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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dangerous Songkran

Songkran is the lunar New Year water festival held in April, the hot season. It is celebrated in many countries in this region, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Yunnan China, as well as far away Sri Lanka. Songkran is essentially a fertility ceremony offering water as a blessing for the upcoming monsoon rains in the hopes of an abundant rice crop. Scented water is poured over the hands of parents, teachers, and the elderly, as well as rose petaled water poured over the images of the Buddha. Lately however, at least in Thailand, the emphasis has changed from a gentle event into a raucous street party packed with drunken revelers throwing buckets of water on everyone. It is fun. It is also dangerous. For three days Thai music is played continually. Girls scream with glee, high powered water guns spray in water warfare. Open trucks drive by with hoses shooting those on the sidewalks. People put talcum paste on your cheeks. Children shoot sprays of water in to your face. The inebriated crash on the roadsides after being struck in the head with ice cubes.
My friend, his girlfriend and I were on Soi 22 at the corner of Washington Square getting soaked and throwing buckets of water. The girls look great in their wet tee shirts hugging their well rounded contours. Last year three teenage nubile dancers stood up on the back of a truck, stripped off their tops, egged on by the crowd and danced undulating glistening topless.
Now as we stand drinking beer, buying rounds, soaking wet in the hot sunshine, all of a sudden across the street, four or five swarthy Thai men come running down the sidewalk chasing another Thai man. They knock him down and begin kicking him in the ribs. Brandishing guns, they point the pistols in the air, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam. Everyone is paralyzed. Nobody moves. Some car pulls up like in a cheap "B" movie and they throw the guy inside and take off. One of the men, thick and serious, walks past us with his chrome pistol stuffed in the back of his belt. When it was over seconds later, everyone continued to drink and party as if it never happened. I pick up a 9mm copper casing off the sidewalk and plunk it in my pocket.
When I got back to my room, I took off my drenched black tee shirt which I noticed has a talcum powder hand print outlined on the back in white. I put the bullet casing on the void of the hand print and took these photos looking like something between the gangster John Dillinger meets Christ's last bathrobe, the Shroud of Turin.

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