Thursday, June 21, 2012
Links to internet bookstore sites where NAVIGATING THE BANGKOK NOIR is available:
In Singapore and Asia at Noqstore: http://goo.gl/11BDS
In North America at Amazon: http://goo.gl/trjhn
In UK at Amazon: http://goo.gl/u2nPD
In France at Editions GOPE: http://navigating-the-bangkok-noir-gope.blogspot.fr/
In Bangkok and Thailand at AsiaBooks: http://goo.gl/cSF5u
In Bangkok and Thailand at Kinokuniya: http://goo.gl/g0EfK
In Tokyo and Japan at Amazon: http://goo.gl/v5Gwc
In Germany at Amazon: http://goo.gl/ebRmw
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Renoir Club Soi 33, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Just off Sukhumvit Road is the quiet and cozy Soi 33, also known as the Dead Artists Street…..the home of Renoir Club along with many others, Goya, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Dali, Picasso. About three thousand girls work on Soi 33, many of them in their late 20’s and early 30’s, most of them stylish and beautiful, either from Central Thailand or the Northeast, called Isan, where people are darker and more Lao. The Expat guys are regulars, old hands in Bangkok, and the ambiance is familiar, warm and conversational…
Christie’s Club Soi 33, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
On Soi 33, Christie’s is a relaxed and friendly place. Every night the same group of regular guys shows up, has a few beers and laughs. About twenty-five girls work there off and on, depending on the night, many of them in their late twenties and thirties, almost all divorced with one or two kids. Most of them go with clients six or seven times a month, guys they kind of know, who have their mobile numbers and sometimes call ahead. It’s like a singles club or dating service in California, only without the dinner, movie and database.
Monet Club Soi 33, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
The beautiful and elegant girls at Monet on Soi 33 wear a different dress every night. No one’s dancing on the bar. Everybody’s acting nice. But lurking beneath the conversation, smiles and laughter, the transactional nature of relations between men and women swims slowly in circles, waiting to surface.
Midnite Bar Soi Cowboy, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
One of the oldest bars on Soi Cowboy, Midnite’s friendly and funky with a raunchy over-lay. The beers cost two dollars and the girls, mostly Lao from the part of Thailand called Isan, are easy-going, always looking for an excuse to be outrageous and have some fun. The guys, mostly Expats, some Japanese, think they’re back in college, hanging out at a roadhouse bar for sex and rock ‘n roll, the problems of their adult lives forgotten…….
Certain Soi Cowboy bars are hangouts for retired Expats, Old Hands in Bangkok, where they go to say hello to their friends. The girls are just there, in the background, available or not, no one cares. Where’s so and so? I just got back from the States, it ain’t the same. When’s your next visa run? I was over in Saigon last week. You should go over and take a look. If they lived in Arizona or Florida, they would all be playing golf.
Quiet Night, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
A quiet night in April, Bangkok’s hottest month. Outside, even at midnight, it’s a hundred degrees and a hundred percent humidity. Inside the bar, the A/C is on full blast, the beer cold and everybody’s happy to go through the motions, thankful for the escape.
Reincarnated German Sex Tourist Soi Dog at Soi Cowboy, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
There are many German tourists who come to Bangkok to chase the bargirls. Every night, night after night, they never have enough. Until their two weeks are up and they catch their flight. In Germany, they dream about their Bangkok girls, hoping to find a way to come back and never leave. Some say when the German guys are re-incarnated they come back as soi dogs and wander around Soi Cowboy to their heart's content...........
Déjà Vu Bar, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
Closing Time Soi Cowboy, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
The only customer’s a friend, the last song is from the northeast part of Thailand called Isan. It’s a tale of endless hard work on dirt-poor farms, the sons and daughters all lost to Bangkok to learn the ways of the City.
Rainbow Two Bar, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Unlike most of Nana’s bars, by ten o’clock, Rainbow Two is full. The hundred or so girls are young and active, the guys old hands. They grab a beer, look around and find the girl they want. She comes over and orders a ladies drink. They check each other out. If everything’s OK and both are willing, a few minutes later they’re gone. By eleven, the bar’s half empty.
G-Spot Agogo, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
On the second floor of this dense three story nest of gogo bars, G-Spot’s owned by an eccentric and wacky English guy named David. About fifty dancers and another ten service girls. Ten foot long Bose woofers blasting out the latest disco. A sleazy mix of seasoned Expats and tourist guys from most of the Western world and Japan. Not as easygoing as Soi Cowboy or as raw and nasty as Patpong, it is a hardened battleground for the ongoing transactional war between the sexes.
Late Night Rainbow Agogo, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
By one AM, Rainbow Agogo is blurry from loud music, blinding strobe lights and the ongoing river of man-woman interaction. Too much beer, too much flesh and too many Expats out of control.
Party Time Voodoo Bar, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Voodoo Bar is a mix of ladyboys and one hundred percent ladies, it is difficult to tell. Some say Thai ladyboys are sometimes so perfectly feminine, only their hands can give them away. With too many beers, multi-colored lights, pounding music and so many bodies moving, the only way to avoid a mistake for sure is to not go there at all. On the other hand, for whatever reason, ignorance or desire, some guys do.
Hollywood Bar Nana, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
On a Friday or Saturday night, Hollywood Bar at Nana is usually rocking out, hundreds of Expats and girls, lots of beer and raunchy shows. Except when the police close it down for showing too much. Or not paying enough, no one’s ever sure. Sometimes the police make the Expats and girls go pee pee in a little cup which is really hard when everyone’s been drinking so much, the cups are so small. And the little cups always get all mixed up on the table where they’re doing the tests. The poor police technicians try to keep track even though they know it’s only for show. In the end, no one’s going to be arrested and no charges are going to be filed. This is Hollywood, Thailand, not California, after all.
Closing Time Nana Plaza, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
The end of another night at Nana Plaza, the Expats all regulars and the leftover girls drifting through a haze of indifference.
Upstairs Bar at Patpong, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Patpong is for the tourists who have never been in Bangkok before and who will never come again. It’s a nightly show put on according to a European script, what they want and are desperate to see, acted out by Ladyboys, the girls shooting the darts and a of ten thousand pimps, bargirls and sellers of counterfeit goods.
Crazy Hour, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
During Crazy Hour at a Patpong gogo bar, the beers only cost fifty Baht, half their normal price. Most of the girls haven’t showed up and there are only a few guys. Things are pretty quiet, nothing’s crazy at all.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Thigh Bar, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Pom is the manager of Thigh Bar at the entrance to Patpong. In the heart of tourist sleaze, surrounded by drunken Expats, desperate bargirls and wandering ladyboys, she somehow manages to stay friendly and relaxed. If you have been there once in the last ten years, she will remember your name and what you ordered to drink, even the name of your girl and where she ended up. If you know enough to show respect, you will be treated well and only hustled a little. On the other hand, if you act like an asshole, it will never be forgotten. You will always be an asshole, from the moment you walk in the door until the day you die.
Party Time, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Four gay guys from New York, for some reason, partying in a Patpong bar full of girls, who knows why. Maybe just a whim on their way to Boy’s Town a few blocks further on. The girls know right away there’s nothing in it for them.
Thaniya Plaza, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
On Patpong’s fringe, Thaniya Plaza is for the Japanese executive crowd in Bangkok. They are Thailand’s largest group of Expats, owning and running most of the automobile and electronics factories. Thaniya’s set-up to look like Tokyo’s Ginza with a vertical array of clubs, KTV’s, bars and cozy hang-outs, over a hundred, all with colorful Japanese signs. The Thai girls are dressed in kimonos and gowns and speak a little Japanese. Hello, How are you, Handsome man, Do you want whiskey, Thank you so much, Nice to see you, Please come back. They bow from the waist with heads tilted down.
If a western guy approaches, they turn and look the other way, sometimes pointing towards the little sign on the door that says, For Japanese Only.
Girlfriends, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
There are plenty of girlfriends in the Bangkok Night, Toms and Dees and everything in between……
Tall Blue Dancer, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Tall and slim, is she a girl or a lady boy….how to tell when everything’s been altered from top to bottom and back to front………..
Ken, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
Up and down the Patpong soi called Boy’s Town, muscular young Thai guys dance in their underwear, do push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups to pulsating disco tracks. Plenty of gay guys from all over Asia, especially Taiwan and Singapore. Western guys too, from Germany, Sydney and San Francisco. Sometimes one of them gets drunk and crazy and jumps on stage to dance.
Midnight Patpong, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
By midnight on Friday, Patpong’s full, twenty thousand tourists from Europe, the U.S., Australia, India, the Middle East and Japan, ten thousand girls, hundreds of ladyboys, plenty of beer, whiskey, endless stalls selling counterfeit goods, thirty or forty different disco tracks blasting out of the gogo bars, a world vortex of man woman interaction, a combination sexual theme park, shopping mall and inferno, fiercely consuming an endless stream of humanity and their desire.
Beer Bar Soi 22, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
The beer bars and KTV’s opposite Queens Park on Soi 22 are pretty low-key, only one stop above Soi Zero. The girls are either straight off the farm and barely dressed for the city or in shabby retirement from a ten year stint at Nana or Soi Cowboy. The guys are nothing special, staying in the hotels or cheap apartments nearby. They’re usually there for the beer, a little chat, and to fill out their day. No one has any expectations and it is impossible to be let down.
KTV Girls, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
There must be more than ten thousand Karaoke Bars in Bangkok. The songs are stored on hard drives and delivered digitally. The whiskey and cola mixer comes on a stainless steel tray with a fresh bucket of ice. Tasty Thai snacks are cooked to order. Some KTV’s are hi-end, others tucked in corrugated sheet metal sheds. There are usually some girls, to laugh, drink and sing with you or for you, smiling, flirting, mixing the drinks and ice. It’s an instant party, so long as you have the cash to pay.
Lazy Afternoon Lone Star Saloon, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
It’s a lazy afternoon at the Lone Star Bar where Brian’s been a regular for thirty years. The girl’s worked there for fifteen years. Both of them well past their expiration dates, happy to share a smoke and a few beers.
Washington Square Girl, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Old Mamasan, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
She’s been the Mamasan for thirty years, watched too many girls work way too many men. Heard too many stories, seen too many tears. Desire is an illusion, she knows too well. She goes to the temple every day and listens to the monks. But how else is she to earn a living?
Girl from Chiang Mai, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
As the eldest daughter to a mother born near Kumming, China, she’s working the high-end of the Bangkok Night. Already, she owns a condo and drives her own Toyota, pays the school fees for her sisters and brothers and bought her mother a shop.
Beautiful, stylish and sexy, highly intelligent and very ambitious, within the generations of her ancestors and family, she is the one who will enable them to finally reach their destination.
Kate, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Slender, stylish, often dressed in silk, her mini-mobile is always pressed to one ear, as her whispered Thai words flow across Bangkok’s many-layered spectrum as she weaves her multiple webs. Her father, a Bangkok police captain, has a gun strapped to his ankle. When she was a teenage girl, he used to take her on nighttime tours of Chinatown to teach her the nature of Men. Before she reaches forty, she will be a dollar millionaire with an upscale Bangkok condo, a house in Sydney and a villa in Chiang Mai.
Om, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Once a month, she flies over to Hong Kong and works the disco in the Peninsula Hotel. She also works in Singapore. In between, she’s at the CM2 Club at the Novotel Siam Square, a fire burning inside. In her next life, she wants to be a school teacher.
CM-2 Girl, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
The girls at CM2 are a cut above, freelancers beholden to no one except themselves. Some are university students, others work at hotels, banks and department stores. The men they hunt are often high-income guys on business in Bangkok for a week. There’s no upper limit. If they are stylish, clever and speak enough English, they can end up in London, Beverly Hills or Sydney, living in a big house and driving a Mercedes. Or they can end up no where, too old, with too much mileage, unloved, their dreams of a better life bitter and unfulfilled.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Butterfly Girl Q Bar, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
Q Bar is ultra-chic. Club trance, guys dressed in Armani black, fashion model girls. Along with Living Room and Mystique, it’s one of the top Bangkok clubs. But even in Q Bar, the boy-girl action is transactional and fast. No matter how wonderful the girls, how full of beauty, depth and soul, money determines the outcome, a pay as you go system with no obligations outside the time frame agreed.
Spasso Girl, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
The girls at Spasso Bar in the basement of the five star Hyatt Erawan Hotel are like cruise missiles. Once they’ve locked onto their targets, the man has very little chance. Unless he’s a cheapskate. Then the missile veers away, the radar having read available cash and net worth with the speed of a supercomputer, and the poor man is saved from the night of his life and the woman of his dreams.
Pegasus Club, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
The girls at Pegasus Club are a confident bunch, secure in their place at the hi-end apex of the Bangkok Night. All the guys are dollar millionaires and above, from all over the world, Asia and the West as well as the Middle-East, Russia and Thailand itself. Brand names, celebrities, movie stars and tycoons. They fly into Bangkok first class or in their private jets, stay at the top hotels and meet their pals at Pegasus, for drinks, dinner, music and the two hundred constantly changing girls, every one beautifully dressed, perfect skin, a face that could be on the cover of a fashion magazine. Stylish, smiling and clever enough to know what to do and how to be, to end up with a condo, a beach house in Phuket, a bank account in Singapore, a lifetime of income to raise their kids and put them through school, even send them to university in Australia or the U.S.
Happy Couple, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
A happy couple, they each have dreamed of the other, hoping to find what they have been missing in themselves. But what happens if what they see is something they have imagined, not what is actually there.
Patpong Girl, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
For two years, she’s been dancing in a Patpong bar, about a hundred tourists a night, thirty-five thousand a year, seventy thousand in all, from Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Japan, Korea and the U.S. She looks at each one, knows them better than they know themselves, who they are, what they are looking for and whether they are worth her time.
Lek at Pretty Lady, watercolor on paper, 5x7 inch
Almost thirty, Lek’s body is still slender and supple. But she has seen too much, known too many men, danced too many nights. Her only desire is to go back to her hometown, take care of her ten year old son and live out the rest of this life in quiet, hoping the next cycle will be better.
Two Dancers, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
They’re watching him. Is he a player or just someone passing through.
Upstairs at Baccara, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Plenty of room to sit, smoke, chat, buy Lady Drinks, listen to the Club sound track…..and watch the Japanese business guys throw their hard-earned money at the feeding frenzy of stylish, clever and hi-income Baccara girls…............
Blond Gogo Girl, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
She has a power beyond herself, a dancer in the Bangkok Night…..dark brown skin, dyed blond hair, blue lenses in her eyes, she’s more mythic than real and the guys are there to worship and adore………..
Three Friends, water color on paper, 18x24 inch
One of them smiles while the other two watch carefully to see what effect her smile might have. They’ve known each other since they were kids and see the world with six eyes, adding to each other’s knowledge every day by sharing everything they learn. It’s the key to their survival. Very few Thai’s live their lives alone.
Pretty Lady Bar, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Up on stage, she has a power beyond herself, a dancer in the Bangkok Night. Dark brown skin, dyed blond hair, blue strobe lights in each eye, she’s more mythic than real and the guys are there to worship and adore.
G-Spot Girl, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Working at G-Spot on the 2nd floor of Nana Plaza, she has learned to watch men very carefully. Even though she only understands a little English, she listens to them talk with great attention, closely following their cadence and intonation. She notices each hand gesture, detail of their clothing, fingernails and hair. There is so much you can learn about a man without saying anything at all.
Number 26, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
Number 26 has a magic about her as she floats through the Bangkok Night. A commodity for sale, holding onto her pole, she retains her smile and sense of humor as she constantly examines her world. She likes the men who understand her distance, her value beyond herself, who know that knowing her for a night or two can change their lives and point of view. No matter who and where we are in life, we are all holding onto a pole and we are all for sale and we must all examine our lives. And we must still be able to smile.
What Your Name, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
What your name, where you from, first time in Bangkok? The girls are like police, checking out the guys. Sometimes the abbreviated English makes the guys forget how complex these girls are in Thai. They let their guard down and become easy marks. But why not, the girls need the money and they guys have way too much.
Lighting Up, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
At what moment does a guy’s brain click? What button does she need to push. He’s young, looks pretty good and has a wallet full of cash. How does she stand out, get his attention, focus him on her. There are so many girls.
Dancer Agogo, water color on paper, 5x7 inch
For a thousand nights, she’s danced in a daze of smoke, sparkling disco balls and the thumping beat from gigantic Bose woofers. She has seen the faces of a hundred thousand men, their eyes caressing every inch of her flesh. Tall, short, handsome, ugly, dark, tan, yellow and white, obese and thin, some of them in wheelchairs, others with stutters, old and young, every kind of man, from every country on earth. What are they thinking and what do they want, why are they there, in the Bangkok bar where she works and lives and dreams?