Readers' Submissions

The Fragrant Harbor




The harbor patrol had the temerity to board our junk in Hong Kong. They inexplicably came below deck where I was in flagrante delicto with my Asian flower. I upbraided them for lack of civility. The lascivious grins they sported persisted until their departure.

It all started when I was standing in Norita. Waiting for a 777 to BKK. Faded denim with an Ungaro navy blazer. Insouciant. Meditatively contemplative. Suddenly, a phalanx of flight attendants (Korean Air) appeared. They walked resolutely to their concourse. So close I could look into their eyes. They were all exceedingly beautiful. I have always recognized my weakness–demure and devastatingly beautiful Asian women. My gaze was transfixed on one of the nine. Decorously, I conversed with her. Her flight crew's terminus was Bangkok. I was staying at The Sukhothai. The Celadon is a restaurant at the Sukhothai. Very evocative of Asia. Pagodas. Water. Featured in the May 2000 issue of Gourmet magazine.

I remember my fist trip to Asia, leaving Hong Kong on a 777 over the South China Sea en route to BKK. With GPS I could see Danang, South Vietnam. Then Cambodia and into BKK. At the time, a few runways bifurcated a golf course. Golfers had to wait for our 777 to clear before playing their next shot. Only in Thailand. Sadly, Suvarnabhumi eliminated that novelty. Now, Don Muang is used primarily for cargo and intra-Thailand flights to Phuket and Koh Samui.

Bangkok has a certain je ne sais quoi. The city's intricate blend of dynamism and languor had long appealed to me. I was captivated by Bangkok and its exotica. The city had an ineffable vibrance. It churned and fermented. The air was electric. Bangkok was chaotic, clamorous and cacophonous. The traffic was snarled. The hazy tropical skies perpetually smoggy. There were things for sale and barter that would test any man's moral code. In free and easy Bangkok, legend had it, half the women were pros and half the men were cons. The importunities from the touts and the variety of locals as ceaseless as the song of the cicadas in Japan. I did not speak the language. I did not know Sukhumvit from Silom. But I was billeted at President Park and I felt like an impresario. I was enraptured.

It was my intention to reconnoiter the labyrinthine complexities of the serpentine sois and sub-sois with fastidious methodology. Take the occasional tangent. Expect epiphanies. Be impulsive. Take chances. Enjoy a metaphorical cross-cultural orgy of the senses. Engage the ubiquitous filles de joie with aplomb and joie de vivre. Endeavor to edify. Contribute to my edification. Conduct myself as an ambassador. Exude and demonstrate jai dee. As the Cantonese saying goes, "the mountains are high and the emperor is far away."

As for me, Bangkok was necessary. As Augustine said, "within me was a famine." God knows I thrive on extemporaneity. Bangkok appealed to my sense of incongruity. I had the money and the time. The thirst for anomaly. I had the inclination. I would let myself be led by circumstance. Serendipity my tour guide, assisted by caprice. Asia had long appealed to me because it is unmatched in its heterogeneity. I thought of Kipling's refrain: "Oh East is East and West is West and never the two shall meet. But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth / when two strong men shall meet face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth."

So I arranged an assignation with this lovely woman. She met me at the Celadon for dinner. Many call this the city's best Thai restaurant, citing the serene atmosphere and beautiful dishes bursting with fresh flavors. We savored an estate bottled Cabernet. The rich complex flavors gloriously received by my discerning palate. I wanted to pair it with the beautiful melody of the third movement of Brahm's double concerto (possibly the plaintive duets by Elgar, Saint-Saens) and a remarkably complex cuisine.

It was a beautiful body, with all the right prominences, curves, continuities and symmetries. Her eyes implored me. My emotional capacity would not reach satiety. It was analogous to a night in the back of a Chevy with the girl you think you love. Her senses activate your senses. Every pore receives her.

We departed The Celadon ebulliently. I was rakish and ebullient. Unfettered, we walked and laughed. Each of us knew it was a singularly glorious moment. We laughed some more, and dissipated evanescently into the steamy Asian night.

Accident rules every cormer of the universe, except maybe, the four chambers of the human heart. We spent a month together. There is something about her that invites a kind of formality. She has an elegant kind of austerity. On the nights she isn't with me I am deformed. Thinking of where she might be.

LAX Digression

I am ensconced at a table with a woman enjoying a drink. I am unambiguously carnivorous vis-a-vis this woman. She is encouraged. Tangentially, a gaggle of aging businessmen are having cocktails. They are cognizant of my female acquaintance. They soon recognize they are about to be thrust into a position of lubricious curiosity. Our actions were about to be perfectly disconsonant with the flavor of the rest of the room. She was importuning me with words delectably raunchy and lewd. I began by kissing her passionately. The businessmen, one particularly corpulent, could not avert their gaze. I filled them with infinite revulsion–pure unadulterated loathing. The table concealed the gabardine bulge in my lap. Our intense French kissing progressed to fondling and groping. My hand was ostensibly on her bare breast. I had clearly unbuttoned her white blouse. The effrontery. The temerity. The businessmen remained transfixed. I was unregenerate. Everyone in the room was discomfitted. The prurience had yet to reach its zenith.