For a couple of years the same Cola sign has been the most prominent billboard2 on the far side of my river. During the past week Coke has been doing a revamp. Actually, Coca Cola started the revamp with a flash and worked furiously on it for a few days ... but, now it seems to have hit a pause. The Pepsi warehouse is almost next-door, though I don't think that has anything to do with it.
Watcharee's 28th birthday is coming around in a few days. For a treat we'll probably move over to the Peninsula for a couple of nights. I haven't stayed in the Bangkok Pen since Annie and the boys and I came back from Pakistan almost three years ago. After they went back stateside I hung around the place for a couple more weeks. The Peninsula has the best pool in town ... maybe the best in Asia.
As my 'office' here in the Gore Vidal suite needs a major brush-up, a couple of nights in a tidy suite on the other side of the Chao Phya will be refreshing.
1 A number of years ago (about 20, perhaps any more) a well researched book, entitled (I think) Kidnapped, made the convincing argument that the Lindberg child died by accident during a practical joke perpetrated by his own father, the great aviator. And, that Hauptman ... though an extortionist ... had no hand in the killing. If anyone can remember the name of the author and the title, please let me know. And, if you come across the book, BUY IT! It is a great read. Perhaps my friend, Gillian Israel (who usually only responds to footnotes), will come to my aid.
2 Showing a girl.
This morning's International Herald Tribune (via The Washington Post) 'fronts' with a wonderful, newly released, 'Nixonism'. It is part of the 426 hours of White House tapes that were just made public on Thursday. The article, by George Lardner, Jr., leads up to it this way:
When President Richard Nixon's ambassador to France got roaring drunk and began groping the flight attendants on a trip home from Paris, Nixon did not see that much to get excited about. "Look, people get drunk. People chase girls. And the point is, it's a hell of a lot better for them to get drunk than to take drugs. It's better to chase girls than boys. Now that's my position and let's stop this crap. Understand?"1
Two 'out-take' photographs: one, taken yesterday, showing uncollected trash on Surawong Road; the other of "Gift" readying herself for last year's PCC (Thailand) AGM.
Yesterday, in a footnote, I asked if anyone knew the name of the book about the Lindberg kidnapping that 'fingered' the kid's old-man as the culprit. I did receive several correct replies:
Mr. P.F. of Washington state wrote:
"I believe you're referring to Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax, by Gregory Ahlgren and Stephen Monier ... published in 1993."
For being the first person to provide the correct answer, he wins a spot on the great Zeppelin airship's maiden journey from Berlin to Bayreuth on May 28, 2002.
Mrs. A. J. T. of South Carolina wrote:
"It was Crime of the Century: The Lindberg Kidnapping Hoax by Greg Ahlgren and Steve Monier."
Her first runner-up prize is a collection of luggage stickers from The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com. [Mrs. T., try to be a little quicker next time around ... only seconds separated you from winner Mr. F.]
And, for Miss P. Z. of Nevada, Mr. L. K. of Canada, Dr. W. Q. of The Gambia2 and Col. R. L. of Nepal3 we really have nothing tangible for you. But, thanks for trying.
1 In a 1972-America all those who were in favor of that position voted for him; all those who were not, did not. Had this 'Nixonism' been phrased as a question ("Do you agree, or do you not ... blah, blah, blah...?") by Roper or Gallup, or whoever was doing the polls in the summer of '72, the answer would have had a margin of error of plus-or-minus of no more than 0.000000000001%. I am convinced of that.
2, 3 Awkward time zones may have been your biggest handicap.
As today is Sunday,1 Bangkok's Silom Road is closed to motor traffic from morning until late at night. It turns into, for a dozen hours or so, a great big pedestrian street that quickly becomes packed with unlicensed vendors, beggars, artists, musicians and food hawkers. Mercifully, this closed portion of Silom runs perpendicular to the three great gateways into Patpong ... so that bars and brothels and stalls of counterfeit goods are but a few paces away, if the culture and the outstretched hands get a bit tired to take.
Tonight I just aimed my Mavica at some street artists and their subjects. As you can see, their work is pretty good. Next Sunday I'll try to get Watcharee to be a 'subject'.
This Burgundian princess was the wife of the Emperor St. Henry, but they never had marriage relations. Nevertheless, or perhaps in consequence, he was so jealous that on one occasion she had to walk over re-hot ploughshares to prove her purity. After that she went into a convent. They began the building of the cathedral of Bamberg, where they lie.
1 Introduced last year on a limited basis ... for just six or seven Sundays ... it was so popular that this Sunday-closing to cars has become a permanent part of the Silom calendar.
2 Underlining, mine.
3 A particularly unusual name, given her apparent 'vow'.
This morning's International Herald Tribune carried a New York Times piece entitled Scholars Scrutinize the Koran's Origin. After a warning by the author, Alexander Stille, that scholars who have questioned the Koran have found themselves as targets of death and wrath, he goes on to report that:
"Christoph Luxenberg, a scholar of ancient Semitic languages in Germany, argues that the Koran has been misread and mistranslated for centuries. His work, based on the earliest copies of the Koran, maintains that parts of Islam's holy book are derived from pre-existing Christian Aramaic texts that were misinterpreted by later Islamic scholars who prepared the editions of the Koran commonly read today. So, for example, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality 'white raisins' of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens."
"... the famous passage about the virgins is based on the word 'hur', which is an adjective in the feminine plural meaning simply 'white.' Islamic tradition insists the term 'hur' stands for 'houri', which means 'virgin,' but Luxenberg insists that this is a forced misreading of the text. In both ancient Aramaic and in at least one respected dictionary of early Arabic, 'hur' means 'white raisin'."
It ended in a burble of broken sobs: a final emotional percolation of resistant and bitter grief. It also ended with the little white raisins strewn all over God's floor.
But earlier, and back on Earth ...
"God is Great!!!"
The blinding flash of light ... and the huge 'WHAMP' ... and the tremendous deceleration were all over in an instant.
Mohammed Atta opened his eyes. There was a gentle breeze that cooled his skin. In front of him a fuzzy globe of light hung in the air. In the background, rows of grapes receded toward infinity.
The fuzzy globe made a throat clearing sound ... as if prefatory to something ominous.
"I suppose you're here based on Koran 1.2 ... the ... ah ... 'virgin' version?"
Atta threw himself flat against what he hoped was God's floor.
"There is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet ..."
"Yes ... yes ... yes ... we know that ... but, getting back to this ... ah ... older ... virgin version." God paused to see if Atta had any idea of where this was going.
But an ignorant Mohammed Atta, groveling as deep as he could, wished there was even a holy hem below which he could slither still more ... to ingratiate himself still further ... to make himself more worthy of the rewarding maidens which in his heart he knew he richly deserved.
"Oh Lord, Thy word speaks of 72 virgins for martyrdom ... but my little spot in your paradise only wants half a hundred ... nice young pretty ones, mind you."
God sighed and reached for something on a shelf.
The shriek was long and piercing ... even to God's ears. Mohammed Atta slapped the box of Sun Maid Raisins from God's hand ... sending the little albino wrinkled things scattering all across God's floor.
Then the sobs began. He thought of that little piece of 'snatch' in that far away Florida motel room ... and his sobs grew greater.
We've moved across the river. No, not to escape a torch-carrying mob incensed over The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com's courageous decision to republish the brilliant revisionist study of Koran 1.2. Watcharee is getting another year older, and we decided to celebrate the day by spending a couple of nights as a guest in The Peninsula Hotel.
For years we have looked at it from our home over at The Oriental. Now we are looking inside it. And, we also have the chance to look at The Oriental from the 23rd floor of The Peninsula.
Also in view from our lofty 'no-name' suite: the French Embassy (of course, from a different angle) ... an up-river view from the sunset side of the river ... and a down-river view that captures the full width of The Shangri-La Hotel.
Looking straight down we can see the boat dock that The Peninsula uses to shuttle its guests from the 'wrong' side of the river to the 'right' side of the river.
For lunch: we ate at Cilantro, the hotel's Thai restaurant. Just Sea Bass and Steamed Thai Vegetables.
By the way, all this rambling and picture taking is just proof to our friends that the mobs have yet to find us.
Which brings me to the hate mail. So far, none.
Today I received only one letter that talked about yesterday's journal entry; and it was just tangental to the whole point:
Prof. H. R. of Perth, Australia writes:
"Sir, God cared not a spot about either 'virgins' or 'raisins'. Never having to eat nor ever needing to bed a woman, God was totally free to indulge himself in the purest of the pure: mathematics."
"Whether Islamic martyrs ... at the end of their day (if we want to put it that way) ... were rewarded with fruit or with previously unspread legs was of no interest to God! No, sir, it was the number that counted. God chose 72 ... 72 of anything ... because 72 is the only number less that 3/4ths of 100 that can be be shared ten ways equally. Yes, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 36 and 72 people can 'fairly' take of the virgins, the raisins or anything else that makes martyred dying a wise step-up from life."
Professor M. V. from the American state of Texas has ... just hours ago ... cabled me with this latest twist of the screw.1
New Twist in Afghan Conflict: Waiting for Godot Redux
French Intellectuals to be Deployed in Afghanistan To Convince Taleban of Non-Existence of God
The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taleban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.
Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or 'Black Berets', will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy.
Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris's Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement cafes at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man's lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers' ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.
Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, "The Taleban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it. Take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking." Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens' endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area.
Speculation was mounting last night that Britain may also contribute to the effort by dropping Professor Stephen Hawking into Afghanistan to propagate his non-deistic theory of the creation of the universe. Other tactics to demonstrate the non-existence of God will include the dropping of leaflets pointing out the fact that Michael Jackson has a new album out and Oprah Winfrey has not died yet.
This is only one of several Psy-Ops operations mounted by the Allies to undermine the unswerving religious fanaticism that fuels the Taleban's fighting spirit. Pentagon sources have recently confirmed rumours that America has already sent in a 200-foot-tall robot Jesus, which roams the Taleban front lines glowing eerily and shooting flames out of its fingers while saying, 'I am the way, the truth and the life, follow me or die.' However, plans to have the giant Christ kick the crap out of a slightly effeminate 80-foot Mohammed in central Kabul were discarded as insensitive to Muslim allies.
1 Dear reader, my regular recurring daily journal will continue to appear at its customary scheduled time: 02:00 Southeast Asia time.
Most of the great church encyclopedias fail to mention that young Thomas Aquinas was tarred with the epithet "Dumb Ox" throughout his school years. Did this motivate him to push harder at his studies while his little friends went out to play ... or, did this silly tag wind up, in some strange way, stunting and blunting the central theme of his 'Summa Theologica' ... to the point where, in the eyes of some, it was left 'unfinished'?1
We have a recent 'out-take' of The Peninsula's famed "Steamed Snowfish, Flushed with Chinese Lemon". Also, an 'out-take' of "Gift", pulling a very sexy pose in front of the mirror ... taken just before our PCC AGM.2
Incidentally, The House of Corkscrew Balloon Dot Com is on the lookout for a female polo player for the World Elephant Polo Association's 20th World Elephant Polo Championship ... to be held in Nepal from December 8th to the 14th.3 The successful applicant will not necessarily have to know anything about polo or elephants ... but, she should be fun and pretty. All of her expenses will be taken care of. If you are interested please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 And, of course, then unworthy of being the rock upon which modern Catholicism is based. Wescott does not share this negative view; though he does feel that being marked as the school "Dumb Ox" was not a plus. (Wescott, page 48). Englebert completely ignores Thomas' teen and pre-teen years. He 'picks him up' only after the future saint matriculated from the University of Naples.
2 You will be happy to know that "Gift" will be one of the players on my Screwless Tusker Elephant Polo team when we compete at The Kings Cup Elephant Polo 2002, at Thailand's Anantara Resort and Spa in September. "Ohmy", "Amma" and "Ning" will join her in the jumbo event. Of course, the Screwy Tuskers will also field a team. Keep watching these pages for details.
3 This event has absolutely nothing to do with the event in footnote (2), just above.
Clicking on "A" or "B" will give you a 50/50 chance of seeing a fake Cartier watch. The other half of the 50/50 chance is that you will see 'Gift' bare-breasted; straight-on and in the bathroom mirror. If what you see is not what you want to see ... well, just click on the other one.
John of God
This man was a shepherd, a peddler, and a soldier, going to Turkey with the French Army. Then he heard St. John of Avila preach, and went mad, or so it seemed. His friends put him in an insane asylum, where he was made to nurse the sick. He realized that this was what he was good for. As soon as he was released he started a charity hospital in a shed, out of which developed the Order of Hospitallers, or 'Misericordia.'
He is the patron of hospitals and of the dying.
The Rev. T. Weems, St. John's, Vicarage Mews, East Laybourne, Herts., England writes:
What you printed yesterday is total rubbish!
After standing for nearly forty years in the pulpit I am convinced that there is a God. But, I am also convinced that I shall go to hell BECAUSE I believe that there is a God.
"A mad man," you say.
"Not so," I say.
Why would God want to surround himself for an eternity with people who are so dim-witted and silly as to believe that such a thing as a God exists? Why would God want a never-ending flow of vapid fawning pet toads ingratiating themselves through the gates to his paradise?
Only atheists will be allowed past the golden arch. For the rest of us1 it'll be hornets up the rosy red rectum and bubbling lava down the gag tube.
Your obedient servant,
T. Weems, MBE
1 "Self serving obsequious ass kissing cock suckers, the lot!" [God's term, not mine]
(*) I am one day early on this one. Spillane was born on the 9th.
At one time she was the anchor ad in the International Herald Tribune's Classifieds ('Friendships'). She was the standard by which all others were judged.
For years her "His and Her" offerings made for envious reading. If only we felt worthy of answering one of her ads ... but, no ... .we just couldn't be so worthy.
And then, one Saturday ... not too long ago ... she repeated herself. Yes, the same offering [a Shanghai woman,1 I think] came up twice! Identical twins? A drunken copywriter? Or ... or ... can it be ... a glut?
And, now, today: Saturday, March 9, 2002 ... there is not even a miniature of what once was; just a little picture of Gabriele, with "especially for you" nudging you to her web site to "view" her "First-Society marriages." No Munich address, no FAX, no phone, no satellite offices; just some rented dot-com space at a giant Sun Server 'farm' in Cincinnati or Bern or in Helsinki. How sad.
Omer Englebert's saint for today is a strange one2:
An 'out-take' from Si Quey's Place ... showing what can happen if you try to defend yourself with just your hand against an attack from a man armed with a knife.
An 'out-take' of Ohmy, Amma and Gift looking at corkscrews ... while proudly wearing their PCC shirts.
On this coming Wednesday (March 13th) the first meeting of The Screwless Tuskers will take place. And, we have chosen Bangkok's Dusit Thani Hotel as the site of our first get-together.3 The Screwless Tuskers will be the 'ladyboy' version of The Screwy Tuskers. Yes, the first transvestite elephant polo team in history! Do you, dear reader, remember last September? Stay tuned.4
1 "Fluent in every tongue ... owner of all things ... unapproachably beautiful ... dripping university degrees ... a hundred generations of royal blood ... etc."
2 "... died about 3." In the afternoon is the only thing that makes sense. You can double check this in Englebert's Lives of the Saints, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1994 (page 95).
3 Any guesses as to why we've decided to meet at The Dusit? Any guesses as to the team?
4 Hint, hint: Hua Hin!
Next: Part VIII