Friday, October 28, 2011. The departure lounge for AeroSvit flight VV238 to Kiev. The atmosphere couldn’t be more different from that of an El Al flight. Rather, there is no atmosphere. It could be pre-Gorby Russia. Pasty-faced Slavs, the odd one with a hint of Semite, kitted out in Allenby’s finest: poor, nondescript t-shirts and denim, and more fake leopard skin and cheap leather than an ’80s Romford hen night.
It is all my own fault and I know it, having opted to save $400 by flying this dodgy Ukrainian airline to Bangkok – for my annual Norwood charity bike ride (see I’m forever blogging on bubbles . . .) – via Kiev, rather than direct with El Al. And I have been dreading this moment from the second I finished reading out my Isracard number to my travel agent, Sasi. I even went through a spell of seeking reassurance from the Ukrainian immigrants in our office mailroom: Surely there was no reason to be concerned? AeroSvit is, after all, an international airline? “Hishtagata (have you gone mad)?!” was not, however, the response I had been counting on.
Oddly, though, the thought most distracting me now is not of my decapitated torso lying on any one of the three runways, but how, if one of the planes does go down, my poor mother will be able to grieve with my fellow torsi’s Russian-only-speaking relatives. Having all those North-West London Jews, none more than one or two degrees of separation away, on London-Tel Aviv flights was always a huge source of comfort as I contemplated the horrible.
To take my mind off such macabre thoughts, and to give me something to look forward to on my return to the Zionist entity, I look out for my new Sveta. None of the gold gnashers (right) on display, however, really do it for me.
“Inflate se jacket by blowing in se tube. Sank you.”
I recite the Shema. And, for once, with real kavana (intent). To my great relief, however, the three hour flight – like the following three – passes without alarm. Indeed, the complete absence of charedim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), together with the only few dozen Israelis, make AeroSvit a considerably less vexing alternative to El Al.
On arrival a full day later (but one before the group from London) at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, Chiang Mai, I spend Shabbos morning – there being no shul in the vicinity – in silent contemplation of what I would like to do with either, though preferably both, of the stunning Thai totties adorning its pool. They turn out to be ‘guests’ of some tattooed young Americans who look like they have been given an all-expenses-paid break from I-raq. I am surprised that the girls can still walk.
And taking a stroll with a fellow Norwooder up a bar-lined street the following evening, and ignoring the continual entreaties of “Massaaage?”, I suddenly announce to Martin that “I have to talk to that one.” Of course I won’t actually do anything – hypochondria, not moral fibre, you understand – but we mere mortals can’t just pass up the opportunity to get so close to a near “ten”. And the apparition turns out to be drop dead gorgeous and honest in equal measure: “You know I ladyboy . . .” I scuttle off back to Martin, tail between my legs . . . or, at least, on its way back down.
In spite of its most appealing purveyors, I am not enticed by the instant gratification on offer in Thailand. While I wouldn’t disagree with Boris Grushenko that “as empty experiences go, [sex without love] is one of the best,” rumpy-pumpy without even the hint of a chase really doesn’t do it for me (and the all-too-common sight of sixty- and seventy-something westerners – British especially – ‘enjoying’ silent meals with girls young enough to be their granddaughters is a study in mutual degradation).
Many Jewish males, however, do appear to have a real fascination with the prostitute. So it was, during my student days, that Orthodox boys from north Manchester would spend the early hours of Saturday nights/Sunday mornings driving around Chorlton Street Bus Station – which they had renamed “Rechov Bonoys” (girlie street) – observing them, and even engaging them in idle chat. And many more actually utilise their services. There was even a black kippa’d (velvet, noch) ex-Hasmo who, while still frequenting the classrooms and corridors of Holders Hill Road, was said to have repeatedly indulged a penchant for S&M with an Asian “zoynoh”.
None of this should really raise eyebrows (raze sideburns?!), however, in view of the Israel Diamond Exchange, Ramat Gan – and similar “Rochvei Bonoys” in Israel and abroad – teeming with charedi males six nights a week. The practice is muter (permitted), I understand, on the basis that the relief provided assists the dirty bastards in observing the laws of family purity.
But it is not only Orthodox Jews who enjoy such activities, and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, and ex-football managers David Pleat (right) and Avram Grant – he of the “It’s his body, he can f*ck as many hookers as he likes” missus (source) – were merely unfortunate, high-profile brethren who were caught. And perhaps there is even a certain logic to this seeming affinity:
- prostitution is a profession (the “oldest one” even);
- its practitioners display a certain entrepreneurial spirit in operating a cash business;
- relations with them come with a large dose of guilt (we all need a bit of that); and
- perhaps most critically of all, Jewish females – of the Ashkenazi variety, at least – are said (I wouldn’t know) not to believe in sex after marriage.
My vices are chocolate and croissants rather than a predilection for such ladies – I didn’t so much as indulge in a massage (“happy ending” or otherwise) on the recent trip – though I swear it had nothing to do with any inhibition resulting from the Thai experience of two friends from Liverpool, who were greeted some years ago, on removing their boxers, with: “You big boy. You little boy.” Little Boy never lived it down.
And I, of course, bear no culpability for the regrettable occasion on which I found myself in a midtown Manhattan ‘massage parlour’ after being duped by a friend – whom I first met at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach of all places – who informed me merely that he was treating me to his favourite Korean masseuse. (Interestingly, the same friend relates how Tel Aviv’s knocking shops were once – just before the ’90s Russian aliyah, following his less than successful stint at Ohr Somayach – staffed by teenage Israeli chayalot [soldiers] requiring assistance with their rents.)
The bike ride, oh yes . . . it was great! And listening to Michael, a beneficiary of Norwood services, relate how the charity has changed his life hardly left a dry eye at the closing Friday night dinner. (Thank you, once again, to all those of you who supported my participation.)
Following a few days’ recuperation for my aching thigh muscles back in Chiang Mai, I spend the last evening – though not, regrettably, night – in the company of Giulia, 31, from Sicily, whom I meet at the Loi Krathong (Festival of Light) street parade.
“Iza dizguzting,” Giulia opines about Thailand’s sex tourism industry. I nod in vigorous, though somewhat disingenuous, agreement, when all I have been thinking about since bumping into her is biting on those meaty Sicilian lips. At dinner, however, the conversation inevitably comes round to the Middle East . . .
“Whya donta youa givea dema backa deira land?”
While every syllable of Giulia’s thickly accented – though excellent, enormously sexy – English should cause me to care less and less about the Arab-Israeli conflict, I finally reach for the serviette dispenser and draw a rather impressive sketch of the region, providing her with a ten-minute potted history from 1917. Though odd, I consider, that I should feel compelled to defend Israel to Giulia now, when I have recoiled whenever hearing Hebrew over the past fortnight (invariably in local markets from “monkeys” dragging around huge suitcases and arguing over grushim [pennies]).
My prayer to be seated between a pair of Ukrainian lovelies on the return AeroSvit flight from Bangkok goes unanswered, and I instead find myself across the aisle from three Israeli frechot of the most ghastly variety.
“What?!” one of them barks at the perfectly polite Ukrainian stewardess on being informed that she will have to put her backpack in the overhead locker. “I don’t want to.”
“If there is a pogrom now,” I resolve to myself, “I am Ukrainian.” And Giulia, and those lovely totties by the pool, are a distant dream.