Life and Love in Time of War

Black-pajama buzzard ladies line the Hanoi pavement perched on their haunches, chewing their betel nuts, grinning like Cheshire cats under their cone-shaped mushroom caps proving McKenna’s theory that we evolved from a psilo-cybernetic visitor from outer space. The men have their own perches on other branches, sucking on the business end of a water pipe loaded to the gills with long stringy shreds of tobacco. If Asians sometimes don’t even seem human, be assured the feeling is mutual. Somewhere across town foreigners light up ganja in a sidewalk café for the same reason that a dog licks its balls. The lady selling cigarettes in Saigon sells those left-handed ones by special request, just like she did back in the Tet offensive. I imagine those practices are being phased out by now as Vietnam re-enters the real world. Not so Cambodia. Cambodia specializes in filling those little gaps that others leave unattended. The girl in Siam Riep gave me her holiday photo as though we were first loves sharing the only little bits of ourselves that were available for public consumption. She was right. I never saw her again. Many a Thai man who’d kill another Thai man for looking at his girl would readily offer her up for an hour to a Farang to bounce off of as if the Farang weren’t really human so didn’t count. It’s just phone sex with a vibrator attached. Sometimes love seems no more than the relationship between that lump in your back pocket with that lump in the front, notwithstanding exotic currencies, floating exchange rates and general arbitrage of the soul.

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