Saturday, February 21, 2015


This was written around early 2011.

Years ago, I traveled fatefully to the Philippine archipelago by way of Seoul, South Korea. White guys are known for their Asian fetish, a taste to which I have never subscribed. Until Korean Airlines.

My god.

These women, all Korean nationals, were incredibly beautiful, crazy beautiful. I had trouble concentrating they were so stunning. Polite to a fault, they moved with a ballet dancer’s poise. They floated. 

They were thin, very thin, but still managed to have curves, womanly curves, lines only a male artist could imagine. They smelled wonderful. Skin tones radiated a glow of health impossible to ignore. Rather than giving-in to the Western notion of dressing like a man (pants), they still wore skirts – they were WOMEN, and didn’t mind being feminine. I could go on and on.

My theory at the time (as you might have gathered, I have a definite opinion on EVERY subject), I attributed their beauty to a mostly raw-foods diet. Almost nothing fried. They ate salmon (yeah, I asked), a little rice, constant mixtures of vegetables, and various forms of noodles. But the omnipresence of veggies and Omega-3s sealed the deal, for me. 

I fell in love, unconditionally, at least 25 times during an 8-hour flight. 

The Philippines was a neat experience, and the people were a hoot to speak with and get to know. The family I accompanied was BENT on destroying anything meaningful about shuffling off 6000 miles away from home, but I made the most of the situation. The party wanted to sit in shopping malls, eat at McDonald’s, and go to nudie bars. I was goaded, hounded into the first two, but ultimately put my foot down at the last – yeah, I know I am a bad guy, but watching Filipinas who’re starving get naked for me isn’t sexy in the slightest.

I digress.

Okay, so my recent job-hunting landed me rather frantically at a local bistro. I am in DIRE need of employment, both financially and psychologically. I need this.

The ad screamed for a dishwasher who would be permanent.

Damn, I thought, these people might be as desperate as me.

I pressed the bell at the servant’s entrance, and a slight, overly made-up Asian woman answered with a BIG smile, like an apple pie. Korean!

You here for dishwasher? she asked in a huff of a thick, stereotypically Asian accent (whatever that means).

I nodded.

I like you face. Can start now? I half heard her ask.

Right now, right now? I asked back almost rhetorically. I don’t have many sets of clothes, and I’d donned my kick-ass Pendleton (chicks dig it). Oh well. Time to get dirty. Time to get wet. STACKS and STACKS of industrial pots and pans, cast-iron molds littered the triptych of basins. Everything was covered with mounds of food stuffs. Bah! Gulped, got down to business … because, after all, I am all about the business.  

For two hours, I washed, scrubbed, and soaped up.

You come back tomorrow, 8am, she barked. I nodded, wrung out my shirt, and drove home.

And so it went for the next week.

The work ethic of Koreans is remarkable. Undeniable. They go and go and go. No stopping. I thought I worked hard. Naw. Not even close. As I scrub and scrub and scrub, I notice water dripping onto my hands and into the water. I look up, where pots and pans and strainers hang. Everything there is dry already. Damn, it’s my forehead. This is a serious workout. 

You go too slow, she demanded. You too slow. Hurry. Faster. I sped up, going as fast as I could. Not good enough. Hahahahaha. 

Stop! Stop! I need your help, came the dictator’s voice. She handed me large onions. A large knife. Cutting board. Go, go, go! She ordered. Had no idea what to do. Obviously I was to cut the onions, a simple enough task. But HOW? Halves? Quarters? Slice? Dice? What?

She stormed back into the kitchen as I deliberated. Don’t stand with dick in hand! Cut! Cut!

I burst out laughing, smiling. 

Look, I said, I like you but you’re going to have to be clearer.

I don’t like YOU. You stupid, she said, not taking my easy volley.

I stabbed the knife into the cutting board, looking her dead in the eyes. Speak to me with dignity at all times. That is your last warning, I admonished.

Ooooooooooooooooooh, excuse me! she shot back, completely unmoved by my courageous display. You work for ME now, she pointed, and you do what I say. Don’t like it? Get out!  

I laughed uneasily this time, and she grabbed an onion and the knife. This-a-way. Like-a-this. This-a-way. Like-a- this, she explained, chopping the onions and then slicing them thinly.

Got it, I answered.

Disgusted, she walked away without saying much.

It went like that for the rest of the time. She’d give me an order, I’d misunderstand, she’d explode, I’d laugh, and she’d have to SHOW me what she wanted. Over and over again. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes we don’t speak for hours at a time, even while we’re working right next to one another. It’s like a Jim Jarmusch movie.

It’s the oddest working experience I’ve ever had. I am there but not there, meditating on each task … yet taking nothing away from the task itself. How can a pot or pan add up to meaning? They don’t. They won’t. I have to find meaning in the lameness, in the randomness, in the emptiness.

I do.

I drift off and think about times when I was wasting time, as in the Philippines, when I could have been more attuned to whatever it was I doing at that time. And I think about what life is; that life IS what I am doing right now … typing to you or washing dishes or taking a long swig of water to delay dehydration. This is what life is. Its meaning is in the doing.

Days later, a week (the longest I’ve held a job), I received the inevitable call. The daughter. She was intimidated thoroughly by whatever she’d found out about me, and she sounded scared. I interrupted her suddenly as she struggled to get to the point. I thank her family, especially her mother, for giving me a chance. I gave them a place to mail my first and final check, and I allowed her to get off the line gracefully. And so it goes.

Day by day it gets scarier and scarier. It’s the ride that IS my life.

And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children.

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