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June 2019


Today's Topic: The good times are the ones you make - not the ones you see on the brochure! Well folks, it's hard to believe I'm playing the last set of the evening! It won't be long now and I'll be flipping the switches on the back of the amp, tucking Lester in his case, and packing up my pedals and cables. Though the gig will end soon, like the aftereffects of a smoke-filled barroom, memories of the sights, sounds, smells, camaraderie, and people will linger on through the early morning hours. Later as dawn breaks and the band gathers at the drummers house for one last early morning post-gig breakfast, I'll marvel as I always do, at the contribution each of us made to the music that was...I'll remember especially, that the essence of the music was not in the notes that were played, rather in the silence that fell in between. After we've eaten and decompressed, as I drive home for a well-deserved rest, I will remind myself that I was merely a part of a greater team effort, that my solos and moments of glory were only possible because of the support of those around me, and that none of us can shine without the talents of others. I'm sure glad I recorded the evening's efforts, as it's always fun to play it back at a later date.


Today's topic: Taking chances. Every three to four days during the past 328 days, I have gone to the same small, two-checkout-counter, two-story market near my house to buy my groceries. And, without fail, every time I go I see the same group of people hard at work keeping the place operating like a well-oiled machine; among them are the two lovely ladies who work the check-out counters. Today, my bill totaled 386,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND) - approximately $16.54 USD (United States Dollars). Typically, the cashier will tell me the total, I hand her my credit card, she puts it in the card reader, it spits out the receipt, I sign my name in the two spots on the receipt, she says "Cảm ơn" ("thank you"), I say "Không có gì" ("no problem/you're welcome") and the rest is up to my bank. Today, however, like a fledgling Eagle flapping it's developing wings on the edge of the nest, I beat her to the punch and said in my best tiếng việt: "Ba trăm tám mươi sáu nghìn" ("386,000"). She, with perfect English, said "Oh! You speak Vietnamese!"  I replied "Tôi nói đơực ít tiếng Việt vá tôi hiểu đơực ít tiếng Việt" ("I speak little Vietnamese and I understand little Vietnamese"). She then said: "Your Vietnamese is really good!" I returned the compliment by saying in English "You speak English very well!" - because I could not for the life me remember: "Bạn nói tiếng Anh rất tốt". Now, in the 11-ish months I've been interacting with this person, this was the first time we both took a risk. To me, she is no longer "that person at the market who rings up my groceries." and I wonder if I am no longer "That westerner who comes into the store every other day"? I'd like to think we have connected at a new level,  so the next time I go to the market, I'm going to push my luck and say "Chào em. Tôi tên là Pôn. Tôi là người mỹ. Tên là gì?" (Hi. My name is Paul. I'm an American. What's your name?" and see how long the conversation lasts. My record with a very forgiving Grab driver was 6.2 kilometers. Wish me luck!