Sunday, July 31, 2011

Across the Border



My friends’ sons and daughters suspect that my travels are connected to the CIA or some criminal enterprise. My denials only harden their opinion mostly because they view their parents as strictly 9-5 straights. Recently one contacted me on Facebook and asked if I was in Thailand to transport drugs. Thai police are very strict on traffickers and I have never entertained any business enterprise involved the shipment of drugs within or outside Thailand.

The truth, however back in 1994 I was motorcycling north of Chiang Mai with two Italian friends. We reached the northernmost point of Thailand, Mai Sai, and stayed at the idyllic Mai Sai Guesthouse. Butterflies floated over the tropical flowers and young Burmese children swam in the river. I was content to drink a Singha beer, but they wanted more.

“More?”

“Si, opium.” They chorused this mutual desire.

“Don’t say that too loud.” Undercover Thai police are specialists at entrapping westerners. I tried to deter their obsession. They were relentless and I said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

I set out for the road running along the mountain crest demarking the frontier. No police patrolled this road. No passport control either. I spotted an old man. He was from the Yao tribe. I asked him if he knew where to find ‘fin’ or opium. He nodded with a toothless grin and pointed into Burma. I thumbed behind me and he jumped on the back of the trailbike. We drove several kilometers to a small village. Thatched huts and runny-nosed kids. He spoke with several men and came back with five fingers up.

“$50?” I asked and he smiled once more. The money was the Italians, so I wasn’t losing anything if he disappeared further into Burma. he and another man got into a pick-up and drove off. I sat in the village watched by everyone like I was a TV showing an American sit-com without subtitles. After 20 minutes I started getting nervous. I was in Burma without a visa looking for drugs. Potentially big trouble. I heard a truck coming up the hill. I got on the bike and started it in case the truck was filled with police. It was the old man.

He got out of the truck with a garbage bag of pot. Five pounds at least. I shook my head.

“Not ganga. Fin. Opium. Horse. Ma.”

None of this filter through our language barrier, but he lifted a finger for me to wait. He went into a hut and returned with a bag of white powder. It looked familiar. It tasted familiar too. Chinese # 4 Heroin. This was the deal. Dope and money money back. I thanked the old man and stuffed the cellophane bag into my boot. Thais are very wary of people’s feet. They consider them dirty and my boots were caked with dust. I drove back to Mai Sai through several Thai police checkpoints without any incident. In my room I showed the bag to the Italian.

“This is not opium.” They were disappointed until we chased the dragon.

This was the real gear and I explained that opium was tough to find now that the DEA was waging its war on drugs along the border. The growers refined the opium into heroin for easier shipment. The Italians could have cared less. they were in oblivion and by the end of the week they were hooked to the gear. They wanted more, but I wasn’t pushing my luck. I gave them directions and headed back to Chiang Mai. I never saw them again.

I explained this my friend’s son.

“Right.” He preferred to believe his own story and I was guilty as charged by a teenage mind. Better than the real thing, because I like my freedom and I know better than to do something that stupid now I’m a grown man.

Thai Food Customs



Every country has their own Old Wive’s Tales. A list of things you shouldn’t do. Thailand is no exception. Some of these seem crazy on the surface but most have hidden good reasons. You will still hear some of these being said today in some Thai families.

* Don’t eat a double banana because if you are a woman you will give birth to twins.
* Don’t eat before your elders because in your next life you will be born as a dog.
* Don’t eat food without rice because you will get rickets.
* Don’t eat salt under a tree because it will make the tree die.
* Don’t eat other people’s food without permission because it will make your throat swollen.
* Don’t eat the leftovers from your child because it will make the kid naughty.
* Don’t eat before a monk because you will become a bad ghost.
* Don’t eat corn when you have the flu because it will give you a higher fever.
* Don’t eat all of the rice during your evening meal because you should leave some for the elves.
* Don’t eat cold rice with hot rice because you will lose your way easily the next time you go out.
* Don’t eat egg when you have cut yourself because it will make it worse.
* Don’t eat chicken feet because it will give you bad handwriting.
* Don’t eat chili sauce in the mortar bowl because if you are a woman you will give birth to a child with big lips.
* Don’t eat turtles because it will make you walk slowly.
* Don’t eat dog because the dog’s spirit will possess you.

Source: Translated from “Boran Oo-bai” by Sanom Krutmeuang

This list is thanks to http://www.enjoythaifood.com/thaisuperstitions.php

Yim Yim Yim Smile Though Your Heart Is Breaking


« Thai Dating Rules and No NosPeace and War in Kabul »Thai Words For Smile

Different languages have many words for the same thing.

Eskimos supposedly have 15 words for snow.

You can read them on this URL

The travel movie AMAZING THAILAND claims the Thais have 13 words for smile. This statement falls into the realm of urban legend, although the Thais have a smile for every occasion.

Happy? Smile. Sad? Smile. Crash car into buffalo? Smile.

I went to www.thai2english.com to see how close they came to 13.

6 was the answer.

Yim – Smile

Roi yim – Smile

Feun Yim – Forced Smile ie after you tell your wife you’re not giving her any more money for the week.

Om Yim – Smile knowingly ie your wife knows you’ll hit an ATM for her if you want to go out with your friends and not get an earful.

Bproi Yim – Distribute smiles to ie smile to others saying what a fool your husband is not thinking he can get away without hitting an ATM

Obviously there are some smiles even the Thais don’t recognize.

Yim Mah – Doglike smile on your girlfriend’s boyfriend who’s you think is his brother.

Yim Kee – Shit-eating smile on your girlfriend after you discover her brother is really her husband.

Yim Beer – Your smile after figuring a bottle of beer is more faithful than your girlfriend.

Yim Kwai – Your smile as seen by Thais. Buffalo grin

Yim Talung – Your smile walking down Soi 6. Otherwise known as a leer.

Yim Im – Smile after eating too much.

Yim Isarah – Your smile upon biding your missus adios.

“Free at last, free at last. Good God Almighty. Free at last.” Martin Luther King

Thai National Anthem or Phleng Chat Thai


Thai Anthem
I haven’t been to the movies in ages, but like a baseball game in the States the cinemas play the Thai National Anthem before any feature film.



Here are the words.

Bring them with you to sing in English

Probably get arrested for lese majeste.

Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body,
The whole country belongs to the Thai people,
Maintaining thus far for the Thai,
All Thais intend to unite together,
Thais love peace, but do not fear to fight,
They will never let anyone threaten their independence,
They will sacrifice every drop of their blood to contribute to the nation,
Will serve their country with pride and prestige-full of victory.
Chai Yo (Cheers)
I like the sacrifice every drop of their blood part

Dictator Somoza of Nicaragua had his people donate blood every year and sold it to the USA. Needless to say he pocketed the profit.

Now that’s patriotism.

One other comment of national anthems.

Very few people know that Zimbabwe’s national anthem is BIG BAD LEROY BROWN or that THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER comes from an old English drinking song.

The ANACREONTIC SONG

1
To ANACREON in Heav’n, where he sat in full Glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a Petition,
That He their Inspirer and Patron wou’d be;
When this Answer arriv’d from the JOLLY OLD GRECIAN
“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
“No longer be mute,
“I’ll lend you my Name and inspire you to boot,
“And, besides, I’ll instruct you like me, to intwine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’s Vine.

2
The news through OLYMPUS immediately flew;
When OLD THUNDER pretended to give himself Airs_
If these Mortals are suffer’d their Scheme to pursue,
The Devil a Goddess will stay above Stairs.
“Hark! already they cry,
“In Transports of Joy
“Away to the Sons of ANACREON we’ll fly,
“And there, with good Fellows, we’ll learn to intwine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.

3
“The YELLOW-HAIR’D GOD and his nine fusty Maids
“From HELICON’S Banks will incontinent flee,
“IDALIA will boast but of tenantless Shades,
“And the bi-forked Hill a mere Desart will be
“My Thunder, no fear on’t,
“Shall soon do it’s Errand,
“And, dam’me! I’ll swinge the Ringleaders I warrant,
“I’ll trim the young Dogs, for thus daring to twine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.

4
APOLLO rose up; and said, “Pr’ythee ne’er quarrel,
“Good King of the Gods with my Vot’ries below:
“Your Thunder is useless_then, shewing his Laurel,
Cry’d. “Sic evitabile fulmen, you know!
“Then over each Head
“My Laurels I’ll spread
“So my Sons from your Crackers no Mischief shall dread,
“Whilst snug in their Club-Room, they Jovially twine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.

5
Next MOMUS got up, with his risible Phiz,
And swore with APOLLO he’d cheerfull join_
“The full Tide of Harmony still shall be his,
“But the Song, and the Catch, & the Laugh shall bemine
“Then, JOVE, be not jealous
Of these honest Fellows,
Cry’d JOVE, “We relent, since the Truth you now tell us;
“And swear, by OLD STYX, that they long shall entwine
“The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.

6
Ye Sons of ANACREON, then, join Hand in Hand;
Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love!
‘Tis your’s to support what’s so happily plann’d;
You’ve the Sanction of Gods, and the FIAT of JOVE.
While thus we agree
Our Toast let it be.
May our Club flourish happy, united and free!
And long may the Sons of ANACREON intwine
The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCHUS’S Vine.
——————————————————————————–
sic evitabile fulmen roughly translates to “this repels thunderbolts” (It was a common
Roman belief that laurel provided protection from lightning.)
fusty = close or stuffy, old-fashioned, of stale wine
phiz = facial expression
risible = pertaining to laughter
swinge = beat, flog, or chastise

I tried to sing it, but it’s even harder than THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER which is why I only sing LOUIE LOUIE at bars.

To Forgive and Forget by Peter Nolan Smith


After my youngest brother died of AIDS in 1995, I traveled to the holiest shrines in Asia. The ancient temples salved little of my grief and I switched to worshipping the high heels of the go-go girls. Vee danced at the Baby A Go-Go in Pattaya. She had one eye. We had an affair. The word ‘love’ was traded between us many times. My money ran out before Christmas and a 747 flew me back to the States. My vow to return was a lie. Friends phoned to say she was seeing an Englishman. It seemed better that way.

A year later I took a plane to Thailand. The taxi ride from Bangkok lasted two hours. I stayed at the same hotel. A knock sounded on the door. It wasn’t room service. Vee hadn’t changed much physically, but told me she had AIDS. I said I would help her. We went up country to see her baby. She said it could have been mine.
The math didn’t work out, but I was glad that the child was healthy. The farm had prospered. Vee and I slept in the same bed. She wanted me to hold her. We did nothing else. The next morning I looked for water. No medicine filled the refrigerator. Vee put the child on my lap. She had told her lovers the same story. It had been a test.

I was the only one who passed this exam. The memory of my brother stopped my strangling her. The baby cried as I packed my bags. Vee asked if I was angry. My answer was a weak no and I caught the next bus out of town. Forgetting her lie was much easier in Pattaya as was everything else, because life is too short not to forgive and forget.

Friday, July 29, 2011

26 Hours Door to Door

I left Fort Greene Wednesday morning at 10:30. The A-train took me to JFK. Air-rail to Delta's Terminal # 3. A 777 over the NorthLands to Tokyo. 2 hours of waiting in Narita. Another 7 Hours to Bangkok and then a 2 hours taxi ride to Sriracha.

Home to see little Fenway and his mother.

His birthday was yesterday.

Happy Birthday Fenway.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top 50 Foods from CNN


Americans are not renown for their adventurous palate. Most of the country survives on fast food; morning, noon, and night with potato chips in between meals washed down my corn-syrup thickened sodas. Hamburgers and fries are this nation's favorite food, but America's # 1 was only # 6 on the cnngo.com ie CNN's online life site.

Pop corn at 50 was beat out by America's fastest fast good potato chips.

The only times I eat chips is out of someone else's bag. it's the only time that they taste good.

Ketchup scores even higher.

No mention of hot dogs, fried clams, Italian sandwiches, hummus or apple pie.

Today I had a croissant for breakfast, a cheeseburger and root beer for lunch, cherries and melon in the afternoon, and I'm looking at pulled BBQ pork, brown rice, and string beans for dinner washed down by hard cider.

Tomorrow I flying west to Thailand. 25 hours of airplane food and then I'll order # 1 on the list.

Poo massaman curry - curried crab

Nothing better unless you're hungry than anything tastes good.

Even potato chips.

Here's the rest of the list from www.cnngo.com


50. Buttered popcorn, United States

49. Masala dosa, India - crispy, rice-batter crepe encases a spicy mix of mashed potato, which is then dipped in coconut chutney, pickles, tomato-and-lentil-based sauces and other condiments

48. Potato chips, United States

47. Seafood paella, Spain

46. Som tam, Thailand - pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya.

45. Chicken rice, Singapore - steamed or boiled chicken is served atop fragrant oily rice, with sliced cucumber as the token vegetable

44. Poutine, Canada - French fries smothered in cheese curds and brown gravy

43. Tacos, Mexico

42. Buttered toast with Marmite, Britain

41. Stinky tofu, Southeast Asia

40. Marzipan, Germany

39. Ketchup, United States

38. French toast, Hong Kong

37. Chicken parm, Australia

36. Texas barbecue pork, United States

35. Chili crab, Singapore

34. Maple syrup, Canada

33. Fish ‘n’ chips, Britain

32. Ankimo, Japan - a chunk of monkfish liver with a little grated daikon on the side

31. Parma ham, Italy

30. Goi cuon (summer roll), Vietnam

29. Ohmi-gyu beef steak, Japan

28. Pho, Vietnam - a broth, fresh rice noodles, a few herbs and usually chicken or beef

27. Montreal-style smoked meat, Canada

26. Fajitas, Mexico

25. Butter garlic crab, India

24. Champ, Ireland - mashed potato with spring onions, butter, salt and pepper

23. Lasagna, Italy
.
22. Brownie and vanilla ice cream, global

21. Croissant, France

20. Arepas, Venezuela - a corn-dough patty topped with cheese, shredded chicken, crisped pork skin, perico, beef, tomato, avocado

19. Nam tok moo, Thailand - grilled pork combined with lemon juice, green onions, chili, mint sprigs, fish sauce and toasted rice

18. Kebab, Iran

17. Lobster, global

16. Egg tart, Hong Kong

15. Kalua pig, United States

14. Donuts, United States

13. Corn on the cob, global

12. Shepherd’s pie, Britain

11. Rendang, Indonesia - beef slowly simmered with coconut milk and a mixture of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chilies

10. Chicken muamba, Gabon - chicken, hot chili, garlic, tomato, pepper, salt, okra and palm butter

9. Ice cream, United States

8. Tom yum goong, Thailand - soup with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves in coconut milk and cream.

7. Penang Assam Laksa, Malaysia - Poached, flaked mackerel, tamarind, chili, mint, lemongrass, onion, pineapple in a broth

6. Hamburger, Germany

5. Peking duck, China

4. Sushi, Japan

3. Chocolate, Mexico

2. Neapolitan pizza, Italy

1. Massaman curry, Thailand

Remember it's CNN's list not mine.

Nothing Better Than Pizza


Back in 1995 I left the USA after the death of my younger brother. My plan was to visit the holiest places in Asia to expiate Michael's sins. I was a non-believer, but felt this pilgrimage would help his soul on the other side.

By late August I was residing in old Yunnanese city of Lijiang in Southern China for a month. My hotel room had a view of the Jade Snow Dragon Mountain farther up the valley. Most travelers came to see the old stone city with its traditional Naxhi influences and then head off to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Yangtze River. I skipped the tramp down the swollen gorge. It was rainy season and the footing was treacherous on the dirt paths. Returning backpackers reveled each other with the legend of a lone Israeli hiker who fell from the trail and broke his leg. His cries for help were drowned out by the rushing rapids. He died of starvation within 20 feet of the trail. It sounded like a myth to me, since the nationality, sex, age, and year changed with each telling. Still I refused many offers from passing tourist to join their trek.

I was happy in Lijiang. The food was good, the city had cold beer, and I was friendly with two Frenchmen laying fiber optic cables between Lijiang and Dali, another tourist destination to the south. We bicycled up to the Snow Jade Dragon Mountain to see the ski slope. 20 miles up an ascending road with the wind in our faces. The mountain to the right. Clouds wrapped its snowy peaks. The ski slope ended up being a sled run. Skiing in Yunnan was a lie, but that came as no surprise, since the Chinese adapted many western trends to their culture without any knowledge of that field.

The Frenchmen and I rode dirt trails back to Lijiang. We passed through small villages and abandoned monasteries. Our conversation turned to food. Lijiang fare was consisted mostly of noodles and rice. Michel extolled the oysters of his native Normandy, while Jacques praised the bouillabaisse of his hometown, Nice. I backed Lobster Newburg from Durgin Park in Boston. I had been eating at that Haymarket dinery for almost 50 years.

"Oysters, bouillabaisse, Lobster Newburg." Jacques spat on the ground. "China has none of that."

"Something more simple like a baguette and cheese." Michel licked at his lips with a watery tongue.

"There's no cheese in China or baguettes, but there is a pizza shop in Kathmandu."

"Kathmandu? That is thousands of miles away." Jacques frowned at this choice. "We will not be going that way."

"But I will and I'll write to tell you all about it, because there is no better food in the world than pizza."

"Peut-etre." Michel wasn't accepting this as fact, but Jacques agreed, "J'adore le pizza."

A month later I bid fare-well to the Frenchmen. They were stuck in Lijiang for a half-year.

"Write us about the pizza. We will be waiting."

I waved good-bye from the bus and traveled north to Chengdu, where I caught a flight to Tibet. I stayed in Lhasa two months. I lit candles at temples, circled the Jokhang every day counter-clockwise and clockwise, and spoke with rinoches, reincarnated monks. I told them about my brother. They said that they would pray for Michael. I wrote a letter to the Frenchman telling them that the food in Lhasa was even worst than that of Lijiang. Burnt hairy yak meat and rancid butter tea loaded with salt.

"I'm heading to Kathmandu for pizza." My visa for China was at an end.

I hitchhiked across the sere high plains to the rim of the Himalayas. I ate nothing on the road. The inns were covered by dusty flies. Even the beer looked dangerous. The snowy peaks stretched from east to west without a break. The altitude was 17,000. Higher than any mountain in Europe. By evening I passed through customs and booked a cheap room in a cheap hotel. The dining room was appalling and I drank beer from the bottle.

In the morning caught a mini-van bound for Kathmandu. I refused all food. Pizza was on my mind. We reached Nepal's capitol within 5 hours. I checked into the Yeti Hotel. The cheapest room was $20. I asked about the pizza. The desk clerk gave me directions and I hired a rickshaw to drag me to Fire and Ice on Tridavi Mag.

The restaurant was located in a new building not far from the Royal Palace. The clientele was divided between Nepalis and homesick westerners. The menu offered l'Americano with pepperoni. I order a small with a beer. It was Chinese. The waiter brought a glass filled with ice. I wasn't scared of amoebae. I had survived yak meat in Tibet. The pizza came with a knife and fork. I stared at the plate for several seconds.

"Is there anything wrong, sir?" The waiter asked, as if he had seen my expression of disappointment on other pizza lovers.

"Nothing at all." The sauce resembled ketchup, the bread was nan, and the cheese resembled clouts of yogurt. The pepperoni was sweating on the heated pizza. I lowered my head to the plate. It smelled like pizza and I picked up a piece. My first bite told the truth. It was pizza in Nepal and there wasn't any better pizza within several thousand miles. I wrote the Frenchmen the same, declaring, "I love pizza."

And the pizza in Kathmandu certainly tasted better than yak meat, then again anything tastes good when you're hungry.

Three days later I was stricken with giardia. My intestines had been poisoned by bacteria. The source of infection couldn't have been the pizza and I accused the ice. It was the usual suspect in the Orient. I suffered an assortment of unpleasant effects for a week: diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, loss of appetite, passage of gas from more than one orifice, and horrible weakness. My planned trip to Annapurna was delayed by the illness. The hotel staff was very helpful. They dealt with giardia on a daily basis and knew of one cure.

Tea and toast was my diet for 7 days.

Once I was better, I put myself on the scales at the hotel.

175 pounds.

I had lost nearly 15 pounds.

And my first real meal was pizza l'Americano.

Beer.

No ice.

Nothing better than pizza.

Monday, July 25, 2011

THE KING'S LAST SONG - Geoff Ryman



Six years ago a Thai actress suggested to Cambodian reporters that Angkor Wat had been constructed by her ancestral countrymen. The Cambodians responded to her jingoistic theory by torching the Thai embassy and burning a great number of Thai-owned businesses in Phnom Penh to the ground. No one was hurt according to official reports and the embassy was re-built at the expense of the Chinese community. They were the only ones making money.

Worldwide people are sensitive about their national border, traditions, and heritages.

Like the Americans with the Golden Arches.

The Cambodians were rightfully angered by the actress' comments, since Angkor Wat was irrefutably commissioned by Jayavarman, the Buddhist Khmer king, who transformed the caste system of Cam way Cambodians socially themselves and in Geoff Ryman’s novel THE KING’S LAST SONG, the author skillfully married the past with the present for better and worse.

Many western novels written about foreign lands are the tale of a stranger cut loose from his culture but triumphing because he knows how to shoot a gun or call the right phone number. THE LAST KING’S SONG backed away from the formula and interwined a diverse chorus of Cambodian voices such as the ancient king and his wives with a mad French archaeologist to create a symphony of past and present.The dominant voice is that of Map a mad ex-Khmer Rouge madman who murdered the family of a young tourist guide during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Everything read true to the eyes.

Angkor Wat now and then.

The Khmer Rouge stole many of the heads from the temples to finance their civil war. Not all the treasures are gone.

In this tale a UN archaeologist Luc Andrade discovers a Sanskrit book written on gold leaves. The words written by Jayavarman. Things of value don’t last long in the right hands in Cambodia. A theft. A kidnapping. Betrayal. Salvation but not for everyone. The unfolding of mysteries lost to time and the consciousness of a nation willing to forget the horrors of the near past if it protects the glory of history.

The plot remains well-hidden and no one really important dies in the end other than those you expect to deserve it. Although even they get away with a little bit of murder, because that’s the real way of the world.

THE KING’S LAST SONG is the perfect traveler’s companion other than it only took me a day to read it the other day for the second time and I enjoyed as much as the first time I turned its pages.

Better Dead Than Alive


Back in September of 2007 I was coming home from visiting Mint in Jomtien Beach. Our affair had lasted almost a year and showed no signs of losing steam. She had her place and I had mine. We rarely slept together. Mint said it was because I was in love with my ex-wife. I told her no.

"Then why you no sleep with me?" Mint was 21 and loving. My ex-wife hadn't touched me in years.

"I don't know."

"You only want me for sex."

"No, not only sex." Mint was beautiful. Just seeing her naked body acted like a natural Viagra.

"Then you have other lady." Mint was jealous.

"No, only you." Pattaya was an easy place to satisfy a man's libido. Mint offered me something else, but I wasn't willing to ask what at this point. I bid her good-night and headed back to Sai 3.

I normally avoided the main roads of Pattaya. Too many cars. Too many angry farang and Thai drivers. The traffic over the hull was slow-moving and I decided to overtake an SUV on my Yamaha Neuvo. The road was clear except for a single bike. I was pulling into my lane when this bike swerved to the right. His bike clipped my handle bar and the front tire wobbled to wrench the handlebars out of my grip. I wasn't going fast, but tumbled to the pavement in a heap. Luckily there was no oncoming cars or trucks and I rose to my feet thinking, "That wasn't so bad."

The other motorcyclist had fled the scene of the accident.

A common occurrence in Pattaya.

I glanced down at my right arm. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. It was blood red. I lifted the sleeve up my arm. Red was gushing from a jagged wound six inches long. I could see bone. I tested my hand. Everything was working and there was little pain.

A motorcycle taxi driver stopped to help lift up my bike. He said that I should go to the hospital. I agreed and took a small beach towel from the boot of my scooter. I wrapped it around my arm and drove to the Buffalo Bar. Uwan, who rented cars, was sitting on one of his trucks. The balding Isaan native looked at the bloody towel and said, "U-bàt hàyt."

"Yes, an accident."

"And other driver?"

I told him a 30 words or less version of the accident complete with a visual reenactment of the other motorcyclist fleeing the scene at full speed. U-wan laughed, as I unwrapped the towel. The fat Thai smiled with a grimace upon seeing the nasty slice on my arm. The blood was still flowing, although less than before.

“Na-gliat.”

I could see muscle. He was right. It was ugly.

“Where to?" Uwan asked, wrapping another towel around my arm.

“Pattaya-Bangkok?” The Sukhumvit hospital was the first choice of most farangs.

“Paeng.”

"Hospital?" Uwan asked, wrapping another towel around my arm.

“Pattaya-Bangkok?” The Sukhumvit hospital was the first choice of most farangs.

“Paeng.” Very expensive for Thais.

"Where go?"

"Banglamung mai paeng."

"Okay." Not expensive sounded good to me.

Uwan drove his truck to Banglamung Hospital. He wasn't in a hurry. Uwan was sure that I wasn't dying too.

Upon arrival the young nurses escorted me into the emergency ward. Saturday night had yet to begin. A doctor examined the gash.

“No tendons are cut. That’s good.”

An hour later I was out the door. The bill was 1150 baht. Uwan helped me to the car, as the usual weekend mayhem flowed into the hospital. Saturday was going to be a busy night. I stopped at the Buffalo for two beers with Pook. She’s 18 and a lesbian. Uwan said, “She make good nurse.”

I agreed but went home alone to lick my wounds and quiet a suspicion. Before leaving for home, I asked Uwan, “You think my ex-wife might have had someone crash into me for my insurance policy?”

It was worth a million baht.

“No, if she wanted you dead, someone hit you with pick-up. Dead for sure.”

“That’s what I thought too.” My ex-wife might not love me, but I was the father of our daughter.

I must be getting old, if I thought someone would want to kill me for a million baht.

I called Mint and asked her if I could come over to see her.

"You stay night."

"Yes." I would explain about the crash later.

"Please hurry, I want drink beer."

I got back on my bike and drove back to Jomtien.

This time on the back roads.

After all a million baht is $30,000. A lot of money anywhere in the world.

A Crash Is Not An Accident


I never met Princess Diana, although a friend of a friend, Victoria Underwood, married her brother. Diana would have been at the wedding. I never received an invitation. No great loss, because the Princess of Wales wasn’t my type, however I viewed her death as a blow against the empire of goodness.

I arrived in London the day of her funeral. The city breathed a respectful quiet reminiscent of JFK’s burial procession. Grown men cried, as if their mother had passed away and women sobbed like they had lost their best friend. That evening my good freind, Sam Royalle, and I laid a wreath before Kensington Palace. The wall of memorial flowers was chest-high. The scent of dying petals buried my senses and my eyes teared with sorrow. Sam was a bawling baby. We walked away with our arms over each other's shoulder

Diana had been a real princess.

Ten days later Sam Royalle and I were in Paris, drinking at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. I had left London to go on a road trip through the Loire Valley with my father. He went to sleep early. The next day I was putting my old man on a plane to Boston. Sam and I were taking the rented Fiat on a trip to the South of France.

"I got a problem." The Londoner whispered across the table. He spoke out of the corner of his mouth, so only I could hear him. My survival antennae perked into life. Only criminals talked in that manner..

"What?" It's usually better to not know what someone's problem is so you don't ever have to get involved, but Sam and I were friends.

"Some Brixton yardies suspect me of switching a bank destination for a money wire transfer." Sam explained how the yardies had an auntie working at the transfer accounts in a Scottish bank. He had arranged for another swift code for them from an off-shore account. "The money never showed up."

"And where is the money?" There were only three choices; with the yardies, Sam, or a 3rd unnamed party.

"I don't know." It was the right answer and Sam expressed his apprehensions about returning to London in order to discuss the matter with the Brixton yardies. They were habitual murderers. He ordered us another round of drinks. "On me."

"In that case make it a margharita with good tequila." The waiter took our order and I suggested to Sam that he take a long vacation in Thailand. "The food is good, the girls are friendly, and I've never seen a Brixton yardie in years that I've been traveling in Asia. Plus it's hard to get extradited from there."

"I didn't do anything wrong."

"Oh, I forgot about that." I said nothing about his arranging a different destination for the wire transfer. Our drinks came to the table. We drank them swiftly. Another two rounds and I mentioned that Diana had stayed at the Ritz only two weeks before.

"She left from this hotel for that fateful drive."

"From here?"

"From this very same hotel."

"No." Sam looked around the bar, as if to see Diana's ghost.

"Something about that accident isn't right." I felt like Oliver Stone filming JFK. The French police had blamed the crash on the driver. "Henri-Paul had been drinking and maybe doing drugs, but I've driven in that condition on more than one occasion and survived without a crash."

"Twice the speed limit."

"65 mph is not fast for an expert driver."

"The newspapers said 90."

"English newspaper love sensation. I'm surprised that they didn't get any naked photos of her corpse at the Quai de La Rapee." I had been to the Paris morgue to ID a friend. It wasn't a cheerful place.

"Stop joking." The English were loyal subject to their nobility.

"I'm not joking and I can prove it."

"How?"

"By driving my rented car through the same street at the same speed." I had drank enough margharitas for this evening. I needed to get back to my hotel on the Left Bank. "I'll re-create the accident.”

“Fuck you.”

“Someone killed her.”

The whys were too numerous to count unlike the four margharitas that I had downed in the ast hour. I downed in succession. Not cheap either at the Ritz prices, but the Londoner was true to his word. he covered the bill and tried to talk me out of my test..

"Tomorrow morning would be better."

"No way. This test needs the right conditions. Nighttime, Drinks. Speed. Tomorrow morning the quai will be jammed with traffic."

We walked outside to my Fiat Panda. Key in the ignition. Full tank of gas. I peeled from the valet without tipping him. Fuck the French. I blew the lights at Rue St. Honore and entered the chaotic merry-go-round of Place de la Concorde. 90kph.

I needed to go faster.

Diana’s Mercedes had paparazzi on her tail. A score of them on motorcycles. Strobe lights. Jodi telling the drunk driver. “Plus vite.”

Diana laughs. Jodi joins her.

I hit 110 and skittered onto the Quai like a billiard ball slice with extreme English. 120.

I don’t hear Sam’s shouting. The entrance to the death tunnel loomed ahead. I take it at 120. Airborne.

The Fiat bottoms out with a slight swerve. 130.

"See I told you the accident was no accident."

"It was a heavier car."

"It was no accident." I slowed down before I lost control of the car coming out of the the Place de l’Alma underpass.

Two more cars did the same. The look on their faces told us that they had just tried the same thing. Not everyone was convinced that Diana's death was an accident. I dropped Sam at his hotel. He checked the street for Brixton yardies. The coast was clear.

"See you in the morning."

"Thanks for the ride. It's always good to have a near-death experience before bed."

"Don't mention it."

We would meet in the morning after I drove my father to the airport. I parked the Panda on the street of the Hotel Louisiane. I went up to our room. My father raised his head from his pillow.

"You smell like you've been drinking." My father was no tee-totaler, but he didn't like drunks, especially if they were related to him.

"Just a few glasses of wine." I took off my clothing and fell into bed.

"Smells more like a vat. I hope you didn't do anything stupid."

"Nothing more than talking with a friend."

"Then good-night and see you in the morning."

I crashed without any further thought about Diana Princess of Wales.

Same and I traveled to the South. He booked a flight from Paris to Thailand. I went off to Ireland.

Three months later the paparazzi released the last photos of Diana. I saw them in The Times, while taking my breakfast at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. The driver's face in aglow. I was convinced that he had been drugged like Teddy Kennedy at Chappaquiddick.

I have my suspects.

They know who they are too.

That crash was no accident and I'll prove it again if anyone wants to buy the drinks at the Ritz.

They still are expensive.

Never No Hotter


Hottest temperature ever recorded on the surface of this planet was 57.8 °C (136 °F) at Al 'Aziziyah, Libya on September 9, 1922

Having been in 117 F, I can't imagine how much hotter is 136 F.

Damn hot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

135 IN THE SHADE by Peter Nolan Smith



My South African friend Richard spends most of the year in Jeddah along the Red Sea. $40K for eight months teaching English to young Saudi boys. No taxes. A comfortable condo. The pluses are matched by one minus. The import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Penalties range from jail sentences, fines, public flogging to deportation. Richard likes his drink, but has no interest in violating Sharia law in the strict kingdom and he suffers his exile from booze in silence, although this last month Richard emailed these words of advice to his friends.

“We’ve reached 51 C now, and it’s still rising! No beer too. Those of you planning on visiting Saudi, if the would let you in, don’t!”

Warning taken for 51 Centigrade translates to 123 Fahrenheit.

Hot, but I’ve experienced hotter.

August 1975. Andy K and I are hitchhiking east from LA. We were stranded in Barstow with 50 other longhairs. Not a speck of shade in sight. One car every ten minutes. A couple from the Haight said that they had been on the ramp for 20 hours. We were six people behind them. They were New Orleans-bound. Our destination was Boston.

“You two should split up. No one picks up two guys.” The strung-out hippie had hair to his ass. His skinny girlfriend could have passed for his twin. They made a cute lesbian couple for anyone not looking too closely.

“Except for perverts.” His girlfriend was fuming mad, hungry for a fix. They were 23rd in line. She wanted off this onramp limbo.

“Yeah, I’ve had a couple of offers from some sick fucks.”

“Wanted me to watch.” Her face screwed up with disgust. Sex was as distasteful to junkies as it was to nuns. “Nothing wrong with being queers.” I danced with gays at the 1270 Club in Boston. They pawned me off to fag hags. A god deal for me. “Especially if it gets us out of here.”

I tried to look bisexual. Andy didn’t play that game and the cowboys weren’t buying my solo act. The day was fast approaching mid-morning. The temperature was in the high 80s. By noon the sun would melt the on-ramp’s asphalt. It was time to move. Andy and I dashed to the station. A bus station was in sight. A Greyhound was billowing diesel fumes. Its driver was exiting from the station’s diner. $8.50 bought our escape.

The bus interior was AC Alaska. No one had dared get off the bus in Barstow. There were two seats in the back. The bus left on time. Next stop – Needles, California.

170 miles.

Two hours later the bus pulled into the desert town. I had a map. Needles was on the west bank of the Colorado River. Andy mentioned that the Joad family’s first stop in THE GRAPES OF WRATH was Needles.

The portal to the Okies’ paradise of California.

We exited from the bus into the desert heat. I stopped in my tracks, thinking I had walked into the exhaust of a thousand buses. Our Greyhound was the only one in the sweltering parking lot. The other passengers hurried into the station. The sun beat down as if its rays were ironing our flesh.My backpack had gained two tons. My sandals had sunk into the molten asphalt.

This was worse than Barstow.

Across the old Route 66 a large thermometer displayed the temperature.

135F.

“That can’t be right.” Andy was gasping for breath. We were from the East Coast. New Englanders wilted when the mercury lifted north of 85.

“No one else is outside.”

A long train rattled across a junction. The highway was in the distance. Cars and trucks sped through a shimmering mirage. It was less than a mile away. In this heat that walk was a test of survival.

“There’s a Dairy Queen.” Andy headed toward the promise of cold. Ice cream and AC. I followed my friend without question. The heat was so dry that the sweat was sucked off our skin. We ran across the parched grass verge. The time was 2pm. High noon lasted long in Needles.

Our entrance into the ice cream parlor was loud. Doors opened and shut, as if the outside air was poisoned by the leaching sun. The other customers appreciated the gesture. They were farmers, teenage boys and girls. Hippies were a common sight. Their spoons fed their mouths with cold. The AC was 68. Everyone looked comfortable.

“Two vanilla ice cream sodas.” My mother had given the sweet slurry of cold comfort to me when I had strep throat.

“I want chocolate.” Andy stepped up to the counter. “Two too.”

After the 3rd ice cream soda our core temperature had returned to 98.6.

“Is that thermometer right?” I asked an Okie rancher.

“Sun got to it. Ain’t right by 15 degrees. Makes it 120. Hot but ain’t half as hot as July 2, 1967. That was 122.” He said the temperature with pride. Not many humans can handle that heat. “Felt like the Devil was burning my bones. You boys, headed east?”

He offered a ride to Topock. Some 20 miles from here. The other side of the Colorado. Okie was driving a Ford pick-up. His dog was in the front seat.

“He don’t mind the heat. Don’t like strangers though. You gotta sit in the back.”

3:22. Temperature about 110.

“We’re ready when you’re ready.” Needles was the type of town to suck a day from your travels. I had $33 in my pocket. I gave the driver two of them. Gas was 40 cents a gallon. He was grateful for the donation. Twenty minutes later he pulled off the highway. The town was two miles away. We were on the wrong side of the Colorado. The sun was fours hours from setting. The only shade was a bullet-holed billboard. Some 300 feet off the highway.

I stuck out my thumbs. Cars were coming our way. Trucks too. I pretended to be Jack Kerouac’s illegitimate son. He had to have one somewhere.

“Look like you’re harmless.”

Andy was studying piano at Berkeley. He was good at looking harmless. So good the second car stopped for us. A retired couple heading for Kingman. A Delta 88. Gray. V-8. Leather seats. Power windows. AC. Escape.

The retirees had left Chicago for a ranchhouse on Lake Havesu. The view from their terrace was the London Bridge. The developer thought that he was buying the Tower Bridge.

“It’s cooler up in the high country. Sometimes down here my head feels hot enough to fry an egg on.” The driver had said the line maybe 100 times. It was funny to us. Mostly because we knew it was true.

“We’re happy with the one we got.” The desert sun had leathered his wife’s skin. Her blonde hair was a homage to Dinah Shore. She had grandchildren. “That’s why we picked you up.”

“They’re hippies too.” The old man smiled in the rearview mirror. The man and woman complimented each other. “There’s lemonade in the cooler. Drink as much as you want.”

There were four glass screw-top bottles.

“Don’t be shy.” The driver was floored at 110. The Olds was torching the miles. We were on the only car on the road. The rest were trucks. Fruit and vegetables on their way east. “Drink as much as you want.”

Andy and I drained one each in thirty seconds.

We were safe.

At Kingman they pulled into a motor lodge. The price of a room was $20.

$10 dollars each. We begged off poverty.

The old man offered to pay for our room. We thanked them and stood on the highway. Old Route 66. The air at 3000 feet was cool relief. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant. We ate spaghetti and meat balls. Good as the North End of Boston. The town was mentioned in Chuck Berry’s ROUTE 66. I stuck out my thumb. The sun was setting in the pines. A semi was throttling its diesel.

135 in the shade.

That is hot.

Especially when the thermometer is broken.

19 Ways of Keeping Your Insanity Intact



1. At Lunch Time, Sit in Your Parked Car with Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer at Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don’t Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You to Do Something, ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can on Your Desk and Label it “In”.

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once everyone has gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write “For Smuggling Drugs”.

7. Finish All Your sentences with “In Accordance With The Prophecy”.

8. Don’t use any punctuation.

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is “To Go”.

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital. And Ask Why The Poems Don’t Rhyme?

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area, Play tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can’t Attend Their Party, Because You’re Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You by Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream “I Won! I Won!”

18. When Leaving the Zoo, Start Running towards the Parking lot, Yelling “Run For Your Lives! They’re Loose!”

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner, “Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go.”

Mad Dogs And Farangs


Several hot seasons ago Jamie Parker and I met Jamie Parker at a bar on Soi Concrete. I wasn't going to my old local. The owner had stiffed Nick Von Reiter for $5000. I had fought him on Soi 6. One punch with the keys in my fist. At my age there is no fighting fair.

Jamie looked ten years younger. He was recovering from his affair with the Ice queen Ort. New teeth and the furrows in his forehead had been smoothed out like 5-star hotel sheets. I was a little jealous.

“Looks like you’re ready for a gigolo position on Palm Beach.”

“Botox. A full body dip. Breathed through my nostrils. Tightened my skin like a drum. Teeth too." The only sign of his age were his eyes. Jamie had seen a lot in his 50 plus years. The doctors had no cure for too much life.

"I'm staying with the old body."

"Are you sure?" Jamie pinched the loose flesh under my jaw. "They can get rid of that chicken gullet for $500. Then the two of us can hit on all the old board at the Leopard Lounge."

"You know about the Leopard Lounge?" The bar in the Chesterfield Hotel was infamously renown for heiresses seeking hot men in their 50s.

"A little bit of luck and you and I could be living in the lap of luxury."

“Not the right season.” Palm Beach swung between Xmas and Easter. After that the rich fled the heat.

"And this is the right season here." The temperature hadn't dropped under 90 since Songkran. “Damn, it’s hot.”

“Lorn mak.” Pattaya has been baked by the seasonal heat wave. “I think it’s hotter than last year.”

“Me too, but check out that fat Teabag across the street.”

“He seems fine with it.” The Brit was about 55. Tattooed like a druid, 5-5 and weighing about 14 stone which is a XXXXL in the USA. Bare-headed and no shirt. Skin burnt to a tender red. I was wearing a full-length shirt and a cowboy hat. Long pants too. Standing in the shade we ordered two beers from the PIM bar.

“Yeah, mad dogs and Englishmen. Only ones that can take this heat.

“You know this isn’t really hot.”

“Up in Isaan it gets hotter.”

“Cambodia is a frying pan this time of year.” My friend Nick and I had spent last Songkran in Phnom Penh. Both of us would have suffered from water depletion if it wasn’t for a steady replenishing our liquids with Khang beer. (7-11% alcohol).

“What about the East Village in July?”

“Worst is Needles, California in August. I got off a bus there and smacked by a wall of heat. The thermometer inside the Dairy Queen said 135. didn’t have any money and had to hitchhike out of there. Old couple heading to Lake Havesu saved my life.” I can remember a cold glass of lemonade. The old man wasn’t scared of madmen on the highway because his wife had a gun. A Colt 45.

“What year was that?”

“1974.”

“You were a hippie then, right?”

“I had long hair.” At least I listened to the Jefferson Airplane and Iggy Pop, instead of the Dead.

“Here come some more mad Englishmen.”

A trio of skinhead beer-drinkers on motor scooters. Bare-chested to the tropical sun. Sometimes Pattaya seems like the Millwall hooligans have a training center on Soi Bukhao.

“They're all early melanoma cases.” I used sunblock 50 on my face, which had vanished the black circles under my eyes. “Madmen. I was stranded in Penang once and wandered into the old English graveyard crammed with Brits struck down by the heat.”

“No one sane should be out in the heat this time of day.” I was melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.

“What about us?” Jamie was no hypocrite.

“Let’s go up to Maggie’s for a cold one.”

Jamie was primed for a pint. Me too. Cold beer is the only way to go to avoid the madness of Englishmen. We were only a little bah or crazed by the sun. Back in the 70s hippies went to the California Welfare Bureau to get certified in order to collect insane status checks from the state. I don’t think Cally offers that service anymore, but if the State does, California here I come.

The sun has got me again.

Mad Dogs And Englishmen


Mad Dogs and Englishmen
(Noel Coward)

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire,
to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry and one must avoid
its ultry-violet ray --
Papalaka-papalaka-papalaka-boo. (Repeat)
Digariga-digariga-digariga-doo. (Repeat)
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they're obviously, absolutely nuts --

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,
But Englishmen detest a siesta,
In the Philippines there are lovely screens,
to protect you from the glare,
In the Malay states there are hats like plates,
which the Britishers won't wear,
At twelve noon the natives swoon, and
no further work is done -
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

It's such a surprise for the Eastern eyes to see,
That though the British are effete,
they're quite impervious to heat,
When the white man rides, every native hides in glee,
Because the simple creatures hope he will
impale his solar topee on a tree.
Bolyboly-bolyboly-bolyboly-baa. (Repeat)
Habaninny-habaninny-habaninny-haa. (Repeat)
It seems such a shame that when the English claim the earth
That they give rise to such hilarity and mirth -

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The toughest Burmese bandit can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon is just what the natives shun.
They put their scotch or rye down, and lie down.
In the jungle town where the sun beats down,
to the rage of man or beast,
The English garb of the English sahib merely gets a bit more creased.
In Bangkok, at twelve o'clock, they foam at the mouth and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, go out in the midday sun.
The smallest Malay rabbit deplores this stupid habit.
In Hong Kong, they strike a gong, and fire off a noonday gun.
To reprimand each inmate, who's in late.
In the mangrove swamps where the python romps
there is peace from twelve till two.
Even caribous lie down and snooze, for there's nothing else to do.
In Bengal, to move at all, is seldom if ever done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

To listen to MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN

Please go to the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPnJM3zWfUo

134 In The Shade



134 F on July 10, 191 at Greenland Ranch, California.

Elevation -178

Read Death Valley.

I was there in 1995.

James Steele gets around.

104 And That's All


Thursday the temperature in New York City hit the high 90s. The humidity soaked my shirt within a few minutes of exposure to the outside weather. I drank three large bottles of Perrier, ate a quarter of a watermelon, and downed about 5 iced beers in a vain attempt to keep up with my projectile sweating. It was almost as if my pores were spitting out fluid. Once home I took about five showers and remained cloistered in my air-conditioned apartment.

I survived the night.

Friday the weathermen were predicting heat in excess of 100. The record for New York City was 105. The hottest temperature for the NY State was recorded in Troy on July 22, 1926. The thermometer hit 108.

By midday the radio was calling Friday the hottest day in recent history.

104.

For me the heat wasn't as bad as the previous day. My friends said my brain was heat-addled. They weren't far from the truth.

The heat wave continued over the weekend, although this evening I'm feeling a slight abatement from the sweltering heat.

I even went out to shoot hoops at the park on DeKalb.

My friends once more accused me of suffering from heat madness, but this recent spike in the temperature is nothing to comparison to the grasp of the heat dome over Oklahoma and Kansas. A month of unrelenting 90+ temperature, but even that streak pales in regards to the longest heat wave in modern history.

5 months of 100+ Marble Bar, Australia during the winter of 1924.

America's worst heat wave occurred in the Dust Bowl of 1936.

101+ for over 100 days in Yuma, Arizona.

Back then hot was hot. There was no AC. Ice melted faster than butter on the red-hot frying pan.

104 was hot for New York City.

People complained so much that their wind blew away the heat.

Hot air versus hot air.

New Yorkers are # 1.

It's certianly not Kansas.

McQueen – How Cool?



Steve McQueen was the coolest movie star ever.

Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood are living icons, but Steve was the real thing.

Dead or alive.

My Catholic school outside of Boston showed THE GREAT ESCAPE. The nuns hated anything that didn't have to with God. They showed that movie for one reason and wasn't to celebrate the freedom of the human spirit. According to the nuns our purposes on earth were to know, love, and serve God. The reason for screening the GREAT ESCAPE had nothing to do with the story.

The nuns loved Steve McQueen

He was that cool.

See ON ANY SUNDAY.

I always wanted a hair cut like his.

How cool.

See PAPILLION. His acting steamrollered over Dustin Hoffman.

In THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN he was told by the producers that he couldn’t stand before Yul Brenner. McQueen accepted that edict, but in every scene he’s the only one moving while Yul Brenner talks.

Several years back his Persol sunglasses sold at auction for $70,000.

The glasses came from THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.

Super Cool.

McQueen was always cool enough to admit his friend Bud Ekins did that stunt over the barbed wire in THE GREAT ESCAPE.

Cool people are cool enough to share in their coolness.

Gaan- Lor or Temptation


Three years ago my ex-wife came back from the country. Her entire family was with her. She checked my phone. No calls from strange girls. I had deleted any messages from Mint. She were ‘friends’ and wouldn’t call until my ex-wife returned to the country. I didn’t go out to the bars, because during low season the clientele tends to be as old as extinct creatures and I’m scared shitless of catching olditis if these wizened geezers farted dust in my direction.

I played good man or poo-chai di and stayed with my daughter. My ex-wife was on the phone with a man. The same one from before. I was glad she had someone, so she didn't have to have me.

I drank 3-4 Leo beers a day instead the usual onslaught of 10-12 Changs at the Buffalo. Sleep came early. Not like in the country, but 10ish with a book lulling in the direction of Nodville.

My little compound near 3rd Road had two houses separated by an open-air garage. The larger had two bedrooms, kitchen, and TV room, in which my ex-wife, mother, nephew, sister, my daughter and niece watch a never-ending supply of Thai Soaps.

I wrote and listened to punk music in my office.

The twains met when the mobile food carts beeped their horn. My daughter runs to my desk with an outstretched hand. “Twenty baht please.”

My ex-wife asked for a hundred. Her family ate like they had been warned of famine, so I keep lots of small bills in my ATM dispenser ie wallet.

Last night the Jam were playing on the stereo Nick gave me before his dreaded return to the UK. The family was mesmerized by the bootleg version of HARRY POTTER in Thai. The phone rang in my pocket. I answered without hesitation.

“Hello tee-lat.” It was Ort.

“Where are you? Singapore?” I cupped my hand over my mouth. My ex-wife has big ears.

“No, can’t get a flight. I’m in Pattaya. you have time for me.”

Ever since my good friend from New York, Jamie Parker had stopped seeing Ort for health reasons, I had been expecting a phone call at the least opportune moment possible. A week went by and then two. It appeared I was off the hook.

Several of the dancers at the Paris A Go-Go said Ort was traveling to Singapore to work with Chinese businessmen. I offered a silent prayer for her good luck and thanked the stars she was gone. The go-go vixen liked sex, especially if she was on Ice.

Ice and sex was a 21st Century formula for disaster.

Here there and everywhere.

Ort was nothing, but trouble. Temptation was appealing, if only for revenge. MY ex-wife had left me for another man. A Thai. She thought that I didn't know about it. I was not as big a fool as I looked in her eyes, but Ort was more than temptation. She was the devil's own handmaiden.

My mother had warned that if I saw trouble that I should walk the other way.

For once I was heeding her advice.

“No, I’m with my ex-wife.”

“Can’t you come see me. I have Ice and want you to play my master.” Ort was also a masochist. She didn’t know why other than to say that she liked it rough.

“Sorry, I don’t have any money.” Feeding my ex-wife’s relatives had sapped by ‘fun’ funds.

“Not problem. I have money. Have Ice. I want you. Not have to have sex. Can only talk.”

“Talk?” The devil was trying to buy my soul for a free night of sex with a tramp. I leaned back in my chair. I could see my daughter’s head. She was bouncing on the sofa. Nobody would miss me for an hour or two. Least of all my ex-wife.

“I talk to you and you talk to me.” Ort’s 3rd language was 69.

The DVD of her plans played within my brain at 32 times the speed of light. She would smoke her pipe and then mount me cowboy-reverse, telling me not to move until she finished with brown eyes rolling into her skull. I was getting hard as a 40 year-old on Viagra.

‘C’mon, you know you want it.”

I’m fairly sure my final destination is down rather than up and I’m sure that on my death bed I would be ruing refusing Ort this favor, but I said, “Sorry, I can’t, my ex-wife is coming. Bye.”

I shut off my phone and went over to the TV room.

My ex-wife looked at me with a smile. She knew that her presence was unwanted, but also that she had the power to refuse me the right to see my daughter. My ex-wife was cruel.

“Good movie.” If it weren't for my daughter, I'd have left my ex-wife 5 years ago.

“Okay. You watch with us.”

“Why not?

It wasn’t like I had a choice. Trouble was where you found it. I sat on the couch and my daughter joined me to watch SID AND NANCY. My ex-wife hated the movie. She hated all things farang. Not my daughter. She was happy to lay her head on my shoulder.

And so was I.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PUNK GO COP


The Thai police are a law unto themselves. The 'Tam-Luak' plunder the Thais with a pirate's greed. If they find no infraction, then the boys in brown will manufacture a crime to reap 'tea money' for their superiors. In their eyes no one is truly innocent. Most farangs know well enough to avoid the Thai police. After nearly 20 years in Thailand I know none. I have Thai friends who know police. I've never asked for their assistance. They are experts at turning a small situation into a costly one.

At my old local on Pattaya's Soi Concrete one of the lads from England had been dating a female cop from Bangkok's District 8. Richard said that Lee's squad investigated corruption. I maintained my distance, since my popular online clothing site featured non-authorized copyright goods. No one at the bar knew what I did, but Lee regarded all of us as potential suspects. The farangs of Pattaya had a sullied reputation. We were who were were.

No apologies, but everyone flew under the radar.

Lee was not undercover. We were too small-time for her bosses in Bangkok.

None of us saw what the mid-20s long-legged beauty saw in Richard. He was on the wrong side of 50. The ex-punk rocker hailed from Plymouth. His pub featured live bands. The 50 year-old died his hair black like the lead singer of The Damned. His friends called her ‘Angie Dickinson’. Her friends named him ‘Sid’.

"She’s a good girl," Richard had been dating Lee several months and she hasn’t asked him for a dime. "There are no sick buffaloes in her family."

We nodded out heads with smiles. Lee came for a hi-so or high society roots. People like that had never toiled in a rice paddy. Their 'sick buffaloes' were a failing businesses. Sick buffaloes were cheap by comparison.

None of us attempted to warn the punk rocker about her family. Love was blind, especially when your eyes need glasses to read the small print. We wished him 'chok dee' or good luck and hoped for the best. Stranger things had occurred in Thailand.

Richard professed to never having cheated on Lee. I believed him, since we had bar-hopped through the Last Babylon without his ever paying a bargirl a fine. No geeks. No short-times. He was no butterfly.

Richard had bought a CRV pick-up and a small apartment on Soi Concrete. He trusted Lee to take care of the car while he’s back in the EEU playing retro-punk to dissatisfied university students.

"If I can't trust her, who can I trust?"

None of us ventured an answer.

After a two month stint touring UK pubs with his punk quartet, Richard planned a 20-day stay in Thailand. He phoned Lee. She was up-country attending a police academy a good 8 hours. She said she would meet him on Tuesday. He arrived and took the bus down to Pattaya. After one night of staring at go-go girls, he settled into listening to old punk rock classics at the local and drinking beer. It was a pleasant way to pass the time in Pattaya. Both of us were experts about doing nothing and we spoke about The Clash, Sex Pistols, and Sham 69.

Tuesday came without any sign of Lee. Her phone service is off. No signals. Richard calls Lee’s friend. No signal. Phone service up-country was notoriously bad. It was also Buddhist Lent and the bartender at our local suggested that Richard's tee-lat may have gone home to offer prayers at the village temples. Richard got worried, thinking that Lee has had an accident. She had the truck. No one at the bar mentioned the possibility of her having a Thai boyfriend. Richard was too in love to hear the opposite.

The next morning I ran into Richard. His face was edged by worry. I doubted if he had slept the previous night. I knew better than to ask him if everything was alright. His face said the opposite.

"I'm thinking about going up to Bangkok this afternoon." Richard was gaunt. He wasn't eating anything.

"What for?" I had a bad feeling about this.

"To her station to see if they know where she is?"

“Bad idea.” I shook my head. Thais are very careful about letting other Thais know about their relationships with farangs and even more so if they are the police. While it would have been best to send Richard on his way without warning, I felt compelled to tell him, “She’s a cop. Her life at the precinct is being a cop, not some chick dating a westerner. You show up and the other officers will think she’s a whore.”

“So what am i supposed to do.” THe boys at the local are constantly rehashing tales of cheating Thai girlfriends. These stories were echoing in his ears. This time the name was Lee." jealousy.

I wanted to tell him, “Go to Soi 6 and get a BJ.” The short-time street of easy women and cheap beer night not cure a broken-heart, but it was certainly a good start, instead I said, “Do nothing. Lee’s a good girl. She isn’t fucking some Thai boyfriend. She’s probably at the temple on his knees, praying to Buddha for your luck.”

Those words were what he wanted to hear and I said, “Wait a day. Call her office tomorrow. Don’t go up there. The coppers will think you’re a crazy farang stalking their co-worker and throw you in jail. She’ll show up when she shows up. This is Thailand. Have a jai-yen."

"Jai-yen?" His Thai was non-existent.

"A cold heart. Thais don't like hot-blooded reactions. Makes them lose face."

"Really?" Most farangs couldn't accept that Thais lived by a different set of rules. They thought everyone in the world had been taught how to act by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. They were wrong and so wrong that they would never be right.

"Really." I patted him on his back. "BUt if you want to go up there and make a fool of yourself and have her lose face, knock yourself out."

"So it's a bad idea?"

"As bad as Sid Vicious going out with Nancy Spungen." Those two were made for each other.

"Okay, I'll play it cool."

"You're a punk. Punks don't care about the future. I know your mind is racing about what Lee is doing, but there is probably a very good explanation and you'll get it when you see Lee. You want a beer?"

"No." It was only 11 and Richard wasn't much of a drinker. "Thanks for the talk."

"Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine."

I waved good-bye and headed to the post office to ship shirts to Germany and Italy. My ex-wife was up-country too. I didn't call her and never asked about the company she kept. It was better that way, because I had been a punk too.

1976.

Gabba-Gabba-Hey.

Anything can happen, but it’s better if you think it doesn’t

ADDENDUM

Lee showed up that evening. Her purse and telephone had been stolen at the police academy. She hadn't memorized Richard’s number and had to drive to Bangkok to get it. The traffic was horrible. Richard couldn’t be happier and never questioned one part of the story.

It was the right thing to do

Friday, July 22, 2011

Peter Nolan Smith Reading Tonight


34 years ago lightning struck the power lines feeding NYC. The city was thrust into a black-out. Burning and looting in the Outer Boroughs. I tried to emulate the anarchy in Midtown Manhattan.

Tonight I will be reading TRASH FIORUCCI for Mr. Beller's Neighborhood Reading Series at Happy Ending!

Located at 302 Broome St. in the Lower East Side.

This Friday - July 22, 8 PM - 10 PM
a few seconds ago · LikeUnlike

Atlantic Ocean Temp 94F


My Palm Beach reporter AR emailed this epistle from the richest beach community in America.

"This is a summer for the record books! Can't even cool off in the pool. Water temp 94º and rising. Ocean a bit cooler (not much) but sea lice and jellyfish are keeping me at bay, not to mention crossing the Sahara sand to get there."

Having stayed on Palm Beach throughout the summer of 2008, I have a small sense of how hot is hot.

Hot as Blazes and even hotter inland.

Death Song Thailand



Norman Mailer wrote his 1979 Pulitzer-winning EXECUTIONER’S SONG about Gary Gilmore’s 1977 execution by the State of Utah.

His crime. A 1976 murder spreed.

Method of death; shooting squad or noose.

He opted for the shooting squad rather than the noose.

Gilmore refused any reprieve from his fate.

"Death is the only inescapable, unavoidable, sure thing. We are sentenced to die the day we're born."

He walked the Last Mile on the morning of January 17, 1977.

His last meal from the Utah State Prison consisted of steak, potatoes, milk and coffee and a six-pack of beer. He ate nothing and drank the milk and coffee. Smuggled Jack Daniels was his last sustenance on Earth.

The Death House was an abandoned cannery. 5 riflemen from the local police served as the Death Squad.

His last words.

"Let's do it."

Gary Gilmore had remarked to Norman Mailer that he was different from most people, because he knew the exact moment of his death. Norman Mailer considered this insight extraordinary, yet didn’t extrapolate further to the fact that everyone was privy to the hour of Gary Gilmore’s date with destiny.

Especially the shooting squad.



Same as Chavoret Jaruboon, who had been Thailand’s primary executioner during the 20th Century.



Thailand’s method of capital punishment combined a ritual crucifixion with a single man shooting the victim in the back. Chavoret Jaruboon’s total is 55. Target. The heart. Only the shooter is aiming at a target behind a screen. 15 bullets are allotted for each occasion. Even the best get sloppy with a blind shot.



His 55 victims are 95 less than the 150 Texans killed by GW Bush’s stroke of a pen.



No one is shot in America anymore.

Americans rationalize that death by injection is a more merciful method of execution. Personally I’d choose a hot shot of heroin over a chemical concoction of dubious origins.


The majority of US Citizens consider the death penalty as an effective weapon against murder. The FBI reports that each execution deters at least 3-17 extra victims.

Guess they aren’t taking into account Columbine or Virginia Tech, where the killers don’t make it to court.


China kills thousands of criminals each year. There is no appeal. A bullet to the head and the family has to pay for the bullet.

In 1995 I witnessed a parade of trucks in Chengdu transporting about 30 victims to the sports stadium. The resignation on their faces betrayed none expected a last minute reprieve.


Neither did any of GW Bush’s 150.


China even has a mobile execution van. Death is by injection. Comfortable sitting for six witnesses. No body damage for better organ harvesting. Due to international pressure prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics the Chinese have cut their executions from 12,000 a year to about 7500 per annum.

Still more than all the other countries in the world combined.



Each and every of the condemned 'Guilty if Charged'.
Thailand tries to do its part to reduce the criminal population.


A bullet is better than previous methods.


Until 1934 Thailand decapitated criminals. A swordsman would leap from behind the victim and lop off their head. This ambush was to designed to prevent the dead man’s ghost from haunting the killer. The head was then stuck on a pole and the bodies fed to birds of prey ie vultures. This was an improvement on earlier techniques such as inserting a red-hot iron in the brain or immolating a bound and impaled prisoner.


Unlike Gary Gilmore, none of the prisoners on Thailand’s Death Row are told the time of their death. Guards show up one morning and select a victim. Surprise. No last meal. No phone calls. Just, “Mung, bpai.”


Most are dragged kicking and screaming to their doom according to Mr. Chavoret, who was promoted to Warden of the Foreign Prisoners’ Section at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang Central Prison. He still deems that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to crime, despite its prohibition by Buddhist teachings.


“An eye for an eye.” He quoted the old Hebrew standard of retribution.


Of course no one speaks about the 3000-plus killings during Thaksin’s War of Drugs.


There too were guilty if charged.

There is no innocence for them.

I'm A Hypocrite


A reader sent a comment on my entry DEATH SONG THAILAND

He found umbrage with my comment that 'The majority of US Citizens consider the death penalty as an effective weapon against murder.'

PROUD AMERICAN said...

I don't know where you got your information on most Americans think the death penalty is a effective deterrent to crime, most Americans see the death penalty as payment for the crime committed.If someone has had a husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter or other loved one brutally murdered and they are against the death penalty I respect that. Never happened?

99% against it have never experienced that for some reason. Hmmm. Imagine that. What you need to do is get a law passed where you can sign a waiver saying that in the event any of your family members[children included] were to be brutally murdered you the survivor does not want the death penalty carried out. THEN I MIGHT RESPECT YOU. You wont even attempt it because your all hypocrites.As long as it's someone else's child or family member your against it.

My reply

Proud american.

My best friend was murdered in 2002. A handyman was convicted of the crime. He was sentenced to life. Personally I would have shot him dead without any qualms of guilt. Most Americans are lucky enough to not have family members or friends killed, but a great number do and usually by people they know ie friends and family.

I don't know you got the idea that I'm not in favor of the ultimate retribution.

Just not in favor of having some dumb ass in charge like GW Bush, who doesn't have the time to read a last-minute plea in charge of the process.

Lastly I don't need your respect.

But thanks for the comment.

Good to see the blood boils in us.

So tired of people with no opinion other than 'uh?'

I'm A Poseur too


Last month I re-wrote a story about the Damned's show at Hurrah in 1978. I thought that the Dead Boys from Cleveland were touring with the British group. Cheetah Chrome emailed a comment excoriating my time-misplacement.

What an honor.

Here is his email.

SONIC REDUCER rocks.

The Damned Live 1978

Cheetah

Nice story , too bad it never happened. Do yer research man.The only gigs we ever did with the Damned in the US were at CBGB.The only tour we ever did with them was in England. Documented fact. Christ, you lame-ass posers…..



My replies

Mr. Chrome, I will change the facts about the gig. I was there and recall passing out in the underneath baggage compartment of the Damned's tour bus. Don’t worry you were my favorite band from Cleveland. Sonic reducer will forever rock. Plus this is semi-fiction. And I don’t give a shit for nothing other than seeing you guys live. My memory has been savaged by time. Once I was in a taxi coming down down 7th Avenue from Hurrah. Probably 2 in the morning. With a few high school girls from the upper west side. There was a traffic jam around MSG. Didn’t make sense until I spotted you bare-chested in the avenue facing the traffic. The girls asked who was that.

“A dead boy.”

And that’s the truth.

Thanks for the comment, Mr. Chrome.

ps I saw the Dead Boys every chance I had in the late-70s.

They were better than great. They were most excellent.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MOSES' BEST FRIEND by Peter Nolan Smith



New York City showed its teeth the winter of 1980. The police were racketeering our after-hours nightclub. One of the Continental’s backers was a gangster from Odessa, Russia. He was going out with my old girlfriend from Buffalo. Vadim smuggled stolen icons and passed bad paper. Lisa looked good in his furs. The newest investor in illegal enterprise looked like the FBI mostly since they were the FBI investigating the dirty cops. Arthur had hired me to work the door, however his partner, a poster boy/model for herpes, didn’t like my attitude and Paul Garcia wasn’t alone. Arthur apologized, “I got to let you go.”

“No worries.” I had seen the wire on Arthur’s chest. It was never a good sign plus Lisa I accepted the offer of a Paris nightclub to work the door as a physionomiste i.e. doorman. Jacques and Fabrice paid my plane ticket to France. Round-trip. I got to choose a DJ. Vladmar was my choice. He arrived one day after me. The dance crowd loved his spinning of cold wave hits. I was another story.

“I don’t know how to speak French.” Two years of grammar school French from a nun with a lisp had taught me how to ask, “Ou est le Bibliotechque?”

“Pas de problem.” Jacques shrugged with ease. The previous door person had been Farida, an Algerian Amazon. She was leaving her post to pursue a career in modeling. She was that beautiful. He wanted someone not so French. “You only have to say two words. ‘Ouais’ or ‘non.”

“Okay.” I had learned that trick at CBGBs, Hurrah, and Studio 54. “But I don’t know anyone in Paris. Not the famous people. Not the people who go to nightclubs.”

“Bien.” His partner was tired of everyone getting in for free. “Make them pay. I don’t care if it’s Brigitte Bardot.”

“But how shall I treat them?”

“Like shit.”

“Like shit?”

“Comme le merde.”

I followed those orders to the tee, except I treated my favorites with glory and I built a new clientele for the old bathhouse off the Avenue Sebastopol. Rockers, punks, models, gangsters, pop stars, and just normal people too. For the most part the owners liked the mix.

It was edgy.

When I was working at the Bains-Douches in Paris, a decrepit clouchard approached the entrance to the club. The bouncers moved to prevent the derelict's climbing the stairs. They were out-duty Legionnaires. I ordered them to stop and asked Boston-accented French the grizzled drunk why he wanted to enter the nightclub.

“Because I’m a good friend of Moses.”

"Personal friend."

"From birth. He told me to meet him here."

"Come on in."

"Are you serious?"

"Mais ouais." I had heard plenty of excuses from people seeking to enter the Bains-Douches. None of them were as good as this 'friend of Moses'.

"I have no money." The clouchard patted his pockets.

"A friend of Moses doesn't need money. Here are two drink tickets. Have a good time."

His raison d’etre granted him entry to the elite boite de nuit. I went inside from time to time to make sure that he was having a good time. The clientele of the Bains-Douches opened their hearts to the Friend of Moses. He wasn't one of them. They liked different. I considered him harmless, until my boss stormed up to the front door.

"What's wrong?" I didn't have an idea what, but I was sure about the 'who'.

"He drank a bottle of wine from Thierry Mugler’s table." My boss had a sweet spot for the fashion czars of Paris.

"Really?" I thought they were a little full of themselves and laughed at the situation.

"You think it's funny."

"Just a little. I'll show him out."

“Why did you let him in?”

“Because he’s a friend of Moses.” The excuse wasn’t so funny to the patron, but he had never seen Charlton Heston part the Red Sea in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

I know it was special effects, but the real thing must have been very impressive.

I had the bouncers or 'videurs' escort the clouchard and he cried out, “You can’t treat the friend of Moses like this. Just wait till I talk to Moses. he has more plagues up his sleeves than I have fleas.”

“Because he’s a friend of Moses.” The excuse wasn’t so funny to the patron, but he had never seen Charlton Heston part the Red Sea in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. I know it was special effects, but the real thing must have been very impressive. The god of the Israelis really knew how to kill their enemies

As the clochard was escorted from the premises by the bouncers, he cried out, “You can’t treat the friend of Moses like this. Just wait till I talk to him. You’ll have the 11th plague on your head.”

Nothing as bad as the killing of the first born ever visited the Bains-Douches and I spotted the friend of Moses in the nearby environs hectoring passers-by about the 27 Commandments. I wish that I could remember them all, except I’m lucky if I can repeat Moses’ 10.

He cursed everyone with damnation at the very popular Cafe Pere Tranquille. The junkie and drunks laughed at his predictions of doom. I looked to the sky. The madman pointed a finger at me. “That Amerlot loves God.”

And I wish it were true, but I had been a non-believer since 1962, still I gave him 20 francs, because it’s good to have the friend of Moses saying good for you to the Grand Seigneur even if he’s completely mad. The lord supposedly moves in strange ways and so do the mad.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE STAFF OF SCHMOSES By Peter Nolan Smith


Billions of humans have died over the course of our existence on Earth. The vast majority of mankind have been contracted for a single appearance on this mortal coil. Reincarnation has been reserved for Tibetan lamas, spiritualists, and the Son of God, for whom Christians have been waiting since his disappearance in 33AD. The religious prayed for his Second Coming. Prophets predicted the 2nd Advent on many occasions. The faithful had been disappointed each time.

In 1972 my friends John Gilmour, Tommy Jordan, and Mark McLaughlin, and I celebrated a psychedelic 4th of July in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

We were 18 and the Rolling Stones’ BROWN SUGAR was #1 on the AM radio. Our tabs of Orange Sunshine peaked on the banks of Saco River. The mountain stream rushing over glacial rocks speaking a primordial language. Our teenage ears listened to its teachings and we submerged our naked bodies in the rushing water. Tuckerman’s Ravine was still covered with snow. We were immune to the frigid winter melt.

A young boy emerged from the forest and asked why we were sitting in the water.

“To hear it speak.” Tommie answered without hesitation. The high school hockey star was the most spiritual of us. On ice his skating was almost holy.

“I don’t hear nothing but the water.” The 11 year-old stuck a finger in the river.

We cocked our ears to the current. He was right and we stood up shivering with goose-bumped skin.

“It’s Jesus.” John whispered with his retina opened wide. The South Shore native was devoted the Zeppelin’s House of the Holies. He thought playing it loud made him religious.

“Jesus.”

I might have been a non-believer, but I flashed on the youthful Messiah in the Temple. The boy was about his age. He had to have all the answer, but before we could pose the right questions, a teenage girl in a tube top hurried from the underbrush. She was skinny in her hot pants. Our prophet attempted to escape her clutches, but she seized him by the ear. Our ‘Jesus’ squealed in defeat.

“Don’t be talking to weirdos.”

She was about 17. Her eyes saw us for what we were and our trip flattened out for a half-hour. We stumbled over the rocks. The sun was hot. The river resumed its music. Its song were never played on the radio. We sang along with its lyrics until our throats were parched dry as the summer grass. Drinking the river was a sacrament and we crashed out under the pine trees. The moon was our star. It had been a good trip.

I didn’t witness any more visitations by a god, prophet, or reincarnation until visiting Fire Island in the early 90s. My cousin, Sherri, had flown in from LA to perform at ShowWorld in Times Square. She had been invited to weekend at a beachhouse owned by Robyn Byrd, Cable TV’s famed XXX cable TV spokesperson. Both of us could use a break from a stultifying heat wave and we rode an ACed train from Penn Central to Patchogue. A taxi brought us to the ferry. The ride across the bay to the sandy barrier island was a pleasant excursion.

Fire island is unlike any other beach community on Long Island and Cherry Grove was synonymous with the decadent gay lifestyle of the 70s and 80s. Anonymous sex in the pine groves. Fisting in the hotels. Orgies in the beach houses. The seaside Sodom was crushed by the AIDS epidemic and dying homosexuals sold their beloved shacks to friends, family, and strangers. The dynamics of the summer community changed considerably, however the beach life remained free and open. There are no cars. Wooden walkways connect the various communities. For longer trips residents hire a water taxi. The island is devoid of 7/11s and fast food. Most people cooked at home.

Robin’s cottage was on the beach. She had bought the house from a gay dying of AIDS. It had an ocean view. I figured it for $1.5 million. The retired stripper owed Sherri money from her TV ads. Her husband was cooking the books. Sherri told me to play nice, as we walked to the house.

"I'll get the money one way or the other."

The front door was open and we entered the house, which had been designed in the 70s for the now-extinct gay party-goers of Cherry Grove. Weathered wood and gleaming mirrors were a memorial to that Era of Errors. Robyn greeted us naked with two yapping dogs nipping at her heels.

“I never wear clothes at the beach.” The squat 40 year-old was 30 pounds over her prime. She bearhugged Sharon, who had several S&M promos running on her cable station. She hadn’t been paid for any. "I'm so glad you could come."

"The city is hell." Sharon dropped her bag on the floor and stripped off her tee-shirt and shorts. Her trim body was a result of endless hours at the gym. She posed for Robyn. "I still got it."

"I'll say," Robin ogled my cousin with desire and then eyed me suspiciously. “So this is your cousin?”

“Yeah, on her father’s side.” Sharon and I have been calling ourselves family for years into order to save time about how we met playing pinball at an East Village after-hour bar. Even we get bored of our old stories, mostly because we were trying to outrun our pasts.

“I can see family resemblance.” Robin squinted to examine my face more closely.

“Almost twins.” Sharon was straight out of Napoli and my face resembled either an Irish cop or Yankee sailor depending on the light.

Robin led us through the beach bungalow to our separate bedrooms. She showed us our rooms and asked, "Of course you could sleep in one bed, if you're kissing cousins, only I get to watch."

"Two bedrooms will be fine." I couldn't sleep with Sherri. Her snoring was world-class. I took the smaller room. I was the guest of a guest.

“Make yourselves a home.”

“When on Fire Island, do as the Fire Islanders do.” I thew my bag in the home and stripped off my clothes. I had been playing basketball 2-3 hours a day. The games at Tompkins Square Park fought off the toll of my evening beer-drinking. Neither woman surveyed my nakedness, as we went out to the beach. I swam in the ocean. The air was hot, but the Atlantic was cold. My body temperature dropped with every minute in the water.

Two hours in the sun torched my pale skin. I retreated for the shelter of the house. Sharon and Robyn followed a half-hour later. I was lying on the couch reading TRUE GRIT, a towel around my waist.

"Did you shower?" Robyn demanded with a harsh sharpness.

"Yes, with soap too."

"Just checking." The ex-stripper was making a concerted effort to hector me.

Her version of ‘mi casa es su casa’ was a mirage.

I could do no right. The sand on the floor came from me. Not her dogs. When I nearly shattered my kneecap on a glass table, she screamed that I was clumsy. Anytime I spoke with Sharon, she sat down with her arms folded across her flapjack breasts with her bulbous belly gracelessly shielding my eyes from seeing her loose-lipped virtues.

That night Sherri and I whispered in her bedroom. The thin walls of beach bungalows were not conducive to privacy.

"Robyn's not very nice."

“She's like a sleeping rattler. She doesn’t like men.”

“I got that from the little inquisition. I’ll tread lightly.”

I hid from her on the beach and exposed my naked body to the sun, thinking maybe Robyn hated people with tan lines. Sharon came looking for me. She danced along the shore without a stitch of clothing. Her body glowed LA golden. Mine had been baked a lobster red. We built a tent from driftwood and torn sails.

“So I think Robyn really likes me.”

"More love than like.” We had a good laugh. “Don’t worry about Bird. I’ll deal with
her.”

Sherri never received her royalties and for the three days of our stay Sherri miserablized Robyn’s life. My cousin was a top dominatrix and Robin a well-known bottom. Her husband was a cocaine fiend. I found his stash and cut it with crushed vitamins to hide my theft. Sherri and I hung out at the tent during the day.

Every noon a naked man in his 50s roamed the high tide mark. The bearded beachcomber carried a staff of driftwood. The tattoed bearded man’s body was covered with grey hair and his penis was enormous. Sherri named the tramp.

“It’s Schmoses.”

“And the staff of Schmoses.” I pointed at his unearthly shank of flesh. We later joked about Schmoses at the dinner table. Robyn saw no humor in our humor. “The man has a name.”

“You live here. What is it?” Sherri wasn’t taking any crap from the fatter woman.

“I don’t know.”

“Then his name stays.” She raised her wineglass. “Here’s to Schmoses.”

This joke became funnier the next afternoon, for Robin befriended Schmoses and we discovered the two of them in coitus by the pool. It was like watching a Neanderthal have sex with a walrus. I drank a bottle of Robyn’s best wine to obliterate the image.

We left the next day for New York. I never spoke to Robyn again. No great loss and I almost forgot about Schmoses until reading a BBC article how the Biblical Moses had received the 10 Commandments from Yahweh while high on psychedelic drugs, since the concoctions from bark of the acacia tree were an essential ingredient for religious rites in biblical times. Having spoken to Jesus in the White Mountains on LSD, I now understood the mysteries of Schmoses lay entirely on his staff.

His cock was really long and not only does Schmoses live, but his schlong grows longer with each telling of the tale.

Such is the miracle of reincarnation.