Friday, December 19, 2014

KROM ON A ROOFTOP

Photos by Alasdair McLeod
Words by James A. Newman
 
THE ROOF TERRACE of the Hansar hotel, a cool December breeze, up here the air is cleaner, pollution less troublesome, corruption more bearable in the clouds than on the streets. The bar counter sits beneath a giant Chinese lantern. A lantern that may or may not have been changing color. A chameleon lantern perhaps? Potted plants, sofas. Chilean wine. 
 
Christopher Minko sits cross-legged picking effortlessly at a blonde wood electric acoustic. Jimmy plays slide guitar. Bass player James Sokleap plays multicolored strings. Cambodian chanteuses sisters Chamroeun harmonize flawlessly with a professional traditional gracefulness. Hearts were broken, CDs purchased. Krom were finally playing for the first night in Bangkok city. This was an event. Christopher Minko's guitar is a controlled and measured instrument. Picking strong deliberate notes complemented by the slide guitar and those haunting harmonies this music evokes a mystical sound - a sound you feel you've heard somewhere before. A nostalgic sound. Minko's vocal range is a deep gritty noir growl of injustice. The sound of a man hanging around in a world gone wrong. Hanging around to warn others of the dangers. There may be hope somewhere, but hope comes in many disguises, most of them black. 

7 Years Old is a disturbing meditation on the hopelessness of child prostitution. The inner scars that will never heal should be exhibited via song to heed warning to others. The Haunted is haunting in every sense - it stays with you.  Down Sukhumvit Road is just that. Passion and Rain and Sadness just some of the other titles.

Krom is a unique band.  A truly international group who  have created their own genre. We were thrilled to have the chance to watch them play in this wonderful venue.


Newman, Catto-Smith, Minko and Cummings.


You really do have to hear this band  live to appreciate them, but if you can't, then pick up their latest CD: NEON DARK.

For those in Bangkok don't miss out. Krom play tonight at the Overground bar on Sukhumvit soi 22 hosted by Grahame Lynch.

Visit the venue here:   https://www.facebook.com/OvergroundBarCafe
Visit the band here: https://www.facebook.com/KromSong
 

 
 
 
 
 
 



Monday, December 8, 2014

TODD MORR DROPS BY...



IT STARTED with a message on her answering machine: ‘JESUS SAVES SATAN INVESTS.’ Living comfortably off the spoils of her ill-gotten gain as the centerpiece of a blackmail ring, Janet did not need to know the caller was currently sharing trunk space with a fresh corpse.

Enter Todd Morr, an energetic crime fiction writer who has published his latest novel JESUS SAVES, SATAN INVESTS, with Spanking Pulp Press. Todd took some moments to talk to me about his latest book and the writing game. The new novel is set to turn a few heads and a great addition to the SPP stable.    

NEWMAN:  Great title. Where did the title come form?   

MORR: I've had the title for awhile, like a decade or so. The working title for this book was something else.  I intended JSSI for something else that did not turn out so well, but the title stayed with me.

NEWMAN: It has that kind of "bumper sticker" punch to it, the title that is. The novel is a fast paced roller-coaster, full of twists and turns. Which authors do you like to read and is crime a genre you find yourself reading mostly if push came to shove?

MORR: Crime is definitely my go to genre.  Richard Stark, Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard are some of my favorites,  though the list of writers I like is long. I've always been a big Steven King fan, I stole my parents copy of Carrie and read it on the sly after they told me I was not old enough to read it, though I think they knew, when I was about ten.  I don't know if it shows, but when I started writing JSSI I was going for a John Woo Hong Kong movie feel with some near over the top type action sequences.

NEWMAN: was thinking it seemed super cinematic. Have you ever wrote any screenplays or tried your hand at writing for the screen
 
MORR: Yes, not recently and nothing that ever got any traction, and given my lack of experience it is quite possible they were terrible.  As I was writing JSSI I was thinking cinematically, actually I always do,  but I am more comfortable writing in a book rather than a screenplay format. It is something I would like to try again.

NEWMAN: You've published some shorter works, I think.. How important for you is publishing short stories as well as full length novels?

MORR: Definitely prefer novels, but some ideas are not novel length and it is nice to get those out there.  I'm an anomaly of sorts in that the first thing I ever published was a novel, and then worked backwards and published some short stuff.  I like the challenge of flash fiction, getting an idea across in an entertaining way in under a thousand words.  It forces me to look at things and keep it tight and concise, which carries over into longer work. 

NEWMAN: What's in store for Mr Morr in 2015?

MORR: Damn good question, Hell if I know, really.  I just moved to the central coast and am still figuring out what to do up here.  I'm going to keep writing, for sure. It's nice up here but different than Southern California. I'm just putting the finishing touches on novel with the working title Sadistic Home Alone, and have another couple things done I would like to unleash on the world next year.  I've also started covering the Denver Nuggets basketball for TheRunnerSports.com, which has been fun. 

NEWMAN: Wish you all the best. And hope that Jesus saves while Satan invests. Thanks for stopping by!

JESUS SAVES, SATAN INVESTS CAN BE INVESTED IN HERE 

Friday, November 21, 2014

THE BLOODY ROAD, METH-PIRATES, AND UNDEAD MONKEYS



RELEASE DATE: 30TH NOVEMBER 2014

The first in a series of PULP COLLECTIONS. This triple ZOMBIE offering is a dish not to be missed.

First up:

#1 THE BLOODY PATH TO NEW MEXICO by JASON BEECH

Lizzy and Frank are seemingly the only two people left in the world after a zombie apocalypse. Lizzy has visions of being the world's new Eve. The only problem is Frank being its new Adam. He's big, dumb, doesn't look after his teeth, and his bloodshot left eye makes her suspect he's heading for life as one of the undead. She wants to get away from New Jersey to the less populated New Mexico, but Frank has unfinished business. He wants to find Danny, the man who betrayed his gang of armed robbers, even though he knows he's one of the brain-dead horde.

In the meantime Lizzy deals with her own demons, checking her old home and the sister she locked away years ago. When she suspects there might be another human out there, a woman to rival her status as Eve, Lizzy's actions lead to an explosive ending.

AUTHOR: JASON BEECH lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey. As a kid he once stole a mushroom from a corner shop. The owner’s dog followed him all the way home, making him walk about a mile’s diversion from where he lived to shake the damn thing off. Otherwise, he’s a law-abiding citizen who loves crime fiction. He has authored the novel Over the Shoulder and short story collection Bullets, Teeth & Fists. His work can be found at Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Plots with Guns, and Pulp Metal Magazine. He structurally edited Monica Kaushik’s Maya & the Butterfly, and her soon-published Warriors of the Darkness.

And then:

#2 CAPTAIN METH-MOUTH OF THE HIGH SEAS OF CHICAGO by JOHN BRUNI

In a zombie-ravaged world, only the fittest and most cunning survive. Dwight Fitzgerald used to spend his time smoking weed, going to school, and working on the Treasure Island Adventure Show in Miami as the captain of a pirate ship. Now he fights for survival, and he's playing the role for real. As he approaches Chicago, hoping that the rumors of a zombie-free city are true, he has no idea that he's about to clash with the ruler of the Windy City, Captain Meth-Mouth. This lunatic and former junkie has always wanted to be a pirate, and when he sees Dwight's ship, he seizes the opportunity to live out a savage childhood fantasy . . .

AUTHOR: JOHN BRUNI has never wanted to live in the zombie apocalypse or be a pirate, but he's always wanted to be a writer. His dream has come true. He is the author of STRIP and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE, and his work has appeared in many publications, most notably in SHROUD, CTHULHU SEX, A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE, and ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG

And finally:

#3 UNDEAD CARGO by JAMES A. NEWMAN

Johnny Coca Cola, once infamous for filming THE ZOMBIE DINNER PARTY is on the skids in a Malaysian port where he finds Beth who is looking to leave town fast. Together they climb aboard a cargo ship heading for Hamburg with a stopover at Sri Lanka to pick up a container load of dead monkeys. Conner is the middle man, CIA, who is instructed to lose the cargo overseas somewhere in the Indian ocean. All he knows is that the specimens are part of a US funded scientific project to reanimate dead flesh. What could possibly go wrong?

AUTHOR: JAMES A. NEWMAN has published over fifty pulp short stories in various publications all over the world; most recently for STRANGE STORY SATURDAY, BIG PULP and TWISTED TALES Magazines. He writes mainly horror, crime and sci-fi shorts and has recently turned his hand to screenplays after picking up an option for crime novel THE WHITE FLAMINGO.








Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GHOST HIT


The good people at FREEDOM FICTION have published a short story I wrote all by myself. Well almost, a friend gave me the idea. It's called GHOST HIT.




FEEL FREE TO READ ......

HERE


Beat Goes On.
BKK.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reviews, Oh reviews, I've written a few....Here's three.


I admit I've never been that good at writing reviews. 
They trouble me. 
Who am I to talk about another person's work?

The thing is it makes me feel better than playing Bubble Witch Saga or Crushing Candy. 

The first one, I was in my early twenties and had this to say about William Burroughs' book Cities of The Red Night. Still my favorite book. Hands down.

I penned this in 2002. It was seven years before I'd had my own paid first short story credit.

I simply liked the book.


Burroughs, in Paris.
William Burroughs.
Cities of the Red Night.
Review on Amazon by me. 23 out of 23. Best review.

"Cities" affords a logical conclusion to the various literary techniques and experiments employed by Burroughs over three prolific if somewhat confused decades of work. The straight forward narrative style of his debut novel "Junky" is thankfully reinvented peppered with a Chandler type detective story which sets the early theme of the book. This overlaps a pirate story based on the apparently factual adventures of Captain Mission and his colony of Libertarians. The book develops to suggest an alternative history that satires the present in the same way as the outrageous comical routines of "Naked Lunch" attacked the America status quo. All the usual Burroughs themes are here, drugs, weapons, disease, virus control, hangings and sexual imagery. However, sparingly employing his controversial cut-up techniques interwoven with his various other writing styles Burroughs creates a prose, almost poetic in every line pulling together his masterpiece.

Then there was the review of the Gingerman by J.P. Donleavy. Written three years before my first short story was published.  63 out of 67. Yeah, best review, and included in a book somewhere, I forget the details. 

J.P Donleavy
The Gingerman
Amazon review by James Newman.

I became aware of this book after recently reading a Hunter S. Thompson biography, wherein it describes how Hunter discovered the book in New York, and did his best to imitate Dangerfield's lifestyle. After reading the Ginger Man it became apparent that Hunter had at last found a hard act to follow in terms of womanizing, alcohol abuse and empty promises.

Apparently the Ginger Man was turned down by something like 40 publishers before finding it's way to the mainly pornographic publishers Olympia Press in Paris. Despite turning out mostly smut, Olympia owner Maurice Girodias also published some early works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and Jean Genet among other rising literary talents of the time.

I mention the publication as it's interesting to note that Donleavy entered into 20 plus years of litigation with the publishing house. He eventually won the case and subsequently owns Olympia Press.

But anyway, the book. It is, for better or worse, very real. The "hero" Sebastian Dangerfield is a reluctant family man and a reluctant student of law. He just doesn't care about the things which we assume he should care about. He is constantly in a state of scheming his way into the next free drink, or getting into the knickers of an easily led girl. He has no morals, nor does he feel that he should have. He is banking on an inherited wealth which will be his once his sick father dies.

The style of the book is modern for the time of it's writing. Donleavy uses both the first person narrative and the third person narrative to illustrate his main character. This can be confusing at first, but I found that after a few chapters, it adds to the urgency/pace (first person) and the backgrounds (third person) as he switches between the two different types of narration. This could not be achieved by sticking to either one of the disciplines.

The plot is quite simple, as a character novel should be. The backdrop is Dublin and then later London. Both are described well.

The dialogue is at times simply brilliant. One of the few books where you find yourself laughing aloud, and re-reading passages in an attempt to recall lines and slip them into a conversation at some point in the future. It is so easy to see why this book has since been turned into a stage production. I would imagine that the theater would be in fits of giggles.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the development of modern literature. And for that matter anyone with an open mind and a good sense of humour. It is in many ways one of the best novels of the 20th century.

A short review of Bukowski's Post Office five years before I'd published a word. 
20 out of 23 people agreed with this.

Charles Bukowski
Post Office.
A review by James Newman. 




This book proves that Bukowski was at his best as a writer when he was down and out. Thankfully for the reader he was mostly down and out during his prolific career, a slave to beer and whiskey and low life friends.

He gave up working for the post office and wrote this book in a matter of days. He had to produce a great book and make some money and he did so by recording his time at the Post Office. Makes you want to give up the day job and do likewise. But who could do the job as well as Buk?

For me, Post Office is Buk's best work along with Ham on Rye, Factotum and the short story collections. Bukowski uses simple language which is understandable to everyone, but there is a deep underlying sense of acceptance of life imprinted in every page. He never asks for pity, although you know he really deserves it.

This novel makes you feel good as when you read it you understand things could be worse. You could be Buk. That said, this novel is far from being depressing, quite the opposite in fact it is at times so amusing you have to put it down and laugh aloud.

If you are feeling hard done by, buy this book and learn how to laugh in the face of failure like the great Bukowski

-------

My advice to new writers? Read a little, review some books. Don't review books expecting a review in return. Review a book because you love reading. That is why you are writing, right?

Of course it is.

The Beat Goes On.
BKK.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paul Brazill in the Beach Hut.

Another lazy day at the Beach Hut.


Jim is behind the bar slurping vodka from a well-worn coconut shell, staring out to sea quoting Bukowski. John is sitting on a barstool staring into space, sipping a Mohito, fantasizing about fishing with Hemingway. It’s another lazy afternoon in Jim’s Beach Hut.  The sun is out, the waves are lapping, the sand is doing what sand does. Noir master, Paul D. Brazill, sidles up to the bar looking hipper than a hipster with surgically enhanced hips. Right on island time. The Spanking Pulp lads drain their vessels and straighten their postures.

Noir scribe Paul Brazill (not to be confused with the porn star who has a similar name) was born in the UK and now lives and writes in Poland. He is the author of A case of Noir, Guns of Brixton and was the editor of the Exiles anthology. He has written short fiction for various magazines and has been published in anthologies alongside Lee Child, Ian Rankin and of course the Beach Hut’s bar keep James A. Newman.

JD: Mr Brazill, sir, thank you for honouring The Hut with your presence. And thanks for giving me a break from Bukowski.  He’s been doing that for hours.

JAN: What’s your poison, Paul? And I’m telling you, Daysh, for the last time, that the Mohito was NOT Papa’s favourite drink

PB: I'm a beer man so a pint of Strongarm, from my home town, Hartlepool. Strongarm equals weak will.

JD: I prefer Castle Eden Ale myself, but each to his own.
 
Jim works the bar as John taps his Mohito glass. Jim turns the cocktail board around, pours Johnnie Black into a glass and slides it across the bar. John scowls at him then shrugs and takes a bite of the whiskey. Jim follows this by putting together a glass of Eden and a pint of Strongarm from some dusty old export bottles knocking around in what looks like a pirate's slops-chest below the bar.

JD: Paul, you're well known for your Roman Dalton series. How did you come to create that character?  And are you a Werewolf? If so, we're gonna plan one hell of a Full Moon Party this month.

PB: I used to be a werewolf but I'm alright nooooooooow ... Roman Dalton came from the Tom Waits song Drunk On The Moon which gave me the idea of a werewolf PI prowling the city at night. The name? Roman came from Romulus and Remus - the twins raised by wolves that founded the city of Rome- and Dalton from Patrick Swayze's character in the film Roadhouse.

JAN:“People run from rain but sit in bathtubs full of water.”  I like the short story form, I like the flash fiction form. Paul, you are a master of it. Do you believe in economy of language. I mean, can we make more by what we take out?

PB: I think I just have a short attention span when it comes to writing.

JD: "See Spot Run" is an all time favourite of mine.  It's about as succinct as you can get.  But seriously, Hemingway is the writer who has most influenced me and it is probably Burroughs and Bukowski for Jim.  Who are your literary idols and influences?

JAN: Let's put it another way. If you could take two books to a desert island where you were to be exiled for crimes against purple prose. One book you have to read again and again as it'll be the only entertainment other than collecting seashells. The other book you'd have to use as kindling to start the first fire for survival. What two would you take? And why? 

PB: The 'good' book would be The Picture Of Grey because it's the book that keeps on giving. I've read it more times than another novel. It's also remind me of the 'civilized world'. In both its good and bad ways, of course.
Oscar - Good

Jane\ - Bad















The 'bad' book would be the complete works of Jane Austen since I can't stand that soppy, namby-pamby, frocksploitation cobblers.

JAN: I'm with you there. And if you could take a few records. What would they be? I must say, Paul, I like your taste in music. In fact we have a gramphone here in the beach hut. The Grams linked to the web so we can play any freaking record through the avenues of time. What will it be?  I personally think the 60s, 70s and 90s were an awesome time for guitar based music. I know John is an 80s fan, he got like a penchant for Phil Collins (laughs)

PB: Well, it's have to be as urban as possible. So Tom Waits - The Heart Of Saturday Night, Foreign Affair, Raindogs- Sketches Of Spain- Miles Davis, What's The Matter Boy? - Vic Godard, the soundtrack to Guys and Dolls, some Steely Dan, Sinatra, Nina Simone, The Fall, Love, Nuggets, Josef K, Funkadelic, more and more ...

JAN: We live in a post-punk decadent society. This is what makes us write dark fiction. Discuss.

PB: Noir has been around a lot longer than that! Crime fiction makes order from chaos and noir makes chaos from order. Talcy Malcy Mclaren made cash from chaos but I'm not making any cash from noir, that's for sure.

JAN: Paul, what's you thoughts on tuning? I spend night after night talking about detuning with crime writers and how certain guitar players change their tuning...Nick Drake, Keith Richards, Lou Reed....... You played in a band ,right? Did you ever change the tuning on your guitar and what guitar did you play? I'm thinking Fender Jazz, but I am probably wrong.....What is your perfect guitar?  

PB: Ha! I'm the worst person to ask! I played bass and had to get someone to tune it for me. I borrowed it from Peter Ord who is left handed so I played it upside down. And it only had 3 strings! I'm a complete non musician, though I have written a few songs. I'm a writer not a fighter.

JAN: I played four string electirc guitar and stuck with it. I'm interested in Poland, Paul. What's the allure?

PB: I did a TEFL course in Madrid in 2001. The first job I was offered after applying for a few was in a small town in Poland called Skierniewice. Two weeks later I moved there. I've lived in a few places since then, Warsaw was the longest, I think. I like the job and the country is no great cultural leap for the British and Irish I think - though when I first moved here it was quite different, of course. I don't really question why I live here, I just get on with it.
 
Warsaw. Yesterday.
JN: I also did the TEFL thing and work here in Thailand by accident rather than anything else. I remember getting my first short story acceptance whilst doing the TEFL. 12 dollars for a story about a woman who has a baby in front of me in a hotel room. It was kind of strange. The highlight of my career anyway was that first acceptance after hundreds of rejections. That was the high-point. What advice would you give to new or young writers, Paul? Just keep battling on the trad route or throw something out self-published?  

PB: I think these days self-publishing may mean your stuff may not stand out from all the other stuff. The trad way is fine but takes a lot of time and patience and may lead to nothing. I'd go with a good indie publisher. That seems the best way and there are some top indie publishers out there.

JD: Paul Brazill, thank you for your time.

For more info about Paul Brazill, interviews, articles, links to books and much more visit the author HERE His books can be found on Amazon and other cyber stores.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Vultures on a High Wire





AUTHOR of The Phantom Lover and other Thrilling Tales of Thailand Jim Algie was kind enough (or led astray enough)  to write some words about The White Flamingo, third in the Joe Dylan series. 

Jim Algie is also the man behind Bizarre Thailand - Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic. 



Jim has had a career in subterranean rock circles as a musician, cable TV host, campus radio DJ, roadie, soundman and punk critic. Jim Algie has lived in Barcelona, Berlin and Casablanca before relocating to Bangkok in 1992. His features and stories have been published around the world in publications such as the International Herald Tribune and his short fiction has been included in anthologies, like the Bram Stoker-winning "Extremes 2: Fantasy and Horror from the Ends of the Earth." Several of his stories have picked up prizes.

He has also worked as a security guard at an insane asylum. 
Which is awesome.

I hand you over to Jim.

THE WHITE FLAMINGO
VULTURES ON A HIGH WIRE
REVIEW BY JIM ALGIE.






I tend to look at the genre fiction of crime and horror not through the telescopic lens of the Ivory Tower critics and academics, but as the blood brothers of such musical genres as rock and punk. The structures and riffs may seem easy enough, but it’s in those individual flourishes, and especially in the guts, the raw power and the spirit, that enables the writer or musician to make their mark and add their own signature style.

As an underground rocker himself, James Newman understands that similarity and leaves plenty of original fingerprints all over this hardboiled mystery. Set in Fun City, which is located somewhere between Pattaya and William Burroughs’ Interzone, the plot orbits around the killing and gutting of a prostitute on a pool table.

Enter Joe Dylan, the private detective with an opiated orangutan on his back and a thirst for justice that outstrips any cash incentives.

Newman’s specialty is hard-hitting, brass-knuckles prose that works well in the crime fiction genre.

“The human waste dripped down to a reservoir of ruin and relief down the city drains where monitor lizards and awful pythons dwelt among the shite, tampons, used condoms: the excesses of Fun City, its center, its soul: a dreamless sludge of spent desire.”

The author also excels in succinct, smartly written characterizations. Of one bargirl he writes:

“She moved with the grace of an animal, barefoot in the jungle, wary of snakes and centipedes, these were her movements, rather than those of a sophisticated woman in the city.”

Such elements contribute some classical touches to what is a raw punk rock symphony full of death-knells and serrated melodies that go straight for the jugular.

At times I was thinking that, even by the standards of noir, this is a nihilistic and misanthropic book, but that’s not a fair reading. Newman finds a little light, and a lot of pathos, in the darkest places.

“The sound of music from an open-air karaoke joint; the sound of a woman’s voice being slowly strangled by the hopelessness of love in the big city.”

Into the scrum of suspects comes the titular White Flamingo, a former model with a penchant for marrying into money and seducing her way into adultery, as well as her son, whose proclivity for violent pornography makes him an early target and easy scapegoat in the police investigation.

I am always weary about giving away too many dramatic twists in a plot-propelled novel like this. Let’s just say that the author’s status as a “Ripperologist” (“Saucy Jack” also makes an appearance in Newman’s recent horror novella, “Itchy Park,” which is equally as compelling and grisly as this tale) makes for a ripping read.

[]



THE WHITE FLAMINGO can be caught HERE

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guest Blog. John Fengler. Ko SiChang.


I fell in love with the island a few years back and had the unique chance to meet David who runs, in my mind and my family's mind the best place to eat in Thailand - Pan and Davids Restaurant. David has lived in Thailand for fifty years and remembers when Pattaya had no nightlife, but there was a little island that had. Nightlife, that is. That place was Ko SiChang. Now the nightlife has left the island and it is one of the untouched wonders swept aside by travel book writers. Untouched , well, maybe not. But undeveloped by tourist ventures the island remains mainly a place of commerce - fishing and import / export by ship.  No bars nor late night entertainment are to be found here. It's a Lonely Planet oddity. A place that has not been over developed and one that has reversed the cycle of the typical drunk expat deceleration of "You should have been here ten years ago."  Where's the fun in writing or indeed talking about a place that was once decadent but now is not? This interests me. David would watch the neon lights blinking from Si Chang and now the neon lights have gone, disappeared, perhaps forever. We mused about the island becoming another tourist mecca. "It'll never happen," David told me after the fourth glass of wine. "For one thing they don't allow cars on the island. The Hiso won't buy it." There was once plans to build a bridge to the island from Si Racha. Thankfully these plans have been abandoned by the new Happy government.

I bumped into a friend and a writer John Fengler who had written something years ago about the island. It was too good not to share.  So I present to you John's take on Ko SiChang. Please enjoy, but don't go there...It may go full circle. Please don't go there. There are only two foreigners living on the island and she has her own immigration department which means basically that it is the best place in the world to live if your book is turned into a movie and you want to write Bond type books. There's even talk of a secret tunnel.

I hand you over to John.

Koh si Chang 


Dateline: lonely Planet days
Author: John Fengler.


The real ones, where entries included tips on traveling, real tips. How to skirt this or that border, which crossing had more visa friendly officers, where the 'off the beaten path' truly was. Another time.

I was armed with the first edition LP Thailand, which was about 3/4 of an inch thick for the whole country.

I followed a lead to an island in the gulf of Thailand about 100 kilometers south of the capital.

There was a rumor of a partially built Royal palace, that had been abandoned in the late 19th century when the French had short lived dreams of occupation. I didn't need much provocation for an adventure.

There was no regular transport to the island that I was aware of, but I managed to finagle a ride on a fishing boat. The boat driver gave me a bit of a concerned look and said; 'but nothing there for you', meaning no hotels, restaurants etc.

I said that he just sealed the deal. I had my backpack.

I managed to get a local motorcyclist to take me into the jungle, to the site of the old palace. I also let him know it was ok to leave me there. Crazy Falang.

Truly a remarkable sight, an incomplete royal residence, that was now, 100 years later, being ingested by the surrounding jungle. A marble floor of the grand entryway, where i eventually spent the night, columned balustrades lining a swimming pool that had never been filled with anything but rain water, and mysterious stairways that led to nowhere, or maybe some Hobbit world, only accessible by wearing a certain ring.

I awoke rested and unmolested by anything larger than a mosquito. Filled with wonder i set out on foot for the coast. It was a  island after all, how lost could i get?

I was crossing a bit of arid midlands when i came upon a rock face. It looked to be an easy climb, and far more promising than the long slog around it. I hefted up the rock, and was about 20 feet up when i threw my hand over the top. Ready to hoist up and over, i saw then felt a thousand fire ants racing down my hand and arm. They live in boxes  made of leaves and held together by their spit. They are virtually undetectable to the untrained eye, especially a blind one lifting over a ledge. They bite and it hurts. I had to fight my natural instinct to pull my hand back in retreat, as i would have plummeted to certain injury, if not more. Mind over matter works until the adrenaline wears off, so over the top i went. Brushing them off and gathering my wits i headed off again, this time on a slightly more elevated, but no less arid plain. But now i could see the Gulf. About twenty minutes further i turned and noticed a saffron robed monk standing in the openness. He had appeared out of nowhere. He smiled at me and then disappeared into the ground. I am prone to hyperbole, but not to illusion. I ran to where i had just seen him and found a hole in the ground. Peeking into it, my new monk friend was suspended in the darkness and holding onto a vine. He smiled again and gestured me to follow him. Of course i did. It was a cave entrance. The cool dank moist air was a relief from the dry arid air i had been breathing. There were recessed Buddha images carved into the limestone, and Buddhist adornments all around. I followed him in amazement until reaching a cathedral, as they are called in the spelunking world. An expansive high ceiling part of a cave. I looked up with my mouth agape in wonder. The monk then slid to my side and gently reached up to my chin and closed my mouth. He smiled and pointed at the roof of the cave and mimicked the flapping motion of bats. The international symbol of 'he who looks at cave roof with mouth open, eats bat guano'.

Continuing my tour of this subterranean temple, we wound up at a horizontal opening with an expansive view of the Gulf. Entered by descending into a field, and exited onto a sea front vista. There were many monks there, laughing at unknown things and completely unsurprised by my presence. One was peeling hard boiled eggs and tossing them to what i took to be their pet monitor  lizard. I didn't know one could domesticate them, but hell they were monks. Just some  more magic I suppose. Like an idiot i went over to pet it. THWACK went it's pre pre-tensile tail to my inner thigh, about 2 inches from Vienna boys choir destination. I had a welt for years from that. Somehow that endeared me to no end with my new hosts. We sat there with no words in common for awhile. With no signal that i could sense, they all stood up and then gestured that i should enter a previously unseen chamber in the cave. There was a wooden platform raised about a foot off of the ground. I was instructed to take my flip flops off and sit on the platform. I sat there with a goofy smile for a few minutes when the grand poobah came in. He was straight out of central casting where they call for a wisened seer. I wanted to rub his belly. He sat across from me, a little bit higher on a second platform. He crossed his legs, assessed me for a moment, and then in decent English said; 'what do you want to know?'.

Really? REALLY?

I was in my early twenties, a post Sartre infused graduate, and a traveller. I wanted to know everything. Why are we here? What is the difference between sin and crime? Is there life after death? My mind raced. I knew i had stumbled onto a great, seminal moment in  my life. No time to question the whys of it. Boots on the ground.  I wanted to ask something accessible, linguistically as well as philosophically. I didn't want to squander this opportunity, but didn't want to come off as an idiot either.

I said; ' i want to know how to meditate'. That's the best i could come up with.
He beamed back at me. It was the right question.

He scooted a bit closer to me, reached over and adjusted my posture. He then lowered his eyelids partially, into the Sukhothai pose, and slowly, beautifully, rhythmically inhaled, all the while drawing out the sound 'Booooooooo', and then at the apogee of his breath he exhaled and chanted; 'Daaaaaaaaaaaaa. It was a seamless breath, much as the circular breathers of the digereedoo have mastered. I Practised in front of him for a bit, until he gave me a 'too late for you grasshopper' look, and released me to my previous hosts. I ate rice with the monks for a day, taught them a few words in English, and fended off their great attempts to tattoo me. It was a monastic hermitage i found out. It was a particular destination for true disciples from temples all over the country. I had found it by accident, or providence.

The next day i took my leave and headed over to the other side of the island, much the same route i had taken to get where i was.

I walked for several hours across the same arid expanse as before. I then caught sight of the farthest shore right before the walls of the path obscured the coast with a sharp descent. I followed a now curiously well worn trail, came around a final blind corner, and encountered the next most extraordinary vision. On either side of the trail, which had suddenly turned tropical, were two lovely Thai sirens, wearing long traditional silk wraps. Each was holding two halves of a freshly cut pomegranate. They gave me warm smiles that betrayed no surprise at my presence. Quite the contrary, as it seemed they had been expecting me.
They both then turned and ushered me to a teak home which jutted out over the water, with it's Gulf end supported by wooden piers. There were buckets of crabs, fishing nets, a steaming pot of soup suspended over a charcoal fire, and a couple of teak fishing boats. They sat me down in what was i suspected, the living room. It was the closest comparison i could make being that the whole place was more or less open air.

I waited for the next surprise. A short while later a man came over and sat across from me. He was about 10 years older than me, and had a gentle but concerned look about him. He had things on his mind.

I was his guest, as is the Thai way, but i was an uninvited one. I looked him in the eyes, pointed at myself and said; 'johhhhnnnn', and then smiled.
He paused, gave a sardonic smile and said; "name's Paul. I used to be V.P. of BBD&O advertising in L.A."

WHAT???

How? What? Why? And who were those girls?
"It's a small island. We knew you were here three days ago. Expected you to turn up sooner but guess you found the monks?!"

"I'm Thai by birth and this was the family homestead." His tone became forlorn, continuing with; "Dad was a crab fisherman and i inherited the place so I'm stuck here."

'Stuck' i exclaimed. People would kill to be stuck here!

"He gave a deflated smirk and said; "yeah you want to buy it?"

Um well no but...

"Yeah nobody else does either. It's a golden albatross. Anyway let's eat some crab and you can tell me about the world. I'll have one of the girls ferry you back to shore later. It's the only way out of here unless you want to hike across the tundra again."

We talked until the sun began to set. He said he had to tend to his traps. I thanked him for his hospitality and wished his good luck.

One of the sirens had changed into Thai fisherman's pants and a Chinese shirt. She smiled that enigmatic Thai smile and silently steered me back to the world.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

BANGKOK LAUGHS WITH CHRIS WEGODA




I FIRST MET actor Chris Wegoda while holding auditions for THE NATIVES a comical satirical play (tightly written, exceptionally great dialogue - whoever wrote that thing?) about dysfunctional English language teachers in Thailand. Chris Wegoda was chosen to take the role of a nerdy intellectual academic (forever typecast, is Wegoda) thrown together with a red-neck Kiwi, a yoga bothering eco-warrior vegan, a Vietnam war Washington Square acid casualty, a Star Wars geek and a bargirl. Parts played by Jay Acton, Meirav Botley, John Marengo, FC Beer Nieuwoudt and Suwida Boonyatistarn respectively. The show is on ice. I mean, not like Disney on ice. Nor performed on meth. The show is on hold, for now. But guys, if you are reading lets get it back on track.

I digress....

In the meantime Chris has been a busy man, camping it up in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Checkinn and again in the Second World War stage production Bent. Not only has Chris trod the boards across town he has also penned a deal for a motion picture being shot here in Thailand and also does a bit of modeling work on the side. As long as I can recall he has been an active member of the Bangkok Comedy circuit and is about to launch his own - The Comedy Club Bangkok will be situated on the top floor of one of our favourite boozers - The Royal Oak.

I caught up with Chris Wegoda yesterday.
Wegoda. Standing up.

       
What makes you laugh?
I think about this for a lot. For sure everyday life is funny, it just is. Not everything of course, just the funny bits.  In terms of watching comedy, it wasn’t stand-up when I was growing up in the UK, sitcoms were huge such as Only Fools and Horses, also improv comedy with Whose Line is It Anyway? And perhaps my favourite, Shooting Stars a mock game-show of craziness and fun with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer… Now of course stand-up and panel-shows are all the rage.

What's all this comedy business down at the Royal Oak?
Ha! Bangkok’s first dedicated comedy venue! After running The Londoner open-mic for 3 years and that pub closing down, it was time to move on and move up. Bangkok deserves a real comedy club. The scene is lightyears ahead of what there was before The Londoner, as it is as much about cultivating the comedy scene with the resident Bangkokians as bringing in professional talent. Plus now the improv comedy scene is really kicking and I've teemed up with Canadian pro improviser Drew McCreadie (an award winner no less)! So the combination of stand-up, improv and a lot more now has a home and to start with the audience will know where to go every Friday for comedy.
The Royal Oak. Yesterday.
Tell us about the strangest thing that's happened at a comedy event?
Where to start… a drunk guy falling off his chair, another guy violently vomiting (not because of the comedy), me trying to (jokingly) chat up a girl on stage and finding out she’s a lesbian, or a comedian emptying large chunks of the audience? There’s been a few!

Chris, you also have some stage and film stuff going on, tell us about it?
It’s funny that when I started doing comedy, I was not keen on the label ‘comedian’ I wanted to be called an actor first and foremost, now I have to say both! As for the acting I do anything, film, short film, commercials, voice-overs (such as in the English dub of Yak – Thailand’s biggest budget and most successful animation of all time) and more. For stage, I recently had the lead in BENT – a play about the persecution of homosexuals and WWII, worlds apart from my comedy work although it did have many comedic moments.  It was the first play for ’Peel The Limelight’ who’s aim is to bring professional theatre to Bangkok, and trust me they did! Honoured to be a part. Also recently I  did the musicals Moulin Rouge as Christian and The Rocky Horror Show as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Thankfully all well received. I also work on film such as the Thai cinema release movie ‘Scissors, egg, silk and 2 ½ Baht and will be shooting as the lead in English language, Thai produced comedy later this year. 
A Yak. This morning.
What's the best way to spend an evening in Bangkok, if its raining, and you forgot your raincoat?
Well if you have a partner the answer is pretty obvious and if you don’t it’s important to love yourself. Asides from that, I like watching old British television and one or two new American series. I’m also a big movie buff.

Top five movies?
I hate these questions! These might not be my top five exactly, but they are damned good movies!
Godfather 1&2
Goodfellas
Empire Strikes Back
Aliens
A Beautiful Mind
Predator
Tootsie

Thanks and look forward to seeing the first show!!!

Cheers. The GRAND OPENING SHOW of The Comedy Club Bangkok, September 12, 8pm!!
Incredible to have such an incredible headliner from L.A (originally from Scotland) plus awesome local Bangkok talent for a show of stand-up AND improv comedy (think Whose Line is it Anyway?)!

Tickets Just 500 baht in advance or 750 baht on the door (includes a drink), now on sale at The Royal Oak and online at www.comedyclubbangkok.com !!!

For more details visit The Comedy Club Bangkok's facebook page HERE