The Nightwatchman Of Soi Cowboy
Soi Cowboy…A totally irrelevant name for a stretch of narrow alley connecting one major thoroughfare of Bangkok to a residential street. Anyone not privy to the goings on there would think it was a place catering for rodeo accessories!
What the heck, the reality is not that far from the connotations. The fact is that it's all about riding the fillies which most cowboys come for! And they come from all corners of the globe to congregate in the 300 meters of neon lit, gaudy, frenzied little alley to run the gauntlet of spruikers, hustlers and enticers of sex, grog and yaa baa.
Richie was a party animal from way back in California. Long before he arrived in the Land of Smiles he was known to be a wild buckaroo, able to drink and snort all night long and still give a good account of himself in the saddle. Why, he even had cards printed with his name embossed in gold: Richie, the Man..purveyor of good times and boogie!
Around the ripe old age of forty five, back in the 90's, he landed in Bangkok just before the Asian currency meltdown. He was cashed up due to an inheritance from a childless aunt of his and wasn't gonna waste his time climbing the corporate ladder when he had money to burn in his pocket!
As luck would have it soon after he arrived the Thai baht took a beating in the currency markets and his money almost tripled overnight! And so began a journey of sexual and alcoholic binges that knew no limits..
His forays into the Bangkok nightlife were legendary. As soon as he discovered Soi Cowboy he decided to make it his HQs most nights of the week…. There wasn't a bar in the soi he'd not visited repeatedly and was soon regarded as a VIP. Tipping generously and making his presence felt he was accorded first class and preferential treatment. For instance he made it known to all mamasans that he wants first crack at all new girls (“new cargo”, he called them) and they always obliged but at a premium. He could not care less.
Richie lived a life of Reilly, rented a serviced apartment in Soi Lang Suan with a balcony overlooking Lumpini Park at 50,000 baht a month and wined and dined in top restaurants and 5 star hotels.
Richie had no friends but had lots of acquaintances. Mostly hangers ons and bludgers who massaged his ego but took advantage of his generosity of free grog and free rides. He did not much care, the money was easy come, easy go! Life was to be lived to the fullest and instant gratification was his motto!
The years rolled on and Richie lived his routine of night time activities and daytime R&R (rest and recuperation). On his 50th birthday he shouted drinks to every punter at the Long Gun bar right up till closing time then staggered back to his apartment with 3 of the best lookers in the joint. His total bill for the night came to 45,00 baht but he considered that as chicken feed when you calculated that amount to be only US$1,000.
Incidentally, good old Richie did not believe in banks, travellers cheques or credit cards. With him everything was cash. “Cash is king” he used to say.
One day disaster struck most unexpectedly!
Richie was 52 by then but looked a fair bit older, with bags under his eyes and putting on extra weight due to too much alcohol and fast foods. The signs of burning the candle at both ends took their toll. He did not seem to notice or refused to acknowledge. Either way the pace had not slackened, “full speed ahead with gusto” as he often remarked.
However on one fateful night of planned frolicking with 2 pole dancers who worked as a tag team, Richie's luck ran out. Upon settling down to a session of “three's company”, our hero found himself in his bathroom to prep himself for pleasures to come when a feeling of nausea came over him and his world caved in, in more ways than one! Upon awakening from said stupor around 4 PM the next day and trying to orientate himself he realised that his prolonged sleep was not an altogether natural one.
Looking around his normally well kept condo, he noticed that things had been somewhat rearranged, in other words the place had been ransacked. Needless to say, the tag team were well and truly gone having got away with all his loot. And ALL was the operative word here. All his hidden cash, both baht and dollars were gone with the wind. Thousands and thousands of his inheritance or what was left of it were now lost forever. From prince to pauper in a flash! What a difference a day makes , twenty four little hours..
Richie closed his eyes hoping this to be a bad dream he'll wake up from, but no such luck. The enormity of his situation overwhelmed him. For all the things he'd taken for granted were gone and no chance of recovery; that he was certain of!
He staggered into his shower to get rid of the smell of fear and sweat and stood under the torrent of water for 20 minutes to clear his head. As he stepped out of the cubicle he glanced at the clock on the wall and a familiar feeling came over him. The time was 8 PM. His body clock tuned in and a sense of excitement swept him along. This was the usual time when he'd have departed to Soi Cowboy for his nightly session of booze and pussy….and the adrenalin rush he needed to sustain his Thailand existence. Now he felt panic and withdrawal symptoms were already gnawing at him. He must have one last fix!!! But how, for without money you're a nobody in the soi!
Desperate to find a way to get over there he had a sudden thought of hope! The cookie jar and piggy bank! Surely the bitches hadn't found them too?
Rushing to his kitchen and finding both the jar and the piggy bank intact he sighed with relief. The piggy bank was designated for ten baht coins and the jar for twenty baht notes. With shaking hands he counted the notes first which came to 700 baht and there were 20 coins totalling 200 baht, a grand total of 900 baht. Not enough to get blotto but maybe he could hook up with one or two of those acquaintances who might take their turns in paying for a round or two.
Now normally Richie would arrive in the Soi and strut his stuff a la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever with the tune of Staying Alive buzzing in his head.. but tonight he arrived by motorcycle taxi aiming to conserve his meagre funds till help came along from his “friends”. But there were none in sight.. As he walked along the strip and looked left and right the same sounds and sights greeted him as always but tonight he felt like an outsider..for he could not go inside any of the bars with 900 baht to his name. That would not last more than half an hour of what was expected of him by the staff.
He decided to take a seat outside the Tilac Bar, order a Singha and watch the passing parade.. And he sat and sat and watched. He knew he couldn't go inside the bars again; a damn shame since the action was all inside. Inside you were a player ..outside you were just a watcher..
Richie, the Man ..purveyor of good times and boogie …was no longer. Richie became the Nightwatchman of Soi Cowboy. A sad and forlorn figure reduced to a voyeur..
He was onto his seventh and last beer..the money ran out..it was time to depart for a journey back home to his pad of former glories..
With a solitary fifty baht left he took a taxi back to his high-rise.. riding the lift up and humming an old song (copyright Postie) he just remembered..
I love to be intoxicated,
So nothing but nothing hurts me.
I toss away the sober hours
Seeking out the bright horizons
A nicer and quiet retreat..
I can't live without a few or many..
My heart aches so.., it's too heavy,
Everyone's cheating and lying so…
Being so drunk is the go..!
I love to be intoxicated…
So nothing but nothing hurts me!!!
And with a spring in his step he grabbed a bottle of Johnny Walker Black, took a long swig and stepped out onto the balcony with the low railing totally unsuitable for tall farangs…
What a sad way to go.