Biting Through Meat

The sound that is made when you are biting through your own flesh is a little like that of thick rubber being torn. It’s wetter, and when you hear it inside your head, it’s kind of terrifying.
I bit a hole about the size of a dime deep into the top of my tongue, near the centre, the other day. I don’t know how the hell I managed to do it. I was eating some soon-dae (potato noodles spiced and stuffed into pig intestines, with boiled, sliced organ meat on the side – tastier than it sounds) when suddenly the molars on the right side of my mouth met a bit more resistance, there was that odd sound, loud enough that my wife beside me started and stared, and the hot, salty flood started. No pain, not right away.
I went to the bathroom and let a mouthful of blood pour out — a real Wes Craven moment, which made me once again wish we could afford that digital camera I want — and had a look. Great meaty flap, deep hole, reddish-black blood gushing out. Cool.
I hate doctors, so I applied ice and didn’t eat for a few days. The nub of flesh that pokes up out of the scar and the crater beneath it will be with me for life, I suspect. This is, in its way, good.
The sound that the small bones in your foot make when they break are not so much a crunch as a crack, startlingly loud. About 3 months back, I drove the corner of a doorjamb between my third and fourth toes on my left foot as I walked calmly into the bedroom to get the ironing board. Broke both toes, and a couple of bones in my foot as well, judging by feel. I did the ‘apply pressure/apply ice/elevate above your heart’ routine to minimize swelling, and bound the toes together.
I hate doctors, so I self-medicated, went back to work the next day, and limped around for the next 6 weeks or so while my foot slowly changed colour. I don’t think some of the bones set properly, and the area is still a little tender if I poke or prod it the wrong way. This is, in its way, a valuable reminder to watch where the hell I’m walking.
I’m not sure precisely what led me to my wholehearted loathing of the medical profession, although I do have a few ideas as to the antecedents.
My hometown, an island of a couple of thousand brave and drunken souls isolated in a sea of trees way up in the part of British Columbia where the map merely notes ‘Here Be Monsters,’ was served by an odd, sullen, ragtag crew of medical practitioners over the years I grew up there. Most were South African, and were bound by contract to be there in order to get their residency in Canada. How much our town benefitted from the Immigration Department requirements that doctors migrating to Canada spend their first few years dealing with family violence and alcohol-related injury in the Boonies was debatable, perhaps. Still, they were a novelty, with their funny accents and poorly disguised, simmering resentment.
I particularly remember one Vietnamese doctor who was, in fact, one of my favorites (and a rarity in a town where there was precisely one Asian family – the Chinese folks who ran two of the half-dozen restaurants), and who, thanks to his redneck comedy gold inability to pronounce /r/ and /l/ according to my expectations, precipitated one of the funniest conversations in which I have retrospectively been involved when he handed the 10-year-old me a plastic cup and a small wooden ice-cream spoon and asked for what I swore was a ‘stew’ sample.
One of the various medical mistakes, blunders, and life-threatening f–kups (back before the first thing I did upon injuring myself was Google up some advice) that I was either the victim of or a witness to was, for example, my bottomless prescription for tetracycline (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) as a teenager, intended to combat the Aetna-shaming eruptions that my face and body produced. Not on-and-off, but on, for years, nonstop. My body, strong as it is, is still paying the price for that. And this was in the early 80’s – not before medical thought had come around to understanding that continual massive doses of antibiotics might just have a deleterious effect on the patient overall.
My step-father, who pulled Dad Duty from not long after my father died until about 20 years later, died, I am certain, as a direct result of the interactions in the cocktail of drugs prescribed by his doctors — by this time another ragtag gaggle of Africans, mostly — but not after going quite mad beforehand. Or if not bibbledy-bibbledy mad, so far sunk into full blown paranoid delusions that it was painful to carry on a conversation with him on anything but the most trivial matters.
My current step-father, ‘Ol’ Number 3,’ a tough, boozy, no-bullsh-t ex-cowboy, experienced runaway heart fibrillations and tremors and pitty-patting for more than four months this year, to the extent that any kind of physical labor would sometimes make him lose consciousness. This was deeply embarrassing to him, and made life extremely difficult for him and my mother. He visited the docs over and over again, several times a week, a situation made more difficult by the 140 km of unpaved road between the fishing lodge where my folks live and the nearest town. Bamboozled, they merely scratched their heads in confusion, and ordered more tests. Finally, after months of this, unable to take it any longer, he just stopped taking his meds (including the new ones the doctors had prescribed), and the problem simply went away.
(There are more stories, and I’m sure you have a few too. C’mon – share!)
To hell with doctors. They can keep their pills and their guesswork. Unless I need a limb sewn back on, I’ll be taking care of myself. This attitude draws great chagrin from the wife, who is a big believer in the power of The Doctor, like most Koreans I’ve known, who tend to run in panic to the nearest doctor (and Korean doctors are a worry in and of themselves, let me tell you) if something flies out of their noses when they sneeze.
I tell her that whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I’m certain, as she shakes her head in annoyed bemusement, that in her mind she replaces ‘stronger’ with ‘stupider.’
I can live with that.

Japan Rocks Part Two

Part One can be found here.
Back to the capsule hotel I went, almost skipping with glee. I dropped my shoes in a locker this time, dropped the locker key at the front desk, retrieved my wristband key from one of the desk clerks, and rode the Super Fun Luxury Lift to the 6th floor. I figured I’d drink a couple of Asahis, then go exploring.
Back at the room, I closed the accordion door, climbed the metal ladder into my top-bunk capsule, leaned back, switched on the TV that protruded organically from the plastic wall of my coffin, cracked a can, took a deep and almost orgasmically satisfying pull of my long-anticipated Asahi, set it down on the little extruded-plastic shelf to my right, grinned and sighed.
Pushing a little metal chicklet set into the airliner-like control panel cycled me through the TV channels on my 7-inch monitor. There were a couple of scrambled stations in the line-up, tantalizing, flickering shards of heaving pink and purple meat, the audio tracks for which were subdued sighs, gutteral man-grunts, and the occasional squelch. Either the Abbatoir Channel, or The Legendary Japanese Porn, apparently. The girl at the front desk hadn’t been taught how to say ‘You want porn with that?’ in English, I guess. I was briefly disappointed, but I figured drinking and smoking were vices enough for a short 12 hours in-country. No big deal, and although I can’t say that I wasn’t curious, I also wasn’t curious enough to go down to the desk and ask, possibly in pantomime, please may I have some porno?
I spent the first beer fiddling with switches (something from which it is apparently in my genetic code to derive great pleasure), channel-surfing, adjusting the air-con nozzle just-so, and the second beer watching some kind of top-20 countdown of neat shops and restaurants in (I believe) Tokyo.
It was time to explore a bit, I reckoned. Also, I had to take a crap. You know how that is.
There were a few more guys around, sitting in front of the pedestal ashtrays in the smoking lounge near the elevators and getting drinks from the vending machines, than there had been before, and they were all wearing identical pajamas. Ding! A light went on, and I suddenly realized what that pile of cloth had been, the one I’d dumped on the tiny desk in the room in my rush to climb up into the capsule and play around. I went back to my cubicle, stripped down to my boxers, and put on the 3/4 length jammy bottoms and v-neck top. They actually fit pretty well, which surprised the hell out of me. I am not a small man, and I’ve been lifting weights again for the last couple of months.
Suitably attired, and feeling like a million bucks, I made my way back to the toilets. You could have eaten off them. No, seriously. If there’s anything I like better than a cold beer, it’s a clean bathroom. I blame my mother for this minor quirk. She’s a very clean lady.
Attached to the side of the porcelain pot was one of those electronic bidet machines that are getting so popular in Korea, but that everyone (or possibly just me, I don’t know) associates with weird Japanese poophole fetishism. I’d never used one, although I’d tried the low-tech variety of bidet in Europe when I was travelling there, with, shall we say, mixed results, usually involving too-cold water and Extreme Scrotum Tightening. (“Next up on ESPN : EXtreme Scrotum Tightening! Brought to you by Asahi Beer!”)
The angelic choir descends!
I was feeling adventurous, and mildly euphoric from the first couple of Very Large Cans. After nature had taken its course, I centred myself, as it were, chose a button at random, and pressed it.
Wahhhh-ahhhhh! The angelic choir descended, I’m telling you. The portal to a new world opened briefly, as water warmed to a perfectly refreshing temperature cascaded and burbled playfully around my grateful sphincter. It was pure bliss, for about 20 seconds.
Aware that it would sound a bit strange (and that I might be arrested) if I were to just sit there and hit that button over and over again for the next several hours, like the wirehead monkey hitting the button for the electrical jolt to his pleasure centre, oblivious to the world, I reluctantly patted dry and padded out, casting wistful glances back at the stall. Maybe I’d need to do a #2 again later. Maybe. Hopefully.
Walking with a new spring in my step, I hopped on the elevator, and rode up to the 11th floor. As expected, the shower facilities were well-stocked with towels and lotions and unguents of all sorts, spotlessly clean, and brightly lit, in a welcoming, warmly incandescent kind of way. Not only that, but there was a sauna, all marble pools and steam and cascading water, which I vowed to try in the morning, if I had time.
Steamy. Where are the nekkid wimmen, though?
The restaurant on the floor below was similarly excellent in appearance, with a bar and a menu card chock-a-block with enticing-looking dishes. beer.gif
I had an appointment with 6 more rapidly warming cans of beer, though, and beer trumps food, always. Besides, the shouted greetings from the employees anytime someone came in the door, as in Korea, put me off.
Back in my capsule, butthole absolutely singing, I cracked another can, and switched the TV on. It was about almost 9pm by this point, and although I had to get up in less than 9 hours, get on a flight back to Seoul and convince immigration that they should let me in again with no visible means of support, I was feeling frisky, if not frisky enough to do anything but drink in bed.
That’s when Japan suddenly became the Greatest Country In The World, a status for which, in my mind at least, it had already been building a good case for candidacy.
There was a show on for about an hour that involved really goofy costumes, senseless violence, public humilation, sumo wrestlers, fat guys dressed like sumos wearing Elvis wigs and riding motorcycles in quarries, more random violence, and it was the funniest.thing.evar. No, really. Dumber than dumb, but beautifully so, if you know what I mean. One segment involved one of the fat shameless guys wearing a radio earpiece and acting out the instructions of his controllers in front of a department store, which would be less funny and more of The Usual TV Crap if the people watching weren’t Japanese. That somehow made it comedy gold for me, as did the fact that half the time you almost couldn’t see the poor guy through the crowds of onlookers, every single one of whom was pointing their mobile phone camera at him, snapping digital pics like no tomorrow. I laughed until tears came, and that doesn’t happen often, dour bastard that I usually am.
But for all the fun inherent in that program, the moment of truth came afterwards. This is primetime Saturday night, keep in mind. The show, which lasted two hours or more (things got a bit fuzzy there towards the end), was called The Poetry Bout.
It was a tournament, with the loser of each two-person bout knocked out and progressing to the next round, of Poetry Reading. Poetry! On a Saturday night! On TV, with flawless high production values, in front of a rapt and appreciative live crowd! With (what I presume were) celebrity judges and just-plain-folks, singly and in groups, in bars and homes, butchershops and schools and street-food places all over the country, via live video, giving their own commentary and votes for the winners of each round. The contestants were anywhere in age from middleschool to retiree, male and female, some eliciting laughter, some tears, some a kind of liquid silence, all clearly in love with language.
It was riveting. I didn’t understand a goddamned word, but I was glued to the set, rooting for my favorites, for a couple of hours and several more of those Very Large Beers. As the winners of the preliminary rounds went on to challenge winners of other heats, I began to become familiar with their style, and was surprised for example when a happy funster would change strategy, and pull a change-up with a poem all serious and heartfelt, instead. This, the beer was telling me, was the way poetry was meant to be appreciated – not on the page, all dismembered and nullified with dead-soul dissection, but as music, incomprehensible, glorious music, in front of a crowd that laughs and cries and farts along with the poet.
And, you know (apologies in advance to Dan, if you read this), I f–king hate poetry sometimes, unless it’s being subverted by someone like Buk. This is how much I liked this show.
The final round, although some of the oldsters and art college types had put in a good showing, was between a teenage boy and a teenage girl. She, I think, for no real reason that I can tell, was the better poet, but he frequently made his listeners both laugh and shed a tear in a single poem, and, although shy and involuted, was clearly their favorite.
When it was over, I had to go out to the lounge and smoke a cigarette, and think about what I’d seen. It seemed to me if as I’d seen something about Japan, no doubt glamourized and stage-managed and cheapened in the way that television does, but something that I had not expected. I couldn’t imagine the same thing happening, or being watched, in Korea, where the fake, the maudlin and the sentimental trump the real as a matter of policy, and though that’s what Canada may be like in my distant, half-fantasy memories of the place, I know for truth that the latest tits-and-explosions import from America is more likely to be greeted with enthusiasm there.
This wasn’t a niche show, for intellectuals and fruitbats – there were people from all walks of life watching this thing, cheering and high-fiving, of all ages, and it didn’t look like they were doing it to the insistent flashing of APPLAUSE prompters, either.
I stayed up, smoking in the lounge and finishing my last couple of beers, and thought about it a bit, and decided that I would have to write about it, start writing yet again, because, damn it, I realized that I wanted to be one of those poets too, up in that ring, and I wanted to try and make people laugh and cry with my words.
And so here I am, back in the saddle. I hope you like my poem.

Japan Rocks Part One

Japan rocks.
No, really. I have a few friends, virtual and otherwise, over there, and they are quick to jump up the ass of anyone who’s drunk the kool-aid and open their umbrellas. You know the type of travel-fanboys I mean, and my friends love to hate – men, mostly, who go to or end up in Japan to find something that they’re missing for some reason, something they can’t find wherever they are. These guys tend to fall in love – with the mythos, with a woman, with the culture, with the history, ex post facto or otherwise – and either sooner or later begin to buy into the casual Japanese certitude that the Japanese are just better than you. Better, stronger, faster, with tentacle and dismemberment porn that makes the next best tentacle and dimemberment porn offerings look like Curious George Goes To The Hospital. These fellows tend, in time, to become those annoyingly smug expats-in-Asia who are determined to overlook anything unpleasant in their adopted home, to blame the outsider, to spout platitudes that regardless of their high-minded elegance come down to ‘it’s not better or worse, it’s merely different.’ You know – the kinds of guys you want to bust in the f–king chops half the time, if only because they speak the language better than you do.
So, anyway, these friends of mine who’ve been in Japan for many years, they tend to have little patience for the kind of rah! rah! Japanophilia that I’m about to display, and for that I am profoundly sorry. All I can say is that I only spent somewhat more than 12 hours there, and the bulk of that was while I was slightly inebriated, so how much of the bad stuff could I reasonably have seen? I haven’t drunk the kool-aid, but I did drink the beer.
After getting rectally roto-rootered by my last employer and not finding another reasonable job before the contract term expired, I had to make a visa run and come back on a tourist visa, and the cheapest flight I could get was to Fukuoka. Sitting at the superb, gleaming new Incheon international airport, I noticed a flyer from Onse Telecom that said that wireless broadband was available in many of the departure gates, and if you didn’t have a laptop to take advantage of it, you could just come over to the desk and they’d give you one, for free.
This I promptly did, handing over my passport and getting a snazzy Samsung laptop in return. Good deal. I went back downstairs to the Burger King beside Gate 30, bought my first greaseburger in a few months, fired up the computer, and went surfing. I tried searching a bit for some hotels,but quickly got bored and just figured it would be groovier to do my usual trick from back in my backpacker days : show up with no pre-planning whatsoever, and see where the fates and random quantum flux took me. Instead of being prudent, I spent the next while posting snarky comments at Metafilter, until boarding time. It was about 4:30 pm, and my return flight was for 9 am the following morning.
A bumpy 90 minutes or so later, through red-lit thunderheads and millefeuille nimbostratus, across gut-levitating canyons of air – my favorite part of flying, those landscapes of cloud – we were glidepathing down into clean, green Fukuoka. It was overcast there, too, and more than 30 degrees, but I was pleased as I stepped out of the plane to find the air free of that horrendous fug to which one grudgingly becomes accustomed in Seoul.
I made my way through customs – the guy finding it odd that I only had an overnight bag, and amused when he found my two cup ramyeon packages inside – and straight to the hotel booking desk. Everyone on the various fora I’d checked before I’d left had said that the women who staffed that desk spoke excellent English, and were invariably helpful.
The girl there spoke English alright, but, in that annoyingly reticent way in which the Japanese break bad news, informed me that there wasn’t a single goddamn room left in the whole city.
Ah, sh-t.
She gave me a list to try and call myself, and after a few unsuccessful attempts punctuated by those pregnant silences that I was already starting to figure out were the Japanese equivalent of ‘sorry, buddy, you’re screwed,’ I figured I’d just have to wing it.
The shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, the subway two stops to Hakata, the centre of the action in Fukuoka.
By this time I was feeling a bit gritty-eye tired, sweaty, grumpy and increasingly sure that I was going to end up sleeping in a seat at the airport and looking like a rumpled rummy when I tried to get back into Korea the next morning. I’d done worse, years back when I had the youthful energy for travel hijinks of that sort, but these days I’m more into the Good Sleep than the Amusing Anecdote.
So I started walking around Hakata Station. The first five hotels I dragged my ass into knew what I was going to ask before I asked, and were already shaking their heads, politely, by the time I’d gotten to the desk and asked it. The two guys behind the desk at the sixth actually chuckled a bit at my stupidity – by this time I was drenched, both in sweat and by the steady rain that had started to fall, red-faced and getting extremely grumpy indeed – and I was about ready to give up and try the 5-Star (and probably more expensive than my plane ticket) Hotel Nikko.
I went into the 7-11 on the corner, bought a pack of cigarettes, and had my first sober smoke in more than three years. That helped.
As I did so, I noticed that the place across the sidestreet from me was a lobby of some sort – Hotel Cabinas Fukuoka, it said! ‘Cabinas? Capsule hotel? Yes! I’ve been wanting to stay in one of those since I first heard about them!’ thought I. I looked around for about 5 minutes trying to find somewhere to get rid of the cigarette butt – the streets were clean, and I was damned if I was going to mess them up by doing anything worse than dripping sweat on them – and then shuffled, chafing and praying, into the lobby.
One of the girls at the desk took one look as I stumbled into the lobby and – politely, mind you – said ‘Shoes…shoes please!’

No shoes, dumbass!

Great. My first faux pas already. You were supposed to take your shoes off at the front door, before you even got into the lobby! That would have made more sense in Korea, where horking up throat oysters on the street is an Olympic-level sport, and wearing your mucous-encrusted shoes inside would definitely be unhygienic…but fair enough. I backed up to the door, quickly, mumbling ‘sorry, sorry’ while the couple of Japanese guys in pajamas in the lobby eyed me suspiciously for a moment or two, then went back to their newspapers.
I took off my shoes, came back to the desk. “Do you have any…umm…spaces?”
I almost kissed her when she said “Of course!” and pulled out a laminated menu showing two kinds of capsules – one in a little room of its own, and one set into a locker-like bank of them, 2 high. Even the ‘deluxe’ was well under the price I had expected to pay for lodging, and I immediately and gratefully pointed to the bigger one. It was 4300 yen – about $50 for the night, Canadian. Woohoo! There’s some beer money, right there, thought I.

Rack 'em and stack 'em

She took my details and my cash, showed me the locker room off to the side of the check-in desk where I could put my shoes, gave me a plastic wristband with a key attached, told me about the sauna and showers on the 11th floor and the restaurant on the 10th, and wished me a pleasant stay, all in accented but excellent English. She was prettier than heck, too. Things were looking up.
This place, I neglected to mention, was nicer than most $200 a night places I’ve seen in Korea. Brightly lit, impeccably, spotlessly, surgically, clean, brand new. I’m a sucker for luxury – even faux luxury, to be honest – and although this was to all intents and purposes budget accommodation, cheaper than anywhere else I’d heard of in that city, it was nice. Really, really nice.
I took the elevator to the 6th floor, and through a set of glass doors was a set of corridors lined with capsule-rooms. Each one was a tiny hotel room, basically, with a folding, accordian door panel. Inside were a desk, built into a closet unit, and a capsule unit either in the top or the bottom. Mine was set into the top.

Big Cabin

The capsule itself was a single piece, injection-molded plastic coffin, with a video screen, alarm clock and radio, aircon control, speakers behind either ear, and amidst a profusion of knobs and switches, a large red button labelled in Japanese only, that I thought of as the ‘ejection button,’ and was sorely tempted to press, later that evening.
I pulled shut the accordion door, doffed my sweat-soaked business shirt and tie – I always fly with a tie, and find it helps to smooth my way through immigration – pulled on my old friend’s band (‘MARY’) t-shirt, and went on the hunt for beer. Nobody even looked at me. No stares, no ‘Oh my god – it’s a foreign devil’ in the local lingo, no double takes or furtive muttering and pointing. None of the stuff, in other words, that I live with every time I leave the house in Korea.
I walked around for a bit, and marvelled at the cleanliness and order of the area. This was beside the biggest station in the city, bus and subway, the sort of area you’d expect to be heavy with The Scuzz, but it was downright pretty, by night at least. I imagined living there, and somehow managed to do so, as I often do, without concurrently entertaining any discouraging notions of work or budgetary constraints or anything of the kind. In my ‘let’s imagine that I live here’ games that I unfailingly engage in whenever I happen onto somewhere nice, reality rarely intrudes.
Back to the station I wandered, after that short look around, and although none of the 7-11ish convenience stores had had any beer to sell, to my transient chagrin, and there were none of the vending machines I’d heard so much about, there was a little hole-in-wall place that had a cooler full of beer, that I somehow navigated to flawlessly once I’d booted up the beer-radar, as if I’d been following the map to the Pirate Treasure. Big black gothic-font beery ‘X’.
I am inordinately fond of Japanese beer, especially Asahi. I’d been all a-drool all day thinking about it, after endless months of choking down the Korean swill that passes for lager there. I bought Eight Very Large Cans, just to be sure. Better to have too much than too little is my thinking when it comes to such things. The girl behind the counter didn’t even bat an eye. I was beginning to love Japan by this point, with a love deep and true.
As I left the station, there was a band busking outside the entrance. It is possible that my recent successes in securing lodging and sweet sweet beverages was rosying up my outlook a bit, but i swear they were the best band I’d heard in years. This judgement may also have been due in no small part to the fact that they were also the first band I’d heard in years. (There are no buskers in Korea, good, bad or otherwise. Beggars, yeah, who somehow can afford mobile freaking karaoke machines into which they wail their maudlin songs, lying prone on the ground, wrapped in black rubber, presumably entreating passers-by to give them some money so they’ll shut the f–k up. Never mind, I’m getting sidetracked…) A friend was passing out flyers, and they were called Chaba, and their website is here. After a couple of songs, a couple of cops came up and good-naturedly shut them down, and though I was tempted to follow them and listen some more, I had a whole bunch of cold beer gently sweating in a plastic bag, and I was thirstier than hell, and had to be on an airplane in approximately 13 hours.
Part Two, in which I wear pajamas, drink beer and listen to Prime Time Poetry in a language I don’t speak, and love it, is here.

Goin’ walkabout

Well, it’s that time again, friends and neighbours, for the wonderchicken to take a wee break, I think. Adventure awaits, or if not adventure, then at least a new home and some new faces.
I’ll see you around the usual watering holes, virtually, but I won’t be writing here, at least for a while. Hell, I haven’t written anything worth reading in weeks, I know. I need to have some more stories to tell (though I’m far from exhausting the old ones) and I need more stories to hear too, but I won’t be ready to tell all of you those stories in turn until I’ve felt the sun on my face a bit, and blown the proverbial carbon out of the valves with some Mekong whiskey, or some compressed air down on a reef somewhere, or some dangerous and ill-advised antics in the Bad Side of Town, or maybe just a simple change of scenery.
Then again, I might change my mind and post a semi-inebriate screed or a philosophical ramble or two in the intervening weeks before we land – somewhere – again, so check back once in a while, if you’re so inclined.
But life calls, and I’ve always been one to shake off the dust, pull up my drawers and leap – all floating hair and flashing eyes – into the fray when I hear the call. I’m afraid, a little, but excited too, and feeling the pull of the open road. Wish me, wish us, luck.
See you soon. Ish.


Not much interested in weblogging per se at the moment – busy firing off resumes and such, and trying to work out the logistics of the next few months.
Australia is still the primary plan, and everything looks good for a triumphant return, but given that my last visa application with immigration there took 11 months to process, alternatives need to be considered in the interim.
Happily, I’ve already been offered a job at a government school here :


Well not that exact spot on Koh Samui precisely, but Surat Thani, which is the nearest city on the mainland to Koh Samui. About one hour and two dollars, and you’re there. Paradise.
And apparently the beer’s cheap too.


I’ve wanted to visit that part of the world since I knew it existed, and to be able to live and work there for a while would be, well, sweet.
The wife is firmly against it. The standard Korean mythology (not entirely inaccurate, given what I’ve heard about Korean husbands’ predilection for patronizing the sex trade) is that the primary reason one goes to Thailand is to indulge one’s need for commercial f–king. She’s also not big on sun and surf, and the pay would admittedly be minimal. I am lobbying fiercely.
We shall see how this one plays out. In my mind, I must admit, my bags are already packed. Unless something much much better presents itself, this seems like too good an opportunity to pass up.
Remember what I was saying last month? Life has a funny way of opening doors as other ones are closed, doesn’t it? I love my life, as hard as it may be sometimes.

Life Gets Interesting

Well, I’ve just been told that I’m not going to be offered another contract at the university, despite the fact that the students have consistently rated me as the best intructor there, four semesters running, and there was no indication whatsoever that this might happen. Directive from the President (a friend of someone of influence who would rather see me gone), apparently, which is not to be disputed. Looks like I backed the wrong pony.
Ah, petty politics.
This development does however give me free reign to make fun of them, which I will, you can be sure, but not right now.
This makes life interesting, living as I do without a safety net. As I’ve hinted, though, my great and good friend back in Sydney has offered me a job recently, which I tentatively accepted not two weeks ago. There are a few visa hurdles to be jumped through, but I’m confident we can do it.
I have always found that when I’m having difficulties making a decision that might change the course of my life for the following few years (as I seem to do at 2 or 3 year intervals), something happens to make the choice perfectly and indisputably clear. Diamond bullet between the eyes.
I just hope the visa application goes OK, or else I’ll be well and truly rooted. I’ve got about 6 weeks to sort myself out before I get kicked out of Korea, since they’re not really interested in the continued pleasure of my company if I’m not going to be A Good Worker anymore. Timing is always a problem when you’re bouncing around the planet, and not rich.
Right. Eyes to the future, and fingers crossed….

Where you at?

I’m aware that the past week has been the longest unannounced hiatus I’ve taken from posting since this site started. Apologies to those who are left feeling out of sorts and mildly irregular in the absence of regular doses of wonderchicken. Life is happening, which is often a good thing.
Off to the DMZ this morning. My plan to moon the North Koreans on the other side of the Joint Security Area would have my companions a bit worried, if they were aware of it. I will maintain a tight security cordon.
Let’s hope the Bouffant-boy Brigades don’t pick today to march southwards for glory, conquest, and decent food (not to mention loose shoes and a warm toilet seat).

What do you do?

You ended up working for people you hated, and you found the massive inflow of cash thrilling but completely unrewarding. You felt like you had pissed away years of your life building some inconsequential piece of software that would never see the light of day anyway. You felt an urge to actually do things for people, to do something that might leave a mark of some kind on someone. On anyone. Something that felt real, or at least realer than the corporate office-politics circle jerk that had turned your sense of work as play into a daily grind as your friends quit, or were made redundant, or just gave up and waited for the foundering ship to finally sink. Endurance counts the most, Bukowski always said, but you were just too damn tired of spinning your wheels 80 hours a week, and getting shunted to the sidelines by incompetent technocrats who felt threatened by you. So you left your freakishly high-paying job, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. People thought you had taken leave of your senses.
And you went back to a place you had publicly reviled, a place you’d spent hours (days? weeks? months?) complaining about, a place in which the swarming multitude of infuriating details that assaulted your senses on a daily basis had driven you to drink for all the wrong reasons, a place where in weaker moments you felt sure that you’d had some of the life drained out of you, unrecoverable, into the smoggy night. But to a job teaching again, chasing the noble dream again, at a university, poorly-paid, yes, but where you could make a difference, you thought, where you might see in the eyes of your students that your labours were appreciated, that you would, at least by a few, be remembered. Where much of your time would be your own, and you could stretch out, grow your mind, cultivate your soul.
Dreamer. Pretty soon, predictably, you grew weary of that, too, and wondered what the hell would ever make you content.
And now, there’s an offer on the table to go back, reverse the clock, and join the racing rats once again. You’re sorely tempted, and you are annoyed with yourself for being so easily led. And afraid that if you don’t grab the ring again, don’t say yes each and every time to the possibilities life offers you, that life will stop offering you those chances, fold closed the kimono, and it will all be over.
And you realize, in your confusion and doubt, that all you really want is to go back to that bamboo hut – the one in Fiji, or the one on Flores, or the one on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, or the one you have kept in your mind like a mantra manifested since you first hurled yourself out on the road – the one on the new-moon arc of powdery sand, beneath the coconut palms, the one you’ve dreamed about over and over again. You can almost picture yourself sitting there again, deeply tanned, drinking a beer, the good hot smell of your own baked-off sweat, the dried-seawater tautness of your skin, natty dread, nothing going through your mind other than the colour blue, a deep and throbbing hum, and a set of gentle animal hungers. In the moment.
And then the phone rings.



I’m feeling one of my periodic bouts of knee-jerk anti-intellectualism coming on, during which I customarily have a tendency to gibber and howl, slap my belly and dance and drink and sweat and swear and look at pornography, so if the next little while amongst the bottles is characterized by determined, single-minded stupidity and you, dear reader, find that to be either annoying or contrary to the Loftiness of Blogocratic Discourse and the general air of ‘I’m-smarter-than-you’-iness we occasionally see around the blogs, I invite you, o kind and gentle soul, to either crack a beer and play along or, you know, go away and come back a little later. It’s party time!
“The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it I’d be ashamed of myself.” – Noam Chomsky
“The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the nonintellectuals have never stirred.” – Aldous Huxley
“What does it matter how one comes by the truth so long as one pounces upon it and lives by it?” – Henry Miller
“Every man with a bellyful of the classics is an enemy to the human race.” – Henry Miller, again

Nyah nyah


Out of nowhere this evening, I remembered one afternoon many years ago when my friend Rick’s and my paths had crossed – in New Zealand I think it was – and he asked me what I’d been doing for the last couple of years, expecting one of my 6-beer-long monologues.
I paused, said the first thing that came to mind : “Tuggin’.” He laughed.
Deliberately dumb, that exchange became a shorthand ritual in later years when our travels would bring us back together in the same place for a day, or for a week.
“How’ve you been?” he’d ask. “Tuggin’,” I’d reply, and that would be that.
It was our code to signify that it didn’t really matter how long we’d been apart, that the thread of our friendship could be picked up again without missing a beat, no matter how long the time intervening, that we were more often than not men without women and not too worried about it, and that the telling of tales could always wait until we’d had a bottle of wine or three.
I remembered that this evening, and then I remembered that it wouldn’t ever happen again, because he’s dead. God damn it.

Erections Are Sometimes Quite Pleasant

Spring has sprung in Seoul, and the last few days have averaged about 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for this time of year; the prevailing winds from the East, which are unusual and have not only encouraged the blossoms to open but have cleared away some of the smog to which I have reluctantly become accustomed, well, those warm, cheek-tickling breezes have also made me hornier than a three-peckered billy goat, as my colourful character of step-father is given to say.
Perhaps it’s just death that has me tumescent. Apparently that happens, sometimes. Regardless, sex. Mmm, sex.


“Then we send a few guys downtown to rent all of the war movies they can get their hands on. They also buy a hell of a lot of beer. For three days we sit in our rec room and drink all of the beer and watch all of those damn movies, and we yell Semper fi and we head-butt and beat the crap out of each other and we get off on the various visions of carnage and violence and deceit, the raping and killing and pillaging.


Now is my time to step into the newest combat zone. And as a young man raised on the films of the Vietnam War, I want ammunition and alcohol and dope, I want to screw some whores and kill some Iraqi motherf–kers.”
excerpt from ‘Jarhead – A Marine’s Chronicle’

I said this, before :




You f–king primates. Kill each other until you’re all dead, grind each other’s bones to make your bread. Swing the infants by their heels and shatter their tiny skulls on the doorjambs of your hovels. Kill! Hate! Let it never end! Swear blood feuds, and carry on the senseless slaughter of your fathers’ fathers, and their thick-fingered simian fathers, too. Bathe in the blood of your enemies, before they have a chance to caper like children in arterial gouts of yours. Cleanse the world of your hated foes, yes, that’s it, ethnically cleanse. If there are any women left alive, don’t forget to rape them, and rape them hard. Slitting their throats after you’ve spilled your filthy warrior seed is optional, but recommended. Kill! Lay waste! Wreak havoc! Defend the honour of your people, sink your hands deep into the warm entrails of those you would destroy as they cough out their last curse! Kill!

Just hurry it up, already. I’m waiting to dance on your unmarked graves, you cheeseheads.

I’m too f–king weary to get as worked up as I was when I wrote that little rant about some-f–king-war or other, so transliterate if you must, my friends. Turgid, purple and mildly embarrassing, sure, but better than nothing, right?
Better than embarrassed, embattled, uncertain silence. Better than a sad and defeated realization that no matter how intense the outrage born from a meaningless commitment to steer one’s course by what seems ethical and right, the stupidity and hatred and killing will just keep rolling on.
Let’s Roll™!

Fiddle-farting around

I’ve been farting around with a sorta-new design, and your comments are welcome. Gooder, worserer? Look weird with your 5 year old browser?
I’ve done some checking with the latest Mozilla, Opera and IE versions, and it looks OK, but I’m too damn lazy to do much else. If it’s egregiously broken on your browser/OS combination, I’d hate love to hear about it, though. After having been patted on the head from a number of places around the web for this current design (which was never intended to be, like, flashy or anything, but was just what came out of my head when I was thinking about what I wanted the ‘bottle to look like), I’m hesitant to slap up something that blows or sucks or otherwise moves air about in an unpleasant fashion.
But I feel the need for a spring cleaning.
Thank you for your kind patronage.
(Edit : Also, as some small compensation for your debugging assistance, I offer you this, which is way cool, if you like stuff like that. I do.)


Oh, yeah. I’d almost forgotten about all the hoohah, but I noticed yesterday evening that I didn’t win that Bloggie I was shortlisted for. Whew. Thank the galloping gonads of jehovah for that small mercy. An honour to be nominated, of course, yadda yadda, bikkety-boo, *thud*.
“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”
Groucho Marx

For Sale

My folks are looking to sell Tchentlo Lake Lodge, a wilderness fishing lodge they own and run up in northern British Columbia, where I visited them over Christmas. I’ve put up some information about it here, and if you or anyone you know might be interested in buying it either as an investor or owner-operator, please feel free to contact them.
That gave me a mild feeling of accomplishment, throwing that together. It’s rare that I actually feel like a good son.

[excised strip-bar reference]

Steve and Alex have revealed their novels-in-progress, and I know some other friends and neighbours are girding their loins to do the same.
I’m just drunk enough at the moment to be tempted to open the kimono too on the humble beginnings of my thus-far-unrevealed (except to a few blogly amigos) semifictional tale of the vida loca del pollo magnifico, but it’d be deeply embarrassing if it sucked, so perhaps I’ll just wait a while on that….
I’m still trying to figure out if I stole the cheeseriffic title, which has been circulating in my brain since the early 90’s – The Night Smells Like A Dog – from the Beatles of Surrey, No Fun, or if they stole it from me.

The Same, But Different

Anger, denial … etcetera etcetera. What are the four stages one is meant to go through in dealing with tragedy, according to some pop-psych pantload or other? I can’t be bothered to look it up right now. Let’s just say “…inebriation and distraction” to round off the quartet, shall we?
For someone who has experienced, if not more than his fair share, then at least a not insignificant number of deaths in his small family over the years (father, brother, all the grandparents, step-father, and more, all before I was 25, for goodness sakes), the loss of my old friend Rick hit me much harder than I could have expected. In the decade or so since I’ve lost anyone really close, I’d come to think that I’d grown blasé about dying. Apparently I was wrong.
Going back to Canada for the first time in 5 years over the past few weeks, though, wandering around British Columbia, seeing old friends and what’s left of my close family, drinking a bit, listening to and telling old stories : this has been good. I have a lot of old letters and cards to reread, and a lot of memories to dust off and cherish, and I look forward to coming back to writing on this site with renewed enthusiasm and a richer sense of who I am and what I want. I’ve spent far too long running from my past, glorious and madcap as much of it has been, and I’m beginning to realize that I am an imitation of a man without it.
I mildly regret announcing a month or two back, when I put this site on hiatus, that I wanted to refocus it somehow, to use it to do some good in the world. That desire remains unchanged, but I’m aware now that it’s not the site that needs purpose, it’s me. And with that awareness will come, I hope, some decent writing, some worthwhile ranting, and a site that people will want to visit again.
And some more fart jokes, of course.
To friends old and new who only became aware of the ‘bottle during the tragedy in October : I’m returning to the catch-all journal-weblog format that is the normal thing ’round here. This site was not created specifically to honour Rick, it was pre-empted, and although the tributes and laments will remain, here, it is time for me to move on. I hope you’ll understand.

Life, she's a bitch

You know that book I mentioned that I was writing a while ago? No? Ah well, bear with me.
So I started writing this book a couple of weeks ago. Figured I’d do the Nanomowrimomo thing, or whatever the f–k it’s called, and just barf out the story unadorned. The story that’s been percolating around in my head for about 7 years now, the mostly-true-with-the-names-changed-to-protect-the-innocent tale of booze, madness, sex, drugs, and rock and roll on the high seas that those of you who know me In Real Life have heard me reminisce about when well-watered.
It’s been a few years since I’d heard from or about any of the principles in the tale, and I’d pretty much given up hope of ever tracking any of them down, gilded-caged as I am here in Korea.
So who do I hear from yesterday after years of being ‘long-lost’? One of my best friends on the planet, the mad bastard who more than any other helped me transform myself from an overcautious wannabe into a two-fisted beery swashbuckler, the guy who plays the starring role in my Nautical Tales Most Edifying, my brother by dint of shared joy and grief, Craig ‘Pancho’ Oliver.
So the book’s back on the back burner, while life, happily, intercedes. But if I do finish the book, I hope and expect it will be richer and more rewarding for the reminiscences that me and my long lost amigo will be sharing over the next while.
Welcome back, mi hermano, even if you didn’t feel as if you were lost.



I’ve never been good at mental multi-tasking, and I’ve got this other super-secret double-extra (yeah, whatever) thing I’m working on at the moment, and it’s distracting me away from the posting of the amusing entries at the mighty Empty Bottle.
So go read the archives, my friends. As opposed to the chew-toy mastications of those purist ‘weblog’ wanktards, my old nocturnal emissions actually have some value beyond a pointer to the chronistic equivalent of Mahir or All Your (admittedly amusing) Base… hooo-hah!
No really, there’s some f–king gold back there in the foothills, honest to cheese-topped goodness. Laugh, cry, wet your pants : it’s the Disneyland of Weblogging! Lotta crap too, but Sturgeon’s Law, nicht wahr?