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Around The Sun: Riverside Madness

Steve Harrison tells of an unruly incident at the Riverside Bar.

To read more of Steve's entertaining biography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/around_the_sun/

Fred ran a very successful bar in the street where our hotel was located. His business was on the corner of the street, near the river, probably the best location in town. Everybody who visited Phnom Penh spent some time at The Riverside Bar. There you could sit all day. watching the river go by and observing local urchins prying money out of tourists.

The bar had some of the most comfortable cane furniture I have ever sat upon. As I was passing by I would see a friend there, decide to sit with him for a few minutes, then find myself still there several hours later. It was a great place in which to relax and hang out in.

Fred was noted for his tantrums. Too much alcohol would tip him over the edge and all hell would break loose. He would fire his staff, beat up his own security guys and sometimes his customers. The too long in Camboida syndrome.

One day Graham, my reliable buddy, telephoned to say he was on his way to the Temple bar. He would arrive around 11 am. At noon I was beginning to wonder what had happened to him. He was always on time. I rang him on his mobile. He said he had been delayed in the Riverside Bar. While we were talking there was the sound of a commotion in the background. I heard Graham telling someone to leave him alone. Then the phone went dead.

The Riverside bar was 500 metres away from our place. I ran down the street, through the market, and was there in not much more than a minute. If Graham was in trouble I wanted to help him.

I found Graham comfortably sitting in one of those great cane chairs. The table next to where he was sitting had been tipped over. It's glass top had shattered. Broken glass was strewn across the floor. Fred was bare-chested with his trousers hanging down, spreadeagled across the broken table.

Graham said he was having a quiet drink when Fred appeared, obviously the worse for wear. He sat with Grham for several minutes, mumbling incoherently. Then he grabbed hold of Graham's arm and refused to let go.

Graham's phone had rung. Me calling him. The sound of the phone had ignited Fred's rage. He had been drinking champagne from the bottle. He threw the bottle through the glass table top then pushed the table over. In some bizarre kind of ritual salute to the world, he had dropped his trousers.

When I arrived security guards were trying to encourage him back into his trousers. He was having none of it. A small crowd had gathered, enjoying the spectacle. The trousers were down, up, down, up, then down again.

Eventually Fred was loaded into a small car parked on the corner. He was screaming something in an unrecognisable language. Then he was whisked off into the bright afternoon sun.

Graham and I meandered to the Temple bar for a quiet beer.

"I reckon Fred needs a holiday away from Cambodia,'' said I.

"Yep,'' said Graham.

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