Thursday, September 30, 2010
The Niger River runs 4000 kilometers through Western Africa. Its existence was known to the Romans, although few people were aware of its source. Mungo Park explored the Mali interior finding death beyond the relative safety of Timbucktoo. It was acommn end for most European seeking the shrink the expanse of 'terra incognita' on the Dark Continent.
The French came, saw, and went to Mali. They left the land of the strong brown god in 1960 and the nation of Mali returned to obscurity. The BBC News resurrected the world's attention to this distant land with a reportage of brothel towns along the Niger River.
Thousands of Nigerian women have been enslaved in whorehouses to serve Muslim men unable to afford multiple wives. Foreign travelers were first to see the rampant sex trade in cities such as Mopti.
"I fired our first travel guide in a dark and dirty brothel in Mopti. The brothel was the cheaper of the two 'hotels' and served cold beer when the electricity was working, but was primitive, squalid, and full of noisy drunks."
Obviously a no star hotel.
And neither was The Hotel Bar Mali.
"A marvelous place to luxuriate in squalor. For the squeamish, it was indubitably a mirror on hell, a place where six of the seven deadly sins were practiced continually, or more accurately, continuously, since there was no significant interval in the on and off of coitus uninterreptus and other frenzied debauch."
I'm a bad man, but I'm sure that this town has worst.
Any town that far from sanity will attract the scum of the Earth.
Mopti, for far from heaven, so close to hell.
This is not National Geographic photo shoot.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
12:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Learn all about birds of prey at our annual flight of fancy. Hawks, falcons, owls and other birds of prey will be on hand for flight demonstrations and more!
The Great Hill (in Central Park), Manhattan
Location Details: Enter on West 106th Street and Central Park West.
Cost - Free
Urban Park Rangers
To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role in my life played by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page. Like all cocktails, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin's hymen "like a ray of sunlight through a window-leaving it unbroken."
Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won't melt, since nothing's worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients-glasses, gin, and shaker-in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don't take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Stir it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, stir it again, and serve.
(During the 1940s, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York taught me a curious variation. Instead of Angostura, he used a dash of Pernod. Frankly, it seemed heretical to me, but apparently it was only a fad.)
“Salvador Dali seduced many ladies, particularly American ladies, but these seductions usually consisted of stripping them naked in his apartment, frying a couple of eggs, putting them on the woman's shoulders and, without a word, showing them the door.”
This quote was uttered by the famed surrealistic film maker Luis Bunuel. He was a renown and sophisticated drinker. TIME magazine had reviewed his 1967 offering about a French housewife drawn into prostitution by her lust. The movie was rated R. The cashier at the Pilgrim Theater in Boston's Combat Zone was a film buff. She let me in twice. I was a good-looking 15 year old.
When my professor in CINEMA 101 extolled the LE CHIEN ANDALOU as the triumph of the mind over materialism, I countered that the sophomoric cartoon of Freudism couldn't compare to the raw sensuality of Catherine Deneuve. The professor disapproved of my argument and my final grade was a D+.
Luis Bunuel won accolades at Cannes, Venice, and even scored to Oscars with THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE in 1972 and THE OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE in 1974. My film professor would have approved of both films, however my second favorite Bunuel film was SIMON OF THE DESERT about an ancient priest living atop a Roman pillar seeking enlightenment only to fail by succumbing to the Devil's succubus.
The movie lasted 45 minutes and the last scene is the fallen saint in a New York beatnik bar. His reward from Satan. Bored and blase.
I love it and to view this scene please go to the following URL
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
My move to Paris from New York in 1982 came with costs. I said good-byes to Anne Borchert and Jill Chapman. The first ended up having an affair with the artist Jean Michel Basquiat. The second maintained a letter correspondence informing about the Internal Affairs investigation about Viktor Malenski's murder at the Continental. The 18 year-old model wrote that my name never made the newspapers, but Sergeant Ferguson from the IAU has asked her for my address in Paris. Jill was a good girl. She said nothing and I looked forward to her visit in June.
A weekend in Perpignan tanned away an opiate pallor. We scheduled a rendezvous at the Pere Tranquille in Les Halles. The cafe was the epicenter for les branchees. I sat at a table on the terrace. The afternoon sun edged over the construction of the shopping center. Models looking to score a bag of dope after their fashion shoot crowded the other tables. They were beautiful and thin, but pale shadows of desire in comparison to the girl walking my way.
Youth possessed eternity.
Jill was wearing a jean jacket and Levis. Pure New York. I had been with women since I left New York, but had never said, "Je t'aime."
Jill and I had only kissed up to this point. I expected more. She smiled upon seeing a familiar face. Her lips brushed my cheek like I was an uncle.
"I have something to tell you."
"I started seeing your friend Richard."
"Richard the DJ?" We were good friends. He must have known how I felt about Jill. Betrayal, anger, and embarrassment and rattled through my skull like dice.
"I'm so happy for you two."
She was brave enough to tell me in person. I spared her any recriminations. They would have been useless. I said good-bye and kissed her cheek without any hope. I didn't see her for years.
Richard and Jill lasted two years. I stayed in Paris until 1986. I was never going to be a Frenchman, especially with how I spoke French with South Shore accent. My apartment became available and I moved back to East 10th Street. My reintroduction to city life was slow. New Yorkers hated anyone who abandoned Manhattan. One night I was sitting in a Soho bar. A beautiful woman sat next to me. She seemed to know me.
She looked older.
5 years older.
She laughed at my memory loss and shook her head.
I never saw her again, but heard from Richard last year that she was married to a Marine who had been accused of killing two unarmed Iraqis.
Ilario Pantano had re-enlisted after 9/11 and sparkled as a 1st lieutenant who believed in motardation ie a grunt term for officers who were motivated to retardation, but his unit only suffered one casualty during their stay in Iraq. A 2nd tour to Iraq took the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines to the hellhole of Fallujah and April 15, 2004 Pantano emptied two magazines into two unarmed Iraqi civilians.
"I was going to send a message to these Iraqis and others that when we say, 'No better friend, No worse enemy,' we mean it. I had fired both magazines into the men, hitting them with about 80 percent of my rounds."
One army witness described Pantano shooting the kneeling Iraqis in the back.
Charges against him were dropped by the Pentagon and Pantano wrote the memoir 'NO GREATER FRIEND, NO WORST ENEMY' for Simon and Schuster. His cause was championed by his mother, a literary agent. Killing innocent civilians was never a crime under Genghis Khan and Pantano is now running for North Carolina's 7th District Congressional seat.
Polls have yet to reveal his chances of unseating the 7-term Democratic incumbent, but he's a "born-again Christian and a born-again Southerner."
Pantano fought in two wars with distinction for his country.
I have fought in none and I never made love to his wife.
Damn you, Richard, she was so beautiful.
The voices of feminism were silenced throughout the Bush regime and the current economic climate frowns on women seeking better pay for equal work. The US news stations only cater to the voices of Sarah Palin and the anti-masturbation candidate from Delaware. This afternoon I ran into an ex-TV news person. She had retired from the networks.
"I was tired of saying the same thing over and over again. None of it meaning anything." She was young, smart, and beautiful. Not Katy Couric. Old and plastic. "There are only two news channels in America and they aren't saying anything."
I agreed, because I stopped watching TV.
Everything said on the national news is sadly crap. There are no reporters. Newscaster stand before images of events in which they have no interest. True talking heads spouting flumes of sound-bytes and unless only these 15-second spats matter to those watching these programs.
Lady Gaga tried to be a spokeswoman for gay rights in the military.
"What the fuck does she know about sucking cock in the Navy?" a gay friend of mine asked me. He had served on a carrier. 20 years and out. A pension and he wasn't telling any stories about those years in the tearooms of the US Navy for fear of losing his pension. "Lady Gaga is no cocksucker."
The right-wing media refrained from commenting on the pop star's speech in Maine where she lambasted the Pentagon for their 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays in the military, however Camille Paglia, self-proclaimed dissident feminism, declared that Lady Gaga was destroying sexuality with her pop music.
At first I thought the virgin queen of demagoguery was bitter about the songstress' success. Her article proved my opinion wrong. Her attack on Lady Gaga was based on the pseudo-diva's piracy of pop iconography.
A little bit Madonna. A tad Gwen. A pinch Mariah.
I didn't care a tick, until I spotted a photo of Lady Gaga with a black mike wire around her neck. This image was stolen from the late Stiv Bators. The lead singer of the Dead Boys used to hang himself on stage. Once at CBGB"s theater he miscalculated the distance to the floor and dangled with feet kicking like a hung man until his guitarist, Cheetah Chrome, noticed the tongue protruding from his friend's mouth.
Classic punk and Lady Gaga ain't shit.
Only another thief on the backs of the originals.
It's not only rock and roll.
Here's the url for Camille Paglia's article in the London Times
She ain't fat off the mark.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Our solar system belongs to the Milky Way, a barred spiral galaxy comprised of billions of stars. Our nearest neighbor is the Andromeda Galaxy. Our sun twirls on the very edge of the swirling mass of stars ie the boondocks. No ETs are coming to this speck in the cosmic dust, yet as a young boy living in the southern suburbs of Boston I fell prey to the belief that 'we are not alone'.
Flying saucers, UFOs, and little green Martians were real. My ranch house existence with a two-car garage was a fake. Carnivals and circus were banned from my hometown, so the only escape offered to a 10 year-old boy was via the stars and every summer night once my parents were asleep I would leave out house to lie on the grass, praying for the ETs to take me away to Andromeda.
I didn't even care if I was anally probed, after all I was an altar boy.
Sadly I remained on Earth.
The government declared UFOs a myth. Anyone believing in flying saucers were mad. Little green Martians were a joke.
Fifty years later the world governing body, the UN, announced that they had appointed an ambassador to celestial new-comers asking the time-honored question, "Take me to your leader."
Their choice was a woman.
I hope that she had a good sense of humor, for laughter is the galactic equalizer.
She might tell jokes such as this one offered by Mark King
Two aliens enter a bar. One orders a single tequila shot with double worms. The other asks: why did you order double worms?
Because I've gone onto the Maria Callas diet... there's so much to learn from these earthlings.
What's E.T. short for?
Because he has little legs!
What's the difference between a man and E.T.?
E.T. phoned home.
What's the difference between a legal alien and an illegal alien?
Since 2002 - nothing. Both have lost their civil rights.
Of course after they were waterboarded.
Nothing says America better other than a big billboard EAT AT EARTH.
The fat people are so tasty.
The World on East 2nd Street hosted a screening of the Tyson-Spinks fight on June 27, 1988. The nightclubs's door was handled by the tough guy mooks hired by the Bensonhrust fat boys hosting the event. The fee for televising the fight was $20,000. The Brooklyn boys wanted $25 a head. The NYFD occupancy limit for the old Polish meeting hall was 800. The gate had clicked 1200 entries. Another couple of hundred had been cuffed for free by the owner, Arthur Weinstein.
"Arthur, that's number 351 and 352." A fat boy whined as Scottie Taylor and I entered the club. His muscle looked ready for murder.
"Good thing you don't have to count on your toes." Arthur had faced down tougher mugs with the Russian mafia from Brighton Beach. The Zeks never whined like the fat boys. They were stone-cold killers and we walked past the entourage of pseudo-wise boys into the downstairs lounge.
"Three Vodka-OJs." Arthur ordered from the cute bartender, who resembled Little Red Riding Hood freed from two years of hard time at Bedford Hills. She only shared smiles with Arthur and bull dykes. Arthur had a way with girls who played that way.
"Nothing for me." Scottie was not a drinker.
"I'll drink his." It was a hot night. My first sip downed half the drink. I threw away the plastic cup by the time that we stood before the big-screen TV. "Big fight."
Three years earlier Michael Spinks had won the heavyweight title from Larry Holmes in a 15-round decision. He had lost the crown after fighting Gerry Cooney rather than fight Tony Tucker.
"Spinks is nothing." Scottie loved boxing.
"He beat Cooney." A drug dealer barked over the roar of the crowd. The fighter were entering the ring. Blood ran quick through all our heart.
"Cooney was a bum."
Scottie and I had seen 'the great white hope' huff cocaine a month before that bout. We had bet every dollar on the fight. 7-5. It wasn't even close.
"Spinks ain't no bum."
"But like everyone else he thinks Tyson is a rightie. Iron Mike is a southpaw. His left is his strength. His jab a killing blow. Watch."
I bet the dealer straight up on the result. Tyson versus Spinks. The robes were off. The fighters stood in the middle of the ring. Instructions by the referee lasted about a minute. The fight was over in 91 seconds. Tyson was the victor.
The dealer paid the c-note on the spot.
I would have bought drinks for all my friends, except Arthur said, "Fugedaboutit. Your money is no good here."
The Prince of the Night was generous to a fault. His friends loved him, as did his family and fiends, because Arthur was enough of an artist to see beauty in someone's faults.
"No one is perfect. Not even Ali. Everyone loses in the end. Fighting is a mug's game."
Arthur was looking at me. I was his doorman. My fists were loose. I didn't win all my fights.
"I hear you," I vowed to refrain from fisticuffs. My mother hadn't raised me to be a mug, but I did like a good fight. Anyone Irish would feel the same.
One winter night Arthur and I were walking down 8th Avenue from the meat packing district. Frozen blood created mini-ice rinks in the cobblestones. Wind chill factor below zero. We're headed to the Tunnel on West 27th Street, where we drank for free. A Saturday night fete hosted by Curfew, who attracted crazy people. The chilled wind blasted the corner.
"I gotta get warm." Arthur pulled me into a local bar at West 13th and 8th Avenue. "I don't like my teeth chattering."
"Are you sure?" I asked inside the bar, for our entrance is greeted by glares from the clientele. Short people. Midgets. Only the bartender is big people.
"Fuggetaboutit." Arthur knew the bartender and dropped a $20 on the bar. "Drinks for all my friends."
"Drinks here are $5." A midget with buck teeth snarled from his stool.
"That's why I'm only buying this big man a drink. Two Vodka-OJs." Arthur headed to the bathroom. The odds of short versus tall went from 20 to 2 to 20 to 1. The bartender was out of the equation. I heard the crackling of knuckles over the music on the jukebox. I REMEMBER YOU by Skid Row.
"What you think of muchkins?" The snarled-toothed shortie asked with a smile, but before I could answer the front door opened and a dwarf entered the bar.
His head was as large as a small Easter Island statue and his hands twice the size of mine. He swaggered into the bar like he possessed an over-sized penis.
The midgets said in unison.
"No dwarves in here."
"No, well, go fuck yourself."
That comment sparked a little person riot. The dwarf fought off each midget with the skill of a wrestler. They flew against the wall. His big-handed punches knocked out three of them in rapid succession. The tide of battle turned with a swift right to the mouthy midget's nose. The dwarf sat at the bar and asked me, "You got a problem?"
"Not with you."
Arthur exited from the bathroom and drank his vodka and OJ.
"Let's go." He nodded to the dwarf, who said, "Good seeing you, Arthur."
The Prince of the Night knew everyone and no one knew New York like Arthur.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I have family in Thailand. Western Union was the easiest way to send money, but no the cheapest. $15 for $100. $22 for $200. $27 for $300. I rarely sent a larger amount, since life in Thailand is not cheap anymore. Pepsi has replaced coconut milk. KFC has conquered the chicken market and every baby wears Pampers instead of running around bare-bottomed in the past. I couldn't reduce the prices in Thailand, however Moneygram offered a more economical channels from wiring money overseas.
$8.99 for anything under $1000.
$6 might not seem like much, but for $200 the savings is $13.
A bottle of wine and a sandwich.
Moneygram has a location on West 46th Street. One block away from work. The girls behind the protective glass windows greet me with a wave. They know my name. They've seen photos of my sons and daughters. A large black man sells bootleg DVDs in the store. $5 a movie. I bought CENTURION. The film was unwatchable and Earl refunded my money. The copyright police might consider him a criminal. Me too, since I buy knock-off movie, but I've opted out of the movie theater experience. $10 is too much for a crap film whilst surrounded by a horde of popcorn munchers.
This afternoon I nodded to Earl. He was talking with a woman. She was shuffling through DVDs. The law defined conspiracy as an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act. CCTV covered every cubic inch of the Moneygram store. My nod was suspect. I got two Moneygram forms and wrote out the proper information with my back turned to Earl and his customer.
They weren't talking about movie.
"Anyone who thinks that 9/11 wasn't a government operation is a fool." Earl was speaking loudly. He was no drinker. Angry and he said, "That plane that hit the Pentagon was no plane. It was a missile."
"And those people in Pennsylvania were shot down by an F-16." The woman was white. Older. Well-dressed. The two of them were repeating the same words that the President of Iran had said at the dais of the UN General Assembly. A fat man entered the store. He was breathing heavy. Earl introduced him to the white woman as Rabbi Moishe. He was Jewish. Very fat.
"Tell him what you saw on 9/11." Earl pointed to the rabbi who was trying to regain his breath.
"That first plane exploded before it hit the North Building. I was standing on Greenwich Street. I saw the whole thing. That plane firebombed into the North Tower."
That was the first time I heard that and said, "I saw the second plane crash into the South Tower. It fireballed inside the building."
"And the police found Mohammad Atta's passport and not one of the black boxes." Earl had his facts down pat. He had seen every conspiracy film on 9/11. None of them had appeared in the theater. Hollywood was too busy making MAFIA II and THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I ignored their conversation, thinking that it was better not to say anything, because the three of them sounded like a plot of crazydom. I had probably sounded just as mad anytime I recounted my thoughts on the subject, since I had my doubts about the official line on that day and the assassination of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King.
"The people will never hear the truth until they stop believing the lies."
It was my parting shot.
My kids had their money.
Earl, the white woman, and the rabbi raised their fists.
We were conspirators for the truth.
No matter if we were wrong.
We wanted to know the truth.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
One of President Obama's first act was to sign documents to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp within the year. Almost two years later GITMO holds 147 detainees in what the US military claim are humane conditions. The treatment of prisoners has certainly improved over the previous administration's blind eye to torture of inmates. When three inmates committed suicide in 2006, the prison commander protested accusation of abuse by saying that the suicides were "an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us."
One prisoner had a different opinion.
"I was trying to kill myself. I tried four times, because I was disgusted with my life."
Those desperate days are over, however Gitmo exists in a legal limbo as politicians argue against transporting this detainees to US soil. Prisoners have no real rights and this week the military authorities cut the ice cream ration.
One serving a day.
This story is a diversion to show that the prisoners are treated with humanity.
The truth to hide a lie.
No one is screaming for ice cream.
Not in Gitmo.
Moses freed his people from the Egyptian Pharaoh by unleashing 10 Plagues. The last plague killed the first-born son of every family without lamb's blood on their doorway. A murderous god Yahweh and spiteful. The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years until they reached the Promised Land. Their path to Canaan was sodden with the blood of anyone in the path of the lord. It all seemed much more holy in the movie THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Moses was denied entrance, because he had not circumcised his son.
This afternoon I rode my bike through Williamsburg. The Hassidim had built temporary shelters outside on the streets and patios as a remainder of those 40 years in the desert. One humorist joked about this lengthy meandering.
Why was Moses wandering through the desert for 40 years?
Because men refuse to ask for directions!
The Jews were exiled from Israel twice. The first time by the Babylonians and secondly after the Romans defeated the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 AD. The Chosen People covered the globe seeking solace from persecution. The Nazis massacres convinced the Jews to regain their biblical homeland citing the Old Testament as their claim to Palestine. The Western allies backed their struggle and the UN mandate created Israel in 1948.
The Palestinians were forced into the desert of Moses.
Wars and uprising and negotiations have failed to secure a stable state for the Palestinians, the ancestors of Abraham's second wife. Hagar and her son Ishmael were forced into the desert by Abraham's spiteful first wife. Life imitating the Bible.
But even the desert is not safe.
The moratorium against Israeli settlements in the west Bank has lapsed after a ten-month building freeze. Zionist radicals intent on colonizing the West Bank have vowed to build on the ancient lands without any regard to Palestinian property rights.
Trouble in the making.
But the settlers have Yahweh on their side and he is a vengeful god.
There are no jokes in the Bible.
Only in real life.
A Palestinian suspect was being grilled by Israeli police. "Honest, I'm not a suicide bomber," he said. "I didn't say I wanted to blow myself up so I could sleep with 72 virgins. All I said was I'm dying to get laid!"
Operation Dark Heart by Operation Dark Heart detailed the process how an special operation of the US Military tracked down the 9/11 hijackers prior to the attack. The operation passed on this intelligence to the FBI, which ignored the warning. This damning allegation as well as several other accusations had the Pentagon on a book buying spree.
9500 copies of Operation Dark Heart.
These books were burned in an old-fashioned Nazi bonfire for supposed security reasons. His publisher St. Martins Press showed their fortitude by coming out with a 2nd printing, albeit with words, sentences, and paragraphs blacked out by the Pentagon's censors.
9500 copies at $25.99 each came to nearly $300,000 instantly catapulting the book to the best-sellers list. Sellers on Ebay.com has offered the several first-edition copies at $2000 a piece. The Pentagon has balked at this price and the public are cautious to pay so much for a book in the age of electronic information.
There is no intellectual property rights for such an expensive book.
I've tried to find it online without success.
Once more the truth is hard to find in the land of the freaked.
Especially since it points the finger of blame in the direction desired by the Pentagon.
Bad Boy # 1.
Burn Baby Burn
The scandal of Abu Ghraib prison shook the consciousness of America until the Bush administration described the systematic abuse as an isolated incident. More and more photos revealed that the routine torture of detainees spread throughout every Iraqi prison and pointed out that the Pentagon had greenlighted torture as a method of extracting information from the innocent as well as the guilty.
"Requiring prisoners to stand 8-10 hours is not torture." Donald Rumsfeld actually believed these words, however by 2004 he admitted before Congress that detainees had suffered "grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces."
Compensation was suggested by the Defense Secretary.
To date not a single dollar has been paid to the hundreds of former prisoners seeking redress for their time at Abu Ghraib. The Pentagon has defended its dishonor by fighting all allegations in court. Easy work since there are more lawyers in the USA than the US Military has soldiers in the Army.
1,128,729 lawyers in suits and 540,000 men in uniform.
No way a sand nigger has a chance in court against those odds.
Even if the prison guards at Abu Ghraib stand accused of beating a man in front if his sisters so badly that he died from internal injuries or electrocuted prisoners on a regular basis or used attack dogs to bite detainees. Choking, suffocation, sensory deprivation, beatings, waterboarding, and a host of other techniques were SOP or standard operating procedure at Abu Ghraib no matter what they lawyers in suits say before the Supreme Court. Guilty or innocent. All prisoners got the same treatment and this is the truth as is the fact that the Pentagon will appeal any ruling to protect its good name.
"Requiring prisoners to stand 8-10 hours is not torture."
And no one is talking about sending Donald Rumsfeld to prison for violating human rights. Not if they know what's good for them and their careers.
ps the brown liquid dried on this naked prisoner was not chocolate pudding.
Monitor lizards are native to SE Asia. These carnivorous predators are related to the famous Komodo Dragon. Varanid lizards are cooperative hunters like raptors in JURASSIC PARK. Many urban Thais regard the sighting of a hia or monitor lizard as the harbinger of bad luck, despite of the legend about their warning humans of crocodiles. Down south on the Isthmus of Ka country folks keep the miniature monsters as domestic pets. Crocodiles still wander the remaining mangrove swamps.
According to the Bangkok Post monitor lizards cluster in the city’s secluded water pipes. Up to 200 of the 2-meter long beasts reside in each city district.
”They keep increasing in numbers because these reptiles have few natural enemies, and their food is always plentiful,” a Thai reptile expert said, “Water monitors eat almost anything; fish, eggs, and even rotten meat.”
The ants in my house never eat potato chips.
Monitor lizards will eat junk food, but they really like eggs.
In 1991 I stopped at Malaysia’s Tioman Island. Lonely Planet referred to the South China Sea island as a tropical gem. Jungles blanketed the hills. The sea was an invisible sheet of clear gin. The beach sand gleamed white in the midday sun. The beer was cold and the bungalows cheap. Backpackers overstayed their visits on this paradise. One was a Swedish girl. The 23 year-old was blonde. We slept together four nights in a row.
“This means nothing.” Velda was telling the truth. It was only sex. She was a backpacker. Nothing meant anything to devotees of the sun other than the next highlight on their world tour. Our affair lasted four days and nights.
“I want to sleep alone.” The slim Swede announced after an afternoon. She was exhausted. I didn’t argue. My thirst for beer was greater than one bottle. Velda didn’t even kiss me good-bye. I expected she would leave on the morning ferry. I doubted we would see each other again. She was heading south to Singapore. My next destination was Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. I entered the bar for the bungalows.
“Beer for all my friends.”
I love the movie BARFLY for that line alone.
Before the beers arrive for the three German backpackers, a scream screeched through the trees. The Swedish girl ran into the bar. Her long blonde hair a Medusa snarl. Her voice hit a soprano high on every word.
“There’s a lizard in the bathroom.”
The Malays laughed about a lizard. The island was crawling with lizards and snakes. Insects too. My mother was scared of insects. If one got into the house, she would cry, “There’s a monster in the bathroom.”
I figured that Velda was just as hysterical as my mother and grabbed a broom.
“I’ll get rid of the lizard.”
“He more bigger than Gecko.” The terror had stripped away her high school English.
“I’ll take care of it. Show me.” I was familiar with the path to her bungalow. The A-frame stood in a palm grove perched next to a tidal inlet. Mangrove trees sank their roots into the brackish swamp water. A good breeding place for lizards. The sun was setting to the buzz of mosquitoes and the 40-watt light bulb over her open door fluttered like a firefly on its last legs. The Swedish stood on the porch.
“My middle name.”
The next was fool-hardy.
I peered inside the room. The bathroom door was shut. No noise. The gecko had probably escaped through the ceiling. I tiptoed to the bathroom, broom in one hand. I yanked on the bathroom door expecting to find only a toilet. I was wrong. A monitor lizard bared slimy teeth with a hiss. It was almost my size. The broom dropped to the floor, as I slammed the door shut.
“That is a big lizard. You want to sleep at my place?”
“You have lizards?”
“I sleep with you.”
Velda stayed another week. I thanked the Lizard God for those extra days and nights. Sex was good. I had seen Jim Morrison with the Doors at the Boston Tea Party in 1968. I didn’t tell the Swedish girl. Velda didn’t realize that I was in my late-30s. She was only 20. Skin smooth as river-polished stone. After her departure south, I spotted the monitor lizard lazing in the sun. I bought a dozen eggs and fed them one by one.
It was the least I could do for a cousin of Jim Morrison.
Anything else would have been bad luck.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Thailand's beaches and nightlife combine with a rich cultural heritage and world-class cuisine to create SE Asia's # 1 tourist destination. Millions of foreigners flock to the tropical country and hundreds of thousands of farangs fall in love with the torpid life under the palms. I myself have upped houses in the USA to live in the Land of Smiles. The Boston consulate was gracious enough to grant me a year-visa. After it expired I was committed to a bi-monthly visa run to nearest foreign country ie Cambodia to get a new stamp in my passport.
The border towns of Poipet, Krum, and Had Lek were close to Pattaya. My fellow farangs and I spent approximately 30 minutes to complete the process of exiting Thailand, entering Cambodia, exiting Cambodia, and re-entering Thailand. The cost of this service complete with lunch and transportation was $100, however many longtime foreign residents decided to risk overstaying without a visa.
The penalty at the airport was 20,000 baht or $600.
My South African friend Richard hadn't left the country for three years. His savings had been 40,000 baht. Exiting at the airport in 2008 for a teaching job in Saudi Arabia Richard paid the over-stay fine and proceeded on his way without any further complications.
"I figured it out after realizing that I never saw any Africans or Indians on the visa runs. They come here and stay without ever worrying about a visa. It's not like they are going anywhere and neither was I. I loved my OS visa. It was cheap."
This liberal policy has come to an end with the announcement from the Thai Immigration Bureau that all foreigners overstaying more than 6 weeks will be arrested on the spot and remanded to the immigration jail attached to the airport for several days while the proper paperwork is processed by officialdom.
Thai Visa readers chirped happily about how this new edict will deter the criminal element from overstaying in Thailand. I hate those do-gooders, especially since the prosecution of the penalty depends heavily on the immigration officials at the airport.
Expect a new Mercedes Benz dealership to open in Cobra Swamp.
It's all for a good cause.
In 1994 Crazy Santa Klaus had a special go card to the Russian Baths on East 10th Street. Opening time was 8Am. The steam room crew began to heat the river boulders at 6am. The two-ton stones glowed red by 7:20. Crazy Santa Claus was in the dry steam room at 7:21. He was a rich junkie. The last family member of an 18th century fortune. Heroin had not ruined his sense of entitlement.
As a permanent member I could have entered the Baths at that bastardly hour, except my alarm clock was set for the opening. A towel over my shoulder and I exited from my apartment building into the morning. I read the seasons with every step.
Fall's surrender to Winter. Snow on the sidewalk. The ornamental pears blooming in Spring. Summer hot and sticky.
I liked the look on the faces of the day workers headed to the subway. Their eyes asked where I was going. The Baths weren't for everyone. A temple to cleanliness and rejuvenation. The weight of a night's hard drink evaporated after 30 minutes in the 180F heat. Crazy Santa Claus was always on the top tier of the heat room. His white beard fluffy despite the Venusian temperature. His body fat ranged at zero. I knew the Jersey heir to a deodorant fortune through my Uncle Carmine. Crazy Santa Claus had a small room in Uncle Carmine's basement. The walls were covered with hippie posters.
Crazy Santa Claus' real name was John Lyon. His other alias for the addicts of the Lower East Side was Junkie John. He was a sucker. His family had big money. Crazy Santa Claus had assets
I helped him turn $80,000 of stock into gold coins. Not an easy thing to do in 1993. The Feds were hunting drug dealers laundering money. Collecting the coins took a little time. I asked Uncle Carmine, if I should fuck him.
"He's going to get $2 million at 50." Uncle Carmine was patient. "We'll get him then. He promised to take care of me."
Trusting junkies was a losing proposition.
Crazy Santa Claus lost the gold coins to his crackhead girlfriends within a month. We hadn't spoken since the sale.
The near-albino nodded, as I sat opposite him on the highest row of the Baths. The air scorched my skin. Vodka was fuming from my pores. Crazy Santa Claus' skin was parched dry as a Death Valley corpse. Junkies like vampires don't sweat, unless they are jonesing.
"Always hot this hour."
"You wanna smoke some O?" Somewhere in his head I suspected that I had ripped him off. He wasn't man enough to blame himself, but he must have needed me for something. Something no good. He stood up with a towel around his waist.
"It's a little early." I was wearing a matching towel and my own flip-flops. The ones at the Baths were cheap. Like wearing wooden shoes.
"No one's here and anyone who is here let's me do what I want."
I followed him to the front of the Baths. We entered the bathroom and he pulled out a glass stem. We smoked a small ball of black tar. The Chinese had run thousands of opium dens in New York. Chinese rocks had closed most of them, but this morning Crazy Santa Claus had opened one on East 10th Street. The aroma was Golden Triangle, however the country of origin was Mexico.
I faked my inhale. John like most junkies only cared about his high. The heroin flitted through his blood and he sagged against the wall. His rush lasted 30 seconds. I went upstairs to say my good-byes to the owner.
"Where is Crazy John?" The owner had another name for Crazy Santa Claus.
"In the bathroom?"
I nodded wiping the sweat from my face. A little of the D was running in my arteries. Work would be tough for the first hour.
"I will make sure that he doesn't die." Dead people were never good for business.
"I could care less." That was the drugs talking and a little bit me too. We both spoke the same language. Selfish to the bone.
My younger brother died on AIDS in 1995. Our family buried him next to my mother. I couldn't speak at the funeral. I said little after the burial. My sisters knew that I had a packet of airline tickets in my pocket. Each destination offered a holy site. Time spent in their proximity expiated all sins.
Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet
The Bodhi Tree
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal
A few go-go bars too, so I understand how the Israelis consider the Western Wall or Wailing Wall one of the holiest sites in the world for Jewish worship. It was built by Herod, the original bacon Jew, 19 years before the birth of the Great Troublemaker. The stones weigh between 2 and 8 tons.
I tried to lift a water-soaked log at the beach today.
Not for the builders of the Second Temple.
The Glory of Yahweh suffered greatly at the hands of the Romans. The Latin rulers banned Jews from Jerusalem for centuries after their revolt in 135AD. After the Arab conquest the Jews were left the Wailing Wall as a reminder of what they had lost. The Western Wall still exerts incredible power over both Jews and Muslims.
The O;d Testament means little to Christian.
Only whatever will make a good movie.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The best of the Old Testament movie helped establish the concept of Israel in the American consciousness along with EXODUS. The Arabs were interlopers on the Holy Land and the current Prime Minister of the Middle Eastern Apartheid state has vowed to never give up the Western Wall along with the rejection of right to return for the refugees over the occupation of Palestine.
The refugees number in the millions.
West Bank 778,993
Gaza Strip 1,106,195
My grocer in Fort Greene is Palestinian.
Neither of us have an answer to the questions posed by the powers in this problem.
I entered the store on South Portland for ice. Ralph is a good man. He asked me to speak to a Latino man my age bothering his young worker. I had been bullied as a child. The Puerto Rican man was a construction worker. His clothes were covered in dust. This was the end of his day. The 6th day of work. OT. He held a long Bud in his hand.
"You picking on the boy?"
"I say some shit."
"That's not right. You're my age. 50s. We're supposed to be helping the young. This boy has a job. Not many kids can say that, because these are hard times. So lay off the young brother." I outweighed the seated man by 40 pounds. My most serious exertion for the day was bicycling from Fort Greene to Rockaway Beach. I was ready for nothing. "This time is about feeling better. We have to be stronger. We can't let the world beat us down. Not us among us."
"Yeah." He was non-committal. It had been a long week.
"Yo, young boy, he give you any trouble, let me know and give me $10. I punch him once. Not to hurt him, but to let him know you have back-up."
Ralph was happy with my discourse. He couldn't talk to customers this way. Every penny counted in the grand scheme of things.
"Plus a bacon and egg sandwich, if you can me and I'm in bed."
I clapped the Puerto Rican brother on the shoulder. I worked hard too. I drank beer too. Just never Bud. We shook hands and I bid Ralph good-night. The young boy said thanks. "Remember a bacon and egg sandwich."
"With cheese." He was grateful.
I could almost taste it now.
47th Street was dead on Friday. None of the Hasidim had shown up to work. This was the high holiday of Sukkot. The yidlocks would be out for a week. Gabriel our broker had left us ten big diamonds. I had put them in the window. Gypsies entered every half-hour and asked, "How much for the big stone?"
"It ain't for sale." I had never sold to a gypsy. They were a WOT or a waste of time. Worse was the possibility that they might rob you. Gippos had a bad reputation. "But the price is 40K."
"$40K for a 6-carat F SI3?" The man was wearing Italian. He was top of the line Roma. First dibs on any score. "Would you take 20K for it?"
"Thanks but no thanks."
"I have the money." He brandished a roll of hundreds. It was thick enough to be 20K. Unless the center was all $1 bills.
"Sorry, the price remains 40K. Gypsy price. No haggling either."
I sat at my desk and the gypsy exited from the exchange. He had other marks on his list. The girls wanted to order lobster rolls from the new take-out. Coming from Maine I was eager to try the lunch special. Richie Boy signaled that he was in too. Lobster is tref or unclean and unfit for consumption according to Jewish tradition, however only one member of our staff was religious. The rest were bacon Jews.
Lunch came, we ate, and then discussed the lobster rolls. Cindy thought it was good. She had gone to UMass. Richie Boy was unimpressed. He was nursing a hangover. I had eaten better in Maine, but Lincolnville was an eight-hour drive from 47nd Street. A hand slapped the window.
The Hassidic bum.
His hand was twitching for money.
"Fuck him." Richie Boy had little patience for Lenny. The 53-year-old was a drunken bum. His mouth was a volcano of insults. The fat man called Richie Boy a country-club Jew. Lenny was no Don Rickles, but he made me laugh. I put down my lobster roll and went outside.
"Lenny, you're messing up the window." His hand imprint was scattered on the glass like prehistoric paintings. "I have to clean it."
"Sorry, Damian." Lenny is a slob. Filthy tee-shirt and ripped flannel trouser. Sneakers shaped like melted cheese. He has been living on the street for more than 20 years. The fat beggar earns more than $200/day. I've seen him deposit his daily stash at the bank. Some people say that this lunacy is an act. His eyes tell the truth.
"No worries." I liked that he called me 'Damian'. The name smacked of THE OMEN. The Son of Satan.
"You know that the president of Iran said that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. He's stupid, but there are still questions that no one has ever asked about that day. Like how the 3rd building collapsed or how there are no black boxes or how the police found Mohammad Atta's passport intact or the 15 Saudis. None of them pilots." Lenny's rant was punctuated by occasional assaults from his unwashed body.
"That's all old news." Something was missing.
"You want names?"
NYPD had installed CCTV on the street. Every words was live. A story like this could lead to dead. Lenny had lived in every homeless shelter on Manhattan. Fear was a stranger and he named names. Current and past. Some people on the street regarded Lenny as a genius. His trajectory revealed a keen intellect dependent on studious reading. "And we bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, because their radio operators were running the war from a supposed safe haven."
"Bill Clinton showed chutzpah that day."
"You really think a band of fanatics could have executed 9/11. A military operation. Could have been anyone?"
"Even the Israelis." I whispered the word. Any criticism of the Holy Land was off-limits on 47th Street. My pay check was more important than politics. I had four children.
"The Chinese were deeply involved in numbers." Lenny was on the verge of launching into a primal reverie about cardinal numbers. He actually understood Georg Cantor's set theory. I should have grasped how one-to-one correspondences referred to equality of sets, but I must have slept through that class in high school.
I had been a math major, but today I had to make a little money. It was Friday. I wanted to buy a box of wine. 3-liters. Enough for the weekend.
"Lenny, I got to go back to work."
"You got a dollar for the holiday?"
I handed him two bills. He wished me luck and called for a blessing on my kids in Thailand. It was Sokkot. A festival to commemorate the wandering the desert. "May you get home soon."
"Thanks." Seeing my kids was my greatest wish.
That and an old motorcycle.
I went back inside the diamond exchange hoping to close a deal in the last hours of Friday.
Stranger things have happened.
It wasn't too much to ask from life.
World leaders have flocked to New York for the General Assembly. President Obama addressed the dignitaries to ask for a final solution to the Palestinian problem. Other diplomats have voiced their concerns over poverty and global warming, however the Iranian president scored big with his claim that the 9/11 attacks were organized by Israeli intelligence services with the green light from the CIA.
"It was said that some three thousands people were killed on the II September for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced and the conflict is still going on and expanding.
In identifying those responsible for the attack, there were three viewpoints.
1.) That a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully crossed all layers of the American intelligence and security, to carry out the attack.
This is the main viewpoint advocated by American statesmen.
2.) That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.
3.) It was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has fewer proponents. The main evidence linking the incident was a few passports found in the huge volume of rubble and a video of an individual whose place of domicile was unknown but it was announced that he had been involved in oil deals with some American officials. It was also covered up and said that due to the explosion and fire no trace of the suicide attackers was found.
The US delegation walked out on the speech along with a host of other nations. Obama condemned the speech as inflammatory. Americans were angered by the suggestion that Israel had anything to do with 9/11 or that the CIA somehow allowed the airplanes to strike at US targets.
These theories are considered crackpot by the mainstream media, however in December 2001 Fox News featured a story about the possible link between 9/11 and a giant Israeli spy network operating within the the USA. The footage was deleted by FoxNews.
I saw the second airplane strike the southern tower. It was not a fake.
Israelis or Saudis.
All I know is someone attacked America and America attacked Afghanistan.
The usual suspects are always first on the list.
Except not a single Iraqi or Afghani were on the plane. 15 Saudis, although none of them the pilot.
Friday, September 24, 2010
The other night I sat through a speech of Evo Morales, the Bolivian president. He spoke in Spanish. His native language is that of the indigenous people of his landlocked nation. Quechua or Aymara. As a child Evo worked communal field where property belong to the village. He supports Socialism as the only social system dedicated to the betterment of mankind. The diplomatic mission for his country espouses the same thought and champion the liberation of coca as a medicine rather than a drug. His ambassador and consul general are 100% behind the policies of their president. I've chewed coca leaves with both. It is quite agreeable, as it was when I walked the Inca trail with Mrs. Carolina.
We had traveled to Peru in 1995 from LA. Our relationship was in the final stages of love. I wanted it to end and thought that there was no better way to say 'I don't love you anymore' than going on a cocaine binge in Lima.
No one would sell me blow.
Not even in the slums. The dealers thought I was DEA. In truth I do look like a cop. I explained to the dealers that I was doing this to break up with my mistress. They thought that I was crazy. Maybe I was, because Mrs. Carolina was a good person. Still is, but I grew more and more frustrated by the dealers' rejection in every city of Peru.
Finally we arrived in Cuzco. The Navel of the Incan Empire. Quechua women sold coca leaves in the main square. I bought several pounds. Mrs. Carolina chewed them as a remedy for high-altitude sickness. We booked two train tickets to Maachu Pichu. The lost city of the Incas. Hikers detrained at kilometer 88 to hike the Incan Trail. A three-day journey to the ruins hovering above Urabama River. Mrs. Carolina and I had treked in the Rockies, Cascades, and Guatemala. We stayed on the train with the colonel of the DEA and his two sons. His haircut was military. His spine straight as a Kansas highway.
I had a ball of coca leaves in my cheek.
The lack of oxygen under control.
The colonel complained about a shortness of breath. His sons were sucking every oxygen molecule in the compartment. I offered them the coca leaves. All the Peruvians were chewing them. The colonel refused my offer.
"It's a plague."
"I don't know. I have a bad knee from playing basketball and I don't feel a thing." His sons were 14 and 16. A little young to introduce to a serious herb, however I had lived in Tibet for 3 months. The teenagers were in the first stage of AMS or acute mountain sickness.
"I spent every minute of my day trying to stop cocaine from reaching America."
His boys were listless. The train had hit the highest point of the journey. They would revive with the descent to Agua Calientes.
"And you failed. You can get cocaine anywhere in America. New York, Chicago, Iowa, Utah. Sorry, but the war is lost. Cocaine is everywhere." 90% of the dollar bills at a GOP convention were tainted with the drug.
"I will not accept defeat."
"Okay." I was happy sucking on the juice from the leaves. So was Mrs. Carolina. Our relationship was solid for the moment. It was based on coca leaves and a place to stay in Agua Calientes.
That night we sat by the rushing river. Trout and more coca leaves. We bathed in the hot springs. Afterward we made love in our cheap hotel room. No phones. No TV. No room service. Only coca leaves.
In the morning we rode a bus to Macchu Pichu. The DEA colonel was seated in the back. He didn't say 'good morning'. We were the enemy. The greater enemy was the altitude. 7,970 feet above sea level. Mrs. Carolina and I ventured far from the ruins. The colonel suffered from oxygen deprivation. Mrs. Carolina and I held hands at the Inca Gate. Trekkers filed through the narrow passage.
Short of breath.
Mrs. Carolina and I looked at each other and shrugged like a Quechua.
"Coca." She pointed to the snow-tipped Andes distant to the east.
It was a morning that said forever and we were slow to leave that spot.
Mrs. Carolina, me, and a bag of leaves.
"Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow."
Omar of Khayyam.
Different worlds. Same thoughts.
Midtown traffic was snarled by the security measures protecting foreign dignitaries from any harm during the annual UN General Assembly. Crosstown streets were closed east of 5th Avenue and a beeping tentacle of the congestion packed Madison Avenue. My bus took 20 minutes to cover ten blocks. I was late for a gallery opening on 78th Street and abandoned public transportation for the more ancient mode of walking. My pace was accelerated by two panicked calls from my landlord AP and Billy O. Our dinner guest, an Irish hedge fund banker, was on a 'craic'.
"This is polite society up here." Billy O was looking for clients. He was a real estate broker in the East End. Most people living above 72nd Street had money, especially in between Park and 5th Avenues. "I'm afraid that he's going to shag an old heiress."
"Would be the worst thing to happen to her? When I was living down in Palm Beach, I dreamed about seducing a wealthy octogenarian with three weeks to live."
"You would have given her the best two weeks of her life." Billy O and I went back to the 80s.
"At least." I was never stingy with love or lust given the right circumstances, however my time on Palm Beach had been off-season. Secondly those crones with money knew the game. Men fought over them at the Leopard Lounge. I was too proud to join in that spectacle.
Except for once.
"Hurry up." Billy O sounded desperate. "He's offering the owner a line of blow."
I made it in 15. The police had blockaded 72nd Street for the passage of POTUS. Obama was in town to speak at the UN. High-level conversations were scheduled between the Israelis, Palestinians, and our leader. Peace initiative # 257. The presidential cavalcade passed at 65 mph. A fast-moving target. I waved to what I guess was his car. My support for change remained strong.
I crossed 72nd Street and hurried the final six blocks to the gallery. It was located in a small townhouse. The crowd was gentile. The artist hailed from the Hamptons. Some of his paintings had crows in them. Two women were complaining about the crows on their property.
"They're bad eating and worse as pets." A tall man in a Versace suit slurred from his slouch. It was Irish Johnny. His accent was pure Hollyfield drenched by the slobber of art wine.
The two middle-aged women in matching Chanel summer drag glanced over their sloped shoulders at the intruders. Their noses wrinkled with disdain. They had the expression down pat and clattered away from Irish Johnny in spiky stilettos. Popular footwear this season.
Irish Johnny staggered to the bar and grabbed two glasses of Chablis. The first one lasted a second. The second balanced his careen through the gallery. His trousers were rolled to mid-calf and his sneakers were unlaced. He was drunk enough not to recognize me. We had drank at a bar in Easthampton a year ago. I didn't say hello, but nodded to Billy O and my landlord. They signaled to keep an eye on Irish Johnny. The banker was difficult work after closing time on the NYSE. I engaged him in a long conversation on John Kelly, Ireland's premier DJ, and drinking at the Shelbourne Hotel Bar. Irish Johnny couldn't have been happy and neither could the gallery owner.
The dead drunk was with the living drunk.
Billie O and AP schmoozzed the rich. A hard crowd to work, but the two had been laboring in the Hamptons for years. AP spoke to a prospective new client. He owned a football team. His girlfriend was an old friend. The connections were snaking together. It was time to leave. Irish Johnny was hitting on a painting.
"How much you want for one night?"
Billy O took charge. Irish Johnny was his boy. They proposed dinner at Danielle's. A posey place. I begged off that future. Billy O and AP said, "Come."
"Veni, vidi, ibam."
"I came, I saw, I went." Johnny Irish was a Latin Scholar too.
I waved my goodbyes and walked to the 77th Street Subway. Lex Line to Bleecker Street. D train to Atlantic Avenue. Key in the front door at 8:23. I climbed the stairs to my apartment and wrote about Hoegaarten Beer. My wine-weakened fingers were slow on the keyboard.
A knock on my door.
He wanted to smoke some pot.
"Dinner was fantastic, but you were so right to go. He never broke open the bag of cocaine."
"Better to have a $20 bag with a friend than an 8-ball with a fiend." The lack of an 'r' made a big difference.
AP and I smoke some weed. We drank some wine. We listened to garage rock. Our favorite genre of music, although he loved the Beatles and I hated them as pop poseurs. At least we agreed that WORKING CLASS HERO by John Lennon was brilliant.
"You know I really love having you live here." AP considered me a NY legend.
"Thanks." I loved living here too.
"No one in New York is like you now and no one writes like you, but I have to say one thing and that's you have been plundering old writing and putting it on your website as if it was new."
"So you noticed."
"I'm one of your most faithful readers."
I had been adding stories to gain girth on treads of interest. Not lazy, just that I don't have much time in the day to write with my boss asking me what I'm doing every two minutes. No much of a defense for AP.
"You should be writing all the time."
"Agreed." I love writing on the 4th floor of his brownstone. My view of the Brooklyn skyline. The changes of the sunset. His kids sleeping on the lower floor. Their falling asleep to the MC5. "I'll try to be more original."
"No one is more original than you in these days of mediocre." AP truly was a fan. "All I want to see is more new."
"Oof." More work.
A sign of the times.
"I promise to not rob the grave, unless it makes a nice flow."
We smoked more weed and drank the rest of his Hoegaarten.
They were good.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Beer is better than good in Belgium.
Back in the 80s I drank in a bar behind the Gallerie des Reines. A small bar. No one of consequences frequented the back street bar. Seats for 10. Draft beer. Le Mort Subite and Hoegaarten. One great for winter. The other superb for summer.
The tradition survived to this day.
Temperature in New York is over 80.
The warm side of the summer equinox. Hoegaarten. My landlord AP had returned from a dinner. He criticized my relocation of older writing onto present logs. I told him that they had been re-written. AP sees me a lot. He knows the truth. Writing and Art is not a speed game. They require thought.
Hoegaarten prevents thought.
At least constructive thought, unless the thinker considered setting his house on fire constructive.
Not really, so it is good spirited drinking for the autumnal equinox.
The pagans called it Mabon, a harvest holiday seeking to thank Mother Earth. AP, my landlord, and I drank two bottles of Hoegaarten. Each. The Brooklyn sky is clear of stars.
The future is clear.
More beer until Beermas.
Natalie was sexy even without her piercings or tattoos. Libertinism was her second skin. A prime asset for a bargirl in Pattaya. Her libido telegraphed the message of lust to every male within 50 meters. One look and they understood the cost on both financial and physical levels. Riding Natalie was like driving a Ferrari on ice. Your skill levels have to be honed to the highest professional degree.
And if the standard was less than Formula One, Natalie didn't say a word as long as her customer had paid his way.
This night the monsoon was having its way with the Eastern Seaboard. Sleets of rain slashed through the few remaining palms on the back street between Soi Bukhao and 3rd Road. The water level was threatening to flood the bar. The bar girls were were flooding with the overflow from the cluttered gutters. I was the onlyfarang in the bar. Nathalie's eyes turned to me. She asked if she could wear my leather jacket. The monsoon brought a chill to the bone. I gave her my jacket. It looked better on her than me.
We had several drinks. Nathalie knew my story. I was a good man in a city loaded with bad and I wasn't that good either, but in Pattaya a little good went a long way.
“I was not always like this,” she said tossing back a tequila.
“I know. Everyone was a young once.” I ordered a round of tequila. The rain had intensified to drum on the bar's tin roof like gorillas dancing the polka. None of their feet were in synch.
“I came here when I was 15. My mother was working a bar.” She downed the second shot and signaled for a beer chaser. Her pouting belly is showing the early signs of this repeated investment in beer.
“You don’t need to tell me this.” I had heard the story before. It didn't have a happy ending.
“Tell you. Not tell you. Same.” Her hand caressed my thigh. She was never not on the game.
“Same. Girl comes to Pattaya. Has boyfriend. Boyfriend leaves her. She works bar. Can’t love anyone but me.”
“Not same story me. 15 not have boyfriend. No man leave me. My mother work bar. Not me.
Natalie was 25. 3000 in 10 years works out to 300 men a year at 1000-1500 baht each. Maybe more if they love her. 400-500k puts her in the top salary bracket in Thailand, except she has nothing to show for it.
Me neither for 55 years, so I was a little bit her and she was a little bit me, only very pretty. The tequila was having an effect. It was time for me to go, but the rain was not letting up.
“Now I go with man old. Easy money. Only worry that they die on me.”
“Anyone come close?” Viagra, 60 year-old, and a young girl was a common fatal combination in Pattaya.
“No, but sometimes think man will die.” She puffed out her cheeks. “Luat-keung-nah.”
“Blood makes their face go red.” I waved for my check-bin. Rain or no rain. I was leaving before I got into trouble. Pattaya was a small town and my Mam had thousands of spies.
“Like red light.” Natalie didn't want me to leave. Not without her. There are no men in sight. Only me. ”Before I say I young once. 15. My mother works bar. She have friend want virgin.”
“And you were a virgin?” Ten years ago I was living with Vee. My one-eyed mistress. She was no virgin.
“Never kiss a boy.” Her hand moved higher on my thigh. “Borisut.”
“So why you want to have sex?”
“Not me. Mah.” Natalie swung between pidgin and perfect English. She had lived in the UK twice. Sweden once. “Mah needed money.”
“For what?” I wondered how many times she had told this story to kak or customers. Young girl gone bad for her mother the aging whore.
50, 100, every night.
“Krai lu?” she answered with resignation. 'Who knew'.
A Thai daughter has to obey her mother. No matter what. No explanation was necessary.
“Man gives 4000 baht. Not hurt. He know make love virgin. I not like first time. Second time too. After that. Love it all time. You want me show you?” Her hand rested on my crotch. His fingers were tickling my balls. A trick of her mother. I knew her back in the late 80s. I couldn't tell Nathalie that. They looked too much alike for my good.
“Wish I could.” I was faithful to Mam in deeds.
Thought was impossible.
I gave Natalie 200 baht. “For kin khao.”
She wai-ed gracefully as a 12 year-old virgin and said, “You can run, but you not hide. One day show my pierced clit.”
“I’m sure you will.” I escaped before the a new downpour drenched the streets and came home to Mam and my son Fenway. They were both asleep. Mam sniffed at me.
"You speak with lady."
"Yes." There was no use lying.
"Go with her."
"Good." She kissed my cheek and returned to sleep.
I was quick to follow.
My dreams of Nathalie were all in slow-mo.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Back in December 1959 Chuck Berry invited a Apache girl from Yuma, Arizona to work at his club in St. Louis. Police arrested the rocker on charges of violating the Mann Act ie the transport of minors over state lines. The girl charged with prostitution and testified that she and Berry had had sex numerous times on the journey from Yuma to St. Louis.
"What was your purpose in bringing Janice from Texas to Missouri?" The Judge asked Berry during trial.
"She needed a job and I had a job for her in the club."
Chuck Berry served three years in prison.
His song SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN remains a classic warning to men.
To view SWEET LITTLE 16 go to the following URL
Bali was my preferred destination during the early 90s. Poste Restante Ubud was my address for most of the winter. I lived in a simple house overlooking a ravine. Villagers bathed in the stream in the evening. The sun set between two distant volcanoes. The music of the Legong band practicing for the evening performance warbled across the verdant rice paddies. Ubud was paradise and backpackers swarmed to the tiny village hoping to find a piece of Bali gone.
The town was also very family friendly and I met many of them staying at the hotel up the path from my house. It had a swimming pool and served a tasty nasi goreng. One family came from Boston. A couple with two teenage kids. The older girl looked about 16. Her name was Dawn or Kakatu in Bahasa Indonesian. Either way was pretty.
Dawn had long brown hair and she would sneak peeks at me when her parents weren't looking our way. I had a good idea what she was thinking and avoided her. She was young and young girls are trouble for men in their late-30s.
One evening I was watching the Legong girls at the temple. Their lithe movements were a pleasure to the eye. The music was acoustic. The lighting by candles. I imagined myself in the 18th century, ignoring the rumble of traffic beyond the red brick walls. After the end of the show I gave the venerable teacher $5 or 10,000 rupiah. Enough to buy the girls a meal at the market.
Nights were dark then. The streetlights wavered with the dying surge of distant electricity and then blacked out completely. The blackness was complete, until I flicked on my flashlight. Dawn was standing in front of me.
"Hi." She was wearing a red shirt. No bra. She pushed back her hair.
"Where are your parents?" Kerosene lamps were illuminating the small warungs. Car headlights blinded me and I pulled Dawn from the road.
"They went to the hotel before me." Dawn licked at her lips.
"Then I guess I have to walk you home." There were no taxis in Ubud, at least none that could navigate the paths through the rice fields. "You're not scared of the dark, are you?"
"Not with you." She reached out to hold my hand.
"Just follow me." I skirted her grasp and proceeded down a small lane between several Balinese family compounds. The high walls created a narrow chasm and soon gave way to the rice paddies. I could see the hotel across the fields. A good 5-minute walk. I felt a little like Orpheus leading his wife from Hades, except Dawn was no Eurydice and Bali was more heaven than hell.
"Can we stop for a second?" Dawn asked sounded a little winded. "I want to look at the stars."
"Okay." I sat in a rice shack. Thousands of fireflies hovered over the golden husks of rice. Overhead the cosmos glowered with an equatorial intensity heightened by the lack of electric light. Dawn lay down on the bamboo pallet. Her shirt was undone. The stars painted her skin silver.
"Do you think I'm beautiful?" She touched my thigh.
"Anyone you're age is beautiful to a man my age." My resolve weakened and then cracked with a kiss. She tasted of bubble gum and I pushed myself back from the brink. "How old are you?'
"15, but my friends say I look older."
No court in the USA would agree and I stood up with difficulty, because Bali wasn't the USA either.
"Let's go. Your parents must be worried."
We arrived at the hotel to be greeted by Dawn's mother. Worry was not the word to describe her expression and I pushed the teenager forward, saying, "I brought back your daughter intact."
"I'm not intact." Dawn pouted with vengeance. "I'm not a virgin. I'm a woman."
"Young girl, get to your room." Her mother nodded her thanks and the next day the family was gone from Ubud. I can still see her in the starlight. A dream on bamboo. Regrets none, but then the best lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.
The Hassidim were hurrying home from the Diamond District. The High Holidays had come early this year with Sukkor coinciding with the ancient pagan festival of Mabon, which commemorates the autumnal equinox. Sukkor is not only a bridge across the Indus, but the festival honoring the 40 years during which the Hebrews were lost in the desert. All over Williamsburg sukkah are erected outside the apartment buildings and houses of the Hassidim in memory of those decades wandering without real shelter. Gabriel M left Richie Boy a parcel of ten big diamonds. The biggest was a 6-carat round brilliant.
"I won't be answering my phone."He wouldn't be back on the street for ten days. Sukkor lasted longer than the San Gennaro Feast on Mulberry Street. Gabriel wished us good luck. "Sei gesund."
I checked the 6-carat stone. Black flecks were visible in the table. Big ones. I figured the diamond for an F I2. A classless combination of size, color, and imperfection.
At best $3000 a carat.
Gabriel had doubled on my estimation.
It was too late to give back the stone. Gabriel was lost in the flood of black-coated Hassidim fleeing to Williamsburg, Eastern Parkway, and Munsie. I examined the other diamonds. They were Nishtkefelecht or no big deal. Richie Boy shrugged, "It's Sukkor."
Gabriel gave us stones cheap. Sometimes as much as 40% off the Rappaport List, which governs the wholesale price of diamonds. We were his vault for the holidays. Our safe was 10 inches thick. The exchange was guarded 24/7. Our insurance covered the retail value of our goods. Both my bosses prayed for thieves to rob us blind, except most robberies were inside jobs and none of us were desperate enough to risk breaking 8th Commandment.
The rest of the afternoon passed without a single sale. My clients were out of town. Foot traffic was confined to a few out-of-towners killing time before their Broadway Show. Richie Boy and I discussed my commission on a sale with a NBA basketball star.
"I'll take 12%. Same as the last sale." I should have gotten 25%, but I was happy with $500. It was half the cost of a ticket to Thailand. Almost three months since I last saw my kids.
"I don't know." Richie Boy was being tight. His bills were enormous, but they weren't my problem. "I feel better with 10%."
Richie Boy and I were friends almost 30 years. He would do the right thing in the end and I didn't need the money until then. An older woman entered the exchange. Her head barely cleared the counter. 4-10 in high heels. Her dyed orange hair was coiffed into a soft helmet. She had to be in her 70s.
"I'd like to see the diamond hoops in the window." Her accent was Brooklyn. Flatbush. 1st generation born in America. Same as my mother, although my Nana was from Ireland and not a shetl of the Palantine. Not much of a difference since the murdering King of England was as much as a tyrant as the bloody Tsar. "The pavee ones."
"Sure." I brought in a pair of diamond hoops. 4.50 carat. 18 karat white gold. After a little sales spiel, I said, "$4400."
Enough room to haggle.
"They don't look very white. My husband was a cutter on this street. Believe me, sonny, I know diamonds." Her attitude was kindly. A woman her height had little choice other than to be pleasant with strangers.
"That's the lighting in this place." The Israeli landlord had painted the ceiling of the exchange yellow. I cursed him each and every day. This wasn't the first time I had heard someone say that my diamonds weren't white. "These stones are actually G plus."
"Better than G plus." Our broker added as he passed through the dutch door on his way to the bathroom. FK had good ears for a man in his 40s who listened to Zeppelin at 10 on his Ipod.
"I don't know." The woman was not convinced by his single sentence and FK launched into a sales pitch about having learned his trade from the worst diamond dealer on the street. "Sy Sigelsohn."
The mention of this name gained the attention of several of the older members of the exchange. Sy had a store down the street, where he would lock the customers in a booth, until they bought from him. It was called the prison cell.
"I remember him."
"How could you forget?"
"My husband never worked for him. He never paid."
"He must have worked once for him to learn that lesson."
"Once only." The woman was fondling the hoops. She liked them. Like was not love.
FK and the woman played Jewish geography. He came from Seagate. Her family Flatbush. They had eaten at a deli in the 37 exchange.
"There was a deli there?" I had been on the street 20 years.
"Before your time." FK and I went back that far. "They had a brisket there that you could plotz for."
My mouth was watering, even though the goyim shouldn't know that 'plotz' means to die for.
"What about egg creams?"
Both FK and the old woman tsked at the suggestion and drooled over long-gone delicacies from the extinct deli, until the woman's husband entered the exchange. His name was Moses, but we remembered him as Max. He had sold Manny the most beautiful 18K jewelry in the early 80s.
"Back when my father was on the Bowery."
"Lola, you want them, buy them." Max was a man of decision. His wife the opposite. "I have to think about it. See you boys after the holiday."
The door closed and FK descended to the bathroom. It was time for a line . For him. Not me. I was being good. At least during working hours. All this week too.
I wasn't hungry enough to eat a brisket sandwich, but a nice chocolate egg cream. Now that was something.
The legend of the Titanic gained two new insights into the maritime disaster with the disclosure from an ancestor of ocean liner's second officer that the ship had been doomed by a steering error by the helmsman. The panicked mistake was overruled by the first officer according to his fellow officer too late to avoid the fatal collision, however even more damning was the chairman of the White Star Line arguing for the ship to remain under steam, causing the Titanic to sink faster.
My grandfather, Frank Arthur Smith, had a schoolmate died in the tragedy. Richard Frazer White was returning to America after a tour of Europe with his family. They traveled first-class from Southampton. My grandfather recovered the body in New Brunswick and transported the body to Massachusetts for burial. His father and brother were surrendered to the sea on that fateful April evening.
Richard Frazer White was mourned the students and teachers of Bowdoin College.
Almost 100 years ago.
Gone but never forgotten.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sin is considered an act defying the accepted social morale.
Christianity listed the Seven Deadly Sins as Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. Sinners can commit this sins anywhere in the world, but for the past thirty years few places were better to offend the morality of squares than Pattaya, Thailand and I know this all too well having lived in the Last Babylon for most of the 21st Century.
Go-Go girls, rent boys, transvestites, thieves, scammers, steroid muscle-builders, fugitives from justice ad nasuseum sought solace in the bars and brothels scattered liberally throughout the notorious beach resort. City officials attempted to squash the sex trade only to be corrupted by the easy money. The police were equally human. Impoverished families of the Isaan Plateau achieved middle-class status on the sexual labors of their daughters and sons.
Where social initiatives failed to clean up the tired old whore of a city, the economic downturn has wrought considerable damage to the sex trade, as the legions of punters are decimated by the worldwide economic crisis.
The New York Times featured an article about the collapse of sleaze.
Thai families, Chinese tourists, and Russian vacationers have replaced British football louts, ladyboys, and drunk sailors.
Of course the New York Times reporter has never sat at the northern Pattaya bus station to witness the mass exodus back and forth to Pattaya.
Easy come. Easy go.
Like blood for a newspaper, sex sells and to the north 100 million Chinese males have no female companions.
Thai girls love the Chinese.
30 seconds and happy ending.
"Some finish before get in."
Super happy ending.
Yesterday, today, and forever.
ps I committed all the Seven Deadly Sins in one day in Pattaya.
It was real easy, because unlike Las Vegas Pattaya is not all mirrors and bright lights.