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Alpha Male

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The French girl wanted to come over and I said she could, but she had to leave right afterward so I could write. Thought she’d be cool with it because she treats me like she’s having an affair. I say affair because sometimes she comes (heh) on her Saturday lunch break. But mostly I say affair because she reminds me of someone’s wife. I say wife because she’s old. I say she’s old because she’s my age. My age is old if you’re a single girl, but a very nice age if you’re a wife. I’m 28 years old. I’m sort of young for a single man. When my friends get married, I still see it as a tragedy. Gone too soon. 

Anyway. I told her it was cool if she came through, if she left after. She went feminist on me and refused. I shot back a Kanye West shrug GIF and that was that. I’m 28 years old and I still kill a fling with my thumb instead of an adult conversation. I know it’s wrong. I also know I’ll never change.

***

I couldn’t find the bag of almonds I’d put on the desk. Then I saw the trash can had been knocked over and realized it was the rats. They dragged the almonds out of the balcony door when I was out. I’m single and free but goddamn, the squalor is too real at times.

I once read something about Pablo Escobar losing a million dollars a week because the rats chewed it up. My entire net worth is in paper form, and is hidden in this very room, in a very obvious place.

I realized that I live in the past. In that I have the exact same life my grandfather did in 1965. He lived in Vietnam too. Air Force. Has never told me a single thing about it. But I know that he came here by plane and lived in a place he unlocked with a physical key, and he paid cash for everything. Nothing has changed. The bright, promised future never arrived.

One day, people who haven’t even been born yet will sniff dismissively at the passing thought of this entire decade. Our iPhones and news stories and presidents are all primitive shit. We know nothing and we’re prehistoric jokes and still guide our lives by comparatively Medieval superstitions.

***

Open mic last week in the Old Quarter. Went well. I wish it hadn’t, so I could have quit. Because I have too many hobbies. I don’t have time to sleep because I’m too amazing, seek out too many influences, too much progress. This is actually a problem. I don’t like to just hang out. My life is spent stuck in a frantic gear as a result.

If only I had the time for boxing. I have all this misplaced, negatively-charged masculine energy. Every evening I’m stuck in heavy traffic. Land warfare, battling for inches. The nuclear-hot tropical sun and the smog. I visualize cracking noses, chokeslamming a motherfucker or two. I think about filling a backpack with bricks so I can shotput them into some foreheads. Hear the muted crack and see the crimson spray.

A drunk guy with ripped clothes was laying on the horn while were all stuck in the 5:00 gridlock. Hundreds of us, legions of us, just gutting through it. Absolutely impossible to move but he was just laying, laying, laying, laying on the horn, making us all wince. He wasn’t in our reality. Had a horrible pitted face that said he’d gone the last 20,000 days without love.

I still wanted to hurt him. So badly. I screamed shut the fuck up! Big pulse of energy bursting up from deep in my torso, shredding my vocal chords. Felt like I was freeing a demon. Praise God I’m not in America, where you can get sued for bulging your eyes out at someone.

I take the Donald Trump, Fox News, 1820s approach to gender roles. I believe men are bigger, stronger, and that they’re killers. I believe this because they are. Every army in human history = men. I have this masculine energy but no script, no safety valves. The Clinton years failed me. And there’s no one to kill these days. The future has actually come. And it failed us. Things are too safe.

Instead I just put all this energy into thinking about getting girls pregnant. Not because I want kids. Just for the biological thrill of it. She doesn’t even have to be someone I like.

This is all a roundabout way of letting you know that Tinder’s really cracking these days. Jesus. This is my second tour of duty on it. A few tweaks to the playbook, and it’s really started clicking. And I’m only going to be young and virile for about five more minutes. If only I had the time to dive in.

kanye-shrug

I Usually Post on Mondays Or Do I

My traditional weekly post about jacking off will be a day late again, but I have good excuses.  I have to write 650 words a day or else my little Vietnam travel book will miss the deadline. It’s real, I signed the deal, I can’t fuck around. Now that it’s legal I have the vague sense that I’m sitting in view of a sniper scope.

650 researched, publishable words takes hundreds of millions of years to write. No amount of good sentences will keep the demons away. They always crawl back. I hate nonfiction. I hate being ambitious and having it sort of pay off, because I suffer from imposter syndrome.

Anyway I have no time to jack off, or to write about it. Ergo no time for the good stuff, the catharsis and realness. I ran out of time today even though I got up early. Chores and responsibilities from wire to wire.

And also I wasted a coon’s age on NFL.com, being very happy that the Giants lost. Yes, I’m still bitter about those Super Bowls. And now here I am spending 40 minutes on this meta-post, when it was supposed to take 4. Gotta go. See ya tomorrow.

 

 

What Happened In Hong Kong

I. Continental Appropriation

I carried a garment bag there with my suits in it. If I was going back to the first world then I’d need my first world uniform. Fretted in the airport the whole time about wrinkles.

In the city I went up the three-foot wide sidewalks with all the paper lanterns and bamboo scaffolding. My conduit into this foreign world is the cool British sheen overlaying everything. MTR stations and stoplights keeping everything flowing smoothly through the grid. Such a woozy relief. I’d been too long in the wild.

My 20th visit to Hong Kong. Or something like that. The point is that I’ve lost count. The first time was six years ago. I was pretty young then. Feels like I’ve been young forever.

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(Six years ago)

Half of my DNA is elitist Northeastern Ivy League jackoff, and the other half is impoverished Jack-in-the-Box Florida Everglades con artist. The cheap side won out as usual, and instead of a hotel I stayed in a dorm with six hirsute Europeans. Shared the floor space and the shower like refugees.

As the day turned golden I did my Tabata sprints in the lane in front of the Coach store. It rained and I fell and split my knee open. I let it just bleed down into my sock and hobbled two blocks to the bay for a look.

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The cityscape is narcotic and so beautiful it’s actually hard for me to look at. The capital megacity of an alien empire. It gloats at you.

Rich blue water with 100-mile tall supertowers casually scattered along it. Curved glass panes keeping you away from the mannequins and Jaguars. Energy sucked out of Kowloon villages to keep the AC pumping for a mere 70 people out of the 7 million who live here. Energy appropriated to keep that clear high-wattage light exploding out of every crystal tower from now until forever. A light that serves as a snide reminder that you weren’t invited into the Illuminati. This is the kingdom of the orphan-killers and dark gods.

And who can blame them. I’d been in Vietnam too long. I forgot what money looked like.

II. Up All Night

I got suited, then went to Western Union to launder some of my dirty money back home. Then I went out. My American friend lives there and makes good money consulting. Whatever that is. Just sending vague emails all day. Saying empty phrases like project specs into the speakerphone and getting paid a king’s ransom for it. The longer I do it the more I realize writing was a waste of time.

We spent too much. But I like spending money, because I work a lot. Purchasing something feels like a validation of my diligence.*

We were out in Lan Kwai Fong and so were all of the other people in the world. When movies show festivities, and the best times of someone’s life before it all fell apart, they show a party going on in a place like Lan Kwai Fong.

Several people are very angry at me, because I keep deciding to be single again. They’ll be happy to know I do get lonely, more often than I care to admit. They’ll be less happy to know that when I go out, I have an amazing time.

A decomposing band of expats was playing Mr. Brightside when my buddy’s friend from South Africa came around. He let slip that he’d been working on her for a while. She winked at me while he was paying for something. I kissed her. And would have gone home with her but I didn’t want to lie to him about it later.

Actually that’s not true. What really happened was: I would have gone home with her but she turned out to be a Christian. Weird to stumble upon one of them. I’ve been out of the cult for so long I forgot they existed out here in the wild. Like sleeper agents.

We rode deeper into the morning. I was glad to be alive. Some things happened.**

III. The Help

Later on in the trip I walked two hours from Causeway Bay to get brunch at a place in the Midlevels. I was sweaty and wearing Ray-bans like one of those assholes I hate because I’m afraid they might be more handsome than me.

In Central the Filipina housemaids had their blankets spread out on the overpasses and under bridges. Thousands of them. They have to leave the penthouse sometimes so their Chinese owners can have iPhone time with their families.

I was going to take some pictures of them all sitting by the fountains near the Mandarin Oriental and the Gucci store. But some of them saw me and covered their faces. Not because they were camera shy. It was their way of asserting that they were humans and not a feature of the landscape.

I put the phone away and sat down nearby. Fat British men were out there, trying to pick up the Filipinas. Their moist Guinness belly rolls jammed into polos, their smartphones drawn, their thumbs cocked back over screens like cobra heads, asking hey how do you spell that funny name of yours again, love?

I at least have the decency to fuck above the poverty line.

I watched the PRC flags snapping above, occupying the exact midpoint between my face and the top of the Bank of China Tower. Perfect cool fall sun above Victoria Peak. A deep, deep quiet sitting in the shady city canyons.

I thought abstractly about punching someone. Every now and then these days I start spoiling for a fight. I think it’s road rage from Vietnam, activating dormant Neanderthal brutality. I left the area.

IV. With Love and Apologies To Those I’ve Hurt Before

I got up the mountain to the diner and read the Communist propaganda paper where China was still gloating about repelling a Japanese invasion in 1945. Come on guys. Not even us Americans jack off to World War II this much.

I sat at the same table I used to with my ex-ex-girlfriend. Four years ago we used to come here all the time. She was boring. Started strong, but burned through all her good stories within the first week. There was a reason I was her first. But she was really nice and for that reason I couldn’t dump her.

She extradited me back to America and her Reaganite parents. At their house I’d trip over the hints they kept dropping about me going to grad school. They worked 70 hours a week and the way that they saw it, Obama was the one and only reason they weren’t trillionaires yet.

I wasted years being nice to her. I almost married her, just as a favor. I hate her for being boring and wasting my time when it was my fault. I should have just killed her earlier, when my instincts told me to.

I circled my hands around my coffee mug, closed my eyes and willed myself back to the last time I was at this table, her across from me. I hijacked my younger self and had him do the cold, honest thing: tell her it was done.

When I opened my eyes I was back in the diner at the table by myself. Almost trembled with relief.

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V. The End of History

I ate. $200 HKD for eggs and a waffle and bottomless coffee. I’m boring too, I realized, as I sat there with a goddamn newspaper. So, that little ritual was cruel of me.

I do get lonely, which makes people like her happy. I have enemies who used to love me, but hate me now because I was too nice to hurt them. It’s weird and unpleasant.

But that doesn’t bother me as much as writing does. The only thing that bothers me in life is that I’ve never quite nailed it, never written something perfect.

I worked on the book for a while. Having to do a lot of historical research for it. Tens of thousands slaughtered in every paragraph as dynasties bubble up and heave into each other. Blood and tragedy used to be the absolute default.

Now, it’s some weird historical aberration that we’re all currently alive. Now, everyone has to really reach to find something to be scared of, and the best they can come up with is a vague threat of Muslim Mexicans. Or something. Some imagined tertiary threat to their SUV life. Meanwhile the older generation who fought to make the world safe and comfortable now berate us for enjoying safety and comfort.

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After two hours I closed the laptop, refilled the coffee again.

Here you are, man. All you’ve ever wanted. Minus the having-a-lot-more-money part. Just for kicks, I fired up Tinder. I’m ugly and boring so Tinder never works. But sometimes you still have to play.

VI. Hail Mary/The Thing With Chinese Women

I need beginnings with women, only beginnings, because nothing ever goes wrong with beginnings. I don’t do middles and definitely don’t do ends. Middles, you can start to feel the magic go and it’s quietly horrifying. Ends are so painful they leave you feeling torn on a psychic level. Go beyond a beginning, and it fails 100% of the time. But beginnings are nothing but sweet beautiful promises.

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her, not the dog

When this happens, it’s like someone in the office put a piece of birthday cake in front of you unexpectedly. You didn’t look for or hope for it. But there it is. If cake presents itself, you should have some cake. Someday you’re going to be dead, after all.

I only go for locals if they’ve lived in the West and have perfect English. Or at least 95% perfect English. Mistakes are cute after all.

They have to be able to understand you well enough to know if you’re weird. They have to have that comprehension, in order to put up the same barrier Western women have. And you have to make it past that barrier. Not satisfying any other way.

If they don’t have that barrier, then any man with his weak sperm can make it past. And I have to be able to hurdle barriers that weak men can’t, in order to maintain the delusion that I’m the greatest man who ever lived.

(^^This is how a single white man under 40 in Asia thinks because he has the luxury of doing so. After 40, when the face bubbles and sags like they’ve been hiking in the Martian atmosphere from Total Recall, they start slyly dropping pro-prostitution arguments into political conversation.)

Just beginnings. She was in North Point, where they just put luxury towers in the hillside. Buildings with uniformed staff and flower vases the size of Panzer tanks. She’d studied in England. Her parents are traders. Vacationing in Germany, left her home alone. We met at the MTR station and she took me up.

It was more fun than I hoped. She’d come up on the same porn I had.

It happened twice and then I left and the beginning was over. It meant nothing. But not in the sad poet way. It meant nothing in a good way.

VII. Your Regularly Scheduled Disaster

I only had time afterward to shower before my sushi date with a Chinese-born Swiss banker. I was punching above my weight; I shouldn’t have asked her. I’m an English teacher with a minor book deal and nothing about my existence impressed her. She was too smart for me. Too rich.

Actually those are excuses. What happened was she didn’t laugh at the first story I told her and inwardly I panicked. I was on the back foot the rest of the time. Walked her back to her flat on the bay but she told me stay downstairs. She said I was nice to chat with. But she didn’t want more.

It hurt for a while. I went to get coffee at McDonald’s, because it was the only place open and I didn’t want to drink. It would take a while for me to remember it’s good for you to hit the barrier. Wakes you up a little. No man is a cock superhero but all men sometimes forget this.

VIII. A Relative Lack of Motifs & Symmetry

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Coming back to Hanoi is like unplugging from the Matrix. Like living past the end of the world. Ever-present smoke hovers like a huge bomb went off a few hours ago. Stupid buzzing bikes and horns and speakers.

I landed and immediately had to motorbike across the city to work. Longest day of my life. Finally got to release some Neanderthal pressure, though. I got into a scuffle in the parking garage with a Vietnamese man who cut me in line for a ticket, and ignored me when I tapped his shoulder. I’d been rushing all day. In lines and in the air. All day since 8 am in another country. Fuck him.

I jerked him backward by his backpack and said he’d been rude to slide in front of me. The veins in his neck swelled up and his eyes beamed hate at me. But then he nodded and got behind me. It felt amazing.

At home, I was thinking about this post. I couldn’t figure out a theme or a Big Statement for the end. To tie it all together. Because there’s nothing. It was simply a trip to Hong Kong. My activities, my life are too messy for a theme. My life isn’t a story. No one’s is. You have to lie to make your life into a story. I don’t learn lessons or achieve growth in a way that dovetails with an itinerary.

We don’t live in stories, we’re stuck in limbo, in survival, and just doing things and going places to kill time while we are. We are not going to figure anything out. I know this because I don’t have things figured out and I also don’t know a single soul who does.

The theme is this: that none of this means anything. And not in a sad poet way, but in a good way.

 

*This is the exact thought the dark corporate gods want me to have.

But I specifically like spending Hong Kong dollars and I like how they feel between my fingers. It has a texture like canvas and it’s wide and stout, like how old bills in movies look. HSBC paid to put their stamp on every bill. A level of blatant capitalism not even America has reached yet.

**first time I’ve forgotten someone’s name the next morning.

I Usually Post on Mondays

but I just got back from Hong Kong a few hours ago. Hong Kong is pretty cool and I wrote about it on the plane. But I’ll post about it tomorrow. Today was too busy to finish it. In the meantime if you’re bored I think there’s some porn hiding somewhere on the internet.

Some Kind of Drug

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kailarogers.org

Six months in ‘Nam

***

My students are pretty much all 20 year-old females who are all ovulating unceasingly. I didn’t like Vietnamese girls when I first got here, but let’s just say my views on this issue are evolving. When they look up at me I know what it’s like to be a cult leader. In the classroom you can literally see electricity arcing between pheromone clouds*. Pheromone clouds. Change genders if you want. More power to you. But you can’t fake that.

Some men would be plowing through this roster but I know better. I’m not saying I know what will make you happy, but I am also saying that impossibly tight young snatch won’t do it.

***

I usually wake up at noon. My life feels stressful but it’s not. I have to go out and manufacture stress if I want it. God bless the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for providing the freest ecosystem a man could dream of. Expats exist in a gray zone with no cops or taxes. Motorbike costs a dollar a day. I’ll never go home. Every morning I watch the West burn on my smartphone. Shrug and have coffee. This election horseshit feels like it’s unfolding on the other side of the galaxy.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m white trash who’s made all the wrong turns. I’m supposed to be selling Amway in Stratham, NH right now. The force that got me here was luck, multiplied by luck and then compounded by even more luck. I feel guilty about it all the time. Like: good times are only temporary, this is all going to fall apart tomorrow. You have to worry if you’re in a good spot, because if you act like a complacent cunt, your luck disappears. Then I realize that is a stupid way to expend your emotional energy. Look at the news. Bankers never run out of luck, and they’re demons. They expect luck, and so it’s always there for them.

I just re-read those two paragraphs above. I’m such a prick now. Probably the worst byproduct of freedom.

***

Young snatch used to be a remedy. Way before that, loving God was, and then hating him was too. Loving someone always starts well but then is also always a disaster. Writing can work, but writing is mostly torture. Booze has its moments but that shit’ll hurt you. If you’re free for a little while, you figure out that nothing works for long.

We rode out onto the marshes at midnight and drank beer under a tree fit for a lynching. Too far away to see lights of the city. A monsoon hit with lightning bolts stabbing down every twenty seconds. We had to drive back because it was just getting worse. Our tires weren’t gripping the reeds and kept getting sucked down into the mud. No idea which way to go. The riverbanks were starting to overflow and cut off out options. Too much rain to hear shouting. One of those times where you’re thinking: this isn’t a joke.

I was scared. So scared the only thing I could do was laugh hysterically. I imagine that’s how most boys have died in battle, laughing like that, because screaming would validate the fear.

*not actually literally

Alive

 

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Some women are tender and hold your head while you fall asleep. Other women won’t kiss you much and cover their nipples after you’re done, as if now’s the time for modesty.

The younger ones, from across the generational divide, are straight-up slayers. They pick up their phones right afterward and lie on their bellies pecking away. Messaging other dudes. Every girl who texts you is doing so from another man’s bed. His jizz still in her navel. Intimacy is dead and it’s not coming back. This is the world now. If love’s the sort of thing you’re into, just know that your one shot at it was the last one you blew.

***

I do miss my girlfriend my ex-girlfriend. The one who’s a model and is seven years younger than me. She was great. But I lied too much and caused too much damage.

I had five days off work for the holiday. Too much unstructured time, so I was forced to think about her. And it’s really sad. It feels like we both died.

I spent three of those days in the mountains. Motorbiked 100 miles south on the Ho Chi Minh Highway to stay with a family in a hut underneath a waterfall. Woke up with the chickens. Detoxed from modernity. It was boring. I privately expected a cinematic experience whereupon some of my crippling character defects would be healed by the tranquility. Instead I just sweated, read Murakami, and counted the seconds until it was over. Fuck the cinema and its tropes. I couldn’t wait to ride back to the city and go to Starbucks or something.

***

The ride back to Hanoi was unbelievable. Never done anything like that in my life. My buddy drives fast and I had to stick with him because I didn’t know the way. 50 mph the whole time, which in Vietnam might as well be 1,000 mph. It’s the jungle. You go hammering down cliff roads with pits deep as asteroid craters, every one of them trying to throw you over the handlebars. No cops or rules. People constantly shoot out of blind drives. Other people kamikaze straight at you on the wrong side of the road. There’s no reaction time.

My buddy would lean low and slide between trucks and I had to follow. I only know how to drive like that from movies. Purely terrifying. But also the most awesome scene I’ve ever been in the middle of. The clear hot sun, the blindingly green mountains, the smoke pillars on the riverbanks, the flooded cemeteries, the crazy whipping dust and the pebbles flying up and spraying you hard as paintballs. Chopping through it all for two hours on a hot engine. This is the sort of thing I’m into now. It’ll make you feel something.

A tour bus jumped a red light and I was going to hit it. I tried to react. Squeezed the handlebars and my front brake bit the wheel so hard it tore off. I skidded out and somehow caught a sand patch and slid past the nose of the bus. That was death right there. All luck that I made it through.

I was surprised that nothing profound came to me as my survival registered. What did come to me was the acidic throb of adrenaline, about a minute later. That’s something you should feel, if you can.

***

Back in the Hanoi Starbucks I read a missed email from two days before. An offer for a podcast appearance, listenership of a half-million per episode. Would have been a huge boost for your boy Freddy C. over here. My readership would have grown into… double digits maybe. But I didn’t respond in time, and so that ship has sailed. All because I was up in the mountains with chickens.

It’s OK. I actually don’t care. I had convinced myself that missing this email was another sign that my life is nothing but a tragedy, but that’s just the Murakami I’m reading. He makes me think it’s OK to slump through life bearing a cross of emotional agony.

But feeling like that is not OK, because it’s not true. Not so much anymore. What’s true is that I’m all right. I’m glad I didn’t die. I’m glad I’m still here to have my tiny pile of money and also my coffee and some good songs that I can pull over me like a woozy blanket. That’s my life, that’s me. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve transcended a few things and escaped a few others. So I’m all right, no matter if she holds me or turns away. Or if she lights up her phone. She thinks she’s hot shit. And she is. But then there’s me.

 

 

 

 

Light Your Dick On Fire

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Friday night we got hammered and stole a Vietnamese fisherman’s boat from a hamlet on the Red River and went out floating. It was 3 a.m. We got down to boxers and unlashed it from the bamboo pylons, then slid it silently through the reeds like Navy SEALs. The boat was made of hand-cut planks and had an aluminum roof. Probably been in the family since the French were here.

I spent the whole time in abject panic. Imagined rowing back and finding the cops arrayed on shore with floodlights. Had visions of life in a Vietnamese prison, being power-raped by all the rice dicks. You know the terror you feel when you’re skidding in a car and about to hit something. This was that terror, but sustained for about forty minutes. Like you’re on fire inside and out. I enjoyed it.

I’m rich white and fat: the essence of fulfillment. I want for nothing, but still gotta do something. There’s an obvious parallel to Ryan Lochte/Rio to be made with this.

***

Being boring is a sin. A famous man said that, and I am in agreement. So, do more things so you’re not boring. Live while you can, basically. Because who knows how long that will be. I think about cancer all the time. Mostly because of the air here in urban Vietnam; you sit there boiling in motorbike traffic and breathing in the little smog particles. Trillions of them every second. They accumulate deep in your nasal cavity and over time form a semi-hard gob that you’re always kind of vaguely aware of, that ever-so-slightly changes the timbre of your voice. Every three months it accumulates enough mass to suddenly break loose and slide down your esophagus. It’s pure poison death. Also: salty and kind of satisfying.

Since I’m still alive and can do things, I’ll go hike this weekend, because Vietnamese Independence Day is this weekend, and everything is closed so they can gloat about the war. And you know what? Good for them.

But. It also happens that when I read about said Vietnam War, I fantasize that if Nixon had authorized just a few more bombing raids, it would have all turned out differently. Because the only thing I hate more than America’s deplorable foreign policy is knowing another country can say they’ve beaten us.

***

I work on my book in expensive cafés because I’m an asshole. It’s going pretty slowly. But these other goddamn writers keep me motivated and chopping away at it. This girl I know writes for a magazine and drops little writerly phrases into conversation like, I rested last week, and feel like I’ve recharged my personality and allows herself a smile afterward.

Other people wouldn’t catch that the phrase recharged my personality required some brainpower, but I’m a writer, and I sure as hell fucking did. That right there is purposefully refined thinking. I know exactly what happened. She wrote that line down in a journal and workshopped it. Then slyly deployed it while out at the bar. Don’t do that. Leave your shit at home. Have the decency to do what the rest of us do, and pretend we don’t even write. You’ve got to hide your writing like you’re Batman.

And this British kid with Leo Titanic hair who read a Brexit poem at the open mic on Sunday. Kept intentionally stretching and warping words because he thinks that’s how Artists are supposed to talk. Kept the mic close to his mouth like he was giving it a blowjob and kept hitting the p’s too hard so they detonated in the subwoofers and made everyone wince. But the poem itself was good. Kind of. Good, but only on a basic level. He’s not a genius, like I am. Like I think I am. Really I’m just mad when someone else dares to do the same thing I do. No matter what that thing may be. It’s always such a rude shock when it happens.

The Gentleman

Still in Vietnam. Still on a bender. Four straight weeks of too much to drink and too few vegetables. I’m aging by the second; under my eyes it’s just lizard skin. If I smoked on top of all this then I’d look like Tommy Lee Jones already. Too much poison and sugar – I gotta downshift. There should be an app that shows you your liver damage in real time.

I have a long nasty beard that looks like a toilet brush and I piss in the sink in the hallway of my boarding house because the bathroom is one floor down. This is what a man looks like in the aftermath. When he does the right thing, or maybe just the more honest thing. Maybe there is no right thing. I hope she’s OK. I know she’s not, but I still hope it anyway.

***

It’s not as bad as I make it sound. My Puritanical background keeps me from sliding too far into hell. I have good habits. I get home from this stupid fucking glitter club called Hanoi Rock City and watch action movie clips on YouTube and drink water until I’m sober. I floss and moisturize. Then get eight hours of sleep and then 90 minutes of exercise and then study French and Vietnamese. Then I read Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle before I go to work. At work I am white and therefore collect more money in 90 minutes than the locals do in a full week and blah blah…

All right. Let’s get to the sex stuff.

***

Put my jersey up. I could just retire from sex now. I’ve fucked enough for an army. Plus, I’ll be 30 soon, and I’m white. Past my prime. I have no business being naked anymore. White guys are gross when they’re old and naked.

I still have a high sex drive but just jack off constantly. I prefer jacking it to actual women now. I’ve come (heh) full circle, am 14 again.

There have been a few women who made it clear that they were down, who I could have smuggled up to my 5th floor flophouse. But the problem is that they wouldn’t cease to exist as soon as I came, which is what I want, which is what all men want but just won’t say. And there’s an added dimension of difficulty when it comes to kicking someone down out of a 5th floor walkup. That requires a level of finesse I don’t have the energy for. So, I jack it.

***

I keep forgetting I’m a legitimate, professional human now. I’ve finally started working on this Vietnam book I’m contracted for. It is a real thing; no longer can I just jizz all over WordPress and call it a day. Writing nonfiction is mental crossfit. You’re questioning, arguing with each sentence.

It’s also inauthentic. The style is not me. The tone is not me. I’m just sitting down at the keyboard and lying.

It’s due in four months. I’m a little worried, but I’m also not. I’ve been writing for so long that it doesn’t scare me anymore. If something isn’t working, I try it again. I know I’ll figure it out. Writing is about the only thing I’ve figured out.

A Single Man, Part II

Still no fucking, sorry. (A bit of porn, though.)

***

So concludes another day as an over-privileged white man in the Far East.

I found out some of my students draw a salary of $0.85 an hour. That’s the level of income that forces you to make your budget tighter than a cat’s asshole. Even for Vietnam. The company they work at is Japanese. They outsourced their plant over here because they can get away with paying slave wages. (It’s not only the Long Island Illuminati tycoons who do these things). And these workers are smart. The corporate complex is like a sweatshop for geniuses. I make 40 times what they do. They’ll work triple-overtime, save 100% of it, and still never escape.

Not even thinking about this makes me feel lucky. To be human is to be an animal and to be an animal is to be unaware of your advantages. We just happen to only be aware of what we lack. That’s the evolutionary force that keeps us moving.

I drive past a bunch of Vietnamese bricklayers on the way home. They’d all kill their own families to be me. Tall white hilarious cisgender American male with a book deal and cash in the bank and heaps of pussy waiting for him whenever he gets out of his funk. I am to them what a Saudi prince is to me. But then again, when I look at them and their low-BMI manual laborer bodies with the eternal six-packs, I’d kill to be them. No one gets it all.

***

Not that I’m fat. I’m gaunt, even though I drink too much.

About drinking. I can have a good time without it. I was raised in preparation for a lifetime of sobriety; I grew up Southern Baptist and was told having a Bud Light was a Satanic ritual. So I can go out sober and laugh until I cry. But I’d still rather do it while drinking.

I don’t gain beer weight because I work too much. My schedule is such a Bataan Death March that I’m inadvertently forced to fast most days. And it’s also because I work out like Michael Phelps. Except it’s worth noting that I’m better than Michael Phelps, because I still put in the hours even though no one will ever give a shit.

It’s OK. The workouts and the workaholism are working for me, they’re getting me through the emotions of the breakup, or past the emotions of the breakup, without having to confront them. Helping me neutralize thoughts of her in the future having nice sweet moments (or sweaty, naked moments) with other dudes and their dicks (even though I let her go and therefore I have no right to whine about it). The mental image I have of myself these days is that I’m holding on to a bomb really tightly so it won’t explode (because that is a thing that’s possible to do), and if I hold it long enough it’ll deactivate and I can put it down. That’s not how human emotions work, but I’m trying it anyway.

It’s not just the breakup. In general, I don’t really like myself, thanks to whatever chemical soup is in my head. I have to hype myself up to start thinking kind thoughts about myself, and it’s unsustainable. It’s like an arranged marriage. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think everyone is like this. But that doesn’t make it easier.

***

Anyway, it’s summer in Asia. That means we either live in an end-of-days downpour or nuclear-hot sunlight. Take your pick. No middle ground.

These days it’s the rain. It always hits while I’m driving my motorbike. Never before, never after. Always exactly during the time when I’m driving somewhere.

Saturday I got off work at 9:30 pm. At 9:31, the typhoon hit. I was going to have a night out but Mother Nature said otherwise, reasserted her existence, sliced through everyone’s neatly knotted little plans. Whenever the rain comes I glare at the Vietnamese like it’s their fault. As if monsoons are a feature they opted in for.

***

The rain keeps me pinned down inside, where I don’t write, and instead wrestle with the Y2K-speed internet connection. But tonight it let up. I went out and let people annoy me. The other expats. They’re loud jackoffs, bargain-bin degenerates, white trash cretins. Their noise fills up my head. It’s loathsome. It’s irritating. It’s insipid. It’s what I need.

 

A Single Man

dog kissing male owner

Now I live in a hot room in Vietnam, like the guy in Apocalypse Now. Except I have Winnie-the-Pooh bedsheets. Landlord went shopping and chose them, for some reason.

The AC gets fixed, works for a day and then breaks again. Spews flaming F-16 exhaust into the room while outside the sun blasts the life out of the city. The heat is such that it wakes you up at 5:00 am. It’s the only reminder I need that God doesn’t exist. Because there’s no reason for it to be this hot. For the sun to sear and boil you and melt your DNA strands down into cancer. An intelligent designer would have modulated this shit a little.

***

This breakup burns. Even though I was the one who did it. I see her around the city all the time. She’s alone, and she doesn’t want to be. It’s not fair.

I have too much history now. Too many cute, flirty stories racked up by this point for me to offer someone something genuine. And too many fuck stories for me to offer someone something innocent. Dating gets sick and nasty after a while. We wouldn’t buy a car with fifteen previous owners, but we’ll take a person with that many.

When I go out girls ask me if I have a girlfriend, if I want to go somewhere with them. I don’t. Which only makes them ask again. They only want me because I don’t want them.

That’s the only thing you need to know about life. By the time I decide I want one of the girls, they’ll all disapparate. Look at me with disgust for having a desire.

I’m worried about my empathy levels, I’m worried I’m too detached. I’m outrunning my emotions. I never sit down; there’s always something pressing. I exercise and then I go to work and then after work I have some drinks. Then I pass out and purposefully wake up late enough that I have no time to do anything but get ready for work again. Which leaves me no time for anyone’s bullshit. Vietnamese managers ping my inbox with threats in Google translate-level English: “you sending the spreadsheet now.”

I say no. And they apologize for asking. I’m Genghis Fucking Khan. On Gmail, at least. I keep hoping they’ll fire me. But they can sense that I don’t care, so they keep me around.

***

Someone stole my helmet from the bar parking lot last week, because that’s the kind of thing happens in Vietnam. If it’s not cemented to the Earth, it vanishes. I didn’t get a new helmet. But it’s safer to ride this way, because I’m far more vigilant. I treat every ride like it’s war.

I saw a dead guy on the bridge near my work. The side of his head was smashed flat. Motorbike crash, no helmet. I know that that’s not going to happen to me. Not these days, anyway. I’m safe and I’m lucky. And things will stay that way until I get more excited about life.

Change

Everyone recognizes that my book deal is significant, except for my mom. She said it sounded “neat.” I’m not sure if she knows what a book deal is. That it’s a hard thing to get. For most people.

For me, it just fell into my lap. I knew a guy, that was it. I didn’t knock on a million doors for this. But I still congratulate myself as if I did.

And I have proud thoughts such as: hey man, see, life will work out. God will give you your dream, your hard work will pay dividends, and brilliant joy will be yours. As long as you’re white.

Jesus. I’m getting pretty cocky over what will just be a travel book. Cocky that someone, anyone!, who works in an office has told me that I don’t suck.

They’re lying. It’s all business. They just need a semi-literate ape who’s willing to only use chopsticks for a year and sign a lowball deal in exchange for his name going on something.

And with me, they got it. I’m a millennial; I would rather have attention than income. I spent three days working on the Facebook status. And now I keep re-reading the list of people who liked it. People from high school. Allison and Erin who both married other dudes and had kids. Now everyone knows. They were wrong about me!

Besides that guy from high school who was like 5th employee Uber ever hired or something, I’m now the most successful person from my class. But come drive through Hampton, NH and you’ll see why. Not a lot of sunlight, jobs, or teeth.

***

I’m single again. Although that hasn’t stopped me and the ex from fucking three times, including once on the glass tabletop in the kitchen. I just noticed we haven’t wiped up the sweat smears yet.

Tomorrow I move into a 5th floor room with a busted AC in a house filled with seven other rootless wanderers. $180 for the month. In September, I go to Saigon. She’ll keep the apartment. Have Couchsurfers keep her company. I’d rather not describe the composition of the emotional cocktail my brain has been marinating in since the breakup, but I do know these things:

  • I don’t want this to be ugly.
  • I want her to win.
  • This is the kind of thing where even though she’s going to fuck other guys, she’ll still always be mine.

She’s afraid I’m going to go fuck everyone I can now. Well. don’t worry love. The women of the world have not been waiting for this day. They’ve all been too busy fucking. And not guys like me. I’m traditionally handsome. But every girl now only wants to fuck guys who look like they live in caves. Topknots and pale inbred visages. No longer do they respect a precisely-tailored suit and a visible bicep vein. The sloths now rule. The world changed while I was away. She’ll find dudes, I will find no one.

Friday night my friends wanted to go to this bar that’s out in the woods by an ancient Confucian graveyard. I had to give this girl a ride on my motorbike and she weighed more than me. The springs under the seat kept giving out and I was paranoid about the tires. She dropped a hint like an anvil: “my boyfriend and I are open.”

Later on as we all ate at the flower market she told me to check my white male privilege because I said something about not being turned on by lesbian porn. That made me angry. And I’m still not even sure what it meant. The world changed while I was away. I’m old and white and I don’t know how to connect. It’s enough to make a man vote Trump.

The next night I went out for an hour. I spent thirty minutes of it in the club bathroom flushing out of my eye after a drunk girl threw glitter in it. The other thirty minutes I drank on the stage by the speakers while a Vietnamese club rat with huge cheeks hit on me. I wanted to leave, but I felt like I had to stay at least an hour, so the night felt like something.

“What do you do?” she asked.

Hey! I thought. You’ve been waiting for this. Now you can say it.

“I’m a writer.”

“Wait, so that’s your job?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, that’s awesome.”

And she meant it. I think.

The world changed while I was away. Everything that used to be cool is now shit. Everything except the thing I love the most.

Breakdown

It’s Monday. I told my readers I’d post every Monday. I had some good shit ready to go. But we broke up this morning. 4:00 a.m.

It was me. I wanted to. I wanted to be alone and miserable again. I had to tell you that I love you. I love you deeply and it burns to watch you struggle. I love you. But I love myself more. And I have to let someone else love you, and hold you, and fuck you, even though that will burn me too.

Truth is agony. I’m so tired, so weary of hurting people. But there’s no way not to. When I lie, I hurt someone. When I tell the truth the same thing happens.

***

You said I was going to get a good blog post out of this breakup. I did. But it’s not for me, it’s for you. It’s your tribute.

***

In the morning the sun was bright and clean and hot. Like the afterglow of a bomb. First day of a new life. I felt drained and dehydrated.

We’re both still in the apartment; lease complications. We ate cereal and acted like pals who’d never fucked before. Talking to you is soothing. Even when we’re trying not to cry.

I did cry. When I was in Starbucks later with the laptop open, drowning in work. Too much work to be sad. Or so I thought. I had to put my sunglasses on, but people heard me sniffing. They kept staring; people loathe you when your emotions leak out in public. Sometimes you actually feel yourself breaking.

I got back home. Rested my head on your lap. We have to wean off each other. As I got dressed to go to work I got the email from the publisher in Singapore. They’re going to give me the book deal. No contract yet. But it’s going to happen. They said, “We’re definitely keen to have you on board for the book, what do you think of the submission deadline?”

So what if it’s a tiny book about Vietnamese culture. It’s real. I’ll leverage it to get more real books printed with my name on the front. They picked me. My dream came true.

The message that changed my life, it had to come today, the day I left you. I read it and felt absolutely nothing. But you cried when I told you. You’re so happy for me. When I think of that I break down again.

I’ve never had a day like today. I can’t imagine I ever will again. I’m stunned.

***

I’m going to move to Saigon to finish the book. I want you to be there with me. But what I want more than that is to do it alone.

The right thing is to let you go. So you can get your old self back. Be a girl again, find some virile little boys. Me, I’ll just turn 30. Get worse hangovers. Become professional. Stay stuck in 2011 for the next 40 years. Blow out a hip, devolve into a potato, become one of the old white guys in Asia who young white backpackers make fun of.

You meant everything. Please remember that. Take me back in time, I’d do it again. Thank you.

***

We promised to get back together in 10 years if we’re both single. You won’t be. I will. I’m building a romantic career out of being the ex-boyfriend the husbands hate. And they should. I’m special, I’m talented, I’m lucky. I’m going to get what I want. Whether that will satisfy me or not, I don’t know yet.

Back when it ended, early this morning, I held you. You came to me. Wrapped up in the comforter. You can’t sleep without me, even when I’ve just killed you. When I held you, I forgot I killed you. I forgot that I had already left you and that I loved myself more than you.

And while we were about to fall asleep, I was truly, desperately in love with you. You’re my girl. It was simple and obvious. If I could, I’d stretch that moment out for the rest of our lives. I closed my eyes and tried to do that, one more time. But when I woke up it was gone.

 

This Post Is Pretty Good

For the rest of 2016 I’m only going to be posting on Mondays. No time to do any more than that. I have three jobs. And also I’m writing a new book.

I have a memoir/travelogue I need to get out of my system. Pretty much all my Asia stories. What happened to the dumb little boy who broke up with God and moved abroad. I wanted fun, adventure, money, girls, respect, money, girls, attention, money, girls, fulfillment and peace. And also money and girls*. I thought that living in China (and then Korea, and then Vietnam) would be a shortcut to these things. I was right. I’ll tell you all about it. I thought: why tell a story or say something meaningful about the world and the agonizing problems it faces today when I can just keep talking about drinking beer under neon lights?

I’ve been in the East for a while. Living through every possible story there is. I’ve been a king and a slave. I’ve also been dumb and smart, adored and reviled. Also a booze-blooded heathen and a spiral-eyed fundamentalist cult member. It is literally impossible for my story to not resonate with you. I mean, we all have the same life and live out the same stories. Except I feel the same feelings you do in Tokyo or someplace like that. I imagine that makes them more interesting. And it kind of does?

Despite that fact that my debut book (and also my debut novella) blew up on the launch pad, and that my readership shrinks by the second, I’m still going to spend an unforgivable amount of time and money on this new book. Everybody should be allowed one stupid thing to waste their lifeforce on, and this is mine.

I’m stuck on some of the details, including what to call it. But for now the working title is This Book Is Pretty Good: Stories by Fred Colton. You’ll have to take my word for how good it will be, because I know you’re not going to buy it. That’s OK. I’m not doing it for the money. When you weigh my bills against my income, I already make more money than almost every other person in the world. I know this book will not save me, this book will not kickstart a hallowed literary career. That’s OK. This book merely needs to exist. And it will. I want to put it out (read: probably won’t have time to put it out until) early next year. Just in time to miss the holiday shopping season! I never said I was good at marketing.

Until then: Mondays. I’ll use the little writing time I have to edit my posts more, make them as tight and bright as possible, because most blog posts are pretty bad.

Maybe everyone should do that. I mean, have you been on the WordPress Reader lately? Jesus.

***

*Dear Girlfriend: now I only want you. Mouah.

What Happened in Thailand

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were mostly bad things. We got scammed by two tuk-tuk drivers, then my girlfriend’s jewelry was stolen, and then I lost my ATM card. Then the monsoons washed out a few of the good days and kept us trapped inside, ordering coffee refills and running out of stories to tell each other. Good practice for being retired.

Our indecisive travel buddies vacuumed up the rest of the time. Instead of saying what they want to do, everyone instead insists they’re down for whatever. What is whatever? “Whatever” is nothing, “whatever” is evil; stop saying you’re down for it.

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At least my girlfriend got to see Bangkok. I’d been there once before, five years ago, but I didn’t own a camera back then, and I was usually drunk during that trip, so most of the details have dissolved. But remembering less makes the return a little more vibrant. On the bus ride into town from the airport I saw the PC café where a pickpocket lifted $200 off me back on my first trip here. I figured later that he had cased me as I was leaving the ATM across the street. And you know what, good for him. I hope it turned things around for him.

I mean, I certainly wasn’t worried about myself. I had white parents; I was going to be fine.

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I won’t talk about the many, many golden palaces and temples in Bangkok, because average writers would latch onto those details, and I am not them. Instead I’ll tell you about the thing you see the most of in Bangkok: British men with Man Utd jerseys from 2001 who have pierced eyebrows and leathery skin that could stop bullets, who drink beers at the airport at 11:00 a.m.

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Also I’ll tell that you can find lizards and birds hanging out on the sidewalk by the Grand Palace. And that the top of the city’s tallest building has a scrolling neon banner that says LONG LIVE THE KING. The King’s portrait is truly everywhere. Some people have Instagram; he has a country. He ascended to the throne after his older brother died of a gunshot wound in 1946 under mysterious circumstances. I got curious and read a little about the situation. I’m not saying that the current king killed his brother to become king. But I am saying that he was, according to palace logs, the last person to visit his brother in his quarters before the murder. I had to wait until I left Thailand to type those sentences. People go to prison for less. He’s ruled longer than Queen Elizabeth. He’s always frowning.

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Told you, about the lizard.

We were down in Krabi most of the time. Up north, it’s Buddhist country. Down south, where we were, you see a lot of Muslim Thais. Or is it “Muslim Thai”, with Thai being a collective term, like fish. I don’t know. I don’t go to places to learn.

What’s in Krabi? Well, lots of beaches and Asian-esque rock formations. Endless miles of oceanfront property crammed with tour company kiosks, which all manage to stay in business. I don’t know what else to say. There are pictures.

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like this motherfucker right here

But overall the trip was a fail. The rain. We went to Thailand to do pretty much nothing but live in backpacker purgatory for a week. I was fretting because I was relaxing too much. But I also didn’t feel like not relaxing — you don’t go to Thailand to run around all haggard. Do you? Eh, who fucking knows.

It went so badly that my girlfriend wanted to break up. We didn’t get out enough when the weather was good. I would have taken more initiative to go do things, but I was depressed again. It comes and goes. It’s terrible. It’s like my mind gets hijacked by a teenager. You wish you could schedule these things, so you could not be depressed while in the tropics, but that’s not how it works.

Endorphins weren’t even an option. I hurt my foot when I was running, and had to stop working out. A week of the vacation diet made me hyper-aware of the fat in my neck when I turn my head.

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Not having a smartphone for a week reminded me how boring and frustrating life is. Escapism is a multi-million quadrillion dollar market for a reason. Maybe if life were a little better and smoother, we’d be able to stay off our phones.

A smartphone is better than a trip to Thailand. Don’t listen to anyone who has been anywhere. They’re lying to you to protect their investment – they at least had to get some bragging rights out of their $4,000 trip.

The curse of fancying yourself a writer means you only go places or do things so you can have the authority to write about them. To go places and do things requires money. Which brings the budget for this blog post to somewhere north of $400 (we flew in from Vietnam, stayed for a week). So all I have to say is that you better have fucking enjoyed it.

 

 

The Workaholic Manifesto

Freedom will not make you happy. Don’t listen to anyone who says so. If you have to keep your Instagram fresh as a reminder of how good your life is, then maybe it’s not. Your social media game is the equivalent of North Korean propaganda.

I had a pile of money and was free for a while, and it wasn’t that great. All you do is ruminate over the myriad ways you could possibly lose your freedom. Lightning could hit me and I’d be bedridden. Or my mother and grandparents and siblings and cousins could all die on the same day, and I’d be stuck raising my nephew. Once you start doing that, your freedom is already gone.

Freedom is not the magical time you hope it will be. But there’s still magic to be had in this life. It’s just that the only people who experience it are the guys in Dover, NH who have fed themselves into the blue collar maw, wear flannel, and have feet so swollen after thirteen hours on the clock that they have to cut their boots off. Quivering with joy on the drive home just because they’re sitting down. Floating down the river of the sweet narcotic that is the first beer from the fridge. Getting into bed and being too tired to move your jaw to say good night, that’s magic.

***

The dream is dead. I no longer exist as an artist. I’m working again, every single day. I come home so tired I fall asleep halfway through taking my pants off. No more Saturdays, but that’s all right. I can’t remember the last time a Saturday actually lived up to the hype.

What I do is teach IELTS English exam courses for Vietnamese adults. Lots of security guards and college students and some doctors and soldiers and managers, too. The salt of the earth. I interact with them in the way that politicians pretend to. And I care about their success in the same way that politicians pretend to. They work hard. If I close my eyes I can hear the gears in their heads turning. They bleed from the eyeballs as they try to memorize our idioms. Native knowledge of English is a golden gift. And what have you done with it, other than run around creating perversions like bae.

It’s nice to arrive at work and not want to die from the minute you punch in. Nice to feel valued. It’s also pretty nice to get paid. I make more money teaching a single 90-minute class than I have from an entire lifetime of writing. All cash, under the table, no taxes like I’m a drug dealer.

Not that it’s amazing money – nightclub bartenders still make more money in a night than I do in a week… except wait, actually they don’t. You have to apply the exchange rate. A US dollar earned in Vietnam is like three US dollars earned in America. Because in America you have eight kinds of taxes and three kinds of insurance, and also car payments and gas for the car and probably a mortgage and a nonzero amount of credit cards. And plummeting stocks courtesy of the financial fuckery of Brexit. And probably kids. Not having kids is like writing your future self a check.

Don’t listen to the artists. You should just go to work and stay there forever. Expression feels good but the pleasant simmer of having stockpiled money is much, much better. It’s definitely preferable to writing yet another gorgeous blog post that’s simply here and gone like a firework.

Just be at work, always. Be too busy for anyone else’s bullshit. Be a pillar of virtue, be a bitch in a building. Be like Jay Z and not even notice the money piling up. Be grateful that your long shots didn’t work out and you don’t have to worry about sustaining your impossible luck.

I finally have this life thing figured out. And all shall continue to be good, as long as I don’t get inspired again.

 

Back to Vietnam

Tomorrow I’ll write about my Thailand trip. I’m too tired this evening. We spent last night homeless on the leather benches of the 24-hour Burger King in the Bangkok Airport. There was a FIFA match playing and these two Chinese cunts kept all us backpackers wide awake by hooting every time Ronaldo was on screen. So I got a series of mico-naps; maybe 20 minutes of sleep in total. Then I couldn’t sleep in coach on the way back to Vietnam, and I had to go to work after I landed. I was drifting across lanes on my motorbike, knowing I had to turn the handlebars but finding myself physically unable to. Driving drunk is easy.* Fatigued is where the trouble’s at. I remember swinging easy all-nighters at 22. Fast forward to a mere 28, and you already feel like an invalid when you’re sleep deprived. In summary: I’m fall-down tired. 

Well, this post is pretty bad but I get anxious when I don’t write something. See you tomorrow for some more.

*what my friends tell me!

In Thailand For A Week

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We’re here, and I have no time to write. Every minute has been scheduled. I feel like the President.

I’m starting to get over the whole traveling thing. A minimal night’s sleep before standing in lines all day with our hyper-caffeinated travel buddies makes me wish I were in a retirement home already. I’m a quiet house cat who’s pretending to be otherwise. And I’ve taken enough trips by now to realize that all people, and all places, are pretty much the same. A backpacker in China once said that to me, and I didn’t get it. Then I went to ten different countries and it clicked.

We’re on a beach near Malaysia. I’ll update with more soon because, pathetically, I still harbor fantasies of becoming WordPress famous. And you should update me with whatever the hell you think is going on in that picture down there. Does that elephant have a dragon for a penis?

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Work

I thought I was going to get a modeling job, but it didn’t work out, so now I have to teach. Teaching is a thing that I hate, but also a thing I’m good at. I was hired at three different academies. In the evenings I’ll ride my motorbike to one class, teach for two hours, then drive to another class and repeat the process.

I’ll work every day. Not out of necessity. I do need money, but not a whole lot. What I need is enough work to keep me locked away for hours at a time. I don’t like free days at home because I feel like I’m never spending the hours in exactly the right way. And I don’t like being out in public, because most people annoy me. I do like drinking, so I need to make myself too busy to drink. Work is the answer. It focuses me, by leaving me with only enough time for the essentials.

When I’m not at work I’m with my girlfriend. The rest of the time, I’m trying to write. It’s going well. Even though no one knows who I am. When you have a craft you’re blindly obsessed with, occasionally you can feel the gears shifting as you learn a new trick. Those moments are rare, but they do happen. Writing is an absurdly slow evolution. You can become a surgeon in less time than it takes to become a good writer. If you want to be a good writer, you can’t really do anything else.

I’ve realized I really don’t like going places and doing things, and I don’t like going to activities or events, either. Not when I could be spending that time getting good at something. Steve Martin says you should try to be so good they can’t ignore you.

Tonight there’s a performing arts event that I was guilt-tripped into. There will be amateur slam poetry and amateur rapping and amateur stand-up. The kind of thing you have to extort people into attending because you know it will not be fun. I can’t stand being part of an audience. To sit there and feel the time ooze away. But appearances must be maintained. I would rid myself of social obligations, but I need them for creative fuel.

Is art selfish? I think so. You’re spending a lot of time working on your own expression. You can only spend so much time in this selfish vortex before you become insufferable.

I’ll be in the crowd, but it doesn’t mean I think you’re good. This is amateur hour. I can ignore you. I already have a thing, and I don’t have time for yours.

An Idiot Abroad

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Why would you give it all up and move abroad? Well I did it because I was running away. Definitely wasn’t out of a sense of adventure. And the reason I ran away is because I was too dumb to get into grad school or to get a good job back in the motherland. The reason I know I’m dumb is because I once fell for a Craigslist scam and shipped my iPod Touch off to Nigeria. This guy offered twice what I was asking. I remembered being touched by his altruism.

I was stupid, but when I was in America I could sort of coast by because I’m tall handsome and hilarious. At least I thought I was those things. Someone should have told the girls that, because getting laid in America was harder than becoming President.

Give it all up. I didn’t give anything up. What I gave up was being broke and lonely. I just ran away. Used geography as therapy. You feel like you’re better than everyone else when you’re standing next to a pagoda.

Then the high is gone and you realize you actually haven’t gone anywhere. Every place you go, they have English and Coke and Top 40. And then you start to remember that no matter where you’ve slunk off to this time, you still have to be your stupid self. However you came off the assembly line, that’s who you are. You are the end result of your genetic OS and whatever malware your parents downloaded into your head as a child. Change if you want, but maintaining those changes is like holding a sprint.

What’s easy is flying to a place with cheap beer and no taxes and no laws for white people. What’s brave is staying at home, being a clone who’s unable to play the foreigner card.

Maybe you disagree with me. And hey, you would probably be right. I’m the guy who ships Apple products to Sub-Saharan Africa for free, so what do I know.

(P.S. You’re welcome, Samuel Babatunde.)

All Me

I.

Back to the writing thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have staked my entire future on becoming WordPress famous. That was a bad bet. And I made it with such confidence.

I’m desperate to go viral but the reason I haven’t is that I’m shit. The reason I know my writing is shit is because I think it’s good. I’ve met too many bad writers who thought they were good, and now I realize I’m one of them. So — no crowd, no numbers, no traction — it makes sense now.

I’m not going to give up. But goddamn, now feels like the time.

II.

When I lived in Korea I had a friend from South Africa who always wanted to hang out on weekends. Can’t, I would say, I have to stay in and write.

He wrote sometimes. But mostly he just played computer games. Until one weekend he wrote a novella, and then turned it into a script. Now they’re going to make a movie out of it. And good for him.

But what about me. What do I get in exchange for being a self-serious jackoff? I was supposed to be somebody by now. My girlfriend softly suggests I try something else.

I will never quit but, holy shit, now feels like the perfect time.

III.

Creativity may be the cruelest mistress.

Pour your life into football and find out by 22 if you’re going pro. Definitive, final answer. But with the arts, it’s never over. Always another chance. What glorious news. That means you can live in dark suspense and put whiny vibes out into the universe forever.

Is it acceptable to even have a dream? When there’s all these refugees? And all these other people getting shot all the time? And this hobo in my alley with dents in his head? What about them? Where do I get off chasing such selfish fulfillment?

So many reasons to quit, and now would be the time. But no. I’ve been to the edge of the Earth too many times, and made too many people laugh, and come up with too many clever takes on shit for this not to work.

I’ve got it, or at least the seeds of it, and everyone is going to know that. Maybe.

IV.

I want to say that my persistence shouldn’t impress you. Work ethic stories always seem weird to me. It’s easy to work hard for yourself. Hey, look how selfish this guy was! Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs: who gives a fuck. They were just masturbating. But boy, we loved to watch.

All right. Speaking of masturbating, back to the writing thing.