Friday, March 10, 2006

Introducing "Sleeping in the Gutters" by Muff Richardson

One morning in Phnom Penh I woke up early to get some photos of mist on the Mekong River. The streets were quiet and cool, the sidewalk cafes full of moto drivers sipping tea and eating noodle soup. Walking down a backstreet near the Central Market, I heard the irregular thump of drunken footsteps and turned to find a wild-eyed Westerner limping after me. Two buttons were missing from his shirt and the fly of his pants was open, but something in his fleshy sun-burned face exuded a hopeful, desperate, sincerity, so I let him catch up.

"Cheers," he said, catching his breath. "Good thing I ran into you. Just came to, you see. No memory. And someone seems to 'ave nicked me wallet so I've no cash either. You wouldn't happen to 'ave a few thousand spare riels, would you? I've a flight back to Japan to catch in four hours and my bags are up at Lakeside."

"Japan?" I was rummaging through my pockets for a handful of Cambodian notes.

"Japan, yeah," he replied. "Been working there for 'bout 15 years now it is. Not the same job of course. Lot of different ones. It's not a bad place to make a quid if you know your way abouts, like."

I couldn't believe it. "I live there too! A little different from Cambodia, isn't it."

He throught for a moment, absently caressing a welt on his forehead.

"Nah, just a matter of how the bastards go about rippin' a fellow off. Name's Muff by the way, thanks really for saving me like this, much appreciated and all."

He turned to go, then stopped, considering. "I've got no business card now, account of my wallet is gone, but seeing as you helped me out of a tight spot here, if you ever find yourself in Osaka look me up and we'll hit a hostess bar I know. Cheap place. There's a Russian bird works there, not much to look at, but get a few vodka redbulls in her and ..." He patted his crotch affectionately, realized his fly was open, and hastily zipped it to the top.

I scrawled my e-mail address on a 500 riel note and handed it to Muff, who stuffed it in his pocket. "Cheers, then," he said, and stumbled off in the direction of a moto stand.

I shrugged off the incident as just one of those crazy things that happen in Cambodia, never expecting to hear from Muff again, so it was a pleasant surprise to arrive at work one day and find a long, apologetic e-mail from "" Muff had made it back to Japan, but was already planning a trip back to Cambodia - "lovely country, just really a lovely place." Since then, I've had the pleasure of recieving a few more e-mails from Mr. Richardson, correspondence that never fails to leave me shaking my head and crying tears of laughter. I don't necessarily approve of Muff's lifestyle (and sometimes I think he doesn't either), but it's nice to know he's out there, somewhere between a bottle of Nikka Black and the Russian Hostess Bar.

Muff is a talented writer, a sort of roly-poly Hunter S. Thompson, but without the bitterness. I recently asked him permission to post some of his e-mails on this site in exchange for a few beers, and he cheerfully consented.

And so it is my pleasure to present the first segment of "Sleeping in the Gutters," published below under the headline "Shimura Cleaning". Sleeping in the Gutters will appear around twice a month in this space. You can contact the author at All comments and queries are welcome, but he especially hopes to hear from "any birds that's not too particular like." Finally, please remember that any opinions and vulgarities in "Sleeping in the Gutters" do not necessarily reflect my own views. Enjoy!


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