Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday Morning Meandering

I usually wake up early on Sunday morning. This habit doesn't seem to be affected by the time I went to bed the night before, or the level of sleep deprivation I've accumulated through the week, or any normal influence that would keep another person lingering in bed. It has been my habit to awaken early on Sundays for as long as I can remember. Sunday mornings are mine, I own them. I didn't set out to own them in any conscious way. But in thinking carefully about it I realize that this is the reason for my habit. It is the one time in the week that is mine, entirely and I relish it.
I like having a chance, should I go out, of seeing a neighborhood, or a city, or a countryside awaken and stretch. If I do not wander out, I simply enjoy the act of making coffee and settling down to catch up on reading at a relaxed pace. I read differently on Sunday mornings. I am less concerned about covering ground then I am with finding something interesting that I can read more about or research. I visit Wikipedia a lot on Sunday mornings. Mornings are, of course, the most promising time of the day on any day, redolent with the expectations of the various acts of living we engage in, either planned or not. Our solar rythms are nearly perfect, inasmuch as evenings are the perfect counterbalance to morning, providing circumspection, satisfaction, wound licking, and rest from work or play.
There are, of course, exceptions to my practice on Sundays and I occasionally have committed to something or other. Today I was safe for a while, because my first commitment involved meeting a friend who was visiting from Hong Kong for a late brunch. I generally expected it to be midday before I heard from him as I know it is normally his practice to sleep in and catch up on email on weekends. So I was a little surprised when I received a message on my mobile at 8:30 this morning that stated simply: "I am awake". My first thought was to write back one of those barbs that we tend to share with old chums. Something like: "So you want me to come change your diaper or what?". Instead I wrote back " report: you've dressed". Then my phone rang and I learned what I knew already, he was hungry and ready to roll. Still, I begged for another hour or so, to which he readily agreed.
We met at a pub on my street here in Bangkok that has decent food and big screen sports TV all around. But the TVs went unnoticed. We quickly became deeply engaged in a discussion about cooking including the nuances of hominy grits (to which he, as a native New Yorker knew little), the value or lack of it of the "bitter" taste spectrum, and crock pot cooking. His interest in the latter is due to his wish to introduce his lovely Chinese wife to the great comfort foods of Western Civilization such as beef stew, corned beef and cabbage, vegetable soups, chicken & dumplings, and the wonders of that slow cooking method real chefs call "braising".
We then moved outside to a sidewalk seat for coffee al fresca and our conversation turned to the complexities of the logistics and accounting in a large technology distribution business. We talked about the merits of using Oracle, the big data base software company, and the multiple types and configurations of his company's product line comprising many different brands, technologies, and products.
While we sat outside we were approached by the whole menagerie of street vendors and hustlers selling everything from fake rolex watches to a hand puppet duck (wanna buy a duck?). To most of them a quick "mai ow khap", which means simply "don't want, sir, or maam" is enough to get them to move on. If you use the Thai phrase, they assume you aren't a tourist and have already become inured and resistant to the pitch. One of the interuptions we had this morning was from one of the teenagers that roam this street with shoe shine kits. They can be more persistant for some reason. They almost never go away easily. Interstingly, they don't differentiate between someone wearing leather shoes versus someone wearing sandals or tennis shoes. I had been a little appalled at that before, thinking they simply were hoping to wear me into giving them money. However, my buddy decided to let this particular shoe shiner, a girl of about 12 - 13 years old, his tennis shoes to clean up. I half way expected the worse, thinking they were going to have some cheap liquid shoe black lathered all over them. Instead, the girl cleaned them up nicely and returned them politely. She awarded us a big smile when he paid her an added 20 baht tip.
Both of us had an hour or two of things to do, so we parted company for a while, agreeing to meet up later to shoot some pool. As I walked back to the the apartment I thought about my buddy, and how I enjoy chatting with him. I like the way our conversations can range widely, and I like those resonant tones we hit when the talk turns to living and working abroad. We share anecdotes from our common experience of being married to "barbarians" and laugh when we acknowledge that they must feel the same way even more frequently then we do. We each secretly hope they are as happy as we are that we did. I began to notice that all along my route home the sidewalk cafes and benches had several small groups of people chatting. One group of four older guys were within earshot and I heard enough to realize their conversation wasn't very different then the one I had just engaged in. This scene was repeated several times over the three blocks or so that I walked back. It certainly felt like Sunday morning.

Other Stuff: With regard to my post below, he did it again this morning, along with team members in the 4X400 meter swim. Our hero Phelps swam the 100 meter butterfly leg of the relay and the team set a world record and struck gold. It is his eighth for this Olympics and officially passes Mark Spitz record of seven in one Olympic game. And it was Spitz who came up with one of the better superlatives for his youthful counterpart. In an interview jointly held with Spitz in the USA and Phelps still poolside after the event, Spitz referred to his performance as "epic". And so it is.

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