When I worked security for a brothel in upstate New York

A colorful pile of shoes. (Photo credit: DepositPhotos)

By Guest Contributor: Kathryn Clemensts

A moment of indecision can have life-altering consequences. I already knew that and I knew I had to act when I heard the growl and muffled whimpering. 

I was fed up hearing about the girls taking punches. Few of them used the alarm buttons because they were afraid of losing trade, id est of being told to leave and don’t come back. Accusations of violence were a matter of a hooker’s word against a punter’s. Guys can be clever enough to not leave visible marks. The internal marks of degradation are harder to bandage up and their cumulative effect can be devastating. 

Why is it then, that when a john has gotten what he wanted, he feels the need to assert superiority by striking the woman who took his money? By beating her he punishes her for an act that took two to carry out. It’s his way of letting her know “You shouldn’t have done that but I’ll be back in a couple days to get more, if not with you then with someone else.” Picture a backwater town in upstate New York kept alive by traffic on the way to a state-maintained castle, a popular spot with tourists. There are seasonal highs and lows. 

What keeps people going during the lows? Well, if you’re not an agrarian or connected to that, there are two other options open to you: sex or drugs. Take your pick; they’re not mutually exclusive. 

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Phở, fuh, and the secrets of Vietnamese noodles

A bowl of phở with chopsticks on a wooden table.

By Guest Contributor: Nam Le

“It’s pronounced phở, not fuh.” 

It is a joyless sentence to say, if I am ever saying it at all.

My first language is a rusty hand-me-down — the kind of thing I am shy to show in public, because it always has to be wrangled out of my pockets awkwardly. But it does work; and on this occasion, it strains and reaches for the last inflection —a balloon rising out of the throat —then sticks the landing.

The distinction does not register.

“I don’t get it. I’m saying what you’re saying. Fuh.”

“You know what? It’s fine. Let’s just go eat.”  

I leave the rest of what I am thinking unsaid—because it has to be.

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