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Posts Tagged ‘Pookie’

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I am what is referred to by some as a vivid dreamer. That is, my dreams are in color, I know that I am dreaming, and I can alter them as they go along. I also can wake myself up if things get too stressful. Moreover, I generally remember a lot of them in their entirety. Sometimes, those dreams become as real in my memory as any other experience. Periodically I used to analyze which of my memories were real and which were dreams in order to purge those not real. I no longer do that. I now believe, if it is there it is as real as any memory.

I prefer sleep to being awake because, on the whole, my dreams are far more interesting and exciting than my waking life is. I guess that goes for most of us.

Perhaps a little over a score of years ago I dreamt I was flying in a plane. We passed from the ocean over the land somewhere in Africa where we landed. I then took a small jitney bus that drove directly from the airport into the desert. The desert was not the sand dune desert of Lawrence of Arabia, but barren, dusty and rocky like parts of West Texas. After a day or two, we arrived at a small city of mud-walled buildings. In the center of the city was a large dirt plaza filled with men with guns, shooting them into the air and shouting at people in cars or busses and stopping them as they tried to make their way through the plaza. The men seemed to be grouped into gangs with no one group in charge. They appeared Mediterranean in complexion with large bushy mustaches. They wore dark pants and vests over their shirts. I assumed they were Muslims since most of them wore ragged turbans on their heads.

They would not allow our bus to continue, so I disembarked and walked into the city to search for some distant relatives whom I knew lived in the town. The relatives strangely were Armenian shopkeepers. I found their shop. I never learned what they sold there. The relatives lived above the shop. After I explained who I was, they welcomed me in. The father, a man of about 60, was relatively short-statured, clean-shaven with a round face topped by a mostly bald head with a few long black hairs combed over. He had two grown sons, they were much taller than he, broad-shouldered and mustached. Strapped to their backs were guns of some sort. Their sister was a slender dark girl of about 14, I guess. She wore a light-colored dress imprinted with small pink flowers. The mother was thin like the daughter with more grey hair than the father. I told them I had been stopped by the gunmen in the plaza and I wanted to continue on to the jungle beyond the desert. He said that it would be difficult under the current chaotic circumstances to secure permission to travel beyond the City. He said he would have to think about it and promised to do his best. In the meantime, they prepared a dinner in my honor attended by the father’s brother and his family. After the dinner, the brothers spoke with each other in a corner of the room out of my hearing. Eventually, the father came over to me and told me that the leader of one of the strongest militia was a friend of his and he thought he could arrange passage for me.

Early the next morning after saying goodbye and thanking everyone I accompanied the older son, returned to the plaza and after enduring several threats and insults from the militia leader, was put into an old Range Rover and allowed to continue on my way.

We drove on across that stony dusty desert well into the early afternoon when the landscape began to change, first into scrublands and then into a grassy savannah. A small copse of trees dotted the terrain here and there. Near to sunset we topped a small ridge and saw a little valley beyond. The Savannah continued across the valley along with the dirt track we had been following until along the smaller ridge on the opposite side the green expanse of the forest began abruptly. Where the road disappeared into the trees, I could see a small village of conical mud-walled houses nestled in the shade of the trees stretched out along the road.

At sundown, we arrived at the village. I got out of the vehicle at the edge of the village. About 10 or so adults and innumerable children assembled around the vehicle as I disembarked. One man approached. He seemed to be in his late twenties or early thirties. I guess he was Somali or other Cushite speakers, thin, light brown complexion and a straight narrow nose. He greeted me and asked what had brought me to the village. I answered that I had heard about what they had accomplished in creating their vast environmental and ethnological preserve and I wanted to see it for myself. This was the first time in the dream that I had become aware of what I was doing here.

He contemplated me for a moment then said, “Mama discourages casual visitors to the reserve.” At first, I thought MAMA was an acronym for the NGO operating the place. I was soon disabused of that assumption when he glanced to a large woman standing off to the side surrounded by a passel of young children.

She was a large woman, large indeed, about an inch or two taller than me and at least 50 pounds heavier. Her skin was a deep chocolate color and a thick dark tangled ring of hair floated around her head like Medusa’s snakes. She wore a deep blue tent-like dress that fell from her shoulders almost all the way to the ground. Thick red stripes containing faint yellow pinstripes broke up the wall of blue.

“Perhaps I can persuade her to let me stay,” I said. “I don’t think so,” he responded quickly. “But it is too late in the day to send you back, so you can stay the night as our guest and if she is not too busy perhaps you can try to persuade her tomorrow.”

With that, he led me into the town past several of the huts to one a little back from the road. “This is my house,” he said. “You can stay here for the evening. There is a cot in the back. You can leave your backpack there. I will show you where to wash up and you can join my family and others for dinner.”

The hut was nicely sized containing a single room. It seemed to be used only for sleeping. I found a small cot at the back and with both relief and trepidation dropped my backpack on it and rejoined my host.

He showed me to a surprisingly comfortable bathhouse with both hot and cold tubs and showers. It seemed available to both sexes.

After my bath, he led me to a clearing a little way from the village. Here there were benches and a few sturdy wooden tables. Several modern grill type cookers and other tables containing copious amounts of food surrounded a large campfire around which on a variety of strange tripod like contraptions other pots and viands hung over the flames.

I met my host’s wife and their two small children. She was young and quite attractive. I am sorry to say, I no longer remember their names even though they became some of the closest friends I had even known. That’s the way it is with dreams.

The clearing filled up with what appeared to be at least a hundred adults and even more children running about. The others seemed to be a mixture of ethnicities and races, predominately African but I could see some Europeans and Asians also among the crowd.

Although I remember the food was delicious and the feeling that I enjoyed myself immensely I recall little more about the evening other than that whenever I glanced across the campfire through the flames I saw Mama on the other side staring at me with what looked like hard cold angry eyes.

After the dinner, I returned to the hut, laid down on the cot and fell immediately asleep.

The next morning I awoke just as the light of predawn had made its way into the hut. My hosts and their children had already left. I dressed quickly, used the bathhouse facilities, grabbed some rolls from the breakfast tent set up near where I had dinner last night and strolled toward a large fenced-in compound in a clearing in the woods about a quarter-mile or so from the village. I figured it would be a good idea for me to make myself useful around there before any meeting with the formidable Mama.

The compound contained a number of trucks and several buildings. A lot of people industriously worked or walked about. There seemed to be more people milling around here than lived in the village. I asked the first person I came upon where I could best be of help. He brought me over to one of the trucks being loaded with medical supplies and equipment. I worked throughout the day at various things not stopping at all except for a brief lunch break. At about dinnertime, I washed up and joined my host and his family at the campfire. They mentioned nothing about me leaving and seemed to expect me to spend the night again in their hut.

During dinner, I asked my host a question that had been on my mind most of the day (from here on I will call him Tre because those letters are next to each other on the keyboard. His wife I will call Yu for the same reason). “Why was the work area fully equipped with modern facilities including electricity and modern plumbing while the village living area, as comfortable as it is, contained virtually none at all? Tre responded, “Because Mama believes where work is performed it should be as efficient as possible for the benefit of the work to be done and the laborers who do it. On the other hand, she believes where one lives, after accounting for health and adequate comfort, should be as frugal as possible because we owe it to the earth, it makes us more sensitive to the lives of the indigenous people in the preserve and it encourages us to share in our community.”

So, the next few days at the village continued like that, working in the compound and eating dinner by the campfire with everyone. I was even given a small hut of my own.

One day after lunch. I looked out across the village into the valley. About two or three hundred yards away there stood a large outcropping of rocks. They broke into the slope of the valley and on average towered about 50 feet or so high. The outcropping extended in a curve of about seventy-five yards or so. It looked like a rough amphitheater facing down the valley. The various boulders that made up the outcropping were stepped and flat-topped further accentuating the theatre effect.

On the rocks about two-thirds of the way up sat Mama on a large flat area facing toward the sun. Around her throughout the outcropping were many children playing and jumping from rock to rock and splashing in the small rock basins filled with water from various springs that leaked through the outcropping from the valley slope that backed up against it. There were also a number of other women tending the children or sitting down talking in small groups. There were a few men about too.

I thought this would be a good chance to speak with Mama about my status, so I walked over to the outcropping. As I climbed up the rocks to where Mama sat, I saw her looking at me not unkindly. As I got near to where she was sitting I heard a rumble not too loud at first but quickly gaining in volume. Then the whole valley began to shake. I turned and looked down the valley. What I saw terrified me.

I heard Mama say behind me, “Do not be afraid.”

A great brown and grey cloud billowed at the far end of the valley through which plunged a stampede of animals. Not like the great Serengeti migration where large herbivores run the gauntlet of predators but a stampede of all sorts of animals, herbivore and predator alike. Elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes, wild pigs and warthogs, even monkeys and chimpanzees plunged down the valley toward us. It looked a lot like the start of the SF Bay to Breakers race. I was so frightened I considered waking myself up. But recalling Mama’s calming words, I plopped down on the nearest rock, my heart pounding almost as loud as the sounds of the hooves and paws plunging toward us.

The herd split into two, each half passing the rock outcropping on opposite sides. The others on the rocks with me clapped and laughed. Suddenly a large male lion all ruff and fangs detached itself from the herd and sprang up the rocks right toward me. It swerved just before it reached me, brushed by and bounded over the top of the outcropping to rejoin the stampede leaving me little worse for wear other than a slightly strained sphincter.

A rhinoceros bumped out of the pack stumbled up the rocks a few feet, fell down and struggled to get up again. A child sitting nearby leaned over and patted it on its horn. The beast chuffed, backed itself down and ran off.

After the animals passed leaving only the rumble of their passage further down the valley and swirling clouds of dust, everyone on the rocks clapped and cheered like the Fourth of July crowds after the fireworks.

We then all walked off into the woods until we came to a stream. Everyone dove in to clean off the dust and dirt. Some removed their clothing and others jumped in clothes and all. I decided to explore the stream a bit and walked away until I could no longer hear their cries and laughter. I soon came to a place where the stream widened out into a small pool. Across the way, the stream entered the pool in a small two-step waterfall. The upper stories of the forest were pulled back around the pool allowing the sunlight to flood down glittering the spray of the waterfalls and turning the bottom of the pool iridescent.

The trees surrounding the pool although open to the sun at their tops crowded the pool in a seemingly impenetrable wall. Sitting or hopping about on the branches of the trees were hundreds of birds of every color and shape of feather. Where they did not hide the trees behind from view, thousands of butterflies fluttered about filling up the spaces. Strangely there was no sound of birds calling to one another, only the thrumming of their wings and the shushing of the waterfall. After a while, I began to think the whole thing was spooky and so I returned to the village.

A few days later I was invited to ride along on a truck going deeper into the preserve. I jumped at the chance. We started well before sunrise and drove through forest and savannah for several hours until the solid green wall of the jungle rose up before us. Nestled at the edge of that seemingly impenetrable mass of vegetation was a small village.

The people of the village did not appear to me to be African at all. Traditional Peoples south of the Sahara tended to be pastoralists and farmers, not hunter-gatherers. Nor did they look a lot like natives of the Sahel and further south. They looked, in fact, more like the indigenous people in the South American rainforest or Borneo pictured in National Geographic which is where my dream probably got them from. They were mostly bronze skinned and festooned with bones and beads piercing their septum or ear lobes or hung in their hair or on strings around their necks, arms or ankles. Their hair ranged from tightly curled to early Beetles bangs. They wore various colored dyes on their faces and bodies. I did not notice any scarifications or tattoos.

They were, of course in keeping with their National Geographic genesis, mostly naked. The children, starkers, running every which way, screaming and laughing. The men, the older the more pot-bellied, bare but for a ragged cloth over their privates or nothing at all. One or two sporting a penis sheath. The women, naked breasts becoming more slab-like and drooping towards their waste as they aged, here and there sported a grass kirtle or a piece of cloth or leather like the men. The younger women, their brown nubbins with puffy dark nipples protruded proudly from their chests.

For males of my age, I suspect many of us recall that time before Playboy began publication when most of us got our pre-adolescent titillation from surreptitiously staring at the brown nubbins with puffy dark nipples in the photographs of the ubiquitous National Geographic magazines of which it seemed every home had at least a modest supply. I wondered at the time, being too young and inexperienced to understand the subtleties and complexities of racial prejudice, why brown nubbins with puffy dark nipples were freely exposed while white breasts with pink nipples were covered with cloth. I concluded that to most adults white breasts with pink nipples must have appeared too horribly ugly and therefore needed to be hidden from view.

I met the representatives of the preserve, a middle-aged man and a youngish woman. They were both dressed like the other residents of the village. The man sporting a grey beard and thick white hair might have been European or Middle Eastern, but his skin was burned so dark and leathery it was difficult to tell. The woman seemed clearly of African descent. They shared the duties of providing medical services to the people of the village as well as those deeper in the jungle and conducting anthropological and sociological studies. They also accompanied and assisted scientists and others allowed into the preserve.

I was told that the residents of the village were quite antagonistic to strangers. I learned this first hand as I toured the settlement. The residents seemed happy and often laughing except when I came close. Then they became silent, sullen and almost threatening. As my guides explained, they see themselves as protectors of the preserve and everyone else as a threat. It all appeared to me to resemble the theory behind the establishment of those seed banks deep in the arctic so that in case of a disaster we would have stock to begin again. Admirable but naïve I thought.

I was taken briefly into the jungle to observe hunting by the villagers. After a lot of walking about, missed shots and mutterings they managed to bring down a small monkey with a blow gun.

All in all, I was happy to leave and return to the village where I was staying.

After a few more days, I left the village to return home. I did not go back through the armed town containing my Armenian relatives but drove on a very curvy road through some mountains. Now and then subdivision development appeared along the side of the road that seemed suspiciously like those in the foothills where I now reside. Eventually, we topped a ridge where I could see the coastal plain before me and the airport. Beyond the airport was the ocean. At that point, I woke up.

Over about the next year and a half, I returned to the village six or eight times. Sometimes I would fly into the airport near the ocean, at others, I would find myself in the armed town and now and then I would just appear in the village itself.

The first time I returned, Mama and I became lovers.

There’s not much to tell about how our affair began. It was night and I was walking by her hut. She stood in the doorway leaning against the frame, gazing at the sky. I walked toward her and directly on into the hut. She followed and we laid down together on the bed.

Most of the beds in the village consisted of a straw mat like they have in Japan at the bottom. On top of that were layered one or two soft blankets or rugs or something like that. Then a cool fitted sheet was placed over it all. In this case, the sheet was white. The bed was comfortable if a bit hard, but certainly nowhere near as hard as some of the beds I slept on in Thailand.

After that first evening, when I was in the village, I spent almost every night in her hut. Generally, we would sit on the bed our backs pressed against the cool mud wall staring at the night sky through the window on the opposite wall of the dark hut. That window provided a view of the night sky framed by a few black branches of trees. A wide streak of light bisected the night sky. It was as if a huge ribbon hung down from somewhere above the roof of the hut. On that ribbon, there seemed festooned what looked like an infinite number of blinking Christmas lights, white, yellow, red and blue. So many that it seemed like a single pulsating band of light. Now and then a meteor would flash by. I never saw a moon.

The light from outside that window provided the only illumination in the room. I could just make out the outline of her face and the arc of her jawline as it curved to meet her earlobe.

I could smell the harsh fragrance of the basic soap we all used in the village and the acrid smell of sweat mixed with the sandalwood aroma of the dust that was always with us. Floating through this melange of aromas was the hint of perfume from the shampoo she used. One of the few indulgences she allowed herself.

Eventually, we would shimmy down on to the bed.

In the morning, before dawn, I would leave her hut and return to my own to prepare for the day.

We rarely spent time together during the day, even at meals. I would however occasionally see her walking through the village almost always surrounded by children. Now and then I would notice her meeting with people or escorting them around the village. Some of the visitors had suits, others were dressed in various forms of military uniform. There were also some in a more casual dress that I assumed were academics of some sort or engineers. They often seemed to be vigorously arguing with her about something or other.

I began to sense tension and stress in the village and especially in Mama. When I asked her about it one night, she dismissed it as a minor irritant.

At first, I thought it was merely the ongoing pressure of budget, funding, personnel and administrative matters that are ever-present in any organization and exacerbated by the lack of staff to handle the endless paperwork that is a way of life for most eleëmosynary organizations.

I had some experience with these things and I could sympathize with what she and the other members of the village were going through. Then, one night I found the young son of Tre and Yu unconscious by the side of the road. He had been severely beaten.

I called someone over to run and find one of the paramedics that worked in the village. We bundled the injured child into an old Land Rover and drove him to the hospital.

The hospital located about 10 miles away on the other side of the valley was quite new and surrounded by a small town. I assumed the town was peopled by medical personnel who worked at the hospital and those who worked in the preserve but were unwilling to live the spartan lifestyle enforced by Mama in the village.

Tre, Yu and I sat outside the emergency room waiting. Mama arrived a few minutes later and waited silently with us.

The child, all bandaged up and still unconscious was placed in a hospital room after emerging from the emergency ward. There we spent the night. Tre, Yu and I alternately napping and talking quietly among ourselves. Mama sat in a chair rigid and silent, never moving her eyes from the child as though she was willing him to recover. Recover he did and we all returned to our various duties.

Following this, I learned that the preserve had been under political, economic and physical assault for many months. Terrorists, resource extraction organizations and the like all hungered for access to the reserve and its resources.

It was as though having fouled every place else (their own nests so to speak) they now ravenously looked at this unspoiled place like the rapist observing his next victim.

Many preserve workers had been injured and some killed. On one of my visits, another child had been attacked and Mama and I spent another sleepless night at the hospital.

I noticed on each of my visits the stress on her exacted a greater and greater physical toll. Then one day when I returned to the village, I learned that she had been taken to the hospital. I rushed there and into her room. She was lying in bed. He body was horribly shriveled. Her skin had lost its luster and appeared dry and brittle like a piece of cardboard.

I stayed there with her day and night. She still ran the preserve from her bed. She continued to decline. Finally, I told her that I had some experience it managing organizations like the Preserve and I would be happy to do so until she got better. She said, “No, this is my life, my world. Your life is somewhere else.” I woke up back in my bed. I knew she had died.

I returned to the village two more times after that to visit with my friends. But, the colors of the place seemed washed out and I had trouble holding on to the dream for more than a few moments. Eventually, I stopped going there.

Since then every once in a while in that period between sleep and wakefulness the image of us in the hut, or on the rock outcropping or even in the hospital hovers for a while before disappearing. It comforts me knowing that this is not a dream but a memory. END.

 

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I think here I should interrupt my usual narrative and share with you (well to be honest, impose upon you) my recent musings about traveling.

My approach to traveling is somewhat like my approach to life; it is not arriving at your destination that is important but what happened along the way. I call it Pookieism.

For example, assume that I depart from San Francisco intending to travel to, say Rome to visit the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel. If that is what I efficiently did and returned home equally efficiently, I for one would be unsatisfied indeed.

If on the other hand I were to depart on that same voyage and along the way be diverted by circumstances outside of my control or through my stupidity and thereby facing perhaps danger, or passion, beauty or tedium and return home without ever getting to see Michelangelo’s frescos (the chapel would probably be closed anyway, for repairs or for some obscure holiday), I would consider my trip a success.

I guess, one could consider Pookieism something like Buddhism, but from somewhat the opposite viewpoint. Where Buddhism urges one to withdraw from the unreality of perception, Pookieism suggests you revel in it.

When I look back into my life, anytime I single-mindedly pursued a goal and overcame many obstacles to achieve it, I almost always came away dissatisfied, became depressed and soon decided to spend my time doing something else. On the other hand, whenever I was diverted from my path or failed in achieving my goal or found myself hopelessly lost, I often was overjoyed. Why, because there was so much experience, so much pathos, and so much joy. And, oh the stories…

Yes, of course, there were things that to this day I wish never happened and if I could I would want not to have occurred, but they did and the exquisite if odious memories of the experience accompany’s me like tattoos on the skins of generation Xers.

For those males of a certain age, some of you may recall that time when you were a kid and in your imagination played the announcer of your life. “The great slugger stands at the plate. Here comes the pitch. He swings. He misses….” Or, “Here is the world-famous runner running through the woods. Will he break the record? Oh no! He trips. He falls. Will he be able to get up, finish the race and break the record? Stay tuned.”

Well, I still do that.

“Here is the aging hero walking along the side of the road recalling past loves, triumphs, and failures. Out of the corner of his eye, he spies a small yellow flower, stops and contemplates its beauty for a moment and then walks on, crosses the street, the freshly painted striping glowing so whitely in the sun it hurts his eyes. Suddenly he remembers he forgot to buy that bottle of milk. Should he return to the store or proceed on toward home? He stands there at the edge of the road, like the brave Ulysses on the beach contemplating whether to return home to the aging but loyal Penelope or spend another night in the arms of the beautiful Calypso?”

Speaking of Ulysses, Homer’s account is not quite how it happened.

One night the short, bandy-legged, scraggly bearded young man named Ulysses, who lived in a subdivision on a small island in the Adriatic, left the home on a cul-de-sac he shared with his wife, young son, various hangers-on, and a pack of dogs, telling everyone he was going to the store to buy a carton of milk, or an amphora of wine or new sandals or whatever. Now twenty years later he stood on the corner of the block down from his old home, broke, hungry and older. He contemplated the excuses he would tell his wife for his long absence. He concocted stories about ships and strange wars, jealous gods, wooden horses, one-eyed monsters and to cover up the long periods of time he spent living with a succession of comely young women, he fell back on the tried and true excuse of philandering husbands of the time, bewitchment.

On the other hand, the also aging but still zaftig and supposedly loyal Penelope wanted no part of the smelly midget bastard’s return. She had happily spent the past 20 years screwing the Theban pool boy and every young stud in town. The assholes return would only mean she would have to give up the good life and return to working on that goddamn loom. Besides, she needed an excuse of her own to explain why for the last 20 years the same old piece of cloth hung on that machine with no further work done on it since he left. She told all her boyfriends that she would choose one of them to settle down with when she finished weaving the cloth. They were so stupefied with the thought of getting into her toga whenever she lifted its hem for them they forgot all about the status of that rotting rag.

She believed however that she would need something better to convince the crafty asshole of her unbelievable 20 years of fidelity. She decided to elaborate on the story and planned to tell her returning husband if unfortunately, he should ever return, that she weaved at the loom all day and every night she tore out what she had done during the day. If the simple and unbelievable story had worked on her lovers why wouldn’t this expanded version work on that scheming lying bastard Ulysses?

Nevertheless, she still was surprised when the testosterone-poisoned dwarf suddenly and unexpectedly showed up at her door and started killing all of her boyfriends and the Theban pool boy as well.

Sadly, Penelope was forced back to working all day at the goddamn loom and at night diddling herself while the drunken scumbag lay snoring among his dogs after buggering some prepubescent boy-chick.

As Holden Caulfield would say, “Crummy.”

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One morning, during that time in my life when I lived in Thailand, 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 the Little Masseuse 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 returned back to the bed, laid down, 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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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 the above 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, as the other man shook him, he seemed quite stiff.

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. 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. I hoped I would not have to do that either since I would probably feel embarrassed. 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. So, 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 of 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 would I 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 is 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 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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A photo of Thai actor Mitr Chaibancha at a shr...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All my life I have often taken voyages of the mind as I have pursued some research thread or another. Anyway, the internet is a marvelous vehicle for anyone who enjoys traveling without leaving one’s bed.

In my most recent voyage, I had been traveling north escaping from the devastation of Ninth Century Southern Italy with some Jewish merchants and settled with them in the Rhine Valley only to be forced to move eastward into the Pale, when the armies of Western Christendom had made that land too dangerous for my Hebrew brethren.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the home of the local Rabbi in a shtetl deep within the Pale somewhere in eastern Poland when that good man began to become quite emotional and upset about a radical Sephardic Rabbi named Maimonides who lived among the Muslims and was obviously corrupted by them. According to the Rabbi, this Maimonides was attempting, in his erroneous writings on sacred subjects, to humanize the faith of their fathers.

I decided to visit Maimonides at his family home in Egypt where he was working as the physician to the Sultan Saladin. One evening shortly after I arrived, I asked the honorable doctor-rabbi to instruct me in his teachings. He responded to my request by saying “Pookie, before embarking on a voyage into Hebrew esoterica, you should first travel to Persia and stay a few evenings in a caravansary called ‘The Perfumed Garden’.”

I did so and one evening while relaxing in the hot tub after the day’s debauch, I met a fellow traveler who introduced himself to me as Mercury Ali. We got to talking about this and that and after swapping some tales of our respective voyages, he suggested that that evening we attend the salon of the well-known Hori, Scheherazade,  where he assured me that the finest stories in all of Persia could be heard. “Be careful,” he warned me, “the tales are so beguiling they can  become addictive.” It has been rumored that some of the attendees at the salon had become so besotted that they remained there for over 1000 nights.

Assuring him that I will take his warning seriously, I accompanied him to the salon. I admit I soon began to find myself becoming hooked on the conversation. After a few nights with Haroun al-Rashid, Delilah the Crafty, and any number of men named Sinbad (Aladdin and Ali Baba, to my regret, were off on some adventure or another), I met up with another attendee, the besotted tent-maker, mathematician and astrologer Omar Khayyam. He invited me to spend the next few days with him and a couple of Horis, and a few bottles of Napa Valley’s finest jug wine under some trees in the desert somewhere.

One morning, having finished off the jugs of wine, I found myself with Omar banging on the door of a local tavern demanding the proprietor open the premises so that we could resume our drinking.

After a downing a few cups of chardonnay in the cool common room of the tavern, I fell asleep on the table and woke up in the early part of the Twentieth Century in  Greenwich Village in New York City at the house of two hippies who were dancing with each other while reciting Omar’s verses.

It seems that Bob Babbitt and his wife, Jessie were having a party to celebrate the end of their short unhappy experiment with sobriety. Among the guests was a gentleman who went by the obvious alias of O Henry. I was later to learn that he was a convicted embezzler, ex-con and drunken pharmacist from North Carolina who was hiding out in New York in the witness protection program under an assumed name.

He suggested that since the current party was winding down, that I join him at another get-together in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana hosted by a friend of his called Idaho. It was a reception in honor of the newest residents of the valley, Homer K. M. and, his girlfriend Ruby Ott.

The following morning, we joined Rocky and Bullwinkle on Bullwinkle’s boat the “Ruby Yacht”  and traveled down the Bitterroot to Veronica Lake where we spent the day.

[P.S.    1. If you read this far, here is the connection to the complete collection of O Henry’s tales: (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/O._Henry), You can read his short stories, “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball” and “The Handbook of Hymen” should you want to take my voyage in reverse.
2. Omar (who was previously a member of the Taliban) and Scheherazade now are living together in an apartment in North Beach San Francisco with another illegal alien couple from Guatemala who formerly served in the Sandinista army. Omar and Sherry (the name she goes by now) are strong supporters of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer when they are not out campaigning for the “Green Party”.]

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