Thursday, December 31, 2009

How Smart We Could Have Been


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Lately, like, in the past year or two, I've experienced a number of people reminding me of how smart they are. I sat and listened to their self-stories of I.Q. testings in the third grade, what they got on their S.A.T.s, entrance exams, how they performed on a Yahoo intelligence test, a Facebook questionaire, how close to genius they must be.

I could have simply said to each of them, right then and there, 'Mine's higher', or reminded them of some stupid shit they've pulled, but who am I to burst anyone's fiction? And to the pup who was bragging about the forty women he'd slept with, I could have told him, 'I stopped counting at 250,' but I didn't want to throw a wet towel on his story.

And to the Gee-How-Smart-I-Am people, I could have added, 'Mine was off the charts. Broke the machine. Needle went wayyyy into the red. They said I was so brilliant, they had no idea of how smart I really was.'

Well, that's what I could have said, or wish I'd said, as 'come back' as they say here for 'reply', but like I probably mentioned previously, and as Manny always used to say, 'You're slow. You're wayyy too slow on your feet. You never gonna make it at this pace.'

So, in fact, I'm a lot slower than most people, the guy who doesn't get the joke, the guy who asks, 'what happened?', late on the scene, bottom third of the class, couldn't find the party, never read the instructions, almost didn't graduate, had to re-take the final...

My degree? Mechanics.

"Is that deisel or gas?" the guy asked, like he thought I'd be good on a VW bus.

"Quantified Interstellar," I could have said. Could have just said, 'Quantum,' I guess, but again, didn't think of it until many days later.

Like Manny, my high school guidance counselor, and my birth doctor all said, 'You haven't got what it takes." Except for Manny, those weren't their exact words, but to give you an idea, my counselor suggested I might have a future in Vietnam, which, at the time, was blazing.

(there he goes, taking the story off into the 'Nam. How long is THIS going to last?)

"You could go to the 'Nam?" she suggested both as a question and a career option. And my birth doctor suggested to my mother that I could be given up for adoption, "you know...if you don't want to keep it," they said he said. "And if we can find some takers."

They didn't have to tell me. I was there. I heard him say it. Verified it in a past-life regression session. I wanted to look him up between that stint with the circus, parole, and the 'Nam, but everything was coming too quick in those days, everything too quick, and my math teacher in middle school sarcastically nicknamed me,'Quickness', and like I said, I was slow, except after those first few times in front of the bench.

"You here for a case?" asked the judge between items on the docket. I had a briefcase, and had dressed like a third-year law student.

"Yes, your Honor," I replied.

"Who's?" the judge asked, flipping through a stack of files.

"Mine," I said.

Upshot of it was, her near-respect soon turned to disdain as she read my file.

"I see here you said you're a rocket scientist," she said. "You must think you're pretty smart."

"YESDRILLSERGEANT!" I almost blurted out, but repressed.

Same thing Manny used to say. God, I got tired of hearing that. "Oh, no, Your Honor," I told her. "I'm not smart. If I was, I wouldn't be here."

She said she couldn't have agreed with me more, sentenced me to fif..five years, suspended it on an option to the 'Nam, which I took, and...the rest is history.

Good news was, didn't have to pull time in the joint. Bad news was, I had to pull two tours in the Nam.

You might be probably thinking, 'going to a war during its heighth isn't very smart.'

And you'd be right. It isn't, especially if you enlist. But going as a medic was, as it turned out. Enlisting, in and of itself, was pretty idiotic, but was perfectly understandable given my dim prospects for a future in the circus and the socio-cultural programming of who's fit for duty in America.

When does a person become the programmer? Ask a VA shrink.

"Ha ha ha," said the jerk with my orders. "You thought becoming a medic was smart, huh? You thought you'd be hanging around educated people, nurses, and drugs, right?"

I thought so, but they put me in helicopters. Grunts on the ground said, "ain't no fuckin' way I'd fly," but I loved it. Good news was, I got to fly. Bad news was, we got shot down.

(end 'Nam digression, return to story)

So, just like Manny, the juvenile home people, and the Ringmaster predicted, "Instead of hearing the man say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the next gonna be somebody,' you gonna hear The Man say, 'All rise!'

Sure enough, their prophesies fulfilled, their prescription's definition's boundaries I couldn't escape. Nobody in those days was thinking outside the box. Thinking outside the box is something that wouldn't occur until decades later.

Same way here. People ask, 'You work?'

I, uh, stammer and glance away if I'm having a slow day, which is usually every day, but if I'm quicker on my feet and have done some preliminary rehearsal, I tell them, "Yes. EVERY day!"

'What you do?'

"I'm a doc..a, I'malmostretired."


What? You wanted a story about elephants and coconut palms from Thailand? You can write this shit from ANYwhere, man. Don't matter where you are, Manny would say. You're going to be doing whatever you're doing.

Ok. So why not the tropics? Tom said Pine Ridge had two feet of snow.

Or maybe you wanted a story about Li An Song Nu Kyi, a fascinating figure, and boss of the plane production company after the shower caddy venture tanked, not because of market or sales, but because it wasn't fun anymore. It became quite tedious long before the 493rd caddy, the production cut-off.

People still ask, "You still have caddies?"

The plane production is in it's fourth year now, going on five, if I can get the crew back together. It's worse than a band. In a band, you've got egos and attitudes and people trippin' on themselves, and with a crew of Myanmar, you've got all of that, on top of the language problem and illegal immigration status. It's one exasperating episode after another.

The squadron's doing ok, though. We've got some really capable people on board in command positions, a little reckless at times, but they can think for themselves and get the job done.



Go on.

"Go on," she said, showing interest, but caught glancing up at the clock.

"I guess I'm eating into your lunch hour," I said, looking over my shoulder at the clock and letting her know I was paying attention to her eyes, the new VA shrink, undergraduate work at Purdue, six years med school at Indiana University, psychiatric internship at...I forget, Chicago or somewhere, doesn't matter, what mattered is that I know those schools, taught at one of 'em, played her hometown, Elkhart, in basketball, which she found remarkably interesting and strangely coincidental, there in her office, where she asked what I taught and was wondering about why I hadn't had an appointment in five years, and my comment, 'the intake nurses wanted me to report back on the new shrink.'*

"Oh,no," she said, dismissing my concern for her time. "We started late."

She'd been on the job for three weeks, the degrees conspicuously large on the wall. I told her they had a high rate of turnover in her position.

She didn't say anything, but let the air fall silent, a cue that I was the one to be doing the talking in that setting. She had already revealed too much, but could rationalize it as establishing a friendly but professional doctor/client rapport. I explained, "South Dakota winters are tough."

When our time was up, leaving her only 35 minutes for lunch, I told her I'd see her in six months. She seemed surprised. "You don't want another appointment for six months?" she asked.

"I'm going away," I replied. "Someplace warm...for my mental health. South Dakota winters are tough."


"That was a long time ago, man," my friend said in my kitchen, implying that it was time to let it go. Well, you could say that about Wounded Knee, the Holocaust, the Wells Fargo guy riding shotgun who got shot with an arrow in the teeth, the treaty, birth on Earth, or any other traumatic event.

Good news is, there's treatment, except for the Wells Fargo guy. Recent research says you tell your story, find new activities to plunge into, and surround yourself with friends and a network of support. Exercise and eat right. Go shopping.

Bad news is, when you're in that space, you don't feel like doing any of that shit.

Good news was, there was cardiac recovery. Bad news was, the study control group was already all hospitalized.


Am I doing any writing? Like, a book? Yes and no. A manuscript in the works? Well, there's the screenplay, 'Stinky Boy', and the talking medicinal plant story that has the potential of becoming a major motion picture and viral box office hit, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail series that I uh..uh

am working on, and of course, there's that Big One out there, you know, like a trophy fish, just waiting to be caught, or in my case, to be written, since you said 'writing', but, ah, everything in it's own due time, right?

No, it's not...none of this is actually ON PAPER...HA..but they're ideas, and ideas are good, right? ideas while walking down the beach.

- end

*"How is he?" the nurses asked excitedly in the lower hallway of Building A, their eyes alive with the prospect of new gossip, "the new shrink."

"He isn't a he," I told them. "She's a she. And she's young. Just finished up her internship."


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not of This World / Only A Matter of Time


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, 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 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.

- end


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is It Worth It?

Slim Buttes
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Ever think, ‘Is he talking to everybody… or just me?’ The minister, the swami, the shaman, the medicine man, the public address at the train station, the airport. Yes and no.

What are they worth?

Is it worth it? I don’t know. It’s all relative, I suppose, entirely dependent upon the eye of the beholder, like everything.

Four ninety-nine ninety-nine might at first appear to be a bit exorbitant until you reflect upon the ways you’ve pissed away five hundred bucks in the past.

Yeah, just think about it for a moment.

Ok? Given that light, by comparison, a gift that’s going to keep on giving, down through the generations perhaps, each recipient automatically becoming a pilot and enrolled member of the Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Detachment, seems to be well worth my asking price of fourninetynineninetynine.

Suddenly, the trailer was full the other night, people pulling up left and right, with Digger and Devin* up from Colorado, bringing the truck I’ve been awaiting all summer, and Bo and Misty and Kassel and Manuel around the table, the conversation turning to SitReps, Situation Reports, conditions of aircraft and props and wing struts and landing gear and promotions.

It was confusing, with several excited conversations going on at once, and we went over the four reasons again that justify the asking price.

“Made in America, that’s one,” I said, holding up one finger, Misty looking up from her scissor-carving, the only one who seemed to be paying attention.

“Limited edition,” I said, flashing two fingers. “That makes it a collector’s item.”

“Uh…what’s the third?” I asked.

Misty just looked up, didn’t say anything. “One-of-a-kind,” said Digger.

“Right. One-of-a-kind, each individually unique. What’s the fourth, Bo?”

We couldn’t think of a fourth reason right then, because too many other thoughts were flying through the air and the conversation went five, six other places, but there is one, a fourth. I’ll come up with it later.

Slim Buttes, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Six, Seven Days Later

How long can you play out an airplane story?

I don’t know, but really, other than landscaping, the Lord’s Work, and the L.A. Times crossword puzzle, it’s the only thing going on. If you’ve been here in October, you know what I’m talking about. Snowed last night, artic hawk pushing down our necks, mice coming inside.

Didn’t bother going to bi-weekly sweat lodge, even right after six of ‘the boys’ stopped in here for coffee, asking me if I was coming. I told them I was, a lie. Too cold. Too windy. Too dark. Stayed here and fed the stove.

It’s all coming back to me now. ‘You’ve gotta do more than just clock in, clock out. You can’t be just sittin’ around, waiting for slots to open up.’ Like that? If you see it in a movie script, you’ll know where it came from. Like, five years after it’s creation, people in mainstream media, print, televised, and live, are using ‘a whole ‘nuther’ as an acceptable usage of grammar, as in, ‘that’s a whole ‘nuther ball game.’ Notice? The phrase ‘went viral’ after Nina Tottenburg used it on NPR. Maybe I already told you.

You heard enough of ‘uptick’ and ‘ratchet up’ yet? Those aren’t mine…some other yoyo’s…economic forecasters. We’ll all be sick of it soon enough. ‘Outside the box’? When they say that…‘think outside the box’, are they talking about, ‘beyond your tv set’?


Made in America (except for those made in Thailand, of course), One-of-a-kind, Limited Edition, uh…there’s a fourth reason.

There’s a fourth reason why fourninetynineninetynine is a good asking price. You gotta think of more than just cardboard cutout and toothpicks. You gotta remember those girls. Each one of ‘em has a family. Each one of them has kids. All of them have momma go to hospital, papa sick.

They closed up shop on me, the Myanmar crew, stopping the production at eighty-six. Apparently, they all up and walked out, leaving me with a lot of explaining to do. You got the gist of Li An’s letter. Li An, Li An Song Nu Kyi, the crew boss. Maybe you met her. A communication breakdown, a language barrier. We’ll get things up and running when I get back.

Anyway, with two planes going out to N. Carolina last week to Rick and Pat, the folks from the permaculture workshop, one yesterday to aviation enthusiast Gene at ‘Gene’s Machine’ shop in Chadron, and two more last night to Stanley Good Voice Elk and his 12 yr. old son, Garrett, the on-location, in-the-field squadron strength has dropped precariously to eight, our lowest number of active duty in four years.

You can do the math. Eight from eighty-six is what? Seventy-five? That’s how many pilots are out there, my friends. Active pilots, most of them still flying.

“You know anybody else who’s doing this?”** I asked, looking at Stan and Lupe’. They shook their heads no. Matthew, Warren, Garrett, whatever his name was, was the perfect target candidate for rookie/cadet when he came in here last night with his dad and six of ‘the boys’, shaking off the shivers and huddling around the wood stove.

Twelve years old, the perfect age. All the men sat down over coffee, but he stood, wandering around and staring at all the aircraft.

“You want to join?” I asked him. “You become a pilot in the Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Squadron. Take your pick.”

I explained to him all the ins and outs of rank and pay grade and combat missions and everything…the rookie pilot orientation, y’know, but I don’t think he caught any of it, being absorbed in first one plane, then another, and finally settling on a green tri-wing with guns.

Stanley took one, too, for his younger boy, four years old. “Remember, it’s not a toy,” I told them. “Keep it up, flying. If you don’t, next thing, you’ll be in the maintenance hanger, talking about needing new landing gear, new tail, new prop.”

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Chachee Esparza, a sumo-size 14 shoe, here with his dad, Lupe’, sat here and asked me if I assembled the planes from a kit. “You make these from a kit?” he asked. Tom and Jack Red Cloud laughed at his question as I recoiled in disbelief.

“What, from Wal-Mart?” I asked. “No, man. These are all hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind,” I told him.

“Cut’s ‘em out of cardboard,” said Tom, making a scissor-cutting motion with his fingers. “Made in America,” he added. “Fourninetynineninetynine.”

He went on to explain to how we, er, the Germans, figured out how to shoot through the propeller, and everybody understood triggers and camshafts, here on the rez. After that, they left, saying see ya later.

The 335th. That’s a poor man’s reservation-version Skull & Bones Society. You don’t have to be a Yale grad to become a member. A twelve-year old could be your wing man. A six-year old could be your flight leader.



*Devin, stopped in CO one night by a cop who inquired about the four-foot bong in the back seat. Devin told him it was a dijeridu. “I know a bong when I see one,” said the cop. “No. It’s a dijeridu,” Devin insisted.

“Ok,” said the cop. “If it’s a dijeridu, then play it for me.”

Devin took the bong and proceeded to WA WAAAA, WOO WOO, WA WAAAAA, and the cop let him go.

**the 4th reason.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No More Automatic Promotions

Slim Buttes
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD
USA 9.09

This fall, when promotion time rolls around, some of you…many of you…well, all of you…are going to wonder why the ‘automatic’ principle doesn’t still apply.

Reason is, is because you simply don’t deserve it. Tell me what you’ve done to deserve it. Go head. Tell me. I want to hear it.

The automatic principle does, in fact, still apply for your wings…16, 16, or six…those who’ve flown 1600 hours, sixteen months, or six shoot-downs, you or them, and you automatically advance from rookie/cadet to full-blown pilot.

That’s standard flight rank/status designation, standard SOP, standard operating procedure. That hasn’t changed. 16, 16, or six, whichever comes first, and you’ve earned your wings.

What has changed, however, is the criteria determining whether or not you advance in pay grade. That’s a whole another story. To advance in pay grade, you must first distinguish yourselves through the performance of meritorious voluntary service to God and your country, in the capacity of ‘combat pilot’* in the Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Detachment.**

Any questions?

Ain’t gonna be no more automatic pay increases like before, just for rolling in for routine maintenance, oil change, lube job, reserve Air National Guard duty, governor, and maybe go on to become president. Those days are over. Just because people die and slots open up, don’t mean you’re automatically getting a promotion.

You might ask why we’re still flying cardboard bi-planes into combat in an age of rockets, shiny robots on Mars, and all kinds of other super-fast shit whizzing in orbit around the earth.

Good question.

Manny always used to say you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and if you haven’t got any God-given natural talent, you’ve got to buckle down and work hard, and if you’re a lazy-ass, then you’ve got to depend entirely on luck.

If you’re out of luck, or down on your luck, born under a bad sign, or the only luck you’ve got is bad, then you’ve got to go with who you know, or your name. If you don’t know nobody, and your name is mud, then your only option is to go with what you’ve got, or try something else, he used to say.

Does that answer why we’re flying bi-planes?

Ok, then…well, when they flew…back in the day when they flew the machine you’re so fortunate to be flying today, the pilots were cut of a certain uncommon cloth, possessing a certain flair, a certain élan, a certain esprit de corps, a certain elite eche’lon superieur, an esprit de cal, an elle’ gance…an…you get the picture…a whole bunch of French words that describe a pretentious, pompous, affected style.

And that’s why many of you…almost all, I’d say, aren’t receiving a promotion.

No, not because of no style. Wanna know why? Ok. When’s the last time any of you asked about our squadron strength? How many of you asked about those guys who went down? Our guys, not theirs - the Germans, Holtz, or those guys up in Wisconsin working on the trigger mechanism – these were our guys, the 335th, at the air show, and the other two, playing tag. Have I seen any of your names lately on Daily Mission Ops?

Need I say more?

Yeah. So when you’re looking at that pay check, saying, “Hey. I’ve been flying for over a year. Why isn’t it reflected in my pay check?” well, Charlie, you’ve got to do more than barnstorm the family picnic and do kiddie rides at State Fairs.

Or you might say, “Those guys died. The slots were open. I should’ve had the promotion. I was here a full year before Carlson!”

Don’t matter no more. You gotta see the big picture. You gotta look at the war effort, the squadron, the company, the command, the country, inner self, the trees, the forest, the whole mission, beyond your own skin, predicament, what it means for our allies, the other guy.

You gotta do more than just clock in, clock out. You can’t just be sitting around, waiting for slots to open up. You gotta have the drive, the OVERdrive, gotta have ‘what it takes’, the right ‘stuff’, get yo’ mojo working, café latte, double chocolate def wish, double doberman cappuccino, wound up, hopped up, wired, whattimeizzit, meechuatnoon, Go-get-‘em style.

In addition to the necessary combat missions, you must begin to demonstrate an interest in the company. We need ‘company people’ here. We need team players, game-changers. You can ask yourself, ‘am I a team player, or am I out there, a loner, loser, loose cannon floating around in the universe, government salary, flying my little cardboard toy, spinning on a thread?”

UP2U. Gravy train’s over. Get on board.

You might ask, what has any of this to do with style? And you may wonder about the discordant association of cannons, loose or otherwise, to floating. Cannons don’t float. Cannons are found on ramparts, museum displays, and seabeds.


Well, the style went with a certain artistry. A ballet up there. Spinning and diving and climbing in a spiraling love/hate duel, sometimes two-on-one. You could feel the air, smell the engine, hear the rattle of the guns, cumulus fog on the goggles, sometimes a hot brass bullet casing searing into your flesh.

The very first combat aviators. We actually attended the services for the fallen. And that was the enemy. We knew who we were up against. We could see them. They looked like us.


*As any good self-serving journalist or military officer knows, to advance your career, you need a good war. Not just a skirmish or an obscure and irrelevant military intervention. Peace-keeping force doesn’t cut it. You gotta have a good war.

**abbr. officially, ‘Slim Buttes 335th Post-Modern Contemporary Symmetrical Aviation Detachment, USAF.’

Friday, September 11, 2009

Trigger Gizmo Solved

Pine Ridge, SD
August 2009

Heyyyy Brrrrro,

How do you like your new aircraft? Pretty nice, huh? You can see we worked out your problem with the guns shooting through the propeller. Now you won’t have any more of your people shooting themselves down out of the sky, nor all those wood splinters and bullets ricocheting back at your pilots.

Remember, no shooting over 6,000 rpms. Anything beyond that, and the whole technology goes out the window, and your plane goes down with a prop.

We can’t take credit for the breakthrough, however. Unlike us or the French, the Germans did all their chickenshit testing on the ground, as opposed to live combat, and figured out the mechanics, and then the Brits got it from the Germans when Friedrich Holtz, the Baron’s wing man, got shot down over Alsace, and then we naturally got it from the Brits finally after they naturally sat on the designs for six months. I guess our governments are going to naturally let the French figure it out for themselves.

They, the Germans, synced, sync-ed, sync’d, sinked, synchro…coordinated the engine camshaft and blade with the trigger mechanism gizmo so the guns will fire only when the prop blade is in the horizontal position. What a novel idea! Why didn’t we think of that? I still feel sorry for all your guys. I guess you could call them the original test pilots. Somebody should do something for their families.

We learned that some of your aeroplanes fell into a state of disrepair after impact with the earth, so given the terms of your contract, we can provide supplemental support for your wings, struts, fuselage, and landing gear, but as you know, the one-year, 5,000-hour engine and drive-train warranty has expired.

Anyway, uh, somebody suggested…well…claimed outright that the $499.99 price we were asking for a ‘singleton’ was a bit overpriced. Well, hugely overpriced. They all laughed, the focus group, when I said how much they were. What’s your take on it?

The way I see it, they’re limited edition, right? Gonna stop at 500. That’ll make ‘em more valuable, a future hot ticket item on Craig’s List, say, or among aviation enthusiasts.

“You serious?” Tom asked, seriously, when I told him the production cap at 500,* maybe display ‘em all at once in a big air show, art show, like a big gallery or something, then sell ‘em off, auction ‘em off in a charity event or something. Probably not, though. A children’s hospital or something. They all, the people I ran the idea by, the focus group, looked skeptical when I voiced the concept.

“Nobody’s gonna give you five hundred dollars for one of these,” Tom said, derisively.

“Four ninety-nine, ninety-nine. You know anybody else who’s doing this?” I asked. He and everybody else here at the time all shook their heads no. Manuel, Louie, Bo, Misty, the White Drifter.

“Right!” I exclaimed. “Nobody. I gotta flood the market with these originals before the Chinese get a hold of the design and undercut me at Wal-Mart. These’r made in America, by God! When’s the last time you seen that?”

“That’s four good reasons, isn’t it, Bo?” I asked. “Made in America…one of a kind…limited edition…flood the…what’s the fourth?” I asked, holding up three fingers.

The people sitting here drinking coffee, raised their eyebrows and nodded, like it was worthy of consideration. Tom was wondering how flooding the market would get me my asking price. Bo said he’d give ‘ten, twenty dollars’ for one, a tri-plane, the blue one.

That’s bullshit. That’s ridiculous, don’t you think? The crew is already five bucks under minimum wage. Plasticized cardboard or not, you’ve still got production and shipping costs. Despite NAFTA and a Myanmar refugee labor force, you can’t turn a profit like that.

So, after taking into consideration the feedback, we adjusted the promotional offer so now it’s either $499.99**……or free.*** Most folks, almost everybody…well, everybody, has chosen the second, consumer-friendly option, with one buyer/owner saying he’d get back to us later with the full sticker price, yea.

“I’ll get back to you later with the full sticker price,” he said, going out, flying a brand new Fokker tri-plane, all black. John, a friend of Ted’s. Vietnam vet. Navy man. Pilot, I think. No. He was on river patrol down in the Delta. Now he’s a pilot.

$499.99. That’s for one of our ‘singles’, the singletons. A bi-plane; Sopwiths, DeHavilands and Malibus. The LaRois are out of production, so already, the folks holding one of those have got a little nest egg for their grandkids. Don’t know yet what kind of figure to fix on the Fokker tri-planes or two-plane deals. Gotta be more, right? They’re more than twice as cool.

Last month in a call with Li An Song Nu Kyi, our Myanmar crew boss, you might have met her, I told her, “from now on, we’re going to go strictly with the bi/bi-plane,**** dual, double, two-plane production arrangement,” and she asked, “You say we work two time now, same pay?”

I told her yes.

“Now make two prane for onee one pay?”

I told her yes. She grew quiet as a stone, and shortly thereafter terminated the conversation. It could be problematic later, like, when I get back, especially since the company isn’t picking up the crew lunch anymore, and she’ll have to tell them what I said.

Anyway, half our inventory, except for the Pizza Hut plane, went out this past week, mostly for grandchildren. One adult. And one toddler who probably won’t be able to fly or appreciate it for many years.

Since those horrific but spectacular accidents at the air show, we’re focusing on re-building the squadron back up to strength and getting these punk rookie pilots combat- ready. Did you see the video? The memorial services are on Sunday, if you want to fly in, otherwise I’ll tell the widows the flowers are from all of us.


Lt. Col. Brovic
Squadron Commander
335th U.S. Aviation Detachment
Slim Buttes, Oglala BIA 41 S.
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

*500 is the target numerical from the concept boys in the front office, saying we can hit that figure in two years, but just last month the Myanmar crew were rumored to be murmuring about already ‘being sick’ of the project.

**Four ninety-nine ninety-nine. Sounds good, doesn’t it? One potential almost buyer, reaching for his wallet, said, “Sure, I’ll give you five bucks for one of those.” I laughed. “Aha, Sir…” I told him, clearing my throat, “Perhaps you misunderstood. That’s four hundred, ninety nine…dollars, ninety-nine cents.” He decided to take one for free.

***It’s not such a wild idea. The flowers do what they do for free. The birds sing for free. These meadowlarks out here aren’t asking anything for what they do.

****what would you call two bi-planes together? For production crew jargon, we’re saying something like, ‘We need four more bi-plane dualies out here!” but for marketing purposes, something like ‘dual bi-plane mobiles’ would work, don’t you think? They’re telling me I can get my asking price down in Colorado. “OH YEAH! The yuppies will eat this shit up!” Devon, a Boulder resident, said.

Ps. Hey, get a load of Li An’s note:

‘Sawadee Ka, Mr. Big Boss,

When you comeback? I hab someting to tell you already. Reason I goto my home in country papa sick. Close and lock shop already. crew people glap home already same same me being sick. say big boss ding dong. want 2 plane for onee one pay. same same sa-nake. I hab idea already. maybe I nosee you longtime maybe copy idea to China to much. You remember plane pattern I make in dirt? Leum? When you comeback? I hate you already.


Li An

Nong Sa helf me with letter toyou her say hi.


When you say, or hear, ‘mid-air collision’, you sort of naturally think the worst, right? like two aircraft, airliners, impacting one another head-on at five hundred miles an hour. That would be bad. Even the passengers back in the rear wouldn’t make it.

Or maybe getting T-boned by a jet fighter, slicing your 737 wide-body passenger compartment in half. “HEYYYYAAA. WHAT WAS THAT?” That would be bad, too. In fact, almost everything that happens up there is bad. Bad food. Bad seat. Bad air. Bad service. Can’t smoke.

We had one before, and another at the air show, mid-airs. We couldn’t really call them mid-air collisions, per se, even though they were. It was more like a mid-air ‘mishap’, or mid-air ‘encounter’, neither of which by the way, you would want to experience, either as a pilot, or as a passenger.

A mid-air mishap or encounter is just as bad and messy as a collision, and going down in a ball of flame, though spectacular, results in the same end as a loss of power, loss of a wing or tail rudder, fluttering down in a whining spiral, then poof.

Although quite theatrical, having it occur at the air show is embarrassing and not nearly as heroic and final as a clean-cut battle death. There’s always a whale more explaining to do, to many, many more people than just the immediate family. Like, investigators.

Investigators and military aviation authorities. Always got ‘em in a non-combat related aerial mishap, and in this case, two days before the show, a couple of our young punk new guys were horse-assing around playing tag with their girlfriend’s scarves attached to their tail rudders.

The guy who was ‘it’ would chase the other and cut the scarf sheet with his prop. Zzzzzzzzt, “You’re it!”

Well, who knows what really happened up there, but the chase guy chewed up the tail rudder of his buddy and shredded his prop in the process, so they both went down in a tangle. Chewed up and screwed up. These things happen from time to time. Non-combat related aerial fatality. It happens all the time.

Same in the navy. Man overboard. “Go back and get him, Skipper?”

“Screw him. He’s not critical to the mission. You know what it costs to turn an aircraft carrier around?”

But we’re not the navy, and each of our guys, whether they’re married with kids or not, is critical to our mission, not to mention the aircraft they were horse-assing around with.

The other two at the air-show, pilot error, not horse-assing, was really bad, partly because it involved numerous spectators (it’s not entirely our fault. They came to the show, didn’t they?)* and lawsuits, but like I said, these things happen from time to time.

Lookit the Blue Angels. Best in the world. Again, pilot error. Leader took the whole six-bird formation straight into the ground. Lookit Columbia on liftoff and the other one, on re-entry. Same with the Russians. How many guys did they lose? And the French. How many spectators have they killed at their air shows?

Every time you turn around, the French are killing spectators at air shows. You got a better chance running the bulls in Barcelona on a skateboard.

Anyway, a lot of stuff can happen up there in the air…just ask Niel Armstrong and Sergei Whathisname, so it’s not just us, and most of it you can’t blame on the Baron, though we’d like to attribute to him all elements of evil and misfortune, and implicate him as source of all our own stupidity and blunder.

Four aircraft and as many pilots in three days. Bunch of civilians. I don’t know what they came up with for the final tally.



Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Floatation Device Under Seat

Pine Ridge, SD
July 2009

Heyyyy Bro,

Your aircraft is just about ready to roll out of the factory, and when I say ‘just about’, I mean, all we’re waiting for are the tires.

She’s ready to fly, man. Beautiful lines. The crew did a nice job on the paint job. Looks cool. Incorporated new design changes to a seamless fuselage construction at the suggestion of the Myanmar crew leader,* and major structural changes in the tail. I think you’ll like it.

Frankel brought his plane in for a thorough overhaul and rehab, after he laughingly said it had crashed. Everybody knows a plane doesn’t survive a crash…there might be a few usable parts, but most of it is scrap, much smaller than a breadbox, so you just can imagine the crew in the maintenance hangar shaking their heads when they saw the old first edition BV33 being dragged in.

Total rehab from head to toe, prop to rudder; new beefed up engine, new landing gear, new rubber, new wing struts, new cowling, rear landing gear, weapons platform, guns,** and new paint job.

I asked him, ‘Do you have any idea of what this is going to cost you?’ and he said to proceed forthright, the sky’s the limit, you know, so that’s what I told the team, and they did a helluva job. You wouldn’t recognize it. Sumbitch is fast.

Well, in the process of firing up the maintenance hangar for Frankel’s extensive rehab job, the crew got started on a couple new planes, primarily because of a recent spike in demand. You remember Alonzo, who shocked me last year by shrugging off an offer for a free, take your pick, plane?

Yeah. Stays with Bo and Misty. Jolted me bolt upright in the seat, causing me to exclaim loudly, “WHAT?”

He sees me this year, and first thing he asks is if I still have the planes.

“Yeah,” I told him. “I still got ‘em.”

And Dewayne, up in Porcupine, he wants one, too. This is after refusing an offer for a plane last year, saying, ‘Nah, I could do that.’

Funny. The two onliest guys who ever refused our aircraft turned around and ended up ordering one a year later.

After countless flight hours amassed over one year, we brought the two LaRois in for routine maintenance, tune up, lube job, wash and wax, armaments check, and new wing supports for one of them.

They looked cool in the squadron lineup with six of the newer Solaris and two Lao Poste ‘close air support’ models,*** sort of like the Pearl Harbor flight line before the attack. Except they’re biplanes, of course. I’ll send a photo.

So, after wrapping up Frankel’s rush job immediately after the sun dance, the crew began construction of a new model with new materials, sleeker and faster, with bigger engines and bigger guns. You’ll see them at the air show.


*Li An Song Nu Kyi. Holding her position only because of her limited knowledge of English, spontaneously came up with the idea of seamless fuselage construction, after constructing several dozen aircraft.

“Maybe can sabe ti,’ she said, squatting, drawing a template in the dirt with her index finger.

“Ahhhh, yeah,” I told her dismissively, thinking that basically, Li An was ignorant of anything close to aeronautical design, having grown up with little schooling in a small village in the sticks where her father carved coral aquarium sea dragons for a living, and had only come to the aircraft factory for the job opportunity.

Also, I didn’t want to relent my superior social standing as Big Boss by acknowledging that she might actually may have something valuable to offer, so I told her to go ahead and have the crew do things the way we always have, since by doing so, admitting she had an idea, would have caused severe loss of face, for me, a terrible thing in Asia, and everyone, the whole crew, was right there, eating and watching. She showed me during their lunch break.

I didn’t have time for bird signs or drawings in the dirt. I needed to fake the appearance of a busy man, and wondered why it appeared the crew was watching us so intently and apparently taking bets.

When she hired on, I asked her where she learned her English already, and she just nodded and smiled with a vacant, unfocused, incomprehensible expression that clearly indicated she was faking it, and kept pointing at the dog. The neighbor told me
later she was asking for one of the pups.

“Pups? She don’t have no pups,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he said. “When she has pups. When she has pups, she wants one.”

Anyway, when I got home, here, I traced out that pattern she showed me one night out of boredom, and for crying out loud, we tried it, and she was right, it saves time. The planes are more stable, stronger, and easier to construct, cutting the production time by a third. We should have been doing it this way from the start, sixty aircraft ago.

Same way with the tail section. Suddenly, the solution to an inherent and historical design flaw was astonishing and excruciatingly apparent, just today during the construction of a Solari. “Hold it!” I told the crew. “Hold everything.”

Everybody put down their cutting torches and just stood there. Me too. I just stood there.

**You might ask, ‘Why’s he gotta have guns?’

Are you kidding? Everybody up there has got a gun. What are you gonna do, send him out there without a gun???

***That’s ‘one Solari, two Solaris’, a sleek version of the old LaRois (that’s one LaRoi, two LaRois). The Lao Poste is the ‘workhorse’ of the squadron; slower, heavier, and more cumbersome than the fighter aircraft, but reliable, so far.

Unfortunately, shortly after the photo of the lineup, one of the Solaris was damaged in a near mid-air...if there is such a thing…sure, you can ALMOST have a mid-air, but in this case, it wasn’t head-on, but rather, the wing tips touching ever so slightly in close formation during preparation for the show, just enough to cause one of the team of Solaris, flown by one of our young punk cadets, flying cover for the Lao Poste aircraft, to spin out of control and go crashing to the ground. Officially, we’re saying the accident is still under investigation, but we know already what happened.

Did the pilot survive the crash? Well, technically, yes and no. You know, of course, we’re prop-to-rudder legit, so, no, there aren’t any parachutes.


So now, we’re just training the new punk cadets and working on getting the squadron back up to strength, which in our case means about fourteen, sixteen aircraft. That way, when you lose one or two during operations, you can bounce back next day without missing a beat.

Not the same as when there’s only a half dozen guys in the air. Guy calls in for air support, and the only thing you can tell him is you’re stretched to the limit, your guys are flying on four hour’s sleep, half your birds are shot up, and he’ll need to tell his troops to hunker down and order more body bags.

With a dozen or more aircraft on station and operational, you take a couple of hits, a couple of guys go down, you attend the funeral services, get drunk, tell a few 'remember when' jokes about the deceased, go silent for a while, coulda been you, and next day you’re back up flying missions, get back on the horse that bit you. You got a nation to defend. Baron’s still up there. You think the Baron is taking the day off?


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ants Come Marching


KHUK KHAK, Thailand

Rainy season
Ants come marching
Read a book
Leave no crumbs


Monday, May 25, 2009

More on Shoes


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Some of you responded to the shoes topic, so clearly, I'm not the only one who has thought about it.

I meant to ask, how many pairs do you have?

Do you have jogging shoes? Do you have 'everyday' shoes, tennis shoes, ski boots? Do you have 'nice' shoes to go with 'nice' clothes? Do you have shoes to go with this, and shoes to go with that?

What about work shoes? Play shoes. Do you have 'outside shoes' for the garden or barnyard, and 'inside shoes' for around the house, a house shoe? You got a shoe for mowing the yard?

Do you own a snow shoe or boots for winter? Do you own a shoe that goes over another shoe? Do you have more than one pair...of any kind of shoe, like, two or three pairs of golf cleats?

You got a hiking boot?

Do you have dancing shoes, club shoes, or moccasins? You ever own a pair of those calf-high leather mocs? Anybody ever give you a pair of beaded moccasins? Do you have a shoe that you bought just before going on vacation, like one day before?

'Honey, I've got to get some new shoes.'

'Honey, the kids are gonna need new shoes.'

You wearing sandals? Flip-flops or velcro straps? Leather, plastic, or rubber?

You got ice skates? Hockey skates? Figure?

You got a shoe rack, or 'shoe place'?

You ever own an Earth Shoe? Crocs? What color'd you get?

When you think 'Shoes', you think, 'Imelda Marcos', right? You can see how thinking more than one or two or five or a dozen pairs might lead you down that road.

Did you ever wonder, 'Where we going to put all these shoes?' And when you're done with a shoe, what do you do? Throw 'em out, both of them? Get them re-soled? Give them to Goodwill? Put 'em out at a yard sale?

I know, I know, it's a lot of questions about shoes. I was just wondering. I could tell you how many pairs I have, but I'm not going to. You might think...I don't know what you might think.

It's probably funny. Tell me. Go count. Go see.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Couldn't Cry Till I Got Home


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Be Prepared. Motto of the Boy Scouts. For the first time in a long time, I was prepared, carrying my kit bag beneath my seat.

Just at 5 pm, rush hour for Saturday market in Bang Niang, an ocean of Thai and farang collecting fresh meat and vegetables, the highway a converging hornets' nest of motorbikes, trucks, and speeding vans heading north, the orange cones not slowing them down.

For some reason, I went south toward Khao Lak with my goods in the basket, instead of north to Khuk Khak. A mile down the road, a cluster of people were on the edge of the road.

"Uh oh. I hope this isn't what I think it is."

Three women on a bike, patients #6, 7, and 8, this year, looked to be a grandma, her daughter probably driving, and maybe a granddaughter, about fourteen. The daughter had struck the pavement with her head and a man was holding a towel on it. She was conscious, sitting up, bleeding from her face, and dialing a number on her cell phone. The bike was laying on her legs.

The grandma was sitting up a few feet away, scrapes on her legs, a deep laceration on her heel. The young girl was bruised and scraped on her hands, arms, and legs, sitting up, nervously aware of the growing crowd, afraid to cry, but it hurt anyway. She nodded when I asked her if she was ok.

We used the all baby wipes, gauze bandages and roller gauze on the head patient, and loaded her on the first ambulance, her long black hair matted with blood. Before they closed the door, I told her she was going to be ok.

But her face will never be the same. A deep laceration to her forehead down to the skull, about five inches long. Nasty. A couple inches higher would have peeled back her scalp, but cosmetically more appealing. Relative to her head injury, a concussion probably, her other cuts and scrapes were minimal.

The grandma was okay as long as she kept direct pressure on her wound and stopped looking at it. The young girl was already in the second ambulance when we loaded the old lady. Off they went.

Just one bike. "Probably a dog," said Damon, when I told him about it later.

I never asked what happened, nor hung around the 50-strong crowd there at the scene. Got my gear, shook hands with the two guys who were part of the on-the-scene onlooker instant medical staff, and went back to my bike. I said thanks. They did, too.

With the seat up on my bike, my wallet was exposed, right there. Won't say how much was in it, but it was bigger than a breadbasket, but smaller than a plane ticket. All those folks standing around, nobobdy bothered it.

I never cried for any of my patients in Vietnam. Couldn't. Wouldn't let me. Not until I got home. Not until much, much later, like thirty-five years. After the initial suppression of shock and dismay, the rush of immediate involuntary response treatment, composing the patient, sending them off where somebody else will do the REAL work, there's a gully-wash of adrenaline that a smoke or a drink might calm, and then when you grow quiet and settle down, there's even time for a whimper and a tear.



Heaven Through Your Garden


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Is refinement possible without comb, court, and attendants, Brahmin headdress, advanced practice, country club membership, or decade in a cave?
Would time and austerity justify accomplishment of the inevitable?

Couldn't we just read the book about the guy who did? Were there any angry gods? Can it found within the heart of an earthworm, the lotus blossum, the spectrum of your laughter?

Multiple lifetimes renouncing the world, fortunate birth, admission purchased with a Pilgrim's Prayer, hang from a cross, pull skulls, adorned with gold in a mummy's silence.

Address to the council, spiral through a black hole of doubt and pity, escape the claws of the raptor, king atop a mountain of bones, wake in a horrified sweat. Flames at your back, leap into the void.

Ionized, charging through the ectoplasm, psyche in the stratosphere, oblivious to destiny, the work in-progress, the well-trod path vaporizing in the heart of the woods, footprints swallowed in desert dune, high tide erasing existence, looking outward, looking in.

Those birds sing so merrily at dawn, the ferns so quietly collecting the dew.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Man Discovers 47- Million Year Old 'Missing Link' Fossil in Basement


'We never noticed it until just the other day,' says.


Thai Girls Put 'On Ice' For A Few Days


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Had to put those two Thai tailor girls on ice for a few days after that 2500TB (Thai Baht @ 35TB=1USD) dinner last week. I've got the receipt right here to prove it.

Yeah, one of 'em ordered six giant prawn, a whole platter full, and although I don't speak nor understand that much Thai, I could easily see their order was enough for five or six people, and I wondered at the time, 'Who's going to eat all this food?'

Well, Kip's boyfriend, is who.

After placing our order of another half dozen entrees, An took two calls, directing Mos in from Phuket to a place at our table. Now, for me, there are three or four things going on right there that run coarse against my grain.

One, I absolutely hate people taking a cell phone call in the middle of a conversation, especially at dinner, and especially at dinner in a restaurant, and really especially if I'm paying for it. Hate is a strong word. Detest.

Two, if I've invited someone to dinner, it would seem appropriate that I should be notified beforehand if my guest wishes to invite yet another party. Maybe check and see if it's okay? Maybe that's being unreasonable. Seems to me like on a 'need-to-know' basis, I'd need to know.

Three, I don't like the style. It seemed really underhanded, sly, and presumptuous.

Four, I don't like being played for a chump.

I made my sentiments known after the waitress brought out a fourth table setting, and our table grew quiet and glum. Then all the food arrived. And then Mos arrived, and we had a nice, enjoyable, relaxed meal. And then the check arrived.

During the meal, I made a conscious effort to avoid thinking of the above cited issues of contention, and went along amiably with wherever they took the conversation. We were supposed to be having English class over dinner.

The deal is, I provide private English lessons, and An and Kip drive me to dinner. A two-hour class. I buy dinner.

You might be thinking, 'That's pretty messed up, Bro. You're not getting paid.' And from a logical standpoint, you'd be correct. But I look at it like, 'I get the pleasure of the company of two beautiful Thai girls for dinner once a week.'

Fair enough? Ain't no logic involved.

Ok. But there are some inherent problems, some of which you may have already begun to suspect.

One BIG problem is the assumption that all farang are rich. BIG perceptual problem. They figure if you can visit their country, then you mut hab big mon-eee.

So they test the water to see how big your money is, and how easily they can stretch your neck. It's a country of players. They're all players. Predator/Players. It's a second-world country clashing with the first-world west, a top-five-in-the-world tourist destination, behind Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and Rome, providing for European consumers.

Of course they think we have money. They see us come here and spend it. 'What you wan? How mush you need?'

They don't know I live in a trailer in the most poverty-stricken county in my own country. They have no idea of what rez life is like. But for that matter, neither do most Americans.

They don't know we live hoof-to-mouth, and under water, looking for some kinda lifeboat, some kind of bailout. The Thai don't know JACK about America, but they've heard of New York and Los Angeles.

They can't say, 'Colorado'.


But they can say 'Sou Dah-Ko-TAH', with the inevitable emphasis on the last syllable.

I'm not making fun of them; it's just that the French taught them how to speak English. You have to go to Singapore, or next door to Myanmar to hear English spoken as we would say, 'correctly'.

Have I lost the thread of this story, yet?

Let me scroll back up here for a minute and see where this is going.

Ok. They think we're all rich. They're wrong. But they don't know they're wrong until they find out FOR CHUAH. For sure.

Big money would have you on a yacht out on the Andaman Sea. They can see how I live. Big money would have my house on the beach. Big money wouldn't have sarongs for curtains.

Another not altogether incorrect assumption is that old fart Western men are suckers for young beautiful Thai women. I say young, because to me, they are, although An is 42. I'm not interested in anything but dinner company and the opportunity to teach, so they were also wrong on the chump assumption, the chump's motives. Can a person just be a friend?

'No, I don't want to be your business partner. No, I don't want to take you shopping in Phuket. No, I don't want to buy you a new laptop so you can talk to me when I return to Ah-mel-ika.'

So, those girls were testing me, and the test said, "We've pissed him off."

(They surely got the message when they mulled over the extraordinary dinner bill* after I excused myself to go a few doors down to an ATM. It was a quiet drive home).

Ok, cool. Let 'em chill for a few days. Teacher don't show for class. We no hab dinner.

But eventually, I had to come off that attitude and drop by their shop, for two reasons; one, I had to let them know I was chilled, too; and two, I had to do some follow-up on the suit I said I'd take, or tick-tock, tick-tock,** think about it.

Already told you about the problem with the suit and the shoes and everything...and as Bryan pointed out, it's not just the shoes..."Don't get started with that stuff -- leads to the need for ties, shirts, shoes, belts, handkerchieves, topcoats, gloves, etc. etc. It's a slippery slope. Just say no."

Well, I said no to the suit and shirt and pants, and settled on just a jacket, something that will sort of make me look like I could maybe be from France, with the right kind of slacks and shoes, and scarf and shoulderbag. Along with the right kind of stride.

Nah, it's not the France look that I want. You guys know what I'm saying. You wives and girlfirends, too. You know how your man feels and looks when he goes out and buys a new sport coat or suit.

Check yourself out in the hmmmmm. Till you look down at your feet.

'Gonna have to get some new shoes to go with this.'


*When eating with normal people, you could expect to pay about 150-250 baht per head.

**this expression, 'Tick tock, tick tock,' in English, accompanied by the gesture of holding your hand up to your ear like you're holding something about the size of a baseball, and making a rotating, back-and-forth motion, is universally applicable across Thailand, especially with the merchantile class, meaning, 'I'll think about it.'


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Your Shoe Say


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - It is low season here, the shops closed, or open with no customers, the beaches isolated, the restaurants empty. Rain is coming in every afternoon from the Andaman. Everywhere, you can get a good low-season price.

I rode my motorbike right down on the beach, zig-zagging with the waves, and parked it just above high tide mark, putting a sandal under the kickstand to prevent its sinking into the sand.

Did you know a Honda motor will run underwater? I found out today, crossing the river inlet, outlet, at low tide, misjudging the waves, going under, sinking in the sand, un-assing the motorbike and pushing it across, throttle wide open.

"Yeah. You just have to keep the throttle wide open," said Damon, the biker, when I told him.

The tailor lady offered me a suit jacket, pants, and tailored shirt for 2,000 Thai Baht, about seventy dollars. I could go for a deal like that, except I haven't worn a suit in, uh, since I stopped wearing a watch. That was in '91, a court appearance, witness protection. What's that? Eighteen years.

I could wear a suit to the airport for purposes of looking the part of the distinguished elderly gentleman or Japanese businessman, but comfort is the prevailing concern for a 22 hr. flight and 34 total hrs. travel door-to-door, and that just gets you to Denver. Still ain't home yet, so screw the suit.

And besides, if you buy a suit, you must have the proper footwear to accompany it, to be properly attired. And that would require deliberation of a whole nuther universe of options and possibilities about your choice, and what it might say about you.

The choice seems largely dependent on geography and what you're doing, and who you're trying to impress. If you're not trying to impress anybody, that narrows the choice considerably. What are you doing, attending a ball, a formal reception, a funeral, a parking lot? You working a ranch, your garden, ICU, your second serve, the streets?

'Honey, you gonna need a stilletto heel for that job.'

For every job, there is a uniform, and for every uniform, there's a shoe to go with it. Comfort is not a factor. Even when you say there is no uniform, there is a uniform. Take a look around. What is everybody wearing? Is there a concern?

Do these shoes match?

Each other? You mean your outfit? Your personality? Your idea of who you want to be? The ad in GQ? It's a loaded question.

Everybody is wearing them. It's the style.

Ok, Bozo. Get the purple ones.

Haven't worn a workboot in five, six, seven years.

You know they say Jesus bathed his feet two, three times a day? And he was wearing sandals.

Your feet, closed up, dark and damp, are a breeding ground for bacteria, is why, because of gravity pulling all your body's toxins down there, and the sweat glands in your feet. Don't believe me, smell your socks. That's why some people's socks can knock you over, why they sell odor-eaters and odor-absorbent socks, and why in a sweat lodge, you appreciate personal hygenic care of the participants.

Over here, they leave the shoes at the door, consider the feet the dirtiest part of the body, and culturally observe not pointing your feet at others, and especially the Buddha.

Maybe you already knew all that, about Buddha and stinkfoot. What you most certainly do NOT know, is that that black dog got one of my sandals and chewed it almost up.

What that means is yet another trip to the shoe guy at the end of Khao San road in Bangkok for his custom leather sandals. Everybody else, it seems, sells cheap-ass rubber Chinese flip-flops. There are decent sandal shops around, but they don't have your size.

So, for the first time in years, I've the need to contemplate the purchase of shoes, since I'll be headed for Indian Country, and they'll expect me to do some work this year. NOT computer work. REAL work. Outside work. You'll need something besides those sandals.

When you're wearing sandals, people don't take you as seriously as they do when you're wearing a certified workboot, or say, wingtips. You always look like you're on vacation.

In the Nebraska panhandle, people look down at your feet and say, "Hi, Stranger. You're not from around here, are you?"

On the rez, when the guys are ready to put up a 30-foot tipi, they look at my feet and give me a look that says, 'You aren't going to be any help. Better stand back. You might get hurt.'

Well, I have grown an affinity for wearing sandals year round. Your feet spread out and don't like being closed up in a certified shoe. When it gets too cold in S. Dakota to wear sandals, it's time for me to leave. It's not the people or the climate. It's about my toes.

Cold toes, runny nose, summer over, time to close.

Can't get the suit. Don't have the right shoes. Can't help set up camp. Haven't got the right shoe. Sorry, can't help you guys. Haven't got the right shoe.



Monday, May 18, 2009

Daily Maintenance


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Some things require daily maintenance, such as your kitchen counter, your teeth, your primary significant relationships, your metabolism, in Indian Country - your car, and here in the tropics, lizard shit.

You can let any of these slide for a day or two, a few days even, but you'll soon regret the jamboree of insects on your counter, the scum on your teeth, your deteriorating relationships, your health, and the accumulation of excrement of gecko, attracted by the insects.

The floors, the floors you can let slide a day or two, the fans blowing organic debris into the corners. The communication can be put off a day more, you can have the dessert tonight and start working out seriously tomorrow, pluck the nose hairs another day.

Going to get around to it. The homework, the presentation, the wipe down, the last drink, the apology, the festering grudge, the yard work, the final cigarette, the email, the fully-functioning human being, the novel things that grew tedious and old, the little things that grew big.

A man sang a country song about a 'high-maintenance woman', one who wouldn't be interested in a main-ten-ance man, one who needed a great deal of attention, and attention to her needs; tomatoes under threat of frost, the flowers in your garden, the control tower radar, your pet's peculiarities, the wandering toddler, the boiling kettle, the critical mass plutonium, the molar extraction, the surgical knife, the killer on the loose.

There are things that cry out for immediacy; a natural disaster, an infestation, a ship slipping beneath the waves. Relative to the urgency, sometimes a hero is required, Spiderman or Mandela, an airlift of food. But most of the time, we can manage with daily care, pulling the weeds, wiping down the counter.



Thursday, May 14, 2009



KHUK KHAK, Thailand - When people ask me where I am now, I know they haven't been reading the blog entries. Date and location are the first two lines of the posts.

There are two post offices in the relatively near vicinity; one up north in Nam Kaen, almost all the way to Takuapa, a really pleasant 20k motorbike ride, and the other, down south over the mountain in Lam Kaen, much closer. Fifteen minutes.

The winding ride over the jungle-covered mountain, a national park, is always fun, either pressed forward into the curves, or sitting back chillin' with an iced coffee, riding with one hand. Depends on who's on your ass; a log truck creeping along in second gear, or a racer trying to reach Phuket in record time.

Today I was chillin. Nobody in the rear-view mirror at the base of the mountain.

It was a slow day at the post office, where a half-hour wait is the norm, along with the inevitable local Thai cutting in line and never looking back to meet your hot gaze. I don't quite get it. I'm 6 foot 2 inches. Don't they see me standing there?

It's like the message is, 'I'm Thai. You're a foreigner. You can wait.'

It happens at 7-ll, too. And at the embassy. Everywhere.

And so, I can stand there and glare at the top back of his head, or I can look out the window at the temple and take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and just wait my turn.

Today I was next. I was next behind the only lady in there, and I put my parcels right on the scales. I knew the guy working the desk. Well, I didn't know him...I'd been there before, he'd seen me before...many times. Well, not many times...several. In any case, he greeted me with a smile.

Another lady came in and sort of cut in, like they do when they only have a utility bill, which they pay there at the post office, as opposed to parcel you care about any of this?

Anyway, that's just setting the scene.

That was the scene today for my impromptu standup comedy act.

By the time the guy, the postmaster, got my packages weighed and figured up, there were about nine people in the post office. Four or five in line, and the other people waiting for them, motorbikes sitting outside. They all seemed calm as they waited for the foreigner and his packages to his kids back in the States.

When the guy said, "Four thousand, three hundred baht," which everybody in there was waiting to hear, I expressed shock with body language and yelled out, "WHAT!!??"

Everybody in the place had a good laugh, and the postmaster said, "Peng mak mak. Very expensive."

I thanked the lady who cut in, for waiting patiently, because the guy went ahead with my stuff and made her wait, though I indicated to her and the lady behind her that they could go ahead of me. "Pom mai reep," I told them. I'm in no hurry.

We were all laughing. Nobody was in a hurry.


It was in the shower, the second of the day at 11 a.m., that the idea hit me; 'Patience', with the flood of associative ideas that come with it, and upon which one could elaborate and hope that others can relate.

Then, I forgot it and went to meandering in the garden and fiddlling through half a dozen other projects; unearthing that huge stone, giving the palms their first-ever haircut, transplanting the ferns, take that stuff to the post office.

Then by the time I sat back down to write, I couldn't remember the topic nor any of the content ideas. Ate some cashews, and then it hit me. Still can't recall any of those ideas from the shower, but those folk's patience at the post office was remarkable.



Ants Suspect in Illicit Computer Entry


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - A week or so ago I mailed a query to some of you regarding ants suspected of taking up permanent residence in my laptop. Below is the explanation of the problem, followed by your responses. They are shared here with the reader, should they encounter similar problem. Thank you all for your contributions.



Hi Guys,

Turning to the only gurus I know.

I think I've got a colony of ants living in my computer, since a trip to Laos at the New Year. Pretty sure. They keep showing up, every day, on the screen and keyboard, from seemingly out of nowhere.

I believe them to be Lao ants, tiny ants from up north, Luang Prabang.

I'd like to flush them out. Can I hose down the laptop? Like, at the jet wash? Can I douse 'em with raid? Drano? Bleach?

Can I take a kitchen knife and pop my keyboard without permanenty damaging my machine (the sort of thing I'd be prone to do)? Can I do this my OWN DAMN self? What about rubbing alcohol? It evaporates, don't it?

It looks like there are little tabs, which there indeed are, on the keyboard that will allow its removal. Ha. Ha. You know what I'm thinking, right? Except when I pop the tabs and pry it with a kitchen knife, the keyboard bends, like it's being held fast by something else. Is there connected shit I'd tear loose by proceding?

I think the colony is just under the keyboard, and I'd like to have a look.

I'm just dying to take a look.

Thanks for your help on this. Hope you guys are doing well.


the shit is working ok, so why screw with it, right? Take it in to have it cleaned by people who know what they are doing. That's what my inner voice says.

Check One of the Following:


2. Go ahead and pop that sucker and take a look. Use a kitchen knife.

3. What if they are behind the screen? Take it in to the shop.

4. Get some of that canned, pressurized air and blow 'em the fuck out.

5. 1 & 3

6. 2 & 4

7. Make sure they are not simply coming from your table, onto the machine. This 'Lao ant in the computer' thing is all in your head.

8. None of the above. Continue as before. Kill ants as they appear.


The Results Are IN! Your responses:

Hi dad,

I had the exactly same problem actually. They were living in my iPod. They like the warm computer parts and if they stay in a long time it can fuck up your computer. I shook them all out of mine because it was smaller, but then i also sprayed (not directly) some ant killer around it to keep them away. You could also stick it in the freezer if you think it wont mess up any components.

I would not remove the keyboard, if thats what you want to do, take it to takuapa and the computer guy will do it professionally, p'kao knows him. Let me know how it turns out.



I'd say put a little bug stop(poison spray) on the perimiter of the keyboard and make it your own cradle to grave ant farm.



8. None of the above. Continue as before. Kill ants as they appear.

WHATT!!! Kill them? Ruthlessly wipe them out? Men, women, AND children? Totally indiscriminately. Some of them may have been trying to convince the others to leave the computer. Kill them as well? Oh Vic, you can't mean that. Think about what you're doing.

Also, do me a favor and insure that these critters are not on any endangered species list.

Regards, and good luck with the ants,



Buddha's gonna say #1 and #3, man.



I'd try the air over a few consecutive days and then the shop.

I know with isolated keyboards you can run them through water and they'd be ok, but I don't think I would mess with the one that connects into laptop.



what i know about ants could fit in a thimble along with 2000000000000 Lao ants. We get those big, black bastards, looking for water(moisture it think, cause i never notice them in the glass of water that stands out all night), so i'd try to desiccate them if you think you have to destroy a fellow member of Wamaskaskan(sp?).

how bout putting it in the oven, bake at 150 for a while and see what happens?
if that don't work, we had a saying on the boat, "...get a BIGGER hammer."
gudlukwidit...just don't piss them off...somebody said they might own the place where you plopping your ass down.



Hello dit is Martha i put my keyboard in dishwassher one time let it dry good for a few days and it is still working good. or hose it off.


Hey Vic,

three and four.....or do what you want, you're just dying to open the fucker up...ain't it?



Since you are travelling from one country to another, isn't this a NATIONAL issue, immigration or some big important office should be notified!!

On a practical note, I'd try peppermint oil, as ants hate it. I rub the counters where I see the little buggers in my kitchen with some on a cotton ball. They can't smell their scent trail because of it, and so somewhere else. Send 'em packin Vic! (I don't recommend the kitchen knife solution)

Peace out,


What I've learned about tropical ants is that you have to stop feeding them. I used to see a trail of marching ants any time someone left any type of food, especially sweets, around. I could control it by washing the area clean of any food debris.. Blow the laptop with an air can and then carefully swab it with an alcohol swab and keep the food way from it.



Dear Friend.......
What came to mind was something like the pied piper.....maybe if you played just the right song on's the name of that cool instrument that has a bow that is played by pushing out??? you know what I mean ( I hope)........some thing they like to dance to perhaps, they'd all come out for the party......
OR play that movie that has all the ants in it.....maybe it's disney, I dunno......maybe they'd all come out for an evening at the movies and you could act like the thunder beings and blow hard, scattering them to a distant place and then RUN really fast so they can not out for those knees tho, I 'm sure the team needs you on the court.
I wouldn't suggest alcohol or! poison. You've done really good this life helping others and being a man of integrity. The karma of killing all those ants may not be worth it.
You could act like a good american and capitalize on the population. Maybe teach them to type while you dictate, or have them do the graphics, or keep the bank balance and pay the bills. Give them a deadline to come up with a new comedy routine for you.......USE them. Teach them tricks like the flea circus, set up a tent maybe, charge at the door. Don't forget you're an american: MAKE MONEY on 'em.
Watch out tho. If they're not indigenous, it could reek havoc in South Dakota. They might become worse than a cloud of grasshoppers or locusts. They might eat all of the prairie grass, or all of the corn, or all of the wheat. It could spread to Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas....wipe o! ut the midwest before infesting canada and mexico. Oh no! What if they got as far as California. What would they do to the grapes and the future of wine? Please be careful. This sounds serious. Geez, hope none came through with this e-mail.
If you decide on #8, I'd suggest that you get a bird or two that like ants and keep them around to do the dirty work for you. Remember that karma thing. Keep your soul safe.
On the other hand, fun to be around. Why wouldn't they like hanging out with you? Get sour, say mean things, don't bath for a while, don't brush your teeth. Act depressed. Stop being mr. nice guy and maybe they'll move out on their own.
I really don't know what the best approach is. If you're leaning toward #2, we could call in our computer whiz, Zack! oree. Jeff knows him. He could suggest what size knife maybe. Who knows, you said it's held fast. Might need a crow bar. Zac'll know.
Is there a web site for this situation? You might be able to find the solution on youtube (?utube?). 15 hours of beauty downloaded every minute of the day. Did you check wikipedia?
Good luck, Bro. Let me know what happens...........k


It's obvious to me that in the that the ant's most likely view you as the invader in there world. So put something they like more next to the key board and wate for them to take up residency there. Learn to speak ant Lao so you can at least communicate. Be greatful most people pass to the milkyway with out a single friend you now have many. Have a great day.



4 only...maybe. First, do no harm (to the computer, not the freakin' ants)



Hi Vic,

Have you tried electrical shock?



I took the computer to the shop where I paid the utmost attention to it's partial disassembly. Even though the guy was talking to me in pretty good English while he took it apart, I noticed he paid attention to where he was putting the screws.

No ants. He blew it out with pressurized air.

The ants were coming from my table. Laura is right. Stop feeding them. Thanks for all the suggestions. You were great.



Saturday, May 09, 2009

7' Statue of Buddha Causes Unrest on International Flight


TAIPEI, Taiwan - Passengers aboard NW Airlines flight 1101 to Los Angles all had something to say about the seven-foot statue of Buddha brought aboard by a US citizen.

"It's not like something you'd wear around your neck," said James Davis, a passenger in the wide-body 777 flight from Bangkok to Los Anegeles. "The thing was blocking my view."

Officials at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok allowed the man to board the aircraft with the statue as one piece of carry-on, which is allowed under current general aviation guidelines.

"He bought the ticket," said an unnamed official. "He had the seat", he said, adding, "the buddha cannot go below in baggage. The buddha must be above."

By the time the aircraft landed in Taipei, the entire cabin occupants were in a sour, grumbling uproar, with several passengers openly shouting insults at the man and asking the crew to do something about it.

Of course, nothing could be done about it while airborn, and the situation could not be resolved until the stopover in Taipei. At that point, the passengers demanded another aircraft, or the buddha's removal from the aircraft.

"I can't believe they let him bring that thing on board. What's he going to do with it, anyway?" asked Cecilia Dawes, a teleporter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Another passenger who was demanding refund on her ticket asked, "Would they let me bring my seven-foot crucifix on board? Would they let me buy a seat for a seven-foot Jesus?"

After refueling and a long stand-off on the tarmac, the flight continued to Los Angeles.



Sunday, May 03, 2009

Iraqi National Museum Reopens


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Amid much fanfare and tight security, The Iraqi National Museum has re-opened following the return of thousands of stolen artifacts.

I'm keeping all my stuff. It's worth a fortune in the hot antiquities market if I can sit on it a while longer. Don't look at me like that. The appropriation of art during war is a historical fact. It happens all the time during an invasion by a foreign army while people look the other way.

The museum was systematically stripped and looted of more than 15,000 artifacts during the US-led invasion that presumably was the objective of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein.

My representative on the scene at the time had previously entered the museum for the purpose of 'casing it' and marking the location of the several items of particular interest.

"Most of the items were collected in a large duffle bag," he said, "with the exception of one piece, the winged, human-headed bull, that required a fork lift and flat-bed truck transport."

Stopped at the Iraqi/Syrian border, the winged bull was subsequently returned.

The military stood by as looters ransacked the nation's cultural heritage, offering no resistance as mostly peasants and a few private collector representatives poured into the museum at the onset of the 'shock and awe' campaign. "They saved the oil ministry, but the museum was a free pass," said my agent.

"I came prepared with my own lighting, knowing the city's utilities would probably be targeted in the first strikes," he said. "Our stuff was on two floors, so I had to work fast, from a detailed map of the items we wanted. Most of those people were working in the dark and had no idea of what they were getting. It was like a grab bag."

Some 15,000 items were plundered at the time, and U.S. commanders were widely criticized for failing to protect one of the richest collections of antiquities in the Middle East.

Only eight of the museum's more than 20 halls have been reopened, but those halls were packed with dignitaries and media as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made his way through the exhibition.

In Dec. 2007, Swiss authorities blocked the sale of an ancient clay tablet bearing cuneiform, thought to have been smuggled from Iraq, on the internet auction site eBay. At the time of the intervention, we had a bid of 2,500 Euros. It could have gone much higher.

The war-time acquisition of art work is a historical fact, and one of the rights of an invading or occupying army. It happens all the time. Look at the British museum. Look at Getty's personal collection.

You get Woody to give back all those thousands of arrowheads, or donate his collection to the Wabash County Museum, and I'll give some of my stuff back.



Friday, May 01, 2009

Work is Play


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - There is no 'slow lane' on southbound Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on a Saturday night.

We were in the far right lane, the exit lane, but it wasn't slow, by any means. Larry, the used-to-be smartest guy I knew, until he slammed on the brakes and threw it into reverse, was at the wheel.

I'm not that smart, but I know you can't pull some shit like that on an eight-lane expressway, which I said to him as we were going backwards.

A seventeen-year old kid rear-ended us after Larry hit the brakes and shifted back into drive, slithering away on rain-sickened streets, but not fast enough to avoid the collision.

Both cars pulled over, they got out, checked it out, little or no apparent damage, and Larry pulled another smart move. He handed the kid a hundred bucks and said, "Whaddya say we let it go at that?"

The kid gladly accepted, probably because there were two of us and one of him, and maybe he didn't see the back-up lights or see us reverse direction and go forward again before fish-tailing and smacking us in the back, and may have thought it was his fault. Maybe.

When we got back into the car and proceeded on our way, I just had to sit there and look at the guy for awhile. I thought he was one of the smartest people I knew. Went to Yale, and shit. Lived down the hall from the founders of microsoft or Apple or some melarky like that. Was talking laptops and Dick Tracey wireless internet connections back in the seventies. "Just imagine!" he exclaimed.

Anyway, Larry dropped a couple of points in the Smartest People I Know ranking, akin to Texas falling to Oklahoma late in the season, down from two to three or four, and I really didn't know the other five well enough to ascertain the depth of their knowledge and sarcasm, or their degree of brilliance. So, it was all pretty much relative and irrelevant, really.

But anyway, that's all beside the point. One of the things Larry once said was, "Work is play!" and I wanted to pass that along to you.

And Carl would add, "Until it's not."



Team Gave 'Green Light' on Executions


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Recently released documents from the White House and Dept. of Defense indicate that the pirate negotiating consulting firm, 'Pirate No-Go & Associates', gave the green light in the run-up to the rescue of an American ship captain and the execution of his captors off the coast of Somalia.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior White House official said, "Yes, after five days of getting nowhere with the pirates, we acted on the advise of the No-Go team. I think most Americans were pleased with the outcome."

The public spokesman for the firm, Manny, said, "The team, comprised of the smartest people we know, was divided at first between those who wanted to 'gas 'em', and those who favored execution by Navy Seal."

"As gassing them would have involved revival and a long court battle," said Manny, "they decided the most expedient means would be to dispatch the pirates forthright at the most immediate opportunity."

The rationale for the action was that extended negotiations would not facilitate the captain's release.

"Bottom line is," said Manny, "we don't negotiate with no pirates."



Thursday, April 30, 2009

It Has The Malady


In observance of the swine flu outbreak, I went out last night and ordered a pork cutlet, smothered in a mushroom sauce, with fried potatoes on the side.

I rarely have an interest in the animal. Smart, but filthy. You know if you've ever lived at, or near a pig farm. So I don't eat it's meat, except for bacon, which I love. Nothing like the taste of bacon. BLT in the summertime, with watermelon and cool drinks on ice can't be beat in late July.

Manny wouldn't touch the pork. Considered it, 'unclean'. Said it had 'the malady'. He was a chicken man, preferring the dark meat, which was fine with me, you know, everybody has their tastes.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Just Admiring


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Have you ever just sat back and admired something, not judging, not scheming, not doing anything but just admiring? Just admiring, not thinking about tomorrow, not thinking about yesterday, not thinking about anything. Not thinking.

Just admiring.

It could be anything, a person, place, or thing. A memory. A dream. A vista.

Just admiring. The reflection in the pool has a slight smile crossing your lips.

"There. Feel better? You look better," I said to the banana trees out back, a gift three years ago from Yon, a local Thai.

Sure, they looked better, happy with a little attention. Six months of absentee gardener.

"Everything looks better, feels better with a little attention. A little love. Showing somebody cares," I said to them.

Nine tall palms, stunted and malnourished at birth, neglected, parched and yellowed through a dry season, nurtured, fed for three years, hydrated thoroughly, now magnificently bursting forth in lush, gloriously green effusiveness, shading the house; down the line, fantastic, fantastic, runt of the bunch doing great, fantastic, super-fantastic, fantastic, super-fanstastic, out in the full sun, doing okay.

Who knows if they understand English. The dogs don't. But I said to them anyway, "You rook marverous."