Month: March 2014

Come Again

It always helps to speak the language. Except when it hurts.


A few years ago, I came down with a bit of jock itch, and it got to the point where I needed something to treat it. I didn’t know the Korean word for jock itch, so I looked it up, but the best that my old Essence dictionary could do was mujeom, which means “athlete’s foot”. Same thing, I thought, and headed to the pharmacy.

pharmacyI walked in and the pharmacist greeted me in Korean, “Oseo osaeyo.” He was a man of about fifty, smiling meekly and leaning slightly forward in rapt attention. From his demeanor I sensed that his whole being was at that moment focused on comprehending whatever was about to come out of my mouth, and he seemed to be expecting trouble. Learning Korean has repaid the effort many times over, and though I’m not fluent, I speak it well enough to more than handle a simple transaction like this. As I stood at that counter, I felt a familiar flash of satisfaction from knowing that I was about to make both this guy’s life and mine a little bit easier.

“I have athlete’s foot,” I said in Korean. “Here,” I added, pointing to my crotch.

The pharmacist glanced down and then back at my eyes. He said nothing, cocked his head slightly and leaned a bit more forward.

“Here,” I said. I squatted and spread my knees a little to expose my inner thighs, and I swirled both index fingers in large circles over the affected areas. “Mujeom.”

He showed no sign of comprehension and just stood there squinting and blinking. I had assumed that athlete’s foot and jock itch were one and the same thing, just in different locations, but it seemed that part of me had harbored a germ of uncertainty – otherwise I suppose I would have just asked for athlete’s foot cream and left it there.

Now his confusion had nurtured that uncertainty into full-blown doubt. Maybe athlete’s foot and jock itch aren’t really the same thing, I thought.  If they’re the same,” athlete’s foot” should have rung some kind of bell, right? There might be a specific medicine for jock itch.  Maybe I should explain.

“Actually, it isn’t athlete’s foot,” I said, “but it’s similar to athlete’s foot.” I paused to let that sink in.jock-itch

Still nothing.

“ It’s very itchy,” I said, trying to be as descriptive as I could. I winced and pantomimed vigorously scratching my groin.

The pharmacist continued to stare at me, squinting so intensely that it was hard to say whether he was smiling any more. This isn’t working, I thought, and I began searching for another way to explain myself. From experience, I knew that Korean health professionals often command a large vocabulary of English medical terms, sometimes even to the exclusion of nearly every other feature of the English language. I’ve met nurses who struggled to ask me my name and age, but were able to confidently gather whether I was suffering from “watery diarrhea” or “painful urination.” Another time a young doctor was showing me a magnified slide of my blood on a large monitor. He expertly named everything we were looking at, but when he tried to sum up the big picture in layman’s terms he told me that I “have the blood of the average bad person.” To be fair, I knew exactly what he meant.

Even though jock itch isn’t a medical term, it couldn’t hurt to try. “In English, it’s called  jock itch,” I said, pronouncing the word clearly. “Do you know jock itch?”

Anio.” Nope.

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The fungus is among us!

“How about fungus?” I asked, again saying the English word very clearly. When that didn’t register I even tried pronouncing it the way a Korean might mispronounce it: pun-gus-euh. He shook his head.

Damn it. It would have helped to look up fungus before coming, but I was sure that mujeom would do the trick. And fungus isn’t one of those words that one just happens to know. It’s not like you often encounter it in daily conversations or in the practice dialogues in Korean textbooks, in which a concerned Mr. Park asks his sullen colleague, “What’s the matter, Mr. Kim?”

Kim: I am sick.
Park: Oh, really? Did you catch a cold?
Kim: No. Frankly speaking, it is a fungus.
Park: That’s too bad! You’d better go the hospital and take a rest.


I racked my brain but the closest word to fungus I could come up with was beoseot, which means “mushroom”. I knew it was a long shot, but I pointed to my crotch again, and in my best Korean, said, “Here is a mushroom-like thing.”

The pharmacist’s eyes widened.

“Mushroom-killing medicine – do you have it? This mushroom-like thing, I want to kill it.”

The pharmacist closed his eyes and quickly waved both hands in front of his face as if he were not only saying no but trying to manually erase me from his world. Only penis-mushroomafter the words were out of my mouth did it occur to me that a penis resembles a mushroom, and that he may have interpreted those sentences in profoundly disturbing ways.

Whatever he made of it, it was clear that he wanted no part in any sort of mushroom killing, so I gave up and asked the question I should have asked him three long minutes ago:

“Do you have just athlete’s foot medicine?”

He spun to his right, and from the shelves there plucked a small box, and slid it across the counter. I paid and thanked him, and as I walked out with my hard-won relief, I heard him say over my shoulder “Please come again,” more out of habit than anything else.

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There’s a Riot Goin’ On!!!

A TALE OF THREE CITIES: BANGKOK, SEOUL, and WASHINGTON D.C.

by Ralph Karst

(all photographs by Ralph Karst)

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On my way to spend a few weeks in India with Eli Toast, I stopped for a few days in Thailand. My arrival in the Land of Smiles coincided with the latest episode in the long-running farce/tragedy known as Thai democracy. For the past several months, Thailand has been wracked with protests, mostly centered in Bangkok, the country’s capital and overwhelmingly largest city.

I was staying in the Sukhumvit Avenue area, up near the Nana intersection. Anybody who has been down there will attest that the streets, sidewalks and intersections of Sukhumvit Ave. certainly don’t need any extra help in the “vibrant and colorful” department. Any day—morning, noon and night—that street is a steamy, rollicking carnival of commerce and confusion. Tourists and expats from dozens of countries jostle with locals amid the food carts, street stalls, trinket peddlers, and sidewalk bars, with non-stop taxis, tuk-tuks and buses roaring by, and the Skytrain rumbling through on elevated tracks overhead. Come sundown, and the city’s notorious sex trade switches on the neon lights and takes up its seedy strut. Faster, Sukhumvit, Kill! Kill!

So imagine adding to this heady mix a healthy dose of political protests—a whiff of revolution, even. One morning, I exited my hotel to witness a ramshackle parade of pickup trucks, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks, most of them decked-out with Thai flags and packed with boisterous Thais, most of whom were blowing whistles, shouting, waving, and fist-pumping.

This wasn’t unexpected—I knew from The Bangkok Post that this was the day that the protests were scheduled to fan out from the Democracy Monument near Khao Sahn Road to a number of strategic intersections throughout the city, where they would stop traffic and set up “Occupy”-style encampments. The nearest targeted intersection to me was Asok—a massive crossroads that had a Skytrain stop, a subway stop, a number of large hotels and shopping centers, and was near the entrance to Soi Cowboy, one of the prime go-go bar areas.

After breakfast, I walked down to Asok to check out the scene, not really knowing what to expect. Well, the intersection was closed down, alright. A tent city had sprung up, food stalls and “Shut Down Bangkok!” souvenir vendors were everywhere. A huge concert stage replete with big video screens was going up. Clearly, this protest had some money behind it. Barricades were set-up in all four directions. Police were nowhere in sight. Tourists, me included, were not turned away or discouraged at all from walking into the protest site. At first I observed it all overhead from the Skytrain station and overpass, but soon I walked down and went through the barricade passes without anybody giving me a second glance. Things were obviously just getting started, but the whole thing had a cheery, festive atmosphere. There had been violence elsewhere in the city in the previous weeks, but the word was that the cops (and military) were going to let the protesters do their thing for the time being. The protest movement had pledged not to disrupt the Skytrain, subway, or the airports—can’t mess with flow of tourist dollars, after all.

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That evening, I walked down again. Soi Cowboy was open for business as usual—a kaleidoscope of neon and Thai go-go girls and sex tourists and pumping music and Wayne fucking Rooney on the TV screens everywhere. Yet where Soi Cowboy met the main Asok road, there was now a full-on rally going on, with the intersection jammed with thousands of protesters. Frankly, it didn’t seem that political. It was more like a big open-air concert / block party. There were traditional Thai dancers, B-boy dance crews, folk singers, etc., but occasionally a speaker would get up and whip the crowd into a frenzy of deafening whistle-blowing with some fiery rhetoric, the huge speakers and video screens carrying his voice and image hundreds of meters out in all four directions of the intersection.
As I said, it was a peaceful gathering, and I saw many foreigners gawking, walking to and fro, snapping pics, and filming. Still, I imagined what this and the other occupied intersections were doing to the city’s notoriously awful traffic jams. A few times after the “Occupy” thing kicked off, I took the Skytrain down Sukhumvit, and the normally moderately packed train cars now featured almost neutron star levels of density. I couldn’t fathom what the traffic was like in the areas closest to the rerouted, shutdown intersections. As peaceful and festive as things seemed, these folks were definitely fucking things up. The day before I left for India, this amazing thought wandered through my mind: “Whew! I’m glad I’m flying to Kolkata to escape this craziness!”

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The roots of the current Thai turmoil are complex; you can read about it elsewhere, but I’ll try to nutshell it: Thailand’s social and economic elite (which is to say, Bangkok’s elite) are at loggerheads with the current Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Shinawatra is the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was booted by a military coup and convicted of various corruption charges by the Thai Supreme Court, and who now lives in exile in the U.K. The Shinawatra family are seen to have bought their way into power courtesy of their family’s fabulously huge business wealth, which they have allegedly spread around Thailand’s poor northern and eastern areas into to buy influence and votes. New elections are scheduled shortly, but the protesters believe that the Shinawatra clan will just rig it again by basically bribing the poor(er) rural majority to vote for them. The protesters want to delay the election by several months, and in the meantime, reconfigure the National Assembly not with elected officials, but with appointed figures representing various professions. This results in the paradoxical position of the people actually crying out for less democracy, not more.

So, as I enjoyed a leisurely walkabout the Indian sub-continent with Mr. Toast, I pondered the Thailand political mess, comparing it with the landscape back in South Korea, and in my homeland of America. Which country’s politics are more fucked up? Let’s take a look!

South Korea has its notorious brawling National Assembly; a current president who’s the daughter of the former military dictator who was assassinated; a recent election featuring charges of the country’s spy agency filling internet chat-rooms with pro-Park Geun-hye/anti-Moon Jae-in messages; the inevitable shoddy cover-up of said spy scandal; a recent former president who, under bribery investigation, killed himself by jumping off a cliff; and a fringe left-wing party who was caught on tape plotting sabotage to aid a North Korean invasion. Oh, and the President’s press secretary basically sexually assaulted a Korean-American press assistant during the President’s first state visit to the U.S. Not bad! Can you top that, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea?

Well, America only features a government that recently shut itself down over a few ticks of increases or decreases in taxation and spending. Plus we have a current opposition party who have openly declared that their only agenda is to make the current president fail, badly, by opposing everything he proposes from major policy overhauls to nominees for dog catcher. We increasingly have elections that many see are wholly illegitimate—sometimes with good reason (2000, Bush vs. Gore), and sometimes without (Obama vs. the “birther” nut jobs). Republican state legislators in swing states like Florida and Ohio continuously vie to pass election laws designed to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic. On top of that, our calendar is studded with gun massacres in schools and movie theaters that mostly result in—less strict gun control laws!

And Thailand? Well, in addition to the above-mentioned chaos, I’ll give you one fact to sum it all up: since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, it has had by some counts, 11 successful and 9 attempted coups. Welcome to Thailand—it’s coup-rific!

In looking at these three countries, what strikes me as key factor is the level of economic polarization. Thailand has allowed itself to become a country where wealth and power is overwhelmingly centered in its capital city, to the detriment of the majority rural poor. For all of the current “Occupy Bangkok!” protestors’ cries of corruption in the current government, international corruption indexes and watchdogs have found that Thailand hasn’t become any more or less corrupt with the Shinawatra regime. Really, it boils down to the rich, well-connected elite bristling at the effrontery that the rural poor might, you know, actually vote for people who want to help them.

South Korea might seem, on the surface, to be similar. Like Bangkok, Seoul holds about a quarter of the country’s population. South Korea’s politics, media, entertainment and arts are overwhelmingly based in Seoul. If you live in any other city for a period of time, you will see the brain drain as talented people, especially young college grads, in any given field, gravitate toward Seoul and its suburbs.

However, it’s not quite so simple. South Korea, of course, with its export-oriented heavy industry and electronics, has created a huge middle class, a middle class that rose up and banished the military dictatorship once and for all in the late 1980s. Park Chung-hee, whatever his faults may have been (and he had many), spread the truck around quite a bit. Pohang has POSCO. Ulsan has Haeundae shipbuilding. Busan has the country’s biggest port. Samsung has factories all around the country. Korea’s 2nd tier cities (Busan, Incheon, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju) and even 3rd-tier cities (Cheonan, Gumi, Suwon, Jeonju, etc.) don’t feature the vast differentiation in development and infrastructure that you see between Bangkok and everywhere else in Thailand. In Thailand, after Bangkok (8 million city, 14 million metro area) the next biggest city is Nonthaburi, at about 250,000. That’s a continental shelf-level drop-off.

Americans—we like to shake our heads at the apocalyptic scenes popping up on CNN: snipers picking off civilians in the Maidan in the Ukraine, rows of nerve-gassed corpses in Syria, burning buildings in Tahir Square, Cairo. America’s greatest assets are its transparent (relatively) economic, political, and legal system, and its political stability. Transfers of power are democratically determined and accepted as legitimate.

And yet,frankly—and incredibly—I feel it’s America, not South Korea, that has the greatest danger of experiencing Thailand-style upheaval in the near future. All economic evidence points to a huge and accelerating inequality gap in the U.S. Since the 1970s, each economic crisis seems to have re-jiggered the system increasingly in favor of the rich and against the poor. Obama has tried to make this a salient issue, but the Republicans have so hobbled him in the budget wars that any kind of massive social spending to address gaps in either opportunity or outcomes are well nigh impossible. The political, social, and cultural cracks are widening, the rancor and bitterness in our political discourse is becoming more noxious than I can recall.

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Economists have demonstrated that income inequality leads to inefficiency. I won’t delve into their arguments, but on the surface, the idea makes sense. Which is better if you’re making, say, $500,000 a year—paying an extra $10,000 a year in taxes to help pay for better schools and affordable health care for all, or paying $100,000 for private school for your kids, bodyguards, home security systems, guns, and kidnapping insurance? Republicans love to say that Obama and the Dimmycrats want to turn the U.S. into Greece. Well, how about not turning us into Venezuela, Republicans?

O.K., pop quiz, hotshot! I just got back from vacation from a country riven by political, social and economic polarization. It is a country where recent elections have been seen as fraudulent and illegitimate by many. Major intersections and public spaces were recently occupied by protestors for periods of weeks. Violence has been increasing—several have been killed already—and worse violence is thought by many to be inevitable. Where was I?
(A) Ukraine
(B) Syria
(C) Thailand
(D) America

The answer, depressingly, is not so easy, is it?

March Madness

by Pablo Harris

010 or 051. All calls he ever received here always began with these prefixes. So when 006-180-9951-0299 flashed on the vibrating LG in his palm, he didn’t quite know what to think. 006 followed by eleven other digits he didn’t recognize? It  must be from abroad. Thinking the worst, he was expecting to hear some tragic news from back home. Why else would anyone call direct from the US to the ROK?

“Excuse me, I got to take this, Babe,” pardoning himself before stepping through the heady smoke of grilled flesh and cigarettes and the maze of low-lying tables to the door.

*  *  *

“Hello?”

Odelay, Pablocito! Pinche cabron! You should be here. Fuck.”

“Big T, no way! What the, I mean, of course there’s the emails and the Skypes but no one has ever called me from the States. I didn’t think, other than Moms, didn’t think that anyone had my number.”

“You can run but you can’t hide, cabron. You may have dodged a bullet here or there, ran from Bad Michelle, evaded the IRS, but not from us vato.”

“Alright, ha, shit, man. Well, how you doin’? What’s happening?”

“I’m fuckin’ good, brotha. Well, other than some serious fuzz and shampoo effect going on after last night, having fun, man. I got so buzzed out last night couldn’t even count to 21 anymore, would just stare at the shoe waiting for it to shuffle again and make that kind sound. You know that fffllit-ffflliit-ffflliit-ffflliit-ffflliit-flit.Vegas1.jpg

“Oh, yeah, you must be in Vegas for Hutty’s bachelor party, huh?”

“Hell yeah, man. And you should fucking be here, too!”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway, son a bitch man, pit boss came over and asked me to leave. Sucked because we had the whole wedding party on this table. Byrdie, Worm, Chunk, Lung-er, Raj, having a good time, man. Raj is all suited up, clawing at anything that passed by, bringing bitches over to party with us, pretending he’s all Vince Vaughn Swingers and shit. You know how that guy is. He’s a jackass but he knows how to do it up and damnit if he doesn’t smoke some righteous weed. And he paid for last night’s entertainment.”

“True. Wait, what was last night’s entertainment? Where’d you go; Déjà Vu, Olympic Gardens, or my favorite, Spearmint Rhino?”

“Nah, man, in house! We got the Vagitarian Delight delivered up to Hutty’s suite, two of ‘em.”

“There were two of them? Damnit! I thought Hutty insisted on no strippers at the bachelor party?”

“Come on, man, you think Raj is going to let that fly. No dice, Chino. And, shit man, you would have loved one of them. Red hair, kind of petite, natural, came in wearing glasses-”

“You’re making this up.”

“Nah, man, truth. I’ll send you a picture. You can find her ad online. Her name is Ginger, of course.”

“What about the other one?”

“Uh, she was ahh-ight. Good, good enough. You wouldn’t have liked her, though. Blonde, tanned, nice body, big fake tits, a little butterfly tramp stamp, of course. Your average SoCal/Vegas slut. I forget what her name was, something like Jasmine or Devin. But, what the fuck man, where the fuck are you?”

“Um, uh, just finishing up lunch, in this town called Geoje, driving back home. Where you at exactly?”

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“Where am I? Come on, man, it’s Saturday night in March. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten? Where your shit began, where you should be now, where you taught us all how to gamble, how to drink, cocktail waitresses, hooker shoes, all the important shit in life, man.  Caesar’s sportsbook, Bitch!”

“Uh, nice.”25madn600.1.jpg

“Chuck you, Farley, you don’t even know. Nice? Damn, what’s happened to you? It’s Saturday, Caesar’s man, sportsbook! It’s March Madness here, man. There’s games ‘til like midnight, mad action, and they’re running late at Hollywood Park tambien. I know you like them ponies. On one side of the ‘book 30 screens. We got UNC, UCLA, Duke, ‘Zags, ‘Zona, and everybody is going crazy for every Butler basket, looking for another Cinderella. On the other side is that ding-a-ding-ding, ‘And they’re off!, ‘And down the stretch they come!’ Your peoples, all hunched over little desks drinking scotch and bloodies, crunching numbers. Old men jumping around with rolled up newspapers in their hands, shaking their fists; it’s magic I tell you. We’re all looking to cash that ticket, man. Your peoples looking for the Daily Deuce.”

“That would be the Daily Double.”

“Right. What did I say?

“Daily Deuce.”

“Right. Shit. Like my parlay this afternoon. But that’s ok, we still got a dozen games to go. I’m going to cash out a parlay today, hit the tables, then, fuck. Raj is pushing for us to go to one of them gay ass clubs, but whatever, he’s getting the cover. Anyway, what are you doing? Where are you?”

“Geoje.”

“What’s a Geoje?”

“It’s this little island in the south. Ellie and I came down here for the weekend, get out of our claustrophobic little town for a while.”

“Ellie’s that girl you mentioned before, right? That China girl you work with?”

“Yes, my Korean teaching assistant.”

“Teaching assistant? Your teaching assistant butters your corn? That’s some Mad Men shit, yo. That doesn’t sound so bad, I guess. But still, you should be here. Oh Shit! I didn’t tell you the best part about last night, the kind deal, the 1-3-5.”

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“What’s the 1-3-5?”

“After the double-dong show, you know, a la Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream, these girls offer to go back to our rooms if anyone is interested in a ‘1-3-5’: one hundred for a hand job, three for a blow, five for a bang.”

“What did you opt for?”

“The do-it-yourself with help from the spank bank.”

“What? What are you doing in Vegas then, man? You should go to Yellowstone if all you want is Old Faithful. Terrible.”

“Ha-Ha-Ha, Pablo, but I’ll tell you what’s terrible; you should be here. You should’ve been at this bachelor party last night and you should be standing next to your boy in this wedding coming up, man. You know it’s true. Fuck, now I’m getting pissed.”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t. If you know, then why the fuck are you over there?”

“Look, can we talk about this later? I got to go, we got to get back on the road, get home.”

“This is your home, Bitch!”

“Hey, have fun out there, bro, but take it easy. I don’t want to hear that you ended up in the drunk tank out by McCarron like the last time.”

“Take it easy? Are you kidding me? You, of all people, are telling me to take it easy? For nearly 20 years I’ve had to fireman carry your drunk ass out of parties, out of bars. Or keep frat boys from pounding your face because you’re playing grab-ass with their ladies. Or had to put up with your moping ass on my couch for months every time you left your old lady and – “

“Yeah, well, maybe that’s why I left.”

“Or maybe you left because you are too much of a pussy to get a real job and tough it out like the rest of us. You want to teach some Chinaman’s kids instead of your Godson. Or your friends’ kids back home, whatever, man. I got your back whatever you want to do, do what you got to do, but don’t forget where your home is, who you’re talking to, and tell me to take it easy.”

“You’re right. I apologize. Have fun. I should’ve left it at that.”

“Damn right, I’m right.”

“Look, I got to go. Thanks for calling. It’s good to hear you all are together, having a good time. Say what up to the guys for me, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, halftime’s over anyway. I guess I’ll talk to you later, Paul.”

*  *  *

He lit a cigarette, took a few long, deep drags, before chucking it down onto the pavement in frustration. No one ever called him by his Christian name. Walking back inside the galbi joint, he feigned a smile to the supple young woman sitting cross-legged on a straw mat, beaming up at him.

“Who was that?”

“My buddy Big T.”

“Cool! Is he coming to visit?”

“Um, uh, I don’t know.”

“I hope so. I hope your best friend comes to visit and I get to meet him. You talk about him so much I feel like I already know him. How is he?”

“Fine.”

“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah.”

“You sure? You .  .  .”

“I said I’m fine.”

“Well, I hope you said hi for me?”

“Why would I do that? You’ve never met him, he’s never met you. What’s the point? Why would I say ‘hi’ for you?”

“I just thought that . . . after this weekend . . . I just thought that . . .”

“Thought what?”

“I thought that we were . . . After this weekend . . . We spent the weekend in Geoje together . . . The two of us . . . I guess I thought . . .”294787_120103112430128_STD.jpg

She slunk her head in her lap for a few seconds before springing up and rushing out the door. He threw back his glass of Hite, grabbed the check and paid the ajumma. He met Ellie at the rented sedan and they drove off. Silently they crossed the bridge to the mainland, her virtue left behind on the island, sunk in a seaside love motel. And his confidence, the certainty which he once had when he made the decision to pass on a sure thing, when he decided to fold a winning hand and throw in all the cards in for another draw, abruptly jolted and rattled. The gilding of an inchoate engagement which should have held its luster at least through the spring was now irreparably chipped and tarnished. Silently, they headed for home.

Until They Bleed

By Eli Toast

When I left Ralph at the bus station his mien was one of resigned disappointment with the way things had panned out. He was going back to a different part of Asia and I was boarding a train heading south the same evening. I took a rickshaw to the train station and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the driver about our families and life trajectories. At the train station I sat and waited like everyone else, all of us looking nauseously green beneath the platform’s droning sodium bulbs.

Standing there on the platform as the train arrived I looked down at the tracks and noticed a cinnamon colored splat of diarrhea on top of a used maxi-pad. It was demonically gross. I watched as the skeletal mongrel pups that lived off the meager scrapings of a South-Indian-train-station-diet tried to focus their muzzles in on the invisible skein of effluvia that was no-doubt coiling upward from that sickening  stack of waste.

I boarded the train rattled and lonely, longing for the familiar stupidity of home.

Inside the train was stale and close. My bed for the night was the middle berth, easily the worst one. Another fresh bruise on my abused morale. No sheet, blanket, or pillow, merely a vinyl cushion en-slickened with involuntary night-sweat and be-smirched with the type of compacted grime that collects under one’s fingernails. I slept poorly and awoke to the unnecessary banter of a set of superfluous Australians; my feet ravaged by bed bugs. By 9am nearly everyone on the train had disembarked at Bangalore. I sat alone in my cabin reading a Harper’s magazine Ralph had given me, occasionally staring out the window only to see old men taking shits and dead horses covered in carrion fowl.

At some point a weird, gay, Indian kid slinked into my cabin and started talking to me about some stupid shit; I don’t know, some gay-code thing, clearly trying to get fresh with me.

“I don’t mean to be rude man, but I just wanna read this,” lifting the magazine, “here, by myself.”

He left, which was good, because I despised him.

When I arrived in Mysore I allowed a rickshaw driver to take me to a hotel of his choosing (major rookie mistake, but I was a bit out of sorts) that paid him a commission. I accepted a lousy room, for double what it was worth, that stank of reluctantly agreed upon sodomy.

It was hot when I stepped out for lunch. On my way a small Indian man wearing a belt that wrapped around him one and a half times approached me offering some friendly advice. I tried to ignore him by walking faster and making graceless walking choices: one foot on the curb, the other in the gutter, weirdly passing a group of women by skipping sideways… Finally, the nice man barked: “Why are you running from me? We are not dogs! Indian people are not dogs! You don’t need to treat me like that!”

“Look man, I got shit to do. My job is to take care of that. Your job is to not help me do it!”

And I left him in my dust (I feel ashamed about how I treated this guy. I didn’t get the sense he was trying to scam me, and even if he was, it’s hard to begrudge a man for trying to make a few ducats).

I sat down at some shitty Cafe mentioned in the Lonely Planet called the Parkland (or whatever) and ordered–get this–the “Chicken Macaroni” off the “Continental” section of the menu. It actually wasn’t that bad, but the heat of the first spoonful triggered a gnarly toothache in a problematic molar. No fucking way am I getting dental work done here. I ordered a large Extra-Strong Kingfisher beer and when it was finished I had splitting headache.

I went back to my hotel room to take a nap but the racket from the overhead fan in concert with the bedlam from the street below didn’t allow it. So I ended up just staring at the ceiling and scratching my feet until they bled.