Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Writing

Those of you that have been reading for awhile may have noticed that I've been posting alot more lately. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I've completed the bulk if my transcribing in regards to my jail memoirs and two novels that I wrote while under the care of the Korean judicial system.

Second, I've recently created a new dramatic situation in my life that actually gives me something to write about.

And third, practice. After a lifelong obsession with drawing, I find writing to be equally obsessive. I like it, apparently I'm good at it, and people seem to like reading it. And really, isn't that what we all want-- approval from our peers, to excel at a skill, and do something you love doing as a job?

I'm far from making a living at this (buy my book or buy my art), but two outta three ain't bad.

There's one more thing, on a much more personal level. In jail, I wrote to keep me sane and to keep a record of what was happening to me. Now that I'm out of jail, I've found that writing every day accomplishes a few different goals. It allows me to think things through and organize my thoughts. I highly recommend it, even if you don't plan on publishing it like I have.

Those little ideas I dream up can sometimes turn into big ideas, like books, or in relation to my usual obsession, a new artwork, or sometimes even a stand-up comedy routine.

Finally, it keeps a record of my life. I've had a pretty interesting life thus far. If I'm suddenly struck down with amnesia or some age-related degenerative disease, I, and my family will have a record of all my accomplishments and failures. No one wants to be reminded of failures, so let's think of them as learning experiences instead. Years from now, my daughter, family friends and I will be able to look back at this and remember. For that alone, it's worth it.

Monday, 29 July 2013

and the drama continues

But I'm not going to go into it too much. Suffice to say I changed a few settings on my Facebook account to avoid the name calling. My sister is a very intelligent person, but get her angry and all she say to me is I'm a dumb asshole and warn my "friends" that if I say and think these things about my own family, then the things I think and say about my friends must be a million times worse. I didn't think what I said was all that bad-- it's true, she does talk a lot. Some peace and quiet would be welcome, yet she hasn't stopped and has now reverted to different methods of communication to keep on talking. My stupid smart phone doesn't take rejection well-- calls and texts still seem to get through.

I also know my friends well enough to know that they are well aware of my tendency to shoot my mouth off. A lot of the time, what comes out of my mouth is pure unadulterated bullshit. I say what I feel, how I feel, when I feel it, and if you don't like it, no one is forcing you to listen. You don't have to read this blog, be my friend or even hang out with me if you don't want to. I've been rejected all my life, one more person isn't going to affect me all that much. My natural tone of voice and aggression turns a lot of people off. It seems like I'm argumentative or angry, but I'm not really. I'm well aware of how people perceive me, and it's a constant effort by me to not come off sounding like an arrogant prick. That's so NOT what I trying to do or how I am, but that's how it's perceived. The constant struggle is tiring and sometimes I just can't be bothered.

Some people may claim that I am wrong for writing about my personal life because it betrays another person's privacy. However, I've never actually named my mother, sister, daughter or even my ex-wife. The only way anybody would know exactly who it is I am talking about is if they knew me personally and had met the person in question. Both my sister and mother have different surnames from me and each other, so running an Internet search would turn up nothing. My ex-wife (and now my sister) aren't on my facebook page and my mom isn't on Facebook at all. I've never used any of my friends' names in any of my posts except for a few Koreans I met in detention who I know will never read this and nobody knows anyway. If one of the people I wrote about were to leave a comment in anger about something I may have said about them, they would be the one outing themselves. The only privacy I'm exposing here is my own.

The only difference between me and you is I'm writing about it. It's therapeutic to me, and I like to think that sharing my thoughts with other people is therapeutic to them as well. So many people struggle through difficult situations thinking they are the only person experiencing it. They're not. We all have good and bad days. When we all share the same kind of collective thoughts and experiences because we are all humans growing up on the same planet in mostly the same social structure, some of my good and bad days are going to seem eerily familiar to your good and bad days. If someone relates to something that I've wrote and it saves them from jumping off a bridge, then having a pissed off unnamed sister or mother or friend can be worth the trouble.

Finally, I'm willing to bet this kind of family drama happens to most people in the world. How we all treat and act towards our families is a lot different than how we act towards our friends. We can't choose our families, and maybe my sister isn't feeling too hot about me right now, but I love her nonetheless. If anything, it gives me something more to write about than what I ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner and how many sit-ups I did today. So really, bring on the drama and I'll write a book about it, maybe draw some pretty illustrations to go with it, too.

She should know by now these kind of insults don't bother me-- I get called an asshole all the time-- and more than a few times by her most of all.

So much for "not going to go into it too much..." See? I don't even listen to myself. Dumb asshole.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

and yet, home is where the heart is...

Worrying about shit is useless. I got all stressed out about my previous post after my sister blew a gasket after reading it. Mother-Daughter Solidarity. It's (they're?) a bitch. And really, I shouldn't really be all that surprised-- those two are like peas in a pod. If I want to know what my mom thinks about any particular subject, I just have to ask my sister, and vice versa. It's great for birthday and Christmas presents. I only have to ask one of them if they like it, and then I know the other one will, too.

After swearing up and down that she didn't want to get involved, that's exactly what she did. It doesn't matter if I was serious or not, blowing off steam or airing out the laundry. She told me to never talk to her or contact her again. After 2 hours of text messaging back and forth, to help her out, I obliged by removing her and blocking her from my Facebook and adding her to my rejection list on my phone (I don't know why there is such a feature on my phone, it doesn't seem to work at all). Ooooo.... shit just got serious now! Meh. Now, if she wants to read this post, she'll have to actively search it out since any link I put on Facebook will be invisible to her.

So anyway, after 3 days of not talking to me, and not leaving my room (a 3 metre by 3 metre room with a bed and an Internet connection is luxury to be locked up in), my mother and I are at least talking to each other again. I still lose out on the editor, but that's not as important (no jokes in comments about my terrible editing skills, please). Most of the second runthrough has been completed, and it's been awhile since I read/wrote the book, so I'm probably ready to finish the last 100 pages by myself.

Now my sister isn't talking to me, but that doesn't really bother me too much. Over the years, she has talked so much, a couple of years of quiet might be welcome. On a car ride recently, she talked non-stop for over 45 minutes. I don't even remember what she talked about, just that she did it for the entire trip there and again on the 45 minute return trip. I was supposed to go on a 4 hour road trip to spread my father's ashes up north and I'm some sort of glad I don't have to now since she cancelled because she's mad at me. 4 hours of non-stop talking about nothing in particular <shudder>.

I know that makes me sound like such an asshole, but seriously, if you know me at all, what were you really expecting? One of things she is upset at me for is swearing at her. I was a little shocked, because I pretty much swear all the time, yet she's upset about one particular phrase used in a particular context? I basically called her a party pooper, just not using those words. I guess she doesn't know me at all if that kind of language coming out of my mouth is upsetting to her. Even my own daughter, who is a volatile, hormonal factory, angst-ridden teenager has better sense. I asked her last night if she ever got offended or embarrassed by the stuff I write about it and her response was that it was funny and interesting.

Don't get me wrong. I love both my mother and sister to death and would fight tooth and nail for them, but sometimes I just don't understand either one.

That's not the real reason for this post though.

On the weekend, I went to a friend's 40th birthday party. I have not seen this particular friend in over 20 years. We are connected on Facebook though, so I more or less know what she's up to these days. While I was there, I also ran into another dozen or so friends I haven't seen in 20 years. It was awesome. A couple of people there I chat with online once every blue moon, so I know what they are up to in life, but to actually see them face-2-face is amazing. When I got home, I went crazy sending out friend requests. This is what social networking was invented for. If you are one of those people who found this post through a link on Facebook, this one is dedicated to YOU. Welcome to my blog. There's a lot of crap on here, good and bad, so I hope you find something you will enjoy. Be sure to add it to your reading list as I try to update it at least once a week, if not more. I'll also be leaving the country again soon so this will be the place to read the further adventures of a madman on a walkabout.

Finally, buy my book or some art (I have no shame, so promotions you get). Your support allows me to keep doing this so there will be future stories to read and more pictures to look at as I circumnavigate the globe.

Much love.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

You can never go home again

Sometimes this blog seems like the airing out of my dirty laundry. Actually, that's exactly what it is. The difference is that some people actually read this crap (for which I'm grateful that I have an audience and they actually like to read what I write) and it's not a private diary I keep locked away at the bottom of my hope chest or whatever it is guys use to keep cherished mementos (is there such a thing for men?).

After my adventures in Korea, I had few choices. I had no money and I was in limbo in a detention center in a foreign country. I had three choices to be exact. I could sit there and wait it out indefinitely until the Korean government got tired of me and sent me home, however unlikely since the policy of Korean Immigration is to only repatriate foreigners from poor countries. Maybe they would never get tired of me and I would still be sitting there waiting to this day.

I could wait until my friends managed to raise some money to send me back. I'm not exactly a well liked person. There are lots of people I know, but people either seem to really like me a lot, which there are admittedly few of, or they really dislike me a lot, of which they are many. I've tried to change my attitude lately, but whereas I have incentive and desire to change, those many are not quite so forgiving. It could also take a long time to raise a couple thousand dollars in this scenario, and I might still be sitting in a detention centre waiting.

The third option was to accept help from my mother. This was the option I eventually went with after much hand-wringing and initial refusal since it was the least desirable. My mom has helped me out many, many times over the years. Sometimes, I ask for it (and she doesn't always agree to help), and sometimes she offers (to which I don't always agree to accept her help). Whenever she offers, it's because I never asked her for her help. With good reason. First off, I can probably take care of it myself, and second, there's the tendency of it being used against me in the future.

The latter is my biggest motivation to NOT ask for help. The stress of the any situation, whatever it may be, is usually easier to deal with than the stress of an angry person using shit against you. It's like getting into a fight with your girlfriend. A guy can never win an argument with a woman. It doesn't matter if it's your wife, girlfriend or even your mother, because men don't remember that date 2 years, 3 months, 19 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes ago. And if we do remember that date, it was a usually because there was good memory somewhere in there(great sex), not a bad one (left a crappy tip for the waitress because of poor service (she was lucky to get one at all), the girlfriend was embarrassed-- another quirk I'll never understand-- why be embarrassed about the actions of another person that have no reflection whatsoever on you? Who are you actually embarrassed for and why?).

Girls on the other hand, are like human VCRs. They remember every bad thing that's ever happened in your relationship and when the timing is right, they throw it in your face. I'm convinced this is a major cause of domestic violence. I'm not trying to justify anything here, don't jump the gun just yet. However, when a couple get into an argument, a woman will bring up the past with scary accuracy (a commendable trait, but a waste of brain power IMO-- why not take all that ability to remember the laws of physics or some other beneficial knowledge for humankind?). A man, who devotes his memory space to remembering things like baseball statistics or Star Wars trivia (an equally great waste of brain power IMO) will get frustrated with this and his lack of witty comeback repertoire. Yelling and swearing starts and doors get slammed. We express ourselves with violent posturing, not analytical reasoning of forgotten memories and in extreme cases, we lash out at the object of our frustration instead of inanimate objects or simply walking away (in which case, we get accused of ignoring the problem).

Now, what has this to do with my mother or coming home? If you have read my book (or all of this blog), you will know I never wanted to return to Canada. I had plans-- things to do, people to see. Coming back to Canada was in the opposite direction both physically and mentally. My prospects of finding a job in a job market I have been 10 years absent from were slim. I needed money and not just a couple of bucks, but a lot of it. I had nowhere to live or anywhere I wanted to live. My support network of friends and family was 10 years old. They all had marriages and families of their own to worry about it, let alone a 40 year old, divorced, unemployed, international ex-convict. It took some convincing and ultimately, I had no other choice, thanks to the Korean government. I was forced to come back to Canada kicking and screaming.

How I got to Canada was the next thing. I could either wait it out or accept my mom's voluntary offer. I never asked for her help, but I agreed to it. Flying to Canada from South Korea ain't cheap. Nor is living when you get there. I would need a place to stay and food in my belly. With no job or job prospects, the cards were stacked against me. Nonetheless, after discussing all these concerns, we worked it out (I thought).

I wanted to continue on my travels, starting in Thailand. The living is cheap and I can find work easily by teaching English if I really had to. I don't like teaching English much, but I know how and I'm good at it. It's not something I can do in Canada, but it's something I can do in a crunch everywhere else. In exchange for a ticket back to Thailand, my mom suggested I help her with her home renovations over the summer, which I readily agreed to do. In exchange for living under her roof and eating her food, I would look for a job and contribute when I could. Both of which I did/am doing. The jobs are far and few between, but I have picked up a couple of odd jobs here and there-- designing a brochure, a t-shirt and fixing a couple of computers-- my mom's 7 year old laptop included. Meanwhile, I also transcribed 3 books that I wrote, published one of them and created more than a few new artworks that I offered for sale online. In addition, I was able to get a new driver's license, open a new bank account, get a new credit card and synchronize them with my online stores and payment accounts. I set myself up so I could work from my computer and get paid for it anywhere in the world in anticipation of my return to travelling the world. I made my own job when I couldn't find one and made sure I could keep it no matter where I was. Coming back to Canada wasn't a total loss. I got a lot of personal business done that I was unable to do with a Korean bank account and my mom got free labour that was not just limited to house renovations, but included vacuuming her house, cutting the lawn (she has done neither in the entire time I have been here) and keeping the rest of the house tidy enough to suit her standards.

The point is, even faced with a stacked deck, I made the best of the situation. I did everything I was asked to do and more. I worked hard to get myself out of unemployment (semi-unsuccessfully) and I made plans to guarantee my future.

What did I get in return? A fight. I got yelled at for being an ungrateful bastard, told I was a terrible writer and wrote a stupid book. Why? Because I was wondering why all the formating had been changed and where all the pictures I had embedded in my book had disappeared to. When I asked my (mom) editor about it, she got really upset and asked me to prove it. I didn't accuse her of changing the formatting or deleting the pictures, I asked what happened. How do I know she had some responsibility? I had the "track changes" feature turned on in MS Word. I could tell exactly who, the date, and the time the alleged offences happened. It's marked in red in my document. When she edits things on her computer, it shows me everything.

When faced with unquestionable proof, she moved on to the thousands of dollars she spent bring me back to Canada and sending me to Thailand, living rent free in her house (She lives rent free, too. She has no mortgage since she paid off the house. She pays yearly property taxes and the usual utility bills) and eating her food (my grocery list is about $50 a week. I buy the same things every week and keep to raw ingredients that are cheaper and provide many combinations for preparation). There is no doubt I am a drain on her income. I don't deny it, but I'm not just mooching off her. Any income I have made, I've used to take care of my own miscellaneous expenses beyond just room & board such as my cell-phone service. She also gets things in exchange that she agreed to. I do everything she asks without question or complaint (if you know me, you'll realize how difficult that is for me). I go out of my way to give her space until those first couple of coffees in the morning and I keep my impact in her lifestyle to a minimum. I have thanked her for everything she has done, especially reading and editing my books more times than I can keep track of (too busy remembering Star Wars trivia...). However, the end result is the same. It's an argument I can't win even if I remembered what I was arguing about in the first place.

I'm an ungrateful bastard and a shitty writer with no skills or job who sits around the house all day doing nothing on the computer. I guess I should just accept it. I been told so many times, it must be true. Mommy knows best, after all.

I'm packed and ready to go, but I have to wait this out for one more month until my scheduled flight departs. Thanks for the ticket, mom. I am truly grateful for all your help even if you don't see it.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Two Mirrors.

The Sun bounced off the water. If it weren't for the clouds making their way across the sky you wouldn't even be aware of the slight breeze over the stifling humidity. The reflection of the sun off the lake's surface adds to the heat like being sandwiched between two mirrors. It is a weekday. The only families there are on vacation or able to afford to take a day off during the school summer break. The beach is busy, but not crowded. A couple of old ladies under the shade of a tree with two toy-sized dogs, watching and commenting on the passerby if only to make their own uninteresting lives seem justified. Three teenage girls stand offshore, the water only up to their waist; wading and splashing with their hands, idly gossiping about how boring the summer has been thus far... nothing to do but watch TV and Facebook, anticipating the start of the school year in six weeks time, having only been gone for two weeks, just fresh from the stress of writing their last exam.

A young family has come prepared. The father overloaded with a cooler, umbrella, mask, snorkel and fins, lawn chairs, towels, buckets and spades, water wings, flutter boards, water pistols and super soakers.

The three children; 5, 7, and 10, two girls and the oldest, a boy.

Being a boy and the oldest, he has a "too cool for school" detachment. He follows after his father, a puppy and his litter-mates, with Mama taking up the rear. Engarde, watchful, picking up the slack her broad leaves in a wake behind them of dropped lawn chairs, tripped over towels, tissues and candy wrappers, discarded sippy cups from the youngest girl-- all Shirley Temple-like in her innocence-- the almost deliberate littering by the middle girl, like a cry for attention-- as they make their way to the beach. The father's brother arrives in another car with his girlfriend as the family sets out from the parking lot to the beach.

They troop along the beach, searching out a clear spot near some trees. It's early afternoon. Many prime locations have long been staked out. Semi-permanent summer campers with barbecues set up and smoking in time for a late afternoon feast. One by one, the children start complaining with the youngest, the first to break, followed in quick succession by her two older siblings. The hot sand pushing in resistance against young tender feet, sandwiched between two mirrors. The boy holds out the longest, clinging to his duty of carrying his half of the cooler in both hands, struggling as his father effortlessly seems to carry chairs and umbrellas in one hand and his half of the cooler in the other. It is far from effortless though, as the father is just better at hiding his struggle after 20 or so years.

He finally hunts out a suitable spot and with a satisfied grunt, drops his load. The kids, eager to help and join in, are more if a hindrance than benefit, but things are quickly sorted with mom issuing orders like a drill sergeant, setting up shop with ease.

With the tent pitched and camp made, the water wings and other various water toys are inflated. The two girls pump and jump on the bellows. Their efforts seem almost futile as the toys slowly inflate. The notable difference causes the two girls to try harder. The boy has other concerns. He kneels down by the water, more concerned with the task at hand than the three slightly older girls gossiping hip deep in the water in front of him offshore.

He has a few pistols of neon plastic. Their cheap innards exposed under the molded facade of a Colt .45. Lined up in a row, are five cylinders, like miniature propane tanks filled with a different gas in liquid form lapping at his feet. He's a veteran in his 'hood. He knows to be prepared ahead of time for the coming war. Hours behind the X-box have trained him for this moment. His uncle and father are now the enemy. A battle is eminent.

His task complete, he gathers up his munitions and makes his way back to the base camp. He sees his uncle wandering down to the water, but fails to notice the black shapes carried under his uncle's arm. The girlfriend (Amy? he thinks) is talking with mom. Dad is busy starting a pit to start a fire. Jr. hands a pistol to each of his sisters. To Jill, the middle child, her arsenal is supplemented with a super soaker and a full spare cylinder.
Jr. & Jill instinctively circle around Jean, the youngest. Oblivious to the goal, unaware of the toy weapon of mass destruction and any meaningful symbolism, she puts the barrel in her mouth and squeezes the trigger, squirting dirty lake water down her throat to sub-consciously cool down from the heat of two mirrors.

The three children prowl the campground for Uncle Chris and dad. Jean only keeping up because she's aware something special is happening since her two tormentors are working as a team, cooperating in face of a common enemy, her thirst quenched by a funny looking sippy cup. She pulls the trigger again. Her head suddenly tipping back slightly as the water hits the roof of her mouth.

Jr. spots his father and brother standing around the newly created fire pit. A steady, thin stream of smoke the only indicator of a fire, the flames rendered near invisible in the brightness of the afternoon sun. Jean suddenly discovers the importance of her new sippy cup as her siblings pounce on her father and uncle. Arms flailing, shrieks of laughter, streams of water shooting wildly in all directions, the lessons of X-box soon forgotten in the excitement of a successful ambush.

Dad and Uncle Chris duck and cover. Chris snatches the black cases he took to the lake's shore. He tosses a couple of his ample supply to his brother-in-arms, their own super soakers snatched from the ground in an equally fluid motion.

The cases, or more aptly named cartridges, are slapped into place under the barrels of the two super soakers with a satisfying click. The patented seal quickly floods the chamber in the body of the gun as the men pump the air via the realistic machine-gun rachet of the hand-pumped compressor.

The two brothers look at each other and smile. Their X-box training has not been forgotten as they take up indoctrinated stances. Legs straight, knees loose, they bring their assault weapons to their shoulders, elbows jutting out to help with stability, neck slightly bent, bringing the eye in line with the plastic crosshairs. A steady squeeze, no jerk, depresses the trigger. The barrel bursts forth with gattling gun efficiency as the barrel rotates at 50 rpm with 6 streams of hydro destruction.

The flailing arms and screams of laughter soon turn to squeals of protests as the three children start flailing in desperation instead of excitement under the deluge of water from the two brothers. They systematically mow the poor children down, their brief cooperation decimated. Ranks are broken as they all split in different directions. Jean standing in dumbfounded awe, plastic neon pistol in her mouth, as if giving up on the fight, her older brother and sister hunted with ruthless efficiency around her by her still dry father and uncle.

Mother comes to the rescue with a bucket of water dumped on her husband's head. The children cheer and the water assault rifles are turned on mom, her own squeals matching the children as the adults run around in reckless abandonment like children at the beach sandwiched between two mirrors. It's a good day.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Cultural Culture Shock

There are a lot of people in Seoul. In K-W, not so much. There sure seemed like a lot when I grew up here. The physical size is a lot different, too. A couple of kilometres didn't seem to be that much for some reason in Seoul. I would often walk two or even four kilometers in about an hour without batting an eye in Seoul, just to enjoy the atmosphere of the bustling street. Two or four kilometers here seems like I'm walking across the whole city and if time is relative, the time it takes seems longer, too.

My nearest corner store is actually not in a corner at all, but in a strip mall, 1.6 kilometres away. It takes almost 20 minutes to walk there, so I don't just go there on a whim because I'm feeling peckish. It's a hike. As luck would have it, or maybe coincidence, or fate or irony, the store is owned by a Korean couple. They've lived here in Canada for 7 years. I found out they were Korean when I wore my Korean Football shirt to the store. Now, whenever I come on, they speak Korean to me. I can't escape it. As soon as they knew I understood Korean, English went out the door-- they have no desire to learn English.

It's very strange to walk into a variety store in Canada owned by a Korean. At the front of a store is a big display of trinkets. 90% of it is drug paraphernalia. Bongs, pipes, papers, vaporizers, pot grinders made from wood and stainless steel. The selection is a little overwhelming. There are lighters, Zippos, blueberry flavoured papers, Zig-Zags... They could run another store that was only paraphernalia separate from the corner store. Surely they couldn't order this stuff to sell without knowing what it was all used for. There are pocket flasks, and other drinking gear, too, but the pipes sitting with the watches and jewellery are what stand out.

At the back of the store is the "Korean" section. When I was in Seoul and went into a store there, there would be a "foreign" section that had such things as deodorant and coffee. Maybe some tomato based products. This store has ramen and go-cho-chang. No Kim-chi. I was really disappointed with that. It's only a couple of shelves, it's almost pathetic.

No matter where you go. The slushi is the same.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Buy My Book.

And now for some shameless self-promotion:



"Pens Available on Thursday, Paper Available next Tuesday..." is now available to purchase as a downloadable e-book and/or paperback. Buy it. Share it. Enjoy it. You can read a preview of it here or you could just read the blog entries

There's has to be some sort of stand-up joke I could write about posting a blog entry to promote a book I wrote based on a bunch of blog entries. Basically I want you to pay money to read something on a computer tablet that I wrote on a laptop available (for free) on this very blog site.