Monthly Archives: January 2020

David

It is hard to know what life would have been like as an adult without David. He is so smart, energetic, stable, he taught me so much. My debt is great. He taught me how to make tofu and bread. He put the idea into my head to make miso. He got me interested in making food from scratch.

My second semester we lived in a “quad” in the dormatory at The University of Michigan. Four people in two rooms. We had our own bathroom. It was so much fun. We were on a corridor called “The Co-op Corridor” in Alice Lloyd Hall. In order to be in that dorm you had to be in a program called “The Pilot Program”. It was a living learning community. In order to be in the program you had to take a one credit course called “Pilot Program Theme Experience”. This class just required that you attend a series of “lectures” although one of the lectures was a cello recital. I hear a talk by Dick Gregory. He was a commedian but was on a world and self improvement campaign. He first talked about vegetarianism, then, worried about plants he talked about only eating fruit and seeds and what it was like to run across the country drinking only fruit juice. He said that his ultimate goal was to become an airatarian. It was very hard to know how serious he was about this.
He was incredibly funny.
According to Wikipedia part of one of his comedy routines contained this,
” Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

Anyhow, the second semester David, Roz and I took a pilot program course called, “An Overview of Low Energy Technology with Jim Burgel” . He lived in the dorm. The teachers of the Pilot Program courses all lived in the dorm. Also in the dorm at that time was Norman Hartweg who was one of Kevin Keasey’s Merry Pranksters. You can read a little about him in Electric Coolaid Acid Test. It was a very exciting place to live, there was always something going on.
Anyhow this is supposed to be about David. We both had 8 a.m. classes. We used to get up at 10 minutes to 8 and then run with our bicycles down the stairs and race to class. We left our combination locks open so that we would not be late. Then I got pleurisy and inflamation of the chest wall. I was told not to exercise. We got up a few minutes earlier. I walked down the stairs and he carried both bicycles. Then he would pull me to class with a rope.

David introduced me to “The First Rule of Money” from “The Book of Money”. If I remember all of this correctly the first rule is, “Do what you want and the money will come.” It seems glib, rather stupid but you have to put these words into the context of the author. “Want” seems easy. I want a new car, I want dinner. These are small wants. The want he was talking about was the want that is all encompassing. The want that contains all desire.The bigger the want the easier the problem of money is. If the want is big enough than money is not the issue. I am sure that there are exceptions. Only orthodox purists believe that rules have no exceptions.

I did not know it at the time, but my desire to visit Thailand to see potter was big enough that the money problem dissolved. By 15 months after Suwanee visited The Bray we had over $5000 saved up and I had gotten a Fulbright Grant.

Mae

Mæ̀
Suwanee’s mother, who I call “mom” picked up the phone. We had a converstation. It took a long time. She told me to call back in one day. I confirmed that I should call back in 24 hours, she said yes. The only word she used in English was bye bye. I was thrilled.

There are a few things that I feel like I have done really well at during my life. This phone call was really well done. I prepared. Prior to the preparation I knew how to count to ten, ask where something is, but not understand the answer, and a few simple words. I checked out a phrase book from the library (no internet to speak of in 1987).

I got a very big sheet paper and wrote a chart. The first column was my introduction. I am calling from The United States. I do not speak Thai. Is Suwanee Natewong there? The next column had possible responses with key vocabulary underlined.”not here”, “who?”,”I don’t understand”, “Could you repeat yourself?” “please repeat” etc.

The next column was a list of vocabulary and phrases for my responses. I had a list of time terms, tomorrow, hours, week, and other phrases like different number. It worked. Suwanee’s mother was not “well educated” but was smart as they come.

When we did get to Thailand Mae was very helpful. She had no idea what we knew and did not know so she showed us how to do many things. It was really rather amazing. She was in someways clueless and in otherways so full of welcoming gratiousness, nam jai, literally “liquid of the heart”. She showed Gail how to use hangers.

Liz R

The summer Suwanee turned up at The Bray was a wild summer. Our friend Owen came and helped me build my kiln on the scrap brick pile. Mary Rutger, who we all lost too soon, was there with her friend Liz R. Liz is important here because she suggested that I apply for a Fulbright Grant from the US government.

So I called the Fulbright Office. Some of you reading will not have experienced this, but there was no internet available. No email or online phone books. I dialed the telephone information number for Washington DC and asked for the number of The Fulbright Foundation. Just in case it comes up to get information you would dial 1, then the area code, and then 555-1212.

They were located on Dupont Circle. The program is administered by The Council for the Internation Exchange of Scholars (CIES) I asked for information and was connected with the head of the Southeast Asian Section.

He asked me a series of questions.
1. Do you have a doctorate?
2. Are you teaching at a college or university?
3. Have you written any books?

Since all of these questions were answered “no” he said that I should not bother applying.
Liz told me to call back and just get an application. The application arrived August 5th 1987 and was due August 15. Suwanee had already returned to Thailand.

Other than that sheet of slides that my Thai friend in Normal Illinois had shown me, I knew nothing of Thai pottery. It did not seem enough for a long proposal. I looked through all the books in the Bray Library, the local public library and the state library in Helena Montana. I decided to drive to Bozeman Montana to the University library. I found a book with one paragraph about Thai Pottery. It was about glazed porcelain and I was more interested in stoneware. I also turned up an article on Thailand in National Geographic from 1934. One of the pictures contained some utilitarian pots.

At this point in my life a four page paper could be torturous. It is not that I could not put ideas together, or did not know grammar, it was that I was dysgraphic. When I learned what the diagnosis meant I knew that it applied to me.
You can read about my experiences with dysgraphia here: https://louiskatz.net/wpt/?p=265
Anyhow, I got to writing a grant. I did the obvious and asked “What do they want to fund that I want to do?” and described that intersection. Gail helped me proof this. I could not have gotten the grant without her help. She writes and proofreads well. I have some significant deficiencies.
People occasionally told me, “You were so lucky to get that grant”. Sometimes this attitude is irritating. I worked my but off for that grant. I went to graduate school for that grant. I was friendly to people to get that grant. I wrote down people’s phone numbers to get that grant. I stayed up late ten days in a row in order to write that grant, and I had a conversation with Suwanee’s mother in Thai when I could not speak it for that grant. It was not luck, but hard work, planning and being nice. It never hurts you to be nice.
Here is how.

Nui, Professor Poonarat, who I have already wrote about taught me how to count and ask where the bathroom is located and a few other words. I had Suwanee record about 10 minutes of Thai Phrases from a book. I had the book checked out from the library. I knew that if I called Suwanee’s phone number that she did not live there, her parents did. No one in the village of Dankwian had a phone. There was a village phone office with one number. So I made a chart. It had greating on it in transliterated Thai. Then it had a statement, ” I do not speak Thai” . I want to speak with Suwanee NAtewong. Then it had a list of possible answers with keywords underlined. Then there was a long list of questions or statements, “Could you say it again?” ” What time”?. “Where?”, What number?
How many hours? What day? etc.
It then had a list of keywords regarding time, date, place, telephones etc.
I called. The phone call cost about $2.00 a minute.