August 23, 2000
10:14 a.m. Shoneys Restaurant
A waitress pours hot coffee into my cup, spilling a bit
into the saucer. She apologizes. I tell her not to worry.
If she helps elect me President, I say, she will be eligible
for tax credits totaling $2300, and if she is bludgeoned,
her attacker could be prosecuted not only under conventional
law but also under hate crimes law if applicable. She winks
at me and offers me one of those little containers of half-and-half.
I do not wink back, lest she consider that an endorsement
of the nonbiodegradable containers.
March 12, 1971
My war buddies and I are walking to the corner café,
where we have reservations for 5:15. We will start out with
drinks and appetizers, and if we are in the mood, well
follow that with a light dinner. They have excellent Vietnamese
We are walking down the middle of the street. We are wearing
sunglasses and walking in slow motion. The Vietnamese are
watching us. We are young, brazen, angry. One of usthe
Texankicks up a boots worth of dust. A frail
uninsured child coughs offstage and is comforted by his
We sit down at our regular table. I ask for the spring rolls,
but because I have an article on horticulture to finish
that nightthe newsletters deadline is the next
morningI will chase it with coffee instead of beer.
A moment later, she returns. It is said that the coffee
in country is bitter. But the men are yet more bitter. Still
more bitter is the toothpaste with which the Army provides
us. Bitterest of all is, um, did I mention the coffee? So
Gordonstern has ordered a delicate pancake flavored with
rice wine and fried until the edges turn dark brown. "I
love the smell of delicate pancakes flavored with rice wine
and fried until the edges turn dark brown," I say,
"in the afternoon. But I hate the smell of these pancakes
in the morning."
When considering horticultureand how it takes enriched
soil to grow a strong, green fernI have a thought:
In my first race for Congress, which Im really not
thinking about right now at all because Im too disillusioned,
Ill run two weeks of ads in The Tennessean and then
well make a $10,000 media buy in prime time.
I take out my pad and pencil from my camouflage back pocket
and try to jot it down when it happens. The point is dull.
I cannot write with the pencil because the point is dull.
I do not overreact. I do not lose my composure. Instead,
I ask for a Thai iced tea, and when the waitress comes to
our table to pour it in my glass, I take her pencil from
her apron, place it between my chopsticksso it resembles
a third chopstick, a harmless vestigial oneand when
she leaves, scribble the critical note.
I ponder this place, this moral quagmire, this Tigerland,
and what it drives men to do.