>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

November 19, 2006

Essential New Word of the Week: forlorpid (definition hint: food fatigue)

It recently occurred to me that I worked way too hard this year. When the new year rolls around, lots of things will carry over: my air miles, my innate sense of superiority to midgets, my inexorable descent into alcoholism… but one thing that won’t carry over is the collection of vacation days I’ve saved up at work. It’s use ‘em or lose ‘em, and if you know anything about my people, you’ll know we don’t like to waste things, be they matzoh balls or days off.

So, I’ve got to figure out someplace to go, or at the very least, some way to entertain myself during my time off. This kind of decision is easy for college students. For Spring Break, you go to Mexico, drink a shitload of booze, and hook up with anyone without visible open sores. And from what I can gather, even that last rule is pretty flexible.

For Christmas, you do something similar, or else fly back home to be with your family. This choice is especially popular if you have a year’s worth of laundry festering away, you need money, or you genuinely miss your parents. That sounds kind of lame, but if it’s good enough for Denise Huxtable, it should be good enough for you.

“It’s hard to ponder the social injustice of the sex industry when your balls are being expertly kneaded like two walnuts in a coin purse.”

I don’t know what I’ll end up doing, but thinking about vacations gave me the idea to tell you about one of the best and weirdest ones that ever I could have imagined. Las Vegas may well be Sin City, but Bangkok, Thailand is surely the Devil’s personal Chuck E. Cheese. No matter where your tastes lie, you’ll find something there to whet your appetite. Other things might get wet, too.

Now, before you leap to conclusions, let me offer some words of reassurance: This isn’t a sordid travelogue of drug-smuggling and stripper exploitation. Not entirely. There were some unusual circumstances surrounding this little vacation. You see, my traveling companion to Bangkok was a friend, who was (and is), for lack of a better phrase, a good person. I don’t mean that as any kind of backhanded compliment; I mean that he was simply and literally a good person. The kind of guy who would go out of his way to do you a favor. The kind of guy who doesn’t mind being the designated driver. And most assuredly, the kind of guy you wouldn’t associate with anything seedy or morally questionable.

The way I figured it, he was going to Bangkok to look at the temples, enjoy the cuisine, and browse the local markets, that sort of thing. I wanted to do all that stuff too, but get it done during the morning. That way, my nights could be filled with liquor, women, gambling, and anything else that would stamp my passport to hell.

Even though we’re very different, I knew this trip would be good for me and my pal. Perhaps some of my hedonistic zest for life would rub off on him. Perhaps some of his respectable morality would rub off on me. Either way, good and evil were going to collide and I knew Bangkok might not survive the resulting explosion.

Here are some memories that survived the fallout:

After the long plane ride, finding some place to sleep was critical. Unfortunately, we let exhaustion overtake common sense that first night. The hostel we chose was so dilapidated that even the smelliest, most fucked-up crackhead in America would think twice before crashing there. I’m certain our room had cockroaches, and I don’t mean ones you can just step on. I mean giant, poodle-sized roaches; the kind they force models to eat on Fear Factor.

Being the hardened war veteran that I am, I was willing to stick it out, but my friend insisted we aim higher. So the next morning after applying a layer of Purell, I found us a great little hotel that was clean and centrally located. Best of all, it was air-conditioned. In order for me to accurately describe how hot and humid Bangkok was, every single letter in this sentence would have to be tattooed on a row of 450-pound men in a sauna.

We spent a few days exploring the city. In addition to being a solid citizen, my friend also happened to be a great navigator, so he already knew where everything was. Getting around, however, was an adventure. There was something called a “Skytrain,” but since that sounded more like a 1970’s NBA nickname than a reliable mode of transport, we stuck to the ground.

That meant taking something called a “tuk-tuk.” As a fan of silly words, I was sold on the idea even before I found out a tuk-tuk was just an oversize tricycle with a motor. We took care to negotiate the fee and destination beforehand, lest we be deposited among some crazy hill tribe with huge plates in their lips. And I had to admit, even the respectable sights were pretty cool.

The architecture in Thailand is delightfully quirky. The temples are fantastically ornate, and have spikes coming out of them at weird angles. If I had to describe them, I’d say they looked like Klingon candy houses dipped in gold. Of course, that’s why I usually avoid metaphors. The largest temple is that of The Reclining Buddha. The statue inside sprawls out over 46 meters. And, truly, I can get behind any deity that enjoys a good nap.

Another memorable site we visited was the Royal Palace. I was actually warned beforehand that shorts were not permitted at this sacred site, but I figured they’d make an exception for Canada’s Ambassador of Party. Besides, it was still hot enough to cause significant ballsack/inner thigh fusion.

But the Palace Guards didn’t see it my way—and no amount of maple syrup bribery could convince them otherwise. Like many ignorant tourists before, I had to suffer the indignity of donning Thai-Government-provided pants in order to tour the grounds. These shapeless white trousers, turned gray through years of sweaty trudging, struck a blow against the fashion sense of snappy dressers everywhere.

All this innocent tourism was exhausting, so we wanted to visit a local fountain park to relax and cool down. But getting there was an exercise in bullshit detection. You see, the city is overrun by “touts”—stubborn assholes whose mission in life is to bring tourists to a particular restaurant, jewelry store, gambling parlor, or God-knows-what. They get a commission for each sucker they steer through the doors, and they clearly don’t think much of westerners’ deductive abilities. Observe:

My Friend: We’d like to go to the Fountain Park, please.
Tuk-Tuk Driver:
What do you mean, no?
Tuk-Tuk Driver:
Is closed. I take some place better. You go.
It’s a park. An open space in the middle of the city. It doesn’t open and close.
Tuk-Tuk Driver:
Is closed now. You go jewelry now. Buy nice.
Me (exiting):
This must be how your country avoided colonization.

Despite avoiding restaurants where each grain of rice carried a surcharge, we still had to eat. Luckily, Thailand is also a country of boundless culinary delights. The roadsides are dotted with foodsellers, ready to provide tourists with local delicacies. Tempting fate, I tried some kind of untranslatable meat that would test both my courage and the drag coefficient of my colon.

It was rubbery and pink, but at least it was served on a pointy stick, providing me with a useful weapon to fend off the touts. Actually, there seemed to be a very real container shortage, because just about all these roadside stands served their products in plastic shopping bags. In the West, plastic shopping bags have two jobs: carrying groceries, and picking up dog shit. With this in mind, I was somewhat alarmed when I ordered a cold drink and was given a bag of refreshing cola and a straw.

We stuck to nicer restaurants after that, and weren’t disappointed. The food in Thailand is exotic and delicious. And for an avowed chilehead like me, they can make dishes so hot they would burn through your pathetic human flesh. It’s no wonder that Thai food is the trendy choice of confused metrosexuals everywhere.

For even more mealtime fun, we started playing a game called “Random Fruit Revenge.” After dinner, we’d point to something on a fruit menu and order it, whatever it was, taking turns being the guinea pig who had to eat it. There were some delicious treats, but the game was discontinued after I got stuck with something as big as a bowling ball that tasted like an onion cross-pollinated with a banana cream pie.

I figured it was time to change the vacation setting from “nice” to “vice.” And the best way to ease into that was with some old-fashioned violence. I sought out and found some shady Muay Thai kickboxing that promised to satisfy my bloodlust. Even though this gritty, non-sanctioned event resembled a scene from Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport, the organizers still played the National Anthem beforehand, which I thought was a nice touch.

Whoever wrote “music soothes the savage beast” had probably never been to an underground kickboxing event in Thailand. For some reason, an impressively staffed orchestra played cacophonous, frenetic music throughout each fight. My friend thought the music was meant to spur the fighters on. I just figured the Circle of Death had been double-booked for that night.

Finally, it was time to check out Thailand’s main attraction for degenerates, also known as Patpong. Points in Case may be home to some of the world’s foremost experts on strip clubs, but I guarantee they’ve never seen anything like Bangkok’s red light district. At its core, Patpong is a garish, neon cul-de-sac that sports two stories of pure debauchery and mayhem. If you can escape it with anything other than an empty wallet, you’re either a gay eunuch priest, or very, very lucky.

We arrived at Patpong very early in the evening. You could smell the potential for depravity, or that might just have been any number of bodily fluids saturated in the air. I could tell that my friend was a bit reluctant, so I gave him some helpful context; I told him to regard the evening as a sociological experiment; like he was Jane Goodall among the chimpanzees. Come to think of it, I think I may have seen some actual chimpanzees at some point in the evening.

As it was still early, most of the joints were empty. Walking around and trying to select from dozens of competing strip clubs was strange; it really makes you examine your priorities. Are you looking for cheap drinks or adequate lighting? Comfortable chairs or good music? Ultimately, it didn’t matter,because approximately 3 seconds after entering a place, we were swarmed by at least a dozen girls with dollar signs in their eyes and my package in their hands.

It’s hard to ponder the social injustice and crass commerciality of the sex industry when your balls are being expertly kneaded like two walnuts in a coin purse. By six girls. At the same time. Of course, these girls were just looking for us to buy them a drink, as they have a quota to make each week. It’s kind of like being telemarketed, only way better.

Make no mistake, these girls were pros. They were relentless in their efforts to induce my generosity. Generally, I put a lot of effort into getting others to buy me drinks. Now, in the west, 20 bucks gets you a half-hearted private dance. But in Patpong, the price of a drink will allow you to do pretty much anything to the girl sitting next to you, short of gluing her hair to the floor and throwing ninja stars at her ass.

The crazy thing is, the girls don’t even drink the beverages you buy for them. It’s simply an economic formality, like highway tollbooths or college lab fees. Anyway, it didn’t matter, because my friend’s honorable presence kept me from acting like a total sleazebag. We split and went in search of some place with more emphasis on a floor show.

En route, we passed a gaggle of transsexual prostitutes, known locally as ladyboys. The only reason I mention this is because including the words “transsexual prostitutes” in this article will really spike the number of pageloads I get from Google. I’m sure these ladyboys are nice people, but they look like aliens, and they probably aren’t very good bowlers. You know, for transsexual prostitutes.

We found a different place with a giant stage. Upon this stage were dozens of girls, all grinding away to the classic guitar strains of 1980’s hair bands. Awesome. For those that like their exploitation really palpable, the naked girls all had different numbers painted on them. This was to facilitate the hiring of their services, or else it was the best god damn math lesson I ever saw. I saw scores of girls who would have made excellent numerators to my sexy denominator.

After a while the stages cleared, and a special show began. I know everyone’s at least heard of the tricks some Thai strippers can do,but that never really prepares you to dodge vaginally-launched chunks of banana. And if the Surgeon General ever wants to study the effects of smoking two cigarettes a night through one’s crotch, I know where he can find a test subject. And that was just the warm-up.

My friend headed back to the hotel soon after, but I give him credit for lasting as long as he did. After the yo-yo tricks, and the thing with the fish, even I was slightly put off. Of course, I wasn’t ready to stop drinking just yet, so I wandered off into the night. What happened next could probably fill out several more articles, but, as I’m running long, that’ll have to stay between me, those two girls, and my chiropractor.

There’s no moral here, except if you’re thinking about big vacation ideas, give Thailand a try. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sinner or a saint, you’ll return home with a smile on your face. And, possibly, a nasty rash.

Essential New Word of the Week:

forlorpid adj [for’lorpId]

In a way, eating can be regarded as a competitive activity. It’s you versus the food. If you can finish your plate, you win, if not, you lose. Years ago, some friends ordered burgers and fries every week from a place called the Golden Steer, and one friend in particular would lose every week. We’d even keep score as he ate. “It’s now Liam 4, food 3!” He’d make it through that burger, but never more than halfway through the fries. You could tell he wanted to finish, but just couldn’t, so he sat, munching sadly on one fry at a time until he had to give up.

We gave a name to this feeling: forlorpid. It combines forlorn and torpid, but it means so much more. Specifically, the bloated feeling of sadness one gets upon realizing that he or she isn’t going to be able to finish a much-anticipated meal.