Back in Bangkok

Back in Old Siam. I met this cat in the slums of Khlong Toei a few years ago. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but I was likely there to photograph for the charity Hang on Hangers. In a totally different life, in the mid-1980s, I had a cat, a male Norwegian forest feline that I called Mr. Humphrey. I shared “Humph” with a woman that lived with me for a while and when that relationship eventually ended, she got custody of our kitty cat.

Am I a cat or a dog person? I don’t know. Probably both. At some point as a child, we had both a dog (Coco) and a cat (Cesar) and I remember vividly how the cat’s tail one day got stuck in the spokes of a slowly turning bicycle wheel and had to be amputated at a local veterinarian’s clinic. This was while living on Alfred and Willoughby in West Hollywood back in the mid-1970s.

It’s been just over a month since I was last in Bangkok after my Qigong course in Chiang Mai up in northern Thaialnd. Always feels good to be back where, as soon as you’ve passed through the austere immigration officers, more or less everyone’s default facial expression is a gentle smile.

Our Thai Airways flight arrived early this morning at 5:00 am after what felt considerably less than the announced 10.5 hours of flight time. Thankfully, there was very little turbulens. In between our vegetarian meals and a slew of meaty podcasts, I saw a couple of FX- packed Marvel flicks. I also watched the excellent biopic “Hitchcock” with Sir Anthony Hopkins as the director extraordinaire and his understated wife Alma played with tremendous fervor by Dame Helen Mirren. The film takes place during pre-production and filming of Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho, which I will now have to re-watch. I don’t watch horror films as often as I used to. Just like much of today’s list music, to me, the horror genre’s appeal has metamorphosed into something pathetically clichéd – although there are a few notable exceptions.

After a relatively smooth immigration and bagage claim process, we booked a Grab to drive us into town (which took less than 30 minutes!) and our Aparthotel in the Sukhumvit area.

We’re here for a few days to hopefully rid ourselves of jetlag and acclimatize to the region’s humidity and temperature before heading even further east to Vietnam. Surprisingly, it’s not that hot here right now. At least not when the sun is hidden by rain-heavy clouds hovering over the city. The temperature was a pleasant 25C earlier this afternoon as I strolled down Thong Lo (Soi 55) on my way to a barber and then a massage.

After my shave, I randomly picked a massage shop that looked acceptably reputable, payed for a 90 minute massage and walked up a steep flight of stairs to a small, air-conditioned room with a raised massage table and two flimsy white plastic clothes hangers hanging on the wall to the left. On the sheet clad massage table was a towel and a square plastic packet containing a pair of ridiculously tiny black nylon unisex underwear.

I must have fallen asleep a half dozen times during my session, waking abruptly up shortly after each from the sound of my own snoring and a quiet giggle from the women gently kneading my body. She was both a thorough and skillful therapist but didn’t speak more than a few words of English. So I couldn’t be bothered to even try to explain to her that I was severely jet-lagged. She looked a little like a sumo wrestler; round, sturdy and completely neckless. At some point in between dozing in and out of sleep, I wondered how many shops more or less like this one there can be in Bangkok. Must be in the hundreds, if not thousands. A more important question is whether or not all cats in Thailand are siamese.