Sunday, October 26, 2014

Elephants, maybe

We're leaving in the morning to spend a day and a half at Khao Yai National Park where we might, if we're lucky, see some elephants. I'm not getting my hopes up. The elephants in Khao Yai are wild, not prisoners in some cruel roadside petting zoo. I hate things like that. But, regardless of what we may or may not see, it will also be nice getting out into nature for a bit. Bangkok is a fascinating city but it's also like being rumbled around in the very noisy gut of a gigantic beast.

We'll leave about 9 am. It won't be fun rolling our suitcases to the sky train. The sidewalks are very irregular but we've done it before plus it's only a couple of block to the station and there's an escalator. Then it's two stops to Victory Monument which functions as the hub for vans and buses going all over the country. There's no escalator back to the street we want so, when we get there, we'll have to bump our suitcases down three flights of stairs. That'll suck but, again, we've done it before. We booked a tour with Greenleaf and that's where we get the van. Then it's about a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai. When we get to the park, we'll drop our bags in our room, have lunch at the guesthouse and then they'll take us out for the afternoon to see what we can see. And we'll be out all day next day. M. Lee, who did this tour a few years ago and didn't see any elephants, assures me it will be a very long, very bumpy day in the back of a pick up truck. Can't wait.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Morning report

I can't figure out exactly what's going on at Villa Ratchathewi, the place we're staying in Bangkok. Don't get me wrong. I love our apartment and our host. The apartment itself is wonderful, quiet, airy, well lit and I love the view of the city from the bathtub. Plus, our host immediately replies to our emails. It's another fantastic find via airbnb, It's just that the lobby seems more like a student lounge and study hall than the lobby of an apartment building. We almost never see any adults around here. It's not that expensive by US standards but how can these kids afford to live here? Other than the old Chinese lady in the gym, who is perpetually walking on the world's squeakiest, most rickety treadmill, it seems there are almost no other adults in the building, and by adults I mean people over, oh say, twenty or twenty-five. And no. It's not because Asians look young longer than Westerners. Trust me. These are kids. So what exactly going on at Villa Ratchathewi? It's all very odd.

Clearly, the old woman is up to something. Whenever we go to the gym, she's there grinding away on that goddamn treadmill. She's there when we arrive and still there when we leave. I suspect she is the one who powers the Reality Generator at the hub of the universe and is responsible for maintaining the entire Cosmic Show. There is no other explanation. If she were to stop walking we'd all disappear. Don't worry. We'll never notice we're gone.

Frogs doing it in a mall pond

The other notable thing about this place besides, like I say, the bathtub in the window, is the mosque which we can see from all the windows. The first chant is before sunrise. It's really more like an open throated yell. The first few days, when we were still jet lagged, it was really annoying. It felt like 2 AM and neither one of us could get back to sleep. Then I got accustomed to it and one morning I actually got up and checked the time, 5 AM. Not so bad really. In the yoga community where I used to live, we started at 4 AM. According to a national survey at the time, our Society was ranked the most despised neighbor in America. People dreaded living near us more than they dreaded living near gang members. Anyway, the following morning, when the chanting began, I awoke to the charming mental image of a lone desert Mullah chanting in the courtyard of an outpost white stone mosque as a gigantic orange desert sun rose over the vast Sahara, its rays streaming across the horizon into the otherwise indelible silence. Then last night, we realized the chanting is a recording. Talk about buzz-kill. Plus, I just noticed that I dropped one of my ear buds in my coffee.

Bangkok massage parlor

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Red pants and tennis shoes

One happy, very fashionable little lady

Saturday and Sunday we went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. aka the JJ Market. Bangkok is full of big glitzy and and some very high end malls but, among them all, the Chatuchak Market is legendary. It's one of the largest markets of it's kind in the world and the first time or two wandering through, seems infinite. These photos are misleading because the street is still empty. I took them early Sunday morning before people started arriving but every weekend, without fail, thousands attend. Even as we were leaving on Saturday afternoon, throngs of people were still streaming in*.

She and her "mom" are vendors at the market

We spent a lot of time at the market last time we were in Bangkok and it's the first place we headed when we got back. There's good people watching, a vast, eclectic array of goods and great prices. And this is a big plus, the Chamlong Asoke's Buddhist vegetarian outdoor food court is near the market so we always go there for lunch. The population is 97% Buddhist but it's hard finding vegetarian food in Thailand.

JJ Market coconut water man

In the comments, Mr. Donut posted an interesting detail about the Chatuchak Market. Thanks Mr. D.

"It's more than a hundred thousand visitors per day or something like that, but it feels at times like a million all trying to cram into a closet."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Notes on the fly

Thriftstore deco pop art plate
Price: $20
Artist unknown

We left New York on Friday and flew to Los Angeles where we spent a few days doing the town with M.'s mom. That is, we took her to her favorite charity thrift shops. She had a great time and even came away with a few super bargains. Just for the record, the broken glass and toys deco pop art plate pictured above was not among them. And we went to MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). After seeing the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney in New York, I was prepared to be unimpressed by their Warhol exhibit but big surprise! Shadows was delightful.

Warhol - Shadows
MOCA, 2014

It is a single work composed of 102 variously silkscreened and hand painted canvases. The images are based on two impressions of a shadow in Warhol's studio. A few minutes in the room and my dismissive attitude melted under their unobtrusive and oddly soothing sway. All together, the paintings are charming in the way a chant is charming or yes, okay I'll say it, an afternoon shadow. Because of its size, this is only the second time Shadows has been shown in its entirety. The curator describes the collection as a "haunting, environmental ensemble". Even though it's a Warhol, for once I agree the rhetoric.

And as I'm on the subject of works by Anointed Ones such as Warhol, Koons and Wool, I recently read a thread on Metafilter about why their art is so "valuable". Warhol's picture of a coke bottle recently sold for $57.8 million and Koons' Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million, a new high mark for a living artist. Considering the relative inanity of these "masterpieces", this may leave one wondering what the fuck IS art anyway? Without going all "art speak", the very pinnacle of pomposity, it helps to keep in mind that the value of any work of art is arbitrary and personal. Consider those stick figure drawings your toddler gave you back when. Priceless. Just so, in a lessor fashion of course, it is not hard to see why billionaires treasure works by the Anointed Ones. Buying and selling these "masterpieces" allows them to legally move great gobs of money around. The upscale Art Market could be otherwise called the Billionaire Laundromat.

"Apocalypse Now"
Price: $26.4 million
Christopher Wool

And now, after traveling for 45 hours, we're in Bangkok. I count that time from Los Angeles when we got up in the morning to Bangkok when we finally got to bed some two nights later, after dinner and walking to the Big C for bananas, oatmeal and instant coffee for breakfast. We're staying in an apartment M. Lee found on airbnb. It costs $60 a day, which is a lot more than the $9 a day room we had in Chiang Mai last winter, but it's Bangkok and in a great location.

Inflight map

Friday, October 10, 2014

For the record

Ordinary day at Times Square
As I was saying, Bloggoroid gobbled up the post I tapped out yesterday on my phone during our bus ride into the City. I no longer scream when these things happen. Some of my losses have been far worse. We all know it's part on life online so here goes again. What follows is a list, mostly without comment. If I have time for more, I'll add it at the end.

NY Times
from Port Authority Bus Terminal

In the week we've been in New York, we've seen two Broadway plays, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" and "It's Only A Play". Wonderful. We caught the Jeff Koons exhibit at the soon to be "old Whitney".  One of his pieces fetched the highest price ever received by a living artist but, IMO, he's not an artist but a designer of over-sized kitsch that, if shrunk down to regular size, I wouldn't pay a dollar for. But then, that's "art" in the world of high finance. We have eaten in a variety of places. Because M.'s mother's tastes range from Michelin Star restaurants to skeevy Chinese noodle and dumpling houses, we've eaten at both. And yesterday we made a pilgrimage to Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery in the Bowery, a favorite from Kathy's time in the City during her youth. Also, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art twice, munched on sandwiches in Central Park, took what seems like a thousand cold-hearted subway trains and enjoyed our daily short, civil bus trip from New Jersey to Manhattan and back.

Chinatown, NYC
New Jersey itself is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all. It's quiet, clean and residential with wide sidewalks, trees and a million, no, a three million dollar view of the City across the Hudson. It's a Latino Mayberry. If you don't know what Mayberry is/was, I mean to say it's America circa the 1950s complete with high school football practice and tree-lined streets. If it has a seething, gang-ridden underbelly I am totally, and blissfully, unaware of it.

Kathy at Prosperity Dumpling
Chinatown, NYC

As for the streets of New York, they are a panoply of languages. Mid-town and down, is the center of the hive and chaotic circus complete with food carts, wandering Spidermen, Gumbys, Cookie Monsters and every other cartoon and fantasy character, every kind of fashion, nearly naked ladies, hell fire preachers, millions of pounds of squishy tourists, sly hustlers, bustlers, immigrants, cops, military, rich, poor and inbetweens. The buildings themselves have been transformed from their original brick and stone into dazzling, ricocheting video screen mazes designed to stun and hypnotize and do. Oh, and this weekend the International Comic-Con is happening so today the streets should be extra freaky.

Ordinary day at Times Square

Oops. M. Lee just jumped up and announced that he miscalculated the time. Okay. Sorry. No time to edit this. I'll fix it later. I hope my mistakes aren't too egregious. I'm sure I'll be embarrassed when I read it later but I'm determined to post something. Otherwise, I post nothing.   So.... photos to follow.

The Elms

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bloggeroid ate my post

I did a better post on the bus coming in from New Jersey. This one I'm doing as we wait for the day's sandwiches to be made. Today we're going back to the Met. OK. Gotta go.

PS I don't care how big they are, how much his sculptures go for, or what techniques he has his minions employ, I don't like Jeff Koons' "work" and I think he's an asshole.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NY street scene

This will have to be quick. You know how it is. We were supposed to leave at 11 AM and it's already 10:55. Oops. :56.

We're in New York with M.'s mom. Her treat, we're going to a Broadway play this afternoon. Don't ask which one. I don't remember. I've got bigger things on my mind, such as downloading my photos from yesterday. M. and I sat out on Times Square on small red metal folding chairs while his mom shopped at H&M. It was a circus. Of course,  my photos are no different than the thousands, perhaps millions, of other photos people took of the place yesterday but here's one of mine.

NYC, Times Square street scene