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Friday, July 3, 2009

"The Rounds," July 4, 2009

Well, it's been a good long while since I wrote anything, so I thought I would.


First up is a story about a domestic low-fare airline in mainland China, Spring Airlines.

Now, you my quite reasonably ask, "I'm wanting to read about THAILAND, or at least BANGKOK, not China! What gives???"

Well, I just ran across a story online headlined "'Barstool seating' on a Chinese airline?" Talk about a natural for Washington Square and Squaronians!

You see, it's obvious that one of two things has happened, or perhaps the two did: (1.) Squaronians fame continues to spread far and wide, or, (2.) Some Squaronian slipped up behind the Bamboo Curtain and consulted on cabin design on the airline's sole type of aircraft, the Airbus 320, or (3.) Both of the above.

Let me take these backwards, though I'll lump 2 and 3 together. I figure # 2 is HIGHLY unlikely because (1.) Squaronians are essentially a lazy lot, and, (2.) No self-respecting Squaronian wants to get that far away from the Square. (The airline is based in Shanghai.) Those automatically eliminate the third possibility I listed.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

So, that brings us back to # 1, which in a glimpse of the blindingly obvious I realized of course can be the One and Only True Explanation.

For those unfortunate amongst readers who've never had the glorious, epiphanic* (look it up!) experience of visiting Washington Square and getting to know The Squaronians, Squaronians are quite fond of their barstools. They may not actially sit on them very much, mind you; they may fling a leg atop one, or they may lean against it, and, once enough cups of their favorite libation has passed their lips, they may even, finally, sit on it (an act of quiet desperation, one implying the booze has won . . . again).

Spring Airlines is perfect for Squaronians. Well, the name may not be all that appropriate; no spring chickens around these parts, and few, if any, Squaronians have much in the way of spring left in their steps, and fewer still spring for everyone's bar tab. HOWSOMEVER -- were the airline to lay on a flight to Bangkok, one with an A-320 fitted out with barstools instead of boring old airline seats, I bet every flight would be full. Of Squaronians (and wannabes, who are legion). And I guarantee the flights would be full if also (1.) they didn't go anywhere -- just circled Bangkok a few hours, (2.) the airline provided helicopter transfers between the airport and Washington Square (well, okay, to the helipad atop the bank building on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 33, diagonally across the street from the front gate of the Square), and (3.) provided free booze (instead of being the cheap charlies they presently are).

Don't know quite how a seatbelt works on a barstool. Maybe they'll put a chrome pole on sliders (explanation in a minute) that can lock in place beside the barstool, and the Squaronian can strap in with the seatbelt attached to the pole and his barstool. (All Squaronians are men; the women belong to the "Suffering Squaronians' Wives Club.")

Before I forget, a word about the bit about chrome poles on sliders. Chrome poles are best known around here as being physical support systems for bored a-go-go dancers who all specialize in that exciting dance, "Shuffling-While-Chewing-Gum-and-Looking-Bored-Out-of-My-Mind."

On any Dragon Land-Bangkok flight, the cabin crew would all have to be young, beautiful, enthusiastic Chinese Dolls who love to dance (besides the aforementioned one, I mean; we can see that in thousands of places here without bothering with an airplane). While cruising altitude is reached -- 1,000 feet would be fine for us, since that's high enough to clear any buildings etc. around Bangkok, and low enough to reach take-off-your-seatbelt-altitude quickly so we can unbuckle ASAP and get the chrome poles locked into their primary position, a foot or two away from the barstool -- the chrome poles magically transforming from being seatbelt supports to their more historic purpose.

Then it's SHOWTIME, and the hostesses -- please, no katoeys ("lady-boys," or transsexuals, to the ignorant and uninformed ) hit the poles. Since their uniforms for this special flight are a-go-go outfits, they're good to go as soon as the "Fasten Seatbelt" signs go out. Of course, the plane will have to be overstaffed, by normal standards, since even a regular Airbus 320 (based on Phillipines Air's 320-200, version 1**) seats 144 in Economy and 12 in Business. Get rid of the worthless business and replace them with Economy seats, and the number goes up 168, from 156. Now, rip ALL the seats out and replace them with barstools and chrome poles. I reckon we can squeeze 190-200 guys aboard, with plenty of room for the ladies (the ones working; no lady passengers allowed on this flight). I reckon about 60 hostesses ought to be enough; they could take turns dancing and serving drinks -- shifts, if you will. (Hm, with that many hostesses, may have to cut the passenger number back some after all. Som nam na to those left-on-the-tarmac!) ("Som nam na" means "Tough, Buddy," in this context.)

Man oh man -- Spring Airlines ought to love us! Well, maybe not the trashed cabins and restrooms, but never mind minor details.

I just had another idea: these flights could be for members only! Of course, all bona fide Squaronians would have automatic (and free) lifetime membership. The wannabes and simply curious could pay, say, 2,000 baht per year into a General Fund for Squaronians when they're broke and thirsty. (Since everybody knows everybody's business, that wouldn't be hard to keep tabs -- no pun intended -- on! )

And the planes. Planes have to have names. No need to paint a name on each plane -- I envisage a small fleet of them -- since the nose could have one of those holders you slide a long, rectangular piece of plastic or metal into with whatever you want written on it, so the name can rotate from flight to flight. The inaugural flight could be named "The Rabbi," in honor, of course, of the lately (and deeply missed, no joke) George Pipas. And we can't forget people such as "Ba Burt [Burt Nestle]," "Papa Bear [Bear Hudson], "Taffy" and "The Warden" [both Taffy, which is enough ID on him!] . . . and then we come to Riley, who's difficult to nickname because there are so many possibilities: "Louisiana Riley," "Cajun Riley," "Bayou Riley," "Gumbo Riley," "Jambalaya Riley" orm "Mr. Lek" -- those all spring to mind. I might even graciously allow one to be named "Mekhong Kurt."

None of those boring Chinese names like "Beijing [Northern Capital]," "Tianjin [Heavenly River -- the Chinese name for the Milky Way], or my ex-wife's name, "Zhang Xia," which is pretty easy in Mandarin, but means a mouthful in English: "The red glow you see in the western sky on rare occasion after sunset." Well, okay, maybe some Mandarin names, such as "Mei Nu Chuan" -- "Beautiful Ladies Aboard"!!!

Too bad I can't embed the remarkable Susan Boyle's performance (runner-up in the recently concluded "Britain's Got Talent" -- Britain's version of "American Idol" -- contest) singing "I Dream the Dream." (The link takes you to the YouTube video of her performance -- and it's WELL worth watching. Boyle is extraordinary, as evidenced by the fact that the video is from April 11, 2009, but according to a video website tracking service (and this was maybe 3-4 weeks ago), globally, the video had been viewed in the range of -- are you ready for this -- over 200 million times! A few mninutes ago, I saw on YouTube alone the views are over 27 million. Among other things, it's a real humbler -- teaches us something about hubris, pride.

Anyway, Squaronians' airline dream is a bit less ambitious. . . .!!!

* Okay, Lazy Boy, I'll save you the trouble. An epiphany is "a moment of sudden and great revelation." If you don't know what "revelation" means, tough stuff. " "Epiphanic" is the adjective form of of "epiphany." What??? You don't remember what an adjective is? Don't you remember anything Miss Bertha Glottaferbenshein taught you in 8th-grade English? . . . . Oh, sorry; plumb forgot you got permanently expelled in 3rd grade for sitting fire to the teacher's hemline while she was at the blackboard with her back to the class. . . . Well, let's see. "Epiphany" is a noun -- the name of something. Like "bargirl." (I'll stick with easy words, one you recognize instantly.) Now, you can't say "She's sure one epiphanic bargirl," though she may lead you to an epiphany, but never mind that. But another adjective that does work here is "hot," as in "She sure is one hot bargirl!" (An adjective is a word describing a noun, but you probably figured that out already.)

** As a somewhat serious note aside, let me tell you that if you're flying somewhere and aren't familiar with the particular aircraft on that particular airline, Seat Guru does an excellent job of explaining cabin layouts on just about every aircraft flying commercially -- and includes pictures. It's broken down by airline first, then by type of aircraft. Take a look. When there are several variants of the same plane, such as a Boeing 747, which comes in several flavors, it helps to know that model number to be sure you'll get what you want when you book your flight (Boeing 747-300, Boeing 747-400, and so on). Class dismissed.
Well, that's what Burt and Jan told me, anyway.
My birthday happens to fall on June 25th, and Burt's falls the next day, June 26th. For quite a few years now we've always linked up, together with his daughter, the lovely Khun Jan, and had a blast together.
This year was a wet blanket for me. My birthday fell on a Thursday. So, we were supposed to go out that evening -- unusually, since Jan's flight schedule (she's an air hostess -- hey, she can be Head Hostess for our Spring Airline flight!) is unpredictable and often is such that we have to shift to be sure to be able to include her in the festivities -- and stay out until past midnight, so as to celebraqte both birthdays in one go.
One Party Boy was absent: Yours Correspondent. As in "moi."
I woke up with a terrible case of Bangkok Belley the Monday before the birthday, and it flat knocked me out of commission. (More about that later.) I didn't even try to call, but just before midnight on the 25th, Jan called me. Explained my situation to her, wishing I could be there; she and Burt were at the Texas Lone staar. But I just wasn't up for it. But at least Burt and I got to exchange birthday greetings over the phone.
I haven't been debriefed on their debauchery yet, but once I am, I'll be sure to post the really juicy bits here -- and those of you who know Burt know there were some juicy bits to pass along!
As I said, I woke up the Monday before my and Burt's birthdays sick as a dog. In fact, I wonder if I didn't have some kind of stomach or intestinal virus, especially since I hadn't eaten any street food in several days -- in fact, I had eaten only at home, and that was large cold-cut sandwishes and hot dogs, Also, I've had Bangkok Belly in the past, but never anywhere near as knock-me-on-my-but as this bout.
The first couple of days were the worst; I could barely walk, for pete's sake. Which made rushing to the hong nam -- restroom -- every 20-30 minutes a real thrill, groping my way down the hallway, clinging to the wall.
That went on for about three days, but even after that, I fell way short of 100%.
On the bright side, had circumstances been a little different, I finally could have achieved my star-dust dream of being an astronaut. You see, when I was plopped down on the commode and . . . ahem, "had the facilities fully engaged," I could have self-propelled myself into at least a sub-orbital flight! (Luckily, no retro rocket on the other end, my mouth -- no vomiting.)
On my birthday I actually felt a little better, as I should have, since I had spent the great majority of time the preceding three days in bed. Well, and in the restroom, where I dozed at times so I wouldn't have to shuffle up and down the hall every little bit. But I was afraid to push it, which turned out to be a good move on my part. . . .
. . . . because I relapsed Saturday night. Not as bad the second time around, but unpleasant enough. After another few days feeling rough, I began pulling out of it pretty good.
It's the wee hours of the 4th of July as I write this, and I'm basically okay. No, I am okay. But I'm still not pushing it; just hanging out at home and taking it easy.
To put this little episode in context, I've been here just over 15 years -- June 12th was my 15th anniversary in the Big Mango (As Christopher G. Moore calls Bangkok) -- and today (Saturday the 4th) is the THIRTEENTH day since I last was in Washington Square, a record absence, except for the four times I've been in the States visiting and the Sep, 1999-June, 2000 time frame, when I was shuttling back and forth between here and southern China.
I haven't even seen Soi 22 where my sub-soi connects to it. Heck, I've been out in the sub-soi only twice, to go to the 7-Eleven. Bends in the sub-soi plus the arrangement of its intersection with Soi 22 keep me from seeing Soi 22 from 7-Eleven. I wouldn't have gone even so far as 7-Eleven were lunch meat and bread available in one of the two mom-'n-pop shops in my compound. A lot of days I haven't gone outside my apartment at all -- shoot, never even put on clothes, except my undies, socks, and shower shoes I wear for house slippers. (I know, I know -- socks: weird. But the shoes are rubber, and my feet sweat quite a bit. That's not comfortable, plus it's slippery. So, I wear socks with them, just like I wear them with my strap-on sandals I wear when I go out into the streets.)
Somewhat to my pleasant surprise, I haven't had even a moment's feeling of cabin fever. Of course, when you're trying to hang on to the commode so you don't blast off into the bathroom ceiling, you have other things in mind than being cooped up. But I haven't been like that all the time, as I said earlier. Even on good days, I haven't felt any special urge to get out.
It's turned out, happily enough, that I'm okay fooling around on my computer, surfing the Internet; watching TV; reading; stuff like that. I even washed some dishes! (Shock, shock!)
I haven't been utterly alone. My maid and her girlfriend came over the afternoon of my birthday, not to maid-maid, but to see how I was doing, and to spend a bit of time with me on my birthday, knowing my plans with Burt and Jan were shot to hell. That night, they even persuaded me to drink some beer -- not much, mind you; tasted halfway like piss. (Unlike the one I had yesterday, the only other alcohol I've had since I was last in Washington Square. Yesterday's slaked right down and tasted great. But after the one big bottle, I could feel it -- tolerance goes quick. And that's okay, too.) Anyway, it was nice of them to come. Especially my maid, who lives way to hell and gone out in the distant, remote, not-so-easy-to-get-to outskirts, out in the jungle with the monkeys. Her friend lives right here in my compound.
So, I'm well on the way to full recovery; I reckon I'm 90-95% operational now.
Thank goodness.
Sure ain't in a hurry for another go around with the Bangkok Belly . . . or whatever it was!
Well, I'm going to be pretty useless on this one, given my lengthy absence from the Square. I have talked with Burt several times, and Taffy called Thursday, so I haven't been completely incommunicado. Apparently everyone's doing okay; neither Taffy nor Burt reported anything at all, much less anything of a newsy (read: "gossipy!") nature.
I do know a few Squaronians who aren't around every day have been around. "English" Ken has been in town. So has Davey, from Phuket, who does manage to get up considerably more often than Ken does from England; after all, Phuket is a spot closer! Bear came down from the jungle on the outskirts of Surin midweek, and will be here through the 4th, anyway. As I said, Burt was in the Square on "our" birthday, and has been there a time or two other times during my absence. Nigel was around a day or two ago (or sometime this week, anyway). I think Taffy said Deano, the Qantas pilot, was in this week, though I don't know if he was outbound to London or back inbound to Sydney, which means I don't know when he might be back through -- when he's outbound, we know he'll be back in 2-3 days. But when he's on his way back to the Land of Funny Animals, no one knows. (Australia and Madagascar jointly hold the title for "Oddest Animals in the World.") Not even him, not for sure. I think Libya Dave is back off to fly around that Desert Paradise; Louisiana Riley has gone to work on his month-on/month off rotation (I think -- that was his plan last time I saw him just over two weeks ago, as I recall).
Will try to report more next time, by which time I expect I'll be popping into the Square again, if not every day from now on. I kinda like hanging out at home, sitting around in my undies, like a barbarian!
A Smile from an AIRLINE??? Air New Zealand "Pulls It Off" (So to Speak)
There hasn't been any good news for passengers from the airlines in . . . well, I forget just when.
Air New Zealand's marketing department must have geniuses aboard. They done a safety video -- you know, the video telling you to stow your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, how to fasten and unfasten your seatbelt, telling you to obey instructions from crew members -- blah-blah-blah, all that stuff that bores us to tears and which we ignore after the first or second time we fly. Commercial, anyway. (I guess back seat in a fighter jet is a whole different cup of tea!)
But Air New Zealand has come up with a safety video that'll keep you riveted. Here are some sample headlines that will, um, "reveal" why:
--- "Bare essentials of safety" video leaves Air New Zealand uncovered
--- New Zealand airlines issues nude safety video
--- Air New Zealand flight attendents get naked
--- Air New Zealand staff bare all to get flyers' attention
--- This is your Captain streaking
--- Naked truth about flying: Air New Zealnd crew strip off to present "bare essentials of safety"
(I swiped these headlines from Google News.)
The video is hilarious, and makes us smile at ourselves when we realize they're fooling around with some of our, um, "more earthy" instincts. (Hubbette, that means sex, Honey; remember that?)
With headlines like the ones above -- they run into several hundred at Google News -- of course we're all primed for some sort of sneak peek. (I do wish professional journalists would learn the difference between the two words "peek" and "peak"! Just an English teacher's bitch . . .)
The atmosphere of the video is very light-hearted, with whimsical, light music tinkling in the background. The content is straightforward, not deviating from the essential points passengers need to know.
I fell for it, I don't mind saying. :-)
So, what's the draw, the attraction? You watch an ordinary safety video for, let's see, I think it's a Boeing 737-300. Life jacket. Oxygen mask -- put yours own before helping any children with you. Emergency lighting strips. That sort of things.
Several crew members are the cast, and they really *are* crew members, not actors. But the hook isn't clear until the very last scene, when the hostess, who has a large role in the video, turns her back to the camera and begins walking away towards the rear of the aircraft.
Look closely for her derriere once she gets far enough away for it to appear in the lowed edge of the view. ("Derriere" means "butt," si vous ne parlez pas francais -- "if you don't speak French.")
Every crew member/actor in the video is NEKKID!!! [naked, for non-native English speakers]. Yep, they're in their birthday suits. When the hostess walks away is the first time this is at all evident, as this is the first time you can get a visual clue: you can see her cheeks. As in tush cheeks, not face ones.
"But," you protest, "they have on their uniforms the entire video!!!"
Nope. Unh-unh. Ain't so.
The trick? -- body paint.
This isn't the first time the airline has used this approach; earlier, in a "Nothing to hide" advertisement, which promoted discount airfares the airline was offering, had the airline's chief executive and others making the pitch -- all in the buff. Except for body paint.
the current ad (and, I presume, the earlier one) is intended for Air New Zealand's domestic market, but someone posted it on the ever-dependable YouTube -- and it went viral, snagging over a million hits in very short order.
It's a really well-done feel-good ad. I've never flown Air New Zealand -- but if they compete on price next time I'm flying internationally to one of their destinations, you can sure bet I'll give them a try! Heck, I've been wanting to go to Australia and New Zealand both for years, and this gives me a little more excuse to do so. If you like the ad, maybe you too will consider flying on their airline.
Hop over the and in the search box in the upper right, type in "air new zealand safety video" (the quotation marks aren't necessary in YouTube) and you'll get a list -- including some out-take bloopers that occurred while they were shooting this ad, hilarious in its own right.
From my perspective as a writer, it's darned nice to have something pleasant to write about any airline in these days of madness on airlines' part that drive US nuts in turn.
B the way -- I do believe the pilot's HAT isn't body paint, nor any other kind!
Anyone out there driving in Thailand will be glad to know that effective today (Saturday, July 4th), the government's PTT petrol [gas, to my Yank compatriots] stations are cutting prices at the pump by 50 satang (that's 1/2 baht for those unfamiliar with Thailand's money).
The new prices will range from a low of 24.09 baht/lieter for B5 biodiesel 32.94/liter for 91 octane petrol [gas again, Yank, gas]. In U.S. terms, that works out to just a tad above US$2.60/US gallon at the low end to bit above US$3.56/US gallon at the high end.
While the story said other stations are expected to fall in line -- they always do -- it's silent on the price on LPG gas, which is increasingly popular here, at least here in Bangkok, where it's getting easier to fill up as more stations with the proper equipment come online (or existing stations add the equipment).
I'm sure drivers will appreciate the pump relief. Drivers who have to pay for the fuel, not company drivers, whose gas is provided, of course. The government hiked the excise tax back in April by a full two baht, so even this price cut leaves customers paying 1.50 baht/liter more than they were before the April hike.
Hm. Just dawned on me the only fuel I've used for nearly two weeks is "biofuel" energy from my food to power my walking!
Enough for one go. . . .
Mekhong Kurt

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