Backpacker Tool [ edit ]
July 11 2006 (10:41:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Here is a website that I recommend:
It’s great to have a way of beating the impersonality of hotels.
It seems interesting. So many good ideas – if only one of them could be mine.
Here’s a similiar site that you may find interesting: http://www.sleepinginairports.net/
Posted by Gordo on 07/12/2006 03:25:08 PM
July 11 2006 (08:47:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Years in China affirm dignity is overrated. The importance of face convinces me to scar my own. I like to damage my dignity whenever possible. I admit fault, error, and stupidity before others ask me to. The western man often discards face in the land where it matters most. The frustration leads him to don a loin cloth, bang his fists, and keep a harem.
My unfortunate need to not blend-in intensifies, and drives me to stinginess and negativity, as well as utter candor.
Being religiously at odds with society goes over poorly in China. It seems paradoxical for a gratuitous non-conformist to be here.
The heart should be the real guide, though, and recently a stomach full of healthy food has seemed more important than freedom or adventure. The heart will go on.
July 11 2006 (08:44:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Here were some of my first impressions returning to the West almost two years ago:
On October fourth, morning was in Berlin. The year in China had ended, unbelievably. My first day and a half in the West was shocking. I had left the barn and entered the bestiary.
My first night was in Camden Town, in London. On the train from Heathrow, I witnessed people and behavior that I couldn’t understand. Through the delirium that follows flights from half way around the world, I fought to shield my pure self from the depravity of my surroundings.
The raw sexuality in the air stunned me. The youths entering and exiting the train this Friday night were in a great mating ritual. All modesty was left back at West Lake. The females promoted their libidos with hyper low-rise jeans – terribly convincing when ass cleavage peaked or glared out. Their behemothic bosoms – such as I had not seen for a year – put forth similar arguments.
In the underground, a boy and girl I had been observing on the platform sat next to me, the girl in the boy’s lap. She had large breasts, a large butt and a large stomach. The skin of the last one was entirely visible. They sat smooching next to me – in full view of everyone on the train – groping and discussing “shagging” and the number of additional partners each had in this sport. The girl periodically whipped me in the face with her long dirty-blond hair. Her belly also brushed my velvet jacket several times.
She apologized repeatedly for these incursions. Her tone was as alluring as a Bigmac attack, but I couldn’t avoid being fixated by the massive expanse of skin and flesh between the low top of her jeans and the bottom of her boob-tube. She had the face of a hog, but her voluptuousness cascading out was a treat I had not enjoyed in China.
All the other girls and boys on the train had the same type of attitude. No female failed to dress provocatively. Some of them even stole glances at me.
Somehow this all seemed so fresh, even though Chinese girls now dress in overly sexy clothes, too. The unbridled lust just isn’t conveyed by the getups in China. The rotund vixens of London desire conquest like Chinese girls never can even with their most vampish outfits. I’m not saying that’s a good thing.
July Fourth [ edit ]
July 11 2006 (08:42:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
An old Upper East Side lady named Annabelle used to have a huge bash on July 14. The Ugandan ambassador, Parisian actresses entering their second prime, prep school dandies, gay troubadours from Alsace, photographers in Mao suits would all crowd into her studio and its half-bath. She was a literary agent of some kind.
My parents went to these fetes and brought back tales of the fabulous guests and their clever conversation. I never made it. After each time they would tell me of some beautiful Chinese girl working at the UN whom I would have adored meeting. The thoughts of this girl usually succeeded in making me regret not having gone. Tales of these parties convinced me that July 14 was the most important day of the summer.
Currently, I personally know hordes of Chinese girls who feel no summer day is more sacred than the one on which those romantic fools brought down the Bastille. One might not expect that that fire of discontent always in the souls of Frenchmen would enrapture these most practical girls. Like for me when I was a boy, for these girls the anniversary ten days before is a blip.
We were surrounded by rednecks during my youth. On July 4, they would pile into their pickup trucks and drive with flagons of Coors Light to some communal shed . There, with facial hair bristling in the fire light and rifles slung across their backs, they roasted weenies and launched fireworks.
I can only speculate on what else happened at these gatherings because we never attended and I am now far too tired now to invent more. Whilst sipping Sauvignon Blanc in a grove of lilacs, we would occasionally find ourselves distracted from our discursions by the uncouth displays of firecrackers. At eight years old, I finally asked the gathering of dons what the racket was about: “Did I lose track of time? Is Bastille Day already upon us?” This was facetious of course, since I knew these savages probably thought Bastille was a brand of tractor.
“D-D-Darling,” said one, “The less intellectual folk have a different holiday. It’s today, July fourth. They all get very drunk and run around nude with their nieces. This day celebrates the independence of America, source of so much low culture and those wicked multinationals, the place where western culture was perverted and all that was authentic has been packaged, mass-produced, and sent to trash bins around the globe.” My young mind feasted on these words; I vowed to always find a way to use this theory I had heard to make myself feel discontent. Not only the rednecks but the pink wankers and pleated puds also would never be my friends. Their optimism would be my reason for despising them.
These warped ideas still poison me, but I can look with detachment at my country. A recent survey announced that Americans are the most patriotic of any populace in the developed world. If the citizenry is proud to form a country that relies on ideas rather than race for identity, this is a beautiful result. The Germans, the Japanese, the French, and all of the pathetically clawing developing countries are of the old mould, out for the gains of their race. Seemingly, America fights for a positive ideology, though it makes us look foolish. I can’t feel patriotic about our cultural exports. Were America famed for its current status as intellectual heartland of the globe, its need to question, its reliance on a philosophy routed in millennia of Western history, I could be proud to be American. These are among the things that make the United States unique. When I consider the multinational companies, Hollywood sometimes, consumerism, auto culture, and Mcdonalds, I am less “pumped” to be American. But these things are an unavoidable part of our glory, I suppose.
On my Fourth in Beijing, a close friend proposed that we celebrate in a great symbol of my land. It was to the Golden Arches at Oriental Plaza. The only visits to Mcy D’s since those sad drive throughs in my youth have been abroad. And they were all visits to the toilet. In every country, this part of McDonald’s standardization is welcome.
This time we went to eat. I enjoyed the company, and, I hate to admit, my mcspicy chicken sandwich. Having watched “Supersize Me,” it was hard to feel comfortable eating at Mcdonalds. I wanted to be sure it was okay, so I asked the girl at the counter whether it was healthy food. She said that not only was it very healthy, she was willing to “guarantee” that it was extremely good for my body. I doubt one could find such loyalty in the States.
I must say that I didn’t feel too bad afterwards. I am dog tired and have air conditioner sickness.
July 11 2006 (08:39:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
I didn’t have to pull a crap, but nostalgia conquered my senses. I could hear the feces. The buzzing flies enjoying it carried me back to Samarkand, to Dushanbe, and to the China of my memories. The shithouses that tortured me now symbolize youth gone, possibilities unrealized, and glamorous poverty vanished. A year in Beijing and there have been far too few bathrooms of this classic variety. The morning had already been unusually interesting, and that intense smell, the holes that serve as toilets, the urine flowing out of the front door – the fact that it probably hit my toes – proved life could begin again. Though holding my breath, I delighted in the smell. The vigor and optimism of childhood could return if bathrooms like this still exist. I let go, and let it in. The ammonia and urea filled my lungs and reawakened my soul. I chose life – my life! I choose life!
Let me briefly tell how I got here. Turd is a reoccurring motif in my life. My first memory is a log floating in the bathtub, not long after I learned to stand. My beloved mother entered. I stood and pointed to it with pride and slight embarrassment. It was a solid and healthy looking object.
My interest is entirely academic. The thesis is: “Waste rejuvenates the soul.”
It’s funny that from my first trip around the world I don’t have recollections of too much of this. Yemen, Somalia, the Seychelles, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia didn’t offer much shit to speak of. Ah, but there was the Masai village in Kenya. I was four then, and all I can remember is that the entire place seemed to be constructed from blocks of shit. They must have used mud, but the general smell of the place suggested otherwise.
This is a post-colonial mindset. Being half non-Western in blood does not entitle my wholly western spirit to mock the savages. I’ve become white, delighting in the little that remains backward in the world of color, clinging to dwindling schadenfreude, dreading being forced to eat the shit that I admire. For many, filthy bathrooms are receptacles of hepatitis and death. We tourists can choose to complain about the stink or revel in it, but we can escape it. The developing world will collect their shit in silos and splatter it on the beautiful cities we built with plundered treasure.
At six, I entered the world of poop with a vigor that exceeded that of my peers. I discovered poop was spelled “pop” and promptly wrote the word on every surface I could find, often with an accompanying drawing. It was disappointing to learn that all of my notebooks, the bathroom walls, and the arm of Heather, the blonde girl who sat next to me, were covered with pop and not poop.
When I reached Soviet Central Asia three years, the stuff became all too real to joke about. The relationship changed from love to hatred. It is a fact that shit is a much bigger part of life in the developing world. Many scholars have written on the fear that inhabitants of wealthy countries, especially Americans, have of bodily functions. Toilets are like clinics in the States. In Japanese restrooms, women can press a button that creates the sound of a waterfall while they piss. In Tajikistan few bathrooms had running water, electricity, or toilets. Many so-called bathrooms didn’t even have holes in the ground – there was literally no attempt made to create a receptacle for excrement. Defecators had to suspend themselves above an ever-growing pile. For a small boy, there was the risk of that pile rubbing one’s buttocks. If anyone entertained the illusion that there ever could have been toilet paper in one these facilities, they only to look at the brown walls. I pulled several craps that would have been quite expensive if it hadn’t been for one of the most rapid deflationary periods in history. At that age, I didn’t realize money is one of the most bacteria-laden objects and that it might have been cleaner to pick up someone else’s used paper. My mother’s valuable lesson about always carrying a roll of toilet paper had also not been absorbed.
The most iconic restroom of all was in Samarkand, Tamerlane’s capital and home of the Sogdians. If forced to pick one symbol of my childhood, it would be a tie between the Samarkand toilet and the yellow strainer I wore for three years. It was outside of a Medressa, or religious school, which was being renovated as religious freedoms expanded in the last days of the Soviet Union. Less than two square meters in area, the sphere of influence of this restroom extended for at least twenty meters in every direction. Not limited to odor, the impact of this bathroom was aural also. The armada of flies could be heard and operated throughout the vicinity. Within the bathroom, the air was nearly as dense with flies as the ground and walls were with feces. Suffocating inside, I wished there had been fewer people milling around outside, but felt grateful that I had only had to pee. Had my bowels felt otherwise, I would probably be a different person today. The Samarkandtoilet deserves a more complete description, but I have written about it many times before. That brown compartment is unforgettable.
Back in the USA, most of my experiences with shit were with animal manure, horse and cow. Human waste only floats to the surface in legends about foreign countries and in history books. We wipe hard in the States, erasing all occurrences of the stuff. Shit in America is white and plastic. Encountering a stinky restroom in the USA is an exotic experience. Yes, linoleum tiled rooms in filling stations sometimes smell of piss, but if service is good – and it always is – there will be some blue chemicals to disguise the wreak. Often, when we yank that industrial sized lever and three gallons go down the drain dismissing our wee, a whole fountain of the blue liquid erupts. Some people even opt to supply their home toilets with the blue liquid. Those industrial US toilets sound like a thunderstorm and have drain pipes able to accommodate shits of any size and giant wads of toilet paper. You can judge the strength of a nation by the force of its toilets. They seemed as big as castles (the shape of which reminds me of a dog turd I saw by the gym in second grade).
Not to say that animal manure offers no pleasures of its own. But this story is growing tiresome. I will wash my hands of it for the time being. The second I start going into American Society and those blue sanitizing chemicals, I am becoming bored. I will continue this story at some point, because many more fascinating things related to poop happened to me.
6/26/06 – Peeing Little Girl Allow me to shift spouts. The smog of Beijing momentarily seemed to clear and I saw something as fresh as the blue sky. It was like a gulp of pure oxygen: A sweet little girl peeing outside of the door to my building. Some expatriates actually despise this feature of life here, and the government discourages this kind of thing, while they beautify and gentrify Beijing in preparation for the Olympics. Abolish phlegm, slurping noodles, and smoking if you really must – but please allow little girls to pee in public! She looked to be around six or seven – not really young. She was a darling thing and I couldn’t help but watch the pavement darken. Then she stood and briskly wiped herself with a little tissue.
Is it dirty of me or post colonial or chauvinistic to admit that I would prefer to live in a society in which all women under thirty were required by law to urinate in public? I suppose this is agist. It sounds like that sci-fi movie where everyone who reaches 32 is executed. Those loved by the gods die young. It’s not that I would deny older ladies the pleasure or the glamour of this act. But squatting, urinating young girls seem appropriate; I would hate to offend the dignity of older women. At least I’m not going to propose some kind of looks or weight cut-off for the girls forced to pee outside. There is just something so girly and appealing about a young woman squatting to pee. There is nothing sexual about my fondness for this image. I love the defiance against the city – the pastoral being doing the natural act and through it attempting to escape this concrete landscape. Sit on a toilet and pee and the charm evaporates. The deed abandons its vitality when executed over a ceramic pot. It may be the difference between squatting and sitting. A Mongol princess squats outside of her yurt on the windy steppe. An American material girl sits on the toilet and clogs the drain with a huge wad of toilet paper. I suppose the buttocks are also more visible when girls squat. There are countless office girls that I would love to watch pee on the curb.
So, do boys get to pee outside? There is nothing that I like more than pissing out in nature, and I think many of my comrades feel the same way. There is a great vigor and nobility to the act, and it is a pity that it must be kept behind doors or even indoors. I can imagine worshipping Antinous or Alexander captured in marble, urinating. Once in Chicago, my brothers Tang and Juju boldly charged out of the Checkerboard Lounge, a jazz club, and peed on the sidewalk in front of an office building. It was 2 a.m. and their dates were only paces behind, watching. So was I. I didn’t join them in that most boyish of acts, and I regret this. The force, the torrent, the freedom. Actually, I like seeing little boys peeing also. Anybody who has been to China has seen that adorable slit in the trousers children wear. Several times in very public places, I’ve observed a grown man holding a baby in his lap and vigorously fiddling with the tiny penis. It’s a touching sight; I resist any modernizing child psychologist who would ascribe vile effects to this enchanting habit.
Boys should be allowed to pee outside too, but perhaps – after a certain age – only the more creative types. When I consider the pleated pink wankers and crocodile belts working in offices, I’m loath to grant them any sort of pleasure. Their anal attitude and depraved rectitude; their insistence on this world of concrete and Burger Kings; their status consciousness and love of the automobile all prevent them from truly appreciating a whiz in a field. Ah, it’s sad that proximity to the corporate world has transformed me into such an anti-establishment bleeding heart. It’s embarrassing to still be such a boy and appear to admire people like the Rolling Stones. At least I’m listening to Beethoven.
My mindset has really changed. While conservatism is still prime, it seems that my isolation has led to a greater willingness to indulge my baser tendencies. This is all practice for when my big break comes and I force myself onto worthier topics.
July 11 2006 (08:34:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Skinny Lee played guitar at bars like Nameless Highland and What? Bar. Perhaps because China offers little potential for fame to its rockstars, Skinny Lee now displays his talent at another sort of venue, also imported from the West. Now he performs at church services. His attitude toward rock and roll and Christianity are not clear to me. I don’t know if the change represents a major shift in spiritual orientation. Skinny Lee is two inches taller than me and appears to have a waist that is two inches narrower. He sports a short beard. He hopes to become a religious father of some kind.
I encountered him in the guitar store that my friend Xerxes Peng owns. We exchanged numbers, and he later contacted me through text message. He thanked the lord on high for our chance meeting, saying that it was truly a blessing for him. I showed others his heartfelt message and they seemed to feel it was over the top. I was quite touched, though, and determined to pursue further contact with a man of such faith.
Though education rendered me incurably agnostic, I still cherish encounters like this while residing in a godless land. The question of how the Chinese spirit will respond to the extreme obsession with economic matters, the demise of nature, and the absence of a way of thought is now on everyone’s mind. Let me just summarize my prosaic thoughts on the matter. This is from a rather U. Chicago perspective. I find here that most young professionals do derive a surprising degree of satisfaction from shopping. This is only on the outside of course. Possessing such extreme intelligence and learning, Chinese inevitably question their dedication to materialism. I seldom meet a Chinese person who reveals no shame while elaborating upon his or her acquisitive ambitions. In the same breath as boasting of their Siemens refrigerator or their new Channel perfume, the young white colors also bemoan the plummeting of their ancient culture into this abyss of plastic and brand names. This is a populace that is rapidly becoming self-aware. They will only tolerate this brand-obsessed, status-obsessed existence for a limited period of time. However, it is regrettable that fixation on face and social position are the traditional traits that appear to have weathered the Cultural Revolution most intact. These traits lend themselves well to consumer culture and all of the negative aspects of globalization.
Women will lead the way out of this. They will lead the way in everything in the future. I mean Chinese women, who, as a group, I admire intensely. Though they are the most practical and acquisitive currently, their unique blend of femininity with drive and astuteness will enliven the future. We should dread and welcome their dominance. More on this in the future, I didn’t mean to digress, but now I am tired. In fact this is supposed to be about spiritual disease and Christianity in China.
July 11 2006 (08:33:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
6/22/06 Guns are one of the most common subjects of conversation between less-sophisticated Chinese and Americans visitors. After hearing I am American, cab drivers ask first how many guns I have. They comment that America is a dangerous place with so many guns around. I reply that most of the people with guns are in the Midwest and that they are generally minimally educated and obese vermin. In urban areas of the East Coast, only blacks wield firearms, and these are only for intra-racial tribal conflicts – normal people, particularly intellectuals, are not really involved. One gets a high from firing a gun, though. I first fired a pistol at a firing range in California, while visiting my friend Dagny. She had done it before even with an AK-47, but I know for a fact that she didn’t really know how to operate that thing. It was only in China that the differences between a pistol and a machine gun became apparent. I didn’t really know before, and I am not sure that I understand the full ramifications of this even now. Firing ranges have become extremely popular in the affluent coastal cities, and young people especially are very eager to experiment with the new fad. The issue of whether or not one has a shooting license has become irrelevant to many people. They just do it and don’t seem to worry about the authorities finding them, or society disapproving. Firing ranges are especially popular with the expatriate population of Beijing. Some people go shoot at several different ones in the space of a single weekend. I suspect that relatively few people actually fire machine guns though. They just don’t know how to operate them. I’m not entirely confident that I do either. Some kids spend hours pouring over gun magazines when they are little, but not me. From just looking at the gun, it is often impossible for me to tell whether it is a rifle or a machine gun. To tell you the truth, even when I am firing, sometimes I can’t tell the type of gun, that is whether it is a machine gun or a rifle. I brought the subject up with a cab driver, and he laughed. Such secrets are apparently tightly guarded. The world would be a dangerous place if everyone had access to machine guns. I told him that the truth is that, despite what one hears, even in America very few people have access to machine guns. They are still a new thing.
July 11 2006 (08:29:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Imagine a 5’10 Shanxi girl with mysterious eyes, primal lips, and Titian bod, wearing a wool mini-skirt, trench coat and a scarf she knit herself out of Tuscan cashmere. Her clothes match perfectly and her makeup took half the morning to perfect, but she is a farmer and that past still shapes her features and sentiments. Her skin has the color and texture of the loess flats of the Yellow River. As big as that of a negress, her lower lip is as honest and simple as clay. The contours of her face contain the stories of stolid folk with thick ankles harvesting sorghum and telling jokes about flies and cucumbers, while squatting by the entrances to their caves. The grandmothers cleaned their loin clothes and earthen woks with horse urine; the granddaughter double majored in finance and public relations and wears a silken cord as underwear. But her look remains primitive; she is a woman close to what the original men might have worshipped, though most moderns have discarded her sort of beauty. Her body could be represented by a rough statue, formed from the yellow clay of the land that sired her, and then presented as a fertility goddess to the steppe tribes, even more backward than her own kin.
Her big lower lip protrudes with pride, but no insolence. After centuries of protecting livestock and crops from the harsh, dry winds of the Gobi, she now surmounts the hurdles presented by a wilting island and its fat, pink inhabitants. Her spirit started to unfold millennia ago under a golden sky. The tiny eyes of her ancestors were a blessing in a land of little water and ever blowing sands. She finds herself in a damp country, a land past its golden years, appearing to carry forward with a stiff upper lip. She discovers it is really a land of weakness and excess, this tiny dot that once humiliated her behemoth nation. Now the empire pays its decrepit citizenry to reproduce and imbibe the opiates they used to dump on her slumbering dragon. It is a land of whores and transvestites, oblivious to the vengeance approaching. Still hoodwinking the world with its monetary machinations, gravitational pull soon plunders the reserves, and a beautiful pageant of castles remains, producing nothing.
Yet the island charms her with its decadence and wit even as it overpowers her with its pointless discontent. She defines harmony, selecting the style of her temporary dwelling without rejecting the concreteness of home. Harmony will triumph, and yellow females will be its champions.
She walks past quaint old stone structures, pondering confused loves, wishing she were in romantic Paris, while missing friends in her own yellow land. But it is Sunday morning and the rain has stopped. Suddenly, a flurry of lilac blossoms and rain drops fall on her, covering her swath of black hair. The pedals and rain wash the endemic desperation of the rich isle from her spirit. She rejoices that she is in London.
July 11 2006 (08:17:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
When a large, drying, piece of snot is lodged in my nose, I feel irritated and helpless. Frankly, beyond trying to dislodge it with my pinky, few options exist. Right now, I hope to grow the nail on my pinky finger longer so that I can reach the snot without further increasing the size of my nostril. This would be a way to blend in with my surroundings as well. Many Chinese men have long pinky fingers for the purpose of cleaning ear wax and snot. I used to think it was a sign of aristocratic, non-laboring status, but apparently the purpose is more practical. People here tend to be practical, and unromantic in their statements, though the movies and pop songs suggest othe rwise.
While my friends write for famous journals, start businesses, record albums, and saunter around the Isle of Capri, I escape to the shitter. These are the only times during the day that my mind can be free of pressure, where nobody can find me, even though they aren’t looking for me. The pressure is mainly my own creation, but somehow sitting on the toilet alleviates it.
July 11 2006 (08:14:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Some people are compelled forward by the glimmer of success. The one thing making me blindly stumble forward is the fear of still greater failure. I was just thinking…but then my mind began sleeping or closing, and I could only focus on the obscene things around me. My belly roles are like Etna’s lava covering statutes of nude virgins. My sweat is tickling my temples and itching in my one-dollar hairdo. One drop is inching down my cheekbones that aren’t high and onto my cheek that isn’t inverted. The pitter-patter and chords of Schuman that I received today. And my sweat is still flowing down my face with some collecting above my lip. It is as salty as the “muddy eggplant” covered with sesame sauce looking like excrement that we ate tonight.
I crave the moments in the bathroom. Sometimes it appears that the joy of life will be largely on the toilet. This joy could be making love, but one rarely has the chance to when at work. The toilet is a preserve – do we all know this to be so? It’s best when the man in the next stall is smoking. He makes both of our shit so much more bearable. Smoking on the can possesses undeniable charm, though little glamour. There is something upright and manly about being on the toilet at work. I feel like I’m on the waterfront or hammering on a railroad track. Defecating is a bit like working, though at my age it still doesn’t take so much effort fortunately. I wish I could say the same for working. The unity and masculinity of shitting is undeniable. Even though women shit too, and men have the more unique and empowering method for urinating, there is something singularly masculine about shitting. One sees the other people who need to shit, who are in the bathroom as well, and they are all men. Actually, I tend to try to minimize my contact with them. It’s hard not to notice them though. We all have to be thinking about the same thing at some point during the experience. We all think about something fecal for some of the time. Shitting are drivers, businessmen, foreigners, Chinese, teachers, and neurotic wastrels like me. There is the man with the thick glasses and the yellow repp tie that always goes two inches below his belt buckle that has a crocodile on it. He also wears a dark blue shirt and black pants. This same outfit, everyday. Slouching in his walk, always, he holds himself, and glances into the urinal for an average length of time, and then stares at the tiles, with his fat lips slightly ajar. He does what he must do in a straightforward manner, but one senses an aura of egotism about the man. He pisses when I shit, and vice versa, almost everyday, but when he is pissing at the urinal and I have to piss too, I go the stall. People who knew how to network and rise into the upper reaches of society would piss next to him. I’ve only observed him from the sink at the times when I am washing my hands, as he enters the room. His confidence and the blaise way he looks at a foreigner show him to be an important man, within his world. At the least, he could connect to something else, even if he himself isn’t holding the secret key to my happiness. I do make one concession to his crocodile belt; I wash my hands after excreting when he is present. For lesser souls I dispense with this show that just serves to attract more germs to my hand while gripping the door handle. The sweat is becoming more and remaining in certain places. The feeling of it trickling and the sensory imprint it leaves when stationary bring on a relaxation of sorts. My forehead is shining I’m sure. Being a sweaty person is not good, though they always try to say that it means you healthier. I’ve also heard that it means you are more stressed out. Now a drop flows down the left side of my ballooning stomach. I officially join 90 percent of my countrymen in obesity. Another drop flows down my stomach. I know where they’re coming from: my armpit! But what about that hegemonic act that we do and have used to extinguish fires since time immemorial? How could it possibly be more manly to shit than to piss when women shit in much the same fashion that we do – everyday. Actually, my uncle’s wife once didn’t shit for an entire two weeks. There is something womanly about that. She might even indulge in this lack of crapping on a regular basis. It might improve the bowels or one’s luck in reincarnation. But she is half bald before sixty and her husband, so it seems it could also be promoting hair loss. She is also literally as wide as she is tall. Poor woman. I feel sorry to be speaking about her this way. But she has great faith in the Buddha, and she is surrounded by family. She is probably far happier than I am as I sit here making a mockery of her. I am already being punished for the way that I have mocked her. I am punished everyday for mocking her and many other people. Pain from my silent mockery is nothing next to the suffering from guilt and the general discontent I feel with my existence. The mocked are, well, sitting pretty in their granny underwear and rayon blend shorts. I would go pop the pimples on their asses if I had the chance. Then I would apply cream to sooth the wounds and encourage a healthier, smoother ass – this to assuage my guilt. Do you really want to hurt me? I am only fifteen, though it is my tenth year at this age.
July 11 2006 (08:13:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
The events of today and my current state of mind are forcing me to “take stock” yet again. How am I supposed to respond to having a life like this? How would anyone respond to this kind of life? When I think about how the people around me actually do respond to my life, I can only be grateful. The few people that I know respond to what can only really be described as a mess, with great forbearance. Nobody seems ready to blame me, and – for the most part – my parents and others close to me don’t seem to want to scold me for this. Perhaps I have only myself to thank for this, since I make it abundantly clear that I hold myself entirely responsible for the long-term quagmire dotted with lava pits into which I have transformed my life. They must see that since all I feel is guilt, making me feel more of it would not be particularly productive. Which means that, again, I must be thankful to my parents, Lydia, and maybe even Tom for not making me feel worse about a clearly unpleasant situation. My negativity seems to be affective in that it forces others to look on the bright side. So they blame me for complaining, but clearly I am doing a good deed in keeping them from slipping into a counterproductive mindset.
If this silly and implausible byproduct of my bad attitude could ever be called an accomplishment, it is my only one. Naturally, nothing can cancel out the terrible tedium of being around me. The real truth can only be that I bring down their spirits by bringing down my own. I must applaud them though, for here again the support of others that I have received is noteworthy. Even though all I hear is encouragement, I am discouraged. Others always try to help me, but I fail in helping my self.
I would even say that all of the exterior influences in my life have been positive. Every person and every circumstance that any human being living in the modern world could reasonably expect to be in their favor has been in my favor. I am probably in the ninety-eighth percentile or higher when it comes to receiving blessings. I just want to make sure that no one, including I, ever says that Nels Frye blamed others for the unfortunate state of his being. Though everything I say reeks of that much derided thing, self-pity, it is not of the sort that arises out of feeling benighted and crushed by the world. I do feel that way sometimes, but in the end I take entire responsibility for everything that has gone wrong or not gone right for me.
Nothing beyond what can be expected by a person in such a high percentile of good fortune has “gone” wrong for me. The “wrong” in my life is entirely of my own creation. I have willed it in to being.
The manifold “right” in my life is the work of others. Am I being to extreme? It seems almost arrogant to say that I should have had such an influence over my own identity as to have created everything that is now so. It seems likely that it is not so much that I have made the wrong choices, as that I have not made any choices. So the “wrong” is probably not a willful act of creation so much as the consequence of a dedication to non-action.
I often tell myself to just give-up. When nearly every week brings new crises, perhaps the answer is simply not to care too much about this world. This means to follow the dreaded path of my taciturn half-brother, whose Sikh name, Sad-Porka, even contains the word “sad” in it. Here is the man whose life never made it, the man who lived a seemingly free-spirited life and ended up screwing things up in various ways, eventually turning to asceticism to escape. Both of my parents despise him for this, though his unpleasant personality and particularly sordid brand of philandering may also be involved in any dislike of the fellow. In any case, we have the man who abandoned life in this world, to pursue a life in pursuit of spiritual things. Following conventional values, this has led to a life neither moral nor materially successful. The latter is of course not required when one’s main preoccupation is the spirit.
It seems funny that I brought up good old miserable piglet, because of all of my unimportant relatives he is the one that matters least. He is the one whose specter reappears as I warning against failure. When you throw away the real world, you end up like sad pork.
There is also the example of my uncle Dante, the lotus-eater. He’s another person to avoid being like. He wants no part in the responsibilities and perils of living in modern day America. Living and working in the economy of abundance is supposed to be the highest life an entire population has been able to enjoy. Previously only the nobility enjoyed a lifestyle now in the reach of the masses. In addition to material comfort, life in today’s world allows self-realization and creative previous generation didn’t even dream of. Reclining on leather and silk, dining on sushi, and creating personal websites, our lives move and improve at lightning speed. Dante rejects this. Life for him is slow and as interesting as the life of a teenager on repeat.
For me his life is attractive of course, and not entirely unimaginable for myself, since it is in Asia. He is the non-special American who becomes special in Asia because he is more virile, more charismatic, and, most of all, foreign. Such a life is certainly a constant lure, but it is certainly not as attainable as it seems.
In a round about way, I have observed how two of my relatives have “given up”. One could also go all the way and be a monk, though that would be a strenuous way of giving up. It may be that “being a monk” is a completely abstract idea, in that these people do have real responsibilities. Perhaps being a graduate student is really what I mean.
But let us clear our head after going through all of these digressions. Giving up may not really be an option, or at least it is not an option while living in America.
The problem for me when coming back here is that I am never actually moving forward while I am here, but I am moving backward. Both of my elongated stays in Cambridge have had as a major feature series of setbacks. These setbacks are not huge, but they seem huge when there are no real successes. My life is on standstill while I am here, except for some crises, which would be minor if I had an income and a life. Instead they threaten to consume everything and define my life, since there is no tangible evidence of any successes to cancel them out.
For some reason or another, all of the setbacks, the minuses from my overall well-being, are caused by the car. It is not the fault of the car. Again, I don’t want to shift responsibility off of my own shoulders. Indeed, I feel bad about what I have done to the car. I almost see as the member of my family who has suffered the most from my incompetence. It’s life has been similar to my relationship with my parents and Lydia, but on a smaller scale. This white Mazda MX-6 is the canvas upon which I have sketched my failures.
July 11 2006 (08:12:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
My seventy-one year-old father and I were out on the lawn, standing eight feet apart. He was tossing a big softball to me. I was ten. Each time I caught the ball, he cheered, and so did my mother who was sitting on the sidelines watching.
They had decided that I needed to go back to the fundamentals. Even at the young age of six my inability to perform as an athlete had started to stunt my social development as well. Stinking at sports, excluded me from other activities, as well as friendships. Now at ten, my inability to catch and throw had become daily sources of humiliation for me.
The classic example of this was the team selecting. For some reason, nearly PE class I attended from the time I was six involved a selection of teams. There would be two captains and the order in which they selected people to be on their teams virtually equated to social standing in other areas as well. It would always be a toss-up to see whether me or one of two nerdy kids would be the last person to be picked. More often than not, one of the nerds would be preferred. I would watch as kids that struck me as lame would be deemed better athletes than me. And I really was useless to the team. Whatever sport we happened to be playing, my presence would usually be more of an impediment than an aid. My body often became a barrier, slowing down the progress of the game for both teams. Often, I just stood and watched the ball get kicked by me and the other players just whiz by. My body responded too late when action occurred in the game. In soccer, by the time I realized the ball had come to my end of the field, it would usually already be well on its way back to the other end. Self-conscious, I would ineffectually jog a couple yards as if to show that I had registered that the ball had been nearby. After that I would resume my statuesque stance, watching but not the unfolding of the game. If my teammates ever acknowledged my presence it would be to tell me to stay out of the way.
Even the teachers seemed unsure of what to do with me. Sometimes they just told me to run back and forth behind the goal. Or if we were playing basketball, they would just have me try to shoot hoops at an un-used basket while the rest of the class played. They did give me an ego boost periodically by making me a team captain, and giving me the responsibility of making sure I adhered to the normal pecking order, when choosing my team. It was disappointing to see my importance as team leader slide to zilch, immediately following the selection process.
The worst part was that I didn’t make up for my inability to play sports, by being exemplary in academics. Especially in Middle School, the top athletes also got higher marks than me. Of course, they were also the kings of the roost socially, which created even greater feelings of inadequacy in me when the issue of girls began coming up. Around seventh grade, I started to like girls, and all of the attractive ones were miles out of reach for me. All of the girls that I had crushes on were very athletic themselves. They were also the ones that began “going out” with the athlete/scholars who ruled the school.
I did have contact with the popular girls. Perhaps more than any comparably athletically deficient individual can expect at that age. These girls who spent most of their time in the airy company of Cyrus, Tucker, Josh and other popular guys, would also follow me around some times, for the soul purpose of humiliating me. It became a real routine during sixth grade. Vicky, Christine, Mia and the rest putting their arms around me in class and following me around during recess, saying: “Nels, do you want to go out with me?” To which I would respond “well…probably” or “definitely” and then watch them all run away. I enjoyed that period of being taunted by the hot girls. Sadly, it was my only substantial contact with them, throughout middle school, and indeed I rarely came into contact with similar people during high school. Intervention by the principle of my small private school brought this section to a close. He commanded all of the cute little girls to stop making fun of me. They obeyed, and ignored me for the rest of my time at that school.
Or at least they never talked to me. Sometimes, I saw the pretty girls walk by the field where we were playing sports, and I noticed that they would always be giggling. I was convinced that they were laughing at my inability to hit or catch the ball. Once we were playing baseball and I came to bat. As I picked up the bat, it was like somehow had just started telling a long joke. The big and burly PE instructor, Mr. O’Brien, ordered the pitcher to move closer. The pitcher threw the ball. I missed. Mr. O’Brien told him to come even closer. I missed again. All the players were laughing. The pitcher was now less than ten feet away. He pitched again, and I missed again. Finally, Mr. O’Brien invented some technical blunder that the pitcher had supposedly made, and allowed me to walk to first base. Mia and Courtney were standing by the side, cheerfully watching this episode.
The fact that I was not short or small made my inability all the more humiliating. I was one of the taller kids in the class, and neither fat nor scrawny, and still, many nerds were better athletes than me. My mother intensified her drive to make me functional athletically during this period. She filled me with fears of being flabby later and being out-of-place because of my inability to catch when I joined a country club. Over several summers, I went to basketball camp, soccer camp, and several lacrosse camps. Though it is violent and no less challenging than other sports, it was seen as something that kids who didn’t really have a background in sports could easily pick up. I never could. I just remember standing around feeling weighed down by my thick plastic armor. A few times I was also shoved in my private organs. In high school, I pretty much gave up on sports all together.
It is regrettable because I think that my inability to ever feel at ease with my physical being might stem in part from not being good at sports. Whenever I walk into a new situation I feel my body is blocking things and I just don’t know where to put it. Half the time I pick up a jar, it ends up in pieces on the ground. And worst of all, the same thing happened to my foot when a little bit of nimbleness might have prevented it. I think many of the problems I have driving might owe to my slow reflexes and lack general dexterity. It may be that my hatred of watching sports caused my inability to play sports.
There may be too great of an influence placed on sports in our culture. I imagine obese men sitting with beers watching the game. They claim this is a large part of pop-culture in America, though I have heard that the role of TV in the life of the average person is gradually fading. The difficulty I faced socializing because of not being sports-minded was not limited to playing sports. I could never participate in that world of baseball cards, commentary on the game, and solidarity with one’s fellow red socks fans.
A few months after September 11, 2001, I was riding in a taxi through Phoenix. It was during the super bowl. The driver asked which team I supported. I responded that being from Massachusetts, I had no choice but to cheer on the Red Socks. What with my Middle Eastern appearance, she was about to report me to airport security.
July 11 2006 (08:07:00) US/Pacific ( 0 views )
Alcohol is a vital social lubricant. It is hard to imagine society moving forward without it. So much of socializing is tied to the bar scene, just as is mating. Most people perform better when they have had something a drink or two. It’s hard to see anything wrong with drinking in moderation. Recently, the administration of Colby College chose to start serving wine to students over 21 with meals. Though this is most controversial, it seems a wise thing to prepare students to drink responsibly. They must be fighting against a great pressure in the opposite direction, since they are in Maine.
Marijuana, on the other hand, offers few benefits to the average person. Artists might claim that it stimulates their creativity. It may help them transcend the bounds the confines of normal human thought. It also helps some shamans travel to the afterlife and come back. The controversy on medicinal marijuana rages on.
All the while, countless youngsters begin sampling this drug while they are still in high school. Though all the potheads will repeat again and again that it is not chemically addictive, I have met several people who remain religious smokers of the stuff into their forties. Butch, the former marine, was an example of this. He would smoke a joint in the morning, go to work, return home for lunch, smoke a joint, go back to work, and then come home after which he would smoke several joints throughout the evening. This was his routine, which he felt proud of.
He was one of those people who had built up such a tolerance to the stuff that he seemed like a perfectly normal, if extremely repetitive and dull, person even when high. Moreover, it was the fire burning at the center of his mental life. No subject could inspire more passion his voice than these dried leaves.
When he met someone else that gave some sort of outward signs of adoring marijuana like he did, he felt immediately drawn to them. Indeed, he did seem to recognize the sorts of people who would be weed smokers. Not that there are so few of them in our society. They were his coreligionists, and it seemed the only people to whom he truly felt bonded.
His life was simple. With no belongings beyond clothing, no wife or girlfriend, and no serious career, his only true attachment was the leaves. This would be apparent though. He was an extremely fit forty-year-old, who lifted weights and worked very hard at his low-paying English teaching job. Aside from being muscular, he was extremely clean-cut and nearly dowdy in his personal style, with pleated pants and button-down oxford shirts as his uniform.
Nor were his conversation or ideas very weird. His politics were liberal but not impractical. His ideas about China were ordinary. His loneliness would strike anyone. He didn’t seem to have friends beyond the people that went to smoke weed with him, and his soul female contact was with prostitutes. Whenever someone wanted to smoke a joint with him he was more than happy to oblige.
Overall, his great dedication to weed had not created an extreme or wacko individual. At times I even wondered why he smoked so much if it didn’t have any effect on him. My reaction to the stuff was always far more dramatic. It tended to destabilize what little semblance of discipline I had started following.
My time as a pothead was fortunately short, though I constantly long to return to that period. It came during the final two months before I graduated from college when I had already opted to not take courses. Unlike most people in a situation like that, I did not take up a job. I made some half-hearted attempts to do so, but didn’t succeed. It was partially because I was unsure about how long I would be remaining in Chicago and also because I didn’t know what sort of job I should be doing. Here I was at a very crucial point. During those two months I should have been reviewing my directionless college career and trying to determine some kind of direction for my upcoming entrance into the real world.
Instead I determined, not so deliberately, that this was the last time before the noose of life as a responsible being was slipped around my neck. I had always craved free time as much as the Nazis craved free space. Now I had no classes, no job, and no plans for the future. I wasn’t calm and waiting to see what would happen. I knew that the last four years had taught me only how to avoid work. Skills were not my forte. Keeping my apartment rodent free was even beyond me. I didn’t even like playing an instrument, drawing, or sports. No keen pressure to support myself or pay back college loans hung over my spine. The one thing that made me unsatisfied was the success of my peers. I watched enviously as my best friend got a job at the New York Review of Books and another joined AID insurance. That great plummet into the abyss of responsibility and work, following graduation, was now less than two months off, and everyone had bright prospects, except for me.
My future seemed empty. I imagined myself lying on a bamboo mat in Saigon with troops of cockroaches marching past. Or perhaps on a raft in the dragon islands, dressed in rags, soaked to the bone, with a beautiful woman starving next to me. I knew the reality would be the less romantic image of me, simply sitting in a room somewhere, eating a grilled cheese sandwich and trying not to get fat. Marijuana helped me escape these thoughts. I bought a half-ounce of it the very day that I finished my senior BA thesis – or I should say turned in the unfinished version. My fate for the next few weeks had been sealed. And it was a glorious fate. Though weed was no new, I had never realized how wonderful being on it for most of the day, while alone, could be. I abandoned all of my other regrets, berating myself only for not having smoked so much marijuana during my previous four years in university. Before I went anywhere I would smoke some of it, and usually I was just going to sit on the roof of an abandoned church or to walk along the lake. These walks would be magical journeys that seemed never-ending. Each step I took resounded, and the joggers who went by seemed like they were on a great mission.
When I stayed in my apartment, smoking out helped me have more interesting thoughts. One thought would lead to another without any real connection and without my having to will them into being. The wrapping of ideas was constantly being undone, and I was constantly moving toward some deeper meaning. Deeper layers always remained to be unpeeled, but the journey itself was beautiful. The images would cascade by me, I would be falling down a waterfall and landing in a space city, in the midst of which was a girl I had once had a crush on. Her eyes would immediately grow long and so would her other orifices, so that soon I tractor beams pulled into her nostrils. Inside was her face again, contorted, but now without a body and animated by wings on the sides of her head. A whole succession of my friends faces, contorted and winged would then flutter by, causing me to fear that somewhere deep inside I didn’t like them. I would realize that they also probably did not care much about me. Then, came reassurance: they barely mattered or even existed anyway. The winged heads would flutter away and I would be ushered into paradise in a deep cavern. Slowly a dream-filled sleep would be overtaking me.