Occidentalism: Rock Bottom

This is by Rogue Leisure, as these all have been.  It has been transcribed by The Immortal Goon.

This is the story about watching someone hit rock bottom.  It’s not me, at least I don’t think that it’s me, but I don’t know if anybody really knows that they hit the bottom.  Does pond scum know it’s pond scum?

I was living a good life.  Not a productive life, but a good life in Vietnam.  I was living at a resort, working in exchange for drink, food, and lodging.  The lodging was a hammock, for a good while, but that spot increasingly fell to Mr. N, the guy running the bar.  The bar was run by a resort that was run by a half-European we’ll call Viet-Dutch.

I got along with Mr. N well.  He treated me with a lot of respect, and would always proudly say, “Mr. [Leisure], Good!” At breakfast he’d give me an extra egg, which was a real show of respect.  One time we went out on his motorbike to get petrol and then to a street stand, where we drank vodka straight from the bottle and ate pancakes.

You see, if I didn’t bring about the ruination, I definitely encouraged it.

Mr. N was nice when sober, a good friend.  I never actually saw him get drunk, but I saw him be drunk.  He was increasingly spending the nights asleep in the kitchen hammock, passed out and pissing himself.

Things really came to ahead when I had to talk to N’s son about N stabbing a guest at the resort with a broken beer bottle.


I had just been sleeping in the hammock when a girl came in and woke me up to tell me that N had broken the bottle and tried to stab an English guest.  Girl had been up Skyping her boyfriend and English had been up, the lone survivor of a long night of lots of drinking with other resort guests.  N had gotten into an argument with English and tried to stab him, I guess while attempting a deflection of a hit—I separated N and told English and the girl to go to sleep.

The next morning I talked to the son about N, but he had no empathy.  He had grown up like that.

And things only got worse.

Eventually N would fall into a drunken stupor and demand more beer from his son in order to keep sleeping.  I stopped giving him beer, which made him mad…But I always remember that he really liked me once.

There was also a girl, Nguyễn [not her real name].  It was not quite a secret that we were seeing each other, but in this particular society it was not something that you wanted to flaunt.  There was a perception of virtue that the girls needed to uphold, and it was considered bad form to rub your friend’s nose in the fact that you had a girlfriend.

Nguyễn was scarred of N.  Before N had hit bottom, she had shared a room.  This wasn’t particularly unusual, but when N started drinking and bottom came barreling up at him, he made a move on Nguyễn.

This is not her, nor did she look anything like this. But a picture is nice.

This is not her, nor did she look anything like this. But a picture is nice.

I was sleeping in my hammock when Nguyễn ran in and told me that N had been touchy.  N came into the room, I was still in the hammock, and Nguyễn was hiding behind me.  N asked nicely for me to leave, but I refused.  I put up the second hammock and invited Nguyễn to sleep next to me in the kitchen to protect her from N.  N tried a few times to separate me from Nguyễn, but he was never super-aggressive.  Later he passed out in the kitchen.  Nguyễn remained frightened of N from then on.

This is really when the kitchen became N’s place.

One time he was passed out and I was going to see Nguyễn at her place (that she formally shared with N) and help her get some sleep as her guardian.  To do this, I had to slip past my friend, N’s son, which made me feel shitty.  Then we had to pass another friend, slinking around in the shadows, so as to preserve her virtue and my integrity.  I thought I had made it when a few dogs started barking.  It was a scramble, but I was able to slip away while my friend investigated and I was on our way to the city.

I arrived at the apartment.  It was completely empty.  Just a tile floor.  No furniture.  No utensils or tables.  Just a tile floor and walls.  I found her there asleep on the tile floor.  She played coy, and then I’d back off.  Then she would play coy again.  This is something I found annoying about Vietnam in general—resistance is part of self-image, and I have spent my entire life listening to girls when they resist and backing off.  And knowing this, and reading into it, I tried to push through now and then and would think of my broken heart, the entire reason that I was here at all.  And I thought of N, and how Nguyễn was essentially a peasant and living on a hard tile floor and here I was, saying she meant yes (which she did) when she said no (which she did).  But I learned this dance.  And after she’d go for me when I stopped persisting; and I went for her and she’d get shy, I learned the dance and it made it fun.

That sounds delicate, but let’s be honest: I just sort of came into these people’s lives like a fucking wrecking ball.

This isn't a real picture of Rogue Leisure either

This isn’t a real picture of Rogue Leisure either

I spent a lot of the days working in the garden of the resort that the bar was located in.  The resort was owned by Viet-Dutch, who was not very good at running the resort.  I worked hard, just so I could stay in a hammock, eat two meals, and have some drinks that weren’t even his.

Viet-Dutch was not a mafia guy, but liked to think of himself as a mafia guy.  And me being a hard working person of European heritage challenged his ego.  But most importantly, Viet-Dutch didn’t know how to talk to people and I did.

Once there were two college-aged European girls looking for somewhere to stay in the area.  They had backpacks and were walking through the area.  The place they were looking for was a fucking dump.  I told them that and offered them a deal to stay at our resort if what I said turned out to be true and sent them on their way.  I was sure that they’d be back.

However, Viet-Dutch saw this and ran up and hounded them to stay, getting really aggressive with them.  They were both very much turned off from this and once they were able to break free from him, left never to return.

Viet-Dutch was very upset with me for allowing them to leave.  This started a feud where Viet-Dutch was accusing me of getting rid of customers, while N and the others that owned the bar continued to back me.  After all, I was working for free on his resort.

This isn't really Viet-Dutch

This isn’t really Viet-Dutch

One day Viet-Dutch had me go to a meeting with him, his wife, and N’s son to discuss in Vietnamese an event that happened in English, where the accused (me) was the only witness that could not communicate what had happened.

In the end, the resort closed the bar, which put N and his son in a bad place.

For petty revenge, I got on TripAdviser and wrote a terrible review for the resort.  I don’t want to brag, but writing reviews is something that I’m very good at.  The trick is to tell a story that dances around the issue that you’re trying to highlight.

I mentioned that it was dirty, that there was no bar, and I invented a girlfriend that I said Viet-Dutch had hit on.

For a negative review to mess things up, this was a home run.

Viet-Dutch was pissed and showed his wife.  His wife was pissed as she assumed that Viet-Dutch had hit on Nguyễn.

Viet-Dutch then, the screws tightened, threatened to kill me unless the review came down.

I wasn’t done though, and began writing letters about how terrible the resort was and write the US embassy about how there was a business threatening to kill Americans in the area.  They advised me to go to the local police—which really wouldn’t have done anything.

Eventually N’s son told me to take the review down and I did.

But I was done with Vietnam.  The summers in Portland can’t be beat, and I was ready to come back and build something lasting and strong.  From the beginning this was supposed to build a foundation and instead I ended up smashing a few others.

It’s time to go home…Though I think I may always come back…


  1 comment for “Occidentalism: Rock Bottom

  1. August 7, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Super Interesting reading this back in Bien Hoa sitting in an ivory tower amongst the rusted tin roofs I can see from my balcony. And longing for that hammock. And missing another Portland summer. And Missing Mr. N. – Rest In Peace you crazy bastard.

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