Jury Duty

Jul 27, 2010

I walked to the King Country courthouse — about forty minutes. I could have taken a Metro bus — and in fact there are numerous routes that go downtown from Lower Queen Anne — but there was no way of being sure the bus I wanted would show up when I needed it. Or, more likely, it might be more or less on time, but would fall behind schedule in the snarl of the morning traffic, causing me undue stress wondering if I was going to be late. Not something I need to be dealing with as I perform my civic duty.

Knowing the juror drill from three years before, I entered the courthouse, registered, and found a place to sit…and…wait. Once all the draftees were gathered, we were shown a short demo film of what an actual trial might be like. (Presumably this was for people who have never in their entire lives watched television.) As was the case when I saw this the first time around, the person playing the part of the judge was again a black woman, with the defendant white. And in a new twist, the elected jury foreperson was also black and female. All this to demonstrate what a glorious, color-and-gender-blind city we live in. Really gave me goose bumps.    

After the movie, we had a brief hello from a very personable, real judge thanking us for showing up, then some general information from one of the clerks. A new feature in these sessions was a plea for us jurors to donate our ten-dollar-a-day stipend to some kind of judicial child care center down in Renton(?) so victims of domestic violence have a place to park their kids while attending court. Well gee, if this center is such a wonderful idea, then find room for it in the county budget, or put a bond issue on the ballot. People summoned to jury duty are being asked to set aside their jobs and time. Shaking them down for the pittance they are given in return is chintzy.

After the talks, we all sat around for two hours, then were let go for the day. Apparently business was a bit slow. I lingered a bit in order to speak with one of the clerks about how to handle a jury summons if I were living overseas. This will be my slant on anything new I encounter over the new few months: how do I deal with this if I’m in Thailand? 

The next day I was released from my duties and began serious preparations for the Big Move.

Bitter Blue Angels

Aug 9, 2010

This past weekend was the Blue Angels’ performance…excuse me, the Boeing Air Show. It’s always a thrill to watch the sleek F-18s do their precision flying. Though the weather turned cloudy and drizzly, I didn’t mind one bit — I skipped the event.

Why didn’t I attend?  Well, two years ago, attempting to ride Metro over to Lake Washington to take in the excitement, I had trouble with the buses. One fell way behind schedule because of all the people going to a Mariner’s game and because it took on a wheelchair rider. The other had a black guy sitting next to me who was yelling into his cell phone. For the former, I got out and quickly walked the remaining five blocks (I believe I beat the bus there) and for the latter, I exited and hailed a taxi. I was so upset over all this for some reason I came close to tears. It was a day where I finally began to realize how ill-suited this city had become for me.

And so the Blue Angels have receded into the past, following the path of so many other fond Seattle memories that for various reasons I can no longer enjoy: late afternoon movie matinees (full price now); the Ivar’s Restaurant at the foot of Queen Anne Avenue (a condo building); and respectable U.W. football teams (Where have you gone, Don James?).

Seattle Women: Cats & Canines

Aug 13, 2010

Logging onto my match.com account, I create a search argument to find someone local who is of Asian extraction and has an interest in overseas travel. (I’m especially intrigued by anyone who has done extended trips of a month or more, though I cannot specifically search for this). I also want them to be within shouting distance of my age with no child commitments, meaning they can more easily shove off for foreign lands.

When I get the results back, it’s a letdown. In a city with close to one hundred thousand Asians, there are but six women who meet my criteria and have posted photos. One of them doesn’t look Oriental at all, so I’ll exclude her from the discussion. This leaves five, three of which deserve comment.

Asian #1, as I’ll call her, is Japanese who came to America in 1995. Her headline says something about wanting to see the world. So far, so good. But when I view her primary photo — a long-faced, halfway attractive woman — there’s a small dog seated on her lap. The same kind of yappy little mongrel that bit me down in Dallas last month while I was playing golf. There is nothing I’d like more to do to an animal like this than to swing my driver into it’s snout the second it snaps at me.

Asian #2’s picture seems to have been taken from a boat in Venice harbor, if memory serves me, which certainly gets my attention! Reading her introduction, I find that she loves Italy and is of Japanese descent. Again, very encouraging. However, one of her other passions is cats, making me wonder what she would do with her feline friends if embarking with me upon one of the long vacations I prefer — say, a late summer and early fall in Florence. Maybe she could find a temporary home for them?

I know already how Asian #3, a Taiwanese, would respond to that suggestion. In her introduction, she requests that men who are allergic to cats need not apply as there’s no way she is parting with her pet. In other words, she places a higher value in the companionship of an animal to that of a man. Little wonder she has never married. People with priorities like that deserve to spend their lives alone.

So here’s what I’m running into: my potential kindred spirits tend to be “pet people” and I am most definitely not, partly because I’m a neat, orderly person who finds them distracting and messy, and also because they get in the way of adventuring. To truly experience the world, one’s spirit (to quote Dickens), must move beyond the realms of its counting house — not to mention Fido’s dog house.

I’m closing my account on Match.

Oiy Redux

Aug 16, 2010

How interesting that as I turn away from Seattle women — and begin getting my Thailand Visa Application in order — I should hear from my old Thai girlfriend Oiy! (Maybe girlfriend is too strong a word — we were together a couple weeks, if that.) It had been over fifteen months since she’d last emailed me a greeting, telling me what a nice guy I was. This time the message was a bit longer, the gist of it being that she is living at home, has no boyfriend, and wants me to call her if I come to Thailand. What this really means is that whatever support she’d wrangled from the latest Westerner to fall for her has dried up.

Oiy had been my first experience with a Thai bargirl. Back in 2008, when I was a womanizing neophyte fresh off the airplane, awestruck by the tropical “scenery”, I fell for her during my second week in the country. Looking back, it was a case of encountering a lady who had an alluring body and could make me laugh. And the fact that she would happily be my lover without my having to pass any boyfriend auditions left me almost giddy with anticipation.

It didn’t last of course. Having only a tourist visa, I had to depart when my thirty days were up and once back in the U.S., the thought of supporting a Thai lady with daughter lost what little appeal it might have had. (In fact, I was never comfortable with the idea. It was too much, too soon.) I did, however, wire her the remaining money I’d promised, then a goodbye when she tried to wheedle more out of me.

But I was not forgotten. To my surprise, I got that email from her last year. As I said, it was a pleasant hello laced with a compliment or two. When I sent an equally friendly response, that opened the gates. Her next message was another plea for money, which I did not bother to respond to.

Now it’s undoubtedly the same old story: Oiy is looking for a way to remain at home without working in the bars and is once again going to try and tap me for support. She knows I’m a soft touch. In fact, if she had not been so quick off the bat asking for help last year, I most certainly would have offered it on my own.

At least I now understand what’s going on: I’m being offered a business proposition. In return for my support, I will have a girlfriend patiently awaiting whenever I visit. (And by the way, she knows nothing about my plans to relocate to her country. Please don’t tell her!)

Nice body notwithstanding, I think I’m going to wait until I get moved over there and settled in before I risk another entanglement. I’ve got too much going on right now to be dealing with her.


Not Yet…

Thai Visa Application Work

Aug 24, 2010

The Thais certainly love paperwork! I imagine their consulate down in L.A. must rent out a warehouse to hold all the bulky visa applications they receive each year.

For my humble solicitation, I had to make four copies of the main page of my passport, the one that contains my picture and expiration date (the passport’s, not mine). Along with this, four passport-sized photos. Then there was the police report, notarized medical form and latest checking account statement (showing a hefty deposit) that all required a spin through the Xerox machine. Those people down at the consulate are in some ways going to know me better than my mother ever did. 

But the fun did not end there. I also had to do a trip to my friendly bank to get a manager’s notarized signature on what’s called a deposit verification letter, which proves that the funds in my checking account actually do exist. Lastly, there was the matter of finding a “Contact & Guarantor”. This has to be someone who actually resides in the country. Fortunately, my friend and Thailand mentor Alex graciously agreed to volunteer. (If it were not for him showing me around, I never would have become so infatuated with the place. I owe the guy big time.)

Then it was off to Kinkos again for more copies (and I’m now on a first name basis with a couple of the employees). But that was the final expedition. Arriving back at my hotel, I managed to assemble the blizzard of forms and copies in such a way that they matched the order in the consulate’s application instructions. The intent is to make things as easy as possible for whoever ends up processing my special package. It never pays to get on the bad side of a bureaucrat.

Tomorrow I’ll make a final check of the paperwork, attach my passport, and mail the whole thing off. 

Laborious as all this was, I’m not complaining. I understand the Thais’ need to screen applicants. My country, in fact, is even more stringent with would-be residents. And in a perverse sort of way, I’ve enjoyed the challenges. Perhaps I have too much free time on my hands. 

Progress Report

Sept 12, 2010

As of this afternoon I’m ninety percent sure I’ll be departing around four weeks from today. What’s been giving me pause is an unresolved health issue (knee ligaments that I badly twisted last year, which three doctors so far have been unable to correct). But since the condition is hardly life-threatening and not causing me any pain while walking, I’ve decided not to let it hold me back. If I start having serious troubles, I can always visit a Thai physician. Hard to imagine them being any worse than the ones I’ve gone to here in the U.S.

Good news! Two days ago I received my passport back from the L.A. Consulate. Attached to one of the pages is what’s called an Entry Visa in shades of Regal Blue with “Kingdom of Siam” as the heading. This gives me permission to enter the country and receive the…drum roll please…Retirement Visa Stamp at immigration. Good for up to twelve months of fun.

The second piece of welcome news was a reply from Jii, the manager of the guest house in Pattaya (a city about two and a half hours south of Bangkok) where I stayed the last time I was there. I’d emailed her a while back saying that I was thinking of coming over again. This was well received, with her telling me that although she is no longer working at the guest house, her sister is and that I can get a room with a good monthly rate there. So the accommodations are ready and waiting.

Things are starting to fall into place.

One aspect I’m going to particularly enjoy this time around in Thailand is not having to watch the calendar. In my previous visits, there was always the pressure of trying to cram as many experiences in as possible before my thirty day Tourist Visa expired and I had to depart. Now, with my shiny new Retirement Visa, I can take things at a more leisurely pace. During the day, I’ll work on my memoir, read paperback novels and study the language. Evenings will see me eating out (real Thai cuisine!), playing pool, and meeting cute women, all of said activities to be found just down the block from where I’ll be staying.

It will be my own little comfy world.

Wiring Money Overseas

Sep 20, 2010

A month ago, I determined the best way to handle my initial expenses in Thailand was to smuggle over a hefty amount of the local currency, then promptly open an account at a Thai bank. (Wells Fargo, which has tried selling me everything from insurance to CDs to toasters, no longer offers traveler’s checks.) This still left the question of how to replenish my funds, which I recently posed to my two financial institutions.

The Wells Fargo Customer Rep I spoke with explained that yes, I could set up a wire transfer from my account here over to my Thailand bank with no problem. Just personally visit any Wells Fargo branch in the U.S. with the appropriate information. But hold on a minute!  I’m not going to know what the the destination bank is until I’ve flown over there and opened an account. Is there any way I can initiate the wire transfer from Thailand?

Apparently not.

Vanguard, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do, demonstrating once again why I’ve been a loyal customer of theirs for some fifteen years. The Vanguard representative will send me a form I can fill out and mail from over there once I choose a bank. And if I make sure the name on my Thailand bank account is the same as what is on my Vanguard assets, no signature guarantees — a messy process — would be required. An entry for my Thai bank will get created in my Vanguard profile; all I’ll need to do is log on and with just a few clicks, kick off the wire transfer. Can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.