The Doctor's Consultation:
by Dr. Iain Corness
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
One of the major breakthroughs
in immunology occurred recently, following two decades of work by Professor
Ian Frazer, director of the Center for Immunology and Cancer Research of the
University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. This was the development of
the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
For many people, HPV was previously thought of as a ‘minor’ virus, which
seemed to be endemic, in that everybody had it at one time or another, but
the effects on human health were thought to be mild, if anything at all.
This was not correct. HPV was found to the major underlying cause of female
cervical cancer and genital warts which can affect either sex. And untreated
cervical cancer is one of the major killers of women.
The importance of this viral cause was not lost on the world’s medical
research community, who argued that if the cause was viral, it might be
possible to develop a vaccine against it. That was Professor Ian Frazer’s
stance, and life-long work, to produce such a vaccine.
That vaccine has been heralded as a huge step forward for young women, and
vaccination programs have commenced all over the world, including Thailand.
There are four major types of HPV that we know cause 70 percent of the
cervical cancers, and the new vaccine is 100 percent effective against
infection with them, resulting in a 90 percent drop in the incidence of
cervical cancer. This has the potential to save millions of lives through
the decrease in cervical cancer in women.
It was also found that the vaccine protects completely against those strains
of HPV that produce genital (and anal) warts.
The vaccine is being recommended for females between the age of 9 and 26,
and it is expected that a large percentage of this group will not have been
sexually active, and therefore not exposed to the various HPV strains. For
them, the vaccine offers 100 percent protection against the main four HPV
For women who are sexually active, and may have been exposed to some strains
of the HPV, the vaccine still offers immunity against the types of HPV not
yet experienced, and will still be worthwhile for them.
The reason that the vaccine is made available to women up to 26 is merely
that this was the maximum age up to which the vaccine was tested, and to get
FDA approval for older women will require further testing on another age
HPV vaccine is given as a series of three injections into upper arm muscle.
It should be given within a six month period - for example:
first dose - chosen date;
second dose - 1 to 2 months after the first dose; and
third dose - 4 to 6 months after the first dose.
The vaccine is most effective when all three doses have been given. Missed
doses should be given as soon as possible.
The vaccine provides protection for more than 90 percent of uninfected women
who are vaccinated. The vaccine protects against the types of HPV which
cause more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. This means that the
vaccine will not prevent all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Many women ask, will Pap smears still be necessary after vaccination? The
answer is Yes. Regular Pap smears are important as the HPV vaccine does not
protect against all types of HPV. All females whether vaccinated against HPV
or not will need to have regular Pap smears from the age of 18 or within two
years of first having sex, whichever is later. Regular Pap smears are still
essential because the HPV vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers. Pap
smears detect abnormal changes to cells in the cervix so treatment can start
before cancer develops.
However, despite some limitations, this vaccine will change the world
profile on cervical cancer, and is a huge step forward in preventive health.
Some states in the USA are legislating mandatory immunization, and in the UK
it is also licensed for boys between 9 and 15 years.
Heart to Heart
I’m another of those stupid farangs. There was one girl that I was a
regular with in one of the bars in Nana Plaza. I liked her a lot and I
thought she liked me too, but I didn’t want her to stay with me.
Overnight was fine and I thought we had built up a good relationship.
She knew what I wanted, so it went on for a few months. Then about a
year ago she asked me for some money as she had some problems with her
grandmother, so I gave her 40,000 baht. She promised to repay me within
six months. Well it’s now a year and she certainly hasn’t repaid
anything, she’s shifted to another bar somewhere and in Bangkok I could
spend the next year going from one to another and still not cover them
all. I realize that I’ve been stupid, but I just wanted to let everyone
else know to not be stupid either. Please do not use my real name, as I
am happily married.
I have just called you what you called yourself, so forgive me if it
looks insulting. However, you have got yourself into this pickle by
being very selfish, Petal. You happily admit “she knew what I wanted”,
but you did not find out what she might have wanted, did you? You were
happy enough to carry on with a relationship that could have no future,
as you are already “happily married”, so what did you expect was going
to happen? You wanted casual sex, and you got it. What you did not
ascertain was that she wanted money - and she got it! Kiss the 40,000
baht goodbye and be thankful you didn’t have to kiss your marriage
goodbye as well.
I know you tell everyone to be wary of the girls from the bars, but
they’re not all gold diggers you know. I know quite a few of bar girls
who have made excellent wife and mother. So you can’t say they are all
bad, or all only want to rip us off. Correct?
George from Manchester
Dear Mancunian George,
Of course you are correct, my Petal. I have never said they “are all
bad” as you are inferring. They are girls with all the capacity for love
and motherhood that all women have. However, having chosen a
‘profession’ that is not known for attracting those on the lookout for
the money of her dreams, rather than the man of her dreams, caveat
emptor (let the buyer beware). I’ve said it before, and I say it again,
you don’t go the hardware shop to buy cheese. Even in Manchester.
Dear Hellary (sic),
I have a new maid from up-country working in my house. She is 15 and
quite cute and knows nothing about life in the big city, i.e. unspoiled
by the night time scene. Her family are relatively poor. If I wish to
‘adopt’ her, what should I pay her family? Is this legal? A box of
chocolates for your answers.
If you are going to write to me, wanting my inestimable advice, at least
get my name correct, Leery! It’s Hillary, not Hellary. Now, about your
‘adoption’ query - why is it I do not think that your motives are all
above board? Why does this “cute” 15 year old girl need adoption? She
has parents, she has a home, she has a background she knows of. I think
you are looking to score off this young and inexperienced girl. As far
as any of your plans might go - they are not legal, nor is she, and most
certainly neither are you. Forget the box of chocolates. Send her back
to her parents, or pass on to some employer with more morals than you
I am an American who was over your way in December last year and had a
great time. I went out with a girl from one of your bars. She really
seemed to like me and I took her to Samui and everywhere around Thailand
for the month I was on holiday. I helped her out with some money to get
some surgery done before I come back this year (she wanted to have her
nose done, which is a shame because I thought her button nose pretty
cute). Since then I have been writing to her care of the bar, but she
has never replied. Do you think she has got my letters, or what? Could
you see if she did? Her name is Pim.
Sorry, my Petal, but I am afraid you have a problem here. Kinda like
you’ve been leading yourself up the garden path by the carrot. I think
your Pim will have moved on by now. Sorry, but there’s a lot of Pims out
there. Hillary gives advice to the love-lorn, she is not a Missing
Persons Bureau or the Chiang Mai branch of the Pinkerton’s. However, you
could try putting some money in the letter. You’re bound to get a reply
from somebody! Or just send it to me, I will try for at least a couple
of hours before it goes into the champers and chocs fund.
Camera Class: by
Videography - a ‘moving’ experience
I do not claim to be an expert in shooting video, but there are
certain aspects that are true for all types of photography.
However, I have written and directed a few TV commercials, so I
do have some experience of the genre.
The main difference lies in that still photography freezes a
moment in time, while video photography tells a moving picture
story. Try not to shoot ‘stills’ with a video camera and your
videos will start to look professional immediately.
Like all aspects of good camera-work, you have to think about
the end product before you begin to shoot. For the still
photographer it is a case of looking at the background and then
working out the best combination of shutter speed and aperture.
For the video photographer it is a case of working out the story
line and then how to shoot the various elements in the story.
One of the ways you can pick the first time video user is the
fact that the camera operator spends much time taking shots of
still subjects. Having not made the mental adjustment from still
photography, many minutes are taken up with a video of his wife
standing by the front door of the hotel. That, Mr. cameraman,
was a ‘still’ shot. With video, you film your wife checking out
at the cashier’s desk, picking up her bags and walking towards
the exit. Then you rush outside and the next footage is her
coming out of the hotel and hailing a taxi. You have just shot a
So where can you go to ‘learn’ this new art? Just as still
photographers have photographs in books and magazines to study,
the video photographer has a very ready source of informative
examples to scrutinize. This is called TV! Sit down in front of
the goggle box and see how the pros do it. Even the dreadful
Thai soap operas have good cinematic technique, despite the
glaringly obvious story line! So start to look critically at
technique. Where was the camera, relative to the subject? Did
they “zoom” in or was it one far shot and another close up to
follow? How many times did the cameraman actually use the
inbuilt zoom? You may be amazed to see how seldom!
Here are a few more “rules” which can help you produce better
video. Firstly, no rule is absolute, but you should have a good
reason to break it. Having said that, let’s look at a few
You should also shoot people in full or three-quarter profile to
let the viewers see both eyes. The one eyed effect does not look
good. Again, look at TV. When two people are talking, the camera
shoots over the shoulder of person one to shoot the second
person face-on to the camera. When the first person replies, the
shot is taken the other way, over the shoulder of the second
person. You can also take shots of the person who is listening
to the other speak. These are called ‘noddies’, because the
person will be nodding while listening to the other speaker.
When shooting people, place the subject’s eyes one-third down
from the top of the frame no matter the type of shot. It is that
old rule of thirds again. Dead central is boring!
Another shot to avoid is one with large distances between
people. Again, look at the soaps on TV. The people are really
standing much closer than they would in real life (in each
other’s personal space in fact), but if you have them a meter or
so apart, you lose ‘contact’ in the video.
Focusing. This is a common problem with still cameras with
Auto-Focus (AF), and 99 percent of video cameras are AF too. The
magic eye in the camera focuses on a spot in the middle of the
screen. When you are filming a couple, if the magic dot is not
on one of the people, they will end up out of focus and the
background perfectly sharp.
Application of these simple aspects of video photography will
give you (and those who watch your videos) a much better end
product, and a much more satisfying one for yourself to produce.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Portfolio Construction - Part 6
We’ve been generally scathing about Wall Street’s ability
to open its eyes and view what Basil Fawlty would have called “the bleedin’
obvious”. We’ve tended to excuse Morgan Stanley from our most trenchant
criticisms. They seem to be more aware than most on the street that the
equation isn’t as simple as weaker growth = interest rate cuts = economic
stimulus = higher growth + lower inflation = smiles, bonuses, new Ferrari
(Porsche are so passe) and champagne all round.
The company has recently expressed concern that markets seem to be relying
on the Fed to cut rates, but that the markets may be getting ahead of
themselves, especially with inflation appearing to be on the high side. The
Fed has, for the most part, recently left interest rates unchanged, but made
some significant changes to the tone of the accompanying statement
explaining why they have acted in such a way. Specifically, the FOMC seem to
be taking a more negative view of current economic conditions, changing
language from “firmer economic growth” to indicators being “mixed”.
The change that the market is focused on and reacting to is the replacement
of the phrase “additional firming” with the new phrase “future policy
adjustments”. This is being interpreted as being a more neutral stance, the
altered linguistic nuance being taken as a major “come on” by markets.
Markets are now asking whether the Fed has issued a Bernanke “put”. This is
the notion that the Fed will act to bail investors out by cutting interest
rates when there is market turbulence and worries about the financial
system. Precedent shows that the average time between any change in bias to
the first easing has ranged between two and six weeks, but there are several
reasons why a Bernanke “put” has probably not been issued:
* First, the Fed has almost always eased only when it is confident that
inflationary pressures have diminished in the economy. Typically for this to
occur there has to be softer growth and consequent weakness in the labour
market. This has yet to occur in earnest.
* Second, the change in language probably is designed to give the Fed
additional room for manoeuvre going forward, rather than being an intention
to cut rates per se.
Markets are now caught between a rock and a hard place - whilst there are
fears of slowing growth in the US, there have been various disappointing
inflation releases from around the world:
* Headline inflation in both Canada and the UK was higher than expected
during February. China’s annual inflation ticked up from 2.2% to 2.7% in
February and there were upside surprises in the Euro zone and the US, but
markets seem to be paying little attention to these moves up in prices.
Having hit 4.90% in January, yields on US 10 year Treasury bonds have since
retraced close to 4.60%.
* The implied inflation rate has remained remarkably contained whilst real
yields have dropped on growth fears. But, given the run of higher than
expected inflation numbers are markets missing the point by focusing solely
on a growth slowdown? Worst of all, could we be entering a period of both
weaker growth and rising inflation: a possible period of mild stagflation?
Anecdotal evidence tends to lead the official data and is now pointing to
emerging inflation concerns especially in developing economies and in terms
of upside risk to commodity prices. If that were the case, markets (both
equities and bonds) could move from only being concerned about growth to
also worrying about inflation. This would take away the ability to cut rates
and leave the Fed (and other central banks) in a very tight bind.
We echo these concerns and also we would make the point that we’re not sure
how effective the rate cuts would immediately be - there tends to be a lead
time of around 18 months before monetary policy really bites - but the
market wants it both ways; on the way up the economy could shrug of the rate
hikes but on the way back as soon as cuts are made they will have an
immediate stimulus effect. We’re not so sure about this. Even the eminence
grise of the bond markets, Bill Gross of Pimco seems to think that an
aggressive series of rate cuts could salvage the US property market. We are
very unconvinced about this. Again, five asset classes, adaptive allocation,
an open mind and an intelligent sensitivity to the lessons of economic
history are the key factors in portfolio management right now. At times like
this, thank your lucky stars for MitonOptimal!
Now we will try to focus on the liquidity issue and specifically, the
liquidity surfeit that all markets have enjoyed over the last few years, why
that will change and what the consequences of that are likely to be.
Let’s look at UK property which has been rampant during the easy monetary
conditions - for the past five years interest rates have been exceptionally
low and lending extremely easy to arrange. Individual buyers have been
easily able to change properties, acquire investment properties and in some
cases even acquire second/holiday homes. Developers have found it easy to
launch new projects, virtually willy-nilly. Money supply (M4) has seen a
consequential rapid growth to reach a 12-year high. It is likely, of course,
that increases in the quantity of money are also likely to be contributing
to asset price growth. As Milan Khatri, the chief economist at the Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said last year: “Low interest rates have
been the primary fuel for a surge in property demand, though by the end of
2006 these will rise.”
To be continued…
The above data and research was compiled from
sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd
nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in
the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as
a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading
the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
Don’t you just love them? Long haul flights, I mean. And
all that surrounds them. The grim airports, with endless ‘improvements’ that
are gloss and no substance. The surly security, the delays compounded by
obsequious announcements, the hordes of family members to see off just one
passenger, the lounges with selfish people occupying more seats than they
need, the plastic cutlery to go with the plastic food, the grand retail
outlets (that’s overpriced shops to you and me) lying about discounts and
tax ‘reductions’, those irritating HSBC adverts’ and finally the queues at
immigration (100 minutes at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, with several reception
desks closed when my flight arrived, par for the course I think). Of course
no one expects glamour when flying anymore, sheer volume has put alongside
notions of comfort or courtesy but one can understand (if not condone) the
super rich or pampered stars taking advantage of having private jets
Does the following make sense? Checking in later for a flight to Chiang Mai
from Don Muang or Meung, I was told politely by the guy at the desk that my
case was three kilos over the prescribed 20. Would I mind taking something
out of it? And do what, I wondered? Squeeze items into my regulations sized
hand baggage, wear two layers of clothing or carry prohibited items on board
and have the large aerosols and so on confiscated? I offered no suggestions
except to pay an excess charge, which was a modest 180 baht. Either way I
I look forward to the day (and I believe it will come) when luggage and
customers are weighed together and charged accordingly. Put your spare cash
into I Speak Your Weight machines.
And so back to Chiang Mai and not much has changed while I was away.
No doubt the zoo is still as unspeakable as ever. The town seems as noisy,
dirty and vibrant as usual and there seems to be some good news about work
on the Super Highway. The Flora and Fauna are once more on show, but minus
enough funding and staff to function properly, so definitely no real changes
in a quiet season.
Not just in Chiang Mai. Three days in Pattaya visiting friends had been
almost pleasant, thanks to a lack of visitors from Russia and elsewhere.
Baht bus drivers were actually glad to see you and the noise level was below
People blame the high baht for low tourism but it is obviously more
complicated than that.
Certainly a contributory fact is a false perception given by the newspapers
who quote wrong currency exchange rates and the greed of the banks-
certainly in Britain. The day before I left I enquired what the baht rate
was against the pound and was quoted 58.50. On the wall was the rate which
they would buy back the baht at 73 to the pound, a difference of 14.50 baht.
An obscene profit for the traders! No wonder as only last week of one of
these City (London) slickers had taken a few cronies to a nightclub and
during an evening racked up a bill of around 110,000 pounds or about 4.5
million baht. This included magnums of Champagne and two jeroboams of the
same drink at 7,000 pounds each.
I was reminded of this whilst drinking a modestly priced Singh beer at the
Amari Hotel on August 4th where we were gathered to help choose the charity
(out of six good causes) which will benefit from the Hillside 4 Rooftop
Charity Party next January. At the event it was decided that a group who
help severely disabled people around Chiang Mai would be the lucky ones. The
target is a million baht and it will provide a desperately needed vehicle to
reach and transport handicapped people and to give them wheel chairs and
But it occurred to me that if that gang of drinkers had packed in a couple
of hours later and foregone a few bottles of Champagne they could have sent
a check for a million baht and not even noticed it, even though it would
transform the lives of amputees, crippled children and the like. Still,
where’s the fun in that?
No bread, Marie Antoinette, was alleged to have said. Let them eat cake!
Let's Go To The Movies:
Ratatouille: US Animation – A superb movie in every way,
warm and funny and irresistible, among the classics of animation. Don’t miss
it, unless you absolutely hate animation. (Tip: Check the language – Airport
Plaza had planned a Thai-dubbed version.) Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Hairspray: US Musical/Comedy – I thoroughly enjoyed Hairspray – three times
now. I think it is simply not to be missed by any farang living near Chiang
Mai. Incredible amounts of energy, fun and music that will get your pulse
and feet going. Some extraordinary performances, chief among them being the
absolutely amazing John Travolta. Plus one of the funniest scripts ever.
Starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher
This had a most disappointing showing at the box-office in its first few
days. Playing at 36 cinemas in Thailand, it brought in less than $72,000 in
total during its critical first four days (Thursday through Sunday), while
the despised (by me) In Country & Melody brought in over $255,000 and Kung
Foo Tootsie $205,000. I fully expected its run to be terminated after the
first week, but luckily it survived. Maybe it’s just catching on.
Unless you hate old-fashioned musicals, or simply hate the human race, you
must see this! Reviews: Universal acclaim.
The Bourne Ultimatum: US Action/Mystery/Suspense/Thriller – with Matt Damon
and Albert Finney. The culminating film of the trilogy begun five years ago
with The Bourne Identity reportedly is a 114-minute chase film, dashing
through streets and rooftops of any number of international urban sprawls.
Reviews: Universal acclaim, many ecstatic.
The Simpsons Movie: US Animation – Apparently this is a must-see for any fan
of The Simpsons, or anyone looking for a good laugh. Has received generally
favorable reviews. (Tip: there are additional scenes all through the ending
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: US Adventure/Fantasy – A sleek
and exciting movie. Each film in the series seems to get darker – this one
begins like a horror movie, and proceeds as a tense and twisty political
thriller. I think it’s a movie to savor, for its many fascinating details
and outstanding performances, and to study – I still can’t figure out what’s
really going on.
The Odd Couple/Koo Rad: Thai Low Comedy – Another cross-dressing comedy,
which stars Petchtai Wongkamlao (Mum Jokmok) as a transvestite performer
working with a Japanese cop to find a serial killer preying on the
transvestite community. Jokmok can actually be a very good actor when he
reins things in a bit - Midnight My Love proved that - but with material
like this you know he’s going to be full on, over the top, and hyperactive.
In Country & Melody/E Som Som Wang: Disgusting Thai Comedy/Romance. The
sickening, tasteless, and disgusting preview was an acute embarrassment in
the midst of the glitter of the Bangkok International Film Festival last
month, and it was shown at nearly every screening. I am so sickened by the
preview, including the floating human excrement in the hot tub sequence,
that I cannot bring myself to see this movie. I suggest you don’t see it
either. This sort of thing shouldn’t be encouraged. I am dismayed to see
that it is the Number One box-office draw in Thailand at the moment, up from
2nd place last week, and miles ahead of Hairspray.
Kung Fu Tootsie/Tud Soo Food: Thai Comedy – Another very low class Thai
comedy with many popular Thai television stars. Marketed as a parody of the
movie Kung Fu Hustle (2004), it actually has nothing to do with that movie
at all. It’s about a triad leader who has his arm cut off, and leadership of
the triad passes to his next of kin, who happens to be his long-lost son,
who was raised by a troupe of transvestite entertainers. I found it yet
another disgusting low comedy film – with plenty of drag queens,
cross-dressing, and obnoxious gay slurs.
Scheduled for Thursday, August 16
Rush Hour 3: US Action/Comedy/Crime – Reunites Jackie Chan and his police
partner Chris Tucker with the director of Rush Hour 1 and 2 – Brett Ratner –
for another episode in this crime fighting series, this time set in Paris.
Not quite as much breathtaking action as before, because Jackie is getting
on in years.
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
One Thai vs. 150 Norwegians: Part two
week’s column ended with my Thai mate Joom and I trying to survive my 40th
high school reunion in Fargo, North Dakota. My previous classmates are very
nice people, but aloof, which stands for “a lot of old farts.” When I walked
in the room, my first impression was that my friends had sent their
grandparents to take their place. Most folks were larger than their former
lives and one couple had to travel separately to the third floor because
together they’d have exceeded the load limit of the Radisson’s elevator.
We just didn’t look like anyone other couples. Sun-baked Joom had just come
from two-months of hanging with her kids on the beach in Florida and most
people probably thought she was married to the only other dark person in the
general vicinity, the black manager of the hotel. Elliot Stern comforted us
by saying, “Being Jewish, I was the darkest person in the class.” Mixed
marriages are hardly possible in conservative, homogenous Fargo, which
probably disproves of interracial couples composed of one Norwegian and one
We got the feeling they just didn’t get out much, since the “Traveling the
Furthest to the Reunion Award” went to, someone—and I’m not making this
up—from Hawaii, which, to be further away than Thailand, would have to be a
province in Australia or the South Pole. Perhaps they assumed we’d come from
a store at the mall called “Tieland” where they purchase silk ties decorated
with flags, tractors and Donald Duck. We didn’t really care since the prize
was a basket bouquet of plastic flowers like you see at a Salvation Army
store gathering dust next to the rusting toaster ovens, moldy Donald Duck
ties and other items that weren’t snapped up during the last hour of a
garage sale when everything is free.
I gave Joom a splendid tour of the countryside around Fargo, which is
technically flatter than a linoleum floor, but not quite as scenic. After
passing several subdivisions of new homes painted in every shade of color
imaginable between taupe and slightly off-taupe, designed in a wild myriad
of styles from square to very square, she fell asleep immediately and missed
the two curves in the road that offered dramatically different views of the
surrounding four fields of taupe wheat, wheat, wheat and wheat.
Honoring Joom’s fervent pleas to be rescued from North Dakota and taken
anywhere else, even if it involved jail, extended discussions with
door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses or one-on-one grammar lessons with
President Bush—pleas delivered by shouting to passing motorists, calling
random phone numbers on the wall in the women’s toilet or even responding to
email spam notifying that she had won the lottery in Nigeria—I duct-taped
her to the motorcycle and dragged her 50 miles into neighboring Minnesota,
which has several miniature hills, vast forests swarming with mosquitoes,
and whose state bird is the loon. And was also the location of my family
reunion, attended by twenty members of the aforementioned species.
After talking to three of my cousins’ children with autism and other
hereditary mental challenges referred to by odd acronyms, she said, “Now I
understand,” unfortunately referring to my psychological eccentricities. We
heard a fascinating story of one hyperactive son, once discovered on the
kitchen counter hurling flour and sugar into the air, then as his Mom
started to clean the mess, yanked all the pots and pans onto the floor, then
scampered away from Mom’s screams to pull all the books out of the shelves
and was finally cornered on the ceiling in the chandelier. The son was 23,
or 2 or 3. I don’t remember which, but it sounded like great fun, and
reminded me of tales from my high school reunion: a refrigerator was
delivered so we took the massive packing box downtown on the top of Dad’s
car, with one student body laying in the box so it wouldn’t blow off the
roof, and then took turns walking down Main Street concealed under the box,
bumping into walls and generally ruining the reputation of our parents.
Luckily after high school I escaped Fargo and had an actual job all over the
country where people willingly paid me to be mentally challenged on stage.
Supporting the rumor that there may be something strange in the water, we
stopped at an outdoor Craft Fair, more appropriately named a Crap Fair, with
booths selling fried mystery meat on a stick, personalized golf teas and
household items made from deer antlers guaranteed to kill small children. As
we left Reunionville we rode passed three people sitting in chairs on the
side of the country road, miles from any town, next to a six-foot,
sandwich-board-style sign that said, in huge letters on both sides—and I’m
not making this up, either—HONK. I considered turning back, for a photo or
to ask the burning question: “Did you take your medicine today?” I decided
against it because they were probably either: 1) human-like,
Norwegian-eating aliens hatched from slimy pods in a nearby cave; or 2) more
of my relatives.