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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.

One Man’s Trash

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Vietnam: I don’t get it. Obama was just here and called it charming. When his speechwriter typed that sentence, MS Word autocorrected it to shithole.

I’ve lived here for a few months, given it some time. But this is a taste you can’t acquire. Vietnam is a savage backwater prison yard with fourth-world infrastructure. And a rush hour that lasts from six a.m. to eleven p.m. And noxious air pollution that makes your skin bubble up and hiss steam like you’re on the Total Recall version of Mars. And bent cops in the same uniforms the Russians wear in Goldeneye N64 who lean out of doorways with batons. And legions of mule-sized rats, apostles of the new Black Plague, who form gangs at night and go looking for ankles. And ashy smoke columns from the trash fires everyone lights at dusk. And a city-wide PA system blasting high-decibel Communist hymns for an hour every afternoon. And goddamn, this place is ugly. Hanoi looks like District 9.

Hard on the eyes, ears, lungs, nerves. This place needs a trillion-dollar infusion of Western cash. The same get-out-of-poverty-free handout South Korea got and then promptly acted like it didn’t. Vietnam didn’t get any money, because they had the wrong founding father. Hanoi is the answer to the question: what happens if we build a city and then let it rot for fifty years. So, pretty much the same thing as Los Angeles.

But I will put up with it all because it’s cheap and so am I. As long as I’m making no money, then I’ll keep acting like it’s cool to be this way.

I hope America fully collapses so I can feel better about marooning myself over here. Hillary and her email servers are too boring to do damage. So, go Trump.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

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Sunday

Last night I asked God for help, and today I crashed my motorbike. I’m getting the message.

I heard the taxi coming up a side street pretty fast but knew the driver would brake before he got to my intersection. He didn’t brake. He was making a dumb bet this was going to be the first road in Vietnamese history to be clear of traffic. So there I was, and there he was too. I rammed his door at a cool thirty-five km/h. Which is not fast if you’re trying to get anywhere, but if you’re making contact with an immovable object, then it’s lightspeed.

I bounced off the taxi and then I was on the ground. Kept moving, skidding, felt the bike grinding my leg and arm into the pavement. Then it was over and the Vietnamese just puttered around me on their own bikes. A man laid out on the street is a thing avoided, not paused for. Young expats in sunglasses gave me blank glances, then kept scuffing along on their way to brunch. No one asked hey are you OK, is anything broken. I had a strong hunch that I was inconsequential. But I didn’t need the confirmation.

The bike’s pegs and mirrors were twisted but the thing was still drivable. I pushed it off me and got up. My wounds were so red they glowed. Black gravel was mixed in with the blood. The damage felt deep but it wasn’t, I’d only lost the top two layers of skin. Just a few bubbles of blood. Just God jabbing at me. Not enough of an injury to even glean some sympathy from.

Come on, man. Right after I pray to you. Ask politely and fearfully for just one thing to break in my favor, because it’s been a while. Your response was to send a kamikaze at me. Mysterious ways.

I rode out to the bike shop to get fixed up. Pure sunlight along the way, like you get in fantasies. Lots of shade where I was driving. Lots of fun, high-attendance Facebook events in progress nearby. You could hear the laughter from the beer fest and this big pool party. You could hear a DJ on the megaspeakers chanting let me hear you say: fuck Fred Colton! and the crowd going insane. I used to have too much fun, and do whatever I wanted, and so I hurt people. Now, I atone. Beg God for scraps.

Soon. Statistically, something is bound to work out soon. If I can’t depend on divine mercy then at least I can fall back on mathematical certainties.

Wednesday

Well I got a job. Part-time. Just a band-aid for my wallet. Now I have a schedule again, and enough drudgery to give the rest of my life some perspective…

Wait, no. I only sort of have a job. I’ve already worked. But what happened was: they hired me. Then they asked for my original university degree so I could remain employed.

What about a copy, I asked.

No, the original, they told me.

I said: It’s in a storage unit in America.

We understand, they told me. Can you please get it so we can see it.

You Vietnamese are getting too big for your britches. Stressing me out. I’m gonna go find that taxi again. Hey, remember me. Aim better this time. Steer right at my knees.

This I know: The reason God ignores your prayers and permits genocide and child sex slaves is because he is too busy annoying me to do any good in the world. But then again, what a relief it is to know that this is all someone else’s fault.

The Job Hunt

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Why can’t I just be handsome for a living. Fuck you, Vogue Magazine.

HANOI–Jesus. I could be in trouble here. I didn’t expect today to go sideways like it did.

First interview was at 10 a.m. It would have been the perfect stay-just-busy-enough-to-not-shoot-yourself gig. 8 hours or so a week, teaching college kids. Enough money for me to buy milk and rice and whatever.

But I knew when I walked into the place that I wouldn’t get it. High ceilings, fresh paint. Overlit like an Apple store or the deck of the Starship Enterprise. There was a call center run by slaves in headsets and red embroidered polos. This was a legitimate institution, a place of business, where peons are monitored on surveillance cameras and have their keystrokes tracked. No, no, no. I’m not a drone. I left America to get away from corporations. I knew they would not want me. But still, I wanted them to want me. So here goes.

They were escorting me into the room when I remembered this would be my first interview since 2013. I’m rusty. Feel like I just got out of jail and now have no applicable skills to offer the modern world. I could tell by the cut of the guy’s suit jacket – especially the slim collar — that he has money, shops hard, probably has shit fitted for him in Italy. He eyed my own tailored suit (circa the Paleolithic Era of Fashion, aka 2014) with subdued amusement. Or maybe I’m projecting. Anyway, he looked like money because he is a professional educator, the 1% of teachers, having spent six-figures on the acquisition of a bulletproof list of credentials. He had the kind of bio you will see written in hard-to-read font on a very white, professionally-designed university webpage. That’s him. Me, I am simply a journeyman who has earned his bread by playing Powerpoint games with Korean midgets. He knew.

I expected a grilling but this turned out to be psychological torture. I was blown away. He wanted to know: what the last lesson I taught in Korea. I told him I was a little hazy on that; it’s been three months. Tried to laugh a bit, spin it into a joke. He didn’t laugh. He pressed on: Fred, what was the lesson’s subject, the target language. What were the activities, and how many minutes did each activity take. Did you use a fade, or a wipe effect between PowerPoint slides. That last one is barely a joke.

He curveballed me. Never asked for my strengths and weaknesses. I prepped the shit out of the standard questions. I wish he had. My weakness is: not having a flawless photographic memory, I would have said. God, I’ve got charm and wit for days, but only in hypothetical realities.

I left on my motorbike. The heat worsened my mood. The sun just blasts the life out of the city these days. I don’t know the temperature, I just know that the air is sulfurous. If we get one degree higher the concrete will bubble into magma and then suck us all down into hell. The suit was a bad choice. I took refuge in the Lotte Tower café before the next interview.

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***

On to the next interview. Another hour, another meeting in a suit, like I’m Warren Motherfucking Buffet.

It was near West Lake and up a shady side street. A recruiting office, small area with three desks. The guy was Vietnamese. He didn’t smile. Wasn’t impressed with my height as most life forms tend to be. So again, I felt defeated as soon as I entered the room. But my CV passed muster with him. Which annoyed me, that there was even any suspense about that in the first place. My four years of experience count for nothing. Everyone here has that much. We’re clones of each other.

We can get you some work, he said. How is $18 an hour, for a few classes a week.

I see, I told him. Well, I’ve made up to $40 previously. I understand that your pay scale is local, but I can’t work for $18 when I could be devoting my time to a better offer.

I was acting like I had options, trying to radiate ease, as if I were sitting on pocket aces — which was, of course, a fiction. I thought to myself: you are digging your own grave, young man. Who are you to turn down $18/hr. That is technically infinity times more money than you already make. Anyone who does anything at all in this world makes more money than you do. Even kidnapped kids mining conflict diamonds get free room and board.

The guy didn’t flinch. He just fixed me with this feral squint. He’d heard my tough-guy line before, from my many other clones who’d sat on this same couch and radiated the same fake confidence.

He said: perhaps, eventually you can get $19, maybe $20. If the school likes you.

I shrugged. Could end up being my only option. Who am I to try to find better out here. I’ll have to take what Vietnam offers. Vietnam always wins. I know my history.

 

***

Our dick-waving contest concluded, I left.

I unlocked my bike and, more out of persistent spite than anything else, I decided to hold out for a better offer. If he emails, I’ll ignore it. It’s OK. I still have some money. But while I have money, I lack luck. Usually I only get one of those things at a time.

Anyway. Two swings, two misses. It’s all right. I’ve failed so many times in life I’m used to it. I’ve failed so many times that when something good happens, I can’t process it.

I rode home. My bike is a semi-auto, so you get that satisfying crunch as you stomp the shifter. As far as simple joys go, that one’s near the top of the list. Today my contentment comes from throwing gears and punching through the red lights. The bike’s a rental and it’s scarred and the frame has been wired back together. I think someone died on it. Of course someone did; the only way Vietnamese traffic could be more dangerous is if they buried landmines in the street.

The bike is beaten up, because it’s taken the damage for all its previous riders like the portrait of Dorian Gray. All the other wandering immortal alcoholics who have had my bike before me, I want to talk to them. Say: you lied to me. You’ve been spreading legends through the expat community for years about how easy it is to get a job here.

There are jobs falling out of the sky! You’ll find work your first day!

I don’t know what Vietnam you were in, but the one I live in is full of tightwad lowballers and professorial Illuminati. No middle ground. It’s tough out there. I’m gonna have flashbacks of this place like the Vietnam vets do.

Job hunting is a curious thing. You work harder, and stress more, than you will when you actually perform the job. For this, you are not compensated. And there’s no guarantee that the nightmare will end. I’m skirting the edge of a panic attack as I extrapolate five years into the future. Five weeks, even.

Well, on the bright side at least it’s Friday. Thank God I drink.

Consequence

I’m back, I think. Just lost a week to depression, due all the guilt from this thing. The sins of my past life have been uncovered and are here to torture my girlfriend. I have to somehow deal with the fact that I destroyed our beginning. It was a good story, as long as you didn’t know the full story. Every lie has earned us a long day of agony.

Don’t do the wrong thing. The price is higher than you know. The length of your sentence is always exponentially longer than the crime.

I’m spiritually exhausted. Consequently, writer’s block has been so bad I’ve been fantasizing about jumping off the roof. Being a writer, a Z-list writer with a blog on life support, comprises the whole of my identity. If I can’t write stupid shit for three other bloggers to read, then I have no purpose here. (Ah, just re-read that last sentence: look how cool I grew up to be.)

I know that when other people talk about me, they have nothing to say. No idea what my plans or goals are. Because I hide my writing – there’s too much honesty for me to show it to anyone. Actually, that’s not true. I’m just afraid of it being met with a shrug. If that happens, it will make it very hard for me to keep worshiping myself.

But without the label of writer, I’m a non-entity. A pixel. My identity is: just another lazy American refugee. A hobo with a career high-water mark of teaching Korean kids the ABCs.

But whatever. That can change. Especially now that I’m back from the dead, and we are taking the very first baby steps down the long path toward healing, and I can write again.

Or can I. This post took me three days. It’s been true hell, trying to get the words right. Sweet baby Jesus, I forgot how horrible writing is. I think I should go back to being severely depressed, that was better.

Lazy Fuck

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Our Vietnamese cleaning lady comes in the morning and I had to get up so she could clean the bedroom. Once I’m up, nothing to do but sit on the sofa like a colonist, wearing my elephant pajama pants, nodding appreciatively while she works. Gotta do that — it would feel too cunty and detached to be on Facebook or eat some cereal.

So, I got only seven hours of sleep last night, and it feels like a crisis. I almost passed out on the motorbike this afternoon. I’m used to nine hours of sleep minimum. Bad habit. Arose from my goal to not work at all, whatsoever, when I arrived here in Vietnam for my long-overdue vacation. Or maybe what this is is my retirement trial run. Or my escape from the West and its capitalistic rhythms. Whatever it is, it’s already been two months. Two months that I’ve blown.

I thought I’d come up with a business idea or some shit. My golden ticket. But you need passion for that, for the twenty-hour days of bootstrapping, and I simply cannot focus on anything except writing*, and being the best there ever was at writing, and this is a bad thing, someone needs to stage an intervention. I can’t stop wasting my time on this, letting my girlfriend go to bed alone with all her worries while I stay up on the laptop and get ball cancer and let the blue light melt my eyeballs. This is killing me. What did I do in my past life to deserve such a counter-intuitive, counter-productive addiction in this one. What karmic debt am I paying off. I was probably a colonist.

So — I have to kill off these anxieties. Which means I have to start paying for therapy. Which means: back to work. Which is good. I can’t be trusted with freedom. I’m not a conqueror. I don’t wake up naturally at 3:45 a.m. like Jeff Fucking Bezos, high off the concept of outmaneuvering and torpedoing Netflix just because. No, what I do is sleep until 11:45 and then loathe myself for it. Spend the afternoon in the choke of anxiety, trying to catch the day as it rolls down the hill. I was born to be a slave. Without work, nothing short of a gunshot gets me out of bed.

Time to go back to work. I am not ready yet, but I still need to go. All right. Back to Linkedin. And all the other careerist sites that I forgot my passwords for. I will make money. At least AI hasn’t gotten here yet, I can still sell my English. Tutor for $25 an hour or go to an office. Where my destiny lies. Because while I’m tall, I quit basketball. No NBA. I’m hot but juuuuust shy of model hot and I have beer fat; no photoshoots. So, back to the cubicle or some other place of equivalent subservience. Which is an inevitability unless you’re Prince Harry, or these twats.

I already have the globetrotting life that they make inspirational think about what you’re going to regret on your deathbed! videos about, and it’s not that great – it’s painfully finite. And think about it, no one’s going to pay you to hike those fucking glaciers, dickhead. Money doesn’t just materialize because you decided to go see the world. You can leave. But you always have to go back. Just remember that everyone making videos telling you quit your day job is making money off those videos. Don’t fall for it. Hm. I should make a de-motivational video about this. Maybe that could be my thing. I certainly have the pessimism for it.

***

*And you, bebe d’amour (WINK)

Fragile

I’m in the Hanoi Starbucks, where I’m supposed to be Googling expat therapy services. One of my girlfriend’s conditions for taking me back. She’s right, I do need therapy. I’m a tall handsome funny man who gets invited to shit all the time, yet I’m still convinced that everyone despises me and wants me to die. Failed writer, so of course I need therapy. The wholesale rejection of your best output is impossible to internalize. Why did I ever try to do this, I keep asking myself. Why does it feel like I’m cursed to have to keep trying. I need an intervention to make me stop blogging.

Being a failed artist is like getting dumped every day. Who can blame Hitler for blowing a gasket after the art school thing.

I do need therapy, which means spending money to pay someone to listen to me. I’m furious that that has to be the case. I am the most hilarious and interesting man who ever lived; I should not have to pay for someone’s attention. Fuck it – I don’t need therapy. My problems are complex Gordian knots yet they have a simple solution: everyone in the world just needs to read all my shit, and never stop, and then I’ll be happy until I die. None of this posthumous fame shit, I want it right goddamn now. Any therapy session will be me just restating those last two sentences over and over for an hour. Every thought or insight you’ve ever had, I’ve stated it in clean, perfect simplicity. The right words in the right places. But it’s not enough to be perfect. Too much crap out there, impossible to rise above it all. You need luck too. And I already received my entire cosmic allotment of luck at birth, when I was born to white American parents. Already got my boost. I’ll spend the next 50 years trying to process that.

Anyway: if you don’t read me, drive off a bridge.

And Then What Happened

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Now for some peace to follow the trauma. The girl is back, and we’re at the resort pool. I’m trying to blast a tan into my lily-white, KKK hood-colored visage. It won’t work. I’ll just get skin cancer instead. The pool deck is overrun with young Brits. Without exception, they all have matted hair and at least one too many tattoos. They look like they share needles. Young Brits are the opposite of their tea-and-monocle accents. Everyone here has a book that they’re barely reading. Because books are only props now. I’m the only one who’s made it past the first ten pages of mine. I should write pool books, with only the first ten pages filled in, because that’s all they’re gonna read anyway.

Later on I go to the gym and then get a haircut that makes it look like I’m trying too hard to look 23 again. I putter over to the tourist haven at Hoan Kiem Lake to buy some fake Ray-Bans before deciding to have a massive beer on a balcony, so that I can keep cooling my already-cool heels. I’ve had almost two months off from work and it’s still not enough. It might as well have been just one single day off; I’d feel no different. When I do go back, it will be same sensation as choking or drowning.

The beer slowly pollutes my bloodstream. Most of the tourists milling around here are European families or middle-aged couples using this vacation to try to work it out. Koreans with their fucking polo collars popped stride by quickly, appalled at the one-legged beggars, the chaos, the dirt, the reality that’s here. Rich Vietnamese are out too. The ones who, like me, don’t have to work. They have fat, haughty children in tow. I see womens’ thumbs scrolling, scrolling, scrolling down through the News Feed. That feature came out a decade ago but at this rate, they’re going to make it all the way back to the beginning.

Time to drive back to Skype a friend. Evening traffic is a grinding, oppressive experience.

***

What to say on Skype. What to talk about. I’m in the ether, I feel relatively at peace these days. And it’s killed my ambition. You can’t fucking win, can you.

Dear Cindy

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I.

Don’t worry about anything else, all you need to do is stay. I wrote so much about what I did to you, how I was a bastard and a sex addict but the bottom line is: stay with me now. I’ve met every girl in the world. If I haven’t met her, I’ve met one just like her, and they’re all garbage. They can all die. They wish they were like you.

So now that I have you back with me, just stay. Forget that I hurt you and then tried to leave you again to go get drunk with chubby sluts. I was stupid, made no sense. I’m not leaving and neither are you. Because I’ve looked everywhere, and I found my girl.

II.

I was up in the mountains when you found my journal. My list of war crimes. Where I detailed fucking other girls and then lying to you about it. You were walking around in the halls of my head. You cried all day, didn’t eat anything. I was seven hours away. Couldn’t stop it. Just sat dumbly on my motorbike and rumbled up the cliff roads. If I had any decency I’d have driven over the edge.

But you know that I had none. You read what was between me and God. My brutal, indefensible honesty. My goddamn journal. Data breach, complete self-incrimination. If I hadn’t been a writer then this would have stayed dead.

Or would it have. All those vapid whores, those girls who I hated but pinned down anyway – the scandal was too big. No way was I going to get away with it. I had flashbacks from Sunday School when they told me to be sure your sins will find you out. God is always right at the worst of times.

I deserved this shock but you didn’t. Baby, I’m sorry.

III.

When we met last spring I immediately wanted to keep you. You left though. But then came back. Moved to another continent, just for me, and somehow I still had the capacity to be insecure about it. To think: she probably doesn’t even like me all that much, I better go get some more girls on the side so she can’t hurt me.

I have more excuses but they don’t hold up. The real reason was: I wanted to have it all. You, and also some others. Creep to her bed while hitting you with lies on text to keep you waiting for me in yours. I was trying to be cool. But trying to be cool will make you sick.

I shut it all down and then it was just you and me. You dancing in the shower. Making fun of me and rapping in your accent. Your butterscotch skin. What it should have been all along.

IV.

The only thing that saved us was that I never officially cheated. I wasn’t Tiger Woods. My schemes were all over before we started up. It was all finished, done – that whole evil past where we were with other people. Other people: that concept feels backwards and wrong now. There’s no one else anymore. Just us.

Last time you left it was a crisis. I had to get spiritual and ask the universe to bring you back. I had to do it this time too. And now you’re here. You forgave me. You told me that you know the past is dead. Thank you for that, for keeping us alive. Thank you forever. I was one conversation away from becoming a lost alcoholic writer. Maybe I’d have written a good page but at what cost. The world has enough miserable people already. I don’t want us to join them.

So now you just have to stay. Don’t worry that I’m not safe or stable. Don’t wander off to some bland dolt with a desk job. Have pale kids and scheduled missionary sex with him. You can’t go because you’re mine. He’ll know it, see me in your eyes, panic in secret about it. In order to not hurt him, you have to stay with me. I was trying to be cool before, but what’s cool is this. So you just have to let me keep loving you. And pray you don’t get sick of me, because I’m your man again and you’re stuck with me. But goddamnit you better stop asking me to change the duvet cover because I hate doing that shit.

Clear

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I’m still alive. Just not writing because, goddamn, I truly haven’t had a fucking second. The problem with living in Vietnam is that everyone wants to visit you. See the bays and the Kung Fu Panda landscapes. The problem with not having a job is you have no excuse not to spend all day with them. No time to work out, write, hide away and scratch the balls. Too many beers and too much time in cafés. Life is imbalanced, too much hanging out by the pool. The problem with being me is that, despite my inner turmoil and insecurities, I somehow maintain a basic aura of awkward, endearing charm, and people want to hang out with me, keep inviting me to shit. Being popular is bad. No time or space. If you truly want to be a writer, you’ll make time! How about you blow that out your ass. You don’t need to write every day. We didn’t ask Michael Jackson for a new album every day. Yes, I’m saying I’m as talented as MJ – actually I’m better, because I fuck far fewer children.

***

I’ll write more, very soon. I need to. My girlfriend is now my ex. She used to always ask me to write about her. I told her to wait, that whatever I wrote had to be real and perfect. I can’t be fake with this shit. Well, now I have something real. Too fucking real.

I know you’re reading this. And it’s coming soon, baby. Maybe it’ll get you back, though it probably won’t. But still, it will be just for you.

Sweet Sweet Hypocrisy

Been in Asia too long. Now my grandmother is 80 and my nephew is two. My sister gave him away but still posts photo montages like she’s his mother. She only birthed him for the likes. I’d call her deplorable for that but then again I know I’d get excited over the Facebook likes if I got my girl pregnant. Wait no — actually, there wouldn’t be any. She said if she got pregnant that she wouldn’t tell me, and would instead run for an abortion in the night. I’d call her deplorable for that but then again I truly, truly love not having children.

I would visit home soon but I’d make everyone angry. All the drones who wish they’d escaped. Who invest invaluable life energy in Jon Fucking Snow and Beyonce lyrics. Get off Beyonce’s dick. I hate fans, I hate followers, unless they’re mine. You don’t need an idol; be your own idol. Go make something. Actually, don’t. Too many people are out there making shit. Stresses me the fuck out. Every expat here is writing a book. Stop writing your book. I know based on nothing but the look in your eyes that it is shit. You wear a tank top and have a dumb soul. Your brain was molded by Hey Arnold and Rugrats. You didn’t grow up next to a library like I did, writing is not your destiny.

***

Today I met some Israelis, met a girl I forgot I’d already met before, met a pilot, met a comedian who wasn’t funny. Then I was at a Buddhist temple. A man was burning money. I was languid in the heat. Creeping, taking the day in low gear so I could figure some shit out. Until I reached enlightenment. And I did. I decided I’m going to start making movies again. Because I like making them, they’re the only god damn way to get noticed. It’s gonna have to work, because I refuse to accept not being famous. If it doesn’t work then I’ll just start a cult. Worked for Buddha, and also Beyonce.

Check In

Fuck a blog, man. Had to ease up. I was writing too much. These posts take me about 6 hours apiece. At least all the hard work is paying off; I just got my monthly $0.47 from Amazon.com. But that’s cool because $0.47 in Vietnam can keep you in booze for a week. I can thrive off scraps, motherfuckers.

I’m the greatest writer of all time but I’ve run out of shit to write about. So now I’m trying to just let some shit happen to me. Only reason to do anything. I’ve been drinking with club whores. I found out the cops don’t pull over white people here so I’ve been blowing through reds like Jason Bourne and oh what a fucking feeling that is. I never need to have sex again. Gonna have to leave the city and explore some more soon. I bought a video camera and carry it around like a jackass. WordPress didn’t make me famous, but YouTube will definitely do the trick, right?

All right that’s it for today, champs. Be back soon.

It Could All Be So Simple

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I.

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

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

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

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

II.

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

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