Sunday, January 6, 2013

Random Thoughts

It's been 36 hours since I walked out the front door of my house to head to New Orleans' airport. As usual I barely slept on the endless flight across the vast Pacific. Instead I watched four quite good movies - Looper, Premium Rush, End of Watch, and Lawless. Thanks to my cheapness when it comes to booking flights, I had an immensely long layover at Incheon, towards the end of which I began to enter that state of sleep deprivation where your legs ache, the simple act of keeping your eyes open burns your retinas, and your mind toes the increasingly fuzzy line between coherence and nonsense. My back aches from lugging a 50-pound suitcase and a heavy messenger bag around for so many hours. On a positive note, it seems I'm destined for stardom in South Korea - I described the random on-camera interview I gave for Korean TV while in Seoul in a post a few weeks ago, and during my layover four separate Korean children came up and interviewed me about my favorite Korean things for a school project.

I'm writing this in Shanghai's strangely designed international terminal, where thousands of structural beams poke out of the ceiling as if all of the workers quit when the job was half done.

There's still eight hours before I finally arrive in Saigon, and I've decided to get drunk. Shouldn't take long in this state of dehydration and exhaustion. One empty bottle of Tiger beer already sits in front of me. I can't read anymore because my eyes hurt. There's no free wi-fi, though my eyes are too tired to look at a computer screen anyway. The only thing on the terminal TVs is Chinese army propaganda. But, again, looking at a screen is just painful at this point. This is being written by hand, imagine that. Reminds me of an ironic moment during my layover in Atlanta. I purchased the last print issue of Newsweek and read it cover to cover at the gate (it was a fascinating edition, full of accounts of the glory days of print journalism). When I finished I looked up and noticed that everyone else was on an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, laptop, or some other device. No one had anything in print. Newsweek's decision to go all-digital seems like an unfortunate no-brainer. Of course, I have a Kindle, so what am I talking about? God, I'm rambling. Time for another Tiger and some M83 on the headphones.

Since scribbling down that mess of words in a notepad at a restaurant in the Shanghai airport I've gotten a half-decent night of sleep and eaten a solid meal, so I feel much more coherent. The last few hours of that trip were just brutal. A half hour before my flight to Saigon was set to board I accidentally fell asleep in a chair and somehow woke up just a few minutes before they closed the door to the plane. If I had missed that flight I would've cried. By the time I collected my luggage at Saigon's airport I barely had the energy to speak, and during the taxi ride home exhaustion and alcohol tried hard to pull me into oblivion, as I tried to grasp the last dregs of consciousness to make sure I didn't get screwed by the driver. Fortunately he was an honest man who took the correct route to my apartment, and after getting home I showered and collapsed in bed. It had been an almost 48-hour long door-to-door journey.

My visit to New Orleans was worth it though. Seeing friends and family is always nice, and I ate a ton of fantastic food. It was good to get away from the hot, polluted madness of Saigon for a few weeks, although there is plenty disturbing about spending time in the U.S. as well. The state of public discourse is just disgusting, and hyperpartisanship has permeated every level of society. Most people on opposite ends of the political spectrum can't even have a conversation; they just end up screaming at each other, hurling useless insults and accomplishing absolutely nothing. The incomprehensible school shooting in Newtown, which occurred just a few days after I arrived in the States, hit me hard. I thought I was going 'home' to a civilized country, but I'm not sure a civilized country is one where 20 children can be gunned down and nothing is done to prevent something similar from happening again. People seem surprised that I'm not planning on returning to the U.S. after leaving Vietnam, but I just don't want to live there considering how things are right now. I should probably shut up now before someone yells at me, so I'll just end this. Back to Vietnam content soon.

4 comments:

  1. I totally understand! I finally went back to Louisiana for 3 weeks in June after 4 years of being here. Everyone had stayed the same, but I changed. A lot. I have no plans of going back anytime soon.

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    1. Yep, I obviously know what you mean.

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  2. Hi Michael,

    Random question. Did you go through a travel agent to booked your plane tickets to the US? If so may I please have the contact information. If not may I please ask what website you used?

    Than you

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    1. I've never used a travel agent for anything. For big international flights I usually book through either vayama.com or kayak.com.

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