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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…

—————————————————————————

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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From Irwin:

well, the last two emails from you are from the cuz joe that i enjoy =
hearing from. methinks you have conquered facing the storm of the last =
few weeks and are now on your way to calmer days and nights. happiness =
may be just around the corner;of course there could also be a speeding =
truck.

i know better than to volunteer to aid you with the children’s tales =
as much as i would like to be of assistance. although i have been =
informed by more than one person that i have a “simple mind” i fear =
thinking like a child (which is what is needed for proper editing) is =
not in the cards these days – i am thinking more like a mad man than a =
five to ten year old. you can ask my grandchildren who were here all day =
today and will be with us each day next week. this of course in no way =
means that my behavior is not childish at times, so say’s my last wife, =
repeatedly.

for a reason unknown to my subconscious i seem to have slept better =
last night than i have for weeks (albeit i had several short dreams of =
an unpleasant nature but nothing painful). i’m trying to think if it had =
to do with something i ate or didn’t eat. or maybe it was a matter of =
attitude. actually i suspect that it had to do with ham transmission =
that was so funny i laughed out loud for at least 1/2 an hour and maybe =
even ventured a giggle and guffaw. that probably made me forget my =
misery and thus i nodded off without much tossing and turning. it would =

be nice to repeat the scenario however nothing funny to hear at least =
not yet. then too, my schedule for tomorrow calls for completing the =
2009 federal and state tax organizer for the pretty lesbian accountant =
who handles my yearly taxes so my thoughts as i drift off to sleep may =
have to do with how am i going to come up with the tax money (i’m still =
paying off 2008). now that i think about it, tonight for dinner i cooked =
(for four hours) a sixteen pound turkey – perhaps the tryptophan i have =
ingested will bring me a good evening’s repose.

swimming in a pool is good exercise. try to spend at least thirty =
minutes doing so. of course if those big breasted nazi ladies show up =
poolside again you may accidentally swallow some water and fall out of =
stoke rhythm. by the way speaking of lesbians and of massages is the =
pool water in thailand safe for an american to swallow?

Pookie’s response to Irwin:

I would find life insufferably odd and boring without events like those that occurred in the past few weeks.

Anyway, right now I am still basking in the glow of the four hour massage. (what the hell is it to bask)? Only an hour or so was spent in the penetration of orifices and the ebb and flow of bodily fluids. The rest of the time I was semiconscious.

In one of your emails you asked me the meaning of chronic. My specialized research reveals that, chronic comes from Chronos the father of the gods, who was killed by his beloved eldest son Zeus who cut off his beloved fathers dick and testicles and shoving them down his throat before beheading him. Now you may be wondering what would cause a beloved son to set upon his beloved father so. I suspect that one day Chronos gathered all his children (later to be known as the gods) and announced to them,”now I know you all are defective, maladjusted, greedy creatures who like nothing more than fighting with each other and raping whatever turns you on whether god, human or beast, but thanks to me you get to live forever”

Now old Chronos invented time, which is another reason he should choke on his own testicles. Remember who you have to thank for the interminable slowness of time as you sit in the waiting room for your doctors appointment.

Now chronic as in chronic pain, I believe, means the slowing down of time while you writhe in agony after all what use would it be if time speeded up in those circumstances. Yea, Zeus.

Irwin responds:

many thanks for the greek-gods history lesson. i now understand that pain. decades ago i was in greece and spent the evening at a country fair (where a band played greek music and one rendition of hava nagila) almost missing the last bus that would return us to the city. just when i was putting my right hand on the floor of the bus and my left hand on a map of that area of greece orally struggling to convey to the driver in english and sign language where i was and wanted to go, a dark car pulled up and a man with slicked-back hair got out. he asked me in english if i needed help. i explained the situation and he spoke to the driver. we were returned to the plaka in central athens where we had a bottle of ginger ale and stumbled back to our hotel room.

i think the personage with slicked-back hair may have been one of the gods, or a messenger thereof. but i’ve wondered ever since that time, for what was i saved?

Pookie’s reply:

He could have been none other than Mercury messenger of the gods as well as their pimp, sneak-thief, hit-man and all around scoundrel, Mercury is also probably gay. He has been known to sometimes leave presents for those he favors before he does them in. He supposedly can bring good health but can also bring bad. Did you notice if he had little wings on his ankles? He probably saved you for this email correspondence. He is known for doing things like that. He likes practical jokes.

Irwin’s comeback:

come to think of it, he was wearing some rather large-looking footware and it probably was to either, (1) suggest to women onlookers that he had a long shlong; and/or (2) that he indeed had wings on his ankles and was hiding them from my view lest i uncover the practical joke – although i thought that the guy with wings on his ankles was brad pitt in some sword movie.

today i dozed off in an uncomfortable chair three times. the first was when my granddaughter was on the internet before me, the second was when my grandson was on the internet, and then finally when my granddaughter was once again on the internet; however, i am still sleepy. i have taken no drugs (except a baby aspirin and a no-doze antihistimine) and swollowed no alcohol.

perhaps i was bored/ i don’t think so. i bet that there is a santa ana (winds) condition in our immediate future…those always play havoc with my sinuses and could be what mercury had in mind..

Pookie again:

The freaky thing about this particular correspondence is that I recall either reading a story or seeing a “Twilight Zone” like episode in which a traveller in need (I believe an automobile breakdown)is befriended by Mercury. I seem to recall that it all ends badly for the traveller.

Irwin one more time:

partially right. i think the twilight episode was that this couple were driving in a 1956 mercury when it broke down. the couple never survived,

From Irwins blog sent to me on April 4:

SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 2010
Email To Psychiatrist
to: shrink@nuts4us.com
from: goofy@whitsend.com

.
Got your email. Thanks very much for the prescription. I’ll pick the drugs up at the pharmacy this Sunday after I take care of my mom – when I see her she always ask who I am. Like mother like son.

I may be a fool, but I am not stupid. You didn’t have to send an email to me and write that your recommended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (“CBT”) won’t work if I don’t believe in its “potential” to help me. Duh! As to the merits of CBT as a form of treatment for anxiety-ridden and mostly depressed folks, having taken CBT sessions in the past I know first hand of its beneficial value. I just think that in my case I need one-on-one mental health attention of a different nature and not group therapy. Also, the licensenced social worker therapists you mentioned who handle the group, Jason and Judy, may be as you have written superior to you at leading CBT sessions but I question whether they possess a psychiatrist’s medical education, training and analysis abilities; it is from the latter qualities which I believe I would most benefit, rather than sitting around and hearing from women going through menopause and a confused man whose fiance will no longer talk marriage because even though he passed the bar he decided not to practice law – besides I am not going to remark to Judy and in front of other group members, especially female, that I sometimes feel as if my penis is going to fall off even though my past CBT training and of course common sense tells me it won’t. At least I think it won’t. Shouldn’t I?

I am trying to follow your recommendations. Please cut me some slack.

More from Irwin’s Blog:

I Went To The Doctor
I went to the doctor for a check up. After extensive tests the doctor told me, “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. You only have six months to live.” I was dumbstruck. After a while I said, “That’s terrible doctor. But I must admit to you that I can’t afford to pay your bill.” “Ok” says the doctor, “I’ll give you a year to live.”
I Went To Another Doctor
I went to the doctor. He said, “I can help you, but it will require many sessions.” “O.K,” I said, “how much is this going to cost me?” “The twelve sessions, without drugs, will cost you two thousand dollars” replied the doctor. “Oy,” said I, “I’m not a wealthy man, doctor. Couldn’t you make it less?” “Well, as a favor I could do it for seventeen hundred dollars” replied the doctor. I told him, “It’s still more than I can afford doc. I’m out of work, my finances are in terrible shape and a Jewish wife to support. Besides, she wants to go on an expensive vacation before I die.” “O.K.,” said the doctor, “how about fifteen hundred dollars?” I told him it was still too high. “I lost all of my clients and I haven’t paid last year’s taxes.” “Alright already” said the doctor, “I’ll do it for one thousand dollars.” I said, “Thanks doc, I can accept that.” “Good,” said the doctor, “But why did you come to me for treatment when you know I’m the most expensive doctor in the area?” “Well,” I said, “you have a marvelous reputation and when it comes to my health, money is no object.”

Somemore from Irwin:

joseph – wow! was it tough to get up this morning. all the muscles in my body seemed frozen, like a popsicle. can’t imagine physical labor might be the cause as all i did yesterday was wash the dishes and watch seven episode of “house”. perhaps i need an appointment with your specialist masseuse; although i don’t think i want any of my orifices touched at the moment nor have the desire to touch anyone else’s. it’s too cold.

in a few minutes i will start completion of the tax organizer notebook for the year 2009. when filled in to be transmitted to (i think i mentioned in previous email) lesbian accountant. once this is done, my next big project will be to arrange to have the house tented before it falls down from forty years of termite infestation. i expect to accomplish this by the first week in may, if i live so long. somewhere in between i will also have to face going to the dentist.years of neglect plus the radiation treatments have left me with three or four molars which now all hurt; the rest which i was born with have long since departed like a lesser known jack nicholson film.

given the nature of this morning’s historical meaning, i am eating for breakfast some unleavened bread left over from the last supper. i have also smeared onto it some very bad tasting margarine which i had to defrost in the microwave and i suspect was derived from old goat’s milk. i hope my lunch prospects are better.

it’s now 10:25 am (sunday) and i have already managed a last gasp effort to issue a new post on my blog “oy1’s omissions” (http://oy1.blogspot.com) hoping that it means i have accomplished something, perhaps what you call “work”. in the event you find your beginnings today to be somewhat of a struggle, remember when it comes down to it probably no one cares, except for me of course and maybe an elderly aunt in up-state new york if you have one.

crush your enemies.

Irwin commenting on an article in the NY Times about Toscanini:

joe – i wish i had the musical understanding and analysis reasoning expressed in this article. but then again the author is italian and i’m not and he probably is also musically schooled – but then jan peerce was jewish; he even sang in the synagogue. i’ve always felt a sympatico relationship with many italians and things italiano, which doesn’t necessarily explain my facination with pookie of phuket.

Following Irwin’s sending him a news article regarding a possible tsunami hitting Pookie responds:

I went to the beach as soon as I got your message, but no tsunami.

Since then my masseuse from BKK arrived to add some spice to paradise and I have been far too…busy to write. Today, in spite of my objections, she persuaded me to spend a few hours on the beach. I have included a photograph below of us at the beach. Tomorrow she has to go back to BKK. I think it might be a good time to return to Chiang Mai and retrieve some of my things especially my cigars and my remote hard drive since my attached hard drive I am sure will be flaccid by this evening. So, I will probably accompany her to BKK and fly on to CM from there.

As luck would have it, just as my masseuse arrived and got down to business, I received a telephone call from the 25 year old wife, begging me for forgiveness. I told her I was busy and would get back to her in a few days. Do you think she is looking for money? I expect the story will be that her mother, the one who was dying, needs an operation to save her life.

Irwin comments:

joseph – i am so very happy for you that you were able to spend some “relaxing” hours at the beach with ms. funny hands. thanks for the picture. i have saved it along with the others you have emailed to me and am contemplating producing an indie-travel-picture-book in which photographs (i’ll cover male faces) will likely stimulate sales – also, i have a perverse liking for pictures of those things i am missing particularly when they are being shall we say thrust upon one of my better acquaintances.

i dunno what to make out of the telephone call from your wifey; however, notwithstanding things called genuine affection i suspect that you are correct in your assessment of her motives. so, oh, play it for all it’s worth – but hold the pursestrings ever so closely. tell her you have faced a financial calamity of unseemingly momentous proportions (i’ll draft a fake dunning letter from schatzman and schatzman, esquires) and ask her for a loan to tide you over. whatever you do don’t put anything in writing, unless it’s a lie that will hold up in divorce court. suggest euthanasia as the best treatment for her mom, and ask if the mother has a will and any funds. tell her that. by the way the doctor has told you that you have a social disease and she should have herself checked out at the doctor even tho’ they report that kind of thing in bkk and certainly wouldn’t ever let her into the usa even if she is the wife of an american citizen.

i leave you to your women troubles. i now have decided that i have an abscess in one of my remaining very few molars. through the pain i was feeling sorry for myself until today when i took the grandkids to mcdonalds (“welcome to mcdonalds, may i take your order? big mac, curley fries, soda pop, apple pie.”). i don’t eat there. well, maybe i’ll have a coke. anyway sitting in the next booth was “mr. fabulous” – he who use to perform feats of prestidigitation at the now defunct and shuttered for years “magic island” once located in cannery village in newport beach – a cousin of the magic castle in la. magic island was my delight and that of my clients for whom i spent big bucks and transported in large white limos. unfortunately between the drugs and an unwise expansion into a franchise in texas dear old magic island went bust (sigh. the only private club of which i was ever a member and groucho marx notwithstanding enjoyed every moment of it – jews were allowed unlike the jonathon club, which wasn’t nearly as much fun anyway even if i could have joined). i found magic island and laughter. aside from a play “el grande de coca cola” i saw in a bar/club in la at which the now dead comedian dick shawn was laughing like crazy at the table next to me, it was that evening and the evenings at magic island where i busted a gut at the jokes of the comedian magicians and thought i would surely die i was laughing so hard. can you remember the feeling? poor dick…poor me.poor you. but then again now having to dine at mcdonalds is mr. fabulous. poor him, most of all.

More from Irwin:

someone from Cote D’Ivoire visited my website. i don’t even know where Cote D’Ivoire is except i’m guessing that france had something to do with it. maybe it’s the ivory coast of africa. too bad they didn’t leave a comment i could have emailed them back (trying to recall one or two words of swahili) and found out more. now don’t be a smart ass and look it up on the internet and try to one-up me. i could look it up too, but i don’t wanna’. i’d rather dream about some mysterious place where words of mine were seen rather than find out it’s either some seedy village of impoverished and malnurished hiv natives or a wealthy enclave of blond haired men bordering the wine drenched sea. i could use a new friend today.

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Today’s photograph–me at the coffee shop. Sorry about that but I am running out of local points of interest since my days so far have been limited to exploring the route from my house to the coffee shop.

There were no chickens on the road today nor for that matter very many people. I did however notice the huge number and variety of orchids festooned to the trees of everyone’s yard as I walked by.

The houses along our walk range from one that I call the Thai Hearst Castle to a row of small mostly rental units. I consider my house the second best in the subdivision, second only to Hearst Castle. Second best, I prefer to call it penultimate. It sounds more like you have won something.

One good thing happened yesterday. I met my driver. He is Laotian and speaks no English and I speak no Lao or Thai so I have not yet figured out how to get him to go where I want.

I promise never to write again with so little to say.

Have a great whatever you want.

Joe…

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EMAILS WITH NIKKI REGARDING HAYDEN:

Joe’s email to Nikki:


I walked with Hayden to his school this morning. I spoke with two of his teachers. They told me Hayden is much better behaved since I arrived.
The principal said, “Natalie must be very brave, I could never leave my child the way she has”. Enough said.
She was supposed to come to Chang Mai yesterday. She called and announced that she was too busy and would come today. We will see.

Look forward to seeing you.

Nikki’s response:

OK this is a good start and things are going to be even better in the future
the boy is realizing the meaning of a stable school and life and thank to your tuitition he will improve his english reading and other things.
After we are ok with that we can start working on his sport life like put him on a soccer team or a karate class the neiborough is nice lots of people just he need to be social .
I hope u settle ok in the house maybe u need an office or a desk, when i will be there i ll drive u around and we can start to fix the house put a cable tv and a wifi line and other things we need.
try the new little restaurant close to the house is cheap and good thai food ask hayden he knows where is it
see u guys soon

From Nikki:

Ok joe
i am back safe in italy last development is that She is planning to leave again around the end of march or beginning of april.
i was firm to not make the baby travel again and she mention to leave by herself
moneywise she diddn’t put anything in chang mai yet
i payed the eletric and the food plus 2 thousand bath for food so all the new request of money is for her private expenses
the rationale here is that u should not giving her nothing unless is a verified bill with a valid proof of payments otherwise the money will go to her trough the maid
talk to geery about the security bill and the cost of the water
also tell her that i opened an account with bangkok bank to cover all the bills and food and baby needs so she don’t have to pay nothing in chang mai and will see what she come up with by the end of month i have to pay the school and i will send u the money
if she want she can stay in chang mai to eat and survive i am not gonna feed another mouth in bkk
let me know what Geery said about the water and ur visa deal
tomorrow i am busy for the all day so send me an eamil
ciao kiss to hayden

EXCHANGE OF EMAILS WITH IRWIN SHATZMAN:

From Irwin:

how far away is the coffee shop and don’t you have a kitchen at home? what is the significance of the orchids? and here’s a solution for dealing with your driver: draw some pictures ahead of time (i.e. like an airplane when you want to go to the airport, or a beach scene when you want to go surfing. as for f_____g i’m sure you can figure out some type of diagram). actually you can probably download pictures from the internet showing a market or downtown – how you are connected i am not sure as my imagination has you living in snake country awaiting the arrival of islamic militants.

i.

Joe’s response:


You are either up very late or very early.
It is a 20 min walk.
Yes, I have a kitchen and a maid also, but she does not make espresso.
Filling up space.
Thanks for the advice. I wanted him to drive me to the massage parlor. I will enjoy searching the web for appropriate pictures. Any sites that you recommend?
I am in the north of Thailand, few Muslims but there are a lot of snakes, drug wars, white (brown) slavers, corrupt police and of course elephants.

By the way, how did you sent up your blog? You did a great job. I am pleased that the recent postings are optimistic. I am happy for you.

Joe….

By the way, Hayden calls me his Pookie. Should I be embarrassed?
PS: I just turned on my spell check and it suggested: “Statesman” as a replacement for “Schatzman”. I always knew you were bound for great things. I suppose the next time it will suggest “Nobel”.
Petrillo on the other hand usually turns up “petrol” or “petrel”, black ooze or a damned bird.

Frpm Irwin:

You are either up very late or very early. i get up about 8:30 am, take breakfast at the computer and stay on the keyboard until noon, mostly reading non-personal emails (i.e. ny times, la times, food blogs, etc.). then either about 12:30 pm or 1:00 pm i take a nap and stay in bed until around 3:00 pm. i go for a walk around the subdivision (1.5 miles) no chickens, or elephants but lots of dogs, and crows; i take a walking stick with me to beat off the asians. after that i go to the market, dry cleaners, bank or visit my mom in the retirement care facility. then at 5:00 pm i start watching tv and make diner, after dinner i watch basketball on tv and then a violence movie or maybe i’ll read until midnight. once a month or two i try to get together for an uninspired lunch with former political operatives and we laugh at old tales. all of this is boring.

It is a 20 min walk. kaiser permanente say’s one should excersize for a least thirty minutes a day at least there days a week. i think it has something to do with releasing endorphins in your head or is a scam to encourage people to buy nike shoes. i never believed in it but its something to do and it’s the only time people on the street say “hello”. also i can use it against the doctor when i tell him i follow his advice but still feel like shit.

Yes, I have a kitchen and a maid also, but she does not make espresso. did you ever think about buying an expresso machine and giving the maid something to do. does she like make youe meals? what does she make and is it all spicy? last night i watched a movie bancok dangerous with nicholas cage. in a scene he was eating spicy thai food and had to chew some green leaves to cool off. the other scenes were better..he was killing people, but he didn’t score with the chick.

Filling up space. it’s the hardest thing you will ever have to do. i usually listen to a 24/7 opera radio station on the internet http://www.radiotower.com/player.php?channel_id=7366 and/or to a ham radio repeater station where they talk dirty. if i’m lucky the opera is italian, my favorite is puccinni, and not mozart although i beleive him to be one of the best composers of music.

Joe’s Response:

Thanks for the advice. I wanted him to drive me to the massage parlor. I will enjoy searching the web for appropriate pictures. Any sites that you recommend?
on the search bar just enter “image of a….” and spell out what the image is that you want..

I am in the north of Thailand, provide me with the name of the locale and address so i can google it and see the location on a map, few muslims but there are a lot of snakes what’s the difference, drug wars, white (brown) slavers, my favorite corrupt police my kinda’ guys and of course elephants.dumbo?

By the way, how did you sent up your blog? it’s all free and fairly easy. go to google.com and set up a name and password. then once in, click on “more” then click on “even more” and then click on “blogger”. i suppose you might just do a search for “blogger”. once in, everything is explained and you just have to experiment. the main thing i haven’t figured out yet is how to notify people of a new post without sending them a separate email which is what i do. if you haven’t all readyYou did a great job. I am pleased that the recent postings are optimistic. I am happy for you. thanks. thanks but i am not more optimistic i am just more realistic and have begun to face reality which is the wonderment of anxiety, depression and dispair within which i have lived and will for the remainder of my life. i fully believe that my physical/mental disabilities.infirmities are genetic and that the most i can do is alleviate the syptoms and recognize that that there is no cure. instead of avoiding the draft i should have joined the marines…maybe they would have made a man out of me.

Joe….

By the way Hayden calls me his Pookie. Should I be embarrassed? i’d be flattered. i think “pookie” was a positive character on the soupy sales show but i don’t remember what kind of character he was. not a dog like “white fang” or “black tooth”. although maybe “pookie” means something in thai! better get a dictionary.
PS: I just turned on my spell check and it suggested “Statesman” as replacement for “Schatzman”. I always knew you were bound for great things. I suppose the next time it will suggest “Nobel”.unlikely. i was once chased by a man in israel who came after to me to tell me that my name, which i had just signed on a guest book, meant “spokesman for the people”. usually, schatzman refers to a “dear man” or someone like a “treasurer: the word “dear” meaning worth something like money or jewels, i suppose i could have been at least a contender but was burdened instead by listing to the little guy on my shoulder carrying a pitchfork telling me that, “It’s all good, no one will know, you can get away with it.” But that little guy on my shoulder didn’t tell me that in the real world, you don’t get away with it because even when you are the only one who knows, that is enough to destroy you. It just will happen from the inside out.

Petrillo on the other hand usually turns up “petrol” or “petrel”, black ooze or a damed bird. no. i think petrillo comes from the name peter which is derived from the greek word for “rock”. you know like stong like a rock. wasn’t that a song by bob seger?

Irwin’s response:

what i really want to know before i die is that you had to pay for four wives. three children. were $80k in credit card debt and are now living in a palacial estate in an exotic country with a maid, chauffer, and god knows what else at your disposal. how was this managed?

the weather gauge is turning red and we are allerted by radar that torrential rains are anticipated within the next two hours. we have now had rain storms daily for three days. last night i noticed that my feet got damp when i stood on the carpet next to the french door in the computer room. my last wife, who sleeps upstairs, woke up this morning a head full of wet hair and a spot on the livingroom ceiling is brown and water has dripped down the wall. my backyard isn’t large enough to build an ark…i won’t complain, at least its not a tsunami coming over the back wall.

we are doomed i tell you but at least we maybe don;t have to deal with al gore anymore.

i.

Joe’s Response:


In my subdivision, I use my walking stick to beat off the Europeans. Today I will try to get the driver to take me to the Mall. From there I think I can find my way to the massage parlor.


My evenings so far are spent with Hayden.

The maid makes my breakfast and my dinner. Lunch I fend for myself. Breakfast is bland and dinner spicy. She is not a very good cook but she cleans the house, tends the garden and and washes my clothes.

I prefer watching the the young attractive barristas and waitresses to watching the maid who is kind of square shaped.

I always cry at the final aria of Co Co San in Madame Butterfly. Thanks for the site. I will try it tonight.

I am midway between the city of Chiang Mai and the village of Hang Dong (if you can believe it). I tried google maps but they are not very good for Thailand.

I have to go. My driver has arrived. Will write again later.

Joe…

From Irwin:

how far are you from Chiang Mai and how far is that from bankcok? i see that apartments in chiang mai are $13 us a night so i am beginning to understand how you might be able to afford a house – but it looks like you are in the middle of nowhere;hope you don’t need a doctor in the middle of the night. well i’m still in semi-civilization
and about to leave for the kosher butcher.

Joe’s response is missing.

From Irwin:

worldclub lane is not a very exotic name. who were the subdividers, people from the uk?

it’s now 6:30pm here (sunday) what time (and day) is it there? any palestinians?

if orchid’s grow on trees in one’s backyard what flowers do high school girls wear for a corsage at their prom?

irwin

Joe’s Response:

  1. It is exotic to the Thai’s. The developer is Thai. I think he was hoping that Chiang Mai would host the World Cup or maybe the Olympics. It has a huge indoor-outdoor pool in the health club that is now an American Christian high school. The school, I hear is being booted out for being assholes.

This is a strange subdivision. As near as I can tell there are virtually no zoning, health or design controls. As a result it now contains at least two pre-schools and an elementary schools, a pretty good convenience store in someone’s garage, a martial arts studio in someones house and a couple of restaurants. One of the restaurants is run by an old lady who is the widow of one of the City’s ex-mayors (The current one a woman, has just been caught in a notorious sex scandal). Anyway the widow lives on adjacent to a stub-end street that she closed off and now uses as an open air restaurant that she services from the kitchen in her house. She also grows most of her vegetables and herbs on the open area at the end of the stub-end. She also makes herbal medicines and a wine made from some fruit no-one can name or show me and mysterious herbs. The wine takes three months to “mature”. It begins as a rose’ and at “maturity” turns deep red like a burgundy. It actually does not taste bad, a little like a retsina. You get sort of a mellow drunk with a lot of giggling and no appreciable hangover. We think the one of herbs used is ganja.

My corner of the subdivision is the upscale section, with big houses with elaborate gardens and imposing walls and gates. Most of the occupants are corrupt Thai politicians and businessmen and a few Europeans. In other sections one sees enormous houses filling up the entire lot. On some lots, there are more that one house on others someone will develop a few row houses. It the low rent district there are about 50 row houses. These were the first and probably built for the athletes that never came

2. If it is 6:30 PM in California on Sunday, it would be 9:30 AM monday here.

3. The next time I take a teenage Thai girl to her prom I will ask.

Joe…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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3-hispaniolan-edible-rat

A few years ago, I lived in a Bangkok apartment infested by rats (the non-edible kind). At night, after the lights were out, they gaily scampered about the rooms. At one point, the maid put out an anti-rodent device consisting basically of a plastic sheet covered with glue that traps any rat unlucky enough to step on it and produces, I am sure, a cruel and painful death for the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment were somewhat ambiguous. I felt neither fear, sympathy nor disgust for either the infestation or the rodenticide. It was more like the feeling I have when I try to avoid meeting someone I prefer not to meet. On the one hand, I always feel a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other, I generally am aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York, I generally fell asleep with the sound of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about six-years-old my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately, we found an abandoned store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water in the place and at night, the large Norwegian roof rats would slink into the room through the spaces between walls and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above us.

Every night, while my brother and I slept, my mother armed with a bread knife would remain awake to chase away the rats. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. Suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor and had an epileptic seizure, beginning a multi-year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After my mother was taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in, but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and many hospitalizations of my mom, we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old when, in a surprise to everyone, mom became pregnant with my sister and the seizures suddenly stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

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NANA – An American family of visiting tourists has been safely brought back to Thai soil after being lost for four hours in the lower Sukhumvit area, police reported yesterday.

Looking towards Nana Neua from Sukhumvit Soi 3...

Looking towards Nana Neua from Sukhumvit Soi 3/1 in the Arab District of Bangkok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Waldens, comprising James, 43, his wife Meredith, 41, and their children Didi, 13, and Zachary, 9, were reported in healthy condition at Bumrungrad Hospital after an examination following their escape from the international territory known colloquially as “soi Arab.”

“It was the most frightening experience of our lives,” said a visibly shaken James. “One minute we’re in Thailand, enjoying our vacation, and then suddenly we’re in some other country full of Middle Eastern people, West Africans, and Indians. It was like something out of a bad science fiction movie.”

According to police, the Waldens accidental departure from Thailand began when they left their hotel, the Landmark, at 8pm to look for what they had been told was a good place for wood-fired pizza. Mistaking Soi Loet Sin 2 for what they thought was Soi 11, the family walked deep into a dark neighborhood of construction sites.

“Jim insisted we were on the right street but I knew something was wrong right away when we turned the corner and saw all those Indian restaurants,” said Meredith. “It just felt wrong.”

The family then wandered down soi 5 and attempted to enter Gulliver’s Pub, only to be pushed out by a brawl that was erupting between a drunken pack of British football fans and a hostile group of Israeli backpackers.

“I didn’t see any Thai people, anywhere,” noted Didi.

The Waldens then fled into the Nailert Foodland Plaza, where they became disoriented trying to find their way out again. Exiting a fire escape on to an alleyway, they then worked their way deeper into the warren of sub-sois that led to soi 3/1.

“Everyone around us was African,” said James. “We might as well have been in Africa. And I’ve never seen so many sandal shops in my life.”

After attempting in vain to find anyone who spoke either English or Thai, the Waldens spent 20 minutes working their way through a maze of leather stores, travel agencies, and sheesha pipe exporters, only to emerge on soi 3/1, where they were confronted by a bazaar of Middle Eastern and South Asian restaurants, women in burkhas, and men in robes and turbans.

“Poor Zach was so shocked that he just started shouting out ‘Terrorists! Terrorists!’” said Meredith. “We had to cover his mouth. It was embarrassing. Actually it was scary. People were staring at us, so I just grabbed the kids and went down the nearest alleyway.”

Emerging on to Soi 3, the Waldens encountered “about 300” prostitutes of Middle Eastern and Russian origin, whose “huge asses” made it impossible to walk on the pavement towards Sukhumvit. Forced to go the other way, the family tried to ask for directions from one of the Thai vendors selling sex toys on the streetside.

“There were, like, a million vibrators and dildos,” recalled Didi. “That was like all they sold. It was gross.”

Unfortunately, every Thai vendor they encountered turned out to be deaf, and only gestured at the family using hand signs and large Casio calculators. Now completely terrified, the Waldens cut through an Ethiopian restaurant and fled into what appeared to be a large international hotel, the Grace.

“That was the worst place in the world,” said Meredith. “Like a nightmare, like a Twilight Zone episode. Every time we asked for directions it felt like we were interrupting an arms deal.”

The Waldens spent the next 90 minutes lost in the various areas within the Grace, including the bowling alley (“The balls weren’t even round”), the basement coffee shop (“The pit of hell”), and the mirrored casbah disco (“Men dancing with other men, but they were too ugly to be gay.”)

Around midnight the Waldens were finally rescued by a sympathetic transvestite named Pinki, who took them to the street, hailed a taxi, and instructed the driver how to get back to their hotel in Thailand. Once there, the hotel concierge noted their agitated state and called the hospital and the police.

The Waldens are expected to be released today, and have expressed optimism that they can complete their Thai holiday without incident. However, they have been warned to avoid the Nana area, as well as instructed not to enter the Thonglor area without first learning some basic Japanese.

(Thanks to Gary [Pattaya Gary, not Canadian Gary] for this bit of humor.)

Alas, this is the pretty much the neighborhood in which I choose live while here in Thailand. Every morning I wander through it on my way to the health club on Soi 11. I eat breakfast at Foodland, check out the newest vibrator models in the sidewalk stands nearby, window shop for the latest designs in rhinestone encrusted sandals and get my haircut at the barbershop in the Grace Hotel. Although it has been years since I have observed the running of the bulls at Gulliver’s, I still find myself at times forced off the sidewalk by the generously hipped ladies of the night making one last morning troll before retiring. And, I’m sure Pinki is the name of that pretty ladyboy who always invites me to enjoy the best massage in Bangkok whenever I walk by.

 

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I. Introduction to the Labyrinth.

When charging into their respective hearts of darkness, Kafka’s protagonist prowling the endless dim halls of bureaucracy and Conrad’s hero plunging through the green walls of the jungle in search of Kurtz, both experienced the grim pleasure of knowing that giving up was not an option. So it was with me a few days ago as I set out to renew my retirement visa for Thailand.

As with anyone planning a difficult voyage, I spent several days preparing as best I could; reviewing procedures and requirements, collecting documents, assembling funds and choosing the clothing I was going to wear. Most time-consuming of all, however, was figuring out how to get to the Thai immigration Office in Bangkok.

About two years ago, the Immigration Department moved from an easy to reach central location in downtown Bangkok to the massive Government Complex in the nether reaches of the city, far from most public transit facilities except for a few buses and the ever-present taxi’s.

Thai Government Complex - Nonthaburi (Greater ...

Thai Government Complex – Nonthaburi (Greater Bangkok)

The Complex, I discovered, appears on no maps of the city that I could find. The interactive website that integrates all of the cities transit and provides simple to use directions from and to anywhere in the city, did not, or would not, direct one to the Government Complex. Neither the Complex, the surrounding streets or nearby notable sites like hospitals and the like are listed. At first I thought it might have something to do with an overzealous concern about security, until I discovered the Immigration Department’s own website advising those with business with the Department to take a taxi.

Nevertheless, after about an hour of so of searching, I discovered a i-tube video, complete with a zit faced post-adolescent in a baseball cap and the light wisp of a mustache demonstrating how, for only 50 cents in fares, it can be done. It was quite simple really and I decided to follow his directions.

English: Toyota Taxi, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok,...

English: Toyota Taxi, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok,

I have been to the Immigration Offices at the Governmental Center several times in the past. those times I have either taken a Taxi which charges a flat rate of at least $10 or gone with my roommate, the Little Masseuse on a voyage taking about two or more hours and requiring at least four bus changes. This time I decided I was going to make it on my own. Like Willard on the Mekong in Apocalypse Now I was determined to find my way to Kurtz no mater the risk.

So on the day I had chosen, I got up very early, dressed as I had planned, gathered my things and left my apartment. After a big breakfast (I did not know when I would get to eat again), I took the skytrain to Mo Chit*Station at the end of the line just as the lad on the video recommended. He had advised then taking the 52 bus that stops at Mo Chit and goes directly past the Government Complex.

From the bridge Mo Chit skytrain station

From the bridge Mo Chit skytrain station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, when I arrived, I discovered a significant transit center with many busses, taxi’s and vans milling about. I began to doubt my video guides directions, especially since they all seemed to be going in the opposite direction to where I was headed. So, for some reason, I decided I should abandon my guide and take a taxi instead of trying to figure things out. When I told the first Taxi driver I accosted where I was going he quoted me a price that was the same as that charged by the taxi drivers near my apartment. Of course I refused to be ripped off and moved on to the vans. I knew from past experience many of them went past the Complex.

I approached a knot of drivers standing by a line of vans and asked which one was going to the Complex. I was ignored. Undaunted, I began asking individual drivers. Although most continued to ignore me, one smiling fellow seemed eager to help and took me toward one of the vans. The driver shook us off and quickly drove away. Then there ensued a series of angry exchanges between the smiling helpful driver and the other drivers. Finally, the helpful driver, having lost his ever-present smile, turned to me and explained that it would be a long time before a van to the Complex would come by and that I would be better off taking a taxi.

Crestfallen I was still determined not to be taken for the $10 demanded by the Taxi mafia that I had now become convinced ran the city. Unfortunately my confidence ebbed out of me like air from a punctured balloon. I began to feel I had over estimated my abilities as an explorer. Perhaps there was no way to get there from here. I began panic and began to believe that I may have to take the damned taxi after all.

English: Daewoo bus in BMTA / Bangkok Thailand

English: Daewoo bus in BMTA / Bangkok Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suddenly a beggar, missing teeth, wispy hair and rumpled clothes, appeared along side of me and said, “Take the bus if you want to get to the Government Center.” And, just as he said it, a number 52 bus slowed down in the street right next to us.

Bangkok busses do not really stop but usually slow down just enough for passengers to jump on or off. I jumped on and sure enough it dropped me off at the Complex. I made a note to on my way back find the beggar and give him some money, perhaps the entire $10 I saved on the taxi, minus the 25 cent cost of the bus.

I was feeling good.

* There are many “chits” (ch is pronounced sh in Thai) in Bangkok. The Skytrain has three, Mo, Phloem and Lom. At one time there were plans for a movie to be called, “Three Chits in Thailand” but it was cancelled by the head of the chit project for lack of interest….. I know, I am a chit for writing this.

II. Stunned in the Sun.

I arrived at the building that housed the Thai Visa and Immigration Office and a

Thai Government Complex - Nonthaburi (Greater ...

Thai Government Complex – Nonthaburi (Greater Bangkok) (Photo credit: Philip Roeland)

number of other agencies. It was one of the 20 or so government buildings in the Government Complex. It is a huge building that looks like a giant arrow-head plunged into the ground. It has an enclosed central court as large as half a football field. The location of the Complex is so remote that the basement of the building houses a complete shopping center, including banks, restaurants, grocery stores, a car dealership I believe and a lot more.

I was in good spirits. I entered the crowded visa and immigration offices, marched up to the intake desk and handed them my passports. I had two passports because my previous passport was due to expire in December and while I was in the US I had its replacement issued. The smiling young woman behind the desk sporting a badge that announced “trainee,” took my passports and earnestly leafed through them. Her ever-present smile creased into a frown and collapsed. Sensing the anxiety rising in my gut, I babbled my explanation for the two passports. She asked did you show the passport officer at the airport both passports. “No,” I responded, “one had been cancelled so I showed him only the valid one.” Her frown deepened. She turned and spoke with another woman dressed in a military uniform.

Panic rose to my throat as they spoke and rifled through the document now and then glancing in my direction. Then the uniformed one broke away and walked to the counter at which I was standing. She was not smiling. Said, “you have the wrong stamp.” Forcing a smile I inquired, “how do I get the right stamp.”

“You need to go to immigration to get it changed.”

Relieved I responded, “where is that,” hopeful it would be in the same building.

“At airport”

“But,” my smile gone, “this is immigration. “Can’t you do it here” I pleaded?

She looked at me for a moment then turned went back to the no longer smiling trainee. They leaned close together and spoke Now and then they would glance at me. Then the Trainee, smiling again came back to me and said come with me. My heart leaped with joy.

We walked into the large processing room with hundreds of people stagnating around staring perhaps fifty or more cubicles with red lights on the front flashing various numbers. We walked up to another counter behind which sat a man in uniform. She spoke to him in Thai. I gave my story again. They spoke some more. He gave her a piece of paper with a number on it. She then turned and said come with me.

We marched to one of the cubicles with the same number as on the piece of paper. She went in. Came out again said “you have to go to airport. Have stamp changed.”

“But” I sputtered, “Why not here? Where in airport?” and things like that. I was losing it.

She took me back to the first uniformed man. They spoke animatedly. She came back to me. We returned to the cubicle. This time I went in and sat before a grim-faced man in a uniform with ribbons on his shirt and braid on his shoulder. I started to explain again. He took the passports and looked through them going back and forth among the pages; looked at me and said, “You have the wrong stamp. You have to go to the fourth floor immigration at the airport and have it changed.”

Although I sensed defeat, I pleaded, “how do I know where at the airport. What happens if they refuse?”

He looked at me took the little paper I have been given with the number of his office and on the back wrote, “Fourth Floor, Immigration” in English and Thai and handed it back to me.

Knowing that it was the best I was going to do and guessing that at least I could wave the piece of paper around the airport and claim it was from Bangkok Central Immigration Office, I left the building and caught a van back to the Mo Chit Skytrain station.

My confidence slowly returned. I was on a mission. It was still only 10am. I could get it done today. I felt like Willard on the Mekong. Giving up was not an option.

III. Off to the Airport.

I got back to the Mo Chit Skytrain station without too much difficulty and took the train a few stops back to where it meets up with the elevated railway that goes to the airport. I crossed over to the Airport train station and paid my fare. I discovered that I had paid a three dollar fare for the luxury express. I did not know there was such a thing. Normally I would have chosen the lower fare train, but I guess in my hurry I was not paying attention. When the train arrived and I entered the car I was surprised. Normally the rail cars have the usual bench like plastic seats aligned along the walls facing each other. Here they were upholstered airline seats in orderly rows facing forward. As I took my seat and the train started up I was pleased despite my extravagance. I was comfortable and the trip would be shorter than the local giving me time to get my business done at the airport and return to the Immigration Offices.

Although the existing Skytrain had been built through the center of Bangkok, touching almost all the tourist and commercial areas and had already been extended halfway to the airport, the powers that be, both financial and governmental, decided it would be in their interests to create a separate company and transit line just to service the airport. They placed their stations where the airport line intersected existing mass transit lines . The theory being, I suppose, that the people, in the tourist and commercial areas and the like who wanted to get to the airport by less expensive mass transit would be willing to lug their suitcases on to one mass transit facility, travel for quite some time to the transfer point and then lug their things over to the new line for the final trip to the airport. Everyone was surprised when it didn’t work and the expected ridership failed to occur. Since then there have been the usual marketing campaigns, promoted by marketing mavens who convinced the powers that be that poor marketing was the problem and not any defect in the concept. That has not worked either.

Anyway I took my seat and stared out of my window as we rode high above the city. In an effort to reduce costs, in addition to scrimping on the quality of the stations, the roadway and the rolling stock, a route was chosen that avoided the developed portions of the city thereby lowering land acquisition expenses. From a point somewhere not too far from the Royal Palace grounds on the river and extending almost all the way to the new international airport there exists a relatively undeveloped strip of land about a half a mile wide. I have no idea what urban development dynamics caused this. Through this stretch the airport rail line travelled.

As I looked out my window I could see that in this stretch of land the jungle still existed. Not the jungle one sees in documentaries with thick gnarled trees and multi-storied green terraces, but a marsh jungle of grassland, clumps of thick vegetation with wispy leaved trees and black waters peeping through from beneath it all. In the distance the shining high rises gleamed and the pressed in on the margins. Here and there a collection of shacks of what I have learned are referred to as “informal communities” appeared. Rusted corrugated roofing covering dwellings and shops made from a variety of urban detritus, Narrow little lanes teeming with people zigzagged through each community. The structures were either built on stilts over the black waters of the marsh, or crowding over remnant canals.

I was enjoying the view and my contemplation of it when the first attack occurred. Fleas began their relentless assault of stinging bites all over my body. I wanted to run from the train howling, but it was the express, so I had no choice but to sit there. When the train rolled into the airport, I left it quickly. I already had started to feel the little red welts rising all over my body. I thought I must have looked as though I had come down with a case of measles.

At least I had arrived. I consoled myself with the thought that the protagonists of Conrad, Kafka and Coppola who furnished the material for this extended and convoluted metaphor faced worse.

IV. At the Airport with no Place to Go.

Terminal de l'aéroport international de Bangko...

Terminal de l’aéroport international de Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi International Airport) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having arrived at the airport and ignoring the insane itching all over my body from the flea bites, I rushed up to the fourth floor as I was directed to by the bemedalled and braided uniformed character back at the immigration office. I was still clutching the tiny slip of paper with my printed interview number on one side and the scribblings of that esteemed gentleman on the other: “Airport, fourth floor immigration” in both Thai and English.

Upon reaching the fourth floor, I recognized it as the departure floor with its row upon row of counters for ticketing and hundreds and hundreds of people busily engaged in going or processing the going or cleaning up after whoever was going actually went.

Knowing that in all this turmoil I could never figure out the location of the immigration office, I sought out an airport information desk. Found it. The woman behind the desk smiled at me. I explained the situation to her and waved around the piece of paper. Her smile disappeared and she motioned me to wait while she called someone. After speaking to whomever for a few minutes she put down the phone and told me to wait and then proceeded to completely ignore me. I recognized that particular Thai trait. To her I had suddenly become a non-entity; someone no longer quite human.

Perhaps a little explanation about Thai culture would help to understand her reaction. To a Thai you are not completely human if you are not Thai or are a lower social status (this is a trait not unknown among Americans also). Farangs (Western foreigners), could be forgiven their non-Thai-ness only if they are of a superior class . A superior class in Thailand usually means, money. If you have it you are rewarded with a smile and an acknowledgement of potential humanness even as they try to separate you from the money. There were three reasons that disqualified me from being truly human in the eyes of the lady behind the information desk; 1) I was not Thai; 2) I was not dressed like I had money (I was in my Ocean’s Eleven outfit, flowered shirt, short pants and floppy hat) and; 3) If I had money, I would not be doing this myself but would have paid some Thai some of it to run around collecting the documents and paying the bribes on my behalf.

The phone rang. She picked it up, spoke for a moment and handed the receiver to me. I explained everything to the woman on the other end and waved the piece of paper around even if she could not see it. She said that I should hang up and wait until someone calls back. I did and waited. After awhile the phone rang and we repeated the process, at the end of which the voice at the other end directed me to be at door M-28 at precisely 20 minutes after the hour where someone will appear there to help me. After profusely thanking the voice, I hung up. I asked the information lady where door M-28 was located. She pointed vaguely across the departure area to the right and returned to ignoring me. I went off in search of door M-28 full of optimism that someone there would finally solve all my problems. It was only 10 after the hour. I, nevertheless, rushed to find door M-28 not wanting to risk being late.

V. Disgust and Loathing.

I got to door M-28 with plenty of time to spare – except there was no door. The only M-28 I found was a counter at the end of a long row of counters for various airlines. The only doors nearby were two departure gates. So I nervously stood there waiting for my assignation. Twenty minutes after the hour came and went, then thirty minutes. When forty minutes came and went, I was really concerned, so I approached a woman sitting behind counter M-28 and told her my story and waved the little piece of paper. Instead of smiling blankly or ignoring me as most Thais would do this woman unleashed an exceedingly vicious attack on me saying that she did was not interested in nor cared about my troubles and that this was an airline counter and I should not be standing there. She pointed to the boarding gate and told me to go stand there if I must stand near some doors.

Taken aback, I was speechless and stepped a few feet away from the counter to try to figure out what to do next. I decided to go to one of the gates and try there. Maybe the rude counter Nazi was right.

So I went to the gate and found a woman in uniform, explained my story and waved the piece of paper as well as my passports. She smiled took my passports, leafed through them as though she knew what she was looking for and said, “I understand. Stay right here. I will be right back.” She took my passports passed through security and went-up to two uniformed passport officers behind their counters. They talked. They all looked my way. Then she turned and came back with a large smile on her face. Like someone suffering Stockholm Syndrome my heart leapt for joy at her smile.

“It is all taken care of,” she said. “Come with me.”
VI. Hope Diminished

So, I followed her, ever hopeful that this time it would all work out. She led me to Airport security. After I passed through the usual minor strip-search, I looked around for the woman. She was gone leaving me confused about what I was supposed to do next. I decided approaching the two uniformed passport officers I had seen her speaking with was the most reasonable thing to do.

I walked over to the counter they sat behind. Told them my story while waving around the increasingly wrinkled, sweat stained and forlorn piece of paper. I handed them my passports. They leafed through them knowingly. Spoke to each other. Then looked over at me and spoke to each other again. Finally one of them took possession of the passports turned towards me and told me that he would handle it. I was elated.

“Give me your boarding pass,” he demanded. I plunged into depression. With my voice rising with my hysteria I said, “No, no you do not understand” and I began to tell my story again and wave the little piece of paper around, at which point a younger man in a darker uniform with a bit more ribbons and braid arrived. Spoke to the passport officer. I repeated my story again and showed him the piece of paper.

“No problem,” he said. “Come with me”

I followed him through the passport review post and into an office that contained two desks behind one sat a similarly uniformed officer and behind the other he sat down. He leafed through the passports. Just to be sure, I explained everything again and showed him the piece of paper one more time. “No Problem,” he smiled and turned to fiddle a bit with his computer. My happiness level began to rise one more time.

Finally he finished whatever he was doing, satisfied he turned to me and asked, “Now where is it you are traveling to today?”
VI. Helpless in Savarunbumi.

“No,” I shouted, hysteria overcoming any sense of decorum and common sense I had left. “You do not understand, I am not going anywhere today.” I then explained my story once again and handed the little slip of paper to him.

He looked at it, nodded, got up and went over to his office mate, a slightly older uniformed man with a little more braid. They talked, looked over at me, ten leafed through my passports and talked some more. Finally, the younger man turned to me, handed back my passports and said, “Immigration, second floor.”

“But, but,” I spluttered. “The man at downtown immigration said airport fourth floor. See he wrote it down here.” I offered him the slip of paper.

He did not take it, but repeated more firmly this time, “second floor immigration.”

Sensing defeat, I pleaded, “How do I find it? What if they send me back up here again?”

“I will take you,” he responded.

Somewhat relieved I followed him back through the offices, past the customs officers through security and then across the building to a bank of elevators. I got in the elevator. He reached in. Pressed the button for #2 and quickly walked away as the doors closed on me.

The elevator did not stop at the second floor.
VII. It Gets Worse

Of course I did not know the elevator did not stop on the second floor until it passed that floor and halted on the first. I took the escalator to the second floor in search of the Immigration Office. The second floor was the arrivals level and lacked the bustle of the 4th floor departure level. There were essentially only the money changing kiosks and two large openings in the far wall from which people arriving in BKK were disgorged. I could not see anything that announced it had anything to do with immigration. Eventually I spotted a door before which stood a woman dressed in a uniform different from most of the others, lighter in color and lacking braid or ribbons. I walked up to her and explained my story and showed her the slip of paper. She smiled and said, “I understand. Follow me.”

She led me into a small room where a man in a similar uniform sat next to a table smaller than a card table. He seemed to have little of no english capabilities, nevertheless I explained everything again showed him the slip of paper and my passport. He leafed through my passport and seemed confused and looked to the woman with what I interpreted as a look of bewilderment.

I said, “Immigration Office. Second Floor. The people on the fourth floor told me to go here. Where is it?” The woman seemed to translate it for him. He fumbled some more through my passports. Eventually I tired of this and asked her “Where is the Immigration office on the second floor?”

She said “in there” and pointed to a door at the back of the room.

“Great” I said. “I will go in there.”

After another brief discussion in Thai with the man, she said, “you can’t”

“What do you mean I cannot. The people on the fourth floor sent me here.” I was clearly getting upset my voice was rising. Thai’s hate people who get emotional.

They spoke again briefly, then the woman said come with me and took me back into the main hall, vaguely pointed toward the opposite wall and said, “Ask at information counter over there.”
VII. A Light at the End of the Tunnel.

I was now back to where I started, at the Airport Information Desk, two floors below where I had begun. I told the woman behind the counter my story and waved the slip of paper around. She called someone. Hung up. Told me to wait. The phone rang again. She handed me the receiver. I explained everything again to the person on the other end. Hung up. Waited. The phone rang again. A very angry person at the other end wanted to know why I was not at Gate M-28. Said that someone went to the trouble of going there and I was not there and now everyone is very angry at me. I decided I was better off not trying to explain. The voice told me to be at M-28 in five minutes and clearly left the impression that if I did not do so my days in Thailand were numbered.

I hung up the phone and ran up the two flights to M-28 on the fourth floor. The nasty woman behind the counter glared at me. I avoided her gaze. Five minutes went by. At about the 10 minute mark I noticed a woman dressed in half a uniform (uniform shirt, regular slacks) striding purposefully across the airport floor in the general direction of M-28. She was not smiling. The land of smiles did not exist for me that day.

I asked if she were the person I was to meet and handed her my passports and showed her the piece of paper. She scowled but did not speak. She took the passports and leafed through them and scowled some more. She motioned me to follow her and led me to an elevator at the back wall of the office of the uniformed man who walked me all the way across the airport to the elevator that did not stop at the second floor.

We entered the elevator. She pressed the button for the second floor. This time the elevator stopped at that floor. Without speaking she set off walking through several offices and around some partitions until we reached the arrivals area where there was a long table. She motioned me to sit. I sat. She disappeared into an office.

The table was sticky with spilled soft drinks and was crawling with ants. I could see in front of me the passport control section dedicated to arriving flight crews. I watched the crews arrive and pass through passport control for about an hour. Finally the woman came out of the office. She was smiling. I was not too sure how to read that.

She said, “I fixed it.”

I looked at the stamp in question. My heart sank. It looked the same. Said that. She explained that she had changed the date of my temporary visa from the 30 day temporary limit to Friday three days away. I looked at her with a look of confusion. She said that Friday is the day my retirement visa runs out as though that explained everything.

She then asked me why I did not hand both passports to the passport control officer when I arrived. I said, “because I did not want to confuse him.” She laughed at me.

Then led me to the passport control exit, motioned me through, bowed and with a broad smile said, “Well then, let me welcome you for the second time to Amazing Thailand, the land of smiles.”

I left the airport. It was too late to return to the Immigration Office, so I went back to my apartment. That night I slept fitfully. All I accomplished today was to reduce the time I could remain in the country to three more days. I kept asking myself, what would Willard do, if after reaching Captain Kurtz’s compound in Cambodia he realized he had to start all over again with a new set of orders. AWOL most likely.

IX. Return to the Immigration office and Redemption

The next day I got up early and returned to the Immigration Office at the Government Center, hopeful but not optimistic.

When I arrived I marched up to the same woman who I started with yesterday. She seemed not to recognize me. I gave her my passports. She leafed through them, smiled and pointed me through the door on her right.

I went through that door to the counter behind which sat the same uniformed and braided man who had sent be to the uniformed man with more braid who humorlessly sent me on yesterday’s odyssey.

Today he simply looked at my passport, grunted and gave me a slip of paper on which was printed the section I was to go to and a number. He pointed to the offices that made up that section.

I took a seat outside of the offices. Seven hours later my number was called. I went into the cubicle where another uniformed man with braids on one shoulder sat. I gave him my passports. He looked through them, took a stamp out of a drawer, slammed in on a page of my new passport, wrote something and handed them back to me with a smile.

Taken aback by this sudden display of simplicity, I asked, “How much do I have to pay in fees for my new retirement visa?”

“Nothing,” he responded. “Just extended your existing visa to the original date it would have been had your US passport not expired.”

“You mean I have to do this again in five months not a year?”

He smiled.

“Well can I get re-entry permit so I can leave and return to Thailand without losing my retirement visa?”

He said, “you have to go to another section.” He gave me another slip of paper with a section letter and a number on it.

I went to that section. Two hours later I walked out of the building with both my retirement visa and reëntry permit, $100 poorer for the permit.

X. Postscript

As with the completion of any journey or quest my feelings were equivocal as I thought about the last two days. It was good that I achieved what I had set out to accomplish, more or less, but I did not feel especially happy about it.

Life seems to me to be little more than a series of side trips along a longer journey. And like all journeys no matter how pedestrian or mundane they contain the same elements; hope, disappointment, determination, surprise, boredom and just about every other human emotion that one can conger up. I guess that may be why most literature is about a journey of some sort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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sidewalks-768x512

 

A Day in the Life:

 

a. Pookie contemplates while at the health club.

 

While exercising at the health club in Bangkok one day, I realized that although death is never very good, if one was going to go, one of the best ways is during vigorous exercise; the flood of endorphins makes one not particularly care. On the other hand, attempts to commit suicide by exercise are doomed to fail. Anyone so depressed as to contemplate it is probably too depressed to exercise in the first place. Still, I decided to redouble my efforts.

 

b. Where Pookie confronts himself on the sidewalk.

 

Roseanne Roseannadanna

Roseanne Roseannadanna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s always something.”  Roseanne Roseannadanna.

While on my way to the health club the same morning I experienced Roseanne Roseannadanna’s insight, I walked by a man lying on the sidewalk. He looked dead. Sitting on his haunches next to him and shaking him back and forth was another man who kept on repeating something in Thai over and over again. I assumed it was something like, “Hey buddy, you ok?” I would think that is what one says in similar situations everywhere.

They both appeared to be street people and were filthy. I believed the man lying on the sidewalk was either dead or paralyzed since he seemed quite stiff when the other man shook him.

I stood there presented with western civilization’s eternal quandary: How do I evade involvement without feeling guilty? I ignored dealing with that question and tried to determine if there was anything I could do to help.

My first predicament was how to avoid getting down and touching the possibly deceased man. Not only was he filthy, but I have a phobia about touching dead things – probably generated by my mom’s warnings to never touch the dead rats, dogs, and cats that were often lying about in my neighborhood because they probably were carrying a dread disease. Her advice in all likelihood ended medicine and biology as career choices for me.

Thankfully, I reasoned, getting down and touching him would do no good because I had no medical training and could not speak the language. So, I then thought maybe I could start screaming something like, “Help, help, call an ambulance” or something like that. I hoped I would not have to do that either since I would probably feel embarrassed. Also, when I looked around, however, I noticed at least 20 Thais within 10 yards of me with perhaps 10 times more within shouting distance, none of whom paid the slightest attention to the scene going on next to me. It was not as though they were simply averting their eyes to avoid getting involved, but instead, they simply continued on doing their business as though a dead or dying man on the sidewalk was an everyday occurrence.  I decided that my screaming and yelling likely would do no more good than getting down on my knees and shaking the guy and asking him if he was OK.

I then decided that the best thing I could do was go find a cop and tell him about the situation. Of course, I recognized a language barrier remained and given my experience with the Thai police, it was questionable whether he would care or do anything. There was also the quandary of what I would do if he demanded a bribe before acting. As an American, I had to face the dilemma of whether my humanitarian obligations extended to paying for someone else’s problem. Nevertheless, with that still unresolved, I set off in search of a cop.

Although there was a police post a few blocks back, I decided to continue in the direction I was heading since I recalled that, about a block away, the tourist police often had a card table set up for some reason with one or two cops sitting there. They never did anything that I could ever discern except sit there and talk to the ladies of easy virtue that seemed to regularly gather around them. I also thought that chances were better that the tourist police spoke English.

Alas, no police card table appeared. So I continued on to the place where I intended to have breakfast. There I would be able to think about what to do next. While sitting at the counter, I decided that there really was not much left for me to do since by now whatever was going to happen or not happen most likely had already happened. So I ordered breakfast, tried to convince myself I had done all that I could and contemplated Scarlett O’Hara‘s insight, “Tomorrow is another day.”

 

c. In which Pookie gets a massage.

 

In an effort to relieve the aches generated by my exercise and assuage my distress from the morning’s events, I decided to get a massage. Now normally the Little Masseuse gives me my massages, but for the last few weeks, she has been telling me that she is too tired from folding towels at the health club to spend another two hours squeezing various parts of my body. Given my diminished but not entirely lost sexual capacity, I considered her excuse as the functional equivalent of “I have a headache.” Anyway, I went to a spa owned by a woman who I have known for over 10 years. She lives most of the time in Singapore with her husband and new baby. Her husband, an American, and she were both friends of mine when they lived in the Bay Area.

I decided on a one-hour foot massage. Generally, I forgo full-body massages because in Thailand a foot massage is more an entire leg and foot massage and includes massage of hands arms, shoulders, and head. In fact, the only things missing from a whole-body massage are the rubbing of the abdomen and the buttocks; and you know where that leads. The massage cost $13 including tip. That was most of my daily budget. But it was worth it. I felt much better.

d. Pookie ends his day in outer space.

Later, I met up with the Little Masseuse and we went to the movies in a new mall named Terminal 21. I like going there because it is nearby (two blocks away) and each floor themed on a different world city. There are two floors dedicated to San Francisco complete with a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge stretched across the food court and a full-sized copy of a cable car teetering over the escalators.

We saw “Prometheus,” which I did not understand that well since I found the narrative and motivations confusing. Why, for example, do robots always seem to be pissed off at their creators for creating them? Robby the Robot,” never got pissed off at Will Robinson. Unfortunately, it did seem at times it too often panicked, swung its arms about screaming Danger, Will Robinson, Danger” to convince me it gave a damn about the health and safety of its charges. Modern cinema robots never panic. That is what makes them so creepy.

Anyway, the movie seemed based upon the concept that the operative principle in the universe is revenge. I disagree, I think the universal operative principle is confusion. Too many beings think they know what they are doing, when in fact they are lucky if they can figure out which end the food goes in and which the shit comes out.

In any event, a lot of people and aliens died. The robot survived, but not the black guy. I am sure you guessed that.

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