As the Screwy Tuskers boarded various planes on their way to the 17th Annual World Elephant Polo Association tournament a feeling of exhilaration was in the air. This year was looking to be a spectacular year for the team. Still riding high on the historical 7th place showing in '97, Alf and his team had their sights on the newly instituted Chivas Regal Quaich Amateur Cup. But fate and history had other ideas for the Screwy Tuskers.
Alf had invited an assortment of guests to join his team this year in addition to his daughters, including (besides myself) two gorgeous and elegant French models, Collette and Françoise. Alf had met these beauties on a recent trip to Paris. They were actually quite interested in Alf's ballooning ventures. When they heard about his plans for Corkscrew III, they volunteered to model for him - just for the publicity - but, of course, those jobs were already taken and fulfilled. In order to console the poor darlings, Alf offered Collette and Françoise positions on his elephant polo team.
After settling in at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Alf and I noticed that Collette and Françoise appeared to be a bit apprehensive about their upcoming trip to the jungle. To get their mind off of their worries, we decided that they simply had to discover the decadent pleasures of Patpong Road. I was quite anxious to get back there myself, after my enchanting experiences there last year, which were so colorfully recorded by Fred the Flea (who, by the way, never quite recovered from his experiences in Asia last year and now spends his time sitting on Ralph's head chanting mantras and dreaming of the Dogs of Kathmandu all day).
The rest of The Screwy Tuskers, preferring the less decadent option of shopping on Patpong said their goodbyes to us as we headed off to find nirvana in the skillful hands of the Thai beauties. The shopping decision turns out to have been a wise one.
As we ventured out into the familiar crowded alleyways of Patpong our excitement rose. The shops were bustling, the lights were so bright the street appeared to be basked in daylight, the smell of beer and incense and Thai epicurean street delicacies permeated our senses, and Temptation beckoned us from every doorway.
Alf, being the most knowledgeable Patpong tour guide on the planet, first took us to some "warm-up" bars such as "Pussy Galore" and various other places where we enjoyed watching the beautiful dancing girls almost as much as we enjoyed the deadly serious beautiful money collecting girls on the floor. Collette and Françoise found themselves completely enthralled with the attention of the lovely Thai women with their skillful massaging hands and their affectionate ways. As we all basked in the attentions of the Angels of Patpong it soon became clear that more intimate attention was in order.
We headed down the road amidst the bartering and hawking and cooking and laughing, en route to our favorite bar from '97, the Kangaroo Club. By the time we found ourselves perched at the Kangaroo bar we were most delighted to find our favorite sisters, Nung and Gup (no, not THOSE Patpong Sisters), waiting to greet us. Nung, tall and sleek and beautiful, was the consummate professional. She made sure that we were all sufficiently refreshed and relaxed, while Gup, small and delicate, softly approached Collette and Françoise and invited them to join her and her sister in one of the Kangaroo's nests of delight in the back of the bar. The models were intrigued and allowed themselves to be persuaded by the delicious offer. Alf, never a man to pass up an opportunity for vicarious (or any other) delight, inconspicuously followed the girls to the back.
I stayed at the bar in my traditional mode of paying the Kangaroo girls bundles of baht to keep their hands out from between my legs while I wondered if there were any straight men in the place with whom to flirt.
My dreams were realized not long after the departure of Alf and the models. I was approached by two adorable sailors from Australia who, after saying all the right things to flatter an old woman, suggested that they knew of a place where I might be more comfortable waiting. We wandered out the back way and across a dark alley to a tiny, smoke-filled room full of sailors. I was in heaven. Soon I realized that the smoke was a combination of incense and opium. I must admit that I did not take full advantage of my first trip to an opium den. Being a fine upstanding member of my community, as well as an American of the "I did not inhale" generation, I chose not to sample the goods. As to whether I chose to sample the sailors, that's actually none of your business. Even though I refrained from inhaling the opium, I did find that as the evening wore on, however, osmosis caused me to become more and more disoriented.
Meanwhile, as Nung and Gup treated Françoise and Collette to their unique Patpong talents and Alf "I like to watch" Erickson sat quietly in the corner enjoying himself thoroughly, the door to their little room burst open and in came three unusual looking characters, Thai men wearing Scandinavian sweaters and stocking caps, who grabbed Alf and the models, tied them up and blindfolded them and carried them off. Nung and Gup, convinced that this was just another of Alf's pre-arranged escapades, went back to the bar determined to keep the matter confident, as they generally do with Alf and his endeavors.
The kidnappers took Alf, Collette and Françoise to a nearby car and drove out of Bangkok and up toward northern Thailand. Hours passed before the Erickson daughters were to even wonder where their nefarious father and his elegant cohorts had escaped to, it not being uncommon for Alf to greet the dissipated splendor of Patpong at dawn (or later) with a fuzzy head and a fuzzy heart. It wasn't until nearly dusk the next day when the girls decided that even with two gorgeous models and all of Patpong at his fingertips it was somewhat unusual for Alf to be away for 24 hours.
The three victims rode quietly in the dark of the Thai night. Of course, they would have been in the dark if it were a Thai day. Seeing as they were blindfolded and gagged. Well, technically, the gagging would not necessarily contribute to the dark, but to be gagging on old dirty socks stuffed in their mouths, the groups' spirits were certainly dark. Enough about gagging. Alf's spirit was very dark at the moment. Here he was somewhere in the middle of nowhere with these strange men who smelled like dead fish and whose words were incomprehensible, not knowing where they were going or what they wanted from him or even if they wanted HIM - maybe it was the models they were after and ol' Alfie had simply gotten in the way.
The models were getting to be a bit of an encumbrance. Up until the kidnapping they had been lovely company. But now, bound, gagged and blindfolded, Alf was getting a little concerned about the potential lawsuit coming his way. He was wishing that he had retained his attorneys to prepare that extensive waiver of liability for his Screwy Tuskers which would cover everything from being caught in an elephant stampede to contracting malaria (or something even worse on Patpong) to plane crashes in the Himalayas to dropping dead from too much shopping. Of course, the waiver, even if he'd gotten around to preparing it, most likely would not have included being kidnapped by evil Thai bandits. Alf made a mental note to have his lawyers add a kidnapping clause to the waiver.
Alf was not concerned about the actual ransom money, mind you. He was confident that if he was, indeed, the target of this kidnapping, his daughters would cash in the Kidnapping Policy he had purchased several years ago from Lloyd's of London when driving through Afghanistan during the war with Russia. Alf's hair was a bit darker back then and he was afraid that he would be mistaken for Dan Rather and would be kidnapped just to keep from having to watch him on TV all wrapped up in that silly blanket. But, I digress.
When the group finally came to a resting place, the victims were taken to a room and interrogated in broken English. Or was it broken Thai. The language was so incomprehensible it was hard to tell which end was broken. Sprinkled throughout the Thai dialogue were a smattering of "don't ya know"s and "you betcha"s and "uff da"s. Alf finally determined that one of the bandits spoke just enough English to explain the group's agenda.
It turns out it was a political kidnapping. The bandits actually represented a group of Norwegian and Thai descent that has been trying for many years to have the Norwegian historical books and artwork revised to represent the brave Thai Warriors who, centuries ago, made their way north through the jungles and steppes and Mongolian hordes and tundra and ice fields right smack over the north pole (don't ask me how they did it - I'm taking their word for all of this) to land in Norway just as Leif Erickson was getting ready to set sail on his historic mission. The Thai warriors tried to convince Leif that they had just come from that direction and he wasn't missing anything but no, being the stubborn Norwegian that he was, Leif insisted on forging west, only to become the most under-recognized explorer of the millennium. Except for the Thai Vikings, that is.
Leif Erickson was very impressed with these men. For one thing, they were obviously a hearty bunch, having come so far and conquering adversity all the way around the world. But more impressive to Erickson was when he offered the Thais some lutefisk and they actually loved it. In fact, they asked for seconds! Having endeared themselves with the leader of the Vikings, the Thai warriors became official Vikings. They donned horned helmets, filled their flasks with aquavit, filled their pockets with lefse and set off to conquer the New World. The Thai Vikings were instrumental in the success of Erickson's journey, but no official record was ever made of their contribution. The Thai Vikings made their way back to Thailand and told their blue-eyed children the stories of their adventures. Genetics being what it is, of course, the blue-eyes have long since disappeared from the gene pool. But the stories have continued to be passed down through the generations.
The small group of Thai/Viking descendants living in northern Thailand have been trying for years to convince the Norwegian powers-that-be to do the politically correct thing and include the Thais in the history books and records. They have accused the Norwegians of cultural and ethnic bias and have staged small protests during the Norwegian Independence Day celebrations for years. This year they had heard that a deputy Ambassador from Norway was coming to Bangkok to watch the 13th Annual Asian games. The diplomat was scheduled to arrive on the 30th of November. The Thai Vikings had organized a lookout at the airport. They were perched on the rooftops and skybridges with binoculars. They were hiding in the "Smoking Rooms" at BKK - where anyone can go to hide from the rest of the world because the smoke is so thick inside the smokers are not recognizable from more than 5 centimeters. With their ancestral ingenuity, they had constructed special glasses treated with lye and dead fish which cut through the smoke so they could see the comings and goings of the international flights.
The bandits first spotted Alf as he made his way hurriedly up the walkway and went to stand in the line labeled "Diplomats." No, Alf is not a diplomat (although I've always maintained that he should become one). He just gets spoiled flying First Class all the time and doesn't think he should have to wait in line with the economy passport holders. So he has taken to going through the Diplomatic passport channels and using his years of legal training to obfuscate and confuse the poor serious immigration officials into letting him through. It was a result of this process that Alf was mistaken by the Thai/Norse Revolt as a Norwegian diplomat. The bandits were most impressed with this man when they observed him gathering up the 12 or so women accompanying, flagged on both sides by Collette and Françoise. The bandits decided that the two models must be Alf's wives, and that in true Viking tradition he was the ruler of the roost. The bandits stalked Alf and his group until the night on Patpong where they finally seized their opportunity.
Alf, being the gentleman scholar that he is, was quite intrigued with the cause of the bandits. Never a man to shy away from dedicating himself to a worthy social cause, he decided to join forces with the Thai bandits, thus forming a Thai/Norse alliance to rival that of their joint ancestors. Alf secretly plotted with the kidnappers to cash in on his Lloyd's of London Kidnap insurance policy and then donate the proceeds to the Thai/Norse Revolt. Of course, the models had to be kept in the dark regarding this scheme. Alf wasn't very confident that a couple of French women would feel so strongly about his Nordic cause as to put up with the minor inconveniences of being bound and gagged and carted all over Thailand while the Erickson family negotiated a ransom.
The Thai/Viking descendants decided that it would be best to take the group to Singapore in order to conduct the ransom negotiations. They were concerned that Bangkok would be crawling with police, whereas in Singapore, as long as they didn't litter, they would be safe. They were a rather clean group. The kidnappers unbound and ungagged the models in order to appear as "normal" as possible, and the group wandered through the pristine streets of Singapore, looking for a hotel from which to base their negotiating operations.
With no warning at all, Collette panicked. She pulled the lipstick out of her purse and while the bandits weren't looking wrote "Help! Kidnapped!" on the side of an office building.
The group was immediately descended upon by the Singapore police and Collette was arrested. At this point Alf found himself in a dilemma of monumental proportions. He knew that if the kidnappers were exposed, the plot to raise money for the Thai/Viking Revolt would fail. He knew that the models would spill the beans once they were questioned by the police. He was inclined to say "au revoir" to Collette and Françoise and continue to help his kidnappers try to get the ransom money. On the other hand, he became fixated on the fantasy of Collette being caned as punishment for her crime. He could not stop thinking about the fact that the caning could possibly take place in his presence and he was leaning toward accompanying the models to the police station. I mean, what's a Worthy Social Cause compared to a gorgeous naked French model being whacked on the bottom with a piece of bamboo?
Well, fortunately for Collette and unfortunately for the Thai/Norse Revolt, Alf's dilemma soon became moot. As expected, the Erickson daughters had been quite busy up in Bangkok. They had notified all law enforcement agencies in Asia. The Singapore police immediately recognized the little group of victims and set them free, while arresting the Thai/Norse bandits. The Cause to which Alf had dedicated himself so passionately had to go without his contribution and the Viking history will remain sadly unrepresentative of the Thai connection. And even sadder for Alfie, Collette was never directed to drop her drawers.
Alf flew back to Bangkok to meet up with his daughters. Many days had passed since the night on Patpong Road, and he realized that the Elephant Polo tournament was already over. After a day of rest at the Oriental, Alf decided to go straight to London for his pre-Christmas vacation.
Collette and Françoise flew back to France directly from Singapore vowing to boycott Thai and Norwegian products for the rest of their lives.
I had actually taken quite a different route. After spending the night, or perhaps two nights, in the cozy little Patpong opium den with the young Aussie sailors, not inhaling, I eventually found my way back to the hotel. When I got there, however, the Screwy Tuskers were nowhere to be found. I assumed that they had already left for the airport, seeing as it was already the day of our scheduled departure to Kathmandu. So I hastily washed the smoke out of my hair, packed my bags and made my way to BKK International, Kathmandu and the jungle, just in time for the beginning of the 17th Annual World Elephant Polo Championship.