Thursday, August 26, 2010
I love being a tour guide.
Francois and Danielle and their daughter Zoe stopped off in Bangkok last weekend on their way home to Paris after a month in Vietnam. Nan and I met them at the Navalai, a boutique hotel I had recommended on the Chao Phraya River not far from Khao San Road and our own apartment, and we took them to dinner at the cavernous barbecue restaurant across the river for a little different experience of Thai food, one usually left out of the cook books. My reward comes when visitors realize that Bangkok is not just a big city with bad traffic jams and polluted air and water, but a vibrant metropolis with exotic scenes and adventures around every corner.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I like the red shirts for many reasons, not the least is their use of symbols to rattle their foes. Currently it's the raised middle finger. Back before the shooting began a couple of months ago, they donated blood and a Brahmin priest splashed it around the walls and gates of Government House and the home of their nemesis, Prime Minister Abhisit. It was a powerful symbolic action. They took the insulting label "prai," which means peasant or commoner, and proudly turned it around, putting it on red tee shirts and claiming it from the stage in marathon speeches. Their foes were the "ammart," the ruling elite. Camping first along Ratchadamneon near Democracy Monument in the historic Rattanakosin district last March, the red shirts later extended their two-month anti-government demonstration to Ratchaprasong in the heart of the luxury shopping area of Bangkok. Tourists and shoppers were mightily irritated but there was little violence until the government decided to crack down on protesters demanding that the government resign and call new elections. Then all hell broke loose.
I want to thank the bloggers and photographers whose work I have shamelessly borrowed for this post. I hope they will feel free to take and use my photos in the future.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me
the lovers, the dreamers and me
I have a magnificent view of the Bangkok skyline from my 9th floor window and daily I watch the weather moving across the cityscape. The various formations of clouds are sculptured masterpieces and the sunrises are magnificent. It's the monsoon season now in Thailand and torrential rain accompanied by dramatic thunder and lightning is frequent. But rainbows are rare. This is the first I've seen. A little after this shot, a second rainbow appeared above the first, but I couldn't capture it clearly with the camera.
Facebook page where I link to to articles about the decline and fall of the U.S. Empire, red-yellow politics in Thailand, the continuing fiasco of endless war and saber rattling in the middle east, and the recent death of historian Tony Judt and the terminal illness of the cantankerous non-believer Christopher Hitchens. Of course I add my two cents' worth to the mix and occasionally encounter dissent. It doesn't take much research to learn that the Islamic center proposed for lower Manhattan is not a "mosque at Ground Zero." In this age of instant knowledge (as well as rumor) via the internet, why are people like the Republicans in the U.S. getting more aggressively stupid? I also use Twitter to spread my views and opinions but not so often as I did during the "troubles" in Bangkok when the new media was perfect for important instant information. Now it's mostly a collection of brief anti-Hallmark ideas. I've also been experimenting with my new iPod Touch to see if it's possible to use it as a digital reader like the ballyhooed Kindle and iPod. I've downloaded lot of apps, including iBooks which has a small but possible collection of books to purchase. Above is a sampler from James Lee Burke's latest novel for $9.99. It's readable, but I'm afraid I am a confirmed print man who needs the feel and smell of paper to accompany my engagement with fiction, and the ability to highlight and dog-ear pages in order to converse with non-fiction books.
And that's the state of things on a not so dark day in Thailand.
Friday, August 06, 2010
I don’t know how to write about this.
It’s easy to chronicle my expat existence in a big Asian city, describing daily life as well as journeys near and far from home, parading opinions about political and theological matters, and even being critical and giving advice, wanted or not. Though at times this blog has bordered on the confessional, my aim has been above all to generalize and universalize my experiences. I wanted to write about aging from the inside, both to help me understand it myself and also to provide suggestions for a human user manual (no one ever prepared me for this!). What do the events of our life mean in a philosophical or spiritual sense? Even if it’s all accidental, we can still creatively interpret. While I do not indulge in fiction here, there is much about myself that remains private. Who of my tribe over 70 does not have something to hide?
The day was cloudy and cool and I walked with the dog on the beach. I don’t recall my exact thoughts, but they were along the line of: “Isn’t this odd. I’ve got the Big C, a terminal condition (is cancer a disease?). Who do I tell about it and how? What will be my response to their questions? Will they pity me (yuck!). I wonder now how long I will live.” The situation seemed to be happening to someone else, and I was an innocent bystander. Should I sympathize or empathize? I was in search of a script so I could learn my lines. In the meantime I talked with the dog and he listened silently.
post, a comment on this continually depressing financial situation, I wrote about the difficulty of coming to terms with uncertainty, with the inability of any of us to be able to control even the little things in life. I no longer can conceive of God as a puppet master pulling the strings, and I do not believe that prayer of petition can somehow convince the divine to play favorites. We all know that too often the righteous perish while the evil succeed beyond their wildest and wickedest dreams. I have to contend with the consequences of all my past actions, even when they seem patently unjust. And I fail at that necessary acceptance, time and time again.
What happens when our hopes and dreams, as well as our carefully laid plans, do not come to pass? What philosophical or religious perspective can help us adjust to reality, to what actually happens? A hospice counselor once told me that devout Christians can deal much better with a terminal diagnosis than people without any such faith. That would probably go for all the religions as well since each has some doctrine promising rewards (as well as punishments) after death. What if this is all just a helpful illusion? I am still not able to believe it.
Right now, today, life is wonderful. A truly remarkable lady is in love with me and I in her. We live in a comfortable apartment in an exciting city and I am privileged to spend time each week with young monks who are eager to be taught my language. My health, aside from the Big C, is good. I have enough savings, along with a little additional income, to last possibly six months. We lack for nothing. What more could one ask? My chattering mind unfortunately has much to say about that, along the lines of “why isn’t life fair,” or, “are we there yet?”