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Life in the Laugh Lane

Facts, fiction, and photos from America to Asia.

300 pics with the unreal reality that created them from author Scott Jones. 

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Asian Oral Adventures


In Asia, the saying goes: “We eat anything with four legs except a table and anything that flies except an airplane.”

For decades in America, I had a limited definition of the word “food.” The most sinister items were found at state fairs where you could find almost anything fried on a stick. You never really knew what was inside the crispy yellow crust until you took your first bite. Here they actually do have anything fried, dried or live, on a stick, in a bag or squirming in a pile—lizards, bugs, spiders, balls of mystery meat and every molecule of the chicken. Before living in Asia, I’d never really considered certain things could be food. Fried Dog was in the same category as a fire hydrant. Or a Buick. They eat lots of dog in Vietnam, but hearing about a dog delicacy is enough for me. I love to walk the dog but it’s not spelled “wok the dog.”

One room service menu in Vietnam had a “Special Dishes” category with sea crab, swimming crab, cuttlefish, clam, turtle, snake, eel, buffalo meat, frog, bird meat, fresh water fish, and “many kinds sea fish,” but it was the “Forest Specialties” that truly set my hotel in a class of its own—deer, wild boar and weasel. Yes, weasel, delivered right to your room! No preparation descriptions. Weasel sushi? I ordered two snakes and a weasel to go, planning to savor an eel and buffalo omelette in the morning.

The very fancy Food Fart Restaurant in Hanoi had a splendid list of entrées I didn’t dare order, but plan to rush back during my next life as a goat and try them all…

Russia’s Broiled Meat Assorted wild animals from Chernobyl, perhaps? Cooked in the woods until they glow in the dark?

Undercook Veal With Lemon “Gee whiz, thanks for under cooking the calf. I like my worms lightly warmed.”

Frog’s Trotterclip In Flour Fried 
I’ve tried the legs, but “trotterclips?” Are these very big frogs? Do you ride them in?

Desiccation Chicken 
Desiccation is not a restaurant word. The “Dried Up As A Result Of Removing Water” Chicken does not whip taste buds into a ravenous frenzy. Considering all the spelling errors on the menu, they may have meant “Defecation Chicken.”

Baked Thick of Chicken 
I’m thick of chicken. We had it jutht latht night and I’m tho theriothly thick of it.

Enterocoelous Of Chicken With Fried Baby Fresh New Corn
(The word “enterocoelous” was not in my Vietnamese Phrase Book. It sounds like a fatal disease, maybe the technical term for bird flu. Do you think “baby fresh new” is repeatedly redundant over and over and over again?)

Stick A Lobster in Cistern 
“Mr. Waiter, do I have to eat it in the cistern or do you take it out for me?” Dictionary says: Cistern—a container in which water is stored, esp. one connected to a toilet or in the roof of a house. This could certainly have been Defecation Lobster. Although very clear regarding “cistern,” no online dictionaries mentioned “enterocoelous” or “trotterclip.” They must be local words. Very local to this restaurant only.

(After considering these selections, weasel sounded relatively tasty.)


Teeth are Fun

Many dentists kill themselves in America. Their high suicide rate is probably caused by daily routines of charging an arm and leg to remove a tooth while inflicting pain on wide-eyed, terrified people who hate them, working in a haze of halitosis from patients whose breath is actually blistering paint on the ceiling, and spending 40 hours a week worrying if their next victim will bite them, taking a finger in exchange for each tooth removed.

This may also be true in Thailand since I’ve never seen an old dentist. They all look like 17-year-olds, having gone from puberty directly into dentistry. Here in the Land of Smiles, teeth are fun and “fun” is the Thai word for teeth.

During a recent root canal at Funsabai (“Comfy Teeth”) the staff was friendly and cheery with canines and cuspids so white and bright I had to wear sunglasses if more than three of them smiled at once. Pop music played in the background as Dr. Drill and the Dentalettes sang along while probing my mouth with sharp metal objects and keeping the beat with suction devices that sometimes reached into my stomach. Farang [foreign] patients were happy to be there knowing the cost for an entirely remodeled mouth, plus a plane ticket to paradise, cost half as much as a few fillings in their home countries.

In spite of this carefree atmosphere, I was still tense from the memory of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt during Dental Hell in Kentucky, where dentists have marginal experience since its inhabitants as a whole have very few teeth. My degenerating tooth gave out during a performance tour so I spent my two-day break in the Land of Gums at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. After an eternity of excavation of four roots in my large molar I was sent to my hotel to throb for the evening.

The next day Dr. Ken Tucky tested yesterday’s deconstruction site by sticking an ice pick into each root hole—before giving me the Novocaine shot. Unfortunately he had missed a root and stabbed his saber into the remaining raw nerve. I remember catapulting from his chair through the ceiling into the morgue on the next floor.

My dentist at Funsabai was Win (a perfect moniker to instill confidence in patients) and did nothing to stress me out. He was sensitive, gentle and meticulous. Even his Novocaine shot was painless unlike my last dentist in Chiang Rai, who had plunged a syringe the size of a cattle prod through the gums and into my brain in search of the individual cell that controls tooth pain. (I suspect Win just placed his needle into the cavern left by the previous dentist.) However, on the second day, I thought I was back in the Land of Gums. Win put his drill in my mouth before the pain-killer. (He had told me there were only two roots on the tooth. Right. “Okay, I’ll let you probe my canals with your Tools of Torture while I hold this scalpel next to your eyeball.”) Not wanting to put a Scott-shaped hole in his ceiling and force the entire clinic to remove their own teeth using a chair from the lobby, I instructed him on the ABCDs of Dentistry: Anesthesia, Be Cool, Drill. Then I put on my motorcycle helmet.

Overall it was a very positive experience even during the times they put a towel over my eyes so I couldn’t see that Dr. Win, plus two other dentists, plus seven dental assistants, plus random people gathered from the street, all had their hands in my mouth, holding hoses, files, pliers, shovels and a queen-size mattress to keep my cheek away from the teeth. Next time I’ll try Novocaine shots in my ears and nose as well, so I don’t have to hear the incessant whine of the drill or smell the burning enamel. Perhaps some trendy teak teeth? Or maybe just suicide.


Have you seen my glasses?

Scott Jones at the optometrist in Vietnam.

My optician loves me. Every couple of months I visit wearing my severely scratched, back-up, geek glasses, smile meekly, order a new pair and give her my credit card. Smart people get cheap disposable contacts, but I get expensive disposable glasses which are either self-mutilated in a chair, or on the floor, or mysteriously squirt out of the known universe. It’s hard to find your glasses when you don’t have them on to find them with.

I’ve worn glasses since I was about nine, though I suspect my parents didn’t buy them earlier because of the amusement they got watching me walk into walls or use hair gel instead of toothpaste. When they gave me a seeing-eye gerbil, I’d had enough and went downtown to find an eye doctor. In his office, I said, “Doctor, I think I need glasses.” He said, “You certainly do, my boy. This is a bank.”

Later an optometrist wearing comic book spectacles that made his eyeballs look like tiny, bulbous marbles suspended near the back of his brain at the end of a long tunnel said, “You’re very near-sighted and have bad astigmatism.” (“Astigmatism” wasn’t in my dictionary but “stigma” was and it didn’t sound good. A stigma: “a strong feeling in society that having a particular illness is something to be ashamed of.”) I imagined my lenses would be as thick as glass blocks and require scaffolding on my head to support them, or at least strips of Velcro surgically-fastened to my nose.

A month later I was in ecstasy, reading signs from afar and able to stare at girls in grade school without being so close they could feel my hot adolescent breath on their neck. Years later I tried the first contact lenses on the market that were made from some hard, painful material like quartz crystals or thinly-sliced diamonds, which felt like refrigerators in my eyes and cost about as much. To blink I had to manually lift the lids over the lenses. My eyes flooded with tears making my vision similar to snorkeling without a face mask. Touted to improve sight, they didn’t help, especially while driving. I was stopped by a policeman who asked, “Where are your glasses? Your license says you need to wear them.” I said, “Sir, I have contacts.” He said, “I don’t care who you know. I’m giving you a ticket.”

The good news? Bad eyesight kept me out of military service during the Vietnam War, even though I had a bumper sticker that read: “Join the Army. Travel to distant lands, meet exotic people and kill them.” Being a gentle man who only shot animals or humans with a camera, it was good for me and the country since no one wanted a sightless pacifist accidentally wasting his comrades or demanding to be equipped with a seeing-eye gerbil.

I’ve lost several pairs of glasses around Chiangmai. If you find a very strong pair, you’ll know they’re mine if you put them on and can actually see the smaller moons around Mars, God Him- or Her-self, and perhaps even into the future. Please send them back to me so I can get rid of the gerbil.