Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Water Closet

I don't use the men's office bathroom at work. Because it's right next to the (tiny) office kitchen and the coffee maker, where you can bet someone is surely milling about at all hours of the work day.

Sure, it's fine for a...No. 1? A piss? How euphemistic do we have to be about this?

Your mileage may vary, but I'm going to dispense with the pleasantries forthright and talk like an adult, or a reasonable, hand-drawn facsimile thereof. Just pretend we're two friends talking in a bar or a salon. It makes my exposition easier, and it's more honest when discussing the subject: shit.

Children, cover your ears.


In my thirty-seven years, I have never liked using public bathrooms, for various reasons. People tend to be, by and large, completely disgusting, for one. It's easier to be rude to a stranger than to a friend, but while I've seen absolute horrors left in public bathrooms, I've also held get-togethers at my home where people have pissed, indiscriminately, all over my toilet seat. In fact, this happens, too, at my office. And the floor I work on isn't staffed by many male employees, so I know, when I go to take a leak, who the culprit is. I could be the inter-office Eric Snowden, disclosing who hawked a loogie on the bathroom floor, who sprayed piss all over the place...but it goes to the top. So, instead, I'll close my pretty mouth.

Because I want to talk about shit.

(Somewhat thematically, perhaps, when trying -- multiple times -- to provide a link to The Atlantic's article "The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms," I keep getting 502 Bad Gateway. Feels appropriate.)


I'm gun shy. I prefer home-court advantage.

And now I'm using euphemisms, so screw (fuck) it, here's the deal: I can't take a shit anywhere that is not my home. Oh, desperate times -- bowels clenching, knees shaking -- call for desperate measures, and any toilet will serve in a pinch*, but 99 times out of 100 I can't shit comfortably when I'm not at home. I physically cannot. The gates of Mordor are closed to me dropping the One Ring into Mount Doom.

It's weird, right? I won't take a shit in the office bathroom, but when I feel the need to make, I take the elevator down to the -- appropriately titled -- 2nd floor. There are two men's stalls there, but even then, dropping trou in a quiet environment, I rarely complete the mission.


The women in our office have a slightly better bathroom setup (it's not next to the kitchen and the coffee maker), but it's also not ideal. It's a single room -- or so I suppose; I've never been in there. Yet.

The office is relatively quiet, so I'm assuming that they feel the same way about taking a dump as the men do. It's embarrassing and kind of stressful -- while also being completely irrational, given that we all have to take shits every day** -- to do something so private while being in such a close proximity to people you have to see every day. Working in an office environment is not conductive to regular bowel movements.

The women, however, have recently taken to turning on their bathroom sink at full blast whenever one of them needs to take a shit. Reliably, after lunch, my female coworkers will head to the bathroom, one after another, and turn on the faucet to max strength to cover up the sounds that they are scared they might make.

And I get that it's not easy to poop. And I get that something so normal is so hard to feel free about.

But what a fucking waste of water.

 * roll with it

** and if you don't, step up your fiber game, bro

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I've done some stupid things in my life. Fewer than most people (or so I'd like to think), but more than some (probably).

Rational, sane, human beings weigh options, consider cause and effect, whether when deciding which laundry detergent to purchase or when deciding to go skydiving. We make choices. Most are sound. But not all are.

Our emotions often intersect and interfere with rationality. Especially when love is involved. People have done -- and will continue to do -- awful things to one another, or themselves, because they feel hurt or alone. Anger is a devil that can manifest itself in terrible ways.

I have always tried to be a reasonable, rational person. That reads like the opening paragraph of a serial killer's letter sent to the police, but hear me out. I also get angry at times. Sometimes I get so angry that I don't know what to do with myself. When I was an adolescent, and my parents would argue, I'd feel so upset and conflicted, and the only way I could express my feelings was by punching a hole in my bedroom wall.

That was how I dealt with the frustration I felt. I was upset, and rather than hurting other people, I chose to hurt inanimate objects: walls, TV remote controls, and, on one occasion, a flip phone. I broke it in half like an 80s action hero snapping a villains neck.

Recently, while dealing with immense stress and sorrow, I chose, irrationally, to harm myself. I could never commit suicide (I like living too much, no matter how far astray I've been led in life), but I was low. Bottom of the fucking ocean.

So I put a cigarette out on my left arm. Not fast, either. I ground the cigarette into my arm like that worthy was a glass ashtray.

Speaking from experience -- don't do that. Things can heal: relationships, surgical procedures, the disappointment of True Detective Season 2...but the pain of a third-degree burn is the gift that keeps on giving.

But even that will get better...unless the wound gets infected and you die from flesh-eating bacteria.

I'll try to get over it. But not today. Maybe tomorrow.

-- September 27, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Free Throw

A sweltering afternoon in August. The air is as thick as corn soup. I'm playing basketball.

Practicing is a better description, because not many people are out for recreation on this hot day. I'm playing by myself, taking jump shots, scrambling to get my own rebounds before the ball bounces off into the abutting river or the mud puddles surrounding the court.

It's peaceful. Serene. Despite the heat.

Damn, it's hot, though. My gray Timberland T-shirt is black with sweat. Perspiration is dripping into my eyes from my unkempt hair. I wipe my forehead with my forearm and see a residue of white sodium speckles.

Time to head home. Drink a 500 ml bottle of Gatorade and take a nap with the air conditioner on blast.

But first, free throws.


The basketball communion wafer.

Appease the gods.


I set my feet; my right foot half an inch ahead of my left.

I jimmy my waist until I feel comfortable.

I bounce the ball three times (the holy trinity), and spin it in my palms to get a good feel. This ball is a baby sucking on mother's milk.

I bend my knees slightly, square my shoulders, raise my arms, and shoot.


The sound of a basketball going through mesh is the most satisfying sound known to man. The sperm-egg analogue is obvious.

I shoot nine more free throws. I make them all.


A cold October night. I'm covered in blankets and shivering. I have a fever. The fluorescent lights are blinding and hurting my eyes.

A nurse tells me, nicely, that I have lost my left arm. I tell her she's crazy, because I can still feel it.

Then the morphine drip puts me to sleep again.

I dream that I am shooting free throws and playing piano.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fast Friends

June 12, 2011. The Miami Heat are about to lose the NBA Finals 4-2 to the Dallas Mavericks.

I'm already in the future. It's an early afternoon on June 13 where I am, Korea, working in localization at NHN, home to the country's leading Internet search (Naver) and online video game (Hangame) portals. I'm listening to ESPN Radio's broadcast, and I know that, for now, the sky is falling. I skip lunch, go to the bathroom to take a shit that won't manifest even though my bowels are wrung like a drenched towel, go back to my desk and send my wife a text message.


There are a lot of things that I love and dislike about professional sports, but the one question I have kept returning to over the years is, "Why do we care so much about something that affects our lives so little?" I don't have a solid answer to that question, but I do have a fraction of one: It's because we care. And caring is not a bad thing. It can get warped and twisted (see: soccer hooligans, Batfans, etc.), but caring about a TV show, sports team, or any other innocuous ephemera is -- at least to me -- a pure human emotion. We care because we appreciate; and we appreciate because we care.

That caring, that love, can quickly and violently become an ugly thing, however. Expectations, rational or irrational can find terrible paths when unmet. El Salvador and Honduras participated in mutual military aggression partially due to a football match. Vancouver has seen two riots after the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Hell, Los Angeles and Montreal have had riots when their sports teams win.

I don't know what leads to such a level of insane passion, although I'd like to, simply out of curiosity. What I do know is that on June 13, 2011 I was down. The Miami Heat, in the first year of the Big 3 era, had lost in the Finals, much to the delight of anyone who wasn't a Heat fan.

I needed a quick fix. I needed something to make me feel better, immediately.

So, like a child asking to go get ice cream after losing a soccer game, I called my wife and asked her to buy a dog, a dachshund, specifically. Bless her heart, she did.

I named him Flash, after the nickname of my favorite basketball player. I never could have imagined how apt that name would be; shorty can outrun a bolt of lightning, I'm convinced.

Why did I pick a dachshund? The most common answer to that question that I have given when anyone bothers to ask is that I live in an apartment, and I wanted a small dog who could comfortably live in an apartment. But I didn't want a toy poodle, a Chihuahua, or a lot of the other small dogs that some people buy more to keep as accessories rather than pets.

I think the real answer, though, is that a dachshund, with its long body and short legs, floppy ears and pointed nose, is my definition of an incalculable smile brought to life. The dachshund, for me, is a panacea.

Four years later, on a Sunday afternoon, Flash nestled in my lap, I am writing a love letter to my dog, who will never read this. But he knows how much I care about him, and I know how much he cares about me.

You can learn a lot from the eyes of a dog. They can't talk, but their look can convey more than most people can express in words.

[Insert David Berkowitz joke here.]

We bros. I'm Popeye, and you're my spinach.

I look into those tiny, wet black eyes and see pure love and affection.

If only everything else could be as such.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cold Closet

An Open Letter to My Refrigerator:

Dear Refrigerator,

I think you're pretty cool.

You keep my beer cold and my lettuce crisp. I know that I don't always express how thankful I am for having you in my life, that I usually ignore how important you are until you break down and then I freak out about the mayonnaise turning green or the cottage cheese becoming sentient.

I realize that I need to respect you more, Refrigerator. I'm not good at expressing my feelings, but I just wanted to let you know how we stand, from my perspective (you, of course, stand in the same place you've always been, right next to the bread cupboard; you can criticize me for cancelling my gym membership after only 2 months, but you haven't moved in SEVEN YEARS!)

I'm not upset. You are the benumber of my victuals, the gelid provider of my libations. Whenever I look at another refrigerator, I think, 'Not as cool as Claudia 7608.'

But there's one thing I have to address. It's been on my mind since 35 seconds ago, and I need to say something before my memory expires, like that wedge of roqforte I mistakenly left behind the bottle of French dressing (don't pretend you don't remember) and which, when I rediscovered it, I ate.

You need to stop beeping like R2D2 having a seizure if I leave your door open too long. Look, I have to take out some stuff from you, and then I have to put said stuff down in different places. I know that I'm wasting energy. I know that. I don't need you to keep beeping at me, Refrigerator. I already know, okay?

Do you get scared when your door is open too long? Do you get frightened that it will never close?

I promise, Claudia, I will always be there to open and close you.

At least until your 10-year warranty expires and I can afford an upgrade.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yukon (The Expatriation of Johnny "Buffalo" Flynn)

I remember the exact moment when I decided to drop out of college. It was during a creative writing lecture on pathetic fallacy. Our professor, the intimidating Dr. Henry Strong, began the lecture by writing the following on the chalkboard:


That example, taken from a text that probably existed only in Prof. Strong's head, was Exhibit A of "bad writing" as it related to pathetic fallacy.

I liked it, though. Actually, I loved it. Not only was it euphonic when read aloud, it was also imaginative. I didn't care that the clouds were personified to be mentally angry and physically expectorating. If that wasn't creative writing, what was?

I was young then, and hesitant to challenge those who were deemed and documented to be my intellectual superiors, but I felt that I had to represent a dissenting voice. So I spoke up. And I became cheekier the more I spoke. The asshole part of my brain picks up locomotion the more my jaws move up and down.

"Doctor, while I agree with the crux of your argument, I think that it's against the very nature -- pun acknowledged -- of literature to discourage pathetic fallacy. I'm not saying that tree branches playing billiards or a river smoking a cigarette are fine, but your example is imaginative and expressive. It conveys the literary environment, doesn't it?"

Doctor Strong looked at me with blue eyes masking crimson hatred behind their irises.

"Mister Flynn," he said, "if you are so passionately married to embracing the pathetic fallacy, nothing I can say during this semester will change your mind. Perhaps 'pathetic' will also be an apt description of your higher education."

That stung.

"So go ahead and personify raindrops and train stops," he continued. "Write that the sun is hugging the fucking earth with its warmth. The grass on my front lawn was jubilant this morning. But trust me, that sort of literary shorthand doesn't go far. It's mimicry from a dummy's mouth."

Only he pronounced "mimicry" mee-mee-cry.

And that was the exact moment when I decided to drop out of college. Throughout my formative years, I sporadically suspected that I was smarter than my educators, and that was cumulative proof .

So I withdrew from the program, taking my fortune elsewhere, looking for I don't know what.

Gold, probably. Hopefully.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Game of Acorns

This is a sad story.

One early evening in the fall of 2010, I was walking to the apartment of two former students, siblings, a brother and a sister, that I used to tutor. I could have taken a bus, but I discovered that a 20-minute uphill walk would get me there faster, and the walk was pleasant: a straight line with little human or vehicular traffic, save for the occasional food delivery guys on their motorbikes zipping up and down the sidewalk's bicycle lane. The air was cool as the sun was going down, and the sidewalk abutted Jungang Park (it probably still does). It being fall, the foliage was invigorating, yet, only with the advantage of hindsight, foreboding.

It is a very rare thing to see a squirrel in Korea. I think I've seen approximately four during my fifteen years here. Even rarer is spotting a chipmunk. Wikipedia informs me that all species of chipmunk, with the exception of the Siberian chipmunk, exist in North America. But I know what I saw.

Running in pace with my stride along the shoulder-high stone ledge that borders the park's south-east side was a goddamn chipmunk.

How happy that made me! When I arrived at my students' home, I couldn't contain my jubilation, and, before the lesson, I tried to explain to them how wonderful it was to see a chipmunk in Korea. The Korean word for chipmunk, however, is the same as squirrel, because both are from the family Sciuridae. Thankfully, with my then-new iPhone 3GS, I was able to search Google for chipmunk images to show my pupils. They weren't exactly awed, but they were attentive, which I think succinctly sums up my on-and-off-again career as an English teacher.

The class ended, as everything must, and I made my way back home. The air was cool, the downhill walk easier and more relaxing knowing that the day was near its finish line.

When I was about halfway home, I saw a tiny little rodent body strewn on the bicycle path. Blood and viscera. Unmistakably, it was my chipmunk friend, who had undoubtedly been run over by a motorbike.

Talk about giveth and taketh away, man.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


It's been a pretty good weekend. In my advanced age, I tend to stay home on weekends and do old man stuff (crossword puzzles, scrapbooking), but this weekend I actually did things, all within the scope of the law, I think. For once.

I had dinner and drinks -- or, perhaps more accurately, drinks and dinner -- with the illustrious and praiseworthy Luke Roberts (who hooked a brother up!) in Gangnam after work on Friday. Samgyeopsal, IPAs, and good conversation, 10-20% of which was about bowel movements.

It was the shit.

Yesterday, Leon's father and his girlfriend visited for dinner at our new apartment. Leon cooked samgyeopsal*, and Leon's dad's girlfriend, a superlative cook, provided the meal's accoutrements. I was worried about Flashy being overly annoying during the meal (playing Nintendogs and smoking clove cigarettes), but he acquitted himself well. As a reward, Leon's father shared a chocolate-free frozen dessert cone with him. I disapprove of giving dogs human food, but I was like, "Okay, fine, we're taking the kids to Disney World."

After Leon's dad and his girlfriend left, Leon and I ate copious amounts of Play-Doh**. LOL, jk. No, what we did was walk two minutes from our apartment to a nifty music bar that has a great sound system, a ton of vinyl records, and an awesome interior. Requests were encouraged (although Leon's request of Michael Bolton's "Michael Bolton Song That I don't Know the Name Of" was quite gauche. No one's prefect).

Today, after watching the latest episode of Hannibal, I'm sitting at my computer with a Dachshund on my lap and a fortified beverage close at hand. As god intended.

Tomorrow: back to an unimaginative person's version of Hell, where nothing really sinister happens but neither does anything pleasureful occur.


At least they pay you for it.

All things considered, it has been a pretty good weekend.

(Except for the Children of the Corn adolescents who live next door, kick the recycling helter skelter, and comically try to intimidate me with their bicycles. They're going places. Juvenile hall, probably.)


[Thank you for reading my essay.]

* If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song.
** Just checking if you're still with me.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

(Sh)It Depends on the Weather

James Baxter was sweating. Profusely. It was an inordinately hot afternoon for late April, and the air conditioning on the metro was feeble, if it was even running, but those weren't the main reasons for James's dripping brow and soaked Perry Ellis shirt.

All day he had had to take a monstrous dump. But he had held it in. At around 10:30, he was about to make for the 2nd floor bathroom -- he worked on the 17th floor, but the office men's bathroom was situated next to the kitchen and coffee maker, which didn't encourage a comfortable mail delivery system -- when Kyle Bynes, his manager and Rhonda Byrne acolyte, had called an impromptu meeting. Just after one o'clock, the gophers again started grumbling in their tunnels, but a twenty-page letter to a law office in Taiwan needed to be sent ASAP, and James had to give it a thorough read over. Then, at ten minutes before six, James's usual punch out time, his gut shook like a rack being broken by a cue ball.

Just hold it in until you get home, Son of Stupid, he told himself. Then you have home court from which to drop Fat Man and Little Boy.

If wishes were fishes. James's metro commute home wasn't a long one, only thirty or so minutes, but during the six-kilometer jaunt from Chesham to Chalfont & Latimer Station -- the longest distance between all London Underground stations -- a pluperfect protest of penetralian proportion reached a boiling point in his gut.

Jesus, he thought, I'm going to crap myself on the bloody metro.

There was no question that the prison riot in his bowels would lead to a mass escape; what was of chief concern was whether the prison guards could hold the rebels back long enough so that James could exit the underground with his dignity intact.

I can't shit myself on the train. I can't! I'd rather die.

He clenched. Hard. The hand strap and his sphincter. If he were in a car, he could have pulled to the side of the road and done his business; if he were on an aeroplane, he could use the lavatory; but there are no restrooms on the metro. You just have to deal with it.

Miraculously, the train finally arrived at Chalfont & Latimer Station. James exited the platform and walked like a penguin for five minutes until he reached his second-floor apartment. He unlocked the door and took off his shoes. His Pekingese dog, Josie, was sniffing at his feet and wanting to be fed.

"Soon, girl," he said. "I have to do something first."

James went into the bedroom and stripped himself of his shirt and trousers. Then he opened the closet and fished out a crumpled pack of Dunhills and a Bic lighter, both of which had been in an old jacket pocket since time immemorial. He pulled out a coffin nail that was probably produced when Tony Blair was still prime minister.

Josie barked.

"Give me fifteen minutes," he told Josie. "If I'm not out by then, call the cops."

James sat on the toilet, lit his cigarette, and pondered.

All life exists because of volcanic eruptions. Continents, islands, archipelagos. From this we have grown. Wallpaper over wallpaper. Paint over paint. Don't strip off the old coat, just put another one over it. Again and again.

The doorbell rang, interrupting James from his bathroom reverie. He hastily wiped his ass, threw on a towel stolen from a hotel in 2008, and went to open the door.

The solicitor was gone. Left behind on the floor outside of the apartment was the May issue of Watchtower, which announced that Jesus Christ was coming back for a third time, so people get ready. Any time now.

James fed Josie, read two chapters of Stephen King's latest novel, sent a happy-birthday email to his uncle, and turned off the lights and hoped for sleep.

As he drifted toward Nod, a cacophonous maxim echoed in his brain: 

Stay alive. Wait until it gets better. Don't give up. 

Then dark.



John Jackson was out of breath. His lungs were screaming. Twenty-six miles will do that to anyone, but they're especially harsh to a forty-one-year-old grade school teacher with a penchant for Quarter Pounders and Dairy Queen Blizzards.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nine Plus One (Rathbone)

On May 28th, Psychedelic Kimchi, this hallowed elephants' graveyard of swear words and insight from the East, turned 10.

A lot has changed since its inception. I can only speak for myself, and not for the oft-infrequent-yet-illustrious contributors of Psychedelic Kit-Kat, but I believe a lot has changed for them, too. Ten years will do that.

I got 10 years older, obviously, if not wiser (although I like to think I have). I got divorced and remarried. I've lived in seven different apartments (eight this coming Thursday), had nine different cell phones, worked at six different companies, and have helped raise two adorable dogs.

First and foremost during that period, however, is the 18th Letter, who has been living in Canada with my parents since the summer of 2007. My ex-wife was granted custody of our daughter in our divorce, but at the 11th hour she decided to relinquish custody, because, in her words, "She looks too much like you." She does. And she's better looking, kinder, and smarter than I'll ever be. No one can really tell when it comes to children and genes and environments and so on. Sometimes you get lucky, and with the 18th Letter I hit the jackpot. Corn Flakes and strawberry milk with a slice of processed cheese: breakfast of champions. My beautiful Rahnebow.

Blogs are a dying breed, and have been for some time. Personal writing is now reserved to Facebook or Twitter, and brief. Kmork, my brother from another dimension, sent me a link last year in which someone, a professor, I think, argued that social media is inherently narcissistic. I disagree. Social media can be narcissistic in the same way a knife can be a murder weapon. It's not harmful to write about oneself; in fact, it can lead to self discovery.

I think that I have, at least partially, discovered who I am during the past 10 years. I've also written some absolute garbage on this blog, but that's what learning is, right? Trial and error.

There aren't many things I've done for 10 years. The list: being alive, being a father, and Psychedelic Kimchi.

It's been real. Thank you to everyone who has ever spent time reading the ramblings of a werewolf.

I'll be around.