Nashville Cyclo


May 11, 1967Nashville Cyclo
Cu Chi, Vietnam

Well, Pat, if I was home, the first pretty Sunday we had, you and I would hop in the car and go down to the lake and have us a picnic. I plan on doing these things when I get out of the army. Besides, we will have to take Chance down there and let him ride the train and the other rides. He would probably enjoy that train very much. We got to teach him how to act when we go places.

 – From a letter to my father, James Chambers, wrote to my mother.


The summer I started drinking gin, I saw a cyclo on Main Street in Nashville. Not exactly a cyclo. With the passenger seat in back, it was more of a rickshaw. A cyclo seats the customer between two front wheels, like a reverse tricycle with a rumble seat against the handlebars. Still, the driver pedaling his quiet cab up the nearly empty downtown street made me think of the rows of cyclos parked in Hoi An, sometimes with a driver napping in one.

The two times I visited Vietnam, I never took a cyclo anywhere. Something just didn’t feel right about expecting someone to work so hard to get me somewhere I could probably walk. Sure, I would’ve paid for it and I understood it was the driver’s livelihood. Still, I couldn’t get past the vision of some unfortunate fellow pedaling my fat western ass up a hill in ninety degree heat for what amounted to a few American dollars.

Now Nashville has cyclos—sort of—and I haven’t ridden one of those either. But I will. One night, I’ll ride one from Japanese whisky to 3:30 AM pizza. Then I’ll take one to Love Circle and watch a sunrise reminder that cities are for lovers and drunks. All this I’ll do to mark the beginning of the Season of Goodbye.

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