Enduring Monsters

Linh Dinh

[Phnom Penh, 11/14/22]

Leaving my hotel just after 5AM, I had the option of strolling towards the Mekong, just a mile away. At that hour, there was very little traffic, so crossing streets wasn’t so vexing. Most days, though, I’m sucked right into the dark alleys, with its roosters, sleepers, coal fires and eatery owners preparing breakfast. Seeing a large pot of boiling water can make you think everything is still fine. Something delicious will be made.

Although there are Westerners in this neighborhood, almost none ever stray into these alleys, even in daylight. With its motorbikes, playing children, shabby shops, good and bad smells, and so many bodies just inches away from you, these spaces engulf everything, so are essentially medieval. Bobbing in this stew, you’re finally home, pilgrim! The more modern or affluent a man, though, the more privacy he needs, so he hates to be touched by anyone but himself, which he does compulsively.

If such mingling is so great, India must be paradise, but, I must admit, its insane urban density, incessant honking and miserable cows shitting, pissing and eating garbage got to me, so that, after just one month, I found myself collapsed outside an airport, with my seemingly dying wish a return to Southeast Asia’s more manageable chaos. Writing this, I’m again at that café with the smiling, slightly chubby barista.

At 7AM, I’ll shift to a spot with wifi to finish then post this article. There’s also a sidewalk coffee stand run by a Vietnamese who’s been in Phnom Penh just four months. Two days ago, though, she took a sleeping bus back to Saigon to see her sick husband and grown daughter. To eat and feed their family, billions must live apart from their loved ones. This sad plot will become much more common, so don’t be smug or contemptuous. In Lebanon, I met a Filipina who hadn’t seen her children in three years.

Taking an indirect route, I’m at Eyesan at 7:26AM. On the way, I saw a flyer attached to the back window of a car. A smiling, light skinned Oriental family was depicted in front of the US Capitol and Statue of Liberty. “Is it your Dream to live in USA?” They didn’t look Cambodian, but that’s the whole point. Come to the US and you, too, will become whitish, middle class and constantly ecstatic. There’s no chance you’ll dwell inside a freezing car or tent, under a bridge or in prison. No one will shoot you over ten bucks plus change, sucker punch you unprovoked or shove you in front of a moving train. You won’t spend evening after evening guzzling Bud Lite alone while staring at internet porn or watching, say, the Old Dominion Monarchs battle the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. You won’t wake up hungover on your ratty couch with your pants soaked.

On that back window, there was also a husband, a wife and their two children in silhouettes, with a heart and “My Family,” in English. Rich enough to own a car in this poor nation, they’re already aspiring to live like Americans, one can assume, even if they don’t abandon their homeland. Unattainable lovers are sexiest.

Just half a block away, I spotted this slogan, also in English, inside a cafe, “Coffee in one hand / Confidence in the other.” There was a pumpkin shaped and colored paper lantern under a purple witch’s hat, so it had some sophistication. Of course, I didn’t walk in, but headed for the nearest alley.

Since my hotel, Zing, is right by a mini bus terminal, I can see, all day long, itinerant sellers of food to travelers. Among the most common items is just a long loaf of white bread. For a six hour trip, say, a mother and her three kids can just eat bread, and nothing else. I’ve also noticed breakfast sandwiches with next to nothing between slices, but what you expect for just 50 cents?

At The Cut Steakhouse, however, you can get a $16 cheeseburger with a hefty beef patty, honey glazed bacon, guacamole, a fried egg and thick fries, so it’s not like Cambodians don’t know how to pig, but, this is crucial, they’re also adept at getting by on just leaves, bugs, snails and water. Vietnamese and Laos, too. Can you?

Since resilience isn’t an option, you must.

Resource depletion ensures paucity for all, so they’ll solve it by culling, through war, diseases, Jewjabs and starvation, useless eaters. Exceptionalists all, each man thinks he’ll be left standing.

In LA, a 35-year-old man is suspected of murdering his wife and in-laws. His self recorded videos show a vapid and feeble narcissist whining about nothing. He complains that a waiter was “a monster” for serving him a slightly burnt steak. With lifeless eyes, pouting lips and a dangling lock of hair, Samuel Haskell displays no self awareness or humor, just relentless self regard. In many societies, creatures like Haskell have become too common. As their meatballs and society burn, they’ll just kill each other or themselves.

In ten days, I’ll be back in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Last year there, I saw two Russians selling snacks outside schools. Having survived a war at home against Nazis and decades of Communism, Russians are now prevailing against the Jewjerked American empire, so they’re well tested, and better prepared to navigate what’s ahead.

Meanwhile, the gloating whiners are already defeated, for they don’t even know what they are. So accustomed to self praise, they don’t realize they’ve long become monsters.


Source: Postcards from the End. IMG: © Linh Dinh. AWIP: http://www.a-w-i-p.com/index.php/aO8Z


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