Bangkok in the Heart of Winter, Part IV

Between Part III and Part V

February 12-19, 2002

Tuesday, February 12, 2002


The third installment of the 'balloon papers' ... scheduled for today ... has to make way for some potentially disturbing news:

This morning's International Herald Tribune, in its recently made-over PEOPLE section, reported that Gore Vidal is moving his papers to Harvard University. They were previously stored at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Film and Theater Research. Piqued that the papers had not been catalogued with as much detail as he would have liked, the man after whom our suite is named transferred his entire collection from Madison to Cambridge. Whether all his aphorisms (*) made the transfer is not known.

As is the case all too often, we here at Suite 1410 (The Gore Vidal Suite) first heard about the transfer when we read about it in the newspapers.

It is "potentially disturbing news" because The Gore Vidal Suite has its own collection of Gore Vidal papers; including a framed photograph of the author that is much more flattering than the one normally seen by newspaper readers. Should our own, admittedly modest, collection of papers be also asked to move to Massachusetts ... well, I am not so sure that The Oriental would want to keep the Gore Vidal name associated with Suite 1410.2

More locally, the Bangkok Daily News features a photograph of a double slaying. The occupants of a Mercedes were gunned down in a dispute over money and/or a girl.3

1 Made famous in the late 1960's by Monty Python.

2 That, of course, would be a management decision that we, as tenants, would have little to say about.

3 "Is there any other reason to kill ... or live?" - Immanuel Kant (1803).

(*) This collection of aphorisms was compiled by Prof. Frank Pajares of Emory University:

PS. See how a tiny typo (a lower case "e") in a New York Times headline (Septmber 26, 1972) forced Google to make this entry appear as one of my near neighbors in its engine search for anything about the Gore Vidal Suite:

Buckley Drops Vidal Suite, Settles With Esquire
The legal battle between William F. Buckley, Jr. and gore Vidal arising out of their public exchange of affronts, apparently came to an end yesterday with an announcement by Mr. Buckley of two acts: the dropping of his suit against Mr. Vidal and an out-of-court settlement of $115,000 with Esquire magazine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002 [Chinese New Year - Year of the Horse]1


This edition of the 'balloon papers' takes us again back to January 10, 2002. The imprinted date on the photograph combined with the presence of the 'signature' window treatment is overwhelming evidence that this picture was taken on the same date as the other two photographs bearing the "10 1 2002" stamp.2,3


However, the observant viewer will surely wonder why the yellow beach ball is now partially hidden by clutter ... and why there is more stuff around it ... and, is there a reason why the chair (no longer a useful prop) has something plaid hanging on it? A beige cushion on the seat; the green satin ones gone? The missing coffee cup? The yellow yard goods now nowhere to be seen; black fabrics in their place? These are good questions; there are no easy answers. Unless, perhaps, it's just because the apartment belongs to a young woman who was not expecting any important company.

1 Both Watcharee and I are of the Year of the Tiger ... widely spaced years, of course.

2 The 'signature' window treatment: an ordinary cloth 'roughly' (almost rudely) tacked to the window frame ... though not overwhelming proof that 'this one' and 'that one' were snapped on the same day ... does rule out that the picture was taken on the 5th of January. Of course, we do not allow for the argument that the programmed date-stamp mechanism inside the camera might have been tampered with ... or, that clever drapery specialists were brought in to re-tack the cloth into the exact same holes and to rustle the folds into just the right bunches. But, that is not likely, as in today's photograph the lower right tack has been removed. OR, it was not there to begin with? And, in that case would this surely indicate that today's photograph was taken before the other January 10th photographs, but after the January 5th picture? OR, it was there earlier ... but for some reason it was removed so that ... but that way lays madness ...

3 Anyway, from this photograph Sian has made much.

Thursday, February 14, 2002 (Old Candlemas)


Valentine's Day2 forces another pause in the publication of the 'balloon papers'.

Today Watcharee and I went to Ayutthaya. Though I drove most of the way she took the wheel as we got closer to her mom's house. Some of you already know that Watcharee got her driver's license only a few months ago ... after learning how to drive a car in Bangkok's notoriously haphazard traffic, on a standard transmission car without air conditioning or power steering. Her instructor was a nervous man whose 'last say', should an emergency arise, was just a shaky hand on the center-mounted parking brake.

Anyway, we went there to see how our new house is coming along. We are building a get-away place on the river about an hour's drive north of Bangkok. Not that we plan to spend a lot of time there ... as the phone line seems to support only 9,600 baud.3

1 The "London Eye" is probably the last word in the type of engineering that Ferris pioneered. His first 'wheel' predates the invention of Canon 'stitch' technology by almost a century and a half. Both can be seen in my December pages.

2 According to Englebert there were two Saint Valentines: one was "... beaten and later decapitated on the Flaminian Way ..."; the other was "... beheaded"...". Neither Valentine is in any way associated with anything romantic. Perhaps the liturgical calendar compilers were 'off' by a day, and it was the Syrian hermit Saint Eusebius who should have been credited with bringing people together.

3 We had to buy the 'line' from a neighbor down the road ... .and run the wire over the trees and through a drainage pipe.

Friday, February 15, 2002


This morning's International Herald Tribune, in its "International Traveler Update" section,1 has a misleading article entitled "Girl's night out? Better have a male chaperone". The article states that "women arriving in bars in Bangkok without a male escort face being turned away or arrested." It goes on to say that though the measure was "originally intended to prevent prostitutes from entering bars," it is now "intended to help the police enforce a ban on weapons and underage drinkers."2

Essentially Wescott and Englebert aren't at odds as to what Severus managed to do with his dead parishioner. Wescott at first seems to smack the halo ... but then ... somewhat grudgingly, lightly buffs the inflicted bruise with his elbow. Englebert just repeats what he read somewhere else.


Saint Severus

This parish-priest of Abruzzia was pruning his vines when he was sent to administer the last sacrament, and put off going until he got his job done. When he arrived the man was dead. Then, of course, he bemoaned his bucolic worldliness. Presently the dead man came to life, and told how, for the priest's sake, a beautiful youth had sent the burning angels of the other world back with his soul. So Severus had a whole week in which to make his parishioner confess and do penance, who then quite cheerfully died again.


Priest of the province of Valeri in Abruzzi. In his Dialogues, Pope St. Gregory tells that he raised from the dead a man whom the demons were dragging down to hell, in order to convert him.

Before resuming our look at the balloon papers, I have a couple of photos from yesterday's trip to Ayutthaya. The first is a family picture; in it Watcharee is about 12 or 13 years old. The second is of a crack in the floor of her childhood home, below which a dog (many years ago) suffered an indignity that forever made Watcharee its enemy.


There is no doubt about it: this over-the-shoulder Hoover photograph was taken on the same day as was the other Hoover shot: January 5th 2002. Green satin pillows, upright laundry basket, yellow yard goods, bare window and the give-away "5 1 2002" date stamp ... all there! Missing is the beach ball; gone is the coffee cup, black fabric not to be seen: yes, the Sherlock Holmes test: the dog that did not bark proves the point!

And, as with all the other poses ... Hoover-helped or not ... Sian again turned her flat setting into a magic balloon.

Now, dear reader, which pose combination do you like? The completed balloon will have two elephants, two poses. I am partial to one of them being the 'reclining' Jan; perhaps for the "Club" side of the balloon. And, of course, one of the 'action' Jans for the "Screwy Tusker" face of the balloon. But, let me know what you think.3

1 Always found on page two, below the fold, in the three left columns.

2 This "ban" on unescorted women entering bars was only enforced in the 'red-light' bars. It was the Mama-sans of the bars who enforced it as they did not want their own girls to have to compete with outsiders, whether they be professionally available or just casually willing.

3 This is especially directed to the PCC members and to the Screwy Tuskers (chirps from the still embryonic "Screwless Tuskers, too, are welcome).

Saturday, February 16, 2002




The dowager Duchess or Queen-mother of Bohemia, who brought up her grandson Wenceslaus in the Christian faith. Her pagan daughter-in-law hired professional assassins to strangle her with her own veils while she was saying her prayers.1

A photograph of a bullet trail through two human torsos.

1 Ludmilla is actually a saint for September 16th ... (I had the book open to the wrong page) ... and, as I had already done the typing ...

Sunday, February 17, 2002

The Bangkok headquarters of the House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com has had some powerful reader feedback about CB4. This feedback came from a man with whom we have done business in the past ... a man whose unseen hand has been responsible for some of the things that you have seen on these pages. But, because of his position, his name has never been allowed to float beside his work.

When he first saw the sketches of the elephant on CB4 he asked this:

"I had a question: is the screw part of the elephant intended to be a phallic image? It kind of looks like our sporting pachyderm has a raging hormone problem (and who wouldn't with what's1 sitting on his back?) rather than looking to facilitate a wine tasting. I could make some suggestions to minimize that, but I wasn't sure if you *intended* that or not. Certainly it will be a conversation piece when you land. LOL!"

I, of course, replied and asked for his suggestions. Within hours he came back with this descriptive modification accompanied by a picture:

"I think if you just tucked in the belly around the screw a bit, it would look great. I included a modified photo. I also shortened the screw a bit. What about also making the screw a color different from the elephant? Bright silver? I think you were using a yellow background, right?"

Paul, can we lay them side-by-side?

Original Version
Original Version
Alternative Version
De-bellied Version

OK, dear readers, what do you think? As we are still in the final design stages, tinkering is possible.

NEWNES reminds us that in:

1 Jan L********, of Cameron Balloons, Bristol.

PS. Tom Sage of Cameron Balloons just sent me this terribly nice picture of CB3. He 'caught' it flying at Chateau d'Oex. Tom, in return, I am going to visit the steam locomotive yard here in Thonburi (on the far side of the river from Bangkok) and send you a snap or two of your other love in life: British locomotives built in the 1930's for their Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway (India). In the mean time, here is a teaser or two from BANGKOK TIMEOUT magazine.2

2 Photos by Ken Barrett of BANGKOK TIMEOUT (January, 2002)

Monday, February 18, 2002



Colman of Lindisfarne
DIED 676

An Irish bishop in England who was famous for his uncompromising ardour in the dispute about the date of Easter: even in the Dark Ages the faithful gave a great deal of attention to trifles.1

Last week, on a slow news day, I showed you a bullet's clean trail through two human torsos. As both today's Bangkok Daily News and the Bangkok Raht again are reduced to featuring things like pictures of remote agricultural fairs and/or monks blessings tractors and old farmers on their 'below-the-folds' ... well, I've dug around the archives and found a previously unpublished photograph of our very own Miss "Gift" about to try on her new PCC shirt ... and, for those of you who were not satisfied with what one bullet can do to two human torsos, here is a shot fired through five bodies.2

1 The rest of what Colman did is boring (dealing with cattle and monastery housekeeping); I left it out. Englebert just says he was a bishop; full stop.

2 The damage trail suggests that it was a steel coated bullet. Lead or even a 'crossed' copper-covered bullet no doubt would have started an early expansion that surely would have made the resulting trail much messier for the torsos next in line.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

It's been slow since we've been back from Chateau d'Oex. "Routinization" might be a better word to describe it, if there is such a word. Now that the French Embassy has its new roof ... now that the Patpong Corkscrew Club has adjourned its first AGM and its emergency Special meeting ... now that the design work on CB4 is finished ... now that Wescott and NEWNES have gone through two complete cycles ... well ...

... between now and the end of May1 things in these pages will be mostly opportunistic. Below-the-fold horror pictures from the Thai dailies, strange sights on the river and visits to and from friends might be the limit of my mining efforts for a while.

But, there is one big thing looming: 2002's Thailand Elephant Polo Championships (a King's Cup Event) promises something different. Last September the "Screwy Tuskers" made a token appearance at Hua Hin; though we 'signed' the place up-down, right-left, fore-back and even on the elephants themselves, our all-girl team was scattered elsewhere. This September (from the 17th until the 23rd) we'll have two elephant polo teams on the field: yes, the "Screwy Tuskers"2 ... AND, the "Screwless Tuskers."

"Yes! Do go on."

The "Screwless Tuskers" will be made up of Thai "ladyboys." Sometimes they are referred to as "kathoeys" ... a Thai word that has no known root but means the same as transsexual. But, since the word can be used in a derogatory sense, a more "Thai" or gentle way of putting it is "pu ying praphet song" or "second kind of woman."

"Tell us more."

At this point there is not too much to tell. The "Screwless Tusker" team will probably be made up of Gift, Ohmy and Amma ... and Ning.3

"Do you mean the same girls who are the charter members of the Patpong Corkscrew Club? The ones who were at the very first meeting of the PCC?"


"Good God, man! Are you out of your mind? You are going to put these waifs of women up against the likes of Peter, Raj, James, Jim and God only knows who else? Are you serious?"

Absolutely! The two-hand rule4 in elephant polo applies to all females, not just to those born that way. In fact, the "Screwless Tuskers" will come on to the field with three things going for them: male muscle (admittedly the weakest of the three things), female rules and the ability to talk Thai to the Mahouts.5

I'm going to ask Paul, right now, to link you to some elephant polo pictures so you'll have a better idea of what this is all about. While you are at it, Paul, please put up some photos of our future "Screwless Tuskers." Go ahead and use the ones showing them at the PCC AGM ... maybe the ones where they are flexing their muscles in front of the Club banner.

"When will we hear more?"

I'm not sure when ... but it will be here.

1 Ballooning in Berlin, Helsinki and Saint Petersburg (the Russian one).

2 With Annie, Cindy, Sian, Tilman and Watcharee.

3 Though not a "ladyboy," Ning will be their coach/trainer.

4 In the Rules of Elephant Polo male players may only use one hand on the stick; females can use both hands.

5 Playing elephant polo is rather like taking a taxi in New York City. You have to tell a driver who does not speak your language where to go.

Next: Part V

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