Posts By iron paul

Writer’s Blah-k

I just spent the past few days editing a dissertation for a student who more than likely plagiarized from Chinese journals and then piece by piece used Google Translate to create a paper that, over the span of 150 pages, does little to prove that wage incentives result in increased productivity.  Each time I am given an opportunity to re-enter Academia out here, I always get it in my head that this is finally going to be my opportunity to step in and be the hero.  I’m going to rescue them from years of bad policy and bad teachers, and in doing so elevate my wife to a salary and status I feel she deserves.  After all, she is one of the few to get her degrees not through academic dishonesty, but through being an actual ESL who has been around the world and understands what is going on.  By me doing a stellar job, they will see what a power couple we are and they will want to make her the undisputed department head, the youngest in the school’s history, and bit by bit we will put a little integrity back into the education system.

It’s OK to dream, right?

But aside from re-introducing a little bit of purpose back into my life, I think I was finally able to smash through the wall I had hit with the book I continue to try and write.  After receiving a long set of notes from an editor, I was both encouraged and daunted by the things she had to say.  When she posited that my message was significant, maybe even important, I couldn’t help but feel proud and terrified all at the same time.  To think that my words would actually have the effect that I’ve wanted them to have for years was a thought that was almost too much for me to take.  High off the initial elation of praise, I zoomed through the edits of the first section with little to no effort, only to unceremoniously grind to a halt two weeks later.  I don’t even think it was because I ran out of things to say. I think it was because the reality of actually finishing something dawned on me and it sufficiently scared me.  In spite of the fact that I have wanted to be a writer for, oh I don’t know, my entire friggin life, in recent days I often find myself wondering if I can actually be one.

Barring the recent phenomenon of a rather polarized society, I don’t find myself wondering if I am good enough.  Yes, I do doubt my talents and abilities from time to time, but honestly I doubt more the ability of those around me to comprehend what I am trying to say.  I am one of those people who everyone has categorized, but so few have ever accurately done so.  From assumptions of being “Goth” for wearing black clothing (which I did to hide how much I sweat), to presumptions of a liberal political stance due to the fact that I am so loose on hot-button issues, I feel like publishing a book is going to permanently categorize me as a guy who either has some kind of agenda or forces me into the shadow of somebody who has done something similar.  While I don’t believe either result can potentially ruin my life or stifle a career, I do worry that whatever label is put on me is going to force me into a role, something I feel like I’ve always had to endure.

Still, personal dilemmas aside, I won’t know until I do it, so I might as well finish the damn thing and see what happens.  Hell, the bulk of the work is behind me.  I’m talking about 90% or more at this stage.  Why swim back to the other familiar pier when the unknown pier is so much closer?  Sure, it’s unknown, but when has that ever stopped me before?

Regardless, I feel a bit of strength and energy returning, so I have to use these bursts of inspiration to cover as much ground as possible.  I’m not sure how sporadic work is going to be (or if this was a one-shot deal), so there’s no point in spending my days watching television and waiting for another opportunity to fall in my lap.  While there is still time and while I still have some of this inheritance in the bank, I have to keep chasing this dream in spite of how unlikely it all seems in my mind.

So, having successfully completed my morning ritual of vitamins, hydration, and caffeination, and also having smashed out an early afternoon writing exercise, I think I’m going to head downstairs for some hot yoga and cardio.  A midday flush will be the perfect chance to let the brain fire up again and allow me to begin thinking about what I would like to say before getting back to work later today.  This will be the day I continue moving forward.  Nevermind how long the momentum lasts, what’s important is that I keep finding ways to get ahead of writer’s block and continue striving for a goal I deserve to have and realize.

I Forgot! (Also, update)

It was entirely my intention of showing a new-new chapter from the book.  I thought I had posted it, but I did not.

So here’s what’s going to happen instead.  I’m just going to get through Part I, and then select one new-new chapter and one highly edited chapter for the handful of you who have seen any chapters from this portion of the book.

It looks like I can get through all of the revisions of Part I by the end of the week.  It will at least be a much more polished version with a much clearer purpose and mission statement.  I have to thank, thank, thank the individual who had such great feedback.  I truly wonder how she even saw what I was trying to do because of how tangential I am.  Regardless, if this book ends up anywhere at all, it will be largely due to a connection I made over at reedsy.com .

That’s not an advertisement, either.  That’s a shout-out.  I no longer have a tangled mess because of this person, and now I think I have an actual good story on my hands.

Also…

I’ve decided what to do with all of the stories I wanted to include.  I’m going to put them in a companion piece to Failure to Adapt.  A few of you might remember that Patterns of Misconduct was the original title of the manuscript, but after finishing The second half of the manuscript, I felt like the new title was more apropos.  Therefore, I am free to slide the old name over to the new project.

A lot of Patterns of Misconduct has already been written, as many of the short stories are lifted directly from the original manuscript and the ensuing drafts.  However, there are some other neat stories I can throw in to add a little bit of color to a dreary story and provide a supporting cast of characters that you don’t get to see in the main story.  Also, I’d like to include a few “director’s cut” chapters, something where a chapter was changed significantly and you can see the first draft.

For added dramatic effect, I want Patterns of Misconduct to line up with the timeline of events that take place in Failure to Adapt.  I want there to be an overlap, so you can contextualize the stories and when they are taking place.  A reader may even be so intrepid as to read them in tandem.  If I can somehow split the story in half the way I have done in my mind, then the end product should come out pretty cool.

But that’s just my idea for it.  There are far too many stories that, while interesting, have no place in the direction that I am going to try and take with the new draft.

I’ll try my best to put something up several times a week.  There’s plenty to do.

Iron Paul’s Secret

People ask me all the time,

“Iron Paul, what IS your secret?”

Ginger.

I boil it, I juice it, and I cook with it.

Well, Sasi does. I’m nowhere near as skilled as she is.

Ginger.  You should all be using it.

Don’t buy ginger tea in any of its forms.  Buy the root.  The whole root.

Ginger, darlings.

ALSO:

Roselle, lemongrass, ginseng, ling zhi, wheatgrass shots, vitamin c / zinc tablets, spirulina, and tons of water.  Like, frickin tons.

And juicing.  Buy a good juicer.

Also again… last one this time:

Find somebody who loves you.

Writing Update

After a rather tense month of waiting, I have received the feedback from the editor I hired to help me with Failure to Adapt.  The notes were largely positive, although it confirmed some of my fears about my style and narrative voice.  What remains now is to comb back through the entire story piece by piece and carve out some more focus.

Truth be told, there was no predominant message in the book.  There was not any real direction.  I brushed on many different things that may have warranted more description, but a narrow, focused story branched out into too many different ideas by the end of the book.  This professional helped me to see that and has helped me figure out how to narrow my focus a little more and describe fewer things with greater detail.

So I have been back to work in earnest, pulling everything apart, responding to the editor’s questions and observations in little writing exercises I am giving myself in order to get ready for the big rewrite.  The task ahead is large, but certainly do-able.  You just have to address it one piece at a time, then when you get a section done, lay it in with the rest of the edits and see how well it all works together.

Right now, it’s all a bunch of small tasks.  I have managed to patch up the first five chapters, now I am giving everything a final reading to see how the new stuff goes with what has already been written.  I needed to go back and establish a few things early in the book, things that would pop up again and again later on.

But…

I could sit here and type all kinds of vague bullcrap that really only has meaning to me and a handful of people who have read it, or I could just get back to work.

Updates coming soon to the Failure to Adapt portion.  Previews of some new chapters are on the way.

There’s a lot to do and plenty of time remaining in this day, so I’m going to click back over to my writing while I wait for Yayoi to deliver my salmon and kimchi.

Thanks, as always for reading (all two of you), and a huge thanks to the Sassy Woman, who hss supported me without question or protest as I chase this dream.

❤ iron paul

Sept. 29

Matthew,

I have been doing exactly what I want for a year now. I have been making decisions based on things I have wanted to try. Nothing has come out of anything I have tried so far.

But sometimes losing is what you need. Sometimes a defeat forces you to take a long look at your own playbook. Sometimes failure pushes you to the spot you couldn’t seem to end up in through any previous efforts.

You start to gain focus when you try and fail several times. You become familiar with the pitfalls. You become able to recognize obstacles sooner. Your response time becomes better.

You even learn how to take the hit. You learn how to tumble and absorb some of the shock. You can take bad news. You can still put on a brave face.

You learn to stand upright. You learn to disagree. You learn to work harder than the hardest working person. You learn contingency plans.

I think I’m ready now. Even if I’m not, I will move the ball farther down the field. I’ll get to that goal line. Then I’ll do it again. Even if I fail, my next attempt will be better.

-pjm

Sept 26

Matthew,

At the Mega Bangna mall again, stoned and feeling grateful. A few trips to the health stores and some late afternoon yoga are all that’s on the agenda.

As I was entering the mall, I passed a woman walking with her mother. The mother was probably in her sixties, but she carried herself with a great deal of delicacy and femininity.

The daughter was lovely, but looked tired. I think to myself all the time about how tired I am, but nobody is tired the way a mother is tired.

Two or three meters behind the mother-daughter duo was a man rolling in an electric scooter. Time seemed to have weighed more heavily on him, as his his graying skin and liver spots revealed. He seemed content to roll on his own, allowing the gals their time.

What a privilege it would be! For me to one day be rolling behind my daughter and her aged mother! To behold a life truly complete!

Shit, dude, I’m starting to tear up in the middle of this coffee shop.

I guess that’s all for now. I’m going to wander around and be alone with my thoughts.

Your friend,

Pete

#380

January 30, 2017

Matthew,

I was at my favorite vegetarian restaurant today, perusing a rather heavily picked-through a la carte assortment. The lunch rush seemed to have ran off with all the usual items, so I picked through ten or twelve items that remained and selected vegetarian larb moo, two servings of sitr-fried mushrooms, and some wontons.

I put all my items on a tray and was perusing the shelf of snacks while I waited for the lady to come and put my purchases in a bag. As I was picking through the banana chips, a college-aged girl and her boyfriend walked in. She saw the tray and picked up the mushroom wontons, and for a moment I was about to let her have them.

But I did not.

I didn’t say anything, I simply took them from her hand and put them back on the tray. For a single moment in time, there was a collective gasp from the girl, her boyfriend, and the two ladies who worked there. For that moment, I wondered to myself if I had done the right thing. As the moment, which felt like ninety full seconds of breath-held awkwardness, came to a close, one of the women said “sorry” to the girl and she simply went and sat down with her boyfriend. I echoed the apology, as politely as I could put them back on the tray.

As I was paying for my food, I thought to myself hey, now’s your chance to do something cool. Go give her the wontons. That’s the absolute last thing anybody would expect from you.

And that voice in my head was right. They were twenty baht, and it would have been a rather unforeseen gesture to not only relinquish the item, to to pay for it as well. Furthermore, there is a woman who works there that still regards me with suspicion and scrutiny in spite of frequent patronage. For a moment I thought of her as well. Giving this 20 year old college student may completely break down walls. Giving this young lady those delicious mushroom wontons might actually build bridges with a hard to read and harder still to understand culture.

But I did not.

Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that I was taking revenge for some ancient slight, or perhaps trying to even a decidedly tenuous playing field. You would not be wrong in assuming those things, but there was a different motivation today.

The food was on a tray. Other a la carte items were on the counter. Pay attention. Situational awareness. It’s one thing to be a stranger in a strange land, but the awkwardness and the near-ignominious lack of regard for their surroundings that I have to see on a daily basis with these college students is infuriating. Not only were they sheltered, but now they are loosed upon the land with money, a vehicle, and no clue. I know that most kids that age have no world experience, but I’m talking about world experience scores that are in the negatives when you take into consideration what a semi-closed and semi-private society this is.

The food. Was on. A tray.

If this is your first time, I’m sorry. That’s really what the apology was for. I’m sorry you don’t pay attention. I’m sorry you had a startling moment. I’m sorry that you live in a country where nobody disagrees with each other. It must have shaken you up a bit to have a large white dude snatch a carton of delicious food out of your hand.

But the food was on a tray.

So I took the wontons, Matthew. I took them with a smile on my face. And you want to know something? They were fucking delicious.

Arroy Mak,

Pete

#385

March 4, 2017

Matthew,

I just got home and decided to hold off eating lunch until I got this written down. I’m a little unnerved after seeing a moped accident only twenty minutes ago while I was walking home from my favorite vegetarian restaurant. It was another one of those moments where it’s hard to know what happened, because there wasn’t really a collision. From what I can tell, it was just overconfidence combined with inexperience that caused it, though I’m sure it didn’t help that there were three people piled onto one of these tiny machines.

From what I could tell, it seemed like the boy driving was trying to dodge a woman who was parked on the side of the road and had just opened her door. Her expression was that of annoyance, though there was definite concern. I’m not sure if the concern was for the people, however, or for herself and the loss of face, but I do know she seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the situation.

The kids were almost run over, too, by a truck. It was a fiasco, and it really shook me up. I kept walking, annoyed by what I was sure to be another one of those incidents that was caused by puerile disregard, but then one of the girls began crying and it really got to me. I had to look. She was clutching her shoulder and sobbing loudly, while flock of bystanders dumbly hovered around, uncertain of what to do.

I hardened my heart and pressed onward. Truth be told, I wanted to kneel next to the girl and hold her hand until the ambulance arrived, but I talked myself out of the sympathy that was attempting to take over. It’s hard to explain this struggle, but I will briefly attempt to, if not only to absolve myself of this coldness that I think you and my friends know is not typical of me.

First, everyone is always in a hurry. Even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, people with disposable income are all moving at unsafe speeds to get somewhere. Second, mopeds are dangerous. These stupid things are everywhere, and for some reason nobody seems to comprehend that they were not designed for long-distance street driving. Third, there are no traffic rules. People squeeze these stupid little idiot-bikes everywhere they will fit, and it is just dangerous.

I just don’t understand what goes on around me. The Thai are some of the most unconcerned people I have ever seen when it comes to safety. It blows my mind, the overall absence of fear. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time feeling sorry for people when this happens. You can only take so much crap and observe so much stupidity before you start to kinda say Ok, prick, you get what you deserve. You think I haven’t tried? They can’t be told anything. I hate it for them, because I can still hear the sobbing in my mind and it is still messing with me, but at the same time I wish they would take that next step and understand that rules and laws keep us safe.

I don’t like this mix of emotions. I need to watch some cartoons or something.

Pete

#387

March 8, 2017

Matthew,

I’ve just completed a rather lengthy task. Since I am finally on a break, I wanted to get back to work on my writing projects, starting with putting all of my letters into one master document.

Now I feel emotionally drained.

First, watching a decade pass before your eyes on paper is strange in and of itself. It reminded me how rapidly and unrelentingly time marches forward. Second, reading the letters from the second half of 2016 was particularly tough, because it was abundantly clear that I was trying desperately to brace myself for the bad news that I knew was coming. Third, it was hard watching myself struggle. It was like looking down on myself while feeling a bit of the emotional pain at every stage: the desperation of when I moved back to Savannah, the repeated attempts at learning how to socialize, the hopelessness I felt up until very recently… damn, dude. This has been one rough journey.

In a way, it reminded me of Uncanny X-Men #138. It was like a huge flashback of all my greatest battles and all the great losses and defeats I suffered. It was just wave after wave of problems. It was conflict after conflict. It was like a highlight reel of terrible shit that inevitably prompted the evolution of my character. Like the comic, it was a story, en media res, being told in flashbacks on how I had gotten to this point.

I’m glad I documented it. I’m glad I take the time every now and again to organize everything and update it like this. Things have been touch-and-go for the better part of four years now, so there has been little time to sit and collect my thoughts this way. All previous vacations have been spent pushing my mind as far away from reality as I could, mostly because until now I had no idea how I was going to get out of the mess I had created for myself.

Now it is time for the next chapter. The horse has been sufficiently kicked, and not much else remains to be said about these last ten years. I have a lot of thinking I need to do and a lot of planning as well in the coming weeks. In addition to all these new factors in my life, I need to take some time to be selfish and irresponsible. I’ve done about all a guy can do for the moment.

Nuff said, Pete

#390

April 5, 2017

Matthew,

I try not to read my recent letters for long periods of time. I don’t want them influencing how I write and I don’t want to examine a period that may have been traumatic when I am having a good day. For the most part, my first three years in Thailand have been terrible. Rife for growth and personal development, to be sure, but terrible.

But today when I was at the gym I was thinking about how a year ago I was sprawled out in my bed, too injured to even get up and move around. My rage had turned me into a compulsive exercise fiend, and with little to no variation and a thick skull, I hurt myself badly and for a few weeks was unsure of what to do. Not only that, but according to the letters from around this time last year, I was perpetually angry.

I may not have figured out very much since then, but I have certainly moved forward. I had no money, a stack of bills, I was miserable, and I was 108 kilos. Now I have some money, a single student loan, and I weigh 100 kilos. One thing is for certain: each year, a bit more progress is made.

I even have a 708 credit score.

When you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to be able to evaluate how far you have come, especially with significant stress. I wasn’t even thinking about this until recently. It has almost been like somebody just flipped a switch, and the torrent of misery all but stopped. Yeah, I still think about my stupid job and I’m sure I haven’t sorted through all my mixed feelings about the loss of my parents, but I’m just so satisfied right now. It’s not like I’m a hundred percent, either. I still have a few things wrong with me and I still get stir crazy from time to time.

And I get annoyed a times. I managed to drop down to 97 kilos, and after a prolonged sinus infection I took too many antibiotics and killed the gut flora that was keeping everything moving. Naturally I tried to overcompensate in the gym again, and I ended up messing myself up a little bit… again. I’ve been mad at myself for doing the exact same thing exactly a year later, to be honest, and that is what has prompted all of the thought about last year.

But I will say this: it’s not as bad this time. I suppose I am slow to learn my lesson on certain things, but no matter what has happened, every year is a little better than the previous. At least I’m not doing those horrible visa runs anymore. At least that little cunt Geoffrey is gone. At least I don’t have to tutor. This time, the improvements in my life are far more pronounced, it would seem.

This was all going through my head today when I was at the gym. Although I was a bit mopey over gaining a few pounds, I noticed something that snapped me out of it. After my cardio set, I went to the locker room to sit in the sauna. I removed my shirt and happened to glance up at the large mirror on the wall, something I try to avoid doing, and I was more than a little surprised.

I had muscle tone.

Not a lot, mind you. I’m not fit and cut. But I did have discernible musculature in my arms, chest, and shoulders. Actual muscle tone. My arms are not particularly large from having to cut back on weight lifting, but my biceps, triceps, and shoulders can all be seen. It’s not just a solid mass of flab. I couldn’t even say that about myself when I was in the army and exercising ten to fifteen hours a week.

It was quite a revelation, especially since I was lamenting my slight weight gain from finishing off my school year with a bit of a loss of self-control and spending a significant portion of the vacation so far just sitting around. I was trying to reason everything, of course, but at the same time a calm came over me suggesting that I just chill out and be satisfied with myself.

Obviously, I am still batting it around in my brain, but I will say the conclusion keeps coming up the same. I actually am satisfied with myself. I logged on to my bank account just to look at the balance. That was satisfying as well. Be satisfied with yourself. Stop entertaining alternate realities and what could have been.

These kinds of things can only really be seen when things are holding still. Did I need it? Absolutely. I was starting to get down on myself for how I was spending this free time. I’m on vacation, and I need to do just that: vacate.

So I’m gonna chop up another lime and pour some more Perrier, then turn on Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” and look up the lyrics. It also dawned on me today that I’ve heard that stupid song a hundred times and still have no idea what they are saying.

After that? I’m gonna get some ice cream. Screw it. Go big or go home. It’s not a proper vacation if you don’t gain weight.

Get to the choppa,

Pete