Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dwarf's penis gets stuck to vacuum cleaner

That's the headline, word for word, in the Bangkok Post yesterday.

Seems that the dwarf, a performer at the Edinburgh fringe festival in Scotland, sustained the injury "during an act that went horribly awry." Known as "Captain Dan the Demon Dwarf," he was scheduled to perform in the Circus of Horrors. He was to appear on stage with a vacuum cleaner attached to his member through a special attachment. The attachment broke just before the performance and he tried to fix it with super glue. The attachment stuck permanently, and he had to be rushed to hospital for removal. "It was the most embarrassing moment of my life," said the dwarf.

This was the second penis injury story in the Post this week. The first, which I am trying to forget, involved a fight between two men after one stabbed the other's friend. Attempting to extract revenge, the man tried to pull a gun out of his pants but it went off prematurely, blowing his penis to smithereens. The story reported that the victim's sexual activities were at an end.

Why the fascination with penis news in one of Bangkok's two English-language newspapers? I prefer stories like the one attached to this headline:

The injustice continues
After 40 years of Israeli occupation the Palestinians have never seemed worse off

Now where in the U.S. press will you see this? The story, bylined from Ramallah by a writer with an Arab name, was fairly straight-forward. It told of the tragic occupation by the U.S.-backed Israeli regime, one no less heart-breaking and unfair than reports from South Africa during the apartheid regime. But in America the Israeli lobby has a strangle-hold on the media as well as politicians in Washington. Censorship is complete.

Yesterday, I stayed in my apartment all day because the elevator was getting a tune-up and service was suspended for seven hours. Now I am very happy that the elevator is being inspected. But the thought of walking up seven floors deterred me from any excursion outside. I read, I ate, I organized my Flickr photos, and I sent text messages to my sons in the U.S. I've heard from all my kids this week, even Molly who is singing songs with Jan in Slovenia, a little country nestled into the armpit of the Italian boot, judging by the map. She says it is beautiful and she is having a wonderful time.

Earlier this week I sent off a $100 deposit to Sr. Barbara to reserve a place for me on the pilgrimage to Italy next June. Organized mainly for the diocesan choir which will perform, the pilgrimage includes a retreat in Assisi with retired Bishop Sylvester Ryan and Fr. Cyprian Consiglio, leader of my Sangha back in Santa Cruz. I loved Assisi during my last visit, and the chance to go again was tempting. I have no idea where I will be living come June, but I imagine I can find my way to Rome.

This lovely lady (from a borrowed photo) is performing a traditional Thai dance. Picture me the other night, with a couple of other stumble-bum farangs, attempting to do the same moves before an audience of diners at Isan House, a northern Thai restaurant down a side soi not far from Siam Court. My companion and I sat outside to eat, leaning back against the Thai triangle pillows. The whole fish was delicious. While children ran around, and cats played near the kitchen, a small band performed traditional Isan music and the dancers moved gracefully on the wooden floor. When they went out into the audience to recruit farang to join them, I resisted mightily. To no avail. Afterwards everyone was kind. After all, elephants are respected in Thailand.

Several nights later, I dined at the Silom Village Inn, a large collection of tables within an inner courtyard next to the hotel. Again I got to hear Thai folk music and see dancers, but this time the architecture, and our distance from the stage, made it difficult. One of the songs featured two men performing a mock fight with sticks that looked very similar to capoeira, the Brazilian martial art. There were also beautiful lady dancers but this time no recruitment. Our dinner was interrupted by a brisk rain shower but we managed to find a dry spot to finish our meal. The food, as in most tourist-oriented spots, was mediocre. But the company was entertaining, and afterwards we walked through the crowded stalls along Silom in front of the notorious bar area called Patpong. I only figured this out after a half dozen men flashed a small sign at me that said "DVD SEX." And then I noticed the side streets filled with garish neon lights advertising drinks and pleasures of the night.

The walk between my apartment building and Sukhumvit, the main drag, is only ten minutes, but it can seem much longer when I am weighted down with numerous plastic bags filled with heavy edibles and drinkables. Before the elevator repair, I wanted to stock up on supplies as if I were begin marooned on a desert island. Plastic bags are omnipresent; I have seen few outside of the malls made of paper. It reminds me of the metaphor of the plastic bag in "American Beauty." I haven't seen anywhere to recycle them here, so I dump them down the chute in my hallway along with all the other garbage. Are there poor families living down their sorting through our trash?

I continue to notice the large presence of Muslims on the streets and in the stores. Many of them are families with small children. The men look like any one else. As for the women, at one extreme are those in full burkas with only their dark eyes showing. It is amazing how sexy those eyes can seem when all else is blocked from view. At the other extreme are teenagers wearing designer clothes. But their heads remain covered with scarves and all wear long sleeves to hide skin. None wear shorts or show their legs in any way. Only the faces can be seen. I find them quite attractive.

Last night as I waited for the light to change at the busy intersection of Sukhumvit and Soi 4, I noticed a couple of ladyboys to my right. The giveaway was their height, almost as tall as me. They were chatting together, however, and their voices were deep (the high voices of Thai women sound like chattering birds). They crossed in front of me, hips swaying in exaggerated fashion, heading towards the Nana bars, and I saw two Arabs in white robes approach them. Negotiations took place. Did the Arabs know the girls were not women?

Life is dangerous in Bangkok, as I've mentioned before. When it rains there are pipes coming out of buildings to carrying the runoff which frequently falls on the sidewalk rather than the gutter. On Silom the rain water pooled on the canvas covering the walkway between stalls and occasionally spilled over. On Soi 4 the other night sparks dropped from above where welders were making repairs and I almost got burned. But most surprising of all is the lack of safety caps. I bought a bottle of Listerine the other day and when opening the top prepared myself for the struggle. But it was easy. You don't have to press the sides and turn at the same time, a maneuver made difficult by arthritis. Suddenly I realized: no safety caps! The authorities here apparently do not worry that unwary infants will get into that bottle of mouth wash or pop the cap on a jar of aspirin.

Today the weather is hazy and threatening rain (about as common a forecast as morning fog in Santa Cruz). A parent is teaching his children to swim in the pool. I have a dinner date in the evening but no plans today other than to study Thai letters. Because it's the rainy, or "low," season, airline tickets and hotel books are at a discount. So in a week I'm going to Phuket for four days. I'll stay at a Best Western on the beach at Karon. It will give me a look at the Andaman Sea and I can decide if I want to return, to Phuket or Krabi, after I get back from India in January. It's possible that after four months in Bangkok I will want a change of scenery.

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