Heaven Is Just A Cliff-Jump Away

My wife Jina believes that people who kill themselves don’t get to go to heaven.  That’s awfully nice of God to punish them further by consigning their souls to hell after their lives have been just that (otherwise why would they go to the trouble of offing themselves?).  I wonder if they can tell the difference between life and death.

“Oh my God, I’m still in hell.  I thought it was supposed to end after I killed myself.  Hey Satan, could I please have a refund?”

Yesterday in church Jina forced me to stand up in front of the congregation and sing a hymn about loving Jesus with the rest of our Sunday school-teaching staff.  Now don’t get me wrong–I don’t dislove Jesus; it’s just that singing a love song to a man–and a long-dead one at that–feels wrong somehow (with a small “w”).  Maybe I’d feel different if it was to Shakespeare. I heard he was a switch-hitter so he might get a little too turned on by it if his corpse could still budge.

Next thing you know the pastor will be in cahoots with Pfizer and they’ll be passing out Viagra during the eucharist in a quixotic effort to resurrect the dead member of the Lord’s charismatic cadaver.

Sorry–I’m brain-damaged.

Anyway, when I say Jina forced me to sing along, I don’t mean she used a gun or a handheld crucifix the way you would to fend off Dracula.  She just resorted to her trusty, tried and true method of emotional blackmail, drawing me aside to say if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get to teach the Sunday school class anymore (although I’m more of a glorified babysitter than a teacher), or guide the old men through the treacherous waters of English in the dictation after lunch from one of their ludicrous modern religious texts laden with glib tripe, or–and this was the one that broke my resistance, since I was broke–get to tutor two of my Sunday school colleagues for fifty bucks a week.

As with the last time she coerced me into parading my phony faith in front of the true believers, exposing my humiliating hypocrisy like a slimy bug lodged under a rock lifted by God Himself before He raises his sandaled foot and crushes the quivering, squinting insect, I refrained from making eye contact with anyone in the congregation, and mumbled my way through the hymn.

I was also even more out of breath than usual, thanks to being exceptionally out of shape, and to the pestiferous plague of toxic dust blown in from China that had parched my throat and stung my eyes over the past twenty-four hours.  (Mercifully, the wind blew most of it away from the time being, though it took all day and a precipitous drop of the temperature to execute the environmental exorcism.)

I belted out the treacly lyrics with all the fervor of a mummified Egyptian, exhaling tiny mushroom clouds of desert dust.

And I raised neither my eyes nor the corners of my mouth when the whole mortifying charade was over.

That didn’t stop people from congratulating me for my Elvisian performance, including the pastor himself, who had the gall to mention me by name to his rapt listeners, as Jina translated for me how he was delighted I could “rejoice” with the rest of them.

In fact, I rejoiced so much that yesterday I took twelve hundred milligrams of ibuprofen to quell the pain of prostatitis, along with a thousand milligrams of acetomenophen (fuck if I can remember how to spell it), and 300 mgs of something called doxyprofen, which is like iboprofen, only stronger.

I’ll let you know which internal organ explodes first–my stomach, kidney, prostate, brain, or heart.

Who knows?  Maybe the whole thing will happen in sync.

I’m sure that would make God smile.

And if Jina’s wrong, and he doesn’t exist, maybe I’ll finally be out of pain instead of in it–and to hell with heaven.

Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.

Life is only a cliffhanger until your fingers finally give out.

Then you drop dead.

Hostages Of The World, Unite!

Sorry I’ve been out of touch.  I had a hangnail.  Actually, I did have a nasty case of stomach flu last week, but at least I got a lot of exercise getting up several times throughout the night to dry heave my soul into the toilet, where it belongs.

My wife has been in full-on harridan mode lately as well, an enervating phenomenon (I was going to write “development,” since it harmonizes better with “enervating,” but since she’s been in harridan mode off and on throughout our fifteen hellacious years together, it’s not exactly an accurate choice).  I just don’t know how to appease her.  Neither the Neville Chamberlain nor the Winston Churchill strategy seems to work.

Defeat is the answer!

I share this computer with her and the screen has gotten so gunky–probably from having been manhandled by her primary school students–that it’s hard for me to see what’s going on.

Anywho, before signing on I read a sad post on the blog onlypeaceandlove about Kayla Mueller, who I assume is the woman who was recently beheaded by ISIS, ISIL, IS, the Islamic State, or whatever it’s called.  (Fellas, you seem to be having a branding issue.  Pick a name and stick with it if you want to market your product of indiscriminate mayhem and ghoulish bloodshed.  I used to live in a bloodshed when I was a little boy.  My pappy taught me how to finger-paint political messages there.  Sorry–I’m in a sick mood.)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the point in an organization going out of their way to deliberately execute not only innocent but likable, sympathetic, exemplary people (which means at least I’m safe) as a way to promote their cause (sorry to belie the “indiscriminate” factor mentioned in the previous paragraph).  Why can’t they be like the Slim Reaper and just use Predator drones?  The remote-controlled missile-firing aircraft is mightier than the sword–and more expensive (this message has been brought to you by McDonnell-Douglas Incorporated, and is also compliments of Raytheon and a big wet smooch from Lockheed-Martin, the most lovable and affectionate weapons-makers in the world today, our dear friends who are keeping the world safe for hypocrisy and extortion).

When I was a little boy, one of my favorite nursery rhymes came from a book my brother and I all but memorized (although I eventually went on to forgetize it) entitled The Best of Sick Jokes:

“I love life and life loves me.  I’m as happy as can be.  A happier man nowhere exists.  I think I’ll go and slash my wrists.”

I just found the contrast between the can-do optimism of the smiling man in the cartoon that accompanied the rhyme and his casually dismissive twist of despair hilarious.

Little did I know at the time that the joke would become something in between a mantra and a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Although I’ve never attempted to commit suicide in any concrete fashion (but hey, the night is still young), my choice of spouse was downright suicidal–not that I can say I dived right into the arrangement without considerable prodding–and the years we’ve endured together have not only ruined my health, but made me question the possibility of ever finding happiness–or even sanity–with anyone else.

(The enforced-happiness aspect of the rhyme I’ve discovered both by living in the U.S., where cheerfulness is mandatory, and by being a teacher of Korean students, many of whom seem to think the best way to answer a smile is with a scowl–or, more precisely, an inscrutable face of stone.)

I can’t pretend to understand the pain my wife personifies, but Murphy’s Law being what it is, I can safely predict that although I’m probably better suited to find a new mate after our marital nightmare ends, I’m so far gone I’ll be lucky to survive another ten years, which means I won’t be able to get front row seats for the apocalypse 😦

(That’s the first time I’ve ever used an emoticon, and probably the last as well.  Under the circumstances, I couldn’t resist.  Does anyone know if I need to put a period after it?  Who can navigate the treacherous waters of emoticon-related punctuation?)

My wife, on the other hand, will be an old maid, untouchable as far as her misogynistic culture is concerned, but she’s made of sterner stuff than I am, so she’ll probably live to be about a thousand years old, chronic aches and pains notwithstanding, lonely and guilt-stricken, flagellating herself endlessly in the nickname of Christ (Little Jeezy?).

Posthumous revenge may not be as sweet as the kind you can live to enjoy, but at least it’s something.

Sorry to see Jon Stewart go, and right on the heels of Stephen Colbert.  Who will be there to pick up the mantle of sacred satire?

By the way, I want to apologize for comparing myself in an earlier post to the heroic cartoonists who sacrificed their lives in the name of free expression working for Charlie Hebdo.  I’ll try not to be so pretentious next time, not that it will be easy to contain my flatulent blue whale of an ego, illusory as a soap bubble though it is.

Have a good day and a nice weekend–and make sure to smile, but only if you feel like it.  Remember, it’s hard to laugh your ass off and frown at the same time.

I’ll leave you with one last joke-let from that long-lost book of evil gems:

“Mommy, Mommy, Daddy just got hit by a car!”

“Don’t make me laugh, Gladys.  You know my lips are chapped.”

The Storm Before The Calm

Last Sunday after my holy colleagues and I dispatched our lunch, while I was groaning on my haunches, trying to reassemble my scrambled vertebrae, the geeky pastor who’d be harmless if he weren’t a skilled manipulator of toddlers’ tender young minds distributed documents to us teachers (I don’t know why I’m counted among the teachers since I don’t believe in God, don’t understand Korean, and would prefer to let all the kids go out and play instead of wasting their time listening to a lot of high-falutin’ fictitious pre-masticated infinitely recycled mumbo-jumbo) and went over them with us in detail.

My wife Jina had somehow escaped the proceedings (not that, unlike me, she’d wanted to), and I couldn’t understand the pastor’s mumbled explanation of where she’d gone.  I took it she had other pious duties to attend to, like giving Christ a tetanus shot to prevent his ghost from being infected by those pesky nine-inch nails.

Since the deathless text, edited by God Himself and jizzed upon by Jesus to invoke his seal of approval, was written in Korean, a language that remains incomprehensible to me, I was under no obligation to either read or understand it, at least in my view, the only one available to my eyes when it comes to these infinitely mysterious, somberly ludicrous matters.

In my case, the dorky pastor’s kindly presentation likewise fell upon trampoline-like eardrums, even if it was digested more tenderly by the Korean teachers, who have both the wherewithal and the presence of mind to take these sacred matters seriously instead of responding with a symphony of raspberries and armpit-farts (something that might inspire the children more, and that would be more in tune with contemporary Korean corporate culture, a watered-down Asian version of what’s available in the United States, only that much more sanitized and gutted and lacking in any edge whatsoever–cardboard entertainment with a styrofoam heart).

The stapled document he gave us was no fewer than seven pages long.  Seven pages!  It’s fucking Sunday school, for Christ’s sake.  Next time he’ll give us a list of topics for the kids to write their dissertations on.

Respond to the claim that Jesus was actually crucified at Herod’s department store.  Provide existing evidence, cogent counter-arguments, and a hermeneutical analysis of the exegetical dichotomy implied by Dorothy the dancing dopy diplodocus.

Korean people generally don’t say much during meals, unless there’s alcohol involved, so most of the sounds produced during the lunch we’d eaten before this pseudo-academic assault involved steel chopsticks clinking against steel bowls and the muffled slurping of noodles.

For some reason–probably just a valiant attempt to break the ice–the pastor asked me about my work.  Although I’m a ham and don’t mind being the center of attention during social gatherings due to gnawing neediness and a morbid desire to be liked even by people I respect even less than myself, it’s not always my bag, and at these kind of manufactured proceedings I prefer to blend into the plastic woodwork and be a fake fly on the wallflower.

But since after three months of financial constipation my teaching schedule is finally starting to pick up, I didn’t mind telling my fellow mortals a little about what I’m doing to make a living these days (not that they’d return the favor, either because they were too insecure about their English ability or since it’s considered impolite to say much over meals in this culture unless everyone’s getting shitfaced–and fat chance that’s going to happen in a fucking church).

When Jina finally appeared--deus ex machina, if you’ll pardon the blasphemy–and please don’t go all Islamic State on my Charlie Hebdo-ish ass–that was my cue to get up and leave, which I did with considerable difficulty, considering we were sitting on the floor.  I felt like someone untied from the rack.

Besides, I had to go dictate a page from a religious article to a group of old guys whose hobby is studying English once a week after church.  It only takes twenty minutes, so I don’t mind doing it too much, and they’re always gracious and appreciative, apart from being condescending due to their choice to be among the chosen.

I felt like asking them, “Why do you guys believe in God?  Don’t you realize it’s all just a bunch of bullshit?”  But I thought it might come across as disrespectful and they could take it the wrong way.  Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, but it’s never done much for me.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s all one long bad acid trip.  I guess what makes it popular is its communal nature, even though that’s the same thing that makes it so corruptible and so dangerous.

Insane, in fact.

I believe in my wife more than I could ever believe in God, if only because she sometimes scares the living shit out of me.

For instance, a couple of days ago she freaked out all over again about my anal-retentive collection of photocopied teaching materials I’ll probably never use again, stored in cardboard boxes in the corner of this room, and the double rows of paperbacks on the shelves, many of which I haven’t even read and may not live long enough to get around to unless I can get my hands on some telomerase (no, thanks; seventy or eighty years, assuming that’s the number I’ve got, is long enough–let someone else take my seat on the roller coaster for a change).

“Get rid of these books or I’ll burn them all!”

Whatever you say, Gregorio Cortez.

As if to underscore her point, she proceeded to hurl them from the shelves onto the floor.  Luckily she stopped short of sabotaging the lion’s share of my library, even though she demanded that I pick the books up and trade them in for cash.

Two days later I chose twenty titles to part with, stacking them on the table and placing them in bags to take down to the bookstore.  It wasn’t easy to do, since there were a few things I would have liked to re-read (for example, Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, Mark Leyner’s The Tetherballs of Bougainvillea, Jonathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Richard Price’s Lush Life, and Antonio Lobo Antunes’ The Land at the End of the World.  There were even a couple I would have enjoyed reading at least once, such as Stephen Wilson’s The Bloomsbury Book of the Mind and Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth.  

(I couldn’t get into Sweet Tooth–through no fault of the author, as McEwan’s a great writer–because I have a mental block that doesn’t allow me to read serious fiction written by a man in a woman’s voice.  I just can’t “hear” the woman’s voice, for some reason.  I have no problem with it the other way around; Gillian Flynn’s Nick Dunne is a convincing narrator in Gone Girl, although I thought the chapters written in the second half of the book in Amy Elliott Dunne’s voice were much stronger.  Maybe we’re all prisoners of our gender to a greater extent than we’d like to admit.  Or maybe I’m just a sexist shithead.

The same thing happened to me before when I tried to read Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha.  Again, a great writer–and a phenomenal creative writing teacher–but when I tried to read it, all I could hear was Golden speaking in a high-pitched imitation of a Japanese woman’s voice, which sounded silly in my inner ear.

As John Cleese of Monty Python would say when asked if the rumors that Dimmesdale Piranha nailed men’s heads to the floor and stitched people’s legs together, “Well, it’s better than bottlin’ it up, innit!  Dimmesdale was a gentleman.  And what’s more, he knew how to treat a female impersonator.”)

When I came home from trading the books in, I told Jina how much the clerk at the store had given me.  She looked at me sadly and apologized, contrite about her outburst a few days before.

But she’s right–I do have to get rid of some more books, because, like a couple of claustrophobic astronauts, we’re running out of space.

(P. S.  I’d like to apologize for the two typos in the previous entry.  I didn’t have time to go back and proofread it before hitting the publish button as Jina suddenly popped up out of the bedroom like a Jacqueline-in-the-box.)

To Each His (Or Her) Own

The other morning as I was rolling onto my back in bed to take the sting out of my left shoulder, I said to my wife Jina, “The one good thing about death is it means no more pain.”

As someone who’s been a Christian “since I was inside my mother’s belly” (remarkable memory some people have), she said, “That’s what you think.  But you’re wrong.”

It’s always refreshing to be outdone by a rival in a pessimism showdown.

The main pain I was alluding to was the one that lives in my right butt-cheek and forces me to sleep on my left side most of the time, although I can occasionally get away with lying on my back, at least until it leads to snoring and nightmares.  Sleeping on my right side is out of the question.  In earlier posts I’ve blamed this pain on an overzealous urologist I saw fifteen years ago, but my brother insists the trauma from such a painful digital penetration couldn’t have lasted so long.  Maybe the wound has never had time to heal due to the demands of the flesh (ironically, the only thing that can make it go away for awhile, while caffeine and delayed trips to the bathroom during sleep are the other culprits for bringing it back).

Jina suggested that I could only save my soul by turning myself in to (versus “into”) Jesus Christ, like a criminal who’s opted to go into spontaneous retirement, say, John Wayne Gacy (what she evidently thinks of anyone born with normal human appetites).

Since I’m constitutionally incapable of ever subscribing to any organized faith–and too much of a misfit to ever belong for too long to any organized anything–I always just agree to disagree, apart from her stern disapproval and fascistic unwillingness to let me think for myself, as if marriage demanded not only giving someone your heart but also the rights to your brain.

“Be logical,” she said.

Whatever you say, Reverend Spock.

“Open your mind,” she continued.

As soon as I can find the key that opens yours.

We ended the discussion by going back to sleep, where we were each able to dream freely and in our own distinct ways, alone.

Everyone Needs A Cliff To Hang From

For some reason my wife Jina said we had to go back to the supermarket the night after we’d just gone there, but not before buying her a couple of new pairs of glasses and me a pair of reading glasses.  The optician must have had a few thousand pairs on display, and I went with the pair he suggested for me right away.  I must say the guy has a good eye, just as I have two bad ones.  Jina’s glasses made her look pretty, so I gave them the thumbs-up.

What happened at the supermarket is a blur.  One thing that stands out: Jina asked me if I wanted to buy a bottle of wine.  The night before (Christmas night) we’d gone out for dinner and eaten barbecued pork, despite having had steak for lunch–gotta keep killing and eating those ruminating mammals–and I’d suggested we order a bottle of soju in order to cut the grease and liberate our otherwise sure-to-be-clogged blood vessels.  Jina balked, naturally, being the type of Christian who thinks that all alcohol is always evil, despite Jesus’ legendary gift of spontaneous red wine creation for his alcoholic disciples.

So you can imagine how stunned I was that she actually initiated a wine purchase, even though she couldn’t stop bemoaning her choice afterwards.

As usual, I pointed out to her the time as it was getting late, but she still had some last-minute things to buy.  Luckily, we managed to catch the last bus at 11:35, then transfer to the subway, then catch the other last bus that took us all the way back home.

Whew!  That was a close one.

I don’t know if I surprised Jina in turn by not having any of the wine we bought before going to bed.  She didn’t seem to notice that I hadn’t opened the bottle.

The following night Jina called me from her school and said we had to go back to the supermarket in order to pick up my new coat. (They hadn’t had the color I wanted in my size when we’d gone to buy it a few nights before.)

“Why can’t we just go during the day tomorrow?” I asked, figuring since it would be Saturday, we’d have plenty of time.

“Let’s just go tonight–please?”

I looked forward to another harrowing adventure of trying to beat the clock.  I agreed to meet her there so we wouldn’t have to mess around with waiting for each other at the freezing bus stop.  When she saw me coming out of the men’s room at the supermarket, she greeted me with a glare.

“Why did you turn off your phone?” she asked.

“I didn’t want to irradiate myself.”

She sighed with a harumph and led me down to the lower floor where they sold food (the upper floor is a department store).

Jina said her stomach was bothering her, so she bought a cup of black coffee as medicine (I know–it wouldn’t have been my first choice either). Then we invested in some ice cream at the nearby Batman-Robin’s ice cream parlor, served by a fresh-faced young woman who transported me momentarily to heaven.  Jina wanted to try some sort of blueberry car wreck, while I went for pistachio; we combined them in the same bowl, although I would have preferred mine in a cone (she had the last word).

We sat down at the food court at one of the interchangeable tables on chairs that were either green, yellow, or orange, near a shiny display of painted steel red-blinking Angry Birds for children to ride on.  They played an incessant electronic ditty that did its best to pulverize my nerves.

I was underwhelmed by the nebulous blueberry & vanilla ice cream, finding it exceedingly bland.  To her credit, Jina was able to detect some flavor in the doubtful formula with her keener taste buds.  She heightened the excitement by pouring a little coffee in the bowl, making an affogato.  Almost immediately she told me not to have any more of the coffee-flavored ice cream broth that was forming around the melting domes of mush.

She got up to buy us another bowl of ice cream yin-yang–this one with jamocha fudge and dark chocolate.  It had a little more pizzazz than the former choice, much as I like pistachio, but she chocolate was too sweet, and its cloying, clinging taste made me have to go get an envelope of water.

Now that she’d miraculously cured her stomachache–at least for the time being–Jina asked me to wait for her while she went to make some final crucial purchases, and pick up my coat upstairs.

Dylan Thomas kept me company as I digested the cold sweet mass in my gut.  I moved to another seat to try to get away from the Angry Birds theme song, but the music was pervasive.  I also noticed the same middle-aged Korean man I’d seen the other night, still sleeping with his head bent over his newspaper so that his bald spot stared at me again.

Jina came back with some sashimi and the coat.  We dug into the fish with our fingers.  I admired the smooth stripes in the flesh of the salmon that reminded me of the patterns of neckties and wood (or wooden neckties).  The wasabi did its sinus-clearing thing and the soy sauce soaked into the strips of fish as they slid down our tongues like happy kids on a water slide to hell.

Jina wanted to buy some more mandarin oranges, so I told her I’d meet her upstairs in ten minutes.  When I said that, I hadn’t been paying enough attention to the time.  It was 11:23.  That meant we only had twelve minutes till the last bus came.  But since she didn’t say anything to correct me, I took off my thinking cap.  Call it the dark side of co-dependency (or symbiosis–whichever you like).

Anyway, I went to use the toilet again, leaving the shopping cart with a store clerk for safe-keeping.  Jina called my name from outside the door and I rushed out to join her, rounding up the stuff and getting my cap, gloves, and scuffler (it’s a cross between a scarf and a muffler) from the locker.  She had packed some things into a box she asked me to carry, while she lugged the bag with my old coat in it, along with the laptop in its carrying case.

When we got outside I put up the hood on the new parka but couldn’t see as the lining blocked my vision.  I felt like an old English sheepdog.  Luckily, I didn’t get run over as we were crossing the street.

We arrived at the bus stop in time to see the bus pulling away, then shlepped to the subway instead.  Two stops later we got out.  Since the box, though small and not that heavy, was bulky and its corners were cutting into my arms, Jina and I switched loads and made our way to the exit.

Up on the street we waited in vain for a taxi.  I told her to go wait on the cross street to increase our chances, but she went out of earshot and I was unable to summon her to come get in the cab I saw with three passengers getting out.  The driver escaped before I could flag him down, and trying to explain the situation would have been too complicated anyway.

“Why did you turn off your phone!” Jina said for the second time that night.

“I didn’t realize you were going to go so far away.”

“That was a really bad idea.”

Note to those considering marriage:  no matter what happens, everything is always your fault.

She said she’d decided to walk home and stormed off in a huff.  I tried to get a taxi for myself for a minute, thinking to hell with her, then thought better of it (but mainly because the prospects of catching a cab looked useless).

I trudged after her, loaded down with the bags and the box (she’d left without carrying anything).  She had paused at the corner of the next block and was keeping an eye out for available taxis.  She crossed the street and tried to flag one down over there, but the driver who stopped for a moment refused her offer.

I finally gave up and opted to walk home with all three items weighing me down, figuring I might be able to make it without having a heart attack if I put my mind to it and used the force.

Deus ex machina–a taxi rolled up beside me and I got in as Jina moved over.  She’d gotten another driver to give her a ride and make a U-turn, and even though the fare for our ride was only 3000 won (which is, I think about US $2.50), she gave the guy 10,000 won for the favor.

I carried all of our things the rest of the way and when we got home rewarded myself with a glass of red wine before going to bed.

The following morning Jina complained about her stomach again.  I guess coffee and ice cream before sashimi isn’t the way to go.

What The World Needs Now

It’s easy to get grumpy when you’re living in a distant land, far from friends and loved ones, and the cold, bitter weather starts to bite your bones.  It’s even easier when you’re stuck in an interminable mid-life crisis that appears to be an end-of-life crisis, and when your whole life looks like a microcosm of the nightmare unfolding all around you, in your kitchen, in the zombie-infested streets, and on the screen where you’re reading about the latest atrocities committed by a bunch of superpowerful cowards and bullies.  (Gotta love those white American cops!)

South Korea is often praised by the Western media for being an economic miracle, and the country deserves credit for transforming itself from an impoverished, war-torn hellhole into a sleek, high-tech, congested, modern one.  For all its miraculous charms, South Korea also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, due to the pathologically competitive culture, along with the biggest percentage of smokers, an epidemic of smartphone addicts, a disturbingly high concentration of alcoholics (no wonder I feel so at home here!), and a patriarchal system that continues to subjugate women, which would explain how some of them have gotten to be so tough–they have to in order to survive.

Since I don’t know the language, it’s easy for me to resort to stereotypes and condemn what I can’t understand, but it feels good, so what the hell.  I’ve mentioned to you before how a lot of middle-aged South Korean men come across as snarling, savage beasts who make gratuitous noises in their throats and push people around with their faces and mouths.  A former female student of mine (meaning formerly a student, not formerly female–that she still is, at least as far as I know) who used to work in a room salon entertaining men for a lucrative living told me that Korean men were vicious to women and unpleasant to be around.

So at least I have some authoritative corroboration to fall back on for my knee-jerk, ethnocentric intolerance.

Speaking of authority figures, did you catch Barack Obama on The Colbert Report the other night?  I have to give the man credit for being a good comedian, which is the main criterion for being a good president.  He has a great deadpan delivery; that’s how he got elected–twice (not that the competition was anything to lose sleep over either time; Al Gore did beat George W. Bush, and we’d probably be living in a slightly less insane world now if the Supreme Court hadn’t stolen his promotion from him, but John Kerry?  I mean, come on.  True, Bush did steal that election too, but Kerry didn’t even put up a fight; maybe he just didn’t want the job.  I wouldn’t).

As a grammar nerd, I derived secret joy from Obama’s mispronunciation of “divisive” (the middle syllable is pronounced vice, not viss) since he prides himself on being an egghead, unlike Bush, who prided himself on being a dunce, along with a so-called decider.  But I recoiled when he closed his sit-down monologue by saying, “We’ll be back in a moment with more from the leader of the free world.”

“The leader of the free world.”  Now there’s a phrase that should be retired at once.  Not only does it sound ridiculously arrogant, but it’s also meaningless.  The world has no real leaders, and it sure as hell isn’t free.

Jon Stewart kindly pointed out on The Daily Show the following night how Obama’s appearance on Colbert’s show was strategically timed as damage control to pre-empt the disclosure to the press the following day of the Senate’s 6,000 page CIA torture report.  You’ve no doubt already heard about the imaginatively sadistic techniques developed at Guantanamo, including the horrific practice of rectally feeding prisoners, all approved by attendant qualified physicians who were in on the gag.

Don’t hold your breath if you think the masterminds behind this grotesque factory of ghoulishness will ever do a minute of time for their incalculable crimes.  Even though they were the product of the Bush Administration, the Obama clan, with the help of human soporific John Kerry, tried to bury the story–alive, as it were.  I’ve heard reports that the Obama Administration has condoned torture elsewhere, though I’d have to look that one up for you.  As funny as the current commander in chief can be, he’s also a terrifying drone assassin who reserves the right to take out anyone in the world he suspects of terrorism, a psychotic privilege he’ll pass on to whoever inherits his shiny shoes, whether it be Jeb the Florexectioner Bush, Hillary Clinton, or whichever other amoral mediocrity can elbow his or her way into the Oval Office with a little help from glad-handing conspiratorial corporate friends.

Finally, let me say in parentheses that I’m sorry about one aggressive thing I wrote about my wife in the previous entry, in which I made an off-color joke about contemplating crushing her skull underfoot.  It was not nice, and I felt guilty about it after publishing the post.  I’m sure if I went back and re-read some of the things I’ve written here over the years, I’d cringe and wish I’d deleted a phrase or a sentence–or even an entire post–here and there.  But I think one of the virtues of blogging is providing readers with the unvarnished truth, and self-censorship can go too far until it reaches a kind of Politburo-like level of redaction.

The other night, during a peaceful domestic interlude, I woke up in the wee hours to use the toilet, taking a book and a notebook with me.  My wife Jina, who’d been up late sitting at the computer, asked if she could go first, not without hectoring me–but in a mildish tone–for bringing reading (and writing) material with me.  I impulsively jumped down her throat and essentially told her to get off my back.

She stood there frozen and started to pout.  I went up to her and noticed that her tired and puffy eyes were starting to water.  I said sorry and gave her a hug and started to cry myself.  We stood like that for several minutes, and it felt good to receive each other with love for a change instead of hate or recriminations.  Too bad we don’t do it more often.

I want you to know that whatever happens to me is my own fault and responsibility, not hers.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to survive the health problems I’ve been grappling with for the past several years.  But her life without me will be hard enough–maybe even harder than it’s been with me–without having people condemn her or welcome her side of the story.  She’s actually a good woman who has made the world a better place, just like Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and the rest of the “We Are the World” gang.

Maybe on my deathbed I can encourage her to start a blog of her own as a rebuttal.

I Want To Sleep In A City That Never Wakes Up

Getting back to our story, in which my wife was yelling at me for devolving into a quasi-freeloader and failing to help her out enough with domestic chores, as she went to remove the pink towel that was wrapped around her head so she could blow-dry her hair in the next room, I hunkered down on my side on the bathroom floor and tried to plug the stove back in so she could finish cooking our lunch.

The outlet was hiding behind a softball-sized hole in the cabinet, the back of which was only about two inches from the wall, so it was tough for me to get any purchase on the sucker.  Instead, I called my wife my favorite rabid pet names, not minding too much if she heard, considering how much she’d been lambasting me just a few harrowing minutes before.

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” I said as she re-emerged.  Surprisingly, she didn’t shoot boiling blood at me from her eyeballs like a horned toad on crack, but instead wordlessly volunteered to take over and managed, with her deft feminine touch, to feed the plug into the outlet while I stood up and contemplated stomping on her head just to break the monotony, along with her skull.

Sure enough, when she pressed the button on the stove this time, it beeped into action, and everything was hunky-dory once again.  Praise the Lord of Technology!

Even though she’d claimed she was in a rush, she found the time needed to cook some tomatoes and consolidate them with the bacon and the onions once they’d finished frying.

Minutes later, we were sitting in an incongruously civilized fashion across from each other at the cluttered kitchen table eating our bowls of brown rice and tomato sauce without attempting to impale each other with our chopsticks.

“I’m sorry I got so angry at you,” she said.

“That’s okay.  I’m sorry I don’t help out enough.”

“I have to learn how to control my anger better.”

One of the criticisms she’d hurled at me before the radioactive smoke had cleared was that I hadn’t changed after all these years (she can blame Billy Joel for instructing me not to).  The funny thing is that she claims that she has changed, having supposedly become more serene, forgiving, and understanding, but I  can’t vouch for that.  If I find a scrap of evidence that she has, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I’d been attempting to release the fluid that was trapped in my right ear throughout the day without success.  Both before and after we finished eating, she told me to hop up and down on one foot (unwittingly paraphrasing Raffi as he sings “Knees Up, Mother Brown”) while holding a paper towel against my ear.  This proved bootless.

(By the way, when I got home from teaching my morning class, she was eager to see me, jumping up and down herself like a kangaroo on a pogo stick.  Talk about mood swings–sheece!)

After lunch, she tried to wheedle me into coming with her to teach a new pair of students, two sisters who go to her church.  I declined.  I was still hemorrhaging internally from her pre-prandial assault, so I opted to stay home and recover–or else bleed to death–whichever came first.

She whinged a bit more and frowned at me through the window of the vestibule, but I refused to yield.

That gave me time to relax for awhile and even take a short nap with the new steam-heating device we bought, a mattress pad that makes you feel woozy enough to snooze successfully.

Later I met her for dinner at an Italian restaurant and it was pleasant enough.  No harsh words or poison-tipped spears were exchanged.  After that we went to a coffee shop where she ordered a cup of black coffee and I had peppermint tea (I usually avoid caffeine in the evening as it tends to contribute to my insomnia).  While she moved pictures from her phone onto mine, I read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse for the first time since my senior year in college, intermittently leaning sideways in an attempt to drain my ear into a napkin.  At one point I thought I’d succeeded.  Suddenly I could hear again.  Eureka!  Shazam!  Hot dang!

But then the muffled sensation returned, and I gave up.

When we got home, Jina asked me to take the frozen bag of food garbage out to the shrine devoted to the garbage gods, then told me to wait a minute while she assembled several plastic bags of paper trash, stuffing the smaller ones into the one large one labelled with Korean writing that proves it’s the product of locals and not some fly-by-night Arlo Guthrie-a-la-Alice’s-Restaurant wannabe.

“Push it down with your foot,” she said.

When I pressed the heel of my shoe against the top, the bag fell sideways.  Jina righted it and said I should try again.  This time as soon as the four flaps of the outer bag hung out far enough to be tied, one of the inner bags burst with a loud pop!

Jina shrieked and said, “Why did you tie up the bags?  I told you not to!”

“Sorry, I forgot.”

(You don’t know how many times I’ve had to say sorry in this marriage.  She no longer accepts my apologies, deeming them disingenuous.)

While I fumbled with the greasy knot in one of the bags, she cut to the chase by ripping hers open and I promptly followed suit.

Since she was still livid and I’d had enough of her temper for one day, after depositing the garbage bags on the edge of the pile where you sometimes see in the semi-darkness resourceful homeless old women gathering cardboard or recyclables to trade in somewhere for cash, I suppose, I went for a walk up the little nearby mountain, even though it was cold.

After all, it was a lot colder at home.

As Sweet Brown would say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”