19 March 2017

My Old (Thai) Neighborhood

After half a year visiting the States, I found a lot of changes when I returned home on the rim of greater Bangkok.  In my old neighborhood there is new construction going on everywhere, new elevated rail lines, new highway overpasses, and new buildings going up.  The road intersections are much improved, with traffic circles and newly constructed lanes, all of which makes it much safer to walk and cross roads. 

The heat and the dust are the same.  Dust everywhere.  And my friends are still here.  My old neighborhood acquaintances are still good to see as I do my regular walks. 

Going down the sidewalk toward the river, a cook greets me with a bit of English (I’m not sure what his background is, but he may not be fully Thai and he has impressive knowledge of the wider world; but I can rarely talk much with him because he is always extremely busy cooking up stuff). 

Further along that sidewalk, a Chinese woman and her son sell snacks and cold drinks in front of their apartment, and they always greet me with a smile.  All the way down the road to the hospital is the guy who copies keys, and who I talk to at length if he is not too busy; he spent time in the USA many years ago and speaks excellent English. 

Closer to home, on the corner where our soi meets the bigger roads, are many folks that I see almost every day.  The Popcorn Guy is by the Police Box and pops fresh popcorn.  He speaks no English, but we communicate through my pathetically sparse Thai:  I can say “Thank you”, and on hot days like today I will point to the sun and say Thai for “hot!”, and he nods and then we shake our heads and laugh.  We go back quite a few years now. 

There is a couple who sell cold drinks from a cart on the corner on weekends or holidays, with umbrellas for protection from sun or rain.  They both speak excellent English.  The guy told me that he once worked for an American who consulted/worked for the big electric utility that is at the other end of our soi, and that is how he learned English. 

I’m a hermit, but I do have good neighbors that are a delight to see. 



27 February 2017

Air Conditioning at Last!

We finally have one room coolly air conditioned.  This recent Saturday we had workers from Home Pro (Thailand) install two A/C units in our second floor room.  I have only waited 10 years for this, but it finally happened.  (Thai inertia:  that is a whole other story.)  We saved up the cash, researched thoroughly, and found the best brand and company available here. 
One hitch was that we had planned on two rooms (the 2nd and 3rd floors) having A/C and thus ordered two units.  We measured room dimensions and gave them to Home Pro, and they computed the A/C power necessary and the units required.  But the store salesman screwed up, not comprehending how extremely hot this old building gets in late afternoon with West-facing windows.  One of these units is not nearly enough to cool one of these rooms.  So we have two units in the 2nd floor room, and those certainly do cool things down.  We will get a much more powerful unit for the 3rd floor room soon. 
Now, after being in a cool home environment, it is so much easier to sojourn out for a march into the hellish tropical heat and return less frazzled; and then one gets to turn on the A/C on return for recovery.  Bliss! 
Blessed coolness.  Zen delight. 


25 January 2017

Writer’s Block

I have not posted here since November, when I was still in the States.  I was getting heavily into fitness, hiking up and down the hills, and I really slowed down in all my reading and writing.  I am back in Thailand, and I hope to write more soon in this space. 


21 November 2016

Post-Halloween Autumn

(I have stayed in the USA much longer than expected, as I had originally planned to return to Thailand before Halloween.  And I have neglected posting here.)

On the last weekend of July we had a fantastic reunion of Barlow family first cousins, with all 12 cousins still alive and in attendance.  We all had a great time.  I haven’t written about it simply because I didn’t know where to start.  I’m still speechless with joy whenever I think back on it.

In August and September I did a lot of hiking and bivouacking, as I have mentioned in posts during that time.  I slowly regained my health after it had declined from the unusually intense tropical heat of Thailand’s last Hot Season earlier this year.  I continued exercise through October, although I recently stopped my lifting program due to backache.  As much as possible I have been in bivouac out in the fields of the farm under the Moon.

On Halloween day, late afternoon, I marched up Teal Hill Road doing “roadwork”, i.e., the old boxers’ routine to improve one’s wind.  I had shuffled up this hill in the summertime heat, and I knew its gradient and the psychological effort needed to make the climb with maximum intensity.  From first shuffling to walking and then to full-0ut marching it, I have made it a prime workout.  It gets you to breathing hard.  I feels so good, but it takes a lot of painful work to get to this level of fitness.  Now to maintain it!

The late afternoon Halloween sun was low and the wind was crisp.  I felt like a Viking in the northern wind.  I topped out at the high plateau junction with Swede Hollow Road in cold sun and fresh wind.

Two days later, I repeated the march with the same quick tempo and grim into-the-hill forward lean to the uphill stretches.  Now I have been repeating this roadwork at this same quick-step whenever I can.

I have been given a clean bill of health from the VA, so now I’m ready to get a ticket back to Thailand.  Last night and today was the first real snowstorm of this coming cold season in Sugar Grove, and the world is white.  Time to think about the Tropics.


16 September 2016

Sleeping Out in Open Air

Tai Chi in the Moonshadows.

Silver landscapes at midnight.

Ah, yes, the mountain poets would have smiled.

31 August 2016

Bivouac at Pine Tree Point

I like it here, nestled in an isolated little ravine with reliable water and the fire-circle I built over a decade ago.  Peaceful and quiet.

This is one of the last times I will wear my old hiking boots in the hills.  They are comfortable favorites – best damn hikers I ever owned, comfortable right out of the box – but they are over 20 years old and the inside stitching is coming undone, so I want to retire them to trusty work-boot status.  I just received a new pair of the identical model from L.L. Bean, and they fantastic.  These will take on the ruff duty from now on.

I brought portable music on this bivy.  Is this odd to bring such technology along when sojourning in a cool, quiet spot of natural paradise in the forest?  Maybe.  But when I played the Chinese “12 Girls Band”, their traditional Chinese instruments added additional Ch’an/Zen flavor to my bivy site.

At dark I heard a strange cry from the trail not far above.  Eerie.  It was a coyote, and another one further up the hill answered, as did another one further off.  The near one must have heard my music or seen my lighter, and the word went out to the others that there was a stranger in the ravine.

In the several bivouacs I’ve done here at Pine Tree Point this year, I’ve never yet built a fire in the fire circle.  Instead, I’ve brought along a candle lantern, and I haven’t done any cooking.

Soon, I’m hoping to do a long backpack and multi-day bivy out in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) at my more remote site I call Dharma Point – if and when I can find someone to drive me out there and drop me off, and later have someone pick me up a few days later.  I will need to plan a more serious menu with cooking gear.  I’ll need to do some shakedown bivies locally with the gear to test the systems.  It’s been a long time.

Got to get out to the back and beyond.


24 August 2016


00:00 hours.
Midnight bivy in the west orchard.
Doing Tai Chi in the moonbeams
and amidst hidden moon shadows.

I loosen up, flow, dance.
Alternately I shake out one foot
then the other, and
my movements start to quicken.
Deer, who had been resting in the
nearby thicket shadows which
border the orchard, take flight.
Who is this stranger in their midst?

Looking up, I see Lyra, the lyre.
Now, after over 40 years of mystery,
I finally see it and
know why it is so named.
Vega is both the brightest star
in tiny Lyra
and also one point of the larger
Summer Triangle.
I only now see the lyre as Vega passes
westward over the zenith,
leading the Triangle with it.
In this new, high westerly, orientation
the little stringed lyre is obvious.

Perseus is rising high in the NE.

01:00 hours.
Capella is moving up
in the NNE.
There is a lone star low in the south.
In Virgo?

02:00 hours.
I ramble through dewy grass
in the orchards and groves,
peeking up at patches of open sky.
Due east I see the Pleiades rising
with Taurus right behind.

02:30 hours.  Time to bivy.
I lie down in warm comfort,
but hear stomping of hooves
from the other side of the thicket.
A deer snorts strongly at my
mysterious presence.
I snap my fingers, not too loudly,
twice, and then there is silence.

05:30 hours.
Waking just before dawn
I see Orion and Sirius
in the SE.
Harbingers of new seasons.