THE SAD SEASON

January, for many folks  in the northern part of the globe at least, is a depressing slog, a dreary return to normalcy after the forced cheer of the holidays.  The number on the year clock clicks ahead and we’re thrust into full winter, slightly refreshed from our new year’s vows, though made to reckon with the realities of life.  Many folks hate this collection of days, but the fact that my birthday lies in the dead center of the month has always brightened it up for me, though, now that I’m getting older, the time will come when a birthday is no longer a source of happiness, but rather a cause for alarm.  But January no longer means what is used to for me.  That was changed in 2008 and then 2009, when both my parents left us, less than a year apart.  This bleak month lived up to its reputation.

Today is the third anniversary of my mom’s death.  Three years ago today I was back in America after a mad pan-Asian rush to get to her bedside in time (I was on Thailand’s Koh Chang when I received the news that her hours were numbered).  And luck was with me (luckily), for I got there while she still lived, though she was unconscious and diminished not just in limb (she had lost both legs some months before), but also in spirit.  She slipped away a literal forty-five minutes after my arrival in her room, which can attributed to chance, but I’d like to think she was holding out for me.

My dad died less than a year before her; I was roused from sleep by a frantically buzzing phone and summoned home at once.  It was on that day that I discovered I could be out my door and on the ground in Seattle just a bit over sixteen hours.  Not bad.  I had gotten to my dad in time, as well.  I was afraid that he would die while I was in the air (a fear shared when I came home for mom), but he had narrowly cheated death the night before, and now had a breathing tube doing the work for him.  The morning after I arrived we gathered by his bedside while a nurse inched the tube out.  He briefly came to and attempted contact with his family – face-to-face, eye-to-eye – who now held hands and encircled his bed.  Soon it became apparent that he was getting little or no air; he thrashed like a fish in a boat.  Pain. They immediately threw a heap of morphine his way which vanquished his agony and sent him into what looked like a very deep and peaceful slumber.  He was gone within the hour.

I knew my parents weren’t well.  I knew that they could go at any time, but to lose both in less than a year – just days apart by date – scrambles my thoughts and causes my head to shake, even now, as I type.

So January is different now.  It will always be the sad season, the month when we lost both of them.  I even buried my mom on my birthday, while gut-punchingly sad, was one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me.  It was strangely appropriate.

I’ve been in Korea long enough to adopt some of the local customs.  My fiance has taught me the basics of the 제사 (“jae-sa” the Korean ancestral rite), which we’ve adapted to our own tastes, sort of a “퓨전 제사” (fusion jae-sa), as it were.  We’ve been cooking all day and will present the food on an altar of sorts, along with candles, flowers, and a photo of the folks.  After some bowing and talking to my parents’ spirits, we’ll eat and drink and remember them the best we can.  It helps to keep the memory alive, for memories, like anything unused, atrophy and eventually break down.

I won’t ever let that happen, mom and dad.

This is a promise.

 

 

Advertisements

THE HOLE

We do this silly comedy open mike once-a-month. It’s on tomorrow, and always a hoot:

Did I mention that it’s in Korea? If you would have told me ten years ago that I’d one day be doing comedy in Korea, I would have asked you what kind of meth you were shooting and demanded a hit.

FURTHER PROOF

It’s been an interesting day for the Americans with all the money:

The New York Times reports that the US ranks at the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to social mobility. Evidently this is most pronounced at the top and the bottom, where the rich protect their wealth, and the poor remain trapped.

Well fuck me and call me Susan. So much for the “American Dream.” Can’t say I’m so surprised.

But fear not: the MEGA-RICH are doing better than ever. According to another study, of the world’s richest 1%, Americans make up HALF.

I don’t know whether to cheer or stab myself in the neck.

AND WE’RE OFF

It’s cold. I just walked for an hour and a half outside and froze my sack off, but I do live in Korea and it is winter, so this is to be expected. I’m trying to walk as much as possible to stave-off the lingering specter of fat bastard-dom, but I come from chunky people and age is taking its toll. But don’t they say that we burn more calories in freezing temperatures? I still don’t like it, though. Give me a treadmill in a warm gym any day, where I can putz about like a hamster on a Habitrail and watch CNN. I fucking hate CNN, but it is supposedly news, and it is in English. I have managed to become conversant in the local tongue over the seven-plus years I have called this ol’ port city home, but that doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near fluent, so English-y news is a must. Plus I’m old and stuck in my ways. And East Asian languages are really really hard.

So… that was my opening salvo for the new and improved HOMELY PLANET, otherwise known as SHOWBIZ CENTRAL. I started this blog in 2004 when I was a fresh-faced pup – just washed up on the rocky shores if this ancient peninsula. I was bursting with energy and enthusiasm, regularly spewing forth posts about the pepper-paste covered cuisine and bizarre contents of the street markets and the alleys and the classroom and nightly sessions of drowning myself in the country’s cheap, formaldehyde-laced lager. This blog became an outlet for the civil war brewing inside me, and guess what? Some people liked it. It never became super popular or garnered the respect of the expat blog douche-ocracy based up in Seoul, but I had plenty of readers and the comment threads alone became a kick in the pants.

But then something happened… the blog atrophied. I started writing for other venues, and then began work on my book, Dispatches from the Peninsula, (Buy it!!!) which I am fervently pimping here. So I stopped posting as much. I also kind of ran out of things to say about Korea. The place stopped being weird on a daily basis. Sure, sometimes I’d emerge from a state-of-the-art subway station only to find a 90-year-old woman selling a pile of tree bark and three dead octopus just meters from the entrance, but Korea just became a place where I lived. Home. I had squeezed the sponge for all it was worth.

I also noticed that the site which hosted my blog, Livejournal, had begun to decay from the inside out. Today the place it little more than a maggot-eaten carcass. Most all of my “friends” bolted eons ago, and the posts that show up on my “friends’ list” are dominated by another expat dude who puts up 17 posts a day obsessing on Lindsey Lohan and TV shows that I will never, ever watch. My blog has been on life support over there for the past year and a half, and it’s now time to pull the plug. Calling Dr. Kevorkian! Oh wait… he died this year… but unlike all of his patients, his passing was entirely unassisted.

So, here I am, making one more stab at it. I like writing, and moreover, I like writing for an audience, which is what blogging is all about, no? I don’t really know how to build an audience at this site, other than to whore it out on facebook. But, hell, I’ll do whatever it takes.

Thanks for reading. Y’all come back now, y’hear?