Friday, January 21, 2011

How Long Has It Been

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Don't you just love these numbers? The dates. Aren't you glad to see 1.21.11? Glad to be alive? I hope your day wasn't boring.

During boring moments, I'm multi-tasking, on the toilet, smoking a cigarette, cup of coffee, and reading the history of Laos for two months now (reading the book, not sitting on the toilet), a continual succession of ping pong power struggles between the Thai, the Lao, the Khmer, the Burmese, the southern Chinese, the Ho's, and the Vietnamese.

That's right, the Ho's.*

With the movement of armies and wholesale capture and relocation of populations, cities burned to the ground, people taken away, many of the people were related both linguistically and in lineage, particularly the Thai and the Lao, and borders really never got mapped and set down until mid 1800s when the French stepped in, with colonial designs of their own, to counter the British in India and Burma.

Thus, Thailand became a buffer State, to the French Indo-Chinese States of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with land grabs and treachery going every whichaway.

You already knew this, right? Yeah, it's not a history lesson...just to say the Thai and the Lao are related, and the Khmer, too, like asking a Hispanic in Texas if they have relatives across the border.

And this king and that prince capturing the throne and executing all his brothers and all the members of the ruling royal family...stuff like that, all up and down the line. People fleeing on foot, fighting on elephants, crossbows and lances. You could see why the French thought they were superior.

Came in, got in the mix, hung around a hundred years. They had the muscle. They had the firepower, the balls, and sufficient arrogance to subjugate an entire...send the elite kids off to school in Paris, learn to be a bureaucrat.

Ahhhh, sorry. That's what I'm reading. Most people don't give a rat's ass about Laos or it's history.

The Ho's? The Ho's come out of southern China.

You can see it, the French influence, in the architecture, and up north, in the delis, where they have Camembert and Brie in the cooler, and a selection of breads and wines at check out.

Down here, catering to the Germans and the Scandinavians, we've got choice of some of the best chocolate in the world. A mountain of it right at the check out counter.


I don't like getting hung up in the middle of a project, or having it sit on a shelf, 'on hold'. After about the fourth trip to the hardware store, that shit starts to get old; the first trip was just an estimate, just to get started.

'How many you need?'

"Ba ba...ten, er,, gimme a couple dozen."

The second trip was to get what was actually needed for the job. The third trip was the necessary trip made halfway through the job upon realization more materials are needed, more than what you originally thought ('...that should be enough.' It never is), and to get the things you forgot on the first two trips. The fourth trip is to get the stuff you need to finish it up.

Just gotta stay on it.

Like the swing, for instance. Took me three weeks to get the board, then it laid here another two weeks awaiting Damon to bring his drill up from the bar. Laid out there so long, the ants began to colonize the underside.

Ended up taking it down to the hardware store, where, in successive trips, I got the chain, the rope, and the Ubolts to secure the rope in place, and had the guys there sand, polyurethane, and drill it. Then Damon came over and helped me put it up. How long has it been since you've swung?

I've got two of them up now; a bamboo old-timers swing like you'd see on a front porch in Iowa, and this one here. We've had 'em ever since the kids were kids; dangerous, all of them, don't believe me, just ask Bob Luckett, crossing a river, a terrifying plung down out of a tree across a ravine, an exhilarating zip line across the back yard, the 'chair swing' the teenagers busted, all so frightening that level-headed adults avoided them, leaving them entirely free for the little kids and the teenagers.

People should swing more, if you ask me. Swing more, and fly kites.

This is more like a conversation, right? It's not really a case of a, of a, of a professional writer trying to sell a book or an idea or something. Nah. This is more like you and me sitting here, and you sitting there and me going on and on and on about something where you can't get a word in edgewise, and maybe your mind drifted off and came back only when I started laughing at my own joke.

It's more like something like that. More than just reading and writing, right?


There are so many uniquely Thai cultural characteristics that one can take for granted after being here a while, such that would cause the tourist to gawk or point. You've got houses on stilts and spirit houses grand and small. Seen one temple you've seen 'em all.

There are vendors selling evvverything on canopied three-wheeled motorcycle 'slings', or sidecarts. Fresh fruit abounds. Buddha amulets worn for protection; shorts and flip-flops on motorbikes. The great food. Great beaches. Ladyboys down at the cabaret, elephants on the road, and monks chanting each morning at the temple just around the bend in the lake. What did Dorothy say to Toto?

There are guys going down the road on motorbikes, carrying covered bird cages, driving with one hand, on their way to songbird contests, where dozens of bird owners show up each Saturday and park their trucks and bikes right off the road. Their birds, trained to bust a song at the instant of a referee's whistle, compete in lines of cages hung from a tall metal frame, surrounded by all the squatting owners, picking their teeth and studying their birds as would a coach from the stands at a Grand Slam tournament.

I've never stopped at one of those bird song competitions. But I'm going to, and if it's cool, I'll tell you about it. Thai boxing and cock fights? Never been.

I've never been to a couple of waterfalls in the area, close by, nor the Khao Sok National Park, just up the way, which they say is stupendous. Never been to Ko Kao, a cool little island just not too far from here.

After working two weeks straight in the garden, I went to the sea for the first time since. You can take things for granted, sure. Never have been out to the Similans, an hour off the coast, and one of the diving meccas of the world. People come here just for that. Never been there.

Damon offered me a free boat ride and all expenses on him if I wanted to go out there with him tomorrow. I told him, 'I'm a busy man. I'm a terribly busy man. I'm right in the middle of a project.'

- end

*It would appear incorrect plural possessive, and thus, confusing. the apostrophe is there so you'll know I'm not saying 'Hoss'. It's 'Hos' or 'Hoes', like, 'My Hos,' or, as in, 'The Second Ho Invasion.'