Black is the New Pink

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I just came back from Bangkok. Usually the city is a swirl of color, from the taxis to tuk tuks.

But now, it’s black black.

Since King Rama IX died in October, a year long memorial started. Mind you, the love for this king was fierce. If you stepped on a piece of money with his picture on it, you could get in trouble. The same thing held true if you failed to stand when they played the national anthem in His honor at movie theaters.That’s something I learned the hard way.

So for years, Bangkok was blossoming with shrines of King Rams IX, all very, very pink. Pink is the color of health in Thai culture and the King’s health was failing. Or if it wasn’t pink, the signage would be gold, representing the day of the week he was born.

But now, the pink and gold are gone. All that remains is black.

Even Christmas decorations are mourning. The spruces are sprayed white and adorned with eight ball like ornaments.

Hotels have baskets of these ribbons for visitors to pin on their lapels.

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My hotel was in the heart of Nana, where a lot of no-no goes on. Most of the male guests were only interested in putting on one safe thing.

But between doing the stuff I actually had to do in Bangkok, including renewing a passport and getting poked and probed by my doc, I visited my favorite shrines and spirit houses. I wanted to stop and say a prayer for my way too many friends who lost way too many loved ones way, way, WAY  too soon.

Here are some of the shrines I visited.

The Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine for Hayden and Forrest

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It is believed that this is the original fertility clinic. For years, women have left phallic objects in the shade of this banyan tree for Chao Mae Tuptim with hope of having a child. But since I last visited, hundreds of the family jewels have been removed–or better put–castrated from the shrine– being replaced by a haunting red dress  that  sways in the breeze. Only a handful of the objects remain, including these play-doh creations melting in the heat. Who knows, maybe Chao Mae Tuptim finally hit menopause. I pray hat these brothers keep bringing life to our world, our days, no matter where they are.

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A Small Spirit House for Bumper

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Bumper died when I was just in junior high and he was just a little kid. His death impacted me, as it was the first funeral I went to, and his sister a friend.  I said a prayer for Bumper at this colorful spirit house.While buildings go up and down like Tinker-toys in Bangkok, the Thai believe the spirits remain, so they create colorful places for the spirits to live. They also believe these spirits need to be fed and will leave bottles of strawberry of Fanta Nam Daeng  out every morning, glowing with incense. Part of a spirit’s complete breakfast, I guess.

Carolena’s Smile

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This spirit house is tucked in a corner on Sukhumvit, and the zebras always take me by surprise. Actually, small carved animals are not an endangered species at the religious nooks and crannies around the city. You’ll find deer, rats, elephants, horses lined up like little soldiers, even a few beached whales.  I pray that Carolena continues to make us smile when we least expect it.

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For Eammon’s older brother…and his brother.

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The ocean isn’t big enough to hold the tears a parent has when losing a child, yet alone two on the same day. I prayed the spirits of these brothers will always be together. I said a prayer for Lucien, too, who I will always remember as a skinny little kid who could eat his weight in ice cream at the old Zephyr’s in Chicago. And if Lucien slowed down, his tribe of Romanian brothers would help him out with their spoons. I pray for loving parents and siblings always.

For Families and Friends

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This is Genesh, the God of Wisdom. I doubt if it can answer questions regarding the whys and what ifs of untimely deaths. Not even the God of Sunday Schools will do that (Numbers 23:23). But I pray  you are granted the answer to how, as in how to make it through each day.

And finally, homage to King Rama IX .

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I signed his guest book at the Suvarnabhumi airport, just one of many around the city. Can you guess which name is mine? Hint: it’s the signature that doesn’t look like it  was squeezed from a pastry tube.

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I guess I packed the right color for my trip.

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Too bad I forgot my comb.

 

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