The early 80’s saw Big Dave run Thai Garden Restaurant&Bar into the hottest party place on the beach.
He had shunned the operations of other nearby establishments and ran a “family” type place that we still full of fun!
That ended the day his chief cook & bottle washer Dao[the real force behind the good service & wonderful foods of all types]ran off with a RigRat…:-(
A RigRat is what those in know refer to an oil worker, usually these fellas gained their wages in extreme conditions of work, not much less dangerous that a miner.
The boys of the oil fields learned early on that Thailand had everything they wanted and on Old Patong, they had it with sunshine to help relax their minds as much as their bodies.
These fellas rolled into Don Muang, taxi’d straight to Soi Cowboy, Patpong Rd or Nana drank non-stop for several days, then flew down to sunny Phuket.
Big Dave would welcome them with honest to goodness Southern BBQ[atleast south-Thailand style, mostly water buffalo kabobs and BIG steaks], BIG Gringo breakfasts, and the best Thai food on the beach!
The fun never ended in those days and the drinking often took its toll, Patong Patty & I decided years before that the partying would end for us no later than MIDNIGHT, cause with all the new and old faces rolling into Thai Garden in those days, you could literally eat n drink til you passed out!
Even in the early days, we’d leave around midnight and walk the few steps next door to Mr Singhs wonderful Valentine Bungalows, briefly to Paradise Bungalow and after we acquired the Spirit Of Patong, we’d motor ever so slowly the 3 klicks down the beach, across the rice paddy and by the waterfall to our little house in Baan Sai Nam Yen to a QUIET nights repast, lulled ever to dreamland by the pack of neighborhood hounds taring at each other til we drifted into dreamland.
Upon returning one morning to Thai Garden, we noticed that Big Dave was scowling, setting at “his” table near the bar, hiding behind the paper.
As usual, I sat across from him, the only person he’d let at his table that early in the morning, and I knew while he was reading I never said a word, just put my order in for the usual papaya, banana platter with a HOT cup of Milo, while Big Dave festered behind his Bangkok Post.
He finally put the paper down, his eye was swollen and red, I just figured it was another all nighter where he hadn’t gone to sleep yet, there had been too many of those in the last few years and the Mekong Whiskey had turned to knock-off Vodka or Gin in the last year was starting to take it’s toll!
Patong Patty rarely sat with us, instead having her usual morning bowl of “Noodles du jour” with the girls nearby.
I cracked a few jokes,but Big Dave didn’t take the bait and come back with his usual way of taking anything said and “elaborating” upon it.
Meanwhile, Patong Patty was quietly chatting with Dao across the room, evidently Dao had lost interest in Big Dave and run off with a RigRat last night, checking in NEXT DOOR at Paradise!
This wasn’t good, not at all! Things remained sullen and dark, we had our breakie and went down the beach for some bodysurfing, returning around 2pm for lunch to find Big Dave and Dao’s new twinkle quietly, but fiercly playing chess at the front table on the streetside.
I sat at a nearby table and watched them play chess, Big Dave often told us of his experience during one of his many stays at Folsom, where he had honed his chess skills into near championship form.
Big Dave kept flicking open and closing his big Buck lockback blade as the “opponent” gazed at the chess pieces, trying his best to avoid the snake eyes of Crazy Dave.
Dave kept saying little things during the game like “someones gonna get cut” or ” some fool doesn’t know when to leave”,etc.
I leaned over and said “what cha got there pardner, trying to reach for the knife, only to have Dave quickly jerk it away”, I knew better than to try twice.
Dave got up and went to the back room for something, I “coached” the opponent and told him “ya know pal, Dao IS Daves wife”!
He said, “well she don’t think so” and we only held each other last night anyway.
I replied, “you been warned, watch yourself”, he glanced over at me, trying to pretend their was no anxiety or fear, but his eyes gave him away as Crazy Dave returned to the game.
I chatted a little with Dave, not much, we had a wok full of fresh cashews, right from the big tree behind the place and a bowl of noodles. We left soon.
The fool in town left later that day, back to the oil fields of the Middle East and to no drinking or carosing for another 90days or so.
Things around Thai Garden cooled to a slow burn, Crazy Dave drunk most of the time and the restaurant went more or less to nothing, Dave quit ordering food stocks or going to Phuket town to replinish what was needed and the place practically shut down. Getting a hot cup of Milo or a Green Spot was about all that could be ordered the rest of the month!
A month later Dao had Patong Patty write a letter to her new amour, stating clearly that they would soon have a third member to their cozy gathering, but the guy never wrote back or came back to Patong Beach.
Dao lost face, Crazy Dave lost face, Thai Garden became a ghost town full of dread and loathing, many of the expats and locals quit coming by, Paradise got wise and started their own restaurant about that time with “investments” from new partners and business drifted slowly away, but not far, to next door.
One morning towards the end of that month, we rolled in around noon for our usual breakfast or what we could get there to see that Dao had shaved her head, bought an outfit for Nuns and proclaimed she’d be gone to the Wat from now on, we gave her a big party and she left early the next morning.
She rolled by in a few days later, the stubble growing back on her recently shaved scalp, her addiction to Patong Beach was stronger that she thought.
Naturally by this time, Crazy Dave had another woman, infact, many, their were now hostesses at Thai Garden, like Paradise, 7 Seas, etc,etc, things had practically changed overnight.
Dao left in a huff in a rented Tuk Tuk which she always took when they fought,returning to her parents place somewhere in Krabi.
Strangely, the very next day, Phukets finest made a “spot” inspection of Thai Garden and found some “objectionables” in a fishing tackle box which Crazy Dave appealed was “some expats” that left it there between visits>
The police laughed as they hauled Crazy Dave off to Baan Ling, curiously that afternoon Dao returned with the owner to the land which held Crazy Daves lease,trying[in vain]to get Thai Gardens put into her name!
Daos new German boyfriend was only trying to help, but the rest of us looked on and wondered how this fiasco would turn out.
Much like Sommerset Maughns “The Narrow Corner”, it didn’t end happily.
Crazy Dave got out of Baan Ling a few days later, got a lawyer and Dao and her German amigo suddenly had to return to Germany where Dao got married!
After that, Crazy Dave became keemao mak mak and stayed that way for the next decade!
Thai Garden, once the happy go lucky spot became just another bar full of the usual things that bars have. A bigger stereo was immeadiately necessary.
Patong Patty and I could see what happened, we didn’t like it, but we still would saunter by daily, but never stayed past reading the Bangkok Post.
If a big group of expats or RigRats with alot to spend rolled into town, suddenly Thai Gardens was a real restaurant & bar again, the nightly videos running and the bbq’s and food excellent, but as soon as the customers left for their homes or work, the place resumed its dreadful stinge.
Patong Beach was growing though, so with the help of the Spirit Of Patong, Patty & I found plenty of other places to dine and water at, and plenty of new friends were made…:-)
After this time, Big Dave was referred to by all on Phuket that knew him as…Crazy Dave.