Monday, July 30, 2007

The Need for Drama

Looking back over my efforts, I must say that they are nice bed time stories but by and large they lack drama. So how about a nice dog fight? You may not know it, but I am an accomplished dog fighter; I don't mean setting up matches between two dogs, I mean, in the blue corner a sometimes substantial dog and in the red corner, Khun Fred.

I was a letter carrier for two years long ago and that's where I served my apprenticeship. I was thirty and 0, with one draw, and one law suit after I TKO'd a standard poodle. I remain undefeated. Tomorrow I'll share with you my most recent exploits combating the canine race.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Call of Old What’s-His-Name

My benefactor has a dog, a white dog, and darned if he doesn’t make me recall that loyal old what’s-his-name in “Call of the Wild.” He’s a lot more wild than tame too, that’s for sure. I can’t pronounce his name, but it’s Thai for “dirty dog.” He comes to me now whatever I call him because I am generous with chicken bones, after I am through with them that is, dogs are so easy.

He’s a healthy looking dog, a sturdy, muscular 45 pounds or so, with a powerful neck and jaws. He is a white dog, also like old what’s-his-name. I say healthy looking, healthy except for the fact that he has no balls.

I don’t mean to say that he lacks courage. He’ll charge even the largest chicken in the local field. He only shies away from the bulls, which after all is probably a good idea. I mean that, literally, he has no balls. He’s not fixed; they don’t do that here. He just got cheated, or maybe it’s like the English music hall song (if I may paraphrase), “and when they said testicles, he thought they’d said spectacles, and he said, oh! I’ll have none of those.”

I observed him during the recent dog mating interval, and his technique with female dogs was very simple: he ignored them completely. I saw a very attractive, young, good sized female come a’ calling one day. She stood about 15 yards away for a while, then slowly approached. He stood up and quietly stood still. She approached and it seemed to me like she smelled his breath, that was a new one on me. Then she moved along his body so they could get a snoot-full of each other. She moved away and smelled around his bowl; it was empty at the time. She did all this unmolested. She kept her dignity as she walked away but I’m sure that she was quite humiliated.

Our reticent champion prefers cavorting with other, even less dominant dogs. If they are sufficiently obsequious, or perhaps crippled in some way, he can be quite a bully.

No, old unpronounceable has either stunted testicles, or undeveloped testicles, or undescended testicles, but for whatever reason he just has a little flap of skin with nothing in it. He doesn’t seem to miss them. I suppose most men wouldn’t either if they’d never had them in the first place.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Blogger: Peg Leg Lee

I love Khun Fred, he is respect like Thai man. Many Farang not respect, I not like too much. Khun Fred ask, want to help Lee, not ask, Lee help Khun Fred. Very help Lee, many time. Call me Khun Lung Lee, very respect, wai very good. I love Khun Fred.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The East is Red

It's so easy to generalize; you who know me well, though, know that I myself am loathe to generalize. But as I get around I see so many uncouth Chinese men and women that sometimes think, god, the Chinese are uncouth. More likely, of course, that the shear numbers of Chinese insure that there will be lots of the great uncouth among them. The place is so big that maybe there are whole huge backwaters that are full of them.

I'd hate to be judged by the behavior of a random sample of Americans traveling overseas, as in 'ooooooo-wwweeeee Earle!!! this here red stuff is Spicy!!!

Fact remains, however, there are lots of uncouth Chinese traveling around Asia. I've seen them in Thailand and I saw them recently in Kuala Lumpur too. Women eating like cowboys, or pirates; sitting way back from the table, legs wide open, elbows out, holding up big chunks of food on the tips of their forks and taking noisy bites; talking to people at their own table at the top of their lungs; laughing and shouting greetings to every friend they see, no matter how far away; wearing every cheap outfit imaginable; standing interminably in front of the coffee pots stirring their cups; taking little bites of tropical fruit, smacking their lips loudly and making a face like they were doing mathematics.

To be fair, I avoid the expensive hotels so I don't rub shoulders too often with the hoi-paloi of any country. Also, the Chinese haven't gotten out much recently, I mean in the last two thousand years, so maybe they just get over-excited.

Sh*t, I can be pretty uncouth myself, but I think (hope) that I am much better at hiding the fact.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cool Website Alert! Version 2.0

That which I thought was lost appears below; let me know which one you prefer.

There are guys out there, you know who you are, guys with talents and abilities that make a mockery of the rest of us. Like the guy that, just for the hell of it, built, on his own milling machines, at his house, a fully functional one/fifth scale reproduction of a 1970’s Chrysler Hemi engine. It bears clarification: he started with the original blueprints, scaled every part down to the new spec’s, hand built every part, painted the thing factory colors, put it all together and it runs, with its own little just-like-the-original radiator for cooling, in fact it runs like it could pull a train, it torques on the mounts like it was ready for the drags.

Check it out:

They have a little video clip of him starting it up, it’s spooky.

Cool Website Alert!

There are people out there, you know who you are, who have otherworldly talents. Like the guy who built, from solid billits of steel on his own mill and lathe, an exact replica of a 1970's Chrysler Hemi engine that is as big as a shoe box.

Don't take my word for it, go to: They have a little movie clip of him starting it up, you heard me, it runs. It even torques on the mounts like a muscle-car engine. It has it's own perfect scale radiator for water cooling. Every single part, valves, springs, everything, is reproduced in, what is it, one/fifth scale or something. Everything that is on the original blueprints.

These guys are nuts, but I mean that in a good way, not like there's anything wrong with it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Swans and Magpies

There I was, sitting, watching Australian football, having a couple of pops, hanging out, having fun.

I can't help myself, I like Aussie football. The players look like huge, muscular soccer players; they need to run around pell-mell for long periods but they need to be able to absorb big impacts too. More often than not, some of them are bleeding at any given time. Lots of broken noses in evidence, lots of teeth missing, arms and legs scarred by errant spikes. And a powerful scent of bad attitude: is that all you've got Bruce? My auntie hits harder than you. Pirates looked like this; Viking raiders too. Mongol horsemen too, only shorter. Maybe Attila's boys.

I know that they talk about American football like the rugby players do, "those American boys in all them pads and helmets, bunch of Mommy's boys." I would love to take the Collinsworth Magpies, or the Sydney Swans, or the who-si-whats Bulldogs, give them ten weeks to get ready, and put them in a balls-to-the-wall American football game with the Steelers, that'd wipe the smiles off their faces. All the pads and helmets in the world won't save you when you get hit head on by a six foot four inches tall, two hundred, eighty pound man who can run the forty meters in nine seconds flat and bench press four hundred and fifty pounds. And I'd love to see any two of them try to move one of those plow-boys who play guard or tackle, that mountain's staying right where it is.

But these Australian boys are game, and their game is rough, no doubt. They take quite a beating in their shorts and tank tops. When all is said and done, though, and they retire from their game, I bet they are better off orthopaedically than their American cousins.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Amazing Malaysia

One night I went to 7-11 to pick up some stuff for my little fridge. The newspapers were just inside the door and a slightly disheveled looking Chinese gentleman in shorts was sitting on the floor with a Mandarin paper spread out in front of him.

I did some shopping and when I left he was outside waiting for me. He greeted me warmly and offered me an English language newspaper, he had two. I smiled and told him thanks anyway, but I have one already. He started to go on about his hotel across the street, it was small and rather untidy. I told him I was all set up. He followed me when I tried to leave and kept up the pleading about his hotel. Finally I stopped and shook his hand to try to get rid of him.

He gave me a secret handshake, tickle the palm with a fingertip, I thought maybe he was a Mason. I returned the handshake to see what would happen and he leaned in and whispered, "I love you, I love you." As in I love you long time, over at my hotel.

I made my last apologies and left, and when I looked back I was relieved not to see him standing there.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Doing What I Can to Foster Tolerance in a Hostile World

Last night I was idly wandering around a street market in Kuala Lumpur, at 7: or so, starting to think about dinner. I was hailed from a small, outdoor cafe kind of place, much like one is hailed by Indian tailors standing outside their shops. I just smiled and kept going. Within five minutes, though, I was hungry and I figured, he sounded friendly enough, I'll go back. It was worth it.

"Tarzan Malaysia" was the name of the restaurant, not "Tarzan's Malaysia," or "Tarzan of Malaysia," and it was Tarzan himself who had hailed me. I went over and sat at the table next to his. Also at my table was an enigmatic younger man, it was a big table. Both were Muslim, but no beards, just mustaches, and no little Muslim hats, you know, Muslim-but-let's-not-get-carried-away. The other patrons, however, were Muslims who were quite carried away, with the beards, the hats, the floor length shirts, the whole magilla.

The man at my table spoke good English, and he was as friendly as you can be without ever smiling. Tarzan was delighted to see me, like a kid at Christmas. He had no trouble smiling, in fact he never stopped except to laugh, and he spoke fast to the second man and pointed to me like, tell him what I'm saying.

Tarzan was a restaurateur and part time Guinness World Record seeker. He showed me their notification of his status: world's longest and most dangerous shower in actual corrosive acid. I said, "but you still have hair!" He almost fell out of his chair laughing. I guess in Malaysia there's money in acid showers. The two of them organize thrill shows for the locals, with the Guinness people as the theme, like "longest, thickest nail driven straight up the nose" kind of stuff, eating broken glass was mentioned.

I asked for food, roti, if possible, and some curry, maybe some chicken, and a bottle of water. I had had a couple of pops at the hotel and I was feeling mellow. The curry came with two pieces of white bread, it was that kind of restaurant, like the food was an afterthought. The curry was pretty good; the chicken was that jungle fowl, so tough it's like eating a diver's wet suit. But I was having fun.

I heard all about their thrill businesses, and the second man, Zalli, was also something of a herbologist, also an aroma therapist, acupuncturist, masseuse and yoga "master." In the thrill shows he lays on a bed of nails and they break a cinder block over his chest with a sledge. Like an Indian Fakir, or "faker" as they are called in America. His daughter has an even better routine: she sits in the middle of a raging fire for "a few minutes" and then jumps out with no ill effects. I got one of Zalli's cards, "Borneo Herbalist Center."

We were getting along famously, I am very good at smiling my way through half understood bullsh*t sessions, and I do really enjoy them. These guys were talkative and priceless. Zalli got a bowl of "tom yam," which is the local foreign food, Thai tom yam gai in this case. He took a huge portion of the noodles and put them in my bowl, "very spicy," he said like it was a warning. Pretty good, I agreed.

Now Zalli's fifteen year old son shows up with a box of small bottles, the fluid was green on the bottom and white on top. Aleef was the boy's name, I told him that I had a son named Oliver but he didn't seem impressed. He and Tarzan began to affix labels to the bottles and when they were done the bottles went into a display case at the edge of the restaurant. Zalli then produced a bottle like a roll-on deodorant bottle and presented it to me with a flourish. "For massage," he said, it smelled like Ban Gay. "I mix myself, " he explained, "the proportions are perfect, it will release blockages in the blood flow." (Not like that crap that charlatans sell.)

So here's the punchline: at one point Zalli gets ready to leave for his "clinic" and I stood up and said to Tarzan something like "may I pay now," or "now I must pay you." He roared laughing and backhanded Zalli like, get that! He wants to pay! Even Zalli smiled at that. It seems that I was a guest, money, shmunny, we were having fun!

No one had mentioned politics or religion even once, not even in passing. Economics, maybe; Zalli thought that I should come to Malaysia and start a business, "you can make a fortune," he suggested. He was suggesting, no doubt, that I start a business with him. "Buy a beautiful house, only RM 300,000. " (About $100,000) So there are many Muslims in Malaysia for whom your religion is not a consideration; if your money is green you can worship the broken carcass of an airplane in a cargo cult for all they care, not like that nun in Phrae. These guys wrote the book on tolerance.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Big Excitement at the Little Dinner Table

I don't think that food is a very interesting topic for a blog, but there are exceptions:

1. On Wednesday, my benefactor got hold of some "Lanna food." It was a huge bag filled with bright green powder. She cooked it up with some garlic, a little pork, oyster sauce and some bean sauce and dished it into two big plates, two vast green mounds on the table, no rice, "not need with wegable." It was some kind of "plankton" that the hill tribes gather in the jungle, "only at one time in a year." It wasn't bad.

2. On Thursday, we had larb. I looked in the wok and said, oh, good, pork larb, but no. "Not pork," said my benefactor, "is bird." It was some kind of red meat, but a bird, I guessed chicken, maybe duck? "No," she said, "litten bird." I tried to get to the bottom of it and, son of a gun, it was the hill tribes again. Some kind of jungle bird as big as your fist, they must catch them by the hundreds. Here's the twist: they leave in the bones. I think they just grind up the whole d*mn bird, the stuff was liberally sprinkled with white flecks, and not too small either. It was crunchy as hell, not bad actually, although you needed to be careful with the crunch part, either that or lose a filling. Spitting out pieces of bone as big as match heads was fun, good balistics, good distance.

Do You Want to Proceed?

Do you want to proceed?

The security certificate for this site is either expired or has not yet been validated.

Do you want to proceed?

Well, do you, punk?

I'm off to Malaysia for VISA purposes. Indian food, Muslim food, and if I can I'll take a ride as far up the Petronas Towers as they let you go.

Do you want to proceed?

I must click that thing five times to get on the Hotmail site, but only once to get on g-mail. Does Microsoft really trust google more than they trust themselves?

Monday, July 2, 2007

VISA Update

No one in the Immigration office in Chiang Mai can tell you what rule anyone in any other office will apply; they cannot tell you what rule anyone else in that self same office will apply today or what rule they themselves will apply or waive the next time you come; no Farang can tell you anything but his own experiences, and yours will certainly be different, even if you talk to the same Immigration official.

If you look at the websites for the Thai Consulate in L.A. and for the one in Dakka, where is that, Bangladesh? you will find two different lists of papers that you need to bring with you to get a work permit VISA. Plus of course another Farang will tell you that you don't need any of that, just bring a letter from your potential employer and do the rest when you get back.

lt's a little confusing but there are no bad results available so just hang with it, I say. Get a trip to Kuala Lumpur out of the deal anyway, eat some Indian food. Or maybe I'll just go to Burma for 5 minutes next weekend and get another tourist VISA, two months, and get an extension for another month, then get the work permit VISA in L.A. in October when I'll be there anyway.

I must learn to deal with uncertainty.