Tag Archive: Bangkok


**What follows is the result of unease. A spontaneous reflection on observation. Wondering what happened to the vagabond? Read on, friend. It was in this moment that I realized the vagabond was gone.**

I began this blog as an experiment in some respects. I had no real intention of making it any more than it was destined to be.

So much has changed (the words of a million introspects across our world) since I began this frame for words.

The dark man in jeans and brown fleece jersey is jumping and dancing as if he really is happy. The music doesn’t judge him as it does me, I suppose. I find myself reading Pathfinder, Candle in the wind, and other posts from my past.

He’s jumping side to side now as the masses wale out the words on the screen. I think I’m the only one sitting.

He really seems happy, that man over there. In the isle. He’s clapping his hands.

I’m typing a message on my cellphone. Legs are crossed and I wonder if the usher notices how out of place my frown is. Why is his face so blank? She must ask herself. Except she doesn’t look at me.

Purple backdrops, flashing greens and blues. A man on stage who sings with passion. His face is illuminated in the spot-light. I can see every move he makes. His expression is sincere.

What does he look like when he is alone at home later in the evening, I wonder. Is he still smiling then? Does the dark man keep on dancing?

What about me – do I keep the same blank expression once home and alone? In the dark of my apartment, without purple lights to flare my emotions?

I think I mostly do – but it’s not as if I want to be this way.

No longer am I the vagabond. But did he die or is he merely dormant – or maybe I left him in Thailand, left him to wander the streets of Bangkok till the day he dies – having already died to me.

Who am I now? No longer a vagabond or a traveler or a wandering pathfinder. No longer a missionary or a dreamer. Not a romanticist or a student.

Now just a steel ball in a glass-cad maze, rolling this way and that. A rolling stone gathers no perspective. Or so they should have said, not while rolling in a maze at least.

**An inner dialogue whilst sitting in a church one day.**

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Vagabond obituary

The vagabond is dead. May the sudden haste at which this news arrives find forgiveness, readers. For swift was his demise, and in irony, as with the slow passing of time, the slow fading of his weathered face found its end in one frantic moment at the end of a sentence.

The vagabond was a man of the mind, born of it and defined by it. He was spiritual and sincere. He was fearful and free. He was designed on a question, and he was murdered by its answer.In his place must rise another, though none can take his place. Though another will use his platform, his words will linger on. As will his soul where he was left. As a specter on the streets of Bangkok forever. I will miss him.

**To my frequent readers, I apologize for unfulfilled promises (such as part 2 of my short story which was supposed to follow my previous post – like 6 months ago) and ask that you check in here again some time to see what is comes next – out of the ashes of the vagabond‘s demise.**

** A note from the vagabond: I posted a flash science fiction piece here a while ago. I ended up liking it somewhat and decided to try and expand it to 8 or 9 thousand words. I eventually finished it about a month ago will be posting it in small chunks here for the coming month or two as I go through and edit it further. The following section is a rewrite of that which I posted before, followed by some new stuff. Thanks for reading… **

Under This Dome of Pretence

That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Lat Khean” said a sign standing to one side against a backdrop of empty sand and sky. He was on a slow march over the eroded path which rose and fell over the landscape. He wasn’t sure what made the cities like Lat Khean so appealing to the masses of other settlers of this graveyard planet. He savoured the depth of disgust he had for them as he lifted his foot off of the terra in a puff of light yellow-brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet for the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. He was looking for the glint, the glint which would guide him like a directional star, toward his object of hate, and his mantle of redemption which lay somewhere inside it. The sharp light from the low-lying sun which dominated the sky above with its immensity made it difficult to see as the photons bombarded Locke’s eye’s with too much brilliance for his unmodified eyes to handle. The rays refracting off of the desert around him had him squinting so hard that his eyes were almost closed. He knew more from his experience than from his observations. The stretch of empty desert behind the welcome sign didn’t fool his subconscious. His quickening heart beat was an observable measure that told him he was headed toward more than just dry landscape and sizable craters though this is all one less experienced would find if approached with an un-searching eye.

Locke dug his hands into his worn pant pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the hot breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Lat Khean, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, “Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intension as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids. He flicked a hydration capsule into his mouth and it exploded into liquid as he bit down.

When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the glint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled on his cloak and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. 20 minutes later he glanced back over his shoulder, he was approaching the now obvious dome ahead. His fear of heat stroke now eclipsed completely by his peaking agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 planetary days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…

Locke’s left arm twitched and he gave it a glance, just before his body slipped through the surface of the shimmering dome, to ensure none of his ill acquired tech was showing beyond his sleeves. Lat Khean’s air-conditioned atmosphere met his bone dry skin with a cool embrace, wrapping him in a moist body wrap due to the psychrometrically cooled air. As if the atomic weight of the heat itself was lifting off of Locke’s shoulders, he stood up straight, but what truly greeted him this side of the dome was an old hated companion. A featureless face in his subconscious, a personality behind his eyelids who would look at him out of a crowd of blank faces. The voice was always a whisper in his ear – you’re a coward it would say Run home to where it’s safe. He didn’t want to be in the city but circumstances were no slave to his desires and his past had forced him to travel the 200 miles to Lat Khean, this serpent pit of poisoned motives and poorly disguised intentions. But this was for her… and so he had no choice.

He felt as if there were knives poking at his heart, he knew the feeling well, it was the anxiety he felt for the people he would soon have to handle. Locke sunk into his coat and tried to avoid the eye contact of the impending crowd he had emerged into this side of the dome. “Cities…” Hespoke it like a swearword under his breath. “People…” he swore again.

“Keep walking, head down, breath slow…” he told himself as he moved past the congestion of conversing people.

Locke glanced backwards at the dome and then moved forwards again noting the tall skyscrapers surrounding him. He was moving through a bustling crowd of Lat Khean’s people on the sidewalk of a dirty street. He moved past street stalls selling tech, food, and many nefarious items for which he had no desire. He was single minded and moved deliberately, not even pausing to acknowledge the hawker’s calls of promise telling him that “I have all you need just down this soi”. Locke needed to get through this mess of people and find Joe before one of the knives poked a hole in his pounding heart. The signs on the side walk guided him through two lefts and a right, down a flight of eroded stairs and then up to a wooden door in a graffitied wall. Locke hit the intercom button and waited.

There was a commission inside, behind the door. Footsteps and gun fire, Locke jumped aside and the door burst open like a crate of fireworks, the wooden door splintered sending planks, cement and bricks exploding in all directions, except in the direction of Locke who stood with his back to the wall adjacent the now gaping hole with his eyes and fists clenched shut.

Next, people exploded out of the hole in the wall and Locke opened his eyes just in time to watch two men and a lady, follow each other in a staccato blistering sprint out of the charred hole. The last in the line of three out of the graffitied wall paused momentarily only to slip a glance through her visor at Locke, before putting her head down and recommitting to the chase. Her face was hidden but to Locke it almost appeared as if she was considering approaching him instead of disappearing with the others, why had she paused when she looked at him? Almost as if she had recognised him. The way she moved… Locke almost felt the same way about her, but he was left behind, surrounded by a pile of rubble. The girl and the other runners had disappeared into the street.

 

** part 2 will follow next week, come back if you found this vaguely amusing**

**author’s note: as per usual, the below story is unvarnished, but that’s what drafts are for, enjoy it**

The man with the iron fist

That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Chit Lom” said the sign. He was taking a slow walk down the surreptitiously marked out path and wasn’t sure what made this piece of dirt any different from the last he lifted his foot of in a puff of light yellow brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet or the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. His experience told him that he was headed toward more than just the current empty stretch of Karoo-like desert and sizable craters would initially suggest to an un-searching eye.

Locke dug his hands into his worn jean pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Chit Lo, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the mid-Martian day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intention as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids.

When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the tint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled his cloak more tightly around his shoulders and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. He glanced back over his shoulder as he approached the now obvious dome 10 minutes of walking later and his fear of dehydration was replaced by his agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 Martian days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…

**authors note: I wrote this introduction to the rick-rack rhythm of the rail road, hunched up in a seat designed for a Thai person half my size, in the last car of a train trekking from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had 16 hours to spend with only my moleskin notebook and tablet keyboard to keep me entertained. At about the 8 hour mark, giving up on sleep, I pulled out my pencil and moleskin and began to write. Thus Locke was born.

I have another 3000 words to this story following the above which I will put up in due time. I’m not sure just how long this story will be in the end yet but I am hoping to finish it in the next 3000 words. It feels like a 6000 word story**

We are all in a contest of who can shout the loudest. In Thailand there is a bird that lives its life in the cage of its enthusiastic master. It is called the Nok Krung Hua Juk – the Cage Bird Head Mohawk (a loose, literal translation as close as I can figure).

As I walk down a small, busy soi with my friends and colleagues Sam speaks to me in sincere elucidations. I step aside as a pickup drives past, dodging the Thai kids playing football on the street, the motorcycle scooters cruise past and I take a moment to covet the cool wind that one enjoys on a motorcycle ride in the Bangkok heat. Sam’s speech pauses and his eyes dart leftward as he makes the translations to English in his mind – he tells me about this eccentric and bemused local bird. His father  from the South of Thailand used to own one he tells me. It has since been given to Sam’s friend owing to the erratic, high attention, maintenance required of those who indulge themselves in the fringe hobby which gives such high value to the bird. “10 000 baht”, Sam goes on to say when I ask him of the birds value. “In my home town you see the owners on their motocycle with their bird-cage in one hand” Sam tells me. These birds take part in the sport of Bird Shouting – where they are pitched against each other in featherweight exhibitions of their vocal prowess.

A lucrative and more or less illegal gambling ring of old men and bird hobbyists surround the cages as they ‘shout’ at the top of their lungs – both the old men and the birds – aiming to see who can shout longer and harder through their wooden cages.

“What do you call it? Ha ha – like walking your dog – walking their birds? But it’s on a motorcycle so – riding their birds?” Sam muses as he explains some of the nuances of the business. “They need to improve the bird’s voice” he says. “They have to get used to all – all the … all -”
“all the noise and busyness going on around them” I complete his sentence, his 2nd language momentarily failing him.
“Yes, so that they can improve their voice”

The gambling rings in Thailand are a sight to behold. The best example I’ve personally witnessed being those old laughing and jeering, cheering men of Lumpinee Boxing Stadium who watch and gradually get louder and more cacophonous as the Muay Thai fights edge closer to their final-round conclusion. Many who visit the iconic fighting stadium for the first time note that it’s almost more entertaining to watch the boisterous, leather-skinned gamblers than to watch the two bare-chested men in the middle trade teeps and jabs and knees and elbows, jostling for position with the noise of their own heart pounding in their lungs harder than the stamping feet of the crowd, or the drone of the gyrating ceiling fans.

Well the birds, the Nok Krung Hua Juk-s need to get used to this commotion otherwise they’ll lapse into a quiet and shameful silence as their foe shouts them down and their pleading owner counts his last handful of cash disparagingly.

Then it struck me like a Muay Thai knee, as I listened to my colleague Andrew and a yellow-toothed old Thai banter about property prices behind me and the birds chatter at each other across the soi – I realised that we are all somewhat like this Nok Krung Hua Juk. We all need to find our voice in the commotion that would unsettle us and quiet our resolve. I have been like this bird repetitively in my life. Now more than ever – because now I must return to my home country and start the next phase of my journey unto an occupation doing something I deem meaningful.

This time in South East Asia and the hard and noisy years before have been my time on that motorcycle with my Master – the time draws ever nearer when I must enter the ring and use this voice my experiences have given me. I’m sure we are all the same in this – we need times of commotion and noise to give us a voice. We also need a trustworthy master to take the handle bars and guide us through the noise and then when we are loud enough, to put us toe-to-toe against the sort of challenges that make lives worth living, and metaphors worth making.

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