Seen on a T-Shirt No. 128


Forever Forever


Without context this phrase is meaningless, but (like so many conjured phrases in Vietnam) when I saw it on a T-shirt it made perfect sense. It was a deep and oblique commentary on the state of so many things: love, life, war, the future — it was the shortest Zen koan I’d ever seen, a wishful and fatalistic paradox that jammed me up for the rest of the day.


Tunnel Vision

At the Cu Chi tunnels — the Viet Cong’s underground base of operations that played a huge part in the Tet offensive — tourists wandered a mocked-up world of Vietnamese resilience and nationalist solidarity. Everyone paid a couple dollars to pose with tank remnants and diorama figures and generally feel like they’d “been there,” but the real lesson to be learned at Cu Chi involved the tenacity and cunning of the Viet Cong: “Secondhand, secondhand, everything is secondhand,” a tour guide told his group, pointing out the various items the VC and the National Liberation Front had made from bombshells and old tires: sandals, made from recycled rubber, had been designed to obscure tracks and confuse the enemy; other items were more mundane, but no less innovative. Oh, yeah: and at the gun range at the end of the tour, anyone interested could, for a price, shoot AK-47s at paper targets propped in front of a big pile of dirt. You know, war shit.