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Posts Tagged ‘Jomtien Beach’

I arrived in Bangkok at about 2AM. I do not recall having traveled through the City at this time in the morning before. Not that I haven’t. I may have. It’s just that I do not remember. The bars were mostly closed but the “street vendor” bars were in full riot. Nana Plaza was eerily lightless, but the ladies and ladyboys of the night mingled with their patrons in a black seething mass that slopped out into the street.

I slept most of the next day. The few times I was awake the Little Masseuse would tell me stories. One was about an older man who lives in the country.

The Old Man’s Story:

Every day the old man spends the daylight hours rummaging through garbage cans for food and other necessities. He especially searches for bits of electrical wire. In the evenings, through well past midnight, he melts down the bits of  the wire he found that day, burning off any coating. Every month, he produces about a one-kilogram lump of copper that he sells for about $20. He uses this money to augment whatever he finds in his dumpster diving. In this way, he works hard every day and survives. In this way, he is reasonably content with this meager lifestyle. When asked about this he says: “I have no worries. People always throw away more than even I can ever use, so I get to choose only  the best.”

I try to swim every day at the pool in the Health Club located in the Ambassador Hotel on Soi 11. The health club now includes a Muay Thai training facility to go with the pool, gym, racquetball courts, yoga rooms, Karate lessons and Chinese fan dancing instruction.
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Some parrots in the Ambassador Hotel’s extensive aviaries.

After swimming, I usually have a massage at my friend Gary’s spa (The Silk Spa) on Sukhumvit Soi 13. If you are in Bangkok give it a try. Especially experience the new two-person sauna that Gary built himself. Gary is Canadian, plays in an Ice Hockey League in Thailand and is often followed around by a precocious four-year-old named GJ.
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On Wednesdays, the Little Masseuse and I go to Terminal 21 to see a movie (Wednesday tickets are only $3 each.) Each floor of Terminal 21 is dedicated to a different city. The photograph below is part of the San Francisco display.

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After a week in Bangkok, we took a van to Jomtien Beach to spend a few days by the seashore. The ride was longer than usual. We seemed to go a different way than we normally do. We passed an attractive small lake and through the town of Sri Racha, neither of which had I seen before.

The small hotel we usually stay at was full so we found an even less expensive one for $17 per night.
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In the evenings, we walked along the beach.
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We also ambled along the seashore in the early mornings.
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On our walks along the beach, we were often accompanied by a small pack of beach dwelling Soi Dogs.
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Soi Dogs are the indigenous feral dogs of Thailand. They rarely bark or growl and skitter away if you come too close to them. The King of Thailand claims they are the country’s native dog and seeks AKC recognition for them.

One morning we came across a group of ladyboys overacting on the beach and frolicking topless in the surf.
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The Good/Bad David joined us for lunch one day at a pretty good Mexican restaurant in the gay quarter of Jomtien Beach.
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David on the right and me with my hat and walking stick.

The gay quarter is located in a lovely complex just off the main road to the beach. While the gay community still lived in shadow and in Thailand was the object of ridicule, the complex deteriorated. But now, acceptance of their lifestyle has rejuvenated the area. At night, it is quite joyful, if a bit startling when as you walk by, the rent boys call out and comment on your physical endowments. (I assume this is not so surprising for most women, since the rent boys are like men everywhere, except that their entreaties are directed at a different sex)
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For about three hours over margaritas, we exchanged stories. David kept us enthralled with tales about his life as a safety expert in the jungles of Borneo and Nigeria and on the sands of Arabia in the employ of the plunderers of world’s billion-year solar energy reserve of hydrocarbons — stories about armed men and boats equipped with 50 cal machine guns — of sudden deadly explosions — of giant crocodiles and poisonous snakes — of days and nights living, under a sentence of death in a fortified encampment. When not engaged in derring-do, he lives in Thailand where he relaxes in his own special way. If there were a Nobel Prize for hedonism, David would be a repeat winner.

Along with his other stories, David related the recent travails of Tina, a friend of us both and of whom we are very fond.

Tina’s story:

Tina is a sex worker struggling to raise two children alone. Her daughter is now nine-years-old and her son twelve. In the past, she usually worked during the day, rushing home in the late afternoons to greet them when they returned from school and to spend the evenings with them whenever she could. She now has reached that age where her appeal as a sex worker has diminished. At first, she toiled as a manager of a cocktail lounge called Heaven, when that did not work out, she opened a small bar of her own that failed. Now she walks the streets of Pattaya, her son watching over his younger sister in their small apartment until she comes home.
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Tina in Heaven.

 

After leaving David we passed an interesting place that contained an artist’s studio and gallery, bar, night club, restaurant and foot massage facility all in one large room open to the street.
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We decided to enjoy a foot massage. The Masseur told us his story
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The Masseur’s Story:

It seems that a few years ago he found his dream job working as a Massage Therapist and rent boy at the Happy Massage Parlor across the street. He enjoyed working there and was popular with the customers. Alas, over the years he put on weight and soon the customers no longer sought his services. So, he now has been relegated to working the sidewalk foot massage station across the street. He is very distressed by his current situation. Nevertheless, he gives a great foot massage.

One evening, we went for dinner at an Italian Restaurant we like in the gay quarter. Da Nicola is owned by a father and son from a town (Licata) in Sicily quite near that of my mother’s town (Canicatti). The father considers the wines from Canicatti the best in Sicily. He should know, the house wine in the restaurant, although from Australia, is excellent even though served a little too chilled. The food there is as good Italian food and pizza as you will find in the Pattaya area.
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David laughing at something while the Little Masseuse ignores him and the restaurant owner photo-bombs in the background.

 
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The Owner of the Restaurant, LM with the pizza oven behind.

 

A few days after returning from Jomtien Beach, my favorite Thai holiday, Loi Krathong, the Festival of the Lights with which the Thais welcome in the new year, was celebrated. Tiny boats made of flowers and festooned with lit candles are set afloat on the nearby waterways.
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We went to a lake near my apartment where thousands had gathered, bought our Krathongs and found a place by the lake to launch them.
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We tried to light the candles but a strong wind suddenly struck making that impossible. The wind was quickly followed by a torrential downpour causing a panic among the thousands since most had not brought umbrellas. Everyone fled and tried to squeeze into the various inadequate public transportation options (No one in their right mind would try to drive in Bangkok to something like this). All in all, the Festival of the Lights came to a dismal end.
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A very wet Pookie.

A few days later, on Thanksgiving, I dined on a plate of pork fried rice garnished with cucumbers and onion shoots.

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To celebrate my free day, observe the ending of the world and visit Bill’s new venture the “Winchester Gun Club,” a “gentleman’s” club in Jomtien Beach, I decided to travel to Paradise by the Sea and spend a few days there. After a not too unpleasant two-hour bus ride, we arrived and tried to find a room at the little guest house that we usually stay in.

Alas, it was the time of the year for the mass migration of Russians from the frozen Steppes south on to the ragged edges of the Indian Ocean. The only similar migration of which I am familiar was the sweeping of the “alters” from the frigid streets of New York and the depositing of them like dice rolled in a street corner craps game upon the burning sands surrounding Biscayne Bay, there to remain until their internment in some recently reclaimed bit of the Everglades.

Even though the area in which the little guest house was located was downscale even by Russian standards (but not so for American expats on Social Security) there were no accommodations available in any of the 50 or so small hotels in the two block area. All that was left were a few tiny windowless rooms usually reserved for short time rentals. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term “short time,” try to think of what activity requires the rental of a hotel room for three hours or less.)

The streets, hotels restaurants, bars and massage parlors in this little neighborhood teemed with Russians; Slavs with their inverted banana ski-jump noses and the denizens of the Caucuses and the Steppes with their grand potato schnozzes.

Now some of you have commented on my obsession with probosci of all sort. That infatuation, however, is not engendered by a fondness for my Mediterranean ancestors spread along all sides of that remarkable inland sea who sport some of the most gargantuan and bizarre examples. You probably do not know this, but one of the first physical changes that separated us from our cousins the chimpanzees and bonobos was the movement of our nostrils from within the plane of our facial plate outward, to dangle in space at the end of a slightly flexible hunk of cartilage. So when you hear the phrase, “follow your nose,” it does not mean to follow the smell since that sense had diminished greatly from the capabilities exhibited by our simian relatives when we obtained our proboscis, but to follow the ascent of the various permutations of civilization these inquisitive appendages, for better of worse, have gotten us into.

We chose a room in the place I usually stay at. The street level floor is an open shop front with a counter. The proprietor sits behind the counter. She is almost always accompanied by her child who appears stricken with severe birth defects, rendering her immobile and deformed. When not dealing with customers, the woman spends her time rubbing down the child’s limbs, feeding her or speaking or humming something softly into her ear. The woman has a look of intensely deep sorrow. It is beyond anything I have ever seen in Thailand. Everyone else in the country seems to hide their feelings behind either the ever-present smile or a blank emotionless face that leaves one often wondering if anyone is at home. I do not know why I always chose to stay at this particular guest house, but I do.

As I said our room is windowless that means if there is a fire we die. Since the world was going to end in two days anyway, I was willing to take the risk.

The next morning we got up early and went out for our walk along the beach. When we got onto the sand we were greeted by the sight of hundreds’ of exposed boobs, both male and female glistening brightly like bleached bones in the morning sun, destined to glow a bright cherry red when the sun reached its zenith and turn a dark mottled brown like burnt toast when the sun sets that evening over the gulf of Thailand. On a pure tonnage basis, including my own, not insubstantial, addition, I reckon that the males have the females on that beach beaten by the proverbial country mile.

As long as I am discussing humanities difference from other simians, I should point out that at about the same time the protuberance made its appearance in the middle of our ancestors faces, perky little sprouts bloomed upon the chests of their pubescent females that contrasted greatly with the determinedly consistent flat chested aspect of our ape cousins. Another advance in the humanity’s march to dominate its environment. Another time, if asked, I will explain the role in the development of civilization of the disappearance of hair from most of our ancestor’s bodies and Sophie’s Choice that it presented to the human body louse. (Speaking of Lice, did you know that Napoleon’s army was not destroyed by the Russians but by typhoid bearing lice. It was a lousy way to go)

I took a long walk along the water’s edge. The water was as warm as freshly spilled blood. Now and then I would leave the sand and run across the road to look at the condo sale and rental ads in the windows of several of the real-estate agent’s shops that lined Beach Road. I still hoped to return to live there some day.

After the walk, we returned to the room to rest and escape the midday heat. While dozing I dreamily watched a television news program showing a security camera tape of a child, about two years old, playing near the rear wheel of an automobile. Suddenly the car backed up running over the child. It then moved forward running her over again. Shocked, I screamed, ran into the bathroom and started retching. I could hear the television reporters describing the scene as they played the tape over and over again. When I finished retching, I returned to the room and quickly shut off the TV, threw on some clothes, left the room and ran down the steps to get some air. LM ran after me, “Wait,” she said, “Good Luck. Baby lived.” I ignored her. Outside, I walked rapidly back and forth in front of the hotel wondering what kind of culture would show such a thing on television. At least there were no hoards of reporters seeking out the child’s pre-school classmates in order to get exclusive interviews on what they thought about the situation.

I no longer felt like visiting Bill’s new place and after a brief evening walk along the beach, I went to bed and slept badly. Thankfully, my dreams were not about run over little children or even those shot with assault rifles. Instead, the blackness of my dreams were filled with giant translucent jellyfish-like those that wash up on the beach here in great numbers. They resembled giant oozing glowing boobs that loomed up out of the darkness. They chased me along the beach. I tried to scream when they caught up to me but I couldn’t because they began to smother me, and then, of course, I woke up. Interestingly, I did not dream about noses. I probably do not fear them as much.

In the morning, another walk on the beach followed by a van ride back to Bangkok. For the first time in over a decade, I did not feel sad at leaving Paradise by the Beach. I guess that will pass, eventually.

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Bangkok: The Rainy Season

The rainy season has brought overcast skies but little rain to Bangkok. The clouds appear to trap the pollution close to the ground. It seems like someone’s pressing piece of dirty wet gauze over my eyes and nose. Some days I find it hard to breathe. I cough more than usual and at times feel overwhelmed with exhaustion. Later this week I plan to go to Jomtien Beach (Paradise by the Sea), the next town down coast from Pattaya, (The Outskirts of Hell). I expect cleaner air there.

The monsoon rain clouds funnel up the Bay of Thailand where they then scurry along the Chao Phraya River running through Bangkok on their way up into the mountains near Chiang Mai to drop most of their moisture. They generally leave the beach areas around The Outskirts of Hell and Paradise by the Sea somewhat overcast free. Sea breezes push the air at the beaches inland leaving them relatively absent of air pollution.

After giving it some thought I decided I need to get a job, not so much for the money, but because one ought not spend so much time alone with himself in a darkened room.
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Not a very pretty picture.

Sometimes, however, the Little Masseuse (LM) comes by and dances,
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or just sits and makes wool scarves that no one in Thailand will ever use.
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My grandson one day asked her to make a scarf he could give to his mom as a present, even though he knew his mom would throw it out anyway. Once she started making them, LM refused to stop. My apartment now looks like something out of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with wool scarves multiplying uncontrollably. I expect that one day I will come home and find that I am unable to get into my apartment because it’s filled floor to ceiling with knitted wool scarves. (“The Scarf that Swallowed Bangkok,” soon to become a major motion picture starring Johnny Depp).

Most nights I eat at this restaurant:
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I only eat sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice or pork fried rice. Not so much because I particularly like those dishes, but because whenever I look at the menu for something else I find it printed in Thai with slightly out of focus photos of the dishes, making them all look-alike.

After dinner and watching the Thai soaps I go to sleep with my friends Gorilla and Douglas.
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Off to the Seashore

Early on a dark and rainy Wednesday morning I left for Jomtien Beach. I went by van. Vans take about the same time to get there as do taxis but are significantly less expensive. The van driver was interesting. Although it is common for most Thai drivers to insist on using the shoulder for passing, he treated it as the high-speed lane. As a result, we got to our destination quicker than usual, especially when for unknown reasons he skipped the usual pee-pee break at the rest-stop where the vans generally gas up.

The sun was out when we arrived and thankfully the air felt much cleaner than in Bangkok.

This trip I did not stay at the guest house of the sad-faced woman and the child with the tragic birth defects, but at a place nearby with slightly larger rooms for about the same price. The street, Soi 2, is quite narrow with 4 to 6 story balconied shop houses lining each side. One can watch the life of the neighborhood going on in the streets below and on the balconies. It reminded me a bit like living in the Bronx.
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In the early morning I watched and listened to the Soi awaken. It is no Catfish Row, but I imagine someone could put it to music: The snap of the cloth as the woman in the apartment across from me hangs out her washing; The high-pitched murmurings of the yings (Thai for young woman) speaking into their mobile phones as they walk to or from work; The scrape and bang of the merchants raising the security barriers as they open their shops; The throaty rumble of the motorbikes; the chopping sound made by the woman with the sidewalk food stand as she prepares the day’s Papaya Pak Pak ( better known as Som Tam). All we now need is a happy-go-lucky crippled beggar cheerfully greeting everyone as he passes by.

Last night, for some reason unknown to me, someone in the Soi below my room set up some amplifying equipment into which two drunken yings screamed off-key songs to no one in particular until two in the morning. Now and then a western tourist would wander by and snap a photograph of the clearly deranged young women.

During the day I walked along the beach about two miles early in the morning, and again at midday and once again in the evening. For most of the rest of the day, I sat on a rental canvas beach chair under a large blue beach umbrella, watched the vendors pass by, stared at the surf and dozed.
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Some tipsy young men with their Thai women friends sat on the chairs on either side of me. Two Swedes to my left and a Brit to my right. There was a lot of laughing and loud talking. The vendors seemed to congregate around them smiling and joking. I was a bit jealous. “Why” I thought, “couldn’t I be as jovial and sociable?” Eventually the Swede sitting closest to me turned to me and asked “How come these vendors always stop and gather around me yet they pass you right by?

I responded, “Because as soon as they get close enough, I close my eyes and pretend I’m asleep.” The Swede stared at me for a while in silence then exclaimed, “Wow!” A few moments later, thoroughly embarrassed, I got up and left.

Sometimes I forget why people flock to Thailand in such great numbers. After all, its beaches are ok, but there are many other places with better. It’s cities are so polluted they rival Mexico City. Its historical buildings are interesting, but far less grand than those in many countries. Most of the country sits in a sweltering swamp. Their people smile a lot but they are not smiles of kindness or concern. The traffic is as awful as anywhere in the world and corruption and cheating the tourist are endemic. It’s food is good but quality examples of it at a reasonable price can rarely be found anywhere a casual tourist could locate. So what is it that recently reminded me why I and many others come here?

In India, people twist their bodies into unnatural shapes and sit for years on dung heaps until they can ignore their discomfort, call it enlightenment and convince themselves that now they are truly happy. In China and Japan some go up mountains to where the air is thin and the ground is cold and where they sit until they can think of nothing at all and assume they have found contentment. Then they believe they are happy. In the US and many countries of the West as well as other “advanced” countries, people, day and night, engage in the single-minded pursuit of stealing wealth from others so that their stoned children can ride around a lake in a yacht and they can imagine they have accomplished something and then they can declare themselves really happy.

But, here in Thailand there is a temple called Wat PO on the grounds of the royal palace where there, and in similar temples throughout the country, Thais from all over the nation gather to learn the traditional Thai art of rubbing another persons body until that person experiences a sense of something approaching bliss.

Imagine, if you will, in Saint Peter’s Basilica somewhere huddled among Bernini’s’ columns there is a similar school where cowled nuns and tonsured monks upon completing their course of study then go out into the world to, at an affordable price, apply their hands to the bodies of others, both men and women, so that they can know the experience of true orgasms and be happy.

That is why, over the years, people came to Thailand and why even now in some of the country’s most expensive accommodations on some of the most exclusive beaches many people can still find happiness.
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Back in Bangkok

I woke up today in a very good mood. LM came by to make breakfast before heading off to work at the health club. While I was sitting at the table eating and fiddling with the computer, I was alternately grumbling and cursing sotto voce at the internet connection service that at times breaks down every few seconds, especially this morning. LM after observing me for a while said, “Some people think you are not 100 percent.” (That means somewhere in between insane and mentally retarded.) “Why do you say so,” I responded? (Note: The quotes are approximations and best guesses since our language deficiencies require us to communicate in a mixture of pidgin English and pantomime.) “At the movies you cry and talk to the screen like it is real and happening to you.”

My first thought was to feel sad for those people who were unable to emotionally involve themselves in a work of art, no matter how marginal. After all, the artists and others involved probably work hard trying to make a living at attempting to entertain you. I decided however, no response was the best response, so I grunted and returned to my recalcitrant computer.

She then said, “A lot of people have told me you are gullible, believe everything that they say and give all your money away.”

Now at this point, if I had any interpersonal sensitivities at all, I should have realized something was bothering her. Instead I was furious that here I was in a good mood, a state that requires, for a short time at least, forgetting your inadequacies and failures, when now this person had to go and remind me of them. So, I slammed the computer closed, finished dressing and stormed off to the Health Club.

Along the walk, I rattled back and forth between feeling sorry for myself, shame at my utter lack of empathy with LM or anyone else for that matter and furious that, with every step I took, many of my life’s innumerable embarrassments were now flooding back into my consciousness.

At the club, after reading the mornings newspapers and barely responding to the attempts of the aging ex US merchant marine guy sitting next to me to engage me in swapping stories of drugs, booze and sex, I put on my bathing suit went to the pool. Once I got into the water, I attacked it in fury, intending to swim until struck by a heart attack so that I could feel even more sorry for myself. Alas, all I got for my efforts was tired, so I left the pool took a steam bath showered and left the club.

I walked to my new favorite massage parlor nearby, where after two hours I began feeling better; not less self-absorbed, just less upset about it. I then went to Terminal 21 and had a root beer float at Swenson’s and things began to look and feel rosy enough that even the overcast sky could not disperse it.

I came home to my apartment crawled into my bed and wrote this. It is all about me of course, it is always all about me. I should change the name of this email series from “This and that…” to “It’s all about me, of course.”

I think I need to leave Bangkok and get a life.

I Reconsider

I have just returned from dinner and have reread what I have written above. I am not going to erase it. This is a journal after all. But, let’s just take another look at what we have here: A guy gets up in the morning after a good sleep and someone makes him breakfast which he eats while playing on his computer and ignoring the world. He then takes a leisurely walk to the Health Club where after reading the newspaper and talking to a friend, he goes for a swim and take a steam bath followed by a lengthy massage and capped off by a root beer float. Returning to his apartment he takes a nap, plays some more on his computer and goes out and has a nice dinner. All this he considers something from which he must flee to find a better life because he happens to assume that someone hinted that he was an insensitive, dull-witted loser. Well, if you ask me, there certainly seems to be enough evidence here to prove that that person may be right.

I Reconsider Again and Dream of Adventure

It has become obvious that the time has come for me to leave Bangkok and return to the US for a while. I originally thought I was going to leave on about the 14th or so of July when I planned to accompany my grandson back to the US stopping briefly in Italy and the US East Coast. On the day before we were to leave, his mother changed the plans and left with my grandson in my place. I then had thought I would fly back sometime before my grandson begins school. Now that too appears unlikely.

I have now committed, in my mind at least, to leaving sometime around the middle of August. Having apparently no time constraints any longer, I have decided to treat myself to an adventure. I looked into flying somewhere odd, like Vladivostok or Bora Bora on my way back but those type of options have become too expensive for me in my reduced financial circumstances. I then looked into traveling by cargo ship, but that also is somewhat expensive and a bit difficult to arrange as they require those over 70 to have a physical check up and a doctor willing to certify that he would not need medical attention on the high seas. So here are the three options that I came up with:

1. Travel West by plane, stopping off in India (bucket list item) for a few days and visiting the Mogul architectural masterpieces outside of Delhi. Then on to Milan for a while visiting with friends followed by a flight to the East Coast to go see my daughter in Washington before returning to California. Unfortunately, in order to make this work financially I need to take advantage of a deeply discounted flight over the Atlantic that would not be available until mid-September.

2. While researching my travel options, I became fascinated by train travel options in Asia and looked into the railway that follows the Silk Route through Asia (another bucket list item). But that entire trip is also too expensive for me at this time and I had also promised Peter Grenell many years ago that I would take that trip with him. So instead, I decided to consider flying to Saigon and taking the train from there to Hong Kong and from there flying back to SF. The train ride would take six days. I probably would stop for overnights in places like Hanoi and Nanning extending the journey by another two or three days. It has been suggested by some of those to whom I mentioned I was considering this option, that I may still be suffering from something I inhaled many years ago when trips like this were common among my hippy peers. There may be something to be said for that since I would not see it as unlikely that I could find myself dead in the Chinese countryside somewhere about 150 miles outside of Hong Kong.

3. Forget the whole adventure fantasy, act my age and get on a plane that flies directly from BKK to SFO (and remember to get out of my seat and exercise every hour or so).

Number three is the winner

I Reflect on the Meaning, if not of it All, at Least of a Little Bit.

I have just realized what may have motivated me to write the above items that obviously record my recent emotional disintegration. About a week or so ago I suddenly stopped reading any more novels, having read over 90 in the past 3 months sometimes reading for eight hours straight. I stopped because the Amazon program feeding that obsession has run out of books to promote that I am interested in reading much less buying. Reading has never been for me an information gathering or entertainment activity but rather an addiction. One, like most addictions, I use to avoid confronting reality. Of course, obsessive reading of escapist literature does not have the same physical downside as hard drugs or liquor. It’s more like taking Methadone. You get to keep your habit but you get no fun out of it (Well maybe a little fun. Perhaps it’s more like taking Oxycontin. You feel pretty good but, alas, without the orgasmic jolt). As in ending any addiction, I suffer physical and psychological difficulties, tremors, sweating, waking at night screaming, ghosts and paranoia prompting the need to escape.

(Of course everything I have written so far is post hoc rationalization made necessary by the need to make sense out of the irrationality of history so that one can avoid responding to questions about what happened with “I haven’t the slightest idea” or as Vonnegut put it, “So it goes” or more appropriately “why are you wasting my time?”)

A Good Day Begins

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My Neighborhood During the Daytime.

Well, so far today it’s been a good day. No one has called me an insensitive, dull-witted loser for a few days now (well maybe they have, but we’ll get to that later). I woke up, dressed and walked to the health club. The overcast skies had departed briefly and the sun was shining. At the club, I sat in the lobby among the Old Men’s Caucus reading the newspapers and swapping stories.

After I did that for a while, I accompanied the Old Sailor to his locker where he took out a wooden box about the size of a small cigar box. He told me it contained the ashes of a close friend of his who had died a few months ago. The dead man’s sister, who lives in Ohio, sent them to the Old Sailor telling him that one of her brother’s last wishes was to send some of his ashes to the Old Sailor so that he could spread them around Bangkok’s houses of ill repute in his memory. So, the Old Sailor explained, he dutifully carried the box with him during his pleasure rounds sprinkling some of his friend’s remains around as he leaves the various establishments.

Now although at first this may seem to be simply a quirky amusing story, alas, it has a less appealing context. It demonstrates for the billion-billionth time that the average human male equates his life with his genitals.

I suspect women tend to think there is more to their life than the happiness of their vaginas. I could never imagine a sane woman sending her ashes to her best friend and instructing her to sprinkle them over the floor of the singles bar whenever she leaves with some guy. Maybe pouring it into an ex-husbands coffee, perhaps.

After that, I left to do some banking and get my ticket to return to the US.

After obtaining the ticket, I returned to the health club, swam, enjoyed a steam bath, showered and left for my weekly massage. Following that I walked back to my apartment, took a brief nap and wrote this. All and all it has been a good day so far.

Ruminations

Of course, I am of the temperament that believes that in life all good must be balanced by an equal or greater amount of bad. Although I try always to remain conscious of my motto, Dum Spiro, Spero (Where there’s Life there’s Hope), unfortunately, far too often I believe in its darker alternative: Dum Spiro, non Spero (Where there’s Life, there is no Hope). Nevertheless, whenever I feel entrapped in one of my periodic episodes of existential dread, I try to focus on the advice of three of my favorite American philosophers whose wisdom seems to me to fit most circumstances I face in my life:

Rosanna Rosannadanna: “It’s always something.”
Scarlett O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Woody Allen: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone you love.”

For those reading this you probably think I’m kidding. Well, let’s see about that.

Assume you have just experienced a serious tragedy. The first thing you may want to tell your self is, “It’s always something.” If that does not work for you, then try, “Tomorrow is another day.” That still doesn’t do it, then it may be time for you to try sex with someone you love (or at least never tells you they don’t feel like it right now).

Khao San Road

Well, another pretty good day in the bank. It started at the Old Man’s Caucus at the health club. The Old Sailor and I decided to go to Khao San Road so that I can pick up a driver’s license. Despite its notoriety I had never been to Khao San Road before. It has been described as, “The Place to Disappear.” For years it was the backpackers center of Thailand where one could buy almost anything, especially drugs and STD. To me it looked more like the Venice California boardwalk than Bangkok, only the sellers in the stalls lining both sides of the street were not western tourists.

After securing the license, we stopped for lunch at McDonald’s where we were joined by Joe a man who looked like the cadaverous twin of Al Gore. Both the Old Sailor and Joe hinted that they were suffering some truly life threatening maladies. Oozing sores Pock-marked Joe’s skin. It disappointed me to learn that although I thought they both were substantially older than I, they were actually two years younger.

I spent the afternoon sitting in that McDonald’s on Khao San Road listening to their stories of trips around the world with stolen credit cards, dope deals gone bad, scams that worked and those that didn’t and the mysterious disappearance of four kilos of gold. After that, we went to the travel agency and internet café around the corner where we played on Skype for a while talking to some guy in the Philippines to arrange for Joe’s accommodation’s there when he visits in two weeks. I decided to check with the agent to see if they would have been able to get me a better price for my air travel to the US than I was able to get after about a week of trying. I was quite upset they found a ticket for one-third less than I had paid. We then said goodbye to Joe and left Khao San Road. After a two-hour bus ride through downtown BKK, I returned to my apartment.

Another Day, Another Conspiracy

Today was somewhat interesting. It rained and swimming was not an option. So after attending the Old Men’s Caucus at the health club, I only took a steam bath and shower. As I prepared to leave, I was enticed into a discussion with a likable, intelligent, paranoid conspiracy theorist. His name is Christopher. He was born in Australia of a Jewish father and Australian mother. His father’s family is originally from Transylvania but spent a few generations in Vienna before emigrating to Australia.

He identifies himself proudly as an anarchist and firmly believes in just about every conspiracy I have heard about and a few that I did not: The Twin Towers Conspiracy, Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission and so on and on. One of them I did not know about goes something like this:

Since the signing of Magna Carta, we unknowingly have been subject to Admiralty Law and not Common Law; which means that we are not individuals but chattel in the eyes of the law. Among the proofs of this amazing assertion was his claim that all birth certificates since then have been written on special paper usually used to write Bills of Lading for transporting goods by ship. Since Bills of Lading are often negotiable documents and can be used as security for debts, our birth certificates over the years have become owned by banks because they were used as collateral by nation states to secure their loans for various wars and the like. He says if you look at a real birth certificate instead of the copy you usually receive (the real ones are kept in the vaults of the major international banks) you will discover on the back stamps from the banks and financial institutions you have been pledged to.

This was probably the least shocking conspiracy he revealed in the several hour conversation I had with him. At one point, he mentioned that if your name is written in all capital letters on a document, that means you are a corporation and not an individual. At least that is what I thought he said.

It was, for me, a few hours fascinating voyage into the arcane world of the truly sublimely insane. Much better than the books I have been reading recently.

He claims he made enough money converting his training as a biochemist and phlebotomist into a series of blood testing centers around Australia and England to retire to Thailand. I thought this was an interesting choice of occupation for someone whose family is originally from Transylvania. Anyway, he invited me to join him for dinner one evening before I return to the US.

An Interesting Email

A few days ago I received an interesting email. It seems that about four years ago as I was closing down my law practice before escaping to Thailand, someone, I no longer remember, asked me to begin some litigation on his behalf for free. I pointed out to him that I did not do litigation and although during the prior few years of practice most of my clients failed to pay their bills, I was not interested in beginning another pro bono representation. The prospective client then explained that the statute of limitations to bring the action would run out in a few days and begged me, as a favor, to file the action so that he could have the time to find an attorney willing to represent him for free. Alas, always a sucker for a sad story, I agreed and filed the case. As could be expected, my friend did not secure alternative representation by the time a mandatory settlement conference was set up. I missed conference and was fined by the court. Ultimately the case was resolved with no further problems and I left the US. Unfortunately I forgot to pay the fine. Now over four years later I learn from my friends through the email that I have been prohibited by the Bar Association from further practice of law in California because I had failed to pay the fine.

Around the same time as my departure from the US, I also tried to retire from the Bar. I was told that to do so I would have to pay all unpaid back dues, a fee for retirement and annual dues to remain on inactive status. This conversation occurred during that time when the Bar Association had been unfunded by the California (In effect disbarred by California) and was somewhat desperate for money. After a few arguments over the telephone with representatives of the Bar about my inability to pay the back fees all at once and the unreasonableness of having to pay a fee and dues, no matter how small, to retire and receiving no satisfaction, I explained to them what I thought they could do with their demands. Eventually I began to receive notices by mail from the Bar Association which I assumed were continuing demands for payment of the dues. I treated them just the same as I treated notices from credit card companies demanding payment and threatening to ruin my already ruined credit rating; I threw them all unopened into the trash until, after about a year when my forwarding address ceased to be operative, they ceased. I assume some of these notices contained demands for the payment of fine as well.

At least I was not accused of moral turpitude. Although I certainly have in my life often turpituded my morals, my failing, it seems, was not the terps and tudes that usually gets the Bar Association’s knickers in a twist.

Now to save what remains of my reputation and avoid the malicious whisperings of those who should know better, I am faced with the option of possibility paying many thousands of dollars so that I can be reinstated and continue to pay the Bar Association to remain on inactive status. I find my chances of choosing this route highly unlikely.

On the other hand, one of my favorite mystery writers, Christopher Moore’s, main character in many of his novels is named Vinnie Calvino, a half Italian, half Jewish lawyer from NY who was disbarred who now lives in Bangkok and eaks out a living as a PI. I find, on the whole, the Calvino approach to dealing with recalcitrant bar associations rather romantic.

A Tussle Without a Hustle

One morning a few days ago on my way to breakfast I had just passed Nana Plaza which bills itself as The Worlds Largest Adult Playground when I stopped to buy a newspaper from the old Thai woman at the newsstand right by the entrance.
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Morning at Nana Plaza.

Suddenly I noticed a commotion a few feet away. On the sidewalk, two ladies of the very late evening or the very early morning were fighting with each other. A crowd of Thais had quickly gathered around watching. Some were taking pictures with their smart phones. At first I thought the combatants had torn each others clothing off. But on closer look I realized that the shrink wrapped uniform usually worn by the sidewalk purveyors of passion for a price had rolled up like an old window shade into a small band of fabric around their midsections. They looked a lot like Sumo wrestlers with their tiny belts separating vast rolls of ponderous swinging flesh.

No one moved to intervene, including me because, in my case, I have learned from hard experience not to intervene in disputes like this unless one party is helpless and at risk or blood is being spilled. In this case each combatant had the other’s hair wrapped in a death-grip and with their free hand landing looping ineffective blows to each other’s back while at the same time trying to kick each other’s shins with their bare feet. Their greatest physical danger would occur if they lost their balance, fell and cracked their heads on the cement.

Eventually, some of the orange shirted motorcycle messengers came over and separated them. Strangely, after separating the fighters the bike messengers would immediately leave them alone again. This allowed the combatants to quickly resume battling each other. It occurred at least four times until suddenly the fight just ended with each gladiator strutting around while trying to unravel their dresses to cover up their exposed stocks in trade. Although a police substation stood on the corner about twenty feet away, no police showed up.

The entertainment over the crowd dispersed and I continued on across Sukhumvit through Little Arabia and into FoodLand where I ate my breakfast and read the newspaper.

Adventures with the Good/Bad David and Theo

The good/bad David is back in town. We had lunch a his favorite restaurant on the 5th floor of Terminal 21. We were joined by a friend of David’s, a man named Theo. I liked him immediately for having a name like Theo. He is British and spends about half the year in Thailand. He works as an assistant director on large commercials and some movies. As such, he spent much of his career in Los Angeles where he lived not too far from Ruth. I learned from him that assistant directors are a trade somewhat separate from directors. He spent much of the lunch explaining how it used to be a normal career progression to go from assistant director to director under the old studio system. But with the coming of the financial industry to the making of motion pictures, directors began to be chosen for their bankability and not for their expertise or creativity. Bankers poison everything. Once again people controlling the money believed they know everything but usually behave like neophyte gamblers.

Theo like millions of others has written a movie script or two that he carries around hoping to find someone to produce it. His most interesting script is about LA in 1948 when the City’s great jazz scene blossomed with the black jazz musicians moving in after the war. A the main character (true story) wins a major motorcycle race and saves the company that produces the vehicles. Between races, he spends time in the Jazz clubs where he falls in love and eventually meets Claude Rains dressed as a French policeman. He then abandons the woman he loves at the coffee shop in Santa Barbara Airport. He and Claude walk off together into the Sonoran Desert and were never seen again.

I Return to the Seashore One Last Time

I set off to Paradise by the Sea for a couple of days before returning to the US. The Good and sometime Bad David and I took off for the beach early one morning. Two women friends of David’s drove us there. They were very much in love with each other. After arriving we checked into the hotel and set off to our respective rooms for naps. That evening the women departed for The Walking Street to troll the lesbian bars. David and I walked to one of my favorite restaurants in Thailand, Cafe Des Amis. Not only is the French food excellent but it is an oasis of western civility. The place is owned by a westerner with the unusual name Blue. His wife is Thai. Her name strangely enough does not rhyme with his. They have an 18 month old son who spends his evenings at the restaurant (easy enough to do since they live in a house at the back of the property). We had dinner with Theo, my British assistant movie director friend and a woman who lives with a mysterious but wealthy English gold and jewel dealer.
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David, LM on the right and the mysterious gold dealers woman friend standing in the street outside of Cafe Des Amis.

Theo and I spent most of the evening happily discussing the golden age of film directing. We commiserated together over the passing of that art form. We also spent some time reminiscing about the a-cappella do-whop singing groups (e.g. Dion and the Belmonts and others) of the 50’s through the early 70’s.

The next morning I woke up somewhat hung over so I stayed in bed until noon when I went for a brief beach walk and then joined the two even more hung over young women for our drive back to BKK. David stayed in Pattaya.

I leave tomorrow for SF and must finish packing and preparation. Although I looked forward to my trip, I have begun to feel sad about leaving.
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LM’s recent efforts to create clothing accessories of no use in Thailand that I will carry in my luggage for disposal in the US. I probably will give them away as an unwanted gift.

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A songthaew, also colloquially known in Englis...

A songthaew, also colloquially known in English as a baht bus. Udon Thani province, Thailand (May 2005). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently while leaving Paradise by the Sea (Jomtien Beach) to return to Bangkok the little masseuse and I took the small converted pick up truck transit vehicle called a songtheuw from the condo to the bus station to catch the Pattaya-Bangkok bus. When we arrived at the bus station my masseuse went to pay the songtheuw driver our fare. Suddenly an enormous row ensued. The drive jumped out of his vehicle, leaving the other passengers to wait while the two of them went at it, shouting at each other.

For a while I enjoyed the spectacle of the diminutive masseuse all 5 feet of her and the much larger bus driver (about my size) shred the Thai cultural requirement of Jai Yen (Maintaining a cool heart). Finally I stepped between them and the driver returned to his vehicle and drove off in a huff.

When I asked my friend what had caused the argument, she answered:

“I tried to pay the driver the usual 10 baht(about 30 cents) per person fare, but he insisted that I pay 20 baht instead. I asked him why he is demanding twice the amount for the ride than I usually pay. He answered, ‘That was when you travelled by yourself, this time you are traveling with a farang.’”

Thai 1 Baht coin

Thai 1 Baht coin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A photo of Thai actor Mitr Chaibancha at a shr...

A photo of Thai actor Mitr Chaibancha at a shrine in Jomtien Beach, Pattaya, Thailand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mornings during my stay in Jomtien Beach Thailand, I walked along the beach from the seawall supporting boat ramp to the dead tree in the surf and back again, a distance of a little over two kilometers or so.

I generally trudged along head down scanning the flotsam and jetsam thrown on the beach by the night’s tides hoping to avoid stepping on some bit of rubbish that may puncture my foot and possibly cause me great pain and lead to some awful tropical disease.

It addition to the normal dead fish, bits of seaweed, severed crab claws, fragments of shells, plastic bottles and the like I noticed the recent appearance of a great number of large translucent blobs of beached jellyfish among the litter. They looked like sputum left by a gang of semi-drunk giants on their way to or back from an evening in whatever night spots giants go to in the Outskirts of Hell to do whatever it is that giants do there.

I  also began to notice among the mornings detritus a significant increase in farang (European) tourists. As the monsoon rains wind down, high tourist season begins.

Although the beach appeared more crowded, it probably was not because there are a greater number of people on the beach, but on account of the fact that the westerners take up so much more room than Thais. Also the tourists appear to crowd close to the water in the sun while the Thais sensibly prefer to stay back in the shade under the umbrellas and the trees.

I do not subscribe to “W” nor do I read the “Style” section of the Huffington Post, but I have become aware of a significant style change in beach wear.

The more gargantuan the man the smaller the tiny black Speedo” style brief he wears until among the most adipose endowed it almost disappears altogether into the many creases and folds of his flesh. These men generally lie on tiny towels or beach chairs exposing their skin to the sun, but for some reason never losing their pallor.

Pattaya Beach, Thailand. A view to the south t...

Pattaya Beach, Thailand. A view to the south towards Bali Hai Pier and Jomthien Beach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other-hand the younger more fit males stand by the water’s edge flexing and preening and turning bronze. Interestingly these younger men seem to eschew the black mini-bikini briefs wearing instead traditional colored briefs or trunks. They also never seem to sit or lie on the sand unless accompanied by a young woman in which case they spend their day sitting on a towel or beach chair and pouting

The women on the other hand all seem to wear what I have only seen before in some of the pornographic photographs dutifully sent to me by my male friends and which I, in turn, dutifully  send on to other male friends within two days, fearful that to do otherwise would result in some of my appendages rotting and falling off.

Anyway these appear to consist of some thread connecting three tiny pieces of brightly colored cloth placed not so much conceal but to expose, leaving covered only those portions of the anatomy that would otherwise break the seamless expanse of milky flesh.

It appears that there is some universal rule in operation here. The younger shapely women lie face down on their towels and unloose the upper string for some reason certainly not because it in any way could impede the ray’s of the sun. The lower portion of the set, of course, disappears completely into the natural cleft of the buttocks making it appear as if someone was lying stark naked on the sand.

The older, more generously proportioned women on the other hand remove their tops entirely and inevitably lie flat on their backs providing to the gentle caress of the sun and the refreshing touch of the breeze to that which the hand of man probably has not roamed in a decade or two.

Now you may think there goes old Papa Joe the misogynist, but that is not so. I have my own self perception problems with my body. When I stand before my mirror in the evening I am acutely aware of my drooping male dugs and wonder what my size would be for one of Kramer’s male bras (C cup at least).

When I dress for my walk, I try to cover myself from head to toe with only the tips of my toes and my arms below my elbows exposed to the sun. As a result my lower arms have turned to that khaki-olive shade of my youth when the pink kids that lived over the hill in upscale Bronxville would call us who lived in the ghetto village of Tuckahoe, “White N***ers”. But not to our faces, because if we heard that, some of my more excitable friends had the tendency to turn the Bronxville boys blue-veined pink faces, black, blue and red.

English: Tuckahoe Metro-North Train Station in...

English: Tuckahoe Metro-North Train Station in Tuckahoe, NY. Category:Images of Metro-North railroad stations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now my parents fearful that I would be misled by my black and italian gangsters in training friends, sent me to a private school to get away from all that and to get a good education so that I can have more options to f*ck up my life. What I actually did learn, was that while yes, my Sicilian and Afro-American friends were quick to resort to violence when faced with real or imagined slights or for financial gain, my new more upper class school chums while manifestly less physically violent, exposed me to the real meaning of sadism.

But I digress, my beach attire consisted of a straw hat and a pair of ski goggles. Yes ski goggles. Why in Thailand there would be a store that sells ski goggles I cannot even try to guess. Anyway, I wore them because they had an adjustable strap to keep them in place, and they were large enough so that I could wear my prescription glasses under them and thereby avoid the expense of buying prescription sunglasses that I will lose anyway. I also liked the way the high ultra-violet protection of the glasses turn the color of water in the pool while I am swimming laps allowing me to zone out even more when the endorphin high hits thereby diminishing the insufferable boredom of swimming laps. Of course, I then would begin smashing into the edges of the pool, or bumping into other swimmers or swimming endlessly in a circle. But that is another story.

Anyway, I wore a long shirt, a vest in which I carry things like my phone, passport, cigars and the like and of course I covered my legs with long pants. Over my shoulder I carried the bag in which I carry my computer.

I was miserable, sweating and generally hated anyone I saw on the beach enjoying themselves.

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I am called Pookie and although I am an American citizen, I currently live as an expatriate in Thailand at a beach resort city named Jomtien Beach where I rent an apartment in a large complex I dubbed “Paradise at the Beach.” Every day, I walk along the strand or swim in the pool, eat at one or another nearby restaurants and more or less blissfully enjoy doing the nothing that I had been looking forward to for many years.

One day a Thai woman I have known for a long time but had not seen for a while called and suggested we have dinner at a nice little Italian-Thai restaurant located adjacent to my apartment complex. I arrived early, sat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic.

As expected, she arrived late.

She explained that she had just come from divorce court where she finalized her divorce from her Australian Husband. We sat down at the table and ordered dinner. She told me about her domestic travails as we ate. She said that she was feeling sad and to demonstrate the veracity of that statement she periodically teared up and cried. Eventually, she mumbled that she felt she needed to get away from it all for a while. She then brightly suggested we drive togeather up to Chiang Mai, that wonderful ancient walled city situated in the foothills of northern Thailand where I lived for a few months before moving to the sea-shore.

I thought it was a good idea since, being a bit bored myself, a trip up-country with an attractive woman would cure me of any creeping ennui I may have been experiencing. We agreed to leave in a few days.

I called some friends in Chiang Mai to arrange to visit them during my stay. Unfortunately, my intended traveling companion then disappeared. When I tried her telephone number, the recording indicated that the phone had been disconnected. So, I had to call my friends again and cancel the visit.

About two weeks or so later, she called me explaining that she had been in the hospital and could not contact me. Whether she was there to cure some malady or to dry out from drinking too heavily, I never got straight. Nevertheless, she again suggested that we go away together for a few days; this time not to Chiang Mai but to the nearby Island of Koh Samet where she and I had spent a lovely weekend a few years back.

Since my usual weekly massage was to be on Thursday rather than my normal Friday that week, we agreed to leave at 8 AM Friday morning. I planned to spend a day or two with her on Koh Samet then move on to Koh Chang or one of the other islands the area I had never visited but always wanted to.

On Friday at eight thirty in the morning she called and said she would arrive by about 9:30. There being no sign of her at that time, I took my suitcase and went to breakfast to await developments.

At about 10:15 she arrived. I invited her to join me at breakfast. She said she had already eaten and was not hungry and took my luggage to her car. When she returned, she told me that some friends and family would be going with us. I was annoyed because when a Thai woman tells a Farang (“Foreigner” in Thai) that friends and family will join them, it usually only means one thing, the Farang pays for all.

When we got to the car I discovered three young men in the back seat. Being Thai young men, to my Western eyes, they could have been anywhere from 17 to 35 years old or more.

One, seated in the back to the far left, clutched what appeared to be a well-worn large orange teddy bear. I was later to realize instead of a teddy bear it was a stuffed ox or water buffalo complete with large horns, but it was too late. Having failed to catch his name, I already started calling him Teddy Bear Boy in my mind.

The second, who spoke English fairly well and was sitting in the middle, I recognized. He  worked in a local upscale restaurant called Mata Hari as a waiter or bartender. He I named Mata Hari.

The third was a sullen-looking young man wearing a “S.W.A.T” T-shirt who said little during the entire trip.  I called him the Sullen One.

I got the impression that the Mata Hari and Teddy Bear Boy were gay. It would be a mistake however for a foreigner to take anything about a Thai at face value. This is not because it is the so-called inscrutable orient, but just that different cultures give off their own cultural signals. I learned this in Italy when I lived there during the late 60’s. What I thought were facial and gesture signals that would signify no in America, actually to my great embarrassment indicated consent among the Italians. But, that is another story.

Now with the three young men sitting behind me and being annoyed already, I became even more annoyed and a bit uncomfortable as we took off, not down the coast as I expected, but into the rural areas behind Paradise by the Beach where, for long stretches, the paved roads disappeared and every now and then a new subdivision named something like Grand View or Hillside suddenly loomed out of the jungle vegetation. For some reason, I pictured in my mind that scene in Godfather II where Clemenza sat in the back seat of the automobile behind Michael’s sister’s errant husband as they drove into the Meadowlands.

Finally, we came to a large barn-like building that in the US would be called a Roadhouse. We pulled into the gravel parking lot.  My friend drove to the far end of the lot and  backed up to the edge and parked so that we faced the entrance to the building looming in the distance black, shadowy and wavering in the heated air that rose from the parking lot.

She then reached down into that space separating the front seats where usually the change and cup holder reside. Instead of coins, she picked up a handful of large bullets that I had not noticed before. The casings were shiny brass and the blunt points, bright copper.

My first  thought was that since I recalled that she often engaged in producing crafts that she would then sell, she had acquired these to make some sort of strange jewelry.  As a little child, she would make those flower arrangements that are sold on just about every street corner in Thailand.

The image of the little 5-year-old flower girl quickly dissipated, however, when she then reached down  beside  her seat next to the door and pulled up a very large and very mean looking 45 caliber pistol. While admittedly it was not yet a Holy Shit moment, there was a sharp intake of breath on my part.

Then, with the gun placed next to her ear and pointing straight up towards the roof of the car, she shouldered the car door open and got out with what appeared to me to be a look of grim determination on her face. At the same moment, the rear doors flew open and the boys in the back scrambled  out and disappeared somewhere behind the vehicle.

I did not look for where they went because I was too fixed on watching her stride resolutely, gun in hand, now down by her thigh, across the gravel parking lot, up the two wooden stairs leading to the entrance of the building and then disappearing into the darkness.

I thought, “for a morning that started out so unpromising, it may turn out to be an  interesting day after all.”

Stay tuned…….

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