A Little Fear and a Lot of Loathing in Bavet, Cambodia


I’ve been having deodorant problems.

They’ve only been going on for a couple days or so. I’ve been sweating more than usual, and well, I’ve been smelling a little funky at times. It’s not that I’m not wearing deodorant, it’s just that it’s not working out with my deodorant. But like a relationship gone wrong in which neither person can break up with the other, I keep sticking that deodorant under my arms. And I keep stinking.

I’ve been meaning to go to COOP Mart and buy new deodorant (Black Rexona for Men, not Yellow Rexona for Men, the one I’m wearing now). But I haven’t gone. Every morning I wake up, look at my yellow container of deodorant, and think, “Damn, I forgot to buy deodorant again.” And then I stick that deodorant back under my arms. And I walk around town stinking like a pig.

As I sat in a bus driving through Tay Ninh Province, on the way to the Cambodian border, I wondered why I hadn’t bought new deodorant the day before. Why did I stick that yellow deodorant under my arms yet again, when I knew full well it was making me stink like Hell? I looked out the window at the endless rice paddies with buffalo and farmers walking through them. I took a whiff of my underarms. I closed my eyes and shook my head.

Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do.


I should have known my trip was destined to failure the night before. After working till 4:45pm, I had three things to do: buy a bus ticket to Cambodia; pick up some U.S. cash (US cash is the unofficial currency in parts of Cambodia); and pick up a disposable camera.

I wanted the camera because I wanted to take pictures of all the silly looking Cambodian casinos that cluster at the border.  I wanted to include them with a story like this. And I didn’t want to deal with my point and shoot…especially since I lost my USB cord, and the new one I bought doesn’t work (the problem has since been fixed). Disposable cameras are easy enough to find for a savy Ho Chi Minh City-dweller like myself: just roll on down to Nguyen Hue, stop in at one of the main film shops (where you go to get passport photos), and buy one of the many disposables they have on sale.

But when I rolled up to 70B Nguyen Hue, there were none to be found. Plenty of rolls of film….just no disposables. I left the shop. It was raining. It had been raining all day. I was tired. I was wet. I had been working all day. My work bag was getting wet. I went to another shop. No disposables. My mind started to ask sarcastic questions to the unhearing shopkeepers: “Do people still even buy film?!?! Who??? Who buys film??? If people buy film, WHY WOULDN’T AN OCCASIONAL PERSON WANT A DISPOSABLE!?!?!”  I got angry and started acting irrational, confusing everyone. I started driving in circles. Did I mention it was raining, and I had been working all day, and my work bag was getting wet?

Finally, I came to shop where the guy said he could make a phone call and get a disposable. Twenty minutes later, a woman walked in with a plastic, camouflage film camera. It wasn’t what I asked for….but it was camouflage.  That almost swayed me. But I ended up leaving without a disposable.

The troubles had begun….



I made some friends on the bus. They were two girls from Germany who spoke English really well. They were traveling around Southeast Asia for 7 weeks…they had a week and a half left. They seemed excited for me. “Good luck!” they shouted as I walked away from the bus. (There were also some British brahs with tribal tats on the bus…but we didn’t talk much).

As I walked down the road, I couldn’t hide my excitement…I was smiling my way down the road. I was in the town of Bavet, a border town only two hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, a place known almost entirely for its casinos.

I’ve been to Foxwoods in Connecticut; I’ve been to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut; I’ve even been to the casino in Montreal. But I’ve never been to Vegas since turning 21 (I was there when I was 9 or 10…but that doesn’t count). When you go to Foxwoods, or Mohegan, or the one in Montreal, there’s one and only one. As you drive you see the giant building sparkling in the distance.  But then you get there, park in the parking garage, and head inside…and that’s it, you don’t leave until you’re done.

I’ve never been to a place where casinos are all concentrated together…like Vegas or Macau or Atlantic City. So as I stood at the end of the road in Bavet…that was all I saw.  I didn’t see anything else. I breathed in. I breathed out. I felt like a pilgrim who had finally made it to the end of the dusty road, looking out in the distance towards the glittering towers of Mecca. I felt like a cactus feeling its first drops of rain after years of staring at nothing but sun, clouds, and blue sky. I felt like Balboa when he spotted the Pacific through the trees, sparkling blue and green in the midday sun. I felt like I was making a discovery, experiencing something for the first time. I felt good. I took a picture of myself.


There were casinos standing in front of me. And they were there for me. And that’s all I could see.



I took out my camera and started taking pictures. Good Luck Casino. Las Vegas Sun. Emperor Casino. Casino Royale. I remembered reading an old Bill Simmons column years ago, when he talked about how walking down the strip was a highlight of any Vegas trip. I thought of that, as I walked through the puddles, plastic bottles, condom wrappers and chom chom skins that littered the side of the road; I thought of that as buses, trucks, cars and motorbikes whizzed dangerously close to me; I thought of that as thunderclouds built in the distance, and the smell of dogshit stung my nostrils.


“THINK OF YOUR SAFETY” a sign told me as I walked. A truck flew by too close to me.

Up ahead I saw the Winn. Steve Wynn owns one of the most luxurious casinos in Las Vegas. Man, I thought, Steve Wynn built a casino here? Then I realized it was spelled Winn, not Wynn. But everything else looked the same…they got the signature down perfectly.


Asia….land of the bootlegs. They even have bootleg casinos.

I’d been walking for ten minutes. The thunderclouds were growing…it was only a matter of time before the rain would start falling on me. This is what happens during the rainy season in Southeast Asia. It rains a lot. The Winn was about 100 yards ahead. I started getting hit with raindrops. I started to run towards the Winn, my sanctuary.

But the Winn would not be my sanctuary on this day. When I got to the Winn, it was chained off. Closed.


Maybe Steve Wynn had gotten wind of the Winn’s scheme and wrote them a cease and desist letter. Maybe they murdered someone over a debt and got caught (these are stories that the Vietnamese tell you about Bavet…that people are murdered there over debts and buried in the nearby swamps. Good reason to bring your own cash). Maybe the Winn just wasn’t a good casino.  Whatever the case, it was closed, decrepit, dark, fenced off. It looked like the kind of place that might be haunted. I wondered if the kids of Bavet dare each other to spend a night in the Winn, where the ghosts of lost savings and fortunes still haunt the hallways.  Or if maybe they just break into the Winn to do teenager things.  The raindrops started getting bigger. Arriving at the Winn right as it started raining was no longer perfect timing. I was going to get rained on.


I turned around. On the nice brick sidewalk in front of the Winn a dog was taking a shit.

I crossed the road and walked back up from where I came, through the giant, muddy puddles in the rain on a dangerous embankment, towards The Titan. The Titan looked like the only actual legit casino in town, with the possible exception of Le Macau. Which is what I wanted. In America, I would maybe choose a low-key casino, where there wouldn’t be too much pressure on me. But here in Asia, I didn’t want low-key. I wanted something legit, because that would mean more games. Asians love to gamble, but it’s usually baccarat or sic bo, two very, very simple games that have decent odds, but just seem boring to me. Plus, I’ve never played either. I wanted to play blackjack or craps.

A big, legit casino is more likely to have Western games. That’s what I wanted. Western Games.


It was pouring rain. I ran through the entrance. Bavet: the only place where you gamble in order to stay out of monsoons. I arrived at the glamorous front entrance soaking wet. Some people were walking around in suits. I walked inside.

The freezing cold air conditioning hit me like a wall; rainwater and AC don’t mix well. The first thing I noticed was that it was very dark inside. And quiet. Some people were mingling around. On one side of the lobby there was a Chinese Restaurant; on the other side, a Western Restaurant.

It’s not like when you walk into an American casino and you’re immediately blasted with light, colors and noise: electronic music coming from one-armed bandits, coins hitting metal, more electronic noise. There was none of that. I was definitely in a casino…but it was cold, dark and silent. It felt more dangerous than a Western casino…more ominous.

I started walking.  I didn’t know what I was looking for. I passed some electronic games. I passed a disco room (the doors were locked). I passed a VIP room. I passed some slot machines. I paused at one called ‘Monkey Express.’ No one was playing them. No one was even in the room. There were signs on the wall for a baccarat tournament that was two months finished.

I came into another room. There a few desks with girls behind them. Chinese lettering on the wall. And then, another door…

…and it opened into the table room. And my oh my, there were the tables. For the first time I felt like I was in a casino. The room was humming with the sounds of people playing table games. Suddenly I felt happy…it felt good to be in a casino. I hadn’t been in one for over five years.

I walked around, trying to take it all in. There were card games, but I didn’t seem to know any of them. A smiling female dealer tried calling me to a busy table. I kept walking. I saw Pai Gow Poker…a game I don’t know. And then I came to the baccarat tables: hundreds of tables, just for baccarat. It was crazy…tables were absolutely packed with people playing baccarat.

The room was smoky. A guy noticed me and approached me. “Hey Man!” He had a fannie pack on. Oh shit, I thought.  I don’t know who this guy is but I don’t want to talk to him. That’s an instinctive thought when you’ve lived in Asia for awhile…you don’t want to get ripped off by some stranger. Usually, the friendlier they seem, the more likely they are to try and rip you off.

I avoided him, doubled back around some tables, and kept walking fast. There was cigarette smoke everywhere. All I could see were baccarat tables, and all I wanted was a blackjack table. Suddenly I wished I had a friend with me. I wished I had someone to gauge the situation with me.

I found an employee walking around in a suit and tie.

“Blackjack?” I asked.

“Oh yes sir, right over here,” he replied. And sure enough, he brought me to a perfectly empty blackjack table. I think there were only two in the whole room, right next to each other. Both completely empty. Empty blackjack tables…an endangered species in America, but thriving in Southeast Asia.

They had to scramble to get the dealer. Apparently there’s only one blackjack dealer in the whole casino. I waited. A very friendly looking young man appeared, with a very friendly looking pit boss in a red sport jacket.

“Hello sir!” he said, all smiles. “How are you today?”

“Suseday,” I replied. “I’m fine, akun.”

He and the pit boss started laughing. “Oh! You speak Khmer!”

“Not really…Suseday, Akun, Ok Benya…that’s all I know.”  They nodded and smiled. “I speak a little Vietnamese. Anh noi Tieng Viet?” I asked. They shrugged their shoulders and smiled a little. Ok, I thought, stick to the three phrases you know how to say in Khmer. Or English.

“Ok…we play blackjack?” the dealer asked.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” I said. I put my cash on the table, but they kind of started to freak out. Apparently you don’t do that here. They called the cash boy, the same guy with the fanny pack I had seen earlier. I gave him the cash, and he gave me chips. In the States they keep the money inside the table…in Cambodia they keep the cash in fannie packs carried by 18 year olds. Whatever works.

As I collected my chips, the dealer began to shuffle the decks.


I’ve only played blackjack a few times at casinos: 2 times in Montreal, 3 times at Mohegan Sun, and one time while nearly blackout drunk at a bachelor’s party at Foxwoods ( I don’t count that time because I was almost blackout drunk, and it was 5am).

I’ve always done okay. When I was living in Vermont way back when, I taught myself the basic strategy: when to hit, when to stand, when to double down, when to split, and when to surrender if allowed.  Also never to take insurance.

I’d play with a deck of cards in my living room. I’m not good at math, but I am good at memorizing pointless things, and that’s basically blackjack: when we finally made the trip up to Montreal, I cleared $120 if my memory serves me right. We went back later and I won again, about $100.

I didn’t play again until about two years later, at the aforementioned bachelor’s party, when in a state of inebriation and exhaustion I managed to lose about $150 at 5am.  Like I said…..I don’t count that. Call me a cheater if you must.

Then I took another break and came back about a year later, this time to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. This was far and away my best encounter: I won over $350 in one night. The great part was that it was at a $25 a bet table: it was Friday night, and on Friday night at Mohegan the blackjack seats are expensive property. It took me about 20 minutes to get a seat. When the bets are $25 a pop, that’s borderline not fun. But I started winning right off the bat, got close to $500, took some bad hits, and ended up walking away with about $350. Both of my buddies had lost. That’s a good feeling: when you’re the only winner. You feel special.  You can’t gloat, but it’s cool. The next time I went a won about $100, the last time I went I lost about $100…and that’s my blackjack experience in a nutshell.


And now I was back. It was my first time in a casino since those times at Mohegan. I was feeling it. I’d been gone for so long…I’d been practicing playing, getting the moves right in my head…I was ready.

But it’s weird when it’s just you and the dealer at a blackjack table. I’m used to being around at least a couple degenerates. When it’s just you and the dealer…it feels weird.

It doesn’t feel right.

But at the same time, I was sitting a $5 blackjack table by myself. $5!  And there was no pressure…if I screwed up a move, I wouldn’t have some degenerate saying things like, “Jeeeeeeeuz Christ!”

So I stayed.

He dealt the cards. I got a pair of sixes. He was showing a three.

Bam. Right off the top, an interesting hand. A pair. And not just a pair, but a pair that should be split: sixes against a three.

I doubled my bet, pointed my index and middle finger in the peace sign to signify that I wanted to split. He split me. He dealt himself 21. And so it went.

“So sorry!” he said, smiling. And I felt it was sincere.

I shrugged. What can you do, I thought. Bad break.

But it didn’t stop. Every hand went his way. EVERY F**KING HAND. I’d get 20, he’d get 21. I’d get 21, he’d get 21. I’d stand on 16 against a 2, he’d get a 17. I’d double down on 11 and get dealt a three. I started with $40. Reasonable enough. That’s enough for 8 losing bets. For the next twenty minutes, I DID NOT WIN ONE HAND. Each time he dealt me decent hands, we’d push. It was either push or lose, never win. And all the way he kept smiling and saying, “So sorry.”

$40 later, I was dumbstruck. What the Hell just happened?!?! Blackjack is a game where you hang around, treading water, waiting for a big double down or split to go the right way or the wrong way. You win some, you lose some. The house wins more on average, because the house always wins (Remember that kiddies!), but you win some. It’s the nature of blackjack. Even when you lose, you win a couple.

I didn’t know what to do. I had the perfect situation…a $5 blackjack table all to myself, a seemingly friendly dealer, free waters provided by a pretty girl in a white dress. But I felt like I had just been smashed in the face with a big plastic mallet. Repeatedly.

I reached in my pocket and took out $30. I gave it to the cash boy. And we continued.

The scene became downright bloody. The mallet that was originally plastic was now metal. And it was still smashing my face. I won a couple hands here and there, and the dealer would applaud me. “Winner!” he would say. But I could barely see the chips on the table through the blood in my eyes. Even when I won, I was hit in the face with a mallet.

At one point I got 21. The dealer looked at the cards and said, “Oh, so sorry, 22.” The electrical circuits in my brain were flickering. My brain was asking me questions like, “Are you sure you’re making the right moves out there? Are you sure the basic blackjack strategy is the correct strategy?” In the bedlam I looked at the cards and said, “Yes, that’s right, a 22.”

But it wasn’t a 22. It was a 21.

He took my money. Then he paused. “Oh my, oh no, you have 21!” I looked again. 21. “Oh,” I said, feeling stupid.

Since he had already taken my chip, the pit boss had to check with the bosses upstairs to see if I could get my chip back. I sat staring at the table as they talked on the phone. The pit boss hung up and the dealer put the chip back on the table. We continued to play the hand. He had a 15.

He hit. He busted. I won money. But it was a demoralizing victory…I won because the dealer made a mistake and corrected himself, something I didn’t even realize.

At some point during all of this, cash boy came back, smiling and laughing, with a glass mug filled with iced tea. He started to say something to me, put his iced tea on the table, and caused great chaos when suddenly glass, ice and tea were all over the table.  Something happened which I had never seen in my lifetime: when cash boy put his mug on the table, it simply split in half. It looked like a samurai sword had sliced through the middle of it. Calling it a bizarre occurrence doesn’t even give it justice. There were only two pieces of broken glass, split perfectly. There were no little shards. Anyway, the game stopped for a little bit as the pit boss and a bunch of waitresses came over to clean the mess. Cash boy threw the broken glass into a flower pot. Hey, why not?

When the mess was cleaned, I took out more cash. Hey, why not? Shit, I’d hadn’t even been in Cambodia for an hour. The dealer looked slightly embarrassed. The cash boy was jolly.

As I continued to lose, cash boy started to laugh and call out things. “Tiger Beer! Tiger Beer!” I became furious. Maybe he was implying that I needed to get drunk to play better, or to deal with my losses, or just to party hardy. But it infuriated me. It’s one thing if some jerk at a casino is making fun of you at a casino when you’re losing…it’s a whole ‘nother thing when the casino employees start ragging on you. Even if it was only cash boy.

I was dealt an 18. “Surrender?” the dealer asked. I understood that it was only him screwing up the English; he meant to say ‘Stand.’ That was obvious. But perhaps I should have taken his advice when he asked me to surrender on 18. Perhaps I should have surrendered.

It was time to re-shuffle. I watched the dealer shuffle the cards. No funny business was going on. I was sitting at a normal blackjack table, as far as I could tell.

He finished shuffling. I immediately lost my chips. My head was on fire; I stood up and backed away from the table.

“I have to leave now…my head is on fire,” I told them.  I smelled smoke in my brain.

Cash boy, the dealer, and the pit boss watched me leave, smiling.

As I walked away I heard the dealer say “Sorry Sir!” I walked past all the people playing baccarat. Straight ahead was a sign on the wall that said “Texas Hold ‘Em.” Hold ‘Em, I thought. Now there’s a game I can play. I’ll just switch to Hold ‘Em. All the tables were empty.  Not a soul to be found playing Hold ‘Em.

Would they let me play Hold ‘Em against myself? I wondered. Would I win against myself?


It was lunchtime. There’s no better way to work up an appetite then to get completely bludgeoned at a blackjack table in the span of forty minutes.

I decided to try the Chinese restaurant in the lobby. Upon entering the glass doors, I realized that it was a stale, depressing place that smelled like cigarettes. I picked up a plastic, brightly colored menu. Inside there were pictures of sushi. Isn’t this place Chinese?

“Hello Sir.” I turned. A waiter was standing by in a formal outfit. “That is our Japanese menu.  There is our Chinese menu.”

I put down the Japanese menu and took a look at the Chinese one. The first page I turned to offered pig’s ear soup. This was real Chinese food. No Kung Pao Chicken here.

“Ummm…I might come back,” I lied to the waiter. I left and crossed the darkened lobby to the Western restaurant. The Western restaurant was boarded up with a padlock and chain. Inside looked dark, dirty, and not open for business. Next to the door was a menu with pictures of a bunch of odd looking drinks that were definitely not Western.

Suddenly I felt like I was suffocating. I need air, my brain told me.

I left the darkened lobby to re-enter the humidity of Cambodia in the rainy season. It wasn’t raining, but there were rain clouds in the sky.


Lunch options were limited. Upon leaving the premises of the Titan, I saw a place called Flowery Restaurant. It was sleepy looking inside; the lights were off. That place has promise, I thought. I’m being serious. It was a promising looking place.

But I headed off the down the road instead. You see, I’ve been to Bavet several times before; anyone making the bus trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh stops here for lunch after crossing the border. The people that run these “bus lunch places” serve a mix of Khmer and Vietnamese street food. The prices are fair, and the food is usually good. And they always have beer. And at this point in time, I wanted a beer. Badly.

But I didn’t realize how far down the road the restaurants were. I kept walking and walking. Gas stations, a gym, a bike mechanic, barber shops, crappy cafes, broken down little buildings, vacant fields filled with trash, rice paddies. I passed all of these things without seeing a single decent looking place to eat. I saw guesthouses, but no lunch places.


I finally came to one of the bus restaurants. They have huge parking spots out front built specially for buses; I think they’re the only bus specific restaurants I’ve ever seen. By the time I got down there I was sweaty and discouraged. By all means, I should have gone in and eaten. But for some reason, I didn’t.

I stood in the middle of a bus parking spot, looking into the cavernous restaurant with giant ceilings and sparkling clean floors.  They had a side area that sold chips, fruit, and bathroom stuff. I could have bought deodorant.

But for some reason that I can’t explain, I suddenly felt revolted by the thought of eating at the bus restaurant. Maybe it was because it was empty. Not a soul was eating in there. There were no buses out front. Maybe I just couldn’t picture myself eating inside such a large building all by myself, after so recently sitting all alone at a blackjack table and squandering my money. So for no good reason at all, as more rain clouds built up above me, I turned around, tired, sweaty, and hungry, and began to trudge back up the road. I didn’t buy deodorant.


It took me ten minutes or so to make it back to Flowery Restaurant. By this time, it was about 1:20pm. That’s a dangerous time to eat lunch in a restaurant in Asia. Asians eat lunch early; if you go to a local lunch place in Ho Chi Minh City, the good stuff is usually gone shortly after 1pm. I hoped that Flowery would provide me with something good.

I walked into the darkened, completely empty restaurant. It was kind of nice; it looked like the kind of place that would cater to tourists in Siam Reap. It looked out of place.

The menu was written on the wall in Khmer, Vietnamese and English. There were several dishes advertised. Chicken Curry, for $1.75, looked promising. No one came to help me. I left my table and walked up to the middle aged woman eating a bowl of food behind the counter.

“Chicken curry,” I said.

“No,” she said.

OK, Plan B, I thought.

I had no Plan B. I threw the idea of there being a menu out the window. “What do you have?” I asked in English.

She opened a metal pot. Inside was a green curry. It looked cold. “Chicken?” I asked, knowing the answer would be no. “No,” she said. She moved her spoon around the curry, displaying nothing but curry. No veggies, no meat, no fruit, no nothing, just sauce.  “Noodles,” she said. She pointed to a pile of cold white noodles sitting next to the pot. Cold green curry with no meat, no veggies, and cold noodles. The one and only dish on the menu of Flowery Restaurant on this fine, rainy day.

I left without saying bye.



I continued walking up the road, back towards the border with Vietnam. I passed the Titan, that terrible place with that terrible blackjack table and that terrible cash boy yelling his terrible things as I flushed my money down a toilet.

I saw a red and white sign ahead. It said ‘Pho Paris Restaurant and Hotel.’ Beneath that was a smaller sign that said ‘Angkor Beer,’ the official beer of Cambodia. Pho sounded nice. Anything to take my mind off the fact that I was in Bavet, Cambodia.

I entered and immediately realized that it wasn’t going to be very good. I don’t know how I knew this, I just knew. The Khmer waiter gave me a hot pot menu; it said ‘Lau’ on the front, the Vietnamese word for hot pot. He realized that I probably wasn’t about to eat an entire hot pot by myself, hungry as I might look, and he brought me a normal menu.

I ordered beef luc lac and an Angkor Beer. Luc lac is a pretty easy dish to make; it’s basically chunks of grilled beef with rice. It’s very popular in Cambodia, quick to make, cheap, and hard to screw up. It was an obvious choice. The waiter brought me my beer, a teapot filled with hot tea, and a glass mug half filled with hot water, into which a fork and spoon were put.

I was surrounded by Vietnamese men smoking, drinking, eating, and talking loudly. Turns out I didn’t need to bring US cash out here…there’s almost as much Vietnam Dong floating around as there is USD.

A couple tables away there was a group of Vietnamese guys at a table with a big steaming hot pot in the middle. They were yelling in Vietnamese at the waitresses and taking shots of whiskey. It was about 1:40pm.

Damn fellas. Take it easy.

I finished my beer and got the attention of the waiter. I felt a little bit loose from the beer, but now I needed sustenance: sugar and caffeine. Coke. Or as it’s usually known out here, ‘Coca.’ Of course, I don’t live in Cambodia, but I assumed he would understand what a Coca was. He certainly had experience waiting on Vietnamese people.

“Coca,” I said.

Blank stare.

“Coca,” I said.

Blank stare.

Jesus Christ. I tried a new approach.

“Coca, Coke, Coca-Cola! Coca, Coke, Coca-Cola!” Then I made a drinking motion.

The drinking motion made his eyes light up. “Aaaah, Angkor Beer,” he said.


“NO, COCA, COCA, COCA-COLA, COKE, NO ANGKOR BEER, NO!” I ran over to pile of menus. I grabbed a hot pot menu by accident; no drinks in there. I grabbed the real menu; flipped to the drink page; found the word ‘Coke,’ written under ‘Soft Drinks’.

I pointed. “Coke,” I said. His eyes lit up again. “Aaaaaahh…..Coca,” he said.

I closed my eyes. It’s all I could think to do.


As I ate my luc lac and drank my Coke, it started to rain outside. And I’m not talking about any little rainstorm. I’m talking about a mutherf**king monsoon.

Sometimes when it rains really hard in Southeast Asia during the rainy season, it comes down in sheets. You can see the sheets moving around through the rain. But when it’s really, really, REALLY raining, it doesn’t come down in sheets. It comes down in walls.

There were walls and walls and walls of rain falling from the sky. Just knocking into each other, blowing around, bouncing off the ground back up into the sky. Walls. Walls and walls of rain.

The walls of rain kept falling for about 30 minutes. That’s unusual in the city; maybe out here in the countryside it happens more often. I sat at my table watching the rain for about ten minutes after I finished eating, and then I ventured out the front door.

I chatted with a Cambodian tour bus worker for a few minutes. His job was crossing and re-crossing the border between Vietnam and Cambodia on tour buses.  He spoke English really well. We talked about Cambodia and Vietnam, Cambodian girls vs. Vietnamese girls, Cambodian food vs. Vietnamese food. I always played it safe. “Ohhhh….well you know, Cambodian girls are very beautiful, and Vietnamese girls are very beautiful!” “Ahahaha….YES YES YES!” he would yell in response.

Finally the walls stopped crashing around the parking lot in front of us. When it merely became a torrential downpour, I said goodbye and ran 100 yards through the rain to my next destination: Las Vegas Sun.



I needed a change of scenery. I had no desire to go back to the Titan, where I was hacked to pieces in a matter of minutes. But I wasn’t done gambling. I hadn’t even been in Cambodia for two hours. And so it was decided that I would enter the smaller Las Vegas Sun. Across the road was Le Macau. Being an American, I decided to stick to my roots.

I had to walk through a metal detector to get into the Sun. I liked it better immediately: instead of dark and quiet, it was light and vibrant. The lighting made a huge difference; when I walked into the table room, I didn’t feel like I was in a cave.

I made my way to the cashier’s desk. I realized I only had $20 USD left (I stupidly left 500,000 VND back at my apartment because I didn’t think they would take it. But Dong is almost a second currency in Bavet). With a combo of Dong and USD, I collected 18 dollars in chips. I began searching for a blackjack table.

It never occurred to me to try baccarat. I know how to play. It’s easy. The odds are better than blackjack. I could have blended in better. But I was being stubborn: I wanted blackjack.

I found the blackjack table. It was a $10 table. No biggie. Still cheap where I came from. The rules seemed about the same as I took a quick glance at the rule placard: splitting Aces was only allowed once, same as the Titan. Fair enough, though really not that fair.

The cards were shuffled. I put ten dollars down. The pit boss leaned over the dealer’s shoulder. “Sir, you have to play two hands,” he said.

What he said didn’t register in my brain. “Huh?”

“You must play two hands,” he said.

“But it’s a $10 table,” I said. I was starting to get angry. I don’t get angry easily.

He continued. “Yes, but this is a ten dollar table, so you must play two hands. We only have one other blackjack table, and that one is $20.”

Confusion, anger and disbelief mixed together to form some unknown emotion that I had never encountered until that point. So really, it’s a $20 table. F**king liars.

That’s what my brain said. All I said was, “Jesus Christ.” I’m pretty sure my eyes were flinging eff bombs at them. Either way, I walked back to the cashier’s desk, and asked for 2 more dollars in chips. I gave them some Dong.

It was at this point that I should have run like Hell. I should have fled to Le Macau. But some disgusting little voice in my head told me to go to the blackjack table and place two ten dollar bets. I was becoming pathetic. I was beginning to loathe who I was and what I was doing.

I walked back. The emotionless dealer and pit boss looked at me. I sat down. I put out two ten dollar bets. I was dealt a 13 and a 16. The dealer had dealt himself a 5. And then he didn’t even deal himself his other card for me to see, unturned on the table….he left it in the deck. WHICH I DID NOT LIKE AT ALL.

I should have called him out. But he was showing a 5.

F**k it, I thought. I didn’t say anything.

I don’t remember what he ended up dealing himself, but whatever it was caused me to get up from the table and walk away in utter disgust.



I was back in the rain. It wasn’t raining hard…but it was raining.

I was out of cash. I wanted an ATM.  I knew my limit…I was close. But I wasn’t there yet. I had three hours left to cross the border. It wasn’t last call yet. The lights were still off. People were still dancing.

So I crossed the road to Le Macau. I walked into the lobby. And I uttered a word that, much like Coca, never causes a problem when used in Vietnam.


Blank stares.

Here we go.  “ATM.” I said it more firmly this time, more sure of myself. More blank stares.

“F**k it,” I said out loud. I walked into the game room. There were two girls seated at a desk. Computers were in front of them.  Promising.

“Do you have ATM?” I asked. More blank stares.

I whipped out my Vietcombank card. “Credit card? Money? ATM???”

They smiled. “No, no!”

Again, the answer didn’t register. I tried again. I waved my credit card around like a lunatic.

“I want money! I have credit card! Money??”

“No, no!” They were laughing, like, “Why the Hell is this guy trying to get more money at a casino???”

“Ok,” I said. “Then…ATM. WHERE?!?”

“Outside,” they said.


Being self-destructive to yourself is always a little depressing. But it becomes more so when you try and try and try to self-destruct, and you can’t succeed. You fail at self-destruction. And everyone laughs at you. That’s a bad feeling.

I got back to the lobby. “ATM?” I asked the fellas out front again. I didn’t even wait for the blank stares…I started doing my whole “Guy walks into an ATM booth charades-routine,” complete with the actual ATM card in my hand. Finally, knowing nods.

“Yeah, yeah…Acleda.” And they pointed up the road. And it didn’t make any sense to me.

I walked back out to the road. It was raining hard. I considered just re-crossing the border, back to the sanity of Vietnam. But I had hardly any cash on me at all….questionably not enough to make it back home. I needed cash, not only for self-destruction, but for self-preservation. I NEEDED CASH.

There were some motorbike drivers and randoms hanging out by the road where the big Le Macau sign is. “Motorbike?” one of them asked.

“No,” I said. “ATM.”

“Yeah, yeah, I drive you.” They all started jockeying to drive me. Jesus, I thought, this town is tiny. Is the closest ATM not in walking distance?

Just then a guy driving some weird looking golf cart thing with the words Le Macau written on the side pulled up. Everyone started yelling for me to get in, and they were yelling at him “Acleda, Acleda!”  I got in. We pulled a u-turn and drove back up the road.

It would have taken me 15 minutes to walk to the ATM in rain. I didn’t even question why a town full of casinos would only have one ATM. By this point that seemed perfectly logical.

I got out, ran through the rain, and made it into the ATM machine with the word Acleda printed across the front. I took out my US card; it seems to work in any country without a problem. I asked for $60. I was informed that I’d be charged $4 for the withdrawal. Whatever. And then I got a blank receipt and no money. Was there an error? I hate it when you don’t know if the ATM machine has screwed you or not; did it keep my money?

I tried my Vietcombank card. No dice. This time I saw the reason: illegal transaction. Not allowed. Curse words flashed across my mind. Lots of them.

I took my US card back out. I tried it again. And again….This Transaction is Not Allowed. I lay my head on the ATM machine. I could hear the machinery laughing at me from beneath its plastic skin.

I walked back into the rain and got back into the golf cart. On the way back he asked, “Money?” I only had Dong on me. At the front door of Le Macau, I gave him 100,000 VND. He seemed pretty pissed. He gave me my change in Dong.


I walked back across the road to Las Vegas Sun. Why, you ask? Well, because I knew I could get money there…before I lost my money to the shady blackjack table, I had chatted with the friendly ladies at the cashier’s desk, who informed me I could take out money with a credit card. It wasn’t preferred….but I needed money to get home. It would have to do.

I walked back to the cashier’s desk. I asked for $80. $20 of that was strictly for getting home, not for gambling.

“Okay, we charge three person.”

Again, my mind tried to comprehend what I was hearing and failed.

“Three person?” I asked.

“No, no….three person.”

“Three…person? Three people? One Two Three?” I was losing my ability to communicate in a sane manner. Bavet was slowly driving me insane. Were they going to charge me three times?

The guy next to me tried to help. “No, no” he said, “only three person.”

It was going to happen…I was going to faint. For the first time in my life. And then the woman wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. It said, “3%.”

I started to laugh and shake at the same time. “Oh, yes, hahahhhaha, three percent, yes, yes, no problem….”


I don’t know why I did it. I should have played baccarat. People were winning at baccarat. I know how to play baccarat. It’s probably the easiest goddamned game to play on the planet, which is why in Vegas it’s often stuck in high-stakes only rooms with ropes around the edge: good odds, easy to play.

But I was being grossly stubborn. I walked back to the infamous fake $10 blackjack table: the one where it’s actually $20, because you have to have two bets on the table at one time in order to play.

I sat down. The same dealer and pit boss were there. They dealt the cards. The dealer kept pulling that same BS, where he wouldn’t bring out his second card unturned, but leave it in the deck. But the thing is…I started winning a little. At one point I even won three straight bets. So I stuck around.

And then it happened: the dealer dealt himself a 5, and dealt me Ace/3. I know what to do on an Ace/3 against a 5…I double my bet. And so I did. And suddenly the pit boss was waving his hands with a sour look on his face.  “No no no no no no, not allowed,” he said.

I was dumbstruck. “No double downs?!” I almost shouted. I grabbed the little rule placard to look at the rules. He pointed at my ace.  “Ace on the table…no double down allowed on an ace.” I almost puked. “No double down on an ace?” I couldn’t hide my contempt. My astonishment. My absolute bewilderment. “No double down on an ace?” I repeated.  “Not allowed,” he said.

In disgust I took my chip away. I hit. One card. That’s all I needed. He busted. I won. But I was frothing mad, and I realized that there was no way I could win at this table. I wanted to jump up and down on the table and scream at them, “CHEATERS, CHEATERS, YOU’RE A BUNCH OF CHEATERS!” But instead of walking away like I should have, RIGHT THEN AND THERE, I proceeded to play. Out of spite. I wanted to win out of spite. That’s never a good thing. I lost all my chips within in ten minutes. Disgusted, I left without making eye contact with anyone.


Back in the rain. 2:45pm. I looked over to the border. It was very close. All I wanted to do was walk back across the border and end this travesty. I had no desire to be in Bavet any longer. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just been cheated. Forced to play two bets at a time, at a table where the dealer wouldn’t even take his second card out of the deck until after I made my moves…and where double downs weren’t allowed on any hand containing an ace. I felt cheated. I didn’t want to leave feeling that I had been cheated. If I was going to lose money, I wanted it to at least seem fair.

I looked back across the road at the Titan. It stood there, taunting me. We play fair, it seemed to say to me. It’s not our fault we absolutely murdered you this morning. It was just a bad break. At least we play fair.

I looked in my wallet. I had enough cash to get home, plus an extra $30. I closed my wallet. Put it in my pocket. And started walking back towards the Titan.



I felt like I was re-entering the scene of a crime. The dark, freezing cold lobby. The closed Western restaurant and the Chinese restaurant with Japanese menus. The signs on the wall for the baccarat tournament that happened two months ago. It felt terrible being there. It felt lonely.

I re-entered the game room, with it’s terrible, dark lighting. I walked to the cashier desk (screw cash boy). I got $30 in chips. I walked back to the blackjack table.

The pit boss seemed surprised to see me. “Blackjack?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. I sat down with my chips. The sign was still there: $5 minimum bet, $100 maximum bet. No splitting Aces more than once. Fair enough, fair enough.

It took about eight minutes for the dealer to show up. The lone blackjack dealer employed by the Titan. He came back to the table, his face showing a little surprise and what seemed to be genuine friendliness.

“Hello Sir!” he said.

“Hey, Suseday,” I said.

“Suseday,” he said. He began to shuffle the decks. Cash boy came back. He also seemed surprised to see me. I’m not sure, but there may have been pity in all of their eyes. Or maybe it was me feeling miserable about myself, and misinterpreting something else in their eyes that I couldn’t make out.

“Where you go?” the dealer asked as he shuffled. “Oh…all over,” I said.  I waved my arms. He smiled and said “Aaaaah.”

I watched him carefully. No funny business. Just slowly shuffling the cards.

Finally, we were ready to play. I put a $5 chip out on the table. He dealt me the cards. We played.


As I walked back across the border, in the rain, I was serenaded by frogs. I was nowhere; literally, I was between Cambodia and Vietnam, walking, but the frogs didn’t seem to mind. They kept singing. They don’t realize that they live between two countries, I thought.

My $30 was back at the Titan. It didn’t last long. Maybe ten minutes. That’s all it took for me to give away the last of my money.  But this time around I didn’t feel the mallet hit my face. I didn’t feel stunned. I was numb. I was happy. At least they weren’t cheaters, like those terrible cretins at the Las Vegas Sun. At least they played fair.


I walked into complete chaos in the Vietnamese immigration office. Some guy came up to me. “Passport,” he said. I gave him my passport. “Money,” he said. “Money for stamp.” For a second I reached for my wallet, and then I thought: I already have a visa. I just paid $100 for it three months ago.

“No, no, I have visa.” I showed it to him.

He stared at it. He looked at me. “Pay money,” he said. I grabbed my passport back.


It wasn’t so much a line of people to get back into Vietnam; it was more of a blob. Oh, Asia, I thought. When will you learn how to form a line?

I joined the blob. It was stupid. I stood around for awhile.I was pushed by an old man. I stepped in gum (who spits gum out on the floor of the immigration office?!?!?!) Finally, I escaped the insanity.

I was back in Vietnam, back in the rain. Being the only foreigner around (fresh meat!), I was bombarded by guys yelling at me to get a taxi back to Ho Chi Minh City. “Taxi! Taxi! You go Ho Chi Minh City!? Taxi! Taxi!”

No, no, no, no thank you boys, I’ve wasted enough money today. I kept walking, hoping to find a local bus.

There were more guys with sketchy cabs ahead of me. A guy in a raincoat came up to me. “Hey you….you go Ho Chi Minh City?”  I waved him away without saying anything. And then, in a moment of insanity, I looked up into the rain, smiling. “Nah,” I said loudly to myself, “I’m just out here CHILLIN’!” Then I started laughing uncontrollably into the rain. Suddenly I heard someone else laughing too. I looked and saw his buddy leaning out of the window of a minivan. He was watching me and smiling. We exchanged smiles and I kept walking.

But the problem was, I didn’t really know where I was going. Now I was past all the taxis. Up ahead in the distance I saw a flashing green light at an intersection, but no town to speak of. I didn’t know where the town was. I didn’t know where the bus station was.

And then I saw it, directly in front of me by about 200 yards, blocking my path: a giant male water buffalo.

I stopped in my tracks. This I did not foresee. There were people driving around the buffalo on motorbikes…but being on a motorbike is different than being on foot. Much different. I don’t have experience with water buffaloes. Can I safely walk around a male water buffalo without getting murdered?

I stood there in the rain for a moment or two, staring down the road at the massive, horned beast who was blocking my way.

I crossed the road. It was all I could think to do. I was adventured out. I figured losing $200 was bad enough…I didn’t need to get gored by a buffalo to make it more interesting.

But it’s funny…that buffalo was there for a reason. Because as I crossed the median, I saw buses and people: a bus station. And indeed, I found a bus going to Ho Chi Minh City for only 40,000 VND (about $2). And on that bus I found a nice window seat. And that comfortable bus only dropped me two blocks from my house. And I was home in time to eat a nice, cheap Vietnamese meal of grilled pork and rice, and then play soccer later on that night and win a tight game, 7-6. And then I got a good night sleep.

Hey….sometimes you get lucky.



A Short Story about Hockey and Cock-Fighting

Between the 2nd and 3rd period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup, I left my apartment in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to get some breakfast. It was about 9:00am.

I walked down the road and picked up some com suon: grilled pork, broken rice, vegetable soup, with some fish sauce and chillies on the side. And a banana.

I began walking back up the narrow alleys that led back to my apartment. And there in front of me, blocking my way back, was a cockfight.

There are lots of cockfights in my neighborhood. Dudes are always grooming their roosters, prepping them, carrying them around like children, getting them ready for the next fight. Sometimes you’ll catch a fight as you’re walking around: two birds frantically jumping around at each other, and a bunch of dudes sitting around watching silently, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. And always, at the end, the exchange of money.

I wasn’t about to walk through some damn cockfight. There was money on the line….I didn’t want to have my head smashed with a coffee mug for disturbing an important event. So I watched. It only lasted about a minute or so.

The men picked up their respective roosters. Someone brought some rubber things over to put on their feet. The men were exchanging money with each other: I saw a few 500,000 Dong notes floating around.

I walked through the fighting area to get past them. And suddenly one of the men with a rooster in his hands grabbed my arm forcefully. I looked at him. Grasping my arm forcefully, smiling an evil looking smile, he began to rub his cock’s tail feathers against my elbow. He was rubbing his rooster’s ass against my elbow. For good luck I assume.

It only lasted a few seconds. I was a little stunned. He let me go. All the men with money in their hands were watching me. Was I swaying bets? Had my elbow changed the odds?

I was going to stay and see, but the owner of the other rooster was glaring at me. His eyes were pure evil. And so I left. I didn’t want to be there at the end either way.

I got back to my apartment and started watching the 3rd period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup on my laptop. The Bruins got close, but not close enough. They lost. Now they go back to Boston for Game 6.

So much for good luck. I hope that rooster got his f**king ass kicked.

Shibuya Starbucks in Vietnam or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the View


A long time ago, my buddy was telling me about Tokyo.  We were sitting on my couch, and he was reminiscing about the ten hour layover he had there during a flight back to the U.S.

“It was cool, man.  I jumped on the train from Narita, and got off an hour later at Shibuya.  I highly recommend Shibuya.  There’s a Starbucks there where you can just watch all the people crossing the street from the front windows.  They walk in all these crazy angles!  It’s really famous, and it’s pretty awesome to just watch the people walk.  I posted up there for a couple hours, and then I checked out a temple that was nearby.”

Several months later, when I had a similar layover in Tokyo, I didn’t go to Shibuya: I got off at the previous stop, Shinjuku.  I ate some of the best fried chicken of my life, some grilled fish, and some rice.  I walked around and watched people walk.  I got lost in the Shinjuku train station on my way back, which is officially the busiest train station in the world.  There I was, surrounded by hundreds (no, thousands) of people, trying to find the Express Train back to Narita…and I couldn’t find it.  AND NO ONE SEEMED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH.  Beyond that, no one seemed interested in stopping to help me out.  Everyone just walked by me like robots, as it dawned on me that I might miss my flight back to Boston.  But then a young woman did help me, and she showed me the way to the correct track, and I thanked her profusely and complimented her English, and we parted ways as I got onto my high speed train back to the airport.

But I don’t want to get off track…

During my time at Shinjuku, I kind of kept thinking about Shibuya and Starbucks: should I have gone on one more stop?  I kept hearing my buddy’s voice in my head: “you just watch all the people walking, it’s amazing, you should go there, go to Starbucks, it’s not for the coffee, it’s for the view.”

I came back to Ho Chi Minh City five weeks later and informed him that I didn’t go to Shibuya or Starbucks.  But I silently vowed to return, and to see Starbucks in Shibuya.

About a year later, I made it to the Shibuya Starbucks.  I was visiting a friend from home, who was in Tokyo for work.  We did a number of interesting things: walked around Ginza, played video games in Akihabara, ate street sushi near Ueno Station.  But I was adamant that we do one thing: go to Starbucks in Shibuya.  My friend and his wife were a little confused.

“What, do you like Starbucks?  I thought you like Vietnamese coffee.”

“No, I don’t like Starbucks, but I’ve been told by a reliable source that we need to go.  You watch the people cross the street.  It’s famous.”

“Wait…we watch people walk.  Dude, what the f**k?!”

“Well, I think it’s cool.  Here, even this Lonely Planet wrote about it.”  That was true.  Lonely Planet wrote about the “Shibuya Starbucks” as a place to see.  If it’s being mentioned in LP, it must be important, right??

“Alright, well….I can always use some coffee.”

And that’s how I convinced my friends to go to Shibuya Starbucks.

It was not easy finding Shibuya Starbucks.  We got off at the massive Shibuya Metro station (almost as intimidating as it’s neighbor, Shinjuku), and walked out expecting to just see Starbucks sitting there, sparkling.  But it wasn’t.  We had to walk for awhile, crossing crazy intersections, and walking under long, dark passages beneath bridges where people were sleeping on the sidewalk.  But lo and behold, after emerging back into the sunlight, there was Shibuya Starbucks.

We went in.  We ordered drinks and snacks.  We went up stairs.  The apprehension was high.  It was mid-morning…walking-time.  What would it be like?  Would it be life changing?  Would the people be out there, walking?

The people were out there, walking.  But it was somewhat underwhelming.  Lots of the curtains were closed to protect the customers from the sun, and where there were no curtains…well, the sun was sort of blinding and hot.  Hot and uncomfortable.  Lots of seats were taken (because this is not your ordinary Starbucks), so we had to settle for uncomfortable seats with curtain views, blocked additionally by a pole.  To view the street, we had to get up out of seats, pull back the curtain, and watch while standing.  It was okay.  But after awhile we stopped watching the walkers, and just chatted while eating our snacks and drinking our drinks.  And after an hour or so, we left.

And that was it.

But the Shibuya Starbucks is something.  It is a landmark.  A landmark signifying the victory of multinational, culture-murdering, mass-consumerism loving conglomerates….but a landmark nonetheless.  That’s good enough for me.

And while it’s maybe not quite as comfortable as most Starbucks, and maybe it’s a bit contrived at this point (people come to watch the walkers, not to drink coffee)…it’s important, dammit.  It’s the most important Starbucks in the world.

Fast-forward to now.  The multinational fast food chains continue to work their way into Vietnam.  KFC has been here for over a decade now, but just a few months ago a new player arrived on the scene: Burger King.  Starting small at first (only at the airport), it has since popped up all over the city.  McDonald’s can’t be far behind.  There are shirts that say “I lived in Vietnam before McDonald’s got here.”  Maybe I should buy one.

But when I heard that a certain coffee chain was opening it’s first store in Ho Chi Minh City, I couldn’t be more sickened.  My skin began to crawl.  Vietnam has great coffee.  Check that….Vietnam has OUTSTANDING coffee.  It is known to be some of the world’s best, up there with all the major coffee players.  So why in the world, WHY WHY WHY IN THE F**KING WORLD WOULD VIETNAM NEED OR WANT STARBUCKS?!?!?!

The simple answer is they don’t need it (ofcourse!), but they do want it.  It’s something the whole world (bar a few countries) knows besides them….why wouldn’t they want it?  And on the surface, it’s not so different from some the other coffee chains floating around town…Trung Nguyen, Highlands (rumored to be in the process of being bought out by Starbucks), Angel-In-Us (Korean).  But of course it is different.  It’s Starbucks.  It’s EVIL.

I’ve never understood when some Westerners bitch about how they can’t get a good cup of Western coffee here…first of all, you can, but second of all….YOU’RE IN VIETNAM!  DRINK THE VIETNAMESE COFFEE!  Now they have Starbucks, and some wild, animal part of me is terrified…terrified that Starbucks will swallow all of the small cafes in town, killing everything in it’s path, ruining a perfect coffee heaven.  Ofcourse, this won’t happen.  But it’s a fear.  It’s a fear inside me.


I kept hearing about Starbucks being built.  I never saw it.  I kept missing it every time I drove by.  And then one day, I saw it.  And everything changed.

Because what I was looking at wasn’t Starbucks at all.  It was something bigger.  Something more grand.  Special.

It was Shibuya Starbucks.  Here in Vietnam.  And oh my God, how brilliant it was!

All of my hatred of the idea of Starbucks being in Vietnam dissipated.  For that minute when I first laid eyes on Starbucks, I was in awe.  I was won over by the brilliant example of international branding that stood before me.

I’ll tell you a story.  Don’t worry, it’s quick.  A long time ago, when I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, I was excited and overwhelmed.  It was a fast, noisy, big, bustling city…and I wanted to see it.  I set out walking one evening from my hotel room down in Pham Ngu Lao (the backpacker’s area), just looking to see what I could find.

But it wasn’t an easy city to navigate on foot.  It was hot, dirty, and sweaty.  I bought a banh mi (my first ever….I was so excited!), but almost threw up when I realized it was almost entirely made from processed fish.  Disgusted and repulsed, I left it on the ground, so as to not waste it.  I had a guide book with me, which said something along the lines of this: go to the traffic circle, and relax while you watch the mesmerizing traffic.  But I couldn’t relax: I was being swallowed by the mesmerizing traffic.  There was no where to sit.  It was hot.  It was uncomfortable.  It was getting dark.  I didn’t know what to do.  Still excited, yet slightly dazed and overwhelmed, I made my way back to my hotel room, where I watched The Usual Suspects on my computer.

The story above took place at the very circle where Starbucks now sits, open to the public.  That same traffic circle where once there was nowhere to sit now has a place to sit.  It’s called Starbucks.  Or maybe someday it will be the Trung Hung Dao Circle Starbucks.  And maybe someday this Starbucks will aid weary foreign travelers in search of a something to drink, a place to sit, and a chance to watch the traffic.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

As much as I still despise the idea of Starbucks being in Vietnam, I can’t help but appreciate brilliant marketing when I see it.  Starbucks created something unique when they built their now world-famous Shibuya Starbucks: they created not just a coffee shop but a landmark, a place that people like me seek out, if only to drink one drink and watch some people.  And they are now attempting to do that here Ho Chi Minh City as well.

It’s inevitable that globalization will continue to change the face of the world that we live in, for good and for bad.  The fact that I am living in Vietnam and blogging about Starbucks is a case in point.  But I will be interested to see how the new Ho Chi Minh City Starbucks fares.  Will she live up to her older sister’s fame in Tokyo?  Will people seek her out?  Will she make it into Lonely Planet, as a good place to watch the mesmerizing traffic while drinking a Western coffee?

Or will she just blend in with everything else, becoming just another Western business in an Asian world?

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

I’m thinking about going to Starbucks, to watch some traffic and post up on the internet for a little while.  But I don’t know if I’ll make it.  I may need some time.


-Greg Hovanesian

Stories from Asia, Part 2: Bats in the City

The first place I came to in Asia was Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  I spent two weeks there with a group of people learning how to be a English teacher.  We studied English grammar and teaching methodology by day; by night, we would go check out the town.

Walking around Phnom Penh at night, one of the first things I noticed were bats.  There were bats flying close to our heads as we were walking around; I had never been in a city where there were bats.  It was something different.

Two weeks later some of us moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, formerly Saigon.  There were bats there too.

I’m still living here.  Sometimes, late at night, I’ll go up on my roof deck with all the lights out.  I lie on my back and look up at the sky, and watch the bats fly around.

A Book Review: Graham Greene’s The Quiet American

Written July, 2013

I read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American when I first arrived in Vietnam, almost four years ago. I was living in a hotel room, didn’t have a job, and was apprehensive about everything going on in my life. I also barely knew anything about Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) at the time, let alone the country of Vietnam, which is much larger and more complex than most people realize. Most importantly, I only had a rudimentary understanding of the history involving the wars that tore Vietnam apart for 30 years, let alone the cultural habits and tendencies of Vietnamese people. I think for all of these reasons, I didn’t particularly enjoy, or understand, The Quiet American.

But 3.5 years later, the book sparkles. Greene lived in Saigon in the early 1950s, covering the French Indochina War for the British press. His novel is partly fiction, partly autobiography; the plot surrounds the murder of an American Legation officer secretly working for the CIA. Published in 1955 (by which time the war with the French was freshly over), it looks scathingly at the American funding of the French war, the secret operations that were happening involving the CIA at the time, and even the American pressmen. It was widely seen as being anti-American when it was published, and did not sell well in the USA, though it did well in Britain. (In 1958 Hollywood released their own version of The Quiet American, which all but stripped the political message that was sent out. Greene was furious).

Many show amazement at Greene’s vision for the future, but in actuality he was just observing what was happening and reporting it through his novel: the U.S. was very much involved in Vietnam by the early 1950s, even as the French suffered the causalities and longed to be over with what had become a nightmare war that was fought in thick jungle against invisible enemies.

In many ways this novel serves as a precursor to Michael Herr’s Dispatches, the hard-hitting correspondent’s tale published in 1977 detailing life in Vietnam at the height of the American / Vietnam War in 1968. Herr mentions Pyle’s murder in his book; in my opinion he was definitely inspired by the writing style Greene used to describe things. Both writers are sharp-witted and extremely honest, and at times Herr’s book mirrors Greene’s: there are press conference scenes from each book which are eerily similar. Perhaps this is simply because neither war was very different from the other; the same could probably be said for the press and the military officers talking to the press. But it seems worth mentioning.

It also depicts the horrors of war as well as any novel can; while describing the scene at Phat Diem, war simply becomes death and decay.

On a lighter note, I was somewhat amazed by the way in which this book portrays Saigon. Despite the fact that this book was written in 1955, nearly 60 years ago, the city still feels the same. The dark streets, oppressing heat, the squatting women gossiping, the obnoxious foreigners, the restaurants, the way the girls dress in colorful ao dais: it all feels like I’m reading about current day Saigon. Much the same can be said about Dispatches.

And, of course, beyond all the historical stuff, all the stuff about Saigon, and everything else, lies a touching love story. Numerous themes are touched on that again mirror the political stuff happening: ignorance, hatred, deceit, the question of etiquette vs. character.

It helps to read this book with at least a little bit of an understanding of what was happening in Vietnam in the early 1950s. If you have the time the best book to read is Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History, though this book is over 700 pages long. Of course, you could just read the chapter pertaining to French involvement in the war. Without a general knowledge of what was going on, it’s easy to get lost when reading about the Cao Daists, Hoa Haos, the Bich Xuyen, and General The, as well as the Viet Minh. Greene doesn’t try to explain who these people were, because at the time they were groups of people that were well known in Vietnam. This book was written several years before the term Viet Cong was ever used.

There are several The Quiet American reader websites that help out with terminology. Lots of dialogue is printed in French, and the websites translate this stuff. They also help out with outdated stuff we might not know about, like the Kinsey Report (a 1948 book on male sexuality) and pinastres (the currency used in French-controlled Vietnam). What most of the websites didn’t help with were street locations: Saigon under French control had French street names (the city grids for Saigon and Phnom Penh were designed and built by the French). Today lots of French street names remain in Phnom Penh, but in Ho Chi Minh City they are almost entirely gone. The only ones that remain are Pasteur (the scientist), Yersin (another scientist), Calmette (yet another scientist) and Alexadre De Rhodes (the French missionary who transcribed the Chinese lettering of Old Vietnamese to the current system, which uses Roman letters). All other French street names were changed in 1955, when the South Vietnamese government was created. After doing a little research I’ve found most of the street and other locations of the book and have put them here for anyone who lives in Ho Chi Minh City and is interested in reading the book and locating where events are happening.

Rue Catinat: The most important street in the book, where the main character, Fowler, lives. I also believe it is where Graham Greene lived. The Rue Catinat was and still is the most central street in downtown Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. The Opera House and Continental Hotel, both important landmarks at the time of the novel and today, are found on this street. In 1955, when the South Vietnamese government was formed, it was re-named Duong Tu Do, which translates to Freedom Street. In Dispatches, Tu Do Street is equally important to Greene’s Catinat. But in 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army marched into Saigon to end 30 years of war, once again the street name was changed, and it has stayed the same since. Today it is Duong Dong Khoi, translated to mean Uprising Street. Today Dong Khoi still serves as the central pulse of District 1, though it is more commercialized. The Caravelle Hotel, Opera House and Continental are all still there, but so are the Louis Vuitton store, the VinCom Center with its huge electronic murals, and numerous other over-priced shops. Things have changed and things haven’t changed.

Rue Duranton: This is where Pyle lived before he was murdered. As far as I can tell from looking at an old map of French Saigon, it’s either Bui Thi Xuan or Suong Nguyet Anh, parallel to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and perpendicular to CMT8. In District 1.

The Dakow Bridge: This where the pivotal scene, the murder of Pyle, occurs, though we never see it happen. It’s also where another very important scene happens towards the end of the book. The internet tells us that the Dakow Bridge has been ripped down (and presumably re-built), but it doesn’t tell us where. It was most likely located in the Dakow or Dachau area of District 1. In the book Fowler goes to a Burgundian (East German) restaurant right near the bridge to meet Pyle. According to the novel, on the their side of the bridge it safe; on the other side of the bridge the Vietnamese Army control things by day, and the Viet Minh by night. It is described as enemy territory, a place where you would get your throat slit if you crossed at night. The restaurant near the bridge has a metal gate to protect it from grenade attacks. Although it’s tough to figure out where exactly this bridge was located, my guess would be that is at the end of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, where it crosses a newish bridge into Binh Thanh District. This makes sense as it is a little bit off the beaten path, but not too far away (the Zoo and Botanical Gardens are nearby, and the rest of Downtown is only about a five minute drive away). In this case, Binh Thanh District, on the other side of the river, would be the enemy territory controlled by the Viet Minh at night, where Pyle was murdered.

Boulevard Charner: Nguyen Hue

Boulevard Bonner: Le Loi

Avenue Gallieni: Trung Hung Dao

Boulevard de la Somme: Ham Nghi. Boulevard de la Somme plays an interesting part in the novel. It is where Phuong does all her shopping for meats and fruits at the markets. Interestingly, I don’t think there are markets on Ham Nghi today, though there are international food markets (different than Vietnamese markets). It’s also interesting to note that Greene seems to consider this part of town to be part of Cho Lon, aka Chinatown. Today Cho Lon is still a major part of Ho Chi Minh City, and it is still largely Chinese, but it in no way stretches all the way to Ham Nghi, in District 1. Cho Lon today is found in District 5 and 11. District 1 is not considered to be Cho Lon, nor is it considered to be very Chinese. Cho Lon is mentioned throughout the novel, and much of the action happens in the somewhat shady areas of Cho Lon. Again, much can be said of Cho Lon in Dispatches, and in Karnow’s book on Vietnam. During the war years Cho Lon was always known as a somewhat dangerous place that was to be treated cautiously, but it was also a place where French or American servicemen could find plenty of useful things on the black market that they couldn’t get in other places. Anyway, I find it interesting that Greene seems to consider Ham Nghi (Boulevard de la Somme) to be in Cho Lon. Perhaps Chinatown used to be a much bigger part of Saigon. Or perhaps it shifted over the years. Or maybe I misread him. Not sure.

Other street names from French Saigon that weren’t mentioned in the novel, but I find them interesting anyway: Le Duan – Boulevard Norodom; Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Rue Mac Mahon; Hai Ba Trung – Rue Paul Blanchy; Pasteur – Rue Pellerin; Thi Sach – Rue Pasteur; Nguyen Thi Minh Khai – Rue Chasseloup Laubat; Cach Manh Thang 8 – Rue de Verdun; Vo Van Tan – Rue Testard; Truong Dinh – Rue Miss Cawall; Dinh Thieng Hoang – Boulevard Albert; Nguyen Binh Khiem – Rue Rousseau.

Fake 2007 NCAA Tourney: Mascots!


Hey Everyone….how’s it going. Good? Glad to hear it. Have you ever wondered what would happen if instead of basketball games being played in the NCAA Basketball tournaments, the mascots simply battled to the death? Well I have. Forget the brackets you’ve figured out; your whole bracket world is about to be thrown upside down

Without further ado,


Before I do anything, I have to give a shout out to my Main Man Kevin Canavan, who has already seen this plan in motion (back in the fall, with NFL football teams. No one but his dad was there to witness it; until the time comes around again, I won’t reveal who won). While watching b-ball with him yesterday, he brought it up. And a lightbulb went on in my head. Ahoy! So Kev….thanks for the inspiration, dawg.

Let’s get to the rules of play:

1) The mascots are not playing each other in basketball….that would just be ludicrous. They are fighting…TO THE DEATH!!!

2) A basketball team sends five guys to the court…for the time being, we’ll say that five of each mascot will be sent to face another five, although it may get complicated, and I think the rules will need to be tweaked. (I think the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will cause the most problems here).

3) Basketball is played on hardwood floors. For the sake of the mascots, who usually don’t do battle on hardwood, we’ll move them to a neutral, outdoor setting.

4) Since I am the Commish of this league…the final rules involving discrepencies comes down to me, and me only. I will be fair and just.

Now….the Matchups.

Play in game:

The Florida A&M Rattlers vs. The Niagra Purple Eagles

Round 1, The Midwest:

The Florida Gators vs. The Jackson State Tigers

The Arizona Wildcats vs. The Purdue Boilermakers

The Butler Bulldogs vs. The Old Dominion Monarchs

The Maryland Terrapins vs. The Davidson Wildcats

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. The Winthrop Eagles

The Oregon Ducks vs. The Miami of Ohio Redhawks

The UNLV Rebels vs. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Wisconsin Badgers vs. The Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders

The West:

The Kansas Jayhawks vs. The Florida A&M Rattlers or The Niagra Purple Eagles

The Kentucky Wildcats vs. The Villanova Wildcats

The Virginia Tech Hokies vs. The Illinios Fighting Illini

The Southern Illinois Salukies vs. The Holy Cross Crusaders

The Duke Blue Devils vs. The Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The Pittsburgh Panthers vs. The Wright State Raiders

The Indiana Hoosiers vs. The Gonzaga Bulldogs

The UCLA Bruins vs. The Weber State Wildcats

The East:

The North Carolina Tarheels vs. The Eastern Kentucky Colonels

The Marquette Golden Eagles vs. The Michigan State Spartans

The USC Trojans vs. The Arkansas Razorbacks

The Texas Longhorns vs. The New Mexico State Aggies

The Vanderbilt Commodores vs. The George Washington Colonials

The Washington State Cougars vs. The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

The Boston College Eagles vs. The Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Georgetown Hoyas vs. The Belmont Bruins

The South:

The Ohio State Buckeyes vs. The Central Conneticutt State Blue Devils

The BYU Cougars vs. The Xavier Musketeers

The Tennessee Vols vs. The Long Beach State 49ers

The Virginia Cavaliers vs. The Albany Great Danes

The Louisville Cardinals vs. The Stanford Cardinal

The Texas A&M Aggies vs. The Penn Quakers

The Nevada Wolf Pack vs. The Creighton Bluejays

The Memphis Tigers vs. The North Texas Mean Green

Phew….that took awhile.


There is no possible way I’m going to be able to go over every match up in the First Round tonight, let alone the whole tournament. This might be a mulitple entry procedure. But I’ll see what I can get done tonight, starting with the West Bracket, which has the play-game. So before the tourney starts, lets go over the play-in game.

The Florida A&M Rattlers vs. The Niagra Purple Eagles:

Rattlers, for the most part, are a pretty formidable foe. They’re poisonous, aggressive, and sneaky. In a neutral outdoor setting, with five rattlers slithering around, I think any opponent would be intimidated.

Ofcourse, we’re not dealing with any opponent here: we’re dealing with Purple Eagles. Purple Eagles?!?! I mean, I’ve heard of some crazy shit, but I think Purple Eagles take the cake. Are these special eagles? Are they magical? As far as I know, there are no purple eagles in the wild. So what kind of eagles, are purple eagles, exactly?

Here’s what I say: they’re majestic and fierce….but not magical. Sorry, there’s no mention of magic here. But they are purple, don’t forget. All of this being said…I think the Purple Eagles take the Rattlers down. The Rattlers are at a distinct disadvantage, because the Purple Eagles can swoop from above and take out the Rattlers, one at a time. Don’t get me wrong…I think a Purple Eagle could get bitten in the melee. I just don’t see them losing.

Victor: The Niagra Purple Eagles

Round 1, The West:

The Purple Eagles get no rest…they immediately have to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. Which, honestly, doesn’t seem like as formidable a task. I mean…Jayhawks sound tough and everything, but against Purple Eagles…I don’t know. Let’s not forget….these are Purple Eagles that just defeated a bunch of nasty Rattlers. I think the Jayhawks would certainly be tough, especially off some rest…but I just think the Purple Eagles prevail here. I don’t know…just a gut feeling.

The Victor: The Purple Eagles

Okay folks…thats all I can do right now. Sorry…gotta get some shut eye. But I will be back to finish this epic tournament.

Until Next Time,


Alright, lets get down to business, no waiting around….

We’re moving on in the Mascot Basketball Challenge, whether you like it or not.

I’m starting with the Midwest, even though we already decided the play in game and first game in the West earlier. We’ll get back to that region. Anyone who is confused, check in with the last blog entry for rules and regulations, and to know what the hell I’m talking about.

Let the games….BEGIN:

The Midwest:

The Florida Gators vs. The Jackson St. Tigers:

Okay…this is one is pretty straight forward. We have two powerful, ferocious groups of predators facing off against one another in a neutral, outdoor setting. I think the neutral setting, however, actually hurts the Gators here. Gators need water to be very effective: without it, they lose their stealth. I think the Tigers pull out a win…but I think its bloody, and hard fought.

The Arizona Wildcats vs. The Purdue Boilermakers:

Okay…this is pretty interesting. First, we have the Wildcats, from Arizona. Since we don’t know what wildcats are being talked about here, we will presume they are natural to Arizona (I’m taking some liberties and making up rules as I go…let me know if you have a problem with this). Assuming this, we’ll say its a mix-bag of bobcats, cougars, and other assorted cats.

As for the Boilermakers, well….we’ll say five professionally made boilermakers, with Bud Light and Jack Daniels, will be laid out on the ground ( a boilermaker, for those who don’t know, is a beer with a shot of whiskey thrown into it). Like I said, interesting.

Wildcats are ferocious predators, known to attack people sometimes…but I wouldn’t call them “smart.” To expect a wildcat to understand what a boliermaker is, well, simply impossible. My estimation: the cats would drink the boilermakers and get drunk.

Now….I believe this would be detrimental to the cats well-being. But, that being said, the Boilermakers would cease to exist….therefore, although their plan to get the cats drunk succeeded, the boilermakers attempt suicide in the process.

The Butler Bulldogs vs. The Old Dominion Monarchs:

Well now…this is interesting. I’m not a big fan of bulldogs in battles…sure, they have strong jaws, and can intimidate foes with their drool…but are they really good fighters? I say no.

However, I’m not sure that a group of five Monarchs would really impress me.

Honestly, I think these two would make better friends than foes….I mean, can’t you see some old, crusty monarch from 300 years ago walking around with a spoiled bulldog as a pet? I can. But fighting each other…I think it’d be a little weird.

I see it happening in this way: five random monarchs, from various countries, of varying ages, enter the neutral area. They are given nice, plush chairs to sit on, and each a platter of grapes to eat from.

The bulldogs are led out, and let loose.

And for awhile, nothing happens. The bulldogs walk around slobbering; the monarchs sit around, talking of their palaces and their royal halls, and eating their grapes. Eventually, they get up to befriend the bulldogs, who seem somewhat royal themselves. And out of boredom and hunger, the bulldogs attack the monarchs, and eventually win the match.

I’m sorry…that may have seemed lame. But I am not, under any circumstances, allowing stalemates in this tourney…one way or another, there will be a winner. In the end….someone’s got to go. That’s the only way I saw it happening.

The Maryland Terrapins vs. The Davidson Wildcats

Hmm….more wildcats….only this time, they land a challenging foe.

For those who don’t know, terrapins are giant snapping turtles (I googled it just to make sure). Wildcats, as we already know, are wildcats. I think this would be a tremendous match-up, with non-stop excitement. The terrapins, slow but strong; the wildcats, quick and lean. I think it would last for hours, and I also think opinions would vary as to who would win….but I think, in the end, the terrapins outwit the cats, and eventually take them down. Remember….Turtles Have Wisdom (atleast I think they do…they live to be like 140 years old).

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. The Winthrop Eagles:

Ahh…here’s one of the matchups I’ve been waiting for. A bunch of fighting Irish dudes….against eagles. At Notre Dame games, a leprehchan guy (I’m not even gonna look up how to spell that…actually, it kinda looks right) runs around the field/court. We’re elimating him….and replacing him with some of the craziest, drunkest, Irish dudes I know. I know a lot of them. It kind of sucks….they get to go against….eagles. The most cliched sports animal ever. Whatever….here’s how I see it.

The Irish dudes are pissed at being made to do this, and they’re drunk. They’re allowed to bring their beers into the fighting area with them. The majestic eagles, flying high above, see their drunken targets below. Easy pickens, right?

Wrong. The first eagle swoops, hits a guy in the head, draws blood….and gets these crazy, drunk Irish dudes REALLY pissed. They start chucking a barrage of beer cans, beer bottles, and rocks at the birds. The birds can’t handle it. The Fighing Irish kick the crap out of them. And afterwards, they grill the eagles over an open pit…and drink more beers.

(If anyone was offended by my portrayal of Fighting Irish dudes….just make fun of Armenians, of which I am half. Or actually, just make fun of any ethnic group/religion/club that you feel like. Just don’t fight me.)

The Oregon Ducks vs. The Miami of Ohio Redhawks:

Ahhh, the Ducks….the absolute lamest mascot of all time, not including the Arlington Spy Ponders (inside joke for those from eastern Mass.). I don’t care if they’re an intrical part of Oregon’s history….I don’t care if ducks founded the state, wrote the constitution, and designed the state flag. Its still a shitty name for a sports team. They’re not even cool, like cardnals or bluejays…there, just, well, ducks!!

If you even have to think about what I think the Redhawks would do to the Ducks…well, you’re reading the wrong blog (on that note, you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway).

The UNLV Rebels vs. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:

Okay….this is where my whole system hits a snag. Up until this point, according to my earlier post regarding this tourney, five of each mascot would enter the fighting area (per five basketball players per team to a court).

This is all fine and well for the Rebels….but for the Yellow Jackets, it just doesn’t work. Yellow Jackets, like all members of the bee/wasp family, produce their terror in numbers. Unless you’re allergic to bees, they’re only a nusance if there’s a few of them; a break a nest, and watch out.

If these Rebels, armed with….well, guns and stuff, I guess…were to face off against five yellow jackets…..well, they’d probably get a few stings, and then squish the little suckers. But if hundreds of yellow jackets were allowed to fight…well forget about the Rebels, the Yellow Jackets might be the tourney favorites.

I’m sort of torn here…..but I’m also in a hurry, and don’t have time to dwell, so I’m making an executive decision:

“It is with great regret that I, Greg Hovanesian, Commissioner of this fake Tournament, turn down the request of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who have requested that five hundred bees be allowed to fight, instead of five.”

Tough loss for the Jackets….but it was just as tough a decision by me. Honestly…its one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, and it leaves me with a heavy heart…I like those little guys. (In real life…I HATE BEES).

The Wisconsin Badgers vs. The Texas A&M Corpus Christie Islanders:

With all due respect….this would be a bloodbath.

Badgers, like Terrapins, are a sleeper pick for myself (for those not familiar with the term: an opponent that critics “sleep” on….and end up being better than expected). Badgers are really, really, tough. They live in tough climates. They can take down a deer with a single blow….okay, maybe not. But they’re damn tough little critters….and they fight dirty.

As for the Islanders….well, being from the South, we’ll say their tropical island dwellers. I love Islanders….they’re easy going, make cool drinks, and party on the beach. I mean, they make great company. But Islanders, atleast in my mind, aren’t really great fighters (anyone upset with my perception of Islanders….see above about the Irish).

Anyway…I think the Islanders, much like the earlier Monarchs, would try to befriend the Badgers. And, much to their chagrin…the badgers would launch their nasty attack. Honestly….this makes me sad to think about. I like Islanders…they’re good people.

And this marks the end of the Midwest Bracket:

Sorry, I’ve gotta go to bed. But don’t fret….this baby ain’t done yet. Peace.



Okay, we’re gonna keep the ball rolling, just a few things first:

Well, I’m bleeding in my real brackets. Situation: I picked Notre Dame to go not only to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAAs, but the Elite Eight. And they lost to Winthrop. The sad part: I really wanted to pick Winthrop, but Notre Dame was one of my pre-tourney faves, so I had to stick with them. But because of this, I was actually rooting for Winthrop on TV (I forgot I had ND in the Elite Eight, I thought it was only the Sweet Sixteen). The point to all this: I suck. But hey, atleast I picked Virginia Commonwealth to beat Duke; now all they have to do is beat Pitt and I’m all set.

Quick Movie Review: Here’s a quick review of “300″, which I saw last weekend:

It sucked. It reminded my of a boring opera with no music. It made me tired. There was too much blood; not enough substance. I was bored 12 minutes in. I hated Spartans by the end of the movie. I found out that monsters existed in Ancient Greece, and mingled with humans, and had big teeth. I also found out that wolves were about 1,600 pounds, had yellow, glowing eyes, and looked really fake back then. I hated everyone in the movie except for a twelve foot monster who kicked ass about halfway through, and some deformed dude.

To sum it up: I reminded me of a nice, delicious plate of steaming dog poop. Hey, if this sounds like your type of movie….CHECK IT OUT!!!!

Moving on….

Yes, its true…advertising works!:

I’ve been watching a lot of college hoops for the last 3-4 weeks, and I’ve noticed an ad that occurs over and over: its for Buffalo Wild Wings, some restaurant chain I’ve never heard of. Well, I’ve fallen in love with this place, and not because of the food, or anything I’ve heard: only because of the ads. Which aren’t even that cool; they just kind of suck me in.

What does this mean? Well, it means that someday I’ll pull off a random highway in some random state, and there, in front of me, will be a Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ll stare in shock for a couple minutes, and then mutter, “My God, its what I’ve been waiting for.”

And I’ll probably get a buffalo chicken sandwich with a Ceasar Salad on the side, and it will probably be lame, and maybe I’ll sit at the bar and have a beer or too.

Why am I telling you this? Because it proves that adverstising does work; in perverse ways, maybe, but it works.

Okay..back to My Fake Tourney.

If you don’t know what’s going on…check back a couple of entries ago:

We’re going back to the West, where we already know that the Niagra Purple Eagles take down the Kansas Jayhawks in the first game. Let’s see how the rest of the bracket plays out:

The Villanova Wildcats vs. The Kentucky Wildcats:

Okaaaaay….I don’t even know what to say. Is this lame, or so lame that its cool? I say it its kinda cool. Like I said in an earlier post, there will no stalemates, no matter the situation. So one of these groups of wildcats is going to come out on top: end of story.

I’m making another executive decision here: the wildcats facing each other will be directly related to the geography of each school. That means that the wildcats of Villanova will be directly associated with Philadelphia; and the wildcats of of Kentucky will be associated with, well, Kentucky.

This leaves us with five Philly Wildcats, presumably alley cats and strays, to face up against bobcats and cougars from the backwoods of Kentucky.

Look, alley cats are tough and everything….I used to hear them fighting behind my house growing up (interestingly, there is no alley behind the house where I grew up). But in this situation, I’ll take the cats who weigh about 200 more pounds and eat deermeat for dinner.

The Victors: Kentucky

Next up: The Virginia Tech Hokies vs. The Illinios Fighting Illini

Okay…its Google Time!!

After googling “Hokies” I came back, well….confused. A little history about Virginia Tech: turns out, they were originally the Virginia Tech Gobblers; then at some point, Tech fans starting cheering “Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!” at games. Umm…whatever. But I guess everyone loved this cheer so much that it was decided to officially change the name of the team to “The Hokies,” and even rip down the Gobbler on the scoreboard (although it was later put back up).

So, to put it plainly: The Hokies, are, well…a type of cheer.

The Illini, on the other hand, are an American Indian tribe from Illinois. And being The Fighting Illini….well, we’ll assume they’re pissed off and armed.

Now this is somewhat interesting: its already been established that 5 of each mascot will enter the neutral outdoor setting: the 5 Fighting Illini are easy.

But how, exactly, do you count 5 hokies? Simple: you don’t. The Hokies, actually, are not actually anything: because of this, there will only be one Hokie, and this Hokie will not even exist.

As I see it: the Fighting Illini wait for someone to show up, but all they here is “Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!” being chanted over and over.

I think this would freak a lot of people out, Illini included: there wouldn’t even be an opponent to fight, just: “Hokie.” This all brings up an interesting question: how, exactly, do you defeat something that doesn’t exist. Simple answer: you don’t. But this brings up the whole stalemate issue. So a new rule is being created by me, on the spot: “If an opponent cannot be defeated in any way, then it is decided that they lose by default.”

So there, the Hokies lose. Even if the Hokies could pull off a win (which I don’t think they would; I don’t care how scared or freaked the Illini would get, I don’t see them actually losing to Hokies), they would lose by default because in actuality, they don’t exist.

So the victors, by default: Illinois

Next up…The Southern Illinois Salukis vs. The Holy Cross Crusaders:

Well, I learned something today: a Saluki is a type of dog that has been around for atleast 3,500 years. To see a picture of one, check this out: . (I hope this link works; I’m an idiot and may have screwed it up). It turns out they were bred to hunt in Egypt and Mesopotamia: what they’re doing in Southern Illinois….I have no freaking idea.

As for the Crusaders: there were nine crusades, and most of them consisted of Popes calling for the destruction of heathens in the East, leading to knights leading armies to the Middle East to wage war and pillage in the name of The Church.

As noble and graceful as the Salukies are (the thing looks pretty damn pompous on that website I found), I think the Crusaders would slaughter those heathen bastards in no time.

By the way, I know I’ve messed up the link somehow cause I looked at my draft….um, give me time.

Okay, I think I got it.

Nope…I didn’t….now I’m pissed. Goddamned Salukies!!! Screw ‘em…I’m glad they lost!!!!

Okay, if you’re annoyed that this entire thing has become a link….so am I.

Hold on.

Screw it…I’m done. Atleast you know what a Saluki looks like. I’m tired and I’ve been drinking anyway, so I’m running out of ideas and I think I kind of suck right now. So after I figure out this problem (which most 6th graders probably know how to fix), I’ll be back.

Until Then….I’m Pissed.


Until Next Time,