Sated with dog flesh we scurry across six lanes of Hanoi highway traffic and walk backwards with our thumbs out until a cab pulls over a couple of minutes later. We toss him a card with our hotel’s address on it and he zips us back. The streets around our place are jammed full of people now that it’s primetime. We line up a driver to the airport in the morning, square up our bills and hit the streets.
A couple blocks over we hit a street full of open-fronted bars with loads of plenty, music playing, but my bardar points us to one called Epho. It’s the only empty bar on the street but my experience in Asia is that if you drop three white dudes front & center more people will follow, but we’ll be able to get quick service for the first few rounds and have killer seats. Murphy and Drisdelle are skeptical at my logic but decide to humour me, but not without busting my balls every two or three minutes.
We order three “FBIs” which are kind of like White Russians and get the most baller shisha they’ve got, one with a “special blend”. The drinks are great and the shisha isn’t bad either as long as you like black licorice. We get three more FBIs then three more. No more people have showed up yet. One couple slows down to look in, looks at us and keeps going. My theory isn’t working in practice. We close the bar at midnight by ourselves to the sounds of Wiz Khalifa, the modern SE Asian equivalent of Closing Time.
Up and down the streets it looks like everything else is closing, but we find one bar that seems to be open. We’re sitting next to a group of Europeans talking about how lazy English speakers are for (generally) never learning any other languages. It’s weird that they’re having this conversation in English.
We order up three Jager Mojitos – yes, mojitos with Jagermeister in the mix. Sounds awful but they go down great. As we try to order up another round we get the “so sorry” face and pointed to the door. Okay this place closes at 12:30 apparently. Back to the streets.
There does seem to be a lot of people around so we follow the commotion until someone starts yelling at us. “We’re open until 4:30 guys!” Oh dear okay let’s go in. We have to get up super early to fly into Laos, like six o’clock or something like that but fuck it, let’s dip our toes in. One of the first faces to greet us as we walk in is the crazy bastard Leather Man who was sitting in front of the Discovery Hotel earlier tonight, giving Murphy and Drisdelle the business, calling them cunts for having long hair, a real peach, and of course he remembers us and he’s stoked to see us. He starts telling us how glad he is to see us and ranting and raving about fuck knows what. The only thing I know is that he’s spraying spit all down the side of my face. I try to have any kind of reasonable conversation with him, where’s him from and whatever, he tells me Geelong and then says he’s fucking with me, he’s really from England but whooo-eee that’s a good joke. Wow, fuck this guy. I manoevre away from him. He moves towards Drisdelle and tells him he should give him some booze. Not asking him to buy him a drink, he’s trying to get Drisdelle to share his fucking drink with him. What a train wreck.
We are the World comes on and we’re dripping into it now. Getting the whole place clapping and singing along. I hear two girls say something about Canada so I meander over in that direction, they’re talking to a guy with an African accent, I ask if they’re from Canada, they are but the guy with the African accent says he spent four years in Nova Scotia. “Oh wow, where??” “New Minas.” “You must have gone to Acadia University, right?” (It’s my alma mater and I can’t think of any other reason someone from Africa would move to New Minas.) “Oh yeah!” We reminisce about the Anvil (town bar), the Axe (campus bar), a bunch of other shit. He even knows my old hometown of Truro a bit because of the rugby that goes on up there. Every once in a while that drunk son of a bitch comes by and splatters something in my face but I’m having a decent enough time regardless.
While MacKay is getting nostalgic with the South African dude I’m in the corner belting out tunes with Leather Man. He’s really gravitated towards me now, he’s holding a fake mic up to my face and being my hype guy while I belt out Living on a Prayer. High part? No problem. This blows his mind. Next up is Don’t Stop Believing and he’s so pumped to be the mic operator again. Alright alright we light up one more tune.
So Leather Man and I are best friends now and he’s perpetually by my side, for better or worse. I introduce myself to the Canadian girl in the corner, Annie from Edmonton, and the girl she’s sitting with, Lizzie from London. Leather Man is spewing some sort of nonsensical madness into their ears that they don’t understand. He’s a low talker with a burnt out whiskey voice and it’s impossible to make him out. I do finally get it out of him that he’s from Oxford. “But how much can you believe from the likes of me?”, doesn’t matter man. He goes to give me a high five and I turn it into a thumb war.
Thumb war round 1 – Lasts 5 seconds. Victory Murphy
Thumb war round 2 – Lasts 3 seconds. Victory Murphy
Thumb was round 3 – Lasts 3.37 seconds. Victory Murphy
He’s shocked. Has no idea how I’m doing this. Safe to say I am now the thumb war champion in all of Hanoi.
Leather Man starts trying to talk to the girls again. Again they have no idea what he’s saying or what’s going on. He takes out a fake notepad and pen and starts pantomiming that he’s writing. I jump in, “What are you doing? Are you writing sonnets?”, and I start improvising some poetry:
He rode a fast tiger through the streets of Hanoi
He was Leather Man, from Oxford, just a boy
A taught unknown King
The scooters bowed to his employ
No one knew what he was saying
Yet it somehow brought them joy
This stupidity pleased Leather Man greatly and we continued to write shit sonnets for a few minutes more. Him scribbling madly, me rambling off the first thing to come to mind. Afterwards it turned into him just being a mime and me interpreting his actions and describing them to the shocked onlookers. None of it made any sense but somehow whatever I said was so outlandish that it got some gutteral laughter from the girls and a few more people who’d just gathered to see what the hell was going on. “I’m taking this on the road. I think we’ve got something here”, it was a mix of unabashed making fun of ourselves, mostly him, and random spurts of outrageous comments, and it was somehow incredibly funny.
I’d managed to cross some sort of line with Leather Man. I think he genuinely enjoyed that I was giving him the time. I’d probably gone beyond what most people would find tolerable and reached a place where we could communicate and not really give a fuck. There was a fierce look in his eye and he pounded his chest and gave me the queue for a meaningful fist bump. When it hit the lights flickered for a moment. “Respect”, he said. And he really did mean it. This was followed by a more sinister glare from his red red eyes behind that brown tawny brow, “You’re crazy.” And this he also meant sincerely. He said it again, emphasized with a deep knuckle burning fist bump, “You’re crazy.”
And then ‘I wanna Dance with somebody’ came on and my heels turned into perpetual motion machines. It was on! And I was back wheeling into the center of the floor. Some uber-black princess grabbed me for a swirl and we were primed to nuke the dance floor. Oh wait, it’s not on. MacKay has my elbow, “Laos, in five hours”, “Don’t you wanna dance? Say you wanna dance. Don’t you wanna dance?” Drisdelle is there backing him up, “Five hours, let’s go.” What?! Who are these people?
I moon walk out the door, “One more dinrk sir”, there’s a guy out there sitting on a stool. He knows what’s up. I moon walk back in, “Say you wanna dance. DANCE!”, “Murphy, come on!” What the hell? Who brought the responsibility police?
We’re on the walk home and finally, finally a dude comes up behind us to offer us drugs. Hanoi what took you so long? Haha but we’d heard it all already so I just throw back at him, “Weed, coke, boom boom, shaka shaka?” and this dude instantly doubles over laughing until he starts coughing up a lung on the sidewalk. Yeah, you weren’t expecting that, eh pal? He’s got the gun fingers out, he thought that shit was hilarious.
Alright, we’re back to Discover. Cool the party jets, I guess we’ve gotta be in Laos in about 4 hours.