I got a lesson in Asian values last night, and the lesson came, of all places, at Juggs A-Go-Go. Two weeks ago, if you had asked me to describe Asian values I would have pointed out that there were men in sunglasses going through my neighborhood handing
out cash to every male voter and a bottle of fish sauce to every female voter. But last night my friend Beer changed my mind.
Even though Beer was born with a penis, and still has hairy-chested Y-chromosomes swinging their broad shoulders up and down the sidewalks of her cells, she spends her evenings selling her body to strangers and spends most of her earnings
on shoes and jewelry, and I think that earns her the option of feminine pronouns. Her career on the catwalk came at the expense of several elaborate surgical procedures, years of hormone therapy, and quite a bit of money.
The money came out of the bank account of a man named Solly Greenblatt, a Los Angeles native who made his money in dry goods and who thought that Beer deserved to be a girl. After her operations Beer lived in LA with the octogenarian
Solly until the earthquake of ’94, after which Solly’s “no-goodnik” son Herman put Solly in an old-folks’ home and gave Beer an economy class ticket back to Thailand.
I was sitting with Beer last night because the American visitor I had brought out for the obligatory trip to Patong Beach had left the room for a short time with one of the girls who rub elbows with Beer on the catwalk. Beer and I have
known each other for a couple of years, and because I enjoy listening to her say “Oy-veh!’ and “Nu, vat’s the problem?” she is the only woman in Juggs that I’ll buy a drink.
We watched the other girls dance and had as much conversation as a man can have while “Achey-Breaky Heart” is being broadcast at jet-exhaust volume and thirty half-naked young women are doing everything short of self-immolation
to get his attention.
Despite the horrible music and the knowledge that I would never be physically closer to any of those young women than I was at that moment, I was happy, because Moe was gone, even if just for a short time. Moe was an American hotelier
currently working in Vietnam, in Thailand for the first time, pawned off on me by my neighbor (and Moe’s brother-in-law) Hector. All evening Moe had been in my face with his stupid observations. Not only was Vietnam cleaner, cheaper,
and more beautiful than Thailand, but the opportunities for business were everywhere. Apparently, to be a millionaire all you needed was white skin and half a brain, which sums up Moe’s résumé.
Most annoying were his comments on the relative merits of the hookers in the two countries. As we were having pizza on the street early in the evening he said, “These Vietnamese dames, their Mommas teach ‘em to take care
of their men before they take care o’ their babies. This woman I got now, ain’t nothing she won’t do for me. Since I been in Saigon I aint mixed my own drink one time. She does my laundry, my cookin’, my cleaning,
she even washes my car!”
At that point he had launched into the inevitable descriptions of the sexual favors he enjoyed at the hands of this paragon, a litany of positions, attitudes and noises that continued uninterrupted from the pizza joint down the street
and through two more bars before the deafening blast of Juggs’ sound system cut him off.
Despite the fact that by his own admission he had enjoyed more sex in the last week than a hutch full of rabbits enjoys in a month, and despite the superiority of Vietnamese prostitutes, we were only in Juggs for five minutes before Moe
was scrambling to book a VIP room for him and the first woman who squeezed his biceps and asked for a Cola.
Since I don’t want anyone squeezing my biceps I signaled Beer to come on down and have a drink. Almost immediately the clock struck midnight, the management pulled black-out curtains across the doorway, and two women went onto
the catwalk and began one of those “sexy shows.” In the relative quiet I asked Beer if she’d ever do a show like that, and she said, “Uh-uhhh. No vay, boychick. Not for a mill-yun dollahs.”
“How about a tattoo?” I asked, looking at a fresh and obviously infected purple dragon on the hip of one of the performers.
“Nope. Uh-uhhh. I had enough needles stuck in my tuchus, t’ank you.”
Beer looked at me closely. “How ‘bout you, Stevie? You evah gonna shave dat nasty beard?”
I told her that I would go to my grave with my whiskers in place, and that was when she taught me something about Asian values. “You would shave if your wife asked you, Stevie” she said. And she said it just as matter-of-fact
as if she was saying, “My butt is sticking to this vinyl bar stool.”
She was right, of course. I would shave if Mem asked me to, though I’d pout about it for a month. And the woman that used to be a man, the naked dancer who hides her Adam’s apple with her hand when she laughs, who worked
as an unlicensed geriatric home-health-aide for six years to pay for aesthetically pleasing but functionally inert organs which she now rents by the hour to auto company executives from Taiwan, she knew it.
I gave Beer a tip, she kissed me on the cheek and I went home to my wife. Independence, self-reliance and accountability are Western values, and I felt no guilt at ditching Moe.