Chapter 28 – Personal Alterations
Capping off our day of sightseeing, on our way to a place we’d heard about called Sunset Bar, I noticed an unusually large amount of stray dogs even by Southeast Asian standards. Now, I don’t know if these filthy mongrels hadn’t been milked in a while or if they’d all come down with a centralized case of elephantitis, but the majority of these dogs had been equipped with what I assume to be the largest nipples on planet Earth. Each one of ‘em looked like a bratwurst cut in half, dangling from the dogs’ underbellies, swinging back and forth with each step as they trotted through the streets of Vientiane searching for dinner and, in turn, made me lose whatever appetite I’d worked up for mine.
Having pictured something a little different when we heard about Sunset Bar from a German couple we’d met that raved about the place, I was a bit surprised when our tuk-tuk guy dropped us off in a dirty-ass back alley at a ramshackle hut precariously teetering over a thirty-foot drop-off. Nevertheless, thirsty as fuck for some frothy beverages, we shrugged off the shabbiness and entered the alleged drinking establishment.
Once inside, we walked along slowly trying not to trip, fall and get impaled on any of the nails protruding from the buckling, grossly uneven floorboards or worse yet, offsetting the balance of the bar and taking a collective tumble down the vertical hillside. As we inched our way along, the three of us approached a skinny man who’d been hammering away at random planks of wood in the back of the shack.
“Hello,” I said, “is this Sunset Bar?”
“Oh yes, yes, Sunset Bar,” the makeshift carpenter replied as he tacked a frazzled old shutter onto the side of a crucial support beam. “You like some drink?”
“Yeah, that’d be great,” I held up my middle finger and the two sandwiching it. “Could we get three Beerlaos?”
“Yes, yes,” he smiled and conveyed the order to a boy about five years of age in their native tongue before getting back to his attempt at prolonging the decrepit structure’s impending gravitational crumble.
A skinny little Laotian with tiny little hands, the little shaver could only manage to carry two of the oversized Beerlao bottles at a time and had to make a second trip with the third. After tipping him handsomely in their worthless native currency, the Kip, we tried getting as comfortable as we could on the wobbly-ass, splintering stools.
The bar had been pretty much empty save a twenty-something-year-old couple hailing from Melbourne that’d been posted up at the adjacent table with whom we ended up conversing. Following a little small talk, we soon found out Dixie was the girl’s name and her boyfriend was Tim, officially making it the highest ratio of Tim’s in a group of dudes larger than two I’d ever associated myself with.
In a conversation inspired by Sunset Bar’s dirt-hole-in-the-ground, crawling-with-literal-piss-ant facilities, the girls traded horror stories of their struggles to stay clean in the putrid hellhole bathrooms of Southeast Asia. From what I could gather of the exchange, the conditions of water-closets in the region seemed to be vile enough to cause even the most prominent of feminists to come down with a severe case of penis envy and, at the very least, serve as a common bond between these two females who’d just met each other. Meanwhile, us Tims pounded beers and discussed the sheer gigantism of nipples on local canines.
Despite the aesthetic shittiness of the actual structure, I have to admit that Sunset Bar lived up to its name and delivered on the view. Out beyond the now diagonally tacked-on shutter and at the bottom of the aforementioned drop-off had been the mighty Mekong flowing along as it reflected the orange glow of the setting sun. Some distance out along the riverbank, the silhouettes of two Raiden wannabes sporting triangular sedge hats danced about as they fished with nets in the knee deep water, giving the whole scene a very authentic Southeast Asian feel.
As it tends to every day, the sun eventually set and Tim and Dixie left but not before making plans to meet us a few hours later at a pub near our hotel called The Hare and the Hound. As darkness fell upon us, the bar owner and his group of friends who’d assumed a table in the corner passed around an apple they’d been using to smoke weed out of. Had I been a little bit drunker, I probably would’ve invited myself to sit down with and get high off them for free. Too sober for such antics that early in the evening however, we peacefully sat and enjoyed one more round of icy cold Beerlao fetched by the underage bartender before heading back to our hotel.
After making it back to our room and showering, the O’Shaughnessy’s and I then walked down the street to The Hare and the Hound. The place had been full of British football hooligans who’d been getting hammered and shouting disdainful things at the musclebound men on the television that I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t dare say to them in a one-on-one scenario. There, with our new Australian friends we sat for several hours, guzzling round after round of Beerlao. Eventually, around twelve I believe, the waitress went around and informed all patrons of the bar’s close which, to us, had seemed kind of early for a Saturday night.
“Hey, excuse me,” I asked the booze jockey as she took and placed our empties on a tray, “are there any places open a bit later around here where we could grab some more drinks?”
“Uh yes,” she began while raising her arm and pointing down the block. “Walk to the end of the street and turn to your left. There’ll be a bar on your right. You won’t miss it.”
As prophesized, the bar was literally right around the corner. Nearing the joint known as Samlo Pub, the unmistakable sound of Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s “Come on Eileen” had been pouring out of the place and at that moment it dawned on me what an awesome audio accompaniment that song’d be to a bukkake pornography of the same name.
Upon entering the dingy, smoky, crowded-ass watering hole, we began weaseling our way through the mixed group of Asians and Westerners and headed for the bar. The faces of those in the crowd had been old and young, male and female. From what I’d read prior to traveling there, Laos supposedly has very strict laws against any foreigners plugging the holes of nationals to whom they’re not married so their quaint little slice of heaven doesn’t get a reputation as a haven for sex tourists like neighboring Thailand. But, judging by the way some attractive young local girls had been rubbing themselves all over out-of-shape middle-aged mutants from the West, I guess that the law’s not as strictly enforced as advertised.
After we’d parted the sea of hos, johns and tricks, the girls headed over to the washroom which, for their sake, was hopefully cleaner than the ones they’d been discussing earlier at Sunset Bar. As they handled their business, Tim-cubed ordered the drinks and found our niche among a few other young sexually unattended Westerners that’d been standing next to a pool table where some white dude had been playing versus what appeared to be a Laotian ladyboy.
While resting his newly purchased beer on the shelf lining a wall which housed a dry erase board, Tim Osh picked up a marker and scribbled his name below a few others, signing himself up for the next available game of eight-ball. I, not being much of a pool player, picked up the marker after he’d set it down, approached the board and then drew a big naked clown with a disproportionately large penis blowing a fat wad all over everyone’s names on the waiting-to-play list.
About five minutes later, Kathleen and Dixie returned from the bathroom and met us where we’d stood.
“Oh my God!” Kathleen screamed over the music. “We were just waiting for the toilet and the person coming out was this gorgeous girl – like, she could’ve been a supermodel or something. But when she walked past us she said ‘Excuse me’ in this deep manly voice. It was a freakin’ ladyboy! I couldn’t believe it! He was beautiful!”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’ve had my dick grabbed like five times out here already by some prowling ladyboys and don’t know whether to punch ‘em in the face or to justify my erection by telling myself that it’s okay cuz these dudes all look like hot chicks.”
Ya know, I’ve always just kinda considered myself to be a big twat-hungry lesbo stuck in some hot dude’s body but lemme tell ya, in my life I’ve never been as sexually confused as I had been when a bit drunk and kinda horny at Samlo Pub. I literally couldn’t tell the difference between the chicks and the ladyboys at that place and, as such, decided to take it easy on the booze, practice some self-restraint and avoid making a bad decision that would further foul up my already cluttered psyche.
That said – and absolutely no homo intended – but I gotta give it to ‘em. That bar probably had one of the hottest-looking groups of dude-ladies I’ve ever seen. How could someone who was born a man have such effeminately voluptuous curves and a face that looks like a beauty queen? The asses were poppin’, the tits were intact and who knows – maybe they’d even had some sort of axe-wound lookin’ homemade vaginas downstairs to top it all off. I didn’t wanna be the one to personally find out.
Furthermore, how in the hell did all these people from one of the poorest countries in the world get the money to afford sex changes and plastic surgeries and why are these operations taking precedence over the bare necessities? Then again, maybe I’m just being a stupid ignorant American who doesn’t recognize that becoming a ladyboy is an extremely lucrative investment that’ll pay for itself and then some. After all, there’s no shortage of perverts visiting that area of the world and, judging by some of what I’d seen at Samlo Pub, more than just a few of the guests seem to prefer some sausage with their melons.
The end result of plastic surgery is something I’ve always questioned. When I say this, I’m not talking about how it looks because, obviously, judging by how hot the dudes were at that bar, it’s a practice that works. What I mean is that in thousands of years when our vain, capricious generation is ancient history and archaeologists are exhuming bodies from our era to study them, won’t it seem a bit weird when they crack open a coffin, inspect the skeleton and find a pair of silicone tits sitting atop a male ribcage with half a rubbery face hanging off the skull and a dinky little Michael Jackson nose to boot?
I don’t know, maybe my thinking is old-fashioned and outdated, but permanently changing the way you look or switching from one sex to another are concepts with which I struggle to wrap my mind around. I guess I should be thankful for who I am and that I don’t suffer from gender confusion and feel the need to irreversibly alter my body in any way…except for maybe shortening my 15-inch meat-hammer of a dong which over the years has proved to be a bit of a burden to lug around. Having said that, just because I’d never permanently change my body to satisfy any of my perverse ideals, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t dabbled in a bit of temporary “self-improvement” over the years to meet what I perceived as my culture’s expectations of me.
Back when puberty had first struck me and the rest of my schoolyard chums around fifth and sixth grade, whether or not your pubic hair had come in had suddenly become the determining factor of your approval rating among fellow males. Guys were constantly pulling down their pants and comparing the thickness of their bushes with other guys. Some dudes took this test of manliness so seriously that they’d even purchased Rogaine and applied it to their pubic regions whereas others cut the hair off a novelty cowboy hat and superglued it in neat strips above their genitals to make it look like they were further ahead of the game than everybody else. No need to drop names, you know who you are.
Way back when I was a little 12-year-old carrot top, I’d been the victim of constant harassment from the dickheads a year older than me for havin’ red hair. During this time, before the term “ginger” had become a popular word to marginalize my people, I was often referred to as “flamer,” “invisible eyebrows” (because of their super light tint) and far too often, since pubes were so popular, I was asked by these dudes whether or not “the carpet matched the drapes.”
Naturally, as a redhead, the carpet did indeed match the drapes and after the first crop had grown all the way in, I had the type of “burning bush” so intense that I was half-expecting God to appear to Moses from the unkempt fiery mess just north of the equator. Even though I’d never showed anybody and should’ve just brushed off their accusations of me being a “fire crotch” and having “Cheeto nuts,” as a self-conscious kid whose wiener had yet to be touched by a girl, I allowed their inquisition and verbal harassment – not to mention the yardstick whacks, slugs to the arm and an airborne double-A Duracell to the eye – to fuck me up, essentially making me uncomfortable with the shade of my eyebrows and my au naturel brand of bush.
After some time spent putting up with this shit, one day the stress of having red pubes and “invisible eyebrows” had become too much for me to take and I went into my parents’ closet – this is beginning to sound like a school shooting story… “got my dad’s gun, put on a trench coat and blew every one of those bastards away for making fun of the Ronald-McDonald-red hair on my nuts…” – and stole something that I thought had the power to bring me peace of mind.
After waiting until my mom wasn’t around, I went to the shelf where I knew she’d kept her hair dye, snagged it and brought the box of chestnut-shaded Clairol with me into the bathroom where I read through the instructions before getting down to business. Once I’d applied a healthy coating of the life-changing solution to my eyebrows and the hair above my hoiner, I impatiently waited for the recommended duration of application to elapse. When the time finally came to wash the dye out, I hopped in the shower, scrubbed my brow then took the bar of soap downtown and watched the brown-colored water run down my legs as if I’d had a fountainous case of diarrhea.
On that day, I emerged from the second floor washroom of my house a new man. I’d been bounding with the type of confidence that only eyebrows which are no longer invisible and a healthy mop of brown pubes could lend to a battered soul. Of course, the hair on my head remained red but it’d never been my intention to alter that because, for some reason, harassment about being a “flamer” or “carrot top” never seemed to bother me – my insecurities had always been relegated to my transparent eyebrows and unacceptably red pubic hair.
After temporarily avoiding my mom because mom’s always recognize when something’s different about their kids and there’s no doubt she would’ve noticed my eyebrows straight off, I went to school the next day like I had a fuckin’ suit of armor on. Insults like “firepubes” and whatever other stupid shit that asshole kids would come up with to intentionally hurt bounced off me like bullets off Superman’s chest. Although I never felt the need to prove to my pube haterz that my bush had actually been brown during my temporary stint as a phallic brunette, those assholes could say whatever they wanted about my Ron-Howard-red wang-weave because, in my mind, it simply wasn’t true.
Also throughout the day, I could tell that some kids had been looking strangely at my dramatically darker eyebrows. Despite whatever may have been said behind my back, no one openly accused me of dyeing the mini-mustaches above my peepers. Even if they had, I wouldn’t have cared. After all, anything was better than being what I really was – anything was better than “invisible eyebrows.”
Even though my newfound confidence would end up lasting as long as the dye had, it didn’t take nearly as long for my covert operation to be foiled by my mother. The next evening as I helped her throw the solar cover on our pool to keep it warm at night – my mom on one side of the drink and me on the other with my face highlighted by the long-angle light of the setting sun – my scheme began to unravel.
“Hey,” she began, “did you do something with your eyebrows? They look darker or something.”
“No way,” I spat back. “They’re probably just starting to come in thicker now that I’m on my way to becoming a man.”
Judging by the look on her face, she didn’t buy the bullshit but shrugged it off for the time being. It actually wasn’t until a few days later that she was able to put 2-and-2 together when she went to dye her own hair and found the previously opened box containing crumpled-up tubes hastily stuck back where I’d found it in the corner of her closet. With that evidence on hand, my eyebrows served as the smoking gun and there was just no denying the crime I’d committed. Embarrassing for me at the time, I admitted to stealing her product to darken my brow and promised I’d never do it again. However, it wasn’t until years later that I became comfortable enough in my own skin to finally admit that the eyebrows were only half the story and that the majority of the missing box had been used by me to alter the shade of my pubic hair for the sake of my own mental well-being.