Column #43 Bangkok, Thailand
January 1, 1998
A seventy-eight game shot won me my pick of waitresses last night at the Cosmos Club, somewhere in the seedy bowels of Bangkok’s Patpong District. As the humbled owner of the place began to line up his girls for my survey and selection, common sense (and nearly twenty years of marriage) quickly prevailed –and led me to swap the short-skirted spoils of a lifetime for a bottle of cold Budweiser and a bowl of stale popcorn. Such is life in Dartoid’s World…
The fact is, I came to Bangkok with entirely noble intentions. Motivated by a somewhat scornful letter I’d received from a reader of the last column I wrote about darts and nightlife in this man’s-kind-of-town, my plan was to hook up with some of the local league shooters and to spend the week on a sort of Luck of the Draw tour.
I ended up instead at the Cosmos, smack in the middle of the wildest stretch of nightclubs, strip joints, whore houses,con artists and who-knows-what-all-else that exist anywhere on earth. The bar doesn’t actually have an address but it’s a breeze to find. Hop a taxi to Patpong Two. Take a left at the booth where the guy sells the fake Rolexes and the little red laser pen lights. Zig zag for about thirty yards through the street bazaar. And then, on the left, just beyond the lady who sells the Elvis wigs and right next to the kick boxing bar with the transvestites, is the Cosmos.
By Patpong standards the Cosmos Club is actually quite calm. Small. Packed. Expensive. But calm. Unintimidating. You’d have to have actually visited Patpong to appreciate precisely what I mean. Ten or fifteen tables are set along the left and right perimeters. A large bar dominates the center of the room. And in the rear, to the left of a small stage (too small to accommodate the sort of shows that go on at most of the other — more intimidating — clubs in this nook of Bangkok) is a Nodor dart board. The set up is good. And the “scenery” is remarkable– again, if you know what I mean.
I hooked up right away with a darter from England named Ron. My guess is that if Ron hadn’t been drinking and chatting up the scenery for several hours before I arrived we might have had a great night of darts. Instead I pounded him pretty good and endured an hour or so of listening to how impressed he was to meet an American who actually understood the rules of 501. Now I know what the Brits mean when they call someone an obnoxious “wanker”.
For the next several hours I took on (and matched mug for mug) all comers at Mickey Mouse, basically just a long-form of Cricket, a popular game in pubs out this way. Guys with names like Watcharakiti and Takeshi stepped up one at a time and then, defeated, drifted back into the smoke and the crowd. A girl named Nopphawan gave me a pretty good game and then bought me a beer. I noticed that I could hear the sound of the sea when I put the bottle to my ear…
So I was a little less than confident when a short, older man (whose name I can’t pronounce or spell and who said he owned the place) wagered he could take me in two out of three legs of 501. I reacted numbly, and questioned what he meant by “wager”. The guy sort of swept his arm in the direction of the bar. I assumed the bet was for a drink.
My confidence ebbed further when the little guy closed out the first game in fifteen darts (95, 100, 100, 60, 146 gameshot). Where had this “wanker” come from! And what was I doing gambling with him! From somewhere I managed to find the aim to take the second leg in eighteen — which, even sober, is about as good as I get.
So, we’re tied. And there’s a crowd behind the oche. Full of waitresses in the skimpiest outfits I’ve ever seen. We work our way down quickly. My opponent just misses a ton close and leaves himself the double ten for his final trip to the line. As I line up with seventy-eight remaining I feel the effects of a dozen Budweisers. I try to find my spot on the oche. I focus on the triple eighteen. Set. Stroke. Release. Boom! The eighteen’s history. Twelves to close. Two darts in my hand. Another stroke. And double boom! The match is history.
What followed was just amazing. Waitresses screaming. Patrons mystified at all the excitement. The owner dashing here and there grabbing girls. Me trying to explain that I misunderstood the wager. Attempting to negotiate a trade. Chaos.
It’s now morning. I am wending my way back home through the clouds and wondering just how in the world — had I lost– I’d have explained to my wife that she’d have to travel to Bangkok to spend a night with the owner of the Cosmos Club.
The good news, I figure, is that she probably won’t take anything I say seriously anyway. At least no one else has– since I put on this Elvis wig! Yep, such is life in Dartoid’s World…
From the Field,
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