[Phnom Penh, 3/9/23]
Very early tomorrow, I’ll take a $15 bus to Stung Treng, a town no one has heard of. Even those who live there are shocked to learn its name.
“You mean this isn’t Cleveland, Ohio?! We wasted all these decades rooting for the cursed Cavaliers, with some of us spending much time and money tracking down memorabilia of the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro League. We all have a Lebron James jersey, though the name is always misspelled and the colors wrong.”
What follow, then, are my last sketches of Phnom Penh, coupled with whatever thoughts they trigger. It’s my modest au père randy
No, I’m not trying to sound like Biden with his nurses performing unusual procedures while breathing on him. He’s your leader and, most embarrassingly, face to the world! That’s why even Eswatini is dumping the US Dollar, I hear, all 12 bucks in its treasury.
While I had coffee this morning, the shrunken old lady with the scale walked by. She didn’t look too happy. There just aren’t enough fatsos to crush her scale each day. Although KFC, Burger King, Crown, Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken and Carl’s Jr are doing their best to rectify this, those who can eat American fast food can also afford a scale or two for home use, and perhaps even a tread mill. They don’t need scale ladies to find out they’ve become body positive.
Proper American English has become so confusing, it’s driving the world, and Americans themselves, mad. There are no fat and ugly retards left, only extra squeezable and abnormally gorgeous alternative geniuses.
Across the street from my morning cafe was an old, bespectacled man with carefully combed hair. Always in dress pants and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, he claims the same table each day to have his rice gruel. Often enough, monks would interrupt him to receive money, bottled water and instant noodles. Speeding towards the grave, many redirect their soiled souls towards Buddha, Jesus or Allah, while others would rather spend each remaining second and cent combing Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy or Pattaya’s Beach Road.
Leaping from the top of WTC 1, 2 or 7, Uncle Sam composes his own eulogy, “Though my life was pitifully short, I gave the world much. From me, it got Jefferson, Whitman, Edison, Hemingway, Hopper, Warhol, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Joe Biden. I also shocked and awed everyone with the nuclear bomb, Napalm, Agent Orange and, finally, Jewjabs, so not a bad run, eh? Oh shit, here comes the sidewalk!”
Sam is seriously fizzing out. Let’s hope his thundering fart at the end is only Joe Biden. I’m not optimistic.
With Sam dead, how will he be remembered? American English will linger as a lingua franca for a generation, perhaps, but without Samuel as the world’s baddest bully and pimp, foreigners won’t be cowed or seduced into learning Americanese. The best of its literature, they’ll read in translation, just as you read Borges or Houellebecq in translation.
Most American pop music will be forgotten almost immediately. Even today, few foreigners care about Elvis, Johny Cash or Janis Joplin. Everywhere, folks need songs in their own language, for that’s the poetry, no matter how stupid, of the life they know.
America’s most enduring legacies will be Mickey Mouse and fried chicken, I’m guessing.
The world over, Disney’s huge rat kicks Marilyn Monroe’s ass, and fried chicken is the most beloved American food. In South Korea, you’re expected to eat an entire bird in one sitting. In Egypt, they make monster sandwiches with stacked fried chicken patties. One is called Bazooka, and Daddy’s Burger is three beef patties and three slices of American cheese, with two fried chicken patties as buns. Cambodians aren’t so extreme with their fried chicken love, but they do have a chain, Five Star Chicken, with another, Lucky Burger, also offering fried chicken. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside is a winning combination. Like jazz but much more plebeian, it’s a happy marriage of white and black American cultures.
It’s getting late, so I better go to bed if I want to be fresh for tomorrow’s long bus ride. Before sleep, I scan the news worldwide, and what’s coming out of the US is increasingly bizarre, with train derailments and destructions of infrastructure nearly daily occurrences.
In Philly, a woman has just been beaten and stomped on by eight people, seven of them black, at 15th and Chestnut. That’s as safe a corner as there is in that violent city. The white victim needed stitches and has a broken orbital bone and bruises all over. A mother and daughter have just been shot in their pizzeria in Mayfair, a white working-class neighborhood formerly filled with cops, when city law forced cops to be residents. In Parkside, nine shots were fired at a young man. Wounded, he ran into a McDonald’s. In Center City, at least 15 teens ransacked a business and attacked the owner. At least no one was murdered in the last 24 hours, as far as we know.
Poverty alone doesn’t cause such mayhem, and in the American case, it’s not even the key factor. Recently, a reader commented at my blog:
For years I've been attempting to convince my wife that these forms and amounts of sadistic violence with no reason but for the pleasure of the attacker are not part of city life, but uniquely American. She doesn't want to hear it.
In India once I met a young guy from Denmark who'd been an exchange student in USA for a semester of high school, and he told me the kids from his host family would take him out driving and they'd swerve at old people and scream at them just for the fun of frightening people. His entire idea of America was ruined by that activity. I wonder if he knows how much worse it has become.
Street level violence is allowed to happen to distract the masses from what’s done to all of them from above, so it will only get worse. Plus, it’s hugely entertaining to those in control. So worked up, overworked and in need of revenge, the common man will also get a chance to unleash much violence when he’s drafted into the army, to fight for, what else, freedom and democracy.
You must leave your limbs and nuts over there, if you’re lucky, or you can lose them over here. Here’s a made-in-China nylon flag for your sacrifice and bravery, dumbshit!
OK, it’s really bedtime. I leave you with an image of a little girl doing her homework lying on a platform in a dim alley. Since it’s life affirming, it’s hope.
Oh, and here’s a link to my poem, “Eating Fried Chicken.” Wrote it in Certaldo, Italy in 2003.
[Phnom Penh, 3/9/23]
[Phnom Penh, 2/27/23]
[Phnom Penh, 3/9/23]
[Phnom Penh, 3/9/23]
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Your photographs of children are always enjoyable, and sometimes very moving. The little girl doing her homework is priceless. Thank you especially for that one.
Hope and inspiration, yes, you have shown them well.
Please stay safe and well during your travels. Your missives are blessings to your readers.
Charles Mingus, Eat that Chicken (1962)