It’s week number 6 in our period of confinement. Self-imposed or not. We’re here sitting on a handful of Fridays.
Like most things, if experienced through a filter, all seems different.
A reminder, readers, that with the heat index. it is over 100 degrees most days. One tends to sweat. A lot. Wrapping your face in cloth fabric and walking 100 yards and you’re quickly confronted with what it must feel like to be waterboarded. Gasping for air from around the cloth edge adhering to your cheeks filtering the ease out of everyday life.
And life’s different, too, when those filters are removed. The lights, sounds and smells shift. Without the air traffic overhead and with diminished traffic noise, the chirp of cicadas and frogs becomes the background noise nearly drowning out the 50HZ sound of AC motors. Punctuated by the bells and horns of the vendors who still prowl the streets.
And without the farang filter, we’re left to see who really lives here. Who the real neighbors are.
The tourist trade has shrivelled to just a trickle. It is estimated that 95% of hotels in Bangkok will have -zero- revenue for the month of April. Most are closed. Signs in the windows say, come back in May.
A stunning majority of employment here is owed to micro and small businesses. Often a cart with a grill attached. maybe just a bike and a briefcase selling lottery tickets. They are close to edge and often can’t get any form of assistance, being unregistered or unbanked. And still the lines grow.
Last week, I spoke of prayer. These last few weeks, Mrs. S.A.M. and I do what we can to help answer the prayers of those at risk of being left behind. If they’re selling, we buy. Crackers, face masks, snake oil. We need none of it.
Found a grilled fish lady who whips up a mean grilled-salted fish for $6. We’ve favorited a place for Thai Tea where we go each afternoon in the heat of the day. The woman there has memorized our order.
We circulate among the restaurants, trying to divy up our dinner budget. There is a place down the street I call the Red Dog Place, because of the old red dog that lies across the open entry and looks rather imposing, but we brave it. The dog just pants in the heat. And inside we find the purveyor at the counter, ironing his money 100 Baht ($3.00) at a time. He smiles with all 7 of his teeth and takes our order.
The Green Garden was where we had our first meal in Thailand. We stop in once a week. The host is so bored, he watches the COVID body count on TV and expresses his condolences that so many Americans have died. “You’re such good people. I’m so sad for you. Your kids are okay? They safe?” His worry seems genuine, but I wonder if there is some self interest. At 50,000 dead, that’s a lot of souls in the karmic pipeline. Where are they all going to end up in the next life. And will they bump out someone else to get a spot?
A popcorn salesman strolls down the empty street. We stop him and pick up a couple of bags of kettle corn. There is a whole day’s worth of humidity inside, but it’s tasty.
A covered Toyota fruit truck stops for 2 hours, 3 days a week, with any whole fruit that is in season. We are certainly eating healthier because of this. It becomes a source of contact as people crawl out of their houses and line up. There is light and quiet chat among strangers as we wait to complete our purchases, and then a quick sawasdee until later in the week.
A fortune teller sits on the sidewalk each day. I’m tempted. I spoke of my fractured soul, and want to enquire about some guidance. But, alas, he speaks only Thai, and I worry the guidance would be too subtle to lose in translation.
I’m also dying to ask him if he can foresee when we’ll get out of this mess. Maybe he can point out the best way forward. He does sell lottery tickets, too, so perhaps that may bring some needed cash to filter through to the end of times.