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Just Back: Patti Smith From Vietnam

This picture was taken outside the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi. I like the way Vietnamese museums are so humble: you just pay your money and you're left alone. THEN AND NOW: I have a long personal relationship with Vietnam. Many of my high school classmates were killed in the war. Later, my artist and writer friends were very active in protesting it. The song called "Memento Mori" on my album Peace and Noise was about my late husband's best friend, who was shot down in a helicopter. On my most recent album, Gung Ho, I tell the story of the life of Ho Chi Minh. The amazing thing is that the Vietnamese aren't interested in the war at all. They don't try to make you feel guilty about it. When I was in Hanoi people were gathering things to send to flood victims in the center of the country. The papers said it was the biggest collective effort since the war. Nuns, monks, and citizens everywhere donated huge boxes of clothing, food, and water. That was beautiful to see. ON THE STREET: All kinds of places here have really romantic names, like the Temple of Literature. There's the street of silk, the street of silver, the street of coffins, the street of sugar, the street of tin. On one street alone you can find every button you could ever dream of! I didn't buy a lot, but I did get some silk Vietnamese flags. I'll probably use one to cover my amplifier.

--Interviewed by Lauren David Peden

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