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I think I mentioned we also saw an actual knife fight in this same alley! With big giant meat cleavers!
November 21, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Davesecretary of TIME FOR SOME STORIES fame (previously) decided to spend a year in a smallish Chinese city to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He slowly realizes that he's not having a very good time.
posted by The Whelk (87 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm very excited about this. I'm doubtful that anything will ever be as good as "THE ANSWER IS TAWNY," but still, very excited.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:39 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Er...so I began reading the last link and the guy sounds like an insufferable jackass. Is there a reason to read on?
posted by yoink at 8:40 AM on November 21, 2012 [30 favorites]


It needs to be in all caps, though
posted by Lucinda at 8:41 AM on November 21, 2012


So this guy says his friends are 30-40, so I assume he is, too... and he acts and writes like a teenager and gets blackout drunk and pukes in his sleep. Yeah, he seems not so happy, and he's an asshole.

I had a parent-teacher conference with a dad yesterday who moved from China to the US and travels there extensively for business, and after we talked about his daughter he talked for a half hour about how polluted China is and how they're basically destroying their ability to farm, and he thinks that China's economy will crash in the next year.
posted by Huck500 at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


OH BOY HERE WE GO AGAIN
posted by iamkimiam at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2012


Wherever you go, there you are, I guess.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Agreed. You cannot emigrate to escape the Asshole Inside.
posted by Suddenly, elf ass at 8:47 AM on November 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Er...so I began reading the last link and the guy sounds like an insufferable jackass.

STRIKE ONE, NANCY… STRIKE ONE
posted by hal9k at 8:52 AM on November 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


His retelling of childhood events of years ago was charming; retelling last week's shenanigans, not so much.
posted by TedW at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really envy people who spin a good yarn about getting black-out drunk. I always sort of hide for a couple days, hoping the world will forget how I disgraced myself. Maybe I just need a change of attitude. Instead of thinking, "damn i fucked up again" maybe I should think "Aren't I awesome at doing ridiculous things!!"
posted by Ad hominem at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a Yank, I'm glad this lout is so willing to identify himself as Canadian.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 8:54 AM on November 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


TL;DR: Foreign people are weird. At least, that's all he seems to be taking from his international travels.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2012


... this dude from Sweden plunks himself down on the couch and asks if we’re from the US. We all frown and he laughs and tells his friend that if you call someone an American and he gets really mad, then he’s a Canadian.

This made me smile, though. Reminded me of some discussions here on MetaFilter.
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


These douchebag stories are way less funny when you realize the dude is like 40 and not 17.
posted by elizardbits at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Two recommendations to whom it may concern: this person's writing should be reserved for his eyes only and never printed/published/digitized and ; After leaving China (which I hope is soon) be stopped by passport control from entering any other country. Wandering drunk, mumbling "dude" in an international limbo.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think this guy is a douchebag or an asshole. I think he's an unhappy person living in an unhappy place. Not everyone is a saint and that is okay.
posted by Syllables at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


cool story bro
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sociopath travelogue.
posted by gentian at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


TIME FOR SOME STORIES is still one of my all-time favourite things on the internet. I am very happy to have been reminded of it.
posted by Decani at 9:11 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not everyone is a saint and that is okay.

Not everyone is a huge gross racist like him either, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this real? I mean, he didn't make it up? We could have swapped - he could have spent a year at my house in the US and bankrolled me to spend a year in China and we both would have been happier, I guess. Wish I was walking between Nanjing Lu and Hainan Lu.

See now, it's been a while since I've lived in mainland China, but a lot of those things he mentions happened to me too - confusion about shipping stuff home, snot on the floor, various forms of yuck, lots of staring, confusing interactions with Chinese friends when cultural norms collided, the stress of speaking mediocre Mandarin - but they weren't a patch on the wonderful stuff and if I could be back there now I would be. And Shanghai is a glorious city! If you can't have fun in Shanghai - and I don't mean by spending tons of money at foreigner bars, either - you are a sad soul.

Aw, geez, now I'm all nostalgic. Yu Yuan ("the door...is a jar!!!!"), the bao guy and his family on campus, my chemical engineer friends, long nighttime bike-rides on the under-construction-but-still-deserted ring-road, the big, strong women at my favorite restaurant throwing these red-hot bowls of soup around, even mistakenly eating raw octopus intended for the hotpot at my friend Helena's new year's party seems good in retrospect. Hearing Cui Jian perform; when my students sang "Dong Bei Ren Dou Shi Hua Lei Fung" for me; "let's meet at the pink mao statue"; my 'I am but a silly foreigner' teaching routine, including "why isn't 'Hello Kitty' called "Ni Hao Mao?"; the little restaurant across the way that used to display student art...those were giant days. Good times and nice people - many of whom put up with a lot from my foreign self, all of whom were patient with me when I was confused or stressed.

I hope this guy had some genuinely good times too at least.
posted by Frowner at 9:17 AM on November 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


decided to spend a year in a smallish Chinese city to figure out what he wanted to do with his life

This sounds like a pretty bad idea, honestly.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:20 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The China stuff got more interesting as I read them. A individual's street-level view of living in-country, outside of the hotels and package tours.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 9:20 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like reading last exit to Brooklyn, but I hate the all of the characters.


Seriously, some of this is fascinating, but I get the sense the author is writing like an asshole just to troll the readers.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:25 AM on November 21, 2012


I mean, I add that there were days when I felt what I even then knew to be irrationally angry - trying to negotiate a complicated bureaucracy when your Mandarin breaks down at "Which one is cheaper? I would like that one please!" and "I am very interested in Chinese literature!" can make you feel just insane with rage. Or trying to get your bike repaired in a remote part of the city when everyone is like "lol, look at the foreigner who can't even pronounce 'I have a flat tire' right! Let's charge her 50 yuan when it should be 7!"

Every foreign person I knew had days of "I hate it here, these people are terrible, everyone is mean, I can't even buy a goddamn stamp without a form in triplicate!" But that was an artifact of frustration - and a lot of the things that frustrated me frustrated my Chinese friends too just as much or more, and were due to structural problems that everyone hated.

Also, sometimes things would be frightening, and it was easy to express fear as rage - getting sick when you can't communicate complicated medical stuff, getting really lost while traveling, all kinds of stuff.

It's just that I would never have written an article about feelings that I knew at the time were the product of my own fears and frustrations rather than something external to me.
posted by Frowner at 9:25 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Right? No one is this big of a dick unintentionally? Right?
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2012


A B52 IS A BOMBER BUT IT IS ALSO A DRINK MADE OF SUGAR AND ALCOHOL. THE NIGHT I HAD MY FIRST 20 B52S I WAS AT A FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY PARTY, SENIOR YEAR, HIGH SCHOOL. THIS WAS IN MALAYSIA WHERE WE WENT TO ONE OF THOSE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS. MY FRIEND WAS ARGENTINIAN SO I GUESS THAT MEANS HIS MUM WAS PRETTY COOL SEEING AS SHE'S POURING DRINKS FROM BEHIND THE BAR (THEIR HOUSE HAD A FUCKING BAR) FOR ALL THESE 16, 17 YEAR OLD KIDS.

WE WERE GOING TO GO TO A RAVE LATER THAT NIGHT AND DRINKS AT CLUBS ARE EXPENSIVE AND I'M JUST A POOR HIGH SCHOOL KID AND THE B52S ARE FREE BUT WE'RE LEAVING IN 40 MINUTES BUT THEY TASTE LIKE CANDY SO I DRINK THEM ALL. AND THEN WE CALL A CAB TO GO DOWNTOWN TO LISTEN TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC AND TRY AND DANCE.

THE DRIVER IS NOT GOOD. OR RATHER HE IS VERY GOOD AND WE GET DOWNTOWN IN RECORD TIME BY SPEEDING, IGNORING ALL ROADSIGNS AND LIGHTS AND WEAVING THROUGH TRAFFIC LIKE A QUAKER AT A LOOM. WHEN WE GET DOWNTOWN I OPEN THE CAB DOOR AND VOMIT ALL OVER THE SIDEWALK. ONE OF MY FRIENDS HAS A HOTEL ROOM NEARBY AND THEY DECIDE TO DEPOSIT ME THERE AND THEN GO DANCE. I PASS OUT ON THE BED BECAUSE IT IS NOT MOVING LIKE THE REST OF THE ROOM SEEMS TO BE.

WHEN I WAKE UP THERE ARE THREE PEOPLE I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE IN THE ROOM. ONE IS IN THE PROCESS OF REMOVING THE WALL SAFE FROM THE INSIDE OF THE CLOSET, ANOTHER IS SITTING ON THE FOOT OF THE BED DEMOLISHING WHAT'S LEFT OF A BOTTLE OF BOURBON WHILE THE THIRD IS BREAKING SOMETHING IN THE BATHROOM. THEY NOTICE I AM AWAKE WHEN I GROAN. THEY ARE BRITISH AND ARE THE NICEST PEOPLE EVER. THEY BRING ME BREAD TO EAT AND TELL ME WHERE TO MEET MY FRIENDS.

I EAT THE BREAD AND FEEL BETTER. I THEN GO AND DANCE. I NEVER SAW THE BRITISH GUYS AGAIN.
posted by dazed_one at 9:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


New convention that doesn't sit well: starting your paragraphs with "So." Please quit it.

Also, I got this far before I decided to quit reading:

"I’m already pretty drunk so I start with the biggest guy there and basically I get him so drunk that he falls down an entire flight of stairs. Then when I chug another quart of beer and this other dude can’t do it, his friends hold him down, pry his mouth open, and nearly drown him. It was actually kind of scary. The night’s going pleasantly enough..."

Don't misunderstand. I do like rambling stories set in foreign countries, the tidbits that expose the daily goings on, even the obscure imagery revealed by an unreliable narrator. Gritty doings and badly done deeds can keep me turning the pages. But wallowing in assholery works only in very short pieces, or perhaps as a clever rhetorical stunt--Mark Twain did it quite well. Maybe it was him abusing my sensibilities with that So stuff that put me off, and I just didn't care after that. I'll never know. I like it better than the backpacking through 3rd world backroads on $2 a day type stuff. Maybe I'm too harsh on the dude. I hope he gets home safely, and soon. Oh crap. Dude. Quit it. Just quit it. Find adjectives and use them. Or delete them when you edit. See. This is what happens when I try to do this in the morning.

I knew a guy that set up a few fabrication shops in China, making little trailers and other chingie dingies for sale at Costco and so on. He said China was smoggy, the people were rude, seemed to be inherently dishonest, and besides most of them didn't speak English. He had to fly over there two or three times a year to deal with the shops, and hated it. I mention this because I had trouble formulating how I felt about his stories. They troubled me in a way that sort of reminded me of davesecretary's essay.
posted by mule98J at 9:28 AM on November 21, 2012


there are certain things you should never do, one of them being trying to out-drink a Canadian when there is beer present.

Unless you're a Brit. Then it is seriously game on, man.


Anyway pretty soon people switch to orange juice, which is a sign that we’re all ready to go.

HAW HAW HAW no it's a sign that you're Canadian, lightweight!

Yeah, I prefer TFSS too.
posted by Decani at 9:28 AM on November 21, 2012


wallowing in assholery

That nails the pieces I read. Not my thing.
posted by Forktine at 9:31 AM on November 21, 2012


Seriously, some of this is fascinating, but I get the sense the author is writing like an asshole just to troll the readers.

I'm sure some of it is "trollery" (I don't see how you could have spent a year in China without having at least some 'and then I ate the most delicious food I have ever had in my life and had a really hilarious conversation with the waiter, who suggested that we go to this little park the next day where we saw the best ancient celestial alter/temple thing of all the ancient celestial things" experiences.) But it's also the exact same kind of trollery that a lot of Americans write about China - it's dirty, people have loltastic habits or do gross things like spit on the floor, nothing is very good anywhere ever, people are so hick and shallow that they want your attention just because you're a foreigner (you'd think no one in the US had ever hit on a hot exchange student before). If it's some kind of Sarah Silverman style ironic racism, it's still annoying, and if it's serious then it does a really sad disservice to real people living in a real country - a place with wonderful parts and stupid parts and oppressive parts and kind parts just like anywhere else.
posted by Frowner at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Christ what an asshole.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2012


So, The more I read the more I like it. He is just so agog over everything. Little kids and old people are like omg the craziest shit ever! What I would really like is someone writing in the same kind of wild eyed wonder about an American city.

He is pretty obvously in the Tucker Max vein of internet forum style writing but the fact that he lacks Max's perpetual boredom, mainly due to the fact that he is in an unfamilar environment, sort of elevates it. Is there a name for this style of writing? The completely over the top screeds of win or fail you see all across the web? The author is not just drunk, but the drunkest anyone has ever been. The author isn't a jerk, but a hideous monster more parody than man. Has anyone classified this genre?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:44 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frowner- You should write about your experiences, if only just to cosmically balance out this guy (also because they sound interesting).
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:48 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was my first time using the edit feature. It felt kind of dirty, but in a good way.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2012


What Frowner said. I would go back in a heartbeat, because the good times outweigh the terrible stuff by a mile, and that's not just nostalgia talking. I couldn't get past the asshole tone of the first few paragraphs of this, tbh.
posted by gemmy at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2012


It sounds like this author might be the "third kind of traveler."
posted by deathpanels at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2012


This was the deal breaker for me:

Fan looks really happy. We grab all the beer available and sit down and then one of our friends basically just reaches into the middle of the table, picks up the cake, and basically just fucking smashes it into Fan’s face in front of all his friends!

That just made me feel sad for the poor kid and I don't want to feel sad or read about the sort of ass who thinks that's funny enough to blog about.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Fan looks really happy. We grab all the beer available and sit down and then one of our friends basically just reaches into the middle of the table, picks up the cake, and basically just fucking smashes it into Fan’s face in front of all his friends!

How did I miss seeing that paragraph? I think I was skimming a little because there was so much cringe-inducing stuff involved.

I am full of hatred now, except for the part of me that feels kind of like crying.
posted by Frowner at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames's gonzo Russian writing in the eXile... very deliberate non-glossing of their time there, including their debauchery in all its horrible glory.
posted by sutt at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2012


Fan looks really happy. We grab all the beer available and sit down and then one of our friends basically just reaches into the middle of the table, picks up the cake, and basically just fucking smashes it into Fan’s face in front of all his friends!

See, I don't think that actually happened. I think at most someone picked up a peice and tried to feed it to Fan and some of it got on Fan's face. I bet everyone was laughing and having a great time and people just thought that is what white people do at birthday parties.

The "basically" part gives it away.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am full of hatred now, except for the part of me that feels kind of like crying.

Wait til you get to the part where he and his drunk girlfriend scream WHY CAN'T YOU FUCKING SPEAK ENGLISH into the faces of some old men who were trying to chat with them after they attempted to speak Mandarin.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2012


Wait til you get to the part where he and his drunk girlfriend scream WHY CAN'T YOU FUCKING SPEAK ENGLISH into the faces of some old men who were trying to chat with them after they attempted to speak Mandarin.

That's...not what happened.

She thought they were making fun of them for not being able to speak Mandarin, so she screamed: "WHAT’S SO FUCKING FUNNY, CAN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!"

I mean, it's not a lot better, but it is different. And I think it speaks more to her being really frustrated than to her being a racist asshole.
posted by asnider at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2012


"Wait til you get to the part where he and his drunk girlfriend scream WHY CAN'T YOU FUCKING SPEAK ENGLISH into the faces of some old men who were trying to chat with them after they attempted to speak Mandarin."

You got that wrong. They yelled it at some random dudes nearby that started laughing at them after they told the older guys they didn't understand Mandarin.

There's plenty other assholery to find, just to be clear. No denying.
posted by sutt at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was gonna yell jinx regarding the post above mine, then I realized they both got it wrong.
posted by sutt at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2012


Sutt is right. She was yelling at an entirely different group of people. I stand by the general "theme" of my comment, but I was wrong on the details.

Either way, of all the examples of assholery in this thing, that's not one of them (or at least not a very good example).
posted by asnider at 10:43 AM on November 21, 2012


None of this ever happened anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 AM on November 21, 2012


What an oddly incurious person. "They can't afford diapers here"? Dude, how about they've been doing it this way for hundreds of years and probably think your Canadian Huggies are gross?
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The guy is in Annhui, and I believe him when he describes it as a polluted shithole. I have not been to China, but plenty enough shitholes that things sound entirely plausible. I am about 2/3 of the way through, and came back to see MetaFilter's take. Yep, I guess I am an asshole, because aside from the fact he is drinking too much and going out and trying to interact with his environment I can very much imagine myself in his shoes.

And agree with the earlier comment that this trip was probably not a great idea for him.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:46 AM on November 21, 2012


SO I REALLY ENJOYED DAVESECRETARYATWORK'S OUEVRE AS THEY SAY IN THE CASPIAN AND WAS HANKERING FOR MORE, MUCH MORE. THEN A KINDLY METATALK POST POINTED ME TO A VERITABLE OASIS OF TIME FOR SOME STORIES TEXTDUMPS. OLD STORIES, NEW STORIES, STORIES ABOUT MUD AND WENDIGOS AND CANADIAN SCIENCE MUSEUMS AND OTHER WEIRD SHIT. I EVEN CORRESPONDED WITH THE MAN HIMSELF ON THE POSSIBILITY OF COMPILING HIS UPROARIOUS ANECDOTES INTO A BOOK OF SOME KIND; FANS OF ALL STRIPES REJOICED AND COLLABORATED ON A SWEET GOOGLE DOC. THEN DAVESECRETARYATWORK DECIDED TO TURN THE BLOG INTO SOME KIND OF DREAM JOURNAL AND HIS STORIES BECAME EVEN MORE RAMBLINGLY INCOHERENT IF THERE IS SUCH A THING. I EVENTUALLY DROPPED IT FROM MY RSS WITH MUCH SADNESS AND SOME REGRET. IT'S A PLACEHOLDER NOW, ALL THOSE DAVESECRETARYATWORK PARABLES LOST LIKE ANCIENT SCROLLS OR POSSIBLY TEARS IN THE RAIN.

ANYWAY THIS NEW STUFF ISN'T QUITE AS EXCELLENT, BUT IT WILL HAVE TO DO.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


So we just got back from a short trip to Mongolia. It was really gorgeous. We stayed with this small family in a yurt on their farm in the grasslands. It was so nice to see blue skies and not wake up to people yelling and spitting.

If he's doing this to figure out what he needs to do with his life, country living definitely seems to be part of it.
posted by charred husk at 10:48 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been away from China for long enough that it's faded into a kind of rosy, coal-dusted memory. But some of this brings back my experiences there in a gross and non-happy way. I know he sounds like a real jackass and a huge racist to boot, but for most of its population China is an absolutely brutal place to live, and not all of that is structural stuff. If you don't take an actively hostile approach to life you will get mowed down. You cannot buy a rail ticket without actively knocking grandmothers out of your way, because they'll kick the crap out of your shins without even thinking about it to cut ahead of you if you don't. If you're a foreigner you have all kinds of insane privileges, but you also can't buy a 30 cent bowl of noodles because the waitresses scream and hide in the back of the noodle shop until you leave.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


1adam12: but you also can't buy a 30 cent bowl of noodles because the waitresses scream and hide in the back of the noodle shop until you leave.

I'm a little curious why this would be the case, but I'm not sure I want to know as I suspect the answer is incredibly depressing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2012


Metafilter: I am full of hatred now, except for the part of me that feels kind of like crying.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:00 AM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought this was pretty interesting, partly for the place he's describing and partly for the reactions he has to it. There are parts where he comes off as an ass (mainly, coincidentally, the black-out and puke parts), and parts where his reaction to things definitely makes me uncomfortable, but I think if you just dismiss him as a racist drunk you're missing out on something more fascinating underneath the surface.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


ANYWAY THIS NEW STUFF ISN'T QUITE AS EXCELLENT, BUT IT WILL HAVE TO DO.

DANGER POINT!! YOU LEFT THE CAPS LOCK ON
posted by triggerfinger at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2012


I think it's super interesting that the enlightened souls on metafilter are so quick to call a guy racist that's reporting on his experiences in rural China where he's a *victim* of racism..one of four or five westerners in a city of four or five million who is regularly pushed, slapped, cursed, overcharged, and generally mistreated. And when he expresses his befuddlement that people do things like shit in the street and hack live dogs to pieces it's not that he's living in a backwards hell hole, it's that he's a racist drunk who is also unhappy. At least according to the totally not-racist and perfectly happy people here.
posted by chronkite at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


besides most of them didn't speak English.

I know - it's so weird. It's like it's a foreign country, or something.
posted by jb at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2012


WHAT IS HAPPENING TO PEOPLE'S EYEBALLS IN HUAINAN?

Then we passed him, and we looked back and he looked up AND THE DUDE DIDN’T HAVE FUCKING EYES!!!! WELL I mean he had them, but they were recessed in his eye-holes by like a good centimeter and looked all pussy and mucous-y!!! It looked like someone had first taken a sharp razor blade, and made some deep slits under and above his eyeball, and then deflated his eyeball, so that he just had these gummy, bloody holes for eyes with some weird eyeball-goopy-matter deep in the back of them. It was FUCKED UP!!

I’ve also seen a dude pedaling down the alley on this fucked up bike, wearing this wear lampshade-hat, missing an eye (but like it looked like it was freshly gouged out – it was bleeding profusely and there wasn’t any eye-lid), and just screaming out random shit at everyone while he pedaled by.

I saw my first drunk alcoholic woman a few days ago. She scared the fucking life out of me. She was running and jumping up and down in the big department store and screaming and both her eyes looked like the other dude, with the bloody slits above and under the eyeball.
posted by designbot at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2012


Mitrovarr, it's hard to imagine if you live in any major Western city I guess. But we're talking about folks who have literally never personally set eyes on a non-Chinese person before outside of TV and movies. That might also apply to every 2nd-degree relationship they have, too. They've never, ever spoken to someone who didn't speak their own language as a native speaker. Who the hell knows what kind of nonsense people have been pumping into their brains for the last 20-odd years? Or what kinds of fears they have that I'll yell at them in my alien language until they spit out the three mangled sentences that are the sole remnant of their 8 years of English-language instruction. Or ravish them with my filthy imperialist appendage, which they have on good authority is approximately the size of a small daschund.

note: no ravishing or yelling took place. only noodle-ladies screaming
posted by 1adam12 at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2012


I keep telling myself I’m going to be the bigger man and not going to take this out on the Chinese back in Canada, but part of me keeps saying “torch down little China as soon as you get back” and a lot of times I just want to write all my friends back home (even my best friend who is Chinese) and tell them to start yelling LAWEI at every Chinese person they see.

If my best friend told me something like that, he would no longer be my friend.
posted by spaet at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you think davesecretary is racist based on this... I don't even know where to begin. Dude is clearly just being honest about the feelings he feels in a place that is (for many people) frustrating and troubling.
posted by Nomiconic at 12:32 PM on November 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


He's coming across as an ass. I can understand that he's feeling alienated as mainland China is a extremely strange and brutal place.

I can sympathize with some of what he's going through after the 2 years I spent in China, but if he's not willing to embrace a different culture and learn new things, then living overseas is not going to work out for him. We loved living in China and would live there again; the pollution and daily grind do get to you, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

He's right about baijo being foul though.
posted by arcticseal at 12:35 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's super interesting that the enlightened souls on metafilter are so quick to call a guy racist that's reporting on his experiences in rural China where he's a *victim* of racism..one of four or five westerners in a city of four or five million who is regularly pushed, slapped, cursed, overcharged, and generally mistreated. And when he expresses his befuddlement that people do things like shit in the street and hack live dogs to pieces it's not that he's living in a backwards hell hole, it's that he's a racist drunk who is also unhappy. At least according to the totally not-racist and perfectly happy people here.

Funnily enough, I got through two whole years in China - not rural China, but China in the mid nineties when there were a lot fewer foreigners around and no internet - without writing something like this piece. In fact, I had some of the same kind of experiences that this dude had, with the added benefits of being a queer woman (known as "the woman with the man's haircut" to some) and fat (at least by Chinese standards) on top of it. I had some scary and bad experiences - for instance, I was chased and punched by a crazy and violent guy who had a thing about foreigners and later attacked one of the students on campus and about whom the campus administration would do nothing because it would look bad. That was terrifying. I ran into a shop on campus; the guy followed me and tried to tell the shopkeeper that I had hit him. Luckily, he talked enough that his mental illness became apparent and I fled - just ahead of him - back to my building. Whoa, that was scary. I locked myself into my shared apartment and then into my room.

Unlike a lot of what the OP talks about, I was in actual physical danger from a Chinese person and was failed by the Chinese bureaucracy. More, my cohort of teachers and students were failed by the Chinese bureaucracy and police on several other occasions - a rapey older white guy (a leftist from Australia, no less!) assaulted a couple of girls and kicked my housemate in the leg hard enough to bruise badly when she wouldn't sleep with him, but neither the school nor the cops were willing to intervene between foreigners.

And I was stared at and sometimes insulted (mostly by mistake due to different cultural norms, but it still didn't feel that great) by Chinese people.

Sometimes it was really, really stressful!

And things were dirty, and many of the other foreigners were total assholes. Actually, that's worth a comment in itself - my life was often made harder by the assholishness of other foreigners, some of whom were sexist and racist and some of whom were just super-duper entitled and did not understand that they were not in their home countries and things were different.

And yet, amazingly, I didn't yell at anybody on the street. Or write sort of quasi-racist semi-comic articles. In fact, the whole experience gave me new respect for immigrants to the US, since many of them arrive without the various privileges I had when I was living in China.

The thing is, when you write this kind of thing (and honestly, I was skimming enough that I missed some of the more egregious passages quoted here) you're practically certainly assuming that your audience is non-Asian-American and that they're down with this whole "lol China" thing...or else you're assuming that any, like, Chinese Americans who read this (or Chinese people!) don't matter. That it's okay to hold a society which has often been ridiculed by white Americans up to yet more ridicule. I heard lots of dumb questions about China after I got back - and since everyone knows me as a PC thug, I assume that the really dumb and offensive questions didn't get asked. Obviously, everyone can write as they please, but that doesn't mean that it reflects well on someone's character!
posted by Frowner at 1:22 PM on November 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I remember the original TIME FOR SOME STORIES and enjoyed them but as soon as I heard that he was writing about living in China I just knew it was going to be painful to read...and I was right.

From the responses in this thread I'm glad to see that a lot of people don't find that type of writing acceptable anymore. I'm just so tired of the "I went to this country and people had never seen a white man before and they were all backwards and it was dirty and nobody could speak English" thing.

I remember a few years ago on a Chinese language learner's forum there was this guy (incidentally also Canadian) who had also had a rough time in China, and just could not comprehend that the things he complained about experiencing in China are the exact same things that Chinese people in Canada and the US experience on a daily basis. Things like people making fun of you for not speaking the language, singling you out because you look different. And they don't even get the privileges that Westerners sometimes get in China. So here he was having been the foreigner for the first time and having had a rough time of it, and he casts aspersions on the entire people and country and says things exactly like the quote spaet included above and even accuses overseas Chinese people of being racist because they form Chinatowns. It's really disheartening that people think like that instead of thinking "wow, when I go back, I am going to be nicer to all the foreigners in Canada now that I know how it feels not to be the majority race."

The sad thing is if you talk to westerners who are in/have been in China a lot of them basically express the same views as davesecretary but just in a less extreme manner. You hear it so often that it's acceptable in those circles to express views like that. As a Chinese-American traveling in China, I didn't have quite as many problems, but I certainly knew how it felt being the only Chinese person growing up in a small American town. When I went to Turkey I had people honking and literally stopping their cars and backing up on the street to look at me, and dozens of people who wanted to take pictures with me like I was a rare zoo animal. It's nothing with the Turkish people; it's normal behavior for any rural people who have never seen a foreigner before.

If you're a foreigner you have all kinds of insane privileges, but you also can't buy a 30 cent bowl of noodles because the waitresses scream and hide in the back of the noodle shop until you leave.

That doesn't gel with my experiences traveling with foreigners in many extremely rural parts of China. In fact I was sometimes surprised at how nonchalant a lot of people were when my traveling companions spoke in Chinese. Sometimes people would be all amazed the foreigner could speak Chinese but sometimes they'd just be like "everyone speaks Chinese how is that unusual, now give me 2.5 yuan for the noodles." I never saw anyone run away from a foreigner.
posted by pravit at 1:28 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]



She thought they were making fun of them for not being able to speak Mandarin, so she screamed: "WHAT’S SO FUCKING FUNNY, CAN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!"


ooh, you are correct! that's what i get for watching that scary cliffbike video in another tab while simultaneously commenting.

anyway, yeah, this dude has plenty of other incidences of douchebaggery to note.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on November 21, 2012


The first time I visited Hong Kong (nearly thirty years ago I am so old) people pulled their children away from my path, fearing that the ambulatory man-mountain would fall and crush them all. I didn't try speaking to them, but I don't think it would have helped. I mean, if a mountain started rumbling at you, would you feel reassured?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:14 PM on November 21, 2012


I knew people like this when I lived in China. I know people like this now that I live in Japan. They're called assholes.

It's entirely possible to have a bad day while living in a foreign country. It happens. I dread my morning commute, knowing I'll have to put up with the rugby scrum of changing trains between two train companies, of riding the train with a horde of annoying junior high students. What I don't do is blame an entire culture for not conforming to my standards. China got along just fine without this festering asshole, and I imagine they'll be even better off after he goes home.

I've mentioned the book before, but the late Bill Holm wrote a book called Coming Home Crazy, about his time in China. The central idea of the book was that China was China, and that, for foreigners living there, it was up to them how they reacted. He described, in the introduction, a pretty awful day by western standards: the bank won't let you change money, there's no hot water, the power goes out, the bus never comes, and taxis won't stop. Some foreigners would, he said, throw up their arms and blame the country for being wrong. Another foreigner would just accept it, because that's how China is, occasionally. Then they'd get on with their life.

Foreigners looking to China, or any other country to "find themselves" or "figure things out" most times just make life harder for those around them. I can't imagine Fan's life is in any way better for coming into contact with this walking ball of issues and baggage.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:32 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dude's from Canada. Huh. Today I learned that you don't have to be American to be an ugly American.
posted by Spatch at 3:38 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I found this the other day and thought, oh, he's gone kind of downhill, eh? I went from TIME FOR SOME STORIES to true things the assistant has said to this. True things is pretty bad, but it amused me because I have known odd people like that, and I am a horrible person who laughed, even while knowing that poor assistant, if she actually exists, is probably a nice person who would be horrified at how she is portrayed on that site. I still laughed. I think perhaps Dave Secretary should have stopped at the assistant, because those China stories are pretty horrid.
posted by routergirl at 4:35 PM on November 21, 2012


I'm sorry I read one fifth before I realized it was just another Gap Yah.
posted by surplus at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2012


He shows no empathy for anyone, anywhere, except himself. He's a self-proclaimed vegan who is unmoved by dogs being slowly beaten to death.
posted by gentian at 5:57 PM on November 21, 2012


Unmoved? He was moved enough to write about it. And I'm glad he did..maybe someone closer to your level of advanced empathy would have see that kind of abuse, forgiven it because "hey, when in Rome!", and moved on silently. I get the feeling he's plenty bothered by stuff like that, but in a kaleidoscope of horror like newly eyeless drunks, stolen orphan slaves, lethal tap water and random assaults it kinda just blends in, doesn't it?
posted by chronkite at 6:25 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This guy generally acts like an annoying drunken ass and then is offended when people treat him like a sideshow. He is living in small city and is upset that no one speaks a language that has nothing to do with their daily lives.

"Oh man! Living as a minority in an unfamiliar culture is sooooo difficult! It's not like I can go home to a comfortable lifestyle in a prosperous developed nation anytime I wanted to! Why aren't the locals carrying me around on a palanquin while saying 'So solly so solly!' while showing me their heartfelt indigenous crafts that I will buy and take home with me and put on a shelf so I can occasionally glance at it and remember what a heartfelt and genuine people they were? Why are they so commercialistic and so focused on icky economic progress when it's been shown time and time again that it's the only way that a country gains respect and is actually treated like an equal in the international community?"

Hm. Maybe I shouldn't be replying in this thread, because I have an ax the size of...well, China to grind against these kind of Imperialist-nostalgic assholes. This is already infuriating in those wide-eyed kids under 23, that this is coming from a 40 year old is really inexcusable.
posted by C^3 at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was amazing to read! I should have cooked supper and gone to bed by now, but just could not stop reading. Maybe his impressions are a bit too unedited and honest for the format, though. If it was a series of blog entries instead of a single document the subjective "this is what we did today" nature of it would be more apparent. And there's probably a layer of exaggeration that comes from isolation, and not being able to fully communicate with the people around him.

But still, what an adventure! Not just living and travelling all around China, but also visiting the Philippines, and spending days totally alone on a deserted island off the coast of Malaysia! Staying in a Mongolian yurt, and jumping off sand dunes in the Gobi desert... It sounds like a hundred travel films all mashed into one.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:02 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't even know where to begin. Dude is clearly just being honest about the feelings he feels in a place that is (for many people) frustrating and troubling.

He could always go home to Canada if he feels China isn't for him, rather than be racist on the internet.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:52 PM on November 21, 2012


This just makes me really sad. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to the "token foreigner" in a remote place whose culture you struggle to understand... I think it's hard for people to understand if they haven't lived for some time like that. So I have a lot of sympathy for him. But his attitude is so depressing. It seems like he has just totally shut down, he's not willing to make an effort to understand any aspects of the local culture anymore. He has just written off everyone. It really sucks to be dehumanized, but the healthy reaction is not to just dehumanize everyone you interact with on a daily basis. That's just toxic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:58 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


pravit, that's awesome, because that particular experience made me a bitter little demon for a short while. Maybe it was because some of our group were Afro-Caribbean? It's hard to know, you can't ask people what the problem is while they're off hiding.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:05 AM on November 22, 2012


All of the above comments are understandable. Here is a paragraph amidst all the other quoted earlier:

I have been to a couple of big cities, Nanjing is pretty big and I’ve been to Shanghai – it was just like an American city though so I wasn’t too interested. I like the smaller villages here where people dry their hay on the streets and sing no matter where they are.

The author of these two sentences, full of praise for singing on the streets and disdain of American-like cities, would probably inspire "squee"-like praise from most MetaFilter thread masters. However, this paragraph ends with another sentence:

And of course do less spectacular things like shit on the streets and go apeshit whenever they see a white dude.

The author is complicated. You need not like him but the writing is wonderfully honest.
posted by noway at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think he's that complicated, like most Westerners in search of some nonexistent Xanadu, he shuns the economic-development focused modern cities, loves the traditional drying hay on streets, blessing the rains and singing old forgotten words and ancient melodies, but then is shocked by all the provincialism and poverty that accompanies that kind of stuff. You can't have your unspoilt ancient village stuff and a modern sewage system too. Did he expect them to go back home to their Toto (SWEET I MADE TWO TOTO REFERENCES IN ONE COMMENT) automatic water jet toilets after plowing the fields with oxen?
posted by pravit at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's a self-proclaimed vegan who is unmoved by dogs being slowly beaten to death.

My guess is there's a missing "not" before "vegan", since he also writes about eating fish and the sentence kinda makes more sense that way.

Given a dry description of brutal dog slaughter, maybe not so many people read into that a lack of empathy for the dogs. But given a similarly straight description of shitty things some people in China do, too many read into it a general racist grudge against them.

Not that the writer doesn't also have some amount of stupid racism in him. For me the worst bit is where he talks about looking at Chinese immigrants in Canada differently. Even if it's half joking and half ironic, there's really no excuse for that.
posted by sfenders at 10:03 AM on November 22, 2012


@pravit, I disagree, and here's another cite from TFA:

Anyway I know I need to practice more cultural relativism rather than _______ (the worldly term for Jingoism – on the tip of my tongue right now), but it’s fucking hard sometimes when everyone just constantly swears and pushes and yells and treats you like complete shit!!! I know it’s “different” and not “bad”, but I mean I can’t help but base my opinions on how the Chinese treat EVERYONE other than themselves.

He's self-aware. He also resorts to a deadpan / ironic voice to distance himself from that which he can't wrap his mind around. If he were writing for a formal publication like The Atlantic or The New Yorker, this lack of synthesis would be objectionable. But this is his blog. Caveat lector.
posted by noway at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2012


Midway through, he makes the following comment, which sounds like astute analysis and certainly fits the bill for many travelers from the west:

[There is] a very large group of people who simply cannot cope in their home country, and need to go somewhere where they can get additional advantages simply because they are white and/or speak English . . . These people would never in a million years find a job or make friends or get into a relationship back in a country where there’s competition.

But then, he ends the essay with:

I’m starting to pack stuff up for Vancouver. We’ve decided to include the great Antarctic in our trip next year, and I’m fucking stoked to go home, crash my parents’ new huge house, eat free food, save up a bunch of money, see my friends, go skydiving a bunch, and then head as far south as we can go.

Um, refresh my memory, but what did you say about not "finding a job in [your home country] where there's competition?"
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:37 AM on November 22, 2012


I don't want to analyse this to death, but he does mention having a job before going to China, and the "save up a bunch of money" goal probably means working once again when back home.

Thinking about this now after a night of sleep, there's some really dark entries where he describes the slaughterhouse (The abattoir and the school are both across the street from his apartment, but hopefully not the same street!) and that awful zoo with the tiger squeezed into a little cage. That part stands out because there's a picture of the poor thing.

The impression I get from his writing is that Huainan is a place with no room for sentiment. Lots of people squeezed together, tragedy and triumph, horror, beauty and every other variation of the human condition, jumbled up in one place with different ideas about zoning than we'd have here. They don't hide the slaughterhouse behind railroad tracks on the other side of town, or restrict the indigent to certain neighbourhoods. Maybe that's a more honest approach to life, I don't know.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:24 PM on November 22, 2012


This guy is a wanker and China sounds terrible.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:55 PM on November 28, 2012


China is not terrible. Like everywhere else, they have the good, the bad and the awful. I loved living there (admittedly as a privileged foreigner) and would live there again. Like everywhere, it comes with its own set of challenges, but it's entirely up to the individual on whether you want to embrace the differences or dwell on them.
posted by arcticseal at 7:06 PM on November 28, 2012


OH HEY TURNS OUT ALL THE OLDNEW DAVESECRETARYATWORK STORIES ARE STILL IN MY GOOGLE READER FEED, DOZENS OF THEM, BUT SUBTRACT THE DREAMY DREAMCATCHING DREAMJOURNAL MESS AND YOU'RE LEFT WITH A MEASLY EIGHT, QUITE DISAPPOINTING. I HAVE COPYPASTED THEM HERE FOR YOUR MIRTHFUL ENRAPTUREMENT, CAREFULLY ENTITLED, EDITED FOR LENGTH, AND ALL-CAPSED LIKE A GOOD DAVESECRETARYATWORK STORY SHOULD BE:

THE TALE OF THE ANCIENT SALAMANDER
GRADE EIGHT, HAD A CHEM TEACHER NAMED MR. POITRAS. IT'S A VERY FRENCH NAME, SO YOU'RE SUPPOSE TO ROLL THE 'R' AROUND IN YOUR MOUTH FOR A COUPLE OF MINUTES BEFORE SPITTING IT OUT. ANYWAY THERE WAS THIS KID CHRIS WHO VERY MUCH ENJOYED CALLING MR. POITRAS 'MR. POITWATH' WITH A HINT OF A LISP AND PRETENDING THAT HE SIMPLY COULDN'T DO ANY BETTER. HE ALWAYS SAID THE NAME TWICE IN A ROW (QUICKLY), AND EVEN TO THIS DAY, IF, FOR SOME VERY BIZARRE REASON, I HEAR 'MR. POITWATH!! MR. POITWATH!!' I AM INSTANTLY BE YANKED BACK TO A POORLY LIT CLASSROOM FULL OF LONG GRANITE COUNTERTOPS WITH BUILT IN DRAINS AND HUNDRED-YEAR-OLD BUNSEN BURNERS FROM A TIME LONG SINCE PASSED.

ANYWAY WE HAD SOME LOCKED CUPBOARDS IN THIS CLASSROOM AND THEY CONTAINED A MYRIAD OF DUSTY RELICS AND ARTEFACTS FROM GENERATIONS AGO. I DON'T KNOW IF ANYONE HAD A KEY TO THE CONTENTS OF THESE CUPBOARDS, BUT I PERSONALLY BELIEVED THAT THE SCHOOL HAD MOST LIKELY BEEN BUILT AROUND THESE OBJECTS, WHICH NO DOUBT HAD BEEN DISCOVERED BY PIONEERS WHEN THEY FIRST LANDED ON THESE WESTERN SHORES. THERE WERE SOME CRACKED, LEATHER-BOUND BOOKS THAT LOOKED LIKE THEY MIGHT BE ORIGINAL EDITIONS OF SHAKESPEARE, OR THE BIBLE, SOME RUSTY BRONZE TOOLS THAT I FANCIED CAME FROM THE BYZANTINE ERA, WHAT LOOKED LIKE THE WORLD'S FIRST WIG, AND A GIANT FOOT-LONG SALAMANDER IN A GIANT MASON JAR FILLED WITH FORMALDEHYDE.

SO ANYWAY CHRIS WAS KIND OF A JERK AND I REMEMBER AS SOON AS WE STARTED THE YEAR HE WAS YELLING OUT "MR. POITWATH! MR. POITWATH! WHAT'S THE THING IN THE CUPBOARD!" AND MR. POITRAS WOULD TRY AND MAINTAIN HIS DIGNITY AND TELL CHRIS THAT IT WAS OBVIOUSLY A SALAMANDER IN A JAR OF PRESERVATIVE. AND CHRIS ASKED WHERE IT CAME FROM AND MR. POITRAS SAID IT WAS THERE EVER SINCE HE COULD REMEMBER, AND THEN CHRIS GOT IT INTO HIS HEAD THAT MAYBE HE COULD CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF THE THING.

SO BASICALLY FROM THAT POINT ON EVERY CHEMISTRY COURSE WOULD START WITH CHRIS SCREAMING OUT "MR. POITWATH! MR. POITWATH! CAN I HAVE THE SALAMANDER?" AND MR. POITRAS WOULD LOOK LIKE HE HAD BEEN MORTALLY WOUNDED AND WOULD MOUTH OUT 'POITRAS' IN A BESEECHING SORT OF WAY AND THEN TELL CHRIS IN NO POLITE TERMS THAT HE COULD NOT HAVE THE SALAMANDER. AND THEN THE NEXT DAY THIS WOULD REPEAT ITSELF.

ANYWAY MR. POITRAS CRACKED AFTER ABOUT A MONTH OF THIS ABUSE AND TOLD CHRIS THAT IF HE STOPPED YELLING OUT HIS NAME EVERYDAY, AND MAINTAINED AN 80 AVERAGE, HE COULD HAVE THE SALAMANDER AT THE END OF THE YEAR. AND CHRIS TOTALLY COMPLIED. I MEAN THERE WERE STILL A LOT OF 'MR. POITWATH'S' BUT ON THE WHOLE CHRIS KEPT HIS PROMISE.

SO THE END OF THE YEAR COMES AROUND AND IT'S THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL AND CHRIS IS ALL FIDGETY AND MR. POITRAS IS ALL FIDGETY AND HE'S HANDING OUT FINAL GRADES AND I THINK EVERYONE'S WAY MORE INTERESTED IN CHRIS' MARK RATHER THAN THEIR OWN. AND MR. POITRAS HANDS CHRIS A PIECE OF PAPER AND CHRIS LOOKS AT THE GRADE AND SCREAMS OUT 'YES!!!! MR. POITWATH!! MR. POITWATH!! I GOT OVER 80! YOU SAID I COULD HAVE THE SALAMANDER!' AND MR. POITRAS SIGHS AND SUDDENLY LOOKS VERY OLD AND MUMBLES SOMETHING ABOUT HOW HE'LL GO FIND A KEY AND DISAPPEARS FROM THE ROOM.

SO WE'RE ALL ASKING CHRIS WHAT HE'S GOING TO DO WITH THE SALAMANDER AND HE KEEPS SAYING HE'S GOT PLANS AND SUDDENLY MR. POITRAS REAPPEARS WITH LIKE THE WORLD'S OLDEST SKELETON KEY AND SLIPS IT INTO THE KEYHOLE AND TURNS BACK THE LOCK. HE GRABS THE GIANT MASON JAR WITH BOTH HANDS AND TURNS IT OVER TO CHRIS, WHO IMMEDIATELY SHRIEKS IN DELIGHT AND RUNS RIGHT OUT OF THE CLASSROOM.

AND WE'RE ALL MOMENTARILY STUNNED AND CAN HEAR HIM STILL SHRIEKING AND TEACHERS ARE STICKING THEIR HEADS OUT OF THE DOORS AND THE SHRIEK DIES DOWN A BIT IN VOLUME AND WE HEAR A DOOR SLAM AND THE SHRIEK STARTS GETTING LOUDER AGAIN

AND IT'S CLEAR THAT CHRIS IS NOW OUTSIDE SO EVERYONE RUNS TO THE WINDOWS - THERE WAS A NICE LONG ROW OF WINDOWS IN THIS CLASSROOM OVERLOOKING THE GIANT PARKING LOT WHERE THE SCHOOLBUSSES CONGREGATE AND THE WINDOWS ARE ALL OPEN BECAUSE IT'S A BEAUTIFUL JUNE AFTERNOON SO WE CAN HEAR AND SEE THINGS CLEARLY. THE SUN IS BEATING DOWN ON THE ASPHALT AND EVERYTHING IS JUST REALLY WARM AND SUNNY.

BECAUSE IT'S ONLY LIKE 3:05 THERE'S ONLY ONE LONE SCHOOLBUS PARKED IN THAT GIANT PARKING LOT AND WE ALL WATCH AS CHRIS MAKES A BEELINE FOR IT, SHRIEKING AND HOLDING THE JAR, AND HE RUNS DOWN THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE PARKING LOT, AND GODDAMN IT IF HE DOESN'T JUST HUCK THAT FUCKING JAR RIGHT AT THE SIDE OF THE SCHOOL BUS AND IT EXPLODES INTO A BILLION PIECES AND THAT GIANT BLOATED SALAMANDER FALLS HEAVILY TO THE GROUND AND IS JUST LYING THERE AND CHRIS JUST KEEPS TEARING ACROSS THE PARKING LOT SHRIEKING UNTIL HE'S OUT OF SIGHT. IT WAS A REALLY INTERESTING WAY TO END THE SCHOOL YEAR.
THE TALE OF THE CANADIAN SCIENCE MUSEUM
SO ONE OF THE BIG 'TREATS' OF THE YEAR IS THE FIELD TRIP TO THE MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. WHICH IS DISAPPOINTINGLY SMALL WHEN I VISIT IT NOW, BUT AT THE TIME I WAS CONVINCED IT WAS BY FAR THE LARGEST MUSEUM IN THE WORLD. EVERYONE LOVED THE MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. YOU GOT MORE EXERCISE THERE THAN YOU DID ANY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR, SIMPLY BECAUSE THE BUILDING WAS ENORMOUS AND CONTAINED THOUSANDS OF EXHIBITS THAT ALL HINGED ON PUSHING BUTTONS AND TURNING CRANKS. THE CIRCUIT FOR YOUR TYPICAL SEVEN-YEAR-OLD WAS AS FOLLOWS:

ENTER THE BUILDING. LOOK WISTFULLY AT THE DEHYDRATED ICE-CREAM IN THE GIFTSHOP. GO TO THAT THING WHERE YOU PRESS THE BUTTON AND MAGNETS MAKE AN IRON RING SHOOT ALONGSIDE A GIANT METAL POLE, SHAPED LIKE AN UPSIDE-DOWN 'U', OVER TO YOUR BEST FRIEND WHO IS JUST DYING TO PRESS HIS BUTTON SO HE CAN SEND THE IRON RING BACK OVER TO YOU.

THEN YOU GO PRESS THE BUTTON THAT MAKES THE LIGHTBULB TURN ON, THEN PRESS THE BUTTON THAT SENDS A GIANT VINDICTIVE PURPLE LINE OF ENERGY COURSING BETWEEN TWO ELECTRODES, THEN RUN ALONG A WHOLE STRING OF HIGHSCHOOL SCIENCE PROJECTS UNDER GLASS AND PRESS EVERY POSSIBLE BUTTON YOU CAN GET YOUR GRIMY FINGERS ON. RUN INTO AN ADJACENT ROOM THAT HAS AN ENORMOUS WALL FULL OF BLEEPING AND BLOOPING GIANT PLASTIC TRANSISTORS. COMPLETELY IGNORE THE LOOPED 'HISTORY OF THE COMPUTER' THAT'S BEING NARRATED IN ENGLISH AND THEN FRENCH. GO TO THE ASTRONAUT SECTION. TAKE AN 'AIR SHOWER' WHICH IS KIND OF JUST LIKE STANDING IN FRONT OF A FAN NOW THAT YOU THINK ABOUT IT. GO TO THE CRAZY KITCHEN, WHICH IS JUST A ROOM BUILT ON PREPOSTEROUSLY OBTUSE AND ACUTE ANGLES. FIND THE INCUBATOR AND BE DISAPPOINTED IN HOW SLOWLY CHICKENS HATCH. TAP ON THE GLASS. GO TO THE TRAINS - REAL GODDAMNED TRAINS! AND CRAWL AROUND INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF THE CARS. GO LOOK AT THE MINIATURE CANADA-ARM AND MARVEL AT WHATEVER THAT THING IS. FIND THAT THING WHERE STEEL SPHERES SLOWLY MAKE CONCENTRIC CIRCLES INSIDE THIS THING THAT LOOKS LIKE A TORNADO. BRIEFLY THINK ABOUT LIFE AS THE HEAVY BALLS ROLL TO THEIR DOOM. TAKE BRIEF INTEREST IN ANOTHER CLASS FROM ANOTHER SCHOOL, AND INSTANTLY DECIDE YOU'RE MUCH HAPPIER AND BETTER OFF WITH YOUR CURRENT FRIENDS. WAIT IMPATIENTLY AS A MAN OR SCIENTIST PERFORMS AN HOURLY SHOW REGARDING THE MAGICAL PROPERTIES OF LIQUID NITROGEN. GET IDEAS WHEN HE DIPS A ROSE INTO THE COOLER AND THEN SHATTERS IT AGAINST THE WALLS. ALMOST LOSE YOUR SANITY AND REASON WHEN HE POURS THE STUFF OUT ON THE FLOOR, COMMANDS EVERYONE TO WAIT A FEW SECONDS, AND THEN LETS EVERYONE RUN AMUCK IN THE HISSING, EVAPORATING LIQUID. SCRAPE YOUR FINGERTIPS AGAINST THE STIFFENED CARPET. BACK TO THE TRAINS. ARGUE BACK AND FORTH WHETHER THE 'FIRE' IN THE BOILER THAT YOU CAN SEE THROUGH THE GLASS IS REAL OR NOT. MEET UP WITH CLASS. EXCITEDLY YELL ABOUT ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU HAVE DISCOVERED ABOUT LIFE; COMPLETELY IGNORE YOUR FRIENDS AS THEY PARROT IT ALL BACK TO YOU. CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT THAT YOU NO LONGER HAVE A JACKET. RUN TO THE PERISCOPES - THESE GO RIGHT UP THESE METAL PIPES A THOUSAND FEET ABOVE YOU AND COME OUT THE ROOF OF THE MUSEUM. STARE HAPPILY AT PASSERS-BY WHO ARE COMPLETELY IGNORANT THEY'RE BEING SPIED UPON. VAGUELY PONDER WHICH CONTINENT YOU MUST BE LOOKING AT. LOOK AT THE INSIDE OF A GEODE. WATCH A VIDEO OF A TOP SPINNING IN SLOW MOTION. AND THEN - THE GIFT SHOP! DEHYDRATED ASTRONAUT FOOD! SPY GEAR! DINOSAUR MODELS! SMALL BUT FUNCTIONING TELESCOPES! FEATHERS FROM GENUINE NATIVE AMERICANS! MINIATURE REPLICAS OF TOOLS NEEDED TO PERFORM A SUCCESSFUL ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG! HOLY CHRIST!

RETURN TO THE COATROOM HOLDING ONTO A RUBBER DINOSAUR THAT WILL QUICKLY GROW TO BE AS LARGE AS A TANK. REDISCOVER YOUR JACKET. INQUIRE AS TO WHETHER POPSICLES WILL BE DISTRIBUTED UPON RETURN TO CLASS. WALK OUTSIDE, SINGLE FILE. SUFFER A SPLIT-SECOND, ACHING, EXPECTANT FLASH OF AN EMOTION WELL BEYOND YOUR YEARS AS YOU LOOK AT THE SKY AND THE SNOW FALLING SOFTLY OUT OF IT. LAUNCH A PRIVATE INQUIRY AS TO WHERE THE SMELL OF OLD APPLES IS EMANATING. CHOOSE THE SEAT OVER THE BACK REAR TIRE. EXAMINE THE BACKING OF THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU. RUN YOUR FINGER OVER THE SMALL BLACK PLASTIC WIREY-THING THAT FOLLOWS THE CONTOUR OF THE SEAT, PEEL BACK SOME OF THE DUCT-TAPE REPAIRING A CUT IN THE SYNTHETIC LEATHER. PRESS YOUR NOSE AGAINST THE GLASS, HOOK YOUR FINGERS INTO THE SLOTS YOU NEED TO PUSH IN TO OPEN THE WINDOW, AND STARE OUT AT THE SLOW, DYING AFTERNOON FULL OF PEOPLE TRYING TO GET HOME.
THE TALE OF THE FRENCH STUDENT WHO COULDN'T SPEAK FRENCH
ANYWAY SO TODAY WE HAD THIS EXERCISE TO DO IN FRENCH CLASS, BASICALLY 12 PEOPLE ARE SHIPWRECKED ON A DESERTED ISLAND AND THEY'VE BUILT A RAFT TO GO FIND LAND OR HELP OR SOMETHING, BUT THE RAFT CAN ONLY HOLD 6 PEOPLE, AND YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE WHICH 6 PEOPLE GO ON THE EXPEDITION AND WHICH 6 PEOPLE STAY ON THE ISLAND. AND THIS IS LIKE AN EXERCISE GEARED TOWARDS 6-YEAR-OLDS. THE CHOICES, FOR THE MOST PART, ARE REALLY GODDAMNED OBVIOUS. HERE'S THE LIST:

A MARINE BIOLOGIST
AN AWARD-WINNING LIFEGUARD
A CRAZY PSYCHIC
A MARINE WITH 18 YEARS EXPERIENCE WHO IS ALSO A COOK
AN ARTIST WITH A 9-YEAR-OLD SON WHO IS GOOD AT MAKING STAINED GLASS
A LUMBERJACK
AN INVALID
A WEAVER WHO KNOWS ABOUT PLANTS AND SHIT
A RETIRED PERSON
A 26-YEAR-OLD GLOBETROTTER
A NOBEL-PRIZE WINNING PHYSICIST
AN ACTRESS

OKAY

SO I MEAN IF YOU'RE SENDING PEOPLE OUT ON A GODDAMNED FUCKING EXPEDITION THIS SHOULDN'T BE TOO HARD. MARINE, LIFEGUARD, MARINE BIOLOGIST, RIGHT? NO QUESTIONS ASKED? OKAY AND THEN PEOPLE ON THE ISLAND - ARTIST, ACTRESS, RETIRED PERSON, CRAZY PSYCHIC, INVALID RIGHT? AND THEN IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE 3 MORE FROM THE REMAINING GROUP FOR THE RAFT CHANCES ARE YOU'RE LOOKING AT THE PHYSICIST, THE GLOBETROTTER, AND THEN EITHER THE LUMBERJACK OR WEAVER

SO GOD FUCKING DAMMIT IF THIS WOMAN DOESN'T OPEN UP HER CHOICES WITH THE ACTRESS AND THE PSYCHIC AND I WAS LIKE ARE YOU SERIOUSLY FUCKING DUMB AND THE THING IS EVERYONE IN THE GROUP HAS TO SORT OF VOTE ON IT, AND BASICALLY EVERYONE ELSE CHOSE THE EXACT SAME THING AND ALL OUR VOTES WERE 7-1 AND THIS WOMAN GOT SO UPSET AND SO SOUR-FACED EVERYTIME WE VOTED HER DOWN

AND SHE KEPT TRYING TO JUSTIFY HER ANSWERS EXCEPT SHE CAN'T SPEAK FRENCH SO BASICALLY ALL SHE KEPT SAYING WAS "JE PENSE QUE IL EST ROBUSTE" FOR SOME FUCKING REASON SO SHE'S GOT HER WHOLE BOAT OF 'ROBUST' CRIPPLES AND RETIRED PEOPLE AND ACTRESSES AND GOD I WAS GETTING SO IRRITATED

AND EVEN AFTER WE'D VOTE HER DOWN AND MOVE ON SHE WOULD GET ALL GRUMPY AND ANGRY AND BE LIKE 'WELL THE MARINE SHOULD STAY BECAUSE HE CAN COOK AND THE ISLAND NEEDS A COOK' AND EVERYONE'S LIKE 'HE'S A MARINE' AND SHE'D BE LIKE 'YEAH BUT HE CAN COOK'
THE TALE OF THE SEED-SPRAYERS
I AM REMINDED OF A STORY TOLD LAST WEEK WHEN SOME FRIENDS WERE DOING THEIR BEST TO CROSS INTO HONDURAS. THEY WERE APPROACHING THE BORDER IN THEIR CAR WHEN SUDDENLY TWO MEN CAME JUMPING OUT INTO THE ROAD, SCREAMING AT THEM (MY FRIENDS - WE SHALL REFER TO THEM AS A, B AND C FOR THE MOMENT) TO STOP.

A PULLED OVER IN A HURRY AND ROLLED DOWN THE WINDOW. THE TWO GUATEMALAN MEN STARTING WILDLY GESTICULATING THAT THEY COULD NOT POSSIBLY EVEN BEGIN TO THINK ABOUT CROSSING THE BORDER WITHOUT FIRST HAVING THEIR CAR SPRAYED ´FOR SEEDS´.

"FOR SEEDS," EXCLAIMED B IN ALARM, "WHAT?"

IN POOR ENGLISH THE TWO GUATEMALAN MEN EXCLAIMED THAT THERE WERE CERTAIN SEEDS THAT COULD NOT BE IMPORTED INTO HONDURAS WITHOUT DEVASTATING EFFECT TO THE COUNTRY. SEEDS WHO COULD AFFIX THEMSELVES TO A VEHICAL WITH A TENANCITY NOT SEEN SINCE BIBLICAL TIMES. SEEDS THAT SIMPLY COULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO PASS.

THE TWO GUATEMALAN MEN STARTED JUMPING UP AND DOWN BECAUSE THEY WERE SO WORRIED ABOUT THESE SEEDS. THEY BEGAN SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LITTLE GUATEMALAN LUNGS THAT THE CAR ABSOLUTELY NEEDED TO BE SPRAYED OR ELSE ALL HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE ONCE IN HONDURAS. A & B LOOKED AT EACH OTHER AND TIMIDLY ASKED EXACTLY HOW MUCH THIS WOULD COST.

"$40!!" SHRIEKED THE GUATEMALAN MEN, STILL FLAILING ABOUT AS THOUGH THEY WERE ON FIRE.

C CONSENTED, PULLED OUT HIS WALLET, AND TOOK OUT TWO TWENTY DOLLAR BILLS. THE TWO GUATEMALANS SALIVATED BRIEFLY AT THE SIGHT, SNATCHED THE MONEY, AND BOTH BEGAN SHOUTING INTO A LARGE BUSH SOME TWENTY FEET AWAY.

OUT OF THE BUSH A THIRD GUATEMALAN APPEARED, HOLDING A COMMON GARDEN HOSE. HE MEEKLY WALKED UP TO THE CAR AND BEGAN TO SHAMEFULLY SPRINKLE A MEAGER AMOUNT OF WATER OVER THE CAR. A, B & C ALL SAT AND WATCHED AS THIS POOR MAN SLOPPED HIS HOSE OVER THE VEHICAL WHILE STARING AT HIS SHOES AND REFUSING TO LOOK ANYBODY IN THE EYE. THE OTHER TWO BRASH MEN HAD ALSO ADOPTED A QUIETER DEMEANOR, AND THE THREE OF THEM BEGAN TO SLOWLY CIRCLE THE CAR AND SORT OF GIVE IT A LOOSE WASHING WITH THE CORNERS OF THEIR SLEEVES, ALL THE WHILE LOOKING UTTERLY EMBARRASSED. B LIKENED THE EXPERIENCE TO A TRIBE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE PERFORMING A DARK RITUAL AROUND A CORPSE.

AT THIS POINT A WOMAN CAME OUT OF NOWHERE AND LITERALLY YELLED OUT "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?" AT A, B & C, AND THE THREE MEN BOLTED OFF INTO THE HORIZON.
THE TALE OF THE BORDER CROSSINGS
SO I HAD TO TAKE SOME SORT OF BUS ´TOUR´ TO GUATEMALA BECAUSE APPARENTLY ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THIS BY YOURSELF. ANYWAY ONE SKETCHY BUS RIDE DRIVEN BY THE MOST INDIFFERENT FAT MAN IVE EVER SEEN GOT US TO SOME SORT OF POO-BROWN RIVER. THEN THE INDIFFERENT FAT MAN WAVED US OUT OF THE BUS AND POINTED DOWN TO THE RIVER. HE EVEN ACCOMPANIED US FOR ABOUT TWENTY FEET AND THEN TURNED AROUND AND MARCHED BACK TO THE BUS.

WE WANDERED AROUND, ASKED A FEW PEOPLE WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON, THEY ALL TOLD US TO GO BACK AND TALK TO THE INDIFFERENT FAT MAN.

SO WE GO BACK, HE´S LONG GONE, EVERYONE´S MILLING AROUND LOOKING RETARDED WHEN SUDDENLY THE FAT GUY JUMPS OUT FROM BEHIND A TREE DOWN BY THE RIVER AND STARTS WHISTLING AND WAVING HIS ARMS IN THE AIR.

SO WE RUSH OVER THERE AND HE PUSHES US INTO THIS LONG BOAT ON THE POO-BROWN RIVER. I KNOW FOR A GODDAMNED FACT THAT THIS IS THE BORDER BETWEEN MEXICO AND GUATEMALA, BUT FOR SOME REASON WE CANT JUST CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE, WE NEED TO FIGHT THE CURRENT FOR LIKE FIFTY MILES.

FINALLY SOME PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE BECOME VISIBLE AND THAT SHITFUCKING ASSHOLE IN THE BACK THROWS A GODDAMNED TARP ON ME!!! THIS HAPPENED LIKE 5 YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS CROSSING INTO GUATEMALA FROM BELIZE!! GOD DAMMIT!!!

SO IM WRITHING UNDER THE TARP AND MAKING MY OBJECTIONS AS AUDIBLE AS POSSIBLE AND SUDDENLY THE TARP IS REMOVED AND IM THROWN OFF THE BOAT INTO THE JUNGLE.

THERES A BUNCH OF GIANT SKETCHY LOOKING GUATEMALANS ALL CLUTCHING FISTFULS OF QUETZALS AND CALCULATORS AND YELLING OUT IN POOR ENGLISH THAT I ABSOLUTELY MUST EXCHANGE MY PESOS WITH THEM RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW. THEY PROCLAIM THAT THERE ARE NO BANK MACHINES IN GUATEMALA AND THAT THE GUATEMALA BANKS WILL NOT ACCEPT PESOS AND THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE WILL NOT ACCEPT PESOS.

SO SOMEONE (POSSIBLY ME) SAYS IN AN OBSTINATE VOICE "LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT. YOUR COUNTRY´S NATIONAL BANK WILL NOT ACCEPT CURRENCY FROM THE COUNTRY IT BORDERS. CORRECT?" AND EVERYONE LOOKS A LITTLE DISCONCERTED AND SOMEONE ELSE (POSSIBLY ME) THEN STARTS COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW I LEFT A PERFECTLY GOOD BOTTLE OF TEQUILLA IN THE HOSTEL IN PALENQUE BECAUSE THIS IS SUPPOSE TO BE A GODDAMNED OFFICIAL CROSSING INTO THE COUNTRY AND NOT THIS SNAKE-OIL SALESMANNING OF PERFECTLY RESPECTABLE WHITE PEOPLE.

ANYWAY SO THEN I HAD THIS BRILLIANT IDEA AND PUSHED MY WAY THROUGH THE SKETCHY CURRENCY CONVERTERS AND CLIMBED THIS LITTLE HILL. LAST TIME IN GUATEMALA I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN THE GODDAMNED TOWN BAKER STAMPED MY PASSPORT WITH A LITTLE STAMP HE FOUND NEARBY. ANYWAY THIS TIME THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE WAS THIS LITTLE SHED IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. SO I STOOD IN LINE AND THEN EVERYONE STOOD IN LINE AND SOME RANDOM DUDE SHOWED UP AND SAID OF COURSE WE ACCEPT PESOS AND THEN THE CONVERTERS ALL LOOKED DOWN AT THE GROUND AND SHUFFLED OFF INTO THE JUNGLE, PRESUMABLY TO PLOT KIDNAPPINGS

SO I PAY MY $5 TO GET INTO THE COUNTRY

OH FUCK

YEAH SO GETTING OUT OF MEXICO I SHOW UP AND SAY I´M LEAVING THE COUNTRY AND THE DUDE GIVES ME THE FORM TO GET IN THE COUNTRY AND TELLS ME TO GO FUCK OFF. SO I ACTUALLY FILL OUT THE FIRST NAME, LAST NAME PART BEFORE I REALIZE WHAT THE HELL´S GOING ON, AND THEN GO BACK TO THE DUDE BEHIND THE BARS AT THE OFFICE AND WAVE THE ENTRANCE FORM IN HIS FACE AND TELL HIM DUDE I´M LEAVING, I DIDN´T JUST APPEAR OUT OF THE FOREST. AND HE GETS ALL CROSS AND STARTS TELLING ME BECAUSE I BEGAN FILLING OUT THE FORM I NEED TO FINISH IT?! AND I KEEP TELLING HIM I´M NOT FILLING OUT A SECOND ENTRANCE FORM?! AND WE GO BACK AND FORTH AND FINALLY HE STAMPS MY PASSPORT AND THEN WRITES SOMETHING DOWN IN IT, AND I RIP UP THE FORM AND BAIL

YEAH SO BACK IN GUATEMALA, I PAY MY $5 AND THEN ASK WHERE THE NEAREST BATHROOM IS. THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A DECENT ONE, WORKING TOILET AND ALL. ITS GOT FOUR WALLS AND A TIN ROOF AND EVERYTHING. THERE´S THIS BIG WOODEN CABINET BEHIND THE TOILET. I URINATE AND FLUSH AND THEN THIS FUCKING FAT CHILD JUMPS OUT FROM BEHIND THE CABINET WITH THIS BIG BUCKET OF WATER AND JUST DUMPS ALL THE WATER INTO THE TOILET AND THEN STARTS SCREAMING FOR PROPINAS!! GOD DAMMIT!! AND I´M ABOUT TO GET ALL CHRIS HANSON ON THIS LITTLE PERVERT WHEN IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I HAVE A CANADIAN LOONIE IN MY POCKET SO I GIVE IT TO THE FAT CHILD AND INSTRUCT HIM TO USE IT TO BARTER FOR BUTTER CRACKERS OR WHATEVER IT IS HE SEEMS TO BE LIVING ON.

GOD DAMMIT.

TIKAL WAS PRETTY FUCKING AWESOME, THOUGH.
THE TALE OF PEPE THE GOOD BOY
MAN WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH COLOMBIA CURRENCY?! NOT ONLY IS IT HYPERINFLATED, SOMEONE UP THERE SAT AMONG A RUINED CITY AND THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, "OKAY, IF THE 1,000 PESO BILL IS GOING TO BE BURNT ORANGE, LET'S MAKE THE 10,000 PESO BILL A NICE RUST COLOR." AS A RESULT I KEEP FUCKING DISHING OUT 10K PESO BILLS INSTEAD OF 1K AND EVERYONE'S HAVING A GODDAMNED FIELD DAY AS A RESULT

EXCEPT FOR PEPE.

PEPE, PRONOUNCED PEH-PAY, IS, ACCORDING TO HIM, A "GOOD BOY.. PEPE'S A GOOD BOY" BECAUSE HE ACTUALLY RETURNED A 10K BILL TO ME AFTER I DOLED ONE OUT TRYING TO GIVE HIM 2600 PESOS. I'M NOT JOKING. HE WAS ACTUALLY SAYING "PEPE'S A GOOD, GOOD BOY". I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO PASS OUT. HE WAS LIKE 15 YEARS OLD. I ACTUALLY PATTED HIM ON THE HEAD. IT WAS THE MOST SURREAL THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED TO ME. I GAVE HIM A SMALL PROPINA FOR HIS HONESTY

SO LATER IN THE AFTERNOON I WAS WANDERING AROUND THE CITY WALLS AND GOT STUCK ON THIS ONE PART, AND THEN SOMEWHERE IN THE DEPTHS BELOW ME I HEARD THIS ROUGH VOICE YELL OUT "NO SALIDA!! AMIGO AMIGO!! NO SALIDA!!!"

SO I HOPPED DOWN AND THERE WAS THIS DUDE, MAYBE 30 YEARS OLD, WEARING LIKE THE FIRST OAKLEYS EVER MADE AND LIKE A NO FEAR HAT ON BACKWARDS AND WHAT LITTLE HAIR WAS EXPOSED WAS TOTALLY SLICKED BACK AND THIS DUDE WAS JUST TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL. AND HE WAS SORT OF DESPERATELY TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO ME THAT THE WALL I WAS HIKING LED TO A DEAD END.

SO I THANKED HIM FOR HIS TROUBLE AND HE PULLED DOWN HIS SUPER GAY SHADES AND LOOKED ME IN THE EYE AND SAID "I REMEMBER YOU, AMIGO.. I REMEMBER YOU... DO YOU REMEMBER ME?"

AND I LOOKED THIS FULL GROWN MAN IN THE EYES AND I SAID "PEPE?"

AND HE SAID "WHO IS PEPE? I SAW YOU YESTERDAY ACROSS THE STREET"

AND OF COURSE THAT MADE A LOT MORE SENSE
THE TALE OF THE LAUNDRY
SO I GAVE A BAG OF LAUNDRY TO THIS RANDOM FAT WOMAN WHO TOLD ME TO COME BACK TO HER HOUSE AT 5. SO I CAME BACK AT 5, AND I SHIT YOU NOT, MY GODDAMNED CLOTHES WERE LIKE SPREAD OUT ON THE FUCKING ROAD AND THIS EVEN FATTER GIRL WAS HOSING THEM DOWN ON THE STREET

SO I WAS LIKE "UM, MY CLOTHES?"

AND THE LADY WAS LIKE "COME BACK TOMORROW"

SO I CAME BACK THE NEXT DAY, AND THE WOMAN RETREATED INTO THE DEPTHS OF HER HOUSE, AND SLOWLY BEGAN TO PULL MY CLOTHES OUT FROM GOD KNOWS WHERE. 1 SHIRT AT A TIME. AND THEY´RE ALL INSIDE OUT AND LOOK LIKE THEY´VE BEEN TRAMPLED BY ELEPHANTS AND THE LADY TAKES THE FIRST SHIRT AND PRESSES IT AGAINST MY ARM. IT´S LIKE MILDLY WARM AND DAMP.

AND SHE SAYS "THIS SHIRT.. THIS ONE RIGHT HERE.. THIS ONE IS NOT DRY. ALL THE OTHERS ARE DRY. NOT THIS ONE."

AND I SAID "OKAY"

AND THEN SHE FOLDED IT UP AND PUT IT IN A PLASTIC BAG. THEN SHE WENT BACK INTO THE SHADOWS OF THE BASEMENT OF HER HOUSE OR WHATEVER AND CAME OUT A MOMENT LATER WITH ANOTHER INSIDE-OUT SHIRT. THIS ONE, TOO, WAS PRESSED AGAINST MY ARM. IT WAS ALSO DAMP.

THE WOMAN LOOKED AT ME AND SAID "THIS SHIRT.. THIS ONE RIGHT HERE.. THIS ONE IS NOT DRY. ALL THE OTHERS ARE DRY. NOT THIS ONE."

THIS PROCESS REPEATED ITSELF FOR EVERY ITEM OF CLOTHING I OWNED, MINUS MY TOWEL WHICH SHE HAD APPARENTLY LOST. (SHE FOUND IT THE NEXT DAY, TO HER CREDIT). SHE ALSO CHARGED ME DOUBLE FOR WHATEVER REASON. IT´S OKAY. I AM NOT GOING TO LET THREE DOLLARS BOTHER ME, AND WHO KNOWS, MAYBE SHE´LL GET AIDS AND DIE.

ANYWAY PART TWO OF THIS STORY OCCURS IN PANAMA. I WENT TO GRAB A SHIRT FROM THE PLASTIC BAG. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS INSIDE OUT I COULD TELL IT WASN´T ONE OF MINE, AND IT STRUCK ME THAT THIS WOMAN WAS SOMEHOW STILL SCREWING WITH ME THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY.

SO I UNFOLD THE SHIRT A LITTLE BIT AND LOOK DOWN INSIDE AND ALL I SEE IN BIG LETTERS ARE

"DAVE"

AND I WAS LIKE, "AMAZING!! THIS IS A SHIRT I CAN REALLY, YOU KNOW, GET BEHIND!!"

SO I WHIP ON THE SHIRT AND TURN AROUND AND LOOK IN THE MIRROR

AND OF COURSE UNDERNEATH "DAVE" IT SAID "MATTHEWS BAND"

CHRIST
THE TALE OF THE JANITOR
THIS POOR GUY AT MY WORK, HE'S GOT TO BE ABOUT 35, UGLY AS SIN, I THINK HE'S ERITREAN, ANYWAY HE COMES IN WITH HIS VACCUUM AROUND 5PM EVERY DAY TO CLEAN THE OFFICES IN THE BUILDING WHERE I WORK.

HE ALSO USUALLY COMES IN ABOUT 20 MINUTES EARLY BECAUSE I GUESS HE WANTS TO WRAP UP EARLY AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, AND I CERTAINLY CAN'T BLAME HIM FOR THAT.

ANYWAY BECAUSE OF THIS OUR SCHEDULES OVERLAP A BIT AND I END UP TALKING TO THE GUY EVERY OTHER DAY OR SO. AND HIS DAILY LIFE IS RIDICULOUS. RIDICULOUS IN THAT HE'S ALWAYS ON THE VERGE OF BEING FIRED OR VICTIMIZED IN SOME MANNER OR JUST GENERALLY CHASTIZED. WHAT'S AMAZING ABOUT THIS, THOUGH, IS THAT HE'S ALWAYS REALLY UPFRONT, AND, WELL, ALMOST BRAZEN ABOUT HOW HIS SHITTY DECISIONS AND WORK ETHIC ARE KEEPING HIM ON TENTERHOOKS 24/7?!

IT'S REALLY BIZARRE. LAST WEEK HE CAME IN ALL FLUSTERED AND BRIEFLY FLOPPED THE NOZZLE OF HIS VACCUUM OVER THE FLOOR, WHILE TELLING ME HE WAS INCHES AWAY FROM UNEMPLOYMENT DUE TO HIS GETTING DRUNK AND LEAVING ONE OF THE DOORS UNLOCKED OVERNIGHT. ANOTHER TIME I REMEMBER HIM TELLING ME HIS FOURTH OR FIFTH WIFE WAS GOING TO BRING HIM TO JUSTICE BECAUSE HE SPENT HIS CHEQUE ON CIGARETTES INSTEAD OF CHILD SUPPORT. THERE'S NEVER ANY REMORSE IN HIS STATEMENTS, JUST A MATTER-OF-FACT, ALMOST INQUISITIVE SORT OF DEMEANOR ABOUT IT, LIKE HE'S JUST AN OBSERVER

ANYWAY HE'S SUPER INTO FOOTBALL SO THE WORLD CUP HAS BEEN A FRESH TORMENT SINCE HE'S GOT ABOUT A DOZEN JOBS (ALL OF WHICH HAVE HIM ON THIN ICE, APPARENTLY) AND HAS TO KEEP CALLING IN SICK TO WATCH THE GAMES. HE WAS HERE NOT THAT LONG AGO (UNUSUALLY EARLY, EVEN FOR HIM), AND WAS TELLING ME ABOUT HOW LAST WEEKEND'S CHOICE SNEAKER PURCHASES HAVE RESULTED IN THE SUMMONING OF A COLLECTION AGENCY BY THE HYDRO COMPANY. HE ALSO MENTIONED THAT A MANAGER OF SORTS DID A WALK-THROUGH OF OUR BUILDING, AND THAT HIS WORK WAS SO SHITTY IN COMPARISON TO THAT OF HIS PEERS (WHO HANDLE DIFFERENT FLOORS), THAT HE WAS NEARLY LET GO ON THE SPOT. THIS MAN THEN WINKED AT ME AND SAID "BUT I WAS TIRED, HUH?" AS THOUGH EVERYTHING WAS UNDER CONTROL. HE THEN LET SLIP THAT HE OWNS TWO CELL PHONES IN A DASHING ATTEMPT TO KEEP HIS CURRENT WIFE AND MISTRESS FROM DISCOVERING EACH OTHER - AN ACTION THAT HAS JEOPARDIZED HIS CREDIT TO THE POINT WHERE HIS ALREADY-SHAKY LOAN APPLICATION WAS DENIED FOR THE $350 USED AUTOMOBILE HE'S SET HIS SIGHTS ON.

HE'S ACROSS THE HALL RIGHT NOW, ACTUALLY, AND I CAN SEE HIM CUTTING CORNERS IN THE EMPTY OFFICE OPPOSITE MINE, SPORTING SOME FANCY NEW RACING GLOVES OR SOME HORSESHIT, AND DESPITE ALL THIS THE ONLY THING I'M CERTAIN OF IS THAT THIS LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS IS A NATIONAL TREASURE.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:46 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


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