'Footprints in the Sand'? You'd think after all those claimed years of journalistic and teaching experience, a writer could come up with something better than that, wouldn't you?
How about, 'Just This Little Stretch'?
Khuk Khak, Thailand - The sea was sounding extra loud the last couple of days, so I went down to the beach to check it out, see what's up. The tide. Going to the sea is like taking a walk in the woods, or doing anything in nature; once you're there, you think, 'I should do this more often.'
Khuk Khak beach, a well-kept secret, was deserted, as usual. The beach is one of the nicest up and down the stretch of coast from Khao Lak and Bang Niang to the south, to Cape Pakarang and Bangsak beaches to the north. Those beaches bustle with resorts and restaurants and activity, but Khuk Khak is quiet.
Since it's just down the road from my house, and where I swim, I've adopted it quietly as my own cleanup and restoration project, obliging to keep it clean and plant a few coconut palms.
Simple plan. Just take a plastic bag on your walk. Along with the innumerable plastic water bottles, whiskey bottles, and small, amber M-150 and Shark bottles, today yielded a little plastic Elk, and a small, green Irish Bear with a clover leaf on his heart, something, it appeared to be, from St. Patrick's Day.
They said a big wave came in three mornings in a row, submerging the kitchens of some of the businesses close to the beach at Bang Niang. People just shake their heads.
The sea was turbulent and unsettled. The sense I got after two hours out there was that nothing is certain. Anything can happen.
Anything can happen.
Those folks down at the Sofitel resort didn't know that anything could happen in the earth's history when on Sunday morning, the day following Christmas, 2004, 650 perished before noon. Although much of Khuk Khak was underwater, my house, the last on the road to the Sofitel, stayed dry and above water, with the wave being absorbed by the river, closeby, and the reservoir.
"Most of them were old people who didn't get out of their rooms," said Menat.
The Sofitel is one of the remaining resorts that hasn't been rebuilt. Everyone around here seems to know the story of the Turkish owner who wasn't fully insured or something or other to do with the financing required for the restoration work.
Maybe, who knows, maybe he's got the cash and wondering if he should reinvest it, or spend it somewhere else. Anybody's guess about what a person does with their cash. Anyway, it ain't been touched since.
'The Sofitel Magic Lagoon Resort and Spa', says the damaged sign above the entrance. The Sofitel Ghost Resort, with only three uniformed security guards pulling eight-hour shifts. Really, there's nothing left to guard.
So what we've got down there on the beach is desertion, a good place to go for a walk, and spend your own foolish time squatting by a wash of shell and coral, contemplating the spirals of a sea shell, the patterned development of a Cowry, or the amazing universe within a sand dollar.
Just behind me, the next wave washed across my tracks, erasing those size 13 footprints in the sand, as if I had never been there, and those waves could be lifetimes.
So, if you want to make your mark on the world, don't write it in the sand.
A person can make a mark upon the world by being a great artist. However, for many of us lesser beings, we must content ourselves with something much more modest than the Sistine Chapel or the Eiffel Tower, like shower caddies, for instance.
On the ride up and over the mountain the other day, winding the motorbike through the 'S' curves to deliver a shower caddy order in Nam Khem, I realized that I hadn't even scraped the surface of the potential market out there. Gotta think outside the box. Gotta think of exports to The States.
And whenever I show them to a Thai, they always marvel at them and exclaim, 'Good idea!' as if nobody over here had ever thought of making a coconut ashtray or bamboo catch-all.
Stuck in paradise, making shower caddies.
And right next door to paradise, we've got living hell. That would be Myanmar, or Burma. Went there yesterday, crossing the border by longtail boat to the immediate assault of a dozen kid hawkers, all trying to sell Viagra to me and every other male who disembarks in Myanmar.
First time it was kind of cute, having a personal entourage. 'Don't you feel like a rock star?' I asked Choi, the girl from China with the dark sun visor who missed her visa departure date by a full week and would've had to endure a world of shit at immigration in addition to the exorbitant overstay fees, had it not been for our humoring the official by giving him an expensive pen in trade for his cheap plastic Bic, and engaging him in distracting conversation about his Ft. Benning, Ga. parachute jump school wings over his crisp, uniformed pocket as he stamped out Choi's new visa.
The first time that kid grabbed me, I just looked at his hand until he let go of my arm. The second time, I told him, "Don't grab me. Keep your hands off of me."
The same guy pulled up a seat at the ice cream shop where they serve almost the best ice cream in the world by graceful girls with swirled powdered faces. Trying to get my attention, he kept touching my arm.
"Didn't I already tell you to stop touching me?" I asked the guy, a dark, curly-haired teenager just trying to make a buck off a foreigner. "I've already told you three times now. I don't want to tell you again," I said to him, as a father might to a young son.
He clearly understood English. The British were in Burma for how many hundredslktax of years? But, then he hit me again on the arm. I had to get ugly with the kid and tell him to go away and leave us alone, which he did, after also being spoken to by the management.
"You should've faked him with the right, then laugh," said Digger, feigning a right hook. "And then when he laughs, rock him with the left. Lay his ass out."
No. Then you'd really be the Ugly American. Instead, we just laughed, and tipped the gravel-voiced eleven year-old who escorted us up to the lookout point and never asked for anything nor tried to sell us anything.
"Watch out for sah-nakes and sah-corpions."
Suddenly, it seems dogs have turned against me.
I've always been a friend to dogs, a soft touch for a handout or a scratch behind the ears. They've always seemed to know that. But just the other day, that little short-legged pig of a bitch of the Laundry Lady's actually bit me!
Thai dog, right? Yeah, I wanted to smack it with that broom that the Laundry Lady picked up and threatened to smack it with. I was sitting there on my motorbike, shaking my fingers and thinking, 'Yeah. Go ahead and smack that bitch.'
And then, up at the Takuapa bus station parking lot, as I passed by a group of lounging dogs, this one particular brown and white fuzzy dog with a thick neck and thick accent rose up decidedly and came after me like he was going to shred my ankles or ass.
He couldn't just be ignored. He was too loud, and too close. And on a bike, you can only look at a chasing dog for so long before you have to return your attention back to where you're going, lest you ram into the back of a parked car or some other immovable object.
And every time I looked back to the front, here he came some more, accelerating and growling and barking even more viciously. The son of a bitch. I was almost ready to park the bike, get off, and give him some good old American Canine Whoop-Ass, but it would've caused a scene in the parking lot, and already, hundreds of people were wondering why that dog was so furiously chasing that tall farang across the lot.
"I'm already not in the mood for your shit," I told that mutt. "Come closer, and I'll kick your ass," I said, taking off my hat like I was going to smack him with it.
He seemed to understand English or make out the gist of what was said (the Thai have no swear words), because it only served to infuriate him further, and he quickly achieved an advanced state of frothing rage, really coming after me.
'Damn,' I thought. 'I can't accelerate away. I'm in a bus station parking lot with perhaps a couple thousand people going every whichaway on foot, on bikes, and in cars,' and besides, I was going the wrong way around the terminal, against the clockwise traffic pattern. Maybe that's what pissed off the dog.
When he finally gave up the chase, I rode away, thinking, 'Jesus! What wild hair did he have up his ass?'
And maybe at some time or another, you've had the same thought about your dog. Or some other relationship. And when you're thinking, 'I didn't deserve that,' no, you deserved it.
And everybody is talking about how schitzy the animals have been acting lately. Like Bovi.
"He never make shit with anyone before tsunami," said the owner. "and now, he make shit with everyone who go by."
Bovi has a reputation in Khuk Khak as The Main Dog, the Alpha Male, and everyone and every dog, from one end of town to the other, knows it. A typical-looking brown Thai dog that you see everywhere, Bovi is a battle-scarred mass of solid rice and fish-eating muscle who will recognize the sound of a motorbike and the people he doesn't like, and rise out of a half-slumber to rocket across the yard and scare the bejesus out of whomever it is passing by at the time.
In anticipation of his aggression, some riders come by with a cane or stick of bamboo, knowing his reputation and where he lives, always eyeing the property in fearful respect when they pass. The dogs in the Burmese tin shanty camp around the corner, only come partially to the corner, and then only tentatively in groups of not less than four, not daring to lift their leg on Bovi's declared turf.
Some of those who've been bitten have come to talk to Digger and Melanie about Bovi, who sleeps on their porch, and sometimes inside, but actually belongs three doors down to the guy who lives in Sweden, Michael.
They shake their hands in that dial-spinning, turning-on-the-shower motion and say, 'Not our dog. He belong to man in Sweden.'
Back a couple of entries ago, there was mention of a bong on the beach, or near the beach, or something to the effect that may have caused consternation on the part of some readers to question if the writer was a casual observer, feverishly taking notes and recording quotes, or, was a partaker in the New Year's festivities.
And some of you might be thinking, 'Hey, it don't need to be New Year's to take a few bong hits,' right?
Well, as BT once said in reply to an embarrassing question in a room full of people about the number of illegitimate children he had, 'That information is in the secret files.'
So, if a long talk (yes, not 'walk') on a secluded beach doesn't get the aches out, then either a bottle of wine or a trip to the world reknown Thai masseuse should do it.
Sometimes they're pretty good, and sometimes they don't get it, not even close. Have to show them the sensitive areas...'there's a gunshot wound, there's embedded shrapnel (Manny said I could've almost been a national hero if I'd marketed myself right. Packaging, promotion, book deals...a run for the senate. If I played my cards right, with the right people behind me, I could've been a County Commissioner, he said), there's embedded glass, there's an ancient knee injury...'
They want to know about the scatter of Sun Dance scars across the chest. 'Boom boom?' they ask, making a gun with their thumb and index finger.
Rather than explain it, I say, 'Yeah.'
Do they hurt? No. They itch. They start itching about the middle of May.
Speaking of the middle of May, I never really swore off booze, per se. Never needed to. Quit totally for a couple three decades, and then picked it back up a few years ago here in Thailand, thinking, 'Who needs to role model for anyone - I'm not around Indians.' So what the hell? A glass of wine with dinner once every three or four meals is cool, inna?
And then, there's this friend who had never taken a drink in her entire life. She was in her fifties at the time, and had lived through the sixties and Woodstock and Filmore West, and all that stuff, and had never smoked a joint or attended a fraternity kegger or had a glass of wine with dinner.
Admirable, yes, and probably Max Clarity, but one may wonder how a person can go through an entire life in only waking-state consciousness, forgoing all those other altered states. Don't they say we have brain receptor cells just lying in wait for those cannibanoids? As Lupe says, 'There muss be a reeson.'
And as Brother Tom says, 'We don't need no stinking reesons.'
God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Baha Ullah, Mother Mary, Your Ancestors, or Hakuman The Monkey God. Can it get you by? What about coffee?
Gotta have three cups, man. Just to get started.
One day while out there on Khuk Khak beach with my plastic bag, a rare visitor approaching from way up at the Cape asked if I was cleaning up the entire beach.
"Not the whole thing," I replied. "Just this little stretch."