SubGenius in Cambodia - Part 1

Author: Sven Serrano <shinpath@gol.com>

Date:1997/03/06

Forum:alt.slack

 

As the Royale Air Cambodge Boeing 737 dropped its flaps and began its

final approach to Pochetong Airport the importance of my mission began

to weigh heavy in my thoughts. As the first true SubGenius to set

foot in Phnom Penh I would have my work cut out for me - first, to

spread the word of "Bob" in these the few remaining months before

X-Day two, to party my ass off on behalf of those who could not

accompany on this holy incursion and three, to get that same booty

out alive and in one piece. Little did I realize at the time that

everything in my life, including my previous travels and my training

as a SubGenius monk, had amply prepared for the tests I was about to

face. The tires kissed the tarmac in the early evening of February 3,

1997 and I quickly went through the motions of rubber stamps and

visas. I was soon on my way into town to begin the trippiest trip I

have ever taken in my life.

 

A brief bio of myself.

Age: 38

Nationality: U.S. citizen of Mexican-Finnish descent (this qualifies

me ALONE for mutant status). Holder of Japanese resident visa since

1989.

First exposure to SubG: Sometime in 1979 when I saw a small "Bob"

sticker pasted up at UCSD in La Jolla, California

Claims to fame: Interviewed William S. Burroughs for a 'town-gown'

throwaway newspaper in Bloomington Indiana in 1981. Saw "Bob" shot at

the Victoria Theatre in 1984 in San Francisco.

Current ranking in Church: As a result of my residency in Osaka

(since 1989) and my combined contributions of over $200 to the sacred

PO Box, plus my associations with Puzzling Evidence and Dr. Hal Robins

of the KPFA show I claim the title of Pope of all Western Japan.

Personal data: Married and divorced 3 times, no children

 

Cambodia, in its 5th year of relative 'peace' since the departure of

the United Nations peace keepers, is an amazing place. On the main

drag of Monivong St. there is a 'gold rush' feel that comes with the

arrival of fresh money, most of it in the form of Malaysian and Thai

investment. But a close look at the Khmers reveal a 9th century

people hurtling headlong into the 21 century, still heavily armed and

scared from the years of great evil when the Khmer Rouge shook the

entire country like an Etch-A-Sketch and wiped the slate clean. More

that any other place, Slack for most of the people is a good dinner of

rice and black carp. King Sihanouk, a wacky Louis XIV type, still

presides over a government divided between the nominally royalist

FUNCINPEC party and the former Vietnamese-backed People's Party (who

still control the bureaucracy even though they lost the election).

Add to this a bunch of squabbling small parties and different groups

of KR defectors and you have a nice strain of political instability.

The King, by reason of his hobby of making really bad movies, deserves

minor SubG sainthood. Vive le Roi!

 

My first stop at a lovely, lakeside guesthouse shows why Phnom Penh

and Cambodia have become popular among the backpacker set. The rooms

are $3 a night and by mid-afternoon everyone is toking and smoking the

semi-legal False Frop which the Cambodians have grown for centuries to

use in their cooking. While the American Drug Enforcement Agency is

running around trying to get the Cambodians to burn the fields and

stop the transshipments no attempt is made to curb activities of the

casual foreign smoker. How long this will last is anybody's guess. I

snorted in disgust, thinking of the pale white crystals of pure

Hapafropazipulops encrusting "Bob's" pipe and set about on my mission.

 

Subject: A SubGenius in Cambodia Part 2

Date: Sat, 08 Mar 1997 03:14:13 GMT

From: shinpath@gol.com (Sven Serrano)

Reply-To: shinpath@gol.com

Organization: Setsunan University

Newsgroups: alt.slack

 

Ahhhhh. Beatific waves of pure slack rolled over the length of my 6ft

1 in frame as I lolled in my hammock back at the guesthouse on Boeng

Kach lake in Phnom Penh. Around me the normals were merely

'relaxing.' Big difference. I looked up on the wall and saw the

Dobbshead smiling down on me, commanding me to go and save the heathen

and shethen. I knew what I had to do next.

 

It was a long moto-ride north of town on a very hot day. Fortunately

I had brought along a goofy looking cotton cap with French Legionnaire

neck flaps on the back. When I packed for this trip at the last

minute I had thrown into my bag a large number of wierd gadgets and

pieces of equipment which I thought I might need on this trip. Not

only did I use each and every one, there were key moments when they

SAVED MY ASS! More on this later.

 

(Proviso: the following contains references to paid services. Subs

know full well that our Epopt, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs is a famed vice master

and a whore monger. As is his companion Connie. SO DON'T WHINE TO

ME!)

 

When I arrived, I knew that I was going to do this right. Just relax,

get to know the people, have a few drinks, and enjoy the show. To top

it off it was a festive day, Chinese New Year, February 7th. So at

high noon I walked down the main dirt road of Svay Pak, also known as

Kilometer 11 and the girls of each one of the 12 bordellos stood up

and beckoned me towards them. "Hang on, honey, I'll be there in

minute." I eventually got to the end of the road and received a nice

invitation, one I could not refuse, from the ladies of House No. 45.

They pulled me to a chair, shoved a Tiger beer in my hand, and two of

these lovely ladies (all of whom are from Vietnam) plopped down on

each of my knees. The grin on my Dobbshead shirt (Available in the

Scatalog-BUY ONE NOW!!) grew even wider. "Thank you 'Bob'" I

whispered.

 

Like another one of my favorite English novelists, Graham Greene, I

enjoy the ambience and atmosphere of these places, even if only as a

non-participating spectator. And what a show. Khmer guys zoomed up

on motos and drove straight into the parlor, the girls shutting the

sliding doors behind the bikes as they rolled in. A car load of

Cambodian secret police with guns and walkie talkies pulled up and the

girls squealed and dragged them in for what was obviously a freebie.

Other dazed foreigners walked by, including a German who could only

mutter in disbelief "It's too much, too much." Then, as it was

Chinese New Year (Vietnamese Tet) a troupe came by to do the Lion

Dance in front of the house as a girl waved a charm on a stick in

front of the Lion dancers costumed head to the accompaniment of

exploding firecrackers. Too much. Heungghh!

 

The madam sat on her beach lounge chair, smiling and counting the

money. With the aid of a Vietnamese phrase book I tried to ask why

they had come to Cambodia. Lyn, a spritely 18-year old (They were all

over 18, by the way. I had my Fish and Game Dept. measuring tape and

if they weren't, I threw them back in the water) explained it to me in

her best broken English. "Vietnam no boom-boom. Cambodia..." and she

hand-gestured stacks of money. The going rate, by the way, for short

time, was $5. (FIVE DOLLARS FOR SALVATION!!!). But now it was time

for me to do my duty. First, I gave away a stack of American condoms,

much to the appreciation of the girls. The plague infection rate in

Cambodia is estimated to be around 30-40% as the Khmer men sadly

aren't wearing safety. The girls earlier had noticed the smiling

pipe-face man and when they asked I made a prayer sign and looked to

heaven. Then I reached in my bag and pulled out a sack of 8 1/2 x 11"

Dobbsheads. I shouted "Lucky money god! Lucky money god!" The girls

squealed and grabbed them, then rushed over to the Chinese kitchen god

altar. It is custom to burn little wealth charms in front of it on

New Year's Day. Up in smoke went the Dobbsheads, rising to heaven

like the clouds from "Bob's" pipe itself.

 

(Go to alt.binaries slack to find jpgs with the title No45. Lyn

grabbed my camera and took these pictures)

 

February 8 found me on a fast boat filled with tourists, booming up

the Tonle Sap river, on my way to Siem Reap and the fabled temples of

Angkor Wat. For the next three days I explored the grand sandstone

edifices, which rival the great Pyramids and the Aztec and Mayan

palaces. Hindu and Buddhist legends are depicted on the massive bas

reliefs and I watched breath taking sunrises and sunsets from the top

of the towers themselves. The Air Nike super boot/tennis shoes, which

I had only bought at the last minute because they had my size in

Japan, allowed me to jump and and climb over the massive stone ruins

like a mountain goat. I had my picture taken in an empty army

checkpoint hut near Ta Prohm, sucking on my corn cob pipe. My alert

moto driver pointed to my "Bob" pin afterwards and said "You make same

same picture, like him pipe man." Clearly I was making progress

winning over the natives.

 

War ruins were in evidence as we passed an old Lon Nol era defensive

redoubt with three old U.S. M-113 armoured personnel carriers arrayed

in each corner. The K.R.s had fixed their hash. The bad boys still

operated by one of the northern ruins, Banteay Srei, and three tourist

had died trying to view them, even though they had an armed escort.

But the shortwave radio I had brought (another lifesaver) announced

more Khmer Rouge defections to the government, and the last of the

fighters decided to pack it in and make money like everyone else.

 

Only Pol Pot remains in his stronghold at Along Vieng, protected by

2000 fighters and eight miles of concentric rings of mines....

An amazing thing happened on the way back to Phnom Penh. I said

goodbye to Mr. Hong, the Chinese owner of the Sunrise Guesthouse in

Siem Reap, who was kind enough to post a Dobbshead in his

establishment at my insistence. ( I was down to one crumpled copy

when I went next door to the film shop and xeroxed 10 more at the

pittance price of 200 riel a copy). My moto man got me down to the

boat, the smaller, slightly more dangerous one. One of these had had

the bow drop off and sank a few weeks ago. Everyone had lived but

lost all of their gear. Clouds loomed over head and the only room

left was on the roof with the luggage rack. I began to hum the theme

song to 'Gilligan's Island' -"the weather started getting rough, the

tiny ship was tossed. Wedged on top next to me were a Cambodian Army

Colonel with brief case and a Japanese guy who had sunburned his face

on the roof of the boat on the way up.

 

We were halfway across the lake when the waves picked up and the rain

suddenly came down in buckets. Everyone on the roof was completely

exposed and all they could to was grab pieces of the the luggage tarp.

My shoes kept me from slipping of the slick roof of the boat while the

swells rolled us back and forth. I remembered the old, throwaway

collapsible umbrella I had packed without a thought back in Osaka. I

pulled it out and deployed it against the driving rain and wind,

thinking 'this will never work.' Amazingly it held. Suddenly I

partially protected. I reached in my bag and pulled out my walkman

headphones, not the little earplug ones but the full earmuff type. I

have these because the plugs never fit my mutant right ear. ALL OF A

SUDDEN MY EARS WERE COMPLETELY DRY AND WARM. I popped a cassette of

surf guitar from the Pulp Surfin' compliation. Suddenly I WAS DRY,

COMFORTABLE AND ROCKING OUT to my tunes while everyone around me was

SUFFERING AND EATING SHIT IN THE RAIN. I couldn't believe it, a true

air bubble of slack in this little hell. I looked around me. The

Cambodian colonel was trying desperately to keep his footing on the

deck. The Japanese guy was even worse off. The wind and rain was

PEELING THE SKIN OFF OF HIS SUNBURNED FACE LIKE SOME 'ALIEN' FILM

SPECIAL EFFECTS. And there I was, smiling and tapping my fingers. It

took all of my strength not to stand up on the top deck and do the

Watusi. And so it went for the next 3 hours as I only paused to

change tapes. NOW THAT'S SLACK!!!! (As practiced by the Shining Path

of Least Resistance)

 

to be continued

SPLR

 

Sihanoukville, also known as the port of Kompong Som, appears on the

map, but it lies somewhere in the imagination, on a coastline the

world has forgotten. Only a small trickle of tourists and off-duty

NGOs make the four-hour bus trip, which despite the guide books'

warnings, is now completely safe The town lies in a small valley and

beyond a few low lying hills are five different beaches and a busy

lmedium-sized port. The view from the Mealy Chenda guesthouse balcony

looks down on a clump of palm trees obscuring the masts of the waiting

freighters, a view which looks more Central American than Asian.

"Sihanoukville?," I thought, nursing a glass of Coke and Mekhong

Whiskey on my first afternoon,"It looks more like Duvalierville." I

could imagine Graham Greene in a white jacket and a panama hat walking

up the abandoned boulevard to the sailors' brothels north of the port.

 

I hiked across the beach rocks (using another piece of essential

equipment - a pair of Nike Reef Walkers, rubber swimming shoes that

give your feet frog/amphibian footing) to the next two beaches, ending

up at Independence Beach. Standing there, overlooking the coast is

the seven story Independence Hotel, an edifice inhabited by one

caretaker, some squatters, perhaps one guest, and the ghosts. The

empty ball room echoes Cambodian lounge music and crush of rustling

tafetta. Down at the beach, there are chairs, umbrellas and drink

vendors, but only a handful of sunbathers, mostly Cambodians on

Sundays. The water is warm and clear and I spend several slackful

afternoons here, blissfully alone. But I came to snorkel and dive as

well and after a few days I go off in seach of the one dive shop in

town.

 

It is in Pet's Place, the one Australian bar in town, that I learn

that Steve, the owner of Condor Dive and Survey, is busy all this

month on a salvage operation. But it is there that I meet John-John,

the Jack-the-Lad of Sihanoukville. "Sure, mate, I can help you go

snorkeling," he said in strong austalian accent. Mistaking him for an

Indian, I discover John-John is a Khmer who grew up in Australia.

 

Over beers he tells me about his father is a major official in the

Foreign Ministry, partying in Australia's rave scene, and how the

family decided to move back to Cambodia in 1993. "But I've had with

this country. Do you think I could get a job in Japan? How easy are

Japanese girls." His eye suddenly blinks and his head whips back in a

split-second spasm which he tries to cover up as if nothing has

happened. One too many Es.

 

So the truth is now obvious. John-John is completely broke. He

explains that his father is one of those incorruptible bureaucrats who

does not accept bribes and who does not distribute the wealth to his

offspring. He is what the Yiddish call a 'Luftmensch,' a guy who

lives off the air, with no viable means of support. I pay the bill,

no problem. John-John later shows up at my guest house, with the

purpose of sneaking into one of the empty bunks. He jovially

entertains the other guests with boogieman stories of the Khmer Rouge

and cadges them for drinks. But it turns out I have a project in mind

for John-John.

 

In my Lonely Planet Guidebook is a short description of what was once

the premier secoast resort town of Cambodia, a place 120 kilometers to

the Southeast in Kampot province called Kep. Known as Kep-sur-Mer, it

was where the French and the francophone IndoChinese elite started

building their villas in the 1930s. A mini-Riviera, the haute

bourgeoisie elite enjoyed the famous seafood and sun, as well as

swimming, yachting, soirees and gambling in the one casino. Then it

all came down in 1975. As the guidebook reads "Under the Khmer Rouge,

the town and its many villas were completely destroyed - not neglected

and left to decay but intentionally turned intor utter ruins. The KRs

also turned the underground petrol tank of the the old Shell station

into a mass grave. By 1979, not a single building remained intact in

Kep." Such a place I HAD to see for myself. Other travellers in I

talked to in Phnom Penh had made the day trip and then stayed the

night in Kampot. Another attraction nearby is the hill station at

Bokor, which my guidebook wrote off as dangerous for foreigners. I

told my plan to John-John and offered him $15 a day as guide and

driver.

 

A little political instability proceeded our departure in Sville. On

Thursday, Feb 19, responding to tension in other parts of the country,

the various police and army units, all affiliated with either the

FUNCINPEC Royalist Party and the former Vietnamese-backed People's

Party decided to show their colors to each other. "You've got guns,

we've got guns. Do you see our guns? We see yours." Trucks of

troops with RPG-7 rocket launchers drove past police HQ as the cops

cleaned their heavy maching guns on the front lawn. I remarked on

this later to a local resident at the Angkor Arms. "Yeah," he shrugged

"happens once a month."

 

On Friday morning we were off. But our departure at 6:30 a.m. had a

little local color as the Vietnamese whore John-John had snuck into

his bunk wanted more money. She followed us, cursing as we jumped

onto a moto. A taste of things to come.

At the Sville market John-John negotiated passage in a Cambodian taxi

to Kompot, 7 people crammed into an old Corolla. I remember the

feeling of dread as we turned off of the main highway to Phnom Penh

and started down the worst road I had ever seen in the 3rd world. Red

packed earth, pocked with bomb-sized craters, klick after klick of

bumps and bounces. And at each bridge a gaggle of obviously

under-paid soldiers glaring and kicking the dust. Fourteen times the

driver slowed and dropped a payoff of 400-500 riel. John-John told me

to keep my head down. No problem.

 

At the border of Kompot province, a major checkpoint. The soldier

looked at John-John's long hair and earring. "Where are you from?"

"I'm a Khmer," replied my guide. "Oh no you're not." and both of us

were ordered over to the guardhouse while the other cab passengers

marinated in the sun. My passport got me through but John-John

without either an ID card or his Australian passport was in big

trouble. "I'll make it cheap for you - 100000 riel" said the head

honcho, a mandarin looking officer with a big black mole on his cheek

with a long hair sticking out. They both haggled for almost half an

hour while I distributed all of my cigarettes to the curious troops.

 

I pulled out my wallet and gestured to John-John, "how much is this

really going to cost?" Suddenly it was all over wnd we were back in

the cab. "What happened?" I asked. "Sorry mate, I had to wait until

the right moment to tell him who my father was. He didn't believe me

so I gave him his number and told him to call." What doubt I had I in

his story disappeared as we headed off, under the watchful gaze of the

1,800 ridge of Bokor Mountain.

 

In Kompot things got hairier. The gang of moto-drivers, the only

people we could rent a motorbike from, were run by an off-duty cop.

"Sure, we'll rent you a bike, but two of us have to follow you and

make sure it doesn't get stolen." It was the only deal in town so we

took it for $14. Immediately we impressed them when I fell off of the

end of the bike while John-John was trying to park at a restaurant for

lunch. The license plate was nicely cracked, put it on the bill.

 

They set us up in a decent hotel by the river and while we were

getting ready in our new room I taped a Dobbshead to the wall.

John-John's eyes widened. "I'll explain it to you later," I said

hurrying with my camera and film. Finally, with the cop, now changed

into his uniform top and cap, we set off down the road to the

once-fabled resort of Kep.

 

When we reached the outskirts the cop and his buddy started pointing

out the ruined villas, stark concrete frames against the sun, with

John-John translating "There's Air Force General's home, where he used

to land his helicopter on the roof. There's the famous singer's

place. There's the villa of one of his mistresses." We reached the

short black sand beach, which I knew from a amazing bit of optimism, a

current postage stamp with the legend 'Plage Kep-Tourism.' At a

seaside stand we feasted on some of the famous crabs with hot sauce,

washed down with more Tiger beer. Then we went about exploring the

villas. The guide book was wrong, it seemed. The KRs killed the rich

and their servants but left the homes alone. It wasn't until the

Vietnamese come in 1979 did the destruction, sparked by rumors that

the rich had hidden gold in the walls and floors. Beautiful homes,

with patioed driveways where the servants must have lined up when the

Monsieur and the Madame arrived in their Citroen, now gone to ruin.

 

In many places the jungle had taken over. You could feel the presence

of the ghosts everywhere. The most amazing sight was the old casino,

now taken over by the grottiest market I had seen in Cambodia. Under

an old rotunda, now open to the sky, in the very place where the

roulette wheel must have been, an old woman was cutting a small

dogfish shark in half, one hand holding the knife while the other

shooed away the curs and the flys. Amazing. Like visiting the ruins

of Disneyland, now inhabited by squatters.

 

We left Kep at 4 pm and made the run back to Kampot where more

adventure awaited. The cop and his buddy dropped us off at the hotel

and promised to return at 7 and show us around the town. Alone in our

room, John-John asked me about the Dobbshead. I took out one of the

remaining copies of the #2 Screed & membership application and said to

him, in my very best Elmer Fudd voice, "Dis is a vewy, vewy impotant

pampwet. I want you to weed do hoa ting,." John-John dug in and was

soon getting clued in on the major tenets of our faith. After an hour

or so, the cop and his bud were there, with an extra friend who wanted

to meet the foreigner. I knew what was in store. "Look John-John," I

said my instinct is to lock the door and hide under the bed until

morning. But I am going to go out and party with the cops tonight in

Kampot! Do you know why?" He shook his head. I point swiftly at the

Dobbshead on the wall and said "BECAUSE 'BOB' TELLS ME TOO! My

religion gives me courage! What does this tell you???" John-John was

visibly impressed. Then we went out to start one of the wilder nights

of my life.

to be continued...

Shining Path of Least Resistance

SubGenius Ministries for all of Western Japan

2-14-22-18 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku Osaka Japan 542

shinpath@gol.com

 

 

A SubGenius in Cambodia - Postscript

Author:Sven Serrano <shinpath@gol.com>

Date:1997/03/13

Forum:alt.slack

 

I made it back to Phnom Penh to do a little

'mopping up' before heading home to NE Asia. This included buying a

few wierd souvenirs (Cambodian perfume, a hammock, cigs), visiting

Kilo 11 and No. 45 one last time to give away copies of the snapshots,

and hit a few of the bars I missed on the first visit. The news was

hilarious as usual - King Sihanouk had threatened to abdicate again,

saying that all his life he had never really wanted to be King anyway,

but the two Vice Prime Ministers from the two bickering political

parties had to talk him out of it.

 

I wondered about John-John. He had said he would get a haircut, lose

his earring, and try to get a job again. Was his father really in the

Foreign Ministry? Could he get his act together and work out a

regular meal ticket, or was he doomed? "Well, we're all doomed -

except for those of us who get on the saucers on X-Day," I said to

myself. If he could get an address to me I vowed to send him some of

the valuable crap that Japanese routinely throw away. I could also

get his address out on the Net and make him a charity poster boy (You

can help John-John, or you can turn the page). Still, my best wishes

went with him. He was a crazy guy in an amazing country and we had

shared that wild time together in Kep/Kampot.

 

At the Royale Air Cambodge office I got a nasty shock. There were no

seats on any flights to Bangkok that weekend. Some Thai holiday or

something. As my connection was out of Bangkok and I HAD to be back

in Japan on Monday I was frantic. The only options were to do a

runner up Route 5 To Battambang and the Thai border through bandit

country or to go back down to Sihanoukville and jump a smugglers boat

to the Thai coast. But I had less than 72 hours. What to do? I went

back and looked at the schedule. Wait! What was this, a flight that

evening to MALAYSIA??? THE HOME OF DOBBSTOWN??? A few seats were

left so I handed over the money and got my ticket on the spot. I

would fly to Kuala Lumpur that night, make connections with the

Butterworth/Penang train for Bangkok, and at the 3 hour stop at Bugit

Makkassar I could make a quick afternoon visit to the fabled Dobbs

Ashram. I went back to the hotel, struck camp, put on my pack and my

jaunty legionnaires cap, and jumped a moto to the airport. The rest,

well... that's another story...

 

Shining Path of Least Resistance

SubGenius Ministries for all of Western Japan

2-14-22-18 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku Osaka Japan 542

shinpath@gol.com

 

 

 

 

Sven A. Serrano, Setsunan University

2-14-22-18 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku Osaka 542 Japan

tel (06)212-1830 fax (06)211-3244 shinpath@gol.com