Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Take a Letter, Maria
Soi dogs yawping, people chattering - their voices mingling with the mynahs and other birds - and most of all the rhythmic thrumming of thousands of frogs woke me again this morning at 6. Outside Thailand was beginning to stir, oblivious to the fact that the Colorado Rockies were shortly taking the field against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway for their first World Series. I was unusually jazzed for a Thursday morning and stumbled down to the TV, fired up the tea water, found the remote and hit the switch looking for the ESPN feed.

Four hours, five innings, one Rockies, and 13 Red Sox runs later it was clear my optimism for Game 1 of the 103rd Series was entirely unfounded. I surrendered the remote to R who was obviously and pathetically grateful that he could now watch WWF wrestling ("A real sport!") and began my daily "death commute" to work. Thailand can be an idyllic and overwhelmingly beautiful place when you have nowhere to go and nothing much to do. but I am one tense, sweating, uptight white knuckled, white skinned mofo everytime I have to cross a road and/or ride on the back of a motorcycle cab.

I often think of a guy I never met on these journeys. He was an English journalist who held the same position I would later inherit in Hua Hin for only about six weeks until he died when his 115CC Suzuki and crash helmet didn't get the better of a truck load of migrant workers and sacks of concrete mix that pulled suddenly in front of him on a badly paved rain-slick road.

According to office lore, the only relative they could locate was a sister in the UK who had no interest in claiming and burying her wayward expat brother, who had also had the bad form to expire with only a month's salary to his name. In addition to a paucity of traffic laws and lights, and minus an efficient and incorruptible police force, Hua Hin also lacks a public morgue, so his remains were stored in a refrigerated locker owned by the local "wat" (monastary) for such purposes for a fee that was three times the standard rate because the dead guy was a "farang" and thus could presumably afford the fee hike. More overseas queries were made...

Then the monks pulled the plug prematurely in an apparent attempt to wrestle more baht from his dwindling bank account ... Suffice to say, I don't want to end up like this guy mourned hastily by coworkers who barely knew me and cremated quickly because I was beginning to smell.

Which brings me to the office where the decaying stench of a new batch of Letters to the Editor awaited me. I have a new duty due to a series of abrupt, unexpected staff changes here and it is overseeing, editing or simply deleting without comment the 12-20something pithy editorial missives e-mailed to us daily from around the world. Most of our 100,000-plus daily readers are in the US, but there are equally devoted and/or outraged voices in Europe, England, China, India and Pakistan - as well as the daily pleas, prayers and promises we receive from the Australian Defence Force, helpful Nigerian banker Mr Eibraham Soto and from "陳蕙菱" concerning 讓清純可人的妹妹解開....鈕扣!! and the ever popular, "MAKE MONSTER BIG PENNIS FASTEST!"

We have a core group of correspondents, however, many of whom don't seem to have jobs, social lives or any other interaction with the world beyond firing off passionate, generally political prose regarding current events, as well as real and imagined intrigue, in their backyards. Some of most heated comes from India and Pakistan where they employ a unique English language style that combines mangled cliches and metaphors not heard since the British occupation along with their local idioms. For example:

Editor Sir, Please to promptly publish my letter! It is something of a sticky wicket we are finding ourselves in lately! I blame Benazir Bhutto for the aftermath of stomach churning carnage of the early hours of 19 October resulting in the death of over 140 innocent Pakistanis. I do not believe she has her horse in gear and further evil meddling on her part puts a distinct chill where the sun does not wish to rise and shine! We have a saying in Pakistan: "Billi soo chuhae kha ke haj to chali!"( A cat after eating hundred rats went to perform Haj for redemption). Thank you! Sincerely, KJ, Karachi.

And there are the stone crazies; one in particular who - apparently depending on his medication ingestion writes daily either about the US government's mind control experiments and why they won't give him a passport or ... this.

Dear Editors, The year 1808. A constitutional provision was also were laid out. Soon enough the kaurava hero hundred thousand cooks to distribute excellent behold anything, for with human eyes nothing can into the roaring river several hundred
feet below moments. I was ready to barter my whole life for for you to assure you that i had no knowledge alive to the slightest violations of decorum.

Of course, I can relate. When I find I am on a sticky wicket, I merely remind myself that even in Thailand with the Rockies in shambles on the other side of the planet, I have no knowledge alive to the slightest violations of decorum. Or as they say, "Billi soo chuhae kha ke haj."


Ben said...

Well, sorry to impart bad news...the Rockies took a dump again in game two. But, now we go to Denver (scene of you and me and our two sons who, mine anyway, couldn't care less about baseball but like hot dogs and root beer), where they are sure to make most advantage of good high-altitude air for hit long-ball win. Glug most happy Coors if you can swill many Justin!

Justin said...

I know, Ben. I sat through the 5th inning again this morning hoping that the modest 2-1 lead the Bossox held would crumble. Then I had to risk life and limb to get to work and alas...we know the rest.

Yer right, though. I see Victory at Coors Field and remember well our afternoon there. Thanks, amigo, for the memory.

Chuck said...

Sorry about the series Justin. I had the misfortune of catching the Sox the week before you did with the Indians. Started with the Yankees (seats right behind the dugout and close enough to Joba that I got to talk to him - went to school with his dad.) Then the Sox. Had em on the ropes and blew it. The Tribe crumbled. Despite being born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska, the Indians were always my team. Now, I'm just like all the Cleveland fans - waiting until next year, again, for a World Championship. Glad you were able to stay linked to the games. Wish the outcome would have been different. Cleveland/Colorado would have been great baseball . . . and 7 games. All the best.

Ben said...

Hey. Did you edit yourself (sounds like a Hollywood epithet, doesn't it?), or were you censored? Your last entry has disappeared. Maybe you were just taking out of the public domain to include in your book...aha! You clever thing you.

Thinking of you, as always, when I'm not thinking of work or home life or kids or politics, or God, or man's inhumanity to man, or the sorry state of what used to be called Country Music. You're right up there at the top...I can honestly say my favorite person in Thailand.

Justin said...

Astute observation, Ben. Yes, I have put that last entry (Dark End of the Street) in "Draft" status following, er, "requests" - one very polite, the rest basically abusive and obscene - from relatives of the individual I was writing about.

I am now a reviled human being in Hua Hin for that, though I meant it as a sincere tribute. His friend who said he saw nothing wrong with it said he thinks the guy would've "laughed his bollocks off" at seeing it, but I guess his relatives don't see it that way.