It Could All Be So Simple

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I.

I took $8000 to Vietnam and now I live like JFK. Up at noon, 11:00 a.m. if ambitious. Then it’s beer out by the Thang Loi Resort pool, then fucking my girlfriend in her tan lines. My mind can no longer simulate what an obligation feels like, it’s been so long. No stress except: write funnier shit for your blog. This is nice, this is smooth. Am I dead?

I don’t view all this as amazing, I view this as a baseline. Life should be like this. I’m angry that it hasn’t always been. And that I almost had this life from the jump. Was born one zip code away from the Illuminati cliff mansions. Almost made it. My goddamn stork.

But I don’t need to be rich to be happy. Actually, yes I do. Because fuck work. I am above it, you are above it, we all are above it. The concept is abhorrent; life is full enough without it. Earth’s sweetest cruelty is how rich and textured it is and how you’re never going to see it all. Temples on high peaks and fish in haunted reefs. You will never even see a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent of it. You will never have the time to find joy through woodcarving. You will die before finding the one book or foreign film that would have lit your soul on fire. Your only hope is that you one day trip over something similar to it. What lies before us all is an endless journey over an ocean of beauty. Then God decided to throw work into the deal. Suck up half your waking life, leave you too exhausted to do anything with the other half. That’s the best case scenario, that’s if you’re lucky enough to have someone pay you.

It’s all wrong. If God were a CEO, he’d be fired the first Monday. A king, he’d be guillotined. There are probably other Gods out there, who mock our God for mismanaging his pathetic planet of broken people so badly. He’s the Kim Jong-un of deities.

II.

Quiet alley. Iced coffee while a guy powerwashes my dumb little scooter for eighty cents. A good book about coke smuggling in Bangkok.

My soul is healing after the stress of Korea. My job there with its suicide hours, the frantic drunken weekends. Now I do yoga. Safe hobby, now that it’s 2016 and it’s not politically correct for my friends to call me gay for it. I like being truly bad at something, then beginning to improve at it. I like the agony in my knees. The mystical breathing. It’s got me looking inward. Trying to evolve. One last, deep problem, the problem that only a comfortable person ever gets around to: how do I love myself, but without becoming a dick about it. This being the Far East, I Googled Buddhism. Apparently I have to rid myself of desires. Could take forever. What a pain in the ass. I don’t want to think about that journey, wrestle with it. Must be time to go back to work.

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How To Write

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If someone else would say that thing, don’t write it. And don’t use the same words other people do. Make sure it’s all gold. Then cut out everything you possibly can, cut it till it bleeds. Soon you’ll have something that’s only yours. The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun, but the Bible also says that woman can be salt pillars. Ignore the Good Book, and go forth and make some good shit.

The Mighty Have Fallen

One Month in Vietnam

***

I once was a king. I was the man in the lights. Now look at me. Last night I slept in my clothes and this morning I cried. I’m new in town, keep going out to meet people, and it keeps not working.

Everyone here is already established. Their cliques, impenetrable as secret societies. Everyone here is 23 and does festival drugs. I’m 30 and they can smell it on me. My responsible drinking, all the drugs I don’t do. They want nothing to do with me. My boring aura.

Ah, fuck. I didn’t see this coming. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I escaped America and serfdom and car insurance and audacious city cops. I have the dream life. Which like all dreams has to be balanced out with a nightmare.

Dream: I have enough money to rest and write for a few months.

Nightmare: If you don’t work, you don’t mingle.

Nightmare #2: You get older all the time.

I might have found people my age to hang with but they’re all in America. And so now I have to face these young gods in the city who I can’t relate to. Their Macklemore haircuts and discordant music. All drunk driving their scooters home for sloppy raw sex with strangers. They won’t crash because they’re young, and they won’t get AIDS either. The good thing about being young is you get to be bright and handsome and bad things won’t happen to you. The good thing about getting older is nothing. Will I ever be able to handle it.

Dream: I once was a king.

Nightmare: I grew up, made changes.

And now I look back. And thank God I am, because it’s a nice view. I see things shifting. I can now see what the dream really was. It was a

Nightmare: because even though I was the man in the lights, I still, somehow, always found ways to be miserable.

Which means that there’s a new

Dream: where I know the new kings have to be secretly miserable too, and probably won’t even know that they were kings until it’s over, and that really does make me happy.

This Is A Legit Drunk Post

My other drunk posts are sarcastically titled; I always write them sober. But this one is real. Let’s go. Need to stay up sip water and write so I don’t have a hangover tomorrow. Earlier tonight, I was going to stay in and figure out my life (all of it!) but my girlfriend was dancing at a club on the lake so I went to that. Ended up putting down some a lot of champagne. This Singaporean financier’s birthday party was going on, I got invited to the table because I’m tall and white. Slaves by the table to refill our flutes. So much fucking champagne. I couldn’t hear anything that was said but I acted like I could. I’m good at nodding and laughing. The rich guy guessed I was 35. People always say that. I’m 28. Moisturizing isn’t fooling anyone. I’m old, I look old, but I still can’t believe it. I might never accept it, my maturity might never catch up to my looks.

I was offered ketamine, which I had to Google, and is apparently what alcohol wants to be when it grows up. I didn’t take any but I did suck two balloons of nitrous oxide. It only lasts a minute, but, goddamn. Why didn’t anyone give me this shit earlier. Think of the happiest drunk you’ve ever had, multiply it by a million. Now commences my hippie phase. This should be free, maaaan. Why do we send people to jail for getting a little high, maaaaaaan.

Drugs are good, intoxication is good. Because when I drink to excess, I feel guilty and snap back hard into a holistic lifestyle. Work out for two hours a day and eat green peppers, clean up the temple that is my body. I would never treat myse­lf right if I didn’t damage myself first.

Drugs are good because life is hard. The reason early humans kept brewing alcohol is because socializing is stressful. But they realized: This rotten corn we drink makes mingling easier; let’s keep it up. Back in the day you didn’t know if a stranger was going to kill you or not. That’s why we’re afraid of them, why it’s hard to talk to them. Leftover Neanderthal instincts. God is a bitch and he made us broken and flat, made interpersonal skills a fucking chore to attain, what with our brains soaked 24-7 in an imbalanced chemical cocktail, sometimes we need a boost. And if you can make it through your entire life without a boost then fuck you, Mitt Romney. Must be nice.

Bright Future

I need a cool fucking job. Money in exchange for fun.  I’d give up on the fantasy if I didn’t keep meeting people who are paid to dick around. Like this DJ who plays yachts in Hong Kong. Isn’t it always just like that: You look back and the path is always so clear. You didn’t need to toil in that job, trapping money for assholes. All you had to do was buy some large headphones.

Every day my rage multiplies as I re-remember that writing never worked out. I didn’t spend time developing any other skills; that was my purpose. I grew up next to a fucking library — impossible for the destiny to be any more obvious. So I went full speed ahead and then went off a cliff. The real problem is when you believe that everyone has a path or a purpose. What actually happens is that most of us just flail in the gaps for 80 years.

In my dreams I see a sports commercial starring me. I fall and die in slow-motion. My voice is the narration: “They said it couldn’t be done… that I couldn’t beat the odds. They were right.”

Now I need a new thing, a new source of drive. Does such a thing even exist for me. Can’t focus on the search. People email me: your fiction is shit, your blog is better. Yes, my blog is God. My blog is as perfect and divine as He is. Too bad not everyone likes God. Too bad that to many people, God does not even exist. I’m fucked, brother.

Tough Guy

Keep almost getting killed in Vietnam. Frantic braking as guys on motorcycles with no helmets race me to gaps. These punks with their loud farting engines. I always puss out, let them swerve ahead. I also always consider throwing a stiff arm, catching them behind the ear. Watch the fall, the concrete flaying their fucking skin off. A pleasant daydream. I think it would be easier to love myself if my balls were bigger.

Then there’s the cars. Cars mean royalty. Vietnam doesn’t make any; you have one, that means you ordered it from overseas, paid Communist import duties on the fucker. Even a shit car speaks of wealth. The roads are OK, manageable, until some cunt in a 2008 Hyundai Elantra rides through and plugs up your lane like a cork, blows up the rhythm. Rich people are bad, basically.

Roads are cratered like landmines went off. But they’re your only option if you want to get anywhere. No public transport. I mean, there is, but fuck you if I’m gonna get on a Vietnamese city bus. Lonely Planet guarantees you will get mugged on one. They’re hot rolling prisons. I’d rather be the master of my own destiny and be able to sneak through reds.

Only a matter of time till I get pulled over. They set the city speed limit so low that everyone is speeding, all the time, and is a fair target. Traffic cops glare on the corners, miserable in the heat, trying to make a few good scams. They step in your lane and put a baton in your chest. My friend says they take your keys and if you don’t have cash for the bribe they put your bike up on a truck. Damn Nazis; well, wait until they try that shit with me. I taped a spare key inside my helmet. When they turn away I’m gonna rev up and jam on out of there, is what I tell myself. No traffic cameras, I can escape through an alley, is what I fantasize.

Riding is stressful but a soothing process. Just stay sharp and Point B is an assured outcome. Meanwhile in your head it’s just wheels spinning. Doom loops and dilemmas on repeat. Good thing I’m not able to solve any of them, because goddamn does the moody stuff sit pretty well on the page.

Clean Living

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is impossible here. Gun around this colorless second-world city on my scooter and even with my ninja mask I still taste the gasoline in the air. Welcome to Vietnam. Every day we have to bug bomb the apartment because of the mosquitoes. Canned chemicals. Who knows if the Vietnamese even regulate that shit. I’m probably just sucking in Agent Orange vapor that kills brain matter and nukes my genome. Best bet is to never have kids; they would definitely be on the short bus. Have ten extra chromosomes and bulbous brain sacs.

Welcome to Vietnam. Finding and obtaining fresh produce is like planning a heist. Apples are a luxury because they’re imported. I don’t like the coffee here, but I still drink it.

Got my first gray hair. I’ve been waiting for it; I knew it was there, felt it in my soul, but I was afraid to look. Of course it was there. I’m 28, but I feel like I’ve been alive forever. I vividly remember floppy disks and Clinton’s first term. Too many memories and experiences piled up to be young anymore. I can no longer be a hooligan. Everything changes now.

Actually that’s not true. Everything stays the same. Because I’m already married and 50 years old. I’ve stopped clubbing and I order water with dinner. I’m already retired; I live in a compound behind a bulletproof gate that keeps the peasants out. No work, I just keep clean and quiet. Do dishes, read news. Only drank one beer this week. I’m doing new exercises and getting stronger and studying French and reading new authors.

Being mature feels great, learning more things lightens my soul. Being sober and productive is amazing. But being young and drunk was definitely better.

***

Also: my last post was really good and fuck all of you who didn’t read it and instead watched Dancing With the Stars or whateverthefuck. I’m out here busting my ass for you. Don’t make a brother wake up to stats that low again, please.

Econ 101

Panama Papers. No bombshell there; we already knew that rich people were demons. But can you blame them. It’s natural to horde money, money is absolutely everything. Peace and oxygen. Path to legitimacy, and also pussy. Women declare that a man’s money doesn’t matter but in the next breath wish he’ll have straight white teeth. Same thing.

I was on Xuan Dieu Road by the lake and the ATM ate $180. Glitch with the dispenser thing. Might get it back, says Bank of America. Might, fucking might. In anywhere from 10 to 90 days. Stood there, letting the sun hit me, contemplating how some cosmic fluke, one loose spring in a plastic box could delete some of my value. I didn’t need the cash but it scared me to think about what if I had.

On the walk back there was an old man with black gums. First time I’ve seen someone literally wearing rags. I couldn’t look at him. His boils and oozing green toenails. He followed me, mimed eating soup. I gave him money. What I should have done is bought him food myself; the store clerks won’t let him inside.

If you think: well he was irresponsible earlier in life and it’s not my responsibility to correct that for him, then you are actually evil. Vapid cunts say: Money doesn’t matter! It’s only money! Get the fuck out of here. You have to eat, you have to see a doctor.

God let us run free and we fucked it all up. Let ten schemers take all the paper, and they’re not giving it back. The smarter you get, the clearer this becomes, the more you repair to the comforts of three-act narratives, because at least there the bad guys lose.

So, am I a bad guy. Well my first thought when I saw the beggar was that he’d make good blog material. So I’ve got potential.

Clusterfuck

Two weeks in Hanoi. A Mercedes rolled over my foot at a red light. 4000 pounds bearing straight down on my twig-thin metatarsals. Of course this would happen the very month I became uninsured. Somehow I was fine. But I still had to kick some ass. The driver was a kid, someone’s hired help. Black mildew teeth, nuclear flower-killing breath, dopey country face. Just trying to cut through traffic like I do. I made him roll down the window so I could yell at him. You almost maimed me, you fuck, you almost made me fat. I wanted to go ISIS on him. Crack his neck and drag around his body behind my scooter.

That’s every day here, riding in the sprawl and tempting the fates. Besides that my routine is just a simple progression of: eat, watch anime, and shower constantly because the heat always, always makes you feel like you’ve been dipped in oil. My laziness is such that even this short to-do list feels like too much. I feel like I’m already 90 years old. So don’t you dare try to put any more bullshit on my plate, even if it’s beautiful bullshit. Such as: My friends who are here and want to go hike near the Chinese border, where there are probably some monks, and some birds who croon the secrets to enlightenment. I know the trip would do good things for my soul or at least my Twitter feed. But I just can’t be fucked with leaving the house.

***

The roads are warzones. It can be pretty savage out there but I can handle it now. Break through holes in this perpetually collapsing traffic cyclone and it feels like you scored a miracle touchdown. Which it shouldn’t. Scooters are the opposite of sexy, they roll slow. Engines groan along, sounding like fat bees. I need to grow a dick and start riding a motorcycle, while I’m still young. Start too old and it comes off as a crisis hobby.

Had a text fight with my girl while I was driving around the lake. Hit a dip and the phone cracked on the pavement. The phone’s only two years old but over at Samsung they studied it like a Martian artifact. They must be trained to do that. Squint at their own product like that. Of course I hadn’t bought the platinum warranty or whateverthefuck, of course there were no replacement screens at Samsung, of course a new one had to be ordered from Korea for a hundred dollars, of course I’m unemployed and a phone is nonessential but of course I’ll still pay for it.

I’m uninsured and unemployed. At least I’m a “writer” so my floundering can be spun as an ebb in the creative process, maybe a regrouping period. I have this half-finished novella that depresses me, how good it is. It’s depressing because I wrote it last year. I was more arrogant then and a better writer. Took every risk and maybe 70% of them paid off. Now I’m a cagey little bitch. Too precious with a sentence. I’m writing the second half of the story and it’s like I’m a hack hired to finish a dead guy’s work. I never really considered that skills can be lost after you get them, even if you keep practicing. I never considered that a lot of things could happen, but these days, they are.

Good Morning Vietnam

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I.

My girlfriend had a photo shoot at 8:30 so I put her on the scooter and brought her there like a handler or a pimp might. You need your balls screwed on tight for a Hanoi commute. You rev and brake, millimeter by fucking millimeter over Jimmy Carter-era infrastructure as other bikes kamikaze across the grain of traffic. We hit checkpoints and cops with batons poach the weak ones out of the herd for a shakedown. Prop planes from the airport wobble overhead like they’re about to stall out and fall on you. Everyone hits the horn constantly, as if it’ll change something, and the whole damn thing makes your face hurt from holding a concerned squint for so long. I’m worried about everything. But the locals, this is their dance. They’re on Facebook while they drive. They are likely unimpressed by car chases in movies; they can all drive as well as the spies can.

II.

We got there and of course the photographer was a guy. With the exception of Annie Leibovitz, every photographer in the world is just a dude trying to fuck models. He was European and very unfriendly; my existence annoyed him. They left the café to shoot. I ordered, then gagged on my eggs as a guy with long hair growing out of a cheek mole walked in. Mole hair is “lucky” in Vietnam. A truck of soldiers rolled up as my coffee came and kicked over the chairs outside the café. They’re the mob here. Pay them or you can’t use the sidewalk. The café girls hadn’t paid.

III.

And what was I gonna do about it. I definitely wasn’t going to tell them off, do the white savior thing and stand up for justice. I still speak no Vietnamese. No idea about anything Vietnamese. President or prime minister: couldn’t tell you. Population: no idea but based on traffic it has to be at least 9 trillion. No idea about anything Vietnamese, and I will never assimilate. Too busy maintaining a shit blog and whining about my inevitable return to the workplace. My sarcastic excuse is that the locals would get annoyed if I appropriated their culture. That’s why no one likes Iggy Azalea.

The soldiers left. While I waited there for my girlfriend I was reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. It’s about people fleeing Communism. I can’t relate. I did the opposite and took up residence in this anarchist nation, in an apartment up a crooked rape alley. It can get a little too real at times and make you miss the bright, quiet snobbery of gentrification. That is, until you remember that a beer here costs fifty fucking cents. Then all manner of stress becomes worth it.

Mission Abort

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Day 9 in Hanoi. I ran past a restaurant where five guys were drinking around a table with a gold bust of Ho Chi Minh. I was going to make a snide comment about Communist personality cults but then I remembered Obama has George Washington’s head in the Oval Office. Idol worship: only crazy if foreigners do it. Everything is only crazy if foreigners do it.

The heat. April 1st it was like they flipped on a big blast furnace. Too hot to wear my suits and pocket squares. Probably a good thing; there’s brave poor people here and I’d get mugged if I kept that shit up. Today it was the gym, shopping for the new place, finishing Stephen Hunter’s book about the JFK assassination. I’m now firmly in the Oswald + CIA camp. The heat, plus that book, is making me think truly dumb shit. Everything is a conspiracy! I’d be famous by now but the Jews run the world, and I’m not Jewish!

That’s ok. At least I’ve got beer, coffee, quiet nights with a good girl. Most of the time it’s enough to forget the maddening truth that I’m a prisoner to my destiny, my patterns, and life’s continued acceleration…

…All right, cut. That’s all for now. I was starting to repeat myself but you shouldn’t do that, so I stopped writing.

I wanted to write more tonight, to fulfill my pathological need to prove myself every day, but I just read through some of my old posts and realized: goddamn, my blog is really good. Even if no one reads it. I’m just gonna back off and let it be good for a little bit. Gonna drink some more now. Go away.

 

New Pad

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New apartment, by the big lake in Hanoi. This whole district is the expat’s mecca. We talk a big game about navigating foreign cultures but when we get here we just make Little Americas. I found pizza, found the gym for the Brits and Australians, found the chilly café for bankers in pink shorts, found the safe clean supermarket for bankers’ wives. Everything nice, nothing unfamiliar. But when I email back to the grandparents you better believe I’m achieving fluency in Vietnamese and forming lifelong bonds with the locals.

The other foreigners don’t like new arrivals. Or actually it’s just me they don’t like. Mostly tall, handsome white guys who are very pissed that I, an even taller handsome white guy, have materialized to absorb attention. I give a polite nod; their eyes say I’ll tie you to a cinder block and drop it in the lake. Some kind of Darwinian panic, they see the Vietnamese pussy pipeline being cut off. I could tell them that they don’t need to worry, I’m awkward and plus I already have a girlfriend anyway, but I’d rather watch them suffer.

So anyway, our apartment. We left the hotel with the Chinese business delegation and their weird no-sideburns haircuts, and this Indian film crew who had leering at girls down to an art. Now we’re moved in. $500 a month for a place so big I have to text the girl to see what room she’s in. It’s a good deal, but not to me. Rent was free in Korea. But it wasn’t worth it to actually be with the Koreans, their suicide work ethic and byzantine corporate bullshit. Now that I’m gone I have to pay for a place to sleep again, like the other 100% of the world. It’s annoying. I still have no job, nor have I begun looking for one. I’m falling without a parachute. Yet somehow I’m not alarmed, I’m actually pretty comfortable in this situation. Unfortunately, I’m used to things working out and breaking my way. Some part All of me still believes, despite my astounding mediocrity across all facets of my existence, that I’ll be staggeringly wealthy one day soon, despite not having even a vague plan for achieving this. I read an article once in TIME saying that most people think that, and would do better to snap out of it. I think it’s more comforting not to.

It’s the rainy season. Mosquitoes, humid air curling my passport pages. Vietnam has unlimited 3G but that’s like having an unlimited supply of Pony Express deliveries. 3G should maybe be written as 1G. The webpages load, but forget about the images. I have to plan out my YouTube selections in advance, take a shit while the videos load. And I can’t see my WordPress stats which has forced me to achieve a Zen detachment from the metrics of writing.

So it continues. Tomorrow is another day as a basic guy abroad, waiting for inspiration to strike. I might learn how to count to 10 in Vietnamese, but also I probably won’t.