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Posts Tagged ‘Women in Thailand’

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

Looking towards Nana Neua from Sukhumvit Soi 3...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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In Bangkok there is a world-famous hospital to which people from all over the world flock, especially from the Arab countries of the Middle East and from India. Although cosmetic surgery is one of the hospitals most lucrative services, is also does a thriving business in artificial insemination.

The hospital is located a few blocks from the health club in which the Little Masseuse works. Every now and then a gentleman would show up at the health club, plastic cup in hand, seeking assistance from the masseuses in depositing the precious fluid into the cups.

This would occasionally cause difficulties between the masseuses and the health club management. It seems that the deposit is required to presented back at the hospital within twenty minutes of its collection. This, at times caused the client to have to rush out with his valuable cargo well before the hour of massage he paid for was up, leading the management to accuse the workers of providing poor service or of outright dishonesty.

Anyway, one day a distinguished and portly Indian gentleman appeared at the health club and presented himself and his plastic cup to the Little Masseuse. In making idle conversation as she often does during a massage she asked him, “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I want to have children, two of them in fact, and this is the only way I can.”

“May I ask,” she inquired, “why have you not done this by yourself instead of coming here to the health club?”

He responded, “Because I want my children to be happy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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 mornings 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 at 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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English: Henry David Thoreau, photograph taken...

Henry David Thoreau decided that it would be a good thing to take Horace Greeley‘s advice to, “Go West Young Man.” However, our Henry being the imaginative sort decided that instead of fording rivers, climbing mountains and crossing deserts to get to some fabulous place like California, to confine his westward migration to a few mile walk from his home to his cabin on the shores of a small nearby lake. There he was able to spend his mornings allowing his mind to wander as it will and be back home for lunch. It the afternoon he would return to his not so remote and not so rustic cabin and further indulge himself in the conceit that his perceptions of the natural world around his retreat revealed to his mind and imagination all of the wonders that others experience in old Californy or wherever.

After about a year or so, tiring of the rigors of the remote country life, Henry then took a rowboat trip up the stream affectionately called the Connecticut River and dreamed he was traveling down the Mississippi. Among his other adventures, our Henry travelled for a while in remote Cape Cod where he met a man who had seen George Washington riding his horse and recalled something or other about the attractiveness of George’s leg.

Now I write this, not to make fun of Henry, but as an explanation as to why I have always viewed him as a role model. Day dreams can be adventures too.

My morning walk to through my neighborhood in Bangkok Thailand where I now live for part of the year to the health club and back elicits in me similar transcendental impressions to those old Henry experienced in his New England perambulations. Alas, I am not Henry. I cannot write as well as he, nor are my impressions as…well transcendental.

Henry during his boat trip marveled at the humanity of a man standing on a bridge as his boat passed under, spitting in our Henry’s face. I could never do that; marvel at his humanity. Spitting in someones face is beyound the realm of possibility for me. In fact as often as not, I can find nothing particularly interesting memorable or romantic about what I see, hear or otherwise experience. Sometimes a dirty, boring street is just that, a dirty boring street.

I live on a dirty boring street in Bangkok Thailand. My apartment building sits on one side of a  cul-de-sac that after a few jogs exits at Soi Nana, the neighborhood main drag and one of Bangkok’s prime red light districts. Along the little street from my cul-de-sac to Soi Nana there are two hotels and a cement wall that comprise the visual horizon and little else. A man with the blue shirt almost always stands across from one of the hotels, day and night. I haven’t the slightest idea why. Sometimes a motorbike, or taxi or the Boss Suites Tuk-tuk goes by. Now and then a ying (young woman) who works nearby passes, going to or from work in one of the local bars or Go-Go places; outside of that nothing.

Oh, once I saw an injured bird hopping about on the street. I did not touch it since I have an aversion to touching small living things other than dogs and cats and some humans. Large animals I have no aversion to and can be persuaded to touch a horse or even an elephant. Other large animals are ok too, except bears. I am pathologically afraid of bears. I did touch one however, once.

I was walking along one of the seedier parts of Istanbul when a couple of Russian Gypsies came along leading a bear on a rope that led to a ring in the bear’s nose. I was allowed, for a price, to pet the bear. I paid and did so. It made me sad. The sight of the creäture who so terrorized my nighttime dreams as personification of arbitrary and unlimited power reduced to such a state repulsed me. I still have terrifying dreams of ursine ravening. I used to run away as the beast bursts from shadows, but now I turn and apologize for the ring and the rope.

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