i'm so sorry this happened to you.

ok, so maybe it is a story worth telling.

but where should i start? how about back in my dante class. dante said the worst sinners of all were those who committed fraud. "why fraud?" someone asked. "even worse than rape and murder?" father rowan said yes, even worse than rape and murder. because in a fraudulent society, where the individual distrusts everyone, rape and murder wouldn't even be possible. everyone would just live extraordinarily isolated lives and have nothing to do with one another.

i didn't buy it at first. but now that i've been a victim of fraud, i agree. the guy who stole my entire savings account ($15,680) can go to the worst part of the inferno and stay there for all eternity.

you're probably wondering, how did a broke joker like me even save $15,680? it wasn't hard. it was just time consuming, and it took a lot of scrimping and saving, foregoing dinner some nights, not turning on the heat when it was cold. i had a $10 bus pass, i paid $615 in rent, i didn't have kids, i didn't date, i'd already paid off my student loans. what was i even saving for? i don't know, just to do it? i figured i'd need surgery for something at some point, and the anesthesia alone would be in the thousands. i figured i'd get married, and it'd be something for the honeymoon. maybe a down payment on a house. maybe i'd finally have a car in my name. maybe i'd go back to school, and then i'd have enough for a semester.

when i clearly saw none of that was gonna happen, i said fuck it. i'd spend the money on traveling. i'd quit my job, join the peace corps, and i'd have a good enough chunk of change to carry me through financial emergencies, small trips here and there. $15,000, $16,000, $17,000. how much was enough? how much did i need before i could quit my job and live out the last days of my youth? i'd been good for so long. it was time for a change. it was time to be reckless.

i quit my job. i threw a christmas party for my family. i went to manila. i went to bangkok. and then on february 1, i checked my chase online bank account. $0.00. zero. haha. you're fucking kidding me, right? the transaction was still pending. $15,680 going to somebody named william yong's bank of america bank account. surely my bank wouldn't be stupid enough to transfer my entire account, which i've had with them for ten years (back when they were washington mutual), to some fool named william yong. this is clearly a mistake, and they'll fix it immediately. right? right?

i flew back to manila, and i called chase immediately. "let me transfer you to our wire department," they said. "let me transfer you to our fraud department," they said. "let me put you on hold for just a minute," they said. clearly, nobody knew what the fuck was going on. their call centers are spread out all over the world, and at some point, i spoke with a representative working in manila. he could've been next door to me for all i knew. one rep said i'd need a notarized affidavit. another said a notary was unnecessary. one said i should close my account immediately. another said they'd just send me a new debit card. all the while, i'd get transferred from one department to the next, the next rep more clueless than the last. still, i put up with it. what choice did i have? this was all my money. everything. and i was in a foreign country burning international minutes, using a shoddy magic jack that cut out every now and then.

"you should fly back to the states," my aunt said. i didn't want to. i was supposed to stay in the philippines forever, marry a beautiful brown-skinned girl and have ten daughters. i was gonna live in a ramshackle house in the provinces, and i'd learn to love tabo-tabo.

but i didn't. i flew back. i learned that the hacker got into my gmail account, and set it up so that any emails including the word "chase" would go directly to my trash. he contacted at&t and had all my voicemails go to some number he set up, most likely a prepaid burner. at&t refused to release any of my information or records to chase without a subpoena. chase said they asked bank of america to return the money, but bank of america cited "insufficient funds," and the money couldn't be returned. chase said they needed a statement from at&t saying that my phone was set to call forwarding the day the transaction occurred. again, at&t said they needed that subpoena.

in other words, i have to prove i was robbed.

i filed a case at the sheriff's department. the officer more or less shrugged his shoulders, and said, "depending on our workload, we may get to it." it sounded like they weren't even going to investigate. the chase rep at my local branch said, "because it was a wire transfer, once it leaves chase, there's really nothing we can do at that point." the bank of america rep at my local branch said, "this might not even be his real name. we don't even have his account number." i emailed my boss. i called my lawyer friend. i posted the story on reddit.

all i can do now is try to convince myself it was just a number. a large number, yes, but still, just a number. and what was i going to do with it, anyway? buy an ipad? visit france? i'm probably better off without it. just another test of character, of my patience. an expensive lesson in how to (yet again) deal with grave disappointment.
more intensity!

"my stupid maid forgot to pack my payong!" it was snowing in osaka, and big fat franco was searching for his umbrella. it turned out to be just buried deep in his suitcase. we trekked out into the snow, and i walked far ahead of my traveling buddies. "what are you, running a marathon?" he called out to me. i looked all around me, japan covered in snow, and i was able to lose myself in it. the snow melted into my onitsuka tigers, and my feet and hands were freezing. it was the first time kathy had ever seen snow. "how can you tell when you've gotten frostbite?" she asked. we hauled ass to the osaka castle, and we took pictures. big fat franco had his camera stick with him, so he could take plenty of self-portraits. kathy and i would just watch him and laugh.

we rode the bullet trains, tried to explain to cab drivers where we needed to go, shopped and ate. in five days, we covered kansai, osaka, kobe, kyoto, nara, tokyo, and mt. fuji. the train ride from tokyo to mt. fuji was one of the most beautiful rides i'll ever take in my life. i watched japanese cartoons and morning shows, and i had no idea what the hell was going on, but everything felt like you had to be on drugs to create such things. i couldn't understand pachinko or the buttons on the remote next to the toilet bowl. almost every seat was heated, and everything was more expensive than i could have imagined. still, i loved every second of it. i understood why so many non-japanese people were obsessed with the country.

in tokyo, i saw cosplay girls, a fully functioning tower records, tokyo tower, shibuya square, buildings with lights everywhere. it was surreal to be there, the place that had given me nintendo, sega, akira, paprika, lost in translation, the concept of tentacle-rape, the idea of schoolgirl panties being sold in vending machines, the lyric "goddamn you half-japanese girls," seizure-inducing cartoons, the atomic bomb, sushi, godzilla, the phrase "they're big in japan," sumos, ninjas, geishas, tokyo drift, seppuku, ponyo, mama-sans. how did one country pack so much craziness into its collective existence?

because it was a japanese holiday, our hotel in kyoto was $1,000 USD for the night. our lunch in kobe was $200. to karaoke for one person for two hours in tokyo with a bottle of sake, it cost $50. every meal, no matter how small, was at least $10. as soon as you step in a cab, it's already $10. thanks to franco's rich friend, we were v.i.p. at a club in roppongi hills, and it cost $25 just to sit there. the girls dyed their hair brown and everyone wore black. african guys handed out flyers in the streets, and they worked as bouncers at the bars and clubs.

by the final day, i had a cold and i was exhausted. i had to take the train back to osaka by myself, as my flight left early in the morning, and franco's and kathy's flight wasn't until evening. by the time i reached my hotel, it was 10 p.m., and i looked like death. i found a small restaurant near the hotel, where i ordered a yakisoba for one. i gobbled it down and made as much noise as i could in the process. franco told me that to make noise while eating was a way of showing the cook that you enjoyed the food. so i slurped that shit up noisily, and while i was sick, exhausted, cold, and alone on valentine's day, at least i wasn't hungry anymore.

one thing at a time, man. one thing at a time.
if one day you just up and leave.

all my money is gone, but that story isn't even worth telling.

bangkok was just kind of eh. once you've seen one major asian city, you've seen them all. what's it like? a bunch of asians crowding together in markets. street vendors selling meat on sticks, fake purses, fake watches, fake t-shirts. i went on a tour by myself. it was good, to be alone again. can i do this? for two years? just be by myself and have no one to talk to? in the bus, the guides spoke thai and broken english, i heard indians, and i heard french. i listened to kanye west, and the song "runaway" made me very sad.

my cousin, her friend, and i went to patpong, the infamous red light district. it was homely looking girl after homely looking girl popping things out of their vaginas. one smoked a cigarette out of hers. another popped ballons by shooting darts out of her hoo-ha. yet another shot ping pong balls out of hers, and i returned the serve with a paddle. one tooted a horn. another blew out birthday candles. if there is a god, why does this kind of thing happen every night? we went to another place, and there was just straight up fucking. nothing left to the imagination. penetration right on the stage, and i thought i was gonna be sick. i just looked at the girl's face, that look of hopelessness, a look that said, hey, i'm being fucked in a chalee bar, and you foreigners paid $15 to watch me get fucked in this chalee bar, congratulations.

at least the food was delicious. on the last night, i treated my cousin and her friend to dinner, and it cost around $70. but it was worth every penny.

i've come to realize that i don't really like traveling. i kind of just want to be in one place until it gets old and then move on. but that's no way to live, right? that's just being a bum, or more specifically, a hobo.

but a few weeks ago, i was in a van, and we were coming back from a full day of swimming at calatagan. the street was dark, and the driver was really putting the pedal to the floor, despite the oncoming tricycles and motorists. it was dark, and other than the sound of the engine, it was quiet. i felt peace, at ease. i thought, i am going to remember this. it was a good memory, and it came to me when i truly believed there were no good memories left to make. that night gave me hope. but the combined speed and darkness also gave my mom a panic attack.

and then i was walking back to my niece's house in fairview. we had just spent the evening playing music in her friend's bar. we walked along a dirt road, and we were out in the countryside, so i could hear the crickets, see the full moon and stars directly above us. another good memory, i'll keep it.

i could picture myself back in california. i'm sitting on the sidewalk, and there's no one around. my parents are inside, they're watching tv. some kid will walk by, but he won't even look at me. i'm sitting there the whole day, just imagine it. the mailman delivers the mail, not even a hello. the whole fucking day will go by, no one will say a thing. not one word. no one will ask, why the hell are you just sitting on the sidewalk all day? no one will ask, what the hell's the matter with you? and that's not what i want. that's not it at all.

contrast it with this: i'm in fairview, my niece's house. her three friends come over. one of them, janine, is a very cute, dark-skinned girl with crooked teeth. she smiles all the time to show those crooked teeth. and they're taking hours just trying to figure out how to play some indian movie on a usb inserted into a portable laptop that's going into the hdtv. someone comes downstairs, and she's holding her baby. the friends coo over the baby. another friend stops by, and my cousin, espie, she invites everyone to sit down at the table to eat. a neighbor stops by, and she's adorable, too, this incredibly thin, shy girl who just wants some ice cream. she just gets the ice cream with her head bowed low, and she tries to slip away unnoticed. i want to grab her and tell her that life is too short to be shy, that she should spend her days making music, screaming her head off, demanding her fair share from this shit, lonely world. she should love and be loved, as we all should.

and that's what i want: community, family, a sense of belonging. not taking things too seriously. to show gratitude for the small bowl of ice cream that's already melted. this is all i've ever wanted.

i'm almost home.