Friday, March 13, 2015

about Vietnam...with Hal !

Peter Arnett & friend?
....Our friend Hal in Saigon...meeting newsman extraordinar PETER ARNETT.

   I made it to Saigon 6 times in my almost 3 full tours in 'Six Flags Over 
Nothing'. It wasn't the first foreign city I'd had ever been and wasn't destined be my last.
  On my 'business trips' to Saigon, I stayed in 4 different hotels; The 
Continental Palace, the Caravelle, The International and the Rex. 
The Rex was also the BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters), but I was there as a 'civilian' most of the times I stayed. The food at The Rex was more Americanized than what you found at some of the other hotels.  
  Saigon had one thing in which I was very surprised the first time I saw it. The vehicle traffic was unbelievably heavy from early daylight to dark. Of course, there was a curfew from, I believe 11 every night, so the only noise you heard was occasional gunfire, harassment mortar rounds (mostly incoming and exploding) and military/government vehicles moving. 
   There was a joint on Vo Tanh Street called the Puerto Rico Bar that I like to hit on late afternoons when I could. The beer was very cold and the working girls would just come by to talk if they knew you weren't shopping for a 'long time' friend. They could work on their Americanized English and "sexological phraseology" that might help them find customers that evening.
  I also tried Mimi's and The Moulon Rouge on Tudo Street, but always ended in the bar at The Rex or at the Puerto Rico Bar.
  On "the morning after the night before" (to blatantly steal an old Shelly Berman line), I was in need of some minor dental work and made it to the U.S. Dental Clinic on Nguyen Thai.
  After leaving the Dental Clinic,  I strolled along Tudo Street until reaching its intersection with Nguyen Hue. There was this huge fountain that the street kids used as a small community wading pool. I stopped to watch them having a good time and realized a guy was standing next to me. He was Caucasian, older than me, but was dressed in clean, but obviously not new, journalist style, OD green jungle fatigues.  I asked him how he was doing. 
He smiled, laughed and remarked something to the effect that he was watching the 6 meter Medley of the Tudo Street Olympic swimming competition.
  He introduced himself as Peter Arnett of the Associated Press. I introduced myself, but 'forgot' to name my employer, although he knew my work by how I was dressed. 
 We decided it was time for some Vitamin B (as in Beer). We went to the Caravelle, had a couple of cold cans and talked a while about everything and nothing.
  We parted after an hour or two and I didn't see him again until a few 
months later in Bangkok. He remembered me and we talked a bit before I had to leave.
  On neither occasion did he ask me any 'whatcha been up to or whatcha doing now' questions.
Saw him one more time in Saigon about a year later and the only question he asked was "what happened to you?" Standing there on my crutch, I explained that I had cut myself shaving and he asked me when I had started shaving my legs!
   About a week after I got back on full duty, who showed up to accompany us on a field op, but Arnett. (And, no, before anyone asks, I'm not saying where we were.) He always kept up, never got in the way, knew when to be quiet and never caused us any problems. He was a real trooper. He seemed to be the same guy then as he was later during the Gulf Wars. He had his opinions and voiced them about VN, too. When he caught so much flak for stating his opinion during the notorious interview he did...all I could think of was that he had made remarks about the poor way the VN war was being waged, too. The big difference was that most people and journalists felt that way about our Southeast Asian misadventure. 
    The Middle East war was still popular in US and "Coalition of the Willing" minds. If he were to say those same things now, heads would be nodding and no one would likely be calling for his.

Hal...his encounters with a famous Peter Arnett of AP and later CNN. (See the movie LIVE FROM BAGHDAD)

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