Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vodkaberg: The Lost Chapter

Here's a chapter that was excised from the first draft of Vodkaberg. This story originally appeared on my Angelfire blog back in 2003 (but that doesn't exist anymore.)



(And just as a little Easter present, here's a coupon to get it for 50 percent off on Smashwords:)

Coupon Code: ZE36X
Expires: May 1, 2014

The girl in question referred to as Lenka is the girl I last saw again in America in 2012; she's currently studying for her PhD there. (Guess that would make her the most highly-educated person I know, if perhaps not the smartest.)

The story, and any threads connected to her, although interesting, were removed just to keep the already large number of female characters down a bit. She'll get a write up in my next memoir, though, definitely.

The teacher referred to as "Aaron" married the Russian girl he met in Vodkaberg; they went back to New Zealand and she recently had a baby.

Oh, by the way, Slappy just had another baby, still living somewhere in the Balkans; what did the great philosopher say about doing the same dumb shit again and again and expecting a different result?

* * * 

THE LEAST RELAXING WEEKEND IN THE WOODS EVER


During a pleasant warm weekend in September (2004), we went on a camping trip.

We crossed the river about 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, then hiked for about fifteen minutes to a sort of lake area that was indeed pretty nice.

The crew was me, Slappy and his wife, an English groupie named Lenka, African Student S and this couple that Slappy had met at the outdoor music festival,a sort of a stoner hippie alterna- couple, all tattooed and dreadlocked. (This was exceedingly rare in Russia at that time.)

Slappy had met the male half of this pair when they were both detained and lengthily searched by the police for looking like such druggies. They'd bonded talking about their tattoos.

I didn't like the guy from jump – he greeted African Student S and I with "Heil Hitler." Slappy said this was supposed to be a joke about America.

“Fucking hilarious,” I said.

We hung out by the lake, drank a bit, swam in the lake (though it was as green as Mountain Dew), and ate grilled chicken and macaroni and bean soup over our campfire.

Me, Lenka, Slappy's Wife, Slappy, African Student S


Later that night, Aaron arrived, with his 16-year-old girlfriend, another Russian girl and three Russian teenage boys.

They'd brought plenty of vodka, of course, and then somehow when we started drinking it, about five or six people from other camps nearby came over to join us.

African Student S and a Russian sunset 
In short, it turned into a huge loud raucous chaotic gathering. I was getting tired of answering all those same fucking questions – "Where are you from?" "Why do you stay in Vodkaberg?" and so on – and Lenka and I repaired into the tent to fool around a bit.

About 3:00am I heard Slappy shouting at the hippie stoner guy not to ever touch his wife again. Apparently the guy had grabbed his wife's vagina or something while hugging her. Slappy certainly shouted the guy down, whatever happened – the guy didn't protest back much.

Next day we woke up around 9:00 and of course started drinking vodka and beer again with a quick breakfast of ramen noodles and tuna.

The stoner guy had been up all night drinking and was kind of mouthy and obnoxious, and doing quite a good job of rubbing me and Aaron the wrong way.

Slappy was already incoherently drunk too. The stoner greeted our African friend yet again in the morning with "Heil Hitler!" which led to me laughing hysterically and screaming "Heil Hitler! Oh my god that's funny!" in Russian repeatedly in a sarcastic sort of way.

Aaron, Slappy, African Student S and I walked to the village (about a thirty minute walk) to buy some more beer and food and fill our water jugs – it was a town of shacks and wooden cottages, rimmed with piles of garbage that were never going to be cleared away, and we saw a few goats wandering around.
Me and "Lenka"

“In the movies, this is the part where the shopkeeper directs us to the farm owned by the cannibalistic hillbillies,” I pointed out.

The people in the shops couldn't have been nicer to us, though, smiling with their metal teeth and welcoming us to the area.

When we got back, the stoner immediately, without asking, grabbed the vodka bottle and began pouring drinks for everyone.

Aaron was finally exhausted with the Russian stoner’s mooching , and as it happens was a 220-pound kickboxing enthusiast. He began lecturing the stoner on manners, which I crudely translated.
The stoner began cursing about fascist foreigners who didn't know anything about Russian etiquette, that vodka was to be shared with anyone.

Aaron replied that if he felt that way, he should go buy some vodka and share it with us, as we'd already shared ours. The stoner was very drunk and retreated to his sleeping bag shouting curses and said something rude about New Zealand which I didn't quite catch.

Aaron marched over holding the bottle by the neck. It looked as if he'd be sharing the vodka with him after all, probably via his rectal cavity.

"You are playing a dangerous game, pal," I said to the stoner in Russian. ("Ti igrayish ochen opasnaya igra, chuvak!")

Slappy, in a strangely responsible move, told Aaron to give the guy a break.

Aaron threateningly pulled the covers off the guy ... the guy was panickedly groping for the kitchen knife ...

and then Aaron calmly poured him a vodka and said, "Enjoy."

Anyway, the stoner curled up and went to sleep soon after, so the rest of us just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

“He’s not really much worse than Slappy,” I pointed out to Aaron after Slappy had passed out drunk. “Slappy curses constantly, insults everyone when drunk, and mooches off everybody all the time."

“Well, he’s our mooching foul-mouthed asshole," Aaron said. "We hardly know that guy.”



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Takin' Care of Business


Happy tax day! (And also, coincidentally, the 19th anniversary of the date I started teaching English.)

SELF-EMPLOYED

So did you know that if you publish books on Amazon or Nook or Createspace or Smashwords, then you're actually self-employed?

Well, I didn't.

Last year I put the money I made from books down on Schedule E as "income royalty from copyrighted material"; this year there's a warning on TurboTax not to do that, I guess since so many people are self-publishing books and podcasts and whatever now.

So now I have to put it down on  Schedule C as the "sole propietor" of my own business.

Even though I'm fully employed as an expat English teacher, I'm self-employed as a writer.

Long story short: I made about the same amount of money from books in 2012 as in 2013 (about $10,000 each year.) Last year I paid $542 in taxes.

This year?

I just paid $1550.

About 15 percent, you see. That's the "self-employment tax." (Which, it seems, will go into Social Security, which will be the first time since 1996 I've paid into that.)

THEY GOT AL CAPONE AND WESLEY SNIPES


Now there are deductions you can take on a small business; but this year, I didn't feel like wrasslin' with it. My father got audited last year over a small business he runs (repairing and selling old guitars) and he warned that if they come a-knocking, you better have all your paperwork.

I don't. Not yet, anyway. (And honestly, of course, my expenses as a writer consist of pretty much just jack and shit.)

I find that in a weird way, the big tax payment has galvanized me; hey man, I'm a small business owner! I never thought of it that way before. It was a hobby, an outlet.

But now it's business. I can actually pay for advertising and stuff, and deduct it from my taxes. One acquaintance who writes e-books said he wrote off $500 worth of "research materials" which is definitely food for thought.

And if I write about some trip I took, like the trip to Vodkaberg last year, does that mean I could try to write off plane tickets and such?

I'm going to contact a professional, or at least do a lot more research, before I try something like that, though. They got Al Capone and Wesley Snipes, they can surely take my (or your) sorry ass down.



HOW'S THAT FOR SUCKY? 

Another annoying downside of this: if you're self-employed, you're supposed to file quarterly estimated payments for your projected taxes for the current year. How's that for sucky? 

I'd like to hear from any other self-employed "digital nomads" (sigh) out there how you're dealing with all this bullshit. Since I have so much (untaxed) money from English teaching this isn't really a problem at the moment, but if I was trying to live only on the e-book money this would probably be an intolerable dick up my ass. 

THE FUTURE PERFECT

I've been busy writing more porn, but I'm about to get seriously to work on the next memoir. I've got the outline and framework; time to fill it with meat.



I took on English teaching and Southeast Asia , I took on debauchery and "sexpatriation" and Russia -- NOW it's time to turn my jaundiced eye on middle age, self-improvement and survivalism, "location independent work" and self-publishing, America, the Kingdom (where English teachers go to die), and a completely nostalgia-free look back at the 80s and 90s, including my experiences backpacking.

COMING SOON!




Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Reviewing the Reviewers (Or: I'll Show You Painful and Circuitous, Lady!)

This is an actual review on Amazon of my e-book HOW TO SURVIVE LIVING ABROAD -- currently available free there.


Now of course, as the woman points out, anybody has a right to put their opinion on the internet about anything I've written. However, you put a review out there, you've got to be ready for people to review your review. And when someone criticizes my grammar while confusing "allude" and "elude," well, they don't really deserve mercy.

Thank god my fans have got my back, eh?

Mwa-ha-ha.

I know this flirts with illegible; I'm uploading the screen captures in extra-large even though they break the borders, but you can click on the things to read them more clearly.













Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Spring Book Releases

I have definitely been a busy little beaver, and I have THREE ebooks coming out soon. Pre-order now!



By popular demand, a definitive listing of all the hot international babes I've banged, with a psychotically obsessive catalogue of individual rankings and ratings (both general rankings and specific individual rankings of tits, ass, asshole, pussy, face, and cock-sucking capacity.)

In addition, I've included transcripts of every conversation I had leading up to the fucking, a list of how much alcohol was consumed in each case, and a general post-mortem of how long each individual sex act lasted, which orifices were penetrated, which diseases were contracted, and a general description of how mortified both of us were the next morning, as well as pictures of their vaginas! You WILL validate my existence!

Buy it HERE!


Traditionally, the "manly" virtues were easy to define: Honor. Loyalty. Honesty. Integrity. Responsibility. Productivity. And the "manly" jobs were those that protected and served the community: police officers, firemen, soldiers, farmers, builders, astronauts, fighter pilots,  etc.

But now, as the 21st century has dawned, we see that all that shit is fucking stupid and gay, and that the REAL manly virtues are: Selfishness. Dishonesty. Irresponsibility. Weight-lifting. A low-carb diet. Relentless random fucking. And of course, the ultimate expression of masculinity --  sex tourism.

As well, the "manly" jobs are redefined: the TRUE men now are bloggers. e-book writers, podcasters, Amazon affiliates, SEO experts, and owners of e-marketing pyramid schemes. Oh, and MMA fighters.

Join the next wave of masculinity, and be a MAN and forego marriage and children in favor of fucking some babes and hanging with your bros. Buy it HERE!

Which brings us to:


Here it is: the definitive step-by-step guide to picking up drunk college girls, and usually that'll be in other countries because as we know all American girls are fat, even the foreign girls who go there to study.

 Included herein are relentlessly researched techniques such as the "Ted Bundy Opener" -- feigning weakness with a false cast --and unbeatable lines such as "Say, Baby, those titties are looking fine!" and advice on talking to them on their level -- "Say, that Lady Gaga is kind of neat!"

Buy it HERE and quadruple your joyless obsession!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To Travel Hopelessly: The Lost Chapter

When I compiled and edited the stories from my original website into the self-published book TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY, one chapter didn't make the final cut. My editor said it didn't fit with the flow of the book and was a bit of a "long-winded aside" and some of the references were too dated, anyway.

Indeed my editor was right, but as I'm occupied this week with a side-trip to sunny holiday spot Beirut, Lebanon, enjoy this little slice of Korea-in-the-90s.

See you next week, inshallah.

Original cover


ENGLISH TEACHER X: MULTIMEDIA SENSATION

And here I bet you thought I was just a somewhat well-known local English teacher, and an almost completely unknown Internet author and cartoonist.

No, far from it!

In fact, I've made my mark in several kinds of media over the years.

When I was 15, I was featured on a television news program when then-Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton came to my school to speak about educational reform. I was shown sitting in the bleachers of the gym with my arms crossed, wearing a grey sweatshirt with the neck cut out. Ah, the 80s.

When I was living in New Orleans in 1991, the Jean Claude Van Damme film Hard Target was filmed in the neighborhood where I was living – the lower French Quarter. The opening scene, in which a man is shot with an arrow, happens outside my apartment at the time, which was at 1133 Royal Street.

This forced me to stay inside the apartment for quite a lot of time while they blocked shots and moved lights and props around and so forth – opening the door to get out would have ruined the shots.

I didn't get paid anything for all this inconvenience, but I did get to eat free hamburgers and tacos off the catering table.  And I saw Jean Claude Van Damme up close – he's really short.

Similarly, I was part of a crowd scene in the Julia Roberts film The Pelican Brief – a thug chasing Julia Roberts runs past a scuzzy punk club on Decatur Street, where I used to hang out a lot, and the story has him bumping into the bouncer and then getting into a fight with all the denizens of the club, while Julia Roberts runs off.

Julia Roberts, of course, was nowhere near New Orleans for that scene, all of her stuff having been filmed on comfortable sound stages in Los Angeles somewhere, but the thug slamming into the security guard and then being mobbed by angry grunge punks was filmed on location on a sweltering August evening in 1993, and the members of the angry crowd were paid $10 apiece and given free beer.

After 12 takes, the drunken, sweaty, smelly young people jumping on top of each other and kicking each other, fighting to get their hands on the thug and thus show up in the film, got to be a bit much for me, so I left.

I never got my $10, but I did get quite a lot of free cheap draft beer, as well as a lot of bruises on my ankles and legs. I am not visible in the final film. Though who knows, maybe I'll end up in a special DVD version someday.

This pattern of multimedia superstardom continued when I got to Korea in 1996.  

It was a small class of three women and two men studying as part of their job, which was somehow connected to the government. The class was as boring and uncomfortable as a 19-hour bus ride through the Midwest.

We were joined at some point by another student, who turned out to have a part-time job with a company that made educational cassette tapes for use by Korean students. She told me I had a wonderful voice, and wondered if I'd like to participate in doing voiceover narrations for the cassette tapes they produced. The pay was astounding – something like $50 an hour.

I tried to conceal my excitement as I called the manager of the company on the pay phone of the small, cramped English institute where I worked. I made a mental effort to lower the pitch of my nasal voice and smooth out the occasional stammering and the nervous quavering which the thought of $50 an hour was likely to produce.

"I understand you're looking for narrators," I said, my voice all honey and Barry White.

"Yes."

"Would you like me to come in for an interview?"

"I think your voice is fine. Can you come work for us on Friday at 3:00 pm?"

The student gave me directions to the recording studio, which was way the hell out on the edge of Seoul at the end of one of the subway lines. I managed to find the office, and somehow also managed to walk into a low-hanging branch with thorns on it and cut my forehead open.

"Are you all right?" asked the woman worriedly.

"Of course," I assured her, blotting the blood off my forehead with tissue paper.

They led me into the studio – the door was open, and a sort of box had been attached to the air conditioning unit to blow air directly into the studio at high blast.

Recording studios have to be completely insulated and can't have any other kind of noise sources inside them, so they had to cool it down first.  I was relatively sure, however, there would be no danger of suffocating.

They showed me inside, and tossed me a large script of about fifty pages.

"Your parts are underlined in yellow."

"Can I, uh, take some time to look through it?"

They just smiled in that Korean way that I knew meant, "No."

Within a few seconds we were rolling. Most of my lines were things like: "Lesson Three: The Animal Kingdom" and "Level Test Five" and "Unit Two: Gerunds," but occasionally I had to read a line of dialogue. "I haven't eaten lunch yet" or "It's very hot in here today."

Occasionally they'd stop me with some coaching. "Brighter," they often said. Not sure what that meant, I just tried to sound excited. It wasn't too hard – I just thought of the $50.

I got through the first session easily enough, without any too-glaring or ridiculous fuck-ups, and they gave me $50 – about 40,000 Korean won, at that time – and said they'd call me the next time they had work available.

It became a good little earner for me (as was just about everything I did in Korea – it was the only reason I was there, essentially, though I did develop a taste for Korean barbecue), and I worked for them about every two or three weeks. They almost always got me out of there within an hour, rushing me through the lines as quickly as possible.

I got a little better at it, but some of the lines I was expected to read were rather challenging, especially since they never let me look through the scripts in advance.

For example, every once in a while I'd come across a line like: "Voice of Tiger: I am the King of the Jungle.” I managed that one with a suitable Tony the Tiger-like snarl, and they complimented me on it.
Then there was "Voice of Mountain God: I create the wind!" I just adopted a sort of booming, Charlton Heston-like baritone, with a sort of aspirant hissing which I thought sounded rather windy.

They did two takes with that one, unsure.

"Did I sound like a Mountain God?" I inquired.

The sound man looked at the director, and she shrugged, and we moved on to the next line.

We got in our worst disagreement over "Voice of Old Man: I am a very old man." I read it in a slow, wheezing tired way, and she stopped me immediately.

"Not like that, no space between words."

"I am a very old man," I said quickly, sounding like William Burroughs.

They didn't like that, either. The third time I did it with a southern accent, for some reason.

 Finally, I just kind of pitched my voice higher, and rasped out with obvious pride: "I am a very old man."
Eventually the director shrugged again, and we moved on.

Of course, like many things in my life, I eventually fucked up that good thing through my own negligence. They called me on a Thursday and asked me if I could come in for an hour on Friday. I said of course, as usual.

But then on Friday I woke up with a raspy voice and a sore throat. This happened to me a lot in Korea – probably a combination of talking all the time in my job, since the students wouldn't ever say anything, and my freezing cold room in the cheap hotel, with its drafty paper windows.

I wonder in retrospect if it wasn't something akin to hysterical, psychosomatic laryngitis caused by the thought of having to stand in front a class without having the slightest idea what I was doing.

Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to call the cassette company and tell them I couldn't do it the next day. I showed up hoping for the best, having already drunk numerous cups of ginseng tea with lemon, hoping it would smooth my voice out.

Naturally, they were pretty pissed off by the end of the hour, as I painfully squeaked my way through the lines. Too bad there weren't any lines like "Voice of Person With Throat Cancer: Smoking is bad for you, kids" or "Voice of Froggy from the Little Rascals: Let's go down to the fishing hole." They might have been able to use those, but as I gathered, they had to discard the whole session.

They paid me $50 anyway, though. I apologized, said that the sore throat had just started on the way out to the studio, but they never called me again.

Oh well.

Multimedia stardom was sill in the offing for me however. I'd known people in Thailand and Korea who did occasional work for television – they often needed white people to play extras, especially villains or prostitutes, in Thai and Korean TV shows.

I never got involved in this myself – not by choice, anyway.

One Friday evening I was pulled out of my last class 15 minutes before the end by the then-assistant to the manager, a mouth-breathing idiot in his early twenties who wore the same suit every single day. He explained something to the class, and took me to another, larger class, where a brightly lit video camera was filming a Korean teacher in front of the class.

"What the hell is going on?" I asked.

"TV program, very popular. Five minutes," said the idiot.

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Teaching. No problem. Five minutes."

He pushed me in front of the class with the Korean teacher, where we led the class on some pronunciation choral drills while the camera rolled.

I asked the Korean teacher, who spoke marginally better English than the idiot manager, what the hell was going on. He explained that it was a popular comedy interview program, and the hostess – a ditzy redhead dressed in flamboyant pink – wanted to talk to some men who were working late about how they dealt with their wives.

Ah. I'd seen these programs before on Korean television – man-in-the-street type interviews. They took particular pleasure in making fun of foreigners, and I always gave them a wide berth when I saw them filming in the subway or on the street somewhere.

The camera filmed the hostess sleeping in the back of the class while we were teaching, then, as the class was being dismissed, she popped awake and called after us.

I quickly tried to make an exit.

It was a Friday night, after all. Reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 was on the American Armed Forces Korea Network at 9:00 pm, and I needed to drink a few beers and see if Dylan had killed the rich gangster who'd killed his father. There'd been a pretty dramatic cliffhanger the week before – Dylan's future wife, the gangster's daughter, had been accidentally shot in Dylan's place. Man! What would happen?

The owner of the school – a sour, Confucian asshole who constantly wore a ball cap – barked at the idiot, and the idiot rushed over and grabbed me by the arm. "No no no no no, please. Five minutes, five minutes," he begged and wheedled. "Five minutes, just sitting and talking.

I made desperate excuses, but he continued his "five minute" mantra and the owner was barking so furiously at him I decided to cut the poor guy some slack.

So I sat there with two of the older Korean teachers and two of the managers as they smoked cigarettes and talked in Korean with the ditzy funny hostess. The topic was apparently – do your wives get angry and/or jealous because you don't come home until 10:00 pm?

She asked me a question or two in halting broken English, which I tried to answer pleasantly, smiling a big fake smile. Then she started making jokes about how she was too afraid to speak to me.

I just sat there like a moron.

When the interview was over – a painful 15 minutes or so – the hostess came up to me and said in perfect English. "Thanks for helping us out. Sorry if we inconvenienced you."

"That's all right," I said.

But it was too late – I never did find out, until years later when I looked it up on the Internet, whether Dylan killed the gangster than killed his father. He didn't. He left the guy sobbing over his daughter's grave, the daughter he'd accidentally killed, wanting him to have to live with the guilt and the pain.

Man.

I guess I had it pretty easy, compared to that shit.