Hello! It’s been a long time since I’ve entered anything on this space. As Elvis Costello would say, “Oh, I just don’t know where to begin.” First off, my wife Jina and I moved five days ago to an apartment about five minutes away from the place where we used to live. Second, I’m doing three new teaching jobs. The workload itself is on the light side; I’m only teaching three hours three days a week, plus one hour on intervening days, along with a full load on Saturday–today! So much for Saturday being my favorite day of the week.
Before you scoff at what a lightweight I am (and I sit more than stand–nay, lie–accused), the catch is that those three teaching hours I mentioned are in totally different parts of town, so I end up having to commute four hours on those days. Kooky, huh? And my commutes are complicated. The spot where we moved to is slightly farther away from the subway station I need to go to to get to at least two of the teaching jobs, which tacks on another five or ten minutes to the commute. The other day I made the mistake of cutting it too close and leaving my apartment at rush hour, so I had to jostle with the multitudes waiting on the subway platform and wasn’t able to get on the train; hence, I had to wait for the next one, muttering a plethora of expletives for the benefit of the elderly gentleman standing in front of me in line. I didn’t know how to tell him in Korean I had Tourette’s Syndrome.
Also, even though at times she pisses me off so much, pressing my buttons like an ADHD-riddled kid addicted to an alien-incinerating computer game who’s given himself a premature case of carpal tunnel syndrome, or a woodpecker with a chronic case of hay fever who sneezes her way through redwood forests on a daily basis, that I feel like beheading her with a machete, I must say Jina has been much more proactive than I have about moving. She used her engineering genes to construct a cellophane gutter to collect the water that was incessantly dripping from the ceiling of our old apartment, and after we moved into the new place, she didn’t waste any time seeing what needed to be fixed, changed, or replaced, including the skanky-looking toilet seat and rusty toilet paper holder.
Meanwhile I was preoccupied with the demands of tenacious laziness, and though I pitched in a bit here and there, agreeing to unpack the foldable nylon boxes that contained my clothes and hang them up in our wardrobe (luckily, the movers did almost all of the heavy lifting, along with the packing and unpacking, on both ends of the moving process), instead of being a good husband and responding to the clarion call of domestic duties, I mainly shirked and avoided even coming home between gigs. Instead, I dawdled in bookstores, met with some friends on a cafe rooftop and breathed in enough toxic dust to ensure my own infantile mortality, and shot the shit with a fellow foreigner in an all-you-can-eat buffet, quaffing red wine with the leisurely-eaten meal to while away a couple of hours instead of racing home to address the boxes of paper begging to be recycled instead of ignored in their cardboard coffins.
One of my friends and I were dismayed to see that a beloved Italian restaurant was suddenly gone, boards on floors rising halfway up the now glass-less windows. That’s the way things are here in Seoul. Blink, fart, turn around, or look up from tying your shoelace and the place you frequented as a favorite haunt has been replaced by some generic, soulless, dime-a-dozen, overpriced corporate piece of shit. I quipped that if we turned around, the bookstore we’d just emerged from would be missing (perhaps in favor of a combination megachurch/fast food emporium/internet cafe).
Speaking of books, have you read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid? I just read it the other day and was nearly blown away by how well-written it was. It’s a seamless work of fiction about a young Pakistani who gets a job at a valuation firm in the United States and falls in love with a troubled woman obsessed with an ex-boyfriend who died. The story is told in the first person in a startlingly apt voice. It pulls you right in and doesn’t let you go until the end. As the book is only 184 pages long, it will take you no time at all to read. It’s also intriguing to read an account that touches on U. S. foreign policy from the point of view of one who hails from a country whose stability has in part been compromised by American military and “intelligence” hijinks [gotta love those euphemistic dismissals of war crimes in progress–whoopsie, sorry Uncle Sam! Please don’t drag me off to Guantanamo in red, white, and blue chains. And before you say I don’t love America enough, I’d have to contend that I love it a hell of a lot more than someone who’s willing to jeopardize the lives of U. S. citizens by capriciously taking out innocent people elsewhere in an ostensibly haphazard, dysfunctional, and preposterously counterproductive “war on terrorism” (don’t you love that phrase? It’s as ludicrous as saying “crime-fighting criminals,” or “Marxist investment bankers.” By the way, have you heard that the NRA has come out against firearms?)].
I haven’t read any of Hamid’s other works. The novella described above was published in 2007, before drone attacks on his home turf became de rigueur, so the narrator, whose allegiances are jarred by the September 11th attacks, has nothing to say about them. Just so you’ll know that Hamid himself isn’t some kind of fanatical fundamentalist blowhard–the Wahhabi equivalent of Ann Coulter, Bill O’Bile-y, or Rush Limbergher–he did reap the benefits of an Ivy League education, attending both Harvard and Princeton Universities, so I’m sure his own feelings about the United States are conflicted at best.
Speaking of big, powerful countries that do stupid things to other nations trying to mind their own business, the wave of yellow dust that hit Seoul several days ago was the worst it had been since I came here eight years ago. During that time, while I was riding with my wife and her family in their car across the country, trying to make out the mountains through the bird-choking toxic haze, Jina said vehemently, “China has ruined my country!”
From what I’ve heard, China has also ruined China, but I’m only going on what I’ve read on the internet and in books. Please understand that Jina has a tendency to make these kinds of generalizations when she’s mad about something (she can be awfully hard on Japan sometimes too). When it comes to meeting people from China or Japan, she’s invariably a gracious host(. . . ess? Twinkie?). I’ve been to a lot of places myself, and in my experience, wherever you go, people are people. (Except for the ones that are human beings–filthy, disgusting, excrement monuments. Just kidding, Jesus.)
Finally, the other day while we were walking up the hill en route to the apartment of God, during a blissful ceasefire from the usual symphony of mutual hostilities, I asked her if she wouldn’t be happier if she were married to a Christian guy who shared her beliefs. (Never stop planting those seeds.)
She said in a voice utterly devoid of rancor, “No, I don’t think so. He’d probably be even worse than you.” I was laughing too hard–to myself–and shaking my head in disbelief to hear whatever it was she said next, although it had something to do with sinful behavior being hard to eradicate regardless of the doggedness of one’s piety or the unflinching comportment of one’s dogmatism.
The reason I was laughing was not just because the remark was so effortlessly rude–an insult worthy of Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill, or Humphrey Bogart saying something drunkenly and off-the-cuff at a cocktail party to some fawning paparazzo–but due to how oblivious she appeared to be about the advisability of staying married to someone you have such a low opinion of.
Before you go handing me a mirror or a handkerchief to wipe off the egg on my face, one reason it’s been so hard for me to extricate myself from the marriage is her squid-like attachment to my sperm whale’s blubbery integument (a word I learned from good old Melville).
That’s why I’m waiting for Captain Ahab to come along and do me in with an exploding harpoon to put me out of my misery (not to mention hers).
Incidentally, did you know that Jack Kevorkian’s business card read: “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!” (But Only If You Want Me To)?
That’s funny; neither did I.