In the Night of the Heat

I just checked the temperature here–it’s 30 degrees Celsius at 4:30 in the morning.  That’s about 94 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Google’s calculations.  In other words, it’s a trifle sweltering.  No wonder I can’t sleep.  (One of my students told me last night that the mercury in thermometers in his hometown of Daegu climbed to 39.9–a record, he said.)

Another thing that’s keeping me up may be the fear of death.  The pains in my chest and left arm are getting more acute, not to say cute.  I don’t want to die yet, but hey, you can’t have everything.  (As Steven Wright would say, “Where would you put it?”)  It’s my own fault for taking ibuprofen for recurring prostatitis, even though I’ve read that the stuff is murder on your heart.  Unfortunately, it’s also the only over-the-counter medicine I’ve found that does the trick, only I have to take a lot of it to address the pain.

On a cheerier note, I just read an uplifting paperback (first you lift it up, then it lifts you up) called Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss.  On the cover It has a picture of a fat, laughing Buddha (possibly Dogen), whose pendulous man-boobs and prodigious gut mirror my own.

I generally steer clear of self-help books (the Lord helps those who don’t help themselves to self-help books), but this one has its merits.  (Isn’t it funny that Merit is a cigarette brand?  Maybe people who smoke Merits think they’ll become more virtuous that way.  Can the power of positive thinking cancel out the life- and health-canceling side effects of a bad habit?  Hey, you never know until you try.)  I’m also a sucker for books on Buddhism written by westerners (y’all know Buddha was a cowboy who rode on a horse made of lotus flowers); they tend to be more accessible than those written by easterns, excepting the works of Thich Nhat Hanh, who, for all his charms, tends to repeat himself ad nauseam (sorry for using that pretentious Latin phrase so often–it’s one of the few Latin terms I know; remember when George Bush Senior’s vice-president went to Peru and said, “It’s great to be here in Latin America; I’m afraid my Latin’s a little rusty”?  He was one of our funniest national administrators, until Bush, Jr. came along with his phallic imperial straight man and humorless misanthropic sidekick, otherwise known as “the monster who would not go away.”)

Anyway, Prentiss says that in order to be happy, you should approach every misfortune or setback with the response, “This is the best possible thing that could have happened to me.”  The book is essentially a demonstration of the proverb “Every cloud has a silver lining.”  And as cheesy or corny as that may sound (why do so many Japanese and Korean people like to put corn on their pizza?  Hello, Kitty?  Is it me you’re looking for?), the author makes a fairly persuasive case.

So if I do have a heart attack today, I’ll try to make the best of it.  At least it might help me lose some weight for a change.

For some reason when you buy painkillers at a drug store in Korea, they’re sold in packets of ten for two or three bucks.  You have to peel off the aluminum-plastic backing from the polyurethene  (fuck it–I don’t know how to spell that puppy) bubbles that house the gel caps without spilling them all over the floor.  I have to be careful to keep them in the box or I risk cutting myself on the sharp edges of the medicinal egg sac when I reach for them in my backpack.

Another kooky thing about Korea is that they have door handles instead of knobs, so it’s easy to catch your belt loop on one and accidentally give yourself a wedgie.

The holes for the plug-prongs in the electrical outlets in my apartment are positioned diagonally, so you have to turn the plug at an angle before inserting it.

These days because it’s so hot and I spend so much time schlepping back and forth from one class to another, I also go through three or four boxer shorts a day to avoid getting a rash.  That means I have to do my laundry at least once every two days.  Yesterday I forgot to remove some Kleenex that had been in my pocket, and when I started to hang the clothes on the rack, little bits of the stuff went flying everywhere.  It took me several attempts to clean it all up.  First I daubed the floor with a wet piece of paper towel.  After that I put on ear guards and vacuumed.  Then I gave the floor the once-over with the paper towel.

My wife’s awake, so I must adjourn.

Thanks for reading.

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