Bangkok in the Heart of Winter, Part V

Between Part IV and Part VI

February 20-25, 2002

Wednesday, February 20, 2002 (20/02/2002)

In the past, The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com has kept a pretty good watch on the calendar so as to never miss a palindrome. And, we were aware that today was going to be one of the better palindromes. But not until Paul found this note over on the Leica list on the Internet did we realize how unusual is today's palindrome:

On February 20th this year (next Wednesday), precisely at 8.02 p.m., a remarkable "palindromic" moment in time will occur. Although not marked by any chiming of clocks or ringing of bells, at that precise time and on that specific date, something will happen which has not occurred for over 1,000 years. And it will never happen again - ever!

As the clock ticks over from 8.01p.m. on Wednesday, February 20, time will (for sixty seconds only) reckon in a perfect symmetry: 20:02, 20/02, 2002. This is known as a "palindrome" - i.e., when a set of numbers or letters reads exactly the same forward and backward.

This is an event which, since the beginning of time, has happened only once before. That previous occasion was long before the digital watch and the 24-hour clock were invented. It occurred on January 10, 1001, at 10.01a.m. [10:01, 10/01, 1001]. Because there are only 24 hours in a day, after February 20th of this year, there will never again be an occasion when time will reckon palindromically in this way.

Paul, quite correctly, added:

These claims always seem to miss the obvious, though. Just for starters, why wouldn't 11:11, 11/11, 1111 be even cooler? Yet its existence is implicitly denied.

Our readers will remember that a little more than two years ago we thrashed out exactly where the Millennium1 should "start" ... (a) the International Date Line, (b) the Meridian at Greenwich, (c) the exact spot where the first direct ray from the sun on that first day hit the ground, (d) the same spot as "c", so long as it was seen by a human, (d) anywhere you were when the clock struck 12, etc. Of course, since this last-of-all-time great palindromes will only exist for 60 seconds, we are again forced to answer the same question. And, (a) through (d) are again our options.2

This morning's Thai papers were awash with crime and death of the most gruesome sort. As Morton's "President's Day" hangover apparently ate deeply into his workweek, what you see is pretty much what was there at the scene: the holes, the gashes, the empty eyes and the spilled blood bounce out at you totally 'unhatched' and fully free of 'blue bars'. Murders, suicides and car wrecks were responsible for most of the damage in the color photographs. The black and white ones are more ambiguous as to the cause of death.



Leo of Syracuse

Leo of Syracuse got rid of a dangerous demon by luring it into a furnace in the market-place. When it was in ashes, he returned out of the flames himself, untouched. Hence he was called the 'wonder-worker.'

Dear reader, something strange is brewing in the world of corkscrew collectors. Words have been thrown down. Demands have been made. Challenges are in the air. What impact this will have on the Patpong Corkscrew Club (Thailand) is still not known. So far the trouble seems to be confined to Europe ... .with possible spillage threatening America. For now Asia is out of the fray. Stay tuned.

1 Of course, the Millennium really started on January 1, 2001, but the groundswell of demand for the year 2000 was so great that all the rooms were booked for that year and no one cared a bit about where they were on the first day of 2001.

2 Personally, I chose Greenwich (for Linda Santarelli and myself). Well, London ... close enough ... it was only people like Scottish train spotters and collectors of Welsh telephone pole insulators who actually went and sat it out exactly right on the Meridian.

More to come ...

Thursday, February 21, 2002 [International Youth Day of Struggle Against Colonialism]1

Bettina Goodman of Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA writes:

Dear Mr. Erickson,

For several years I have followed your excellent coverage of Bangkok nightlife, but in all that time I have yet to see on your pages any photographs of signs for silver products. My interest is in signs for silver shops ... the signs themselves: outdoor ones ... preferably when 'displayed' at night when other eyes are less likely to be competing for the same view ... a private showing, if you will.

Very Truly yours,

Bettina Goodman

This surely is a lucky night for you, Mrs. Goodman! My post-prandial walk to my massage parlor this evening took me past almost a dozen shops with signs advertising silver products. As these photographs show, some of the signs are more assertive than others; but, your note did not imply that you were picky so I 'shot' everything in sight. The street was nearly deserted, so the view that you have ... just one 'click' away ... is, yes ... "a private showing." Enjoy!


As the European corkscrew imbroglio intensifies, we over here at PCC (Thailand) wonder whether Don Bull's semi-private Southeast Virginia Mid-Atlantic Methodist Corkscrew Club2 will be sucked into the mess.3 So far this embarrassing situation has not lapped-up on the smaller American beaches ... and with some luck it may just remain a battle between the titans in the business: the ICCA and the CCCC.

1 According to NEWNES it is celebrated in the "U.S.S.R. and Countries of Eastern Europe." Remember, the last edition of NEWNES was published in 1966. So, this 'holiday' may not be as enthusiastically celebrated now as it once was.

2 Though I am a member of Don's group, three of the founding members of my own Patpong Corkscrew Club (Gift, Ohmy and Amma) were put on the waiting list; apparently the queue to join Bull's Virginia based club is very 'competitive'.

3 Smaller clubs are so easily forced to take sides in disputes of which they know nothing and care less. No one knows why. Why did Uruguay send troops to fight side by side with a retreating Kuomintang?

PS. In today's journal Don Bull's niche corkscrew club was wrongly referred to, by me, as the Southeast Virginia Mid-Atlantic Methodist Corkscrew Club. It is actually the Smith Mountain Lake Corkscrew Coveters. These club names are obviously easy to confuse; anyway, apologies to Bull. For those interested, SMLCC member photographs* can be seen at:

* "Wait-list" photographs are directly available in today's journal ... the 'bulk' one was supplied by SMLCC; individual photos of Gift, Ohmy and Amma were supplied by PCC (Thailand).

Friday, February 22, 2002


It looks like my French neighbors are getting ready to occupy their next-door embassy. This morning the rugs were being 'aired' by the movers before allowing them to be thrown on the floor. Quite nice looking rugs, but one expects that from the French. They always do things right, around the house.

It seems a little odd that many Thai television viewers would be shocked at the quiz program, "The Weakest Link." The program originated with the BBC and has been quite popular in the UK.2 The Thai version, operating under a license from the UK originators, plays on TV3 ... only on Thursday evening after 10pm. Critics say that it "encouraged viewers to point accusing fingers. It preached selfishness rather than generosity, put rivalry above teamwork and brought stress rather than amusement." They want to ax it.

Meanwhile, the Thai daily newspapers with circulations in the millions ... and found in every shop from sea to shining sea, from dawn to dusk (and in libraries thereafter) ... are quite free to publish the most gruesome photos imaginable.3 This morning's breakfast edition of the Bangkok Daily News leads with a color photograph of a great pile of grotesquely twisted and charred bodies from yesterday's Egyptian train fire ... the one that killed about 300 people. Though the photograph is in color, the bodies are in black and white as all the color has been cooked out of them ... not even a puddle of pale pink 'au-jus' is to be seen.4

1 We'll need some help from Andy Page on this one, if he is still about. Andy?

2 Ann Robinson is the moderator in the UK. She can be quite bitchy when breaking the 'weakest' of the links. When she took the show to America she reduced some of America's 'strongest' women to tears.

3 I don't know, but maybe it's possible to even place bulk orders with the papers for "glossies."

4 In contrast, The Bangkok Post reported this morning on the case of a Nigerian employee who killed his boss and made a pepper soup from her insides. There was no accompanying photograph.

Saturday, February 23, 2002


Lars Anderson of Minot, North Dakota, USA writes:

Dear Mr. Erickson,

The day before yesterday I read the reply that you sent to Ms. Goodman of Altoona. She had confessed her interest in signs for silver shops, especially those on nocturnal display ... in particular, ones in Bangkok. You were good enough to 'send' her a dozen pictures of signs ... signs outside of shops that you seemed to pass every evening on the way to one of your late night pastimes. Well, I hope you can help me with my little fetish; I love pay phones ... all kinds, all colors, all shapes, all sizes. Mr. Erickson, during your many trips to London your camera would every so often capture (by accident, I'm sure) a pay phone that was forced to play 'second fiddle' to some 'tart cards'. Of course, I am not casting any blame here ... for you it was the 'tart card' that was the object of your lens ... but for me, way up here in Minot, it was the odd pay phone that I was wanting. Though, I must admit, that one of Linda Santarelli pointing at the 'tart cards' was a real fetch for me! Anyway, Mr. Erickson, this is a long-winded way of asking you ... when you are out on the streets of Bangkok ... to keep this young man from Minot in mind.

My Uncle Malcolm is helping me type this letter. He wants to know if the "Champagne Room Night Club" is still up and running. He says it was just down the street from the French Embassy in Bangkok. According to Uncle Malcolm it used to have, behind one-way glass, the largest assortment of "'poon-tang' a man could ever wish for." He says that when he now looks at Auntie Mae he wishes: "that war in 'Nam had never ended so damn fool soon" Or better yet that: "your Auntie May never got so nosey about those pills she was taking."

Hoping you can help us with your little camera,

Lars and Malcolm

Dear Lars and Malcolm,

Lucky Lars! The pay phones are still ringing ... they are still taking bahts; and for international calls you can use your credit cards ... including the increasingly popular "Call Home With CB1."

Malcolm! For you, the clock ticked cruelly. The girls who once sat behind the glass at the old "Champagne Room Night Club" are now probably pretty much dry holes. The sign is still there ... old and rusty and swinging on raspy hinges (like the girls, I guess). But, Malcolm, I too remember the place ... back in '81 or '82 you could get a 'sandwich' for just one 'purple'.2

Lars ... plenty of pictures of phones! Malcolm ... just one of the old sign, but you have the memories.

1 Did Aldous Huxley, English writer, who was born in 1894, die in November 1963? As NEWNES closed his books in 1961 he is no help on the question. Any reader who has the answer to this question ... well, please write me at

2 500 Bahts. The 500 baht bill is purple in color.

Sunday, February 24, 2002 (St. Matthias' Day)



The man chosen by lot to fill the vacancy among the disciples brought about by the treachery and suicide of Judas.


Becky had a baby. She (the baby) is French; as is Becky.

PS. The Bangkok Post calls it "e-limping." Anyway, Thailand's main Internet connection to the outside world has been sliced to bits. This 45Mb fibre optic cable was cut off the coast of Pusan, in Korea, by "hands unknown." During this period of delayed transmission The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com will continue with an abbreviated service.

Monday, February 25, 2002




This Alpine hermit absent-mindedly hung up his coat on a sunbeam, supposing it to be another sort of beam. The sunbeam stayed there all day, and when he dressed to go out again, hurried after the setting sun.

"The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal."

In these pages (I mean here at The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com) we've frequently wondered about the missing gap in Christ's life ... roughly those years from the time that he was still wrapped in swaddling clothes right up until he was old enough to make wine on his own ... the preadolescent, the adolescent, the teens ... all the really rough years for parents.2

Dear reader, as recently as a few months ago ... in these very pages ... we permitted the contemporary theologian, Chuck Palahniuk ... [in his own critical examination of Jesus' place in any century (See "CHOKE")] ... to shove his storybook protagonist, Victor Mancini, into rhetorically questioning what really happened during those immature years of the kid Christ:

"Do you think Jesus automatically knew he was Jesus from the start, or did his mom or somebody tell him and he grew into it? Just supposing Jesus Christ had to practice being the Son of God to get any good at it. What if Jesus spent all his growing up getting things wrong before he ever got a single miracle right? How is it we don't read about Jesus' failed first attempts or how he didn't really crank out the big miracles until he was over thirty? How about if Jesus got started by just doing nice things for people, you know, helping old ladies cross the street or telling people when they'd left their headlights on? Well, not that exactly, but you get the idea. How about if Jesus spent years working up to the big loaves-and-the-fishes thing? I mean, that Lazarus deal is probably something he'd have to build up to, right? Maybe, maybe even Jesus didn't believe in himself at first. Maybe miracles are like talent, and you have to start with the small stuff. I don't mean like Jesus did card tricks, but just not hurting people would be a good start."


Well, it seems that Christopher Moore (in "LAMB") has set the stage for a pal's view of what Christ was doing before he got old enough to cause big people to gasp at his tricks. According to Moore (via Biff's words) our teen Christ was a "chick magnet AND chaste" [girls, moms ... does that smell of 'gay' to you?]4

So far I have only gotten through the dust cover ... the book cleared Thai Customs just hours ago. Once the chapters fold out I'm sure that Moore will present us with a more complicated (and troubled) Christ kid.

Incidentally, the back half-fold on the dust cover (the bit about the author) tells us that Moore has written five previous novels.5 And that his "turn-ons are the ocean, elephant polo,6 and talking animals on TV."

1 "Gothard" is not mentioned at all by Englebert in his seminal treatment of the lives of saints (unambiguously entitled "The Lives of Saints"). Even under the generally accepted alternative spelling, "Godhard", the only references are to (a) a 6th century Archbishop of Rouen who, legend says, was the twin brother of St. Medard and (b) a 961 - 1038 abbot from Niederaltaich who became bishop of Hildesheim. Though Wescott's work predates that of Englebert by decades, both were probably subscribers to the monthly, La Terre Wallome.

2 For now we are going with the story that Mary was the mother; the father ... well, that is a tale that makes that of Pinocchio pale. Whether Joseph was just the good old boy who raised his hand when everyone else was kicking pebbles and hoping that Mary wouldn't point the finger their way ... or, whether he really believed the story about the Holy Ghost ... well, either way the plot pretty much played on without anything more being heard from him (in 'TV-soap-speak' it's called "cast tapering").

3 Dear reader, I think that I have the only copy of LAMB in Bangkok. It was Federal Expressed to me right after it's February 19th USA publication. It was sent by yet another Christopher Moore (my grandson, and the son of Annie; no relation to the author ... .and, neither are related to the Bangkok novelist, Christopher Moore, who writes brilliantly about the world of Patpong).

4 "Looking-to-die-for" to the girls, yet always hanging out with the boys ... does suggest that Jesus (a very soft name) was less comfortable with women (except for His Mom, of course).

5 I have read them all ... and they are very funny. They are: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bludsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.

6 The bold font, the underlining and the italics are mine. Is the cat out of the bag? Stay tuned on this one, dear reader.

Next: Part VI

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