• Tag Archives Bangkok
  • Falling in Love

    Imbolc                                                                 Valentine Moon

    “I really fell in love with that part of the world,” says Cynthia Hopkins of the Arctic, where she journeyed with other artists in 2010. “I also fell in love with the boat we were on.”  author of This Clement World opening at the Guthrie

    My promiscuity.  I shamelessly fall in love over and over again when I travel.  Bangkok’s quirky Chinatown, especially on the weekend with all those restaurants set up on the sidewalks and folks walking in the densely trafficked street.  Angkor in all its viney, scorpion infested, land-mined Hindu strangeness.  Inverness and its smoky river, walking there with Kate.  Why do we ever have to leave?  That little restaurant, Crispie’s was it, just down from the Internazionale in Rome.  The Ringstrasse in Vienna.  The left bank in Paris.

    (oh, yeah, Romania.  A more recent love.)

    Then there was Ushuaia, that frowsy scamp of a town as far south as you can get in the Americas.  And, god, just before her, those Chilean fjords.  Let me off the boat.  Give me a small house, an internet connection and forget about me until, well, forever.  Montevideo, too.  Friendly, beefy, colorful.  Old world European with a Latin twist.

    I suppose I’d have to mention those old, first loves, too.  Chicago, city of roast beef sandwiches, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Hyde Park.  D.C. and all its power, its monuments and museums.  And yes, like so many before me, I had a brief fling with San Francisco, but she’s so expensive, a real high-maintenance gal.

    Of course, there are a few I keep, stable-like, harems of places that I visit like a ghost Sultan, flitting in and out, but always returning for one more time.  Lake Superior, especially the true north shore, the part in Ontario.  The Georgian bay of Lake Huron.  Those rocky mountains lying just at the limits of my home turf here in the U.S.  All majesty and purple.

    Savannah and Charleston, yes.  The south is a guilty pleasure, that one with the dark desires, visited always with an eye to the road back north.  New Orleans, oh yes.  Dark queen of the south.  I’m sure I could return to the Okefenokee swamp.  And I confess to two trips to Red Cloud, Nebraska.  Those Grand Tetons.  Yes.  Cody, Wyoming. Yes.  Ely and the north woods.  Yes.

    You see, I’m the tramp really.  Letting my heart go, letting it all go.  Loving this place and that.  I’m easy, I guess.

  • Wanderers

    Winter                                                                  New Moon of the Cold Month

    My brother, Mark, is a traveler, a wanderer, a planet.  He can’t sit still, a powerful urge to move comes over him, an urge with plenty of family reinforcement.  Dad took to the road all the time, as often as he could, as long as he could, even if it was to run down the story of a river that went underground only to pop up somewhere else.  He hunted down the ordinary extraordinary.  Mark takes the sensibility a step further.

    He has crossed Russia on the trans-siberian railway, picked olives in Turkey and worked on a kibbutz in Israel.  When he finally hit Southeast Asia, over twenty years ago, something clicked.  This was a place he could use as a base.  And he does.  Teaching English in Bangkok, but setting out for journeys into Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam.  He reminds me of the writers who took off on tramp steamers to see the world.  Now, he’s antsy again, wanting to move, needing to move.  Who knows where he’ll go next?  He doesn’t.

    Mary, my sister, travels a lot, too:  Tibet, India, Dubai, the Caribbean, England, Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia.  She, too, has a base in Southeast Asia, Singapore, or Asia Lite as she likes to call it.  She teaches, too, at the National Institute of Education, Singapore.

    They both have lives that are very exotic compared to Andover, Minnesota.  I’m glad to have their vicarious adventures in my life.

  • Memorable

    Lughnasa                                            Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Katie slipped her hands around my arm and stroked.  Then stopped and put some pressure on.  Then stroked some more.  Katie was my birthday present from a thoughtful wife.  She learned her trade from Sister Rosalind and the Sister’s school for massage.  I’m feeling knot and kink free.  Massage clears out the mind as well as the muscles.  As Katie moved around my body, memories came flooding back.  Mom’s hands on my neck when I had polio.  The Alexandria 4-H county fair.  That afternoon in Bangkok when I let a tiny Thai woman loose on my just ruptured achilles, not knowing what it was.  Steel fingers and pain.  Lots of pain.  Then the night I stepped in the sewer grate while my body moved forward and my right foot stayed in place.  Body memories, unlocked by Katie.

    Memories have a fluid, slippery existence, just like Katie’s hands as she followed the process of my spine from neck to tail.  As I write about Mom and polio, an image of stuffing tissues into hardware cloth followed.  The float for homecoming for my class, seniors at last.  Being pulled away from that by who?  I don’t recall.  Then I was in Anderson, 9 miles away, at St. John’s hospital where my mother had been taken after collapsing while serving a funeral dinner.  After that the sculpted green plastic and aluminum tubing of waiting room furniture at Riley Memorial in Indianapolis.  Mom on a gurney, now 7 days after stroke, me riding with her as they took for an operation.  She reached away from me and said, “Son.”  The last words I heard from her.  The painful early morning talk with my father, should we remove the life supports?  Yes, we both decided.  Yes.  Then the funeral.  And the days and weeks and months after where I failed to integrate mom’s death as a powerful life lesson and instead took it as an emotional blast that rocked my very foundations.

    Bangkok, stumbling away from the 7-11 and the amulet stand in front of it, hurrying to get to the ATM.  Traffic making me anxious, not careful.  Blinding pain, yet running anyway because of the traffic, the cars.  All the traffic and the cars.  The night air humid as the flashing neon of Chinatown bathed the sidewalk in alternating colors, like the northern lights.

    As I know, we change our memories each time we access them, so all of these events, crucial as they are to my story, may not represent the truth at all, at least not the veridical, the actual truth.  But, in a more important way, they are the most truthful of all since they are the truth that has shaped my response to all these things and the thousands more accreted over the years of my life so far.  Even my account of the massage, who knows how close it is?  Yet the feeling lingers.  Good.  Feeling.

  • Bangkok Dangerous

    Beltane                                                    Waxing Planting Moon

    From my brother, Mark Ellis.

    He was there:

    Dear Charlie, I mailed you a letter today from my neighborhood post office. That sounds very banal. However, it represents the end of the long siege of Bangkok. The Post Office, although it was only about 200 yards from my soi, was in the Red Zone. It was shut for a long time. It was open today, for the first time in a while. It felt very good to go there and mail a letter. I know it sounds simple, but the positive feeling was profound. I walked around to see all the destruction yesterday. Charlie, it was very senseless. These Reds burned a TV station on Rama 4. They burned and attacked the ground floor of the Thai Stock Exchange on Soi Asoke. They destroyed the Metropolitan Electrical Office on Rama 4,in Klong Toey. They destroyed several Bangkok Bank branches on Rama 4. They destroyed a Tesco-Lotus shop. They destroyed and looted a 7-11. They hit another bank on Rama 4. I went to Silom, which looked okay. I went back up Rajadamrai. Apparently, bombs were found near Rajadamri Station, the morning I walked by it. I took a left, past the destroyed Zen Department store. It looked like a bomb had gone off there. I walked up Rama 1. Siam Square’s shops were burned down. I walked up to Victory Monument. Center One, a shopping center and Watson’s was totally destroyed. I walked up to Din Daeng intersection. The Police box was burned down. Backhoes were burned. Electrical junction boxes were destroyed.  A bank had been set afire on Ratchaparop Road. There were burn marks in the road where tires had been burnt. I walked up Ratchaparop. I took a left at Makkasan and walked home. Charlie, it was totally senseless violence. I am afraid that CNN and BBC ‘s coverage was not balanced. The Red shirts flipped out. They are a leaderless mob. Further, provinical halls were burned down in: Ubon Ratachatani, Mukdahan, and Khon Kaen, all in Isan. Some trucks were burned in Chaing Mai. It was totally unreal. I feel sorry for the poor peasants who died supporting Thaksin. The Isan people are really nice. Some of them have been terribly mislead. They do not represent all the peole of Isan or Chaing Mai. I hope this violence stops. Regards,Mark

  • Erin go bragh!

    Imbolc                           New Moon (Awakening)

    N.B.  Kate pointed that this is the anniversary of Caesar’s assassination, not St. Pat’s feast day and she’s right. Except for the Woolly Mammoths who always gather on the third Monday closest to St. Patricks at Frank Broderick’s house for corned beef and cabbage, some good soda bread and a few really bad Irish jokes.

    Caesar’s dead, long live Caesar day!  and we can see green in a lot of places the snow in back is gone.  Gone.  64 yesterday.

    Today and tomorrow morning will be Latin days because we have to have our chapter done by tomorrow afternoon and instead of Latin I spent my weekend on Apis mellifera.

    Brother Mark sends word from Bangkok that there is an invading political protest of 150,000 folks with red flags.  He says they’ve caused many main arteries to be closed.  As he said, over the last several years Thailand has been very rock and roll.

  • Scot Escapes With The Gold

    More on the situation in Bangkok:

    from the Scotsman for December 1st, 2008

    Published Date: 01 December 2008
    IT WAS supposed to be a relaxing sunshine holiday in Thailand after a punishing schedule following his record three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
    But Scots cycling champion Chris Hoy found himself caught up in the chaos at Bangkok’s international airport, which has been taken over by anti-government protesters.

    There are more than 500 Britons trapped in the country and Thai officials say the airport will remain closed until at least tonight.

    Fortunately for Hoy, 32, who became a household name after his victories at the Olympics this year, he was able to pull a few strings.

    Thanks to a longstanding relationship with the global parcel delivery company DHL, he and his girlfriend, Sarra Kemp, were among the lucky few to find a flight out of the country – not from Bangkok airport, but from Phuket.

    Last night, Hoy’s agent, Ricky Cowan, revealed the cyclist had managed to fly out of Thailand “avoiding the Bangkok airport altogether”.

  • Ex-Pat Life in Troubled Times

    37  bar falls 29.69  0mph NW  windchill 36   Samhain

    New Moon (Moon of Long Nights)

    2004 Photo  SE Asia Trip  Bangkok

    As many of you know, my brother Mark lives in Bangkok.  Thailand is almost invisible in the American press, so you may not have noticed the protests that have been going on there since early in the year.  The politics, even to Mark, a long term resident of Thailand, do not make much sense.   One school of thought believes it is the Bangkok royalist elite facing off against the more rural and populist base of recent prime minister and now exile, Thaksin.

    Difficult to say, but this Buddhist country has a lot of unregistered guns and the protests have taken a nasty turn.  Apparently the goal of the yellow-shirted PAD protesters is a coup by the military which they hope would turn the government back to more traditional  royalist influenced politics.

    Mark and Mary, both ex-pats, live out their lives as foreign nationals in cultures far removed from the West.  Even English speaking, British spawned Singapore has a Chinese government and a citizenry made of up of Malays, Chinese, Indians and a few Caucasians.  As non-citizens, even though well established, their daily lives can get upset when the politics turn nationalist as ex-pats are often visible reminders of the other.

    In Mark’s case, as an American and a white man, he is culturally and physically obviously other almost every where he goes in Thailand.  When jingoism gets cranked up, no matter what the cause, the tendency is to notice strangers/farangi when at other times they may well be invisible.  He feels understandably a bit nervous, but he also says, “It’s a rush to be here.”  The politics are an alive moment, a culture trying to sort out its future and its present, searching for the mix of groups that can govern.  We just had such a moment in the last year here in America.

    I respect and sometimes envy my brother and sister.  They have access every day to the unique and the different, to the daily lives of persons who respond to different customs and values than those we learned in Alexandria, Indiana.  Like them, I value those kinds of interactions and find their willingness to stay admirable.