This is what it’s like. It’s the Ireland of Asia here. People know how to do business on the bottle. Married Korean men are called ajeossis and they have alcohol poisoning by 9:00 p.m. on a Tuesday and dodder into the street. I’ve pulled a few out of the way of busses. Ajummas are the old ladies. Many are hunchbacked. Human prunes. They never smile. You could look for a happy ajumma until the sun burns out. Well I would hate to be that old too.
You see some North Korean refugees in Seoul. Their limbs are too short. And you can tell just by looking at someone that they don’t have their social toolbox in order. The wrong plugs in the wrong sockets. Gulags don’t really produce the hippest of cats. They had to get all the way through China and down into Laos to get here, because China will send North Koreans back if they catch them. Fucking China.
So what is it like, being here. All day I try to keep it light. My students are midway through the Bataan Death March that is the Korean education system. They’re perpetually strung-out and twitchy like they’re duct-taped into suicide bomber vests and someone else has the detonator. I’m their Patch Adams. After class 13 year-old girls tackle me in the hallways and make kissy-faces. Totally cool here. Other teachers chuckle as they observe this. So this is life as a Backstreet Boy. Pedophiles want to be me.
Caveman-level English and physical comedy. In another time I’d have been a court jester. Perfect for a dumb guy like me. And I am dumb–I’m 6’7” and I don’t play basketball. There is a me in an alternate universe who has a Timberwolves contract with $18 million in guaranteed money. He gets blown in his infinity pool under the starlight and wonders what life would be like if he never shot 3s. Well, sir, you live in Korea and have a blog no one reads, that’s what life is like.
So, the weekend. All the sleep of a rock star, but with none of the drugs. Got my contract re-signing bonus—guaranteed money—and Seoul is your typical Asian metropolis: goddamn Vice City. No open container laws. You just get into a taxi with a beer in your hand.
The money. A lesser man would go fuck some hookers. But I prefer to objectify women who are not hookers. Not that I want to—my mother raised me right and I have three little sisters—but I hear that’s what writers are supposed to do. If you want to leave hackville and get on a different level. So, let’s get on with it.
What I should do is: stay in and finish that Terry Pratchett and then write an extra thousand words on Saturday night. And if I still lived in the Seacoast that’s what I would do. But life here is simply not real. You go out on the weekends and there are only like eight other guys out and four of them are wearing baggy flannel which is the same thing as stamping I Hate Pussy, Please Don’t Talk To Me on their foreheads. I could program my own Matrix to live in and I wouldn’t change a thing. I was called a dick this weekend, on Saturday night. A girl was mad that I stopped responding to her. Even though her last message was essentially a “fuck off.” Princess. She’s used to groveling. So it felt really nice—I would have programmed that in, too. This never used to happen. Up next on the bingo card is a drink to the face. Or does that only happen in movies.
One year. I drink less than I used to. I can play guitar and do four dead-hang pullups now; it used to be zero. And that’s with two hours in the gym three times a week. Fucking hell, man. Well, I’m large, I’m heavy. I don’t watch TV and have read thirty books since I got here. I’m a little more funny and a bare smidge more confident. At this rate I’ll be the person I actually want to be by the time I’m 50, but by that point who the fuck cares.
The sky is just apocalyptic. Yellow dust from China, because China doesn’t give a fuck. China’s factories are cranking around the clock like Sauron assembling his war machine at Isengard. But it’s a whole country full of Isengards. Yellow dust and nanoparticles. It’s going to kill billions. If this were a movie then everyone on the Asian continent would have superpowers. Which one would I get. Yellow dust. I went out riding in it this weekend. Two hours on Friday and another two on Saturday. Mashing pedals until you’ve got not an atom of glycogen left and your RPMs get critical. You ride on the canal past Gimpo International and the 767s take off so close the landing gear could skim your helmet. Their engines shake your handlebars.
Friday night my thighs locked up and I couldn’t extend my legs anymore. I lay on a long hill next to a bus stop and looked down at the Han River, with the light show on the bridge. The city around me was mighty. Shining with a hundred million watts. Sometimes things are perfectly in balance. So any change would therefore be a negative. Be undesirable.
A good moment to go out, if I had to pick one. I’m not saying I want to die. Not at all. But if the North finally flexed and pressed the red button and the bomb was falling I wouldn’t rush out of the crosshairs. We’re going over the cliff anyway. TIME says we’ll be out of clean water by 2030. Ted Cruz is going to be president. Robots will do your job. Fucking hell, man. But the nuclear blast flash-boils the water in your brain and you die in a tenth of a second. You won’t even have time to think: holy shit, I’m about to die.
But it won’t happen. I have to get old and watch everything devolve. Watch the machine crumble and break. Because Kim jong-un is a big fat pussy.