Brigitte and I go to the Had Yuan Bungalows to get peanut butter pancakes and a fruit plate. When we arrive, there is a group of people sitting on floor mats, sipping drinks. We sit down and place our order, and I look out through the railing at the waves below. The owner of the place is a German man, and he is married to a Thai. She is the cook, and he is the entertainer cum server cum bartender cum anything else the occasion calls for. Tonight he is walking around bare-chested, looking a bit like Crocodile Dundee. I watch him mix up another round of drinks, and bring them over to the table of people.
Jazz music plays, and I see a few heads bobbing. A heavy-set, red-faced man is holding court in the corner. He shouts in German, shaking the drink in his hand for emphasis, and looks into everyone’s faces to make sure they are listening. He spits out his syllables like they taste bad, his face twisted and hot. The music plays on.
Our pancakes arrive, and Brigitte and I dig in. After a few minutes of furious eating, I look up and see that the only woman in the group has stood up, and is gazing out over the railing, drink in hand. She seems fascinated with the waves. She is about sixty years old, and deeply tanned. The flesh on her arms hangs a bit, and I can see the stretch marks running along her upper arms. She has a goofy face- a big nose, brown, round eyes, and a putty mouth. She wears a colorful one-piece, cinched at the waist, and her short, dark hair is tamed by a white sweatband. She is quite the looker.
The red-faced man is still holding court, and when the Crocodile Dundee bartender returns with yet another round of drinks, the woman catches his eye and mimics the talker- “Blah, blah, blah,” she says, making her hands talk like a mouth. She rolls her eyes, gives her hips a little shake, then turns back to the water.
I watch the barefoot bartender return to the bar. He walks to the stereo and turns it up a notch. Bluesy music is now playing, a sassy man’s voice calling out to all the ladies and the bad girls in the house. The woman’s hips twitch again. I look down to my pancake and take a few bites. When I look back up again, a party has begun.
One of the quieter men has stood up and is bumping hips with the woman. He was the least noticeable of the crowd, overshadowed by the red-faced man, but now he is up, his white shirt bright against his tan skin, and is bumping hips with the sweat-banded woman in a drunken, randy way. His arms are in front of him, waving around, as his hips bump back and forth without any rhythm. “Whoo hoo!” he shouts, drink in hand. “Whoo hoo!”
The woman is loving it. Her cartoon-like face is balled up in a smile, and she is bumping her hips back aggressively, matching each of his hip bumps with a meaningful bump of her own. They are totally out of time with the music, but their enthusiasm is catching. The other two guys at the table begin to clap. They shout raucously and cheer.
The red-faced guy catches my eye and leers. I quickly look down. When I look back up, I see White-Shirt-Guy (Brigitte and I have given them names, and are now quietly narrating) slapping her ass as they dance. Slap, slap, slap! Slap, slap, slap! She is loving it, giving him plenty of ass to slap, tucking her hips under in a delighted sort of way with each new slap. Her sweat band is in place, but a few untidy locks have spilled out. She’s really getting into it.
The song ends, and they collapse, deflating for a moment. They walk to the rail and look out over the sea. They sip vigorously at their drinks to cool off. The next song begins picking up. I watch the bartender discreetly turn it up a few more notches. Wailing jazz pours out from the speakers. Suddenly Red-Face swoops in. He grabs the woman by the hand and begins twirling her around. She laughs in delight, happy to be chosen again so quickly, a woman in high demand. She breaks free for a moment and falls back on the reliable old hip thrust- she knows how to get ‘em. He is instantly entranced. As the music thumps out over the speakers, they begin bumping hips, high, low, a bend in the knees. Sweat-Band is getting lower, shimmying down, a saucy temptress. Red-Face responds by rotating his hands and knees in opposite directions- he’s doing the twist!
Suddenly the young man who had been propped in the corner makes a stealth move and steals Sweat-Band away from Red-Face! He spins her around with admirable precision, twisting, twisting, twisting, until she almost loses her balance. She tries to regain control, and attempts to do the hip-bump, but he won’t let her off that easy. This is one man she can’t cast her spell over. He is in control.
He keeps spinning her, and just as she pulls away and begins to shake her hips, he has her again, and the spinning begins afresh! She is dizzy with joy, but a little unnerved, because this young man really knows how to dance! He is pushing her to her limits, demanding a skill and focus that she hasn’t yet needed to prove. She keeps up, but barely. She keeps trying to resort to the hip bump. He won’t have it, and twists her under his arm, spinning her in yet another circle.
And then… Air guitar! White-shirt is back, bouncing across the floor on one foot, his other foot stuck straight out in front of him. He is shredding it over his head, giving the musician on the speakers a run for his money. His face is twisted, and his tongue sticks out. Then he busts loose, throwing the imaginary guitar in the air, dropping to his knees, and crooning with utter abandon. Meanwhile, Red-Face has cut in on White-Shirt, and taken Sweat-Band away. They are furiously hip-bumping, and one of his more aggressive returns sets her sailing. She trips, but catches her footing and rights herself, victorious hands in the air. The young guy swoops in again and takes her for a ride, spinning her around like a demon. All hell is breaking loose and the crowd is loving it!
I look around and see that the entire staff has come out to watch. The bartender is leaning back on a stool, beer in hand, laughing. His Thai wife has come out of the kitchen, and is watching wide-eyed, hands on her hips. A young Burmese boy sits just outside on the steps, riveted. He has a look of wonder in his eyes. A Thai couple sits on a raised platform against the rocks, laughing unabashedly, joy in their eyes. Even the dogs have showed up, their bodies wiggling, their paws planted inside the door. They can hardly contain their excitement, and keep looking up to their German master to let them in. He ignores them and looks at us, his eyes twinkling in amusement. Brigitte and I lean back in our corner, laughing to the point of snorting, and trying to avoid the bleary eye of Red-Face.
Eventually I say to Brigitte, “What would you do if Red-Face came up and pulled you up for a dance?” She looks at me with fear in her eyes and says, “That’s exactly what I was just thinking.” We look at each other for a moment in bemused horror, and then she says, “Maybe we should get the fuck out of here.” We look to the bar, and see that the bartender is standing there, rifling through checks. “Let’s go now, while he’s up there,” I say, and we quickly gather our things. Moments later we are paying, shooting looks over our shoulders at the furious party on the dance floor. We get our change, thank the bartender, and sidle out, giving the dancers a wide berth as we go.
We slip outside and put our shoes on. The dogs are jumping all over each other to get to us. We squat down and pet them, making kissy faces and scratching behind their ears. The Burmese boy watches, smiling. Then we stand up, brush off our hands, and start down the stairs. Suddenly, Red-Face is there, leaning out over the rail.
“Goodnight, ladies!!!!” he calls from above us, his face shiny against the sky. “Goooood-niiiiightttt!!!”