Monday, August 27, 2007

A Death in Cloud-Computer-Land

A virus that lacked even the common decency to name itself has washed the hard drive on the computer that I generally use, washed it like Spin and Marty washed a new pair of jeans to break them in. So I'll talk to you soon, my lads and lassies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guest Blogger: Eric Blair

“. . . [N]othing from a meal to a battle ever happens at the appointed time. As a general rule, things happen too late, but just occasionally—just so that you shan’t even be able to depend of their happening late—they happen early.” George Orwell.

In this case, Mr. Orwell, ne Blair, was talking about Spain, (in “Homage to Catalonia”) but he could just as easily have been referring to Thailand. I have expressed exasperation with this phenomenon before; if I can find it on a disk somewhere I’ll put it up.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


No supernova in a distant star field; no new life from the mud of a strange planet. But something is changing, history is being altered. A thousand unborn souls sigh and dissolve. And some of us lose.

The Pool Party/ Rickshaw Drivers' Lovefest

I finally got my benefactor into the swimming pool at the local “luxury” hotel. The pool is really nice and before about four in the afternoon you have it to yourself because Thai people think the sun will make their skin way to dark so that they look like Cambodians or something. She’d never been swimming before, never even in the water, not in a lake, not in the river, nothing. She was scared sh*tless at the prospect, although she mysteriously owned several bathing suits.

I had to trick her. I had tried to get her into the pool several times before but she always found excuses. This day, a Saturday, I asked her, “what must you do today?” The answer was: no housework; no laundry; nowhere to go; no shopping; no nothing. So I said, “let’s go swimming!” In the face of my enthusiasm, plus the fact that I had head her excuses off at the pass, she could only say, timidly, “OK.”

At the pool she took forever to get into a swimsuit, and then fussed around with everything, draping this and that over the chairs and milling around. Her suit had a very modest neck, and I couldn't tell you what the bottom looked like because she wore short pants over the suit.

Finally in the pool, she was completely delighted. “Look at my feet!” she said, marveling at the distortion. Once in the pool, it was hard to get her out.

We had lunch, very nice, but they never expect too much business at this hotel so many menu items are “already done” pretty early. So, no Fried Morning-glory Salad, and no Spicy Duck Curry. The ordering got a little confused; I wanted to order two things but we ended up with four if you count a accidental side order of two fried eggs. A very nice Chicken Curry; Pineapple Fried Rice; and Chicken Fried Rice, plus the eggs. It was too much food but I almost never consider that a problem. It all seemed expensive at the time but it only came to seven dollars or so, so what the hell. It was all delicious. I tipped the server forty Baht and he went away dancing at the generosity of Farang.

But here’s the best part, the part that money can’t buy: I walked the short way to the liquor store next to the hotel to buy some cigarettes and I passed a long row of sam-laws in the parking lot. Those are the local cyclos, rickshaws, you know, the typical Asian bicycle taxis. They are still an integral part of the transportation network in my city. I remembered a couple of the guys from rides home from the bus station; they remembered me too. I drove a taxi for two years in New York and I can tell you, you remember a good tipper forever, like it was yesterday.

So I asked them in Thai if the hotel was receiving Farang today, and where they were from. It was a batch of Frenchmen, and I asked them if Frenchmen gave them any extra money, like a tip. Oh, no, was the response.

On the way back they all wanted to see my purchases, which were cigarettes, vodka, and a can of beer, so they were delighted to find that I was a kindred spirit. I suggested that they tell the Frenchmen, you know, Germans always give us an extra fifty Baht. Oh, no, was the response.

I think it’s all part of the tour package, price included and the company pays the sam-law drivers. And the cheap f*ck tourists don’t know any better than to give a poor working man fifty Baht, like a dollar, to say thanks for peddling my fat ass around you beautiful city. Then they go to the Pizza Company for overpriced bad pizza, that they’ve got money for.

So then one of the guys cranked up the old pedals and pulled out of line and said, get in! I told him, like he’d forgotten or something, I’m going to the pool, like thirty yards away, but he insisted. “I’ll take you!” All of this is in Thai, my snake-snake-fish-fish Thai. I climbed in and he took me around the back of the hotel, I gave him ten Baht and we had a good laugh.

It’s no wonder that I love this country. Here, I’m rich, tall and sexually desirable, even if it’s for dubious reasons, which who cares, basically. I’m a little bit mysterious, because no one can have a serious conversation with me, and I’m actually kind of useful, since competitiveness in the world market demands proficiency in English. Plus, although I have only learned enough Thai to barely get by in a simple conversation, everybody thinks it’s great, and I can validate lots of so-called low status individuals just by paying attention to them and being sympathetic to their rather desperate lives.

Did I mention that the food is great and the women are beautiful?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

About the Author: Part Four

It was so uncomfortable in my house that all I wanted to do was go out. As in, where are you going? Out. What are you going to do? Nothing. Because Allah is merciful, my mother didn’t seem to care how much time I spent running around, or what I did, as long as none of it got back to her.

When I was ten or eleven I smoked a few cigarettes and boy, was my interest piqued. When I was twelve, me and my friend Jackie M. lifted a couple of non-filter, king-sized Chesterfields from his mom. Those things were strong. We went to the park and smoked them. I got such a buzz that I thought, wow, no wonder the adults smoke these things, they really make it. I’m still addicted.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

August 16, 2007

Fifty-nine, approaching sixty.

Hell, in Asia I'm sixty already.

That's almost late-middle-aged,
and there's not a damn thing that I can do about it.

Three-fourths dead, and counting.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I Surrender, Dear

I love the Dash, I really do . . . but.

Just scooting around the countryside it's a total gas, fast and fun, but back and forth from school it's just the wrong tool. Constantly revving the engine to keep it from stalling is ok unless you have to work the front brake at the same time, then it's like prestidigitation. And now, the last straw.

It's always been hard to find neutral, but now there is a budding electrical problem. The current is fading. At night, unless the engine is really revving, you can hardly see the lights. And during the day, unless you are really twisting the wick, the neutral light stays dark.

So, I surrender dear, I'm joining the "old lady bike" generation. Not as much fun, but it'll probably add years to my life.

Friday, August 10, 2007

All About the Author: Part Three

I’m not sure if I discovered Rock and Roll or shoplifting first. Anyway, I became passionate about both. It was right around the time that Elvis went to RCA. I still have my Elvis EP’s in picture covers. I attribute this to poor toilet training.

Around that time I got one of those new “tiny” Japanese transistor radios. It lasted me many happy years. I put it under my pillow at night and listened to Murray the K and, later on, to Cassius Clay fights.

In 1958 my father decided that we, his wife and children, were not working out as he had planned so he began traveling with his job between three and seven days a week.
Over the next ten or twelve years I lifted countless books and magazines from stores all over Queens. If I found a store with a good set up I’d go back time after time. Of course I made purchases too, maybe candy, more often a five cent newspaper with a magazine stuck in the middle. My room ended up looking like the Collier brothers’ apartment. I can’t imagine where my parents thought all of those publications came from. When I was younger I was more daring, and I lifted a wider range of products. I was never caught.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ASPCA vs. Khun Fred

"Oh, pretty tough with dogs, eh?"

Well, yes, not to put too fine a point on it. I am now 33-0-1, and I'll take a rematch with the draw; he was a big dog but he's real old by now.

And that's nothing, you should see me take on cats. Claws, shmaws, I'm ready for anything that weighs less than ten pounds.

About the Author: Part Two

Around that time I was enrolled in St. Fidelis School, becoming acquainted with the nuns of the Dominican Order, to my eternal regret.

I loved television. I had a Winky Dink set; Sky King; Kookla, Fran and Ollie; I watched Howdy Doody and had nightmares for twenty years; The Million Dollar Movie; The Ed Sullivan Show; Andy’s Gang; American Bandstand; Crazy Cat; Victory at Sea; Rocky Jones, Space Ranger; Mighty Mouse; Mickey Mouse Club; professional wrestling; Flash Gordon/Buck Rodgers; the Nat "King" Cole Show; war movies every Sunday afternoon; the Gillette Friday Night Fights (I liked the bleeders, like Gene Fulmer); the Jimmy Durante Show; The Jackie Gleeson Show; Beanie and Cecil; Soupy Sales. I’m still addicted.

Some time in 1954 John Bauer taught me how to curse. It has been my passion ever since.

Around the same time I discovered the entertainment value of fire. It was my favorite toy for six or eight years. I never destroyed anything that I did not set out to destroy, and I never got in trouble for my experiments. No one notice the ever-present burns on my hands.

My record collection grew. A big favorite was, “That’s Amore,” by Dean Martin.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mr. C's Poetry Corner

I heard a pair of rumors the other day, rumors such that if I repeated them here straight out and was discovered I would at least be deported and perhaps even jailed for a time. So I'll resort to poetry. Think of Thailand, and read between the lines.

The Rumors

A rumor may come at home or at work,
True or false you can’t be sure;
But oft’ come falsehoods with the quirk,
A truth within may make it pure.

A rumor may express a hope
For something dearly longed to be;
Or terror mask for what you know,
You hope dear god never to see.

Some rumors bring news of a brute,
Well hated and to soon depart;
While others strangely speak of fruit,
That ripens in some purer heart.

We hope for one but do not dare,
Consider what we could not bear.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Guest Blogger: Peg Leg Lee

Some county want nuke bomb. Want big boom, rocket too. Nuke complicate, too much. Is problem for them. I know, they will get Farang make nuke, get Indian man, very black, do hard work, get Filipino man, do danger work, I’m sure. Want nuke so much, like big sword, big dick, I know. Maybe good business, I don’t know.

A Nice Cup of Herbal Tea

Here's a nice recipe for herbal tea. My doctor buddy tells me that it's good for lowering cholesterol.

1. Take thirty or forty dollars worth of saffron;

2. Put it in a big immersion device;

3. Put it in a good size teapot; and

4. Add boiling water.

It's really quite delicious, hot or cold, no sugar necessary. It's probably easier for me; last weekend I bought a bag of saffron as big as my head for two dollars and fifty cents.

Dead Dog Walking

It was Kaopensa, a really big time Buddhist holy day, the beginning of Buddhist lent, so maybe it was not a good time for me to completely lose my temper and make a sincere effort to murder my benefactor’s dog. Actually I’m not sure you can murder a dog, but this would have been manslaughter anyway because I was provoked. I’m sure you can’t manslaughter a dog, that would just be silly.

This is one of those dogs that constantly attempts to dominate his owner, my benefactor. She is a Buddhist and seems to take it pretty well, live and let live. “Be careful,” she told me, “he is wild.” The dog has a system: he dashes into the house when someone is careless with the gate. His owner’s response to this is to go and get some old chicken parts or something and entice him back out the gate for a snack. I’m pretty sure that this is the principal reason he comes into the house in the first place. She hates him in the house, however, because he makes an ungodly mess; his very name translates to English as “Dirty-Messy.” I thought the whole thing was low comedy until Dirty-Messy made it personal.

One time he did his thing and I stepped in to help get rid of him. I am a dog person, a reasonable man, and you may believe that I prefer to settle all differences of opinion peacefully. I was very gentle. I spoke to him in a friendly manner, gently blocked his way and leaned over to push him in the direction of “out.” He exploded in a fury of white fur and teeth, twisting in the air and snapping his jaws and making an awful racket. He could easily have bitten me, but he did not, and that was his big mistake. I took it as a sign of weakness. I gave him a cursory kick in the ribs and he walked out the door.

Smiling all the while, I brooded something dark and deadly over his display of his teeth to me, as though I were some lesser dog that he could impress with that kind of canine bullsh*t. Been around Buddhists too long, I thought, thinks he’s going to live forever. I am a Christian, though, and we are bloody people, as our history well represents. I resolved that the next time he tried that move I would teach him the power and the majesty of a full grown, 170 pound, angry hominid male.

My chance came soon enough. One rainy day, our little buddy Dirty-Messy sneaked into the house by a neglected back door and oye, vey ist mir did he make a mess. I had the house to myself on this occasion. I ignored him, preferring to arm myself properly before a confrontation. He struck an imperious pose at the top of the stairs, looking quite pleased with himself. With the heaviest motorcycle helmet in the house in my right hand, and a stout bamboo pole in my left, I calmly ascended the stairs. His lack of concern was infuriating.

I gave him the helmet, full in the teeth, and introduced a vocabulary and tone of voice that he had not encountered before. He adopted a fighting pose and pulled his lips back as far as they would go, snarling and displaying his teeth very impressively. I put the pole against his chest and brought the helmet down sharply on his head. He turned to slink away and I gave him another good descending blow to the hips. Still snarling, he hid under a piece of furniture. I poked him with the pole a few times, threatening, among other things, to find and kill his entire family. About an hour later he came sheepishly out from his hiding place and left the house.

One or two lesser episodes and I thought he’d gotten the message: show Fred your teeth and meet the other Fred, the unkind Fred, the Fred who will hurt you, the Fred that even Fred is afraid of. It was great. He didn’t try anything for a few weeks, I gave him bones, I scratched his neck, we were friends.

Well on Kaopensa he came in again, and with three Thai friends around I tried to usher him out in a friendly manner and he stood his ground, bared his teeth and growled menacingly. I just lost it. I growled myself, said bad words, seized a handy helmet and smashed him in the head with it. It was one of those five dollar Thai helmets and it demonstrated its uselessness by breaking. He retreated to a hard to reach spot and I ran to fetch a pole, all I could see was red, I couldn’t wait to bust out one of his eyes. When he heard me coming, banging the pole on the tiles, he ran out the gate and kept going.

My friends were quite shocked. I mumbled something about I can’t let him show me his teeth or something and picked up some things that I had knocked over.

Later I apologized to my benefactor and it turned out that she was just as glad that someone was trying to beat some sense into Dirty-Messy. She told me she was afraid of him. I told her that if he was my dog he’d find himself in doggy-heaven as fast as I could buy the poison and some chop meat.

Everything has levels, deeper meanings not immediately apparent, and Dirty-Messy is no exception. He is simply the affront that I will not tolerate. In Thailand, everyone must maintain a veneer of cheerfulness; everyone must keep negative emotions hidden and always pretend that everything is hunky-dory. This means that everyday, everyone must swallow the full range of annoyances that life presents, annoyances present in Thailand as much as anywhere else. Everything from a casual, wow, you use so much water! (This upon my making a cup of instant at the hot water thermos, just a small cup but I suppose she’d prefer I just took one inch of water.) To someone dragging my locked motorcycle four feet so they could park in the motorcycle spaces. That one had steam coming out of my ears, I was ready to key the side of the car, but if I let on that this stuff disturbs me I do myself a great disservice.

This dog is an affront to my dignity that I can safely acknowledge and act on. When this dog mocks me and threatens me, in my house, it is socially acceptable for me to react in the same spirit that he has introduced into the interaction.

This dog, this unfortunate dog, because I will f*ck him up one of these days, is the embodiment of all of the little indignities that I must smile through and ignore. He is the annoyance where I am permitted to draw the line, he is the last straw, he’s all I can stands ‘cause I can’t stands no more, and when he sets me off he collects the bounty of my frustration. If he keeps threatening me with his teeth they’ll be calling him “Winky,” or “Hoppy,’ before Christmas, and that’s if he’s around to collect his presents at all.

About the Author: Part One

I was born on August 16, 1948; approximately twelve hours after the death of Babe Ruth; the same date on which Robert Johnson had previously died; the same date on which Elvis Presley would subsequently die.

My father’s family was English with a heavy influence of things Irish and my mother’s family was Irish with a heavy influence of things alcoholic.

In 1952 I received my first record player, a very boxy thing, a very Monolith-Monsters-kind-of-thing, that RCA had manufactured to play their new 45 rpm records. My first record was “Thumbelina.” I still own this record.

In January, 1953, my sister was born. Twenty or thirty years later I got to know her and she turned out to be ok.