Monday, October 25, 2010

More Lengthy Discontinuous Narrative About Thailand... and Books... and Clouds...

After yesterday's photo shoot I went down via BTS Sky-Train to the river again. No flood, how disappointing (from an artistic perspective).

I rested my new (Lumix) camera on the rail of Saphin Thaskin station and took a sharp(ish) photo yesterday of the State Tower in brilliant sunshine. This is where we went for dinner last week-end at Sirocco, the al fresco restaurant on the 64th floor. It was an awe-inspiring view and the food was sensational as well. It turns out that one of the Bruces with us harbored a not-so-secret-any-more death-wish and only just fought back his anxious compulsion to fling himself over. He could have been playing the risorial buffoon of course. Bruce is an awful kidder.

Up there!

Up here!

Down there!

The Bruces at repast.


Being bored shitless here in Bangkok for the past three weeks (there are only so many times in a month you can maintain enough interest to b... your c... yet again - plus I have developed an annoying sweat [surely] rash) which puts a dampener/moisturizer on things), I have read a few books. Surprise surprise, eh?

One was a small tome I didn't finish a while ago, The Happiness Myth, where it is argued that drugs and sex and taking it easy diet- and exercise-wise are gonna make you happiest. A sentence jumped out at me where Jennifer Michael Hecht (mixed messages about gender here) quotes some expert or other:
..."obligatory exercisers [psychologically obsessed followers of Jane Fonda tapes and the like] often report the symptoms seen in athletes who overtrain... They include anxiety, apathy, chronic fatigue, decreased appetite, depression, hostility, mental exhaustion, mood changes, changes in values and beliefs, diminished self image, impaired concentration, emotional isolation, sore muscles and disturbed sleep."

That is ME today!

I overdid it and I am suffering; physically, morally and mentally. After doing nothing for, like, a month or twelve, I hit the Fitness First gym here at the Landmark and idiotically pushed 100 reps on the squat machine (need to get some snow-turning stamina). Now I can't walk up or downstairs without pain in my left patellar tendon - probably a whisper of jumper's knee. What a fool. I always had eschewed such energetic stupidity, telling my obligatory exerciser friends that a) there are only so many heartbeats in your life, why waste them and b) I want to have the best knees in the graveyard (we all die you see, now THAT'S what I call obligatory!).

This injury of course has made me moody, hostile, apathetic, etc, etc... (see above.)

And that's how I was feeling when I accidentally went into a book-store and, having heard from Izzy on FB about the design of the new Vintage edition of Nabokov's novels, picked myself up a copy of this particular edition of The Eye. Great cover.

Now, when buying books by authors like Nabokov, you always wonder if this wasn't one of his/hers that you'd read twenty or thirty years ago (or last week) and forgotten about. (I had bought Nicholson Baker's 'The Anthologist' on Tuesday - "Oh, his new one!" I thought - read three pages and realized I had it at home.) Pretty sure I haven't read The Eye in the past though. Nabokov. What a writer! His vocabulary is immense (OK he is a bit heavy-handed with it to be sure, but that is his metier) and his stuff cerebral yet funny. Nabokov is so sardonic, so deliciously dry and nasty -
"She had slender ankles and a graceful gait, which made up for many things."

I nearly snorted my kopi (see below).

I had a look through "The Annotated Lolita" too. Man, that is one dense book, full of allusions and amazing sentences. It is one of the books which, like Gravity's Rainbow or Ulysses, you're never going to get more than 10% out of without a guide. There was something on page 156 (where I had randomly opened the book) about white flies on some flowers. *White* flies? Humbert appears to have no idea what these creatures were, but the fastidious lepidoterist Nabokov himself would know them as the larvae of a certain type of moth. Why put the reference to the white flies in, except as a private joke? Point of view. Humbert, the narrator, is an observant fellow but not a bug collector. The author is, but they are different people, one real and one imaginary (not telling you which is who.)

If you prefer your Nabokov in small doses, this is only 100 pages.


A small lift to my limp-induced (and did I say that I am incredibly bored) mood of complete apathetic blankness came when I saw a kopi and kaya toast in the basement of Paragon. A touch of Singapore! It was only Toast Box, the worst of the lot, but I enjoyed the sweet (really sweet) nostalgia anyway. Sipping on my coffee diluted condensed milk, I leaved though The Eye, and apart from the sentence quoted above, this one caught my, um, eye -
After all, in order to live happily, a man must know now and then a few moments of blankness. p7.

Blankness? Happiness? It was all coming together! All of a sudden, I felt light, free of concern and happy. Seriously, I did. I was happy because I was blank! Nabokov's witty sarcasm confirmed for me the positive side of being negative. It is a time of happiness, because nothing touches you and it doesn't matter, it is all outside you. I smiled at everyone. Why, because I am stupid, empty, blank, jejune. I am Forest Gump. Run E@L, run!

Limp E@L, limp!


Clouds billow over Siam station.

I love standing blankly, mind empty of other thoughts, watching through my sunglasses as clouds gather: they look so much more dramatic than without them. The edges become more visible and sharp (certainly more in focus thanks these prescription lenses), the puffy middle more tumultuous and roiling. They contrast against the paler sky: in fact this whole sky thing, the firmament that we typically ignore in the course of a normal day is more... obvious, more pertinent, at least to me. Aren't the clouds so three dimensional now? They weren't before - they were flat, distant, irrelevant and merely a shade of two of different greys out of the corner of your eye. But they are so DeMillean when viewed through my brown/blue colored glasses. They tumble and extend fluffy limbs out over and under each other, dark under light, thick, woolly and low under stratospheric diaphanous. They break apart in whisps on one side - I do not will this, it just happens - and steam into existence from the invisible moisture that hangs in the air at the other. Maybe this dissolving at one side and condensing at the other is how clouds really move, a sort of vaporous peristalsis. Or maybe it is the wind after all. Maybe both.

It looks like rain is what it looks like.

And so it comes. Roaring on the roof of the station, diffusing the buildings, pelting the pedestrians. My train arrives. I alight at Nana where the sun is brilliant and my glasses immediately fog over. The rain, out of a clear sky, is teeming nevertheless. I buy a juice, limp down the steps, tip the one-legged leper lady who cowers under a blue vinyl tarp 10 baht and I get wet walking to the hotel.

Should I walk, or run? I can't run can I? Not because of my knee which only bugs me on steps, but because of the dinky footpaths; the loose pavers, the steel or plastic pipes jutting out of nowhere, the irregularly raised and often broken-through concrete covers. Suicide for ankles. I recall the schoolboy puzzle. Who will get wetter? - the person who runs and therefore hits the rain head-on, or the person who walks, perhaps skipping between the raindrops?

Isn't it wonderful. Isn't it all just wonderful. And blank.


1 comment:

expat@large said...

In The Eye...

The first time I have seen the word 'glabella' used in a novel - the slight (or great) indentation at the front of the bridge of your nose.

Oneirotic - a Nabokovian neoligism? Dreamlike (oneiric) + erotic = erotic dreams (duh).

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