Bangkok for a Month, Part III

Home at the Oriental Hotel

Between Bangkok Part II and Bangkok Part IV

March 14-19, 2000

Tuesday, March 14, 2000

IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1925: 'Dry' Bible

NEW YORK - Prohibition has added a new version of the Bible. Messrs. Scribners announce the publication of two volumes of a shorter Bible, edited by two Yale professors and the YMCA, in which the festive passages are all dry. Wherever the word "wine" appears in the King James version raisin cake now takes its place. Thus I Chronicles xvi, 3: "And he dealt to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a good piece of flesh and a flagon of wine," becomes "And he dealt to everyone a loaf of bread and a good piece of flesh and a cake of raisins."

NEWNES' penchant for remembering those whom others forgot has few confines:

Meanwhile, in Bangkok this elephant thing does want to go away.
A full color photograph of massing elephants has again captured the front page of the Bangkok Post. Today's newspaper article quotes the elephant's mahouts as promising that they would not return to Bangkok if the authorities agreed to allow them to earn their living in Bangkok's neighboring provinces.

But, as these very words were spoken, my own camera captured on moving film one of these beasts being smuggled back into the city. Quietly, and without safety lights, a lone elephant can be seen sneaking past closed shops. Though cleverly disguised as something else, there is no doubt that at least one tusker is on his way home.

Where can I point my lens next, dear reader? This is not just the start of an idle paragraph: a chunk of 10-point pica to set off the nocturnal elephant from what comes next. It's a weekday afternoon ... I've had lunch ... the sun is still in the sky ... but, no one wants to see any more photos of what's in John LeCarre's room, the Spa has been well milked and there are no babes by the pool. And, yet I want to take pictures of something and upload them. It's weird. I feel that I am not really living the day unless it's UP HERE. Casting about for something ... anything ... I phoned my answering machine in Florida. There were 29 messages in my voice mailbox. A. SongI think 30 are the limit ... after that the caller gets a recorded message about the mailbox being full. Being naturally a bit paranoid I wonder if my box was actually full and if the number 29 was wrong. Anyway, of the 29 messages none of them had voices on them. This is pathetic. Not that I didn't have any messages ... but that I should have bothered to check. Perhaps my life was better when I was drinking.

A couple of years ago my former girl friend, Becky, had some shirts made for me by a tailor who is right around the corner. I so liked the material and the workmanship that every time I have been back to Bangkok I've had A. Song make me a few additional shirts. This afternoon lends itself to that little task again. Since I have a photo of his shop on one of my rolls, I can upload it along with this paragraph. Jesus, I feel that I am trying to turn this into a strange morph of THE TRUMAN SHOW.


Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Longinus
FIRST CENTURY

The first non-Jewish Christian, the centurion who pierced Our Lord's side with a spear. When he rubbed his eyes with his bloodstained hands, a defect in his eye-sight was immediately remedied.

After thirty years of preaching he was arrested and brought before a blind governor. In his impatience for martyrdom, he promised that the governor's eyesight should be restored if he would be so good as to condemn him. He was beheaded; the miracle took place; and the governor also became a Christian.

NEWNES goes way back when for these two:

Dear Reader, late tomorrow evening my daughter, Anne-Louise, will fly to Bangkok. She is coming in from Seattle on the only option that does not require a LAX transfer: Northwest's Double O One and Double O Seven flights. The Narita change-of-planes is marginally preferable to doing it in Los Angeles largely due to a very nice noodle shop at the Tokyo connection. The potential downside to using Northwest Airlines is a lengthy on-going and deeply unfortunate checked luggage history between Annie and this carrier. Another negative is Northwest's image with Business Traveler's readers; last year's poll among its subscribers placed Aeroflot only a few points ahead of Northwest on its list of airlines with the least satisfied customers.

For you, my dear readers, her presence will be a refreshing change of diet. Though the words here-and-about will be mine ... or, those that I have found elsewhere ... my rather wooden photographs will largely give way to her creativity. Our plan hasn't been set in concrete. Oriental Hotel Fitness CenterBut, one idea is to show three or four of Annie's best prints each day ... not necessarily reflecting what we did that day ... but, at least, things that she "saw". Another idea is to build a parallel portfolio over on www.anniephotos.com with links to and from.

This morning while over at the Fitness Center I discovered a vase that needs to be sequestered over on that page that holds my other photographs of the Oriental's original fašade. Of more ephemeral interest, here is a poster harking us to The China House for a week of lobster, crab and prawn creations. Annie and Jean will want this.


Thursday, March 16, 2000

When I started this journal many years ago I promised you, dear reader, that I would never endorse a commercial product or service that I did not wholeheartedly believe in. During that time both Ai-Tim Gathi (traditional coconut ice cream) and Yaam Som-O (pomelo salad with pork) have met this admittedly weak standard. Both of these are products from the kitchens of The Oriental Hotel. Today, for the first time, I shall stray from my own sandbox. This is a very dangerous wander into the choppy world of off campus service endorsements. The service is foot massage. Rather than puff the virtues myself, here is how the service provider sees it:

FOOT MASSAGE: "Originated from China more than 5000 years ago, it improves blood circulation, restores proper function of organs and if you adhere to these points, no matter what sickness you are suffering from, the illness will go away."

The accompanying photograph of the foot massage facilities and the easy to clip map are copyrighted properties of the service provider: King's Body House.

IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1925: War on Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS - Little Red Riding Hood of real life - a tiny schoolgirl devoured by ravenous wolves - has been avenged. Mr. L.M. Davis, of Long Prairie, her father, an aged and broken man, laid down his rifle after forty years of warfare against the howling denizens of Minnesota forests and counted 1200 pelts of beasts he had shot in the bitter anger against the race that followed the killing of his only child forty years ago. Encroaching civilization has helped him with his revenge, and there is little use in carrying on the war further.

Sticking to this wolf theme, Wescott observes:

Torello da Poppi
THIRTEENTH CENTURY

This man led a diabolical life, but was brought to his senses by a rooster which flew up on his shoulder and crowed three times, reminding him of St. Peter. He was the proprietor of a spring which cured fevers, and he had an uncanny influence over wolves.

Four curiously unrelated deaths haunt NEWNES' entry for today:

Though each of these men died at different times and worked at different jobs, they all died during the same month: March. But it is only William Banting's entry that piqued my interest. Further research revealed that Mr. Banting was English. And, that he was born in 1797. Finally, his pioneering work in "slimming" involved dieting. Little else is known of the man or his work. Any diets that he might have created did not survive him. Nor is it known whether his main source of income came from his work as an undertaker or a slimming consultant.

While waiting for Annie's flight from Tokyo I had more time than usual to spend with this morning's Bangkok Post.

Most readers outside of Thailand are probably unaware of an issue that is only imaginatively related to the work of the late Mr. Banting: disposing of dead loved ones who have suffered a nasty end at the hands of wicked substances that were unheard of in Mr. Banting's time. For the past week this issue, along with that of the itinerant elephants, has made the front page of both Bangkok English language dailies.

This is what apparently happened:

Now, if that was the end of the story that would be the end of the story. But, that was not the end of the story. When the relatives of the deceased announced that the deceased would be cremated at a temple in Bangkok the story hit the front page. Residents adjacent to the cremating facilities muttered darkly about "contamination" and what this re-cooked cobalt 60 might do if released anew. Despite assurances that the cremation procedure would not create a new wake of cobalt 60 deaths, the local fears were not laid to rest. Under pressure, two temples were forced to raise stop signs. Thoughts of using a more "secure" cremation facility drifted nowhere.

In the end, the deceased was buried in his hometown. The family was "not too upset as it was common practice in the area to bury the dead for up to two years before exhumation and cremation."

The police said that an arrest warrant would be issued for the manager of the Kamol Sukosol Electric Company's medical equipment department.

The manager had twice failed to answer a summons to hear a charge of fatal negligence and had sent a fax saying he was suffering stress.

Over on page 3 the headline reads: "MP: Find Them Jobs so They'll Stop Killing"

"The number of hired gunmen is higher than ever, Deputy House Speaker Sophon Phetsawang said yesterday after an attempt on the life of his brother.

"Mr. Sophon called on Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart to review policy on public safety, urging him to find proper jobs for gunmen 'so that they stop killing people'."

The article lost my attention when the author wandered into the details of the shooting.

But, sharing page 3 was a warning that "people who fail to use pedestrian bridges or zebra crossings will be fined from next Monday. Chiefs of Bangkok's 87 police stations have been ordered to enforce the Land Transport Act, which sets a maximum fine of 200 baht for jay-walking."

Funny as to what makes something relevant.


Friday, March 17, 2000 - Saint Patrick's Day

As you might expect, Wescott has some words about St. Patrick. The Irish connection, in this version of the man's life, doesn't seem very warm. Rather than the affable whiskey sipping gramps that we normally think of on March 17th, a more bewildering and bizarre personality pops up at us from this reading.

Patrick
DIED ABOUT 465

Patrick was a Scot, carried off to Ireland by brigands and kept there for years as a swineherd. He escaped, but in his dreams the heathen Irish cried to him pitifully. After his first trip among them as a lay-missionary, he studied in France under St. Gemain and took holy orders in Rome; then he returned to Ireland, at the age of sixty. He pitched his tent in Tara on the night of the great feast, and lit sacred candles against the heathen fires, and had great fights with wizards, and preached amid the carousing: a bold lion, a cunning serpent, or a gentle dove, according to circumstances.

Two princesses were so affected by his doctrine that they wanted to die at once and to lie in the arms of the Spouse of whom he spoke; and they did so quietly, in his presence. He himself wanted to die in Armagh, where he had tended pigs and perhaps been happy; but an angel told him that other divine plans had been made. His wake lasted twelve nights, and angels came to it.

Where does NEWNES get these?

IN OUR PAGES: 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from The International Herald Tribune]
1925: Crazed Wolves

EDMONTON, Alberta - Gnawed to a frenzy by the pangs of winter-long starvation, a horde of haggard, howling wolves swept into the little town of Vilna and kept the inhabitants in a reign of terror. The howls of the pack were only broken by the sharp crack of a rifle and an occasional yelp of pain as a bullet found its mark. Finally, ammunition exhausted, a group of villagers set out for a neighboring town. The pack leaped at the occupants of the sleigh, who killed several and fought off the others with their rifle butts.

1950: Space Travel

NEW YORK - The world's first travel bureau for trips to the planets opened here, and its success was meteoric. More than 200 atom-age pioneers rushed to make reservations on rocket-ship space cruises to the moon, Mars and point up. The rocket ships Lunarian, Martian and Saturnia are scheduled to leave daily except Sundays and holidays from New York spaceport in Central Park on March 15, 1975. They will travel at average speeds of 25,000 miles per hour, dodging meteors on flights ranging from ten hours to 1,333 days. Most universe trotters signed on the dotted line before they found out that a human might explode on the moon, melt on Mars or be asphyxiated by Jupiter.

From the front page of today's Bangkok Post:

SERIAL KILLER SENTENCED TO BE STRANGLED AND CHOPPED UP
Lahore, AP

A court yesterday sentenced Javed Iqbal to death for multiple murder in Pakistan's worst serial killing.

Iqbal was found guilty of killing 100 children and sentenced to be publicly executed in a Lahore park. He can appeal his conviction and sentence. He was also given a 700-year jail term.

Three accomplices, including a 13-year old boy identified only as Sabir, also were found guilty.

"You will be strangled to death in front of the parents whose children you killed. And your body will then be cut into 100 pieces and put in acid the same way you killed the children," said Judge Allah Baksh Ranja.

Dear reader, starting with today's issue Annie will be largely responsible for the photographs that you'll see. Annie PixI may chirp in with a snap or two, but the bulk of the glossies will have been first filtered through her eyes. She arrived in Bangkok last night. Along with her luggage. Perhaps that long running curse of Northwest Airlines has run its course.

Meanwhile, several girls from Patpong's Lily Club greet a friend and plan their big St. Patrick's Day pillow fight.

... Time Passes ...

Though the day has not completely closed ... there ARE still a few more waking hours on the clock ... Annie has had some time to fool around with the buttons on my Sony Mavica. Since this thing is not a bit like her iron ("real") cameras she is still on the early slope of the learning curve. What do you think?


Saturday, March 18, 2000

Edward the Martyr
962-978
Edward, King of the West Saxons, was murdered by his step-mother's servants. His half-brother's grief, and popular horror of the crime, appear to have dictated his saintly reputation; so he may be said to have been canonized more or less to make amends.

From NEWNES:

Again, from THE FIRST CUCKOO (A Selection of the Most Witty Amusing and Memorable Letters to The Times, 1900 -1975):

This letter appeared in THE TIMES in the summer of 1949:

From Miss Silvia Risolo

Sir,

Please forgive my English. I am not English and have been in England for two months only. Two days ago I was in the London Bridge underground station. I went out of the train and began to go upstairs. Suddenly a gush of wind blew away my hat, and I ran downstairs to the platform, but the hat went down between the rails. Then I too went down between the rails and, since the hat had stopped finally, I took it and climbed on the platform again. Nobody told me anything. Today a friend of mine told me that the rails are electrified and that I could die very easily. But why, if so, is there no advertisement near the rails? I did not know that the rails were electrified. I simply took my hat. Since I am in a rather difficult situation at present, some people might have thought that I had committed suicide - instead I was following my hat only. This story is comical and strange, but it is a little dreadful also.

Yours sincerely,
SILVIA RISOLO
June 29, 1949

Citizen MikeMr. Mike is very rarely seen on the Internet when he is not entirely "in context." The first time this happened was when he was with us in India. Now he is in Bangkok, again without his signature beret. Though, not archived in her official "best-of-Annie," this photo of Mike Lincicome was taken by her ... albeit, during the early climb on the learning curve. It is for his parents who live far away in Livermore, California, and who never have a chance to see their son when he is not living by a French clock.

Dear reader, do you remember that little stick of wood that I featured in one of my Bangkok journal entries ... I think it was while we were passing through The Oriental last December on our way to elephant polo? Anyway, the stick is about the size of a match. It is always found either propped up against the hotel room door or lying flat next to it. It is a clever little tool that whispers to the staff if the door has been opened or not. Site of the EvidencePresumably this lets the people know whether or not the room might need servicing ... or, perhaps it is a flag for them to steer clear of the place.

Yet another simple but effective aid in detecting guest movement was picked up by Mike when he was about to flush the toilet in one of the hotel's public facilities. Apparently the keepers of the lavatory use the absence of a tiny triangular piece of paper as a signal that a toilet wants professional attention. Being seen or not being seen at the bottom of the bowl, the tiny triangle can quickly tell the minder of the porcelain if the toilet has been client-flushed. If the soggy bit is there, the lever has not been pulled. If not, things have passed. Of course, you might fairly ask "why?" I don't know. Perhaps it is to ensure that only the freshest of waters is allowed to await the next guest. One flush just won't do.


Sunday, March 19, 2000

NEWNES brings us two oddities that most calendar ticklers ignore:

Wescott, brushing aside Joseph, points at:

John of Pinna
SIXTH CENTURY

A Syrian vagabond. Childishly playing with chance, he made a vow that whenever someone should borrow his psalter and fail to return it, he would settle down. It was a young girl in Italy who did so. As he sat at her door reflecting upon his fate, a pear-tree, though it was December and the ground all frozen, burst into bloom; and a powerful churchman in the neighborhood, impressed by the coincidence, immediately provided him with money enough to found a monastery.

Jean arrived last night. I thought she was coming in from Tokyo; instead, her LAX originating flight made its refueling stop at Osaka ... so, no noodle shop for Jean.

Sundays never bring the International Herald Tribune. That is not a bad thing, as all too often I can actually remember those things that follow "IN OUR PAGES: 50 YEARS AGO". Today's Bangkok Post takes me back to my university days when things like this used to haunt my library hours:

A Million For Maths

LONDON - British publisher Faber and Faber offered a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove one of the most notoriously difficult mathematical theories. Goldbach's Conjecture was first stated in 1742 as saying that every even number greater than two is the sum of two prime numbers - but no one has yet succeeded in completely proving the theory. Details of the mathematical challenge are available on Faber and Faber's web site at www.faber.co.uk - Reuters

Another web site of interest to practically nobody is one that will begin operation tomorrow, Monday, March 20, 2000. This arcane site was made topical by the revelation today that "an estimated 800 gunmen-for-hire are on record at the National Police Office ... and many [of them] work for powerful politicians." The dual language (Thai and English) site will give and seek information on topics such as "... hired gunmen, illegal logging, international and economic crime and contraband goods." The site is at www.specialcrime.go.th.

I think we may have missed it! The January, 2000 issue of Esquire reported:

Arabella Churchill, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, will have a live face-lift on www.celebritydoctor.com in February. Michael Sands, founder of the site, said, "Her goal is not to look like her grandfather, and that's something that people should really be behind."

Annie has been somewhat remiss with her camera duties. To be fair, this inattentiveness to the colorful people and places of Bangkok is not entirely her fault. A little blame must be cast at our hotel's housekeeping department; the supplied Matsushita 1200-watt hair dryer just doesn't push out the quantity of hot air that Annie's head requires. An emergency requisition of a 1600-watt Conair Air Puff, used in tandem with the first machine, should now generate enough ramming capacity to quickly move her attention from the mirror to the lens. With hot air and available light in rough balance, her stuff will have no more excuses.

But in the meantime, while she is in the darkroom furiously drying prints and tending to her hair, I want to run a short film clip of our artist. It was taken while she was in one of her characteristically modest moods. I caught this self-effacing glimpse of Annie sometime last summer, during a Port tasting over at Becky's house.

Paul, do you have it ready to roll? [120kb MPEG]

Dear reader, I almost missed this; Mike pointed it out to me. Again, it is from The Bangkok Post.

"Monks Caught on Camera"

"The Religious Affairs Department has asked for an investigation into six monks who visited a resort island and observed beauty contestants in their swimsuits."

"The Thai-language MATICHON newspaper published a photo of the monks on a beach where foreign tourists were sunbathing on the southern resort island of Paw Dah in the Andaman Sea. The photo was taken on Wednesday, the paper said."

"The monks, from northern Thailand, were also reported having rushed to observe beauty contestants on the beach who were videotaping a song-and-dance routine in bathing suits for a pageant, MATICHON said."

"The paper quoted Religious Affairs Department director Paiboon Siangkong as saying that the monks, who take a vow of celibacy and should conduct themselves modestly and frugally, are not supposed to visit beach resorts, much less congregate in the company of women in bathing suits."

"He said the Sangha Council has been asked to look into the incident and might report on it tomorrow or Tuesday."

She just popped out of the darkroom. But, I'm not sure how many of these glossies you'll get to see. Thai TattooI was using the high-speed Internet connection in the hotel business center when Annie came in with a handful of dripping wet 8 by 10s. More than a baker's dozen of them. I didn't want to play judge with any of them so I took advantage of the speed of the in-house machine and uploaded the whole lot to Paul. Unfortunately, some electrons got lost in their trip to North America, and only five showed up at that end.

This afternoon, while I stayed back at The Oriental, Annie, Mike and Jean went to the Sunday Market. This is Bangkok's largest open-air place for selling things. Though nobody came away with much in the way of tangible stuff, Annie filled one floppy disk with things and people that caught her eye.

Next: Bangkok Part IV!

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