Remembering keeping_it_riel – an obituaryDecember 3, 2014
Peter was the first real friend I ever made in Cambodia. I’m sure that those of you who only knew Peter’s internet persona probably think he was just a petty, temperamental bastard online. He was much more than that. He was also a petty, temperamental bastard in real life — but in a strangely charming and likable way.
Sometime around 2005, I started posting a lot on Khmer440, but I deliberately avoided meeting anyone from the website, because back then I thought that meeting dudes through the internet was totally gay. The only poster I was interested in meeting was the website’s admin, “keeping_it_riel.” He seemed witty and intelligent, and he had a gift for making up hilarious new terms to lightheartedly insult other posters. Also, he had started moving some of my forum posts to the Khmer440 front page, which sort of made me feel like a real writer. Peter/KiR was passionate about Khmer440’s front page content, and he always believed that those articles, not the discussion forums, were the “essence” of Khmer440.
Peter and I exchanged phone numbers, and then we exchanged texts for a few nights before I built up the nerve to meet him in person. For some reason, he proposed meeting at “Soho 2” bar, which was a weird upstairs bar located on the ass end of the Street 51 strip. The bar’s only redeeming quality was that the staff wore sexy white nurse’s uniforms.
I walked up the grungy staircase to Soho 2 and saw Peter sitting at the bar. He was the only customer in there, of course, because stairs are like Kryptonite to Street 51 sexpats. Peter smiled and introduced himself. He then told me that we had to leave immediately, because he had a bad history with the barmaid standing three feet away.
This would be a recurring theme of my future meetings with Peter. He would sometimes veto whatever bar I proposed meeting at, because he hated the owner, or because he was afraid of running into an expat there with whom he was squabbling. We’d often end up getting together at crappy “out of the way” bars with no other customers, like Nightlife or Barbados.
I remember that in 2006 he excitedly urged me to meet him at a new bar on St. 136, which he claimed was a well decorated and classy bar, with attractive, but “low key” hostesses. The name of that bar? Bogey and Bacall! Shortly after our outing there, Peter took a dislike to one of the bar’s co-owners, David Fletcher. He started digging up dirt on Fletcher’s past, and then exposed him on Khmer440 as a UK sex offender.
That was Peter. One day he might be praising you and your bar, the next day he’d be launching an aggressive online campaign to ruin your life. You never knew what might trigger that; Fletch probably served him a warm beer or something.
To be friends with Peter meant that, from time to time, he would stop talking to you for some incredibly silly reason. Staying on his good side took constant diplomacy. He was so easily offended that it bordered on comical.
If you walked into a crowded bar, and you didn’t see him and say hello, he might take that as a snub and stop speaking to you for months. Few can forget the infamous incident when someone dared open up Garage Bar for half a night over the Khmer New Year break without calling Peter. I think he boycotted Garage for a year over that one.
I once arranged a dinner with about six other Khmer440 posters, but I didn’t invite Peter, because he was seriously feuding with half of them at the time. When Peter later heard about the dinner, he sent me a one word private message, which read, “Cunt.”
Nonetheless, I always made the effort to get back in Peter’s good graces, because he was funny and interesting, and well, shit, I knew I didn’t want to be on his bad side. Involving Peter in group outings was a perilous proposition, so we usually met for a meal or drinks one-on-one. I always enjoyed the time we spent together. He was insightful about Cambodia, and he had a wickedly funny sense of humor and an unparalleled way with words.
Peter could speak knowledgeably about anything: music, football, politics, you name it. But truth be told, when we got together, we mostly gossiped about expats and Khmer440 posters. If you are a Khmer440 poster reading this, then Peter and I undoubtedly gossiped over a meal or beers about what a total fuck up you are. We talked about your substance abuse, the jobs you were fired from, and the bargirls we couldn’t believe you were dating.
I’m not a great conversationalist, and the first few times I saw Peter, whenever there was a lull in the conversation, I would simply say “What’s the deal with [insert username of Khmer440 poster here]?” Peter would giggle and tell me that poster’s most scandalous personal secrets, and we would both crack up laughing. We were very mature like that.
In recent years, Peter had mellowed. He married a lovely wife, he drank less, and he usually preferred getting lunch or dinner together rather than going to bars. Our topics of conversation even changed a bit. He’d always start by asking “How’s your love life?” I’d always respond, “Not good.” Then we’d talk about his master’s degree course, or how happy he was to be married, or about the house he and his wife were buying. But with those formalities out of the way, we would invariably revert to talking shit about expats and Khmer440 posters. We probably brought out the worst in each other that way.
Peter was a man of principles, even if his principles were sometimes misguided. When he was selling Khmer440, he said that he had a much higher bid from a rich young Khmer guy, but he wanted to sell the site to an expat so that Khmer440 would retain its expat flavor. He also had a short list of prospective expat buyers to whom he would never sell the site, probably because he thought they were “cock trumpets.”
Peter and I had our last lunch a month ago at the new Buffalo Sister location near Russian Market. It was a long lunch; the place was absolutely packed with white chicks, and it took ages to get our sandwiches. It was an enjoyable lunch though, they always were with Peter, and I wish I remembered more of what we talked about.
I do remember sharing our final laugh together, as we left Buffalo Sister and started walking down the street. Peter pointed across the road at a yellow, Thai-style tuk tuk. He told me that the large, bearded Westerner driving the tuk tuk was StroppyChops from the rival CEO forum. We both laughed about how fucking ridiculous he looks in that thing.
Peter and I said our goodbyes, and I hopped in a (totally different) tuk tuk to go back to Daun Penh. That was the last time I saw him.
Peter will be missed by his loving wife, his many friends, and maybe even by some of his “twatflannel” enemies. He was a colorful and hilarious fixture in the local expat scene for more than twelve years, and Phnom Penh and Khmer440 won’t be the same without him. May he rest in peace.