Tuesday, September 20, 2011

At the alcoholics'/2 - Bangkok, Thailand

Photo by Adam Foster (CC)
The whole series "At the alcoholics" is dedicated to Jack London, author of "John Barleycorn".

Continued from here.

The following scenes happened on different days and are reported here in random order.

There is a group of Spaniards sitting at a table. They don't seem to be alcoholics but they fall in with the atmosphere of the place by ordering one bottle of beer after another since the early afternoon.
Apparently they have just met here and they decide to take a picture to remember the event. They ask the constantly drunk lady to take the photo. Unfortunately it will be a bad surprise, for them of course, not for me or anybody else who has already been here. She grabs the camera and for the Spaniards this will be the last good piece of news they receive. She looks at it as if it was a pulsing fragment of a mysterious asteroid. A gray veil, a confused expression descends on the faces of the tourists, who try to dispel their embarrassment offering random advice. "That button over there!" "This angle!" "That background!" Finally she gets out of her trance and decides to give it a try. After numerous attempts, failed amid awkward maneuvers and swaying, she is ready to click. It's raining as usual and the umbrella that shelters the table has a hole through which a thick and continuous cylinder of water is falling, right in front of the camera. She doesn't see it, as she doesn't see any other detail that is not included in the set of the movie that she is watching in her mind. The Spaniards are gesticulating frantically, suggesting her to move a little to the side, pointing at the water. She misunderstands, thinking that there is something wrong with the camera, then looks at it from all sides, extremely puzzled, as if she couldn't remember how the hell it ended up there, wasting all the work that she has done so far. Fortunately a sober - well, almost - colleague of her arrives, takes the camera from her hands and in a matter of thirty seconds the picture is taken. The positive side of this permanent state of drunkenness is that it spares the subject humiliations and rancor: when the flash goes off, in fact, she has already crouched down on her chair, oblivious of everything.

The same table where the Spaniards were sitting is normally used as a meeting point by the most picturesque clients of the bar: a rabble of western drunkards who wouldn't have done badly in the most sordid saloons of the Old West. In the early afternoon the table is already full of empty bottles of whiskey and beer, and a few hours later the most pathetic and unforgettable shows are staged.
One of them is S., a North European who has been hanging around here for about ten years. S. has just got back to Bangkok, bringing with him a bag full of clothes and other presents. He's welcome with giggles, yells and greetings. The sincere and disinterested version of local enthusiasms (there are also some more or less devious ones). He repays the courtesies with fantastic, totally toothless smiles. When he has finished to hand out his gifts he sits down and orders a Schweppes. A Schweppes! This is surprising news for those who have seen some of his performances with bottle and glass, and we'll have a chance to talk about those ones as well. Probably he has just got out of the plane and he doesn't feel quite well: I cannot find any other explanation for such an unusual behavior. 

A foreigner with a tattoo as big as his back stands up from his chair, only with his body though, as his soul doesn't seem to be willing to follow him. He stands still on the spot, swaying, then gets hold of the back of a plastic chair that dangerously bends under his weight. When he manages to move he leans against the body of a friend, slightly less drunk than him. He stays like that, clinging to him, for a few minutes, apparently unconscious, then he recovers, wholeheartedly hugs his friend and finally kisses him. They finally leave, connected like Siamese brothers (as in the medical-scientific meaning of the expression, not as in "Thais", i.e. from here).


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