Fifty Shades of Expat: The Balding Ponytail

Who is the Balding Ponytail?

The Balding Ponytail is a real cool dude, man. Has he shown you pictures of the sweet chopper he drove back home yet? The Balding Ponytail drives a Yamaha Nuovo now, but believe him — he’s had some much sweeter rides in his day.


The Balding Ponytail keeps getting older, but the women who reject his advances stay the same barely legal age. A total lack of success is no reason to lose heart, though. The Balding Ponytail remains convinced of his sexual prowess despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.


When the young English teachers and miniskirt-clad beer girls have all left the bar, the Balding Ponytail is left alone with his half-finished “big Tiger” and memories of bygone days. Head held high, he proudly mounts his automatic scooter and drives home.



My taxi driver pissed himself. The taxi driver was chatting away in a friendly manner, but I hadn’t the first idea what any of it meant. I told him (in Vietnamese) that I can’t speak Vietnamese very well. Ironically, I can deliver this phrase very well. And so, because he thought I was being modest, he kept on going.


“I don’t understand,” my second best Vietnamese phrase, I said again, and again, and again. Eventually, he gave up and we rode along in what felt to me like a hostile silence.


When we hit the highway he stopped the car and got out. He walked over to a low wall, and with his back to me and the morning traffic, he began to urinate onto a tall weed — the jet of his piss making it sway like a metronome. Then his stream must have bounced off the leaves onto his leg, because he jumped back suddenly and did this funny sort of dance like there was a ferret in his pants.


When he returned to the car, I saw a stain trailing the leg of his tan slacks. He got behind the wheel and I briefly caught his eye in the rearview mirror. His look was flawlessly lucid, it said everything there is to be said about being pissed off, and being pissed on.


I made an obscene gesture (by accident!). I was at my usual photo lab to drop off some films. In the lot there was this special film that I used to experiment with cross processing.


I’ve been going to this lab for years and the lady knows me well. In my broken Vietnamese and her broken English, we understood each other as I told her how valuable that film was. I crossed my fingers for good luck.


She looked me up and down with reproachful eyes and it hit me: I had just made the sign for vagina to her. I became red and apologised profusely, shaking my hands, trying to explain it means good luck in the west.


She looked at me dubiously, but then smiled and blinked. She and I are definitely closer since.


My landlord pawned my Vespa to pay for his secret girlfriend. My landlord was cool, a typical Viet Kieu playboy. He was married, plus he had a mistress on the side. And I helped pay his mistress’s way.


After the second month of living in this very swanky rental, my landlord asked me for two extra months rent in advance, as a security deposit. My monthly rent was VND10 million, and he wanted VND20 million on top. When I asked him why, he confessed that he was also renting an apartment for his girlfriend. He said this in a very obliging way. I agreed because I loved the house, and could afford it at the time.


It was a great place, at least until my landlord decided to cancel my three-year lease. His wife was pregnant, it turned out, and she wanted to move back into the house.


Once more, I agreed. I left my Vespa at the house and asked him if he could keep it for two days, after which I’d retrieve it and all of my belongings.
When I came back two days later my Vespa was gone, not to mention all of my furniture and everything else. As landlords always say, “We pay garbage collector to dump.” He told me, to my face, that he paid someone VND20 million to “dump” my Vespa.


But, when I threatened to tell his wife about his mistress, he caved. To find my freshly repainted Vespa I had to make a trip to a district I’d never been to, but I got it back.


I had my bike 'borrowed' for a pizza delivery. I was at the Irish bar I usually go to here. I checked my bike and went in. But for some reason I wasn’t really feeling it, and decided to leave after one drink, way shorter than I usually stay.


When I came outside, I didn’t see my bike. No bike-keeper either. I stood outside waiting for somebody, checking my phone. Next thing I know, I see my bike flying by, delivery pizzas bungeed to the back.


I tried to ask a question in an expat Facebook group. I may be a big guy, but I have celiac disease, which means eating foods with gluten (bread, pretzels, cereal… anything good, basically) causes severe stomach pain, constipation and a lot of other nasty side effects. When I first moved to Vietnam I was really worried about finding gluten-free foods — it’s hard to enjoy living in a new place if you’re constantly sick, right?


So I joined a Facebook group called Expats in Ho Chi Minh City, figuring that there must be some fellow celiacs living in Vietnam who could offer insider advice. I posted my questions and went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that there were a dozen replies to my question. Awesome!


But instead of telling me where to find wheat-flour substitutes or gluten-free bakeries, the replies all told me to go f*** myself for following pretentious western diet fads. One especially helpful commenter suggested I eat my own s***. So that was the last time I tried to ask for help online.

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