The night I arrived in Saigon, I had a few beers with a local journalist and we talked a bit about the American election.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Sitting inside a cafe in District 1 in Saigon, I spotted this guy repairing an air conditioner--using a makeshift handsaw to fit a pipe.
His heels were hanging off the ledge and soon after it started to rain.
No net, hard hat, safety boots in sight.
Here's a closer look:
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
My ticket from Vienna to Saigon routed me overnight through Qatar.
Arrived in Doha at 6pm.
Had no hotel.
Asked around the airport about what could be done.
Eventually, an airport woman took my passport and went behind a door marked "STAFF".
45 minutes later, woman emerges with my passport and a voucher.
And then I spent the evening soaking in a jacuzzi at a five star hotel.
Last night I arrived in Saigon.
Hotel smelled like a giant mothball.
Slept with a shirt over my face so I wouldn't breathe in so much of it. Had a hard time waking up--was that because of the ether or the fabric over my face...
In the morning I discovered the Emergency Kit hanging on the wall, filled with: Maxipads, Condoms and Marlboro Cigarettes.
I asked to be moved to another hotel (the one I normally stay at here) and when I checked out, the entire bill for two days cost $12.
That's $12 and a passport, which the receptionist apparently misplaced.
Welcome to Vietnam.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I got an email last week from the editor in Saigon who I've worked for a couple of times before (consultant) asking me to get there as soon as possible because they needed help with the launch of another new newspaper.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Remi and I came back from Florence heading due north and stopped just south of Innsbruck in more or less the Brennersee region.
Coldcoldcold, so camping in the tiny tent is not an option.
Remi is thinking Hilton, I'm thinking Motel 6, but we ended up rapping on the door of the Hotel Fuchs in the small village of Pfons.
A few people stand talking around the counter of an otherwise empty restaurant when we walk in. Someone comes over to Reception and blows the dust off the registry.
"How many? Just you?"
"Just me. And my dog."
"Yea, only one night."
"What time do you want breakfast?"
"Around 8," I say.
She pats Remi on the head and hands me a keyring the size of a basketball and as heavy as lead chains, with '217' on it.
Remi bounds up the stairs, happy to be outta the car.
As we turn the corner at the top of the stairs, we're met with a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Meets Madame Tussaud:
Here's a closer look:
And Hello, jaunty little red-eyed fox with rifle and binoculars and little felt hat and whisky flask, standing on a shelf...
Remi growls at Badger, then walks past him stiff-legged in a "stay calm, don't panic, Act Like You Don't Have Any Money to Steal" kind of way.
Meanwhile, I run, legs flailing and all, hurrying to get the weighty key in the lock of room 217.
I'm starving. Now that Remi is pleasurably burping up her Royal Canine canned instameal, she is sprawled on the bed like a contented Renoir nude, fat with food, and it's time for me to feed myself.
I want to head back into town to forage for food but I'm loathe to take the leaded, basketball keyring with me.
No one is in this hotel. Except for the owners who live downstairs, and the fanged dead animals standing guard on the second floor, we are the only guests. And if those creepy stuffed animal murder victims decide to come alive ala Stephen King, Remi'll rip their legs off if they try to get in the room. Redrum, redrum.
I heave the keyring onto the table and try my luck with fate.
Zipping down the hill, I cross the babbling brook and head into the town center.
It's dark. Nothing is open. But far off in the distance, I see a flashing "pizzeria" sign.
I run for it.
I enter the pizza place, panting. I think of Remi, snug in a warm room, sleeping off a good meal and I hate her.
"I'd like a pepperoni pizza, please, with garlic. And can you tell me why nothing is open?"
"It's a holiday today. And besides, it's almost 830."
I waitwaitwait and about 20 minutes later when I have my pizza-to-go, I get back in the car, zip back over the babbling brook and up the hill to my hotel.
It's way darker now. Windows shuttered. Front door locked. No doorbell.
I bang on the door a few times. Nothing.
I go around the front to see if any lights are on. Wait.... I see one on! I see a light on the, what's that? ...the second floor...?
No luck around the front of the building, so I go back to the main entrance and start banging on windows again.
Standing there with a hot pizza in one hand, the knuckles of my other hand raw red with knocking, I think how sucky it is that I have just paid good money to rent a room for my dog to sleep in, while I bunk in the car.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Remi and I were driving back from Vienna this afternoon and got behind a truck that had a sign on the back in big bold letters: Left Hand Driver.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Coming back from Florence, Remi and I drove due north, through Bologna and on through the Alps. Took in the mile after mile of breathtaking snow-capped mountains that engulfed us--and it set me to thinking that the bit about the Von Trapps ambling over the Alps in their Sunday best was a less than likely scenario.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Eventually, I'll get my website designed and I've hired the right guy to do it--Mark Figlozzi.
But before the designing starts, I talked my good friend Rick Tuma--a fantabulous illustrator for the Chicago Tribune--into illustrating something for it (hint: Remi the Jack Russell and George the London Taxi will play key roles).
Rick said that the only payment he would accept is to have a scanned copy of the caricature he gave me at my going away party at the Trib.
Oops. Left that at my mom's house years ago when I blew outta America. Mom prolly sold it or something.
I told Rick I'd give it my best shot, so when I was back in Virginia a few weeks ago my sister and I ransacked mom's house looking for the thing.
In the end, I climbed up into the attic while Judi searched mom's file drawers one more time.
It was in there, filed under "P" for Patti--along with my baby book, cards, poems and pictures I'd drawn as a child.
Judi quickly went for the "J" file to look through her little goldmine of treasures-- it was nice, sitting there on that bed together, my mother looking on.
Anyhow, the reality is, my legs are more than somewhat longer than this, and my ears aren't quite so big.
Posted by Patti McCracken at 9:14 PM
Friday, May 16, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I've been back from the US not quite a week, but no updates because I've just been slammed with allergies again. I had fever and chills for a few days, and now I've just lost my voice. My nose is useless for breathing. It only catches pollen these days. It's a wonder anything get pollenated while I'm standing around--all pollen goes to me.