Washington – "You can't do anything anymore," a friend complained one evening last week. We were talking about how small children now travel with enough protective baggage – car seats, strollers, portable cribs, organic baby food – to equip a day care center, and about how our own mothers knocked back martinis while we were marinating in utero.
It's really true. My daughter, Patty, just had her second kid. My ex- and I had five of them, including Patty, of course. Their mother smoked and drank through all five pregnancies ... and after each baby was born her doctor prescribed a form of legal 'speed' to keep her from going through the "postpartum blues".2 I don't think Patty was allowed to even see cigarette smoke3 during her nine months of pregnancy.
Balancing things out a bit is this paragraph from today's lead story in the Bangkok Post:
"Hundreds of blind students and young orphans were left to fend for themselves against exposure to the cancer-causing chemical acrylonitrile, or vinyl cyanide."4
You see, way on the other side of town (very far from me and my beloved Oriental), an 18-wheeler flipped while trying to avoid colliding with a pick-up truck. All this took place at four-thirty in the morning right next to an orphanage for the blind. There were no 'minders' or nannies about to tell the clean-up crew that it was wrong to wash all the stuff down the drain ... 'cause it just might percolate up through the toilets and grab a blind kid while he was about to settle down for a good 'read'.
A friend of St. Gregory the Great who had to be taught the impropriety of priding himself upon his supernatural talents. He exorcised a child possessed of the devil, but as soon as he boasted of having done so, the child began to toss and froth and blaspheme as before. It required a veritable siege of praying and fasting to expel the unwholesome spirit a second time.
By the way, The Oriental keeps piling up the awards for BEST. A whole wing has been set aside for their display.
Finally, you can take a look at the latest picture of my neighbor's roof.
1 From the Op/Let page of this morning's IHT.
2 The little green and yellow pills may very well have done their designed job ... I don't really know; but, they sure did a great job in ensuring that the house was kept clean [her 'detailing' the inside of an oven (to the sound of Janis Joplin) with an old toothbrush is what I most fondly remember from our marriage].
3 It is sort of refreshing to live in a country where cigarette ads are still legal. This one for Camels on the back of Esquire is nicely juxtaposed with a front cover showing Sigourney Weaver at age 51.
4 "Highly flammable. Toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed. Can kill in high dosage. Frequent exposure may cause cancer." [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]
This morning's IHT was able to give us a little more information on yesterday's shooting of President McKinley:
NEW YORK – Mr. McKinley was gravely wounded while holding a reception in the Temple of Music at the Buffalo Exhibition. A well-dressed man approached him, grasped the President's hand with his right hand and fired a revolver twice with the left. The weapon was concealed in a handkerchief. Mr. McKinley fell back, asking "Am I shot?" and his assailant was instantly arrested. He gave the name of "Niemand," and is described as of Polish origin. "Niemand" is the German for "nobody" and is, in all probability, an assumed name.
Wescott, with uncharacteristic brevity, brushes by today:
The man who is supposed to have brought St. John the Baptist's lower jaw-bone to Italy.
NEWNES, apparently also eager to get out of print quickly, gives us little to cheer about:
This morning the business sections of two of the big Bangkok dailies were plunged into grief over the Dow's plunge below the 9850 support level ... that watershed, bell-weather, telltale, resistance-hoped-for, Mason-Dixon-Line point that all share-analysts prayed would never be found wanting when the test came. A third daily (The Bangkok Daily News) put into a front-page allegorical picture what the others tried to do with gray columns of type: a woman reduced to her undergarments. A fourth daily used another allegorical photograph to show the depth to which things have fallen: a man in a sewer.
Today is the official release day for Microsoft's Windows XP (Puntip Plaza Version 1.0). At 100 Baht (about $2.25) per copy, it is expected to be the big mover of the day at Bangkok's prime computer mall. "Pirated" copies of the Puntip version will probably be available on the shadier streets (e.g., Patpong, Silom, et. al.) later in the day. But, dear reader, please see my footnote 1 for a new 'release' which may more than double today's queues over at Puntip Plaza.
NEWNES reminds us where and when Japan, Inc. started. This morning's IHT picks up the story a half century later1:
The Count of Urbino's daughter, married to Alexander, Lord of Pistoia. It was a happy marriage for a year or two; but Alexander fell in love with a lady most unsuitably named Pacifica, and put his wife out of the house. She took refuge in a convent of Poor Clares. When the passion for Pacifica had worn itself out and Alexander wanted her back, it was too late: she had become an abbess and taken irrevocable vows.
Yesterday, while Watcharee was at driving school,3 I walked around Lumpini Park ... a few hectares of green ... given by King Rama VI long before the city started to encroach.
An outdoor gym.
A strange "No Smoking" sign: one that warns of an electric shock to the cigarette if a smoker should tamper with what the sign guards.
The Heuer clock tower (keeping perfect time).
A spirit house that has fallen on bad times.
Naturally, a sleeping local.
And, of course, lots of active pigeons.
1 Having spent themselves yesterday with worry over the forthcoming (already on us?) worldwide recession, the Bangkok dailies have returned to topics of local relevance. The Post, using both tines of its investigative fork, spears 'smoking monks' and 'abusive Grannies'. The Daily News, in what must be an editorial embrace of the new "social order", has asked Morton to employ his darkroom skills to hide things that have previously been openly displayed in even the most 'family-safe' publications. "Hah!", you say. And, you would be right. These photos from The Daily News actually show Sony's newest lens: one that can see through clothing. As the victim-supermodel is being 'bared' without her permission, our Morton has been asked to hide her identifying eyes and some of her 'nasty bits'. But, what lens is this man using?
2 It is a stretch to give sainthood to Seraphina. Being tossed from Alexander's bed and having to make do with a straw cot over at Poor Clares' is not a wonderful move; but, to make her a saint? Stay with me. But, I promise tomorrow's saint will not be a disappointment; what he did will make your hair freeze.
3 In less than a week she should be a licensed driver. More about that as the day approaches.
A year ago today I made light of most of the little sacrifices that our teachers told us would make us all nice and cozy with God. Surely, after what Gorgonius and Dorotheus1 went through ... well, those trinkets of our faith would seem as but token fawns, totally unworthy of even a nod from above.
The first of these Christian officials of Diocletian's court in Nicomedia, seeing the second tortured, challenged him and the torturers to a trial of their endurance. Flesh was whipped off the rivals' bones; salt and vinegar were sprinkled in their wounds; they were grilled over a slow fire: nothing much was left of them, but their obstinacy lasted. The torturers finally gave up hope of the Christians' changing their almost maddening minds, and hanged them.
1 It's not clear from reading Wescott if Dorotheus shared Gorgonius' enthusiasm for this endurance trial. Being already 'on the rack', he might have wished for a second chance to check the direction of his faith before goading the torturers to try their all-out best.
NEWNES (no kidding!):
Wescott (continuing his roll):
This Augustinian monk was a vegetarian. During an illness which resulted from fasting to excess, a stew of pigeons was set before him, by order of his superior. The very sight of it disgusted him, and a miracle immediately took place: the skewers broke, the gravy was sucked up into the cooked veins, feathers grew, and the birds flew out the window.
Years after his death, when parts of blessed bodies1 were at a premium,2 a German friar cut off Nicholas' arms for his own monastery, and tried to escape with them. It was not possible; though he walked fast all night, he was still in sight of the monastery at daybreak; and the old arms were still bleeding, though they had been buried for long. Upon occasion, one is told, they still do.
Elephant stories and snippets of local human woe comfortably return to the Bangkok presses ... after the papers' very brief flirtation with stories about the near total annihilation of the world's major economies and their ever-so-linked stock markets:
This bold headline from the Bangkok Daily News screams that an irate elephant stomped upon and killed a human. This inside story from the Bangkok Post tells of an elephant that was killed by an electric fence. Picture wise, the News allows its front page to capture the hearts of its human readers with a photograph of a child held hostage by a drunk. Another photo shows a successful suicide3; spent revolver at his side with cleanup crew in the background.
What may be bad news for women may not be so bad for tailors.
1 The keen reader will remember our own reportage of the 'keeping' of the finger of St. Mary Magdalene. 'Housed' in a pillar in a cathedral near Becky's Bed 'n' Breakfast in bucolic Burgundy, this once active bone attracts tourists from as far off as the Americas and Asia.
2 This "premium" will surely soar into the arcane arc of 'futures' speculations (with 'short' and 'long' positions freely traded) as soon as advances in DNA identification, gene replication and stem cell building block technology allow the creation of clones of Wescotts' best and brightest. Though no bits of the Jesus have ever been claimed by any of Christendom's churches, cloning specialists are confident that 'traces' of the Jesus might be found in things he used (e.g., his wood cross, lots of wine goblets and the Shroud of Turin, just for starters).
3 Morton's services were used to cover the spillage.
PS Having put my own 'press' to bed without having read this morning's The Nation, I too am guilty of allowing my own little 'news' to slant slightly from the true and the relevant. Thus, I (and you) missed today's reportage in The Nation about what TIME Magazine (Asia) has just said about prostitution in my hometown. Well, it is not so much what it said about hookers in Bangkok; rather it's what it said about the government's anti-vice drive:
"Referring to Interior Minister, Purachai Piumsombun's recent assertion that foreign visitors come to Thailand because they want to see 'natural beauty' and not for exotic dancers or to take drugs, TIME said: 'This has got to go down as one of the more ludicrous statements ever made by a government minister'."
Under another troubling headline ("WAYWARD TEENS WORRY 'YOUTH BUREAU'"), The Nation went on to report on some disturbing findings of several recent surveys and studies:
"Young people are becoming increasingly interested in drugs and sex."
"Young people were also wearing inappropriate clothing, indulging in unsafe sex, spending frivolously and using the Internet inappropriately."
Highlighted was a multi year study of youth nightlife that indicated, "That those aged 15 to 19 often got involved in dangerous activities just for 'fun'." Dr. Varunee Fongkaew of Chiang Mai University's School of Nursing said, "Young people aged between 15 and 19 who go out at night say they cannot control themselves and use drugs for fun."
Perhaps this is just a personal prejudice of NEWNES1 ... normally he doesn't allow his feelings to get in the way ... on the other hand, maybe Ross called himself that; though that, in itself, should not have been enough:
A lucky Calabrian monk, said never to have known 'bodily disease or mental perturbation.' He was one of those who worked on the manuscript copy of the Gospels known as Codex 13.
A woman who learned in a vision what to wear: a pigskin with the bristles inside and an iron chain as a belt.
"Oh, Lord, let it not be so!"3 Though she and I were the only two people in the hotel elevator, the woman was obviously talking to herself. Hesitant to reply, I just smiled.
Somewhat embarrassed by her blurt, she apparently felt the need to explain:
"Look, I am a shopper! I came to Bangkok to buy things ... and to buy them cheap. To do that I need time ... and plenty of it."
Not sure of where this was leading, I kept smiling.
"Look, a Patpong with but counterfeit Cartier's,4 pirated Madonna's, knockoff Gucci's5 and fake this 'n thats would be ... well, just another outdoor shopping mall, and I would have to rush around with Harry ... my husband ... him underfoot and him complaining all the time. Before all this new social-order stuff I could just park Harry at the King's Corner or the Super Queen ... and, bless their little hearts ... the girls would look after him while I made my rounds. What more could a shopper want?"
"What about Thailand's 'natural beauty'", I asked ... pressing the point made by Interior Minister, Purachai Piumsombun, when asked about why people came here.
"We didn't come here to ski. We do that in Aspen right after Christmas."
Following her lead, I went down to Patpong last night. For the moment, there does not seem to be much of a change. Sure, the girls are clumping together in little discussion groups ... no doubt worrying about where this new social-order will lead them ... but, so far, there is no panic. They still wear their easy-to-order numbers. They still smile. Let's hope, for our shopper's sake, that things don't change.
1 After all, NEWNES' life was all about print ... the printed word ... and libel IS a crime of the pen.
2 A medieval spelling, preferred by NEWNES.
3 For the past week the Bangkok press has been awash with stories about the new "social order": a cleanup of local nightlife that has taxi drivers, bar owners and ladies (and 'ladyboys') of the night worrying about their paychecks. See yesterday for more.
4 Broward County School Board employees! Look at Susan Cassone's wrist.
5 Check her purse, too.
- BULLETIN - STOP THE PRESSES - BREAKING NEWS - FLASH -
On September 11, 2001 at 15:00 hours (Southeast Asia time) Watcharee Samsee passed her Thai driver's license examination. Having learned to drive ... in a manual shift, power-steeringless, power-brakeless, non-airconditioned, very old car ... here in Bangkok's notoriously difficult traffic, she is now prepared to drive anywhere in the world.
Stormy times lie ahead ...
Next: E-Polo in Hua Hin