Category: Vices


Never before have I been more convinced and full of conviction against this digital prison. We created it, which means we can also create alternatives and a bridge to those alternatives. I will no longer capitalize the I in internet. Why? It doesn’t deserve to be a proper noun. Sure, it is an undeniable source of many things, but as a source, it is also endless, and because people are powerless to resist, it controls and manipulates lives in ways that were once unthinkable.

You may say, “It’s the way life is now,” but can that be said without considering the implications of a blind acceptance of technological momentum driven by money-hungry corporations, etc? Sure, maybe for some, but for all people? And I’m not talking about being scared of technology, I’m talking about knowing that it is important and even essential in our lives… moderately, that is. Yes, a balance is the most important, and considering so much is done via computer now, in many definite ways, we are slaves. There are so many ways to emancipate ourselves from all this stuff too. Everyone’s silent… waiting… waiting for what? While waiting for something outside to occur, nothing inside is possible. Just further enslavement. Where’s the limit? Where does it end?

Being off of TV now for over four years, maybe I’ve lost touch with reality as you know it, but I am in touch with a reality of my own, a new reality I am the sole architect of and acrobat in, where silence and solitude are the norm. I have a computer in my office, but none at home. I use my smartphone sparingly: mostly flashcard apps for learning things, jotting down notes, taking pictures of silly things and sending them to people and the occasional album. I also check my email with it, an email address from which I send messages to old friends only to hear nothing, from some people, ever.

I wouldn’t mention it here if it was just a few people, but it’s an epidemic. Maybe the messages are discarded mistakenly. Maybe they’re lost in the spam folder and then deleted. But, when I have people acknowledge that they got the message, how should I feel? When I get an email, I respond within a reasonable time frame. When I get a letter, I try to do the same.

Letters! What happened to them? I still mail them, though much less now, as seems to be the trend. How can we reverse these trends, seemingly turn back time to recapture something meaningful (not just when thought about with nostalgia), something lasting.

I reactivated my facebook today with the dual intent of getting some pictures from it and giving people shit for not responding via other media. Talking to a few people, I realized they have their own lives, and I’m satisfied in mine, so interfere? I don’t want a reply at this point anyway, just wanted them to feel ashamed that they didn’t respond because of wasting time on things that I consider meaningless because they impose limitations on interactions.

Don’t you understand, I’d rather boycott it than be a member, regardless of what fun and frivolity is to be had?

Blogs offer more, but they also require more, and are rarely filled with original perspectives, mostly idiosyncratic, selfish ones (mine included) and are thus a waste of time if the time spent reading them is not carefully monitored.

In conclusion (for now), what is this digital world? Devour your despair with distractions? Distractions, you mean unnecessary invasions of a life that is too short and too precious to be wasted here. So stop reading now. Please, I implore you. Get off the computer and go outside. Not to spend money, and even if it’s merely to wander for thirty minutes before you return here, at least you’ll have gotten some fresh air.

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Just Another Saturday

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Went to a baseball game with a friend and two of his friends. Drank a little at the game and met a third friend in a new area. Having already missed the subway home, it was decided I should stay the whole night, and we’d have lunch with the friend the next day and meet his wife and kid.

One of the most hilarious moments was getting a cab from the college area where we met the last guy to my friend’s house. Being that there were five of us, one stayed behind nearby cars until the first four got inside, then he quickly jumped in. The cab driver made a big deal about not going, my friend repeating the directions over and over and over again until he finally did. The more we traveled, the better my friend’s Korean “became,” with all of us a continual chorus thanking the driver and requesting him to have just one drink with us.

Got a little sick and started drinking water only. Situated outside a convenience store, two of my friend’s friends told some Korean guy with a handbag that he was gay. Then an older Korean asked one of us if he was Korean, and he said, no, I’m Chinese. I told the Korean that he was a North Korean conspirator, and the guy said, “Shit you,” or something like that as he stormed off across the street.

A little while later, the cops showed up. I figured it was because of what I said. It wasn’t. The “gay” handbag guy and his friends were upset. My friend with the wife and kid has been here a year longer than me and his Korean is better, but he didn’t do anything, so I ended up being the translator. Also, I wasn’t as drunk as the others and had something like a clear head.

The older Korean returned, yelling at us and pushing the cops. They told him to get out of there and were pretty ruthless to him, as he was to them. Actually, I thought he was going to be arrested. After a while, he left. The cops said that the Koreans were bad and thus being stupid and that we should just move. I agreed and told the others so. They said they were going to be stubborn and sit there. Thus the convenience store worker took the chairs and they had to sit on the floor. I stayed standing, negotiating with the police. I explained to them that my friends were stubborn, and also, talking to the guy they called gay (he was pissed), that the others were stubborn too. I explained that it was a miscommunication partially brought on by a difference in language, but more so a result of different cultures.

One of the guys started having a discussion with the younger cop, telling him it was racism, while I continued to negotiate with the older one. He told me he wasn’t telling us to leave as a police officer but as an older brother. I said I could respect that, but that my friends were stubborn and wouldn’t listen to what I said. Finally, the cops relented and left. Explaining the situation to the others, I agreed that calling the cops was most definitely an overreaction, but told them that you just can’t start calling others gay, which they started to do again. I told them to stop. They said that someone with a bag like that in the States would be considered gay, and I told them that they couldn’t think about it like that, that they have to consider the other culture’s perspective, and that no culture is superior to any other, nor are they equally relatable.

Finally, out of nowhere, the last friend we had met hit me in the back of the head, screaming, “Shut up, I’ve had enough of you!”

I gave him a glare yet said nothing. I think he knew what the glare meant. Walking to an alley to discuss the matter with my friend, I told him that I was leaving and was sorry, but that people can’t act in such a manner and except me to accept it.

I have been living in the Republic of Korea since August of 2009, and during my ever increasing time here, my opinions regarding many things have changed (an inevitable part of living, really). Learning Korean, I’ve also had a different experience than a lot of foreigners who either don’t try or don’t progress. At first, I really wanted to speak the language very well quickly for whatever multifarious reasons, but lately I’ve been a bit lazy and just enjoying understanding without showing off. Others do know that I understand—the knowing eyes and pained/taxed expression from listening—no need to reply.

With a month to go before my Visa expires, and it being vacation time, even though I’m working at a two week writing camp for Yonsei at the phantom friendly Seongdo campus over in Incheon, I am still able to linger on the job prospects (have been looking for a new one since February or so) and worry. Maybe I was a bit selective, and I did have two interviews, neither of which was offered nor a job I was particularly willing to take. Perhaps I would have worked at either out of convenience, but probably wouldn’t be happy. I’ve thought a lot about leaving the country, especially recently. Haven’t decided what I’ll do yet.

Perhaps it’s more a matter of never staying on the path long enough or being dissatisfied because I haven’t been on the path long enough or haven’t produced as much as I might have liked. Each day is only so long, and not having a computer, facebook or TV has made me so productive, and there’s only so much to do before I start to lose sleep to do what I consider essential. Whenever I feel this way (meaning I’m happy and headed in the right direction), something inside clicks and I start to get in my own way. For instance, alcohol has been a constant problem… I would crave a night of drunken debauchery, and feel numb and indifferent to how/who I was beforehand. Lately though, I haven’t been drinking. Or, when I have, it’s been in moderation, and definitely never when upset. There are plenty of people who drink too much without reason… I know where to find them, yet they’re not my true friends nor ever were or will be; they’re soul stealers who only need a companion in banter and chaos… that companion is no longer me. Now, if I do drink, instead of getting crazy or feeling shitty afterward, I feel fine, and the actual time drinking is usually an affirmation of life and happiness… nothing else. And now that I have been on a level-headed path for so long and should continue, I’ve come to some conclusions:

Grin and bear it. Seriously. Though the world is full of fuck heads and con artists and assholes, those people also have hearts you can access if you yourself are honest and give it a try. Smile, laugh, share the warmth, they hide or you expose from within yourself, and you’ll see those people will open up. But only if you open up honestly, without ulterior motives. I’m thinking of two individuals in particular right now, one a security guard at my job, and the other’s the owner of my favorite restaurant in Hayang. Both are older Koreans: the first male, the other opposite. The first was always grumpy and one day I smiled and laughed when I saw him and he burst out laughing… probably mumbled that I was crazy, but that was the first time in nine months that I’d ever seen him laugh. The other has a serious façade, but when you put time in, she’ll open up and be friendly and real with you.

Maybe it’s not this place that’s the problem, but me. Lately I’ve felt not scattered, but disconnected and confused, being without old friends or a meaningful dialogue with them for so long. What hurts is that they’re disconnected too, so that when I try to contact them… Nothing. Maybe I will never get rid of this blog, but as soon as this round of job searching is over, I’m gonna shut of my phone when I’m not using it. Why? Because I check my email hoping to see responses—selfishly wanting others to contact me, I think it’s selfish if they don’t—just because I’m so focused and on top of things, I shouldn’t expect others to be.

Bottom line, and a somewhat unrelated point, is that everyone isn’t perhaps racist, but has an intense fear sometimes bordering on hatred regarded Others: those whom we do not know intimately, and in many instances, do not wish to know. And that’s the kind of pigheaded bullshit that gets people to say, “My country is the best in the world” and other bullshit that’s fed to them by their Retainers. Ignorance precludes such feelings. You know what? People all over this soiled sphere say that about their countries, political parties, sexual preferences, favorite colors, foods, sports, etc. And do you know what I think?

They’re all wrong. This is the best planet (in the solar system only?) and this is the only life we know… so why worry about what we don’t know? Just go about your day to day doing the absolute best.

We get what we give. We might complain, “Blah, blah, blah,” but it’s really nothing when we consider how others are doing. Sure, life may not be what we want, but it never was nor might ever be, so shut your mouth and use all that built up negative energy to burn a fire toward making this already limited life closer to the way that fits you. Without destroying others.

Today I destroyed my computer. I threw it off the balcony, and retrieving it from the pit where it was partly smashed, brought it back to my room and tore it apart. My efforts were interupted by a phone call from the girlfriend, but I will continue the destruction later. Spread it out over a week or a few days. Savor it.

Two weekends ago I had left it at a computer repair shop and picked it up last weekend, paying around $100 total for some hardware repairs and a Windows reinstall. It worked okay for a few days, and started having problems again almost right away. Problems I’ve fixed in the past, but I learned to hate the computer so much without it for those nearly four months.

Not having a computer has been nothing but a blessing. It is nearly impossible to live without a computer, and that doesn’t mean I must own one. I pledge not to get one ever again, and want to stick to that pledge. Seriously. What I want more than anything else right now is an amanuensis, someone to help with the administrative aspects of editing and manuscript preparation; I will merely focus on writing and reading. Writing. Reading. Writing. Reading. Etc. Instead of using a machine to compose fiction, I will be the machine for it’s creation.

Surprise, Surprise!

Learned today that the current ulcer is not the first I’ve had—scar tissue from previous ulcers—overall the endoscopy was fun. Sure, getting a long tube/camera put down my throat was not my ideal way to spend Friday morning, but it was worth it to have more precise information. It was also an experience, as I told the doctor in the consultation beforehand.

One of the Boys?

After drinking soju with guys from the hostel last night, they gave me shit. I’m stronger than ever before—usually I would have gone along because I wanted, no, needed their acceptance—but this time I said I’d rip out one of their throats if he kept disrespecting me. Neither did they expect this, nor appreciate it. One of them wanted to fight, and I told him I didn’t want to, but I’d kill him if he tried anything. My roommate diffused the situation and told me he supported me: they were just being stupid.

After changing and getting on the subway to go to some random club, I lost them. KaJin had been texting me, so I decided to go to her subway stop to see her. Calling her repeatedly, “I’m drunk,” I heard some guy’s voice and she said it was her boyfriend and “I don’t like you.” I kept calling and we talked for a long time. Finally she said she would meet me to say goodbye—that’s all I really wanted—and then no response.

Again I cried… more than Tuesday to put on an inadvertent show for the subway riders as I stumbled through. Screamed “Never!” in Hongdae and hearing it repeat.

Text “why lie?” to all the girls who wouldn’t talk to me. The girl I met on the subway the same night I met KaJin called and we had a nice conversation and she gave me advice. Closure indeed.

A Minor Annoyance?

So much I want to share from seeing Yuna on Sunday and Monday, and I’ve willed myself not to do so here anymore. The one negative thing, however, which didn’t happen often in Seoul, more in Pocheon, is staring. Last night especially and mostly older men, who actually turned back after they passed to watch me.

There’s nothing I can do to change this, so I just have to ignore it, right?

Found a motel around 6:30am Saturday, but it was 70,000, way TOO much. Went to the police station and asked where I could find somewhere cheaper and the desk guard explained that they were all expensive because it was the weekend (trashed I have moments of near Korean fluency). Burger King breakfast restored energy, then I went to a PC room for 4 hours (later my lungs very upset at the amount of smoke I inhaled).

Had to meet an older gentleman I had met the Sunday before, and him and his friend (both 70) took me out to lunch, then chicken and soju at 2:30pm. They drank so slowly (for good reason), and I was expecting to go to Korean class drunk—glad I didn’t.

Participated in Level 2 (the most advanced class still taught in English) and loved it. Went out to dinner with other classmates, then to a ricewine bar with them. The sleep deprivation and drinks really got to me—I was extra loud and they told me to find a place to sleep and go to breakfast with my girl in the morning, but to give up trying to see her that night. It’s good we didn’t meet, I was too drunk.

Found a cheap place to stay, but a few dollars short and they wouldn’t accept my card, so I had to go to an ATM. The two at the convenience stores said my card wasn’t being accepting because it was out of some timeframe, so I wandered the streets of Seoul crying because I was exhausted. Finally found a bank, got money, passed out.

What to write?

Met my new girl at midnight in Seoul after not expecting to see her this weekend because she was busy. Text her during my last class, said I was going drinking, and she was instantly interested, said my hometown was too far, that she wanted to drink (a little), but I had to come to her.

The usual text tag (70 or so messages in two hours) before I finally met her at the third subway station (she kept changing it). We went to a very busy bar and she explained that it was usually empty, but we had two beers there anyway. She told me she was happy to see me, saying she was fat and was once beautiful. I said, “You ARE beautiful!” she was so overcome with joy she hugged me and was beaming, “Thank you!”

We went to another place; it was deserted. We had something resembling dinner/a late night snack and soju, which always makes me a little nervous. She opened up a lot more, said she’d give me her heart once I could speak more Korean, and praised how good it was already. Everytime I wanted to say something, she said, “Korean!” and I did my best, the countless hours finally paying off, but not where I want to be yet.

We went to a final, lonely bar, and while we were writing song requests on napkins, some guy nearby started talking to us and some girl kept giving me the eye, and I her, so eventually I sat next to her while the guy talked to “my” girl. The new girl she said she was in publishing (her friend gave me his card). I showed her my new novel (I happened to have the second book along) and asked what she wanted with me: she said she didn’t know, and we discussed how Korean girls treat me like a toy because I’m a foreigner and she admitted that was the only reason she was talking to me. She said maybe she could help me with my book and asked why I didn’t have any books published yet. I told her I wanted to be a dad and get married soon and she seemed alarmed, “Only to Korean girl? Here in Korea?” The bar was closing and she wanted to give me her number (inevitable) but she didn’t know it and I couldn’t remember mine, but I called my phone with hers. Lilith was her name (made sure to get her Korean name as well), and she asked if I knew the story behind her Western name (I told her I did), then we were outside, looking for my girl.

The guy that had been with her pointed ahead, and I ran. She was totally trashed… just like last time. I coaxed her to the subway, said I wanted to take her home (she lives alone, not with her parents), and after going to the bathroom, she said she wanted to take a taxi home.  We had a trying moment on the stairs, me telling her I wanted to like her and her heavy drinking was preventing that, her saying she already really liked me and was sorry for her drinking. I said if she continued to drink so much that I’d only see her once more, but she was so drunk I don’t think she understood, and maybe I didn’t mean it forever, just in that moment.

She called me while I was on the subway to tell me she was home, and I told her I had her cigarettes. We had made a promise earlier in the night to hang out next Saturday at 6PM–not midnight, but most likely involving drinks nonetheless–we’ll see. She told me last time that she was a crazy girl, and she reiterated that tonight, explaining that she wasn’t just a little crazy but fully crazy (She’s learned a majority of her working Enlish from The Simpsons). I don’t know what her craziness means or how it affects how I feel about her. Last week she said I was a secret from her parents, but she somehow told her mother about me, that I was a “really good friend.” On the subway stairs I told her that maybe I wanted to love her (she was surprised), but maybe my heart is closed and tucked snuggly up inside and I’m not sure when it will be available again. In the meantime, I guess I’ll try to have fun, though my game is better now that my heart’s not in it…

Status Updates

Facebook has infiltrated my consciousness in that I think about what to write for a status update variously throughout each day. It’s something I’m not fond of, but it’s also not something I can control, as thoughts are relentless. Many of my ideas for updates actually germinate into posts for here, so it is an advantageous occurrence.