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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Entry from Texas!

Well, this doesn't exactly qualify as an edition of "The Rounds," but since I've been in Texas since June 30th and won't be getting back home to Bangkok until the evening of August 17th, I guess it'll do.

Fact is, I didn't even think about one of the blog services I [rarely] use as a stand-in while I'm here, without the program I need to properly do "The Rounds."

I do know a bit of Bangkok news, for those of you who've had none in awhile.

The most important, and saddest, is that "Generous" George Pipas, who established and owned the Texas Lone Staar in Washington Square after running numerous other Dens of Iniquity around Bangkok since the mid-1960's, passed away last month at age 86.

George had spent several months in hospital, from about last December until May, in Bangkok, after which he returned to his Bangkok home. He did come to the bar once, but it was so difficult for him to get in and out of his car that he didn't try it again. As far as I know, anyway; if he tried after I left for Texas, I'm unaware of it.

George was a fascinating person, one of Bangkok's genuine legends, who ruled from his various roosts of over four decades, merrily hurling abuse and obscenities at staff, regulars, hapless tourists -- well, George was very democratic in this regard, sharing equally with one and all!

More somberly, I must note that George's passing hit one helluva lot of people in a very big way, including me. Yes, we knew he was sick, and yes, we knew he was old -- but doggone it all, we hoped. And hoped. To no avail, in the end.

George's send off was somehow appropriate, something hard for those who didn't know him to understand. Born into a Jewish family, George was married for many years to his beloved Mary Ann, a rare Thai Catholic. So, for the start, a ceremony was held at the Catholic church on Soi Ruam Rudee in Bangkok. That done, his remains were moved to Wat Makkasan, where Buddhist rites took place (I think the rites did, that is), then George was cremated.

Think about it. A Jew from Ohio who married a Catholic, then died in Bangkok and had a joint Catholic-Buddhist send-off. That's beautiful, isn't it?

Wish I could have been there.

In the event, I waited until about 11:00 P.M. here in Texas the night before, which was the start of the ceremony at the wat. Shortly thereafter I toasted George, raising the beer I had in my hand as a silent salute to him.

Then I cried.

* * * * * * * * * *

Don't have much else by way of news of Squaronians or the Square itself coming up in these 5+ weeks I've been gone.

"Afghanistan" Tom is looking at work on another continent sometime soon.

I have spoken, if briefly, by phone to Bear and Burt, both of whom reported they themselves and everyone else is fine.

Doug from Bourbon Street was in the U.S. -- got an e-mail from him regarding George, but he didn't say when he'd be returning to Bangkok.

"Crane" Joe has been in town in Phoenix, his hometown, and Portland (Oregon), the former taking care of personal matters, the latter in connection with his business. Spoke to him a few days ago on the phone (as I have a number of times while in-country Stateside, and he indicated he could be heading back to The Big Weird as soon as yesterday (it now being Wednesday afternoon, Texas time, or early Thursday morning, Bangkok time).

Burma Richard and his lovely wife, Junko, are in Japan visiting Junko's Mother during their regular semiannual get-together in the Nagoya area, where Junko's Mom lives. They always enjoy the get-togethers, and I'm sure both Richard and Junko will return home all excited about their latest journey to the Home of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

* * * * * * * * * *

As for me, I'm enjoying my time here.

The second day I was here, my Sister and I left in the morning, went to pick up our Grandmother in Arlington, Texas, then took her over to our older Aunt's house, also in Arlington. Several family members were there, including two entirely unexpected one, so that was nice.

Upon leaving there, we headed out to Hico, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth -- close to last spring's sitings of UFO's! We stayed the night at our younger Aunt's house, where many relatives from her clan, as well as some of their spouses and friends, were. that was great. I kept my poor Aunt up all night, until 6:00 A.M.!

A few hours after that, Sis and I headed on down to San Antonio, where we visited relatives on the other side of the family. Stayed with them one night, then checked into a motel for two nights -- with the Willie Nelson 35th Annual July 4th Concert sandwiched in between the two nights (in the San Antonio suburbs). Both the visit and the 11-1/2-hour concert were great.

After collapsing the second night in the motel, we awoke the following morning and headed back for Aubrey, where we arrived just in time for my Nephew's backyard July 4th bash (in his Mom's and Dad's yard, of course -- that's where the SWIMMING POOL is!). That was Saturday the 5th, but what to heck; he's a cop with a strange schedule, even for a cop, so he had to work it in where he could. And since he could whup Goliath without breaking a sweat, I'll celebrate July 4th on CHRISTMAS DAY, if that's what he tells me to do! :-)

Then it was mostly rest for just over a week before we set out for the Kansas City area, to visit more relatives and in-laws there.

Spent two wonderful days with those folks, then went a short ways south to visit my Sister's friends, friends of her family, actually. We stayed two nights with them as well, and despite that being the first time I had ever really spent any time with them -- I had met them, briefly, in Texas years ago -- I thoroughly enjoyed their company. They live in the country on about 20 of some of the most beautiful acres I've ever seen.

On our way back to Texas, we swung off the interstate to go by to see my Niece, Sis' daughter (of course, since I have only Sis for a sibling!) in a tiny town west of I-35 and just a few miles north of the Kansas border. Took her to a late lunch and shopping for a few hours, and that was nice.

Been back on the ranch ever since.

Along the way I've gotten to do more visiting with more of my own old friends than usual, even succeeding in tracking down a couple of guys who are both now retired from the Air Force who were in AFROTC with me 1970-72 at what was then called North Texas State University in Denton, Texas. Which is where we were all members of the Sabres Drill Team for the detachment. I also went to a multi-year class reunion here in Aubrey, and got to visit with many old schoolmates. (HYEAH! Quit defining what I mean by "OLD" damnit!!!) And I've been out with two old schoolmates privately, one at her home with her husband, the other with a mutual friend and my old schoolmate's son.

Hope to squeeze in another visit or two before heading back to The Mysterious Orient, but time is beginning to grow short. . . .

It has also been a productive trip in terms of personal business, much of which I've been able to sort, though not everything's done yet. (Gotta dot the i's, cross the t's, that sort of stuff.)

The biggest "production" of my trip is my doggone BELLY. Been eating like a starved hog, and it shows. Sigh. Back on a diet as soon as I get away from stuff like the loads of candy I've been swallowing like mad and Mom's cooking!

* * * * * * * * * *

On the larger US scene, the gas crisis and the upcoming election pretty much dominate everything. There's little truly rational discussion of either, at any level.

As an example of the latter, the other night I was chatting with someone about a then-pending execution of a guy here in Texas, something which had stirred great controversy because the guy was never offered a chance to speak with his country's consular officials. Some fear long-term negative consequences for Americans abroad, since the US signed the relevant treaty in 1969. (The Texas authorities went through with the execution last night.) Anyway, next thing I knew, the other person was railing against Obama grandstanding in Iraq, and I was, like, "Huh??? I thought we were talking about a state execution here; how in hell did OBAMA get into it???" When I asked, the offered explanation was that the person is sick and tired of us apologizing to everyone. When I pointed out that none other than President Bush and the current State Department had weighed in on the case in one way or another, if at different points -- it didn't matter.

So, in the present climate, discussing a domestic issue apparently equates to unrelated international affairs. Beats me. (And that's *not* an isolated example, but a quite representative one.)

Which reminds me; I was able to get a new voter registration card just by making a phone call, since I'm still registered to vote. Still waiting for my absentee ballot, which I was also able to request the stuff for over the phone. Also have order a new driver's license, online, since although my current one doesn't run out until my birthday next year, I can order it up to a year in advance -- and still get the full number of years tacked on after this one expires. The fee had gone up about 8-10 dollars -- but the new license will be valid for six years, not the four my current one is, so it's worth it.

Well, guess that's about it for now. Not much -- but it's SOMETHING anyway!

Cheers to one and all,

Mekhong Kurt
from the wilds of the Lazy KT Ranch in Texas

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