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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WHERE 'WHY NOT' TAKES US

LETTER TO MY MOM

Given how much stuff I write for this blog and having written four books in the past, it is still difficult to write to my parents.

I've never been close to them and it doesn't seem any of their offspring are.  They have always had their own life which they lived and were never much interested in my hobbies when they went outside of what kids 'should' be interested in - sports and the like.

Having met many people who exhibit a strong bond to their parents they are always confused when my bond - and even interaction with them - is about the same as if they were long dead.

However, they are still on the planet and married as I write this - both seventy five (and seventy seven?) years old.   When I was a kid, there were few things as scandalous as 'divorce'.  Like being caught with drugs it just didn't happen.  Smoking, drinking and slapping your wife and kids around was far more acceptable.

It was a different time and one which many people show a lot of nostalgia for.  And they call me 'strange'.

Because my father knows I (and perhaps my brothers - I've never asked) have no idea of any of the special dates for the family, he wrote me to tell me it was my sick, aging mom's birthday.  I wrote her a letter for it.

Because this is one of those great pieces of literature which would cause Hemingway to rip off his shirt and insist on drinking rum with me I thought to reproduce it here for posterity.



Hope your birthday is pain free for you.


Not much is happening with me.  I am back in Cambodia hanging out for a month or so.

The few sidewalks they have are used for displaying merchandise, parking and such.  Normally, you walk on the sides of the streets attempting to avoid injury from the chaotic low speed traffic.

Often you get mugged by the smell of rotting eggs causing you to gag from the ill built sewers.

Imagine a wildly unsafe four seated wagon hooked to the back of a motorcycle.  This is called a tuk tuk ("took took").  Anyone with one constantly cries 'tuk tuk!' at you to attempt to badly lure you into the back of theirs so they can make a dollar or two from you.  Women at massage parlors call 'massage' in primitive English for the same reason.  Dirty and poor women wander around with empty baby bottles attempting to beg money from tourists presumably for 'milk for the baby'.  Many tourists don't realize the babies are often rented from others to make the begging con complete.

The Cambodian national dish is called 'amok'.  Fish stew.  Since I hate fish and have always been suspicious of soups and stews as well as the water used to make them, I stick to the more expensive foreign restaurants.

They have only two seasons here, wet and dry.  There is no relief from the dust during the dry season which is what I'm in now.  During the wet season only a couple hours of hard rain per day fall.  Though it is arguably a better time to visit, tourists mistakenly believe it continuously rains.

In the cheap hotels and hostels, you can get quite a reasonable room with a mini fridge and desk at a decent price.  This is all I really need as I spend a lot of time at my computer when not out wandering around.

This is one of my favorite towns within SE Asia.


As I grow older, thoughts about mortality often cross my mind.

Given the type of lifestyle I had, reaching age twenty five was quite a shock.  Given the state my body is in reaching the age of sixty would feel quite the cosmic betrayal.  Even given my life is now of extreme interest to me another decade upon this rock would probably be more than enough unless I got a new body out of it.

Don't think that will happen.


Given that you always ask me if I am healthy and happy I will answer 'reasonably so'.

I hope you are at least happy if not healthy.

Logan


And there you have it.  A rather stilted letter to someone who is almost a stranger to me.   Normally, thoughts of my parents and family are far from my mind - pushed out by more immediate sensation.

For those who are close to their families, here is a view from 'the other side of the spectrum'.



SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT LOGAN

If you know anyone else who would enjoy my Facebook feed, tell them to friend me!

Why?

Due to the excessive old age (read as 'imminent death') of my parents (read as 'stuck with son duty as I was not hatched despite reports to the contrary') I will eventually be passing back through the states in probably 1-2 years.

I'd love to do another combination of Logan's Home Invasion (LHI) part 2 and hitting various NERO events.

A big problem for people outside of the Virginia/Michigan/Colorado/Illinois states is quite frankly, I don't know enough people in others to make it 'economically viable' to visit other states.

If I knew enough people in all the states believe me I'd love to do a massive tour of the states.  If I know one or two people in a state (*even if they want to put me up for a week*) my thought is "I can't afford to stay there".

It's all about money and time = slow trickle of money.

If I was a lot more witty and famous I'd just rent a big RV, hire a couple drivers I liked and cruise the states to visit everyone.  That would be awesome.

But I'm just not that cool.

So - if you want me to visit your state and you're not in one of the four I listed earlier, now is the time to get other people interested in my blog and so on.  I'm looking for people I can stay with.

I get a lot of offers for 'hey, I'll take you out to dinner'.  That is great if I've got someone else to stay with but otherwise it just doesn't help.

If you have questions let me know.

If I can get enough people in your state (who want to drop me off to the next one in line and so on) I'd love to come have some drinks with you and sleep on your couch.



UNUSUAL DAY

It's always interesting to find out where 'why not' will take you.

Not a lot of people go with it - they have 'reasons' why they don't.  Usually fear.

The day started early - about ten or elevenish when I was headed downstairs to go find some coffee.

There were about a dozen somber looking men in a guests room along with the owner of the hostel.  One of the somber men seemed to be reading a prepared statement off a piece of paper.

My first thought was cops.

After they tried the 'move along' thing on me (didn't work) it did indeed turn out to be police.  I asked the owner of the hostel about turning in some laundry.  He sent me down to see his wife.  Turned in the laundry and went to find coffee.

Although I didn't get the story until later, you won't have to wait.

Turns out some Dutch guy decided to go completely mental with drugs.

Normally, having a joint or two in the hostel (or somewhere discrete) won't get you into trouble.  However, he was passing out pills and downing them with alcohol out on 'Pub Street' - the main tourist area.

One of the cops took a picture of him.

At this point, you have an option - you can either pay a hundred dollar or so bribe or 'see where it goes'.

He choose poorly.

They then brought him to the jail for a bit and then a larger group of cops brought him back to the hostel.  At this point, he'd have had to bribe the larger group of cops about $500 and they wouldn't search the room and it might have all gone away -

Again, he choose poorly.

They search his room and naturally find more pot and pills.  People who want to go to foreign countries and do drugs which are illegal in them get no sympathy from me when they are caught.  None at all.  And acting stupidly and very publicly?

Now, there is evidence - lots of cops are involved.  The bribe is up to $3000.

Why go against tradition?  He choose poorly.

So they haul his dumb ass off to jail.



I go for coffee.


LOGAN GOES FOR COFFEE

There was really no good reason to make that into a separate heading, but it just sounded so dramatic I had to.

There is a restaurant very close to the hostel where I had been told a small cup of coffee was thirty five cents.  A reasonable price so I figured I'd go.

It turned out the guy who told me that didn't know the difference between 'thirty five' and 'seventy five'.  Considering it was tiny cups and not very good I don't think their coffee business is going to boom.  Remember that a draft beer is half a dollar in most bars.

While I was mulling over the coffee I was watching a guy counting up a bunch of cashey money.  My mind went back to my youth when I was in Egypt and got to meet my very first gangster.  Well, that's a lie - I'd met them before but it sounded better.  I remember it well - he had a bunch of cronies and a table full of cash with more being brought to him as the day progressed.

Turns out this guy wasn't a gangster but a fixer.



WHAT IS A FIXER?

I'd been asked about this on Facebook so I figured I'd include the term here for those who don't use a lot of 'street speak'.

My favorite definition comes from the old Cyberpunk game, though it is still a 'street' term used today.

Their definition includes ' Deal makers, smugglers, organizers, and information brokers '.

Depending on the type of fixer, they may range from totally legal to totally black market though most are well into the 'grey' market. Which can range from either handling a variety of legal and illegal goods (hence averaging at grey) or grey could mean goods which are 'kind of illegal' or 'legal in some places but not in others' etc. This guy did everything from give people rides, organize doctors to meet particular patients, pick up special fruit, etc. He is a busy guy.

Although they do have this occupation in 'developed' countries it is much more rare than in places where the laws are 'fast and loose'.

There are also general types of fixers as well as ones who only specialize in one sort of thing.  The best ones can - with enough cash - get you any item or any person with a certain set of skills you need on short notice.

Just to be clear, a fixer is not necessarily a smuggler.  They might do some smuggling or even employ a smuggler but it is not required for the job.  As stated earlier, their jobs may be entirely legal.


MR NGOG

[Disclaimer - not sure how to spell his name and it sounds like I've spelled it so I'm sticking with that for now.]

Really nice guy.  He told me he was counting out some of his money from dealing in cosmetics but he was also going to be starting a hotel in the area.

He asked my advice on aspects of the hotel.  Though I am no expert on running a hotel, I've stayed in enough of them to know what features I want to see in one.  He seemed very pleased with my answers.

Did I want to go see his hotel?

This is the point I hesitated for a bit.  The point where you use your training (if you have any training) in people and assess the situation.  Most people don't have any actual training, go with their gut and wind up dead in a ditch still not wanting to admit they are dumbasses.  But I looked at the situation and said,

"Why not?"

Let's see where 'why not' takes us.

We went to his under construction hotel.  I made observations and suggestions, he took notes and talked to his people.

Note that I do not expect him to follow all of my ideas - I was merely trying to give him some ideas he could choose from.  Be useful.

Apparently, he really liked my suggestions.

Not long after that, we were at a very expensive resort and he was buying lunch for myself and some of his friends from the initial restaurant.  I don't remember the name of the place but rooms start at $100 per night and go up from there.  It's often baffled me why people stay at places like that even if they can afford them - you really don't get even a taste of the country you are in.  And the location is pretty remote.

As he was taking me back to where he'd discovered me, he asked if I'd like to have dinner at his Cambodian families' (he is Thai) house tonight.

"Sure, why not!"

I consulted with the owner of the hostel as to what I should bring for a dinner gift.  Although I know the universal answer is always 'a small box of slightly expensive sweets', I figured I'd go with what he told me.  Here, I learned, they either bring food or beer.

Why not.

I stopped next door and bought an eleven dollar case of beer of the brand suggested.  I don't really know anything about what sort of food they wanted and I haven't seen any suitable sweets in the store.

Note, the sweets would have probably gone over better.

It ended up being a very nice dinner.

Turns out that the family not only were close friends with Mr. Ngog, but they own a huge hotel and are one of the richest and most influential families in Siem Reap.  He does the licensing for the government.

This is my 'how did I get together with the movers and shakers' picture


The person who prepared the food was another friend of Mr. Ngog's who may end up working for this family.  It's the first meal I ever had prepared by an actual gourmet.  Not even exaggerating.

Although I don't eat seafood, even I can see the artistry.


Most of the feast laid out with the chef in the background

After eating, I told my hosts I was depressed because that was probably the best meal I'd ever have in Asia.  No exaggeration.

After a lovely meal, Mr. Ngog borrowed the families government plated vehicle ("I never get stopped in this car!") and drove me back to my hostel.

It was a great night.

There was some talk by the family they might have me come out to take a look at their hotels and give recommendations.  As with Mr. Ngog, I don't expect any sort of payment but I'm betting it will be an interesting story to tell.



PRICES

Massage, per ten minutes $1

Bottle of alcohol, around $10/liter

Meal in Pub Street, Siem Reap:  If you are eating for under $5, it is probably crap.  The average meal is $5 to $9.


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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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