Drunk in Moscow, Not Idaho


In 1994 I was traveling from Malaysia to Paris on Aeroflot.

Kuala Lumpur-Karachi-Dubai-Moscow-Paris.

The flight time to Moscow totaled about 24 hours. None of them were comfortable in the flimsy chairs of the Soviet era jetliner.

Disembarking at Moscow, I discovered that my connecting flight to Charles De Gaulle was delayed until the next morning.

The Norwegian couple whom I had met in Dubai Duty Free were in a similar predicament.

“It’s 10PM. What are we going to do all night?”

“It was a stupid question.

“Drink wine.” The husband pulled out two bottles of wine.

“I have two.”

“And my wife has two.”

We opened the bottles and sat on the floor surrounded by stateless travelers trapped in the aeroport. There were hundreds of these visa-less prisoners sleeping in cardboard villages. Some looked as if they had been in limbo for weeks. After finishing the wine a refugee from Afghanistan sold us a bottle of vodka.

The vodka was homemade. The liter lasted longer than the wine. Several other Afghans fleeing the civil war joined Jameer with other bottles of vodka. It burned a hole in my stomach. They spoke in dialects. After two bottles I was speaking their tongue, but was losing consciousness from the overdose of hard spirits and lack of sleep at dawn.

“Your flight is now.” The Norwegian pulled me to my feet.

“I don’t care.” I wanted to live there. “Life simple here.”

“You have to go.” His wife strapped my bag over my shoulder and they escorted me to the plane.

“Bon Voyage.” I saluted them at the door of the Airbus. I was back in civilization, but hardly in a civil state, as I stumbled down the aisle to my seat. The faces of the other passengers gauged my state of drunkenness. No one wanted me to sit next to them. I fell into an empty row and buckled up for take-off.

Several hours later a stewardess woke me.

“We are in Paris.”

“Already?” I was the last passenger on the plane.

“We’ve been on the ground for 15 minutes.”

“Great.” I got to my feet and trudged out into the terminal. The time was 8:30. My friends were waiting for me in the city. It was Bastille Day.

It was good to be out of Moscow.

The Smell Of Durian

Many Asian foods are alien to westerners. Insects, horseshoe crab eggs, and sum tam or spicy mango salad easily come to mind as foreign to the tongues of farangs, however the most unacceptable Oriental delicacy is the ever-malodorous durian.

The stench of this squishy fruit is so disagreeable to non-aficionados that durian joined hand grenades and land mines on the list of dangerous objects you’re not supposed to bring into a hotel room.

Not anymore, for a Thai botanist Dr. Songpol Somsri has created a durian without the pungent odor, which he named Chantaburi No. 1. “No smell, good taste.”Personally I like the smell and taste of durian. At least in Thailand, where it is eaten in a soft state.

In Malaysia the natives prefer the durian in a near-putrid ooze. I sampled some in Penang which had the consistency of a fetid cheese left in the tropical sun ie it was runny.

Jungle animals can smell this fruit almost a half-mile away and the travel and food writer Richard Sterling said of durian, “ … its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.”

Whatever its negative points, this raja of fruits has been reputed to possess aphrodisiacal properties, for both the Malays and Thais say, “When the durians fall, the sarongs fly up.”

Partially since if one of the spiky behemoths dropped on your head, you’d be KOed for a week. Most plantations these days have nets under the trees to prevent damage to the durian.

Not that anyone cares about the unsuspecting pedestrian.

I tried the amorous technique of smearing durian pulp on my body as a cologne. Not a single woman or girl or man or dog came near me, although the mozzies zeroed on my flesh like I was a blood donor.

Another danger is the fruit’s rich combination of carbohydrates, protein, fat and sulfurous compounds, which can be deadly for anyone with high blood pressure.

My wife didn’t eat durian for a year after my daughter’s birth, because Thais think that durian breath can kill a baby, but this new breed may erase that threat for newborns. Workers say the new durian only smells a little and the taste remains the same.

In 1856 the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote a much-quoted description of the flavor of the durian, “A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.”

Not many westerners would concur with his olfactory assessment, due to the durian’s sulfurous stench, although no scientific study could prove why the durian smelled like Gandhi’s underwear.

So no smell durian are sort of like roses these days.

Beautiful flower. No bouquet.

A rose is not a rose if a rose doesn’t smell to the nose.

Could the durian lose its appeal if it doesn’t smell?

I have to go to the old classic adage.

A rose is not a rose if a rose doesn’t smell to the nose. – James Steele

Beer Is Better Than Jesus

Top Ten Reasons That Beer Is Better Than Jesus:
a) No one will kill you for not drinking beer.
b) Beer doesn’t tell you how to have sex.
c) They don’t force beer on minors who cannot think for themselves.
d) Beer has never caused a major war.
e) When you have a beer you don’t knock on people’s doors trying to give it away.
f) Nobody has ever been burned at the stake, hanged or tortured over a beer.
g) You don’t have to wait 2000 years for a second beer.
h) There are laws saying beer labels cannot lie to you.
I) You can prove you have a beer.
j) If you are devoted to beer then there are groups who can help you stop.

Palm Sunday

According to the old Judean calendar the Christian messiah entered the Roman occupied city of Jerusalem on the seventh day of Nisan during the reign of Augustus Caesar. Jesus or Yeshua Bin Joseph symbolically rode a donkey as opposed to a horse, since the former was considered a sign of peace. while the horse was deemed a sign of war. The palms spread on the ground came from ancient Greek traditions and the Holy Day of Sukkot.

Roman historian Josephus wrote that at this time the capitol of Judah had a population of 80,000.

10,000 belonged to the Pharisee sect with the rest coming from all parts of the Empire.

Yeshua was feted by his followers singing the psalm ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord’.

Neither his apostles nor their leader could have foreseen his demise was only a week away.

Palm Sunday was celebrated by millions of Christians around the world.

But not by me.

I missed church and stayed in bed.

The altar of sleep.

It’s better than any ride n a donkey.

Palm Beach Sunday

In June 1 2008 I was living on Palm Beach.

A barrier island off the Florida coast.

So many of the mega-rich had migrated to their summer haunts of the Hamptons, Nantucket, and the South of France that the Sunday night streets of this exclusive resort felt, as if the Khmer Rouge had marched the wealthy into the Everglades for greed re-education. The emptiness was only an illusion.

That evening, as the remaining rich were idling in their mansions, while I bicycled across the middle bridge in a vain attempt to wire by Thai wife $200 via Western Union. Within an hour I discovered that nothing was open on a Sunday night in West Palm Beach.

I was in Purgatory.

I phoned my wife with the bad news.

She asked if I’ve found a mia noi.

“Mai mee puying suay.” There were no beautiful women on Palm Beach.

Only heiresses whose skin seemed to have been dipped in a Botox dip.

Tight as a turtle’s neck.

“Good man.” She’s happy I’m alone.

“Thanks, I’ll send the money tomorrow.” I hung up and wandered by bike over to a convenience store. A 24 oz. Modelo beer cost $2 or 60 baht. 5% alcohol. Actually cheap than Thailand, except you can’t drink in public, so I rode the bicycle back to Palm Beach drinking from a can in a brown paper bag..

Thankfully Florida has bike paths, but I got a little worried each time the cops passed me, since DWI includes bicycles and golf carts.

I made it back to Chilean Avenue without any mishaps.

No place to buy more beers, so it’s to sleep and dream of driving on the wrong side of the road with a beer in my cup holder.

Paradise.