upon a floating gypsy village we come

After leaving JBI we came upon Ko Payni, a floating gypsy village at the head of Phang-Nga Bay. Anachronistic as that sounds, it was nevertheless established by nomadic Malay fisherman near the end of the 18th century. (Check out the brief video clip or double-click the panoramic below to get a sense of the scale of the environs.) At that time Thai law limited land ownership solely to people of Thai origin, so the resourceful gypsies built a settlement on stilts, skirting the law on a technicality while giving themselves easy access to the fisherman’s life. As the community grew prosperous, it expanded and today the village is home to some 1,500 people, a mosque, and even a football pitch, all built on barnacle-covered poles over the sea. As I arrived late in the day, I had time for little more than a coffee and a quick poke around, but it left me wondering what the village must be like in the moonlight – and at bed time as the water laps beyond the gaps of the wooden slatted floors.

gypsy panorama

ko payni


obit (the dust) of the month: you’ll never find anyone as good for you as i am

Arthur Laurents, the playwright, screenwriter and director who wrote and ultimately transformed two of Broadway’s landmark shows, “Gypsy” and “West Side Story,” and created one of Hollywood’s most well-known romances, “The Way We Were,” died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. Mr. Laurents once described writers as “the chosen people” and said he was happiest when sitting alone and putting his “daydreams and fantasies down on paper.” He did so in various genres. His film credits include Hitchcock’s “Rope”; “Anastasia,” with Ingrid Bergman; and “The Turning Point,” with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. His screenplay for “The Way We Were,” with Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, was adapted from his novel by the same name. But the stage was his first love, and he wrote for it for 65 years, turning out comedies and romances as well as serious dramas that often explored questions of ethics, social pressures and personal integrity. Early on, he once said, he realized that “plays are emotion,” not simply words strung together, and it became his guiding principle. Read the full story HERE. On a personal note, I knew Arthur and at various times both loathed and loved him. After a long drought on the New York stage, he returned with a play called The Radical Mystique at Manhattan Theatre Club in the early 1990’s.  A thinly veiled satire that took on the Weatherman, Bernstein and the Black Panthers, it was a story rich in both ideas and ideals. Two weeks into the process Arthur inserted himself quite vocally into rehearsals, disapproving the director’s choices and shaping of the story. When the director finally up and quit, Arthur took command. As the AD, I was left to take sides. I had never quit a show before but believed Arthur was artistically misguided on this one and so I, too, left the production. In performance it turned out that his direction of the play was a mistake, undercutting everything I had believed to be good and true about the script. Oh well, it opened and closed with little notice. Years later, however, when I was mentoring a group of up-and-coming musical theater writers, I wrote to Arthur and asked if he would mind sharing his considerable experience with young ears for an afternoon. He agreed immediately, even going so far as to interrupt his summer vacation in Quogue to attend. It made for an insightful and inspiring afternoon, yet before we said our goodbyes I couldn’t help but bring up the first and last time we had worked together. “Arthur,” I told him, “I really loved that play.” I wavered, hesitated, then finally blurted out, “You know you torpedoed it, right?”  He shot me the stink-eye before breaking into a wry smile. “You’re damn right I did, kid.” I like to think he was as pleasantly surprised by my candor as my praise. Chief among Arthur’s many virtues was his near inability to shy away from brutal honesty.


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