Like a scene from Cinema Paradiso (when the film producer returned to his village just to find out his beloved movie house demolished for a parking lot) I too start seeing the skyline of Saigon rising, blocking the old bank where my sister used to work. Another one is being planned next to cho Ben Thanh where on a Sunday stroll, one could hear restless horses tapping their shoes on city pavement.
Modernity and memories.
Future and nostalgia. Progress and the Past.
More square feet from above and less stretching room down below.
Skyscrapers and shanty towns share the same eco-sphere.
Pedicabs and taxicabs, Marlboro and cappuccino.
I remember the go-go bars on what used to be called Tu Do (now Dong Khoi). Our first rock and roll band played there at Ritz (Jo Marcel) with matinée show, which I sneaked in to hear. Toi muon minh la thu co cay, vui trong gio va khong uu phien (just want to be wild flowers, flirting in the wind without worry).
The 60’s America sang about “share the land”, while its military industrial complex “spray the land”. Now people are planning to build on the land.
Green building and green bag of money.
More living space on top of bank, more trees in the middle of concrete structure.
Let’s do it.
Let’s do a deal.
No more Cinema Paradiso.
Just lost love and lost youth.
The village fool still stands in the town square, wondering what all the fuss was about. To him, cinema or parking lot, skyline or battle line, are the same. He never got a chance to be in the game.
He never even registered that his presence was acknowledged, much less his opinion.
Our iconic producer however felt a lump in his throat, seeing the icon of his youth got demolished. As of this edit, my old neighborhood cinema just happened to catch fire.
You can never swim in the same river twice.
Certainly not here in the Saigon River.