Monday, December 26, 2016

Prophecy of Preecha Por Intarapalit

Every year the Bangkok Post features the yearly horoscope predictions in its Outlook section. Their 2007 forecast for Geminis was spot on the money or lack of money. Today's paper predicted good news Jan.-March, Obstacles solved April-June. Money flies into my pocket July but out for the next two months and then it's smooth sailing to the end of the year.

Thais are big believers in palm reading and stars.

My wife smiled upon hearing the good news. My mia noi less so.

"Not say you leave your wife."

Everyone interprets the predictions according to their needs no matter where you are on the feeding chain.

Recently 2bangkok.com published the forecasts of Preecha "Por" Intarapalit, the author of thousands of books.

Not much use to present day Thais who read two books a year, but his vision for Thailand in Pai Su Anakhot (Toward the Future) portrayed a nation where cars flew at rather low levels. "There were propellers on their roofs. Sports or private monoplanes flew in scatters here and there not unlike birds. All of a sudden, everybody sighted a huge train, with two tram-like carriages joined together, running at no less than 60-kilometres-per-hour on tracks about ten metres above Sukhumvit Road."

"One could see skyscrapers with at least 20 to 80 stories, the top floors rising into the thick clouds. Fluttering from the top of each building was the tri-coloured national flag. The crowds on Sukhumvit bustled by in a hurry, men in their suits and women in their one-piece outfits. The people of Bangkok looked not so different from the Europeans or Americans."

The narrator asked his son in a hoarse, shaky voice ...

"Tell me, Nop, is this Bangkok or Paris? How come all these cars and planes are flying like dragon-flies?"

"This is Bangkok, Father. This is Bangkok of 2007."

Por described rice fields, orchards and canals giving way to massive buildings and spacious roads; tap water was in abundance and Bangkok was lit up day and night by a pair of "man-made moons". The affluent would spend all day trading stocks and shoppers in supermarkets could shop "'til they drop" - just dumping stuff from the shelves in their trolleys and paying at the exits. The citizens of Bangkok would be dressed in Western clothes and speak English instead of Thai. Transport would come in a variety of forms - from taxis to flying cars, helicopters, elevated trains and personal jets. The sick would receive swift and polite treatment from nurses and doctors ("no more scolding, threatening, and back-slapping!"). Those over 65 would be put in beautiful nursing homes under the constant care of medical staff with four meals a day, and last but not least, everything would be free.

"To say we don't have money [for the welfare programmes] ... no, our government has long stopped saying such things," a taxi driver of the future tells the Samgler crew. "What we earn from selling oil is more than enough for the government to put into developing the country. We recently lent 30 billion to the United States. During my father's time, we borrowed money from the World Bank to restore our country. Now, it is the World Bank that has to send people to borrow money from us."

In Por's book, Bangkok - and Thailand - in the year 2007 has become a heaven on Earth, Asia's number one nation (with Japan in second place) and a land of everlasting joy and peace.

And this is probably where hilarity sets in. The more exuberant Por's depictions of Bangkok are, the more ludicrous and laughable the story becomes. There might not actually be much difference between how readers of 1967 and 2007 could gain amusement from Pai Su Anakhot. It is funny because we know, and have learned to accept, that most of what's described in the book could never be true. The gap between reality and fantasy remains, so why not enjoy the escape?

General Direk said suddenly:

"All right, have no doubts, Korn. We have indeed arrived in Bangkok of 2007. All these things have not yet happened, but we now have an opportunity to see them beforehand. And they will certainly take place [in the future] the way we are seeing them now. Aren't you excited, Kim-nguan?"

The Chinese man gulped down his throat.

"I'm going insane. How could we get to see what has not yet happened?"

Nikorn and Kim-nguan have good reasons to feel initially overwhelmed. The future Bangkok confronting them was beyond their wildest imaginings. By the end of the novella, though, every crew member grew to like their new capital so much so that they wished to return to it again soon.

What were the attractions?

- Places, language, food, dress code, commercial billboards, greeting by handshakes and even boxing had literally become Americanised - "except for the presence of national flags, everything looks like New York ... which meant Thailand must have progressed rapidly, to become the world's superpower, on the same par as America."

- Every cabinet minister, "even the one overseeing the ministry of defense", was a civilian. "They served the country diligently, and there was absolutely no corruption."

- Every Thai citizen was well-educated - the two taxi drivers hired by the Samgler gang had university degrees in architecture and engineering; Bangkok boasted about 200 universities and no fewer than 5,000 primary and secondary schools did not charge for tuition, stationery or uniforms (a precise prediction of today's politicians' election gimmicks).

- Traffic problems in Bangkok were nonexistent.

- The Thai currency had the same value as the US dollar!

- The Thai economy was rock-solid: Rich oil fields had been discovered and Thailand suddenly became industrialised, producing and exporting everything from clothes to cars, planes and battleships. Heavy machinery was exported to China while China sent agricultural products and hordes of tourists in return. Also, Bangkok no longer had small-scale businesses or street peddlers that would allow developed nations to look down on it.

- Thai athletes had swept almost all the gold medals in the recent Olympics, which Thailand had hosted in 2002, and our national soccer team had won the World Cup three times.

- Every Thai farmer was a millionaire; each owned an average of 1,000 acres of land as well as tractors and private jets or flying cars.

- There were around-the-clock entertainment venues, some where all the staff, from chefs to waitresses and cashiers, wore practically nothing and had "attractive body with clean smell".

- The country had been free of war for more than 50 years: "The soldiers and policemen are brothers ... our country could advance this quickly because we Thais all share in our love and unity."

- The prowess of our defense was second-to-none: "In 2004, following a skirmish along the Thai-Cambodian borders, the three armed forces from Thailand placed Cambodia under siege within two days, but the United Nations as mediator asked us to pull out."

Of course Preecha "Por" Intarapalit wrote most of this book tongue in cheek. Kon yai didn't lthis ridicule and said the future will be the future just like he said and in some ways they weren't wrong either.

BOXING DAY ON THE BOWERY by Peter Nolan Smith

Every Christmas my mother cooked a 20-pound turkey, I mashed seasoned potatoes, and my sisters set the dining room table with yams, creamed onions, turnips, peas, stuffing, and all the fixings for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, friends, cousins, sisters, and brothers. Grace was said with bowed heads. Our plates were swept by forks and knives. Conversations were dominated by the retelling of old tales. Gifts from under a brightly decorated tree were exchanged before dessert of apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies. A fire burned in the fireplace. The wood came from Maine. We were one big happy family.

There wasn't much to do once the China had been cleared from the table, the pots were washed, and the silverware packed into a velvet-lined cedar box. My parents lived in the suburbs, which had been paradise for a teenager and a purgatory for a young adult in his 20s, especially since I had no car.

On December 26, 1978 I thanked my parents for another superb Christmas dinner and caught a southbound train from Route 128 to Penn Station. My hillbilly girlfriend was with her family in West Virginia and Alice wouldn't be back until the weekend.

I phoned Anthony Scibelli as soon as I reached my East 10th Street apartment. The photographer was a native New Yorker. We were both weary from pretending to be good boys to our parents.

"Suicide is playing at CBGBs." Anthony loved the subdued fury of Alan Vega and monotone drone of his keyboard player Martin Rev.

"I'm in." Suicide was a solid remedy for too much Christmas cheer, plus CBGBs was the only bar opened that evening in the East Village. "Come down to my place and we'll catch them at midnight."

"I'll get us a treat." Anthony lived in East Harlem. They had hard drugs up there.

I went out to buy beers from the corner bodega. Snow scurried against the brick tenements and I ran back home with shivers penetrating my spine.

Anthony showed up at 11 with a bottle of amyl nitrate.

"I couldn't find anything else."

"It's better than nothing." Poppers were beat, but the ghost of Santa Claus died on the first huff.

After listening to the Dead Boys on my stereo, we headed for CBGBs along 2nd Avenue to avoid the frigid wind tunnel of 3rd Avenue.

Snow trapeezed beneath the street lights. The temperature was in the low teens. We crossed 3rd Street and cut through the gas station to the Bowery.

A crowd of derelict was gathered before the Palace Hotel.

A man lay on the concrete sidewalk.

A groan signaled that he was still with the living.

According to witnesses the 50 year-old derelict had stepped out of the third-floor window of the SRO hotel.

The short drop had snapped the gaunt man's legs and arms.

A dingy sheet was draped over his naked body and blood pulsed from a jagged bone protruding from his leg. His chest heaved with rapid breaths and he asked with a pained voice, "Damn, where am I?"

"Where you think you are, you dumb drunk." A fellow misfortunate answered from the huddle of broken dreamers.

"Not the Bowery, please tell me I'm not going to die on the Bowery." His grizzled face strained into the air.

“No where else?” One bum chortled with a bottle of Zapple in his hand.

I lifted a warning finger for silence.

A distant siren filled the air.

Help was on the way.

I kneeled over the bleeding man and tucked the sheet under his wasted frame. I had been a math major in university and calculated his impact on the sidewalk and said, "You're not going to die, old man."

"Maybe you ain't gonna die, but you look like a used condom." His relentless heckler and the bums laughed at this comment. They were a tough crowd.

Anthony quieted him with a kick to the shin.

The police from the 9th Precinct showed up a minute before the ambulance and the cops cleared space for the EMS crew.

"If he ain't family, then move on. Same goes for the rest of you." The driver motioned for me to get lost.

I surrendered my spot and we walked into CBGBs.

Merv the doorman let us enter without paying.

The bartender Allison glommed us a round of beers.

Suicide took the stage before a sparse audience. I counted 19 people.

Martin Rev stood impassively at his keyboards and Alan Vega smacked the microphone into his face between stanzas of CHEREE.

Anthony handed me the vial of poppers.

My head exploded on the first inhale.

It was Boxing Day on the Bowery and tonight was as a good a day as any to be alive in New York City.

To see a live performance of Suicide playing CHEREE please go to this URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRcHi5Nasn4

This video was filmed Merrill Aldighieri at HURRAH in 1980.

THE SEASON FOR GIVING by Peter Nolan Smith

Early on the morning of December 24, 1985 Vonelli, Lizzie and I boarded a train at Gard Du Nord. As we walked down the platform, our breath hung in the air. The winter damp had a good hold on Paris. Lizzie exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. The singer loved her Gaulloises.

"So we go to the Isle of Wight for Christmas?"

"To spend Christmas with Lord Ventnor."

"Will there be snow?"

I turned to Vonelli.

"Probably not, but it will be cold."

"I hate the cold." Lizzie came from Lyon. Winters were winter there. She blew on her fingers and I held her hand.

"It'll be cold, but not like New York."

We knew each other from New York. The petite Parisienne singer had been a hit on the punk scene. Richard Hell was her friend. The two of us had been having 'une affaire' since Armistice Day. Nobody in Paris bet on our lasting out the year, the again we were more lovers than friends.

"I wish we were n a plane to the Bahamas." She had recorded her LP MAMBO NASSAU there.. It had beaches and warm weather.

"We all do, but we are where we are, besides the Isle of Wight is the Riviera of England," I replied and hurried onto our car, as the conductor called 'tout abord."

"Palm trees?"

"Yes, a few," I answered, since it was almost the truth.

The train ran straight across the northern basin and arrived at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, from which Hovercraft was running a special holiday service to Portsmouth. Everyone at the bar was smoking a cigarette and I waited the arrival of the PRINCESS MARGARET on the tarmac. The cold was even damper on La Manche.

I turned to the waiting room. Lizzie laughed with a cigarette in her hand. The bearded art dealer must have told the singer a joke. Lizzie was a good audience.

At noon the SR.N4 hovercraft hoved into the harbor. The winter air hummed with the power of the four gas turbine engines. Lizzie exited from the terminal. Vonelli followed buttoning up his camel hair coat and said, "The beauty of the modern world."

"This is the modern world," Lizzie quoted the Jam.

"I guess it is." I put an arm around her. She smelled of tobacco.

I checked the sky. There was no sun. Only the damp cold.

"Looking for snow?" asked Lizzie.

I shook my head.

The grey clouds bore no threat of snow and we boarded the Hovercraft for the 'flight 'across La Manche.

An hour later we disembarked at Portsmouth and I carried Lizzie's bag over my shoulder. The three of us boarded the ferry to the Isle of Wight. I told her a story about my Irish grandmother crossing the Atlantic. She laughed at the right moments. Like I said she as a good audience.

The ship pulled out of the harbor past the Round Tower and we stood at the stern railing. Portsmouth became small and Lizzie held my hand. The crossing the Solent took less than forty minutes.

"This doesn't look like Nice," complained Lizzie.

"Wait till you see Cowes. It's the yachting capitol of Europe."

Vonelli extolled our destination's other assets.

"Queen Victoria lived at Osbourne House. During her reign The Empire was ruled from this island."

"So the Isle of Wight is like Rome after the Goths burned it." Lizzie was a virulent anti-royalist.

"Only here there are no ruins." Vonelli had left the USA in the early 60s. Many people suspected that his art dealer calling was a cover for a more clandestine career. No one knew for sure and Vonelli wasn't betraying the truth or the myth.

We got off the ferry and walked to the Cowes Floating Bridge. The chain-drawn ferry was idling on the other side of the Medina. Vonelli suggested a drink at the Navy Bar. The narrow drinking establishment had been built to service quick drinkers. The barkeep was a relic of the glory years of the British Empire. Time stopped and we missed two crossings of the Floating Bridge.

The trip across the Medina was the shortest ferry ride in the world.

Lord Ventnor waited on the opposite bank in a white Irish sweater. His hair was regally coifed by the wind. He shook my hand and embraced Vonelli.

"Welcome to the Isle of Wight."

Vonelli and he went back twenty years. I knew Bob three.

Aristocrats have good manners and Lord Ventnor kissed Lizzie's hand. She attracted admirers with ease.

"I love your song OU SONT PASSES LES GAZELLES."

"I am recording a new LP about Soweto" The chanteuse had been in a Paris studio for the last two months. We slept together whenever it was convenient for us.

"Maybe you will sing us a song."

"Only if Vonelli plays piano."

A good left hand on the ivories was of one of Vonelli's hidden talents. He walked and we walked to a VW camper.

Ventnor drove along the coast to his expansive house in Ryde.

A Christmas tree was in the corner. Logs blazed in the fireplace.

Bob's wife installed Lizzie and me in the same room.

She was ancien regime from Sud du Loire and that haute class knew how to read relationships.

I opened the windows. Lizzie didn't mind the cold as long as she could smoke her Gaulloises.

After a long lobster dinner accompanied by a deluge of wine Lizzie entertained us with Vonelli at the piano. They were a good combo and at the end of OU SONT PASSES LES GAZELLES Lord Ventnor announced, "Our Christmas morning tradition is the Tennyson Walk. We're rising bright and early."

"Nous partons vers le 10." Ventnor's elegant wife had a better hand on the time. "A polite hour to be on the Walk, so bonne nuit."

We retreated to our rooms.

"Your friend Vonelli is funny," she said in bed.

"And a nice man."

"Women like Lizzie didn't like nice." I shut the windows, which quickly steamed up from the heat generated from our lustful celebration of XXXmas Eve, but something was off and I had a fairly good idea what it was.

We woke to the tantalizing scent of bacon, beans, mushrooms, eggs, toast, and tea. Lizzie and I exchanged gifts. I gave her a silver lighter and she reluctantly wrapped a cashmere scarf around my neck.

"Une petite dejeuner anglais." Bob's wife served us a sumptuous breakfast.

The clatter of knives and forks were not interrupted by conversation. Talking could come later in the day. Lizzie and I helped clear the table. Bob's wife waved us from the sink.

"The faster you reach the Walk, the sooner you will return to dinner."

A roast beef was in the oven. Vegetables cooked on the stove. Bottles of wine lined the table. There was more than enough for everyone and I smelled an apple pie cooling on the window sill.

Lord Ventnor was in no condition to drive and his loving wife said, "I'll take you to the trailhead."

None of us were in any condition to handle heavy machinery and we filed out of the house to the VW camper. accompanied us outside to the van

She dropped us at the Needles.

Wind-spawn waves crashed on the sandy shore. Atlantic gusts gushed across the gorse.

"I don't see any Needles." Lizzie brushed back her hair. I had never seen her use a comb or brush on her mop. She liked to look natural.

"You can hear them." Ventnor's teenage son, Anthony, was joining us on the walk. He had a favorite Lizzie song, but wouldn't say which one.

"We don't have all day."

"Tennyson took his walk every day. He said it was worth six pence a pint," Anthony explained, as Lizzie and I reached the edge of the cliff.

"When will you English join the modern world?" Lizzie loved the metric system, since its math was easy for the workers. She was more than a punk.

A sudden gale off Watcombe Bay swept over the rim and Vonelli stood against its force. I could tell that Lizzie didn't like heights and held her close, as she used my body to shelter a light for her cigarette.

"Get back, you fool," I shouted Lord Ventnor.

"This is the life," his other words were lost on the wind.

We descended to Freshwater Bay. A fox hunt party was gathering for "What Ho' before the pub.

"The unspeakable chasing the uneatable." Lizzie was familiar with Oscar Wilde's description of The Hunt.

The horses clopped into the field. They left shitclumps on the parking lot. We stepped inside for a pint. They cost more than six pence.

We set off again on the muddy trail. There was no sun in the sky. A raw surf rose over emerald kelp belts.

The previous summer I had swum at Brightstone. The ocean had been calm as a sedated clam.

"Now we are on the Military Trail." Anthony was at Lizzie's side and explained, "Once revenue gangs patrolled these cliffs for smugglers. But the black gangs knew the coast."

"Wine from France. No tax." She was also an anarchist. "Or tobacco."

"Now drugs." Ventnor and Vonelli exchanged a knowing glance.

We tramped along the Military Road and the five of us shifted allegiances in companionship according to the pace.

A little before noon we arrived at Blackgang Chine.

A smugglers' tunnel funneled to the beach.

"Anyone claustrophobic?"

Lizzie plunged into the darkness.

I followed the cherry of her cigarette.

Wild waves crashed on the rocks and submerged the beach in the froth of the sea. Lizzie and I were alone and she said, "I think I like Vonelli."

"What's there not to like?"

"I mean I like him."

"Oh."

Her definition of 'like' differed from mine.

We returned to the trail and the party turned inland from the Atlantic.

"You're not angry?" Lizzie stood an arm's distance from me.

"No." I had lost to the oddsmakers in Paris. "You have my blessing."

"Tonight?" She wasn't wasting time.

"You do what you want. It's my Christmas gift to you."

Lizzie kissed my cheek, then dashed up the trail.

Vonelli watched her approach. He shrugged his shoulders, as she passed him to join Lord Ventnor and his young son.

Vonelli waited for me.

"A rich industrialist built a 'folly' down in that valley."

I spotted a Roman ruin.

"Yea, fantastic. What about you and Lizzie?"

"I can't explain it." Vonelli was contrite, but not sad and he eyed my cashmere scarf.

"Boy meets girl is the simplest story in the world." Vonelli and Lizzie were Romeo and Juliette. I accepted loss better than Romeo Montague and said, "Have a Merry Christmas and by the way you have no chance of getting my scarf."

I lingered behind my friends and allowed them to walk out of view.

Losing Lizzie didn't seem like a loss, but it wasn't a win either.

And it wasn't anything in between either.

I walked a little faster and spotted Lord Ventnor's son.

"I think Vonelli has designs on Lizzie." The young teen was astute in the ways of love as would be expected from the son of Lord Ventnor.

"Cut me out like a bird dog."

"Bird dog."

"Barking at someone else's quail." I sang the chorus of the Everley Brother's BIRD DOG, then clapped Anthony on the shoulder. "It's no big deal. Lizzie and I are just friends."

Anthony was gracious enough to not question the truth of my statement and we picked up our pace.

The path was wet under foot.

We caught up with Ventnor and Vonelli.

"Where's Lizzie?"

"With my son."

"Watch out, Vonelli." My green light to the arch-CIA agent had given hope to the teenager. "This is a strange island for romance."

Vonelli was in his thirties. Anthony was a young man. The art dealer hurried to Lizzie. I heard her laughter. His jealousy must have seemed funny to the singer. Vonelli fell back.

"She told me not to worry."

"Then you've eliminated your rivals." I felt drops of rain. "They taught you well."

"They?" Vonelli was a specialist at being visibly perplexed by the simplest accusation.

"Your bosses in Washington." Ventnor smiled at his longtime friend's discomfort.

"You mean Langley." The Agency had a big building on the other side of the Potomac.

"I have no idea what you mean." Vonelli walked onto the grass.

The mud on the trail was too slippery to make good time.

a href="http://www.mangozeen.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/trip-18.jpg">

I knew that his ignorance was an act.

Ventnor too.

"Are you alright?"

"Fine."

"I have some special wine for dinner."

"Great." I had forgotten the date. "Hopefully a lot of special wine."

When we arrived at the end of the trail, Lord Ventnor's wife was in the parking lot.

She looked at the new couple and then at me.

I shrugged with understanding.

It was a Gallic gesture.

Her smiling eyes promised me the best slice of roast beef.

And I couldn't have been happier.

I had no place to go other than to eat a good meal with friends.

That evening I filled myself to the brim and ate two slices of apple pie.

Later I danced on the table to Lizzie singing FEVER. Everyone had a good laugh and while Lizzie and Vonelli might not last forever, I wished them luck.

We all drank to that.

After all there is no time for giving like Christmas.

Sadly Lord Ventnor aka Bob Souter passed away several years ago.

He remains alive in the hearts of his friends and family.

Lizzie also went to the other side of the Here-Before.

Her music survives her in the Here-Now.

For both me and Vonelli.

Merry Christmas to them both and all the rest of the world.