Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hanoi's Old Quarter

When I was a kid, I watched Laurence of Arabia and thought, one day, I will wrap a white silk scarf around my face, ride a camel across the desert, and be the only man alive for a thousand miles.
Another time I remember watching Brando in The Wild One with that leather jacket and hat bent down over his eye and I thought... man, that dude is cool.
My sister Lisa and I used to put a time out on the Saturday afternoon Monopoly game to watch Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk, a 1940's black and white, with popcorn. Nobody was cooler than Errol Flynn.
Except maybe Cary Grant... hard to find anyone nowadays that's as cool as Grant in North By Northwest.
I don't know why I was thinking about cool guys in old movies... but here I am in Hanoi. I've checked in to a 4 dollar a night hole in the wall. Today I ate $3.50 worth of noodles and fried fish and drank two cups of loaded espresso while hunched over a stool on the street.
I rented a bike and tore through rice fields, did 200 push-ups, and laid all my zip-lock baggies on this flea-biting bed to take a gander at how heavy my pack is.
I talked to an old man that was sanding some wood. He let me give it a try with coarse sandpaper, and we laughed at how good it made us both feel, like being with my Dad getting ready for the Pine Wood Derby.
I bargained down for a couple of dopey rice hats to bring back to my girls. I carry a picture of them all folded up in my back-pocket. You know that's true.
I wrapped a scarf around my neck, still I'm pinked from the sun, and hit Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) and told this kid smoking on a scooter about King Arther Pendragon's Excalibur. He thought since I was an American it was real.
I hand-washed a t-shirt in the sink, talked cricket scandals with a Pakistani barber on a second floor balcony, and laughed with a bar hostess about the absurdity of Milan Kundera.
I lay in the middle of a rice field and made shapes in clouds... here a samurai fish, there a cyclopes dog.
I threw clay pots on a spinning wheel in a little village not marked on any maps but given to me on backroad directions from a local carrying a bucket of bananas.
I passed a hand scribbled note to a old French woman on a napkin that made her smile and drop it into her water glass before the man she was with could snatch it from her hands. It read: "Your husband is so in love with you, look at the way he can't take his eyes off you..."
They both must have been in their seventies.
Man, today was cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment