Monday, June 27, 2011

A Typical Morning's Work

What is it with breakfast?

Take the breakfast buffet as the Pullman in Khon Kaen. There is enough food here for the hungry German participants in a major convention, but there is no major convention. There are about four of us. Huge serves of veggies, salads, meats, soups, cheese, fish (last night's sushi? no thanks) are lying untouched in bain-maries and on plates all around the place. Who is going to eat all this?

Let E@L think of the mathematical description of this inverted homeopathic situation --- How about the ratio of unnecessary food to guests decreases according to the inverse exponential of the number of guests. A graph that slides from a number approaching infinity at the Y-axis (when there are zero guests) in a curve down to the X-axis (Y=0) as the number of guests approaches an appropriate number for the amount of food, and it then goes -Y when there is not enough breakfast. (Tom, am I anywhere near right?)

E@L makes barely a dent in this Siamese Babette's feast. He has a bowl of muesli, diced fruit and yoghurt, and he dehydrates two pieces of wholemeal bread in the "toaster". (What? No Vegemite?) The seventeen staff give him a Sawadee as he leaves for his 9am pick-up.

Outside, the poor struggle for 30Bht or so to get a bowl of noodle soup or a som-tam at the roadside stalls (and bloody delicious they are too).


E@L's sales guy has a gleaming black Beemer. It looks new, but shows 260,000km on the clock. He drives like Mark Webber in pole position, and E@L is thrown several centimetres into the faux leather seat as we accelerate up the nearly empty main street. This is OK except that the dashboard displays a *CHECK BRAKE FLUID LEVEL* warning in read-me red. E@L points this out.

"Fluid leaking, ABS dual system," he says.

"Are we able to stop?" E@L asks, somewhere between amused and fearful for his life.

"Yes," he replies and smiles. E@L wonders about emergency evacuation to Singapore.

That conversation was a lot of English for him. Almost everything E@L says to him is answered with a faux smile and "Yes." E@L is not saying this as a criticism, as his Thai, despite 13 years of visiting Thailand is a pathetic nit noi, mak.

"I couldn't get to sleep last night. There is a club somewhere, boom boom boom, music," complains E@L as a way of making conversation in the dreadfully quiet car.


"Are there girls there?"

He is silent.

"Girls, ladies, at the club?"

"Club? Ladies, yes," he says and smiles again.

E@L's evening is sorted.


True to form for E@L's hospital visits to inconveniently distant places, the customer will not be available until tomorrow. "You free morning," he says. "I pick you afternoon, we go KKU."

They head back to town, but E@L sees the turn-off to his hotel whiz by.

"Where are we going?" E@L asks.

"Service. Car brake problem."

"Well, do you really expect me to sit and wait for your brakes to be fixed?"

"Yes," he says. It that yes, I do want you to wait, or yes, as in I have no idea what you just asked?

"Can't you take me back to the hotel?"

"You want go hotel?"

E@L nods with an incredulous eyebrow raised.

"OK, I pick you up afternoon."

"What time?" E@L asks.

"Yes," he answers.

E@L holds up his watch and tap it. "What time will you pick me up?"

He smiles and nods, he gets it. "Seven," he says. He corrects himself, "Twenty o'clock." Then again, "Twelve."

E@L smiles and pats him on the shoulder. "OK, see you midday."

"Yes," he says.


E@L has time to write this blog and to charge all of his gadgets. Excellently typical morning on the road in Thailand.


The Game of Thrones II - Thailand

What I have gleaned from Andrew MacGregor Marshall's articles on recent Thai history so far (I've just finished the second of four parts) is that Thailand is the land of bloody (and blood-less) coups and re-coups, vicious political intrigues, extensive corruption, rampant police and military abuses of power, a not so universal love for a not so divine royal family, free-flow massacres and an abundance of extra-judicial killings, assassinations, riots and lynchings, nasty retaliatory sectarian violence in the predominantly Malay (therefore Muslim) South and misguided attempts to quell it, incessant lies and counter-lies, and ... smiles and pleasant tourism.

Hardly any (?none) of these atrocities have been properly investigated, for reasons Andrew makes perfectly clear.

It is heart-breaking to be reminded of these incidents in such great detail if you love Thailand as I do.

It would make Machiavelli blush. He could come back and write a contemporary Thai version of his masterpiece (and he might still call it "The Prince"). George R.R. Marshall would be going to create a plot as intricate as what is going here.

OK, most this turbulent (ready bloody) history and royal intrigue was already known (check Wikipedia for a rundown on the major characters) and there are several excellent (and not so excellent) books and articles (most unavailable in Thailand) that Andrew quotes from extensively. But the key coup (choice of words?) that Andrew has made is to integrate confidential cables sent from the US embassy in Thailand that were briefs, updates, analyses and comments on the political situation. These were made available through Wikileaks. Their perspective is always interesting and was often head-shakingly ignored.

What makes Andrew's article essential reading about Thailand is that the recent history has now all been put together in one place, and it has never been been analyzed so fiercely and fearlessly out loud as this.

Andrew is longer welcome in Thailand, he mentions on FB. Well, there's a surprise.*

Seriously, I can't talk much about this here either as maybe I could get a lèse majesté rap just for linking to his site, who knows how they think. The example of Harry Nicolaides who made a vaguely derisory mention of a certain Prince in his otherwise bottom-of-the-harbour-bound unheard of novel, Verisimilitude, leaps to mind.

Game of Thrones? It's not ALL about the ascession when King Bhumipol dies, as he may do soon, but it is MOSTLY about the ascession. And therefore who is aligned to whom and who will rule Thailand (i.e. reap the benefits of it's intractable corruption) when that happens.


I'll say no more. It would be employment suicide for me to go into the details as I come here about once a month. Luckily this blog is completely anonymous. Right?

As I said in my post about Nicolaides' arrest:

"Danger Danger Will Robinson, for serious bloggers and writers in foreign countries with low-tolerance laws, not just those of us with smart-arse attitudes looking for the easy laughs...

Words. People take them so fucking seriously..."


As an aside, the Prince's cousin, his first wife (! ... whom he intensely disliked and finally divorced, with her as the guilty party even though he had had several children by his mistress because she could not proffer her case thanks to those convenient lèse majesté laws [Wikipedia]...) Soamsawali, now known as "The Princess Mother of the King's First Grandchild", has been at the home-stay place near Chiang Mai where I nearly got engaged (not) when I visited it about five years ago... (Her mother was devastated when I did not return with an offer of marriage!)

They have photo commemorations of Soamsawali's three visits up on the wall, wearing firstly a Rage Against The Machine t-shirt, then a Sepultra t-shirt, and finally a Rolling Stones tongue-logo t-shirt.

Now SHE would have made a great queen.


* (No more tattoo sessions with Izzy, Andrew.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011


... post a link to this website while you are in Thailand...



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eeeediot E@L. Again. Still.

There is a very pretty lady who works with our distributor and whom E@L was interested in a while ago. Well he still is interested, because she seems a very nice lady and her colleagues think she is nice as well, which is not all that common amongst the ladies in our distributor - hey girls, joking!! She is closer to 30 than 20 so no Peter Phelia accusations again please. Yes, she is slim and fit (so that's E@L's aspirations out the window then) and has a lovely, smooth, rather China-doll face without being too round, and her hair is trimmed short (no prizes for guessing the colour), PLUS her cheeks dimple up when she smiles. Aaawwww. She is lovely in fact and, E@L was given to believe, single.

For some reason, as he walked onto the booth at the conference at The Capella last year (did he mention it? This is where he had the suite for a night.), late as is usual, he saw her, and *pling!*, he instantly liked the cut of her jib, as they say. Trim-buttocked, self-possesed, and with a professional (not another nurse for god's sake!) attitude, AND (he later found out) she laughs at his jokes! It is rare indeed that on first sight E@L is so taken with anyone who was not wrapping herself rhythmically around a chrome pole. Seriously, he has high standards about non-hookers. Stop laughing in the back there.

The sensation of attraction, so unusual for him, so strong, was enough to make him think he ought to do something serious about this declining, crumbling Roman ruin aspect of his existence, his love life. For once in his, um, life.

E@L managed to get her number with a deft little manouevre when, in yet another flat-spot, booth-traffic wise, they were all comparing phones. E@L had his new Samsung and was showing off the Android interface. She liked to play sudoku it seemed, so her showed her the app. Everyone else was bored instantly and they moved away. He then asked her to check something else out on the phone. It was the contact app, which he had opened and already entered her name. The cursor was ticking over in the mobile phone link. She smiled and entered her number. E@L then moved away and sent her a few jokey little texts. She responded and smiled across. Man, he was flying here. He was smokin'! He might even get to know a real girl, up close, personal and without any cash payment at the end, for once in many moons.

This was unusual behaviour on E@L's part already, and he wondered to himself if he wasn't turning a significant corner in his human development. Very rarely, as in never, does E@L take a girl's number, nor give her his. Such an exchange of electronic fluids (moving electrons, right, flow like water, right?) might mean there is a hope of anyone seeing anyone again, might mean someone could mistake this for the possibility of it developing further, of E@L risking something, of E@L putting some emotions out there, at risk. He is Love Risk averse, surely this has sunk in your tiny minds already? So, can we keep it a simple, cold, clear impersonal transaction, thanks? Just you, me, and several million potential babies drowning in spermicidal latex and/or saliva.

This does not always work as a tactic, as sometimes he DOES want to contact someone again. ("Er, hello? It's me, yeah the trick guy you just... Hey, was wondering. Have you seen/stolen my wallet and credit cards?")

So, after taking her number, E@L waited the requisite number of days before calling, as in calling with a txt. But she couldn't make it for coffee. Again, when E@L txt'd, on the weekend, she still couldn't make it for a coffee or indeed any other type of drink Saturday OR Sunday (at Church?). She gave no hints, like jokes or anything, that she might actually have been interested, just matter of fact, "Sorry I am not able to." Two refusals, two negatory responses. E@L knows when he is licked, but just make certain he does know it, E@L confirmed this assumption with his buddy, the master-dater Indy (remember him?), and therefore he let the potentially life-saving, personally enriching, emotionally fulfilling, free sex, female friend thing slide.

The rest of her work colleagues teased E@L mercilessly when they found out that he had been interested in her (he had told them of course at the exhibition already, and like they didn't see him drooling like a buffoon whenever she was near) and this has served only to convince him to keep his distance, as he is pathetic, so completely pathetic. They all got together at the Beerfest (last year's not this current debacle) a few weeks later and both E@L and his erstwhile friend were so embarrassed by all this teasing that had been going on that they didn't talk at all. She didn't even look at him in fact. No doubt they thought they were being funny with this silly behaviour as well.

Adults can be so childish.


The other week, at the same meeting at which E@L had first made his wizard-like phone move a year before, they caught up again. This time the exhibition was at Suntec, so no sake parties this time boys and girls.

They were on the same booth again, he with his new company's new machine, she with some stuff you just don't want to ask about if the words "uterine biopsy" don't take your fancy. He said an hello to her and a few other small pleasantries, but nothing more, keeping his tone equal with her colleagues as with her, pretending that all that guff is water under the bridge now. For most of the first day, E@L had not hassled her, until when things were quiet, unlike most of the time when booth traffic was merely dead, she made a surprise move on him and came across to his area (like, um, three steps). She light-heartedly slapped her hand on the machine and, with a big smile that almost looked unforced, asked E@L to tell her about out this new-fangled gadget. Which he did. In jovial, light-hearted detail, but sticking to the actual topic. She then moved away. Funny that. E@L didn't get it at the time. She didn't come back. They didn't talk again. He didn't even think about it.

Until today.

It just struck E@L today, about 2pm Bangkok time, what is it now, a month later, here on this plane to Chiang Mai, that something else might have been on her mind rather than genuine interest in the ergonomic marvels and technological breakthroughs in our new piece of plastic and tin.

E@L groaned, as his entire body imploded, and sank into his seat. He wished he could melt away. And then he leapt up and ran like a madman, at least after he undid his buckle by lifting this lever, towards the front of the plane, forcing staff to hold him down and tazer him many, many times to the testicles, where he most deserved it. Still he tried to push through them, tried to break open the door - OK a few hundred chinese and American tourists die as well, but hey, we are talking severe embarrassment here!

Far. King. Iddy. Ot.

Of course she wasn't interested in the machine. Why the fuck would she be suddenly interested in some stupid machine? This was a test and E@L had failed. Game Over man. She was trying to start up a conversation with E@L about anything *other* than this frackin' ultrasound equipment. She was testing him to see exactly how stupid, immature and thick-headed E@L really is. Very is the answer. Whether he was your typical male or not, in other words. We all can't be Proust. The slight raising of an eyebrow will only send us off in search of lost eyebrow tweezers, not into 3000 pages of emotional analysis! If you want to tell a man something, hit us on the head with a TV remote or post a sign in front of the telly with superglue. And you'd better make that VERY opaque paper.

She was trying, last ditch eh, to break the ice and make the new first move in getting to know E@L better. She wanted to find out if *he* was still interested in seeing more of her, to coin a phrase. Surely E@L, having been spoken about in glowing terms by her apologetic colleagues could not really that much of a dunderhead, that much of a man-child, so socially incompetent and naive, too shy to make another attempt to get closer to her, too shy to have an innocent (or not) chat like any normal human being as to miss this brilliant chance when it is offered, finally, surely? But instead of reading the approach as something serious, up relatively close, nice and personal, E@L took it objectively at face value. Sales pitch, not for himself, but the frackin' equipment.

Somebody hit him upside the head. Please. Harder. Again.

Perhaps she genuinely was busy last year. Perhaps last year she was in a relationship and couldn't otherwise see him. But there's no perhaps about one thing: E@L is an idiot.

He never ceases to amaze himself with this incompetence with women, young and old. Should he call her up when he gets back to town, or is it too late? As in WAY too late? Hmmph. No, don't! Of course it's too late, his bolt of incompetence has been well and truly shot.

Anyway, E@L wouldn't hold any respect her now if he found that she had not given up on him completely in utter disgust at his idiocy.


*there's a cartoon I want to use again, but I can't remember where I last posted it... Oh never mind.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jumping Meme

Up in the air in Croatia!!


Korcula, where Marco Polo was born

Brac again

Hvar, a brilliant place, look at that water!

E@L had amazing fun on this holiday... Croatia is such a beautiful place. (Google it for better images than I could take!)


A million hugs and kisses to Izzy for encouraging me to join with a great crew. Love and hugs of course to our fellow travellers, Danijel (main photographer as I left my camera on the desk) and Vicky.


p.s. Hey crew, I got my sunglasses fixed! The lens doesn't fall out half so often... But I'm packing for Thailand now, where did I put them? In a secret compartment with the Vegemite and pig fat?

What Proust Can Teach You

I felt so keenly for Mme de Guermantes that I could scarcely breathe; it was as though part of my breast had been cut out by a skilled anatomist and replaced by an equal part of immaterial suffering, by its equivalent in nostalgia and love. (...)

Alas, if for me meeting any person other than herself would have been a matter of indifference, I felt that, for her, meeting anyone in the world other than myself would have only been too endurable.

In Search Of Lost Time: Vol III, The Guermantes Way. Marcel Proust. (1981, Scott Moncrieff & Kilmartin translation.)


Nabokov: Redux or, The Principle Of Three,

E@L does have a million things to confess to, to enlighten you with, to explain, to reveal and to review, to explicate, to examine and allow you to cogitate over, as he does himself, given the time.

Time? Things to talk about? So little, so many.

Like Tristram Shandy, E@L is afraid that the cataloguing and explanation of his life has become more and more frustratingly difficult as time slips away from him, as that evaluation of one's life is for all of us, is a task never ends, unlike the life itself, which has its inexorable termination. Incident upon incident stumble over themselves and demand to be discussed, each incident requiring more words, even though it builds upon the facts of the earlier.

Forever in E@L's blogging heart lurks the question that no blogger should ever given utterance to (well, not so much, at least lately) ...

-- Why?

-- Why bother?

OK, that's two questions but you get E@'s point. If E@L can't keep up with what's going on, what's the point of your people hanging around? Don't talk to me about the unexamined life...

For example...


E@L has been on an extended tour as the previous posts might have told you, had you the wisdom to know of them, and the last 10 days have been in Croatia with Izzy, her TALL Bosnian boyfriend and another young, independent lady, of whom more, obliquely, soon.

C***-struck. Err, Croatia-struck that is. Amazing place, party time, great food and wine, old buildings, history, stoney beaches, Listerine-blue clear water. Great place to have sex, we are told. Unfortunately if you're E@L's age you better have an 80ft ocean going yacht to back up the size of your cigar if you want to win the heart and/or pussy of the lady who's lounging beside you at Carpe Diem for the evening ...

But Pussy-Struck, that's an entirely other type of story.


The tip of the tongue takes a trip down the the palate to tap at three on the clitoris, or E@L's would if it was allowed.

Yes, that sad, sad creature, the obsessed and depressed man out of his depth and mind with Nabokovian, Lolitian, illegal in some countries, desire... That was E@L for the last week or so. In the midst of all this amazing scenery and beauty, completely gone was he on the tight arse attached to the tanned legs walking in front of him.

Desire. What a word! Fuck-nutty is also a good word, little bit less serious, but hey.

Cramping over, his gut churning with physical discomfort brought on by irrational emotional disturbances, his brain reeling with completely reality-divorced fantasies. If ever there was a bust to Descarte's mind/body dualism, then sexual longing, unrequited lust, is it.

Here's this old fat bald ugly (yet mildly amusing) man, Dantean-forest-lost in self-hatred, self-revulsion and chronic self-abuse: and here's this (way too) young (but not a teenager) elfin wisp of a thing, completely in control of her bi-sex-life, completely, (or pretending to be completely) unaware of the lust and longing that gives rise to E@L's stomach acids (and his occasional bouts of depression and weeping), completely indifferent to it (as it should be) one presumes, and no matter how amusing the self-deprecating stories this Humbert Humbert may mumble out at 4am, and no matter that they are sharing a bedroom, E@L is not going to manage a successful sexual connection. Maybe if he asked politely, you say? Maybe, yes, but what can we expect, how will we ever know? E@L can't even order kopi with kaya toast correctly

And don't you lecture him. about the moral ambiguity here, about the lessons we all should have learned. Don't talk to E@L about the classics, your Dostoevsky, your Shakespeare, your Thomas Hardy, your P.G. Wodehouse, the plays and poetry, the novels and the fillums. He know, he knows. He probably knows better than most of you... He has read about it, watched appalled as other men, good men, true men, were sucked into the vortex of it. But he has also watched masters surf it with skill and joy, their used condoms falling back like the bubbles of latex with traces of toxic albumen in them that they are, onto the streets below.

Unattractive stupid old man and immensely attractive clever young woman, new? A NEW thing? Read the death notices for details. Read the applications for the restraining orders.


Of course E@L recognizes it. He is actually enjoying the pain of it, sucking it in, it's grist to his mill of incident. He is trying to retain the feeling or its memory, but like hunger or satiety, once it's gone, it's gone. Until the next time.

It's every love-lorn tourist's story in Bangkok, is it not?

E@L has identified the causative agent in cases like this. It is the as yet un-blogged-about "Principle of The Three".

If one goes back to the same hooker bar and talks to the same hooker for the third time (the third time is the charm they always say) then the trap has been fired. New neuronal pathways have been established. Those lines about , "You are so handsome", "You heb good heart", etc... have been burned with serotonin into a new depiction of reality. The brain is a living organism (for some of us) and is capable of almost anything (except communicating effectively with cafe staff).

And the mere proximity to a cute babe, hooker or not (as in this case) over a period of three or more days can have the same type of effect. Particularly if she is nice to you. OMG how quickly "She's nice to me" can become, "oh she's attracted to me"...

How irrational are we, I mean, fuck it's just unbelievable.


And when you are a cute, sexually energised, in-control female and this previously nice avuncular, nearly three times your age, sister's ex-flat-mate starts drooling in your general direction, well it can get get creepy and it's best to ignore it and go out and try to fuck the people you really came here to fuck, like young international party hunks or the rich old cigar guys on their 80ft yachts, and just be polite to the creepy old guy in the bed opposite (when, if, you get home that night/morning).

But as E@L has noted before - everyone wants to fuck good-looking (or rich, if you're Singaporean) people. Even ugly people want to fuck good-looking people. But as for good-looking people wanting to fuck ugly people? (i.e. the rest of us), well ah there's your mis-match.


Still it's reassuring to know that his heart still beats within its copious emotional frame, that amino acids can be stirred into stomach burning action, that there is pain other than in the idiopathic neuropathy of his feet. Nothing new here, move along nothing to see. Man being stupid.

Its just that happens in the stoney cold heart of E@L so rarely that E@L has to post it, and he will apologize to the parties concerned later.


Yes, E@L can remain emotionally detached from his intellectual confusion - um, maybe he means the other way around. Um. Maybe not. Well he can write about it here, because hey, who gives a fuck, nobody's listening, but for other reason's as well...

Because E@L has been on the receiving end, he's been in the same situation (apart from the being cute and young bit) himself.

There *are* (as in *have been*) women in and around E@L's life (and not only the 50ft Zombie Divorcees of expat-land) who have become d***-struck for him, for some Darwin-forsaken superficial reasons.

We mean that there are women who had become emotionally linked, but from their side only, to E@L. OK, when we say 'some', E@L means one or two. E@L might like these ladies, indeed he *does* like these ladies. But never in a month of first days of the month would E@L consider sleeping with any of them. Last lady on earth sort of thing. But nice people one and all. And E@L was nice back to them, which only exacerbates the situation.

And so E@L understands the complete bemusement with which the object of his obscure desire fends off any clumsy, debasing (for E@L), and creepy (for her), moves, just as he has said, "Thanks, nioce to see you, please back off now", to his own unwanted, wannabe paramours.

(There's the as yet un-written novel/chapter/page/paragraph/C&P of this sentence tale of the surreptitious stroke on the arm from one stalker lady as E@L was kissing farewell to his then genuine ex-girl-friend. Urghh. Creepy.)


These completely incoherent thoughts are not meant to indicate anything to anybody, btw.

It's been four days since E@L had a decent sleep - more posts need to be discoursed upon concerning those days in the Croatian sun, those evenings Tequila Booming and clubbing until the wee hours. E@L needs to have more time than E@L has lifetime available, enough time to do them justice, every minute a philosophy.

He wants to do his various dances (Joyce vacuuming, the sprinkler, big fish little fish cardboard box) more. Tonight, at the Singapore Beerfest, he would have bopped and wiggled to elevator music (those jumping on the tables and chairs things during the U2 covers set, they were most embarrassing, could please E@L have this evening back), the niteclub beats were still with him (plus listening to Daft Punk TRON Legacy on the plane back) from Thursday night with the girls. Those memories are in heavy rotation in E@L's head.

As are the memories of E@L walking through the crowds outside the Singapore Flyer crying out like a preacher, calling out from his soul things like: "My life is a mere husk of truth, a sham, a lie, all is emptiness. I am not who you have thought I am. I need reality. I need truth, but I cannot find it amongst you people! Taxi driver, take me to the Towers..."

And the trip to Orchard Towers tonight with an over-emotional Bruce who may or may not have touched the scrotum sac of your truly, though in jest [oops and FB evidence surfaces of vice versa], that was 20 minutes of hell, from the great pile of someone else's crap all over the toilet seat, to the choking testosterone fumes in Ip-an-enemas. All those memories needs to be expunged as well. There is not enough time, nor the need to talk about them anymore.

Maybe the truth is that E@L doesn't need the Towers, for he certainly doesn't want them. If there was only some other way (beyond frantic masturbation). And so he left tonight by himself, carrying a $10 posie of flowers from the guy in the wheelchair at the entrance. E@L sniffed the roses, so nice. All other things OT completely revolted and repulsed him.

What he wants and what he needs (but doesn't really need, though it would be nice) is to fuck Izzy's horny little sister till the stars explode.


And none of this is going to happen or needs to happen.

Because the words are here now, this is the reality of it for you, dear reader. Anyone else's opinion is mere facts.

On the other hand, there's always love. A love without self-pity.


*one word from anyone involved and this comes down if that is their wish*

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Split Enz Tomorrow

[It's getting late, everybody wants to go to bed, I need to get out of this room, and as tomorrow might be quite busy as we pack and ferry over to Brac, I'll have to post this unfinished and unpolished (since when are my posts ever polished?) and leave it, destined to be never finished, never polished, never even frackin' spell-checked...]


Cafe latte in the heat, under the wide restaurant umbrellas. D and I are reading as Izzy and Vic sketch the layering stone of the buildings in the palace grounds where builders have capped the previous age's rubble with contemporary habitation, so that on the top levels there are wooden shutters drying and cracking, the paint splitting, some are open (people are living there) and some closed (are people living there?). But all my thoughts are in the book I am reading - I've already told how I prefer to read with things happening around me - I need activities to generate white noise, I need people to ignore - it is a book on Picasso's Demoiselle's d'Avignon as it happens and D is unwinding with The Wind-up Girl. But I sense comfort and holiday from the patterns of the whicker chair under my arse; whicker and torpitude, what the hell it with that?

I can ignore the chattering groups of elderly tourists following an elevated numbered flag, broad Croatian accents (I once would have said Yugoslavian accent), I can disregard some shouting, laughing, posturing and the shatter of dropped glass where an excess of alcohol at a table over square has fueled the some forceful emotions and opinions, while the camera click and the clock chimes the half-hour. It's bloody hot as well, did I mention, though says only 27 (30% chance of rain) , it feels so much more, white glared from white stone, the air's stillness, sapping energy, greenhouse effect under the umbrella says Vic. And out of a blue sky a drop or two of rain falls, huh? Out of this clear sky? Maybe (must be) some clouds we can't see, beyond the buildings, some drops borne by a wind that we can't feel.

We'd like to move, now, make plans for the afternoons sunbathing on top of the corner tower, we cannot keep sitting here without purchasing something else, but lethargy is king in the summer palace of the Emperor Diocletian.


Textures of the stone. I must brush my hand agains the walls as I pass along the narrow deep alleys, the oncoming crowds are bottlenecking our way, and so we wander instead into the tour of the palace basement, cool, stone room to stone room, where those blocks that had been hewn from porous tuffa are pitted with decay, crumbling, and water seeps down, dripping, pooling, degrading the foundations even more, flushing away the mortar, and the walls in so danger of collapse so that we cannot enter the room with the ancient olive press, or we shouldn't but I push back the steel barrier and we pass in for a brief, up close examination - ah, that is a stone trough to catch the olive oil and not a solid block of granite.

Back up in the palace grounds we move on from square to square - though square is not the worth for these multi-sided, niched, many-alleyed open spaces - to the church tower, to the circular hole of the collapsed domed of the vestibule, and the clocks ring the hour. Under my hand I find bricks of soft stone that are flaking and dropping edges and corners, then the pebbled surface of granite and shiny smooth marbled columns shipped across the Mediterranean from Egypt. As the others climb the spiral staircase in the church-tower, I sit my arse on a slippery, arse-smoothed granite sepulcher, its inscription chiseled in AD MCCCCV.

On the lower walls of most houses the aged limestone blocks remain firm and my fingers slide across their solid surfaces. I feel their strength and resilience against the passage of time, feel them stippled with the fine cuts of the laborers chisel (or is it a band-saw?). They are still firm, strong, and shiny from nearly two thousand years of of the sweeping hands of passers-by.

Over the large blocks of the original walls are the next layer and its reclaimed arches (some bridge apartment to apartment and are flowing over with planter boxes), are some old bricks with new mortar, on the next layer up, newer limestone again. New old shutters on new old windows. And some of the layers are lateral - wide old Roman era stones still stand as the right side of the wall, but smaller limestone bricks make up the middle portion of the house and thin red bricks, rendered with crumbling stucco extend to the left. It's a hodge-podge, a melange, it's living and growing, reforming anew from the vestiges and remnants of the old, sorry, from the ancient to the merely old, and on top goes a satellite dish for the international sports channels.


We are staying on the Eastern walls of the palace of Diocletian, the empire's divider, the first of the Eastern emperors, the most enthusiastic Christian persecutor (welcome to the Balkans). We are just near the south-east corner tower, in an nice apartment on the fourth floor - I recommend it even though it is a walk-up. We step along our path to the tower and lie on lounge chairs, lean over the edge and watch people on the promenade, watch out for the flocks of swallows that come out towards evening and chase the small flies (the swallows do, not us). The top of the tower has been gone for hundreds of years, maybe a thousand years or more but hey, the view is still nice.


Tourists, tourists, they flock too. They throng and photograph and stand like slowly melting statues as they examine maps, slack-jawed, and reposition their glasses. Just like anywhere, just like everywhere, they tour like tourists. But us, we... ah fuck it, we tour like jaded, dizzy bus-hoppers as well, we stop for the photo-op, we wear our sun-hats and carry our day-packs (or man-bags), we eat at the hip places where only those millions of tourists in the know eat, we pass our hands along the stone and catch all sorts of e-coli and staph-A, we stare amazed at the resilience of stone and ponder our own ephemerality (as those that have any sensitivity should do), we participate in the walking that wears down, we half-read the history we are supposed learn, half-see the sights we are supposed to observe, we look on to the next place before we have finished in the pizza restaurants of the current. In the end we give up pretending to be anything else and we revel in our belonging to this flock of ducks wading in the waters of history .

So we scratch our initials in the millennia old tower ('My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings') and move on to the next blip on our itinerary...


Monday, June 06, 2011

Berlin Platzenplatz

Last few days E@L has been in Berlin with a friend from HK/Singapore who is currently staying in Lubeck on an extended assignment. There was holiday in Deutschland on Thursday so he came down on the train for a catch up as he is chronically bored in Lubeck with only a few native English speakers in the company and only so many Aussie TV series you can download through iTunes. Neither of us are particularly atherletic, more artheritic, but we did walking tours until the need for beer overcame us. This was relatively soon and relatively often. As the hotel is in a more austere shopping part of Berlin, Charlottenburg, we did not find much to do here, except a small chill bar around the corner called Gecco - aptly enough for those of us from those sultry equatorial climes where the little lizards are endemic.

(*Aside: the toilet walls in this bar are done with tiles running obliquely, a Cabinet of Dr Caligari look to them, and sure enough, from the perspective of sitting on the dunny, the door seems to be falling away from you - woah, spooky, mystic, weird - and there is nothing you can tell yourself that will allow your brain to overcome this effect, it is really disconcerting, and no E@L was not drunk at that time.)

E@L's partner in misdemeanor has a plethora of friends and family around the world, and he contacted an ex-Berlinischer who recommended a few bars and restaurants around Alexanderplatz and few other platzes. The best platz for wandering between food and drink we thought, was somewhere near Prenzlauer (I've lost, amongst other things, the email with exact address [how can you delete so COMPLETELY an email that it is no longer even in the trash bin, and accomplish this disappearing trick just by putting your phone back into your pocket?]) platz, an area with wide footpaths, lots of lindens to be unter, Italian restaurants, bars for University-types, bars with 80's music, very relaxing, very cool, very holidayish, but with a *hint* of decadence. It would be, we decided, the place to stay if we ever had to move to Berlin, which is not ever going to happen.


So with, our matching (white) Berlin tourist caps, we walked through the Tiergarten, we photographed Gold Lizzy, -

and E@L had a piss. We walked down to the Brandenburg Gate. We had beers at small place there and E@L had a piss. We Tour-Bussed it to Checkpoint Charlie and E@L had a piss in the "museum there.

E@L's phone was by then dead (camera is on the desk at home, as mentioned in prior post) and so he is relying on his buddy to post photos of this part of the trip, which included the last remaining part of The Wall.

Is there a toilet here somewhere?


Associated Incidents of Interest (but which would require a lengthy blog post each on their own) on this Berlin leg of the trip:

Missed and pay for next one: flight from Barcelona to Berlin.

Lost and found in the laundry basket: one watch.

Missing: several hours on Friday night.

Misplaced and found under the side table: one folder of flight and hotel information.

Sat upon then bent back into an almost acceptable shape that holds the lens in for a few minutes: one brand new pair of $350 prescription sunglasses.

Not E@L's size: a pair very comfortable shoes, damn.

Confused then sorted: taxi directions to either the Stasi prison (Hohenshönburg) and the Nazi concentration camp (Sachsenhausen).

Scary and depressing and evoking a deep misanthropy: see above.

Perfect: a new man-bag that the Xoom fits into nicely.

Fracking sore: two pair of feet (E@L's and buddy's).

Very funny: the tour guide on the open-topped tourist bus (yes, as mentioned, we gave up on the walking soon enough).

Admired: the tall, gorgeous, blue-eyed girls, so many of these Aryans beauties, so attractive I just want to selectively breed with them - either that or just fuck them.

Scarred for life: the top of E@L's head where he tried to take down the steel bars of the tour bus's retracted sun/rain shelter (he blames the peak of his white Berlin tourist hat for blocking his vision of this as he came up the stairs).

Uncertain: the address of the hotel in Split that Izzy's bf has organized, and once again E@L has lost the email (resolved by the Split taxi driver calling the apartment).


Of course the walk around the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was sobering in the extreme. What is it about our understanding of ourselves, the enlightenment and the progress of civilization, what did we miss in this alleged growth that allowed us to misinterpret the long chain of events that led to this Nazi situation, and not just in Germany, that allowed our (self-denied) complicity in such a death machine, and for us to not have seen it coming. Well, there was our acceptance of the pseudo-science of eugenics and the self-serving, profit-motivated design and implementation of technology, such as IBM's punch-card machines, the research of chemical companies... We just keep telling ourselves we're not as bad as history tells we really are, because hey, back then people were savages. Evil is banal, as it always as been no matter which country gets caught out in its bloodthirsty banality... (Belgians in the Congo, short memory, Americans in Abu Ghraib, must have a, Russians in the Gulag, sho-or-ort memory). Savages, all noble in our suits and ties.


When we read about, hear about, see people do terrible things, we claim that they are being "inhuman". But what it really amounts to is that they are being quintessentially "human".


Now E@L has farewelled his buddy to the Hauptbänhhof for his train back to Lubeck and is waiting for his flight to Split at an Irish Pub in Schoenenfeld . They are everywhere, those bloody Irish. He is looking forward to some time with Izzy and her part-time video director boyfriend, plus Izzy's little sister. E@L will have 12 days enjoying the sun and clear waters of the islands on the Dalmation coast, then reaching Dubrovnik. Maybe he'll get some time to report on this later**...


** Am in Split now typing the rest of this, putting in some more typos and where we are is amazing, gorgeous. We are staying, I kid you not, in a part of Emperor Diocletian's 4th century palace - the part with air-con. Photos and more blogging to come.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Walking and Walking

The curse of the flaneur strikes again...


via a whole range of people


Barcelona: Days 2 to ... oops out of time

Just finished packing for Berlin, my CPAP wife (Well, I sleep wif it done I?) snug and safe.


Saturday, took the Blue bus that did the Gaudi Tour. First of all La Pedrera, one weird looking house, woah. Roof undulating, balconies sticking out with twisted iron balustrades, strange chipped texture on the external walls (must have taken ages to do this)...

Then back on the bus to Sagrada Familia... and was suitably and completely overawed. Fucking amazing place. The way Gaudi "designed" it, by hanging links of connected chains and seeing where gravity took them, then inverting that model to create a self supporting structure, was pure genius.

Look at this upside down.

My question for all of these buildings; how did Gaudi get council approval to build such structurally innovative designs? For Sagrada Familia, they said he didn't even submit the architectural blueprints with all the mathematics of the loads, etc... calculated, he just gave them drawings and they approved. Way!

Here are just a few of the photos. If you want more, just Google it, I'm saving cloud-space here.

In the middle years of my life, I found myself lost in the forest of Gaudi, for I had strayed from the audio-guide path...

Dripping concrete? Out there dude!


On the way back to Placa Catalanya, the road was blocked again, and we had to be dropped off a few hundred metres from the square (back at La Pedrera actually). This time it wasn't the absence of people that was interesting, it was the crowd! Many young people in Barcelona FC shirts, kiddies, grandparents, everyone, all excited and tooting horns and chanting.

I kept negotiating my way down towards the Placa but the crowd became more dense, spilling on to the streets, even though cars were trying to get through. Eventually I was blocked at an intersection. The people here were looking down this street expectantly, excitedly, the tension palpably growing.

A line of mounted crowd-control police slowly edged the crowd pack to the footpaths. This looked a bit scary, but the crowd had no problems, the horses were calm, the cops were smiling. Then a line of police vans, then a line of those brick shithouses I mentioned the other day, and then, cheering and whooping and jumping and flag waving...

A blue open topped bus slowly paraded down... The word "Campions" was blazoned across its front and two large cups were perched up top. Behind these cups, the players themselves were jumping and yelling, tossing drinks over each other. I was so lucky to stumble on this...



Oops time running out, have to check out, head for lunch, then taxi to the airport. Hope I can get some time to describe this terrific town more before the sights and emotions of Berlin swamp them...


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