THE ITCH by Steven Hammer

Early in the summer of 1965 I was coming home from buying the newest Rolling Stones LP in Mattapan Square. A green paperback lay atop a trash can at the Lower Mills trolley station. THE ITCH by Steven Hammer on Olympia Press was not on the summer reading list for thirteen year-old boys. I opened the pages to the center of the book and my eyes scanned the text. They found the word ‘fuck’ twice on the same page. The author had meshed them with an assortment of sexual terms.

My face went red.

THE ITCH was pornography.

I looked over my shoulder.

No one was watching me.

I stuck the paperback into the bag with OUT OF OUR HEADS and walked two miles through the deep woods surrounding my suburban neighborhood south of Boston. I stopped twice to read pages 121-126. The men preformed acts of perversion with each other and women. THE ITCH was a primer for sin and upon our split-level ranch house I hid in the attic and devoured the book three times within two hours.

Between 1965 and 1968 I must have read THE ITCH more than 3000 times. The author’s blue tales of trisexual liasions between aristocrats warped my tender libido and I succumbed to the rages of onanism without any hope of stopping my hands from touching myself over and over and over.

My girlfriend never knew about my betrayal and my parents were ignorant of my sin.

Even my older brother with whom I shared a bedroom was a deep sleeper.

I became an expert at silent abuse.

Every morning I hid THE ITCH in the attic.

It was THE ITCH and me.

By the end of 1969 the pages were tattered rags, but I had memorized the words and mouthed the text as I read from THE ITCH.

It was great literature.

Here’s a passage from THE ITCH.

She doesn’t know what she says, her warm fingers along my thigh.

“We could escape,” he said. “There’s still a lot of that fifty grand.”

“Where would we go?” she whispered. “The Magnums have armies.

“Besides,” she went on, “you know how you are. You’d tire of me after another week of this connubial bliss. We both have this drive.”

“Itch,” he corrected. “The retarded child’s itch for self-destruction.”

“A lovely way to die,” she said, turning to kiss him closely.

When they broke apart, his head seemed to have cleared.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll go through with it. But we’ll have to live together, always. The rest will be sorties. We’ll be gods who land occasionally to copulate with the mortals. After all,” he said, “we’re strong and beautiful.”

She laughed. “Yes,” she said, and recited it after him like a spell, “we’re strong and beautiful. It should be a full year.”

These books were supposedly written by famous authors down on their luck.

They were very good and as Gore vidal said, “The reading of pornography only leads to the reading of more pornography.

The old queer certainly had it right at least in my case.

NAPS OF THAILAND by Peter Nolan Smith

When a Chinese general was asked about the defeat of the People’s Army by the Vietnamese in 1979, he replied, “We get up at 5am and they get up at 4.”

The draconian work ethic of NVA seemed to have been sapped by the torrid climes closer to the equator, because Thais and Laotians are epic sleepers with an uncanny ability to find comfort in conditions better suited to a CIA rendition camp.

Some farangs attributed this hyper-sleeping habit to oriental lassitude, however their Eurocentric observations are way off mark.

Most Thais wake before dawn to work in the rice fields until the heat hits treacherous body-sapping temperatures and then ‘Khon tam khao’ retreat from the sun for a good meal followed by a better nap or nge’ep before returning to the fields for the long afternoon.

This rice farming tradition has been transported to the cities where workers labor from dawn to dusk six days a week.

Having lived in the South of France, where siestas are a valued cultural treasure, I often defended the Thais and other Asians’ sleeping habits.

“Naps are good for you,” I once said at the Buffalo Bar.

“So explain to me why bar girls sleep twenty hours at a clip,” an English bar-goers asked in Pattaya. Jim had been here for years. His vocabulary in Thai was limited to orders for more beer and sexual propositions.

“Only can be several reasons.” I’d been in the Orient since 1990.

I didn’t have all the answers.

Just some of the right ones.

“Like what?” Jim was eying his date. The plump bargirl seemed alert for the moment. The fifty year-old mustn’t have paid her yet.

“First is that she’s exhausted from having sex with you.” Many farangs in Thailand exist on a diet of Viagra and alcohol.

“Could be.” The bar-goer smiled with pride.

“Second, she could be on ja-bah and crashes after sex.” His girl’s fatness excluded her huffing meth. She was a healthy eater.

“No way. The cops piss-tested her at Marine Disco the other night. She came up clean.”

“Well, that leaves only one other explanation and this comes from a very knowledgeable Mama-san of a go-go bar. She said the reason most of these girls sleep so much is that they’re trying to escape the reality of having to have sex with a fat farang and would rather live inside a sleep world until they have enough money to rejoin other Thai people. Of course this couldn’t pertain to you since you’re such a sex hero.”

Jim tipped the scales over 280 and his age was a 20th of Methuselah. No one had called him ‘sexy’ since he was in his teens and that person had probably been the parish priest. For an Englishman Jim had good smile considering he had half his front teeth.

“I’m not so sure about that.” Even Jim recognized that he was no Apollo.

Me neither, but I like hearing girls tell me I’m the best I ever had.

It’s a lie which improved with age and I sleep in peace content to accept a well-intentioned lie.

Sleeping well is a talent an old man admires with age.

Those damn Thais.

There is nothing like a good nap and as Carrie Snow once said, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”

Ching ching.

Sleeping On The Job

When I was a kid, some men would see road crews leaning on their shovels and called them lazy bastards.

My father had worked a lumber camp in his youth and tell them, “You’ve never worked a day in your life, if you say that.”

He was an electrical engineer. His hands were soft, but his voice revealed his respect for a rest.

Farangs criticize Thais for laziness without realizing that Thai workers are pushed to the limit.

10 hours a day. 6 days a week. 200-300 baht a day.

The money goes to cigarettes and alcohol to fuel their labor, so they’ll find someplace to catch up on their sleep and no one does it better than this day-laborer lying on a steel I-beam atop a townhouse.

Click on photo to enlarge and you’ll see how comfortable a man can be when he is worked to a frazzle.

Nom dee, comrade.

Make Mine Rare

Last Labor Day weekend in Maine my brother-in-law and I had several discussions about whether it was better to BBQ with charcoal or gas. The world’s leading leisurologist voted for gas and I bowed to the swami’s greater savvy on this subject. Some subjects you have to leave to the experts.

PURE AS THE RAIN by Peter Nolan Smith

One night in August the monsoon was having its way with the Eastern Seaboard. Sleets of rain slashed through the few remaining palms on the back street between Soi Bukhao and 3rd Road. The Happy Lodge inn served as a refuge from the crowds of Walking Street. The pool tables were level, the beer was 5 baht less than my regular haunt, the Buffalo Bar, and no one came down the deadened alley, unless it was to avoid an old girlfriend or boyfriend.

The monsoon rains were pounding the corrugated roof with increasing intensity. The girls were shivering from the cold, but the rising water level threatened to flood the Happy Lodge Inn and they fought the overflow by clearing the cluttered gutters. I was the only farang in the bar.

A motorsai taxi pulled underneath the awning and Natalie jumped off the bike.

Every year thousands of Thai women flock to Pattaya, seeking the gold in the pockets of farangs. Some are old, some are young. Few were as sexy as Natalie.

The fake orgasm was part of the bargain.

Nathalie liked her customers happy. They came back for more with a smile. The sexy vixen was the heart and soul of Pattaya.

The twenty-five year old was sexy even without her piercings or tattoos. Her second skin of libertinism was a prime asset for a Pattaya bargirl and her unleashed libido telegraphed the message of desire to every male within eyesight. One look and they understood the cost of a single night on both financial and physical terms, because riding Natalie was like driving a Ferrari on ice.

And if her customer’s performance dropped below Formula One standards, Natalie didn’t complain as long as her customer had paid 2000 baht at the end of her hour-long lap of lust.

Natalie was soaked to the skin. She wasn’t the type of girl to wearing lingerie other than a g-string. Natalie’s eyes turned to me and she sat on the stool next to me, dripping water from her long hair.
The monsoon rains wounded the corrugated roof with increasing intensity. The girls shivered from the cold. Nathalie came over to me and asked, “Can I wear your jacket?”

“Why not? It probably looks better on you than me.” My long-sleeved shirt was keeping me warm.

“Everything look good on me, but look better if I wear nothing.” Putting on my blue-tinted glasses transformed her to a Hollywood starlet.

“I have no argument with that.”

“Tequila.” Nathalie wai-ed like a schoolgirl. The older farangs loved that act. She killed the tequila in one go and I signaled the bartender for another. I was good with my San Miguel beer.

“You want to go short-time. Have room next door.” She snuggled into me like a boa after a rabbit.

“No, I have a girlfriend.” Mam and I were a thing. We were having a kid. I had eyes only for her.

“Your girlfriend lucky. You good man.” Nathalie downed the next tequila and sat up straight.

“Sure,

We had several drinks. The rain intensified and the water rose an inch across the bar’s floor. It came from the Indian Ocean. I tasted a drop.

“Good.”

“Not salty.”

“Not same you.” Her index finger smoothed over my skin and her tongue licked at the tip. “You think clean?”

“Come from the sky is clean.”

“Not sure.” Natalie lifted her feet. Her high heels were brand-new.

“I know you story.”

“My story.”

“Yes, your wife she leave you for Thai friend. You have broke heart.”

“Many farang have same story.” Nu and I had a daughter. She said Angie wasn’t mine. I knew better.

“Many Thai too. Many lady say you good man.”

“It’s easy being a good man in Pattaya.” It was the last Babylon on Earth, so a little good went a long way in this town.

“Once I good girl. I not like this,” she said tossing back a tequila.

“I know. Everyone was a young once.” I ordered another round of tequila. The rain had drummed on the bar’s tin roof like gorillas dancing the polka. None of their feet were in synch. The water climbed an inch higher.

“I come here I maybe 15. My mother work bar.” She downed the second shot and signaled for a beer chaser. Her pouting belly is showing the early signs of this repeated investment in beer.

“You don’t need to tell me this.” I had heard the story before. It didn’t have a happy ending.

“Tell you. Not tell you. Same.” Her hand caressed my thigh. She was never not on the game.

“Same. Girl come to Pattaya. Have boyfriend. Boyfriend leave her. She work bar. Then she con’t love anyone, but me.” Angie’s mom had followed the script without diversion.

“Not same story me. 15 not have boyfriend. No man leave me. Not me. I too sexy. My mother have friend want virgin.”

I figured Natalie for 25.

“And you were a virgin?” Ten years ago I was living with Vee. My one-eyed mistress. She was no virgin.

“Never kiss a boy.” Her hand moved higher on my thigh. “Borisut.”

“So why you want to have sex?”

“Not me. Maih want big money.” Natalie swung between pidgin and perfect English. She had lived in the UK twice and Sweden once. “Maih needed money.”

“For what?” I wondered how many times she had told this story to a Kak or customer.

Young girl gone bad for her mother the aging whore.

“Krai lu?” she answered with resignation. ‘Who knew’.

A Thai daughter has to obey her mother.

No matter what.

No explanation was necessary.

“Man give 4000 baht.”

“4000 baht?” It was little over $100.

“Small money for farang. Big money for Thai.”

“Big money for everyone.”

“It not hurt. Man know make love virgin. I not like first time. Second time too. After that. Love it all time. You want me show you?” Her hand rested on my crotch. His fingers tickled my balls.

“Trick my mother.”

I knew her mother back in the early 90s. I couldn’t tell Nathalie that. They looked too much alike for my good.

I go with many men. Sometime three in day. Never not two. Sometime more. I too sexy.”

The math worked out to six hundred a year times ten years equaled six thousand men.

“You still are sexy.” She would have stopped traffic on any street in America.

“Now I go with man old. Easy money. Only worry that they die on me.”

“Anyone come close?” Viagra, 60 year-old, and a young was a common fatal combination in Pattaya.

“No, but sometime think man die.” She puffed out her cheeks. “Luat-keung-nah.”

“Blood makes their face go red.” I waved for my check-bin.

Rain or no rain.

I was leaving before I got into trouble.

“Like red light.” Natalie didn’t want me to leave.

Not without her.

There are no other men with obey in sight.

Only me.

“You go with me?”

“Wish I could.” My mistress was waiting for me in Jomtien. She was six months pregnant and I loved her in my own way.

“You think wife come back.”

“Khai lu?”

Anything was possible in Thailand, but the impossible.

I gave Natalie 200 baht. “For kin khao.”

She wai-ed gracefully as a 12 year-old virgin and said, “You can run, but you not hide. One day show my pierced clit.”

“I’m sure you will.” I escaped before the a new downpour drenched the streets and came home to my mia-noi and my son Fenway. They were both asleep. Mam sniffed at me.

“You speak with lady.”

“Yes.” There was no use lying.

“Go with her.”

“Never.”

“Good.” She kissed my cheek and returned to sleep.

One day we would have to live together. She will never know how hard I try to be good.

It was never easy in Pattaya.

My head settled onto the pillow.

My dreams of Nathalie unfolded in slow-mo.

14 rpm and then rewind back to her at fifteen.

Back before the six thousand men she was as pure as the monsoon rain.

A good girl waiting to go bad.

Same as me at 15.

A good boy waiting for the bad.

There was no going back.

Not for me.

Not for Natalie.

Not for anyone.
I drove my bike to Soi Bongkot. My house was empty. Mam was over in Jomtien.