Saturday, 24 January 2009

Lucky's Cafe

Off to Bali - taxi at 6am - might as well stay up all night drinking bad scotch except for a power nap on the sofa. Took a walk down to my old house a few blocks south at 3am. Even then, women in conical hats were cycling produce somewhere - the odd motorbike not slowing down at intersections horn blaring into the darkness. A green suited cop glaring at me from his mini-stool on the corner. Nothing happening. The streets at this time are fairly clear - not like the Tet Offensive of the day where the usual traffic chaos has been superseded by traffic suicide. Unless there is a traffic cop trying to collect Tet bribes on the corner - then the traffic lights are now ignored. Two streams of perpendicular traffic somehow merge through each other continuously... I have to walk through in the periods of jam where a bus (the kings of the road and not to be fucked with) breaks the flow. Anyways - get to house - pick up 3 bottles of mosquito repellent and some good Australian literature, drink a can of Beer Lao that has been sitting in the fridge for a while, and then home.

But now at Lucky's Cafe - Hanoi International Airport. Where you can get pho, beer, strong coffee, and can smoke at will - and god bless wifi. Since it is early I have gone for the strong coffee (liberally strengthened with bad scotch from a water bottle - iced tea I calls it). Akiko goes for the pho bo, I for the nem hai san (seafood fried rolls). Downstairs in the airport foyer we bumped into Vanessa. She is leaving Hanoi for the first time since March - for a 24 hour romp in Bangkok. She went to the infamous nightclub Solace in Hanoi last night - on a boat on the Red River. And just like me when I have gone there - lost not only her memory, but her mobile. Unable to contact her friends who she was going to travel to the airport with, she has come assuming they will not wait for her. One night in Bangkok - god speed you well love. Then we bump into Paul and Chung - the intriguingly grumpy English MIT lecturer and the hard-core Vietnamese kindergarten manager. Off to Da Nang to meet Nick, Queenie and others to enjoy the fine food of Hoi An. Paul bitches about the airport, but its kisses and pats on the shoulder and good trip and goodbye.

Lucky's cafe - how I love you and your service with free attitude. Hanoi International - one of my favourite airports in the world (because of the cheap alcohol, the free wifi, the allowed smoking). Goodbye dear Hanoi - who is damp, cold and absorbed in Tet. Hello to Bali with its sweaty hot days and hot sweaty nights. Will I be possessed by an anilmalistic spirit like last time? Or have some American come and dig up a jar of weed from the floor of my bathroom? Who knows? I love Bali too, and am glad for a week off to rest and read. I believe this is my honeymoon!

Here comes the change from the bill - there goes Akiko to challenge it. We must go, we must go. Till we meet again Lucky's...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

I'll show you the life of the mind

Yesterday I re-watched the disturbing Cohen brother's film Barton Fink. One of the most gripping images in the movie is John Goodman with a shotgun running down the hotel corridor as it erupts in flame behind him shouting 'I'll show you the life of the mind, I'll show you the life of the mind'. It is a pity that the DVD makers used that scene for the intro to the menu page - rather than letting viewer be surprised by it in the natural course of the movie. However, it wasn't that scene which has stuck in my memory over the years since I first watched this movie. What I distinctly remember is the very final scene of the film. A woman sitting on the beach, her arm crooked as she shades her eyes to look out over the sea. The woman - the beach - the pose - is all exactly as in a photograph Barton has been looking at on his hotel wall since the beginning of the movie. In the final few seconds of film a seagull flies across the background, and about half way across the screen drops like a stone into the sea. I remember thinking when I first saw it - how did they do that?

Except what I distinctly remember is wrong. The bird isn't a seagull, and it doesn't drop dead into the sea, but dives in like fishing birds do. You see it pop back to the surface just before the credits roll. And the woman on the beach isn't exactly like the one in the photo. It is very obviously a reference to the photo - but on the hotel version there is a beach umbrella which is absent in the recreation. I have described this scene to various people over the years - and now realize that it was my description that is what I remembered - not the scene itself.

I am writing up an invitation list for my wedding celebrations. I drew up a list of all the people over the decades who have meant a lot to me (even though many of them I haven't been in contact with for years). Since the reception space is limited - I then have to whittle the list back down - which is a horrible soul-destroying job to do. Even worse, however, is the spiral of nostalgia and memories that are being invoked by the exercise. And even worse still is realizing that great iceberg chunks of memory must have been breaking off and melting away into the sea of alcohol I have been adrift in for so long. I have been left paralyzed trying to remember the last names of once good friends - sent trawling through email archives - performing acts of internet stalking to fill in details. And how much of what remains has been Finked? How much resembles events and people past and how much is fantasy recreations of the life I wish I had had? Last night I dreamt that I was married to a different woman - a girlfriend from maybe a decade ago - one of the people on the list. My dream seemed to be saying 'I'll show you the life of the mind'.