Friday, March 06, 2009

Classic E@L: From The Archives - Mar 2006

A Slob Like One Of Us

As the array of observers gathers on the more anonymous tables up the back and on the prime seats close by the stage, the 12 naked girls start to move towards one end of the platform where a set of steps leads down to the floor and then on to their change-room, which happens to double as the men's toilet.

The show starts with a pair of girls gradually undressing as they sway to some upbeat Rolling Stones classic. In these first few segments of the stage shows, the dancers for some reason seem more coy than when they were members of the bevy of totally naked girls just a few minutes before: when they finally whip their G-strings down at the end of the song, the lights go down instantly and the dancers rush from the stage, hands over their breasts and pubic regions. Strange.

Then the naked chorus line-up returns after twenty minutes of the traditional Bangkok sex-exploits - smoking pussy show, darts show, banana show, pull string from pussy show - and the crowd returns its real attention to the beers, whiskeys and cigarettes. Many patrons had been feigning a disinterest in the sex-shows, not wishing to look like they were really looking. But a few necks on the guys up the front will need a special massaging tonight, aching from their protracted attempts to grab a glimpse up the short dresses of the girls with no knickers.

As E@L fixes his attention on the impossibly thin wrist of the girl seated next to him, over the loud speakers comes Joan Osbourne's What If God Was One Of Us?

E@L has trouble suppressing a smile.

He lets his eyes wander over the faces of the young men and old boys in the bar. If God was truly in disguise tonight, lost, just a stranger in a strip-club, trying to find his way home... What if he had set himself down in Bangkok for another night of amazement at the cavortings of his creations... What if he had been trapped on earth for ever, where else would he gravitate towards, to be forever in a hell (truly, actually) of his own making? Whose body would he be inhabiting tonight?

Look at this guy, maybe his first time overseas, eyes wide in astonishment. He had been mouthing WOWs every time something unusual or unexpected popped out from or went into the reproductive organs of a show girl. Young and fair haired, slightly awkward with his large-framed, stoop-shouldered body like he hadn't quite grown into it yet, perhaps from an Amish town in Pennsylvania. How many girls would he take upstairs tonight to help him loose his virginity? Is he god, or just looking for heaven?

A troupe of loud youths jostle for views around the stage-side seats. They drink the beer twice as fast as other customers so the manager puts up with their antics. It is hard to tell at first if they are American or British. They have close cropped hair, but not shaved. Maybe American soldiers fresh from a spicy feast at a local restaurant, with a need for something fiery in their eyes to match the searing chili in their bellies. They pull faces and laugh. Nothing serious here. Would god be so jejune?

Here's a slothful old-Thai-hand entering the club. A huge man. He nods his completely shaven head to the manager (who is doubling as the ironic-song playing DJ tonight) as he parts the green velvet curtain, his frame occluding the doorway. He wears a sleeveless muscle-shirt but has no muscle-form to his hefty shoulders, only a webbing of tattoos on display on a deep, leathery tan. When he sits near the cashier's desk the number one dancer, the choreographer, who is minimally clad in strips of leather and interlocking chains for her next Rammstein number comes over to bounce on his knee. She lights a cigarette for him. Is he god, the leader, the messiah? Is she?

A sage-like man well into his fifties with long hair partly tied back in a grey pony-tail, partly wild and unkempt, feeds cigarettes and beers into his deeply-lined face, a face weathered by years of anger and frustration. A very small girl in a cowboy hat and not much else is sitting next to him, rubbing his forearms, watching the show. Is he god, or merely one of the prophets?

Several quieter guys are dispersed here and there in the shadowier parts of the club, where the views of the stage are best. They nurse their drinks slowly, aware of the high prices. Their faces are impassive. Nothing excites, surprises or amuses them. They have seen it before. They will see it again. Their only fear, apart from their wives walking in, would be the prospect of not seeing it anymore. Is one of them god, world-weary and impassive, unable to partake and unable to walk away, impotent yet addicted?

Four much-older men in street-market knock-off golf-shirts, camel shorts, with white runners and white socks fully pulled-up to mid-calf appear to have escaped from the tour-bus for the evening and are sitting up at the back, speaking loudly in thick Dutch accents as they laugh across at each other and fondle the bemused girls who have ventured near them. Surely this show cannot surprise them after the variety store that is Amsterdam? Is this the Trinity plus one?

As the lights flash up and down and the girls troop off stage indicating it is time for another show, E@L catches a reflection of his own bemused face in the mirrors across the room...

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

What if E@L believed, just for an instant, that all the prophets worthy of the name were in Long Gun tonight?


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