A Change of Scenery and Glasses

Greetings from the other side of the Pacific Pond!  For the first time in two years, I have finally escaped the concrete confines of soulless Seoul (that’s either an exaggeration or an understatement; I’m too jet-lagged to figure out which) and my hectoring, brow-beating wife.  Despite having gained ten pounds due to overexposure to said phenomena, my face has grown gaunt, like one of Buddhism’s insatiably (facially) emaciated hungry ghosts, the ones with the big bellies, long necks, and tiny throats that make it impossible for them to enjoy what they eat.

Don’t get me wrong:  I thoroughly do like what I eat, especially now that I can eat something completely different, to paraphrase Sir Monty Python.  Not that I have anything against Korean food.  It just gets old after awhile, especially if you forget to refrigerate the leftovers.

Before she released me from her homicidal custody, my wife Jina generously took me to an optician in one of Seoul’s sprawling market zones and bought me two pairs of glasses with money I had earned (generosity has its limits) by trying to teach extra English to Korean children who will probably have to switch to Chinese in a few years anyway, and to adults who presumably already know as much of my native language as they need to get by, or at least enough to fool the boss into thinking they’re fluent.

As for my qualifications to be a teacher, as Shakespeare would say (sorry I forget which character) in King Lear:  “‘Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.”  You might think, by the way, that that play has a slightly unhappy ending, but it could be worse:  Edmund could have ended up usurping Lear’s throne.  I guess Shakespeare was feeling too cheerful to present us with such a finale.

Spoiler alert for those who’ve yet to read Lear; if you intend to at some point, you might want to skip this paragraph:  While Cordelia, King Lear, Regan, Goneril, and Gloucester become fertilizer, Jesus can’t make the Second Coming because they won’t let him through customs at the celestial airport.  He’s not carrying anything especially dangerous; he just has too much emotional baggage.  Crucifixion will do that to you.

Anyway, it’s great to be back in the U. S. A. with Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, who I suppose we should call the Beach Men at this point (soon to be the Beach Ghosts).  My late grandfather would be appalled to see that Old Glory, otherwise known as the American flag, is flapping indolently in the rain like a wet dish towel.  I’m not feeling quite patriotic enough to venture out and rescue it from its saturated fate.  (Un)Funnily enough, I’m also not in the mood to get struck by lightning.  Maybe he’ll bitch-slap me when I get to heaven (a place he believed in, but which for me consists of earthly joys; as for the posthumous variety of elysium, it’s equivalent to oblivion).

He even taught my siblings and me how to fold it so that it looked like a kitschy croissant; I can’t remember if there’s supposed to be no blue showing or no red–either way, white wins, so I guess I was lucky to be born this color, even though it means applying extra sun block when I challenge the elements with my Medusa-like frame (the jellyfish and the Greek chick rolled into one big blob).  Also, man’s inhumanity to man appears to transcend ethnicity, thanks to the power of money and the money of power, so white doesn’t necessarily equal evil (consider Idi Amin or Mao Zedong, part of genocidal fascism’s rainbow coalition), though Caucasians do have plenty of role models within our general tribe if we want to take the psychopathological path.

Folding the flag?  For any readers curious about this particularly American superstition that springs from antiquated narcissistic patriotism (and God bless it, for Christ’s sake), after you’ve uncleated the rope and lowered the flag down the pole, you’re not supposed to let it touch the ground, or else all hell will break loose–if you’re a teenager, in the form of rampant acne.  In fact, if the poor thing does touch the ground, you’re supposed to burn it and go buy another one.

Nothing more patriotic than being a good consumer, right?

Allow me to abruptly change the subject.

I’m grateful to my cousin for starting me on an exercise regimen.  Now all I have to do is stick with it, as tall an order as something off the menu at Windows on the World, the dust-bound restaurant on the top floor of the World Trade Center in New York, a building that appears to have disappeared along with its rectangular twin.

Everyone in my family seems to be doing well.  Those friends I’ve seen so far are thriving (well, not necessarily financially) in the midst of the country’s great economic downfall, just another amputated redwood falling in the disappearing forest of the global community.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to afford flying back and forth, especially since the hairs on my arms are too thin to serve as feathers.  Perhaps Mt. Fuji, which happens to be volcanic, or the lava-hearted Baektu Mountain in North Korea, which wears a lake as a toupee, will take the opportunity one of these days to erupt–not to join in the fun of planetary cataclysm but to unleash ashes in the air in an apparent effort to reverse global warming with a cool blast of sulphuric flatulence, since our species can’t seem to get its act together to do so (and the skies may not be so friendly anymore once we trade atmospheres with Venus).

Since I have no immediate plans to reproduce (the world already has enough madmen to keep it busy), I can afford the luxury of pessimism, if not optimism (don’t depress your children by filling them in on the latest moves in the environmental chess game).  As far as evolution is concerned, my refusal, unwillingness, or spiritual inability to have kids (teaching them is too much fun already) means that my life is essentially irrelevant, which takes the pressure off considerably.

Whew!  What a relief!

So instead I’ll just enjoy my vacation while it lasts, getting reacquainted with the most important people in my life (excepting my wife, who’ll be joining me in just under two weeks in a heroic attempt to ruin everything), and hope it stops raining some time before I have to go back and throw myself into Korea’s blood-chilling, bone-gripping winter and fill my heart–faced with so many unattainable and indifferent beauties amid the mockery of matrimonial combat–with Cupid’s unrelenting arsenal of splinters.

I know what you’ll say:  if you’re having trouble untying the knot, why not lop it in two with a keen-bladed sword?

Thanks–don’t mind if I do.  But remind me not to stick my head up my ass and get married again right away.


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