Autumn in Bangkok

Following On the Road to Hong Kong

September 1-7, 2003

Monday, September 1, 2003 (Banks and government offices may be closed or services curtailed in Bermuda, Canada, Chile, Libya, Malaysia, Slovakia, Syria, United States, Uzbekistan.)

Yes, we are back in Bangkok!

But, in less than a fortnight The Screwless Tuskers will leave for Hua Hin to participate in the 3rd King's Cup Elephant Polo Championships. Readers will remember that 'we' (*) were there in 2001 and in 2002. True, we did not 'go to turf' in those years ... the first, out of design; the second, out of ... well, let's just say it had something to do with hormones.

"So? Get on with it, Alf."

Anyway, in anticipation of the start of the elephant polo season all of the various August issues of the Asian TATLER magazine have featured a six page spread on the sport. THOCBDC has swiped the following pictures from the Hong Kong Tatler.

Eight readers from West Africa (mostly Mali) have asked about the "squishable" and "squashable" food items that are available in the Hong Kong night markets. Today THOCBDC features an egg and a tomato.

* As the 'Screwy Tuskers' in 2001. Readers seeking clarification should refer back to our lengthy coverage of the team selection for 2002 and compare this to the relatively cavalier approach we took in prior years.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003


Sixth Century

St. Gregory tells us that this man's predominant virtue was his patience with the bad-tempered abbot under whom he had to live and work. He was called a prior, but many of his duties evidently were those of a man of all work and a sort of butler. One day, by a miracle, he succeeded in getting a great boulder out of the monastery-garden. One day he was washing a glass lampshade, and broke it; thinking no doubt of the abbot's temper, he fell on his knees in prayer; whereupon the lampshade mended itself.

It is surprising to find that the emblem of this wonderfully subordinate soul is a mountain before him in the clouds.


Rolex watches ... Gucci bags ... YSL scarves ... even little blue diamond-shaped (*) Viagra pills. Fakes? Legit? You can have it either way, depending on how much money you want to spend.

But, The Peninsula Hotel? Really, a fake one? That's what it appears to be, according to Hong Kong's Sunday Morning Post. All of you know that right across the Chao Phya River from me stands The Peninsula (Bangkok) ... yes, it is a real one (**). But far away, in the Three Gorges region of China, a Chinese government-owned power company has built a 'knockoff' Peninsula. Yes, in Yichang, Hubei province, a hotel that "... bears a striking resemblance to other Peninsula hotels, particularly the one in Bangkok ..." offers 154 rooms that are 'themed' in the same colonial-era elegance as the original.

1 It has been a very long time since THOCBDC has visited Wescott; only old-faithfuls will remember him. For the rest of you he is ('was' ... as he died years ago) Glenway Wescott. I know him best for his "A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers". For several years he appeared almost daily in these pages.

* "How did you know that detail, Alf?"

** The first ... and the original ... Peninsula hotel (actually, "The Peninsula") is in Kowloon. It is the 'mother ship', so to speak. The Peninsula Group has seven other hotels: five carry The Peninsula name (Bangkok, Manila, Beverly Hills, New York and Chicago); two 'stand' with singular names (The Palace Hotel in Beijing and The Kowloon Hotel in Hong Kong).

Wednesday, September 3, 2003


Third Century

A bishop who was put to death in Capua, along with a child called little Anthony.


Mao's Little Red Book2:

"In agricultural production our fundamental task is to adjust the use of labour power in an organized way and to encourage women to do farm work."

-- "Our Economic Policy" (January 23, 1934), Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 142.

Recently the Tilman Smith3 woman expressed (privately, through back channels) dissatisfaction in the way that The Screwless Tuskers were being prepared for their expected last-place performance on the field ... but, their ("and, it should be inevitable") 'top drawer' finish in the 'best dressed' race. Failing to read between the lines, Smith only 'saw' the lead Screwless Tusker, Miss 'Golf', dancing her nights away in a Suzy Wong way ... or passing the hurtful sunny hours behind spa doors. Lost to Smith was the inference of dimly lit lofts crammed with tiny fingers; fingers working to the tune of mainland task masters.

"What are you talking about, Alf?"

Yesterday I saw Noi. Do you remember her? She used to work at the Sala Rim Naam with Watcharee. Now she has her own business; she is a children's clothing distributor. Anyway, I bumped into her as I was leaving the gym at The Oriental. Speaking of changed faces, at least half the people at the Fitness Center are new. Gone are Tung and Ning: replaced by two other pretty Thai girls.

1 A few summers ago THOCBDC 'explored' the modern Zeppelin. One year with a visit to the factory; another year with an aerial tour of Berlin.

2 Smith, a Maoist, suggested that quotes from that man would make this journal more relevant.

3 She was a frequent Screwy Tusker when ST was a regular attendee at the WEPA finals in Nepal. Incidentally, the thought-flow at ST chambers in both BKK and SEATAC is now going in the direction of pitching the Screwless Tuskers against the Screwy Tuskers at both of the premium e-polo 2004 events: Tiger Tops and Hua Hin. Whether this 'proposal' will wash well with the event masters will be explored over drinks at the Anantara Resort & Spa in a little over two weeks.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Mao (*):

We must affirm anew the discipline of the Party. Namely:

  1. the individual is subordinate to the organization;
  2. the minority is subordinate to the majority;
  3. the lower level is subordinate to the higher level; and
  4. the entire membership is subordinate to the Central Committee

Whoever violates these articles of discipline disrupts Party unity.

-- "The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War" (October 1938), Selected Works, Vol.II, pp. 203-04.


Died 1160

A spinster of Palermo, remotely related to Charlemagne, who retired to a cave and died there amid the little trickling springs, under the stalactites. Five hundred years later her body was found, petrified by the mineral water, the head overgrown with roses. She herself had carved an inscription on the rock, telling who she was.



Thai corkscrews!

I didn't find them; Watcharee did. In a little shop ... tucked down a flight of stairs ... at the end of a long corridor ... in a dark corner ... in a little case.

Such beautiful designs! OK, I haven't tried either one ... and maybe the 'nail' on the thicker piece may be more of a pain than a pleasure ... but they are the first two corkscrews that I've found (err ... Watcharee found) that came from the mind of a Thai artist.

And, he (**) has more of them; I'm going there today ... to clean out his case.


On July 26, 2002, THOCBDC reported the existence of 2002NT7: an asteroid that is projected to hit Mother Earth on February 1, 2019. With a diameter of 1.25 miles and a closing speed of 60,000 mph its arrival will pretty much guarantee that there will be no February 2nd.

But, dear reader, the 'end' might be even nearer. Asteroid "2003 QQ47" is due to make landfall on March 21, 2014. The British government's Near Earth Object Information Centre said this newly discovered threat, if it chooses to stay on target, will have the impact "effect of 20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs."

* For Tilman.

** Maybe it's a 'she'.

Friday, September 5, 2003

This is sort of a slide show...a glide through last evening.

Passing by the spirit houses at our apartment building ... aboard the boat to The Peninsula to have dinner at Jesters ... the view from Jesters (looking across the Chao Phra River toward the Shangri-La Hotel) ... the meal: tuna tartare, lobster, salmon, snowfish ... a lobby hall at The Peninsula ... Watcharee looking at The Oriental and the renovation work (24/7) going on at its Garden Wing (*).

"Well, Alf, that was sort of boring. Of course, I guess we had to be there ..."

* Several years ago renovation similarly gutted The Oriental's River Wing.

PS: THOCBDC apologizes for the above self-centered 'journal-bit' that introduced you to September 5th. Yes, it was boring. Can I make amends with this little Baptist piece from Freehold, Iowa?

Saturday, September 6, 2003

"Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies."

- Voltaire on his deathbed in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan.



Sixth Century

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.

Mao [or, Bush?]:

"We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun."

- "Problems of War and Strategy" (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 225.
[or, a White House press conference, (early 2003)].

For my non-subscription readers the following will make no sense at all unless I tell you that it is part of a letter that I am going to send to my fellow corkscrew (***) collectors. The ICCA stands for International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts; the PCC is an acronym for Patpong Corkscrew Club; AGM means Annual General Meeting.

For those of you who are going to Virginia for the 2003 ICCA you just might catch a glimpse of the start of the AGM for the PCC ... provided you take a late check-out from our host guest quarters: the Hotel Roanoke.

If you do, you'll be able to finally meet Gift, Amma and Ohmy, who along with myself, Don Bull, Ferd Peters, Helgir Solheim, and Nick Hunt are charter members of the PCC. The 'girls' will be sharing a 'camper': a 32-footer parked on the east end of the hotel's 110 Shenandoah Avenue property.

If you have never seen the three Patpongettes ... or, if you'd like another peek ... here is a link to them: their eagerness is clearly exemplified in this particular photograph; despite only a 'working' knowledge of English they seem to be very engrossed in Don's books.

For a long bit I wasn't sure that I would be able to even get them USA visas ... as all Thai 'kateoys' (****) were on a Homeland Security watch-list, along with every other 'foreigner' not part of The Coalition. But, because the Iraq thing is not playing out as well as prayed for, the Administration is now casting its net more widely in hope of finding additional friends (any friends).

This morning's Bangkok Daily News captures Thai daily life with two shots: a woman accusing another woman of being more beautiful than she; and a 'Mortonized' white-glove moment.

* THOCBDC recalls a spirited barrage of letters to the editor when we first 'returned' this to public recognition. Well, maybe not.

** He lingered long before dying.

*** Represented by the first 'C' in THOCBDC.

**** Though the authoritative Thai dictionary defines 'kateoy' as a hermaphrodite, the general public in Thailand lumps a lot more people under this title; all the Screwless Tuskers would neatly fit.

Sunday, September 7, 2003



Fifth Century

The man who is supposed to have brought St. John the Baptist's lower jaw-bone to Italy. (**)


"The contradictions between ourselves and the enemy are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic, while those between the exploited and the exploiting classes have a non-antagonistic aspect in addition to an antagonistic aspect."

- On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (February 27, 1957), 1st pocket ed., p. 2.

The uniforms are ready!

Yesterday Pom brought us the uniforms that the Screwless Tuskers will wear while not on the playing field. While actually aboard the elephants, Golf, Beige, Army and Tok-Tak will sport helmets and shirts provided by the event organizers; these have yet to be seen ... but, no doubt, they will emphasize the tournament's association with Hua Hin's host hotel: the Anantara Resort and Spa.

What you see here is what the 'girls' will wear while just messing about the place. Golf is today's model. Tomorrow ... or sometime real soon ... the other three will visually brag how they look in their off-field garb.

* Reader W.P. from Lewis, Kentucky (a state in the USA, famous for its blue-grass eating horses) asks: "You have said nothing about 'flash mobs'; have they not caught on in Bangkok?" THOCBDC replies: "Clearly BKK, with its almost total dependence upon cell phones ... (land lines are in short supply here; besides, most Bangkokians spend precious little time in their homes) ... should be a natural breeding pit for all sorts of flash mob activity. But, the city has come up short. There is no single answer as to why this is the case. Perhaps readers from other Asian countries can jump in on this. In fact, THOCBDC welcomes comments from its fans in Europe and the two Americas: is the 'flash mob' craze dying out in your parts of the world? Is (was) it just an ephemeral time-gadget that lost its appeal once the press focused in on it? Or, is the answer more subtle? Finally, should the Screwless Tuskers get involved?"

** On at least one occasion THOCBDC visited the 'finger' of Mary Magdelene. This relic, apparently unlike that of John's jaw-bone, was prized by early Christians as a symbol of man's 'weakness of the flesh' ... for if Christ could be tempted by things venal, why not God's lesser creatures? Or, at least, that's what some make of it.

PS: The eagerly awaited OFFICIAL 'Beloit' list is now out.

(AP) -- Most students entering college this fall were born in 1985. To them:

  1. Ricky Nelson, Richard Burton, Samantha Smith, Laura Ashley, Orson Welles, Karen Ann Quinlan, Benigno Aquino, and the U.S. Football League have always been dead.
  2. They are not familiar with the source of that "Giant Sucking Sound."
  3. Iraq has always been a problem.
  4. "Ctrl Alt Del" is as basic as "ABC."
  5. Paul Newman has always made salad dressing.
  6. Pete Rose has always been a gambler.
  7. Bert and Ernie are old enough to be their parents.
  8. An automatic is a weapon, not a transmission.
  9. Russian leaders have always looked like leaders everyplace else.
  10. The snail darter has never been endangered.
  11. There has always been a screening test for AIDS.
  12. Gas has always been unleaded.
  13. They never heard Howard Cosell call a game on ABC.
  14. The United States has always had a Poet Laureate.
  15. Garrison Keillor has always been live on public radio and Lawrence Welk has always been dead on public television.
  16. Their families drove SUVs without "being fuelish."
  17. There has always been some association between fried eggs and your brain.
  18. They would never leave their calling card on someone's desk.
  19. They have never been able to find the "return" key.
  20. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.
  21. Datsuns have never been made.
  22. They have never gotten excited over a telegram, a long distance call, or a fax.
  23. The Osmonds are just talk show hosts.
  24. College athletes have always been a part of the NBA and NFL draft.
  25. They have always "grazed" for food.
  26. Three-point shots from "downtown" have always been a part of basketball.
  27. Test tube babies are now having their own babies.
  28. Stores have always had scanners at the checkout.
  29. The Army has always driven Humvees.
  30. Adam and PC Junior computers had vanished from the market before this generation went online.
  31. The Statue of Liberty has always had a gleaming torch.
  32. They have always had a pin number.
  33. Banana Republic has always been a store, not a puppet government in Latin America.
  34. Car detailing has always been available.
  35. Directory assistance has never been free.
  36. The Jaycees have always welcomed women as members.
  37. There has always been Lean Cuisine.
  38. They have always been able to fly Virgin Atlantic.
  39. There have never been dress codes in restaurants.
  40. Doctors have always had to deal with "reasonable and customary fees" and patients have always had controls placed on the number of days they could stay in a hospital.
  41. They have always been able to make photocopies at home.
  42. Michael Eisner has always been in charge of Disney.
  43. They have always been able to make phone calls from planes.
  44. Yuppies are almost as old as hippies.
  45. Rupert Murdoch has always been an American citizen.
  46. Strawberry Fields have always been in New York.
  47. Rock and Roll has always been a force for social good.
  48. Killer bees have always been swarming in the U.S.
  49. They have never seen a First Lady in a fur coat.
  50. Don Imus has always been offending someone in his national audience.

In all fairness it should be understood that students entering college this fall do have a few items on their own lists that will separate them from many of their mentors:

  1. For many of them today, it's all about the "bling, bling."
  2. They know who the "Heroes in a half shell" are.
  3. Peeps are not a candy, they are your friends.
  4. They have been "dissing" and "burning" things all their lives.
  5. They can expect to get a ticket for "ricing out their wheels."
  6. They knew how to pop a Popple and trade a Pog.
  7. They can still sing the rap chorus to the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and the theme song from "Duck Tales."

Next: Part II

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