EAST IS EAST

SINGAPORE SLINGS, SAHIB

At Raffles Long Bar smiling brown waitpersons haul pink Singapore Slings to Detroit orthodontists provide free peanuts for Aussie haymakers cowtow to Nihonjin middle managers. Everybodys fertile, imagining oriental worlds, bygone days when rusty steamers ferried pith helmeted colonials to South Sea pinpricks. Who cares if Colonel Kurtz disappeared into the heart of darkness or Lord Jim ended up the main course at a cannibal barbecue. Today everybodys stoked, shelling complimentary goobers, firing digital flashers, turning sallow software salesman into Chinese secret agent. Somerset Maughams still here, looking bushed, hanging from the wall of next doors steak house. The tea and crustless sandwich sets here too, safarisuit octogenarians inhabiting Hong Kongs Peninsula lobby or clogging Bangkok Oriental writers bar, Wests postcolonial idle affluent tasting the Easts opium hazed Colonel Blimp past. Long Bars thick with Trader Vic simulacra ambience: bamboo huts Gauguin tawny maidens papaya sacks mango bags boxed pineapple. Nobody mentions Trumans Korean Police Action or Eisenhowers Advisory Mission to Indo China. Here ancient oriental exotica lives on in shiny postmodern splendor. Computerized ceiling fans circle slowly Bon Jovi softrocks through recessed speakers patrons, pretend deep concern over next years banana crop, await word of latest snake infested copra shipment. And all the while mashed peanut shells pile deeper and the stack of empty Singapore Slings grows higher. Singapore, Thurs.11/04/05