— Dum Spiro, Spero
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES 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 have just returned from dinner and have re-read 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 to be 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.
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 HHH back to the US stopping briefly in Italy and the US East Coast. On the day before we were to leave, SWAC changed the plans and left in my place. I then had thought I would fly back sometime before HHH begins school on August 8th. 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. I ask whoever might read this to give me the benefit of their counsel:
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 and a visit with 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).
What do you think?
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 necessitated 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?”)
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
1. The end to fear is near:
Recently I read somewhere that taking Tylenol can diminish one’s sense of existential dread.
Wow, if Woody Allen used Tylenol rather than sex to ameliorate his fear of death, he still would be making funny movies instead of turning into an auteur.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Philip Marlowe: You wanna tell me now?
Vivian: Tell you what?
Philip Marlowe: What it is you’re trying to find out. You know, it’s a funny thing. You’re trying to find out what your father hired me to find out, and I’m trying to find out why you want to find out.
Keeping an eye on Bumptious Bart as we advanced I suggested to Joe Vu that he remain outside and put his guerrilla training to good use and keep an eye on the comings and goings especially regarding Broad Bart and the Lincoln. He nodded assent and disappeared back the way we had come.
We walked past the Lincoln, I nodded and smiled at Big Bad Bart. He gave me a two-fingered salute and a too large smile back. I pushed open the silvered redwood plank gate and we entered into the grounds of Chez Reilly.
The grounds were covered with mostly overgrown and seemingly not well tended vegetation which I guessed was probably an intentional attempt to make it appear more rustic and natural. There were several brick and tiled walkways winding through the decorative forest. I could see people walking slowly along the paths or speaking together in small groups. One of the paths led to the house. The house itself was a low-lying split level ranch style whose exterior walls were mostly covered with dense vegetation. It appeared to be not so much a house as a wood-shake topped mound rising out of the bushes, punctured here and there with windows and doors, sort of like an unkempt house in Hobbit-town.
To our left as we walked along the path, was the obligatory large multi-leveled pool area, shimmering blue like a magnesium polluted pond in the jungle. Around the pool people had gathered especially near the small refreshment table behind which stood a young asian woman dispensing drinks. One of Sunee’s relatives I surmised. I thought I saw Lilly moving around the pool but I did not have time to investigate because we arrived at the door to the house and went right in. We were met by a Thai man in his late thirties who I recall being introduced to at one of my prior visits as Sunee’s brother. Given what I know about Thailand relationships, it is just as likely that he was Sunee’s Thai husband as her brother. He weid and held out his hand directing us toward the living room. Two older men were just leaving. I guessed they were business acquaintances of Clarence since I did not recognize them as being among the local politicians and hangers-on that I had come to know so well.
As we progressed toward the sunken living room, we passed an open door into the kitchen where Clarence and Sunee’s three children were at the table eating sandwiches the Philippine maid was serving.
We mad a right turn and walked down the three steps into the dimly lit living room, where Sunee sat straight-backed and alone on a sofa. There were a few candles lit by a small buddha shrine. As we got closer we could see the marks of tears on her cheeks. I could not however tell if those tears had actually flowed from her eyes which appeared dry and dark and as angry as a summer storm.
Mavis, ran over to her, hugged her and they immediately started jabbering back and forth as though they were childhood friends and not as people who had only met once. But, I guess woman are just more verbal than men, as innumerable scientific studies seem to indicate.
Sunee then turned to me and after I expressed my condolences, she told me how pleased he was to see me here and how highly Clarence thought of me. She then leaned toward me and in a low voice said that she would like to talk to me privately later. Mavis immediately suggested that we talk now and that she would leave, which she did just stopping at the top of the steps to speak with a young Asian couple who were waiting.
Sunee leaned forward, grasped my hand and said in almost a whisper, “I want you to find out how my husband died.” Taken a bit back by this I said, “I heard the police think he took his own life.”
“I know,” she responded angrily. “I don’t believe it. I want to hire you to find out.”
“Why me? Why not go to the police with your concerns?”
“Clarence said you were a great attorney at one time. He trusted you. I’m willing to pay. How much do you charge?”
“One Hundred dollars a day plus expenses, one week minimum, one half payment up front.” As usual when dealing with widows, orphans and women I’d like to sleep with, my business sense, such as it is, flies out the window. Any question raised of the conflict of interest presented by the fact that Martin Vihn is paying me for the same investigation, barely impinged on my conscience. The California Association of Private Investigators Code of Ethics is less that a page long and is voluntary. Anyway, it just requires disclosure of a potential conflict to a client where the conflict would prevent the investigator from performing a fair investigation. My investigations, if nothing else, are usually fair.
“Would you take a check?”
“Of course.” While she was reaching for her purse I asked. “Why do you think the police may be wrong? Do you suspect someone killed him?”
“Killed him? I don’t know, maybe. But who would do that? Everyone loved him. I just know he would never kill himself. It probably was an accident.” With that she handed me a check. I took out my card exchanged it for the check and said, “Call me when you feel up to it. I have a few questions.” I turned nodded to the waiting couple and left the room.
I paused by the front door, stood behind the brother who was ushering additional mourners in and tried to think through what just happened. I knew that most life insurance policies will not pay out for suicides. The widow probably knows that and is looking for an angle. But why me? Usually it is the attorney you retain to fight the the insurance company’s decision that hires the investigator. Also, this town has many investigators experienced it fighting the companies; like Fat Al, who should be here by now. Maybe, like just about everything associated with this mess there is less here than meets the eye. She could be just hedging her bets and wanting to collect some information before passing it on to which ever attorney she chooses. Maybe she hopes I come up with something good enough so that she does not have to split her take with the lawyers. I decided additional consideration of this at this time would probably not lead anywhere productive and so I exited the house.
Mavis was waiting just outside the door.
“So, what did the grieving widow want,” she said with a sly smile?
“Nothing much. She just wanted me to know how much Clarence respected my work.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“What, you think she told me something else?”
“No, I don’t believe Reilly respected your work.”
“Oh look, there’s Lilly,” she said and ran off leaving me standing there wondering whether I should be annoyed.
1661: Greek scholar Leo Allatius, who died that year, declared that Jesus foreskin ascended with him into heaven where it turned into the rings of Saturn.
[From Oliver Potzsch, “The Poisoned Pilgrim”]
(After NASA announced one of its space probes found that Saturn’s rings were composed of dust particles, Leo appeared with Sean Hannity on Fox News to claim Obama had secretly stolen the divine foreskin and was using it as a throw rug in the Oval Office.)
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
“Empirical research suggests that parents’ economic resources affect their children’s future earnings abilities. Optimal tax policy therefore treats future ability distributions as endogenous to current taxes. We model this endogeneity, calibrate the model to match estimates of the intergenerational transmission of earnings ability in the United States, and use the model to simulate such an optimal policy numerically. The optimal policy in this context is more redistributive toward low-income parents than existing U.S. tax policy. It also increases the probability that low-income children move up the economic ladder, generating a present-value welfare gain of more than two and one half percent of consumption in our baseline case.”
Alex Gelber and Matthew Weinzierl: Equalizing Outcomes and Equalizing Opportunities: Optimal Taxation when Children’s Abilities Depend on Parents’ Resources:
(I don’t really understand what they are saying here, but I am sure Occupy would agree with their conclusion that sending poor kids to good schools is, on balance, a good thing)
“Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.
Chris Hedges, Truthdig