KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Stay gone from a place for six months, and you can expect just about anything to happen in your absence, the least of which is lizards and mice. Look what happened at Angkor Wat. The jungle prevailed for six centuries.
Same same here, land of a billion buddhas, south on the Isthmus of Kra, Tsunami-land, land of smiles.
They held the 5th year memorial ceremonies yesterday, the 26th, for all the lives lost here, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Prayers, candles, lanterns, sent to the sky, along with police whistles and a major traffic jam at the site of 'The Police Boat', a national monument now, swept in a full kilometer from the beach, just across from the Bang Niang Saturday fresh market, where thousands of memorial attendees, some bused in, joined the usual throng, and at least one motorcycle accident, from what I could see when I went through the funnel earlier with thirty other honda riders. It was madhouse enough that I stayed home and revisited the grief through photos on the net.
No visit from royalty, no helicopters, no big deal for many people, five years on, now. The Real 3-D World, war, no job, and the renewed holiday prospect of missing an airport ETA has overshadowed any remote concern for anyone not directly affected, such as, me, or the governor of the province.
Being directly affected, that's what got me here in the first place, and here I am, still here now. And when here it's 97 sizzling degrees at midday, and Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Rapid City are in the deep freeze, that's what got a lot of those foreigners killed who came here for Christmas.
The Governor of the province? How would you like to preside over a disaster of unparalleled proportions? Whatshisname, Blanco, down in Katrina-land, the governor here in Tsunami-land, Bush in his two administrations, al-Bashir over in Darfur. No easy task.
Just saying it's a tough job. What are you going to do with all the bodies? It's already a crowded planet. If you're the guy, then you're the guy.
If you were wondering about 'The List' and why your name wasn't on it, or why it was so short, well, there's a longer list, much longer. How do you get on it? Easy, sort of. All you have to do is, visit me, pretty much, here or Slim Buttes, or pay the 499.99 for your aircraft.
That automatically puts you on The List, and you also, by virtue of being on The List, automatically become a member, a standing member of the Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Squadron.
In addition to the said aircraft and rank designation, 'Rookie/Cadet', you will also automatically receive the squadron bulletin, briefings, updates, and SITREPS (situaion reports) from the field, delivered live stream, text, cell, facebook, U Tube, blog, iphone, blackberry, and all other forms of automatic instant communication of insignificant minutiae to keep you and other third parties informed of detailed information you'd normally not be concerned with whatsoever.
Is It Just Me
Are my eyes just seeing things, or is it you, too?
The other night, Christmas Eve, I was riding my bike, a Honda 125, home from Carl's dinner party on the other side of the lake, down a rather spooky narrow lane, when in the headlight I caught a glimpse of something quite large, a big black...shape...darting back into the jungle.
Something like a big black square. A square with legs. I didn't get a real good look at it, because it was pitch black already, and I just caught it there in the light for a fraction of a second.
I kept going. I went right on by, but with a little bit of a shiver up my spine, if you know what I mean...like, I was thinking as I went by, 'what if whatever it was I saw would suddenly rush out of the jungle and...and...I don't know, knock me off the bike, or rip me to shreds or consume me in one bite or something.
Anyway, it could have been my imagination, but the shiver was real.
Well, ok, I could have dismissed all that, but today, just today, Claudia said to me and Damon, 'Did you see that?'
'Yeah,' said Damon.
"What?" I asked.
"Something up there in the trees. It's behind the leaves," she said, nodding across the road into the jungle at some higher branches, straining with concern to see it again. "A monkey or something," she said. "It was big."
I looked and didn't see anything. If it was big, then why couldn't you see it?
Damon said he saw it, too, out of the corner of his eye.
So it's not just me. Just like last summer, sitting there at my table with Bo and Misty and Tom and somebody else, I forget who, listening to Misty finishing up a ghost story when Bo described the same thing I had seen.
When he said that, it sent a shiver up my spine the same way that shape did the other night. Bo was talking about a...creature...he saw in the headlights on the side of the road, the same thing I had seen a month earlier and wasn't going to tell anyone about.
I was driving back to the rez from Colorado and had left so late it would have my arrival just at pre-dawn. In the hills just south of Chadron, NE when it was still black outside, I passed a dog standing on the side of the road that looked grey and mangy with a sort of humped back and long tail and sick eyes and long pointy ears, too long for a dog, and, hey, that's not a dog...that's a...a...must be a coyote...no...must be a...
What the hell WAS that thing? why didn't it move when I went by? didn't flinch. just stood there.
At first, I thought to turn around and return to check, drive by real slow, and then I got that shiver, gripped the wheel and stepped on the gas, thinking to put as much space as possible between me and whatever it was back there. "HELL, NO!" I thought, as a follow-up thought to going back there and checking.
It was identical to the animal Bo described. When I said he didn't move when I went by, Bo looked up slowly and said, "Yeahhh. Didn't move. Just stood there and looked at us when we went by. It was like something not of this world."
Only A Matter of Time
I knew it was only a matter of time. A person doesn't really own an idea. The ideas are out there. Floating around. Chances are, in fact, a high probability, if you 'came up with' an idea, somebody else somewhere has already thought of it, or is thinking of it at the same time as you, snatching it out of the atmosphere. Lookit the light bulb, aerial flight, the internal combustion engine, heliocentric theory, paranoid end-of-the-world delusion.
So, I had this idea, this idea that I was the only one in the world running a vintage bi-plane squadron, and cranking out planes at the rate of about twenty-five a year.
I know, that's slow, in production terms, far slower than Boeing, and that's what I told the Myanmar crew, that they were working too long on one plane, but over here, to save face, you can't just bitch people out the way we do in the States, like, 'in your face' is something that any American would know the meaning of.
So, the production story is something that will require some finessing, in addition to finding a new crew since most of them got deported, and trying to find the temperamental crew boss, Li An Song Nyu Ki, was like trying to hunt down a...a...Myanmar illegal immigrant in Thailand. People said they had 'seen her around some', but 'not lately'.
So, I've got to start over from scratch if I want to resume the production line, staying one step ahead of Wal-Mart by discontinuing the bi-plane Sopwiths and going exclusively with the tri-wing Fokker dual-plane mobiles.
And it appears I need to get going on it since I saw the cardboard cutout on the street in Bangkok while walking outside the Grand Palace with Rex, seeking out temple pants and buddha amulets.
"Hey. There's your plane," said Rex, pointing down at cut-out items at a street vendor. There it was, the bi-plane cut-out, along with a race car, a battle ship and an aircraft carrier. Yeah, they took the idea and saw how far they could run with it. Can you imagine an aircraft carrier cardboard cutout? How's it gonna float?
Sure enough, somebody had copied my idea, and I instantly thought of Li An's comment.
'Maybe I sell to Chinese', she had said in an eerily threatening email last summer. Looks like she carried through with it, and I wonder how much she got, although the model I saw was NO WHERE NEAR the quality of the 335th. You know how boxy and crude communist products are...except for that new sleek superfast train the Chinese just made.
'Thailand can copeee any thiiiing,' they will say. Rolex, Nike, DVDs, Adidas, your idea. The weird thing is, they will put up the same product right next door. So there it was, right on the street in Bangkok, my idea. Except for the price differential (they're selling theirs for 100 Thai Baht, about three bucks), they have no advantage over my one-of-a-kind, made in the USA (except for those produced here), and two other reasons I can't think of right now that makes the $499.99 asking price worth it.
"See?" I said to Rex, while flipping through the cripple's inventory. "They're all the same."
"You hab blue?" I asked the vendor.
"No," he replied. "All same same. Only hab Led."
I could see the flash, the light bulb go on in his eyes. Blue. 'Now, there's an idea.'
Mr., who got beat up at his grand opening 'Dead Man's Party' on Christmas Eve, was earlier running around saying he was two days behind schedule.
"I've got a million things to do," he said. "Got to go get supplies for everybody's nostrils and everybody's lungs," he had said.
Turned out that things became heated and out of control during the early hours of Christmas morning, and whaddaya know, Mr. became my first patient this year.
My second patient could have been the large German lady, when she and her husband pulled up on two bikes in front of the Honda shop. After stopping, she failed to remove her feet from the pegs and put them down, thus, as gravity would have it, fell over with the bike, and appeared to be fantastically stupid. I thought I was the only one to do that, but again, it isn't just me.