Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blimps and Bullshit: Am I Doing Enough? II

Monday, March 16, 2008
A one-day diary:

9:00 am
I don't wake so early most days. If I have a business meeting or early appointment I will, but generally I work until 2am or later so seven hours sleep is good. I work often on less but find, that a bit more sleep makes me more productive and happy.
9:05 am
Rice. Coffee. Rubber. Those are Vietnam's three largest exports in that order. My morning coffee is made with a single-drip container that sits atop your standard cup. Hot water poured through, a rounded tablespoon makes a splendid cafe with about an 8th of an inch sweetened condensed milk in the bottom. A gentle stir with a tiny spoon and I'm ready to go. 100 grams of Arabica lasts me a week and costs around 50 cents.
9:15 am
Coffee and first cigarette in hand it's a mere swing and roll over to the charmingly antique (2003) Powerbook G4 12". General email and such. "There Will Be Blood" has finished downloading. Now I've got a movie for the evening.
9:20 am
Phone rings. Land-line. Something's wrong with the cell-phone and I'm off to the MobiFone shop to see if they can sort it out today. On the land-line is Crispin. He's invited me for breakfast. Crispin and I met two summers ago when we both DJ'd on different nights at the same club. I on a Monday and Crispin on a Wednesday, we became fast friends being fans of Britpop, psychedelic, Eric Satie, Broadway show tunes, Sinatra, Trip-hop, Hip-hop and alternative music of uncommon variety in Saigon. Crispin is visiting from England to which he has returned to pursue a career in the "real world".
9:30 am
Ye olde shit, shower and shave and I'm off for an Irish breakfast.
9:50 am
Crispin meets me in the lobby of my building and we jump on his motorbike to one of the local cheap-eats breakfast places.
10:00 am
The "All-day Irish Breakfast" is Vietnam's friend to hangovers from all over the world. Served on a 16" plate, not a spot of porcelain is visible amidst the pile of food served. Two eggs – poached, four slices of bread – toasted with butter on the side, two hash browns, four sausages, 4 strips of bacon, baked beans – helped by a dash if Tabasco and two slices of fried tomato. Cost: around 5 dollars with coffee. Tasty and filling.
10:30 am
Crispin and I discuss all things Vietnam, England and America. We talk about this blog and about Crispin's plan to work in the university system in the UK helping Asian students with their educations in an administrative function. He's visiting his girlfriend and really does miss Vietnam. He is experiencing the kind of post-traumatic-stress disorder that follows many expats back to their home countries after having been away for awhile and having realized that the "stress" was actually their home country. Being away from it for long enough can mellow a person out so much that they never truly recover to a land that doesn't allow smoking, excess drinking, street corner marijuana sales, naked girls playing pool with you or felatio being delivered at your barstool. Of course, that's not the life that everyone lives, but it is possible, and purchasable if one desires. What's the bigger idea is that there are simple freedoms that can be had, well beyond sex and drugs in this categorically communist country that can not be had in many democracies. So what, they don't really vote for their leaders? We do and look what we got last time. Anyway, just a perspective you won't see in Boise. Or SoHo. I suggest to Crispin that he start a blog – to channel his thoughts.
11:30 am
Crispin and I bid farewell, vow to keep in touch over the web and off we go. He on his motorbike and I on a short walk back home. Need to burn a few calories off.
11:45 am
From 11:30 to at least 1:30 everyday, Vietnam shuts down. It's a bit like a siesta and a holdover from the colonial days of no air-con or international clients to tend to. Switchboards turn off, air-con goes down and people flee the office buildings to the cafes, street restaurants or maybe home for a nap. You'll even find rows of office workers sleeping on the floors of darkened rooms once they've had their fill of "pho" (noodle soup) and maybe a little "kem" (ice cream) on a particularly hot day. It's pointless to try to get anything done in Vietnam during this time. So just don't try. I'm quite sure that Bentley dealership is closed.
12:00 noon
And so it's back home for a little computer geeking. An email to a client, some work filling out the calendar and an hour goes fast.
1:30 pm
Off to sort out that pesky phone issue. A few weeks back in a post titled Perspective II I had made note that I had not had the best of days. Because on that day, on my way home from working, my cell-phone was pick-pocketed. She was a crusty old whore and one I wanted nothing to do with. I could see her silhouette in the shadows of the car dealership now closed on a deserted stretch of a block or so of my route but tried not to notice. The Vietnamese are perplexed by my insistence on walking almost everywhere but I prefer it. I see a lot more of life by walking and keep a trim figure in the bargain. I politely refused her offer of "massage baby" twice and tried not to make eye contact but on the third approach one trained hand went for my crotch and the other for my left pants pocket. My pulling away was not enough to keep the phone from joining its new owner. Stealing phones is an international pastime in Southeast Asia – almost a legitimate job. So it became another week or so of replacing the phone and getting a new sim card to make it work. But today was to find out why the new sim card wasn't working.
2:00 pm
MobiFone bustles with customers, paying bills, opening new accounts and fixing old ones. A machine gives you a number and then you wait. Usually 20 minutes max. There are a few advertising posters on the wall but it's best to have a book or magazine. It took just minutes for my attendant to figure out what was wrong. I had only paid the bill that morning and the new sim card had been "inactive" until then. It worked now.
2:30 pm
Another short walk to a client meeting at three. Saigon is charming downtown. The French built cathedral Notre Dame and the Gustav Eiffel designed post office were on my way.
3:00 pm
Meeting with a client and a request for proposal. Job? They've got a contract to bring a blimp, a derigible, a zeppelin, into the country and want to use it for advertising purposes. They want me to write a plan that covers all of the blimp's advertising plans, expenses, potential media consumers, schedules and fees. I don't know fuck all about blimps but I'm gonna learn fast. Now this is the point where I pinch myself just to make sure I'm still on an oxygen breathing planet. How much fucking fun is this? I'm gonna get paid for figuring out how to sell blimp advertising to the Vietnamese. Never been done. No background information. Need to write this one from the ground up. Shit, bad pun. But it's just this sort of thing that makes my life fun here. No, I won't be going to L.A. to shoot any million dollar commercials but I might get to ride in a blimp over Vietnam. This place is just fucking nuts.
4:00 pm
A city bus to my next appointment. At rush hour it's best not to be a pedestrian around here. The buzz of motorbikes is just deafening and without a steel enclosure around you, you're just a walking target.
4:30 pm
Cafe Sua Da, means "iced coffee". Within every city block there must be at least three old ladies who will make you a glass of the stuff. The coffee, made presumably that morning, is poured, syrup-like, from an old liter and a half Pepsi bottle. The ice, crushed by hand from a chiseled block and beaten into half inch chunks with a small wooden bat and a towel. And the whole treat topped off by maybe a quarter inch of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the glass. Cost: about 30 cents. Taste: With a cigarette? Priceless.
5:15 pm
The way many people make a steady buck around here is by teaching. And in the marketing business there's a huge clientele in corporations, private institutions and universities. I've worked for them all. My 5:15s are college students who speak well enough but are painfully shy. Oh, I'll bust them of that over time.
6:00 pm
Knock on the classroom door and it's one of the administrators. She wants to know if I can fill in for another teacher at another location at 7:30. No problem. A few more hours on my bill.
7:15 pm
Off to the substitute job.
7:30 pm
Before my class I'm asked if I can do an evaluation on a new student. After a 20 second check of her speaking ability (excellent) I run through our evaluation criteria. She answers all the questions easily on our highest level class. Probably she won't be my student but I hope she doesn't get bored. It's odd. Those who truly need an education don't seek it out and those who don't really need it keep getting more.
9:30 pm
A 30 minute walk home should wash the work out of me. I'm thinking more now about blimps. Jeezuz. Now I'm a blimp salesman.
10:00 pm
I'm not halfway up the five storey walkup that is my flat when the cel-phone rings. It's Ryan, a 26 year old American computer and music geek who likes to come to my place, have a few beers and participate in some of the local sharecropping that goes on from time to time. He wants to know if William, another friend of mine, wants to play some guitar tonight. Fuck, I'm bushed. I enter my flat and within five minutes there's a knock on the door. It's William, guitar in hand. Looks like the jam session's at my place tonight. We all merry about for a couple of hours and have a nice time. Ryan can write and William can play. William and I go all the way back to Korea. We met whilst hanging around at the open-mic nights in town. It's good to have friends in the music business.
12:00 am
Those guys kicked out, it's time to check that torrent I downloaded of "There Will Be Blood". Awesome.

Blimps, tomorrow.

For more in the "Am I doing enough?" series, check below:

III An Ozomatli Day: Am I doing enough? III
II Blimps & bullshit: Am I doing enough? II
I "I've spent many years making up for not being a genius": Am I doing enough?


  1. Excellent slice of life there, blimps, jam sessions, coffee, all this heaven...David, you are stressing me out and I'm not even home working yet! lol

  2. I remembered recently that this was one of the most interesting posts hereon.

    Btw, also remembered to mention, nice css and widget work in the sidebar -- might just rip somma that.

  3. Thanks Mac. In the sidebar, rip all you like! My fave is the podcast. Also make sure you get hooked up with Texhnorati. Cheers


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