And Then They Stuck a Magic Wand Up My Nose


Being 33 years old, I grew up on the cusp of the technological revolution that occurred during the 1990s.  Here’s what I mean.   I remember being a high school student in the early ‘90s.  Nobody had a cell phone, computers were slow and used mostly for games and word processing, I had one friend who owned a webcam and everyone thought it was the nerdiest thing ever, research projects were done using a library and real books, there was no Napster, Facebook, or even Google, and words like “meme” and “emoticon” weren’t a part of anyone’s vocabulary yet.  For people ten years younger than I am, cell phones and the Internet are such a part of everyday life, it seems like a world without them would be unfathomable.  For me, I got my first cell phone three years ago, and having a video call on Skype makes me feel like I’m in a Ray Bradbury story.

Having said that, it should come as no surprise that I often find myself in a state of technological shock.  I remember the first time I saw my street on the computer screen using Google Maps.  My jaw dropped.  How was this possible?  Likewise, I had the same feeling working in a public school and having a SmartBoard.  The thing was capable of miraculous things.  It could show movies or PowerPoint presentations…students could even come up and write on it.  When I was in high school, we were still watching film strips.  The world had changed, seemingly overnight; instead of spooling film, I could show my students where I lived on the SmartBoard and it would only take a matter of minutes.

Not that I would ever show my students where I live.  That’s crazy.  But you get the point.

All this is setup for the story of my mind blowing trip to the clinic yesterday.  The past two days (and going on today, too), I’ve been deathly ill.  At first I tried to tough it out.  Yesterday, though, I seriously just crumbled and succumbed to it.  I couldn’t open my eyes and, although I was freezing, I was sweating worse than Patrick Ewing in the 4th quarter (that’s a bit of an old reference).  Wanting to call in sick, I searched out my work contract to see how many sick days I get a year.  The answer: zero.  Yes, zero.  In fact, my contract states that if I’m to miss a day, I must provide a two day notice.  That seemed a bit ridiculous but then again what do I know…maybe there’s an app on Google that can predict illness.

My strategy was to go into work and act as sick as possible, hoping they would send me home (it wasn’t much of an act since I thought I was dying).  Immediately Boss and Leah were concerned.  Not that I was sick.  More that I would miss work.  It was decided that I had to be taken to the Korean hospital (they call it that, although it’s really more like a clinic) to get a shot.  Apparently, all I needed to bounce back to health was a nice injection in the butt administered by a friendly Korean nurse.  Initially, I tried to argue my way out.  I needed rest.  Not to be bent over a table in front of a girl with a syringe.  If I was a man who had fetishes, that would not be one of them.

There was no getting out of it, however, and so I soon found myself in the clinic with Leah, who would be serving as my translator.  Into the doctor’s office we went, and it was then that I entered a world of technological amazement and wonder.  First, a device was stuck in my ear and my temperature was taken.  Nothing crazy.  Still a far cry from having to sit there with a stupid thermometer under my tongue, only for it to come out reading that I’m dead or something, causing me to have to try it again.  Next, the doctor pulled out something that looked exactly like a magic wand.  It was a long, thin rod that was glowing at the end.  Behind him was a television monitor.  He proceeded to shove the magic wand up my nose.  The horrifying image of my inner nostril filled the television screen.  It was repulsive, with one long nostril hair obscuring the shot.  Proving to me that my nostrils are bigger than I imagined, he also stuck a suction tube up there and starting sucking out the snot.  Meanwhile, Leah sat there and watched with no expression on her face.  The screen was rather big and I felt as though we were watching my inner schnozzola presented in IMAX.

It wasn’t over.  Next a camera went down my throat, making me gag.  Up came my tonsils on the TV screen, looking like the gooey antennae on a snail.  It was determined that I had a fever and I was given some pills which, alarmingly, made me feel instantly better the moment I took my first dose.

Has sickness become, like the paper map or the rectal thermometer, a thing of the past?  There are no sick days in my contract and, having taken those pills, it occurred to me that maybe it’s because sickness can be defeated easily, as if it was the first level of Angry Birds or something.

Heck – my fever didn’t even warrant the super-pain-killer injection shot.  Perhaps I’ll go back and request it should I injure myself severely while trying to trim that awful nose hair.


There are Harder Things In Life Than Breaking Up. Telling the Other Person, For Instance.


In all of mankind’s glorious inventions, whoever came up with the idea of taking turns deserves a special place in history for being particularly brilliant.  I imagine a conversation, somewhere around the beginning of time, between two Cro-Magnon men, that must’ve gone something like this:

“Okay, tonight I’ll sleep in the cave and you sleep outside.  Then tomorrow, I’ll sleep in the cave.  Then the next day, I’ll sleep in the cave again.”

“Hmm, when do I get to sleep in the cave?”

“Oh snap.  I didn’t think about that.”

“Hear me out.  How about tonight you sleep in the cave, and then tomorrow, I sleep in the cave.”

“What about the third night?”

“I have no idea.  Do you want to eat a fish?”

The genesis of taking turns must’ve gone something like that.  Now, eons later, taking turns is still all the rage, just like fire, the wheel, and sleeping in the cave (if you are a bear).  The modern dating ritual largely incorporates this older theory of turn taking.  If I buy you dinner, then you get the coffee afterwards.  If on Tuesday I go to your side of town, then on Thursday, you come to mine.  If you do something nice and clean my apartment, I’ll do something nice and sleep with your friend.  Things like that.

Likewise, sending text messages is all about turn taking.  I message you, you message me.  Say I message you four times before you respond, then I’m a weirdo and you’re frightened.  Or, if I message you and you don’t respond, I lay off sending another message, getting the idea that you aren’t interested in further communication and you are probably at a magic show (that’s an in-joke).

So, two or three weeks ago, I finally met a decent girl on the dating website.  We went out a few times and it occurred to me that I liked her and I wanted to see her more often.  At the same time, and in lieu of my disastrous last pseudo-relationship that ended with heartbreak and a pathetic attempt at a bar fight, I wanted to keep my options open.  The last thing I wanted was to get attached to someone and end up getting hurt again.  I continued to talk to women online and, even though I was texting and hanging out with the one girl, made plans to meet up with another.  This was supposed to be healthy for me.  Kind of like how you send out your resume to a bunch of jobs, despite the fact that there’s one you have your heart set on.  Because that job might not work out, and obviously it’s better to work the night shift at Target than have no girlfriend at all.

I ended up going out with Girl Two twice and, to be honest, she was pretty cool as well.  I still preferred Girl One, but Girl Two was definitely no Target.  Last weekend, I had plans to hang out with Girl One.  Pay close attention – this gets complicated.  Still following the ‘keep your options open’ philosophy, I tried to make plans with Girl Two also.  In fact, I did make plans with Girl Two.  Then Girl One changed our weekend plans a little bit, (unknowingly) creating a situation where I had two overlapping dates.  I found that rather thoughtless of her.  Understand, though, that I’m just not that kind of a guy.  This situation was no fun at all, and I felt stressed out by it.  I decided that I’d have to get rid of Girl Two, which shouldn’t have been that big of a deal since we only hung out twice and never even kissed.

Now came the hard part – ending things.  It’s hard enough breaking up with someone; ending things when there’s no real relationship there to begin with is even more uncomfortable.  As with most things, I started by trying to weasel my way out.  I sent a text saying I ‘might be’ busy the next day.  Her response?  She sent back kind of a snippy text that said, “Fine, if you have plans, just forget it.”  She didn’t sound pleased.  I waited until the next day and then sent another text that simply said, “Yeah, sorry, going to have to cancel for tonight.  Have a great Saturday. : )”

Yes, that’s right.  Have a great Saturday.  I mean, I don’t want to fuck up anybody’s weekend.

There was absolutely no reply to this, which clearly (I think) meant she was pissed.  That was five days ago.  We’ve had no contact since.  In the meantime, I saw Girl One a bunch of times, and we had a talk and decided to give a dating relationship a try.

Here’s the question I’m asking: I’m out with Girl Two, right?  I mean, it’s her turn to text, and since she hasn’t done so…that’s it, I think.  I don’t have to send a message saying that I met someone else or anything like that, do I?  I sent the last text…so, end of story, right?  I repeat – it’s HER turn.  Not my turn.  Deal done, correct?

Maybe not the classiest way to handle things, true, but what’s a guy to do?  Taking turns is important in a relationship, especially one where both people are treated equally.  So, by extension, the next date will be with Girl One, and, after that, it will be her turn again.  That’s only fair.


11 Brilliant Questions


It takes me time to respond to things.  Send me an email?  I’ll get back to you in a few weeks.  Or a month – it’s difficult to pinpoint.  Post something on my Facebook wall?  I might never ‘Like’ or respond to it.  Send me a bill?  You might as well already include the late fee in the total.

This said, it should come as no surprise that I was tagged by the beautiful, awesome, and amazing Renxkyoko about two weeks ago, and I’m just now doing my tag response blog.  This tagging thing is kind of like the Versatile Blogger Award a little bit…speaking of which, does someone ever actually win the Versatile Blogger Award?  Because that would be a huge deal, I think.  Okay, maybe it’s not the National Book Award, but I think it’s more impressive than, I dunno, a Newberry or a People’s Choice Award.  Anyhow, I’m digressing.  Here are the rules, which delightfully explain how this tagging thing works:

  1.  You must post the rules.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
  4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Easy enough, eh?  So today I’ll be answering Ren’s 11 questions, and then I will be picking 11 people and posting questions of my own for them to answer.

Ren’s Questions – Answered to the Best of My Ability

  1. If you could have 5 famous dead people over for dinner, who would they be?  Marilyn Monroe, MLK, Charles Bukowski, Tim McVeigh, and Johnny Cakes from The Outsiders.
  2. Why did you choose each guest?  I’m obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and believe we are psychically linked (we have the same birthday!); MLK is my personal hero and someone I get emotional just thinking about; Bukowski inspired me to want to write and we are also psychically linked (drinking issues, acne issues, there’s so much); I wanted someone dark/evil, and I’ve always been really intrigued by McVeigh (he’s from Buffalo and I’m from Rochester); and when Johnny Cakes died in The Outsiders, it devastated me and shaped an enormous portion of how I respond to art and also to life.
  3. Would you consider marrying a person whose religion is fundamentally different from yours?  Well, I did.  I married a born again Christian and at that point I was basically atheist.  By the time things were over, her faith was crushed and I was going to church every week.  Go figure.  Anyways, I’d never do it again.
  4. Do you have a fetish?  Um, yeah. I don’t know what I want to share…I plead the 5th (you can yell at me in the comments).
  5. Which trait is more important, intelligence or stunning physical appearance?  Since I don’t have any intelligence myself, I’ll go with the latter.
  6. Let’s say you’re married with two children but fell in love with someone else?  Do you leave your spouse?  In reality, I’ll be old and settled by the time I’m married with two children, so no.  The younger incarnation wouldn’t either.  My conscience is a bitch from hell.
  7. Coffee or tea?  Coke or Pepsi?  Left or right handed?  Coffee (by a landslide), Coke (who the hell orders Rum and Pepsi?), and right handed because left handed people come from the devil.
  8. Do you believe in the death penalty?  Absolutely, 100% no fucking way.  It’s horrible and it’s an embarrassment that the USA has it.  Yet another thing that adds to my country’s culture of violence, paranoia, and racism (because the death penalty is obscenely racist) (and no, I don’t plan to elaborate on that).
  9. If a loved one cheated, would you take him or her back?  Yeah, I would.  It’s bad to cheat on somebody, but it’s almost as bad not to forgive somebody who loves you.
  10. Would you get attracted to someone of a different race or color?  LOL!!!  Um, I’m almost exclusively attracted to people of a different race and color.  In fact, I’m currently done with white women.  I feel that in all likelihood I’ll end up with an Asian girl…although…and not to sound too weird here…I think it would be incredible to be married to a black woman.  Again, I don’t think I’ll elaborate on this.
  11. Which do you believe in, evolution or creationism?  Evolution.  The other one simply doesn’t make sense to me.

Well, that was fun!  I hope my answers made some sort of sense.  Now we’ve reached the portion of the show where I tag other people.  I chose these people either because I liked a post of theirs recently, or because they’re a blog follower who I’d like to get to know a little better.  In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Tricia Maria
  2. Five Second Rules
  3. NC Coot
  4. Litterbox Diaries
  5. Aurora Morealist
  6. Pithy Pants
  7. Unfunny Husband
  8. It’s Just Plain Old Me
  9. Freddy Flow
  10. R Run the Gun
  11. Thoughts and Rainstorms

And, without further dilly dialing, here are my questions.

  1. When’s the last time you hit somebody out of anger?
  2. People who snort when they laugh: cute or obnoxious?
  3. Is it better to be politically aware, or to know how to fix a car?  Why?
  4. What are three things you have in your fridge right now?
  5. I feel “The Monster Mash” is the worst song ever recorded.  What would be your nominee for that title?
  6. If someone is staring at you, is it because that person is attracted to you, or because you have something on your face?
  7. Would you date an ex-con?
  8. When you were an insecure teenager, what celebrity did you secretly resent?
  9. Fact or fallacy: Beer before liquor, never been sicker?
  10. In a perfect world, how many fingers would we have?
  11. What is your strangest “Search Engine Term” in the last week?

There you have it.  Hopefully those questions aren’t too bizarre.  Happy blogging everyone, and let’s keep sharing the love.  Peace!


I Respect Your Culture, But That’s Whack


I remember way back in the day, every once in awhile I’d go to a friend’s house to spend the night and learn that my friend’s family didn’t flush the toilet when they peed because they wanted to save on the water bill.  My reaction would be, “Really?  That’s how you roll in this place?”  I was disturbed, quite honestly, but since it wasn’t my house, I would abide by the rules.  I’d pee and just leave my urine there to chill and hang out in the bathroom while my friend and I played Atari.  Yeah, personally I didn’t understand it – not flushing was something people did because they forgot, not because they made a conscious decision not to – but I would adapt and I wouldn’t judge…at least not until I got back to the safe confines of my very pro-toliet-flushing household.

Living in another country is sort of like that.  Especially, I think, when you take a big leap in cultures as I have, going from Charlotte, South Carolina to Seoul, South Korea.  There are an amazing amount of differences in the way people behave.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve always taken a very “when in Rome” type approach to things; differences are only differences and I would by a jerk to start thinking that the people here do things wrong or inferior to how folks in the States do things.  In all honesty, I was anxious to leave the USA because I was agitated by people.  So, to start bashing the Korean way of life would be strange, sort of like an escaped convict criticizing the heck out of life on the outside.

Still, I do whine about things on occasion, as do the other ex-pats.  We love Korea, I’m sure of it, and at the same time, it’s impossible not to bitch about it every now and then.  The funny thing is, I quickly realized that I was totally fine with the big outlandish differences.  Yes, they eat dogs and living sea creatures here and the teachers carry sticks which they’re allowed to hit the students with.  I’m okay with those things.  They also sometimes have a garbage can next to the toilet, and after dropping a deuce, they wipe, fold the toilet paper up into a neat little square, and throw it away in the garbage can instead of flushing it.  Great.  I mean, I’m not going to do that myself, but if you want to do origami with your used TP, by all means, make me a little bird or something.  It’s cool, man.  Even though my legs go numb, I’ll sit on the floor during dinner, and even though I feel awkward doing it, I’ll put my hand on my arm when I pour soju for someone who’s older than I am (it’s a sign of respect).

Oddly, it’s the little things that start to wear on the nerves.  Especially if they have to do with manners.  I get annoyed at how people constantly push me and bump into me on the subway.  I also feel irritated that there’s no friendly door flip when I’m leaving a store behind somebody; the person in front generally just lets the door swing back freely at me.  I miss that courteous little door push and never realized how nice it was until it was gone.  And when people spit in public…I can’t help but find it gross.  Even cowboys, who were some crass motherfuckers, used a spittoon.  My students in the public school used to cough up mucus onto the floor in the classroom.  It was at those times that I wanted badly to have a beating stick of my own.

Complain as I might, I go along with everything.  When in Rome, shut up and eat the kimchi.  There’s so much to love about the experience here, a little lung on the floor isn’t anything to break a sweat over.  Even if I find something slightly annoying, it’s usually kind of funny and interesting at the same time.  However, the gym is stressin’ me out and, for the first time, I find myself refusing to comply with the society I’ve chosen to live in (mind you, I’ve never gone to a gym before, so this might actually be gym culture and not Asian culture, although I tend to think that it is).

I should start going to the gym in giant bear slippers. "What?! I can't do the treadmill in these?!"

I first got my gym membership in September of last year.  I had a pair of Converse on at the time I opened my membership, and even though the lady that worked at the gym didn’t speak much English, she made it clear that my shoes were not appropriate to wear in the facility.  She did this by pointing at them and saying “No.”  So, after I used the lack of shoes as an excuse to avoid the gym for a few weeks (I wrote a whole post about that), I finally caved and bought a pair of Reebok trainers.  To my surprise and horror, the lady at the gym approached me upon my return to tell me that these sneakers weren’t kosher either.  I didn’t get it.  I could understand how the Converse were bad, but what was wrong with the Reebok trainers?  They were athletic workout shoes.  I decided she was crazy and ignored her, wearing my Reeboks in every time I worked out (which wasn’t very often).

Recently, I had to join a new gym after my old one couldn’t swipe my bank card (it’s not a long story, but it’s extremely uninteresting, so let’s move on).  Again, I was told that my Reebok trainers – purchased by me specifically to work out in – were not good.  The guy at the new gym spoke a little more English, at least enough to point at them and say (in addition to ‘no’), “Outside shoes.”

Well, I asked a Korean friend about this and she gave me the low down.  I thought I’d bought the wrong kind of trainer, but she tells me that there’s nothing wrong with the sneaker itself.  The problem is that I’ve worn them outside, turning them into “outside shoes.”  I’m apparently supposed to take my “inside” gym sneakers with me in a bag or something and change into them in the locker room.

“That’s insanity,” I said, flabbergasted.  “I have to wear one pair of sneakers to the gym, and then change into a second pair of sneakers?  That is sneaker insanity.  What difference does it make?”

“Your outside shoes are dirty,” she said.

“Dirty?  I don’t even think they’ve ever touched actual dirt.  I walk around on concrete all the time.”

To any extent, she told me the right thing to do would be to go buy yet another pair of sneakers, one that I could carry into the gym with me like they’re precious jewels or something.  The thing is, I really, really don’t want to do this.  Had I of known about the outdoor/indoor shoe to begin with, I never would have allowed my Reeboks to touch the fifty feet of pavement that separated my apartment from the gym.  Even if my friend is completely wrong about everything, now I’m paranoid that I’ve been doing it wrong all along, walking around indoors in my foul outside shoes.

Anyways, I respect Korean culture big time, but this outdoor/indoor shoe thing is whack.  Please, people of Korea, I only want to bench press 30 lbs in peace.


There Is No Good Excuse for Killing the Terrier (And Not the Poodle)


Fathers often do marvelous and amazing things for their daughters.  The story in today’s blog is a prime example of this.  It was told to me by a Korean girl that I went on two dates with awhile ago.  Since we both decided we weren’t interested in pursuing something further, I never got a chance to meet her father.  He sounds like a good guy.  Sure, he’s not an animal lover.  That’s okay.  He’s a people lover.  In this regard, he is a lot like a dog himself (you know, cause dogs love people but try to fight other dogs…oh forget it…stretched metaphor).

For the sake of simplicity, let’s call the girl I had two dates with ‘Roly Poly.’  Not because she was fat (she wasn’t), but because that’s a catchy tune.  And let’s stick with the T-ara motif and call her sister ‘Bo Peep.’  Anyways, Roly Poly and Bo Peep were both in their late twenties and lived at home in an apartment with their parents.  They had two dogs.  One was a nice, quiet poodle.  The poodle never

"Inside, I know I could be a guard dog if someone would only give me the chance"

really called attention to itself, perhaps because it was ashamed to be a poodle (it must be hell to be a male poodle…oh the identity issues).  The other dog was a terrier.  Unlike the poodle, the terrier was loud and would, as dogs sometimes do, bark.  People in the home were bothered by the terrier.  There is nothing more irritating in this world than a yippy dog that wants attention and can’t stay quiet, which must be why God invented the cat.

Koreans don’t like cats.  But that’s an issue to tackle another day, so let’s move on.

After a few years went by, something terrible happened.  Bo Peep was diagnosed with cancer.  She became ill.  Now, personally, I’ve never heard of cancer being worsened by dog hair, but apparently this can happen.  The doctors told the family that Bo Peep’s illness was being agitated by the presence of the dogs in the apartment.  If she was going to stay in the home, the dogs were going to be a problem.  Knowing now that dogs can worsen a person’s health, if I ever get cancer, I will be sure to stay away from unattractive women.

One fine spring day, Bo Peep’s father called the terrier.  “Let’s go outside and play,” he said (that’s not a direct quote – I wasn’t there).  Actually, he called both dogs but the poodle didn’t respond.  The terrier was happy to go; he hopped up into the car like a kid going to Disneyland.  The father took the terrier to a field, and led him to a tree.  He tied the terrier to the tree and left it.  Drove back home.  The terrier, meanwhile, was stuck to the tree, wagging its tail and waiting.

“Why’d he have to tie it up?” I asked Roly Poly.  “Couldn’t he just let the terrier go free?”

“He didn’t want the terrier to follow him.”

The next day, the family noticed the terrier was missing (yes, it took them awhile to realize this – kind of like how they kept forgetting about Kevin in the Home Alone movies).  Bo Peep was furious.  She demanded that her father take her to the field so they could get the terrier.  He did, but when they reached the tree, the terrier wasn’t there.  The rope was gone and there wasn’t any sign of it.

“You know what I think?” I said to Roly Poly.  “No offense, but I think your father used Bo Peep’s cancer as an excuse to get rid of the terrier.  I mean, why didn’t he tie the poodle to a tree?”

“The poodle didn’t come when he called.”

“Yeah…it’s a poodle though.  He could’ve picked it up.”

"I wonder what happened to Sparky? No, I'm not having the soup tonight...Daddy said it would be bad for my cancer."

“It was okay to keep the poodle.”

“I don’t think health is the issue here.  I think that guy hated the terrier.”

“The terrier was annoying…it’s true.”

So there you have it.  The happy ending to this tale is that Bo Peep was able to make a full recovery and beat cancer.  The fate of the terrier remains a mystery.  Maybe it was taken into a better home, or it was released to survive on its own, or it was turned into a soup.  We will never know.  At the same time, the poodle must have some kind of PTSD guilt going on.  Every time someone eats ramen, the poor poodle must smell that hot broth and think, “It should’ve been me.”


Yes, They’re Killing Me, But At Least I’m Getting Paid For It


Two summers ago I was dead broke.  I was running out of money fast, draining my bank account, and I knew that I wouldn’t be getting a paycheck again until the end of the summer.  This is one of the miseries of being a teacher.  The two month summer break is awesome…except for the fact that it doesn’t really exist.  Most teachers work some kind of job during the summer, and although doing a dippy part-time job offers more freedom than teaching, it also means that the bank account is going to take a pretty substantial hit.  The arrival of summer vacation is kind of like getting a new girlfriend – it’s fun, but suddenly you’re dipping into your savings account to afford dinner at Applebee’s.  One summer I worked at a group home for people with traumatic brain injuries; another summer I taught an English camp in Korea for a month and a half and flew back to America two days before the start of the new school year.

I was supposed to go back for another summer camp two years ago, but it ended up falling through, leaving me jobless and going broke.  One night at a bar with my teacher friends, the science teacher at my old school, who was a good friend of mine, said something that interested me.

“They rejected my plasma,” she said.  “You know, you can make a lot of money selling your plasma.”

“You tried to sell your plasma?” I asked.  Was this really what things were coming to for teachers?  Were economic times so bad, we had to sell our body’s plasma to make ends meet?

“Yeah,” she said, “they took a sample but I guess my plasma isn’t what they’re looking for.”

“Maybe I’ll try to sell my plasma,” I said, wondering how I was going to pay the bar tab.

“You should.  Really, if you’re desperate for money, sign up to do scientific experiments.  It’s easy and they pay pretty well.”

The next day, I did just that.  I went online and found the website where I could sign up to participate in clinical trials and get paid for it.  Suddenly, it was as though a whole new world of weirdness opened up to me.  Every week I’d get an email outlining the new trials I could volunteer for.  I never knew before how many bizarre experiments there were going on in the city; reading through the emails, I learned all sorts of interesting things.

I could sign up to help doctors research Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is a surprisingly common disorder where the body’s immune cells attack – for unknown reasons – the tear glands.  Yes, for people with Sjogren’s Syndrome, the body’s immune system refuses to let that person cry.  “And this whole time,” I said to myself, “I thought all of my ex-girlfriends were just cold.”

Or, if I didn’t want to be crying all the time taking some new Sjogren’s medication, I could sign up to help doctors learn more about Wake Therapy and its effects on depression.  For one week, I would stay in a hospital and they would see how sleep deprivation and light therapy would alter my mood.  Apparently, sleep deprivation has been shown to improve feelings of sadness in people with depression, although those improvements have not lasted over time.  So for a week, I would get some cash, but I’d have to get woken up a lot.  I had a feeling this would not result in the ‘happy’ effect the scientists were anticipating.  I saw lots of grumpiness and irritability happening.

Or I could take a pill called Psilocybin and see if it would stop my cravings for alcohol.  As someone who has bounced in and out of AA for years, this idea intrigued me but also made me sad.  Could a pill cure alcoholism and, in doing so, prove itself to be stronger than things like will power and the human spirit?  Really, if it worked, a stupid pill would be able to do something I had been failing at for over a decade.  “The investigators hypothesize that drinking will decrease following the psilocybin sessions, and that increases in motivation, self-efficacy, and spirituality will be observed among study participants,” it said.

I imagined myself overdoing it – I mean, if the pill was so good, why not?  People would see me passed out in an alley and would ask, “Is he drunk?” and then someone would say, “No, he’s just ripped on Psilocybin and exhausted from light therapy.”

I tried to volunteer for several of these studies, but was only contacted back by one (which I did not try to sign up for myself).  It was testing out a new diet pill.  I weighed 135 pounds and was massively underweight; somehow taking a diet pill didn’t seem like such a good idea.  Furthermore, is that the kind of PR the company really wanted?  I pictured their future commercial: “Are our diet pills effective?  Well, listen up!  You’ll lose so much weight, you’ll die!”

Then there would be a “before” picture of me, looking happy.  And the “after” picture would be a skeleton.

But then again, I was pretty broke.  Yeah, they’d be killing me with diet pills, but at least I’d be getting paid for it.

As things turned out, I got through the summer without ever doing one paid clinical experiment.  I still get the weekly emails and look through them, seeing what wonderful and baffling things the science world is up to.  There are lots of problems trying to be solved.  Maybe the best solution to all these problems – and I could be speaking out of personal bias here – is a 12 month school year.


We Mutilated Our Son…Have Some Chicken


Last week, Leah called me into the main office because a parent had brought fried chicken for the teachers at our school to enjoy.  I was pumped.  I would gladly work overtime or take a pay cut for fried chicken, so this was really like a dream come true.  Apparently the kid’s father worked at the fried chicken joint and wanted to bestow a gift upon us for putting up with his son.  I sat down next to Leah and started muchin’ on a drumstick.

“He’s missed a lot of school lately,” Leah said, talking about the student.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“It is because he had penis cut operation.”

For the sake of comedy, I wish I’d done a double take or started choking on the chicken.  In reality, though, I kept right on eating.  “Say that again?”

“What is word…” she said, thinking.  “When the skin at end of the penis is taken off?”


“Yes, he was circumcised.”

“Isn’t he a bit old for that?  How old is he?”

“He’s 12.  His parents thought it would be good.”

I nodded, reaching for a breast.  “Personally, I’m happy to be circumcised.”

Leah nodded too, using a Kleenex to wipe the grease off her fingers.  After that, neither of us talked much.

“Well, this chicken is delicious,” I finally said.  “I’m glad that boy was circumcised.”

Leah agreed, and we ate a few more pieces before the next class started.


A Stereotypical St. Patrick’s Day in Stereotypin’ Seoul


I woke up Saturday morning and opened my closet, ready to throw on a green shirt and head to the St. Patrick’s Day festival in Seoul.  An army of unironed shirts (I hate ironing) hung there and I leafed through them like they were pages in a book, trying to find the right color.  “Shit,” I thought, scratching my head, “I don’t have any green shirts, do I?”  It wasn’t a terrible assumption that I’d made, that somewhere in my closet there would be at least one green shirt.  I hadn’t even pictured the shirt being nice or looking good on me, or on anybody for that matter.  I only thought that one would be there.

But no, one wasn’t.  So I wore a nice brown shirt to the festival.  “That’s good,” I thought.  “I’ll be different.  Who wants to be the same as everybody else?  This brown shirt will be a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom.  And it will also symbolize that I don’t own any green shirts and I don’t have the time or desire to buy one.”

With that, I was off.


Recently, I had a conversation with one of my Korean friends and we started talking about stereotypes.  Just like anywhere else in the world, there are plenty of stereotypes here in Seoul.  Students have their own stereotypes, as do women, as do men, as do just about everyone else.  Foreigners included.  I asked her, curiously, what the stereotype was for a foreign man living in Korea.

“Do you really want to know?” she asked, blushing and putting her hand over her face in embarrassment.  “Really?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “It’s good to know what your own stereotype is.”

She took slightly more egging on before finally breaking out a list.  Always drinking, loud, disrespectful, flirtatious with the Korean women, criminals, violent, dumb and undereducated.  Then she clarified, breaking things down into two camps.  There were the foreign teachers – like myself – who were drunk, loud, disrespectful, flirtatious criminals.  The other camp was the US Military, who were the dumb and violent ones.

Even though we were talking about negative stereotypes, with the implication established that these things weren’t true, the word ‘dumb’ poked me in the side a little bit.  It made me want to say something childish like, “Oh yeah?  Well maybe Koreans are dumb!”  Then my friend asked me if the stereotypes bothered me and what my reaction was.

“I’m not offended by it or angry or anything like that,” I said, ignoring my gut reaction.  “I’m happy to be aware, so that hopefully I can show the people who believe those things that they aren’t really true.”


“We should’ve dressed like leprechauns,” my friend Pierre said.  The St. Patrick’s Day festival was in Sindorim this year, taking place in a small area with an outdoor stage and a circular bowl of seats.  People played Irish music, there was face painting, and everyone except me and Pierre wore green.  My group of friends hung out on a stairwell off to the side of the festival, drinking beer and smoking.

“Don’t you think people would be pissed off if we dressed as leprechauns?” I said.

“No,” Pierre said.  “Why?  I think they’d love it.”

“I dunno, it’s kind of a stereotype.  Or a mockery of Irish people a little bit.”

One could argue that the whole place was kind of a mockery of Irish people, though.  All the green and the beer drinking and the shamrocks everywhere.  People weren’t even drinking Irish beer.  We were drinking Cass bought from the 7-11 across the street (the 7-11 eventually ran out of beer around 4 o’clock).

“If we were dressed like leprechauns, we’d be treated like royalty,” Pierre said.  “We could carry around boxes of Lucky Charms.”

“That’s cool,” I said.  “We could toss people little bags of cereal.”

“Screw bags.  We would throw handfuls of cereal at people.”

“Awesome.  Shower people with freely thrown Lucky Charms.”

There’s a real tightrope one usually walks when it comes to race and nationality that widens immensely on St. Patrick’s Day.  In truth, it probably would’ve been a big hit if we dressed like leprechauns.  People jumped around by the stage, doing their best Irish jigs, and everyone seemed to be having a marvelous time.  All the drinking wasn’t playing up a stereotype, it was honoring one.

That’s a worthy notion, and I drank to it.


It was about ten at night and my buddy TJ pointed to a grate in the sidewalk down a little alley.  We were in Itaewon, where we’d continued drinking since leaving the festival.  “Go down there and puke,” he said.  “You’ll feel better.”

“I don’t wanna puke,” I said, lying through my teeth.  My head felt okay and I was very aware of everything, but my stomach was a mess.  I felt nauseous and bloated, like a pregnant woman or like Rush Limbaugh coming home from a big night out at CiCi’s Pizza.  Throwing up in the gutter might’ve been a good idea, but I chose to go home instead.

Leaving Itaewon, TJ and I noticed two Korean girls staring at us awkwardly on the subway platform.  They were holding plastic bags with food inside, and they came over to us.  “Hello,” one of the girls said.  “Are you laughing at us?”

We were.  The way they were staring was odd and comical.  “Of course not,” I said.  “What do you have in the bag?”


The conversation died shortly after.  We all got on the subway.  TJ and I went and sat down while the taco girls stood about ten feet away.  “I should’ve used the tacos as a conversation starter,” I said.  “It would’ve been the worst attempt to pick up a girl ever.”

“Say, are those crunchy tacos you have there or soft?”

“Hi, I was wondering if those tacos are chicken or beef?  And what you’re doing next Friday.”

“Hey, I couldn’t help noticing those tacos you have.  Did you get hot or mild sauce for those?  Also, what’s your phone number?”

“Maybe I should snatch her taco bag and run.”

“Man, those girls just want to talk to white guys.  You should go over there and give her the taco routine.”

I laughed.  “That’s kind of embarrassing, dude, doing the taco routine.”

“Come on!  It’ll be funny.  Go over there and do the taco pickup bit!”

So I did.  I walked up to the girls and started asking questions about their tacos.  “So, who those tacos for?”

“My mother.”

“Oh, that’s really sweet of you to get your mother tacos.  Are they crunchy?”

At some point, it became somewhat apparent that other people on the subway were looking at me.  I was pretty noticeably intoxicated, talking to a young Korean woman about her tacos in a rather cheeky fashion.  Drunk.  Loud.  Flirty.  I had, really and truly, turned into the stereotype.  100% completely.  If one goal in being here in Korea was to prove the stereotype wrong, I had utterly failed.  I started asking the girl about how she planned to reheat the tacos, and why she didn’t get tacos for her dad, and with every question I sunk my people – foreign teacher living into Korea – further down into the stereotype rabbit hole.

The subway reached our stop and we all got off.  At the transfer point, one of the taco girls headed in the other direction.  She was gone, walking away from us, and as she left, walking quickly with her bag of tacos, another white gentleman approached her and started talking.


Moobs, Mests, Mits, Mosoms


I’ve never been proud of my body.  Most women like a man who has a six pack; I have a visible rib cage instead, which is sort of similar but not.  Women also seem to like a man who has a good butt.  Enjoying a fine posterior is about the only thing women and Sir Mix a Lot have in common.  As I’ve been massively underweight my whole life, my butt doesn’t even exist.  If butts are supposed to have ‘cheeks,’ mine must be sunken.  It’s sort of like this old joke:

So this guy is born with a screw in his stomach, where his belly button is supposed to be.  His whole life he tries to get rid of it but can’t.  Then he sees a hypnotist, who puts him into a deep sleep.  In his sleep, he’s walking through a big field.  He sees a river and some trees.  Under one of the trees he finds a screwdriver, and he uses it to take out his screw.  He’s so elated that the screw is out, he wakes up.  In reality, on the hypnotist’s couch, the screw is gone too, and he jumps for joy, and as he does, his ass falls off onto the floor.

I’ll understand if you didn’t laugh at that.  It’s more odd than funny.  But I digress.  The focus of today’s blog is moobs.  Man boobs.  Or mits, or mests, or mosoms, or whatever else they could be called (I like mosoms the best, personally).  More specifically, the focus of today’s blog is on my moobs, which are rather small, so I suppose they could be called ‘moobies’ or ‘brosquito bites.’  If they grow large, I will find myself saddled with ‘mazookas’ or possibly ‘mazongas.’

As a thin man, developing mosoms came as a bit of a surprise.  I guess it shouldn’t have – all the fat I’ve ingested from my poor diet had to go somewhere.  Clearly, it’s not going to my butt.  I used to joke around and say, right after eating a Big Mac or a half dozen Taco Bell crunchy tacos, “Oh, that’s gonna go straight to my arteries.”  Although skinny, I’ve never been healthy.  My cholesterol is just as high as any other Americans’, and I haven’t eaten a vegetable since Family Matters got canceled.  Luckily, my body has always remained skeletal, like Gandhi or Nicole Richie.

But lately there have been two rather alarming developments, leaving me looking less like Gandhi and more like Kitten Natividad (that reference may be a little obscure – see picture to the right).  I have no idea when this started or how it happened.  About a year ago I first noticed that I was getting a bit chesty, and I chose to laugh it off and assume it would go away.  It hasn’t.  The tipping point for me, or the moment when I realized something had to be done, happened about a month ago.  I was lying in bed with a nice Korean girl.  We were kissing and getting affectionate and suddenly, to my shock and horror, she started feeling me up like I was the prom queen.  I guess it’s the natural reaction for anyone confronted with a breast to want to fondle it.  Things got worse though.  She then took my nipple and yanked my mosom like she was pullin’ on a pigtail.  I didn’t know how to react.  It would have been even more humiliating to, I don’t know, scold her for it (“Don’t pull on my breasts!  My mosoms are NOT toys!”), so I chose to kind of giggle and then tried to refocus things.  The mood, however, was understandably darkened.

That was about a month ago, and since then I’ve been working on flattening my chest.  It’s going okay so far.  I’m doing a lot of pushups and have recently gotten a membership at a new gym (Yay!  The card swiped!).  The gym has this one piece of equipment that works out the pectoral muscles.  I secretly call it the “Breast Reduction Machine” (or BRM) and spend a good amount of time on it.  Although I still have brosquito bites, I think I’ve gone down a solid cup size.  I’m kind of like a feminine version of Benjamin Button, losing my breasts as though I’m going through some sort of reverse puberty.

Right now I feel good.  Confident.  I’m not sure what the future holds, but as long as I never end up breast feeding anybody, I’ll be happy.


Fast Times in Boracay with a Finish Film Director


I took a walk down the beach to see the girl in the bikini.  Rusty had advised me too.  “I wonder who is the man she’s with,” he said, gazing off in their direction.  The girl was stunning, with dark brown skin and a perfect figure.  The man she was with was short and round; if she was an hour glass, he was a stop watch with a head on it.  Moving past her, I made sure I got a good look in, then went back over to where Rusty was sitting.

“Yeah, she’s gorgeous,” I said, agreeing.

“I should go to them and say ‘Can I get a drink for you and your brother,’” Rusty said, looking out into the ocean.  “Then, if it is not her brother, he cannot get upset because it is obviously a misunderstanding.”

“It’s probably her brother,” I said.  The sand on the beach at Boracay is soft as powder and I took some in my hand and let it slide out.  “That guy can’t be her boyfriend.  It doesn’t make sense.”

The sun was out and the girl in the bikini ran into the water, where her mystery companion was waiting for her.  “Who goes to the beach with their brother?” Rusty asked.

It was a fine question.  I thought about it.  I would never, ever want to go to the beach alone with my sister.  Especially if she was wearing a bikini.  That would be weird.

I took my shirt off and went into the water myself.  Off to the side I saw Rusty walk over in their direction.  I moved onto my back and floated on the water while the sun shined bright on my face.  “If I could only be like that,” I thought, enviously.  “What I would give to have the courage to go up to someone and just start talking.”  The water was warm and I moved back onto my feet, crouching down so the crests of the small waves decapitated me.  There was Rusty, talking to both of them.  They were laughing.  I wondered what he was saying.

About 15 minutes later, I was back on the white sand.  Rusty came over, lying down, beads of ocean water sunbathing all over his large white body.

“Fiancé,” he said he said through his teeth.


Boracay is a beautiful place.  A paradise.  It’s the place everyone seems to mention when they hear you’re going to the Philippines.  “Going to the Philippines?” they say.  “You gotta go to Boracay.”  Lonely Plant says its White Beach “meets or exceeds all expectations.”  I spent three days there and found it to be the kind of place that pulls you away.  It makes a person start to think, “Hmm, what if I just dropped everything and lived here, on the beach, for however long.  Without a job but it wouldn’t matter.  Without any worries.  Just quit everything and stayed until the money ran out.  Maybe I will.”

And it was at Boracay that we met Rusty, though no one knew what his real name was.  We knew he was from Finland and that he spoke in a heavy Scandinavian accent.  He told us his real name but it was too foreign to remember; it started with an R and so we started calling him Rusty and he didn’t seem to mind that (his real name, it would turn out, was Rostislav).  When I first met him, he sat at our table trying to dry out the cellphone he’d just accidentally gone swimming with.

“It is fried,” he said, shaking it.  Then he launched into a story nobody could make heads or tails of, something about getting drugged at a club and seeing Santa Claus.  He was older, clearly in his forties, stout, balding, with eyes at least four shades of blue lighter than the color of the Speedo he wore.  He was in the same hostel room as one of my friends, and he’d sort of latched onto us, not knowing anyone else in Boracay.  That was fine.  When you’re paying 200 pesos a night for a small bed in a room right off the beach, in a place hidden by coconut trees, where two diseased-looking dogs run about freely and the beer is cheaper than water, you expect to pick up some colorful characters along the way.

At night – our first in Boracay – we piled into my friend’s room, and Rusty showed up with a bottle of rum, some coke, and a bag of ice.  He put everything on his bed and started making drinks.  There was a lovely British girl named Nikita with us.  “I plan on getting cucumbered tonight,” she said.  “Do you call it that in the States?  In England, we call getting really drunk getting cucumbered.”

Rusty raised his drink.  “Here’s to getting ca-coom-bered,” he said.  His pronunciation was so horrible, we all laughed.  “It’s a difficult word to pronounce,” he said.  “Like vegey-ta-blais.”

Much later he’d return, drunk as ever (or perfectly cucumbered), to find that he’d forgotten the bag of ice on his bed.  His sheets, just as his cellphone had been earlier, were soaked.

He went out onto the white beach by himself and slept on the sand.


That night was not a good one for me.  It’s hard to say exactly what happened.  We were out at a club and suddenly I felt apart from everything, like I was invisible or as if I was watching everything on a television screen.  I stood in the corner, covered in nervous sweat, drinking and smoking and pretending to have a good time.  There was something about the place that made me feel sucked up inside of myself.  I didn’t want to dance and I felt extremely out of place.

Rusty was the complete opposite.  He bounced around the dance floor and leapt up onto the stripper pole, where before scantily clad tourist girls had danced.  “He has no shame,” I thought, watching him go.  “None.  He doesn’t care who’s watching him.  In fact, he seems to want people to watch him.”

Apart from Rusty, everyone in the club was about a decade younger than I was.  They drank some red liquor drink called a “Zombie” and danced the night away.  All of them – my friends, the strangers, the Filipino men and women – were vibrant with life, practically glowing.  In distinct contrast, I felt out of place, miserable, not so much like I didn’t want to be there, but like I shouldn’t be there.  I felt twice as old as the place and I left and took a walk down along the beach.  In a dark cove I found two dogs sitting there, looking bored.  I sat down near them and smoked a cigarette.  I tried to look out into the ocean at night but it was too dark to see the water.  Everything was black.

“Sometimes,” I thought, “I wish the whole world was old with me.”

One of the dogs blinked its eyes and its ears twitched.


The next night it rained hard, poured, and we crowded into a huge dance club named Summer Place and Rusty bought me rum and tonic to drink.  It was actually quite good and strong.  When the rain would stop, we’d wander out into the narrow lane between the club and the beach, where prostitutes and police officers hung out.  One old prostitute kept putting her arms around my waist.  Rusty was a puddle, completely sloshed, and he’d giggle and push her away and shout, “Keep your hands off my boyfriend!”

“Don’t joke like that, man!” I said, now trying to push both him and the prostitute off of me.  Around four in the morning we all lost each other.  I was as drunk as I’ve ever been and staggered around, talking to Filipino girls.  The next morning, I woke up in a hut in bed next to one of them.  I could barely remember anything, and the sun was up and there was a statue of the Virgin Mary upright on a table facing us.  The girl gave me her phone number and then started asking me for money, to buy food and for her brother and I’m not sure what else.  My head was spinning.   I opened my wallet and gave her all the pesos I had.  The beach was empty in the morning and I walked down the one lone path to where I was staying, where I bought water and had them put it on my room bill since I had given away all my money.

Rusty was sitting out at a table later on.  He looked depressed.  “They stole everything,” he said.  “I was too drunk.  Ca-coom-bered.  They pick pocketed me.  My cellphone is gone and so is my money.”

I had known Rusty for two days, and in that time he had ruined one cell phone and had another one stolen.  This second one was his phone from Finland.  From his home.  They’d also taken his money.  He shook his head.  He looked defeated.

At dusk, the sun settling down on the beach, tourists piling into restaurants to eat their dinners, Rusty walked back down to Summer Place to talk to the prostitutes.  He told them that if they found a phone from Finland, he would come and buy it back from them.  He had everything in that phone and needed it badly.  I’m not sure if they ever found it, or if they even agreed on how much it was worth.


In his career, Rostislav A. has directed 16 documentary films, most of them shorts.  He made his first film in 1994 and has been working in the Scandinavian film industry since.  In 2002, he directed a feature documentary that was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Film Prize and which won the Jury Award at the Newport International Film Festival.  I got that information off IMDB.  From the independent research I did hanging out with him for three days, I learned that he drinks like a (Nordic) fish, laughs loudly, and is an incredibly fun and charismatic individual.

“There is no clee-max,” Rusty told me out on the beach one day, talking about his film, the one that had won the prize at the film festival in 2002.  “I could’ve made one in editing, but I didn’t.  I wanted it to be true to life.”

The last time I saw Rusty, he was sitting in a bar at night, drinking and watching the Filipino locals play a cover of “Ooh Baby I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton.  I’m not sure what exactly he was doing in the Philippines.  I don’t know what he was going back home to.  I’m fairly certain, though, that he didn’t want to go back home very much.  That we had in common.  I said goodbye to him and walked back to my room, mildly surprised to find a goat with enormous testicles walking around outside my door.

The next morning I woke up, got dressed, and left Boracay, leaving behind the white sand that had, only a few mornings earlier, slipped through my fist like it was falling to the bottom of some wonderful old hourglass.