Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No Boom-Boom Tonight

I'm walking down a street in Hanoi's Old Quarter when one of the city's many motorcycle taxi drivers pulls up alongside me. "Hello, moto?" he asks.

I'm used to this, so I answer without thinking, "Cảm ơn, không. No, moto. Thank you."

"No moto?" he confirms.

"No, my friend," I reply.

Pulling up closer, he offers, "Okay, you want boom-boom?"

I sigh. This again. Street hustles of this sort really don't happen outside the Old Quarter, but until I find myself a permanent place to live, I'm going to have to handle these situations with aplomb. I answer politely, "No, buddy. No boom-boom tonight."

At this, most moto drivers usually pull away, but my man is a natural salesman, so he pushes his point, "What?" he asks, "You don't like boom-boom?"

It's difficult to ignore a direct assault on my masculinity. "I like boom-boom plenty," I try to explain, "I just don't like to PAY for it!"

He understands, but offers, "So tonight, you lucky?"

This makes me pause. I hate to say it, but my man's got a point. "No," I admit, "tonight I'm not lucky." Then I hasten to add, "But sometimes I get lucky!" 

He spots his opening, "Tonight, you no lucky? So why not boom-boom?"

You've got to admire how his impeccable logic cuts across the language barrier. "Really man, I appreciate it," I try to make him understand, "But I'm not going to pay for it. So no boom-boom tonight."

Having struck out with both the moto ride and the boom-boom, he tries one last tactic. "Okay, you want drink?"

"No brother," I tell him, "I'm afraid I don't drink."

This is more than he can take. "What...?!" he stammers, "No drinking, no fucking??" His eyes widen, astonished. 

"It's not that." I say to him through my laughter, "No drinking, SOMETIMES fucking!"

He clearly has no idea what to do with me. He looks me up and down, like he's discovered a new species. Finally, a light turns on in his head. "Ahh..." he says with a definitive tone, "You GOOD boy!"

That's it, he's got it. "I try, my man," I say to him, smiling. "You have no idea how hard I try."

Satisfied, he departs. "Okay, good boy. Have a good night!"

"You too, my friend. You too..."


  1. I love you Hal! I can't express how much I appreciate you sharing your experiences in such a heartfelt and eloquent way. I'm sure it's already been suggested, but at the conclusion of your trip, you should seriously consider publishing your collected observations. You are a talented observer of life and a truly gifted communicator.

    Keep the goodness coming, good boy!

  2. Well, basically, yeah, what Matt said.

    One minute I was stuck here in my too warm office in New York, the next minute I was on a faraway street overhearing your conversation about getting lucky or not.

    The Zagat's guide, when I used to read it, had a category for restaurants that were considered "transporting experiences."

    Hal, your writing is a transporting experience. Thank you, and like Matt above said, please keep writing.

  3. Martin won't see this post- too hard to explain. But i love it.

  4. That was funny. I laughed here in the Boom Boom Capitol of the World, Bangkok. I hope some free Boom Boom descends like Boom Boom manna from Boom Boom heaven for you soon. And for you, never with a outright fee. TLB

  5. i'm still laughing fifteen minutes later and i'll laugh everytime i think aboout this in the coming week. What a gem you are Medrano! what a gem!

  6. that was pete c. i can't figure out how to pst easily! I'm slow!

  7. Now-sell it now-a few excerpts-you'll get the rest of the world hooked.
    You have a real gift, Hal.

  8. Hal,your story's so interesting. In fact Iam still on the floor laughing at that. Keep writing, Hal.
    -Huong LLV-