the saigon, circa 1971, true story continues.
saigon holiday, 1971 part 2
the hotel we decided upon was the caravelle. the place where all the reporters stayed while in saigon. plus, we had heard the ladies up on the roof were amazing. the only trouble is they threw us out. we weren’t officers or reporters. just lowly draftees. so we caught a cab and went to a hotel both of us had stayed in on previous saigon trips. a decent enough place but not the caravelle.
we arrive at the hotel and check in. the hotel staff are not pleased with the sight of bill’s .38 pistol and low slung holster. give it to us. no. this goes back and forth for a bit but in the end they let him keep the pistol. we unload stuff in our rooms then head off to get more vietnamese money. i wanted to go to the uso for my exchange and bill still wanted to go for the street deal. who’s going to fuck with us?, he says. i have a 38. ok fine, but first we go to the uso. another mad cab ride in one of the ubiquitous old yellow and blue renaults. they were always mad dashes in those old dented wrecks.
saigon traffic, 1971. note one of the blue and yellow taxis on the left of photo.
the uso in saigon, a sadder place on earth would be hard to imagine. the place was totally depressing. it was as if someone had tossed a wet blanket over saigon. none the less, i got my money changed. we head back out on the street and bill searches for the rate he wants, the perfect deal.
there were plenty of saigon cowboys to wheel and deal with. however, before he got around to his money exchange he buys a watch from one of the cowboys on the street. the amazing thing was he was conned into buying the watch with gi money. bottom line, it was an incredibly stupid deal but what could i say? he wouldn’t have listened anyway. equally amazing is neither of us was drunk or stoned yet.
bill finally finds the rate he wants from some other sleazy saigon cowboy and the guy says, follow me. the guy leads us around and around and we end up at the opening of this very dark alley. dark and it’s the middle of the afternoon. bill says, hey, we aren’t going in there and remember i have a gun. the guys says, ok wait here. then he splits. when he returns he shows bill a roll of vietnamese money wrapped up in a tight roll with a rubber band around the roll. bill takes the money, looks it over carefully and says it’s all there. somehow the guy gets the roll back. bill then hands him his money. the saigon cowboy hands bill back the roll then poof he’s outta there. he runs down the alley while yelling something about mp’s(military police) but there aren’t any around. bill checks out the roll and finds that only the two outer bills are large denominations. the rest of them are just ones. useless vietnamese ones. about the only thing they were good for would be toilet paper. bill just got ripped off for two or three hundred bucks.
we are in saigon for three days and now half of our money is gone and there’s nothing we can do. no idea where the cowboy went and even if we did it would have been suicide to try and get the cash back. the cops? yeah, right. no way. street money exchanges were illegal. so it’s another mad taxi ride back to our hotel then up to the hotel’s top floor for some booze, smoke, women, and hopefully solace.
roof top view from one of the old saigon hotels. maybe even the hotel where the story takes place.
all the hotels i ever stayed in while in saigon were pretty much the same. the top floor elevator doors opened into something that must have been experienced to fully appreciate. at least a dozen or more ladies converging on the elevator doors as they opened. just another insane saigon scene. all of the ladies trying to grab your private parts at the same time. grabbing your privates trying to get your attention in hopes of making a ‘connection’ as it were.
we weren’t in the the mood for that action just yet. we shooed the ladies away and went to the bar for some drinks. after a few drinks we were more in the mood for the ladies. we make a connection and two of them sit at the table. more drinks are ordered. after a few more rounds the ladies said they were hungry and they wanted us to buy them dinner in the hotel cafe. by this time we were drunk enough to agree. hamburgers all around. some mystery meat that reeked of god knows what. amazingly we didn’t get sick.
after dinner it was more drinking and scoring some smoke for later. at some point, and to this day i still have no idea how it happened, my ‘date’ got a hold of my wallet. things had been bad but were about to get dire in an instant. yelling about the deal would only have gotten us tossed out of the place. then it would have been, no room, no sex, no money, no nothing. when i got my wallet back there was only enough money left to pay for the services of the two ladies for the night. meaning around $40 or so. at least we were drunk and about to get loaded with our dates then have some more fun. tomorrow’s problems were the furthest thing from our minds.
saigon night life, 1971.
that night passed blissfully. the early morning as well. while the two ladies shower up bill and i met and wondered just what we are going to do. now broke and no one to turn to for a loan. we were stuck in saigon for two more days with no money. a very sad prospect.
bill’s lady turns out to be a hooker with a heart of gold. sorta. she gave us $5 in military money. then said, that’s enough for breakfast at a boq and a cab ride back to air america. boq, bachelor officer quarters. a boq but any soldier could go into any mess hall in nam and eat for a very nominal fee or for free. viets knew air america as they could fly it as well. sometimes.
we were so happy we could shit. after the ladies left bill did just that. a huge turd that refused to be flushed. a turd the likes of which neither of us had ever seen. we found the mamasan and she sent some old woman to get the turd to flush. the old woman was not happy as waved her shit stick about. cursing in loud vietnamese the old lady finally got the turd to flush. mamasan then tells us to get out. she already knew we had no more money. it was goodbye and get the fuck out of here, gi.
story registered with the writers guild of america, west.