Format Change

Those few people who follow this blog may at some point have asked themselves what the hell it is I am up to. This is a valid question. Basically, the content is all over the place, and little or no effort has been made to organize it, or my wider approach, into something more cohesive.

I do understand that this has been counterproductive for the blog’s success. There are a two golden rules of content creation and I have been breaking them both.

One: Post your content regularly and reliably.

Two: Stay on brand. If you decide to do a blog about, say, cupcake baking, then you need to make sure your posts relate in some way to cupcakes. Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes!

So, given that I have completely failed to adhere to these two rules, it has been no surprise that this blog has not gone anywhere, in terms of readership or followers. That I routinely delight in posting obscene or otherwise problematic content probably doesn’t help either.

I my defense, I can only suggest that one look to the blog’s name to get a sense of my approach to it and my content.

Further, I must now admit that most of the content I’ve been posting here is not new. Don’t get me wrong: It is my intellectual property. I am its author. But it is mostly content that I wrote several years ago for a now defunct micro-blog on another platform that I decided to pull the plug on out of dissatisfaction with the hosting site. Those few followers and lurkers that followed me here from those days are appreciated.

Of course, I do, on occasion, write new content to post here. It is not all old stuff.

The idea of this blog, then, has been to curate my favorite content from the old blog. To layer it in here as an archive of my previous eclectic, often distasteful, work. A historical record, if you will, of my early writing.

However, in the years since I shut down my other blog and opened this one, I have not been idle. I have been working hard, writing almost constantly, on what I consider my real work. And what is that, you might ask?

My main goal in writing is to be a fantasy novelist. There. I said it.

Now, having said this, I understand there is no reason for it to have been apparent to anyone who follows this blog. And for my dozen or so loyal followers, I do hope that you continue to enjoy my coming offerings. If you do not, I can only offer you my sincere apologies for this format shift. (Although, I suppose that given my lack of coherent approach until now, it would be more correct to simply say, “format.”)

So, to be clear about this: This blog shall now be about fantasy. There will be a weekly fantasy fiction serial, as well as other pieces concerning the fantasy genre, fantasy writing, and fantasy role playing games.

I do now intend to follow the two golden rules of content creation. Fantasy, fantasy, fantasy!

Of course, when I have an itch to scratch, I may allow myself some off-brand posts in the vein of what this, my personal blog, has been. But it will be a supplement and not a feature.

In short: it is time for me to get serious about my unserious enterprise.

So, in closing, I thank my readers who have stayed with me this far. I do hope you enjoy what is to come. If you do not, however, I offer my sincere apologies for changing what I am all about here.

Finally, I would just like to say that I am very excited to begin sharing what I have been working so hard on for these past years.

Thank you.

Abroad

I sometimes reflect on my life and wonder: at what point did I stop living abroad?

It’s not as dumb a question as you might think. I am, and have consistently been, aware of what country I live in. The question concerns my perceptions of where I live in relation to where I am from.

When you go abroad, your home doesn’t change. During my first stint in Japan, I taught for two years, but in my conception of things I was always working abroad. Canada was always my home, and I viewed everything I was experiencing through that lens. Of course this was all a more intense and immersed experience than simple travel, to live and work in a foreign country for a foreign company.

And I probably have just caught you making the basic assumption that so many Westerners make when thinking of being abroad in foreign lands. Go back and reread the last clause of the last paragraph.

“… in a foreign country for a foreign company.”

What’s foreign about it? I’m the foreigner in this situation. The company is absolutely not foreign. Yet, most of us fail to recognize this simple truth at a fundamental level.

Blind spot.

We go abroad to enrich our lives and broaden our horizons, and that is well and good. But how many consider that in doing so, we become the foreign other for that place and its people?

What might we represent to the place we visit?

Here in Japan I’ve worked with so many dickheads (mostly the dickheads are American, but not all, just to keep it real) whose whole experience and narrative is built around, “well, in my country, we do things this way.”

And don’t get me wrong, the Japanese do love this trope. They like hearing about Western cultures this way. They like hearing impressions of their own culture; the more ignorant the better! They like that the barely civilized ape man is so pompous and arrogant. And loud. And uncouth. It’s a real gaijin behaving in precisely the stereotype they have of these gaijin.

How marvelous! He thinks he’s very special! Get him drunk! Applaud him for using chopsticks! Let’s see what wild and crazy thing he does next!

The monkey has been taught to smoke. How very amusing; do keep giving it cigarettes.

It is all pretty harmless. But when you go abroad, it couldn’t hurt to keep this kind of thing in mind. As special and unique as you might think you and your culture are, for the people you visit you are just a specific type of foreigner doing very predictable things.

Everything is a two way street. Never forget that.

However, what happens to you when you don’t go home?

There was a moment (and I don’t know when it was) when I was no longer abroad. It was also the precise moment that Canada, the country of my birth, ceased to be my home.

I am now an immigrant. It is something I am proud to be. It helps me fuck my mind in a way I couldn’t otherwise.

To be clear: I am an immigrant, not an expat. I think the term expat is just a term Westerners self-apply so that they can avoid facing the reality that they are an immigrant. Because, you know, that’s what people of color or eastern Europeans are when they move countries.

Well, fuck that. I don’t think there can be many badges of honor higher in this life than being an immigrant.

In Japan, the country I now live in, I am still perceived to be abroad by the people I live among. It doesn’t matter how long I live here, and how much of the language and culture I can adopt; I will never be of this place.

That’s how it is.

But I don’t need that. And I don’t want it. And I don’t expect it.

One of the things that first attracted me to this place is that there’s a certain amount of anonymity that comes with being such a visible minority in such a homogeneous place (since people just see the stereotype). But that’s not what keeps me here.

Ultimately, it’s just such a simple thing at its heart: I like that everything and everyone around me is not what I grew up with. Every visual I take in is different than what I was conditioned to expect. I take a drive with my family and the farms all look like something in a samurai movie. It’s invigorating.

As much as I’m a foreigner here, and always will be, this is my place too now. I can take possession of it just by virtue of my continued experience of it; through the changing of that experience as it matures. The sense of strangeness the place gives me is no longer that which comes of being abroad. I’ve been here long enough that vistas have become familiar. Places have old memories attached to them. It’s all getting worn in; smooth and comfortable.

Yet because I will always be regarded as an outsider, the place can’t ever get altogether normal for me. That’s what I like about it.

I suppose that after a few more years, with any luck I’ll be able to start heading back the other way. Rediscover Canada a bit. See how it and its people look through the new lenses I’m crafting for myself now.

It’s something to look forward to: being abroad in the country of my birth. A mind fuck only being an immigrant can give you.

On Japanese Wives

First of all: shame on all of you who read the title of this piece in a dirty-minded, lascivious way! Shame!

Now, if we can get our mind (at least slightly) out of the gutter. There are those who think Japanese women are demure, passive, and subservient. As a husband to a Japanese wife, I am here to tell you that those who think such have fallen for Japanese women’s soft sell, girlfriend persona.

If we must qualify human relationship in binary terms of opposition, we can then liken Japanese women’s strategy in the war of the sexes to judo. As a man you will be totally confident that you are in control; that your strength is dominating. You are moving the relationship precisely where you want it to be.

Then, without warning, the world will spin out from under you and you find yourself completely at her mercy. As with a judoka, your Japanese woman has thrown you to the ground and into an arm bar.

Just relax though, don’t fight it. It is time to tap out.

And here is where the judo metaphor ends. For this part can be really good too.

Move

This here’s a bit of a shout at any youngsters who have the privilege of living in a free country that isn’t an active war zone.

As you mature, you may start to suspect things that make it difficult to accept where you are. That your teachers and elders don’t know shit and yet are completely full of it. That the particular culture where you were born does not have all the answers; or, more commonly, that the answers it has are really terrible. That the people around you suck. That your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and authority figures are shitty people who treat others like garbage.

If you start to suspect these things, I am here to tell you that you really need to trust your instincts.

This is not to say that the world isn’t filled with many wonderful places and people. It is. Perhaps you are in such a place, surrounded by such people, and your feelings are simple adolescent restlessness and petulance. But the world is also filled with vast swathes of dreary shit-heaps filled with entire human landscapes of miserable cunts.

The thing is, there’s no way to know which environment you’ve been raised in unless you get out and about in the world a bit and experience some different cultures and people. So do yourself a favor and see as much of the world as you can as soon as you can.

At this point, so many people, born losers all, are going to be saying: “yeah, but I don’t have the money for that.”

I’m not here to tell you that your obstacles are not real, but I also am not talking about some kind of three-month, European sex adventure (although if you can swing that, it sounds awesome and you should totally do it).

Start small. Take a weekend and go and visit your cousin in the next town over. See if people are any less shitty there. Couch surf your way to some city you always thought sounded cool. Check it out! Stuck in a shitty dead-end job in an awful town? Well, don’t they have shitty dead-end jobs in nicer places too?

The whole fucking world is out there, is all I’m saying. Don’t you dare nail your feet down to the floor of the joint you were spawned in and then start whinging that you never had another choice.

If you can’t stand your situation and environment, be a nomad for a little bit. Unplug yourself from what you’ve become familiar with and try something else out. Find a situation and environment better suited to you. I guarantee they are out there somewhere.

And if you don’t really mind where you are and who you’re with, then consider yourself lucky and do what you will. But even so, no one has ever done themselves a disservice by expanding their horizons a bit.

For fuck sakes, know this: just because you were born someplace, doesn’t mean you have to end your days there. We aren’t trees.

Party Time

One time I was at a little backyard fire pit party thrown by this Japanese pot fiend in Vancouver. One of the guests was a Russian pseudo-gangster (maybe a real G, it’s hard to tell sometimes). The Japanese guy was friends with the Russian because he couldn’t understand what a total douche the guy was, due to language barriers and other cultural interference.

After some time, the Russian decided the wee party was lame and he stood up to go. He announced: “Any bitches wanna give me a blowjob for $50 before I go?”

I was so high that I got my subject and object mixed up in his sentence’s meaning. I thought he was offering to give someone a blowjob and pay them fifty bucks.

“Wow!” I thought, “this dood’s a lot cooler than I thought!” Then, I almost put my hand up for the blowjob. I realized just in time that I didn’t want a blowjob from the Russian gangsterling. I started laughing really, really hard because I thought it was so funny that I almost volunteered to get blown by this guy. At this point, I still really believed that he was offering to pay a guy at the party $50 to let him blow them. (In my own defence here, I have been to plenty of parties where that kind of deal would definitely not be offside.)

I kept killing myself laughing, and I guess this defused some of the tension everyone was feeling. I suppose they all thought I was laughing at the Russian. The guy left without saying much else.

It took me until much later on in the night to realize that the guy was actually propositioning the women at the party. I did wonder what they must’ve thought about my amusement, but it can’t have been too negative, since they were awfully friendly towards me. One cute hippy girl almost half my age kept pressing her tits into me for the rest of the night. I’m married, so I didn’t let that go anywhere. But the attention was nice, as were her tits. I just let her do her thing as I kept rolling blunts for that Japanese cat. Man, did he ever have some heavy shit.

It was a good night.

Dumpster Fire Chique

A huge industrial dumpster.

Plumes of toxic black smoke roil out of it into the sky over tongues of orange flame.

Nubile models with dead sooty eyes feed the flames with pitchforks from atop piles of designer goods. Gucci. Louis Vuitton. Hermes. Handbags. Clothes. Shoes. All speared and thrown to the flames.

At one end of the dumpster, a simple steel staircase leads up to its blackened lip.

Stair access is blocked by a pair of doormen behind velvet ropes on brass stands. Into the distance, a line of hopeful wait for their chance to pay the entrance fee.

Oh, look! Another group is being let through! The velvet rope is pulled aside and the eager winners clamber up the stairs and plunge into the dumpster, sending a burst of sparks skyward along with their screams.

Once that dumpster is filled, a truck backs up to it and hauls it off.

Not to worry, though, another fresh one, pre-filled with diesel soaked luxury goods is slid into place almost immediately.

Plenty of room for everyone willing to pay the fee.

Papa on Tickling

Papa. My grandfather.

He was full-on German. And by full-on, I mean full-fucking-ON.

Born and bred Prussian aristocracy: a real Von from Berlin. I’m not bragging, it just is what it is, and very relevant to who he was. Unless you’ve been pinned under the gaze of a man who’s had that kind of upbringing, you can’t really understand what all comes with that.

He was fearsome. The most terrifying eyes I’ve ever beheld. A thunderstorm controlled and housed in the frame of man. Always correct, especially when he was horrifyingly wrong. Absolute in his will.

In his world there was a crushing system of cruelty and trauma, so-called discipline, applied to children. To create men: the psychotics of the ruling class that were to wield privilege and power for the state. This is how the Europeans dominated, and the Prussian system was their template.

At the age of sixteen, Papa had gone to war to fight for Germany in World War Two. Captured by Americans, he spent a few years in a POW camp in England. He said the camp wasn’t as bad as I might have heard (the fake Nazis in today’s lockups have nothing on the real ones that were in those camps); since he was Luftwaffe and a Von, the hero fighter-pilot aristocrats took him under their wing.

When he was released, he returned to Germany to find his family dead and their properties clamped down behind what would later become the iron curtain. Nothing left. Riches to rags. A while later, he met and knocked up my grandmother, moved in with her family (also displaced persons, DPs, from what is now Poland), and sold newspapers and radios he built from scratch to get the money to move to Canada with his (then) three kids.

Luckily for me, Canada and age had mellowed him by the time I came around as his eldest grandchild, because I spent a lot of time with him when I was little. I really worshiped him. My parents were typical hippy types with very few consistent boundaries, and he quickly became the authoritarian in my life that I looked to for stability.

In so many ways, I am as he made me.

I miss him very much. I loved him deeply. He taught me chess and how to communicate with silence.

Later, I would hear about how he used to be from my mother and aunts. About the terrible, regular beatings he would lay out as a matter of principle. But he was forbidden from laying a hand on my sister and me, upon my mother’s threat of his being banished from our lives, and he never did. His voice, however, that vehicle of his displeasure, was all he ever needed to reign me in.

There was no fucking around with this man. Even so, he loved us deeply and taught us what he could. He was a giant in my formative years.

Now, as I just mentioned, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ “farm:” a small cattle ranch in northern Alberta. There were always a lot of relatives there too. My grandparents had five kids and both of my grandmother’s surviving sisters followed her to Edmonton. I was the eldest grandkid, so as I aged there were always cousins underfoot, like noisy, mobile pylons.

There were two uncles, Nick and Dave, both in the family by marriage (although at that time, I suppose, they were just boyfriends), who dominated my early life at the farm. One in a good sense, and another not so much. Both were macho, 70s, hairy, manly men, and very physical.

Uncle Nick was, and is, one of my favorite uncles. He was around a lot, dating my youngest aunt who was probably about eighteen when all this happened. Some of my earliest memories are of great fun with Uncle Nick on the big sofa in my grandmother’s living room. He’d read to me and also do that snuggle-wrestling that toddlers and young kids love so well. He was great at it too; a big bear of a man who was both strong and gentle.

He did, however, discover that I am insanely ticklish. He never pushed it too far, but he did throw a good tickle into his repertoire. As I got older, there was less snuggling and cuddling, and more serious wrestling. That was a lot of fun, but he never failed to give me a good tickle as the finish to a pin. I didn’t like that part of it, to be honest, but it also wasn’t too bad. Definitely worth suffering through as a price for the wrestling.

Then there was Uncle Dave. He was different. He started dating one of my mom’s cousins, and was more of a toxic masculinity type. I was about four or five years old at this point, and I guess he observed how ticklish I was during one of my wrastles with Uncle Nick. This seems to have piqued a predatory impulse in Uncle Dave.

Uncle Dave was never around so much, but when he was, he would track me down and forcibly tickle me to that point where I would want to die. For way too long. It was sadistic and horrible. There was never any pretense of fun as a lead in to it either. It was always just a straight up, dominating physical assault right from the second he got his hands on me.

The big problem with Uncle Dave’s tickling was that it ruined the fun time I would have with Uncle Nick. Now there was trauma connected to tickling. After Dave’s treatment, when Nick tickled me, gentle as he was, I went straight back into the same place where I wanted to die.

It was now intolerable.

So I bit Uncle Nick.

I remember pretty clearly that I felt safe with Nick, and made the conscious choice to practice biting as a defense I thought might work against Uncle Dave. I figured out pretty quick that there was no way to stop me curling up into a ball around some part of a leg to get my face into position to attack.

I don’t think I bit Nick hard, but he got the message. He looked a bit wounded, but he stopped tickling me after that and didn’t hold it against me. He’s a good man.

The next time Uncle Dave came to the farm, I was ready. I didn’t avoid him like I had been before (he always cornered me anyway): I sat down on the living room tickle sofa and waited for him. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but I was fiercely determined that this was going to be the last day he tickled me without paying a price for it.

Sure enough, Dave zeroed right in on me and got to work. His big, strong hands pinned me down as his fingers drilled into my armpits and ribs. I didn’t hesitate either. I turned into him and turtled; sliding my chest and head down his leg until I reached his calf. Then I got a good hold around his leg and bit his calf as hard as I could, for as long as I could.

I don’t think I actually bit him for long, since he yelled really loudly and wrenched his leg free of me. If I recall correctly, my teeth rather hurt from his flesh getting yanked out from between them. I don’t know if he was bleeding, but he probably was. Reared on good, tough, German sourdough bread, I was. Strong jaw.

I look up at Uncle Dave and he is white with rage, his fist clenched and raised up. I don’t think I even had time to get afraid before Papa, my grandfather, was in the room. He had been at the dining room table in the adjacent room, doing his paperwork.

“Vas is zis?” he asked in his normal, quiet, terrifying way.

“Your grandson bit me!” yelled uncle Dave.

Papa gave this a measured think, with his usual inscrutable expression.

“Did he?” Papa finally said, turning his gaze to me.

I met his gaze, thinking the equivalent of, “well, fuck it, at least it was worth it.” But there was just the slightest twinkle in Papa’s eye that let me know everything was going to be okay. And something new, that hadn’t ever been there before. Respect.

Papa turned his gaze back to “Uncle” Dave, and I’m sure there was no twinkle there for him. Probably something closer to what Bob Dylan referred to as, “steel-eyed death.”

“And vat were you doing ven he bit you?” Papa asked.

“Tickling him.”

This earned another thoughtful, pregnant pause. This time with a slow nod of judgment at its finish. The Patriarch had reached his decision.

“Vell, if he bites you ven you tickle him, maybe you shouldn’t tickle him.”

Dave did not like that one bit, there was no doubting that. But he only met Papa’s eye for a second before he deflated and got the fuck out of there (while he still had the legs to carry him).

Papa just gave me another quiet look, this time with a friendly little nod, and went back to his seat at the head of the table to return to his paperwork. He had not said another word.

Now that I think about it, I do believe that shortly after that he started teaching me the game of chess.

In thinking about this whole exchange now, as a father myself, I wonder at my grandfather’s approach. He was always right there. He saw everything. And he never stopped it.

As a child in that position of being victimized, it never occurred to me that some adult might be looking out for me. That someone would come to my aid. I just assumed that to be victimized in that way was my role. Because, clearly, it was.

That is, until I figured out a way to protect myself.

Then, and only then, my grandfather extended his protection. I was never beneath his notice; he had simply made the decision not to intervene.

So what was his lesson to me?

You’re on your own. When it comes right down to it, you can only rely on yourself. And if you’re going to let someone treat you this way, then that is how you are going to be treated. But, when you figure out the right lever to protect yourself; when you’ve finally had enough and make that proverbial prison shank; at that point I’ll have your back.

Maybe it wasn’t a good lesson, in certain senses of the word. But it was definitely an important one.

Oh, yeah, and Dave never tickled me again either.

Rest in peace, Papa.

Party Time With the Cool Kids

At the first drinking party I went to in high school, everyone was going on about how great the last party was because some chick blew some guy, threw up all over herself, passed out in a bathtub, and then shit her pants.

“And you know what? She’s coming to the party later! Her brother got her more schnapps!”

I remember thinking: These are the fucking cretins that are all freaked out by me and my friends because we like to smoke weed and listen to Led Zeppelin all night. Maybe play some guitar and take a walk in the ravine. And we’re the ones fucking up our lives?

It wasn’t until more than ten years later that I became a raging alcoholic myself and discovered just what I had been missing back in those days. Although, to my knowledge, I have never blown anyone or shit myself in a bathtub. So I suppose there still are some stones left unturned in my life.