Daily Archives: May 20, 2012

This and that from re thai r ment, by 3Th. October 10, 2010

Today’s Factoid:

1239 AD. King Edward I of England is born (1239-1307, ruled 1272-1307). At his coronation in 1272, 278 bacon hogs, 450 pigs, 440 oxen, 430 sheep and 22,600 hens and capons are consumed by the guests.

(After this, having killed off all the animals in the kingdom, the english ate only cabbage for the next 100 years)

Today’s Quote:

“Humble with the humble. Great with the great. He showed with words and deeds that his Mafia was not criminal. It stood for respect for the law, defense of all rights, greatness of character: it was love.”

Elegy for Calogero Vizzini brutal Sicilian Mafia boss on his death in 1954. Among his many acts of love in defense of the law was his ordering the massacres of peaceful labor protestors at an election rally in the Sicilian village of Villalba. Vizzini was the mayor of the town at the time having been installed by the American expeditionary forces in Sicily as a reward for assisting Lucky Luciano in obtaining Mafia support for the allied invasion of Sicily during World War II.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

Three or so hours later we had crossed the entire central plains of the country and arrived at the beginning of the mountains. The trip across the lowlands being notable mostly for the melancholy press of Thai traffic and the huge blue sea of a sky sporting an archipelago of white clouds. On each side of the highway spread the shocking green of the still flooded rice paddies that define central Thailand with their rapidly maturing plants . These were not your cute little paddies tended by picturesque farmers in conical hats, but paddies of many acres each in size, much like those one sees in California’s Central Valley near Sacramento. It is from these paddies that Thailand feeds much of southern Asia.

The paddies were thronged with hoards of the Southeast Asian version of egrets and herons (Storks? Spoonbills?). Not one or two here and there or the hundred or so one sees while traveling along the Coast Highway in Bolinas Lagoon by the rookery there, but hundreds and hundreds maybe even thousands all told, standing one-legged, head cocked with sharp beak and dark baleful eye searching to devour whatever wiggles within their reach. Above them swarmed flocks of the Asian equivalent of starlings and swallows swooping up any insect rising from the water.

The first city we encountered was Kanchanburi, where almost 20 years ago Richard “Uncle Mask” McCarthy, Bill Gates and I ventured to view the Bridge over the River Kawai (or fully translated, Buffalo River Bridge). It was on that trip, if I remember correctly, that the three of us came up with the idea of opening a bar in Bangkok. Originally we thought of naming it, “California Dick’s,” but Richard was still sensitive about his youthful nickname. Then in a fit of originality, we came up with the alternative name “California Joe’s” (I having no objection to embarrassment and humiliation). When we suggested it to our Thai partners, they objected because Thais could not pronounce long western names. So, despite the fact that our target cliental would be westerners and not Thai, we acceded to the name AVA. The first of what would be many mistakes in our business, social and personal dealings with our Thai partners.

The Bridge over the River Kawai was an Oscar-winning movie that glorified the heroic deaths of the 16,000 allied prisoners who were forced by the Japanese during World War II to labor on the construction of the bridge and the railroad line between Kanchanburi and Burma that came to be known as the “Death Railway,” but failed to acknowledge the 10 times as many Southeast Asian slave laborers who also died in its construction.

Alec Guinness played the British military officer in charge of building the bridge on behalf of the Japanese who goes bat shit over the attempt by the allies to take down the bridge by sabotage. In real life the bridge was destroyed in an allied bomber attack.

The city has grown considerably since we were there. The allied prisoners who died working on the bridge are buried in a cemetery that at the time we were there was located in a rural area surrounded by fields and meadows. It appeared then to be large and stately. Now the city has grown up all around it and the cemetery mostly looks surprisingly small and forlorn.

We met up with a woman friend of Gun Girl’s named Lek and stopped for dinner. No sooner had we sat down, when a police car drove up disgorging a handsome young Thai policeman who proceeded to walk off hand in hand with Teddy Bear Boy. They did not return until we were finished with dinner and were ready to leave, about an hour or so later. After talking a few photos of the cop and TBB with their arms entwined, I was instructed to get into Lek’s automobile for the remainder of the drive to where we were to spend the night. Her son, accompanied by his girlfriend, was driving. Lek and I got into the back seat.

Apparently, Lek wanted to practice her english. So I listened to her story of growing up poor but through the sacrifices of her honest farmer parents and her hard work she became a nurse and labored 10 years in the emergency room of the local hospital. She now is retired and works as a part-time tour guide in the area. That is why she has to keep improving her english skills.

It was night now, the road rose gently into the mountains much like the roads into the Sierra when one climbs up from the Central Valley.

About an hour or so later, we arrived at a resort that straddles a river containing a stepped falls. Lights illuminated the falls until the river itself vanished into the shadows. The river was not very wide about 30 feet or so, but what it lacked in breadth in made up in exuberance. I counted at least 23 major steps to the falls each about 3 to 4 feet high until they disappeared above and below me into the gloom of the jungle. Innumerable smaller falls were interspersed among the larger ones as well as on the many lesser streams that discharged into the main water course. Some of these tributaries passed under and around the resort buildings.

The name of the place was “Bamboo Hut Resort” and indeed it included a large bamboo structure that housed an open walled restaurant and reception area. About eight similarly constructed (but enclosed) small cabins made up the remainder of the resort.

We rented two nice cabins with double king sized beds perched directly over the falls. Being exhausted by the events of the day, I needed to sleep so I took one of the cabins while everyone else partied in the other. Teddy Bear Boy was assigned as my cabin mate. Despite that, the surprisingly mesmerizing roar and rumble of the falls and my fatigue put me right to sleep and I slept undisturbed until morning .

Today’s Attachment:

Appropriately blurry tourist photos of the above mentioned falls at night and during the day. I still have not gotten to my other potential attachments.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. October 7, 2010

Today’s Factoid:

1659. Christmas is banned in Boston by the pilgrims who believed it was a decadent celebration.

(There’s a solution for the so-called commercialization of the holiday. It would save everyone a lot of money and reduce the incidence of divorce.)

Today’s quote:

“Yes, for they too are slaves, and harsh enough are their taskmasters; slaves are they to luxury and lechery, intemperance and the wine-cup along with many a fond and ruinous ambition.”
Socrates in The Economist by Xenophon.

(Who knew??)

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

There may have been movement or sounds somewhere in the world but none that penetrated my awareness as I sat there and stared into the blackness that she disappeared into. After what was probably only a minute or two, but seemed hours long to me, Gun Girl (as I renamed her) emerged from the building without the 45. She was smiling and was accompanied by a slab bodied young Thai man. They walked about half way across the parking lot, turned towards one another and weied.

A wei is the Thai version of the western hand shake except it also does duty as a sign of respect. One places one’s palms together like beginning a prayer and bows to the other person.The height of the placement of the hands before the face and the depth of the bow signifying the degree or respect being awarded.

The weis’ completed Gun Girl continued alone across the remainder of the parking lot, opened the driver’s side door, got in and without saying a word, started the engine.

At almost the same moment, the rear doors opened and the back seat boys piled in, each taking the exact same position they were to maintain for the entire trip. I could never determine if this was habit or had some complex significance. I would have assumed, if it had been mere habit Mata Hari who sat in the middle would eventually object.

In absolute silence Gun Girl immediately drove out of the parking lot and back onto the road.

After we had gone a short way and bursting with curiosity, I turned to her and asked, “Is the restaurant owned by your family?”

“Yes, that was my sister’s son. You met him once. He owns the place and works there during the day. At night he works as a policeman.”

“Oh, then that must have been his gun?”

“No, its mine. I just thought it was best that I leave it with him for the time being. Sometimes when you drive through the city the police may stop you and confiscate it or…”

I could not make out what else she was saying as she lowered her voice below that these old ears could discern. At least I now knew that we would be going into or through a city of some sort.

We continued through the forest and the roads got a little better. The subdivisions disappeared and instead were replaced by a few isolated hamlets with Thai style wooden buildings on stilts. In my current state, I could only be reminded of Pan Tae, that village of murder and mayhem that Natalie’s family lived in.

Eventually we came to a main highway heading in the general direction of Bangkok.

“You might as well rest. It is going to take about four hours before we get where we are going.”

“Oh where is that.”

She mentioned the name of a place that I could not understand and added, “I really cannot describe in English where it is located.”

About one hour later we stopped for lunch at a small town adjacent to the highway. Having eaten a large breakfast, I was not hungry and ordered an espresso. And yes, they had a small espresso machine. Unfortunately what they brought me tasted like they used instant coffee in the contraption.

The others ordered the ubiquitous Thai soup. The soup is a broth of some kind in which one requests various separate ingredients added, usually noodles, vegetables and meat, chicken or fish. Sometimes fairly tasteless small meat balls are included. The diner then adds to taste sugar and several options of sauces that are located on the table. The specialty of the house appeared to be a yellowish sauce that looked a lot like marmalade. I did not try it.

When we all had finished, I was expecting to be presented with the bill. To my surprise, Gun Girl paid for the meal. A little further on we stopped to gas up the car. I assumed that this time I would be asked for gas money. But no, Gun Girl paid again.

I was becoming more and more happy.

Today’s Attachment:

Again I apologize. Because of the general unavailability of access to the internet during the trip, I could not prepare anything to send.

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

This ant that fro re Thai r ment, by 3Th. October 4, 2010

Today’s Factoid:

1910 Eastman Gang leader Chick Tricker’s Park Row dive bar is closed by the New York City Committee of Fourteen. However he is able to move his operations to the vice district known as Satan’s Circus purchasing Dan the Dude’s Stag Cafe on West 28th Street later renaming it the Cafe Maryland.

Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:

About two weeks ago I had dinner with a long time Thai woman friend of mine. I will call her M. She had just come from divorce court, having divorced her husband and was feeling sad and she cried a lot. She said she needed to get away and suggested driving me to Chiang Mai so that I could visit Cordt, Choti, Gerry and Leo. We agreed to leave in a few days but she then disappeared and I had to cancel the trip.

On Wednesday last week she called, telling me she had been in the hospital. Whether she was there to cure some malady or to dry out from drinking too heavily, I never got straight. She suggested that we go away together for a few days.

Since my massage was to be on Thursday rather than Friday that week, we agreed to leave at 8 AM Friday morning. I was expecting to spend a day or two on Koh Chang or one of the other islands I had not visited but always wanted to.

On Friday at eight thirty she called and said she would arrive by about 9:30. There being no sign of her at that time, I took my suitcase and went to breakfast to await developments.

At about 10:15 she arrived. I invited her to join me for breakfast. She said she was not hungry and took my luggage to her car. When she returned she told me that some friends and family would be going with us. I was annoyed because when a Thai woman tells a Farang that friends and family will join them, it usually only means one thing, the Farang pays for all. When we got to the car, I saw that there were three young men in the back seat. Being Thai young men they could have been anywhere from 17 to 35 years old or more.

One seated in the back seat to the far left was clutching what appeared to be a well-worn large orange teddy bear. I was later to realize instead of a teddy bear it was a stuffed ox or water buffalo complete with large horns, but it was too late. Having failed to catch his name, I already started calling him Teddy Bear Boy in my mind.

The second, who spoke english fairly well and was sitting in the middle, I recognized. He worked in a local upscale restaurant called Mata Hari as a waiter or bartender. He I named Mata Hari.

The third was a sullen looking young man wearing a S.W.A.T tee shirt who said little during the entire trip. I called him the Sullen One.

I got the impression that the Mata Hari and Teddy Bear Boy were gay. It would be a mistake however for a foreigner to take anything about a Thai at face value. This is not because it is the so-called inscrutable orient, but just that different cultures give off their own cultural signals. I learned this in Italy when I lived there during the late 60’s. What I thought were facial and gesture signals that would signify no in America, actually indicated consent among the Italians.

Now with the three young men sitting behind me and being annoyed already, I became even more uncomfortable as we took off, not down the coast as I expected, but into the rural areas behind Paradise by the Beach where the paved roads disappeared for long stretches and every now and then a new subdivision named something like Grand View or Hillside would suddenly loom out of the jungle vegetation. For some reason, I pictured in my mind that scene in Godfather II where Clemenza sat in the back seat of the automobile behind Michael’s sister’s errant husband as they drove into the Medowlands.

Finally we came to a large barn like building that in the US would be called a Roadhouse. We pulled into the gravel parking lot. M. drove to the far end of the lot and backed up to the edge and parked so that we faced the entrance to the building.

She then reached down onto the area separating the front seats where the change and cup holder usually reside and picked up a handful of large bullets that I had not noticed before. The casings were shiny brass and the blunt points, bright copper.

My first thought was that M., who often engaged in producing crafts that she would then sell, had acquired these to make some sort of strange jewelry. When she was a little child she would make and sell those flower arrangements that are sold on just about every street corner in Thailand.

The image of the little 5-year-old flower girl quickly dissipated however, when she then reached down beside her seat next to the door and pulled up a very large and very mean looking 45 caliber pistol. While admittedly it was not yet a Holy Shit moment, there was a sharp intake of breath on my part.

She then, with the gun placed next to her ear and pointing straight up towards the roof of the car, shouldered the car door open and got out. She had what appeared to me to be a look of grim determination on her face. At the same moment the back doors flew open and the boys in the back scrambled out and disappeared somewhere behind the vehicle.

I did not look for where they went because I was too fixed on watching her stride determinately, gun in hand now down by her thigh, across the gravel parking lot, up the two wooden stairs leading to the entrance of the building and then disappearing into the darkness.

I thought, for a morning that started out so unpromising, it may after all turn out to be an interesting day after all.

Stay tuned…….

Today’s Attachment:

I apologize but my recent trip so occupied my time, that I was unable to prepare anything to send.

Ciao…

Categories: October through December 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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