Laugh At The Gringo (Part 1)
I travel all over the world looking for the best stuff. This is because my father travelled all over the world looking for the best stuff. One of my earliest memories of him was seeing him off to South Korea in the late sixties. He was going to visit a couple of wig factories. It took him two days and five connections to get there. I remember him calling and I heard my own echo down the trans-Pacific cable.
Its easier now. One hop and I hit Tokyo. Or Beijing. Or London. It has to be done if you are going to get really nice hair and find good people to make it into the type of hair systems and wigs that you want. Just going to a wholesaler is not going to give us the quality that has made our name. It has always made what we do special. I don’t do it as often as I did years ago because I (i) hate business travel, and (ii) hate being away from my family for so long.
But about 12 or 13 years ago I was visiting a factory in the Philippines. It was located in a small city to the south of Manila, near a still active smoking volcano. The manager then was an elderly but spry man named Clen. Whenever I would visit he would take me to a bar to help me get over my jet lag. I also think it was a great excuse for him to get out of the house. On this visit we were in a restaurant/bar on the outskirts of town. The place had these huts that you would have drinks and dinner in and we were just catching up with business gossip when a patrol of soldiers in full fatigues and assault rifles walked in. Clen immediately stood up and started talking in Tagalog to the lieutenant. He then turned to me and explained “It is because of the election gun ban. During an election period no one is allowed to carry guns. They are enforcing the ban.” He produced his i.d. showing that he was a local councillor and spread his arms to allow himself to be searched. They respectfully said that that was not necessary. I then stood up and spread my arms for them to search me. Oh how they laughed! I have never caused a group of people that much hilarity. One private had to lean on his rifle. The idea of this 155 lb gringo in a t-shirt and shorts being a possible threat to anyone was too much for them to bear. Clen bought them a round of drinks at the bar and they left, still chuckling.
The next morning I met Clen, and his assistant Bernard, in his office. I mentioned that it was a good thing he was not carrying a weapon last night or we would have been in a lot of trouble. He was surprised for a moment, then said ‘Oh, no. I had my gun.’ He then reached behind him and brought out a huge .45 automatic handgun and put it on the desk. I was not only startled at the fact that he brought out this cannon (a .45 is the largest bore hand gun made, designed specifically for when the United States was dealing with a Philippino rebellion 100 years ago, it’s insane stopping power was the only thing that would slow the Philippino rebels down), but he put in on the desk so that it was pointed just above my belly button. I turned to his assistant and asked him if he knew his boss was armed to the teeth. He said yes and then produced his own .45 from the small of his back and put it on the desk. This one too was pointed at me. This was very unnerving for a guy from Yorkville. I asked if they could move them so they weren’t looking at me. They thought my fear of these things going off was funny. Ha ha. I guess the one with the heavy artillery laughs the loudest. I started wondering if there was anyone besides me ‘packing rods’.
It seems that it is just not considered being a good host if you do not make sure that you are also your guest’s armed bodyguard. There was no way Clen would allow me to go out to a bar without him being loaded for bear. I just hope that he could shoot half as well as he could bluff. But I have to also say he made some of the best hair systems that I ever saw. Part of the price one pays to get the best stuff.