The day before yesterday I went to Bangkok to get a verification of income form from the US consulate so that I can update my current 90 day so-called Type “O” non immigrant visa to a one year retirement visa. Yes, the unending ex-pat visa hassles continue.
Anyway, I stayed the night in a guest house not too far from the Consulate and in the morning set off to do get the document needed. As I walked down the street, I could not help to notice that there were knots of bored soldiers and police, stationed every 100 yards or so along each side of the main road. The overpasses were filled with more soldiers armed with machine guns. The police and soldiers did not mix nor as I could see even spoke to each other. The police were lightly armed mostly with side arms and wore their regular daily brown uniforms designed for a certain amount of comfort in the heat. The soldiers on the other hand were very heavily armed and in full battle dress with what looked like plastic shin and thigh guards attached. Most soldiers carried an assault weapon, a shotgun and various side arms to go along with bandoliers and, bulging pockets and packs that I guess contained additional ammunition. The soldiers were all dressed in their jungle camouflage outfits. I could not really understand that. There is no jungle in Bangkok. Instead of camouflage it seemed more like an advertisement. If they wanted camouflage for Bangkok, the fatigues should have been grey decorated with images of dead rats and broken pavement.
Anyway, I took the Skytrain, Bangkok’s elevated inter-urban train system to where the main road called Sukhumvit is crossed by Wireless Road on which the American Consulate is located. As I left the train, I saw the barricades erected by the protesters (the Red Shirts) closing off vehicular traffic on Sukhumvit (but not the Skytrain). There were no red shirts in sight since I guess in was too early for the working press to get into position.
The barricades were very picturesque, all prickly with sharpened bamboo stakes sticking out in every direction (even back towards the red shirt area). They looked menacing but flimsy and were weighted down by old automobile tires. It was obvious that despite their apparent menace, they could be breached by one man on a bicycle or better yet anyone with a match. The Barricades did not however close off the street entirely, the edges by the buildings, lacking good angles for press photography were not defended.
Wireless road, which the American Embassy grounds straddles, appears to be the boundary between the areas controlled by each side. The Ambassadorial Residence site is within the area of the city controlled by the Red Shirts and the Consulate is across the street on the side controlled by the government, symbolizing the ambivalence of the American government’s position on the mess.
Anyway, I finished my business and returned to Jomtien Beach. I later learned that shortly after I left there was a contretemps over something the press was unsure about, resulting in the death of a soldier (I would not be surprised if it were from heat prostration) and injury to 18 protesters. Sorry I missed it.
EXCERPTS FROM DIARY PRIOR TO POST:
SUNDAY APRIL 25, 2010 2 PM.
Reviewed the comments to the Kos diary and was thrilled at the positive response. Responded to as many comments as I could. Waiting for Lek to get back to me regarding dinner tonight.
Lek busy with customer tonight. went for 10 min. Swim called Gates arranged to meet him at P-72 at 8 PM. I am going to try to nap.
Met up with Gates, Roy. Gary and Mike at P-72. Had dinner. Went to a Go-Go Bar (name ??). Left. Had slight altercation with songtheuw driver re cigar. Got off before stop to avoid further contretemps. Walked to bar near condo (Name ??). Had coke. Spoke with bar girl Cat. May try her next week. Went home. Did accounts. Not good.
Go to bed…
MONDAY APRIL 26 2010 1:30 AM
Cannot sleep. Coughing and mind racing. Decided to eat some yogurt to sooth my throat and to write a new “This and that…”
Will compose it here and transfer to email tomorrow.
A lot has gone on since I last wrote to you all, but nothing that makes a story.
I have lost almost 20 pounds since I left the US. That means either I am eating a lot less or I am exercising more or I have come down with some horrible wasting sickness. I hope to lose about 10 more pounds before beginning a more vigorous exercise regime than my 10 to 20 minutes swimming a day. Maybe I will start lifting weights. On the other hand, probably not.
Yesterday I published my first piece in a political blog. I was very excited. The blog is the one that Bill O’Rielly called the most evil in the nation. He seems to believe the contributors to the blog are those same people who used to attend demonstrations criticizing and ridiculing the President. Of course that would be the blog I would attempt to write for first. Actually it is all quite simple you just sign up and write away.
Nevertheless despite the simplicity, I found trying to write the first piece daunting, fearing that whatever I submitted would be ridiculed. After writing and erasing a number of attempts at composing a miserable little three or four paragraph comment, I gave up. To divert myself from my frustration, I started rummaging through the few documents that I had brought with me from the US after disposing of everything else I own. In addition to two diaries from the 1960’s containing some horrid poetry and the musings of an evil, self-absorbed pissants, I came across something entitled “The Fred Harris Campaign Handbook”, perhaps the last copy in existence. For those who are too young or who may have missed it, Fred was very briefly, a candidate for the presidency of the United States on the democratic ticket during the 1972 and 1976 presidential campaigns. Fred campaigned as the populist candidate of the little people of America.
I was his issues chairman for the California Primary, and as such prepared the Handbook organized by issue containing Fred’s writings or speeches on each topic so that campaign workers could respond in the candidate’s own words to inquiries about where Fred stood on an issue. As it turned out the Handbook was never needed because Fred never made it to the California primary in 1976 where we were convinced that he would clinch the nomination and I would be up for an appointment as Secretary of State, Attorney General or a nomination to the Supreme Court or at least an indictment. No, Fred lost big time in the New Hampshire primary and was forced to drop out of the race for lack of money. When asked by the press what happened Fred responded, “Well I guess the little people were too short to reach the lever by my name”. (For those of you too young to know, before the invention of fire voting machines required a voter to pull down a little lever by the candidate’s name in order to record the vote)
Anyway, I thought since I was not confident in my own words, I would use Fred’s and add my own witty comments and insights to elucidate and relate Fred’s thoughts to the current political situation. That worked quite well and I submitted the piece and was quite pleased to see it published.
I was even more pleased when the next day, there were a number of positive comments on my submission and nary a negative. One articulate gentlemen’s comment contained only the word “awesome.”
Almost immediately my pleasure passed when I realized that I had to write a follow-up and that just had become much more difficult. It was like when I was much younger and did a little bit of acting on the stage, if the audience liked my performance, I could not go on the following night unless I was pushed onto the stage because I was paralyzed with fear that I would not be able to repeat the previous night’s performance.
Anyway, what ever happened to Fred? Well he dutifully campaigned for Jimmy Carter in California. Fred and his wife La donna spent election night at my house in San Francisco and when Carter accepted Ford’s concession I looked at Fred and could see that the light had gone out of his eyes in despair over the ending of his political career. Either that or he was dead drunk and about to pass out. Come to think of it, it was probably the latter since I seem to recall that the next morning we found Fred asleep in my back yard.
History is great. They should start teaching it again in High School.
MONDAY APRIL 26, 2010 10 PM
Went to Central to meet Marty the visa hustler. Grew up in Brewster NY. Charges 10,000 baht plus fees. Too high.
I need to get BanK Verification from BKKB. Make CopY of Passport, bank statement. Need 4 passport photographs. Go to BKK to get income certification from US consulate. Got Bank verification. Could not find place for copies of passport photos.
Went to meet Lek at entrance to Central. received a call from Tai that she was coming to live with me and bringing the baby. Told her I was going the BKK tomorrow for visa issues and will bring her back with me. She wanted to know if baby’s 20,000 baht/mo could be covered. I said yes. Met with Lek for dinner. I really would prefer her now to Tai .
Met with Gates, Gary and Roy. Gary left a message for Marty offering 10,000 baht for visa including fees. They ate and I came home. Called Tai and worked on new budget.
TUESDAY APRIL 27 2010 5 PM
Tai called at about 8 AM. Gates called to tell me Visa deal ok. Went to Breakfast. Tai called again. Made arrangements to meet in BKK. Got to bus station. Called Tai, no answer. Got on bus, called Tai, no answer. Got off bus at Ekamai, called Tai, no answer. Got on skytrain to Asoke. Got off called Tai, no answer. Went to Honey Hotel, no rooms. Went to eat in HH cafe, called Tai, no answer. Got room in guest house near by. Got docs copied. Came to my room. Got naked. Lay on bed wrote this.
Napped. Woke up. Peed. Called Tai, no answer. Wrote this.
Tai called about an hour ago. Said he phone was not working. I told her I did not believe her. Strained conversation. I told her that I will go to consulate as early as possible tomorrow and expected to return to Pattaya in early afternoon. She seemed surprised at that and when I asked her if she had packed yet, she said only a little that I interpreted as none at all. I said that I will call her after I finish with my visa business, will her phone be working? She said she had charged it. I asked about transportation. She said, by taxi. I asked how much. She said 1800 baht, she did not know, she did not make arrangements yet. I told her I would like it to be cheaper. More strained talk and we hung up. I do not think that this will work out.
Am being eaten alive by bed bugs.
Cannot sleep again. Mind keeps going over Tai situation.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 28 2010 7:30 AM
At Starbucks. Still cannot figure out how to connect to internet.
In different Starbucks. Had Bkfst. in prior Starbucks. Took Skytrain to Wireless Road. Went to Consulate. Got proof of income statement. Saw barricades on Sukhumvit. All prickly with sharpened bamboo and tires to hold it gown. Lots of soldiers in jungle camouflage. Called Tai 5 times this morning, no answer. Will walk to Nana take Skytrain to Ekamai and return to BKK. Will withdraw 20,000 baht from bank to pay Rent and cleaning costs. Then to home.
Home. Showered. Did accounts. Called LL. Pay rent 12 noon tomorrow.