The Drums of War
And it's gone. My homebrewed hibiscus wine, I mean. It turns out hibiscus, which grows plentifully in our area in the dry season, actually makes a surprisingly good blush. It's called rosae juice and is mostly boiled and used for sweet drinks. I'd never thought to ferment it before. I used a hot procedure passed down from a few Isaan people who made sticky rice wine, which if distilled turns into Laow Khao whiskey, perhaps the most notorious and ubiquitous alcoholic drink in all of Thailand, at least if you're paying attention beyond the hiso Singha beer crowd.
Thailand is a great place to hot brew alcohol. The average temperature here in Phuket is about 80 degrees year round. It's often a bit warmer in the dry winter months (we're still technically northern hemisphere at 9 degrees latitude or so). Things seem to ferment on their own at this time of year. I left some grape juice for my daughter on a table overnight and it tastes like a fizzy low alcohol girly drink already. The hibiscus wine had only been out 11 days and packed a surprising punch. Even my husband drank it with me. I'll keep that one in my recipe book.
Anywho, it seemed like a good time to drink. The truckers protest in Canada and the sickening aftermath have been tearing at my soul. Make no mistake about the mask getting ripped off on this one: they are saying they own your body, they own your money, they own your property, they own your children and pets and they own your life. At least they do if you in any way oppose them, even peacefully. There is no negotiation here. There is nowhere to go from here. They crossed the Rubicon already. Yes, it feels ominous.
The crowd of alternative pundits has been mostly in shocked silence regarding this. A few have chimed in, like CJ Hopkins. A few others are already on about Ukraine and moving on to the next shiny thing. That feels like a distraction. What do the truckers do from here? It could be a kinetic moment. The powers that be just hope it goes away, but they will be aggressively targeting those they feel supported the movement in any way. And they will be going after political rivals. Methinks this is how war starts.
Perhaps it won't be like that at all. The virtual class has not suffered much from these edicts, yet they seem to not realize that they need to eat also. The protests showed the power of peaceful revolt for the first time in decades. There's a lot to work with there, even if they are made martyrs in the short run.
This had me pondering putting my trips down memory lane on Substack. I have a lot of them, though some are tied up on Kindle Vella and CANNOT be published without a paywall. I was thinking of how I came to Thailand the first time and converted to Buddhism, so I figured I'd put it out there. Just because. I'm not sure I'd call it a quiet week as much as one without a lot of good news..
December 2003, Koh Phagnon, Thailand
The Motorbike Accident
My first time in Thailand was interesting. I can’t say that I loved the place or hated the place. I’d been viewing it as a means to an end. That end being for Joe to truly settle down with me.
My blond boyfriend had talked so extensively about Thailand being somehow intertwined with his destiny that I knew I had to go there with him. It was the trip of a lifetime.
“You always regret the journey you don’t take.” My father had sagely commented. I got my first passport and saved up the money to buy my own plane ticket with Joe. We had stayed together as the months of 2003 ticked down, but my boyfriend was becoming restless. I had a strong feeling that our relationship would effectively be over if I didn’t come with the blond to Thailand.
We spent the first few days in Bangkok, in the Pat Pong red light district. Joe had chattered on so much about the great food and the great beaches that I had naively overlooked what Thailand was actually best known for at the time. That being its prostitution. My boyfriend had pushed the envelope with me as he always did, as we went into one overcrowded red light venue after another. One had women behind glass partitions with numberswho danced and tried to entice onlookers. If you picked their number you could buy them for the night. Another had a naked woman giving herself a bubble bath in a human sized champagne glass. The girls all wore six inch stiletto heels but were all still shorter than me. They surrounded me in the bathroom at one bar as they kept on commenting on how beautiful I was. One started brushing my hair.
It was a bit too weird for me. Joe was sure that I had been sexually abused at some point in my past and seemed to think that shock therapy would bring it out. For me, my brain was too scrambled to make much sense of the craziness. I liked the food though. On a drunk dare I tried fried worms, grasshoppers, bee larvae, waterbugs and a scorpion. Most tasted like they could have been deep fried anything. I liked the waterbugs best, but found the scorpion much too bitter for my liking.
Within a few days I was successfully able to lobby Joe to get out of Bangkok, a city that sounded a lot like it was, as best I could tell. It was too hot crowded and crazy for me. In the Thailand in my mind I’d been looking for more of a romantic sunset on the beach. We took a bus and ferry boat to Koh Phagnon, home of the famous Full Moon Party.
“You’ve got to learn how to drive a motorbike!” Joe insisted, as we rented two small bikes to drive around the small island. The first time I tried I accelerated too quickly and ended up in the dirt with my foot trapped under the motorbike.
“These things are dangerous!” I hissed at Joe. “I bet a lot of people get killed riding around!”
Joe pressed me to try, and try again. After some bumps and scrapes I was able to learn how to control the bike. But I was still not very good at it when Joe proposed that we drive two motorbikes separately to a Buddhist Wat that was advertising a Seven Day Meditation Retreat in English. I was still wearing the Buddha necklace that Joe had given me many months before. At the time my boyfriend seemed very interested in Buddhist teachings, and I myself was reading about the philosophy.
The drive to the Buddhist Wat was long and dangerous. The road ran close to the water, which was in many cases several hundred feet below a rocky seaside cliff. The road itself, though paved, was no wider than a large sidewalk. I came down an insanely steep grade with a several hundred foot drop-off into a rocky seashore on my side. I tested the brakes every few seconds. I managed to make it to the uphill grade as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Joe was driving his motorbike in front and was clearly more experienced.
We made it to the Buddhist Wat, which was up yet another long winding mountain road. Joe just wanted information about the retreat. A light rain began to fall and a Thai woman gently reminded me and Joe, who were holding hands at the time, that physical contact between the opposite sex was not allowed on the grounds. We waited for the rain to slow before we headed back to our hotel. The steep road with the unfenced several hundred foot drop-off into the ocean weighed large on my mind.
Joe tried to make light of this. “Just coast the bike until you get to the uphill. That will slow it down.” He joked. With the rain on the pavement the road was very slippery and it was not easy to stop. Joe drove his motorbike in front of mine as we came to the most dangerous spot on the road. There was no other way back into town. I tested the brakes every few seconds as I had on the way to the retreat, but my bike was quickly gaining speed. Then the brakes stopped working.
I steeled myself and decided to follow Joe’s advice. With the steep grade the bike sped up in no time. Joe was already driving on the uphill portion. Faster and faster the motorbike flew, as the seaside cliff beckoned on the side.
Then something happened. I do not know what. At the worst possible time, at an extreme rate of speed, the motorbike’s front wheel locked up and veered sharply right, as if a rock or a stick or something had caught in the spokes. The bike immediately pointed towards the several hundred foot drop-off onto the rocky seashore below. Imminent death loomed if I went off of that cliff.
I did the only thing that I could to save myself. I crashed the motorbike on top of myself as I used my body as a brake. My jeans were sheared off from the force of this and my right leg lost a fair amount of skin. This slowed the descent considerably. But not enough. The motorbike twisted in a circle on the ground as my hand was stuck on the accelerator. I flipped off of the cliff.
I came to a second later. My arm had been cut badly at my left elbow from the impact of hitting a coconut tree that was growing from the side of the rocky cliff. I held onto the tree for dear life as I looked up. Five feet above me, hanging off the side of the road, the motorbike’s front wheel was still spinning. I stared at it mesmerized. Then I heard Joe’s frantic cries from somewhere above.
“Gen! Gen! Gen!” He was screaming as he came closer to my crashed motorbike on the road. “GEN!!!” I saw the blonde’s head pop up next to the motorbike as he looked down at me hanging onto the coconut tree. “GEN!! Jesus Christ Gen I thought you were dead!”
“Well I’m not.” I said simply. My arm was bleeding profusely from the impact with the tree. Below me several hundred feet down the rocky seashore beckoned. I was shaking as I tried to scootch up the tree closer to Joe. “Can you help me up?” I asked my boyfriend, as he grabbed my outstreched hand. He was laying on the pavement by this point and had good leverage. The wheel of my motorbike had slowly stopped turning.
Once I was back on the road I fingered the Buddha necklace on my neck and looked down at it. It had broken in two in the center from the impact with the coconut tree, and its plastic casing had likewise cracked. I knew very little about this carving except what Joe had told me. He had said that he had helped an elderly Thai monk cross the street in Pattaya at 5 AM a few years before, and that the monk had given him this for whatever reason. Many Thais had seemed very curious about this necklace and many, including several bar girls, had wanted to see it and read the inscription in Thai language below it.
“Luang Phor Poon.” One bar girl had told a few weeks before, as she read the inscription. She clasped her hands together and prayed after she spoke his name. “This very powerful. It is for protection.” The carving on the stone was clearly handmade. It was of a man riding a tiger. In my motorbike accident it had broken at the spot where the man and the tiger converged.
Me and Joe made it back into the small town where our hotel was located. There were no hospitals there. But I had to go to a local clinic immediately I was still bleeding from the spot on my elbow where I had made impact with the coconut tree. My pants were sheered to the hip on my right side, and the entirety of my leg had skin torn off from me pulling the motorbike on top of myself. I am sure I was quite the sight stumbling into the clinic that early evening. The doctor asked me what had happened as he put five stiches into my elbow. Me and Joe both tried to explain the motorbike accident as best we could. Neither of us spoke or understood even the slightest bit of Thai language at the time.
The doctor was very curious about my Buddha necklace. I showed him after he had stitched up my arm. He immediately called a woman technician into the room. They talked back and forth excitedly in Thai language. I had no idea what they were saying. I heard the name of the monk said repeatedly. More people were called into the small room.
“What?” I asked Joe for support. “What are they saying?” Many were clasping their hands in prayer after inspecting my necklace up close. More townspeople were called. They were looking for someone in town who spoke enough English to explain something to me.
Finally a young Thai gentleman came in. Some furious back forth in Thai was explained as he looked at my necklace and likewise clasped his hands in prayer.
He spoke then. “Buddha save you!” He said, as the crowd of Thai people nodded in agreement. “This necklace very powerful. You cannot to sell. You cannot to give away. Buddha save you!”
I nodded my head in agreement. Buddha save me. That sounded about right. So now I’m Buddhist, I thought. Lord knew I’d been a lousy Catholic. I couldn’t come up with a better reason to dedicate my life to a religion.