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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Weather

Remember if you click on pictures

they become larger.

When I was back on my recent visit to American one of my most prized purchases was an in/out door thermometer system. With it I could sit back in my chair and complain about the weather with a real sense of authority. Don’t you just love being right.

Anyway, since being back home, I have sat here daily and watched it slowly climb from a normal morning low of about 27 to a high so far of 36. For the Celsius challenged 36 is hot. 36 X 1.8 = 64.8 + 32 = 96.8 Fahrenheit and that my friends is getting on the warm side for only March.

So yesterday, I finally broke down, opened the old wallet and had air conditioning installed in the living room. In the past, only the master bedroom had air conditioning and I didn’t want a repeat of the last hot season, which I spend for the most part in my bedroom. The only thing accomplished by this was that I learned to love five-hour naps, but then up all night.

With the air running for the first time yesterday evening I was in for a real treat. There I sat in the Lazyboy and watched as the digital numerals on my handy dandy thermometer went from 35 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees Celsius in about 30 minutes time. In fact after an hour I turned off one of the units (a later blog to explain) as I had become chilled. Believe me when I say this is pure luxury living in Thailand.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

School Uniforms

Student during recess at a Thai School.
During my recent visit back to Louisiana on one or two occasions I had the opportunity of pass near a public school as school was being dismissing for the day. Students were out and about and what I witness regarding school uniforms was a joke. Students with different colored trousers, shorts/blouses abounded. On top of that if any two had belts, shoes or socks matched I’ll eat my hat.

Come on. If you are going to have a uniform policy, then have a uniform policy. Your current half ass attempt to dress up the student body is nothing more that a joke. Either get the parents on board with the project or forget it. When you half of the students wearing one thing and the other half something else that is not a uniform.

Thai teachers also have uniforms. One for normal
daily wear while teaching and the above
for school functions.
In Thailand, uniforms are the norm and not the exception all the way from kindergarten through university. Even technical school students wear a uniform depending on the trades taught at a particular school. The most impressive are the university uniforms that the ladies wear. Yes, it is a simple white blouse and black skirt, but they have free rein on the length of the skirt (ultra minis) and tightness. Often very stunning. In fact I thought I did a previous blog on this with photos but can’t locate it at the moment.

Each student in grades 1-12 have three uniforms. First is the daily uniform. On this uniform their name is embroidered over their left breast pocket. On the right pocket is their school number. That’s right a school number. When you enter a Thai school you are give a student number and that number remains with you during your duration at that school. All your records are maintained not just by name but by student number.

Then there is the scout uniform. Scouting is a mandatory class in grades 1-12 through out the country with one period per week at a minimum. In grades 1-3 the scout uniform is achieved by wearing the daily uniform and simply adding a neckerchief and hat on scout day.

Sports uniforms are also worn once a week for physical education classes. Each school selects their own color scheme and style for this uniform. These are sold by the school and are a school moneymaker. This uniform is also often used for field trips where group identification is helpful.

University Student

University Student waiting for the
Sky Train in Bangkok.

Yet another University Student.
Note big bags for books. Few backpacks
at the university level.

Sport's Day Uniforms. Another school
money maker.

Sister in law Nattapon (3rd from left). On cold days non-uniform sweaters
can be worn. Pink is not a feminine color in
Thailand though he is.

Technical School Students. Seems a bit
short even to me. Type school unknown.
Possibly something to do with spa

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cost of Living Data

For those who may be interested the cost of my Hospital Outpatient Clinic visit yesterday was about $214.51 at today’s dollar to baht exchange rate.

The most expensive items were the two months of pharmacy items, which was about $198.40. Remember this was five prescriptions for a variety of old man afflictions or should I say senior citizen to make us all feel better.

The next most expensive items were for the laboratory. This came to about $30.57. This was for a PSA, urinalysis and blood work.

There were also two charges for $1.32 each. Nursing and Midwifery Charge and Other Medical Service Charge. I really don’t know what this is. It must be the fee for the nurse to take vital signs and for the urine bottle or possibly the needle used to extract the blood. Never cared enough to ask.

The final charge of about $5.88 is the only you will really have problems believing. This is the doctors fee. By the way, all the doctors on staff at this Private Hospital are teaching doctors from Khon Kaen University Hospital, which is just around the corner. Most attended medical schools in the west or have had extensive training there.

These cost are one of the factors that I live where I do.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well I almost managed to step on it again this morning. Quite by accident though, but who knew. Well truth be know, I knew but wasn’t thinking.

During my absence to American my wife did an outstanding job tending to our lawn and had it perfectly cut just days before my return. Due to the ending of our winter in which the temperature got down to about 55 on several occasions this was the first time we have had to cut the lawn in about five months or so.

During this dormant phase some sort of grass which shoots up in long sprouts above the wanted grass has taken hold. It is unsightly and distracts from the appearance of the lawn.

To solve this problem, at least temporarily, I though I would solicit the employee of a neighbors son. With about an hour’s work, he could get down on hands and knees, which I am unable to do and pull up by the roots this renegade grass that has developed. I was going to offer the pricey sum of 100 baht (about $2.86). I though this was more that a fair price as day laborers that toil in the sun all day earn less than 200 baht per day.

When I mentioned this plan to Mee she informed me in no uncertain terms that "I had lost my rabbit ass mind." or words very close to that. I think the actual words "dumb s*it" may have been uttered.

Seems as if I had neglected to consider Thai Culture in my little plan.

The prospective employee is about 11 years old and is an only child. So there was violation number one. Boys are at the head of the food chain, only sons twice that. Manual labor should never be considered. They play with their friends while the girls haul the water so to speak.

Mother is a teacher; father is a police officer. Both of which are highly respected professions in Thailand. Being in these two professions brings great respect from the general public. Thus, ethic violation number two. Offering manual labor to someone to which such a chore would be below their dignity level. And though not mentioned by Mee there was probably a culture violation in that an underling (me the farang) was about to offering physical labor type employment to my upper.

Good thing I have Mee to keep me straight and keep me from falling into these cultural pits.

Khan Kaen Ram Hospital

Yesterday was Sunday, the day of my every other month visit to check on the vital signs of my various medical conditions and reload my medicine cabinet. As always in these visits there was some confusion on my part, which is typical in my everyday life.

My appointments on this day were with in the Internal Medicine and Urology Departments.

We arrived five minutes before 8 AM, checked in with reception and were direction to the Emergency Room waiting area. Believing that we had heard wrong or the receptionist was wrong we proceeded to the Outpatients Clinic where we normally go and had a seat. Within minutes I heard my name being called from around the corner from where I sat, which was in the direction of the Emergency Room.

It seems that in the name of customer service and to keep patients from prolong waits; this hospital has initialed a policy that if a patient arrived before 8 AM the opening time of the Outpatient Clinic they are directed to the Emergency Room. They then start the process of collecting the necessary samples for any lab work.

Seem sort of awkward for me to be back with all the really sick people and there were lots of them, with each bed occupied that I could see, but it gave them a morning treat of feasting eyes on a real life farang because I got all the customary stares.

After the samples were gathered I then proceeded to the outpatient seating area for the customary wait. After about ten minutes I was called forward to take the remainder of my vitals. It was then off for some morning coffee and something to eat as I had been fasting since the previous evening. There is always about an hour wait for laboratory results.

When I return to the waiting area from my snack I was informed by the nurse that my regular doctor would not be here today but that the Urologist would also do his thing and also act in for the Interest.

All went well except for two things. My weight and pharmacy items. On the positive side all the numbers on the various urine and blood test were within range. Blood pressure was a bit high, but I had just walked up two flights of stairs (for the exercise) just before it was taken.

I still don’t know how much weight I may have lost or if my exercise and dieting obtained any results. When I last weighed on a reliable pair of scales was in Randy’s garage and they put me at 210 pounds or 96.36 kilos. When weighted in Internal Medicine the scales read 93.85 kilos or 206 pounds. But while sitting in the Urology Clinic I jumped on their scales and they read 96 kilos so back to about 210 pounds. I’m going to go with the one’s in Internal Medicine for motivational purposes.

Did have a few problems when we picked up the prescribed medicines from the pharmacy. Seems is though the Urologist could not read the handwriting of the Internist (imagine that, a doctor unable to read a fellow doctors handwriting). Had the wrong dosages on some and the wrong frequency on others. Good thing Mee as with me and checked as I have no idea. I just take what is put before me at the various times of the day.

By the way my PSA test is now at 1.6. It was .06 in May 2006 and .07 in Oct 2007. The Urologist informed me that the limit is 4.0. At that time testing begins but really no danger is suspected until it is in the 10.00 range or higher. Good to know!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stephen Grant Dowden

This is a picture of my grandparents Stephen Grant Dowden and Eliza Jane Rhodes Dowden. He was born on Feb 6, 1846 and died Mar 8, 1929 at age 83. She was born on Jan 10, 1873 and died Sep 1, 1934 at age 61. She was 27 years younger and his second wife.

His first wife was Rosana L. Adle who bore him 11 children. With the marriage to my grandmother 8 additional children were born. In total I had 18 aunts and uncles from these two unions.

He served during the Civil War with the 11th Louisiana Regiment, which eventually consolidated with the Crescent Regiment of New Orleans. He was wounded in the battle of Mansfield and sent to a military hospital and then removed to a private residence, where he completed his convalescence and was able to go back to his regiment. He obtained the rank of sergeant.

After the war he returned to Kisatchie, Louisiana and engaged in farming until 1892 when he moved to Natchitoches to become a deputy sheriff. In 1882 he was elected a member of the police jury and later elected as the Tax Assessor for Natchitoches Parish in 1905.

They are buried together in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, LA.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Traditional Thai Massage

Since returning from my trip to the States I have been suffering with severe leg cramps in my calves. I believe this is the result of sitting for such a long period of time in very cramped conditions.

So yesterday Mee summonsed from a neighboring village a fully trained and licensed masseuse to work the kinks out of me. By the way, she looked nothing like the example depicted in the photograph. Mine looked life a fullback from the NFL with the accompanying missing front tooth. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that her hands were about the size of catcher’s mitts.

After well over an hour of grinding aches, pains and yes sometimes-sheer terror it was over and as I lay there regaining my strength calmness came over me which is hard to describe. All my muscles were fully relaxed and I seem to have gained a new energy level, at least for awhile.

So, I now have a standing order for these services twice a week. They also tell me after the first few times of bending my legs almost completely backwards that it no longer hurts as much. Time will tell.

Cost you ask. Gas to pick her up and return her home minimal. Direct payment to her 150 baht or about $4.20 at today’s conversion rate. Then of course Mee gave her a snack before she started and breakfast after. Mee lets no one walk away without being fed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paternal Grandparents

These are my paternal grandparents Thomas Marion Collier, Born: December 2, 1958, Died February 13, 1907 and Alice Caroline Berley Collier, Born: September 14, 1862, Died June 21, 1933. She out lived him by some 26 years. They lived out in the country near Campti, Louisiana so that must have been rough going for grandma. Hauling water, chopping wood, working in the garden, milking cows, cleaning house, cooking, etc. are no easy chores.

He sort of looks like one of those riverboat gambler dudes doesn’t he?

On an average, the children of this couple didn’t live long lives. My father only 47 years, Uncle Leonard 63 years, Uncle Simmons 30 years and Aunt Perle died relative young. However, for some strange reason her maker does not show adate of birth or death. Two exceptions were my Uncle Harold and Aunt Nita.

Because I was born many years after their deaths, I know very little about them. Also, my father died when I was only 7 so we did not share enough time together to discuss family history. My oldest sister Shirley had a few memories of grandmother. Said he was a good cook and great seamstress. Believe the family originally came to Louisiana from Georgia but I cannot confirm this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Narrator

A year ago, shortly after moving into our new home I was awaken from a nap one Sunday afternoon with a knock on the door by a local Elementary School English Teacher. The purpose of this surprise visit was to solicit my assistance in helping her with her Summer Continuing Education Program. She wanted me to check the grammar and narrate several children books, which she had written. A fee for services was offered, but I declined payment in hope of fostering good relations with my new neighbors.

After the initial visits to do the recordings I never saw Ms Rawiwan again until about December when she again appeared on my front porch, this time bearing a huge highly frosted cake which she presented in appreciation of my earlier efforts. This I accepted and enjoyed.

It just so happens that my next door neighbor is also a teacher and had noted the visit of Ms Rawiwan so she soon came over to nose about as to why this visit from Ms. Rawiwan. It seems as that just the day before, our neighbor had attended some sort of school conference and had been introduced to Ms Rawiwan who had just won an award and a pay raise in the government school system for her work on the books which I has assisted with.

Fast forward to last Saturday, the day after my return from vacation. Mr. Rawiwan again appears at our door with a basket of fresh fruit and again wants my assistance in editing and narrating several books for her new project. Again a fee was offered and declined. I believe in karma so will get my reward later.

Other than the title shown above the other titles are The Hospital. My Hometown. Our Towns. The Police Station and The Railway Station.

During these events I keep chuckling to myself thinking that Miss Cohen and Miss Robinston my high school English Teachers must be turning in their graves knowing that their number one class clown and total screw up is editing the grammar in children’s books.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who Knew
For all of my life I have been exposed to photographs of the Rymen Auditorium in Nashville,Tennessee home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Having never visited before but knowing the address was 116 5th Avenue N, I always assumed that these doors seen in the above photograph are the entrances, and that the stage would be on the other end of the building.

Dead wrong as I found out when I finally made a call to Mecca on February 28th 2009. After trudging up the hill from Broadway, and climbing the steps shown in the photograph we were greeted with a small sign that said that we should walk around the corner and enter from the other end of the building. Right away my mind then reasoned that the stage area much be behind the shuttered doors.

Wrong again. Entering the auditorium area I was surprised to find the stage area to my left. This now made it clearer to me how the artist in the past could go from the back of the stage area to bars located in the alleyway as you hear about in many stories.

Had a great time with my friend Randy and sons Stephen and Reuben. Saw many of the artists that I listened to on the radio as a young man who are still singing the same songs of yesterday. In fact if you tune into WSM Radio on the Internet and catch a live performances of the Grand Ole Opry you will soon realize that they play the same songs, tell the same jokes and perform basically the same act week after week, year after year. Good for them, at least they are working and apparently having a good time at it and we enjoyed their performances.