Today between 2 and 4 am I watched a film – no, sorry, let me rephrase that: I saw a 1988 Hollywood movie on the MGM channel called The Moderns set in a mythical Paris of the twenties that must have cost nothing to shoot: if we were not in bars with a suitably drunk Ernest H, we were in posh flats where Gertrude S and la Toklas held sway. Since there was a heavy peppering of (dubiously accented) French I understood most of it, what a relief: nasal Yankee drawl is still an uphill climb for me – not to mention current submachine-gun mumblings in the sub-lingo: articulating has definitely gone out of fashion in filmdom.
The flick had its moments and could have been fun but for the intrusion of censorship at an indecent level.
We are used to being treated like babies torn off mother’s breast in the name of spurious Asian values, with boobs and cunts and arses routinely blurred out along with fags in the mouth and guns to the head, but this really took the cake: no actresses’ boobs exposed, not even deep cleavage, but in those artistic dens and millionaire flats, the walls were totally covered with mostly nude paintings by the likes of Modigliani, and guess what? Painted boobs and cunts and arses were covered up with opaque oval ectoplasms, blobs so huge you could hardly see the painting at all, so huge that they erased half the faces of the actors standing before them. How preposterous! Anyway, after a while, the fun was in spying bits of painted nudity that for a split second escaped the sperm spurts of the culture pricks, whoever they are.
On another front, the Bangkok Post on Sunday had an exposé on the nice racket of our worthy thetsakit, those city inspectors that pounce on littering foreigners at 2000 baht a cigarette butt when they are not figuring out how to squeeze taxes out of street sellers.
That reminded me of a couple of encounters with their predecessors, the regular police, which, as everyone knows, have their suppression week or month of this or that criminal activity on a rotating basis, as they allegedly don’t have the manpower to handle all crimes at once, which in turn makes all sorts of crimes blossom and bear dividends without which they wouldn’t make ends meet.
If I can help it, I never go to Khao San Road, that den of scruffy farang and Thai riffraff attracted to their cash like blue flies are to turds, but one fine afternoon three years ago I happened to walk the length of it from Thanao Road looking for some place where I could drop the butt of the cigarette I’d just smoked. It had grown cold between my finger and thumb. About fifty yards from the end of the road, in desperation and against my principles I discreetly let go of it in the gutter. Within seconds, a cop was tapping me on the shoulder, the telltale butt between finger and thumb brandished to my very nose. Knowing exactly what awaited me I smiled broadly and told him in Thai: ‘Yes, it’s mine, but I’m finished with it, you can have it.’ He said nothing to that impertinence but pressed me to visit the police kiosk at the corner. There a placard in two languages told me the extent of my crime in its weird formulation: ‘not exceeding 2000 baht’. A little parley went on with the bulky officer sitting there and I was fined two hundred baht against a receipt, which I framed.
Since then I’ve made sure to slip my butts into the holes of gutter slabs or grids where they can’t be retrieved and used as evidence. Only a few months later, in a nearby street, I’d just done that when a fat, Ray-Ban’ed police sergeant on a motorbike pulled up short in front of me. He accused me of littering. I courteously told him I’d disposed of the butt properly. As he wouldn’t accept this and quoted some imaginary law article to convince me of a crime, I ostentatiously took out my notebook and my pen and calmly peering at his chest took down his name and rank. He fled the scene. The phat thai couple next door told me he was well known for scouring the streets in search of littering farang to plunder. I wonder if he still does: those thetsakit racketeers must be giving him unfair competition.