The Year of The Monkey

New Year’s Fucking Eve. Big night out in Seoul ahead of me. Gotta get my social skills warmed up for this rooftop party. Though it’s not like I really need them, because we’ll be drinking. Mostly I just feel insane pressure to not look stupid in the Facebook pictures. Parties last forever online.

Fred the Bachelor stays in 2015. He was a candle that burned bright and fast. This year my girlfriend is moving in, joining me in exile here on the Korean coast. We’ve been fighting but I hear it’s good to fight at this stage of a relationship. Plus the sparring is a good mental workout. We’re also partaking in the punditry of nitpicking other couples when they aren’t around, which I forgot how much I enjoyed.

They offered me a third year at my school today, and of course they did. I do everything around this motherfucker. My co-teachers are living high off the hog, drawing a full salary to sit in the back of the room and text on KakaoTalk while I do battle up at the whiteboard. Felt good to say no to them. I’m out of this frigid workaholic gulag for good. This year I’ll go somewhere else and get a motorcycle. And keep writing, even though I don’t want to. At the very least I need to downshift. I should write less because most of the time it makes me hate the way I think. Being a no-name blogger is relentlessly embarrassing, though quitting would probably be even more embarrassing. So what I’ll do is write less and start watching TV again. Too many conversations are going by where I don’t know what’s going on. Potential future friendships, based around “oh I love that show too,” hang in the balance.

Anyway, let’s do this. One more lap around the block. On the whole it’ll probably be just like the last few were, but that’s all right.

Big Night Out: Thailand Edition

I.

Culturally insensitive and sexually unavailable; I had no business being in Bangkok. But still, we had seven weeks off for Chinese New Year. You gotta spend them somewhere. Thailand is cheap and it’s right there and so it practically just sucks you down into it. We flew in and found not much besides temples and Buddhas and 7 Elevens, all of which I had seen before. People don’t go to Thailand for those reasons though.

Two nights before I’d watched women shoot ping pong balls out of their vaginas and I still felt bad about it. One of them had landed on my arm. Some cohorts had disappeared to go whip girls in cages while I went an internet café for the AC. It was February but still hot as a nuclear blast and I was getting sunstroke.

bangkok is, I gchatted to Richard, who was about to bus over from Cambodia, the Mexico of Asia and also the Mos Eisley of Earth.

you could have no deep dark secrets but the place will make you feel like you do anyway

Richard: lol

well it can’t be that bad, the war orphans here are also sex slaves

Fred: christ

Richard: ur gf with you?

Fred: no she went to vietnam with carrie

Richard: aight

ill be there tomorrow, let’s go to Phuket and meet Woody to watch the super bowl in the morning

Fred: yes, PLEASE

I reached down for my bag and the zipper was open. I hadn’t left it open. I pulled out the notebook where I had hidden 7,000 baht between the pages. The money was gone.

II.

Now I was culturally insensitive, sexually unavailable, and broke.

I figured the thief had cased me at the ATM on the west end of Khao San Road. Saw where I hid my cash. Then when I crossed to the PC café and put my bag down I became an easy target. One smooth lift and he was $200 richer and I was yet another pale moron in deep shit. Guy deserves props. Why get a regular job if you can make that much money in ten seconds.

Richard arrived the next morning and I told him about it over iced coffee on a cobblestone street by the river.

That sucks, he said, but a monkey stole Colin’s wallet at Angkor Wat.

That’s terrifying, I said. They steal for sport. How was Cambodia?

It was cool, he said. We ran into Alex and Eli and all them at the temple.

I focused on not asking any follow-up questions. I liked Alex, but my girlfriend was not Alex.

We watched the humans go by. Lots of bloodshot white people forging ahead into another odd, formless day in purgatory. Some of the newbies were still high off vice.

This is actually making me miss teaching, I said. Having something to do.

What else have you been doing here? Richard asked.

Saw some fucking identical temples for like three days straight, I said. And we ate fried frogs and spiders. And did a snorkel tour off Koh Chang. Three-deck tall boat and you jump off the top of it and land in a school of fish. The whole trip has been downhill from there.

Did you go out last night?

No, I had no money. I bought a single Chang’s and watched Inception in the hostel lobby.

Let’s leave, Richard said.

We got on the bus and he paid my fare. It was twelve hours south to Phuket.

III.

The ride was a small eternity through tropical nirvana. I was too stressed over my money problem to enjoy the beauty. Tony Jaa movies were looped on the monitors and every hour a guy in a starched white shirt came up the aisle and served us Coke and chocolate bars. Richard had his iPod on and I read “The Lincoln Lawyer” in its entirety. We stopped for dinner at a rest area and the spicy beef I ordered made my throat bleed.

Back on the road.

Check it out, Richard said.

A truck hummed by in the lane next to us with a monkey chained up in the back. Then we crossed a long bridge onto Phuket Island and the bus dumped us on a grubby street between two strip malls.

No beach. We checked the map on the station wall.

Shit, I said.

Richard nodded. Yeah, Patong is on the far side of the island. We got off too soon.

We checked the distance: 18 kilometers. Then we checked the time: nine p.m.

No more busses, said the guy inside the terminal. Take motorcycle.

There were drivers puttering around by a banana stand. Opportunists. Their dialect had clicks in it. They wanted 250 baht apiece.

Man, I have no money, I told Richard. Let’s share one.

No good, one driver said. Too heavy, too heavy.

But he took us.

IV.

Three adult males on a scarred-up motorcycle. And Richard and I both had our fat hiking bags on, too. There’s a mountain in the middle of the island and the bike groaned and popped as it pulled all six hundred pounds of us up the thing. Ascent slow as a ski lift and then we hit the summit, three guys on a piece of tin looking down at the sandy crescents with the lights on them.

Gravity caught us and threw us down the mountain. The bike squealed and cut around the tour buses and we kept sliding off course into the opposite lane, going faster, faster, forever faster.

Use the brake! Richard screamed, pointing to it. The driver nodded; he already was. Smoke from the burning brake mixed with bus exhaust. The bike slithered on gravel patches and we knew it was over. We’d hit the guardrail and be impaled on bamboo. We’d be popped open like grapes by the bus tires. The panic was so absolute we were laughing.

When the ground leveled out by the Patong resorts we bailed and walked to Woody’s hostel. Took an hour in our flip flops but that was fine. Being alive was enough. Patong was awnings, neons, Burger King, whores, and patrons unashamed of being seen haggling with whores. Same shit as Bangkok but this time with a view and an ocean breeze to push the garbage smell off the streets.

We got up to the party, on this big balcony with the backpackers, with their tanktops and identical backstories. Boozing was in full effect.

We should buy some Chang’s at 7 Eleven, Richard told me.

I have no money, remember. You got me?

I hoped my pickpocket was, at that moment, having the night of his life, fucking the whore of his life and having the nut of his life while doing so. You do you man. This one’s on me. I’m white and get paid to be so; I’ll bounce back.

This British girl said she’d go shopping with us. We went on down the hill. I was thinking how broke, culturally insensitive, and sexually unavailable I was, cursing two of those three things.

V.

One a.m. The whole gang was at the beach. Hammered and wading, heckling the yachts as they glided by. This guy Dave said he was off to go ‘stick it in an asshole.’ A guy from Detroit passed out in the surf and we had to pull him onto shore. Then I was out by the dock with the British girl, trying not to cheat.

That drowning guy said earlier that he’d had 25 drinks today, I told her.

Drinks and burgers all day, she said. I get sick just thinking of all the chemicals.

I said: Did you know that the American soldiers who died in Vietnam didn’t decompose as fast as they should, because of the preservatives in their diets? Freaked out the locals.

I did know that, she told me.

No, you didn’t, I said.

OK, she said, I didn’t.

Are you going to watch the Super Bowl with us?

Do you think I’m going to watch the fucking Super Bowl? What is a Super Bowl? A really uninteresting superhero?

OK, I said. What are you going to do instead?

I think I’ll drink.

Sexually unavailable, I thought. Sexually unavailable.

VI.

Five a.m. and we were sitting on the twin lion statues outside the hostel. Twenty-two hours awake and floating in a haze. She was coming over to my lion.

I thought: You gotta run, man. You shouldn’t be here.

I told her: All right. I’m gonna go watch the game at the bar. I’ll lose my citizenship if I miss it.

Come up, let’s watch it in the lobby, she said.

Look, I have a girlfriend.

Just a kiss goodnight then, she told me, using one of my tricks.

That still counts, I said, and thought about sliding off the lion and down the hill, but didn’t.

Where’s your girlfriend? she asked.

In Vietnam with her friends.

Ooohh, you miss her. You love her.

No, I hate her, I said. But I couldn’t dump her because we already had this trip planned. Flight and the first half of the trip.

So, you hate her…

Yeah, I said, channeling Lincoln Lawyer courtroom tactics. She’s a rude American, really rude. But I believe in karma a little bit. If we do something then I believe tonight she’ll do something too.

Well, she told me, then maybe it’s—

No, because then even though I do hate her, I’ll magically care all of a sudden if she cheats. That’s how it works.

Do you think she will? she asked me.

It’s vacation, who knows. Everyone’s a slut on vacation.

Heh, she said, and started backpedaling.

Heh, I repeated. Good night Tess.

Time to go. I wasn’t used to working so hard to not get laid. That was a new one. Probably the first man in Thailand to ever do so. I want a medal.

VII.

I went to bed instead of watching the game but Green Bay won. In the morning everyone thought I’d just hooked up so I had to deny it, which was again the opposite of what normally happens. A day later we headed off to see my Peace Corps buddy in Lang Suan. Got caught out in a monsoon and hitchhiked our way out of it in a semi truck. Then after a week on the beach we had to bus back up to Bangkok for our flight to Hong Kong. Back in China I broke up with my girlfriend and got paid. Now instead of being broke, sexually unavailable, and culturally insensitive I was only the last one. But I’m an American, so what do you expect.

 

Time Capsule: Christmas Day

Today’s mood: perfect. Just relaxed enough to not push Korean kids in front of a bus, just dissatisfied enough with my existence to write something. The sweet spot.

Christmas. A Korean colleague proudly presented me some hand cream. Apparently it was some top-shelf shit that her husband got from the masseuses at his spa. Military service is mandatory here, so it’s a land of trained killers who are also androgynous, well-mannicured mannequins. Can’t wait to be out of here. I’ve had my fun. Koreans are loud and Seoul is crowded and concentrated knots of yakking, braying humans make me want to take a chainsaw to them. I want to live in a library forever. Christmas doesn’t mean much here, it’s a couple’s date night really. Smug chunky well-moisturized thirty year-olds in itchy sweaters out in Itaewon for dinner with their too-hot-for-them model chicks, glaring into their phones at the table, sneering down at the homeless by the metro station. I don’t like smug people. Only I am allowed to be smug. It makes me wish North Korea won the war.

But it’s a good place to be for Christmas; didn’t have to buy presents because no one expects me to ship a fucking package from Korea. My sister is in Kenya and my grandparents are in London. Says a lot about our gray New Hampshire hometown that we scattered from it like rats. I did get my lady a good gift but made sure it wasn’t TOO good. Miscalibrated romance is how you lose the girl. In 2005 I made my college girlfriend a stop-motion movie set to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Paper cutout characters. Eight hours of shooting, two all-nighters editing the thing on Final Cut Pro. Had we not been Christians she would have fucked me for a week straight, I thought. In reality I was way too into her, scared her off like a bird flying away from a truck. We never once kissed because she wanted to wait for the altar. Soon afterward God told her we should break up. Unassailable logic in the Christian community. By comparison, my life is now some kind of satisfying epilogue.

Dreams come true. Christmases of a bygone era were when my dad’s brothers would come in from Colorado. I wanted to be Uncle Tom. Dry, goofy, seemed to not care about a thing in the universe. Which is now how people describe me. He was also a bachelor but I’m not right now: I feel like Bachelorhood is a video game I’ve beaten.

On Christmas you reflect. And you will reflect again on New Years. The gentle weight of maturity continues to settle over me. No more yelling at strangers, no more hangovers. Rigorous exercise and vegetable smoothies serve me well and at times I feel immortal. Bad thing. Once you start worrying about nothing, the universe senses it and throws cancer at you. On that pleasant note I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

On Violence

 

Today I flipped over a desk at work and if you’ve never done so, then do so, it’s therapeutic. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m at middle school. Annual tests have concluded and there’s no reason for any of us to be here except for the fact that Koreans are addicted to work. I told the kids that we could watch Christmas with Mr. Bean if we played a vocabulary game first. So get out some paper. This quartet of girls didn’t take out paper. I did a lap around the room; still no paper. Over went the desk. A big blast and then a sweet void of silence settling over the room. They got out paper.

And I’m the good guy. Other teachers put kids in headlocks and pull their hair. Carry around wooden switches to crack their wrists. Peg the mobile ones with basketballs and knock them sideways into the bleachers. And you can’t really disapprove of it, because it gets results and results are rare with children. Respect thrives here. You just need shock and awe. Most people think brutal dictators are evil. I think they’re just former teachers. I too would have blown up Alderaan.

The American Workplace: Ruby Tuesday

wikipedia.org

I.

2012. I flew from Shanghai to JFK with three thousand dollars in my pocket. In China that money could have floated me until Armageddon. But get off the plane in America with three thousand dollars and you might as well have zero. Every second you sit in the First World more of your cash evaporates.

Goddamn, I needed a job. Maybe I’d be a cop. DC Metropolitan was hiring. I filled out a packet the size of a Bible. Checked boxes to answer these questions: Have you ever actively worked to undermine the United States Government? Have you ever had sexual intercourse with or fondled the genitals of any animals, including household pets?

Then I went in to the Mass Processing Day to run an obstacle course while pulling a crash test dummy behind me and shooting a fake 9mm. Then a guy in a blue polo sat me down in an office to go through my packet.

“Colton, have you ever consumed so much alcohol that you ‘blacked out?’”

He seems like a guy’s guy, I thought. I can work with this.

“Haha, only once. I just came from China and there’s this tradition there called Teacher’s Day… there’s a banquet and the goal is to get the new teachers so drunk that you pass out in the restaurant.”

“So…” His sentence unspooled slowly. “You passed out?”

“Uh, well yeah, I did.”

I saw my anecdote, and along with it all hope of camaraderie, going down in flames.

“You know,” the guy said, “alcohol is very big problem in this department.”

“I understand.”

Sandbagging motherfucker, I thought. Acting like every cop who’s ever lived has been a Puritan.

“We’re going to assign a background investigator to vet you. If you’re successful in seeking this position, you’ll start training in April.”

It was August 1st. I couldn’t hold out eight months on my savings. After I paid rent I was going to have about a nickel left.

Goddamn, I needed a job.

II.

No bites from any temp agencies. But Ruby Tuesday in the Gaithersburg Mall was hiring servers, because of course they were. I filled out a half-sheet of basic info.

“You graduated from college,” said the girl at the interview. “BA in Screenwriting.” That’s what her mouth said. What her tone said was: so THAT was the ungodly fuckup that has led you to beg for a job at my door.

What my mouth said was, “Yeah, I really like to write.”

What my tone said was: well actually, the fuckup was that my girlfriend wanted to move here and I didn’t,  but was too nice to break up with her.

“And then you worked as a teacher in China,” she said.

“I did.”

And there, I was a young king. I had gold in my head that I could sell to the natives. Now look at me, groveling for the chance to grovel for pennies.

“What was that like?”

“Unbelievable.”

As Ruby Tuesday would also turn out to be. $3.63/hour. Legal wage because tips make up the difference, except when they don’t.

III.

The first time I understood murder was a Saturday night. Old Ruby’s was busy as a battlefield, new waves of customers spawning ceaselessly. People want their drinks but clean dishes aren’t ready fast enough. You grab a hot glass from the dishwasher and pour a Coke into it and the ice cubes shock the glass and it explodes in the middle of the table and soaks the meal and the customer’s pants. So you’ve got all of these crises to defuse on top of the regular workload, which entails interacting with customers who ask “how much is the tax on a bottle of Heineken” and you tell them and then they pull out a zip-loc full of pennies and dimes and count out exactly that much currency and then nod with profound relief. Then you pivot and delicately politick with high schoolers on dates who saw an ad for a cheap entrée special at Applebee’s, but then conflated Applebee’s with Ruby’s in their minds and now this sixteen year-old who is probably named Ryan is staring up at you, panicking quietly as you break the cold truth to him: no money left over to see Wreck-It-Ralph after the dinner, the film during which he’d planned to get a handjob. These are the tippers upon whom your livelihood depends.

Behind the line Cory dumped sauce on a salmon plate. I ran over but got there too late.

“Cory, man, I ordered it without sauce. The lady’s allergic. Throw on another one.”

“Got you Fred. Just put in the re-cook order on the screen.”

“I’m on my way back out to the screen right now, just please, man, put the salmon on right this second so I can get it out to the table that much faster. It’s a big birthday party and she’s gonna be the only one without her food.”

Cory made a what can you do gesture.

“You gotta order it, man. I have to see it on the screen.”

I looked at the steak knives above the dishwasher. I could get my hand around the grip and have the knife buried hilt-deep in his jugular inside of five seconds. They’d take me to prison. I’d make 90% less per hour to toil in the license plate factory but I also wouldn’t have bills to pay there. I’d be a legend who flayed another man to death after quibbling over salmon.

Back out on the floor a senile Republican couple kept telling me I looked like Mitt Romney. This made me furious, something about him being born rich and never having to do this shit; I thought about going to fetch the knife. Salmon lady’s eyes beamed black hate at me when I gave her the bad news about the unholy delay, and she asked for the manager. I located him just as two Asians sat down in my section. They were speaking Mandarin.

Fuck yeah, I thought. This will be a nice break.

“Hi, good evening. I overheard you speaking Mandarin while I was on the way over. Where are you from, if I may ask? I used to live in—”

The guy actually made a fist.

“We’re from Maryland.” A proud, recent immigrant. Fair enough, man. But now I was fucked. On the back foot from the start.

“…Fred! The glasses are blowing up again.”

When the battle was over I counted up my haul. Didn’t take long: $16 for five hours of high-pressure work in a continually collapsing pocket. $16, what my best hustle was worth. As a dissatisfied diner your best and easiest recourse is to withhold the tip as a punitive measure.

The frenzy of the night was just now ebbing and I was finally aware of the throbbing in my feet. I sat in the bar and dropped half of my cash on two Blue Moons. I’d made so little money that it was actually funny. I would have been angry if I’d made a little more. There’s a Bible verse about me. 2 Samuel 1:25. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”

IV.

Polygraph test at the police academy. Get through this and maybe I could move up in the world. Patrol the black hoods in Anacostia, three miles from the White House, where they always find bodies in the Potomac.

You sit in a chair with sensors that can tell if you flex your ass cheeks. Two cameras pointing at you, and your shoes on a pad so they can tell if your feet jiggle. One finger is inside a little clip and it can measure trace amounts of a certain enzyme in your sweat that’s produced when you’re stressed.

The guy running the test wore a tie with the nativity scene on it, a real God-and-country type. I played it straight-laced and clean-cut during the pre-interview. During the test he asks you questions in haunting monotone, all syllables uninflected:

are…you…lying…about…your…history…of…illegal…drug…use…

Fuck, I am, I thought. I felt a hot thrum in my chest. I remembered fudging a date on the packet a few months before, about the last time I smoked weed. If you’d done it in the past three years you were ineligible. It had been two years and nine months for me. Close enough, I thought. I’m changing this fucking date so I can get hired.

“We got a reaction,” said the officer. “On the drug question.”

I should have just told him it was residual stress they were picking up, PTSD from Ruby’s.

“I lied,” I said.

Lying is a big problem in this department.”

Yeah, this isn’t gonna work out, I thought. And neither is Ruby’s.

V.

I quit the night Obama got re-elected. Three months of service in the trenches was about enough. Absorbing all the snark and snipes from customers, doing it while kowtowing and smiling. I’m a man with regrets but I’ve never been rude to someone who’s beneath me in life. Even if they are an asshole. I don’t understand that, roasting the help.

There was no singular breaking point, outside of Steve the manager asking if I could do brunch that Sunday. Brunch was actually adjacent to slavery. You start the shift by working for free. You have to get in at 10:00 and mop and sweep and move tables around for an hour without clocking in because the manager isn’t there yet to fire up the computers. Laugh all you want but that three motherfucking dollars of missed wages could have been the gas I needed to drive to that job.

“Steve, I gotta talk to you outside.”

We went out to the dumpsters to do the breakup there.

“I don’t want you to quit, because you’re so good,” he said.

What he meant was: you’re competent at a job which requires a pulse and a single-digit IQ, and you suck a lot of corporate cock without complaining too much about it. And I don’t want to go through the hassle of hiring someone else.

“I’m out, man. But thanks.”

I’m glad I worked there. A lifetime of humility crammed into one long, hellish season. An undimming reminder of how unfair life is, blah blah. It made me thankful. Public transport is a joke in America so I drove James the cook back to the homeless shelter. “What are you gonna do?” he asked me.

“I have no idea, man.”

I did, though. No more income, but I knew I could get a job once I made job-hunting my job, because I was young and white and pleasant enough. And I did, doing gopher work for the CEO of a research firm. And if I ever summoned the brutality needed to break my girlfriend’s heart and move out, I could stage a comeback to Asia (and I did.) Meanwhile James was 43 and black, had neither a GED nor an address. He was talking about how Obama had let him down. I stopped the Jeep and he got out.

“Good luck, Fred. You’re gonna need it.”

It wasn’t true, at least not at that point, but I often catch myself hoping that what he said wasn’t a prophecy.

What’s Up Man

Well this weekend there was Star Wars, and Wall Street weasel Martin Shkreli went to jail, and I went to my girlfriend’s burlesque show Friday night and got a lap dance on stage. My first one ever, because I fail to see the logic in paying to not touch someone. I’ve never been to a strip club either, except for that one in Bangkok because we were curious to see if it was true that women can shoot ping pong balls out of their vaginas (it is). Anyway I got on stage and realized I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I went with the behind-the-back configuration like I was being interrogated.

Now it’s Sunday night. Got out of Seoul and back to my Incheon villa for the quiet chore rituals. Then I read Point of Impact, made my snobby-ass vegetable smoothie, listened to JJ Abrams on a podcast where he said something about humans spend their lives trying to distract themselves until they die. I’m with you on that one, man. Before I wrote this I squandered ten minutes of my existence reading some shit about Star Wars gross predictions. The entertainment industry is the only one that outright boasts about how much money they take from us every week. Anyone else did that and we’d be signing motherfucking petitions to hamstring these villainous monopolies, hoping Bernie Sanders would do something about it. While I was in the business of clogging up my subconscious with fluff I got onto ESPN and burned up five irreplaceable minutes of my livelihood there. Basically the Patriots will win over the Titans but by how much is the question; they play at 3:00 A.M. Korea time so I’ll have to wait until I wake up at 6:30 to find out. I care about Tom Brady’s job, it would be funny if he also cared about mine. How my classes go.

On the whole, things are balanced out pretty well right now, I just want to be a little more interesting. A good connection is hard to find. I call my mother and hear her chuckling, hang up and see she’s been sharing Facebook memes while we were talking. Collapsing attention spans — the horror stories are all true. In a conversation it has to be all fireworks or you’re fucked. I’m fucked. I’ll tell you my lap dance story and burn up that material right at the jump, after that I’ll listen to you. You’ll talk about sitting in traffic or something.

A Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review With Pretty Much Nothing But Spoilers

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Star Wars dropped a day early in Korea, and I live in Korea. Among modern life’s sweetest pleasures is seeing a Big Movie slightly before everyone else. Imagining they’re all impressed with you and they’re thinking: wow he saw this cool movie before I did, he must be really cool by association. When in actuality these people want to disembowel you. But if you see a Big Movie early for like a day you can be in the 1% of the world who has something, in this case precious knowledge, that the masses don’t. It feels cool. Now I know why rich people are such shitheels.

This is Episode VII, but it’s really Episode IV remade by people who love Episode IV. I wonder if most people can actually read Roman numerals or if they’re just pretending. Anyway this movie is damn fun and damn good, like Mad Max good. I was about to lose my faith in Film itself; for years I’ve had blue balls since all the trailers have been better than the movies. Ex-Keebler elf turned movie director JJ Abrams would like it if you gave him credit for this but he shouldn’t get it, this is Lawrence Kasdan’s doing. He wrote Empire and Raiders and this movie too.

But there’s some silly shit, too. The new Emperor in this movie is a 20-foot tall Gollum hologram. New heroes Rey and Fin are able to run inside an abandoned Millennium Falcon and just fly away in it; spaceships don’t need keys. A lot of the movie involves the bad guys trying to find the good guys who are creeping around in the hallways and locker rooms and wherever else inside their bases. Alas the good guys can’t be found because the bad guys do not have surveillance cameras. Hm what else. This is also the second time in a Star Wars movie the bad guys have used a superweapon to casually murder millions of people who are never mentioned again. And how did two photogenic people like Han and Leia produce such a gargoyle of a son? Holy shit Adam Driver is ugly. Also, what the fuck is this movie doing acting like Mark Hamill is “in” it? He’s in three shots, at the very end, standing on a rock. He has no lines.

Anyway, this is just A New Hope rebooted but with black people and more than one female, and Han is murdered by his own son, who’s now a Sith Lord.

Go/Don’t Go Verdict: Go.

Ahhhh Fuck

 

Good evening. I’m trying to summon the disrespect necessary to bail on my professional obligations tomorrow. After work I have to go with my school to see The motherfucking Nutcracker in Seoul. I was in The Nutcracker three times when I was a kid, because I took ballet, because I never didn’t like girls. I’d nail a position then get cocky. Stalk around the studio in my black tights and smack all the lily-white thighs. Our teacher was a Russian with an afro and rippling stallion thighs; he’d cackle approvingly like Emperor Palpatine and say gooood, gooood. I quit when I was ten, before my friends found out. What I should have done was hold out for puberty and fornicate my way through the whole dance company. Take home their tutus as trophies; then how would the guys make fun of me. All of Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s elementary school population would now share a common ancestor: me. Biggest misfire of my life. I had to wait until I was 21 to lose the V-card but I’m glad I waited, you know? Just kidding.

So anyway, The Nutcracker in Seoul, then an interminable dinner followed by a long sit at a motherfucking 노래 방 (karaoke bar) where I’ll partake in complex Confucian drinking rituals and stare with at my co-worker’s heads with blatant indignation, trying to make them explode with my mind. We won’t get back into our homes until eleven motherfucking forty-five or so. Just a mere six-hour respite before the children on the block awake with the sun and howl from the windows to each other… ahhhhhhhhhh. I have to get out of this shit, get my evening back. It’s impossible for me to be happy unless I prop up my vanity with 90 minutes of American Psycho gym time, then post some shitty shit on my shitty blog, and then have a nice wank. Korea blocks porn so I have to use XXX GIFs on Twitter. Have to keep interrupting the rhythm and re-tapping the screen so it won’t go black.

There’s never a North Korean rocket attack when you need one. But even if there was the South Koreans would still go to work. Hold meetings and classes in a blast crater. Don’t get me wrong, I actually do love it here. Just, fuck the Nutcracker, you know? I wonder who’s playing Fritz. I wonder how much ass he’s slaying.

Graduate School Personal Statement

 

Blame the weak winter sun and lack of Vitamin D for how much I despise the dumb kids this week. Two years we’ve been working on the past tense. They all still say: yesterday, I riding the bike. In Korea it’s legitimately impossible to fail English. Gentleman’s Cs for all. One time I said hello to a student and he started crying; he had no idea how to respond.

I need smarter students. I probably need a Master’s so I can get the golden handcuffs gig at a university. You, the School of Education, should give me this Master’s, without me having to jump through a single hoop.  You must simply hand it to me, because there’s nothing you can teach me.

I have over three thousand hours in the classroom. I am the pilot who knows turbulence, I am the warrior who’s battled the devil. What can you possibly show me. It would be your institution’s greatest honor if I filled a seat at your table, and paid your ass to do so. Motherfucker, you should be applying for me.

Regards,

Fred Colton

Big Night Out: Beijing Edition

Well maybe this actually started in California in 2009. At my Bible college we signed a contract vowing we wouldn’t drink or have sex. Or dance. A Big Night Out in La Mirada, CA was when you drove to the swing dance club in Whittier and hoped no one found out. Upon graduation Lauren left me for a better swing dancer. That does odd things to a young man’s ego.

I thought: this is bullshit. We had a deal, Jesus. I did you a solid and kept my dick dry for 21 years; all you had to do was not make this other guy good at swing dancing. On to the next deity.

But first, beer.

***

China has beer. For fifty cents you get a 22 oz. Tsingtao in a stout green bottle you can knock out a rhino with. I had loans. Sounded like my kind of party.

I flew to Beijing with a hundred Americans. My second time there. The first time I was a missionary. A trip I went on to impress girls from church. It didn’t work. (See: “swing dancing,” above.)

Beijing is what you think it is. The image in your head right now is accurate. All the great trappings a capital should have. Fountains and a hundred million cars. Oppressive humidity so you carry around an extra shirt with you. The Olympics stadium which is bigger than you think. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which are more boring than you think.

This time I got off the plane with a pretty liver and the determination to do something about it. Everyone was 22. Everyone had a BA in partying except for me. The oldest rookie there ever was. I was an alien driving around a person costume. I almost blew my cover on day two when people discussed a bar crawl in Wudaokou. Some people asked what Wudaokou was, while I was the only one who said: what’s a bar crawl. An eternal quarter-second elapsed as faces turned toward me. Then it was like a movie scene where everyone laughed because they thought I was being sarcastic. This fucking guy, someone said. This fucking guy right here.

Well Wudaokou is where the student clubs are. We’d pregame after classes and then finagle some taxis over there. Partying in the West is merely an exercise in hedonism. Go east, though, and multiply your hedonism by anarchy. No open container laws and nothing is ever closed. A cop having a bad night isn’t going to hogtie and taze you because you’re hooting outside a bar with your shirt off. Instead he’ll ask for a selfie.

In Propaganda we danced. I danced but it couldn’t have been pretty. These were the days when I resembled a white Gumby. Didn’t matter, it was enough for Alex. She let me know she liked me by putting her ass on me, as a dog would. I think she was a purse model or something. Southern belle. When we landed in Beijing she wondered aloud if a “Chinaman” could carry her bags for her. All her lacrosse guys were 7,000 miles away. I was her best option. The last guy on the depth chart. The inverse also held true. Adam was grinding hard on a girl with thighs like Christmas hams. Beer goggles, and also China goggles. You get off that plane and lose your mind.

***

Midnight. Continue the crawl. There was a line outside of GT Bananas. Jeff went to the front and yelled at the bouncer: I am a famous American and I am not waiting in this line.

Very sorry, sir, please bring your friends inside.

Thirty friends came inside. The dance floor was bouncy like a trampoline. They gave us glow sticks and shot off fireworks inside. I began to run out of money. The RMB bills are colored like Monopoly money and they all have Mao’s face on them. The pipeline was about to be cut off. And you thought you had problems.

Fortunately I’m tall and I was with Cameron and he spoke Mandarin. Probably still does, too. In VIP he told businessmen I played for the Lakers and he was my manager. Every table, same reaction. High fives, rounds of whiskey mixed with tea. Thank fuck no one did a quick fact check on their iPhone.

Some people were drinking baijiu they’d smuggled in. Rice liquor. It’ll melt your brain. Then they were dancing on the bar. Which was both a bad cliché and a bad idea. Chris fell into an ice bucket. Meanwhile I was on the dance floor trying to weasel something with Jenna. I wanted to kiss her but she had a boyfriend at home. I knew it was wrong to kiss her. I kissed her. Because all boyfriends deserved to be hurt. Everyone needs an excuse, the swing dance guy was mine. I still blame Jesus.

***

2 a.m. We laid siege to McDonald’s. Then got dumplings afterward because we didn’t remember we’d gotten McDonald’s. Back on campus we realized that half of the group was lost somewhere in the city. Eh, fuck em. We were laughing because James got hit by a motorcycle so hard his shoes came off. He was eerily devoid of scratches. 22 and he was demonstrably immortal, just like the rest of us.

I got in bed. Tomorrow beckoned but that was a fact I couldn’t fully process. Being 22, you lack the ability to project yourself forward in time and space. Morning’s arrival shocks you. A dark plot twist from way out of left field.

***

Noon. Everyone was going to the Great Wall but I’d already seen it. I went out to perform my penance. Four mile run. The air felt like you were sucking straight from a bus tailpipe. I liked taking the overpasses strung between the towers. Trains next to you and the highways underneath. These days that might be enough for me, to feel the huge city roar around me. Back then I was just angry that it wasn’t already night again.

Now that I’m older I realize what happens after a Big Night Out. The sun comes up and burns everything away, and none of it ever happened.

But being 22 I didn’t know that. So I did it all again, a few hundred more times.

The Tipping Point

I live in the city of Incheon. Incheon is directly next to Seoul. Incheon is the onramp MacArthur used to invade Seoul. But it’s not Seoul. The view from my villa window is a rusty tin shed straight out of apartheid South Africa. Ladyfolk I squire home wake up in a panic because they think they’re in North Korea. Anyway last year Incheon hosted the Asian Games, which is the Olympics minus white people and erected a silver behemoth of a stadium that they used for 10 days. It’s two blocks from my villa and will stand there inert for the rest of time. It cost $429 million. For those keeping score at home that’s $42.9 million a day to watch all-Asian shot put and other shit. Incheon is now broke and will be for the rest of time. The showoff move didn’t work. The tourism boom Incheon coveted never materialized and no wonder; Incheon is all peasantry and Soviet apartment blocks. No one visits here. You might as well visit Boise. No one grows up in Incheon and says aspires to stay in Incheon. What you do is you get the fuck out and move across the Han River to Seoul, and then lie and say you’re from Seoul.

Anyway Incheon is broke as fuck and the full-force of the fiscal pinch is now being felt at the school of my employ. It’s December and it’s cold. We have heaters in the ceiling but they’re permanently switched off. Too expensive. I dress for work like I’m going camping in Nepal. The beanie and scarf never come off. You could teleport me from my office to K2 and I wouldn’t even blink. At night they cut power to the whole building and if you have food in the fridge it spoils. You have to go hunt for the one person in the cold quiet building who has a key to the circuit breakers and ask him to switch everything on so you can start using Microsoft PowerPoint. Every morning he’s somewhere different. One morning he was deep under the stage in the gym dusting off the basketball nets. I shone my phone light on him and he grinned in the dark like Gollum. All of this is just to get to zero, to the starting line where you can begin to perform your contracted employment duties.

We have elevators but they’re locked down. Too expensive. The light panels have half their bulbs removed; full illumination is too expensive. I brought in a space heater to use under my desk and was told to remove it; too expensive. In the summer you have the opposite problem because of the heat. This is the human cost of the Games. There are also millions of people in Beijing and Brazil who were bulldozed into homelessness so other single-use stadiums could exist but fuck them, this is about me and I’m cold.

Maybe It’s Just Me

But whenever I write something and think it’s good, it’s always not good when I go back to it an hour later. There are no exceptions to this. When you write you’re forever in a blind spot. Writing is the worst thing you could ever do.

Sick Day

I do like getting very sick in 24-hour increments. Good excuse to sleep hard like it’s a sport. Not write and not exercise. On a normal day if I don’t do these things I feel myself calcifying and feel death seeping in. But being sick makes the break OK. I like the surge of resurrection as the drugs kick in. I like that filling a prescription in Korea only costs three dollars. It makes me feel above it all. America is wrong. Capitalism is wrong.

In Korea it’s cheap to get sick but for everything else it’s expensive. They act like Japan. Japan acts like the West. Korea, you don’t need to act like us. We were lied to. The robber barons said we couldn’t be happy unless we worked eighty-five hours a week. They were not working eighty-five hours a week. Lying is wrong. Korea is wrong, mostly. I got a fever because they don’t heat the office because cost-cutting. Cold is bad. Conservatism is bad. Seoul is glossy but Seoul is boring now. Leaving Korea is good. I’m out in March. Then it’s Vietnam. I’ll get a motorcycle. Work less and travel more. Box more cook more hike more. Write more and spend less. All those things are good. My (paid) break today was good and as a human I deserved it. Rockefeller and Vanderbilt were bad, so fuck them and I’m glad they’re dead.