February 9-17, 2004
Kicking tires ...
PS: Corkscrew-Balloon #5 ... look at what Jesus is holding in his left hand.
PS: Jesus drops the screw! But a cork (the yellow thing) can still be seen on the Holy lap area.
PPS: REAL JESUS FULL OF HOT AIR
An anonymous reader from The Merritt Ministry popped the pin into CB5 by proving that this special shape (the one that THOCBDC had tried to pass off as part of its own CB fleet) is really "JESUS, The Hot Air Balloon."
"Mea Culpa ..."
Armed with Bangkok road maps and a navigator (Golf), Watcharee sets out in her Avis Rent-a-car to familiarize herself with all the ins and outs of Bangkok's amazing and confusing array of streets and motorways. Though Watcharee is a pretty good driver, BKK's well deserved reputation for eccentric road behavior and its strange traffic patterns (and its crushing rush hours) makes it a tough city from which to go from A to B.
First course at The Peninsula ...
PS: If The Peninsula is too far away White Castle has an idea ... this from CNN/Money:
The fast-food chain at the corner: Romantic candle-lit dinner at White Castle? The fast-food hamburger chain -- famous for selling its tiny square burgers by the sac -- is hosting special St. Valentine's Day celebrations in nine locations in Minneapolis.
Ready for this? Customers will be greeted at the door by a host and taken to their own special candle-lit table.
Reservations are required, the company said in a press release. And, couples will receive a photograph "to commemorate their night of indulgence."
Reader Olga Korkova from Murmansk (on the fringe of the Kola Peninsula) writes:
"Several years ago when you were visiting Surin your journal mentioned something about 'curtain hotels'. In Murmansk we do not have such a thing. Can you tell me something about this concept?"
Yes, Olga. A 'curtain hotel' is a hotel that caters to short term tenants who wish to remain anonymous. It's 'name' comes from the curtain or piece of fabric that hides the tenant's automobile from prying eyes. These hotels offer few if any amenities. The guests (rarely is the room rented for the use of just one person) are hardly ever seen in the hotel's public areas (assuming that there is any spot that is even remotely 'public' aside from the check-in desk).
Reader Sylvia Suarez from Potos, Bolivia writes:
"You have said many times that Bangkok has 'rush hours' and 'traffic jams'. What are these things?"
Here is a picture of one, Sylvia.
Reader Ian Smythe-Coover from Wolverhampton (near Walsall), England, writes:
"As a 'wire-spotter' I have always wanted to visit Bangkok: the Mecca, so to speak, of overhead wires. My health, unfortunately, prevents this. In the past your journal has given me a lift with the odd glimpse of overhead wires. Please ... can you treat an old gentleman to some more wire views?"
THOCBDC is pleased to not only give you a setting-sun view of some of BKK's best wires ... but, our roving camera also captured the erection of some fresh wires.
PS: The Nation (BKK's other English language daily), on this "V" morning ran a political cartoon that illustrates the importance of 'curtains' in Thai life.
Can you spot the partially decomposed corpse?
PS: The founder of THOCBDC never served in any of the regular armed services nor in the National Guard. He was 'exempt' as he was a full time law student at Berkeley (Res Ipsa?) ... also he was married and had a few kids. He does not regret it. But he admires Larry David and George Bush for taking up the 'slack'. Without them the government ladle might have been forced to scoop deeper.
Kudos to President Bush for Sticking Up for the Reserves
By Larry David, The New York Times
I couldn't be happier that President Bush has stood up for having served in the National Guard, because I can finally put an end to all those who questioned my motives for enlisting in the Army Reserve at the height of the Vietnam War. I can't tell you how many people thought I had signed up just to avoid going to Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I was itching to go over there. I was just out of college and, let's face it, you can't buy that kind of adventure. More important, I wanted to do my part in saving that tiny country from the scourge of Communism. We had to draw the line somewhere, and if not me, then who?
But I also knew that our country was being torn asunder by opposition to the war. Who would be here to defend the homeland against civil unrest? Or what if some national emergency should arise? We needed well-trained men on the ready to deal with any situation. It began to dawn on me that perhaps my country needed me more at home than overseas. Sure, being a reservist wasn't as glamorous, but I was the one who had to look at myself in the mirror.
Even though the National Guard and Army Reserve see combat today, it rankles me that people assume it was some kind of waltz in the park back then. If only. Once a month, for an entire weekend — I'm talking eight hours Saturday and Sunday — we would meet in a dank, cold airplane hangar. The temperature in that hangar would sometimes get down to 40 degrees, and very often I had to put on long underwear, which was so restrictive I suffered from an acute vascular disorder for days afterward. Our captain was a strict disciplinarian who wouldn't think twice about not letting us wear sneakers or breaking up a poker game if he was in ill humor. Once, they took us into the woods and dropped us off with nothing but compasses and our wits. One wrong move and I could've wound up on Queens Boulevard. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to find my way out of there and back to the hangar. Some of my buddies did not fare as well and had to call their parents to come and get them.
Then in the summer we would go away to camp for two weeks. It felt more like three. I wondered if I'd ever see my parakeet again. We slept on cots and ate in the International House of Pancakes. I learned the first night that IHOP's not the place to order fish. When the two weeks were up, I came home a changed man. I would often burst into tears for no apparent reason and suffered recurring nightmares about drowning in blueberry syrup. If I hadn't been so strapped for cash, I would've sought the aid of a psychiatrist.
In those days, reserve duty lasted for six years, which, I might add, was three times as long as service in the regular army, although to be perfectly honest, I was unable to fulfill my entire obligation because I was taking acting classes and they said I could skip my last year. I'll always be eternally grateful to the Pentagon for allowing me to pursue my dreams.
Still, after all this time, whenever I've mentioned my service in the Reserve during Vietnam, it's been met with sneers and derision. But now, thanks to President Bush, I can stand up proudly alongside him and all the other guys who guarded the home front. Finally, we no longer have to be embarrassed about our contribution during those very trying years.
Larry David, who served in the Army Reserve in the 1970's, appears in the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Did you find yesterday's partially decomposed corpse? No?
Reader Pierre Gavin from Noumea, New Caledonia (Fr.), writes:
"Convenience shopping is practically unheard of here in New Caledonia. Is it true that in Bangkok people can buy flasks of whiskey, cakes of Lux bath soap, dried shrimp & dried octopus and 357energy drinks all in one shop? Here in Noumea those purchases would take us to five or more different stores ... all located in different parts of our little island. We are French, of course."
Yes, reader Gavin, Bangkokians need only visit one place to get all their daily needs.
Reader Horace Blackmore from Tarcoola in South Australia writes:
"I am a keen 'car-park spotter'. Maybe you call them 'parking places' or 'garage areas'. Anyway, do you have a photograph of one in your Bangkok building?"
Yes, Horace, I do. This is our space (see the overhead alphanumeric ID ... or, should I call it a 'numeralalphic' ID?). The vehicle sitting in that spot is our first BKK car. Soon it will move back to its upcountry garage to make room for something newer and less truckish.
PS: To ward off any elevator spotters: this is the control panel of elevator #3 at River Garden. The photograph was taken when the elevator was passing floor #4.
Next: Part III