If you’re a wanderlusty one-man traveling flea circus-like I am, then I know how you feel right now.
You’ve dropped your goddamn marbles on an ice-cold tiled floor and you’re wearing shorts and have to frozenly erode your knee ligaments to kowtow across each corner of the tiled floor to pick up each marble just so you can collect them, put them back in your brain jar, and drop them again cause you’re a butterfinger sad sack who never could hold on to shit even if stuck to your fingers.
Yes, the past month has been a rough ride for everyone. My heart truly goes out to everyone who is fighting or has a friend or loved one who is struggling right now. Perhaps the best solution would be to indulge in some fishbait hallucinogen that would knock you out until all this blows over. But since nothing exists and since we’re upstanding citizens that like our hallucinogens shaken, not debilitating, we shall have to search for other means of entertainment.
So to distract you while doing the same for myself, I figured I would indulge in a bit of tippy tapping on my keyboard to teach you how my non-stop traveler soul has kept itself from imploding under social-distancing measures.
Step 1: Read a Fuckin’ Book
It gives me some sort of egotistical pleasure to believe I came out the womb quipping literary bullets better than Billy Shakespeare. Even after 24 years of unending breath in my lungs I still can’t write for the most basic Punk Zines or nonsense filled travel blogs. Luckily millions of beautiful minds have honed their craft to create spellbinding literature that will engage and delight your quarantine time even after sustaining the withdrawal onsets of Tiger King and La Casa de Papel.
Yes, the blanched tree sheets can keep you entertained for the long-haul, my caged birdies. No other measure of self-reflection and initiative can promote the soul and strengthen it quite like hallucinating while your eyes interpret ink scribbles on a piece of dead tree pulp.
What am I reading to keep from going crazy? Luckily we can kill two birds with one stone by reading travel novels. It’s a similar teasing sensation as reading an erotic novel except you learn more and you don’t moisten your sweetbreads reading it. Let’s explore some notable titles of mind exploration to pique your interest, otherwise, skip to Number 2:
Paul Theroux, Riding the Iron Rooster
If you’ve read Paul before there’s a chance that you hated him. His pervasive pessimism and ability to see the dreariest of a situation make some turn away and poopoo each page. Yes, he can focus on the muck of society and basks in its armpit stains to craft prose with its grotesque fungus infected toenail. But his humor and wit have always impressed me, and I’m somehow been able to find so much pleasure in his discontent.
A professor once told me that great writers should make their readers think “…are they okay? Should…should I call someone?” If the answer is yes then you’re good to go, give me my medal Mr. Nobel. What would an Ernest Hemingway book be without the niggling thought in the back of your head of “will his liver filter sufficiently enough to guide the final pen stroke of this novel?” What would an Oscar Wilde novel be without worrying about Oscar’s painfully gay existence in horrendously Catholic Ireland? Maybe I’m reading into the situation but I like to know the face behind the scribbles. Paul works the same way for me. If I read his books and worry about his butt getting sore and his intestines properly digesting bat stew then I’m a happy reader.
For me, Paul traveling around China post-economic reform and opening up in 1989 was intoxicating. I’ve experienced a whole lotta Hong Kong and a lil bit of Beijing but it was enough to make me fetishize traveling around China to see all of its nooks and crannies. And Paul saw it all. Each dirty corner, every face having to live with the consequences of the cultural revolution, and the in-depth definitions of each and every different meaning behind a Chinese laugh. This is the third book I’ve read from Paul and by far my favorite. A year’s worth of stories in one of the most mysterious lands kept me riveted from page 1 to 480whatever.
Yukio Mishima, Death in Midsummer
I’m an avid horror/gore movie buff but this book was the first time tree pulp sheets have turned my face green. Yukio’s a crazy guy. Look him up. You’ll find a picture of a Japanese man shredded more than a pulled pork school lunch posing with a samurai sword in a thong or making an ice-cold face while sporting a badass leather jacket. Then take out your pocket fan and cool off your sweltering brow while licking your moistened lips once twice and maybe even three times. I’ll wait.
I’ll be real with you ramblers, I’m 99.99% sure I’m not gay…but maybe that’s because I frequented the wrong Japanese bathhouses back in the 1950s. He’d never take me anyway though because he was a fucking crazy person, and it shows in his writing. Death in Midsummer is a collection of beautifully composed short stories, each one beautifully composed like a cherry blossom falling daintily into a passing mountain stream. Patriotism is a gut bending short about a young army general that commits seppuku with his obedient wife to defend his honor. The description of the suicide is beautiful in its sublimity, and horrifying in its grotesquely beautiful details. There’s even a pretty little black and white short film starring Yukio himself, so go and check it out when you need a break.
Anyway, Yukio was a nationalist that was devoted to reinstating the Japanese Emporer as an all-powerful leader of Japan. He made a hyper-nationalist political group and captured a military base in a sort of coup d’etat with his little army boy toy buddies. When they took the commanding officer as a hostage, they appealed to the soldiers to take up arms and fight to restore the glory of Japan by bringing absolute power back to the Japanese Emperor (long may he reign), but when the soldiers more or less laughed him off and continued to chain-smoke their cigarettes, Yukio committed a botched and bloodied seppuku by the hand of his (possibly) former lover who could not properly decapitate him. Hardcore.
But Yukio was a beautiful soul regardless, and he’s one of those Japanese authors that creates so much perfection in different mediums that it makes the rest of us look like subway rats gnawing on a rotten diaper. Writer, actor, playwright, model, thong-wearing swordsman, more ripped than Nancy Pelosi’s copy of the State of the Union Address…stop showing off Yukio we know you’re great. The collection of shorts is beautifully theatrical and shows that Yukio is one of the major voices of 20th century Japanese literature.
Step 2: Embrace the Vice
A Danish winter can not be survived without indulging in at least 1 vice. I have alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, erotic French poetry from the 1880’s, and the occasional romantic cigarette, so the Danish winter is quite survivable for my oligarch soul. A Danish winter is not too distant from quarantining conditions. Danes are already masters at social distancing, and the winter weather usually keeps me inside on my computer anyways so this period has been an easy one.
Take a lesson from the Danes. Fuck the hygge, open up the whiskey, coffee, or pack of ciggies and indulge until we can all go out and play.
Step 3: Learn Something New
I was taking Korean classes until this whole shebang changed everything. Now, my Korean teacher is sweet enough to post daily lessons on Facebook for us. But I’m a terrible student, so I never check it. Instead, I watch Kingdom on Netflix. The show takes place in medieval Korea, where a power-thirsty nobleman tries to resurrect the King and ends up creating a zombie apocalypse in the process.
I also made kimchi a few weeks back and man is it pungent. My roommates thought something died when I opened it up, but I think that just means the kimchi was ready to eat and give your intestines a nice big hug. Just when I thought my mind wouldn’t study Korean in this dark and desolate time, Coursera came up and offered me, FREE KOREAN CLASSES. Now I have no excuses and a quiz on Sunday which I haven’t studied for and definitely don’t have the time to study for but hey, at least I got my kimchi.
I like things that come in threes so this is all I’ll write. And really, we don’t need much more than books, booze, and a squishy brain massage to survive this quarantine. There are enough books to fill our minds with knowledge and merriment and enough booze to pickle your liver purple with pleasure. I mean really, there’s no point in us sitting around complaining for the next 5 months about how we can’t go to bars or concerts or travel, so we may as well see the bright side and try to find a way towards personal growth. This too shall pass, and let’s immerge better people than we went into the bunker being.
Stay safe, my little ramblers, and take care to protect each other in these times. Call me anytime if you wanna hangout or just talk about stuff. Hope you have a positive day.