Here you won't find the pages of a pedantic journal, praises to fantastic places or accounts of memorable encounters. This is a collection of stories, thoughts, images, and most of all odd stuff, even though to someone else it might actually look ordinary. To discern its bizarre side, in fact, special filters are needed: cynicism, fussiness, stubbornness, isolation, impudence, nosiness and nerdiness. All flaws that, in different measure, this semi-nomadic being has got embedded in his genes.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Living under a bridge - Bangkok, Thailand
We hear someone saying: "That guy lives under a bridge." At once we think of a cardboard box and, huddled inside, a hairy body, its skin dark, wrinkled, hardened by sweat and inclement weather, wrapped in a dirty, crumpled and patched coat, wearing two different boots, its head covered by a torn woolen hat and a frayed scarf caked with dried up drool. Scattered around there are a few bundles of rags, cans half-full of stale food, newspaper pages, three greasy pieces of cutlery, a rusty metallic mug, maybe a bottle of cheap liquor. This mental picture is enriched by the inevitable stench of piss, human and other animals' excrements, syringes, used tissues and condoms. In short, we think of a hobo life. As most of us already know though, this bizarre world can often overturn even the most widespread beliefs.
On my way to the heart of Bangkok business district - where the modern skyscrapers, the elevated skytrain railway and the shopping malls are - at a certain point I have to get off some kind of Siamese vaporetto that sails down the sordid city canals (I'll talk about this in another post), pass under a wide road and come out on the sidewalk at the other side of the street. Right under Saphan Hua Chang (Elephant head bridge), on my right, trapped between ground and roadway like a wedge under a tire, there is a little house. Thirty something square meters removed from the urban architecture and used by the latter as a column in exchange.
The concrete structure is provided with doors and windows, like any other house, and it's surrounded by a fence that encloses a courtyard. Here there are some plastic chairs, a wooden cable-drum that serves as a table, motorbikes and bicycles, rubbish bins, clothes hanging on clothslines and the usual knick-knacks that are usually hidden in the backyard of a house.
Inside the room, illuminated by a dingy neon light, a family is enjoying the cool breeze of a fan in front of a TV set broadcasting a muay thai fight.
Who's living there? A road maintenance worker? The supervisor of the vaporetto pier? A family in league with a local politician? Or maybe this is a common practice around here? Honestly I have no idea, but in order to remember that the expressions "living under a bridge" and "being a homeless" don't necessarily refer to the same living conditions I have taken some pictures that I'm posting below.