April 1-9, 2002
March is finally done with. Easter makes it drag so.
But, April has started nicely: after a read of the morning's gory papers I took a walk from one side of the river to the other.
Traffic ... fake watches ... 24-hour massage ... two dogs fucking.
This morning the only indication that the Oriental Queen is still laying dozens of feet under the murky waters of the Chao Phya River is the lurking presence of a ship not normally seen in these waters. Apparently it hails from the contractor who has been employed to bring the hulk of the river cruiser to the surface. Whether this operation will take place in the dead of night or during lunch is not known.1
Wescott seems to wonder why Mary is today's saint:
Beginning at twelve, this Mary was a prostitute in Alexandria. After seventeen years of it, she wanted to go overseas to Jerusalem, as many others were doing. She had no savings; so she paid her passage by letting the sailors make use of her body during the voyage as they saw fit. When she arrived she did not have the courage, being what she was, to go into the sanctuary where the True Cross was shown, and suddenly wearied of her complacent calling. Off she went into the desert and stayed there in lonesome distress for almost half a century. She told a monk who found her in her old age that she had suffered from desires of the flesh during the first seventeen years of her retirement - the same length of time that she had been active in the streets in Egypt.
1 Wise voices have suggested that all bases could be covered if clandestine frogmen were sent down to the sunken ship along with buckets of paint and brushes. A few minutes work could cosmetically turn the wreck into the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge Queen. But, the official 'cover story' still remains that the Oriental Queen has a "broken engine." When pressed further, the 'story' puts the Oriental Queen in a vaguely far away "boat garage." When pressed more, the 'story' becomes just a 'sincere' smile backed by silence. But, when asked pointedly if the Oriental Queen did, in fact, sink like a weighted stone ... in the river almost directly behind the Oriental Hotel ... and that it is now laying deep under water with no chance that it will ever sail again ... the answer is "Sure!"
PS This e-mail message just arrived from an anonymous source:
"Tomorrow, management will tell Oriental Queen staffs that they will hire the new boat or they will cut this department. I hope that they will hire the new boat."
Dear reader, this morning I received a disturbing e-mail from a good friend who works at the Broward County (Florida, USA) School Board.
I had, up until today (perhaps naively), assumed that my little web site could be accessed by anyone: Methodists, zookeepers, scholars, shut-ins, children, whores, teachers, the-blind-the halt-and-the-deaf, nervous mothers, last sacrament givers, convicts ... in fact anyone with access to the Internet.
How wrong I was!
One-time journal writer, Susan Cassone,1 sent me this message:2
I JUST TRIED ACCESSING YOUR WEB SITE TO SEE WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON OTHER THAN THE SINKING OF THE ORIENTAL'S SHIP AND LOOK WHAT MESSAGE CAME UP.
APPARENTLY, THE SCHOOL BOARD FINDS YOUR WEB PAGE TO BE A BIT NON-EDUCATIONAL. THOUGHT YOU'D GET A KICK OUT OF THIS.
Obviously, I'll have to unleash the dogs if I can't get back my "G" or "Family" rating.
Yes, it has been a couple of years since I have had to consult with my Bangkok attorney: "Ben the Lawyer." But, I am happy to see that his Silom Road office is still offering his clients a full product line; with no silly ethical restrictions on what he is able to come up with to get complete satisfaction for both his walk-in and repeat trade. Ben's eclectic range of services is a refreshing one-stop alternative to the narrow options that we are so used to in the Common Law jurisdictions.
1 Seasoned readers will remember Susan from Elephant Polo in Nepal, hot air ballooning at Chateau d'Oex, sinning in Bangkok and clean wholesome fun in London.
2 I do want to hear from any other reader who has access to the Internet via the Broward County School Board. To you, I ask: "Are you getting the same message?" Perhaps, frequent journal-writer Stephani Weaver can test www.corkscrew-balloon.com on one of her School Board machines. Stephani???
Dear followers of Elephant Polo, please pay careful attention to these pages over the next few weeks. Last night Ning and I had dinner ... at our traditional meeting place, The Dusit Thani Hotel ... with a 'quasi-ladyboy'1 by the name of Ice. Out of the meeting came the feeling that the Screwless Tuskers may need a cast shuffle. Ice is prepared to deliver three ladyboys2 who are more familiar with performing in more upscale entertainment venues. Not that Ohmy, Gift and Amma [founding members of the Patpong Corkscrew Club3] would fall short on the playing pitch ... but ...
Today, barge traffic was heavy on the Chao Phya River. These pictures were taken during rush hour from the Taksin Bridge, looking north (upriver).
Also seen from the Taksin Bridge is the Shangri-La Hotel's river cruiser. Now that the Oriental Queen lies in a mucky grave,4 guests of The Oriental Hotel are being advised to visit Ayutthaya via this ship.
A Sicilian hermit who died on his knees: his body was found in that position, and all who touched it were cured of what ailed them.
1 'Quasi-ladyboy' is not easily translated into the Thai language.
2 Not all three may have been fully 'replumbed' by the time the King's Cup gets under way. If that is the case, a Captain's meeting will probably be needed to resolve 'problems' with respect to the 'one hand - two hand' rule.
3 Their photographs are 'hanging' in many of the recent room additions here at The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com.
4 It's rumored that the remains will be lifted sometime next week. The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com will cover the disinterment proceedings from its advantageous 14th floor camera position. The same position that brought you so many exciting times in the life of the roof of the French Embassy.
Yesterday afternoon when I walked across the Taksin Bridge (over the Chao Phya River) there was nothing suspicious on the footpath ... just raw concrete speckled with some discarded cigarette stubs, crisp wrappers, and a few aging mystery stains.
Today a jumbled pile of human bones ... devoid of meat or any stringy parts, and not even hinting of anything wet or sticky ... was right in my path. It was late afternoon, so dozens, if not scores, of people had sidestepped this dry carnage long before I saw it. For sure, the death and the (subsequent?) disjointing had taken place at another time and in a different location. Why the perpetrator had left his mess where he did we shall perhaps never know.1
Probably one of the greatest orators who ever lived. He preached in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Great Britain. Some say that he spoke all languages with equal facility; others, that he spoke only Spanish, but so expressively that he was understood everywhere. His usual subjects were death and hell. His glorious voice touched and terrified his audiences; so that he often had to stop until he groaning and abject weeping had ceased. He ate only on Sundays. (Emphasis added)
In allusion to the rapidity of his missionary journeys and in bold flights of his rhetoric, he is sometimes painted with wings.
1 If this is somehow tied into the murder of a famous Bangkok doctor's wife ... you know, the one just over a year ago that involved a drugged and sushi-stuffed spouse being diced and flushed down the toilet in the very same apartment building where The Patpong Corkscrew Club held its first AGM ... well, that would be one strange coincidence.
Songkran, that wettest of Thai holidays, is only a week away. But, while the City of Angels ... as well as the nation of Thailand (and neighboring Laos) ... occupy themselves with revelry, drink and much gratuitous splashing, something deep and dark will be taking place in the secret waters behind The Oriental Hotel. When the moon is thin and the tide is low, naval salvage experts will slither air bags and cables into the orifices of the comatose Oriental Queen in an attempt to bob her to the surface. If successful, the 'corpse' will probably have an anonymous and ignominious end in a breakers yard.1
Reader E.S. from Australia writes:
Hi Alf. You'll be relieved to see that the Oriental Queen has bobbed up in Melbourne. See http://www.orientalqueen.com.au/oriental_queen.htm2
And, in the same batch of cables, reader T. C. of Thailand writes:
I want to see that boat emerge from the deep.
1 The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com, from its 14th floor perch, keeps an eye on the great ship's resting place. Tonight she is still 'with us' ... albeit under lots of water and, most likely, sinking into the muck.
2 The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com never offers a legal opinion on trademark issues.
Songkran is only a week away. For much of Thailand this means good clean wholesome fun throughout the Kingdom. Almost everyone in Bangkok is counting the days before they can escape the city's heat and make their way to the beaches or to the cooler hill country for a bit of respite from the city's heat. But this year the City of Angels has gone out of its way to keep as many of its citizens off the roads as possible; for last year the travel carnage was terrible ... to say nothing of the horrible traffic delays.
This morning's 'great national dailies' carry inviting cover stories which their editors hope will keep at least some Bangkokians at home. The Daily News tempts its readers with a picture of a huge colored water fountain; the Bangkok Post teases its clientele with a Miss Jumbo Contest.1
However, a totally unpublicized (and unscheduled) clandestine Songkran event will be the raising of the Oriental Queen, once the nautical pride of my 'home'. Yesterday's readers will recall that "something deep and dark will be taking place in the secret waters behind The Oriental Hotel. When the moon is thin and the tide is low, naval salvage experts will slither air bags and cables into the orifices of the comatose Oriental Queen in an attempt to bob her to the surface ..."
Yesterday's readers also saw the photograph of a benign temporary grave ... just lapping waters gently splashed with soft light ... there was no hint that there was anything but a just-starting-to-rust-hulk below the murky waters of the Chao Phya River. Sure, it belched a bit of oil ... and the odd deck chair floated lose ... a few bits of plastic joined the tide ... some bubbles of greenish gas broke through the surface. But it was all stuff to be expected in the 'wake' of a sunken ship.
Tonight things are different. An eerie reddish glow ... demon like ... has eclipsed everything that was once gentle and compassionate about this wreck. It is as if grandma's soft shady final resting spot under an old olive tree had turned malevolent; like something had ruptured through her casket and was now clawing at the topsoil in a furious attempt to get out and rake evil upon everyone on the surface.
I don't want to connect this in any way with the mysterious human bones that I saw when I was walking across the bridge yesterday ... yes, dear reader, the bridge that crosses the same Chao Phya River under which the Oriental Queen now sleeps. BUT, my friend, today those bones are gone, leaving only a strange stain where they once lay. Nor do I want to make too much of the curious fact that this 'bone' spot is on a direct line-of-sight path to the very spot where the Oriental Queen now 'glows' so eerily.
Ghosts? Or, something worse? Who knows at this point?
For those of you who are tired of all this 'nonsense' about sunken ships, human bones, ghosts and eerie glows here is a refreshing diversion:
Click on Button A and you will be taken either to photograph of the Pepsi Cola loading wharf on the Chao Phya River or to a picture of three naked 'ladies'. If you are unhappy with what luck gives you hit Button B.2
1 Winners and runners-up ... or, for that matter any entrant in the Miss Jumbo Contest ... probably need not apply for night work in Patpong's 'Japanese Soy'.
2 'Nuch' (Alex's girl friend ... incidentally, a couple of her pictures can be found around here) was very surprised today to learn something unusual about these 'ladies".
Wescott (and this is so uncharacteristic of him) allows his overt value judgment on past foolish behavior to jaundice his view of what might await us.1
This Italian bishop had a vision of the end of the world, much like that of the present European and American prospect: all battles, invasions, breakage and burning. The churchmen of his day interpreted it as a revelation of the inferiority of this world to the next, and it may be that our own thinkers and authorities will fail to take ay less passive attitude.
My afternoon walk across the Taksin Bridge (yes, again over the Chao Phya River) was once more 'eventful'. In particular, two of the things that I came upon today definitely do not augur well for the Oriental Queen and those whose 'duty' it is to hide the wrecked remains of this sunken hulk from the public eye.
First, a new batch of human bones ('religiously' stripped of meat and bleached free of blood and marrow) ... and arranged in a compass rose design2 ... suggest that certain river spirits are very unsatisfied. Hanging next to this array of bones is a clear plastic bag that appears to contain some sort of body fluid.3
Second, three very high flying kites ... attached by thin strings to the Taksin Bridge ... now hover almost directly above the spot where the Oriental Queen made its last pass in front of the hotel before it assumed its nightly berth-position by the Old Customs House.4 Ominously, the man in charge of maintaining the kite strings feigned little knowledge of spoken English.
This morning's breakfast edition of the Bangkok Daily News 'fronts' with color photographs of a double-death tale: the suicide of a man and the shot-in-the-face-with-a-bullet murder of his 'small wife'.5
1 But, please do remember that Wescott had probably finished compiling his A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers sometime before 1932 ... as, he actually applied for copyright protection for the book in 1932 (and again in 1972). The early 30's were not rosy years ... and grim extrapolations, every which way and that, in most cases, proved to be alarmingly correct. And, there is no indication that the 1972 copyright embraced any additions or emendations to the '32 work.
2 You have to 'jiggle' the picture a bit to see this.
3 Discarded chicken bones and a bag of cola? I think not!
4 From where it went down like a great weighted stone.
5 'Small wife' (or, 'minor wife') is a Thai term that generally means the same thing as 'mistress.
Dear reader, tomorrow night the Organizing Committee1 of the Screwy Tuskers and Screwless Tuskers Elephant Polo Teams will meet at The Dusit Thani Hotel to discuss an important matter. As many of you know, the King's Cup Elephant Polo championships will be held in Hua Hin (Thailand) from the 17th through the 22nd of September.
The team line-up for the Screwy Tuskers is now pretty much set in concrete: they are seasoned veterans from the playing fields of Nepal and they include Annie Erickson, Tilman Smith and Sian Jones (et al, perhaps).
But the Screwless Tuskers ... a new name, a new concept; something never before tested on the playing fields of Nepal, Sri Lanka or India ... will make its debut here in Thailand. This is a team of 'ladyboys'.2 Understandably, great care must be taken in the selection of these 'ladies'. Currently, first-off in the running for the position of goalie, and for the two full-pitch roaming positions are Amma, Gift and Ohmy.3 But, tomorrow's meeting, aside from the normal bog work, will now address the possibility of altering bits of, or even the entire team roster. The Screwless Tuskers' team cosmetologist, make-up artist and style coordinator, Mr. Ice, has asked if he could present some new 'material' to the Committee. Though the 'ladyboys' whom he has in mind have never played elephant polo before (they know nothing about sports, period), Mr. Ice promises that they will look strikingly good on the playing field come September.4
So, dear reader, please come back here tomorrow night; we might have a preview.
Miss A. W. of Pattaya, Thailand writes:
"My late husband, in his declining years, collected Pepsi Cola cans. I know that he would have enjoyed seeing your picture of the Pepsi Cola wharf facilities on the Chao Phya River in Bangkok. Do you have any other Pepsi pictures that you could share with our little dwindling family?"
Yes, Miss A. W. of Pattaya, as luck would have it I have two more Pepsi photographs. One shows the front ... or street side ... of the Pepsi facility. The other is a close up of the company's Pepsi Fountain: a bubbling fountainhead fashioned to look like a giant Pepsi can. Sadly, it's only water that causes the rust stains on the can's lip.
1 Alf and Ning.
2 AKA "kathoeys." This Thai term has no known root but it is roughly the same as transsexual. As it can be used in a rude way, a more gentle way of saying it is "pu ying praphet song," which translates into a "second kind of woman." Though polite, it doesn't trip off the lips lightly so 'ladyboy' is the preferred coinage.
3 'Old Hands' here at the Patpong Corkscrew Club (Thailand).
4 "It is not whether you win or lose the game ... or even how you play it ... it's how you look that counts." Team motto.
5 The story of the embalming of Lenin can be found in these pages.
Next: Part II