10 September 2005

Shoes, Books, & #19

I have really, really have been searching for shoes for the past several days, and it seems I am on a mission to frustration.

I know exactly what I want, having seen a young woman wearing them last week. OK, I know that sounds idiotic, but I figured I could get something similar. And actually, there are about two other styles I would bow to. And within those three major categories, I could really be flexible. However, so far I have been astonishingly unsuccessful.

Several problems exist. The first is the shoe size. Size 8 American doesn’t seem to be very popular here. In fact, no sizes other than the shoes you happen to be looking at, at any given time, seem to be available. I’ve seen plausible choices in a number of different stores, but when I ask for a different size, I am led to believe that the pair in my hand is the only pair available in that style, and wouldn’t I care for the three inch heeled ones that look the same? Don’t even try asking about a different color.

After searching through the local neighborhood shops, a colleague wrote out directions to the Shoe Plaza, which houses about twenty different stores inside one building. Mostly, there were stiletto heeled sandals or pointy-toed slip-ons. (where the point extends an extra two inches beyond the end of ones foot.)

I walked on to another shopping area I had passed in the taxi last week. In one store and out the other. Either totally nonfunctional shoes, or flip-flops, or trekking sandals; not something I could wear to work. And once again, only in the size displayed. I’ve given up for this week, but will venture out again in the near future.

As long as I was, by now, back in Tourist Central, District 1, I thought I should pay a visit to the Continental hotel, where it is said that Graham Green hung out to write the book “The Quiet American”. Unfortunately, the veranda restaurant he frequented is now enclosed. I looked in the window to see fancy tables with tablecloths and stemmed water glasses filled with folded napkins. Not my kind of place to eat. I peeked at the menu at the door. Not my kind of price range.

Still, I wanted a copy of his book. I already knew that there weren’t any bookstores with English language fiction in town, and was debating having a copy sent from the US. I then remembered all the street vendors and their cut-rate copies of Lonely Planet and other guide books. (after that trip to the school book store, I knew the score). Hey, I bet they’d have a copy!

The first purveyor I came across had his stand set up in front of an expensive store. I bent down and said, Graham Greene? He reached over and pulled out a copy of "The Quiet American". I sat down on the steps to look at what else was available. A few Gabriel Garcia Marquez-es, “Geisha”, lots of Vietnam War stuff, and an excellent selection of books by various Vietnamese authors who had fled the country and were now in the US. Of those I bought three. I now have enough depressing literature for the next five years.

There was still one other Place of Interest to visit, and that was a restaurant called, “# 19”. During those conflict years, it had been the UPI news bureau, or at least that is what I read. I have no way of verifying this info, but it came from a credible source, namely PBS. Then again, another place they’d mentioned does not exist, so who knows? I went into the small restaurant, packed with the local lunch crowd. I was the only foreigner. I ordered soup and tried to tune into the war correspondent vibes. I guess it was too noisy. I couldn’t pick up on anything.
The food at the surrounding tables looked quite tasty. My soup was not good at all. The MSG hit me even before I left; numb tongue and light-headed. So much for unearthing the ghosts of the past. Perhaps if I make an appearance at a more quiet time, the spirits will speak to me.

I have a book to read,