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Michael L Schmicker's Blog

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Apr.09.2009
I skipped town the long July Fourth weekend and took the night train to Vientiane to get my Bangkok World story for Sterling. I missed  the traditional lawn party thrown by the American Embassy for expat Americans in Bangkok, but I don’t think Unger missed me. Bill Boudra came along to shoot...
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Apr.07.2009
My overnight train chugged into Chiangmai, the mountain capital of northern Thailand,  at 10 AM the next morning. Hugh was teaching his English classes but I couldn’t risk a hello. I was supposed to be in Bangkok, writing TV scripts. If Peace Corps found out, I could get bounced.  I flagged down a...
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Apr.06.2009
I decided I needed a foreign correspondent’s shirt to go with my new press credentials. So before heading up to Chiangmai, I ducked into a small tailor shop at Saphan Kwai. Nobody bought ready-made, off the rack in Thailand. Everything was custom made.  The shop was  filled with bolts of cloth in...
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Apr.06.2009
The phone jangled and I grabbed it. “Who is it?” I barked. I was in a foul mood. We had just arrived back at the Municipality from a wasted afternoon  film shoot at the Dusit Zoo and  I was ready to chuck the damn Bolex into the wastebasket. An hour to get across town in snarled traffic, a half-...
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Apr.05.2009
None of the girls at the Mosquito Bar knew America had invaded Cambodia. They were too busy staying alive. The Mosquito was the end of the line for a Bangkok prostitute – a two-story, concrete, dockside dive dumped on  the banks of the Chao Phraya river south of the city, surrounded by the...
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Apr.03.2009
On Buddha’s birthday,  May 19, 1970, five of us marched into the American Embassy, led by Big Boris. The ramrod Marine at the reception desk scowled as he led us to the conference room. We had barely settled into our chairs before the Ambassador entered, all handshakes and smiles, a consummate...
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Apr.01.2009
My mom was right.  Tricky Dick couldn’t be trusted. On April 25, 1970, Nixon invaded Cambodia, expanding a stupid, unwinnable Vietnam war to yet another Southeast Asian nation. Nixon wasn’t a guy to cut and run. "If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States...
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Mar.30.2009
 I badly wanted that Triumph Bonneville 650.  But  I just couldn’t afford it. Motorcycles  were the only way to avoid spending hours in roht dit-dit, Bangkok’s permanent traffic jam. Motorcycles didn’t have to drive in lanes – bikers drove between lanes at 60 miles an hour, with speeding taxis...
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Mar.28.2009
Ernie was ecstatic when I rescued him from TEFL teaching to work on my TV series. He had skills I desperately needed. He was a damn good cartoonist; he sold cameras before joining Peace Corps so he knew photography; and he was a genius at making props out of Styrofoam. Oh, and one other thing. “...
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Mar.26.2009
School ended March 28, 1970, and with it my embarrassing teaching career. “I can’t wait to get out of there,” I told Ernie that morning as we finished our breakfast and headed for the bus. “I hate teaching.”  I was surprised to find myself sad and unexpectedly nostalgic when the time actually came...
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Mar.23.2009
 In the market the next morning, I met a USAID couple in their fifties who invited me to have dinner with them. “I’m sure you can use some good, old American home cooking,” Mel said. “My wife makes great Southern fried chicken and biscuits. How ‘bout it?” “That sounds fantastic,” I said. I took a...
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Mar.21.2009
The next day, I ran into Manolie at the Talaat Sao market. She again insisted I stay at her cousin’s house. I was running out of wats to beg a bed from, so I jumped on her little Honda motorcycle and we rode out of town about a kilometer past the North Vietnamese Embassy to their family compound...
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Mar.19.2009
The holiday break gave me a chance to escape both school and Thailand. I was ready for it. I was entering my “stupid Thais” phase. We had been warned. Thousands of Volunteers had served in dozens of cultures around the globe by the time I joined and Peace Corps discovered a recurring pattern....
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Mar.18.2009
Christmas snuck up on us without much warning. The weather didn’t get frosty, storefronts didn’t get decorated, the airwaves didn’t fill with Silent Night, Christmas tree lots didn’t sprout up all over Bangkok. Nothing changed in Buddha-land. Major bummer.   I could forgive the 75 and sunny, but I...
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Mar.17.2009
The night before they drew my draft lottery number, I dreamed of Khun Mae. In my dream, I was back in Thonburi sitting on her floor with Peerachat and Mr. Pipe Wrench. She finished my reading and I asked her for a betel nut to take home with my chilies. She reached into her woven basket, pulled...
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