bed, clothes, closets, countdown, cat, and operation hook-up

The bed gone, we slept Korean style yesterday: two thin mattresses on the floor.  My shoulders did not fair well.  Both of us woke up often.

Piles of clothes lie around the apartment, bastions of chaos that have sprouted in places where I used to drape my jacket, where Nic used to pile her clothes.

The closets have been cleared out; Nic has taken half of her clothes to the donation bin down by the recycling station.  My method is different: wear certain clothes one last time and then donate.  In this way, I can reduce the amount of laundry we need to do before leaving.

The boxes of books and clothes are stacked high, awaiting departure.  Nic seems to think life will be easier if we have everything boxed up and underway by Friday.  I don’t see it happening, but I will concede the point if it means a little less stress and an apartment that has less shit in it.  I just can’t quite wrap my mind around going to the two dinners this weekend in my hiking gear.  When it comes down to it, though, who really gives a shit?  Who have I to impress?

The count: 5 days in Busan.  7 days in Korea.  13 gray hairs in my beard that’ll begin the sun-bleaching process in 9 days.

The cat is gone.  It’s as good a time as any to biographize him here.  As a tiny, 300g animal, he was lost or abandoned by his mother.  HunJong rescued him, brought him home.  The lady cat Uzi (aka Assassin) did not care for the competition for Lindsay-mom’s attention.  In three attempts on Hobak’s life (a couple stitch-inducing attacks on the throat), Uzi achieved the next best thing: Hobak’s removal from the apartment.  One owner said Hobak was not welcome by the other cat.  The next owners went away on vacation for five weeks, but helped him pack on weight; he’s now 4 kilos.  We took care of him and I taught him a few tricks.  I grew attached to the little bugger, a thing I thought I’d never admit.  In spite of his biting nature and general rough-housing, he and I got along well.  I taught him to jump up three feet toward my hand.  He’s a resilient guy.

We’ve begun saying goodbye to friends in earnest.  Though we will see SongJu again on Saturday, we got to see her during a brief break from the work and school she’s been buried in for months.  We went to my favorite galbi restaurant in Jungdong, a popular, clean joint with excellent service, all of which are reasons there was a line almost out the door on a Tuesday night.  On Saturday night, we’ll see her again, but I am trying to play matchmaker between Peter and her.  I hope to have pictures of that night, since we’ll go to the first place I ever had dong dong ju and the first and last place I had bahn-deggi (silkworm larvae).

hiking: a cure for the jaded and anxious

After all that’s happened in the previous week or so, it was imperative to do something that would revive my faith in humanity.  We needn’t rehash all that you can read on the January 22 entry (https://nikoli28.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/217/).  It’s good to know that people are out there doing positive things and enjoying their experiences here, like Jill (http://www.theothersideofthemoon2009.blogspot.com/), who is buying our bed from us today.

Also, from the lack of in-depth writing or even providing much photographic evidence, you may think that our training for Nepal has fallen off.  This isn’t exactly the case; I’ve been jogging, Nic’s been doing a regular cardio program, and we’ve still managed to get out on the mountain a few times a month.  Nonetheless, both Nic and I were a little nervous about the big hike we’d planned for Sunday with Pete.  We didn’t lose sleep, but would our fitness and the old nagging physical deficiencies exacerbate over the cold 8 km day?

The weather wasn’t that cold.  In fact, it was the best day for hiking we’d had in three weeks.  Low winds and a temperature in the upper 30s had us peeling off layers of clothing (including my new windbreaker from REI) before we even reached the ridge.  At 0930, we started at Silla University on the trails where Pete and I used to hike around a couple times a month back when I started teaching at the uni.

By 1030, we were on the ridge where we’d spend the rest of the day trekking up and down peaks, summiting five or six throughout the day.  Along the way, we said hello to the many people, shared our oranges with a group who gave us warm deok (a sticky rice cake coated with powdered red bean).  So many times on the mountain, I’ve received food from strangers (one time, even a couple swigs of cognac to wash down a kim bap).  Most of the time, I don’t care for doc, but the cake was still steaming.  We each had some and were grateful, the fruit and water we packed may have been a little light for the day’s undertaking.

 

Despite our under-planning in the food department, the locals along the way helped us out.  We (meaning Pete, who has more than survival hangul skills) verified our bearings with a friendly woman and we made it, after five hours, to the cable car in Gumjeongsan Park.  As we rode down, I took stock and realized my knee joints were fine since they were nice and warm the whole day.  The muscles surrounding my joints were satisfyingly fatigued and sore (as muscles should be).  Nicole had no problems with her asthma, leading the charge up the last steep climb like a sherpa.

We got to the first warm place we could, ordered home-brewed dong dong ju (rice wine), hae-mul pah-jan (seafood and green onion pancake) and bin dae duk (pork and veggie pancake, firmer consistency than pah-jan).  At my behest, HunJong joined us for these traditional Korean hiking treats so he could talk with Pete about their respective websites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HunJong later departed and we went to a German-style beer hall nearby.  We arrived at 1730, ordered some sausages and pilsner and awaited the Bulgarian band to start at 1900.  Shortly after the band started, the place was packed with Koreans coming off the hill and families who’d spent the day at the largest spa in Asia (Hurshinchong) upstairs (http://www.fnetravel.com/english/pusanhotels/nongshim.html).  Yanick and his Korean friend Andy joined us.  Soon, we were dancing and mingling with the locals.  Nic and I took a twirl in our hiking gear, much to the delight of the surrounding revelers.  Nic even befriended a couple little kids.  By the time we left, we’d been at the beer hall for more time than it took us to do our hike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bullets over busan broadband (or shouts out to a few busan peeps)

Short and sweet today.  Mover of appliances and other big things coming at 1130 AM.  Lot’s of work left to do.  See pictures below.

  • Exercise first thing is what gives me time to organize my day and think about what I am writing here.  Surely, that is what my father is addicted to.  (His running streak as of 1/18/2011: Days: 12,239.  Miles: 64,214.  When it started (3/20/1979), I was only 2 years, 2 months and 20 days old.)  The distractions on the treadmill almost kept me from getting my brain started today.  The only treadmill available today was in front of the blaring news.  The lack of technology in the upcoming experiment will not extend to my MP3 player; while I want to soak up every bit of ambient noise on my travels, I will need, like in Seoul, Busan, NYC, to have some control over when I hear these things.  Anyway, listening to Rush’s Counterparts, I was somehow sucked into watching the local news, trying to figure out what they were talking about, trying to see some footage of an area of town that I knew.  No luck and I was vapid.  Luckily I was able to move to another machine after 10 minutes.  It is for that reason that you read this here, clever title and all.
  • HunJong is my hero.  I will take him out for hue (pronounced in one syllable as “who-way”; it’s raw fish) next week.  It is true that his wife Lindsay “Canuck” Neilands has been just as helpful, but let’s face it: she married her own personal http://koreanhelpers.org/ (HunJong’s website).  While I often feel bad for intruding on their lives, they have both have shown patience and generosity.  HunJong is my hero because not only is he tolerant of needy Americans and munificent with his time, but he also speaks both languages very well and takes great effort to understand cultural differences (which I guess he should, being that he’s moving to Canuckistan in a couple months).  I admire his desire to keep learning.
  • Our social schedules are filling up.  Our celebrity status is a small group, but they all want a piece.  A group of Korean tea party ladies took Nic out to dinner last night.  Tonight, we’ll go out for dinner and a few drinks for Lynsey Bolin-Thorenton’s birthday (one of the few, the proud the truly kind/generous foreigners in Korea; she was elemental to helping me throw Nic’s surprise bachelorette party).  Tomorrow, an early Skype chat with Nic’s parents.  Sunday, we’ll go on a day-long hike with Pete.  Monday I’ll go watch a tape delayed AFC Championship game at Pete’s with a few others.  Next week, dinner with we’ll galbi with Songju (another generous soul); Wednesday, I’ll dinner with HunJong.

Okay, that wasn’t that short.  But, now I must clear off this desk: am moving onto an old beat up table I took from a parking lot a couple years ago to serve as a desk.  Now I must clean out the refrigerator; luckily for us, a neighbor-friend is letting us use their refrigerator while away on vacation; in exchange for feeding their cats, fish and turtles, we can escape the shame of not having made it through our frozen meats; reprieve in the waste management department.  Now it is required that I hang up the wet clothes from the last load of laundry; again, neighbor-friends Sarah McAdams-Hansen and Terry Hansen are giving us carte blanche to manage the emptiness in our lives; their generosity and timing of their Thai vacation is much appreciated by us, the nearly-devoid of stuff.   Now it is mandatory that I sit in my papa-san rocker for one last time.  I will watch Hobak Cat either go stir crazy because there’s going to be hardly anything left to hop up on, or discover a different level of beauty in hard-wood floor skating.

foreigners’ pharmacopoeia (or old man and the sea of salves)

Is an old man’s treasure trove the number of medications he has in stock?  After eating at a dinner party at 4 in the afternoon, do old people compare scars over dessert?  After ancient wound narratives over soft cookies and Milk of Magnesia, do they play that old parlor game Pharmacological Tounge-Twister?  Is the winner of that game the one who doesn’t let his dentures fall into his cup of decaf?  Or is he the only one who just didn’t fall asleep at 7:30pm?  Do the losers go home and prepare for the next lunner party by standing (or sitting) in front of their medicine cabinets and committing to memory the proper pronunciation and purpose of ciprofloxacin?

These may be questions that are at least ten years away for this ancient-feeling young man.  Is it the cold weather that makes this aging 30something creaky and in need of more herbal injections at the acupuncturist?  If cold weather is the root of my problems, I will have great natural relief in the 82 degrees and 80% humidity of Thailand.  But I may be a bit crotchety in northern Viet Nam March and most certainly at 3500m+ in springtime Himalaya evenings.  This doesn’t even account for the world of pain I am in for if Nic and I end up in WI or western NY state or Ohio or Michigan.  (Incidentally, congratulations to my wife for getting an interview for Northern Illinois psych PhD program.)

The bad knees, the wretched shoulder sockets and their blades, and the old nagging injury from car accident whiplash five years ago often flare up in cold weather.  The most severe pain was a paralyzing, knifing pain in my neck last winter upon return to Korea from WI.  However, that could have been from falling asleep wrong on the plane.  But, if that’s that case, I am still in for a world of hurt what with all the flights and other forms of transport I have coming up in the next three months.  Take a look:

Busan to Seoul February 1 (actually this is KTX, so my knees will be the ones to suffer.)

Seoul to Kuala Lumpur (Maylasia) February 2

Kuala Lampur to Hat Yai (Thailand) February 2, 3 (sleeper train, stretch out and pop a sleeping pill)

Hat Yai to Ko Phagnan (island north of Ko Samui, Gulf of Thailand) Feb 3 (this is a bus, so surely my knees will suffer)

Ko Phagnan Feb 4 thru ~12 (therapy of massage and hot weather and bath-like water in which to swim)

Ko Phagnan to Bangkok and points north (i.e. Chiang Mai) Feb 12-27 (train and then busses, lots of busses)

Bangkok to Hanoi March 1 (short flight)

Hanoi-Hue-Ho Chi Minh City March 1 thru ~15 (various trains)

Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phenom Phen, Angkor Wat) March ~15-23 (river border crossing from Viet Nam)

Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi to Kathmandu March 23-24 (planes planes planes)

Kathmandu March 24 thru ~25

Annapurna Circuit Arrival ~March 25 or 26 (bus)

Annapurna Circuit and Sanctuary (trekking and staying in tea houses along the way) ~March 26-April 25

Kathmandu to New Delhi to Chicago O’Hare May 4, 5

Chicago O’Hare to Kewaskum, WI May 5 (the roomy front seat of my father-in-law’s pick-up truck)

I will be popping 650mg pills of Tylenol ER like so much Skittles.  I wonder, though, which body parts will take the worst beating.  My neck will suffer due to looking around at so many new things.  My shoulders and knees will endure repeated trauma from the weight of my pack all full up with our traveling pharmacy.  There is great irony in that.

Will my brain explode trying to keep track of what does what? (No, because Nic has meticulously written down all uses in a little notebook.)  Some may say we have too much, but do I want to be caught on a trail in Cambodia with no recourse for an attack of giardia?

temporary gatekeeper of the pharmaceuticals

Medications strongly suggested by the CDC and Lonely Planet travel guidebooks (All of these may or may not be counterfeit in Kathmandu; the bold faced are the items we already have; the others we will roll the dice on in Nepal):

  • antibiotic eye drops (1 bottle)
  • azithromycin (6 tablets)
  • clotrimazole 1% or miconaole 2% cream (1 tube)
  • pseudoephedrine (20 tablets)
  • diphenhydramine (20 tablets)
  • hydrocortizone 2% cream (1 tube)
  • loperamide (40 tablets)
  • fluconazole 150mg (6 tablets)
  • ciprofloxcin (20 tablets)
  • vicodin (30 tablets)
  • promethazine 25mg (10 tablets)
  • omeprazole 20mg (20 tablets)
  • tinidazole 500mg (24 tablets)
  • acetazolamide 125mg (20 tablets)
  • dexamethasone 4mg (20 tablets)
  • dymenhydrinate 50mg or meclizine 25mg
  • gentle laxative
  • simethicone 125mg (40 tablets)
  • acetaminophen 500mg
  • betadine
  • oral rehydration salt packets

“to do” list, patience and affection

The two words that have emerged in the last couple of days are patience and affection.  The essence of these two words are not that easy to put into action.  There are cars out to smash me, a store owners out to over-charge me for eggs, the same store owner who’s not given me one free thing despite three or four weekly visits for a year and a half, there’s a cat in this apartment who—when not in attack-feet mode—that keeps hopping up on the counter and the kitchen table.  In addition to all these things, there are conspicuously fewer days in which to do all that I want to do before I go.  At the gym, I came up with the “to do” list for the remaining two weeks here.

-Contact Tim in Bangkok

-Call a person in the family daily

-Research movers for big Friday removal of appliances and large furniture; contact them and/or Mia

-Continue changing dates and ages of Toil and Sound characters; read a few subchapters aloud daily to Nic so I can finish another round of revisions

-hard sketches of more scenes in Korea novel; pitch Korea book to an editor

-write a couple more articles about hiking for BusanHaps magazine

-Write today: patience and affection

-read three short books

-Other writing topics in days to come: key chain, autobike (commemorate 17,000 km traveled in Korea with only a couple minor “run-ins,” the progress of killing a character, organizing a mover, Hobak’s story, the difficulties of no internet (worried folks—what’d they do all that time ago before the ‘net?  Job ops; current events; updating and maintaining blog for continued readership), foreigners in Korea, Lars’ approach to parenting/spirituality, the last two big hikes in Korea

-Go to pharmacy

-Take photos of “chalk” outlines of car/autobike accidents.  What other photos?

-Transfer photos from online to hard drive external and then to Flickr

-deliver printer to Pete, push a coat rack on him

-pack up clothes

These are in no particular order, though after writing it all down, I realize I need to prioritize these things.  I am being realistic when I say I will not get to all of this.  However, the more that I take care of before departure from Korea, the easier it will be for me to embrace the concepts—as foreign as they are—of patience and affection.  Also, while in process of ticking things off the list, it is a perfect opportunity to put into practice the realities that face this future dad/homeowner/career-cultivator.  Pop understanding of this would be Zen.

Usually a deep breath and a recitation of the word patience is enough to help me realize that the cars are not out to get me.  Patience.  The man at the mart is just trying to pay for after-school academies for his kids so they don’t have to be cheap-assed store owners when they have a family.  Patience.  The cat called Hobak is just a kid and despite his often annoying nature, he doesn’t deserve the nick-nomenclature fuckerPatience. And most of these items will be taken care of in time.

In the midst of this maelstrom—and all others that preceded and that are inevitable—affection is the easiest way I can see to nurture patience.  A moment in bed or before fixing breakfast to embrace my wife, indulge my senses in all that is “her.”  Mix and repeat throughout the day.  When enjoying Nic’s presence for only a brief moment in a chaotic day, the word patience occurs organically and becomes the image I carry with me when thinking of cursing a car that tried to kill me, mumbling epithets about the cheap bastard as I walk out of his store, grabbing the nutty cat by the scruff of his neck calling him an unjust name.

the junkie within

I didn’t write yesterday.  I didn’t get any exercise, either.  Today, I woke up with a general sense of hopelessness.  I suppose there are worse things in life.

I’ve been known to have a few drinks in my day.  I’ve also had a few too many pieces of pizza in one sitting.  The result—besides hangovers and bloat—is, of course, self-loathing.  Last night while watching a football game at Pete’s place, I didn’t have a drink; however, four pieces of pizza got me to thinking about the words restraint, self-denial, and moderation. These are words I would never associate with myself.  Not for any amount of life-altering time, at least.

And that despondency that greeted me this morning almost kept me from getting out of bed and getting down to the gym; it could just as easily have kept me from writing today.  But then my thoughts would have defeated me.  If there is yet another addiction I have, it is waiting until I feel low and then pulling myself up by my bootstraps.  Just to say I did it.  Or maybe just so I can find something to write about, something to bitch about.

Self-loathing is perhaps the big monster that spawns all these other addictions: internet, drinking, watching TV, eating.  It is because of these things that I find myself  talking—to myself or my unfortunate wife who has to hear it all— about what I want to do rather than actually doing it (in many cases).  When the talking starts, the monster Self-Loathing emerges.

I take inspiration from my friend Pete DeMarco, whose photography, focused writing on expats and their issues in Korea (http://www.koreahow.com/), and drive to truly make something happen in this age where anybody can publish.  The irony of my own project/experiment here on this website is that I will likely need the sort of drive that Pete has and will need to spend hours learning how to better self-promote.  I would much rather just write and let someone else take care of promoting my work, but with the competition out there, to be self-made is to be successful in the age of information.

Addiction or habit—however you want to euphemize it—think about this: What would life be like if you removed a major part of your day?  Would you find the root of so many other problems?  Would you find some sort of fulfillment in an aspect of your life that you never even knew was empty?

When I remove myself to a beach in Ko Phagnan, Thailand, a junk in Halong Bay,Vietnam, a massive temple in Ankor Wat, Cambodia, the Annapurna Circuit in Himalayan Nepal, I intend to remove my addictions.  Starting with internet, of course, other modifications will follow.  It sounds like I am trying to change too much at once.  But the thing is this: I am looking at my life and the world going on around me and people doing unique and extraordinary things to make a difference, if only in their personal lives.  I don’t want jealousy or envy to reveal itself later as offspring of Self-Loathing.

Fact of the matter is that I have a pretty great story to tell.  Also, I have a unique opportunity to experience the world of removal.  Just as self-denial and restraint provide gains in ways that were once before thought unimaginable, it is by completely altering the lens through which we observe the world that everything that is new will have that added depth and richness.

filling a phantom house

This 1200 square foot apartment becomes cavernous.  A wall is empty where the bookcase used to be; the books already packed and lining the walls where they wait to be joined by boxes of clothes and shoes. The sofa has been gone for a week.  This Friday, the empty spaces will become larger: the washer, the fridge, the dining room table, the big desk and the two papasan rockers will be gone.  The side effects of divestiture have begun to set in.  The idea of not having things is liberating; however, the actualities are life-altering.

Life without a fridge, for example, makes me rely on others to feed me.  Life without a washer means I have to hand-wash everything.  Life without a dining table means we eat at the coffee table seated in our beach chairs.  An old table that I found abandoned somewhere will hold my computer and my printer.  The clothes in the closet will almost all be packed up by the end of tomorrow.  The next two weeks in this apartment will be Spartan.  We are hoping against hope that the guy who bought our bed doesn’t come a-knocking anytime soon; I sold the floor mats long ago.

I will approach this as a training session for living out of my bag.  For instance, there is no hurry to send my clothes home, but I’ll soon start wearing virtually the same two sets of clothes.  Also, I’ll wane myself off of home cooked meals, at least the ones that produce leftovers that need refrigeration.  By the same token, I need to take more steps to wane myself off the internet.  The compulsive checking of sites is the result of nerves, boredom and planning; certainly, I am trying to get enough face time with my family before I resort to the one-way correspondence.

Nic will join me in some of these endeavors; however, I see that she is dealing with the trauma induced by the current deletion of stuff project by spending the entire morning filling out our wedding registry, filling the spaces in our phantom house/apartment in some unknown city in Anywhere, USA.  Emptying this house and trying to fill a fictitious one are stark reminders of the many variables that remain ahead of us in this year.

I love her for all the work she puts into this because, as is fairly typical of the male race, I hate shopping; I hate it even more when the options are seemingly endless in the infinitude of cyberspace.  This morning, she made it easier for me by showing me the options for salt and pepper grinders, chef’s knives and crock pots.  Now, she’s researching TVs, and I soon have to weigh in on the options she’ll give me.  LCD?  LED?  Plasma?  LG?  Samsung?  Toshiba?  Hell, I don’t know; I’ve not owned a TV in six years.

nick unplugged (a letter to family)

“Socrates was so hooked on the dominant connectedness of his time—oral conversation—he couldn’t bear to spend time outside the walls of Athens…. A friend showed [him] that putting some distance between yourself and your busy, connected life does wonders for the mind. … Once you recognize that your life will really improve, disconnecting becomes a lot easier.”       –William Powers (from the Opinion Pages at nytimes.com, June 7, 2010)

It’s been about 1610 days since I moved to Korea.  In that time, Ian has started primary school and scored his first soccer goal; Audrey can no longer be cradled on my forearm and is what I perceive as a relatively quiet girl who prefers one-on-one interactions; Lexi was born, grew hair well past her shoulders and can dominate a room like no four year old I’ve ever known.  It was only by pure chance that I was able to hold Ella only hours after she was born last January.

And now, after missing all of these important metamorphoses, you may wonder why I am going to unplug while traveling.  Since the beginning of my Korea-era, I’ve become more and more dependent on technology to try and help with homesickness.  I often check my email more than ten times a day and visit facebook just as often.  While I think Skype and other such technologies have allowed me to keep the most important relationships from crumbling and foster uncle-dom, technology has driven me to distraction; it takes away time from tending to my own spiritual well-being.

I am agnostic and, by definition of this way of life, the idea of ultimate knowledge is unknown and unknowable.  Agnosticism is the ideal I choose because, even though I am often conservative in action (rather than in politics or thought) and often have difficulty with change, I want my perspectives to be challenged.  This is the reason I read widely and try to meet new people.  It is elemental that there are challenges to the “normal” and a constant query of any set of beliefs that I may adhere to.  In this way, I meet the spiritual demand for growth.  Therefore, my Self has manifested and will continue to manifest many times over the course of my physical life.

Currently, I lack balance.  I lack focus.  I lack sincerity in the things that I purport to be most important to me.  What I desire is to better strike an equilibrium between the essence of me and the essence of family and friendship.  What I aspire for is to continue developing my ability to accomplish a writing project in an efficient, powerful and meaningful way.  What I want is to include you in this experiment.

What would become of your personal relationships if you resorted to a letter writing campaign as your only means of communication?  What would happen to your ability to observe the world and your place in it if you completely took yourself out of cyberspace?  With an idea inspired by a series of articles in the New York Times last year, I want to test these questions in a unique way.

I have utmost confidence that my relationship with you will be enhanced if I commit to writing you a letter a week.  It is my plan to sit and write for an hour or so every morning before going off and exploring something new in the places Nic and I will be.  Each time I sit down, I will write to a different person in my family; when I write to you, it will be a meditation, an imagining that you are sitting nearby waiting for me to tell you a story of the previous day and the expectations of the day in front of me.

I do not want to be too dramatic about all this.  You have a life to lead.  You will most likely continue on as you usually do; in fact, I hope you do.  However, if the mood strikes you and you want to respond to me, write an old-fashioned letter and drop it in the outbox bound for Kewaskum, WI.  Upon my return to the States, I look forward to reading and catching up on your life over the three months.

At the very least, I wonder if you would be willing to make photocopies of my letters to you; this will be my way of journaling the trip.  Upon return to the motherland, it is my intention to transcribe my letters to you.  The words I wrote to you will become part of a bigger work.  With a little editing, I want to try and sell this unique travelogue to a publisher.  If it doesn’t get picked up, I will still assemble the journal of letters for your perusal: my gift to you that will complete the word picture of my travels.

Let’s talk soon on Skype.  I leave ROK in 18 days.

the swiss army’s place in my life

Bought a knife yesterday.  Aside from the Phillips-head, which will be used for tightening loose screws on our trekking poles, most gadgets may not find a place on this trip.  Say what you want about my penis, but it had the biggest blade I’ve ever seen on a Swiss Army.  4.5-inches.  The serrated knife was the same length, giving me 9 inches of protection and bread-cutting ability.  Major selling points for me.  A leather punch, a toothpick, tweezers, bottle opener, can opener.  To enumerate the number of ways these tools will be useful is a much shorter list than the extras that seem like novelty.

In spite of my lifelong record of losing Swiss Army knives (and even finding a way to fold the blade on my hand once long ago), I asked Nic if I could be the one who always held it.  Say what you want about my penis, but what if I get in a knife fight in Bangkok?  I’ve got the superior reach and have watched way more movies with knife fights than Nic; it stands to reason that I should be the bearer of this responsibility.  Besides, I am older and have learned from all my mistakes.  A sometimes-short fuse (with no actual violence of action on record) has been tempered over the years.  And the penchant for violent thoughts have been expurgated on the page, therefore diffused in fantastical, gothic realism.  But can you take the media out of the American?

I’ve stated before that there are two kinds of dreams.  One is to be discarded as corrupt; media dreams are nothing but the infiltration of the thoughts and fantasies of some other person or persons.  The other kind of dream is one of pure subconscious desire or fear; the incidents and people therein representing an aspect of the Self.  This is elemental to my belief system.  While it is likely there are rarely these purely “corrupt” dreams or purely “pure” dreams (how can we, after all, really extract ourselves from our environment or vice versa?), I wonder from whence my dream of yesternight came.

After feeling guilt about taking a large hostel room for myself from a poor white Christian family in what reminded me of my old neighborhood in Washington Heights, the husband of the family started sending me text messages and photos of Jesus-related items.  I had other business, though.  I was planning a swindle of the local African-American drug dealer (which makes no sense because Washington Heights is a Puerto Rican neighborhood).  I ran from the drug-hiding spot, at ground-level in some back alley.  I passed the drug dealer; he took no notice of me.  However, I suspected he would put the pieces together and would be following me post-haste.  Suddenly I was on a roof, running.  I stopped and received another Christian propaganda text message from Christian father.  Next I knew, I was back on ground level, slowing up because a multi-racial group of men were off to either side of the sidewalk, calling after me that I was a cop, but they were going to let me keep walking unmolested.  However, one of the guys, a Puerto Rican, took out a switchblade and slashed it through the air, smiling, standing in my way and talking shit.  His buddies told him to put the knife away and let me pass, so he did.  I walked toward him to get past him; he continued talking shit.  I said, “That’s it.  Let’s go!”  And I took out my 4.5 inch Swiss Army blade; he took out his blade again.  We started circling each other, throwing little muay thai kicks at the knees and calves to distract and move in for a slice or puncture.

I woke up, my heart racing.  I had been laying on my left side, Nic was facing me in bed.  I had awoken not because I was about to die (as often happens in dreams), but I had actually kicked out with my right foot.  I don’t know if I actually kicked Nic; I don’t even know if Nic remembers this happening—we’ve yet to talk about it this morning.  But, if I am trying to reestablish communication with my subconscious in order to learn about—and be at peace with—my entire Self and surroundings, what am I to make of this dream?  I head to lands where aggressive behavior is not a part of the culture (Thailand, Nepal).  On the other hand, just like my own country, each of these countries has a past of war and genocide, namely Viet Nam and Cambodia.  Maybe you can’t take the media out of the American, but can you really take the violence out of Man?

the hack gets his hand hacked

Did the medical circuit yesterday and today am the walking wounded and the boring writer.  It’s a reading day.  It’s an editing day.  It’s one of many packing days.

Started the day off with a tea party.  Harmless.  Went to the acupuncturist to try something new on this nagging neck injury, a result of being hit from behind over five years ago in my car.  No treatment been working for a while, so I decided to get drastic: herbal injections.  It’s a three day cycle of ginseng and 20 other herbs and roots.  Only one of the .01 mg injections really felt like a wand fire being put into my neck.

Next up was the dentist.  A standard cleaning with sonic blasters of cold water on my front teeth.  Minor discomfort.  Later in the day, my teeth were sore.

A couple hours later, we visited the dermatologist to zap off some warts on my hands.  Worse than anything in the entire day was the four needle pricks needed for the local anesthetic.  But then I got to watch the doc Exacto-knife the top layer of skin and then get all Star Wars on my viral infections.  The worst one, which is on my right palm near the pinky side, is about the size of a BB.  And a BB could fit in it it is so deep.  I blame this wound for my inability to write well here today.  Also, I will be unable to ride to today’s errands in the balmy 48 degree weather, my throttle hand being tender to the touch.

To round out the day, we spent an hour and a half getting the prescriptions for travel, the most important being the preventative medicine for altitude sickness.  My wife is pretty amazing at organizing in such a logistically sound manner, all things completed before rush hour began.

Better writing tomorrow, I hope.    I wonder if it’s the warts that I no longer have that gave me my powers of writing.