Hinduism prescribes two paths for overcoming the ego, the self with a small ‘s’. One is to become nothing through the practice of love and devotion. The other is to become everything through the practice of wisdom and discrimination. The word ‘become’ is wrong. Perhaps it’s more like snapping out of a trance.
My path appears to be inflate deflate inflate deflate: grain of sand / Mona Lisa, worker ant / Don’t Cry For Me Argentina -- until this ‘I’ is revealed to be so manifestly absurd that neither I nor anyone else can revere or revile it. To be “somebody”, then “nobody” in such a swift procession until it becomes obvious that the ‘I’ is completely made up. A path of absurdity and nonsense.
This is my spiritual practice. I do not know yet if it is effective. (I’ll let you know?) I do recognize that it may be psychologically hazardous -- but isn't that true of all paths?
There is the path of devotion and the path of wisdom and then there is this way which, in honor of Alice, its best-known practitioner, we might well call the practice of Wonderland.
Plot is entrails. Details are tea leaves. All people are clouds as I hope to God you already know. It’s all just some place to stare at while the truth comes clear. An excuse to admit what you know. Reality’s ruse. The best and the bravest can see it all in thin air and most people say they are mad, mad, mad.
In New Hampshire, in the mid-eighties, one of my pet mice was resurrected from the dead. I think my personality makes much more sense, if you just always keep this in mind.
One morning I found my mouse dead. I wrapped him in a Woody Woodpecker washcloth in preparation for burial and laid the corpse back down in the cage. It was entirely too cold for the mice on the porch in the New Hampshire winter, but my dad wouldn’t let the mice live inside. They were male mice and they stank.
I admit I didn’t like this mouse much. It bit. I think I’d killed several mice already by then, with winter as my accomplice.
After preparing the corpse for burial, I went upstairs and read the entire book of Genesis. In those days, if faced with trouble, I read a book. (Unlike now when, if a problem becomes apparent, I promptly seize hold of the situation and take small common-sense steps in order, oh fierce pragmatist that I am.)
At that time I was maybe ten, my mother was dead, I had horrific nightmares every night, and I hadn’t slept with my light off since the Carter administration. I read from the Bible because I believed the Bible would protect me from terrors. I’m not talking about Christ or the afterlife; I read because I believed that holding the Bible would protect me right there and then.
I read all forty-six chapters of Genesis and returned downstairs to find the mouse gnawing away at his shroud.
Please keep this in mind when you see me curled up in the corner with some book no reasonable person would read. Dreamily reading when I really ought to be doing something more sensible, especially at this age, past forty.
Have patience, please. I am probably attempting to resurrect some mouse or another.
Turns out that Cambodia has drastically better frozen margaritas than you might expect. And part of me, I admit, just wanted to sip my mango margarita (salted) and stare into space -- but how often do I get the chance to hear from a 17 year old from Texas? He started talking to me from the next table over as he downed strawberry banana smoothies one right after another, as if there was liquor in them. The trouble with Texas, he said, was that there was a lot of Discrimination, but personally he didn’t have any problem with The Gays.
His problem nowadays was with girls. He explained to me that girls nowadays were so well-developed there was no telling how old they were. You might see some voluptuous woman and think she was in college: she’d turn out to be in seventh grade. This had been a major problem for him, but he said he was off romance for now. Got my heart broke too many times, he said, and ordered himself another smoothie.
His cordial world weariness was so obviously borrowed that, when his handsome pickled father showed up an hour later, it didn’t seem like the conversation had gained another person, but simply switched to stereo. Within two minutes of shaking my hand, the father told me that lots of people in Texas were prejudiced against Homosexuals, but personally he didn’t have any problem with them.
I always think people don’t figure me out right away because I’m so masculine and unassuming. Evidently this is just another of my over-numerous fantasies.
Daddy was an oil man and traveled all the time, though, to tell the truth, he was terrified to be in the air since the time his helicopter went sideways two years before. He drank as fast as he smoked, one right after another. He’d obviously been at it for a long time and was starting to look kind of dissolute. Craggy and heavy-faced. Rough around the edges. I noticed that dissolute was no longer such a negative word for me. I kind of liked dissolute. Dissolute was maybe my type. And I wondered if this was the sign of a problem.
The son began to complain again about girls who turned out to be way under age. Evidently this was his chosen theme. This is just how kids are nowadays, he told me. Same as him. He was six foot at age 13. He’d been buying his own cigarettes for years.
He said, One time me and my friends saw a girl skinny-dipping. She was a really hot girl. She had a lot of everything, both up here and down there. I admit I was getting kinda excited so I asked her, How old are you? And she said to me, Twelve.” I said to my friends, We Gotta Get Out of Here NOW and we did.
The son continued, Nowadays I try to meet the father first. That’s my policy. Disarms ‘em. Those Dads think, He wants to meet ME? Makes ‘em more agreeable. But I’m sick and tired of getting my heart broken. I’m not interested in a Relationship anymore. During my youth I just want to Have Fun. Later I’ll get serious. Later when it’s time to Make Money.
The father looked at him fondly. This was their first trip together outside the USA, except for Mexico which doesn’t count because you can drive there. “We’re more like best friends than father and son,” said one or the other. Then the Dad hauled himself out of his chair and went off to buy smokes. The waitress came by and picked up his empty beer glass. “Want another?” the waitress asked and the son said, “Sure he does.”
I needed a bus to Cambodia, so I waited at the bus stop on the edge of Lumpini Park and hoped one would come along. What can I say? All my better plans had already been used up. After about five minutes a plumpish young man with long hair walked up to me and said, “Poipet?” and pointed to a silver van. I’d heard there were vans as well as buses, the price was the same, and so I shoved my bag in the door and climbed in. Alongside the long haired man was the driver, a grinning guy who was balding, though still young and handsome. A few times he yelled back cheerfully to make sure the music wasn’t too loud and the a/c was all right. He didn’t sound Cambodian. He sounded like a college student from Los Angeles. As we drove through the city the man with long hair stuck his head out the window and asked, “Poipet?”, but no one else climbed on. The van had seats for twelve and could have fit twenty as least, but it was just me there in back. Then, because I had a feeling that was strange but not bad, I asked, So, do you do this every day? The driver laughed. No way! We’re from the Philippines! We’re headed to the casino and we thought we’d try to get money for gas! Now I understood why they sounded more American than I did. They did business in Thailand, they did business everywhere, the driver traveled all the time. One business was exporting Thai coffee, but that was just one of his businesses. The slightly plump man with the long hair was really adorable. He could have been Navajo. He talked a lot, but he didn’t say anything about himself. He talked only about the driver, his traveling, his business. They asked where I was from and what I was doing. Then they wanted to know if I’d ever eaten anything really exotic. You mean, like beetles and worms? I asked. Yeah, that’s what they meant. But I couldn’t think of anything. Looking back now, I feel sorry I didn’t think to tell them about the rattlesnake my brother caught bare-handed in Florida and served for Christmas dinner. They would have liked to to have heard about that. I wondered if the man driving had any idea that the man riding shot-gun was completely in love with him. Maybe he just teased him, or maybe he sometimes let the shot-gun guy suck him off. Did they kiss, sometimes, when they were both very drunk? I hoped so. The driver said the best exotic food in Thailand were the little eggs with embryos inside. Both men urged me to try them. The best way to eat them was warm, with a few bitter green leaves. The driver said, You don’t look, you don’t think, you just pop it in. And you are going to love it! He ate cobra once, said the man riding shot-gun. You swallow the heart with whiskey. With vodka! said the driver. You also drink vodka when you drink the cobra’s blood. That blood is like Viagra. You drink the cobra’s blood and you are going to have a boner for two, three days. Sign me up! I cried, with maybe somewhat too much enthusiasm. Just the same, I felt grateful and lucky. It seemed to me that today life had acted in a very gracious way, both gracious and hospitable, to have provided such comfortable air-conditioned transport to the mad border town of Poipet, with even this friendly nod to my insatiable and all-devouring perversity. (Siem Reap, 2014)
"The Heart of the Farm" is online now at Green Mountains Review. When I was a child I believed the farm where I grew up was a living being. As a living being, it had a heart. The location of the heart was obvious to me, though it seemed I was the only one who knew. I didn’t tell anyone. I went to visit the heart, from time to time, just to check-in. It was part of my duties as a small boy. . .
Halldor Laxness The Fish Can Sing Harvill Press translated from the Icelandic by Magnus Magnusson originally published: 1957, this translation: 1966
For years now I’ve loved the work of Halldor Laxness, Iceland’s pre-eminent man of letters, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 but now is seldom read. I am forever thrusting his books upon people and begging them to read him at once. Usually I urge them to start with “Independent People”, which is regarded as his masterpiece.
This does not always go well.
One of my friends complained, “It’s 500 pages about sheep farming!”
I said, “Yes. It is 500 UTTERLY SCINTILLATING pages about sheep farming.”
She was not impressed. We’re still friends, but she views my opinions on literature with deep suspicion.
I reckon there are two alternatives if you wish to explore Laxness’ world and ‘Independent People’ seems a little daunting. My personal favorite is ‘Under the Glacier’, Laxness hilarious fabulistic tale of discovery. But ‘Under the Glacier’ is an exceedingly peculiar book that will not be to everyone’s taste. (On the other hand fans of Murakami, Brautigan, and Philip K. Dick may unexpectedly find in it an entry point to Icelandic literature!)
If you are looking for something more “realistic”, then ‘The Fish Can Sing’ is a beautiful book, full of brilliant characters and what appears to be a uniquely Icelandic take on life . Above all, this book is required reading for musicians, who may well resonate with its quest for “the one pure note”. An additional benefit is that the meaning of life may or may not be revealed, by the superintendent, in Chapter 16.
I revere Laxness’ novels because they introduced me to an entire world that I’ve found nowhere else. And there’s something else, too, if I can find a way to express it. Laxness has his own special kind of sanity, with sad humor and compassion that never gets over-heated. In the strung-out world where we live now, his novels are a very special refuge.
It is strange to discover what has been hanging around in one’s own mind. Don’t you think so? Some thoughts as common as furniture turn out to be highly peculiar when examined or focused on, when peered at and interrogated. I am embarrassed to tell you my fantasy. Of course I have a lot of fantasies. I am that sort of nonsensical and unprofitable person. A wisp of grandiosity for which no use has ever been found. This is my number one fantasy. It does not even have any close competition. I have had this fantasy my entire life; it has been in its current shape for at least ten years. It is highly embarrassing that this is my fantasy. Any professional would tell you that my ego structure is the ramshackle type that cannot bear any weight at all. All paste and popsicle sticks, my personality. Anyway, please keep in mind that I did not actually set out to be pathetic, I simply lived my life, and this fantasy crystallized and became resident in my mind, like a piece of rock candy. In my fantasy I am in my very favorite restaurant, the one I call the restaurant of my heart, with red checked tablecloths and wicker baskets and grandmotherly bric-a-brac, and I am having a long dinner, drinks, appetizers, entree, the works, with someone who has known me for a very long time and does not really like me. He is telling me the truth about myself for my own good. He is telling me things that aren’t very nice but are quite inarguably true. Such as the fact that I am not so good-looking anymore. That I should not put on airs or waste my time when anyone can see -- and people DO see, he says, they just don’t tell me -- that I am actually not so talented or so clever. The statute of limitations for my being promising has long since run out. I am not good-looking enough and certainly not smart or capable enough and I should come to terms with that instead of acting in this way that only makes me look ridiculous to everyone and they only don’t say so because they are cowardly, and gainfully employed, and have better things to do. I am listening carefully and I am thanking him because he what he telling me is undeniably true. Sure, it isn’t nice to hear but it is inarguably true and I am thanking him, thanking him over and over again for being the one to finally tell me the truth. It is absolutely and undeniably true that I ought to be more reasonable and less conceited, that I should not devote myself to what no one will ever want, whether it is my body or my art. It is high time for me to recognize what is obvious to everyone. He is only telling me the truth about myself for my own good. I agree with him vigorously and I explain that really I always knew that what he is telling me was true, that I simply inflated myself with vanity and coffee and books by people far smarter than myself. Then, I excuse myself, because we have been drinking beer, but mostly because I am about to cry and I do not want to cry in front of this man because that would be weak, because he is telling me the truth about myself and I want to show that I am strong enough to handle the truth about myself. I take a leak and wash my hands and I am walking back through the long and dimly-lit restaurant to my own table when my friend, the owner of the restaurant, waves to me from where he is sitting and begins to talk to me. He is a craggy old Vietnam vet. He lived through that as well as losing almost everyone to AIDS. Sure, he’s cranky but he’s a damn good man, the kind who doesn’t disappear when things get hard. My friend is looking at me so sternly I think he is angry with me. He says to me, very quietly and very seriously, “Please let me throw that motherfucker out of my restaurant.” I explain to my friend that the man at the table is not bad and not wrong, that he is only very honest and telling me hard truths that I need very much to hear, the truth about myself for my own good. My friend listens to me very carefully and then says, “That man is total fucking asshole.” I am standing there shaking and I realize how tired I am, how hard it has been to sit there all night, through drinks, appetizers and dinner, all the time hearing about nothing except how I am no good. My friend and I talk for another minute and finally I agree that my friend can ask the man to leave. I am walking through the restaurant then, toward the table of the man who has been telling me the truth about myself for my own good. And then I see him. It is too late. My friend, the owner, cannot tell him to leave. The waitstaff has become fed up, apparently, and taken matters into their own hands. (They are Burmese, after all, very loyal and very tough and I have been their friend since they were teenagers and, even if their English is a little broken, they understand everything they hear.) Three of them have hauled the man up and out of his chair and they are dragging him now to the door and shoving him into the street, letting him know that he had better never ever show his face at this restaurant again. Looking at the man now, as he is hauled out the front door, he no longer looks like an absolute authority on reality and the worth or worthlessness of every living thing. He is just a little bitter drunk old queen who likes to put people down so can feel like a big man. It’s just what he does -- but not in this restaurant. Not anymore. That’s one version of my fantasy. There’s another, shorter, version. The man is at the table, holding a bottle of imported beer because he says the beer from this country is all shit, and he is telling me the hard truth about myself, and I am agreeing with every word and thanking him profusely, and then I see my friends on either side of him, their faces all so serious, and I think that they are agreeing with him, glad that someone is finally telling me the truth about myself, which I need so badly to hear, the truth that is obvious to absolutely everyone and has been all along. He goes on telling me in detail everything that is wrong with me, everything that I have done wrong, and I agree with him, and as we go on speaking he very slowly begins to rise into the air, all the while continuing to pontificate as if he has no idea what’s going on. My friends are lifting the man into the air. They have had enough. When the Burmese waitstaff gets pissed off, watch out. They are hauling him away. The man goes on insisting that his reality is the only real reality as they cart him off and carry him through the restaurant like a pig on a spit before heaving him into the street. They don’t kill him or anything. OK, maybe a few kicks and punches. He just knows that he can never return to this restaurant. This restaurant where I now sit very quietly, my friends around but not too near, feeling tired but relieved, open and quiet. Safe.
LIFE A User’s Manual Georges Perec
Translated from the French by David Bellos Original: Hachette, 1978 Revised English translation: Vintage, 2008
Perec’s masterpiece needs no further praise, but I thought I might write a “letter of welcome” for anyone approaching the book for the first time, for those who are curious and perhaps wary. It is, after all, 500 pages of fine print. The labels “experimental” and “postmodern” can be off-putting, as they have often been applied to work that is portentous or opaque or overly self-involved. How could a book with a title like “LIFE A User’s Manual” not be a little intimidating? Anyway, that is how I felt. This note is for others who might feel the same way.
Several people I respect very much loved this book, and it sounded like the sort of thing that I would like, so I sat down to it with high expectations, read thirty pages and said, “Huh?” It seemed so dry -- twenty percent story, twenty percent goofball theory, sixty percent catalog. Dry as dust, I thought. Just wasn’t making it into my head.
Assuming this to be simply my problem, I started again from page one, and the second time was a little better, though I wasn’t really hooked until Chapter Thirteen and the story of the acrobat who refused to come down. From then on I read in a slow and patient rapture, like a man unexpectedly caught in an ecstatic trance while cruising the subterranean stacks of a library.
In other words, be a little patient with Perec and with yourself. This is a book unlike any other and it may take a little while to get the hang of reading it. If all else fails: proceed directly to Chapter Thirteen!
I found that it helped a great deal to take notes. I got myself a little notebook and filled it with the names of characters, vocabulary I didn’t know, bizarre theories as well as sentences I loved and copied out. This helped me keep track of who was who and what was going on. Just as important, it allowed me to keep alert amid the thundering crash of people, ideas, events and objects the book presents. Maybe the vocabulary list didn’t really matter (though don’t you want to remember what a pyx is and what is a cubic pouf?); maybe I just needed the illusion of control.
(I admit that taking detailed notes is my idea of a good time. I prefer books that are dense or even slightly difficult -- they afford me fewer opportunities to contemplate the condition of my own life. If a book is too easy I sit before it daydreaming, wondering how I will ever be able to afford orthodontics.)
Since the word “experimental” is sometimes a synonym for work that is not competent at story-telling or is overly pleased with its own mechanics, I think the most important thing to say about this book is that it is crammed full of fabulously good yarns. This book has more murders and love affairs and weird obsessions than a ten foot stack of pulp fiction.
Like the Bible, it is an anthology that’s also full of rules, and genealogies and household stuff. These are the kind of stories your drunk uncle might tell at the fireside with a drink in his hand -- assuming that your uncle is prone to black humor and melodrama and more than slightly obsessed with fine details.
Who are the allies and cousins of this book? I thought of Melville and his adventure tales packed with encyclopedic information. I thought of Borges, of all his rules and mysteries welded so smoothly to old-fashioned story-telling. Above all, I thought of Roberto Bolano, because only in Bolano have I found this capacity for boundless non-stop invention.
For most writers, I reckon, it is a big deal when a story or a character arrives, but, for Perec as for Bolano, there is a profusion of people, ideas, and events that seems effortless and unending. The book pours out. In one paragraph Perec or Bolano can afford to dispense with an idea or situation that might keep another writer busy for a decade. Because there always seems to be more where that came from. This book bestows its stories as liberally as a billionaire might give away dimes. (If I were in charge of the universe, neither Bolano nor Perec would have died young. They would have both lived to be 97 at least and been great friends.)
If you possess a powerful intellect, or are staggeringly well read, or possess an encyclopedic mind, you will find recondite references everywhere, as well as evidence of the structures and restraints Perec created for himself in order to create the book. Unfortunately my intelligence is no better than standard-issue and so all of this went totally over my head. And I still had an incredibly good time reading the book.
As for the endless catalogs of objects, so meticulously chosen and described, please keep in mind that, if you are NOT a dedicated literature nerd, or if you work at a time-intensive job highly valued by society, SKIMMING, while looked down upon, is legal all over the world. If you do not need to know every bottle of wine in the Altamount’s basement, or every etching on the walls of Madame Marcia’s, then you are free to hurry on to the bizarre over-the-top meticulous yarns with which this book teams like a nest full of ants, ants doomed in ways that are beguiling, and funny, and mathematically precise.
INSTRUCTIONS The way it works is this: Claude receives instructions. When Claude follows the instructions the quality of his life improves. He becomes markedly more prone to the experience of actual happiness. There may even be delicate evidence that he has made a meaningful contribution to the whole, though of course that can always be argued. The instructions are remarkably non-mysterious. They are really quite clear. There is every reason to believe Claude might have an upright and successful life if he could just listen to the instructions, listen and obey and then hunker down to listen some more. Instead Claude forgets the instructions. Invariably. Claude does the wrong thing. It is not enough to say that Claude does the wrong thing. Claude does the perfectly wrong thing. Claude does the most wrong thing possible. Catastrophe follows. And Claude is always just downright astonished. Later, Claude receives the instructions again. He even practices them, for a very short time, during which his life improves. Feeling better now, Claude takes the earliest opportunity to do the worst thing conceivable. To his surprise, he finds that he feels like crap. Not that this prevents him from choosing, with great care, the worst actions possible and then persevering in those actions. Then, a breakthrough. Claude receives instructions! They are the exact same instructions he has received umpteen times before, but they seem totally new to him. He carefully writes them down -- so that he’ll never forget, never ever in his whole life -- marvelling at their unique clarity, in a series of notebooks wherein the the exact same instructions have been written and rewritten to an extent somewhere between possibly pathological and downright spooky. “Why can’t life come with instructions?” many people lament, including Claude. But the truth is that Claude is continually receiving instructions, Claude’s whole life is instructions, instructions he very carefully writes down and then ignores and then is astonished by and then forgets again.
MICROSCOPIC ALIMONY With taxi drivers, Claude often quarrels but when men on motorbikes give him a lift, Claude automatically gives them whatever they ask and often a little bit more. This seems the most natural thing in the world and indeed he hardly thinks about it. After all, they have just been through a life-threatening experience together. How could they fail to be fond of each other, as old soldiers are? Isn’t it fair, to give a guy a few bucks, if he asks for it nicely, when you’ve had your legs wrapped around him for the last twenty minutes? Enough for a beer at least? Imagine, Claude thinks, if we had to pay money to everyone about whom we have lewd and lascivious fantasies! A kind of microscopic alimony for the use we have made of their image and form. Say, point zero one cents a fantasy. Maybe point zero five it’s something really intensely perverse. A lot of rough characters would suddenly be wealthy. Claude would be destitute and owe a lot of people money.
One blazing afternoon, hiding from the sun behind drawn curtains, Claude creates, solely for his own perusal, a summary regarding those who do not love him.
Those who don’t love you are all above average good-looking. There is a certain resemblance, akin to that found in members of small profitable religions. It appears likely that God has chosen to reward these people for their good judgment. (About this, they agree with you.) Their collars are fluorescent white to match their teeth and the confident whites of their eyes are as smooth and unruffled as the sheets pulled tight across the king-size bed of a luxury hotel.
Those who don’t love you appear sculptural in profile. They live their lives in the future. Their futures are secure. They itch only for acceptable reasons and only in sanctioned areas. Their desires are all the official and sanctioned desires which stimulate the economy in predictable ways and provide jobs for those less fortunate. They practice virtue. Virtue means only wanting exactly what you are supposed to want.
From the serene way they pass their days, like a sharp knife through a fish, you’d swear that instructions were passed to them each morning at breakfast, typed on one side of a sheet 8 ½ by 11.
How is it possible that they live so cleanly, those who do not love you? It is because they know what is right and what is responsible. Right and responsible never fail include them. Oh, why can’t you be responsible! Of course for you to be responsible would mean being someone else entirely. Oh, why can’t you be someone else entirely!
Those who don’t love you naturally find themselves in positions of authority. In fact, no one possesses such innate and unquestioned authority as those who don’t love you. They are so compelling. It as if they have understood something that you yourself long suspected.
It is just like when you listen to a beautiful spiritual talk and say, “On some level I always knew that”. So, too, comes the news of your own inadequacy, your unacceptability, your worthlessness. Their disdain and disapproval slip on so naturally, and fit so perfectly, like a shoe specially made. How could it not be right? How could it not be yours?
TOURISM Upon entering the bathroom at the cafe, Claude was surprised to see that bottom of the urinal had been lined with slices of lime. This seemed to him very opulent, especially considering the worldwide shortage of limes. He wondered if the limes in the urinal had once been in people’s drinks, or if someone in the kitchen was actually slicing fresh limes directly for use in the urinal. He peered down at the limes. They did not appear to have been squeezed or used in any way. The smell -- lime piss -- was not ideal, but it was certainly preferable to piss on its own. Claude needed to use the toilet actually, but he stood at the urinal first, because it seemed to him like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE Obviously the universe must be considerably interested in human being doing stupid things the vast majority of the time. No one is entirely sure why we are here. But, to judge simply by the evidence, it appears that we are here for slapstick. It’s as if God the Father said, “I feel like a movie tonight” and God the Mother said, “OK, but my head is tired, just something dumb”, and God the Father said, “OK!”, and here we are.
IT’S A PROCESS Ek explains that it’s a process, and that for lots of men the process is pretty much the same. “When I leave my wife I have twenty-five dollars. Three dollars I pay for a bus to the city. I get job at hotel for food only. Later they give me twenty dollars a month. Then they give me forty. I buy my friend’s moto bike, be driver, get better moto bike. When I buy tuk tuk I sell moto bike to my friend. After few years I get airport license, drive tuk tuk to from airport, now my friend rents my airport tuk tuk and he pay me ten dollars a day.” Next, Ek explains, he will buy a small guesthouse. Later he will buy a big one. Then he will be rich. Meanwhile he gives what help he can to men just coming from the village -- “not for free but for fair.” Claude finds this very interesting and he thanks Ek for telling him about it. He likes understanding a little about how people live. But Ek interrupts him. “But foreigner also have process. You 41. Always 41. My last boyfriend he 41. Boyfriend before that 41, too. My last boyfriend Germany. He has small dick but better face than you. Like you he crazy for sex. “41 year gay guy come this city, looking, looking. Little crazy, maybe.” Ek cranes his head forward and bobs his head like a bird pecking in the sand. “Looking looking!” Claude is taken aback. “But if it’s a process -- what happens next?” Ek looks at him carefully, as if he reading his forehead. “Sihanoukville,” he announces. “You go beach. My old boyfriend he live in Sihanoukville now with his new boyfriend and his small small penis. In two three years you inherit money or become drug addict. Do both, even better! All the time same process. Little different always. Not so different. Only thing know for sure is you teach English!”