For all those who romanticize about the Paris of the 30s, the time of Picasso, Hemingway, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Man Ray sipping Pernod in Montparnasse, you should have been in my corner of the world last night – a snippet of heaven.
On an otherwise ubiquitous Saigon street named Do Quang Dau, I live above a French bistro named K Cafe, hosted by Paulo, a big booming voiced Frenchman and his Vietnamese wife Ka, and had the unexpected pleasure of not only enjoying a meal of exquisitely prepared Coq Au Vin last evening, but the experience of seeing the French Navy dance to a jazz trio of accordion and two guitars opening with a Django Reinhardt tune. What were the odds?
The scene at this small cafe moved from the quaint to the surreal when a tall and strikingly beautiful, porceline Chinese woman pulled her brilliant blue accordion from a backpack and was joined on stools by two accompanying guitarists, an American and a Frenchman. A man nearing his 70s immediately took the hand of the one female navy officer and began to dance and twirl as the room applauded and ordered more Pernod. My friend Soren, whom I had not seen in a year, smiled and said to me, "David, this is your life", knowing that the ceiling above the performers was also the floor of my apartment. I reflected and thought, "Yeah, it is." Nice.
As a sidebar, the performers had come from Beijing as refugees from the summer Olympics and the political controls of the Chinese government. According to them, visa renewals have been halted and basically China is keeping the world out of what they are calling the "One World, One Dream" Olympics. A visit to a number of Olympic ticket sales sites indicates that sales have been finished and are no longer available to foreigners. So much for the One World idea – or it's a Chinese world and that's the going propaganda. Since the international journalists have been such pussies about Iraq, maybe they'll have a field day with the Chinese for this staged sham – no way, the Chinese will get the same pass Hitler got on this affair.
The two accordion shots you see here are courtesy of Bui Doi. You can visit his blog and see more of Saigon, and read it in French by clicking above.
For what it's worth, Vietnam now seems to have become a haven for disenfranchised expatriates in Asia. With visa laws reasonably negotiable and plenty of business to go around, it's not as if we are all getting rich but we are certainly getting by – and happy not to be putting up with the BS in our home, arguably, "first world" countries. Artists, musicians, writers and a plethora of wanna-be's populate the streets and pubs of old-becoming-new, Saigon and make this a petrie dish of the lost or rejected. Myself included, this group of societal misfits carry their heads high, yet still below the radar of the PC bullshit they have, at least temporarily evaded, in their home countries. Talk pervades that we have a year, or maybe two. before the WTO kicks in and the Commies are forced to start playing by a world of rules for which this society has not been designed. I heard Kenya last night and often Cambodia as "the next" places for our group of white elephants to go. This blog is getting hits from Sri Lanka recently. In a way, we're the hippies of this era - well educated quasi-intellectuals who have eschewed the crap nationalistic propaganda of our own lands to find more freedom in an only "branded" Communist society that, at least currently, offers more personal freedoms than we all might find back home. Very interesting indeed, this Wild Wild East.