I have no idea what’s going on with the weather here. Yesterday morning it was warm and throughout the day the temperature dropped so that by the evening I was wearing an insulated shirt outside. Today the weather has stayed cool and the sun is shining. There isn’t much else to say, except that I’ve got a late night of two meetings which I then have to write about. Also, I’m halfway through Sherman Alexie’s novel Flight, which is the first new stuff that I’ve read by him in years, and I’m digging it.

Oh, and I discovered this new version of the Old Crow Medicine Show singing their famous song “Wagon Wheel.” I would say that this version has much more of a swing/Hank Williams feel to it. Let me know what you think…

The Old Crow Medicine Show Wagon Wheel (Different Version) MP3

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Well, yesterday was Memorial Day, and although I had to work, that day, it turned out pretty good. I must say that I couldn’t have had a much more “American” day since my return to this country. What follows is a list of the stereotypical stuff that a true patriotic American does on a day like Memorial Day:

-I went to see a small-town parade and ceremony in a cemetery to honor veterans. (This was my work for the day, so I had to take pictures and write an article about it too).

-We had a cookout at home with some of the extended family.

-We went to a baseball game in Columbus (the Clippers lost unfortunately…)

-There were fireworks after the baseball game.

So there ya have it: my first Memorial Day back from Vietnam (freedom-hating commies according to many; more free than the U.S. according to me), and I was just about as truly “American” as you can get.

At least a month or so ago, I was sitting around in a local government office, waiting for a meeting to begin, when my phone started vibrating. I ran out into the lobby to answer it, and it was a call from a quán nhậu (there’s no good English word) in Long Xuyên. The owner of the establishment is a friend of mine, and he was on the phone and I was pacing around the lobby of this particular government building and shouting Vietnamese while people walked around me. One of the things he told me was: The City of Long Xuyên misses you.

More recently, just the other day, I happened to be chatting with a student of mine from Long Xuyên. I mentioned how quickly I was forgetting Vietnamese, and so she started chatting in Vietnamese and I rustily started typing my replies. She asked me to tell her about America. I said something like: The weather is cold and the people are boring. She then asked why the people were boring. Because they have no hope, I said.

It was the best way I could put my thoughts into a language that I’ve barely used in five months.

I heard something on the radio today about smokers and how they’re more likely to quit smoking if people around them or people within three degrees of knowing them quit also. This reminded me of when I went to the local health department when I got back from Vietnam for my physical, and after they asked me if I smoked, and I said yes, they said they were starting a program to help smokers quit soon. Well, I wanted to say it then, but I didn’t, so I’ll say it now: I don’t want to quit smoking because I like smoking! I like the taste and smell of tobacco leaves and the smoldering fire they produce. I like sitting and thinking about the world and life while the beautiful smoke billows around me. I hate these stories about people quitting smoking; I hate totalitarian bans on smoking; and I enjoy my old tobacco use. So here are two songs that mention smoking and/or tobacco:

Tom Waits singing Warm Beer and Cold Women MP3

Or buy Tom Waits music on Amazon

And we also have some song that I don’t know the artist, but it’s an Irish tune and it’s called All for Me Grogg MP3

I’m posting a song that I heard once while I was in the Irish pub in Ho Chi Minh City, and I only really paid attention to the refrain and the line about the Plain of Reeds, which was in Đồng Tháp Province, which was not far from Long Xuyên. So, from however many months ago when I first heard it, this song stuck with me and for some reason recently I was reminded of it and searched for it online. It’s pretty radical for it’s time and all, but here’s Ewan MacColl singing “The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh.”

The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh MP3

Or buy Ewan MacColl’s music at Amazon

Gasoline prices jumped up 25 cents yesterday and hit $3.95 in Ohio; oil prices hit a record high of well over $125 a barrel. The reason for all of this, as explained on the news this morning: speculation!! Right, there it is again, speculation, not an actual decrease in supply or anything. National Public Radio explained that the reason for this increase in price was because that the speculators thought that maybe Iran might cut production. Just read that sentence again while and let it sink it. Here, I’ll add some emphasis: Speculators thought that maybe Iran might cut production. Meanwhile oil supplies are at normal levels while we in the land of the “free” suffer paying these ridiculous prices while certain people and countries rake in huge profits because there isn’t a train line anywhere in the country. Remember why we fight!!

For oil…