Monsoon Cocktails

About this time a year ago I checked the forecast. Thunder showers Sunday was the prediction. Perfect, says I. Monsoon Cocktails and dinner in the rain. As Sunday’s clouds gathered I hastened to one of the many canopied places on Street 172 and ducked in just as the sky billowed with fat monsoon stratocumuli. I ordered Jack on the rocks. In moments, proper Niagaras of rain were beating a lusty tattoo upon the awning, falling in... Read More

Rum Agricole: Negrita in Old Saigon

Negrita Rum in old Saigon More than half a century ago, some time in the 1950s, a small triangle of vacant land lay at the confluence of Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Cu Trinh Streets. Its address today is 148 Tran Hung Dao, on the way west to Cho Lon (the Chinese district). Some time back in those olden days, I don’t know exactly when, it might even have been in the waning days of French rule, a billboard size advertisement was painted on the eastern... Read More

Sometimes a Man Just Needs a Drink

Cocktails at the bar of the Starlight Room and a Saturday night post-Thanksgiving nosh at the ultra-hip Black Cat restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach had spilled me onto Broadway full of fine stuff. And I was still aglow from Thursday’s abundant provender and its mayonnaise laden leftovers on Friday, and all the cheery, beery company of kinfolk and friends gathering their powers for the next few weeks of indulgence. Happy crowds,... Read More


 It was mid afternoon. With my big shades, and my Panama hat pulled down low over my eyes, I slouched into Hien & Bob’s Pub like a private eye working a case. Outside, the tropical sun blazed and glared with painful brightness. But inside the bar its shadowy coolness wrapped around me like a trench coat. There she was, behind the bar. Gorgeous as usual, dressed in one of those silk Ao Dai she always wears. She still had that pouty look... Read More

Gin & Tonic in Saigon

The day was beastly hot, not long ago. I had been stumbling through the narrow alleyways (the hems) of “The Pham” keeping track of all the continuous changes and deciding if they’re good or bad. It’s part of my job as a self-appointed arbiter of taste. I was sweating bullets and much in need of blessed relief. Now if you’ve lived long anywhere in the tropics you know that there is a great and universal constant that offers such relief. It’s... Read More

Hong Kong Redux

Revisiting the Bottoms Up Bar in Hong Kong This is a drinking story, but not the usual sort. Bear with me. For reasons I’m not sure of I went for twenty years without returning to Hong Kong, a place that had had a grip on me for years. But now I have found that the Hong Kong of my youthful navy days has faded away. The demi-Shanghai, the outpost of empire, the steamy fleshpot is no more. Like Tijuana, she’s grown up and got respectable.... Read More

Tusker Beer | Jambo! Crossing the Great Divide in Africa.

I didn’t know it would turn into a Tusker beer story. It was my first trip to Africa and I had stepped into a neighborhood bar in Nairobi, Kenya; the kind of place ordinary guys stop in on their way home from work, or use as a respite from normal cares. You know: an African “Cheers” kind of joint. The place was crowded with regulars so I gingerly shouldered my way to the bar. “Jambo!” the barman said, giving me the national... Read More

Baja California Murderer’s Eggs

Baja California After leaving the paved road I had some trouble locating the arroyo. It was dusk and the features of the land were all beginning to look the same in the Baja California desert. I made rapid drives up two or three openings in the terrain only to encounter rock walls. Finally, in the last of the light, I recognized a distinctive portion of the skyline of jagged hills up ahead that could lead us through the arroyo and into a valley.... Read More

San Francisco Noir: Wandering the City’s Night

Aunt Charlie’s Around the glitzy tourist hotels and fancy eateries of downtown San Francisco the Tenderloin district wraps itself. This smarmy sea laps up against the shores and flows into the bays and inlets of the central city wherever high priced real estate is lacking. Its currents run round the islands of prosperity and its waves slam smack into the breakwaters of Hilton and Renaissance. From the towers of those two hotels you can... Read More

Tequila – The Great Montezuma

Bernal Diaz, The Conquistador, rode with Cortez from the very start of his conquests. He knew the Generalissimo and his beautiful Mayan interpreter, advisor and mistress:Dona Marina. He knew the near erotic thrill and the soul shaking horror of Cortez’s great enterprise. He knew and admired the man he referred to as “the great Montezuma.” And I think he drank tequila with his cocoa. Diaz was a close observer. He noted well both the grand... Read More