marcel barang

Love at second sight (1)

In English on 30/11/2009 at 1:02 am


Saturday was pink-ribbon day of the year for me. Imagine the bear sneaking out of his lair, close shaven, decently clad and discreetly XS’ed, going by the river to wait for the green-yellow flagged express boat that would take him to distant Pakkret and a wedding celebration – not his, poor lonesome boorish bear these days with a love interest half a world away, but that of two erstwhile underlings who have belatedly seen the light of impending doom and decided to yoke up and make sparks fly.

There were plenty of orange flagged express boats as I waited at the Pinklao bridge landing, but no sign of a green-yellow one – the PAD must have shamed them out of service –, so eventually I jumped onto one of the orange flagged ones, knowing it would take me to the Nonthaburi pier, one stop short of Pakkret, and then I’d take a taxi and arrive on time: it was 5:10, the boat trip upstream would take less than 40 minutes, the party was due to convene by 5:30 but the fun wouldn’t start for another hour or so if I knew anything of the local scene.

In Nonthaburi, stubbing out a half-smoked cigarette, I hopped into a taxi.

Wrong choice of a driver.

The young man hadn’t a clue where Suan Thip was but didn’t let on. The map that came with the invitation was close to illegible except with the magnifying lens I hadn’t brought along. Anyway, the restaurant by the river was close to the Rama IV bridge, this much could be ascertained, so the taxi kindly took me on a sightseeing trip to three bridges in the vicinity separated by lengthy chunks of chock-a-block roads until we found the right lane – altogether, over the next hour, a fourteen kilometre trip, so said the meter, that should have taken four at most. The fellow didn’t protest when I reduced his fare by a quarter.

Suan Thip is no mere restaurant by the river, but a small enclave at the end of a long winding lane through a vast estate which, I am told, is owned by the retiring daughter of dear old dictator Thanom Kittikachorn, RIP.

Hello Nick! Hello Mem!

‘Khun Marcel, you haven’t changed a bit!’ ‘No, why should I? It’s against my principles.’

Mem, whom I always took the trouble to call Khun Uayphorn, was my very sprightly secretary when I was running Manager, the business fortnightly magazine that lasted all of thirteen exhausting months under my fussy care twenty years ago. Nick, son of famed anthropologist Charles Keyes, was one of my favourite reporters, as he had a way with words (see ‘(Pen)ultimate’ elsewhere on this blog).

Well-permed Mem has matured into a very personable Thai woman, and goateed Nick turned twice as portly as his well-knit father, so that one almost wonders who’s father to whose son.

Mem and Nick: theirs is a case of love at second sight.

In my days, it was known that they were an item, but their romance somehow petered out after a couple of rows – years, I mean. Nick went back to the States, Mem drifted into some other raison de vivre. And then almost two decades later, Nick and Mem found themselves again working in the same office here in Bangkok, as they still do. A common trip to Penang, we were to be told tonight, rekindled smothered ambers and, two years later, both of them well into their forties, here they are in all their finery, flushed and grinning as they welcome dozens of guests under a half-moon and no stars in the sky.

No stars in the sky but plenty of mosquitoes under and around the outlay of round tables laden with a modicum of cold food served with a miserly spoonful of rice by lackadaisical waiters, next to a gaudily decorated stage from where a succession of distinguished speakers will take turns making the predictable jokes and toasts before the multitier cake is duly mutilated and a songstress in a preposterously bouffant outfit belts out Thai protracted gargles that pass for songs and effectively kill any urbane conversation and it’s time to leave. But then, in fairness, I’ve suffered worse.


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