Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Little Campus

Here's the Law building, one of them, there's two. The guy at the top of the mound is the man himself, Mr. King Ramkhamhaeng, who kicked Burma's ass a couple of times fighting from aboard an elephant and invented the modern Thai alphabet, which I can tell you is much less confusing than the previous one, which looked like a box of tiny rings dumped out onto the table.

Here's our library, which is actually pretty nice. The students can sign up for Nexis/Lexis time without charge. That's in English though, so it's an underutilized resource. The library gets the Bangkok Post every day; any time I read it I'm the first one that day.

Just a little decoration in its own reflecting pool.

You can make you way around most of the campus in the shelter of these, what, shelters? They work just as well for sun protection as rain protection. Very handy, actually.

Monday, May 26, 2008

High Gas Prices

You think you've got trouble? Gas at four dollars a gallon? Over here it's up to five dollars, a little more, and the minimum wage is four dollars a day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vista: Microsoft's Newest Triumph

I'm on a Vista machine and even though it's connected to a LAN line it's slower than frozen shit. It asks me frequently if I wish to proceed with the thing that I have just provided the information for and pressed enter. When I press a key I could take a bite of an apple waiting for the letter to appear. Where is my weapon!

Spinning Uneasy Time

How typical for me, this disinclination to actually do anything. In every situation, I look for the solution that is the nearest thing to doing nothing at all, short term, middle term and long term, nothing, inertial stillness, the body at rest, if sleep is an option it is always my first choice.

My earliest experiences taught me that all situations were fraught with uncertainty and danger, and that it was almost impossible to know the result of any reactive or initiative action. So waiting, in attempted stillness and indifference, always seemed to me to be a good choice.

So finding myself now at the One-Hundred-Corners ultimate crossroads, and looking down every road yielding no information but only dust and haze, I am naturally at a loss as to what action to take. One cannot remain long at the crossroads of this life.

So pilgrim, which way to Canterbury?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A New Teaser from "The Accidental Murderer."

It's a slow news day, so here's some more literary filler.

Paddy didn’t seem to be paying attention, but he was. He also noticed that the guy up the bar had tightened up when Joe walked by, his shoulders had come up and he’d hunched forward a little. After the door closed, he straightened back up, reached for a cigarette, and ordered a shot. Everything in the bar was very quiet and normal.

Outside the bar, Joe and the couple had turned left and gone a short distance to the couple’s car. They said their goodbyes and the couple got in and left. Joe turned back the other way and walked a little further down the block.

At the bar, the man had finished his cigarette and after a little while he said he was leaving, his friend said he’d stay for a while, play some pool. Through the door, he stopped a minute to breathe the night air thinking, this shit has got to stop. He couldn’t think of a way out of it, though. Maybe leave town, but where would he go? How was he supposed to know they’d been told the amount of the money down to the penny?

“Oh, fuck it,” he said under his breath. He turned down the block to where his car was parked.

Paddy gave him about five minutes before he stood up, collected some of his change, said goodbye to his friend and quietly went out the door. He turned to the right and walked a short distance. He came to an ally, narrow, too narrow for a car. There were garbage cans standing near the sidewalk, Joe was in there too. Paddy didn’t really stop, just slowed down a little. Joe gave him a thumbs up, and he kept going until he got to the car of the man who had been a little nervous in the bar, which he opened with a set of keys and climbed into.

Paddy backed up the few car lengths and aimed the trunk of the car into the mouth of the ally. He got out, went around and opened the trunk. “Grab his feet,” Joe said, as he reached down and took the man by the shoulders.

“Is he dead?”

“If he ain’t, he’ll be dead soon.”

They placed the man in the trunk and both climbed into the car. “Pull around the corner here and stop a minute.” Joe took the keys and went to open the trunk. He reached into his right coat pocket and took out a pair of thin, leather gloves, and he reached into his left coat pocket and took out a kitchen sized plastic trash bag and a roll of tape. He pushed up one of the man’s eyelids and in the dim light he saw that the pupil had completed its work here on earth. He gently raised the mans head and placed the bag over it, securing it around the neck with the tape.

“How we lookin’?”

“He’s dead. I bagged him anyway. Head out to JFK.”

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: My Life Is Good

It’s been hot,
I’m cool,
I sleep with the fan,
Today, 95 degrees, Fahrenheit,
Accu-Weather Real Feel, 109,
But I’m down,
I’m comfortable,
It’s not cold, after all.

Each morning,
I offer my little gift to the sewers,
With very little prompting,
Two cups of coffee,
A bowl of Corn Flakes,
And a cigarette.

I feel good,
Almost nothing hurts,
That’s pretty good, at my age,
One shoulder,
A couple of corns on my feet,
I’m aware of my good fortune.

I have plenty to do, a job,
Plenty to read,
Lots of stuff to watch,
Very interesting, some of it,
In languages that I don’t understand,
But the stories are simple,
I make sure of that.

I have ideas,
I write them up,
I’m satisfied with a lot of it,
That’s a real blessing,
Feeling productive,
Maybe some day someone will read some of it.

I’m very lucky,
I have friends,
A family who love me,
All over, all over the place,
Ohio, New York, Italy, California,
Poland, Arizona, Jersey, New Mexico,
Oregon, Holland, maybe,
I think of them all,
They think of me too,
I’m pretty sure.

I sleep very well,
And quite a bit,
Maybe too much,
Age and the anti-depressants, probably,
And I dream, in fact,
I am a champion dreamer,
That’s where I’m happiest,
Even in the nightmares, I know that they’re only dreams,
I feel so blessed,
Not everyone dreams, you know,
So I’m pretty lucky.

April 20, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Requium For A Website

Barry's Temple of Godzilla is no more, "this domain has not been renewed; it is available." It was a very entertaining and informative site with a vast catalog of stills, posters, trailers, and full information and reviews for every Godzilla movie. Barry's Temple will be missed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Boys Were Shooting it Up Last Night

Somebody on my floor got good and sick and tired of something about four a.m. this morning. Four quick shots, pistol shots, and then somebody yells, "Shut The Fuck Up!!!"

I hoped that he wasn't outside my apartment yelling about my snoring.

It was way down the hall though. After the first excitement I heard them arguing, bold, I thought, to argue with a guy with a pistol, especially when he's right, it's four o'clock and you should shut the fuck up.

Farmland in Isan

Everywhere else in Thailand the rice fields are filled with water and shine like a thousand mirrors from the air. This, on the other hand, is Isan.

In the central valley of Thailand there is a vast, flat area that is solid rice fields, one big rice field that goes off in all directions seemingly forever. The soil, when you can see it, is so dark and rich that it’s really any farmer’s wet dream. They get high yields in two rice crops per year.

In the north and the south, the soil is just as good. The weather won’t allow two rice crops, but they get one rice and one of something else, maybe corn, maybe tobacco, maybe garlic or something.

The picture is a rice field in Sisaket, which is way out east in Isan. Isan is a poor place, largely because the soil is bad. Most of it is dry, like this field, a little on the dusty side. In some places the soil is mostly clay, reddish with the consistency, when wet, of modeling clay.

The yields are much lower than other parts of Thailand, and half the time the rain doesn’t cooperate with a second crop. There are poor people everywhere in Thailand, but in Isan it’s noticeably harder to be poor.

People from Isan do most of the grunt work in Bangkok, for about four dollars a day, the minimum wage, and they’re glad to get it. Pretty girls from Isan provide a large percentage of the sex workers too. Poverty is a bitch.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thanks, Your Majesty, But Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

My hotel in Ubon was the Regent Palace, quite the grand name for a slightly down in heel establishment. Look for the good though, I always do: very close there is a Seven-Eleven, an Internet-café, a Pizza Company, and a semi-full-service liquor store. The liquor store was very interesting.
The law here, at the request of the King, who thinks Thais drink too much, is no alcohol sales during certain hours, including two to five pm. Well it was after two but that didn't seem to bother the proprietor. The King, after all, is very far away.

She, the proprietor, had a good selection of vodka, unusual in a small, out of the way liquor store. Everything from too-cheap-to-drink to Absolut. And quite the little selection of wine, too. Nothing too expensive, some from Chile, some Australia, some Italian or Spanish, up to the California’s a some good French wine. Not every wine bottle had a price on it, she wanted to retain some flexibility. I picked up a bottle of French and she said, 390 Baht, me being Farang and all. I turned it around and she was hoisted on her own petard, there was a price on it, 295 Baht. She recovered nicely.

I took a bottle of Starnovich, vodka made in France, the best bargain vodka in Asia in my experience, which is considerable and growing.

The “show windows” were most interesting, all decorated, or littered is more apt, with empty liquor and wine bottles. See Picture.

Are You Awake? We Must Leave Now

I woke up in Sisaket this morning, had set my (telephone) alarm for seven, I don’t teach until one p.m. The last time I traveled I was picket up about eleven o’clock. I needed a couple of things, a disposable razor, shampoo, a pre-paid phone card, a cup of coffee, so I set forth.

Through sheerest serendipity, a three-wheeled-bicycle-taxi was just dropping off at the hotel. “I need to go to a market,” I offered, he gave me a quizzical look. All of the little mini-marts sell pre-paid phone cards, so I ventured, “I need a One-Two-Call card,” and showed him my telephone. “Seven-Eleven, ok.”

He seemed to get that, and we set off after agreeing on a price. I knew that there was a Seven-Eleven not too far away, straight down the road, yesterday I was thinking, I could almost walk here. We rode zigzag through all of the streets of Sisaket and when he came to a (closed) telephone store he pointed and said something, I don’t know what. I was having fun and seeing a lot of the little city so I just smiled. He continued on and stopped at another phone store that was open.

I bought the card and had an enjoyable semi-conversation with two women who were amazed that I could speak even a little, horrible sounding Thai, and then explained to the guy that I still needed to go to a dalat, a market, he shook his head and asked the women what the hell I had just said. They’d gotten it and told him to take me to a Seven-Eleven.

At the Seven-Eleven my phone rang, it was Professor Kamtorn, he’s also here to teach, yesterday we flew in together. “Did you wake up yet?” Sure, I’m in town shopping. “Oh, we must leave now.” I’ll be back in ten minutes or so, he seemed to think that was too long. The last time this happen to me, the bus was in the act of leaving the hotel and I was sleeping.

When I got back I explained that I would need a half-hour to shower, shave and get dressed, “I can get coffee and some breakfast at school.”

“But we must leave now.”

“I’ll catch up with you later,” I smiled.

“But how will you get to school.”

“Maybe they (the staff) can call me a car, or maybe by taxi-motorcycle.” As soon as I would tell them that two hundred Baht was involved, they would be on the phone and someone would show up with a pick-up truck and a big smile, their brother, or boy friend.

Of course when Kamtorn spoke to the driver it was a simple matter for the driver to come back for me at noon. “Thanks, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I am somewhat accustomed to the suddenness with which things happen in Thailand, with the utter disinclination to plan anything or compare notes. But I still don’t like it.

Hotel Review: Ban Kaew, Sisaket, Thailand

I was just in one of the provinces that Thai people think of as small, far away, and poor, Sisaket, I’d never heard of it either until I was sent to teach a class here.

The hotel was a pleasant surprise. The first thing I heard about it was the price, 300 Baht, like $9 for a single. It wasn’t what I had pictured at all. I knew it would be clean, sheets and all, with a TV (all Thai) and air-con. It turned out to be immaculate, with a wonderful hot water shower, a huge bed with a good mattress, a nice new LG TV with cable, two channels in English, a small refrigerator, and lots of electrical outlets that work. The room was a little stark, like an undecorated movie set. (See pic) The whole outside is simply but beautifully landscaped. A strange touch, every single surface, inside and out, was perfectly finished and maintained, like it was Germany or something. I could live here.

I went to the dining room for dinner about seven o’clock. I ordered Tom Yum Gai, a plain omelet, and white rice, I had some vodka in a water bottle, I got a bottle of soda water and some ice, I was all set. As I ate and watched TV, a Thai game show for young children, the contestants that is, I spoke with the help, a few of them were in and out, one or two were watching the show too. It was fun. I was mildly drunk.

As I was finishing my meal, the cook (see pic) came out and she and a younger girl set a table for a meal. I didn’t notice, but they set a place for me. When I got up to leave, they said, hey, Ajan, please sit down. I graciously joined them and we all had a nice conversation about Sisaket, my university, where else I’d been in Thailand, my little northern town. I offered the two guys at the table a blast of the vodka, “lao kao Farang,” (Farang White Whiskey), they and the cook passes a small shot around and smelled it. I don’t think anyone drank it. Many Thai people are afraid of lao kao, which poor farmers make out of sticky rice and which before dilution can be as strong as Everclear, or Moonshine. Drink too much at 180 proof and the hang over lasts a week, unless you die.

The whole meal plus a couple of bottles of club soda and some ice to take back to the room came to three dollars. The warm welcome and the companionship were free. I love this country.

When I checked out, they provided transportation to the bus station, on the back of a fifteen-year-old, two-stroke Honda Nova.

Rainy Season; Airports

The rainy season is here with a vengeance. On the way home from the airport today I was wishing that I had some snacks with me in case I had to sleep in the car.

And this new Suvanabum Airport, oi vey, who made the ground plan? You de-plane in Lop Buri somewhere, down a flight of stairs like in the Fifties, and then stand on a crowded bus going to the terminal. Then walk a mile to the baggage area. There, first the carousel said, Thai Airways, Chiang Rai; then was added Air Asia, Ubon Ratchatani; then it became Air Asia, First Bag, alternating with Thai Airways, Last Bag; then the Thai Airways changed to "open;" another Thai flight was added without a descriptive phrase; then one Thai flight was dropped from the rotation; then the remaining Thai flight became First Bag and the Air Asia switched to Last Bag.

What all that was about is anybody's guess.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the Road Update

I have stories, I have pictures, it'll be another day or two before I can get it all together.

Thanks again for all the comments. I read blogs that are comment-enabled but they never show a comment. I'm luck to have you all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Darkest Secret

I want to share a secret with you. I want to get it off my chest. I have kept this secret for a long time. It involves a powerful man. A man who could crush me, if it was his pleasure. And he is litigious. That shit is expensive.

I had an object, an object that I really liked, it’s gone now, like so many of its kind. A magazine. I have moved too many times, over long distances, boxes get lost, I couldn’t help it, if I had all of them back now I could be the king of e-bay. But I still have a color Xerox of the cover, and I treasure it. It has the original mailing label on it. And therein lies the tale.

In the early seventies I carried the mail all over Jamaica, Queens, from the main office. You may know how it goes, if someone has moved the mail gets forwarded, the first class mail anyway. The junk, and the magazines too, go to the dead letter office. They become waste. So if a good magazine was undeliverable, because someone had moved, I was young, I saw no reason to send it to perdition, I took it for myself, I took it home, and I was quite a packrat, I kept everything.

One such, I only have the color Xerox of the cover now, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, was a copy of the January 17, 1972 Sports Illustrated Magazine, the Swimsuit Edition, one of the first. The theme was “City Life on the Water,” and the cover girl is a meaty old-fashioned cutie with a mod haircut and she has it all going on, just like you’d expect. It’s on the wall of my Bangkok apartment right now.

This would be a dull story, except for one thing. The name on the mailing label. His father was a big time developer in New York. He built lots of apartments on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica. The name on the label is his son, who lived then in one of the apartments. The name is . . . Donald Trump.

Movie Review: Sex Medusa

Sex Medusa (Hong Kong, recent)

Staring Miho Nomoto and Carrie Ng

Kind of a Hong Kong soft core, very soft core horror, very soft horror movie. But the star is displayed on occasion in a first class manner, and she is very worth seeing in all her glory. I have a hunch that the star is Ms. Miho, but I’m not one hundred percent sure. Look it up.

There are some real science-cops in this town, but they only show up at the very beginning and again for one of the star’s dream sequences. So I’m not sure they’re real.

Mostly, a giant snake escapes from the science-cops and turns into a naked woman, who is then discovered by a nerd, whom she moves in with, and kind of falls in love with. She’s a crazy-snake-chick though, looking for love. The nerd isn’t interested, so she settles for just friends and looks elsewhere. She's surprisingly nice to him, but she does eat his chickens whole.

The other female lead is a scientist chick who studies tarantulas. She sets a pair up and watches as the male gets not only fucked, but fucked up. She takes fluid from the killer female. She’s way into fluids.

Crazy-snake-chick looks for another Moose, and settles on a friend of the nerd. He’s amenable, and ten seconds after he comes she’s having spasms and goes into the bathroom to deposit some kind of egg, after a shadow play of her naked and gyrating in silhouette on the bathroom door.

Along the line there’s a great little sequence of crazy-snake-chick naked in a hot tub, totally gratuitous.

Moose is spider-chick’s boyfriend, but he has gangster trouble. And he’s a cop. The gangsters make him kill the nerd, it’s complicated. Crazy-snake-chick is very sad, she looks longingly at a Mickey Mouse embroidery that she’d been working on.

At the funeral, the burial I should say, crazy-snake-chick throws a necklace into the grave. Along the line spider-chick goes to Moose’s apartment and kills the snake babies. Everything goes nuts and Moose needs the necklace from the grave to pay the gangsters. The grave robbing goes horribly wrong, lots of rats and maggots, crazy-snake-chick shows up with big teeth and red and green hair, spider-chick is there, Moose gets killed, it’s a mess.

Now, the false ending. Spider-chick wakes up in bed with Moose after a bad dream, but there’s a big snake leaving by the foot of the bed, with no explanation, and then come the end credits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Faux Pas!

I forgot to include a thank you very much to Donna. Thanks for reading, and writing.

The Silver Lining

"Remember somewhere,
The sun is shining,
And so the right thing to do
Is let it shine for you."

Why Mr. Fred is in Thailand: Part Four

Depression is a lighter burden here, for me anyway.

There are way too many triggers in my real life. I spend too much time reacting, usually negatively. It keeps me from getting anything done. Plus, adventure is distracting. And since I have very little communication with anyone due to the language barrier, life is very simple.

Besides, my med's are cheaper.

Attention! Tony Hoagland Fans.

My new friend Donna out in West Virginia provided me with some background on Tony Hoagland, one of my favorite working poets. Donna, I couldn't get the e-mail together, but I would very much like a picture of the young Tony. Through the years I'm sorry to hear about his brother Robert, that shit hurts bad and changes lives, not to mention Robert losing his own.

Here's the first of Mr. Hoagland's poems that I read:


If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
until she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.

I read this and I cried, felt ashamed, and was redeamed all at once.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Favorite Couple

I love these guys. They're both high school teachers: he, science and she English. Her English is very good, like super-unusually good for a Thai English teacher, most of whom can't speak it at all but only know a little grammar and vocabulary, a little. She's studying now for a masters' degree in law, just for the fun of it, she wants to stay busy mentally.
Notice the whiskey bottle and the ice chest over on the right. We're in a typical "fishing park" restaurant, twenty or so little pavilions (shacks) around a big artificial pond that is regularly stocked with fish. If you want, they'll give you a line and a pole and you can catch your own dinner. The food is great at this one, and cheap too, plus the woman who owns the joint gave me a standing ten percent discount because I was a regular. The food is delivered by bicycle.

Little Things You Should Know About Thailand

Always remember, in Thailand you must put the fire out before you call the Fire Department. Wherever you are, there will be a Fire Department, with a truck, gathering dust under a tree somewhere, this is not Cambodia, we have all of the accoutrement of a modern country. But always do as Thai people do, that’s my motto, and when I found myself, along with two women friends of mine, on the butt end of a fire-bomb attack, I couldn’t help but notice that neither of them had any inclination at all to call the Fire Department, even though I kept screaming, as I was putting out the fire, with buckets, running around in my underwear, “call the Fire Department!”

Then I discovered the rhythm of the whole thing: when the fire is over and out, you call the fire department so that they can come by in an hour and a half or so and make out a report. Along with the police. Paperwork is very important in Thailand. The police and the Fire Department will file away those reports and they will be part of the permanent record for hundreds of years. Don’t waste time calling them when you should be putting the fire out, that would be stupid.

And nothing will be done, nothing at all, and they will only show up after they have been awoken, had coffee, maybe a shower, definitely a snack, gotten the appropriate forms together, made several phone calls, smoked a cigarette, warmed up the pick-up truck, stopped at the Seven-Eleven for additional snacks, and had a leisurely drive to where the fire was an hour ago, or to the smoldering wreckage, whatever is left.

You should know these things.

Why Mr. Fred is in Thailand: Part Three

The marriage.

I’ve been married for a long time, too long some might say, and I suppose that I have worn out my welcome. America is too expensive for double housekeeping.

Why Mr. Fred Refers to Himself as Mr. Fred.

It's a Thai thing, over here they call each other honorific-first name, like Khun Somchai, or Khun Fred. So they do it in English too, I'm Mr. Fred to just about anybody.

No, it's not a Mr. Rogers thing, or in any way self-aggrandizing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Please Be Happy!

It may be hard to see past my deeply negative streak but with me it really is all about the love, I love you and I want you to be happy, I don't want anything in return and I don't care if nobody knows it, I'm all about spreading the love.

A Chance Meeting


Cheerfulness I manufacture
Like a Chinese factory,
Making toys for you,
Your exact specifications,
Anything you want or need.
You are just so wonderful!
Your happiness, my validation!
I love you, and I find you so
Important! You, not me;
I’m here for just one purpose,
Different altogether.

I size you up and think:
What does this lovely person need?
To help them on their way,
This lonely, lonely day,
To help you if I may,
To surely find your way,
Through this cold, impersonal world.

The elevator ride is long,
The building tall, and just we two,
Our suits are pressed; our ties are straight,
But you are nervous, I can see,
A heavy case, lap-top at the ready.
“You look great,” I smile and say,
“They will love you,” and it’s true,
“They will want what you will offer,
Give ‘em hell,” I’ve said my piece.

Smiling now at one another,
“Thanks!” you say, now quite relaxed.
Your burden eased by my good cheer,
And I’m content, my burden too
Is lifted, burden that I carry,
Somehow lightened now as well,
My fellowship has helped us both,
And I am happy.

Let's Lighten the Mood

This was at an English camp in a little northern town. This young lady's skirt is the local fabric and pattern; I saw one on campus last week so I knew just where the student came from. It's a Friday thing, on Friday all the girls wear the same skirts.
The shirt is locally produced and until the seventies was associated only with farmers. In this area of Thailand, the northern mountains, there was a communist semi-upheaval going on then and the city government decided that on Friday everybody should wear a farmers shirt, for worker solidarity. So now on Friday everyone, teachers, bank tellers, government officials at the labor office, everybody wears a farmer shirt. I own more than ten of them by now, different styles.
And dig that board work!

Why Is Mr. Fred in Thailand: Part Two

I'm tired of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a great place, for a lot of reasons. It’s an easy place to make a living. It was an easy place to raise children, I’ll say that. The schools are nice and handy; no weather, so it was easy to get around; kids play outside all year, which is good for them and keeps them out of your hair too. My children are grown, though, and I just got tired of L.A.

People in L.A. can be a little hard to take. Everyone is prosperous, but no one is satisfied. Everyone wants a nicer car, a bigger house, a lot of wanting going on. A lot of competition too, see what kind of car the other guy has. And everyone thinks that they’re cool, when did everybody get cool all of a sudden? Used to be you had to work for that, not just buy a BMW and a pair of sunglasses.

The movie and art communities are way beyond pretentious, way out into some new circle of hell somewhere. And most of them are just borderline-barbarians from Kansas. It’s all about money. If you can pay, you play; and if you can play, you get paid. Art has nothing to do with it.

The L.A. Hispanics, god bless them, I love them, but they’re into some weird Aztlan shit these days, as in “this place is ours.” Like Mexicans would have anyplace worth living if it weren’t for California, the United State of California. Wherever I walk I get a supremely cold shoulder from any Hispanics that are walking by. I like to smile at kids on the street, nothing creepy, just a little smile, now Hispanics turn their kids away from me like I was poison, and the faces of the adults harden and stare off in another direction very self-consciously, like I stole their birthright. I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t like to be lumped into being “white,” that’s the kind of thing that gets innocent people hung from lamp-posts. And nobody stole anything that wasn’t up for grabs, so get over it.

The food is good, but most of the good stuff is too heavy for an old man to eat anyway. So the best of it is Thai food and I get that in spades, for a fraction of the cost.

So I’m done, for now anyway. See you all again, maybe.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What's Worth Blogging?

Anything, probably, because whatever it is there's someone who wants to read it and that makes it worth writing. But really, what's really, really worth Blogging?

Let's face facts, people, fellow Baby-Boomers, pretty soon we'll all be dead, we're all dying already, you don't die all at once, you know.

So that's important. How do you feel about that? Have any interesting symptoms? Anything not working out the way you planned? We'd all love to hear about it.

New Feature: Why is Mr. Fred in Thailand?

Part One: Job Pathology

I have had over fifty jobs in my life. I mean that literally. I have almost never reached the two year mark. That should be all anyone needs to know about my feelings towards employment. I don’t like it. I don’t thrive there. Self-employment was no panacea; that only meant that I had fifty bosses.

It’s not the work, I can work. I often enjoy the work. The job, however, becomes increasingly frightening and confusing. Fear of poor performance or failure; social anxiety leading to a mutual distrust of motives; fear of eventual abandonment (being fired); resentment of employer authority and money-dependence; and the resulting emotional exhaustion, and finally; separation. This is over forty years now.

I have no reason to think that it would be any different if I returned to America and tried this route again, notwithstanding my clearer understanding of the psychological mechanics involved.

So here I am. My employers in Thailand all have very low expectations. The subject matter of my jobs is second nature to me. My co-workers and I cannot really communicate; I don’t understand them and they can’t begin to know the first thing about me. There’s no fear of abandonment; I won’t understand the reasons if I get fired so it’s hard to take it personally, plus I can have another job at the same pay within one week. And they’re high-status jobs at good pay to boot. It’s win-win.

Ike Turner: Father of Rock and Roll

I have nothing against Tina, but let's face it, no Ike, no Tina, not ever, she stays in Nutbush working the counter pouring coffee.

Ike Turner was the A and R man who brought Howlin' Wolf to Sun Records.

Ike Turner's band, with Ike producing, created "Rocket 88," often sited as the first rock and roll record.

Ike Turner's band, with Ike and others producing, created umpteen dozen hits for record labels in New York and New Orleans.

So he hit the woman! So what! James Brown did that, and shot up his wife's mink coats besides. Chuck Berry, I don't even like to think about what he's done, which is all forgotten now. Please, a little gratitude, from Tina and the rest of us too.

Ike's the man. Forget him at your peril.

Mr. Postman

No uniform, five dollar helmet, his own motorcycle, the life of a Thai mailman, or letter-carrier, if you will. Dig that home made mud-flap.

Mr. Fred's Unremitingly Positive Poetry Corner

Mr. Happy, the Lord of the Positive, your humble content provider, gets out of sorts sometimes when he considers the way some people get pushed around. It often happens on Labor Day, International Labor Day especially.

Parental Advisory down towards the end of this one.

Constitutional Issues (May Day, 2008)

My Constitution, ‘tis of thee,
New ideas for old, protection
For the weak against the strong,
Protection, for the little guy,
Who’d suffered all the time before
At tender mercy of the men
With strength, some smarts, and property,
To enforce their own prosperity,
And force their wills, quite ruthlessly
Upon the little guys, poor guys, weak guys
Through fault, or no fault of their own, weak,
Oppressed by religion, or by politics, or superstition,
The weak, losing their benefit, losing their things,
Losing their women, losing their pride,
Losing their dry bed, losing their place by the fire
Losing their children, losing their very lives,
For the prosperity of the few.

Great Declaration of the Rights of Man,
To alter all that’s come before
And place no man above the law,
Of Thee I Sing! Enlightenment!
No more to fear the will of men
With riches, or to fear police,
Or businesses that seek advantage
Where they know there should be none,
No more play poker, table stakes
We have too little cash to play with
Rich cats, those who calmly throw
A grand into the pot, “I call,” we fold,
Not having the grand, and lose,
No longer will that due at all,
Sayeth God’s Greatest Constitution, mine.

My Bill of Rights, without end, Amen!
It’s to be hoped, but then I heard
The great man say that all adjustments
Come with overshoot, and then,
To follow, quickly on its heels,
Come deep corrections to achieve
The middle ground, not surprising then
To see the power charging back
Into positions with strong defenses,
Wielding natural superiority
And self-interest, justified, of course,
Because god in his greatest wisdom
Gave them strength, intelligence, and money,
Property, and big-time friends
To push aside we lesser men, who after all
Do little to advance our kind,
Save turn a screw, or drive a nail
And look, the far and wide to seek
Those weaker men who’ll work for less,
To take our places, impovrishing us yet further,
And if our families lose their benefit, they say:
“If lesser men lose things and pride, so what?
Their things were worthless anyhow, to us,
And if their women be beautiful,
Better off with rich men, they are,
And if their children die for us,
For our advantage,
Our riches to enhance,
It is our nation they enrich!
And ‘twas god, in greatest wisdom, after all
Who gave their children all to us,
To do with as we please,
Consign to poverty, filth and disease
If they’re lucky enough to have work,
And unlucky, prison
Or the death of warfare.”

Oh, Constitution’s god in whom we trust,
Wield now your mighty sword and smite
These wicked seeking to enslave us,
With golden words to hide or justify
Their self-enrichment, done with murder and with theft,
Show now your power, help us, lord
To take again what you have given, what we once had,
Oh, Constitution, raise again your voice in anger,
And drive out this new pack of ghouls.

Or else the end will come quite suddenly,
As it has, so many times.
When heads fall next into the baskets,
Ring not your hands, oh wealthy friends,
Think back on good times,
When in luxury, how casually,
You sucked the blood of society.
And officials, who lacked means to gain for yourselves
Great riches, and who begged the rich, “please fuck me!
Fuck me with money!” You dogs who eat dog,
Know this: when your children hang
On hooks, blame not the “common people,”
Condescension’s apogee, to call us thus!
You should instead blame wealthy patrons,
Dead already, it’s to be hoped,
For whom you held down common people,
The rich then fucked without Vaseline
Until too old to work, were given
A precious few hundreds of dollars,
For non-stop singing and dancing, and then
Were driven away to fend for themselves.

I want to know, can eyes still see,
And ears still hear, briefly,
The crying curses of the killers,
After the separation of the head
From the sleek, fat body of a wealthy preacher?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Classics, To Go

Anyone remember this engine? This is the 125, I don't think it made it to the states, but the 250 cc was in the Hawk and it was a 305 cc in the Super Hawk. Those were great bikes in the early sixties.
This bike was so cherry. A restoration, almost certainly. The chrome was so lush, real concours d'elegance stuff. Picture taken in Chiang Mai.

Hello, I Must Be Going

I’ve been pretty home bound for the last few weeks, but that’s about to change.

The weekend of the seventeenth I’ll be teaching “English for Lawyers” in Sisaket. That’s way out east in Isan, where the local dialect is close to Cambodian and people are poor, poor, poor. They make the church-mice look like Rockefellers. I’ll fly into Ubon Ratchatani, the Capitol of the Four Corners at the End of the Universe, and somebody will drive me the last sixty kilometers. I may take the long way home; I have no other classes to teach those weeks.

Weekend of the thirty-first we “Ajans” will go to Pattaya for a “seminar weekend,” it sounds like a faculty retreat to me, you know, learn teamwork, eat snacks, get drunk and sing karaoke. Should be fun.

Then on June 7th I’m teaching in my old stomping grounds, Chiang Mai. There too I’ll probably hang out for a while, visit a little while I’m in the neighborhood.

That’s all paid travel with my cushie job, and yes, I am bragging.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chiang Mai Sky

From a restaurant, perhaps unsurprisingly called the Riverside Restaurant.

A Rainbow in Bangkok Skies

Lo, the many moons ago when Ann and I were Peace Corps volunteers in a little northern town in Thailand (actually, it was only about thirty, moons that is), I said one day, “you know, with all of the moisture in the air, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen a rainbow in all the time we’ve been here.” I was sure that they’d been sneaking around but we hadn’t seen any.

We saw one within a week, which often happens when someone shoots their mouths off like that. We were in the pool at the lux . . . no, the good hotel near our house and sure enough, we saw a rainbow in a sky of mixed clouds, a rainbow in the form of a circle around the sun. Neither of us had ever seen one like that before, anywhere, or since for that matter. It seemed to hang there forever.

I saw another one the other day, and boy if it wasn’t a unique doozie of a rainbow too. Another sky of mixed clouds, low nimbostratus, and the dark low stratocumulus, along with higher cumulonimbus rain clouds and alto-cumulous clouds, through a hole in the clouds, a hole filled with bright blue sky, there was a lone high altitude cirrus cloud in the form of a parallelogram, cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals, and the whole thing was lit up in a bright rainbow of color.

The sky here is always entertaining.

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: Lives of the Saints

Saint Anthony

Soon he did grow tired of
The life of good food and strong wine,
With comfort he grew bored until,
Rejecting comfort altogether
He climbed a mountain, found a cave,
Put on a sack, and fed on roots.
His goodness soon became a sty,
In Satan’s sharp and jaundiced eye,
He sent his minions, by and by,
Why? To spite the Saint, that’s why.
They pulled his beard, and in his ear
They whispered, now we know not what,
All we see of Anthony now
Is paintings, always show him smiling
Down at devils plug and ugly,
Probably enjoyed the company.

My Friends, Let's Kick the Russians Out of the G8

This guy is a real party.

I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about the presidential election. That’s why my major effort today is about those rascally little bug-eaters, the geckos.

If that man calls me “my friend,” one more time I swear I’ll scream. And where are those vaunted “Commander in Chief” credentials? He wasn’t a line officer, no command responsibilities, he was a pilot, and his whole naval career, including the POW stuff, must be spun very carefully or else it turns into The Three Stooges on aircraft carriers meets Ferris Beuller’s Day Off in North Vietnam.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Gecko

The gecko is a remarkable animal. Scientists used to think that there was a mechanical aspect to the feet of a gecko, some kind of little hooks or something that would enable them to defy gravity like they do. It’s even weirder than that, though, it turns out to be molecular, they actually bond with whatever surface they are standing on.

I have had a lot of gecko-observation-time, and I can tell you, they are cute little critters. Very endearing, even. They eat bugs; after all, so they are our little helpmates, bugs are almost always just a pain in the neck. There’s a great dramatic tension, though, in an animal that is simultaneously so cute and so incredibly cold blooded and vicious.

When these things get wind of a nearby bug they go into predator overdrive. No leopard that ever stalked a gazelle was more blood-focused than a gecko that has the measure of a bug. No shark ever went after a fish with greater malice toward the game. The gecko, so small and so cute, positions himself out of the line of the insect’s sight and moves up by degrees, in frozen stillness, with only the raised tip of its tail waving gently back and forth to relieve the tension, just in the manner of cats in the backyard, focused on birds. The final assault, which is between five and ten times the length of the gecko, is accomplished in the blink of an eye. I have seen these things seize a bug much bigger than the gecko’s own head firmly in their jaws and jerk, jerk, twist and jerk, until the thing is swallowed whole. They see juvenile geckos as prey too, without discrimination.

There is a very small gecko in my apartment these days. He’s the first one I’ve seen in six months, so I don’t think he needs to worry about his big brothers, there are none around. This is his range. He shows up all over the place.

Which is not surprising, finding bugs in my apartment is a challenge, even for a gecko, I’ll wager. I have seen two roaches in my apartment, two roaches total in six months, and both of them were all the way dead, six legs up and wings down, x’s for eyes, call the priest. Same for the couple that I have seen in the halls, I think every six months or so they dip the entire building in dioxin, it’s pretty clear that bugs can’t live here. Except ants, that is, not many, and only the very small ones, but they’re here, they’re everywhere, after all.

So I suppose my little buddy is living now off the ant population. He’s so small, it’s enough for him so far. I wonder if he’ll stick around long enough to mature, I’ll be able to tell if I hear his mating call, the chik-chik-chik of the adult gecko. Good luck finding a wife around here, buddy. In fact, good luck in general. I wish you well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

I spent a good fifteen minutes this morning re-writing "A Perfect Day," having forgotten to move it to the "Blogged Already" folder. It's much better now.

I'll wait six months and put it up again, for a new, wildly expanded readership I hope.

Why do I like blogging? I am a lawyer and a teacher, that should be all the hint anyone needs. Clearly I love the sound of my own voice, I'm a double-threat professional public speaker.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sad Stories Are Very Popular in Thailand

This is Pra Lor and his two girlfriends. He's a prince; they're princesses from a neighboring place and, you guessed it, their king fathers don't get along. But they find a way to live happily together, and the girls both get pregnant, which is Thai code for, yes, they were all doing it.
They get discovered in the fullness of time and killed with arrows, stuck together with the arrows in a standing position, makes a better picture I suppose.
These really downbeat stories are very common in Thailand.
This painting is in a temple, even displaying clearly, as it does, the secondary-sexual-characteristics of the girls.

A Perfect Day: May 1, 2008

May Day, Happy Holiday out there all you workers of the world, unite.

Before I left for “work” this morning I wrote a May Day poem of epic anger and great
revolutionary fervor, honest, it would scare anybody of the Obscene-Luxury-Class out of their wits. The first draft was a good day’s work and finished before 8:00 o’clock. More than five hundred words. I finished it up later on, but it’s way too vicious to show on my light-hearted blog.

After an early morning blithely interneting, I went to the dentist, always fun, half-way through a root-canal and cap. Stopped at the Villa Market, the number one Farang food connection in Bangkok, and picked up a few delicacies. After a few hours at the office, I retired to my humble, you may believe me very humble, abode for a wonderful evening of solo-entertainment.

Ah, what to watch? (On my lap-top.) I have no trouble watching things over and over again so I just cycle through and buy new things as they present themselves. Tonight, ah! “Sunshine,” again, a VCD that is in English with Thai subtitles, always a benefit in life, the English that is. I love this movie, it’s all so plausible, and the characters are so delightfully human and imperfect. Is it possible to have a happy ending in which everyone in the movie dies? Yes, and as presented it’s heartwarming besides.

I had for my dinner a canned ham, 200 gm, a “Tulip” brand canned “chopped ham,” quality down a few pegs from a real canned ham, but it was from Denmark, so it was decent. Canned ham always reminds me of the Navy, a delicacy that you could keep in a footlocker forever and break out for special occasions.

Also a very small piece of Stilton cheese from England, very good. And a bottle of wine, from Australia, a “Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot,” which I think is the textbook definition of “table wine,” but it was good. With a small baguette; the bread is better in Laos but you can get pretty good bread here. I'd have gotten some fruit, but I didn't pass a place.

After the movie I listened to some music on shuffle for about an hour, stretched out on my back with my eyes closed. Then, before 10:00 p.m., to bed, but not without thanking god first for such a wonderful life.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Obama Is Even Funny

I know the Letterman crew wrote the stuff, but hey:

"Barack Obama will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday night to read the Top 10 Surprising Things About Obama. Here's the list:

10. My first act as President will be to stop the fighting between Lauren and Heidi on the Hills.

9. In the Illinois primary, I accidentally voted for Kucinich.

8. When I tell my kids to clean their room I finish with, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this Message."

7. Throughout High School I was consistently voted "Barackiest."

6. Earlier today, I bowled a 39.

5. I have canceled all my appearances the day the Sex and the City movie opens.

4. It's the birthplace of Fred Astaire (sorry that's a surprising fact about Omaha).

3. We are tirelessly working to get the endorsement of Kentucky Derby favorite, Colonel John.

2. This has nothing to do with the Top Ten, but what the heck is up with Paula Abdul.

1. I have not slept since October."

America the Beautiful

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to love about America, and I do, love it that is. I miss Due Process though, and Habeus Corpus, and especially Probable Cause, that was a good one, and I worry about what’s happened to the search and seizure laws, and the Bankruptcy Code, and this torture stuff is really out there.

Not so much the torture part, of course sometimes you’ve got to put the screws to somebody if the situation calls for it. But don’t get caught! These guys have no talent for it. They couldn’t steal a fucking magazine without getting caught. You smile for the camera and hold the guys head underwater with your foot, what’s so hard about that?

Fly guys around in special planes, unscheduled flights, you might as well hang out a sign, “torture victim.” Put them in a box and haul them with a shipment of artillery shells, hide them in plain sight. Like it was hard. These guys don’t have the common sense that god gave geese. They learned their stuff from the movies is my guess; in the movies the thief is always swinging his head around with a furrowed brow. That’ll get you caught ten times out of ten.

And it’s morons like this that we can blame if America is less than perfect.