Back to Bangkok in a Hurry
(Sort Of)

After Annie and Tilman's Notes from Bhutan

December 8-13, 2000

Friday, December 8, 2000 (still in Kathmandu)

What is happening? Fair question!

The Screwy Tuskers, minus Watcharee and myself, are on course. On the 10th they'll twist their way down the Kathmandu Valley, go over the hills, and ... five or six hours after their start ... roll onto the landing field (cum playing pitch) next to the Chitwan: the grassy runway at Meghauly. For the better part of a week they will be part of the 19th World Elephant Polo Championships. We won't!

On the same morning, the day after tomorrow, Watcharee and I will take Thai #320 from Kathmandu to Bangkok. It's nothing gestalt that is sending us back to BKK. Rather, a vague, sort-of 'responsiveness' ... has asked us both to skip the 19th elephant polo ("e-polo", in my mind ... but, that term never caught on, did it?). Actually, even my "Screwies" have tipped their heads on this odd turn of mine.

At about the time that Watcharee and I are settling in for another month or two of good reads with Gore Vidal ... Annie, Tilman, Lisa, Christie, Shamane and Sian will be unfolding themselves into rooms 16 and 17 ( ... or, is it 17 and 18? ... ) at the Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge. While I will be reading in real time to you from NEWNES and Wescott, my Screwy Tusker journalists and photographers will be caching their efforts for the future. I hope that once they return to the States and the UK on the 19th, some text about what took place at Meghauly will appear in these rooms. Photographs will percolate in their own good time. Perhaps, Tilman, Shamane and Sian will have something for Paul before Christmas ... stuff from Annie, however, will just dribble in ever so slowly.

That brings up Stephani. Though a 1999 Screwy Tusker veteran, this year she was only able to see the Calcutta and the Bhutan wedge of the trip. As you know, dear reader, she started this 'journal' with her letters home ... but, right now (3PM, Kathmandu time ... 4:15AM, Florida time) she is on her way back to Fort Lauderdale. After a night at Bangkok's Amari Airport Hotel she has to suffer two more plane changes (at Narita and O'Hare) before she can unload in her own driveway. Probably, the first real photographs of Calcutta and Bhutan will come from her camera. She promised to send Paul her 'best' as soon as the films came back from Eckerds.

Surrounded by photographers, I hardly snapped a shot since I left Bangkok ... most likely I have but a fistful or two of 'random' odd-shots stored away in my Mavica.

I found this in the lobby of the Yak and Yeti. It's from this morning's castaways from Thai's in-bound service. Incidentally, the same people whose presses churn out the Bangkok Post and The Nation also print the Trib, The Asian Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. All of this is done in Bangkok, I think.

Which raises another point, before we get to the 'history' section. My AmEx bill shows that I have paid for a year's worth of airmailed copies of the WWN. Meaning that fresh stuff from the World Weekly News will be able to compete on an equal footing with the Bangkok Daily News.

As promised:

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Lax Ladies

Are women deteriorating? Sandow, the strong man, who should know all about physical development, has the following to say on the subject: "Experience shows that within recent years the physique of woman has been distinctly on the downgrade. The health, the beauty which were so familiar to ancient nations, are with us unknown things. The round of modern life is only too apt to leave out natural exercise. Where our ancestors walked we drive; where they climbed stairs, we use elevators. In every way we are tempted to neglect our bodies."

1925: Pigskin Pitfalls

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. Contending that college football is fast becoming commercialized and threatens to render education a matter of secondary importance, the representatives of six universities met in conference at Wesleyan University here to-day [Dec. 7] and passed a resolution recommending that the games be reduced by fifty per cent in the future and urging each institution represented to confine its schedules to four games each season instead of the eight now played by colleges generally.

1950: Hiss Appeal Fails

NEW YORK The perjury conviction and five-year prison sentence of Alger Hiss, former State Department official, were upheld unanimously by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals today [Dec. 7]. Hiss was convicted Jan. 22 of lying when he denied under oath that he ever had given secret State Department papers to unauthorized persons, including Whittaker Chambers, former Communist courier.

Before turning from the presses; The Kathmandu Post leads this morning with grim news about what will happen on Monday if hotel workers in Nepal do not get a 10% raise.1 The hotels will shut down. That's it! People with rooms to sleep in will have to make do with tents or park benches.2 Everyone in the industry is wearing black armbands.

1 The workers are not asking for a ten percent "raise." No, they want all of the hotels in Nepal to impose a ten percent service charge onto the guest's final checkout bill. And, pass that amount on to the workers. If all they wanted was a "raise," there would not be a problem ... just a bit of negotiating, and at the end of the wash there would be a give and take of four or five percent. But, the hotels are balking at this pass-through service charge as it makes their books visible.

2 Wags would be cruel to suggest that Watcharee and I are skipping out early so as to avoid sleeping in a field.

Saturday, December 9, 2000 (last full day in Kathmandu)


Look at the photograph.


It's a little watch pocket ... a tiny bit of history that never got sewed up. There they are ... all of them ... like Edsels, Kaisers, Nashes and even Crosleys ... just rusting away on some inner city used car lot. Stalin ("Uncle Joe") smack in the middle, top row ... a yearbook picture of Mao (sans mole) on his left ... next to him, the "Great Leader" (Kim Il Sung). To Stalin's immediate right we have V.I. Lenin, proudly sporting his old red school tie. How about the two elderly gents just off to Lenin's right ... (both of them looking oddly quizzical ... perhaps bemused by where the ball went when they left the field)? They appear to be thinkers, what with those beards: Marx for sure, on the end ... but, I am puzzled about who is sandwiched between Marx and Lenin ... he looks familiar; could he be one of the Smith Brothers1?

1 Of Smith Brothers Cough Drops. Are they still around?

Oh, and way off to the right of the photograph ... three spaces over from Stalin is the Cuban ... Che? Perhaps. Anyway, someone from Fidel's frozen-in-time-world.

Of course, all of them are now dead.

On the bottom tier: local communists I am sure. Here in Nepal it is the CPN-ML ... the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist). They all still cling to that now-cute but admittedly musty lexicon of yore. They play with cadres, politburos, General Secretaries, hammers & sickles ... stuff that used to scare us silly.

But, Alf, who are the people ... the ones standing on the dais, behind the photographs of the great ones?

They are the near dead2 ... the leaders of the CPN-ML. Propped up by support canes and thoughtfully positioned so that if they do wobble off axis they will just plump harmlessly into waiting comfy-cushions ... and they are taking in a standing ovation. It was in response to their leader's whimpering cry: "All communist parties must be united for the liberation of the people from exploitation, violence and poverty."

2 Or, fine examples of the embalmer's art.

Yes, Alf, but why are they in the news?

Wait. There is more ... well, just a little. But the caption under the picture will tell you everything.

Star Child

Her mother must have had fun. Like Halloween moms back home, little Star Child's mom probably forced her to stand stone-still while she worked on her face ... to get it just right. Yes, she 'had' to have her nose painted red ... and, yes, if she touched it or smudged one of the stars she would get a smack that she wouldn't soon forget. And, she had to listen to all those speeches ... every word.

As promised:

"Star Child: A girl with stars and the hammer and sickle symbols of the CPN-ML painted on her face listening to speeches during the mass meeting organized by the CPN-ML at the start of its National Convention in Kathmandu on Friday."

Sunday, December 10, 2000 (Leaving Kathmandu)

TG 320 left Kathmandu about 20 minutes late. This flight to Bangkok climbs quickly to get out of the valley. Once free of the peaks it crosses the Nepal/India border and chooses a path half way between Vananasi on the west and Dhaka on the east. Continuing south and east it starts to over fly the Bay of Bengal at Calcutta. Right here where the water and the land meet there is turbulence, even at 9000 meters. Always. The next landfall is where the mouths of the Irrawaddy River meet the Andaman Sea. The final Burma to Bangkok stretch is just descent and immigration cards.

We are home again!

PS Just before we left for the airport, CNN told us that the US Supreme Court (5 to 4) has again turned the dial 180 degrees.

Monday, December 11, 2000

Dear reader, the tail of November saw Wescott bogged down with saints whose wretched lives just went on and on ... never allowing their suffering to taper down to a manageable snivel, never allowing us respite from their little misery cages. "Felicitas and Her Sons" tortured us with a mother's agony as each of her sons was put to death. The wailing didn't stop until she was mercifully tossed into a cauldron of boiling fat. "John of the Cross" followed her by but a day. His never-ending mortifications of the flesh even bored his fellow "Inquisitees"; and timed out his normally quite jaded jail masters. "Catherine of the Wheels" with her loony marriage to Jesus Christ fully deserved 'the wheels'; it was only a last minute equipment failure that forced her to settle for the ax. The month finally ended with "Andrew the Apostle", preaching for two days while lashed to his X-shaped cross.

Ah, but December brings a sea swell of stuff. As I 'missed' the first ten days of the month, I don't want to play a full catch-up; rather, let me just snip at Wescott's saints.

The second of December belonged to "Vivian, her Parents, Flavian and Daphrosa, and her Sister, Demetria." This whole family was beaten to death with lead-plummets. Incidentally, Vivian is the protective saint for weather prophets and epileptics.

"Galganus" has the third. A remorseful murderer who passed half his life on a wild hilltop worshiping the cruciform handle of his killing sword.

"Francis Xavier" (December 4) " ... was an ugly little man with perpetually weeping eyes ... "

"Nicholas of Myra" (also called Santa Claus) has the 6th to himself. How he became the patron of pawnbrokers is a curious tale. In Wescott's words: "Three daughters of a reduced nobleman in Myra had to walk the streets for a living; and Nicholas, at the age when the flesh is keenest, on three nights in succession, threw a purse of gold out of his bedroom window, without obliging them to come in. (Eventually these purses, confused with the pills of the Medicis, became the three traditional balls of pawnbrokers.)

Speeding things up a bit:

"Eutychianus" spent the third century wrapping and burying bodies of martyrs. "Eulalia" was a little Spanish girl who made fun of the local cops. Not amused, " ... they lost their patience, or succumbed to a selfish desire to play havoc with the pretty body, and killed her bit by bit with Spanish ingenuity."

Which brings us to today:


A hermit who had an angel living with him for years. It cooked for him, kept him company, and in the end brought him the last sacrament.

Both Bush and Gore might find comfort in today's NEWNES:

But, I would like to close the day with a nod toward George Thomas Gowan, Captain in the 27th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry. While in Calcutta, I visited his tomb. The words, chiseled into the finest Indian marble:

" ... fell whilst endeavoring to recall the mutinous Sepoys of his own corps to order and obedience ... "

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

NEWNES again. Perhaps he has something for our nine judges:

Where is Morton's 'signature'? You know ... the dots. Or, the black marking pen when Morton is out of the darkroom. Surely, we have enough blood lying about.

I have grown fond of the Bangkok Daily News. If I miss something when it's not around ... I guess that is being fond of it ... what do you think? Anyway, I started my subscription to the paper initially just for the movie-times section. For some peculiar reason this is the only part of the paper that comes out in English ... well, that and a few full page pan-Asia ads that are created in Singapore or Tokyo just for brand pushing purposes.

Now I hardly ever look at the movie clock; for me it's the front-page gore that I go to straight away. Whether it's Morton's magical dot maker or his assistant's marker pen at work, I know that the print that winds up on page one will be made more amusing by what it attempts to cover than by what it allows us to see.

Today's page-one leads with a jumper. Unable to go on, he took the escalator to the mall's top floor. JumperLike with malls the world over, the architects and designers of this Bangkok shopping haven have allowed the core to serve as a restful atrium, free of commercial entreaties. A place where tired shoppers could rest, a place where families could reunite after an afternoon spent in the stores, a place where restaurant decisions could be made ... in short, a little oasis from the day's business. The jumper spoiled it all. Spoiled it for everyone. Plunging downward ... gaining tremendous speed ... screaming obscenities ... he finished it all with one ghastly, sickeningly crunchy splat.

The next 'unfortunate' to warrant page-one coverage is a just-arrested murderer. He is shown here being swiped at by the victim's friend.

One last corpse graces today's edition; a cheating wife.

As you noticed, none of the above were dot-protected.

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1900: Tabasco Haze

WASHINGTON Two investigations have been ordered into the death of the West Point cadet, Oscar L. Booz, who died at his home in Bristol, Pa., last week. The death is alleged to be the result of injuries received by "hazing," when Tabasco sauce was forced down his throat. Colonel Mills, superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point, makes a long report, stating that he can find no evidence that Booz's death is traceable to "hazing."

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Wescott's saints for the day ... though centuries apart ... one an Alsatian, the other a Sicilian ... shared a common grief: both were hideously blind. Yes, dead of eye.

Adilia, or Othilia

This daughter of the Duke of Alsace was born blind. The duke wanted the troublesome little thing left to die; but the nurse fled to a convent with her; and the moment she was christened, she was able to see. She spent her life praying for the forgiveness of her hasty father's sins.

Lucy of Syracuse
DIED 304

This Sicilian saint's legend provides a tragic illustration of two usual aspects of unmarried women's lives: their heroic devotion to their mothers and their intolerance of love-making. Lucy's mother suffered from an apparently incurable illness; and when, in that connection, they went on a pilgrimage, a recently martyred saint appeared to them and promised recovery for the mother on condition that Lucy be martyred. Without any of the official interference or popular brutality of the third century, this must often be the case.

Later, a young man who wanted to marry her told her that it was the brightness of her eyes which made it impossible for him to leave her in peace; so she tore them out and sent them to him in a dish. Non-Christians of a religious turn of mind are likely to be shocked by the end of the story as churchmen have told it or conceived it: the young man converted, the saint's eyes restored in all their brightness.

Last Saturday I rather roughly mixed some analogies: little watch pockets and discontinued car lines. I easily equated the CPN-ML (Communist Party of Nepal Marxist-Leninist) to things totally gone or next to useless. The car's counterparts for Stalin and Mao were Kaisers and Nashes.1

1 I could have included the "Henry J". Do you remember it? It was one of those now-dead marquees that surfaced right after Nagasaki. The Kaiser works, during WWII, produced the "Liberty Ships": mass keeled freighters and tankers that ferried war stuff to our Allies across the ocean. Easily picked off by German U-Boats, they were built with only a few round trips in mind. Anyway, after the war Henry J. Kaiser found that he had a lot of spare factory floor space and nothing to produce on it. Cars were the answer. As WWII had put a full stop on American automobile production there was, by 1946, a tremendous demand for new cars. So, the "Kaiser" and the "Henry J". Neither brand was successful.

Well, this morning the IHT carried ominous news for Oldsmobile owners: this "storied name in American automaking" will be "phased out" over the next few years. According to the paper, "dull designs" are the reason. Frankly, I think it was the name that did it. Meanwhile, over at Ford and Daimler-Chrysler, the Mercury and Plymouth lines look unhappy.

[from the International Herald Tribune]
1925: Girl Shot by Dad

JERSEY CITY, N.J. Mistaking his sleep-walking daughter Rose, aged nine, for a burglar, Mr. Anthony Carbone shot and critically wounded her late last night [Dec. 12] as she entered the door of the Carbone apartment after wandering about the corridors of the building. He fired before he was able to recognize her. She is not expected to live.

1950: Jukebox on Trial

LONDON An American jukebox, ailing and bewildered on a foreign shore, turned up today as the center piece in a British lawsuit. It was accused, among other antics, of giving out with "Annie Laurie" when you pressed the button for "God Save the King." C.A. Disney, who had the box installed in his hotel in Ilfracombe, a Devonshire resort, said it also sent up wisps of smoke with no advance notice, went right on blaring forth music when the coins ran out, and formed the eerie habit of playing softly to itself when no coins had been inserted.

I hope that Andy Page can shed some light on this jukebox tale. I am concerned about the relevant lawsuit. Did the action lie in the law of contracts ... or, does it have something to do with plugging in your sixpence and not getting "God Save the King?" Does English law impose a different legal duty upon the jukebox when the tune involved has something to do with the monarchy?

It's six in the morning, Bangkok time. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC it is 6PM on Tuesday night.2 CNN ... just now ... said that the Supreme Court is still thinking. Yesterday afternoon the boatman on one of the little launches that carry people back and forth across the Chao Phraya River asked me if it would be possible for Mr. Clinton to just sit still for another four years; that way we could have the election again ... presumably with all of our voting devices working OK on this second go around.

2 Living in Bangkok and in Florida is convenient for my clocks. As they are 12 time zones away from each other, it's easy to know the time where I am not ... hmmm ... dark outside, daytime there. Though DST does mess things up by an even hour for six months out of the year.

Yesterday I received a most curious e-mail. It came from someone who was wandering around my site ... from someone who apparently stumbled upon a bit of misspoken history. Anyway, here it is:

Subj: Mistake on your Silk Road website!
Date: 12/12/2000 1:26:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: (Waqar Ali Shah)

I wanted to inform you that you have made a mistake on the website

under the heading of Tuesday, April 27, 1999.

You have written that Ali was the son in law of Allah. This utterly wrong and nonsensical, since Allah is the arabic word for God, and God never had a family or children according to all sects of Islam.

Ali was the son in law of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

Please make the correction immediately, as the mistake you have made is VERY offensive to Muslims.

Thank you,


I say "curious" because I almost never receive any mail about anything that appears in these journals. Hmmm ... for how many years did Salman Rushdie remain in hiding?

Next: Part II

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