vietnam

Undergoing Home Surgery in my Vietnam Apt

namchickenIn Saigon, Vietnam, my roommate Sweet Chucky B is disinfecting a small razorblade. It will be inserted into my leg really soon. “I’ve done this before dude, I made it halfway thru Med school,” he says reassuringly. My foot hangs over the bathroom sink as he numbs the buldge in my leg with ice. I have some weird cyst in my leg, and we’ve spent the last 2 hours on Youtube studying how to cut it out.

Sweet Chucky B is a tall gangly white man from Iowa, and we are best pals/roommates in Saigon, Vietnam (circa 2012-2013). Chucky B walks the line of sanity, speaking his highly-intricate inner monologues out loud. The man is a human genius. He once went an entire year without masturbating just to say he did. I’ve also seen him stop 6 lanes of traffic in the middle of Saigon to fist-fight a crew of angry Vietnamese men who cut him off in traffic. The city’s intensity could drive Buddha to the brink.

Losing your mind is inevitable in Vietnam. No one speaks English, everything smells like fish sauce, and you are 9,000 miles from any fraction of normalcy. It is as close to living on Mars as we get. At this point, Chucky B had been in Nam four (4) years, so he was long overdue to go postal. “I hate Gary Glitter. What an ass hole. So glad my friend called the cops on that guy and got him kicked out of Vietnam. F*** that guy forever,” said Chucky B.

I trust Sweet Chucky B, always have. As his cheap razorblade dives into my leg, I should have more doubts than I do. Trying not to look, I observe a small Vietnamese lady machete the head off a fish out the bathroom window. As the blade wiggles around in my leg I hear, “sorry man, the cyst is too big, we gotta go to the hospital”. shit

We get on the motorbike, trailing behind a family of four on a $100 motor scooter thru the steaming streets of Saigon. The Vietnamese motorist is carrying two chickens and not even hanging onto his bike. Thousands of motor scooters battle for inches of space. I remembered what my friend Jackie once said, “It’s way too easy to kill yourself in this country.”

“When Nirvana broke up and Dave Grohl started the Foo Fighters, I was like ‘Jesus, what a pussy…about your leg dude, you’re gonna be fine’”, rages Chucky B as I wallow on the back of his motorbike. We walk into the “hospital”. Hundreds of frowning Vietnamese people wait in a cue. Chucky B hands the clerk 100,000 Vietnam Dong ($5) and he lets us skip the line. We are ushered to a back room and instructed to wait. My leg is pretty bloody. A man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans emerges.

sweetchuckyb“Hello, I doctor”, says a small Thai man. Finally I’m scared. This guy is barely dressed to drink Miller Genuine Draft at a White Sox game, much less perform surgery. No gown, no gloves, no uniform. I lay on a wood desk wrapped in plastic wrap. Sweet Chucky B provides commentary as the Doctor removes the cyst from my leg. “Okay B-rett, he’s cutting out some stuff, it’s pretty much all liquid….almost done…He’s awesome at stitching. There’s slime everywhere. This is sweet.” I get bandaged up and the nurse hands me an invoice for five dollars. Chucky B informs me that I could probably afford 1,000 colonoscopies in Vietnam. I have a new leg.

Check out more crusty adventures with Sweet Chucky B at: www.sweetchuckyb.com

How I Became Friends with "Buzz" from HOME ALONE

BUZZOn October 3, 2010 I became Facebook friends with Buzz from the film Home Alone. I’m not talking about the “Buzz Fan Page”, I mean the actual dude. His real name is Devin Ratray, a 35-year-old huggable round man who has since retired from acting to pursue film production. Buzz is best known for eating the last slice of cheese pizza coveted by Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), leaving McCallister to sleep on an empty stomach with bed-wetter cousin Fuller. Below is the only exchange I ever had with Buzz/Ratray, which was clearly a ploy for him to accept my “friendship”. Brett Newski: “Devin, thanks for the autograph last weekend. You’re the man!” Devin Ratray: “No problem. Anytime!”

Ratray has since “unfriended” me from Facebook for reasons unknown. I did not find this out until today, after spotting a bootlegged copy of Home Alone at a Vietnamese DVD stand. It was a reminder that my only online celebrity friendship has fallen from glory. On this day, I too feel to have fallen from glory.

AGENT ORANGE is probably the greatest travesty in US war history. The War Museum in Saigon is brutal, but you don’t have to go there to see its effects on the Vietnamese people. Children and grandchildren of Vietnamese exposed to Agent Orange in the Nam War are born with deformities to this day. Short, crippled arms and legs are a common sight around the city, using a skateboard as a wheelchair. Sorry, I know it's a BUZZ kill.

After two hours of intensity at the Vietnam War Museum, I joined a tour group to the war fields of suburban Saigon. On the bus, we were briefed on the history of the Vietnam War in broken English over a broken Karaoke system that cost about 1,000,000 Vietnam Dong ($48).IMG_20150527_111249

Having a tour guide you cannot understand is like having an overweight personal trainer. I slumped back in my seat, hiding my headphones under my hoodie as not to offend Joe, our 4 foot nothin’ Vietnamese tour guide leading the bus to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These tiny, underground holes were the Viet Congs base of operation for the Tet Offensive in 1968. They are about the size of an ass crack. Not even half an American person could fit in some of these tunnels. Since the war, the tunnels have been widened to fit Cheeseburger shaped American bodies for tourism purposes.

As you know, tourism gift shops are generally tacky, overpriced, and encompass Webster’s definition of “terd.” But not this one. In the Cu Chi gift shop you can forget about novelty T-shirts. Here, one can literally buy tickets to the gun show. For just $1.50, you can shoot an AK-47 or an assortment of other Rambo artillery from the war. (In Cambodia, you can blow up a cow with a Bazooka for $200). One can also buy sandals made from a Goodyear tire for $2 (USD).

We complete the tour. Our guide Joe is pumped up about his job, rattling off his war knowledge at 300 mph in Vietnamese English. I try to concentrate, but can’t look away from the four-inch long solo grey hair dangling from his chin (it's bad luck to cut your mole hair in Vietnam) Despite communication barriers, I love this old guy. Joe informs me that his two favorite bands are CCR and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, both of which he discovered during his time as a hippy intellectual during Nam. No fightin’ for Joe. Truly a fortunate son.