Some Days Are More Delightful Than Others


Which is another way of saying “some days are downright boring.” Nothing delights me. After four months of drought, heat and smoke from burning vegetation, a rain storm came by. You’d think I’d be ecstatic. Instead, I complained that it was false advertising, all promise, no delivery. They sky grew dark, a few drops fell, and that was it.

I’ll admit it, I’m miffed. Disgruntled. Is this all there is? Life’s not fair. Why do some people get to have it all while the rest of us grovel around only inches from despair? Poor me. If God were listening, I’d try to get Him to feel guilty. But he’s not. He’s listening to the money problems of sexy celebrities.

 

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Who Do I Have to Blow to Get a Cup of Coffee Around Here?


Our plan for today was simple. We would find an air-conditioned train down the coast, ride for a few hours and then rest at an interesting small city. But all the trains were full because it’s the day after the coronation of the new king. So we bought the only ticket we could, on a third-class train that was full to the breaking point. People were standing in the aisles. It was very hot and humid. We rode for two hours and then when we stopped at a fair-sized town, we bailed. Our tickets had only cost a dollar for the two of us.

I really needed a cup of coffee. They hadn’t had a coffee shop at the new Bangkok train station, which is under construction and due to be completed in a couple of years if they’re lucky. Well, there was one but it was closed. Thai coffee shops are often closed early in the morning. They think of coffee as something you drink later in the day, when you take a break from shopping. This city we got off in, Nakornpatom has only one coffee shop, butt it too was closed. There are ample opportunities to drink instant coffee, but I would rather drink sewage than that swill.

I don’t know if it’s the heat or the caffeine withdrawal but I’m not feeling well. We got a cheap hotel room next to the train station and I slept for two hours. I went outside to find a cup of coffee and walked for half an hour in incredible heat. Finally, I found a coffee cart with a real espresso machine.

In everywhere but here, there are too many coffee shops. Ten years ago, when I first arrived in Thailand, there were almost none. The coffee changed my mood. I began to look on the bright side. There is an amazing temple right downtown, that looks like something out of the set for the movie The Wizard of Oz, and a lot of 1960’s futuristic architecture that promises to make for interesting photography once the sun gets much lower in the sky.

WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN, WHAT WILL IT SMELL LIKE?


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The ever-rising use of anti-fungicides on crops is driving the evolution of fungi capable of resisting all known drugs. Candida auris, a variant that is spreading rapidly in various parts of the world, is estimated to kill ten million people by the year 2050.

Here, the New York Times describes an outbreak in April, 2019:

hospital workers used a special device to spray aerosolized hydrogen peroxide around a room used for a patient with C. auris, the theory being that the vapor would scour each nook and cranny. They left the device going for a week. Then they put a “settle plate” in the middle of the room with a gel at the bottom that would serve as a place for any surviving microbes to grow, Dr. Rhodes said. Only one organism grew back. C. auris.

It was spreading, but word of it was not. The hospital, a specialty lung and heart center that draws wealthy patients from the Middle East and around Europe, alerted the British government and told infected patients, but made no public announcement.

There was no need to put out a news release during the outbreak,” said Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for the hospital.

This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients — or prospective ones.”

So it’s spreading rapidly in many parts of the globe, and nobody wants to talk about it.

We’re all aware that Armageddon may be just around the corner, but we don’t know where to look, and even if we were looking the in the right direction, we may not see it. If there is a nuclear exchange between warring countries, or even a “dirty bomb” attack, spreading radioactivity from a conventional explosive encased by anything from radioactive waste to pure plutonium, most of us will not directly witness this event. Those who do will probably not be around to talk about it. We all will, however, feel the effects for years afterwards.

Even so, most disasters are harder to directly observe than one would assume. Most of us first witness a flood via a “road closed” sign and a policeman waving his torch to tell us to keep moving. Our first sign of a global catastrophe might be the ATM not working. The Internet might be down, or dramatically slow. Our cellphones might not work. Hours later, we might begin to hear rumors and then official announcements, explaining what happened and what we were supposed to do in response.

I was in Argentina when the currency suddenly devalued in 2001. Without warning (except that the higher-ups in government had advanced notice to send their savings abroad) bank accounts that had been equally denominated in dollars and pesos were now only available in pesos. Within a few months, the peso was devalued by four hundred percent. Withdrawals at banks were limited to twenty dollars per day, then ten, then five. The government declared a “bank holiday” to announce all this. Beware of sudden government-announced holidays.

If there is a enormous plague outbreak, or a nuclear war, you can bet the first thing that will happen is travel will become restricted. You will need official permission to go most places. Visa-on-arrival will disappear. Currency withdrawals will be closely monitored and limited.

In an attempt to quell panic, these changes will be announced as “temporary” but will soon prove to be permanent. After the Patriot Act became law following the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, many freedoms we took for granted were suspended and then eliminated. Most of us didn’t notice.

The fact most of us are reluctant to consider is that there’s a good chance at sometime in our lifetimes we’re going to face a catastrophe, and the governmental sources which we depend upon will fail us. If they are able to do anything at all they will, as happened in Argentina, take care of their own first.

A REVERIE


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TOO RETIRED FOR COMFORT

mostly talking about what it’s like to be me

He found it hard to stick with any one thing. More than a short attention span, he manifested a terror of committing to a singleness of purpose. His life was a pastiche of unfinished projects, halfhearted dabbling, unfocused whimsy.

He was born that way. Often he would tell a friend who realized the depth of his affliction “It isn’t my fault. I was born this way.” Had he tried medication? No, sadly there was no cure for what ailed him. If there were, maybe he could have amounted to something, but since there wasn’t, he would have to be content with who he was, a person who left behind a trail of half-finished business.

One day he resolved to come up with a solution. He would devise a task so simple that follow-through would be effortless. He would simply count his breath as he went about his day. If he lost count, he would start over again, but he would always be counting. It would give him a sense of purpose and a plan he could stick with.

He found that counting grounded him. Counting your breath is so effortless that it doesn’t stop you from doing something else at the same time. You can’t easily talk and count your breath, but you can keep count on your fingers while you’re talking and then add that sum to the grand total once you’ve stopped talking.

Once he had improved his abilities to concentrate, he found that he could come up with new ideas that were popping up from some strange place inside him. A font of creativity with no known source, but it must come from a synthesis of what he was taking in. Things he’d read, movies he’d seen, conversations he’d had, all entered his psyche and then exited later as something different, improved, or at least mutated.

Now he needed more than just the ability to pay attention. He needed to find something worthy of that attention, something to pay attention to over a long enough time period to matter. He could learn a foreign language, master a musical instrument, take up oil painting…there are lots of activities that take years to achieve any sort of competency. He needed to choose.

Clay Garden in Lamphun, the stand-in for Angkor Wat


It’s a hobby for a Thai man who loves making things out of terra cotta, the lightly fired clay that we are most familiar with as bricks. They’ve got clay by the ton down there, and in a park near the river that’s at least forty acres, maybe more, he’s built all sorts of things. Houses, temples, statues…and the best part is, he likes chaos. He likes leaving broken clay pieces lying on the ground, covered sometimes in leaves, plants growing through the piles, mold growing on everything. It gives it that romantic “abandoned temple in the jungle” look that is so evocative.

 

 

There but for the grace of God go I


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This evening I was getting a foot massage on the promenade that runs along the beach here in Prachuap Khiri Khan, a small city in the South of Thailand. I was amicably chatting with the ladies who intermittently called out to prospective customers who walked or cycled by. Then a Caucasian man who looked to be my age cycled up and stopped directly across the street. I expected them to call out to him but they didn’t. I noted that he was probably exactly my age. They said “he’s a bad drunk. He has no friends and no girlfriend and he’s always alone. Nobody wants him around.”

I kept watching him, and from this distance couldn’t tell if he was inebriated. He certainly wasn’t being overtly obnoxious. But he was alone, smoking cigarette after cigarette and looking like he was just about to come to a decision about something. He sat there for the duration of my massage, and when I left he was still there, staring at the middle of the road, as dusk gathered around us.

It was one of those “there but for the grace of God go I,” moments.