Thursday, December 16, 2010

Low Water Mark

Low Water Mark
Brovic - Blogging since 1903

VIENTIANE, Laos - Looking down on the street from a fourth-floor balcony must be something like being in the spirit world; you can hear and see people, but they can't hear or see you, nor do they, in going about their business, appear to have any idea you're there at all.

'Square up' to the bucket, coaches said. Square up to the keyboard. You could get a crick in your back.

Do people suffer alone, or do we pretty much share the same ailments? Spared some, and given others, huh? Blessings wrapped in a karate chop. That silver lining people speak of.

I've got to get to work on China. I read the stats on this blog for the first time since...since 1903, I guess, and saw that most of my readers are in Germany and the States, with a few readers in Thailand, Mexico, Sweden, and Japan, but only eleven people in China. Holy Smokes, isn't that a HUGE population over there? Seems like that's a market I should try to crack.

No need to go on about the bad knees business, but this being a 'walking city', where motorbikes are too fast for gawking, and the 1950s vintage sit-up-straight French bicycles are too corny to be seen riding, I needed to wait until the endorphins kicked in, or go find the strongest possible pain-killer possible before venturing out onto the street.

Where do you find the strongest possible pain-killer in Vientiane? Motorcycle taxi driver, where else? Hooked up a mere twenty minutes after going through immigration. 'You want girl? You want lay-dee?' he asked in a whisper?

'Nah. Just the...'

Problem is, after taking them, they were so good, I was afraid to leave my room.

Paranoia. Paranoia, an unrealistic fear. Paranoia can have you:

Run to the window.
Swallow the roach.
Talking about the illuminati.
Flush your stash down the toilet.
Turn the music down.
Slow to under the speed limit.
Keep looking in the rear-view mirror.
Thinking the reptilians are out to get us.
Spray the air.
Light incense.
Brush your teeth.
Use mouthwash.
Keep looking around.
Close your Facebook account.
Remain in the car.
Remain in your house.
Remain on the couch.
Slap on some after shave.
Wonder if that's a cop.
Peek out the curtains.
Swear to God you'll never do it again.

What do they say? 'Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.'

Nothing stays the same, except when it doesn't. Down along the river, where the 'Mighty Mekong' was lined with quaint little restaurants on stilts and the embankments thick with gardens and vegetation, has now all changed.

For a year they've been continuously trucking in loads of earth from somewhere downriver, grading it, packing it with steamrollers, and have built a new sea wall, capped with concrete, and constructed a huge, expansive sculpted block inlay promenade that now has the place looking like...Geneva.

It's quite nice, with potted plants, artistic landscaping, a children's playground, and each evening throngs of people exercising, bicycling, or coming out for the sunset, but not the same. You wouldn't recognize the place.

Gone is the huge pavilion where the Lao girl in spandex would lead an aerobics class of a hundred each night, and where I laid down on the cool concrete and passed out after running a four-block wind sprint after taking a strong pain-reliever two years ago.

Gone is that Vietnamese riverfront restaurant that rented the bikes, and all those other places you could sit and watch the sun drop into the Mekong while having a tall beer Lao, a spicy lab salad, or Mekong river fish.

So now, to relieve the two-way traffic congestion, they've created another road running parallel to the promenade, the river, and the old street. That's a new road between the river and the old road. Everything is different.

Dick Martin, the late Richard Martin, my wonderful journalistic mentor and cutthroat editor, would say, 'Don't tell me about it - show me!'

Like they say, 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' And so that's what I'm trying to do with all this new digital technology that I have an innate resistance to, to which I have an innate resistance, Dick, Martha, Kathy Short, the librarian...and so there's some photos up on this blog.

And another thing...for the first time since...1903, I guess...I checked the stats...already told you...checked the comments, too, for the first time. Geeeee, you guys! Thanks so much, and thanks for the encouragement. Here I was thinking nobody was reading because few of you email or let on...and then there's this guy in China...

What? I need to catch you on Facebook? I'm too paranoid.

Another can go all over the place (virtual world) can't you? I mean, I'm just finding out. Never mind.

I noticed while going through a number of airports recently, the aforementioned body scan, and everybody playing with their electronic gadgetry. It's a remarkably easy fake out, to pretend you're on a phone, loudly taking a call, or fiddling with your thumbs on an imaginary device, not interacting with your immediate environment, 'being' somewhere else.

The dedicated SLR slung around your neck is a museum piece. Electronic technology has made everyone 'at the scene.' Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is a writer. No more waiting for the paper to hit your doorstep. Those days are long gone. Paperboy Same same milkman. News is instantaneous. Kind of takes the unique sort of journalistic fun out of it for me. Unless you've got it running through your veins.

Another can check out around other folk's blogs...sure...I'd just never done it, and lo and behold! There are some really nice blogs out there! Design-wise, some beautiful work, give me some putting up photos...and content-wise, as well. Some good ideas floating around, and not all nonsense, like some people. Or some of that angry stuff people post on U-Tube. Unfuckingbelieveable what some people say.

Where does that leave us? Numb? I mean, can we be shocked by anything, anymore? Two wars? Two wars? Katrina, tsunami, job gone, house gone, retirement gone, 911, Sarah Palin, heyyyyyyyyy. Anything fucking thing can happen, can't it?

Every once in awhile, something really cool happens...the internet, guys emerge from a cave, black man's elected president, San Aung Su Kyi set free, Dick Cheney goes away, Voyager keeps plugging to the edge of nothing, guys find anti-matter, and what other remarkable shit has happened that you're glad to witness?

Meanwhile, to keep you occupied...'This week, Lindsey Lohan...'

Did you ever wonder where the term, 'Who gives a flying' fuck?' came from? I'd like to tell you I coined it, but I didn't.

And another thing...(can't nobody say that like a black woman), this time, from the Funny Front; that toothpaste to which I'm preferential, 'Darlie', nice eco-friendly green and white box, dapper fellow in a top hat and big smile, I recently found out, was modeled after Al Jolson in blackface, and originally named, 'Darkie'.

WTF! Yeah, 'Darkie'. It's sold widely throughout Asia, and is produced under another company under Colgate Palmolive, who changed the name because of, well, you know, it's just not politically...what do you say?'s not proper, racially, to have some big lipped nigga in a top hat grinnin' a big-ass white smile, so they toned it down, turned the brother into a white man, shrank the lips, shrank the smile, and changed the name.

Except for the Chinese. The Chinese still sell the product in China as 'Darkie.' Wanna know why? Because they don't give a frying fuck about black people or other sensitivities the rest of the world observes, in some cases, to be fair, in their own interests of course, just like us, but their tune is slowly changing because of precious minerals and other commodities. In Africa.

In any case, I'm not buying the shit any more. Darlie, Darkie, got me looking at all the toothpaste manufactures labels. Colgate? What else do they make?

Everything. They make everything.

Man, I came up here with no proper writing instruments. No laptop, no paper, no pen. Had to wait until I was in line in immigration to fill out the arrival card because I didn't want to appear the fool to the Chinese guy sitting across the aisle in the plane by asking to borrow his gold pen.

On my way out (of Don Muang domestic terminal in Bangkok), I got side-tracked over to a couple of immigration officers taking care of the overstay people. As the lady did the paperwork for two days overstay at 500 TB per day, I began a prepared routine...

"I stay for the King birthday."

"One thousand baht," she said pleasantly.

"The King gib me one day," I said. "FREE!"

She looked up. "The King give me one day," I repeated seriously. "I sa-tay for the King's birthday."

His 83rd. It was huge. The whole city was lit up, jam-packed with people in the streets. Everybody lub the King.

She considered, and it looked like she was changing the receipt. She said something to the man on her left at an adjacent desk, and another uniformed man slouched in a chair behind them. They laughed good-naturedly, shaking their heads no.

"FOR THE KING?" I asked incredulously. "You charge me for the King's BIRTHDAY?"

They blushed. The lady wouldn't look me in the eye. Ashamed, she said, 'Sorry. One thousand baht.'

1 USD = 28 Thai Baht. Last year, 33. Five years ago, 42. Ten yrs. ago, 48. When we print more money to fix our predicament, it becomes devalued IN the world; don't need an economist to tell us that.


I was feeling kind of bad for not connecting with my immediate environment, and it wasn't a cell phone, but rather, an insensitive disregard for the less fortunate who crossed my path, maybe I already told you.

So I was sitting at dinner, just off the sidewalk, watching the guy with no hands approach tourists up and down the street. And there was that lady in the hand-cranked tricycle cart, the one I'd ignored the previous day while I sat eating breakfast.

'I'm not going to jump up, but if they approach me, I'll give,' I thought.

Neither of them approached me, but after dinner I was doing that old-man-after-dinner stroll down the row of vendors, not looking to buy anything, and there he was, right behind me, the handless man. He didn't see me. He was hitting up some other people, who refused. When he turned toward me, I already had the note out, which he accepted between his two stubs and thanked me in Lao.

I walked off, but turned to see him turn and give the note to a little boy, who scampered off the sidewalk to his mother in the hand-cranked bike/cart, giving her the note with a grin and big eyes.

'Oh. They're all together.' We didn't sit at the same table, but in a sense, we all ate together.


My New Digital Camera

So, these new photos posted herein are a result of importing the recordings off the chip and exporting them to the blog, which I did, after erasing my previous work and the 265 shots of a visit to Hong Kong by a group of young friends, one of whom, the redhead,* dropped her brand new 10.0 Sony Cybershot onto the beach, which was found by the Swede, who gave it to me, since she already had one.

She was staying at the Mariott, according to her digital recording of the room, the view, the dining room, the beach. The Swede said she tried to find the owner, but no one would claim the camera, so I thought about it in a karmic sense and the connection between my good fortune and the misfortune of someone else; the camera coming to me, my sense of worth following the motorbike accidents; Vietnam as a medic...

and then there was the connection between the doctor/therapist and the patient/client, the teacher and the student. Which is which, and who is who?


*see photo