Saturday, September 13, 2014

Survive!

Often ,when I was out traveling the world and banging hot international babes, I wished I was an alpha male.

You know, a REAL alpha male -- a guy with practical skills and knowledge; a reliable, responsible, trustworthy protector and provider. Not some doofus that all the guys in the gym and all the sluts in the club look up to because they never had good father figures. 

To that end, I started taking a variety of survival training,programs a few years ago; the last one was a SERE course where I spent the night sleeping under a fallen tree in the hail after being pepper sprayed and tasered and interrogated.

(I probably could have hired a dominatrix to give me the same experience more enjoyably; perhaps that's a project for another time.)

So anyway, I just finished what will probably be the swansong of my survival courses -- a seven-day survival hike in the mountains and canyons of Utah. (For once I will link to the company.) It was more of a hippie "primitive living" style thing, not the paramilitary themed stuff I did previously.

I walked across this entire canyon. Seriously. 




We hiked more than ten miles a day (on average) through spectacular scenery -- pine forests, sage brush fields, mountains and canyons -- and ate nothing but berries and plants for the first 30 hours. We drank river water, though we did treat it with Aqua Mira drops. We slept under improvised shelters made from rain ponchos and wool blankets and paracord, and started our own fires with bow drills.



It was an amazing experience -- albeit an expensive one -- and anybody who thinks that hippies are unathletic or helpless needs to check out these people -- they run up and down the mountains in sandals with the agility and stamina of billy goats.

And our highly competent, tireless, and self-sufficient "alpha" head instructor?

 A 31 year old female.


Did it make me feel more "alpha?" Well, I suppose so -- thinking you can do something and knowing you can do something like that is not necessarily a profound difference, but it is a difference. 

And on the last day during the graduation ceremony, the other students had to say which positive things we liked about each other -- and about me it was said, "X was always positive and enthusiastic about everything, and always seemed to be living in the moment and reminding everybody how beautiful everything around us was."

ME! Positive and enthusiastic!

What do you think about THAT? 


But of course, all that living-in-the-moment stuff disappears pretty quickly once you get down from the mountain . . . 

Tomorrow: heading off to Marmaris,Turkey to meet the refuses-to-be-ex-Girlfriend. The next memoir is getting a final polish and will be available in the next week or two. 



Monday, September 08, 2014

Luckless (Excerpt from REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND)

I get a lot of e-mail these days from people - usually older English teachers but not always - asking, `Should I go to the Middle East and teach English?`

The answer to that, as with many things in life is `Yes, but ...`

I will enumerate those buts in a later post, but one of them is that schools in the Middle East are just as capricious about firing teachers as any other school (that is to say, extremely) but since it is so isolated and visa laws so strict, the stakes are a lot higher.


This is a short bit out of my upcoming memoir, REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND, which is about the last five years, most of which I spent in the Middle East.

High salaries and less debauchery aside, the English teachers are still pretty off-kilter there ... and here's an example of how the schools still fuck the teachers over any chance they get.




* * *

Some guys just can’t catch a break.

English Teacher R was one of the younger guys there, in his early 30s; sensibly he was working towards ridding himself of the massive student loan debt that he and so many of his generation had amassed.

He was certainly no better or worse a teacher than any of us. 

His only mistake was being noticed a bit too much by administration.

He had one class that was extremely recalcitrant about refusing to study, and instead of just giving up and letting them do nothing, as most of us had learned to do, he kept throwing students out and marking them absent, which led to them going to management and complaining about him.

There were a few smaller things; once he let his students out of class to go to the computer lab; some management higher-ups were visiting the institute that day and stopped the students, asking where their teacher was. R was still in the classroom, shutting down the computer and organizing his things, and a group of angry management people descended, asking why his students were in the hallway unaccompanied.

Thinking fast, the only excuse that R was able to come up with in a hurry was that he had to fart so had stayed behind to do so.

“Christ, couldn’t you have told them you forgot your pencil or something?” I asked.

“It was just the first thing I thought of,” he said miserably.

He always just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. Once he didn’t check his email and missed a class he was supposed to cover; another time he missed a test proctoring session he was supposed to do.

They set him to work being the monitor in the computer lab, keeping track of people who entered and making sure no one brought in food.

It was generally thought to be the assignment that you got before you were fired suddenly. That’s where they’d put the last couple of guys they’d fired.

Bored there, he made a series of photoshop pictures of various teachers’ faces on the bodies of different characters from LORD OF THE RINGS. Naturally the rotund South African teacher whose face had been grafted on the dwarf Gimli's body didn’t find the joke particularly amusing, and told him to erase those before he filed a complaint with the management about them.

“I thought it was funny! It was supposed to be a joke to raise staff morale,” he said. “I asked him if he minded if I used his picture!”

“You gotta feel out the atmosphere,” I said. “You can do shit like that at the English First in Istanbul or Barcelona or whatever, and it would be a funny joke, but you know how on-edge people are here anyway.”

He finally decided to have a sit-down with the principal of the unit, and asked the guy if the school was unhappy with him, and if they intended to get rid of him. If so, he assured them he would offer them his resignation with no hard feelings and begin making plans to leave.

They assured him that there was no problem. That in fact, being monitor of the computer lab was an important job.

He went on his second leave, two weeks in Italy with his Filipina girlfriend.

On the day he got back, there was a message from his contractor saying his contract was being cancelled due to problems with his background check, and he should clear his desk and come to the nearby city to begin his out-processing.

He ran around the office in flustered circles, collecting the various odds and end from his 8 months he’d been there. “Motherfuckers motherfuckers motherfuckers,” he muttered.

“They can’t do this to you,” I assured him. “I’m with you. I’m gonna leave, too!”

“Ha fucking ha. At least you get your end of contract bonus.”

“Well, I got a promise that I’ll get my end of contract bonus, so far, not the actual bonus.”

“Any advice on finding a job in Russia?” he asked.

* * *

Ah the losers and miscreants of TEFL. My people. How I love `em.




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Miami With the Goose, Part Two: Rollin' in Da Club

This is Part Two of a story from my next memoir, REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND, about a weekend I spent in Miami with a Russian stripper of my acquaintance who I originally met in Vodkaberg.


(This happened in June of 2013, before I began my second job in the Kingdom.)

The next day at noon she went home and I swam in the ocean for a while and then had a desperately-needed nap; in the evening I took a taxi and the Goose and her room-mate at a different street full of bars somewhere.
The Goose’s room-mate was nearly as tall as her but a bit slimmer; she had red hair and a kind of air of sad dignity that I liked a lot.
(I wonder if she thought the same about me. It would be nice to think it was an air of sad dignity and not just plain old chronic depression.)
They wanted to go to an American style rock bar, which seemed like the last kind of thing a couple of Russian girls would like – full of pastel shirt wearing fratboys, and some bozos on the stage were doing Bon Jovi and Nickelback covers, not even ironically – but it turned out they liked the food there and we ate burgers and onion rings on the back patio.
The Goose’s roommate was in fact a retired stripper; her boyfriend the policeman gave her enough money to live, although I didn’t quite get why she didn’t live with him. Maybe he was married or something.
She was also an illegal, from somewhere in Siberia, and she asked me a lot of questions about my recent time in Russia.
“I very miss my home country,” she said, sadly and dignified-ly.
I told her more about my life as an itinerant English teacher and I could tell she was charmed.
"You're more interesting than most Americans," she said. 
I explained that I was about to go back to the Kingdom to work and they both suggested that, since I wouldn’t be seeing any girls for a while, we should go to a strip club.
“I’ll take your word for it, you girls know Miami.”
I’d been to a few go-go bars in Bangkok that were fun, but the American strip clubs I’d been to in Memphis and New Orleans were dank and depressing, where not-especially-attractive women wheedled money and drinks from you while most of the men in the audience looked like serial killers in training.
It was always so different in the movies, where gorgeous women twirled acrobatically around poles to cool tunes while well-dressed gangsters and undercover cops made important agreements.
The entrance to the club didn’t inspire much confidence; they busted the guys in front of us for having fake IDs, and actually seemed to take them outside to turn them over to the cop car parked outside. We paid our entrance fee and moved through the dirty curtains.


Inside, gorgeous women twirled acrobatically around poles to cool tunes, while well-dressed gangsters and undercover cops made important agreements.
“Oh my god!” I said. “It’s just like a strip club in a movie!”
“Yeah,” said the room-mate. “I think it was in a couple of movies, actually. BAD BOYS, I think. I like Will Smith.”
We saddled up to the bar and started drinking Patron tequila. I paid for everything.
The women got more and more gorgeous and more and more naked as the evening continued. There were stripper stages all around the floor, all around us, and naked women – who were uniformly beautiful and well-built -- were scrambling up and down brass poles like spider monkeys. Two perfect specimens covered in glowing body-paint did some serious Cirque-Du-Soleil twirling-around-while-hanging-from straps stuff, that led to the floor beneath them being completely covered in cash by the time they were finished. The cool tunes blasted.
And the crowd were nearly as attractive as the strippers, across the spectrum of Miami’s ethnic mix, all shades of well-dressed and smiling men with strippers writhing in their laps or buying drinks for the table or laughing. Even the old guys and the frat boys seemed relatively classy. But maybe that was just the Patron talking.
The room-mate negotiated with a friend of hers to give me a lap-dance, although with the buxom Goose and her room-mate sprawling against me, I hardly felt I lacked contact.
Soon I was on a sofa in a walled-off area, a Ukrainian brunette writhing against me clad only in a g-string.
“Implants?” I asked, rudely.
“Yeah,” she said. “You like them.”
“They are nice,” I said. “The technology on those things has improved a lot.”
She unbuttoned my shirt and kissed my stomach and rubbed her tits against me.
“She said you used to be a teacher.”
“I still am.”
“You taught in Russia?”
“Yeah.”
“Did you fuck any of your students?”
“Oh, well. Yeah, but it wasn’t like it was a real school. We just taught English.”
“That’s hot. I’d have fucked you if I were your student.”
And then the two songs I’d paid for were finished and she was gone, and I noticed she gave room-mate a kickback from the $50 I’d paid.
I smiled. Everybody had an angle.



At about 2:30am a friend of the Goose – a big cheerful Hispanic guy – was driving us home. I was piled in the backseat with the Room-mate, and she sprawled against me and I put my arms around her.
She leaned her head back and kissed me.
As the big jeep went around a turn, she flopped away from me, and then turned to me and said, “Why do you have your arms around me?” She squinted at me and made a cat-scratching gesture at me.
I smiled and politely moved to the other side of the seat. She soon sprawled against me again, and I kissed her neck and she wrapped her arms around me and squeezed.
Then she looked up, and gagged.
“Uh oh, she’s gonna puke,” I said.
She held her head in her hands and moaned.
The Hispanic guy pulled the car over in a parking lot; she got out and walked around a little, and then said she was fine and got in the car again.
She sprawled into my lap again.
I patted her hair. “It’s okay. Everything will be okay.” She was semi-conscious now and mumbling.
They invited me to go back to their apartment with them, but I just went into my hotel and fell quickly to sleep.
I slept until noon, and lingered on the beach; in the evening I dropped the Goose an SMS asking how they were doing. “We r chillin u want to com watch movie here with us?”
I didn’t, particularly. I felt like I wanted to be by myself.
I took the bus into South Beach. I had a beer at an outdoor cafĂ© and walked around and tried to find places I recognized from MIAMI VICE. I watched the sun go down and had a beer and a club sandwich and fries at an art-deco diner and then walked, hungover and feeling vaguely at peace, among the cheerful crowds of tourists thronging the streets of South Beach, giving way to the various trendies of the evening. They didn’t look nearly as cool as they thought they did, most of them, which comforted me.
Just a middle-age guy taking a walk with his hangover.  


COMING SOON! REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND!



Because the world is ready for stories about me failing to get laid. 



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Me Me Me Me ME ME


Okay, where is X? 




America. 


Where has X been? 

I finished the contract of my accursed-yet-high-paying job in the Kingdom at the end of July.



I immediately took off for Vietnam with Crazy Bob. (We drank enormous amounts of Tiger beer, I got the flu, and he had sex with a 180 pound British girl who squirted.) 




After two weeks in Vietnam, the cheapest flight I could find was into Las Vegas, so I spent two nights at the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel there. (And why not, right? But mostly it just kind of overwhelmed me. I've never seen so many hideous looking women who thought they were really hot.)


Then, after returning to the dirty South, I visited some friends in Memphis, TN, just in time for the end of Elvis Week. But we just ignored that and hung out at dive bars. 

Then I just spent last weekend in Branson, Missouri with my father and brother and nephews. If you don't know, Branson is sort of a middle-American white Christian version of Las Vegas, minus the casinos and nightclubs but with plenty of mini-golf, wax museums, shows by washed-up country singers, and old people getting the senior discount at the IHOP. 


Now I'm at my mom's house. 

In short, I'm up to my asshole in America. 

So what's up with X?  

I have an adventure holiday planned, a seven-day survival hike in the Utah canyonlands next week, and then after that I'm going somewhere with my refuses-to-be-ex Girlfriend, probably Greece or Turkey. I might visit Vodkaberg. (International situation be damned.) 


Girlfriend in Malta last May
After that, in October, I'm going to Peru to work on some writing projects. (And do some tourist shit, of course.) I intend to stay there until Christmas. 

What about REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND? 

It's at the editor and the beta readers; hopefully it will be done by the middle or end of September. My next couple of blog updates will be sample chapters from it. It still needs a bit of work; the ratio of info about the Middle East versus stories about Russian sluts was apparently a bit off. 


Will there be more books in the future?  

I'm going to work on another writing project first, but I do have an idea for another TEFL practice book about classroom management, which I'm tentatively titling CROWD CONTROL. 

And there will be a memoir about my youth and backpacking adventures leading up to becoming an English teacher. Don't know what I'll call that. YOUNG X? THE ROAD TO X? HISTORY X? Something like that. 


Tune in in a few days and I'll post Part Two of the story about my trip to Miami. 

Have a nice day, everybody!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wasting Time (Or: In Defense of the Internet)



A lot of people lately are busy breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back for "detoxing from social media."

Delete your Facebook account! Pare your twitter feed down to like, three people! Turn off your telephone for six hours a day!

Yeah, well, I've got news for you: I LIVED FOR 28 YEARS WITHOUT THE INTERNET, 32 YEARS WITHOUT A MOBILE PHONE, AND 38 YEARS WITHOUT FACEBOOK!

And did that make me some kind of fucking awesome productive god?

Me and EVERY OTHER FUCKING HUMAN BEING ON THE PLANET?

No, not particularly.

You can waste your time any number of ways; the internet and websites are just extremely effective tools for wasting time.

A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME

I remember back in the day, back when I was in college on a strict 90's KILL YOUR TV phase, when I was bored, I'd walk down to the bookshop or the library and just kind of mill around looking at random books and magazines for a few hours, reading an article here and a paragraph there.

What was that, if not primitive websurfing?

I didn't have a TV. But I saw all kinds of fucking stupid movies that I wouldn't bother with these days.

And, let's see, I wrote letters -- much in the same spirit of the blog entries I make now -- and sent them to one or two people, who also wrote me letters. Occasionally we included cartoons and pictures.

Primitive blogging and emailing and social networking. And I'd say that managed to take up even MORE time than I spend blogging, to less effect.

Were those somehow purer and more genuine forms of communication? Well, hell. Probably not.

I irritated everyone by refusing to answer my phone except during a period in the evening -- of course, that was a way to get away from telemarketers and automated messages as well of course as a way to be fucking cool.

As going on some kind of idiotic "media diet" of avoiding the news and whatever pop culture shit -- you'll be happily meditating in your room with no phone when the volcano eruption destroys the whole city -- that has already been evacuated -- except for you, keeping it real with your media diet and lack of telephone.

HATING ON THE HATERS

As for all the "flame war" arguing and "hating" that goes on -- yeah, that can consume a lot of your time. Tons of it.

But people do that in real life too, you know. Back in the day, how much time did I waste having dumb half-baked political arguments with people in real life? How many hours did I spent listening to people at college parties bitch in an ill-informed way about Central American Reagan era nonsense?

You'll be reading about my office mate Heinrich in the next memoir -- he was one of those guys who used to think he knew everything and was happy to argue with the other guys in the office about politics, race, religion, whatever.

In this case the internet was usually used to STOP his mouthing off. We could quickly look up facts and shut him down.

The internet is a tool, like a chainsaw -- you can use it to cut your legs off or you can build a house with it. Yes, if some activity you're doing makes you unhappy, than by all means stop it. But if like me you find the internet an incredibly useful tool for keeping in touch with people and accessing all sorts of useful and interesting and entertaining media and information, then don't be ashamed of that, either.

WASTING TIME MORE EFFICIENTLY 



I can remember back in the 90s getting bored once when I was hungover; didn't feel like writing or reading or going out. What did I do?

I would occasionally lay on the bed and bounce a tennis ball repeatedly off the wall.

A bit better in terms of physical activity than playing ANGRY BIRDS I guess, but equally pointless.

Once, I remember, I took the front cover off the box fan I had, turned it on high, and spent about thirty minutes throwing pencils at the front of it and watching them bounce across the room.

I put it to you -- if you're not wasting time on the internet, you'll probably just waste it some other way.

Of course, you might be better served by going out and say, taking a walk or something, rather than endlessly checking your Twitter feed or whatever, but now you can do like I do and listen to podcasts or online lectures while you walk.

Now, excuse me I'm going to get back to my free course on graphic design that I'm doing on Alison, then talk to some friends in Russia on Skype, and then watch an exploitation movie from the 70s on Youtube. G'night.










Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cover Me (Covers for REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND)

REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND, my memoir about my five years in the Middle East and the Girlfriend Experience, will be available soon. (The original idea was to include a middle part about my backpacking and early years, prior to my first English teaching job, but that sort of didn't fit, so it will be my next, separate book.)

Any of these covers particularly appeal? (The elements may not be aligned and placed exactly, just looking at some general designs.)

#1 - Barbedwire

#2 - Skyline

#3 - Dark skyline

#4 - Negative barbedwire


# 5 - Yellow skyline

# 6 - Beach