Chapter 19 – Kids Say the Darndest Things
Like the silver ball being batted around a pinball machine by the deaf dumb blind kid in the movie Tommy, we bounced up and down the crowded-ass streets near Tran Hung Dao Roundabout in search of a rowdy watering hole. After passing by a few boring old man bars, we discovered a joint called “Go2 Bar” where it seemed like shit had been poppin’ off.
The pub looked very much like the type of erection you’d see in the French Quarter of New Orleans. When I say this, I’m not referring to the stiffy that some college bro had popped after a drunken bead-seeking girl-gone-wild had flashed him her sopping wet jugs on Bourbon Street during a Mardi Gras celebration. I mean that Go2 Bar had taken up two floors of a structure that’d been built in the French Colonial style.
The interior of the first floor was painted red and had a pool table that’d been surrounded by unshaven tank-top-wearing dreadlocked backpackers who all stunk like the crawlspace at John Wayne Gacy’s. Furnished with another bar and a dance floor, the second level had a bit more of a clubby feel to it and had been occupied by a pack of well-dressed, made-up, hair-gelled patrons enjoying the feel-good sounds of generic-ass dance tracks. Only heading upstairs to use the bathroom when the one on the first floor had been occupied, we’d posted up at a flimsy plastic table with flimsy plastic chairs they’d had set up on the sidewalk near one of the several gaping entranceways to Go2 Bar. There, a young waiter approached our table and offered us his service.
“Uh, yeah, we’ll take three shots of Jameson and three San Miguels,” Tim said with no intention of fuckin’ around.
“Three little ones, whiskey, Jameson,” he’d used his thumb and index finger to indicate the height of a shot glass. “And three bottles of San Miguel.”
“Okay, okay. One moment please.”
A few minutes later when the drinks arrived, I held up my shot and clinked it against those of my traveling buddies. “Cheers,” I said out of habit before ingesting the poison. Like General Sherman on his infamous march to the sea, I could feel the Jameson burning the hell out of all it encountered on its journey through my body. I washed away the unpleasant sensation with a swig of the Filipino beer and kicked back in my chair, letting the booze get to work.
As I sat with my back to the bar, Tim had been to my right and Kathleen was across from us with her back to the street. To the immediate left of me had been a table full of black dudes who, judging by their Blood Diamond accents, hailed from the Dark Continent. From their direction, I’d been getting that strange sensation that comes over me when I know I’m being watched. To lay my paranoia to rest, I turned to see what was up. As it so happens, the guy closest me had indeed been staring over at our table.
“Hey dude,” I held up my drink and greeted the guy, “what’s goin’ on?”
He blinked in slow motion as if he were testing out a new pair of eyes.
“What’s up?” I tried being as friendly as possible. “You doin’ some travelin’ down here in Saigon?”
“Ha,” he smirked at my ignorance. “I am not a tourist. My friends,” he pointed around the table, “are not tourists. We all work down here.”
“Oh yeah? That’s sweet, man.” I lit a cigarette out of discomfort. “Whattaya guys do?”
“We play football.”
“Oh shit. Really?”
He responded with a slight shrug and a continued glare.
“That’s fuckin’ boss, man. Where you and your friends from?”
“Cool. Cool, man,” I nodded then turned back to the Osh’s.
Trying to hold a conversation with that self-important asshole had been about as much fun as masturbating with a cheese grater in hand. Even though he continued to zone in on our table, I figured that my interaction with the dude had permanently expired. As I drank my drank and smoked my smoke while chit-chatting with the O’Shaughnessy’s, a few minutes later I felt a tapping on my shoulder from behind. I looked over and the Senegalese stranger got real close to my face.
“The female,” he said, “does she have a boyfriend?”
“Oh, her?” I asked and he nodded at Kathleen. “Yeah, yeah. She definitely does have a boyfriend.”
“Are you her boyfriend?”
“No, not me.”
“How ‘bout him?” he nodded at Tim. “Is he her boyfriend?”
“No, that’s her brother.”
He leaned back in his chair and nodded as if to say, “Hmm, interesting,” and that was the last we’d said to each other. I then reiterated the details of the exchange to my traveling partners.
“So yeah Kathleen, don’t turn your back on that guy tonight,” I concluded, “he’s not a normal person. Dude seems like a total rapist.”
Until their soccer squadron had left sometime later in the night, we kept a watchful eye on public enemy number one. While saying next to nothing to his group of friends, the guy ended up staring at Kathleen for the entirety of his time at the bar and following her around whenever she stood up, almost tailing her into the bathroom on several occasions. Despite being in the presence of this dude who’d posed the threat of sexual assault, our pursuit of Milwaukee Drunkenness carried on. Round after round of whiskey shots had been ordered, as were flagons upon flagons of San Miguel to wash down the burn.
Over the course of the evening, all sorts of venders hawking all sorts of crap came and went without drawing my interest in the slightest. At some point, however, an older white-haired Vietnamese gentleman walked up with a massive rectangular briefcase and set it down on the table. What the contents of this carry-all could’ve been had me all kinds of curious.
As he went to flip open the latches on the top of the tote, I noticed something peculiar about his fingernails. On his three middle fingers, the nails had been trimmed down quite low but the thumb and pinky on each hand were grown at least a half-inch past his fingertips and painted black. I didn’t know this at the time, but through research on a later date, I’d learn that having long nails is a practice not uncommon among Southeast Asian men.
Theories on the practical applications of this multifaceted attribute range from uses including but not limited to an all-natural coke spoon, a booger and earwax removal device, a guitar pick, a pussy-pleasing, bean-flicking implement or any combination thereof. I’d also come across speculation that this particular style of manicure in the Asian male community can be viewed as a status symbol which insinuates that the individual in question is above doing manual labor by virtue of the fact that he can maintain a flawless nail while the common man’s remain dirt-laden and cracked. Although very feasible in some instances, I don’t think the latter school of thought applies to a common street vendor in Saigon.
With the help of his booger-encrusted, clit-tickling fingernails, once the old-timer had gotten the thing unlatched, he flipped down the lid and revealed unto us a glimmering array of all the tobacco products a nicotine-craving alcoholic could ever ask for. Dozens upon dozens of brands I’d never heard of had been neatly arranged with each pack rigged to the walls of the case by use of several belt-like straps. It was a damn good thing he stopped by when he did. I’d just smoked my last cig, was in dire need of some more and hadn’t been feeling Medieval enough to go out searching for and rounding up fags before setting them ablaze in a public place.
As the man handed me the cigs of my fancy, I stuck my Dong in his hand and he gave me the change. Taking notice of the purchase from the nomadic salesman, other mobile marketers moved in for the kill. I waved most of them away until we’d been approached by a little fat-cheeked, pudgy-ass seven or eight-year-old boy and the even tinier girl accompanying him who’d been doing her best to hoist a display of shitty-looking homemade wristbands. Why these children had been out hustlin’ unaccompanied around midnight is beyond me.
“Whattaya selling there, chief?”
“One dollah!” he shouted.
“I didn’t ask how much, I…”
“One dollah!” he cut me off while holding up a stout right index finger.
Even though I didn’t want the thing to begin with, I know that giving back to the communities I visit is an important part of traveling. In retrospect, one dollar seems like a reasonable amount to hand children for their crappy handicrafts in a third world country but for one reason or another, that night I felt like Jewing these grubby street kids down to a lower price.
“Oh no, that’s far too much for that,” I shot right back at him while whipping out my wallet and pulling what I felt had been a more appropriate amount. “I’ll give ya five-thousand Dong for it.”
Five-thousand Dong is the equivalent of about twenty-five cents.
“Alright, how ‘bout ten-thousand Dong?”
“Onnnnne! Dollahhhhhh!” he squinted while whining in a drawn-out, Eric Cartman, “But mooooooooom…” type of way.
“I’m sorry bro, but no. I’m not paying a dollar for that.”
I began to put my wallet away, expecting him to lower the price.
“No one dollah?”
The kid reached out his arm and stuck his little sausage of a middle-finger in my face.
“No! One dollah! Fuck you!”
I couldn’t believe it.
As his bird remained in flight, the little shit proceeded to stick his tongue out and taunt me.
“Fuckin’ ridiculous! Are you seein’ this kid?” I said to Tim and Kathleen who were laughin’ their asses off. After taking a moment to assess the absurdity of the situation, I couldn’t help but do the same.
“Alright, alright,” I said retrieving a single from my wallet. “Here you little asshole, take a dollar for making me laugh – you can keep your shitty wristband though. I don’t want that fuckin’ garbage.”
After dishing a Washington, I replaced my wallet in my back pocket then shooed him and his tag-along out yonder.
Because I don’t yet have any kids of my own, I still find juvenile misbehavior and kiddy cursing to be top-notch entertainment. Seeing that bad-tempered little blob – a kid who should be saving every cent of his wristband earnings to send himself to fat camp – muster up and spew out such vulgarity made my evening a memorable one.
Although my mom had tried her best to prevent obscenity from making a home in my vocabulary as an infant, I busted my swear cherry all the way back when I was reppin’ the terrible twos. My mom likes to blame the early development of my bad habit on my dad who – along with his drunken buddies – would sit around the house watching sports and guzzling Old Styles while saying “fuckin’ this, that and the other thing” all the fuckin’ time. Like the little sponge I’d been at that age, rollin’ around the house in my Cozy Coupe, I’d absorbed it all and hadn’t thought anything of it.
As a kid, I had no way of knowing that someone somewhere along the line had arbitrarily decided that that certain combination of syllables was not okay for me to use even though its meaning had been how I was conceived almost thirty-six months prior. Even now, at age twenty-three, I find it hard to understand how the concept of “curse words” ever caught on. People shit and people fuck every day. A few perverts out there even like to do both at the same time. It seems so silly to take these words, these sounds that come out our mouths describing essential human functions and designate them as offensive. But people buy into it. And few hold this principle in higher regard than the mothers of young children.
From the way my old man would call someone a “fuckin’ asshole,” I must’ve understood that the sound “fuckin’” had been used pejoratively but hadn’t been familiar with the concept of adjectives at that age so I didn’t know that it was used to describe something else. I’d instead categorized it as a noun meaning “bad person.”
One time when I’d been trying to drink and drive in my Cozy Coup, I ended up pouring red juice all over our beige living room rug. My conscience had been eating away at me and I felt it best to nip the situation in the bud. My mom tells me that my squishy diaper-wearin’-ass had approached her in the kitchen and broached the subject with the following confession.
“Mommmmmmm…” I started sobbing.
“Oh no, Timmy,” she’d dropped whatever she’d been doing, “what’s wrong!?”
“Mom, I spiwwed!”
“Ohhh that’s okay,” she came over and picked me up. “I thought you were hurt. Don’t scare me like that.”
Her acceptance of the mishap did nothing to alleviate my guilt and tears began to stream down my cheeks.
“I’m a fuckin!”
“You’re a what?”
“I’m a fuckin!”
I had no idea what I was saying and it was cute and funny and sad all at the same time.
A couple years later, once I was old enough to know better, I was no longer allowed to get away with that type of shit on the home front. It probably wasn’t until I was about twelve when I sat down with my mom and watched Eddie Murphy’s Delirious that the swear barrier had been broken down in my house once and for all. After that, it’d suddenly become acceptable for me to make comments about Ralph Cramden fucking Ed Norton in the ass while enjoying a hot meal with the family at the dinner table.
It was right around that time that my friends had started to test out their boundaries as well. I remember I had my buddies Kutasi and Targosz over to swim one time when we were about twelve or thirteen and my mom had made us hot dogs for lunch. Can you think of a worse food to serve kids who are first learning how to formulate sexual innuendos?
“Hey Mrs. Lally,” Kutasi said, “thanks for sticking our wieners in your buns.”
“Yeah Mrs. Lally,” Targosz added, “thanks for putting the ‘condom’ents on my wiener.”
“Oh, and thanks also for the potato chips, Mrs. Lally. It feels good to be getting Lay’d over here with this big wiener in my mouth.”
Ah, the good old days of linguistic liberation. Revolution was in the air, my friends. Those were exciting times but are not what I wanna explore today. Instead, I’d like to talk about the days that had come before my life was consciously ruled by fuck jokes. I wanna talk about an era of development when play took precedence over all else and a time when naiveté could spawn insolence. A time when we were kids. A time when we were assholes by accident.
I spent the first ten years of my life on the forty-five-hundred block of Melvina which, as my dad had always joked, is one of the three Chicago streets that rhymes with vagina. Paulina and Lunt are the other two. On that street, we’d lived next door to the Alendorf’s whose familial unit had been comprised of a mommy, a daddy and two greasy-faced, ponytailed rodents who’d been a year older and a year younger than myself, respectively. By nature the Alendorf’s were quite strange, but I’d always been over at their house because their mother worked at Toys’R’Us and – thanks to her employee discount – they’d always been the first to cop the hottest, newest and freshest video games as soon as they’d come out.
One evening after raping the shit outta Super Mario Bros. 3 by illicit and unsanctioned usage of both Game Genie and the hidden Warp Whistles, I was invited to stay over for dinner at the Alendorf residence. I’d only been about seven at the time, so I don’t recall what side dishes we were served to go along with the headliner, but I’ll never forget the piss-poor quality of the chicken I’d been served. With a consistency and flavor matching that of a Stretch Armstrong doll, this poultry had both sucked and blown more balls than an air-powered lotto machine on the evening news.
Minutes after starting, Dickhead #1 and Dickhead #2 managed to wolf down the dreadful dinner and hustled back to the living room from where I began hearing the theme music of Punch Out!!, leaving me alone with the mister and missus. As if they hadn’t known what I was doing, after each forkful of chicken I’d ingested I would duck my head under the table and then come back up with a bigger and bigger lump in my dripping wet napkin. Only able to keep up the charade for so long, I decided to bail on the pig-slop meal and get back to the games.
“Uh, can I be done?”
“Yes, you may,” Mrs. A replied.
I set the napkin – my partner in crime – on the plate and scooted my ass backwards. I stepped behind the chair and was about to push it back under the table when I looked forward and noticed my co-conspirator had ratted on me. The napkin had unfolded, revealing a baseball-sized mass of the chewed up riff-raff.
“Uh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
My conscience was killing me and, hoping to ease the blow, I felt the need to explain myself.
“I’m really sorry but I was having trouble chewing the chicken because it just kinda tasted like rubber.”
The cook looked at me with a blank stare as her husband smirked. With no verbal response from either, I felt the need to elaborate.
“Yeah, I just kept chewing it and uh…” I didn’t know what I was trying to say, “…yeah, I guess it just tasted like rubber.”
The man of the household started laughing and his wife put her head in her hands. I snuck away from the dining room and wrapped my grubby little mitts around one of the NES controllers that the woman I’d just insulted through good intention had bought at a discounted price from her place of business.
A couple years before that incident had occurred, a man named Paul had occupied the house to the left of ours prior to the Alendorfs.
One fine summer afternoon, my younger brother Danny – four or five at the time – had last been seen by my mom frolicking with a buddy – also named Danny and also four or five at the time – in a kiddy pool in our backyard. Figuring the worst that could happen during her temporary absence was an accidental drowning, my mom went inside for a couple minutes to start preparing a dinner to which our future neighbor’s chewy chicken could not hold a candle. While she’d been in the house – an increment which couldn’t have been more than five minutes – the two Danny’s had taken our plastic Little Tykes golf set, did away with the clubs, filled the bag to the top with water and then went for little stroll over to Paul’s front porch. Minutes later, after their top secret mission had been completed, D-squared returned to the backyard and dumped the contents of the bag back into the pool.
It was right about this time that my mom walked out of the house onto the back porch and found the two little shavers splashing around with Paul’s about-to-be overdue energy bills and unrenewed porno subscriptions. As the story goes, we never told our neighbor about the incident and my mom just blow-dried the bills and the letters whose ink had been smeared beyond recognition before replacing the damaged parcels into the box from which they came. The victim of this felony never knew what hit him.
Following a homestead relocation and several more years of our hair-graying antics, my mom – looking for a peaceful, relaxing evening with the club girls – had invited a few of her friends over for a couple drinks. To keep us out of their hair, my mom set me and my brother in front of the television and told us to be on our best behavior. We nodded our heads and promised that we would.
While watching some Saturday Night Live reruns on Comedy Central, Danny and I had been exposed to a skit featuring Rob Schneider called “Orgasm Guy.” In this sketch, every time other characters mentioned something that he enjoyed, the Deuce Bigelow star would become entranced, seize up in an orgasmic fit and shoot a load of slime in his slacks. The narrative continued in this manner for a good five minutes until David Spade’s combined mention of “Moosehead Beer in a bottle,” “Sichuan Chinese food” and “Jim Kelly’s no huddle offense” finally caused Schneider to lose control of his skeet spasms, go tumbling out an apartment window and fall to his untimely death.
At that age, we couldn’t even begin to imagine what an orgasm was. Nevertheless, we found Rob Schneider’s comical faces and inexplicable shaking triggered by random words to be absolutely hilarious. Kids love approval and since being funny was something to which we’d aspired, we marched into the kitchen during commercial break to go show our mom just how funny we could be by reenacting the scene that had just poisoned our minds.
“Hey mom! Hey mom! Hey mom!” we’d shouted, hopping around like little crack addicts, vying against her close friends for a sweet little taste of attention.
“Hold on a minute,” she held up her index finger, “can’t you see I’m in the middle of talking to someone?”
We apologized but were only able to maintain tranquility for about fifteen whole seconds before relapsing and succumbing to our terminal case of ants-in-the-pants.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
“What!?” she’d interrupted her friend Mary, mid-story.
“Look at me, mom!” my brother screeched as he rolled his eyes into the back of his head the way Rob Schneider had on the TV. “I’m orgasm guy! Oh, oh, ohhohoh!”
Neither she nor her friends found my eight-year-old brother’s rendition of “Orgasm Guy” to be as comical as we had.
All these incidents are classic but as far as kids talking ignorant shit goes, none can surpass the third grade version of my friend Clay who decided to start an in-depth discussion on the topic of female child molesters in front of my mom as she drove us home from Video Northwest with a freshly released copy of Pauly Shore’s In the Army Now.
“Whoa, that’s weird,” I said. “I’ve never heard of a female molester before, but…” I saw a hole in my primitive understand of the formula, “…without a penis to put in the kids’ butts, how do they molest the kids?”
“Well,” Clay began, “I’m pretty sure they just stick their vaginas up the kids’ butts. Dontcha think?”
I had no idea. But I sure as shit didn’t wanna come across as ignorant on the subject.
“Yeah, that’s a good point. I guess you’re right.”
“Yeah,” he concluded. “I really don’t think there’s any other way to do it.”
“Uhhhh,” my mom began while looking at us in the rearview mirror, “I’m not quite sure that’s the way it works, Clay.”
“Oh yeah? Well, how does it work then?”
“Hmm,” by the way she grumbled, I could tell she’d been having second thoughts about the sleepover she’d agreed to. “You’re gonna hafta ask your parents about that one.”
Back on the other side of the globe a good fifteen years later, I wish I’d been having a conversation as stimulating as the one I’d had with Clay about the logistics of a cooter being rammed into an anus, but I’d instead somehow gotten myself into a heart-to-heart with some six-foot-five-inch, three-hundred-fifty-pound middle-aged Australian guy who’d draped his shame in a Hawaiian shirt. As he’d imparted his life lessons unto me, Kathleen and Tim had been chatting with our waiter and a guy named Hung who was the manager of the bar. Hung – which, ladies, I assure you is nominally false advertising for the man-child who’d probably been packing a pixie stick with very little sugar to lend you – was a gaunt, nerdy-ass twenty-year-old kid with a bright future in online dating.
As meaningless drunken bullshit continued to be spit in my face by the behemoth from Down Under, I could overhear Kathleen telling our waiter – a guy whose English had been mediocre at best – that she’d try to get him a job over at the Park Hyatt. He was ever so grateful, but it’d been the epitome of an empty gesture. He was a really nice kid and all but he didn’t stand a chance when compared to the other employees already working at the place whose English and etiquette could match that of an 18th century British lord.
Moments after the false promise had been made, out of nowhere and in a move that I’d been expecting from the Senegalese soccer rapist more than anyone else, Hung decided to try his luck at putting a move on poor, poor Kathleen. As his glasses slid off his nose and with his tongue dangling out like number 23’s while soaring in for a dunk, Hung dove in to plant a sloppy wet one on K’s lips.
“Ew Hung!” Kathleen spat, interrupting his advance with a clear stiff-arm to the face. “What the fuck?”
“No kissy kissy?” asked the toad of a prince.
“No! No kissy kissy! Get the fuck outta here!”
Hung scurried off in embarrassment and didn’t talk to us from that point on. Nevertheless, he had our waiter fetch a round of complimentary, “sorry-for-molesting-you” San Miguels.
The last thing I can recall of the Tet festivities had been Tim hosting a beer-chugging competition against two very attractive Vietnamese sluts. The way these chicks had been dressed and rubbing on us made me certain they were hookers who’d probably handled more nuts in their day than George Washington Carver, but neither of us seemed to mind. Soon after, my memories of the evening sputter away like a tarnished old damaged-ass piece of reel-to-reel film.
Following three or four hours on auto-pilot, I came out of the blackout sometime after the sun had risen. Go2 Bar had closed but Tim and I had been standing around on the street with a lingering pack of crusty bitches and a handful of rag-tags. Kathleen had climbed into a cab and sat waiting for us two clowns to come and join her.
Eventually, Tim and I stole away from the bunch with the two quasi-hookers who’d been dripping wet at the very mention of the Park Hyatt Saigon and were practically already S-ing our D’s when we’d offered them the option of an early morning swim in the crystal clear waters of our luxurious courtyard swimming pool.
With the two chicks who’d been ready to give it up, Tim and I approached the cab. Before we could even open the door however, the back window came rolling down.
“Hey, you’re not bringing these girls back to our room,” Kathleen said. “No. No Way. It’s just not happening.”
“That’s fine. I think we’re just gonna bang ‘em in the pool anyway.”
“Guys, I work for Hyatt. This is my job you’re talking about. No one’s banging anyone in the pool.”
“Ohhhhh yeahhhhhh, that’s right,” we’d totally forgotten. “Your job…”
We clambered next to her in the back of the cab.
“Sorry girls,” I slurred out the window before peeling away, “maybe next time.”