Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lumina



I used to do stuff by myself. As a young adult still living with my parents, I'd sometimes take their car out for rides, nowhere too far, just to clear my mind. I'd put a cassette tape into the car's stereo -- or a CD; because, in 1997, my music collection was an amalgamation of both formats -- and drive around. I'd occasionally stop at a comic book or music store to browse around, but usually I'd just drive and think. It wasn't always cathartic -- it sometimes was -- but it was always calming. Growing up in my parents' house was never too chaotic or stressful (at least I tell myself that now), but it wasn't an environment conducive to reflection. So I'd drive around, aimlessly, listening to music and considering where I'd been, where I was, and where I might go.

Returning home, my father would bitch about the gas and mileage I used. It wasn't my car, and I rarely paid for the gas, so I saw his point. Still, at nineteen, those solo drives were my refuge, my only way to contextualize myself as an individual apart from my family.

After moving to Korea in 2000, whenever I wanted to take some time to reflect on life I'd take the subway to the Kyobo Book Store in Gwanghwamun. I'd purchase a few books and magazines, take them home with me, and discover the secrets they held within*. I got married in 2002, had a daughter, and moved to Bundang in 2003, but every other weekend, for the next two years, I would take an inter-city bus into Seoul, usually on Sundays, to buy books, magazines, and music. It wasn't the shopping that I enjoyed but rather the process. That was my time. To be by myself. To really think.

Perhaps that sounds selfish. Maybe it is. It definitely is, actually. But as Axl Rose once sang, everybody needs some time on their own. All alone.

I don't know if I crave solitude more or less than the average person, but I do know that it hurts the people I most love. In October of 2003, only two months after my daughter was born, I booked a trip to Fukuoka, Japan. I was 25 years old, a young father, and I needed to recharge my batteries. My daughter's mother, my ex-wife, wasn't handling motherhood very well, and so I extricated myself from the equation, hoping that two days would be enough time for us to catch our breath and think things over. Ah, how naive we were. Something fundamentally broken will never be fixed. Yet still we try, like artists painting over ill-timed brush strokes. Just as I used to do as a nineteen-year-old living with my parents, I had to take a time-out to think things over, this time a cramped Japanese hotel room being a simulacrum of my folks' Buick.

It worked for me in the short term. I stayed in my hotel room most of the time, contemplating life, reading SLAM (cover story about Alonzo Mourning's kidney disease, headline reading "Stronger than all"), Murakami ("Landscape with Flatiron") and taking belts of the 26 Oz. bottle of Jack Daniels I bought from the duty-free shop. On the morning that I was set to leave, I bought a ham-and-cheese sandwich from Lawsons, and ate it while sitting on the hotel floor in my boxers, watching the infamous Steve Bartman Marlins-Cubs game. Then I pooped and took a train to the airport.

When I arrived home that night, my daughter looked at me as though she'd never seen me before. She cried, wondering who this strange person was. I remember thinking that I wanted to know the answer to that question myself.

---

I don't do much stuff by myself anymore. Any book or article I'd like to read are available online, so instead of browsing book stores, I find myself purchasing -- or pirating -- material online. It's very convenient, but it lacks effort, like buying fish from a wooden stand next to a lake instead of going out in a canoe and catching them yourself.

That's sad. I used to enjoy shopping. Or at least the concept, the procedure. The method.



 * Some have had a profound influence on my life (Dostoyevsky, Maugham, Dumas, Kipling, Murakami); others were pure garbage, particularly mags like Maxim and FHM. What can I say -- I was still a young man; in other words, an idiot.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Two Step


As a responsible adult (or, perhaps more accurately, a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile thereof), I don't often find myself hungover, but that is what I am today. Nobody's perfect. Joe E. Brown said that.

I have been nursing my figurative scars (did I really try to sing "99 Luftballons" in the original German at karaoke?) and my literal wounds (Laphroaig is the gift that keeps on giving -- and taking) all day, but instead of drinking a can of Dawn 808, I chose to throw on a pair of headphones and listen to some tunage* to sort myself out, to right the ship. (And now I'm nauseated again because of that metaphor.)

It worked. Sort of. There's no magic cure for a bad hangover, but, at least for today, The Cars' eponymously titled first album was a slight elixir, if not a panacea. It was just what I needed (just what I needed!), you might say.

The Cars is on no one's shortlist of the greatest album ever made**, but it is a great album. And what it has that most albums don't is the very rare species of the 1-song-disguised-as-2-songs closer "Moving in Stereo/All Mixed Up."

And that got me thinking -- which is always as stupid and dangerous as an assault on Precinct 13. What is the greatest 1-2 punch in music? This excludes Abbey Road's medley, The Mars Volta's entire discography, and EPMD's "Jane" songs.

All I can think of right now is Zwan's Jesus I/Mary Star of the Sea***.

I could probably think of others if I wasn't so tired. But I am, so I can't.


* I also typed Raekwon's "Spot Rusherz" into AT&T's Natural Voices, because that's what hungover people do, right?

** yet

*** Pitchfork album rating: 4.8 The Cars: 5.7. Eric B & Rakim's Paid in Full: 7.8. There are people who trust Pitchfork reviews as the gold standard of music criticism. They are, largely, stupid and/or misled. (This footnote is sponsored by Vitamin Water.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stratified Sincerity and the Kaleidoscopic Unknown


Great Northern - Our Bleeding Hearts

     Roughly one week ago (nine days, for those with OCPD), a mildly intoxicated friend divulged the most startling of shocking secrets to me: that despite having been a friend of yours truly for nearly sixteen years, she still felt as though she didn't really know me. Others, meanwhile, have stated that it's more than a tad challenging to determine whether I'm joking about something or entirely sincere. With that in mind, let's go over a smattering of statements I have made this past year.


1) "I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming licensing exam."

Sincerity, She Wrote! Seriously, the person to which the preceding statement was made would need Lady Luck to give the scoring computer a blow job in order to pass the aforementioned exam.

2) Came across this on Facebook a short while back:
   and responded with this:

Fifty Shades of Sincerity. Admittedly, this one is a bit tougher to decipher. On the one hand, what the hell do I know about good vibes? On the other hand, I love this song like Bob Guccione loved inserting hardcore sexual material into Caligula: it's all sorts of fucked up, sure, but the heart wants what the heart wants. 

3) In March, I had lunch with a group of people, and as I waited for the food to arrive, I entertained myself by twirling a particularly dull knife between my fingers. This disturbed one of my companions, who stated that she felt uncomfortable with my actions because it made her wonder if I was going to stab someone. I assuaged her concern by stating that I had no intention whatsoever of stabbing someone with the blade in question - a knife, I might add, that would have trouble piercing toilet paper. 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Sincerity. If I were to stab someone at a restaurant, it would be with a fork. Knives are for slashing(,) people. 

4) "A DBT book might make for a useful addition to your library. You could take that as some manner of insult or a genuine recommendation, as is your prerogative."

CSI: Sincerity. Regardless of my intention, the fact remains that said person would benefit immensely from a text pertaining to Dialectical Behavior Therapy as applied to daily living skills. 

5) "Be sure to give [        ] and [        ] my very, very best of best wishes and kindest of kind regards."

The Price is Right Sincerity Showdown. What's your bid? 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sakura



In my adolescence, I dedicated much thought and consideration to the hair growing on my body -- or, more accurately, the hair not growing on my body. It's all so trivial now, but as a freshman in high school who would occasionally get teased for my lack of leg hair (although the teasing never approached anything that could today be considered or thought of as bullying), I wondered if I would go through life always with the glabrous legs of an Olympic swimmer. I imagine that many virgins feel the same way about their prospect of ever having sex. I know I did.

As Goethe said (and which numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone confirm), "Be careful what you wish for." By the time I was nearing adulthood, my legs were almost as shaggy as an English Terrier's. (I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by much.) If it weren't against the social norm, I could wear shorts in winter and stay warm. Conversely, wearing jeans in summer is something I religiously avoid, because why wear denim when I already have enough of a problem with the Yeti fur grafted to my lower extremities? Whenever I look at my legs, I'm reminded of a quaint Canadian film from the 80s called The Peanut Butter Solution. I was seven years old when I watched it. I suppose, in a way, that it was a prophecy.

In general, kids are pretty clueless, right? And I don't mean that in a condescending way; they just don't have the life experience or wisdom that comes from growing older. I wouldn't scoff at a ten-year-old and say, "What the fuck do you mean you've never read The Sun Also Rises?" In the same way, I don't begrudge a kid if I see him picking his nose in a supermarket or grabbing at his crotch because he has to pee. You figure that shit out later, hopefully.

Life is not without its share of cruel jokes -- a buxom woman gets breast cancer; a hirsute man's hair falls out from chemotherapy; the second pick in the 1986 NBA draft dies two days later from a cocaine overdose -- and ironic realities. So far, I've largely avoided both, but time is patient. It always will be.

Some years ago, a friend pointed out to me that I had an abnormally long eyebrow hair growing over my left eye. Embarrassed, I tried to pluck it out, which hurt like a motherfucker and made my eyes water. He plucked it out for me. It's easier to receive pain than to inflict it on yourself. Try breaking up with a gorgeous woman versus having her break up with you if you don't believe me.

That lone-wolf eyebrow hair, that ronin, however, would always come back, like a curry burp. Months would go by, and then one day I'd look at myself in the mirror and see it working its way out again, trying to outpace its brethren, to grow longer than them, to what ultimate purpose I didn't know, and still don't.

I eventually found myself starting to care for it. It was, after all, a part of me, and its -- no, his -- constant rebirth and Herculean growth affected me. I'm not delusional; I know that a hair growing on my eyebrow has no sentience...but isn't it pretty to think so?

I never gave him a name (because I'm not that weird), and I suppose I was too rough on him those first few years, twirling him between my thumb and forefinger when lost in thought until he broke, like a kid picking his nose in a supermarket. I was truly sorry when that happened, and sad that I'd have to wait months for his return.

But return he did. And he still does. I've experienced some tumult over the past decade, nothing too major in the overall scheme of things, but nonetheless stressful, and it's always nice to know that I have a constant, something to have with me when I'm otherwise feeling alone.

He's looking a little haggard these days, though. While brushing my teeth this morning, I noticed that he's curled back around on himself, like an Ouroboros. Maybe he'll fall out soon, like leaves in autumn.

If so, I hope he comes back again. Like cherry blossoms in spring.

---

There are more terrible things than can grow on a person's body than a single rogue hair. A single lone-wolf cell, a ronin, for one.

http://www.cancer.org/

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Patina (Chapter 3)






"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We've encountered a storm system, so the turbulence might be a little rough until we can get out of it or get clearance to fly over or under it. Please keep your seat-belts fastened until then."

"Mr. Loy? Are you okay?"

"Hnhh?" Jake answered through his nose. He wasn't -- not okay, not OK, not okie dokie, or anything like that. His fists were balled together and his head was bowed in an abject trinity of prayer and terror and acceptance of fate. The doomed man trifecta. The plane lurched again, and Jake let out a barely audible squeal. A dog might have heard it, but not a human.

"Mr. Loy, I have to pee."

"So go pee, then," Jake said through gritted teeth.

"But the sign is on."

"So piss your pants, then! Which do you want more, to obey a sign or your bodily functions?"

"Mr. Loy, I'm scared. Can you take me to the laboratory?"

"It's the lavatory, but...Jesus, hell, just call it a bathroom, or a toilet. Better yet, call it the piss and shit closet."

The plane rocked back and forth, its frame shaking mightily through the storm as passengers white-knuckled their armrests and the flight attendants tried their best to appear aloof to the possible danger. The cabin lights were out. Then on, then out again.

"Mr. Loy?" Cody said through the commotion, "I don't have to visit the laboratory anymore." He began to cry. The kid had pissed his pants.

---

"Aw, hell. Aw, kid..." Jake said. "Hey, no -- no shame in that. Here...look, hey, let's get you cleaned up."

The plane rumbled and lurched again. Jake Loy ignored it. He took Cody to the back of the plane.

"Sir, please stay in your seat," an attendant said.

"No can do," Jake said. "I'm going to the laboratory to help my young friend recover some dignity. Some water spilled on his lap during the turbulence and I'm going to help him wash it off. Please knock on the door if you have some pajamas he could put on. "

---

"Thank you, Mr. Loy. I bet your mother was really great," Cody said. They had been moved to business class seats. "Did you get that from her?"

"I think I did, Cody. And she was. She was a great person. An amazing woman."

"Is she dead?"

"Sad to say, she is. But she's still here with me. Always will be."

"So you are an orphan."

"I guess so. I guess you're right."

"That sounds about right. Goodnight Mr. Loy."

---

Jake Loy relinquished his wardenship of little Cody -- hell, he never did get the kid's last name -- at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Wichita Airport. The kid's grandmother was waiting there outside of a purple Lincoln Continental with a bouquet of cotton candy the size of a basketball. Jake waved goodbye, but he was pretty sure the kid didn't see it. That's how kids are at that age, he supposed.

Still, as the car drove away, Jake was sure he could see the kid's face in the back seat turn and look at him with a toothy grin. Only it looked like there were too many teeth in his small mouth. And they looked sharpened. They glistened.

But that was probably all in his mind.








Monday, July 21, 2014

Patina (Chapter 2)



"So, Cody, tell me...are you an orphan or something?" Jake Loy said.

Cody shuffled his feet and furrowed his brow. "What's an orphan?" he asked.

"I guess that answers my question," Jake replied with a short laugh. There was no malice in it. "An orphan is a child whose parents are dead. I suppose if yours were you would have heard the term by now." The beverage cart came to their seats and a severe-looking female attendant of fifty or so -- maybe a little more, unlikely a little less -- asked Cody what he would like.

"A Coke, please," Cody said.

"Gotcha," the attendant said. "And you, sir?"

"Oh, I think I'll have a Coke, too, but throw some rum into mine," Jake said.

The attendant was pouring their drinks when some mild turbulence hit. Jake clutched the armrests to each side, clenched his jaw, and stared at the blank monitor on the back of the seat in front of him. The turbulence was over in less than twenty seconds.

"Didn't spill a drop," the attendant said, handing Cody his drink. Jake was still looking at the back of the seat, so Cody took Jake's drink from the attendant and placed it on his fold-down tray.

"Um, Mr. Loy?" Cody said after the attendant had passed down a few rows. Jake seemed to be in a trance. "Are you okay?"

That snapped him out of it. "Sure am," he said, although his voice lacked conviction. He saw that Cody wasn't buying it. The kid looked a little scared, so he tried his best to employ some levity. He picked up Cody's drink and sniffed it. Then he took a sip. Cody looked at him confused.

"Have to make sure," he said. "I had to check whether the stew gave you my drink by mistake. I promised the other stew that I'd look after you, and what kind of person would I be if I allowed a six-year-old kid to get drunk on an airplane?" He picked up his own drink and finished it in two huge swallows. Then he belched.

That made Cody giggle. "What's a stew?" he asked.

"A stew, young master, is a kind of hearty soup. It's thick and full of meat and vegetables."

His attempt at humor was lost on the kid, so Jake reached into his bag of tricks to try to right the course. He didn't have to dig deep. He belched again.

Cody didn't giggle; he guffawed.

---

"So, do you need a coloring book or something?" Jaked asked Cody, who looked a little bored.

"No thank you," Cody said. "I have my iPad Mini in my backpack, but it makes me dizzy when I'm traveling."

"Then why not watch TV? I'm sure they have cartoons and stuff," Jake said, gesturing toward Cody's monitor. "Does that make you dizzy as well?"

"Probably."

"Isn't that a pickle, then." Jake said. "Well, I have an idea, Kobe."

"Cody."

"I know, I'm just teasing. Here's what we'll do. You ask me a question, any question you like, and I'll ask you one after. Sound good?"

"Okay."

"You start."

Cody looked pensive for a second, maybe two, and then said, "So, Mr. Loy, tell me...are you an orphan or something?"

It was then that plane again hit turbulence. And it was much stronger than the first time.




Sunday, July 20, 2014

Patina (Chapter 1)



Jake Loy thumbed nervously through the pages of the SkyMall catalog. A Green Goblin paperweight. A Thanksgiving turkey fly swatter. He was hot, his shirt collar sticking to his neck. Air was blowing out of the vent above him, but there was no freon. It was like a dry handjob. Kansas, then Birmigham. Then Hell, probably.

"Excuse me, sir," a flight attendant said, disrupting his dumb reverie. "I have a young traveler who needs a seat. He's an unaccompanied minor, so by law I need to ask for your permission that he sit next to you. Would that be okay?"

"Is he an orphan or something?"

"Oh, well...I'm not sure," the attendant answered, somewhat taken aback. Then, with more composure, "I really don't think I would be at liberty to say if he were.

"Am I going to have to change his diapers? Is he going to be bawling the entire flight?"

The attendant looked indignant. "Sir, he's six years old. But never mind. I'll try to find him another seat."

"No, sorry, I don't mind," Jake said, quickly tucking the SkyMall catalog into the seat pocket in front of him. "Sorry if I sounded abrasive. It's just that I get nervous when I fly. I would be happy to sit next to the kid. Might provide a better distraction than what SkyMall or the in-flight movies have to offer. What's his name?"

---

"Hi, I'm Cody."

"Hi, Cody, my name is Jake. Jake Loy. Would you prefer the aisle or the window? I don't care either way. More leg room with the aisle, but the window offers a spectacular view of our great country. It's your call, champ."

"Um, I'll take the aisle," Cody said. "But is it okay if we switch later?"

"Deal," Jake said.

"Thank you," the attendant whispered to Jake with a wink. "Let me know if either of you big boys need something, okay?"

"Yes," Cody said.

"Will do," Jake followed.

The attendant walked back to her station as the plane began to taxi. The air conditioner started in earnest. Then take off. Flight.

---

 When the fasten-seat-belts sign turned off at 11,000 feet, Jake Loy turned to his young ad hoc ward and said, "So, Cody, tell me...are you an orphan or something?"






Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day! (Again)

In honor of Independence Day, I went with the search phrase drunk American (because that about sums up the beloved holiday) and the following is merely a smattering of what Google found.



P.S. Paula Abdul wins the award for Most Prominently Displayed Celebrity during said search. You go, girl!


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Canada Day! (Redux)

In honor of Canada Day, I went with the search phrase drunk Canadian (because that about sums up the beloved holiday) and the following is merely a smattering of what Google found.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Expansion (b/w Contraction)




While relaxing at home this evening and occasionally defending myself from Flash's fearsome Adamantium claws and teeth*, a paid promotion disguised as a news story ran on CNN for Wagyu beef (rhyme unintentional, acknowledged).

I'm sure Wagyu beef is quite tasty. It looks tasty. But the advert claimed that Wagyu beef has "a long tradition of several decades."

Is several decades a long tradition? My daughter, God love her, is 11 years old. Technically, that's several decades. Does she have a long tradition of being a human being? At 36 years old, do I?

When did our perception of time collapse into such a small paradigm (rhyme unintentional, acknowledged, writer starts beat boxing)? Has it always been this way? I ask in earnest, because even if I multiply my age by 2, I can't fathom 72 years being a long tradition in raising cattle. Or in anything.

* I take Flashy von Doggie up on the roof when I get home so he can run around like a hellion and poop. It's always interesting to see grown men get spooked by such a tiny beast. Maybe, at least, he should be on a leash. Peace in the Middle East.