Readers' Submissions

1971 – My First Bar Run




I As I mentioned in my first submission (“Into the Briar Patch”), I was one of the covert warriors in the secret war in Laos before my unceremonious rapid departure from the combat zone. When I walked out on my volunteer assignment, I was forwarded via the first available flight to the Royal Thai Air Base at Udorn. I departed Laos upon verbal orders, having burned a promising military career to the waterline.

I checked into the hotel in Udon Thani with only the civilian clothes I stood in. Someone was going to have to pack up my room in Laos and send it after me. Someone else was going to have to dig out my duffle bag of uniforms from wherever they had been stashed in Vientiane when they were removed from me upon assignment in Laos. In the meantime, it was no use trying to get on base to report in to Udorn in civilian clothes. Not that I felt like checking in. I had not had leave in over two years, nor had I had any time off during my eighteen months combat duty in Laos. I didn’t mind; I rather mutinously felt entitled to some relaxation.

I sent my clothes out via the bellboy for speedy cleaning, washed out my undies, took a shower, and sat around in a towel, thinking about what to do. I was horny and craving feminine company. I knew no other method than a bar run. In my experience, that was not something I anticipated. Still, there was that overwhelming itch. My skivvies were dry by the time Speedy Cleaners returned my clothing, and night had just fallen. I shaved and dressed and headed for the lobby.

When I tell you that the two bars in Laos were named the Barn and the Tiger Bunker, with the latter featuring a long queue of clap-ridden Lao soldiery lined up for use of the few available women, I think I have told you enough to show the extent of nightlife in Luang Prabang. And before that, back in Saigon, the bar girls depended on foam rubber bosoms and troweled-on makeup to sucker three or four guys at a time into paying silly prices for weak tea drinks. Worse yet, the couple of times I had actually bedded a Saigon bargirl, it had been akin to passion with a blowup doll—although the doll’s breath never smelled of rotted fish. And before that—American bars where I came from were for getting drunk and fighting, not for getting laid.

Those who have read my first submission can appreciate the overwhelming odds that this bar run was not going to be a good thing. Nevertheless, I asked the hotel’s desk clerk for directions to the bars. He crossed the lobby and pointed down the dark end of the street.

I warily began stumbling down the street into the shadows, shuffling through muddy ruts. My nerves were on wartime alert as I approached the gloom. I was jumpier than a long-tailed dog in a room full of rocking chairs. The first quiet greeting of “Sawadee krap” from the dimness almost made me bepiss myself. I flashed back to the Saigon cowboys who used to ratpack GIs in Saigon. I tensed myself to repel an assault. I was going to bust some butt.

“Mai pen rai, krap,” another voice added. The next couple of greetings reassured me that the strangers in the dark wished me no ill. As my eyes adjusted, I recognized parked samlors, with their human motivators napping in them. Then I was up to a street corner. I peeked around it and spotted the welcome glare of neon down the block.

When I got to the bar, it appeared to be nothing more than another bar for off-duty Americans. Some off-kilter name like Happy Spot on the front wall, and a doorman out front. The doorman admitted me.

Inside, the lighting was moderate, but not the deep gloom usually associated with a boozery. Despite a light mist of cigarette smoke in the air, the bar lacked that deep funk of stale smoke, spilled beer, sweat, and flatulence common to American bars. Two or three of the scattered tables here had clumps of American airmen at them. I noted that the centerpiece of each table was a bowl of ice and a couple of soft drinks. There were some handsewn cloth bags on the table, about the size of a thermos. While I was looking, one of the airmen picked a bag up, unlaced the end, and poured a drink from his PX whisky into a glass; he tossed in a couple of ice cubes and topped it off with soda. So, this bar was more like a brown bag joint in the dry deep south than the bars I was used to.

I ordered a soft drink, and sat admiring the Thai girls who sat quietly in the corners. Their looks ranged from cute and pretty right up to flat-out gorgeous. In their clean new jeans or jumpers, they could all be straight out of a Chinatown high school back in the US except there wasn’t a T-shirt in the lot.

Except for a girl or two already seated with off-duty airmen, all the girls in the bar were studying me with sly sideward glances. I was unsure of how to approach one. Finally, I smiled at a likely candidate—not one of the gorgeous ones who might reject me, but a slender girl with waist length hair, moon face, and a beauty mark high on a cheekbone. She encouraged me with a shy smile, so I beckoned her over with the hand-toward-the-floor gesture the Lao and Thai consider polite.

There was a bit of conversation in her broken English and my poor Lao; the usual “What your name?” routine. While doing this, she didn’t look me in the eye like an American girl. Instead, she glanced demurely upwards through her eyelashes from time to time as she smiled at me. She evaded my offer of a beer, but did accept an orange soft drink. All in all, despite the language barrier, the situation had all the overtones of hoodlum me lusting for the goodie-goodie girl back in high school. Now I was really confused. She seemed to be too nice a young woman to be available for money. At the same time, I wanted her so badly it was painful. What was I to do? Should I expose myself to possible public humiliation? As edgy as I was, any disrespect was going to end in someone’s injury—and I am not a masochist, so it was not going to be me if I could help it.

An aging woman at the end of the bar caught my eye, nodded her head toward the girl’s back. Ah, yes, the mamasan approved. I gathered up my courage and asked the damsel, “Do you want to come with me? Bi ban?”

“Can,” she replied shyly.

“How much?”

“Hundre’ baht.”

Five dollars for sex! Holy shit!

I quickly gave her the hundred baht.

“Fi’ minute,” she told me. “I get things.”

She went into a back room, came back out with her purse. She retrieved her ID card from the mamasan, and we left the bar. We headed down into that darkened corner. Once the light from the bar front lapsed, I took her hand. After a bit of hesitation, she let it nestle in my palm. I realized this was the first time I had touched her. As we turned the corner to approach the bivouac of samlors, she wiggled her small calloused hand from my fist.

When we got to the hotel, the desk clerk took her ID card. He made a point of showing it to me; it proved that she had made her weekly visit to the clinic and was healthy. He would keep the card until she left. The card made it real for me. I was actually going to screw this teenage cutie. We passed without comment.

When we got up to the room, she set down her purse and bolted for the bathroom. In a moment, I could hear the shower. A couple of minutes later, she emerged, clothing in hand and wrapped in a towel that swathed her petite frame from armpits to knees. She gestured toward the shower, to indicate it was my turn.

I whizzed through my shower in a furious hurry and popped back into the bedroom, already rampant. The lights were off, so I had to take a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. The towel hung neatly over a chair back; her clothing was folded on the seat. The girl was in the bed with the covers pulled up under her chin.

I joined her, naturally; I slid under the covers and reached for her. Her skin was cool from the shower. I was slow and tentative with my approach to her; I was still in a state of disbelief that she was there with me. Her skin warmed as I stroked her. We embraced. I gave her a Thai air kiss. I could hear her breathing pattern alter as she relaxed. And then…well, let’s just say nothing extraordinary happened, although it sure seemed like it to me. Let me add, she had become very willing, and I wallowed in carnal luxury. We had ourselves a real fine time for quite a while.

It was what happened afterwards that was important, though I would not realize that until I reflected upon it long afterwards.

As I drowsed there on my pillow, the stress and fear and fury of the last years was drained from me. If I had been asked to fight again at that particular moment, I would have been a hopeless excuse for a warrior. As I later came to dub it, it was the process of “salvation through orgasm”. Not exactly the recommendation of the world’s great religious leaders, but it worked for me. My life had begun to pivot, right there in the arms of a Thai bargirl. And I didn’t even know her name.





Stickman's thoughts:

It really is nice to read well-written reports of experiences from the early days of the industry.