-eyed teddy bears' made into a tattoo: why is this good news?"
"Simple Dana–all I've got to do is pluck the eyes out of half the teddy bears and attach them to the other bears. I'll end up with 23,000 fully sighted plush toy bears that tourists and kids and bar girls love; and I can unload them for a monster profit. Sweet Jesus on a cracker–we have won the lottery. Feel that stuff falling on your head? That's because we are standing under a money waterfall."
"I thought it was the Burmese construction workers dancing on the roof."
"No time for jokes Dana. We got to do two things. First we've got to get these bears to Jomtien."
"What's the second thing Felix?"
"Ever bang a tranny with 46,000 bears watching?"
It took us three days to truck the bears to Felix's four bedroom two floor home with terrace lap pool and multiple balconies in Jomtien. Forty six thousand teddy bears in a 3000 sq. ft. condo. That's fifteen bears per square foot. We stacked them high and tight. Think new silicone tranny tits. High and tight. Actually, it was not quite fifteen bears per square foot. We also had bears on the furniture around the pool and hip to hip on the balconies. Ever wake up in the morning with bear lint in your belly button? We did. There were floor to ceiling teddy bears everywhere. Staring. You know those wall paintings in horror movies where the eyes in the pictures follow you around the room? 46,000 bears. 46,000 eyes. Should have been 92,000 eyes. Spooky. Staring.
The two trannies rode in the back of the truck with the bears trip after trip and were very very guiet. Later inspection revealed they had so much mohair and alpaca and synthetic fuzz on their private parts that you couldn't see their little doggie dicks. It must have been some party in the back of the truck. Anyway, we left the railway doors open after the last trip and invited the Burmese to move off the roof. There is always time for philanthropy in business. This was my idea and I am proud of it. Felix is the money man, I'm more the philosopher sensitive type.
Then the plucking party began. It all seemed so simple and easy and logical. Just pluck the eye out of one bear and sew it into the empty eye socket of another bear. You'll end up with one blind bear and one highly profitable two-eyed bear. The trannies only lasted a day. I wanted to go with them.
The newly blinded bears with little brown threads hanging out of their recently plucked orbs seemed to be shedding little brown thread tears. The more we plucked and sewed the greater the numbers of surrounding silent and reproachful and crying plush toy blind teddy bears. It was horrible. Horrible. And the one-eyed bears seemed to silently scream as we plunged sewing needles into their empty eye sockets to attach a second glass eye. Have you ever heard a silent scream? I have. Thousands of them. And there were bears everywhere. I half expected to open the refrigerator and see a crying or screaming bear staring back at me. There must have been seven hundred bears in the bathroom. Ever try to take a dump with disfigured crying screaming reproachful bears staring at you and your private parts? I tell you it just takes over your mind. Trannies? Forget about it. Couldn't even think about them. Hanging brown thread tears, silent screaming, reproachful looks from fellow furry mammals, and the house filling up with blind bears–it was just too much.
The second day the drinking began. I'm not normally a partaker of fermented beverages but unusual times call for unusual actions. I was slamming down drinks faster than a crack whore making promises. By then I was starting to lose my mental bearings and was constantly spinning around to see if bears were following me with their eyes. The drinking had an effect on our sewing also. Felix and I were sewing eyes onto foreheads, and paws, and stomachs, and the ends of feet, and noses. Some bears ended up with more than two eyes. Depending on how drunk you were it was either tragedy or comedy. We laughed so hard we lost control of our bladders. Let me tell you this and write it down: a mohair bear soaked in urine has no resale value.
I left on the third day.
A week later the condo management office used their master key to gain entrance to Felix's house. There had been reports of a farang dancing with bears around his lap pool, and there had been reports of flying bears. Apparently some crazy farang was throwing teddy bears off his balcony.
They found Felix on the hallway floor in a fetal position clutching a one-eyed yellow bear in a ballerina tutu costume with a battery operated voice box that said:
"I love you"
"Please hold me"
"Up to you"
"You have taxi money?"
when you pulled on a string that came out of her furry back. An ambulance was called.
I got a call from Felix the other day. He's better now and the bears are gone. The lawsuit charges levied against him by an aged Songlaburi crone who was knocked down by a flying bear have been dropped. Apparently she had been knocked to her knees by a three foot tall mohair bear, and then laid out on her back by a follow up giant yellow alpaca covered tourist bear that was wearing a rice farmer costume. Anyway, cooler heads prevailed and she decided to trade pride for money.
My Felix tells me there is going to be a government auction of Police and Customs seized merchandise in Phnom Phen. He says it's a blind bid auction run by the Cambodian government so you know it will be run well, and you can buy stuff for pennies on the dollar. And he got a friend who knows somebody in Kep who works for somebody who owns a bar in Pailin where an expat expert sits with the police who know high up people in the government that frequent Martini's bar to investigate; and there are no one-eyed teddy bears in this auction. Like I said, Cambodia; reliable. I mean if you can't trust the Cambodians in business who can you trust?
The Kampuchean chance of a lifetime to score some heavy profits. 100% guaranteed. 100%. Can't miss. And the two trannies (Beef and Jerky) say they want to come back. Especially if it includes any truck trips with small furry animals.
"Dana–every seen a cow miss the ground when it pisses? That's how reliable this deal is. It's a business opportunity that just screams huge profits followed by two months on Serendipity beach in Sihanoukville. Every day we'll get too much sun and every night big lipped skanks will apply soothing lotion to our rich fat expat asses. Honk if you love Colonialism. We'll get cheated and frightened with regularity but it won't matter because we will be rolling in it. Honk if you love Third World auctions. After that we'll boogie back into Thailand and play butt darts with some Adam's apple ladies at the Obsessions bar in the Nana Entertainment Plaza on Soi 4 in Bangers. Do you want to come?"
Very amusing. I enjoyed this week's Dana-chronicle.