Bangkok Forever? ... Part XVI

Back at the Oriental Hotel

Between Part XV and Part XVII

July 24-31, 2000

Monday, July 24, 2000

Last night Annie (plus Cam) and I went across town to the Asia Hotel to catch the 8:15pm performance of the Calypso Cabaret (www.calypsocabaret.com) (www.calypso.co.th). Calypso CabaretThough somewhat "cheesy," it is sure lots of fun ... not to be missed if you intend to spend more than a couple of days in Bangkok. All of the women in the show are men, as are the few men. And, all of the songs, and much of the 'platter,' are lip-synched1 ... most of it in raw American-English.

1 My friend, Oh, raised an interesting question. Is it "lip-synch" or, is it "lip-sing"? As they both sound the same and both convey a proper picture, which is right?

A couple of months ago, when Mike and Annie were visiting Bangkok, Annie took one of my Sony digitals to the show. If you thumb back a few pages (actually, quite a few chapters) you can see what she shot. She did it again yesterday. This time I was with her ... I had the other digital camera. All of the clever shots are hers, of course.

IN OUR PAGES: 100 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Lawyers' Drink

PARIS - The official drink of the Paris bar (the legal institution) is coco, or a mixture of liquorice juice and water. During the summer months this drink is served gratuitously to members of the Order of Advocates by the Order itself. The "Journal" announces that the "b?tonnier," Me. Devin, has in view of the hot fatiguing weather, decided that henceforth a little rum shall be added to the coco to "tonify" it. Thus "tonified" the coco was proclaimed a great success, and numerous were the barristers who put in an appearance to taste it.

According to this morning's Bangkok Post, the winner in the race for Bangkok Governor is Samak Sundaravej. He received 1,016,096 votes. Trailing in 23rd place is Kachorn Chuklaew who got 84 votes. Others fell in between.

Wescott's saint was the daughter of a governor:

Christiana
DATE UNKNOWN

This Christian daughter of a Pagan governor broke up her father's expensive idols and distributed them among the poor - a piece of Jove to one, Venus' hand to another, Neptune's fork to another. Whereupon, in a rage, he tried to kill her. Her resistance frightened him; and he went on trying, thinking she was a witch. Finally he died of fright. The next governor also endeavored to either subdue her or to put her to death; it took some time and effort even to do the latter.


Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Most people carry the latter saint in their cars. Dangling from the rear view mirror ... or in the case of atheists, tucked under the operator's manual in the glove compartment ... he allows ... and even condones ... otherwise unacceptable actions.

Christopher
THIRD CENTURY

This mythical giant determined to serve the greatest prince in the world and no other. The first employer he found shivered whenever he heard the Devil mentioned; so he transferred his allegiance to the Devil. But he noticed that his new dark master was afraid of the cross, and concluded that the Lord of the cross was the one he was looking for. Someone then told him that in this greatest Master's employ he would have to fast and pray. The simple colossus was afraid to fast, lest he lose his strength, and too proud to pray. So, in a quandary, he went to work carrying people across a stream; and one day a little child hired him. The little child was as heavy as lead, as heavy as all the world; the water rose in a flood; and they narrowly escaped drowning. Afterwards the child explained who He was and why He was so heavy. Telling this story got Christopher in trouble and in the end the king of Lycia had his head cut off.

He is the patron of porters, and is universally invoked against accidents and elemental perils.

Perhaps, at the time, NEWNES had no idea that this was the beginning:

The breakfast edition of the Bangkok Post amuses its readers with two human-interest stories:

SWEET DREAMS

A four-year old elephant sleeps in Soi Maiyalarp, Ram Intra road after being fed bananas by police who were alerted when a resident of a housing estate saw it wandering all alone. Police believe the baby strayed from an elephant camp in the suburb.

Morning Stories

CHINESE GANGSTERS SUSPECTED IN KILLING
Dismembered Body Found In Apartment

The dismembered remains of a male aged about 30 were found in a rented room near On-nuj road, Prawes district, on Sunday night.

Police believe Chinese gangsters killed the man with a hammer blow to the head while his hands were bound tight with nylon rope.

The victim, thought to have been Chinese, was decapitated and his legs severed at the knees. The parts were placed in three plastic bags.

Police said identifying marks included a smudged, English-language tattoo on the right wrist and an operation scar on his penis.

Blood-stained cotton wool, clothes, two large knives and a hammer were wrapped in another bag and a saw placed in a washbasin.

Yupa Thamachart, 56, the landlady, said a Chinese-looking man aged about 20 had rented the room and paid a deposit of 4,000 baht last Thursday.

On Sunday, tenants in adjacent rooms complained about a smell, so she opened the room and found the bags.

Prani Kaewchan, 40, a vendor wh lives in a nearby room, said she had seen the victim with a man aged 50-60 and a woman in her 30s.

The couple had delivered a television set and a fan to the apartment last Thursday, according to Ms. Prani.

The TV set, which was turned to a high volume late Friday night, was not loud enough to drown out the faint sound of a scream, she said.

A police source said the victim was known as Achern, who worked as an interpreter for an export firm in Klong Toey and had been involved in smuggling goods and drugs.


Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Was there a paternal grandmother? What about "great-grandmothers"? Not to mention, of course, whether Anne got July 26th all to herself just because of Mary?

Anne
FIRST CENTURY

The Savior's maternal grandmother.

Wescott said no more.

While still rummaging around in yesterday's news ... this one is for our very own Tilman Smith of Seattle, Washington:

IN OUR PAGES: 75 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1925: Talk Marathon

CHICAGO - Just for once an antiquated belief has been substantiated by fact - that a woman can out-talk a man. Out of thirty-seven candidates entered in a talking contest here a Negro kept up a monologue for thirty-six hours. Kitty Carley challenged him and she chattered way past the Negro's record and was entering into her forty-third consecutive hour, still talking clearly, when the jury called enough and awarded her a 1,000 dollar prize.

A living nightmare for the men who juggle linotype for the world's morning papers! Hell for the editor who calls the wrong story! Yes, today there is just too much cake on the plate. Here in Bangkok there was more than just the spectacular and fiery plunge of a Concorde into a Paris hotel. More than just the total collapse of the Middle East peace talks with the resultant real possibility of Jerusalem going up in flames. Even more than Bush choosing Cheney. The Htoo twins are talking again! So, which story gets the coveted page 1 spot in the Bangkok Post?

TWIN HEADS OF GOD'S ARMY DENY RATCHABURI SIEGE

Bangkok, Reuters - The child-soldier twins accused or masterminding the siege of Ratchaburi provincial hospital in January have denied that they ordered the attack.

Interviewed at their jungle hideout in a remote mountainous area close to the Thai-Burma border, Johnny and Luther Htoo, 12, said their enemy was the military government in Rangoon and its soldiers who had killed and raped their people.

"We didn't give the order to attack (the hospital)," Luther Htoo said. "We were attacked by the Burmese (troops) who came form behind and the Thai army who came from the front. The TwinsWe had to run deeper into the jungle."

Remnants of the twins' group, dubbed God's Army, have been on the run since January when 10 heavily armed guerrillas burst into a hospital in Ratchaburi, 100km west of Bangkok, and took 700 staff and patients hostage.

The 24-hour siege ended in the deaths of all 10 hostage takers and condemnation of the Htoo twins.

Since then, the twins and their followers have been chased by both Thai troops and Burmese government forces and are now in hiding in the jungle area that runs between the two countries.

In the filmed interview obtained by Reuters, Luther, who has had his hair cut short, was dressed in army fatigues and sported a small scar under his left eye, referred mysteriously to another group who he seemed to imply may have been responsible for the hospital attack:

"I knew that they may do something to stop fighting but I didn't know what. It was already done ... We couldn't do anything," he said.

As Luther spoke, his followers, a collection of men and boys, sat around holding their rifles and smoking.

Luther's brother Johnny, dressed all in black with his trademark long hair hidden under a black bandana, said little, but like other members of the outlaw group he seemed happy to pose for the camera.

The sons of a farmer, Luther and Johnny have had no formal education and live in a strange world full of magic and mystery.

They claim to be in charge of 400,000 invisible soldiers and have the ability to predict the future and change the shape of things around them.

The twins spend much of their time smoking and being carried around by devoted followers, who are usually much older.

Many villagers in the border area believe the twins have possessed supernatural wisdom since childhood and that they are reincarnations of ancient heroes of their ethnic Karen community, which has been at war with the Burmese for centuries.

The twins' reputation has spread far and wide among friends and foe.

The Karen community has found inspiration in stories of the two boys, who they see as battling their ancient enemy.

"I carry a gun to shoot Burmese (government troops) because they are bad to the Karen people. They beat our people, rape our women, kill them and destroy villages," said Luther.

"They take children from parents and make them into porters."

Political analysts say God's Army lost some support after the hospital attack and probably has no more than 200 devoted fighters left.


Thursday, July 27, 2000

Of late, quirky elements in our press have blown all out of proportion what would be just another squabble over who owns an old toy. Had this been someone's Red Ryder sled or Lionel double-O gauge locomotive the whole thing would have been lost in some obscure claims court. But, because some ink-stained fingers have nothing better to write about, we have to suffer through paragraph after paragraph of puppet DNA ... and whether this "Doody" was the real one ... or was it the matte "Doody" (light absorbing) ... or the tri-hinged "Doody" (for studio stills) ... or one of the expendable ones that could be safely left with organizers of supermarket openings.

The people who are worrying about title to the "Doody" were very young when the puppet made its first appearance. Perhaps they were even members of the first "Peanut Gallery"; if so, that would explain much. Let The Onion set this 1949 stage:

HIDEOUS WOODEN IMP CAUSES NATIONAL PANIC
Nightmarish Puppet-Beast Featured On Children's Show
Millions of Youngsters Lapse into Fear-Induced Comas

NEW YORK - Children nationwide were terror-stricken Thursday as a new program made its debut starring a grotesque wooden specter identifying itself as "Howdy Doody."

Leering, quaking and dangling from several sinewy strings, the dead-eyed abomination greeted viewers with a heart-stopping grimace and proceeded to lure children into accepting its eerie doctrine of glassy-eyed conformity and obedience to authority.

Members of the "Peanut Gallery," the cloistered juvenile inductees to the Path of Doody, Howdy Doodyappeared to be held in the thrall of the wobbling puppet-beast as they inaugurated the broadcast by declaring, in unison, that the reign of the evil Doody had begun.

Often hovering inches above the floor of the small boxy stage it inhabits, Doody presented a variety of skits and songs, assisted by Robert "Buffalo Bob" Smith, a key member of Doody's inner circle. Also on stage was a mute, androgynous, unspeakably horrifying clown.

"I am led to believe that the clown's vocal cords were severed by its pint-sized wooden overlord," said Kenneth Wallace, who watched the show with his two young children. "The tendency toward mischief and pranks on the clown's part would no doubt have enraged the malevolent host - 'puppet master' who is literally a puppet, if you will."

So what do the children, the toughest critics of all, think of the new show? Wallace's 5-year-old daughter, Karen, said, "I don't like television any more."

Stevie Timmons, 3, hid under his bed for several days after first viewing the program, muttering, "Make puppet go away. Don't like puppet."

Producers of the program expect the shrill-voiced ghoul to become indelibly etched into the psyches of the nation's children, causing them untold psychological problems in later life, including an unnatural aversion to wood and an inability to maintain meaningful relationships.

Sometimes Wescott appears just plain whimsical when he gives us his saints. Not that he's dour the rest of the time; rather, he's purposeful with his barbs. I think he sort of likes today's serving ... so do I ... but, I guess that's because Wescott was kinder today than on most days.

The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus
DIED 250

Having been outlawed for the faith, these young noblemen took refuge in a cave, which the officers of the Emperor Decius then walled up. They did not suffocate, but fell into a deep sleep. One hundred and eight years later a lawyer who was building a stable began to carry away stones from the wall. This woke them. They were hungry, and one of them went to town for bread; and he was astonished to hear freely used, even in jesting and cursing, the name which he and his friends scarcely dared to whisper, for fear of death. Furthermore, the money he had in his pocket was refused at the baker's; people pretended never to have seen such coins before. The authorities returned with him to the cave, where the mystery was cleared up. Then the young men gave thanks - who knows why? - and fell asleep again, for good this time.

Mahomet refers to them in the Koran. One is inclined to think that almost all Christians now have taken them for patron saints.

Sandwiched between Wescott and NEWNES is Noo.

How does Noo always manage to look so good? It's closing time ... and she has a cold ... it's the end of a nine-hour workday ... the lighting is bad ... and these snaps are bounced off a mirror.

Oh's here too.

As promised, NEWNES:

One of my Thai friends ... [she knows that I have a hot air balloon] ... was curious as to why I named my balloon "cork." Did it have something to do with floating through the air? And, how many people were in my "crew"? CORK'S CREW. Makes sense, doesn't it? She's not the same girl who puzzled me with "Lip Sing" a couple of days ago.

Messing about still further with this screwy word brings up one of Don Bull's pieces. His is the Christscrew (or Screwchrist)! I am really envious. I may need this wacky crucifix to help drive back the fuming vicars and their toady altar boys should they charge my CB3 while we are in Italy. The holy cards might not be enough. But, I should be grateful that I am not going up against Luther and Johnny Htoo and God's Army of 400,000 invisible soldiers.


Friday, July 28, 2000

NEWNES, setting the tone:

No elephants seen wandering about.
Nothing special happening down at Patpong.
ALIMAK is quiet.
Luther and Johnny Htoo appear content in the jungle.
For the Spa girls it is just another day.
IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 and 50 YEARS AGO, not much.
Any corpses found had their appendages still fully attached.
Bank of Thailand remained silent on the status of its reserve accounts.


Saturday, July 29, 2000

NEWNES:

Wescott compiled this long before Martha Stewart was even born. I think.

Martha
FIRST CENTURY

When the family of Bethany got to France, Martha taught in the Rhone valley. A dragon called the Tarasque appeared out of the river and went destructively up and down, burning with its breath, trampling, eating, roaring. So Martha sprinkled it with holy water and tied it with her garter and led it to the slaughter, as meek as a young heifer.

She is the patroness of cooks and housewives.

Do you remember Gabriele Thiers-bense?

From 'The Intermarket' section of the IHT (weekend edition, only)?

With offices in "Paris, Munich, the USA, Singapore, Melbourne"?

Her slogan: "Since 1975 we arrange marriages ... to the best in international society"?

In slightly smaller print (and, no doubt, suffering from a literal translation from high-German): "Meaningful, principally critical, esteemed & acknowledged Elite trusting this intensive experience, our unsurpassed niveau & MY EXCLUSIVE PERSONAL GUIDANCE!"?

The Thiers-bense reception rooms at Otto-Heilmann - Str.5, Munich-Grunwald must be bewildering place: awash with only the best of the best ... captains of this 'n that, nobles on the out, divines in their own eyes…all worrying over the same Thesaurus. Perhaps it was only a few days ago that Gabriele discovered this new talent:

LONDON, A RADIANT BEAUTY - early 38/5'8"

From a RENOWNED NOBLE FAMILY, this unique World Lady does not merely impress by status, Gabriele's Offeringshe more so captivates with HER SPIRITS, ART & INDESCRIBABLE FEMININE APPROACH! Luxuriously residing in the English countryside & the South of France, of impeccable integrity, accustomed to and relying on traditions & the classic values, presents exquisite manners and on her delightful old-fashioned understanding of a genuine & unique love-relationship/marriage. She appears as a quaint picture, which radiates composure and peace - presenting grace, gentleness & rare individualism. She knows by descent, THAT BEST, MOST MEANINGFUL & PROSPERING MARRIAGES ARE "MADE" and not simply found…For the distinctly distinguished, adequate & in spirits noble person & ONLY FOR MARRIAGE!

Unassisted by brokers, others on the look must make do with fewer words:

FRENCH TOP MODEL, intelligent, sexy, seeks attractive, generous, rich American to travel USA only.


"It wuz a small French rrrrrock ... rrrrrrrazor sharp!" Looking down at his drink, the German tried to stab the small pearl onion ... but it kept sliding away from the plastic pick.

The CNN picture showed a rubber coated masked fireman hosing down what appeared to be a tire. In the background the broken arch of a doorway smoldered lightly.

Over and over again the amateur video showed the Concorde trailing a magnificent plume of flame. Most of the people in the Bamboo Bar were veterans of that Paris - JFK flight. One even thought he knew the pilot from past crossings.

Later in the broadcast another set of charred bodies popped up on the screen. As this one is closer to home for the Screwy Tuskers Elephant Team I was able to add something to the evening's bar talk.

SEARCH FOR BODIES

Kathmandu - Search teams sifting through the wreckage of a Twin Otter aircraft which crashed in Nepal killing 25, yesterday retrieved 13 charred bodies from the burnt-out remnants of the plane, reports said. All 25 people on board were killed when the Royal Nepal Airlines plane crashed in heavy jungle on Thursday in Dadeldhura district, 415km west of Kathmandu. Police and local villagers helped remove the bodies from the crash site yesterday as a helicopter search team scoured the area for more bodies, reports said.


IN OUR PAGES: 100 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Rapid Transit

NEW YORK - Five hours from New York to Chicago. That is what the American Railway Company officials say they can do with passenger, mail and express traffic. Two hundred miles an hour. That is what they claim for their new transit scheme. Pointed compartment cars - the shape of a naval projectile - will, they say, whiz from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a single day. Electricity will be the motor power and the single car trains will be operated by the man at the handle of a gearless motor in the point of the vehicle. A magnetic brake will make it possible to stop a car in forty feet.

1950: To Fight Cancer

LONDON - Bold new attempts to fight cancer with peace-time radio-active atoms from atomic ovens were described to the Sixth International Congress on Radiology. Radioactive gold is injected by needle into the belly to combat cancer which has spread through the abdomen. The radio-active or "hot" atoms of such common things as sodium, bromine and cobalt are put inside plastic bags, which then are placed inside the cancer-ridden bladders.


Sunday, July 30, 2000

NEWNES vouches for them. They are (or, were) real people who made contributions to their respective fields. Though I have never heard of two of them (the art critic/historian and the encyclopaedist), the third ... I read bits of him in college:

Rufinus
DATE UNKNOWN

This man had a son of exceeding beauty. When they were converted, the boy's abandoned companions betrayed them. The governor sent a pair of dancing girls named Apollonia and Nicea to the prison, to seduce them. But when the girls heard the boy singing in his angelic voice, they would not even make a trial of their charms, and were put to death. Two soldiers who had been their lovers then came to the prison, quite changed by sorrow; and in memory of the scrupulous entertainers, Rufinus baptized them. Next he converted the governor and his underlings, so that the emperor had to have the entire municipal staff beheaded. Thus the early church grew, adorned with victims. Somehow Rufinus escaped that time, and became the first Bishop of Assisi; but he was thrown into a river in the end. No one knows what happened to his handsome son.

Dear reader, on Wednesday this particular Bangkok journal will come to an end. Approaching 70,000 words and more than 140 pages (covering a hundred days), it has been by far my longest uninterrupted piece of writing from one place. And, I have absolutely no idea how many photographs have been wedged between, and in the middle of these paragraphs.

Starting on Thursday I'll be writing to you from France. No, I am not abandoning Bangkok (the place remains "home"). And, I do want to be back here at The Oriental on September 26th, if only to witness ALIMAK'S army march off this long occupied property. But, for the next seven and a half weeks, my corkscrew-balloon journal will originate in Europe (and the USA).

Very briefly: Paris, Vault de Lugny, Beaune, Siena, Scotland, Florida, Berlin, Norway and Sweden. One or two of my balloons will trail along the route, except when I am in Scotland and Florida. And, there will be a changing cast of characters. Mostly children ... but, two old friends as well: Cindy Mielke and Paul Fjelstad. Plus, one surprise traveler who might have to be suffused in password protections, at least on the French portion of the trip.


Monday, July 31, 2000

Had it not been for the Monty Python skit [512k MPEG] I would have passed on Wescott's ramblings and gone directly to 1950.

Ignatius Loyola
DIED 1556

The great Basque was nothing but a soldier and a troublesome lover until he was wounded in the leg at the siege of Pampeluna. Then, while confined to his room, he asked for 'Amadis' and some other popular novels, and was given a book of lives of the saints instead. His first blessed impulse seems to have been altogether ambitious: an irritable, jealous emulation of St. Dominic and St. Francis. As soon as he was able, he went into retreat at Montserrat, leaving his armour at the Virgin's feet in the chapel there. For ten months after that he lived in a cave at Manresa, where he almost went mad with doubt and excitement, and wrote his famous 'Exercises.' Then he begged his way to the Holy Land and back; and, at the age of thirty, in Barcelona, with great difficulty, learned Latin; and went to the universities of Alcala and Salamanca, where he got into trouble with the Inquisition; and studied for seven years in Paris. He was a mediocre student, but cast upon nine other students the spell of his sacred ambition, and then and there, with them, founded the Society of Jesus.

It was the dream of a soldier and a reader of novels: an international army, almost unscrupulous, blindly obedient in all things, from the detail of a phrase in conversation to the worst of mortal sins, inclusively; a universal school of thought, making a romance of everything for everyone, considering the individual soul as a marionette which moves as the strings are held and pulled; an arch-cabal, pulling the strings by every art, fine and not fine.

After St. Francis, the demi-god somewhat betrayed by his great followers even as Jesus Christ was, after St. Dominic, the tragic Don Quixote - the triumph of this Sancho of genius, this Figaro, is very strange. In a few years, his Society swarmed all over the world - courtiers, masters of publicity, pornographers not of passion but of the Passion, sanctified spies and ideal politicians and secretive heroes of all sorts; and it not only changed, not only restored, but saved Christianity for a good many more centuries.

NEWNES:

Next: Bangkok Forever, The Final Chapter

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