At the end of the day I taught one class. That was my training over. Two hours of listening to Debbie talk and seven hours of watching teachers teach. I’d really learned nothing except that appearance was all that mattered. The kids clearly weren’t learning anything, and most of the Korean teachers spoke almost no English. The place was a joke. If I decided to jump about and spout gibberish I would have been considered a good teacher… as long as I smiled and wore a tie.

I had a dream last night. I was in St. Andrews but it wasn’t St. Andrews, and there were zombies hunting me. The whole world was overrun by zombies. I had a gun but when I fired it the bullets zipped off in odd directions like those balloon stalls at crooked amusement parks. All out at sea there were sharks and you could see the sharks from the shore – big beautiful silver shapes circling in clusters of three. I tried to climb out onto a boat via a heavy rope, and I almost got low enough to touch the sharks, but I couldn’t and didn’t, and when I got onto the boat there were more zombies.

Then I woke up.

I realised then that it was more or less the same dream I’ve had every night. Sharks. St. Andrews. Zombie-like bad guys. Guns that don’t fire.

 

There’s the romantic side of getting married, and then there’s the ‘wedding’ itself…

When I’m nervous I yawn, and the more nervous I am the more uncontrollable my yawning becomes. Right now I’m not tired, but I’m yawning once every twenty or thirty seconds

The man behind the desk is smiling at us and stamping papers. There are hundreds of papers and he’s stamping either side, in carefully chosen places, without looking down. The speed is incredible. He looks about seventy and I wonder for how many years he has been here, stamping these same forms in the same places.

I’m getting married today. Like, right now. Right this minute. It’s happening now, after months of planning, of waiting. There is no priest, no vows, no dress… Just a guy stamping papers quietly and smiling while I yawn like an idiot.

 

This month quite possibly marks the third birthday of my cat, Berry. Amy and I adopted her in December 2008 and we were told by a(n admittedly incompetent) vet that she was around seven months old.

We don’t know what happened to her in those seven months and we rarely speculate. She was found on the streets of Seoul by an insane American woman not long before we adopted her, and as she was healthy and fairly amicable towards people, we assume she wasn’t on the street for long. The first thing we ever knew about her was that she was playful; incredibly boundlessly energetically playful. We think she probably had a home but was thrown out on the street once she became too old to be considered cute.

In 2007 I left university. Before founding Beatdom and fleeing Scotland I was suffering a bit of an identity crisis: I defined myself as a student, and yet for the first time in my memory I was about to leave education. I was about to head off into the big bad world and so I went mad. My brain worked too much and made little sense. I wrote thousands of words every day, painted pictures and played guitar on stage – despite having no real talent for any of these things. I was just desperate, I suppose, to find my place in the world.

*

That first paragraph assumes that the answer to the question posed in the title is me. I am Rodney Munch.

That’s not necessarily true, as you will see. I have called myself Rodney Munch for various reasons at various times, but so have other people. Presumably, there is someone out there who was given this unfortunate title at birth.

 

When I first started working in China, my students laughed at my name. A day or two later, as I talked with my manager, I was told that my name had been a bit of a problem in the hiring process. “Our last teacher was called David,” he told me. “The Chinese didn’t want us to hire another one.”

I thought this more than a little strange. If my name had been “David Hitler” or “Kim Jong-David”, then it might have been a little more understandable… But even so, I couldn’t imagine why my name – surely one of the least imaginative a parent could bestow upon a child – had been jinxed by whoever came before me.

Then the stories came out, albeit slowly. My co-workers – a friendly and talkative bunch with whom I can discuss just about anything – were very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of “Crazy David”, as he was known.

I learned a few things about him that began to explain why he was so intensely disliked:

How recent is that photo, and how much has it been retouched?

It was taken the week before the first column, by a very well known and talented photographer. A friend of Mr. Dust’s that I’m not at liberty to name. It has been touched a lot, but never retouched. Why do I suddenly feel like I need a haircut?

 

Because you do. How did you meet Dust?

I was hired by Mr. Dust’s previous assistant, Candy. She trained me and had me up to speed before I actually ever met him.

 

Do you address him as “Mr. Dust” to his face?

I address him as “sir.”

This Christmas, pretend you care about the health of your loved ones by buying them an exotic gift from a country they know nothing about.

Avoid dying in your sleep

Fan Death is supposedly a common cause of death in South Korea. It works like this: You fall asleep with a fan whirring in your room. The fan slices the oxygen particles in the air and you slowly suffocate.

You might have heard of this and dismissed it as silly gibberish. Nobody, you say, is stupid enough to believe in fan death. But that sadly isn’t true. The Korean government believes in fan death and legally requires all fans sold in Korea to come equipped with timers.

So this Christmas buy your loved ones a Korean fan. Make sure they never die a fictional death.

It’s hard for outsiders to understand just how prevalent prostitution is in South Korean society. People from Europe or the United States will think of prostitutes in terms of stereotypes lifted from movies, and the occasional drive through a bad neighbourhood. These girls, we think, are a small minority working street corners for pimps.

In South Korea, however, prostitution is everywhere. Certainly there are places notorious for brothels, but they exist out in the open across every city in the country. It is technically illegal, but these American-introduced laws are largely unenforced, and “crackdowns” are just for show, to appease the international community.

You might be forgiven for overlooking prostitution as a tourist, unless you pass a U.S. military base or perhaps visit Seoul’s famous “Hooker Hill,” but once you know what you’re looking for, it’s hard to miss. Perhaps the most common example is the “barber shop.” Of course, these places don’t even pretend to offer haircuts. They are simply apartments with rotating barber shop poles outside, and they can be found in even the most well-developed areas of the country.

In the world’s most wired country, two out every five people run a personal blog. When a company wants to launch a new product, or the government wants to make an important announcement, these bloggers are wined and dined lest their disapproval sink the venture. Internet addiction is a huge problem, and recently a couple was charged with letting their baby starve to death as they spent their time living in a virtual world. People are driven to suicide by internet rumours and message boards, blogs and chatrooms are awash with the vilest abuse. Korea is a country where people live online.

When I first moved to South Korea I stopped writing. I found the country absolutely uninspiring. My hopes of moving to an exotic paradise and penning the great novel of that location seemed to die when I arrived and found myself amidst an ugly, unfriendly nation.

“The kitchen was the center of life at Owl Farm and it was the engine room for Hunter’s literary Juggernaut.”

Michael Cleverly & Bob Braudis, The Kitchen Readings

*

Since my teenage years I have idolized Hunter S. Thompson. I have read everything he wrote, and have written about him at every opportunity. It is his words I look to in my darkest moments, his voice that guides me when I am nervous, and it is his symbol – the double-thumbed Gonzo fist – that was my first tattoo, proudly set upon my left forearm.

In 2007 I travelled to Colorado for the first time, chasing the legacy of the Beat Generation. It was hardly lost on me that Colorado was not only a temporary home to the Beats, but the long-time residence of Hunter S. Thompson.

The Crash

By David S. Wills

Travel

On Wednesday, 28th July 2010, at around 4pm Japan Standard Time, I was sitting in Narita airport, waiting for a journey that would carry me a significant way around the world. I was, however, not as excited as I could have been. I couldn’t shake the fact that I was leaving a comfortable life, leaving my girlfriend, leaving my cats, leaving my motorcycle… I couldn’t look forward because I was so focused on all that would cease to be a part of my present.

Boarding was uneventful, as had been my flight from South Korea’s Incheon to Japan’s Narita. I waited and waited and finally moved my bags onto the hideously crowded peak-season airplane, and took my seat in the middle of a five person aisle, right at the centre of the plane. My heart sank a little as I realised I’d been given the worst seat on the plane.

I didn’t look around at my fellow passengers. I don’t like people, for the most part, and I find my life is a little easier if I simply pretend they don’t exist. I had no idea then that these faces would become so familiar to me; that these people would become my friends, allies and enemies in the coming days.

”Jump in” my Dad said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world— as though I was an idiot for not just clambering up myself.

We were standing around the back of an industrial park, in front of a skip.

No doubt they’ll be some people who don’t know what a skip is, other than pleasant enough sounding word. Perhaps you’ve been known to walk with a skip in your step… maybe you’ve tried a Skip, a delicious prawn cocktail flavoured corn snack… quite possibly you’ve seen Skippy the Bush Kangaroo on TV and know sometimes she’s referred to as ‘Skip.’

None of those definitions match the skip I was standing in front of. If you were standing there you’d most likely refer to the skip as a dumpster.

Yes, my Dad wanted me to climb into a dumpster.

Not just any old dumperster, but a dumpster full of corrugated gold: cardboard boxes. We’re moving house, we need boxes. Where else would we go but a dumpster at the back of an electrical supply store?

It was a low point, but from each and every event there are infinite possibilities. One of those possibilities was that it would end up being a mildly amusing anecdote to lead into a TNB post about the infinite possibilities of existence.

Whilst in the skip rooting around for decent sized boxes I slipped and fell. I hit my head on the side of the skip. But it could have been better or worse. I could have stepped on a different piece of cardboard and avoided a pratfall altogether and merely have just found some boxes in a skip. At the other extreme I could have stood on a different piece of cardboard, fallen much harder and shuffled off the mortal coil in a fashion only marginally less embarrassing than David Carradine hanging himself in a cupboard and wanking into oblivion.

This is a world of infinite possibility. My actions in the skip could have led to events that eventually culminated in a world war. I mean, it’s highly unlikely, but at the same time World War One began because a guy in Sarajevo got a bit peckish before lunch.

On the morning of June 28th 1914 somebody decided they were going to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand as he paraded through the streets. That somebody wasn’t Gavrilo Princip, who is perhaps best known for that time he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand causing the outbreak of the first Great War which saw a failed Austrian painter called Adolf join the army, and later the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party who had taken a particularly strong objection to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which brought a formal conclusion to WWI. This in turn led to an eventual rise to power, the breaking of many of the terms of the Treaty and a deeply flawed attempt take over the world and exterminate the Jewish race, which ended with failure and numerous film adaptations. 

World War Two was driven by hunger for revenge and supremacy. World War One was driven by a hunger for a delicious mid-morning snack.

This wasn’t a total coincidence. Princip was already pretty bent on somebody using something to kill Franz Ferdinand, and was in on the whole ‘let’s try and kill him on his parade’ scheme which failed miserably when somebody fired something a touch too eagerly. The grenade intended for the Archduke exploded behind the car and only managed to kill a few pathetic pedestrians that weren’t worth starting a war over. The car sped off in case there were any more hecklers in the crowd.

After this incident Princip went off to a cafe to get himself a post-failed-assassination-commiseration snack, whilst he presumably cursed ACME for their unreliable weapons and vowed to concoct an even more elaborate scheme to murder Ferdinand at a later date.  

By pure chance the driver of the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn on a diverted route. He realised this and broke suddenly.

Right outside the cafe where Gavrilo Princip was spitting out a fresh mouthful of coffee in disbelief and quickly concocting a new assassination plan which essentially boiled down to pistol whipping someone out of the way, going up the car and shooting Franz Ferdinand/changing the course of history forever.

It’s a funny old world.

I’ve been thinking about life changing moments a lot recently, particularly since Brad Listi’s recent post on Why We Exist.

Okay, I’ve been thinking about my life changing moments a lot recently and about luck and fate and all the other things you need to succeed in life beside either talent, good looks, luck, or a willingness to give blowjobs to well connected guys who really want to help you become a star…

Writing is something I’ve done since I was quite young, and I’ve always been told I’m quite good at it. Alongside breathing, repelling girls and cooking potato wedges it’s one of the few things that I’m really, really good at.

However, I never saw how I’d make a living off it. I knew that somehow I’d have to get a degree, and then a job and all sorts of other boring responsibilities that make you wish you could be eight years old forever and just spend all day in your underpants eating cereal and watching cartoons.

When I was a teenager I was shopping with my Mum. That’s the cool kind of guy I am— shopping with Mum, scavenging in dumpsters with Dad. We can’t all go to Disneyland. Anyway, I was happily picking up the usual stuff I read. At that time it was mostly crime fiction, and not very good crime fiction at that. My Mum presented me with a book, a bright orange book where the title was scrawled and the cover was a cartoon. She had only one recollection of the book: that she’d read it. That was it. I looked at it and decided it might be pretty cool.

And through that book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was introduced to Hunter S. Thompson and the notion that writing wasn’t just a sad pathetic thing that boring people did in Victorian times. Writing could be fun and exhilarating and really quite cool.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Los Angeles there was a guy who had recently written hundreds of sentences, which when read in chronological order told a story as good as any novel.

In fact it was so good that it soon became one of the ‘any novels’ that excellent unpublished novels rated themselves against. The only problem the author had was in selling as many copies of his book as possible. Then there was also the fact that he’d recently heard about the ancient mythical Japanese ‘Page of Many Voices’* and wanted to create a real version of it— on the internet if at all possible. It was a dream that would have been almost impossible, were he not living in a world of infinite possibility.

After some period of time I was in my bedroom writing about things. Through a MySpace group dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson I’d come across a guy from Scotland living in Korea who was willing to publish something I’d written. I’d also responded to almost every classified ad asking for writers willing to write for free. Of all of these Kerb Magazine became the one I got the most out of/put the most into. I was writing, and I was writing a lot. As well as writing savage indictments of political figures I was also writing screenplays and started novels about Vegas based cops with dark pasts.

All of these were abandoned.

I got a message from a guy in America who’d just published his first novel and he was inviting me to join his literary community. And that guy was…

Jonathan Evison.

Why, who did you think I was talking about?

Well, to cut a short story shorter, I didn’t take up the invitation. I was a busy man writing doomed to fail novels. I didn’t have time for literary community nonsense.

And later when I got an invitation from another debut author inviting me to read his blog I took a quick glance at that day’s entry, replied and exchanged around three messages. I liked the guy. His profile picture was of his face, which was a pleasant and friendly looking face.

This led to first the Brad Listi MySpace blog, which was really quite popular. This in turn led to Brad’s blog which wasn’t on MySpace, and it was really quite popular. And it was here I was tricked. It seemed as though Brad had blogged again, but the link took me to a different site. It certainly looked similar, but it was clearly different. It looked a lot like the old version of this site, which is largely due to the fact that it was.

This could only have happened in the 21st century. And along the way there were infinite possibilities at every turn. As well as the many things that worked towards me getting here, there were an unlimited number of circumstances which could have taken me somewhere else, got me here a different way or ended with me being murdered by a talking bear in a clown costume. I embarked on a short and dismal career in stand up comedy at one point between getting here and becoming one of Brad’s many MySpace readers. Again, that could have ended in any number of ways.

I only got really into TNB commenting because I was alone and a bit depressed at university. Had things worked out better I wouldn’t have left so many comments and wonderful people like Gloria, Becky, Tawni, Ashley and Tammy wouldn’t have urged Brad to make me a contributor. And I only qualified because I’d been published— in Beatdom. I didn’t know at that time that David Wills was a TNB reader and he joined the site the day after I did.

And now, to get slightly sentimental, I think about how dull and empty my life might have been. Because more than the opportunity to not only write, but have wonderful intelligent people read it and then say nice things about it, it’s a wonderful place to be and to interact with people.

I think about infinite possibilities a lot. Also I think about the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, except behind each door is a complete alternate timeline instead of a boring romantic comedy. A world where Hitler got into art school and didn’t mind the Jews so much… a world where she said yes and not no… a world where scheduling conflicts with Magnum P.I didn’t prevent Tom Selleck from playing Indiana Jones… a world where I just ignored another first time author trying to make a name for himself…


Infinite possibilities… One guy might eat a sandwich and get indigestion… another might eat a sandwich and end up causing a global conflict…

And somewhere in a world of infinite possibility there is a version of this post with a much better ending…




*This isn’t real. Or is it?**

**No, it isn’t.



 

I sat looking out at sea, but POSCO had claimed it. Sea walls, giant freight ships, and clouds of black smoke hung over the horizon. Behind me the sun shone majestically. It did its best to bring out some good in this unnatural scene. The water lapped upon the beach, sweeping broken white shells off to some better place. A crab crawled out of the water and spluttered, staggered, and died. An old woman with a red net-bag hobbled along the beach and picked it up. She dropped the bag, sniffed the crab, and nibbled on its longest leg. Satisfied, she threw it in the bag and scuttled away.

An old man drove by on a scooter, tearing up the sand. He tried to set the bike down, but it kept sinking. The beach wanted no part of it. Finally, he threw it to the ground and ran into a shaded spot by a pile of dirty rocks, and shat on the sand. He was maybe thirty feet away from me.

 

Careening across an empty freeway in the dead of night is not the best way to wake up. It could be worse, I guess, but it’s hard to describe the shock and confusion of screeching tires, and the echoes of a thud that you heard in your sleep.

When the driver of the vehicle is an old man, who you suspect might be as drunk as you are, starts screaming “Tiger! Tiger!” you are thrown further into panic as you shake off the beer and the slumber and begin to work out where it is that you are, and what exactly just happened.

**

Last Friday I found myself waking up in such a manner. I had fallen asleep in the back of a taxi and was awoken by the aforementioned thud and screech. I was quickly sobered as I tried to get a grasp on the situation, but the driver’s continuous Blakean riff was drowning out my thoughts.