Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mystery novel’

 

american_dragon_jake_long_by_jackspade2012-d6ergrd

The following reproduces Chapter 3 of my unfinished and never to be published novel “Here Comes Dragon.” The whole unfinished draft can be found at, (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/here-comes-dragon-an-unfinished-novel/).

 

 

Dragon’s breath:

“A good detective should be afraid…always.”

 

 

Chapter 3.

 

I turned the doorknob and pushed the door open slowly. I only had opened it a few inches before it was wrenched from my hand. A big guy stood there holding the door and filling all the space between the door and the door jamb. He was not too much taller than I am, but he was big, with a body poised somewhere between muscle and fat.

“What do you want,” he growled?

I stepped back. Said, “I’m looking for Mark Holland.”

“Why?”

Thought this might be a good time for a clever story. Could not think of one. Went with the truth. “I have been asked to find him.”

“Why,” again?

Still lacking clever responses, said, “I’ve been hired to find him.” Took a business card from my pocket handed it to him. He looked at it for a long time. Said, “A Detective eh. Why don’t you come in and we’ll talk?”

I said, “If it is all the same to you, I feel better standing out here in the hall.”

The door opened a little wider. Another fat guy appeared. He had a phone pressed against his ear with one hand. In his other hand, he had a gun that was pointed at me. “Get in here,” fat guy number one ordered.

At that moment I noted a strange phenomenon. My clothing went instantly from dry to wet. At the same time, I felt like I shit my pants. Said, “I think my chances of being shot are greater in there than standing out here in the hall.”

I flashed on how stupid that sounded. The embarrassment of shitting in my pants began to leak into my consciousness. Did not get far with either thought as they were interrupted by an explosion to the side of my face. As I toppled toward the floor, my first thought was to protect my computer. The second was that I might be dead.

Thought I was shot. Actually, Fat Guy One suddenly had reached out with his ham sized hand and slapped me aside my head as they say. His heavy ring raked across my jaw.

Before landing on the floor, I was grabbed and dragged into the room. I looked down the hall in the vain hope that Ann had seen what happened and would call the cops. No such luck.

I was thrown onto a bean bag chair on the floor. Thought, “Who the fuck still has a bean bag chair?” Said, “Who the fuck has a bean bag chair any more?” But did not get it all out as the pain had finally hit and I realized that I had bitten my tongue and was dribbling blood down my chin. Got out “Woo fla bee or?” before giving up and grabbing my jaw. I was bleeding there too from the ring. Said, “Shiss!” Added “Blon.” My tongue was swelling up.

Fat guy one threw me a dirty dishrag. Thought I would probably die of sepsis if it touched my open wound. Spit the blood from my mouth into the rag folded it, and pressed it against the side of my face anyway.

Fats Two was talking on the phone. Whispered to Fats One. Fats One said, “Who sent you?”

Replied something that sounded like, “That’s confidential.”

Fats one raised his fist.

I quickly responded, “Gul fren.”

“Fucking Mavis,” said SF fats.

“No, na yeh” I commented. I thought I was being clever. They ignored me

Fats Two whispered to Porky One again.

Porky asked, “Find anything yet?”

“Hired hour ago. This first stop.”

More talking on the phone and whispering. Fats Prime asked, “What did Mavis tell you?”

What I answered sounded a lot like, “Not much. He’s missing. She’s worried.”

More talking on the phone and whispering.

I said more or less, “We could save a lot of time if I just talked directly to whoever is on the phone.” Although it did not come out quite like that, I actually was getting used to speaking through my swollen tongue and frozen jaw.

They ignored me. Fats One said, “What’s she paying you — tattoos or blow jobs?” Thrilled with his cleverness he let out a surprisingly high pitched giggle.

I did not answer as I struggled with a clever comeback and failed mostly out of fear of retaliation.

He said more forcefully, “What do you charge?”

“Two hundred dollars a day. One week minimum. One half paid in advance.”

Some more whisperings into the phone. There seemed to be some disagreement.

Fats Prime finally turned to me and said, “We’d like to hire you to help us find him.”

I was gobsmacked. Wanted to say, “Fuck you” or “What the fuck,” even. Said instead, “Can’t, conflict of interest.”

Prime Cut One turned red-faced and advanced on me. I quickly said, “On second thought, I can probably figure a way around it.”

He stopped, smiled reached into his pocket, and pulled out a wallet. From it, he extracted 10 one hundred dollar bills and placed them in my hand not holding the towel. “You will get another thousand if you find him.”

Pocketed the money. Said, “Whose my client?”

Again with the whispering. “Me,” said First Lard Brother.

Asked, “What’s your name?”

“No name.” He scribbled on a piece of paper. Handed it to me. “My phone number. Call every evening at about five o’clock.”

“What can you tell me about Holland to help me along?”

Again the phone. The Fats One then said, “Ask Mavis. She knows more than she is telling you.”

They then both picked me up out of the bean bag and guided me toward the door.

“How do you know I won’t go to the police?”

“If you do we will have to kill you.” They both giggled in falsetto.

I knew that was bullshit but I was still scared shitless, literally and figuratively and I knew involvement of the cops was futile.

Once back in the hall, I ran to Ann’s door pounded on it and rang the awful buzzer. I do not know what I expected I’d do if she answered; cry in her arms perhaps. No response anyway. Pictured her standing in the middle of the room staring blank-eyed at the door.

Turned, grabbing the computer in one hand and the bloody rag in another, ran out of the building and back down the hill to Pino’s place.

When Pino saw me he said, “What the fuck happened?”

I ran by him and into the restaurant. Said as I passed. “Bathroom. Ice in a napkin quick.”

In the toilet, I threw the rag into the wastebasket. The bleeding had mostly stopped. Dropped my pants and drawers and sat. Saw that I really had shit my pants, a little not much, but enough to make me groan. My hands were shaking as was the rest of me.

When I left the toilet Pino was there with the ice in a napkin. Repeated, “What the fuck happened?”

Took the napkin with the ice, pressed it to my face, said, “Later, I need a taxi right now.” Pino went into the street flagged down a cab. I got in. Gave the driver the address of my condo on Fourth Street, waved to Pino, and slunk into my seat as far down as I could go.

Read Full Post »

images-1

Dragon’s Breath:

Sam Spade: “Then the trick from my angle is to make my play strong enough to tie you up, but not make you mad enough to bump me off against your better judgment.”

 

 

Chapter 2.

 

I watched her disappear around a corner, took a sip of my wine and realized she had not paid for it. “Bitch,” I opined to no one except me. Drank the rest of my Barbera. Began on hers since she had not touched it and I was paying for it and I am opposed to wasting good, or even mediocre wine on religious grounds, being raised Catholic.

Usually tracing a missing person for the price I was being paid warranted about a half hour or so on a computer, a few telephone calls to bulk up the brief final report. A report written in a way that allowed the client to resolve any residual guilt they may be feeling by assuring that he or she had done all that could be done under the circumstances or, if the client is still mired in guilt, suggesting they pay me the rest of my fee and retain me for another week of futility. What the fee did not include, however, was any effort requiring the use of foot protecting composite material or knocking on doors.

Nevertheless, given that the sun was out and it was about as warm as it was going to get in San Francisco; I had just drunk two glasses of wine; the knowledge that the missing Mark’s apartment was only about three blocks away from where I was sitting; and the urgings bubbling out of that dark and defective communication channel that ran between my brain and my groin suggesting that the extra effort could result in my observing Mavis’s tattoos closer up, I decided to knock on his door just in case Missing Mark had decided that Mavis was no longer his playmate and he was hiding from her wrath.

So, I finished the wine, packed the computer in its protective shoulder bag and signaled to Pino to put it all on my tab (which was met with a scowl and a sneer). I then got up, jaywalked across Columbus Avenue and moved on up Green Street toward Telegraph Hill.

I guess I ought to describe how I was dressed so you do not simply picture a dark blob bobbing along the sidewalk. I was dressed like a dark blob. I wore a shapeless grey-brown short overcoat with wool lining, that I picked up at Goodwill, over a yellow sweatshirt with nothing written on it. I do not do advertising. Black slacks below. I don’t do jeans. On my feet are ugly orthotic enhanced shoes to coddle my nonexistent arches. I don’t do sneakers or trainers or whatever those horribly expensive and garishly colored things are now called. Around my neck hung a ratty red and black wool scarf with a fringe on each end.

The sun was shining. The fabled San Francisco fogs of three decades ago a vague memory. It still, however, was about a million degrees colder in the City than in the East Bay but the temperature was still warmer than it had been in times past when one suffered through 12 months of semi-winter. Now, due in all likelihood to global warming, winter in San Francisco lasts only about seven months.

I regretted this change in the weather. Gone were the fogs that cloaked Hammit’s Sam Spade in his daily run from his offices near the Burritt St. ditch to John’s for lunch. You need a real City for mysteries, full of shadows and unhappiness. San Francisco is not a real City. It is too happy.

On the far side of Grant, Telegraph Hill rises. It is capped by that great phallus in the sky memorializing the transcendental virility of San Francisco’s Fire and Rescue personnel. The stunted cement penis also separates the residents of the sunny side of the hill from those fortunate few who really have views of the water. These few live primarily in shacks converted over the years into luxury aeries. These luxury shacks, reachable only by stairs, cling to the side of the cliff like barn swallow nests cling to the eaves of a barn. Among these fortunate few living snug in their aeries live some of the most unpleasant people living on the face of the earth. They are those who fervently believe that their struggles for preservation of their water views and indolent lifestyles benefit the rest of us.

Now do not get me wrong, I hate rapacious developers as much as anyone and believe that most developers should first be boiled in oil and then burnt at the stake in the middle of Union Square, but if these cliff dwellers were so concerned about the rest of us, as they would have us believe, why don’t they turn their happy huts over to the rest of us, say for two days a week, so that the rest of us can sit by the window, smoke a joint, sip some wine and stare slack-jawed at the Bay bridge marching across the water into Angel Island while the ceaseless maritime traffic in the bay passes back and forth under its soaring piers?

On the sunny side of the hill, the streets get steeper as they approach the crest of the peak. The sidewalks change into steps about halfway up the hill. The houses on this side sit cheek by jowl crammed one next to each other. Built about 100 years ago as immigrant tenements, over the years they have been stuccoed, shingled, painted or wood or aluminum siding as fashions dictated. All now painted either white or some pastel shade of pink, blue or green. All except missing Mark’s building located about where the sidewalk changes into steps. Sometime in the late 1950s someone tore down a number of older buildings and replaced them with a dark shake sided five-story apartment in the then fashionable but utterly boring international style. It gave that side of the street the appearance of an ancient bleached jaw bone with a few molars missing.

I knew this building well. In it lived Ann Kennedy who, as serendipity dictated, lived on the same floor as Missing Mark. Ann Kennedy was a masseuse that I visited now and then. She was the type of masseuse that one finds in the back pages of monthly alternative newspapers or on Craig’s List.

Because of the steepness of the hill the entrance to the building was on the second floor, Ann and Missing Mark’s floor. Various stacks of construction materials lay about as they always have as long as I had come here, but no one was ever working.

I marched up to Ann’s door first, because I thought she may have some information about her neighbor. Also, I contemplated the possibility of spending some of my fee on relaxation and release before embarking on my job. Knocked on the door and rang the bell which buzzed with that grinding sound that I hate almost more than anything I could think of.

The door opened about a foot wide. Now, if one were expecting that curvaceous, cleavage exposing, lingerie wearing, red-lipped, dark-eyed beauty in the photographs that often accompany the ads, it was not Ann. Ann more resembled a reject from a model call for a Dorothea Lange photo shoot on the ravages of the Great Depression, right down to her shapeless house dress.

“Yes,” she said?

“Hi, Ann,” I said with a big smile.

I was met with a grey-eyed, pupil-less stare of non-recognition.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked?

Thought she was either stoned or my belief in the memorability of my presence was overrated. Decided I would save some money and later resolve by hand any uncontrollable urgings I still may have. Said, “Do you know Mark Holland?”

Long stare. “No.”

“He lives on this floor. He is your neighbor,” and I gestured toward the other end of the hall.

She slowly turned her head and looked in that direction, which made no sense since she was standing inside her apartment and could not see down the hall. Slowly turned back to me.

“No,” and she closed the door in my face.

Stood there wondering if I should kick the door in frustration. Decided I would only hurt my foot. Turned went to the other end of the floor to stand in front of Missing Mark’s apartment door. Looked down at the doorknob. Saw scratches and splintered wood. Thought, “Uh-oh, run!”

However, like touching just to see if a sign announcing “wet paint” means what it says, I reached down to turn the doorknob just to see if what I knew to be true really was.

Read Full Post »

wilted_flowers_crowded_around_me_by_nataliadrepina_ddnw66h-fullview

As usual, most of the novels I read are not much more than candy for the mind. I guess, since I no longer ingest spun sugar, cotton candy for the mind will have to do. Well, that’s not precisely true, I have always preferred to flood my mind with fluff. Living in a fantasy world is every bit as rewarding as living in the real world — perhaps even more so

I am currently reading, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss. It is the third in a series of novels whose principal characters include Mary Jekyll the Daughter of Dr. Jekyll; Diana the daughter of Mr. Hyde; Beatrice Rappiccini the daughter of a man who raised her on a diet exclusively of poisons leaving her “as beautiful as she was poisonous;” Justine Frankenstein, a significantly over six-foot woman created by the famous doctor Frankenstein originally to wed the equally famous monster and; Cathrine Moreau a puma transformed into a woman by Dr. Moreau. They all find each other during the course of the first novel and decide to live together in Mary Jekyll’s home, name themselves the Athena Club and with the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson set about solving arcane crimes. Cathrine is the Dr. Watson of these estimable ladies’ adventures. One of the many conceits in the books is to have members of the club interrupt Cathrine as she writes, criticizing and commentating on her work.

Another book I just completed was written by one of my favorite authors, Joe Abercrombie.  In “A Little Hatred” begins a new series continuing the tales in his prior novels set in a world living in something similar to medieval England with a dollop of magic thrown in. Abercrombie clearly intended to feature a bit more magic in his series but his main character a ruffian called The Bloody Nine, was so compelling, he focused more on the Barbarians of the north of which The Bloody Nine was one and their ceaseless slaughter of one another in the Ring, a battle to the death between two heroes to determine who would be king. These are adolescent boys novels which is probably why I enjoy them so much.

“Dark Pattern” by Andrew Mayne features a mathematical biologist who gives up his post as a college professor to track down serial killers using the techniques of his academic specialty to do so. He is as obsessed with pursuing them as they are in their chosen profession of murder.

“Not my Fae” by Tom Kelly a multi-book series about a Las Vegas cop who discovered the city is really run by fairies (Fae) and demons and what is worse he learns that he is a fairy and even worse he is a son of Gaia and the King of the Fairies. Needless to say, the stories deteriorate in each successive novel to such an extent that the author has to explain why in the afterward of his most recent novel.

“The Vital Question” by Nick Lane sounds like another trashy detective story, but it is not. Lane is a biologist. I think it is best that he explains what his book is all about

For me, the best books in biology, ever since Darwin, have been arguments. This book aspires to follow in that tradition. I will argue that energy has constrained the evolution of life on earth; that the same forces ought to apply elsewhere in the universe; and that a synthesis of energy and evolution could be the basis for a more predictive biology, helping us understand why life is the way it is, not only on earth, but wherever it might exist in the universe.
Lane, Nick. The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life (p. 16). W. W. Norton & Company.

It is a slow read, but I think helpful to clarify my musings about the nature of the biosphere.

Read Full Post »

.18896193_303

I have just finished reading the second installment in the series of my current book crush, The Adventures of Auntie Poldi. Although the books purport to be detective stories, I, frankly, do not recall in either of the two novels of the series I have read so far who was killed or why. Nor can I claim they are great or even good literature. So, what attracts me to these books?

Perhaps it is the magnificently exuberant and shameless bit of overwriting with which the author begins his novel:

“Although in the past few months Poldi had temporarily thwarted death thanks to solving her handyman Valentino’s murder, her romantic encounter with Vito Montana (Polizia di Stato’s chief inspector in charge of homicide cases), her friendship with her neighbours Valérie and sad Signora Cocuzza, my aunts’ efforts and, last but not least, her own love of the chase, we all know the way of the world: peace reigns for a while, the worst seems to be over, the sun breaks through the clouds, the future beckons once more, your cigarette suddenly tastes good again, the air hums with life and the whole world becomes a congenial place pervaded by whispers of great things to come. A simply wonderful, wonderful, universally familiar sensation. And then, like a bolt from the blue, pow! Not that anyone has seen it coming, but the wind changes. Fate empties a bucket of excrement over your head, chuckling as it does so, and all you can think is “Wow, now I really need a drink!” And the whole shitty process starts again from scratch. So it was no wonder my aunts became alarmed when Poldi still had no running water after two weeks and Lady was murdered. No doubt about it, the wind had changed and the ice was growing steadily thinner.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps, it is Auntie Poldi herself, a lusty sixty-year-old German woman who had married a Sicilian immigrant to Bavaria and who after his death retired to her husband’s ancestral town on the slopes of Mt Etna there to “drink herself to death with a view of the sea.”

Poldi wears a wig, dresses usually in brightly colored caftans, enthusiastically and vigorously enjoys sex, and as the daughter of a Bavarian chief of detectives is compulsively drawn to solving crimes, photographing cute policemen in uniform and bedding dusky and hunky Sicilian detectives (well one in particular).

On the other hand, Poldi was a woman of strong opinions as well as strong appetites. As she explained to her nephew whom she had appointed to be the Watson to her Holmes:

“I’ve never been devout,” she explained later before I could query this in surprise because I knew that Poldi harbored a fundamental aversion to the Church. “I’m spiritual but not devout, know what I mean? I’ve never had much time for the Church. The mere thought of it infuriates me. The males-only organizations, the pope, the original-sin malarkey, the inhibited cult of the Virgin Mary, the false promises of redemption, the proselytism, the misogyny, the daft words of the psalms and hymns. Mind you, I’ve always liked the tunes. I always enjoyed chanting in the ashram, you know. I screwed every hippie in the temple of that Kali sect in Nevada, I’ve meditated in Buddhist monasteries, and I believe in reincarnation and karma and all that, likewise in people’s essential goodness. I don’t know if there’s a god and if he’s got something against sex and unbelievers, but I can’t help it, I’m Catholic. It’s like malaria: once you’ve got it you never get rid of it, and sooner or later you go and make peace with it.”
Giordano, Mario.Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

Or on even another hand, perhaps it is the authors alter ego, Poldi’s 34-year-old unmarried nephew, the narrator in the books, a self-described but inept author who works at a call center in Bavaria. He has been attempting to write the great Bavarian novel for years now but seems to have only recently gotten inspired to write the first four chapters the last of which he enthusiastically describes in a blaze of overwriting:

“I was in full flow. I was the adjective ace, the metaphor magician, the sorcerer of the subordinate clause, the expresser of emotions, the master of a host of startling but entirely plausible turns of events. The whole of my fourth chapter had been completed within a week. I was a paragon of self-discipline and inspiration, the perfect symbiosis of Germany and Italy. I was a Cyclops of the keyboard. I was Barnaba. All I lacked was a nymph, but my new Sicilian styling would soon change that.”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

He found himself periodically called to travel to Sicily and reside in an attic room in Poldi’s house whenever the Sicilian relatives believed Poldi was skating on the thin edge of reality or whenever Poldi herself demanded his return because she felt she needed someone to beguile and complain to.

Or perhaps, it is the denizens of my beloved Sicily, like the three aunts fascinated and often shocked by, and at times participants in, Poldi’s escapades. Or her partners in crime, so to speak, sad Carmina and the local priest. Or, Poldi’s French friend, Valerie her forlorn nephew’s love interest who Poldi steadfastly refuses to allow him to meet.

“For Valérie, like Poldi, happiness possessed a simple binary structure, and the whole of human existence was suspended between two relatively distant poles. Between heaven and hell, love and ignorance, responsibility and recklessness, splendour and scuzz, the essential and the dispensable. And within this dual cosmic structure there existed only two kinds of people: the deliziosi and the spaventosi, the charming and the frightful. Rule of thumb: house guests, friends and dogs are always deliziosi, the rest are spaventosi. At least until they prove otherwise.”

“‘You see,’ Poldi told me once, ‘Valérie has understood that happiness is a simple equation. Happiness equals reality minus expectation.’”
Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.

 

Or perhaps, it is just that I am a child of Sicily, have lived as well as visited there many times and loved that large rocky Island whose citizens have suffered almost two thousand five hundred years of continuous occupation by a host of invaders— Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, Bourbons, Nazi’s, and even British and Americans. Where the inhabitants were considered so irrelevant by their foreign overlords their cities, unlike the rest of Europe, were built without defensive walls. Where the people are reticent with strangers but boisterous and generous with friends and family, where Bella Figura reigns supreme, the cuisine extraordinary, people speak in gestures and revel in the mores of their medieval culture and where “Being Sicilian is a question of heart, not genes” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2. HMH Books.)

Whatever, the reasons for my own enjoyment of the books, Pookie says you should check them out, after all, as Auntie Poldi says: “Moderation is a sign of weakness.” (Giordano, Mario. Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2). HMH Books.)

Read Full Post »

_104902725_gettyimages-544452156

My partially completed but never to be finished novel, Dominion, can be found at, https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/. Below is one of the draft chapters in which the main protagonist, Vince Biondi, is confronted by San Mateo County Sheriff Megs Polan.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL: “Dominion.” When Vince Meets Megs.

Chapter whatever:

Vince took into the office washroom the overnight suitcase he always kept available in his office in case he had to make a sudden short business trip or pulled an all-nighter like this one. He washed as best he could, shaved, changed his clothing and returned to his office just as Ray arrived to accompany him to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office. Ray had obviously been called by Ike and was dressed in what for him passed for business attire, pearl button earrings, a military-style camouflage jacket, matching camouflage pants and neon green Crocs on his feet.

When they arrived at the Sheriff’s office, they were immediately ushered into the office of Sheriff Megan (Megs) Polan, former beauty queen, bodybuilding champion and a rising star in local Republican politics. Vince and Ray sat in chairs across the hygienically clean desk behind which Megs sat enthroned like a medieval duchess. Her still super toned body so filled out her tan uniform that it looked painted on. She had curly auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders and the steely blue eyes of either a stone cold killer or paranoid schizophrenic. She did not rise to greet them or speak but leaned across her desk and pushed a transparent evidence bag containing a small piece of paper towards them. As she bent forward, Vince caught a glimpse of cleavage struggling to escape the casually unbuttoned shirt. He also noticed the large black pistol riding high on her hip. Vince disconcerted that he found himself turned on, covered his embarrassment by dropping his eyes to the proffered evidence bag and studying its contents.

Inside the bag was a piece of paper torn from a small spiral bound notebook and on it, written in a shaky hand, was the message, “If anything should happen to me, call Vincent Biondi,” along with Vince’s personal mobile phone number.

“So Mr. Biondi,” Megs intoned in her surprisingly whiskey edged voice, “what can you tell me about this note and what may have happened to Mrs. Stephanie Coign last night?”

Read Full Post »



Last night we had an East Coast style thunder-storm, full of lightning and end of the world cracks of thunder. The lights went out and we rushed around the house closing all the windows. What fun. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended except for some deep rumblings in the mountains that reminded me of Rip Van Winkle and his little men bowling nine pins and drinking beer in the Catskills. I suppose a more Thai related analogy would be appropriate. Like, the screams of the King of the Naga as it rises from the depths of the Mekong, all nine heads of it, to do battle with Rama or the Monkey King (I forget which). I prefer old Rip’s tale. By the way, did you know that the giant catfish of the Mekong can weigh up to a ton?

Yesterday I practiced driving on the wrong side of the street. I got tired of waiting for the driver for every trip to the mall I had to make to buy some toothpaste or the like. The insanity of a 70-year-old man learning to drive on the wrong side of the street and braving the impossible Thai traffic in order to go to the mall is appalling. After all, this is Thailand and one expects elephants, tigers in the bush, secretive mountain tribes deep in the jungle, dope smugglers staggering under their loads on narrow mountain paths, white sandy beaches, and elegant hotels and so on. Instead, here I am living in a subdivision with a bunch of fundamentalist Christian missionaries, the remnant of the “faith initiative”, the vanguard of the Armies of Armageddon, and loving every minute of it.

Today’s photo: me having my morning coffee.

I nope everyone is doing well.

Joe..

—————————————————————————

FROM MY JOURNAL:

January 22 2010.

Noon
Let’s jump to today. Tai called. Said the baby has been in Hospital since Tuesday. He could not keep down the milk and has a fever. Said she was at Hospital all alone. Mother not in BKK. The doctor said baby ok just a typical problem at one-month-old.

Said she did not return to my hotel because baby was throwing up and she went to Hospital. Tried to call but did not get through. Did not get note I left on her email. Needs money.

Belief??? It was Sunday night that she did not show up.

Started email correspondence with Irwin. Am enjoying it so far.

Began novel with Story Mill, first task. Stymied on second task. Cannot figure out disaster events.

Supposed to go downtown today. Natalie last night said she would call driver for 10 o’clock. At 11:30 after some communication difficulty with the maid she called someone whom I assumed was the driver. I asked him to come right away. He has not arrived yet.

He arrived as I wrote the above.

8:00pm
Went to Big C got 25,000 baht from ATM. Went to Central, ate lunch at McDonald’s. Tai called. Located BKK Bank sent her 10,000 baht. Went to Nokia shop bought Phone. Spoke with Tai again. Bought a Thai flower identification book and one for orchids. Waited for the driver. He did not come. Found taxi driver who charged 150 baht. for the same distance as airport driver charged 100 baht. Went to Hayden’s school and walked home.

Gave Hayden long thin bamboo type stick and we pretended to fish the canals. Stopped to watch two men who had spread a net in the large canal but caught only two fish.

Identified Tulip tree, Spider Lilly and a few other flowers from the book.

Hayden went bike riding with Leo and his father while I napped. Natalie arrived with driver. She seemed to be in a relatively good and friendly mood. Driver gave me the wood restoration oil spray can. Nat said it was not the right kind. Dithered to put her off.

Hayden returned, Went to restaurant in a street end in subdivision run by a 73 year old shriveled woman who had been the wife of a mayor of Chiang Mai. Ate a good but very spicy dish made from vegetables and herbs grown on site and drank a herb wine made by the woman from unknown herbs and fruits. Quite enjoyable chilled. Two of Hayden’s teachers arrived. We paid for their meals and ours. About 8 American dollars for all five meals plus wine.

Went home and now I am in bed. G’night.

January 23 2010.

2:39 am
Awoke, cannot get back to sleep. Do not feel like doing anything. Practiced typing.

10:00 pm
Waited for Cordt. Gave me the phone number of fixer for a visa. Went to the same restaurant.

Earlier went to Central. Withdrew 20,000 baht. Gave Natalie only 15,000 baht for “hot water” repairs. Got haircut. Played with Hayden constructing a new Leggo set Natalie bought for him. Used the spray can on the wood foot stool and a few other wood items. Looked pretty good will get more after Nat leaves.

Frank called. Things are looking worse for him.

Nat gave Hayden a time out. Not sure why.

Monday January 25 2010.

2PM
Natalie left at 11 AM to catch a noon flight to Bangkok. I do not know if she told Hayden she was leaving. Nikki is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Worked on my novel. supposedly a one paragraph synopsis. I have written about five so far and am not finished. Should go back and condense.

Tai called. Needs money. Maid called driver. No answer. Called Tai told her I will try again tomorrow.

Wrote long email to Irwin.

COMMENTS:

From Ruth Galanter:

At the risk of seeming pedantic but out of loyalty to the legend, I have to remind you that it was supposed to be Hendrick Hudson’s men bowling. Same region as Rip van W, but slightly different story. But I have the same association with thunderstorms.

I must say I’m glad I’m not driving with you while you practice driving on the wrong side of the street. Drive carefully, as “they” say.

Nice photo, but I miss the beard.

Joe’s Response:


You are right. Irving had the bowlers as H. H.’s men’s ghosts. They did drink beer though. I was recalling an illustration of the story showing the bowlers to be definitely on the short side.

I made it to the mall and back.

From Ruth:

What are you doing in the middle of a community of Christian missionaries? It’s interesting how much religions may differ but homeowner associations don’t.
Send photos from the jungles!

Joe’s Response:


They moved in after I built the house. They, of course, are all staunch Republicans.

I do not know if all religions are so different. The “People of the Book”, Jews, Christian and Muslim, appear to me mostly male centered and authoritarian. The Jews at least were forced to adopt independent interpretation as a result of the first century dispersion. The far eastern religions at least avoided the Western hard edged authoritarianism by encouraging their devotees to look inward and submit to secular autocrats instead .

More democratic style institutions appear alike because of their inevitable focus on short term minutia.

Will send pictures.

I had a back yard (or in my case a front yard) barbecue last night.

From Ruth:

You’re right, the religions differ only in superficial ways and I think the Jews may not hate as virulently as some of the others. the differences among religions sometimes remind me of the politics of academia–the less that is at stake, the greater the hostility

I am hoping one day to get my yards (front, back, and side) fixed up. I got a rain barrel through a city demonstration program, now will get a free consultation on how to do yard for optimum water conservation. Every time I look at a “water feature,” all I can see is the ticking of a meter. Same with “decorative lights” and those horrible little lights on appliances. I paid a lot of extra money to get a stove that doesn’t have a clock and little lights telling me things–unless something is on. And I’ve got my dishwasher (which I finally justified as “resale value”) plugged into the circuit designed for a garbage disposal (which I didn’t get) because otherwise it has a whole array of stinking little red lights on all the time. I know they don’t use “much” juice, but I can’t think of a reason to use any unless I’m actually using the appliance. When I left the city, one of my gifts from DWP was a desk lamp made from an old electric meter. It still works. Turn on the lamp and watch the meter chug along….the water side of the dept gave me a clock made from an old water meter, but it’s on a battery. I’m the first person not directly involved in the water services branch to have received one. Since then, I’m told, several officials have “demanded” them.

Joe’s response:

Your garden plans look like they will keep you busy for a while. I do not have any idea how green my landscaping here is. We have a pump that moves water from a well to the house. It has been suggested that we water are garden from the canal behind our house. However when I look at the putrid water in the canal it does not look so appetizing to spread it on the grass.

All male dominated organizations that rely on the unverifiable (e.g. Religion, patriotism, etc.) are authoritarian ( maybe women dominated also but we have little recent experience). Except for the fundamentalists (and maybe the Mossad), thanks to Hillel and his brethren, the jews escaped most of it.

I have imagined that the religions in their constant wars for dominance expected their opponents to feel the same way “”convert or die” and felt it was the natural way of things. Imagine when they met the jews. “what do you mean you do not want to force us to adopt your belief and in fact do not want us in your club at all unless we can show our maimed membership card. That is unnatural and therefor you must be wiped from the face of the earth.”

That’s the problem with being taught by Jesuits. You never lose your fascination with what you do not believe.

From Irwin:

joe- my walking stick and i are now going for our morning walk, completing the circuit of los jardines east to where it meets los jardines west and back to where it again becomes los jardines east (“road trip”). we will pass the 21 acre green valley park, the north pool (home of the green valley dolphins swim team), the adult pool (not heated in winter) and the family pool and center (don’t think the pool is now heated). i also pass two elementary schools which one or both of my children attended. as perhaps a forewarning about the ethnic makeup of the community, one of the schools was named after the first japanese american (from this area) to die in wwII. at that school i also had planted a tree in memory of a friend who was from turkey but killed in a car crash in laguna beach. while a cup of espresso is not on the tour i will be within say one hundred feet of a pho shop which i have yet to try – it’s two doors up from nick’s pizza which is an abysmal place which we only went to once in all of the years we have lived here. it had, as i recall, lots of spaghetti and bad red sauce plus plastic grapes hanging from the ceiling. i suspect rumors of alleged anti-semitism also helped to discourage frequent visits. after i return i shall take a nap; if i am lucky i will sleep until three when i can go visit my mother or buy a lotto ticket or goods for dinner – there is the possibility i may go to the mall and have garlic and cracked pepper french fries with a draft root beer all for under five dollars. i will also be stopping at the mail box to insert a letter to my psychiatrist in which i express my dissatisfaction with the psychiatric services i have/have not received from kaiser permanente for over forty years and explaining that i took and anti-depressant for over ten years and see no reason to take another (which he wants me to do) if he or one of his fellow wizards won’t give me the psychotherapy which i think i need in order to rid myself of deep seated emotional issues and weekly co-pay. seems their current practice is to prescribe drugs and see the patient bi-monthly to checke how the drug is working or to place the patient in a cognitive therapy group consisting of fat or ill-dressed women and one older gay guy who is having a crises because his long-time live-in is expressing discontent about something the gay guy won’t face. then there was the woman who was shacked up with this guy who was talking marriage until she passed the bar and then decided not to practice law upon which (duh) he stopped talking marriage. i need to be with mentally ill people if i’m to be in a group again.

today’s photo is of our neighbor “felix the cat”. i am far from being a cat fancier, however there is something unusual about felix i think he is a reincarnation of someone i once knew but can’t remember. here he is sitting on an old stool outside my french door in the computer room. he knows better than to poop in my yard which my gardener jose jimenez would have to ignore as he does most everything else that should be done.

From Irwin:

j.d.salinger died. aside from being notable for his writing (i.e. catcher in the rye) he was also famous for not wanting to be famous and lived in isolation for the last fifty years.

i have wanted to be famous for the last fifty years and now am living in isolation. for this i am not notable.

Read Full Post »

banyan-tree-on-pipiwai-trail

While passing through those empty times during my cancer treatment when there is little to do other that dwelling on my discomfort or sleeping, I read. Mostly, I read things that pass the time, amusing but like after taking some narcotic and trying to remember what you did while stoned, you know you did it but cannot recall what it was you did while you did it. Along the way, I read my friend Christopher G. Moore’s book, The Marriage Tree. This was different.

To Moore, Bangkok is a mirror revealing the dark soul of humanity. In Thailand, that dark soul, which we like to pretend does not exist wherever we live, drips out bloody and fetid onto the streets of Bangkok.

Like gods, the rich and powerful are immune from judgment and punishment, except by other gods like them. The rest of us are condemned to seeking a rough justice for those of our peers who may have harmed us. Those who truly set into play our small difficulties and tragedies are almost never forced into any court to answer for their complicity.

How many people have died or suffered from the products and services of the corporate entities these godlings control? How many wars have been fought to protect private interests and not the public interests? Has slavery really disappeared where laws have been passed to prohibit it, or are some of the powerful still able to command indenture of the less powerful?

This is perhaps the darkest of Moore’s books. Even the soiled hero of most of his novels, Vincent Calvino, a half Jewish, half Italian disbarred attorney from New York City, who has taken up life as a private detective in Bangkok, finally accepts that true justice, the capping of the godling responsible, is hopeless except by chance, and even then there is always someone else willing to take over and step in to play the godling role. Although the book is cloaked in the guise of a detective thriller, it is not. It is a scream against the gathering darkness of our world as those wealthy and powerful self-styled godlings take control and the rest of us slowly realize we all now live in Bangkok —  without happy endings to content us.

Moore is Canadian and like most Canadians, his moral outrage stops just short of throwing the bomb — rather a shame that.

When I am in Bangkok, I sometimes observe Moore across a street or at some artist do. I no longer see in his face that little knowing smile he seemed to effect in the past. He now appears haunted as though he’s glimpsed the future and found only more hopelessness there … or perhaps a local godling has happened to read his book and begun to turn his hooded eyes in his direction.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

Read Full Post »

tumblr_mp7sps2PRe1srvmuoo1_1280

Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly-haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately, is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32, she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to the expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

Read Full Post »

detectivejpg

Sometime in the late 60’s and continuing for a decade the Swedish husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö embarked on an ambitious scheme to write one mystery book a rear for ten years. The books were to be interconnected in a series called “The Story of Crime.”

Ruth turned me on to the series. Where most modern mystery stories over the past forty years generally feature a brilliant if somewhat odd sleuth who solves the mystery usually by either clever deduction or by the impact of his or her particular psychosis (for example by beating people up or getting drunk), these are stories about Swedish police detectives who solve cases using the routine that is the lot of most public employees. They get bored, sick with colds and have bad marriages. The criminals more often than not are sympathetic, driven to murder by social circumstances they cannot control and now and then they even get away with it.

Despite being over 40 years old, the novels grapple with issues pertinent today such as the militarization of policing, the social desperation that drives people to crime and the impact of replacing personal interaction between the police and the public with impersonal violence that begets even more violence resulting in the collapse of the morale of both.

“More and more often one was obliged to initiate an investigation by trying to sort out what the police had been up to. Not infrequently this proved harder than clearing up the actual case.”
Sjowall, Maj; Wahloo.The Locked Room: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (8).

My two favorite books in the series are The Laughing Policeman and The Abominable man.

Pookie says, “check them out.”

Read Full Post »

th-1

Like New York and a few other cities, Bangkok has been a treasure trove for stories about the city’s teeming underside. Even the city’s most fashionable hotel, The Oriental, has a wing dedicated to some of the world’s greatest novelists who resided there and wrote about Southeast Asia and the City astride the Chao Phraya River that sits at its center. Writers like Somerset Maugham, Graham Green, Joseph Conrad, and others all have suites in the hotel named for them.

That tradition remains alive today through such well-known authors as John Burdett, Stephen Leather, Timothy Hallinan, Colin Cotterill, Jake Needham, Colin Piprell and James Eckhardt.

Books by several Thai authors who also have deeply explored life in Thailand as well as Bangkok’s urban jungle have been translated into other languages. These include, “Mad Dog and Co.” by Chart Korbjitti (translated into English by Marcel Barang, himself an author of a novel set in Bangkok as well as the non-fiction, “Twenty Best Novels of Thailand”); “The Tin Mine by Archin Panchapan; “Sightseeing” by Rattawut Laparoensap; and “Jasmine Nights” by SP Somtow.

A best seller and a good read is “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi, a science fiction novel that delves into Bangkok’s current and future problems with flooding. It was named one of the 10 best novels of 2009

But, by far my favorite Bangkok author is Christopher G. Moore. The protagonist in a good many of his most popular books is Vincent Calvino, a half Jewish half Italian ex-lawyer who for some mysterious reason gave up practicing law in New York to become a private eye in Bangkok.

Among his many books about Bangkok and the Thai urban scene, I like best “Waiting For the Lady.” Unlike most of his other novels, it is set not in Bangkok but in Burma.

Moore’s story swirls around the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chin people of Burma and a young scholar specializing in the art of the mountain tribes of Southeast Asia who along with his two longtime artist friends living in Bangkok search for a hidden hoard of Ming China. The description of the day the country’s military government released Aung San Suu Kyi after 20 years of house arrest is worth the price of the book.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: