Urban Tiger

Hanoi is not my cup of tea, so I’ve stopped at Kebab Haus 1-2-3 in order to have one and reconsider. “One” being something caffeinated, not a kebab. I’ve never understood the allure of stackable stick food.

Ok. Positive thoughts, Carrie, go:

-managed a thirty minute walk with minimal bleeding

-chickens on the roof!

-no danger of being the kind of obnoxious I thought I’d be, though no promises on all the other kinds…

I’m currently perched on a backless stool eight or so inches from the ground. My bag is in my lap because the safe in my hotel doesn’t work, so I’m protecting my most passporty possessions by folding over them geometrically while eying strangers and mentally menacingly practicing the snarl.

Can you picture this? Can you visualize my splayed and crooked posturing? In the words of some of my fellows, “bugger off, mate.”

Right, I have escaped from the streets of Hanoi, which, you know what? I thought I liked cities, but it turns out that was a really naive thing to say. Cities, like people, have complex personalities. When I meet people, they’re generally either showing me their good sides or the ones they’ve decided are compatible with mine.

Cities, outside of tour guides, do no such thing. It’s just, “here’s my mess! Deal or leave.”

And hey, these streets are a teeming mess. I’m sure there’s a figurative handbook of unwritten rules of the road, but I sure as hell haven’t seen it. Like in Manila, where I walked a mile just to cross the street without getting arrested, every step seems fraught with fear and fissures, messes and motorbikes. Do you see how many directions in which vehicles are pointed in this photo? They’re all at full speed through unlabeled intersections. And I was too scared to take a picture when it was typical- meaning three times more traffic with constantly undulating centers of gravity- because all the sidewalks are full of bikes and plastic hair accessories and you just can’t walk there.

No way would a Bronco barrel through here; it just hasn’t got the maneuverability. OJ would’ve been caught in seconds. Either that, or heeled and helmetless Vietnamese riders would be plastered to his windshield like flies.

It is now noon-oh-one, I haven’t had a drink in a week, and a beer is on its way- a world acclaimed Tiger, since 1932. I only drink beer in Asia, so it is repulsive. I will stay here and nurture this and others, though, and listen to the similarly low-slung Australians charmingly-accentedly swear about their night until I swill together some exploratory zippity-zip.

Or I just go back to my room. I do have HBO and I’m sure Harrison Ford is saving somebody in peril three or four times today.

Oh! That reminds me.

For weeks before I got here, I thought I was going to have deep psychological problems trying not to be a Robin Williams character all the time. I thought I’d have to choke myself back from joyously belting a “goooood morning!” to the country each day upon awakening. That’s the kind of obnoxious I’ve avoided, though. The planned salutation has been replaced with an anxious perusal for plague-like symptoms and a defeated exhalation upon finding them.

No more, though. (Positive thoughts,
Carrie, positive thoughts…) All but the most superficial signs are gone, as of this a.m. I am physically prepared to see some sights now, so let’s do this!

Let’s go see a war memorial! Let’s weave our way to a lake or something, and look at it! Let’s find out more ways the US government did horrific things to people, and then let’s wonder why they even let us in the country!

I was feeling pretty good about the gov’t after that last post, but after more Bataan research I found out that it was military arrogance and shortsightedness that put the soldiers in the Philippines in such a precarious position in the first place. Plus, the Japanese hadn’t been at all imperialistic until the US went in there with guns to their katana, forcing them to open their borders and devastating their fragile national pride. Not condoning either side’s actions, but Christ and Amaterasu, can we just follow Rodney King’s mantra? I’d like to go to a country and just, like, gaze wonderingly on some nature instead of being ravaged by ancestral guilt.

Meh. Curses to urban, I suppose I’ll sub that with a Tiger instead.


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