Happy Birthday, Richard McCarthy (Uncle Mask), and Ann Vita (Who my calendar says is nine years old).
“Uber is ubiquitous.”
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
Today a rat ran between my legs and tripped me as I walked along Soi Nana back to my apartment.
Outside of that little event, the days here have been mostly rainy and devoid of drama. In the mornings the sun comes out long enough for me to get in my swim at the health club — then off to my massage and back to the apartment and lunch before the rains begin. One weekend, we went to Jomtien Beach and stayed at the guest house of the sad-faced woman with the child whose maladies condemn her only to lie on a cot and be fed. During the mornings and the evenings, we walked along the beach and enjoyed stirring sunrises and magnificent sunsets.
Other than that, I have mostly spent time talking with a few friends and acquaintances and swapping stories.
The Deep Sea Diver.
Several times during my stay, I visited with the deep sea diver who, after seeing the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, left the potential of life as a mob enforcer in Pennsylvania to become a commercial deep sea diver in Florida and the Caribbean. After a career of underwater construction, treasure hunting, salvage, commercial sailing and various less savory occupations, he washed up in Bangkok where he lives in a small hotel room near my apartment.
The Deep Sea Diver posing before a massive anchor he salvaged using only truck tire inner-tubes that he transported to salvage sites in the van in the background.
In his locker at the health club, he keeps a couple cigar boxes filled with the ashes of two friends who had asked him to spread them around their favorite Bangkok Bars and Night Clubs after they died.
The walls of his room are covered with pictures of his adventures and mementos of friends who have passed away. Each time a friend dies, he pins a remembrance onto his wall, drinks a pint of cheap Thai whiskey and morns.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The most recent death was of Manfred Dietrich, 83. Hung on the wall is a piece of sail-cloth Dietrich had made for the deep sea diver and pinned to it, Manfred’s obituary.
Manfred left Germany at an early age and when he was seventeen he sailed as a crew on the three-masted ship to Si.Thomas in the Caribbean. He found an abandoned house 0n an Island in the middle of St. Thomas Bay where he settled and became a well-known sailmaker. He never learned to swim and rarely left the island except for short trips into St. Thomas in a small sail boat. The deep-sea diver and his gang also lived on the island for a while. They became friends with the sailmaker. The sail-maker was found next to his sailboat. He apparently planned to take it out to go to St. Thomas, fell out of the boat, and drowned.
One day, while I was visiting, the old sailor he told me about the time he lived on Easter Island for several months with his then girlfriend. It was all quite spooky, the large statues everywhere and the Chilean Government who administers the island had been sending criminals to the island to replace natives who expressed any interest in independence. One afternoon, he and his girlfriend attended the annual Rodeo at which they round up the wild horses on the island, herd them into a large stone circle and under the solemn eyes of those somber effigies, slaughter them in the most horrendous and bloody way possible well into the night — like something out of a Lovecraft novel.
Although he is a bit laconic and not given to lengthy stories, during our visits, I toured the world through him, from the South Pacific to the gigantic WWII statues in Moscow, to crossing Australia from Perth to Sidney and back again and living for a month or two in the shadow of Ayres Rock — from the Florida Keyes during the days of the cigarette-boat runs to Lisbon where some of the dealers invested their money.
As he told me, “I loved diving and sailing, but I lived my life to travel and see the world.”
There are those lucky few of whom it can be said, “They lived a life of adventure.” Richard, with whom I had a few boozy story filled afternoons during my current stay in Bangkok, is one of them. Described as an American adventurer, gemologist, artist, ethnographer, trader in gemstones, art and ethnic arts dealer, and restauranteur, I was introduced to him about a decade ago, by the Canadian author and Bangkok resident Christopher G. Moore. In several of his novels, Richard appeared as a soldier of fortune whose derring-do assisted Vinny Calvino, Moore’s fictional ex-pat detective, to a successful resolution of his case.
He grew up in the Bay Area, graduated from the California institute of Art, owned a restaurant in San Francisco’s Japan Town and attended the Gemological Institute of America before his love affair with the area and his business interests led him to South-East Asia. I first met him in the Lone Star, an ex-pat dive in Bangkok’s Washington Square Area. The area was a haunt of the US military, especially Air-America personnel and others during the Viet Nam War and after. It also attracted ex-pat writers and other artists. Unfortunately, the Washington Square area has recently been demolished and replaced with a large condominium development. Here is a cite to the mystery writer Dean Burdett’s elegy to the passing of Washington Square http://www.wowasis.com/travelblog/?p=5166 . It contains Richard’s (Burma Richard as he has been called at times) painting of the last day of the Lone Star.
It was about 1980 when Richard began crossing the border from Thailand into Burma and into the dangerous mountains of Burma where he found not only rubies and sapphires but long lost and little-known tribes. These tribes were in danger of disappearing due to their decades-long battles with the Burmese government. Richard began photographing them and eventually produced an ethnographical masterpiece, The Lost Tribes of Burma. Here are two of those photographs.
(The male in the photographs is from the Naga tribe that is reputed to still practice head hunting.)
Rubies on Gold, from Richard Durian’s ‘Burma Collection” http://www.diranart.com/web/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
As a gemologist in South-East Asia, his business brought him into contact with interesting people and involved in fascinating situations, such as meetings with agents of South American drug dealers looking to buy gems or dealing with hard-nosed Chinese gem dealers. Here is part of a story that appears in his blog about a gem deal gone bad:
“In strand fashion, the room boy in a starched white suit arrived with the tall glass of Cointreau on a silver tray and brought it to my table. Giving him a few hundred kyats, I waited until the door shut behind him and picked up my diamond with the tweezers, the one I had brought with me, and suspended it underneath the thick clear liquor to break the surface tension, and dropped it in a liquid free fall. I mentally noted the known diamond’s rate of falling as I brought it nearly to the surface and released again.
Then I took the Chinese seller’s diamonds and one by one, holding them under the surface of the Cointreau, released them and watched the rate of sinkage. Invariably, his diamonds fell at a rate almost twice that of my diamond. I compared my diamond to the rate of sinkage with my ruby. The ruby, possessing a greater density than my diamond, sank noticeably quicker. I then submerged his diamond with my ruby and released them into the Cointreau at the same time. Holding my face closely to the glass of Cointreau, I saw his diamond sink more quickly than my ruby. Something was definitely wrong. Estimating a ratio of sinkage between the two materials, I determined his diamond must be substantially softer than natural diamond owing to the distinct polishing marks on the girdle of every one of his stones. I crossed the room and had the Chinese seller and the European buyer observe the test with their own eyes. Several times I performed the hydrostatic test in the Cointreau as they looked on incredulously.
I told them that in my opinion as a gemologist that these stones were not diamond, in fact could not be diamond, but were a Russian stimulant, cubic zirconium, which has a specific gravity of 5.70 nearly double that of real diamond, and that is why they fell twice as fast while submerged in the Cointreau.
The buyer hastily gathered up his money and stuffed it into a bag. The Chinese seller became the red color of a thermometer bulb, spitting in Cantonese staccato, and in English how thirty years in the business made him an expert and how his people in Hong Kong were beyond reproach, but he knew that the test could not lie. If he wasn’t trying to swindle, then he had been swindled. Either way, the deal was off.” http://www.diranart.com/
For those interested in learning more about him here is a cite to an article in Asia Week: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/98/0227/feat2.html and here is his own version of his travels among the Lost Tribes of Burma in a speech he gave in Rangoon where he was introduced by the Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the occasion of his donation of the photographs to the National Museum on Yangon. http://www.burma-richard.org/2013/11/the-vanishing-tribes-of-burma.html
The Musician and the Newspaperman.
My long time friend Cordt, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute who now lives in Chiang Mai, came to Bangkok one weekend. Cordt is a musician who plays in a classical rock/rockabilly group in Chiang Mai. Although the government discourages foreign musicians from performing in local clubs, by last minute announcements and the internet, his group has been able to build up a considerable a local following.
Cordt is also an artist, specializing in collages and has begun showing his work at local galleries.
Cordt Holland, Rockabilly. http://www.cordtholland.com/
We agreed to meet at a bar on Soi 11 where Chris Moore was previewing a documentary he produced about the controversial painter Peter Klashorst.
By Peter Klashorst
As usual with documentaries of this sort the subject is allowed to go on incessantly about himself as though the director fears to cut out any of his immortal words. There are no immortal words. There is only confirmation of our current biases.
Anyway, after the show, Cordt, Scott (the newsman of the heading, recently retired for the Bangkok Post), LM and I went to a Mexican restaurant further along the Soi where we drank pitchers of Margaritas made with bad tequila, ate some Mexican food and laughed a lot until we were quite drunk.
Cordt, Scott, and LM
This is a continuation of my ramble through my favorite eras of history that I began in a previous post.
The First Centuries:
The Romans were a different breed of conqueror. They did not conquer simply because it was there, or for the glory of the kingdom, or to expand the marvels of their culture or even to rape and steal the land and wealth of those they conquered. No, the Roman conquests were a business and only a business, and in the Levant when the Romans arrived along with them came Herod who the Romans installed as king of most of their holdings in the area — sort of like a branch manager or CEO of a subsidiary.
Now Herod is one of those people called The Great, and great he was. He was undoubtedly the greatest architect and city builder of his time. He was one of the greatest business minds of his generation capturing the date trade and arranging business deals with other world leaders like Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. He kept his kingdom relatively peaceful and prosperous and made his pastiche of a kingdom more than just an intersection for the armies of the great empires to pass through on their way to slaughter each other. For the first time, Judea meant something among the nations of the world, maybe not as much as Rome but certainly as much as anyone else in the area.
Herod was also insane. He liked killing his wives (of which he had a good number) and his children (also a good number). He thought they all were out to kill him and take away his kingdom (probably a good guess). When later in his reign he retreated to Masada, he built a massive palace on one end of the mesa and carved out a 24-hour orgy pit in the face of the bluff about 100 feet from the top where he could look out from his aerie and see a good portion of his kingdom. At the far opposite end of the mesa, he built a few McMansions for his wives and children so that he could keep an eye on them and they could not sneak up on him at night or scramble down the sheer cliffs and escape to cause trouble.
He also was good at taking care of the Judeans who were suspicious of him. You see, he wasn’t a Judean, he wasn’t even a Galilean he was an Idumean. When the Maccabees went on their little conquering spree they took over the adjacent kingdom to the southwest, Idumea. The Idumeans did not belong to the same club as the Judeans and Galileans and others who lived in Egypt, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. So, after their defeat, the more ambitious of the Idumeans, among which were Herod’s parents, surrendered a body part and joined the club. As a result, the Judeans were wary of him and he knew it and so he took action mollify them. None of which, by the way, included living his own life according to Judean Law.
(to be continued)
Code of Hammurabi —value of a fetus and of a woman:
209. If a superior man strikes a woman of superior class and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shaHerodll weigh and deliver ten shekels of silver for her fetus.
210. If that woman should die, they shall kill his daughter.
211. If he should cause a woman of commoner class to miscarry her fetus by the beating, he shall weigh and deliver five shekels of silver.
212. If that woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver.
213. If he strikes a slave-woman of a superior man and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver two shekels of silver.
214. If that slave-woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver twenty shekels of silver.
‘If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife’ (Deuteronomy 22: 28-9).
(By the way, when I first traveled to Sicily in the late 1960s that was still the law in certain parts of the island. If you wanted to marry the girl of your dreams and she refused you, you and some of your best buds broke into her house, abducted the object of your affections and raped her. Now, despoiled of her dowry value she was required to marry you. You did not even have to pay the 50 shekels.)
A.Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
Muriel Rukeyser opined; “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
While I agree about the stories, I disagree about atoms.
The universe, as we have known for about 100 years now, is made of quanta and not atoms. And, as science tells us, quanta do not exist until observed. (You know Heisenberg’s cats and all that.) And, when we observe quanta, then we can know things like their location, state, history and even gain a glimpse of their possible future. In other words, things exist only when we know their story.
The question remains, however, do stories exist before they are told to another?
B. Today’s Poems:
I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.
On worried wings.
he softly sings
of dreams of fire
and ghostly things
with deep desire.
C. Comments on my previous post:
Joe, I love your dreams. Who cares what they mean — if they make you laugh, keep dreaming! I am retiring on 11-30-16 so please change my email to ——————so I do not miss any of your further adventures, be they in Mendocino, Thailand or your dreams.
Thank you. I do not know how the office will manage without you. Hopefully, you’ll get to travel more and take more of those wonderful photographs.
So you made it to BKK, Joe-good! Of course, your travel tale reminds me why Travel can be fascinating except for the Systems and Functionaries that Get In The Way and make it complicated and dreary. Being a hypochondriac doesn’t help, but that’s your cross to bear.
Little Masseuse is perceptive.
Thinking of which (bearing crosses), your First Centuries musings remind me that I just finished reading Christopher Moore’s (not “G” Moore) book “Lamb”. If you haven’t, you must read this. It’s told by Biff, best childhood friend of Jesus. ‘nuff said.
Incidentally, I couldn’t remember what I just read and had to get up and check the bookshelf to find out that it was “Lamb”. The potential bright side to this is that if it starts occurring for/to/by you, you’ll forget about the stuff you get hypochondriac about. Further, you could photo the rich red ketchup pee, wait a bit and eat some beets, and photo the deep purple pee from that (wear your Prince outfit). Do this with a few more colorful foodstuffs, create an exhibit with picture captions from suitable bits from your dreams, and display it at one of the galleries in the newly rediscovered and now-hip Dogwatch neighborhood, get noticed, become really rich and notorious (famous is fleeting), and travel in your own plane named in big letters the mysterious “REDPEE”.
The Moonstone Circle glamor car riff is brilliant. You must acquire, rent, or otherwise obtain a beat up, mauve, anonymous Pinto or Henry J and slip into the “drive around” and see what happens. Have HRM video the reactions. Put That on Youtube.
I assume Maryann is recovered, and Mendocino too.
Meanwhile, muse news: Half of the band recorded an album of Americana-like originals in a proper studio (Grammy winner) in Oakland Jack London Square area. Others will record when schedules permit. The thing is aimed to surface next March. Technology uber alles. (Uber is ubiquitous.) Tomorrow we play at a spot along the annual Alzheimers fundraising walk (Ft. Mason-Marina-and back) – if I remember to get picked up. Our recent gig on the Sacramento Wine Train was fun in its own fluid fashion. The train got burglarized the night before our event; some train gear got ripped off. Nothing is sacred except the right to get as fabulously wealthy as you can at everyone else’s expense – and the Wailing Wall.
Non sequitur: The Coastal Conservancy will move from 1330 Bway into the Oakland State office building at the end of the year.
Hypochondria is not a very good companion when you travel. But then it doesn’t do much for you at home either. On the other hand, I guess it is a comfort lying in your own bed when you’re having an imaginary illness.
LM is usually right, unfortunately.
As for the First Centuries, I still have to go through Herod the Insane, The Good Gay Jesus and Paulie the Apostate Mafioso.
Purple Pee would be a good name for a Hip Hop movie.
I have been meaning to read “Lamb.” Maybe this is a good time to get to it. Has anyone ever had a friend named “Biff,” or for that matter even known anyone named “Biff?” Maybe only God can have a friend called “Biff?” Maybe Biff pees purple. I bet Jesus would have liked that. Biff is a dogs name. Maybe Biff is a dog. Have I gone on long enough on this Biff riff? I’ll stop now.
MaryAnn is getting better — Mendocino, not so much.
Glad to hear that now that you are entering your late 70’s, your music career is taking off. Next, they will book your group at Carnegie Hall and the building will be stolen — by Biff. I can’t get Biff out of my mind. I’m Biff addled.
I agree it’s a Non-Sequitur. Perhaps Biff……..
Thank you for sharing the amusing story of hypochondria on your flight. It made me giggle out loud. I hope you are feeling better, and most of all, I’m glad you didn’t die. 😉
Thank you, I am glad I didn’t die too.