Wednesday, December 29, 2004
What happened? Here we go. I may not be able to finish it. If anyone reads over my shoulder what I am about to say, I may be lynched. Or tossed out into traffic. If that happens, Rachelle will let you know.
And if you get Rachelle's email and it recounts this episode in slightly a different way...it's only b/c she doesn't want to worry parent-types (which means she lies).
This morning we went to see Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. First point to note: in HIS WILL, "Uncle Ho" requested a cremation. Yet he sits alone in a big drafty building, forced to watch as hordes of people pass by and tout his godfullness. Our guide book (the 'Lonely Planet'. This Vietnam version was written by some slothy chick who spent a month or so traveling thru the country. Shall we say the details and info are mighty lacking?) offered advice on what you are not allowed to do while viewing the corpse (no, he's not a saint. Saints defy decomposition on their own, I am told. Stuffing parts into an airtight box don't qualify): No hats, shorts, tank tops. No bags, cameras or picture taking. Keep your hands out of your pockets (didn't make that one up) and don't pass gas where Unkie may hear. Bow low and mumble incoherently your undying devotion and love and reverential obediance for the Man. So we common folk must show respect for some dude's body. While his 'loyal supporters', ignore his last wish. No, commie-nism isn't shnockered at all.
We found a flyer for the area outside on the lawn. I'll maybe quote some of it later. It's rich. Let's just say that much like God, Ho gets His pronouns capitalized. Now THAT'S a legacy to leave behind!
And I am long winded. On to the story.
An early departure was the plan. Didn't happen. Slept in and ate a leisurely bfast. Finally got moving at 10:15 (dead Ho is only open until 11am) and spurted across town. My navigational skills surpassed my expectations as they led us onto an unexpected short cut. This 'chosen' route afforded us a view of the mausoleum grounds blocks before we got there. Picture this:
The first thing you notice is the golden aura around the complex. No, not a sign from God (like the sign out front proclaims). It's all the refuse butter and grease from the cooking in this country piled up where you can't see and illuminated with spotlights. A big brick edifice gate thing with HO CHI MINH across the top in bold neon lettering. This bldg sits amid a large patch of concrete (what we Yanks call a parking lot) which is bordered in front by a patch of lawn roughly the size of a football field with room on one end for about 30 tailgating RVs (And I mean real tailgating. Not this "tailgating at the opera with our fancy china and wine and tea/strumpet" crap). Said lawn is cross-hatched with small paths crossing at right angles to each other spaced about 10 feet apart. The signs every 2 feet along the edge of the unkempt sod are very clear in their desire that you don't insult Ho by crunching His grass woth your unclean feet. So, we got on the first small walk we came to in order to expedite our progress towards Ho (it was now about 20 minutes to 11am). We hadn't gone more than about 10 feet when we began hearing shrill whistle blasts and yelling coming from all around us. On our right, one guard moved in (though he paused long enough to pester some poor dude sitting on the street next to the grass before continuing towards us). On the left, another guard passed right by another couple on an adjacent path and made a beeline for us. Frozen, like an 18-point whitetail and his doe, we stopped. Then all hell broke loose. I'm not sure what I was thinking, must have hearkened back to my days in juvie. I broke for Ho. Rachelle closed her eyes, dropped her head into her right hand and slowly shook her head in exasperation at my lunacy (I found this out later); then she walked to yet another guard who sat near the street doubled over in laughter at the proceedings (they randomly choose who to yell at. It's a game: "Figure out what the pattern of my harassment is". They have too much free time) to find out where to find me once it all ended. And then she moved on.
Meanwhile, I was sprinting with all I had (not much these days), vainly trying to reach solid pavement. Unfortunately we've been lazy lately so my inshapedness is lacking. Also, I was wearing my new cords, shoes (not sandals) for the first time in over a month, and my backpack was full (I carry around all my books. I don't want them getting ganked from our room while we're out). Not to mention trying to maintain my footing on the 1' strip of concrete. Out of the corner of my right eye I saw one guard hit the horizontal in an impressive tackle formation. Fortunately I was about at a cross-path. I nimbly leaped and cut the corner, avoiding the grass and the cackling guard. He went sprawling into the grass and was immediately pounced upon by trained attack marmots. I would have laughed but I didn't see the other guard anticipate my feint. He hit me square in the side and we went bouncing into the grass next to Guard One. This was quite convenient for the marmots b/c they didn't have to move far to start gnawing on our shins while tossing rocks at our heads (and don't even ask me how many holes they chewed in my backpack).
My Colorado experience now kicked in. I have much experience in fending off vicious marmots and I gained a footing on the concrete and again tore in the direction of Ho. Almost closing time! I can make it! Must see the stiff! Well, I hadn't anticipated the 'aroma' (which they call 'Uncle Ho's Secret Blend".) permeating the air around the mausoleum. Its pungency knocked me to my knees in time for fresh guards to take turns slapping me with large fish (You should see the holsters!).
Suffice it to say we didn't get to see Uncle Ho. Instead of charging me with any crime (it'd be hard to make any charges stick since technically we had done nothing wrong. Me running could be explained as a spontaneous need for exercise. They had me sitting on cold steel nekkid so there would be no arguing my need for some vigorous exercise), they called me a "stupid Yank" for an hour while pointing and laughing at me. And throwing little corn mush balls at me. Little do they know, I receive similar reactions from people on a daily basis in my own country. Ha! I showed them...? Um, yeah!
Back out in society, Rachelle made me promise that next time I decide to pull something like that, that I leave my money behind for her so that she can go shopping. And no, that doesn't mean she'll be getting me and presents.
Oh yeah-we walked thru a market yesterday and saw a bunch of hairless (often semi-legless) leering dead dogs for sale. I considered a pic, but didn't get around to it. Any requests?