Stickman Readers' Submissions June 13th, 2014

Happy Never To Return To Asia

Asia, the South-East of it in particular, has many appeals that beckon. The smorgasbord of cultures, for one. More people live roughly in the circle of Japan, China, India, South-East Asia and Taiwan than the rest of the world. But within that circle one can go the same distance that separates New York and Los Angeles and be in an alien environment with an entirely different language and customs.

But America has that too! (Though not to such extremes, and more intermingled and immersed.) I can take the bus east of Hollywood and arrive in Thaitown, with authentic restaurants and shops and plenty of Thai presence. I can go south from there and find myself in Koreatown, the largest footprint of a Korean population outside of Korea anywhere on earth.

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Tired of bibimbap and kimchi and Korean spa? Head east to Little Tokyo. Some of the best sushi this side of the Pacific Rim and plenty of the ladies too. Not your speed? Head further east and arrive in Monterrey Park, the new Chinatown of Los Angeles, after the old one nearer to downtown became more of a defunct tourist destination. After San Francisco, Monterrey Park has arguably more Chinese than New York's Flushing in the borough of Queens (which has usurped lower Manhattan's old Chinatown…but I digress).

My point being that to experience other cultures I could just stay right here in Los Angeles and never get bored and feel the pull of the greener grass on the other side of the Pacific. Half an hour (thrice that in rush hour traffic…) in any direction and I can find not just Asian cultures but Russian and Jewish enclaves. Not to mention the Latin cultures, with Mexican but also large populations of Salvadorans, Columbians, and Brazilians. Far enough down into Long Beach and you have quite the Khmer population. Vietnamese too. Supposedly only Toronto tops LA and NYC as a diverse metropolis.

I absolutely love it here. But what about the ladies? We go to Thailand for the readily available and affordable punani (Hawaiian for 'heavenly flower'), right? Well we got that right here too. Some of the finest strippers in the world, the most classy call girls, reasonably priced and attractive street walkers, Chinese and Korean masseuses with extras on offer, etc. But of course, the matter of price…

While geography and culture fascinate me, I would feel drawn to Asia on account to the massages alone. I practice martial arts and my body has lots of old injuries and continual general soreness in my muscles and joints. Over the years I have become an aficionado of massage and its different modalities, with or without the happy ending. Thailand is great for good 6 USD massages, but here I can get Korean, Chinese AND Thai massage all within a few miles. And each tradition has its own benefits. Each style has its own therapeutic effect. (I prefer Chinese the most, but like them all.)

But to get the girl or get the massage or get the exotic cuisine one has to pay top dollar here. Which brings me to the biggest reason I like to travel to Asia. Because my savings go farther there. Sure, I absolutely love the cultures, the different ways of life, the experience of exotic, foreign locales. But I would be just fine, perfectly content to NEVER leave the Los Angeles Basin for the rest of my life. I much prefer the desert dry heat climate more than the humid tropics anyway. And I think the greatest feature of my home country is that it is among the most ethnically diverse in the world. Travel is great, but not as necessary here as I would feel it would be were I stuck living in a monochromatic place like Omaha, Nebraska, for example.

But my career gamble hasn't taken off. It might, but it hasn't yet. And I can live on $750 USD quite well per month in Thailand. Here? Forget about it. I will pay that much in rent alone. If I made six figures and had a tolerable job here, I would probably still visit Asia for fun, but I wouldn't feel like I need to. Now, I feel like I need to, for a break from the constant downward pressure on my account balance.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer by the minute. Inflation disproportionately effects those with less disposable income. Things are not as they used to be. My uncle, the richest member of my family and a multimillionaire who has a great stock broker, told me "I knew many people who worked their way through college."

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"Well," I replied, "It's not the 1950's anymore, Jack, these days to get through college one has to take out loans, and more and more those loans are getting increasingly difficult for graduates to repay, regardless of their field."

The dollar just does not stretch the way it used to, period. Certain goods and services may cost less than they did in 1960, but overall life has grown more expensive for everyone. Personal debt has become the only option, either to complete education or even initiate a entrepreneurial endeavor, which I find sickening. What has this country come to that one can't even work hard for someone else's small business, save, then start a small business of one's own? And even if I had the credit to take out loans, I would not do so. I don't want to play that game. I shouldn't have to put a userer's children through college to get myself through college.

But I do like to work, hard. I like to work and save and spend my savings in other countries to escape the drudgery of working to live and living to work. Nothing horrifies me as much as the prospect of 40 hour weeks and a meager paid vacation. Give me 60 hour weeks and 7 days of work a week for half a year then let me take a few months off. I like itinerant, cyclic, seasonal work patterns.

To hell with creditors. I will avoid that trap like the plague. And all the while I will do everything in my power to launch a web-based business so perhaps at one point the U.S. will be a country I visit on vacation, rather than the home depart from. Not because I dislike the place, but because a good work ethic counts for less and less here and the wealth gets concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer every waking moment.

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