Back Home in Bangkok, Part V

Between Part IV and Part VI

April 1-6, 2001

Sunday, April 1, 2001

It appeared in the next to last paragraph. Bones 'n' GlovesThe thrust of this morning's "body in a tank" series was that two local women had been cleared of any suspicion in the murder of the doctor's estranged wife. But, almost as 'given', the Bangkok Post trailed out with ... "Meanwhile, police last night found a bag containing a human skull, bones and other human remains believed to belong to a woman."

The Daily News captured this moment for its front-page viewers with a color shot that not only showed the fore-facing skull, but as well, three pair (count them!) of guiding gloves.

Meanwhile, up near where Watcharee was born, local farmers are reluctant to tend their rice fields due to a tiger infestation. The front page of today's Post shows forestry staff using motorized parachutes in the search for a pair of tigers who have spread fear by leaving big cat tracks.

Monday, April 2, 2001

Dear reader, definitively dashed is my hope that any off-the-shelf Boeing product will soon be able to fly non-stop from Bangkok to Fort Lauderdale. My friend, Don Bull, has calculated that the nest-to-nest distance of 9,682 miles (15,581 km) far exceeds the range of Boeing's best. Even if allowed to eat its 5,000 gallon reserve, the great bird would fall from the sky on an empty stomach ... yes, far from land, the silver swan from Seattle would nose over and start an unstoppable slip toward the sea. As it's speed increased to that of sound ... those who up until now were so cozily cosseted within ... those who put their faith in technology and God ... well, at first they would feel the heat, then the vibration ... and as they looked up from their magazines and books ... the popping of rivets and the taunting tension of twisting metal would tell them that something was not well ... finally, in one blinding rupturous second it would all end. Heavy hunks from the mother ship would drop from the sky ... her 'unborn' ... still lashed in their seats ... but lazily pin wheeling by themselves ... and at their own pace ... would randomly make their own individual splashes.

Yesterday passed without incident. This is the first April Fools' Day that I have not been tormented in some way by Sandra (Stinson) Holt.1

"Alf, Sandra is from Florida ... or at least, somewhere in the American south. Back there ... and all over the USA ... today is still April 1st. So, there are still a few more 'dangerous' hours to be run on that clock before you are free."

That's true! Partially true, at least. I do recall that this whole thing was discussed (and, I think, agreed upon) a few years ago. Since I was always on the move, Sandra and I settled on some type of "Universal" time. Whether we were to use the great clock at Greenwich ... or, the meridian timepiece closest to the 'fooler' ... or, even the clock on the wall of either the 'fooler' or the 'foolee' (it had to be April 1st on only one of these clocks) ... I don't remember. Is there any way of getting ahold of Sandra?

"I don't know. Her last e-mail address has been 'quiet' for quite a while. It's She had a child just about a year ago. Perhaps motherhood has 'softened' her."

Maybe someone in the audience can find her.

Moving back into well-charted waters ... our stream forks. The main branch of the river (page 2, above the fold) goes off on a discussion about the "Shortage of Doctors". Though not implying that this shortage was exacerbated by the 'two-for-the-price-of-one' murder/arrest of doctor/doctor, this double-barreled decimation of front line Bangkok doctors was assuredly in everyone's mind.

On page 4, and inconveniently lying right on top the fold itself, LATEST DISCOVERY OF CHARRED BODY NOT MISSING DOCTOR'S, says it all. Though identified as, " ... that of a female 150cm tall, with long hair and wearing two unmatched earrings ... ", this person had been dead for over a month. A police spokesman was quoted as saying that " ... the investigators would continue their search ... ". The same source confirmed, " ... investigators expect to wrap up the investigation ... in two weeks ... ".

Dear reader, yesterday an unusual sight interrupted our life at The Oriental. A strange boat ... a boat like no other ... a boat that caused all heads to turn ... a boat of tremendous presence ... a boat of ...

"Yes, yes ... what? Get on with it!"

... a boat so unique that only these pictures can hope to capture the feeling that we all had when it passed.

1 Seasoned readers will remember Sandra and her husband, Ken, from our Prague/Salzburg balloon trip in the summer of '97.

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Ah, yes ... if you were born 29 years and six months ago your magic 'fold' would take you back to April 3, 1942, the day that "Benghazi [was] captured by Rommel."1 Yes, "The Desert Fox" ... and his desert rats ... with James Mason in the lead role.

And, what about that 'free French garrison at Brazzaville', the one Rick talked of joining ... it would have made a great sequel to 'Casablanca'? Probably, not. Thank God, not. It was best left as the perfect ending [544k MPEG]. Right, Anna?

Benedict the Black
1526 1589

The humblest of Benedicts, a coloured cook. One day when there was nothing to eat, he set out some pails of water, and plenty of fish were found in them the next morning.

Since the start of the 'flushed-doctor' murder case several bags of human bones have been pulled from local waters. Though the 'tip of the iceberg' would be a poor analogy to use in this climate, the number of yet-unfound sets of bones must be staggering. Given Bangkok's size, that it is a river city, that murders do very well in warm climates ... well, one can only guess at the number of unclaimed bones that are mired in mud ... or, in septic tank silt.

Up until this whole thing started most people did not think that a toilet was a good place to dispose of a body. OK, that's my thinking! But, dear reader, you just think about it! Especially with Asian toilets,2 the plumbing of these machines is designed to handle only the softest of things ... even cigarette butts are told to go away. How many times have you flushed something only to notice that part of it is still happily 'swimming'3?

Anyway, today is the first day since it happened that the Bangkok Post has not had something to say about this murder. Unexplained SexHave all the stray torsos been accounted for? The final sludge of every septic tank sieved? I think not.

Things are different at the presses on the other side of town. The Bangkok Daily News, never shy with its camera, has captured for its Page One audience what appears to be a double murder AND a basket of steamy sex. Such a rich diet! Sadly, details of what actually happened will have to wait on Watcharee.

Moving back to the English language Post (Business section), a headline about the falling baht gives me comfort. The 'damage' is much worse when measured over the years. From a mid-30s to a nudging-50, the declining baht has made 'ex-pat' life nice for many. I am sure that Mr. Morton C. Twine and his soon-to-graduate-from-high-school girl friend are really enjoying life aboard their sailboat. They 'live' down south. Do you remember them? (See the story and accompanying table from March 26-27, 2000.)

1 NEWNES, p. 317.

2 Designed to operate with but a 'user-dictated' portion of water, there is no 'welcoming' reservoir in these Asian models. Essentially just a hole in the floor (beside which a pail of water sits), it does not encourage poking. Working with only raw gravity, its role as a taker of unwanted things is awfully limited. The European version ... presumably the type installed at the Sofitel Hotel, and at the other forums visited by the doctor ... is marginally better at handling waste. Yet, it too, was not designed to work with the bulky stuff found here.

3 'Windtunnel' tests MUST have been run on these things. American Standard (incidentally, the bathroom supplier to The Oriental), Speakman & Sons, Kohler of Kohler and all the other people in this business surely must operate sophisticated 'loo-labs'. In-house competitions that measure expulsion speed, carrying capacity, load shape, flushing agent, choke level, and ... finally ... those telltale residuals found with under-flushes ... well, aren't these the things that anyone in the business would want to know about? My guess is that our good doctor was not operating with a full set of stats; particularly the ones relating to the last two items. Had he known what the people at American Standard knew ... well, my bet is that the sushi lunch would have ended with a, "must do this more often".

4 My personal cost of living yardstick is "Cokes at The Oriental". Something that costs "three Cokes" I can easily relate to. Really big expenditures are measured by "Months at The Oriental".

Wednesday, April 4, 2001


"Something ... anything without blood and guts ... perhaps an uplifting human-interest story; maybe the heart tugging tale of a little girl who rescued a puppy from a clothes dryer ... that sort of thing? Anything to show that there is at least a little bit of goodness in this world! I am so tired of reading about death ... of seeing pictures of people lying in pools of blood. And, now this! For weeks you have been killing us with details about this poor woman who was poisoned, led to a rented room on a leash, knocked over the head, cut up into bite-sized pieces and flushed ... bit by bit ... down various hotel toilets ... only to have those same parts, later on, sucked out of septic tanks...again, bit by bit ... then to have each one of these little hunks of her doused in chemicals, swished around in a petrie dish and peered at under a microscope."

[... a very long silence ... the scrape of a chair ... silence ... a throat cleared ... silence ... a door softly closing ... silence ... notes being shuffled ... silence ...]

Many months ago ... perhaps Paul can locate exactly when and where [May 22, 2000] ... I speculated in these pages about the tenants in a 'neighboring' building. Though actually not that close to me, the building's presence was ... is ... all-powerful ... thus giving it the appearance of being much nearer, a 'neighbor', as I say. And, it was made all-powerful through the efforts of just one tenant: the man at the top. This occupier of the penthouse 'greened' his own bit of this property with an enormous shrub; so enormous that it has taken on the character of a caricature. But, just one story shy of the top floor there lives a smaller shrub. Not a subservient shrub; rather, a gentler shrub.

[... chair scrapes ... door closing ... .muffled cough ...]

Everyone knows that dog owners resemble their dogs ... or, the other way around ... it makes little difference. The same is true of shrubs. If we can get someone to dim the lights I'll show you exactly what I mean.

[... assorted noises; those usually associated with a room being darkened for an on-screen presentation ...]

Our camera starts its voyage from the balcony of the Gore Vidal suite. Big ShrubMoving at hundreds of feet per second, it is not long before the shrub is in close focus. The gentle shrub ... if I may call it that ... is seen almost directly below the large powerful shrub. Though little is known about the root structure of either shrub ...

[... a waving hand, from the front row ... ] "Do you have any other movies?"

[... nervous laughter, all around ...]

Actually, I do. Constant surveillance of the French Embassy ... another neighbor, ha ha ha ... albeit a closer one, ha ha ha ... has produced a lot of footage of its new roof. I have a really good zoom of it. Unfortunately, it was taken during a midday lunch break, so the little workers are not working. Would you like to see it anyway?

"No! How about something from the Bangkok Daily News? Anything there?"

Yes, this morning's edition featured a major blood spilling. Lots and lots of dots. Apparently, the man cut his own throat. I guess that once that big artery in the neck is freed-up ... well, that old heart just goes into a fast overdrive ... furiously pumping and pumping away...until there is nothing left to pump.

"Thanks. It's nice to be back on track."

[... applause ... one door slams shut ...]

... As the sun sets on the far side of my Chao Phrya River I can't help but speculate on how many bodies are floating somewhere in its watery embrace. From its birthing rivulets high in Burma to its great dump into the sea, how many human skulls lose their teeth to the pounding ravages of the mighty Chao Phrya? With each tidal surge, how many plastic bags chock-full of dead people are ever-so-gently lifted ... and then allowed to settle somewhere else? With wave after wave crashing upon meat stripped bones ...

Bangkok Sunset


William Cuffitella
A Sicilian hermit who died on his knees: his body was found in that position, and all who touched it were cured of what ailed them.

Thursday, April 5, 2001

"YOU'RE SAFE. Very few people have their brains sucked out when they visit their dentist."

This reassurance was hastily given to those still in the waiting room. But, on the far side of the opaque glass, the air around the dental chair must have been very charged. For in the minutes immediately following the antics of the run-amok dental tool, "patients and staff were vomiting, passing out and screaming or staggering away from the office in tears."

Little Hideki Watanabe, 17, had an appointment with his dentist. Perhaps for a filling; a minor tooth extraction; maybe it was also time for his semiannual cleaning. Whatever, he was expecting nothing more 'exciting' than spending a tedious hour or two in his dentist's chair.

But, as to what actually happened next ... well, we are left on our own to piece that puzzle together.

Apparently the young lad was given a mild anesthetic ... just enough 'juice' to deaden the pain around his worrisome molars. Whoops!Whether any 'calming pills' were also administered, we really don't know. Described as "a delicate youth ... small for his age ... with a history of serious medical problems ...", the young Watanabe may not, in any case, have been able to fight off his attacker.

It is right about here where things become muddled. There are important questions that need answers. Has the dentist already yanked out young Watanabe's complaining molars? Did our good tooth-doctor (or his assistant) leave something foreign ... some auto-slurping device ... in the teen-ager's mouth? Aside from the suffering youth, was there anyone else in this tiny room ... or, was he left alone in the big chair? Lastly, did someone go into another room to answer the phone, leaving the lad to fret by himself?1





So, at this point we know just this: ... all the dental people have left the room ... the youth is now on his own ... and, something is dangling from the inside of his cheek. Oh, and he has fewer teeth than when he started his day at the dentists'.

Restarting our clock: perhaps our young Watanabe is woozy from the effects of the drug. He may even have passed out ... in any case he is too weak to help himself. We'll never really know for sure what was happening inside his mind. Here we must rely on just plain hard evidence.

Anyway, "something caused the aspirator to switch on high, slide deeper into his mouth and suck out his brain."2 Unfortunately, there are no photographs to back up this statement. Not even a Polaroid of the now dead teen slumped over in the big chair ... no sound of an overworked aspirator gulping down empty air. Nope, none of that!

"The assistant screamed, then fainted when she returned to her patient and was confronted by the bloody mess."

That's it.

1 This redundant question, and its affirmative answer, ensures that you (the reader) are well aware that young Watanabe was in that room without any adult guidance.

2 WWN feature writer, Tobuchi Kimura said, "Pathologists called in on the case theorized that weak bone structure in the teenager's skull may have contributed to the accident."

"I thought you were going to make this place a little more wholesome."

You want 'wholesome' ... I'll give you something 'wholesome' ... how about a picture of Thailand's first cloned calf being licked by its mother?


Friday, April 6, 2001

Pretty amazing! This morning's mail had this in it:

I happened to be browsing the web to see what's up with Glenway Wescott and came upon your site which quotes his Calendar of Saints. (Many years ago, when I came upon that book, it changed my life, as I went on to be Glenway's last lover.)

Next week in New York, Wednesday April 11, we are having a celebration of Glenway's 100th birthday, and so you're invited.

John Stevenson

This April 11th may or may not be the 100th anniversary of his actual birthday. This New York 'celebration' could have been timed to take into consideration the schedules of the living, or even, New York city traffic. Whatever, it would be a 'sin' to start the (his) day without his saint:

Leo the Great
DIED 461

This energetic pope somewhat put down three heresies, that of Mani, that of Pelagius, and that of Eutyches; but his great fame rests upon a feat of more active and important statesmanship. When Attila with the Huns drew near Rome, he put on his white robes and went out to persuade him not to sack it. St. Peter and St. Paul, it is said, came out of the air and stood beside him, to give weight to his arguments. The well-named 'Scourge of God' consented to take his hordes away and receive an annual payment of money instead.

Some years later, when Genseric and the Vandals came, he tried to turn them aside, also, with less success. They did not burn Rome and did not torture anyone, but took with them to Carthage shiploads of men and valuables, including the seven-branched candlestick.

If Glenway Wescott had been able to choose the date of his birth I bet he would have speeded up his mom's labor by one full day ... right to the 10th. Though, for all I know, April 10 just might be his real birthday ... and, we-folks are just celebrating it on the 11th for the selfish reasons that I suggested in my first paragraph. Actually, his book, "A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers", strongly suggests that April 10, 1901 was, in fact, the man's birthday. Though totally impossible to 'time' his own birth to coincide with the day owned by a particular saint, a bit of reverse engineering can accomplish the same trick. As our world is literally awash with saints (the good, the bad and the neither), our resourceful Mister Wescott probably had a full coffin load of free-range or unspoken-for saints from which to choose. When constructing the month of April, how easy it would be to choose a perfectly splendid fellow to forever share the day with.1 If that be the case:

A Roman who taught music, literary composition, theology, and perhaps a little medicine and who founded the cathedral of Chartres.

Can you get any better than that? I think not.

Changing books:

Without NEWNES who would have remembered him?


The other day I erroneously married the Desert Fox (Irwin Rommel) with the 'desert rats'. The latter were not part of his legendary "Afrika Korps" ... nope; they belonged to Field Marshall Montgomery's 8th Army. My friend, Andy Page pulled me up sharply on that one.

"Local Doctor Charged With Destroying Evidence." That was not the headline offered by this morning's Bangkok Post. Instead, "Court Denies Bail For Suspected Wife Killer", was the lead line in the latest BODY IN TANK series. As a former DA, I do understand the need to include a 'lesser'2 charge in the indictment. This gives the 'trier of fact' the option of convicting the defendant of something less than the full charge ... in this case, 'murder' being the full-value menu item.

Using powerful 'fish-eye' technology, my neighbor's 'tree house' has been pushed miles and miles away.

Pushed Back

1 Shortly before the great presses started to roll ... but, just a bit too long after the printer's lead had been squirted into the linotype molds ... we got confirmation of Wescott's birth date: April 11, 1901. He's stuck with Leo.

2 In this case, the chopping and flushing of the body amounted to a destruction of the evidence.

Next: Part VI

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