Do not go to the Dalat 244 Bar.


me and mia bui vien enhanced

About a month ago I got a call from my old pal, the artist otherwise known as Dewey. Dewey is a good guy. Probably too good. He’s the kind of guy that makes a lot of money and spends it on everyone. So of course he’s welcome at the Dalat 244. He invited me to that address for beers on him. Within fifteen minutes I was sitting next to him drinking my first Heineken.

On a normal Saturday night I am embarrassed to admit, I can drink about twenty beers and somehow make it home in one piece. But, I was broke, and didn’t want to be a complete mooch. I had five beers on Dewey then left for home.

That’s about as much as I remember.

I came to briefly, straddling my rent-a-motorbike. Somehow I called Rita to tell her I had no idea where I was. After listening to her screech a few brief seconds I realized I was right on Pham Ngu Lau, pointed in the direction of home. Yet somehow everything looked so different, a swirling black sky full of bouncing neon bubbles, motorbikes beeping and taxis swirling like so many snowflakes.

It was then I realized I was somewhat scraped. The bike was a bit bent.

I don’t remember the rest but assume I followed my customary actions, driving home very very slowly.

The next morning I woke up for work and noticed my pillow was wet. It was covered in blood. I went to the bathroom and realized I’d crashed my bike.

“How did this happen?” Rita asked.

I told her it was the beer but had a funny feeling it wasn’t.

“Dewey,” I asked him on the phone, “what do you usually do at Dalat 244?”

“They have a couch,” he explained, “I pass out on it, usually wake up just before dawn and head home.” He wasn’t about to admit they probably cleaned out his wallet on the daily, but knowing Dewey I assume they did.

“I think they roofied me. You know, rohypnol,” I told him, explaining what’d happened.

“You’re full of shit!” he said, “you were drunk! I fed you like twenty beers!”

“Five,” I told him, “I have my pride.”

“No you don’t!” He laughed. I did too.

But I knew something was up, and the realization that I could’ve crashed and died did not sit well with me. So to be certain of my suspicions I met Dewey there again a week later, this time walking, no motorcycle. I drank about five beers again.

Sure enough, it happened again.

When I came to I was face down on a floor behind the bar. Someone rolled me over, a woman. She stepped on my chest to pin me down.

“Baaaaa! Baaaa!” That’s about all I could say as she stood above me, straddling my limp figure and fondling my wallet, kicking me around lightly with her foam platforms.

I managed to get up and get my wallet back. I made it out to the parlor where poor Dewey lay drooling on the couch. I shook him. He smiled and blew spit bubbles. I left. Once again I got lost in the dancing whirl of light and shadow, though just a hundred yards from Mimosa, a place I’ve frequented for years.

Still, I got home in one piece. “Why are there foot prints on your chest?” Rita asked when she answered the door.

“Why is your head bleeding? Asked Josh and Caleb.

I declined to answer in specifics.

The fool that I am, I decided to confront the whores, and went there that night, hollering to the German tourists inside, “They put something in the beer! They made me pass out and emptied my wallet!

That didn’t sit well with the ladies. One of them ran out with a pipe and hit me in the ribs. I ran away to Mimosa, where for the next three hours we watched various groups of northern Europeans battle it out against whores with pipes.

Then not three days ago I was discussing the incidents with some of my drinking buddies and another guy spoke up, “They got me at that bar for three hundred American dollars in cash,” the guy said, “I’d just happened to’ve had a lot more cash than usual on me. But I’d hid it in my shoe, under the insole. They still got it!” he explained, “I went home in my socks.”

I’d seen that happen before on Bui Vien, white folks staggering along, stripped to their soiled underoos.

“You guys exaggerate!” Dewey scoffed.

“Easy for you to say,” said Canadian Phil, “You just happen to enjoy getting roofied by whores. We all know that. You’ve been doing it for years now.”

Dewey laughed, “They got some new girls there. Don’t mind if I do.”

Don’t mind if I don’t. And I recommend you don’t. Don’t visit the Dalat 244 Bar. Avoid this spot if you’re not into getting roofied for your cash, shoes and socks.


Mother-in-law Diaries Jan 2003

The Beat January 2003


This Saturday I follow Caleb as he makes the rounds through our neighborhood. All up and down our street, ajummas sit gossiping, shucking garlic or picking persimmons off trees. Caleb greets each group but is intent on a specific place. We reach a courtyard entrance and he clicks the ringer. The gate swings open and an old man pops his head out of the front door to greet us. Caleb bows, takes off his flip-flops before leading me into a bedroom where a high school girl sleeps off last night‘s study session. Caleb proceeds to shake the poor girl, and when that doesn’t work he pulls her blanket off and grabs her hair, saying, “get up” in Korean.

Sometimes when I walk down in our local market strange men and women yell to me, “Caleb’s Papa!”


This weekend is a two-day trip to the countryside with my kids and mother-in-law. My mother-in-law carries three packs with her. One is a change of socks and underwear. The others are food and drinks. Each bag seems to weigh as much as me, filled with fruits, candies, and canned drinks. I offer to buy lunch but she shuffles away before I can insist.

Most westerners believe Korean women are naturally weak and helpless. Korean girls enforce this stereotype through excessive diets and knock-kneed, finger-sucking mannerisms. But not long after the first child is born, a stout ajumma replaces the flimsy little virgin. In place of the timid girl is the aggressive, blustering woman we submit to on subways.

So we sit down on the train and my mother-in-law begins opening bags of goodies for us, tossing emptied bags into the aisle, stuffing pear peels into torn vinyl seams and the net pouches attached to each seat. Like all old Korean women, she refuses to believe someone might not be hungry. She wakes me up to offer me apples, peaches, pears and persimmons, then three kinds of juice, a beer and soy milk before finally allowing me sleep. My son has picked up this Korean habit. Two year-olds in America are greedy. My child will climb on my chest and force-feed me.


Its 9 pm and we‘ve returned home from a five hour train ride with our two sons. Our oldest crawled over seats and demanded candy and cola for the whole ride. The youngest has a cold.

We approach our home’s front gate with children, backpacks and boxes. Oddly the store is closed, but I hear the faint pulse of hands clapping and voices howling. A light shines out from beneath the door leading into our spare bedroom. My wife is mumbling emphatic tones, shaking her head and hissing. I follow her into the next room, where she kicks in the bedroom door. Standing on a small dinner table, my mother-in-law is wailing out a trot, shaking her arms and hips. Surrounding her are old women clapping, cheering and toasting. The room is covered with empty soju and beer bottles. Upon another table are three gas burners frying black Cheju shit-pig.

I head towards the scent of burning grease. But then the room is silent. My mother-in-law‘s face wears the look normally reserved for guilty teenagers. The ajummas have fled. I sit down, eat, and empty soju bottles into an unused shot glass. Jang-mo-nim collects beer bottles, appeasing my wife‘s newly cultivated temper.


A female friend from Michigan arrived in Busan about three months ago. She is a tall, robust girl with impressive breasts and thick curly hair. Needless to say, the average Korean man is possibly intimidated, by both her physique and intelligence.

But love comes when least expected. Two Korean men are now obsessed with her. One is a divorced playboy with a Russian fetish. He is apparently fascinated with my comrade‘s breasts, as is the occasional taxi driver telling her “boobs number one!” This man‘s height places him at a convenient point of view.

The other man took her out last week. He said he liked her because she was sexy. I‘d not warned her of the Konglish translation – sexy girl. She figured it out. After dinner her date suggested a video-room. One hour into the movie she went to the WC. When she returned, her date lie stretched out on the vinyl couch naked, smoking a thin cigarette and smiling. “I love you,” he said. She tossed him twenty thousand for cab fare and went home.


It’s 11 pm, we‘re all sick tonight, sitting on the heated kitchen floor watching Korean soaps and blowing our green running noses. I’m listening to wind rattle the splintered, dry-rotten window frames. Outside the store wash-water from neighbors’ kimchi tubs freezes to the tarmac. Vegetables stiffen, seem to wilt, but in two days will be bigger and greener, in front of me on the little floor-table with a dish of peppered dwenjang and samgyeopsal.

The metal store gate screeches its welcome and in hops a snot-nosed ten year-old neighbor girl wearing sandals, shorts, and t-shirt. She skips to the door, grins and bows. “Dad wants liquor and cigarettes,” she says. Then she stumbles back out, cradling two bottles of soju, two packs of cigs, and an ice cream cone.

Captain Q

Their first date was at a local bar. Beers, soju, gas grilled squid, silkworm larvae, and what seemed spicy barnacle soup to Brian. Her teeth speckled with seaweed paper, she fed Brian stinky strings of squid jerky. Later she suggested a video bang, a small room with vinyl couches, VCR and TV, typically frequented by young Korean college couples needing intimacy. She immediately pulled a random video from the video library’s shelf and took him to the softly glowing room.

Before previews ended she was naked. Her yellow skin flickered blue with TV images. She looked just as he’d hoped, an absolutely flat Asian abdomen curving into to a thin strip of hair, standing straight up, like a mohawk. And brown beer bottle nipples, big enough to hang a coat on. “Sex okay?” she whispered in his ear with a flick of her tongue, pulling him closer still. “No condom – no problem!” She said.

He’d brought a pack of Trojans across the world anticipating this moment. “American boy very good. Good size,” she cooed, “slowly please.”

And that was how it was every Sunday afternoon. She’d leave a message on his pager at two. They would rendezvous at three. By four he’d have a proper beer buzz and by six-thirty be snoozing in a small local hotel room, preparing for one more sex. “What you want?” She’d ask as they walked towards the maze of game rooms and coffee shops behind Lotte Department Store.

He’d smile wide, embarrassed, and shrug, asking if she wanted to see a movie. But she always said the same thing, pulling him down by his neck and whispering sex in his ear. Then she’d lead him to a dark empty bar where she’d sit on his lap and spoon feed him, pour beers down his gullet, whispering, “beer good stamina. Drink.” Then she’d cackle loudly and breathe stinking kimchi breath in his face. He’d look at her smudged red lipstick and crooked teeth and drink more beer. She always paid.

Sometimes she’d buy bottles and bring them to the hotel with a box of chicken. She’d undress and straddle him, pushing knobby nipples into his neck, shoving a drumstick in his mouth. She’d have him on his back and pour the beers down his throat, grip his neck between her thighs, giggle and rotate her narrow Asian hips. Her crotch always smelled of expensive perfume.

In three hours they’d have sex six, sometimes seven times. Ten minutes on, thirty minutes off, something like that. She had very effective methods, always practical, nothing more. She’d yodel, moan, whisper his name and praise his ability, do whatever, to keep him steady and ready. He couldn’t figure what kept them going, particularly him, for so many intervals. Sometimes he thought it beer and soju. Other times he assumed it was six days of hard work and loneliness. Maybe it was just being in a new country, in a new hotel room with an exotic girl that he could barely talk to. Maybe it was her size. She was tiny, in more than one way, and it made him feel powerful, manly. Probably it was all these things. Whichever it was, they both new it wasn’t love and neither wanted that. Neither asked for more than Sunday.

“You marry me okay?” She asked once, half joking, half serious.

“Umm… No.” He said, not wanting to explain.
“Uh… You marry me okay?”
“No! Mommy kill me!” She grimaced and pulled her finger along her throat. She said, “I marry Korean boy. But I keep you Sunday. Okay?”
“No. You marry, I go.”
“Why?” she said, then she pulled him onto her without expecting an answer.

This was the extent of intimacy. Sometimes he’d bring her flowers, but usually she forgot and left them in the hotel room. Sometimes they’d show each other photos. He had pictures of friends, his family and his dogs. She had high school pictures of picnics at the American military base next to her house. Most pictures of her were on base, picnicking or eating nachos in the on-base Taco Bell. Some pictures were cut up, a forgotten serviceman sliced out.

* * *

One Thursday night Brian went down to Texas Street. It was a Korean holiday, no Friday or Saturday classes. He sat in the pouring rain, outside his favorite pojang macha, ordered a beer and watched hookers and hostess girls walk by. Burly Russian hostesses with metal teeth, platinum blonde hair and green leopard-pattern stoles strolled stiffly down the street, their big white feet crammed into tiny platform shoes. Next to Brian sat Mike, a retired military man. Draped around Mike was his slender Phillipina lover, a hostess on coffee brake.

Fast or feast Brian.” Mike said. “Only way yer gonna get laid here, cause there’s only two kinds of Korean girls – one’s that fast and one’s that feast. Don’t expect to get some nice girl that aint a virgin. And don’t expect some Korean virgin won’t want to marry you after you violate her!” Mike’s lover poured drinks into his mouth and stroked his neck.

Brian watched this familiar scenario, finished his beer and headed to a Russian hostess club. The interior blinked in and out of sight. Strobe lights, mirrors and disco balls materialized and disappeared again to the rhythm of a sped-up Russian techno-ballad. On a small platform an Uzbek girl stiffly danced in a pink G-string bikini. On the dance floor drunken sailors groped at hostesses, grinding slowly to the fast music. Two men jerkily hopped about, glorious, vodka-induced passion. Lonely hostesses faced the wall, wriggling, making love to their mirror images.

In a dark corner on the right, Brian’s Sunday lover – what was her name? Sun-Jue – sat with two Korean women, two bottles of soju, a table full of empty beers and two bottles of Captain Q, a rotgut Korean whisky. All of them were smoking. One woman was rail thin, with bulging eyes and an uncommonly long, hooked nose. She reminded Brian of crack-heads back home. The other girl wore bright orange eyeliner, orange glossy lipstick, long fake eyelashes and red rouge on her cheeks. Her nose was also uncommon, oddly angled as if placed upon her face. The overall effect was of a colorful clown posing as a chubby raccoon. She had a big, kind smile and was staring at a wall.

Brian did not want to see Sun-Jue tonight. But then again, he did. He wanted something and didn’t want to pay. So he sat down with them. Sun-Jue grabbed him by the neck and took a shot of whisky. She pulled her mouth to Brian’s and spat whisky in it. She thought this romantic, but her breath stunk. Brian decided to hang out long enough to sober her up, then take her home, brush her teeth and shower her. Then they’d have sex. This would be her first time at his house. He could light up the room with candles. Let the storm winds gust through the curtains and over them. With enough liquor it might be romantic.

She spit in his mouth again and poured him a boilermaker, lit him a cigarette, placed it between his lips and sucked the smoke shotgun from his mouth. Lipstick smeared across her face. She forced him to the dance floor and ground herself on his thigh until it hurt. Then she whispered, “You dance with my friend. She lonely now.” He said no, but she insisted. So now this other woman was grinding painfully into his thigh. She was enjoying it, too much. He looked around. Nobody seemed to notice. In fact others were doing the same. He saw that Sun-Jue noticed, so was dragging an embarrassed Russian man into a corner couch.

Brian decided to go. He went to the table and sat next to the Russian man. The man apologized and moved away from Sun-Jue, suggesting Brian take her home. He pulled her up and they walked out to catch a taxi. In the taxi she rested her head on his shoulder. Neither talked.

When he got out of the taxi she slid down onto the seats and curled up. Sleeping. He pulled her up but she refused, slapping at him and shaking him off with a feminine snarl. So he dragged her out by the arms. She took a step and her ankle buckled. She smashed her knees on the ground and crawled through the gutter water. He tried to help her up, but she swayed with all her weight. So he picked her up, tossed her over his shoulder, and carried her through the streets. Korean neighbors sat in open doorways watching the rains, drinking soju, smoking and playing poker. Every head turned to watch the white man carrying home a poor, innocent-but-drunken Korean girl. All assumed and every mouth moved quietly as Brian passed.

He lit the candles and undressed her. He saw she was menstruating, so attempted to put her in his pajamas but she pulled at him and tried to straddle his face. She shoved herself at him and said “Kiss me down there, Captain.” He got away while she rolled around the vinyl covered, concrete floor, moaning as if in ecstasy. “Oh Captain,” she said, “kiss me there, very good, slowly..slowly. Yes. Yes. Aah, mmm. Captain.” Her body squirmed as if they were having sex and she kept crying out to captain. “I love you Captain. Push slow Captain!” He wrapped her up in a blanket and brought her some water. She took a drink and then spit it out on the floor. “Fucking! Motherfuck! Shit! Demmit fuck! Son of bitchie!” She slapped at his face and fell on the floor crying.

Brian felt a wet gust hit his face from the window and Sun-Jue shuttered. Her pale, swollen yellow face, smeared make-up and crooked teeth looked so wretched by candlelight. Another gust blew the curtains open and lightning crackled close outside lighting up this twisted scene with this wicked woman. His mind flashed with thoughts of menstrual blood, VD, AIDS. No condom, no problem, he thought.

Once more she pulled his face towards her open thighs and he got up to leave the room. She moaned again. For a while she called Brian’s name but then called for Captain. Finally she was quiet so he tried to cover her, but she crawled to him, pulled at him and begged for kisses down there. Finally he left. He closed the door and went to the living room. Soon she was quiet. He waited an hour and went in, dressed her in pajamas and covered her with a blanket. Then he took a pillow, went to the living room, lay down and closed his eyes.

Soi Min Part 3

The Karen clans, Soi Min tells me, fare the worst of all the clans in Burma. Some of Battle Creek’s refugees are Karen. Typically they have almost no education, and they’ve experienced unspeakable atrocities. Yet they’re kind, polite and hungry for education.

Having so much experience with well-adjusted Korean ESL students, I tend to approach my Burmese students with the same level of animation that Koreans have. So I’ve walked towards new Karen students ready to shake their hands and pat them on the shoulder.

But when a Karen sees you approach in this way, he has this look about him, this posture that says maybe you’d better slow down and back up a foot or two. Keep in mind most of these refugees are about five-foot tall. It doesn’t matter. You can sense that it’s best to tread lightly.

It’s like when a good, loyal, loving dog, (let’s say a Staffy-Bull since Staffies are loyal, affectionate and tough), has had to spend his life caged, starved and beaten so that he seems to despise everyone and everything.

And then he’s suddenly released into a new environment. He knows that things are different now, and yet he doesn’t know how to orient his thoughts in this new environment. Everything he knows is based on the abuse. And so you never know how he might interpret your actions or how he might respond.

It’s very sad, to meet Karen and realize how they’ve had it. But like I said, somehow they have this spirit, it seems to me intrinsic, that keeps them appearing positive, and definitely hard-working and caring; their values have not been destroyed by genocide, and they long for the American Dream.

Soi Min Part 2

I asked Soi Min where he was stationed, “Mizoram, Bangladesh and Chin State in Northern Burma.”

I asked what he ate, “Bamboo shoots and snails,” he smiled, like a fox, swallowing a mouthful of buttered yam. I asked about rice, “We carried only rice and matches. Sometimes only matches.”

He said that that the Mizoram, clans from Northeast India, supplied (and supply) medicine and beans. Sometimes his unit and other rebel units cultivated gourd and corn in the jungle. During seasonal Spring and Harvest they bought pigs and feasted with villagers. During monsoon they hid in bamboo thickets so thick that nobody bothered them except leaches and mosquitoes.

I told him that I know all about Himalayan leaches! How they stick like the worst kind of booger! Like sticky white rice, only sucking your blood at a magnificent rate, all brown and hard and swollen on the main vein of your thigh.

He said he had to carry netting with him at all times but had got malaria anyways. I told him I’d seen the clouds of mosquitoes but he just laughed at me, this guy!

He did this for three years, while his wife, also a Burmese refugee in India, snuck into Burma to hand out anti-government pamphlets.

This was in Mizoram State, a border-state full of jungles and no-man’s lands, one of the most beautiful places in the world. One of the poorest – and richest.

Burma has always been one of Asia’s richest countries in natural resources.

Rubies, lots. Oil and gas. Teak. Hydropower. Any gemstone or metal imaginable almost.

And the people in Burma, nothing but poverty, brutality and despair for 99% of the population.

The Junta Formerly Known as SLORC (as I like to call them in honor of the artist formerly known as Prince) uses the methods of George Orwell in 1984. Newspeak. Thoughtcrime.

Newspeak is a clever form of linguistic segregation. Although linguistic segregation exists everywhere around the world and in every culture, the Burmese Junta takes it to it to the extreme.

They use that shifting of words, changing definitions that Orwell wrote about. For example, SLORC or State Law and Order Council. Their actual mission is to break laws and create disorder.

The name SLORC changed after a bit, just as names do in Newspeak. They changed to SPDC, State Peace and Development Council, whose mission it is to be violent and destroy. Eventually this name will change, and then finally there will some man from 1984, beating you to death, until you finally understand his logic. He holds up three fingers and says, “How many?” You answer, “five,” and he tells you that your mind is getting healthier every day.


This is Newspeak, and so we will speak new, today. That sort of thing.

Burma’s junta calls Burma The Union of Myanmar. Would you guess that it’s the same kind of union we have in America? No? No – and yes.

The Union of Burma is actually a bunch of warring clans. Each clan, each village, speaks a different language and has different customs. The communication difficulty creates culture shock and xenophobia, and so not only do the clans fight against one another, but each village hates the next village, each family hates the next family, and so on and so forth as it’s been since before written text, in them thar hills; Himalayan Hatfield and McCoy, Bloods and Crips, Blacks and Whites, so on and so forth.

On a national level the government promotes the kind of xenophobia that would make the folks at Fox News envious – with huge rallies against all outsiders at any level, whom they accuse of being, “democratic,” (which in Burma’s Newspeak, means to be a western colonial power like America or England).

Oh yes, the Burmese know all about Christopher Columbus.

The military leaders in the meantime do not allow any minority languages in the schools (like America’s English Only Laws).

This means each minority is bound to fail in school (like in America) because they only know the language that they spoke at home most of their lives, on some giant hill a three days walk from school. In each village the people have spoken nothing but clan languages for centuries and consider it a point of pride to maintain their identity (like minorities in America).

Language segregation has been used, successfully, by Burma’s rulers for centuries also, so it should be no wonder that George Orwell discovered his muse for three different novels, 1984, Animal Farm, and Burmese Days, in those jungly hill stations that Soi Min kept telling me me about.

To Be Continued…..