Monday, July 4, 2011

Who Goes There?

Who Goes There?

By Tim Torkildson


Thais, in some respects, are very security-conscious; in other ways, they remain as casual as sweat pants.

Two back stories, please, to set up my thesis.

A few years ago I took a hiatus from Thailand to work as the publicity director of a small, one-ring, tented circus back in the States.  One of my responsibilities was to visit public schools where the circus would be playing, to hand out free tickets to students for the matinee performance.

Getting into a public school, as a stranger, in the United States, is now tantamount to getting past a sphinx in a Greek fable.

I entered one school in northern California, with a fistful of free tickets for the students, and was immediately stopped by a stern-visaged harridan who demanded some credentials.  I handed over my driver's license while explaining I had already called the principal for permission to hand out circus tickets in several classes.  With a grunt, she turned and gestured for me to follow.  I was taken into a sterile cement block room, painted pukey green, and handed a form to fill out, after which I was escorted to another room, where they took my photograph, and then I was escorted back to the pukey green room and told to wait.  I thought maybe they were going to send in a blacksmith to fit me for shackles.

 I was then presented with my photo, now embossed on an ID tag, and taken to the principal's office, where I was informed the principal was out and would not be back in until 2pm, so I would have to wait until this worthy returned to verify my story before I was allowed anywhere near the students.  Two hefty-looking cops glowered at me from a corner, fingering their holsters as if hoping I would make a suspicious move so they could plug me.

I finally managed to give away the tickets, but it took several days before I lost the urge to check my arm for a tattooed ID number.

I think you'll agree that was overkill.  From all I hear from friends back home, it's getting worse.

Back here in Thailand my Thai fiancĂ© Joom became concerned some months ago after hearing constant news stories about car thefts in Pattaya, which is a 2 hour drive from us.  She consulted the ghosts that inhabit our house (former residents who committed suicide and have a friendly relationship with her) about security measures.  The ghosts (who I would think could scare off robbers pretty easily – but apparently the ghosts have a pretty strong union and don't go in for that kind of overtime) advised Joom to have anti-theft devices installed in her truck.

Which she did.

Trouble is, she keeps accidentally triggering the piercing horn blasts and whistles and can't remember how to turn them off.  Trying to take a nap around our place now is like trying to sneak a siesta at Super Bowl halftime.

We have a dog, of course, that barks in the middle of the night at every toad and Tokay gecko that dares to intrude on our gravel drive.  I can only hope she will be equally zealous if human toads show up to despoil us.

All this leads up to the subject of security at Thai schools.

Would you be surprised to know that there isn't any?

The only guards, and I use the term extremely loosely, at a Thai public school, are the crossing guards.  Usually one of them will stay behind after herding all the children across busy thoroughfares, to doze under the shade of a pink cassia tree.  They are usually superannuated and would not rouse themselves if Godzilla came rampaging down the nearest soi.

The only exception to this are the very elite international schools, many of which reside inside an exclusive muu baan where a guard zealously mans a pillbox and you are required to leave some form of identification behind when you enter.  The last time I was up in Thonburi I went to the Rongrian Nana Chad and left the guard my expired library card from Minnesota.  He seemed quite satisfied with it.

Of course, I can't remember anything dangerous or disruptive, outside of stray dogs fighting over a piece of offal, ever disturbing the somnolent droning of students during school hours. 

Now I'm not saying that the Thai public school officials are negligent about the welfare of their charges.  On the contrary, if you are a farang and want to teach English in a Thai school you are going to have to produce a criminal background check, otherwise it's no go.  In today's depraved world, sadly, that is to expected.

The fact of the matter is I am amazed, and tremendously grateful, that here in Thailand there have been no Columbines or madmen attacking little children with hammers.  I hope the Thais appreciate this wonderful blessing their schools still enjoy – something that has passed out of existence in much of the Western world, much to the sorrow and disgust of all thinking people.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dream On . . .

You may ride a magic carpet or play ball upon the Moon –

But an honest politician you will not find very soon.

Science may invent a way to live a thousand years –

But they can't stop rabble-rousers preying on our morbid fears.

Global warming can be stopped and poverty allayed,

But lobbyists will always find the means to be obeyed.

The common cold could disappear and acne be extinct,

As slush funds multiply like hares and graft stays in the pinkt.

Lawyers may devise a way to enter Kingdom Come . . .

But your homegrown politician will remain a mangy bum!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Civics Class

Civics is the study of the back of someone's head

In a classroom where the teacher recites theories that are dead.

Three branches of the government we are supposed to know;

I have named them Larry, Curly, and, of course, there's Moe!

The presidential office is executive, that's plain.

Congress is the people, to prevent a tyrant's reign.

Judiciary officers administer the law.

Mostly they just fight each other to a surly draw.

Presidents blow smoke rings and are keen for photo ops,

And are followed by their many aides with brooms and dripping mops.

Your voice is heard in congress, if you have a lobbyist;

Otherwise you're treated like a leper with a cyst. 

If you are arrested, your own cause you do not beg;

Your lawyer will seek justice –at a charge of arm and leg.

Of course you must support all this with taxes and your vote,

No matter how the government may sometimes get your goat.

I'm sorry to be cynical about the Civics class.

Despite its flaws America has got the greener grass.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Figgers . . .

When CEO's start their complaining about the taxes their company pays

You know that they're moving the whole darn shebang to Mexico one of these days.

I say let 'em move, if that's what they decide fits in with financial-type facts –

But make sure before they can fold up their tents they pay a profound exit tax!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Ballad of Scrushy

You ever wake up in a trailer house, son?

Cold grits fer breakfast – it ain't so much fun.

A boss who could holler the hide off a mule;

it kinda negates that there old Golden Rule.

I got me some college and taught for a while,

But money stays scarce and the bills – how they pile!

So I was sure ready, a willing recruit,

To go into healthcare – it's dripping with loot.

Them Medicare fellers got money to burn;

It just takes some whiteout a fortune to earn.

Sure, they inspect some, but when volume's great,

They ain't got the time to still investigate.

Besides, as the Big Cheese, I always could claim

Some clerk down the hall was in charge of the game.

Me, I went golfing and didn't know squat.

What couldn't be squared could always be bought.

You know how it goes when you git your third wife;

You kinda want more of a kick out of life.

Cars by the dozen and champagne that's French

And judges who know yer first name on the bench.

My company billed in the millions each day;

For each dollar I stole I would give one away.

My name was a byword at charity balls

And governors followed me down marble halls.

I beat sev'ral raps that the Feds pinned on me;

My lawyers were smooth, like the ones on TV.

But I must admit I got living too big,

And folks then decided to butcher this pig.

My prison in Beaumont is really the pits;

It's clean and it's quiet, but I'm back to cold grits!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


An avalanche of sound bytes and a flood of Youtube clips

Keeps us reeling with disasters that we take in little sips.

But the brew is still quite heady and we lose our empathy

As we watch Japan a-melting and Khadafy on TV.

Liz Taylor kicks the bucket and some Cath'lic diocese

Has gone bankrupt and now doctors have declared a new disease.

Makes a person want to be a hermit in a cave,

If only to avoid the latest Glenn Beckian rave.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Maine Mural

When a guy who can't use crayons

Shows he hasn't any bray-ons

By complaining that a mural is not bland,

Then I say he has it coming

When a gradual benumbing

Of toleration shows up all across the land.

They will take the Mona Lisa

And for certain say that she's a

Inappropriate device for Dental Care;

For her smile must sure be hiding

Dental caries long abiding,

And she really needs to comb her longish hair.

Or they might say that Picasso

Is a regular Sargasso

That reflects the morals of a wayward mind,

And before you can say "pyre!"

They have started a bonfire

To burn up all things that are misunderstood;

It would not disturb my bonnet

If they also threw upon it

Paul LePage and all the others of his brood.

Tell Your Children

Tell your children if they stick

With a job through thin & thick,

Comes the day for their reward

When the boss cannot afford

Keeping them upon the books –

So they're treated like some schnooks,

Given pink slips and a coupon

For food stamps, perhaps Grey Poupon.

Pensions cut off with an axe

(but don't forget to pay your tax!)

Middle class prosperity

Now turns into charity.

Better they should be Marines;

They may be shot but they'll have means!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teaching English in Thailand --

Teaching English in Thailand --

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Long Commute


After finishing my TESOL course at TEFL International I was anxious to get to work as an English teacher.  My first job was in Bangkok, as were all my other jobs while I remained an ESL teacher here in Thailand. Having heard all the moans & groans about apartment prices in Bangkok I thought I would be a smart cookie and head out to the suburbs for my pied a terre.  I located an apartment in Nonthaburi for 3-thousand baht per month.  It consisted of a large tiled room, with a bedstead holding one of those impossibly rigid Thai mattresses, the ones stuffed with sand, and a bathroom.  The sink and mirror were located out on the balcony, where Greater Racket-tailed Drongos used to perch on the ledge to watch me shave.   It even came with air conditioning – a massive, elderly unit that at one time must have graced the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, as it sent out a turbo-charged blast of arctic air that put ice on the walls within ten minutes of being turned on.  When functioning, it produced a roar like an F-5 tornado.  I only used for ten minutes at night before going to bed. The apartment building was populated by a sprinkling of local factory workers and Thai college students, and an abundance of bar girls.  The bar girls were crammed 6 to a room, all sleeping on the floor on rattan mats.  I remember them as pretty good cooks when they'd wake up around noon.  They'd giggle and whisper to each other whenever I walked by one of their open doors, and would invite me in for some curry & rice.  Nothing loath, I often accepted – their food, that is.  It was hard to believe these gals were bar girls – out of makeup and rested, they appeared to be about 15 years old, but once they got back into their nightly working attire I was reminded of a bad Halloween costume.

I initially gloated over my housing coup, thinking how much money I would save because I was willing to commute to work.  That was before I discovered that the Bangkok Public Transportation System was designed by lunatics, built by sadists, and held together by betel nut and rubber bands.  My first morning's commute to my school started at 7am – that allowed me an hour and a half to arrive on time.  On paper, it looked simple.  Walk out to the mouth of my soi, wait for the Number  27 bus, get off on Silom Road, catch one of those truncated buses that used to be painted bright green, and gracefully descend outside the very doorsteps of my school.

I started out towards the mouth of the soi, only to be met by a pack of howling canines.  Luckily, as the weather looked dicey, I was carrying an umbrella, so I scattered the mongrels with several deft swipes of my bumpershoot.  (Nowadays I carry a bottle of water – dousing doubtful dogs as they approach always sends them flying.)  I made a mental note to engage a motorcycle taxi to take me out to the main street from now on.  I arrived at the mouth of my soi in time to see the Number 27 bus receding in the distance.  No matter, I assured myself – another one would be along soon.

An hour later I was fuming as I uneasily rolled on the balls of my tired feet.  I couldn't be late for school, so I flagged down a taxi and wound up paying 150 baht to get to work on time.

The next morning I got a motorcycle taxi out to the main road in plenty of time for the bus.  Piece of cake, really.  I hopped on, paid my fare, and sat back smugly to enjoy the rich tapestry of life that presents itself to one gazing out the window while riding an unairconditioned bus in Bangkok.  I highly recommend it to both amateur and professional photographers.  The only weevil in the rice was that we never reached Silom Road – we stopped at the Victory Monument – which, I was to find out, acts as a kind of maelstrom for all buses, mini vans, motorcycle taxis, and everything else on wheels that charges a fare.  If you stay on any bus in Bangkok long enough you will eventually find it drawn to the Victory Monument – even if it was supposed to go to Chiang Mai!  In a panic, I flagged down a taxi and made it to school on time by the skin of my teeth.

My bus map and my neighbors assured me it was the Number 27 bus I wanted to catch.  So I tried it several more days, with the same result.  I was learning that hard lesson of commuter life – trust no map or printed schedule, for they are fairy tales at best, devil-spawned traps for the unwary at worst.

I went to Plan B.  This involved taking a taxi to the Municipal Boat Pier in Nonthaburi, taking the express boat down to the Taksin Bridge, and then getting on the skytrain for several stops, and then walking about a half mile to the school.  This was more time-consuming and expensive, and I occasionally got soaked when filthy waves would overflow the delicate craft as it charged down the river, dodging rice barges and fishing trawlers.  At the end of the month, toting up my commuter bill, I realized I could have gotten a swanky place in Bangkok, probably right next door to my school, for less than I was spending on commuting.  Plus I could sleep past 5am. 

I eventually did trade my homey Nonthaburi abode for something closer to work – at which time, as is according to Torkildson's Law – my teaching contract was not renewed and I had to seek another school.  Which I found rather quickly . . . out in Nonthaburi.  But now I was locked into a one year lease on my apartment in Bangkok.

My advice to aspiring ESL teachers here in Thailand when it comes to accommodations?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Glenn Beck

There appears to be a fortune in the making for the fellow

who sees conspiracies most everywhere and loves to bellow.

If you convince another that their world is near the end,

All they carry in their purse to you they'll gladly lend.

But as the boy who warned of wolves when none were to be seen,

Glenn Beck may find his credibility is awful lean.

He ought to take a lesson from the Dutch boy in the story

Who stuck his finger in a leak and did not seek for glory.

The world may sing the praises of those who are prophet-like,

But God remembers mostly those who plug a humble dike.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hang 'em High

What with budgets drying up

Like some palm-fringed oasis,

The cops want people helping

On a voluntary basis.

Saddle up, and bring a rope,

Shine your badge til glossy;

You will then be ready

To go join the local posse.

I might volunteer myself,

But not to wield the fetter;

I'd rather help a criminal –

The hours are much better!

Saturday, February 19, 2011



The doctor said "I have bad news for you this very day."

"There's lots of fat and waste on you that I must cut away."

"It's for your good and must be done; your friends have all agreed"

"that cutting you back down to size would be a noble deed."

"You have two feet when one will do; two eyes – that's one too many."

"You do not need to see so well when you can save a penny."

"I'll take an ear and pare your tongue down to a tiny slip"

"and most of your saliva glands are just a wasteful drip."

"One arm can be as good as two" the kindly doctor said.

"And then to finish up the job we'll just remove your head!"

I told the doc I would not be so sliced to make amends.

If there's cutting to be done please start upon my friends!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


See the sandwich.

Taste the soup.

Smell your breath.

Now here's the scoop:

You're a piece of art, my friend.

Do not deny, do not pretend.

Now you need to make a statement;

How about "I really hate mint"?

Push the envelope, Cezanne ;

With a zither mow your lawn.

Take a urinal to church.

Build a house with just fried perch.

Take a page from Dr. Suess;

Milk a bat and ride a moose.

Do not cry "I think he plucks us!"

{something else here besides Fluxus}