Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rock and Roll Reunion in Bangkok

My friend Jerry Hopkins was a writer in Los Angeles for Rolling Stone in the early years of that publication. He's been in Bangkok now for 12 years and is married to the lovely Lamyai who is currently at home in Surin, harvesting her sugar cane crop. Today we were joined by Baron Wolman, the first photographer for Rolling Stone and a long-time friend of Jerry's. We met at Baron's hotel and walked to Cabbages and Condoms for lunch. This wonderful restaurant was started by the king of condom manufacturers in Thailand and displays throughout the large facility in Bangkok illustrate his work to prevent AIDS. Here, Jerry (left) and Baron pose in front of a display of figures, including Santa on the right, made almost entirely out of condoms. These little rubber items are quite versatile, preventing babies, AIDs and providing fodder for art works. I had the chicken and cashews, Jerry had fish, and Baron had some unidentifiable dish that he thought would include noodles but instead featured rice (you have to read the fine print in the menu).

Jerry and Baron hadn't seen each other in years, although they'd kept in touch by email. Baron moved from the Bay Area to Santa Fe five years ago and continues to market his photos of the early days of rock and roll ( in stores and art galleries. This is his first trip to Asia and he seemed to find the cosmopolitan chaos of Sukhumvit exhilarating. Tonight we go out to sample the night life hereabouts and tomorrow I'll take him sightseeing while Jerry works on the revision of his pioneer biography of Elvis Presley. Tomorrow night we may go to a Thai boxing event (hard to call it a performance when the fighters threaten to beat each other to a pulp). Jerry told us stories about his interviews with those who are keeping the Presley image alive. Besides the Elvis project, Jerry recently published Asian Aphrodisiacs, the fruit of his research into the erotic properties of...everything. Last year he published Bangkok Babylon and Thailand Confidential. His No One Gets Out Alive, a biography of Jim Morrison and the Doors, with additional material by his friend (sadly deceased) Danny Sugerman, has been in print for years. Last night the DJ at a club we visited begin playing Doors songs as soon as we walked in the door. Strange Foods was republished last year as Extreme Cuisine and it describes the different strokes for different folks theory of food, with illustrations. Anyone for snake, medium rare?

I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep with afternoon naps. This morning I bought a round-trip plane ticket to Ko Samui and paid for two nights in an upscale hotel, the Orchid Suites, on Lamai Beach. Not that I want to stay there for long. But it will give me a base of operations to scout out a $4-a-night hut on the beach with a hammock in the shade of palm trees where I intend to spend the next two weeks reading mystery novels. The plane was a necessary expedience. Life is too short to spend 12 hours traveling south on an overnight train or bus. I deserve a little comfort in my old age.

I'm still waiting to hear if the pilgrims from India returned safely to San Francisco, despite the threat of a strike by British Airways employes. That strike, if it comes, may foul up my plans to fly home from London on the 9th of February. I may have to make a last minute change. I'm still looking forward to two days in Paris before I leave. Hopeful the winter weather will permit a nice leisurely stroll through the capital city. But until then, I am enjoying the heat and chaos of Bangkok (while hearning about the record cold weather back home in Santa Cruz).

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