Onward and Probably Downward

What’s going on with you man? Well I’m reading three books I won’t finish and writing two blog posts that will be bad and nursing a half-dozen hopeless crushes. Everything is weird these days and nothing is really working out and I’m nostalgic for times that I know weren’t amazing.

I didn’t get that good teaching job that would have given me some cash and cred just in time for my 30th birthday. Now I have to act like I didn’t want it anyway. Also, I stopped studying Spanish again. Also I stopped making healthy smoothies every morning. Then I keep wasting all my free time by trying to write. These days “writing” takes the form of going out for long walks at night without my phone, with the goal being that ingenious insights are going to come to me since the signal-jammer of Facebook has been removed from my person. Nothing comes to me though. I then realized that if a walk was all it took then everyone who ever took a walk before smartphones would have written some dope shit. I took walks all the time back in like 2006. And I was still boring.

Relax man. No one else has their shit together either. Every day 7 billion of us wake up and just fake it, the idea being that we’ll eventually make it. None of us will make it.

 

***

Another thing with another girl is done now. Sex with her, it was, it was… (my brain is sputtering as I search for adjectives)… I mean, god damn. Impossible for it to be any more passionate. Writhing and shuddering and then falling asleep with our foreheads pressed together. You think that this sex is so good, she’ll remember me for a long time. Even if she gets dementia. But no. Every guy thinks this but every guy is an idiot. She had transcendent sex before you and will have more after you. You are but one name on the list.

She had these buxom fertile hips and wasn’t on the pill. For a week we thought she was pregnant and my ego enjoyed the possibility that I might be about to make my own lame little dent in the universe. But she wasn’t pregnant and that hypothetical fetus better thank the Maker that it was never called into existence. With the amount that girl drinks the baby would have dissolved in utero before it had the chance to live this weird life it didn’t ask for. 100% of the next generation will have learning disabilities because their mothers stumbled home from the bars at 6.00 am. None of these children will be capable of doing mental arithmetic or dribbling a soccer ball. There will be only short buses going to the schools. But I shouldn’t complain because Party Girls are the only way I get laid.

Anyway. There’s an attractive girl in this café right now and we’re stealing looks at each other. Or maybe I want her to be stealing looks at me, but she’s actually just stretching her neck or checking the window, which I am sitting next to, to see if it’s raining.

She hasn’t looked over here in a while but nevertheless I am trying to sip coffee in a sexy manner in case she does. I’m crossing my legs at the knee as if I have a dignified backstory, as if I’ve been in rooms with ambassadors before. I’m doing a hard brow furrow and glaring at my $200 Lenovo laptop as if the screen is displaying classified documents or some shit.

Sooner or later one of us will have to leave and it’s looking like it’s gonna be me. I’ll have to stand up and sling on my messenger bag in a sexy manner. That will be difficult. The placement of the strap is where it gets tricky. If it’s above or below your nipple then it distorts your pec and the muscle smooshes over the strap so that resembles a squishy suburban dad tit… this happens to your pectoralis major even if you do 100 pushups a day, which I do. Donning on a messenger bag without looking like a dork is a delicate operation. You have to hoist the bag over your head and then bring it smoothly down across your chest so that the strap is placed flat over the nipple, and you have to do it in one fluid motion — with no adjustments afterward — because you’re a sexy man after all and you get everything right the first time. God damn this pretty girl being in the coffee shop is stressing me out.

But there is a valuable lesson to be derived from the fact that even if you manage to place the strap around your torso so that it flatters your musculature, she probably won’t be looking at you anyway.

This British Chick (Part II)

Being single is usually amazing but every so often you step on a landmine. We were out on Saturday night and, oh man, it backfired. I gave her some MD and she got too high to talk to me. She ran around grabbing other dudes. She went home with an Irish kid. I hung on the periphery to see if my fortunes would change but when she started giving him an unrequested scalp massage and I knew my defeat was confirmed. This motherfucker was benefiting off my drugs, god damn it. I wonder how many times some other dude’s drugs have worked in my favor without me knowing it? Probably most of the time.

So she’s gone and it is too bad. I thought we were going to have a little story here but I was overdue for a little karmic backhand. I’m sad. But at least I have to work all the time these days. My head is, thankfully, full of mundane administrative checklists. I’m mercifully distracted. Although now I work so much that I have nothing to talk about except work. I don’t have time to do anything interesting. This is late-stage capitalism we’re dealing with here folks; merely gaining an inch or two of financial traction requires a nonstop, full-tilt sprint. Today it’s July 4th and I have to work all day. The stupid YouTube gig. You know, I think I’m the only person who ever has to go to work. I hear peals of laughter floating over the rooftops. Some EDM music too. I think everyone in the world is at a pool party right now, except for me.

Overall I am on the right track though. Everyone is 30 now, so my two best friends are engaged. In 2018 I get to be the mysterious Best Man, The Bachelor with that funny toast, which is always what I’ve wanted to be. I haven’t wanted to be the groom for a long time.

***

Well. Can’t wait for the weekend again. 52 weekends a year equals 104 nights out a year. Still not enough, nowhere close to enough. You always have to go out. If the previous weekend was all magic, then you want to repeat it. And if the last weekend was horrible, then you want to go out to avenge your misfortune. Man. Rosie, I really wish you hadn’t done that.

This British Chick

All right I really like this one and I’m trying to be cool about it. I read her texts, let her see I’ve read them, and then I won’t reply for like 5 hours but the whole time my hand is twitching for the phone. The 5 hour thing is overkill probably. And anyway it’s 2017. Girls know what you’re doing. When girls don’t reply to me, I know what they’re doing.

I have burned through 90% of my youth and now I’m at the age where you start falling for girls with dark histories because they become the only people you meet. They have dark histories full of bad boys like me. A bunch of my clones. She had an abortion this year. The British accent can make even the phrase “I just had an abortion” seem almost whimsical. If she were an American and had said that, in that flat grating LA tone, I’d have shrieked and run for the hills. But the tea-and-crumpets accent will make you forgive all manner of sins. And besides that she’s cute enough that she can get away with a history like hers.

I drink like James Bond but she drinks more. She was hammered when she told me about said abortion so she forgot. Now I know but she doesn’t know I know and it’s like I read her mind and stole the information. She used to have a drug problem, weekends where she’d blast three grams, that sort of thing. She’s damaged but hey I’m no choir boy. I have fucked all of her friends, except the one who I haven’t, the one who is holding back out of principle. I’m kind of The Man right now but it’s only because we live in a small expat community. There’s only like 80 foreigners in the city. I think the only smaller community of foreigners might be that scientific outpost down in Antarctica.

Tuesday night we talked and played each other shit on YouTube for like 5 hours and man she is funny and warm and I could see us walking away from the party together and meeting her parents. She made me want another stupid book deal writing stuff that I hate, just so I can have that cred for when I meet her parents. Projecting myself into the future like that made me realize that right now I am not a real person, I’m not The Man, I’m a man child.

I want something real again, just for a few minutes. Long enough to at least get some couple shots with a hot girl up on Facebook, gotta get something lasting out of the deal, you know? Then will come the inevitable entropy and the whole thing will go bad and when it goes bad I’ll get back out there again and write a post like this again. I want to tell her nice things but I have to be cool. These are savage times. You can’t be nice. The second you’re nice they’ll kill you.

My love life has been, on the whole, too sweet and too fun. There have been too many electric moments and cute beginnings. Most couples have like one gooey story where they ran around a city all night the first time they met and sang karaoke or whatever but I have about 2,000 of those. Moments can be drugs too.

Making It

I emailed an expat magazine here in Hanoi saying I wrote a book about Vietnam, so you should hire me. I attached the first chapter. The wording of my email was very humble. Maybe too humble; they could tell it was an act. They must have sensed my vibes of insincerity and entitlement. Did I say entitlement? I meant arrogance. I hit the Send button by slapping the trackpad with my dick. They ignored me. Maybe they ignored me because I’m a bad writer, but I don’t think so. I think they ignored me because they sensed that I’d phone it in. They knew I just wanted the journalist job so I could say I had it at parties. They could sense that I write with a fuck you smile when the article assignment is some branded drivel like “Top 10 MUST-SEE Vietnamese Villages That Were Rebuilt After Your Grandfather Took a Flamethrower To Them in ’68.”

But yes I am slightly annoyed. I wanted them to want me.

So that was that! I was legit and I made about a dollar. Now it’s over. Back to my birthright of being a drone. Back to ESL teaching. But actually I will make good money this summer. In Vietnam I am in the 1%. If writing paid this well you bet your ass I’d still be trying to do it, still be bitter that they won’t let me be a journalist. But it doesn’t. What happens is you write an article and they put an ad in the sidebar. The advertiser sends a check to the boardroom and the guy in the boardroom sends you a tuna sandwich.

I should be writing more but I keep going to parties. And you know what, that’s OK. I’ll write only sometimes, when I’ve got something. I rarely have something, so I’ll write four posts a year probably. That’s all I can come up with I think. And that’s fine. They’ll be good posts, they will be clean, because they will have been created in an economic vacuum. No one will read them, but hey you know what I wouldn’t either. I get it. Too much good shit on YouTube. Plus there’s the heroin needle of Facebook to compete with. No one has read a blog since 2007; I get it.

But the parties. How can you expect someone to stop doing this? I’m addicted to magic. Wednesday at 2 am I had just popped a sleeping pill when Meg texted. It was like a game to stay awake until she got here and took her pants off. Friday was margaritas with Shannon and when we got back home we wrestled on the couch. Saturday I sat with Rosie by the frog pond in the middle of the party. We talked about how we’d seen each other at previous parties and had always wanted to kiss each other, which is the #1 best conversation you will ever have with another human. We ate fried noodles at the market, got to my room at sunup, woke up spooning at noon. Whoever told you partying is empty has never been to a party. Magic might not be very real but it’s better than writing.

Please Love Me

There is a new post on my other blog. My public blog, the one that I started explicitly for validation.

My second post in five months. I am on a roll! It’s about Vietnam; I wrote it to impress people who live in Vietnam here with me. Specifically the girls. I wrote it to counterbalance the weird and awkward stuff I do in social interactions. I wrote it so that these girls will say to each other “Hey, Ben is boring in person but he’s an amazing writer. We should all go have sex with him now.”

Well here it is:

https://wordpress.com/post/benjaminhasablog.wordpress.com/488
There is no “like” button because I’m afraid I won’t get many likes. You can leave a comment though. I will have to moderate it before it goes up, in order to ensure that only the most glowing of comments will appear, with the desired effect being that I can do no wrong.

Bye for now.

What Happened In Malaysia

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I.

This was like three weeks ago. The Indian girl left on Saturday morning… well, wait, she was actually Scottish but her parents are Indian. She has nothing to do with this story, but I’m starting with her because alluding to a sweaty morning bang is a snappier way to start than with something like “I went to Malaysia this month.”

I went to Malaysia this month. The house party the night before I left was a Class-A Rager. I wrote a post a while back about being done with drugs and partying but it was a lie so I deleted it. After the party I slept two hours then motorcycled to the airport out in the rice fields, which is of course where a Vietnamese airport would be.

My visa is such that I have to leave the country every 90 days or else I become an illegal immigrant. Some slight ironies there. I was going to Malaysia because it was cheap and close. I had promised my family I’d visit them in America that week, but I ended up not being able to afford it, because I’m a writer. Actually I’m a legitimately published writer. And actually I’ve been pretty mad since the book came out – everyone thinks I self-published it. Amazon has polluted the prestige of authorship. Have you shown it to a real publisher? everyone asks. Just to summarize: My dream kind of came true and no one knows it did.

II.

I got there at sunset. As I went up the jetway I realized that I knew nothing about Malaysia. I had always been simply aware of its existence, in the same way you know that there is a planet called Mercury out there.

But suddenly there I was in Malaysia.

I Googled “Malaysia” in the immigration line and I read for about twenty seconds, long enough to learn that once upon a time it was a British possession but today it’s ruled by someone called an “elected king,” which is a fact that I found mildly interesting.

The Malaysia that presented itself to me from the train window was a bland one of condos, and featureless factories, and gas stations with attached Starbucks. Did I actually come to America after all? This could be I-95. It was overwhelming how underwhelming Malaysia was.

Then we went by a mosque, with little mini-mosques spread around it like in Aladdin. There we go, baby. I came all this way — show me the exotic stuff.

We cut into the city and I saw the diamond spires of the Petronas Twin Towers. I had to look away. Seeing a landmark is always too surreal for me to handle the first time.

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III.

At the hotel I graded papers, napped, did a Tabata workout and ordered food. I was excited. I had never ordered room service before. I was so excited I couldn’t press the right numbers on the phone. My arrival moment. Who orders room service? Published authors, that’s who the fuck orders room service. Except in my case it was going to be just once because I only made about a dollar off that book.

“Can I get some curry and a black coffee for room 1209?” I said.

“OK,” said the guy on the phone. “You have to pick it up on the 5th floor.”

“Oh.” I was in a towel. “Well, can you bring it up here, please?”

“No, we do not have room service.”

He said it like he’d had this conversation two million times and was sick of always being on the front line of this awkward culture clash. These Westerners and their royal expectations!

All right. I went down and got my food. While I ate I fired up Tinder. Half the girls on it had hijabs. Their bios said no sex no alcohol. So don’t you dare disrespect my God by asking to meet for a drink.

Hm. I remembered from my twenty seconds of Googling that this was a Muslim country. The signs were not boding well for my big Saturday night out. And I did have to go out; I have been cursed, you see. In exchange for breaking the hearts of all the girls who have had the audacity to love and commit to me, I have to now try to laid every Saturday night.

You want to go fuck everything? Well you can do that. But you can never stop.

IV.

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So at 2:00 am I was downtown, in Bukit Bintang, in my tightest T-shirt, on a dance floor the size of a basketball court, dancing, indulging, living out my curse, worshiping at the altar of self, of me, of my own pleasure.

Oh man, it was something else that night. Good vibes, high energy.  I had pulled a 21 Jump Street and infiltrated a group of Dutch college kids. I’m pretty much 30 but I look younger; my mother has some Blackfoot blood and gave me a few sweet strands of melanin-laced Native American DNA that’s kept the skin around my eyes tight longer than it should be. I feel very superior about this. I think about this all the time.

The girl I was with was blond and kind of tall so we fit together proportionally like figures on a wedding cake. We were kissing and kissing and kissing. It was that usual Saturday magic. We were both breathless. It was getting to the point where if we kissed any longer she was going to get pregnant with her clothes still on.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“No,” she said.

So we kept kissing. And I really mean kept kissing, for a full hour. I was giving it everything I had. She was into it. She kept pushing me up against the table. Bottles were falling over.

At 3:00 I said “Let’s go,” again, and she said no again, which inspired images in my head of jets crashing and trains colliding into each other head-on – failing, I am failing! – and so I called a timeout and went to the street and had a bottle of water. Three whores from Ghana came up, one after another.

“Handsome guy, let’s go.”

“No,” I said.

“Why not?”

“I don’t pay for it.”

“Why not? You are rich.”

This is how a working girl thinks. He has money; therefore he buys sex. Neither of those facts were true about me. But there was something endearing about hearing this new perspective. This is why we travel, isn’t it?

V.

Back into the club. 4th quarter of the game. Time for the comeback. The Dutch girl was still there and we made out for another full hour, and at 4:00 I invited her back again and she said no again, so I got a taxi.

God damn, that was a lot of kissing.

At the hotel the cab fare was 20 ringgit.

“Actually it’s 30 ringgit,” said the taxi driver.

“No, the meter says 20.”

“After midnight there’s a 50% surcharge.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said. “I’m paying the meter and the meter says 20.”

“There is a sticker on the window with the rule,” he said.

I looked. Sure enough, there was a sticker and it said “50% surcharge after midnight.”

I was beaten. Tonight had been a string of very small disasters. I drew another 10 ringgit and paid up. “You probably made that sticker at home,” I told him as I slammed the door.

I didn’t actually say that.

VI.

In the morning I had to do laundry and called down to the desk.

“Is there a laundry service?”

“No, you have to do it yourself. Down on the 5th floor,” said the receptionist.

“This is barely a hotel, you know that? Do you want me to work the front desk for you too?”

I actually did say that, but only after I’d hung up.

Then I took the metro downtown. I had to figure out where to change lines, which was a little fun. I like the puzzle of a new city. I went to the base of the Twin Towers with the rest of the lemmings.

We all stood there, identical. Everyone, including me, following the same programming to get the same picture. I saw myself in the glass panes of the lobby door. Sweaty polo shirt plastered crooked on my torso, sunglasses on and camera held up just like every other dope. I got my dumb little picture and then beat it and got on a random bus.

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From the bus I saw a white girl across the road, alone, standing next to a banner with Malaysia’s elected king on it, taking a picture of the towers. She was getting a good angle on them. She was going to have a better picture than everyone else that day. My kind of girl.

The bus hummed through a roundabout and then exited, shooting off into the city like rogue comet. When I looked back, I’d lost her.

VII.

Then it was dark. I was eating alone in the market and it started raining so they consolidated everyone under the umbrellas and put a British guy at my table. He was ten years older than me and looked precisely like John Oliver, which I did not bring up because I hate being unoriginal and I’m sure he hears that a lot.

He said he was the head of the English department for an international school.

“They put me up in a six-star hotel for free,” he said. “And I save $5,000 a month.”

I flashed back to unregistering my fredcolton.com domain name because I can’t afford the $27 annual fee.

I lied and said, “Yeah man, I’m doing pretty well too.”

Maybe we were both lying to each other? I hope so.

We split a big bottle of beer. We spoke of women. He’s doing about as well as I am. In that we both do so well that we don’t enjoy it anymore — but if we didn’t have women at all, we’d hate that too. And if we just had one woman for the rest of our lives, that would be even worse.

The moral of the story, I realized halfway to the bottom of my glass, is that everything sucks.

The sky sealed back up and the rain stopped and we parted ways. I was pretty annoyed that he hadn’t offered me a job.

VIII.

So I went to a pub where there was cricket playing on the flatscreens. The owner sat down at my table on the sidewalk. He was an Irishman because of course he was, this was a pub. He was huge, old, no hair, all belly.

“I know the general of the Thai Army,” he told me. “I met him when he came here.”

I don’t what it is about my face that makes people say things like this, but this happens a lot. I have a listener face. I hate it. This must be another curse. I’ll mention going to the gym, and dudes will yell I HAVE A SIX-PACK! at me.

“In Bangkok we have parties,” the Irishman said. “They pick me up in a limo on the tarmac and off we go. You can have anything you want. Drugs and girls.”

“Heh!” I said, because I didn’t know what other sound to make.

I ordered a Guinness, thinking he’d say it was on the house. But he made me pay.

“Sometimes the parties are out on the islands,” he said. “The officers bring death row prisoners out there with them. Do you know why?”

He was smiling hard. I was drinking hard. The man was straight out of the underworld.

“Why?”

“The generals kill them! They’ll have the prisoners run across the marshes and they’ll take turns shooting after them. These guys were going to die anyway.”

“Oh man,” I said.

Then there was a girl standing at our table. “Which team do you like?” she asked. She was talking about the cricket on TV.

“I don’t watch cricket,” I said.

She was either Indian or Pakistani. Young, and perfect English.

The pub owner gave me a hoo boy! little eyebrow raise and gave the girl his seat. I saw deep joy in his eyes. He was rooting for me. He was remembering what it was like to be a young person — and still look like a person — and to talk to a woman who wasn’t a sex slave.

So there we were. The ogre across from me had been swapped out for a young doll. She turned out to be Indian, which meant that the girl from the first sentence of this story now kind of had something to do with it after all.

This particular girl was 22 and an exchange student. From the East Coast, which apparently means the same thing in India as it does in America (money). Rich dad who had divorced her mom for a younger one.

She told me she was hitting up the whole street and making friends with the bar owners so they would give her free drinks. I didn’t get free drinks, even in exchange for listening to tales of rape and murder, but she got free drinks simply for being 22. Well, and female.

“Does that always work for you?” I asked. “Just walking into a place and getting drinks?”

“Always.”

She had glasses and a long white patterned shirt, a kind of shirt which I’m sure has an Indian name, and tight blue pants. She definitely had curves.

“What do you do when you’re not drinking on the streets?” I asked.

“I do standup,” she said.

“In English?”

“Of course.”

“How do you deal with bombing?” I asked.

“I don’t bomb anymore.”

I was starting to think this night wasn’t real. She had fallen out of the sky right next to my table. If this went well then my curse would continue, and I was going to have to stay single for another ten years or something, because this night would end up being further encouragement.

There was soon more beer and we got on to sex talk pretty fast.

“What’s your top score?” she asked.

I thought that was a cute way to put it.

“On Super Mario Brothers?” I asked.

“You know what I mean.”

“One hundred,” I said. “Both with women, and Super Mario Brothers. I can’t get past the shrooms in the game.”

“Mine is seven,” she said.

“Oh my God, that’s so many. That’s the most I’ve ever heard.”

I’m not witty. I’m already tall and handsome; no one gets a third superpower on top of those two. But I’m good with basic irony.

“Let’s go to another place,” I said.

If she follows, you’re good.

She followed.

We walked over to the next bar. I was wired, alive, in the hunt. There was that feeling that it could fall apart at any second. That uncertainty is better than the connection.

We sat and then of course we were kissing.

I moved my mouth to her ear. “Let’s go,” I said.

“No,” she said.

IX.

All right. That’s it – you lost, I thought.

At least in that instant I got the inspiration to write this piece. I could write about not getting laid and then intersperse it with the horrifying stories the Irishman told me. Talk about the Malaysian skyscrapers as well and god damn, you’ve got yourself a blog post, son.

But for now — you lost, man. Go home.

“I don’t have data on my phone,” I said. “Can you get an Uber for me?”

We went out to the street. Stood on the corner. When the Uber came I opened the door, pivoted, and fired the Hail Mary pass.

“Let’s go.”

The ball was in the air. She paused for a hundred years, and then another hundred, and then said, “OK, but you’re not getting lucky.”

I was getting lucky.

We were in my room. This was the entire reason to get a hotel. The logistics. You can’t get laid in a hostel.

“I’m glad you’re here,” I said. “Now we can watch Malaysian TV.”

I turned on a soap opera and she groaned and kicked a pillow at me.

“OK, pillow fight it is,” I told her.

More kissing. When she took my shirt off I put one hand in her underwear. She was ungroomed, like the 80s, and like every decade before the 80s I guess.

She nodded down at herself. “I wasn’t ready for anything like this tonight,” she said.

“Me either,” I lied, and put her thighs around my head like earmuffs.

A minute later she said, “Do you have a condom?”

“No. I didn’t expect anything like this to happen,” I lied again.

“Go get some downstairs.”

There was a 7-11 right nearby. The guys in the lobby watched me go across the parking lot and come out with my hands in my pockets. They knew. They gave me huge breathless grins when I came back in. They probably saw this ritual all the time.

On my way back up to the room I was drifting slow, taking my time, leaving her space to bail if she wanted.

I unlocked the door. She was still naked under the sheets.

“I’ve never slept with a guy on the first night,” she said.

“I hear most guys are disappointing the first night. Myself included.”

“I’m going to talk about this in my standup,” she said.

I wondered what jokes, what angles she’d seen tonight that I hadn’t.

“And I’ll write about you,” I told her, and crawled onto the bed.

X.

She left and I set two alarms and ordered a wake-up call and was surprised when the front desk said they’d do it. I had expected them to say that in this hotel, I had to call and wake myself up.

It was critical that I woke up on time. If I missed my flight I would have no money to re-book. I would be literally be homeless in Malaysia. Hot dread was in my veins as I slept.

The Uber driver took a while getting me to the airport. It was 50km away and he snuffled along in the slow lane the whole time. It was like the car was trapped in a dream. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t make it in time. I thought about being a white beggar at the base of the Twin Towers. That car ride was the closest thing to pure terror that a safe white prince like me can experience.

But I made it. I got on some café wi-fi and saw my photo of the Twin Towers was killing it on Facebook. It made me happy for 30 seconds. And then everything sucked again.

I boarded and the plane took off.

“Please crash,” I thought.

Living the Dream

I wrote this on Monday.

***

HANOI — I do the same things each week, over and over, like I live in a GIF. The weekends are magical because I have sex with everybody. The weekends are worth all manner of misery. They are worth Mondays, which is when the GIF resets and I smash back down to Earth for one more ride around the nightmare circuit.

It is Monday and god damn it’s 2 pm. I always wake up at 2 pm. It will be one of those days where I will spend my waking hours cutting against the grain of the universe. The rain is here, as if to confirm my foreboding feeling, as if to say “No, you’re not getting off easy today.” The typhoons are back and will be here until September. I will need to drive my motorcycle in the rain until September.

God damn, I have to hang up my laundry and I forgot my brush my teeth last night and I’m out of cereal too.

I go online and everything sucks. The news is boring – something about Turkey. I have Facebook messages to read, but no messages from pretty young girls, which makes you wonder what the fuck the point of Facebook is. All the girls from this weekend are playing it cool. Pretty young girls ruin everything. They devalue all messages that are not from them.

What else? My YouTube traffic has collapsed. My first book is out and the publisher just mailed me a stack of eight copies. They spelled my name wrong on the copyright page, which is an irony thoroughly befitting of my awkward existence.

I want people to know I wrote a book but I don’t want them to actually read it. Having a book out feels like you’ve just laid your balls on a table and everyone is walking by with a mallet. What if they judge me?People, just imagine that it’s amazing and let’s have that be the end of it. “Fred is a genius” is all you should think.

Writing and YouTube pay nothing but dopamine and legitimacy. I can’t pay the rent with legitimacy. I remember having more money than this. It was awesome. I’m getting tired of being legitimate and having no money.

I have another message – seems that I might get sued by the publisher due to a clusterfuck with the photo releases. Sue me, see what you get. My budget is on life support. I make $200 a week from my job, which is correcting Vietnamese people’s pronunciation mistakes. Said mistakes are legion. Vietnamese people pronounce “difficult” as “difficunt.” It’s less hilarious after the thousandth time. One girl kept saying “delicious friend” in class yesterday. “I love my delicious friend,” she kept saying. “When I go home, I turn on my delicious friend.” It took me five minutes of linguistic detective work to realize she was trying to say “electric fan.”

You can see that this is a job that will slowly corrode your mind. In exchange for each week of this spiral-eyed torture I am given $200. I am poor. All my pants have holes in them. I am pretty much 30 years old, and still poor. I make no money because salary negotiations with my boss must be handled in Vietnamese, and I don’t speak any Vietnamese. I can’t count past seven in Vietnamese. I have been here an entire year.

Suffice it to say that during the week everything sucks, and life is quite difficunt.

Good Times

It’s my sister’s birthday. This year she made a change and became a nun who lives a life of service to others. She’s younger than me. 27 today.

I woke up still me. I woke up to the street vendors howling as the cops smashed their stools. I had glitter on my balls. My problem is that I wake up with glitter on my balls very often. Flecks of glitter are fiendishly difficult to excise from the shapeshifting sponge that is a scrotum.

You would think that after a decade of top-gear hedonism I’d be ready to ease up but you would be wrong. I want to go out even more now. I start thinking about next Saturday night before the sun has even gone down on this Saturday. Oh God this thing is never gonna stop or slow down is it?

 

These Days

There is always a party. I routinely return home at 7 am and go to sleep on Winnie-the-Pooh bedsheets, because these sheets are what the landlord had laying around, and that’s good enough for me. Again, I sleep on Winnie-the-Pooh sheets and I’m 29 years old. Also, I am now down to only three pairs of boxer briefs, which means “Underwear Days” are a thing in my vocabulary. I am probably the most single man in the world.

What else? My travel book is being published next month but I’m hesitant about how to brag about it on social media. I think I have to go sarcastic/ironic with it. It’s a Real Book, but the Communist censors cut most of the teeth out of it. All that’s left of it is the literary equivalent of an in-flight magazine. All that’s left of it is basically a few listicles on where to find pho. Essentially, I have as much bragging rights as the dweebs who edit math textbooks.

What else?

Uh well I got a job making YouTube videos, but not because I’m talented. It’s because I live in Vietnam and there’s only six white people here. I am definitely not on camera because I’m handsome enough to be on camera. I mean – I know I’m not a bridge troll. But I’m also not a model. I’m what they call HIV (Handsome in Vietnam). Being HIV, so to speak, allows me to occasionally lure women onto my Winnie-the-Pooh sheets, too. My life is sort of a joke.

I’ve been in Vietnam for a year and I’ve had a few drugs, a few motorcycle crashes, a few thousand drinks and a few epiphanies that didn’t last. For the sake of exploding my perspective and getting inspired, I should leave soon. I’ll make some videos and then I’ll leave. I’ll go to some more parties and then I’ll leave. I’ll buy underwear when I leave.

Not Sure What To Make Of This One

I remember feeling proud of myself today for not knowing who had been nominated for the Oscars. I then remembered that I hate people who brag about not knowing popular things.

I went to the café and the staff stood up when I walked in like I was the President. I remember this really annoyed me but I’m not sure why.

I keep forgetting people’s names when I go out.

I need to try some new hobbies because maybe there is something out there that I haven’t tried yet that I’m naturally good at.

I mean, probably not but hey.

I have a Rain Man-ish affinity for dates and so I remember this day in 2004 I was in London with my grandparents. I had never been abroad before. I was so excited I was having trouble breathing. I thought that this girl Allison from school was going to like me a lot because I’d been to a foreign country but then I went back to America and she didn’t give a shit.

I’m in Asia now and I haven’t been home in two years.

I was on the motorcycle today and finally felt at peace in the anarchy of traffic, in this seething hardscrabble doomscape where people crash and get hit all the time. I can make time slow down and I can find the gaps and I can predict when someone else is about to do something stupid.

I got to work and took off my motorcycle helmet, which is a helmet that I think looks cool, like something Daft Punk would rock, and one of my students walked by and said it looked like a rice cooker.

I don’t know about this writing thing, or about this reading thing either. I have been reading the same book for like 3 months now and I’m only 40% through. I might not ever read another book. I might be reading this book forever. I might be doing everything that I’m doing now forever.

I need a haircut.

At Ease

I have accepted that I’m just a guy. Just an average male with a standard-issue mental hard drive. By now I know that no matter how many influences I shotgun into my head, I’m not going to wake up a genius one day. I can do away with the fury of trying. I feel pretty good about that.

Benjamin Has A Blog

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I. Unmasking

My editor uses words such as digital marketing and platforms. She is in the business of making her bosses rich by farming out the grunt work to me. And it has been suggested that I start a new blog under my real name — a blog which should be fit for public consumption — in order to start marketing my little travel book.

Fuck it, let’s do this. My name is Ben (nice to meet you) and here is my new blog.

It’ll be a showcase or maybe a portfolio or some other word that’s just as douchey. I’ve taken stuff I wrote a while ago and cut, edited, and focus-grouped it to within an inch of its life. So! You should follow it, like it, love it. Just so when I go public on Facebook, there’s at least three likes on that first post.

(Oh my God, please at least just click. You don’t even need to read it. Just… click. I’ve been slinging words into the empty void for so long now that I’m really not above begging.)

II. Laura

When I date women, I don’t say I’m a writer, I don’t even make an oblique reference to the SIGNED BOOK CONTRACT sitting in my closet. Maybe that’s why Laura didn’t text me back. Maybe she thinks I have nothing going on in my life. Damn! Laura was hot. She wanted to hang out. It was a layup. Somehow I blew it.

So this new blog is the last card I have left. This is a blitzkrieg. I may be underwhelming in person but now everyone is going to see that, in the fake realm of the Internet, I am a genius*. In the back of my mind With all of my mind, that’s what I’m hoping for, I’m pushing all my chips in on this blog. I’m so cool!

Joke’s on me though because I think I remember Laura saying she doesn’t read much.

III. Etymology

Fred Colton is a pretty dumb name, I’ve realized. I was watching GI Joe 2 when I was drunk on the couch at 5:00 am on Christmas morning, and learned that Bruce Willis’s character is named General Colton. I didn’t know that! Has everyone been thinking that I took my name from GI Joe 2? Probably not, but hey I’m not immune to a solipsistic worry or two.

My family is of German descent (see: “blitzkrieg,” above) and as of the 80s (after 150 years in America) we were apparently still sticking pretty hard to the ethnic names thing, because I was given the middle name of Friedrich. I shortened that to Fred, because this is 2017 and not The Sound of Music. I picked Colton because I wanted a surname that starts with C, because I used to be a big Michael Connelly and Lee Child fanboy.

One last takeaway: Fred Colton dot com will continue to exist. It’s where I practice writing and it’s where I make my confessions.

All right. Well, that’s all for tonight, kids.

Cheers,

Ben

***

*Although when it comes to expressing yourself, writing is kind of cheating, because you get infinite chances with which to restate and refine what you’re saying.

 

Journal: Election Day 2016

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I’ve been in bed with food poisoning. I’m not surprised, because everything I eat is prepared by unwashed hands in a Vietnamese marketplace that plays host to a population of sewer rats. Every meal, you spin the barrel on the revolver again.

When I emerged from solitary confinement we had a new president. I say that I’m worried, because it’s just something you have to say in social situations. The truth is that I’m too white, too male, too straight and too Christian-adjacent to be worried.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not like a savior got shafted. Hillary probably wasn’t going to help you. She was Sameness. She was the perpetuation of this broken machine that crushes everyone and sucks us dry. You were still going to have to go to work on Monday.

Anyway, this is America’s problem. In theory, I care, but it’s hard to. I live in a foreigner’s settlement on a faroff planet, where the headlines don’t really touch us. We’re alien bandits who drive motorcycles, drink all the beer and take all the money. The locals don’t like us much, but they need what’s in our heads.

We know it won’t last. Eventually, the proper dark forces will coalesce over this nation, someone loud will take charge, and we’ll have to pack up and worry about reality again. Until that day, I stay prodigal.

 

Journal: Fall in Saigon

I spent a week walking the city. Saigon was whored out to the West for a long time before the war. As a result she has clean crystal Gucci stores and streets smooth as an NBA court. I deplore American foreign policy, but you can’t deny that we leave some really pretty imperial wreckage behind. If it had gone the other way, and Vietnam had invaded us, they’d have left squat toilets.

My disdain for my Uncle Sam’s foreign engagements aside, I’m still a human with the built-in design flaw of a tribal ego, so I still find it kind of annoying that we lost this war. And I’m hurt for all those penniless draftees from Detroit or Akron or wherever who had to die here so the Skull & Bones WASPs might get bragging rights at the UN. But we lost, so there were no bragging rights to be had, and so all that really happened was that 60,000 boys were sent to slaughter in service of a scheme that didn’t work.

I’d have been one of the dead, were I born a little earlier. I’m pretty sure of this because I was a weak and impressionable boy. I would have made the kind of grunt that brainwashes real well; you can fill up my entire head with just a mantra or two.

Instead, I was born later. And when I grew up the right girls dumped me at the right times, and they freed me from reality. Every rejection was another tumbler of the lock clicking open. No one wanted me, so I was free to go. I got on a plane and now I’m here.

Vietnam used to be a kill zone for the white man, now it’s an odd, pressure-free vacuum. I work enough to survive, which for the average inmate on this prison planet is all day, every day. I work 90 minutes a day. I wasn’t snared up by the nooses that get all the other young men.

You get older, and get to know yourself better. Know yourself, and know that all you are is lucky.

***

I left. In Saigon’s Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport I read an email from my grandmother. She asked if I knew that my grandfather was on the team that designed this airport when he was there in 1965.

I didn’t know that. He wouldn’t have told me, because he’s never told me a word about himself. He could have been to the moon, for all I know. Supreme, bulletproof, 1930s confidence. What was that like, back when you didn’t have to say a word in order to bolster your existence?

Know Yourself

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“Schalung,” a work by Meister Fliege

A little while ago I had a birthday. I’m 29 now.

That day I flew down to Saigon, so I’d have the authority to write about it. I had a month left to finish the book. I like the investigative aspect of it. Checking the map, listing the things I don’t know yet, then writing my interview questions.

When you’re in a new place, you should walk everywhere, and walk slow, so that you can slip under the surface of it. The game of the writer is a constant, anxious search for a new insight or angle that no one else has typed first. I’m bad at it. I miss a lot.

It was November, but Saigon is in the tropics, so it feels like the city sits on the rim of a volcano. I was drinking coffee on the street as traffic churned by and eventually witnessed a tableau that could wear the caption “Modern Vietnam.”

A fat tattooed guy, probably my age, cooled at the light in an Audi. He was born here – which is usually a real bad toss of the dart – but he was born to exactly the right parents. Next to him, his girlfriend (or mistress, or side piece) was of such otherworldly, flawless beauty that it actually hurt to look at her. On the sidewalk next to them (and at the opposite end of the spectrum of existence) another woman in a rice hat held a man impossibly deformed by Agent Orange. His head was the size of a beach ball, his body that of a toddler’s. It hurt to look at him.

Backpackers were in the mix too. You can tell how long traveling couples have been together by their proximity. When the hormones are still in full effect, they walk next to each other and jabber and grin, because they’re the luckiest people alive. Then a year goes by and there’s a change in the magnetic fields and they start to drift. She leads and he trails by a few paces, blank-faced, like a POW being force-marched somewhere. A man who would like to be me, the bachelor.

Or would he?

I’m a free man but the price tag for that is being lonely in the margins. Sometimes there’s no one to talk to. I flew down to Saigon and its seven million people, but I didn’t meet any of them for the first two days. I would walk around, then write in the café until late and get back to the hostel dorm and everyone would be dead asleep. I was back in solitary confinement.

Finally, I found some funny people. A guy from Germany, another one from Japan, and a Filipina. I tried to sleep with the Filipina, because I try to sleep with any woman in front of me. The animal within me has not yet received the message that I don’t intend to reproduce.

We walked back to the hostel together one night. She said she was going to stay down in the lobby to use her phone, so the light wouldn’t wake up anyone in her room.

I got up to my dorm. I got up the squeaky ladder to my bed. I was drunk. I texted her: ill come down and keep you company

She texted back instantly: no im good

Smooth deflection – and in her second language, no less. But like all pretty women she’s had practice. By the mid-twenties they’re all shutdown corners. It’s a nice stiff-arm to your delusions.

***

It was Friday morning. I left the hostel and moved to a hotel by the Bitexco Tower. I could see the helipad in the air above my window. The room had stained-wood flooring and a bathtub and giant windows. There was a doorman in the lobby and the desk ladies wore the áo dài gowns.

I was there because from Sunday to Thursday, I write, but on Friday and Saturday I try to get laid, and you can’t really get laid in a hostel. I’ve stopped lying to myself. I made peace with the fact that I’m a monster. I like women, an endless supply of them. I look at Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods and see men of my stripe. It’s just an excess of the biological urge.

Conveniently, friends of my age are already divorced. My parents were once in love or something but today they savage each other on Facebook. If you don’t break up, you cheat. If you don’t do one of those two things, you still want to. If you put love on trial, how could it win?

All you can do is hope you’re good at being single.

I went to the gym and wrestled with my tribal ego at the museum with the photos of American soldiers shooting little kids. Then I had coffee and wrote for three hours, came back to the hotel at night, did pushups and squat jumps in the room, then showered. By then it was 11:45 p.m.

Game night. Being single, you don’t have that many games. You can last maybe about as long as an NFL player. Maybe more, if you take fastidious care of yourself. Maybe less, if you go bald.

I got down to the street but didn’t have a heading. I just sat and had a Tiger and read the Saigon Times and a guy appeared in front of me and began breathing fire. When he saw me watching, he asked for money.

A bunch of young people went into a club across the street. It was at this point when real life jammed to a stop and a simulation kicked in. From that second onward, nothing went wrong. I put down the paper and walked past the dragon and into the club.

She was blonde and in a dress that was tied off with a sash like a kimono. She was money. She had the socialite demeanor, complexion and posture. Like someone at Wimbledon in the row behind Prince Harry. She was talking to a guy when I walked in, and she looked over. I’m taller; I win.

What you do when you see someone pretty is you don’t approach. You point at her and wave her over. Come here. It comes off as a ruthless power move but inwardly your mind is sparking – what you’ve just done is ultimately surreal. It’s a Hail Mary pass.

If she comes to you, then the game’s over.

She came over. She was from Sweden. When I said I was American she gave me some lip about Trump (people are very predictable). To that I said: I’m really happy for Trump. It’s nice to see a rich white male finally catching a break. By that point it had been two weeks since the election – it had taken me that long to draft the perfect smart-ass soundbite about it.

Now she’s in front of you. One rule: Whatever you do, don’t be nice.

What’s your name? You look like a Gertrude.

How old are you? You look really old… you’re definitely older than me.

We kissed and my hands started following their programming and I felt that she didn’t have any underwear. We didn’t even talk about it, we just left. In the hotel I undid the sash with one hand and pinned both her wrists with the other.

She had shockingly white tan lines. And though she’s been traveling through hostels for months she still prioritizes the behind the scenes chore of waxing.

Four times. I kept flipping her over, pushing her legs up, trying everything, devouring her as she did me. She was perfect. I was still glad she had to leave at 8:00 a.m.

I’ve stopped feeling guilty for indulging. Because I didn’t ask to be here; I was placed, without my consent, on a rock in space, and after this I have nothingness to look forward to. For a full half of my cameo in existence I’ll be too old to have what I desire. Life is a bad bargain no matter how you slice it, and the joys that come with it are but quick blips.

This narcotic dance is one of said joys. I know I’m an addict, but if you have a little perspective, how can you not be?

***

Saturday was another dream. I put the Swede in a taxi and went to the gym. Then I prepped for my interview with a Vietnamese girl. I got to the café and found her to be a representative for Fossil. She had one of the watches. She had this little clip in her hair and a purple blouse. We brought our coffee out on the balcony. They were doing construction on the new metro line on the street below. Something about her accent just killed me.

I paid for her coffee as thanks for the interview.

“So, I owe you money,” she said.

“No, you absolutely don’t. You gave me so much helpful information, it’s the least I can do.”

“I feel like I do,” she said. “Do you want to meet later and have dinner?”

We got noodles and exactly one cocktail afterward in a jazz club up an alley. She got woozy; she weighs under 100 pounds.

“You’ll have to drive,” she told me.

“Where do you want me to drive you?”

It was 10:00 p.m.

“I’m not sure yet.”

“Let’s go watch a movie at my hotel,” I said.

***

I needed a visa run so I flew to Bangkok. My old roommate lives there and we talked for two days. We’re similar enough to be brothers. I never had a brother, and his brother is dead now, and so now we’re brothers. He’s the last person on Earth who would have my back, and I his; and yet we’ve still been locked in an unspoken competition for a decade. Success and milestones, etc. Right now I’m winning. But he’s in love. He’s the kind of person for whom love exists. I’m winning now; later on I’ll be the cautionary tale.

Wednesday I landed in Danang. It’s on the central Vietnamese coast and the US military used it a hinge from which to strike up and down the country. The pictures from that museum in Saigon were taken in the aftermath of raids launched from here.

I had a moment of almost unbearable happiness as I unlocked my hotel room. I couldn’t put a fine point on it, but I think it was the sensation of freedom. I wanted it forever.

I woke up in the morning and walked the whole city and didn’t see another expat all day. After dark I went to a pub I found on Google and had a hamburger and drank a lot of beer. It was Thanksgiving Day. I drunk emailed my editor to thank her again for the opportunity. She didn’t respond.

I went back to Hanoi for my friend’s birthday and tried ecstasy. You’ve been in love before, right? An ecstasy tab is like a year’s worth of that – perfect dates and text messages from them! – all crunched into one hour. The comedown is also analogous. Months’ worth of breakup, slammed into forty-eight long hours. I thought about killing myself for two days.

The Filipina texted me again as I was coming back up:

I regret not having you come down that night… I was too shy.

I think the revocation of rejection gives you a bigger swell than acceptance does. There’s something special about people admitting they were wrong about you.

***

The next weekend I was out and someone called my name. A white girl I thought I’d seen before. She looks like the actress from The Departed.

“Do you remember me?” she asked.

“We were married for a while, right?”

“We met in Seoul two years ago at trivia night. You stopped me as I was walking out and asked me for my number.”

“It’s you!” I said. “You never texted back. I’ve been distraught.”

“No, you never texted back,” she told me.

We both drew our phones to check the record. She was right.

“Maybe if you’d been more interesting, then I would have texted back,” I told her.

She punched my arm. “Wanna dance?” she asked.

We danced.

Then she said, “Can you drive me home?”

 

 

***

It’s cool to be like this when you’re not lonely, it’s cool to be like this if you’re good at it. Most of all, it’s cool to be like this when you’re young. But time makes fools of us all.

So please, just a little longer. I know that change is the only constant. But just give me this for a little longer.

Be Back Soon

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Hi there, people of the Internet.

I’ve been traveling and drinking and eating and drinking and drinking, and I just got home to Hanoi. I miss writing, I miss WordPress, I miss the likes hitting my smartphone, but I had nothing good to write about. Now I do. I’ll be back real soon.

Also, one or two people (out of my six readers — love you guys!) have emailed me through this blog, and I haven’t responded. I’m not ignoring you; I just can’t get access to that gmail account anymore for some reason. Maybe I got hacked! They saw I was boring guy with no money and then moved on to hack someone better. Anyway, I’ll make a new one at some point.

In the meantime, I hope the turkey was good. I hope you won the political arguments over dinner. If not, then you have a full year to research and prep for next Thanksgiving’s debate. If you do that and still somehow lose next year, then I have no sympathy for you.

Real Shit Only

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Street Life in ‘Nam

(I didn’t proof this post so yell at me if you catch a flaw. #fuckit)

I. Writing

Can’t even manage one post a week anymore. I’m gonna have to just write whenever.

Too much going on with the book. It’s been a hard fall so far; I see the deadline coming at me like a Mack truck. Writing a book means signing up for a long era of spiritual darkness. It would be solitary confinement, except your demons are with you. I don’t know why all writers don’t kill themselves.

There’s too much going on for me to blog, and at the same time there’s not enough going on, experientially, for me to write once a day. There aren’t enough sentences that are screaming to get out of me. So I keep forcing posts and it makes me feel like a fake filthy hack. I re-read my site and I’m truly astonished. It’s all shit. Every sentence is shit. This post is more shit on the pile. Writing is darkly fascinating. It might be the only thing you can put thousands of hours into, and still be shit.

II. Money

The only thing that is real is money. Absolutely everything hinges upon money. I live in Vietnam because of money, because I’m an economic refugee.

I won’t make anything off this book. I didn’t even get an advance. Because this is 2016 and there’s no money anywhere except in maybe five or six Caribbean accounts. If you want money you had to have watched Wall Street at age 12 and committed yourself to learning the practice of legally stealing it. If not, then you’re a wage slave with a bungee cord. One end is around your waist and the other is attached to your office.

So I still have to work. I’ll always have to. It’s a good job and I like it, and I can live off just 12(!) hours a week, but still. I’m over it. This shouldn’t have to be a thing. Working part-time feels like I’ve been sprung from the full-time hell only to be out on parole and have to check in with the overlords.

The world only wants what it can extract from you. You have to give give give until you’re out of steam. Simply existing is not an option. You can’t be defective, and you can’t take a break. You’re either born Bruce Wayne or you have to lie your way into a job, find some stupid socket to plug yourself into.

I’m so tired. I’m 28 but my spirit feels like it’s on loan from someone older, maybe even pulled out of someone dead.

III. Women

Don’t feel bad for me. I’d have more time, but I can’t leave the girls alone. I’m Anthony Weiner, before the wrinkles. Except he’s better at sexting than me.

Friday night. She was South African, from a Dutch farm village. She was born in 1996. I can’t even begin to process that.

I thought I was the Older Man but she used to have an affair with her boss’s husband. He was 34. Also, Asian. So you know what that means. The only thing loose about her is her morals. We can barely do it. Not sure if I can handle her for long. She’s too cool, too funny, just slaying all the time. She can’t just say she likes me.

Saturday night there was the American. She’s an economic refugee as well but plans on being a trophy wife. I dig how she didn’t sugarcoat it. She has perfect tits, clover tattoos, and a tough clit. My jaw is still sore.

Not sure if I can handle her for long. Not because of sex but what happens after. American girls are traveling princesses and they don’t listen. Pillow talk is like two hours of hosting a podcast that can only book shitty guests.

My priorities are flipped. My free time should be spent on a nice hang with the dudes. That would be more fulfilling.

But goddamn it, what can I do when she texts, and she was born in 1996.

IV. Brain Chemistry

In rare moments of calm, when the static of duty clears, I re-remember that I do need therapy. Therapy costs Western prices here. The fuckers figured out how much the good stuff should be, and charged accordingly.

But I’m bipolar, I think. It gets bad. Saturday there were parties, but for an hour I couldn’t move to get out to one. Just lay on the balcony floor by the washing machine.

I do need help. I’ve been ignoring that for years, because I kept thinking that God, writing, exercise, travel, love, sex, or adrenaline would save me. But nothing did. Until now, I’ve been afraid of empowering the truth by looking at it.

Rationally, I shouldn’t feel this way. Because I generally have my shit together. So it’s gotta be a simple mental deficiency. All right, fine. I’ll get some fucking pills.

I think about the future a lot. I don’t know how I’m going to deal. I’m in my prime and it’s still all I can do to keep up. My body and the world are only going to get worse. Health money and luck are going to disappear. I don’t know what I’m going to do.

V. Your Burden on Society

I was riding home at midnight and a guy was laid out flat in the void between streetlights. His face was gashed up and blood had pooled around his head. No motorbike nearby, so it was a hit and run. Two Vietnamese dudes were milling next to him.

Anh oi, I called them. But that’s all the Vietnamese I had. I pointed at the guy on the pavement and put my hands up. What’s the deal? They Google Translated that an ambulance was coming.

I saw he had rice wine in a water bottle in his shorts pocket. He’d been walking, he’d gotten himself hammered, then gotten himself hit. His footwear had popped off. Those rubber shower shoes, knockoffs of knockoff of Crocs that poor people wear around town.

I knelt and held his hand and kept squeezing it so he’d squeeze back. He tried to roll over but I kept him on his side. I don’t know if I was supposed to do that. But I think I saw on some show one time that you’re not supposed to let people roll on their backs, so they don’t choke on their own blood. Or something? I really didn’t know what to do.

A crowd built up but no one helped. It was quiet. No one was talking to him, telling him help was coming. This is deeply strange, I thought. This is a tableau or an art installation. They watched us as if just for the experience, for maybe the story of seeing a life leave a body.

He looked at me. He couldn’t open one of his eyes. A few of his teeth were chipped. The gash was bone deep. Beneath the injury was an unremarkable face. Definitely a poor face, the living representative of a family that’s been poor back to the Stone Age. He was a pixel, ultimately forgettable, who wears the same clothes for his whole life. Millions of guys just like him.

The ambulance came after a half hour. Casually snuffled up. No sirens. The hospital was a mile away and there was no traffic. Still, it somehow took half an hour. Two female paramedics came over. No rush. They pushed him over on his back, and we all stepped away.

Someone had hit him and drove off. He was walking alone, and he’ll wake up that way. Even though prayer doesn’t work it still feels better to say one. Dear God, please help him, help everyone. Including me.

 

 

 

 

 

Well Thanks For That, But No One Cares

Image result for proust questionnaire vanity fair
vanityfair.com

 

I answered the Proust Questionnaire. Vanity Fair has famous people take it when they’re desperate for material. Seeing as I’m in the same boat, I had myself take it.

If you’re a writer (and I know you are) and you like talking about yourself (and I know you do!) then give it a try too.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A perfect sentence. Preferably I’m the one delivering it.

Failing that, tits will do.

  1. What is your greatest fear?

Never writing something perfect. Which sounds trite. But it ties into my deeper fear of never being seen the way I want to be.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Persistent, creeping pessimism.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Bland conversational predictability, which I also deplore in myself.

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Myself in the near future. I never quite become him, though.

  1. What is your greatest extravagance?

A debaucherous food and beverage intake on par with Emperor Nero’s.

  1. What is your current state of mind?

20% Hopeful, 15% Sorrowful, 65% Drunk.

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Patriotism.

  1. On what occasion do you lie?

Never.

  1. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Well, I look like a really tall mouse.

  1. Which living person do you most despise?

Me, in the recent past. I don’t mean like, me in September 2016 but me always in the past. I’ve always felt that way, always broken down the game film and agonized over everything and thought you could have done that better. I’m self-absorbed, basically.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Awkwardness.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Non-American. American girls are princesses and they live inside apps. That, and they have a grating accent, which to be fair is the same as my own.

But familiarity breeds contempt, and goddamn, if I’m gonna be stuck on this planet until the lights go out, I’m gonna go see what else is at the buffet, ya feel me?

  1. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

The word “hashtag,” as in, I use it verbally. But I’m safe because that is always funny and it will be funny forever.

  1. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I have to get trite again, but it really is creativity. And the development and struggle therein. It’s an unrequited type of arrangement, because I get it right so rarely.

  1. When and where were you happiest?

There were seven weeks in China in the summer of 2007. I was traveling with the funniest people I’ve ever been around. The dynamics and alchemy were a happy accident, and we all came alive. I didn’t stop laughing the whole summer. Life and the world itself was just a dumb little game back then.

Oh, and then a few years later when I discovered beer.

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

I can’t shuffle a deck of cards. Is that a talent?

  1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Joke answer: My hammer toes.

Real answer: I actually would change myself so I’d have more of the same. I’m pretty driven and have fewer friends and experiences than I should because of it. But it’s paid off a little. I just want more drive.

  1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In high school, a friend threw a Starburst at me from the other side of the library and I caught it in my mouth. That’s also my best memory from high school, because I didn’t get laid in high school. Or kissed!

  1. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A penguin.

  1. Where would you most like to live?

Outside America.

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

Well, I’m sort of an international hobo. I have nothing. I rent a place with Winnie-the-Pooh sheets and no AC for a pittance and the motorcycle’s a rental. I can bag up my shit and be on a bus in 20 minutes.

Wait no, I have three tailored suits. They’re my children.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

True loneliness.

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

Does it have to be an occupation I’ve held?

I’m not funny enough to be a comedian but I’d love to have been one. I like listening to podcasts (Joe Rogan Experience, etc.) where they discuss their creative process, slowly building joke after joke until it’s a bit – and it turns out comedy’s similar to writing in a lot of ways. So the answer is: comedian.

Either that or a really sick rapper.

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?

Being the tallest guy you know.

  1. What do you most value in your friends?

Humor.

  1. Who are your favorite writers?

Stephen Hunter and a little Murakami too.

  1. Who is your hero of fiction?

Jesus.

Oooohhhh!!!

#shotsfired

  1. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Jesus. Haha!

Because I feel like a widespread cult won’t form around me until after I die, when news of my death will drive people to my blog.

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

Tom Brady, Bill Burr.* Also Drake.**

*see “comedian,” above

**see “rapper,” above

  1. What are your favorite names?

I really like Chinese and Japanese names. To me they sound exotic and stately. Which I guess is the same thing as a Chinese man marveling at the regality of the name “Bubba Sparxxx.”

But I have a Japanese friend who calls me “Fred-san” and fuck, it sounds badass.

  1. What is it that you most dislike?

Young, attractive people really bother me.

  1. What is your greatest regret?

Any time I’ve lacked empathy while on my conquest for kicks. (I don’t mean sneakers).

  1. How would you like to die?

Painlessly, in the epicenter of a nuclear blast, before the age of 40.

  1. What is your motto?

Make them count (I’m referring to hours).

 

Son of a Bitch

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I should come to terms with my own villainy, that is, if my ego will allow.

“You’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met,” she told me, “but I still like spending time with you.”

(And I’m only like this because women like it. If you women could all get your shit together and, I don’t know, change your wiring and wean yourselves off dark triads, maybe I could be a nice guy and have a nice polite life again.)

But wait, I’ve been there done that – and was it really that great? Does the fact that I don’t miss it mean something? Yes.

***

It gets dark at 6 pm in Vietnam. We met at 6:15 because after dark felt like the right time for that sort of thing, and I drove her up and around the lake. The hidden road that no one knows about, or at least I imagine they don’t. I just like knowing things other people don’t, so I pretend. On one side of it is the monument to where they shot down John McCain; on the other side is a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

She was on the back of the motorcycle and nibbling my shoulder. I felt the engine vibrations jiggling her pale thighs. At stoplights I put my hands on them. We drove and talked because we couldn’t do anything else. She has a boyfriend.

She didn’t tell me until we woke up last weekend, so how was I supposed to know.*

(*This is what I’d like to say. But it’s a lie, I actually knew before.)

You’re a good guy, people have told me.

Well no, I just look like one, only because I’m descended from one or two and wear collars often.

She did tell her boyfriend about the time when it happened, when I had her in my sweat lodge of a bedroom until 3 pm, and he had a bad week. Must have. I tried to conjure up and feel his agony, but I couldn’t replicate it, even though I’ve felt it before.

But even if I’d been able to, I wouldn’t stop trying to see her. Every man proclaims preference for the right thing, right up until he sees how nice the wrong thing is.**

(**I hope that’s true, anyway, so I won’t be the only one.)

This situation is Exhibit A of selective empathy. If my students aren’t doing well, my heart really hurts for them; I see the guts, and the push, and how they’re literally willing themselves onto a higher plane.

But then this other guy, who made himself vulnerable to a woman and surrendered himself into a love story: fuck him, apparently. I’ve let in the animal and the Darwinian sinner with his killer instinct. So I’m actually a bad guy.

I actually do want her, because she’s ultimately his, and the concept of any man in the world being with any woman in the world deeply annoys me. Any man and woman under the age of 40, that is. After 40 you’re dead so who cares.

I want her because she’s funny, and also I want her because I’ve already had her, and it doesn’t count unless you do it twice, because the second time is confirmation that the first wasn’t a mistake. Every conversation we have is fast and graceful. Makes me think of a nice tennis volley. Her friends hate me though, so it’s game over.

***

I would be something like a sad indie movie character, a stumbling hero or a redeemable villain, if the situation were actually as clear-cut as I’m selling it. But I want more than her. My portfolio is diversified – this other girl and I send GIFs to each other all day.

The happiest time is now, while we do this great circling dance, getting ever closer like planes settling ever lower above the runway. The best time is now, when they still mostly exist in my phone and I mostly exist in theirs. She’s 20, she looks like Ke$ha. She’s witty but I can keep up. When we see each other and talk I think of it like chess. Her friends hate me too. They’re babies, and I’m a scary, scarred old beast with a bad rep.

***

At least I keep my mind otherwise engaged.

The book. I don’t tell anyone about it now because I want it keep it in the chamber for when it comes out next year. Surprise, and then watch no one give a fuck. But I’m trying to savor the process, because who knows if I’ll ever get another deal.

I get it, if not. I wouldn’t hire me either.

Endless amounts of work. I interviewed a photographer, and we were talking about local crime. She’d had a vintage film camera stolen.

Did they catch the thief? I asked.

No, she laughed. But I don’t worry about him, because we believe in rules and respect, and no one can break the rules forever.

When I left the coffee shop, there was an origami bird on the seat of my motorcycle. Blank white paper, no note. No note, so I was supposed to infer something from the mere presence of the bird. But I was missing a piece of the puzzle, because I didn’t know who it could have been from.

They probably got the wrong bike. Probably a sweet gesture meant for someone else. A nice little thing someone else should have had, but I got it instead.