Monday, December 15, 2014

December Fourteenth

This might get a little sad.

Glancing at the calendar in the lower right-hand corner, I observe that today is December Fourteenth.  An innocuous date, one might think... yet careful examination of the historical record (i.e., the daily journal I have kept for the past four years) confirms that this is an important anniversary.  It was on the evening of December Fourteenth, 2013 that my girlfriend Tara and I arrived in the Republic of Korea and began our grand adventure.

That first job we had (the one we fled from after three months) was meant to be a year-long engagement.  So in a world where everything works out beautifully for those whose hearts are pure, we'd be on our way home to America.  If you'd asked me where I thought I'd be in a year, I'd say I was going to be flying back home for Christmas all the wealthier and wiser for a fulfilling year abroad.  But as we know, the world isn't perfect, and I've been home, living in my mother's house and working in my father's office, for about three months now.  Tara's likewise with her folks, taking some time to reacquaint herself with life and friends and family in Oregon.

Due to the international date line, my last December Fourteenth lasted about eight hours and was mostly spent in transportation before collapsing on an uncomfortable and unfamiliar bed.  This one lasted the typical length, and was mostly spent in my computer chair in the company of Tumblr and Netflix, though I did take pity on my body and take a walk through the hills by my house a few hours ago.  Tomorrow, I'm going back to work for my dad, where I will continue to restlessly mark time until I'm ready to move back to Oregon and put my life back in order.  As exhausting as the last December Fourteenth was, I think I liked it better.

You know, it's Christmas time, I've fallen from an awkward situation halfway around the world into a very comfortable safety net, and I just feel so sad.  That's really the hard kernel of what I wanted to say tonight in this blog post: I feel so sad right now.  I miss my girlfriend, who is the single most important person in the world to me.  I miss my friends, the ones in Korea as well as Oregon.  Sometimes I cry about it.  Sometimes I don't talk to anyone but my parents.  Sometimes I'm all alone with thoughts about how alone I am and how little control I have over myself.  Lately my heart feels like it's constantly preparing for the sudden eruption of a worst case scenario, but it can never prepare enough and will simply fail at the least provocation.  That kind of stress is unhealthy, and I don't know how to make it stop.

I know what I want in life, more or less.  I want a satisfying job and a peaceful home with Tara, along with a thousand stories to carry us through the years of our lives.  But melancholy is weighing me down. 

I'm working on getting things together, and I still have good times every now and again.  But I've definitely been happier than I am today.  I hope I'll be happier again soon.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Free Candy: Sketch Comedy at the 10th Avenue Theater in San Diego

Writing about comedy is hard, because it's generally not funny.  Explaining why a joke lands is like relating the plot of obscure foreign movies: interesting, but only if you're a huge nerd.  Only the hugest of nerds would dare make the attempt.

The performers of the sketch comedy show Free Candy could probably write a really, really funny review of their performance on Friday night.  Some might question whether that review would be biased or accurate, but it would definitely be funny.  And frankly, that's all that anyone who's ever written about comedy has ever wanted.  Those who cannot do, pathetically emulate while describing in general terms, often with no idea what they're talking about.  Allow me to furnish an example.

Before I get serious, I want to emphasize something very important: there was, in fact, free candy at this show.  Everybody only gets one, and that is not nearly enough, but times are hard and comedy doesn't come cheap. On the basis of this generous gesture alone, I award Free Candy three out of five stars.

Cast members Devon Kane, Meridith McNeill, Brendan Milove, Nick Scutti, and Alec Sobejana complemented the complimentary sweets with an evening of highbrow amusement, inviting us to cordially chuckle at rarefied jokes about BDSM, latent incest, and the improbable anatomical possibilities of an umbilical cord.  However, the full range of their performance cannot be described in a punctuated three-part list.  It would take some kind of high-tech video recording device to display their genius and do it justice.  I understand there was one in the theater, and I will do my best to track it down.

Making use of minimal props and effective lighting and sound cues, Free Candy was all the funnier for its DIY ethic and the sheer determination of the cast.  The occasional flubbed line, cracked smile, or weak joke hardly slowed them down, as each actor sold their momentary parts with glee and powered through to the next highlight.  Special musical guest Devon McNeill's appearance set the stage for my favorite sketch of the whole show, expertly combining talented singing with unhinged disruption and deadpan non-reaction.

Perhaps the real engine of the show was writer and performer Brendan Milove, who committed his full intensity to each new character at a moment's notice.  Perhaps I am biased in making this claim because I have known Brendan since we were children and his mother got me a ticket to the show.  Perhaps you should just go see him yourself some time and judge.

Having thus placed the integrity of this review in grave doubt, I leave you with a thought on the value of small-scale local theater productions.  In today's increasingly high-structured, over-produced entertainment culture, it is extremely refreshing to watch a dedicated band of goofballs go nuts on a tiny, tiny stage.  Performances like this are what make culture a going concern, and should be supported at every opportunity, no matter how many dark alleys you have to explore before you find them.

I also want to remind you that there was, in fact free candy on everyone's seat before the show.  That's not something you see every day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Republican Congress

In my heart of hearts, I really do not see what has managed to convince the voting public that the solution to the problems of the United States is to send more Republicans to Congress.  It really strikes me as the equivalent of smashing a broken computer with a baseball bat: it fixes nothing and your kids are likely to crawl around in the mess afterward, putting pieces of glass and circuitry in their mouths.

It looks like America is about to send a Republican majority to the U.S. Senate, to join the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.  The two houses of Congress will then presumably begin passing horrible new bills (which the President will veto), or simply continue voting to defund the Affordable Care Act (which the President will also veto).  Jack shit will get done, and everyone will stew in a toxic cloud of misery and blame everyone else for their own failures.  The people of the United States (at least the ones who haven't had their votes stolen), contemplating this state of affairs, are smiling, and already practicing their collective swings with a Louisville slugger. 

But what the hell do I know?  I'm an unemployed teacher.  Nobody gives a damn about teachers or the unemployed (apart from making sure it's easier to get rid of them or sweep them out of sight).  When it comes to national politics, nobody really cares about anyone but themselves.

So I'm not looking forward to Tuesday night.  I'm going to watch the dominoes fall, shake my head, and get on with my life.  Being a cis-het white guy with wealthy folks, there isn't a whole lot the Republican party can do to hurt me directly.  It's just about everyone else I'm worried about.

In 2014, the Republican party stands for ignoring the issue of income inequality, shrugging at our country's most deplorable human rights failures, and if at all possible actively making these problems worse.  Democratic politicians frequently find themselves on the wrong sides of these issues.  But the Republican party has staked its reputation on always being on the wrong side. The party has a compulsive need to claim the most classist, nativist, chauvinist possible positions as the national mood will allow.  The principal failure of the Democrats has been their vain desire not to be outdone on this score.

For a long time, keeping Republicans out of power has seemed like a good enough reason to vote for Democrats.  Honestly, it's about the only recommendation I can make for the party as a whole.  But it doesn't really fix things either.  To go back to my metaphor, voting for a Democratic Congress is a lot like trying to turn on a broken computer every morning, hoping it'll work this time. 

The elite political class of the United States has systematically failed hundreds of millions of its citizens.  Half of us are low-income or impoverished.  If you are a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, an immigrant, an adherent of a non-mainstream religion, or anywhere in the LGBTQIA field, you can be certain that duly elected politicians are working hard to screw you out of your rights and your basic human dignity.  And if you're a young person, you can also be sure they're doing their level best to alienate you from the political process, and sap your empathy for the people most marginalized by the system.

The next few years will be more of the same, only with more broken glass on the floor.  There may be hope for us yet, in the form of genuine grassroots activism that continues to edge the mainstream of political thought in a more progressive direction.  Creeping from victory to victory, we might make the sort of progress that will improve people's lives in the long run.  But there's little glory in the march toward a better America.  It's going to be ugly the whole time, for the principle reason that the national political establishment, and especially the Republican party, are going to make it that way.

I've already voted in this election, and yeah, I voted for Democrats across the board.  I call it damage control.  Millions of people have already voted as well, and it's too late to change their minds about anything.  But if you haven't voted yet, and you're looking for a little help deciding, here's my recommendation.  Don't vote for a Republican.  Vote for anyone else or no one else.  Dull the edge of this wave if you can.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Witch

Once again, I have a special Halloween poem to share with everybody!  It's kind of a murder ballad (not really a ballad, but whatever) with supernatural/necromancy themes, which is the sort of thing one expects from Halloween.  I believe it was the last poem I wrote in South Korea, so there's some history for you.

Enjoy the poem, enjoy the holiday, and remember: no racist or otherwise obnoxiously offensive costumes tonight, please.  If you've already bought/made one, just be a bed sheet ghost or something.


The Witch

Samantha is a widow in her nineties,
spoken for by spirits of the dead:
her husband, and the men who died before him,
lost along the path Samantha led.

The first to go was strangled in his garden:
vines and roots were strapped around his throat.
They slashed and drew the blood that formed the letters
scrawled upon the borders of his coat.

The second was a boy, no more than twenty,
drawn to her by rumors of her wealth -
a sacrificial knife with gilt inscriptions
pierced his belly in the night by stealth.

The third was older, lusting for her body,
frail hands like wax upon her waist.
The runes appeared in white, his skin had purpled
with the potion's toxic aftertaste.

The fourth commanded navies on the ocean,
but never lost his life or limbs in war.
Instead he drowned beneath a fleet of papers
and a bookcase shelved with witches' lore.

The fifth was mauled by dogs in early morning;
pups he'd raised, who dragged him 'round the yard.
They left his dying body in a circle
charged with glyphs that left the soil scarred.

And poor Samantha, helpless to relieve them
from the evil of her mother's curse!
She couldn't help but love the men she'd married:
living all alone, she judged, was worse.

Samantha's mother now is resurrected;
after seven decades in the grave
she holds her daughter's husbands all in bondage,
feasting on the spirits of her slaves.

The people reckon Sam to be a monster
luring men to death, a vile witch.
But few remain alive who saw her mother
weave the spell that destined her a lich.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Beauty of the Bead

I've been back in the good old USA for two weeks now, and so far I haven't gone completely broke.  Living off the kindness of my friends and whatever cash I could claw out of the Republic of Korea prior to my premature departure has been less stressful than I'd imagined.  Part of it is the comfortable surroundings: being back in the old college town, eating at all my favorite places, and luxuriating in the glorious ease of my native language.  You can forget yourself in a little "vacation" like this, which is a shame because in a week I will pull up stakes once more and try to get my feet on the ground with my folks in San Diego.

For better or for worse, living in Eugene, Oregon has more or less shaped my understanding of what adulthood is like.  That understanding probably includes a lot more sitting around in basement apartments that smell like weed and cats while watching anime than what some other people might pick up.  It's certainly included a lot less gainful employment.  But eight years in this town have definitely affected my expectations of where I can go and what I can do.  Despite growing up in Southern California, and visiting home for Christmas and summer breaks, Eugene has come to feel like a more natural environment.

As I am about to hit the road again, however, I can't help but notice how Eugene has changed in such a short time.  When I left Eugene last summer, downtown was undergoing a major phase of gentrification.  The area around Kesey square had sprouted new restaurants, brewpubs, and other businesses, often in spaces that had been vacant or under construction for a very long time.  I'm a little too politically aware to call this an unambiguously good thing.  A cursory glance is enough to tell that "improving the neighborhood" has not solved Eugene's homelessness or unemployment problems.  Installing trendy shops and increasing police presence is not the same thing as giving people a place to sleep.

The city's transformation has accelerated since I've been gone.  However, I find it hasn't been limited to downtown.  More and more apartments for University of Oregon students have popped up in all directions.  New construction is everywhere.  And amidst all the new business are a few empty units where old businesses died and none have dared to take their place.  Eugene is growing, "developing" as some might say, but I wonder how much of it is actually getting "better".

As a young white man with a few dollars in his pocket, Eugene's new face certainly holds attraction for me.  Since I took a break from booze, I can't derive quite as much enjoyment from the seemingly dozens of new breweries and beer supply outlets that have seemingly sprung from the very Earth itself.  But I have a weakness for the Golden Needles at Townshend's Tea House, and I bought myself a going-away tin today.  The new downtown Bijou theater is showing Stop Making Sense this week, and I think I'd be disappointed in myself if I didn't go and see it on the (biggish) screen before I left.  The most gentrified areas of Eugene just feel like a pleasure to walk through, more so than they were a few years ago.

But if I take a step back, I see that the charms of the new Eugene don't far exceed the charms of the "old" one.  We already had tea shops.  We had art theaters.  We still have the same embarassment of lush parks and walking/biking trails.  More nice things is fine, but where's all the investment that could be going toward finding shelter for the guys in sleeping bags over by Circle K?  For that matter, how fares poor Springfield next door?

Like I said, I'm out in a week, at least for a good long while.  I can't begin to imagine how little Poway has changed in nine months, but I'll see for myself soon enough.  When I find myself in Oregon again, I don't know what I'll find.  But I wonder if, as the time passes, the spirit of familiarity that binds me to this place will become unrecognizable.

Maybe it will, but nevertheless I had a very Eugene sort of encounter today.  Walking through Kesey square while munching on a wrap from Pita Pit, I was suddenly approached by a man who asked if I were a fan of good poetry.  I told him I was, and he offered to compose a poem for me on the spot, in exchange for a little money.  It sounded fair to me, so I agreed.

He asked me to come up with four words to get him started.  I told him I couldn't really think of any, which wasn't strictly true, but most of the words I was thinking of were sandwich-related and I didn't want to insult him.  So he suggested I give him a phrase instead, and the first, most poetic thing that popped in my brain was "the bead on the necklace".

I can tell you, this streetcorner poet was no bullshitter.  His flow and his meter were all on point.  In a way that I (a fairly terrible improviser at anything) can only marvel at, he unspooled a structure and and loaded it with meaning, as though it were a perfectly natural thing to do.  He modified my phrase somewhat into a refrain, and spoke about "the beauty of the bead" as a timeless property, undulled by wear and use. 

I couldn't quote any of it to you (I have a bad memory for phrases), but I can tell you the immediate effect it had on me.  Bright as it was today, watching this man speak poetry made me feel like I had to take my sunglasses off.  I felt painfully aware from the first few lines that I was walling myself off from him by hiding my eyes.  And I felt ridiculous for holding a pita wrap in my hand the whole time, but there wasn't much I could do about that.

I didn't know much about this guy.  I didn't know his name or where he came from or what he did when he wasn't hanging around downtown in  the afternoon.  I knew he was black and I was white.  I knew he had a passion for poetry.  It seemed like he could tell I had more than a passing interest in it too.  I knew he was talented, and that he tended to spit a bit at the really emphatic parts.  But I didn't really know what to pay him when he was done.

So I opened my wallet, and I ended up settling on four dollars.  He smiled and said "thanks man, that'll help me get a slice".  Then he walked over to Sizzle Pie to purchase said slice, and I went back to eating my wrap.

I thought about what he and I had in common.  We both wrote poetry, but he did it for money: despite my recent financial misfortunes, I was the one in a position to pay him for it.  It was an ordinary occurrence for him, but a rare and singular experience for me, the sort of thing a person with no real understanding of how the world works might go home to blog aimlessly about.  I'm still trying to work out what exactly I should take away from the experience, how I should handle the memory.  It just seems really important to me that I heard spontaneous poetry in Kesey square, addressed directly to me from a poet who wasn't just fucking around.

I think there was something of the spirit of Eugene in that interaction.  It was fun, pleasurable, and possibly expanded my consciousness.  It certainly made me feel more self-conscious.  But it didn't make me any more articulate: even now, all I can really do is point emphatically and insist that it was very, very important that it happened.  Only in Eugene.

That's how I started my last week in my second home.  Already, I'm apprehensive about leaving it.  I don't think I'm done with this town yet, but I can't be sure I'll ever really "live" here again.  I just hope I'll carry some of its beauty with me when I leave.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Poetry Jam #16

In less than twenty four hours, I'll be on an airplane back to the United States.  And yet, in the nine months I've been in South Korea, I haven't posted any of the poems I've written in this country.  Now, that's no good!

So in the interest of whittling down my backlog and putting a little cap on whatever the hell it is I've been doing here, I present another jam of poems.  Enjoy it with toast, or perhaps hotteok?  If we're going with a Korean theme, that is.  These poems date from December 2013 to March 2014.  Not every random scribble from that time made the cut, so here's the best I could muster.

Venus and Diana

Look at the moon!
You can see its darkness
tonight.
Look at Venus,
is that why?
Maybe something in the way
she (shrieks)
across the empty space,
as silently as diamonds in the
burning,
crushing
jaws of Earth at night.
Why suffer in silence,
Diana?

Sudden Snow

Almost rain and almost freezing,
falling sparsely down like something
from a dirty dream;
precipitation in my hair,
evaporation on the stone
before the cold kicks in, and then it's
snow,
it's snow, it's snow,
as many flakes of snow
as clouds can drop
before they're weary
of the cold,
and clouds are hardy creatures
in the months when we have snow.

Stranger's Land

A stranger sits
in another stranger's land,
living off their fruits
and vegetables,
and trying not to seem intrusive
when they sneak a slice
of sweets
from the fridge;
bowing politely,
saying all the politest words
they can remember,
speaking softly so
they can't be heard distinctly,
taking what they need.

Gakwonsa

The pale sun is hidden by a cloud,
and Buddha's face is hid behind the trees.

The mountain trail, obscured by winter's forest,
winds above the temple in the breeze.

"Look how pale the sun has grown", I said,
and pointed to the sky; but when you turned,

it was too late, because he pale disc
was out of sight, behind the clouds it burned.

Love Thy Friends

Love thy friends,
it's not as easy
as the Bible
reckons it.

Love thy friends
with burning rags
and keep the cocktail
always lit.

Love thy friends
because they need it,
even if
they're full of shit.

Princess Adventures

The magic chest
is in the dungeon,
in the room
beneath the stair;

Just break the wall
behind the mirror,
light the candle
if you dare.

Then fight the fifteen
Stalfos Knights,
and lay a bomb
to blast them bare,

Before you force
the lock and lift
the gauntlet, gleaming,
in the air.

To claim the power
of the gods,
you have to creep
the whole way there.

Portraits of Sound

Let me wax on about the
portraits of sound I hear you
painting at the summer's end -
pointilist notes of blue ascending
from a brush of your fingers
on a most receptive, musical neck,
the countours that you pick and peck,
staccato, silent as the singers
at the span before the bridges
drop, the autumn's brown and purple
lines a counterpoint, a frame
of reference for a portrait,
landscape, treasure map, a concert
of red and gold and violins.

Molten Possibly

The molded plastic in my hands is hot,
molten possibly; if I had time
to check it out I could confirm it, but
there is no time, there is no chance, my eyes
are fixed inside their sockets, only staring
straight ahead.  Their lids are likewise kept
from blinking by this ceaseless stimulation,
mind monopolized by color,
brain distracted by the calculations,
nose unheeding of the burning flesh
(if anything is truly burning now).
The only taste of touch I feel is dull,
no pain, no savor, only dull and warm
against my palm and through my fingers, and
the memory's distinction fading out
the more they twitch, the more the buttons click.
As hours fall between the minutes and
the gap between the present and the time
on the alarm is shrinking, I am sure
that I can stop at any time I choose;
but I do not, because it's Sunday night,
not Monday morning, and besides, I haven't
heard a fire alarm, so there's no proof
the plastic's melting: don't you think I'd notice?

I Still Remember

I still remember throwing up,
I still remember thinking things
I'd be ashamed to fess up to now,
the words to songs I hate,
those songs I used to listen to
without complaint.

I still remember hating people,
being wrong
and swearing up and down
that you were wrong goddammit.

I still recall a few of the lawns
I mowed that summer
and the finishing touches
of a multimedia project for
sixth grade social studies;

so why the hell am I always
looking the same things up in Google?

The Sailor's War

I was a sailor in the war
because they couldn't burn the sea,
and every strip of land, they swore,
would smolder for eternity.

It was no navy's clothes I wore,
or battleahip that carried me;
for fire screams from cannon's bore
and water beckons to the free.

My boat was mine, and nothing more
but salt and fear and memory,
some fish to catch and cans to store,
a motor and a rusted key.

I didn't seek a peaceful shore
to build a mansion in a tree,
but watched the people I adored
expire from the shallow sea.

With dread I heard the rattling scores
of bombs reduce them to their knees,
and on the people's heads they poured
a toxic stew of misery.

And thusly I survived the war
until the day they burned the sea,
and all of planet Earth (and more)
was broiling with humanity.

Now dying, seared and aching sore,
I scan the flames, and I can see
one sailor's life is nothing for
a final act of liberty.

Refracted Heart

O refracted heart,
an arrow passes through you
in discontinuity,
embarassin the angels,
shaming Eros
(who never learned the science)
and confusing lovers for want
of a straighter shot.
How did you accomplish this,
O heart,
and are you as frustrated
as the arrow looks?

The Fire and the Heat

Let's talk about John Lennon,
talk about the guy
who spent his life in search of saints
and ended up a chintzy saint himself.

Do you love the songs he sang
about his broken heart,
or did they all get lost among
the people-power, hippie-anthem stuff?

And what about the famous one
about the girl he had,
or had him, so he burned her flat?
You know he beat a few in real life

"because he was a jealous guy",
or words to that effect,
a child of nature, lost, and longing
for his mother, for a ticket out.

Would he want to be the man
on every hippie's wall,
forgiven for his cruelties
because he was against a fruitless war?

I know he tried to make it better,
and I love him for it,
like I love that famous song
about the girl he had, whose flat he burned,

because she had the nerve to laugh,
because she wasn't his.
I don't believe he ever lit
that fire, but I know she felt the heat.

Terror Tea

I want to drink a tea,
steeped in the salty ocean,
and hallucinate from all that garbage.
Not the small, safe visions
of a drug like LSD
or PCP,
but the ugly, mind-fucking terror dreams
that plague the minds of those who dare
perform incredibly stupid acts.
I want to drink the tea
and smile,
blog it on my tumblr blog
along with all the illustrations
of the goblins in my eyes
before I die.

Something Useful

An artificial reef,
a murky place of refuge,
somewhere new to swim;
a hipster affectation
of sophistication,
something that the neighbors
hadn't thought to flaunt.
- What are ways a fish could use a bicycle?

________________________________________________

Venus and Diana should have been in the last poetry post, I guess.  It was the last poem I wrote before I came to Korea.  The subject matter reflects my reading material at the time: I was speed-reading The Golden Bough so that I'd have one less book to pack.  So, that explains that.

Sudden Snow and Stranger's Land are exactly about what they seem to be about, and I don't have much to add about that.  They have similar free-versey tics, and I'm sure I had a very good reason for that.

Gakwonsa is a Buddhist temple, and I wrote Gakwonsa after visiting it.  It was the first big touristy-thing we ever did in Korea.  It is in iambic pentameter, so I guess that means I was actually trying.  More white space between lines definitely makes for a nicer read.

Love Thy Friends and Princess Adventures were both written at work, when I should have been working, but I don't feel guilty because that job was a total scam, yo.  Sometimes I like to experiment with very short lines.  And yeah, Princess Adventures is clearly about The Legend of Zelda.  There was a rumor around that the next Zelda game would star the princess as the heroine, and I sort of wrote it with that in mind.  As for Love Thy Friends, I tried to express succinctly my thoughts on loyalty.

Portraits of Sound is kind of pretty, and Molten Possibly is kind of a mess.  Both are kind of hard to read without stanzas, I suppose.  I think I like what they are about more than I like the poems themselves.  This blank verse, non-rhyming stuff always seems like a good idea at the time, but I never seem to execute it gracefully.

The Sailor's War was a very self-conscious attempt to write something longer than usual that didn't suck.  I even ran it by some of my friends to ensure that extra level of not-suck.  And it's an anti-war/environmentalist statement to boot!  Not too shabby.  Rhyming the same two rhymes over and over is tough, but also kind of fun.

I worked really hard on The Fire and the Heat.  Being a huge Beatles fan, and growing increasingly aware over time of the very glaring personality flaws of John Lennon, I struggled for some time to articulate my feelings about him.  It's hard to reconcile admiration for someone with the recognition that they've done some awful, indefensible things.  I tried to depict some of that tension.

Terror Tea, if memory serves, was motivated by my frustration in our attempts to leave our first job in Korea (which, you'll remember, was a total scam).  I just wanted to write something really grotesque.  Fortunately, we managed to escape a very short while afterward.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Counting change

I'm going back to America soon, and my feelings are complicated. 

I can remember how eager I was to leave my country, to get away from all of its rampant injustice and hopelessness.  The endless political deadlock on TV, the oppressive weight of our defective economic and justice systems, and the media's clueless self-satisfaction are the sort of thing that really ought to be too much for a person to deal with.  Yet, people deal with it every day, as if it's actually survivable.  Maybe that is the worst part.

Now I'm happy to be going back.  Why?  It's not because I've learned to love America's racist hypocrisy or aggressive ignorance.  It's just homesickness, soothed with the promise of security and familiar faces.  Traveling long-term can be fun, but you really start to miss people.  You miss talking to people for reasons other than "because they speak your language too".  You forget about the big problems of society when you're all caught up in your own difficulties.

Going home to America doesn't really feel like going back to all the things I like least about it.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, I never really left those things behind.  When I started planning to go to Korea, the big story was the murder of Trayvon Martin.  Now that I'm coming home, the big story is Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, Misouri.  No matter how far I travel physically, it doesn't change what happens in America.  My absence doesn't make everything better.  And being a white man, I never even had to suffer the worst of it.  I'm no refugee, just a bleeding heart.

Going home to America really just feels like going home.  It's comforting to be around familiar things and right now, I could use some comfort.  I'm not exactly leaving on my own terms, but I'm satisfied with what Korea, as a country, has given me in terms of life experience.

My only real regret right now is that Tara is not leaving at the same time as me, and that she'll be spending the holiday season in Oregon with her family before she comes down to rejoin me in California.  Our successful partnership, living and traveling and working together, has been the absolute best part of our tragically abbreviated foreign sojourn.  I can hardly stand the idea of being apart for four months.  But in the end, we will be together again.  I can live with that knowledge.

In the meantime, I have a host of smaller problems to deal with.  Most of these involve moving my stuff.  I have slightly more books now than when I came here last December.  I have an XBox 360 that needs to be diaposed of (because I already have one at home) and a big bag of games that I still want to play.  I bought this teapot that's really cute and asymmetrical and probably really fragile.  I knew I'd acquire more material goods before I had to pack up for home, but in fairness to me I really didn't think I would have to deal with that until next March.

And I've got these coins.  A big pile of coins, because from the moment I landed in South Korea I developed a strong preference for paying in cash, yet rarely bothered to carry exact change.  Being bored and unoccupied the other day, I counted out the value of of all this spare change, plus the few coins I happened to have in my wallet: ₩38,080 (plus seventy three cents that somehow made the transpacific journey all those months ago).

The great little speaker system I bought in April got jostled a little while ago and now it makes a high pitched tone whenever it's turned on.  I could fix it, or buy a new one for ₩38,080.  But since I'm going home, I guess I don't have to!  Instead, I'm using it to buy groceries.  I'm turning into the kind of person who goes to the grocery store to buy one or two small items, and pays in dimes.  It's fantastic.

My plane for Portland by way of Dallas (?) leaves on September 22nd around five o'clock.  Due to time zone shenanigans, it will arrive on the same day, about two and a half hours later.  Technology is truly a wonderful thing.  As for now, I'm counting the days and tryingnto get myself ready for being home.