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gita-136

Bhagavad Gita

Introduction

I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
When will Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master and unto the feet of all Vaisnavas. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Srila Rupa Gosvami along with his elder brother Sanatana Gosvami, as well as Raghunatha Dasa and Raghunatha Bhatta, Gopala Bhatta, and Srila Jiva Gosvami. I offer my respectful obeisances to Lord Krsna Caitanya and Lord Nityananda along with Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara, Srivasa, and other associates. I offer my respectful obeisances to Srimati Radharani and Sri Krsna along with Their associates, Sri Lalita and Visakha.
O my dear Krsna, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation. You are the master of the gopis and the lover of Radharani. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.
I offer my respects to Radharani whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vrndavana. You are the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, and You are very dear to Lord Krsna.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are full of compassion for the fallen souls.
I offer my obeisances to Sri Krsna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa and all others in the line of devotion.
hare krishna hare krishna, krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama, rama rama hare hare.

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Halloween came and went with Hayden dressed as “the Scream” and me handing out candy to whatever goblins and ghosts might ring the doorbell.
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While Hayden went out trick or treating, I manned the home candy dispensing duties alone. I was quite anxious, fearing that no one would come begging at the door. I could not face the humiliation of failing at the simple task of providing children something to rot their teeth and endanger their health. I kept jumping up and down from the sofa and running to the door to see if anyone was coming.

Finally, a shy tiny little blond girl dressed all in bandages showed up. Overcome with excitement and with a big nervous and an undoubtedly scary smile on my face, I held out to her the bowl of candy. She hesitatingly reached into the bowl and timidly plucked out one piece and dropped it into the bag she was carrying.

Interpreting her hesitation as a rejection of my sincere efforts to corrupt the innocent, I shouted “no,” stepped suddenly toward her and in one quick move dumped the entire contents of the bowl into her still open candy bag.

With a surprised squeak and eyes so wide I feared they would fall out of her head and follow the candy into the now almost full bag, she turned and ran off into the darkness.

I spent the remainder of the evening wondering if I was going to receive a visit from the police and questioning whether Halloween candy maven was a suitable career choice for me.

In the days following the trauma of Halloween, I returned to my role as a nanny and in my spare time threw myself into my newest career as URB.im’s Bangkok Bureau Chief. That impressive title requires me to write four posts a month about those who believe they are saving the world by interfering in the lives of the poor and destitute of Thailand.

My pay would be barely adequate to keep a homeless Bangkok street beggar in two bowls of rice and broth a day. It was suggested that, as soon as possible, I find someone who otherwise is unemployed to take over the job, preferably a young local woman living at home with her parents since that was the usual situation of the other Bureau Chiefs. My new employers seemed dubious about entrusting their important work to some overweight broken down old attorney ex-pat who in his dotage would likely slip into some hole in the sidewalk and disappear into the city’s sewer system leaving them without their man in Bangkok.

My first assignment is to write about organizations providing parks for squatters living in tar paper shacks perched on stilts over the same sewers it was expected that I would fall into.

On Saturday I drove to Cameron Park for Hayden’s first Taekwondo tournament. I believe it is one of the functions of the elderly to assume periodically the role of the chauffeur of children and relieve parents of that obligation. God knows, it is not that we (the elderly), have so much else of interest to do that we cannot spare the time.

I was somewhat anxious on the drive. This was my first time driving my charge to a tournament. I worried I would get lost and he would be disqualified (I did, but he did not).

Taekwondo is one of those Asian so-called martial arts that makes one less competent in a street fight than if you knew nothing about it. At least if one were ignorant, he would not believe throwing long distance bombs would help him against a stronger opponent but instead would grapple with him in hope that he could pin down his opponent’s arms before having his lights punched out. The martial art seems to be a cross between an athletic sport and dance; the quick controlled explosiveness of most athletic endeavors coupled with the grace and formalism of dance.

Hayden whose athleticism and technique leaves a lot to be desired, surprised me with his aggressiveness, chasing one of his opponents all over the gym to win 5-0. After the bout, the other boy dropped to the ground and started to cry. H. went over to him and told him he should not feel sad because he, Hayden, had a secret. He explained that his Pookie (that’s me) told him that as soon as the referee signaled the bout to begin he should rush his opponent and hit him as hard as he can. “Now,” that you know the secret,” Hayden continued, “I am sure you’ll win your next bout.”

Flushed with excitement and with H clutching his medal we drove back down the hill, ate a pizza lunch and went to the movies to watch Wreck-it Ralph attempt to redeem his life in 3D animation.
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I decided I would post here some of the more amusing stories that I shared Hayden during our travels through life together.
Hayden and the Naked Chef.

Like in the US where urban private schools tend to locate in transition zones (the rent is cheaper there), so it is with Hayden’s pre-school here in Bangkok.

This morning as I walked Hayden up to the gate of the school across the street along an extended cement platform in front of some shops, a beefy fourtyish bald farang, naked to the waist, reeled about obviously stoned and perhaps also drunk. He had scars on his head and body but was surprisingly bereft of tattoos. Accompanying him was a naked lady-boy clearly showing the major points of her conflicting sexes (known as “pre-op”) and a woman who was, I surmised, a local professional. It appeared that they had spent the night there. As the lady-boy put on what seemed to be the man’s shirt to cover the most conflicting parts of her, the man himself staggered across the street and tried to enter the school grounds.

Now like most private schools and important buildings in BKK the school grounds were rife with security personnel. Every morning and evening, four or so regular BKK police are stationed by the gate in order to direct traffic and provide rudimentary security. The School also has its own set of uniformed security. One spiffy dressed cop (all BKK cops dress spiffy), upon seeing the man approach, held up one hand palm vertical to the ground in the universal sign of stop and with the other made a no-nonsense gesture that the farang should return to the other side of the street.

Now, it is important to understand that at no time did the Thai cop in any way indicate he would touch the farang nor did he evidence any demonstration of anger. In Thailand that would cause him to appear less than human and lose face. Imagine what people from this culture must see when they view western entertainment that shows uncontrolled fury and violence as a manly virtue. John Wayne must appear to them to be like a circus clown (come to think of it…. ) American football with its glorification of anger and violence probably appears to be played by water buffalos rather than humans.

Anyway, the bald farang took the hint, returned to the other side of the street and after a short period of slack-jawed milling about the trio ambled off in the general direction of the gates of hell (Nana Plaza, the local den of iniquity).

After it was all over, I asked Hayden what he thought about what happened.

He said, “The girl was naked and the policeman had a gun”.

Just in case you may think that Hayden is too young to know the meaning of the word naked, I a few nights ago while we were preparing for bed, he took off all of his clothing and put a paper bag on his head like a hat, pranced in to the bathroom where I was brushing my teeth and announced, “Look at me. I’m the Naked Chef.”
February 12, 2014.

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Sometimes when surfing the Net I come across a gem sparkling beneath the ripples of the electron stream. A few days ago, I found the following translation of an ancient Tang Dynasty poem nestled in one of my favorite blogs. Brad DeLong, the author of the post, interestingly, added a few thoughts on Historical Patriarchy that the poem seemed to raise in his mind. I thought they were interesting. So, I decided I would repost here those parts of the post I found most engaging.

I snagged the poem and comments in Brad Delong’s blog Grasping Reality with at Least Three Hands (http://www.bradford-delong.com/) and followed up with some research of my own on the entire poem.

Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi’s Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:

遂令天下父母心,
不重生男重生女。
驪宮高處入青雲,
仙樂風飄處處聞。
緩歌慢舞凝絲竹,
盡日君王看不足。
漁陽鼙鼓動地來,
驚破霓裳羽衣曲
All her sisters and brothers had royal demesnes granted.
Imperial but pitiful glory on the Yang family was bestowed.
。 On the mindset of all parents her success was a strong influence.
Baby girls instead of baby boys became the popular

The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all across the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children…

This struck me as having obvious bearing on my [“Historical Patriarchy”][] lecture…

Continue reading “Note to Self: “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” and Historical Patriarchy…” » http://www.musicated.com/syh/TangPoems/EverlastingRegret.

 

This remarkable poem closes with the following lines:

 

臨別殷勤重寄詞,
詞中有誓兩心知,
七月七日長生殿,
夜半無人私語時。
在天願作比翼鳥,
在地願為連理枝。
天長地久有時盡,
此恨綿綿無絕期

“Let our pledge be as strong as the inlaid and the gold.”
“We will reunite, if not in heaven, in the mortal world.”
。 She asked the messenger to bring back a verse with a clue.
There was a vow in the verse only the two of them knew.
On a Valentine’s Day in Longevity Hall away from the crowd,
At midnight when no one else was around, they vowed.
“Let’s be two birds in the sky flying side by side.”
“Let’s be two branches on the earth inseparably tied.”
The sky and the earth will not be eternal, however.
Only this regret remains and lasts for ever and ever.

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Bangkok: The Rainy Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Reconsider

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

I Reconsider Again and Dream of Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

Number three is the winner

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

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

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

A Good Day Begins

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My Neighborhood During the Daytime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruminations

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

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

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

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

Khao San Road

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

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

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

Another Day, Another Conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Interesting Email

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

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

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

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

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

A Tussle Without a Hustle

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures with the Good/Bad David and Theo

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

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

I Return to the Seashore One Last Time

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

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

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

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

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Everyone should know a little Yiddish:

a page from Yiddish-Hebrew-Latin-German dictionary

a page from Yiddish-Hebrew-Latin-German dictionary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, why you might ask would it be important for we goyim to learn a few words of Yiddish? Well, besides the fact that many of these words are already common and well-integrated into English, there is another reason as well. You see, some languages have many words that essentially describe what a non-speaker would imagine being the same thing. For example, 200 words or so for snow or a hundred and fifty words for a camels hoof. Yiddish enriches English because it contains hundreds of words to describe human foibles. Even when it ostensibly refers to a thing like a knickknack, the Yiddish word “tchotchke” seems to say more about the observer and the owner than about the object itself.

Many people have the mistaken notion that Yiddish is a Jewish language like Hebrew. True it was spoken primarily by Jews. However unlike Hebrew which until the establishment of the state of Israel served as the “religious” or “intellectual” language of most Jews; much like Latin was used in western Europe until the last century, Yiddish generally was spoken by only one of the major branches of the Jewish Diaspora. That branch, known as the Ashkenazi were those Jews who lived primarily in eastern Europe and originally included Northern France until various pogroms forced them further east. Like the Kurds of today, they were a nation without a land of their own. Until the 19th century, most Jews spoke a pastiche of Aramaic, Hebrew and the indigenous language of the place they were living at the time. The roots of Yiddish are primarily German with Aramaic and Hebrew influences. It also includes words and expressions from several Slavic languages in varying degrees depending upon where the speakers lived. There are several different “Yiddish dialects” including that spoken as the official language in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the Russian far east near Vladivostok. Its capital is Birobidzhan. The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched in 2007.

Ashkenazi Dreams:

Gottlieb - Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yo...

Gottlieb – Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur (Photo credit: Trodel)

Yiddish developed among the Ashkenazi, one of the three main branches of Judaism. The other two being the Sephardim (primarily originating on the Iberian peninsula) and the Mizrahim comprising most of the others. The Sephardim and the Mizraim, if they spoke it at all, did not speak Yiddish as their mother tongue as did many of the Ashkenazi before emigrating to the US.

They all more or less can trace their patrimonial heritage through the male Y chromosome to a single individual living somewhere in the middle east about 5000 years ago, about the time when Abraham was reputed to have lived. A recent study of the Cohen, the traditional priestly class descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, using DNA from males with that surname worldwide, indicates that most of them are descended from a middle eastern male alive about 3000 years ago; about the time the Bible indicates that Moses and Aaron lived. Given that several hundred years of the most intensive archeological investigation in the world, while turning up scads of evidence of the other Peoples and nations mentioned in the Bible, failed to turn up much evidence at all of Jewish history older than somewhere between 200 and 600 BC, it is remarkable that modern genetics has been able to confirm at least this part of the story. (Not that it proves that Abraham, Moses, and Arron actually existed, but it does confirm that during those times there was in all likelihood some horny goat-herd in the Near East busy shtupping a shikse or two thereby giving birth not only to the great Jewish nation but, in all likelihood, a significant portion of the population of the entire Mediterranean basin. I guess it could fairly be observed that Arron wielded a mighty rod.

English: Yiddish language in the United States...

English: Yiddish language in the United States. More than 100,000 speakers More than 10,000 speakers More than 5,000 speakers More than 1,000 speakers Fewer than 1,000 speakers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ashkenazi male line descends primarily through southern Italian and Sicilian Jews who migrated into Northern Europe about 400-600 AD to escape persecution by the newly dominant Christians. Genetically Southern Italians and Sicilians and the Ashkenazi appear to be closer related to each other than to most of the rest of trans-montain Europe. Unlike the other branches of Judaism, the Ashkenazi seem to have picked up a small but strong Central-Asian component primarily from the Caucuses and the area around the Caspian Sea, the ancestral home of the Khazar’s, the almost legendary medieval Jewish empire.

On the matrilineal side DNA testing shows that although there is strong evidence of middle eastern origins among the women, there is significantly more evidence of non-middle eastern origins then among the men (Again with the shikses.)

Among the Ashkenazi, there is a high incidence of Tay Sachs an inherited and inevitably fatal disease. The Sephardim and the Mizrahim seem to have no greater incidence of the disease than the general population, an indication that the effects of natural selection and genetic drift happen quite rapidly and do not require the eons that mutations take to be reflected in a population. The Tay Sachs’ discovery may have revealed another startling fact, that the genes causing Tay Sachs may be related to those controlling for intelligence. * Based on standard IQ testing as much as 20% of the Ashkenazi score 120 or higher, scoring higher in verbal and mathematical elements and lower in spatial than the general population (in other words, great scientists, and writers but lousy athletes). In the general population, the average is about 4-5% including for the Sephardim and Mizrahim. It is not so hard to guess why that is the case. The Christian pogroms and prohibitions against land ownership for the Jews and against charging interest for the Christians coupled with high literate demands of the rabbinate made those excelling in abstract thought high-quality breeders so to speak.

On the other hand, among the Christian West, strangely enough, those who were most literate were prohibited from breeding. From the fall or the Roman empire until the success of the Protestant revolt, for the most part, the most literate of the Western Christians were forced into the clergy who, unless they were Popes or Cardinals, were strongly discouraged from breeding.

Instead, we placed our genetic basket on the shoulders of homicidal maniacs whose claim to fame was their preternatural ability to take someone else’s technology and turn it into a more highly efficient means of slaughter.

As luck would have it, due to the plague almost wiping us out, and our short-term tendency to compensate by breeding like rabbits, coupled with our forced procreation of prescient psychopaths equipped with proficient killing machines and a resistance to disease, we in the West were able to conquer the world. Hooray for us.

*Note: Contrary evidence for the genetic connection between Tay Sachs and a certain type of intelligence is provided by the fact that the Irish appear also to be prone to the disease. On the other hand, perhaps the Hibernians were one of the lost tribes of Israel like the American Indians and just about everyone else, except for the Mormons, who never get lost.

So what’s it to me?

Some of you have inquired about my fascination with Judaism given that I am goyim and all that. Actually is in not Judaism that fascinates me but the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi used to be a sizable stateless nation in eastern Europe that barely escaped annihilation. It now has a state of its own in the Near East that exists under the extreme stress of annihilation. Many of the surviving descendants of the original Ashkenazi not living in the Near East now lives in the US.

I used to think that my fascination was because my great great grandmother was Jewish (and given mathematics of human generation, whose wasn’t somewhere along the line). Her family (named Tau) was from somewhere in Austria. In the early 1800s, they left Austria, probably under the pressure of one pogrom or another and could not afford the ticket to the US, and settled in a tiny Italian hill town named Roccantica in the then Papal States. Go figure.

More recently, however, as I read about the newest advances in genetic analysis of population migration over time, I was fascinated to learn that the modern Ashkenazi, at least on the male side, were primarily descended from Sicilian and Southern Italian Jews who migrated to Northern Europe to escape the emerging dominance of Christianity during the latter stages of the Roman Empire.

I recall looking at a photograph of my maternal Sicilian grandparents. In the photograph, both my grandfather and grandmother were photographed separately. He, with his tightly curled blond hair, long narrow nose and wispy blond mustache, appeared to be one of those Sicilians descended from either the Normans or later French settlers who bequeathed their blond hair and surnames to their descendants (Cygna and Gallo common Sicilian surnames and my mother’s name Corsello appear to be examples). However, my grandmother, a Defalco, was different. Her photograph always fascinated me. Dark where my grandfather was pale, long black hair and eyes coal black, not haunted nor haunting but quietly alive as though they saw more and deeper than the rest of us. The Defalcos seem to be an old Sicilian name. Several Castelo Falconaras, that may or may not relate to them, dot the Sicilian landscape. Could they be the remnants of that gene line left somehow behind when the rest of them set off for el Norte and became Ashkenazi? Who the hell knows.

When I was a little kid my first playmate other than cousins, was a boy named Ian who lived down the block. I would now and then have what passed for a play date then with him. I liked going over his house. He had a sandbox in his backyard. I did not. I only had a grape arbor. We would play and after a while, if he got frustrated, he would punch me. I did not know why he did that.

At the other end of the block, beyond the large black rock that jutted on to the sidewalk, lived an older boy. He was about seven (I was only four or five years old). I was afraid of him because he was big and he would punch me also. Nevertheless, it was always an adventure to walk down the block all the way to the flat rock and sit there. I would not go further because I then could no longer see my house.

At that time we lived in the one street in the lower part of Tuckahoe where no other Italians (or for that matter any blacks) lived. My grandfather built the house when he had gotten rich from his construction company. Unfortunately, he lost it all in the depression, so we divided up the house among the family and still lived there. My father, mother, baby brother and I lived upstairs. The floor had been converted to an apartment. My Grandparents lived in an apartment on the ground floor and my Aunt had a room made out of the old sun deck. We all shared the living room. The rest of the neighborhood was mostly peopled by what became referred to as WASPs, but I knew them then as Americans. There were three Jewish families that I was aware of on Dante Avenue as the block was named, two of them belonged to the boys who would punch me.

Even though I was afraid of him, I soon found out that all the bigger boy wanted was just someone to talk to. I did not understand that at the time. In any event, we would sit on the rock and talk about those things of interest to little boys, like pirates and the like. I later learned that they were both being bullied horribly by the older boys, in part because they were Jewish.

I never understood bullying. I learned to live with the name calling, but when it moved beyond that I always had to step in. I was able to get away with it, not because I was strong or brave, but because I realized that the object of bullying was to take advantage of the ease of dominating someone weaker than you. However, when someone interposes himself then the object of the exercise becomes muddled. To pass through someone who puts up even slight resistance to get at the weak is simply not worth the effort. Besides most bullies were that way because someone else was bullying them. It was always a risk for them when someone fought back. I would find myself stepping in to stop bullying about once a week. No one ever decided to fight with me about it even though I was small and weak at the time. That puzzled me for a time because I otherwise fought almost every day with someone who I thought was trying to bully me. I wondered why. Eventually, I came up with a theory. But that is for another time.

I did not know what Jewish, or Christian, or Italian, African-American and so on meant then. They were simply words to me. Of course, sometimes those words indicated a difference I could see, for example, “colored” kids as we called African-Americans at the time, were often but not always darker than Italian kids and American kids were pinker with blue veins. I couldn’t see much difference in most of the others. Later I learned what people meant when the used those words to describe themselves or other people. Most of the time when they were not describing themselves, they used those words because they were a little afraid of the others.

The woman many considered my second mother, was a member of the third Jewish family. They lived next door. I called her Anna Banana, probably because I could not pronounce her last name. She was married and childless. She had a narrow face and freckles. She also had carrot-colored hair that seemed to be all wiry and would fly about her head at odd angles whenever she moved around, which she did a lot. I spent almost every day all day with her at her house. She never seemed to mind. She taught me how to eat scallions and play the piano. Nights I would spend sitting on my grandmother’s lap before the fireplace that my grandfather built with big rocks that he had carried himself from somewhere. I would repeat from memory all the nursery rhymes I had learned from my mom and Anna Banana, sing songs and recite poems in English and Italian that my grandmother taught me. I felt very and happy with Anna Banana and my grandmother.

Then my father decided to sell the only asset we had, the house, in order to open up a business, a bar, and a restaurant. Six months later we were homeless and living on the streets. But that is another story.

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Songkran

Songkran (Photo credit: Lim CK)

The dread Songkran holiday began today. Although originally a festival welcoming in the new year at which time a person gently poured fragrant water over the Buddha images to cleanse them and bring good luck, it has turned into a loathsome frenzy in which gangs roam the streets drenching each other and the unwary with buckets of water thrown from the backs of pick-up trucks, or expelled at great velocity from hoses and giant water guns. I hate it.

Today also was the Little Masseuse’s day off and she wanted to spend it “looking around” at the temples near the royal precinct. She often enjoys her days off just “looking around.” I frequently join her. Sometimes we go to the mall and just, you know, “look around.”

English: People in a tuk-tuk get targeted duri...

People in a tuk-tuk get targeted during the Songkran festival in Thailand

We set off and thought we already were rewarded with the good luck that was to be ours for our pious intent to visit the temples when the driver of the courtesy vehicle for the hotel next to our apartment agreed to drive us the half mile or so to Sukhumvit the main road where we would catch the bus to the Royal Palace area. Alas, the vehicle was a converted Tuk-tuk, those ubiquitous three-wheeled vehicles that patrol the streets of Thailand. It was open on all sides. We had gone no further than about 20 yards when the vehicle became stuck in traffic and was immediately surrounded by hoards of revelers who drenched us with water from just about every possible means of violently propelling a liquid.

Soaking wet, we got on the bus to take us to the temple compounds. As I sat and thought dark thoughts about the crazed revelers I could see filling the streets as we passed, a woman of about LM’s age approached her and began bragging about the two-legged mobile ATM that she had also snagged and asked LM if she did not also think he was handsome. LM insisted that I turn around and look at this handsome American and so I did and saw a tall emaciated bald individual slightly younger than I with a sepulchral look and washed out blue eyes to whom I would not apply the word handsome. I thought it somewhat endearing that these two middle-aged Thai women at their age and appearance were so pleased with their ATM’s.

We arrived at the Palace area and stopped at a shrine in the middle of traffic round-about. LM purchased some orange carnation-like flowers in a wreath and some joss sticks from a table at the side of the shrine. She laid the flowers at the base of the shrine, poured some water over them from a nearby bucket, lit the joss sticks and dipped her head in prayer. While she prayed, one of the attendants at the table that sold the flowers picked up her floral offering and returned them to the table for resale. I have always marveled at how miraculous it has been that throughout history religions could create flourishing economies out of nothing but belief in the unknown and unknowable.

We then walked over to one of the temple compounds themselves. On the way there I realized that I had left my wallet in the apartment and told LM that whatever we spend today it was going to have to be on her.

We walked on a bit further when suddenly the sole of LM’s shoe fell off so we had to attach it with rubber bands scrounged from those lying on the sidewalk that had been thrown away. They had previously secured plastic bags in which the sidewalk vendors sold various liquids. LM was obviously frustrated and annoyed and said to me what amounted to “why is it that my ATM has to be so often out of money?” Why indeed? I often ask that question myself.

Upon arriving at the Temple grounds LM purchased some more of the orange flower wreaths and disappeared into a temple building while I waited in front of another building in which a traditional Thai dance accompanied on traditional instruments was in progress. The dancers were dressed in elaborate brocade costumes complete with the tall spiked golden headdress. I guessed that they as well as the musicians were all in their 50′s or more but were proficient enough in bending back their fingers and toes and rolling their eyes to attract a good number of camera-wielding tourists eager to preserve their efforts for all eternity in electronic pixels.

We then went to a group of large open-sided tents where LM sat me on a park type bench, all wood slatted and wrought iron, and went off on a tour of the flower and sundry tables. I sat facing into the tent. I could see the backs of a large number of kneeling Thais and through the other side of the tent, I could see a construction site.

LM arrived back carrying what could only be described as a small-sized metal pizza dish on which were more of the orange flowers, some other floral bulbs whose name I do not know, some more joss sticks, a bit of brightly colored gauzy material, a few packets containing gold leaf, a bottle of what looked like clarified butter and a larger bottle of something that looked like olive oil. She asked me to hold the pizza plate while she took one of the wreaths and some joss

English: Picture of Chinese Joss Sticks - Joss...

sticks and joined the other Thais where she knelt before a low table on the other side of the tent and deposited the flowers, that were immediately gathered up by the attendants. She lit the joss sticks and placed them in receptacles full of sand. They too were quickly gathered up before they had a chance to burn all the way down. I was curious about what they planned to do with half-burned joss sticks but was too shy to ask.

LM returned and beckoned to me to follow her. We walked to another building. It was a small temple surrounded by a little plaza encircled by a polished stone balustrade. I was left to lean against the balustrade and guard the pizza dish while she took the rest of the flowers and disappeared into the building.

Looking around me I noticed, in addition to the hundreds of worshippers and piles of empty pizza dishes, a number of objects that looked quite phallic like. On several about waste high platforms, a four or five-foot column rose from the center of each. On the top of every one was a representation of the ubiquitous floral bulb whose name I do not remember and refuse to look up in Wikipedia. Around these poles people were affixing the gold leaf, tying the diaphanous fabric or pouring the clarified butter on them.

When LM returned she joined in pasting her gold foil on several of these phallic-like objects. She then wrapped one with her gauzy colored fabric and began to pour some of the clarified butter on to another one of them. She stopped, called me over and asked if I would pour it over the top since I was tall enough to reach. I gladly accepted the assignment and happily began pouring the contents of the bottle over the tip of the glans. Noticing my exuberance LM pulled me away warning me against pouring out the entire contents on just one.

Anyway, after emptying the contents of the bottle on to several of the columns, we abandoned the pizza dish and taking the remaining bottle of what I thought was olive oil went to a pavilion that had a number of lamps burning. Into each LM poured the contents of the bottle until it was empty.

Having completed our temple duties, we decided to return home. But first LM purchased some more flowers. There were not “flowers” as we think of them in the West, composed or brightly colored and delicate petals. They looked more like green patties of play-dough on a stick, embedded with acorns. The image of floral beauty inculcated into our consciousness by the romantic and mostly drugged poets of the 19th Century apparently was not carried over to Thailand. They are also edible, LM mentioned.

And so we set off for home. After a long bus ride, I took a short trip the final half mile to the apartment on the back of a motorbike where this seventy year plus body clutching the play-dough flowers in one hand and straw hat in the other prayed that a gang of Songkran thugs would not attack while I was in such a precarious position. The driver, either understanding my concern or sharing my dislike of the water wars, maneuvered through back alleys and deposited me at my apartment building safe and dry.

So to all of you, I wish you too, a happy Songkran and may the penis of your choice be covered on gold, tightly wrapped in gossamer and bathed in clarified butter.

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