Sunday, January 06, 2008


Saigon's supposed Backpacker's District is about ten blocks slightly south-southwest of our apartment. This "district" is really just a large city block interlaced with humid back alleys specifically catering to budget travelers. Here, the map is dotted with economical hotels, all-night bars, cheap food. The sidewalks are crammed with the private enterprise one might expect to find focused were the city has conveniently lined it's naïve young backpackers up like carnival ducks guarding secret wallets fat with traveler's checks. This area of District One isn't too seedy, but it's the seediest area of Saigon: an ingrown bordertown where east meets west, or, by WTO economic jargon, where north meets south.1 That's the extended introduction. Tonight we visited the northeast corner of the Backpacker District to watch the Livingston father-and-son duo play Seventeen Saloon. They played well, were very game. The Saloon is the sort of hoot one might expect to find in this area: a country western tavern of rough-hewn logs like a beaver lodge fortified against Apache attacks. Inside, waitresses in short-shorts and cowboy boots outnumber patrons. They carry bar menus in low-slung holsters. We never saw one of these, since the owner ferried us directly to a cluster of tall tables pushed together inches from the narrow stage, where each of us had a personal cowgirl waiting with Johnny Walker Gold refills. Onstage, the trap was segregated in a clear acrylic booth, still sporting the KISS endorsement on its bass head. The band was impressed: this looked like the sort of place you might find on Sixth Street back home in Austin; but to me it was kitsch just east of Frontierland, USA: who ever saw a colorful plate of tropical bar fruit in a honky-tonk dive?2 The Filipino cover combo up next was great, too. [Cavin]

Then, a 1 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

* Really, I couldn't name half of the fruits on this plate. Especially mysterious were the little pumpkin-shaped plum-colored grape-sized rather meaty-textured things with four large seed sections. We also were gifted with excellent French fries (served with the typical Ho Chi Minh City monkey dish half-filled with catsup and half-filled with orange hot sauce) and floppy leather Seventeen Saloon braided-welt cowboy hats with Aussie-style snap-up brims. My cowgirl looked an awful lot like Bai Ling,* and wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to the booze. This meant that we had two bottomless drinks each, since the Livingston father-and-son duo abstain. Ah, to be young and diplomatic....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 2:25:00 AM  

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