1600: Pope Clement VIII sanctions use of coffee despite petition by priests to ban the Muslim drink as “the devil’s drink.” The Pope tried a cup and declared it “so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.”
“He was served in the following manner: Every day as soon as it was light, six hundred nobles and men of rank were in attendance at the palace, who either sat, or walked about the halls and galleries, and passed their time in conversation, but without entering the apartment where his person was. The servants and attendants of these nobles remained in the court-yards, of which there were two or three of great extent, and in the adjoining street, which was also very spacious. They all remained in attendance from morning until night; and when his meals were served, the nobles were likewise served with equal profusion, and their servants and secretaries also had their allowance. Daily his larder and wine-cellar were open to all who wished to eat or drink. The meals were served by three or four hundred youths, who brought on an infinite variety of dishes; indeed, whenever he dined or supped, the table was loaded with every kind of flesh, fish, fruits, and vegetables that the country produced. As the climate is cold, they put a chafing-dish with live coals under every plate and dish, to keep them warm…”
Taken from the 1520 Hernan Cortez report to Charles V on the manner in which Montezuma was served meals in Tenochtitlan,
I recognize that a personal travelogue may become tedious and boring to some. For this reason I have decided to put into attachments the remainder of the story of my recent travels. In that way, those who may not be interested in the story need not be tempted to read through it just to discover in what clever way I end that particular episode. For those interested in following the journey to its conclusion you merely have to open the attachment to obtain the most recent installment.
I have decided to name the entire trip “Nowhere and Back Again” and I have entitled this most recent chapter, “The Beginning of the End”.
NOWHERE AND BACK AGAIN
CHAPTER IV: THE BEGINNING OF THE END
There comes a time in every journey where novelty begins to pale and events become merely circumstances to endure on the way home. Awakening this morning after a night of almost no sleep became for me that point.
One of my favorite travel books is entitled A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush. It was written by Eric Newby who in 1956, at the age of 36, ended his London career in fashion and decided impulsively to travel to a remote corner of Afghanistan where no European had ventured for 50 years. He was ill-prepared and poorly experienced, but Newby and his friend Hugh vowed to climb Mir Samir, an unclimbed 20,000 foot glacial peak in the Hindu Kush. He and his friend prepared for the venture by spending a weekend with their girlfriends hiking in Wales. Then, after driving a Volkswagen van from London to Kabul where after they picked up their cook, they began their trek. Long before they had reached Mt. Samir (which they ultimately never climbed) they had arrived at the same juncture that I had this morning.
For today’s trip I was requested to ride in the new truck of the friend in whose house I had spent the sleepless night. She drove and Lek and I were to accompany her.
Lek told me about her concerns for her friend’s happiness and marriage. It seems the friend had married a man who worked for the Thai version of the forest service. According to Lek, he treated his wife badly, telling her he was going to work but later appearing in the city with a woman he claimed was his daughter. Lek also was unhappy that he had persuaded his wife to spend their money on this new truck when they already had a perfectly serviceable older vehicle. In addition the man apparently had alienated the wife’s children from a prior marriage.
Having met the gentleman, I concluded that Lek’s concerns were probably accurate.
We spent most of the day traveling to the other end of the lake (or to a new lake, I did not know which) I dozed on and off throughout the drive. I was so exhausted I was dizzy.
We arrived at a place that I was told contained the longest wooden bridge in Thailand. It was built from scrap lumber and crossed the lake to connect two villages that had been forced to relocate on higher ground when their original villages were inundated by the rising water caused by the construction of a dam. One village was Karen and one was Mon. I did not know which was which.
Anyway, the building of the bridge by the townspeople, with little assistance from anyone, was considered so remarkable that it was almost miraculous, prompting the local temple to conduct extensive and colorful ceremonies every year commemorating the completion of construction and as a side benefit bringing substantial tourist dollars to the temple and community.
We crossed the extremely rickety bridge, that was undergoing repair and reconstruction for the first time since it was built and then walked down to the lake shore where a small village of houseboats awaited.
We got into a rooster-tail boat to cross the lake to view the partially submerged ruins of the local temple. The water level in the lake had dropped about 20 feet in the last few years for some reason, so the temple now stood on its own little Island. The trip came complete with the obligatory mysterious and miraculous legend.
It seems the head monk who built the temple 20 years or so ago also planted a grove of palm trees that he tended assiduously throughout his life. On the day of his death, mysteriously and miraculously all the palm trees died. You can still the tips of their blackened trunks rising above the waters of the lake.
We returned to the shore. Ate lunch in a local restaurant, recrossed the bridge and headed back. We ate dinner at the same roadside place as last night. I was too exhausted to know what I was eating. Then off to drive back to Kanchanburi through a driving rainstorm to a motel where I went directly to my room and immediately dropped off to sleep without stopping to remove my clothing.
Pookie’s continuing adventures in Thailand:
Since returning from my trip I have settled back into my regular routine, long walks on the beach in early morning, breakfast, laps in the pool after lunch (I am up to swimming about a kilometer now) and some work in the weight room three times a week. For the rest of my time, when not being massaged or at dinner, I play with my computer. Sometimes I watch my French movies on television.
As a result of all the exercise, my weight has stopped dropping, instead I am beginning to see in the mirror some shapes emerging from the mass of white blubber that is my body. It by no means resembles David emerging from a block of marble. It is more like a caricature of a human body emerging from a blob of silly putty.
I retain my protruding belly, but now it looks less like that of a pregnant woman coming to term than the same woman in her second trimester.
Nevertheless, in the evening after my shower while I stand in front of the mirror preening and flexing (admit it now, you all do it too), I can pull my stomach in far enough now that I can see a part of my body directly that I have not been able to see in decades. It comfort’s me.