Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Song Of Thanks; A Grat Etude - Yet Again

Some local colors of Autumn in my area

Thanksgiving is a more or less uniquely U.S.A event, but as work, travel and relocation spread us to the four points of the compass (and all points in-between) you'll see it observed around the world during this time of November, as well as in different ways on other dates. Besides, stopping for a moment on any day to be grateful for what we have - be it humble or more - is a worthwhile thing, I say. Only the most foolish would write it off as anything less.

Today's post is a near repeat of the post from this same time last year. My thoughts on the holiday and what I think it ought to represent match those of Mr. Carroll, and aren't much different today than they were a quarter century ago when I first read it; other than I've aged and (hopefully) mellowed a bit more since then. 

So... here again is the piece by one of my all-time favorite columnists, Jon Carroll. To my way of thinking it neatly ties up the whole bundle - with a bow, no less - and has become part of my annual tradition; a somewhat calm port before the storm of The Holidays officially begins.  I hope it means something to you and again gives you pause for thought, too. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for reading my stuff here. 


A Song of Thanks; A Grat Etude
by Jon Carroll, copyright held by the San Francisco Chronicle

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is comfortably free of the strident religious and/or militaristic overtones that give the other holidays their soft emanations of uneasiness.

At Christmas, for instance, we are required to deal with the divinity of Jesus -- I know some of you folks have made up your minds about that one, but not me -- and on the Fourth of July we must wrestle with the question of whether all those simulated aerial bombardments represent the most useful form of nationalism available.

At Thanksgiving, all we have to worry about is whether we can wholeheartedly support (a) roasted turkey, (b) friends and (c) gratitude. My opinions on these matters are unambiguous; I am in favor of them all. I understand that there's another story attached to Thanksgiving, all about a meal that may not have happened at all and certainly didn't happen on the fourth Thursday of November. 

The implication of the school-pageant version of Thanksgiving is that everything was just swell between the Pilgrims and the Indians. That's not true, and things got a lot worse before they got marginally better. But Thanksgiving isn't about that -- it's a harvest festival. We can attach some dopey Squanto-give-corn narrative to it, but it's really about how once more the earth has been fruitful and all the crops are safely in the barn. Thus, for me, the thrill of Thanksgiving is undiminished by caveats, codicils or carps. That alone is something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving provides a formal context in which to consider the instances of kindness that have enlightened our lives, the moments of grace that have gotten us through when all seemed lost. These are fine and sentimental subjects for contemplation.

First, there are the public personalities, artists and entertainers and philosophers, who have been there when they were needed, whether they knew it or not. Let us think kind thoughts about Nancy Pelosi and Helen Mirren, Barbara Lee and Frank Gore, Al Gore and David Milch, David Simon and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tom Stoppard and Keith Olbermann, Jennifer Egan and Peter Carey, Van Morrison and Clarence Fountain, Don Asmussen and Judith Martin, Duncan Black and Joshua Micah Marshall, Dan Savage and Masi Oka -- this is my partial list; feel free to create your own.

And the teachers, the men and women who took the time to fire a passion for the abstract, to give us each a visceral sense of the continuity of history and the adventure of the future. Our society seems determined to denigrate its teachers -- at its peril, and at ours. This is their day as well.

Even closer. Companions. We all learned about good sex from somebody, and that person deserves a moment. Somebody taught us some hard lesson of life, told us something for our own good, and that willingness to risk conflict for friendship is worth a pause this day. And somebody sat with us through one long night, and listened to our crazy talk and turned it toward sanity; that person has earned this moment too.

And a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well.

Our parents, of course, and our children; our grandparents and our grandchildren. We are caught in the dance of life with them and, however tedious that dance can sometimes seem, it is the music of our lives. To deny it is to deny our heritage and our legacy.

And thanks, too, for all the past Thanksgivings, and for all the people we shared them with. Thanks for the time the turkey fell on the floor during the carving process; for the time Uncle Benny was persuaded to sing "Peg o' My Heart"; for the time two strangers fell in love, and two lovers fell asleep, in front of the fire, even before the pumpkin pie.

And the final bead on the string is for this very Thanksgiving, this particular Thursday, and the people with whom we will be sharing it. Whoever they are and whatever the circumstances that have brought us together, we will today be celebrating with them the gift of life and the persistence of charity in a world that seems bent on ending one and denying the other.

Thanks. A lot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bangkok Balcony Boy

Sunrise colors the sky over the Siam Discovery area, awash itself in an LED glare

While I'm a few decades past being what most anyone would consider a boy (even by gay tourist vernacular, which usually means someone between the ages of, say, 18 to 25 or so there; more what would qualify as a "twink" here at home) I still get a chance to feel a spark of youthful rejuvenation with each dawn I'm awake to appreciate. I can't speak for you, but that alone makes me feel good.

Dawn and dusk are my two favorite times of day. Many around the world appreciate nap time in the middle of the day, but a nap has become a rare guilty pleasure for me, so any daylight sleeping hours would become the third favorite, I suppose.

Part of the beauty of dawn and dusk is the light. The light and colors of the morning and evening sky and the way they tint everything they touch make for not only sometimes breath-taking scenes, but also often gorgeous light for photography. Sometimes the combination of that light and the dark shadows often cast by them are absolutely magnificent, I think.

Looking towards the Siam Discovery Center, Mah Boon Krong (MBK) mall and the National and Siam BTS stations.

Regulars have seen other posts about early morning hours - such as this one from six months ago - or any of a number of others that fit (one way or another) under the sunrise/sunset label.

These golden morning and evening hours are same same, but different in the city, the suburbs, the coast and the countryside; each having their own charm. On my last trip I was able to enjoy them in quite a variety of settings, but the pictures today were taken from my perch on the balcony of my rooms in Bangkok - a spot I tend to choose as my roost of choice most any time it's not too hot and I have the luxury of some unscheduled time - hence the title today.

An arm reached for the items near the center of this image after I'd taken this one morning. Probably went out of the room on the owner that very day.

I've found it's not only a fine spot to collect my thoughts for the day after some meditation time, it's a calming and centering experience. Sitting and sipping down a cup or two of Peets Major Dickason blend coffee I've brought from home (and just freshly brewed) I've found it easy enough to lose myself and suddenly realize I've been out on my balcony for an hour and a half, just watching the sky and city below me changing.

[I don't care for the small tubes of granulated Nescafe and Coffeemate that seem to be the standard in rooms throughout the kingdom, so I bring my own coffee. With a bit of luggage space you can, too: the link to that post is here.]

The large LED billboard that faces the courtyard between Siam Discovery and Siam Center is shut off during the wee small hours, but it flares to life again at dawn, as if it's trying to out-do the sun.  As you can see to the far right in the top image today, it is bright.

The BTS elevated travel train lines open at 06:00, and it's shortly thereafter that you see them snaking along their set paths. The one below was on it's way to the Ratchathewi station from Siam, headed toward the (current) end of the Sukhumvit line at the Mo Chit station. Work is underway to take it out well North into the Nonthaburi area, but who knows when that will be completed.

A Sukhumvit line train heads North as the sky brightens: the morning commute has already begun.

Many of you have already seen the posts here about the BTS lines, but for any new arrivals there are "Newbie's Guides" sprinkled through the blog here, including an introduction,  one on statistics, another on buying tickets, others showing route maps, shops and - yes - even a post about young lovers and PDAs - Public Displays of Affection. You can find all of those by clicking here.

Well before I've finished my coffee and caught up with the previous days' paper (the one that's usually sat neatly folded on my coffee table since the previous afternoon) the commute has begun down below.

Tuk-tuks, taxis, bicycles, a sprinkling of other vehicles and a stream of pedestrians make their way in both directions over the Hua Chang bridge, which stretches over the Khlong Saen Saep longboat water taxi stop.

The "show" varies a bit from day to day; a downpour of rain or a minor traffic accident on the bridge can add their own color, but I never seem to tire of it.  Easily amused?  Perhaps, but as I say to many people I see rushing around while on holiday: it's usually too nice a day to hurry. Take a look yourself the next time you're traveling... and up that early.