Ten things I can say about Trump’s election

Ten things I can say about Trump’s election

  1. Oh fuh-huck.
  2. You get what Wall Street paid for.
  3. DISGRACE! DISGRACE!
  4. Fuh-huCK ME!
  5. Open season on POCs.
  6. Did you think the White Males were going to let a woman (or as the sexists said ‘a clam’) in the White House?
  7. Racism is the new black/Sexism is the new black, etc.
  8. From an African-American Prez to a KKK-sponsored Prez–OY VAY!
  9. Orange hair pieces now in vogue/HATE now in vogue, etc.
  10. America, o America: hang thy head in shame.

Now we know that the majority of (white) people are so fed up with political corruption that they will elect a moron, a racist, a sexist, a GRADE A BUFFOON!

Think about it: a reality TV star is now POTUS.

God, we are a joke. The rest of world is laughing at us (in between bouts of cold sweat from fear of what this portends for the future).

Of course, we’ve elected TV people before–eh hem–(cough-Reagan!-cough).

The joke is on the poor and middle class whites and the few ignorant, misguided  POCs (believe it or not, there were some Latinos and Blacks who voted for the “greatest president that God ever created”). Let me ask you seriously: Do you really think coal is going to replace petroleum or natural gas or even wind in some areas? Do you think manufacturing is going to return to the rust belt?

The only winners will be the rich and the corrupt. Po’ whites are gonna stay po’ and the middle class is going to continue to get pinched. POCs need to be on full alert. We have to band together now. The supposed Land of the Free is going to become unrecognizable. America may not careen into fascism, but we will absolutely slump (slouch?) further towards authoritarianism.

Trump will get us into another war and another enormous economic scandal will blast the world economy and we little people will have to foot the bill again. We the People (of Color) had best prepare for the worst. Serious now. Stockpile food. Get a Costco card; today! The 2nd Amendment is now your friend. Buy some home protection because you don’t when (not IF, WHEN) the David Dukes in their brand new Trump-certified jackboots are gonna kick in your door.

Okay, maybe the next four years won’t turn out to be the Zombie Apocalypse (but it’s not off the table).

After all, America recently tolerated eight years of bush-ffoonery between 2000-2008, so this is essentially Bush 3.0 and “read my lips” the same cabal behind Bush I and II will pull Trump’s strings just as expertly. Hopefully, the smarter people around him will rein in his despicable predilections. Force him to behave with some class and dignity.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like horseshit, until you look at the past and realize that all of our presidents were beholden to the other major players invested in this country. Obama’s admin gave us the ACA, but how many whistleblowers were prosecuted and how many deportations took place? I’m really starting to think that POTUS is a figurehead and deep systemic change is highly improbable (without serious unrest from you and me).

Hopefully, the INVISIBLE HANDS that steer the country won’t let Trump legislate discrimination or piledrive us into 3rd World poverty, but the tenor of his presidency is going to be vastly different from Bush Jr’s. At least Dubbya wasn’t an outright racist. A moron the people in power can deal with. I wonder how they will deal with this foul, loud-mouthed, bigoted clown?

I have to go back to being a wage slave, but before I go let me leave you with someone else’s words, someone far better, far wiser than I:

The Second Coming*

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Realitus TV Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with Pillsbury body and the head of a clown,
A gaze blank and insipid as bone,
Is moving its corpulent thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant democratic birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards the Belt Way to be born?
—-
By William Butler Yeats (mostly, with a few edits from me, wink wink)

*Click here for the actual poem.

PS: I’m not a little worried. Anyone who holds progressive values needs to gird him/herself for a long four years and we need to fight back or we’ve lost. We have to educate ourselves, vote, protest, and above all think out of the box when it comes to the economy. Peace out my brothers and sisters.

 

Hobbit’s Dreams

I had the weirdest dream last night. I didn’t remember it right away either. I remembered it when I looked into the mirror and saw my ugly ass haircut.

The “boys” at the hair salon—they’re like these seriously AGGRO gay Chinese hairstylists, being gay is not the salient point (they just happen be gay or acting as if they were flaming, maybe it’s a pose, I don’t know) BUT they are belligerent—always gave me a whacked up haircut. Every time I go in for a trim or a clean up as you say in Chinese, they look offended and I walk out with Gumby-Head.

Gumby makes his first appearance.

Gumby makes his first appearance.

A good haircut makes a man sexy! To wit...

A good haircut makes a man sexy! To wit…

It is a total WTF. I’m ugly enough. I don’t need help. Anyway, I’m looking into the mirror, wondering why my head slopes to the left and suddenly the dream I had in the middle of the night returned to me full force and slapped me in the face. You know those mid-sleep dreams come from the depths of Morpheus’ dreamland, so they are weird. Your unconscious rubs elbows down there with ancient archetypes and even occasionally meets other dream-walkers. Those dreams from the Deep often freak me out. I never get bothered by those “I just feel asleep and I’m twitching” dreams nor about the “I’m about to wake up and have to pee anxiety” dreams. If those are weird they are usually affected by your internal clock and/or external stimuli like birds chirping or an alarm clock, what have you.

morpheus-iris-01

God of Dreams

Dream sandman

Do yourself a favor and read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

Morpheus Pinterest

This image is too cool not to post. From Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/poophakoitawan/04-morpheus-the-dreams-iris-rainbow/

No, the dreams you have to watch out for are the ones that wake you the fuck up in the middle of a deep deep sleep. That means AY your dream self met a core truth that scared the holy bejesus out of you or BEE your dream self met one of the Elder Gods and it wanted to infect you with madness or malevolence. I think mine was the former, but who really knows?

Oh, by the way I will “narrate” this dream as I was taught to do in my Jungian dream workshop that I took way, way back in college. You are supposed to slip back into the dream and relate it exactly as you can with no embellishment, as if you were seeing it for the first time and dictating it into a Dictaphone or whatever.

I am in my parents home in Katy. My ma and pa are there. My brother is to the left of me. My father to the right. My mother is center. They are okay but their smiles are also slightly anxious. It’s bright in the kitchen. I am trying to pretend that nothing is wrong. I am making a joke. It’s a joke but my father doesn’t like the joke. He turns away in disgust. I see his face melt into disapproval. I try to call him back but he won’t listen. My brother moves to comfort me. My mother now looks disapproving. My brother is trying to salvage the situation because we are supposed to eat together and have a nice family dinner. Suddenly I look at my father and he has no head. His head vanishes. No blood or gross looking things sticking out of his neck. Just gone. I am freaked out by this. He keeps walking away from me without a head. My brother asks what’s wrong. All the sound is like I am underwater and I can barely hear what anyone is saying to me. I look at him. He looks at me looking at Pa. He says nothing. I point and I try to say what’s wrong. I blink. His head comes back. But his head was gone. Now it’s back. I look at my brother and part of his face and chest disappear. I jump back. The part of his face that remains looks at me puzzled. My Ma is concerned. It’s me. I am seeing things. I am losing it. Then part of my Ma’s torso disappears. Like someone removed a giant Lego-block from her chest cavity. I am freaked out but I am more freaked out because I realize that there is something really wrong with me. My mind is snapping. I try to stay calm. We will have dinner together. We walk to the dinner table. My Pa is there sharpening the knife. The front half of his head is gone now. Sliced away and nothing is there but a brown skin-colored smooth surface like clay. My brother is half there half gone and so is Ma. But then their body parts return. Then disappear. It’s my vision. I’m okay. It’s just my eyes are bad. That’s all. We sit to have dinner. My brother asks me if I want wine. I think no, but say yes. I look down at the beautiful table setting. It’s so pretty. My Ma put out all of the best plates and cutlery. I look at the turkey, but it’s not a turkey. It’s Hobbit lying on the table even smaller than normal. The size of a huge fat turkey. Pa is not happy with me but he is going to make it through dinner because that’s what he always does. He is standing and passes the carving knife and fork to me. I know it’s not Hobbit, it can’t be Hobbit, but it looks like Hobbit. She seems okay with it. She says nothing but looks at me with that smile that she gives when says “This is my trademark smile! I’m so cute!” and she snaps her tiny little fingers and strikes a pose. I feel so anxious I can barely breathe. Hobbit just smiles and looks right at me. Pa is angry because he thinks I will make a scene again. I always make a scene. That’s how he looks. Ma just looks at me and says something that I don’t hear but I know it means, “Go on, go on.” I feel tears running down my face but I hope I am not crying or at least I am not making sobbing noises. I carve Hobbit up. It’s like carving Thanksgiving turkey and she doesn’t seem to mind at all. She just looks at me smiling, “I’m so cute!” I think I hear her snap her fingers but that’s not possible because I’ve already carved her wings off. Every one eats but I can’t. I have to. I feel Pa looking at me. He’s so angry it’s like heat from a furnace. I don’t mean to cry but I do. Tears are running down my face. Everything is cotton and fog and drowned. I hear but don’t hear Pa slamming his fist on the table. Ma is shaking her head, “I did it again. Ruined another family dinner.” My brother is busy wolfing down his meal. Pa’s head is shaking so violently. Then it’s time. Everyone pushes back from the table. Lulu is barking. She runs around my feet. Even she is angry with me. We walk into the posh posh living room. The football game is on; it’s so loud. I hate football. There’s a noose hanging from the ceiling. I don’t know how. It’s time. The noose lowers until it reaches the carpet and I step into it. I am hoisted into the air by my feet. I am hanging upside down. Lulu is still barking so angrily at me. I don’t know why. What have I done? It’s me. It’s all my fault. I have to hide my mind. I hang from my feet. Ma Pa and my brother all have something in their hands. Maybe roughhewn planks or maybe tree branches. The room gets brighter and I can no longer see the furniture only my family raising their arms. I get more anxious. I wake.Hangman-noose-with-a-dramatic-background-462147693-Credit-fergregory-iStock-630x419

I woke up and shut my laptop. I woke up feeling freaked, but I realized the sun was coming up (three thirty in the goddamned morning) so I pulled my sleeping mask over my eyes and went back to sleep. That dream was a real keeper though.

I try not to dream any more. I have kept a dream journal for many years and I have decided that what I learned a long time ago at the temple where I studied Buddhism was true. Well true enough.

Dreams are all bullshit. There’s no point in paying attention to dreams. All that matters in life is your waking reality, the reality you deal with when awake. Most dreams are exactly what Ebenezer Scrooge said they were: an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There is nothing of import from the other world and if there is, it’s best to leave it alone. We are not equipped to deal with archetypal beings. If there is an afterlife, that’s when we’ll deal with it. Now, in this waking life, you have to be aware of each moment as aware as possible of your actions.

I have forgotten that lesson and I need to get back to it. I realize I have slipped far down into a hole and forgotten what I need to survive. Dreams don’t matter if you don’t change your everyday reality.

Hobbit has crazy dreams too. In fact, her dreams give my dreams a run for their money. I don’t tell her about my dreams. A lot of my dreams are way too sexual and she would not be able to handle it. And she’s not the object of my prurient dream affections, which fact would make her little hobbit-sized head explode. Plus some of my dreams are just weird violent so I don’t tell her (I don’t tell anyone) and anyway I quit keeping a dream journal. I just ignore them and forget them as soon as possible. Usually.

Hobbit, however, likes to roll over and tell me her dreams right after she has them, any time of the night. I don’t mind as her dreams are quite interesting and I love to play Carl Jung and interpret them for her.

What freaks me out about her dreams is how often she dreams of having a daughter, sometimes twin daughters! Both of us are too old to have children. Well, technically I’m not, but she is past that “safe age,” although maybe there’s the possibility of in vitro or surrogate, but that’s for rich people. Poor people like us have to have kids the old-fashioned way, blood sweat and tears. Still, it really freaks me out how sweet and lovely her dreams are when she dreams of her dreamland daughter. My reality or rather our reality can’t compete with wish fulfillment. She swears it’s so real. I tell her that her daughter in her dreams is really herself, but Hobbit won’t listen to me and instead says it’s one of her deepest dreams, to have a daughter. Her real son is such a fulltime pain in the arse (and inevitably conjures up memories of her previous marriage to her wife-beating bastard of a husband) that Hobbit wishes she had just had a daughter, a little her, a little princess to love and care for in just the way she wished she could have been cared or could be cared for. I know this and tell her that I am sorry I am such a poor excuse of a husband. But, hey, at least I’m honest.

Hobbit recently had this dream and I wanted to share it but things always got in the way. Things are always getting in the way.

This was back in April, the fourth I think, or maybe the third, anyway she woke me up at four-thirty in the morning to tell me this one.

“All right Hobbit, tell us about your dream. We’re all fucking curious to hear about it.”

Hobbit said: So in my dream I had this old American teacher. (Slight laughter.) Umm. The director of the English Major office asked me for this favor. She asked me to take in this American teacher for one night or for some time because he couldn’t find any place to stay. So uh umm. And she knew that in our house I had extra room, an extra room, so uh I asked this guy to come into my house and I gave him my bed to, to let him, let him rest, rest. But he it was strange that he forgot to close the curtain before he went to bed. It was strange; it was weird to me because my American husband always makes a point of closing the curtain to protect his privacy. So I helped him close the curtain before he laid down and uh after he laid down I uh, I uh snoopied at his stuff that he put on the shelf. And the uh shelf is at the place where we put our wardrobe in real life, right? So I, I saw some photos. I saw some photos. And one of the photos is uh is him in a desert like place dressed in car-mou-flage. And on the back of this photo he wrote some English words, which I cannot recall very clearly now. Uhhhh, he wrote something like he “I am a MISFIT” and uh “I am” uh “I’m serving special service in the Army” you know that kind of special service that people can people are supposed to do the most dangerous things in the battle. And they are very good at shooting people. Uh I and this photo shocked me cuz I thought ‘Oh wow this American teacher once served in the army?’ You know. And uh and I found another photo, which was his wedding photo, wedding picture. In, in the picture he is putting on the wedding ring on his bride’s ringfinger and uh I and just as I wanted to read the words on this on the back of this picture anyhow this picture disappeared! Either because he woke up or because of some weird things you know that always happen in the dream. Anyway I didn’t got the chance I didn’t get a chance to read the words on this picture. And then this is basic, basic, the basic that I can remember now. And in my vague memory I remembered we walked in the dining room? Or in the classroom? That’s it. Nothing special happened later, later, afterwards. (Snaps fingers.) I’m done.

My Hobbit is a real hoot I’ll tell ya. When she wakes me just to relate these things. I record her dreams for posterity because, hey, you never know. These things might just come in hand sometime. But anyway when she shares her dreams with me, no matter how painful to me they are, I feel closer to her. Sharing dreams is special I think. It’s sacred. It’s fun too and we always laugh about them. But sharing dreams is like sharing real life dreams. Maybe not better, but for a brief, brief moment, it is better.

Sadie

IMG_0043

Sadie, fourteen years old

Sadie and Gidget, mom and daughter

Sadie and Gidget, mom and daughter

Sadie was Gidget’s mom. She lived for fourteen years and gave Pam and Russ (and me) a lot of happiness. A lot of happiness. She had a regal disposition and I think I can safely say we all felt privileged to know her. She was the boss of the house pushing aside the younger dogs and chastising them when they needed it (which was not infrequent). She was not a sweet little princess, but rather a gruff independent and occasionally ill-tempered matron. Just what you’d expect from a Queen. If Gidgie was a princess, it follows that Sadie was a queen. And a brave queen she was.

Any creature that dared to set paw or claw or scale or feather in her yard was given a guttural warning followed by an aggressive chase. God forbid she caught any of the perpetrators because they’d get a thrashing, a shaking, and a mauling that might very well end their lives. Luckily most denizens that creeped or crawled around the house popped over the fence, dived into a hole, or flew away to safety. Those bastard squirrel gangstas loved to prance on the telephone wires tantalizingly out of reach. She had her watchful eye on those untrustworthy balls of grey fur.

And since Sadie was royalty and having an outsized brave heart, she sometimes got into a fight she could not win. The other dogs, not possessing her Amazonian warrior spirit might circle and cry for help, but Sadie was usually left to tackle opossums and large rats on her own. Nor did she come out unscathed, but her head was always held high. I admired her courage.

Every evening she’d circle the living room and pick her bed to rest, nudging Gidgie, her daughter, or Foxy or Jack (two immigrant upstart Papillons) out of the way. Her spot was any damned place she wanted it to be. That could also be on your lap. That was the order of the universe and that was how it should be. The humans in the house refused her request at their own peril. We acquiesced and allowed her to slumber in our arms dreaming canine dreams (breaking canine wind), allowing us to love her as best as we could for the time God gave us.

Now she rests elsewhere, in a paradise that most assuredly contains her daughter who preceded her, chasing those squirrels, guarding her square of heaven, sleeping wherever she desires, dreaming sweet canine dreams, and waiting for us patiently until she can again rest in our laps, take her ease, and rest in our abiding love.

Good night my Queen.

The Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

This blog pretty much states how I feel about same-sex marriage. I am proud to be an American today. I am so happy for all of my LGBT friends. 美国加油!

In My Not So Humble Opinion

“Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.” – James Madison (1789)

The United States Supreme Court issued two major decisions this week.  The first of these once again upheld the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare.  I previously wrote about the ACA three years ago and my feelings remain pretty much the same.  So feel free to go to that blog post for my opinions concerning that issue.

The other decision arrived at by the Supreme Court, via a 5 to 4 vote, was to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.  The four liberal and four conservative justices all voted as expected, with the…

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Turd War in the Green

Zen relied more and more on entering the Green in order to find peace and balance. His home life left him so desperate and lonely that he needed the quiet meditation and tranquil solitude of nature. He relaxed in the Green and used it to clear his thoughts.

The forest was in full bloom and everywhere animals and insects he never thought existed in the city popped out to say hello. There were many small brown sparrows—some that looked as if someone had been plucking out their feathers; plump red and brown horned squirrels with bright eyes and huge teeth; red-tipped, white tipped, and blue-tipped, magpies that sang marvelously in the canopy above; shiny black and green beetles skittering through the air; frightening finger-long centipedes; huge purple-winged flies; ubiquitous mosquitoes and gnats (especially after it rained); small spiders launching themselves into the air trailing their silken threads and large spiders building catcher’s mitt-sized traps between the pale branches of the Korean willow trees. And humans. Young and old. Here, there, and everywhere.

With the warmer weather the forest became populated at all hours of the day and night. In the summer, the sun came out promptly at three-thirty AM and by four the tai ji players were out in the clearings of the forest, moving their hands like fog across a lake surface, some practicing with their flexible tai ji swords, others not; the tree huggers were out soaking up the green energy shooting upwards and outwards from the earth, into the reticulated net of roots, rising through the wet trunks, and into their shriveled fingers; middle-aged women shrouded from head to foot in order to protect their delicate skin from the strong rays of the sun were power walking along the trails, some singing classic army songs from their youth; musicians were trilling on flutes or horns; lovers who had been up all night were ensconced on diverse benches and lost in each other’s eyes and lips; and Zen. The only foreigner in this forest, a forest alive with small forest creatures and large hairless apes.

Zen didn’t mind. He walked quickly between the trees, picking his path carefully to avoid the people. He didn’t like them staring at him while he practiced archery. He didn’t mind either, but he didn’t particularly care for it. Chinese people had no qualms interrupting someone while he or she was practicing whatever art or exercise of choice. Westerners would respect a person’s privacy, even in a public space. In China, that concept was greatly diminished. In the West, Zen only ever worried about the police harassing him when he practiced martial arts outdoors. Here martial arts were commonplace and people were not afraid of anyone swinging a sword or a staff or a pair of nunchakus. Nor apparently shooting arrows.

Zen was worried that his archery practice would be considered reckless. In the late winter when they was much less people about, he felt nigh invisible. A ghost slipping between the slumbering forest sentinels to send darts through the cold air into a handmade target. He carried the bow and arrows concealed in a cheap green sack, the target wrapped in an old black plastic garbage bag. He hoped anyone who might see him would think he was just crossing the forest after doing some shopping. He was not fooling anyone however. The shape of the bow under the green sack was too obvious. Once when he took Hobbit into the Green with him, they were questioned by the old guard at the gate. Zen ignored the old man’s question but Hobbit turned very brightly to him and said, “We’re practicing archery!”

Zen chided her for revealing “his business.” “This is my business. I don’t like people to know my business!”

“Sorry. I didn’t know. You didn’t tell me not to say anything.”

“It’s probably not legal to do this here.”

“I doubt it matters.”

And it didn’t matter. Subsequently, after he passed the guard watching dramas on his iPad device, the old man would see him and raise his arms, pulling back on an imaginary bow, and smile. Zen forced a smile. And after many weeks, the smile was no longer forced. Each time Zen arrived the old man was happy to see him and smiled broadly. Zen began to look forward to seeing the old guard. He no longer felt like an outsider. He felt as if he belonged to the forest and the forest to him. The forest had accepted him. Now that there were more people, Zen took extra care that no one was coming down the path where he practiced. He was not shooting far in any event, only thirty yards or so and he selected a path that was not much in use. It sloped slightly downhill and where he stood the toddler-sized target made of old clothes and cardboard against a good-sized oak, there was a gully that rose slightly on the other side. It was perfect and seemed made to order. If he ever missed the target (which was rare), his cheap arrows fell harmlessly into the muddy bank of the gully. It was less than twenty minutes for Zen to find blissful peace.

Zen was in love.

Even back in America he had never had such a perfect place to shoot his bow. In America you had to live out in the country if you wanted to set up an archery target and shoot off some arrows. He had tried to do that in West Houston once and the police were quickly on the scene, the contemptuous neighbors peeking through the window curtains. Zen couldn’t always make it to the archery range or drive out to the countryside where no one would care. For one thing, he rode a motorcycle. He couldn’t tote his bow and had to rely on family or friends to give him a lift. Then, traveling by city bus was always an ordeal in Texas. The truth was he just could not bring himself to carry his bow case on public transport. It just seemed wrong.

Here in Harbin, on the other hand, he could walk out the apartment door and escape the city in minutes. In minutes.

Zen was in love.

True, this was his first summer shooting in the forest and he had to be wary of granddads and their screeching grandkids, but they never walked down his path, narrow dark and wet and away from the main trails. Occasionally an old man or old woman would cross between the trees, searching for wild herbs, but Zen could hear them stumbling through the brambles from a long way off. Zen was sure he would never accidentally hurt anyone with his arrows and he didn’t.

Zen was content. This had worked out much better than he had ever expected. He crossed an ocean to find the type of meditative practice that fulfilled him. He breathed in the wet oxygen-rich air and felt the forest breathe joyously with him. He swore he could hear the trees soughing in ecstasy with him.

A gentle smile on his face, Zen entered the green, crossed the broad stone path that crisscrossed and circled the forest, and slipped down the narrow path that led to his clearing, his clearing, the clearing he had so judiciously selected to remain away from prying eyes and screaming children and moon-eyed lovers and jogging geezers.

He was almost to the clearing when he saw a strange sight, a phantasmagorical vision. It was a perfect heart-shaped ass, so white it literally glowed, the symmetrical cheeks like large luminous eyes, just above the ground, near the oak tree where he placed his target. Zen’s pace slowed. What the hell? Zen did not register what he was seeing at first. He thought it was an animal, a forest sprite. Then the beautiful buttocks trembled ever so slightly and squeezed out a dollop of excrement.

“Oh hell no! Stop! Stop!” Zen ran at the floating ghostly magnificent buttocks yelling at the top of his voice. “You can’t do that here! Stop!”

Zen was so engrossed to stem the desecration of his sacred space that he didn’t see the young man rushing up to detain him.

“Please wait a moment!”

Zen tried to circle the young man, but the young man fended him off, imploring him to wait. A young female voice yelled out, “Don’t look! Don’t look!”

Zen was livid. He didn’t look. He turned away but berated the young couple over his shoulder.

“There’s a bathroom at the front gate. If you need to go to the bathroom, just go there. This path is for people to walk on.”

The young man begged his forgiveness and explained that his friend was “urgent” and felt “much pain” and just “couldn’t wait.”

“God damn it,” Zen said in English. The young lass wiped herself clean and dropped the used tissues on the ground.

The couple vanished down the other end of the path and Zen was left alone in his precious forest with a fresh steaming steamer, the slightly redolent odor of female excreta rising in the green-tinted air.

“Fucksticks,” was all he could manage. “Just fucksticks.”

There was nothing else to be done. Zen laid down the target and bow, making sure there weren’t any other surprises underfoot, and got to work. He fashioned a digging stick and dug a hole, a good ways away from his practice area. Then he found some thick broad banana-leaf kind of weeds and used it to transport the offensive matter away from his precious area. Finally, he swept the forest floor with a dead branch. Good. He was satisfied. No harm no foul. Time for peace. Thank God she was a woman!

The next time he almost stepped in it. And it was a sizeable steamer from someone who had obviously had had a lot of corn in his recent meal. Zen wanted to vomit. He had to peel off a huge section of bark from a dead log in order to scrape “it” away. Zen took extra pains to be careful. He did not want to track human “mud” back home. Hobbit would kill him.

Was this the end of his archery? Zen had tried other spaces in which to practice and this small clearing in the middle of the forest along a narrow path closeted in by the thick foliage was just so perfect. Away from prying eyes. Private. Too private obviously.

In the warm sunny days that followed, Zen was forced to perform clean up duty each time he went to his precious spot. Only when it rained was he given respite from this odious task. He had had enough and complained to the old guard, but the old man only blinked at him uncomprehendingly and raised his arms, shooting imaginary arrows.

Zen then made up signs, very tastefully and artfully done and in perfect elegant Chinese, asking people not to go down this path and use it for a toilet. Please use the bathroom located at the front gate. When next he returned, the signs were kicked over. One man had even—almost assuredly a man because only a male would perform such an atrocious and vicious act of defilement—dropped his odious loaf right on the center of one of Zen’s polite signs, looking like a bizarre postmodern work of art: shit on a plate.

This was war.

Zen was not going to give up his sacred space so easily. It was his tranquil turf and he’d be damned if he was going to let these barbarians defecate all over it. This was his forest, his. And he belonged to the forest. He loved her like a good woman. And he was not going to let her moist holy spaces be profaned by hairless apes with weak sphincters. He had tried being polite. Now it was time for more drastic measures.

Still, he couldn’t very well chase away perpetrators while carrying a bow and arrows (even if the archery set was for young teens and not in any way suitable for real archery or hunting). There was always the police to consider. Moreover, Zen didn’t want to get confrontational. Chinese people had a keen disregard for any official signage. Witness the thousands who lit up right next to no smoking signs or who shoved to the front of queues even when orderly lines where painstakingly roped off. No, Zen had to think out of the box. What might scare people off? Or at least prevent them from going down the path? He had to think about it. Ghosts? Make people afraid of a ghost or some monstrous creature? He doubted he could pull it off. This wasn’t a Scooby-Doo cartoon. In the middle of the city, who was going to believe that a horrible monster lurked in these small woods? And then, it occurred to Zen.

“Ah ha!” he yelled from the bathroom.

“Ah ha what,” asked Hobbit. ‘What’s going on in there? What are you doing?”

Zen laughed. This just might possibly work.

“What are you doing in there? Are you watching porn? I told you to stop that!”

“I’m not watching porn! Goddammit! You shut up and mind your own business! Damn Hobbitses.”

Zen went out and bought the supplies he needed. That evening he got to work.

“Oh my gorsh! What are you doing? Cooking all that food! I’m not eating dinner here you know. I’m going to my parents’ home.”

“This food ain’t for you, silly Hobbit. Away with you!”

“Hmm. Crazy dwarf. Who wants to eat your food anyway? Still, I should taste a little to make sure you’re doing it right.”

“Away with you I say!”

“Humph! How rude!”

Zen cooked a feast for an army. He made egg and tomato and mushrooms with green and red spicy peppers, red curry potato and broccoli and tomato, steamed corn, and four different kinds of dumplings: pork and celery, beef and carrot and green pepper, egg and leek, and shrimp and corn and vegetable. In addition he bought fried chicken hamburgers and chicken burritos from the local cangmai. They weren’t real burritos like back home, but they would do the trick. He cooked four cups of rice in the rice cooker and then laid out all of the dishes on the foldable round table in the living room.

“Are you inviting someone over? Is it your girlfriend? If you invite that vampire into my home and I’ll kill her! I will!”

“I ain’t inviting anyone over anywhere. Jeez. For a small Hobbit you got a big imagination. Now I’m busy. This’s work. Lemme alone.”

“Fine. But I’m not doing any dishes.”

“Do you ever?”

Hobbit slammed the door on the way out to her parents’ home and Zen sat down to eat.

And eat.

And eat.

He was so full he thought he might die. He felt awful and happy at the same time. He could barely move to clean up the dishes. He lumbered into his office and fell down on the dog-bed. He fell asleep listening to his stomach gurgling like some diabolical machine. Indeed, there was something infernal happening inside his digestive system. With every morsel that Zen ate he made sure he dabbed on some kind of fiery spice: Tabasco sauce from the import market, spicy Korean bean curd paste, Hobbit’s father’s special super-hot red pepper oil, Thai sweet chili sauce, and finally good old American yellow mustard. It was a lethal concoction.

When Hobbit returned from dinner she demanded that he open all the windows.

“You open ‘em. I can’t move.”

“You’re trying to kill me. That’s what it is. You want kill me and marry a younger girl. Pervert.”

Zen moaned.

Early the next morning, Zen got up and made coffee. He poured the boiling hot coffee into a thermos and took out some special pills he bought at the pharmacist. He packed up his small yellow backpack and set off with his archery gear for the forest.

Ninety minutes later Zen returned, whistling quietly and looking quite satisfied.

“Had fun? Good shooting?”

“Oh yes. Very good shooting.” He kissed Hobbit three times, one on each cheek and then on her lips. This time he didn’t pretend it was disagreeable.

Later that day a young couple was strolling through the Forestry University’s experimental forest along the smooth stone pathway. They walked together happily, the young man holding his beautiful girlfriend tightly, and the young woman leaning into him. They paused at the entrance of a small path that led off into a section of the forest that was particularly thick and dark and green. The young woman whispered something to the young man and he nodded. She pulled out a package of tissues from her purse and then gave the purse to her boyfriend. She disappeared down the path, but came running back almost immediately. Her face was aghast and she was pinching her nose closed. She hooked her boyfriend’s arm at a run without explanation, and the two of them pounded down the stone pathway until they made it to the safety of the front gate.

Afterward, the path gained a certain notoriety and almost everyone avoided that dark green heavily wooded section of the forest. A fetor, not quite human, but definitely not animal, terrible and fearsome, lingering and caustic, pervaded the shadows among the trees and formed a palpable deterrent to the forest visitors, leaving only one man, one lone foreign man, carrying a bow and some cheap arrows and a handmade target made of old clothes and tape and cardboard, light of foot, light of spirit.

June 7, 2015: things get worse

Days stretched into weeks. The weeks into months. Zen found himself eating alone every meal.

The young pretty waitresses at the Little Tree Korean restaurant thought he was single since he always ate alone. And he wore no gold wedding band as foreigners were wont to do. He cut such a pathetic figure, older but still handsome, well-dressed, educated, coming in alone at all hours of the day and night, and staying longer than most customers usually did. He was so polite and spoke such elegant Chinese, which was so unusual for a foreigner. Most foreigners could not even say hello properly much less carry on a conversation and make jokes. He was good at making people laugh. The owner always stopped by his table and chatted with him. He put the owner in a good mood, who laughed loudly and clapped his hand on the foreigner’s shoulder. And when the foreigner thought no one was looking, always a wistful, slightly forlorn smile on his lips. The waitresses felt he was pitiable and in need of succor and comfort.

Zen was not in need of either. He just couldn’t stand being in the same apartment with Hobbit. She was driving him nuts.

Hobbit was busy-beside-herself: preparing to go abroad for the Visiting Scholar program and helping her son study for the rigorous high school entrance exam at the end of June. She had no time to spend with Zen. When they were together, bitter arguments invariably broke out. Zen felt shoved to one side and left out of all the family decisions.

His stepson was acting quite the fool in his opinion. He was constantly disrespectful with his mother and grandparents since the boy saw that his mother and grandmother would coddle him. The women would not let Zen institute a behavior modification program—whatever the hell that was—in order to curtail the stepson’s rebellious behavior. Zen promised them that the boy would get much worse before he got better and that they would “rue the day they let this little emperor run roughshod over the family!” Whenever Zen waxed grandiloquent, Hobbit and her mother thought he was speaking Russian, so they ignored him. On the other hand, Hobbit’s father agreed with Zen, and the two older men bowed their heads together and commiserated with each other over how “the women” spoiled children and how “the women” should let “the men” handle discipline, especially the discipline of a male child, something which “the women” knew nothing of. “The women” shoved the two men into the spare bedroom and closed the door.

Although macho and paternalistic and though this was a blow to feminism everywhere, Zen was sadly correct, even if he wasn’t right. The soft approach had no positive result in the short term. The stepson was a prototypical teenage rebel and only time and life would smooth out his rough edges, but by then it would be almost too late to repair his relationship with his mother; too late to have any kind of meaningful relationship beyond hello-goodbye with his stepfather; and far too late to make up with his grandparents who would both pass away with withered moribund hopes for reconciliation in their hearts while their grandson whiled away precious years singing bad rap songs in New York City subway stations. So much for mollycoddling children.

Hobbit bought her son new clothes and new shoes and patted his head and told him he was a good boy and that Mama loved him, and then the boy would find new ways to lie and cheat and break his mother’s heart. It was an endless bathetic family trauma. Zen would try to console Hobbit, but of course he could not contain himself and he would speak frankly about her son (“I don’t wanna say I toldja so, but I did!”), and then they would fight.

Hobbit accused Zen of hating her son. Zen defending himself that there was indeed not much to love (an inappropriate if honest comment he realized with regret afterward). Consequently, Hobbit was always in a bad mood and Zen was a convenient but unwilling scapegoat. He was not accustomed to not being the center of attention in a relationship, something most men struggle with in “instant family” situations. Zen knew this from a previous relationship. Accordingly, he chose to absent himself rather than constantly being drawn into battle. It was not a recipe for building an intimate healthy matrimony.brady_grid

So, Zen ate alone. Peaceful solitude was preferable to bellicose companionship.

He thought with irony that in a country of one point five billion, in a country where he was constantly jostled in the street, bumped as he got into cabs, pushed as he tried to find a table, he was always alone. He laughed to himself: he traveled over 6000 miles to finally find solitude amidst an ocean of humanity, in a fog of Chinese language. His status as a foreigner afforded him an excellent shield.

He began to feel disconnected from humanity, isolated and estranged. He had more contact with the complete strangers he had met online scattered across the globe. But those people didn’t know him. They could not be expected to care about him. If he were hit by a bus (a distinct possibility in this crazy ass town), they could not help. They might notice he had not shown up in the chat rooms.

Zen asked himself: What am I looking for? Then he thought reluctantly, not what. Whom. Whom am I looking for?

A woman. Women. Women things. The better looking aliens on this backwards planet. He hungered for soft sweet female companionship. How was that possible when he was married? Shouldn’t marriage cause a sea change in a man? Some kind of mental **klik** that freed him from petty desire and lust. He did feel love for Hobbit though; he had felt this inexpressible union with the sweet Hobbit. Ephemeral, tragically ephemeral. Sweet-pretty-gentle Hobbit had metamorphosed into bitter-ugly-acerbic Hobbit, as surely and as grotesquely as Doc Banner transforming into the raging Hulk. That feeling of oceanic communion evaporated like dew under a searing sun. Ephemeral.

Bruce Banner transforms into the Rampaging Hulk! Bill and Lou are still classic.

Bruce Banner transforms into the Rampaging Hulk! Bill and Lou are still classic.

Zen spent many nights awake. Heartsick form hearing Hobbit sobbing in her bedroom after another bitter fight and impotent to put an end to it, Zen jacked in his earphones and lost himself online. He watched hockey highlight reels on YouTube, read comics on Comixology, listened to podcasts about Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy on iTunes, and lost himself in a marathon viewing of Dexter on Netflix.dexter

That show was a revelation. The protagonist really struck a chord in Zen. At first he was repulsed at how alike he and Dexter seemed to be. How could he and a serial killer be so alike in their personality? Zen saw in himself the same wounded loner trying to fit in, the same aggrieved outcast struggling to create a family, and the same misunderstood anti-hero forced to act like a violent villain that he saw in Dexter. In addition, and not insignificantly, Zen saw they shared the same penchant for rationalizations. Zen was not obsessed with murder however. He considered serial killers and films about them disgusting (while he admitted that the film Se7en was well done, the murders were repugnant); despite that, he marveled at the brilliant idea of creating an anti-hero serial killer. It was genius. A murderer who murdered other murderers. It was an ethical slight of hand. This wasn’t bubblegum popcorn Manichean tragedy like Frank Castle seeking commonplace revenge and reliving it on a nightly basis. This was a deeper darkness in the dark. The creators of the show had had a stroke of genius! Sadly, the show would not come through on its premises and after the fourth season, the show suffered a steady marked decline in quality. When it finally ended, Zen felt cheated. The show had turned into absolute garbage and wasted the talents of the group of gifted actors and actresses. In the finale, Zen expected retribution. Dexter should have received his just deserts not just for all of the gruesome killings, but for the ruination and misery he brought his innocent friends and family members.

Seriously...WTF?

Seriously…WTF?

In his heart he expected it for himself as well.

Wasn’t he killing his own family? Dragging them through the muck and misery of perpetual bickering? No, Zen was not a serial killer, but he thought himself something unclean. Or as if sometimes an unclean spirit inhabited his body and took it out for a joyride now and then.

For example, whenever he saw a pretty girl walk by, he felt like a vampire in a blood bank. Zen tried to articulate the ache: it was as painful as if his skin had been peeled off, leaving the nerve endings raw and exposed for any random chick to walk by and jab ‘em with a red-hot poker. He knew he was exaggerating. But, by God, it felt like that! Maybe just a little. In summation, this internecine war between Hobbit and him had got to come to an end.

He was sick of sleeping in the damn dog-bed. His back was killing him. Every morning he had trouble standing up straight, bent over like a fucking Quasimodo. “Do you find me repulsive?” Or was that the Elephant Man? The pain dulled his memory.

The immortal Charles Laughton as The Hunchback

The immortal Charles Laughton as The Hunchback

And then the stench. Jeez. The mattress (if you could call it a mattress) was fetid; he had to scrub his flesh red to rid himself of the stink.

This is not what families are supposed to be like.

Once upon a time Hobbit and I were in love.

Zen thought they had been at any rate.

He came to the honest realization that he might not know what love really was. In fact, he was almost sure that he didn’t know. Whatever pictures and concepts he had bouncing around in his head did not jibe with what Hobbit had in her head. Maybe with any woman on the planet.

Maybe I need a woman not from this planet. An extraterrestrial. An alien woman for an alien man.

This "alien" woman wallpaper looks suspiciously Asian. Image lifted from: http://hdw.eweb4.com/out/1241307.html

This “alien” woman wallpaper looks suspiciously Asian. Image lifted from: http://hdw.eweb4.com/out/1241307.html

How did things get so bad so fast? He had no idea.

I’m a FREAK. A misfit? A missed fit? Misanthrope? Miserable Misanthrope?

He felt totally alienated from her, from her son, her parents, from everyone. Every time they fought he felt the entire weight of the community pressing down on him, judging him, reviling him because he didn’t live up to their expectations. As if he had been exposed as a fraud. Instead of some nice cultured English professor, he was really a misanthropic violent monster. It didn’t help that the father took his side when there was a blowout. After all, Hobbit told him how abusive he had been to her all her life. Now Hobbit had Zen. He heard somewhere that men and women unconsciously seek out archetypes derived from their parents in their spouses in order to heal past traumas. Was there any truth to that? No. No! Psychobabble! He felt he had gotten sucked into Hobbit’s family drama, a vicious cycle, a vicious pattern. But it wasn’t his destiny. It couldn’t be. He had never been this horrible. Fist fights. Yes. But with rednecks. Skinheads. Anarchists. Frat boys. Not. Not…not small weak. Frail. Hobbitses.gollum hobbitses

He had to think of something else and divert his attention or the guilt, the shame, the pain threatened to overwhelm him. Wasn’t he at an age where he could manage all of these raw feelings? Hadn’t he had enough life experiences whereby he could control and administer and delegate the psychical forces into appropriate and fruitful channels? Wasn’t this angst what teenagers felt?

He needed help. He scoured the Internet for free—his middle-aged angst had cash flow limitations after all—couples therapy and online counseling for anger management and depression. Free apparently had a different meaning since the advent of the World Wide Web. Some kind of administrative fee was always requested. That, or they refused to help him because he didn’t live in the USA. There were websites dedicated to counseling international couples, but these obviously catered to extremely wealthy couples whose main problems stemmed from an inability to coordinate their hectic schedules, one or both spouses absent from home since they were jetting around the globe in rabid defense of capitalism against socialism, the unwashed masses, and scum like Zen. No free lunch. His family was no help either.

His family back in the States pretty much ignored him. Red-haired stepchild slash black sheep, that’s what I am. Alive or dead, they could care less. Not that he had given them much reason to care. Leaving for China, son? GOOD RIDDANCE. His father and he had an especially contentious relationship.

Newman!

Newman!

Zen thought of comical rivals like Seinfeld and Newman, but the truth was that he and his father’s relationship was much more toxic. Stalin and Trotsky came to mind, but it was psychologically more warped than that. Karamazov? Nothing so sordid or dramatic, but it wasn’t pretty. Zen assumed his father hated him because he saw all his worst traits incarnated in his son. Zen, for his part, blamed his father for imbuing him with “slave morality”—a concept he picked up from his university days studying Nietzsche and misapprehended horribly. Zen could never clarify his perceptions concerning master-slave morality. He should have just simply let it go. He felt chained to Christianity and blamed his father for it. As if originally Zen were this wild thing that had been domesticated and had to pretend to be domesticated when all he wanted was to run and howl. Now he couldn’t get the taint of brother-love out of his system. In fact Zen was a gross sentimentalist. A characteristic he thought for sure had something to do with the breakdown of his bicameral mind. Possibly. Today he wasn’t so sure.

Trotsky and Stalin

Trotsky and Stalin

Zen’s brother, “the first son,” was the perfect son since he and the father saw eye to eye on most everything, which was the usual: politics and religion. Zen, on the other hand, was an ideological and spiritual thorn in his father’s side. Sadly, Zen would never witness how his older brother stood up for him, 6,000 miles away, at every holiday dinner, at every birthday party, at every occasion happy or sad where Zen was absent. Even when Zen found out that his brother had signed his name on every Christmas card and put gifts under the tree in his name for all the members of the family, Zen mistook this generosity as a subtle comment on Zen’s penury rather than the obvious simple explanation: his older brother was incontrovertibly fond of his younger sibling. Zen’s foolish pride blinded him to his older brother’s love and concern. All Zen could see was his father and older brother forming a solid impenetrable Republican conservative block, absorbing his once-Democrat mother and sister-in-law, leaving him always arguing alone on one side of the proverbial dinner table and the rest of the family members on the other side.

His family on two continents had failed him.

No. He had failed them.

Depression rolled over him like gloomy clouds on early summer mornings.

Close-up of angry Chihuahua growling, 2 years old, in front of w

Beware of angry chihuahua!

Worst of all, back at Christmas, he had had a fight, a real physical fight with Hobbit, a shameful and disgraceful ordeal. The two of them face-slapping, stomach-punching, cat-hissing, testicle-kicking, hair-pulling, eye-scratching, cobra-spitting, banshee-screaming, and even speaking in tongues, although neither of them realized nor would ever realize that their passionate altercation catapulted them onto a new level of reality, a different phase of the time-space continuum where the Elder Gods went for a nice cigar and grappa. Needless to say the Elder Gods were not keen on Hobbit and Zen intruding on their august personal space-time. Nor were the neighbors who realized that glossolalia was potentially apocalyptic and were frightened by it as badly as by any natural disaster. They called the police and the police came to rap politely on the door; Zen was mortified, but Hobbit yelled at the police, “dogs catching rats instead of minding their own business!” and told the neighbors they were “fifty steps laughing at one hundred steps,” essentially the pot calling the kettle black. The ensuing shouting match between the women on floors two three and four made all the men terrified. Heads turned white and one geezer even pissed himself. Zen had to use all his might to keep Hobbit from pulling out the remaining hairs of their neighbor’s head while the neighbor’s little Chihuahua nipped at Zen’s ankle. The police tried to break it up, smiling nervously because a foreigner was involved and that meant extra paperwork and can’t you just go back to bed? The husband of the neighbor was drunk and unconcerned. He belched, farted, sneezed (on Zen which freaked Zen out as he had a severe phobia of being sneezed on), scratched his ass, and went back to sleep.

Zen scrambled to contain this horror, apologizing, bowing to everyone, scraping the floor with his nose, begging forgiveness, seeing himself in prison and everyone pointing their collective finger, a huge finger as big as an oil tanker, neon lights framing his face with a sign under his black and blue face: Wife Beater! Bastard! Liar! Foreign Devil! Monster!

Monster.

Desperate, Zen turned to his father for advice. What to do? What to do? But Zen’s father could only feel profound disappointment and since that incident he had grown cold as ice, well colder, since he had usually been cold as ice in any event. The father’s only comment when Zen said he didn’t know what to do was one word: divorce. That was it. Zen imagined him sitting in his gorgeous mahogany-paneled office, surrounded by lavish antiques, and crystal glass, and polished steel, and buffed leather, glittering riches, mute opulence, sucking his teeth like some kind of egg-sucking cold-blooded serpent, paring his nails with a file as cool as a cucumber and concluding very succinctly: divorce.

And he was a Roman Catholic.

Anyway, Zen thought, I don’t have a soul to save, right? No harm no foul.

Between the stress at work, living like a recluse, and Hobbit flitting around him like a hungry ghost (but never engaging with him), Zen literally felt that he was cracking up, losing his mind. Outside of two colleagues (K being one of them, which was not good for him at all) and his poor overworked students, Zen had no one to turn to.

hungry ghost

hungry ghost

“I know I know. Whining like a bitch. I hate loathe myself. All this faggoty-ass angst! Grow a pair man! I have food, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, health, and money in my pocket (not a lot of money, but money nonetheless). Why, dear Lord, am I complaining? Why am I so antsy? I feel like…. What? Like something bad is gonna happen. Things are coming to a crisis point.”

Zen berated himself thusly to no benefit since he was, as usual, correct but not right. Things were coming to a crisis point, but in ways far beyond his dwarfish imagination.

Economics of Laudato Si’

This Pope may just be able to bring me back to the Catholic Church! I really this professor’s keen analysis of economic policies today. His graphs and charts (and hilarious) cartoons really sift through the misleading verbiage and cut to the chase. See you soon and thanks for reading!

occasional links & commentary

Francesco-7p

The Wall Street Journal is absolutely right: Pope Francis acknowledges the scientific consensus concerning the human/social origins of climate change and argues there is “an urgent need” for policies designed to cut carbon emissions and switch to renewable sources of energy.

But the pope goes further by weaving his signature theme of economic justice and his vehement criticism of capitalism throughout the encyclical.

What the pope does is build on the central economic themes of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and then extend them to the issue of the natural environment, especially the causes and consequences of climate change. The result is a radical critique of contemporary capitalism.

There are many aspects of the 183-page Laudato Si’ I simply cannot discuss here.* What I want to do in this post is highlight some of the specifically economic themes of the papal encyclical that was officially released yesterday.

Many news…

View original post 1,250 more words

Comparing the Elites and the Masses: A Chinese Perspective

I just got a post from the Daily Kos, which I just looked at more carefully, and noticed it was a “Classic Post” from like a year ago. I felt kind of gypped, but it’s still pretty revealing, and not merely in the way that everyone would expect.

Of course each side is looking out for their own self-interest. I mean, as one of the bottom ten percent in the US (bottom fifty percent globally) I’m all for wage fairness, narrowing the income gap, better health care and education, etc. because I basically can’t afford it. And if you’re in the top ten percent of income earners or top ten percent of the wealthiest, of course you don’t want to be taxed to death. Look on whom the government spends your money! Scum like me, essentially. I apologize that I’m not better looking.

Adam Sandler in "50 First Dates"

Adam Sandler in “50 First Dates”

Hobbit and I sometimes daydream, “What would happen if we suddenly became rich? If (miraculously) I published a book that would propel us out of impecuniosity (it’s a word, look it up) into affluence. We often fear that our values would change. I tease her that I’d buy a sports car (probably a motorcycle) and chase after (and obtain) young pretty women who of course admire me for my writing ability (and not the sudden change in my financial portfolio). She scoffs and sneers at my pipedreams. She tells me she dreams of travel and good food. Obviously Hobbit’s dreams are more realistic, prosaic, and actually obtainable. I think Hobbit also dreams of sleeping (even) more each day if that’s possible—Koala-Hobbit hybrid that she is, but that’s a post for another day.

See the resemblance?

See the resemblance?

I’d like to think that I’d use any largesse I’d gained to advocate for those progressive ideals that I value so highly, but who knows? I believe one thing: I couldn’t handle the responsibility of enormous wealth. Possessing massive wealth, it’s a full-time job guarding and perpetually trying to increase one’s dragon hoard. I would not want that job. I wonder how hard it is for regular folk who find themselves catapulted into unimaginable prosperity, people like J.K. Rowling or Bill Gates or that Facebook guy (sorry, I’m too lazy to look up his name).

That FB guy

That FB guy

I mention Rowling because once I did catch an interview with her about her abnormal and phenomenal success. She remarked that she had forgotten what the value of things were. Buying a necklace for something like $25K or $50K had no meaning any longer. She even said sometimes she could not decide if it was a reasonable purchase or not and because of that abstained from buying anything. To buy or not to buy that piece of five cent bubblegum? That is the question. She also mentioned how generous she was with donations until she realized she was getting rooked by scalawags and petty conmen. (Loathsome, right?) Now she has a professional company manage her charity because an average human being could not possibly sift through all of the human misery and chicanery and pinpoint the real from the sham. She is by all accounts a wonderful generous person who does engage in honest unselfish philanthropy (as opposed to philanthropy as a form of self-aggrandizement), exactly the kind of person you’d expect to have written those marvelous engaging accounts of Harry P and the gang. She’s not Mitt Romney in other words. (Yeah! I said it!)

In this light, I was surprised to see that 17% of the elite in the Daily Kos article actually agreed that the government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich. Seventeen percent! Almost twenty, almost a fifth. I don’t know. I was surprised by that.

As someone who does receive better than average pay (compared to the average CHINESE worker only) I often take taxis to get around. This is a source of constant and unrelenting agony and argument. Hobbit accuses me of being an Elitist for taking taxis everywhere and I accuse her of being a Peasant for insisting on taking the bus (those grotesque filthy pollution-belching monstrosities where one is manhandled like a piece of beef on sale and where one can be spat upon (albeit unintentionally) by old men with lung diseases from years of exposure to particulate matter from the coal-burning energy plants). Yes, I insist on taxis. But I do occasionally have funny or interesting conversations with the taxi drivers. Taxi drivers being a good gauge of how the masses feel about a given subject. So there is that.

Less and less have I run into the American-hater: “America is an imperialist country! America bullies China!” More often I run into the China-basher: “China is backwards. Our people are uncivilized. Our government is corrupt.” Of course being a card-carrying paranoiac, I never readily agree. He could be a government spy trying to get me to reveal my status as a US mole. Rather, I begin a lecture on history, that time is required for education to penetrate into the countryside, into the mass of people, so that they don’t expectorate mucus on your shoes (hawk up a loogie) or hurl trash from the window of speeding vehicles, with wanton abandon, onto your bare head. If the people are uncivilized, it’s mostly because they haven’t been taught differently and have been living in a system susceptible to corruption and chaos. Hard to be like the Dalai Lama when you have to elbow your way through hundreds of your brother and sister comrades in order to secure a rail ticket to visit your sick, elderly parents during Spring Festival.

The drivers shrug indicating, “maybe,” and some even wrinkle their noses in disdain and disagreement.

It’s amazing how many drivers open up to me and speak ill of their compatriots. They themselves are not erudite paragons of the educational system either. The government is feckless or worse, guilty of malfeasance. The laobaixing, the masses, are stupid and brutish. And the Elite, why, they just don’t care. When touching upon the elite, a proud light shines in their eyes. The Chinese grab onto stories of wealthy entrepreneurs and nouveau riche like a drowning man onto a lifeboat. They mythologize the newly affluent. They must have superhuman powers to have skyrocketed from the morass of crushing indigence and ignorance into the gleaming city of Asgardian opulence. They deserve their riches (while we must not). There’s not a lot of time to parse arguments on a fifteen-, twenty-minute cab ride, so I just shrug too and say “maybe,” but my nose more often than not wrinkles in disagreement.

Asgard will one day be overrun with China's nouveau riche!

Asgard will one day be overrun with China’s nouveau riche!

One thing, they always speak of their children, hoping against hope that their children will have it better. Always they touch upon the perennial theme of trying to make enough so that their only sons and daughters will have a good life. Not just a better life, but a good one. Marry well. Have a plump child, that grandson or granddaughter, their reward for working all hours of the day to give their children a better education, a chance for a better life.

I am always touched by such comments. The Chinese have this palpable and impressive and Godzilla-sized love for their children. Yeah yeah, we all love our kids (even our step-kids). But, the Chinese seem to be the outlier on this collective attribute of the walking-talking mammal. And despite being such an avowed misanthrope, I have a damnable sentimental streak that marvels at it. Still, my point here is how tough the Chinese criticize themselves in view of growing disparity between the rich and the poor and yet espouse and, I firmly believe, evince such a human and noble theme of wishing and working to obtain the best for their progeny. They will do most anything to insure the prosperity of their children.

Godzilla and his son

Godzilla and his son

American society is a bit different, a bit more like shove your kids out of the nest, and let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Being an American, I tend to agree with this way of thinking, of parenting (leading to numerous conflicts between Hobbit and me about her son). It’s a bit Conan, I’ll admit, but my god is less the warm fuzzy Christian god (or Buddhist, if you prefer) and more like the black-maned barbarian’s deity. Crom was a god whose attention you’d best eschew lest he hurl thunderbolts or war-hammers or something at your head. Best to rely on your own strong arm and your own shaft of bloody nocked steel. Self-reliance. Toughness. That’s what’s needed. But if you’re not Conan, a kind of legendary physical phenom with uncanny wolf-like instincts that allowed him to get the upper hand on scholarly sorcerers and influential noblemen and noblewomen, if you’re like me, a ShFUBPS—short/fat/ugly/brown/poor/stupid—or worse if you ARE me…well…. Me needs all the help Me can get! I will never win my own kingdom one day, but more likely will fade into ignominious obscurity (perhaps I won’t even have the distinction of ignominy) like the other billions of talking apes in our communal past.

My favorite Frazetta painting of ALL TIME.

My favorite Frazetta painting of ALL TIME.

There's Conan and then there's me: Latin version of GC. Represent!

There’s Conan and then there’s me: Latin version of GC. Represent!

No, I need a Chinese family to back me up, prop me up, and thrust me out of poverty and into a better life. Sadly, it’s too late for that and I think deservedly so. Still, I would be better off not being fabulously rich and would much rather sink back into the collective mud of oblivion than become one of the Waltons or worse one of those egregious Koch brothers. I’m sure they would agree too.

Into the Green

Peter disappeared.

I expected as much. He could only spend so time many pal-ing around with an old fart like me before his hormones kicked into overdrive and demanded pacification.

After a week or so the photo stream started up. Pictures of a group of young men and women out drinking and eating. Close ups of cute girls. Then closer up. Then things that only should be seen in anatomy textbooks or I don’t know. The Kama Sutra.

Hard to find a photo that would not scandalize the public.

Hard to find a photo that would not scandalize the public.

That’s not fair to the Kama Sutra, though. The KS is a book on the art of love. Drawing an analogy between Peter’s relentless pursuit of a new GF and India’s famous book on the art of lovemaking is like trying to make an analogy between a George Bush Jr. speech and a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. They’re both Americans giving speeches and both are juniors, but that’s about it.george_w_bush_quote_3Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-zumwalt

Getting Peter’s photo history was like a big cat (or dog) sending me updates while he was out on the prowl. Random chickee-poos he would meet somewhere or who would walk into his web—I mean store—and he’d chat them up and then—bingo! Hello Jungo!spider-to-the-fly

If I sound a little bit envious then I apologize. Because I am way more than a little envious. (sigh)

Peter was on the prowl. He even stalked the perpetually grumpy co-ed who worked the counter at the gym. Usually when I interact with Chinese—male or female—I get them to smile because, hey, I speak Chinese pretty well, and I crack jokes with them. Not this cara de piedra. Nothing I did did any good. She looked at me as if I had just raped and killed her grandmother. No scratch that. That’s not accurate, because that would mean she emoted. There was no emoting coming from her.

She treated me like a damn gnat that had landed on the screen of her big Samsung cell phone. Moreover, she couldn’t really be bothered to shoo it away. I would stand there, my head just over the counter, level with her eyes, and smile my nicest friendliest dirty uncle smile.

“Hi!”

No response. Cough cough. Extend gym card and 50 kuai deposit for the locker key. Long drawn out sigh from her. Snatches—snatches—card and bill out of my hand and throws the locker key onto the countertop. I say hello, please, thank you, good bye, every time. And I could never get any kind of, any kind of, the Chinese say, 人情味兒 rénqíng wèi’èr , warm human feeling. And that was it. She had none of that. She was one cold mama. Yeah, I wasted not a little grey matter wondering why she didn’t like me. It really bugged me. I saw this girl almost every freakin’ day. She can’t spare a polite smile?i9

I mentioned this to Peter and he said, “No, no. She’s really nice.” I did notice that when I came in with Peter she deigned to look up from her phone. At him. I still did not exist and fumed in my non-existence.

She not only looked at him but actually went out with him (albeit briefly). He sent me pictures of her and him smiling. Smile. Ing. And having a ball. I don’t know that they actually balled, but that would be purely incidental. What was amazing was seeing a smile on the girl’s face. She was transformed from surly lazy counter-bitch into sweet, angelic, pixie Asian chick. Whatever Peter has, we oughta bottle it up and sell it. The hell with Viagra Cialis whatever.

Before

Before

After

After

Anyhoo, since Peter was lost or out on the hunt, I was not about to stop going into the woods to practice archery. It was May and rainy, but the weather was gorgeous in between the storms.

In April, the trees began to sprout their leaves. Little by little your vision into the distance diminished. As the foliage grew in, the bare trees lost their stark appearance, lost that spindly pale bone-flesh feel, and seemed to swell with life, with power, with green. I know that is impossible. Trees don’t get fat, but it seemed that way. The air was so fresh, I swear I could smell the oxygen wafting off the leaves. The forest floor was soft wet and spongy from the intermittent rains. Yet above me around me the trees penetrated the air with their new green velvety palms and leafy fingers glistening with raindrops. The sun was not cold, not hot. Not even masculine. The sun gave off a feminine light. She was naughty and sweet, gentle and ticklish, falling between the branches and leaves, to drop at my feet like a prankish child, rebound quickly and dance off elsewhere. The winter forest had transformed into a place of magic, populated by elves and fairies and wood spirits. Sadly no Hobbits were anywhere in sight. My Hobbit was back home sulking over whatever it is that Hobbits sulk over. The irony is not lost on me.

Elves in the forest

Elves in the forest

So alone in the forest, but very much not alone. Solitude, but not solitary at all. The beautiful blue-tipped and white-tipped crows were telling jokes to one another. Squirrels gamboled in the leafy network of branches. In the distance a dog yapped happily. She had found a friend.

I love the forest.

I love stepping away from the cold grey dirty city and entering the green bosom of nature. In her I feel at home. And I, American Zen, have never felt at home in any place made by man. Never in any city or town or village. But in the forests, in the woods, in the mountains, in the jungles. These have been sanctuaries, all too brief, but they have been refuges from the blight of mankind, from the pain and worry of dealing with the human things, the man things, the woman things.

In many churches across the world I have seen beauty, man-made beauty, architectural psalms paying tribute to the glory of god, but I have never felt god. Only in nature have I felt that divine power, that masculine feminine fullness, bountiful and dangerous and limitless.

For a little while anyway.

For a little while, I tramp into the forest, am enveloped by the forest, blocking out the skyscrapers, shutting out the noisy construction, scaring off the fearful anxious human things, and I am left alone-but-not-alone with a crappy wooden bow and two cheap arrows, a homemade target stuffed with old baby clothes and a greasy seat cushion.

I nock my arrow. Breathing in, I pull back on the string, pulling it to my lips. I feel the finger-tab touch my lips.

Kiss.

My eyes line up with the center of the target. I feel more than see the arrow lined up with my vision.

The trees whisper all around me, scattering the sunlight children, who dance and laugh and play in the pale shade of the trees. One of them jumps onto the tip of my arrow and as I exhale, releasing, she rides the arrow through the green air, splitting the shadow and the light, riding true, riding straight, riding into the heart.

I smile.

I know peace.

new target

new target

sunlight rides my arrow into the target

sunlight rides my arrow into the target

i'm happy

i’m happy

Harbin Night Market: That’s a lot of Wangs.

Peter texted me: I break up with my girlfriend.

I texted back: Did you break up with her? Or did she break up with you? Or did you both decide to break up?

We fight. She say me if I love her. I say no. She cry and left. Game over.

Peter is not a playah, but he sure acts like one. He goes through girlfriends more than he changes his chonnies, which is not saying much since the guy lives in a pseudo-basement apartment with no running water or electricity and rarely has a chance to shower. He sucks electricity off the office building next door and defecates in a plastic bag over a pan and dumps it into the gutter before the street sweeper passes by his cell phone shop at daybreak. I know when he’s been too lazy to get up because his little closet store smells like night soil.

I politely tell him, “Dude, it’s kinda ripe in here.”

He claims it’s the kitty litter, that he hasn’t changed it. I know the difference having owned cats off and on and having had to crap in my own hands because there wasn’t a place in which to cop a squat. Nothing teaches you humility better.

Peter texting me this bit of information means I might have to babysit him for a little while. Although he has always cheated on his numerous girlfriends and always watches porn all day long, he was basically a kid. His behavior led to tearful break-ups but sex was really just candy for his (I’m assuming) outsized membrane. He was attracted and attached to (i.e. codependent with) a girl based on how sweet her pussy was. He met all kinds of girls who were looking for a good time (but also secretly hoping for something lasting) and inevitably they’d go away crying. There were a lot of one-night stands. I know cuz Peter often texted me photos of him and his conquests au naturel. I told him it was not funny and that he ought to have a little more self-respect. He thought it was funny. I did not. Most of the girls were fine looking, too, I’ll have to admit. I often warned him that one day he’d get his. And he did once, for all the good the experience did him.

He met an older woman, Sun Cui. A real piece of work that one. A wild woman with the cutest most divine little boy. How the hell she ended up with the Dalai Lama for a son I’ll never know. Just goes to show you that life is fucked up. I hated her the first time I met her. She was essentially a Chinese version of a dumb blonde bitch. One of the most irresponsible mothers I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet.

This human cat ran around with several guys at a time, utterly shameless, protesting to each one that she was faithful, dumping her kid on whomever was at hand. And I get the whole double standard thing. I do. It’s one thing when all parties agree to free love, but cheating on your other is heinous and dishonorable. On top of that, ditching your kid so you can go drinking at a KTV? There has to be some sort of Mega-Bitch Award for that kind of behavior.

She got her claws into Peter and gave him a taste of his own medicine. Peter was distraught because whatever talent this woman possessed in the sack enchanted him to desperate distraction. He was not himself. In other words, he was undeniably irretrievably and indefatigably pussy whipped. He got into a couple of fights trying to stake her as his own. She never let on that she didn’t want to be exclusive and made up all kinds of excuses why she kept waking up in some other guy’s bed. Sometimes leaving her handsome little Buddha child in Peter’s care. This worried me. Peter was not the kind of guy that should be taking care of a little boy. I had to babysit the sweet little tyke on more than one occasion. “Where’s Mama? Where’s Mama?”

Absorbing all of his laments about his two-timing dragon lady, I pounced on the irony of the situation, but at the time Peter only looked at me with pained eyes: “I really love her! I really love her!”

“No, you don’t. You barely know her, Peter. It’s just lust. Sex. Don’t let her do this to you.”

He would call and call, and she’d ignore his calls. I gotta hand it to Peter cuz he’d track her down, find her with another guy, and a brawl would ensue. Peter might be a kid at heart, but he’s extremely powerful.

I’ve seen him pick up guys who weigh over two hundred pounds and bounce them on their heads. Literally. It was a move he picked up from his shuaijiao days. I told him not to do that move in a fight. He could seriously injure someone’s spine or even possibly kill him. Between the bouts of crocodile tears, he’d smile; crying from Sun Cui breaking his heart, but smiling with the predator’s pride of being able to dominate the savannah. He might be the toughest lion in her pride, but she was still shacking up with every Li, Zhang, and Wang in a fifty-kilometer radius. That’s a lot of Wangs.

One shattered heart later, umpteen other girlfriends later, umpteen donnybrooks later, we were back here again.

This latest GF, a tall Harbin girl (slightly big in the hips with long heavy limbs and as educated as a bag of hammers) had lasted a lot longer and I knew why. She spelled Peter at his little cell phone store so he could meet with me and go lift weights or practice archery. I never much cared for the dumb chick, but she did have her uses and I pointed that out to him. She essentially learned how to run his shop (and put up with all his bullshit) while he ran around town with his buddies—male and female buddies. Love gave her the wherewithal to become an impromptu businesswoman. I admired her for that. The things we do for love. The things love enables us to do. No matter how you slice it, it’s masochism. But at the end of the day any girl stupid enough to pin her hopes to Peter’s comet was short a few million cells in the grey matter.

I sighed. It was unfair to her (I never could remember her name—that’s how little she mattered to me, supposedly Peter’s best friend) and I pointed that out to him.

“Peter, last week you were telling me how much you loved her and that you two were gonna get married. Shit, your Ma wanted you two to get a house together.”

That was true. He tried to borrow money from me, like several wan, and I didn’t have that kind of money. I stalled and stalled because I was not gonna get mixed up in that money pit. It was inconceivable to me that a guy as young and sexually irresponsible as he was could even think of marriage. I mean, I know I’m not one to talk, but this was clearly a situation where someone’s traditional expectations were crashing on the rocks of reality. His mother and ex-girlfriend were high on baijiu if they thought Peter was anywhere near taking on the responsibility of a family. Probably most of China’s population was not anywhere fiscally prepared to marry and raise a child, but that didn’t stop parents and grandparents from harping on it. They ought to advocate celibacy and homosexuality. The last thing China needed was more people.

Peter wanted to drown his troubles. I told him in no uncertain terms that we were not going to go get drunk.

“Just a couple beers.”

He wanted to introduce me to one of Harbin’s night markets. It was down on Hongqi Street. Fine. I could do that. But no drinking.

Night Market

Night Market

Night Market scene.

Night Market scene.

When I saw him, his face was ashen and drawn. His skin was grey and rough anyway, like the Grey Hulk from back in the Sixties. Peter didn’t get to bathe often since he lived in that stanky basement. The Grey Hulk analogy was apt since Peter also had a bromance going on with the Big Green Behemoth.

Hulk # 1, the Original

Hulk # 1, the Original

In addition to photos of him and bimbo du jour, he’d often send me pictures of the Hulk, telling me he wanted to look like Hulk. Like I said, big kid. I would send him pictures of Namor or Green Arrow since that was the body type I aspired to, although at my age I was just trying not to look like fucking George Costanza. In my defense, I doubt Jason Alexander possesses my physical skill set even if we could pass for twins.

Namor the Sub-Mariner! What a swimmer's bod!

Namor the Sub-Mariner! What a swimmer’s bod!

Original Green Arrow

Original Green Arrow

Oh George!

Oh George!

I figured we’d walk around the night market for a while and I’d try my level best to stick to my diet and keep him out of trouble.

We ended up having a good time. We goofed around taking pictures, trying on women’s hats and whatnot, me blanching at the disgusting food they had on display. I refused to eat or drink and he respected my terms.

Worms anyone?

Worms anyone?

Big Black Beetles

Big Black Beetles

Grasshoppers I think.

Grasshoppers I think.

Bu-FUGLY caterpillars.

Bu-FUGLY caterpillars.

More Worms and coccoons

More Worms and cocoons

The Ubiquitous CHUAN, creatures on a stick.

The Ubiquitous CHUAN, creatures on a stick.

That first night was special. The weather was pristine. Cool but not cold. In fact it was just cold enough that milling around with the mass of unwashed humanity kept you warm. Of course, sexy svelte lithe Chinese women everywhere. Christ, Chinese women are so fucking achingly sexy and beautiful! I wish I were either younger or richer. Either that or a goddamn sexless robot. That way I wouldn’t feel the horrible riptide of desire every time I brushed past a Heilongjiang beauty.

Night Market 8

Night Market 8

Night Market sweets.

Night Market sweets.

We went to the night market every night for five days and after the first coupla nights it was boring as hell. Eventually I started trying the food and we had a couple of brewskies at this small tea shop out of sheer boredom. I brought my laptop and did some reading while he posted pictures of our misadventures on WeChat (China’s FaceBook).

I never got so bored that I ate the barbecued semi-formed baby chicks that Peter swore by. He said that eating these eggs in which the baby chicks had begun to take shape helped put on muscle mass. I told him he was fulla shit. I didn’t care how much muscle it might put on your biceps, there was no way in hell I would ever let that pass my lips. Jeez, even if I wasn’t (usually) vegetarian, even if I was a diehard carnivore, I could never eat that. It sounded like someone’s nightmare. Imagine that: you’re trying to eat a hardboiled egg and discover there’s a dead little chick inside. Yeesh. Gives me the shivers thinking about it.

Chick egg fetus. Yum!

Chick egg fetus. Yum!

I held Peter’s proverbial hand every night. I didn’t mind being away from home. Hobbit was still treating me like a red-haired stepchild in a black family, so I needed the distraction too. I also realized I had missed being around people, believe it or not. I was off so much on my own and alone (in China of all places) that I forgot the simple pleasure of just people-watching (as opposed to girl-watching which is less of a pleasurable activity and more of a painful involuntary hardwired biophysical response).

I even bought a few stupid baseball hats. The last night we went to the market, Peter brought me a new cell phone. I had been complaining about the other phone (that incidentally he had given me for free). I appreciated that it was free but the damn thing was so cheap it caused more headaches than it solved. I even asked him to find me an iPhone, something I should never have done since I knew where—and how—he acquired them.

Peter, despite my warnings, engaged in several side businesses besides repairing cell phones and slapping on those silly plastic protective coversheets. In fact, these side deals were his most lucrative transactions. He still maintained a few connections from back in the day. He’s a businessman right? Most businessmen with such thin margins are always ready to make a little extra money and you know if you weren’t too circumspect about the origins, well you know, as long as it wasn’t a habit. Peter had Johnny Law or rather Zhang Law come down on him before and he had to spend a few nights in lock up while the Po-po went through his store and confiscated everything they thought looked suspicious. A few nights and a few thousand kuai later he was released on his own recognizance. Basically the police just took all his goods and any cash he had on hand and kicked him out with a warning not to accept stolen goods ever again. Like they gave a shit. Peter swore he would walk the straight and narrow but that only lasted a short while.

“How much is this?”

“Don’t worry. It’s a present for you. Take. Take!”

“No way, man. How much? You gotta take something.”

“Two kuai.”

I pushed it back across the table. “I won’t take it. I will fucking pitch it right through this window.”

He just smiled his big shit-eatin’ grin.

I played with it. This was China’s answer to iOS and Android. Some Chinese company had obviously ripped off Apple and Samsung and rolled out this cheaper version. This Chinese “Apple” system was all the rage now. Later I found out just how expensive the phone cost, but at least Peter took some money for it. Fucking capitalism. It absolutely corrupts all of us, absolutely.