Tuesday, November 23, 2004

swimming topless 

Sunday evening with boy and beer and cigarette in hand was the highlight of this past weekend.
We looked up at jungly plants around the pool, and a local radio station blared 70s cock-rock favorites. Children screeched outside our stuccoed walls, running around the "Happy Fiesta" soiree.

It was the best visa run ever. Completed by a visit to a volcano within a lake swamped in fog and rain. During a typhoon. And having pie and purple sweet potatoes with the jolliest priest I've met in years.

Thanks again to Jack - these kind of things will brighten any smoggy day, back in the real world.
They're phrased to give you fuzzies about yourself, however abhorrent your personality.
I don't know about knowing things no one else does. It's true I've little patience for small talk, but then again, most everything I yak on about could be construed as exactly that.

You Are the Investigator


You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.

You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.

You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

What number are you?


Thursday, November 18, 2004

One, two, three, four - shit a brick and die!

Which Swear Word Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

You can never swear enough.
Thanks, Jack!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Positions I have Held 

Hannah's recent talk of jobs got me thinking about the many I've had. Probably so I could see how much better off I am now than in the past?!
Here's an alphabetized summary of most, including volunteering ventures:

Artists all over the UK received phone calls from me one summer as I invited them to what we hoped would be a memorable exhibit in a dank space that had once been a legwarmer factory in Liverpool. We succeeded in scoring, amongst other delights: gilded rotting fruit, a chocolate electric chair, and a madcap gaggle of Austrians who built a "hugging machine" from a discarded mattress.

Babysitting - from siblings to sundry neighborhood brats - was my first moneymaking activity. It's pushed back my biological clock for a few years, if not for ever.

[I] Consumed too many french fries one summer while working second shift at Burger King. This was during my brief catholic university days. I worked second shift and typically drove to my boyfriend's at 4am for a quick shag before returning to my parent's house.

Despite sitting (clothed) for hours one afternoon in front of a group of amateur painters, they only handed me enough lire for a packet of cigarettes. Then again, they could have been confused by all those zeroes - this was in pre-Euro Italy.

Everything I owned reeked of proofing bread and factory-fresh vegetables during my tenure as a Subway Sandwich Artist. Strangely enough, I never grew tired of their sandwiches.

Fabrics of all sorts slipped through my fingers and over my body while working in retail for several years. This is where I learned the difference - by touch - between silk charmeuse, sandwashed silk, and silk knits. And where I saw, manifested every day, the adage: "Money can't buy good taste".

"Goddess?" I would answer expectantly, lifting an ungainly plastic receiver, as (mostly) male clients called for one of the polyester-clad escorts who lounged on a smelly sofa watching cheap cable that flickered in the dimly-lit room next to where we, the phone girls, sat.

Hellish indeed can be the freelance life, particularly when working for a nitpicking designer. While I painted museum sets, restaurant stucco, and showroom walls, the men who schmoozed our jobs into existence pocketed a fat commission.

Interest rates were far too low one year during university, when I worked in banking at the bottom of the corporate ladder, and realized that I had no desire to climb any closer to the top.

Juices and yogurts were all I ate one summer while I worked at a yogurt shop. One night as I closed the shop alone, my boyfriend stopped by and we had a quickie inside the walk-in refrigerator.

"Kosher food" was printed on all the labels at an Israeli-owned factory where Vi and I worked one summer. We wondered how the pita bread magically became kosher after our very goy hands had been all over it. Maybe it was the plastic gloves we wore.

Lovelorn callers would ask about anything from the color of my toenail polish (black) to my favorite sex position (none of their damn business) as I turned their grovelling words into appealing personal ads.

[I] Made certain that hors d'oeuvres were well-stocked while presiding as concierge in an exclusive hotel. It had cheap furniture veneered with expensive wood, and far too much sperm on its duvets, as revealed by a local TV station several years later.

No place I've worked was as gorgeous as one summer spent in Tuscany as a sculptor's assistant and all-around scrub. Tasks ranged from welding to making plaster molds to cutting bamboo that grew over a neighboring hill. I wanted to shag the assistant, but only kissed him instead, as a boy waited anxiously for me in the states.

Onion-chopping and other undesirable tasks were handed down to me by pot-smoking twenty-somethings in my first legal job at a pizza parlor, age 14.

Painting has always been the most gratifying, yet toxic, job I've undertaken. There's another reason to adopt: my ovaries have likely spent too many months swimming in turpentine.

Quite often, the renumeration for a job is inversely proportionate to the amount of enjoyment you'll derive from it. For example, the various art stores where I've worked: great times were had by all at a salary barely exceeding the minimum wage.

Roaming charges were the hot issue during a one-month stint of selling cell phones. One memorable customer was a large woman who came in several times complaining that her phone didn't work. We replaced it several times. The last time I saw her, I understood why: she pulled it out of her bra and handed it to me. Sweat, heartbeats, and electronic gadgets don't mix.

Students pretended to listen attentively to my lectures on French culture and art history, and would only wake up when I brought out paints for them to use.

Teaching English in Korea, Thailand and France has been the most challenging occupation I've ever attempted. I can't wait to do something else.

2000 Unbelievable kinds of paper from around the world were stacked on shelves in an art store, and I was responsible for keeping them all in order. From brushed lacquer to hand marbled papers, some inlaid with real leaves and butterflies, they were all inspiring. But creativity has its dark side, too: the paper gave me eczema.

Volunteering at an artistic, high-minded charity in England sounded like a great plan for an idealist straight out of university. For several weeks, two of us worked evenings and coralled drunken teens out of the woodwork of the 19th-century building, while we lived in decrepit community housing. Then I had another brilliant idea. I quit and moved into the hotel room of a maniacal art gallery owner who lived on the dole.

Xenophobic elderly Americans needed reassurance on queries about Muslims in Morocco and Mexican bandits. They'd call me at the travel agency and chat about anything from airline seats to the relative advantage of euthanizing a husband with violent dementia. Really.

Young artists, faces gleaming with pride from fresh infusions of grant money, inspired a healthy amount of envy as an art gallery assistant at my university. And gave me unrealistic expectations of the art world. "Oh, that guy scratched hieroglyphics into horse bones. Anyone get a prize from the _______ foundation! I've got talent, so it'll be no problem."

Zippers were one of the few things we couldn't customize on portfolios for artists and photographers, I learned during a few frenzied months at a handmade portfolio store. It was owned by a Sicilian who'd speak broken Italian to his Spanish-speaking factory workers, and have lunch with his Mafia friends at the pizzeria around the corner.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

a belated hallowee'en 

was had last night.
This is what happens when you give a girl two silk scarves, seven safety pins, lots of costume jewelry, and too much time to think of her man. I'll post a photo in the orange bar above the next time I download everything from my camera (a girl's best friend) at the overpriced Kodak store around the corner.

Came home from teaching a business class last night, harried-looking and autumnally windblown from the subway. Dressed in a grey wool secondhand blazer that had been made in China then sold to a Korean ingenue, discarded by same (Korean women don't go for used clothing) and bought in Thailand by me for around US$6 several months ago. Its lapels are draped rather than pressed & folded - I'm wearing it above - so I'd safetypinned it near my throat and it looked like a bizarre chi-chi designer creation rather than something bought in a tired SE Asian shopping mall.

Feeling very corporate, I kissed the boy who, as usual, wore almost nothing as he did his evening exercises - some combination of t'ai chi and stretching and training using his body weight. Pulled out trays of green&red peppers/purple onions/sundry vegetables that I'd cut that afternoon, and deviled eggs. I popped one into his mouth when he'd finished, and asked him to go to the convenience store please and get us a Guinness.

"Only one?" he asked, eyebrows lifted.
"Well, they cost over $4 each, so why don't you get one large Stout (cheap yet palatable Korean brew masquerading only in color and brand as a stout beer) along with the Guinness? That should go well with the fried rice noodles, sesame beef & peppers, right?"
He agreed and kissed me for five minutes till I threatened him with a plastic spatula.
I like him to think he's thought of everything.

He left.
I rushed to the bathroom, stripped, and shimmied into a pair of black ribbed thigh-highs with burlesque black bows sewn onto the garters. The effect was very nineteenth century, and contrasted nicely with the ultra-modern "Fire Station" underwear I slipped above them. Pinned a gossamer pale blue scarf (thanks, CC!) to the front and a dark blue with metallic inserts and fringe to the back of my bra. Sounds bizarre, but the effect was of a caped Grecian goddess once I pinned up my hair and threw on tarnished silver jewelry and a bronze choker.
Slipped on a pair of high-heeled slippers, poured sesame oil into a skillet, and soon the scent of ginger and garlic was everywhere.

Heard him ascend the stairs outside, and grinned.
So did he - for the next few hours.

The Guinness was for me, for dessert: I've told him for months that he'd wash down nicely with a pint of Guinness, and finally got to try it out.

Things with him have never been perfect, but even with recent difficulties, they're - for the most part - much better than before I left for Thailand several months ago. I just don't have friends here - any (and I won't be here long enough to really seek them out) - as I did in the other town where we lived, so can be more histrionic, and write of things here rather than having a session with them at our favorite bar.
"I won't be here long enough to seek them out," means I'll be in Seoul for about 6 more weeks, I think. Or, at the very most, ten. Visa runs negate any potential savings I could make through english teaching in Korea. As an American, I've got to leave the country once a month unless I've got an employer-sponsored visa. Which I'm no longer interested in after past experiences here.

My future "career" aspirations run to the hands-on art conservation/history/archaeology part of the spectrum, and I'm interested in pursuing some of this in SE Asia. There are also other jobs I can do to supplement english teaching there: though they may pay less, anything's preferable to motivating students to do something that I don't even like!
The boy's are focused in Japan (and, to some degree, in China): T'ai Chi, shiatsu massage, karate - any martial art, actually.
We've discussed for some time now the necessity for a probable long-term separation next year. I've no interest in living in Japan. Someday I'd like to go there as a tourist, but I find much about Japanese culture is bland and over-hyped, and I'm turned off by its personal repression and minimalism.
It's so un-sexy. And far too expensive to enjoy myself as I like.
But there's no way I'd ask him not to go to Japan so he could stay with me wherever I wanted to go.
He and I are in Korea right now because of the other person. We've no other reason to be here. He also needs to send a substantial amount of money home to pay for monthly bills there, and Korea's one of the few countries where that's possible when teaching EFL.

A comment I made today on Hannah's site.
Compelled to copy it here for some reason. Anything but write of the election. Oh god. Now I'm starting to get depressed.

"One thing that an ex once pointed out was the 'Don't', 'can't', 'never', and 'always'-es that punctuated my sentences. Absolutes and negative qualifiers like those indicate a kind of tunnel vision that accompanies depression.
Other responses to what you've written: What language were the kids yelling in? Here in Korea it's unfortunately common to see 3-year-olds playing in the streets at midnight.
Being tough isn't about insulation against environment, it's often simply survival. So no, you were smart to be wary! Fear's normal, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Sounds like your company's changed titles so they don't have to do the ass-kissing that people expect of 'help desks'. 'Call centers' are implicitly customer service oriented, but in a more removed, systematic way. I did phone work in the states for a number of years, during and after university. 'Talk time' limits are normal. It's a precarious balance between feel-good customer service on the phone and follow-up time and efficient queue time, so they don't have hundreds of people waiting on the phone, or have to hire too many people. It's a business tactic unfortunately. Over time you should be able to manage it.

Keep looking for work while at this crap job. Or you may begin to feel worse than you already do. Look into resume-tweaking, see if there are any low-cost classes available for an industry you're interested in. Perhaps school may also look more appealing after some time at that job.
Periods suck. I've been bleeding for 20 of the past 21 days, and in pain for many of them. (time to get rid of the IUD, I think).
Mental institutions suck. I spent a week in one, but it kept me from walking in front of a car as I nearly did that day.
Change of environment can be a wonderful thing, but only with proper pre-meditation. And with the right reasons; not for escapism, because that cliche's really true: internal problems & problems with dealing with the world outside your skin will follow you.

I believe a job you really like probably won't just appear. You've got to train for it, lust after it, always keep searching for it while at the nasty jobs that pay the rent. Because that's why we work: to pay the rent, to pay for vacations from our lives, our lovers, our grim environments. But the people living in those gorgeous places with silky beaches have just as many problems as we do. I've been wrestling w/these questions for 10 years now, and have had jobs ranging from the incredible (takes serendipity or connections or training to get them) to the horrible. By writing of your problems here, you're taking a step towards resolving them. But it's not the last step, either."


Monday, November 01, 2004

"Return to Me" 

as sung by Dean Martin was playing when I arrived home last night.

He stood in the kitchen with a dishful of tortilla chips, plates of black & green olives, feta cheese, and....a nice bottle of red wine. He looked over with a quiet smile, and I relaxed straight away.
Couldn't help but grin as I heard Martin croon at full volume, accompanied by strings and a chorus of angelic-sounding women:

"Return to me
Oh my dear I'm so lonely
Hurry back, hurry back...."

How melodramatic, as are the two of us sometimes.

"Did you finish my Guinness?" I asked.
He laughed, and said: "Yeah, eventually. It took me a while to realize you'd gone. I thought you'd just gone to the restroom."
Handed me a tumbler filled with wine. We toasted one another silently, and I giggled as I heard Martin again:

"Return to me
For my heart wants you only
Hurry home, hurry home
Won't you please hurry home to my heart"

This isn't the boy's usual fare; he usually prefers ambient music sans lyrics and distractions, for meditation or...anything else we have in mind. As the singing ended, he rushed over to his laptop that we use as a TV and stereo, and restarted the song.
I looked up at him. "Did you play that for me?" I asked.
He looked away, then back, as though mulling over if he should admit it or not. Then he smiled and nodded.
I listened:

"My darling, if I hurt you I'm sorry
Forgive me and please say you are mine
Return to me
Please come back bella mia
Hurry back, hurry home to my arms
To my lips and my heart"

Then I heard the Italian - oh, that's why the boy had chosen it!

"Retorna me
Cara mia ti amo
Solo tu, solo tu, solo tu, solo tu
Mio cuore"

He started the song once again when it finished.
"How many times have you played that tonight?" I wondered aloud, glancing from my glass to his.
"Oh, a few," he grinned, and we brought plates to the piece of luggage that we've converted to a table covered in a polyester tablecloth which he also wears while washing dishes because I think he's sexy as hell, broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted in a dusty pink sarong with nothing underneath.

epilogue: it was by no means a perfect evening afterwards, though it was a dramatic improvement over the past few days. We slept (in separate rooms; I wasn't ready for sharing a bed yet) after mock-fighting over what time we'd get up today for "brunch" at Starbucks. They don't have brunch where he's from, so his definition of the word can cover anything from yogurt at noon to a full dinner at 2pm.


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