The Hard Sell

Friday, September 28. 2007
Funnily enough, I was talking about KC coming to Taiwan this afternoon as well. I told Dinna you can't make someone do what they don't want to do. So there will be no hard sell to get Kerouac to stay. I will not give tours extemporizing the virtues of the city. I will not aid him in going through the paper work or browsing website for jobs. There will be no pathetic, impassioned pleadings, except perhaps if I get blind drunk, and I will recant on those the day after. No, there is no grand plan to get the man to stay.

Because let's face it, the hard sell is on his shoulders, and it is to make me leave.

Re: Happy Ramadan

Thursday, September 27. 2007
Hello. My name is Oya-J, and I'm the admin around here. I know haven't poked my head out until now, but that's only because this is the first time I've got mad enough about you kids being on my lawn to do anything about it. I'm older, wiser, pithier, got more scars, and abused more Indonesian hookers than any of you together. I'm your Uncle Oya-J.

After reading that pile of crap about Ramadan and bogus pilgrimages, I took the liberty of doing Master Cat a favour and created two new categories - Straight Up Earnestness and The Usual Crap. Now he'll know exactly where to shove them.

Anyway I think it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard and if he wants a real adventure Kerouac Cat should sign up for the army - the money's better than Safeways and so are the managers.

Now I have to go have a word with that boy the j. I haven't seen him around here in a while. Don't worry. I'll be around.

100% Pure Speculation

Thursday, September 27. 2007
There are a lot of myths about what goes on behind the scenes here at the Dragon. For example, I eat way more hotdogs than anyone would ever guess. The Bancho does occasionally wear his military gear, and so on. The biggest and brightest mis-truth is that the J and I actually talk on a regular basis. This is a total load, even when the internet can bridge that frightening gap between wherever I am and wherever he is, and it’s all totally his fault. With a side order of my fault.

Last night we had a brief, but stimulating, conversation. All text, you understand, but I was just now, at three o’clock the next afternoon, thinking about the ramifications of what we actually said. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and some home-spun, over-boiled, rolled in sugar truths come out – or was that absinthe? Either way, the actuality of it all is entirely drug free. By way of no other course, not by choice and free will. Side notes aside, the J claimed he was going to trap me in Taiwan next I visit him there. These were not his words. When it comes to reading between the lines, I am the last person in the world you would want to have on your team, but when it comes to fabricating complete fantasy bullshit from the most subtle of hints, I am your man.

So that’s what I just started daydreaming about just now. After once again looking through this week’s Inpress mag, the free street paper that spruiks all things young and drunk, and marvelling at how little I remember of last Thursday and why I managed to get my photo printed in there, my mind began to drift and I decided to write out this delusion. Then I wrote that fucking waste of hard drive space you see up there and totally forgot where I was going with this. Hang on. I’ll be back. You won’t even notice.

See? Technology. Fucking fantastic. Where was I?

Oh yeah. I’d get a round trip from Hong Kong to Taipei and have to stay at that crusty hostel that ‘John’ hunkered down at. Because there’s no room where the J lives nowadays, that crusty old bitter fuck. I can deal with it. Then the J would have a few solid weeks to sell me on the idea of me staying permanently. That’s right, I would give him the chance to sell it to me. For once we would be living in the same country, the first time since 2003, if I’m not mistaken. It’s high time this happened, since the odds of him coming with me to Japan seem narrower every day. Because if the sell doesn’t happen, that’s where I’ll be going. The positives of staying in Taiwan are many. To list them here would be like trying to express what you feel when you look at the Mona Lisa, or jump off a Marshall stack into a throng of indie kids. My clumsy typing would belittle the whole deal. Just know that’s why it won’t happen.

The side stuff, like what I would actually do with myself, would have to be figured later, and that’s the selling point I’m talking about. I could make it work, no doubt about it. Here’s to that daydream.

Still here

Tuesday, September 25. 2007
Another day, same hole.

Can't sleep. Again. This pain in my guts, it just won't go away. Come on, just hit me or leave.

Four am. Nobody will hear. Time to go shout at the clouds.

SuperNOVA

Wednesday, September 19. 2007
“HUNDREDS of foreign English teachers in Japan were anxiously awaiting overdue wages from language school NOVA yesterday, amid speculation that the corporate giant was edging closer to collapse.”

That’s from today’s news. It goes on about how Nova (a contraction of the English phrase ‘no vacation’) left somewhere in the region of 3000 teachers without pay for the long weekend. Most of these teachers are young Australians, and while they should have better sense than to work for Nova, most of them probably didn’t know better at the time and while I want to say they are getting what they deserve – but that’s the vengeful, younger me speaking. Back from when I was there and teaching and not doing it for them, but for a nicer, smaller company. One that’s also floundering, but that’s not the point. The point, my readers, is that not getting paid sucks balls. In a rich country working for a huge company, to not get paid for doing what is really pretty uninspiring work – that’s a real punch in the crotch. And before a long weekend? That’s like slapping their mother at the same time. With a dick.

Many disgruntled teachers have quit in disgust, but that won’t get them their cash. Many don’t even have the funding to get a plane ticket home, even though they really should have one already. Don’t worry, you can get to South Korea pretty cheap. But that just puts off the inevitable. As much as I would like to see Nova roll over and die, it leaves me cold about the situation that would create. Apparently it’s harder to find a teaching job in the country that ever before, and if Nova dies there will be a lot of people fighting for a handful of jobs. Maybe this will have a knock on effect to the rest of the industry and the consequences will be dire. But as dark as it might get, the demand is still going to be there and there’s plenty of other schools to pick up the slack – so I can’t imagine this being a terminal blow to an industry I might yet be going back to, sooner or later.
“A lot of us are nervous. Really nervous. We're looking for jobs but being told that companies aren't hiring within Japan. And we haven't even made enough money to buy a plane ticket home.”

How true is this? What the fuck is going on? How did Nova run into the ground? Will we ever hear the truth behind it, ect. Ect. The rumors about Nova from when I was in the loop were almost all negative, but it went beyond the understandable tilting at windmills and tall poppy cutting. Paying less to being with than many other companies, treating their Japanese workers like crap, not caring enough about their students, less than effective curriculum, just plain ripping people off – this was all part of the pub talk you would hear all over. But dig deeper and stories of Yakuza connections to get the best real estate and keep the competition around the corner, off the main street, all sorts of underhanded tales came up. That kind of heresy can never really be proven, but is exactly the reason why the truth will never come out on what is going on there. Few companies actually go under in Japan’s twisted economy, and they usually get merged into some other life form. The cycle of debt, much like a snake eating its own tail, just keeps going around.

I’ll be watching this one with great interest. For no other reason than it might spark a wave of homeless white guys taking over Shinjuku park. Now that Id’ pay to see.

Happy Ramadan!

Tuesday, September 18. 2007
It just occurred to me that I really only have two modes of writing. Straight up earnestness, which rarely, if ever, finds its way to these hallowed pages; or the usual crap. I’ve been trying to write my political essays, as promised, but I can’t get my ideas into the right voice for this forum. Kerouac Cat, it seems, cannot be a demagogue. The direct, zero sarcasm approach made me feel dirty, and the gravity of my ideas is robbed entirely by the approach to writing I take. I might not know any other way. This is a problem, but surely such essays cannot be produced and be serious while maintaining any amount of dignity as an idea. So this is the first time I can’t reconcile my head and my hands, and thus we witness the birth of KC Syndrome.

Any cures found henceforth will be posted without delay.

A couple of the guys that share the supermarket floor at night with me are Muslims. By staying up all night to work, they effectively get around the restrictions placed upon them by the details of their fast. Only a few hours of the day need any kind of willpower to get through, but they stay within the bounds of the letter of the law. There’s just something about that, like the deathbed recant, that feels like it’s outside the spirit of the occasion. And if Allah can allow this, it give me renewed ambition for an ongoing project of mine.

Is it morally wrong, on any level, to become a Muslim, even though I have zero belief, just to be permitted by the Saudi government to enter their country and complete the Haj? This is the only way one can visit the city of Mecca, which remains due to these restrictions, a mecca for backpackers everywhere. The harder to get to, the more people like us will try to get there.

I wanted to use the Holy Grail as my analogy, but even I see the callousness in that.

I would be more than willing to fake being a true believer long enough to apply for and receive a Haj visa, complete my pilgrimage, and never see the inside of a Mosque again. I do know the process by which one becomes a follower of Islam and would subject myself to these, because I know that in my head, the truth of the matter would be settled and unquestioned. I would have to make the trip outside of the main Haj times, and this is allowable, because the chances of being found out would be increased all the more. I’ve thought it through. It’s just the morals of it that I like to debate now. I would not be disrespectful to any of the places I would visit, indeed, such reverence I would pay – the spectacle alone would be my salvation.

Still, I find it hard to justify. Seems a little excessive if nothing else.

And onto more fertile fields of discussion.

I’ve managed to wrangle enough work, both at the supermarket and in other places, to cover my arse this week. The departure that might have been imminent has been put off at least another seven days. But the whole crisis showed just how fragile my situation is, how one part of the structure is all that needs to collapse to bring the building down on my head. If nothing else, that part should have shown me that I got to get out of here. Oh hey! That’s the Shit I Already Knew File all over again. What the fuck.

The iPod is fine. There are no accessories yet available, so no cover has been found. Until then, it’s not leaving the house.

A series of mind-shattering events

Tuesday, September 11. 2007
Step back about two weeks. I was well on track to achieving the one goal I had set down for the year, a savings goal that really wouldn’t trouble anyone. I had already managed the other objectives, finally locking in the credit card, and things were looking peachy. Peachy fucking keen.

Maybe it’s Steve Jobs. Maybe it’s his fault entirely. I had been sitting on the idea of getting a new iPod for a while, secure in the knowledge that it had been long enough since the last new model to assume that a new one would be here well before Christmas. Anyone watching the news will know that this exact even transpired. The iPhone-esque touch model being the flagship model, re-vamped versions of the older concepts holding up the rear. I saw the announcement that morning and combined the two previously mentioned items to order one from Apple’s website. I didn’t think it through all too clearly, but a few facts hold up my conviction. One, no matter how long you wait, Apple don’t drop the price. Two, that price is the same no matter where you are in the world. Three, I was going to end up with one anyway. Four, it’s one hundred and sixty motherfucking GB on that sucker. So I ordered it, knowing that I had work, knowing my targets were looming to be met and that I would have no other large purchase for the rest of the year.

Then on Saturday night, I went out. First I caught up with someone I had not seen in about five years. We went to a bar-café and had a few beers and talked about the kind of things you talk about when you haven’t seen someone in a while. She wanted to get the last train home, so we walked to the station and she left. I remained in the city, for it was Saturday and I knew my little brother would be drunk somewhere. I was right, but in walking from Flinders Street to King Street I was waylaid by three islander girls, who gave me booze in exchange for talking to them. This is the kind of deal I can work with. There were exchanges. I was itching to get to where I was going but they instead took me to a hip-hop club nearby. It seemed to be islander night and I only just got in – the bouncer was clearly not kind to white boys in a non-white boy scene. I follow the calls of the night, but it seems my new friends were follow the call of the white powder in their handbags. They disappeared into the girl’s room, where they snorted speed off the toilet seat. Half an hour later they were vomiting on the footpath outside. I left them to it.

I found my brother and regular hijinks ensued. There was drinking and carousing of a regulatory nature, much fun and loving was had by all. I kept a close check on my things, as I am prone to doing, but as the night neared an end it become clear my camera was gone. My brand new camera, not a month old at that point. Gone. No-one had seen it, or handed it in. Gone. I was almost paralysed with rage. Somehow I was manhandled home, where I passed out on the floor. I think the anger and self-directed blame was more of a cause than any amount of drinking. I took a week to get over this, not even managing to speak to anyone for most of it. Words were beyond my powers. I lost another fucking camera. Brand new, this time. For all that camera had symbolised, the loss now was all the more painful. Just unbelievable.

The Sunday night right after that eventful Saturday I turned up to work to see that my hours had been pared back and I would only be needed three nights that week. Oh well, I thought, it’s still OK, even though I had lost what was basically a week’s wages the night before. And one of those nights was a Saturday, which was as good as working two nights. So it wasn’t good, but could have been worse.

And it was. I went into the store on Tuesday to speak with the guy in charge, to see why the change had happened, to find that I’d been pared back again – to a solitary Friday night. I was livid. This isn’t happening, I told myself. This sort of thing doesn’t happen. I talked to the guy and he put it down to budget cuts. Budget cuts. The company makes a profit so big every year the very idea of it staggers me. Budget cuts? The hell? What he really meant was department budget cuts, to make him look better when bonus time came. Bonus time, I found out later, was just around the corner. Casual workers are the first thing to go when the cuts come in, and go we did.

Just to rub it in, he wouldn’t ever say it like that, instead attempting to smear my performance as an excuse, so there would be a paper trail. Condescending motherfucker, I should have decked him and left. Actually, no, that would have been a bad idea. But in the spirit of things. So that was that. Essentially no job, no camera and a new iPod on the way I could no longer really afford.

Since that day, the situation has not improved at all. Still almost no hours to work, still no camera despite attempts to find it, and still no hope of a real job. I might have to speed up Plan C, which was in effect. What a mind-shattering run of events, I mean, you wouldn’t fucking read about it. Now the question is, how to pull of the early implementation of Plan C (which is now going to have to become Plan E) and not fuck it up? Be careless, I think.

In other news, the Bancho surfaced after a long stint AWOL. Good to hear from you, chum! This place needs some more colour. And if you can cut the lawn, that would be fantastic. Oh, and the gutters are full of leaves. And don’t forget to clean the pool, it is getting warmer, we’ll need it for a party soon.