Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

If I didn't walk in this city I would never have seen the sign that proclaimed the title of this post - "Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" nor would I have had the ability to understand that it is a menu item, the first on a list of other more understandable ones, and the sign, designed to entice customers into the joint, just one more in the melange of maligned English descriptions that make up a large part of this city's attempts at foreign relations. The dish described is simply fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, not the deep-fried variety, filled with a standard pork/shrimp/veggie mixture but the word that threw me off was disposed? I understood foggy in that the ricepaper is not clearly transparent but why disposed? Was it not good enough for some other purpose? Would ricepaper officionados avoid this particular variety? Does that mean it's recycled? In an effort to increase the green promotion of Saigon I will certainly make a point of revisiting this establishment when they are open and suggesting to management that the word disposed be supplanted by the word recycled to increase the freshness appeal and overall appetisement of the advertisement. Do you think they'll understand? The vagaries of walking always serve in some way or another to enhance what might otherwise be a boring day. Why just take a taxi home from work when you can avail yourself of all the pleasures of all the little things awaiting, that you are, at instant, unaware of? Let the rabbits out of the hats, the cats from their bags and genies from bottles. Pandora's box holds a day's worth of secret surprises all if you just take another step. The half-hatched egg seller from my last Little Things post was was closed so it was time to visit the back of the Phu Nuan Market and see the lady from my Lunch With Obama entry. Mmm, mmm, mmm. She served up a similar bowl of noodles to my visit before with fried springrolls and sliced sausages on top, but my surprise came when I asked for a drink. She then produced another woman from the stall behind who then produced a perfect English speaking husband who then asked me what kind of shake I was looking for - how he knew I prefered a shake will remain beyond me. I ordered an orange with ice and sweetened condensed milk that would turn out to as close as I can remember to an Orange Julius from one of my childhood trips to California. I recalled trying to convince my father to open an Orange Julius franchise back home in Illinois and his perplexed reaction to this 10 year old entrepreneur. He remains perplexed today. The number three bus would be my bus of choice today as I had walked quite enough and felt a bit stuffed after my feed and drink. Lunch cost two dollars - the bus, 20 cents. Arriving at the Ben Thanh Saigon bus station is a little like arriving in the Bolivian train station that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid find in the film of the same name - minus the attractive Burt Bacharach soundtrack. It's got chickens outside, conical hatted ladies vending noodles and cigarrette smoking officials to help you find your bus - that is, if you speak Vietnamese. And it's got busses - hundreds of them all coming and going, barely stopping to let the old passengers off and the new ones on, in a symphony of musical big tin can chairs that can only be described as comical - if not oddly efficient. I depart. The Nguyen Kim electronics store is Vietnam's version of a Sam's wholesale but a whole lot more Vietnamese. Crowded onto a street corner that could barely hold a drivethrough McDonalds in the States it boasts four floors of more varieties of stuff than you've ever seen. I counted over 80 different kinds of microwaves, 100 types of refrigerators - all different- and the most dizzying array of vacuum cleaners I had seen since Korea. Orientals are fastidiously clean and have the electronics to prove it. Two monks were busy bargaining with a salesperson over a huge deep freeze with an icemaker and computer readout screen on the polished stainless steel door. I come here when the rest of the world is going to shit just so I can put into perspective that the $80 billion IMF bailout of Korea during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 was but a drop in the bucket of what the US is going through right now - $150 billion for AIG, another $45b to Citibank and Merrill, Bear Stearns, Lehman, Goldman... et al, oh fuck, I loose track - and see that another truckload of Samsung whatevers just won't be enough for these people. My January 5th, 2009 copy of Newsweek reminds me that "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things." It also cautions that "It is not expected that kings philosophize or that pholosophers become kings, nor is it to be desired, because possession of power corrupts the free judgement of reason inevitably." As we American's, and the world as a whole, welcome the change of a new administration in the free world, is is worthy to note the authors of the previous quotes - Machiaveli on the former and Plato for the latter - as we hopefully set our expectations for our new leaders appropriately and realize that there's a whole world of rolled, foggy, disposed, ricepaper salesmen out there and we'll need to decide very carefully what to order when the new world menus appear. The Vietnamese will then cook it for us in a Samsung, Toshiba or Electrolux depending on which model was on sale on which particular day.

For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:

My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X

Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII

A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI

Seoul Searching - Perspective XII

He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V

Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2

Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV

Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1

Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V

The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things

Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2

Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1

Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III

Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II


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