Lapsang Souchong

Hello friends,

What a beautiful day. I want some tea, but it’s still a nice day.

Yesterday I went to Whole Foods to write. I didn’t do very well. I’m going to enter a literature contest, short stories specifically, so I’ve been writing a short story about a man living in Alaska. The problem is the story has no plot. There’s this man in the woods, watching the snowflakes fall, walking around to check the traps he puts out for rabbits. One day he goes to Sitka and makes a scene in a cafe. He meets a woman who claims to recognize him. And that’s it. Nothing happens. The thing is I like to write fantastic things, I like to imagine weird scenarios, but I’m not very good at interlacing a plot. I wish I was. I have discovered that it’s much easier to write a short story when you know exactly how things will end. For example, I’m working on a story about a man walking through his house at night. His wife’s asleep, his children are asleep. It’s a sinister tale. The man talks about something inside him, a hidden desire he has to release that night. He is afraid his wife will judge him. He fears the world will judge him. But in the end it turns out what he wanted to do was not sinister in the slightest, but actually something quite common, but I wanted the story to be a kind of “fuck you” to “literature,” or to people who believe they create “literature,” since literature is something you either create or don’t create. But if you talk about creating literature, if you talk about how you create literature, you’re an asshole.

Anyway.

Maybe today is a coffee day. Later I have to work in my friend’s mom’s yard. There’s nothing in the world I less rather do. But hey, I need the money. Everything about this world revolves around money. At least everything in our culture, ie Western culture, ie the United States, ie Seattle. Seattleites are obsessed with money. It’s a disease. They like to spend money on Eleno’s Greek Yoghurt. They like to spend money on everything. In Seattle is where you most see the following concept: If it’s not expensive, it’s not useful.

Fuck.

My desire to drink tea is getting stronger. I would love to have a good lapsang souchong, possibly the best tea there is, but I will have to settle for the free sachets in the staff kitchen. Then I’ll go to my office to plan the class for today. I really want it to be a good class. Today we’ll cover important topics like the verb “to like”. Actually, it’s the only important topic we’re going to cover today.

I’m writing this in Spanish, but if you’re reading it, you’re probably reading it in English. It’s a new technique I’m trying out. I write in Spanish and then translate it to English. It’s just that in Spanish I feel more free. I don’t feel anyone is going to judge me. I can say whatever the fuck I want. But in English, in English I’m like a turtle who doesn’t want to poke its head out. I’m like a child clinging to his mother’s skirt. In Spanish I’m a lion.

For several days now I’ve wanted to write a post about Instagram and how lame people are on Instagram. But I find it very silly. After all there’s only one thing I want to say, well, I don’t want to say it but rather mention it. Mention it in passing, as if it didn’t matter. But now I’m not even going to mention it, it seems too dumb. Now what I want is tea and a good breakfast.

I’m going to go and see if I can get them.

 

Speaking German

Most people don’t know this about me, but the height of my German speaking was probably sometime in February of 2017. I was 33 years old. I’d gone to Germany because of a girl and that had failed spectacularly. So I decided to stay in Hamburg and take an intensive German course.

My teacher’s name was Lydia and at first I thought she was terrible. She wasn’t terrible, she was a gifted teacher, she was just a bit lazy. She made up for her laziness, however, with extreme wit and good humor and an amazing ability to explain the intricacies of German grammar to our fragile minds, and I grew to love her.

She was also a lesbian. I was surprised when I found this out. I never would’ve thought it. One night she brought her partner with her to dinner with all of us, and I introduced myself in Spanish — her partner was from Puerto Rico — and told her I was from the US.  Me, too, she said, smiling. You could tell she liked playing this little “joke,” introducing herself to Americans and then reminding them that yes, Puerto Rico is part of the States. Oh, right, I said, I forget that. Inside I was fuming. I don’t know exactly why, but I was fuming.

I was in love with a girl in my class named Kara. I wasn’t actually in love with her, but she was attractive and somewhat intelligent and for me that usually constitutes love. However, she was there for her boyfriend, or actually, her husband. Almost everyone was there for a significant other, except me, though that had originally been the plan. There was a girl from Nicaragua who had a cute smile and wore three inch thick sweaters. There was a guy from Spain named Fred, short for Federico, who spoke perfect French, perfect Spanish and perfect English. And now he was learning German. He was tremendously vulgar. He would use the “f” word with Lydia, in a joking way, and every time he’d do it I’d cringe. But underneath his somewhat bulky and abrasive exterior was a pool of insecurity which expressed itself in these verbal lashings. There was also some tenderness. On my last day in class he hugged me and said, “Good luck, mate.”

Anyway, the height of my German speaking came when I took a short trip up to Sankt Peter in Ording, on the North Sea. The idea was to do some surfing. Germany actually has some decent surf spots, though decent only in that they’re surfable. Sankt Peter in Ording was one of the worst places I’d ever surfed, but I had a ball. The local shop owner, Timothy, let me borrow a longboard for free. He gave me some gloves. Not rented them to me or let me borrow them, but simply gave them to me. I stayed in the water for at least an hour, which is long for me and long in the North Sea, and there were actually two other guys out there paddle boarding. The waves were pure wind swell. It felt like surfing on the moon. Or surfing in Norway. Or surfing in Germany.

That night, after surfing, I went to a restaurant in the town. I was terrified about how much it would cost, and my fears were founded. I got a bowl of soup, it was paltry and cost 8 euros. And as I came into the restaurant a man started talking to me. He was sitting at the bar drinking a Weiss Bier and had a ruddy face. His face looked sun burnt even though there was no sun in Sankt Peter.

“From where…..” He said in English, or rather yelled. “From where, you!” He said, pointing this time.

“Ich komme aus den USA,” I said.

The bartender laughed. “His German is better than your English.”

And then we proceeded to have a conversation. It was one of the more broken conversations two humans can have short of hand signals and grunts. I expressed that I lived in Hamburg and was studying German. I expressed that I had come to Sankt Peter to surf. I expressed that the soup was good even though it was too salty and tasted like feet.

The next day I got on the bus back to Hamburg, and the driver was Croatian and didn’t speak English. This allowed for more German conversation. I sat at the front of the bus and was the only one there for the first half hour or so. It was satisfying to speak German, satisfying to feel like I spoke it, satisfying to feel like I could say to people, “Yeah, my German is decent.” But then I left Germany, and it’s slowly drifted away from me like kelp on the ocean, and now I fear it’s mostly gone. Now I can’t imagine having those conversations with those two random guys in a tiny town next to the North Sea in Germany. I can’t really even imagine I was even in Germany. I didn’t have friends there. I didn’t talk to anyone. All I did was go to class, listen to my lazy but well-intentioned and intelligent teacher, and then afterward ride home, eat yogurt with muesli, take long walks, and read. Except, of course, for the weekend I went surfing.

Finding Your Voice

I’m sitting in PCC right now in Greenlake drinking mate. How am I drinking mate? Because they have a thermos and they charge the same as they do for a 12 oz drip coffee. What a wonderful thing! Mate! And also earlier I had a cream top yogurt and sat eating it and casting furtive glances at the people around me, not unlike a squirrel. I sat there, judging. Why is that woman completely covered? How can her husband do that to her? What does her child think of it? Is he going to pay for that coffee? Or is he stealing it? Soon the cream top was gone and I was thinking of buying another one. God, how I desperately wanted another one. But it wasn’t to be. Two cream tops is one too many.

Buying the mate was actually kind of a crisis. I’ve been drinking too much caffeine lately. But at the same time I felt like if I was going to write something that wasn’t complete and utter horse shit I needed some caffeine. Caffeine makes you think you’re capable of amazing things. That’s actually why I don’t like coffee: it makes you think your writing is better than it is. But tea, tea is good. Tea provides just enough stimulation so you can focus on something for a long period of time but without having grandiose ideas about it. Has anyone ever had grandiose ideas while drinking Early Grey? Only the queen.

I realized something the other day: Almost all of the writing I’ve done over the past 10 years has been terrible. Why is this? Because I’ve been trying to be a writer. I had all these conceptions of what a writer was, how he acted, and more importantly, what he produced, and I was trying to adhere to them. I felt like if I didn’t I wasn’t a writer. So I tried to emulate Roberto Bolaño and Chuck Klosterman and Bill Bryson, with varying degrees of success. Mostly without success, and in the end with failure because I realized that at some point you just have to give up. You have to be yourself. Some of the crap I’ve written over the past 10 years has been atrocious, because I was trying so hard to make it good. Despite this, I don’t consider the last 10 years a waste. Some people go their whole lives trying to be writers. And then they get to their death bed and realize, God, what an idiot I’ve been. But by then it’s too late. So at least I’ve realized this now. You just have to let it suck.

Which brings me to the next thing: I’m not going to drink alcohol until I get something published in print, for money. I’ve been “published” a few times online. I say “published” because some of the places I’ve been published a fourth grader could vomit onto the keyboard and they’d publish it. The writing has not been good. In some cases, it’s been comically bad. Take this article I wrote for Roads and Kingdoms, for example. I shudder when I read this. This is not me. This has 0% of my personality. It’s awful. And yet, and yet, it served for something.

All that talk about finding your voice is bullshit. There’s nothing to find!  The hard part isn’t finding your voice; it’s using it. It’s trusting that your voice, however immature or rambling or incoherent, is the one you should be using. Which isn’t to say you can’t “improve” or “hone” your voice, because you can. But your best writing using someone else’s voice is never going to be as good as even mediocre writing using your own voice.

Anyway, I think the mate has kicked in now. I’m done writing for today. I got up at 7am this morning, earlier than I usually do, to do some “writing.” I don’t know where the time has gone. It’s already 10:43am. The writing day is over. And how long did I write for? An hour maybe? Jesus. This is tough stuff. I think you just have to lock yourself in a room all day with a laptop. Maybe for a week. Maybe for a month. And just let it go. Let it go, and what comes out will be a masterpiece.

Or possibly horse shit.

Hay tantos libros malos

¡Hola, amigos! Me llamo Mark y soy de Bainbridge Island, WA. El post de hoy va a ser en español. ¿No hablas español? ¡No me importa! Deja de ser vago y apréndelo.

Me encantan los letreros que tienen la gente de Seattle que dicen, “Las vidas de los negros importan.” Me encantan como siempre están fuera de las casas de gente blanca y adinerada que no podría estar más lejos de la crisis que están viviendo algunos negros. Menciono esto porque estas son las mismas personas que han dicho centenares de veces, “Estoy aprendiendo español,” o “Debo aprender español algún día” y por supuesto nunca lo hacen. Quizás consigan una niñera de habla español para su bebé, para su pinche toddler, y ese toddler habla español más o menos bien durante un par de años, y luego lo olvida por completo. ¡Qué bien!

Sé que sueno amargo. Les aseguro que no lo soy. Solo que, bueno, en inglés a veces no me expreso bien. En inglés tengo miedo de ofender a la gente, pero en español me vale madres. ¿Te ofendió lo que dije en el párrafo anterior? Lárgate. Apártate de mi vista por el amor de dios. Necesito ir a la biblioteca. Ayer saqué algo de Gunter Grass y no me está gustando. En fin.

Me amiga me dio hace rato un artículo del Instituto Smithsonian sobre la moralidad de la gente cuando habla un segundo idioma. Supuestamente tenemos morales más bajos en el segundo idioma.  Yo he notado esto. Yo, en español, soy un cochino. No me importa nada. Creo que por eso me gusta tanto estar en América Latina. Me gusta fumar cigarros y buscar chicas. Me gusta vagar por el mundo como un pinche perro. Un pinche perro negro que duerme en el muelle de los sueños.

En fin. Ya he hablado demasiado. Mi café casi se me termina. Afuera sopla una brisa y la gente pasea a sus perros. Y a sus perritas. Y a sus conejos y gatos. Y quiero un buen libro, carajo, porque hay tantos libros malos en este mundo. Hay tantos libros malos y tantos libros buenos.

Segunda parte

Hola, culeros. ¿Cómo están? Qué bien, qué bien. Me alegro. Bueno, en realidad no me importa, pero igual me alegro.

Hoy. ¿Qué voy a hacer hoy? Bueno, voy a ir a la fiesta de una amiga. En realidad, no quiero ir. Ella me va a hacer sentir mal si no tomo. Y no conozco a nadie ahí. Así que, para serles cien por ciento franco, franquísimo, franco como el dictador, no quiero ir. Prefiero quedarme en casa. Bueno, eso no es cierto. No quiero quedarme en mi pinche casa de mierda. Prefiero caminar. Prefiero tomar un té. Prefiero tomar un bubble tea. Prefiero surfear. Prefiero remar en mi tabla de surf. Prefiero….bueno, prefiero hacer muchas otras cosas. Pero ya hice el RSVP. Así que tengo que ir. Iré. Voy a ir.

¿Y mañana qué, culeros? Mañana quién sabe. Lo único que me importa ahorita, pero ahorita ahorita, ahora mismo, en este momento, en este instante, es encontrar un buen libro. Hay tantos libros de mierda por ahí. Tantos libros malos. He leído muchos libros malos. He leído libros buenos y libros malos. Más libros buenos que libros malos. ¿Por qué? Porque no termino los libros malos. Llego a la página 40, o 50, y dejo de leerlos. Recién leía The Handmaid’s Tale de Margaret Atwood. Qué libro de mierda. Antes leía The Casual Vacancy de J.K. Rowling. Dios santo qué porquería. Prefiero mirar fijamente un pedazo de caca de perro en la calle que leer ese libro. Pero bueno, como les digo, no leo muchos libros malos. Prefiero los buenos.

Lo que sí quiero hacer hoy es comer bien.

Tercera parte

Ya terminé el café. La chica al lado mío no está guapa. Qué buen café. Pero qué buen café. Bien hecho, Fix, al fin y al cabo sirves para algo. Como quería café no fui a Peet’s. El café de Peet’s, estoy seguro, sabe a la suela de una bota. El café de Peet’s es para la gente que: o no tiene papilas gustativas, o es psicótica. No puedo pensar en ninguna otra gente que tomaría café de mierda voluntariamente. Hijo de su madre. Hijo de dios. Hijo de su hermana. ¿Pero de qué chingados estoy hablando? No sé. Simplemente no lo sé. Quiero un La Croix.

Bueno chicos, ya es casi hora de irme. Ha sido un placer. De verdad. No les miento, porque no soy mentiroso. Soy una persona honesta, recta, hecha y derecha. Soy una persona de los que hacen camping, de los que compran regalos para su mamá en el día de la madre. Pero, es más, soy de esas personas que no solo llaman a su madre para el día de mamá, pero que llaman a su mamá solo para llamar. De ese índole de persona soy yo. Soy un pinche santo. Reconócelo. En fin. Como ya no tengo café, y como no me gusta la música de este café, me voy a retirar. ¡No dije jubilar! Dije retirar, que es diferente. Eso es lo que voy a hacer. Voy a caminar a mi casa bajo este cielo gris y hermoso. Voy a observar el suelo mojado, la gente con sus perros, los perros con la gente. Y quizás, quizás hago una parada en el supermercado para comprar un buen yogurt. Porque no hay nada mejor que el buen yogurt, ¿verdad culeros?