“If the mass of Thai people has a genius for anything, and that is certainly a fit subject for spirited debate, it is a talent for living day-to-day no matter what happens around them. It isn’t a show of resilience… it is more like the repeated invocation of a widespread collective unconscious, Thais can turn a blind eye to even the unhappiest of events. The Thais were a people who, after all, managed mostly to ignore World War II. They probably looked at the invading Japanese army as the latest wave of sex tourists to arrive on their shores, just a bunch of horny guys with money to spend, all of whom happened to be wearing identical outfits.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAYS TO MY BELOVED SISTER MARYANN AND TO BOTH HER CHILDREN KATIE AND BRENDAN DREAPER AND ALSO TO MY FRIEND MARCO GALLO.
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
The extent of my explorations of Bangkok during the three weeks or so I have been here have been limited to the streets along a narrow mile long corridor between my apartment and the health club with occasional digressions to Terminal 21, the large mall at Asoke. Packed in along that short passageway, I encounter lifestyles as diverse as any I have seen anywhere. I sometimes feel I am in a movie where the universe changes with every step.
These streets are not a place for the rich or the petite bourgeoisie. Their habitats are the gleaming silver towers that loom over these streets. Nor are the people on these streets the teeming spitting masses. They live elsewhere, in squalor, and forgotten enclaves, along the rivers or in dark alleys behind the gleaming high-rises.
The people I encounter within the corridor are the hucksters, petty criminals, ladies of the night, and sneak thieves; those who never rest from scrabbling and fighting for a few baht to survive another day in order to hopefully rise up out of these streets to where they can feign respectability or in the case of the tourists sober up and return home where they reassume their pretend decency. Those that fail are here also, overdosed on alcohol or drugs and staggering along or lying on the streets and sidewalks.
I am old and bent now. I lean on my walking stick as I trudge the streets. Perhaps, I have become one of them now, a denizen of the Bangkok streets. Fortunately, I’ll be leaving here soon, flying back to the Golden Hills. Few of those I see on my daily walks will ever leave.
Peter, in responding to my last T&T post, reminded me that Mumbai and Calcutta are every bit as exciting — appalling, fascinating —wretched, and glorious — degraded as my little slice of Bangkok. That may be true and perhaps there are many more cities like those, but this is my here and now.
Sometimes when I take my walks through my Bangkok I feel a little like or pretend to feel a little like, Ulysses. Not the Greek Ulysses but the Jewish guy from Dublin, Leo Bloom who “ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls”. The difference between him and me, besides the relish for inner organs and his obsession with Blazes Boylan both of which I can do without, is that he was actively involved in the events of his day and in the city around him. I, on the other hand, mostly simply observe, avoiding involvement wherever possible. I stop a few moments and stare at whatever catches my attention and move on. Like, for example, the tiny pool in the sidewalk in front of the restaurant I eat at sometime. It is filled with giant Koi. Not the restaurant, the pool is filled with giant Koi. I stand there a second or two and wonder how the fish survive the night. Why haven’t the rats or the soi dogs scarfed them up — what about all the homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks? Surely some of them are hungry? Do the owners of the restaurant take the Koi in at night like someone would bring in their cat? That seems odd. Perhaps the Koi are fierce or mythical. See there, just like Bloom in Dublin, I also get to ponder the mundane, ridiculous and superficial as I wander about in my Bangkok.
HRM arrived from Milan after having visited London, Paris, and Dubai. He liked Dubai best. We had dinner with N and Adrian at a Korean BBQ place. The next day, Nakoul (Nong), my old business partner in Ava Bar, invited me to visit his new venture a little further down Sukhumvit Soi 11. It is one of those upscale non-surgical cosmetic clinics that are becoming increasingly popular in BKK. It is called Kharites Medical Aesthetic Clinic. It offers Botox and ultrasound treatments to adjust facial alignments, vitamin injections and a number of generic facials and the like. I opted for a facial treatment that lasted for about an hour and a half.
I am much prettier now after my treatment.
A few days later, I had lunch with the Gemologist and met his lovely wife. She was born and raised in Nagoya Japan. She is also a gemologist. They first met in Japan during the 1970s. He returned to the US and enrolled in gem school. They then completely lost contact with each other. She, later traveled to San Francisco to enroll also in gem school. While coming out of I. Magnin on Union Square in San Francisco, she bumped into someone who was not looking where he was going. It was the Gemologist. It was a better story listening to them both tell it while gently correcting each other on the details. They eventually, finished Gem school (he two years before she) and opened a well known Japanese Restaurant next to the Miyako hotel in San Francisco’s Japan Town before settling in Bangkok and a life of adventure.
Recently, the Gemologist, Richard Diran, who is also a well-known ethnologist and photographer had one of his photographs included for consideration in the LensCulture Portrait Awards for 2017.
Every couple of days, I drop in on the old sailor in his room above a small plaza off of Soi 8. He doesn’t leave the room as much as he used to except for long morning and evening walks. He serves me fresh coconut water and regales me with stories of his life in the Caribbean.
One evening I went to the movies with Hayden, Adrian, and the Little Masseuse. We saw the newest Spiderman feature. As Superhero movies go, it was one of the more enjoyable. The acting was better than the writing. My favorite scene was the very last one in the movie.
Nikki then arrived. He, HRM and I spent a day at the health club pool and then they were off to Pattaya and the Little Masseuse and me off to Angkor Wat in Cambodia,
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
1. Vittorio and Teacher Brian arrived in Santiago de Compostela after their almost 30-day hike from France, through the Pyrenees and across Northern Spain.
2. A representative of the Thai government, in response to criticism that the military government had not done enough for the poor, proposed that the top prize in the State lottery be increased so that members of the poorer classes, who waste their meager income on lottery tickets, would stand a chance to be even richer if they win. A quick and unscientific poll on the proposal by the newspapers indicated that the members of the poorer classes addicted to the lottery thought it was a great idea.
3. A seemingly effective reformist head of a small rural community in Thailand and his family were killed in a home invasion by several hooded men in military uniforms carrying military weapons. The Thai police, upon arresting a suspect, announced the motive for the killing was a dispute over a mortgage on the headman’s property. The suspect, the lender on the property, apparently took back a mortgage and then promptly re-mortgaged the property to someone else. When the headman returned with the final payment on the property, the lender refused to honor the mortgage terms so the headman took him to court.
I cannot help being amused by the misunderstanding most people have about power—that presidents or anyone else with executive power merely sat in their offices and decided what should be done next, then their eager minions hurried out and turned these whims into fact. In truth, managing or ruling anything, let alone a large country, is a process of learning about and reacting to hundreds upon hundreds of small problems, some of which would quickly become larger problems if left unsolved, and then persisting with them until they had been solved or at least reduced from crisis to mere irritation. And standing between a president and these solutions is not a horde of loyal citizens waiting only to be told what to do, but thousands of individuals, each with his own plans and wants, most of them quite willing to break the rules if they could get away with it, and yet each of them also furious at any idea their own rights might be somehow abrogated. And of these citizens, the wealthy are the worst, prickly and full of righteous demands. And alas, it is these wealthy, whose wealth allows their voices to clammer the loudest, who, more often than not, get heard first — generally to the dismay of everyone else and to the disadvantage of the nation.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Five Years Ago Today In T&T:
This weekend I returned to “Paradise by the Sea” (Jomtien Beach) to visit with Bill who was spending a few days in “The Outskirts of Hell” (Pattaya) about two miles from “Paradise by the Sea.” He had just returned from a brief trip to Malaysia scoping out business opportunities there and unwinding somewhere between the gates of paradise and the portals of hell from the rigors of Muslim Puritanism.
I met him and Ray at the “Oval Table” where about a year ago the Geriatric Knights set off on their adventures. Three of the original five Knights were there, Density, Harvey, and Giufa. Horace who prefers to be called Jerome we would meet up with that evening. Spy was off knight erranting somewhere south of Outremer searching for the Grail or a stray yoni or two which was hard to find where he was at.
We decided to dub Ray into the club (The Rub a Dub Club?). We could not decide on a suitable heraldic name for him. We were stuck between “Omar the Tent Maker” and “Sinbad the Sailor.” I decided to compromise on “Sinbad the Tent Maker.”
Alas, Angelina-Tai, Selma-moo, Princess Oy and the other houri had long ago departed for other caravansaries, and soon so did we.
I checked into the guest house on Jomtien Beach Road Soi 3 where I stayed the last time I was there, napped and waited for LM.
That evening we met Bill, Mike, and Ray for dinner at a restaurant on the Walking Street. After dinner, we went to a nearby go-go bar where Ray was to meet with the ex-owner to discuss business opportunities in Pattaya. The ex-owner’s claim to fame was that he managed to sell his failing go-go bar to someone else and now passes himself off as an expert in doing business in Thailand.
The tiny club consisted of a row of booths surrounding a small stage upon which about 10 poles reaching to the ceiling were set. A selection of slightly overweight women, naked from the waist up, one hand on a pole, moved their bodies in a desultory fashion to some over loud 20-year-old rock music while staring bored at themselves in the mirrors that covered the walls behind the booths. We were the only customers.
We then went to a place called the Windmill a few steps away from the go-go place. Here the joint was packed. It featured various fully naked women performing simulated sex acts and others, equally naked, jumping in and out of Jacuzzis, while various old over-weight men with wallets out were peeling off notes from wads of Thai money and handing it to other naked women whose bodies were pressed against them.
For those who picture the Outskirt’s of Hell as a simply an aging white male sexist paradise, you could not be further from the truth. Unlike God, who seems to prefer well muscled male mesomorphs, Lucifer is nothing if not an equal opportunity corrupter. Within the Outskirts of Hell, there are alley’s devoted to transsexual (Be all that you can be) clubs, lesbian sex clubs and the standard run of the mill gay bars.
You can also shop for souvenirs and buy the sex enhancement medication of your choice at the many establishments specializing in selling those products. And of course, restaurants by the ton located on the land or on boats anchored offshore. Food, sexual indulgence, and gross corruption are never too far apart.
After a few minutes of observation, LM and I excused ourselves and returned to the hotel.
The next morning LM and I took the ferry to Koh Larn one of the several islands in the Bay of Thailand located off Pattaya and Jomtien Beach. It contains a small village and several tiny beaches adjacent to which one can enjoy lunch for about twice the price of similar fare on the mainland and stare at the high-rises lining the shore across the straight.
We ate lunch at a tiny place by a beach of strange maroon and lemon yellow stones. We were the only customers. After lunch, we returned to Pattaya and continued on back to BKK and our apartment.
Alas, it finally happened as it had to happen, the Sauna Nazi, decided to bump chests with me and scream because I put my bathing suit in the sauna to dry (as does almost everyone) so I punched him in the jaw. He staggered back and did something almost comical, he started dancing around and flicking out his leg like some Asian martial artist expert. As expected, the health club security intervened before things got further out of hand. After things quieted down they wanted to know if I intended to press charges. I declined but requested that they instruct him in the value of the word, please. I am amazed at how much pleasure I get, even at seventy-two, from involving myself in adolescent male adventures in foolishness.
Hayden asked me if that was how attorneys do it; insult their opponents in court before throwing punches. I explained that we generally refrained from the physical part, but that slander and defamation are our stock in trade. He said he still wanted to become an airline pilot when he grows up.
This Equation Contains Everything We Know about the Universe.
Although I have lost the cite, the above equation supposedly sums up everything we know about the known universe (Quanta, Relativity, the Higgs Bosun and what have you). The mathematician who put this together spent many months doing so. After he was done and his work was reviewed, it was discovered that somewhere he had inadvertently switched a sign. He was too exhausted to go back through everything to find it. No one else has been willing to do so either.
It should be noted the formula begins with a minus and ends with an empty set raised to zero power (which I think equals 1 in maths notation or the Higgs Field in physics). One might conclude from this that either the universe does not exist or, we are confused and know little or nothing about it or, it is what it is. If one did conclude one of these was true, he would probably be wrong and would in all likelihood have to begin at the beginning again. No rational human should under these circumstances go through all this again especially since it only exists when we observe it and who has the time. I can only conclude that we would all be happier considering the universe irrational and let it go at that.
I noticed there is no sign for square or any other root in the equation. Perhaps that means in our universe there are no square roots of anything. Millions of high school mathematics students forced to try to compute roots can now thank the gods that their ignorance has not been in vain.
On the other hand, as it often is the way with the universe, after writing the above, I discovered a much shorter equation by another mathematician:
If I understand the maths symbols correctly, everything in the Universe but quantum mechanics is a set. That seems about right. In quantum mechanics, nothing is set until the damned cat gets out of the box.
Quantum questions — Once the box, that may or may not contain the cat, is opened and you see a cat lying at the bottom without moving, is it dead when you observe it or only when you feel for its heartbeat and find there is none? Does anyone care that the cat is dead? Did the cat know whether or not it would be found dead when the box was opened?
A. A Thai comments on his society:
Arglit Boonyai, the highly respected and sometimes brilliant columnist for The Bangkok Post, Thailand’s most respected English daily newspaper recently wrote:
“Thailand – and I am trying to be fair here — is as honest as a North Korean press release on famine. We steal, we cheat, we lie, we treat people with a lower social status badly, we’re racist, the list goes on and on. For years we successfully hid all that behind the famous Thai smile and the ‘mai pen rai’ attitude. And by gosh and by golly, most of those suckers fell for it.”
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“In America today you can make more money inventing a new conspiracy theory than you can from curing cancer.”
C. From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
The Sense That Time Keeps Going Faster
“Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.”
D. Today’s Poem:
O what can the matter be
And what can the matter be
O what can the matter be
Johnny bydes lang at the fair
He’ll buy me a twopenny whistle
He’ll buy me a threepenny fair
He’ll buy me a Bunch o’ Blue Ribbons
To tye up my bonny Brown Hair
O saw ye him coming
And saw ye him coming
O saw ye him coming
Hame frae the Newcastle fair
English Ballad 1770
“Some people knew what they wanted like they knew they needed to breathe—as though they had been born with goals written into the very fiber of their beings. They were a gifted minority of humanity in possession of a valuable thing. Those without purpose could not imagine what it was to have one—because to be able to imagine a true purpose was to have one. People like himself searched and searched within, only to find a void where there was supposed to be a mission. They had an absence—a space inside where nothing seemed more important than anything else, and the search for what mattered became the closest they could get. He’d envied those who had no need to search.”
Hodges, T. Ellery. The Never Paradox (Chronicles Of Jonathan Tibbs Book 2). Foggy Night Publishing.
What struck me about this quote was neither its eloquence nor its profundity but its resonance with my life. I cannot recall ever having a goal in my life other than now and then to complete whatever I found myself doing at that time. More often than not, even in those cases my goal usually was to avoid as much work and responsibility as possible. Even if this is not the best way to be, it is probably how most of us behave. There are a lot worse ways to live our lives.
A Few Short Years — HRM Grows Up As I Grow Old.