Spring Break at Patpong ...
and in Other Parts of Bangkok

After Bangkok in the Heart of Winter, Part IX and Before April

March 21-31, 2002

Thursday, March 21, 2002 (Feast of Saint Benedict)1

NEWNES:

Wescott:

Cuthbert
DIED 687
[please reread footnote 1]1

A shepherd who became a bishop, and one of those whom birds and animals understood. Once as a result of excesses of penance, he fainted on the sea-shore, and a pair of otters came and massaged him with their tongues and saved his life. Once when he was hungry, an eagle caught a large fish, half of which he let the eagle eat. He preached to the birds to keep them out of his barley.


In the afternoon I walked back from the gym to The Oriental via the Taksin Bridge ... with its 168 stairs (84 up one side and 84 down the other; sleeping dogs under foot, and street stalls in view) ... by the awaiting jitney buses that charge 20 baht ... past inviting shops that promised anti-aging creams, and much less inviting ones that clung to really old fashions ... even past the 'historic' Bossotel Inn. But, it's really sad to see that the old shortcut to The Oriental Hotel has now fallen into ruins. The local Catholic college is making a terrible mess of the neighborhood and ruining the view from the nearby Buddhist temple.

This evening Karim took Watcharee and me, and Alex and Nuch to Angelini for dinner. Angelini is a really fine Italian restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel. And the time just rolled by ... as is always the case when dining and talking with good friends.


1 Yesterday, being silly, I got Saint Benedict mixed up with Cuthbert. Today is really Benedict's day ... not Cuthbert's ... and vice versa; but, we'll do Cuthbert today ... just think of him as yesterday's man even though he is here today. In the end it really makes little difference; they are but just a day apart. One is on the cusp of spring; the other on the pre-cusp. And, for sure, neither is worth even a day...unless it's for the ornamentation of some medieval calendar.


Friday, March 22, 2002

Wescott:

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 (according to St. Jerome) without excess.


Catherine of Sweden
DIED 1381

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

NEWNES:

  • 1687: Jean Baptiste Lully, composer, died.
  • 1832: Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, died.
  • 1903: Dean Frederick William Farrar, theologian, died.

Malloy:

  • 1921: E. W. Hornung, creator of A. J. Raffles - amateur cracksman and devotee of Sullivan's cigarettes - dies at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Hornung created his famed gentleman jewel thief largely to tweak the nose of his more conservative brother-in-law, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Saturday, March 23, 2002

NEWNES:

  • 1369: Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon, killed in single combat with his brother.
  • 1555: Pope Julius III died.
  • 1819: August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue, playwright, killed.
  • 1921: E. W. Hornung, novelist, died.1
  • 1946: Gilbert Newton Lewis, chemist, died.
  • 1953: Raoul Dufy, painter, died.
  • 1956: Pakistan proclaimed Islamic Republic within Commonwealth.2

Wescott:

Spes
DIED, 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.

Malloy:

  • 1964 - Peter Lorre (born Lazlo Lowenstein) dies in Hollywood. Among his classic film performances are his portrayal of a child murderer in Fritz Lang's "M" (1931), the homosexual Joel Cairo in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), and the nefarious Dr. Einstein in "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944).

The morning's Bangkok Daily News 'fronts' with a photograph of a man killed by a bullet that entered his penis and exited his anus.


1 Yesterday I observed that Malloy reported that E. W. Hornung, the creator of A. J. Raffles, died on March 22, 1921. Either Malloy or NEWNES is off by a day (conceivably both are off, but that way lays beyond my library). Generally accepted obituary standards dictate that the time of death is the time of day where the person was when he or she died. Had The Times reported that Hornung had died at "06:00 in London" Malloy might have assumed that Hornung died in England on the on the 22nd ... while NEWNES, looking at the same copy of The Times might have thought that Hornung left us on the morning of the 23rd in Ontario. In the 1920s The Times 'went to bed' (last time for hot lead to be poured) at 04:00.

2 Almost countless deaths probably associated with this.


PS Ohmy, alive and well.


Sunday, March 24, 2002 (National Loaf Day)1

And the death toll rises:

NEWNES:

  • 1455: Pope Nicholas V. died.
  • 1603: Queen Elizabeth I died.
  • 1773: Lord Chesterfield died.
  • 1844: Bertel Thorwaldsen, sculptor, died.
  • 1864: Karl Ernest Claus, chemist, died.
  • 1866: Marie Amelie Therese, Queen of France, died.
  • 1884: François Mignet, historian, died.
  • 1916: Enrique Granados, composer, died.
  • 1921: Deodat de Severac, composer, died.
  • 1933: Concentration camps created in Germany.2

Wescott allows a little fun to bubble up in this death:

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 Mithraism3 - 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.4


My immediate neighbor, the French Embassy, is definitely complete! For months we looked for telltale signs of "... done ... nothing more ... that's it ... close the books ..." Yes, the roof was on, the walls were up, the paint had dried, the carpets were laid, the dock was finished, AND the swimming pool was finally filled with clean clear water. But ... there was still the HOLE.

Long time readers will not forget the French HOLE. It gaped, it was plumbed, it brimmed with dirty liquid, it was boarded over ... even a daemon was once seen peering from it.

No more! It is now totally finished as a HOLE. Landscaped and ornamented, it's today a charming part of a French back yard.

The Coca Cola owned billboard on the far side of the Chao Phya River is also now complete. Sporting an artist's conception of Coke at the upcoming World Cup, it should be a fixture on the river for quite a few months.

This morning's Bangkok Daily News alerts its breakfast readers to go light on the sticky rice with pork. Today's front-page full-color warning is of another badly botched belly tuck: just one more case of a woman addressing the short-cut way to trim her waist. The paper does not say if the doctor responsible for this bit of scarring is the same one who scythed his way through the layers of fat on the last batch of weight 'whackees'.


1 Though today the event is celebrated only in Britain, this year (2002) is the 60th anniversary of National Loaf Day. It commemorates the creation of the 'national loaf': a loaf of bread that conformed to national needs (as defined by the Ministry of Defense) during those dark early days of World War II. Though 'Pearl Harbor' was very recent history back then ... and America had firmly thrown down the gauntlet ... the Liberty Ships (of Kaiser Industries) had not yet begun to 'convoy' across the dangerous North Atlantic. As it would be weeks ... even months ... before American wheat made it to the ovens of High Street bakeries the people of that Island Fortress had to make do with loaves made from awful substitutes.

2 Talk about death ...

3 Cult of the God Mithras ... a patron of merchants and warriors. Very popular with Romans at the time.

4 Death certainly followed.


PS. Obviously no day can be a perfect day to die, but today is hands-down the winner over Friday and Saturday.


Monday, March 25, 2002 (Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin,1 Lady Day,2 Maryland Day,3 Greek Independence Day4

The Holy Week Continues

NEWNES:

  • 1801: 'Novalis', poet, died.
  • 1813: Field Marshal Kutuzov died.
  • 1918: Claude DeBussy, composer, died.

Malloy (this one is for Paul and The Comtesse DeSpair):5

  • 1903: Mabel Seeley is born in Minneapolis. Her most famous novel, "The Listening House" (1938), uses her experience as a department store copywriter to create a realistic and self-sufficient heroine6 who gets involved with murder.

Englebert:

The actual wording7 of the Annunciation is found on page 116 of "The Lives of Saints" ... (in early translations the past and future tenses were often confused):

Gabriel enters the room and says, "Hail, thou who art full of grace, etc."

Mary8 replies, "How can that be since I have no knowledge of man?"

Gabriel answers, "The Holy Spirit will come upon thee, etc."

Gabriel then exits the room.

Meanwhile our view from the Gore Vidal Suite is relatively unchanged.


1 Churchy way of saying let's toot-the-hour 'cause today's the anniversary of the day that the good angel Gabriel told Mary that her Kid was "Son of God ... but, He's walking about in human wraps to be more like one of you ..."

2 A more lady-like way of saying "The kid you carried thinks he's God."

3 Nothing to do with Gabriel, Jesus, God or Mary.

4 As with footnote [3].

5 Minnesota is the key.

6 What is God's response to women who dress, groom and act elegantly? (He smites them, then robs them of their beauty.) "Moreover, the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon. The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils" (Isaiah 3:16-23).

7 But, the full script in all its boredom is found in the Bible (Luke 1:11-20 and Luke 1:26-38).

8 Andy Warhol's impression of the Virgin on Annunciation Day.


Tuesday, March 26, 2002

This morning's Oriental's day started with a healthy breakfast.

NEWNES:

  • 9 months BC: M. V. Christ, one day late with her 'period'.1
  • 1546: Sir Thomas Elyot, diplomat, died.2
  • 1726: Sir John Vanbrugh, architect and playwright, died.
  • 1826: John VI, King of Portugal, died.
  • 1827: Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, died.
  • 1865: Thomas Hancock, founder of the rubber trade, died.
  • 1902: Cecil Rhodes, statesman, died.
  • 1923: Sarah Bernhardt, actress, died.
  • 1945: Lloyd George, statesman, died.

Wescott:

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.

The Oriental continues to deliver a fruit bowl each afternoon; seasonal varieties are emphasized.

Who is this girl? Her head has been removed to make the game more challenging. Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.


1 Normally she was very very 'regular' ... so 'regular' that even after just 24 hours (without so much as a bit of 'spotting') Mary was observed by girlfriends counting backwards on her fingers. Biblical scholars have noted that Mary's recollection of the exact date of the Annunciation was suspiciously vague right up until sometime near the end of December. Even the existence of the Annunciation itself was kept a 'secret' until a few months into the pregnancy.

2 The great drum roll of death is now only days shy of the crescendo. Many Bangkok hotels, including The Oriental, are fully booked for these upcoming superstitious holidays. Here at The Oriental all staff has been ordered not to take any days off until next Tuesday. What with 'last suppers', crucifixions, remembrances of the Tenth Plague, the Exodus from Egypt and disappearing bodies the staff are not sure how to greet the motley collection of guests who are expected to come to Bangkok for this odd mixture of the bizarre and the woe. At the end of the week it will probably just look like any other few days in Thailand: sun-gorging by the pool and lots of drinks with everything and everyone.


Wednesday, March 27, 2002 (48 Hours Before Good Friday)*

During the last 24 hours not one single person has been able to correctly identify the "who and when" photograph that The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com posted in yesterday's journal.

To make your task easier, today's clue reveals a little more of the girl ... but, of course, her head has again been 'removed'. The rules are the same:

Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.

NEWNES:

  • 8 months, 29 days BC: M. V. Christ, using the almost contortionist gifts that only young girls have, checks herself VERY closely.1
  • 1378: Pope Gregory XI died.
  • 1615: Marguerite de Valois died.
  • 1625: King James died.
  • 1889: James Bright, statesman, died.
  • 1923: Sir James Dewar, physicist, died.

This rare photograph of The Oriental's centerpiece buffet island shows it with only its raw plumbing exposed.

Wescott:

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.


* Will God intervene? If so, why? If not, why? These questions must be folded into NEWNES's first entry. Please read the postscript.

1 After heaving a sigh she flops back onto her bed. To an outsider it looks as if she is counting the beams in her ceiling; instead she comes up with a disturbingly large list of neighborhood boys. She is not comforted by the thought.


PS With less than 48 hours to go, the 'season' is taking on something of the flavor of "Memento" ... the movie in which two 'time themes' (events, real and/or imagined) start to come together into an unsatisfying ending. The viewer is left in great doubt as to what, if anything, happened.


Thursday, March 28, 2002 (24 Hours Before Good Friday)

During the last 24 hours only one person has been able to correctly identify the "who and when" photograph that The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com posted in Tuesday's journal. This despite the fact that an even more revealing (and very hinting) photo of the girl was published yesterday.

To make your task still easier, today's clue reveals yet more of the girl (but at a slightly different angle) ... and, of course, her head has again been 'removed' so as to not give the whole thing away. Like yesterday and the day before, the rules are the same:

Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.

NEWNES:

  • 8 months, 28 days BC: M. V. Christ spends the better part of the morning on the toilet ... checking the water color ... and sobbing.1
  • 193: The Emperor Pertinax assassinated.
  • 1760: Peg Woffington, actress, died.
  • 1937: Karol Szymanowski, composer, died.
  • 1941: Virginia Woolf, writer, died.
  • 1943: Sergei Rachmaninoff, composer, died.

Wescott:

Sixtus III
DIED 440

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


1 At this point her mercurial teen-age mind could only leap ... (Oh so adolescent-like!) ... from just one terrible extreme to another: from metal coat hangers to coming out with the whole truth.


PS. Reader P.F. from the American state of Washington was quick to point out that today is Holy Thursday. Many churchgoers, though well aware of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, are totally ignorant that Thursday is not just a 'pause' day: it, too, is a day dear to the church. As Mr. P.F. puts it:

Apparently today ("Holy Thursday") recognizes the founding of the priesthood ... since it's the day when Jesus washed the apostles' feet. Perhaps this is a technique used to initiate some encounters in today's RC churches? "See, little Stevie? This is how The Lord washed their feet at The Last Supper. ... Yes, he did continue up their legs a little farther than the ankle. See? Isn't that nice? Now, this is just our little secret that we're doing this the way Jesus did ..."


Friday, March 29, 2002 ... NEWS FLASH!

The Oriental Queen has sunk! Faster than the Titantic!

Early this morning, at 02:00 Southeast Asia time, The Oriental Queen, flagship1 of The Oriental Hotel, sank at her moorings on the Chao Phya River ... almost right in front of the hotel.2

So deep is the river, even this close to shore, that nothing can be seen of her great hulk. Only the odd bit or two of flotsam remains above the waves.

A police boat now hovers near the spot where this great ship went down.

STAY TUNED!


1 The Oriental also operates a number of shuttle boats that transport guests to and from the Sala Rim Naam side of the river.

2 And damn near under my own window! Last night (rather, this morning) I was working at my desk when all of this happened. I heard nothing.


Friday, March 29, 2002 (Good Friday)

This morning's totally unexpected sinking of The Oriental Queen ... almost right in 'front' of the hotel (while berthed at her nighttime dock) ... certainly takes most of the icing off the cake at Christ's crucifixion. What would have been the grim centerpiece story for this Holy Christian weekend was radically eclipsed early this morning by the total slippage under the waves of The Oriental's great flagship, The Oriental Queen.

For reasons that are totally unknown to me, the hotel staff has been reluctant to chat about this untoward maritime disaster. Sure, the sinking occurred in the wee hours ... and yes, the sinking was so complete that nothing of the ship remains above the surface of the water ... so, I guess that a 'cover-story' is possible1 ... to quench the worst fears.2

NEWNES:

  • 8 months, 27 days BC: M. V. Christ, with words that will shape the world's history for the next two thousand years, walks into her parent's bedroom and says: "Mom, Dad ... you're not going to believe this but ..." 3
  • 30+ years into AD: Three criminals, all unknown to one another, are executed by crucifixion ... each for a separate offense: (a) theft of property, (b) murder, (c) obtaining 'obligations' by deception (sleight of hand, trickery, bait and switch, pyramid sales, false labeling, impersonation, etc).3, again
  • 1058: Pope Stephen X died.
  • 1751: Thomas Coram, philanthropist, died.
  • 1772: Emanuel Swedenborg, scientist and theologian, died.
  • 1792: Gustavus III, King of Sweden, died.
  • 1837: Mrs. Fitzherbert, mistress of King George IV, died.
  • 1847: Jules de Polignac, diplomat and statesman, died.
  • 1866: John Keble, divine and poet, died.
  • 1931: Margaret McMillan, nursery school pioneer, died.

Mr. P.F. from the American state of Washington writes us again; this time to amplify and clarify parts of his letter which we carried in these pages on Holy Thursday (yesterday):

I neglected to mention, in my letter to you yesterday, that the Latin term for the ritual washing of feet (such as occurred between Jesus and the apostles Thursday night) is "pedilavium."

Perhaps the RC's latter day men of the cloth, in the course of attempting to study this practice in their encyclopedias, accidentally skipped a few pages in their research. Maybe, as they closed their eyes and asked for guidance, a gust of breeze from a nearby window might have flipped a few leaves without their noticing, and then they might have continued their reading, unaware that they had left "pedilavium" and landed in another entry in the "PED---" section. And thus, perhaps delighted with this unexpected "twist in the story," they might have been innocently led to a misunderstanding of their divinely ordained mission with respect to the boys who light the candles and shuffle the wafers ... ah, the boys who wear those cute little frocks! ... the boys who are hungry for guidance and who are so eager to please their spiritual advisors ...


Dearest readers, during the last 48 hours still only one person has been able to correctly identify the "who and when" photograph that The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com posted in Tuesday's journal. This despite the fact that an even more revealing photograph of the girl was published Wednesday ... AND another one on Holy Thursday.

To make your task 'idiot-easy', today's clue reveals itself in an almost complete 'tell-tale' photograph ... though, of course, her head has again been 'removed' so as to not give the everything away. And like all days before, the rules are the same:

Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.


1 "The ship is in dry dock for repairs ... the ship was sold to a Bangladesh 'breakers' yard for scrap value as the hotel is just about to take delivery of a new modern sleek Daughter of The Oriental Queen ... the ship was hijacked by up-stream river pirates ... the ship was seized by the Thai Royal Navy in its ongoing battle to stem the flow of drugs from Burmese war lords ... GOOD GOD, NO, IT DID NOT SINK IN OUR 'BACK YARD' BECAUSE OF SOME BIG UNDETECTED HOLE IN THE BOTTOM."

2 ... [AND, THANK GOD, IT HAD NOT JUST LEFT ON ITS USUAL DAILY CRUISE UP TO AYUTTHAYA WITH A FULL LOAD OF OUR HOTEL GUESTS WHEN IT UNEXPECTEDLY PLOUGHED 30 METERS UNDER THE CHAO PHYA RIVER TO ITS WATERY GRAVE ... TAKING ALONG WITH IT OUR BEST CLIENTS ... BECAUSE, FOR SURE, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE LEAD STORY ON CNN AND THE BBC ... AND JESUS ONLY KNOWS WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED THEN.]

3 Only in the movies would these two events ... falling on the same day of the year ... have become so intertwined as to become the cornerstone of one the world's oldest and largest superstitions.


Saturday, March 30, 2002

The watery grave of The Oriental Queen has been 'marked' by the river police. Granted, there is no big arrow pointing down to the point where she rests; but it is doubtful, anyway, that this is her last resting place. It looks more like one of those familiar accident scenes with red cones and yellow tape that are designed to keep the curious away from the still-warm body ... at least until it has been 'framed' by a police artist with chalk.

All yesterday there was much mystery around the hotel about the sudden sinking of this almost 'royal' ship. Rumors of foul play, wrathful river spirits, 'limpet' mines and maritime malcontents circulated everywhere ... so, it was with keen anticipation that all the hotel guests waited for their copy of this morning's Bangkok Post.

Banned at The OrientalSurprise! No Bangkok Post! My en suite delivery box was empty this morning. Dear reader, during the past 700+ delivery days that I have been in residence at The Oriental today was the very first day that the Post has failed to appear. Was it just my 1410 that got short-changed ... [after all, Gore Vidal is at the end of the corridor, and near the top floor ... maybe the delivery was 'short'] ...? No, the paper was not 'distributed' anywhere in the hotel: to other rooms, to the Business Office, to the Newsstand ... no, nowhere.1

Anyway, this is the story of the sinking of The Oriental Queen as it appeared on the front page of this morning's Bangkok Post.

Today and Easter are the last two days to take your best shot at who is this girl. The rules remain the same:

Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.

NEWNES:

  • 8 months, 26 days BC: M. V. Christ's mom and dad, not being the complete dolts that daughter Mary took them for, privately toss around a few names of boys who just might fall for this Holy Ghost 'visit'. 'Slow' Joe easily is the hands down favorite.
  • 30 something AD: J. Christ still dead.
  • 1707: Sebastien de Vauban, military engineer, died.
  • 1783: William Hunter, anatomist, died.
  • 1840: Beau Brummel died.
  • 1842: Madame Vigee-Lebrun, painter, died.
  • 1960: Edward Evans, composer of the British manual alphabet, for the deaf-blind, died.

Wescott:

Quirinus the Tribune
SECOND CENTURY

There is confusion about a number of saints called Quirinus. This one appears to have been the 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 feet were cut off and is tongue given to a hawk or falcon; the helpless body dragged by oxen, the speechless head cut off.


1 Later, after I complained to the Concierge, a copy was sent to my room.


Sunday, March 31, 2002 (Easter)

Today is the last opportunity to take your hit at who this girl is. The rules remain the same:

Your chance to win something depends on whether you are the third person to identify her name and the date of her first appearance in these pages. Send your chance-shot to Alf@Corkscrew-Balloon.com.


NEWNES:

  • 8 months, 25 days BC: M. V. Christ's mom and dad have the parents of 'Slow' Joe over for drinks. A clueless M.V. wonders what they (the four parents) all have in common.
  • 30 something AD: Vandals swipe the body of a locally executed criminal as part of their preparation for an elaborate April Fools Joke.1
  • 1547: Francis I, King of France, died.
  • 1282: The Sicilian Vespers (massacre of the French in Sicily).
  • 1621: Phillip III, King of Spain, died.
  • 1763: Abraham Darby, jun. Ironmaster, died.
  • 1837: John Constable, painter, died.
  • 1850: John Caldwell Calhoun, statesman, died.
  • 1855: Charlotte Bronte, novelist, died.
  • 1915: Lord Rothschild, died.
  • 1945: Hans Fletcher, scientist, died.

Wescott:

Daniel
DIED 1411

A German merchant in Venice who gave all his profits to the poor. His great business reputation and the extreme simplicity of his way of life led people to believe that he had a large hidden fortune. A robber came to the hut in which he lived and, finding nothing, killed him.


This morning's Bangkok Post suggests that "Lack of Care" was responsible for the sinking of the Oriental Queen. A source from the Harbour Department said that the ship "could have been saved if mechanics rather than security guards had been on duty when the ship went down on Friday morning."2

This argument seems absurd. It would be ludicrous to employ a mechanic or a specialist to sit all night on a docked and locked ship when a security guard for the 'graveyard' shift was already on board. Unless ...

But, frankly, I think The Oriental got off lightly with the sinking of the Oriental Queen taking place in the middle of the night. Can you imagine the press coverage it would have received if the sinking had taken place 'live' during the 'full occupancy' weekend?

Chao Phya River Easter Disaster
Oriental Queen 'Tucks' Into Her Wet Grave
160 Dead, Only Body-Parts Found

Easter started very early for many of The Oriental Hotel's upscale clients. By 8AM several air-conditioned motor coaches were on their way to the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya. Here, amidst picturesque ruins, the pampered guests of Bangkok's most famous five-star hotel were given the 'Royal Tour'. After a full morning of classically guided sightseeing, which included ancient wats, temples and the magnificent Bang Pa-In-Summer Palace, the hotel's elite clientele looked forward to a leisurely glide 'home' aboard the Oriental Queen, the luxurious river cruiser operated by The Oriental Hotel.

But, just two hours into what everyone expected to be a restful river voyage ... and shortly after the last near-octogenarian passenger pushed himself away from the ship's legendary buffet lunch ... disaster struck.

Apparently, a previously undetected "mysterious crack" in the ship's bottom could take the strain no longer. It spread apart, according to one surviving crewmember, "like the legs of a well oiled Patpong whore." Surely, the noise of ripping steel and rushing water must have sounded like some sort of "dinner bell over at the House of the Grim Reaper," the same survivor quipped, with a laugh. Anyway, the filthy water of the Chao Phya River began to rush in. Within minutes the ship's engines were flooded to a halt; tables tilted, chairs fell, portholes popped, cauldrons dumped near-boiling tomyam everywhere, windows crashed ... and from that point on there was no stopping the disaster.

One hundred and sixty passengers ... by now, most of them with alcohol addled brains and distended bellies ... suddenly found themselves bobbing about like corked bottles in foreign waters far from land. No doubt this flotsam of VIPs had next to no chance of survival in the virulent fecal-generated bacteria-infested water that twice a day sludges its tidal way in and out of Bangkok's sewage laden klongs.

Writhing river worms and darting dung-eels ... that normally keep bathers out of the water ... were quickly drawn to the panicky sounds and throbs coming from hundreds of thrashing limbs. Easily screwing themselves into every human orifice, they fed, mated and left their eggs behind. Just hours later, not long after the first rescue boats arrived on the scene, the rapidly bloating gaseous bodies started exploding crescendo-like as if they were individual popcorn kernels in a microwave oven.

With sea strainers and oil nets the men from the rescue squad of the Harbour Department were able to salvage just under 210 assorted parts of what used to be guests of The Oriental Hotel ... and passengers aboard the Oriental Queen.

A hotel spokesperson regretted the inconvenience that the incident caused to guests who had booked passage on the popular post-Easter sailings. He went on to assure the Thai Tourism Association that plans were already afoot for the construction of the Daughter of the Oriental Queen, a cruiser with twice the capacity of the Oriental Queen.


1 Though totally unforeseen by these grave-desecrating vandals, their little night of 'fun' shaped world history like no other prank before or since. Worldwide, trillions of man-hours are wasted by billions of people; empires rise and fall, countless wars are fought.

2 Why The Oriental Hotel's employees have been told to mention nothing to the hotel's guests about the sinking of the Oriental Queen is a mystery.


PS. Reader P.F., formerly of the American state of Minnesota, writes:

Happy Easter! As I understand this event, if Jesus sees his shadow when he comes out to greet Mary Magdalene in the garden, we get 2000 more years of senseless violence in his dad's name.

The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com encourages writers of all persuasions to contribute to the 'season'.

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