February 4th, 2003

The pleasure of finding things out

I've wandered the neighborhoods near me. I now understand what Kao San Road is. Its Berkeley's Telegraph Ave on krathawm. Its one of those places where if you stand there long enough you'll run into everyone you've ever met.

Stray dogs and cats are everywhere. The sewers lay open in some spots, and it can smell terrible. I can't imagine I'll step inside a 'real' store while I'm here. Everything I could ever need to buy is sitting on a table on the sidewalk, next to a woman cooking noodles on a rolling table with a built in wok.

I've manged to meet a few folks. 2 south africans I'll be meeting up with later at a bar near my hotel. the thai girlfriend of some european english speakers. She helped me write a note trying to figure out why the shops will display mp3 cds, but won't sell them to me. An older couple in month 7 of 9 on their round the world trip. We were waiting for quite a while for the Myanmar embassy to open up. We talked about lots of things, but it was the first time anybody mentioned that little impending war thing. They trusted Blair must have seen good evidence from Bush, but they were unhappy about the prospects of war an wanted to see more evidence themselves. I was happy to hear they were will aware of Collin Powell playing the restrained diplomat to Bush et al's warmongering.

Maybe he just got the greatest PR team in history but he's the first person I can say I really trust in politics. One who I could vote for without feeling like I was picking the lesser of 2 evils.

I've decided to treat myself to some ringside seats for some muay thai kickboxing tonight. See the film Bloodsport with Jean Claude Van Damme for a beginners guide. Plenty of folks feel fighting is bad, or shouldn't be made into a business, and I will be encouraging that tonight with my roughly $35. But given all the bad ways bad tourists encourage bad local things with their money, this one I can easily stand behind. Fighters train for years. I've met a few US boxers, and they all speak highly of it as a way to learn to control and extend themselves. Its like becoming a marine without having to go to Mai Lai. Sumo is a great sport, but physical size makes it a exclusive playground for folks with glandular problems. Even US style boxing would come down to heavyweights killing the smaller guys if it weren't for the weight classes. Muay thai is different. The rules are much more general. Attack with anything but your head. Kicks and punches are considered weak blows, but they work at a good range. The serious damages is when you use your hands to bring your opponent's head into a knee or elbow. It is extremely brutal, but its weaponless, 1 on 1, and the best fighters are middle weights. Guys who've got a long reach and trained harder. Within the last 100 years (or so) it obeys the Marquess of Queensberry rules, a broad outline of what constitutes a fair fight - 3 minute rounds, 2 minute breaks, no bear hugs, etc.

I'm allowed to shoot video while I'm there and I intend to so I'll probably add some highlights to my post trip picture and video cd.

All of this is theory. I've never seen a match. I don't think I ever even managed to sit through bloodsport. But boxing is this thing from my childhood. I've got mixed emotions about it but I think when its done right its a beautiful thing. During my Japan trip I looked for sumo matches but my timing was wrong. I ended up watching a lot of it on tv while I was there. Here is a chance to see a 2000 year old fighting technique that hasn't become some sort of an abstract ritual or dance. This stuff could save your life. And its a part of a local culture that I'd like to see preserved.

Deep deep down I'm still in middle school, and when somebody yells "fight" I run to look. I think I've aged enough that if I think its just a one sided beating I'll try to stop it.

Like a lot of things in life, its kinda nasty, but when its done right, and everybody is willing, its a wonderful thing.

Enough already. I've walked my feet off today, and I don't want to head back to my hotel, so I'm enjoying a few minutes of air conditioning and network access.