There’s the window. There’s the city beyond it. I’ve been looking out of it for two years, but now it’s getting boring. Give me more data. Get me on a plane, to a new environment. I’ve promised myself that. The metropolis is no longer turgid with sensory input. Yes, I’ll miss it all, the smoky galbi restaurants, riding solo on the Han River with forehead sweat refusing to evaporate into warm, humid air; ice reflecting headlamps in the the long winter months, the ghostly decay of the subway train pulling out of a neon station in the late evening. Stimuli too abundant and rich to be quantified and counted, a thick data torrent snaking through the bedweb of undercity cables.
It’s all three-dimensional, popcorn and coke and soft seats. It takes no stretch of the imagination to be in Oz, somewhere faraway. Every day a flipbook mega-identikit of schoolgirl face recognition requests, the welcoming attention thieves of my corridor strolls. Data, begging to be processed, downloaded.
Evenings at my place. Software. Violin. Volume. Cables. Speakers. Mike. Guitar. Neighbors. LEDs and the aircon hum. Corners of cabling, bunching underfoot, wired to the world. The florescent forehead of the 402, blinding the sidewalk as it roars past in the 6-laner below. Evening falls from the ceiling, buildings grown on the horizon, feeding me with new data, subtle changes to the busy system. Defrosted dumplings and the faulty freezer door.
All these things, yes, sir, I’ll miss em.
T minus ten days till a big adventure. Hanoi to Jakarta on a bicycle. When I sum up the trip in so few words, it always seems necessary to clarify that I’m skipping Thailand by flight, or that I’m possibly dismounting halfway and continuing on foot, or that I may also use public transport while cycling.
I feel that omitting these small details would be cheating, as if I’m pawning off my travels as something greater. But succinctly summarize must I, for I’ll most likely be explaining it every day to people with less than perfect English, and my teaching days are over for a while. Floor piles: to be packed; to be shipped; sold; given away; thrown away.
I’m trading in my life for something better.
I did these two paintings while living at Glenwood Springs Hostel in Colorado in 2005. Occasionally, doing radical shit pays, cos I got two weeks accommodation!
I found it! I wrote this piece in 2005 while working at a ski resort in Colorado.
A kangaroo word is a typically complex English verbal gimmick, having both complicated grammatical value and a rather indirect link to kangaroos. Any word that contains a sequential anagram meaning the same as the word itself is a kangaroo word. So take, for example, “illuminated” and “lit” or “hostelry” and “hotel”. Hell, there can’t be better method to ram the meaning home. So it fails to surprise me that here in Colorado, with the temperature averaging just below absolute zero Fahrenheit (another abstract English scale, based on the temperature of horses’ blood), the name of this frigid state is particularly synonymous with the COLD.
Of course, it is no use trying to explain this to your supervisor at the local ski slope resort, where your outdoor ski-lift operation job involves coming to grips with your newly defined idea of COLD. Especially if your supervisor is both a veteran snowboarder and stoned on hydroponic marijuana at the time. “Fuck, Jason, cant you guys get us waterproof jackets or something?! It’s fucking FREEZING!” “Chill, dude.” Jason’s mind is in the blender, oblivious to the irony. “I’ll…uh…hook you guys up with something soon…” Jason walks off through eight inches of powder and is narrowly missed by one of the lift chairs. I freeze for another three minutes. Jason walks back. “…if the resort can afford it, sure…” and walks off again. Fat chance. Oink.
Of course, one of the weapons at my disposal in the war on COLD is The Beard, which is now being steadily cultivated into its 2nd centimetre (not inch, and not centimeter). I would rather shave The Beard unnecessarily than be asked to cut it for a particular job. The harmless Beard arouses such a fierce streak of non-conformist self-righteous justification in me that I might jeopardise the job at hand by flying off the handle and blaming social norms of appearance on the night manager. The solution, I find, is simply to cut it before anyone even mentions that facial hair is unacceptable, according to hotel employee policy, or whatever. The reason for The Beard in the first place, however, is to demonstrate the very forces for which it is ultimately sacrificed.
That there have been a mere handful of times that The Beard was tolerated popular fare in my five years of visible facial hair, of course, serves to illuminate (clever throwback to kangaroo words) the particular negative stigma I have sought to avoid, with the help of Gilettes and Prep. Mozambique was one, but I’ll save the travel talk for another day. University was another, but the liberty of embracing the “BA Image” soon ebbed, and once again I sought refuge in smooth contours. Now, having left the plausible yet untrue pretence of protection from COLD on the slopes, I’ll be shedding my The suspicious Beard and adopting an aura of approachability by foregoing the wizened, “Traveller Image” in lieu of “Everybodyelseness”, thus closing another chapter in my book of under-emphasised idiosyncratic moments.
The wind of fashion sensibility must be blowing from the direction of Aspen. Aspen, a mere hour by automotive, hosts and boasts the premier apres-ski scene. Chic lives here, in a big pentuple-storey mansion uptown. Locals can hardly decide if there is more white powder on the ski slopes or in the glitzy enamel restroom counter-tops of the Hotel Jerome. In the 1970s, Aspen was the platform for the immortalized “Hunter S. Thompson for Pitkin County Sheriff” campaign. For HST, victory would bring a counter-cultural revolution of sorts – the legalisation of all drugs and the replacement of tarmac streets with grass (normal grass) – and the title of Aspen had already been decided, should the day come: Fat City. But enough about that Gonzo bastard. He has blinded us enough with all his foolishness, narcotic shenanigans and goddamn blasphemy. His spirit looms large over us, the locals of little Glenwood Springs; we smell his odour. Occasional appearances in the fiercely independent Aspen Daily News (“If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.”) flaunt his celebrity liberalism as both a political campaigner and some paradoxical form of public hermit. May directions to his compound in Woody Creek be widely distributed amongst insurance solicitors and DEA officials alike.
Meanwhile, Thomas Martinez, the editor of the Post Independent of Glenwood Springs, is a prick. On a particularly icy day, I braved a ferocious blizzard, some say the worst since 1893, to reach his uptown office and present myself as both a foreign student of journalism and a student of foreign journalism. “Nah.” he replies. I could actually hear the full stop in his voice. “What if I just submitted something, a sample, a movie review column?” (although I knew this was a fool’s garden – Glenwood has one new movie every couple of decades.) “Nah, don’t bother.” Mr Martinez, now Thomas, shrinks to the size of my thumb and I step on his, leaving an ink stain on the carpet. So, with dead-end employment opportunities (that doesn’t even make sense) at every turn, forced to come to grips with COLD and lose The Beard, I have taken a vow to amuse myself by working at the bar of the nostalgically marketed Hotel Colorado.
Once the getaway of Al Capone and Teddy Roosevelt, I can understand the ethos of bald-faced crookery I have witnessed on the part of the management and staff since I arrived. A shining (ha-ha, clever Stephen King pun there…) Mecca for starving third-world immigrants from South Africa, the hotel represents a bastion of theft, lying and general suspicious enmity amongst its workers. Someone behind the bar has been making off with copious quantities of blue label whiskey on a regular basis, and yelling curses from the Devereaux bell tower about the apocalyptic wrath Apollo shall take upon Colorado in just repayment for how fucking COLD it is. And now, having stretched the Service Industry ethos of verbosity too far (thoroughly ingrained after 5 years of popping bottles), I shall forego all the bullshit and just say “The End”.