Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Castles in Quebec

I'm exhausted, but I'm sleeping in a freaking castle. I'm gonna go with that's a win.








Monday, February 27, 2017

Loss of Conversation

There used to be something that was easy to do when I was abroad. Granted, I don't know if one can count Korea, as it was always a little easier to meet people in Korea, became if you were not Korean you were always looking to meet someone.

These last few trips, though, I realized that one of my favorite things is happening less and less: meeting people in bars.

Maybe this is a consequences of the technology age. It was always a challenge to meet and talk to stranger, I think. This has not stopped being a challenging but the invention of the smart phone, the tablet, the little laptop, the Google glad, the keep me plugged in all the time and don't talk to me box that creates a wall between the user and the world.

I see it everywhere. All the time. Not blameless, either, as I will willfully indulge my ebook if I'm alone and there is no one to talk to, however, I try to make an effort to meet people if there are people around to meet.

Maybe it is that my last few months of traveling have concentrated heavily in Spanish speaking countries where everyone who might want to meet me gets quickly dissuaded when they realize that I don't speak Spanish.

But even in London I have found it difficult to just go to a bar and have a causal conversation with a stranger. Bars could ban ebooks and only allow you to read if you have a book with a title. A conversation starter, it would be. Interrupt me and ask what I'm reading? Or tell me about your experience.

It won't happen. Drinking solemnly into tablet will keep you at a bar a long time. The money is better. Less chance for a fight to breakout maybe.

Of course, people still talk but only people who have already come with people. People who have found people, or have friend, or went to grammar school with someone they can't imagine being apart from.

This leaves me. Traveler. Wanderer. There are no childhood friends lingering in distant countries waiting to meet me. The few people I know abroad have families and it can be difficult to meet in public.

Not me. I'm forty.

I go out. I can only thank the goddess that I'm just as happy to go out by myself as I am with people, but I admit to missing the adventure of friends for an hour, or a night, or a minute whirl we ponder what brought us to this place and time, the journey we have taken and how our journey is unique, our own. That being human means we can share if we want to.

I miss staring into the eyes of others, without the glare.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fatigue

Traveling eventually always catches up with me. I'm almost at that point. It's worst when I'm on a flight that I can't sleep on. I've had it happen several times.

Flight to Korea, 15 hours, non-stop. My eyes open the whole time. I remember how it made my body tense up then. I felt sick, I'll at ease, terrified every time we hit turbulence. It starts to play with your head, that kind of tired.

Watch a movie.

Watch another movie.

Watch another movie.

Do you know how many movies you can watch in 15 hours?

I hate binge-watching. The entire concept is foreign to me, to sit and sit and sit and sit. Amusement that I don't think the same at all of reading a book. My brain thinks in funny tracks when I haven't had enough sleep.

Once on a flight to London. The flight is short we but the feelings are the same.

Once flying to Guatemala. I thought I'd beat it by keeping my eyes shut and willing my body to be still and sleep. Do you know how tiring it is to force yourself to sleep?

Insomnia has become rather regular part of my life as I've gotten older. I go to bed at the right time, I have all the rituals in place, then I will wake up at 3 a.m.I and lay in bed. It pains me all the time to have this happen. Sometimes I can force myself to go back to sleep. Sometimes my brain just spin. Most of the time give up and read. Anything to pass the time. Then I get up when I should, to workout, and go on with my day.  Again.

Again.

Yesterday, flying from Lima I was sick on the plane. This was a new experience. Not one I enjoyed. When I finally got to Chicago for my layover of 10 hours I was thankful I'd planned ahead to take a hotel near the airport.

I checked in and spent the entire day in bed, all of it but for maybe four hours, asleep.

Still traveling. I'm not done traveling yet, which is why perhaps I woke up somewhat tired. Just a few more days.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Past Tense

I was thinking about my past on this trip. So much to right about, so many stories. I have stories. But it sent me in a mood where I started to think about how I got here.

How did I make myself?

There is the tedious story about the troubled childhood and blah blah blah.

Stories that are nothing but blackness and horror and a sympathy for "How do you survive?" I honestly don't know.

There is the part of me that doesn't really know how I made myself, only that I refused to allow myself to become nothing. Maybe because I was to smart. Maybe hatred.

There is a wrongness to say that I hated my youth and those around me. People want to hear that you overcame because of love, or some internal grit that makes you pull yourself up by your boot straps. Persevere! Turn the other cheek. Be better than the bastards that want to get you down.

That's the thing. I don't know that I was better. But I was determined not to be the bastards. And to to do that, I had to be a bit of bastards. 25 years and several in therapy have mellowed all of it. I had to find some way to justify my own internal selfishness at the time.

Now.

Who am I now?

Not the bastards. I have found my own way in this world. I have compassion and empathy that I learned, but was never taught. I care about others.

And myself.

I still care about me.

In my making I became the person I most wanted to be. Someone who can appreciate the world which I have somehow clawed my way to the opportunity to explore.

Lima is humid. I've enjoyed my time here. I have stories more to tell.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunsets

It's always amusing to see people who are not real people talk about long walks on the beach and sunsets. So few people actually notice the sunset around them. Maybe once, they look up and see a pink or purple sky and think, 'how pretty' and take a picture and walk away.

There are times I plan my workdays around sunsets. In the hope I might catch one over a foriegn city at just the right time. I don't care if I get a picture or not. Sometimes there is music. Sometimes there is just me, watching the sky change colors, getting darker, getting deeper, getting closer to night.

The transition from my day self into who I really am. I feel all the time like darkness and I need each other. I can go about my work day, I can feel it, I can be the person that I am needed to be in that moment, but I live for escape into darkness, the person they do not know. The person that they will never meet.

Sometimes the lines blur. I feel the darkness outside and I start to let go but I'm still working. This is the worst time, when I might be too free of tongue or too light of spirit or too...Me.

Me is lost somewhere in the sunset.

It's not the sunset, really that I love to watch. It's the dark take over. That's where I want to be.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Then there are times...

Part of me wants to go out into Lima and see the city they way I did Buenos Aires (the stories, oh the stories, oh the guitarists, oh the writers, oh the blue sky and green land and bright sun)...

That part of my refuses to acknowledge the part of me that has been working almost 24 hours a day since I hit the ground in South America. I work hard to do what I do.

I realized today, though, not for the first time that I love it.

You live inside a thing, that is your job, that is your career, that is your life. I fell into this life, this thing I do that I love so well.

How did I get here. There were so many meaningless things I could have fallen into.

Late one night, in bed in Buenos Aires I tell a beautiful man my story when he asks if I have children. 

He says "I'm sorry."

"No, no. My life has had more impact on more people than I would have had with my own children. I've meant something."

History will not remember my name. I am simply the person that presents. I provide and make accessible the resources of others. But I do it.

200 people sat and listened to me today, with others listening in, participating, from five countries and multiple continents. I was live streamed around the world.

At the end, I almost cried. I felt it, but I stopped it before it went to far. The sensation that I am making an impact on so many was overwhelming and for a moment, with a camera crew on me, with viewers around the world watching, with this in the room coming up to me after and telling me how inspired they felt by me, I felt tears in my own eyes.

I'm exhausted but in love with what I do.

That will have to be enough.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Land of Fishes

I just landed in Lima. It's hot at not, humid, the South American humid that makes everything so vivid and real.  


It pops out at you, the humidity, shimming air all the time. 

The airport, I think, smells like fish, but it's not just the airport. Everywhere smells like fish. 

We drive along the cost for what felt like forever. I begin to get a sense of the random up and down of the place, feeling the Andes nearby. 

It was raining when I went to sleep last night. My body is confused by weather, summer and wet and humid and thunder and lightning. It's all becoming a blur. 


Viewing the world as a constant intersection of shifting humid blurs. This is what happens to your brain with so much travel. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Breaking the Law DR style

The plane landed in the DR late at night, we were early to land, but it was still almost midnight. Like Nicaragua the air was rich and heavy. Like Nicaragua I was expected to pay 10 dollars to enter the country. I liked this little game for some reason, sort of the country telling me, up front, they are going to make a certain amount of money off of me one way or the other.

I get through immigration fast, get my bags, do all the customs and screening. Legally, as far as I know, I'm cleared to be there. Outside the sliding doors I am looking for my ride. In Nicaragua there was a very nice group of people from my company to meet me. They took me personally to my hotel and got me checked in. They were all very nice and very polite and made sure I could have everything I possibly wanted to have.

The DR, however, had not done so much scheduling or communicating (for that matter neither had NR but those guys did show up) so I was a little alarmed and concerned when I did not see a person with a sign that had my name on it. Before I decided I was really stranded I went up and down the lines twice. Definitely not a person with a sign with my name on it.

Okay, I figured, I can just go out and see if there is a hotel shuttle. The hotel is a well known chain and they usually have some sort of shuttle you can get from the airport.

I make to walk out towards the shuttle buses that I can see through the shimmery hot night.

A security guard stands in front of me. I move to go around him.

He grabs me.

This throws up every single alarm bell I have in my body. I don't like being touched without permission, I especially don't like being touched by armed men in foreign countries without permission.

He speaks to me in rapid fire Spanish and I can really only catch every other word.

"Vacation. Hotel. Bus." I say, I point to the buses.

"No hablo espaƱol." Internally I say I speak Korean. I get annoyed.

He comes at me again and I jerk back, not wanting to be grabbed by him. I'm angry now. I can see he is also angry. I don't really understand what is happening. One of the gypsy cab drivers who are ubiquitous in airports around the world comes up to me.

"He needs calling your hotel. He needs your confirmation number."

I look a little startled, but I dig in my  bag for the print outs. I almost never print anything for a trip, but since I was going to two countries in two days and was sure I'd not have great internet access, I printed stuff for this one. I give him the information for the hotel I'm supposed to be at.

Again, I look around hopeful to see someone with a sign with my name, but nothing doing.

He hangs up the phone and shakes his head and talks to they gypsy driver.

"He says you don't have a reservation. You can't leave the airport."

At this point I really do kind of give into a little bit of panic. I roll off to the side with my bags, quickly download an international data pass and email frantically my work contacts. No responses. It's midnight. Security guard has an eyeball on me. I'm brainstorming what to do.

A new flight lands and suddenly the airport is teaming with passengers. Security Guard gets distracted and suddenly I see him running after someone else that had the gall to leave HIS airport. I walk up to the nearest gypsy cab driver and give him the name of my hotel.

He says okay and we slip out a side door.

I have just had to sneak into the Dominican Republic.

I'm in a Gypsy Cab.

It's Midnight.

I don't speak the local language.

There are so many ways this could go wrong.


I pull up Hellion on chat, as he is in New York with Tino dogsitting for me.

"If you don't hear from me in 8 hours, call the US embassy."


I probably should have thought better about this message, as it sent poor Hellion into a frenzy prompting him to call the Bard and the Electrician and practically enlist the US Navy to find me. I had no idea this was happening on his end as I was too worried about being sold into the Latino sex trade by my driver.

Fortunately, my driver turned out to be just a driver. He asked for 40 dollars, which I happened to have because I thought to get cash in Panama. The hotel did have me on file and I vented my rage yelling at them for a good 30 minutes. Once in my room, way past midnight, I went to the mini bar and happily drank the better part of the half pint of DR Rum. I charged it to me company.

I regretted it not at all.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Panama

I went to Panama. I was there for about 2 hours. I basically found the only thing I needed to do there. Four shots of tequila while talking to British expats, before running to grab cash and another flight. 

It was the right bar for the right time. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nicaragua

The company decided to send me on what could best be described as a fast paced Latin marathon where I would go to Nicaragua and the DR in a two day period, returning to Chicago on the third day. For some reason I said yes to this ridiculousness and got the tickets sorted.

Flights to Latin America are so easy. Such a short trip to leave the country. I'm upgraded to first class and spend a lot of time talking to an American who is developing houses and plantations really in Argentina. I find him interesting and we have too many drinks as we sit side by side on the flight.

"Well, time to pay the 10 dollars and get ready to go to work."

"What," I giggle a bit soaked in tequila at that point.

"You know, you have to pay 10 dollars at immigration."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes, of course, don't you know that?"

"I don't have any cash!"

"Oh, I don't know what to tell you. You better figure it out. No one gets in without paying."

Suddenly my new best friend goes silent on me and doesn't make eye contact with me for the rest of the 20 minutes of flight, as if I am some sort of pariah who leaves countries to travel to Nicaragua without cash. We deplane and I wait through the usual immigration lines.

I'm not panicked. I've done these things far to much I figure it will be an adventure. Honestly, it ended up not being to exciting.

"¿Destino?"

I give the location of my hotel, say I'm touring, I'm only hear for a day. I don't bother trying to speak Spanish at immigration. We all just end up very confused.

"10 dollars, please."

"Do you take MasterCard?"

"Si."

Problem solved.

I only really got to see Nicaragua that night and the next day on the way back to the airport. At night it has the hallucinogenic feeling of Korea at night, bright lights, random neon everywhere. Large luxury apartments that look like tenements. In the night it was cool and moist, that luxurious Latin humid that makes your skin feel rich and plumps my hair up until I look like I'm wearing a crown of oversized curls. In the day the heat washed over us in waves in the short time we were in it. I managed not to sweat through all my business ware before during and after several press conferences and a presentation. The roads shimmered on the way back to the airport.

On the flight out I had a layover in Panama.

Before going to the DR I decided on a whim I had better get cash. This would be a very good idea.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Argentina...

I'm on the road again and it will be busy between now and the time I get back to the US for real. At the same time I'm rather amused that I have found something to write about here and there since the beginning of the year. Maybe it is the effect of having been so very thoroughly bottled up last year that I had nothing to say.

Maybe I think that what I have to say is worth saying again.

Maybe being able to get my thoughts out is the best way I can think to exist in this particular time and place.

Argentina is warm and humid, the night felt wet when I escaped my hotel with it's free but poor selection of food and drink.

As it happens I appear to be in a popular expat area of town. I went to an expat type bar. The selection was street London fair, though as far as I could tell most of the people there were locals. I still feel out of place in Spanish speaking countries but Spanish is coming faster these days than Korean. This makes me wonder what is happening to the Korean girl I have fostered in myself for so long.

Will I lose her one day to the language I should have learned, swept away by warm climates, humid nights and the promise of good wine and easy living. I wonder about this as I drink a bottle of damn fine Malbec in a bar for 12.00 dollars.

As I want to go and live I won't have time to keep up this journal, but I also don't want to let it go, so perhaps a few quick stories that will keep it tied up for a few days while I go live life and make more stories, take more pictures.

Live. Maybe a half life in-between identities. Maybe something else.

Friday, February 17, 2017

You REALLY Don't Fly that Much

On the road again. Late afternoon flight to Argentina after my homeland interview. I was shaken by the interview and happy to be leaving the country again. The first class lounge provides adequate booze. I sleep in my hop flight to Atlanta and dash because the layover was far too short for my flight to Argentina.

It's a packed plane. Every seat sold and no room to spare. There were over a dozen people trying to fly standby, and at least ten of those had checked bags into the holding before finding out they were going to be able to be placed on the flight. I board along with the swimming sea of people and find my seat. I know this will not be the most comfortable 9 hours, but at least I'm in the bulkhead which will make moving easier.

On one side there is a nice older American couple. Tourist traveling. They are polite and circumspect. They are clearly in their seventies or eighties and obviously fully in love. I remember thinking about a time when that might have been a reality for me. I have a moment of jealousy and I look away to study the woman who has been placed next to me. She was sitting in the wrong seat and had to be moved. She's already fussy with four bags, when carry-ons should have been limited to two and all of her bags are in front of her on the floor. I know they will come around and ask her to move things.

She keeps hitting me and fussing.

I realize I'm already fairly irate with her behavior.

The captain announces that the flight will be delayed to takeoff because of bags that need to be taken off the plane, the belongings of those unlucky standbys who are now off to wait and hope for the next flight to Argentina. The lady next to me, who is best described as an Argentinian hajuma, is fidgety for awhile. She sighs. She snorts. She bitches to the couple across the isle.

An hour after we were to take off we are still sitting on the tarmac. These things happen and I have a book and can be patient. Not the lady next to me. She calls over a stewardess and starts to give her a piece of her mind.

"This is awful. I fly all the time. I fly delta. This is ridiculous. I want to talk to the captain. I want to know what's going on."

The stewardess tries to politely explain the bag situation again. The woman just gets angrier and angrier.

"I know my rights, you have to tell me why we haven't taken off. I deserve to be told."

Her anger is so strange to me. I'm trying to figure out what the point of her rage is. Is she angling for free miles? An extra ticket? An upgrade? The flight is fully packed so she is not going to get anything from the yelling, but she could end up sticking us on the tarmac even longer if she has to be escorted from the plane.

I'm starting to wonder if she is going to delay the flight further.

A second stewardess comes by to talk to her in rapid Spanish, conveying the same message only faster. The woman continues to bitch but seems slightly placated when the plane begins to move. The stewardess goes off to take her seat to so we can get in the air.

Later, she comes back to take a formal complaint, asking for the frequent flyer number for reference, as this woman has been throwing a fit about how frequently she flies. I'm a frequent flyer. So frequent I have one of those medallions you only get if you are doing a couple million miles a year. I figure if this lady is throwing such a fit she had to at least be in the club.

She's not. She's not even a member of the airline she is throwing a fit at. And she only flies twice a year.

The stewardess bring me very generous glasses of wine. Fortunately I slept through most of the flight.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stressful Interviews

"Where you born here?"

That was probably the question I had been waiting for the entire interview. I had applied for Global Entry awhile ago, but with moving, changing jobs, life, etc, the interview kept getting moved back and moved back and moved back. I was supposed to do it just before going to New Orleans but couldn't make it happen.

So here I sit in the office of homeland security just before flying, look at a fairly irate officer and wondering if I'm going to be arrested, get Global Entry, or be sent on my way empty handed. I would have been fine with all options accept being arrested. But how to explain my life.

My life sounds very strange when it is being questioned by a homeland security officer.

"Half the countries in your passport aren't even in your application!"

"I went to half of those countries after filing my application."

"You have an address listed here. But you say you were living in Korea."

"No, I was living in the US, I was working in Korea. I was an international commuter."

"But what was your address in Korea."

"I was there for six week stints most of the time. I didn't really have an address on the ground. I was living in the US. for the most part."

"And what about China?"

"I was in China in 2010."

"No, 2012."

That one surprised me. I didn't remember being in China in 2012. It wasn't until later it dawned on me that this was the ill-fated layover I had in Shanghai which required me to go through Chinese immigration, even though I wasn't staying in China.

"And now your in Chicago. Do you have a driver's license?"

"I really need some kind of photo I.D."

I wave sort of listlessly at my passport. That is my photo ID. It should be clear that I don't really feel at home anywhere except the world. That my constant desire to go is half predicated on the fact that I like to be gone. That I feel more at home when I am not at home. That I need to fly, to travel, to journey to be in that other place, for a minute, an hour. Anytime.

"And you were in Paris!"

Paris I had almost forgotten.

In the end, even with the anger and his clear reservations he finally took my fingerprints, took my pictures and let me go on my way. For some reason, though, the whole thing still bothers me.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pokey LaFarge

Last night I went to see Pokey Lafarge, which was amazing. I first ran across Pokey a couple of years back when I was looking for shows that I and the boy might see together. It seemed like a thing and it was. Pokey does the sort of classic American big band music you would expect to find easily in a 1920s speakeasy.

Maybe the 1920s in a theme this month.

The last time I saw Pokey was at Lincoln Hall and it was quite a good show. Pokey is irreverent and fun while being true to his music. I was supposed to see him two years ago, but I ended up moving to New York for that whole new job thing and it didn't manifest.

This time I saw him at S.P.A.C.E. which is a smaller venue in Evanston. It manages to hold a lot of people while at the same time being a very intimate place. This may have colored the show a bit. Pokey interacted well with the crowd. Told weird stories, interjected with his life and his thoughts on our current political moment. Almost impossible to miss, really.

But he also sang the music. He sings with such a fierce and amazing passion. I imagine being at his shows is like what it must have been like to see the early Johnny Cash play, in smaller places with a rapid following. He manages to evoke so many emotions, the way his face moves, the expressiveness of his voice.

He is an embodiment of dynamic. It was a very good show.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

American Gothic

Apparently I am on a huge corset kick as I seem to be leaving the house in one on almost a daily basis. I do enjoy how it feels though. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of being older: I simply do no give a fuck about being as goth as I want to be all the time.

I want all the black dresses.

I want all the lace.

I want all the binding leather and steel bones.

I want the knee high combat boots and dark eye makeup.

I want the endless dark dream of being vibrant and ancient and wise and wicked without a real care for melancholy. The old school goths that weren't emo, but reveled in how weird and wild and wonderful it all is. Smart people, sharp people, well dressed and just taking an opportunity to express themselves without a care for judgement or what some would think of on the mortal spectrum. The goths that were immortal, with 1920s style or 1940s embellishments on a 1600 look.

My goth is a blend of ancient wisdom, traditional libertine and modern hedonism. I am unapologetic about it.

It's also full of corsetry.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Ain't No Party

I don't always smoke, but when I do, I do it at a 1920's Gatsby style speakeasy party.






Of course, when I do it, I'm either amused or a little pissed off. In this, I'm actually both. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Parties with Strangers

"It's a shame we haven't met. Do you want to come to my Speakeasy Party?"


"Sure why not. I don't think this will actually facilitate meeting you."

"You could try to come early."

"I'll see what I can do."

In the end I didn't end up going earlier, mostly as I was having a lazy day and I didn't feel like accelerating to get their earlier. I stressed for a few days on what to wear to this party and even went the extra mile of getting a Gatsby style flapper dress, but in the end I went with a silk charmeuse slip dress which is technically lingerie, but that works. It goes with the style of the time which was loose clothing to represent loose women. And...well...

At the party I meet the host, who is dressed in perfect 20s style. He looks like he could easily be running an illicit bar and working with Al Capone. The guest that were already there were well dressed for it as well, and I gotten a headband to put a feather and beads in my hair. I do like the style. 

Of course, the challenge here was I was partying with complete and total strangers. 

And they all clearly knew each other. So I mingled about a bit, had some drinks, tried mingling with the smokers a bit, because it is fun to smoke in doors when you can, and then realized I was standing in a corner and I wasn't talking to anyone. So I found a group of people to work my way into and asked a simple question.

"So what is the most interesting thing you did in 2016?"

I figured this would be an easy question and we would be able to have fun and get to know each other. 

"I mean, what you do you mean the most interesting thing?"

"I mean, like you know, well, one of the most interesting things that happened to me last year..." What do I talk about, I had an interesting year. The thing is I have interesting things to talk about regardless of the travel. The traveling gives me fun new experiences, but I have more than enough happen when I'm not traveling to talk about as well. Perhaps that is the point of writing it down. There is a life here. I have a life here. I am living a life here. Life is a story and telling it is more interesting that not, otherwise each day is just a drear slog that goes nowhere. I'd rather think that there is more than getting up, going to work, and going to bed to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. 

Last year, without travel, I had parties on my roof top, I met strangers in strange places, I went to interesting parties nearby, I read excellent books in strange locations, I had adventures in gardens and met strangers on trains. I talked and I talked and I talked. I found different places to explore both my present and my past. I had adventures even if I wasn't on the road. Each day had a different little adventure in it. I think that is worth noting. 

But, the crowd I was in just didn't have stories. I told my 'hitchhiking in San Francisco as I thought that was a fairly simple story in which nothing too outlandish happens and it might be potentially relate-able to the group. And then did relate. And the only interesting stories that had to share were things that happened about work. 

There was a moment of pondering this: these young people in their mid-twenties and early thirties, shouldn't they, at this point, have something interesting to talk about. They seem interesting, they seem dynamic, they seem like they might have stories to share. All they can find is work. 

I found myself later in a corner thinking that this party had been a mistake. It wasn't that the gathered crowd were not my kind of people, being kinky and poly and cute they were all the type of people I like being around, but I felt isolated from them because their lives seemed fixed in the day to day and I feel I have moved so far beyond that, or at least, I have never been trapped by banality. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Expat Interventions

I’d gone to see music earlier with my date, making talking difficult, but later we pulled up in a quieter bar to talk. Talking with my date last night, we eventually rounded around to politics. One should most likely not discuss politics in our current age, with our current politics, but politics we did discuss. My date was an Italian immigrant to the US. We had bounded over our mutual expat experiences and so had decided to meet. I miss expats and expat bars and expat pat places where expats do expat things.

That’s the thing about my privilege. I never thought of myself as an immigrant or a migrant worker in Korea. I never thought about the job I was taking that there was some Korean just as qualified to do. I never thought about how I was living with all the perks while only being tangentially a part of the system. It didn’t occur to me that I should think about these things. I was an expat. I traveler, a teacher, someone different, above it all in some way.

My Italian expat date for the night talks about his job in this age. The problem. The complexity.

“You see,” he says, “I came here to go to school. I was a soccer player so I had a scholarship. I’m not a great soccer player but in America I was like a God. I busted up both my knees, three surgeries all together. But I finished school. I had two options, get a job or get deported. You only get 90 days to get a job and this company wanted me. They are based in Italy, so it was a good fit, and I spoke Italian -which was good for them- and so I took the job. I don’t really love it, but you know, if I quit I get deported and I don’t quite want to go back to Italy yet, you know.”

“I do.”

“And so my visa was going to expire and the company asked me if they wanted me to renew and I really thought about it, I put it off for a long time but then I got angry with my boss after some things and decided I’d make them pay for it, even though I’m not sure I want to stay much longer with everything going on, you know.”

I appreciated his perspective. The thing that bothered me the most, of course, is that even with the renewal of a visa we discussed that he was fairly sure that even with the company lawyer and the investment he may still find himself getting deported in April. 

That’s our America now. It was disheartening.

In my past this was me, just an expat, holding down a job that required a specific skill that locals could not do. I loved my expat life. It hurts me to think that the current state of America would deny the expat experience to so many interesting qualified people who have the capacity to enrich the local cultural and understanding with their experiences.

We drank silently for awhile thinking about it before switching the conversation to soccer.









Friday, February 10, 2017

Pre-Coital Conversations

"Can you do my a favor?" My flatmate asks.

"Sure, whazit?"

"Can you bring some stuff in out of the trunk for me?"

"No problem. I'll even not get locked out of the house this time. How do I open James?"

James is the name of the car. James is a sleek little car, a mans man. He handles the streets well and knows how to please the women with his big leather seats that have auto warmers.

"You just feel around by the trunk. There are two buttons. The small one is used to lock but the big one will open it."

"Got it."

I head out to the garage I have only just recently broken into and find James waiting. I move aroudn to his trunk and start to feel around.

Eventually, I found what I was looking for.

Back in the house I drop off boxes.

"You get the stuff?"

"Yep. By the backdoor."

"Any problems?"

"No, at first it was a lot like locating the clitoris. I had to feel around in there for a few minutes and didn't get it the first time, but once I had it everything opened up pretty smoothly."

My flatmate giggles. She gets me.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Returning to the Arts

Now that I have moved again I find myself wondering when I can start an my art studio again. It's been since at least 2010 when I moved out of Korea that I ended up giving up on painting even a little. It's been a long time.

Too long, I think.

Before I can get that far again I have a lot of traveling today but I'm already thinking in terms of paints and brushes, paper and palettes. All the usual studio tools. It will be interesting to see where my art is now, from where it was when I left it.

This is all on my mind, as in the morning I took a friend through pictures from my old gallery. Thinking about displaying work in spontaneous gallery shows made me miss that aspect of my life. Swirling in colors, brushes before me, wearing baggy clothes or nothing at all as my fingers freed themselves on a canvas before me to express my feelings.

In colors there was all my want, my desire, my love and fear. I have hundreds of paintings I need to collect and potentially sell, because it would be acceptable to sell them. Making room for more and generating the revenue to buy supplies to make more. I've always been good at parting with my art, what's the purpose if you don't let it go?

Soon.

Soon.

I feel it in my fingers, the magic of colors is coming once again.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Out in the Cold

I heard the bell ring as I was doing my evening chores. It was just after four o'clock and I was taking care of dishes, dancing around, paying very little attention to anything but the end of the workday. Snuggling my dogs a bit as I chased them about.

And the bell rings.

And I go to the porch to check and see it's packages. I expected it to be packages.

There are two doors between me and said packages. One door leads to the outdoor. I think I shut the inner door.

I have not shut the inner door.

When I open the outer door I realize I have not shut the inner door as I suddenly have two four month old puppies about to dive for the porch, so I did what comes naturally. I shut the outdoor. The outdoor pulls completely closed and locks immediately behind me.

Peaking over I actually go to see what the packages are before it dawns on me that I have just locked myself out of the house. It's 18F and I'm wearing jeans, a thin sweater and am barefoot on the porch. The wind is blowing, the temperature is dropping and the light is failing.

"Shit."

I immediately start to talk myself through it. What do I do, what do I do? Neighbors? Maybe, but if I lock myself out beyond the gate I'm really in trouble then, aren't I? I'm not wearing shoes. My feet start to get cold.

I think of the Chef, but that's two blocks away and he went to work with my flatmates this morning.

The wind picks up and my hair is caught in it. I think, I think.

I'm a smart woman. I check the windows, I know that is not going to work. Try to get in through the basement? I know that won't be effective.

Options?

Get out of the cold, I need to get out of the cold and then it hits me. The garage. Go do the garage. At least I'll be inside. It's unheated inside, but still inside. Inside is better then in the wind and I can wait for my flatmates to return.

Carefully I work my way through the yard to the back of the house, cold feet going numb on the cold ground, grass brittle and breaking off between my toes. I try the back door in desperation before getting to the garage.

I try the door and it's stuck.

"No! NO! Dammit!"

I force it a little, probably too much, I'm desperate and shivering and just want to get in out of the cold. Suddenly I feel something give and the door opens. I slam it quickly behind me and look around.

Flatmate's car, snowblower.

The car. I try the door and it opens and I say a small prayer to whatever goddess of fools is watching over me today. I get in and find a light jacket it and wrap it around my feet while I scavenge the garage with my eyes. Nothing. But...there is a tarp on the snowblower. Extra layer, is all I can think.
Once I can feel my toes I jump out, grab the tarp, jump back into the car and snuggle up to wait. I keep my legs pumping and moving the whole time, worried about falling asleep in the cold and waiting, hoping against hope my flatmates get back closer to five than six.

I got lucky and they pull in shortly after five.

"What the hell?"

"I locked myself out."

There was laughter, giggles, and a desperate last barefoot dash to the backdoor which decided to be just obstinate enough to freak us out before it opened. It felt good to be warm. The sudden desire for booze and Indian food swept over me as fast as the puppies running to thank the merry Bigs for returning.

"This was your fault." I told them, while loving them. The dogs didn't care.



Tuesday, February 07, 2017

That Old Korean Feeling

"Do you like Korean food?"

This is a question I ask to the date for the evening to gauge an interest in all things kimchi.

"Yes."

That was really all the excuse I needed to make the plan for the evening Korean food. The last time I had Korean was in New York, a co-worker and a friend on separate occasion.

"I should warn you, you are going to have to put up with me ordering in Korean. And it makes my accent worse. And my Korean identity is a little cocky."

All these things are true. I can't help it. I miss Korea now and then. A passing, fleeting feeling of longing for simpler times and Oeegalbi and kaynib and kimchi. But more than that, a need for the people, the flowing mass of Koreans always being Korean. Being an outsider and feeling justified in being an outsider because I'll never really fit in. The ease with which you can just be yourself because the expectations of the rest of the culture around you will never be met, but always be somehow, beautifully violated by your mere presence.

The ease of Korea and swimming on an ocean of just missing something that is not Korea. Being American before it hurt to be an American the way it does right now.

And just being.

The hajumas brought us a flowing amount of panchon which I introduced like a good Korean girl to my date. Most of the waitstaff was happy to talk to me in Korean, and I was happy to talk to them back. They told me my Korean was good.

They joked that the hajuma was an agashi.

I said "No, oni." And we laughed and I slipped my hand around her waste for a moment and we laughed and I remember slipping my hands into the arms of Korean girls as we walked down the street. The casual friendships, the mindless talking about things that didn't really matter. A passion for living because that is what you do.

The company was perfect.

The food was excellent.

The emotions were strong.


Monday, February 06, 2017

Negotiating for Who?

I had to go into town to get my medication for my asthma refilled. This is not a big deal, I have a nice asthma doctor in Chicago and she remembered me from two years ago (perhaps I make an impression).

At the time, I had insurance through the company that allowed me to stay on the medication I had been taking for almost ten years, which I had started in Korea. It was solid and it was fantastic. I still remember what it was like to learn to breathe for the first time. I've become a real oxygen addict since that time. Always with the wanting to breathe.

Of course, because there is no such thing as universal health care in the US and the best we have is the Affordable Care Act, breathing is slightly out of my control. You would think my desire for oxygen should be one of those basic human rights, but not really so much. If you don't have asthma you may or may not be aware that a monthly prescription for a seriously proper medication to manage your asthma, should be be unfortunate enough not to have insurance, is around 350 dollars a month. This is one of the many reasons that I didn't have proper medication for my asthma until I was almost 30 (that and the ruinous matriarch who best like to have seen me gasping for air and under her thumb for all of eternity). With insurance it is a reasonable 30, and something that I'm happy to shell out.

The medication I happened to be on was the best. Over the last few years a few competitors entered the market, but the stuff I was taking worked hands down better than anything I've ever used. So of course, when I changed jobs, and changed insurance companies my new company wouldn't cover my brand. I was forced onto an off brand.

I actually did call the insurance company at the time and give them a small amount of hell about it. I remember the conversation.

"Do you know what it is like not to breathe?"

"Look, your options are to pay for it out of pocket or use the other brand."

"This brand works."

"They are the SAME thing."

The person on the phone was clearly frustrated with me. The person on the phone was clearly not a doctor.

I switched brands because I was forced to do so and I have noticed in the last two years that my asthma has gotten worse. Not horribly bad, but I can tell I'm having more frequent trouble with that staying oxygenated bit.

At the office with my doctor we discussed the change and my unhappiness, but decided to take a breathing test to see if it was in my head or if there was something to it. For the companies, it's all about 'negotiating the best price'. They don't care, really, about the science. If something is almost exactly the same and cheaper, it's the same. Period. At the end of the day they are a business.

The results are real enough for me.

In two years I've seen a 9% decrease in my breathing efficacy. Truly, this pisses me off while I sit and gasp for air more frequently, but fortunately some company has saved a few pennies on the dollar and that is all that matters.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Super Bowl LI

The Author and I were overdue for drinks so we decided to meet up on Sunday. I offered an Uber to take us out of our neighborhood and closer to Lincoln Square.


"Where do you want to go?" He asked. 

"I'm sure we can find something. There are a lot of places there."

In the Uber we talked to the driver about politics and the modern American phenomena. Outside of the Uber we talked about my love life. 

"If I were a 40 year old man no one would even blink."

We had a good Italian dinner, excellent wine and then were back to our neighborhood for a drink. 

"Nightcap? Usual bar?"

"We could go to this other bar in the neighborhood."

"Shit. I just realized it's Superbowl Sunday. The game will be on."

"The game will be on in all the bars."

"The other bar?"

"I've heard it is a bit insular. Local place, you know."

"Then let's go to the usual bar."

The usual bar is lightly attended but the game is on all screens. We managed to get seats in the back by the pizza kitchen for talking, and laughing, and high fiving and general amusement. It was still in the third quarter as we sat down. 

Suddenly, on the screen we see Mike Pence, the newly minted vice president. 

I don't think either I or the Author would have noticed, but suddenly the bar erupted in boos. 

The gay couple at the end table booed. The lesbians having dinner together booed. The jocks eating chicken wings booed. The waitstaff, the owners, everyone, all booing. I wanted to stand up and hug the entire bar. I was suddenly in love with them all. With Chicago, with our mutual outrage. 

"Yeah, Mr. Vice President, welcome to Chicago," the Author says. 

The resistance is everywhere. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

A Ride to IML

Last year around the end of May I invited Hellion to join me for IML weekend. It seemed like it could be a lot of fun to visit Chicago with someone new to Chicago, and International Mr. Leather always makes for a least an interesting weekend. What with all the whips and chains and things that go bump up against you. It's usually a terribly fun time.

Since it was Hellion's first trip to the city I wanted to try to give him some interesting experience. He mostly wanted to go eat at Five Guys: Chicago Edition. His love for burgers amused me so I agreed to extra greasy food on an early morning. As we ate a billion calories at 10 a.m. I smiled amused.

"Would you like to take a bike down to IML?"

"We can do that?"

"Yes, there is a Divvy rental not far from here. We can get two bikes and ride down the lake front, take pictures."

"That sounds awesome!"

For this ride I was as inappropriately dressed as it is humanly possible to be. I had on a corset over a punk pop dress, with a leather jacket and crazy windswept hair. We got our bright blue bikes, climbed aboard and started to race off down the lake.

For the better part of the trip, the bike ride went well. The lake was beautiful blue against the only lightly cool late spring weather. The sky a little cloudy, the breeze light not fierce. We stopped and collected many pictures along the way.

We were breezing along pretty quickly and I figured at the rate we were peddling we should be able to get to the congress theater in about 35 minutes, which is not bad for a Lakeside run. It wasn't until just as we pulled up to the top of Michigan Ave. that I noted that might bike was not functioning as I would have expected it to. There was just a touch of a noticable wobble in the pedal that made me wonder what it could be.

And then suddenly as I went for a spin, there was no peddle.

I pulled the breaks and stopped and tried to call out to Hellion, who was speeding along ahead, and then I realized I had his phone and I'd not be able to get him until he figured out I was no longer on his tail. I got up, stood next to the bike and wondered what in the actual fuck I was going to do now.

First I tried kicking the damn peddle back in and peddling, but it fell right back off. Then I just sort of stood there angry and starred at it, just as I saw Hellion coming back towards me on the bike path.

"What happened?"

"Damn thing came right off."

"Shit, can you get it back in?"

"Tried that."

"What do we do?"

"I can try a one way peddle and see if that works." That did not work. I dismounted the bike and stood there frustrated with the way the day was unfolding. My best laid plans suddenly in ruins around me. And then suddenly I see two Chicago bike cops coming down the path towards us.

"And what seems to be the problem, Ma'am?"

"Well, officer, the peddle has come off the bike?"

"What did you do to the bike?"

"I rode it."

"Then how did you break the peddle?"

"I didn't. It just fell off."

"Huh, that's weird." I'm standing here thinking this conversation is a bit surreal and these cops are a bit unhelpful, when suddenly an entire squad of what must have been the most bored lake front cops comes pulling up next to us. I have the two cops on bikes, and at least six more cops jumping out of the lakeside patrol cars. Really, I think? Doesn't this seem like a bit of overkill?

"Did you try putting the peddle back in," asks one of the newly arrived cops.

"I mean, yes. Like I said, it's broken."

"Well, how did you do that?"

This conversation is starting to take on overtones of Groundhog's Day with a dash of The Three Stooges.

"Look, officers, I think I'm probably going to have to walk this off the path. Do you know where the nearest Divvy station is?"

"Should be something on Michigan. But you know, you are going to have to pay for damaging public property."

For a hot minute I actually wondered if I was going to get a ticket because the peddle had come off of a Divvy bike on me.

"Well, be safe anyway." The officers turned away from us and started to chat casually while returning to their cars and bikes. I stood and watched with Hellion, heart racing a little, but not from the bike ride. I don't know why I was so upset, but for some reason, I had become more frightened the longer the conversation went on. Finally, the cops and dispersed and I stood there, pedal in my hand, wondering what I should do now.

"I guess we walk." I said.

And we did. We took a cab to IML. The event made up for the annoyance getting there.

Friday, February 03, 2017

The Trials Begin

It looks like we are finally going to see a trial by fire for our democracy, one that we haven't really seen since FDR tried to change things to give the president more power. He didn't manage it then, so hopefully it will be difficult to accomplish now.

Women in political positions are standing up and standing in the face of what could become a great American Tyranny. With judicial orders being filed and a president vowing to fight "so-called-judges" we are about to see how strong the checks are and how great the balance can be. It feels like an ugly fight.

The place I live inside the fight is strange. So many people I care about are tired, just so tired, of having to continually and perpetually fight for change. There is a perception on one side that change happens all the time, and it's easy, and their rights have been infringed upon because they don't like change that allows other people to do things, be things, become people that make them uncomfortable. A lot of the fear of change has to do with making others uncomfortable during their question for normalcy.

I think that is the ultimate fear of many who think of themselves as conservative. In reality, I really think there is a true belief that there is no racism, sexism or phobia at all. They want to have this thing that has been promoted to them as normal. A quite life, a good job, a pension, pretty children who grow up to be pretty adults who marry and provide pretty grandchildren so they can do it all over again. They want smiles and white picket fences, beer on Saturday, football on Sunday, missionary position on Sunday evening and do it all over again. This is normal. They want to be normal and they want this thing they think of as normal to exist and not be challenged. In order for their existence to be valid this thing called normal MUST exist.

The most terrifying thing of all could be the reality that what some so desperately want to hold up as the utopian standard of morality might not exist as they pictured. Can leathermen have pretty children and a white picket fence? Can a trans man with his wife have a job with a pension? Are there people who don't drink beer and don't have missionary position sex on Sunday who have good jobs, great jobs, great lives, take in the arts, understand a culture and appreciate the world outside of normal exist and be happy in their same world? If that is possible does that mean I now have to be gay, or trans, or kinky or something else to be normal!

There is kicking and screaming, like children, they think that in order for their normal to exist everyone must be just like them. Anything else is a violation of normal.

It reminds of Douglas Adams writing in Hitchhiker's Guide about Krikkit.


"At this point Arthur noticed a curious feature to the song that the party were singing. The middle eight bridge, which would have had McCartney firmly consolidated in Winchester and gazing intently over the Test Valley to the rich pickings of the New Forest beyond, had some curious lyrics. The songwriter was referring to meeting with a girl not "under the moon" or "beneath the stars" but "above the grass", which struck Arthur a little prosaic. Then he looked up again at the bewildering black sky, and had the distinct feeling that there was an important point here, if only he could grasp what it was. It gave him a feeling of being alone in the Universe, and he said so.

"No," said Slartibartfast, with a slight quickening of his step, "the people of Krikkit have never thought to themselves `We are alone in the Universe.' They are surrounded by a huge Dust Cloud, you see, their single sun with its single world, and they are right out on the utmost eastern edge of the Galaxy. Because of the Dust Cloud there has never been anything to see in the sky. At night it is totally blank, During the day there is the sun, but you can't look directly at that so they don't. They are hardly aware of the sky. It's as if they had a blind spot which extended 180 degrees from horizon to horizon.

"You see, the reason why they have never thought `We are alone in the Universe' is that until tonight they don't know about the Universe. Until tonight." He moved on, leaving the words ringing in the air behind him. "Imagine," he said, "never even thinking `We are alone' simply because it has never occurred to you to think that there's any other way to be." -Douglas AdamsLife the Universe and Everything

If you know the story, then you know that when the inhabitants of Krikkit discover not only that they are not alone, but what's more that there is a whole universe out there beyond the dust cloud, their reaction is not what you would call even-tempered.

"They flew out of the cloud. They saw the staggering jewels of the night in their infinite dust and their minds sang with fear. 

For a while they flew on, motionless against the starry sweep of the Galaxy, itself motionless against the infinite sweep of the Universe. 

And then they turned round. "It'll have to go," the men of Krikkit said as they headed back for home. 

On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms." -Douglas Adams, Life the Universe and Everything

Today, I feel as if there is some sort of sympatico between our modern conservitive movement and the people of Krikkit. Where the inhabitants of Krikkit went on to try to destroy the entire universe, I think there are many in the conservative movement who truly believe that with legislation, god and guns they can make normal happen again and they can stop being afraid of any hint of non-normal interest they must have. As if there normal simply cannot exist if there is an alternative.

While it may not end in galactic war, I wonder if we are entering a phase of true and serious escalation of violence as we witness a fight between a desperate desire to maintain something that has never existed and the reality that the universe exists and it is vast, untamed, and abnormal.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Dita Von Teese

Vaugely on an early morning facebook scroll I ran across an advertisement for a show that was upcoming. Dita Von Teese was on tour. I had recalled she toured a few years ago, but was under the impression she had hung up her pasties. I was pleased to see she would be hitting town again. 


In my haze I bought to tickets. I barely remembered the show was to take place on February 1st. Fortunately, my brain has never committed to an act of wanton debauchery and failed to remember it. I remembered it. 

Dita, aside from being an amazing performer, is someone I have a lot of respect for as an artist. she has gone out of her way to maintain copyrights of her images and her performances. The woman wants to get paid, and she should be, she does great work. So, I was sure I was in for at least a certain amount of delight to be attending. 

This show, unlike the Suicide Girls Burlesque, was a much more lavish affair. All the audience members came dressed in their best 1920's regale. So much hair in so many coiffed curls. So many men in tuxes with bowties. There were some dressed must as I was, in a more gothic splendor with corsets and dark eyes. There were the a few freaks, a few fags, a lot of lesbians and someone walking their date around on a leash. It was that sort of affair. 

Unlike my usual mode, I only had tickets for the GA bar, rather than getting something in a box. The crowd was large, but not so large that I couldn't see the stage and couldn't see dita in all her fine sparkly glory. 

I know Dita is a small woman, petite really, but somehow when she walked out on stage, completely lost in the shiniest sequins, she looked a thousand feet tall. She started with her most classic routine in the martini glass, with two handsome male back up dancers there to take away the trails of her garments as they left her flesh. 

Each piece revealing just a touch more of her white, flawless skin. She is a sculpture on stage. Resplendent. Big band music is her background, with large have brass, and she moves beautifully to catch each beat of it. The audience whoops and catcalls and we could be in 1900's France, all of drunk on wine and hedonism and giving in to a libertine bent. 

In that moment we lost the world outside and all it's darkness, revealing in a variety of bodies, of pretty girls and drag queens all working to entertain us. Sparkly lights shimming as much as the flesh that was dangled in front of us. It was moment were we all shared an appreciation of the human form as both angels and devils, saints and sinners. The music went from the catchy 20s brass to more reverential choir music, the announcer made us laugh stealing a kiss from a pretty girl. We were the best party. 

It was the only party. 

Dita knows how to put a party together. 

http://21stcenturyburlesque.com/dita-von-teese-tour-art-of-the-teese/

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

American Glass

I stood in front of American Window cast in blue and deep in thought for awhile. There were people coming and going all around me, annoyed by my persistence, standing there, watching, looking at the depth of blue, created by an artist, a visitor to America, someone who could love this country.

I follow the lines that tell a story of a country that is made up of immigrants and refugees. Broken lines fracture the surface at odd intervals.

Blue shining Lady Liberty is divided by dark streaks running off in a variety of directions.

Men dance and play violin.

Angels look on and smile.

The window is American chaos a perfect expression of the fault lines, divisions, but also the entire whole of this place I was born in.

America is blue today. Fragile, breakable. Today we live in a country constructed of American glass.

Tempered.

Broken.

Distracted.

Blue.