In Thailand You Insult the King

From today’s New York Times:

BANGKOK — The mother of a pro-democracy activist faces up to 15 years in prison after acknowledging that she had received a private message on Facebook that the police say insulted Thailand’s monarchy.

In Thailand you insult the King

by saying almost anything.

His dog cannot be called a stray,

for that would be lese majeste!

So watch your Facebook in Bangkok,

lest you are forced to drink hemlock.

@lefse911

thai

Love Sonnet for Joom. #19.

In Thailand all their scaffolding is made out of bamboo.

This fragile machination makes me think of only you.

A fairy palace I erected neath the pliant beams

that became the object of my love and torrid dreams.

 

Your name enameled on the door, mahogany and stout.

Your breath a perfumed echo to my fevered lusty shout.

All windows looked into your soul, or so I fondly wished.

I saw us standing by the pond, where little dark boys fished.

 

I built as high as Babel, when your lips caressed my neck.

I thought my bamboo stilts would keep me safe from love’s sweet wreck.

But finally we parted ways; my labor was in vain.

Did you leave me or I leave you? It’s useless to explain.

 

The scaffolding lays scattered like pale driftwood on the sea.

And I spend long dead hours hoping you’ll float back to me.

lovers

Silver and Gold Have I None . . .

In 1974 I was in the middle of my LDS mission in Thailand.

I spent most of it in and around the capital city of Bangkok.

The city sidewalks, when not inundated by floods and high tides, were awash with beggars.

Women with their small withered breasts hanging out, sitting sideways and holding a silent infant, followed me with their eyes; their lips and teeth stained a lurid red with betel nut. Blind men blew discordantly on tin whistles. And the crippled and maimed haunted every scrap of shade available, gurgling chants for relief.

Thai Church members told me that it was all a racket — the Chinese mafia put these people out every morning and picked them up at sunset, keeping most of the money collected and giving the poor beggars just enough to live on in unimaginable squalor. It was well known, the Thai members informed me, that anyone in real need had only to appeal to the nearest Buddhist temple and the monks there would be glad to see to their wants.

For several weeks in the Pratuu Naam area of Bangkok my companion and I went business tracting — that is, we went into office buildings, and, floor by floor, office by office, confronted officious secretaries to demand to see the boss right away. We had a very important message to deliver. We got in to see the boss surprisingly often, and would then deliver a ten minute explanation of the Family Home Evening program, leave a pamphlet explaining the program in more detail, and  courteously thank him for his time before leaving. We gave nothing but the back of our heels to the huffy secretaries.

Each day during that period we walked past one particular beggar, who was spectacularly crippled. He looked like a contortionist frozen in the most agonizing part of his act. His fingers were splayed like the roots of a fallen tree. He was covered in scabs. He lay on his stomach as his arms and legs spasmed continuously, assuming impossible angles. He drooled constantly. His eyes did not focus.

He lay on a thin and filthy bamboo mat, in the direct sunlight.

Everyone averted their eyes from him, including me. He was sketched in my mind by peripheral glances, and I began to obsess about him.

A scripture from the Book of Acts kept recurring to me: “Then Peter said Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee . . . ”

I wanted very much to be able to do the same thing for that poor cripple, frying like an egg on the scorching sidewalk.

But I lacked — what exactly did I lack? Faith? Authority? Permission? Courage?

All of that, and none of that. Giving in to emotional blackmail, I began to feel personally responsible for not being able to cure that man’s wretched condition.

My companion and I went to the Chemical Bank one morning before beginning our business tracting, in order to draw money out of our own savings for the rent, our maid, and our food allowance. (As a sidebar, I must say that I never ate as well as when I was an LDS missionary in Thailand. The food was hallucinatorily good.)

And so we each carried 5-thousand baht in our pockets as we began that day’s missionary work.

As we approached the writhing cripple on his stomach I fell a few steps back from my companion. When I reached the beggar I quickly bent down and put all of my 5-thousand baht in his pink plastic bowl. Then caught up with my companion. I never even looked directly at the beggar.

This was not a Mother Theresa moment.

I was relieved and guilty at the same time. I had done something, but it was not a miracle, and, according to the Thai members I had talked to, it was probably a complete waste of my own money.

5-thousand baht was a lot of money back then. I had to sell my leather briefcase, my wristwatch and my camera to some of the other Elders, and was still short on the rent for the month. Luckily there was an Emergency Fund that the Mission President had for wastrels such as myself.

President Morris did not ask why I was short, and I did not volunteer the information.

I never saw that crippled man again. The next day I was stung by a small scorpion as I was putting on my shoe and had to be rushed to the hospital with a severe allergic reaction. When I recovered I was transferred to a different part of Bangkok.

This episode remains unresolved in my mind, and after all these years about the only thing I’m pretty certain about is that some opportunistic passerby probably snatched up that wad of baht right after I had laid it in the bowl.

Thai Beggar

 

 

The Blind Children: A Circus Story.

When I returned from my LDS mission in Thailand I was stony broke. I called old man Feld at Ringling Brothers, and he gave me a job back in clown alley. I was hoping he’d reinstate me as an advance clown, but no — I was to be one of the faceless funny faces.

On top of that, there were now dancers in clown alley, for the love of Mike! They spent patient hours of their free time showing me the new, intricate steps that the clowns had to perform during Opening, Spec, and Manage. I repaid their kindness with cold stares and a nose completely up in the stratosphere.

The whole atmosphere of clown alley had grown seedier in the 3 years I was gone. A pall of cigarette smoke hung over the place as if someone were filming a 1940’s film noir. Beer cans clattered to the floor and were kicked through the blue curtains out into the public hallways. The boss clown was busy chasing showgirls, even though he was married. And the old stalwarts like Prince Paul and Mark Anthony were decaying before my eyes; growing into slippered pantaloons, only interested in counting their money and their days until retirement.

Several weeks after reenlisting in this dissolute buffoonery brigade I decided to save my pennies and seek further light and knowledge by going to Paris to study with Marcel Marceau. I applied to his pantomime school and was accepted; now I needed to come up with the 25-hundred dollar tuition.

I applied myself to the arts of miserliness and cadging.

I attended every press party, in makeup, to fill my ample pockets, ala Harpo Marx, with any loose comestibles. I ate only chili at the pie car — 95 cents a bowl, and so swimming in rendered bovine tallow that I began to develop an udder.

I forsook Stein’s Clown White for the detestable Nye’s Liquid Clown White to save a dollar or two each week. It streaked horribly, leaving me looking like The Mummy’s Revenge by the end of the day.

I refused outright to purchase a clown wig, and styled my own mousy brown hair, with minimal success, to stand up straight like Stan Laurel’s.

My costumes came straight from Goodwill — baggy golf pants and pregnant women’s blouses. Luckily, while I was in Thailand I had a Parsi tailor in Bangkok make me a huge orange overcoat with yellow piping and giant green buttons. It now covered a multitude of shabby sins.

I would not contribute to the coffee fund. Or to the beer fund. I never went halves on a pizza delivery, but hung about the periphery of the feasters, ready to swoop in like a vulture and devour the discarded crusts. I did not go to the movies or hang out in bars with my fellow joeys.

And I’m afraid my plans for imminent departure, along with my disdain for their riotous and prodigal ways, were all too clear to my colleagues. I was about as popular as a dirty diaper in a bowl of punch.

Halfway through the season I attained my coveted goal — the 25-hundred was securely deposited in the bank.

I confided to my old pal Tim Holst, who was ringmaster that season, that I was going to jump ship as soon as my confirmation letter arrived from Paris. A travel agency in New York was handling my sojourn — a tramp steamer left from the Jersey side every Wednesday, and I could book passage to La Havre for a measly two-hundred bucks. Holst wished me good luck, saying “You don’t belong in this hellhole anymore.”

But before my letter arrived, the terrible Charlie Baumann came into clown alley just before a matinee, peering gloomily around at us. He was the Performance Director, a Teutonic tyrant who hated clowns. He was also the tiger trainer, and carried around a whip like it was a crozier.

His glare settled on me. I fell back, cowering, before his far-from-benevolent gaze.

“You!” he said thickly, in his Katzenjammer accent. “You kommen vit me!”

He gestured imperiously for me to follow him as he strode out of clown alley, much like the Kaiser in World War One must have ordered his troops to the front.

I meekly obeyed. Once outside the alley he turned on me, and I don’t mind telling you I flinched like an owl blinking in the sunlight. But he merely said “Dere iss ein boonch uff kits in da front section. You are excuzzed from da show to sit mit dem und narrate da show for dem. Dey are blind. Verstehst du? Blind.” He dragged me through the auditorium entrance to point them out to me. Then left.

Being in makeup, I usually feel invulnerable in front of a crowd. But not that day. Not at first. I sidled slowly over to the kids; about 2 dozen of them, all chattering excitedly and making strange gestures with their hands. I sat down on an elephant tub in front of their seats, cleared my throat, and shouted “Hi kids!” They immediately went silent, their hands falling to their sides as if tied to lead weights. I tried again, softer.

“Hi kids. I’m Dusty the Clown.”

“Hi Dusty!” they chorused back enthusiastically.

After that, it was a cinch.

As the show progressed I described the costumes and animals to them, giving them the inside info on the performers they’d never get from a program.

“Here comes Anna Bornholm, our famous Princess of the Spanish Web — that’s not green lipstick she’s wearing — she eats so many pistachios that she doesn’t NEED lipstick!”

“And there goes Stancho Sandor, our world-famous Bulgarian acrobat. He can hold ten men on his burly shoulders. He’s in love with a lady pig farmer he met back in Iowa, and he has me write all his love letters for him!”

“Watch out, kids! Those crazy clowns are coming out again. This time they’ve got ladders and buckets of white paint. Get ready to duck! That little guy is Prince Paul — he’s only four and a half feet tall, but he can throw the most paint of anyone in clown alley. That’s because he practices throwing pop bottles at the rats that come sniffing around our trunks.”

By the end of the show I had nothing but a hoarse croak left for a voice.

I used it to thank the children for coming, and to ask if there was anything else I could tell them about the show.

One little girl spoke up quickly.

“We want to feel your face” she shouted. The rest of the children echoed her request, so I climbed over the railing and let them come up and lay their fingers gently on my face.

And a strange thing happened.

“Oh” said one child, “this part is white.”

Another one giggled and said “He’s got blue eyebrows!”

“His nose is all red!” said a boy, who not only couldn’t see but was in a wheelchair.

“Why are you crying, Dusty?” one girl asked.

“Oh, I ain’t crying” I told her. “That’s just sweat — being funny all the time is hard work!”

After they had all felt my face, and commented on the different colors it contained, their teacher got them ready to go back on the bus. I managed to take her aside for a second to ask how they could tell what color my makeup was.

“I don’t know” she said simply. “But they always know the colors of the things they love the most.”

A few days later my letter came from Paris. I put it in my clown trunk and didn’t get around to replying for quite a while. Seems like every time I got ready to reply, another group of Special kids came to the show and Baumann always picked me talk to them.

Dusty the Clown (TT) portrait

Want Free Room & Board in a Gorgeous Mansion? Try House Sitting! by Susan Caba.

Babel

I am living the life of the rich and famous, although I am neither.

I’m following good weather and my whims around the country, moving from one luxury home to another. My accommodations last year have ranged from a mansion in Washington, D.C., around the corner from the home of former Senator John Glenn, to a woodsy retreat in Chapel Hill, N.C., to a sprawling Philadelphia condo with an exclusive Rittenhouse Square address.

At the moment, I’m living in a hillside house in Santa Barbara, Calif. The scarlet bougainvillea, attended by hummingbirds, competes for sunlight with the lavender blooms of jacaranda trees and spiky purple agapanthus in the garden. The Pacific is an indigo wedge on the horizon. I’ll swim a few lengths of the pool — no suit needed — before showering in a spa-like master bath with heated floors. For these two months, I’m driving a vintage white Mercedes nicknamed the Sugar Cube.

My cost for living in this Southern California splendor? Nothing. I tend three cats, feed a tank of fish and mist the Boston ferns in return for lodging. I’m a house sitter, part of a thriving network of full- or part-time vagabonds.

House-sitting is one more example of the upending of the travel industry by the combination of social networking and the sharing economy. The difference between house-sitting and companies like Couchsurfing — in which the person who owns the home is paid — is that no cash is exchanged. Neither I nor the homeowners I sit for spend any money.

I started house-sitting inadvertently, when an acquaintance in Santa Barbara wanted someone to mind her cats for two weeks. She had tapped out her family connections. I was already spending four to six weeks of every winter and summer — when the weather in St. Louis is either lethally cold or horrifically hot — in California, so I jumped at the chance. We’ve repeated the arrangement every year since, with the length of her vacations, and mine, gradually growing. That got me wondering about other house-sitting opportunities.

I listed my availability on Craigslist; no response. I considered contacting universities, looking for professors going on sabbatical, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. Eventually I Googled “house-sitting” and found several websites that registered ­homeowners and house sitters. They cost between $10 and $100 a year for membership, which gives you access to the listings.

Homeowners post descriptions of their homes and pets, as well as the dates they need a sitter, anywhere from a weekend to several months. Potential sitters provide a brief profile, any house-sitting experience, contact information and references. Reading the listings is like being addicted to gumdrops: Do I want three weeks in a house with a horse in Brittany, or a month in Costa ­Rica on an estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean?

After more research, I joined two sites: TrustedHouseSitters.com, a three-year-old organization based in Britain, and HouseCarers.com, based in Australia and in business since 2000. Both list house-sitting opportunities in the United States, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Continental Europe and, to a lesser extent, other places around the world.

Why, you may ask, would anyone entrust their home and possessions to strangers?

Some homeowners, especially those who will be gone a significant amount of time, just want their houses occupied as a security measure (statistically, an occupied house is safer than one left empty). That was the case for my stay in Washington. I arrived just after the last snowstorm, in April, and left before the onslaught of summer.

But pets are the reason for 80 percent of house-sitting arrangements, said Andy Peck, the founder of TrustedHouse­Sitters.com, who started out house-sitting on a multimillion-dollar estate in Spain.

“People want their pets to be comfortable, in their own environment,” he said. “From the sitter’s point of view, there are a lot of people who genuinely love looking after pets, especially while having a ‘staycation’ and enjoying luxury, sometimes decadent luxury, while living like a local in a fantastic place. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

So far, I’ve cared for cats, some fish and one dog. I get a lot of laughs reading the descriptions of required pet care, from clipping the nails of 13 indoor cats to nursing a diaper-wearing, diabetic dog through his final days while his owners jet off to Costa Rica. One homeowner sought care for “4 horses, 2 dogs, 8 cats and a pet pig who lives in the house, in addition to chickens and ducks and 2 very friendly goats.”

As for the trust issues, the websites don’t make any matches or vouch for the accuracy of the listings. It’s up to sitters and owners to find one another through the listings, then vet one another by exchanging emails, talking by Skype or telephone and, in some cases, meeting in person. The sites strongly encourage sitters to post references and even undergo police background checks. They provide sample agreements spelling out the responsibilities of both parties.

Retiring baby boomers and workers in the freelance economy who, like me, can do business anywhere with a laptop and a smartphone make up the primary supply of house sitters. Families looking to take interesting vacations during school holidays are another source. (Homeowners specify whether their property is suitable for children, and many encourage families.) The same groups are often looking for house sitters themselves.

There are risks on both sides of the arrangement. Besides theft or damage, there’s the possibility that sitters will cancel at the last minute, ruining expensive travel plans. Sitters, too, may face the unexpected. A friend of mine agreed to move into a Victorian house in Colorado for a month, only to find that one of the two dogs she’d be watching was a snarling hound of the Baskervilles.

My only mishap was being caught skinny-dipping — twice — in Santa Barbara. The Guatemalan pool guy unexpectedly changed his schedule so he could watch the World Cup. At least I was in the deep end.

Last year, I sold my house and unmoored myself from any one location, to indulge my wanderlust for a year. I’m already booked through February. I’ve had to pass on that house with the Pacific Ocean view in Costa Rica, a month in Boston’s Beacon Hill and a cottage in the Cotswolds. I’m beginning to think that a year might not be long enough.

To See a Man About a Horse . . .

outhouse

The call of nature is a universal imperative.  In every clime, among all races, tribes, and political parties, that ‘urge to splurge’ is especially notable among men.  For reasons that scientists have never chosen to look into, women can ‘hold it’ all day long while men are constantly scampering off into the bushes.

Whatever the reasons may be, we take great pride in presenting a far-from-exhaustive list of how men inform the world that they have to go use the bathroom.  The risqué and overtly crude expressions have been expunged, for the sake of the little ones who might be reading this.

By country, here is how it’s said:

AMERICA

  • I have to see a man about a horse.
  • I have to go shoot rabbits.
  • I’m gonna go pick flowers.
  • I have to see Russell (the one-eyed muscle).
  • I have to visit the throne room.
  • I have to go to the powder room (for women only – although, what with same sex marriages, maybe not).
  • I have to go make my bladder gladder.
  • I’m going to sail the porcelain sea.
  • I’ve got to check on a Code Yellow (or Code Brown).
  • I gotta send some cigars back to Cuba.
  • I’m going to the Fortress of Solitude.

 

 

GERMANY

  • I’m visiting the bomb shelter.
  • The edelweiss is calling.
  • I’d like to spin some gold.
  • I have to let the truth out.

 

RUSSIA

  • I’m going to Lenin’s Tomb.
  • I’ve got to make a lake.
  • I’m going to check the weather.
  • The steppe is calling me.

CHINA

  • I’m going to the Yangtze River.
  • The flowers need watering.
  • I’m walking the dog.
  • I have to go feed the ducks.

THAILAND

  • I’m going to go build a kite.
  • I’m brewing cold tea.
  • I’m bringing you back some fish sauce.
  • I want to change my karma.

SAUDI ARABIA

  • There is one more camel to count.
  • I’m stopping the sand from moving.
  • You won’t see me again until I’m thirsty.
  • I must visit the date palms.

IRELAND

  • I’m painting London Bridge.
  • I have to give the landlord his due.
  • I’m giving back to the pub.
  • The turf needs a wetting.

 

A Thai Love Story. Sort of.

love

Those years in Thailand come back to me now like a pleasant form of indigestion.  Each mental belch retains the flavor of durian, the odor of fish sauce, and the release of a gaseous form of pleasure mixed with disbelief that I was ever actually there – working, eating, and loving.

I met Joom at the Bedrock Inn, a semi-respectable restaurant/bar/hotel on the beach in Ban Phe.  I was eating Penang curry; she was looking for her dog Nipoo.  Something about her face struck me as accessible as well as challenging.

I invited her to sit with me and let me buy her something to eat.  She gave me a wolfish grin and accepted – after she found her dog.   I offered to go with her on the search.

“Sit and eat, mister.  Nipoo will not come to me with a stranger nearby” she replied laughingly.

She left and I thought “Well, I’ll never see her again”.

But she came back fifteen minutes later, with Nipoo in tow.  Nipoo sniffed my ankles disapprovingly, then circled under the table several times before lying down with a resigned snort.

Joom had green papaya salad and sticky rice.  She told the server, a slatternly maiden who complained of being so hung over that her eyes had changed color and would not focus, to grind ten ‘mouse droppings’ peppers into the mixture.  This was excessive, even for a heat-loving Thai.

I raised my eyebrows at her order.  She gave me another wolfish grin – her teeth an aggressive white against her brown face.

She accepted my doubting look as a challenge, and when the green papaya salad came she took each bite, mixed with a ball of sticky rice, slowly and deliberately.

When her face broke out into a torrid sweat, the drops coursing down her forehead and spreading out on her broad nose, I asked her with a smirk if she would like something to drink.

“Leo beer” she croaked.  I ordered her a large bottle.

She finished her plate, and her beer, in silence, looking at me with mischievous delight while I looked back at her with frank admiration.

We became a couple at that first serendipitous meeting.

She was an easy woman to love.

About my age, with the lithe figure common to Thai women and about ten inches shorter than me, she was fiercely independent and tenderly possessive at the same time.

She drove a truck, but didn’t tell me she owned one until a month after we started going together.  Up until then she let me walk her around and deigned to let me pay for taxis.

“Why the dickens didn’t you tell me you had a truck?” I crossly asked her when she finally offered to take us down to Pattaya Beach in it.

“I didn’t know if I would keep you” she replied saucily.  “Now I know; we’ll ride together for a long time.”

I was not interested in casual sexual adventures, so once she revealed her truck and her thoughts to me I began to press her to marry me.

Most Thai women of a certain age have got at least one ‘marriage’ behind them.  I use quotation marks because until very recently a young Thai girl in her home village was considered as a commodity to be casually sold to the first young man who wanted her.  The marriage ceremony, such as it was, was performed casually by the local Buddhist monks, and it usually lasted no more than a year before the young girl, now an experienced and disillusioned young woman, would leave her husband to strike out on her own – in business, at college . . . or as a prostitute.

After 2 such ‘marriages’ and ‘divorces’, with 2 grown children already successfully married and out on their own, Joom wanted an enormous bride price before we got married.

She was going to use it to build her mother a grand house, a regular McMansion, up in Loey by the Laotian border.  It would give her and her mother great face, she told me.

I demurred.  I’d already been married once, she twice; there was no need for a thumping great dowry or any ostentation.  And so the bargaining between us began.

We haggled on the beach in Pattaya.

We traded propositions while eating fresh coconut ice cream out of coconut shells at Chatachuck Market in Bangkok.

We grew furious and costive with each other on the way to Trat while I got my work visa renewed.

In Krabi, sipping soda water infused with sweetened hibiscus syrup, we at last came to an agreement.

I would buy her mother the largest plasma screen television available, and I would take over the payments on Joom’s truck.

Once that was settled we began to gather the required documents for a civil marriage.  The red tape involved would have choked the most dedicated bureaucrat.

But then Joom decided she didn’t want to be married again; she wanted a looser relationship.  Couldn’t we just be friends and continue to hang out together and travel around Southeast Asia together?

I said sure, why not?

Then I came back, alone, to the States to renew my passport.

That was four years ago . . .

And I’m still alone.

 

Beach Camping in Thailand.

beach

Thailand offers many magnificent opportunities for the camper and the hiker.

To the north it is covered with lush and rolling hills, shrouded in mist and still the haunt of wild elephants and the bird of paradise.  Hikers can trek from village to village, always sure of a friendly welcome and an inexpensive guest house.

Northeastern Thailand, known as Isaan, is mostly flat and agricultural.  But there are some interesting hiking and camping sites along the Laotian border.  But please be aware that there is continuing tension between the two countries and you should always check ahead of time to see if a campsite or hiking trail is going to be in the line of fire.

Central Thailand is all about Bangkok.  The city is ringed with several exurbs that are filled with lakes and canals (known as klongs) where the fishing is always good.  You can rent fishing poles, a boat with a  guide, and a spot to pitch your tent if you’re staying overnight, for the equivalent of $25.00 per day.

But it’s Southern Thailand that bears the bell away when it comes to camping and hiking.

Hikingware.com wants to clue you in on how to camp on the beach in Southern Thailand.  This is an experience that cannot be duplicated in any other country, because there are over 1500 miles of public beaches in Southern Thailand, both on the Gulf of Thailand and on the Andaman Coast. Their beauty, isolation, and freedom are unbelievable!

  • Most public beaches are free, but some of the more touristy beaches will charge you a fee – usually around 10 to 20 baht (35 to 75 cents in American money). Avoid the overdeveloped islands, such as Koh Samet, where Thai nationals can get in for 20 baht but foreigners are charged 150 baht.
  • Public beaches vary as to how safe it is to go barefoot. The rule of thumb is that if you have paid an entry fee the beach will be kept swept and free of debris.  Otherwise, play it safe and wear sandals or swimming shoes.
  • Remember that while alcohol is allowed anywhere on the beach, other recreational drugs are strictly forbidden and can get you deported or, even worse, thrown into the local jail for a few days.
  • Bring your own trash bags. You’ll want to leave your campsite as clean as you found it – or maybe even cleaner.  Trash cans are nonexistent on most Thai beaches.
  • Do not leave your tent up during the day. This is because mahouts often bring their young elephants down to the beach during the day to interact with (and mulct) tourists.  Elephants become nervous around tents, especially on a windy day, and may want to stamp yours into the ground!
  • Be respectful of the local fishing folk. On most public beaches in Thailand there is an area that is unofficially cordoned off for fishermen to cast nets.  There probably won’t be any signs or fences, but you’ll see where the fishermen congregate and you should give them a wide berth so as not to disturb their livelihood.  On the other hand, if you offer to share a beer or Fanta with them you are likely to receive in return a large fish fresh from the ocean to cook over your campfire!
  • Toilet facilities will be very crude. There will a segregated cement block hut for showering which will undoubtedly feature a squatter toilet, not a Western style toilet that you can sit on.  Also, bring your own toilet paper.
  • Limit your stay to no more than 3 days at any one spot. While the beach is free to all, the local police may want to see your passport or simply ask you to leave if they perceive you are overstaying your welcome.
  • Don’t worry about the ghost crabs. These tiny, transparent creatures are everywhere on the beach.  They will not disturb you once you are inside your tent, since they do not like to crawl over fabric.
  • Be aware of riptides. They are marked by what looks like a barber pole sticking out of the water.

The President Travels to China. A Reverie.

wong

Politicians travel for a number of good reasons.

To duck a question or to watch the changing of the seasons.

The President is traveling to China, so I hear,

To take a bunch of Snapchats as a bona fide sightseer.

 

He will meet with Xi Jinping, a president who sneers

At other presidents whose power base is in arrears.

They may carry on with deep discussions, all Confucian,

But in Beijing they’ll produce but phlegm from the pollution.

 

I guess if I were president I’d travel overseas

To mend a couple fences and try out the local cheese.

But I would sidestep China and enjoy a little whet

in Thailand while I dallied with the gals on Koh Samet.

Joom. Sonnets of a Romantic Has-Been.

love

#1

I said your name in anger, I said your name in love.

I said your name a thousand times; it fits me like a glove.

When dew slid down the bitter gourd I softly called in vain.

Your image comes, and vanishes, like sudden monsoon rain.

Have I the right to think you would return my longing call,

Or do you hold me in contempt while holding me in thrall?

Once you whispered in my ear, the words I’ve not forgot.

You called me your beloved; my heart to throat was brought.

I measure our affection in mere months, while the long years

Since I have heard your dulcet voice have crushed me like cold gears.

Perhaps I’ve said too much of deepest import writing here,

Since sonnets are a poet’s way of weeping at love’s bier.

But should you call my name again, in whispers or in screams,

I’d launch a thousand ships for you – if only in my dreams.

 

#4

Where did I truly meet you first, whose eyes are the color of tea;

Was it a restaurant, the beach, or some haunt of my own rank fantasy?

The color of life you carried with you, as if ‘twere a purse with a strap

That held all the hues and the prisms of love done up in a gaudy gift wrap.

Ripe yellow at dawn with the orchids ensconced; was it there I discovered your charm,

Or was it at sunset with rubies aflame that my heart first came to such harm?

The green of an afternoon nap in a swing, your arms round my neck, all a-swoon;

It is this I recall with the sharpness of white, like the spray from a deadly harpoon.

The surly black clouds overhead gave a roar when I asked you to share my poor life;

I felt the blue depths of your passion for me – you would be so much more than a wife!

Quotidian grey overcame my designs, like smog choking off a long race,

And I found myself exiled back home for a debt I had never been willing to face.

What color would now I dare use to describe the void where your presence held sway?

The spectrum contains nothing visible which explains my deep sorrow away.

siam