Ode to Tina’s Bar
A couple of months ago, Stickman featured the entrance to Tina’s Bar as his “mystery photo of the week.” The following week, while revealing the location of the mystery photo he mentioned that Tina’s Bar had closed due to the pandemic. Having visited that bar since the early 2000s, I was very sad to hear of Tina’s closure. I’ve had many good times at Tina’s and one night that stands out was in June of 2007.
I went to Tina’s to celebrate the birthday of a friend and was joined by two other friends. The four of us had been to Tina’s before. There were about 7 girls in the bar which was the usual number in those days. Probably because it was a week night, there was only one other customer in the place. We ordered our first round of drinks and most of the girls came over to sit with us. Why not, the place was empty.
The tone of the night changed after two drinks when the brother of the birthday boy decided to ring the bell in the bar. A dozen drinks were handed out and we were off and running. We took control of the juke box as the birthday boy liked the music of the Rolling Stones. After ringing the bar bell a second time, most of us started to dance. I was drinking Tequila, and a tiny little barmaid seemed to be my designated waitress. I noticed that she also was drinking tequila, and seeing how slight in build she was – I remember thinking she wouldn’t last the night.
Birthday boy’s brother rang the bell a third time and next thing I know birthday boy is on the floor doing a great impersonation of Mick Jagger. The girls were all laughing and dancing and having a good time. At this time, the lone male customer decided to leave the bar. To this day, I’m not sure why he left as I would have stayed if I were him.
The bell rang a fourth time, and by this time my barmaid and I were drinking together. When my barmaid left to get the Tequila after the fifth ring of the bell, birthday boy asked me the name of my barmaid. I didn’t know her name so I told him that her name was “The Devil”. I never bothered to ask the barmaid her name and to this day I refer to her as “The Devil”. In fact, to this day I tell people, “I have met the devil, and she’s a very nice person.”
The other woman that I met that night was a lady I call K.K. as those were the initials of her name. Over time, K.K. and I became very good friends. She visited my apartment a few times and I visited her apartment a few times. She lived with a few other bar girls in a very simple apartment and they didn’t have much furniture. I remember sitting on the floor while the girls prepared the food and then got ready for work. I stopped communicating with K.K. a couple of years back, but decided to reconnect on LINE after reading a few of Stickman’s articles of how hard the bargirls were having it during this pandemic.
Sure enough when I reconnected with K.K., she confirmed how difficult things were for her. After over 20 years of visiting women in Bangkok, and never sending any of them any financial help, I began sending K.K. some money every other month. I started sending baht in April of this year and have done so in June, August, October, and December. I don’t send much as I’m retired now, but I figure a few thousand baht a month might help a little bit. Sometimes, I wonder if I am just being a sucker, thinking with my little head instead of my big head. It’s interesting how as we age, we tend to get more concerned about money, perhaps because our ability to make money isn’t as good as when we were young. Life’s challenges has a way of making us more introverted and think more about ourselves and less about others. And that might be a good thing as we age – after all, it is wise to think more about our own well-being as we age. But as this pandemic rages on, I’m happy thinking that maybe I’m helping a person who’s much needier in life than I am. Maybe my little donation will make her life more bearable during this pandemic.
Getting back to that June 2007 night at Tina’s Bar, by the sixth ring of the bar bell my memory of the events of that night begin to get hazy. I remember going to the restroom and that The Devil and K.K. had to help walk me back to the table. I remember just sitting at our table smiling at The Devil and K.K., and thinking I was in heaven. There were several more rings of the bell, but by then I was in no shape to drink anymore. I remember my friends walking me to our apartment, with birthday boy’s brother complaining loudly about how heavy I was to carry.
The next morning, I woke up a little late. I checked my wallet and the 5,000 baht I had taken for the evening was gone and I wondered if I had borrowed money from one of my friends. When we met for breakfast at the old Bourbon Street, we shared our memories of what happened. I was made fun of for almost passing out, which is accurate as I’ve never been able to hold my liquor very well. Don’t get me wrong, I drink like a fish but I just don’t hold it well. Yes, I must admit to a couple of black outs in my life. Also, it turns out I didn’t borrow money from anyone. And it also turns out I tipped The Devil and K.K. 500 baht each, which might explain why they were so happy to see me the next time.
According to my friends, The Devil helped to carry me out of Tina’s Bar. That’s right, the tiny slim bean pole that I was worried was going to pass out after a few rounds of Tequila, helped drag me out of the bar! I had slowed down after 8 shots, but according to my friends she out drank them all. Just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve been back to Tina’s many times, and a few times I’ve found The Devil passed out in a corner. But most times, The Devil is there, and ready to out drink me. She is a wonder of nature.
While June 2007 was one of my best nights at Tina’s Bar, I’ve had many, many great evenings at that establishment. To hear of its closing was very sad. I know times goes on, and we can’t hang on to the past, after all the past is in the past. But at least I have great memories of Tina’s Bar, and every time I speak with K.K. I’m reminded how great a place Tina’s Bar really was.
My final thought is on the same topic that many of the recent articles on this website have been about – the future of Bangkok and its bars. I’m 68 years old and not getting any younger. The long flight from the United States is getting harder and harder to make. Our planned vacation for this summer has already been moved to Mexico, which is one third the distance and competitive in price. Although the nightlife in Mexico isn’t quite as good as Bangkok’s, it’s nonetheless very good and I would say financially viable.
Like Tina’s, so many bars have closed and so all those fond memories are no longer calling as loudly. I would like to return to Bangkok and make new memories, but not if I have to quarantine for two weeks and if most girlie bars are closed. Bangkok is now off my traveling list for 2021. I will continue reading this website hoping for some good news. I’m looking forward to the day when I hear the bars are reopening. Hopefully Tina’s Bar will be among the list of bars reopening.