Wednesday, November 24, 2010


David and Richard, who were not lovers, apparently, but just travel buddies, have left, having mended their brief rift over Helmut, the handsome Peruvian with a German grandfather about whom we all speculated behind his back, who David fancied, who Richard kissed in front of my bar after too much Lao Lao. Keith from Dundee, who made the grisly transition from chef to operating room attendant, is also gone, traveling with "AA Gill is away," which I traded him for David Peace's 1974. He took with him Ian the Kiwi and the 14 little handbags he bought at the night market as party favors for his daughter's 9th birthday. And last, Army Sean (but not quite), who drank Johnny Black at my elbow all night for three night; who took me to lunch without realizing that personal questions make me cry, and to whom I owe my new understanding of what an M4 and an M16 are, really, and how long an RPG takes to arm and what gnarly but not necessarily lethal injuries one might sustain should one take said unarmed but high-velocity RPG in the chest plate.

I miss them.

Luckily, left are Jill, London/Paris/Antigua (not a bad life), who is 48 but looks ten years younger and who took home a cute 30 year old Brazilian the night before last. And of course Alex, from California--or is it Chicago--who lived for six months in a cave.

Yesterday I walked across the bamboo bridge to have lunch at the shady restaurant on the other side of the Nam Khan. There's a toll to cross--2000 kip, about 20 cents--and as I paid my toll, the tollmaster's slightly inebriated friend complimented my Lao and started chatting. Then he pressed his plastic cup of Lao Lao into my hand. "Drink, drink," he said. I drank, he smiled and drank, and I walked across the rickety bridge fortified. Today, as I sat at a low wooden table on the main street, waiting for my papaya salad to be pounded into shape, the papaya salad girl's friend sat across from me, drinking Beer Lao with ice. He handed me a half-full glass, from which I sipped gratefully (it was hot today). I handed it back to him half full. "No, no," he said, pushing it back to me. I swallowed the rest. This is drinking, Lao style. I like it; I missed it.

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