Or the next day.
But I’m running ahead of myself.
That book contained not only an essay from which the collection was eponymously titled, but pieces on important aspects of go-go culture—I recall a treatise on silicone and its cosmetic applications, for example, and other perorations on the subjects of body hair (not much) and tattoos (quite a lot).
Close readers of this blog may remember all this with a fond but indistinct memory and, with a sense of sudden and indignant realisation, may note that in recent months—nay, years—no mention has been made in this blog by Mr Pobaan of go-go bars or anything connected with them.
Mea culpa. It’s a fair cop. Banged to rights. Guilty as charged. I have neglected this important aspect of Pattayan civilisation. But why has the Pobaan quill ignored this cultural icon for so long? Ah, dear reader, a moment’s thought would provide you with the answer. Mr Pobaan is getting on. He’s chronologically challenged. He’s becoming long in the tooth—a strange, possibly equine, metaphor which hardly suits an old human whose teeth are shortening by the day due to excessive grinding occasioned by anxiety caused by being old. Was that a circular argument? I certainly hope so.
It’s odd, but as the level of testosterone in my blood rapidly falls—quicker even than the fuel in Lewis Hamilton’s tank—the urge to go downtown and sweep aside the tattered curtains of a few of our world-famous go-go bars seems to diminish.
It’s a long way at night. The traffic could be bad. It might rain later. All those dreadful tourists. Kuhn Pobaan can come up with any number of reasons for not going.
But wait! My readers! They’ll want to know what’s going on, what kind of vibe is going down in the go-go scene. It could have changed; got better; got worse. Who’s to say? I have to find out. I have to put on my researcher’s white coat, dig out my clip-board and venture back into Walking Street. That’s why, patient reader, I have called this piece Return to the Go-Go. Cue dry ice and thunderflash.
I name the hour and prepare to sally forth. I ask my life companion to accompany me.
‘But I might get bored,’ she protests.
‘You don’t have to come.’
‘You think I’d let you go alone?’
‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
‘You could get stolen by a beautiful lady.’
‘You don’t trust me?’
‘I don’t trust the beautiful lady.’
So we hail a couple of motorbike taxis and point to Walking Street. My driver looks like a child, too young certainly to be driving members of the public around our lethal traffic, so I demand to see his licence. It says he’s 19. I wonder how much he paid for that.
We arrive in one piece and venture nostalgically beyond the black curtain of a likely-looking go-go bar. I am immediately struck by the display of unnatural shapes. It’s like Silicone Valley in there.
‘Ninety percent of all ladies with big boobs have had silicone,’ Mrs Pobaan pronounces with the satisfied look of an Olympic official who’s just measured the long jump.
‘Ninety percent? As much as that?’
‘I’m only guessing.’
I try to top her brand of science with some statistics of my own: ‘Four out of every nine customers in this bar are women. That’s a lot, don’t you think?’
‘How do you know?’
‘I just counted them. There are nine customers and four of them are women.’ I award myself an extension to my research grant and take up my clip-board for another survey: ‘Tattoos are even more common than I remember.’
‘That one’s beautiful,’ she says, indicating a writhing blue dragon emerging from the seat of someone’s pants.
‘Not to me. Or to her—she’s put it on her back so she doesn’t have to look at it.’
‘Still beautiful though.’
That’s enough for one go-go so we rejoin the throngs outside. Parties of tiny Chinese ladies with grey hair and baggy black trousers anxiously trip along behind guides holding flags on long sticks. They don’t seem to want to go inside. They’re here to watch the people watching the girls. I wonder what they’ll tell their friends back at the Guangzhou tai chi circle: Everyone in Thailand is very tall; that’s what would strike me if my point of view was little more than a metre from the ground.
We cover a couple more go-gos before calling it a day.
Was it still fun?
Yes, it was… interesting. Some of the jollity in some of the places we visited was a little forced but then it was always like that, and what did I expect? For real fun the ladies need their real friends, not paying customers even if they are the Pobaans.
My multiple-choice customer satisfaction survey at the end of the evening looks like this:
If I am jaded is it because (a) the spectacle has paled; (b) I’ve seen it all before; (c) I’m getting old; or (d) What are you talking about? It’s still fun!
‘Am I allowed to answer (b) and (c)?’
‘No, dummy, you can only click one button.’
‘Then I’ll go for (d).’
Note: The illustration, by Yianni Foufas, comes from Go-Go Girls a charming collection of verse that captures the lives and cares of the ladies who hug the chrome pole.