Parallel U
pt. I

Number 10–Getting it and More

First, before I get to the juicy stuff, remember that $5 brief case? It's got this combination lock mechanism that until a few days ago opened on 0-0. Then it just stopped working, locking up and giving me a hard time. I'm a tinkerer, so I started taking the mechanism apart, didn't have the proper tool – so I thought – and next morning bought a needlenose pliers just for the task. Turned out I still didn't know how to get into the works without destroying it so I shot a little oil in and fiddled a bit and discovered that it now opens on 2-2! And that was yesterday, Saturday, 2-2-2002! Actually, it might have been Friday, but close enough, huh?

B____ , Canadian, staying at #22, is a 55 year old Phd Psychology working as a teacher in Phnom Penh. He tokes up good before class, he tokes up good before everything. If he could roll joints in his sleep, he’d smoke himself out before opening his eyes. Seriously gap toothed and 100 lbs overweight, he's known to do five sex workers in a day, and makes a point, though he hardly needs the money, of getting it as cheaply as possible. He proudly admitted he's obsessed with sex and went on to decisively state that the happiest men in the world lived in Cambodia. Although sex is easy for a Western man almost everywhere in this part of the world, I'd have to agree; that is, if you happen to consider casual sex central to a good life. Though he reveled in short-time sex, he also often fell hopelessly, absurdly in love with the most unlikely suspects.

At one point he freaked at me for disagreeing with him. I admit it, I can be kinda outspoken. I would've been a bit more diplomatic if I'd had any idea how bent out of shape he was going to get. Gave me the evil eye and wouldn't speak to me for the two weeks before I moved. But you'll never believe what he called me behind my back – a TYPICAL AMERICAN! ME, TYPICAL ANYTHING? LET ALONE TYPICAL AMERICAN? It was weeks ago that the gossip came back to me and I still can't get over it – sheeesh.

S_____ Irishman, was also living at #22. What a story he's got. Worked in Saudi Arabia the first half of last year as a hospital administrator. Made a bundle, brought it back to PP, bought into a spendy guest house/restaurant, was scammed and ran through fifty grand in no time. Lost everything. B got him a job teaching; he was doing about 9 hours a week at $7 hour and living on $250 month. (The most expensive room at #22 is $3) He really likes teaching and was glad the whole fiasco happened. Well, as glad as a person can be after just losing beaucoup bucks.

"You know", says I, "you're probably happier on your $250 than 90% of Americans in their McLifestyles." He agreed and started to rattle off the reasons – warm climate, fascinating street life, (a few others) and I can get laid whenever I want. Whoa, what a concept. I don't hardly know anyone who's getting it whenever they want, including the couples, unless it's the partner who's not very interested. Of course, I'm not implying I have an inside track to everyone's sex life.

English guy showed up at the restaurant next to #22, I'd seen him before and greeted him with, "How's it goin"? "Not good", he replied. He was all mopey because his favorite bargain brothel had closed down. "Cheer up, you'll find another", he was not consoled.

Millions of American men plunk down $5 a copy for girlie magazines to masturbate by so it's hardly surprising they'd be attracted to a place where you can poke the real thing in an afternoon quickie for the same, or less. Countless more frequent nudie bars where eighteen year old girls will gyrate their aromatic thing right in front of your face for a $10 tip. Personally I don't see a great moral chasm between that clearly prurient and lascivious activity and 'going all the way'. Millionaires and movie producers never have a problem getting laid. Every issue of Portland's poor excuse for an alternative weekly includes ads written by young women who'll be at your service in exchange for presents, being taken out to classy spots, rent, etc.

But it's so sleazy and sordid, you say. Yep, can't argue that point, but in a world that was normal and actually made sense, everybody would be getting laid whenever they wanted, or at least as often as they needed, or at least they wouldn’t have to endure years of torment and frustration. Besides, if you really want to talk about whoredom how about the case of famed Harvard law professor, Lawrence Tribe, who (so ineptly) defended Al Gore before the Extreme Court, who immediately after that debacle went to work for General Electric. His Job? To help the evil corporate behemoth in its ignoble quest to avoid responsibility for the toxic PCBs it dumped in the Hudson river for 30 years. Or how about venerable ex-senator George Mitchell, who helped to negotiate the Irish peace plan, who is also now sucking GE cock for big bucks.

Those men – Democrats of course – have sold their souls to the devil for spare cash, hoping (I expect) against hope that their actions in saving GE tons of money doesn't make them ultimately responsible for a lot of additional horrible toxic deaths. It’s not like they’d be destitute without GE’s blood money. These young women sex workers – the large majority are there of their own volition – are only renting out their bodies temporarily for the use of lonely and/or horny and/or callow and superficial men so they can avoid a life of poverty and hardship. They could easily do restaurant or retail work and get paid peanuts for endless hours on the job. No different than Portland's nudie dancers who could just as easily earn minimum wage at Mall*Warts.

Cambodia appeals to more than just sex-obsessed men, quite a few expats have married local women and quite a few of those have kids. As well, there’re men here who don't do sex workers. There're also lots of women working here as teachers and women travelers who get into the scene and wind up spending a lot more time than they planned.

L____ and P_____, French couple, stayed at #22 for most of a month. They've been bouncing back and forth from Europe to Asia for nearly thirty years, working back home just long enough to pay for another trip. But they're losing their backpacker credentials. They not only now carry luggage with wheels, they take a lot of planes. They flew to Bangkok because they only had two months to spend at the beach in Thailand and didn't want to waste a lot of time (maximum 3 days) going overland – at one-tenth to a quarter the cost.

Met a young fella working as a fundraiser for a local mine clearing NGO. It'll take another 15 years at the present rate to substantially clear the mines and other UXO's – unexploded ordnance – littering the countryside. Meanwhile 100 people are injured and 15 die every month.

L_____, a Scotsman, is the most intrepid of travelers, and has spent a lot of time here over the past 6 or 7 years. He can just walk off into the woods almost anywhere, set up his hammock and be perfectly happy. He was needing to find a job and hoping it wasn't going to be teaching so he called Global Witness, an NGO that tries to keep track of illegal logging and poaching and other environmental degradations that are all too common here. He closed the call by saying he didn't mind dodging bullets – the boss called him right back.

Cambodia just had its first local elections in decades. Only 20 people were murdered in partisan violence. Compared to the past that's a big improvement.