Tornados in Omaha

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  30.3.06 @ 14:11

All,

I'm in a basement...all is well. Updates as events warrant...
______________________
Best Regards,

Rich Williams, ¡en transito!


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Fotos y Mas Fotos

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  23.3.06 @ 19:10

So the website that I was hosting the blog photos on decided that they didn't want to host my blog photos anymore. That's why you see the blank spaces posted around here. I'll get another server when I get back home.

The photo that was at the top of this page was a shot of Danube from midspan on Chain Bridge in Budapest. It was a combo shot that I did a bit of photoshopping to. The right side had a flag from every place that had ever stamped my passport.

On the plus side, I did get around to posting the pictures of Thailand. The address is on the right side. Look for the Thai flag. When I find a better service than Yahoo (that doesn't require registration) I'll repost the lot.

So, can you figure out what the hose is for?

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...Did You Pack Your Own Bags?

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  21.3.06 @ 04:53

So it's snowing here in Indianapolis. In two hours they've gotten 3 inches. So I got up and got moving a bit eariler than normal; traffic is always a bitch.

Imagine my surprise when I got in the hotel elevator this morning and reached in my pocket to pull out my gloves and found a dish towel. Yes, a dish towel. I'm now going to spend the rest of the day wondering how it got there.

Douglas Adams and Ford Prefect would be proud.


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He Said: Final Thoughts on Thailand

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  19.3.06 @ 13:49

So Madame Librarian had her say...now I get mine. I have this to say in summary about Thailand: it is a land of contrasts and sublime irony.

BTW: Madame Librarian has done a fair amount of directing traffic to this little corner of the web. Just so you know, only members can post (I get enough spam). Shoot me an email (or any other member for that matter - we're all administrators) and I'll get you signed up. The rules are posted in the archives - December 2005 as I recall.

So as for Thailand, keep in mind that I'm writing this while confined to the smoking lounge at the Denver Airport (and contined on a B737 to Indianapolis). It's cold outside, and I was thrust back into the realities of the rat race two days after getting off the plane.

The Thai people have a huge cultural emphasis on saving face. What this means is that they keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, and always try to end things amicably. Therefore, I will end this posting on the positive, as I don't want my sarcasm misconstrued as denigrating.

First, the bad. The pollution is unbelieveable. Dick Cheny (the smoking gun V.P. of the U.S.) would get a hard-on from it. Even in Chiang Mai, a city of less than a million people has worse smog than Houston and L.A. combined. Aimee and I are used to not seeing the sun as we live in Oregon. However the sun doesn't shine in Thailand because of the smog. It's that bad. Yet in spite of this, the smog is the only criticism that I can offer of this wonderful country.

Bangkok traffic is also beyond belief. Crossing the street is literally like playing Frogger. People in North and South America, Europe, and Down Under just cannot fathom what it is like. Caracas aint got shit on Bangkok. People in Caracas obey traffic laws. Even "la ruta desde inferno" pales in comparison. However, it must be admired as an adaptation to the reaities that exist: The city was built without any sort of traffic envisioned. A city with a population in excess of seven million made it work for them. It must be seen - and admired - for that reason alone.

I'll describe tuk-tuks like this: if the Teutuls (the American Chopper guys - forgive the spelling) smoked some crack and were asked to do something with a rickshaw, the tuk-tuk would be the result. Thailand is the land of adaptation and innovation. The rickshaw is a terribly inefficient way to deal with transit issues. The Thai people changed that. I will say that you shouldn't ride them in Bangkok however. They only take you to places that give them a kickback. But other than that, a ride is a must for anyone visiting Thailand.

As for the bartering, Aimee is a bit misconstrued in her insinuation (sp?) that I am soft on it. I know I have the cash, and I know that farangs (look it up on Wikipedia) pay more. Besides, I really like my rip-off Teva sandals and North Face fanny pack. I felt even more justified when I got my cheesy Chairman Mao watch. I gained an admiration for a people who are brazen enough to fake Chinese goods.

As for the watch, it adds to my "comrade time" collection. I picked up a cheesy Soviet watch in Budapest a while back. I just wish the had a smiling Ho Chi Minh watch to go with it. The Chairman Mao watch has a complication of Mao's wand waving as the seconds tick by. Being as it's a rip off of a real Chinese timepiece, I only wish that it was waving a middle finger. It takes huevos muy grande to rip off the icon of Chinese communism.

Another interesting contrast that you must experience are the smells. Heavenly wafts of satay, incense, and tropical flowers are punctuated by raw sewage. You just have to experience this dicotomy of olfactory sensation. It's a reminder that beauty and ugliness are part of a cycle. The Bible says, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." South Park says, "we are all part of the circle of poo."

Going back to the commerical end of things, Thai culture is a culture of free traders of the purest sense. Unlike many histories of East Asia, Siam has never been a closed society. I would also dare to suggest this is the sole reason that Europe never colonized Thailand. The Thai people have always been traders and middlemen. Yet despite the culture of trade, Thailand is still part of the developing world. Contrast the cultural spirit of Thailand with Singapore - just down the Maylay Pennisula from Bangkok. The cities were founded for similar reasons within one-hundred years (or so) of each other - pure, unadulterated, unfettered trade with The West. Yet Singapore is miles ahead of Bangkok in their standards of living. If I am speaking out of my ass here - just tell me.

One of the strangest ironies I found was in the flag of Thailand. The contrast wasn't in the flag itself, but in its availability. Everywhere you go, you see the Thai flag flying. The tuk-tuks and taxis fly it. The night market vendors fly it. Shops everywhere fly the flag. But nowhere do you see it for sale. Nowhere. Being a citizen of the U.S., I found this remarkable.

In The States, the U.S. flag flys everywhere as well. Our flag is held in a reverence beyond that of the shroud of Turin. Even tattered and old flags are religious icons. In the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics (held in Salt Lake City - my former home) the organizers nationalized the event by bringing out the flag flown at the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The flag flown at Fort McHenry (the inspiration for our national anthem) is one of the most visited exhibits at the Smithsonian.

But for the life of me, I couldn't find a souvenier Thai flag anywhere. I collect a flag of any country that has stamped my passport. It shows off where I have been. It also reminds me that the U.S. is only one nation of many - all equally deserving of respect and understanding. I finally got one at a vendor in a night market in Chiang Mai. This woman was selling sew-on patches of all sorts of national flags. She sold me the semi tattered and moderately dirty flag that she flew at her stand. The pole is a coat hanger. I washed it a bit in the hotel bathroom, and thought I would really clean it up once I got home. However, once I got me, I thought better of it. The bits of tarnish that remain are somehow give it dignity. Thailand is a culture that while crude by western standards, is unique and hard working. They have good reason to be proud. Put another way, a crude coat hanger pole and a bit of ground-in dirt and smog on their national symbol reflect the cultural spirit of ingenuity and willingness to work hard. In this respect, we have much to learn from them. If only the rest of the world had such culural values, life would be very different.

The work ethic that is so pervasive in Thailand deserves special praise. People work very hard under excruciating conditions. Aimee and I were there in the final stages of winter - and it was worse than a summer in Louisiana. Hot and shitty doesn't even begin to describe the climate. I quit wearing deodorant because it just turned into gobs of shit in my armpits.

[Side note: I sincerely apologize to my fellow passengers on the Bangkok Skytrain of Tuesday, 14 March. When I got back to the hotel and changed into swimming clothes, my own smell nearly made me vomit. I really did shower that day - before I ventured out. But 38 degrees Celcius and 99 percent humidity are going to result in some fine bacteria feasting upon the perspiration of this farang. As for any possible commentary by others that I don't wear deodorant anyway, yes I do. I just don't on my days off.]

Forgive me, I digress. The heat is possibly the most severe condition under which these people work diligently away. I can't imagine what it is like in the summer. In The West, we would bitch about the heat until we were blue in the face. Even the American military has days during basic training that they don't march. Those days are mild in comparison to the heat in Thailand. Yet despite the heat, they always are happy and nice, and moist importantly free of stress. The only other place I have ever experienced this was New Zealand, and to a certain extent, Australia. Despite the harsh condiitions and struggle, the traffic and smog, the rat race that we experience in The West is non-existant in Thailand. Perhaps it is part of the whole face saving aspect of the culture. Whatever the reason, we have much to learn there as well.

Why is it that we are this way? I speak here of an attitude that is pervasive in North America and Europe. In American English, we call it the rat-race. This is the crisis mode that we impose upon ourselves. Why do we do it? What does it get us? Are we so enamoured with the two cars, house, and chicken in every pot that we stress ourselves into early graves? Note the irony in this little soliliquy (sp?) as I write this from a fucking blackberry at 35,000 feet in an airplane - yes, I am a hypocrite.

Let me end by raving about the food. At the cooking school in Chiang Mai, Thai cuisine was described by the presenter as a blend of Indian and Chinese ingredients, made unique by the Thai's themselves. "The very best of both worlds that we made our own" as he put it. Our worst meal in counrty was better than most I've had elsewhere. As for the irony here: take a look into how to make shrimp paste and fish sauce. Its revolting. Smell them if you don't believe me - it's enough to gag a maggot. Yet added where they should be, the results are orgasmic.

In closing, I'll tell you all what I told someone today who asked: don't go to Europe - go to Thailand. You will never be the same.


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Final thoughts on Thailand

Language butchery by redhotknitter on  18.3.06 @ 18:19

Rich just reminded me to send my final thoughts on Thailand.
First the traffic rules.
1. There are no rules. Rich says there are suggestions. I'd surmise that they are more like ideas. Stop signs exist. Stop lights exist. No one really pays attention to either.
2. Lanes are also just a suggestion. You can have a one lane road suddenly turn into three. Rich and I found ourselves in the middle of a (normally) two-lane road with three lanes of traffic passing us on each side. If not for the Thai man standing next to me in the middle of the road, I would have thought the end was near. However, he was totally relaxed, so I figured we were okay.
3. Which brings us to: crossing the street. Crossing the street is taking your life into your hands. Remember the video game frogger? We played the human version. It involved cars, buses, tuk-tuks, and motorcycles.
4. Motorcycles. I called them the motorcycle mafia. Why? They rule the roads. They weave in and out of traffic and onto sidewalks with complete disregard to people and vehicles around them. They all work to get to the front of the traffic line and zoom out by the hundreds. Even when you think the way is clear, you must always watch for motorcycles. And there are motorcycle taxis. Rich wouldn't let me try them as I have only been on a motorcycle once in my life. Rich says in the 80s there was a role-playihng game called Car Wars. The slogan of the game was taken direct from Bangkok: If you don't like the way we drive, stay off the streets, the sidewalks, and the lawns!
5. Tuk-tuks. They are three-wheeled contraptions without mufflers or emission controls. They seem to be driven by teenages or old men. Neither with valid licenses. It is the new version of the rickshaw. You have to haggle the price before you get on or you will be taken for a monetary as well as smelly ride.
6. Turn signals are optional. Enough said.
7. The horn is used to say hello. To say Here I am. Usually not to say, get out of my way. It is a nice, if noisy, rule.
8. No need to hail a taxi. There are taxis and tuk-tuks everywhere. And they are cheap. If you need one for longer, hire a driver. Ours cost about $5.00 per hour and was well worth it.
9. When in Bangkok, use the Skytrain. It is clean and airconditioned and a day pass costs about $2.50! It will take you to many 7+ story malls. You can shop and skytrain all day long.

I can't think of any other rules.

I'm am, for the first time in my life, shopped out. This is Rich's version of bargaining in Thailand:
Rich: How much is that?
Seller: 500 baht.
Rich: What is your best price?
Seller: For you. Very best customer. 450 baht.
Rich: Okay.

Aimee's version:
Aimee: How much is that?
Seller: 500 baht.
Aimee: 500 baht? Too much. What is your best price?
Seller: For you? You my best customer. 450 baht.
Aimee: How about 300 baht?
Seller: Oh that is too little. 400 baht.
Aimee: 350 baht. Final offer.
Seller: (thinks it over). Okay 350 baht.

Lesson learned: Rich hates bargaining. I love it. Rich thinks I'm cheap. I think its a game. The sellers will not sell for less than they can afford. They are happy and I'm happy. I agree with Rich that it is an ineffective way to buy stuff, but it was sure entertaining. I bought a lot of stuff, got a lot of massages, and ate many great meals. I can't wait to go back!

We loved Thailand and would highly recommend it to all. It is a beautiful country with friendly, happy people. The heat and humidity are wearing, but it was a nice relief from the rainy cold of Eugene.

Final note: High Tea at the Oriental Hotel. In general, the meals we ate were very inexpensive. Both of us could eat and have beer for under $10.00. We had a meal at the Indian restaurant in the Holiday Inn one night that was pricey (we thought) but then we went for tea at the Oriental. Mind you, I knew it would be expensive, but worth it. When else are you going to be able to go to a world-reknowned for its service and have tea? We had tea with three stories of culinary delights. Scones, finger sandwiches, and chocolates galore. We ate ourselves sick! All for the low price of 2900 baht (about $70.00). Not the very best price, but well worth it.

Aimee

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Your plane is boarding

Language butchery by redhotknitter on  ;@ 18:18

Hey all,

We will be boarding in about 15 minutes, so this will
be short and sweet.

Thai cooking school was fabulous. We learned to make
curry paste from scratch which is a huge pain in the
butt! Afterwards, we braved the Sunday Walking Street
Market. They close off major streets in downtown
chiang Mai and open it to street vendors! Over 50,000
people show up! It is intense, insane, and
delightful--especially when you realize that you need
to walk with the flow of traffic rather than against
it! I purchased some last minute gifts. We stopped
in a bar for some beer and cooling off and met a
charming couple from AUS. We spent about 2 hours
chatting with them which was great.

the next morning was our last in Chiang Mai. We went
up the mountain to Doi Sut Tep. A huge temple. It was
stunning. I got blessed by a monk. Rich lost his
favorite hat. He's still upset about it. may whoever
stole it come back as a cockroach. I found it rather
ironic. The Buddha preached against love of worldly
goods and focused on finding enlightment. Of any
place to lose something you hold dear, a Buddhist
temple is ironic!

We left that afternoon for Bangkok, after one last
massage at the Heaven Hut. It was traditional
massage-not the special kind that Rich kept getting
offered everytime I wasn't around! Prostitution is
rampant here. It was heartbreaking to see young
(YOUNG) girls plying their trade. Families are so
poor they sell their daughters to brothels to survive.
The HIV/AIDS rate in Thailand is the fastest growing
in the world. It was really difficult for me to see
this all around.

We returned to Bangkok, where it was so humid, our
glasses fogged up! It is intensely hot and humid
here. Tuesday we spent the day exploring the city via
the Skytrain. Thank god it is airconditioned. We saw
three huge malls. They made American consumerism pale
in comparison. One was at least 7 stories and packed
with people and shops. Insane. I finally wore out
and had to leave Rich alone. I went back to the hotel
and found a massage parlor. Then had some of the best
street food. A extremely fresh/spicy chicken soup.
they use the whole chicken. But I ate it.

Yesterday, we took it fairly easy. We did some lazy
shopping and went to high tea at the Oriental Hotel.
The Oriental is world-renowned for its service. It is
definitely the classiest hotel I've been in. The tea
I had sold for $50 for 100 grams! Needless to say I
didn't buy it!. We were stuffed from the experience,
but I went on to eat dinner anyway. Bad shrimp.
Lorie warned me not to eat the shrimp. I ate the
shrimp. I'm still paying for eating the shrimp.
Never eat the shrimp!

I got one last massage. Rich packed my bags. And now
he's telling me to sign off so that we can catch our
flight.

I wish I had time to tell you of the traffic rules
here. I'll try to post to Rich's blog about them in
Tokyo.

Aimee

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Rivers in Thailand

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  12.3.06 @ 23:25

Hey all,

Here's part two of our journey through thailand. we got to chiang mai on thursday without any trouble. we
walked around and explored the night market. it is a crazy cacophony of sounds and smells. People
everywhere asking you to buy their things. too many things. I've spent way too much money.

friday we spent at the elephant nature conserve. It was incredible. we fed the elephants and bathed them.
elephant snot is a curious thing! the babies are adorable. but watch out. don't get between one and
its mama or auntie or you are in trouble. i had a trunk come at me. i've never moved so fast in my
life! you can read more about it on rich's blog: www.misterich.blogspot.com. we bathed in a river with
elephant dung floating by us. all i can say is, "thank god for white blood cells". also (because this
is not on the blog) elephants have huge penises. they call them a fifth leg for a reason. OH MY GOD!!!
Poor girl elepants.

Yesterday we hired a driver and went shopping. sounds pretentious right? It was the best way for us to get
around in a timely manner. we could have rented a car or motorbike and gotten lost or killed, so we went the
safe route. we also saw some incredible temples and ate the best lunch. How can I say that? every meal
sans one has been the best meal. and the pineapple shakes are to die for.

the heat is getting more bearable. It helps when the local people are hot too. they keep saying it is too
hot for them! Its hot. really hot. I'm sunburnt and bug-bitten. I just hope I don't have malaria or
encephilitis (sp?). whatever. It was worth it for the food.

Last night we went on a dinner river cruise down the river Ping. environmentalism hasn't hit thailand yet.
as you float down the muddy water, you see all kinds of things floating with you--trays of food, shit,
bottles, toys, anything people don't want anymore. I kind of lost my appetite. but it was a nice night and
cool on the river.

Okay, I'm off to cooking school. there's hope for me yet mom! rich has traveler's stomach, so we'll see
how he fairs today. the man's mouth is not in tune with his stomach. at lunch yesterday he poured a tiny
bowl (an ounce?) of the super hot chili oil the thais use on his already super hot green curry. He's been
paying for it every since. His mouth might be about to handle hot, but his intestines are still not happy!

I ate breakfast on the street this morning. Incredible. and $1.00. even better. I'm off to join
rich for thai iced coffee and head to eat all day long.

Hope you all are well. can't say I'm missing you too much. I'm having the vacation of a lifetime here.
wait until you see the photos!

Aimee

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Greetings from Thailand

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  ;@ 23:23

Hi all!

I'm writing this email from the VIP lounge (thanks Rich for having status on Star Alliance) before we
board the plane to Chiang Mai.

Its been quite an experience getting to Thailand. First our flight was cancelled out of Eugene, putting
us a minimum of one day behind schedule--more if it got cancelled again. We flew out Sunday afternoon and
camped in San Francisco overnight. Yay for In-n-Out Burgers! We got on our flight to Tokyo and lucked
out--a free row of four seats-this never happens! Our flight was late into Norita, so we barely had time to
jog at leisurely pace through the airport to get on the plane to Bangkok. Once again luck. We had a row
of three seats to ourselves, so we could stretch abit.

We landed in Bangkok at 11:35 pm on Tuesday night! Somehow I seem to have lost Sunday-Tuesday, but that's
okay. We got to the lovely Bangkok Holiday Inn at 1am and slept until about 5am, when my body woke up and
said, "Feed Me"! That's where jetlag hurts the most.

We only had yesterday in Bangkok before departing today. So we took a river boat cruise to all the
major sites. We were both super impressed with the Royal houses and Jade Buddha. Incredible! However,
the heat was overwhelming and was a wilted flower. Its about 95 degrees and super humid. I couldn't
drink enough water. With dehydration and jetlag we both crashed at the hotel around 4pm.

Before that however, we asked a local for a good restaurant. She told us about a place next to "the
wall". We found it. It was literally a hole in the wall. We ordered off the menu and had one of the best
meals ever! We both ordered different beef salads. One was way too spicy for me, but Rich loved it.
Tsing Hao beer is excellent.

Last night after resting, we went to the rooftop pool and cooled off. Then we had a fabulous Indian dinner.
It was unbelievable.

We were asleep by 8:30pm. Gotta love jetlag.

Bangkok is a cacophony of noises, smells, and sights. There is color everywhere. You can get food
anywehere. I've been daring and eating the fruit off the street. So far so good. There are motorcycles
driving at impossible speeds through the street making it impossible to cross with any hope of safety. Rich
and I were stuck in the middle of the road yesterday for what seemed like an eternity as traffic drove
past. But the local man seemed unperturbed by it all, so we just waited until he decided to walk!

We are off today to Chiang Mai. We'll be back for more Bangkok adventures next week. I hope Chiang Mai
is quieter so that we can get used to things before heading back to the big city. I really like what I've
seen of Bangkok so far. It is not a dull city!

Hope you all are well,
Aimee

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Time Zone Differences are a Bitch

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  10.3.06 @ 07:42

So here is a nice little exchange I had with my older brother Terry yesterday. You see, I had asked him for the clothing sizes of his three beautiful daughters before I left.

No reply.

Then I sent a message when I got here.

No reply.

Now, keep in mind I am 14 timezones ahead of him. That means that 6 P.M. here in Thailand is 4 A.M. in New Mexico (NM). Here's the exchanges:

Oh yeah. One more thing - this was an exchange via SMS (text messaging)...
---------------------------

**Mar 9, 2006 16:46 (02:46 NM time)**
To: Terry
"Did you get the my earlier message about needing clothing sizes? You would not believe how cheap silk is."

**Mar 9, 2006 16:56:36 (02:56 NM time)**
To: Rich
"Sorry, I did, then forgot. I'll them this afternoon."

**Mar 9, 2006 21:36 (07:36 NM time)**
To: Terry
"Aimee suggested I go the jewelry route. There are some obvious advantages to that, as it isn't something they outgrow. Additionally, it is kept and treasured. The problem there is I don't know how tom-boyish the three sources of your gray hair (and my infinite delight) are."

** Mar 9, 2006 22:07 (08:07 NM time)**
To: Rich
"Jewery sounds fine. My girls are fairly tom-ish, but they do like jewery, and will wear the occasional dress."

[Ed note: Terry, turn up your spell check. I am in Thailand, not Isreal :-P]

** Mar 9, 2006 22:17 (08:17 NM time)**
To: Terry
"Thanks much. I'll see what can't be found.

Damn - you're up early!"

** Mar 9, 2006 22:21 (08:21 NM time)**
To: Rich
"It's 8:20 AM here, it was early when you paged me this morning (3:00 AM)!"

** Mar 9, 2006 22:22 (08:22 NM time)**
To: Terry
"...Evil laughter...."


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Swimming in the Rivers of Thailand

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  ;@ 07:12

Yep. We did it. We hopped in the river today - and had a water fight.

Today Madame Librarian and went to the Elephant Nature Park. It's outside of Chaing Mai - do a search on it to get the address. We washed down the elephants. I have to admit it was a bit of a surreal experience. These were abused and tortured animals that finally got a sanctuary. They were friendly - when we had food of course - and I was really caught up in the whole experience. Here I am, washing down an elephant with a bunch of Dutch and Germans. Aimee remarked, "...did you ever think you would be washing and feeding elephants in Thailand?"

So here we are in the middle of the river, wrapped up in a moment. And then the poo floated by. Elephants aren't potty trained.

After that, the mahoots started a water fight. Yessiree...Aimee and I had a water fight - with the Dutch and Germans - with raw elephant sewage as the ammo.

Eat your heart out Super Loo! This is a toilets of the world journal entry on a level of its own.

Aimee later noted that elephant dung makes an excellent conditioner. However, the bouquet needs refining.

On completely un related notes, I bought some knock-off Teva sandals tonight. I also started to get gifts for the nieces, and I found one of my co-workers some interesting rocks (agate and quartz OK Charlotte?) I've also found some great devices to torture my siblings with. Terry and Dave - you have a biblical plague of frogs coming...BWHAHAHAHA!!!

Pictures are forthcoming...


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Warning: Bad Cliches Enclosed

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  9.3.06 @ 07:16

If you don't get this posting, do a search for "Murray Head" and "mp3", as well as a Robin Williams Movie listing. If you still don't get it, you don't remember either 1985 or 1987.

So, I've spent two nights in Bangkok, and the world is my oyster, or so I've been told. However, being as they aren't too tasty looking in the food department. Besides - I'm not eating anything that comes out of the rivers here. The Chopraya is a sewer.

Yes, if you've seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town you've seen them all. What is different is the scent of jasmine, orchid, and spices augmented with punches of diesel exhaust and wafts of raw sewage. Something will smell incredible and then it's like sticking your head up a tailpipe while someone farts. Its a sensory load that grinds the gears of the mind.

Its really fucking hot here too. "...forecast for today - hot and shitty with a continued chance for hot, fading on to shitty later tonight...". Thank god beer is really cheap. A bottle is about 60 Baht, or $1.60. As the earlier posting said, don't drink the water, and don't panic.

Aimee and I got massages today. BTW: I get my kicks above the waistline (sunshine). I must really be stressed out as the 80 lb woman kept asking if I was ok as she contorted my body into positons that would make a yoga instructor cringe.

No, I didn't get a happy ending. That was the guy next door who was groaning and moaning. Jesus - he must have been hard up!

So the night market is the land of the cheesy Rolex rip-off. You'd have to see it to believe it. Nothing says Southeast Asia like a chrome plated with glass diamonds Rolex. As for me, I bought a North Face fanny pack. Wow! The must be cheap in the countries that they are made in!

So enough with the sarcasm. I really am having a good time here. Tomorrow we are going to an elephant sanctuary, and Sunday is ccoking school. More later!


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Buggered

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  7.3.06 @ 10:21

So Madame Librarian and I arrived just now. The airport truly is chaotic.

...Remember to go outside for the taxis and keep your head down as you are being harrassed...

(Aimee): how much did I pay for the taxi? I can't read the currency...

As far as the hotel goes, they have sage advice and ammenities:

The coffee bar has what they call a "Singapore Sling" for 260 Baht. That sounds vaguely sexual.

What if you hear the fire alarm? Do not attempt to pack belongings. Time is precious. Save your life first. Take your room key.

Tap water is not recommended for drinking. Stay calm. Panic will not help.

Simple Thai phrases: "Krai kai kai kai" - who sells chicken eggs?

---------------

More later...Aimee is busy reading the TV instructions. It's the only thing in German...


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The Tampa Trip

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  1.3.06 @ 18:50

Some of you reading this didn't know me when I originally wrote this. The following note will always be a constant reference when I am bitching about travelling. This is the infamous Tampa trip.

Mom, thank you for sending me this.

Fortunately, I haven't had anything go this bad since. I've had some fun times, but none as bad as this. However, I will say that every time I go to Florida, I always have grief.

I originally wrote this in March of 2003. I was new to travel then, and I had no frequent flyer status. If there is anything to be learned of this to those of you who travel at all, it's this: join the frequent flyer programs. They put you ahead of the next schmuck who hasn't joined.

Oh yeah...the Little Rock trip referenced at the end went off without a hitch.

More soon!



Date: Tuesday, 04 March 2003

Subject: Ah...The Sheer Joy of Travelling...

Well,

For those of you who haven't already heard...

Two weeks ago work decides to send me off on a little road trip. Oh the travels, the new experiences, and the quality time on a plane. Dante had no idea that there was an eighth level of hell: coach class and airport terminals with no smoking areas. Had he known this, he would have forgotten about writing Purgatorio and Paradiso after Inferno. Rather, he would have looked for ways to develop nuclear weapons to put the human race out of its future misery. Certainly he would have found nothing divine (and certainly not comical) about this deeper level of hell.

My trip began in the Eugene, Oregon airport. The airport code is EUG, and to travellers that spells UUGGGHH. I got tagged for a full search. This means that federal officers were examining my skivvies in the main terminal at 10:00 A.M. Someday, I must check a bag filled with nothing but lace underwear and assorted whips and chains. But just my luck, I wouldn't be tagged for a search.

Thank you John Ashcroft and Osama Bin Ladin for exempting my boxer shorts from the Fourth Amendment when I am in the airport. No wonder Mr. Ashcroft lost his Senate race in 2000 to a dead guy. Come to think of it, the dead guy died on an airplane...I smell a conspiracy.

After sprinting through the terminal to reach my plane, I soon found myself jammed into a puddle jumper for a lovely ride to San Francisco. This airport must have been designed by B.F. Skinner. B.F. Skinner was a psychologist who designed the Skinner Box, which is used primarily to stress and train various rodents into conformity. I say this because SFO (the San Francisco Airport) is designed like a wagon wheel. Only one of the spokes leads to a smoking area...which is of course, outside.

On the way back in, I noticed that this airport has a special security checkpoint reserved for first class passengers. Perhaps their skivvies are examined without the prying eye of half the terminal. Oh yeah - the baggage screeners don't wear gloves when taking apart your (or anyone else's for that matter) luggage. Smile and be nice (they are armed), but don't shake their hands. Wash your clothes when you get where you are going.

[Ed Note: The screeners now wear gloves.]

So I left SFO for every one's favorite airport, Chicago-Oh Hell....er, uh..O'Hare. On the flight, I had a crown break loose. Naturally, it was an incisor in the very front of my mouth. Start playing the banjo music...

Oh Hell was designed by the Marque d' Sade. His writing became the genesis for the word "Sadism." This airport is so big that it has connecting flights to itself. This is so you can get from one side of the airport to the other. In addition, this airport was chosen as a major hub for a couple of reasons:
  1. The weather always sucks.
  2. Chicago has rude and belligerent cops.
Like SFO, the Marque also decided to put the smoking areas outside. Furthermore, smoking is restricted to the lower level of the terminal. Apparently, it's illegal to smoke outside in Chicago now - except in designated areas.

Quit your preaching. I will quit before too much longer...eventually I will get stuck at O'Hare.

Fortunately, the flight to Tampa was un eventful. Tampa was actually quite nice. The weather was good, and my micro-managing Jesus-freak co-worker left me alone for the most part. BTW: Keeshawn Johnson has a nice restaurant. The wine list would make a five-star place in Paris feel insecure.

The relative calm ended on Saturday night. I started to get sick. No worries, right? Sunday, I was supposed to fly to Dayton, Ohio, and I figured I would just sleep on the plane.

HA HA.

So I get to the Tampa airport an hour and forty-five minutes before my flight. The itinerary was supposed to be from Tampa to Oh Hell, and from Chicago to Dayton. When I got inside the terminal, the United line was closing in on half a mile long, and it wasn't moving. Adding to this, everyone in line was pissed off. This is not a good sign.

So I get in line. A side note is deserved here: Just because you can fly first class does not give you the right to be a snobby shithead. So what if you get a leather seat and some leg room.

Two hours later, I get to the front of the line. The ticket agents look like death warmed over and served as leftovers. Time to suck-up - I am in the coach class proletariat after all. As it turns out, the plane that came in the night before had serious mechanical problems. Mechanics were on the way from my favorite airport. Not a good event on an over-booked flight that heads out of Florida on a Sunday during February. Thus began the first of seven itinerary changes. I was relegated to the ninth circle of hell: STANDBY!

Dante was spared this level as well. Had he seen this level, he would have killed himself just to spite humanity. He probably would have said something like, "...screw them. The reapeth what they sow."

Nervously I checked my baggage. You see, I had no choice in this matter. Chalk up another pain in my ass from Osama. I really hate that guy.

After missing a few flights, I began to realize that I was going to spend more time in Florida. At this point, I decided to check the weather forecast to see if it was hurricane season. I wasn't so fortunate. Rather, the rest of the counter was being pounded with snow. This complication prompted me to call my boss and tell her I might not make it to where I was supposed to be on Monday morning. She told me to head over to customer service and tell them that my boss will kill me if I cant get to Tampa.

Okay......

Reluctantly, I head over to the information booth. I was informed that there was no such animal at Tampa International as United Customer Service. I was told to go to either the ticket counter, or to baggage claim.

Hmmm....there isn't a line at baggage claim.

Did y'all know that baggage claim can book flights? Remember that, but don't spread it around. Should too many people have a route around the bullshit that happens at the ticket counter, baggage claim will be considered a potential terrorist target. Baggage claim tells me that my frequent flyer number wasn't being put onto the standby list. Had it been, I would have been headed to Chicago two hours before. Yes - the frequent flyer number does mean something other than you are a sadistic lackey who enjoys nicotine cravings while being tied in a pretzel for hours on end. Baggage claim got me at the top of a standby list to Dulles (Washington DC), and a confirmed flight to Columbus, Ohio - 50 miles away from Dayton.

I thanked him profusely and told him that Shiva would reward his good karma. I'm not religious, but if I Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, or Ganesha can get me on a plane outta Tampa, I'll take whoever up on it. Besides, the guy was from India. As I boarded the plane for DC, I took a scotch and a beer and took a nap. Things were finally looking up.

WRONG!

Upon arriving in DC and sprinting across the airport again, I found that all United flights were grounded. Apparently, there were upper level micro-bursts...whatever that means. Back to customer service I go. At least Dulles has a UA Customer Service desk. This time I tell the poor schmuck behind the counter that she needs combat pay. I also told her that I would bear her children if she can get me anywhere near Dayton. I'd take Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, whatever. She came through for me, and booked me on a US Air flight to Indianapolis with a connection through Charlotte. After thanking her quickly, I sprinted off to the US Air gate...

...just in time to hear the announcement that they have grounded their flights as well. Okay...back to UA Customer Service.

Back at the UA desk, I got on my knees, pulled out the puppy dog eyes, and offered triplets instead of a single birth. There were no takers, as I couldn't get out of DC until Tuesday afternoon. Time to asses the situation:
  • I am post-security at the airport serving the national capital of a VERY paranoid nation.
  • I have no ticket.
  • If you don't have a ticket, you aren't supposed to be in the secure area of the terminal.
  • My cell battery is nearly dead.
Yep, I'm screwed.

I need an after hours travel agent who has good bandwidth. So I called my brother Terry. I need to have options before I leave security.

I bet he was really annoyed when I told him that I couldn't go down to the rental car counter myself. I bet he was annoyed and perplexed when I told him I couldn't explain why. I didn't think that shouting (it was a loud terminal) into a cell phone, "I don't have a ticket" when I was in a secure area was too bright. I already have one loose tooth at this point, and I don't need to have more as my face is pressed into the carpet by fifty uber-paranoid security guards. Fortunately, he found a car I could drop off in Dayton - 500 miles away. It's after 9:00 PM at this point, and I am supposed to be in Dayton in eleven hours.

So my name is Jack and I hit the road. Here are some lessons about driving in these situations:
  1. Don't ask Dad to navigate the web to get directions.
  2. DC maps are pricey.
  3. You will pay $3.60 to drive through 80 miles of construction on the PA Turnpike.
  4. West Virginia cops are too stupid to catch a rental going 110 miles per hour.
  5. The 2003 Mitsubishi Gallant starts to get hard to handle at 120 miles per hour.
  6. Pittsburgh is the armpit of the country.
  7. Ohio cops don't care if you drive 95 in a 55 zone.
  8. The Best Western in Dayton is a shit hole. It must have been moved from Pittsburgh.
[Ed. Note: This why I stay in Hampton's and Holiday Inn's now. Their toilets flush and I don't have roaches for roomies.]

So I get to Dayton at 3:30 A.M. 30 minutes after I arrive the nasty snowstorm that was all over the news when I was in Tampa hit. Time for bed. At 7:00 A.M., I call the customer. The conversation went something like this:

ME: I had to drive here from DC last night, and I need to get a car rental fiasco straightened out. Can I be a couple hours late?
GRACIOUS CLIENT: ...you drove from where...IN A SNOW STORM? ARE YOU NUTS?
ME: I got royally screwed by a broken down plane.
GRACIOUS CLIENT: No worries. Take your time. With the snow, everyone will be late anyway.
ME: Thank you very much. I truly apologize for this. Oh yeah - can you tell me where I can buy some clothes around here? I checked my bags in Tampa and I have no idea where they are.
GRACIOUS CLIENT: (Roaring laughter)

[Ed. Note: I still have those clothes. I take them with me to remind myself that people are good...and they are a good luck charm]

So I get through Monday, and head back to the hotel and call the UA desk at the Dayton airport. They have my luggage.

YAY!!!!!!

I went to the airport, picked up my bags and went directly to a bar. I wrote Kati a letter there. Things were looking up...FINALLY! When I got back to the Worst Western, I opened my bags to find a note from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA is the government agency responsible for airline security in the US).

Did y'all know that shaving cream and spray starch are not allowed in checked luggage?

Yes, my shaving cream and spray starch were confiscated. The note stated that the following items were, however, allowed in checked luggage:
  • Guns - which must be declared.
  • Knives.
  • Bullets - which must also be declared.
However, you are considered to be a minion of Al Qaeda if you want to shave and have crisp clothing. Wasn't shaving the first thing the Afghan men did after the Taliban was overthrown?!?!?!? Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? What the flying fuck did they think I was going to do with a can of spray starch? Stand up on the plane and yell, " STOP THE PLANE OR I'LL IRON YOUR CLOTHES!!!" ????

Well after this, the ride home was a breeze. the only event was I twisted my knee in the Portland airport.

Updates as events warrant...I fly to Little Rock Saturday morning...

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