Eulogies for Fred Colton

Loyal Readers:

It is with a heavy heart that I must report this will be the last update on Fredcolton.com, The #1 Blog of All Time. The reason? I’m dying. I’m typing this on my deathbed right now, actually. Yes, a little hospital room in Seoul is where the sands will run out for your boy Fred.

Why is this? Well, the consequences of living the high life. You all remember the story of how I moved to Korea and became a fabulously wealthy titan and captain of industry, a CEO with his very own 100-story skyscraper and a net worth that, when converted to large bills and stacked, could impale the goddamn moon. It all went to my head. I splashed my cash on all the trappings of a made man: fitted suits and diamond cufflinks and silk ties, which I donned during those endless nights in Gangnam’s Club Octagon with KPop stars, puffing hand-rolled cigars and sneering while I doused the peasantry on the dance floor with champagne bottles.

All the fast living and general douchebaggery officially caught up to me this afternoon. I dropped in for a routine checkup and discovered that not only do I have late-stage inoperable lung cancer, but my liver is about to burst, unleashing a tsunami of toxins into my bloodstream. Then there’s the alphabet soup of STDs I just tested positive for. This is less than ideal. I always knew the heavy hammer of karma would come back to bitch slap me, but not this hard. Not this soon. The doctor told me I’d screwed up, that even a diet of battery acid and jet fuel would have been healthier. He said I might as well just stay right here in the hospital, because I’d be dead in about three hours, or less time than it takes to watch Titanic all the way through.

So now I’m in a backless hospital gown (what you’ll most likely be wearing when you die) hooked up to beeping machines that seem annoyed I’m still alive, while a nurse I just begged for intimacy (hey, wouldn’t you want it one more time if you knew you had only a few thousand seconds left on the clock?) peeks in every ten minutes to see if I’ve kicked it yet. Come on, Kyung-min. At least a cheek peck. No? OK. A thoroughly humbling way to go out, being denied a cheek peck. Here I am, alone at the end. Not even Kim Mi-yun, my loyal twenty-two year-old masseuse/secretary/typist/assistant/skirt-wearer has dropped by to see me off.

So, being that I could use a quick little pick-me-up before the curtains drop and my star burns out forever, I’ve decided to leak the news of my death early, so I can pull a little Tom Sawyer maneuver and see what my own funeral would be like. Because like everything else nowadays, the eulogies have moved into the digital realm. Even if people won’t bother showing up to your wake they’ll still post a glowing tribute to you on your Facebook wall that you’ll never get to read anyway. Well, I want to read them. What better way to go out that to be absolutely inundated with pure, uncut validation and affirmation? I just had a hospital orderly call my parents in the States and say I’d just passed. I rub my hands and refresh my browser. Here are the incoming posts:

“Fred, heard you died. I guess dreams do come true. Thank God and good riddance.”

What? Well I guess you don’t make it to the mountaintop without acquiring a few busloads of haters.

“Fred, I heard you just died and it made me so happy I rose up from my wheelchair for the first time in years and danced a jig. I hate you so much that the mere news of your death CURED MY PARALYSIS.”

Damn. OK, let’s keep going. There’s got to be something good on here.

“If I had a time machine that I could only use once, I would use it to stop you, not Hitler, from being born.”

Well to be fair, between all the Instagram selfies of me in the VIP section, or me sunning on my yacht next to a bevy of nude models while flipping off the camera…I was kind of a prick down the home stretch of my life (but to be even fairer, I had no idea it was the home stretch! I didn’t have time for a third-act crisis of conscience followed by a character development montage).

“You smug asshole. Now that you’re dead, I can die happy. I’ve been fighting cancer for years, and your death was literally all I was waiting for before I gave up, you goddamn prick.”

“I hope you’re not completely dead yet when they shove you in the oven and start to cremate you.”

“Wait, Fred Colton died? Oh my God!!! Yes!…Anyone know what hospital? I want to drop by and just make sure. Bringing a pillow to smother him just in case.”

“I converted to witchcraft just so I could learn how to cast spells and mix up potions that would kill you. After dismembering dozens of bats and raccoons, my sorcery has paid off. Best day of my life. Now, time to covert back to Catholicism.”

“Anyway know where his tombstone is gunna be? I just chugged a 12er of Heineken in celebration and I wanna go piss on it.”

“Fred, we had a beer together once, all you did was talk about yourself. I hope that beer was the one that pushed your liver past its breaking point.”

“Hope you packed sunscreen. Heard Hell’s hot.”

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The Horrible Heartache of Fred Colton

It was the sizzling, furnace-hot summer of 2014 and times were tough for your boy Fred here.

Kim Mi-Yun, my knockout sexpot of a twenty-two year-old typist/secretary/masseuse at Colton International Group had repeatedly refused to marry me, despite my Gangnam penthouse, despite my platinum-plated helicopter, despite the fact that my underwear had my initials stitched into them, and despite the grand spectacle of my daily proposals (with marching bands and red rose bouquets the size of asteroids).

She’d always just say, “No thank you, Mistah Kohl-tun. Here is your coffee.” And then the awkward shuffle would commence as the band members and florists vacated the complex. See, Kim Mi-Yun was technically taken, dating some broke beanie-wearing graffiti artist who apparently spent all his time spray-painting shit in Hongdae. This guy, Kim Mi-Yun? THIS GUY?!

On top of my romantic trials, the creative well was dry. I’d already struck gold twice, with two fantastically lucrative business plans. But (spoiler alert) I’m only human, and I have all the same flaws you do. I wanted more. I wanted to innovate, to once again come up with the Next Big Thing. But it wasn’t happening. No more eureka moments, no more flashes of brilliance.

Once you’ve stood up on that mountaintop and stretched your arms to the sky and dared to proclaim yourself equal to the gods, that feeling becomes all you can think about. Once or twice or thrice is not enough. Ask LeBron, ask Tom Brady. You’ve spoiled your dinner.  Normal life will no longer thrill you, enough money to buy Poland will no longer satisfy you.

I was stuck in a dark funk, showing up to CIG’s Seoul skyscraper bright and late at 2:00 pm every day in sunglasses and my panda-patterned bathrobe. I was half Howard Hughes/half Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne, stalking around my corner office on the 100th floor with a terrorist beard, mainlining soju and storing my urine in glass Coke bottles as I used binoculars to scope out the windows at the Han River, where my test pilots were doing prototype flights on the new tech. See, I thought commercially-available jetpacks were going to be the next big thing. I’d sunk nearly two billion won into R&D on the project, but we couldn’t get the damn things to hover right and my pilots kept crashing into bridges and swan boats.

Little did I know that I was about to do it again. The Next Big Thing was, again, just over the horizon.

 

 

It started as a ploy to project a more stable, domesticated, family-man image so that Kim Mi-Yun would reconsider my proposals. (Which kept coming, daily, but at this point I was so lazy and frustrated I was just Skyping into her smartphone to pop the question.)

So, I bought a chain of hagwons (private after-school English academies) and even shaved and started teaching some classes. I made sure to have my photographer with me at all times to update my Instagram feed (which Kim Mi-Yun is contractually obligated to be a follower of, see: Terms of Employment) with pictures of me tutoring the students, giving them piggy-back rides, and refereeing their rock-paper-scissors tournaments.

But that was just Phase One of my battle plan. Phase Two entailed calling up my guy in the Seoul Metropolitan PD and having Kim Mi-Yun’s artist boyfriend arrested on false drug charges, earning him five years in prison—but she said she’d wait for him till he got out. This guy, Kim Mi-Yun? THIS GUY!? God, apparently I need to learn how to spray paint.

My plan was coming apart at the seams and I relapsed back into the doldrums of depression. I was slumping about one evening, knocking back shots of soju in glass given to me by the president when a young mother dropped by my office at the skyscraper. Her young son Ji-hu was a problem, you see. He was an obnoxious little shit I was going to have to kick out of the hagwon for unruly behavior. At the age of six, Ji-hu already had a disproportionate dose of testosterone raging through his bloodstream. He was a pint-size hardass, a bully-in-training who once nut-tapped me for daring to ask him if he liked the color blue. He had the bully gene and needed no instruction; he’d figured out what a toilet bowl swirly was all by himself and had started giving them to the other kids.

His mom was feeling the heat. Single parent, tight income, and she knew her only ticket to a semi-comfortable retirement was Ji-hu growing up on the straight and narrow and getting a job with a decent salary. And at the rate he was going, he was more likely to wind up a convicted felon or mob enforcer than anything else.

“Maybe…we can try…Forrest Gump-uh?” she asked me.

I looked up from my smartphone, which I’d been staring at for two hours as I played with the wording on a “have a good night!” text to send to Kim Mi-Yun. It was only at this point I actually processed what this young mother was wearing. A skirt almost as short as the belt holding it up, and black blouse as tight as—no, wait. That’s no shirt, it’s a lace push-up bra.

OH. Forrest Gump-uh. She was talking about the scene where Forrest’s mom sleeps with his principal to get him advanced up to the next grade. This woman thought that was an option in this scenario, since I was an American, and that’s an American movie.

And then the light bulb above my head clicked on. Folks, Fred Colton was back. I had my Next Big Thing. No more hagwons, I’d have Shagwons instead. Me and my crew of lovelorn fellow expats would welcome the embittered, poorly-adjusted kids that couldn’t make it to the next grade without a little patience and help. And we’d give it to them. Mothers would be grateful. Very, very, truly, deeply grateful. Single mothers only, please. Age 30 (Korean age) and under preferred. (Please attach a verified copy of your birth certificate with your child’s application.)

This was it. In the short time I still had on the clock before my liver exploded, I’d drown my sorrows in flesh, engaging in meaningless dalliances while I gave these misunderstood, disadvantaged kids a shot at life that no one else would. I’d leave my net worth in trust accounts for any and all half-Asian love children that would inevitably come searching for me when they turned 18. Don’t let anyone ever tell you Freddy C didn’t leave this world better than he found it.

I stood and slowly swaggered around the desk. “On second thought, Mrs. Park—Ji-hu has never been anything but a little cherub. He can stay.”

As my hand grazed her cheek, Kim Mi-Yun pushed her way through the heavy oak doors.

Mistah Kohl-tun!” she panted. “Yes. I will marry you. I have changed my mind. My boyfriend is the stupid man! He’s in jail and I won’t be a foolish girl and wait for him!”

I tried to play it off like I’d just been brushing lint off Mrs. Park’s collar—but Mrs. Park wasn’t wearing a collar, remember. It was already far too late. The damage was done; the ship had already hit the iceberg.

Kim Mi-Yun straightened up and smoothed her skirt. “Excuse my interrupting. Have a good evening, Mistah Kohl-tun.”

By now this much was clear: Fate would continue torturing me. I’d already consumed more than my share of happiness and satisfaction, and that’s all I was gonna get.

In that moment, and only in this moment, I had the perfect courage necessary to pull the plug and off myself. I threw my desk chair at the window, which exploded in a spray of glass. I made a furious sprint to the edge and pitched myself into the Gangnam night, arms spread, eyes closed.

Fifty stories down—what the hell!— someone caught me. One of my test pilots was flying around, with a jetpack strapped on.

“We figured out how to make the hovering work, Mr. Colton!” he shouted.

I threw him a jab with my elbow and he let go of me. I fell free again, cackling madly as I tumbled and twirled down fifty more stories to where sweet, sweet death awaited me in the form of the hard sidewalk. I’d crash into it and leave a body-sized imprint like a Loony Tunes character.

But I didn’t hit the sidewalk. I landed on the asteroid-size bouquet of flowers from today’s proposal as it was being wheeled out of the lobby. Plumes of rose petals fluttered about in the night breeze.

So, that was that. I had taken my shot and, somehow, incredibly, it hadn’t worked. And I didn’t have the balls to attempt it again. If you’re looking for you boy Fred these days, he can be seen drunk-flying a jetpack through the city canyons of Seoul, en route to his next shagwon appointment, feverishly attempting to fill the Kim Mi-Yun-sized hole in heart.

 

 

 

 

Age of the Selfie

I’m locked in thick pedestrian sidewalk traffic near Seoul’s Hongdae bar/club/partyzone district. Prospects of escape look dire. Actually, I want to get a little more specific: I’m not actually a pedestrian, I’m an urban salmon, perpetually jumping upstream through the molasses-slow crowds of highly-distracted smartphone users. They’re either lazily drifting or stopped altogether, bunched up in cliques, snapping trillions of gigabytes worth of selfies (Seoulfies? Patent pending.) I’m aware it’s probably the same in your city. But I’m going to pick on Koreans right now, particularly the sophisticated, high-caste, shutter-snap-happy folk who populate the Capital. It probably seems worse right now because the sidewalks are narrower.

Welcome to 2014. All you can hear are shutter clicks, all you can see are duck lips. I don’t always head into Seoul, but when I do, I’m stuck on a sidewalk, twisting and juking around the human roadblocks. I’m just trying to get to Point B. I wonder if these people even have a Point B, based on how slowly they’re traveling. Do they now pad their walking time when they leave the house? “Well, hey, you know we always take a shitload of selfies on the way there, so let’s plan on 20 minutes instead of 10…bring your extra phone battery.”

Reader, we now come to a fork in the road. We could A) beat a long-dead horse and waste our time analyzing the cultural, technological, and psychological catalysts that led us to the Age of the Selfie, or we could B) jump cut to the future, to see the far-reaching effects of the Age of the Selfie.

I choose B. Welcome to 2114. All you can hear is the soft rustling of dust that used to be human bone being blown around by the radioactive wind. All you can see are the blackened, bombed-out husks of the homes of everyone you’ve ever known and loved. Alien pioneers are exploring our Earth, wading through the rubble man left behind and finding millions of small, glassy rectangles lying around.

The more astute members of the search party may deduce these rectangles are communication/recording devices of some kind. Tentacles perk up in excitement as they use their advanced power sources to fire up an iPhone 5S or a Samsung Galaxy S5. Tentacles then go flaccid with disappointment as the aliens discover a dearth of photographic records of any value. What they find on these devices are—yes, reader, you guessed correctly—millions upon millions of selfies.

As the aliens swipe a leathery green appendage across the screen to advance through each smartphone’s photo roll, they ask each other many questions. Chief among them: “Why so many? It’s just a photo of the same Earthling, over and over. Sometimes with a friend. Did the Earthlings expect their appearance to change between each photo? Did Earthlings’ appearances change very rapidly? Were they shapeshifters?”

Also: “Why did Earthlings hold the device with their own hands to take so many pictures of themselves? Did never have another friend around to take a picture for them? Did most Earthlings not have any friends? Were they all in love with themselves, and always alone, too? Write that down, Zorplax, that’s a good observation for when we write the history of this place.”

And: “Did the Earthlings never develop our mirror technology? Did this species have memory-loss issues and therefore need to frequently take these photographs so as not to forget what they look like? Again, write this stuff down. I think we’re onto something here.”

Most members of the extra-terrestrial search party soon become bored and wander away. But two of them linger and exchange a look of pure mischief. They extend a tentacle, holding an iPhone out in front of them, and both aliens put their bulbous heads together and twist their disgusting slimy mouths into a little pout as they take the picture. They laugh—an odd, squeaky, snorting sound—select a filter, and take another shot. They start to really enjoy this.

They spend hours doing this. And when they re-board their ship and hover away to explore another region of this blackened, bombed-out landmass, they take the iPhone with them.