Dum spiro, spero.
“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:
One morning a few days ago on my way to breakfast I had just passed Nana Plaza which bills itself as The Worlds Largest Adult Playground when I stopped to buy a newspaper from the old Thai woman at the newsstand right by the entrance.
Morning at Nana Plaza.
Suddenly I noticed a commotion a few feet away. On the sidewalk, two ladies of the very late evening or the very early morning were fighting with each other. A crowd of Thais had quickly gathered around watching. Some were taking pictures with their smart phones. At first I thought the combatants had torn each others clothing off. but on closer look I realized that the shrink wrapped uniform usually worn by the sidewalk purveyors of passion for a price had rolled up like an old window shade into a small band of fabric around their mid-sections. They looked a lot like Sumo wrestlers with their tiny belts separating vast rolls of ponderous swinging flesh.
No one moved to intervene, including me because, in my case, I have learned from hard experience not to intervene in disputes like this unless one party is helpless and at risk or blood is being spilled. In this case each combatant had the other’s hair wrapped in a death-grip and with their free hand landing looping ineffective blows to each other’s back while at the same time trying to kick each other’s shins with their bare fee. Their greatest physical danger would occur if they lost their balance, fell and cracked their heads on the cement.
Eventually, some of the orange shirted motorcycle messengers came over and separated them. Strangely, after separated the fighters they would immediately leave them alone again. This allowed the combatants to quickly resume battling each other. It occurred at least four times until suddenly the fight just ended with each gladiator strutting around while trying to unravel their dresses in order to cover up their exposed stocks in trade. Despite the fact that a police substation stood on the corner about twenty feet away, no police showed up.
The entertainment over the crowd dispersed and I continued on across Sukhumvit through Little Arabia and into FoodLand where I ate my breakfast and read the newspaper.
The good/bad David is back in town. We had lunch a his favorite restaurant on the 5th floor of Terminal 21. We were joined by a friend of David’s, a man named Theo. I liked him immediately for having a name like Theo. He is British and spends about half the year in Thailand. He works as an assistant director on large commercials and some movies. As such, he spent much of his career in Los Angeles where he lived not too far from Ruth. I learned from him that assistant directors are a trade somewhat separate from directors. He spent much of the lunch explaining how it was a normal career progression to go from assistant director to director under the old studio system. But with the coming of the financial industry to the making of motion pictures, directors began to be chosen for their bankability and not for their expertise or creativity. Bankers poison everything. Once again people controlling the money believed they know everything but usually behave like neophyte gamblers.
Theo like millions of others has written a movie script or two that he carries around hoping to find someone to produce it. His most interesting script is about LA in 1948 when the City’s great jazz scene blossomed with the black jazz musicians moving in after the war. A the main character (true story) wins a major motorcycle race and saves the company that produces the vehicles. Between races, he spends time in the Jazz clubs where he falls in love and eventually meets Claude Rains dressed as a french policeman. He then abandons the woman he loves at the coffee shop in Santa Barbara Airport. He and Claude walk off together into the Sonoran Desert and were never seen again.
I set off to Paradise by the Sea for a couple of days before returning to the US. The Good/ and sometime bad David and I took off for the beach early one morning. We were driven there by two women friends of David’s who were very much in love with each other. After arriving we checked into the hotel and set off to our respective rooms for naps. That evening the women departed for The Walking Street to troll the lesbian bars. David and I walked to one of my favorite restaurants in Thailand, Cafe Des Amis. Not only is the French food excellent but it is an oasis of western civility. The place is owned by a westerner with the unusual name Blue. His wife is Thai. Her name strangely enough does not rhyme with his. They have an 18 month old son who spends his evenings at the restaurant (easy enough to do since they live in a house at the back of the property). We had dinner with Theo, my British assistant movie director friend and a woman who lives with a mysterious but wealthy english gold and jewel dealer.
David, LM on the right and the mysterious gold dealers lady friend standing in the street outside of Cafe Des Amis..
Theo and I spent most of the evening happily discussing the golden age of film directing. We commiserated together over the passing of that art form. We also spent some time reminiscing about the a-cappella do-whop singing groups (e,g, Dion and the Belmonts and others) of the 50’s through the early 70’s.
The next morning I woke up somewhat hung over so I stayed in bed until noon when I went for a brief beach walk and then joined the two even more hung over young women for our drive back to BKK. David stayed in Pattaya.
I leave tomorrow for SF and must finish packing and preparation. Although I looked forward to my trip, I have begun to feel sad about leaving.
LM’s recent efforts to create clothing accessories of no use in Thailand that I will carry in my luggage for disposal in the US. I am her sales rep. So let me know if you want to buy one, or would rather receive it as a gift.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
As some of you may know most of the streets of Bangkok were originally canals that were covered over for use by automobiles. The canals remain, however, a few feet below the surface of the roadway. They are dark, foetid and teaming with rats, snakes and raw sewage. Now and then they get blocked up or something goes wrong with the services that run through them. Then they must be opened and cleaned out a bit. Recently that happened along Sukhumvit, the major street near my apartment. By lifting out the heavy blocks of cement imbedded every 25 feet or so in the sidewalk that afford access the canals the grey greed sludge sluggishly flowing underneath have been exposed. Armies of blue uniformed Burmese and Cambodian immigrants are marched in like chain gang convicts in the southern US. The workers then lower themselves into the water where they stand sometime up to their necks in the foul water in order to reach down and grasp handfuls of mud that they lift up and dump into wheelbarrows stationed on the sidewalks above.
No Thai today would conceive of stooping so low as to this sort of work. These Cambodian and Burmese workers (male and female alike) work as much as 10-12 hours a day. They are considered by most Thais as stupid, lazy, prone to criminality and in Thailand only to secure the generous welfare benefits available in the country.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Instead following them I made my way across the yard toward the garage. The garage was a separate structure at the far end of the property. It was probably built back when automobiles were a rarity so it looked more like a storage shed and had that same aura of disrepair the residents of the subdivision worked so hard to achieve. Behind the garage a large workshop had been built, probably at about the same time as the original garage. Clarence expanded it significantly. He explained to me one evening that he intended to convert it into a separate house so that his children would have a place of their own to stay in if they were slow to cut the strings that bound them to their parents when they grew up. In the interim he intended to use it as his home office and man cave.
I stood by the door to the building and checked around to see if anyone was looking my way. Satisfied that no one seemed to give a damn about me, I pulled out the end of my shirt and used it to protect against leaving fingerprints as I tried the door to see if it was locked. It was not and I opened it quickly and stepped inside and closed the door.
I stood in a huge room that Clarence had planned as a combined dining room, kitchen and living room. It was littered with construction materials. Parts of the paneling had been completed. In a few places the studs in the wall were still exposed. The kitchen had been mostly finished and awaited installation of the appliances. I contemplated for a moment whether I could avoid leaving foot prints in the dusty floor, decided I could not so I set off anyway across the room toward a doorway opposite that I knew led to a short hall and two bedrooms in the rear.
The door to the first bedroom had not yet been hung so I could see most of it from the hallway. The Insides of that room looked a lot like the room I had just left; bits of construction material, detritus and dust. The second bedroom’s door was in place and closed. I tried to open it but it was locked. I thought about it for a moment and decided my attempts to minimize evidence of my visit was not going to work if I wanted to know what was inside. So, I kicked hard at the area around the doorknob. The flimsy material with which the door was made split under the blow and opened revealing a workroom containing a workbench against the far wall above which a panel of holed fiberboard was fastened on which some tools had been hung. Scattered about were sections of disassembled furniture.
The furniture was made out of thick pieces of darkly stained wood common in South-East Asia. I entered the room and crouched down by what looked like the riser that connected a chair’s seat to its arms. It was round and about two inches in diameter. Into the top was drilled a hole that looked a little more than an inch wide and six deep. The best I could determine about four pieces of furniture had been disassembled. Two heavy dining room arm chairs, a table and a cushioned living room chair. The table legs were much thicker than the chair’s risers and as far as I could tell had similar but larger holes drilled into them. The cushions on the easy chair had been ripped open revealing the white latex stuffing.
I squatted there for several long moments trying to understand what I was seeing. It was not too difficult but I did not want to jump to too many conclusions. I stood up and looked in the waste basket by the workbench. Among the litter were two condoms.
My discoveries seemed to clear up a few things. At least it appeared to confirm my conviction that we were probably dealing with a dope deal gone bad. Still, while moving from a suspicion to a conviction may be considered progress, it was slight indeed. It raised a few other questions in my mind. Not the least of which was why so many hiding places and what was Clarence’s role – mastermind or dupe? And Martin, while I would not have been surprised if he were lying about not knowing what was going on, I still doubted he could be so stupid. For that matter could anyone be stupid enough to ship dope so easily discoverable. It smelled amateurish and Martin was no amateur. Clarence perhaps, but why so many hiding places for what appeared to be a lot of whatever it was? I still did not know what. I guessed it was dope. But it could have been popcorn for all I knew.
I stood there for a while feeling anxiety crawling over me. Not fear per se, but distress that I found myself even more in the middle of something I did not what to be in the middle of. My job had been to attempt to locate some missing people and merchandise. Despite my best efforts to avoid doing so, I seem to have succeeded to some extent. But now I appear to be entwined in the middle of several serious crimes. The burgeoning tendrils of panic crept through me like strangler vines in the jungle enfolding the trees that produced the wood for the furniture strewn about me..
I realized that standing there quaking was not going to enable me to come up with anything allowing me to deal with or hopefully ignore what I had found out so far. I decided it would be best if I left hoping it all either went away or circumstances would force some action or decision on my part that would extricate me from all this.
One of those possible circumstances awaited me outside. Martin had arrived with his sidekick, Chang, They were heading toward the main house. Instead of simply leaving the property and hoping that no one would realize what I had seen and that everything would go away, I felt an uncontrollable urge to stir things up a bit. So, I moved to intercept Martin before he got to the house.
1934: Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act was passed by the US Congress, effectively outlawing marijuana in the country. A few years later HENRY ANSLINGER Director of Federal Bureau of Narcotics at the time explained why he supported criminalizing the growing and use of Hemp.
“Most (users of marijuana) are Negroes, Hispanics. Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from smoking marijuana. This marijuana makes White women want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
(Damn, here I thought smoking dope only got you high, no one told me about the white women before.)
What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
A system along exactly these lines [of ObamaCare] has been operating in Massachusetts since 2006, where it was introduced by a Republican governor. What was his name? Mitt Somethingorother? And no trains have been wrecked so far. The question is whether the Massachusetts success story can be replicated in other states… the answer, so far, is a clear “yes.” In California, insurers came in with bids running significantly below expectations; in New York, it appears that premiums will be cut roughly in half…. Over all, then, health reform will help millions of Americans who were previously either too sick or too poor to get the coverage they needed, and also offer a great deal of reassurance to millions more who currently have insurance but fear losing it….
And the prospect that such a plan might succeed is anathema to a party whose whole philosophy is built around doing just the opposite…. So will Republicans actually take us to the brink? If they do, it will be crucial to understand why they would do such a thing…. Republicans may be willing to risk economic and financial crisis solely in order to deny essential health care and financial security to millions of their fellow Americans. Let’s hear it for their noble cause!”
Paul Krugman: Republican Health Care Panic…
“We actually misnamed the war on terror. It ought to be The Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe in Free Societies Who Happen To Use Terror As A Weapon To Try To Shake The Conscience Of The Free World.”
George W Bush
I always thought W bore a striking resemblance to Chauncey Gardener.
“I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger 2003
Arnold understood governance about as well as he did domestic relations.
“Being president is like running a cemetery: you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening.”
Bill as we all know had a few interns under him who I am sure listened to his every word.
It looks like if you want to be happy move to some city in California or to Vermont or convert to Mormonism. Alas, you will be wretched if you find yourself in the old south or the industrial midwest, except for Kentucky where despite having Mitch McConnell as your Senator appears slightly happier than the rest of the South. Probably because of the hope afforded them by the availability of mass suicides every other Tuesday.
South Dakota is clearly an outlier and has become even more miserable than ever since they learned that North Dakota, the only state more unpleasant to live in than theirs, had all the oil shale and its citizens will now all get rich and move to Florida or California and be happy while they have to continue to suffer through the dismal winters in their hovels on the windswept plains. [This one is for you David. I knew that sooner or later I would find something smarmy to say about your home state.]
Contact my granddaughter Athena.