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Archive for the ‘TALES FROM THE LITTLE MASSEUSE’ Category

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It has been a while since I updated the status of the several soaps I watch while eating dinner in my apartment.

One of my favorites ended a few weeks ago. It concerned a young man who wore a cowboy hat and covered his face with a scarf when he would be up and about beating up other people for some reason. His nemesis was also a young man who could pass for the masked man’s twin. They would periodically battle because each thought the other was the bad guy. After many weeks of this, the real bad guy turned out to be the guy with the mustache who not only had a gang but had magic powers as well. Mustache could defeat each of the young men alone. So the two young men joined forces for the ultimate showdown with him.

Now unlike US melodrama where such confrontations are resolved in a blaze of gunfire, explosions, and car chases, the low-budget Thai soaps are limited to climatic battles with hands, feet, at times swords and very bad special effects. After two full episodes where the young men are fairly well trashed by the mustache, they manage to combine their much weaker magic powers and destroy the source of the mustache’s magic powers and thoroughly beat him up. They were unable to kill him, however, so they staked him out in the middle of a field so that the vultures could eat him alive; which they did in living color while I was eating my dinner.

In the following final episode the masked man put his cowboy hat and scarf into a trunk and with the girl who had on and off rejected him, stood somewhere in the countryside with his counterpart and his counterpart’s often imperiled girl friend and they all smiled at each other for a long time.

 

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During my weekly massage, my masseuse likes to watch the Thai soap operas on television while she administers the various pains and pleasures of her therapy.

Now, as I am sure we all know, soaps are a window into the dark, twisted soul of a society, so it is with Thai soap operas.

To me, they all appear to tell the same stories and contain the same characters. There is the beautiful innocent heroine and the equally beautiful though not so innocent young woman. You can usually tell them apart by their eyebrows. The innocent heroine’s eyebrows are somewhat rounded, while her evil counterpart’a are straighter. They are accompanied by two equally attractive young men, one good and the other not so good. These four then are supported by a cast of actors and actresses of varying ages often playing family members of the protagonists. There are also one or two comic characters, usually played by ladyboys.

Although the stories are, generally, all the same, their location varies. I have seen Thai soaps set in the homes of the rich, and others in the homes of the poor living beside a klong somewhere. I have also seen them set in grocery stores, health clubs, and farms. Some occur in modern times others in old Siam and still others are set in times of magic or in some guerilla campaign somewhere.

Anyway, this particular day the masseuse was watching a soap in which the straight-browed beauty dressed all in black, carried a sword and had just done unspeakable things to a group of poor people locked in cages.

Viewing this through my western acclimated eyes that see everything as a conflict between good and evil, no matter the atrocities performed by either side, I commented, “She must be the bad girl.”

To which my masseuse responded, “Good or bad, it makes no difference. She is beautiful and everyone cares about her and what she does. If she were not so beautiful no one would give a damn at all about her or anything she does.”

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When the Little Masseuse cleans up my apt., she refuses to kill any insects she finds crawling around the floor because she is Buddhist. Instead she sweeps those she finds out on to the balcony. Where they go from there is anyones guess.

I have ants that parade up and down (or down and up – one never knows with ants) the walls along corners or in the grout lines. She says I should not harm them because as long as I do not leave food around or crumbs in my bed, they will not bother me.

Now and then I lie on my bed and watch them scurry along the corner of the room in their eternal rush to work. Their industry annoys me. I have made a deal with them in my mind. As long as they stay in line, I will honor LM’s ethical concerns and they will remain unharmed but should even one step out he will feel my fury. After all I am the all-powerful dictator of my room – at least sometimes.

Last night LM brought home fried grubs for me to eat as a treat. I refused. She said that at first she was hesitant to eat them but after trying then she found them so good they became habit-forming. I still refused.

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In Bangkok there is a world-famous hospital to which people from all over the world flock, especially from the Arab countries of the Middle East and from India. Although cosmetic surgery is one of the hospitals most lucrative services, is also does a thriving business in artificial insemination.

The hospital is located a few blocks from the health club in which the Little Masseuse works. Every now and then a gentleman would show up at the health club, plastic cup in hand, seeking assistance from the masseuses in depositing the precious fluid into the cups.

This would occasionally cause difficulties between the masseuses and the health club management. It seems that the deposit is required to presented back at the hospital within twenty minutes of its collection. This, at times caused the client to have to rush out with his valuable cargo well before the hour of massage he paid for was up, leading the management to accuse the workers of providing poor service or of outright dishonesty.

Anyway, one day a distinguished and portly Indian gentleman appeared at the health club and presented himself and his plastic cup to the Little Masseuse. In making idle conversation as she often does during a massage she asked him, “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I want to have children, two of them in fact, and this is the only way I can.”

“May I ask,” she inquired, “why have you not done this by yourself instead of coming here to the health club?”

He responded, “Because I want my children to be happy.”

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One morning I woke up in the midst of one of my periodic struggles with depression and despair wondering if I even was going to be able to get out of bed that day. I turned over and looked across the room to the blanket on the floor in the corner where the Little Masseuse slept. She was lying there staring up at the ceiling giggling. Annoyed that in the midst of my existential crisis anyone could find anything amusing, I growled, “What’s so funny?” Besides who giggles at 6:30 in the morning? In her fractured English she said, “In America you white and fat. In Thailand you black and small.” “And, you find this amusing,” I responded? She did not answer but got up, squatted by the small water heating appliance and began making that morning’s jolt of instant coffee. I returned back to the bed, laid down, stared up at my section of the ceiling and contemplated the impenetrable barrier of intercultural humor while she continued to chuckle in the background. I later got up and glanced in the mirror and noticed that indeed my belly, if not necessarily flat, seemed to protrude much less than when I was most recently in California. As for the blackness, I decided that she was referring to the current state of my soul. As I sat at the table drinking my coffee (three heaping tablespoons in a small cup), I wondered if there was not something about that morning that was auspicious, but alas, its meaning escaped me.

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One morning I woke up in the midst of one of my periodic struggles with depression and despair wondering if I even was going to be able to get out of bed that day. I turned over and looked across the room to the blanket on the floor in the corner where LM slept. She was lying there staring up at the ceiling giggling.

Annoyed that in the midst of my existential crisis anyone could find anything amusing, I growled, “What’s so funny?” Besides who giggles at 6:30 in the morning?

In her fractured English she said, “In America you white and fat. In Thailand you black and small.”

“And, you find this amusing,” I responded?

She did not answer but got up, squatted by the small water heating appliance and began making that morning’s jolt of instant coffee.

I turned back and stared up at my section of the ceiling and contemplated the impenetrable barrier of intercultural humor while she continued to chuckle in the background.

I later got up and glanced in the mirror and noticed that indeed my belly, if not necessarily flat, seemed to protrude much less than when I was most recently in California. As for the blackness, I decided that she was referring to the current state of my soul.

As I sat at the table drinking my coffee (three heaping tablespoons in a small cup), I wondered if there was not something about that morning that was auspicious, but alas, its meaning escaped me.

 

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Songkran

Songkran (Photo credit: Lim CK)

The dread Songkran holiday began today. Although originally a festival welcoming in the new year at which time a person gently poured fragrant water over the Buddha images to cleanse them and bring good luck, it has turned into a loathsome frenzy in which gangs roam the streets drenching each other and the unwary with buckets of water thrown from the backs of pick-up trucks, or expelled at great velocity from hoses and giant water guns. I hate it.

Today also was the Little Masseuse’s day off and she wanted to spend it “looking around” at the temples near the royal precinct. She often enjoys her days off just “looking around.” I frequently join her. Sometimes we go to the mall and just, you know, “look around.”

English: People in a tuk-tuk get targeted duri...

People in a tuk-tuk get targeted during the Songkran festival in Thailand

We set off and thought we already were rewarded with the good luck that was to be ours for our pious intent to visit the temples when the driver of the courtesy vehicle for the hotel next to our apartment agreed to drive us the half mile or so to Sukhumvit the main road where we would catch the bus to the Royal Palace area. Alas, the vehicle was a converted Tuk-tuk, those ubiquitous three-wheeled vehicles that patrol the streets of Thailand. It was open on all sides. We had gone no further that about 20 yards when the vehicle became stuck in traffic and was immediately surrounded by hoards of revelers who drenched us with water from just about every possible means of violently propelling a liquid.

Soaking wet, we got on the bus to take us to the temple compounds. As I sat and thought dark thoughts about the crazed revelers I could see filling the streets as we passed, a woman of about LM’s age approached her and began bragging about the two-legged mobile ATM that she had also snagged and asked LM if she did not also think he was handsome. LM insisted that I turn around and look at this handsome American and so I did and saw a tall emaciated bald individual slightly younger than I with sepulchral look and washed out blue eyes to whom I would not apply the word handsome. I thought it somewhat endearing that these two middle-aged Thai women at their age and appearance were so pleased with their ATM’s.

We arrived at the Palace area and stopped at a shrine in the middle of traffic round-about. LM purchased some orange carnation like flowers in a wreath and some joss sticks from a table at the side of the shrine. She laid the flowers at the base of the shrine, poured some water over them from a nearby bucket, lit the joss sticks and dipped her head in prayer. While she prayed, one of the attendants at the table that sold the flowers picked up her floral offering and returned them to the table for resale. I have always marveled at how miraculous it has been that throughout history religions could create flourishing economies out of nothing but belief in the unknown and unknowable.

We then walked over to one of the temple compounds themselves. On the way there I realized that I had left my wallet in the apartment and told LM that whatever we spend today it was going to have to be on her.

We walked on a bit further when suddenly the sole of LM’s shoe fell off so we had to attach it with rubber bands scrounged from those lying on the sidewalk that had been thrown away. They had previously secured plastic bags in which the sidewalk vendors sold various liquids. LM was obviously frustrated and annoyed and said to me what amounted to “why is it that my ATM has to be so often out of money?” Why indeed? I often ask that question myself.

Upon arriving at the Temple grounds LM purchased some more of the orange flower wreaths and disappeared into a temple building while I waited in front of another building in which a traditional Thai dance accompanied on traditional instruments was in progress. The dancers were dressed in elaborate brocade costumes complete with the tall spiked golden headdress. I guessed that they as well as the musicians were all in their 50′s or more but were proficient enough in bending back their fingers and toes and rolling their eyes to attract a good number of camera wielding tourists eager to preserve their efforts for all eternity in electronic pixels.

We then went to a group of large open sided tents where LM sat me on a park type bench, all wood slatted and wrought iron, and went off on a tour of the flower and sundry tables. I sat facing into the tent. I could see a the backs of a large number of kneeling Thais and through the other side of the tent I could see a construction site.

LM arrived back carrying what could only be described as a small-sized metal pizza dish on which were more of the orange flowers, some other floral bulbs whose name I do not know, some more joss sticks, a bit of brightly colored gauzy material, a few packets containing gold leaf, a bottle of what looked like clarified butter and a larger bottle of something that looked like olive oil. She asked me to hold the pizza plate while she took one of the wreaths and some joss

English: Picture of Chinese Joss Sticks - Joss...

sticks and joined the other Thais where she knelt before a low table on the other side of the tent and deposited the flowers, that were immediately gathered up by the attendants. She lit the joss sticks and placed them in receptacles full of sand. They too were quickly gathered up before they had a chance to burn all the way down. I was curious about what they planned to do with half-burned joss sticks but was too shy to ask.

LM returned and beckoned to me to follow her. We walked to another building. It was a small temple surrounded by a little plaza encircled by a polished stone balustrade. I was left to lean against the balustrade and guard the pizza dish while she took the rest of the flowers and disappeared into the building.

Looking around me I noticed, in addition to the hundreds of worshippers and piles of empty pizza dishes, a number of objects that looked quite phallic like. On several about waste high platforms, a four or five foot column rose from the center of each. On the top of every one was a representation of the ubiquitous floral bulb whose name I do not remember and refuse to look up in Wikipedia. Around these poles people were affixing the gold leaf, tying the diaphanous fabric or pouring the clarified butter on them.

When LM returned she joined in pasting her gold foil on several of these phallic like objects. She then wrapped one with her gauzy colored fabric and be

an to pour some of the clarified butter on to another one of them. She stopped, called me over and asked if I would pour it over the top since I was tall enough to reach. I gladly accepted the assignment and happily began pouring the contents of the bottle over the tip of the glans. Noticing my exuberance LM pulled me away warning me against pouring out the entire contents on just one.

Anyway, after emptying the contents of the bottle on to several of the columns, we abandoned the pizza dish and taking the remaining bottle of what I thought was olive oil went to a pavilion that had a number of lamps burning. Into each LM poured the contents of the bottle until it was empty.

Having completed our temple duties, we decided to return home. But first LM purchased some more flowers. There were not “flowers” as we think of them in the West, composed or brightly colored and delicate petals. They looked more like green patties of play-dough on a stick, embedded with acorns. The image of floral beauty inculcated into our consciousness by the romantic and mostly drugged poets of the 19th Century apparently was not carried over to Thailand. They are also edible, LM mentioned.

And so we set off for home. After a long bus ride, I took a short trip the final half mile to the apartment on the back of a motorbike where this seventy year plus body clutching the play-dough flowers in one hand and straw hat in the other prayed that a gang of Songkran thugs would not attack while I was in such a precarious position. The driver, either understanding my concern or sharing my dislike of the water wars, maneuvered through back alleys and deposited me at my apartment building safe and dry.

So to all of you, I wish you too, a happy Songkran and may the penis of your choice be covered on gold, tightly wrapped in gossamer and bathed in clarified butter.

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