Back Home in Bangkok, Part IV

Between Part III and Part V

March 25-31, 2001

Sunday, March 25, 2001

Again, a knock at Andy's door. Fifty-nine years ago yesterday, according to NEWNES, Britain set ... or laid down ... a 'standard' that I should know something about. But, I don't.

Andy?

More than a week has passed since I last turned us toward Glenway Wescott for our daily guidance and inspiration. It is so easy to forget the title of his little book, isn't it? I mean, the 'why' of Wescott's book ... the core reason for the collection ... why he bothered in the first place? Right? Close your eyes. Yes, right now ... well, right after this next sentence. What is its title?1

Let's march backward, starting with yesterday:

Pigmenius
FOURTH CENTURY

One of the priests who gave religious instruction to Julian, later the Apostate; perhaps he was not a good teacher. When Julian returned to the old religion or was converted to Mithraism whichever it was he banished Pigmenius, who went blind and finally came back to Rome, without permission. Julian said that he was glad to see him. The priest answered that he was glad to be blind, and not to have to see him. This rude reply infuriated the changeable emperor, who had his old master thrown into the Tiber.

The day before yesterday:

Spes
FIFTH CENTURY

A man famous for his patience. With blind and continually aching eyes, he never complained once in forty years, continually refreshed with superhuman satisfactions.

The day before the day before yesterday has two ladies, both peculiar:

Catherine of Sweden
DIED 1381

A married, but immaculate, princess and abbess who prided herself upon weeping four hours a day.

Lea
FOURTH CENTURY

A noble widow who belonged to the first community of nuns. She gave away all her money, ate badly, wore a miserable dress, neglected to comb her hair, and generally spoiled her delicate body in a course of ardent penitence, though (according to St. Jerome) without excess.

"But, what about today?"

Fair question! It is rather a big day ... both NEWNES and Wescott treat it with major 'lettering':

THE ANNUNCIATION TO THE VIRGIN MARY OF THE BIRTH OF HER SON
Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin
Lady Day
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
Maryland Day

In descending order of importance? I guess, though neither NEWNES nor Wescott give us any hint as to the 'day' that they hold dearest.

This morning's Bangkok Post leads with the story of a doctor2 who is accused of murdering his wife.

Out, Damn Spot!

"University doctor ... arrested and charged ... murder of missing wife ... human flesh and blood stains ... found in room he rented ... 40 pieces of human flesh ... found in septic tanks ... two last seen together ... presence confirmed by videotape ... DNA tests matched ... suction trucks were also sent to the doctor's residence ... police should not rush to lay charges ... wait until all the evidence is in ... strong case to push for the maximum sentence ... medical license would not be withdrawn unless ... but innocent until proven guilty ..."

All pretty much standard stuff. Though, unanswered is the question of just how long can pieces of human flesh remain in a septic tank before being leeched-out and into (and, thus, 'lost to') the surrounding soil. In this case, apparently the good doctor used the services of two septic tanks: the one connected to the room that he rented at the hospital, the other at his home. Presumably, the room at the hospital was the venue for the actual killing; also, some of the bigger 'disjointing'3 may have taken place there. The Post's readers, however, are left to speculate on their own just how much of the remaining work (the more detailed 'dicing') was done at the family home.


1 "A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers."

2 Watcharee wisely observed that it is relatively easy for doctors to dispose of bodies: "Bones are hard to cut. Doctors know how." Yes, that does tidy it all up quite nicely in less than 10 words!

3 Readers are strongly directed to the Carmen Diaz/Christian Slater movie, Very Bad Things. If you watch the film from a DVD format, please skip directly to the movie's "Clean Up" chapter. Chain saws, specialty carving sets, sponges, mops, plastic bags and other 'clean-up' aids are realistically featured in this highly entertaining, and 'cut to music' segment. The meaning of the lyrics, "I Like the Body", takes on an entirely different meaning when heard against the backdrop of the film.


Monday, March 26, 2001

Just imagine these 'names' around your dinner table. All are from NEWNES. All are from 'today'. All either died or were born. Don't worry about what they 'did'; it's only the sound of their names that counts.

Yes, I am easily impressed with 'surface' things. Incidentally, Honoratus Leigh Thomas (born, 1769) is described as a "surgeon". We certainly could have used his input later on in our dinner, as you'll soon see.

There is no doubt about it. Wescott's 'man' deserves 'sainthood':

Castulus
DIED ABOUT 288

An officer of the imperial palace who was found guilty of hiding Christians. Having survived three rounds of torture, he was buried alive in gravel.

This morning's Bangkok Post is awash with more details of our own 'septic-tank murder'. For those who missed yesterday's coverage, this is far more than a case of a sushi lunch gone horribly wrong:

"the doctor rented a room at a staff dormitory inside the university ... phoned his gynecologist wife ... to meet him at a Japanese restaurant ... where he drugged her ... then took her to the rented room ... killed her ... went to the hospital where he worked part-time ... left the hospital to buy plastic bags and some deodorizing chemicals from a nearby supermarket ... returned to the dormitory room ... spent three hours, from 7pm to 10pm, dissecting his wife's body into some 50 pieces1 ... bloodstains were found on the shower curtain and underneath the cover of the toilet bowl ... police believe he removed his wife's intestines and internal organs and dumped them in garbage bags at a Bangkok hotel he booked into the next day ... in summary, the doctor killed his wife in the rented room, disemboweled her, then cut up the body and flushed it down the toilet2"


1 At this point the staff reporter interrupts his flow with, "Forensic officials say the pieces of flesh recovered from the dormitory's septic tanks had been cleanly cut. We believe he used several scalpels and other equipment which he had prepared in advance."

2 It's hard to flush a banana down a Bangkok toilet. Arms? Legs? Hips? The head? These are major chunks! I mean all this stuff is tied together with gristle and hard to get at ropey things. Even an order of baby-back-ribs at a Tony Roma's is bad enough to take apart given a proper knife and fork ... imagine trying to separate a whole human hip from a great big thick thigh ... all the hair, all the blood ... and it's only just freshly dead and still probably twitching and kicking a bit ... this is so awful to imagine. How many trips do you have to make ... . from the tub to the toilet ... making sure that you don't try to flush something that is too big or too jagged ... 'cause then you'll really have a problem ... plungers, a pointy stick, your own hand ... imagine getting that stuck ... Oh, Jesus ... and how many flushes did the whole thing take?


Tuesday, March 27, 2001

When I first started using Wescott as an introduction to the day's events ... (yes, that WAS long ago) ... it was a novelty. Using the 'deeds' of 'saints' to start the day was kind of fun; sort of like coming up with really bad horoscopes or cracking open bogus fortune cookies. Now, a couple of years have passed and these saints are well into reruns and residuals.

But, Alf, there are always fresh readers!

Perhaps ... maybe ... anyway, as I don't remember Augusta from last year, let's at least 'run' her.

Augusta
DATE UNKNOWN

The daughter of a brutal pagan duke. It is easy to see, by what followed her conversion, why the gentle new religion was attractive to her: her father found her in prayer, dragged her from the church to the castle, and murdered her.

NEWNES is boring today. A king was born. Also, a composer. A pope died, as did a statesman. Ho ... hum. But, back on March 27, 1899, old Mr. Marconi sent out his very first international wireless message.

Try this on for size. Take your age (e.g., 25 ... 40 ... 60). 'Fold' it over on your birth year 'hinge'. For example, if you were born in 1961, use that year as the 'hinge;' and 'fold' your life span back in time so that the number of years that you have already lived 'overlays' the years that preceded your birth. So, in my example, your 40 'spent' years will catapult you back to 1921. Then look at what happened or who was born or died in 1921. This way, those things and events and people seem a little more like something that really happened, don't they? I mean, there is a 'touching' ... so to speak ... if you had lived as long backwards as you had forwards ... well, see what I'm getting at?

Anyway, according to Mister NEWNES, you'd only have to be 51 years old today for this neat trick to allow you to 'touch base' with old Marconi when he sent that first wireless message to the rest of the world. And, tomorrow, you'd only have to be 31 to relate to the end of The Spanish Civil War.


As more bits and pieces of the murdered doctor's wife (she, too, was a doctor) continue to 'surface',1 attention has shifted to what role his "medical education" played in this murder.

Did an "educational system which only emphasizes competition and knowledge in a specialized field" contribute to the crime? Was a "lack of moral, cultural and ethical awareness" at the root of this?

Nonsense!

According to Dr. Kiatibhoom Vongrachit, director of Nitijitavej Hospital, if the crime was really committed by the doctor, he probably chopped up his wife's body to destroy the evidence. "It is natural for a criminal to use his skills and experience in carrying out such activities." He went on to say: "Society may consider the doctor to have been cruel because he had chopped his wife's body into small pieces. But it is not considered an unusual murder because the victim was probably killed before being dismembered."


1 And, "surface" they did ... in a way. Apparently, the doctor checked into the Sofitel Central Plaza Hotel the day after the disappearance of his wife. Police believe the doctor may have flushed bits of his wife's flesh into the hotel's toilet. But, between that night and day that the police went to the hotel to check on the contents of its septic tank something intervened. As the Miss Thailand Universe contest was on the hotel's calendar of upcoming, and to-be-prepared-for, events a conscientious Sofitel employee hired a company to clean out the hotel's septic tank. The waste was taken to the Onnuj garbage dump. Consequently, the search of the hotel septic tank turned up only "four pieces of what looked like decomposing human flesh". This morning's Bangkok Daily News gathers or lumps together several crime related photographs into one front page, reader-convenient montage. Serving as a backdrop in this photo-medley is a picture of a building; NOT where the actual killing and the preliminary mincing allegedly took place, but a building around whose septic tank investigators want to sniff further ... apparently all this loose meat was far more than one or even two sets of plumbing could handle without choking. One of the inset photographs appears to show some of the contents of the Sofitel's septic tank, perhaps it is with one or more of these "pieces" that we see the white gloves playing.


Wednesday, March 28, 2001

You would have to be only 30 years old today to be able to 'fold' yourself back to the day that Virginia Woolf died.

Yes, there is (was) a gap in my Wescott coverage. Whatever, Sixtus III seems to be one of those rare popes whom I hope would be happy to be seen in my pages:

Sixtus III
DIED 440

St. Augustine wrote this pope a letter, congratulating him on his uncompromising opposition to the Pelgian errors about the nature of grace; other writers of the time say that he fell into them himself. Probably he was an exceedingly discreet pontiff. He did, however, quarrel with a celebrated bishop about something, lavishly decorating the church of Santa Maria Maggiore to celebrate the bishop's deposition.

Under the headline, "Remains at Hotel Belong to Doctor", this morning's Bangkok Post goes on to report that " ... four pieces of human flesh and hair found at the hotel were in perfect condition ..." Aside from that, today's English language papers have little to offer us that is fresh. To fill in the column space created by this wordy topping, the Post pretty much just summarizes what we readers already know:

... it all started with a cozy lunch at a local Japanese restaurant ... one dish gratuitously laced with a calming ingredient ... a woozy walk back to the university dormitory ... a grisly last 'dessert' for the little woman ... bring out the carving set ... (chop, chop, saw, saw) ... quick trip to the market for cans of Glade's Woody Pine ... (flush, flush, flush, flush) ... back to the 7/11 for Hefty QuikTies ... (pack, pack, pack, pack) ... check-out from the university with heavy luggage ... check-in at the Sofitel Hotel with heavy luggage ... (dice, dice, dice) ... (flush, flush, flush) ... check-out of the Sofitel with no luggage ...

Aghast at my ongoing coverage of this local event, Andy writes:

Alf, your site is all flesh and no bread these days [g].

But, he goes on to answer my question about the 'national loaf':

National loaf was a standard loaf introduced because of wartime shortages of food stuffs with U-Boats sinking most of what mother Erickson sent!

I hate to think what its recipe was!1

In 1942 the London Wholesale and Multiple Bakers joined with regional organizations to form The Federation of Bakers, to assist in organizing the wartime production and distribution of bread. The 'National Loaf', roughly equivalent to today's brown bread, was introduced due to shortage of shipping space for white flour.

From: www.bakersfederation.org.uk

What is happening over at the World Weekly News? Has the paper gone Wall Street? Is it more concerned with feeling the pulse of the economy than with chasing after dissolving corpses? If so, I am going to rue the day that I sent my hard earned cash to Lantana for an airmail2 subscription to the WWN.


1 Apparently, Andy is referring to the product that my grandmother made. Even so, there is no evidence in the Erickson family history to suggest that any Erickson 'products' were ever shipped to England during those crucial years. As you know, the Second Great War drove American wives and mothers out of the kitchen and into the factories. Too tired to bake, and reluctant to waste their precious ration books on raw flour and sugar, they turned to us for help. Unhampered by wartime ration restrictions on flour, wrapping materials and gasoline, our family stepped in to do our share. But, to ship the stuff to England ... to kill the goose that laid the golden egg ... NEVER! Incidentally, the 'little women' never really did 'return' to the kitchens.

2 Yes, that is another gripe that I have with Ed Anger and his crowd. I am still in January with them! It's almost April in Bangkok, and yet, my papers from Florida are fearful of early March bread lines in the USA.


Thursday, March 29, 2001

The first paper in my box this morning was the Bangkok Daily News. Though in the Thai language (and unreadable by me), two photographs screamed out for attention:

First: "Hah hah hah ... it's all an April Fool's Joke. I'm not dead! I'm not chopped up in little pieces. No one flushed me down the toilet. Hah hah hah."

No Problem!

Second: "These are the bones that one, two ... yes, three ... toilets could not swallow! Surgically stripped of meat, these unflushable hard parts were fished out of a local canal."

Uh oh ...

Which one is right? We'll just have to wait until Watcharee gets up. In the meantime:

Loathe to drop the bread topic ... as if fearful that I'll actually strike out on my own to gather more grim details of the diced doctor ... Andy Page has been goading me with swipes at the Erickson family bread 'n butter business:

  1. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
  2. Bread is often a 'gateway' food item, leading the user to 'harder' items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter and even cream cheese.
  3. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than two minutes.

Watcharee? Still sleeping?

The French Embassy has a new roof! French EmbassyIt appeared as if by magic. The last time that I looked down at the place ... but a day or two ago ... there was nothing there to keep out the rain. Today tiles cover everything. Using different camera options, I've given this stage of the ongoing construction a photographic benchmark, so to speak. Whenever I do this ... update my French Embassy construction file ... my web logs almost always reflect this with a big bunching of French suffixes (.fr) in the "Transfers by Client Top-Level Domain" section. Can it be ... .that all over France ... there are huddled ... in front of monitors ... little families of French diplomats ... each awaiting the latest news about what "Papa" is doing in Bangkok?

Watcharee,are you awake? Not yet?

Unfortunately for us, NEWNES had another trough day:

"Of course she is dead! No one would make such a joke of this!"

That was Watcharee. Up and awake ... with a full cup of coffee inside.

Confirming everything, the Bangkok Post, in its ever-reserved "crime/body in tank" pre-leader, said: SKULL, BONES FOUND IN RUBBISH BAG.

Scattered throughout both Bangkok papers are other bits that, standing by themselves, don't deserve a separate story:


Friday, March 30, 2001

I think that's enough, Andy.

If you are 67 years old today you can say, "I was there!"

This one is for Patty White:

Quirinus
SECOND CENTURY

There is confusion about the number of saints called Quirinus. This one appears to have been a governor of the Roman prisons. Pope Alexander I by getting out of his cell into that of another Christian prisoner, with the assistance of an infant angel converted him. His hands and feet were then cut off and his tongue given to a hawk or falcon; the helpless body dragged by oxen, the speechless head cut off.


I was skeptical. It looked too meatless. But, you can't really tell from a newspaper photograph. If left in yucky canal water, allowed to marinate in God only knows what kind of 'chemical cocktail', forced to endure the great tidal swings of the Chao Pyha River ... yes, if just permitted to swish around without guidance ... well, who knows what bones should look like when laid out on a sheet and exposed to fresh sunlight.

Today's Bangkok Post shouts "SKULL NOT CONNECTED TO CASE".

It belonged to "... a man believed to have been killed and dumped ... more than four months ago."

Somewhere, someone is getting a racing heart! Long pushed from memory, that November day is now receiving a major revisit.

... what else did I leave in the bag ... oh, my God ... DNA, the Internet, the Institute of Forensic Medicine, the top cops from 'Homicide' ... all these really big canons are coming out ... shit, it was just a little murder; only a tiny one ... and now ...

Single-use tools? Like disposable plastic gloves, chopsticks fill the bill quite nicely in cases like this. Ludicrously inexpensive, distributed in convenient snap-apart pairs, clean as any dish-to-mouth instrument can ever hope to be ... chopsticks are the perfect tools for handling human meat.1 Whether this is what they are doing in this particular picture will have to await Watcharee's arrival.

But, I am betting my money that this is exactly what is happening. Cops bunched together, stainless steel surgical trays, the 'product' held high (out of camera range?) ... yes, what does this tell you? It tells me that we have evidence on the move.

Alf, but why the chopsticks?

The Daily News doesn't say. Maybe the bits of meat have to be swished around in their little petrie dishes. Constant agitation might be needed to keep everything fresh. I'm not sure.

What about that other picture? The one showing some people actually in the river ... with others just sitting on the bank, watching?

Because of the inset of the doctor-behind-bars, we know that it must have something to do with our case. But, exactly what, we just don't know. Whether one of the men in the water is sieving for parts of someone, or is just 'horsing-around', the News does not say.

Any ideas about the last picture, Alf?

Though I could speculate that it shows a senior police officer rebuking a junior one for pulling up the wrong skeleton, that would be just plain irresponsible speculation. And, I do not want to travel down that road. No, sir!


1 Invented thousands of years ago by the Chinese, chopsticks have a long history of meat transport. Pork, chicken, fish, beef ... even dog ... when diced to a proper size, can be conveniently moved short distances with these handy finger-operated utensils


Saturday, March 31, 2001

I think we'll just have to close the door on this person for a while! Give an inch ...

This morning's IHT noted that the world's longest daily nonstop flight will be inaugurated on Sunday. Long Flight PlanUnited's #821 from JFK to Honk Kong will cover the 8,439 miles (13,581 kilometers) by flying directly over the North Pole. Second longest is the existing Continental one: Newark to Honk Kong ... flying just two fewer miles than the United one. Both flights use Boeing 747-400s, the largest jet in commercial service. During the flight the plane will consume nearly its own weight in fuel; allowing for a 10% (5,000 gallon) reserve.

Earlier this month, my son, David, and his wife, Adriana, came to and left from Bangkok via this Hong Kong connection. But, this 16 plus 'in-air hours' between New York and Asia only really works well for you when you don't have to suffer the extra leg of travel. It matters little that the additional leg is but a hop.

I wonder how far it is between Fort Lauderdale and Bangkok. Right now, I really can't complain about the journey. Flying to Miami from Bangkok involves just two long legs ... and there is an excellent choice among the midway cities: London, Paris, and Zurich ... to list just three of the most convenient ones. Coming back it is the same. And, eastbound or westbound, much of the flying is done at night so the time aloft gets collapsed into sleep.

The Thai baht is nudging its all time 'worst' against the dollar. When I moved here the baht was trading in the low 30s ... yesterday it was close to 45.

Next: Continuing into April

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