Thursday, October 30, 2008


It’s four-something o’clock, and I have just been denied by rain the supreme pleasure of watching John McCain, the new, dis-improved John McCain, squirm on the Larry King show about how that evil Obama man is cheating him out of his birthright by spending lots of money that was donated to him fair and square, spending it for it’s intended purpose and not for self-aggrandizement, and using “rhetoric,” a mysterious, elitist verbal tool that Mr. McCain does not understand and evidently finds vaguely magical. It’s all very dramatic and sad: Mr. Newly-Dead-Left-Eye, gesturing stiffly, complaining of not being dead yet when no one had even mentioned his three-fourths deadness, desperately complaining that Obama went to a party eight years ago with a “Palestinian Terrorist” whom Mr. McCain himself has supported and donated money to. Oh, pshaw, like wonderful entertainment like that was easy to come by.

It’s really pouring out, and the lightning is right in my area, the flash and the sound coming right on each others’ heels. I sat outside for a time, and was surprised to see a completely clueless Thai man about to go swimming in the pool. Well, I thought, this will be fun. Just as I was wondering about the effect that the lightning would have on his unsuspecting body, one of our maintenance woman braved the rain to go out and inform him that the pool was closed, because of the dangerous lightning no doubt.

I happen to enjoy lightning. I love the big-show aspect of it; I love counting the gap between the flash and the sound to determine how far from me the strike was. I have yet to find a Thai person, man, woman, boy or girl, who is anything but disturbed by lightning. No one that I have asked about it enjoys it like I do. Repeatedly, though, Thai people demonstrate that they have no actual fear of lightning, they do not demonstrate the natural fear of lightning that people who have seen trees or houses damaged, or golfers killed, have, a visceral fear that cannot be forgotten.

I am ashamed to admit that I was looking forward to watching that Thai man take his chances in the pool. I was going to sit there smiling while he risked his life. It was not a lack of compassion on my part; it was instead a clinical interest in his willingness to take the chance. If he had died, there was certainly nothing connecting the death to me. What could I have done? Could I have pointed to the sky and told him, “khun dai dai,” (“you could die”). I don’t need another “Farang say the stupidest things” moment.

Actually, the clueless Thai man about to swim in the lightning infested pool was as clueless as Mr. Supreme Maverick McCain. Neither knows anything about the forces that are surrounding them and controlling their lives; neither believes that any outside force is real enough to effect them. I wish them both luck. They may not believe it, but reality is out there, and it’s where we live, and a misguided attitude and a “game face” cannot prevent reality from crushing you.

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