Friday, March 26, 2010

Soderblogger, Aging Fashion Curmudgeon, Part Two

Nobody has nor probably ever will accuse me of being on the cutting edge of fashion.  Heck, I'm usually not even in the same time zone.  That said, since coming to Bangkok I've seen some clothing choices that have boggled even my chic-deficient sensibilities.  Things like running shorts--you know, the really short kind that marathoners wear, with the side vents that go waaaaaaay up--with a short-sleeve button-down, dark socks, and loafers.  I'll go out on a limb and say that dude was European.  And since I saw him at the Skytrain station my first question was, "Where does he keep his train pass?"  And then I stopped thinking about it because I had just eaten lunch.

By the way, what's with the backpackers wandering around Bangkok unshaven, wearing those thin, tight t-shirts with all sorts of gaudy screenprinting, manpris, and flip-flops?  Seriously...

I must tread very carefully on this next topic, because next thing I know I might be running from an assembled group of Thai women with pitchforks and machetes.  But let me just say that I have seen some truly...unique...ensembles for women here.  I have to confess that I find some personal enjoyment walking along the elevated path between the Chitlom and Siam Skytrain stations  because I see some very interesting clothing choices.  Skirts come in various lengths, most of which begin at the knee and migrate north from there--I'm willing to give something of a pass on the length, though, because it's really hot here.  And I think they're called bubble skirts, but I see a lot more of those here than I ever saw in America.  In my opinion, not very flattering look, but I'm a man, so what do I know.  Ruffled blouses are far more common than in the States, too.  Sometimes the ruffles are big enough that I'm afraid a strong gust of wind might pick some poor woman up and spirit her away to environs unknown.  Oh, and high-waisted skirts/pants with pleats apparently never went out of style in Bangkok.  Same goes for MC Hammer pants.  For women.  I'm not kidding.

I really shouldn't complain.  The variety is far preferable to the cookie-cutter dark business suit fashions that I was inundated with working in San Francisco and Washington, DC.

For all the adventure in female fashion, men here trend towards conservative business-style attire--I should probably note at this point that it seems most professionals here have custom-tailored clothes that fit very nicely.  It's quite affordable to do here--even a caveman like me has two custom-made suits.  Increasingly common here (for men and women) are polo shirts that are a uniform for the company; banks and travel agencies seem to be the most common, but that might just be my observation based on the business district I frequent.  Most men wear plain, dark slacks, usually with a white button-down shirt.  But most Thais are smart enough to wear the collar open and leave the necktie at home.  Oh how I envy them!

Shoulder pads for women might be making a comeback, though.  You read it here first.

Soderblogger, Aging Fashion Curmudgeon, Part One

So the other day I was out getting my lunch at the complex down the street from our embassy that houses several other embassies, and this non-Thai guy in front of me was wearing suspenders.  Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing suspenders.  They are, in fact, an effective way to keep ones trousers from falling down around ones ankles.  But suddenly I was transported back to my junior high school years, when suspenders were cool.  But you didn't actually wear them over your shoulders--you wore them hanging down off the waist of your pants.  Yes, I fell victim to this fashion tragedy.

And that got me thinking about how patient my parents where with my various grooming and style choices as a teenager--remember the bleached bangs and long hair shaved up and under, Mom and Dad?  I'm pretty sure the last haircut that my mom actually approved of (aside from my missionary years) was the flat-top I rocked in eighth grade.  I am proud to say that I've never sported a mullet, however, so that should count for something (by the way, thanks to my parents--and Mali--for letting me do all sorts of silly things with my hair and still loving me).  There were also plaid shirts (sleeves rolled up, of course), pegged pants, and white socks with Teva sandals (honestly, I should be flogged for that one, but wool socks with sandals would still be acceptable).

But what really scared me was thinking that I am just a heartbeat away from where my parents were--watching my children make clothing and hairstyle choices with which I might personally disagree, but that are not matters of life or death or eternal salvation.  Our oldest is 12, and fortunately for us, up until now she has not been particularly interested in the latest fashion trends.  But that can change in an instant, and I think I'll have to learn to hold my tongue as well as my parents did.  It might be a challenge, but I think I can do it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Granting a Birthday Wish

How many of you, as parents, want to do everything you can to make your children happy?  Of course we all do, that's part of being a parent.  And when it comes to their birthdays, we try to fulfill as many of those as we can, right?

Well, our second child Maggie had her birthday today.  As we approached her birthday I asked her what she wanted.  She said she wanted me to shave my head.  Actually, more correctly, she said SHE wanted to shave my head.

Those who have known me over the last four or five years will know that this was not a difficult request to fulfill.  Much to Mali's chagrin, I have kept my hair very short for the better part of that time.  I've forgotten what I really look like with hair any longer than an inch.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I couldn't wield a comb properly if my life depended on it at this point.

Anyway, after we had dinner and all the presents were unwrapped, Maggie and I went to the back porch so she could give me a haircut.

She is obviously enjoying what she is doing...

And for the record, she have me a mohawk first.

Maggie's final verdict, and I quote: "That was the best birthday present, EVER!"
It's hard to argue with a statement like that.  So I won't.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let's Go to the Movies!

Even before we moved here I had heard about the experience that is going to the movies in Thailand.  Some might consider it a bit shameful that it has taken us seven months to finally make it to see a movie here.  Friday night some friends invited us to go out, and so Mali and I finally made our long-awaited foray into a Thai movie theater.  I have to confess, I was less impressed than I had anticipated.  Now, we didn't go with the first-class movie, which consists of a full-blown meal in addition to the flick, which is apparently the gold-standard for movie-going experiences.  Rest assured we will do that at some point, just not this time.

First and foremost, our experience on Friday confirmed what others have told me--the Thais do not have a strong sense of what is appropriate for previews, and the Thais in general loves them the horror movies.  Our friends with more experience have said that when they take their kids to a movie they don't go inside until after the King's anthem.  And the previews were really, really LOUD.  Twenty-five minutes of very loud, often inappropriate previews.  Gives you plenty of time to get your popcorn and soda.

It also was a fascinating study in the Thai sense of propriety.  Thai movie theaters have assigned seating--ALL of the seats are assigned.  Mali and I purchased tickets for the love seats at the very back row of the theater, which was pretty cool.  About halfway through the film I had to take a phone call, and when I returned to our seats, much to my surprise, someone else was sitting there.  It seems that Mali and I had sat in the wrong love seat, and the people who purchased those tickets were demanding to sit in them.  Never mind the fact that, besides us and our friends, there were only SIX other people in the entire theater.  Never mind the fact that there were two other love seats completely vacant.  These folks brought in the usher to make sure that they got exactly the seats they paid for, even though they came one hour into the movie.  Blew my mind, especially considering these were probably the very same people who drive in the emergency lane, cut across four lanes of traffic to make an illegal right-hand turn, or honk their horn at you for not moving over when they are riding their motorcycle against traffic.  Yup, that's what we're talking about here.

This provides me the opportunity to ruminate on other observations of watching television here.  While watching TV here there's something that I personally find quite amusing.  They will blur out any weapon that is in close proximity to someone's head--okay, that itself isn't that amusing.  What is funny is that those weapons apparently also include cigarettes or any other type of smoked tobacco product.  They'll show the bloody after-affects of a dismemberment, decapitation, or evisceration, but heaven forbid they show someone smoking.  Drinking is okay to depict, as are other forms of drug use, but not smoking.  Even as a non-smoker, I find it amusing, especially in a place like this where it seems that an astounding number of people smoke like chimneys.

Movies on Thai television are also somewhat revealing about Thai attitudes towards cursing.  Basically, there are relatively few words that, by and of themselves, are considered swear-words in Thai.  There are, however, words that can be used in everyday situation without rousing a censor's suspicions which, in the proper context and combination, are considered extremely vulgar.  It's important for me to understand these things, of course, because with my willingness to open my mouth and try out new phrases, and I don't want to be saying inappropriate things if I can in any way help it.  Unless, of course, the situation requires it...but if my mother asks, you never read that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Feels Like Fall...

I've had this repeated quasi-surreal experience over the last two weeks or so where I've stepped outside of the building in the late morning or early afternoon and I swear it feels like those Indian summer days--oh shoot, am I allowed to use that term?  Maybe I should call it a Native American warm-weather event in proximity to the autumnal equinox...

Anyway, I have gone outside and with the sun shining just so and a lovely breeze blowing the dried leaves across the pathways, it feels a lot like those fantastic early fall days (and don't ask me why the trees here have decided that February and March are the appropriate time to drop massive amounts of leaves.  I have no clue, and I don't speak to trees in any language.  But the embassy moat is so full of leaves some mornings that you can barely see the monitor lizards swimming there).  Those of you who have lived in places that have four seasons know the days I'm talking about--and yes, that was a deliberate dig at my friends who have lived only in California, Thailand, or other such places where it never really gets cold.  Those times in late September when the nights and mornings are crisp, but my mid-afternoon it gets nice and warm and it's just really nice.  That's the feeling I've had when I've walked outside.

And then I take another ten steps or so, and the fact that it's Bangkok and it's 90 degrees and wicked humid kicks me back to reality as I start perspiring profusely.  And I'm usually wearing a necktie.  But seriously, for maybe 30 seconds or so, it's awesome.