A new Woody Guthrie novel, set in Pampa, Texas, has been uncovered and will be published by actor Johnny Depp’s new imprint, which he says will be devoted to worthy, hard-to-publish works. You can find good reviews and information on the book at the following sites:
Ttitled House of Earth, the novel takes a close up look at a couple engaged in a serious, sexual love affair who spend a lot of time arguing and making love. A theme is the main character’s belief in adobe construction methods as a way for the poor to have decent, quality homes.
Depp would make a good Woody in a movie (surely he’s working on that), and we need stories like Woody’s to be told. He spent a year or so in the Big Bend area of Texas and decades later produced a good novel set there based on some of his experiences, The Seeds of Man. This synopsis is an excerpt from moneyblows.blogspotcom:
Woody Guthrie’s Seeds of Man was inspired by a 1931 trip the author remembered…. or mis-remembered… in 1947-8. The novel wasn’t published until 1976.
By evidence of this rambling tome, Woody Guthrie wrote more about his 1931 trip to Big Bend, than about any other single topic. Although, that may be unfairly comparing songs to prose.
A visitor to the mysterious border wilderness known as Big Bend, where Seeds of Man is set, will not quickly grasp how formative was Guthrie’s own visit. He was an impressionable young man in 1931 whose travels thus far had been limited to Oklahoma and Texas. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie took his family gift of music and optimism farther than any Guthrie had before. It some ways, it could be said this magical trip started it all.
In 1941 he was part of the propaganda effort for the Coulee and Bonneville dams on the Columbia River. 26 ballads in 30 days, he had so much creativity coming out of him. His autobiographical novel Bound for Glory came in 1943. As he began to feel the curse of Huntington’s Disease in the late 1940′s, he typed like a madman on a novel he originally titled Study Butte,calling it “An Experience Lived and Dreamed,” the chronicle of a search to look for his family’s lost silver claim in the Christmas Mountains.
Study Butte is the name of a crossroads settlement in the Big Bend, near Terlingua, a stone’s throw from Mexico, which had an active mercury mine. It was very wild country at the time of Woody’s visit. Guthrie’s vision of America was inspired, and his themes were the same ones that get so little traction today, in spite of the bankers and big shots running roughshod over the governing system the same way today as they did during the Depression and the Dustbowl days.
By Roy Hamric
This story originally appeared in The Boston Globe in 2007.
MAE SALONG, Thailand – Uncle Soo, sporting a San Francisco Giants cap and a frayed US Army field jacket, sat on a wood stump at his neatly arranged desk. A classic Chinese herbal doctor, he has his pharmacy of plants, herbs and roots arrayed on the concrete floor in plastic bags.
He carefully poured me a cup of green tea, as puffs of white smoke spiraled around his head from the thin, brown cheroot dangling from his lip. Yellowed pages of old newspapers glued to the interior walls of the shop covered open spaces between the wooden planks.
“Green tea was one of the first medicines in old China,” he said. “Opium is a medicine, too, to heal pain.”
When talking about tea or opium, Soo, 91, is an expert. He served as an herbal doctor in the Kuomintang’s 39th Regiment shortly after it had retreated into Burma in 1949 following General Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat and exile. The battle-hardened Chinese carved out a fiefdom in the rugged mountains of Burma’s Shan State near the Thailand border and the regiment soon cornered a large portion of the poppy growing trade.
Led by General Ma Tuan, the army moved its base here in 1961, and the soldiers and their families created a Chinese way of life along this 3,800-foot mountain ridge. With more than 80 inches of rain a year, humid days, and cool nights, the mountains provided a perfect location for tea plantations. By the 1980s, the community’s involvement in opium had subsided and almost all the Chinese in Mae Salong cultivated tea plants, which now cover the surrounding hills, or they operate businesses devoted to tea.
Fortified with the lingering taste of Soo’s green tea, I walked out to the main road in search of the real reason I had come here: to taste the town’s specialty, fine oolong tea. I wanted to learn how to appreciate fine tea, and this was the place to do it.
Today, the town has about 10,000 residents, and almost all the shops have something to do with tea: processing, tasting, selling, or promoting it. Some are elaborate, open-air structures devoted to a Zen-like presentation of the drink. Others are tiny street stalls with a single counter.
Of the many teas grown here, oolong, or Camellia sinensis, is a favorite variety that connoisseurs compare to fine wine. Seedlings were brought here from Taiwan decades ago. With some of the finest tea in Asia, the village, though remote, attracts hardy tea lovers who love the village rhythm, the nearby hill tribes and the mountain atmosphere.
I walked down the main road where Chinese characters on shop signs outnumber Thai script. As the Lisu and Mong traders began filling up the town’s market, the village felt more like China than Thailand.
I spotted a nondescript tea shop with only two wood tables and a few squat stools. A picture of the Great Wall of China adorned one wall. An elderly lady, her hair neatly pulled back in a bun, said in broken English her name was Madame Ming, and she offered to give me a short course in tea tasting.
“What kind of tea do you like?” she asked.
“There are many varieties,” she said, smiling. “What kind?”
“Please serve the one you like best,” I said.
She opened a plastic bag bulging with tea buds.
“Oolong has been used as a medicine for thousands of years,” she said, selecting three or four small buds. “Tea stimulates blood circulation and calms the mind.”
In scientific terms, it’s all about polyphenols and catechins, organic chemicals found in all tea leaves. The trick is how much oxidation to allow in the processing.
Silently, Ming prepared a pot of tea, pouring hot water into a small, unglazed, clay teapot. Such pots are said to improve with age and bring out the flavor in the leaves. After it had steeped for a few minutes, she poured the tea through a fine strainer into two cups. Then she picked one up and motioned for me to do the same, all the while inhaling the aroma.
It was Dong Fang Mei Ren, or Oriental Beauty oolong tea, which she said she saved for special occasions. Its color, light red, is one of its gifts.
With the first sip, it was as if I had never tasted tea before. There were hints of honey, peaches, and oranges on my tongue. I sought the flavors again with each sip, smiling at Ming in appreciation.
The tea’s color, its smell and its flavor signaled subtle pleasures. Each demanded attention and anticipation, or they passed unnoticed. It was another lesson in how to live – and how to travel.
Well, yes – exactly – that is the problem.
All travelers experience it
at each step on the Way. Is it
here, there, up, down,
backwards, forwards, all around,
or somewhere else? How are we to know,
if it doesn’t tell us so?
We all have our maps, but they are the
artifacts rubbing our noses in it.
My worn map I drew myself. I traced
a line from Birchman Street in Fort Worth
through dark caves as a Boy Scout, to Saigon
(and flowing dresses) to Ubon and
Thailand’s temples to Third Street in Denton –
a college town – to Dallas (there’s the dead president)
to Arlington to Thailand again and Laddawan – to Denton
(the college town again) to Waco – a crazy town –
to Alpine and the airy Big Bend where I met and lost
so many friends, to here and now in Chiang Mai.
Ok, just breathe deep and let go.
That’s as close as I can get to it.
Laos is as different from Vietnam as Big Sur is from Long Island––Hunter S. Thompson
The next morning, two Russian hookers waited in front of the visa gate on Friendship Bridge. They talked in agitated bursts with a small Russian man who had the body of an acrobat and a face like a famous French pantomimist. One of the ladies was very young and beautiful. The other was worn away inside and out. They were mother and daughter. The bra strap on the daughter’s right shoulder read, “Midnight Angel.”
Soon I was bouncing down the road in a taxi, a 1978 Toyoto Corina with the original black crusty leather upholstery, for the 23-mile ride to Vientiane. The door panels were stripped out exposing the bracing and gears for the roll-up windows. You could see the ground below through rusted holes in the floorboards. A half dozen Buddha amulets dangled from the arm of the rearview mirror which had no mirror. A miniature bamboo fish trap dangled between the Buddhas amulets. It was a good luck charm to help catch money.
“You like to fish?” asked the driver. “Good fishing. Every night. Lake here.”
We had just passed a shop with dozens of modern rods and reels displayed on the ground alongside the road. It made a strange impression. Then another fishing shop passed, very new. Then two or three more. In the fields between the houses and shops, grey-white cattle displayed the perfect outlines of their skeleton covered by sagging skin like a thin, frayed blanket. Old women sold bright red chillies from bamboo mats next to the roadside. A solitary, barefooted old man in his underware squatted next to the road, a long cherrot dangling from his lip. Many cinder-block buildings were new and quickly put up with the cement oozed out from between the blocks. We passed the new spic and span Australian Embassy, very white in the afternoon sun. Then the Lao-German School of Technology. The usual Internet shops began to appear and more outdoor restaurants. Foreigners on motorbikes. Newly built guesthouses. As we entered Vientiane, scattered old French villas in faded white-beige colors stood silently with long, wooden shutters tightly closed. A sign that Laos was a country still strictly controlled could be seen in the motorbike riders, who all wore helmets. Laos wasn’t Thailand. In Thailand, the law required it but only a few safety-minded bikeriders wore helmets. You could see Thailand’s lack of discipline too in its soldiers and policemen. In their off-hours they wore their uniform pants and shoes but stripped off their tops down to a white T-shirt, and they sat casually sipping a beer or eating in a restaurant. In Laos, soldiers and police always wore a full uniform so weighed down with epaulets and finery that privates looked like generals.
Emerging from 33 years of Communist rule, Vientiane, the once delicate Laotian capital numbering about 500,000 people, has the frayed look of an Eastern European city, signalled by the dominance of official governmental buildings. The highest buildings are hotels. There are no skyscraper office buildings. The center of the city’s night life has always been on Fa Nyum Road, named for Laos’ first king, now a strip of restaurants and guesthouses facing the Mekong River. The city was overflowing with backpackers and hardy tourist types. Laotian women, with their elegant long skirts and coal-black hair, made up for the city’s controlled feel.
Following the Communist Pathet Lao takeover in 1975, Laos was a closed society until 1989, when it slowly began to allow Westerners back into the country. The Communist regime officially proclaimed 1997 the “Year of the Visitor.” Years later the country still scrambles to accomodate itself to the growing number of tourists. There’s a handful of ATM machines. The local media is still heavily censored. Personal mail is routinely inspected. The sewer system has been under construction for decades. But at night, the riverside area fills up with Laotian couples and tourists, all eating, drinking and people-watching along the boulevard with its floating bamboo restaurants and food stalls, all lit up like a carnival with the Mekong flowing and Thailand on the other side of the river.
The driver let me out at the Lan Xang Hotel, once the finest in the capital, and I confirmed my reservation for Room 224. For two weeks during the 1970s, the room had been the home of the writer Hunter Thompson, who checked into the Lan Xang, which means Place of a Million Elephants, late one night after spending a few pressure-filled weeks reporting on the final days before the fall of Saigon for Rolling Stone magazine. Thompson left a curious account of his stay at the Lan Xang in an short piece called “Checking into the Lang Xang,” published in Generation of Swine, Gonzo Papers II.
He arrived in late April 1975 around 2 a.m. during a drenching monsoon rain. He told the desk clerk he wanted a king-sized bed, quick access to the swimming pool and a view of the Mekong River that flowed past only a few hundred feet in front of the hotel. The hotel is a long, two-story building with a massive lobby, cavernous dinning room, a special English-style Billiards Room, and an exotic disco with soft-eyed hostesses. The hotel is still noted for its Massage and Sauna Center beside the pool, and the masseuses who provid expert room service.
Room 224 was almost exactly as Thompson described it, but with no view of the Mekong River: “A rambling suite of rooms half hidden under the top flight of a wide white-tiled stair ramp that rose out of the middle of the Lan Xang lobby. When I first went into 224, it took me about two minutes to find the bed; it was around the corner and down a fifteen-foot hallway from the refrigerator and the black-leather topped bar and the ten-foot catfish-skin couch and five matching easy chairs and the hardwood writing desk and the sliding glass doors on the pool-facing balcony outside the living room. At the other end of the hallway, half hidden by the foundation of the central stairway, was another big room with a king-size bed, another screened balcony, another telephone and another air-conditioner, along with a pink-tiled bathroom with two sinks, a toilet and a bidet and deep pink bathtub about nine-feet long.”
The Lan Xang was perfect for Thompson. Built by the Russians, it still had Soviet air conditioners and signs in Cyrillic here and there. The disco then and now offers a classic Asian band with rotating singers and lovely hostesses in spiky high heels who lay a hand on your leg very quickly and rest their head on your shoulder.
There’s no written account of how Thompson filled his two weeks in Vientiane. The best guess is that it
involved burst of manic writing, wiring dispatches to California, lots of Laotian marijuana, long stretches of sitting at an outdoor restaurant next to the Mekong River, probably some of the local rice whisky, probably some opium, probably long stretches of meditation on the star-filled sky over the river. I’m certain some nights were spent in the dark recesses of The White Rose, checking out the night life in one of the most legendary bars in Asia renowned for its spunky floor shows and hostesses. Down the road was Lulu’s where nightly pipes of opium could be found. At any rate, Thompson had successfully decamped from the manic desperation of crumbling Saigon to seemingly tranquil Vientiane. But with his acute sense of the possible and probable, he knew Laos’ days were numbered.
Shortly after arriving, he scheduled a meeting with The New York Times correspondent, David Alderman, and they spent some time traveling around Vientiane together.
“He looked me up as soon as he pitched up in Laos. I had been filing quite relentlessly from there for some weeks). I had, of course, heard of him, though I was not aware that he’d been in Vietnam before he arrived in Laos. As I recall, he said that he was finishing up a major Vietnam piece and then intended to turn his attention to Laos. But I’m not sure how intense that attention was. Most of the time, as I recall, he spent trying to score the ‘finest weed ever produced on the planet.’ And he seemed to be quite successful.
“At the time, Vientiane was very much an open city. The bar girls still plied their trade nightly at the White Rose which Peter Kann and I closed up some weeks later, with the girls going across the river to Thailand the next morning, really marking the end of the Royalist regime in Laos and the arrival in power of the Pathet Lao. For a price, and Hunter did seem quite flush at the time, there was very little that was not obtainable.
“Hunter vanished as suddenly and mysteriously as he arrived. I don’t remember seeing any piece that materialized out of his visit to Vientiane. I was aware of his gonzo reputation, so his search for the perfect weed more amused than surprised me. He seemed so intense about it––more so than any other goal in fact––even though he was soaking in all sorts of details, scenario, dialogue, that could have produced a vivid piece if he ever got to the point of writing it, which seemed only a part of his ‘mission’ to Laos. I also recall that at times his circuits seemed pretty fried.”
In May, 1975, a few weeks after Thompson’s visit, the Vientiane government fell to the Pathet Lao. The Communist isolated the country from the West and sent tens of thousands of Laotians and ethnic group members to prisons and reeducation camps.
Indeed, Thompson had a long strange trip through life. His writing captured his times and the imagination of millions of readers. Thirty years later, on Feb. 20, 2005, Thompson, like Hemingway, shot himself in the head at his “fortified compound,” Owl Farm, in Aspen, Colorado. What reads like a short, personal note written to himself a few days before his death, titled “Football Season is Over,” is now called the “suicide note”: “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax—This won’t hurt.”
Of all American writers, Thompson, in his prime, somehow seemed to be at home in Vietnam and Laos with their benighted strangeness and beauty. The country seemed to have found him. The country’s deep strangeness could swallow up most writers, and no doubt gave even him pause. He glimpsed the final days of Vientaine before the weird storybook kingdom was smothered in a long, totalitarian vengence. At the moment of its descent into Communism, the country had so little, yet it lost the open days of its future. Thompson innately understood, despised and raged against repressive forces wherever he found them but in Laos he sensed something walking the land far different than the politics of America and the resurgence of Richard Nixon. Laos had defied generations of writers who tried to decode the internecine feuding between its former kings and princes. All were swept away conclusively by the Communists. A lock was snapped shut on the future.
Things quickly turned very dark in Laos, there were lost decades, but slowly the country began to emerge and it still is and you saw that some things never went away or were coming back. The next morning as I ventured out of the Lan Xang, I learned that drugs were everywhere in Vientiane, in spite of the Communist government or probably because of it. The taxi driver turned, grinning.
“You want gangha?”
“No ganja,” I said. “Too dizzy.” He nodded, appearing to understand.
“Opium?” he asked. There was something about him. His body was too sure of itself. He was not a taxi driver. The body had a military bearing, the authority of a policeman. Yes, this was Laos and it was as different as Big Sur is from Long Island, in a world where all is strange if we can only see.
Part III to follow
A version of this article originally appeared in East Magazine.
By Roy Hamric
“The Mekong, it’s just a long, soft river.”––Jack Kerouac, in After Me, the Deluge
The bus pulled into Chiang Khan on the Mekong River as the sun fell behind the mountains lined up like sharks’ teeth to the north in Laos. Moments before, I had traced the Mekong’s blue line on a map. It marked the Mekong River journey I would take riding in cheap buses down a 650-kilometer course along the Laotian-Thai border. The bus pulled onto Chiang Khan’s main road lined with rustic, wood buildings and teak wood guesthouses. At the Suk Som Baan Hotel, the ping of raindrops sounded on the tin roof. The small white room with its simple metal bed frame and white sheets and teak wood flooring were straight out of a Joseph Conrad story. Beyond the three open windows, two-deck Chinese junks loaded with felled trees were docked on the riverbank. The window view framed a misty picture of the pearl-gray Mekong and the blue-green shoreline of Laos on the far side. I dozed off that night to the high-pitched squeaks of jing-jok lizards scampering across the walls. It was a perfect start to a Mekong River journey through sleepy Laotian river towns. My plan was to start on the Thai side of the Mekong, to cross to the Laotian side at Non Khai for a visit to Vientiane, the capital, and then to take ordinary buses along the Mekong River south until it disappeared into Cambodia.
After breakfast, I hired a longboat pilot to give me my first taste of one of the longest most mystery-filled rivers in the world. The difference between the river’s two sides was clear the night before. Only two or three lights could be seen on the Laotian side. The boatman shoved off to parse his course through the swiftly flowing river, around large tree limbs and uprooted trees being swept downstream. On the Laotian side, dozens of bamboo fish traps rested on the bank. Old men and children splashed in the water to chase in fish. Families bathed. Two naked kids wearing Santa Claus hats stopped splashing water on each other to wave hello.
About 5 miles down the river the boatman gunned his 20-horsepower engine through the Kang Kood Koo rapids before turning to circle back to Chiang Khan. He pointed to a grassy water line 25 higher, where the river had crested only one month ago. In Chiang Khan, the rooftops of the buildings were dotted with red satellite dishes mounted on the shop houses sitting next to the river on slender wood beams like very still dark spiders.
My first boat ride on the Mekong River fulfilled a long-held dream. I had pictured its tiny rivulets beginning high in the eastern mountains of Tibet before heading southward, passing through six countries before finally fanning out into Vietnam’s southern delta in hundreds of web-like streams. For much of its 2,800-mile course, the Mekong River was still a natural, free river. Three bridges span the river in Southeast Asia, one at Vientiane, built in 1990; one in Pakse, Laos, opened in 2000, and one recently completed in Vietnam.
China has built seven dams on the Mekong, in Yunnan Province, but so far the river is undammed in Southeast Asia, where it remains a main artery of travel and sustenance. But, the river’s wildest days are clearly over. China plans to build six more dams along its course. It’s estimated the river’s full hydroelectric potential is equal to the annual petroleum production of Indonesia. China now controls its flow through Southeast Asia. Laos and Thailand have built dams on Mekong tributaries. Laos is counting on exporting hydroelectric energy as a capital resource to energy-starved countries. Proposals to put more dams on the Mekong in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam haven’t yet borne fruit, but its only a matter of time.
“Without doubt, no other river, over such a length, has a more singular or remarkable character.”––Francis Garnier, co-leader, French Commission Expedition to the Mekong River, 1866.
The next morning I boarded a bus to Nong Khai. An ancient, battered TV and CD player was wired above the driver’s seat. A Thai teenager scanned a magazine with nude centerfolds, and two foreigners were speaking Dutch. The Mekong flowed by only a few hundred feet away for most of the ride. Willem Leutner, in his fifties, a red-cheeked high school psychology teacher, was on holiday. He was being befriended by a barefooted, drunken Thai man, who was shouting louder and louder as if that could make Leutner understand Thai. The driver and passengers all ignored the drunk, his slurred speech and his embarrassing encounter with the foreigner.
“In Thailand,” Leutner said, “most rural people believe in spirits. That means this man is not himself now. He’s under the control of an evil spirit, and if they do something to embarrass him they make him lose face, plus they would also lose face too because they would have to show their emotions. Thais always try not to show their emotions in public. They feel sorry for someone who does. So they just ignore him.”
It was his third trip to Thailand. “The Dutch are the Chinese of Europe,” he said. “You will see us everywhere.” He described his recent vacation to Malawi, where he said the women taught him to dance from the hips down. But, Thailand, he said, it has something even more special. He lived with a Thai woman for six months. “The place has woken me up to something inside me that I never thought I had,” he said. “I have a different energy inside me now. I am growing inside. I will return to teach in a few months, but I will come back to live here later. I’ve discussed it with friends in Holland. They don’t understand.” Scenes of modern Thailand flashed by. A barefooted rice farmer knee-deep in water talking on his cellphone. Small engine-powered plows, replacing the water buffalo, furrowed straight rows in flooded rice paddies. The road entered Nong Khai lined by verdant ponds filled with two-foot lily pads and pink flowers. The drunk Thai was sleeping peacefully.
A Way Station at Nong Khai
That evening, I dropped into The Meeting Place, a legendary expat bar to visit with the owner, Alan Patterson, an Australian, who was something of a Mr. Fix-It for expats. From his bar-restaurant-guesthouse, he provided immigration forms to cross the border, or he might try to sell you a house, a banana plantation, a fish farm–or just introduce you to aging Vietnam veterans who lived in the area in small houses or rooms with a Thai wife or girlfriend. They congregated to The Meeting Place both day and night to while away the time.
“This is command central,” said Patterson, who had lived in Nong Khai for nine years. He sat behind his horseshoe shaped desk surrounded by a computer, a TV tuned to CNN, a fax, several mobile phones, three clocks showing time for Bangkok, Perth and Honolulu, and assorted sales brochures and maps.
Expats and Thais kept kept drifting in as we talked. “About 80 expats live in the area, and maybe 20 in town,” he said. “They come in and out and they don’t get on each others’ nerves too much. A lot of them are sick with this or that, living on their government checks. They’re good for the economy.” Then his voiced trailed off. “There aren’t many Americans in the area––easily four times more Germans, Dutch and Finnish.”
From his desk, Patterson managed his Web site which promoted the Mekong River area and his business schemes. “We had beautiful houses built here in the boom era that still haven’t been sold,” he said. “Prices started around 1 million baht (US $30,000). You get great value for your money. I want to build a retirement community here for vets––and make sure they don’t get jerked around by the Thai mafia.”
Leaving, I noticed a bar tab list nailed to the wall alongside large magazine centerfolds of Asian women. “VICTIMS,” it read, followed by 10 scribbled names, ending with the name, “God.”
“An Englishman wrote that. He makes us laugh a lot,” said a red-haired man sitting at the bar, one forearm tattooed with “Airborne” and the other “Singha,” a Thai beer.
Looking at a row of weathered foreigners sitting on the bar stools in mid-day took me back to a feeling of Vietnam. Lke clockwork, paranoia surfaced in the room. A white-haired, haggard man with a pockmarked, swollen face, his nose a dull purple, slurred, “You look like you’re from Langley. CIA, right? I can always tell. You’re from Langley, right?” Everyone’s head turned to look. We were on Vietnam and Laos time, a long time ago, and it was time to leave.
The riverfront of Nong Khai was lined with restaurants––all with a verandah view of the Mekong flowing past. At sunset, the sky and river took turns mirroring red, orange, pink, gold, deep blue-gray and black. Then the lights of Friendship Bridge flashed on linking Thailand to Laos in a tiny chain of gold. Vientaine awaited across the river. (Part II to come)
Jack Kerouac lived in this house with his mother in Orlando, Florida, for a little more than one year. While there, in a burst of memory-writing he wrote Dharma Bums. The house is now a writer’s retreat and is maintained by a nonprofit group that needs funds. For a nice story on the house and group by Carolyn Kellogg , click here. To hear Kerouac sing Ain’t We Got Fun, click here. Thanks, Carolyn Kellogg.
Alex Kerr is a writer-educator who is well known for several books about Japan, including Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons, and his most recent book on Thailand, Bangkok Found, where he has lived since 1997. Noted as a perceptive cultural critic of Asian arts, he heads Origin, an educational program that offers special classes on the fine arts of Japan and Thailand. His books on Japan have had a cultural impact in the area of the arts and environment. Currently, he’s working on Kyoto Found, which looks at the city’s unique cultural heritage.
For a short Q&A interview about Bangkok Found click here.
Someone said, in paraphrase, the best literary characters are sometimes more real to us than real people. The same is true in photographs. We seldom see colors as vividly as we do in a photograph.
The New York Times recently ran a story on a neighborhood institution called Heaven’s Beach, a couple of doors away from the Rasta bar that I’ve photographed a few times. The writer noted the Beach’s great, raw rock and roll and other music venues in Chiang Mai, which is a nest of creativity on many fronts.
The bar is run by a clan of Issan (northeastern) folks who function as a commune. Issan, the source of the massive people’s demonstrations in Bangkok in recent months, is also the source for much of the country’s musical originality and creativity. Click here for the story in the Times. See the Joe Cummings’ interview for background on Thai music under the On the Record listings.