The Reveller’s Blok M Diary

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday 27th June

Boom time

Way to go

Preparing to leave the house on Friday evening I hear the growling roar and dull rumble of traffic in my street, and the thin shriek of distant whistles. This is a bad portent – it can only mean that south Jakarta is saturated with traffic, and the overspill is filling up the side streets like dry creek beds in a desert deluge.

The whistles are owned and blown by a gang of local youths that I’ve nicknamed the Traffic Vigilantes. Their technique is crude but effective – they march out into the main road in threes or fours and take up a station directly in front of the oncoming vehicles. Then, when the traffic behind them begins to crawl, they usher into the breech one of the poor sods who’s been wearily waiting to join the stream, collecting a couple of coins for their initiative.

Leaving my little car safely in its garage I weave my pedestrian way through the melee of cars, bajajs vans and ojeks that clog the street, and struggle through the fumes to the main road. Looking down the packed southward lanes, full of angry frustrated drivers revving their engines and parping their horns, I decide that it’s taxi time.

The journey northwards is a doddle, and I’m in the Blok by eight thirty after an uneventful ride. As the taxi weaves its way through the mass of parked cars in Jalan Falatehan, I’m thankful that I’m not trying to find a parking space tonight.

Scene but not herd

This Friday night is such a mix of encounters, observations, thoughts and reactions that it defies simple chronological relating. (The fact that I quietly and efficiently put away a lethal stack of beer, tequila and Pernod perhaps plays its part, as well.) So tonight’s account becomes a kaleidoscope of brilliant vignettes rather than a broad sweep of the crowd’s coming and goings.

Arrivals and departures

It’s an evening of oddities and the unexpected. The first thing I notice is that no fewer than seven of the Indramayu girls are in before nine o’clock, huddled and chatting animatedly at their regular staging post, the mirrored pillar at the end of the front bar. As I’m wondering why they’re here so early, in walks my old mate Frank, followed shortly after by one of our American friends who’s recently returned to Jakarta.

Just as we greet each other and get down to swapping news and gossip, in walk another couple of long-time buddies, one of whom is sadly leaving Jakarta and returning to the States the following day. They’ve come for a farewell game of pool in Top Gun before heading out for one of the kota flesh-pots. We recognise other guys of our generation dotted round the bar, and of course comment on the quality of the company.

Some time later a short, broad, tousle-haired grinning figure enters the bar and joins our group, but at first I don’t recognise him. It’s our old friend Ray, he of ratty T-shirt, shorts and flip-flop fame – but tonight he’s wearing a brilliant white brand-new T-shirt, which looks oddly out of place on his broad torso. Now Ray is a wanderer by nature, and he goes from bar to bar clutching a bottle and occasionally a girl or two – so he shuffles off after greeting each of us.

Looking round the bar, I see even more of the Club regulars hanging around the pool table than were in Top Gun last week. One of them cadges a drink from me, which I willingly buy for old time’s sake – but it does remind me of why I don’t go in the Club very often these days. As three of her friends realise she’s struck gold they quickly home in on me, but back off when I cast a magisterial frown in their general direction.

Dumb and Dumber is yet again noticeable by her absence, but she does put in a cameo appearance sometime after eleven with her support crew, looking rather jaded and a bit spaced out.

Going for bust

Last week I recorded the appearance of a Rubenesque girl in a tight white back-strapped dress. Well, she’s here again tonight – but in an outfit that has even the most hardened observers gasping in disbelief. Her top can best be described as a sort of loose overgrown bra made of turquoise netting, which reveals a pair of the most enormous knockers in full and pendulous clarity. This grotesque vision of loveliness stirs a distant memory of the Willendorf Venus, a 30,000 year old female figurine whose rotund figure is clearly related to fertility and plenty.

Stone Age fertility symbol, 28,000 BC – Top Gun sex symbol, 2008 AD

If there’d ever been a Stone Age Blok M, this beauty would’ve been the hottest thing in the bar, at the top of every Cro-Magnon reveller’s wet dream list. How things have changed, I reflect; today’s hot property is a twig-like slip of a girl in a white miniskirt. But this story has a happy ending. She’s snapped up by one of the pool players and is soon canoodling with him in the dark recess behind the pool table. “He’s got his hands full with that one”, I naughtily comment to the gang.

Your smileage may vary

The crowd is large, lively and bustling tonight. But it’s the girls who are most remarkable – they’re smiling, laughing and flitting round the bar rather than clomping up and down like zombies. One slightly older but nicely demure Young Thing edges up to me and stage-whispers, with a sultry smoulder in her eyes, “Are you alone tonight?” “I’m always alone” I reply, with mock pathos and a pretend wipe of tears from my cheeks. “You buy me long island tea?” she murmers in my ear. I decide to use the “I can’t hear you” technique rather than a direct dismissal, and after three repetitions she gets the message and lowers her expectation to a cola.

She goes into her ‘touchy feely’ repertoire, but soon realises that I’m not particularly interested. What she doesn’t know is that I know she’s a gold digger wilth a greatly inflated opinion of her commercial value and performance rating. She soon veers away towards a more likely victim, leaving me to gaze round the bar in peace.

Looking down the bar from the dark corner at the street end, I remark on the quanity and quality of Sweet Young Things tonight, and the quantity and variety of the guys. There are lots of younger blokes in full swing, groups of older chaps nattering loudly and carousing with their doxies, and loners enjoying the music and the atmosphere.

The band is really quite good, belting out lots of good stuff with tuneful efficiency. But as the night wears on they have a change of crew who are, to be charitable, best described as the ‘B’ Team. A beaming Pak Ahmad, the owner of Top Gun, walks by, and next thing I know a double Pernod is thrust into my hand by a smiling waitress. So a slightly sozzled Reveller quickly becomes a completely pickled Reveller, and decides to make tracks before this unexpected but very welcome glass of cheer hits his central nervous system.

Street life

Rather than describe in words the street life as one o’clock draws near, I present a few piccies that I snapped while waiting for my late-night snack, a shawarma from D’s Place. Everything is there; the jumble of cars, the line of motorbikes parked further along the pavement, the street stalls, the urchins and beggars, the girls wandering from bar to bar, the drivers sitting by their cars playing chess or just chatting.

D’s Place shawarma stall

The traditional shawarma grill

Looking northwards up the street

Sweet Young Things on the prowl

The view across the road towards Top Gun


As I walk up the street in search of a halfway trustworthy taxi, I pass the recently renovated old D’s Place building. It’s got a big “for sale” board outside, and has obviously been remodeled as a shop with two large windows and an extra doorway. Not the cleverest of commercial moves, I reckon – Jalan Falatehan isn’t exactly on the south Jakarta shopping map.

It’s been another great night, with that liveliness that used to be the hallmark of Jalan Falatehan until three or four years ago. Crossing my fingers, I hope that this time the revival will be more sustained, and not fizzle out as it has on so many other occasions.

Brushing off the optimistic calls from the drivers of the rust-bucket taxis with a world-weary smile, I turn the corner at the top of the street and flag down a Bluebird. Within ten minutes I’m home, heading for the fridge to get a glass of cold water with which to wash down the couple of aspirins that I hope will dull the incipient headache and mitigate the looming hangover. But my heart and my wallet are lighter than they were the previous afternoon – a fair bargain, I reflect, as I munch the remains of my shawarma and switch off the computer. And so to bed.

posted by Reveller at 8:56 am  
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