Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 205
Attention: Stickmanites, Dana fans, and lesser mortals–Danaman here with a confession. To wit: I love the little no name four corners general stores you run into all over the Kingdom. Chaotic, stuffed or with almost no inventory, tired, shabby, loved or unloved, community centers for gossip and news and mail and credit, often a TV playing, and almost as often a baby playing/sleeping on the floor. And oh yes–one more thing. Spooky. Why spooky? I defy a thoughtful foreigner to look at the bags, and sacks, and boxes, and piles of miscellaneous junk, and not once think about how some snake is somewhere. I am powerfully influenced by this idea. Hate snakes.
"No thanks honey, I'll let you get down on your hands and knees in that dark corner and put your hand behind the box."
Anyway, the merchandise can be comically diverse: used cowboy boots, crushed ping pong balls, aquarium fish guaranteed to make all of your other fish sick, framed pictures of elderly monks, canned goods with no paper labels on the cans (feeling lucky?), pretty much any prescription drug you can think of, fly swatters (new and used), flip flops (new and used), snake skulls (I only saw this once but it counts), opium if you know how to ask (ask for momma), candy for kids, whiskey (candy for adults), deworming stuff for adults and children and animals, lye soap, coconuts and copra meat, salted fish (who eats this crap?), throw-away diapers (just throw them anywhere), gold necklaces and earrings, monthly motorbike purchase contracts (I had a girlfriend sign a contract in Pattaya and promptly drive the bike home to Chiang Mai–want to take bets on whether those payments are being made?), check cashing, petrol in coke bottles, kites, and brown paper on cardboard tubes. Used cowboy boots? What's their source? Dead cowboys?
I love these overstocked (or understocked) understaffed no name rural general stores. Imagine a deranged Chinese, a deranged Indian, and a deranged Thai as partner-owners. Complete chaos. No apparent order. No advertising, no marketing, no prices, no displays, no signs, and . . . oh, once again–no prices. I used to shop at a general store on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. The store was called Miss Lillians and there were no prices on anything. Miss Lillian would just stand at the cash register and make up prices. If you had a white face you paid more for everything. I always flash back to this when buying something in a Thai store. Anyway, the only rule all three of the owners of this mythical store seem to be able to agree on is: Buy Low, Sell High.
Hey, do any of these conversations sound familiar?
"Popsicle sticks sir? No popsicles on sticks? Yes, I have three. Ok, I have two–the dog has the third one. Big discount on dog popsicle stick sir."
"Plutonium sir? Not now. I put on backorder. Come next week."
"Pink socks for baby feet sir? No ploblum. Only one sock–how many feet baby have?"
"Fish eyes and monkey balls sir? No ploblum."
"Spiderman pajamas with pussy hole? No ploblum kind sir."
"My neighbor's daughter is about to start work in a Bangkok massage parlor and she has to bring her own monogrammed penis cleaning cloths."
"Solly sir–all out. I do backorder–what her initials?"
"What are these–giant wooden whistles?"
"You put them in tailpipe of car sir. Make big sound like car broken. Velly big funny sir."
"Cell phone shaped like vibrator Mr. Kind Sir? No ploblum."
"Mystery snacks from China in clear plastic packages? No ploblum. Also good for farang constipation. Make you ass blow like whale spout."
"Unwashed women's' underpants sir? Yes sir–big seller with farang sir. I have two hundred pair: color, white, with brown stripe, yellow spot, and cartoon animals–Mickey the Mouse, Goofy dog, Pluto, Roadrunner chicken, Spiderman, Princess Lea, Osama Bin Laden, Yosemite the Sam, and Froggy Kermit. Velly big seller sir. No discount, no sniffing in store, no returns sir.
My underpants sir? No sir, my underpants are not for sale. Velly big solly sir. But we do have postcards of my underpant for sale–4 baht each."
"Philippine copy of Indian copy of Viagra? Right here sir. Velly much guaranteed. Make you look like fighting rooster."
"Breast lotion sir? No ploblum and no backorder necessary. You rub on wife's breasts every night they get bigger kind sir. We also have for waterbuffalo penis. You rub on every night and he mate with even ugly female waterbuffalo."
What else might you run into? Koy fish food, broken children's' toys, Japanese rocks stolen from a farang's Japanese garden, last year's Chinese calendar, net shopping bags, hat and shoe stretching services, condoms, nose plugs for eating durians, and absolutely no motorbike parts like mirrors or seats or baskets–nobody ever fixes anything.
Hey, and don't forget Darkie toothpaste, roach powder, bear gall bladders, and rusty tools. Books? Are you crazy? If it gets cold and we all need to start fires then we'll have books–the pages are good for starting fires. Toilet paper? Once again, are you nuts? Paper towels–no and again, are you crazy? Napkins? Ok, here is the thing; Thailand has just not discovered paper products yet. Cosmetics? Yes, but mostly for young girls only. The village women just let their mustaches grow. To hell with it.
Have I forgotten anything? Sure I have, about a hundred or a thousand things. Basically, just about anything that intersects with a human's life in the Kingdom is at one time or another going to go through a general store. Lightbulbs, pots and pans, bathtub toys for baby and grandpa (ok, I realize you need a bathtub for this), Hong Kong newspapers for husband (he likes to look at young Chinese girl celebrity pictures), Russian nesting dolls (go figure), clothes bureau (one drawer and two knobs missing), socks, surgical tube for slingshots, fishing poles and bobbers and hooks (don't even think about asking for fly fishing equipment), razors, pins for basting paper clothes patterns onto material, tire patch kit (make sure it is all there before you buy it), rolls of roofing paper, and . . . ok, you finish–I'm exhausted.
More conversations you might hear in one of these stores:
"Galvanized gutter completely rusted out from one end to the other sir today's best deal Sir Ka. I have sixty feet. No need for downspouts. Rain go right through gutter sir. Big savings. I give you lucky discount for first sale of the day."
"String of Christmas tree lights on sale sir. No bulbs, just empty sockets. Yes sir–velly big discount."
"Reconditioned bongs sir? No ploblum kind sir."
"Green Wellington boots sir? Yes sir–no ploblum. We have seven boots. No pairs–just seven boots. Buy seven piece set get velly big maak discount. Make boom-boom wife. She wear boots. Big exciting. Is Thai way."
"Fighting rooster medicine? Yes sir–no ploblum. We have testicle lotion make rooster fxxx dog sir."
"Hello hansum man kind sir ka."
"I'm looking for a screw."
"Yes sir–no ploblem sir–you have come to the right place for a screw. We have big screw, long screw, tight screw, old screw, and short fat screw. What kind screw you want?"
"What is this, a Chinese snack?"
"No sir kind sir ka. It is plastic dog poop. Put on wife pillow. Velly big maak funny. Also have plastic chicken poop. Made in Malaysia sir. Muslim approved. Buy both big discount."
"Why do you have surgical tubing?"
"Two reason sir hansum man sir ka–for slingshot and for tourniquet for cobra bite. Many snake in store.
"Sa wa dee ka–bras for Thai ladies with no breasts? Yes sir, three sizes: (1) velly small (2) extra velly small (3) Sweet Jesus on a cracker can she be legal?"
"What are these–cherries?"
"Not for peoples sir–for dog."
"Mai dee dog kind sir ka–sick doggie–stopped up dog. Dip fruit in kerosene, add chili powder. Go through dog like bottle rocket. Take video. Big exciting."
"Sa wa dee khrap."
"Sa wa dee ka. You speak Thai well."
"Do you have any American flags?"
"We have French flag. Same colors. Same ka, same ka–same same ka ka.
Note: Ever try to order something you know they do not have? Try to keep a straight face and read on . . .
"Sa wa dee ka."
"Do you have any atom bombs?"
"We have roach bombs sir–just as good ka."
"Can I order an atom bomb?"
"Yes sir–no plublum sir. 100 baht deposit.
"Can I order a nuclear warhead for my little boy?"
"Yes sir–no ploblum sir–75 baht deposit."
Follow-up note: Do you think I will get my deposits back?
Ok, got my breath back . . . fan belts for your car? No ploblum. Only thing is we don't know what we got. Just bring in your old fanbelt and look for a match. And don't bother me. I'm slurping noodles and watching Thai soap operas while the baby is chasing a roach. String, and aluminum foil, and old paper bags, and clothes hangers, and used old ladies' shoes? No ploblum. When the old lady across the street died we stripped her house before the village headman got there. Ok, not 100% true. We gave the village headman a bottle of Johnny Walker and then we sent our sons across the street. Velly good price.
Coffee, and tea, and cigarettes, and spices, and air conditioning parts, and sodas, and beers, and weird snack foods? Sure, we gottem. Incense sticks? Sure. Flowers? Maybe but I've never seen them. And every one of these stores has ubiquitous stuff that looks like it just wandered in to die. Think piles of car parts on the floor, or boxes of rags, or old bandages (what?). Some of these places can sell you old cars, birdhouse shrines, bus tickets, battery caps, chili based foot powder, used computer equipment, stolen cell phones, and on-the-spot haircuts. Daughters? No, not really.
I have often thought that it would be fun to make a grid map of the Kingdom and then square by square do a complete survey of every single one of these shops. Visit every single one. A military balls to the wall one year project. Take outside and inside photos, interview the clerks and the owners, longitude and latitude directions as well as Thai directions (for purposes of hilarity only–fxxxing hopeless), list of inventory, and of course pics of resident or noteworthy dogs or chickens. Then put it all in a big picture book. I imagine a fleet of 100 battle tested camo Hummers with satellite dishes on tip, smoked glass, uniformed personnel, Thai government I.D. placards around our necks, etc. Like all of my ideas this is totally practical. Who is with me?
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK . . . oh, hold it . . . someone's at the door. One minute . . .
Me: Oh, hi Gary–come on in.
Gary: Hey Dana–what's up?
Me: Not much, just working on a story/essay. Are you still coming to the Church of Dana service tomorrow at the maritime park?
Gary: Yup, be there–what's the story about?
Me: Stuff you see in Thai general stores mostly of the rural kind. You know, all the little inventory items. Gary, usually two brains are better than one. Of course ideally they would be two Dana brains, but all we have to work with today is my brain and your brain.
Dana: No, it's ok–just give me a list off the top of your head of some of the things you have seen in the little no name four corners rural stores in the Kingdom and I'll add your items to the stuff I thought of.
Gary: Ok . . . here goes–
Satellite dishes on order (don't do this–do not order anything, ever), big bag of black socks (don't put your hand in there–prime krait habitat), horse bucket with lip chewed off, fireplace tool set, three pails assorted nuts and bolts and nails and washers, shelf of self-improvement books on diet and weight loss and sexual performance and personality (all in German), camera bags and straps and lens caps–no cameras, Star Trek light saber that does not work, beer bottle washing service, used tongue depressors, banjo (no strings), canteen pouches (no canteens), beer chest (no ice–beers warm), Igloo chests with no cap on drain hole, soda machine (you have to give the change to the clerk), community notices board–not one thing up to date, gun cleaning kit (various parts missing), case (144 packages) Q-tips intact (nothing sold in two years), packages and packages and packages of mysterious and horrible looking blister packed snacks that you wouldn't buy or eat if someone put a gun to your head (you only make this mistake once), make-up mirrors, no tools or ladders (everything has been stolen), fence wire and fence wire staples and various sizes of PVC pipe (they never ever have the size you need but they always have fantastic discounts on the sizes you don't need), steel frames and steel mullions for windows (no glass and complete incomprehension when you ask about glass), steel transformer boxes (source unknown and don't ask), glass electric transmission line insulators (no one in the universe has any idea why you would buy one of these). And just to repeat one more time–they never ever have the size PVC pipe you are looking for.
Me: Thanks Gary–I'll add your stuff into the essay and I'll see you tomorrow at the Church of Dana services.
Gary: Tomorrow are you going to have the Church of Dana parachuting trannies with the pink parachutes, pink lycra body suits, and pink smoke bombs?
Me: No, we are going to do something different. We are going to have a tranny parachuting drill team present Jesus and the twelve disciples. Jesus will be in purple: purple jump suit, purple parachute, and purple trailing smoke bomb. The disciples will be in white except for Judas who will be in black.
Gary: Sounds great.
So that's about it folks. I think a giant heavy fancy high resolution photograph picture book with text commemorating these wonderful little stores would be great. We'll make it a military operation, I'll be in charge of everything, all the profits will go to the Pattaya Rest Home For Whores (PRHFW), applications will be in the back of the book so that readers can send them in to the Pulitzer and Nobel prize committees, and investor information can be obtained at Dana Central–Attn. Inventory Amusements Picture Book Dept. Don't forget Church of Dana services every Sunday in the maritime park in South Pattaya.
P.S. Oops sorry–forgot some more things: big cardboard boxes of assorted noodles, chilies, chili paste, chili powder, fish paste, bootleg movies, fake watches, porno (see mama), fake fashion accessories and jeans and handbags, straws (size large), various fruits (all unappetizing looking–revisit France by getting the Gallic shrug when you hold up a fruit and ask what it is), pine tree car air fresheners recut into the shape of Buddha, mahout hats sized ridiculously small, film drop-off service (kiss it goodbye), tire tread sandals from Vietnam (how can there be any profit in this for any of the participants?), boxes of towels with hotel names on them, catalogue to order Buddhist shrines for inside the home or Buddhist 'birdhouses' for outside the home, guitar strings, big rubber buckets for bathroom, yaa baa, ganja, small animal traps, bamboo skewers, lipstick, rouge, eye liner, press-on nails, white face powder, new and used Thai CDs, sleeping mosquito nets, turtles and prawns and snakes and ducks and chickens, weekly roadkill special, 4 kinds rice (50 pound bags only), bags of small round rocks for slingshots, rusty single edge razor blades, various shellfish in pails with no circulating water (no extra charge for food poisoning), new decks playing cards, baby and children's clothes, new machetes, and last but not least: used Barbie tranny dolls with anatomically correct genitalia drawn on with a ball point pen.