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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism in Thailand’


For those who have not been here, below are a view of the house from the road and a picture of me in the “Sala” with the Bocci court in the background.

The House from the Road
Papa Joe and the Bocce Court

I apologize to those like me who find despicable people who force their experiences on others through things like this email, as though the recipient’s own experiences are so lacking they require a vicarious infusion of excitement. To those, please let me know and I will stop sending it to you or wait awhile and my tendency to abandon things when I tire of them or find some other shiny object to pursue, will solve the problem.

Anyway, while walking home from my morning coffee, I saw walking along the road toward me a disheveled little chicken with magnificent tail feathers like a Bird of Paradise (for those who may be interested the chicken was first domesticated in Southeast Asia).

Although this is only my second day of retirement, I am pleased that I have managed to schedule myself so completely that I am already falling behind. I feared that since vegetative is my normal default state, I would become covered with a mantle of moss and disappear as an insignificant mound in the corner of the garden.


FROM MY JOURNAL, January 20, 2010.

1:30am


Awakened by the phone ringing. It was Verizon calling Jason for payment. My first reaction was to get angry at Jay because I suspected that he and Anthony had done little about selling the things that I left behind and were not using some of the proceeds for payment of the phone bill and car insurance. I thought of Blackie’s email and assumed they have not yet contacted him and also that they probably had not yet emptied the storage unit. I then wondered whether or not my emails to Hiromi have even gotten read. My agitation at all this and the potential loss of my things and the money their sale would bring meant that I could not get back to sleep. So, I fiddled with my computer until I calmed down, which I have and so will try to go back to sleep.

9:30 AM


Just returned from my morning walk (Hayden to school etc.) Resolved to get tree and bird identification manuals so that Hayden can have a learning experience while we walk to school.

Spoke with the teacher-principal of the school (Chotirath Lambert–Leo’s mom). She explained how she developed the school and gave me a tour, including the site for new classrooms.

She expressed her pleasure that Hayden now has a family member around. She was concerned that the absence of family and the constant moving about has interfered with his socialization and education. We watched Leo and Hayden playing together. She remarked that they looked so alike and played so well together that many people thought they were brothers.

I spoke with Peter one of the teachers. He said that Hayden tended to “rile” the other students up to do things they should not, while he did not participate and was amused when the others got in trouble.

Ms. Lambert pointed out that Hayden has gotten the least number of “stars” in his class (interestingly Leo got the most).

I left the school and walked to the cafe. The barrista remembered my order from yesterday. Why she assumed I would order the same thing today, I can only speculate. Nevertheless, I am a sucker for anyone who acknowledges my existence.

On my walk home I contemplated the many things I would write to the group in this morning’s email. It embarrassed me. So, I resolved to write the diary first to purge myself.

S0ME COMMENTS TO ORIGINAL POST:

From Irwin Shatzman:

well, if this true, oh mantle of moss, i wish you a happy retirement!! god knows i longed for one but saw fit only to capture one as miserable as was my working life, if not more so. by the way, i like chickens; mine was roasted this evening along with some carrots, celery, tiny onions and fingerling potatoes.

keep in touch, vagabond.

cuz i.

E-MAIL EXCHANGE WITH NICOLO REFFO:

From Joe:

Nikki,

I will try to get a phone today if the driver shows up and drives me downtown.

I went to Hayden’s school this morning and spoke with the principal and one of the teachers. We were right to get him into a stable environment when we did.

The principal was quite concerned that Hayden had no stability in his life and felt abandoned. She said that he lacked socialization with other children and it was beginning to show in his behavior and in his schoolwork. In her opinion, Hayden should stay in the school for at least on uninterrupted year. She showed me a chart in his classroom that pictured the “stars” awarded to the students for good work. Hayden had the least amount of stars in the class.

The principal’s son is Hayden’s friend Leo. They play together a lot. She told me that many people think they are brothers.

His teacher Peter told me that although Hayden was doing well he tended to get the other students “riled up” to do things they shouldn’t then would laugh when the other students got in trouble.

Please do not mention to N what I wrote above. When you get here you and I will discuss what to do.

One funny and sad thing happened yesterday. We sent email messages to Natalie and to you and me. After sending off the letters to you and me, Hayden said “You and Nikki are my fathers. Do I have any other fathers anywhere that I should send an email to?”

See you soon,

Joe…

Reply from Nikki:

I know but what we can do if the mother instead of taking care of him abandon him with a laos maid alone without comunications?
she is guilty instead to being a mother she is dating in bkk i read her e mail one guy just went see her from usa and spend a sex weekend together than she find an excuse to be busy with the pub and bullshit with a backup of her brother and sister
She is immature to grow a child and really she deserve to have the custody removed but i don’t want to do that now is gonna be a mess and hayden will pay the consequences
anyway i am glad u be there at least with time the boy will improve his grades and behaviour
is normal to be wild in this moment of his life he is confused and i am counting on u right now to shape him up
the money is not an issue i send enough to survive and live well there but she use it for her purposes so i got to stop that and open an account that u can manage to go directly only for school and the baby needs.
when she shows up finally play cool don’t mention anything let her go back to bkk when she want we don’t need her in this moment
talk to the boy and he will improve for sure we just need to wait a couple of months don’t spoil him too much he needs to understand the authority of his tutor
Let me get my stuff done and i will fly there directly asap
waiting news from u and a phone line
good luck and try to fix the boccie field i want to play with a nice cigar and a glass of wine like the DONS did in italy

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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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 than 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 a 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 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 began 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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