If I told you five years ago that in 2020, China, because of it’s ‘heavy-handed authoritarianism’ as the West likes to call it (as opposed to the flaming-hot Trumpster fire over there) or particularly useful sense of order and harmony amongst citizens and their almost absolute trust of government (as we would describe it), would feel like the freest country in the world and the West, with a focus on personal rights and freedoms would be the most locked-down, restricted and chaotic, dangerous pandemic mess in the world, you would have probably laughed in my face. And you’d have been wrong.
As my friend Ian and Jess struggle to return from the UK to join me at my school, I see clearly how, for many ex-pats in China, we feel truly blessed to go to the gym, get a haircut, go to work, go to the movies, see our friends, and go around mostly without a mask (except for the subway, and airports), because China has all but stamped out the virus. Ian and Jess will return, but the flight they were booked on wasn’t on a list of China approved international flights, so they paid for another one —and, fingers crossed, they will fly back to China on November 4. They had to buy a ticket, get a PCR test, check into a UK safety hotel, get another PCR test, board the plane, wear a mask, get another PCR test when in China, do 14 days of quarantine with doctors and 3x daily temperature checks, get 2 negative PCR tests upon completion, and then can fly to Chongqing and our relative national safety. It’s a big job, but to them, it’s their dream come true. And I can understand that. Mine would be Canada getting its act together so I can fly back and see my family for vacation and then return to my nice life here in China when I’m done. Fingers crossed, but it might take a while. In America, Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd surfed over a maskless crowd in a COVID-surging state during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, Friday—— as my friend João Bowman from Detroit’s Theatre Bizarre put it, “This timeline has absolutely lost it” —- I think my “crazy friends,” my wild artistic types, are able to take this all in the best. We are not crazy; we’re mentally agile. A long time ago, maybe twenty years, one of the smartest guys I know, Jak Tripper, wrote me a letter in lieu of a Xmas gift as we were all starving artists. He said something along the lines of “you are able to waltz farcically through anything life throws at you, while the rest of us take the suffering seriously, you grin because you know it doesn’t really matter…” I’m paraphrasing, but that was something to that effect, it was something about me that amazed him, and it reinforced in me something that I guess I occasionally forget but aspire to, suffering without suffering, because it doesn’t really matter – it’s not so severe, it’s just life. I’m not Kai; I’m the actor playing him, so go ahead, make him suffer, as long as it’s in the name of good drama. When the camera stops rolling, I’ll go enjoy a croissant in my trailer. This is the hidden power of stoicism, although I didn’t know it then. You don’t suffer unless you say so. And I prefer not to.
Determined to save the 260 GB old photo library on my corrupted rugged hard drive, I bought a “mixtape enclosure” online. A few days later, it showed up and put my old PS4 hard drive in there. It’s 500 GB, enough for my digital DJ collection too, more or less. Both could be pretty cool to have if and when I write an amusing story of my life and how I got here one day. There are a lot of good stories to tell, but many are too colorful to be autobiographical for now. Fiction food, then, or wait until everyone else is dead to tell the tale.
Pendulum killed my Bose frames! During a particularly crunchy drop, the left side of my Bose Frame glasses just died. It was a shock, and I quickly went through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and more. I grew up poor so having a $300 (1600 RMB) pair of smart glasses feels like a luxury, and then having them break two months after I got them made me instinctually feel hurt and confused. I remembered I had a 1-year warranty, so I scrambled around looking for the bill. I thought it was in my wallet, but I don’t use cash, so where did my wallet go? Eventually, I found that, but no bill inside. I looked through piles of paper receipts, tearing apart my places like a swat team looking for dynamite or the DEA looking for drugs in the wall, but since I can’t really read Chinese, it was a frustrating experience. I started getting grumpy, which, for my nice day off with Shaolin, is not a good look. Eventually, I decided, upon finding the box, to pretend the receipt was already in there and go return them. Low and behold, it was — built into the top flap of the box, a warranty ID. Fantastic. So they sent them back to the factory, and in a week, they’ll be mailed back fixed or replaced. Hallelujah and ramen.
My school signed me up for a COVID health plan, but I have to pay 2600 RMB for a year. The school will eventually pay me back. Joe’s is only 860 because he’s a decade or so younger. Hmm. Well, at least it’s insurance, and it’s free, so no need to complain. In fact, I’m thrilled they care so much about me.
I cracked it — now what do I do with 40,000 old photos? Sort them? Geeze. I look through all my pictures, and I smile. What an adventure I’ve had! What colorful friends, what zesty outfits, so many clownish until I became an actual, vaudeville trained circus ringmaster in my final form as Danish before I left to begin again. I also see much sadness. A boy who wanted to badly to rock. Surrounded by beautiful people, doing preposterous things, being envied, being lusted after, all in the service of a myth – that I was unbelievably happy. But, what a sense of sadness I can see in my eyes. For it was always a lie, of some sort, and the beautiful, sexy, and super cool people around me were also lying usually, about one thing or another, all of us, desperate to fit in, hungry for meaning, desperate for connections and significance while we burnt bright on this cruel, unforgiving planet. They are nice memories, but I don’t miss those days either, for now, as boring as I might be, I’m content to just be as I am. I am glad I don’t hunger to be cool; I think that is real coolness. I know I ruined it by describing it. Don’t look back at explosions, et all.
If I told you that we all lived as long as we needed to learn the lessons we were meant to learn and that when we died, all of life’s mysteries were bared– would that comfort you? In full honesty, I’m not sure if it’s true, but it is comforting to tell you this, and I can imagine it sounds comforting to hear. Not knowing if it’s true or untrue and that it won’t cause you to become a murderer or a craven thief to believe it, I suppose it’s just as well to say it’s probably true. I guess this is the benefit of religion or some kind of ethos at their best. At their worst is another story (war) altogether.
Another old friend of mine in Canada died. Rip Oz.
As many fellow writers are thinking about or already prepping their next novel for the national novel writing month marathon – November (NANOWRIMO.org), many others are doing another kind of prepping for new lockdowns around the world as COVID-19 rages on. Experts have predicted a 400-600% spike in both cases and deaths from the heights of the last wave in the spring, over the winter, exacerbated by the seasonal flu. Flu shots, as a result, are running low in many areas; despite many governments said assuring the public they have prepared enough, it has been reported it’s quite difficult to procure one or supplies are already running dry. Experts suggest that mainly asymptomatic or mild COVID could become quite serious, with inflammation in the lungs (such as ARDS) or other organs creating pain, organ damage, coagulation, strokes, liver/kidney damage, renal failure, and brain injuries and heart damage, permanent lung scarring as some of the potential side effects. Luckily we have new studies showing the efficacy of some basic, generic, and cheap supplements and vitamins that can be found in food or in over the counter pills. Vitamin D is continually shown to be excellent both as a preventative and as a treatment for COVID-19, with lower hospitalization (77%), less admittance to the ICU, and fewer fatalities associated with having healthy levels of Vitamin D, and it also aids the body in protecting you from organ damage associated with long hauler syndrome and COVID complications. Two new studies from Barcelona, Spain, and India also show the efficacy of Zinc in reducing inflammation, ARDS, and protecting the organs and the body as well as reducing the ACE2 receptors/receptivity and boosting the immune system to be able to fight off COVID better. Again, healthy levels of Zinc are associated with shorter hospital stays and fewer fatalities. The unfortunate thing about these being so natural, widely available, and so cheap is that there’s no money to be made in them. It would be great if every government just sent them out for free this winter to every home. Sadly, big pharma is more excited bout $3000 a pill Remdesivir and expensive vaccines with billions in profits to be made. But you and I can take the supplements and stay healthy. Tell a friend, or tell them all.
Beyond keeping up with my diary and possibly the novel it may become, I’ve decided to finish the Amos origin story I’ve been plotting this summer. It’s a simple little story and could be really fun and will eventually get me to the epic Amos adventures I have half-written in binders and on napkins around my office. So for the rest of October, I’m developing the outline and plots and will begin the 1600 word a day challenge for 30 days in November to write a 50,000-word manuscript and end up with a new book before December. I love the camaraderie and enthusiasm of our community at this time of the year, and many of us struggle to keep the sense of urgency, prioritize our craft and maintain this professionalism of writing seriously every day for the rest of the year. It’s a great wake-up call to get us back to what we need to be doing, as writers and as we head into the colder days ahead, I am really looking forward to it.
November 19 is the release of Cyberpunk 2077, an epic cyberpunk open-world game featuring one other than ‘the one,’ Keanu Reeves. This has the potential alone to sabotage my November novel baby, but I will somehow manage to try it and finish the job. If I’m too excited, I’ll just have to wait until December to play it, which will make for an exciting Xmas break anyway.
We are quickly approaching mid-January, where I have 5 weeks off between semesters, and it will mark the one-year point. Pandemic. So far, so good after China’s epic test of National Day holiday, where 550 million people traveled around and returned home – so far, I have not heard of COVID related infections, although some asymptomatic reinfection has lead to mass testing in Qingdao. Reinfections are still very rare but becoming more common globally, and we need to understand why and what is exactly happening here but long story short, I don’t want to get this disease personally, so will continue to be safe and vigilant.
So the renovations are ongoing. Mostly done, but the gas line hasn’t been turned on yet, so I’m still using a propane tank in the kitchen. I have a new oven and hood fan, though, which does a great job of sucking the hot spicy chilies in the air and the grease out of the kitchen, so that’s a huge upgrade. One day, a knock came at the door, and two workers wanted to fix something. They pulled the giant, heavy hood fan off the wall to install a new power line. One of them asks me to hold it and goes off to get a cable. The other guy goes to get his bag, and I’m just holding this 40-pound thing awkwardly, hoping they finish the job as I can’t put it anywhere, and if I move, it will rip off the wall and damage a lot of things, including my new stove, the fan, and the wall. The guy comes back and starts coughing in my face — an accident but also an assault. I couldn’t even put a hand up to cover my mouth. I had to stand there and take it as some punishment for being a real ass in a past life.
My germaphobe life has helped polish my pandemic protocols – but now that I imagine a rocket launch is basically a cosmic sneeze and we’re the germs. I can’t stop seeing it.
Entropy isn’t what it used to be.
I survived and later had the urge to make mac and cheese. It was really easy. I’ve never been patient enough in the past to make a roux. Now that I’m old and boring and have mastered the low setting on the gas stove, I can mix butter and flour over the fire, add cream, add greek yogurt, add cheese, and before I know it, I’ve got a great cheese sauce to pour over macaroni. This, more than anything else, has shown me that I have found some sort of inner peace.
Later, I played Shadowrun, but a few friends are busy with work; in fact, work is very busy for everyone. I enjoy making it to the gym as much as I can, at least 3-4 times a week. Back in Canada, most gyms are closed, and a yoga gym in Hamilton, Ontario, became a super spreader event– so I am really glad we have such safe conditions here where my gym and pool are safe option s for me to exercise and build my strength this winter. If you feel upset that you’re in a place that isn’t safe, don’t blame me please; blame anyone you see who isn’t wearing a mask in public. It’s this minority of careless spreaders causing all this economic pain, health crisis, deaths and suffering, isolation, and depression. Sad really. I don’t tell you about how well we are doing here just to make you jealous, but to shed some light. When i lived in the West, you’d think I was allergic to hard work before play. It might be cultural.
I got a lot of great music from ill Gates to add to my Pendulum live and Andy C gym sets but still enjoy System of a Down for a hard metal push. When I’m bopping around town, it’s hard to beat the freestyle grooves of Fela Kuti, and he’s still my go-to. I feel so happy that I’ve been able to sleep, rest, and relax and can teach 1500 students a week without panic, anxiety, anger, and fear creeping into my classroom. Competent macro-management again has made me safe- in CQ, we trust.
I’m working on a kit with a UK mate Greg to get 1 -sheets, a simplified poster with COVID-busting tips, a working pseudo-scientific paper, masks, mess, and supplements areas that need it, such as the Amazon tribes I’ve been reading about. It’s a huge climb uphill but exciting work because if we succeed even a little, we are doing good, and it’s that agency of helping others that makes us feel helpful and strong at this difficult time. We’ve been chatting and planning, and it energizes me.
I applied for an MFA to A Canadian university and a Master of Letters to a European one and will see if any of them want to help me with my manuscript. It’s a fun idea. I’m really busy but heck, why not. It’s the weekend again — will try to find something fun to do with Shaolin as my work has kept us apart all week, and I miss her. Last week we saw the new Jacky Chan Vanguard film and had dinner with Jin and Cici, and I really liked that.
One of North Dakota’s latest COVID-19 fatalities was buried on Wednesday afternoon but remains on the state legislature’s ballot in the November elections. Known in his motor racing days as “Dakota Dave,” 55-year-old David Andahl is on the ballot as a Republican candidate in the box marked “State Representative District 08.” His name is two inches to the right of the name Donald J. Trump in the adjacent box marked “President and Vice President of the United States.” In a campaign TV ad, Andahl described himself as a Trump supporter. Right around the same time, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 Andahl also fell ill. They were both hospitalized over the first weekend in October. Another fitness influencer on Instagram who called it a hoax died, and antimask fool Chris Sky is trying to get a judge fired for charging him in Canada for his quarantine violations. The night is dark and full of idiots.
Good AI “waiting for a good g-AI”? Watching the west flounder with COVID-19 while Asian countries, particularly China, is POST COVID and has even made an economic recovery is astounding. It’s like watching different centuries fight a technology race. Even though London is the most recorded CCTV city in the world, the UK Hasn’t been able to use CCTV+AI + other so-called ‘dystopian future tech’ to fight the pandemic. With the golden week over and no spike in cases reported for 550 million Chinese travelings, I think we passed our big test. Meanwhile, In Qingdao, a few hospital workers were infected, treating some people returning from Japan. It spread to a few people nearby. China tested between 800 thousand and a million people, found the symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers, treated them, and stomped it out again. Meanwhile, in Canada, we have given up on asymptomatic testing. With a backlog just too great, we even paused testing for a few days to catch up. We simply don’t have the resources, will, or technology to do what China has done. One thing is for sure: China is the future, where AI, CCTV will work together to keep the population secure, and digital currency will become the norm, stamping out many illegal activities and making under the table work difficult. Watching Netflix’s social dilemma documentary, the best we can hope for is a better AI than the kind we use on social media to monetize our attention. We hope for a nice, humanitarian one. In China, they named a major one, Skynet. Aware that it’s named after the evil AI that destroys the world, they hope to make this one a nice AI. I hope so too.
I finished Ghost of Tsushima. Sometimes the end comes quickly, so it’s good to make sure you’ve got all your side quests in order. I feel like I’m slowly coming to peace with the mundanity of a Saturday spent tutoring. Sometimes the kid’s smile or aha moments fill me with joy, something that, after two decades was had to find on a stage full of million-dollar lasers and a PK sound system, surrounded by my heroes and attracted and enthusiastic fans—- so I have succeeded, in a roundabout way, to find a new way to feel something. Slowly, and basically, and it’s ok. I had taken that path so far there was only one thing left to do — and there’s plenty of time for that, whenever it will come, so instead I did what few dare or are afforded the chance to do, double back and play it all again, differently. In China, I had a reboot, a simple life, a respectable career without controversy, a single, loyal, loving partner, who became my wife, and a son, a daughter in law, a grandson, and a big cohesive family all in one place. In many ways, both brought me joy, but in many other ways, this is a much different life than I had before. For all my joys in Canada, I always hungered for the next joy, and there was no hole big enough to hold any money I could get my hands on–always another event to organize, expensive talent to book, flyer to pay for, debt to pay back, piece of gear or stack of records to purchase. In China, my hobbies are simple and cheap in comparison, often introspective and solitary, but joyful. I write I paint, I think, and I play games with friends. Sometimes, still, I dance, but not as often as I should. Maybe that’s ok. In a life full of chapters, I am doing different things than I did before. I always struggled to pay bills in Canada because of my money as on the next fantastic thing. In China, we are buying our second house, preparing to retire well even in a world of uncertainty — forging ahead of the best we can. I wonder how many of the lessons I learned, the discipline, restraint, honesty, and honor, have been hard and beaten into me by Shaolin– I would think most. Sometimes she has been a hard teacher, proud, learned, and bossy, but whereas in the West, my shenanigans could disrupt the young and simple foundations I was based upon, the roots of tradition and culture in China are thousands of years old. Shaolin branded me a trouble maker yesterday. After I cleaned up one mess, I dumped my French press into the sink and coffee grains everywhere; really, Kai Kai, you are a trouble maker. I may strain the boughs of Shaolin built; they are too strong for me to break. I love her for many reasons, but one of them is that. I am sorry for the strain but thankful for your resilience. Resilience has been one of the many lessons I learned here, and maybe my most valuable one now.
I look to many friends who I used to envy for their fame, wealth, and artistry who now to envy me, for in this year when there are no concerts to play, movies to make or much money to be earned in the arts and many sectors, I continue to work humbly, teaching, writing, and living on my mountain with low expenses, head down, but doing just fine chugging along. This was not the old KAI. I am now someone else, someone who has much to teach that one, were he to come to me, was he to forget. It may feel ironic, but I do not believe it is by accident that it takes us a lifetime to learn how to live right; in fact, those in search of a purpose may deem that our primary focus, I suppose you could call us philosophers, but I’d also accept the title of poet. The key I learned in Ghosts was loving my horse and racing through the fields, petting a fox, and blessing the inari shrines. We don’t need a lot of things. We just need magic things, loved things that bring us joy.
One interesting thing about the second wave most of “non-China” is experiencing is that while infections are up 400% in much of Europe, death rates do not follow — in fact, many fewer people per infected are dying. Surely we are getting much better at treating COVID, but I wonder if the data we saw about mask compliance leading to the mainly mild or asymptomatic transmission could have a lot to do with it. If that’s the case, then although it may feel like we are losing, in many ways we have won, for masks have done their job and curtailed many millions of deaths, and I’m proud to have fought so hard to help get that messaging right this year. It has not been easy, but it has been good. In the US, as cases surge over 8 million — they are discussing abandoning measures altogether and embracing herd immunity, with little thought not only to the most vulnerable who will die first but to the long haulers, the reinfections, the strokes in teenagers and children, the organ damage in asymptomatic cases. Not everyone is oblivious– as of now, “have you had COVID” is a question in military applications that may disqualify you from that, as well as diving or being a pilot, etc…. So most of us remain stalwart, trying not to get it.
My dad is doing ok. He’s been home mostly alone since this all began, but for cottage trips with Ming (now canceled as the hot zone red border between Ottawa and Quebec is closed), and our NHL games and their after-dinner walks, but he’s lucky to work from home, have nice food, a nice home, and a nice garden. What more could any of us want than a peaceful life? I used to want more, now I am happy with less. That said, entropy is real, especially for me – I’ve always had gremlins. When we made dubplates for a Broken Bridge live show, the guy pressed a “fake/broken” copy of our theme and the working version on the back. That was bad of him and bad of us to accept it but worse when we accidentally played that one live. I’ve had Squid Lid, those Krampus Loving maniacs pour liquor into my MacBook Pro, the same one that I took to the desert to DJ in a dust storm for the million bunnies March and many other oddball sets at Burning Man in the black rock desert. I tend to break stuff, even if now I take better care of my things lovingly than I ever could have before.
The home button on my iPhone 6 seems to have stopped working, but I have a software fix – a hovering white circle. Shaolin thinks it’s the fact it’s loaded with apps. It could be cuz I dropped it 100 times, or maybe it’s just old. One day I’ll get a new one, but I guess I don’t have to be hungry for it. It would be nice, but it won’t make my life better, mostly because my life is already great. The same feel for a new MacBook, but mine is ok, hanging in there. This one hasn’t had any Krampus Demons spilling liquor in it, and that’s probably why it’s lasted so long.
I saw a flyer for ‘Mist,’ Plastikman in Ottawa, January 7, 1995, on Facebook. It was a night that changed the course of my life for decades to come — we all looked so young back then, and how did we stay out so late? On a Saturday evening, after 6 hours of teaching and on a 1-hour break before the last 2, Shaolin, a bit shellshocked and cranky, joins me in the kitchen. There are Chinese leftovers, but I have cheese and a half a French bread baguette on the fridge, so I cook up the steak, heat the leftovers of last night’s Chinese dinner, and make myself a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. I’m a terrible vegetarian, but I honestly do prefer a plant-based diet. In an ideal world, we would not kill sensitive, loving domesticated animals (or wild ones) for human consumption, but in a practical world, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it rather than throwing it away. I’m not religious- not sure if a satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster and the very Bronze Age stoics even count as spirituality, but I will say a little prayer of gratitude for giving their life for my dinner before I eat them all the same. In all fairness, if I had to eat you to survive, and I could marinate you and spice you before frying you up, you’d probably taste good, and I wouldn’t say no. I’d like to think that I’m a survivor, and it’s just what we do. Well, if we have to. I’d rather be your friend if that’s ok with you.
I’m mulling all this over, and there comes a knock at the door, and the dogs go wild barking, and I see a boy’s face, about 12, staring back through the peephole. I open the door, the dogs go crazy, the boy starts to scream, Shaolin comes out yelling, and I hide back in the kitchen. I open the oven and try grabbing my toasty sandwich but my finger presses against the top and instantly sizzles. I pull it out, put it under cold water, and it’s already a blister. Filled with anger, who am I angry at? The boy, the dogs, the wife? MY life? The chaos? Then I realize I should be angry with myself that I got flustered so easily. I think of trips driving to Montreal with my dad and how he snaps when everyone is yelling directions and different tops at him, and I smile. My hand stings, and that’s a feeling. I was angry, and that’s a feeling too. I am neither anger nor a blister on my finger. I am something else? What am I? That’s a good question, but whatever it is, it is amused.
The sandwich was delicious, and I think for a while about what I truly am. I bet if I spent enough time in front of a psychiatrist, they’d have some notes and maybe even a theory. I think about when I teach with Shaolin how she looks at me so suspiciously. Most of the time, I am listening to music, or shuffling a deck of cards, or doing something odd AS WELL AS the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Often I’m tidying my bookshelf deep in thought or some other ridiculous side quest that has nothing to do with teaching the kids with her. I can understand her frustration with me. ADHD? Some people thought that it would fit when I was young. I could have qualified. Maybe I could make a new disease or problem. I get angry easily. I’m too proud. I have uncommon self-confidence and believe I could do anything, even give health advice to world leaders or become a wildly successful author. Superstar DJ syndrome? Delusions of Grandeur? Anger Management? But if I am ok, then it doesn’t really matter. I meditate, not medicate. This is why I live on a mountain. They say that only the poor are crazy; the rich get to be eccentric. In my life, I have seen so much, been so much. I have been poor, I have been rich, I’ve been on the doll, and I’ve been on stage, idolized as a star on TV. I’ve held press conferences and been harassed by police, and while I’ve mainly enjoyed “white male privilege,” I willingly wore a funny Chaplin mustache and dreadlocks for years and was arrested at an airport traveling with a girlfriend with star tats on her face because we seemed like trouble makers and I had a spike bracelet for a music video in my bag. The charges were thrown out of court when I showed up in a suit with a gold college ring and my hair tied back in a ponytail. Life is like that. Full of experiences, full of extremes, full of judgments, and full of both suffering and joy. It’s been my pleasure to be the vehicle for whatever I am, traveling through time and space, being me all these years. I wonder what’s going to be next.
Kai shares his diary with iChongqing. You can read more on his blog, www.theinvisiblewar.co
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