Last night was adventure time again, all the way to Foodland (“We never close”) at Jaran Sanitwong Rd, now that the New Year road kill has left a million weekenders back into Bangkok’s clogged arteries. It was sometime before 8 pm. Their Took Lae Dee (Cheap & Good) restaurant was packed. I was about to take a seat at the counter when Jok comes over and invites me to his table, where he sits with his friend Anusorn Tipayanon. When there is room for two there is room for three, just move away that child’s chair. They have almost finished their meal anyway.
Jok is that printer and friend and almost neighbour who kindly provided me with paperback samples of my latest translations, Noblesse Oblige, Tuthiyawiseit and so on (see ‘Growing pains’). Anusorn, I learn, is a writer and a translator from the English. They have just printed his latest short story, Morranasakkhee (Death Witness, I guess), as a slim pocket book and will offer me a copy to read later the same night (that I will fall asleep halfway through is no judgment on the story: I just left reading it to too late at night and was bushed; I’ll finish it tonight).
As they finish their meal and I order mine, follows a vivid conversation about our common literary friends here and abroad. I entertain them with Chart and my adventures in Cheeseland, they bring me up on who is where and doing what (Siriworn in Mae Sot, researching for his next book which may not be a novel while his latest long short story is being serialised in some magazine, Khun Noo back in Bangkok, Kittiphol and his bookshop, Prabda Yoon, Panu Trivej back for good…): the literary world here is so large everybody knows everybody else and no blink goes unnoticed or uncommented.
I have just ordered dessert when they leave the table to buy a few things and by the time they come back to say goodbye the dessert has just been served. There is enough for three but they desist and leave. When I finish the meal, I will find that Jok has paid for it. Thai manners.
It took me an hour or so as usual to gather the victuals for the next three or four weeks, stocked up in two big plastic bags. Before leaving I took time to smoke a cigarette outside. A taxi came round, I threw my cigarette and grabbed my bags, but the taxi just didn’t stop by the entrance. However, it did so some thirty yards later. A scantily clad doll came out of it and sashayed towards the supermarket. Had she retained the cab? From three yards away as I crossed her path I asked her that much. She glanced at the old farang lecher and pretended he wasn’t there. So I went up to the taxi. He was free.
Followed a non-stop monologue in which I learned the doll was a café singer who had come all the way from uptown for an appointment there and actually I myself used to be a cabaret singer and when I was younger … here a detailed layout of the places of entertainment present and past all along the way back to Soi Wat Dao … and could you throw away for me that bottle a passenger left behind?
Of this the Bangkok nights are made. I should be venturing out more often.