Shadow Skycrawl

Bartripper-in-Chief Dan and his fill-in brother-in-ales Corey missed the train to the Groovy Skycrawl and under Dan’s firm leadership, did what Dan does best – get off at all the wrong stops.   

8:05, 7-11, Soi Thaniya
Since my usual drinking buddy, Stu, was sunning himself on the beaches of Thailand’s exotic south, I decided to take occasional Untamed-editor Corey out for a night on the tiles.  Not without reservation, mind, since Corey’s from the U.S of A! so I had to ask him to leave the six-guns and cowboy boots at home.

The plan was to join (if not hijack) the Groovy Skycrawl, that annual pub crawl of bars within stumbling distance of the Skytrain, run by the good people of Groovymap and departing from The Barbican, in Soi Thaniya.

Due to a combination of heavy traffic (the river being closed to accommodate the royal barges), torrential rain and the incompetence of greedy taxi drivers I managed to arrive five minutes after the group had left, leaving only Corey sheepishly hanging around the doorway.  A few phone calls confirmed that the Groovy people were heading to the Huntsman on Sukhumvit, which I couldn’t abide due to my strong animal-rights sentiments.  The only thing for it was to grab a few beers, sit on the steps of 7-Eleven with the other drunks, and formulate a plan of action

Corey: I cursed myself bitterly for having arrived at the scheduled rendezvous on time.  Dan showed up more than an hour late, shambling in that peculiar Aussie way that suggests decades of inbreeding (small continent, you know) and making lame excuses, very unbecoming.  Very unprofessional.  Just by the look of him, his shabby shirt and his prodigious sweat, I could tell he’d been drinking already, probably hitting the Saeng Som since lunch.  Now, because of his poor planning, we had missed the Groovy Train.  I’d even worn my grooviest Songkran shirt for the occasion.

Still, I was damn glad to see him, as I had worked up a powerful thirst walking around Thaniya Plaza.  Having no money, and well aware that there’s no creature more despised around the world than a broke American, I had to wait for Dan to show up with the funds.  As soon as we cracked the tabs of our 7-Eleven San Miguels, I felt refreshed, invigorated.  Even Dan looked better, once I had a drink in me.

“I know,” I said. “Let’s start here, on Soi 4, and do our own Skytrain pub crawl.  Forget those groovy geeks.  Now, take hold of my hand, and try to look straight… ahead.”

8:15, Noriega’s, Silom Soi 4
Having burned my credit at every other Soi 4 establishment I suggested Noriega’s, way in the back.  This being a Tuesday night every bar was empty, and as a result we, far and away the best-looking patrons around, were accosted on our way down the soi. “Back! Back!” I said, swatting muscular hands away and stepping over filthy puddles.  “We are professionals, only here for research purposes!”

This was an off night for Noriega’s, which I have always found reliable in the past.  Inside, a few grinning oldsters in a corner table shared sips from a single pint of beer.  A sign promised a solo performance by “The Piano Man,” if only we stuck it out for an hour.  We decided to go al fresco, ordering a pitcher and, for me, a pack of cigarettes.  Unfortunately, there was not much to look at but Dan.  Even Pool Boys, across the street, was dead empty.  I tried to defocus my eyes and hum a pleasant tune as Dan went on and on about how Thai cab drivers were in a conspiracy against him and the cause of blame for all of his problems since birth.

Dan: Strutting down Soi 4 with young Corey by my side caused something of a stir among the bored waiters, and I uttered a silent prayer of thanks that Corey had left his patent-leather chaps at home.  The aircon in Noriega’s was freezing this rainy night, and although I was tempted to strike up a conversation with an oldster inside who was the spitting image of Elmer Fudd, I wasn’t up for an evening of stuttering.  Sadly, we were too early on a slow night, even for The Piano Man, so on this usually exciting part of Bangkok it was time to move along.

9:30, Fogo Vivo, President Tower
I recalled that we dropped into Fogo Vivo on the last Skycrawl and since that’s all I could recall I thought we should have a look at the place again.  Tonight was not our lucky night as the restaurant was bereft of diners and the only people propping up the bar were the students of the resident dance teacher.  Nevertheless, I claimed my barstool and nursed an oh-so-exotic Phuket Beer while watching the class in action.  Tango’d ‘till they were sore they did, and I could see myself in my mind’s eye back in the brothels of Argentina where the dance was born.  Perhaps one hundred years from now they’ll be taking go-go dancing lessons in some distant city, spinning around a polished pole together to the graceful chords of AC/DC.  I reflected that this high society waltzing may be a little rich for my American cousin’s tastes so decided to take him to a more American-themed establishment.

Corey: “You know what we do with ‘tango dancers’ in America, Dan?  We stop them at the border and make them produce their papers.  If they don’t have the right stamps on their passports, we shoot them dead, right there in front of all the other travellers.  Why?  Only a terrorist would ask ‘why.’  We do what we have to do to protect the Homeland.  And if you’re smart, Danny Boy, you’ll take back everything positive you just said about this ‘classy little dance.’  Hispanics.  Can’t trust ’em.  Too swarthy. Gotta keep your eye out for Europeans, too, like you.”

10:50, Woodstock, Rainbow 4, Nana Plaza
Now here was a good old American kind of bar, the kind of place Grandpa might’ve spent time in back in WWII, smoking Marlboros and drinking dry martinis when he wasn’t too busy fighting Communism and saving (wussy) Europe from Hitler.  Now, Dan had been going on and on about Woodstock all night, and I admit, he was getting on my nerves.  I’d heard about the place, but never visited it because it was named after that long-haired hippy music show with all the dope and traitors like Jimi Baez.  Just the kind of place a degenerate European like Dan might like.  But you know what? I was wrong.  This Woodstock place is better than I could’ve imagined. Like I said, a real American bar, with heartland American values at its core.  There may be hope for Bangkok yet, if a place like this can thrive for so long.

Dan: Well Woodstock has changed a bit since I was last here, there’s a lot less burritos and a lot more naked ladies, and the waitress almost fainted when Corey ordered a cheesy taco.  It was a strange scene, hairpiece city, and with the celebrations of the king’s 60 years of rule underway, everyone was wearing yellow.  The clients were an eclectic crew: hairy Japanese man, beefy Western expats and confused tourists.  We’d made a mistake.  Woodstock was long gone, moved to the rarefied airs of Thonglor, so I grabbed Cory by his dangling tongue and made for the door.

Midnight, Woodstock, Soi Thonglor 13
Back on the BTS for the last train of the night and a quick taxi ride later we finally located Woodstock’s new premises.  Mighty impressive I may say, split over two levels with a third floor upstairs available for group bookings to watch sports events, like the gridiron football that my trans-Atlantic friend so mystifyingly enjoys.  It turns out they’ve been open here since last November and are in the process of opening a five-room hotel on the remaining floors, making this one of Bangkok’s only bars with an elevator.  Corey was very excited to show me the iPod jukebox, which is, as the name suggests, a big iPod.  Woodstock was the final call for our Skycrawl shadow bar-trip.  With Bangkok’s bars starting to close up and go to bed, the only option was a sneaky bevy or five down on Sukhumvit, but that’s a story for another day.

Corey: Oh, so this is Woodstock.  Where were we then?  Best not to think about it –the whole night still confuses me.  This new place is pretty convincingly American too, even though it’s surrounded by the Japanese, and we would never let that happen in my native land.  The owner seemed puzzled when I asked him why he named his establishment after a muddy hippie festival, but he was a Boston Red Sox fan, so I’m assuming he’s alright.  Black Label everything behind the counter, but we stuck with beer and nachos.  Dan started out the evening looking like hell, but food and drink–well, drinks – seemed to set him right, somehow.  By the time we piled into a taxi, I was feeling merry, prouder than ever to be American.  But for some reason, Dan very sternly asked me never to talk about it again.  Europeans: go figure.

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