Bangkok Forever?

A Brief Preface

Between Bangkok for Six Weeks and New York

Fast breaking worldwide news requires that my journal begin early. That it begin four days ahead of schedule. That it begin right now ... now, because the strange happenings that set the tone of these chronicles throughout the last year of the last millennium have been leaked to The New York Times.

Friday (Good), April 21, 2000

"I wonder how many Linda Santarellis there are?"

Every morning when I'm in Lauderdale I ritually lift The New York Times from the tip of my driveway. Today The China Trade Bill and a boring piece on Medicare spending were lying listlessly above the fold. Linda in SienaFlipping it over ... there jumped up LINDA SANTARELLI. "Can it be HER? Can it be our very own Linda?" It was.

Devoted readers will recall that Linda has been a six-time trooper in these pages. From Christmas in Bangkok to New Year's 2000 in London ... from ballooning in the Swiss Alps to ballooning over the Palio of Siena ... from Chinese New Year in Shanghai to the Lantern Festival in Taipei ... from Rasputin's last supper in St. Petersburg to Beijing's won ton kitchens. She has been there with you every step.

Hey, Paul, can you give us a handy list of links into the journal morgue? Some readers may be new to the area; others might like to freshen their memories.

Sorry for the interruption.

Anyway, never before has one of our band ever made the front page of The New York Times. A few years back the Screwy Tuskers were briefly found in the "fun" fourth column of The Wall Street Journal. But, this is the first time that serious investigative reporting has turned a light on anyone from our little world. And what a light it turned. Now the world knows what lay behind that flight to Stockholm so many months ago.

States Declare War on Divorce Rates, Before Any "I Dos"

The wedding day was set, guests invited, and Linda Santarelli and Teddy Roland mused about a beach ceremony near their home in Loxahatchee, Fla.

New York Times

Then they learned of a new state law giving couples a marriage-license discount if they took a marital education class. More for the information than the price break, they said, they took the four-hour class last spring, a month before the wedding. By the end of it, they were convinced they were moving too fast.

"We postponed our wedding after that just to make sure we could work a few things out," especially a clash between his Jehovah's Witness background and her penchant for tarot cards and past-life regression, said Ms. Santarelli, 41, a massage therapist. "We're right on the verge of resolving our problems."

That is just what Florida lawmakers wanted when, determined to discourage divorce, they began pushing Marriage 101. And, across the country, other states want couples who say "I do" to mean "I really really do" - and couples who already did to stay married.

At this point Ms Belluck darts off in different directions: Utah, Wisconsin, Oklahoma ... places and people with whom we have little in common. Frankly, the remaining inches of type are boring, as are the black and white photographs of smiling couples and pre-marriage counseling sessions.

NEWNES does not comment on the coincidence of the following:

Saturday, April 22, 2000

Any day sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday has to be a Saturday. But, a really boring one. I mean, back at Ground Zero, THAT Saturday fell cleanly between the day of wailing and the day of astonishment.

Even today's saint doesn't carry a lot of holy voltage:

DIED 296

A Dalmation pope who devised six orders preliminary to ordination as a priest: Ostarius, Lector, Exorcist, Acolyte, Subdeacon, and Deacon.

But, NEWNES, never shying from duty, finds us something colorful:

Sunday, April 23, 2000

I'm sad that I didn't have my Easter at Patpong this year. But, I am grateful that I was able to celebrate at least three of the big four on the street ... Thanksgiving ... Christmas ... Songkran. Though it would have been nice to see the girls all dressed up in their little pink bunny outfits ... all ready for the Easter egg hunt. Yes, well, that is another little Patpong trick that doesn't need either Easter or eggs for it to generate a round of applause ... but, that's best gone into at another time.

Still vaguely on the Easter rails:

A few days ago (April 15th) The Bangkok Post reported on a clever "reminder service" aimed at the "faithful". How long will it be before Christianity catches up with Islam? Movable feasts that are tied to the moon really want a robotic nudger. Yes, Easter, Good Friday and Ash Wednesday might move in rigid lock step, but you never really know when the first one begins ... unless, of course, you follow the tides carefully.


London - A Muslim family in Preston, northern England, has launched a service to call the two million faithful in Britain to prayer on their mobile phones, the TIMES reported yesterday.

"Rather than the traditional approach, where a muezzin climbs to the top of a mosque's minaret and calls Muslims to prayer five times a day, the signal will go out as a national beep from Preston," the report said.

The on-line prayer call is being backed by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Lancashire Council of Mosques. The call is on the website www.PatelsCornerShop.Com. - AFP

Moving on to Saint George:

George the Martyr

The principal saint of the Greek Church. There are many variations of his heroic legend in different parts of Christendom. A cavalryman in the Roman army, he came to a town in Libya where there was a dragon which had to be fed with two children a day, chosen by lot. On the day he arrived, one of the children was the king's daughter. George defeated the beast, tied it with the king's daughter's garter, gently led it to town, and cut off its head. Then and there the king and his twenty thousand subjects joined the church.

Finding Diocletian's edict against Christians posted on a wall in Palestine, George tore it down and trampled on it; for which he was tortured for eight days and had his head cut off.

Richard I fought under his banner against the Saracens; thus he became the patron-saint of England. Aragon, Portugal, and Germany also do him national honours. He is the saint of chivalry, and the patron of soldiers, cattle, and the mentally infirm.

Returning to Easter:

Easter Bunny

Fort Lauderdale Beach, for but one short precious week over the Easter egg season, is the holiest of holies. From universities throughout the land thousands of the best bodies and tens of the best minds drive hundreds of miles just to genuflect at the intersection of AIA and Las Olas. The shrine of shrines, The Elbo Room, first opened its doors in the same year that United Air Lines started to offer its Mainliner service: 1938. But, more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, allow yourself to drift back to Where the Boys Are.

Monday, April 24, 2000

NEWNES shows only five notable births for this date in history:


Look up into the clear blue sky. Far above you a tiny silver shape moves across the wide expanse, so high that the hum of its engines can scarcely be heard. It is a United Mainliner.

If you were a passenger in that graceful ship, you wouldn't be conscious that you were flying high ... nor that you were passing through the buoyant air at over 200 miles per hour.

United Mainliner

Rather, you would feel a pleasant sense of suspended animation. The giant ship seems poised effortlessly in space ... the great Wasp engines using only half their power, the cabin steady and quiet. Far below, a toy world slides slowly under the broad wing ... fields spreading like parchment quilts ... towns that are hardly more than smudges where ribbon-like highways cross ... tiny crawling trains and autos and aimless little rivers.

And you'd lean back in your deep-cushioned lounge chair to doze, or at night you'd relax in your roomy Mainliner berth - unaware that you owed your comfort to United's policy of always flying high, where the air is naturally smoother.

"High" may mean two miles ... but never less than half a mile above the highest terrain on the 50-mile-wide airway. Every United plane carries an automatic barograph which makes a constant altitude record, showing that the trip is flown at the prescribed altitudes.

When experienced air travelers explain their preference for the Main Line Airway, many point to this reassuring United policy as one reason. Others will mention the fact that United's pilots are paid NOT to fly, when flying conditions are debatable. Still others appreciate the "guest of the line" hospitality of this oldest coast-to-coast airline.

But all their comments can easily be summarized in one short sentence ... United's Main Line Airway is more than a route - it's a standard of service.*

* Three coast-to-coast Sleeper flights nightly, and a scenic daylight flight ... commuter service linking New York - Chicago, and Los Angeles - San Francisco.

This magazine advertisement appeared the same year that The Elbo Room opened its doors: 1938.

Tomorrow morning I'll be on one of United's newer pieces of equipment. The first leg on the way to Bangkok will be ...


I must interrupt this journal right this very second to bring you the first photographs of LeeAnna Yater's new designs for my fleet of corkscrew balloons. Actually, the designs are for crew shirts. Obviously, what you see here is just the first draft. They need tweaking and lettering before they go to the printers.

But, what do you think?

I'd like a show of hands on this.

Coming up: New York

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