Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ballad of Freezing Ed

(To the tune of Beverly Hillbillys)

Gonna tell you a story bout a man named Ed
Flies around the country just to keep his family fed
A pretty good guy who likes to laugh and joke
But he's up in freezing Baltimore, stuck without a coat
(Wind chills...snow flurries...frozen sunshine)

Sitting down in Tampa when the bossman calls to say
"Ol' boy you're doing wonderful, we need you in L.A."
He didn't pack no long sleeves, didn't pack no coat
Still be soaking up the sunshine, just on the other coast

Cruising El Segundo in a rented Malibu
Someone rings his cell phone, I know you know just who
Bossman says, "You're kicking ass and great things lay in store,
By the way, go trade your ticket home for one to Baltimore."
(Maryland...funny accents...speed traps)

So now you know the story of a badly freezing Ed
Don't even have a ball cap to warm his tiny head
While Ed ain't no complainer, ain't the kind to cry
He ain't answering his cell phone til he's on the plane tonight.
Goodnight Jethro, out
Ramblin' Ed

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Alas, the lowly sand crab.

"Damn sandcrabs!" Words I have spoken on many an occasion. Words I may perhaps never speak again. Because what we once ridiculed, what we once viewed askance, what we once secured our secrets and hid our tools from, well, now we is (now we is one of?). Yep. I am a sand crab.

Sand Crab: A civilian in Civil Service positions working for the U.S. Navy. Very derogatory. Worse yet, I am a faux sand crab because I am working for TSA, not the navy, and I am in private business, not a civil servant. A poser. A pretender to the sand crab mantle. Crabby lite, if you will. Ah well, what can I do? Other than slink through the day, that is.

Later we will do more, as I am rather enjoying this, but for today, here is other letter S navy slang you may enjoy.Remember, navy slang tends to be more profane than politically correct:
Scope Dope: Radarman or Operations Specialist
Scrambled Eggs: Gold embroidered oak leaves decoration on a Commander's/Captain's cover. Admirals have Double Eggs. The similar silver clouds and lightning bolts addition to an Air Force Lt. Col/Colonel's hat is called Farts and Darts.
Screaming Alpha: A sailor who is on fire and is running around screaming. Alpha fires leave ash.
Screw the Pooch: To mess up in a big way. Usually followed by a visit with the old man.
Scupper Trout: A turd or other length of feces.
Shit in one sock: Sailor who is very competent as in, "He has his shit in one sock". A VERY competent sailor "has his shit in one properly stenciled sock." Derogatory rejoinder is "But it has holes in it".
Shit-the-bed: Verb used to identify the process of breaking. "Lower Level, what's that noise?" "Maneuvering, Lower Level, #3 ASW Pump just shit the bed. Started #2." The typical result of a a piece of equipment that has just shit the bed is that it becomes broke-dick.
Silverwhales: Refers to the rather large fat women near Bangor, Washington, that are from Silverdale.
Smoking Hole: what an aircraft becomes if it crashes over land
Smooth Crotch: Derogatory term for a nuclear Electronics Technician.
Squishy: State resulting from being at sea too long; e.g., rolling gait, goofy, confused by traffic signals.
Suck Meter: Similar to a fun meter, this fictitious gauge displays how shitty a given situation is. "Cruise got extended indefinitely the day we were supposed to out-chop and head home? Man, my suck meter just red-lined!"
Summer creases: Military creases incorrectly or crookedly ironed into uniforms. "Some are here, some are there."
Swamp Donkey: an ugly woman you would have sex with if there were no other choices available.
Sweat the Bulkheads: Indoor PT during boot camp which doesn't stop until the bulkheads are running with condensate.
Sandbox, The: The pier liberty facilities at Jebel Ali. Sandbox Liberty means travel outside the port of Jebel Ali is not authorized. All you get is a "beer on the pier". Jebel Ali is AKA "Gerbil Alley".
Sea Daddy: Senior, more experienced sailor who unofficially takes a new member of the crew under his wing and mentors him.
Sea Going Bellhops: A derisive name for Marines. Refers to the fact that they act as flag officers' orderlies aboard ship. A good phrase to use when picking a fight with a Marine.
Sea Hag: Slutty woman who hangs around in front of the entrance to a base, hoping to pick up a Sailor. The Sea Hag is really looking for a meal ticket, bless her Sea Hag heart.
Sea Lawyer: An argumentative, cantankerous or know-it-all sailor. A sea lawyer is adept at using technicalities, half truths, and administrative crap to get out of doing work or anything else he doesn't want to do, and/or to justify his laziness.
Sea Stories: Often exaggerated or embellished tales from previous deployments or commands told by seniors to juniors. Sea Stories almost always involve alcohol. Good sea stories should always involve creative embellishment, in as much as you should tell it better than the guy you heard it from, with yourself (or an un-named "buddy") as the new star. Add some contemporary details and those youngsters are mesmerized, as they should be. Traditionally. fairy tales begin "Once Upon A Time..."; while sea stories begin "Now, this is no shit..." so as to tell them apart.

Yeah, actually I miss the colorful expressions and lingo of the navy. And trust me, we actually talked like this. This may take a while, but I'll get as many posted over time as I can.
Silly-vilian, out
Ramblin' Ed

Monday, February 18, 2008

Home Again, or, I am Curious Yelling

Got home OK. Was a long, long flight, 6 hours to Japan, 1 hour layover, 11 hours to Chicago, 1 hour layover, 2 hours and some change to Tampa. Was glad to finally touch down home.

Our bags remained in Chicago overnight. Here's the set up. As we came off the plane at O'Hare we headed down to immigration. To our surprise, there was no one there, other than the officials. They immediately began yelling at us to move to this line or that. Welcome home. Basically, the first Americans we encountered upon landing yelled at us. But we got through them quickly and efficiently and I was happy for that.

On to customs. I had declared my clothes, cigars and souviners, so I figured I was covered. We got diverted for further search. They x-rayed our bags and then asked if we had any fruit, vegetables, meat or food. I said no. They asked again. I said no. They asked like 10 more times, I got agitated, and kept saying no. So they opened my bag, pulled out a sack of limes that I did not know was there, and fined me $300 on the spot. Luckily my wife decided this was the perfect time to become pissy and mouthy, so we ended up waiting 20 minutes for the paperwork and another 10 for a cashier to take our money. The wife knew she had those limes, and that pretty much ticked me off. We got her out of the area and the nice customs guy said to me, "You looked pretty surprised. Next time they ever ask if you have something, even if you're sure you don't, say 'Yes'. If they don't find anything that's cool. But if they do, then you told them yes an they won't fine you." That sounds like good advice to me.

I don't know what it is. A total stranger can tell my wife that if she accidentially swallows a grape seed monkeys will shoot out of her butt and she'll take it as gospel. But if I tell her anything, like, oh let's say, we can't bring fruits and vegetables into the country from Thailand, well brother, I'm just bumping my gums.

Anyway, between waiting for the luggage, and then waiting around in customs, cooling our heels like the lime smuggling petty criminals that we apparently were, we ate away about 50 minutes of our hour layover. We dropped the bags off to be shuttled over to our domestic flight and took off at a trot for Terminal 1 and our plane, praying that the security checkpoint didn't doom us, which it didn't. We stepped into the jetway just as they announced final boarding call. I told the wife on the train that our bags were never going to make the plane and, upon arrival in Tampa, I was proven correct. The guy has already called this morning and they should be delivered sometime in the next hour or so.

Here's the last of the pics I plan to post. Make sure to utilize the patented GIT BIGGERIZER function. It brings out the details I so lovingly captured for you. Me? Why I'm off for L.A. Will probably post from there.

Completely unmoved by the half-hanging snot of silence, out
Ramblin' Ed

A typical night with the family gathered around the TV. Note how quickly I got into my jammies after all those hours oftravelling.
My typical view of any sporting event I really, really care about. This was Wake Forest beating Duke.
Grandmom. The main reason we went on vacation was to visit her.
Typical scene at any traffic light in Thailand.
I like the kid peeking out to make sure everything is still OK.
Nong. Or as I have to call her, "Other Nong".
Feeding the girls. It's what I do. (Nong, Other Nong, Cherry)
One of these people is way happier than the others.
I was using a borrowed cell phone. I was calling to tell the wife I wasn't schlepping all the way across town to buy t-shirts like she wanted. I dropped the phone. It bounced once. Then guess where it went. Yep. So I had to schlep all the way across town, but to say "I am not happy about coming all the way over here to buy t-shirts. By the way, Ouen's phone is in the gutter now."
The Sky Train. My main transportation in Bangkok.
The wife confirming her plans with her local mafia henchmen. Henchgals. Whatever.
Th-th-that's all, suckahs!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Continuation of photographs

Things are winding down. I am starting to look towards next week and my trip to L.A. I have enjoyed the time off, but like a lot of people, too much time with no discernable structure wears thin. That is true now; I am ready to get back onto a schedule.

I bought a bunch of CDs last night. I’d like to say they were an eclectic mix, but I fear that they were actually rather pedestrian choices.
1. Led Zeppelin – Mothership. First Zep album I have ever bought. Ever. 2 CDs, basically a greatest hits package.
2. Elton John – Madman Across the Water A Japanese issue that supposedly recreates the vinyl sound qualities. We’ll see. Has the great title track and Rotten Peaches.
3. Eagles – Long Road Out of Eden. Well, why not see what the boys have been up to?
4. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here. Only their greatest album ever. All 5 songs of it.
5. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black What can I say? Cute, sultry and slutty. 5 Grammys.
6. Billy Joel – 12 Gardens Live Two disks recorded live a Madison Square Garden in 2006

YouTube and Pandora have ruined me for buying music, as I can just dial up whatever I want, whenever I want it. I bought these CDs with an eye towards having some new stuff to listen to on my daily commute down to St. Pete.

OK, let’s get you out of here with some pictures, shall we?

I must admit that when I was studying international law, it was my desire to work with the United Nations, out
Ramblin’ Ed
Back on the bus, Vacation Monks. No pushing:
This is what 4 to t tuk-tuk looks like. Ouen is sitting on the floor:
Yes...Maybe...Wait, whaaat?
The old city:
One of the beheaded Buddhas. Remember, slobbering hordes of Burmese...:
Look at the sci-fi tuk-tuks:
Pimp my ride, yo:
The "Beach" by the pool:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pics only (Post is Below)

Go Fast Monks: Like an elephant pissing on a flat parking lot:
Ummm...a little sidetracked here:
My frogs set free. Turtle photographed poorly. Birds did not stop to look back:

I'm too sexy for my hat:

Me, wife, uncle:

The End

The winding down post

Had a blast at Ayutthaya. I really only knew that it was the first capital of Thailand, but didn’t know just how old it was. Also, I had seen the movies with my wife of the Burmese repeatedly sweeping down to sack and loot the city, but since the movies were in Thai I didn’t catch a lot of the nuance. Well, just being in amongst the ruins, and being able to see the destruction and decapitated Buddha statues made the history really come alive. Not to turn this into a Thai history lesson or anything, but the last time the Burmese stole all the gold from the capital and busted up the place good, the King just up and moved the capital down and across the river to what is present day Bangkok figuring that having to cross a big old river ought to slow down the slobbering hordes at least a little bit. Seems to have worked. Thailand is a regional power and Burma (Mynamar) a backwater.

We took a lot of pictures which I think turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, they also serve to remind me that I am always fatter than I perceive myself to be. That is unless, hopefully, the camera adds 70 pounds. Anyway over the next post or two I will try to get the better ones posted. Not sure about how frequent the posts will be as we may head out to Rayong to spend 3 days at the family’s beach condo. If that is the case it will be laid back, quiet, and relaxing. If that is the case it will also be without the internet or 7-11s. So we’ll just play it by ear.

I bought a shrimp roll-up yesterday at KFC and threw it away because I don’t eat seafood. So why did I buy it then, you may be asking. Because I asked the girl at the counter if it was chicken and she said yes. But it wasn’t, so I threw it away. I thought about taking it back, but I’m American, so I didn’t. Just what does being American have to do with not taking back a shrimp roll-up that is not chicken? Because I live in the “If you want to be in America you should learn English” and “I don’t want to press 1 for English” U.S.A. So I would think turnabout is fair play. I was in Thailand speaking, and expecting to be understood, in English. Therefore, it was not her problem, right? What’s worse, the Thai word for chicken is pronounced “Koo-guy”. I knew how to say it her language, but just assumed she understood mine.

In a slight twist I was introduced to, and partied with, the first Cambodian lesbian I’ve ever met. She was interesting. Runs a school to teach Westerner’s how to speak Thai. I got her to teach me something I’ve wanted to know for a while. I know how to say “you’re welcome”, but wanted to be able to say “my pleasure” in its stead. Now I know, and it was a pretty easy one. I just say, “Yin dee, kob. She said she found me to be pretty easy going and I agreed. I told her, “Basically I like everybody and everybody likes me. Some say they don’t, but I don’t believe them.” How can you argue, that’s so true.

I was looking at a book called Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality and found it interesting. I didn’t buy it outright as I don’t read very much anymore so I don’t want to waste the money unless there’s a good chance I will finish it. The dust cover and the guest testimonials all looked interesting enough. Interesting as in, “It seems you have the exact same opinion as I do and that is interesting to me. Tell me some more about how right we are.” The snippet that most resounded with me was, “The typical judgmental… more people knew what we were against than what we were for mentality…” The guy is a Christian writer, so it was by no means an attack on values, but rather he asks the question why does the word “Christianity nowadays conjure up images of conservative politics, suburban consumerism, and an insensitivity to people who aren’t like us?” I think it’s a pretty fair question, too.

Not sure how many more times I will post before heading home. Getting home is kind of misleading anyway since I’ll be doing a real Tulsa turnaround. I will fly in, pick up the dogs, dump the old clothes out of the suitcase and fill it with clean clothes. Then shower, go to bed, wake up and fly out to work at LAX for a week. Yee-Haw!

Enjoy these lotsa big pics. The one of my wife and her mother walking in the ruins of the old city with their umbrellas is my favorite. You’d have to know how far apart they started to know how close that shows them. To me, helping them towards that walk has been my biggest accomplishment in this marriage.

Yin dee, kob, out
Ramblin’ Ed

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Not Sikh, SICK!

(Actual view from the room)

Well, I went down hard Thursday evening at 9:30 PM and got back up Saturday at 6:30 AM. Missed all of Friday, except for an hour when I tried, and failed, to eat.

I was meeting some friends Thursday night down at the CoCo Walk area, and we were headed down to The Prince. I got there early as I am a bona fide master of the Sky Train, so I was sitting there sipping a Singh when they arrived. Fast forward about 30 minutes and I turned to Lee and said, “If it weren’t utterly ridiculous in this setting, I’d suspect someone had slipped me a mickey.” “How so?” “Well, I’m still working on my first beer and my head is spinning and I am feeling somewhat out of body. It feels like I am very stoned, which is normally at least a little pleasurable. But right now it has me way out of sorts and more than a little freaked out.”

We thought about it and the best we could come up with was that I’d eaten something bad, although I have not eaten street food this trip. Still, a wretch, a poop, and another wretch later I was feeling brave enough to high-tail it home. I did successfully navigate the Sky Train, the mad dash transfer at Siam Station, and the small boat back across the river. Got in at 9:30, fell face down on the bed, stomach churning and, for some unknown reason, my arms were aching. I fell into a deep and fitful sleep. I will not chronicle all the ups and downs as I ran between the bed and the toilet, but 36 hours later, most of it asleep, I am better.

I had to laugh at the wife through it all. She was very concerned for me and went to the pharmacy to get me some stomach medicine. She came back 3 ½ hours later with a small package of powder, which I took, and 6 dresses, 4 shorts, 3 pairs of shoes, and a new cell phone. She is nothing if not true to her inner shopper. Basically the same thing happened again when she went for some Tylenol. Sure she loves me, but cannot pass up a bargain no matter what. I suppose I’ll always be OK… so long as my injury does not involve loss of blood. In that case I think I’m probably a goner, although she’ll be a well dressed and trendy widow.

We’re off on an out of city adventure today. Hope it is fun. You know, as opposed to boring. Will let you know. It will include the purchase of, and subsequent freeing of, one bird, one frog, and one turtle as explained earlier.

By the way, the one thing you cannot escape here is the US primary coverage. On TV, radio, and especially the newspaper, it is reported on, dissected, additionally commented on, and re-analyzed. If it is this crazy here, it’s gotta be crazy there for sure. The list of reasons “real” conservatives hate John McCain was discussed at length this morning and I came to realize, that I agreed with him on every point. I made up my mind Jan. 29th when I pulled the lever for him in Florida’s primary; I am backing him for President. But unlike the guy from Knoxville they showed on TV today, I will not have to “hold my nose as I pull the lever.”

So I’ll see you at the bottom, if there really is one
They always tell me when you get there you’ll know it, out
Ramblin’ Ed

All the flower sellers along the sidewalk. As luck would have it, it's Chinese New Year here.

A view of the wife scratching her butt at the pool. You are actually looking down the river as you recline.

This is my new flip flop. Of course, I had to ask myself, "Shock whhaaat??"

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Two-fer Thursday

If you have not read this then you have not read the one preceeding it. I posted two at once. If you have already read this, ummmm, you kinda need to get a life.

We went out into the night market at Patpong last night. I bought some artwork for the house and a set of flip-flops. Yes, we ascertained last post that I am a big spender – NOT. I mean, by and large, it’s all the same crap they’ve been selling for years. You could say I am already crap rich and money poor. Knockoff purses, knockoff watches, knockoff Mont Blanc pens, knockoff sunglasses, and tee shirts for teenagers. It’s interesting to walk the market to gaze upon the truly weird, both the local and tourist variety, but as for shopping, I believe there are better venues. And lordy, lordy, are the prices jacked up for the tourists. I got my 3 picture set for 350 Baht, after a starting quote of 1850 Baht. I had to work at it, but I learned to bargain from a Thai man, so I am pretty good.

We are headed off to Ayutthaya (well, that spelling probably is not right, but I don’t seem to have the correct spelling in me this morning… not that you’d pronounce it correctly if I did) today or tomorrow. It is the old city and it sounds like a lot of fun. Not sure how we’ll get there. We could take a boat but the wife says it’s expensive. How expensive could it be though? I’ll defer, of course. I think she wants me to spend wisely because she has been spending her money like a drunken sailor which I, even when I actually WAS a drunken sailor, usually don’t. We had $3000 (each) for 2 weeks spending money. I am spending between $25 and $50 per day. Like I said, I’m already crap rich, so don’t buy a lot of stuff anymore. My guess is that she is expecting to appropriate my unused cash. As usual.

Done some quality time at the pool with a cigar and newspaper. European women are (mostly) not too hard on the eyes. And for some reason, a reason that whatever it is I find no argument with, they disdain all but the smallest amount of clothing. Not that I am feeling any more perverted than usual, but I have had my eyes open for those mirrored shades like we all had in the 70’s.

More to write, later. I want to get a pic of the pool before I write about t. It is soooo cool.

Trusty and dusty in Saphan Khwai, out

Ramblin' Ed

The Prosperity Ceremony, Live from Sukhumvit

Here I sit at the desk in my room. Directly across from me is a huge picture window that allows me a spectacular view of the Chao Praya River and Bangkok beyond, her lights still twinkling far off into the darkness. It is near dawn and soon the serenity turns to bustle, the calm into sights and sounds and smells.

So far we have been most un-touristy. 2 of our 3 days have involved being at dentist appointments. We are having extensive work done for what is turning out to be 25% of what we were being charged back home. And they take Mastercard, which is good, but not MY Mastercard, which is not as good. But it is in and out; get the work done, no forms and no surliness. Good enough.

Yesterday we went about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok. If I had to guess, I’d say North/Northwest. But if I had to guess, I’d also say that I’m still damn sexy, so my judgment is somewhat suspect. We went way out into the rural farmland to a woman’s house. Just for the record, it had a real Marie Leveaux (the Louisiana voodoo queen) feel to the whole thing.

We pulled up and headed on into her house. She was all smiles and warm greetings, very pleasant. In her house was a television along the front wall, a whole bunch of empty floor, and a large-ish Buddha area in the back corner. I never know what to call the Buddha area in a home. Is it a shrine, mini-Wat, or something else? I am not really sure.

Now, let me say this. When it comes to deities, the major ones anyway, I treat them all with equal respect and skepticism. Respect for the deity, as in my mind there is one supreme God, and all people who worship, worship him. Skepticism is for the myth and lore attributed to each by their earthly followers, and especially for the selective literal interpretations of what he wants us to do and who he wants us to kill. I think once we get humans involved in teaching others “what God wants us to do”, it all goes downhill. Now, with that said, I lend no credence to the lesser gods/religions. You are free to worship trees, stones, wise toads, and Korean millionaires, but I don’t assume them to have any real deity status. When I get to heaven I do hope that there is not a wise toad standing there to point out the error of my assumptions. That would suck.

OK, I said that to say this. We had a prosperity ritual while we were there. Again, not a big fan of religious ritual, but also believe no harm comes from it. Besides, it was very important to the wife. So we went in and as I more or less just looked on, fruit and food and drink and whisky and money were all offered up. Candles were lit, and incense lit from them. Eyes were closed all around and chanting begun. With the chickens clucking up a fuss in the back yard and the chanting and candles in the front room, well if you didn’t know better it could all seem a bit of voodoo.

Then, the woman had me light a fistful of candles and she pointed them down over an urn of water. She continued a stream of consciousness chant with her eyes tightly closed, slightly rocking back and forth, while letting the wax from the candles drip into the water. Finally, she put the candles out in the water, took and peered into my hands, made a statement of fact, blew into my hands 3 times and pushed them closed. My wife translated to me that I was going to be very successful at work this year. And, oh by the way, I also needed to buy one frog, one bird, and one turtle and set them free to seal the deal. I said OK. Why? Because it was important to the wife, weren’t you paying attention?

The ritual was repeated for the wife, and for Massom, the woman who came with us out into the country. Then the 4 of us ate and talked for 2 hours or so before we headed back to Bangkok. Nong came back to the Hilton, while I detoured off for a pizza and massage before coming back.

I am not as connected to the internet as I had thought I’d be, but only because I think Hilton wants way too much for the service. Most of the people in places like this are world travelers, but not the get dusty, wander down a side street, buy meat on a stick from a cart vendor types. They want their hotels big and well lit and a taxi to the mall and don’t mind a premium price for it all. Which is cool; it takes all kinds. But I happen to know that Thailand is an extremely wired city, very technology savvy. So I can’t bring myself to pay $25 a day for internet when I can get it for 70¢ an hour on the street, or free in coffee shops and department stores. Yep, Ramblin’ Ed has a cheap streak.

More later. Maybe.

Pome chu Ramblin’ Ed, out
Ramblin’ Ed