The First Movement: Geisha Girl
“Some men, white boys, I mean,” Kim said slyly. “They get Beemer. Fancy car in black or red. Others, they wear Armani. Have Rolex.”
“Or they get the knock-off faux-wrecks,” I added, laughing.
“That normal yuppie puppy white boy. But then there’s kind that want his own Madame Butterfly. He look and see we all Ciao-ciao geisha girl type. He may be smart business man, but see yellos skin and brain deep fried like tempura.”
“Asians girls are the new and old L.A. status symbol,” I noted.
“I know. Make no sense. But what can I say. You know. You know, right?” Kim nodded. “So that kind man, we want send him to have good time. Real good time. That Thai restaurant in Hollywood with pretty waitress almost wearing a skirt. That nothing. We got real good club. Very exclusive. Give him this card and we take care. He no bother you no more, sister.” Kim winked and passed out the cards.
So when we went dancing, we passed out the cards. You see that brain-dead Asian fetish light flashing in their eyes and you keep cool. You say something like, “I’m so sorry. I have boyfriend. He like you–tall, good-looking white boy. But I give you good tip. There’s this club. I met him there. Very exclusive. Only for men with distinction, you know, big spender. Good looking and so refined. You give a call? It may take a while because they always have so many men wanting to meet pretty Asian girl. And pretty Asian girls, they all want to give the men a real. . . good time? A weekend’s worth. We want white boy only because they have so much–more to give.”
As Kim would explain through long permed auburn tresses, “These boys, they all think Asian girls tired of small Asian penises. Asia girl will kowtow at their noble erections. They think ‘Shogun’ and ‘Playboy’ are non-science fiction. Don’t bother argue. They think you scared of large objects in small, tight spaces and need to be loosened up.”
There’s a place for all types–even men like that. For them, the place is the Suzie Wong Club. If you’ve seen the movie, you know it’s just one white boy fantasy. Well, that’s what the club is: young Asian girls in tight, short skirts. The waitresses are prancing around with wide smiles despite the bone-crushing pain of the stiletto heels and the groping hands of the supposedly well-heeled men. All of girls wear numbers, pinned to their black lace t-shirts where another restaurant might have had name tags.
The rules are: Eat first. Choose three girls and the one that likes you best is yours for the night. In the morning, she’ll serve you breakfast. A photo shows a smiling girl laying on her stomach, clad only in a g-string. Hovering at the edge of the photo is a pair of chopsticks, ready to pluck some sushi off of her naked back. A small black pool of soy sauce wells up on the small of her back. Other photos feature women clad only in chocolate, whipped cream and waffles or an array of dim sum strategically placed.
These men have been teased with every salacious sentence falling from Kim’s lips. Soft whispers slip into their eager ears or enticingly wait for them on their answering machines like the long-lost mistress of their wet dreams. They’ve been waiting for as long as a year by the time they drive up the winding mountain roads to a small cabin in Big Bear or Arrowhead, using a map faxed only a few minutes before their departure time. They know when they put down their $200 cash, that this isn’t quite legal. But after all this foreplay, they hardly care.
The atmosphere is rustic, but Kim has managed to create the air of opulence–1930s Shanghai with a bit of the movieland Hong Kong Nancy Kwan fantasy. You could believe that a higher class of Suzie Wong might have worked here. Kim’s signature scent, Opium, hovers in the air.
The soft voices of the women are only a barely audible hum overcome by the boisterous laughter of the mostly white men. These men attempt to be charming in a way that barely veils the contempt for the modern American girl and her precious needs. It begins to colors the men’s every sentence as the wine flows. They joyfully flush at the shy feminine titters as a girl giggles, catching herself in an English linguistic snare. The heavy accents and mangled English they might find annoying in a shopkeeper or fellow city dweller delights them here.
The meal is strictly gourmet. The chef has taken the rustic scenery and fused traditional Asian dishes and European culinary techniques to create a very special menu.
Sipping the bitter melon soup, the men relax and remember. They talk about the taste, texture, age, experience levels that satiate their hungers or the possibility of sampling the totally inexperienced for various prices in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. The sweet and sour pork arrives, scorned by some as too American, but meant as comfort food for the other less adventurous men. As they pop delicate puffs of pork or shrimp dumpling in their mouths, they passionately expound the merits of each particular bar and city, the sweetness of the young flesh readily pulverized into faceless anomaly and the gentle precautions necessary in these plague days.
For this, condoms and young virgins are compared with lusty eloquence. A mysterious, almost meaty mushroom contrivance arrives along with pan-seared bear sashimi.
For virility, Kim explains, the chef has prepared bear meat sashimi with a slight nod to Italian cuisine. Some men poked at the meat, timidly, but a sweet young girl will sidle up next to him, her breasts pressed against his back, and whisper in his ear, “It make you more. . .potent.” She’ll giggle and wink. The men all laugh and down the garlic and olive oil flavored meat.
Some men growl in kind reference to the fallen state mammal. Others murmur how they’ve heard about Asian men tracking all the way to California to shoot some bear for “medicinal” reasons. Unlike the rhino, at least the bears are not endangered. Seated on zabuton pillows behind individual black lacquered tables, the 12 men form a tenuous bond made uneasy by the competition for the girls that flit here and there. Perhaps 3 for each man and one is always providing the kind of smothering attention that mothers might give to a particularly sickly child. Like little children, some of the men grab eagerly for the human silk that slides by them, just wanting to feel the sensuous texture.
Kim is dressed in a long vermilion red cheongsam decorated with white chrysanthemums, clucking and chiding any man that becomes too bold with his digital explorations. “When lights on, we ask men be gentlemen. Lights out, we only ask men be gentle,” Kim says with an overly bright smile horribly accented by the orange red lipstick.
Kim is full of warm warnings. There is so much time. No need hurry. Don’t drink too much or girls be disappointed. Eat, eat, eat. As long as you can roll over flat on your back, the girls take care you just fine.
For dessert, a light, azuki bean-flavored mousse is served. At the end of the meal, the girls line up against the wall, smiling and blushing. They each carry a drink–special Chinese medicine for sweet dreams between the sheets, Kim explains with a throaty laugh and knowing wink. And Kim announces tonight’s coupling roster. “Don’t be disappointed if you no get first choice. Tomorrow is another night.”
After all the pairs are announced, each girl kneels in front of her man, hands him a heavy ceremonial tea cup and bows down low, smiling with such great happiness that it would almost break your heart. The girls that haven’t been chosen for that night, silently place a bowl of condoms on each lacquered table.
“We want have fun with you,” Kim says, smiling. And the lights suddenly go out. Hands and bodies. The rustle of bodies against other bodies. And floating between hands and voices in the darkness.
Second Movement: Disorganized Perception
Hands and bodies. Slender young girls slipping besides you with their silky skin or long black hair brushing against you. Food and the promise of fucking. The sensation of floating. This is what our man remembers. Let’s call him Mr. Joe Smith. That’s a good American name for a good American boy.
This is what he tells the police after waking up under the strident blue California skies in his car somewhere on a deserted road near Big Bear. He has his wallet and his car. His credit card accounts are in order. He has lost nothing, but time.
Leading the police back to that cabin after many false starts and turns, he finds a familiar tree, a familiar porch. But the cabin is empty. The owners have been on vacation for the last two weeks, the police tell him later. He recognizes the room and the layout, but the perfume of women is gone. There is nothing. And what of the 11 other men?
Within a few days, Mr. Smith has returned to work, but he suffers from severe diarrhea. His stomach aches and he has a fever. The flu has been going around. He stays home, but after two weeks, his symptoms continue. His blue eyes swell, rimmed in red. His muscles ache.
Finally, he goes to the doctor. The doctor gives him thiabendazole and some anti-inflammatory drugs, but warns him that despite this treatment, the illness usually runs its full natural course–six to eight weeks. Recovery is certain. People rarely die from this, the young doctor says, but he cautions Mr. Smith from eating partially cooked pork. Shaking his head, the doctor murmurs to his Filipina nurse, it’s so rare to see trichinosis in Los Angeles.
“Can you get it from eating sashimi?”‘ Mr. Smith asks, trying to remember the last time he ate Chinese food or had pork chops, and flinching slightly at the sight of the nurse’s blank face.
“No. That’s cholera and that’s only been a problem in Peru,” the doctor answers, already thinking about his next patient and the one after that and the one after that. It’s only later that day, when the doctor is catching up on paperwork, nearly zoned out from the deep monotony that he recalls hearing another doctor comment on a recent case of trichinosis. He decides to quit eating pork. When he tells this to his nurse, she only laughs but she imagines that Mr. Smith always feels a bit queasy when a woman passes with the oppressive smell of Opium lingering in her wake.
Third Movement: The Unbearable Politeness of Being Asian
Kim is on vacation now. The cheongsam has been replace by blue jeans and a T-shirt. The roar of life on the Hollywood streets relaxes Kim in a way that the woody mountains cannot. We are having lunch at a dingy restaurant as Kim gives some final instructions to a new recruit.
“You know, not easy get rid of whole bear. These hunters, they only want gallbladder. They come from Korea or Taiwan, looking for gallbladder to solve all their problems. Like it some kind of fairy dust and they Peter Pan. So they go hunt. They kill. But what the guide do with rest of bear. So we help them. Not all the time. Just some time. You know. When we got good place and good thing ready. Men pay. We have little party. But sister, you never, never eat anything after second course. That stuff full of little worms; make you real sick. They say if you cook it long, nothing happen. But I not sure. I never eat.
“Be sure you take right cup. This baby-girl look like she too young to be so smart, but she study to work in the drug store. What you call?,” Kim asked.
“Pharmacist?” I reply, nodding. “So she knows just how much of that drug to use and knock out a man real good. What we do important service to Asian sisters.”
“Strong medicine, girl. After this, I think these men no look at ‘Oriental’ girl same way. Not for long time.” Kim laughed as another woman joined the Suzie Wong Club.