In Vietnam I have two membership cards. The first is to Cinematheque, Hanoi’s art-house cinema. The screen is only slightly larger than most people’s televisions, and it smells of mildew.
Everything else about Cinematheque is awesome. For example, the tickets cost $2.50 and they have a little courtyard café where you can have dinner and a drink before the movie. Nathan invariably gets the steak frites, I invariably get the spaghetti della casa, and we both invariably share a bottle of red wine, resulting in one of us falling asleep during the movie. On Friday we went to see To Die For. It was Nathan who fell asleep.
Usually they show the typical film festival documentaries and wanky European films, but they also show classics, such as The Princess Bride or Point Break. That is correct: Point Break.
The Vietnamese guy who runs the ticket counter is very strange and has a habit of making “jokes” that are actually just confusing statements. Such as:
Me: Here is my membership card.
Him: No, you are no longer a member!
Me: What… do… you… mean?
We like him despite, or maybe because of, this. One time we gave him an unwanted tin of German herring that we had acquired:
Nathan: We want to give you this fish.
And that’s how we showed him that he doesn’t have a monopoly on weird in this town.
My other membership card is for the Viet Fighter gym. I also have a Viet Fighter t-shirt, which has cut-off sleeves and features two Viets fighting. It makes me look like a lesbian. Nathan has one too. It makes him look like a lesbian also.
The gym is primarily for Muai Thai kick-boxing, and – something I always laugh at when I read it on their timetable – “grappling”, but I go to their cardio and circuit training classes.
It’s basically a large tin shed with some fans, a tyre attached to a chain, some ropes, three punching bags, and chin-up straps. It couldn’t be more ghetto if it tried.
After I tired of the instructor playing the same Black Eyed Peas songs on repeat during our classes, I decided to make him some CDs. I thought he’d just use them for the classes that I’m in, but one day I arrived during a kick-boxing class to find that all my favourite Diana Ross and Cyndi Lauper hits were now the featured soundtrack to several burly men kicking the crap out of each other. It was extremely pleasing.
“I’m in the mid – BOOF – dle of a – THWACK – chain re – URGH – act – WHAM – ion.”
This is the first membership I’ve ever owned relating to any kind of physical activity, and indeed it’s the first gym I’ve ever been to, usually preferring the park or my lounge-room. I go regularly and I’m actually pretty good at it.
It’s been hard for me to readjust my image of myself as a fit person. It was such a defining characteristic of my youth, always being the last one picked for the team. I brought that completely on myself, by conforming so self-righteously to what the sporty types expected of the nerds.
For the same tightly-wound reasons I was a non-dancer right up until my late twenties. So was Anthony. We sat on the sidelines of sports carnivals, and we sat with our arms folded at the school dances.
Not too long ago he and I were dancing together at a party, probably to some nineties classic which made us nostalgic. We remarked on just how transformationally wonderful it is to be liberated from the self-consciousness of youth, and then we danced like total spazzes.