Thursday, September 6, 2012

MUNICH 1972 REDUX by Peter Nolan Smith

The Buffalo Bar on Pattaya's Sai 3 attracted all types in the late 00s. Bank robbers rubbed elbows with Interpol officers, miners drank beer with environmentalists, and gamblers took bets from football hooligans. Every nation showed their flag and the faithful clientele an appearance was rewarded by the gracious hosts with cheap drinks and a plethora of beautiful women.

The Buffalo Bar's girls let my little dog drink beer on the bar. Champoo preferred Heineken to Khang. There was no accounting for a Shih Tzu's tastes.

Not all the regulars appreciated a floppish lapdog lounging on the bar. Some of them were my friends like Bruno and Fabo, who ridiculed Champoo as a girl's dog, but I loved my puppy more than any of the drunken farangs in Pattaya.

Two English hooligans called Champoo a rat.

I let the air out of the tires of their pick-up and they stormed into the bar accusing me of fucking with their vehicle. The girls stood behind 100% and a middle-aged German took my back. Something about his stocky stature said Polizei.

The hooligans retreated from the confrontation with my back-up. The girls at the Buffalo were killers with a swung high heel.

"We'll get you one day." The thugs promised to catch up with me.

"I'll be here waiting." The Buffalo was my home away from the house that I had rented to raise my daughter. Sadly Angie's mom had done a runner to her family home in Ban Nok and now the only women in my life were my girlfriend Mam and Champoo.

I went over to the German to thank him for his support.

"I see you every night with your dog." English came out of his mouth with hesitation, as if he had learned the language late in life. He introduced himself as Erik. "They were wrong to say such bad things. This is a nice bar. No fighting."

"I like it too." I had a tendency to get mouthy with assholes and Eddy the Thai owner had a little patience with trouble-makers. They cost her money. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Of course, but only if the next drink is on me." The stocky German's unnaturally orange hair revealed repeated failures of correcting his dye mixture.

"I'm drinking Gin-tonic. What about you?" My hair had suffered a serious whitening after Angie was taken north by her mother and the damage wasn't restricted to my head.

"The same." Erik probably could have used professional hair help, but as Manny, my old boss at the diamond exchange liked to say, "Better gray than nay."

"Are you living here?" It was a simple question.

"About half the year. There's nothing in Germany for a man my age."

"You're not old." I pegged him in his late 40s to early 50s.

"Not to you or the girls of the Buffalo Bar." More than a few of the bargirls preferred old guys, because geezers are easier to manage than proud young bucks, who tend to be heartbreakers. "But back in Deutschland I don't stand a chance with a woman."

"You have a wife?" I had never seen the thick-chested leave with a Buffalo girl.

"An ex-wife is living off alimony back in Germany, but why get married here, when you can have a honeymoon every night." His laugh mocked my question. "You had a wife here and she left you."

"How do you know that?" His infringement of my privacy caught me off-guard.

"Sorry, but a few of the girls told me your story." He bent over to scratch Champoo's head. My puppy appreciated the tenderness of a strange hand. She was a real whore that way. "Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about. You didn't leave me." We clinked glasses and I asked in German, "Wohin kommst du?"

"Munchen." His singsong Bayerische dialect transported me back to my high school German class and Bruder Karl's voice charred by his chain-smoking. "Have you ever been there?"

"No." Munich conjured up beer hall putsches, mad kings, the Oktoberfest, and the 1972 Olympics. Compliments about someone's hometown put them at ease and I said, "Ein schon stadt from what I've heard."

"Du sprichst Deutsche?" His voice trembled with incredulity.

"Jawohl." My German wasn't as good as his English.

"Du kommst von Amerika?" My country was better known for speaking tongues than foreign languages.

"Ja." My Boston accent played havoc with my annunciation. "New England."

"And you learned German?" He was amazed at this linguistic skill as the Thais were gobstruck by my caveman Thai.

"Naturlich. Ich hatte Deutsche in hoch schule gelearnt." Brother Karl had spent three years forcing German into my brain. "Some of that schooling actually took root. The old Bavarian brother told me, "Du sprechst wie einer schiesskopf."

I wasn't a shithead, only a terrible student. I failed German three times. Brother Karl didn't hold a grudge. He sent me a Christmas card for several years after my graduation from high school.

"But your accent is not so bad."

"Viele danke." I'd bet the remaining limit on my credit cards that I was the only student from that school still speaking German. "I also lived in Hamburg for six months."

"The Beatles played at the Star Club." The city was most famous for an unknown British rock band's two year stint in the clubs of St. Pauli.
"I managed a nightclub run by the pimps from the Reeperbahn." The red-light district was dominated by the pimps of the GmBH gang. Its enforcer had been a black pimp in a very tough town.

BSirs was far from the Eros Center. Nigger Kali used the Clockwork Orange-inspired nightclub as a front for laundering money from his whorehouses. Erik didn't need to know the details, since he dressed a little too straight for Pattaya. Most of the farang residents were in one way or the scum of the Earth and I liked them for that lack of quality. We were running out of places to be ourselves.

"What was your job in Munich?" My hunch that he wasn't a man of the cloth was based on his overt neatness.

"I was a policeman for Bavaria," Erik stated his profession with pride.

"Polizei." The state criminal police had investigated Nigger Kali's activities at Bsirs. Two plain-clothed detectives had interrogated me at my Mittelweg apartment. I had told them nothing as would any fan of the Bowery Boys.

"Das ist rechtig." The German was about my age. He would have been in prime during my half-year in Hamburg. Nigger Kali was a known criminal throughout the BDR. Keeping the black zuhalter's name out of a conversation was always advisable. "How many years you serve the State?"

"From 1970 to 2001."

"41 years. How old are you?"

"60."

Champoo raised her ears in disbelief, then Champoo laid her shaggy head on the counter. She was over her limit.

"I would have thought 50." It was a nice thing to say to a man our age.

"You are too kind." Erik ordered the next round. The lesbian bartender poured measured shots. "Make them doubles."

"Thanks." The reinforced gin-tonics had a solid bite to them

"You look good for your age." He had me by five years. "You must have started during the Baader Meinhof campaign."

"They bombed Munich's Investigation Bureau in May of 1972." Dates of crimes were not to be forgotten by a Bavarian policeman. "Actually they called themselves the Red Army Faction. Munich did not support them like the rest of Germany. Maybe we are too Catholic."

"You must have been at the Munich Olympics." I had been hitchhiking across the USA that September.

"I was with the police rifle squad," Erik whispered in a conspiratorial tone and signaled for two more gin-tonics. The end of his tale deserved doubles. "And I was stationed outside the Olympic village at the time of the attack. My superiors ordered us to take up position with our rifles. None of them were fitted with sniper scopes."

"How did it go so bad at the airport? The Palestinians had the hostages, the planes were ready to go. Everyone died. Why?"" I had seen the news report at the time and the recent movie MUNICH suggested a mismanaged rescue attempt.

"I saw everything. The Black September leader went to the plane and found it empty. He realized that the airport was a trap and ran back to the helicopters. Our snipers couldn't make a killing shot in the bad light." Erik was talking about his unit.

"Where were you?"

"I was atop the airport terminal." His hands were shaking from the memory of that September night, but the retired policeman was too far along to stop the telling. He petted the sleeping Champoo. "We weren't trained for a situation like that. My rifle was for target shooting, not an assault on terrorists. They had machine guns and grenades. We should have done things differently, but orders are orders and we all know how we Germans are about following orders, both good and bad."

Erik drained his glass in one go. His trusting look was asking for my sealed lips and I nodded acceptance of his condition.

Gai came over to sit with us. The statuesque bargirl was a Thai version of Jayne Mansfield. She nuzzled Erik like a cat looking a place to live. Her main geek Fabo would have been angry to see her betrayal of his affection, however the Belgium was on a oil-exploration ship off the coast of Angola.

I could keep a secret and never saw Erik leave with Gai.

Around midnight Champoo and I rode my motor scooter back to the dark house on Moo 9.

I thought about calling a friend in New York to tell him about Erik's story, but decided to respect the retired cop's request. 1972 was a long time ago and it would only get longer for those who lost someone they loved in the massacre.

Both Palestinian and Israeli.

After all they share the same blood no matter what happened in Munich.

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