"All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal." -Fran Lebowitz

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


So far on this trip (knocks wood), there have only been two moments where I thought I was amidst legitimate danger. One of those moments was in Hong Kong. I blame Couchsurfing.*

*Not really.

To date, I haven’t used Couchsurfing for accommodations, to actually surf a couch (this may change when I return to the States and find myself homeless). But Couchsurfing isn’t only a website where hosts and guests can arrange a place to stay, but also a place on the Internet where people who are strangers in a particular city can arrange to meet and just hang out. It’s a valuable resource for those of us traveling alone, allowing us to meet like-minded souls and break the solitude every once in a while. You meet “friends” at a bar, attend a comedy night, have dinner, and such…

I thought I’d give it a try. Before traveling to Hong Kong, I decided to see if there was anybody posting on the site who was interested in meeting up and doing something during my time there. There were plenty of people; in fact, my host in the city by sheer coincidence was attending a Couchsurfing event at a bar the night. He asked me to tag along, and I had a wonderful time. I chatted with a woman who would later show me the Umbrella Revolution, and I met several people who were interested in taking a hike on the Tai Tam Country Trail the next day. Would I like to join them?

Sounded fun, I said. Sign me up.

The next morning at 11am I met a group of both travelers and locals at the Shau Kei Wan subway stop. There were seven of us: two local men, a woman from Malaysia (who had to catch a plane at 6pm), a Chinese woman, a Polish woman and a Ukrainian woman, both working in mainland China, and me, the elder statesman American (Couchsurfing does seem to be a domain of the twenty-somethings). A jovial group, we first bought water and supplies at a 7-11, where I was gently mocked for buying a large, liter bottle, then took pictures in an urban village, and finally made our way into the Tai Tam Park. Walking past the entrance and up a pretty steep path, we finally stopped at a set of brown, concrete steps that led into a thicket of trees, up the hill.

This was the beginning of the trail. But there was no way to tell where it led, or how far. My mind flashed, as it often does, on GHOSTBUSTERS:



DR. STANTZ: Hey! Which way do these stairs go?
DR. VENKMAN (Bill Murray): (looking) They go up.

One of the Hong Kong men, our nominal leader, pointed at the steps. “Shall we start?” he asked. He was chomping at the bit.

“How long is the trail?” I asked.

He thought for a moment, calculating. “Five hundred meters?” he said.

I looked at the group. While most of the group already seemed impatient that we hadn’t taken off up the hill already, the Malaysian and Chinese woman were already out of breath, the Malaysian with her hands on her knees. They had struggled even with the path from the park’s entrance. I didn’t give a shit how long the trail was; I'd walked every day on this trip. Half of the sights I had seen in eight countries seemed to be at the top of an endless staircase. I had been walking around the continents of Australia and Asia for what seemed like three straight months already. But it seemed like full disclosure was needed for everyone before they signed on. “How long do you think it’ll take?”

More thinking, more calculating. “An hour?”

“Okay,” I said.

“So,” the Ukrainian woman said, impatient, shaking her knees at the bottom-most step, “we’re going, right?” The others made jokes about weak stamina, asking me if I was too old to make it. 

But again, I wasn’t worried about me. Not to be Mister Chivalry, but I wasn’t interested in going on a hike which ended up with a woman in a hospital. I looked at the Malaysian woman, and tilted my chin, silently asking her if she was up for this. She was breathing heavily, she was sweating already, but she was nodding. “Okay,” I said.

And off we went.

And maybe the concept of both time and distance are different in Hong Kong than they are in, say, REALITY, but our “leader’s” sense of both five hundred meters and an hour was, to be charitable, inaccurate. Checking the “Enjoy HK Hiking” website just now, I find that “500 meters” is actually 5.2 kilometers, and “an hour” is 2.5 hours, which I’m guessing is for a dude hiking by himself before his restful three-day weekend ends and he rejoins the rest of the fucking Avengers.

Because it took our group over two hours to reach the midpoint of the hike, and that was a rough two hours. Imagine walking a stair master for two hours. Now imagine walking that stair master in a gym where the heat is turned up to ninety degrees and the sun is blasting on your face and neck. Now imagine walking that stair master with a Ukrainian woman chattering in your ear the entire time. Now imagine walking that stair master in that heat where every ten minutes or so, you think you’re getting to the end only to have the stair master reveal a thousand more steps. This was not a hill, it was a mountain, a mountain with several false endings. This mountain had more false endings than the first LORD OF THE RINGS movie. I don’t know how many false endings the other RINGS movies had; I didn’t bother to see those. Every time I thought we were reaching the peak, where at least the incline would level off, another peak would rise in front of me. It was like the opening credits of THE SIMPSONS, where the city of Springfield just keeps unfolding and unfolding. The steps rising into this mountain threatened never to end.

An hour into the hike, the group had kinda broken apart, walking in clumps of two a few hundred feet apart. Most of the group had ceased joking about stamina (which was fading for all of us) and ceased joking about my water (which was gone, the empty bottle and the lack of garbage cans across the entire continent of Asia mocking me) and begun joking about helicopters. Helicopters, as in the emergency helicopters that were sometimes called to fly to the mountain, swoop in and rescue people. There were phone booths along the trail - about as many booths as garbage cans - and you were instructed to call if you would be unable to get down off the mountain. The other members of the group found this hilarious.

“You think she’ll need the helicopter?”

“Listen, you hear that? Is that the helicopter?”

“Ha ha ha!”

“You don’t wanna call for the helicopter too early. Remember, it’ll cost you money.”

Apparently if you call the helicopter you’re required to reimburse the city.  Good to know, I thought. Goodness knows when contemplating whether or not to save your own life you should consider budget. Looking at the Malaysian woman, I didn’t find any of this funny. I was struggling. She was struggling too, really struggling now. Thin, unmuscled, clearly sunburned, she had to stop virtually every ten steps, hands on knees, mumbling weary, sarcastic comments before hitching up her backpack and moving on. She didn’t have any water. She looked like she was going to faint any second. I kept waiting for her to fall to her knees, but she seemed to steel herself during each pause before moving on. People in the group took informal turns going back and waiting with her, and the rest of us took breaks, but as we climbed the mountain, the breaks became shorter and more impatient. The others wanted to keep moving. It’s not like we were bound by something beyond the Internet. We had all met each other through a website; we weren’t friends or anything. This woman was intruding on everyone's enjoyment.

At one point, someone commented, “If she couldn’t make it, she shouldn’t have joined us,” which caused my annoyance to burst through my politeness. “She had no idea how far it was,” I said. “It was completely underestimated for her.” I looked at our leader. He shrugged. “This is not safe.” I kept repeating, “It’s not safe,” as if trying to make sure everyone knew my complaint was not self-serving, which felt shameful enough. I walked away from the group and waited for her, pointedly looking away. This had the effect of making me seem like a grumpy asshole, but at this point, I didn’t give a shit. I would’ve been concerned had I known her. Having no clue as to what she could take terrified me.

Besides, I AM a grumpy asshole.

Finally - finally! - we all saw the radio tower that represented the peak of the mountain. We were going to make it. Everyone, including the Malaysian, picked up the pace and we got to the top. It felt like a true accomplishment, and as we took pictures of the gorgeous Hong Kong skyline and Victorian Harbour, looked out at Kowloon and the New Territories - holy shit was the view incredible - ate our snacks (and the rest of the group polished off their own waters), and rested, I convinced myself I had been too over analytical once again, too concerned about something that was too unlikely to occur. Lighten up, I told myself. Even the Malaysian woman seemed buoyed by the peak. She smiled at me. She took pictures, had others take pictures of her. It WAS an accomplishment. We had climbed a big, fucking hill. And going back down would be easier. It would all be downhill from here. All downhill from here. It’s an expression, for Chrissakes.

We were ready to go. “Back down should be easier,” I said, starting to reverse our steps.

The leader pointed the other way. “Down is the other way,” he said.

Oh. I looked in the direction of his finger. He was right. The path continued on. We weren't just going to double back. Oh. I shrugged.

“Okay,” I said. “How long will it take?”

“An hour?”

Whatever. It didn’t matter. We were going downhill, now. It was all downhill from here. And we all started off again. Down the hill.

Don’t get me wrong, downhill was tough too. The steps were steep and you really had to watch your step. Every time you caught yourself admiring the view, which was magnificent, your head would snap down to make sure you weren’t stepping off the actual mountain itself. Steep, steep, steep, for step after step after step. But it WAS downhill. For a few hundred meters, maybe a whole kilometer, it took less effort and each step felt like a victory.

Until. Down the hill? A kilometer or so past the midpoint, and to be fair, that WAS a downhill kilometer, it became clear that the entire trip downhill would NOT be that. We had been duped. More false endings. The hills began to rise again. Each hill ended with the reveal of ANOTHER hill. These hills were steeper, if that were possible. You’d get to the top of one, and another would laugh in your face. This LORD OF THE RINGS will never fucking end, I thought. It was almost as bad as when I realized it in the theater.

I glanced behind me. The Malaysian woman had lost her smile. She seemed worse than ever. I looked around. Where the hell would a helicopter even land around here? A few minutes later, the rest of us realized she was at least a hundred meters behind us. This was going to end badly, very badly.

“We should go back,” I said. “She’s not going to make it.”

Everyone else looked at each other, and several gave that blasé shrug you get used to in Asia from people who don’t have the balls to argue with you but who have no fucking intention of helping you. It’s a maddening shrug, and this from someone who’s MASTERED the maddening (shrug). The ambivalence really made me want to throw something, but there had been a garbage can at the radio tower and I had already unloaded my water bottle.

“She’s not going to make it,” I repeated. More shrugs. THIS is why you buy more than one water bottle, I thought. So you can chuck the extra ones at Couchsurfing people. “Fuck it,” I said. “I’ll go back and walk back down WITH her.”

The leader of the group finally spoke up. “It will be just as tough to go back.”  He pointed back towards the radio tower.

I followed his point. He was right. We had reached sort of a canyon. At this point, if we turned around, we would have to go up the steep, steep, steep that we had just descended. We had seen that revealed peak, but from the opposite angle. It would be just as tough to go back.

“I’ll go back and walk with her this way, then,” I said.

They all shrugged again. Assholes, I thought, as I turned and made my way back - my way back UP - the steps so I could at least accompany the woman, make her feel like she wasn’t alone.

I reached her. She was standing still on what was somewhat of a plateau on one set of concrete steps, hands on her knees, seemingly waiting for me.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Take your time.” She doesn't seem as grateful to see me as I anticipated, I thought.

“Yeah. I am.”

“Whenever you’re ready.”


When she was ready, we started again, back down the steep, steep, steep. Every couple of steps, I waited as she made her way down, turning her body almost sideways to keep her balance. Waiting for her, I had time to look around, to see the view, to catch my own breath. By the time we both reached the bottom of one such steep, I seriously wondered whether or not she just wanted to be alone. We were both smiling. Maybe it just takes time, I thought.

The group was waiting for us back where I had left them. We all started off together. It became a consistent downhill. There was less chatter now, except from the Ukrainian woman, and we stayed in a single file. The Malaysian woman was now near the head of the line. Two hours later, we reached the bottom and an hour later (finally, something was only “an hour” later), we all had dinner together. Walking the streets of Central Hong Kong afterwards, the Malaysian woman reminded us she had to catch a flight, so at one corner, we all shook hands, exchanged cards, and bid each other safe travels. I went off and had a couple of beers by myself before finding my accommodation and quickly falling asleep. Good day.

Apropos of nothing, today marks the theoretical midway point of my trip.

#RogueTripSOTD - 26.11.2014

Paul's Fashions, Sukhumvit, Bangkok, Thailand - 26.11.2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

#RogueTripPlaylette - 24.11.2014

(BILL sits nursing a beer while a cover band plays a song, the lead SINGER soft but enthusiastic.)

SINGER: (singing) My baby's gone/I have no friends.
BILL: (to self) Man, he's really butchering this.
SINGER: (singing) To wish me greetings once again.
BILL (to self) Song SOUNDS familiar...what is it, though?
SINGER: (singing) Choirs will be singing "Silent Night"...
BILL: (to self) Wait a second-
SINGER: (singing) Christmas carols by candlelight.
BILL: Oh, shit.
SINGER: (singing) Please come home for Christmas.
BILL: (sighs) Shit.
SINGER: (singing) Please come home for Christmas.

(BILL takes a pull of beer. Pause.)

BILL: (sighs) This might be a longer month than I anticipated.

Friday, November 21, 2014

#RogueTrip Thought of the Day - 22.11.2014

While I am being productive on this trip (read: I AM and have been writing), it IS hard to get into a consistent groove when having to pack up my bag every few days as I travel from place to place, and while I'm trying to live in the moment (succeeding more with each and every day), there have been times when I allow my mind to drift forward a few months and I get AMPED, thinking about when this trip is over, to when I get my feet settled, writing-wise, and to when I enter the next part of the plan, writing-wise, and to when I find that groove, writing-wise...
'Cause when I do, I'm going to set this planet on fucking FIRE. Writing-wise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#RogueTripPlaylette - 19.11.2014


(BILL sits talking with a Chinese WOMAN over coffee - complimentary for guests before 10am!.)
BILL: ...And what do you do?
WOMAN: (blank stare)
BILL: Uh, what is your job? Um. What do you do?
WOMAN: (blank stare)
BILL: (mutters) Crap. Um. Work? What is your work? (mimes hammering - ?!?) Work?
WOMAN: (understands) Work? (Bill nods. She stammers.) Oh, I don’t have a job.
BILL: Ha. Me neither.
WOMAN: (puzzled, stammering) You don’t have a job?
BILL: Well, I’m a writer.
WOMAN: (blank stare)
BILL: (mimes typing) Writer?
WOMAN: (blank stare)
BILL: I wrote a book. A novel. Book? Novel?
WOMAN: (blank stare)
BILL: (thinks) Hm. (realizes) Ugh. (sighs) Okay. (holds up finger) Wait.
WOMAN: Wait?
(Bill takes his laptop out of his backpack, and boots it up. He sighs. He brings up the Internet.)
WOMAN: (looking over Bill’s shoulder) Amazon?
BILL: Yeah.
(A handful of keystrokes later…Bill brings up “Amazon Author Page: William Norrett”. The woman looks, then points at the author photo.)
BILL: (wincing, nods) Me. (winces, mumbles to self) You’re an asshole, Billy…
WOMAN: (smiles) Ah!
(Smiling, the woman looks at the page for a moment, then points.)
WOMAN: What is that?
BILL: (blank stare)
(The woman begins to type something into her phone.)
WOMAN: (re: phone) Translate.
(She finishes typing, and shows her phone to Bill.)
BILL: (reading) “The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription”…
WOMAN: (blank stare at Bill)
BILL: Shit…


I was concerned. Over the previous twenty hours on the bumpy, fatigued journey from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos, our bus driver had stopped more than once, but each of the previous times it was usually just to smoke by the side of the road and chatter on his cell phone, waking us all up. This time, however, he was darting back and forth between the open door and the back of the bus, joined by his “staff.” When they were out of sight, I could hear banging where I imagined the engine was. They seemed unconcerned. I was concerned.

After ten minutes, the passengers who were locals filed out of the bus - THEY each took the stop as a chance to smoke; they were unconcerned - then finally the foreigners followed them, concerned. For fifteen more minutes, we milled around the grass in front of a what could best be described as a “mini-market-tent”, trading advice on hostels while we watched the road with passing cars that worked, and the impromptu mechanics work on a vehicle that didn't. They seemed to be following a pattern: one of them would climb into the rabbit hole of an engine compartment, we would hear grunting and banging, the driver would trot back into the bus and try to start it, he would fail, everyone would sigh, repeat.

“How far are we from Vientiane?” I asked one of the local passengers. College-age, with bushy black hair and a green t-shirt slightly too small for his pudgy frame, the kid looked annoyed to have his flirting with a female foreign backpacker interrupted. “What?” he asked.

“How far are we from where we’re going?”

“Eighty kilometers.”

Jesus, I thought. I watched the bus, listened to the banging. “What happens if they can’t get it started?”


I pointed at the bus. “What happens to us if they’re not able to fix the problem, get the bus started?”

He smiled at me. “You just have to believe it will be fine,” he said.

I almost laughed in his face. Five minutes later, back on the bus, the engine running, I almost apologized.

I’ve been on this trip for nineteen weeks. I’ve learned several things, including:

-I’ve learned that you can never drink enough water.

-I’ve learned that the first day you arrive in a new city, you just walk around for a few hours and you’re guaranteed to find cool things.

-I’ve learned you can walk all day long.

-I've learned that most people walk just fast enough to stay in your way.

-I’ve learned that the first day you arrive in a new city, you buy postcards and write them out that night.

-I’ve learned the first night you’re in a new city, you figure out how to get to wherever you’ll need to go when you’re LEAVING that city.

-I’ve learned that podcasts are better for killing time during overnight bus or train trips, but music is better accompaniment during walking.

-I've learned that the National is a great band to score a visit to Halong Bay, that Vampire Weekend is a great band to walk through Singapore with, and that Jay-Z is a fantastic soundtrack while walking around rural China.

-I’ve learned that once you spend years in restaurants where smoking is forbidden, sitting in one at a table next to smoking French tourists is a real eye-opener (and eye-waterer).

-I’ve learned that the bullet trains in China are amazing and that the United States needs to get on that, pronto. Please. Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Please. This is Day-One shit.

-I’ve learned that the baguettes in Hanoi are amazing, that hot pot in China is still the best way to eat dinner, that as long as you’re cool with beef, chicken, or pork, pointing at a picture will get you fed well most of the time.

-I’ve learned that in most countries in Asia, tipping is unnecessary. But apparently the trade-off is, whenever you ask a waiter or waitress for anything, there will be a brief moment where you’re convinced they’re going to just walk away from you without doing anything.

-I’ve learned that, collectively, the service industry really resents giving out the free wi-fi password.

-I’ve learned that most of the time, a recommendation from someone whom you meet on a train or bus or whom you chat with in a hotel lobby or bar will beat the recommendations in the guidebook. But-

-I’ve learned that just because the person you’re talking to speaks English, it doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.

-I’ve learned that if you don’t like littering you might have to carry a water bottle five miles to make sure it winds up in a garbage can. I've learned it's worth it.

-I’ve learned that there’s a ceiling for how high China can rise until they learn how to fucking line up properly. Learn to queue, yo.

-I’ve learned that in southeast Asia, there is no such thing as a sidewalk. Between either side of the road and the buildings bordering the street, there is a concrete area meant not for walking, but for motorbike parking, food stalls, motorbike DRIVING, old people sitting on tiny, blue stools, and children sitting on tiny, blue stools.

-I’ve learned you can fit a family of four on a motorbike.

-I’ve learned that there are no concepts so foreign to Asia as “yield,” the “right of way,” or “defensive driving.” It’s often said in sports that “the best defense is a good offense.” Drivers in Asia, in that case, are trying to desperately emulate Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagle offense combined with Loyola Marymount’s basketball offense in 1989 all at once, then combine it with a gigantic swarm of bees each trying to get inside a honeycomb. The resource on this continent that promises to never run out is brake fluid. Using one’s brakes here is considered a failure.

-I’ve learned you’re allowed to every now and again read or watch something that reminds you of home without feeling like you’re cheating.

-I’ve learned that “NewsRadio” doesn’t quite hold up but Phil Hartman undeniably does.

-I’ve learned I can spend four months not watching football games or highlights and still pick NFL games better than my friends.

-I've learned that those stretchy, semi-pajama elephant pants that 98% of female backpackers in southeast Asia wear lose their novelty pretty quickly. I've noticed the locals don't wear them.

-I’ve learned that a woman on a motorbike, wearing an accessorized helmet (be it styled with a tartan pattern, in pink, or with some floral print) coordinated with her business suit and skirt, with her high-heeled shoes resting on the pedal, is a pretty damn sexy sight.

-I’ve learned I should’ve been smiling and holding eye contact with people for the last thirty years.

-I’ve learned you can be open to and respectful other cultures and their histories but also more patriotic than you would’ve thought your cynicism allowed. I’ve learned that all it takes to realize you love your country and understand that it’s great despite its faults is to walk through a desolate Aboriginal neighborhood in Alice Springs, Australia, to stand on an empty street in Tiananmen Square, China, to be warned not to let anyone on the mainland catch you with that protest leaflet you just put in your wallet in Hong Kong, or to walk through the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi, Vietnam.

-I’ve learned that for the most part, people all over the world see you smile and they smile back at you, want to learn more about you when they can, and are looking to help and not scam you.

-I’ve learned that, with the previous thing I’ve learned, taxicab drivers are not people. Enh, some of them are.

-I’ve learned that even though it’s not a scam, you’re not going to beat street urchins in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at “rock-scissors-paper”.

-I’ve learned that people may lose 75% of their body heat through their head, but I lose 90% of my sweat through my back.

-I’ve learned that my body odor is somewhat inoffensive. It’s debatable, anyway.

-I’ve learned (re-learned) that my foot odor is. It’s not debatable.

-I’ve learned that you’re allowed to say, “I don’t feel like going to any temples today.”

-I’ve learned that there are all the temples in southeast Asia, and there’s Angkor Wat.

-I’ve learned that you shouldn’t make any decisions until you’ve gotten out of bed in the morning.

-I’ve learned you should get out of bed the moment you wake up in the morning.

-I’ve learned that two cups of coffee or two bottles of beer are, for better or worse, reliable antidepressants.

-I’ve learned that a conversation over drinks with a stranger beats walking around a museum, that walking around a city with a travel partner beats walking around a city alone, and that when you tell someone you met to “keep in touch,” be prepared for that touch to change your trip in the best possible ways.

-I’ve learned that you need to adapt, and that’s how you wind up making things more memorable.

-I’ve learned that Australia is a donut.

-I’ve learned the beaches in Bali are an even better antidepressant than two cups of coffee.

-I’ve learned that autumn in Beijing, China feels just like autumn in Manhattan, and that the foliage surrounding the Great Wall of China changes colors just like the foliage in New England.

-I’ve learned that every day is a short story.

-I’ve learned to believe - or at least try to believe - that it will be fine.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

#RogueTripPOTD - 16.11.2014

I almost walked right smack into this thing - so don't ever question my willingness to dive into danger to take pictures for this trip...
Atop Patuxay, Vientiane, Laos - 16.11.2014, 1p

#RogueTripSOTD - 16.11.2014

Patuxay, Vientiane, Laos - 16.11.2014, 1p

#RogueTripPOTD - 15.11.2014

About 80km outside of Vientiane, Laos - 15.11.2014, 4p (and time had stopped...)

Some Notes After a 24 Hour Plus Bus Ride Across Two Nations

Thoughts I've had while traveling from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos...

1. It is to be re-emphasized, the most comfortable way to travel overland in SE Asia is to be a five-foot six woman who weighs 84 lbs.
2. "Tom & Jerry" cartoons, or rather three "Tom & Jerry" cartoons played in perpetuity, at top volume, do not provide the late-night travel entertainment value you would think.
3. If I had permission and a week for training, I could improve the efficiency of Vietnam's entry/exit immigration system by like 30% (this would involve severe layoffs and an insistence that the remaining officers, you know, DO MORE THAN ONE THING THEMSELVES, however).
4. Spotting a fellow traveler the $42 she needs to get a visa-on-arrival in Laos at 7am can create a mild "Hey, I saved-a-damsel-in-distress" endorphin rush.
5. Having to ask for $1 back so you can cover your own "stamp fee" ruins that rush (I gave her the equivalent in my leftover Vietnamese Dong - SAVE YOUR JOKE, THAT'S THEY CALL THEIR MONEY.)
6. Be forewarned: if you help "push start" your bus after it breaks down 80km outside of Vientiane, your joke about getting a discount will be "misunderstood" (read: ignored)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#RogueTripPlaylette - 13.11.2014


(BILL - American, mid-40s, clean-shaven, thoughtful - sits at the bar chatting with the BAR ASSISTANT MANAGER - Vietnamese woman, mid-30s?, bangs, competent. Bill occasionally glances at the BARTENDER - Vietnamese man, er, boy, early 20s, faux-hawk, tattooed sleeve, dim - who sits at the end of the bar staring at his phone. In his week in Hanoi, Bill has been to this bar three times, and chatted with the Bar Manager each time. On this visit, Bill is playing the game, “How Long Before the Goddamned Bartender Notices My Glass Is Empty and Asks If I Want Another Beer?” in his head: five minutes and counting. Mid-conversation-)

BAR ASST. MANAGER: (accented English) What time did you wake up this morning?
BILL: I dunno. Ten?
BAR ASST. MANAGER: (mock angry) I awoke at eight, and I was here until three this morning.
BILL: Well, I don’t have a job.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: You need a job.

(The bar asst. manager notices Bill’s empty glass, and snaps her fingers at the bartender, chattering at him in angry Vietnamese. The bartender finally notices Bill’s empty glass. As he goes to pour a fresh draught, the bar asst. manager puts her face in her hands, shaking her head.)

BILL: Don’t worry about it.

(The bartender puts the new draught in front of Bill. Bill and the bar asst. manager look at the glass. Pause.)

BILL: (re: bartender) Is he proposing to me?

(The bar asst. manager again chatters in angry Vietnamese until the bartender notices, at the bottom of the full glass, the o-ring from the keg nozzle resting in the beer. The bartender takes the glass and actually tries to pull the o-ring out with his finger. More angry Vietnamese chattering. The bartender pours out the beer. He replaces the o-ring on the nozzle as the bar asst. manager again puts her face in her hands. As the bartender replaces the beer -no o-ring this time - she harangues him in Vietnamese until finally-)

BARTENDER: (broken English) I am very sorry.
BILL: Don’t worry about it. No problem. Seriously. I was kidding. No problem.

(The bartender, unaffected, goes and sits back down, taking out his phone.)

BAR ASST. MANAGER: I am sorry. He is new.
BILL: Seriously, don’t sweat it. Accidents happen.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: (scoffing) “Accidents.”
BILL: (joking) Maybe I should work HERE. Replace him.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: (not joking) Yes. Come work here.
BILL: I was kidding.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: No, no. Work here.
BILL: (hoping this will put an end to it) I don’t think you could pay me enough.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: (calculating) $1000 per month.
BILL: American dollars? (she nods) That’s not enough to live on.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: That’s plenty. Everything cheap here. Food, rent…
BILL: Yeah. I can imagine that phone call with my mother. “Mom, I’ve decided to become a bartender in Hanoi.”
BAR ASST. MANAGER: (re: bartender) Better than him.
BILL: Well, yeah.
BAR ASST. MANAGER: Call your mother. (thinks) You live with me. (laughs) I charge cheap rent.
BILL: Yeah…I don’t see that making the phone call any easier.

#RogueTripPOTD - 12.11.2014

Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi, Vietnam - 12.11.2014, 7p

#RogueTripSOTD - 11.11.2014

Halong Bay, Vietnam - 11.11.2014, 4p

#RogueTripPOTD - 11.11.2014

Halong Bay, Vietnam - 11.11.2014, 3p

#RogueTripPOTD - 10.11.2014

Hanoi, Vietnam - 10.11.2014, 11a

#RoguePOTD - 11.11.2014

Hanoi, Vietnam - 11.11.2014, 9a

#RoguePOTD - 10.11.2014

Apologies for the sporadic posts this week or so...couple pics to try to make up for it...
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi, Vietnam - 10.11.2014, 10a

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#RogueTripPlaylette - 09.11.2014


(BILL walks down the street, Vietnamese coffee with milk in hand. It looks like rain again. A STREET MERCHANT WOMAN, 50s, approaches. She wears a grey smock over loose brown pants and a straw conical hat. She carries a long pole over one shoulder. Both ends of said pole hold a large, open box. Each box contains a mass of trinkets. The merchant waves at Bill, who stops. He takes a sip of coffee.)

BILL: (before the merchant comes to halt in front of him) No, thank you. No, thank you.

(The merchant comes to a halt in front of him. With her free hand, she points at the mass of woven bracelets in one of the boxes on her pole.)

BILL: No, thank you.

(The merchant points at a mass of leather wallets in a box.)

BILL: No, thank you.

(The merchant points at a mass of paper wallets in the other box.)

BILL: (shrugging, smiling) No, thank you.

(The merchant points at a bunch of watches in one box.)

BILL: (laughing now) No, thank you.

(The merchant smiles. She points at a bunch of chintzy hand fans in another box.)

BILL: (laughing louder) No, thank you.

(The merchant smiles again. She looks at her boxes. She’s out of options. She looks at Bill.)

BILL: No, thank you. But thank you.

(Bill smiles. The merchant smiles. Bill turns to walk away, and sees a SECOND MERCHANT, with her own smock, her own conical hat, her own pole and boxes attached to her own said pole, sitting on a stoop. The second merchant laughs and points at the first merchant. The first merchant shrugs - “Whaddya want from me?” - and points at Bill. Bill points at her.)

FIRST MERCHANT: (imitating Bill) No, thank you.

SECOND MERCHANT: No, thank you.

(All laugh. Bill takes another sip of his coffee. He waves at each merchant separately and walks away.)

#RogueTripSOTD - 09.11.2014

Hanoi, Vietnam - 09.11.2014, 12n - #AnnoyingFrenchTouristPhotobomb!

#RogueTripPOTD - 09.11.2014

Hanoi, Vietnam - 09.11.2014, 12n

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#RogueTrip - 01.11.2014 - IMPORTANT NEWS DEVELOPMENT

I REALLY wanted to go through this entire trip wearing nothing but black or grey t-shirts (with the white Oxford for special occasions), but a) I've lost enough weight that the XLs* I have billow and make me look fatter than I actually am in pics - IRONY, YO - b) several of the t-shirts might just up and start walking on their own given how often they get washed, and c )the sporting goods store I shopped at today was only offering the cheap price for the heather plum t-shirts. So get ready for a color explosion starting with Vietnam pics...


*In part because I wanted some consistency in the pics, and in part because I enjoyed the notion of people wondering, "Is he wearing only two goddamn shirts this entire trip?"
**Oh, by the by. I am still an XL - but now I'm an ASIAN XL.** Boom.

***Shirt size - SPARE ME THE JOKE.