News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Novel Chapter 1: The Learning Curve (incomplete, very rough, redoing the original story, requires a complete makeover...)

Mistakes come in many shapes and sizes. I guess you could say I’m sort of a cross-cultural connoisseur and serial recidivist in that field of accomplishment known as the ‘fuckup’. One type of mistake is choosing the wrong people, the wrong friends. You ought to choose them, not let them choose you. Common sense.

But one man’s common sense is another’s lunacy, another’s prejudice, and yet another’s lack of imagination. There’s a time and place for everything they say and… uh… well hopefully it’s here and now. Now that the whirlwind in China has passed, the mantra of Go East young man! has been exploded and I’m lying here on my butt, down and out at Chung King Mansions in Kowloon Hong Kong, having slapped my last few Honks down on a curry and a sleazy berth in Pakistani hostel hoping I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to find my shorts parted and some dark stranger’s member aimed at my butt-crack a knife against my neck. It wouldn’t be the first time.

You can smell the damp from the green harbor and this evening's rain even through the fake aerosol that comes wheezing out this demented clanging aircon unit. It’s still drizzly. Night. Got nothing to do but wait. Wait and think. Think about the humidity soaking the shirt I’ve got hanging up on the roof and the mold spores greedily fermenting on my towel, beginning their dirty work by blackening the tips of the fibers poking out into the smog and then working their way down to the roots. In a few days that towel will be rag as solid as a Kleenex tissue and just as useful for drying down after a shower. The itchy lint on my stubble is care of the disintegrating towel I just threw out. Thank god towels are so cheap they’re practically disposable.

Hong Kong is a great place. Cheap shit, fine food, real architecture, cops that do their job. Law and order is something you take for granted until you don’t have it. And need it like I did.

I’m dreaming about when the weather gets hot again and the clouds part and the sun pokes through. The floating restaurants will honk again and the hawkers start stalking the wage-slaves, the prostitutes the sailors, the pickpockets the tourists, and every other sort of local food chain is in lavender bloom. I’ll be freebooting and doing my solo thing at the peak: Victoria Peak, sleeping outdoors in the park up there. There’s stairs up to the weather station that do good service at that high altitude. Plus there’s a clean public bathroom to wash up in the morning. Sounds like a rough sort of vagabonding, but under the summer stars and a soft breeze, it’s actually pretty nice. No mozzies in your ear at that elevation. Not to bad. Really. And it’s liberating to find you really don’t need all that much, all those toys, knickknacks and other impedimenta of civilized living, to survive comfortably. It’s a cliché until you do it once and then it’s real and talk ain’t so cheap any more.

Besides, turn a john or two and you’re flush for a week or more. Even Hong Kong has its female sex tourists. You didn’t think I was turning fags? In this day and age of acquired immune deficiency? Nah, I’m just waiting for the wife to get in from Szechuan. Then we’re out of here to Free China: Taiwan. Teaching English, milk run smuggling, shoplifting at 7-11’s. Hoodaddy!

Just kidding. Those innocent care-free days are long gone.

Hope they let her out. The wife I mean. She’s Chinese. My nearest and dearest.

And I departed. Nope. I Fled. No choice. No joke. Who knows what the local cops will do to one of their own. She’s less than that actually. She’s Taiwanese. And that sort of Chinese compatriot isn’t popular with mainland China patriots. It upsets me to even think about it. I’d rather talk about something else than let my daydreams keep returning to this horror.

Anyway, at least I’m an optimist by nature. Or maybe that’s one of my cardinal failings. Long story. But an interesting one I think.

Really? Or is my real problem the dyslexia I’ve had since childhood. Not just a problem tracking movement in three dimensions, but also faulty memory. Can’t remember back in time, only by association with color, faces, sounds. This means my head is clear of memories so I can think uncluttered, which means fast. Real fast. Problem is I can’t remember properly so I’m always expecting the wrong things. Especially from people. Which means disappointment and frustration. I’m quick coming up with ideas but quick to forget them. Quick to learn but unable to use most of it. Quick to make mistakes. The same mistakes over and over. Which makes me irritable much of the time. For the wrong reasons. For reasons I don’t even know.


Okay. Goodbye depression! I need a change of subjects. A fresh genre. Something stimulating. Comedy! That’s easy…um…back to the making of mistakes: my favorite avocation, my principle calling in life you might say.

Errors of judgment come from what? Fucked up departure points? I’ve got fucked up rhythms on tap, anytime and anywhere. You want ‘em, I got ‘em. Laziness, indifference, cynicism, snobbery, thumb in the butt. Or just plain attention-deficit deficit jonesing for pleasure and putting off hard decisions for later. Hard? Later? Hah! Yeah. That’s a good one. Or Two. Or whatever.

Sorry. I better slow down.

The gift of gab is a double edged sword: another cliché that hard experience has turned into a homely truth for Yours Truly. Talk long enough and I’m the greatest believer in my own gibberish and self-serving memories and lapdog desire to please. You spend so much time selling yourself to your audience of customers that you sell out without even noticing and become a wholly owned subsidiary of spin, spam, and flim-flam.

Did that make any sense? Nope. But maybe it doesn’t sounds bad. Passes muster in conversation, even if it isn’t worth its weight in ink on the page. In print itis prey for the philologist, stuck like a bug ready to be anatomized.

That’s been my problem. Not serious. No discipline. Quick, sharp, but too impatient to learn. Result: Slow learner. I might as well be an imbecile for all the good that curiosity and a nimble mind have done me.

Spin, spam, and flim-flam. The perfect mistake for me. Cheap words for a cheap whore. Tailored piss-perfect for my psychic needs. Goes down smooth like candy but comes out roaring like a laxative.

Alright. Enough! No time like the present to start with this, to get it off my chest.

Pull it together, son… Okay. Three years ago I was green as a fresh mowed lawn and just as wet behind the ears.

Yeah? Well I’m still catching my stride. Let me try another approach.

Copyright Biff Cappuccino

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