Diaper Man, Cotton Farmer


If you had told me a week ago that I would be flown to Bangkok for 3 days to play an American Farmer in a Chinese diaper commercial I wouldn’t have believed it. But indeed this is what has happened. The location for the three-day shoot is a rich man’s estate with hundreds of acres of lagoons and gardens with carefully landscaped Lombardi pines. It looks like Versailles transplanted to Thailand. I am hardly the most important person in this project, in fact I am almost inconsequential, but they saw something in me I guess they could not find among the expatriates living in Bangkok.

Or maybe I just had a lucky break and a good Agent. The woman who plays the mother of the cute baby who needs my diapers is an incredibly beautiful young woman. She is so beautiful in that Thai way that a billboard sized picture of her could stop traffic.

The man who owns this estate is probably long dead. There is a bust of him on the landing and a huge oil portrait of him on the second floor, with photos of him and the royal family, but no one in the crew seems to know who he is, or care. We’re just using his house as a location for a commercial shoot.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. You can be rich enough to own Versailles but your house will be used as a location for a diaper commercial and no one will know who you are.

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A beautiful evening



It’s a beautiful evening. The sun set about twenty minutes ago. The sky still glows. Orange clouds. Birds are getting ready to sleep and making that sort of worried sound they do just before they nod off. It’s a holiday weekend and most people seem to have left the city. I don’t know where they’re headed. I know the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, witnessed a terrific traffic jam this morning, as people in cars climbed it at dawn.

This is the best time of year here in this normally hot country. The weather is spring-like. No need to use air conditioning. I can wear a jacket while riding the motorcycle and not wish I weren’t. When I swim, the water is so brisk that it makes me swim faster. I’ve broken my personal speed record every day this week. Now, in this chilly water, I swim 18 percent faster than I did a month ago, when it was still balmy.

Unfortunately, this is also the weekend when the number of traffic fatalities soar. Thailand already enjoys the dubious distinction of having one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world, but for this week from Christmas to New Year’s that rate almost doubles.


What’s My True Vocation?



Here in Chiang Mai Thailand, I’m a member of two choruses. It’s Christmastime, so we’re working overtime. In addition to the usual tunes, “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” “The First Noel” there are a lot of lovely songs I’m not sick of hearing, and learning the bass part makes them more interesting yet.

I’m grateful to have so much to do along these lines, yet I look back on my life and wish I had not wasted three years at University trying to be a scientist, when all I really wanted to do was theater and music. Heck, unlike math and science I have real talent in those areas.

Thankfully, I snapped out of it halfway through my junior year and snuck out with a degree in Russian, the foreign language elective I’d been taking just for the fun of it. Then I went to graduate school in creative writing. Playwriting to be exact.

When I squeaked out with a Bachelor of Arts in 1972, there were few jobs for Russian speakers,  especially for American kids who sort of spoke Russian. Within a few years, the Soviet Union would collapse and native Russian speakers would rush to cover the globe. In Argentina I met a Russian man with a doctorate in physics who was working as a motel clerk.

The idea of finding one’s “true vocation” is a lot like finding one’s “soul mate.” It’s wishful thinking meeting romantic nonsense.

They say when people are in hospice, they often share their regrets with anyone close enough to listen. Most have to do with remorse over having sold oneself short. “I always wanted to be a classical pianist. Why did I become a legal secretary?”

Democracy is Rare to Non-Existent


I live in Thailand, a country whose last government was abruptly dissolved by a military coup. The current prime minister is the general who led the coup. When he learned that tourists would find their travel insurance voided by staying in a country under military rule, he had the parliament filled with yes-men and members of the military, who quickly elected him prime minister. He promised elections would come as soon as possible, but that was four and a half years ago.

Is the United States a democracy? Hard to tell. How about Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil. Guess it depends on whom you talk to. I would be more comfortable describing northern European countries as democracies than most African, Asian or Latin American countries. Money talks everywhere, but in some places it fairly screams.

The idea behind Democracy was a noble one. One person, one vote. Anybody could rise the top and be elected to high office. In the United States, it costs approximately twenty-five million dollars to secure a seat in the Senate. Senators earn $175,000 a year. Makes you wonder who they’re working for.

Maybe we should stop pretending and get real. We like to use the word terrorist to describe groups of people who don’t have well-equipped standing armies. We give Israel three and a half billion dollars a year in military aid. The Palestinians throw rocks. Guess whom we call terrorists?

Time-Out For Naughty Pictures



I tried to post two vintage 1920’s pictures of naked women on Facebook and was blocked from using that service for three days for violating their “Community Agreements.” A computer ratted me out, recognizing nipples. In my three day fast, I’ve been prohibited from sharing likes, posting new items, or sharing the posts of others. I feel like a citizens band radio addict who’s had his microphone impounded.

I wish I could say my time-out has fostered a mini-renaissance in writing and reading, but it hasn’t. I guess this proves that what’s left of my attention span is permanently fractured, reduced to fragile shards that cannot be swept up and reassembled. There’s nobody home anymore.

My menagerie of funny photos cries out from my desktop folder, demanding to be shared with the hypothetical thousands of “friends” I have. Since I post too much every day, no one has noticed my absence. This is what it will be like when I finally die. My Facebook feed won’t feel any different to most users, my blog subscribers will simply no longer receive emails about new posts, and it may take several years until anyone notices that I’m no longer at the helm. Pictures I’ve unearthed of silent era starlets and corny 1950’s ads will be discovered long after my ashes have been absorbed by the nearest palm tree here in sunny Thailand.

Almost No Regrets



Regrets are Folly, but…

If I had to live my live over again, I would have found gainful employment early and stuck with a job long enough to save for retirement. I would have never borrowed money. Compound interest works in your favor if you let it. It works against you if you borrow.

I would have retired at fifty and spent less of my time working for others. I guess I never really felt like I was working for others, and others probably never felt that way either, which explains why so few of my work experiences ended on a high note. I’ve been fired a lot.

I would have never married anyone for “practical reasons” or because she wanted us to get married. Which means I would have never married. I’m definitely happy to have had the children I have, and would have taken care of them as well as I did, maybe even better, had I not married.

These regrets are minimal, not terribly important, because the good fortune I’ve experienced has far outweighed them in importance. My health is good, I’m living in an affordable place and want for nothing.

Going Solo



The Internet has grown in power and sophistication, tracking potential customers for those looking to find them by linking ads and emails to searches and browsing history. The other day I came across an article about a new form of LSD, called LSD-1. that is not illegal. When I next checked my email, there was an offer from a Chinese pharmaceutical firm who could supply me with this product. I didn’t even have to search for it. They had monitored my browsing.

They also included a map showing my location and asked me to confirm that the blue dot was indeed floating above my house. It was. Then I was offered an overhead shot of my property. There was my motorcycle, right where I had parked it. Apparently, it was a live shot from a tiny drone.

They sent me another email informing me that an attractive young woman who worked for their firm lived nearby, and would be willing to ingest this substance with me, serving as “tripmaster,” in case I wanted to avail myself of this service. They included a picture of a comely Chinese girl in her twenties.

I ordered the legal LSD, which arrived in a week or so in an unmarked black plastic envelope. There were enough doses for quite a party, but I decided to try this experiment alone, so I only took the medium suggested dose, chewing and swallowing two tiny squares of blotter paper.

I had recently purchased a video camera that I normally used to document my motorcycle riding. In case of an accident, the playback might prove useful to show to the police or an insurance adjustor. Once switched on, it ran for twelve hours and then recycled the memory, rolling over the beginning footage. I decided this might be fun to to document my psychedelic voyage, the first one I had embarked upon in almost forty years. Since it was permanently mounted to my motorcycle helmet, I wore that. I also felt the desire to be free of most clothing, so I wore a caftan I’d picked up in my travels to the Middle East.

After about an hour I was definitely tripping. It was a pleasant feeling. Colors were brighter, people seemed witty and kind. Even the most mundane scenes were photogenic. I was glad the camera was recording all this, so I could refresh my memory later, even though I didn’t expect the video to capture the profound beauty I was now witnessing.

I was sitting in a patch of weeds and flowers that grow near my house, when a man and woman appeared coming through a gate that led to a nearby vacant lot. They were dressed identically, in togas. I thought that odd, but since everything seemed odd at the time, it didn’t really stop me in my tracks. I was going with the flow.

As the day was hot and getting warmer, I invited them inside my house for a cool drink. All I had was water, which seemed perfect at this time, for anything sweet or caffeinated would have been too much. Too artificial.

We talked for hours. They seemed as delighted by my company as I was by theirs.

Later, when I viewed the video footage of that time, I could hear my voice clearly engaged in the conversation I remembered, but the field of view only showed a blank wall in front of me.

I guess LSD-1 really works. Maybe next time I’ll ask the Chinese girl to trip with me. I still have some of those blotter pieces left over.