Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

I remember when I was a kid, my parents used to watch the Dick Clark Rockin New Year's Eve from Times Square, and we'd watch the ball drop live on TV.

It always looked like something amazing to us, there in small-town Southern America.

I lived in New York in 1997 and had the opportunity to go watch the ball drop. How could I pass that up?



The first thing I was amazed by was how many cops there were, and how efficiently they were herding people around up there. Certain streets were one-way to control the flow of crowds. And there were security checkpoints set up all over the place; not everybody got searched or frisked, but eveybody got eyeballed at the very least, and there were drug dogs out, too.

Of courses, anybody visible drinking alcohol was quickly seized by the cops, and if they weren't hauled away by the humorless 90s cops of Rudy Guilliani, at the very least their alcohol was confiscated.

It was really cold, below freezing, and I went around 10 or so and stood in the crowd for a while. I had a pint of vodka in my pocket. I can't remember if I didn't have a girlfriend at that time or if she just couldn't go out with me that night for some reason.

And I stood there for a while longer.

Among the tens of thousands of other folks. Mainly seemed to be meatheads from New Jersey.

Mostly just standing there.

Finally, bored and cold, I gave up and went back downtown by 11:00pm, and managed to get into a bar I went to often at that time on Ludlow Street, and saw in the New Year there amongst the 90s hipster doofuses. I made out with a chubby girl, and was then amazed to find she had started work at the same language school I worked at a few weeks later.

Small world, eh?


I saw in the year 2000 on Koh Phangan in Thailand -- read about that in TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY -- and while it was a fine way to celebrate, those big parties always tend to be a bit anti-climactic, really. I mean most people are dancing and drinking, but a considerable number of people at really big parties are people who don't often go to big parties, and they tend to be irritated or bored.

Wasn't it Hunter S. Thompson who said he never went out on New Year's Eve, because he considered it amateur night?

It's small parties where you have the serious fun. I went to a few of those in Russia, of courses. Where you get the whole group making out, rolling naked in the snow, shooting fireworks out of their pants, etc.

(But we had plenty of better parties NOT on major holidays, for the same reasons mentioned above -- there are always people at a New Year's Eve party who don't go out often and don't want to do anything stupid.)

I look back at my teen and college years and I'm kind of drawing a big blank. I do remember one when I was about 19 where I had to take a girl to the hospital because she took a bunch of acid and flipped out, and I was in the hospital parking lot at midnight. (Fortunately I was with one of those small town slut types, and we were fuck buddies before that term existed.)

But I for some reason remember my adolescent years, 13 or 14 or 15. They used to have these all-night comedy marathons on HBO, featuring George Carlin and Richard Pryor's famous specials and filmed concerts.





I remember watching those and being totally engrossed, even though I probably didn't fully understand at least half of the things they were talking about at that time.

But undoubtedly, my fondess for obscene language developed there.

So if you don't have any parties full of bored and irritated people to go to, check out those specials. And a Happy Fucking New Year to all of you!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Santa Got Nothin' on ME!

Unsurprisingly busy with family on the holiday, I nonetheless offer you a Chistmas prezzie:  


I almost forgot that I had made this (because it doesn't sell), but there is a collected edition of all the books I've written about English teaching, and you'll be able to get it from December 26 - December 30 free on Amazon, and free all the time on Kindle Unlimited. 



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tales from the TEFLpocolypse

So! How's everybody's TEFLpocolypse going as 2015 draws to a close?


Back in April and May when I failed to get a job in the Emirates,I put in several applications for jobs in the Kingdom -- including my first one, the one I liked (and probably shouldn't have left.) 

I heard a blank terrifying nothing from ALL of them. 

But then in September and October, after I took this job in America, they started getting back to me. 

My first employers said they would be glad to have me back. 

Three months later, I have still not received an official job offer, nor a contract. 

Likewise, another big college in the Kingdom. They said they would move forward with the application, but warned that it was taking up to 18 MONTHS to get all the papers in order these days. 

(With my first two jobs in the Kingdom, it took about 6 or 7 months between interview and arrival.)

But hey, I have a job already, right? I'm even making an annual salary greater than my age. Can't complain too much. 


The way I heard about this American job was from a guy who I worked with at my first Kingdom college job. 

Let me tell you HIS TEFLpocolypse story. 

In 2013, when Big Oil Company was hiring a lot of English teachers, he took a week off to fly to America for an interview with Big Kingdom Oil Company. (That's typical corporate logic, right?) 

They offered him a position -- an official, signed offer -- so he left his job at the college, and went back to America to wait. 

And he waited. Three months passed. 

He got the contract, and signed it and sent it back. (That's about normal, so far.) 

He got his papers together and sent them in to apply for the visa.  

He was told there were some issues, and they couldn't get the visa yet. 

(What exactly these issues were, they didn't say.)

He waited. And he waited. 

Six more months passed. 

Finally he was told, well, too much time has passed, and now Big Oil Company doesn't need any people. 

(As mentioned, they laid off most of the people they hired along with me, this year.) 

Fortunately, he found this job. He's got several children he sends child support to, also, so he's not just your usual lone wandering nomad.

 (He's only 46 though so the issues were not related to his age. Could they have been legal / background issues? Maybe.)


As a Christmas TEFLpocolypse gift, SPEAKING ACTIVITIES THAT DON'T SUCK will be available free on Amazon from December 20 - December 24: 


Get it here FREE ON AMAZON December 20 - 24, also available on Kindle Unlimited.






Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Accidental Pornographer, Part 5: Porno History X

What exactly is the protocol and etiquette for educating one's 75-year-old father about which porn streaming sites are safe, and which things one should click and not click?


I moved back to America partly to help my father, who has Parkinson's and was losing the ability to walk, as he moved into an assisted living place.

He likes it quite a bit there, and his condion has improved. It's more like a hotel for old people than a hospital -- he has a studio with a view of the woods behind the place, with a disability-minded shower and cable, and of course, internet.

I go to visit him every long weekend I have -- that's been about once a month since I came here in August. His computer, an ancient desktop, is always gunked up with viruses and malware when I get there, mainly of the porn variety. His browser is regularly full of links to the most heinous kinds of porn, often transvestite and she-male themed.

I suppose it's possible that's just a coincidence. He mentioned that he was trying to look up information about a transsexual shoe model who worked for the shoe company he worked for in Brazil years ago, and ended up with all this crap on the computer.

Perhaps that's true.

Perhaps.

PORN ON MY MIND

I've been thinking about porn a lot lately.

As we all know, I began making extra money writing indie porn in 2012, and this intensified this year when I couldn't get a TEFL job.

The Accidental Pornographer Part 1: The Pornographer Rises
The Accidental Pornographer Part 2: The Fall of the Pornographer
The Accidental Pornographer Part 3: It Ain't Easy Being Sleazy
The Accidental Pornographer Part 4: Can't Win For Losing

Perhaps fortunately, Amazon changed its payment policies, making short porn less profitable, Fortunate, because writing porn daily for a couple of months had reduced my brain to a puddle of goo.

I realized I had a problem with it when I went to Mallorca with the Girlfriend in June. We had sex maybe a half-dozen times over the eight or nine days, but then the day she left, I jacked off to porn three times.

In a row.


90 DAYS

So I went three months without watching porn. Or writing any.

(I still jacked off, I should say.)

And much like when I stopped drinking, my main thought was: WOW! What a TREMENDOUS amout of time and energy I was putting into that activity.

Three months I lasted. And then I slipped.

One of my short porn novels ended up back on the best-seller lists, and in my research for the sequel, I looked something up and I was back to porn.

It's not as frequent as before, but it's a weekly thing now. (And I'm back to making more than a thousand bucks a month from the books, which currently is going towards paying for my father's assisted living place.)

People joke: how could porn be addictive?

And I'm like, how could it NOT be?


BACK IN THE DAY 

I was born around 1970. While porn has in various forms been around since the dawn of human activity -- witness the temples at Khajuraho -- the modern form of porn has pretty much grown up with me, arguably beginning with the 1972 release of DEEP THROAT.

The attempt to include a narrative  and characters (and stupid jokes) into porn didn't really last, and we've now gone back to the sex-act-only short films which in the 50s and 60s were called "loops", but DEEP THROAT really began the "mainstreaming" of porn.

(I can't recommend the Rialto Report website and podcast enough, for a look at a history of the industry and a look at the psychopathology of people who have way more sex than they really should.)

* * *

My personal first exposure to porn was probably typical of guys my age: PLAYBOY magazine.

There was a copy of the issue that included an interview with Jimmy Carter hidden on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet in our house. I don't remember how I found out about it; but finally, one day when I was left alone there -- 70s kids were often left alone in the house -- I climbed up and got it out and looked at it. I guess I was about 11 or 12.

I don't think it showed pubic hair, even. (Girls'  pussies were covered by an additional layer of intrigue in those days, in the form of pubic hair.) Just some relatively tasteful 70s topless shots.

But I was like, wow.

I didn't jack off to it, because I didn't do that yet.  That is something I specificialy remember; some of my friends were avid masturbators in 8th grade, and always telling me how awesome it was, and I remember them actually mocking me because I hadn't tried it yet.

How many kids get made fun of for not masturbating? Is it a lot? I'm guessing not many.



* * *

From there, I remember going to a lake house holiday with one of the guys who made fun of me for not masturbating -- if you read my last memoir, it would be the guy who I referred to "the former class president" -- and he had a PENTHOUSE magazine hidden away up there. He'd found it at a construction site nearby, he said. (You could do that, in those days.)

So that was the first poontang I ever saw. Hairy split wet beavers.

As it probably was with most guys, I was equally horrified and fascinated.

* * *

The late 70s and early 80s was a time of exploitation in general, as free love got monetized, and there were plenty of horror movies and cop movies that were loaded with nudity, rape, kidnapping, and bondage. I watched these in edited form on regular TV, and then by the time I was 13 or 14, on cable TV.

In retrospect, I was twisted by these, I think.

Particularly the horror movies, many of which were actually directed by the same people who directed the porn films. I made unhealthy associations between sex and being stabbed to death from HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th movies.



While it doesn't have any actual nudity, or not much, this film, VICE SQUAD, was a big one in terms of warping my sexual preferences towards bondage.  I remember watching this literally on the edge of my seat when I first got a TV and cable in my room at age 13:



A damn good thriller, really, but ... well, recommended for mature audiences.

And the comedies, too. ANIMAL HOUSE and REVENGE OF THE NERDS and RISKY BUSINESS of course had plenty of nudity and sex, and what we would consider now to be a tremendously cavalier and non-PC attitude towards statutory rape, illegal voyeurism and peeping, and teenage prostitution.



Tell me that doesn't give you a boner. If it doesn't your medulla oblongata is fucked up.

And then as I got to be 14 or 15, well, all I need to say are three words, baby: CINEMAX AFTER DARK. I'm delighted to find it still exists on Cinemax's streaming platform.

THE FIRST TIME

The first actual hardcore porn I ever saw?  I was 15.

The movie?

TABOO 2.

(This is just the credit sequence.)



(Researching it, I was even more delighted to find that it was the first porn that Adam Carolla ever saw also, and he has spoken at length about it on his podcast.)

TABOO 2 is pretty sleazy even by the standards of the time, about a family of sexed-up fuck-ups who do a lot of inappropriate and generally illegal fucking with each other. All filmed in glorious 35 mm.

Where did I see it?

At a party.

There was a guy at my high school, a rich kid, who was often left unattended while his parents traveled. He was a couple years older than me, and my friends were already 16, and we went over there and drank whatever sweet-ass alcohol cocktails we liked as teenagers, rum and cokes most likely. There were always a lot of girls at these shindigs.

So at one of these parties, somebody put on the video cassette of TABOO 2.

We watched it as a group. Can you even imagine watching porn in a group, these days? With girls?

But in those days, that was your only choice. Before cassettes, you had to actually go to a theater to see them.

Just ... amazing, right? Equally horrifying and fascinating.

My big take-away at the time was: that guy's cock is huge. I can't compete with that thing.

But of course I learned a few other tricks.

* * *

So that was the first porn I ever saw.

It would not be the last.

NEXT: THE ACCIDENTAL PORNOGRAPHER, PART 6 in which I will discuss the Silver Age of late 80s porn, the last days of 42nd street porn in NY, and then, of course, porn in Russia in the early 00s.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Apocolypse Now, 1997: Jasmine and Saigon (Part 2)

(This continues an historical look at expat / backpacker sex in Saigon, circa 1997. This is an old paper-and-ink journal entry, presented verbatim. In part 1, I met a pretty Vietnamese girl named Jasmine at a bar called Apocalypse Now; after I went home alone, she went to my guest house in a taxi and waited for me, inviting me home with her.)



"You're very strange. Why didn't you ask me to go home with you before?" she asked, in the taxi.

"I asked you if you wanted to walk outside," I said.

"Who wants to walk in high heels?" she said.

"Well, that's where I was going to ask you if I could go home with you." I didn't add that I still wasn't 100 percent sure she wasn't genetically female.

At her apartment she told me to wait a few minutes, and the follow her in because she didn't want people to see us together.

Her apartment (or rather, her boyfriend's apartment) was gigantic by 3rd world standards, with kitchen and full bathtub and everything. Pictures of her and her boyfriend were all over the walls; the place was well-decorated, and in an office there was a computer and a fax machine and scanner for pictures. Even a small piano and a picture on an easel!

During the week, she said, she took private lessons in painting, acting, and piano. Her acting teacher, she said, told her that she wan't really pretty enough to be an actress.

"It takes all kind of people to make movies, though."

"That's what I said. In SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES, there's one pretty girl and seven ugly little people. Somebody has to play the dwarves."


Her bedroom had a big bed, a TV with a VCR, a stereo (on which she put an Enya CD) and a lot of stuffed animals. A poster of "New Kids on the Block" hung among more pictures of her and her boyfriend,  who was rather a sincere-looking 30-ish Yuppie Scum type.) She said "New Kids on the Block" had personally sent her the poster after she'd written them -- they said she was their only fan in Vietnam.

We talked some more; she smoked a lot of cigarettes, and said she smoked four packs a day sometimes. She revealed she'd had a baby a couple years ago, and had to have a C-section; she said the scar looked like a zipper. (That would seem to settle the issue of her genetic makeup but there was no indication of a child in the place.)

"I look like I fought a tiger, I have so many scars," she said. She showed me some on her face near the hairline; she said she'd been hit in the face with a bottle during a fight with another girl.

"Nothing wrong with scars," I said. "They just show you've had an interesting life."

She wanted to know why I seemed so emotionally distant. "Most guys would have been licking my toes to go home with me," she said.

"It's been a rough last few years," I said.


She said everybody has done things they're not proud of, but you just keep moving forward and trying to do better.

I explained that for me, trying to do better, was not getting involved with people.

She told me a story about a pet rabbit she'd had when she was 17. She'd kept it in a small cage because she didn't want it running away, but its legs had become very weak because of this, however, and when she did let it out of the cage, it got killed by a dog because it couldn't run fast enough.

She said this bothered her a lot, though it might sound silly.

I said I understood perfectly well.

It was about 6:00am by this point, and I was tired. "Aren't you attracted to me in a man-woman way?" she asked. I was tired, and felt emotionally drained already, but I didn't want to be impolite.

We undressed and got at it; she didn't have a penis. My dick wasn't up to much, at that hour of the morning, so we ended up mutually masturbating each other.

Afterwards we dozed a little; then I said, "I guess I'd better go back to the hotel."

She didn't like that. "I thought you were different because you're strange, but you're not."

I apologized and said I'd stay if she wanted, but I had no clean clothes, no toothbrush, no medicine for my athlete's foot, and I could never sleep well around other people.

She got up and walked into the other room and began playing something classical on the piano, which was out of tune. I recognized it but couldn't quite place it.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Nocturne," she said. "I play it when I feel frustrated."



This was every bit as surreal as it sounds.

I left and told her I'd call her. And I actually did, the next day; she seemed surprised and hesitant but not unhappy, but she didn't want to go out.

Health note: athelete's foot is better, finally ...

* * *

For more tales of SE Asia, English teaching, and backpacking in the 90s, read


Available HERE on Amazon, HERE on Smashwords, 100 percent free

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Apocalypse Now, 1997: Jasmine and Saigon (Part 1)

This is a verbatim entry from an old paper-and-ink journal that I kept. The entry is dated March 23rd, 1997. I advertised it as "something gross about a Vietnamese whore" but in fact there's nothing all that gross about it. I present it it as an historical look at expat life and sex in 90s Vietnam.

This happened after I left Korea, where I had taught for ten months; I was 28 years old. 



I left here at about 10:00pm and took a cyclo towards a strip of bars on Mac Thi Buoi; it became quickly apparent that the only lively one -- indeed the only one that seemed to have any customers -- was the tritely-named "Apocalypse Now," which I'd seen advertised on t-shirts all over SE Asia.

I went in and ordered a BGI beer (18.000 dong / almost $2 -- outrageous by local standards) and was not terribly surprised to find that there was nothing much apocolyptic about the place. The decor was minimal -- dark walls, a long wood bar, thatched columns and a pool table and a small dance floor, with a little patio in the rear.

The crowd looked like a bunch of Yuppie Scum if ever I've seen 'em -- polo shirts, khakis, and cigars. Some were obviously local "expat" business people -- a lot of tourists, too, but even the tourists seemed like Yuppie Scum.

I had a few beers and then was ready to leave when I saw a cute Vietnamese girl in a really tight flowered minidress, kicking it good on the dance floor. And damned if she didn't give me the Long Lovely Look. My pulse raced.

However, I've been in Asia for quite a while. I began to think she might be a kratoey (or whatever they call transvestites / transexuals here) or at least a hooker.

I kept my eye on here and we smiled at each other a few times -- she knew a lot of people there, but seemed to be there alone.

Eventually, we ended up dancing together; she writhed coyly. I decided if she was a transvestite or transsexual, she was the greatest one I'd ever seen, and it was high time I tried one. I touched her waist while we danced.

We started talking. Her name was Jasmine. (Of course!) She was 22. After some introductory chit-chat, she was surprisinglyly frank. She said she'd been a whore a few years ago, but wasn't now. She had a boyfriend who lived in Hong Kong and he sent her enough money to live comfortably. She was studying art and graphic design now. (And taking piano lessons.)

Her English was completely fluent and bizarrely had a very thick Southern accent. She attributed this to her favorite film, Forrest Gump, but said that her boyfriend was from Texas, also.

This was all quite strange to me, this time / space warp Tennessee Williams accent coming out of this delicate young Oriental blossom. She was not what you'd call classically beautiful, though -- face a bit too round, maybe, teeth not particularly straight, and (I would later see) a scar on her forehead and another on eyebrow. She had long flowing black hair, though, and a great slim body, and her face had a lot of character, something often absent from Asian girls.

She told me about life in Saigon; said the government and police are all crazy and hassel the foreigners constantly. They'd once come to Apocolypse Now and arrested all the Vietnamese girls there and tried to get them to sign statements saying they'd worked as prostitutes there, wanting to force the bar to close (or pay a large fine) in this manner. All of the expat men had gathered outside the police station and sung "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" She refused to sign and was eventually released.



She said that the expats that worked for large international companies usually had it very good -- they were paid large amounts of money to do nothing, to be a "foot in the door" in Vietnam while deals were endlessly negotiated and formalized with the government.

Around 4:00 am, the bar closed. I asked her if she wanted to walk outside with me; she said she'd stay here for a while. I got her phone number and said I'd call her.

I got on a Cyclc and headed back home -- two whores on a moped followed me and offered me a massage, or a blow job. I said thanks, but I was tired.

When I got back to the guest house, the gate was closed. A voice said, "X!" and I saw a female head sticking out of a taxi cab. For a weird second, I thought it was Kun Jung Ah from Korea but of course it was Jasmine.

"Do you want to come back with me?" she asked quietly.

I nodded and got in.

End part one!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Actual Mechanics of Repatriation

Three months here already, geez!

All the actual administrative stuff involved in moving back to America actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.

(To recap: I moved back to America accepting a decent-paying job in a small city in the Southwest, teaching Middle Easterners, mainly so that I could help my father, who has recently moved into an assisted living facility.)

Getting an apartment was a cakewalk. The first place I looked, a mid-range complex near my work, moved me in by the end of the week. After my experience amongst the hotel homeless, I was worried about potential problems with credit checks, references, leases, and deposits; but I moved into a furnished, $700-a-month place, utilities included, with just a three-month lease and a $200 deposit. I don't think they even bothered to call my employers. The apartment isn't exactly the Ritz-Carlton, but it's nice enough, quiet and roomy and gets a lot of sunlight.

It's one of the nicer places I've lived, though that's not saying much.


Phone? Also no problem. My unlocked Lenovo works just fine with the AT and T Pay-As-You-Go plan. I pay $45 a month for unlimited talk and text and 1 GB of data. No contracts for me.

Internet? Also easy enough. No contracts, no deposit. Just pay, plug, and play. $55 a month for that, also.

(I gather that catering to the transient and dubiously-documented is a growth industry.)

Of course I had to buy the first car I've owned since I was 24. (A 2013 Toyota Corolla.) My mother surprised me by gifting me the price of it, knowing that I would be paying most of my father's bills for the rest of the year. Unlike my father, she has managed her money well. "Think of it as money you're going to inherit eventually anyway," she said.
I sit under this tree near my apartment a lot and daydream about when my life was exotic

Getting car insurance was handled by my mother's insurance agent; getting the car registered here in the state I live now took a couple of trips to the DMV and maybe a half-hour of waiting. Relatively painless, if boring.


Now, health insurance?

The company that employs me had a seminar the other day to let us choose which insurance plan we wanted; most of us are TEFL lifers, and had no fucking idea what they were talking about. "Uh ... what's a premium? Who pays the deductible?"

I pay something like $80 a month for health insurance with a $3500 deductible. (Whatever the fuck that means.) That doesn't sound like the best deal in the world, but I can live with it.

So here I am! A tax-paying, documented, insured, 40-hour-a-week American citizen. I imagine they'll find me slumped over dead of heart failure in my Toyota Corolla, listening to NPR, any day now, so thanks for reading.



I don't have an excess of time to write, but in upcoming weeks, we should have at least some of the following:

Interview with a guy teaching English in Africa
Write-up on my trip to the Galopogas Islands
Preview of my next memoir, about my youth
The Accidental Pornographer, Part 5: Porno History X
Books About Drinking, Fucking, and Traveling: Bukowski, Thompson, Theroux and the 70s

AND NEXT WEEK: SOMETHING GROSS ABOUT SEX WITH A VIETNAMESE WHORE!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Interview with English Teacher SF

In honor of my own American exile, here's an interview with a guy who actually started teaching in America, did a few years overseas, and then resumed life in academia. He is also a writer and keeps a website at www.celtic-badger.com.




How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching in the fall of 1979, so this shall be my 36th year in the profession.

Where have you taught?

I have taught at colleges and universities in South Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas and Illinois. I have taught middle school in Wisconsin and Illinois. As far as overseas goes, I taught in Japan for five years and in Saudi Arabia for one year.

Which places have you liked the most and the least?

The five years I spent in Japan were the best years of my life. The wages were good and there were plenty of privates for the picking. I loved going to Tokyo to hang-out. I saw George Harrison and Eric Clapton in concert there in 1990 or 91. I saw Buster Douglas knock-out Mike Tyson at the Big Egg. I was with the same lovely woman for the entire five years I was there. I wasn’t wild about the magic kingdom. The money was good but the place was dull and the culture meant nothing to me. I made it through a 1 year contract and that’s about it. It was a dog year: seven years for one. In the USA, I’m the happiest in South Carolina.

I loved Japan and the Japanese people but I thought they were very dull and unimaginative as students. I actually preferred the Saudi students because they were talkative and they had this goofball sense of humor. I remember students staying up all night during Ramadan and then sleeping in class. I was spat on and choked in KSA, but I liked the students overall. Over here I like the southern students from South Carolina and Texas more than the snotty and wise aleck students from the Midwest.



What kind of qualifications do you have?


My B.A and M.A degrees are in Communication. I also had a state of Wisconsin Teachers’ Certification. By the time I had gone overseas, I had about 10 years of teaching under my belt. The Celta wasn’t necessary for me to have on my resume when I was hired to work in Japan or Saudi Arabia. Now it appears to be a must in the ESL-EFL field. I have actually thought about taking a 3 month and 120 hour program here in South Carolina to have it in case I wanted to go back to English teaching after I retire.

How's your quality of life compared to your wages?

I am very happy with my quality of life right now. I have been teaching at a community college here in South Carolina for the past ten years. I make a good salary and I have the rank of Associate Professor. In two years I’ll be promoted to a full professorship which is not bad for a blue collar kid from a factory town. I also spend a great deal of time on my writing projects. I have essays, stories and reviews published on-line and with several glossy magazines. It took me a few years to actually re-adjust to the USA, but I now am back in touch with my roots.

What are your plans for the future?


I’m 61 and I hope to continue to teach here until I’m 66. I’d like to retire back to Wisconsin and just write. I suppose teaching English overseas is still in my blood, for I still check-out the job boards at Dave’s ESL to see what’s available. I have always wanted to teach in Eastern Europe and I suppose Poland is my first choice. I’m not of Polish ancestry but I guess I’m comfortable with the fact that they’re Catholics. I don’t think Americans can get visa all that easily in Europe anymore because of the European Union. I probably too old to be hired on for any decent job. To be honest about it, I don’t have the physical and mental toughness any more to adapt to a foreign land.

Do you recommend the ESL-EFL route to young Americans?

In my many years of teaching here in the States I only recall two students expressing an interest in teaching overseas. One ended up teaching in Costa Rica and New Zealand: she loved every minute of it. The other expressed an interest in Japan and Russia so I gave him two books by English Teacher X. He decided to go to China. Yes, I’d highly recommend it to the right type of person. Many people probably shouldn’t even try it, for they’ll be miserable or throw in the towel too quickly. I also would caution a person to make it a 1 to 5 year gig. I know some people score big in the field by starting their own school or by working for a big university. However, I think most lifers aren’t all that happy with themselves or their work after a certain point. I also would recommend to an American not to over-estimate or under-estimate our country, or to over-estimate or under-estimate any other country. You’re still an American and you should grow old and die in your native land.



Is there anything you would have done differently with your ESL career?

Not really. Six years was just about the right amount of time for me personally. I made very good money during those years overseas. More importantly, I traveled extensively: maybe I visited about two dozen countries. However, now I’m more than satisfied to be a ‘stay-at-home-pair of shoes.’ My idea of paradise is no longer an airport, a suitcase and a tour guide book. I also met all sorts of people from all over the world. I learned how to live with diversity before it became fashionable. I have become very capable at defusing obnoxious people who want to argue about politics or religion. Has anybody else ever noticed that many English teachers are closet social workers, aspiring crusaders and failed diplomats?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Atrocity Tourism, Part 3: The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas NV

In 2014, when I left my last job in Saudi, I flew into Vietnam to have a couple of weeks of holiday and see some friends there. Trying to find a cheap-ish one way ticket home, the best I could manage was a one-way flight into Las Vegas, Nevada.

I decided to stay a couple days, and when Expedia offered me a 2 day stay at the Hard Rock Hotel for $100, I jumped at it. What fun!

Of course, I had just turned 45 then. Old enough, right? But I thought it would be fun to check it out, especially at "Pool Party!" season was just ending.

Well, I was wrong.

It wasn't fun at all, and I wasn't even CLOSE to being the oldest, or the oldest-looking person there.



I arrived in the morning at about 10:00am, so I took a nap to ease my jet lag and then had lunch. It turned out I had to pay extra to use the pool and sports club, based on the $50 a night I was paying, but that's pretty typical, I guess. 

I went to the pool, where the pool party was just getting started at 3 or 4 pm. I'd been away from America for a while, but the first thing that always strikes me is how heterogeneous our society is; people are every shade of the rainbow.

 But then the other thing strikes me: my god, why does everybody look so weird? 

I mean, of course, in small town America, one is struck by the fatness. And it's not just fatness, bodies are actually changing into distinctly not-typically-human-looking shapes from the metabolic syndrome caused by all the soda people consume. 

But the other side of that coin is America's cult of health, fitness and plastic surgery, and in Vegas at the Hard Rock, I saw plenty of that. And they are ALSO starting to look not-typically-human. 

Most of the dudes were enormous, clearly jacked up on roids, covered with dopey tattos, wearing all that MMA / Tapout / Affliction crap smeared with logos, just in case you didn't notice how tough they were. And most of these guys were not in their 20s. A LARGE number of them appeared to be in their 40s. Or maybe they just appeared older from their sunlamp-damaged skin. 

Half the women had duck lips and fake tits, which didn't do much to distract one from their advancing years, gunts, brittle dyed hair, and tiny little eyes. The other half were girls you might have though were decent looking enough if you saw them dressed, but in bikinis and bright light, their huge cellulite-covered asses, cheap hair exensions, and awful tattoos could not be covered. 

(Although I'm aware big asses are a thing now, cellulite is never in style. Is it?)

I always notice how tiny white American women's faces are. Little face squished onto big heads, in most cases. 

Still, the room itself was pretty nice, with a great view: 



Attempts to go onto the Las Vegas strip itself revealed to me that the casinos are now mainly glitzy malls with a small area for gambling in the back. I was neon-light-flashed into a near epileptic seizure and the crowds were tremendous, all crowded into narrow walkways twisting around and above the street. 



I went back to the Hard Rock and lost $100 at the casino. Andrew Dice Clay was playing a show in the bar there, which I might have enjoyed, but I figured I could watch him just as well on YouTube for free.

So I did that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Atrocity Tourism, Part 2: The Vietnam War Remnants Museum


So, you'd like to see a good museum about the war in Vietnam, but you're afraid it might skimp on describing tortures and atrocities, and might not have enough cool military equipment and pictures of children with the most horrific birth defects imaginable? 

Well, have I got a museum for you!  

I visited the Vietnam War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh (a.k.a Saigon) in July of 2014, with my erstwhile sidekick Crazy Bob. It was formerly known as "Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes" and the "Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression." 

Outside the museum you get to see some military stuff that got left behind after Saigon fell: Tanks, planes, bombs, artillery guns: 





Me outside a Huey gunship. If I was 15 years older, I might well have firing that gun out the window at fleeing civilians in Vietnam.


There are also some dioramas that describe various tortures and atrocities, including this statue of a guy in a tiger cage, which is so realistic-looking I saw some young girls scream when they looked in and saw it:

There's also a French guillotine there, that most stylish and elegant of mass execution methods. Leave it to those French, eh? (It's not just the Americans who come in for a drubbing at this museum; the French atrocities in Indochina are well-considered.)

But it's inside the museum that you see the really mind-numbing horrors, if only in photos: the massacre at MyLai, the legacy of birth defects caused by Agent Orange, and the famous pictures of children burned by napalm running down the beach. 

But then, of course, what are you going to do afterwards? Enjoy some delicious Vietnamese food, get drunk on 50 cent beer, chase some Russian package tourists, or maybe get a $50 hooker. For all its horror, alas, the museum seems like nothing more than a trip to a Haunted House, or maybe at the best, something we can do to assuage our consciences and sense of history before we get back to our backpacking and sex tourism. 

The war in Afghanistan recently beat Vietnam's record -- it's now America's longest war. (Still, the death toll of American troops in Vietnam was 20 times higher.) Will Afghanistan someday be a popular tourist destination (again,*)  the years of atrocity compressed into a handy museum?

Well I guess that's better than the alternative. 


*Afghanistan was once an important stop on the overland Hippie Backpacker trail in the 60s; Kabul was considered the "Paris of Central Asia." 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Atrocity Tourism, Part 1: Chernobyl and Pripyat Nuclear Exclusion Zone

Most people think of Ukraine and slaver at the thought of juicy big-butted, thick-lipped white women who will sleep with foreigners for bargain-basement prices. Crazy Bob certainly was.

Me?

I wanted to go see Chernobyl.

Like a lot of Generation X kids, I was terrified by the prospects of nuclear war and nuclear disaster.

So how could I not want to go see the sight of the largest nuclear disaster in history?


You can buy a tour to Chernobyl -- I took the one-day variety, which ends up being about 10 hours. This will set you back a hundred bucks or so, and includes lunch. (There are 2-day options, but 1 day is plenty, in my opinion, unless you happen to have very specialized interests in radiation damage.)

I had visited the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev the day before, and had listened to the whole history of the affair on the headset; also highly recommended, if only to put your sex tourism in perspective to the country's relentlessly tragic history.

 
Bang Ukraine!

The drive to the Nuclear Exclusion Zone takes maybe an hour and a half. I went with about a half-dozen other people, all guys, all individual travelers.

Our guide was a guy in his early 30s, and he had been living in Pripyat when the city was evacuated in 1986. Soviet bureaucracy, foot-dragging, and the Cold War culture of secrecy and deniability led to the surrounding areas being warned much later than they should have been; even staying indoors for a few days would have saved a lot of lives. He approached the amount of radiation he'd been exposed to with typical Slavic aplomb, and he smoked cigarettes with gusto every time the car stopped.

About ten times normal background radiation levels

The amount of radiation you would be exposed to during a one-day trip is considerably less than an x-ray; nonetheless, of course, the guide loves to see the tourists jump when he puts the radiation detector near a "hot spot" and it starts dinging. (You have to go through several radiation detectors on the way in and out to make sure you're not bringing out any badass particles on your shoes or hands, of course.)


The tour will likely take you to a couple of scary abandoned places: a couple of schools, a youth center, and this abandoned radar facility. These are all brick buildings so they provided some shielding from the radiation and have low levels inside; all the wooden structures, which absorbed radiation, have been demolished.

Pool in abandoned Soviet youth center

Abandoned school Pripyat
 

I'm sure the mold, asbestos, and lead paint in these places were far more dangerous than any residual radiation. 


There's also a walk through the town square in Pripyat; this Ferris Wheel was set to open on May 1, 1986, and it never got the chance. 




Then of course you can see the reactor itself, but the radiation levels are highest here, so you don't get much chance to linger. I was surprised to learn that thousands of people still work in the zone and at the containment unit, and that the other reactors -- there were four, total -- continued to produce power up to the year 2000. They dragged away the contaminated topsoil and debris and resurfaced that lot, so the power plant itself and the sarcophagus surrounding it are surprisingly non-scary-looking -- at least, until your radiation detector starts clicking in overtime and beeping its warnings.

Highly contaminated cooling ponds, you can see the power plant behind it
  
The monument to the disaster outside Reactor 4, containment unit in the background

Then you can cap things off with various monuments to the dead and a stop at the small produkti that serves as the Chernyobl Nuclear Exclusion Zone's only restaurant, guest house, and souvenir shop.

 

Monument to the firefighters. Supposedly drinking vodka helped protect some of them from radioactive iodine.

"Granma went to Chernobyl and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"

And how many people actually died directly because of the disaster? Well, it's difficult to say. 32 died in the actual accident itself. But indirectly? Somewhere between 5000 and 500,000, depending how you try to figure the numbers. Because when you start trying to count up all the birth defects, non-fatal cancers, and people who just plain drank themselves to death rather than die slowly of cancer, the issue gets pretty confused. 

Suffice to say it was "a fucking lot." 

But interestingly the wildlife and fauna in the area is really thriving, just because there aren't many people around to trouble them. And hey, what's a cheeky 500,000 people compared to the millions who died in the Soviet Era Famine? 

Next week on Atrocity Tourism: The Vietnam War Museum, Saigon