Early encounters with the Nite Owl
A few words on former colleague Bernard Trink, who sadly passed away last week at the age of 89.
I first met him at the old Bangkok World office on Phrasumaine Road in mid-1969 before I had joined the Bangkok Post, which was just around the corner on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. Friends who worked at the World introduced me to 38-year-old Trink. They mentioned he was quite a character. They were spot on.
I got to know Bernard (he did not like "Bernie"), after the Post took over the World and everyone worked at Ratchadamnoen. For a while I was on the graveyard shift and after midnight Bernard, being a "Nite Owl'' and I were the only people in the office, although he was on the floor below. In the wee hours we often chatted, usually about movies.
One thing we did not agree on was my taste in music. Because there was no one around, I would bring a ghetto blaster into the office, but Trink made it quite clear that our friendship would cease forthwith unless I stopped torturing him with loud rock music. I settled for more subdued offerings.
Trink was extraordinarily prolific when writing for the World. Aside from his celebrated Friday Nite Owl pages, every week he would produce lengthy reviews of movies, restaurants and books, along with interviews with local celebrities. But he was best known for his Nite Owl column and if you walked into the Post on a Friday afternoon in the early 1970s you could guarantee all the sub-editors would have their heads buried into the words of wisdom from the Nite Owl. It was always accompanied by lots of chuckling, gasps, gulps and exclamations.
On his rounds Trink was an unmistakable figure with his braces, trousers halfway up his chest and the large owl medallion. It might surprise many, but he seldom drank alcohol.
Food for thought
Trink's restaurant reviews were always entertaining, partly because of the vast quantities of food he consumed. He usually began the review by writing "my wife and I had…" and then went on to list an astonishing number of dishes, but everyone knew it was Bernard who did all the eating. The food column was abruptly stopped after he wrote what he called an "honest review" of a well-known restaurant which apparently was a bit "too honest", upsetting the influential owner.
Words to the wise
One of the big attractions of Trink's columns was his creative, some would say quaint, use of the language which soon became known as Trinkisms. We were introduced to the fascinating world of caravansaries, watering holes, hoofers, and my particular favourite, demimondaines. What a wonderful word. And of course he always finished Nite Owl with his famous catch-phrase: "But I don't give a hoot".
Trink's nightlife column was not confined to bars and nightclubs and he often made references to his supermarket visits. One particularly gripping episode was his pursuit of his favourite Dinty Moore Beef Stew which turned into a riveting drama when the canned stew disappeared from the shelves. Trink was aghast at this conspiracy undermining his eating habits. "What's going on with Dinty Moore?" he plaintively asked his readers. It beat any soap opera.
Despite lugging around a large heavy bag in which he carried his voluminous notes, Trink would always travel around the city on buses. Anyone who experienced Bangkok's packed buses in those early days would know that it was not exactly fun. In his column he often complained of buses whizzing past and totally ignoring him while he was waiting at the bus stop. It was not until his later years that he settled for more luxurious transport … the tuk-tuk.
Trink had no time for computer terminals and heroically continued to write all his columns on the typewriter. For many years he was the proud possessor of the Post editorial department's only functioning typewriter, an elderly Olympia. A splendid specimen it was too, with far more character than all those fancy terminals which took over. Alas, the Olympia eventually expired and was replaced by a more youthful Smith Corona. He typed very slowly and on reading Trink's articles you could almost feel every tap and "ding".
I recall showing a journalist from The New York Times around the office when we were decades into the computer age. He suddenly stopped and exclaimed with some incredulity, "Is that a typewriter I can hear?" a sound he hadn't experienced for years. I guided him to the source of the magical sound and it was with some disbelief he watched Trink courageously tapping away.
Trink was fortunate in having a lovely, caring Thai wife, Aree, who he loved dearly. A Red Cross volunteer, she is 86 now and at the cremation she confirmed she had been married to Bernard for 55 years. They first met in Japan before he came to Thailand. What a loss it must be for her. Trink was a unique character as was his style of writing. There were plenty who disliked his columns, but paradoxically his most vocal critics devoured every word he wrote. Trink was from a different era in which political correctness had yet to make its presence felt. There will never be a column quite like Nite Owl. 'Nuff said.
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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