Two Wheels Is All Anyone Needs

While spending some time in Central Vietnam, I decided to do a little motorbiking. Riding around a large city can be ludicrous and emotionally taxing but when in a smaller town it’s great to find a street and hit it just to see where it goes.

Down and up winding roads through the woods and into valleys where the only noise is the bike’s motor and the bugs in the trees.

There are beautiful hillside farms where people stand on each terrace watering their rows and the sky above is as big as the mountains they cultivate.

A truck sat toppled headfirst off the road in a ditch as caravans of mammoth tour buses taking up the whole oncoming road at every turn slowly crawled past negotiating the limited roadspace.

Once out in the hills the ledges and valleys became scenic distractions and as I took a few turns in the middle of nowhere I kept thinking that the town I just left might be just over the next ridge or around the next bend. No roads out here were straight so I never knew exactly what direction I was riding in relation to where my bags, my bed and hotel was.

The heavily forested roads were green, lush, and stunningly deep for not being more than 30 minutes from town. Though the corners riding1and hills were twisted and confusing, the random riding in a strange and unfamiliar country makes the uncertainty all the more fun.

The clouds grew from tufts of white cotton into walls of solid blackness sheathing the ground from any sort of friendly light. Getting back to town was a race against the rain but the downpour was sudden and intense and in about 5 minutes from the first drop I was completely soaked, pulling the brim of my helmet closer down above my eyes so I could glimpse enough of the road as to not ride off it.

It was the only time in nearly a year in Asia where I was actually cold. Wet and chattery, I zipped back down the hills, leaning through the curves and squinting through the rain, I passed two downed motorbikes and a small crowd of traffic slowly going by to ogle. What I remember most was the lone flip-flop that laid haphazard in the middle of the street next to one of the bikes. I thought about the truck in the ditch from earlier and realized it was going too fast to manage the corners of the hills and I wondered how fast these poor motorbikes were going when they slipped in the rain. Wondered if it was as fast as I was going that particular moment.

Finally found my way home after fighting through the downpour and waddled my stiff and soaked body up to my fourth floor room where, while drying off, I noticed outside that the sun had come out and all the wet streets were steaming off the sunshine.

Figures.

Advertisements

Bandana On A Stick

Sidecars, boxcars, cocktails and bones
Lights and lighters and smoke and chrome
How far you’ve come from living at home.
Escaping to Vegas on a Honda on loan
To be a croupier or gambler
But instead hawking cologne
At the airport or two-star resort
Where salary’s paid in tokens
Or minutes for your phone.

You’re chasing down your dreams
Which is more than most ever do
And you’re changing up your scene
Which most almost never do
Which means you’ve already succeeded
In doing things you’ve needed
To live a different life
From those you loved and knew.

Good Service Is Scarce

A swift and precise doctor or an attentive and patient friend. A partner in crime or a secret lover, a priest and mad scientist, wizard of servitude and agreeable pal all rolled into one. To tend a bar is to assume many an identity.

Let’s get one thing straight: I love Vietnam. From top to bottom I love almost everything about it.

I went to China and visited Hong Kong a couple years ago and it’s a European-influenced metropolis and also has service that is nearly second to none. By service I mean customer service and by customer service I mean the treatment found in restaurants and bars. By Western standards HK had exceptional service just about everywhere.

VN on the other hand…

Saigon and Hanoi are Vietnamese cities that have plenty of upscale hotels and restaurants that have impeccable service but many establishments in these cities that command high prices and have top-notch ambiance are in desperate need of decent service for it’s clientele.

I believe it’s just cultural ignorance unlike when I’m in the US where there is little excuse for their pandemic of poor restaurant service.

I will be starting a consulting firm that will cater to the staff of up and coming bars and restaurants in Vietnam and we’ll have this nipped in the bud.

Last thing Southeast Asia needs is a bunch of overeducated, smarmy, snot-nosed, pretentiously bitter and angry servers and bartenders who only pay attention to their equally obnoxious, self-righteous friends or the closest gorge of cleavage.

There are far too many who don’t respect or bother to understand the noble profession of serving an adult beverage.

I have quite the task ahead of me, to change the mindset of lazy beer pourers and snarky cocktail shakers. Luckily I’ve got the support of whoever is reading this. I thank you in advance.

Morals Of A Porn Store Thief

Ever been accused of something you didn’t do? What about a crime? It’s a very humbling and unique experience, one of those things no one understands unless it happens to them. Other items in this category include having a chronically ill child, constantly being judged on your color or gender, and those returning home from military service and being denied health benefits by the government.

I don’t have a sick baby, look like a Caucasian male, and I’ve never been to war. But I have been accused of a crime I didn’t commit.

I used to work in antiques and one day when I was standing outside a salvation army smoking a cigarette a policeman drove up and asked if I could come with him to answer some questions.

Continue Here

Smells Like Victory

I’m from Ory-Gone, USA where the air is crisp and clean, like a mouth full of 7-Up.

I’m living in Ho Chi Minh City, where the air sometimes has a texture, a color and at times, even rents an apartment downtown. Though I know this isn’t indicative of every Vietnamese city but after chewing on the smog here and the more I stroll the fine streets of beautiful Saigon, the more I notice how much it stinks here. The friendliness and the communal feel from everyone makes me forget there’s 8 million other people here and anywhere you have those numbers you’ll have some stank. I don’t care where you live, if it has over 5 million people, then your city has some stink.

In Saigon there are three families of emanating offenses which include:

Organic Garbage.
These invisible, ripe clouds either well up from the warm storm drains or lurk in these large, rolling refuse carts that are pushed and filled by sanitation workers throughout the day. There are countless outdoor markets where fresh produce and meats are sold, bought, and entrails discarded atop spoiled fruit. It’s a treacherous, sickly sweet smell, one of a festering, familiar, natural quality.

Traffic Exhaust.
Literally, millions of motorbikes and motorcycles stopped, going, going some more, when I’m at a light sitting behind them sometimes I can feel the puffs from their exhaust pipes blowing hydrocarbons onto my face. Ever go to the eye doctor and they blow the little puff of air into your eye? It’s just like that except it smells like burnt 90 octane. I’m unsure if the DEQ isn’t run by a gentleman who tears into work on an old two stroke Piaggio blowing blue smoke the whole way or not.

Construction Chemicals.
There isn’t a moment while walking around town when one of these olfactory amimals isn’t pouncing you like a leopard from a tree. There is a tremendous amount of building and renovating taking place in Saigon (and all of Vietnam) right now so with big new buildings comes big new stinks. Paint, adhesives, strippers, thinners, sealers, cleaners, the soft, candyish smell of lubricants like WD-40 and the vaporous, sharp sinus burn of some insane industrial solvent. Just take a casual stroll in any direction far enough and the wonderful wide world of smells will open up to you.

It’s a game, comparing smells, imagining them having a wrestling match and which would win, or sometimes I pretend they’re fine wines and I’ll break them down and give them pretentious descriptions like a heaping garbage cart would be “Assertive and robust with an earthy finish,” or if I pass a fresh lacquer paint job I’ll mumble, “Mmm, a bitey bouquet yet velvety and unassuming”. If I’m caught in a mass of motorbike fumes going two miles an hour, I’ll say “Ahh, the unfiltered romance of supple and complex vapors!” Makes the stink more fun because it’s easy for my soft self to feel abused by the odors of a big city.

What must be mentioned is that there are many good smells, too, the technical distinction between an odor and an aroma.

My personal favorite smell is street food, meat on small charcoal grills, warm baked breads, fresh cut fruits from a corner stand, some of the best smelling food is how new places to eat are discovered. Coffee can also be enjoyed by aroma while walking, it’s strong roasty smell is easy to identify and follow into various cafes or streetside spots. Barbecues are hugely common and the smoke and spices of succulent pork chops, boiling crab or stir fried vegetables neutralize anything malodorous that you may have found along the way. Sometimes the street will fill with the mouth-watering tastes of Vietnam’s diversely delicious cuisine, when half a dozen restaurants all cook outside at once, chemicals in your brain will force you to stop and taste something. You just can’t help it.

So for every stinky smell in Saigon there is something wonderful right around the corner. Or maybe up the street a little ways. Further. Keep going. A little more. Ok, there it is. Yum.

OK Corral 2009

I used to have a beautiful Remington 12 gauge pump and though I (regretfully) got rid of it, I’m beginning to think that maybe some types of firearms in the hands of Americans might not be the most capital of ideas.

There are far too many people shooting each other in the streets, at the office, schoolrooms and playgrounds. Murder after murder, crazy people, sane people, angry, sad, money, no money, if you’re American, have two fingers and a beef, you too can go on a random killing spree because you’re mopey for your girlfriend. Or maybe there’s bullies during recess or you’re upset at your job or how your stocks just plummeted, or maybe you don’t even need a reason and the world just owes you.

Canada has more public firearms per capita than the US but a fraction of the annual killings. What am I missing? What are we as a nation not understanding? Besides fending off bears and wolves, I just don’t get it.

If Japan had the same population as the US they would record about 80 gun murders a year compared to 11,000 in America. In the richest land of liberty, freedom, democracy and golden opportunities on earth, we’re shooting each other just because. Eleven thousand different times a year.

Presently I’m staying in a land of strict gun control and for the first time in my life I’m considering its benefits.

Since I don’t belong to a junta or a paramilitary organization back home, I’m not sure if I need an AR-15 or an 18 round SIG Sauer laying around the house. I can understand using guns when living in a country where revolutions are a way of life or if rampant poverty means having a pistol means you eat, but people who live in America don’t need guns, they just happen to want them. Poverty is a large part of why violent crime is prevalent in America but I’m really starting to believe that we don’t need thousands of guns to prove that we’re not a dictatorship.

While certain class structures dictate lives where firearms are as common as keychains, Americans have no business owning handguns. They don’t know how to handle the responsibility which means the toys should be taken away from the children. If they can’t get along with them, we’ll just put them away until they learn how to behave with one another.

It’s one thing to hunt animals but far too many murders are facilitated by weapons that hunt people.

So if I’m attacked by ducks or pheasants, better believe I’ll rue ever parting with my shotgun.