“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
~ Jimi Hendrix
Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Athena and Happy Anniversary to my sister MaryAnn and her husband George.
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
One afternoon when it was not raining, we decided to walk to Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s central urban park. LM liked to feed the birds (mostly pigeons and a few large crows) and the fish (gaping toothy jaws large enough to swallow your arm).
As we began to climb the steps to the sky-path over the freeway and into the park, we were stopped by some police who told us to wait. After a little while, I saw a cavalcade of automobiles from the Royal Family’s fleet come speeding down the freeway. “Oh look,” I said and pointed to the cars. “It must be a member of the Royal Family.”
After the motorcade passed by, one of the policemen approached and got into a heated conversation with the Little Masseuse. “What’s going on,” I inquired? “They want to arrest you for pointing at the Royal Family entourage,” She answered. According to LM, they felt that what I did was disrespectful and they could possibly mistake my pointing for a gun.
I guess, unlike in the United States, the police in Thailand first announce their reasons for possibly killing you instead of waiting until after you are dead.
It was agreed, eventually, that I was adequately warned and could spend the rest of the day neither behind bars nor dead.
Lumpini Park, like many great city central parks, is magnificent in concept but a bit seedy and down at the heel in places. Recently, the large Monitor Lizards that inhabit the lake have taken to the land and eaten a few joggers……. No, I’m kidding. They have not eaten any joggers but have frightened a few tourists, so there is a highly publicized effort by the authorities to capture them and transport them to a more appropriate location. Some have suggested that location is probably the woks in the kitchens of some of the authority’s families.
One day at lunch, I asked the Gemologist how the cultures of those lost tribes of Burma that he spent so many years photographing are holding up. He said their cultures are mostly all gone. It happened faster than he had expected. Surprisingly, except for the Muslim Rohingya tribe, it has not been by the force of arms of the Burmese government but through the introduction of modern fashions and technologies. If the Naga people still go headhunting, they do so in Old Navy knock-off tee shirts and find their way through the jungle using google maps on their iPhones.
The next few days were spent trying to get some exercise in between the rains, struggling all one morning to get the presidential debate on my iPhone, and listening to more stories from the deep sea diver. One of the tales was a harrowing story about accompanying his flying instructor, a stunt pilot, to Columbia to pick up a small plane and fly it back to Key West. When they arrived, they found that although the plane lacked ignition, brakes and several other important mechanical parts, it carried a load of made in Columbia product and a baby ocelot (who got loose in the cockpit somewhere over Panama). The flight back to Key West included stops in Nicaragua, Mexico and one or two other places along the way. Apparently, there was also some problem with the gas since they had to fly with a fifty gallon can of gas in the cockpit along with a jury-rigged hose passing through the dashboard into the engine. Oh, and now and then there were women (there always are in stories like this) who had to sit on their laps because there were not enough seats. (What they did with the Ocelot during those times I never found out.)
And then, it was time to leave the teeming and steaming streets of Bangkok and return to the Golden Hills where the air is clean, the stories and people are few, and where the indigenous wildlife of pigeons, rats, and wandering packs of soi dogs are replaced by turkeys, coyotes, and tiny steam cleaned pedigreed canines on leashes.
B. From Bangkok to El Dorado Hills:
My return to America was long but nowhere as traumatic as the flight out. I had an entire row to myself on the flight to Beijing and so I stretched out and slept. I had a nine-hour layover in Beijing but luckily they have a by-the-hour hotel in the airport so I rented a tiny room, showered, slept — and dreamed.
I dreamt I was in a small kingdom in ancient China, appropriately. The king’s comely daughter had taken a liking to me. (In my dreams, I am usually younger and far more attractive than I am in real life.) Suddenly, a faction of the king’s retainers organized a coup and killed all the royal family except the Comely Princess who I saved. Together we organized a resistance, fought back and eventually killed all the coupsters only to find, at our moment of triumph, the Emperor with all his troops lined up outside the wall of the city wondering why there was so much turmoil in this tiny little kingdom in his empire and whether he should just burn it to the ground and kill everyone and be done with it. The Comely Princess suggested we set up two thrones on the top of the city walls in which she and I would sit and shout down at the Emperor that we were now firmly in control and were his loyal subjects. Well, he bought that little bit of theater and marched away. In celebration, the Comely Princess and I agreed to get married that evening. As I was preparing for the nuptials and drinking a glass of rice wine, the enraged princess stormed into the room and accused me of sacrificing one of our most beloved retainers to the cause. I tried to explain to the now not so Comely Princess that it was his choice but she was having none of it. So, I soon found myself seated on the horse I rode in on looking back at the city. I wondered whether the whole thing was simply a ruse by the Comely Princess to make herself a Regal Queen. It wouldn’t be the first time in my life something like this happened. For a moment I thought about gathering supporters, killing the now Regal Queen and taking back the kingdom. I decided against that. I am pretty good at fighting my way out of any imbroglio I find myself in, but starting from scratch was always too much work, so I rode off.
In case you are interested, I was dressed in Chinese boiled leather armor over my jeans with my straw fedora on my head. I may be young, handsome and competent in my dreams but I still dressed funny. By the way, my horse was gray.
During the ten hour flight from Beijing to SF, I watched two movies, The Huntsman, because I adore Charlize Theron, especially when she is tearing up the scenery, and the old Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster film Vera Cruz. Coop is an aging plantation owner and ex-Confederate Army officer who believes he fought for freedom and that the southern plantation life was built on land and big houses and not on slavery. Being freedom loving, he eventually supports the Mexican peasants against the Emperor Maximilian. Since they were peasants and only seemed able to sing and dance and throw themselves blindly at the Emperors machine guns, they obviously needed Cooper and Lancaster to save them. I will also see any movie with Lancaster in it just to see his insane smile.
Other than that, I took some valium to sleep the rest of the way. It took about 5 hours to get from SFO to El Dorado Hills where everyone seemed uncomfortable because I arrived a day sooner than expected. I also learned that my 99-year-old mom fell and broke her hip.
As I have said often, “Getting there is often far more interesting and pleasant than being there.”
This is a continuation of my somewhat irreverent retelling of some of my favorite eras of history:
It was Judea and especially Jerusalem that gave Herod agita. Most other the other parts of his kingdom seemed to accept his harsh but relatively peaceful administration with what passed for equanimity. But, in faction-riddled Judea, it seemed everyone hated everyone else and that all they seemed to agree on was that they all hated him, mostly for being Idumean and not Judean. So he did what all competent rulers do in cases like this, he threw money at them. He first lavished it on those who made up what passed for the upper class, the priests and Sadducees who he reasoned would then keep the other malcontents under some control.
When that didn’t work, he struck upon a more audacious scheme. He would rebuild their Temple and he would make it the greatest temple of the time and people from throughout the Levant and even the known world would flock to Jerusalem to see this wonder, worship there and spend their money. This he thought, reasonably so, would make everyone happy.
With his usual vigor, he set upon this task. First, he built a mountain in the city enclosed in walls so that it could be seen from everywhere and on the top of this mountain he built the most magnificent temple of his time.
While it made believers far and wide proud they had such a magnificent thing, alas, it did not stop the Judeans and especially the Jerusalemites from arguing even more about things they had been arguing about for at least a century and to his dismay they even found more things to argue about.
But while all this arguing and faction building is important, it is not important here for our story at this time but will be a little later. What is important is that Herod the businessman (like the not so successful but equally insane businessman or our time Donald Trump) did not want to use his own money to fund his largess. And what he came up with would change the world.
(to be continued)
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Below is reproduced one of my favorite flights of fancy stories I wrote about six years ago. I also like it because its literary references could only be identified by people over sixty and so the piece effectively was born dead. I do, however, recommend reading O. Henry. He really was a con man, embezzler, and pharmacist until he joined the literary world and became a liar for hire.
Posted in FRACTURED FACTOIDS, VOYAGES IN MY MIND:
FROM RUBAIYAT TO RUBY OTT ON THE RUBY YACHT AND HOME AGAIN
All my life I have often taken voyages of the mind as I have pursued some research thread or another. Anyway, the internet is a marvelous vehicle for anyone who enjoys traveling without leaving one’s bed.
In my most recent voyage, I had been traveling north, escaping from the devastation of Ninth Century Southern Italy, with some Jewish merchants and settled with them in the Rhine Valley only to be forced to move eastward into the Pale, when the armies of Western Christendom had made that land too dangerous for my Hebrew brethren.
Shortly thereafter, I was at the home of the local Rabbi in a shtetl deep within the Pale somewhere in eastern Poland when that good man began to become quite emotional and upset about a radical Sephardic Rabbi named Maimonides who lived among the Muslims and was obviously corrupted by them. According to the Rabbi, this Maimonides was attempting, in his erroneous writings on sacred subjects, to humanize the faith of their fathers.
I decided to visit Maimonides at his family home in Egypt where he was working as the physician to the Sultan, Saladin. One evening shortly after I arrived, I asked the honorable doctor-rabbi to instruct me in his teachings. He responded to my request by saying“Pookie, before embarking on a voyage into Hebrew esoterica, you should first travel to Persia and stay a few evenings in a caravansary called ‘The Perfumed Garden.’”
I did so and one evening while relaxing in the hot tub after the day’s debauch, I met a fellow traveler who introduced himself to me as Mercury Ali. We got to talking about this and that and after swapping some tales of our respective voyages, he suggested that that evening we attend the salon of the well-known Hori, Scheherazade where he assured me that the finest stories in all of Persia could he heard. “Be careful,” he warned me, “the tales are so beguiling they can become addictive.” It has been rumored that some of the attendees at the salon had become so besotted that they remained there for over 1000 nights.
Assuring him that I will take his warning seriously, I accompanied him to the salon. I admit, I soon began to find myself becoming hooked on the conversation. After a few nights with Haroun al-Rashid, Delilah the Crafty, and any number of men named Sinbad (Aladdin and Ali Baba, to my regret, were off on some adventure or another), I met up with another attendee, the besotted tent-maker, mathematician and astrologer Omar Khayyam. He invited me to spend the next few days with him and a couple of Horis, and a few bottles of Napa Valley’s finest jug wine under some trees in the desert somewhere.
One morning, having finished off the jugs of wine, I found myself with Omar banging on the door of a local tavern demanding the proprietor open the premises so that we could resume our drinking.
After a downing a few cups of chardonnay in the cool common room of the tavern, I fell asleep on the table and woke up in the early part of the Twentieth Century in Greenwich Village in New York City at the house of two hippies who were dancing with each other while reciting Omar’s verses.
It seems that Bob Babbitt and his wife, Jessie, were having a party to celebrate the end of their short unhappy experiment with sobriety. Among the guests was a gentleman who went by the obvious alias of O. Henry. I was later to learn that he was a convicted embezzler, ex-con and drunken pharmacist from North Carolina who was hiding out in New York in the witness protection program under an assumed name.
He suggested that since the current party was winding down, that I join him at another get-together in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana hosted by a friend of his called Idaho. It was a reception in honor of the newest residents of the valley, Homer K. M. and, his girlfriend Ruby Ott.
The following morning, we joined Rocky and Bullwinkle on Bullwinkle’s boat the “Ruby Yacht” and traveled down the Bitterroot to Veronica Lake where we spent the day.
P.S. Omar (who was previously a member of the Taliban) and Scheherazade now are living together in an apartment in North Beach San Francisco with another illegal alien couple from Guatemala who formerly served in the Sandinista army. Omar and Sherry (the name she goes by now) are strong supporters of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer when they are not out campaigning for the “Green Party”.
NOTE: If you read this far, here is the connection to the complete collection of O. Henry’s tales: (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/O._Henry), You can read his short stories, “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball” and “The Handbook of Hymen” should you want to take my voyage in reverse.
Forty percent of all women who are married to police officers are abused.
A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
In the United States, we have often elected to public office the stupid and at times The crazy. It has only recently, however, that most of those we elect happen to be both stupid and crazy.
B. Today’s Poems:
I am Wo — Man
I break stallions to harness
They ride me for my pleasure
They tend my flocks
And in the end
I paste their memories
in my scrapbook.
2. Seize the Day.
“So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled during your
sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
Ancient Egyptian poem 1160 BC
“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