Douglas Thompson's Blog
1 October 2013

Handrails, Cheese, and Used Art

Yesterday the pretty young woman behind the counter in the pharmacy where I unload a lot of money every week to keep this tired old body working said: "It sure has been a long time since you updated your blog." Honestly, I did not think anyone really paid any attention.

It's not that I have not anything to say. I've just been really, really busy.

Shortly after the last installment of this episodic missive I had an accident at a popular local shopping mall, where I went to buy a lipstick for Darika.

Visitors probably never notice that most buildings in Thailand have stairs but not hand-rails. This may be one reason why you seldom see people with disabilities here, although there is one guy who regularly braves rush hour traffic in his wheel chair on Surawong Road. I suppose fancy shopping malls do not want cripples and old people tarnishing their images. And Thai architecture schools probably do not teach a hand-rail class.

On my way down the stirs at the shopping mall I missed the third step and did a pirouette down the rest and landed face-down on the sidewalk. One arm was bloody. One is still bruised. My right shoulder was dislocated. Both knees need replacement.

For about six months I was not able to use a computer without major readjustments to the furniture in my office.  Work piled up.

Darika Eats OutIn my spare time I have been overhauling this website to bring it up to current standards, writing a monthly magazine column, and developing two mobile device apps. One of these requires me (well, Darika actually) to pose for photographs in drag for eight to ten hours on Sundays. I am having a lot of fun, but it is exhausting and with ten makeup changes in one photo shoot, I am ready for face ER by the end of the session.

We had a huge, and time-consuming group in April not long after we moved our office to splendid quarters in Charn Issara Tower after about 15 years in the lobby of Tarntawan Place. Over a decade and a half absolutely nothing was thrown away there (even the little packets of catsup and chili sauce that accumulated over all of those years), and all of it moved with us. It took a couple of months to fill giant trash bags. Two shredders worked most of the day.

So, yeah. I have been busy just trying to keep up. If you actually enjoy this blog I will not keep you waiting another year and a half.

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Now that I have brought up people with physical challenges it is worth saying that Thailand is among the worst places in the world to be disabled. I was in a wheel chair about ten years ago for two years. Fortunately there are no stairs at the entrance to my condo, nor were there any at Tarntawan Place. I was able to eat at my favorite fried chicken place in the Weekend Market and go to the supermarket. But any place with stairs is completely out of the question. Skytrain is impossible. (The guy who designed Skytrain was a paraplegic. Go figure.) They finally slapped on some escalators as an afterthought. But you have to climb 3 or 4 stairs to get to them. So much for brilliant engineering in the Land of Smiles.

While trapped in my personal transportation device I went with a colleague to a meeting at the Tourism Authority of Thailand. We parked in the garage behind their offices on the same level as an enclosed walkway into the main building. Half way through this walkway we encountered something that was probably essential to the structure--a concrete-covered steel beam about 17 0r 18 cm (more or less 7 inches high) high that made the bridge nearly impassible to someone in a wheelchair. They could have built a ramp over it, but Thais forget that there are people who are crippled and elderly. I had to be lifted--chair and all--over the hump. When we finally reached the office of the marketing executive who we went to see, he said something like "we are seriously looking into promoting travel for the disabled." You gotta be kidding.

If you are disabled and plan to visit our office, you can use a ground-floor elevator on the ground floor of the parking garage. Two of the three elevators goes to "B1". Yesterday I watched in horror as a guy with a broken leg and walking on crutches as he tried to make it up the 30-or-so stairs from the sidewalk to the lobby.

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Ode to Cow Girl & Rogue River. Apparently some people really do read this blog because I continue to receive gifts of Velveeta (something that claims to be a cheese), which I admitted to missing on these pages in April 2008. I now have the largest supply of Velveeta in Thailand.

I cannot afford the time or the pain to replace both of my knees. Being single again makes it more challenging. At the time of the accident I weighed  just under 300 pounds. I consoled myself with food after Nut bit the dust. (If you are new to reading this you have to read back a couple of years,) In the mean time my doctor suggested that I lose some weight to relieve my knees of the load they have been carrying. The result has been a complete lifestyle change over the last 19 months. No fast food, junk food, sugary drinks, ice cream, eggs or fried food. Instead of a big plate of pasta every night, I have a small one once every two weeks. I have cut back consumption of red meat by 75%. I also gave up cigars. I eat fruit for breakfast and take a salad to work. So far, I have lost 35+kg (almost 80 pounds) and 25cm around my waist. Five more and I get a new wardrobe and a face lift as long as enough people click the "donate" button in the yellow column.

There is a limit to  what an active human adult can and should give up unless they join a cloistered religious order. Some nights I have only a cracker with a small piece of cheese for dinner. Under the circumstances it has to be really great cheese. I admit to being almost an expert on the topic of cheese, and among my absolute favorites is Red Hawk, a small washed rind triple cream cheese hand made by lesbians in Marin County, California. It smells pretty bad but it tastes heavenly. Even better is Rogue Creamery's Rogue River Blue, made from the raw milk of cows that spend the summer eating the wildflowers and lush green grass of Southern Oregon. The cheese is wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in locally-made pear brandy. Get some. It's better than sex. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is one of the five best cheeses in the world and the best made in the United States. My annual wheel was hand- carried to me from San Francisco by our customers and dear friends Jeffrey Wood and Mark Abate last Friday. Unfortunately they cannot tolerate the perfume of Red Hawk.

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Buy My Stuff. About sixteen years ago I sold my furniture and most of my art collection and packed up almost everything else in my house in San Francisco and shipped it all here. There were some things I could not take and left those with each of my two sisters.

In May I took a trip back to California. It was pretty crazy, actually. I took Thai's Airbus 380 to Paris, had breakfast with a close friend from 40 years ago that I had not seen since 1976, and jumped on a United flight to San Francisco three hours later. One sister picked me up and I spent a couple of days with her. (We ate at In 'n Out Burger, did some wine tasting, visited Monterey Bay Aquarium, and had a great dinner with her sons, one of whom has carried on my passion for falconry and dressing in womens' clothing for the sake of art.) During this time I disposed of some of the things occupying her garage. Then we went to visit our mother two hours north of  San Francisco. She's 87 and probably won't be 88, but who knows. I had only a day and a half to myself to see friends, enjoy two great dinners, and shop in San Francisco before returning home via Osaka. Around the world in business class for $84 (and 140,000 miles).

Erte's Queen of SheebaMy sister's nest is empty and she plans to move to a smaller house in March. She really wants to get rid of my "stuff." There are a three boxes of books, which I would love to have here and some pieces of art that I did not want to sell but have no room for in my Bangkok condo that some have described as a "museum." (Shopping is my religion.)

I would really love to sell everything except the books so that I can afford to have the books shipped. These include Erte's iconic art deco serigraph "Queen of Sheeba" (signed, numbered and framed). It was gorgeous above a carrera marble fireplace in a San Francisco Victorian townhouse, but would be very out place in Bangkok. Some galleries have assigned a value of up to $10,000. I'll sell it for less than I paid for it.

Folon's Toy TrainIf you love the quirky work of the late Jean Michel Folon, you can own the train from his "Toy Suite" of engraved-steel aquatint. This one is also signed and numbered. These are selling for around $1,500. I'll take much less.

Truong Tan was a gay art  professor in Hanoi in the 1980s. His work was so provocative that he was forced flee to Paris, where he has become an internationally-respected artist who produces work that commands very high prices. Pieces of his work from his years in Hanoi are rare. I One of Truong Tan's older worksfound one hidden away in Hanoi fifteen years ago and it is now for sale. It's an original Chinese ink and acrylic on hand-made paper. It is entitled "Hell, I don't Want It." This one is in Bangkok, where a gallery has it on consignment and is doing absolutely nothing with it. It has been sold.

There is also a Oaxaca Dog, which is an excellent example of Mexican folk art, made of pieces of tree limbs in their original shape, and painted with bright colors. My dog is bright green. One of Truong Tan's older worksPieces measuring 8 or 9 inches tall normally sell for around $200. My hound is nearly two feet tall. I am looking for a photo. This puppy has been adopted by the time you read this.

If you are interested in any of the above please contact me: [email protected]. If I cannot sell these things they are destined to be part of a church garage sale. I would rather not subsidize Christians.

Thanks for reading. Jerry Fallwell is still dead.