Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXVI

Less than 48 hours after capitalising on a ‘$5 Haircut’ from a lady who had apparently cut just ‘four hairs’ previously while using equipment they had likely bought second-hand in the ‘80s and who could doubtfully see straight anyway, I returned to this Bui Vien ‘Health Spa’ for a do-over.

Having since found two adequately positioned mirrors to give me a clear view of the back of my own head, then witnessing with horror the strip hacked up the back of my skull with an obvious number one comb while the surrounding hair was a number two, I was irate…

Granted to make a mistake cutting someone’s hair is not unforgivable, but to say nothing about that mishap and to let that customer leave your premises thinking they have a reasonable haircut when in fact what they have is laughable, that cannot be forgiven.

…I stormed to the front desk, calmly removed my hat and, indicating the back of my skull, said, “You made a mess of my hair … You are going to fix it.”

The lady, the taller woman from last time, seemingly accepting that their in-house joke had come to its end, nodded apologetically. “Yes, OK,” she conceded, before asking, “how you wan fix?”

I shook my head in dismay, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; they were the ones advertising to cut people’s hair, yet it seemed it was the customer who needed to have the barbering know-how to make it work. Regardless, and hairdressing incompetency notwithstanding, I had decided exactly what needed to be done.

From the chair I explained, attempting to downplay the sarcasm in my voice, “As you’ve hacked up the back about a hundred mils with a number one comb when you were supposed to be doing a number two cut, all you need to do – all you ever needed to do and I can’t believe you didn’t have the initiative to do this the first time – is to cut around the entire back and sides at that height and at that same length … Number one…”

“You wan, number one?” she pointed to the side of my head in confusion.

I shook my head in futility. “Honestly, how do you not understand?” I stared into the taller woman’s eyes. “All I want, is a haircut that looks good … Do you understand that?”

“It look good, yes.”

No,” my head dropped to my hands, “it does not look good, that’s the problem … I need you to make it look good.” I looked at the lady beseechingly and awaited her response.

She looked back at me vacantly.

I closed my eyes, hung my head and almost cried; never in my life had I experienced such overwhelming exasperation. “Number one,” defeatedly I held up a finger.

She in turn held up the number one comb.

I took it from her and crudely ran it around the side and back of my skull in demonstration, then gave back the comb and stared at the woman.

She appeared to understand and relayed this knowledge to her lazy-eyed counterpart. “No no,” I promptly intervened, “not her – that woman does not know the first damned thing about how to cut hair.”

“But she, hairdresser,” said the taller woman, as though it was the most simple thing ever.

“She is not, a hairdresser,” I disputed vehemently.

“She cut hairs, we cut no hairs.”

Another hour after entering the premises I was walking out the door. My hair at the sides had been trimmed down to a number one and supposedly matched up with the errant strip at the back. No more money had been paid; none had been earned. What an utter waste of time.

For the record, the previous year, in Hoi An, Vietnam’s marketplace, I paid 180.000VND for a barbershop haircut and, aside from the result bearing unnerving similarities to the preferred style of Kim Jong Un, it was a precision cut. My strenuous recommendation, therefore, transcendent as the Vietnamese seem to be at turning their hands to just about any job, task, skill-set or profession, it would be unwise to try and pick up a haircut at any place in Vietnam other than a bona fide hair salon/barbershop.

I wandered back towards the Yen Trang, feeling depleted, although my spirits were lifted somewhat by the comical array of multi-coloured kiddie furniture outside Loan’s Café. Suddenly I felt I was choking on my own heart; seated comfortably on one of the chairs, smiling contentedly as he drank his coffee and smoked his cigar, exuding such a grandiose level of self-importance that his presence was quite impossible to avoid (that ‘presence’ in fact smacking of wealthy Western traveller, particularly Yank), was a well-dressed, clean-cut, fat-bellied, middle-aged gentleman. Our eyes locked as I sauntered by. He gave me, what I considered at the time to be, a nod of familiarity; I was given a chill, as I endeavoured to swallow back down the lump that had risen into my throat.

As you will have noticed, in the previous edition, with that disappointing Facebook share – which incidentally had no trouble displaying in full colour on a Microsoft Word Document – this website struggles to project that kind of page/layout/font. Nevertheless, it was while in the process of ripping and sticking that segment of social media text that I happened to enter onto Lin’s profile; the very first thing I saw left me stunned…

More curiously still, around one week after my unauthorised copy and paste, her Facebook page had shifted from ‘Lin Aug’– formerly ‘Ga Ra Lin Ayun’ (the Viet’s do like their name changes), a page which I believe still exists – to simply, ‘Facebook User’, and while my messages are still there, all of her past entries now claim ‘This message has been temporarily removed because the sender’s account requires verification.’

…Now, had I been aware that her page would effectively vanish I might have been a little quicker ripping and sticking details of the horror that faced me that day; she had posted on her site a lengthy YouTube video (not uncommon among FB users and not an altogether startling action, no) but, in fairness it was the title of the video that shocked me the most – Wedding Ceremony of Gary Cooper and Lin Aug…

Bear with me; that was viewed only recently, yet around eight months prior, from HCMC Vietnam, I have just engaged in heated online discussion, then possibly even encountered in the flesh, the man behind this developing fracas.

…I was seriously beginning to wonder just how far this so-called Gary was willing to go to ensure he landed his prize.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by G Cooper

Photography by D Ranged

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXV

The next time, from the Yen Trang lobby computer, that I spoke with Lin, evidently on the 13th August, 2018 (pretty sure the time you’ll see there, 10:21 p.m., is NZST; Vietnam is six hours behind, so assume it was 4:21 one muggy afternoon in HCMC), as you’ll see  I very quickly become exasperated with the whole game.

 

8/13/18, 10:21 PM

He hacked your accounts tim

Tim Walker

I don’t give a shit if he hacks my Facebook accounts; what’s he going to do, post a rude picture?

I dont know.he said that

Tim Walker

Said what?

I am fighting with him .he hacked my accounts today and unblock him

But he said he didnt do

I am very upset now

Tim Walker

Who CARES?! Lin, it’s Facebook, it doesn’t matter…?

He hacked your accounts?you dont care??

Tim Walker

Why would I – what’s he going to do?

Oh he said bad things about you

Tim Walker

Lin, this is ridiculous; you have to just forget Gary and his childish manipulation and get on with your life.

Really, he SAID bad things about me…?

Yes

Tim Walker

Do you realise how stupid you sound right now?

They’re WORDS Lin; they can’t hurt us.

But his words hurted me before.

Tim Walker

Only because you let them hurt you.

That’s why I say Lin, ignore the silly old prick.

8/14/18, 12:45 AM

Okay

GAry: hey timmy

it’s Gary

How are you?

Do you really want to meet with me and tell me how you feel?

I can tell by the size of your little kids mouth, I would hurt you so bad

you can talk shit behind a computer tho

you can write mr writer

my job was infantry

its to fight

so don’t think you can ever walk up to me and talk shit in your lifetime

you are just a kid to me

You talk shit about me because you want what I already had with her

You get half truths from her and want to judge wholey

but I’m american timmy and I just bust you in the mouth when i see you in HCMC

write your books and talk shit behind a compute all day, but you won’t hit it like I did with her and I’ll bust your little ass up and down the streeet

Go do your little side jobs and lie about the stock market to people who don’t know. Because you are fake

Yes Lin needs money

2.5k to be exact

meet with me and bring it to me

if you so well off mr writer come meet me pay what she owes me

Easy to walk into a relatinship with problems and share your 2 cents..

And I can tell you have a small penis

don’t change the subject

your mouth is so small

everything about you small

you are not long and strong like me

and you got a temper

lin will never marry you

but you can take her for a spin

You know what is funny to me

you asking her to tell you about her guys

here your are just meeting her and you want her to be honest

I’m the guy that was going to marry her after 8 months and she didn’t tell me the truth

A blowjob behind my back

with james

telling me she only had 3 lovers in her life

but she sleeps with her best guy friend

you better learn all these names timmy boy

James, Dale, Justin, Gary, Mon, and thats just the serious relationships in the past year

1 night stands you will never know

so don’t bother asking her to tell you about her guys

you are nothing special

And you are just like her with your I searched all over vietnam for love act

lets see who hurts each other first, I got the popcorn

She has that I’m a conservative farm girl from Dak Lak act.

Timmy boy just make sure you carry on the tradition of warning the next guy like James warned me……….

[07/06/2018 20:15:04] Lin: Why you lied him?i have never asked you to buy camera for me and i have only this zalo
[07/06/2018 20:19:33] Lin: I didnt many guys,when i met you i broke up him
[07/06/2018 20:19:48] Lin: You should tell the truth
[07/06/2018 20:20:05] James Leigh: Stop playing with this poor guy! He’s dumb and actually believes you. I won’t tell him all about you because he’s a nice, dumb guy and doesn’t need to be hurt. Why aren’t you using your other Zalo
[07/06/2018 20:20:47] Lin: I have only this zalo
[07/06/2018 20:20:49] James Leigh: You don’t need to use some old guy to get out of Vietnam
[07/06/2018 20:21:14] Lin: I d̀ont use him
[07/06/2018 20:21:28] Lin: Which the a nother zalo you say?
[07/06/2018 20:21:33] Lin: I even dont know
[07/06/2018 20:21:45] Lin: I havent talked to you for long time
[07/06/2018 20:21:59] James Leigh: Ha ha? What? Is he reading this? Okay, keep lying, if he’s stupid enough to believe you! Let’s chat on your other Zalo so I don’t embarrass you
[07/06/2018 20:22:04] Lin: I didnt ask to meet you in June
[07/06/2018 20:22:10] James Leigh: Ha ha
[07/06/2018 20:22:13] Lin: I will marry him
[07/06/2018 20:22:24] James Leigh: Switching to your other Zalo
[07/06/2018 20:22:28] Lin: I dont have another zalo
[07/06/2018 20:23:18] James Leigh: It’s funny this one has no pictures or timeline
[07/06/2018 20:23:35] James Leigh: I’m going to your other Zalo now

Lin was never the victim

she will play the role of the victim

but she was never the victim

But you need to stop pretending to Tim, you just want a piece of ass

8/14/18, 5:07 PM

Tim Walker

Gary, you are insane. To infiltrate people’s Facebook accounts is deranged. Fortunately I have better things to do with my days than play immature games with a 50-year-old kiddie fiddler.

8/14/18, 6:40 PM

Tim Walker

You want to do something today Lin?

8/15/18, 12:00 AM

I just read your text.i am sorry

Are you there??

Maybe you went out already now

I didnt know you text me .i am sorry respomding you late

I am at home.i just had dinner

8/15/18, 3:23 AM

Tim Walker

It’s fine, Lin.

How are you?

Tim Walker

You know Lin, when I met you, you were easygoing, carefree.

Now through your own actions,  you’ve made your life a lot of work.

I worked in the morning today

I am at home

Tim Walker

I know.

I know.

But he texted me much so i dont want to open my messegers

Tim Walker

I know.

I am sorry for everything he talked to you yesterday

Tim Walker

Yeah, about that, Lin, you’ve turned yourself into more work than I can be bothered enduring.

 

That conversation continued for a little longer, with me becoming progressively uninterested in the awkward situation that she had made…

It only occurs to me now, and while I was in Vietnam of course in the heat of the moment I believed everything that Lin told me, but the above Facebook message, dated over eight months ago, including – especially – the apparent entry by ‘Gary’, is utter shit. She was clearly doing what eldest daughters in Ho Chi Minh City do best – attempting to scam money out of White folk. Reading over that Facebook conversation over eight months since I last saw it (which, admittedly, didn’t transfer from Facebook quite how I’d hoped), it’s seems so obvious – how did I not see it at the time? Lin reveals to me in person that she owes Gary $2500 for a camera, to be later corroborated in Gary’s apparent Facebook interaction, particularly his invitation/demand that I should pay this debt; the whole thing now seems so comical.

…I did however, while scrolling over Lin’s and my FB conversation, for the first time in months, just happen to check out her profile.

You won’t believe what I found; I barely believe what I found.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Lin Aug

Photography by Gary Cooper

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXIV

In line with the rest of Vietnam’s outdoor seating, the kiddie furniture out the front of Loan’s Café caused me and my Western stature continual problems.

On the plus side Loan’s tables and chairs were made of timber rather than plastic, so that was something.

Constricting as it may have been, I found that if I turned side-on, rather than attempting to wedge my wiry frame under the table, it did provide a fine vantage point from which to view the everyday shenanigans of Vietnamese locals…

I was seated contentedly outside Loan’s Café as dusk fell one afternoon/evening, sipping a fruity, icy beverage that Loan had whipped up for me (she used to regularly prepare ‘testers’ for me to sample and critique; a largely pointless endeavour as anyone who knows me will be aware, I eat and enjoy most anything), when I saw what I perceived to be a familiar face.

…Street vendors continuously walked by with their trays of novelties, merchants cruised by on motorbikes, some towing trailers, laden with their wares – bottles of water, bags of ice, fresh fruits, desiccated meats, exotic vegetables, smoked fish or indeed, just about any item of produce imaginable…

I recall experiencing a wave of surrealistic vertigo; I recall thinking how this could have been the plot from one of my own novels – a character from the beginning, largely unremarkable, of little noteworthiness to anyone, somehow returning to the story at the end to surprise, or perhaps to startle, the reader. As I stood to command this character’s attention, I recall witnessing the look of shock – with my being a presumed short-overstaying tourist he seemingly expected to have never seen me again – then uncertainty, or even of fear, on the young man’s face. I smiled, the only lasting trace of injury to my face a small horizontally linear scab on my right cheekbone, “Kohm ko chi (No worries),” I attempted to reassure him.

…It was from this vantage point, sideways seated outside Loan’s Café, that I would go on to  witness the kind of mechanical ingenuity that would surely impress even the most creative Kiwi mind; motorised trolleys, carts, or precarious three-wheeled monstrosities designed solely for shifting produce along HCMC’s potholed streets (then there was the ‘ice-guy’, who I saw most mornings, wearing a heavy waterproof hat and stiff plastic homemade poncho, riding his tiny motorcycle carrying bags of ice to supply local produce retailers, with – no exaggeration – a one metre square stack of 10 kilo ice-bags balanced on a tray immediately behind him and towering over his head at – I swear – around three metres high, on a bike whose rear tyre was perpetually flat and whose front wheel barely even contacted the road, and each time he stopped he was met with a veritable cascade of icy water, but which he had to do frequently, and which he did do using a homemade support/brace he would wedge under the stationary bike’s frame to keep it upright while he stepped off to unload before moving on to the next premises) which, at a glance, were just crudely appointed, comically basic, home-built vehicles but when I looked closer, these contraptions, dilapidated as they appeared yet functional as they clearly were, had all been built around the frame, the basic structure and feeble engine of one of Vietnam’s myriad worn out, broken down and disused motorbikes…

As the young man made his tentative approach, I again marvelled at how good-looking he was; wheeling a motorbike – hitched to a wooden trailer stacked full of grapes – he came to a halt a few metres before me (in fairness I had seen this street vendor around but only from a distance, thus had never identified him as ‘Petty Thief’ from my third night on Bui Vien) where, as I suppose he would any other potential customer, through gestures and broken English, he offered to sell me some grapes. Petty thief indeed; he wanted 70 dong for one kilo – I bought a half kilo, watched him bring out his scales and carefully weigh the goods, then paid him 30. Given the circumstances I didn’t think he’d complain.

…Typical of scooters/small motorcycles these things tend to run at inordinately high revolutions; given the modifications involved in transforming a small bike into a flatbed truck, exhaust systems/mufflers are seldom reattached.

Petty Thief turned out to be a reserved, respectful young man who clearly worked for a living; as he wheeled away his rig I guessed the reason for his tethering a trailer to a motorbike then pushing both, had a lot to do with a regard for potential customers – few tourists enjoy the obtrusion of discordant noise, particularly when the vehicle behind that noise is showering your fresh produce with exhaust fumes. Noise was ample on Bui Vien anyway; as if to bolster my assumption of the gentle-spirited Petty Thief, at that moment the most abrasive sound I had ever heard caused both he and me to cringe and turn our heads from the incoming audio, as a three-wheeled, pseudo-military, but merely scooter-powered monstrosity lumbered by, of course, pulling massive revs.

The aforementioned situation is not what one would consider a rarity in the daytime on Bui Vien, and probably explains the closing of this particular street for one afternoon, as I was fortunate enough to become an uninvited guest for my first ever Vietnamese wedding ceremony; which I witnessed from the steps and out front of the Yen Trang hotel…

A downpour had just ended and the stench on the street was horrendous yet, chaperoned/ushered by the only genuine Police I saw in Vietnam (this, as opposed to ‘security’ guys), along with the apparent Chief of Police (a stout little chap who stood at around 5 foot 2 with a generous belly, was dark-skinned, bald on top with longer stringy hair around the sides, complemented by a brilliantly polished dome and with a smouldering, unmoving cigarette hanging from the corner of his feverishly delegating, clearly self-appointed ‘Chief of Pomposity’, mouth), were a meticulously attired bride and groom who, carefully avoiding puddles and potholes, lovingly carried out their nuptials, concluding with a tentative kiss and a cheer from anyone who happened to be watching.

 

I had noticed that, by the two week point, as I had hoped would happen, so recognised was my presence, I was now being treated less like a tourist and more like a local; Bui Vien massage girls and other street vendors had become sufficiently familiar with me that they had, largely, ceased in their otherwise relentless approaches and seemed to have accepted that if I wanted to buy something from them, I would ask for it (and if you think back to retired expat, ‘Canadian Aiden’ from week 1, this is just what he had said happened to him after he moved here; Vietnam becomes a different place once one has experienced that transition from ‘tourist’ to ‘common-placement’).

While my presence may have appeared commonplace to most, during my final week I was approached by a woman I had not before seen around Ho Chi Minh City. She was gorgeous, she was vivacious, she was intriguing, she was captivating (yet strangely, I didn’t get/don’t recall her name); that night I took a 45 minute taxi-ride across to District 4 in order to capitalise on the coupon for a ‘Free 60 Minute Full Body Massage’ (retailing at 220.000VND – around 20NZD) that this woman had given me. I felt as though this was a challenge I could handle; I now understood how to avoid taxi-scams but importantly, I understood how to pay for a massage that was just a massage, and this was a free massage.

The next 50 minutes were spent in oily heaven with a gorgeous Vietnamese masseuse (not the one I’d met in District 1, but close). Of course I was timing it and yes, fifty minutes later, of course I did query the missing 10 minutes, to which she responded innocently, “But you say you no wan boom-boom…?”

“The coupon said, ‘Free Sixty Minute Massage’ – you only did fifty minutes…?”

“Last ten, for boom-boom – you say you no wan boom-boom.”

“Aha, I see, so it’s more like a ‘Free Fifty Minute Massage’, then pay two million dong for boom-boom…?”

Three million – you wan?”

“Thank you for the wonderful massage.”

Several hours after leaving I had returned; District 4 was a different place, much less busy than District 1 and more geographically spread – District 1 everything is crammed tightly into spaces along street edges while in District 4 things don’t appear nearly as squashed. I walked back into the bustle of Bui Vien Street and sat outside drinking local beer with a group of expats/travellers (this location in fact was where I overheard the fable of the ‘White man beaten by Viet Cong street-youths’, mentioned in an earlier instalment, and realised, with a sickening jolt, that this ‘fable’, which may just be on track to become Vietnamese folklore, referred to the incident outside the banh mi vendor on my third night on Bui Vien – Vietnam XXI). Hoping to mentally abscond from the situation, I unthinkingly accepted and sucked back some awful Vietnamese weed – overlooking the fact that I had recently ‘recovered’ from a serious chest-borne illness – only to have my lungs spasm and convulse their way to bed that night.

The next morning, after placing my breakfast order with Loan then heading back up the steps and spending over half an hour on the hotel’s public computer in ‘talks’ with a rather ‘distressed’ Lin (original object of my affections) regarding ‘hacking’ of her Facebook account…

According to what Lin had told me, the current object of her affections, a middle-aged American man named Gary, and she had ‘broken up’ (this was, reportedly, following Gary’s multiple visits to Vietnam to see her, also after Lin’s admission of her ‘extracurricular’ antics with other American men she’d met around town); yet apparently, during their time ‘together’, under Vietnamese rule the two had become ‘engaged’ and, presumably along with a lovely ring, Gary had bought Lin a rather expensive camera, which he now wanted returned. Truth is I forget/didn’t understand the exact circumstances of this case, but for some reason Lin was not able to give back the camera thus needed to refund the money; now back in NZ and with an objective mindset it occurs to me that, obviously, I mean if Lin was any kind of Vietnamese eldest daughter at all, she would have sold the camera for the cash. Reportedly the item was worth somewhere in the vicinity of 2500USD – tantamount to around 75.000.000VND – over a year’s salary for an average Viet worker. It seemed ridiculous that this wealthy American ‘Gary’ should be demanding the return of such a gift and in fact, the deeper I ventured into this tale the more unbelievable the story became; furthermore when she had announced to me – this was prior to the ‘camera’ thing – that despite the cessation of their relationship Gary would now not allow her to officially expunge their ‘engagement’, yet was still insisting that she reimburse him for the camera.

…From what I could tell Lin was hysterical (although this was Facebook communication, and we all know how easy it is to misinterpret dialogue via Facebook communication). Honestly, I struggled to see the problem; ‘hacking’ somebody’s Facebook account seemed a pointless thing to do and besides, it was online, he was in a different country – he couldn’t actually do anything…

It occurs to me, again, the content I am describing, indeed the manner in which the above plot is reading, this saga is playing out along very similar lines to a novel that I might write; let me please assure the reader, everything I have written in my Vietnam Chronicles to date, everything that I have yet to write, much as it might be coming off ridiculous, far-fetched, or even farcical, (in fairness I believe the reason for the similarities, is that, rather than the author of a novel developing a protagonist then creating a story around that character, in this case it is the author who is the protagonist and, much like a story I might myself create, while the author is doing their best to control the story’s path, realistically, life will always dictate life’s story; I’m merely telling that story), to the best of my recollection, is 100% truthful.

…Or so I thought.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Gary Cooper

Photography by Rhyll Guy

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXIII

As well as everyday Vietnamese dishes of pork/beef/unidentified meat with vegetation/spices/indescribable heat and rice/noodle, at Loan’s Café Loan specialised in classic Western dishes – hamburgers/fries, steak/sausages, bacon/eggs, etc.

Arriving at the Yen Trang I had noticed, over the other side of the road, as many hotels do in Vietnam, along with basic accommodation a number of these premises were advertising a ‘spa service’ (which I believe is supposed to be more of a makeover/massage service than it is actually immersing oneself in a bubbling bath devoid of bubble-bath, or soap), with many flaunting large headshot posters of a chiselled young man and his svelte ‘60s-style hairdo, advertising, ‘Haircut – $5’…

Although Loan’s Café was only in the early stages of its trading life it was already a hit with many, particularly the kind of arrogant middle-aged Westerner who, although it mightn’t have been above them to travel to a Third World nation, while they were there, they were not going to make any attempt to assimilate the culture, to speak any of the native tongue, to mix with the locals in any way, and they were certainly not be cajoled into eating any of the local food.

…As mentioned, most everything in Vietnam is related to US culture – if you’re White locals seem to assume you’re American and when converting currencies, invariably the translation is to USD (which I then double to reach the approximate NZD value) – meaning that when a poster/billboard reads ‘Haircut – $5’, chances are, it’s somewhere close to 120.000VND, which is actually more like 10NZD, which is still a cheap haircut,  if it’s a good haircut…

As I recall, when I emerged from my room, seedy wreck that I was, in preparation for my fourth (or perhaps fifth) dentist appointment, I had legitimately not eaten for days – this, for someone who typically struggles to go three hours without a sustenance top-up – I therefore wasted no time in heading down the stairs and locking in my order with Loan for the priciest thing on her menu, a ‘Big Breakfast’. This gargantuan meal of sausages, hash browns, eggs, toast, tomatoes, (Vietnamese) mushrooms (which may look peculiar but in fact taste no different to Kiwi mushrooms), came complemented with my very own condiment basket – spices, herbs, and four sauces including tomato – and took me the best part of an hour to eat after which, I had to conclude, it was worth each of the 120 (thousand) dong I had paid for it.

…One morning, freshly showered and shaved (also almost passed out in front of the bathroom mirror, indicating my health still could have used some improvement), I headed over the road to take advantage of one of these ‘$5 Haircuts’. Stepping into the building’s lobby, four women, some seated, some supine, but nobody appearing particularly fussed, eventually acknowledged my entry; the place was dark and, other than for these ladies, the place was deserted. Nonetheless I asked for a haircut. I was shown to a chair. A tall, well-dressed woman with marvellous hair, the woman I expected would be cutting my hair, stood behind me, making a task of covering me with a sheet. “What hair cut you want?” she asked brusquely.

“Two around the sides and back,” I indicated as I spoke, as always, maintaining eye contact in the wall mirror, “cut up quite high at the sides, blended into a short trim on top … Oh and, do the sideburns,” again indicting, “number one, thank you.”

“OK,” the woman looked bemused, as though she had no idea what I’d just said which, honestly, was a little worrying. Another woman, in a shady corner of the room, was fossicking through a well-used cardboard box I’d watched her pull from some cupboards along the wall. I stared through the shadows; it appeared to be a box of hair-clipper attachments. This lady stood and laboriously walked towards the tall woman and me, chirruping something to the woman at my rear. The other two women could be seen mooching about the premises, sometimes sitting, often chatting, usually watching, but never really doing much else. Suddenly the lady behind me was speaking loudly in what sounded like admonishment. The one carrying the haircutting equipment stopped, turned, dropped to her knees and started rummaging on the floor, through a pile of what appeared to be hair-clippers. Selecting one set from the tangled mass she resumed her steady approach, while the lady at my back breathed menacingly down my neck. The two exchanged more words then the taller woman moved aside. I looked in the mirror at the laboriously-walking newcomer; I didn’t want her cutting my hair. As she raised her eyes to meet my gaze I admit, I struggled to hold eye contact; I genuinely wasn’t sure which of her two differently-angled eyes my eyes ought to be contacting. Lazy eyes (or some other issue, I didn’t inquire) notwithstanding I didn’t want this woman cutting my hair. I heard the clippers start. They sounded awful; underpowered, undermaintained, underperforming. Right now, I didn’t want anyone cutting my hair.

Too late. She’d slipped on a comb and had already hacked into the hair at the back. This was horrible; the blades – moving sluggishly as the were – were clearly blunt. Where a good Kiwi hairdresser can have the back and sides down to a number two in a few minutes, this woman took a few minutes just to perform one stroke/swathe/blow. The tall lady was positioned to the side, overseeing the job and suddenly stepped forward to halt the lazy-eyed woman. I heard stifled snickering behind me and felt my neck again become hot with exasperation/infuriation. The lady performing the cut leaned around beside me and showed me the clippers. She took off the comb, held it up, as if for clarification, and asked, “This?”

I looked down; without my glasses and in he murk of this room I couldn’t see a lot anyway. I studied the comb; I thought I understood. “Yes,” I said, nodding, “this is number one … This do sideburns.” I drew the comb quickly over my sideburns in demonstration, then handed it back to her. She clipped the comb on the clippers and attempted to run them up the side of my face. They gripped, they bumped; she drew them back and tried again. She held the clippers more forcefully; this time, fighting to keep my head upright, the clippers gripped and crinkled the skin of my face, but still the comb refused to slide. “It’s because I’ve just shaved,” I pointed out, “the skin is moist, smoother, you have to lift the comb more onto the points.” (For the record, I always shave before haircuts in NZ and they never seem to have too much trouble; I just know what it’s like from my own sideburn-trimming experience.) Unsure if the woman had interpreted what I had just said – far be it for me to be offering hair-cutting advice to a ‘hairdresser’ anyway – I sat and tensely awaited this hairdresser’s next movement. She clearly had no idea what she was doing; looking, tentatively cutting, assessing, unsteadily trimming, reassessing – regarding hairstyling this woman appeared clueless. The tall lady returned holding a picture of a classically handsome man wearing a clean-cut, classically handsome hairstyle, not unlike the one that I usually wear. She showed it to me; I smiled, nodded and gave affirmation. She then showed it to my lazy-eyed hairdresser who also nodded and went back to work.

Alas with each stroke/swathe/blow taking around ten minutes the haircut was a time-consuming procedure; with each pointless, time-wasting action I saw occur before my eyes in the mirror, and the delayed, time-wasting reaction I saw follow it, I felt myself becoming increasingly agitated. At one point, such was my disbelief at my hairdresser’s incompetency, I recall turning to the taller woman – who was always looking on – and demanding, “This is ridiculous, has this woman even cut hair before?!”

To which another of the four women replied, “Yes, she has cut, four hairs.”

“Four hairs,” I muttered to myself, “fucking wonderful.”

About an hour after the nightmare had begun, after I had instructed the incompetent hairdresser precisely what she needed to do before she could consider the haircut complete, I stood and walked to the front to pay (I’d had a lot of time to consider and had decided that I must suppress the compulsion to just walk out). From what I could tell the job was as much done as it was ever going to be therefore, much as I didn’t believe the situation warranted it, I was obligated to pay. I removed a 100 and a 20 dong note, handed them to the tall lady at the desk then in a calm voice said, simply, “That was awful … If you are going to advertise five dollar haircuts, you at least need someone who knows how to cut hair and, for God’s sake, get some decent bloody equipment.”

The lady smiled and took my money although, as I walked toward the exit, I swear I heard them snickering at me.

I walked back past Loan’s Café and warmly acknowledged Loan, sitting out front with her husband, not a customer to be seen. “You buy something now?” Loan jokingly inquired as I passed.

“Ga kohm tien (Have no money),” I jested in response.

“You can’t use that on me,” she laughed, “I taught you that!”

“Doi kohm hew (I don’t understand),” I fired back, as I climbed the stairs.

Walking past the main desk I smiled at the receptionist, Thao (remember, ‘Towel’; Thao worked mornings while Lieu came on after 3 p.m.), then took the stairs to my room. I collapsed onto my bed, closed my eyes then ran my hands over and around the back of my head; my hair was a mess, I didn’t need to see it to know that.

Given the current state of my health, given all that had taken place that morning, I was questioning why I hadn’t just stayed in bed.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Bosch D Hare-Cot

Photography by Celia Woman

Tim Walker’s Religion III

Just days on from Christchurch’s most recent ‘darkest day’, amid a nation forced to accept that New Zealand’s hate issues are no different to those of any other country and that things need to change, what has changed?

In the opinion of some, religion ought to be outlawed. It seems to do nothing but pervade prejudice and incite hatred across the world; yet in the opinion of others, religion builds the foundation, it provides the structure and gives the strength to work through these dark times, it brings people together by promoting harmony and inspiring love…

Friday 15 March 2019. Two Christchurch mosques, one Australian gunman; the lives of 50 innocent people are ended.

…Every one of the world’s great wars have been ultimately inspired by religion, and there is nothing harmonious or loving about pain and suffering; in fact, realistically, across the last hundred years, if not for religious disharmony the world would have been just about devoid of conflict. Still though, ‘religion’ is maintained as projecting the ‘values of good’, the ‘essence of peace’…

The March 15 massacre was a hate crime, that much is clear. While Brenton Tarrant isn’t affiliated with Al Qaeda or other known terrorist groups, he is a White-supremacist and he is an extremist.

…In these modern times where the facts of the world are beyond dispute, how is it still acceptable that there are large portions of this world who are permitted to not only partake in, who are encouraged to worship, the belief of an intangible entity who is purported to have committed deeds of a miraculous nature, deeds in fact akin to magic, and whose presence is, overall, very much akin to make-believe? …

Tarrant’s movements were calculated, and they were deliberate. This Australian national targeted Christchurch’s mosques seemingly because he believed that Muslim worship was damaging to New Zealand’s identity.

…The Greeks, the Romans, long ago accepted that their array of gods were merely mythical and, as is currently taught in New Zealand school’s curriculum, were essentially developed by a primitive populous hoping to provide understanding for all that happened in the world beyond their comprehension…

Breton Tarrant, this Australian-born 28-year-old who has resided in Dunedin for some time, was known around town and by all accounts appeared ‘normal’.

…Religion is one hundred percent a belief system. There is no, nor has there ever been, physical evidence to support religion which is how, even in this modern era with all our supposed knowledge, zealots are able to develop new religions, new belief systems, new logic, then brainwash, exploit, abuse and, as is becoming the fashion among religious sects around the world, sexually assault, its followers…

Tarrant acquired a firearms licence in 2017; five different weapons were then used across two locations to carry out the massacre.

…The embracing of religion, 2000 years ago, was understandable; these people had nothing, they knew nothing. Religion gave them something to believe, gave them some reason to hope, and moreover it gave them some semblance of control

Tarrant had reportedly spent some considerable time at a shooting range, presumably in preparation for Friday 15’s act of inhumanity.

…Control though, undoubtedly religion has always been about control; convince a generation of supple-minded youth that if they don’t behave, they will incite the wrath of a vengeful god, resulting in a generation of well-behaved – God-fearing – youth.

Of all the liberties that world Governments have ever outlawed because they were too damaging, too costly, or not socially acceptable, religion has not once come into focus; yet the truth, the irony is that religion is in fact the most damaging – in that it has ruined innumerable lives worldwide – the most costly – in that it cheats money out of the trusting and the impoverished – and the most socially unacceptable because, simply, society refuses to accept the sequence of events that took place in Christchurch that day.

It is my belief that, in the 21st century, we no longer have any need for the crutch of religion; we know enough about the planet and its creation to dispel these insidious myths of creationism, allowing us to live in a world of genuine harmony.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Weka Upp

Photography by Meke B Leif

 

Tim Walker’s Familiar

What is it in human nature that causes us to show the least regard to those we consider familiar?

Familiar – Familial – Family.

Most of us would never dare treat a person we just met with the disrespect many of us show towards family members; they’re just family though, it’s easy to say – it’s not that important to maintain relationships with family members because they’re always going to be there, always going to be your family…

Until they’re gone and all you have left is regret. They’re gone and all you can do is wish you didn’t take them for granted while they were here. They’re gone and you wonder why you didn’t show them a little more respect while you could; why you never told them how much you cared or how much they meant to you while they were still here with you, beside you, every day.

…Invariably we put on our best presentation to meet someone new, with the intention of laying down that scintillating first impression; then once that first impression has been delivered – however disingenuously – once our impression has been accepted and initial opinions have been formed, we seem to feel we no longer have need to impress thus we revert to our former, sometimes abrasive, often boorish, painfully apathetic, selves…

Appreciation is a tremendously basic, but in this modern world a very much overlooked or often a forgotten, emotion. Complacency is what takes over when appreciation is forgotten; once appreciation has been forgotten and a person’s lifestyle has fallen complacent, they will only ever become less able to appreciate hence be more likely to take for granted the lives, or particularly, the goodwill, of their familiars.

…Familiarity is a killer. It’s a destroyer of relationships and it’s an annihilator of the gentle spirits among us. Abuse – sometimes physical but mainly mental – is a common result of familiarity between loved ones; a spouse becomes overly familiar thus bored with their significant other and over time uses a dominating demeanour to assert their authority over the other, something they would never consider doing with a mere acquaintance or work colleague…

Even familiars have their limits though; no matter how close or strong a relationship, there is always a breaking point. Here’s another notable aspect of human nature: push someone hard enough, push them away enough times and quite simply, they won’t come back. The love that you might once have considered unconditional may just have revealed its conditions.

…The dominating counterpart will use manipulation and affront to keep the other beaten down, unable to generate the self-confidence to ever stand up for themselves or to fight back. That weaker of the two will lose self-worth to the point they can no longer see they are deserving of anything or, least of all, anyone, better.

It’s dangerous, it’s detrimental, it’s destructive, it’s downright devastating; it’s the effect of familiarity and if you allow it into your familial life, it will likely consume you too.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Tiki Foregrounded

Photography by Sal F Reece-Pact

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXII

The evening of arrival at my newest hotel, the Yen Trang, I could feel my body beginning to succumb to the illness that would have me in bed for the best part of three days.

Every pollutant that I had inhaled over the past few weeks, coupled with much too much booze and far too little sleep, had rendered my chest congestion much too severe to ignore so, after an early evening meal of ‘bung me op lah’, I ducked up to my room to sleep/rest/sweat out what was effectively a two week hangover (the horrors of this ordeal are documented in previous instalment, Vietnam XXIV).

Those few days’ downtime in fact came as welcome relief as even my resurrected budget was now at risk of being blown; while I had been sure to pay my total accommodation bill up-front affording me a feeling of security in that respect, with my remaining few dentist appointments still to come I needed to be continually mindful of overspending…

The issue I had encountered, and indeed the reason I was having such difficulty maintaining my everyday sense of frugality, albeit while overstaying in the ‘world’s cheapest tourist destination’, could be summarised in just one word – starts with a capital ‘N’ and rhymes with doobie – Noobie.

…Feeling faint and still very much ill, after around 72 hours of terribly broken sleep I hauled myself out of bed (to this day I have no idea how I kept such an accurate account of time/days, but I didn’t miss/wasn’t late for any scheduled appointment), plodded downstairs and had the Yen Trang reception organise my transportation back to District 10, for my fourth (or perhaps fifth) appointment at Nhan Tam dental clinic. I then recall arriving at the premises and being promptly taken through to the dentist’s chair. I recall sitting in that chair for another few hours as the attractive female dentist drilled away at the last of my decayed root; I recall My Hanh’s irritation as, for the umpteenth time, I somnolently allowed my mouth to fall closed…

The woman of my dreams had rendered me utterly smitten and with that came the compulsion to give, and to do, for her, everything that her adorable little heart desired (then later, when I read ‘the book’, there are no words that will describe how stupid I feel).

…By the time the taxi dropped me back at the end of the third Bui Vien – following completion of a root canal, the filling of cavities, as well as the extraction of my first wisdom tooth, it was evening and darkness was beginning to fall…

Having a wisdom tooth removed was one of my trip’s major highlights; I am unsure if the technique used at Ho Chi Minh City’s Nham Tam Dental Clinic is the same strategy employed by other dental clinics around the world, but this was awesome. The lovely My Hanh had just finished drilling and filling a cavity; she rose to her feet and said simply, “Now we do wisdom tooth extraction, OK?”

“Sure,” I replied excitedly (having never had a wisdom tooth pulled I was very keen to see what it entailed and, in fairness, to this point I had suffered none of that fabled ‘dentist pain’ which seems to prevent so many grown adults from ever going to the dentist, and I think I was feeling a little excluded).

With that, to my disappointment My Hanh turned and left the room, to be replaced by another, somewhat less attractive, male dentist. He sat in the dentist’s chair and started rummaging through his tray of heavy metallic ‘instruments’ (dude, just say it, they’re tools). The dentist then selected one of these instruments and indicated that I should assume the ‘open-mouthed upward-staring’ position. My Hanh’s cute little assistant went about applying local anaesthetic to the targeted area of my gums, in the process numbing out half my left cheek. Mouth agape from the corner of my eye I gazed upon the dentist brandishing his shiny metal ‘dental tongs’ (which I had already decided would have looked more in place at a Classic Kiwi barbecue, turning snags, shifting onions, or the like).

Suddenly he was in. No messing about, he just went for it; twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling. At first I felt nothing; in my ears there was just the distant sound of splintering, like a foot stepping into a shallow iced puddle. It was only when I felt my head starting to move from side to side that I realised how much force this Vietnamese dentist must have been exuding on the task at hand. I focused on the man, gripping now with two hands his pair of barbecue tongs, twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling; dead set wrenching on this sage old tooth. The splintering audio became louder, like dry twigs now being snapped inside my eardrums, as the dentist continued working the tooth out of the jaw. Twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling (I could feel the climax nearing and at this point, I won’t lie, I was getting pretty excited); I glimpsed the dentist’s strained face and saw sweat beading on his brow. Twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling – then all at once the dentist’s weight fell back.

Still with mouth agape, still staring at the ceiling, my tongue, which I had been prudently holding well clear of the worksite, instinctively darted back, feeling for the hole. Oh wow, there it was. Oh wow, it was so deep – my tongue went right inside it. Oh wow, it was like there was no bottom to it at all; the hole was just so deep. I looked wide-eyed at the dentist as he, triumphantly it seemed, clasped in the end of his dental tongs my very first extracted wisdom tooth. I unthinkingly sat up in the chair and started applauding; I didn’t even really understand why I was clapping, it just seemed so, I don’t know, deserved.

…I went straight up to my room (curiously, despite my enduring illness, still I insisted on taking the stairs two at a time to the fourth level), showered for only the second time that day – the norm is at least three – shaved and, with only the one appointment remaining thus having now paid the dentist bill in full, headed down the street, to again become the wilful victim of extortion, exorbitantness, exhibition and entrapment, but moreover, obviously, to see the woman of my dreams…

That initial endearment of ‘Woman of My Dreams’ – despite knowledge that any long-standing pursuit of the goddess Noobie would be futile, despite my better judgement, despite what I knew was great folly in logic, despite my most basic mental attachment to common sense, despite everything – was being quickly replaced by ‘Love of my Life’.

…That night, as I once more handed over 500 after 500, it seemed, just for the opportunity to see Noobie’s delighted face, between pool shots I sat and, for probably the fourth time in two weeks, I re-evaluated: I had come to Vietnam with the intention of meeting, falling in love with, and hopefully marrying a Vietnamese woman named Lin (bold plan, I know, but I don’t do shit half-arsed). That plan had disintegrated before it had begun and while I had also hoped to reunite with Mai – which I had since done – I didn’t hold out much hope of dredging out a future there, either. Additionally, I recalled, I had more recently had email contact with the woman named Vy and, while I had initially considered it underhanded to be effectively playing one against the other, as I knew it, the Vy thing had gone nowhere also. Joke was on me then, in that regard; once feeling so clever with all my wonderful ‘contacts’, now feeling a touch stupid as those contacts had presently turned into ‘no contact at all’…

Early-evening, as I had done most days since arriving in Vietnam, I sat outside at whatever hotel I was currently a resident and calmly, sedately, repetitively, went over everything I had done, everything that had taken place that day – recounting in my head every conversation I’d had while similarly burning into my brain the names of the people I had encountered – as well as skimming over notable details of past events, to ensure nothing was forgotten when it came time to document this year’s Chronicles.

…Then there was Noobie – woman of my dreams, bargirl, extremely high maintenance, beyond belief exquisite, ability to effortlessly engender the feeling that I was the only man on Earth (and like I said, ‘no words to describe how stupid I would feel’) – of whom I had had no knowledge before entering Vietnam, but for whom I had developed the strongest of emotions while in Vietnam. Logic told me to leave it; compulsion drove me to push on.

By day I was feeling raked out, hollow, eviscerated; by night, unfulfilled. It might have been the lingering effects of my illness, or perhaps it was a side-effect of the antibiotics they’d prescribed to ensure the bottomless pit at the back of my gums didn’t become infected but I felt empty, as though I’d failed in my quest to conquer Vietnam and by implication, I think, I was struggling with the feeling that I was failing life in general. I couldn’t shake the sensation and, after binning my remaining week’s supply of prescription meds, forced myself to reassess, refocus and lastly, importantly, to redirect.

As with many Vietnamese hotels, the Yen Trang started on the first floor, rather than the ground level. On the ground level, tucked inconspicuously under the Yen Trang reception and situated a few metres back from the road – yet in front of the hotel living quarters and the family who lived there – was the most delightful eatery I had encountered while in Vietnam, Loan’s Café.

The owner (whose husband, rather than sitting outside the premises maintaining ‘security’, did in fact help with the waiting duties), and head chef of Loan’s Cafe, Loan (Luhn), was a wonderful woman who, coupled with Yen Trang receptionist, Lieu (Layho), were more than willing to assist with my self-imposed search for redirection; together these two fine women aided in my freshly revised quest, my ongoing endeavour to glean as much knowledge about the ways of the ‘real’ Vietnam as was possible and ultimately, made my final days in Vietnam tolerable.

It was from here, Loan’s Café at the base of the Yen Trang hotel on Bui Vien, that every Vietnamese woman with whom I had been close – Mai, Noobie, Vy, also indirectly, Lin – would, in a bizarre and confusing turn, over the next few weeks, again present themselves to me as if in one final attempt to mess with my brain.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Dee N Lieu

Photography by Yeo I Wish

Tim Walker’s Kids

If baby sheep are called lambs and baby cattle are calves, if baby horses are called foals and baby cats are kittens, if baby dogs are pups and a doe is a deer a baby deer, what are we supposed to call a baby goat?

Pretty sure a baby goat is a kid, son.

That can’t be right, thought a ‘kid’ was what you called a baby…?

That is correct, it is what you call a baby goat.

Right, a baby goat is called, what?

A kid.

Yeah, so what’s a kid goat?

A baby.

Right, yes, alright, so what is a baby goat called then?

For the record, technically, a baby person is called a child, not a kid.

What, you mean when parents talk about their ‘kids’, they’re actually talking about goats?

Yeah, probably not, no.

So why do people call their children ‘kids’?

Good question, I’ll check into that…

Did you check?

Still checking.

Which would make you a chequer.

I am a little square, yes – have been that way since I was a kid.

Yeah, about that…?

Well, according to my infinitely knowledgeable Collins dictionary, a ‘kid’ is a baby goat.

Interesting, dictionary – why didn’t you just ask Google?

I don’t ask Google, as I have found that much of the so-called factual content on Google is written by people who in fact have no idea about the topic at hand and are simply rewriting an existing ‘factual’ article to produce words known as ‘web-filler’.

People like you, you mean?

In fairness, all my work is one hundred percent original, thank you very much.

No, I was talking about years ago, when you were a copywriter – isn’t that what you did?

Oh, yes, right, yes, that is the modern definition of copywriting – effectively copying somebody else’s writing for another source.

You never copied anything about baby goats then?

Ah, right, not the colloquial definition of ‘kid’ anyway, no, although according to Collin, the term ‘kid’ meaning ‘child’ was first recognised in the nineteenth century but, other than to say, ‘a kid is a baby goat and the word comes from Scandinavian origin’, he was unable to tell me much more than that.

You should ask Google then.

Right.

Did you ask?

Hm.

What did he say?

Confirmed, ‘kid’ meaning ‘child’ recognised in eighteen forty, which does constitute the nineteenth century –

Why do you do that?

Do what?

Write the whole number like that…?

Oh, it’s because technically we’re speaking and people don’t speak numbers, they speak words.

Makes sense, I suppose – what else did Google say?

Yes, Scandinavian origin, yes, it’s all basically the same, and no one appears to know the term’s colloquial origin.

‘Colloquial’, meaning slang, like, for ‘child’?

That is correct.

Wonder what Google says about ‘colloquial’…?

You are aware there are other search engines besides Google?

Yes, but why would anyone want to upgrade to an inferior counterpart?

I’ve taught you well, kid.

Yeah, so why not ‘lamb’, ‘pup’, ‘cub’ or something, instead, why a goat – why ‘kid’?

Would you prefer I referred to you as ‘lamb’?

Not so much, I’d rather be ‘shitkicker’ – are they the baby of something?

Gee, I don’t know, I guess, I mean, it might be a, what, the incontinent hermaphrodite offspring of a, I don’t know, zebu…?

Nah, what about the babies of crocodiles – what are they called?

Really, hah, you want to be called a ‘hatchling’?

Well, suppose, it’s still better than ‘pup’, or, what’s a baby eel called?

An ‘elver’.

Yeah, still better than an elf.

A kid elf, you mean.

Thought a kid elf would be an ‘elfling’, or something like that.

You know, I think a baby elf is just called a ‘baby elf’ – hard to say, given their nonexistence.

Cool story … What’s a baby ox called?

Pretty sure it’s a calf.

Thought that was a baby cow.

It is, they’re basically the same beast.

So what’s a baby buffalo?

I guess that would also be a calf – zebu too.

Even a hermaphrodite one?

I don’t see it should make a difference, particularly in this modern era, it’s still a calf.

Alright, what’s a baby whale then?

Are you trying to be clever?

I don’t need to try.

A baby whale, kid, is also a calf.

So why don’t they call kids that, instead – calves?

Couldn’t tell you, children have just always been ‘kids’.

No kidding, so what are baby goats called again?

Kids, I don’t know.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Noah I Deer

Photography by Bay B Animal

 

 

 

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXI

To witness a hard-shelled creature of around 70 millimetres long by 15 wide scuttling rapidly across the floor, invariably tracking a linear path, possibly over your foot, maybe up your trousers and even onto your table, to Vietnamese folk, is an everyday sight.

Cockroaches plaguing a building does not mean those premises are unclean or (come on, we’re talking about Vietnam here…?) unhygienic, it simply means a structure is providing adequate shelter from direct sunlight or, particularly, rainfall. Vietnamese are not at all bothered by the sight of these ghastly creatures and in fact, seem to respect them as though they belong or, unbelievably, as though are entitled to occupy whatever habitat they choose to infest…

Final morning at the Pink Tulip hotel, having enjoyed my last complimentary breakfast followed by another revealing chat with Oobit and now running perilously close to my midday checkout time, I tentatively peered through the gap in my open hotel room door. My heart skipped; my breath caught in my throat.

…A few nights before in Crazy Girls, during another Ho Chi Minh deluge, as I had watched numerous roaches appear, darting over the floor in front of me like little armoured soldiers, I had treated the situation no differently to the way I would any other unwanted pest; when one of these unsightly vermin had made its way onto my table I had naturally brushed it off, watched it scamper away a half-metre then stepped forward with a dancing-soled Vietnam boot, relishing the feel, also the sound, of it crushing under my foot (in fact the first time a cockroach had made its ungainly way onto my table I had picked it up by a leg to further study the, reportedly, potentially nuclear-surviving critter, in the hope of seeing what made the species so damned remarkable; at this point Noobie had reached forward and slapped my hand, causing me to drop my subject, where it had hit the floor with a ‘crack’, bounced to its feet, then scuttled away, seemingly unperturbed with being dropped onto a marble floor from over 100 times its own height – nuclear-surviving indeed – because apparently the first thing a cockroach does after being touched by a human, is run away to clean itself)…

In my room a figure was huddled up on the bed, pushed right back to the head, swaddled head to toe in sheets. I made my approach, reaching out and touching the raggedly breathing cocoon. It jerked back in surprise. “Noobie,” I whispered, “what’s wrong – what happened?”

Slowly, from amid the bundled sheets a head emerged; two distraught black eyes stared at me, unblinking, for what felt like minutes, then, “You leave me alone … I scared,” she breathed.

As much from relief as from the nature of her response, I almost laughed. “What – why are you scared?” I asked, sitting on the bed and wrapping my arms around the diminutive bundle.

“I scared of dark,” she glanced down ashamedly, speaking quietly, “I scared of alone.”

“Oh, shit … I’m sorry about that,” I tightened my embrace. “You should have come downstairs and found me – I was just having breakfast.”

“Oh,” she looked up, those beautiful big eyes wet with tears, “I didn’t know … I thought you leave me.”

“Come on, I would never leave you, Noobie, never.”

“But you are.”

“Oh … Well, at least for as long as I am in Vietnam, I promise, Noobie, I will not leave you.”

“But you go home – when?”

“Yes,” I sighed, “in two weeks, I will go home, that is correct.”

“So, in two weeks, you leave me.”

“No,” I sighed again, “in two weeks, I will go home, but I don’t want to leave you – I want you to come with me, Noobie.”

“Can’t.”

“So you say.”

“My family in Vietnam.”

“I know that, and I’ve told you we could take care of them from New Zealand.”

“I stay Vietnam,” through the tears she flashed me one of her scintillating grins, “you go back New Zealand…” her smile beamed up at me as she ran her dextrous fingers over places that didn’t need reminding, I was in bed with an exquisite Vietnamese woman “…You take care me there?”

“What if I just take care of you now and we’ll work out the rest after?”

…Suddenly I was under attack from a barrage of death-stares from every crazy girl in Crazy Girls bar.

One such, Linh (Ling), started beating my chest in anger, staring up at me with a menacing (adorable) glare, “Why you do that – why you hurt creature?”

“It was a cockroach,” I said in disbelief, “cockroaches are filthy creatures.”

“You filthy creature!” she chirruped and with that, Linh turned and stormed away.

I peered sideways at Noobie; she too, looked as though she didn’t want to know me. I glanced downwards, to a dozen or-so of these scuttling critters on the smooth floor on which the pool table was situated, sharing the space with an additional dozen or-so pairs of feet walking drunkenly around that part of the bar floor.

I couldn’t imagine that all those filthy cockroaches would make it home tonight; nevertheless, in Vietnam, apparently, to kill one deliberately, is a cardinal sin.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Karla Durty

Photography by Caca Rosh

Tim Walker’s Pedantic

Once upon a time I had trouble grasping its nuanced applications but still, and hypocritical as it may seem, misuse of the possessive apostrophe frustrates the shit out of me.

Recently I stumbled upon a Facebook excerpt: love you’s both endlessly

At first I smiled, then I choked; after that I think I tasted bile.

For a start, yous, is not a word – it’s not a pronoun, it’s not a noun, it’s not multiple nouns, it’s not anything (and for the record, those just back there, they were regular apostrophes to denote the missing of a letter – in the case of it’s, it’s the letter ‘i’ – as in, it is). Slipping in, what I can only imagine, is a possessive apostrophe, certainly makes ‘yous’ no more of a word, anyway…

Also, back up there, right on that first line; ‘Once upon a time’, what the hell is that? I mean, pretty sure I recognise each word individually but, in a sentence, they scarcely seem to make sense. Look at this, we’ll break it down: ‘Once’ is an adverb, it adds to a verb – he (pronoun) vomited (verb) once (adverb) – it’s one, sole, singular. ‘Upon’ is a preposition, a pre-position – also it’s a compound word – up on. ‘A’ is a pronoun, denoting something, and don’t you Facebook fiends dare try using it with a possessive either (because as you’ll see there ain’t no room – as there is additionally none for my ghastly double negative). ‘Time’ is an abstract noun (‘abstract’ because it’s not tangible), it’s ultimately indicative of when that something (Once upon a time) occurred.

…Possessive apostrophes, admittedly, can be difficult. They denote ownership, for example, Tim Walker’s Pedantic, which in this case means it is my article because I wrote it; it definitely does not mean ‘Tim Walker(is) Pedantic’, because that would just be silly and wholly outrageous…

Once Upon a Time there was a hackneyed way to start children’s storybooks (possessive in children’s, because it is the children who own the books) that was so widely used it became practically the only way to begin one of these old stories (no apostrophe, it’s a simple plural, hence the ‘y’ in ‘story’, along with the ‘s’ to indicate the plural, become ‘ies’); this despite the phrase ‘Once Upon a Time’ (and, although they might look the same as possessive apostrophes, those were actually inverted commas – see, ‘inverted commas’ – used to isolate and/or denote/differentiate a term’s meaning).

…That’s all reasonably straightforward stuff though, isn’t it – a possessive is used to denote ownership – it’s when you start getting into plurals of possessives that things can become complicated. Most people, seemingly, either don’t understand the ‘plural possessive’ rule or they simply can’t be bothered with it although, whatever side you choose to take, here it is…

Once Upon a Time there was a silly little boy named Tim Walker. He liked cats a lot. He had a lot of cats. Yet none of Tim Walker’s cats (possessive, as the cats are owned by Tim Walker) liked him very much. Tim Walker’s family (possessive, again singular, there is still only one of him) were all Walkers too (no possessive at all, nothing here is being owned, it’s just a regular plural), and they didn’t much care for Tim’s cats (possessive, singular, only one Tim). In fact, they liked Tim’s (possessive, singular) cats (none) about the same amount as those cats (again, basic plural, no need for possessive) disliked Tim. One day Tim was feeding his cats (again, no possessive). He reached down and picked up the cats’ bowl (possessive, plural; apostrophe this time coming after the ‘s’, indicating the bowl is owned by multiple cats), then carefully opened the cat-food tin’s lid (possessive, singular, there is only one cat-food tin). The rest of the Walkers then appeared (no possessive, nothing is owned), riding in the Walkers’ big station wagon (possessive, plural, as the car is owned by all the Walkers), with Mr Walker’s big voice (possessive, singular, as it’s his voice only) booming over the land.

…Ultimately, the ruling, as suggested by Tim Walker – formally qualified to proofread, edit and, by implication but perhaps less-so, write stuff – if you don’t know how to properly use a possessive apostrophe, please, better you don’t use one at all.

It’s just that, for those people who do understand their usage, a sentence devoid of possessives is much less frustrating to see than the unnecessary inclusion of one.

Thank you.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Ana Nessy-Sari

Photography by Poe Zissa Sieve