21 June 2017

Midsummer in America

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Summer solstice, Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere.  I miss the bonfire nights there. 

Here the differences between daylight hours and dark ones are always small, still almost half-and-half.  And there is no twilight.  Dark falls quickly, and dawn springs up suddenly. 

At noon this time of year, the sun is north of us!  That is confusing – if one doesn’t have their compass at hand! 

I did my 90-day-report of address to Immigration in person yesterday.  We hire an old retired taxi driver to take us there.  He is a happy friendly guy and a real treat to ride with.  When Tuk is along they jabber and laugh about things in Thai. 

There was just him and I yesterday, and we have quite a language barrier.  I used the Thai/English talking dictionary on my phone to communicate a few key words to him.  I explained that my hearing is not good, due in part to Vietnam experience.  He tried to tell me something about himself related to Vietnam, but I couldn’t follow.  (Tuk will straighten that out at some later time.)  He did somehow communicate that he valued my Vietnam service, as Thai people generally appreciated the US help to keep communism at bay.  They knew what horrors their neighboring countries experienced. 

I told him that my father was a farmer – something that most Thais really relate to and respect.  He was curious about our farm, and I told him we always had two dozen head of dairy cows and 200 chickens.  We traveled through miles and miles of countryside to and from Immigration, and I so enjoy seeing the rice fields, farms, and tiny villages.  I don’t get out much, especially to the countryside. 

I have not been into the city much either.  But I did get in to see two movies of the Bangkok Silent Film Festival.  (I wanted to see more films, but travel kicks the shit out of me, and I was just too much in pain to go more often.)  I saw the master filmmaker Fritz Lang’s 1921 Destiny, which was amazing in its drama and visual imagery. 

The 1920 The Mark of Zorro was one I especially wanted to see, and it was worth the effort to get into town for.  Douglas Fairbanks was an astoundingly acrobatic actor – jumping, climbing, riding, swashbuckling, outclassing numerically superior adversaries at every turn, and laughing in their faces!  He defined Zorro in that film. 

Zorro was one of my earliest heroes, in the 1957-58 Disney TV show.  He was a lone individualist with a strong sense of justice, and he was always against tyranny.  He accepted outlaw status and bore his illegality with pride.  He loved the night and the full moon. 

Ayn Rand, as a teenager in Russia’s Bolshevik slaughterhouse, saw Western films such as this 1920 The Mark of Zorro, and she said these romantic movies saved her from having her spirit extinguished by the brutal horror all around her.  When I read Rand’s novels and then found out she was a Zorro fan like me, I thought, “Of course!”  A kinship of a heroic “sense of life.” 

I will stop here and post this.  A big windy rainstorm has just hit at the fall of darkness, and I’ve been tying down windows blown open.  I need to inspect the rest of the house. 

-Zenwind.

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28 May 2017

April/May

This is a long-delayed post.  My writer’s block has been bad. 

Songkran 2560 BE / 2017 CE

Another Songkran (traditional Thai New Year, 13 April) has passed with its long stretch of holidays.  While generally the hottest time of the entire year, it had been a little bit cooler than normal in early April because of clouds and a few rains.  Then we had a full week of over 100*F daytime temps – and that is not even factoring in the brutally humid Heat Index. 

Not much water was thrown in the neighborhood on Songkran.  Only one little kid threw a bit on me as I passed by.  Holidays have been more subdued than before. 

Tuk got a major promotion at work and was told about it just before the long holiday, so she could relax and enjoy her time off.  With our new air conditioning it was much easier to relax. 

I miss Beltane and the coming of May in North America.  The earth comes alive; it greens and flowers; and the dramatic changes are amazing.  My father loved May and June as his favorite time of the year. 

Here the month of May often sees some of the beginnings of the Rainy Monsoon Season, but this year the rains came early and have already been frequent and hard.  Flash flooding has hit many streets during downpours.  I have not been out of our immediate neighborhood much, as I fear storms will make it difficult to get a taxi home late at night.  So I have missed a lot of music gigs as well as movies. 

We are hoping that there will not be a disastrous flood like we had in 2011.  This year the authorities are already increasing outflow from the dams up-country so that they can later hold back more water if the rains continue to be heavy through to September.  In 2011 the dams were too full early in the year, and they had to release water to save them from topping out.  But then this released water had made the already-swollen Chao Phraya River rage over its banks.  Hopefully, not again. 

Trying to stay cool and dry here in the Tropics. 

-Zenwind.

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19 March 2017

My Old (Thai) Neighborhood

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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. 

-Zenwind.

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27 February 2017

Air Conditioning at Last!

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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. 
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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. 
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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! 
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Blessed coolness.  Zen delight. 
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-Zenwind.

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25 January 2017

Writer’s Block

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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. 
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-Zenwind. 

21 November 2016

Post-Halloween Autumn

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(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.

-Zenwind.
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16 September 2016

Sleeping Out in Open Air

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Tai Chi in the Moonshadows.

Silver landscapes at midnight.

Ah, yes, the mountain poets would have smiled.
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-Zenwind.
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