A Short Visit to America

Between Bangkok for the Change of Seasons and America, Part II

October 24-31, 2000

A few words about NEWNES and his role in my journal entries: For several years I have carried NEWNES around in my computer bag. He is the only written source that I have found for rare and unusual anniversaries, as well as for the plain vanilla ones. In any given day NEWNES is able to come up with anywhere from a half dozen to a score of births and deaths ... lives that stand out for any number of reasons. And, he can find two-thirds as many 'events' that had some impact somewhere, on someone, sometime. Given that any day in the calendar comes around again exactly 365 or 366 days later, repetition in these pages is likely, if not inevitable. This is especially true with the 'platinum' entries, as in the case of Hogarth's 236th death-day, which is tomorrow. It's not so likely for holders of the 'green card' ... as in soldier Graf Gneisenau, who was born next Friday in 1760.

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Let's see how we handle NEWNES for today. These are the 'raw' entries for "People":

Any shortlist would include Tycho Brahe, Rollo and Palgrave ... perhaps, Prince Carl as well. Leeuwenhoek, Laffitte, Hiller and Lecocq would all suffer in the first round of cuts. Boring job titles and/or boring death avenues would be responsible. In the next cut, Tycho Brahe and Prince Carl would go ... just not enough voltage in astronomers (no matter the number of galaxies that carry their names) and Royals, per se. That leaves Rollo and Palgrave. Rollo gets the final nod because of his job title (Royalist) and his colorful method of passing (executed ... probably by the axe).

Last May I was the last to leave the 14th floor. ALIMAK'S men were in their full siege mode. Do you remember? But, there was no panic as the two of us fled in the last elevator: just my trusty room-service attendant and myself. At that time we wondered what life would be like without the River Wing ... what lay ahead in the Garden Wing ... we did not know. ALIMAK ReturnsIt was scary. We knew things would be different; that we would probably be shuttled from room to room ... familiar routines would be shattered ... new faces would invade our world ... life would never be the same. But, we survived. And, we came back to a grander and a bigger Gore Vidal Suite ... one in which there was always uninterrupted hot water ... one in which the toilets never needed a second flush ... one in which the air conditioning could be adjusted in three different zones (not just two) ... one in which ... well, I could go on endlessly, couldn't I?

Was it too good to be true? Were ALIMAK'S men really gone for good? Perhaps not!1 Like with the folks in the movie, Exodus, it was again bag-packing time. This time we were out just in time. Fleeing across blue-construction tarps, we were in the down-elevator long before the hammering began anew. By the time the siege engines were in place, Watcharee and I were aboard a British Airways 747-400 headed to London ... protectively cocooned from worry and fret. At London's Heathrow we weathered the time between Boeings in transit quarters provided by American Airlines.

Twenty-five hours after leaving Bangkok we were in Miami.

1 Only 'minor tinkering' is needed. After every major construction job is 'finished' there always remains the odd bit and piece that has to be tended to ... a chip here, a tightening there ... a tuck on this edge ... a poke under there ... just tiny stuff. Gushy assurances convinced us that when we returned on the 11th all would be well on the 14th.

Wednesday, October 25

This is my 'raw' data from NEWNES for the day's "Events":

The two 'Battles' are out, as is George III. That leaves the "Charge" and the "Letter." As the latter is something that no one has ever heard of, it is in. It gives me a chance to call on Andy Page for help.

Our first stab at a Fort Lauderdale Thai restaurant proved ill aimed. The name (along with the 'logo' design) should have put us on guard. Though, after we ordered, the Bangkok born waitress (part time) did warn Watcharee (in Thai) that the food was for 'foreigners.'

Thursday, October 26, 2000



But, closely tied for this 'maybe' slot:

But, given the fact that his successor 'gave' Ronald Reagan the election, had Moltke not been so Prussian he (the "Shah") might have had the day's spot to himself.


Over in 'events', the race was much clearer:

Watcharee is settling in, amidst the nymphs.

Friday, October 27, 2000

"As soon as she has her sixteenth birthday, I want her to get her driver's license." Watcharee Behind the WheelMy fellow 'addicts' at the "Berlin 2000" meeting of the ICCA had never met Watcharee before. They were visibly pleased that I was taking such an interest in her education to the ways of urban America.

Last night, in Fort Lauderdale, was her first time behind the wheel. She did quite well. By the time her birthday rolls around ... in less than six months ... she will be quite ready for the test. Once she masters driving in Bangkok she'll be able to drive anywhere.

NEWNES gives us a tie for today ... in the 'people' secton: both men served our Lord. One with a 'Christian' name that fit his calling; the other with an 'end' that just nudged the other man's finish for drama.

According to Geoff Tibballs, in his "The Best Book of Lists ... Ever!"1 ... in the category of "Music, Film, TV" ... number 3 in the list of "Ridiculously Long Song Titles" is:

"... 3. I'm in Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk - The Freshies, 1981: 60 letters ..."

1 Published in 1999 by Carlton Books Limited, 20, St. Anne's Court, Wardour Street, London W1V 3AW.

Saturday, October 28, 2000

On Thursday I made a reference to Ronald Reagan ... something about how he might never have been elected President had it not been for the Shah of Iran's lavish birthday party (the delayed hostage release had its embryo in that party).

Pulling the thread a little further from the woof; the "real" owner of our suite over at The Oriental, Gore Vidal, said this about RR: "A triumph of the embalmer's art."1 A few days (weeks?) ago Paul found a photo of Gore Vidal that was taken on his 75th birthday. I think Reagan looked better than Vidal ... age for age. But, there is a really nice 'publisher's' photo of Gore Vidal in our suite, probably taken while he was in his early 40's.

1 From Tibballs.

Last night, Stephani, Robin, Watcharee and I went to Max's Place for dinner. Only one photograph survived: a back-shot of Stephani and a side glance at Watcharee.


Sunday, October 29, 2000

"Good Morning!"1

1 Totally perplexed and somewhat amused by the custom of moving the clock hands back and forth (depending upon whether it is fall or spring), Watcharee was wide-awake an hour earlier than expected this morning.

A few days ago, on the Feast of Saint Crispin, I mused that perhaps my Birmingham friend, Andy Page, might know something about the "Zinoviev Letter." According to my NEWNES, it was "published in Britain" on October 25th in 1924. As you know, the 25th of October was (and always will be) the Feast of Saint Crispin. Anyway, shortly after confessing my ignorance of the Zinoviev Letter, Andy (after much ferreting about in dusty parliamentary archives) sent me the following:

"On 8 October 1924, Britain's first Labour government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. The next day the Foreign Office was sent a copy of a letter, purporting to come from Grigori Zinoviev, the president of Comintern and addressed to the central committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The letter, urging the party to stir up the British proletariat in preparation for class war, appeared in the Daily Mail shortly afterwards, with immense political and diplomatic repercussions."

"There has been scarcely a decade when the Zinoviev Letter has not raised its head. Early in 1998, the impending publication of a book allegedly containing further revelations about the authorship of the Zinoviev Letter, based on information from KGB archives, led to a renewed round of press speculation and parliamentary questions. In response the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said in a written answer on 12 February 1998 that in the interests of openness, he had commissioned the FCO Historians to prepare a memorandum on the Zinoviev Letter, drawing on papers held by the SIS, as well as those in the FCO archives."

At this point in his research Andy was sidetracked from the thread. Whatever memorandum the FCO Historians prepared for Foreign Secretary Cook still remains a secret (from us, dear reader!).

Of much more interest to us, Andy shifted his research to the Crimean War. The following was hastily penned to the bottom of the note dealing with the Zinoviev Letter:

"Btw Alf the last survivor of the Crimean War is still alive and living at Pevensy Castle in Kent Viz Tom a former Royal Navy ship's Tortoise who is 186 years old."

NEWNES gives us much this morning:

Last night's 'stab' at a local Thai restaurant produced a winner: Sukhothai in the Gateway Shopping Center.

Monday, October 30, 2000

How easily I forget!

Yes, the Bangkok Daily News certainly shines in its own ... shall we say ... 'local' way. I have to give its editors credit for never allowing the paper's perceptive forefinger to stray too far from the Bangkokian pulse. For it is the 'voice' of the city people, a people who thrive on (nay, even demand) a vibrant contrast in everything they do, in everything they see, in everything they eat. Best observed in the recent "fridge murder" case ... with its cleverly designed journalistic juxtaposition ... the fiery murder-rape of a young girl midst the steamy heat of a Bangkok night ... followed by the inviting chill and soothing whirr of a standing Whirlpool Ice-O-Mat, her upright coffin.

But ... last night I was standing in line at the 7-11.

Sure! There were no Crayola colors splashed all over the cover ... just big bold type ... letters that practically reached all over the page ... and, one great big 'it-says-it-all' picture. It was All-American supermarket journalism at its 'check-out' best:


And, no chicken-shit dots covering up the shattered bones ... no heavy-handed marker pen taken to the crushed skull and shattered vertebrae ... no clever darkroom tricks done to the smashed pelvis and broken kneecaps.

DottiYes, dear reader, I was looking at the Weekly World News! For years, every Tuesday morning, my postman brought me my own WWN.1 Now I realize how much I missed it. Last night, while standing in line to pay for some convenience store knick-knacks, I flipped through its rich offerings ... the "Page 5 Girl" ... Ed Anger's "MY AMERICA" column ... the heart tugging page-15 tale of a little Korean girl dangling by her head from the jaws of a Ferris wheel cab high above Seoul ... the poignant picture of the now-aging, but ever distraught, Penny "Jilted" Fluren,2 the girl our president, Bill Clinton, 'stood up' on her prom night ... Dotti's advice to the woman who cut off her husband's "wee-wee" ... and much, much more.

Yes! America! And, only in America!

1 Thanks to my good friend, Paul Fjelstad, who gave me my first subscription. Gee, I wonder if Paul still gets his copy in the mail.

2 So distraught that she refuses to ever shed that prom dress ... even showering in it. "I'll wear this dress until I get an apology from the man who made me a promise and backed out of it at the last minute."

Today, NEWNES' stuff seems so pale by comparison, doesn't it? Do you know any of these people? Their jobs, save for one, suggest great creativity and longevity ... but, what happened?

And, bringing the 1800s to a 'snappy' close:

In 1928 "the experimental transmission of still pictures by television began in Britain."

Also, from London:


LONDON - A British historian amazingly claims that Al Capone was a mean-tempered fat girl who spent her whole life in drag and devoted herself to a life of crime because of guilt over her gender confusion.

Dr. Clive Stuberman stumbled onto Capone's secret while conducting research for a book on the notorious crime family that ruled the Chicago underworld during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. The expert's still untitled book is expected to be published next spring.

Inching my way back into the pages of the Weekly World News ... it's hard not to notice that the majority of the commercial offerings in this paper are 'spiritual.' Sure, it has its share of 'fly-by-nights' who promise "stronger, thicker, longer hair in just 5 to 7 days" ... "Haitian Love Beads that will attract women to you like a magnet" ... "an amazing beauty lotion that smoothes-out baggy eyes." Cold Bronze Age ManAnd, then there is the sickening stuff from the 'male-virility helpers' and those quacks who promise to "reverse unsightly heel ulcers and eliminate dangerous ketones at a single stroke." But, it's the WWN marquee advertisers ... God bless them ... who so thankfully pooh-pooh this physical nonsense ... for them it is the soul of the reader that counts. Yes, like the full-page ad from Marie Rosa, "The Woman Who Talks to Angels" ... likewise, the equally full-page offering of a "Statue of the Virgin in a Dome Immersed in the Miraculous Water of Lourdes" ... these things, and all those precious 'inspiration' stories of the little people of America are what makes this such a healthy read. The teens from Suffolk County, Virginia, who pulled a pregnant bitch from a dumped-along-the-roadside Hefty Cinch Sak. The trio of "miracle clowns" whose "ruckus" horn blowing and back-flips pulled an 11-year-old Texas boy out of a meningitis-engineered coma. Biologist Dr. Alberto Lenzi's successful resuscitation (nudge, nudge ... with a little help from our Lord?) of a man who had been preserved in ice since the Bronze Age.

Yes, dear reader, that's what counts!

Tuesday, October 31, 2000 (Hallowe'en)

This might have been the day, last year, when we were supposed to announce the winner of the Denise-Look-Alike Contest. Or, maybe we were going to time our 'burning of the ballots'1 for the day when some Swiss or Czech announced the discovery of methane or sodium or something like that. Browsing forward into NEWNES I can't find another more 'appropriate' day ... unless, we'd thought of using Guy Fawkes' Day (the 5th) ... or, November 10th, the 200th anniversary of Alois Senefelder's discovery of the lithographic process.

1 More help is needed on this ... but, I think that Vatican tradition dictates that when the Sacred College of Cardinals finally 'elects' a new pope, the paper ballots are burned to ash in a little fireplace that is located in the room where the cardinals have been deliberating. If there is a successful vote (somebody wins) wet straw is added to the burning ballots ... producing black smoke ... signifying to papal-watchers that the waiting is over. Otherwise dry straw is added ... thus, white smoke comes out ... telling the throngs in St. Peter's that there was no plurality (or, 2/3rds or whatever) on the last ballot. Perhaps I have the color of the smoke ... and its significance ... wrong.

NEWNES continues with:

Geoff Tibballs gives us:

  1. SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON - U.S. harmonica player murdered in Chicago in 1948.
  2. LITTLE WALTER - U.S. blues singer who suffered a fatal head injury following a fight in 1968.
  3. JAMES SHEPPARD - the founder of U.S. group Shep and the Limelites, he was found dead in his car on the Long Island Expressway in 1970 after being attacked and robbed.
  4. KING CURTIS - U.S. saxophonist stabbed to death in 1971.
  5. AL JACKSON - the drummer with Booker T and The MGs was shot by burglars in 1975.
  6. SAL MINEO - stabbed to death while walking home in Los Angeles in 1976.
  7. JOHN LENNON - shot outside his New York home in 1980 by Mark Chapman, to whom he had given is autograph only a few hours before.
  8. SAMUEL GEORGE - drummer with U.S. group The Capitols suffered fatal stab wounds in 1982.
  9. MARVIN GAYE - shot dead by his father during a bitter row in 1984.
  10. PETER TOSH - shot by burglars in 1987.

Bat ChildAt my local 7-11 I was pleased to find a back issue of the Weekly World News. Though the stuff in it was printed more than six weeks ago, much of what we treasure in the WWN is truly timeless. Take Ed Anger's MY AMERICA column ... his "Cut Off Their Heads" advice is as true today as it was when he wrote it.2 And, those ever-luscious "Page 5 Girls" ... keep up the good work, Lantana! And, ... heh, heh, heh ... what issue would be complete without a Bat Child story ... this one 'gives' a nine-year-old Macon, Georgia, girl enough nips to require 600 stitches. Moving along, there's no doubt that Freddy Bolle's mom will 'clip' this one ... if only to remind her Norwegian kid that meddling with foreigners is dangerous.

2 Ed says: "Personally, I'd like to see these animals fry like slabs of bacon in the electric chair, but this new guillotine sounds great, too. There is nothing like the sound of a murderer or rapist screaming and crying just before the dull thud of a head being lopped off. I read in a book about the French Revolution that a guillotine victim can look around and think for about 10 minutes after his noggin has been sliced off. Now that's something I'd like to see." Timeless words, those!

Next: America, Part II

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