Wednesday, 7 November 2012

US election: The view from Patpong

I was part of a team of 25 writers from interesting cities around the world asked to contribute dispatches  on the US elections for Roads and Kingdoms. For a view on the election many agreed 'sucked', I sought expert comment from a peculiar class of bar in the dark heart of Patpong Road.

And for the whole collection: ://

Fear, trepidation and disappointment stalked the streets of Patpong last night, as voting began in the US presidential elections.
      Fear flashed across the face of Nong Ning, one of several ladies loitering outside a blowjob bar with the unlikely name ‘Star of Light’, when I told her they were voting in America right now. “No drink alcohol tonight?’’ she asked. On the eve of local elections booze is banned in Bangkok, which means slim pickings for the nongs (younger sisters) of Patpong.
      Trepidation creased the mamasan’s greasy features when I entered the small and dingy bar. Three girls hovered around a single elderly fellow, making half-hearted, darting grabs for his crotch. No oracle appeared, despite the name’s vague promise of prophecy. Nothing was illuminated.
      “Obama or Romney’’ I asked. ‘Obama black man. Maybe he big,’’ one girl offered. The mamasan sniffed. “I like Bush’’.
      Disappointment, suddenly and crushingly, was all mine. I was in Bangkok’s heart of darkness, its ur-strip of sin and sleaze, where dank doorways portended parades of pudenda, and I was four years too late. For the first election in years, there was no Bush.
     Bush had been ubiquitous in Bangkok. ‘Good Bush, Bad Bush’ the t-shirts observed, juxtaposing George W’s idiot grin with a luxuriant tangle of pubic hair. ‘Fuck you Bush’ said the matter of fact graffito on a contstruction hoarding near my home.
     Dizzy with visions of puns unpenned, sick with the sense of loss, I lurched from the Star of Light, running the gamut of importunate hawkers, proprietors of ping pong emporia and leering ladyboys.
      I stopped, caught my breath, batted away a midget trying to sell me Viagra and reminded myself of the mission. The US Presidency had a long, lewd history with the hummer, from the Kennedy clan’s Camelot kneetremblers to Bill Clinton’s intern eruptions, sticky dresses, exploding cigars and limp excuses.
     This time, the entire electoral process sucked, from the first broken promise to the last forlornly flapping chad. “Campaign sucks hope out of US public,’’ sniffed Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times.
      “How the World's Greatest Democracy Sucks at Elections,’’ Esquire explained to its readers. lamented how ‘Voting Tech Still Sucks’, while wondered if it “sucked more to be Michelle Obama or Ann Romney’’.
      But it was the Street Art Gum Election 2012 that posed the crucial question: “Obama vs. Romney - Who Sucks the Most?’’, allowing voters to decide with one spit of their gum.
       There was a perverse symmetry in asking a posse of Patpong oral sex experts which US Presidential candidate sucked hardest. It seemed right, somehow, to finally give them a voice, considering Patpong had been getting screwed by Americans since the Vietnam War.
        I ascended the steep narrow stairs to Kangaroo Bar, perched on a barstool, and noticed the décor was strictly Down Under, as were some of the staff.
From a dark room at one end of the bar, shadowy movements and furtive slurping issued. I recalled asides about golf-balls and garden hoses, and suck-starting leaf blowers.
       I pressed on with my quest. But the mission was a bust. No one in the bar, at least no one capable of speaking, had a clue who Mitt Romney was. They knew the name Obama, and agreed this must be a good thing.
      ‘Mitt’, said a tall girl named ‘Chicken’ , sounded like the Thai word for knife.
    “Good Mitt or Bad Mitt?’’ I pressed. She frowned. Then smiled. ‘Bad if you are unfaithful. In Thailand, we use the knife to chop off the penis and feed it to the ducks.’’

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