Saigon isn’t a pretty city. Most of it, I guess, is downright ugly.
Somehow, when you can’t take it any more, these heartbreakingly beautiful crevices—these perfect little shafts of color and quiet that stick in you brain like a brilliantly written song—appear out of nowhere and make you feel so good.
Some nights in this town it feels like we’re all just camping out in a broken down shell of a building with nothing between us and our second round of dengue fever but a pink mosquito net, a hot breeze and a little luck.
Ken’s place (or Ken’s wives’ place) now has a 17-year old waitress from Tien Giang Province (AKA the sticks).
When I first met her, she described her stint in the city as some kind of inverted fresh air fund vacation.
She seemed to be learning a lot.
I’d snuck out of the house to buy two cold Saigon Specials at midnight and upset an old drunk who wanted me to sit down and spend the rest of my life drinking beer with him and sounding out English vowels.
After getting my Specials, he said: “America and China are the same.”
It was probably nonsense (he also asked me if I was from Mỹ Tho), but it felt like a real nationalist purple-nurple—a precision slap right on the prettiest cheek of my inner cracker as a Rastafarian strip club bouncer once called it.
I wanted to go back and tell him: “Oh yeah? If that’s the case, then Vietnam and Cambodia are the same thing.”
By the time I got the locks off the door, I’d thought of a few other things that would have hurt a lot of people’s feelings for no reason.
Then I had to laugh. We are exactly the fuckin’ same.