Copy Queen Papers, part 3

the ROK (Republic of Korea)

subtitled “too many parenthesis”

Ashley’s Super Secret Return Address Decoder Ring–extra points for those who write it in han-gul

Ashley Pond V
c/o Kuk-je Language Institute
Ichon-si, South Korea

September 1996

Heyyy, Fruitcakes!

I’m going to Korea. Hey, I’m in Korea. I thought I’d write first after the fact. You know how I am. Can’t keep me from writing; not with wild, wild horses.

I could tell you stories about my days in Los Angeles. They are strange (the days; as well you know my stories are so mundane you could set a really boring thing, that might need exact calibration, to them… only my figures of speech rival my stories for uselessness; still from a utilitarian standpoint, if you’re looking for something very useless then you’ll find nothing more useful than my writing… huh? and believe it or not, Ripley, I ain’t even drunk). I could show you the new font I did in Hell-A. I could tell you about the lovely young actress I fell for in Venice. She is strange and beautiful (the most sarcastic vegetarian in the world). But that’s old hat. I could tell you about the black boardwalk comedian… that’s a good one. But mighty embarrassing. So perhaps I’ll save it. Next time one a y’all is buying at the inn.

Hi everybody! You know who you are. The sexy sisters: Karen, Marilyn & Big Truck Judy. My super-sis: Jocelyn. The inventor of the best thing in the whole wide world to put in your mouth: Suze. The Queen, who gives the best dictation I ever had. And that bad ol’ Pat and her flat full of cats (though, I suppose she doesn’t come around much anymore what with… you know, maybe I oughta hold on that).

The Republic of Korea is more than a mouthful. Show me a rude Korean. I’ve been in Korea for exactly six days now and I’ve had no culture shock. Only the other teachers (Canadians all) I’m surrounded by make me feel somewhat shocky.

Y’all liked that last letter, right? I mean I know it turned some of your stomachs and frightened the rest of you but you enjoyed it I guess. Unless you all agreed to lie about it. Though, conspiracy theories have never been my forté perhaps I can cultivate enough paranoia to ease into my first. As long as it’s all about me, it sounds like a good time. Anyway, I had a point, which was, if you liked that letter you’ll be less than thrilled with this one. I’m not feeling too shocking [Ed: I think the F-word only appears once herein—incredible!—and its use is in a fictitious quote]. But I might be lying to lull you into a false sense of security. Sucker you into the parlor and give you the old web and fang music. In fact, for anyone interested, here’s a tip: go buy (then go by) a book by Richard Powers instead of finishing this letter. While not cheap (like me) it will be better. There… ha! Now you have no idea what to expect.

Korea is like a game of Simon Says (not to be confused with Simon Perez). Allow me to illustrate: Simon says take one baby step forward on a 747… Take three steps forward… Take one step forward… Take six steps forward… …Simon says take TEN GIANT STEPS BACK!!! I think I’m going to win, nonetheless. It’s not so different from Taos actually; except the humidity is a little closer to being in a submarine with a screen door. And the house (loosely used diction here) at least has a sit-down (as opposed to squat-down; like at work!) toilet. And actually I think it’s the best shower I’ve ever had, though there’s no stall, the pressure and the handle are great.

I got a coffee pot from my Italian friends as a going away present. This makes espresso, thought not caffé macchinata, but I digress and this is no longer the forum for Italian (everyone seems to be buying me things for leaving? Is this a message?). Anyway, to make a long story short, and it’s not too late for that, I’m overjoyed to have some real coffee here but the damn pot doesn’t fit on the stove and the double boiler system I attempted this morning produces dubious results and is probably quite dangerous due to the pressure cooker nature of the Italian device. [Ed: also, as the price of coffee here makes cocaine seem like the bargain Columbian product I don’t know what I’ll do when my Italian supply runs out–learn to like African and Indian coffee I guess]. So am I still funny? Wait till I’ve been here a couple months and I’m absolutely raving. If you think I’m funny this morning I ought to be downright hysterical by Christmas (for which we occidentals get a shocking one day off from work… Jesus Christ! …what’s the matter, don’t you get it?).

Speaking of executions. I saw some unedited footage from China a few days after the Monrovia stuff. Incredible. This is what Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton pour American dollars into China for. For lines of dissidents on their knees shot in the backs of the heads. Then for the execution bills to be sent to the families. Do you know how many students died near Tiananmen Square? None. But four soldiers were killed by armed students. That’s what the Chinese papers reported. That’s the public perception. Anyway, before I tirade, back to Korea.

This time I’d like to be more organized about the letter [Ed: I’ve rethought this position and in retrospect it is, to put it mildly, untenable; so don’t get your hopes up]. Since you all are devoted fans of my misadventures, the least I can do is categorize everything so you can share notes with pals and make any potential essays you might wish to write about me a little easier to footnote. Don’t forget your MLA styles!

WHERE I LIVE… So… I live in Song Chong Dong, formerly Song Chong-Li. It got a name change when, Ichon, the town which it suburbs (John Nichols cringes visibly and rants outloud at my drafting yet another defenseless and underage noun into the conscription of my over ample verb hoard; resembling so much that point at which increasing breast size is no longer increasingly exciting but merely a potential suffocation hazard… whew! are y’all taking notes?) got upgraded to a real city. Though this upgrade seems piddling to the locals as this tiny, itty-bitty city has only 90 thousand persons (but we’ll get to provincialism later). Go ahead and make fun of my new home: Song Chong Dong… I don’t, but I know what simpletons some of you are. Ha! I’m fifteen time zones away. What’re ya gonna do? Drive over and call me a jerk?

I live in a triplex. It’s nice. Very modern by Korean standards. An actual toilet and shower. They don’t heat buildings here the way good old Americans do. They only heat the floors. We’ll see how well this works soon as the seasons are changing. It’s already cold at night but the noons still make me sweat like a squeezed sponge. The cute Canadian girl I really want to do some Bible study with has a keen observation of early autumn in Korea. She said (add your own Kanuck (sp?) accent, “Like yah, it’s like they’ve only got two seasons in Korea: night and day.”

My home is referred to by everyone occidental (Pop Quiz: how many occidentals in the key of B?) as the Dog Farm or the Boon Doggies. You don’t have to use your imagination much to figure out where the name came from. It’s rare here (God, I swear that pun was unintended for fully five seconds). Dog meat, that is. During the ’88 Olympics they tried to clean that business up and only the backwoods towns still do it. Ichon happens to be one of those. The neighbors raise goats, chickens, and children alongside the dogs. All get up at 6:30 in the morning and all generate approximately (and alternately) the same volume of noise. There is also an animal (a dog) I believe to be an undiscovered scientific curiosity. Only the fact of my speaking English has allowed me to divine this knowledge. This dog’s bark sounds—God as my witness for once in my life this is not hyperbole—exactly like a man yelling, “Tick!” into a megaphone with a broken diaphragm. The first morning it woke me up I took it for an apparition. The Spiritus Tempus, angered by my oversleeping, come to take me to the promised land of discount Korean alarm clocks. “Tick! …Tick! …Tick! …Tick!” It took me no less than twenty minutes of waking concentration to decide finally that this was what it was and not everything promising the end of the world in a Carrollian rush of anthropomorphized Mah-jong tokens waving Japanese farm tools and crying, “Out with his bowels!”

KOREA… Korea has no shortage of many things. Allow me a brief (this adjective used for comedy value; add the right timing and it is hysterical) itemization: 1) rice (though the North does have a shortage; in fact they are largely starving, many to the point where they can’t continue to starve and actually just die from lack of rice. Can you believe it? God bless Communism!), 2) dragonflies (my god, the skies over the rice fields—hey, that rice has to come from somewhere, right?—are fairly rife with them; brown, red, metal-colors, and mottled mixes), 3) praying mantises (these come in many varieties and I suspect there are more I am missing as some of the ones I’ve discovered are camouflaged at least well), 4) spiders (these things are black and yellow and huge all over; take the biggest spider you ever saw in New Mexico, add half its size and double the length of it’s legs and you’re getting there; I think they’re still growing… it seems they’ve all just mated; the small male carcasses everywhere–Koreans won’t kill a spider! it’s bad luck here; cheers!), 5) rats (though I’ve only been confronted with one living specimen… it was in broad daylight on an open road), 6) snakes (I’m assured that only those pesky specimens with the triangular heads are toxic to murderous levels), 7) magpies (identical with one difference so subtle that it becomes—for me—alarming to the point of distraction: they have an entirely different vocabulary; I daresay they don’t speak the same language as their New Mexico cousins at all), 8) cranes (I guess that’s why they’re on all the money; they’re white and quite large–like me!), and finally 9) Koreans (they seem to be everywhere).

FOOD… This is the part you were waiting for. First, let’s get one thing out of the way. I don’t plan on eating dog. Not for any special reason. Pigs are smart as dogs and can be loyal pets. What did a cow ever do to hurt me? It’s a food chain, though, right? I’ve just made it a rule not to eat other carnivores, you know, or animals prone to saving my life. Kind of a non-aggression pact; no shark, no tiger, no orca, no anaconda, no wolf… And there is understandably a strong element of sentimentality. So, no dog. That said. The food is great! Though not as diverse as Italy. I’ve had fast food, traditional, take-out, supermarket; the works and I love it all. The kimchi is great. These people are cabbage mad like no one on earth (except perhaps the Irish but this food doesn’t cause such caustic southerly winds… that’s right Neil, I’m talking to you, Irish boy; cabbage-boiler!). The food is largely derivative of Chinese but still it’s quite distinct. A lot of sweet garlic, sweet turnips, pickelled things, eggplant, doughy noodles, chestnut, and seaweed.

SOCIAL LIFE… We had a going away party for a couple of the Kanajians at “The Buffalo.” They’re short and on their way out. So, we’re all drinking like mad. I’m sitting with Kwang-ho, the Fighting Chicken. The man who single handedly came within arc seconds of restarting the active hostilities between North and South Koreas. But that’s a story for later. At the party some of these guys have heard that I’m a musician (hey, cut me some slack, use the term loosely and it works). So they haul me up on stage where I give a command performance to a hundred Koreans I’ve never met before and half my colleagues; Korean and otherwise. I debuted detuned versions of two songs. One of which (“Bandy, bright, and broken into…”) had never been heard by human ears before (am I really, Pat? Foolish mortal). They had a nice effects rack on the thing so I sounded good enough. The crowd liked it. I had to stretch to find songs in my catalogue without any filth. Of course “Never Judge (another man’s pain),” the other tune, is about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. I guess that slipped by the censors. Yeah, for those racing ahead, the ROK is a democracy but those students kicking cops on teevee every Korean holiday aren’t doing it just for… well, kicks. They censor and control information (and sometimes elections) pretty tightly here. It’s not a lockdown or anything but let’s just say that I’ve seen drastically fewer naked girls in Korea than in Italy; and many more floating fuzzy blue dots. I did borrow “Last Tango in Paris” from a student last weekend while I had a cold (that story at 10 o’clock). A stolen Chinese version re-subtitled into Korean without the benefits of rerecording through its three generations. As all my Hollywood friends (all of Lisa and Saundra, that is) will attest, in a word this makes the sound quality shitty. So I’m fighting upstream with poorly recorded French while fat Chinese ideograms flash in red chased by yellow Korean letters compounding at an alarming run compared to the pace of what little French I understand.

I have been writing the last few days… though nothing so bourgeois as novel or short story (I’m through with that peasant non-sense… unless Arrowdog & the Crow War wins the Waters thing! Then Viva la Romanza! John, you owe me beers! A likely story, eh?). I’ve been writing journal stuff and even a new song or two. I’ve been to the town’s guitar shop. Their guitars suck! But what the Hell, I guess I’m buying one in the next couple of days (or weeks, we’ll see. I got a pay advance but it wasn’t JP Ghetty money).

About the girls: Wanna hear a song lyric I wrote back in ’88 or ’89? …Korean girl and me / in the canopy / she say, “Please try me / you know I’m sugar-free”… This from a tune called “Me and Rated G.” The Korean girls all wear elevated shoes. I was first surprised that the women were nearly average heights here. That was the shoes talking (it’s gotta be the shoes). There are many shoe stores here (I would buy boots if I could find the right size, they’re beautiful shoes). I found out something odd about Koreans the other night. Which leads me to question many assumptions. Koreans are repressed sexually, stifled and as conservative as any but devout muslims… But! they dance really well. Go figure, Seymour. (Don’t stare at my feet, dammit!)

There is one woman in particular… not very Korean really. She is but she seems out of place here. She speaks French and English well… she has a look of tears in her eyes. I don’t think that’s explaining it well but that’s the best I can do for it. She is an artist and a weaver. [Ed: she asked me upstairs to see her tapestries tonight… it was nice; film at eleven] How about that? Get her a job at La Lana. A woman named Go. Literally. I think I will surely die of irony soon. This is what they meant about ignorance, isn’t it?

About my landing in Ichon; you’ll love this. After my first meal, pulgogi—my word, how tasty; barbecue inside your table with lettuce leaves and sesame and six side dishes! Though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t canine on the barbie there were a couple of dogs penned out in back that didn’t have the air of pets about them. Welcome to Asian cuisine! The food was cooked in a little coal pit in the middle of the table. There were several different kinds of kimchi and I have no idea what everything else was. Some was spicy, some had egg in it—I was driven to my new abode and got the standard lecture. I’ve heard some of the teachers have gotten this talk as many as three times (in some cases to no avail). The lecture is about having sexual intercourse with the students. It’s a no-no. Apparently this was a problem with one of the ex-teachers (it was what landed him an “X” in front of his job title). Fortunately, as y’all are already privy to, my impotence insures a long tenure in the backstreet Korean educational system.

If any of you ever had a perverse desire to read my diary (those of you who haven’t managed to do it already that is… Oh, I know all about that little incident, be assured) here’s your chance. I should give this letter as homework. Do you have any idea how long it would take to explain this to semi-fluent non-native speakers (and that was not another Indian dig, girls. I’m saving up those for Christmas). I’m including some excerpts of my journal so that I don’t have to do anything as weird as rewrite. You all know how much I hate writing. You’re at my mercy and there’s nothing you can do about it! Oh, sure you could put the letter down now and walk away. Just try it. You know why you can’t? Because you’re paranoid, that’s why. You know, I mean really know, that if you put down this form letter here and now that you’d missing something about you in it. That later in the letter I write something, some barb so subtle that only you will get it, about you. And you have to know. There’s no way around it. Ah, that’s not gonna happen. I wouldn’t do it. I promise.

DIARY… [Ed: oh, believe me, these are edited down a bit, though I wanted, really wanted, to leave some of it in it’s gotta be revealed on a case by case and need to know basis]:

I’m teaching English to Koreans of ages 10 (I think; I’ve never seen a more ageless group; one who looks 12 to me is 21) to 40. I think I love it. They are wonderful and smart and I seem to be rising to the challenge. The adults are good because they are sincere. The children are good because they are beautiful and smart like scorpions. [Ed: this was written in my blissful naïve phase before I started teaching classes at Shin-ha Elementary; or as I like to call Shin-ha, Monster Island. These classes are neither fun nor do they seem to contain any redeeming value whatsoever. The favorite activity of 7 year old Koreans is to put their hands together like a Chinese diver and bunghole you when you bend over near their desks. Although they find this amusing, I find even more amusing that corporal punishment is smiled on here. The kids aren’t used to occidentals who will do it though so it is a surprise to them, but only once. For those timid few who cringe in horror, saying, “My God, is that fiend Ashley actually hitting children overseas?!” The answer is, “Absolutely.” (A fiend in need…) But not one of them has cried yet and I’ll tell you the way to make them burst into tears instantly: ask them for their phone number. No joke. If you ask a child for his phone number he will begin balling the moment he understands what you want. If they think you are going to call their parents they have a real reason to be afraid. The principal has a miniature oar and God only knows what the parents do to children that embarrass them in front of a foreigner in a small town.] [Ed: two weeks later and the Shin-ha classes are going much better… the kids actually listen now and even the trouble-makers I’ve smacked a couple times run to hold my hand in the halls after class… and you criticized my method?!? Well, don’t worry, how could you know I’d be right? I mean who would’ve guessed such a thing? Who?]

Korea is beautiful. It is also easily infected. There have been dead dogs in the front yard, children pissing in plastic bags at the next restaurant table (I don’t mean near the table, I mean at the table), coagulated blood a centimeter thick in the sewer drain near the meat shop where plastic lined boxes of entrails are kept with a hose running water through them… I’ve seen Canadian girls whine and Canadian girls brave and beautiful. I’ve seen useless Canadian dolts and a man from the Yukon I would give my life for, ten minutes after meeting him. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve lost things already. Great pieces of writing down the drain because I’m so comfortable here. Korea is largely a paid vacation. It is lovely and I have a new expression: show me a rude Korean. Because, you see, it can’t be done. The Korean hills are low but continuous. The vegetation is short but thick. The wildlife is limited but everywhere.

Ichon is a city famous only for ceramics, rice, natural springs, and gangsters (“gahng pe;” I find my head full of Japanese vocabulary that I can’t use without potentially insulting someone yet I know they will understand “yakuza”). The Ichon gangster would be like a Santa Fe gangster. Not exactly oxymoronic (sorry… “oxymoron-ish”?) but certainly a dubious term playing against the map from which the legend is torn. Equating metric to English in smudged scientific notation.

I walk to work over two miles. I begin in the countryside. If I leave early enough I see the small fires of burning trash; plastics, papers, batteries, used things, dead things. I walk through more than a half mile of rice fields. I pass an elementary school on the left while walking into Ichon. Then I hit the better paved roads. It’s a short 150 yards to the first turn. This is where the convenience store butchers their meat. They sell the same things as a 7-11; maxi-pads labeled in Korean but in identical colors and plastic bags as Stay Free, generic cigarettes, wannabe Thai and Taiwanese whiskeys masquerading as Chivas, snacks, and real, fresh, butchered meat shaved on a deli’s spinning blade by the woman with a grasping little girl on a backboard. I walk a curving stretch of tenements and occasional shops, first passing a small but well equipped playground in the dirt where young boys play basketball for six hours at a stretch. Then the road curves to the right and brick six-stories line the left. Small balconies and one in the middle contains a studio upright—judging by sound recognition alone—where piano lessons are given in the stereo of the two alleys between buildings to the neighborhood. Then a left at the turn of the plastic age gazebo; continuing on leads to the temple to Buddha and its stonework. This leads down a steep brick road with many pot holes. Here there is a sign maker on the right; in the mornings pounding Han-gul signs out of wood one chip of firewood at a time. There is another piano lesson studio. There is a shop where they sell mul but not ssal. Then I cross a larger street. This is as large as streets get in Ichon proper. It is two ways, two lanes, with parking on each side. It is sometimes tricky traffic-wise. Then a little farther downhill out of the housing into the commercial where on every date ending in a 2 or a 7 you have market. It is open, on the streets, shops extending, others simply making camp of their wares. I will see fresh seafood: crabs, shrimp, fish, squid, octopus, salt-dried o-jinga (cuttlefish; delicious with beer) nameless creatures robbed of life to sit in the sun and smell of the sea, the lucky ones going home to stews and rolls. I see women doubled to paw through scattered boxes of euro-styled, asian made underwear. I see toys and tiny turtles, furniture and girdles. But I have not made it to these streets. I must first turn right at the Bose House and wander down what I call the Ginza. It is a row of toy shops and stationeriers near the elementary school that I don’t know the name of. During the last part of this walk I am stared at. I will hear a hollered “hello” from a dozen yards behind myself. My height and hair have given me away. I am not Korean and the children have taken the time and gone to the effort to practice the one English word all Korean children know. The Ginza is the last stretch before the elementary, the fire station, the police station, and the left turn to Kuk Je Institute where I teach English between the Koreans who teach the same subject as well as math and Japanese. Perhaps I will cross paths with one of the divers Ms Kims or the ever present Ms Lis. Directly across the small street is an unfinished office building; skeletal girders towering to the sky. If I continue on those twos and sevens I see the market. If I continue on any day, I see the restaurants and small grocery stores sporting impossibly stacked dried fish, each fish almost a meter long, Asian melons, beautiful clothing, and more. Some signs farther down on the larger street display in the only amazing familiarity—besides the squalor of country life—Italian names for shops subtitled in phonetic Han-gul. I ask a woman’s name and repeat it and am corrected once, twice, train. But show me a rude Korean.

I want to forget everything I ever knew of the Western world but this wonderful gift given me. English. This impossible Frankenstein’s monster of a language. At once bestial and hyper-expressive; missive and subtle; brutish and overpowered from the first garbled, half-swallowed syllable.

—passages deleted by executive order—

saturday night 14.9.96

today i had a delightful day with a young woman (two years my junior) who teaches middle school english. she needed some help on her students’ speech competition speech. it was quite good, honest and naïve. the naïveté here is staggering and a leg up at the same time. this woman bought be lunch and ice cream and coffee. koreans frequently switch restaurants or places five or six times [Ed: as they will not allow Dutch pay to occur they instead opt to have everyone pay once!]. after buying me many things she additionally offered to buy me a present for correcting four double spaced handwritten pages of dialogue. show me a rude korean.

today in korean history… i rescued a small toad from the road earlier. very puffy little thing [Ed: I hope not poisonous, as I licked it for good luck]. there was a dead racoon or its close cousin outside. this morning an affection hungry pet dog (we must make that critical adjective appear on this continent) walked with me part way to work. it was tiny and white. a breed i don’t know but handsome and smart for a small dog…


hello, my name is ashley. i’m feeling things i never felt before. i’m feeling things i haven’t felt in many years. i saying things that make no sense.

…i should be writing instead of feeling sorry for myself. i could at least attack others then. but that isn’t my style. i’m sure you won’t want to believe. but my style is not that one. too… i don’t know, what?

how’s tricks? things in korea are good. this love letter that was posing as a diary will likely come to naught. another tool in the well worn pouch of divers devices.

what do i do when i feel poorly? the same thing too many of us do. i should just shut up, take inventory, read a book… kind of things. instead i babble. and that’s what i’m here to do. perhaps my babbling may transcend. become a tower. that is my own only wish in this world. to rebuild that thing. of course it is pointless to try because i’ve had so many pro-active antagonists and it is not possible for one man to fight the tide in a life. even given two thousand years and the most deceptively seductive of self-destructive (and therefore desirable) messages it cannot be done fully. sure the results are impressive, staggering, but still they fall short of the mark; though they be a record we shall grade no curves here. an A is an A… and theirs (even in perversity) is barely a C+. like our star, like ourselves… hang the lot. communism is better subtitled, safety in the key of C. or words to that effect. the curve is the protector of man. so what if heroes must be butchered to do it and the downward spiral is a guarantee in the clause? [Ed: for those symbolically inclined… C+ for Christ, B- for Buddha… and how about an A for that pal of mine: Ayn?]


though feeling better [Ed: the writer of this journal had a very bad cold at this time; he actually woke one night believing himself choking] tonight i feel strange at once. still i wish there had been no misunderstanding with my student. roy, for want of an american name… a perfect act that was rewarded with insult, which of course i didn’t mean. one of those things. [Ed: the student in question returned the only perfect surprise spelling test that a student of Kuk Je has ever completed. I asked in shock how he did it. Did he cheat? This joking aside made him go beet in the face and grab his book and run from the room. I meant no offense but had no chance to clear it up until days later].


tonight i played music at the buffalo: never judge & bandy, bright and broken into. can you believe it? i guess i was a minor hit. just because of how i look. the man who plays there is a better singer and probably a better guitar player but… i played my own songs. and i cannot tell you how thrilling… how proud i am when someone says, “what did you just play?” and i reply, “my songs.” you know? no one’s but mine. seriously. my whole life, maybe not for that moment but certainly brought into a tighter focus by that moment. the guitar pick wasn’t working so i threw it away and strummed. i cut my fingers from strumming. it was lovely. the guitar was barely in tune but i wasn’t going to screw with it using intoxicated ears.

it’s night in korea. the stars are out. i’m listening to the day i tried to live. i almost cried tonight. the stars, you see. they are the same here and i don’t know what to do about it. you know i stole a thousand beggars change and gave it to the rich… the day i tried to live, i wallowed in the blood and mud with all the other pigs, singing, one more time around might do it…

i walked my drunk housemate home. we were playing pool. he fell in the ditch of the rice field. a good meter and a half drop [Ed: that’s five feet, american kids! in retrospect i wish i had just left him there for a minute to fall down a few more times in the cold water; but i never seem to have a sense of humor at the right time—if it happened ten months from now i would probably have pushed him back a couple times]. since i pulled him out of that septic mucky stuff with bloody cuticles from guitar strings, i’m now a candidate for tetanus. i hope my booster holds up. lock jaw would be an effing lousy footnote to my already apocryphal writing career [Ed: though a great trivial pursuit question]. but here’s another story. the need of the drunk to just talk, and the need of the invalid to be independent beyond all sense. i asked him many times over a half mile to walk in the middle of the road and not near the edge of the ditch. but he didn’t want me to hold his arm… beh, che farai? [Ed: ironically of course I had the same drinks as the fellow and didn’t have a single inch of waver in my stride; I thought Canadians were drinkers…?]

ask yourself these questions. review your own agenda. what would you do, today, if confronted by the love? what would you do if met with the choice between real wealth and your stands? what are you and what would change that? because whatever you are mutable to is a part of what you are, surely.

children. i was child so long. now, though, i know like i knew then. there is no unravelling. there is only compounding the lies they give you as child. you will grow up someday. someday persons will listen to you and won’t pass you at the cash register over and over again. it’s lie. the thing is that nothing changes. only height and acts. we never change. i am that ten year old holding a dollar bill on friday at 3:25 at the metzger grocery… waiting eternally to buy a spiderman and a granola bar in green aluminum coated wrapping with black print.

and in the midst of the reminisce i waste precious minutes before the grave. i could be writing forty words a minute for all my free time in a korean year. adding up to over 2.5 million words. eleven copies of karma come lately… in a year! what am i doing screwing around [Ed: or writing letters?]? i should never look anyone in the eye. should rush home to write. to be that old maid man [Ed: get it?]. to be that suspect of the graduate student’s papers and orals. “…well, yes, he was a massive genius but at what price? look at the man’s life for godsakes. he didn’t talk to a single human being after he turned thirty and he never had a serious relationship with a woman in which he didn’t later repeatedly characterize said woman in print as a fucking bitch. that’s the point of my paper, gentlemen. at what price?” [Ed: what? you think this thing isn’t a real choice? did i not edit enough for your tastes?]

—END of section—

Back to the LETTER… Night in Korea… More? You people are sick.1:13 24.9.96

I have a bit of prose on Korean eroticism. But that’s a bit racy. I have the lyrics to a new song, “Plenty Happy.” My little dissertation about Elektra and certain unprintable New York escapades.

Well, this isn’t anywhere near as long as my Italy letter and I’m tired. What a drag; I am getting old. I’ll go and do something wild and crazy tomorrow to write about. I have a four day weekend coming up anyway. Korean Thanksgiving is this week. Everyone, but everyone, goes home. It turns the ninety kilometer drive to Seoul into a twelve hour event. And that’s a fact. Foreigners are the only ones who can enjoy the holiday (I think) because we don’t care where we are for four free days. I don’t anyway. As long as it’s not jail or in a rice field I am plenty happy. Get it?

27 September 1996

It is Chu sok; Korean Thanksgiving. I went guitar shopping today and found that the guitars I thought I might buy for about a hundred and twenty bucks are such nasty pieces of crap that they aren’t even in perfect tune between the fifth and seventh frets. Yuck! Ah, but what are you gonna do? I will go to Seoul to hunt guitars with my paycheck. I’ll have to shell out a couple hundred grand (of Won) but it’ll be worth it I think.

Where did we leave off? Oh, yeah. I’m a freak. That’s to say, Jocelyn (and wise-ass others), that I’m the first whitey with long hair who’s ever made it to this region of Korea. I get stares already when I walk to work, but when I go in on weekends with my hair down I get gasps and occasional squeals. If I walk past someone, when they look up to see me they (children and young women first) make all kinds of noises. I must admit I find this adds to the pedephile-like quality of the eroticism that this town is ripe with; something about the supernaïve… Koreans also have no social constraints against staring.

In Korea I have been told no less than a dozen times that I am handsome. The rub being (eee, Shakespeare was a dirty young sod) that I’ve only been told by men. That’s not true. One of our good Ms Kims at work said the same thing by way of translator. I had drinks with her (et al) last night. Fantastic woman. She teaches math and Japanese at the school (hog-won). I had her teach me how to say, “I hope you leave your boyfriend,” and “Would you like to marry in December?” in Korean. Though the words are lost now, she enjoyed coaching me through them. I watched her painting her lips the other day at work. Korean women use two lipsticks to do this. The final effect is quite amazing and, until you catch one doing it, quite confusing. They add a deeper contour line around the outside that blends with the lighter reds of the interior. Absolute eroticism and none of them probably realize it; or rather realize the whys of it.

Korea is a racist society but they don’t even realize it I think. I’ve had a couple classes where I talked about it. The characterization of blacks and others as inferior. You know how I hooked them all into understanding better? Because you see, they think they have evidence to the habitual violence and immorality of the black person. They only have Hollywood (and civil war torn Africa) to go by and as we all know Hollywood is a giant turd that doesn’t do much to help anyone but the illiterate. They see the riots and the films like “Boyz in the Hood” and make judgements based on that. But when they hear that many whiteys agree with them, that blacks are inferior, as are browns and yellows… then they have to re-evaluate. Because they go from being wise and scientific in the judgements to being the victims of the type of propaganda that they themselves fall for. You should have seen the shock when we discussed the KKK, the ATF, and the Mormon interpretation of the tower of Babel and the place faithful Asians will occupy in Heaven; handservants to the faithful white. You have to have knowledge to end ignorance, you know? And as I’ve always said, “Tolerance is a beautiful thing.” Watch Pat go, “When did HE ever say THAT?” I mean tolerance of alcohol. “Oh,” says Pat, “That’s different. Nevermind.”

More countryside notes: I don’t know how this works exactly—it seems a fluke, clearly—but many of the trees here sport melons hanging from their branches. And not little ones. There’s a tree on the way to work that is dangling a big green melon that must weigh no less than 30 pounds (the desire to write 13 kilograms is upon me; I’ve spent as much of this year abroad as at home and the rest of the world has the good sense to use metric). Though I am sure these are not melon trees as even a horticulturally destitute ignoramus such as myself can tell you the one carrying the 30 pounder to term is a conifer and therefore only fruits in cones. I guess the melon vines get wrapped up in growing trees or are creepers or something. I’d like to be there when that melon falls off the vine into the highway… Koreans are terrible drivers. All the frenzy of the Italian driver with none of the peripheral vision. Pedestrians who stutter step off the sidewalk are goners. They have a very high traffic fatality rate here. Did I mention I’m buying a used scooter with my next paycheck? You don’t need a license and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna walk to school in the winter weather Korea brags. I would also say it’s safe to assume that walking to work in July (can you believe I’m talking of July?) will be fatal from temperatures and humidities jockeying for the lead position in the upper nineties.

This, as I think I mentioned, is Chu-sok; Korean Thanksgiving. Pray to the ancestors weekend. This is one of the times when they reveal their Chinese sensibilities. Actual ancestor worship. Can you imagine my stance on this issue? How could a thing be stranger or more silly to me? It’s a very important holiday. Everyone, but everyone, goes home (ancestral home; unless recently of North Korean descent) for the holiday. I feel a bit like an Arabian whose New York trip was scheduled for Christmas. But the neighbors helped us out; keep me from feeling alien. The kids from upstairs brought my house-mate and myself some treats. Glass noodles with veggies and stuff and some sort of cold heavy dough pastry (?) things stuffed with chestnut paste (?) and other things. I have no idea, really, but it was good. I washed their dishes and wrote a note in Korean to them. I am still waiting for the kids to return for them. To the best of my knowledge my note reads: “A near neighbor is better than far-dwelling kin. Thank you for your trouble. Happy Chu-sok.” But as this note is written in Han-gul and pieced out of a Korean dictionary containing some dubious fragments of my own tongue, we’ll see. I may have just written the note that will make the rest of my time here a pariah-ship. Since their profanity extends to such unlikelies as the number 18… you never know when a syllable slip will cost you.

Well, the little girl just took it upstairs. I got a couple giggles out of her. Maybe it’s a good note. Of course, the trick about Koreans that you have to know up front or you might have some problems: Koreans smile or even laugh when they are hurt, ashamed, or embarrassed… so if a waiter spills something on you he will smile. Therefore you have to be careful about interpreting mirth here. The little neighbor girl was down in the dirt lot with a cordless phone. Korea is a trippy nation. People who have no plumbing and live in, oh, let’s call them, shotgun shacks, have cellular phones and beepers. I guess the technology is cheaper than good living conditions. What have we and the Japanese done to the world?

I bought some watercolor paint and brushes yesterday. One more thing that is cheap here [Ed: along with quail eggs which are 45¢ for 14…!]. A big set of watercolors (24 tubes) cost about eight bucks. Now if I can just find some artistic impulse in this unhusked soul of mine.

There are going to be some problems this year between the Korean staff and the occidentals. Subtle degrees of miscommunication. Perceptions of shades between polite and sincere. I just have to extricate myself from the jump. I don’t want to be an island here. Or rather I don’t want to be a peninsula; connected by a series of gringos clinging to their own habits and homelands. Peninsula… you see how easy Italian is now? Pen… as in penultimate. Insula… as in insular, insulate. The words of Latin are clear. Korean? You tell me if theirs is part of some global onomatopoeia. What does “mul” mean? Or “ha-na”? Any guesses? Go ahead. Just to show how little there is that can be known here without sincere learning. “Mul” is “water.” “Ha-na” is “one” but only for some things. They count in Sino-Korean (Chinese) for some things and in traditional Korean for others.

Maybe you’d like to know the banality of my existence at home? My roomie is Canadian and my God he’s a nice young man… However, he speaks in cliché. Seriously. He cannot go five sentences without saying something like, “Man, that really hit the spot.” [Ed: he said this for the third time (after his third meal) not twenty minutes after I wrote this, and again five minutes ago when he opened a beer (but in fairness I must mention he brought me one too which goes to show how nice he is)]. This is rather un-Korean. Koreans like to vary speech and they get tired of hearing the same things over and over. As my Korean super remarked to me after a little bit of a blow-up on Tuesday: “Westerners are always saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I’m sick of it.” Me too. I’ve been in Korea for almost three weeks now and I’ve washed the dishes every day… my roomie. Nope. But I don’t care. I would do anything to prevent this place from going septic. It’s always a short walk in this neck of the woods. You know, it’s not like the occidentals here are bad people. They’re just everything small that I hate. They’re afraid of animals. They’re ethnocentric. They’re cheap. They’re repressed. They’re socialists and don’t know it. They’re liars (thinking it’s no big deal and are trying to force me to be a liar too, I’ll get into this later). They’re totally ignorant of science, medicine, and world affairs (I think I’m the only one here who could have found Korea on a globe before getting this job). They want something for nothing. The legacy of the white man. How many times have I been told of the laziness of the Mexican? Siesta does not a lazy man make. The true ruler of the lay-about is the gene-pool of European refuse. Euro-Americans; the French and Britons; and yes, the southern Italians don’t do much for their own cause.

Speaking of southern Italy. I read in the Korean Herald something fun about Italy. It seems the Lega Nord has attempted the old trick that cost the US so dearly in the ’60s (1860s, that is). When I was in Italy they were having elections and one of the big parties was the Lega Nord (northern league). They were running on a thinly veiled separatist platform. To cut southern Italy free to drift and keep Venice, Milan, Turin, Rome, and Florence the strong citystates they are. While this may sound outrageous to you… consider the following. South Italy has been carried for years by norther subsidies and was busted last year in the process of defrauding the Italian government of billions (that’s US billions) of dollars of welfare monies. Much of the south is mafia ridden, poor, illiterate, unemployable, corrupt, fetid and crumbling in a cascade of welfare sponsored self-destruction. As I mentioned before, a Sicilian can barely be understood to speak Italian by a Roman or Milanese. What’s your solution? The Lega Nord wanted to divide Italy. Which is forbidden by constitution. They didn’t win the key positions they needed. But a couple of the honchos have gone out on a limb (my chance to cliché for awhile) and declared the north a separate state. I don’t know how much of this was a publicity stunt and how much was real. They could be facing some heavy jail time if it’s taken seriously. But enough about Italy. Let’s talk about kimchi.

You remember when I was leaving for Italy? All y’all took me out for pizza or ordered it in no less than five times that week. Pretty ironic, eh? Well, in LA all I ate for the week before I left was Chinese and Thai food; others were choosing the culinary venues. If I decide to go to Africa from here how am I gonna find Ethiopian food in Korea?

Remember what I said about lying? Well, this is the deal. There is a man here who agents for occidentals to do private English lessons. He has called here and is trying to get my roomie to do it. Many of the others have. This is, as you might already know, strictly taboo with the hogwon we work for. Grounds for dismissal kind of thing. So they do it but lie about it. I was called once by this agent fellow already but begged off on account of my cold. When asked about him by my super I said I had talked to him once. She then asked my roomie if he’d talked to him. He said, “No,” and then said, “No, once.” He’s been to lunch with the guy and talked with him ten times. And was obliquely pressuring me into complicity. Beh, questa non sta buona, capisce? However, when I found out how much privates pay I was forced to alter my perception a little. You can double your income here by doing them. Which means that I (if I wanted to do several privates) could make as much as 50 thousand bucks here (that’s US tax free dollars, kids, no lie, no lie) this year (on little over a 40hr/wk). Yeah, my jaw dropped too. That would mean take home pay of 40K just for speaking English. Most of the Canadians go out of town every weekend and go out every night and spend thirty or forty bucks so they aren’t saving… but I, being the wallflower I am, would save most of the mess of cash that it is. I don’t suppose I’m willing to lie about it but doing it sure is tempting. Perhaps I’ll have a talk with my super about it. See if there is any arrangement with the school I can make. How to do it without betraying the others is the question. Ah, the politics of the workplace. What to do, what to do? My loyal readers, stay tuned for the next thrilling installment in… The Buying of Mr. Pond. I’m the only Mr. Pond, I just realized. What a happy thing.

Videos here are better than Italy because they aren’t dubbed. I guess it’s just too hard to do. Italians have a movie rewritten and dubbed in local idiom, slang, and humor within hours of its American release. Here there is just a constant flurry of Han-gul letters at the bottom of the screen. Fairly easy to ignore.

Things I need in Korea (for the Red Cross minded! No compulsion, I ain’t no commie. Send me nothing and you are absolved. But send me stuff and when I’m rich and famous I promise I won’t pretend that I don’t know who you are)–

*Letters… I want to show these Kanajians and Koreans how popular I am in my homeland. Some of them act tough when they get a couple letters in a week. Write me gobs of letters and I’ll have bragging rights. Please! I want to look cool. I don’t care what you send… send an empty envelope and I’ll appreciate it. Also, there ain’t a lot of intelligent conversation to be had here so I’m jonesing for contact with animals of my own sub-species.

*Pennies… I give these as rewards for good studies and winning classroom games. I don’t have many and I want to do this all year. A roll of pennies (or a sheet of American stickers or anything Disney-ish/Americana for kids) would be much appreciated. This is the sticks so the kids get extremely excited for authentic American junk [Ed: The term American junk is clearly redundant].

*Coffee… if—really, if—you feel kind and inclined (I know shipping ain’t cheap), real coffee here is expensive; and the instant has never been much to my liking. The vacuum packet espresso ground stuff is great! I shudder to add how much imported whiskey costs. Four times as much for the good brands. Serious: $60 for a ten ounce bottle. This is no laughing matter, dammit. So I’m learning to love so-ju. [Ed: so-ju is rice vodka and is pretty nasty stuff though a gallon and a half may be purhcased for $8–perhaps I will go blind this year] Yuck! I’m learning to love boiled water is what’s really going on.

*Magazines, photos, postcards, maps, or clippings of Americana… these would go a long way to helping advanced classes. Pictures (postcards of Taos would be nice) help with the kids’ classes.

*Books… Anything… Dr. Seuss would help with my starter kids. They like rhymes but the curriculum we’ve got is lacking for the children’s studies. Seuss books cost $20 here and require a trip to Seoul.

*Books… for me! No crap (no King, Barr, Goldberg, Steele, or Bly). Send me something literary. John, send me something (yours?). I’ve never read Hemingway’s novels. I’d love “Prisoner’s Dilemma” by Powers. I’m not too well read so you probably won’t get something I’ve already got. Some Hugo perhaps, or Marquez? Korean language learning books are tough to find in Korea. AN can you mail me my copy of “The Goldbug Variations”?

*Prescription narcotics… just kidding. Unless you’ve got some Tylenol 3 on ya. What I could really use is a box of Drixoral, Dristan, NyQuil pills, or related cough medicine. None of that non-drowsy crap (it is impossible to find here, though antibiotics are cheaper than icecream; I got some with all the herbal trimmings for my cold for roughly 4 bucks, after a ten minute interview with the pharmacist who knew many Latin words… such as sputum). I have no cold now but I am looking forward to a long and fuzzy winter. And I would prefer an extra three days of sickness to potentially being on antibiotics for the next four months. I’m covered head to toe (almost literally) in Korean children three days a week; runny noses galore.

*Fine Art… anyone? Send me a painting? Poster? Centerfold? My walls are bare as my cupboard [Ed: my cupboard is no longer bare though carrying back the groceries (2+ miles) just about broke me].

*CDs… I’m too cheap to buy my own. Send me presents. Buy them used!

*Videos?… for Christmas maybe? Korea uses the same VCR standards as the US. Junk is okay for videos. I’m only a superior sonofabitch about books. I like crappy videos! Cartoons, new X-files, Homicide, Monty Python, Simpsons, Shark shows, old movies…

Well, I was getting ready to put this in the mail, fruitbats, but I am unfortunately developing a life here. So I have more to write.

Shin-ha was not Monster Island this week. Though one of the children did bleed profusely on my watch today. Does that make me evil? I didn’t cause the blood though so don’t look to me. I think he fell down off the top of his desk when I wasn’t looking. It was funny as the proverbial funny thing right until he slipped. I thought he had a bloody nose but the gushing blood was originating in his mouth. Discerning this (and fearing for a broken tooth) I called in a Korean teacher to get the story and get him to the local equivalent of the school nurse. The ’rents came for him and took him away. I think he’s fine. My final assessment was a split lip (or the awful [I know from personal experience twice–and once it wasn’t even me who did it] bitten tongue)… ironically I can say bloody nose in Korean (imagine an angry Iranian saying, copy, and that’s it!) and I thought this was my big chance to show off. How vainglory destroys us. I had a point and wandered off like Moses chasing that damn dime (forgive me, my Jewish friends, but that is a good one, you gotta admit… oh, don’t make me tell it in toto for the naïfs—why did the Jews wander the desert for 40 years? …somebody dropped a dime. Hey! I don’t write them, I’m not evil). Shin-ha was great, the kids have adapted to me. They know they’ll get a ring on the top of the scalp if they Chinese butt dive me. Oddly enough the ring I’m whacking children with belonged to my great-grandfather who founded the boys’ school in LA, NM (this is odd because he was a man who had a reputation for being… rough on children). I should have thanked him on Chu-sok, consarnit! Maybe next year. The kids also now know that if they stay in their seats, raise their hands before squealing, and don’t throw erasers at me they get groovy stamps in their books and on their hands. This beats an 18k whacking any day of the week; even in Chinese (no, I haven’t gone senile, I know I’m still in Korea; they use Chinese names for the days).

I am becoming pals with the lady who runs the little restaurant downstairs from the school. The place is a semi-franchise unlikely to go over well in Mexico. Like the Chevy Nova (get it? No va. Ask John Nichols to explain it to ya’) this restaurant has a tricky name… it ends in ka-ka. Not appetizing. Good thing I eat in any language without prejudice. Anyway, she’s been giving me Korean lessons (if you know what I mean). When I order she tells me what it is and all; even writes it in han-gul for me). Today I broke my long string of man-du consumption, finally working up the guts to try some u-dong. Good choice. Though not dissimilar from the man-du-kuk I so love at the place down the street. I’m also developing quite a taste for o-jinga (refer back to your notes, lazybones) but not mun-oh (oc-oh-to-pus as my students say [Ed: in addition to gaining a year to my life by stepping off the plane into Korea (they count birth as “1”) I have gained a syllable to my name: Ash-huh-ly; it’s as close as they can manage…]). Who knew? New Mexico has held me back in several food arenas. Though I’m really aching for some green and blue. And no one in the world but y’all would know what the hell that means (Green and blue? Is the boy a spore mold aficionado?). They ask me about American food here. “What is your favorite food?” Well, I’m partial to atole, enchiladas, and rellenos… Explaining only makes it worse. I should just say, “Pizza, beer, hotdogs, and corn nuts.” Then they’d get the answer they want. Why am I so regional? They soused me out tonight. They figured out I’m not a typical American. Who told? The lady at the ka-ka cafe also gave me (as in gratis, that’s right, they love me here!) some shik-hae. Rice drink as a desert. Chilled and nice… like rice dream, really. I forget the name of the turnip kimchi. It’s good though. Korean turnips taste better than American ones. You can have a big lunch here for $3.

I have a favorite bakery. They love me too, dammit. I go by there in the evenings to pick up some breakfast pastry for the morning. I bought my first Korean loaf of bread tonight. Check this out. He asks me if I want it sliced! Well, this has to be the greatest thing since… uh, so I say yeah and he slices it. Delicious and neat. They’re all trying to teach me to count in Korean but damn if I’m not just too stupid or something.

I almost bought a suit accidentally yesterday. They tailor things so fast that the guy was on his way to the back room, with the slacks I was perusing, in about five seconds. If I was a little more shy I might not have been able to tell him I was just window shopping.

You know North Koreans invaded last week? I’m not kidding. They ran a submarine aground and there are three or four commandoes still alive and evading the pursuit of 50,000 South Korean troops. While this sounds like the bad script pitch for Stalone’s big Asian crossover picture, these are the facts (I’ll explain Kwang-ho nearly restarting the war next time). They’ve already killed about twenty of the Northerners but I guess those were the recruits as the officers are still evading capture and committing a little mayhem along the way. Get this. The North Korean government asked for the submarine back. Is that a laugh riot or what? I guess I just don’t understand international politics.

I have a new favorite album. Try this on, “One more astronaut”… thinking around the clock of drinking on the job / of the powdered food and piss bags / never having sex / growing old / headspace alive and painless / weightless and almost sane / i close my eyes / i become the skies / headspace alone and shameless / can’t wait to find the faces / left behind / in a troubled time / back home… …you get so lonely you know / weeks and months alone / chasing sleep and space junk / and the dying stars i’ve known and loved / known and loved / through true decline of the / five billions minds or so / through mud slides and earthquakes / blue one holds on and rolls along / rolls along… headspace alive and painless… No? How about this… and if you catch me on a good day / my mind is like the country / green, wide open / a breath of zen / that’s nice on the eyes / lonely…

No? You leave me no choice… Don’t / cry / for me — because I’m laughing at myself — blameless as an artery (autopsy) — in the auction of our history I bet you bet that you and me would’ve had more to show (up) — for / all / the / worry / ing — and / in / the — slaughters of the clemency against the totalling discrepancy of god’s goodwill toward all — his / child / der / ren — Don’t / beg / from me — because I’ve broken myself — from laughing — in the time of sainted butcher knives and sacrificial alter wives I guess I should’ve called before I — crashed / your / sacred / gates — and / by / the — markers of infanticide I took the bride to be a ride and we indulged in dreams of futures beyond — all / shad / ows’ / weight — Don’t / waste / your / pride / on me — because I’m immune to your sense — full of my own like a caustic virgin’s dowery — because I can do the backwards sorry—certain as a guarantee — Don’t / re-peat / after me — because I am plenty happy — Don’t / re-peat / after me — because I am plenty happy…

A bar joke for the road? Woman from Boston goes to the South and meets some locals trying to take in the ambience. Local woman hears the different accent, sees the fancy clothes and says, “Where y’all from?” Boston woman replies, “Where we’re from we do not end sentences with prepositions.” Southern woman responds, “Oh, Ah’m sorry. Where y’all from, bitch?”

Thank you, Korea. Goodnight.

Whoah! I just caught another of Korea’s entomological wonders (not etymological, that’s me! because when it comes to words I make you wonder…). This country is good for the bugs, man. If I was a bug, this is the place I’d put in the objective line on my CV. That’s curriculum vitæ for the provinçal barking peasants; résumé, hrumph! This new bug was a variation on the centipede theme. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. All the legs were different lengths and it looked a bit like a prawn gone haywire; translucent with brown stripes. The spiders (still defying godliness and growing ever larger since the first time I saw them) have taken to eating the similarly oversized hornets and rather normal sized dragonflies. I saw a praying mantis that must have weighed about two ounces. I was kissed by a horny dragonfly this morning while walking to work. I suppose my chap stick smelled like a dragonfly in heat. Plenty of the others were riding double; as they say, getting it on. Ah, to be a dragonfly in autumn.

I reread this unwieldy bitch just now. Man, am I boring. Not so much fun as the prima Italian version. But what are you gonna do? I can’t berate myself entirely. It’s not my fault. I don’t get enough to drink here. If I had whiskey I wouldn’t spend all my free time writing letters [Ed: that’s a promise—send me enough whiskey and you won’t have to suffer through another one of these in three months; I can’t type when I’m drunk]. At least I’m trying, what have you done for me lately? I’ll make you all a deal: write me a letter.

Until then, adios amoebas. Ha, ha, ha!

The Kuk-je school trip to Kang-nung

POST SCRIPT: Pat, you weren’t really counting exclamation points were you?

I do apologize for the small print… what can I do? Edit this down to reasonable size? Oh, go on.


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