Monday, January 31, 2011
Last month over 300 Thai cops invaded Soi 6 off Pattaya's Beach road in search of evil-doers. No search warrants. No habeus corpus. No rights for the sex workers of that inglorious street. The cops conducted urine tests of hundreds of women and after the test results came in positive, they arrested almost 16 women and transsexuals on charges of consuming a Class 1 drug. The total amount of drugs seized by the raiders was worth about 5000 baht.
300 cops had to cost about 200 baht each.
60,000 baht to capture less than $200 worth of drugs.
Last week a VIP Justice official along with 100 police officers and police volunteers followed up the success of the Soi 6 raid with a drug sweep on Pattaya's Sunee Plaza. bars. Piss tests were conducted on the staff of the mostly gay go-go bars and the investigators brought to justice 46 men and women on suspicion of drug possession and under-age drinking. The total value of contraband seized approached nearly 70,000 baht and officers were proud to participate in the Prime Minister's mission to lower crime in Thailand by 20%.
Relentless in their pursuit of evil-doers over 200 police officers and volunteers staged a midnight visit to Pattaya Soi 13/3. Go-Go boys were escorted from their venues and 15 young men out of the 200-strong naked dancing corps were discovered to have speed in their pee. An online gambling casino was also the victim of this police endeavor. 15 computers and 2000 baht were seized thanks to the diligence of the uniformed officers.
So squares of Pattaya sleep safe and sound.
Your city is a better place with those criminals off the streets and I'm sure that that have learned that crime doesn't pay big money. Hopefully the police learned the same lesson and actually pursue real criminals.
Then again that would be real work.
Memory is in details and I can remember exactly what I was wearing the day JFK was murdered in Dallas. A white shirt, sky-blue tie, navy-blue trousers, a black belt, and black shoes. Every boy in my class wore the same outfit. In fact the uniform was mandatory for each male attending Our Lady of the Foothills. No deviations were allowed by the nuns and that edict was issued to the girls in their powder-blue pleated skirts, dazzling white shirt, and dull black shoes. Mother Superior had banned shoe polish in fear that boys would gaze at the shoes' high gloss reflection to discover the hidden treasure up a girl's skirts. Our imaginations were stronger than her mandate and to this day the sight of a Catholic school girl uniform transports me across time to 1964, unfortunately school uniforms are uncommon in the USA, however the tradition remains strong in Asia.
Every nation has their specialty, however most males would agree that Thailand dominates the schoolgirl uniform race and this month the Japanese Press declared that
the Thai university uniforms of a short-sleeve white blouse and short black skirt was the world sexiest student uniform. Thailand for all its brothels and sex tourism is a very puritanistic country and the local media and politicians expressed their outrage about this dubious honor with the deputy education minister going as far as announcing a pogrom against sexiness in school.
Chok dee, you fool, for kids will be kids and the girls in Thai universities are a cultural treasure admired by men all across the world\, especially anyone from the USA, for many coeds are so fat that they would look better in a chador.
Long live the Thai schoolgirl uniform.
Another Wonder of the Modern World under threat from the Thailiban.
In the autumn of 1982 I drove north from Paris toward Hamburg where I was working as a doorman at Bsirs. My journey was stalled outside the city limits by a massive police presence on the Autoroute. CRS police and French Army soldiers lined the exit ramps and guarded the overpasses. My orange VW Bug was the last car on the highway. Two cops waved me to the shoulder of the road. They pulled their guns and searched my car like I was an operative for the terrorist, Carlos the Jackal.
They refused to answer my questions as the purpose of their investigation. Sirens sounded in the distance. A motorcade of official cars was speeding north. Lights flashing a warning. No one and nothing was stopping them. Motorcycle escorts raced past my car at 160 mph. The police cars at the same speed escorted an armored limousine flying the flag of Egypt. The tinted windows prevented any glimpse at the passenger, but I knew who was in the back seat.
"Mubarak." I mumbled the name of the Egyptian president. He had been visiting Mitterand in Paris. The strongman had taken power after the 1981 assassination of President Sadat and the French security forces were dedicated to the former Air Force General's safety as long as he was on their soil. Once the motorcade had disappeared from sight, the two police officers waved for me to continue on my way. I was no threat to anyone but myself.
That was the closest I came to President Mubarak.
The long-serving president moves in different circles than I do, but then no one is surprised by that.
Certainly not me, so I don't expect a collect phone call from an octogenarian in Cairo. He might be an ally of America, but we're not friends. Sorry, dude, you should have waved at me from your limo. Maybe then I could help you.
Otherwise kel khrak omak which means eat shit for your mom in Arabic.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Each year Israel and Egypt are given nearly $3 billion by the USA. No one has had the balls to criticize these boons to two of the world's most oppressive states, however newly elected Kentucky congressman Rand Paul has exhibited the chutzpah to suggest the USA cut aid to Israel. Supporters of the Zionist nation were quick to protest this suggestion, despite America's overwhelming debt. The share per Israeli family comes to $25000. No one in America is getting that much money from the government, unless you're rich and then it's a lot more.
No country in Europe has a straight-line border. South and Central America are devoid of such national boundaries. The USA once was the only nation with a straight-line border, however after World War I the French and British divided up territory of the defeated Ottoman Empire with a ruler and pencil. The Arab tribes of Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, and Libya suffered chaos thanks to these arbitrary frontiers. The disorder was enhanced by the West's support of dynastic dictatorships. Free thought was suppressed by secret police, assassination, and torture. Generations of young were given no hope of change, except for radical Islam, whose prophets preached the reincarnation of the caliphate.
America and Britain protested the lack of human rights in these nations while selling their rulers weapons to arm the military not against invaders, but to contain uprisings of the masses. Egypt has long been an American ally. They received an annual stipend of $3 billion to act as a buffer against any aggression toward their Zionist neighbor. In return the West turned a blind eye to the repression visited on the common people. In fact they regularly honored Mubarak as a progressive Arab, however this week Egypt is in flames as the young, Muslim Brotherhood, students, and workers have taken to the streets to overthrow the long-standing dictator.
No freedom, no jobs, and no future fuel the heat of the moment for the demonstrators. They have nothing to lose but their lives and the army has killed scores of protesters over the past few days. 62 dead; 2,000 injured. The BBC has announced that Mubarak's sons have fled to London. The Cairo airport is closed to international flights. Anarchy on the streets and the Saudi King has criticized the upheaval, because his country is next on the list.
Americans are calling uprising a new dawn for the Middle East, however people are battling the upper classes rather than governments. The rich have impoverished everyone across the globe and this year will be one of revolution.
Sadly revolutions are destined for failure, because in the end everyone wants to be rich and most people will never betray their dream of being better than the rest of the world and it has nothing to do with straight lines. At least for the moment.
My mother dressed my older brother and me in jeans for most of the 1950s and early 1960s, however when the hippies adopted the western trousers as part of their unofficial uniform my mother refused to buy them for us. Cardinal Cushing of the Boston diocese had banned them on his evening rosary program. A fierce Catholic my mother believed that Levis and long hair were signs of Satan. One afternoon in 1966 I got off the school bus to discover her burning my treasured jeans and suede Cuban heel boots.
"No son of mine will be a slave to the Devil." She spoke with a heavy Boston accent as would anyone reared in Jamaica Plain.
"I don't worship Satan." I had tried to sell my soul on several occasions to the Fallen One without his appearing with an offer binding my eternity to Hell. The Devil like God was a myth, except for in the mind of my mother and the nuns of Our Lady of the Foothills south of the Neponset River. Beelzebub also existed as a villain in many movies, but neither their belief nor Hollywood's depiction of Lucifer made him real. "I'm a good boy."
"You better be." My mother had no clue to my shitcanning her god. My father was ignorant of my apostasy too. Atheism was unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans. Thankfully the government wasn't burning heretics such as myself at the stake, but I thought it better for my mother to think that I was a good Catholic boy.
My grade for religion at school was an A. I served as an altar boy at Mass. Latin was my second language. I earned $10 a week from my paper route. My mother banked most of it. I kept the tips and after a few weeks my savings came to almost $12. My next door neighbor and I took the trolley into Ashmont and then the Reed Line into Park Street.
Chuckie Manzi and I walked across the Commons into the Garden over to Walker's Western Store on Boylston Street. The store ran a radio ad on WMEX for jeans. Levis were $6. I bought a pair of jeans. The salesman sold me a paisley shirt too. Chuckie got a bucksin jacket. Our hair was a little over our ears and we strolled over to hippie corner in the Commons to listen to Ultimate Spinach. Mel Lyman played harp. The messianic leader of the Fort Hill Commune was famed for his 30 minute solo of ROCK OF AGES after Bob Dylan's electric performance at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1965. The girls danced in the sunshine. They smelled of patchouli. Chuckie and I left at 5. My father was on the same train. He looked at my jeans and said, "You better change out of them before you get home."
I did in the woods behind our house and I hid them in the garage. My father never snitched me out, which was a surprise for a man 30 years older than me. All he cared about was that I scored good grades and didn't cause my mother any problems.
My waist size back in the 60s was a 28. It's more than that now and so is the price of Levis. Most stores offer them for $40-60. I buy mine in a second-hand stall in Pattaya. They come from aid shipments to Cambodia. Americans don't realize that Cambodians don't fit into big jeans, so the relief foundations sell them to Thai traders. I pay $10 for used Levis. A good price, however the Wall Street Journal reported that Barney's on Madison Avenue are selling American-made Levis for $148 and investment bankers are buying piles of them. I went up there to look at these high-priced jeans. They felt the same as my used jeans and the $6 jeans from Walker's Western Store.
Some things never change.
Only the price.
To hear The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred - James Alley Blues, please go to this URL
Friday, January 28, 2011
My flight from Incheon Korea lasted over 13 hours. Our landing at JFK was delayed by an hour. The airport was only operating one runaway. Snow plows were still working to unbury the other runways after a 19" snowstorm. During the final approach I stared out the window at the ground. Most of the major streets were open for traffic, although not many cars or trucks were visible. Thursday was an obvious snow-day.
The second of the winter.
The Korean Air 777 landed on runway # 1 at 11:20am. The plane taxied slowly to the arrival gate, the stopped short of its goal for two hours. Thick ice covered the tarmac. The passengers sat patiently for the next 2 hours, except for one smoker who tried to sneak a cigarette in the toilet. The alarm rang and the stewardesses busted the 50 year-old smoker in the act. He returned to his seat exhaling the last puff. Few people on the plane were old enough to remember 'smoking areas' in the back of aircraft. This world has nothing to do with the 20th Century.
Finally we were towed to the arrival gate, Everyone was happy to exit the plane after 15 hours, except for the smoker, who was met by the police. They cuffed him in the jetway. A fine of $2000 awaited him in TSA court.
My bag was one of the first onto the carousel. I exited from customs without any questions from the inspectors. My bag was clean. Only a blood test could reveal my crime and even the Patriot Act didn't give the government that right of invasion. I exited from the terminal and headed for the Skytrain.
It wasn't running to Howard Beach. Most of the people on the platform were freaking out as only an American can freak out when they aren't getting their way. It was 1:30pm. I'd get to Fort Greene before sunset.
Cool calm collected, until my pocket was filled by my cell phone's vibration. Richie Boy was calling from 47th Street. He was packing jewelry for a show in Miami.Against my better judgment I answered the phone. Richie Boy needed my help.
"Are you whacked out?" He had once flown to meet me in Bali. The semi-global flight had knocked the stuffing out of his Raggedy Ann Doll. Richie Boy understood jetlag.
"Not bad, I'm heading your way, but the situation at the airport is chaos." I walked out of Terminal 1 and caught a city bus for Brooklyn. I had been on the ground over 4 hours and hadn't traveled more than 2 miles. New York was not prepared for this much snow. The A train took one hour from Howard Beach to West 4th Street. I arrived at work late. Richie Boy was happy with the extra help. His father stiffed me for the 2 hours of work.
I arrived on 47th street at 5pm. Richie Boy was happy to see me. I was his right-hand man, although he paid me like I had no hands at all. Short commishes and no raise in salary for two years. He liked to joke, "Your bonus is that you keep your job."
I didn't think the joke was funny, but Manny and Richie Boy let me come and go as I please and not many employers would put up with that behavior. I worked for an hour and a half, knowing Manny would stiff me for the time. Like most men in old age they become either fascists or communists. Manny was a commie in every aspect except worker's rights, so I left the exchange as soon as we were packed for the show.
The F train to Brooklyn took 30 minutes. A transfer train to Lafayette Street cost another 5 minutes. The walk to South Oxford lasted less than two minutes. I entered the houses and dropped my bag on the floor. My landlord and his wife were tasting wine for his 50th birthday party this coming Friday. I cracked open a bottle of Thai whiskey. His wife drank with me. AP was dedicated to wine. That decision made him feel free and later that night we broke into his wine stash. The crime must fit the punishment. I was guilty of many things. Innocent of a few.
Welcome back to America.
No longer then the Home of the Brave.
Only the Land of the Ice and Snow.
Some called it home.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I've been a non-believer since 1960, when my best friend drowned in Sebago Lake. He was a good boy. No god would have let him die. My mother refused to believe any son of theirs was an atheist and prayed that the the nuns at Our Lady Of The Foothills would teach me religion.
They failed to resurrect my faith in their holy trinity, however my 6th grade teacher, Sister Mary Goretti, was more tolerant of my puerile apostasy.
"Just lower your head and say what ever you want, except when you're on the altar."
I was an altar boy at our local church. It made my mother proud. She dind't need to know that there was no changing how I felt.
Sister Mary Goretti was as ancient as dust. The old nun had taught school in Egypt. Her tales of children running over stalks of harvested crops without touching the jagged tips was a magic miracle. Her students loved her and she loved educating us.
One day she said that if any of us had a tattoo that we would never get into heaven.
Going to heaven meant worshiping the man in a dress and hell was a burning oven. I was more interested in purgatory. Nothing bad ever happened in Limbo.
After scoring straight As for the year, Sister Mary Goretti gave me a mother of pearl rosary and said, "I know you don't believe, but that doesn't make you a bad boy. God loves us all."
I was lucky to have her as my teacher and while I don't believe in either heaven or hell, I have refrained ever getting a tattoo.
Out of respect for an old nun.
And only a little bit the fear of hell.
The GOP leadership must have sent out a memo to their members of Congress that a red tie is mandatory for tonight's State of the Union Speech. Only a few Republicans ignored the call to arms. Maybe they don't own a red tie, because in Western thought a red ties is connected to sin, blood, jealousy, and sex.
In Chinese culture red symbolizes money, fertility, and luck.
A red tie was called a power tie during the 80s. Americans admired the ruthlessness of Wall Street. Wealth became the American dream in the 90s. Everyone felt that they were rich in the 21st Century based on the value of their property. They were wrong. The red ties of Wall Street raped them like cheerleaders on ludes.
I have no red tie and not only because I don't say 'yes' to Chairman Mao, but since a red tie says bad man to me.
No salesman wears a red tie when it comes time to close a deal - James Steele
So go figure the GOP.
They are the red tie party.
Go Mao go.
The bouffant coif supposedly gained popularity thanks to Marie Antoinette whose coiffeur sought to camouflage her early balding by upsweeping her thin tresses atop her head to cascade over her ears. The style lost its popularity after the overthrow of the Bourbon dynasty and the Queen's decapitation by the guillotine, however Jackie Kennedy, JFK's fashionable wife, reincarnated the fashion with the help of her hayrides Mr. Kenneth.
Everything Jackie was fabulous in the early 60s and women across America sought to imitate the First Lady's glamour with a visit to the local hair salon whether they lived in New York or Iowa. The country was awash with bouffants. Movie stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Kim Novak furthered the cause of the extreme hair-do. Only the nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills rejected the trend. They cropped their hair to the skull, but none of their students ever saw what was under the dimple, so they could have been sporting bouffants too.
The bouffant died out with the coming of the hippie era. Women wore their hair long and the the style seemed slated for extinction. It has staged several rebirths. One with the lead singers of the B-52s and another with the English singer Amy Winehouse and the TV Show MADMEN.
Several weeks ago a woman walked into a New york bar. Her bleached blonde hair was piled high on her head. She looked so very 60s. I was sitting with Jamie Parker, recently back from Thailand and the 50 year-old ex-con said, "She looks like a 1960s transvestite."
"You don't like the bouffant?" The hair style brought me back to my youth and my first yearnings for women instead of girls.
"Not at all, this Mr. Kenneth who re-invented the hair style for Jackie Kennedy was gay." Jamie smirked at the passing beauty. She must have been a model. Her stiletto heels were almost as tall as her hair. The scent of her skin smelled of Chanel No.5.
"You have something against gays?" Back in the 60s they were called homos. People to be feared by young men, unless they were looking for a good time. Pedophile priests were another story altogether with their secret sacrament.
"Me, I love gays, but I looked at the bouffant hair style as a strategy gay hairdressers to make straight men not want to have sex with their wives or girlfriends. It even turned Kim Novak and Leslie Gore gay." Jamie spoke with no trace of rancor. His first love was drugs. Even back in the 60s.
"I liked the bouffant." I met a girl from Mattapan at the Oriental Theater. Her name was Jo with dirty blonde hair as stiff as a store mannequin's wig. She was my Kim Novak.
"How does it figure?"
"You're from Boston. Men from Boston love Jackie Kennedy. You probably went to bed jerking off to her."
"Not that I can remember." Jackie O was above my class. She rode horses and spoke French. Women like her were destined to marry rich regardless of their hairstyle. "I know my place."
"Don't we all." Jamie was only in the States to visit his mother. She lived in the Bronx. She thought that he was teaching school in Thailand. His real job was running the Pigpen A Go-Go. Fat pretty bar girls and skinny ugly pole dancers. A man of the street no matter where he lived on this Earth.
"Easy to know your place when it's only us and them." The them was the rich. The US was the rest of the world. No bouffant would make any of us a queen, except in Thailand, where the boys are girls and twice the girl any woman would be, even with a bouffant. Jackie O would love them.
My prediction for Obama's speech this evening is that there will be no announcements about the legalization of marijuana or a ban on torture or an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan or the outlawing of potato chips and fast food. The President will instead try to rally the nation around the idea that our eyes have to lift off the ground and as a nation we must gaze into the stars.
The media are calling this a sputnik speech referring to Eisenhower's challenge to this Nation that we will not fall behind Russia in the Race into Space. Our new rival is China. The Red Middle Kingdom has spent our trade deficit on improving its infrastructure and their military weaponry. The USA produces little of its consumption thanks to the off-shoring of industry, the yuan's low value to the dollar and a cowered work force.
I'm watching the speech on CNN online. Thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. It's 9:05 PM. The President is making his way down the aisle of Congress. A sustained applause from both parties and the audience. He's wearing a soft blue tie. Hands extended to him and he offers comments to the representatives and senators. Another few minutes and he'll be live from Washington DC.
The President of the USA.
I still like him.
This joke comes from the Old Roue in Bangkok
WHY MEN HAVE BETTER FRIENDS
Friendship Between Women: A woman didn’t come home one night. The next day she told her husband that she had slept over at a friend’s house.The man called his wife’s 10 best friends. None of them knew about it.
Friendship Between Men: A man didn’t come home one night. The next dayhe told his wife that he had slept over at a friend’s house. The woman called her husband’s 10 best friends. Eight of them confirmed that he had slept over and two claimed that he was still there.
As I came of age in the 1960s, my older brother and I relished a visit to my grandmother’s house in Westbrook, Maine, since piles of National Geographic were stacked chronologically in her attic. We would disappear into the dusty atelier for hours, poring through the years for photos of naked women; mostly African, Asian, Melanesian, or Amazonian. It was our first exposure to naked women, however neither of us understood why white women were racially unacceptable to the editors of the National Geographic and their exclusion from my early years of sexual awakening meant that the only other source to see naked white women was in stroke books and those women accepted everything. To this day a white woman clothed or naked conjures up a succubus of deviant behavior. Maybe if national geographic had published photos of naked white women on a beach in the South of France I'd hold my females of my racial make-up in higher esteem.
At least sexually,
The lyrics told the tale of a good fun nnight.
“I don’t want no woman with no skinny legs
I thought about givin’ this woman to Clyde
Say, I know the kind-a women Clyde like
Leroy’ll take her.
You got her!”
Amazing to think that those lyrics were hit the airwaves, but many young men have had a hankering for skinny girls, for in the words of the immortal Jack Flood, the hardened heavyweight from Seattle, “The closer to the bone the sweeter the meat.”
To check out these skinny legs, go to www.girlsontape.com and marvel at Stefania Fumo’s self-photos, otherwise please go to this url to check out lie version of SKINNY LEGS AND ALL by Joe Tex
ps my wife has skinnier legs.
As Jack Flood said, "The closer to the bone the sweeter the meat."
Monday, January 24, 2011
The name Whitey belonged to one man in Boston for the last fifty years.
Whitey Bulger, arch-criminal out of South Boston, had lived in the USA's first housing project. His first arrest for larceny predated my birth by nine years. The FBI entered his name into the MOST WANTED list on 1999, despite his status as an FBI informant for several decades.
Whitey Bulger has remained at large all those years. Police sources have cited the fugitive as living in a number of countries without extradition to the USA. Some have even mentioned his hiding out in Thailand. The Land of Smiles has always been friendly to a man on the run, since Thais see every farang the same. Some foreigner who doesn't belong here, but they'll tolerate as long as he has money and doesn't make any Thai lose face.
Whitey Bulger and I have never crossed paths. I stayed out of South Boston except for St Patrick's Day. My criminal activities in Boston are simple traffic violations. The FBI could beat me with rubber hoses without my saying a single word to harm the fugitive. It's easy to hold your sand when you know nothing, but I've adopted a white dog in Sri Racha. Khao or 'White' had belonged to Mam's step-uncle. The truck driver treated the dog like dirt. We adopted Khao and I thought to change his name to fit new new life, except he didn't answer to Jo Jo.
I always liked the band Jo Jo Gunne.
Mam and Uncle Nai and Fenway called the dog 'Khao'. It was his name. Fighting for Jo Jo was futile, however I Americianized 'Khao' into Whitey. he doesn't look a thing like #458 on the FBI's Most Wanted list and I'm glad about that. The last thing I need in my life are the FBI. They are always a bore and Whitey Bulger is a bad man.
Sliced bread was invented in 1923 by a Davenport, Iowa inventor and the phrase 'the greatest thing since sliced bread' entered American legend shortly thereafter. Sliced bread was banned for wartime consumption in 1943, proving even the greatest thing in the world isn't above the law in the USA. The ban was quickly rescinded by federal authorities more concerned about the morale on the home front than saving a little wheat.
My family lived on Wonder Bread during the 1950s. It built strong bodies 12 ways. The company never published the full list. My mother made sandwiches with sliced bread throughout my school years. I didn't realize that bread didn't come sliced until I went to France in 1982. A baguette was a thousand times better than the 'greatest thing', however sliced bread was superior to a baguette when it came time for a grilled cheese sandwich.
Like most Westerners I consider bread a product of our culture. Chinese restaurants never offered bread and Mexican cantinas served tortillas instead of bread. Sliced bread seemed to be a phenomena monopolized by Ireland, England, Canada, and the USA. Anywhere east of the English Channel and bread got weird, so that when I departed for an around-the-world trip in 1990, I expected that I wouldn't eat sliced bread until reaching England on the last leg of the global circumnavigation.
The Garuda flight from Honolulu to Biak north of Irian Jaya or Eastern Papua New Guinea lasted 12 hours. The 747 landed on this tropical island to re-fuel before flying onward to Bali. Passengers were encouraged to exit the plane and view the traditional crafts for sale in the terminal. A quartet of near-naked guitarists played BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. Gourds covering their penises were their only piece of clothing. The tourists ignored the handicrafts and boarded the 747. I watched the airliner lift off the tarmac. Only one other passenger was still in the terminal. A fat Baptist missionary heading for an even more remote island to the West. I said nothing to him and he said nothing to me during the immigration process. He recognized my faithfulness with the expert eye of a devote Christian and I respected his keeping his distance. A Piper Club was waiting for him on the runway. He blessed the guitarists with his bible and walked over to the plane. It took off and I was the only westerner in sight.
I walked across the road to an old Dutch hotel. My guide book noted that this hotel had been the Dutch Army barracks until independence in 1961. Mostly officers jdging from the size of the accommodations.
My room was very simple but clean. The teakwood veranda offered a fantastic view of Cenderawasih Bay. Josph Conrad would have felt at home on this patio and I imagined him having passed through this way back in the 19th Century. My Uncle David had fought here in the Battle of the Sump. His destroyer had shelled the Japanese fortifications on the shore. This hotel showed no scars of that combat.
I ordered a Bintang Beer. It was very cold. Its degree was better than 6%. The first two went down with pleasure and I spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the timelessness of the slate-blue smoothness of the sea. A light breeze wafted from the shore. The air smelled of jasmine. Night was coming my way. I turned on my Sony Radio to the BBC. It was my only contact with the Western World and I went to sleep happy to be someplace far beyond the ken of my fellow New Yorkers.
In the morning I woke up to a knock on the door. A waiter brought in a tray loaded with my breakfast. I sat on the veranda and he pulled off the white cotton serving cloth to reveal fried eggs, bacon, and sliced bread.
"Terima Kasih." That was 'thank you' in Bahasa Indonesian.
I tasted the bread. It was surprisingly good. Better than Wonder Bread. I ate every slice thinking that this had to be the last slice bread in town. It wasn't for the next morning the waiter returned with a tray of soft white bread. Each slice was an uniform 12 mm thick.
Sliced bread was not an anomaly on Biak.
It was the greatest thing since cold beer.
Bintang Beer that is.
"Riding a Vespa is like having sex with a transvestite. It's a lot of fun until one of your friends see you doing it."
Of course it's always fun if you have a naked girl riding behind you.
That wasn't the case in the summer of 1966, when I rode on the back of a friend's Vespa down to Wollaston Beach. My brother was on the back of another friend's motorcycle. The beach wall was packed in front of the Clam Shack. Teenagers from around the South Shore flocked to the hang-out, although most of them were from Quincy and a good percentage of those were greasers and greasers regarded anyone on a Vespa as a sissy. I didn't even get a chance to get off the back before someone sucker-punched me in the head. Luckily I was wearing a helmet.
I got off the Vaspa to face my attacker. He was not alone. The greaser has three friends. I was only 14. I turned to my friends and brother. They acted like they didn't know me.
"Take off the helmet." The greaser had a bloody fist. His knuckles scuffed from contact with the helmet.
"I don't think so." I had done nothing to deserve their hostility and had no intention of letting them punch my unprotected head. "I'm fine the way I am.'
"Great, then we'll just kick you a little." The greaser wasn't wearing shoes, but even barefooted kicks could break a rib. Their assault was cut short my another teenage boy. He threatened the quartet with a broken beer bottle.
"Step the fuck back or else I'll cut you." He was wearing cut-off jeans and his hair was long for the time. The other boys took a look at the bottle's jagged end and swore under their breath. My saviour chucked the bottle in the trash. "Kid, better be going. They'll be back for you, if you don't and another thing."
"What?" He was my hero.
"Never ride on the back of another guy's bike." It was sound advice, although he said nothing about riding behind a beautiful woman. That's a lot of fun too.
Muay Thai is featured every Sunday on Thai TV. My son Fenway and his Uncle Nai watch the bouts from Lumpini Stadium and other boxing venues in a mesmerized state. Nothng can interfere with this ritual much as Fenway will not tolerate any talking during his sessions with the cartoon Ultraman. After the victors and losers are declared for the day, Fenway is encouraged to show what he has learned from the fighters.
Elbow blows, high kicks, and a leap into the air onto his opponent's stomach, usually his prone father or uncle. Every attack is matched by a smile, which is very endearing on a 2 year-old boy. I call Fenway "Superstar'. Uncle Nai calls him 'Tia' or Shorty. I tell Nai that he can say taht word 4 times a day. Not more. I don't want 'Superstar Fenway' to acquire a complex, especially since his height is normal for his age.
Still I was a fighter during my life and I'm not going to stop Fenway from learning the Sweet Science. It can only do him good in the end, especially as he gets older and boys play rougher. Fenway has too good a heart to take a beating.
He's still sleeping this morning.
But I'm sure once he's back on his feet, he'll be ready for his training.
A boy doesn't get to be a 'Superstar' in the "Art of Eight Limbs" without some practice on his old man.
Back at the end of the last century there was a short time when the world was devoid of cell phones and computers. Communications between distant countries was a chore. While in Bangkok I would hire a tuk-tuk for the short trip from the Malaysia Hotel to the Bangko GPO on Charoen Krung Road. The main building was dedicated to mail. Many travelers used this PO's post restante as their address. I picked up several letters at the desk each time through Bangkok, however my main purpose at the GPO was to call home from their telephone center.
One minute to the USA was 50 baht.
International calls were possible from a phone box, although most of them sucked coins without connecting to your caller. Only the GPO telephone service was secure and even better they offered collect calls from AT&T. The office was air-conditioned for comfort of the callers. A luxury in the sweltering heat of Bangkok.
I would sit in the little glassed-in cubicle and dial that AT&T number with great pleasure.
I loved speaking with the operator. Mostly they lived in the Midwest. Their flat-accented voices soothed the home-sick heart and they were eager to forward your call to a loved one.
My parents in most cases.
No one ever refused the charge.
We'd speak for several minutes. I respect their acceptance of this expensive call and said my piece fast. Once I hung up, I'd head out into the torrid heat, not knowing when I might next make a phone call to the USA or Europe. The world had distance to it. Places were unknown. Destination were a mystery.
Nowadays everyone around the world is reachable via a cellphone or an email. I can google every place for a hotel. The world is a much smaller place. I can't recall the last time I made a collect call and I suppose my friends and family are happy to not be hit for an extravagant charge on their telephone bill.
Strangely no one ever picks up their phone in the USA.
Here too. People look at caller ID and decide whether or not to answer the call. Many times they do not. Conversation is dead. Too much phone accomplished the impossible. It shut up mankind, proving the closer we are the farther we grow apart.
This story is an excuse for my silence of the last couple of days. I had no internet service and I enjoyed that freedom from the constant barrage of information while at the same tiem suffered the jones from cold turkey.
I'm back online again, although tomorrow I'll be flying back to the States from Thailand. Work and winter. That's what I have waiting for me in New York.
And I was expecting nothing less.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
After my youngest brother's death from AIDS in 1995 I traveled to the Orient with the intention of visiting several holy sites to help send Michael's soul into the aether. I landed in Bangkok and booked a flight to Kunming in Yunnan, China's southernmost province. I skipped the offered tours of the Shalin Stone Forest and caught the evening bus to Dali, an ancient walled city in the shadow of the Cangshan Mountains. Its roads end in the shallows of Erhai Lake. I stayed at a humble worker's hostel and drank at a backpacker cafe.
Few of its citizens spoke English. The owner of the cafe was a fierce traditionalist. His pride of China's past had been freed by the New Economy and one night he said to me, "You westerners fear our power."
"More, we fear your chaos." I thought that was a clever put down. The Chinese Cultural revolution had set China back twenty years, however that stumble was fast being erased by the industry of the present-day Middle Kingdom. The ten-year plan of the 90s catapulted the country into the position of the world's leading manufacturer, as Western corporations off-shored tens of millions of jobs to China.
Nothing is made in the USA anymore.
Or anywhere else.
This week the Chinese Premier visited Washington on an official visit to the White House. Obama hailed the progress of the visitors' economy, while criticizing the nation's poor standing on human rights. Premier Hu was polite enough not to mention Git-mo, Abu-Ghabib, our two-million strong prison population, or draconian drug laws. Our two nations are linked in a death dance to see who will be #1 by mid-century and the odds are on China, as we have spent our treasure of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We are not friends.
Not the USA and the Chinese Communists who rule their country with an iron fist.
They remember the words of the Russian Communist leader, Khruschev.
"We will bury you."
Almost no one in America can place who said this sentence, but I know on whose side rides the future.
Hi-yo Silver Away.
The Lone Ranger will come to the rescue.
Either that or the end of the world in 2012, because no one in America will like to cheer at an international sporting event.
"We're # 2."
ps Khruschev's shoe had slipped off on the way to the podium. His secretary had handed him the shoe wrapped in a handkerchief. He kept it under the podium until reaching those famous words with a famous shoe.
This Xmas Eve I traveled north from New York to Boston on the Fung Wah bus. My sisters and I went to a party at our old next door neighbors. Everyone was in good spirits. I drank a little more than more but not more than everyone. It was a time of cheer.
The next morning I woke at my eldest sister's house and we handed out gifts around the Xmas tree. The dinner table was set for eight. My sister, her husband, their two kids, her daughter's boyfriend, and my aunt and uncle. A baked ham was a departure from the traditional turkey, but a welcome change from the Big Bird.
Old stories of Maine dominated the table. My mother putting my brother and I on a train alone, my uncle throwing a dime at the Portsmouth tollbooth, watching bears at the dump were only few of the legends reworked by the gathering. My niece's boyfriend was new to our family and the logging trucker didn't say much, although everyone was impressed by his present to my brother-in-law.
A set of gigantic moose antlers.
"Find them all the time on the back roads. They fall off in the fall. Thought you might like them."
I told a story about a night drive over the White Mountains on the Kancamagus Highway back in the 90s.
"Got to the top of the pass and saw what looked to me a Yeti in the underbrush. Wasn't no Yeti, but a bull moose leading his harem across the road."
"Lucky you didn't hit one. They come through your windshield and you're dead man." The trucker spoke with authority. The thirty year-old had had several near-accident on the back roads off the West Branch of the Penobscot.
"Yeah, your next-door neighbor on the Lake had a patient who had hit one while driving a motorcycle." I was speaking to my brother-in-law. I needed him as back-up, since my family considered many of my stories to be myths. "We had been sitting with Carrie at the end of the dock, watching an August meteor shower. He worked at Maine Medical taking care of recovering drunks. A postal worker had been missing in action for several weeks and when he showed up again, Carrie barely recognized him. The man said he struck the rear end of a moose and his face was brushed away by its bristles. Said it cured him of drink for the time being."
"That would do it for me." Our new guest said succinctly. Someone people might have thought him brusque. They didn't know Maine or its way of speech.
"That can't be true." My aunt doubted the veracity of my tale, but my brother-in-law interjected,"I heard the same story. I don't know it to be 100% true, but Carrie doesn't tell stories like some people we know."
All eyes but my those of my niece's boyfriend gazed at either my uncle or me.
We were guilty as silently accused, however as I always like to say, "All stories are true if interesting."
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
My first trip to the Orient was in 1990. A round-the-world ticket. One destination was Singapore. The Straits city was already undergoing its metamorphosis from a colonial port to a gleaming metropolis of skyscrapers. Raffles was closed for renovations. I stayed at a cheap Chinese hotel in a decrepit godown. The walls climbed toward the ceiling without reaching their destination. A yard of wire covered the gap. The bedding was soiled by a thousand weary bodies and the languid fan spun with lazy fatigue. I left the room and walked toward the harbor. A rickshaw driver stopped me.
“You want ma.” His clothing was shredded by a decade of useless washes. His body was dessicated to bones wrapped in parchment. His eyes shone with a dull want.
“Ma.” Horse in Chinese. The word had one meaning in New York City. “Where?”
“I know place.” His claw of a hand beckoned to accompany him. Drugs were contraband in Singapore. The penalty for possession was death in the most grievous cases. A long prison sentence for anyone else foolish enough to challenge the system. Most arrests came from informers such as this rickshaw driver. “I not police.”
“I know.” Snitch maybe, but the appeal of opium was an old friend. I climbed into his vehicle and we traveled into the night far from the new towers of glass and steel. The streetlights were dim in this neighborhood. Several doorways were populated by Indonesian transvestites. Others by Chinese whores. Men drank openly on the sidewalk in rebellion against the Singapore leader’s draconian measures for public behavior. The rickshaw driver braked with a whining screech.
“Here.” He looked over his shoulder to check for anything out of place. “My name Rami. This place good. Give $10.”
I handed over the money. We entered the battered house. The smell of opium greeted us. I tapped Rami and gave him another $10. “Half for you. Half for me.”
“You good man.” Rami smiled with two front teeth. The rest were brown as cigar butts.
An old woman of indistinguishable racial origins led us into a tiny cubicle. The furnishing were two wooden benches and a wax-covered stool. Sweat shadows marking the proper position for lying on them. Money passed hands and she shut the door. Rami produced tin foil, which he tore into two separate pieces.
“Sorry, no have pipe.”
“I know how to chase the dragon.” I opened my packet and dropped the black ball on the aluminum foil. Rami rolled two paper tubes. A candle was lit on the stool. Rami was an expert and I followed his lead.
Within minutes we were transported to another century before planes, telephones, and movies. Opium was king and I was its slave. Years later I went back to find the opium den. A shopping mall was standing in its place. It was selling nothing I wanted. Only fancy perfumes and expensive shirts. It was better that way for the rest of the world and I went to Raffles for a Gin Sling, looking for Rami every step of the way.
He had to be in the shadows somewhere.
Men like him never die.
Not if they know what is good for them.
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. My money buys freedom.”
I remembered how he talked about his money. I should have left, but followed him to the front of the Baths. I hadn’t smoked opium for years. We entered the bathroom and he pulled out a glass stem. We lit up 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.
800 kilometers north of SriRacha is the Golden Triangle. Tourists tend to identify this fabled name with the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers. The term more accurately referred to the opium-growing regions in Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Most of the world's opium was grown by the tribesmen living beyond the law. Back in the 90s the highlight of many backpacker's mountain treks from Chiang Mai was a night's stay at a remote village, where the headman would offer opium or fin to the farangs. More enterprising westerners attempted to ship the narcotic back to Europe. Some only made it as far as a Thai prison.
Viktor Bout, infamous arms dealer most recently extradited to the USA from Thailand said, "Prisons inn the state are like mental hospitals and here they're like a zoo."
Even money won't save a farang, but this doesn't prevent westerners from challenging the gauntlet of police snitches, DEA, and custom inspectors. I haven't seen opium or 'fin' in years, although last night I went to the local pharmacy and asked the chemist for medicine to cure a persistent cough of the last month.
The druggist gave me a small bottle labeled 'Brown Mixture'.
20 baht or 60 cents.
I figured for a generic drug and returned home, where I took a slug, then read the read the label. The last ingredient was 'tincture of opium'. In other words I was drinking laudanum. The drug of choice for the 19th Century. I finished the bottle in one go. I slept like an angel. A good destination for a man my age and my cough is gone too.
Good old Brown Mixture.
Nothing like it in the States.
Yesterday a tropical bee flew into our new house in Sriracha. Mam attacked the flying insect with a broom. My two year-old son Fenway screamed at the little creature. I rolled up the front section of yesterday's Bangkok Post and tracked the bee's flight. My first swat caught the buzzing bee on a zag and the invader caromed off the wall to finish its life on the tiled floor. Mam swept the bee from the house and I brandished the newspaper in triumph.
TV never replaced the newspaper for swatting flies and neither will the computer.
This was not my first combat with bees.
In the summer of 1960 my family moved from Maine to a suburban tract south of Boston in the Blue Hills. The neighborhood was located on the site of an abandoned army base. My Uncle Jack had been processed here for the Korean War. Bulldozers razed the remaining derelict military installations and the ruins provided shelter for dozens of bee hives. Their scouts swarmed over the newly planted flower bed of our house and those of our neighbors. My mother considered any creature larger than an ant an animal and throughout June and July our split-level was filled with her screams.
By August the bulldozers had eradicated most the the nest. The bees retreated to a small gully filled with fruit crates. It was right behind our house. A constant danger to anyone walking outside.
My older brother, our next neighbor, Chuckie, and I decided to exterminate the threat and left our garage with snow shovels over our shovels. We wore towels around our heads as protection. My youngest sister accompanied our expedition.
Our grandmother had been a nurse in World War I. My sister had aspiration for the same profession. She was in last year's Halloween costume. A very cute four year-old nurse.
The four of us stood at the edge of the gully. The buzz of the bees resonated in the air like a flock of mini-motorcycles. My brother was 8. Chuckie and I were 7. He was the captain. We were privates. His strategy was simple.
"Smash everything." He motioned for my sister to retreat to a safe distance. She backed away from us and we descended into the pit with the shovels raised above our heads. The first crate splintered under our assault. The bees swirled into a tornado of anger before seeking our flesh.
"Run." My brother shouted in terror, as the bees defended their hive. We dropped the shovels and ran across the lawn toward our house. My sister stood her ground. The bees went for the easy target. She was bitten a dozen times in the space of time that it took for my brother to rescue her from the swarm.
My mother was furious with us, but more so with the developer and the next morning a bulldozer filled the gully with earth. I didn't see a bee after that day, although my brother and I swore that the ground vibrated with the buzzing of the buried bees.
The danger of the bees was softened by our parents' mystical interpretation of the birds and bees. None of it made any sense to us and none was supposed to make any sense. Sex was a forbidden subject in the suburbs. I asked my father what it really meant. He had attended a good college in Maine.
"'All nature seems at work ... The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing ... and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing. That's from Samuel Coleridge. Now do you understand?" The tone of my father's voice excluded any answer other than one.
Several years later Chuckie and I found a stash of moldy porno magazines in the woods. The photos of naked men and women were devoid of of birds and bees. Chuckie pointed to a man's erect penis.
"That's his stinger."
"And the woman is the egg?" I asked under my voice. We were over a mile from my house, but I was scared my mother could hear everything I said anywhere. She had good hearing despite her small ears.
"I guess so." Chuckie was stumped and we fell asleep that night to dreams of the birds and bees. My Boy Scout Handbook had warned about 'nocturnal emissions', so I knew that the wetness inside my pajamas wasn't pee. I was one step closer to being a man.
Bees disappeared from my existence until I was much older.
I was attending Boston College. A commuter student. The trip to Chestnut Hill began with a trolley ride from Lower Mills to Ashmont. The trolley stopped inside the terminal and I ran to catch the Boston-bound train. Something flew into my mouth.
It bit the roof of my roof. I screamed out in pain and my tongue swished at my tormentor. The bee released its barb and spit it out of my mouth like I was a crazy man in a fit. Having long hair most of the other passengers on the platform feared that I was having a bad acid trip. I pointed to the bee, but black and yellow attacker flew away before anyone saw it. My explanation of the bee bite through a swollen mouth only made the passengers avoid me more.
Lightning supposedly never strikes the same place, yet later that evening I was in Chinatown. Something came up the leg of my jeans. A bee and it stun my calf. I slapped at my jeans and the bee dropped to the sidewalk. It looked amazingly like the bee from Ashmont and I wasn't giving it another chance to kill me. I stomped the bee out of this existence.
An hour I returned home passing the old gully. The moon was up and the grass shone silver under the reflected light of the sun. I laid my ear to the ground. It was silent, but in my mind I was sure that day's bee was a descendant of those hives. It had to have family and they would seek their revenge.
I expected nothing less from the birds in bees.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I had a great job over the holidays being invited to Xmas parties as the Xmas Drunk. $500 an appearance and all I could drink. Bad behavior was a must. Insulting the boss was a showstopper. Punching out the hated brother-in-law was most requested extra. $100/punch. Insulting a wife's obesity was a secret request by many husbands. I refused this boon. Punching a jerk is one thing. Hurting a fat woman's feelings is bad taste.
Big Dave from the diamond exchange was my back-up in case a situation spun out of hand. I knew the limits. Big Dave never had to save my ass.
None of my clients knew my real name. I was always James Steele.
"Who was that drunk guy?" Most guests asked at the end of a successful performance.
"The Xmas Drunk." The host would answered with pride. I made everyone feel good about getting drunk.
My popularity increased as the shopping days shrunk to single digits. I couldn't handle the demand. I boosted my rate to $200/hour. No one complained about my performance. By December 21st I was at the top of my game.
At a Hedge Fund soiree atop a skyscraper I ambushed the ruling CEO in the bathroom. I pointed a gun at him. Actually it was only a finger in my suit pocket. The capitalist fool was drunk enough to not question me.
Either that of very guilty.
I accused this czar of finance of impoverishing the world. He swore that he was simply doing his job.
"I'll give you a check for a million if you let me go."
"Money means nothing to the Xmas Drunk." I grabbed him by his tie and dragged him into the main office, where his fellow execs ridiculed his surrender to a besotted revolutionary. At most parties people were people. Here these investment bankers consider themselves better than anyone else. I left to applause and superglued shut the doors of the office. They didn't get out until 3am.
The next morning I received a complaint from the banker who had hired me.
"What do you expect from the Xmas Drunk? Emily Post manners. Fuck off." I had a wicked hang-over. I probably should have apologized, but he had paid me in cash. Everyone did, because there's only one person worst than the Xmas Drunk and that the guy trying to seek revenge by stiffing me, so I'm a strictly cash enterprise and the Xmas Drunk knows where these jerks live.
Being naughty and not nice all part of the Xmas Drunk's job.
His co-workers laughed at his surrender to the Xmas The only downside was that I had to be drunker than anyone else at the party so the family members and guests and co-workers could say the next morning, "At least I wasn't as drunk as the Xmas drunk."
I didn't have the heart to say that I was faking it.
Nothing says asshole better than the Xmas drunk.
The Baltimore Colts entered Superbowl III as 18-point favorites over the AFL’s New York Jets. The underdogs were quarterbacked by the flashy Joe Namath. The brash Alabama native boasted in Miami, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.”
The Colts were infuriated by this brash statement and quashed the first drive by the Jets, however big games are won on injuries as much as luck and after the bruising fullback Matt Snell knocked out the Colts’ safety and the secondary was open for Don Maynard, who scored 2 TDs.
The NFL champs never really challenged the upstarts, as their all-star OB missed several opportunities to hit receivers in the end-zone. The victory acted as a turbo-charged boost for the AFL, however the Jets have never come as close to the Super Bowl as today’s game against an historic rival.
Betters lost millions on this game. No one ever questioned the outcome. The Jets seemed to have simply outplayed the NFL juggernaut.
In 1984 I ran into Bubba Smith at the Deauville Film Festival. I was attending the gathering for the French magazine ACTUEL. The Colt defensive lineman was in France to promote the film POLICE ACADEMY.
Not #2 or #3.
Most reporters were huddled around Steve Guttman, the star of the comedy. Bubba was off to the side. He wasn't on my list of interviewees. ACTUEL was more interested in my speaking with Rock Hudson about acting with James Dean in GIANT.
That rendezvous wasn't until after tomorrow's screening of George Stevens' epic and I introduced myself to 6-7 280 pound ex-NFL All Star as a longtime admirer. His fearsome tackling at Michigan State had earned the enormous lineman the motto 'Kill Bubba Kill'. I half-expected him to crush my hand, but he smiled when I told him how much I liked his acting.
"Just playing myself."
Neither of us had anything scheduled for the afternoon and I suggested that we retire to the Bar of the Hotel Atlantique. It had a great view of the beach,
I told him about being a Boston Patriots fan.
The Pats were my team. The 1983 season was 8 wins versus 8 losses. The Baltimore Colts beat them twice. Both games were close, but I was more interested in the past and Bubba told me how it was to play with Johnny Unitas. He said great without any reservation, but I was dodging the real question and after my fourth glass of wine I leaned over to ask Bubba Smith, “The Colts were such a favorite in Super Bowl 3, how did you lose to the Jets?”
“They got to the quarterback.” Bubba answered without caring who heard that accusation. Most everyone in the bar was French. None of them had ever heard about Joe Namath's boast about winning against the Colts. They were frogs and they worshiped soccer. Not football.
“The game was fixed?”
A shrug indicated that the answer was mine to decide and I remembered Unitas throwing the ball to the Jets defender and Morall’s 3 interceptions.
“Who fixed the game?”
It was a stupid question undeserving of an answer and Bubba stood away from the bar. A few of the froggies gawked at him. They had never seen a man or woman that huge.
"Excuse me. I gotta get back to work." Bubba Smith went over to watch Michael Winslow delight the reporters with his imitations of a helicopter. I laughed at him too.
The retired footballer avoided me the rest of the festival, especially after spotting me dining with Rock Hudson. Bu I didn’t mention Bubba's confession to the editorial staff of Actuel. None of them were interested in a rumor about a football game in 1969. The editors were having trouble with my article with Rock Hudson. My typing was atrocious.
While I've never seen a replay of Super Bowl III, several bookie friends of mine had listened to my story and mumbled under their breath about how the Mob had threatened the lives of Earl Morall’s and Unitas’ families. Bubba said nothing, but the opposing quarterback had a big mouth.
“We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” Joe Namath's words were carved in stone thanks to strong-arm gangsters. Sometimes there is such a thing as a sure thing. although these days games are never fixed by players. They make too money.
Refs on the other hand control the game from start to finish.
Not that I'm pointing any fingers.
In truth I don't know nothing and I'm happy that way.
Knowing even less would only make me happier.
ps Anita Bryant sang the National Anthem in 1969 whose later anti-gay campaign was immortalized by David Allan Coe’s 1978 song “Fuck Anita Bryant”.
In 1977 a Beacon Hill lawyer hired me to vanish his gas-guzzling Oldsmobile. $300 to never seen the Detroit pig again. It was grand-theft auto, but the risk was minimal. He'd report the car stolen the next day and collect on the insurance within a month.
I had disappeared three of his friend's lemons during the winter. My technique was to drive the car to New York and park them along the West Side Highway. I'd chuck the plates in the Hudson and leave the keys in the ignition. This was my last job, because I was leaving Boston to share my life with a starry-eyed painter in Brooklyn Heights.
There was no looking back. I had quit my teaching job at South Boston High School, emptied my basement apartment in Brookline, and called Ro to tell her that I was coming her way. My future as a poet married to an artist ended when her roommate told me that she had departed for Paris in the morning. He shut the door in my face and I didn't blame him. he was her ex-boyfriend.
My two options were to return to Boston in heart-broken defeat or stick it out in New York. My decision was settled by a phone call to James Spicer, who was the manager for the jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. I had $600 in my pocket and James had a spare bedroom in Park Slope.
I spent most of the rest of my life in New York, which wasn't easy for a Boston fan. I watched Bucky Dent's home run at the Empire Hotel and Bill Buckner's error at the Milk Bar on lower 7th Avenue. While these two games against the Yankees and Mets were bitter defeats, the late 70s, 80s, and 90s were not kind to Boston fans anywhere.
Only the Boston Celtics brought us to the promised land in the mid-80s. The Bruins languished as almsot-rans in the NHL. The Patriots came close on two occasions to be blown out in the Spuer Bowl two times against the Bears and the Packers. The Celtics descended into chaos under the coaching of Rick Pitino and ML Carr. Despite the lack of success I remained true to my home teams and was rewarded by the Red Sox's miraculous shucking of the Babe Ruth Curse in 2004 and the Celtics' winning the 2008 NBA championship.
The true glory belonged to the Patriots, winners on 3 Super Bowl. They would have won a 4th in 2008 if it weren't for Placido Burgess' incredible catch in the last minute of regulation. I had seen the game in Thailand. Early morning. The only Boston fan at the bar. The New Yorkers hooted with joy. They are poor losers and even worse winners. My business failed later that winter and I returned to New York with $100 in my pocket.
There was no thought of making a new start in Boston.
That city might be deep in my blood, but I don't like living in the past. My friend AP offered me a soft landing at his brownstone in Fort Greene. Richie Boy and Manny gave me my old job on 47th Street selling diamonds. Same salary as when I left in 2000, which was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Everyone in the exchange was a Giants or Jets fan. As much as the Giants win rankled my pride, the Patriots' true NFL rival was the Jets. Their fans clutched onto Jim Namath's stunning upset over the Baltimore Colts in 1969 like the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV. He had continued to sleep with his teenage bride for 13 years after her death. They seemed no threat to the Patriots' domination of the AFC East, even though their record improved from 4-12 in 2007 to 11-5 this season.
Our two teams met twice in the regular season. The Jets winning the first and the Patriots routing New York in the rematch. The Jets barely made the playoffs, but their road victory over the Colts forced a rubber match in the quarterfinals. The Jets were a brash team. Their coach a fat big mouth. Trash talking was the order of the week for the Jets. Almost no one of the Patriots bothered to respond to the attacks. Their coach Bill Belichik was the strong quiet dignified type. His squad did their talking on the field and the Jets were underdogs, even though both teams were even matched across the board.
That was the case until Old Bill announced the benching of his star receiver for his comments about the wife of the Jet's coach. She was into foot fetishism. His calling the Jet's Rex Ryan's foot soldiers was a cardinal sin in the playoffs.
"Never say anything that might piss off the opposing team."
Old Bill sat the wide receiver for the first series, which ended in an interception without his favorite target on the field. Tom Brady never looked sharp during the first half. Old Bill's punishing Welsey Welker had fucked with his head and the rest of the game Old Bill fucked up time and time again. The Jets won the game 28-21 and all because Old Bill took the high road.
Obviously he had not forgotten Vince Lombardi's old adage.
"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."
Football coaches are sometimes stupidly poetic.
Of course Old Bill apologized for nothing.
And now when I come back from this short family visit to Thailand, I will only be able to say, "Wait until next year."
Thanks Old Bill.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
21 years ago I sold a 5-FSI1 Round Brilliant Diamond to a woman from Florida. She was purchasing the ring for her mother. When asked to ship the present to Miami Beach via Fedex, my boss refused to accommodate the woman's request, fearing the diamond might get lost in transit. The customer was driven to tears by his harsh manner and his son, Richie Boy, berated his 62 year-old father for his intransigence. The sale was on the line. My commish was $4000. Manny finally relented after several hours, cursing us out and saying once the woman left the exchange, "You guys are soft as shit. She was only crying to get her way. Women are good that way."
Manny's harsh assessment was the direct descendant of Cato's famous quote, "When a woman weeps, she is setting traps with her tears."
I had seen enough women cry to know both Manny and Cato were right, but decided to celebrate the sale with a trip around the world. I had read an advertisement in the Sunday NY Times from PanExpress Travel.
$1350 for flights from JFK to LA to Honolulu to Biak to Bali then travel by train to Jakarta and fly to Sumatra across the Malacca Straits to Malaysia to catch a train to Thailand and then up into Nepal for a trek in the Himalayas before straight-lining through Paris and London to New York.
"How long you going for?" Richie Boy asked a week prior to my departure.
"Five to six months." I was planning on writing a book on pornography in LA. It was based on my cousin Sherri's life in film. She had starred in over 2000 XXX movies. Every male in America knew her name.
"There's no way your job going to be here when you get back." Richie Boy and I went back to my years as a doorman at a punk disco on West 62nd Street. Our friendship of twenty years meant nothing on 47th Street. He had a business to run.
"I wouldn't expect it to be." The title of my novel was NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD. It was bound for the NY Times bestseller list. I'd never have to work as a wage slave again.
I sublet my apartment to a Swedish male nurse. Scandinavians were very dependable and my profit on the sublet was $300/month. I bought a Rough Guide book for South East Asia on the way to JFK. The Lonely Planet travel books said that a backpacker could live on $10/day. My budget was $40/day. The money from my subleasee was my beer budget. The guidebooks said beer was cheap out East.
And they weren't wrong.
I bought big bottles of beer for everyone on the route. I celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Bali with a marching Legong band. Dawn on the rim of Mt. Bromo. Smoking pot on the shores of Sumatra's Lake Toba. Drinking whiskey with Chinese whores in Malaysia. The entire trip had been an eye-opener and I boarded a train north for Thailand opposite Penang in Georgetown. A German woman was my company. We were just friends headed for the fabled beaches of Koh Samui.
Palm trees, white sands, and gin=clear water.
Ilsa and I got off the train in Surathani around midnight. The last ferry had left the harbor 30 minutes earlier. Most of the backpackers were sleeping on the pier. Ilsa and I taxied off to a hotel.
$20/night for an aircon room with TV.
A host of beautiful bargirls greeted my entrance to the lobby with cries of 'hey, handsome'. They sounded like they really meant it and I abandoned Ilsa who wanted to catch the dawn ferry to Koh Samui.
"I'm just going to have a beer." I was 38. My wallet was filled with baht. Three of the girls looked like Suzie Wong. I went upstairs with one of them. Her name was Porn. We stayed together five days. She actually cried when I finally headed over to Koh Samui.
Thailand really was a paradise and I'm there now.
A quick trip to see my wife, Mem, and our son, Fenway. I just asked her if I was handsome.
"Sure, you handsome, like your son." She loves her kids and me some of the time. Mostly when I'm here, even if it's for a short time, because Richie Boy and Manny are waiting in New York. For all their talk I always have my job and Thailand is always paradise.
The Thai word for Eden is sa-wan. Of course na-lok is the word for hell. And I've been in hell here too, but not today.
The first recorded circumnavigation of the world was completed by Magellan's fleet in 1522. The Portugese explorer's trip ended in a bloody beach battle in the Philippines. Of the five ships and 237 men only 18 survived this epic journey thank to the captaincy of Juan Sebastián Elcano. His name is forgotten by the masses, who have mostly forgotten Magellan too, however the spices in the hold of the Navidad reaped a fortune for the investors and world-wide travel was established to conduct trade between the far-flung nations of the world.
Ships from New England crisscrossed the globe for centuries. My great-grand-aunt Bert sailed in her father's clipper ship to exotic ports in the Orient. Her house in Falmouth Foresides was crowded with mementos from China, India, Hawaii, and Japan. She lived to be 103. At her 100th birthday she told me with a voice dusted by time, "Siam was the most beautiful place I ever went, but the women there all had black teeth from chewing betel nut."
No one else the next two generation accomplish this feat, although my Uncle Russ invaded Japan, Uncle Dave fought in the naval battles off Biak, and my Uncle Jack fought his way out of Korea's Chosin reservoir. Two Christmases ago he told my cousin and me about shooting hundreds of Chinese and losing dozens of friends.
"I never had any interest in ever going back to that continent." The 80 year-old ex-Marine Lieutenant wiped away several tears from his eyes and lifted a glass of whiskey. Jamison. We toasted his bravery and he put down his drink. "Took our ship almost a month to reach Japan. How long is the flight now?"
"About 22 to 25 hours." I have tried every variant of the trip.
Over the pole. East to West. West to East. There's nothing short about the flights.
"Although Thai Airway used to have a 17 hour non-stop ticket from JFK to Bangkok." My legs were swollen from the high-altitude pressure and I hobbled from the 747 like a broken-down horse.
"I can stand being on a plane for a minute." Uncle Jack's wife, my aunt, hated flying. They were very well-off, but during their 70s they only traveled by bus.
"I have no choice." My children live over in Thailand. A sea voyage would take months and Manny, my boss on the diamond exchange on 47th Street, doesn't permit me the luxury of long vacation. At 83 he needs as much help as possible, but understands the call of family having raised four children of his own.
Upon his return from a two-week holiday in the holy city of Miami Beach, Manny looked at the calendar and said, "Go see your kids. Leave on the next flight and come back before the show in Florida."
His son Richie Boy was traveling south for a trade show. I usually organized the packing of the jewelry. There was no way of asking for a few extra days, so I planned an early departure and called PanExpress Travel to book a flight. Every flight on the better airlines were sold-out, leaving only China Air and Korean Air.
The first had the worst in-flight food on ancient 747s. My last trip with Korean Air wasn't much better. A horror show 747 out of the 60s, however Sonny, the travel agent, said, "Kprean Air much better now. Fly new 777s and have new airport. Only $1205 and the flight leaves tomorrow."
"Make it a green light." I thought Sonny might be lying. I had no choice. "Korean Air."
I called Mem with the news. We hadn't seen each other in 6 weeks. She was unhappy with her living situation. Her aunt was calling Fenway, my son, a bad boy and my wishes for him to be a superstar would be shattered by such negativism.
"We're moving house as soon as I land."
These words made Mem happy. Nothing she loves more than her three kids. I rank a good #4.
That night I drank beer at Franks and in the morning headed out to JFK on the A train. I passed through the TSA security without a problem and walked to the gate fearing the worst. Something was wrong with the plane. It wasn't a hump=backed 747. Our sky-cruiser was a new Super 777. Decent food. Good seats. Pretty stewardesses. Scads of entertainment.
Even better was Inchoen Airport.
A 2 hour lay-over.
Then another 777 to Bangkok.
28 hours door to door. Fenway was asleep on the bed. Mem kissed me once. I joined them in dreamland. I beat Magellan by three years and congratulated myself on finding a new route to the Orient. My name won't be in any history books, then again no one remembers Juan Sebastián Elcano. At least no one I know.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
When I moved in the East Village with my hillbilly girlfriend in 1977, I never walked down East 10th Street between 1st Avenue and Second Avenue. I told my girlfriend to do the same. She obeyed my edict, because it was the right thing to do and she was from West Virginia. No one from the hollows had seen the evils of New York and even less the horror of the Lower East Side.
Two whorehouses and numerous drug dealers controlled the offending block. These motherfuckers tolerated no protests against their rule. My Uncle Carmine lived further East on Avenue C. He believed in carrying a gun and thought that I should too.
"This is for you." He handed me a heavy paper bag. The weight belonged to a gun. A 5-shot .38 revolver made in Germany. Uncle Carmine had been in the Merchant Marines. "I got it in Bremen. Never fired it once. Maybe you'll be just as lucky."
"I doubt it." I stuffed the revolver in my jacket and walked back to my apartment counting the number of people whom I would have shot for trespasses against the community. I would have run out of bullets on the first block. The East Village needed a death squad to combat the criminals. Thankfully they executed themselves in a series of wars aimed at controlling the heroin trade of the Far East. I never had to shoot my gun.
They did all the shooting themselves, but the East Village in 1976 is not America 2011 and certainly not Arizona where a young man decided to shoot up a political gathering at a Tucson food mart.
A congresswoman gravely wounded. A judge dead. An 8 year-old girl killed and they weren't alone. A very sad moment too often repeated in the USA, but even worse is the climate of hatred wound up by the media. Fingers pointed in all directions. Blame spilling over the the TV and the madman smiled at the cameras.
Neither left nor right.
Only fucked up.
Because that's what America does best these days.
Fuck up with guns.
Now that I think about it, "Where the fuck is that old .38?"