Sunday, November 29

How to send letters to me!

Finally! And it was written above my door the whole time (in Chinese, of course). I didn't know where to look. Here's my address:

Simon Braunstein
210-1 Wunsin Rd, Floor 9, F-2
Gushan District, Kaohsiung County
Taiwan 804

Thursday, November 26

Old shoes and new raquets.

The following news is highly classified, and should be repeated as many times as possible, because there is no point in it being classified. Pictures will accompany this post shortly.

1. I am now trading English lessons for ping pong lessons with a teacher at my school--yesterday was my first lesson. My teacher told me that his English name is Federer. I am training to play the principal again next week. I have developed something of a fierce forehand,I think.

2. I am going to thanksgiving dinner tonight! I was up last night at 1 AM making mashed potatoes. I'll rush home to make the stuffing today. It's going to be at the apartment of my new friend Mitsuru. We're running friends, as of this week. I know you were sad that I wasn't planning on celebrating, Mom, and apparently someone got the psychic message and invited me.

3. I made an apple pie last night, to give to the people at work...share the Thanksgivin'. It's a comforting feeling to be able to bake here...even though it took a heck of a lot of time getting the ingredients together for the first time. It's not that they're hard to find, really...although spices are challenging. It's more that everything is packaged differently, and in a different place than it normally is.

And now for the video game thought of the bleedin' day:

Who remembers Super Metroid? Who played it over and over again, with a fervent passion, besides me and my 12-year-old friends? Who can name what makes it so special? Is it the atmosphere? At this point, I'm inclined to think so. That's because I recently invested in an XBox 360 to play a game that was supposedly inspired by it. It's called Shadow Complex. See the resemblance in gameplay?

I won't lie--Shadow Complex was most of the reason I bought the XBox. Quality platformers are so few and far between these days--and I was psyched to support a guy who clearly had his dogmatic video-game-loving head on straight. But as I played it, I was non-plussed. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, it was fun to play. But it lacked something. That something, I think, is atmosphere. Super Metroid establishes a kind of "alone in space" feeling very well, and achieves with a minimal story line what Shadow complex only manages to bungle by trying to be contemporary and political. It's unfortunate, because the visual design elements in Shadow Complex clearly were on par with Super Metroid, even considering that it's coming out 20 years later.

Ah, le sigh.


Mandarin Character of the Friggin' Day:

= Meat.

Add onto any animal, and it means the meat that the animal gives. So goat meat is . Chicken (the animal) is 鸡. But the meat of the chicken is 鸡. Get it?

Monday, November 16


I have a kitty! This is what she looks like.

Her name is Macaroni. She's awesome. We have conversations. I know more Chinese than she does, although she is a local. She can only say "mao," which is the Chinese word for "cat". There are few things I can promise in this world, but I can promise there will be more pictures of her doing ridiculous things. When I go to bed, she lays down next to me (until she gets up in the middle of the night and OPENS DRAWERS (no joke). It's pretty funny.

I got her from a service called "BARK" in Taiwan, which stands for....something Animal Rescue Kaohsiung. I don't know about the B. But basically they pay for her food and bring it to me, and they provided any equipment I need for her。

In other news, the principal of the school has challenged me to a ping pong match, this wednesday at 3 PM。 People are telling me I should lose on purpose.

In any case, I'm going to a birthday party tonight, and all is well.

Here's a link to a video of the concert I went to at the concert in which Lee's wife, Lily, was singing. There was some pretty wacky/ awesome stuff going on there. About half of the concert was lip-synced. With fabulous outfits, of course. Oh! And there should be a short video of walking around at my school. Be forwarned, though, both files are about 27 mb's.

Czech it! I am outta hea.

Thursday, November 12

From the new homestead.

Here are some photos of the new apartment. Video, possibly, when I get it more settled and have a higher bandwidth. But this is a sneak peak (mostly at my mess).

Ahh! Off to teach.


Wednesday, November 11

Adorable moments in government employment.

So, today, I walked into the Dean's office during lunch today, at 1:00 PM (Lunch on Wednesdays is half of the entire day, from 12-4). About 10 adults work in that office. And wouldn't you know? Every single person in the office was sleeping, head on desk. One of them woke up and asked me, smiling, what I wanted. I asked if Nina, the Dean, was around. She pointed to the dean's office, a door in the back of the room, and said she was sleeping. She said she would wake up in twenty minutes. I just smiled.

Ahhh, it's just terrible here. I might be forced to take up cartooning again.

Tuesday, November 10

Simon--1. Real Estate Agents--0.

Simon Braunstein and his wagon of exciting news comes to town today. I apologize for my extreme exuberance.

Exciting event #1: I may have chosen an apartment. It is on Bo-ai 2nd road and Wunsin. Yes, it's a little closer to town than I'd like. Yes, it's a ten minute scooter ride to the train station. Yes, it has a loft and Japanese wood paneling everywhere, and a balcony, and is right next to a park, and costs approx. $360 US a month. Yes, it's a doorman building. Yes, it comes with leather furniture, a small balcony, a mostly complete kitchen, a washing machine, and a hot tub with whirlpool jets. No, I have not taken any pictures. Yes, I have drawn some blueprints in MS paint. Oh, and before you ask, yes, it does have cute stairs going up into the loft that look like they belong on a ship. And an office. Did I mention the office? Did I mention the wall-mounted speakers that may or may not work? The whole place is awesome. I'll take pictures for ya'll tomorrow, as I'm going to stay there tomorrow night just to try it out, before I go all in for it. And I found it on my own, basically. So no agent fee. My landlady is a nice woman named Sonica who speaks little English. Oh, heavens, no, that could never get complicated.

Exciting event #2: I shall own a cat by Sunday. A neutered and vaccinated animal that was rescued goes for 60 bucks or so, here. The woman with the apartment says she's okay with the cat, as long as I agree to pay for anything the cat damages. So let's be CAREFUL, okay, cats of the universe?

Exciting event #3: This Sunday, I go running with some of my co-workers, just before I get a cat. Yay!


筷子 kaitze
Do you see what I see? Two characters? The first one has two little star thingies on top. Those represent bamboo. The bottom two little symbols mean "fast". The second character, the big one that looks like a scepter with a line going through it, means "son". Could it be? Is this the chinese character for...alpine skis?
It's the character for chopsticks.


It is considered rude to stab things with your chopsticks. Girls often cover their mouths if they speak while eating. I haven't seen men do it I am forced to believe it is something girls are expected to do, or something.


Half of the KTVs here (KTV = Karaoke Television, bars with karaoke in them) are just covers for strip clubs, where, I am told, pretty much everything except actual sexual penetration takes place. Strip clubs here are, apparently, a lot different than they are in the US. I would like to emphasize that this is what I was TOLD, and not what I saw, nor is it what I intend to experience. I learned more than this from conversation, and I'll tell you more if you really want to know, but you'll have to catch me in a less public venue.


didn't come out here
to rough it
we came to smooth it.
things are rough
in town.

Sunday, November 8

On different kinds of people you meet.

Sometimes you meet people who do more things than you. They start businesses and invest. They have two and a half full-time jobs. They are interested in you getting involved in their new projects. They have many different hobbies, and they seem to be good at all of them. Sometimes these people are kind, and other times they are cocky. Sometimes you want to be around them. Other times you want to be them. They claim that, really, they have no job. That they don't work, because they love their work.

Sometimes, you're happy just being you. And you wonder what they're all rushing around for. Who needs 50% share in an organic restaurant, anyway? But then you go home. And you get on your tiny computer. And you wonder why you're not rushing around. What else is there, really?

You decide not to worry about it. Clearly, you cannot be happy yourself if you are trying to be other person's version of happy. Meanwhile they're out there, flirting, making friends, designing exciting new sushi dishes for their organic restaurants, collaboratively writing business and lesson plans, finding popular Micheal Jackson songs to convert and play on the acoustic guitar, and doing unusual things that people will want to ask them about, especially at parties.

They are getting material for the fantastic, revealing novel about life and work that they never intend to write. Your novel is about sitting in front of a screen, and pushing certain keys at certain times. Your novel is about the girl at the lotto stand, who gave you about fifteen hints about how much she liked eating dinner, wink wink, but you just didn't feel like asking her out. After all, it's Sunday, she's got bad hair, and you have work in the morning.

You worry that you might have been one of these people at one time, but that you no longer are capable of the same things as they are. Of being superfunctional. Or worse, that you were never capable of being so vibrant, so excited, so involved. They have a list of things to do. You have only a list of things on your list. Life doesn't always feel like this, but it does sometimes.

Thursday, November 5


There are the latest photos. Some of the city, some of the apartment I'm thinking of living in, one of my favorite courtyard of the school. It's a pretty fabulous location.

Everything is just fine! Getting along. Got paid today, wot? Got an envelope full of cash. How unusual, says I?


In the search for ourselves,
we drove ourselves to peaces.

If I learned anything,
it's that there is no right person,
just right people.
You find one, you put work in,
and you make it work.
Then a peice of someone doesn't fit,
and you reach for the scissors.

Or you might not, depending on how badly
you want it

Friday, October 30

Out to lunch.

No post yesterday! GASP! Things is fine, but I've been super tired lately, because of how early I've been getting up for work...the first week back to teaching is ALWAYS exhausting, as some of us know. Anyway, I'm working in the bookstore, and things are going just fine. This weekend, I find an apartment! And a TV! And an X-Box! And a cat (maybe).


Mandarin characters of the friggin' day:

-- ming (second tone, so raise your eyebrows while saying it). It means "tomorrow".

BUT, there's more: As you can see, there are two distinct figures in this character. On the left is the symbol for the sun, and on the right there is the symbol for the moon. So, in the time it takes for the moon and the sun together in a day, it will be tomorrow.

BUT, there's more:

亮 -- mingliang (second tone, then the fourth done, which goes down.) Means "bright". Liang and ming both mean bright, it seems.

BUT, there's more more thing: The symbol for sun also stands for the word "day", as one new sun comes up every day. And the symbol for moon also stands for "month", as one new moon comes up every month.
So, the date today, in Chinese, would read: 月10日30.

Got all that? Good.

Tuesday, October 27

Tea on the moon, anyone?

Here are some new photos from the new school, as well. The photos here are from the drive to Cishan (pronounced Chi-san, strangely), and the school there, where I thought I was working. But my agent gave me the option of working in what I thought was a much nicer place, so I decided to work in a different school in a town called Lhuju, instead. So there are also pictures of the drive to the town of Lhuju (Literally, Bamboo Boulevard), where the Tsai-Wen elementary school is. We got there via a drive through a place called "Moon World," which is named as such because it looks like the surface of the moon. I didn't get to see much of it...but it looks amazing, yeah? It's all this extremely strangely angled terrain formed after volcanic eruption. The soil is so metallic and ashy that nothing grows there...well, due to soil blowing over, some things have started to grow on the fringes. Unfortunately, those were the only parts that I saw. But apparently, there's a good lot which is completely barren. Great views from the tea houses there, I hear.

And there are two photos there from the Tsai-Wen school which is where I started working today. More on that in the post I've already made, though. As far as aesthetics, all I can say is that these schools make New York City Public School facilities look like dirty dive bars located in prisons. You'll have to wait to see more.


PS: Could someone comment and tell me whether you can read the descriptions of these pictures? They should just have basic names, describing what they are.

Heavens to Betsy!

There are three things of which you must be made aware!

1: I had my first day of work today! It was awesome. I work with about 6 other people, and we all take turns teaching in various location-themed classrooms. So, today, I taught (on my first day, no less...eeeww) the bookstore, and it was pretty a weird way. I'll have to expound upon my feelings about teaching in a future post. I also have tons of pictures, which I'll gladly share later. Actually, the picture to the left was on the first worksheet I handed out (it was made my someone else, don't worry)--the kids were supposed to find the title and the author of said book...anyway, really the funny thing was that I had a hard time explaining why it wasn't a real Dr. Seuss book. Rosie (an awesome new co-worker of mine, who helped me find my way home on the train) didn't believe me at first--because it's a pretty good photoshop job. Anyway, in the end, we decided by the end that it wasn't 1st grade appropriate, even if no one really knew what it said. ULTIMATE IRONY: They already have about 2,000 of these copied. Other people will probably keep using them.

2: I had my first day of substitute work yesterday! It, too, was awesome. Cash in hand. Take that, two-month long waiting period for a paycheck in New York City. KA-POW.

3: I had an enormously expsensive meal yesterday for dinner...took Andrew, the other guy who's just started, with me. We paid $NT 500 ( 500 / 33 = $US 15) each for all we could eat veggie soup, seafood, poultry, and Kobe-beef steak right off the barbecue in the middle of our table...and most of it was prepared by the waiter. Freakin' delicious. AND, lest I forget, they gave me a complimentary pack of Wrigley's chewing gum on the way out. Score. Yes, it was more expensive than the $NT 50 lunches, the $NT 100 dinners, and the $NT 30 beers. But I'm willing to suffer.

Mandarin character of the friggin' day (with clues to help you figure out what it is):

羊 -- Pronounced "Yang" -- and to get the tone right while saying it, you should raise your eyebrows while saying it! That's called the second tone (there are five that stops short, one that is steady, one that rises (like this one), one that dips and comes back up, and one that falls.)

Clue 1: This character is for an animal.
2: The animal looks like the symbol.
3. Pay particular attention to the two lines on top. They are the animal's distinguishing feature.
4. The animal can have a beard.

Okay, fine, it's a goat. It looks a little like a goat, yeah? It's funny, actually. I learn a lot every day, but choose to remember only the most random stuff. I don't know how to say "no" (perhaps this is meaningful), but I do know how to say the name of a fish whose English name I don't know, because I ate it for the school lunch today (which is $.75 a day, by the way).

Monday, October 26

Haven't had a poem in a while, have we?


We lounged late into the afternoon
strange tastes in our mouths
from free booze we downloaded off the internet
and dusty cans of tuna
left by previous tenants.
We were thinking of looking for a plan.

Time passed like a joke
that the world kept telling us.
The punchline might have been deadly,
but the telling took forever.
We played video games in the morning
or at night, or both. Either way we were wasting time
and not trying, though we could have been.
I told my father, "You're shitting all over me!" when he explained
it might not be a good idea
to move to Saudi Arabia,
though they were hiring teachers there.
I didn't want the job, but still.

Time passed. A week. Maybe a month.
Soon enough, even Arabia was looking good.
We didn't do much. We went to the public library.
I used small computers to set up online dates
with whom I hoped to drink water and climb trees--
things which didn't cost, and therefore had no choice
but to mean something.

Our profiles and our resumes
claimed we were qualified to be everything
which we were, but it still didn't mean anything.

Sunday, October 25

I put the neato incognito.

Hey! What's this? More photos? Yep. And no descriptions, as I haven't figured out how to do that efficiently, yet. But I will tell you that there are a few pictures here of the Love River area, of the Cheng-Cing Lake area (where my friend Ash lives), and of other things I've been to see or watch. The picture of me standing with other people has the following people in it: Ash, a friend and another teacher, his wife, Fong, his son, Marley, and my other friend who's come here at the same time as me, Andrew--he's come from Canada. Cheers.

OH! And you'll notice that there's an exit sign towards the end of the slideshow. That's the Mandarin phrase of the friggin' day. The four characters (in order) mean "tight", "rush", "exit", and "door". I bet you know what that means, all together...

The more you look, the more you see.

It's funny: when I go to countries where everyone is speaking a foreign language, certain emotions I have become louder. The emotions that become louder are linked to the emotions I know how to express. Invariably, I felt more apologetic in France, and I was well aware of how little French I knew (I was most comfortable apologizing and explaining that I knew little French). In Germany I really liked greeting people, because that was what I knew how to do (I liked saying hello). Even in England, where I spoke American, I felt abnormal, perhaps because there were so many new slang terms and idioms.

Here, in Taiwan, I think the food is delicious, and I'm very interested in knowing how people are doing, although I really don't know what their responses mean. I also feel like the layout of the city is pretty confusing, although I'm fascinated by it. I would posit this is because I find the language fascinating and confusing, but feel pretty good about asking people how they are. I also know how to say, "That's delicious!" It should be noted that I also understand all four characters in the phrase for "Emergency Exit," and so now, I am convinced that Taiwan is obsessed with evacuation. Are you with me?

I would politely request, as I often do in Chinese (Qing wen*... = May I please ask...) that you reflect about how your experience with any language has made you feel about living in the place where it is spoken. Are you bored with a language, dialect, or set of idioms/slang words? Does that make you feel bored with where you live? Have you ever been to a foreign country and felt the way I do? Or am I linguistically touched?

* Chinese characters have tones over them, normally, so you have to say this phrase in a certain way. I'll have to figure out how to type the tones.

Yesterday and the day before I've been looking around, seeing some wonderful new neighborhoods, an apartment, and getting my scootering legs beneath me--oh man, I thrive on that stuff. I know I said I thought scootering was dorky and ridiculous, but honestly, it's ridiculously fun, particularly in a place where everyone is doing it illegally. Let the record state that breaking the law while doing something makes it cool. So, yes, this means brushing your teeth while burning a flag is achingly hip. Get to it (not to say that brushing your teeth wasn't the bee's knees to begin with).

The central issue for me, right now, is deciding where and how I want to live. At the moment I don't really know anything about the location of the school I'm going to be teaching in, so it's hard to make these decisions. I don't know if I want to live as a minimalist, a maximalist, in the city, in the suburbs, in the country, near a lot of shops, near some natural features of the earth, near expats, far away from them, or all these things at once! I don't even know how much money I want to spend on an apartment, since for a super nice place I could pay something like 400 US dollars a month...but who needs two bedrooms, a bar, and four balconies? Okay, yes, I'll admit, that last part would be nice.


Poems are en route, should you be interested!

Friday, October 23

That feeling of not being watched.

It's been a while, but we're back.

Current exciting news: Taiwan!
Current drama: Details of work, and licensing issues with New York State!
Recent feat over biology: Staying up for over 40 hours (I tried to jetlag on the 26 hours of plane riding that I did, but unfortunately, when it was time for me to go to sleep based on the time in Taiwan, my body said, OH NO YOU DON'T. Hence, I've just slept for 12 hours.)
What I have been doing lately: I went to LA, then came back to RI, decided to sign a contract to work in Taiwan as a teacher, so I went to Florida to see my grandparents, then came back to Providence to get my visa, then went to New York to take a flight out of New York to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, via Anchorage (we flew over the top of the world). And that's just for starters.

Finally, the blogging part of the blog:

Yesterday I arrived at the airport at 8:25 AM, quite tired, and not knowing what to expect from the universe. Would I be put in the back of a van full of other teachers whose livers were now subject to sudden extraction? Would I be immediately arrested for the government on account of my long crime record as an unregistered ninja in Southeast Asia? Would I suddenly be consumed with the urge to restart my knitting! The answers to all of these questions is, thankfully, a giant NO WAYS JOSES. Rather, I was picked up (as planned) by one Mr. Lee Knight, my agent, who proceeded to take me out to breakfast and introduce me to an environmental activist named Tim, who is also working as a teacher. We sped around Kaohsiung on a scooter for the whole day, seeing the sights and basically informing me about everything I would need to be informed about. Worried about your lack of knowledge of cell phone plans, scooter contracts, and tipping in Taiwan? Don't worry, I've got you covered.

In any case, I spent the majority of the day with Lee at his school, which is down the street from his home, where I'm staying and blogging from now. I met teachers, observed them, and went out to dinner with them, before my dramatic collapse into a bed. All in all, I was very impressed with the hospitality and concern for my well-being that Lee has. The next few days look like they're going to be filled with good stuff. Friday is more orientation and scooter driving practice, Saturday is hanging out with Ash, a teacher who I observed yesterday, Sunday is heading for the beach at Kenting (possibly with Tim), Monday is getting a health check and visiting the school in Cishan (pronounced Chi-Shan).


The new system I'll use for photos is this: I'll be putting flash slideshows up from now on, and they'll do what you see below, if you have flash. As a one time only amazing incredible offer, I will also link to the same photo album today, in case you don't have flash, for some wacky reason. HERE DA LINK.

Some of these photos were taken while riding my bike in LA, some of them on the plane to Kaohsiung, and some of them at Ching-Cheung Lake (pronounced like the cash-register sound) right here in the city. I haven't taken any pictures of the really awesome temples yet, but we'll get to that.

Oh! And I don't know how often I'll be updating this blog...probably it will be once every few days. For those of you who haven't been reading this blog since its conception (which would be either my parents, or none of you), I originally started writing this to inform people about what was going on in my life in London, when I studied there about 4 years ago. That was how we did it then, and dang gone it, that's how we'll do it now.


Mandarin character of the friggin' day: STOP. Guess why it's important if you're riding around on a scooter?

Tuesday, September 22



the sands of
the sands of
the sands of
the sands of
and the cities
slabs built on sinking shifting
built out of
built up out of
people praying on top of
the bodies of
the bodies of
the bodies of
piled up mentioning the weather to each other
in bars, small sweaty
the one on top looks at the stars
the one beneath her says hello
and a head opens, searchlights and lasers
fly out into

Wednesday, September 2

Brave men run in my family.

So I says to my boss, in Florida, I'm out of here. It isn't working. Sorry. And I go home.

Home is comfortable. Lot of food in the fridge. Parents are very nice, very generous. Got to get out, though, because I feel like I'll devolve into something worse.

So I says to her, I says, I'm going to LA. To stay with my friend Ben. To maybe go to Thailand when he goes, in October. She says, OK, let us know what's up. So I say, bye, Mom!

So I go and live in LA. I apply for jobs. I go to Vegas. I take pictures of an MMA fight. I see some art. I come into contact with old friends who have moved out here too, and find that some of them are tied to work, and some are happy, and some are sad. And I start to wake up later. And go to the gym every day. And who knows what's up? Not me.

Still looking for a job! (Re-read the title of the blog, but with a cynical approach.)

Tuesday, July 28

I was feeling like it was the end for me. So he said, tighten the fuck up, do a second course. We kept drinking.

Aaaaaand we're back. Course ended 3 days early, because the entire group had caught scabies/MRSA/Staph. We (the people doing the course) will never know exactly what caused the outbreak, but we suspect it came from some mud that the kids were flinging at one another on day 11. So, although I've been doing nothing but talking about the last eighteen days of my life with everyone down here, I figured I owe at least a cursory explanation here.

Basically there were supposed to be 11 kids, 9 showed up for the course, and one was removed for continually running away and being generally unsafe. The course lasted 17 days. We did on average about 5 miles of canoeing a day (a very small amount, by most standards here). The lead instructor was named Wade, the assistant instructor was named Tony, and the third instructor was yours truly (that guy with the beard on the left). Ultimately, I felt like I really enjoyed watching the kids change and struggle through the experience, but felt very disempowered by how little I knew about what was going on. Wade ended up driving (leading the group) for most of the beginning, which was good and necessary, but I guess I'm just disappointed that I wasn't more capable considering how long I've already been teaching. I also didn't get my promotion to assist, which means I'll have to do another course if I want to get a contract or if I want to get paid more than 125 a week. Which is fine. I can live on that. Just means a more scrappy lifestyle, and a slower route to owning a car/motorcycle. As far as the kids...mostly there were issues of integrity and passive communication that we had to deal with. There were no instances where people became physically aggressive. It was mostly pretty calm, and we saw the kids holding each other accountable for their communication/integrity issues at the end of course. We'll still be doing followup (10 days of massive paperwork/visiting each kid's house 4 times and meeting with the families), but other than that, not much to say.

To be honest, I felt completely run over by the whole experience, and the last few days I've been considering not working here any more...I wonder if this is the kind of feeling that people recover from. Unfortunately, due to legal craziness, I'm never allowed to post pictures of the chillins on the internets. But if we ever hang out, just ask me and I'll show you all the videos and stuff. Yes? Now, it's my first day off in a long while. I've made an alcohol stove from an aluminum pepsi can. I went and looked at some outdoor gear, but left the store knowing I was too smart to buy most of the things I could just make myself. I don't have much money I feel more impressive and perhaps more unimpressive than I ever have.

Finally...Rufus Wainwright, anyone? I'd never heard this song. Kind of like the video, though.

Saturday, July 11

Not much to say.

Except that I know now what it means to be happily busy, happily caught up in things I can't even begin to understand about the future. It's coming at me, and I'm ready to get swallowed. Maybe this doesn't sound like a positive thing, really, but in a way I feel pure and at peace about it. I've been struggling with getting caught up in myself professionally and emotionally for the last two years...and now the moment has come for me to just be. So that's what I'm going to do. Who knows who I will be in thirty days? Not me. It's gonna be awesome to have it all in my head, though.

--KLF 168 Instructor Simon "Thunderstein (new nickname)" Braunstein

PS: Checking my phone in 12 days. At Crescent lake campground, after paddling the Oklawaha River for ten days...

Wednesday, July 8

Loch and Key

Back in Key Largo, getting ready for my course, which goes out in a day or two!

Sunday, July 5

You say grenade, I say grenada.

New art by Katherine Ramos! Check out for the lot of it. This one is called "Ladies Don't Speak of Such Things".

Family, man. Can't live with 'em, can't start a mafia without 'em.



I see a metal puzzle
carrying people from comfort to confusion
I see a facilitation of commerce,
a realization of ancient science
a means for modern drama
in a time of tiny international social scenes.

The more you look,
the more you see.
A reason to study one book for fifty years.
The more you see,
the more you look.

In a time of tiny international social scenes,
a means for modern drama,
a realization of ancient science.
I see a facilitation of commerce.
Carrying people from comfort to confusion,
I see a metal puzzle.

I see a plane.

Thursday, July 2


So! It's been a while since a factual update. Basically, I've been up to my eyelids in work here at Outward Bound. Haven't taken too many days off this month (about four), and now am on my way to a week off hanging out with the parents and family. My grandfather just had an operation as well, and I'm going up to hang out with him for a day or so, to be sure.

To summarize, I spent a few days down at the Key Largo base shadowing a course, three weeks (with a lot of driving) up at a base in a town called Scottsmoor, near Cape Canaveral, and another few days back down here in Key Largo, shadowing another course. It's been a pretty quiet existence, and I'm kind of glad to be actually going on course on the 8th (out of Key Largo). Of course, this is an extremely recent development--I just found out yesterday that all that is happening, which is a pretty big deal to me, because it seems to me that the 35 days on course (with one day off in the middle) are going to be some of the most challenging days I've yet experienced. But things have already been pretty different for me down here in the Florida. Here's a list of the strange things I've done in the last month:

--Went to a firing range and practiced firing a, that's difficult.
--Made plans to get a motorcycle license, and looked at a few bikes.
--Actually PRACTICED playing my banjo, a little (eek!).
--Went to see the Transformers movie.
--Asked a Park Ranger out on a date. Might have been turned down, not sure.
--Saw a NASA rocket launch (an Atlas IV)
--Learned to make apple pie from scratch, which people tell me I'm pretty good at.
--Learned to drive a trailer and a 15-passenger van.
--Gone for two weeks without a shower.
--Started using protein powder.
--Been involved in a car chase involving children running after a minivan (poem soon to follow).
--Slept in a van with a teenager who was afraid of being beaten to death by the other members of his group, who didn't really hate him--just wanted to use beating him up as a means to get out of completing their course.

And now, a poem:


Civilization is: teenagers kissing
in line for movies at the mall
while Daddy stands right behind,
bills flapping in the breeze.
I know I don't want that.
And from my canoe
I can see all of you
clutching your personal items,
the ones you have named
after imaginary soulmates,
men and women who never were.

Take It Home Today, the signs say
But I'm not going anywhere.
I'm sticking it out here,
on a slog through muddy marshland
mixed with barely fixed symbols
of Americana, broken in screen doors
ferris wheels and tractors
with one more ride left,
cars that are barely colors
any more. Honestly
I love those hard, faded blues,
those warm, dried up reds.
But who can stand the mosquitoes?

Thursday, June 25

Checking disc for errors.

So, I've taken a Meyers-Briggs test. It's the first thing I'm doing on my first day off in about 15 days. I was hoping it would help me get some direction for the next few days, since I honestly have no idea what I'll be doing. It's boring and interesting at the same time, because this is sort of what I wanted--to be in the middle of no-where and not have a lot to do except practice music, writing, and drawing. In any case, the test pegged me as an "idealist", no matter what way you slice it. I'm most likely to be an ENFP. For those of you who don't know anything about this test, I'd be happy to send you a copy, if you want. Anyway, here are some interesting tidbits from the bits about ENFPs, which I hold to be very true:

--ENFPs firmly believe that "There's always another way or another answer."

--ENFPs are less productive where there is disharmony because they pay more attention to the relationships between people at work than they do to the tasks.

--Most ENFPs will say they are organized, but others might not see them that way. Their desire to be open to the moment tends to outweigh their need to be organized

--For ENFPs, loving is an almost constant state. They are generally involved or in love with someone or something new.

From a book I'd like to read.

You have noticed
that everything an Indian does
is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World
always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.

In the old days,
when we were a strong and happy people,
all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation,
and so long
as the hoop
was unbroken,
the people flourished.

The flowering tree
was the living center of the hoop,
and the circle of the four quarters nourished it.
The east gave peace and light,
the south gave warmth,
the west gave rain, and the north
with its cold and mighty wind
gave strength and endurance.
This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion.

Everything the Power of the World does is done
in a circle.
The sky is round,
and I have heard that the earth is round
like a ball, and so are all the stars.
The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
Birds make their nests in circles,
for theirs is the same religion as ours.
The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.
The moon does the same, and both are round.
Even the seasons form a great circle
in their changing, and always come back again to where the were.
The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood,
and so it is in everything where power moves.

Our teepees were round
like the nests of birds,
and these were always set
in a circle, the nation's hoop,
a nest of many nests,
where the Great Spirit
meant for us to hatch our children.

I added some line breaks, but apparently these words are from a book by a man named Black Elk.

Friday, June 5

The fully stocked refrigerator at the end of the universe.

Howdy from York, Maine, my mecca of couch-sitting this week. Well, not exactly, as I'm doing a bit of running and strength training with Matt (my sister's boyfriend). I've also been doing a bit of hiking up at Katahdin, as the picture to the left indicates. Absolutely beautiful plumage on that mountain. We It was great to hang out with my sister, whom I feel more connected with now--we really hadn't spent any extended amount of time hanging out since I left for college seven years ago, and it seems we're both fully functional adultish beings! Huh?

Anyway, I'm hanging out at the house where she's house-sitting with Matt, and enjoying the groceries, beaches, and master bedroom I've been given to sleep in. On the 8th, it's off to Key Largo!

Sunday, May 31

Smoke On The Water

So, I'm back home now, before I go off on a trip with my sister in the Appalachians for a little less than a week. But let's review. It's been 15 days since I've done any kind of describing of my life here, So let's have a sentence for each day, shall we?

1. Went to the Catskills with my friend Courtney, hiked 8 miles or so and reached camp at dark.
2. Hiked 6 miles or so and then hitchhiked the rest of the way out with New Jersey Boy Scouts to get to Courtney's car.
3. Drove out of the catskills after waking up with about an inch of water in our tent, and then drove back to Brooklyn. Sent things home with Courtney and proceeded to spend a wonderful last night in New York with Jess, eating french food, playing Wii, and having a good time.
4. Got on a plane to Jacksonville, and arrived scared and kind of alone at the Yulee Outward Bound base, where I slept in tents with seven other people being trained.
5. Got up, ran, got trained in using some behavioral modification tools, learned to canoe, canoed .3 miles, camped.
6. See 5, but more intense, less sleep.
7. See 6, but more intense, less sleep.
8. Worked with two other trainees to act as instructors for a twelve-hour block, which was a ridiculously long time for the amount of things we had to organize people to do, then had a one- hour debrief, then at 6:00 PM another group started their twelve hour block as we canoed six miles at night on the river, had a one hour debrief, and we went to sleep at about 6:00 AM the next morning.
9. Got up at 11 AM this same morning and did another 8-hour instructor block, and camped as adults (we each acted like crazed 13-year-olds when the other people in our group were acting as instructors for practice).
10. Got up at 6 AM or so and did another 8-hour instructor block with an hour debriefing after a peaceful morning, and were caught in a lightning storm for two hours (which meant we had to be in lightning drill mode, which involves a lot of sitting).
11. Got up at 7 AM and did another 8-hour instructor block, canoed 5 miles, and then did my team's second instructor block, which went much better and lasted only around 7 hours, mostly because people were too tired to make it worse for us, I think. We were in lightning drill for an hour or so.
12. Got up at 7 AM, ran, got in the canoes, debriefed a lot of things we had done/seen from the night before, and then canoed 18 miles, getting to a place called Paradise Island at 8 PM.
13. Got up at 1 AM after a short nap under a tarp to find the instructors had vanished in order to let us finish the course on our own, canoed twelve miles until approximately 5 AM, took a nap in an estuary, found base, and hauled all four of our canoes up through swamp and mud in order to get back so we could clean all our gear, learn more about Outward Bound, and camp for the night after visiting a gas station (ooh, privilege!)
14. Got up at 6:30 AM to study a 15-passenger van operator's manual and take a driving test, while cleaning out more of our gear and learning more about how to fill out Outward Bound paperwork, of which there is a great deal to learn about, before getting pizza on the way home and feeling accomplished for having completed training (basically)
15. Got up at 7 AM, ran 5.6 mile "marathon" that the kids in the program had to run on their last day (my time was 35 minutes, woo!), went back to base and almost finished cleaning things until I had to go to the airport to get home, at which point I was told my assignment for the next three months (Yay! I'm in!) and then hurriedly got on a plane to get back to Providence.
16. Yesterday, when I was relaxing at home and began this entry.
17. Today, when I'm going with my sister to camp in the Appalachians.

Yarg. Some of those sentences turned into run-ons, in much the same way the days seemed to. I can't imagine how much more there is to tell, and I'll probably be thinking about what happened to me in the last two weeks for a long time.

Basically, my plan for the next two months is that I'm going to the Key Largo base to shadow an instructor on a course for a month as an "intern", after which point I will be travelling back to Jacksonville, where I got my training, and acting as a third instructor on a course, which is really a test to see if you're ready to advance from being an intern to being an assistant instructor. Should OB decide if they want me to be an assistant instructor and that I'm ready for it, they'll probably ask me to sign either a year-long or 18-month-long contract. The difference is big as far as pay. As an intern for the next 2 months or so, I'll be making $125 a week, and as an assistant instructor I would make around $80 a day.

SO! Now that we have all that debriefing out of the way, I have two things for you:

1. Photo evidence that most of the things above actually happened.
2. A poem:


Kurt Hahn says:
it's all going down, man
the trains, the tyewriters, the radio, the goddamn ball point pen,
this is it, man, give me your men
your MEN only.
I will givie you teenage mutant ninja merchant marines,
with lode stones for hearts
and fins for flesh.

So we give him our children,
we say, Kurt Hahn, show 'em
what to do,
then give 'em a barbeque
raise your leet crew
to do in lieu of the way
few others do.

And our kids
they look at internet porn, plastic army men
women the way men want women to be women,
they're seeing all this, meanwhile
Hahn goes on and on,
the steam engine,
the steam engine,
the steam engine,
the ball point pen and the radio being used
on the god damn trains
and it rains
all over everyone,
all over the advertisements and logos.
It rains like a spastic machine gun on a drum kit.

Kurt Hahn,
we know he means well,
and he can still put people through hell,
MAN. But he fails to calculate
that it rarely rains
in space. So I say, Kurt Hahn, you died before
you could go on, and I forgive you for that.
But don't gargoyle, aight?

Pa pa pa pa pa pa pa PEACE.

Monday, May 18

Gone Fishin'. Sort of.

Hey, Kids. Just got to the Yulee Base at Outward Bound. Very intimidating! I haven't had any time to upload pictures yet, but to be sure, there will be a massive update in about 12 days, when I get back from training. We'll see what happens until then! If you're a New York person, I had a great time living in the same city as you--but now I'm gone, and I'll miss you!

Later, everybody.

Friday, May 8

It's your thang, do whachu wanna do.

Here's a video of my great grandfather, Avram Harzfeld, a Russian/Israeli Jew who was at one point banished to Siberia for keeping subversive (revolutionary) literature in his apartment! I'd been reading about him recently, so it's funny that my family should just find this now. If only I could speak Hebrew...

In any case, I'm getting rid of most of my posessions before I go to Florida, including this computer. I'm hoping it's going to be marvellously freeing to do so. I guess I'll have to keep all you kids updated, so you know whether it's a viable option for you as well.

Friday, May 1

Drawing near.

Hey, kids. I'm a-leavin for Florida soon. Thought I'd post an updated version of an old poem that's been seeing some action lately (it's rare, of course, for my poems to see any action outside of being on my computer). This one's for the family I've never met, I guess.


I hear all these stories
about our grandparents
about Catherine and Nikoli,
about Vladimir and Bunny,
forced to marry in Siberia by economics and

she's the owner of the snowed-in general store
and he's the only one who knows how to use a shovel

she’s an overanxious surgeon
and he's a drug dealer from three shtetls over

she's a subsistence farmer
and he a roving checker champion, who has always dreamed of settling down.

So many obscene combinations of history.

He's a stock broker with a golf tattoo
and she's a freegan fisherwoman

he a pedophile who cares only for the sax
and she's his deaf grandmother,

she's a tribal chieftess
and he is a Norwegian Conquistador, blinding and glorious in his metallic sealskin

she is a human frisbee
and she is a human pinball machine, based on an action movie.

he is a prodigal ping-pong genius, whose hand was flash frozen to his favorite paddle, while playing outside in February, and she, amazingly, the same, except for a gigantic fro that blots out the warmth of the sun.

she could be a hippie who's into anthropomorphism
and he's just an an asshole soldier who can growl convincingly.

She may simply be a palm tree, he a mysterious fog
and their child, their baby child, is an islander with a bamboo spear.

Regardless, they always end up
in some tentative embrace
under the icy hot sun
in The Old Country, feet not quite puncturing
the layer of ice resting on the earth,
almost as though
they were hovering.

Friday, April 3

Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from the universe.

First, what's been going on:

--Went to the educational technology conference! The flight was cancelled from Philly, but I drove down in a rental car with a new friend named Phillip, a guy I met at the airport. We did it in one night, the whole 788 miles, in approximately ten and a half hours. What a lovely, sleepy reality it was. Once there, I met Sarah Robbins, the only currently living person I call an academic superhero. Imagine a PhD candidate in her thirties who would stand up in front of a hundred and fifty professors from institutions around the country and tell them that they have to learn how to democratize , or else become obsolete, and you'll have some idea of why I think she's the bee's pajamas.

--I got a new job, working for Outward Bound's At-Risk program in Yulee, Florida this summer. Blessed be the right hand of justice that decided to help me get out of the Department of Education's evil grip (See poem).

--Finished all of Alfred Bester's short stories, and let me tell you, man, they are a trip. Here's the one I liked the best. I talked about it with my therapist, mentioned that it was somehow a metaphor for my own loneliness, I thought it was so fun.

Second, a new poem:


My ex-girlfriend wrote me a letter
of recommendation
for a job I dreamed I’d get.
Maybe it was an unfair thing to ask for.
I wanted to believe in myself,
If only by proxy.

I got the job.

I announced my ascendance
to the school secretary, the next day.
She said, You've had it?
Wishing for some
righteous reversal,
I said, more like It's had me.

When traveling
we leave shining trails of ourselves,
sluggish memories.

Monday, March 16

In the beige.

So, today I'm subbing at perhaps the most unremarkable school I've ever been in. There just seems to be no life here. I think it's probably an incredibly boring place to be whether you're a teacher or a student, but at the same time it's far preferable to some of the places I've been to so far. You know the schools I'm talking about--the ones which are practically in flames. I'm beginning to think that I'm permanently jaded, and that I will never really find a good school to be in because I hate both chaos and absolute order in the classroom. I don't know if I've ever really seen a school that I liked for long enough to determine whether it was a place I'd want to work...and seeing places for one or two days only just encourages me to make rash judgements about how bad they are. On that note, I'm trying to come up with some unusual indicators of good schools. Here are a few of the ones that I think are most accurate:

1. The worse the art/murals are at a school (the more the kids are involved in making them), the better a school is.
2. The more formal of a bathroom policy that a school has, the better it is.
3. The more computers with internet a school has, the better it is.
4. The better the condition of the student work in the hall, the better the school is (kids don't destroy it).
5. The less physically agressive-seeming a principal is, the better a school is.


I had a discussion with a friend on Saturday about what happens when you run away from where you live to find something else--to find a different way of life. Namely, your old way of life eventually catches up with you. I certainly think that going to LA and Africa would be running away, but at the same time I don't care--I have to get out of places like this. I want to feel some kind of desire to participate in a job somewhere. Because at the moment, no matter what way I slice it, I don't really want a job. None of them seem important or necessary. Particularly not teaching jobs at the schools I've been in.

Tuesday, March 10

You've not seen nothing.

You should be listening to Rufus Wainwright's "California" while reading this post. Here's a streaming youtube version of it, so you don't have to go through the trouble.

I am moving out of my apartment with Jonna, and I have found a new apartment with some folks living at 5924 23rd Avenue, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Pictures and videos are sure to follow shortly.

I am going to Los Angeles in June, to stay with my friend Ben. I'm moving to another part of Brooklyn until I finish my master's degree, and then I'm quitting this city. Seven years would be too much (we're on 6.7 at the moment, by my count).

The plan is to go and hang in California with Ben until we both have enough money to go abroad somewhere else...somewhere more rural, an Arcadia in Africa or Eastern Europe. I would like to go and work on an organic farm, as I had intended to previously with sounds really nice. I don't know that Ben is looking at travelling the same way as me, but no one says we have to go to the same places and do the same things exactly. We're just looking at it togther.

I need to get to these places to do these things that will relax me before I even think about finding a place to stay for another seven years, and be satisfied. I'm not satisfied with my life as it is; there must be more joy in me than I have known so far. As it stands now, the good times are killing me (PLAGARIZED).

There are friends and family already settled where I am going, as always, so I won't be alone. And Ben lives on a mountain, which dissipates the smog issue. And I'm going to do a slug in a ditch of a lot of biking up hills (no car), which will be great exercise. I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and finally, the name of my blog will mean something again, as I won't be in New York anymore. I've been waiting for that.

Thursday, March 5

Jobs and things.

So, I thought I would just let you know that I'm now working with a tutoring company, Bee Tutored. I've got a bio on the tutors page. Check it out!

Aside from this, I've completed a new comic--this time, for hyperbole. It's been a while, but I'm trying to keep at it.

Monday, February 9

Eleanor Pwnsevelt

New poem. Also, new project art--I've created a board game! Actually, the image is going on the front of my portfolio. The game board is actually the size of four peieces of computer paper taped together-it's just super small here. I'm applying to work for a non-profite human rights organization. Anyway, Czech it out.


Electronic winds whisper

into our ears, and we wink

saying, see

how in tune are we?

We finger number sculptures

and touch our tools constantly.

We build bits of data,

which when stacked turns

into a pleasing picture, and we grin, thinking

how brilliant! Does this image

not imitate nor ironize

perfectly what it is?

Our desires for Oreos have mathematical bases,

as do our desires to uncover these bases. Therefore,

the enjoyment of life is a passive act.

Friday, January 23

Ancient methods.

I have, at long last, produced a flyer in the hopes of utilising ye olde flyering method of advertisement to get more tutoring jobs. Look upon my ridiculously simple photoshopping works ye mighty, and despair! (Actually, I drew most of it in non-photoblue pencil, inked it, scanned it, then photoshopped it, but that's besides the point.)

Actually, I'm concerned that perhaps it's not serious enough--I tried to make myself seem personable through my advertisement, not some faceless corporation. I wonder if that will help or hinder me. Ah well, I guess we'll see if I get any phone calls...

In the mean time, let me know what you think--leave me a comment.

Also, I have produced some other literary device comics since I last posted. Have a look! I think that this is the first time I've felt so creative in a while:

Friday, January 16

The Masked Offender rides again!

I made this comic. It's the first of a series I plan to do...a comic dictionary of literary terms that I'll try and use as a fundraiser for my trip with Jonna. Let me know if you like it! Yes, I know it needs work. It will be photoshopped, you can bet your sweet bonnet it will.

Monday, January 12

Time management is for superheroes.

<-- 1. I made a comic. 

       2. I am working on a short story.

       3. I am looking for a job.

       4. I should be doing number 3 more, but really, spend equal time on all of them.

        5. I play video games about ten times as much as 1, 2, or 3.

6. Sophie made a new (actual and in color) comic! You should check it out.

Wednesday, January 7

Sadness Soup.


I want badly to be well
maybe I rationalize my sadness by calling it a disease, thinking anyone could catch it, I'm just unlucky. Therefore, I wonder why me, and although I can't have sadness surgically removed from my body...sadness is not a thing. If it was, I could sell it.

I thought about death today. I don't think Jonna would have wanted to know I thought about it. I think I must be surrounded by it, and yet I don't feel it seeping into me, making me sad, making me wish I was more like what surrounds me, what enjoys itself, which is death and all its themes.

I don't wonder when I write, really. It's just an exploration of things to say. That's why when I read something I've written, I can't remember writing it, and I refuse to believe it was me that penned it. I think forgetfulness is my strong suit.

If the economy is depressed, why can't I be?


Lately I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life. It seems like what I want to do doesn't exist.