Friday, May 27, 2022
Dateline: San Francisco
Made it back to U.S. late yesterday.
Took the BART out of SFO to Powell Street Station.
I had help from a BART attendant to get a card for the train system. Had the door literally close inches from boarding and had to wait another half hour for the next train. The BART system is terrific, but hard to figure out if no one helps you. The map in the car is electronic, lighting up the route you are on. As you move along the line the next station is enlarged slightly on the map and the display at either end of the car displays the next station stop. Meanwhile, the stations you have been to are de-lit (de-lit? Is that a word?)
Once I got to Powell Street Station there was a sign indicating an elevator. Great. But, no elevator. Lots of construction boarded over stuff. Hauled bags up three steps to escalator then to street level. The hot spell in the city must have passed because it was chilly. Fortunately, I was able to find my puffy blue jacket without ripping my bags completely apart. (I saved that for my hotel room when I looked for my wine opener.) At the top of the stairs I saw this sign post with Ho Chi Minh City listed a being 7830 miles away.
“Huh?” I thought, “I was just there. Less than 24 hours ago.”
The amazing thing about travel today is you can be just about anywhere in the world in 24 hours.
Ho Chi Minh City is the new name for Saigon, which I realized when I saw the airport code of SGN. I had been thinking I was going to Hanoi. I flew from Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Airport to Phnom Penh Airport and then to Saigon, I mean Ho Chi Minh City and then Vietnam Air to San Franciso.
The flight over the Pacific Ocean was 13 hours and 50 minutes. There was nothing to see except ocean until the last 30 minutes of the flight. I watched two terrific movies and the rest of the selections were stuff I had seen or were old.
However, the two I saw were terrific. One was I’m guessing French, named “Eiffel.” It s the story of Gustave Eiffel and after building the latticework for the Statue of Liberty was commissioned to build something for the World’s Fair in Paris. He had to overcome severe doubters and obstruction before it was complete. At the same time it is the story of unrequited love. The love he had for a young woman, and she for him, many years before. How they met again in Paris, and how the flame rekindled. I don’t know any of the actors or actresses, but the woman playing the love interest is wonderfully beguiling. It’s a great story, not only of love, but of engineering and politics.
Speaking of politics, the other movie is “The Darkest Hour.” The story of when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England at the beginning of World War II. How he faced the possibility of the British army being wiped out at Dunkirk and how the “diplomats” of England wanted to sue for peace with Hitler. How he listened to the regular folks on the Tube in London and got the courage to stand up to those politicians and say he would never surrender. It’s a story with particular meaning today in light of what is going on in Ukraine.
Oh wait, One more movie “Hail Caesar” The Cohen Brothers. Subtle, funny, not subtle – it’s the Chen Brothers. If you aren’t familiar with their works, you are missing two of the most clever people in the movie business today. And it’s got just about every star currently working in Hollywood today. Who knew Chatum Tanning could sing and dance?
Now that I’m back in the States I see a city that is filthy. There were some odd ducks on the BART at the last few stops. Not the usual sort. These were young people, not the disheveled winos. One young man was playing air guitar as he walked down the the train car, then he sat down and proceeded to play air drums and switch to air bass and air lead. Quite a performance, thought rather unnerving. Especially, for the young French couple sitting opposite him. I learned this morning that there is an air guitar convention in town right now, so maybe it makes sense. I don’t know.
I bought some wine from the desk late last night, when I got in. Didn’t even ask the price. Charge it to the room. I realized I better eat something. A place up the street was still open. Got a slice of pizza and a meatball sandwich. The guy with the shaved head around the sides and long fuzzy hair off the top and down the back with singed purple ends told me he was from New York and this is the best pizza in town. Good to know. The meatball sandwich was good, and very different. Grilled meatball and cheese, pressed. Well, they said they had panini, and this was in that category. Very good.
Hey, and on the way there I saw the transvestite in black high heels and orange red leotards getting out of a car. (His car? Hers? So hard to know which possessive pronoun to use.)
This morning I went down the breakfast bar and got a knock off Egg McMuffin, Danish and cup of coffee for 16 bucks. What a deal. The McMuffin was sad: egg product disk, melted cheese, bacon served microwave semi-warm with a side of sad pineapple chunk and 6 commercial grade tasteless blueberries. Hey, listen I was just in Cambodia where every morning I had real French croissants and fruit to die for. What is this – leftovers?
TV – Stephen Curry is being compared to other basketball greats. The NBA finals are on. Weren’t there on when I left three weeks ago? Weren’t they on three months ago? OMG, are they ever over?
There are a bunch of shows about people trying to be classy by showing off how tasteless they can be. There are reality shows where they are digging for gold or fishing for crabs. There are bunches of sports analysis shows where they only analyze two sports. Hey, where’s my badminton channel? Or Pingpong? No sumo-wrestling? WTF? Not even on rugby channel. Maybe a little soccer. I had at least four futball matches I could watch at any time over there. And the great thing was I had no idea who the teams were. “AZV versus LSZ” or something like that.
People ask me if I’m worried being over there. Wasn’t I scared, etc. Hey. Listen, how many Cambodian mass shooting have you heard of in the last year? All the news from the U.S. I saw were shootings. We can’t seem to figure this out. In Cambodia, home of the killing fields – remember?, you can’t have a gun on the street unless you are police or military. Then you need a permit and … and authorization for that date to be carrying it on the street. If not, you go to jail. Hey, guess what? No shootings. Weird huh?
I’ve been saying for a long time if you want to end shootings, get rid of guns. Oh but but … No. Stop. Get rid of guns. We can’t. No. Stop. We can. Every other country in the world has done it. They’ve shown how. It can be done. The argument that we can’t is similar to the resistance Churchill faced at the beginning of WWII as shown in the movie “The Darkest Hour.”
People ask about rainy season in Cambodia. “Isn’t it rainy season over there right now?” Well, yes. It’s the start of rainy season. Guess what happens during rainy season? It rains. Weird, huh? I know. In rainy season it rains. It rains every afternoon, usually about four o’clock. Go out in the morning, it gets hot. By two or three you’re exhausted. Go back to your hotel, shower, have beer. Watch the rain. Then it’s cooler.
Another thing I tell folks is, I know how to end poverty. Really? Yes, really. How? Give people money. But … but. No Buts about it. If people are poor they need money. Give them what they need. But…but. Shut up. If people have money to buy clothes, food, and shelter their lives will improve. They will be able to help others. But..but…No. We give money to rich people and companies and politicians all the time. What do they do with it? Buy yachts. How many yachts did that idiot former Secretary of Education under Trump have? Six? Ten? And all from a family selling a mulit-level marketing scheme based on soap.
Let’s stop being stupid. Let’s stop denying reality. W wasn’t bright, but at least he was trying to make things better. The current crop of Republican politicians are so out of touch with the regular folk, one s to wonder who they are beholding to. See Gary Oldham as Churchill on the Tube talking to regular folk, if you want inspiration.
My dad used to tell a story about going to a meeting in California where a job was in trouble. By this time he had been shuffled off to the side and I think they sent him as a last ditch bandaid for the customer. Dad said all these people were sitting around this big round table wondering what to do. The salesman wanted to take the job back to headquarters in Connecticut.
Dad asked why. He then said, “You’ve got the best minds to solve this problem right here.”
And that’s when it hit them. They were the ones. They had to figure it out.
As Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy and they is us.”
As I sit here with my complimentary bottle of water that I had to open by gripping it with my teeth to twist off the cap and as I did the whole top of the plastic bottle deformed and i had to suck down water as I twisted, I wondered if we have the will, the gumption, to start solving our own problems.
When I was in Angkor in 2015 there were thousands of tourists there. Now, there are less than one hundred in the whole city. The postcard sellers were very aggressive. One lady was leaning into one of our tuk-tuks trying to get Dave to buy some cards. Dave said, “I don’t have any money.”
I still can hear the woman’s response. In a high singsong voice that ended on a rising tone she said, “I don’t think sooo!”
Can we solve our problems? Yes. Will we? I think of the postcard lady’s response to Dave.