Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Yes, I know that America is a great place, I love the Constitution like St. Teresa loved the lord, and I served this great nation in bad times in the U.S.Navy and in good times in the Peace Corps, so forgive me in the post below when I say that America is not perfect, because it's not.

Protecting the Temple

Not all Thai women are pretty, but they all know how to work hard.

Louis Farrakhan Was Malcolm X in Drag

I just got done reading way too many comments on Huffington Post responding to the Rev. Wright vs. Obama talk-off over the weekend. The above statement is the only one I didn’t find.

I did see every other kind of half-baked, naïve bullshit imaginable. Nothing was even remotely worth repeating or commenting on.

Every gapping asshole in the country has a stupid gig-name and people obviously have way too much time on their hands, which they’d be better off spending at the library reading actual books instead of concentrating for their education on the internet comments of other idiots.

I’m afraid that I may want to run for office someday so I’ll put the kibosh on that right now, because it would be a really bad idea. I read Muhammad Speaks for years, that’s right, you heard me, and I liked it. And not just while that nice man Wallace Muhammad was in charge; I read it regularly when his dad Elijah “Death to the White Devils” Muhammad was the head man too, and even Mr. Farrakhan, although there was less to agree with by then. I paid full price and I actually read it, and I agreed with a lot of what I read, and not just the recipes for bean pies.

A setting forth of all of the things that would prevent me from ever getting elected to anything would take up way too much space.

They, Rev. Wright, and Malcolm, bless his memory, and for that matter Mr. Farrakhan, have said many things that I wholeheartedly agree with. We share a view that the United States is not perfect, and it’s not, haven’t you been paying attention? Baby Huey in a Glass Menagerie is more like it.

You wait and see. We’re going to end up with President McCain because, after all, Hillary “cries at the drop of a hat and lies about being shot at,” and Obama “is insensitive to poor people(!) and cozies up to terrorists.” So we get McCain, unliked by every group he was ever forced upon, from grade school to the Senate, and especially in the Navy; a mediocre ground-attack pilot whose skylarking caused serious problems for his shipmates; and a POW collaborator who got scads of medals for his trouble because his dad was a big shot.

God help me, it’s enough to make you puke blood.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Where is Tony Hoagland's Bio?

I’ve been reading poetry on the net and looking for bio’s of some guys I like. I love Tony Hoagland’s stuff, so I looked for a bio. All I found was these Curriculum Vitae things like, what awards did he get, how many grants, what has he published, where does he teach poetry to idiots to make a living, etc.

But I want to know: was he a good student? when he was a boy, could he fight? could he hit the long ball? how many times has he been divorced? ever been arrested? what kind of car does he drive? has he visited Uzbekistan? Romania? has he gone around the world on a tramp steamer? was he a passenger or a member of the crew? is he afraid to fly? does he own guns? can he hold his liquor? what’s his favorite TV show of all time? any artificial limbs?

I’m not being nosy, he’s a public person, he’s all over the net, sells books, gives seminars. I just want to know.

I Wai the Help

This is Khun Amara, she's building cleaning staff for half of our floor. In Thailand it's not considered good form to show too much respect for the help, after all, they are low status people and especially in the university environment lots of us are very high status.
So I have learned, whenever there are people around I just say to Amara, "sawat'dee, c'ap" and smile; but if I'm alone when she comes in I give her a wai. I told her, I'm American and I respect you for the work that you do. We are both people with jobs and families, we both deserve respect.
Do people in America really feel like that or is it just me? Or was it just when I was younger? Now money seems to talk, and bullshit sure walks.


Thanks to all my new readers, announced and unannounced; hello and a big thanks for reading to a few long standing friends who are reading now, I don't call anybody an "old friend" any more; and a shout out to the young lady in Nevada who is so generous in her comments; thank you all.

And Yet People Eat Them

I was sitting on my “veranda,” it sounds so grand when I say “veranda,” and in the neighborhood below I heard a loud speaker truck. I thought it was probably an election routine. I noticed that the repeating word sounded a lot like “durian,” the incredibly disagreeable fruit that is unaccountably so popular here. Then I saw the truck, a real nice covered bed pick up, new looking, and sure enough, it was full of durian.

This thing smells so bad and so strong that it is not allowed on public transportation here and most hotels have signs that forbid “dogs or durian.”

But people like them. It’s like eating butter, it’s so rich. It’s like a super-concentrated banana flavor. Too much can kill you. I didn’t believe it either, look it up.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Athiests in Foxholes

Here's a poor guy putting in on the line in Iraq and getting shit for his religious beliefs.

He doesn't believe in god, what nerve! It's unamerican!

Here's how it went, "It eventually came out in Iraq in 2007, when he was in a firefight. Hall was a gunner on a Humvee, which took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.

"I said, 'No, but I believe in Plexiglas,' " Hall said. "I've never believed I was going to a happy place. You get one life. When I die, I'm worm food."

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall's allegations."

Real enemy-of-the-state stuff, eh?

When I got to Navy boot camp they asked us our religions for our dog-tags. I told the guy, oh, just put "no preference." He told me that everybody in boot-camp had a religion, including me, now what is it. I considered it and offered, "Buddhist," which at the time actually was a flippant answer, now not so much so. He responded, "that's not one of the choices, it's either Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. I'm putting you down as a protestant, you're protesting something."

Almost a Good Thai Greeting

Up in my little northern town I was taken to the big-time temple for a good luck ceremony. I sat it out in the back, it was too Thai for me, everyone had to wrap string around their heads from this vast trellises of string, it was all one piece.

The old uncle came back and sat with me, he doesn’t do too good on the floor anymore. We were chatting.

Two monks came over and he waived them to sit down, he’s old so he can do that. One monk was very old. I had been told some time ago how to greet monks, it’s not the usual “sawat’dee, c’ap.”

So I gave them my best “sa’doo, c’ap pom,” all proud of myself. I talked to the younger monk a little, it went good, he just asked the usual basic questions. I excused my self and quickly returned with ice water for both of them, show a little class.

Later I found out that “sa’doo” isn’t so much a greeting as a “hail, oh great one” kind of thing. Except that I said it without the tones. Each of the two syllables has a definite tone to it; without the tones it means “evil.” This kind of thing happens a lot.

New Novel Teaser: April Fragment

“What time is it?”

Johnny ignored the question, wondering where Marie was. “Hey! Marie!”

Marie was in the basement doing laundry. JJ was down there with her, he was playing on a blanket on the floor, playing with some colorful rings. Marie heard him, and said under her breath, “if you think I’m gonna start screamin’ back n’ forth, you’re fuckin’ insane.”

Johnny listened for a reply, and in doing so he noticed that the washing machine was running. “I’ll be right back,” he said heading over to the stairs.

Bobby took a bite of his sandwich, put it down, and picked up the TV Guide. As he was reading, he heard what sounded like a large explosion a couple of blocks away, followed by silence. He kept his ears peeled, curious about the sound, and before long he could just make out some chain noise in the back of the house, echoing in the narrow alley. Must be Claude, he figured, correctly. Those bikes are even noisy with the motor off.

Claude entered through the basement. “Hey, boys and girls!” He was in a good mood. Marie looked over and said, “what’s with the bike,” suspiciously, “thinkin’ about other people for a change?” She knew he’d come on the bike from the way he was dressed. Claude was momentarily confused.

“Oh! the bike,” he smiled, “I killed the motor around the corner,” seriously now, “Marie, you know I always do what you tell me.” He sat on the floor and greeted JJ, who offered him a red ring with a smile.

“Yeah, like hell you do,” Marie was smiling now too, but she said sternly, “when was the last time you washed them hands?” Claude pretended to take a bite of the ring, then handed it back to JJ, who seemed amused and gratified. “Jeez, Marie,” now he was going to lecture a real mother, “babies eat fuckin’ dirt, it don’t kill ‘em!”

“Well, mine don’t,” she gently took the red ring from JJ, “where’s the Lysol?”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why Am I Here?

Why am I here? Among other things, teaching here is fun stuff;

The girls are pretty;

And Poland is too cold.Add Video

Mr. Fred Goes All Jesse James on a Bangkok Taxi Driver

I went to a funeral tonight, it was uneventful, a quiet affair, the Hot and Sour Fish Stomach Soup was very good. It was far from home; it’s Friday; it’s raining; I left about 9:00 p.m. Friends said, come on! we’ll give you a ride to the Victory Monument, you can get a cab there. I was dubious, but sure, I’ll go along, I smiled.

The Victory Monument turns out to be the single hardest place in Bangkok to get a cab, and with the rain it was murder. So I walked way up in the direction that cabs were coming from, almost all with the “sorry! working!” lights on, and stood in the rain.

One guy, then two, gave me the old, “I don’t go to Brooklyn” routine. The second guy I offered Baht 100 over the meter ($2.50), he sat there thinking, like he was working a quadratic equation in his head, I said, “too long.” and got out. I was pretty heated up by now.

The third guy that stopped, I just climbed in a shut the door. I sat down like I had roots. Bear in mind, my Thai is not that good, I can’t say what I want to say, I have to figure out something that I can say that fits. Here’s how it went:

“I’m going to Bangkapi.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

“Well, I think we’re going to Bangkapi.”

“Please, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

“I’ll give you B50 over the meter, let’s go.”

“You don’t understand, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

Now I’m angry, I’m thinking, does he want me to check into a hotel? Or sleep in a kiosk? I’m pretty temperamental. By now I don’t care if I get stomped or go to jail. I know it’s crazy.

“We’re going to Bangkapi, or you can call the police.”

“I don’t have a phone.” The only such person in Thailand, if it was true.

“Then I guess you can’t call the police. Let’s go.”

“I can’t.”

“Stop playing, drive the car, we’re going to Bangkapi.”

“No, please.”

“If you don’t want to drive taxis, don’t drive taxis.” I stretched out on the seat and closed my eyes. “I’m going to sleep.”


I ignored him, so he started off. He bitched at me for about ten minutes and waved two hundred Baht bills in my face, I don’t know what he was talking about, I was looking out the window. It was just starting to dawn on me that he’s a local and he undoubtedly knows somewhere that he can pull over and tell his friends, “get rid of this guy for me.” Plus, I’m deciding that if Police get involved, be sure to just smile and tell them in English, “I’m sorry, I can’t speak Thai. I am a teacher at Ramkamhaeng University.” He was breathing hard the whole way and clearing his throat, I’m sure he wanted to kill me.

Usually the ride would take a half an hour and cost between 85 and 100 Baht; sure enough tonight it took forty minutes and the meter was 95 Baht. I didn’t want to push my luck so I had him drop me at a convenient (for him) corner a few blocks away from my place. Right before we got there he stopped the car in the middle of a completely quiet, empty block and got out of the car. Oh, Christ, I thought, he’s going to drag me out and kick me a few times. I prepared to give him all the money in my wallet and see if I could get out of the beating. He just took a leak and got back in.

I gave him B180 and said, excuse me, thanks for the ride. He was delighted with the result, double the fare, he smiled ear to ear, I’m sure he thought I’d hand him B95 and tell him to shove it, like a Thai man would.

This kind of courting disaster seems to happen about once a year to me in Thailand. Ask me sometime about the Godzilla movie, when I came real close to crumpling up a B100 bill, which has a picture of the King on it, which disrespecting it in any way can really get you fucked up in this country, and I had contraband in my pocket besides.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thanks and a Poem

Thanks for the comments, I really appreciate it.

Thanks even for the slap. Whoever you are you hit it right on the head, except maybe the last part.

Here's a poem for any other semi-old, slightly bitter College Pointers out there:

Ordinary Reality

Did anyone think of us?
Certainly we hoped not,
Better to go on with one’s business unobserved.
Did anyone love us?
Certainly it seemed vaguely possible only
To the lucky ones,
And the rest of us had given up.
The next bottle of Colt, the next Kent, a stolen Modern Man,
Life’s simple pleasures delighted us,
And we endured ordinary reality,
Most begrudgingly,
Mostly angrily,
Hating ourselves and each other,
And hating especially the happy ones among us, the unconfused,
There were some,
I remember them,
With longing.

Annoying Thailand

Thai people, like Germans, are people of definite opinions. Here's one that twists things right up off of me.

At my university, they do not recognize that my JD is a "Doctor of Laws" degree even though it says so right on it and the ABA thinks so and even MD's in America admit it, although grudgingly.

In Thailand a BA in law is sufficient, you just go become a lawyer. So the Ph.D's around here tell me blandly, "oh, your degree is like a second BA."

Oh? And what other degrees from America don't you recognize? How about Doctor of Optometry? Over here a high school graduate uses a little box of lenses to check you for glasses right at the store, he learned how when he got the job, in half and hour.

I must remember though, I'm not much better at adjusting to reality than Thai's are. If I were, I could have made more money all these years.

Thai Women

Just a couple of teacher buddies of mine. As you can see from their expressions, my kung fu is strong in this country.
The lady on the left, incidentally, is one of the best dressed people I know.

Dangerous Products: Thailand

What Thai plumbing taketh away, Thai cleaning products can giveth back.

Every now and then one of my love offerings to the sewer gods refuses to pass gently into that dark night. When this happens, I simply let the toilet settle down and put in a generous splash of BATHROOM DUCK cleaner. This is a really dangerous product; in America it would be sold only to professionals and would come packaged in a heavy plastic outer wrapper with warnings that would fill a phone book. Here, of course, they just sell it in the 7-11 with a pretty cartoon on the label.

This Duck is almost ten percent hydrochloric acid, by volume, with another two percent sulphuric acid just to be on the “safe” side. Within an hour there’s nothing in that bowl that would offer any resistance to any plumbing in the world.

You must be very careful of the products in this country, no one seems to care how dangerous they may be, but they sure can come in handy sometimes.

Red Lightning in Bangkok

Only saw it once, but it was clear as day. I was sitting on my veranda idly watching sky flashes and bolts and I saw a totally red one, thicker than the usual too, almost straight up and down.

An issue of first impression.

I think it was "ground to cloud" lightning, I saw that on the Weather Channel. It just blasts straight up or so right through the storm to great altitutes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


We had a good little storm last night. Earlier I had noticed some lightning to the northeast, mostly cloud to cloud, fun to watch, it brought out the shapes.

It really hit about an hour after I went to bed. The brass bells on my veranda started ringing, the lightning was right on top of me, the wind got pretty furious, moaning through everybody’s open, louvered windows and all up and down the halls and stairwells, some of the sounds were quite remarkable, like the whole building was giant organ pipes.

I was kind of enjoying it all, then I was sure that I smelled smoke, boy did my nose open, my ears shot up. The smell was real, but I finally decided that it was ozone, I remember the smell from the subway, and model trains.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Movie Review: DINOCROC

Charles Napier, a Roger Corman super-regular, always does a great job, for about forty years now. I’m no hair critic, but; if that’s a piece, it’s a damn good one; if it’s plugs, the doctor was an artist; if it’s his hair, god bless him; either way it’s not the most natural hairline. Whatever it is, I wish I had it.

I love this movie. First time I saw it was on a bus, kind of a short ride for Thailand, three-and-a-half hours. It was in Thai, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen it in English. No matter, you know what’s going on in a movie like this. It was a good ride. I had a ham and cheese sandwich too, home made, toasted.

Matt Berlenghi is a favorite of mine, he’s so sincere. You may call it a bad Bogart imitation but it gets to me every time. I remember him from “All My Children,” Brian something-or-other I think, who was his girlfriend? Beth, somehow, she was the daughter of Mark, Erica’s brother. I’m pretty sure.

I think the guy’s really likeable, and he’s a hard worker, that’s for sure, no sleepwalking “where’s-my-check” MF, that’s for sure. I like the guy. He’s great in “Dinocroc.” I ran into him at Kinko’s one time, I overheard him on the phone with his agent about a TV project. Usually I leave movie people alone, they don’t need my validation, but I’m a fan so I went over. “Glad you’re working, man! I love all your stuff; you were great in Dinocroc; I remember you from All My Children.” He was very gracious; I was as happy as a little girl.

Great music, I’d hire that guy in a minute; great false ending; one of the greatest monster denouement in film history, from the heart and way up close and personal; teaser end-credits, no surprise there.

Anybody with $100 million can make a great special effects movie; just try it with about two percent of that. These people did, and they succeeded all the way.

Four stars out of five, and only one is for effort.

College Point

I was about ten when Bobby McDermott and I had this conversation with two phone company workers who were doing an emergency job near the monument on College Place.

Worker: So, this is nice here, I never been here before.

Me: Yeah, it’s ok.

Worker: So, it’s part of Flushing, ‘eh?

Me: No, it’s College Point.

Worker: Yeah, but that’s a neighborhood in Flushing, right?

Me: No, this is a neighborhood in College Point, this here. (Indicates with arms)

Bobby: Yeah, and Flushing’s over there. (Points)

Worker: But no one knows College Point, just Flushing.

Me: Well, you know about it now.

Bobby: Yeah, and we live here.

Worker: But on the map it’s Flushing, it’s all one color.

Me: New York State is all one color too, but this is still College Point.

No wonder we lost faith in adults. Anybody in town could have told him, this is College Point, there’s no debate about it, and if you don’t like it, I got your debate right here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mediocre Ground Attack Pilot: Part Two

Oy! Does it twist my tits when dramatically non-heroic people are elevated to the status of a Manilla Joe Basilone or something. Look up Joe's two Medals of Honor if you want to know what hero's do.

John McCain? What did he do? Besides getting shot down, or almost sinking the Forrestal single handed?

On October 27, 1967, four days after being shot down, McCain called for a North Vietnamese guard. He told the officer, "O.K., I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital." -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain

McCain was taken to Gai Lam military hospital. (U.S. government documents) "Demands for military information were accompanied by threats to terminate my medical treatment if I [McCain] did not cooperate. Eventually, I gave them my ship's name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant." Page 193-194, Faith of My Fathers by John McCain

On Nov. 9, 1967, Hanoi press began quoting the seriously injured McCain giving specific military information.

One report dated read, "To a question of the correspondent, McCain answered: 'My assignment to the Oriskany, I told myself, was due to serious losses in pilots, which were sustained by this aircraft carrier (due to its raids on the North Vietnam territory - VNA) and which necessitated replacements.

"'From 10 to 12 pilots were transferred like me from the Forrestal to the Oriskany.

"'Before I was shot down, we had made several sorties. Altogether, I made about 23 flights over North Vietnam.'"

In that report, McCain was quoted describing the number of aircraft in his flight, information about rescue ships, and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Veteran Dispatch acquired a declassified Department of Defense (DOD) transcript of an interview prominent French television reporter Francois Chalais had with McCain.

Chalais told of his private interview with POW McCain in a series titled Life in Hanoi, which was aired in Europe. In the series, Chalais said his meeting with McCain was "a meeting which will leave its mark on my life."

"My meeting with John Sidney McCain was certainly one of those meetings which will affect me most profoundly for the rest of my life. I had asked the North Vietnamese authorities to allow me to personally interrogate an American prisoner. They authorized me to do so.

"When night fell, they took me---without any precautions or mystery--to a hospital near the Gia Lam airport reserved for the military. (passage omitted) The officer who receives me begins: I ask you not to ask any questions of political nature. If this man replies in a way unfavorable to us, they will not hesitate to speak of 'brainwashing' and conclude that we threatened him.

"'This John Sidney McCain is not an ordinary prisoner. His father is none other than Admiral Edmond John McCain, commander in chief of U.S. naval forces in Europe. (passage omitted)'"

". . . Many visitors came to talk to me [John McCain]. Not all of it was for interrogation. Once a famous North Vietnamese writer-an old man with a Ho Chi Minh beard-came to my room, wanting to know all about Ernest Hemingway . . . Others came to find out about life in the United States.

"They figured because my father had such high military rank that I was of the royalty or governing circle . . . One of the men who came to see me, whose picture I recognized later, was Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the hero of Dienbienphu." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain

You can look over here to see how the Vietnamese themselves remember his time with them, "like military royalty" because of his father.


You never know who's out there, reading. Writing like this is a little like doing radio: you broadcast, you enable countless people, maybe nobody receives, maybe somebody.

Is that you? IN 1-4807? I've been missing you. I recently noticed that S's Ph.D came through, congrats! big time!

Is this thing on? Give me an e-mail, please.

Pix of Buses

This is the only one I could find. (See post below.)
This one runs from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai, twenty-five minutes by plane; eight hours by bus. The mountains up there have grades on the order of thirty, thirty-five percent. If the driver ran this on off the road it would get hung up in some trees on a mountainside like the kids in Jurassic Park.

Behavior Modification

Maybe those last minute Songkran buses aren’t such a good idea after all.

My neighbor and friend Joke is a student from Payao, a little northern town. He traveled by bus to and from home for Songkran. On the way back, the bus crashed, eight people were killed, Joke is fine, young people bounce.

I wondered out loud, boy, those roads in the mountains are tough, narrow, no shoulders, all those motorcycles going slow, trucks crawling up the hills, everybody passing everybody all the time. No, it wasn’t that.

The driver fell asleep. Out in the flats, divided highway, great surface, little traffic, he just ran it off the road at high speed and rolled it a few times, that's some picture, a loaded Volvo high-boy tour bus doing endo's in a rice field.

Note: next year, take the train, buy tickets three months in advance.

That Was the Year That Was

1968 just keeps getting more interesting, as in "the curse of interesting times." February 8th is the day I got out of the Navy.

Just to recap: Tet Offensive in Vietnam; Martin Luther King shot dead; riots like it was going out of style; Chicago convention riots; Robert Kennedy shot dead; Bob Kretschmann shot in the head . . . what am I forgetting?

Plus this one, which frankly escaped me:

"Orangeburg, S.C., three young African-American men were killed for protesting against that town’s segregated bowling alley.

It was Feb. 8, 1968, months before the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. It was more than two years before the massacre of students at Kent State University in Ohio. Students at South Carolina State University were protesting for access to the town’s only bowling alley. Cleveland Sellers, a student at the time at that historically black college, was also a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and an organizer of the protests. In a recent interview, he said about that night 40 years ago:

“It was a cold night ... this was the fourth day of activities around the effort to desegregate the bowling alley. ... The students had built a bonfire to keep themselves warm and build morale. They were trying to work out some strategy. What should they do next? Should they go back to the bowling alley, where they had been arrested on Tuesday night? Should they go to the City Hall? Should they go to the state Capitol? And they thought that they were in an area that was pretty safe and secure, and they never expected the police to open fire.”

Sellers is now director of the African-American studies program at the University of South Carolina. His memory is vivid: “The darkness turned to light as the police opened fire, nine highway patrolmen and one local police officer firing rifles and shotguns and pistols. It was a shock to many of the students that there was no bullhorns, no whistles, no anything that indicated that this kind of extremely lethal action would be taken on these students.”

Survivor Robert Lee Davis recalled the event in an oral history project conducted by Jack Bass, who was a reporter at the time and now is a professor at the College of Charleston: “It was a barrage of shots ... maybe six or seven seconds. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! Students was hollering, yelling and running. ... I got up to run, and I took one step, and that’s all I could remember. I took that one step. I got hit in the back ... this was when I got paralyzed. Students was trampling over me, because they was afraid.” "

No shit. I was afraid, that there wasn't even anybody shooting at me. That was quite a year.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner, Part 2: The Comment

This morning I was thinking about comments on blogs, and well, it got me thinking:

For generosity of spirit
I’m not known,
But somewhere in my deepest heart
There is a note that can respond
To gentle prodding,
From a respected source,
It takes me by surprise,
And shames me, I’ll admit,
Like this morning,
Idly going through the days news and blogs,
I came across a quote
From the widely respected Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Which suggested that,
If we’d only look,
Into the real situation of,
And the history of our enemy,
The better to understand him or her,
It would be easy thereby
To almost instantly find,
Plenty of facts that in their knowing
Would cause our enmity to fall away,
Like someone who had jumped out of a plane.
Well, I tried it,
And was briefly convinced,
That upon reflection, and with an open heart,
My enemy’s life had certainly been hard,
And the reasons for his generally, casually bad behavior
Were evident to anyone who cared to consider
Where he, in effect, was coming from,
And I thereupon resolved,
After years of cursing the air that he or she breaths
To find, if there is a god, a fatal disease microbe
And deliver it into the lungs of this person,
And cursing the food that he or she eats,
To please, with the will of god, certain to be offered
If he or she knew this person,
Nourish within yourself,
A disagreeable, and, yes, fatal bacterium,
But now, filled with the spirit of fraternity and love,
I resolved to go to the blog of this person,
Of which he or she is inordinately proud,
And quite insufferably pleased with himself or herself,
Which he or she seems to believe
Is the crowning effort, in a lifetime of desperate struggles,
Struggles to get people to agree
That he or she is the biggest hipster of them all,
Struggles that had previously born no fruit, or dead fruit,
I went to the blog,
With the best of intentions, I assure you,
To understand is to vanquish fear and anger
(Said the great man)
I went to the blog and I read a little,
Looking for a suitable place to leave a favorable comment,
And maybe a small, humble, long overdue greeting,
In good cheer,
But I read a little,
And then a little more,
And before long my cheeks grew red,
And my anger rose,
This person is the most condescending little shit imaginable,
So pleased with himself or herself,
So quick to judge others,
So sure that he or she is the god-appointed arbiter
Of all that is hip, or has ever been cool,
Don’t get me wrong,
I don’t have that talent either,
But neither do I profess to,
This unimaginably patronizing person,
Will surely go to hell, and soon too,
The human experience being what it is,
And my advice to Lucifer
Is to immediately block him or her up behind a wall,
Before he or she can contaminate perdition,
The way that he or she has,
For so long now,
Contaminated our own world of beauty,
And, out of the kindness of my heart,
In a spirit of fraternity and love,
I left no comment at all!

April 20, 2008, in a breath (No, it's not David)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: The Validation

I want to get a gun
Because they’re so much fun to shoot,
And to the desert I could go
To pop tin cans, maybe a cactus,
Return later to my home,
To clean the gun, then back into the case it goes,
Without shooting myself,
And feel perhaps, thereby,

It's still National Poetry Month, April, so get out there and support your local poets.

Oh! Those Wonderful Babies!

Here's another little genius.
What goes wrong? Babies get such a wonderful start. The greatest duty of parents is the mitigate the inevitable damage associated with growing up. Even given such great material to work with, most of us fail to some degree.
(Incidentally, this is the woman who made the beautiful shoulder bag (yom) that I got for Kumiko in Mae Hong Son, hill tribe lady, probably Aka.)

Guest Poet: Ogden Nash

Always Marry an April Girl

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true --
I love April, I love you.

It seems that there's a lot to this "birth month personality" after all.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I am very gratified by the comments, and thank you all. One observation, though: no one has anything to say about The Dream of Langston Hughes?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Thai Name

People often ask me, over here that is, what is your Thai name? They mean, "nickname," everybody here has one. I met an appellate court judge, he told me, "you can call me Doo." (I told him I'd stick with "your honor.")

My adopted family in the little northern town has a patriarch of sorts, he's the oldest one left anyway, seventy-five or so. He asked me, and when I didn't have one he went right to work. He asked my friends, his nieces and nephews, questions about me, thought about it, and decided on "Santi." As in Noi Santipap, "Peace Corps." So up there now I'm Lung Santi, "Uncle Peace."

You couldn't make this shit up.

Another Thing I Learned

How could I forget! The greatest lesson of my travel to the little northern town! Or one of them, anyway.

I also stopped in Pisanolok, a mid-sized city about which the less said the better. BUT, I was taken to a place that had, hidden away off the street, unheralded, unsigned, you had to know it was there to find it, even then it would not be easy, a WILD BIRD PARK is what they called it. It was a coincidence; the place was a foundry for bells, gongs and brass Buddha’s, whoever ran it liked birds is my guess. It was about 3,000 square feet of cages connected by paths, with good signage in Thai and English, with full Latin zoological information, and some really, really amazing birds. NOT THE LEAST OF WHICH WAS THE NOK GAO WOW!!!!!!

Technically, it’s a “Common Koel.” Yeah, “Common,” like King Kong is a “Common” monster. Let others be taken with the huge Tucans, the various enormous billed miscellany of bird-dom, with cages labeled, “Stand Back! This Thing is Dangerous!” And I believe it too, some of those things had “bills” that could cut a tram-wire easy. But some of you remember that I have been fascinated with the sound of the Gao Wow since the first day I woke up in Thailand.

I’ll whistle it for you sometime, or add it as a link when I grow up and figure this shit out.

I asked someone long ago, “I like that sound, what kind of bird is that? It sounds big and strong.” They said, “no, it is small.” It’s the Gao Wow bird, like “flip-flops” are “flip-flops” because they go “flip, flop.” No one could tell me what it looked like.

Small bird my ass. If this thing was after you, you’d shit a brick. It’s as big as a California Raven, with a huge, fanning tail, the talons of a hawk, and an evil looking beak, with a serious, bad-ass look in its eye, all Leopard spotted all over and anxious, anxious to kill something, like a cat, or a small dog, like let me out of this cage, M.F., I’ll teach you to gawk at birds.

I’ll whistle it for you some time. When I whistle it in my Los Angeles back-yard all the birds look around like they were terrified all of a sudden, and they’ve never even seen or heard a Gao Wow. This bird is bad.

Picture of the Day

Babies! What a bunch of little know-it-alls.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: The Dream of Langston Hughes

The Dream of Langston Hughes

“It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose . . .”

LH says he had a dream,
was then hid by a wall,
remember, nigger, they’s lots of us,
never had no dream at all.

You had excuses anyways,
Black hands and all of that,
people wanted you to fail,
and stay right where you’s at,
or go backwards if possible,
prison, or worse,
get you nigger ass killed,
get loaded-yourself-to-death
with that stupid needle shit.
What’s my excuse?
Ain’t got one. Pardon me.
White, Middle Class,
the world expects shit from me,
ain’t gon’ to get it neither.

Dream? Shit,
all I ever wanted
was to be left alone,
my only goal,
day by day, I got it too,
be careful what you wish for.
Don’t cry to me about your dream, nigger.
At least you had one.

February 29, 2008 (please read with a generous spirit)

Lessons from a Northern Town

My little northern town; what have I learned:

1. The family has a huge chunk of the wilderness that it has been working for over twenty years. It seems that most of the way-back mountain areas cannot be deeded to anyone, but anyone has the right to go out and stake a claim and work it. It’s thirty kilometers from the city, way past the end of the road, past, in fact, the end of the dirt road. It’s an inhospitable mountainside, they had to cut the road to the home site and terrace the hillside to grow things. They only grow things that are real expensive, and they make great money every year, like GREAT money. The family has five sons, one of whom was elected to get a college degree in plant husbandry. He’s about forty, looks about sixty: nut brown, with the dreamy wall eyes of a drinking man. It’s quite a beautiful place. The house has solar electricity, great water pressure and UBC cable TV, in the living room there’s a pile of car-batteries hooked up in series with some kind of jury-rigged transformer;

2. As if I needed to be reminded, Thai people are as convinced as Germans that they know much better than you what you need and want, and especially know best what you need to do RIGHT NOW. I was off-balance for four days with the sudden meals, trips to the temple, and start-and-stop trips to Shangri-La. I didn’t have a minute to see or even call anyone; the complete loss of control made me dizzy after a while;

3. You CAN buy last minute tickets on the Songkran holiday. Everything is sold out way in advance, like a month, but on Friday night, the biggest travel night of the year, I just went to the bus station at seven o’clock and within a half hour I had a bus ticket, we left at nine. There was a premium of about fifty percent on the ticket, and no amenities, but the bus was fine. The bus station is bedlam at the best of times, and Friday night it was really like from outer-space. I have never, in complete truth, seen such a packed crowd in Thailand, shoulder to shoulder doesn’t really convey the density of it, everybody shuffling along in the wake of those in front, and the buses! There were thousands, parked on every dirt patch for a half mile all around. After enough people had purchased tickets for any particular bus a guy with a plastic thing held aloft would start yelling, “Phrae! Nan!” or something and lead the group to the bus. When it was full, it left; and

4. The evil white dog will leave the house if you pour very hot water on his ass. And fast, too. Mere enticement with chicken bones is no longer effective.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pleasant Dreams!

I’m a good little dreamer.

Where do they come from? The dreams that some of us, the lucky ones, are so effortlessly entertained by every night? What must our remote progenitors have thought of this gift?

On a horse, through a series of neighborhoods that I have seen numerous times over the years in dreams, places meant to be on the way from College Point to Flushing, I traveled, with a guitar slung over my shoulder, my guitar, my Gretsch.

I know these neighborhoods well. I know people who live there, I’ve visited them, hung out, I know where the good pizza is, know about some of the stores, like Hungarian meat markets and like that.

Last night, earlier, in an unrelated dream, I discussed with someone a mutual friend who lived there, I remembered his apartment well, the subjects we talked about there were very . . . serious. I remembered, and related in the new dream conversation, the events of a dream that must have been dreamed five to ten years ago. Clearly.

In Flushing, dream Flushing, not the real thing but consistently the Dream Flushing, I unslung the guitar and did a song, “Bo Diddley,” by Bo Diddley, from the saddle. Then, like that had been the only reason I’d gone there, I turned for home, College Point, threw my left leg around the saddle horn, dropped the reins and let the horse drive me home, softly strumming chords in the key of “G,” G, G7, C, D.

At some point we had to travel through an underground subway station. That’s not redundant in New York, lots of the subway is above, way above ground, elevated in fact. The horse seemed tired, and I wished that I had remembered to bring an apple for him. Then, I was standing next to him and he took off to our left, through a subterranean world of stores and middle-class neighborhoods. I knew where he was going, I’ve been there too, another part of Dream Flushing. His previous owners lived there and he thought he might get a carrot if he could find them.

I went to look for him. One store had a water feature that was bubbling dangerously; I wondered if the horse had drunk from the dark water. I thought I needed help, so I called to my son Oliver, aged about ten. He said, “what?” I asked him to come over, and he answered, “why,” which made me angry, I’m not going to scream long explanations to a child far away. I said nothing, he came anyway. Before long they were both lost, him and the horse.

I had other help, and we found them as the dream wound down.

I was in my most frequently repeating space last night too. A big house, more than four stories, all the same, only the first floor and the top floor are in use, the ones in between are identical: a kitchen and many bedrooms and corridors, all empty and windowless. The top floor is a big room, last night there were some people there and it was finished, sometimes it is incomplete and more or less exposed to the elements, in those instances it is usually raining. The room is full of musical equipment, mostly guitars and amps, always the same amps. Two half stacks, a fifty watt and a hundred watt Marshall; a forty five watt Marshall “Bluesbreaker” two-twelve combo; a Bugner, I think it’s a Bugner, I remember knowing the brand but now I’m not so sure, it was a super-premium fifty watt, pure class “A” two-twelve combo. Last night I was looking for it, it was lost, I told Ann that I thought it was missing, the next thing I knew the room had been rearranged and when I looked again it was there. I was trying to play a Telecaster, a stock butterscotch Telecaster through the Bluesbreaker but it wouldn’t tune, the pegs were screwed up. I remember the dream fifteen years ago in which I first got this equipment, the strangest dream that I’ve ever had, the music store at the top of the Empire State Building.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Adventures in Transportation

I waited too long to buy tickets to come to my little northern town for the holiday, Songkran, Thai New Year, number three, the "Water Holiday." Then somebody told me, just go to the bus station, they put on extra buses.

Mochit is a big, crowded place at the quietest of times, but Friday night it was a cyclonic storm of humanity walking, no, shuffling around in seeming circles amidst sellers of water, food, hats, everything, people standing against walls like drug dealers holding sheaves of makeshift tickets going for about fifty percent more than the usual cost.

And the buses! At all times there are a couple of hundred around to go with the over one hundred bus loading bays; Friday there were thousands. They were everywhere, every bare patch within a half mile of the station. After a group of people had purchases tickets (mine were to "Phrae/Nan"), a guy with a big plastic thing held aloft would start to yell "Phrae/Nan!" and we'd follow him to the dust patch were the bus was.

It took forever to clear the environs of Bangkok, the roads were so crowded, anyone with a pickup truck, and that's a lot of people, had filled theirs up with people going somewhere, maybe for friendship, maybe for profit.

Wowsers! What a scene.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pix for You

This was just one of those happy accidents that show up in your camera sometimes. It's the big, old Chedi in Chiang Mai.

Good Notices

"St Teresa" went over big on, no lie, check it out. In the Action Poetry section, click spot is in the upper right.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Something borrowed:

Written by Turkana

Should Barack Obama win the Democratic nomination, I have no doubt that Republican 527s will have Jeremiah Wright's most inflammatory videos running 24/7 on the nation's television screens. So, I hope you all will bookmark this article, by Lawrence Korb and Ian Moss, which I received in an email, this morning:

In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

And Korb and Moss point out that while this young man was serving in the military, a young man named Dick Cheney used five separate deferments to avoid doing so; and two other young men, named Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, later also used deferments to avoid serving in the active duty military, although I think it's fair to point out that Clinton opposed the Vietnam War, while Bush and Cheney apparently did not.

So, who was this young man who served with such distinction?

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, who has been in the news for comments he made over the last three decades.
You want to talk patriotism?

How many of Wright's detractors, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to name but a few, volunteered for service, and did so under the often tumultuous circumstances of a newly integrated armed forces and a society in the midst of a civil rights struggle? Not many.

While words do count, so do actions.

Yeah- let's talk patriotism.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Travel Pix

This is up around Mae Hong Son a couple of years ago. It's beautiful up there, nice and cool too, relatively speaking. Lots of Burmese, Chinese, all kinds of hill tribes, a real melting pot. Temples Thai, Lao and Burmese style, one with a swell museum. I recommend it, but you must fly. The bus is a tortuous eight hours from Chiang Mai, death by a million turns!

Lives of the Saints: St. Teresa

New Feature: Lives of the Saints (People You Meet in Heaven)

It is not my intention to mock these people, I’m sure they meant well. (Off stage sniggering aside.) I just think a little re-examination is called for, you know, in light of recent developments in psychology:

St. Teresa

By an everyday occurrence
Visited, like a common cold,
Through the remote filter of
Her god illusion, placed she there
An angel, a “man” after all,
A man with darts of love to thrust
Deeply in the Little Flower,
Again! and oh! now, please! again!
In ecstasy she did receive them,
Even told her sisters fair.
And no one questioned St. Teresa,
No one told her, to herself
To keep the details of her wet dream.
Now it’s part of Western Culture,
Like the Treaty of Versailles,
Or Shakespeare’s plays.

Normanology, Part Five

Norman liked roller-coasters. Did I say liked? He loved roller-coasters, beyond loved, he was obsessed. Roller-coasters were a fixation, an addiction, he was compelled to repeat the experience. In winter he’d work two jobs so that he could take the entire “season” off, traveling around the country to ride the biggest, fastest roller-coasters in America, especially the old style wooden roller-coasters.

He wrote reviews, essays and historical pieces for the ‘coaster magazines, he’d been to college, he could write, and yes, there is a vital subculture of roller-coaster fanatics. He didn’t care for modern amusement parks, Disneyland was interesting but not his style. He loved the atmosphere of old school amusement parks, the carnies, the gaudy signage, the weight-guessers, the junk food, the excited laughter of children, and all of the rides, the whole disreputable outsider-ness of it.

He would spend the majority of the day repeatedly riding the roller-coaster, making notes in between, resting in the shade planning the road trip to the next park, the next ‘coaster. I couldn’t understand it myself, and Norman couldn’t understand my aversion to it. To me amusement parks are as though someone had my arm twisted up behind my back and was forcing hilarity on me. For me it was like watching gamblers in Vegas, I could see only sadness; for Norman it was heaven.

It was as though he came alive in the milieu of amusement parks, quite literally, since his typical visage, between his natural aspect and the constant self-sedation, was as one near death, or recently brought back from death. I cannot imagine that there is another like him, nor ever has been, not in the details, and probably not in the sharp contrasts presented by his many facets, some admirable in the extreme and almost saintly, some that society considers unseemly, pathological, illegal, or even disgusting.

Dangerous Factions

I wish I’d written this:

When up a dangerous faction starts,
With wrath and vengeance in their hearts;
By solemn League and Cov'nant bound,
To ruin, slaughter, and confound;
To turn religion to a fable,
And make the government a Babel;
Pervert the law, disgrace the gown,
Corrupt the senate, rob the crown;
To sacrifice [our country’s] glory,
And make her infamous in story:
When such a tempest shook the land,
How could unguarded Virtue stand?

From “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” Jonathan Swift, 1700 something.

Could anyone better describe the desperate plight of today’s politics?

Everything old is new again, and there is nothing new in the wreckers and greed-mongers who these days fill their sleek pelted pockets with booty paid for with the blood of other peoples children.

Some ages in their peril were blessed with such as Dr. Swift, the Dean; others and ours sadly included are left with weak heroes, meager defenses and a general failure of courage to oppose the strong.

Me? No sir, I’ll step not forward, that cup passes from me effortlessly, I have neither the courage nor the skill to fight the power that ruins us.

I have only a limited intellect that serves me well to examine things in shallow fashion and discourse glibly on the same, but I am denied the great wit and lucidity required to fight society’s ills.

I have only the emotion to feel the danger and horror; I lack the wisdom to understand it and the words to describe it.

Step up, anyone?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Internet Conspiracy Theories

I always seems that the net is too slow to bother here in Thailand on Saturday and Sunday. Today is a Monday holiday and it's way slow today too. Could it be that on the weekend every connected computer in Thailand is working on CABAL, Hipstreet, Half-Life, Darkness And Light (sic), and all the other games that young Thais pass their time with? The machine behind me has had one key repeatedly smashed down with terminal force, three or four times per second, for the last ten minutes.

Or, is it because it is peak usage hours in Europe and America?

Anyway, a much bigger problem here is the censorship of the net. The gov is up to about 35,000 sites blocked, a dialog box comes up telling you that this site is blocked because we're trying to protect Thailand from pornography, oh, and incidentally, anything we consider detrimental in any way to Thai culture or politics or that offends anyone important. Lots of Thai hotel reservation sites and travel sites are blocked, go figure that one.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Classic Motorcycles

This little junker could be mighty quick. It's cobbled together around a 125 cc two-stroke motor with a nice expansion chamber, six speed manual gearbox. The tires and brakes look decent. It's a local "Chopper," no unnecessary parts.
On our campus I've seen one really tricked out chopper. It's been stripped to the frame, the frame is mostly showing now, all chromed, minimal white body parts, small, flat seat, aircraft hoses and wires, red-wall tires, it's a gass, and it goes real good too. It's show-ready. A two-stroke, 125 cc, like all the fast cats. It's beautiful. I'll try to get a picture.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Alone, in the Dark

Alone, in the dark,
“In the Heat of the Night,”
The movies, also “Moby Dick,”
“Marnie,” and some Spartans,
300 I think, “Under Ten Flags,”
William Castle, “13 Ghosts,”
“Dr. Sardonicus” was a scream.
Hammer Dracula;
Hammer Frankenstein;
Hammer anything at all.
“Love Me Tender,” “Jailhouse Rock,”
And monsters, any chance I got,
With “The Giant Behemoth,” alone,
With bugs and scorpions and birds, all huge,
And alligators, bodies though of men,
Hideous this and terrible that.
Pacific Titles, made up “Heat of the Night”
I suppose. I saw new cars,
Too far, they thought, to worry.
Alone, in the dark, a comfort to me.
Be careful, oh man,
Take care with your comforts,
Choose wisely,
Or suffer, alone.

Idea to completion, six minutes, March 28, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Catch a Breeze

This is a house in Chiang Mai, over near the university, good view of the mountain. No, it's not a work in progress. That wide open space with the classical statuary is for hanging out.

Ahab Ceely Dead At Fifty-Seven; Sought the White Whale

In the 1930 version of “Moby Dick,” the great John Barrymore played the role of Ahab Ceely, Captain Ahab Ceely, you read that right, I couldn’t believe it either. You can discover the damndest things on the Internet.


The post times listed herein are California/Google time. As I post it is for me 14 hours ahead of the posted time.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Going Home

You can’t go home again, they tell you
Very simply: it’s not there!
It’s gone, just like your long gone childhood,
Common wisdom, if you care.

But I’ve gone home, and I can tell you,
Everything I knew was there,
Every little hurt and gladness,
The same trees, cars; the same air,
The same houses, and the people.
How could it be otherwise?
Nothing yet have I forgotten,
Everything I knew was there.

Normanology, Part Four

We were always in a high state of intoxication. Well, Norman and some others were, I had a family, I spent some time with them straight, some, and we all had jobs where we were mostly straight, at least in the morning. Norman always had the best grass, he’d drive to the ends of Los Angeles to get it and he smoked about an ounce per week. For reference, I was loaded pretty much of the time and it came to a little more than an ounce per month.

Norman also smoked cigarettes, strong ones in red boxes, two packs per day; the smoking was his downfall. Against the constant background of marijuana we partook of acid, ups, downs, speed, minor tranquilizers, mushrooms, and any specialty items that came along. For almost a year, we had an opium connection, $10 per gram, finger-like sticks wrapped in Chinese newspapers. Of course we drank too, carefully, so as not to lose the effects of the drugs, unless of course the object of the exercise was drinking.

We were interested in things and engaged, in our way, with our world, so we avoided Heroin because it took over your entire life and we had things to do, places to go, movies to watch, rock bands to listen to, driving was involved. Of course we liked it, and cocaine too, but cocaine, besides being too expensive and generally of poor quality, cocaine is for horses.

In our milieu, we were stars, and Norman was our Achilles. His chariot was an AMC Pacer, like a fish bowl on wheels, license plate “MANTIS,” Ohio.

Good, Pass or Fail

I proctored tests for five days last week, and you should not be surprised to discover that I found it very interesting. Check it out:

1. At least half of the students hold their pens horribly wrong. Their writing is correspondingly hard to read;

2. There’s a very high incidence of left-handers in Thailand. I had notice this before; in one of my classes of fifty high school seniors there were more than ten. My guess? A lower incidence of forced right-handedness;

3. The wai is losing its universal application. That’s the praying hands, Sawatdee! Namaste in India. Only about half of the girls wai’d the proctor when they handed in the test and left; far less than half the boys. For the test of Psychology 101, almost nobody wai’d the proctor;

4. Calculus II: of the four hundred test takers, only thirty or forty were boys. That’s of the total, not 30%, thirty boys;

5. Introduction to Statistics, a tough test. Calculators were allowed, but not all of the students had them, wow, that’s a disadvantage. Saw a few very sophisticated scientific calculators too, allowed I guess, no one said anything.