TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
There has been a change at the health club where I spend most of my mornings. No, not a change in ownership or rules or even personnel. And certainly there has not been a change in the general run down nature of the place. It is as different from the chrome palaces of modern health clubs as it always has been. What’s changed has been its culture. Yes I know, unless it is some sweaty broken gym for boxers or more modern dojo’s for martial arts, most health club’s cater to a rather vanilla cross-section of young up and comers. But even there, if you look close enough and long enough at your own health club, you will soon see underneath the acres of spandex vague indications of a culture that separates your club from the one in the high-rise on the next corner.
The membership of the health club at the Ambassador Hotel in BKK of which I am a member and for which LM is employed as a masseuse, has always been made up of, in addition to guests in the hotel, mostly older men and women who preferred to pay a membership fee about one-half less than the membership fee at any of the other hotel health clubs in the area and did not mind the steady but slow deterioration in the facilities. Membership, like the facilities, has been declining for the entire three years I have been a member.
However, upon my return from the United States a few weeks ago I noticed that the membership decline has stopped and seemed to have reversed itself. The lockers in the locker rooms are now all taken and new banks of lockers have been installed. On the surface, these new members seem to be much like the existing members, older western males, local professional women and Indian and Arab men and women who are guests at the hotel.
Recently, LM has complained that the massage services that used to be supplied by 6 to 8 full-time women masseuses and a picture book of others on call has been reduced to two providers. Since the beginning of the month, there has been only one massage appointment made for either of those two. On the other hand, the number of male masseuses has increased from two to 8 or 12.
I suspect that usual massage business performed by female therapists has been undercut by the lower cost massage parlors that line the nearby streets in the neighborhood. On the other hand, no such outlets for connection and release exist for women in general, business women in particular as well as for men preferring a man’s touch but hesitant about frequenting the gay clubs nearby.
This week I set off for a few days at Jomtien Beach. For those new to T&T or those that may not recall, I lived for almost a year in an apartment near the beach in this town. The building was called, Jomtien Beach Paradise Condominiums so I took to calling the area Paradise by the Sea. Since it is also about two miles from that emporium of erotic excess Pattaya, I added, Two Miles from the Outskirts of Hell to its description.
Paradise by the Sea used to be the native Thai beach resort area while Pattaya, the Outskirts of Hell, was reserved for western, mostly male tourists. Eventually the bright lights and noise of the Vietnam War enlisted mens R&R resort was overwhelmed by high rises, at first to house the ex-military who retired here hoping to maintain the dreams of that which nature is destined to erode. This was followed by ongoing attempts to convert the town to a traditional beach tourist attraction with its sin city reputation as an un-mentioned attraction. (As a beach resort minus the sex Pattaya deserves a Meh ranking at best.)
The high-rise condo and resort mania has overlapped into the adjacent city of Jomtien Beach driving the native Thais beyond its borders and replacing them first with a mixed bag of Western European and American males and more recently Russians primarily from Siberia.
I stay is a decidedly down scale guest house managed by a sad-faced woman whose teen-aged daughter immobilized by birth defects lies semi comatose on a cot in the lobby.
Two or three times a day I walk about a mile or two along the beach. I have stayed in some of the finest beach resorts in the world, but for some reason I find that I am more comfortable and at peace sitting on the balcony of my tiny room than I had been in any of those elegant establishments.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Princess LuckyGirl the prime minister of Thailand and sister of the deposed and fugitive prior Prime Minister of the country, Thaksin the Terrible, recently has travelled to other countries and has given speeches extolling the values of democracy. For some reason the opposition party led by the ex-Prime Minister whose party was never elected, Abhsit the Unready, believed it was awful for her to have done so. It seems that they believe that by speaking about the general benefits of democracy she is criticizing their time in power. — I think it is a cultural thing.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about the four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing.
A. The State of New York’s Mental Health Information Service (1965):
3. My job interview:
The white marble Greco-Roman building housing the NY Supreme Court’s First Appellate Division contained the offices of the newly created Mental Health Information Services (MHIS). It was situated just off Madison Square Park at Madison and E. 25th street. To the east a few blocks the forbidding red brick buildings of Belview Hospital, NY’s première psychiatric hospital containing the infamous wards for the city’s criminally insane, rose above the East River. To the south sprawled Stuyvesant Town a city within the city. To the west the garment district and Chelsea ran in an arc from north to south and contained Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. Immediately to the north were the flagship emporiums of Macy’s and Gimbles. The old Penn Station and Madison Square Garden buildings are gone now but the rest remain, gentrified or like the garment district, pale shadows of their prior glory.
The newly installed executive director of the MHIS was a man rotund of belly and of face. With a mouth too large for even that face, thick eyeglasses and wispy hair on a head going prematurely bald, he looked a bit like a large frog. He wore a rumpled three-piece grey suit, white shirt and unassuming tie. His name was Simon Rosenzweig. He was a revelation to me.
Having attended what passed for a progressive Catholic High School and a Jesuit run University, I had a pretty clear idea of the Catholic Social Gospel and the mess the 2000 year criminal conspiracy represented by the Catholic hierarchy tried to make of it. I also knew what saintliness was all about. You know, washing the leper’s sores, feeding the poor and things like that.
I could never do that; never see myself off in the jungle somewhere bathing some feverous child dying of malnutrition. This always made me feel I was destined to be an incorrigible moral failure my entire life.
But here before me for the first time I recognized something or someone different. You see, that whole saintly thing was only intended to try to make the suffering lighter for those whose lives could not change. You know, “The poor are always with us.”
But in Simon here was someone who believed things could be changed so that the particular type of suffering no longer occurs. No more bathing of sores. Instead, if we change the conditions, the suffering itself can be diminished. In effect those engaged in this type of endeavor could be considered physicians to society. This, I decided, was what the Kennedy challenge was all about. I wanted to do that.
But there was a problem. You see, at that time, 1965, the US was still divided by those who went to Ivy league schools and those who did not. And to go to an ivy league school you had to be either white protestant, fabulously wealthy, or born with some preternatural intellectual, artistic of physical gifts. Also in general, unless you were a fully evolved advanced human being like Paul Robeson, you still had to be white or almost white, unless, of course, your father owned some country in Africa, South America or Asia and the assumption was that you would be going back there after you finished your education. As far as lawyers were concerned, even if you were an ivy league graduate, you often were not hired by the large Wall Street firms if you were, say, jewish, Puerto rican, italian or black unless you parents were major clients of the firm (and even then you could never aspire to becoming a partner). In those cases you went out to find jobs in industry or in government, set up your own firm or, moved to California.
At my interview Simon explained up front that the lawyer jobs in MHIS were intended to be slotted to ivy league graduates only. Nevertheless he allowed me to continue with the interview. At the end of the interview he sat there silently staring at me for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, he told me that even though I had not attended an ivy league school he was disposed to hire me because of all the young attorneys he interviewed I was the only one who spoke about the patients welfare and not the principles involved.
While I was happy to get the job, my feelings were somewhat equivocal. I was never all that good on legal principles so talking about the patients and their welfare was really all I that had going for me.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Sam Spade: Ten thousand? We were talking about a lot more money than this.
Kasper Gutman: Yes, sir, we were, but this is genuine coin of the realm. With a dollar of this, you can buy ten dollars of talk.
I stared blankly at the phone after I disconnected from Mavis. I was pulled back from wherever I had gone off to by Joe Vu who had thrust his iPhone in front of me. I took it from him, put it to my ear and heard an angry Martin Vihn say:
“What were you trying to do with Lilly?”
Answered, “It doesn’t matter anymore. Clarence Reilly has been found.”
“Floating beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, dead.”
There was silence for a moment then, “Suicide?”
“I have no idea.”
Another momentary silence then, “I want you to find out how he died. Also what happened to the shipment.”
“Sorry, I don’t work for you anymore. My assignment was to find Reilly. I did. You want to hire me again, the terms are the same as before.”
Controlled anger flowed from the phone like waves of heat from a tenement fire.
“Who do you think you are?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know what you can have done to me. But, if you wanted to you could have done so when you first hired me. And, if you do it now you still are going to have to hire someone anyway. After all, like everything else in this case it’s all business, isn’t it?”
He chuckled. “OK. Same deal but this time I want you to find out how Clarence died and if someone killed him who. Also, what happened to the shipment of furniture.”
Following a little more negotiation and receiving the answers to some questions I had, I hung up, returned the phone to Joe and asked him to drive me home.
“To your place on Fourth not the Utah, right?” he said.
“How did you know?” I said only a bit surprised.
“I’m a detective in training.”
“Hmm. Put on some good clothing. We probably are going to a serious affair this evening. I’ll call you.”
He dropped me off. Once inside of my loft, I called Fat Al Pischotti. I met Fat Al while I was working my way through law school as an intern for Hal Lipset. Hal was a famous San Francisco detective who worked out of his home, a mansion in Pacific Heights. He was known far and wide for inventing the martini with a radio transmitter imbedded in the olive. It was useless since once and liquid was poured into the glass the transmitter no longer worked. It didn’t matter, the PR was worth it to Hal. Alas, with the coming of the computer age, the blue collar, shoe leather PI’s like Hal have been replaced by technology geeks who can acquire as much information in an hour as Hal at his best could gather in a week.
At that time Fat Al was a homicide detective for the City. After putting in his 20 years he promptly retired and opened his own detective agency. Actually Al was just the face, his wife ran the agency.
I asked Al as a favor to find out through his police contacts anything he could about Reilly’s death and to keep his ears open about the event I was sure would occur this evening.
After that, I took a shower, laid down in my bed and spent about an hour berating myself for allowing myself to get involved in all this foolishness. Just before I fell asleep, however, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had made more money this week than any other week since I started this business. Mavis was not too bad a benefit either.
“[T]he net debts of Wal-Mart… have soared — up 5,760 percent since 1987. By comparison, the roughly 600 percent rise in the U.S. public debt over the same period looks restrained. Is Wal-Mart mad?”
(Although I often am in agreement with Professor DeLong, I must point out, who except the heirs of Wal-Mart’s founder cares if it collapses due to the madness of its managers, but the collapse of the US due to the madness of its political leaders is nothing to sneeze at.)
A. Tales of Inhumanity:
The Banality of Evil.
MAY 18, 1943, Report from Sturmbannfuehrer Gricksch to SS-Col. von Herff and Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler:
“The Auschwitz camp plays a special role in the resolution of the Jewish question. The most advance methods permit the execution of the Fuehrer-order in the shortest possible time and without arousing much attention.
The so-called “resettlement action” runs the following course:
The Jews arrive in special trains (freight cars) toward evening and are driven on special tracks to areas of the camp specifically set aside for this purpose.
There the Jews are unloaded and examined for their fitness to work by a team of doctors, in the presence of the camp commandant and several SS officers. At this point anyone who can somehow be incorporated into the work program is put in a special camp.
The curably ill are sent straight to a medical camp and are restored to health through a special diet. The basic principle behind everything is: conserve all manpower for work. The previous type of “resettlement action” has been thoroughly rejected, since it is too costly to destroy precious work energy on a continual basis.
The unfit go to cellars in a large house which are entered from outside. They go down five or six steps into a fairly long, well-constructed and well-ventilated cellar area, which is lined with benches to the left and right. It is brightly lit, and the benches are numbered.
The prisoners are told that they are to be cleansed and disinfected for their new assignments. They must therefore completely undress to be bathed. To avoid panic and to prevent disturbances of any kind, they are instructed to arrange their clothing neatly under their respective numbers, so that they will be able to find their things again after their bath.
Everything proceeds in a perfectly orderly fashion. Then they pass through a small corridor and enter a large cellar room which resembles a shower bath. In this room are three large pillars, into which certain materials can be lowered from outside the cellar room. When three- to four-hundred people have been herded into this room, the doors are shut, and containers filled with the substances are dropped down into the pillars.
As soon as the containers touch the base of the pillars, they release particular substances that put the people to sleep in one minute. A few minutes later, the door opens on the other side, where the elevator is located. The hair of the corpses is cut off, and their teeth are extracted (gold-filled teeth) by specialists (Jews). It has been discovered that Jews were hiding pieces of jewelry, gold, platinum etc., in hollow teeth.
Then the corpses are loaded into elevators and brought up to the first floor, where ten large crematoria are located. (Because fresh corpses burn particularly well, only 50-100 lbs. of coke are needed for the whole process.) The job itself is performed by Jewish prisoners, who never step outside this camp again.
The results of this “resettlement action” to date: 500,000 Jews. Current capacity of the “resettlement action” ovens: 10,000 in 24 hours.
(As I pointed out in an earlier post, it may be that there may have been crueler and greater genocides [e.g. the slaughter of the Native Americans], in none, however, do we have the extent of testimony by the victims themselves and obsessive record keeping by the murderers as we do in this one.
It is this testimony that should remind everyone of the horrors that can flow from hate and irrational fear. [It should be recalled that, until the attack on Pearl Harbor, a majority of Americans had no problem with the rhetoric and policies coming out of the Axis countries that ultimately led to the barbarity reported above.]
It is no defense to denying someone a job, education or medical treatment because of their racial, gender, ethnic or sexual orientation that, unlike what occurred in the 1930s and 40s, it has not yet ended in horrible death. Nevertheless, almost daily I receive emails and other communications or hear political leaders who proudly revel in their belief of the justice and equity of their fear and of their hate. They alas only too often call that hate, American values.)
“It was a rare fine night for a stroll down by the docks, the moon plump as a new pillow in an old-fashioned hotel and the undertow in the turning tide swushing its ripples silvery-green and a bird you’ve never heard before chirring its homesick tale of a place you might once have known and most likely now will never see, mid-June and almost midnight and balmy yet, the kind of evening built for a long walk with a woman who likes to take long walks and not say very much, and that little in a murmur you have to strain to catch, her laughter low and throaty, her humour dry and favouring lewd, eyes like smoky mirrors of the vast night sky and in them twinkles that might be stars reflecting or the first sparks of intentions that you’d better fan with soft words and a gentle touch in just the right place or spend the rest of your life and maybe forever wondering what might have been, all for the want of a soft word and a touch gentle and true.”
(This single 183 word long sentence opens the novel Slaughter’s Hound by Declan Burke. It has nothing at all to do with anything else that follows in the novel. That is much like the opening paragraphs of every chapter in his namesake James Lee Burke’s novels about the two male-bonded goodfellows of Iberia Parish in Louisiana that also have nothing to do with whatever follows in the chapter. But, they are beautiful.)
(These same sentiments, enhanced by the patina of the intellectual rhetoric of the time, were applied with equal vehemence to immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, China and Japan when they first began arriving here in America in large numbers. I wonder if the descendants of those immigrants feel that they and their ancestors were so much dumber then the progeny of those previous immigrants many of whom settled in Appalachia and the deep South and who either made or believed those claims.)
- Tales of the Little Masseuse: How to Make Happy Children (papajoesfables.wordpress.com)
- Pattaya Beach, Thailand (visit-chiang-mai-online.com)
- “I Smell Sex & Candy” – The Theme Song for Jomtien Beach? (travellingcaro.wordpress.com)
- Why are so many Westerners homeless in Thailand? (independent.co.uk)
- A Pattaya Trip Is An Daily Celebration (wiki.mozilla.org)
- Making Your Home In or Around Pattaya (visit-chiang-mai-online.com)
- Our happy retirement in a ‘Thai Sex Haven’ (ireport.cnn.com)