Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Sunshine left town near the end of her regular workday, yesterday. Now she’s in Hà Nội for something or another. I was invited along, but I've been traveling nearly every two weeks since returning from the states at the end of May. Plus, it's hot in Hà Nội this time of year. Yesterday I met her after work and we ate a bon voyage dinner at Au Parc. On the way to meet her, I encountered a guy acting inappropriately. I make these little judgments frequently, to my shame. But I often see tourists in tiny shorts or old men macking on young Việt girls; it becomes second nature. This guy was different, more like a subway loony than a thoughtless twentysomething backpacker or dirty geezer. He was dressed in the pressed uniform of the imperial orientalist--khaki trousers and professorial tweed jacket, shoulder strap, pith helmet--and he minced down the street with a self-conscious gait characteristic of someone looking to divert the same attention his costume was drawing. If this was Hollywood, and nineteen thirty-eight, he might have had a stable of fez-wearing coolies carrying his steamer truck behind him. I can't imagine how he could stand the heat here. Not dressed like that. But he also wore a serene little smile through the tropical sheen of his plumb and swollen face. Obviously, my attention was already on this guy before I noticed what he was doing: as scooters passed him on the sidewalk, he'd make like he was swatting them--or barring their passage--with his rolled red umbrella. Everyone veering by was smiling, but I wonder if subway loonies know the Vietnamese smile nervously when they're embarrassed? Come to think of it, those shorts-wearing backpackers and macking geezers might not know about this, either. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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