During that time I recall cursing that name, oh Purachai you bastard, you've closed the bars again! And it was terrible, sure (albeit not as terrible as the season of the drug killings... early closing time more of an inconvenience than a wanton bloodletting) But the spirit was there somehow still, you could always find some place to party all night, even if it wound up the pavement at the mouth of soi 13 (which has not always been the African drug bazaar, boys and girls - it used to just be drunk farang and drunker thai chicks having a good time, no underlying tension, not even when the monks passed, and the skytrain started rolling again, or when the sidewalk filled with workers in the bright sun of morning, and me an Buriram Dao or Long-hair Lek and company would finish off the last of myriad beers, and finally grab that cab to the PB or penthouse hotel...
Ah, but I digress.
Purachai time sucked, but it was still fucking great. Plus, there was often some talk about the zone plans, and so somewhere some of the places would have been allowed to stay open.
Come to think of it: I was working in Bangkok back then, normal hours - 9 to 9 or later usually. It's probably a good thing that during that period, I would have often been encouraged to go home with the closing of the bars - or I would have missed even more work that I did, and might not have used that job as the springboard to the career I'm still working in. Maybe Purachai saved me, who knows. But I still detested those two smug lifeless dudes playing out their cynical bullshit - T and P... enemy mine... (eventually came around to appreciate Richy Rich Squarehead as a symbol, but as a dude, no.
Alright, just skipped through a bit of it - subconsciously willing the footage back to 2001-2006, even a bit after - the (for me) glory years of Nana carpark, the freelancer scene... but that ain't it, that's the unpleasant anxiety of current-day Bangkok - all dressed up but no fun around, just the bare bones of what once was. I suppose everyone thinks their time was the prime, of sorts - I know the 98-07 period can't compare to what must have been a special magic 20 and 30 and 60 years before... but as far as fun wild good times with the girls, the early oughts was pretty damn good. Beer bars here and there throughout lower Suk, things pretty wild and free, still that palpable sense in the girls that sure they'll go along for the ride, because that's what they do, but earnestly. Goddamn but didn't I fuck myself up by setting myself up to spend first summers then years in that environment - when that's your weekend all year long and you're a young guy with a job you love and nothing to tie you down, and you'd rather be lo-so in the gutter than hi-so in the clouds - what could be better than drinking your way through those nights, eventually learning your way along the wooden boards laid across the muddy paths of this 3 am warren or that dawn-light slum... It's like I was throwing myself down a hill, but the damn hill wasn't steep enough for one good fall, I just kept getting up and throwing myself down again a bit more, a bit more.
Not sure whether it's the lucky ones or the not so lucky, but I guess most guys either run off home and get started on the life that's been waitng for them while they sewed their wild oats etc, or some guys find the girl that's the one he goes in deep for, gets married, changes the story line, reaches something of an ending in the Choose Your Own Thai Adventure series... Not me, oh no! I resisted - like a fucking donkey, I resisted. No return home to real life, no deepening the Thai life with one true love and etc etc.
But no, I persisted.
Just kept coming back - even right to that Nana Hotel sign, I was there last week, and I was there 17 years ago - sometimes it got a little bit deeper, those girls who just wouldn't leave the room, somehow found themselves my girlfriend for some months or so, til it was back to the well for someone new. It got deeper, sometimes, sometimes because she was an angel I couldn't let go, or just because we fit for a while - but mostly it was light, it was just fun, light and fun and stupid and I just drank my incredulous way through it, marveling at the detail, and most always delighted with whoever it was in that taxi on the way home - at midnight, at four, at ten, at two in the afternoon.
Didn't take too long for things to get darker - once you spend a little time on the underbelly of the underbelly, it's not so easy to come back into the light - and if you do, it doesn't look quite the same anymore, though you wish it did.
I still keep going back. I suppose I'm hoping those crazy days will come flashing back, a sudden surprise, but that's not what happens. Mid-forties now, spent the last twenty years away from 'home', country after country about every two years, it goes and goes. But weirdly, it's just now that I am suddenly feeling the acute sense that yes, actually things do change, and when they die they never come back, what you had before, it's gone forever - you're a fool to look, a fool to think that was something other than ephemeral - it's there in your lost memories, and those Isaan girls with their capacity for names, faces and memories - somewhere there's girls turned to old ladies who yes, might remember this or that adventure, kindness, disappointment.
But mostly - it's just gone. That's how things work, which I know, of course - but fuck me, if it isn't somehow hitting me hard on this particular account, the transitory nature of life: my rock, my beacon, has been the freelance late-night girls of Bangkok - even for the Hong Kong years, it was always them... but it's gone.