Bangkok in the Heart of Winter, Part VI

Between Part V and Part VII

February 26-28, 2002

Tuesday, February 26, 2002


DIED 420

The virtues for which this man was admired now fail to arouse admiration: he destroyed seven Greek temples, and inflicted such punishments upon himself that his body got into a state of absolute insensibility.


Diligent readers will remember that over the last couple of years a strange battle has raged over here between the owners of two vertically adjacent condominiums ... ones that are located in a tall building that is vaguely across the river from me. The building is at about "10 o'clock," if seen from my porch ... just on the far side of the bridge. Back in May 2000, I speculated that ... well, I'll let you read what I speculated:1

As you can see, this did not start yesterday. I first noticed it last fall when Linda and I were taking a boat up river. And, again, just before elephant polo when Stephani and I rented a longtail for a visit to Wat Arun. Just up the Chao Phraya, toward the Gulf of Thailand, the occupants of the penthouse and the flat directly below it seem to be engaged in some sort of curious botanical competition.

Shrub War

How did it start? When did it get out of hand? As outside observers, we'll probably never know. But, we can guess.

Everyone realizes that small irritants can easily get out of control in close living, as it apparently did in this case. And, most of us know that the water that feeds the unhappy twig can usually be traced to some core root, as is likely here. It goes back to the morning when the buyers picked up their door keys: Mr. and Mrs. "A," on top, get in the elevator and push "PH." Mr. "B," a floor under, never gets to go higher than 29. Great wars have been fought over smaller insecurities. Incidentally, the owners of the other apartments in this building apparently couldn't care less; maybe they are even wagering on the outcome of this floral dual.

Whatever. It is likely that this whole competition started with a small potted shrub ... an innocent bit of shade to cool a breakfast niche on a sunny morning. Ah, but the man underfoot, sensing escalation in a war in which he shall always run second, bought something bigger. Then the man above upped the ante with a still larger and, this time, more aggressive shrub. This was followed on the other side by a shrub especially bred to invade. Growth hormones were introduced. Foliage thickeners added. Gravity defiers came next. Before long, jungles reached up; jungles reached down.

From then on I paid little attention to the place; oh, sure, I might have commented once or twice that the trees were getting really disproportionate to the supporting architecture ... but, aside from that I pretty much ignored the building and its little feud fought with greenery.

Later, after the events of 9/11, I pretended to worry about what might happen to the shrubs if terrorists took shears to them. With a little help from Photoshop 6.0 I gave the shrubs a trim. Yes, childish on my part ... I was just 'playing' with my new tools from Adobe. For what it's worth that little effort can be seen in last October's journal.


But, now, dear reader, it looks like something more sinister is on the attack: chemical defoliants. Long the 'under-tree', the ... whatever lurks below ... seems to have done something horribly mutilating to the once lush topping that reigned above for so long. Bare of leaves ... skinny branches ... scrawny stuff ... a sickly thing now sticks out of the roof. I'm not sure what is going on.

But, we'll follow this evil, wherever it leads us. Yes, right here in these pages2 ... with the trusty help from my 14 power (optical) Mavica.

Moving to another switch in time: In January the Bangkok Daily News gave you the gruesome account of a man who shredded himself in a plastic recycling mangler; a machine that is designed to reduce great hunks of stuff into easily meltable pieces. The man threw himself into the revolving crunch discs just because his wife would not go for a 'menage a trois'. At the time my friend, Paul, wrote (and showed):

"Apparently, this fellow was despondent because his wife would not accede to his desire for a 'ménage à trois.' Indeed, this emptiness in his life left him so forlorn that he threw himself into a device normally used for mangling plastic that is to be recycled, and it ended things for him rather quickly, if quite unpleasantly. A great deal of cross-hatching was required in the Daily News's photo lab. Perhaps his wish will come true in the beyond."3

Check out the gruesome imagery here ... much of the exposed blood has been 'hatched' by Morton, the darkroom censor, but a near fully intact human arm can still be seen sticking out from the torn and twisted mess, almost in a pointing (accusatory?) way.4

Being a national holiday, today the Bangkok Daily News shows us a happier 'triple': all three (one man and two women) have decided to share the same bed for the rest of their lives.5

Lest the breakfast read be too tame on this Buddhist holiday, the News offers the picture of the body of one murdered old woman ... I guess to remind us that in the end we all must 'go'.

1 The full account from May 2000 remains available in our pages.

2 Lord knows you won't find it covered anywhere else.

3 This is a "Comtesse DeSpair" pick of the day for today.

4 As if to tell his wife "see what you made me do!"

5 Watcharee wrinkled her nose and said it was just plain "weird" when I asked her if this was becoming more common in Thailand.

PS. There is incontrovertible evidence that the French Embassy is now occupied: a full swimming pool, crystal clear water, white pool furniture ... .and ... a blue bathrobe tossed casually on top of a table. True ... still no people! But ...

PPS. A local Bangkok fast-food restaurant 'merges' the best of western food: Spaghetti and French Fries. Only 69 baht (about $1.50) gets you both.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002



DIED 596

This great Archbishop of Seville, the son of a Spanish duke, the King of the Visigoths' brother-in-law, and St. Gregory's2 great friend, was a tireless worker against heretics. The Visigoth rulers were Arians; Leander converted his nephew, who in consequence had his throat cut by his heretic father. The latter, however, repented before he died; and he appointed the archbishop to be the guardian and tutor of his second son, who came to the throne after him.

The light was just right. This morning I turned my distance-shrinking 14-power optics on the strange foliage battle that is going on across the river and over the bridge. A second photograph, using U.S. Government High Speed Arnax Foliage Analysis Film, was taken with the same camera and lens combination. It proved what the first photograph hinted: the tree on top is under siege. From what? We still don't know.

All the while that I was fussing with my camera, lenses and films ... while I was muttering dark words about terrible threats ... well, Watcharee was looking at me as if I was nuts. Later, she just smiled.

Who is this girl? She is Thai but she now lives in Europe. You have seen her before, in a 'later' picture. This photograph is more than a year old ... it was taken before she put on her 'western' weight.

1 "Leander": a boy's name that was popular in the American South during the early 1950s.

2 According to Englebert, St. Gregory and Leander both suffered from gout and they "mutually exhorted each other to consider this cruel ill as a heaven-sent favor and the best means of expiating their sins." As an aside, Watcharee's grandfather suffers from gout. But he has never thought of it as being a blessing in any way whatsoever. Buddhism and Christianity, I think, look at flesh-failings differently. With Christians, everything ... big or small ... good or bad ... smelly or nice ... comes from God, AND with a reason tacked on to it.

Thursday, February 28, 2002



Dear reader, there is a possibility that this freestanding Bangkok postbox will take on a 'life' that its makers and owners never imagined possible. At some point in time it may have the distinction of being 'seen' by people in more countries than any freestanding postbox anywhere in the world. Should this happen ... and it is not yet certain to happen ... people may come to Bangkok just to brag that they put their cards and letters through one of its slots.1

Today's breakfast read in the Daily News focuses on a dismembered body. A police officer ... or, perhaps, a medical-rescue person ... is shown holding the severed head.2 It's hard to tell from the 'hatchwork' what pieces of the dead person his co-worker is also showing to the photographer ... apparently, there is a lot of meat 'on the plate', so to speak, as a full quarter of the photograph has been 'Mortonized'.3 4

My walk across the bridge today confirmed our worst fears. The attack on the once dominant roof shrub is more insidious than what it looked like from afar. Some new weapon ... an old one used in a new way ... we just don't know.

1 Ideally, its actual GPS coordinates would have to be known for this to work perfectly all the time. Though, a street address will probably be good enough for our purposes ... I mean it is right on Silom ... at the top of the road, just before the "T".

2 'Face' to the camera. [I have the benefit of having the actual paper in front of me while I am typing this ... and, yes, it is a severed head, face forward.]

3 Dear reader, if you look to the far left of the picture you'll see the (partial) back of the head of another man. Why he is in the picture is not explained. Could what we are looking at be a picture of a picture? Or, is a window involved? We just don't know.

4 The 'displayers' ... in my mind ... seem a bit hardened. What do you think? Look, I'm not expecting raging sobs ... but, it does look like they could just as likely be checking out the marbling on a loin for the evening roast.

Next: March

Search WWW Search