A Saviour Needed

Posted: July 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Wow, quite a title, let me explain. The crash in international ‘foreigner‘ tourism and it’s effects has caused socio-economic chaos and a growing resentment among once thriving Asian tourist market economies. Millions of locals have lost their jobs and businesses and they’re desperate to understand why.

First, governments worldwide deliberately shut down national economies by closing  borders to commerce of almost every kind. Furthermore, the lock-down is absolutely necessary to contain a deadly new strain of virus that could potentially kill millions. Second, people want to know when the pain is going to stop. The simple answer is, no one knows.

The New Normal” has become a catch-phrase, a white wash of misshapen government policies that have so far done more harm than good. No one wants platitudes as they stave to death. This is true in Asia more than in western countries because there has been a mass distribution of cash to bewildered G7 citizens who can exist within a bubble of controlled panic as long as governments can ‘kick the can down the road’ with social welfare. These welfare programs do not exist in Asia. The poorest are hungry, and hunger has often led to revolution. It takes only a spark to start a conflagration.

Tourism in Asia has taken a turn for the worse over the past three decades. Although wealth has been created, the tourists are very much seen as  cause for the destruction of the local environment and the cultural practices which locals gauge are dissipating and diminished in the fog of western dominance. The tourist has become resented and reluctantly missed in the same breath. This confusion being absorbed by cynical governments to stoke a simmering nationalism to redirect the resentment targeting themselves onto foreigners.

New ‘citizen only‘ programs are helping push the meme that the dire situation is ‘them against us“. In a bizarre Brave New World-like spin the new propaganda campaign against foreigners suggests that hardship caused by Corona is because foreigners aren’t spending money…therefore ‘foreigners are the cause of our strife‘. Governments in Asia have always stoked nationalism by openly harassing foreigners with double pricing, exclusion and highly advertised restrictions on visa’s, ownership/residential rights and licensing. Ex-pats are often the subject of over policing. These policies underwrite a  blithe policy of ‘we’re better than them‘ attitude. To be fair, much of the resentment against foreigners has been perpetuated by the many bad examples of drink/sex tourists who persist here.

National identity is taking a big hit among local citizens. New found tourist wealth creation uplifted millions out of poverty. But, now that the wealth is quickly disappearing, so is the idea that individual countries can claim to stand on their own without western financial support. Thailand, for example has a GDP largely dependent on tourism, some 30%. The Thai ego was riding high when projections showed millions more every year would flood in and keep filling the coffers. There are many venues, temples, restaurants and nightclubs that are posting their rejection of foreigners. It isn’t just double pricing and petulance anymore. Foreigners are openly resented, banned and persona non grata.

After just six months of lock-down and zero tourist income the economy is in a bleak condition and the fiscal cupboard is bare. Still, the latest push by Asian governments is not to develop SME development as self support without tourism, but instead to stimulate tourism by enticing increasingly impoverished locals to fill the empty resorts, with cash subsidies, to create a temporary surge in business until the ‘resented foreigners‘ return. Yes, it makes no sense.

The return of a ‘ Tourist Saviour‘ in Asia might be years away, as Covid rages through the global population, causing an end to global mass tourism , possibly for many years to come. Perpetuating a tourism industry when there are no tourists is akin to the child waiting by the roadside hoping to relive his time at the circus after the tents have left town.

What is the possible future of an economy like Thailand or Bali? Can they collapse inwards and revert to the agrarian communities they once were? In both countries millions of tourism workers have already returned to their villages. They’ve shed their western costumes and don the traditional clothing and habits more resembling the life of ancestors. The number of small and medium size hotels and tourist businesses for sale  is staggering.

The numbers suggests large numbers of tourist operators have given up, never to return. The asking price of commercial and residential property is plummeting. There is no apparent bottom, because there are no buyers. As I’ve said, locals abandoned the communities where tourism once thrived. Phuket…Kuta…ghost towns. The Balinese posses a characteristic unknown to most tourists. The Balinese have a history of resentment towards foreigners. The last ‘Puputan” ( a ritual mass suicide) occurred in 1906. The facade of a diminutive and eternally welcoming folk is paper thin. Thai smiles come in roughly 14 configurations, not all of them welcoming.

In Indonesia and Thailand government allowed an extension of expired visas for the few thousands of stranded tourists whose flights home were cancelled. But that favour ends in days and those last tourists will be forced to leave or be subject to arrest and deportation. The charade of ‘ being the last foreigner living in paradise‘, is a false narrative perpetuated by western media outlets, and coming to an end July 31.

 

 

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Lock down extended … again, grey monsoon afternoon, beginning of the lonely season. The passage of time drags on. Thailand won’t let us out and Canada won’t let us in, so there it is. I’ve been traveling for decades and have passed some strange days, but these take the cake. The lock-down and emergency orders, including alcohol ban and curfew,  announced in Thailand February 2020 has been extended five times, it’s now July 4th, 2020 and there’s no end in sight. BTW, happy Canada Day and 4th of July !

Many countries, including Canada and Thailand are murmuring about targets around the August 31st time frame, but we’ve been disappointed so many times already and expect nothing, until we actually see something solid, like bums in the seats of a new Boeing 787 Max taking off. Until then, it’s fingers crossed at best.

Today’s pandemic global catastrophic effect is nothing like any ‘travel fear’ I’ve experienced before, like a sudden near fatal illness in the Thar Desert, a tank battle in the town square of La Paz, typhoon twisters chasing my open cockpit yacht across the shallow South China Sea,  kidnapped by drunk soldiers in the crime infested Golden Triangle, on a diplomatic convoy running like hell under fire from a Taliban Brigade out of Herat, where the Swedish boy in the seat in front of me had his head blown off, feasting during a wary truce with armed Palawan pirates, or spinning like a top down a Pakistan cliff-side in a disintegrating bus that missed a brittle corner on a ribbon of dust called the Khyber Pass…. and other travel anecdotes too numerous to name.

But here we are, stranded in Bangkok, Thailand. Every escape out of Thailand pinned shut by frightened bureaucrats. All the transit hubs of Asia, South Asia and Asia Minor are closed, foreigners barred entry. China has passed the dreaded Bill 35 which threatens imprisonment to every citizen of Hong Kong or foreign national who may have come under the notice of Chinese Security Services. There is no safe transit through Hong Kong to Canada anymore. Canada has issued a travel advisory which nullifies our travel insurance, and cancelled an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, but to no avail. Anyone , born in Hong Kong is no longer free to enter Hong Kong without fear of arrest. R.I.P Hong Kong. 

We feel safe here, in absolute isolation. 58 dead in Thailand according to the authorities. We mask, distance, have our temperature taken at every door. We order in rather than shop, pay all bills online. The Thai government automatically extends visa’s for the  thousands of foreigners who chose to stay. Our landlord, a doctor, understands our plight and has extended our lease without penalty. And, we’re so damned comfortable. The view is fantastic. We overlook an temple complex with fairy tale roof lines and golden spires above canal markets, everything you’d fly halfway around the world for and hope to see on your ‘trip of a lifetime‘.

Travel is slowly opening for tourists. Domestic openings have faced new infections popping hope of immediate security. Covid is like a chainsaw running amok. Fears will have to be managed if there is ever to be any semblance of economy return for individuals and especially hard hit small businesses. Thailand is opening in fits and starts for local tourists . International tourists are still banned.

What has been proposed is, tourists may only fly direct to their allowed destination and stay there. Tourists will be barred from freely roaming the country. Tourists will stay where they book and may not leave the designated area. For example if you book an island vacation and the flight calls for transit in Bangkok, you will not be able to leave the airport to tour Bangkok, but will be required to wait for your connection in a especially designed lounge to await your island vacation flight.

I wish the Thai government luck in implementing their plan. In the meantime, we try to take things in stride. A pot of Yorkshire tea and Antiques Roadshow on a VPN distracts us. There’s no tank fire or pirates, we’re gold. Best of luck to anyone who’s stranded by choice or circumstance anywhere in the world. The upside is that the beaches are nearly deserted.

 

 

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Thailand has proven to be a relative haven from the Covid Influenza that’s killed and sickened so many people around the world. Even with few comparable deaths, only 58 so far, the financial consequences of the lock-down have been devastating to millions. Daily pay workers lives have been turned upside down by a state mandated unemployment.

Rich in the past when tourism and industry was bolstered by lassiez-faire global trade, and… how we all took so much for granted, the virus has exposed how poor average people are with scant savings and little state welfare. Thailand has been locked down for three and a half months. The reaction to Covid was swift. Temperature checks and masks were imposed immediately.

A curfew was instated, malls, social venues, bars, restaurants and public transportation banned. Q Codes and temperature checks are mandatory to enter and leave any building including all residential buildings. That was in place and enforced the first three months. Bangkok, a city of twelve million was a ghost town. Beach resorts and surrounding communities were closed. Liquor sales have been prohibited.

If it weren’t for an openly generous community donating to temples that feed the long lines of near-starving with food distribution, there would be chaos. But, the Thai people are stoic and orderly. There are no riots, no burning revolution as we see in so many countries where people are simply furious due to lock-down related boredom.

Measured openings are scheduled to be tested. A few select foreigners will be allowed back in the country soon. Right now there are no foreign travelers or tourists entering or exiting the country. Foreigners such as ourselves who choose to live here longer term have no choice except to wait it out. There is no leaving. There are no international flights. All land borders closed. Current rules in place would not allow us to re-enter if we left. There is no provision in place to allow us back into our homes were we to leave.

Our home country doesn’t allow us to repatriate without harsh conditions of ‘self-isolation’. Currently there are no ‘in transit’ opportunities in South East Asia, foreigners are banned from all countries regardless. We are well and truly stranded if you want to call it that. Still, it’s nice to be here. The weather is always beautiful.

We have a very organized staff in our residential complex and they take great care to keep our swimming pools and fitness facilities clean and in top condition. The sweeping views from a wrap around balcony in a high tower are spectacular. We’re surrounded by exotic temples and canals. It’s monsoon season and enormous rainbows are the norm. The technology access for cable and internet is first world. It’s all advance reservation only these days. No new people can move into the building.

The delivery industry took off with the advent of Covid. Usually there were already plenty of delivery services but with all the courier motorcycles out of their usual work they took to delivering food and catalog ordering in huge numbers. It’s a boon to us really. It’s so much easier than going out to shop. Getting anywhere in the heat is a chore. They have a saying here, “The only people you see outside are the poor and the tourists”.

Middle class Thai are rarely seen walking the streets or picking through open markets. It’s too hot to eat outside, few do. For the cost of a small tip, everything gets delivered within minutes. A personal shopper can do all your grocery shopping for you, free of charge courtesy of the store.

Anyone planning to visit or return to Thailand if and when it opens will find big changes and restrictions everywhere. The government is not planning on opening the country to anyone seeking to wander around freely. The stated plan is to only allow ‘travel bubbles’ that restrict where you go, and when you arrive your movements will be closely monitored. This is fine for us, we rarely leave our neighborhood, or GRAB CAR range, but for backpackers and thrill seekers, the experience may not resemble what you’ve seen in ‘Hangover’ movies.

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You shattered my illusion of love

Mean world syndrome set in

Sadness

A boat in the water

Tiger in the forest

 

Transcendent poet in morbid lace and rancid leather

I wait for the sun to rise

Tired of this graveyard charade, time to kill

Strange imaginings drive my distraction

Then there was you

 

We swam upside down in silky water

I became unglued

We became entangled

I began loving you

Two bodies floating weightless on silver-black mercury

 

Vacant mind , stars weirdly blue

Paint on blank canvas

A theater of constellations, traveling left to right

Scorpio scratches at the southern horizon

 

Clouds at night have different meanings

Leave me breathless

We swim in circles

Diamonds appear

High as a kite

Overjoyed at what I’ve found

Melancholy won’t find me here

I’m with the wind

 

I don’t care which stars appear first

No order matters

I take a bullet for you

Love is a thunderbolt and distant thunder

Bending destiny to resemble our desire

Forging dreams into shapes we command

Desperate hope reigns supreme

I won’t fuck this up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Covid-19 Plague travel embargo is slowing and incrementally coming to an end. That doesn’t mean the plague is over. It appears to mean, politically at least,  that after a three month lock-down phase world economies are collapsing and can’t continue to remain closed.  Third world countries, where there is little welfare state infrastructure, have been hit much worse than western nations.

Many daily workers in Thailand have been reduced to penury. Decades of planning an economy dependent on tourism proved to be unsustainable. When knowledgeable economists say “The New Normal ” will change Thailand forever, they are stating fact. Tourism revenues will have to fund a shift to a more sustainable economy. Easier said than done. Change will have to come from the top.

Thailand has welcomed tourists for decades. However, visitors have never been welcomed into Thai society. Thai is a very structured and highly regulated society based on the Buddhist religion and a centuries old hierarchy . Your visit to Thailand resembles an individual in a bubble. You’re there, but you’re not. No matter where you go, on whatever budget you’ve chosen, how far above the street or how street level you are, you’re never other than ‘farang‘…. a foreigner.

Language is a huge barrier. Thai are shocked to hear a foreigner speak Thai, because so few ever learn even a few words. Thai are insulted. Instead foreigners accost Thai for food, drink or directions in pigeon-English, or brutish sign language,  expecting Thai to understand and respond. Thai respond positively if you can speak a few words of Thai. They appreciate every respectful gesture, being polite is still a widely accepted currency, spend generously.

Expect to find new barriers to your freedom. The Covid Lock-Down means that new rules are piled on old rules and Thai expect you to follow. Line-ups, closed area’s, mandatory distancing and masks, all… the new normal. You will find restrictions everywhere. The idea that Thailand is open for every bizarre behavior is the farthest thing from truth. Thai are by nature a very traditional and conservative people.

Salacious media, for reasons of selling advertising space in travel related publications, have in the past sold an isolated sensational microcosm of Thailand that few Thai have knowledge of or experience in. Personally, I have lived in Thailand for three decades and never once sat in a ‘girly bar‘. Expect Thai to express relief when you don’t ask for anything ‘weird‘. On your next visit to Thailand you can expect to visit a conservative country as ‘the new normal‘ insinuates additional restrictions into the travel industry.

The highly publicized sex industry, the 1960’s backbone of post-Vietnam war era Thai tourism has flat-lined. Ex-pat drunks have been sent packing as visa restrictions and currency fluctuation work to clear them out. Thailand has an official policy in such matters that has been highly effective, “Good guys in, Bad guys out”. Still a retirement tourism haven, Thailand successfully sells it’s excellent medical tourism and luxury nursing homes.

The Phangna Full Moon Party, and infamous  ‘Khao San Road’, all skillfully presented, never  mainstream, are being phased out. It’s all been a show, for an increasingly irrelevant and unwanted backpacker tourist. Each of these experiences was carefully measured for  value and have been found wanting. Expect Thailand Experiences to be further restrained.  Welcome back to Thailand… bring cash.

 

 

 

 

After the Plague

Posted: June 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

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Wake me when the volcano stops erupting

And the good night sounds are back

Nothing resurrects the past like yearning

I ride vibrations , a hidden world,  piano wire,  stretched taut, near breaking

A circle game, a spiders web, a carousel of cast-off things

I take a leap of faith when I close my eyes

No idea whats coming

Not knowing is the enemy of all mankind

You take the good with the bad

 

Adrift, an ocean of memories, I look back

I was young

Restless

Homeless

Free

I had hope

Wonder

I slept without fear under star-shine

I didn’t give a shit

 

“Take me back”

I ache for certain moments

Golden fields,  broken highway, southern plains

So vivid, blue, I can taste it, tantalizing

Wind swept, dry as dust, days from harvest

Air so fresh it crackles

I’ve burned my fingers in the meantime

Drowned myself, I flew away

And landed in a dream world floating on green water

 

This place takes bold lightning strikes in stride

Doesn’t judge me harshly

Love isn’t dealt out with a hammer

Full moon, heavy traffic,  echo of laughter

Held close, in the bosom of a heavenly blanket

I  see forever fail, another sunset, a meaningless horizon

I’m not going there

I’ll be travelling again soon

When the plague ends

And the volcano sleeps

And the good night sounds return

 

I yearn, I dream

About a time and place where it all began

Yellow field, a broken highway

A time when all was perfect

An image fragment reflected on broken mirror

Memories hang in the air, tremulous

 

Yellow field, cracked asphalt and green water

Shattered words, never lost

Carried along in a stream of consciousness, precious jewels

Waiting to reappear when the time is right

Stories that must be told

When the plague is over

And the volcano sleeps

 

 

 

Escape the Orderly

Posted: May 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Travel is an opportunity to escape the gravitational pull of an otherwise ordinary life. People become mundane with age and experience. I’m no different. Age is unrelenting, schedules dehumanizing. Humans collect. The stuff we collect whether material or metaphysical brands us, makes who we are, binds us. Regardless of age, we get ‘stuffy‘.  You may as well get a tattoo, it’s that obvious.

Who and what you are is your Hellespont when escape becomes the only rational alternative. Reach a certain age and everyday life is like an albatross around your neck. Travel is like alcohol, making life better under the influence. Survival demands we travel. Travel is my heroin. Airports, a crack pipe to the addict, a temple for the weary.

Does travel make you more interesting , or is life more interesting because you travel?” I framed that question as an intentional paradox. Is it order or disorder which causes a person to walk away from everything and seek the oblivion of travel?  Don’t we always say, “We’ll leave it all behind“? Select cultures and religions meditate into the void for various reasons of necessary solitude. Poverty is a common thread. Why westerners seek to experience the poverty of others is another topic.

The Third World is clustered with Houses of the Holy rooted in longstanding communities. Westerners are rootless and mobile, and so find temples spiritually attractive. Less affluent people of impoverished countries seek temple denizens for answers and solace, affluent westerners build airports and seek out the nontrinitarian wisdom of on-line travel agencies. Travel is a rich people thing. Air B&B a quasi-religion. Heaven is first class. Hell is a middle seat in economy.

I’m one of the worst examples. I own a home, in a rich and peaceful country. I don’t live there, it’s full of stuff. It’s used as a family pied a terre for temporary visits,  sometimes years apart. I just paid another annual property tax bill for services I never use. It’s a very nice home, I choose not to live there. I’ve been infected by the travel bug. It’s in my bones. My country bores me to death. My house is a time capsule buried under a mountain of memories.

My wife/life partner/soul mate and I are on vacation. That’s what we say when we fill out forms. That’s an over simplification and ridiculous fabrication. The vacation we’re on stretches over a decade, never ending. Am I a traveler or an ex-patriot internet navigator? Is this travel or hybrid undefined lifestyle? The country I currently live in treats me like a guest. They make it abundantly clear that we have a short term relationship, at best. Am I homeless? This is a “first world problem“. What do we call this state of flux ? “Affluenza?

I don’t consider myself a ‘digital nomad’…they congregate. Sweaty children making advance reservations to work in organized rooms is not my idea of travel. I started traveling to get away from the ugliness of order. I avoid organized travel like the plague. No cruise ships or bus tours for me. I’m not structured that way. Instead, my travel partner is an accomplished bakery scientist. She creates what drives me to run because I’m insatiable. I write Free Verse poetry because I’m a disorganized mind and rarely think of words that rhyme. This is how we escape order in an overly organized world. Vita Brevis Est.

 

Escape from order:

Stop reading, start listening, keep moving

Risk garbage falling into the deepest recess of your soul

Disappointing, angelic

I punched my ticket long ago

So, who the fuck are you…really?

My mind runs free

If I get any crazier they’ll nail me to a tree

A nontrinitarian Tau Cross preferably

I eat terrifying memories

The die is cast

I might live forever, but I have doubts

I wrote about Nephalim

Brought them back to life

They’d been forgotten

By all but a few

Little Richard died today

He was like a taxi dancer to my generation

loved and reviled

I died in 1969 when

I met someone

She walked the street, a paid attraction

She read my mind

One of many spirits speaking through my eyes at the time

Suicide was never an option, so I saved her

That jagged edge we walked

When you can’t stand your own mind

Love dreams, dead words

Stolen treasure, ashes in your hand

Escaping energy and light

 

 

 

Rockabilly Ramble

Posted: May 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

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I heard stories about you

None of them good

That turned me on

The way you danced backstage

Blew my top

You hide yourself at great expense

 

They said you had a cabin in the wood

I heard you always dressed in black leather

I long to feel what love can bring

I’m a junkie for that adrenaline shot

Can I take you at your word

 

Rockets burn, this photograph

My heart runs wild

Love has been forgotten by all but a few

It’s been a hell on earth for me

Waiting to meet someone like you

 

 

Element and Fiction

Posted: May 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

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I’m not a lonely man, I prefer to be alone

I wear a straight-jacket under my clothes

To protect me from myself

I fete a priest with style but reject the House of God

Negligible man, elemental fiction

Brutal fight to the death, a mating dance

Stuff your ears with moonstone dust

Only fools divine the future

 

It must have been the sixties that wrung the life out of me

She looks into empty sockets where eyes used to be

For the briefest moment I’m not myself,  life seems worth living

It brings us to our knees, we shout ‘Hallelujah’

The rain came

War unstoppable

I’m not a lonely man

Elements and fiction

 

I punched my ticket long ago

If I get any crazier, tie me to a tree

I got what I wanted, by then I’d set it free

A dead poet said ” Boy you’d better think twice”

You only have one shot, then they bury you in ice

Elemental fiction

From some forgotten hack

 

I’m not a lonely man

I’ve been down this road before

I’d trade it for forgiveness

Abstinence is dead

Trafficking in souls unwise

I am a complacent prisoner if loneliness prevails

This can never change, it’s in my DNA

 

I scream in my sleep

Ghosts and madness comes my way

I wear an amulet

I’m letting you know

Shoot me before sundown

Chain me to wall in China where such things aren’t forbidden

Bind me with a spell

I’ve worshiped many temple gods, something might have stuck

Who knows what form my manifest madness will arrive

 

I’m not a lonely man

Just prefer to be alone

Compose a requiem

I have memories from 1349

Eidetic recall is a curse

Birth was terrifying, I remember striking back

Elemental

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Far-Forgotten

Posted: May 7, 2020 in Uncategorized
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‘El Rey’

Time flies

Incantatory poets lash out

Rebellious tongues

Unplugged

Flowers , summer

Something stirs

 

Spoken truth to power

Righteous , transitory

Peace, love, sex, children led to slaughter

Freedom lied

Changing everything

A desperate ache to return there

 

Pale rider

Cryptic unknown

Faded denim packed away

The holiday is over

Hope entangled, confused… lost

Inside Pandora’s Box

World spins, carelessly

 

Winter-fall unwelcome

A dusting of snow

Far-forgotten, distant , a signal whistle pipes up, the last breath of homeless air escapes

Staring silent, sullen, clouded

Rear view mirror blurred

Driving, one eye open, barely conscious

Childish flirtation, with death

 

A psalm , a bird in flight, catches your attention

Weep as it passes, a life unlived

A road untraveled

Far-forgotten , guiding compass, pole star shifts, strange vortex

Left behind

Stragglers fly across frozen space

Emptiness altered

Bright stars disappear, tragedy

Others reappear, like magic

 

A dashboard clock spins relentlessly backwards

Destiny unfurled

Lived in reverse, life is understood

Lucid flash bulb clear

Outran a bullet

There’s folly for you

 

A carousel, gaudy colors reflected

Raucous laughter, patio lights twinkle

Trickery,  carnival calliope illusion

Muse abandoned

A time machine

 

Prisoners trumpet the coming of light

Blindingly obvious, though it remains a mystery

Restraint untethered

Buckle loosed, cannon fire and rockets

Unknown promise, distant bounty

Energy spent, lingering regret

 

Resurrection, redemption, rebirth, reanimation

Imagine, more questions

Awakening , expectations

A tiger whip… crack