Back Home in Bangkok, Part IV

After Part III

May 25-31, 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Yesterday I renewed my Thai driver's license. This renewed 5 year license will allow me to drive until the year 2553 (*). Of course, that is only until 2010 (**) on the Occidental calendar.

I am tempted to get a Thailand issued International Driver's Permit and use it ... in connection with my supporting Thai driver's license ... to drive in the USA. This is perfectly legal to do ... as long as my stay in any one state in the USA does not exceed 3 months.

Wouldn't it be fun to be stopped in a Georgia speed trap ... I could flash this Thai driver's license and ... ... "What do you mean 'you are taking me to jail' ... sputter." (***)

(*) 2553 years after the birth of Buddha.

(**) 2010 years after the birth of the Newbie.

(***) Local cop to boss over radio: "Hey, we got one of dem furin terrists tryin to drive on our roads wit some fony ID! Got a beard, too. Old guy...maybe Been Laaden!"

PS: The 238-194 roll call Tuesday by which the House passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

A "yes" vote is a vote to pass the bill that would lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

Voting yes were 187 Democrats, 50 Republicans and 1 Independent.

Voting no were 14 Democrats, 180 Republicans and no Independents.

X denotes those not voting.


Democrats - Boyd, Y; Brown, Corrine, Y; Davis, Y; Hastings, Y; Meek, Y; Wasserman Schultz, Y; Wexler, Y.

Republicans - Bilirakis, N; Brown-Waite, Ginny, Y; Crenshaw, N; Diaz-Balart, L., N; Diaz-Balart, M., N; Feeney, N; Foley, Y; Harris, N; Keller, N; Mack, Y; Mica, N; Miller, N; Putnam, N; Ros-Lehtinen, N; Shaw, Y; Stearns, N; Weldon, N; Young, Y.

Dump those N's, Florida!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bush Rejects Stem Cell Compromise

President Vows to Veto Bill as Some in GOP Seek to Avoid Showdown

By Mike Allen and Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 26, 2005; Page A02

A key House Republican promised yesterday to search for a compromise on a bill to expand stem cell research so President Bush will not have to use his first veto on a measure that appears to be popular in polls. But the president reiterated his determination to prevent taxpayer funding for projects that involve destroying embryos.

"There must be a balance between science and ethics," Bush said. "I've made my decision as to how best achieve that balance."

"There is only one thing more dangerous than a man who thinks that he is on God's side; and that is a man who thinks that God is on his side." - Anon.

I wonder if our dim bulb in the White House thinks that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. I would not be surprised ....

PS: The former home of The Patpong Corkscrew Club ... (before that, the embryonic-aborted Sofitel Hotel) ... is shaping up to be the new Bangkok Hilton. So, Paris has a sister!

Friday, May 27, 2005 (Five years ago today Watcharee and I had our first dinner together)

Bangkok's Friday afternoon traffic is notorious!

Normally I can walk from here to the fitness center at The Oriental (*) in about 20 minutes. By footpath the distance in either direction is about 1.6 kilometers. If I drive to the gym the odometer adds about 4 kilometers to the car; coming back it tacks on about 3.5 kilometers (due to a different one-way street pattern). In a totally traffic free run (say, 4 AM on rainy Sunday) I can do it, theoretically, in half a dozen minutes.

This afternoon the return journey took me through an entire CD and well into the start of another one. Forty eight minutes! For an average speed of 4.375 kph (yes, a little over 2.7 mph)! (**)

So how much carbon monoxide did I add to Bangkok's already polluted air? Yes, I had the AC on. And, you already know that I was putting an additional strain on the car's generator by playing the CD non-stop. Furthermore, I pushed the 'pulse' button on my seat control to give me a lower back massage on at least two occasions while waiting for the car ahead of me to move. It was not a 'green' day for me. But, I did not use the horn (***).

(*) The gym is on the west side of the river; the hotel proper and River Garden are on the east side of the Chao Phrya.

(**) In order to alleviate some of this pain Bangkok traffic planners have timed the city's traffic lights to maximize flow. This means that at rush hours some traffic lights will be red (or green) for as long as six minutes at a time. Sure, six minutes does not seem very long; but when you think about it ... well, it is about three tracks on a CD. And when you are staring at a red light for six minutes you start to wonder if there is a malfunction and will you be stuck here forever. To partially Valium-ize frustrated drivers the Bangkok traffic wardens have equipped many intersections with count-down devices that show how many seconds you have left before your light will turn to green (or red).

(***) Unlike in America, horns are very rarely used in Thailand. It is considered rude to honk just because you are stuck ... and, anyway it does not help matters at all.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't take Him too seriously.

PS: Walking out our front door, the pool is to the immediate right. The building in the background is the Shangri-La Hotel.

Sunday, May 29, 2005 (pre-journal)

My friend Ray. R., who now lives in North Carolina, used to practice criminal law in Fort Lauderdale. He gave up the law in order to pursue a career in writing. He has just finished his first novel.

Ray sent me this clipping from The Washington Post. (Ray, are you moving east? Far East?)

John Burdett: Keen-Eyed "Farang"
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Imagine yourself at the promontory of life, a partner in a premier law firm, with a luxury flat on "The Peak" and an eagle's-eye view of Hong Kong's magnificent harbor. Would you throw it all over for the hardscrabble life of a writer?

John Burdett did. He sold his worldly possessions, pocketed the money and, at the ripe age of 50, set out to do what he'd wanted to do all along.

"If the world is telling you you're successful, but you don't feel it, you might as well have failed," he says. Today, at 54, he is the author of two highly acclaimed thrillers starring the incorruptible Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a cop who sees more than his share of corpses, thugs and naked concupiscence in Bangkok bordellos. Book World's Jonathan Yardley called Bangkok 8 "a tour de force." Of its sequel, Bangkok Tattoo, Michael Dirda wrote, "Open this book and you will read on and on, with wide-eyed fascination."

Burdett's forte is shock. But it's his gift for dropping a reader into the marrow of another culture that appeals to the literary-minded. And it's his skill for telling a ripping good tale that has made his books so popular.

Born in North London to a cop and a seamstress, Burdett grew up fascinated with words. Asked by his second-grade teacher to write a few sentences about himself, he produced a 20-page treatise. He went on to major in literature at the University of Warwick, where he reveled in novels by D.H. Lawrence and Graham Greene, but when he graduated in 1973 he was afraid to try to make a living as a writer. He got a law degree instead. Starting out as a London barrister, he eventually was sent to the colonies as a government attorney. After a decade's labors in the criminal courts of Hong Kong, he went into private practice and rose to the top of the venerable firm Johnson, Stokes & Master.

Along the way he managed to produce two novels, A Personal History of Thirst and The Last Six Million Seconds. But they were dashed off in free time, felt like quick work and were greeted by poor sales. He quit his law firm to float around the globe, looking for a venue in which to develop a series of novels around a hard-boiled hero. Settling on Thailand, he began frequenting Bangkok's red-light district, waiting for just the right cop to walk into a bar and inspire him. To pass the time he befriended the bargirls. His big break, as he describes, came when one of them took him home.

"The Bangkok novels are not the work of a young man," he says. "I couldn't have done it without knowing how the world works." Practicing family law in England taught him about the "grueling, wrenching, downright sadistic" nature of human relations. Practicing criminal law in Asia taught him about the grim reality of the streets.

He claims there is no better subject than the gritty city he has adopted. "There's no cushion of gentility here. Life is raw. The people don't lie. You tell me a better place to be a writer."

-- Marie Arana

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Last night we had dinner with Neen and Dustin (and Neen's Mother) at the Shangri-La Hotel. Neen used to work at The Oriental about five years ago ... I met her only once before she left for Utah ... Watcharee had never met her until last night. But, as we have kept in contact by phone and Internet over the years it is as if we have known each other face to face since day one.

This elevated back-drape photo is an edited slice from the huge black&whites that hang above the buffet at Shangri-La's Next 2.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Reader Quentin Rhodes of Nuuk (Godthab), Greenland writes: "Recently you spoke of some ingenious devices that the Bangkok motor traffic authorities have attached to their traffic signals. Is it true that these clever things can inform drivers and pedestrians of the amount of time they have left before their light changes colours? Do you have any photographs? If so, I would prefer one in the 'red' mode. Can these things withstand extreme cold?"

Sure! (*)

As the fitness center at The Oriental will be closed for two months starting June 19th, some of the staff are looking for temporary employment. Noi (**) wants to be our chauffeur.

(*) But, not sure about the cold.

(**) Previously, Noi's abdomen has appeared on these pages. But, my intra-house GOOGLE search can't find it. Paul is better at these sort of things; maybe he can.

PS: We are again in the Bangkok afternoon rainy season. The Thai sky drops road filling puddles every day from 17:30 until 19:00. Then it goes away.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 (World Anti-Smoking Day*) (Happy Birthday, Christy!)

Here in Thailand every package of cigarettes must carry something stronger than a written 'finger wag'. On both sides of the pack the Thai government requires a graphic image of what smoking does to your body. Though there about a dozen available images to choose from I like the toothy smile (**).

These L&M Menthol Lights cost me 38 baht ... 95 US cents at today's exchange rate.

Though this package was made by Phillip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc., the front of the pack assures the user that it is a "Quality American Blend". It is sort of comforting to know that even with all this global outsourcing at least our Virginia tobacco growers are not being hurt by cheap, foreign, inferior tobacco harvested by under-age and under-paid slave laborers.

(*) Today is Christy's birthday. I guess that takes precedence over Anti Smoking Day. Or, they can have dual billing ... yes, dual billing.

(**) However, keen collectors would probably just sniff at my purchase. For them a tight shot of a cancerous lung lesion on a rare pack of White Swan Filter Kings just might be worth walking a mile for. Or, perhaps the hard to find bleeding gum on a mini-pack (10 cigs) of Flying Duck 999 Menthols would do the trick.

PS: Really, some people dine on this ... THOCBDC may even have a recipe:

The doctor explains to Mommy that playing with
the placenta is just as much fun as playing with Baby.

Next: June

Search WWW Search