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Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Halloween came and went with Hayden dressed as “the Scream” and me handing out candy to whatever goblins and ghosts might ring the doorbell.
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While Hayden went out trick or treating, I manned the home candy dispensing duties alone. I was quite anxious, fearing that no one would come begging at the door. I could not face the humiliation of failing at the simple task of providing children something to rot their teeth and endanger their health. I kept jumping up and down from the sofa and running to the door to see if anyone was coming.

Finally, a shy tiny little blond girl dressed all in bandages showed up. Overcome with excitement and with a big nervous and an undoubtedly scary smile on my face, I held out to her the bowl of candy. She hesitatingly reached into the bowl and timidly plucked out one piece and dropped it into the bag she was carrying.

Interpreting her hesitation as a rejection of my sincere efforts to corrupt the innocent, I shouted “no,” stepped suddenly toward her and in one quick move dumped the entire contents of the bowl into her still open candy bag.

With a surprised squeak and eyes so wide I feared they would fall out of her head and follow the candy into the now almost full bag, she turned and ran off into the darkness.

I spent the remainder of the evening wondering if I was going to receive a visit from the police and questioning whether Halloween candy maven was a suitable career choice for me.

In the days following the trauma of Halloween, I returned to my role as a nanny and in my spare time threw myself into my newest career as URB.im’s Bangkok Bureau Chief. That impressive title requires me to write four posts a month about those who believe they are saving the world by interfering in the lives of the poor and destitute of Thailand.

My pay would be barely adequate to keep a homeless Bangkok street beggar in two bowls of rice and broth a day. It was suggested that, as soon as possible, I find someone who otherwise is unemployed to take over the job, preferably a young local woman living at home with her parents since that was the usual situation of the other Bureau Chiefs. My new employers seemed dubious about entrusting their important work to some overweight broken down old attorney ex-pat who in his dotage would likely slip into some hole in the sidewalk and disappear into the city’s sewer system leaving them without their man in Bangkok.

My first assignment is to write about organizations providing parks for squatters living in tar paper shacks perched on stilts over the same sewers it was expected that I would fall into.

On Saturday I drove to Cameron Park for Hayden’s first Taekwondo tournament. I believe it is one of the functions of the elderly to assume periodically the role of the chauffeur of children and relieve parents of that obligation. God knows, it is not that we (the elderly), have so much else of interest to do that we cannot spare the time.

I was somewhat anxious on the drive. This was my first time driving my charge to a tournament. I worried I would get lost and he would be disqualified (I did, but he did not).

Taekwondo is one of those Asian so-called martial arts that makes one less competent in a street fight than if you knew nothing about it. At least if one were ignorant, he would not believe throwing long distance bombs would help him against a stronger opponent but instead would grapple with him in hope that he could pin down his opponent’s arms before having his lights punched out. The martial art seems to be a cross between an athletic sport and dance; the quick controlled explosiveness of most athletic endeavors coupled with the grace and formalism of dance.

Hayden whose athleticism and technique leaves a lot to be desired, surprised me with his aggressiveness, chasing one of his opponents all over the gym to win 5-0. After the bout, the other boy dropped to the ground and started to cry. H. went over to him and told him he should not feel sad because he, Hayden, had a secret. He explained that his Pookie (that’s me) told him that as soon as the referee signaled the bout to begin he should rush his opponent and hit him as hard as he can. “Now,” that you know the secret,” Hayden continued, “I am sure you’ll win your next bout.”

Flushed with excitement and with H clutching his medal we drove back down the hill, ate a pizza lunch and went to the movies to watch Wreck-it Ralph attempt to redeem his life in 3D animation.
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One afternoon, we arrived home to find our fully decorated Christmas tree lying on its side amidst a splatter of broken ornaments and spruce needles. Dick the engineer hypothesized that the tree, despite out heroic endeavor three days ago to balance it properly, was, in fact, unbalanced and it took the tree this long to realize it. So, we lifted up the tree, rebalanced it, placed additional weights on the bottom, redecorated it with the remaining unbroken ornaments and hoped for the best.

On Saturday, a day of horrendous rain and fog, HRM happily announced he was going out to play in the rain. Noticing one of the eyelets in his boots was detached he decided to reattach it with superglue before flitting about in the rain. As misadventure would have it, rather than attaching the eyelet to the boot he managed to glue both his own eyes shut. HRM, Dick and I, then spent the next eight hours in the emergency rooms of two separate hospitals where the doctors worked to unstick his eyelids. One of the doctors, who was quite amused by it all, took me aside and asked, “We see this a lot, where children [usually in the 3 to 6-year range] glue one eye shut with super glue, but we have never seen anyone who managed to glue both eyes shut. How did he do this?”

“HRM,” I replied, “is a very special child.”

WWE blew in from SE Asia in concern for the welfare of her progeny and then promptly refused to accompany him to the ophthalmologist claiming she had more important things to do.

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I have not written to you all in a while because of the bane and obsession of the ex-pat community everywhere, visas. I entered Thailand on a 30-day tourist visa intending to convert it to a retirement visa (one year renewable) during those thirty days, the most common method of obtaining the RV. Unfortunately, I did not know that the change of visas requires 21 days. I applied with only 19 days left on my original tourist visa and therefore they could not process it in Chiang Mai. Last weekend, I flew to Bangkok because I was told that the 21-day rule did not apply there. All I got for my efforts was annoyed.

So now, I have to leave the country briefly to renew my 30-day visa. Normally that would not be much of an issue. For years ex-pats on a tourist visa would take the bus to one of the borders, cross it and immediately return with an additional 30-day visa.

Unfortunately for me, a few years ago in the fervor of anti-immigration patriotism that rivaled the frenzy of the GOP on the subject, the Thais changed their immigration laws so that a land border crossing gets you only 15 more days while flying in and out remains as it was. I will leave it to you to contemplate the rational, effectiveness and consequences of the change.

Anyway, I am now making plans to fly to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia for a few days to renew the visa. Stay tuned.

I missed my jungle trip as a result of this travail. Hayden went with some friends anyway. Today’s photo shows him with a tiger cub.

Joe…

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FROM MY JOURNAL:

January 29 2010.

11am
I am on the Air Nok 10:45 flight to Don Muang airport BKK. I am going to see if Tai can arrange for my visa. I called this morning. She still has not gotten the information regarding the visa from her brother. This is the third day that it was supposed to be coming. That and the lack of response to my call to her this morning leads me to suspect that something else is going on. Maybe Natalie is right she is married to a policeman. After all, I have not been allowed to visit her apartment and she did not show up to the hotel as she promised the last time I was in BKK claiming the baby was sick and her phone was not working.

Last night I sat on the patio musing about how big a fool I have been with Natalie (and most women), believing what they say with my arrogant insecurities. I am doing the same with Tai as I did with her. Fuck, I am still an adolescent.

Spoke with Natalie. She accused me of going to BKK only to see the “bitch”. She prohibited me from visiting AVA because she did not want any “trouble” from her. I assured her I was coming to BKK only to resolve my visa problems and that if I cannot then I will have to go to Kuala Lumpur to renew my 30-day tourist visa. Am I any better than them? No, just not as good at it.

Cordt and Nikki are supposed to take Hayden to the Tiger Park and the other animal attractions outside of Chiang Mai. Cordt is to pick up Nikki at our house at 11 AM. As of 10:50 Nikki was still in the supermarket. Will Cordt wait for his return? Stay tuned.

Spoke with Anthony this morning. He told me Hiromi sold the dining room set to a used furniture dealer for only $300. Ann has the paintings and they will continue to try to sell them. They have almost paid for the car registration and insurance.

10:23 PM
I checked into the Swan Hotel near the river and across the street from the Haroon Mosque, near the Assumption School and church and the Oriental Hotel. The manager’s body oder made me gag. I could not help but think that at times I must smell like that. It embarrassed me.

Waited over an hour for Tai. Went to MacDonald’s in Robinson’s. Ordered a Big Mac meal. Tai said she was not hungry. She had put on about 20 pounds as a result of the pregnancy. On her, it looked good. The conversation at lunch was strained and mostly concerned Natalie.

I returned to my hotel and she went to check on the baby. I was becoming furious because she had not responded to me with any affection. What did I expect? I had gone to Chiang Mai for Hayden and had put her and her child off.

I took a shower and then spent about a half an hour trying to kill a mosquito buzzing around the room with no success. Slept for about an hour and a half, through many bites from the damned insect. Woke up and saw him lying on the bed enormously engorged with my blood and unable to take flight. I swatted him and my blood splattered on the sheet.

Waited for Tai then went to the lobby and called her on my cell phone. She said her uncle would not return until Monday and I would not learn about my chance of obtaining the Marriage Visa. I was greatly annoyed by this since she had almost a week to find out and I had traveled all the way to BKK to hopefully process it.

She came to the hotel and we left for dinner. She was wearing the same things she had worn earlier, jeans and a T-shirt with writing on it most of which I could not make out because it was printed in faded light blue.

While waiting for a taxi a European woman was almost struck by a taxi as she ran across the street.

We went to the Good View Restaurant on the river and sat at an outside table located at the corner of the balcony in such a way that it felt as though we were sitting on the prow of a large ship.

We ordered. Mine was prawns stir-fried in egg. I did not like the texture of the eggs and their color which was orange. I drank watermelon juice and switched to coke. Again we spoke mostly of Natalie and the conversation got so stilted that we stopped talking and stared over each other’s shoulder. I began to feel that the relationship was over.

In the cab, as we rode back to the hotel, I resolved to tell her that the relationship was over and blame my self for it. I realized that I was feeling sorry for myself and only trying to generate an emotional commitment from her as would any other adolescent.

When we got to the hotel I did not speak. She led me back to my room. After some desultory conversation, she lay on the bed and said that she had to go pick up the baby since she had left him with a friend. I was furious believing that she had a lover back at her apartment. I tried to say what I had thought of in the car. I did not get far.  We embraced. She felt good. The extra weight made her both soft and firm. My dick hardened. I began to undress her. She said that the doctor told her she could not have sex until he examined her incision. Suspicion again. She told me to shower and said she will go and pick up the baby and return tomorrow. She promised to spend the night with me then since her auntie would return and be available to take care of the infant. I showed her my boner sticking up in my pants. She grabbed hold of it. It felt electric. We kissed and hugged some more and she got up from the bed and came around to my side and told me to undress for the shower so that she can leave. I did and my boner was as hard as it ever gets now. She asked for 1000 baht to pay the sitter. I gave her two. She stood there and leaned down and kissed me. Then she played with my cock. I wanted to cum. This went on until she pulled away saying if she stayed any longer she would not be able to leave. I got up and held her thinking if I go to Ke Sahn for a massage tomorrow would I still be able to get it up after the orgasm the Kesorn would elicit from me. She left and I took my shower and am now writing this.

3:00 AM
Cannot sleep, mosquitos. Lowered Temp. to 18C on theory mosquitoes do not like cold. Am lying in bed typing this waiting for the room to chill eating a KitKat and drinking water

January 30, 2010

12:30 PM (Saturday)
Woke up showered, dressed and called Tai. Spoke for moments and phone went out called back many times.No answers. Suspected she was with a boyfriend.

Called Anthony, Hiromi gave most of my things away to charity.

Called Nikki,. No answer.

Went to Starbucks. Ordered caffe latte and croissant. Tried to connect with internet. Could not because it required joining their system and then resisted all my attempts to do so.

Walked to Skytrain. Took it to NANA. Went back way to Ambassador and up to health club. Asked for Kesorn. Told she would not be in until 1PM. Left walked to Asia Books on Sukhumvit near Asoke. Saw new Hewson. Looked for a bird identification handbook. Could not find one. Decided not to buy. Left.

Natalie called. Did not answer.

Tai called. Answered. She explained phone was out of order. Agreed to meet up later.

Called Nikki. He found a barber and other shops across from the school. He also found out from maid info on electric bills and HOA fees. Said I could not access the internet for research on Laos and Cambodia visa requirements. He said he would do so. Asked me to say hello to Ke Sahn for him. Agreed to pick me up at the airport tomorrow morning. Returned to Ambassador. Drank a Pepsi float. Wrote this and went upstairs to the health club.

4pm.
Waited for Kesorn. She acted very excited to see me. She was still in her street clothes. She grabbed me by the hand and dragged me to the massage room. Hugged and kissed me. She started the shower for me and helped me into the tub and left. I showered, dried off and laid down in the massage table to wait for her to return. She came back with her massage oils and uniform. She stripped off her clothes and got into the tub to shower. Finished. Stepped out. Put on only her bra and tights. “No one will see”, she said. She then leaned over me and kissed me long and hard. Then I turned over and she began with her deft strokes on my back working slowly down my back to my buttocks where she concentrated for quite a while first with feather-like strokes of my asshole followed by stronger strokes. Then my dick and balls were oiled and stroked. Sometimes both my asshole and dick were worked at the same time. I began to moan and I felt the exquisite rising of my cum. This went on for a while and then she went on with the massage of my legs and feet. I turned over. She oiled my dick and began working on it. She bent over and began sucking on it as I moaned with the rising implacable orgasm. Again and again, I came. Then it was over and she washed me off and dried me and finished the massage as I drifted in and out of sleep. After, I invited her to Chiang Mai where she had been before. She gave me her number and said she would take the train. I paid and left.

Got on the Skytrain and spoke with Nikki on the cell. He said Natalie had called him asking if I were back yet. He said I was still working on my visa. I guess so.

Tai called. said she had not found a baby sitter, but hoped she could join me for dinner.

Returned to hotel. Ate Pad Thai and drank a watermelon juice. Went to my room then sat outside, lit up my cigar, watched the overweight tourists mostly women sunning themselves by the pool and wrote this.

9:30 PM
Just returned from dinner with Tai and some of her family. She called me before dinner, said, “come down to the lobby my uncle and brother are going to dinner with us”. I thought they were preparing to execute me for marrying and not supporting Tai. I probably thought this because they are Muslim and my conscience was not clear.

Instead, I was met with the Auntie with Tai’s baby, Tai’s sister-in-law with her two-year-old, Tai’s female cousin who works in the Chinese Embassy or some such. Went to a fish place, ate, drank coke and had a chocolate sundae. While ordering I was over-conscious of their being Muslim and did not order beer or pork. The men arrived later. I slipped Tai 2000 baht to pay for dinner (there were seven adults and two children and a baby). The bill came to about $8 per adult.

Decided to prepare budget for Tai.

I am now back in hotel waiting for her.

January 31 2010.

Sunday 8AM
She did not show up nor call. Once again I am the fool. When I was a child when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually answered, “a bum and a clown”. It looks like I will get my wish. When the Chiang Mai house is sold I will be a bum and I have more and more become Emmet Kelly. I am now at the airport waiting for the plane that will return me to..what?

February 2 2010

Tuesday 5PM
Well, she called eventually that day. Said she fell asleep with the baby and woke up at two in the morning and did not want to wake me up by calling. Do you believe it?

Anyway got back to CM, took a nap and saw Nikki off to the airport.

On Monday morning Hayden wanted to take his bicycle to school. After a few blocks, he asked me to bring the bike home with me after getting to school. Told him could not. He then wanted to bring the bike back to the house we did and drove to school. Got a shave, 50 baht. Gave 50 baht tip.

Tried to buy tickets to KL. Debt card not accepted.

Used Skype to talk with Nikki.

This morning Hayden decided he did not want to shower and made the maid and I chase him around the yard laughing. Caught him, carried him up the stairs to BR

After shower and dress, I drove to school.

I drove to US consulate. Broke my left side mirror as I passed too close to someone on a motor bike going the other way. Do not know if I struck him or he struck me with his hand for getting too close.

Parked across the river from Consulate, talked, experienced security entered the inner sanctum, got my notarized document and fled.

Went to Central, parked waited in Starbucks for the mall to open, went to ATM, denied. Drove home in a panic. Called BOW straitened things out. Natalie called said she was coming up while I went to KL. Thought about this called Tom arranged for additional 7 days on current visa. Picked up Hayden, drove to Big C, got 5000 baht from ATM, ate donuts. Returned home called Natalie, said I was not going to KL until next week. Suggested she did not need to come to CM. She agreed.

Called Tai told her to try again to get visa in BKK.

COMMENTS:

From Irwin:

joe – it seems more than somewhat ironic that a person such as you who spent years dealing with, manipulating and often overcoming stringent government bureacracy and regulations to find yourself having to sojourn for 1/2 week in parasitic filled malaysia due to a visa screw up – not a place i would want to visit right now; come to think of it i don’t visit anywhere at the moment, i am in my isolation period having cancelled all my luncheon appointments with relatives (one) and former collegue political operatives (three) and worrying about not cancelling a date previously planned for next week with my younger son (one) to attend mexican wrestling (“sexo y violencia”) at the mayan theatre in downtown los angeles. speaking of “younger son”, hayden appears to be a good looking young chap obviously resembling the good looks of his mother and probably doesn’t even care for scampi.. please take extra precaution while in kuala lumpur remembering not to speak hebrew or to stare in people’s eyes, particularly those wearing turbans and the like.

although i am in isolation, i still take my daily walk. on it i pass two churches. today’s photo is the more curious of the two. the building does not have any windows. i’m not sure if it’s to keep their god in or out.

take care!

Joe’s response:
Irwin, you may be remembering me from the days before my psychiatrist put me on Prozac. Since then I have been happy but worthless in any professional or personal endeavor that requires any amount of aggressiveness or cynicism. The choice was to retire or quit Prozac. I tried going cold turkey and found out what that means.
ciao

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For the past week, I have been forced to forgo my normal writing schedule (emails, novels, journals) and succumb to pressure to complete a number of children stories by next week when Hayden returns from Bangkok.

I got started on this because I ran out of children’s books to read to Hayden at bedtime. When my daughter Jessica was a child, often before bedtime I would make up stories to tell her. Unfortunately, long before the story was finished, much to her dismay and amusement. I would fall asleep. In order to avoid inflicting that trauma on another child, I decided to write down the stories so that we can read them together. I chose to use Google Images to illustrate the stories with cartoons and photographs to add interest. Once it got out that I was doing this I began to receive demands and deadlines to produce new stories, not from Hayden or other children who could care less, but from their parents. I am under the gun to finish one of the stories by Thursday of this week for parental review.

One group of stories are a series of detective tales staring Hayden and his stuffed animal friends “Snaky the Snake”, “Buddy the Bear”, “Whitey the White Tiger” and other creatures of his bedroom menagerie. Also appearing in the stories are some of the creatures living in the gardens and empty lots around the house. They include “Feral Kitty (one of the feral cat pack that lives in the lot next door), “Boo-blue bird”, “Francis the Fraidy Frog”, “Clarence the Cross-eyed” the king of the cobra’s living in the lot next door (yes, we have cobras as neighbors in the lot that I have dubbed the “Wild-lands) and in Bangkok “Ratty the Great, King of the Rats, the 10347th of his Line” and others. The humans in the story include me “Pookie the Old”, Nikki the Pilot” and “Pi Newan.” Pi Newan is the name of the maid and is usually the heroine of the adventures while Nikki and Pookie prove to be pompous and mostly useless. In addition to the Prologue, the first three tales are, “The Case of the Missing Breakfast”, “The case of the Monster of the Wild-lands” and the Case of Close Encounters of the Rat Kind”. The latter I have to finish by Thursday or suffer the consequences.

Tomorrow is Hayden’s 5th birthday. Today’s photograph is of the small party we held before he left for Bangkok.

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I miss Thailand. Although it is not what it used to be and in a sad state of decline, it still has a certain seedy electric excitement much like the Las Vegas Strip. Now don’t get me wrong, El Dorado Hills is quite nice. Some magazine just ranked it the seventh best place in America to raise a family. But let’s face it, who wants to spend all their time someplace certified for family values. That’s like watching only G rated movies.

For example, in Bangkok each morning during the mile or so walk from my apartment to the health club I am almost guaranteed to see or experience the following: at least three offers of sexual congress, one of which will be from someone of uncertain gender; a fight between two ladies of the night complete with tearing off of clothes and pulling of hair; one person lying on the sidewalk in a coma or dead; a dozen or so rats scurrying away from my feet as I walk along; packs of soi dogs so mangy, flea ridden and rabid that should they ever chance upon a PETA meeting the participants would shoot them on sight; one or more farangs (Westerners), partly clothed and drunk, vomiting into the gutter; a rupture in the sidewalk every five feet or so that should I step on it wrong I would break an ankle or pitch into a sewer that runs underneath; several sidewalk stands purveying the latest in vibrator technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs in male virility enhancement; other stands selling every possible mechanism for killing another human being that does not require gunpowder or dynamite; every sort of pirated good you can conceive of; food stands and sidewalk cafe’s selling almost every kind or food you would or would not want to eat; a hundred or so bars and go-go places including one specializing it BJ’s and another in anal sex; an equal number of massage parlors; a bazillion cars all stopped solid in the daily mother of all traffic jams and another bazillion motor bikes many carrying more than two passengers. Oh yeah, a lot of noise and air so thick with pollutants that it takes at least 10 minutes off your life for each breath you take. Now and then there is a political demonstration of some sort with the participants wearing either red or yellow shirts bitching about something I don’t understand. Police and soldiers heavily armed with about every weapon imaginable lounging around the side streets in great numbers as I pass by. All this backed by a huge unending series of monoliths containing hotels, office buildings and high-priced condominiums impassively reflecting in their mirrored sides the turmoil on the streets below.

In El Dorado Hills about the only things that change are the clouds.

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I arrived in Bangkok, the city of the “Sidewalks of Death.” Should one stroll about the town one might: find the sidewalk beneath of him suddenly open up, plunging him into the fetid miasmatic water below and carrying him off to the equally pestilential waters of some ancient canal, there to drown — trip on a crack in the pavement sending him tumbling into the street where he is maimed or killed by hoards of crazed bikers trying to beat the traffic light — be attacked by rabid soi dogs and sewer rats who gnaw off his ankles — be abducted by an evil tuk-tuk driver and disappear forever — be set upon by a group of manic ladyboys pouring out of an alley who either ravish his body or beat him senseless and steal his money. I love this city.

 

The flight from Rome to Bangkok was uneventful except during the leg from Kuwait to Bangkok where the young man sitting next to me, who appeared to be a religious of some sort, insisted that I listen to a recording of incessant chanting by some Iman or something. That was OK because there is nothing I prefer to sleep through than chanting.

 

Bangkok is hot (but not as hot as is parts of California right now). It rains every afternoon and evening— often big grumbling thunder showers. So, I go about whatever I go about these days in the mornings and lie in my bed and stare at the ceiling or tap away at my computer in the afternoon and evenings.

 

Thailand is billed by the Thai Visitors Bureau as the “Land of Smiles.” Thais have at least 15 types of smile, none of which means I’m pleased to see you — except for of shopkeepers, grifters and bar girls who unfortunately see you only as an ATM machine.

 

In the morning, as I walk from my apartment to the health club, I check to see which of the denizens of the street I have come to recognize over the years are missing since the last time I visited. The massive homeless young man often seen sprawled in a stupor on the sidewalks of Soi Nana or wandering in a daze down the street seems to be gone. The one-legged “king of the beggars” as I named him because of his handsome features, meticulous trimmed hair and beard who I now and then see entering for lunch some of the better restaurants on Soi 11, has resumed his post on the sunny corner of Sukhumvit and Soi 5.

 

My part of Bangkok continues to change and disappear. The old buildings with the cheap restaurants, go-go bars, and nightclubs get torn down, replaced with gleaming silver towers boasting that they contain the greatest award winning condominiums, or offices, or the finest of the three or four other luxury hotels with the same name in the city. The people who lived, worked or played there move out and new people move in — the ongoing migration of a vibrant urban area. The extent of pain and dislocation caused by it is usually a function of how rapidly it occurs.

 

One of Thailand’s major preoccupations is with massage. It is ingrained in the religious and cultural subconscious of the country. The Thais even developed their own brand of massage that is taught in the most prestigious temples throughout the nation. It consists of vigorous application of the hands, elbows, forearms, and feet by the masseuse to various points on the customer’s body accompanied by periodic sudden stretching or wrenching of his joints. Although a Thai massage can make you feel great after it is over, many people find the process too painful. As a result foreigners often, after a brief flirtation with “the real thing,” eventually turn to more traditional massage with its vigorous rubbing of the body with oil, with or without a happy ending. Many “legitimate” massage establishments do not provide happy endings (it is, in fact, illegal).

 

Speaking of legitimate massage in Bangkok, I would like to make a pitch to those who may visit the city to try Silk Spa on Sukhumvit Soi 13. It is rated by several travel magazines as one of the best massage parlors in Bangkok. My old friends, Gary and Pui, own the place. Gary is Canadian. He plays ice hockey in the Thai ice hockey league. The Spa is located on Soi 13 about 50 yards off Sukhumvit. Inside, it is a little gem of a place. Gary spends many days designing and building the interior. The evidence of his craftsmanship is everywhere, from the handsome gray slate floor and attractively painted walls of the massage rooms to the marvelous two person sauna with its shining blond wood. I go there three or four times a week after I finish my mornings at the health club.
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Although I like Bangkok a lot, there is one thing I despise. That is when I am riding the bus or the Skytrain and hanging onto the strap because it is crowded and I see someone, who I am convinced is older and more decrepit than I, get up out of his or her seat and offer it to me. I usually reject the offer somewhat coldly, unless of course, I am very tired. Then, I take the seat and sit there mortified (a word not often used anymore) on the one hand and relieved on the other. It is these internal conflicts that…Hmm, I think I’ve gone on about this long enough.

 

I spent a couple of delightful hours with my friend the Old Sailor. He is a kind man who has lived a fascinating life as a sailor, commercial deep sea diver, treasure hunter, and the like. He lived most of his life on or by the sea in South Florida (Key West), the Virgin Islands, Easter Island and French Polynesia (Bora Bora). He now resides in a second rate hotel in Bangkok. The walls of his room are covered with photographs organized by year. When I asked him about that, he said that he was beginning to have trouble remembering things. He had, he went on, an interesting life and he did not want to forget any of it before the inevitable dimming of the light.

 

One day, at a nearby Italian restaurant, in the course of our rambling conversation, he began a sentence with the words, “I sailed the Windward Passage three times.” It seemed to be an interesting story was in the offing and I was right.

 

One time, he either worked for or partnered with the Captain of a boat docked somewhere in South Florida. The Captain was having a dispute with someone over money or ownership or something like that. So, in the middle of the night, he and the Captain took the boat, leaving with no money between them and almost no gas to power the engines. So, they broke into a nearby refueling dock during the dark of night, refueled, and set off for wherever. Needing money, they stopped in the Virgin Islands and found a gig towing a large sailboat through the Windward Passage south of Cuba to Jamaica.

 

Somewhere near Cuba, a storm came upon them. At that most inopportune moment, their engine decided to quit and the boat slowed down. Unfortunately, the large sailboat did not and it smashed into their stern grabbing onto it like a shark grabbing onto a seal. Even more, unfortunately, the bowsprit of sailboat broke off and began thrashing back and forth across the deck making it impossible for the two adventures to get to it and untangle the lines and separate the boats. So, they spent the night hoping they would live to see the sunrise. The tale stopped there. Obviously, at least the Old Sailor survived. I do not know what became of the boats or the Captain or whether whatever he was fleeing from eventually caught up to him. I see in this a potential Hemingwayesque novella, “Captains Not So Very Courageous.”

 

A few years ago, some travel magazine commissioned a poll in which people from many countries of the world were asked if they thought it was ok to cheat foreigners out of their money. The citizens of no country responded with acceptance of such callous amoral behavior anywhere near 50% except for the Thais, over 80% of whom could see no problem in that conduct.

 

On Wednesday, I had lunch with the Gemologist. He is also a well-known ethnologist (The Vanishing Tribes of Burma), artist (sculpture and painting), adventurer, writer, businessman, raconteur, and man about town. I have written about him before. He has recently returned from several trips into the hill country of Burma where he photographed one of the hill tribes in their traditional dress and re-established his trading connections with the Gurkha miners and gem merchants working there. He has resumed trading high-value rubies and sapphires and showed me photographs of several beautiful examples (in the one million dollars and up each range).
IMG_1181
A Million Dollar Flawless Sapphire Recently Sold

 

It is always a pleasure spending an afternoon with him. We spoke of many things, mostly our disappointment with the political situation in America and the rigors of getting old.
IMG_2952

 

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I arrived in Bangkok, the city of the “Sidewalks of Death.” Should one stroll about the town one might: find the sidewalk beneath of him suddenly open up, plunging him into the fetid miasmatic water below and carrying him off to the equally pestilential waters of some ancient canal, there to drown — trip on a crack in the pavement sending him tumbling into the street where he is maimed or killed by hoards of crazed bikers trying to beat the traffic light — be attacked by rabid soi dogs and sewer rats who gnaw off his ankles — be abducted by an evil tuk-tuk driver and disappear forever — be set upon by a group of manic ladyboys pouring out of an alley who either ravish his body or beat him senseless and steal his money. I love this city.

 

The flight from Rome to Bangkok was uneventful except during the leg from Kuwait to Bangkok where the young man sitting next to me, who appeared to be a religious of some sort, insisted that I listen to a recording of incessant chanting by some Iman or something. That was OK because there is nothing I prefer to sleep through than chanting.

 

Bangkok is hot (but not as hot as is parts of California right now). It rains every afternoon and evening— often big grumbling thunder showers. So, I go about whatever I go about these days in the mornings and lie in my bed and stare at the ceiling or tap away at my computer in the afternoon and evenings.

 

Thailand is billed by the Thai Visitors Bureau as the “Land of Smiles.” Thais have at least 15 types of smile, none of which means I’m pleased to see you — except for of shopkeepers, grifters and bar girls who unfortunately see you only as an ATM machine.

 

In the morning, as I walk from my apartment to the health club, I check to see which of the denizens of the street I have come to recognize over the years are missing since the last time I visited. The massive homeless young man often seen sprawled in a stupor on the sidewalks of Soi Nana or wandering in a daze down the street seems to be gone. The one-legged “king of the beggars” as I named him because of his handsome features, meticulous trimmed hair and beard who I now and then see entering for lunch some of the better restaurants on Soi 11, has resumed his post on the sunny corner of Sukhumvit and Soi 5.

 

My part of Bangkok continues to change and disappear. The old buildings with the cheap restaurants, go-go bars, and nightclubs get torn down, replaced with gleaming silver towers boasting that they contain the greatest award winning condominiums, or offices, or the finest of the three or four other luxury hotels with the same name in the city. The people who lived, worked, or played there move out and new people move in — the ongoing migration of a vibrant urban area. The extent of pain and dislocation caused by it is usually a function of how rapidly it occurs.

 

One of Thailand’s major preoccupations is with massage. It is ingrained in the religious and cultural subconscious of the country. The Thais even developed their own brand of massage that is taught in the most prestigious temples throughout the nation. It consists of vigorous application of the hands, elbows, forearms, and feet by the masseuse to various points on the customer’s body accompanied by periodic sudden stretching or wrenching of his joints. Although a Thai massage can make you feel great after it is over, many people find the process too painful. As a result foreigners often, after a brief flirtation with “the real thing,” eventually turn to more traditional massage with its vigorous rubbing of the body with oil, with or without a happy ending. Many “legitimate” massage establishments do not provide happy endings (it is, in fact, illegal).

 

Speaking of legitimate massage in Bangkok, I would like to make a pitch to those who may visit the city to try Silk Spa on Sukhumvit Soi 13. It is rated by several travel magazines as one of the best massage parlors in Bangkok. My old friends, Gary and Pui, own the place. Gary is Canadian. He plays ice hockey in the Thai ice hockey league. The Spa is located on Soi 13 about 50 yards off Sukhumvit. Inside, it is a little gem of a place. Gary spends many days designing and building the interior. The evidence of his craftsmanship is everywhere, from the handsome gray slate floor and attractively painted walls of the massage rooms to the marvelous two person sauna with its shining blond wood. I go there three or four times a week after I finish my mornings at the health club.
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Although I like Bangkok a lot, there is one thing I despise. That is when I am riding the bus or the Skytrain and hanging onto the strap because it is crowded and I see someone, who I am convinced is older and more decrepit than I, get up out of his or her seat and offer it to me. I usually reject the offer somewhat coldly, unless of course, I am very tired. Then, I take the seat and sit there mortified (a word not often used anymore) on the one hand and relieved on the other. It is these internal conflicts that…Hmm, I think I’ve gone on about this long enough.

 

I spent a couple of delightful hours with my friend the Old Sailor. He is a kind man who has lived a fascinating life as a sailor, commercial deep sea diver, treasure hunter, and the like. He lived most of his life on or by the sea in South Florida (Key West), the Virgin Islands, Easter Island and French Polynesia (Bora Bora). He now resides in a second rate hotel in Bangkok. The walls of his room are covered with photographs organized by year. When I asked him about that, he said that he was beginning to have trouble remembering things. He had, he went on, an interesting life and he did not want to forget any of it before the inevitable dimming of the light.

 

One day, at a nearby Italian restaurant, in the course of our rambling conversation, he began a sentence with the words, “I sailed the Windward Passage three times.” It seemed to be an interesting story was in the offing and I was right.

 

One time, he either worked for or partnered with the Captain of a boat docked somewhere in South Florida. The Captain was having a dispute with someone over money or ownership or something like that. So, in the middle of the night, he and the Captain took the boat, leaving with no money between them and almost no gas to power the engines. So, they broke into a nearby refueling dock during the dark of night, refueled, and set off for wherever. Needing money, they stopped in the Virgin Islands and found a gig towing a large sailboat through the Windward Passage south of Cuba to Jamaica.

 

Somewhere near Cuba, a storm came upon them. At that most inopportune moment, their engine decided to quit and the boat slowed down. Unfortunately, the large sailboat did not and it smashed into their stern grabbing onto it like a shark grabbing onto a seal. Even more unfortunately, the bowsprit of sailboat broke off and began thrashing back and forth across the deck making it impossible for the two adventures to get to it and untangle the lines and separate the boats. So, they spent the night hoping they would live to see the sunrise. The tale stopped there. Obviously, at least the Old Sailor survived. I do not know what became of the boats or the Captain or whether whatever he was fleeing from eventually caught up to him. I see in this a potential Hemingwayesque novella, “Captains Not So Very Courageous.”

 

A few years ago, some travel magazine commissioned a poll in which people from many countries of the world were asked if they thought it was ok to cheat foreigners out of their money. The citizens of no country responded with acceptance of such callous amoral behavior anywhere near 50% except for the Thais, over 80% of whom could see no problem in that conduct.

 

On Wednesday, I had lunch with the Gemologist. He is also a well-known ethnologist (The Vanishing Tribes of Burma), artist (sculpture and painting), adventurer, writer, businessman, raconteur, and man about town. I have written about him before. He has recently returned from several trips into the hill country of Burma where he photographed one of the hill tribes in their traditional dress and re-established his trading connections with the Gurkha miners and gem merchants working there. He has resumed trading high-value rubies and sapphires and showed me photographs of several beautiful examples (in the one million dollar and up each range).
IMG_1181.jpg
A Million Dollar Flawless Sapphire Recently Sold

 

It is always a pleasure spending an afternoon with him. We spoke of many things, mostly our disappointment with the political situation in America and the rigors of getting old.
IMG_2952

 

Read Full Post »

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