Charlie Allenson

Our friend Charlie Allenson had a big birthday a few days ago, and we had big plans to give him a shout out that day and find ourselves, THE DAY AFTER, having been swept away by..everything. Damn. Charlie’s at the jazz festival in New Orleans so we thought we’d publish some of the very cool photos he sent us when he was in Vietnam recently. They are right up our alley of totally, seriously, charmingly improvised  LIFE that seems to happen everywhere there, like the floating villages of Ha Long Bay. This house, above, appears to be floating on oil drums and styrefoam block. There is no supermarket; a market boat makes regultrips to each floating house.

Charlie leads workshops in adaptive thinking, so he’s got an eye for just that. We especially like the delivery vehicles – bikes and mopeds – even baby carriages – he spotted, with odd, often massive loads secured by bungee cords…


Fruits and vegetables are transported in rigged carriers…

…then set down on the street to make an impromptu mobile produce stand…

This streetside shoe store is a similar play on the theme of mobile and rent-free (it appears to be in a baby carriage):

…this rather makeshift restaurant serves wonderful food…

Houses at Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia are built on stilts because of frequent floods, an adaptation to the realities at hand…

Charlie Allenson

Charlie Allenson

…If your dogs are tired, you can go for a fish massage…

…the fish swim around and gently nibble you…sounds just swell…

Thanks a million Charlie! We hope you’re having a FUNNY and HAPPY  birthday.

Charlie’s website is Improving with Improv.

Related posts: how to haul stuff on a bike shanghai-style

improvised bike trailer and storage bins

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2 replies on “vietnam’s culture of improvisation via charlie allenson (happy birthday charlie!!!)

  1. By email from a reader:
    “sally – you are featuring my hanoi! how excellent. i know i told you the story of the woman at one of the markets there who fashioned a vegetable peeler out of a chopstick, a razor blade and some rubber bands, but life there is just full of the improvised life’s sensibility — the idea that objects have no fixed purpose and that you have to look at them neutrally to see the many things that they can do and be used for.

    as to the street as the store, i always said you could sit on your stoop and get everything you needed to live, including great diversions, laughter (there’s always something amazing and funny going on) and socializing….

    thanks so much for this wonderful trip down memory lane – those cold gray winter hanoi days spark a special glow in my heart, ironically enough.

    one item though: tonle sap lake is in cambodia, not vietnam….

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