Nov 19, 2009

Reservoir Dad’s Adventures in Phuket – The Buck's Night Part 2

Cheap fucking Christmasy lights and tinny music and seedy open-air bars as far as the eye can see and I am so stung into wonder by the unbridled debauchery of the Patong nightlife that I find myself skipping - happy little girl style - and pointing at everything I see in such a way that all the traders are approaching me with the ching-ching sound of a cash register in their ears.

There’s madness everywhere and while I am impressed by the up-frontery of the hookers who show me their wares, and the persistence of the tailors who work 24/7, and the casualness of the animal handlers and the ferocity of the salesmanship in the Pirated-DVD guys, I am mostly impressed by the continual allusion of sex which overwhelms every nook and cranny of Patong in the same way that a house decorated with a freshly chopped Christmas tree is overwhelmed by the smell of pine.

Todd is wearing a T-Shirt with the word’s “TODD’S BUCK’S NIGHT written across the back in black marker. On the front is a grid with 36 squares and 36 tasks that he must complete by the night’s end ranging from sculling a beer to enacting a ‘Mick Dundee’ on a Lady-boy – which basically entails cupping his hand around her meat and two veg – and while I have my doubts that Todd can complete every task I am certain that he will dig deep and give it his very best shot.

A man dressed as a monkey selling half price passes to the Phuket Zoo appears on one side of me and I feel a scratchy weight on my shoulder as another man appears on the other side of me yelling, “You want photo? You want photo?” I do my best Arnold Schwarzenegger slow-mo glance in the direction of the scratchy weight until I bump my forehead against the open mouth of a giant fricken Iguana.

“Get it the fuck off me!” I scream, as I bolt ahead of the group thrusting my hips back and forward and shaking my chest like some crazy hot dancer from the 80’s hit Maniac. I am the cause of much mirth for the Buck’s group and Dennis comments, in a way that could be interpreted as semi-serious, that I have some impressive moves. Being in such a buoyant mood and happy that the man actually caught the giant Igauna before it fell to its death, I have to agree with Dennis – I did move very well and I’m sure that if I had performed those steps in a different context, say at a Blue Light Disco, I would have been an inspiration to many.

We find our way to The Malibu Bar which was secured for the Buck’s Night exclusively nights earlier and within seconds of perching myself on a bar stool three waitresses begin massaging my shoulders, arms and hands (I italicise waitresses here only to save myself from the effort of writing prostitutes and Lady-Boys). The effect it has on my intoxicated mind and body could only be matched by a shot of morphine and by the time I regain my clarity I am in need of a napkin to wipe the drool running from the corner of my mouth and something else to drink with a little kick in it.

Todd lines up several shots and we down them quickly as Jamie climbs a stripper’s platform and starts thrusting against the pole and within minutes of watching him gyrate and kick and swing I am convinced that he has participated in the highly popular pole-dancing fitness classes back in Aus. I make a note to tell him how impressed I am with his talent as I strike up a conversation with two of the other Buck’s – Buck 11 and 12 – who I met only hours before, and within minutes the inevitable, “And what do you do…” question is raised.

“I’m a stay-at-home-Dad,” I say.

Waitresses appear from nowhere to break the lingering silence with their shoulder-loosening fingers. After several seconds Buck 11 says, “That’s great. No, really. I’d love to be able to hang out with the kids all day. Go to the park and that.”

My mouth opens and then shuts and then repeats that pattern several times until I stick another shot into it. I then buy the waitress a shot, which guarantees her 50 Baht from the bar, and distract myself from replying to Buck 11 by refocussing on Todd’s efforts to cross off every box on his T-shirt. As I watch him proposition a Lady-boy, swap pants with a stranger, scull a pot while standing on his head and offer a sexual service to a merchant for 100 Baht, I am suddenly aware of the fact that Archie, Lewis and Tyson will one day start reading this blog and that this very post may be the one that confuses them the most.

I am interrupted by the urgent need to urinate and hightail it out and notice the toilets are right at the end of the long thoroughfare of bars. Todd, who is still negotiating with the Merchant – they have agreed on the sexual act Todd will perform but the merchant will not go above 80 Baht - stops the intense negotiations when he sees that I am heading in the direction of the toilets. “You should seriously think about taking someone with you, when you go for a slash,” he says. “The waitresses and Lady-boys can be very persistent about getting you into their bar.”

I shrug it off, laugh at him, and start walking in the direction of the toilets. I feel confident. I feel great. If the women and the he-she’s pressure me too strongly to enter their bars, I’ll simply ignore them and walk right by. I am a big, big boy and I can handle it.

As I approach the first bar several waitresses gather at the entrance so I hold one hand up, offer a pleasant expression and mouth No Thanks. Like a clumsy adolescent boy trying to reach second base on his first date it takes me a moment to realise that my raised hand has been seized. I am being dragged, violently, towards the bar by two waitresses and I whimper, pathetically, No I don't want it, as another grabs my leg and yet another goes directly to my nether-regions and works her hands in such a way that the meat is separated from the two veg in what appears to be a bizarre measuring-up ritual.

I am being shunted towards the bar paralysed and conflicted by the fact that my genitals are being handled so expertly by a woman – who may or may not have a penis herself – at the same time that my will and sense of self is being shattered by an effective Phuketian gang-tackle that I lose all ability to think my way out, and it seems my fate is sealed, until another waitress jumps on my back and reignites the memory of the giant Igauna, and I know what I must do.

I channel the energy of the Maniac with every ounce of effort available to me and recreate the dance that served me so well only hours before, and to understand the effort and emotional intensity involved I urge you to watch this clip –

In my mind I am suitably dressed in tight black leotards with white cotton wrist bands and I flick and gyrate and buck and thrust and jump and dive and punch out and one by one the waitresses release me and fall away until I am back out in the thoroughfare panting like an overworked racehorse and jerking all around like that little squirrel chasing the nut in the Ice Age series. With urine on the horizon I have no choice but to Maniac my way past all the bars on the way to the toilets and in this fashion manage to deflect and avoid dozens of genital-scented hands without more than a few mills of leakage.

After doing my business, I stand at the sink for several minutes convincing myself that I have what it takes to make it back and then I hear Todd behind me.

"It's okay. Wait for me. I 'll show you how."

He returns a minute later and guides me to the entrance of the thoroughfare.

"Don't leave me," I say.

He smiles, takes off like Usain Bolt and screams, "Let's just keep going RD. Let's just keep going!" as waitresses bounce off him or dive back inside their bars for their own safety.

I decide I need some real motivation to gee myself up and give me every chance of making it all the way to the Malibu Bar and so I settle on what I feel is the most appropriate song to sing - "My body's nobody's body but mine, you've got your own body, let me have mine," I bellow with all my might, as I take off running faster than I have ever run in my life, not sure if I actually have enough energy left to break free of the waitresses clutches.

They lunge, reaching for me. "Let me have mine," I scream.

Let me have mine.... !

Nov 13, 2009

Reservoir Dad’s Adventures in Phuket – The Buck's Day/Night Part 1

The boat is fanging its way towards Phi Phi Island with fourteen semi-decent to non-decent males on board. I’m almost certain that I’ll get seasick and so I distract myself with inner dialogue about the overweight boat-boy. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of cheap board shorts and I’ve been trying to count the roll lines on his belly but he keeps bending, stretching and reaching for things and so I come up with three different numbers – two, three and seven. I’m about to give up, add the numbers and divide the total by three for an average when he finally stops moving and looks stoically back towards Phuket’s shore. I’m surprised to find that his belly wobbles out into a perfect podgy sphere with no lines at all. I ponder the size of his omentum for a moment before we burst through a large wave and I’m jolted back to reality.

Todd, the Buck, told me weeks earlier, that we were in for a day of swimming, diving, snorkelling, lunch and beers on a chartered speedboat. He then asked me which of those activities I would be participating in and seemed surprised when I replied, categorically, lunch and beers.

The Captain yells ‘In case of an emergency….’ over the roar of the boat and that’s about all I hear. I’m not concerned because if this boat capsizes or crashes or is attacked by sea monsters the result will be the same for me whether I understand the emergency procedure or not – death, so I pretend I'm listening, nod seriously and turn to Jamie, Todd’s brother and best man, who is tapping me on the shoulder.

“You have to snorkel,” he says.

“I don’t see any point in snorkelling,” I tell him. “It’ll make me wet and then I’ll have to dry myself.”

“Everyone will be doing it. Are you scared?”

As all visible sign of land disappears I have the impression that the sea is overwhelming us – like cookie dough overwhelms a chocolate chip – and I see no reason to change my decision.

“I’m not scared, I just have a care factor of zero for this particular activity. I’m happy to sun myself and drink beer on the boat. Are you okay with that?”

“I’ll lose a little respect for you,” he says.

“Respect for me? I won’t be the one splashing and squealing like a little girl in the water,” I tell him. “How about I bypass the snorkelling and when we get back to Phuket I’ll find a sprinkler to spread my arse over. You can be the one to turn it on if you want.”

Jamie laughs and even though I’m appearing as blasé as possible I
am stuck on the ‘respect’ thing. I like Jamie – he’s a cool dude in a doofusy, Clarke Kent-ish, Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island kind of way and Todd is one of my best mates from right back to High School days and I am suddenly struck by my predicament – I can do what makes me happy or I can do something, marginally painful, to make the groom and the best man happy on what is an important day for them.

I decide to consult the oracle and so reach for a can of beer and pierce the end with a pen. I shake it just a little and then shotgun it in what I feel is under three seconds. Even before I lower the empty can-slash-oracle my 2009 Geelong Premiership Cap is blown right off my head and out of the boat and I take this as a clear message to stay on board and refuse any water activities until Jock – Todd’s father – hands me my cap back and says, ‘It just blew into the back of the boat.’

I swallow a wellspring of emotion and am certain of two things – Geelong will win back-to-back flags 2009/2010 and I will be dipping myself into the ocean for the benefit of my long term friend.

The boat boy waddles past and starts collecting diving equipment as we round Phi-Phi Island and find a ‘good’ diving spot. I reason that he is a good choice for a boat boy for this particular group. Most of the guys have taken their shirts off already and this has to have something to do with how good we feel about our own abs in comparison to his.

Todd is in his element, surrounded by his friends and family – beer drinking foul-mouthed mostly Aussie lunatics – and he leads the diving group into the water. I pull on a pair of flippers and a snorkel and waddle my way to the edge and I can’t help but think that if the boat-boy ate an all meat diet for a month and did some basic exercise that he could switch from Buck’s groups to Hen’s groups and probably make a lot more Baht.

Suddenly I’m in the water. Several fish swim by, I can see right to the bottom of the ocean and am aware that this is what divers and snorkelers talk about – the clear water, the colourful fish – as the carrot of the experience, so I do my best to get taken away. I see a school of barracouta, a big flat fish, some skinny white fish and a very fast fish with yellow stripes. The chorus from The Dream Police is replaying itself over and over in my head. I have no idea why.

What strikes me, apart from the fact that I am just about brain dead bored, is that all the fish are so fricken calm. Why aren’t they eating each other? Where’s the violence? The Dream Police is replaced by the echo of a radio advertisement designed to raise awareness of people with disabilities with the catchphrase - ‘See the person not the disability’ and as I float lifelessly, so disinterested that I can’t even be stuffed paddling, I have to be honest with myself and say that every time I meet someone with a disability I
always see the disability first and it is only with great effort that I then see the person, if time and circumstance permits. I also notice the fat in fat people first, the old in old people, the bushy eyebrows on hairy people, the height of the very tall or very small and the pus-filled zits on the pimply. I feel semi-guilty about this until I consider the fact that when I look at myself in the mirror the first thing I notice is the baldness, the sickly whiteness of my skin and the very very slight appearance of bitch-tits on the bald, white, nearly bitch-titted man looking back at me.

Four really big brown fish swim past and look right at me and I barely notice until I see the look in their eyes. They’ve encountered yet another snorkeler and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, there’s another one of
those, again.’ They’re as bored with the activity as I am.

Some ocean gets in my snorkel and I lift my head choking and spluttering as Jamie swims by. I look back at the boat. Ten minutes of snorkelling has to be enough to get the respect Jamie has on offer.

The boat boy offers a hand to help me on board and in this position I can see five very distinguishable rolls of fat. I decide that five will be the official number. The flippers and snorkel are discarded and I decide I will now revert back to my University attitude for the rest of the day/night and so open another beer. I have at least half an hour to empty several cans. The Captain turns on the radio and sits down next to me. We look out over the expanse of what is the most beautiful scenery – Islands, massive rock formations, clear water, blue sky – and within minutes he is telling me how he picked up a Phuketian lady-boy by accident.

“Like you pick up your mates keys instead of your own?’ I ask, ‘That sort of accident?”

“No, man,” he says, a little pained, "I mean, I bought her for the night – 1500 Baht – but I thought she was a real woman."

“What did you do to her?" I ask.

“Just about everything,” he says and then goes into detail. “(Content removed by author).”

“How’d you find out she was a lady-boy?”

“I just realised when I woke up in the morning.”

I think,
Bullshit to that. You wanted to sleep with a lady-boy and now you want to talk about it. You really really love lady-boy but I really say, “That’s crazy man.”

He nods as The Empire of The Sun start singing Walking on a Dream and I feel awesome about my decision to snorkel for only a few minutes because I would have missed this little story and I know that people are crazy and while everyone’s out there skydiving and scuba diving and ab-sailing I’ll be sitting around watching and waiting for a crazy person like the Captain to spill his guts to a crazy person like me and when asked about my Phuket trip in the future I’ll be talking about how crazy-cool this dude is before I talk about a couple of colourful fish.

The Captain continues his frank discussion about lady-boys and even though I am now aware that there’s a strong chance he is trying to pick me up I start to look forward. Soon we will leave this boat behind and get sucked into the night-life of Patong where there’s a constant atmosphere of insanity, where everyone seems to be laughing at one another as they bargain money, sex, experience and time from each other. It’s going to be crazy and as the rest of the boys climb on board and start reaching for the cold beers I get this tingly, drunken, excitable flutter about the night ahead.

Nov 6, 2009

Reservoir Dad’s Adventures in Phuket – The Jellyfish

I’m in a lazy sun-slash-beer-slash-food stupor and comparing myself to the recently fed, highly-sexed lion, lazing under the shade of a tree in the sweltering African heat. I come to the conclusion that I stack up alright – Lions eat lots of meat and I have eaten double helpings of every kind of animal available in Phuket. Lions have sex fifty times a day and I have already thought about sex at least fifty times today. And when not aroused into action by sex or food lions do nothing at all and I am also doing nothing very, very competently.

I open my mouth to let out a groggy roar but the effort is beyond me and I resign myself to a dopey smile and several smacks of my recently beer-soaked lips when I notice a blurry shape to the right running down the beach towards me. I lift my head to see Reservoir Mum walking at a steady pace with Archie, crying, and Lewis in toe. A mild panic strikes me and I’m on my feet, suddenly alert.

“He’s been stung by a jellyfish,” she says. “Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“Oh Jesus, is he going to die?” I scream.

Reservoir Mum rolls her eyes and tells me to go ask the locals for some ointment. I run as fast as my legs (which are fatigued by my extended period of stagnation) can carry me, to a woman selling massages for 100 Baht and tell her that my son, who has encountered tremendous peril at the hands of a jellyfish, needs her special magic ointment to ward off any chance of death. She fails to understand me and calls over another woman who cannot understand me who calls over a man who holds two hands up and says, “What do you want?”

I say, “Jellyfish sting ointment.”

He speaks in Phuketian and the second woman dawdles off and returns with a slice of lime. I ask her if she perhaps forgot the cocktail that goes with it.

‘Rub it on the sting’ the man says.

I’m unconvinced but scream Konichiwa as I head back to the scene of the drama and within minutes Archie is fervently licking a chocolate coated shark-shaped ice-cream and standing confidently on his lime-soaked legs.


The boys are asleep and I’m watching a pirated copy of
Management with Reservoir Mum but I lose concentration shortly after the bum scene.

“I want to hunt that jellyfish down and kill it,” I tell her. “It’s out there somewhere with bits of my child’s skin on its bastard tentacles.

“Don’t be silly,” she says to me, “Stuff like that just happens.”

I feel angered by her Buddhist nonchalance at the same time that I feel enamored by her coolness. “If Archie had been eaten by a lion in Africa we’d hunt the feline arsehole down and skin it alive. Wouldn’t we?”

Reservoir Mum begins to talk but her words are lost in the shoosh of the ocean. I can see myself on a jet ski. I am high-tailing it towards the horizon. When I look behind me I see Archie on the shore. His leg is very, very red and the tears in his eyes renew my resolve.

When I look down I see a school of the bulbous jellyfish bastards, undulating as they do – their tiny heads and their pathetic wispy tentacles. I don’t trust anything without eyes and mouths but these child-stinging mongrel sons-of-bitches are also missing noses and ears. I secure the snorkel and goggles to my face and dive into the deep blue. My legs clamp together and I buck and flex my hips like a mermaid (without boobs, long flowing hair, a tan and a general female allure).

Within seconds I am upon them. They scatter like rabbits but regroup meters ahead and circle me. I am in water – their favorite place. They have the home-ground advantage and they know it.

To my right I see a jellyfish with something on its tentacles. It can only be human flesh, the flesh of my child. I lunge for it and my hand is consumed by jelly. I whack at it, bite it, punch it, poke it, give it a Chinese burn and my rage is so focused that it’s only after I deliver a thorough thrashing that I’m aware of the dozens of other jellyfish that cling to my legs, my arms, my torso. The pain is so dictionary complete.

I swim one jelly-fished stroke, one tentacle covered kick at a time until I feel the waves rise and carry me to the shore. I am dumped on the sand resembling a large summer sweet. Beautiful exotic Phuketian women run from everywhere with slices of lime and rub me from head to toe for 50 Baht a stroke and the jellyfish recoil and fall like vampires splashed with holy water.

A crowd forms. Archie is crowd-surfed over them and placed at my feet. He looks at me, still scarred by a reddish or perhaps now pinkish-white barely visible line around his ankle. He notices the jellyfish I still hold in my hand and recoils but I beckon him near. I raise it in the air and feel a surge of unnatural strength, that only a father whose child’s life is threatened feels, and I say, to the jellyfish, so that all – the crowd, the women but most of all Archie – can hear, ‘You’re going to the naughty corner. Two minutes. And then you must say sorry.’

Archie laughs and falls to his knees in relief as the crowd cheers. The Phuketian women, still lovingly applying lime juice to my legs, ask me to marry them but, alas, Reservoir Mum and my country will only allow me one wife.

The shoosh of the ocean and the adulation of the crowd recedes and is replaced by Reservoir Mum’s voice. "We should buy him that blow-up shark floaty thing on the way to the beach tomorrow though, to encourage him to get in the water again."

"Yes," I say, "He’ll love that" and within minutes I can see Archie floating out into stormy seas. I am guiding my hang-glider through lighting and rain, honing in on him. The Phuketian women are wearing wedding dresses and singing a particular song from Moulin Rouge which I can’t quite remember the name of……

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