BANGKOK

I was headed to the gym in the five star hotel I don’t stay in, but stopped first in their coffee shop hoping for a pomelo salad. Since it was all gone, I had an excellent pastry stuffed with chicken and mushrooms with a small Caesar salad glutinous with dressing.

Sitting at the little table next to me was a Twiggy thin, elderly Chinese looking woman with acute cheekbones, gleaming, dyed, black hair, in a stunning Kelly green silk outfit of trousers with a green and black figured blouse and a magnificently, unquestionably, cashmere shawl in the same vivid green. She made me think of the last Empress of China. With her was a nicely dressed, but without the same sense of color or drama, young woman, who, (A relative? A hired companion?) I could tell, even though she was speaking in Thai, was whinging. The elder in green somehow silenced this with absolutely no expenditure of energy.

When I went to the gym, I was surprised and delighted at how little I was charged for two weeks. There is a charming pair of lesbians who practically live in the gym. The more masculine one teased me about Trump. I told her that I was ashamed of my country to which she replied, “We should elect him. He would be better than what we have.”

I was touched when her partner wanted to know how much I had paid for two weeks and approved the amount. It was a lovely protective gesture.

As I hurtled along on the elliptical I wondered if the tall elegant Thai woman who used to be a model is still around. With the change in management in the hotel there have been defections. She is wonderful to look at but definitely a retarded rabbit. She once remarked to me smugly, “This is a very exclusive gym,” causing me to recall a similar comment from a member when I belonged to the Peninsula gym in NYC. A woman, having discovered I taught as an adjunct, said, “How come there are so many people without money in this expensive gym?” Different continents, same snobbery.

I went to the elegant shopping mall where Rudi has her shop and was momentarily upset when I saw it empty. Just at that moment she arrived looking like a racing boat under full sails in a gold and brown silk outfit, necklace, earrings and at least one superb, big topaz ring on her slender old hands all in gold. In her new shop we talked over what I want her to make, moving on to gossip.

I told her I had just turned 80. She trumped me with 81. Age brought us to discuss Paa whose amazing shop, from which I have never been able to afford anything, is around the corner. Paa, 86, comes to work every day. She has, consistently, year after year, the most extraordinary art nouveau and deco jewelry I have ever seen. She started as a street pawnbroker and buyer/seller of gold carrying her balance to weigh things around on her back. She is a small legend and Thai women who have any contact with her are strongly protective because she is a living example of female rags to riches in Bangkok.

The next morning I had hot water because after I complained to my favorite girl on the desk of the lack of it, she said, “Oh, in room 203 you turn to the right for hot rather than to the left.”

I went to lunch with my friend N and her husband T at a Vietnamese restaurant, lovely and quiet where we had the best, most exquisite crab I have ever eaten. I have tears in my eyes knowing, never, will I be able reproduce that dish in any Thai restaurant in Barcelona.

That night, having packed up for my trip to Chiangmai, I was about to go to bed when I noticed a delicate, almond brown gecko above my door. I thought pollution had killed or driven his tribe out of Bangkok. He had brilliant, proverbially ruby eyes. I was about to turn on the aircon and felt it would be an unhealthy atmosphere for him so I gently urged him through the crack at the top of the door.

My favorite driver, Khun Chakkrit who had whisked my bags into the A One on my arrival took me to the train the next evening. Chakkrit’s father, who died a few years ago, was my driver, therefore, when we drive anywhere Chakkrit takes his own license and picture out of the holder on the dashboard and inserts his father’s. Thus we drove to the station under Daddy’s benign supervision.

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