“destiny doesn’t do home visits,”
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz . The Prisoner of Heaven (Cemetery of Forgotten Books) (p. 204).
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN BANGKOK:
Sometimes it feels like Thailand is more a prison than a refuge. I rarely get to talk to anyone anymore beyond necessary exchanges with people in stores and restaurants. LM speaks rudimentary english and I virtually no Thai so I spend most of my day reading bad novels. Some travel might help but I do not that much anymore. It has become too expensive and tiring. I could start hanging out in some of the local bars again. Unfortunately, they have become bad novels themselves. In addition to returning to Thailand for visa reasons, I had expected to spend the time baby-sitting Hayden. Alas, I am competing with the bright lights and excitement of the city and he has found many more ways to entertain himself than hanging out with a wheezy old ex-lawyer.
Almost every morning for the past year or so during my swim at the health club another man did his laps alongside me. He appears to be a few years younger than me. He never smiles. For that matter neither do I. He breast strokes up and down the pool close to one of the sides. I swim more in the middle. He wears sunglasses as he swims. I have on goggles. We swim in silence. After finishing his swim, for the rest of the morning he lies on one of the lounges in the sun. I usually return to the locker room after about a five or ten minute rest. We have never spoken or acknowledged each others presence. I always thought of him as a lonely old man.
About a week ago when I arrived at the pool, I noticed him talking to another man, a guest at the hotel. The guest was accompanied by two Thai women who seemed to wait on him. Overhearing him speaking I guessed this other man was Irish. For about five days, whenever I went to swim, I saw the two of them standing in the water at the shallow end of the pool in animated conversation. My co-swimmer no longer swam his laps. He seemed happy and smiled a lot. Observing this, I thought perhaps that is what I am missing here. I need a friend. Someone to talk to and laugh with.
Bonding with another person may be, next to breathing and eating, a person’s most basic need. Some may think bonding has something to do with sex. You know, here in this case there are two guys happily spending time in each other’s company. Is there some overt or latent sexuality manifesting itself here? Actually, who cares how or with whom someone messages his or her sexual organs (except a few Republican Legislators and a a lot of priests, ministers and mullahs) or for that matter whether or not a person does it at all?
Yesterday he was back swimming laps. His Irish friend had left.
This morning I woke up feeling as good as I have felt since January. It rained very hard last night, washing the ever-present pollution from the air. The air itself was thick and warm like on a pleasant summer day. The walk to the health club added to my sense of well-being. Most of he ladies and ladyboys of the morning I passed as I strolled along smiled and waved at me instead of calling out the irritating “massage?”, “Short Time?”. I expected that my swim itself would exhaust me and along with the coating of my lungs from the pollution as the incessant BKK traffic heated up eventually dampen my mood. By then the heat of the day would have grown too oppressive for life also. I assumed I would eventually stumble exhausted and depressed back to my apartment and crawl into bed.
That did not happen. I still felt good when I left the hotel. I decided to walk to Terminal 21, the seven or so floor shopping center nearby, to get a hard to come by ice cream soda. Each floor of the shopping center is named for a city, like Istanbul, Paris or Tokyo. San Francisco has two floors with a cable car teetering over the escalator and a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the open area between the two floors. The Swenson’s Ice Cream shop is located on one of the SF floors between the aisles designated Jackson and Ashbury.
After downing my drink I walked back home. The extra half mile to Terminal 21 and back did however tire me out. So I took a nap anyway.
I Want to see what now has become my new favorite movie, The Sapphires, a low budget film that takes place in the late 1960’s. It is not great as movies go but it certainly brought tears to these old eyes. I am sure it means more to those like me who experienced that era. And also, I fell in love with Gail (Deborah Mailman) too.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
1. A murder most foul.
For the past week or so, the discovery of sensational murder and the political speculation surrounding it has gripped the media here in Thailand.
A billionaire (Thai baht) Thai business man was reported to have disappeared. The man had been convicted of and served time for fraud and for promoting ponzi-like schemes. He also was a vocal critic of another convicted felon, the ex-Prime Minister of Thailand who I have referred to in the past as Thaksin the Terrible. Thaksin the Terrible moreover is a fugitive, living in exile and also the brother of the current Prime Minister, Princess LuckyGirl.
Within a day of the billionaire scumbag’s reported disappearance, his driver was arrested. The driver immediately confessed that he murdered the tycoon in order to steal $150,000 that the victim had just withdrawn from his account. In Thai fashion, a massive media event was held starring the confessed killer surrounded by what looked like a thousand cops. The suspect led the hoards of police and trailing reporters and cameramen to the spot where the body was buried. There along with several other men he implicated, he re-enacted the gruesome crime for all the world to see.
As could be expected, the political party out of power led by the military coup installed previous prime minister Abhisit the Unready (and some think the Incapable), members of his party, and the attorney for the deceased scumbag all have suggested that somehow, Thaksin the Terrible, was behind the murder.
Now normally allegations of conspiracy like this I find as believable as Rambo movies. However, there may be more here than meets the eye or perhaps even less. The confessed murderer, obviously someone so dumb as to believe that as the last person to have seen the deceased before he went missing the police somehow would not immediately suspect him, nevertheless had the presence of mind to remove and destroy all the disks in the security cameras. In addition, he carefully arranged for co-conspirators to wait in the car to help him carry the body out of the house and bury it many miles away. Also, how the driver, a slender young man was able to single-handedly subdue and strangle a seemingly fit sixty year old has not been clearly explained. The re-enactment in front of the press was notably unconvincing. Finally, the deceased withdrew the $150,000 from his account only a few hours before he disappeared. No one seems to know why.
The Thai constitution prohibits Buddhist monks and other religious officials from voting in national elections. It seems like a good idea to me.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Note: the following continues my series about four governmental agencies that I had some role in developing.
A. The State of New York’s Mental Health Information Service (1965):
6. Problems and insights.
b. Problems raised by the psychiatric process.
I divided in my mind the patients brought before the intake panel into three categories. The first and by far the largest were the elderly poor suffering severe dementia who were found the night before abandoned and unable to care for themselves. In 1965 these elderly poor were immediately shipped out to spend the remainder of their lives in the massive state hospital complexes. The elderly, given their long term hospitalization, were gradually overwhelming the hospitals abilities to provide beds for treatment of anyone else.
In 1965 also Medicare passed in the Congress and was signed into law. We did not know it then, but ultimately it had a great deal to do with resolving the crisis. Medicare provided funds that allowed these same elderly to now be treated in private medical facilities. It effect Medicare transferred the cost of treating the elderly poor from State and local budgets to the Federal budgets and the care from public to private institutions.
MHIS was not set up to deal with this category of patient. Also, it was extremely rare that a receiving hospital, given the lack of beds, would not discharge an elderly patient still capable of expressing a desire to leave the hospital.
There was little I could do, other that urge the hospital’s social services staff to redouble their efforts to find family members who may wish to undertake care of the patient.
The second category were those patients I chose to call the “uninteresting.” They were those suffering symptoms that made them unresponsive, such as catatonics and those hallucinating visions of Jesus or angels and the like or other obsessive behaviors coupled with communication difficulties such as those caused by language, education or cultural impediments.
The third Category I called the “interesting group.” It was the smallest group.These patients were most often were suffering from some manifestation of a classical psychiatric category (sexual deviation or obsession, use of “crazy” behavior to protect their real crazy behavior [like believing they were someone actually else usually someone famous] and the like). These patients tended to be more educated, articulate and almost inevitably of trans-mountain, middle european, germanic or eastern european descent.
Since the receiving hospital was also a teaching hospital, those chosen to be admitted into that hospital received by far the best treatment and had the highest chance of a quick recovery. Inevitably those chosen to be admitted to the wards in the teaching hospital were from the “interesting group.” And, there was my problem. The quality of treatment was being apportioned, whether intentional or not, on racial, ethnic and other cultural grounds. The poor latinos often manifested their problems through visions of Christ standing at the foot of their bed. With Jesus in the room they rarely had interest in anything else and thus were sent to the state hospitals to be left mostly alone with their savior until he decided he, like the psychiatrists, had more rewarding things to do elsewhere.
Although it was not within the scope of my duties, I made it my goal to sensitize the medical administrative personnel the importance of exposing their students to the full range of pathologies thereby opening the better treatment programs to a broader range of ethnic and social groups. By the time I left the job, I felt satisfied that I had succeeded with this.
Patients in the interesting group were the also ones most likely to object to and request hearings on their incarceration. This prompted me to institute changes in the MHIS operating procedures to encourage more direct communication between MHIS personnel and patients on the wards.
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
Philip Marlowe: Oh, Eddie, you don’t have anybody watching me, do you? Tailing me in a gray Plymouth coupe, maybe?
Eddie Mars: No, why should I?
Philip Marlowe: Well, I can’t imagine, unless you’re worried about where I am all the time.
Eddie Mars: I don’t like you that well.
We arrived at IHOP about 10 minutes late. Martin Vihn had not yet arrived. I took a seat at a booth against the back wall and sat down facing the entrance. Joe slipped into the seat opposite me. A window was on my left through which I watched a man assemble a sidewalk stand. The waitress brought the menus. Joe got right down to studying it. I watched the man struggle with some pipes that held up an awning over his stand while I thought about my upcoming meeting with Vihn. My usual bouts with fear and uncertainty slithered through my mind like minks in heat. The worst part was wondering about what people, like Mavis or Fat Al would say if I was wrong and died. I imagined something like, “What on earth possessed him to take such a risk.” Last night I thought I had good and compelling reasons, but now I realized they were mere rationalizations for whatever was so deeply imbedded in my psyche that impelled me to act as I did.
Nothing new in that, I have become convinced most of the reasons we tell ourselves that we need to do something have little to do with why we do whatever it is we end up doing. They are merely a handy thing, whenever we are successful, to tell ourselves and others. You know, “I knew what I was doing all along.”
Joe brought me out of my musings. “I’m having the Belgian waffles. What about you?”
“I’ll probably have the blueberry short stack and fried eggs. For some reason I always get the same thing when I come here.”
Martin Vihn entered the restaurant followed by two of the young men I had seen before. One was dressed like Joe in tee-shirt and windbreaker. The other had on a dark hoodie. Martin had on a dark blue jacket over a white button down shirt and jeans. He came over to our table.
“Sorry I’m late. Traffic and parking”
Joe slid out from his seat. Said, “I’ll sit with Vinnie and Chang.” He walked over to the table where the other two young men who accompanied Vihn sat. Vu’s arrival prompted a lot of laughing and fist bumping.
Martin nodded to him and sat in the seat Joe vacated. The waitress arrived and we ordered. She then went over to the table where Joe and the others sat.
“Any word from the police on the cause of Clarence’s death?”, he asked.
“The autopsy scheduled for later this morning. The cops are being close-mouthed.”
“How do you think he died?”
“I’m not paid to guess.”
Martin rarely raises his voice but his anger blazed out of his eyes like campfire embers poked with a stick. “I’m paying you and if it is your opinion I want than then it is your opinion I’ll get.”
“He could have been walking along the shore reciting poetry tripped and fallen into the bay and drowned. I doubt whether it makes much or a difference to anyone how he died, even to the murderer, if he was murdered.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I can’t see you shipping drugs or anything else illegal this way. By reputation, you’ve been able to bring thing like that into the States with no problems in the past. There’s too many better ways. Dropping packages into the water offshore at night, trans-shipping through Alaska. Even if you were to do something like this, certainly not through the Port of Oakland. There are other less watched small ports like Eureka and Redwood City. So, I can’t figure you for something like a dope deal in this case. So, I ask myself, although he is such a prick I am sure a lot of people would like him dead, why would anyone involved in this case kill Clarence? Then there is the hiring of me. It can’t be all that important to hire a second rate shamus like me.” I stopped there and stared at him.
Martin’s silence lasted a long time as he stared at me. Our orders arrived before he answered and we began eating. After swallowing his first bite, Martin sat back and said:
“Look, whatever you think I may also be mixed up in, I am also a legitimate business man. I invested in a business to import into America furniture made in south east asia. Now the man who talked me into the investment and was supposed to manage the business is gone along with he merchandise.”
“But even so, two containers of furniture could not have been valuable enough for all your interest, not to mention knocking off Reilly if in fact he was killed.”
“You figured it out already. You’re cheap. I only spent $1000 dollars so far.”
“What about Joe?”
Vihn looked down at the table for a while. “He’s my brother’s son. I care about him. He refuses to go to college and is too interested in the wrong part of the family business. I thought following you around a while would help to get him interested in something else. That was a spur of the moment thing, I’m afraid.
“So you hired me as a babysitter?”
“A thousand dollars a month is pretty cheap for baby sitting these days,”
he said with a smile.
We ate our breakfasts in silence. Over coffee I assured him, I will try to find out how Reilly died and what happened to the furniture.
I then asked, “What’s Lilly’s role in this?”
“She’s my lawyer.”
“It’s none of your business.”
I smiled, got up, collected Joe and left Vihn to pay the check.
On the way back to the car, I called Mavis. Told her that I would come by that afternoon and that we were going to attend Reilly’s wake.
For some reason the thought of Mavis, death and my current role got me ruminating about God and humor, God’s humor to be precise.
Humans are a fascinating species. I am convinced God created us because he or she (I refuse to take sides on the issue of God’s gender — although the Good Humor Man of my youth was always male) found presiding over the rest of the universe dreadfully dull and craved some amusement. While growing up I always thought that God was the Good Humor man. Every afternoon the Good Humor man rang his bells in front of my house. The sound of those bells filled me with hope. Would your God do as much for you?
I was pulled from my reveries by Joe shouting “Boss, boss!’
I stared at him as the world around me came into focus.
“Is there something wrong? You were talking on the phone and then you just stopped staring off at nothing. Are you OK? You thinking about the case? ”
“Yeah. I’m OK. Rule whatever number… in private investigations there are no cases only assignments. And your current assignment is to find us some ice cream and drive me to Crissy Field.”
A. Biblical Family Values:
“Look, I have two daughters, virgins both of them. Let me bring them out to you and you could do what you like with them. But do nothing to these men because they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
11. Genesis 19:8
B. Testosterone Chronicles:
Pill v Condom
The pill is almost exclusively a birth control device. A condom is primarily protection against STD. It also protects against conception.
The Pill is used by women to prevent unwanted conception freeing them to enjoy other aspects of their life. A condom allows a man to resist STD and avoid the bother of child support payments.
The Pill liberates women. Condoms do the same for men.
Condoms are sold over the counter in almost every drugstore in America. Women need a doctor’s prescription to buy the Pill.
Certain Republican and conservative legislators have proposed legislation making it more difficult for woman to learn about and to purchase the Pill. There has been no legislation proposed that I know of that requires a man to get a prescription to buy a condom or that prohibits anyone from teaching him how to put on a rubber.
C. What Shakespeare should have written:
“The quality of mercy isn’t worth as much as it used to.”
Banks always win.
The mere hint that the US Federal Reserve may at some unknown time in the future take actions that may cause a minuscule rise in the interest rates on US federal debt, caused equities markets around the world to crash as investors removed their money for possible reinvestment in the US treasury paper. As a result the exchange rates on many countries plunged in relation to the dollar.
In Thailand the exchange rate increased from 28 baht to the dollar to about 32 to the dollar (almost 10%) putting pressure on the liquidity of the Thai banks. The banks were unperturbed. In retaliation or in order to maintain the lifestyles of its managers, they reduced the amount of money that can be withdrawn at an ATM using an American issued credit or debit card from about $700 per transaction to $350 per transaction and increased the fee for the transaction from $5 per transaction to $6. Thus increasing their fee revenue for a $700 transaction almost 150%.
Of course my more conservative ex-pat friends probably will blame it all on Obama because I surmise they believe Banks being the private guardians of capitalism and free enterprise (their free exercise not yours) can be trusted to voluntarily act in the public interest when not subject to government interference especially when that government is run by a black, non-citizen socialist.
They have a point, not about black, non citizen, socialists but about government interference in this case. If the Bush administration had just let all the banks fail in 2008 and plunge the world into a depression rivaling the crash of 1929, the banks would have gone out of business and much of the financial industry splattered on the cement of Wall Street, leaving the rest of us free to try to figure out how to get most of us back to work and not worry about whether some bankers kid can afford the tuition at Amherst.
Yes, the black, non citizen, socialist ultimately went along with it. Proving thereby not only is he a true American political leader, and ardent Capitalist but a Democrat as well. Alas, he is only half-black.
“I read an article once that said that when women have a conversation, they’re communicating on five levels. They follow the conversation that they’re actually having, the conversation that is specifically being avoided, the tone being applied to the overt conversation, the buried conversation that is being covered only in subtext, and finally the other person’s body language. That is, on many levels, astounding to me. I mean, that’s like having a freaking superpower. When I, and most other people with a Y chromosome, have a conversation, we’re having a conversation.”
Butcher, Jim (2012-11-27). Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files (pp. 346-347).
Harley Haystack Hayden (H’s new self chosen name) at the health club pool.
- Announcing the 2013 World Fantasy Award Winners (tor.com)
- Thousands of Protesters March in Bangkok Against Amnesty Bill (voanews.com)
- Carlos Ruiz Zafón on Translation (adiscounttickettoeverywhere.wordpress.com)
- The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (myintrovertedreality.wordpress.com)