The First and Last Coconut Diary

I don’t know why I chose this title. Maybe because my subconscious likes stereotype-driven branding as much as anyone?

Dispatch from Sai Gon.

I’m drinking from a coconut in the forgiving afternoon shade at the patio restaurant in our hotel in Sai Gon. I just spent the last two hours at the pool forcing my melanin to darken and seal in a solid base tan to last me till summer and now I’m all dehydrated and light-headed, so I thought I’d come down for a coconut and get me summa dem electrolytes. That’s how it works, doesn’t it?

Dispatch from somewhere over the Bering Strait.

I just spent the last four hours of this flight trying to go to sleep. Instead, I’ve been drinking wine, looking at my vacation photos, reading Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (holy shit, I’ve never known love like a man who will prop you up while you’re squatting to blow ass into a McDonald’s bag on the side of the highway), and rediscovering my iTunes (The Reason by Hoobastank, above I Like That by Houston ft. Chingy, above Take Me to Church by Hozier, above Pop, Lock & Drop It by Huey). This is going to be a horrible flight.

Vacations are sacred. They are a time to unplug from everything except Instagram and Facebook (so that everyone can see how great a time you’re having, obvi). I lament that it’s over, as restricting as my vacation budget is (plus the inescapable detail that I had not, in fact, packed enough underwear to last me the trip), because the thought of going back to work gives me the kind of anxiety that makes me break out on my beard. But alas, the report from boyfriend is grim: my dog misses me so much that he’s starting to attack women on the street (not, like, mauling them – just trying to jump on them and such) thinking that they’re me. I also suspect that he might be going blind because, as I’m also told, he’s a little indiscriminate with the women he attacks.

Apart from the psychological trauma of the prison van we took to tour Ha Long Bay, the subsequent eight hours we spent at Hanoi airport trying to escape aforementioned tour early (due to same prison van, surly driver, and overzealous tour guide, whose voice recalls the sound of a meat cleaver chopping romaine lettuce the same way it would decapitating fish), the 12-hour flu I fought off like a gotdamn champion, and the traffic—holy fuck, the traffic!—this trip has been really relaxing. I had two massages, when women a literal fraction of my size jumped on my back and used the full weight of their dainty bodies to push down/out/away? the knots in my neck, shoulders, and lower back — cute lil’ tumorous stress stones I’ve collected over the last six months since I started my job (once, I grew two in my neck that I could have sworn were actual tumors). At one point, I felt one of the masseuses shaking, either from the pressure she was applying to a knot in my right shoulder, or from her sheer determination to destroy it. Poor thing. She may or may not have arthritis now, and that’s on me.

Being in a different city, speaking a different language, navigating different streets, playing Russian roulette with restaurants serving different foods, and learning a different cultural etiquette is a lot, but exactly enough to distract you from the ugly reality of your daily life, which was my goal. Every day you live through is an achievement. Didn’t get your foot run over by a scooter today? Win (or should I say Nguyen?). Didn’t shart out the street food you had for lunch where the vegetables were washed with the same outdoor spout that cleans the feet of the old woman who prepared your food? A+ at life, my man. It was relaxing, you know, in the way that survival is relaxing to the Galápagos iguana baby who just escaped 10,000 snakes trying to strangle it to death 10 seconds after hatching. The lowest-hanging fruit are always the juiciest, and nowhere more so than in the tropics.

The true achievement of my journey, however, was my penultimate night in Sai Gon, when I stayed in my hotel room watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 and 47 Ronin simultaneously (switching between commercials). Apparently, it was a white-hero-with-Samurai-swordplay kinda movie night, and I was down. With my room-service phở. 47 Ronin was actually entertaining. It would’ve been exceptional were it not anchored to the bottom of the ocean by the dead donkey that was Keanu Reeves’ character’s entire storyline. Like WHY. Everyone else’s performance—especially Rinko Kikuchi’s—was fantastic. Honestly, I think AZNs are passed due to get the Black Panther treatment (sure, it might not end up nearly as epic, but whatever. Please, Hollywood, don’t give up on the novel concept of having more than one English-speaking yellow person onscreen at once). And no, Memoirs of a Geisha does not count, nor does Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon dubbed over. We can do better than ageless Keanu Reeves (though, I will always love you as Shane Falco in The Replacements and Don John in Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing).

I digress. Do you know how de-lih-shusss it was to just marinate, like a pool of stagnant water, in my king-sized hotel bed watching weird cultural abortions for films and eating phở using my chest as a table top? Scrumptious. I haven’t let myself invest in a new movie in a long time; I usually just put Family Guy re-runs on before bed just to slip into mindlessness and recover my battered psyche after the workday (do not misunderstand me – Family Guy deserves an Emmy for each of its 6,000 musical numbers, plus another for that K-Pop episode). I’ve also been reading on this trip, which I only do on the subway at home. In fact, I made occasions out of reading: I opted out of in-flight movies and read on the plane, and when I arrived, at the pool, at the restaurant, and before bed. And I’ve been writing!! I have time—and space—to formulate opinions (however grotesque and bitchy)! What sweet mercy is this?!­

Of course, there were the occasional random (and terrifying) seizures of memory, when I would be sightseeing, or walking to the hotel elevator, and have flashes of getting in passive aggressive arguments with fellow subway riders during rush hour over personal space, or of walking into my boss’s office after sending her deliverables via email and receiving an immediate response of “Come here real quick,” or of the sound of my crazy-lady neighbor’s bike crossing the expanse of the foyer to join me in the elevator and talk to me—while laughing hysterically—about how she couldn’t believe I was so polite to her new roommate even though she told me she was a monster. I think this is what trauma is. Are other large metropoli as bat-shit as New York?!

Anysluts, long story short: I needed this vacation. And I needed this Premium Economy seating so I could get free wine and that yuzu/chocolate mousse dessert that’s actually quite putrid but just looks beautiful. Back to reality, whorebags.

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