While I was at Borealis Basecamp, I finally finished Gravity’s Rainbow. Now, I have to figure out if I liked the damned thing.
776 pages of what seemed to be at times a word salad. The journey of Tyrone Slothrop and about 1,000 other characters before and after the very end of World War II in Europe. That seemed to meander like the Jews in the desert for 40 years. Sometimes clear and direct but at most times convoluted and punch drunk.
The first 150 pages were dense and incomprehensible. The next 200 or 300 pages were a fucking masterpiece. Then the final half of the book? I’ll admit that I didn’t absorb any of it. I had no idea what was happening. I was riding the wave of absurdism and mainly just wanting to get through it so I could read other books.
I think we witnessed the end of the world at the end. But I don’t know.
Did I like the book? Maybe because I am told that this is A Very Important Book™ I liked it? Again, I don’t know.
Being a warm-weather person, it makes perfect sense that I would go up to sub-freezing Alaska to see green lights in the sky. But ever since I found the Borealis Basecamp randomly on Google Maps a couple of years ago, I knew I had to make it up there in the middle of winter to see the aurora.
In a very rare moment for me, I actually did go with someone for this trip. Earlier this year Natalie came over, and I talked about this place. Just like that she agreed to go, and we made the reservation. We were going to be in the middle of nowhere Alaska just north of Fairbanks on a November.
This geodesic dome was going to be our home for the next three nights and four days. One thing I learned was that as much as I think I’m reptilian and need warm weather and sun to survive, my fat ass does adapt well to 15-degree (-10C) weather. Let’s just make sure there is no wind. Natalie on the other hand, with no meat. Well she might as well be dressed in a burqa.
Borealis Basecamp is essentially a bed and breakfast — breakfast is included every morning as are the daily activities. On the first day, they picked us up from our Fairbanks hotel (since fucking Delta has only one flight in and out of Fairbanks daily which comes in at 12:30 am) and shuttled us to the camp about an hour away. Unfortunately the domes are not equipped with a kitchenette (only a kettle), so the only option for dinner which is non-inclusive was their on-site restaurant. The food was excellent there, but the prices were a bit steep.
Day one activity was a six-hour snowmobiling tour through the forest. I think I found my new calling. At one point, I did go 40 mph down a hill and going airborne on the bumps. It was so much fun, but damn I didn’t realize how sore my body would get. Another byproduct of being in the cold was the snot flowing like a faucet down my nose which ended up freezing on the inside of my helmet. I’m sure they had fun cleaning that up.
We did have a lunch break halfway through, but being the good Korean boy I am, I did bring Shin Ramen since we did have the kettle. The only thing missing here was rice and kimchi.
The second day was an hour-long dog sledding experience. One thing that surprised me was how effortless the dogs made it look. They just trotted down the path, knew exactly where to go, all the while pulling us on this rickety-ass sled.
But what about the raison d’être, the actual aurora? Another feature of Borealis Basecamp is they have someone who stays up through the night and calls each room to alert us about the aurora. Now, for those of you who are observant, you will notice that in these photos and videos there are a lot of clouds. And putting two and two together, you will realize that clouds do not make for the best conditions to see the aurora.
And while it was cloudy for 95% of our stay, at around 1:30 am Saturday night/Sunday morning, the second night of our stay, we got the phone call. The motherfucking aurora!
I’ve seen so many of these photos and videos of the aurora and thinking that the brightness of it all was basically equipment manipulation, that in reality it really wasn’t that bright. And I’ll admit, since the shutter speed on these photos up here range from 25 to 30 seconds, it does show up brighter than what I actually saw. But they were still pretty bright. Here is a shitty, blurry cell phone video that pretty accurately represents how bright it appeared:
After an hour the light show ended, and the clouds blanketed us again for the rest of our stay. But we got it!
I would love to say that things like this and the total solar eclipse were reality-changing experiences, but they really aren’t unless you want them to be. But they are awe-inspiring nonetheless, and I am glad to have seen both.
I’m going to try and forget the journey home which involved me waiting in the Fairbanks airport for 13 hours since they have no lockers and because of the one-daily-flight-out-of-Fairbanks-for-Delta, I couldn’t check in my luggage. But I Alan Cumming was on my SEA-LAX flight, so I guess there is some consolation?
I know I have to make it back up to Alaska because there is so much that I need to see. But for now, I am perfectly content.
Just for shits, I decided to see if I could find my first concert on YouTube. Since it was back in 1995, I didn’t think chances were that high that it was on there. Sure, people were taping shows for the bootleg market, but did they do it for every show? And if so, would they upload them to YouTube?
It took me all of 5 seconds, and there I was just a few people away from stage right on the floor:
Yup. This was my first show. Smells like Children hadn’t been released yet, so the masses hadn’t heard their cover of “Sweet Dreams” yet. In the last year I had picked up the soundtrack for the Stephen Dorff/Reese Witherspoon movie SFW where Marilyn Manson had their song “Get Your Gunn” used. Then during the summer of 95 while I was going to SAT classes, during break I went to the Wherehouse in Palos Verdes that had Marilyn Manson’s first album Portrait of an American Family on tape. And that fucking hooked me. After the demented Willy Wonka introduction, the first words were “I am the god of fuck.” That’s what I needed to hear when I was 16.
I think I went to this concert with my friend Fernando who was the only other person I knew at school who had heard of them. I know we definitely went to see Ministry the next spring during their Sphinctour stop at the Palladium since he gave me my first cigarette — I was going through not only AP tests but also had to deal with the sudden medical issues of my dad who was half a country away. But I remember as we were in line getting into the show, I saw this girl Moro from my Korean school there. It was at this point where we became best friends throughout the rest of high school.
The show was fucking great. As creepy and ugly as Marilyn Manson made himself especially at this time, I was fucking engrossed with Twiggy. I had the biggest fucking crush at the time. Maybe it was the dreads. Although I did catch my breath at the very beginning when he walked on stage on stilts.
I had to take my SATs the next morning at 9. So was it really the best thing for me to go to this show the night before? I don’t know. I ended up getting a 1400 on them, so I think I did a good enough job. And I never saw them again. While I did like Antichrist Superstar, I really did not like the explicit flirtation with fascism. I understood it, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. And after that I had moved on to other things.
But for that one night in 1995, it was just perfect.
Yup, there I was, 5 years ago, late Friday night/early Saturday morning in the emergency room at the Little Company of Mary hospital in San Pedro. It was then and there when I almost died.
As that Friday progressed at work, I started get a dry cough. I didn’t think too much about it. It was probably because I was out the night before at the Bonaventure for Brendan’s birthday. That was a lot of talking which probably made me raspy.
As the night wore on, the cough kept getting worse. If only I could get whatever is clogging up my airways out, it would be better. I tried going to bed at 11 and put on old episodes of Sex in the City to lull me to sleep. But I could not get comfortable since I was coughing more and more.
I then figured a hot shower might loosen up the phlegm in my chest, and I can finally get some rest. As I was scrubbing down, I realized that there was no clog per se that I needed to cough out. No. I, in fact, could not breathe.
I tried to calm down so I could dry myself off, clothes myself and get myself to the hospital – since I lived alone, there was no way I was going to die and have my body be found days later in the bathtub completely naked. At the very least I should be a lot skinnier if my body is found naked. That really is a horror.
Thankfully I was able to clothe myself, and somehow I managed to drive myself to the emergency room as I kept gasping for air. I did have to run a red light because it was on a fucking timer and not a sensor. Fuck it. It was almost midnight, and there was no one on the San Pedro streets. Aside from that, I managed to get to the hospital in one piece.
To show how far my condition had deteriorated in the 45 minutes or so from when I started to go to bed to being at the check-in desk at the ER, I had gone from an annoying cough every minute or so to barely able to get the words, “I. CAN’T. BREATHE,” in between gasps as I tried to stay as calm as I could but finding it impossible because oxygen was not getting in. They took my vitals at the desk and the only thing I remember was my blood pressure being 212-over-something.
They got me in right away and gave me the oxygen-through-nostrils thingee (which I have learned is called a nasal cannula,) gave me tons of antibiotics and blood pressure meds and took about half of my blood supply for tests. I did an EKG, chest x-rays, a couple of breathing treatments and all, and they gave me an initial diagnosis of pneumonia. All in all I was in the ER for about five hours before they got me a bed in intensive care.
All day Saturday in the ICU, I was constantly complaining about how hot it was. I was sweating through the bedsheets like no one’s business. And since I was hooked up to monitors, I couldn’t get up to pee, so they gave me a bucket. It’s a good thing I’m a fucking pig and will piss in front of anyone. The breathing treatments continued that day, and I was progressing well enough to get a room on Sunday. Between the breathing treatments and the endless hours of nothing, they couldn’t tell me definitively what was wrong with me. They stuck with the pneumonia story even though there was no illness that led up to this. But whatever. By Monday I was well enough to be released.
A couple of things that kept running through my mind:
I need to get out of here ASAP so I don’t go broke. The daytime ICU nurse, a middle-aged Filipina lady, kept telling me not to worry, that insurance would take care of it. Did she think I was fucking stupid? This is the fucking United States of America. That’s why I drove myself to the fucking hospital. While insurance covered most of the $40,000 bill for my weekend, my share ended up being just over $3,000.
I’m really bad at selling my illness. So aside from Sammy stopping by 10 minutes to get me a phone charger and moving my car from the emergency room parking lot to the normal hospital parking lot, and my cousin Gina and her mom staying a while on both Saturday and Sunday, no one came. Not my mom, aunts other cousins or anything. I mean, I told them that I couldn’t breathe but I got myself to the ER so I’m feeling better but I didn’t know when they would release me, but no. No visitors. I guess I better make sure my dying actually has me sound like I’m actually dying.
A couple of days after I was released, I went to the doctor to follow up on all of this. Well because my high blood pressure was out of control, it caused my heart to say fuck it. I had heart failure. Stupid me. I thought that if my blood pressure would kill me, it would give me an aneurysm, that I’d feel dizzy, have headaches and all of that good stuff. But I had none of that. I felt perfectly fine. Until that Friday when fluid started collecting in my lungs because my heart was enlarging. Fuck.
So even though I didn’t feel like I was actually dying while I was in the hospital, I guess I could have died. Serves me right for joking that I would be dead by 40. Prophecy almost self-fulfilled. But really, it was all underwhelming. I felt like I was in a Peggy Lee song.
Now it’s time to find some sort of new routine that I need to follow. What I really hate is that the busses only run every 40 or 50 minutes even during peak hours out there in Arcadia, so it’s really inconvenient for me to take Metro to work. And since there is very little traffic during my commute, driving is a viable option for me.
Here is a photo of me at my new desk at work looking oh so eager. And below is a photo of me realizing my Funemployment days are coming to an end:
But that’s all I have to report. No I didn’t finish Gravity’s Rainbow. And now I’m going to fall asleep.
I got back from the Apple Valley getaway. Despite all of my neurosis, it was very nice to relax in a pool for a couple of days. I got some color, as you can see above, and while I didn’t finish Gravity’s Rainbow, I did get to page 400 — just past the halfway point. I did have a moment of stupidity while in the water, though. I was reading in the pool, and I was really diligent about keeping the book above the water and keeping my hands dry. But as I was readjusting my position after an hour of reading, I let my guard down and allowed the book to touch the water. Fuuuuuuck. It wasn’t a lot of water, so no big foul. But ugh.
I received the instructions for my first day of work on Monday meaning Funemployment will be ending in a few days. While I’ve been good at keeping thoughts of work at bay the last few weeks, they’re now starting to slip in. I haven’t even gotten there, and I’m already figuring out the meetings I will need to schedule, the equipment and software I will need to request. And trying to figure out the schedule I want to keep and how to arrange my life around it. Once I realize I’m doing it, I try and clear it from my mind. I guess my cats will need to do a better of job of keeping me company. Stupid deadbeats.
I’m out in the middle of the desert. While last year I went to a house that sat on a 5-acre plot of land in 29 Palms with nothing around (NOTHING!), this year I am at Madd’s boytoy’s house in Apple Valley that is armed with a pool. It’s not quite the middle of nowhere solitude that I do like, but I must admit that the convenience is quite nice.
Since I am exactly one week away from the new job, my plan is to take the next couple of days lounging pool side, accidentally gulping a ton of chlorinated pool water and finishing Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s a hectic action-packed schedule, I know, and I can only hope I don’t wear myself out before I go home on Wednesday.
I find it weird being a houseguest. I’m used to either renting a hotel room or getting an Airbnb where I am alone. I don’t feel I can truly be 100% at ease no matter how close I am with the person — and Madd is one of my closest friends. I always want to be considered a good houseguest, so I’m always walking on pins and needles trying to be as inoffensive as possible. There’s a specter of judgement that hangs in the air regardless if it is true or imagined.
This is the reason I live alone. I can deal with judging myself — I’m a fucking idiot so I can easily disregard what I think.
The other thing that weirds me out is that I don’t have the alarm or garage door opener, so I feel a bit trapped. Actually, it’s more that I feel reliant on someone else for things and my well-being, and I really hate that feeling.
Regardless, I am enjoying relaxing and attempting to turn my mind off. Let’s see how it goes.
I think I need to learn how to do this Funemployment nonsense. After leaving behind Disney and Hulu on Tuesday, Wednesday I slept in and only went to the grocery store. Yesterday I managed to get a TB test for my upcoming job then hung out at IKEA with Madd. Which brings me to the photo above: I figured I should take the time today to purge and reorganize and re-everything my apartment.
But after taking a look at this shit and realizing I don’t know where I want to put it, I just want to do this:
I do have big plans in setting up a room divider curtain to block off my bedroom area and moving my desk to the “nook-ish” area by the entrance to create more of an office area. I know, this is a fun and exciting vacay!
Actually I am planning on escaping from here with Madd and going to her boytoy’s house out in the desert on Sunday and spend a few days just lounging by and in the pool and hopefully turning a different shade of pale. My goal there is to fucking finish Gravity’s Rainbow. Then after another couple of days, I start the new job.
Maybe I’ll see about getting buttfucked or whipped or fisted tonight…
I finished my final full week of work at Hulu/Disney. Tuesday is my last day, and the minutes sure are dragging.
I went back to the Santa Monica Hulu office on Wednesday for the final time, and I guess I expected to feel something. I wanted to miss the place where I spent almost everyday from 2017 to March 2020, but I felt nothing. Sure, I’ll miss some of the people I worked with there (but not others). But the fucking traffic driving there or the half-mile walk from the Metro station to the office were really fucking annoying. And the fact that Disney rebranded the buildings during the pandemic and getting rid of our beer and wine kegs really took the Hulu identity away from the campus. So as I left the building for the last time after saying goodbye to some of my coworkers, there was no looking back and turning into a pillar of salt. It was just a Wednesday afternoon as I walked to the Metro station to get home.
Now I have two more working days left. How long with they last? Will they kill me before I leave?
I’m glad I’ve stuck it out. Now that I’m a few chapters into the second part, the narrative is a lot easier to follow. Instead of random circular vignettes that leave you dizzy and lost, things are following a more linear path. Don’t worry, it’s not a linear narrative. There is a musical dance number with lab rats! It’s fucking insane, but at least I know what the fuck is going on.
Most importantly, however, I came to the portion of the novel that got its Pulitzer prize revoked. In this Part II, there have been a few sex scenes, and this particular one didn’t really raise my eyebrows. It’s a standard BDSM scene until… Well…
As I’m reading this part, I’m realizing there are a lot of details that I missed thanks to the obtuseness of the first part. I figure I’ll have to go back and read those 180-or-so pages much more carefully. Nevertheless, it’s a very fun read. It’s funny, fucked up, strange, and not as shitty as it seems (literally!)