The faces of children are what adults need to study and remember. Remember it’s what kids think and do that is what life is really about. All the jobs and bills, incompetents and runarounds, all the traffic and murder, poverty and corruption, all the stress and worry and anger and sorrow… nothing is as meaningful, important or beautiful than children playing. Nothing.



I’m in Vietnam reading Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and various blogs by geniuses on the internet. I’m listening to Tool, Pharoahe Monch and PJ Harvey at violently high volume levels. I’m watching David Blaine make me weep and I’ll sometimes even catch a random college football game. It’s far too warm and relaxed here for it to actually be the holidays. Regardless of how many thousands of miles I am from my house and bed, what media I haven’t brought with me I manage to scour and find those American artists that remind me of who I am.

I resolve to never take for granted the diversity, immensity and availability of American art.


With all the lists and countdowns and promises and resolutions, all the wishes for a happy holiday, what’s left? Does wishing a happy new year somehow imply hoping for a better one than this last one?

Kind of like “better luck next go around”?

All I know is that the millions in Saigon think it’s a Prince song and they are lit up every night. I can only imagine what the streets will be like in January for Tet.

I’ll let you know.

State Express 555

There is a delicious brand of English cigarette here in Vietnam called 555. They come in a yellow box and I smoked them for a few months until I stopped about 3 months ago. For many years I’ve had an ongoing affair with cigarettes and the hanging guilt,  late-night tirades and me picking up my belongings up off the front lawn may never end.

Lately as I walk past the many cigarette stands in Saigon I’ve noticed that 555’s now come in a badass black and silver box, as if Darth Vader were in a biker gang going to an Oakland Raiders game to smoke a bunch of cigarettes.

I really want to try these fascinatingly new cigarettes. I ‘m one of those susceptible sheep that once I see some tired product wrapped in new clothes I’m in love all over again.  I think being in a mysterious black box will make these 555’s quite tastier and give me the much needed nicotine and minerals my body needs. Much more than that sissy yellow box ever could.

I have yet to ask for a pack. For all I know the black box could mean “Super-extra-ultra-light cigarettes that increase estrogen levels”  but I’m pretty sure it means “You better buy a bottle of whiskey and a big-ass stick because if you smoke these you’re going to need them both to beat the women off you.”

Instead, what I’ve done is take the money I would be spending on cigarettes (here in Vietnam a pack of 555’s go for about a dollar) and buy vintage cigarette art instead. I’ve saved about $150 so far and once I get home Marlboros will cost about 4 bucks and that’s $120 a month for crazy stuff like this.

Beats chemo.

The Science of Soccer

For one, it’s called football. Where I come from football is actually a throw, catch and run sport where not much kicking happens. But everywhere else in the world the game of “football” is one that brings nations together, in both celebration and property destruction. I will call it football, properly, in this post. The passion that follows this sport is unparalleled, and I’m beginning to find out why.

Football is a sport that truly needs no specific materials to play. Many poor youth across the world play with tin cans or stones, anything can be kicked and anybody can play anywhere, it requires no gear or special places to play. It’s completely accessible to everyone.

It’s a 90-minute match, a grueling ordeal that provides rest only during a 15 minute halftime. It’s one of the toughest sports on the planet, a couple of shin guards, no timeouts, no nothing, just play.

During the two halves of play, there is a constant anticipation and from my experience being an American, I need things to happen right now, I need action within a few minutes or I’m flipping the channel or going for some chilidogs. Football is a low tempo game with brief moments of exhilarating fury, a drawn out fistfight where decisive blows only connect every so often. So when you see your team with the ball towards the opponents’ goal, you’re out of your seat ready to explode. Most of the time it doesn’t happen but when it does, the proper reaction is to erupt into a screaming chant and froth at the mouth.

Americans have no attention span to wait for such moments (which doesn’t explain how baseball is the national pastime), in addition, I’m not so sure Americans wholeheartedly like being part of a competitive community where they don’t have the ability to dominate. In fact, they suck so bad Americans have their own sport of football. Nothing says “We have our own balls” like naming your own sport after a global one.

What brings me to these observations is that I just finished watching a football match on television here in Vietnam. It was a championship game between Thailand and Vietnam where Thailand had led the score for 90% of the game. Every storefront, house, restaurant and cafe had televisions blaring, fans drumming and chanting everytime a Vietnamese player touched the ball, it was the most communal thing I’ve seen here, it’s nearly a religion. Everyone was watching, the streets were dead except for the crowd noise on every block. During the final moments of the match, Vietnam miraculously scored a goal to win the match and as I watched in slack-jawed disbelief, I opened the back door to hear the streets go berserk with people absolutely losing their minds.

After waiting 93 minutes, the home team’s goal is a virtual buzzer beater in a championship match. After all that time of biting nails and hoping to score, it’s no wonder fires are set and riots occur.

It’s been two hours since that goal but the streets here are a parade of screaming people banging drums & garbage can lids, motorbikes racing up and down the streets waving flags, cars honking in procession, it’s complete bedlam.

This is why I love sports. Because it’s kind of like war but with more revelry and fun and less dead people. Some people don’t like sports because it breeds competition and anger and rage (warlike qualities), and all I have to say is…nothing. I’d score a goal on their face, take off my shirt, twirl it around in the air while chanting and dancing a circle around their body.

Post Christmas Partum

Oooh, all that anticipation, seeing all those gifts under the tree sometimes for weeks at a time, juggling all the shopping, cooking, driving, list making, budgeting schedules and money, standing in long lines, swallowing the stress all the while remembering to deliver some laughter where it counts.

Battalions of kids storming doorways and yards, shaking hands with in-laws and hugging everyone else, you get it all during the holidays. Then in a giant yuletide climax replete with singing songs and drinking copious amounts of nog, it’s done. In a flash it’s all finished, nothing left but living room shrapnel and the work week looming.

We should all have to do the month after Christmas, it would be nice to have a few weeks to just relax after that last snifter of cognac is sipped, and the last relative has returned home, it would be nice to rest the ol’ perineum after all that preparation, work, and admittedly, fun.