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  • hardie karges 12:13 pm on December 31, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Long Dark Night 

    The categorical imperative is to create meaning in a world that doesn’t necessarily have any. If that requires a god or two, then so be it, the more the merrier. So I create new gods to offer myself up to in order that they might save my mortal soul. At least I did that night in Hanoi. The old quarter of Hanoi is pretty intense, or it least it was. It’s a classic shop-house district traditionally divided into streets devoted to a particular craft. The bottom level is the showroom, upper level are workrooms, then living quarters, going four or five stories up. This is the pattern now all over northern Vietnam, even in villages. It allows more efficient use of land in a country of some eighty-ninety million, a third more than Thailand, in a land area a third less then Thailand. It’s no wonder that people see under-populated and loyal disciple Laos as an escape valve. Anyway, the old quarter of Hanoi is dense, and of course, the old systems break down as backpackers move in to prepare the fields for the real tourists to come later. Many buildings are now ‘mini-hotels’.

    I get claustrophobic sometimes. Out of the window in my room I could probably have shook the hand of somebody across the street if there had been somebody there. Earlier that day I’d eaten local food in a local market, always a risky venture anywhere, but probably especially in 1996 Hanoi. Later I’d drunk some local hooch with some of the homies out on the street taking tobacco bong hits. Bad idea. To top it all off, my bed had bugs. I think. This is not the thing for a sensitive guy. I’ve got insomnia even on a good day, but that was easily the longest night of my life. I really did not expect to see the morning. My skin was crawling, my insides were crawling; my brain was crawling; the streets were crawling. Or at least that’s what it felt like. I just knew I’d die right there alone in some God-forsaken room in some God-forsaken hotel in some God-forsaken corner of the universe, unable to even get out of my bed and call for help. In reality I just had a minor case of Ho Chi Minh’s revenge and probably some bed bugs, though I never saw any. I moved to a different hotel the next day and everything was fine. But I made some promises to some gods that I’ve struggled to keep. I even created some new ones that I’d never worked with before. They’ll be around for awhile. That’s what guilt trips are for.

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  • hardie karges 4:20 pm on December 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Love in War Time 

    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. Somewhere across town foreigners light up ganja in a sidewalk café for the same reason that a dog licks itself. 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. If Asians sometimes don’t even seem human, be assured the feeling is mutual. 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.

     
  • hardie karges 2:08 pm on December 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    The Love Market 

    The Vietnamese can’t believe that tourists go to Sapa to view the incredible hill-tribes, insisting it’s the French alpine atmosphere that draws them. Maybe it’s a poor man’s Switzerland, but certainly no more than that. The hill tribes are another story. The little Hmong girls have been photographed and appeared on book-covers many times and could speak better English than a Thai bar girl by the age of six just by being copycats and hungry, Pidgin by parrot-chat. The Dzao women are from outer space, heads half shaved and wearing outfits resembling the British Redcoats of three centuries back. Rumor has it they’d get frisky with their male counterparts during the long weekend market. It’s true. They’d sing songs antiphonally, and then just wander off, I guess.

    I was propositioned at least three times by various members of the group of varying ages, all wanting nothing more than my temporary membership in their apparently frequent openings. I think their guys smoke too much opium. Of course the young girl I fantasized about wasn’t available. Photographers followed us on our only date, to eat Vietnamese noodle soup. I wonder what it’s like now. They’d started to refurbish the French colonial atmosphere that got badly smudged by the Chinese invasion of 1979. China intended to teach Vietnam a lesson for invading Cambodia and putting an end to the Pol Pot terror. They lost almost 20,000 troops in two weeks before withdrawing. A Chinese friend insists Vietnam begged China to leave. Right. Countries do that all the time. Just ask Slobodan.

     
  • hardie karges 5:50 pm on December 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Vietnam 

    Vietnam is the girdle holding in China’s pregnant belly, hanging out over the ocean, threatening to dump billions more upon us, DNA in a raincoat and rubbers and carrying a suitcase filled with samples of trinkets and useless gadgets. China is the most conservative country in the world, convinced of its superiority, entrenched in its own mythology. They rule from inside, allegiance to the past, allegiance to the memories, racist ideology in the guise of ancestor worship. There’s the Middle Kingdom and then there’s everything else. Asia is the most racist region in the world and it all started in the Middle, part of the face-saving mentality in which every human interaction assumes an upper-lower relationship, a caste system of the soul. Japan’s superiority complex is legendary, but Thailand is certainly no different. All these cultures share Chinese cultural roots.

    You could probably measure a country’s racism by the number of slang words it contains for persons of other races, but that might leave out Vietnam. Maybe that’s because Vietnam’s persecution complex masks its superiority complex. It’s certainly not exempt from racism. When the Vietnamese teenager up in Sapa winked at me and proceeded to run his motorbike up against a group of hill-tribe ladies I was hanging and chatting with, I felt the anger rise up through the ground and take my fists and start wailing on the poor guy oblivious. I still can’t believe he expected to impress me by being an asshole, like Kris Kristofferson in Lone Star winking in flashback before proceeding to shoot his poor victim, the event forestalled only because he himself was shot and killed instead. Fortunately the Viet guy’s engine was already running so he was able to get away with only minor damage to his ego.

     
  • hardie karges 7:38 pm on December 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Rivers Meander 

    Tibet waters Asia. From its 20,000 foot plateau flow the headwaters of the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Huang Ho. The headwaters of the Indus and Brahmaputra almost meet, almost making of India an island reminiscent of its former history as a transient sub-continent looking for a home plate to slide into. The upper waters of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze run almost parallel for 250 miles, only fifteen to thirty miles apart as the crow flies. Those three empty into the Andaman, South China, and East China Seas, not far from the cities of Rangoon, Saigon, and Shanghai, a distance of over 2000 miles on that same crow’s odometer. It would be much farther than that by boat, and an immeasurable distance by yardstick. How long is your coastline? That depends; how short is your ruler? Napoleon’s ears prick up and Zeno’s paradox takes over, and you never really get there, because the halfway points are infinite. I’ll take wise old crow; he cuts to the chase.

     
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