Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Streets of San Francisco

With the recent death of Karl Malden I'm reminded of an event of years past.

In 1977 or so while serving onboard USS ASPRO (SSN-648) a nuclear fast attack submarine homported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii our ship had the good fortune of being selected to make what was then called an EASTPAC (Eastern Pacific Cruise). This was about a six-week trip to the operating areas off the East Coast of the United States for the purpose of training. Mostly we would run in front of United States Navy surface craft, made a lot of noise in the water then they would try and find us.

During this trip we were scheduled for several ports of call the first being Alameda, California which is across the bay from San Francisco. The other ports, which we were to visit, were San Diego, California and Bremerton, Washington.

While in transit and during our off time we would often ask others their plans for San Francisco. As the television show The Streets of San Francisco was very popular at the time my standard reply when asked this question was to say I was going to drop by and visit with my good friend Karl Malden. Soon everyone on the boat as a joke was asking me to give Karl their regards when we met up. Sea stories then came forth about just how tight Karl and I were.

So upon arrive in Alameda we suited up in our civvies (civilian clothing) and hit the streets. After a stop of necessity at some local watering hole we boarded the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to explore the streets of San Francisco. Only knowing that we wanted to go to the North Beach area of San Francisco we exited the train at the Embarcadero stop and made our way on foot north to Broadway.

If I remember correctly the trio in this excursion were myself, Senior Chief Torpedoman Jim Smith of Singer, Louisiana and Chief Firecontrolman Carroll Dubois of Pollock, Louisiana. Yeah, I hear you, having three Louisianans loose on the streets of San Francisco is a bit insane isn’t it. Especially after we had been consuming amber colored liquids. A good time was to be had by all by the end of the day.

Anyway, as we are headed up Broadway towards Columbus Avenue I noticed a single car in the road with one of those portable police red lights on top of the car. Just goofing off I started walking towards that car knowing my companions would ask where was I headed. When they did so, my reply was going to be "just going over to say hi to Karl".

Well, it went just as I had planned except when I bent down to look into the car who should be sitting there but Karl Malden himself.

About this time the car took off at high speed up the street, went about two blocks and turned right stopping outside some public tennis courts.

We had by accident just walked into where they were filming an episode of The Streets of San Francisco. When we got up to the tennis courts the area was blocked off, but we were still very near where they were filming, you could hear all the dialog and directing as clear as day. We were the only gawkers other than a few people associated with the filming.

By the time we completed the trek up the hill, they had already filmed Mike Stones arrival at the crime scene and Tom Bosley of Happy Days fame (the weekly guest star) was joining him on the case. All Tom had to do in his scene was get out of a car, open the gates to the tennis courts and walk over to greet Karl who was kneeling down looking at the body. They must have done this scene at least ten times before they got it the way they wanted it and we became very bored so continued on our quest of conquering San Francisco.

Michael Douglas wasn’t on the set that day that we could see, which is the first thing my wife asked when I related this story to her. Did note however, that Tom Bosley had on so much makeup that he looked like a corpse ready for burial.

OK, so its not that great of a story and I guess it’s really one of those you had to be there deals, but we did get a lot of mileage out of the story back on the boat.

I always liked most of the movies that Karl Malden performed in and I appreciated his work. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Small Appliances

In the short six years that I have been married (this time), I have gone through quite a few Thai made small appliances.

The first was an electric wok, followed by two electric kettles, a refrigerator, a two burner electric stove, a fan and a toaster over. I believe there have been several others but they don’t come to mind at the moment. None of these little household gems lasted for more that a year and of course, as each appliance stopped working I had to share a litany of comments about the quality of Thai products and workmanship. Which, I am sure a certain party in my household got tired of hearing.

Finally, I wised up and forbid myself from purchasing many more Thai electric products, electing to go the extra expense for the imported items. Which, I must add has been a good decision as all are still chugging along (knock on wood).

My problem is I don’t know how to let a sleeping dog lie. I just have to mention from time to time these non-working Thai made products previously purchased. This I have recently learned is a source of irritation for a certain party.

Case in point. On a recent trip back to American I ventured into the local world famous Wal-Mart and bought me a Norelco Mustache, Nose Hair and Beard Trimmer. This handy dandy little tool now sits in it travel bag after only two month, inoperable. It won’t hold a charge and runs out of power in seconds and on top of that, will not even work when plugged in directly to a source of power.

Yesterday, Miss Mee noticed me trimming my mustache with the scissors and inquired as to my recent purchase back in the USA.

After, I informed her of it’s condition I got this immediate response, "Oh, made in American" with a big grin on her face.

That’s when I realized that my prior rantings and ravings probably weren’t necessary to the extend that I carried them. Even and old dog like me can live and learn.

By the way, this particular Norelco appliance was made in China but that’s just between you and me as Mee needed to wins this one.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Last Sunday, I made my monthly trip into the big city of Khon Kean for a morning of shopping at Lotus Tesco, which is the Thai/English version of Wal-Mart. In square footage it is huge massive building, but as with the other two hypersuperstores here, Big C (Thai copy of Wal-Mart) and Carrefour (French copy of Wal-Mart) it is often difficult to find what you may be looking for. But damn there is no Wal-Mart, but it there were I am sure it would not be any better stocked.

My disappointments Sunday were:

An air needle to fill air in basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls. They sell all of the above items, but no way to reinflate any of them. I guess the Thai’s just throw them away when the air gets low. Maybe no one has ever told them what that little black hole on the cover of the ball is for.

A replacement bulb for the night lights which the sell. There is almost an entire aisle of light bulbs (just above the night lights) but not one that fits the neat little Chinese made night light with Mickey and Minnie dancing around on the shade.

Graphite or a can of light machine oil. The lock on the front gate has become sticky and needs a little lubrication. Oh well, I used a little vegetable cooking oil when I got home and it worked quite well. Will probably gum up in the near future though.

Saltine crackers. They haven’t had these in the past three visits so may be a thing of the past. Getting use to using Ritz Cracker knock offs. Same story with BBQ sauce which they stop carrying about a year ago. The funny thing about the BBQ Sauce is that if we drive south for about twenty minutes there is a Lotus Tessco Express (a mini store) and they have BBQ Sauce.

Pork Ribs. Normally the meat case is full of these little delights. Not so Sunday. Maybe the Swine Flu scare has cut down on pork production.

Chee-tos: I know they are not good for you, but that’s my little treat for being a good boy. One small bag a week and these are Thai size bags (about the size of the old 5-cent potato chip bag) not American size. There were plenty of Lay’s potato chips in stock especially the seaweed and spicy shrimp flavors (no I’m not kidding).

Ice Berg Lettuce: This is always a hit and miss items as are bell peppers, celery, green beans and okra. By the way the only canned vegetables we ever buy here are corn and whole tomatoes (for chili and soups). Everything else is fresh.

Spaghetti: All they had were number 1 and number 10 sizes. Very small and very large. I like a mid range pasta. Bought a shaped pasta instead. A bit chewy but it was OK with me, but the rest of the family didn’t care for it.

Not once have I gone shopping since moving up here that I found all the items on my list. It just becomes a way of life and you get use to it. The biggest disappointment though this week was lettuce as I just got some good beef and a hamburger or taco without lettuce is like….well I can’t think of anything clever at the moment, but it’s not good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Carnage 2009

Your standard Mod 1 Thai
Crematorium. One located at
each Wat (temple).
Well, another Songkran, a holiday that most Thai’s refer to as Thai New Years has officially come to an end. And as always, many families are now missing members or visiting others in hospital.
The official days of Songkran run from April 13 through the 15th but the fun loving Thai’s always find a away to stretch it our for at least a full week. More time to kill others and themselves.

This year we amassed 3,977 road accidents, 373 deaths and 4,332 injuries. The main cause of the accidents was driving under the influence and speeding. Most accidents involved motorcycles. Not bad for a country with just a tad over 64 million residents.

By the way Thai’s not only celebrate Songkran as their New Years they also go whole hog in celebrating the one on January 1st as well as December 31st. It’s always two days here. Then there is Chinese New Year, which is also celebrated by a large portion of the population. On top of that there are many other official holidays in Thailand which give you time off. They are:

Jan 1 New Years Day.

Jan 16 Teacher’s Day (Yes, the schools are closed and the teachers get
a day off.)

Feb 9 Makha Bucha Day ( A Buddhist religious holiday.)

Apr 6 Chakri Memorial Day (Celebrating the beginning of the current

Apr 13-16 Songkran official days.

May 1 Labor Day. Different that ours. Only laborers get the day off.
Teachers, clerks, government workers carry on as normal.

May 5 Coronation Day.

May 8 Visakha Bucha Day (A Buddhist religious holiday.)

Jul 7 Asarnha Bucha Day (A Buddhist religious holiday.)

Jul 8 Buddhist Lent Day

Aug 12 Queens Birthday

Oct 13 Chulalongkorn Memorial Day (Something to do with the current dynasty.)

Dec 5 H. M. The King’s Birthday.

Dec 10 Constitution Day (God knows which one, they have had three in
the short time I have lived here.)

Dec 31 New Years Eve.

Not a bad place for the working man. Only problems is the majority of the population are farmers so what the hell do they care. All days are workdays for them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The New Tree

The tree arrives extending far beyond
the bed of the pickup.
I like to sit on my front porch in the afternoon and watch the world go by. Someone has to do this you know. The only problem is the front porch is drenched in sun light all afternoon and doesn’t cool down until after sundown. A problem that definitely needed fixin.

So yesterday, I had me a tree installed and not just one of those little twiggs that will hopefully grow up into something majestic. At my age I need shade now. Don’t believe there are enough years left for me to wait for something to grow into maturity.

The first thing they had to do was remove this little boxwood that I had planted in hope of shaping it into and nice little round ball like the one I had previously grown.

Then the miniature palm tree was removed.

The palm was then replanted where the boxwood
had been.

The new tree was then placed where the palm had been.
Hopefully where it will shade the front
porch once the branches begin
to spread.

How much do you say? Total cost 1,500 baht or about $43.00 at today exchange rate. That includes the price of the tree, delivery, labor and fertilizers. Total time on the work site was one hour. Heck, back home it would have taken that long just to load and unload the mechanized equipment they would need and here it was all done by hand by a husband and wife team.

This tree keeps the morning sun off the porch
and out of the bedroom.

My future lawn Christmas Tree.

I plan on putting s small statue of
Buddha under these palms,but
have not found one with the
correct dimensions.

This boxwood was once a scrubby little thing
like the one in the above picture.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Moo Ping

Breakfast today.
It's all finger food. No idea why the folk today.

I am often asked what I eat over here. Well for the most part it’s the same things that you do back home as I’m really don’t care for Thai food all that much. I regularly make cornbread, red beans and rice and all the other things that I grew up with.

I like the hotness of most Thai dishes and the ingredients. What I really don’t care for is the smell that many dishes have (fish sauce), their appearance or their consistence (how they feel in my mouth). That may be strange to some of you, but that’s how it is.

Anyway, the above-pictured dish is Moo Ping and Sticky Rice, which was my breakfast today.

Moo Ping is thin strips of pork, which are marinated, skewered on sticks and then grilled over coals. Sticky rice is very glutinous rice, which is very popular in Thailand. First you pinch off a little bit of rice, which you then roll into a ball between your thumb and fingers. You then take a bite of the Moo Ping and pop the little rice ball in your month. Aroi mak as a Thai would say (very delicious).

This is a breakfast dish and you normally only see sold by street vendors in the mornings.

Why I am on this let me tell you about a Thai Ice Cream Sandwich. You take a hot dog bun, add three scoops of coconut ice cream, sprinkle with corn or peanuts and there you are. This is a big treat on a hot summer day. The below pictures is not exact, but almost.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finally, Air Conditioning!

This is the unit in the living room section.
Due to brick and cement wall construction cable
runs are external to the wall.

As reported in my last posting, I finally broke down and installed a/c in my living/dining room area.

Believe me this was not an easy decision for an old skinflint like myself. I had been sitting on the fence for a long time until I saw little sweat beads on my seven-month-old nephew’s forehead. That observation left no doubt in my mind as to the decision that had to be made. He is the king of the roost you know.

This is the unit for the dining room area.

So after giving Mee the green light to proceed she then took the bull by the horns and started the search for the best deal. I can always rely upon her to ensure that we get our monies worth in any purchase. No ethnic jokes, but I believe she grew up counting shekels. Also as you probably know, nothing in Asia has a set price and everything is open for the bargaining game (one exception new cars). So the hunt began.

Unable to make a cable run to the breaker
box due to celing layout. So two switches
with breakers were installed for each unit
with remote controls.

There was a slight delay though as we were not sure as to the exact size of the area to be cooled.
With no tape measure and armed only with a 12 inch ruler I set about on hands and knees to make this determination. I then had to convert this information to meters, which hopefully I did
correctly. Turned out to be 45 square meters or 485 square feet.

This is shakey. You can't see but the power
was spliced on to the wires which lead
into the house. Poor duct work.

Mee then hit the phones calling all the local a/c dealers in our little town for prices of which, there were many. Who knew there were so many manufacturers and specific models within a brand? The only thing that that first round of phone calls confirmed was that a 36,000 BTU unit would be needed.

Compressor for the living room area. Up off
the ground so Miss Mee will not have
to avoid when parking in the

It was now time to look see and collect brochures. After this personal visit she narrowed down the search to two finalists.

Compressor for the dining room area.

The winner was decided when it was learned that they could provide two 18, 000 BTU units for 48,000 baht ($1371.00). They both offered a single 36,000 BTU unit for 58,000 baht ($1657.00). A saving of $286.00 always sounds good to me. By the way the price also includes installation and any parts required for installation like wires and switches.

T connection. Poor workmanship shown.
Will have to repaint to repair.

On thing about Thailand, once the decision is made to purchase the seller normally gets on it right away. They give you no opportunity for buyer’s remorse. In our case, the decision was made at about 4 PM and by 6PM I was enjoying my newfound luxury. Though, neatness and thoroughness in the instillation process may not meet all western professional standards. Labor is cheap and I will have it all cleaned up soon.