Bangkok Forever? ... Part X

Back at the Oriental Hotel

Between Part IX and Part XI

June 21-26, 2000

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Do you remember the rule? It goes something like this: leap years are years divisible by four ... and, when you have one of these you add an extra day to February. Well, that was the original rule as laid down by Julius Caesar when he noticed that the dates of his Roman festivals were getting hopelessly out of line with the seasons: they were creeping forward. This worked well for centuries. But it didn't allow for the awkward fraction that was left over: the extra 11 minutes and 14 seconds that was now moving the seasons backward and making everybody celebrate things earlier. Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, fine-tuned February by dictating that it would only have 29 days in a centurial year if that year was divisible by 400. Year 1900 wasn't; 2000 is.

Fine, Alf! We have read about this before. What are you getting at now?

The start of summer, of course.

Today would be the summer solstice if this centurial year had not been divisible by four hundred. But, it is, so it's not. The meat in today's IN OUR PAGES really should be eaten tomorrow.

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1925: Summer Begins

PARIS - Summer, late in arriving, is officially here. Persons late going home this morning were greeted with sunrise at 4:44 a.m., the earliest of the entire year, for today is June 21, astronomically reckoned as the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. The event is attended by other pleasures for lovers of out-of-doors. Throughout France thousands of lines will splash into clear streams until evening, and fat, lusty fish which have been feeding peacefully without fear of hooks all spring will be hauled forth to grace the frying pans of hundreds of families. Moreover, to-night lovers may gaze into the sky and find the Big Dipper with its handle pointed truly north for once in the year. And, when the turning point in the year has been duly observed, the days will gradually begin to shorten and the short season will gain momentum down and slope toward winter with its shortest day.

Here in Bangkok: the sun rises at 5:55 a.m., sets at 6:48 p.m.


Increase had a son (or, perhaps, it was a father) named Cotton ... yes, Cotton Mather. Both father and son (or, son and father) were stern people. Not given to smiling or sports, they perpetuated their stock for some time. This, perhaps, is why New Englanders are less loose than the rest of us.

NEWNES continues:

Much of the credit for this '42 victory went to James Mason.

I am convinced that Aloysius inspired my roommate at Canterbury:

Aloysius Gonzaga
1568 - 1591

Aloysius or Louis Gonzaga belonged to a ducal family of Mantua. Even as a small boy, on the coldest nights, he would not stay in bed, but stood up or knelt before the crucifix, weeping, rigidly ecstatic, until he fainted away. The charms of court-life in Florence and Mantua had no effect upon him. He kept his virginity, but ruined his health; and while nursing victims of the plague, caught it himself and died, aged twenty-three.

Nothing ever gave his haunted spirit as much relief as flagellation; after he received the last sacrament, he asked to be whipped once more.

He is the particular patron of the Young.

A week from this Sunday, on July 2nd, I had planned to fly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was going to be a short trip; less than a week long. Bracketing the time on the ground would be twenty two hours in the air: BKK-CDG-MIA going there ... Miami-Paris-Bangkok coming back. Now I'm not sure.

Thursday, June 22, 2000

"Monsoon Savages Diners ... Angry Wind Lashes Buffet Table ... Torrential Rain Dilutes Soup, as Tureen Topped Up by Unwanted Water."

Or, maybe just, "Tens Have Dinner Interrupted."

The storm came too late for the editors at the Bangkok Post, so we'll never know. It was the worst attack yet of the monsoon season. Coming at shortly after 8:30 it caused diners to back away from the table. Except for one.

I am not going to go to Florida at the beginning of next month. It's just too long of a journey for such a short visit. And, the time shift is as about as drastic as you can possibly get on a 24-hour clock. Though the US easily allows people to live on any 'shift' ... what with 24-hour restaurants, movies, shops ... I'd rather have lunch with my friends at noon, than at midnight.

NEWNES discovers (invents?) a little recognized trade: one that may have come and gone with just one woman's work:

Eight years later:

Friday, June 23, 2000

NEWNES doesn't try to show any connection between the long days of summer and these unpleasantries:

The HC obviously thought Hitler's day-tour to the Eiffel Tower was worth both words and a photo:

By the way, dear reader, do you see that little wall behind Hitler? Do you suppose it is still there? I think so. During my many trips to Paris, especially when Becky was my girlfriend, I snapped lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower. At that time the Eiffel was counting down the number of days left in 1999. Surely, at least one of them must have captured that little section of the wall.

Moving backward in time to another colorful war: Had someone had a camera back then, the HC might have also given you a photo of capitulating Indians waving Confederate flags:

But, hold on, tomorrow the HC will give you an artist's impression, circa 1889, of what football would involve into.

Glory be to God in the highest! Is it time for Audrey (or whomever) to go on stage? Surely no! She was timed to part the curtains during Palio, not now. Check that calendar ... is it June 23rd? Yes it is! Well, damn ... here she is:

Audrey, or Ethelreda
DIED 679

Audrey's father was a king; both her husbands were kings; and her sister and her physician were saints. Her first husband appears to have been willing not to have physical relations with her; the second, perhaps, was not willing. In any case, she ran away from him; and only the tide rising around a rock in the sea saved her from his possessive excitement. Eventually he let her go, and married another woman. Left to herself, she founded the cathedral and monastery on the Isle of Ely.

After her death she appeared to a remorseful criminal, and helped him get out of prison.

DRAM Prices

Encapsuled in fast-to-absorb charts and tables are all things that truly count. The Asian Wall Street Journal, like its American and European siblings, accentuates what it thinks most of its readers feel is important. It does this in a clump of little boxes located at the top of the Money and Investing page. Each measures something like currency fluctuations against the dollar or the yen, interest rates on benchmark bonds, equity averages from the Dow, the Hang Seng or the Nikkei 225 ... etc. Commodities are treated, too. But, ...and here is where I have been living under a stone ... singled out for separate scrutiny are Dram Chip Prices! Yes, there are 'spot' prices for both 64 Mb Drams and 128 ones. What ever happened to 'pork bellies?'

Heart carving is not just a dying art, if the Thai Cooking School has any say in the matter. The clever fingers and the sharp knife of a master heart carver make this lamb heart take on the appearance of a red rose.

Saturday, June 24, 2000

The History Channel (HC) calendar for 2000, knowing full well that it can never compete head-on with NEWNES, carves out a non-threatening niche. Denied entries such as the birth of Lazare Hoche, soldier (1768) or the suicide of Adam Lindsay Gordon, poet of Australia (1870), it forages mostly on American soil. Though it doesn't exactly feed on crumbs dropped from NEWNES' table, we get the feeling that these might have been dishes that NEWNES passed up. Today is a good example:

Thematically tied to this is a sketch of what lay ahead for football. This artistic prediction was made in 1889.

NEWNES cuts from a cloth with a richer woof:

From the cloth's warp:

Apparently TGIF is as good a reason as any for the staff at the Spa and the Gym to celebrate. Ning was feeling fragile this morning. Feeling taciturn as well, the details of the evening were glossed over. Usually she doesn't appear before 1pm; so, this morning's early arrival must have been therapeutic, I guess. Hours on the treadmill can boil you clean. It works every time.

Skipping the better part of the day, leapfrogging lunch, and moving directly to dessert time at the Terrace Rim Naam: where lamb-heart carving leaves off and fruit carving picks up. But, first ... a few group photographs of Ah and her friends, one of who is the carver of all things.

Aiming at one particular dessert: running very close, in my book of favorites, to The Oriental's coconut ice cream is a Thai specialty called Tub Tim Grob. Granted, it is not an appetite-inspiring name. It is also known as Siamese Rubies or just plain chilled-water-chestnuts. Here is the recipe. The recipe for the coconut ice cream can be found in one of my earlier Oriental journals.

Tub Tim Grob

Siamese Rubies


1 cup diced water chestnuts or jicama (1/2 cm.)
2 cups corn or tapioca starch
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups syrup - melted 2 cups sugar in 2 cups hot-boiled scented water
Some red food coloring (dye)

  1. Place water chestnut cubes in food coloring (dye), leave overnight.
  2. Drain.
  3. Coat water chestnuts with corn or tapioca flour, keeping cubes separated.
  4. Drop coated water chestnuts in hot boiling water, collect them when they rise to the surface.
  5. Cool and soak coated water chestnuts in chilled or iced water (3-5 minutes), then remove and keep soaked in chilled syrup.
  6. Add coconut milk and some shaved or crushed ice before serving.

We are in for another lashing. The skies have darkened like clockwork. Little boats dart for cover [168k MPEG]. The rains are rolling in. Will the fat man leave the table?

Sunday, June 25, 2000

NEWNES does not say. The dates are identical; furthermore, the surnames smack of the same part of the world. Both were executed. Do they both have titles or is Earl just a given name? I'd bet that the two of them swung from the same gallows.

NEWNES lists only four events worth remembering:

Chinese Executions

Forget Gary Graham! Maybe you already have. He was the Texan who, with hair all amuss and a shirt in disarray, gracelessly passed through Huntsville's execution suite. Outside, the fretting and counter-fretting made everyone worry about whether the death penalty was a good thing. Editors and candidates did most of the worrying. Miles away it wasn't an issue. In the two days running up to this weekend, China executed 52 people, seven of them in Beijing alone. All for serious crimes: drug trafficking, murder, etc. According to the Beijing Daily, executions peaked following a visit to China by US anti-drug policy maker Barry McCaffrey.

It is really quite amazing. Barely 500 feet separated the law school from the rest of Berkeley. Yet the two could have been on different planets. All of this was going on just down the street ... and I was totally unaware. But, The Onion wasn't.


BERKELEY, Calif. - A coalition of left-wing students at the University of California at Berkeley held an impromptu rally Friday night to protest "the unconscionable failure of our classmates to tell us about a really great protest that happened earlier in the day."

Waving hand-drawn signs with such slogans as, "Why Didn't You Call Us?" and, "We Should Have Been There," the crowd of approximately 1,000 students congregated in Sproul Plaza, then marched across campus chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, if there is a protest, we ought to know." The impassioned demonstration was met with force by campus and city police, who dispersed the students with tear gas and clubs.

The protest the students had missed, the "Feminist Anti-War-Make-Love-for-Civil-Rights-Free-Speech-Peace-In," included police, rousing free-speech rhetoric and music.


The protest featured a surprise performance by the popular San Francisco rock group Moby Grape, which only added to the neglected students' sense of outrage.

"Everyone who was anyone was at that protest," campus radical leader Mario Savio said. "As college students who were not informed of a very important protest, we join hands with other similarly oppressed groups. Slavery, the Holocaust and, now, the injustice of not a single phone call to invite us to the groovy rally at which The Grape played. Never again!"

Saturday morning, Savio and five other radical student leaders announced the formation of a new activist group, Students for Telling Other Students about the Next Big Protest. STOSNBT, whose demands are already posted in classrooms and dormitories throughout the Berkeley campus, is calling for a state-wide network of telephone operators devoted to informing radical students exactly where and when every protest is to take place and what events are planned.

California Gov. Ronald Reagan has promised to fight the proposal, but student activists are fighting back, and not just for the right to be notified of the best protests. One campus leader, Brian Goldberg, is planning a mass protest against cuts in parental financial support for next weekend.

"My group, Students Against Cuts in Parental Financial Support, dares to stand up and fight for what is right," Goldberg said. "I ran out of money last week and couldn't afford to buy this groovy hemp caftan. It was a drag, man."

Yesterday I failed to give you Glenway Wescott's view of John the Baptist. It was mercifully short, revealing only that Jesus was John's cousin ... oh, yes ... and, that when John died he did not go straight-away to stay with his cousin; he made a quick pass through the "old underworld" to tell the dead that, they too, would be delivered upstairs ... not right-away, but eventually.

As is the theologian's want in moments of confusion, Wescott slipped a big question into that brief paragraph: is somebody, somewhere entitled to an intestate share? Is there a rightful claimant for all those relics that churches have squirreled away over the centuries? Every Christian knows that Christ's teenage years ... in fact his whole adolescence save for the opening scene with the three wise men and the time that he gently sassed his mother ... are one big blur.1 Now we have the question of the nearest and dearest: his next of kin. Save for his mother (and a teeny bit about his dad), Jesus' family tree has not seen much attention. Surely, now that DNA can prove that OJ sliced his wife, that same chemistry can be used to trace down Christ's long lost heirs.

1 Our Lord's teenage years are treated elsewhere.

Moving back to today, Wescott is freer with his pen when sex and crime are involved:

Luceja and Aucejas

The story of these two is a love-story. She was a beautiful Roman girl. He was a German, and is called a king, but appears to have been only a chief of bandits. He kidnapped her; and when he learned that she had made a vow of chastity, loved her all the more, and allowed her to sleep in a tent of her own. After following the robber-band for twenty years, up and down, wherever their exploits took them, she fell homesick. Aucejas could not bear to be parted from her, and his following her to Rome resulted in their arrest and capital punishment. Apparently the church revered the robber on equal terms with his chaste mistress.

Tiger Prawns The kitchens at The Oriental (all seven of them) pride themselves in serving only the freshest of everything. Over 40 people work just in the kitchen for the Baan Rim Naam, the hotel's Thai restaurant. Hundreds are employed in food preparation throughout the hotel. When you realize that each day all of the bakery products, every bit of the ice cream, all the sauces and practically everything that goes on to the table is made fresh for that day, it's not surprising that eighty percent of the floor space in the service area is dedicated to food.

These Tiger Prawns came from the Andaman Sea. They were alive at 6:45pm. Not at 7pm. The fish, too.

When served they became SAENG WA GOONG (Spiced Grilled Tiger Prawns with Kaffir Lime, Ginger and Mushrooms) and PLA NUANG TAKRAI (Steamed Fish with Lemon and Lemongrass).

Monday, June 26, 2000

The coincidence is eerie. Thirty years separate the works: Wescott copyrighted "A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers" in 1932; NEWNES came out in 1962. Wescott re-copyrighted his work in 1976; NEWNES did the same ten years earlier. Of course, it is up to you, dear reader, to make whatever connection you like.

John and Paul
DIED 362

The eunuchs in charge of St. Constantia's household. She left them each a considerable fortune in her will; but after her father's death, Julian the Apostate appropriated it and put the one time servants to death.

NEWNES leads off the day with this death:

He tapers off with:

With condolences to Becky, and with 'thanks' to NEWNES:

NEWNES looks at two London venues…neighbors, actually:

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1950 - War in Korea

SEOUL - More than 50,000 North Korean troops invaded the American-sponsored Republic of Korea at dawn yesterday [June 25] and by this morning had thrust to within twenty miles of the capital. The surprise onslaught of the Russian-trained North Koreans was supported by tanks and heavy artillery. The American-trained South Korean army was reported to be giving a good account of itself.

[from the Bangkok Post]

His Majesty the King broke out a jumpy version of "Back Home in Indiana" on the saxophone at his State dinner in Honolulu. 1960

A harbinger of what's to come is the feature photo on this morning's Bangkok Post. Months ago domestic elephants rambled around Bangkok, going pretty much wherever they wanted to go. This had been going on for years, and everyone was used to seeing them sauntering down streets in search of tourist bahts. In February or March the local government decided that elephants should not vie with cars for the right-of-way. They were ordered out of the city. They went. But, life in the country was not kind to them ... rather, it wasn't kind to their mahouts; handouts from tourists ceased ... and the locals, not at all atwitter at seeing elephants on their streets, kept their purses closed. The elephants started to trickle back to Bangkok. Just a couple of weeks ago I found one munching peanuts outside of a brothel.

Defiant Mahouts Returning To City

A starving cow elephant died of heart failure yesterday caused by acute indigestion after eating 50kg (120lbs) of uncooked rice stored in the back of the truck bringing her back to Bangkok.

Phang Bunmee, 27, was en route from Surnin.

The rice was in sacks stacked in the truck beside her.

The hungry beast ate the rice and became thirsty. The mahout allowed her to drink more than 200 litres (60 gallons) of water.

The animal collapsed when the truck was in Nonthaburi.

Stuffed Pachyderm

Alongkorn Mahannop, a Dusit Zoo veterinarian, said the rice mixed with water in the cow's stomach and the resulting gas caused a fatal dysfunction of the lungs and heart.

An autopsy also revealed an infestation of intestinal parasites, indicating she had not received the best of food and attention.

Mr. Alongkorn said Phang Bunmee was the first of many elephants and handlers returning to Bangkok in defiance of the City Hall's ban, driven from Surin by starvation.

The rice-planting season had begun and if the animals stayed in the province they would be accused of damaging the seedlings in their urgent quest for food.

Banning the elephants from Bangkok was not the solution. He suggested the city co-operate with Surin in setting up a holding center where forage could be grown and the mahouts employed as state workers. This would guarantee the animals food and money for their handlers. Tourism could supplement their income.

Next: Bangkok Forever, Part XI

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