Prologue to Tiger Tames the Raccoon: the 武俠 novel that is also a How To Clean Out A Hoard Training Manual.
OPERATION GREENGHIS KHAN (OGK) WAS SUPPOSED TO BE VERY SIMPLE — I am an only child. My father passed 20 years ago. My mother was beginning to complain about health issues and frailty in July 2014. I was living in New Orleans at the time. I decided that I would move to Dallas where I could be close to her if the need arose. OGK Phase I : I was going to get established in Brain and Behavioral Sciences MA program at UTD, an MBA/IR program at UT-Austin, or finally the CS BA program at UTD. With one set of these credentials, I was going to establish a career outside of Food and Beverage or English as a Second Language (Which are basically hustles, not careers. For me anyway. A career when I was 26, yes. At 36, hell no.). Then OGK Phase II would kick in. I would clean out the hoard, then remodel it, turning it into a sustainable green home with solar panels and all that. It would then to be rented or turned into an Airbnb. This would provide streaming income to care for my mother after she turned 80. However, per usual, The Plan Got Overtaken by Events on the Ground.
To tell you about how I used my Drunken Kung Fu skills to enact OGK and defeat the 浣熊精 (The Raccoon who turns herself into a Woman), I have to give you a little bit of context of how I found myself in that situation. In the words of that Immortal Texas Bard, Ron White, I gotta tell you one story to tell you another:
Around or about All Saints Day 2011, I woke up after a Halloween till-dawn rager at the Brickyard in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I had a lithe body in bed with me as the 4 PM sun trickled in through the blinds. I was about to turn 33 in three weeks. And it struck me — “How much longer are you going to continue to do this? These fuck-buddy relationships are not satisfying. My job is pointless and repetitive babysitting with a boss who hates foreigners. My roommate is a hoarder drug addict who lied about moving out. My Mandarin has stagnated because I don’t have the extra money for classes. I’m kind of spinning my wheels here. This is hitting the wall. It might be time to think about going back to the States. Also, mom is going to be 70 in the spring. I need to get career shit in gear because I know that caring for her is going to fall right on my shoulders.”
Little did I fucking know how prescient that hungover Sunday morning was.
I was teaching ESL at the time. It was not my favorite thing ever. My parents were teachers, except that neither one took much professional joy in it, beyond the three best reasons to teach — June, July, and August. My father was an English teacher in that classical Heroic Bardic Teacher mold and all that dead poets cliche. He loved the tactical autonomy (Beware as this autonomy is gone now, younglings. Everybody fucks with teachers in the comfortable abode of their classrooms nowadays). However, he hated dealing with administrative bullshit and trying to draw 20th century American students into 9th century Old English. My mother had devolved into some form of glorified substitute teaching since any executive function more difficult than writing dates on a calendar eludes her. (That’s probably not her fault. ADD was never diagnosed in War Babies and Boomers. They just whapped ’em upside the head with the Baltimore Catechism and threatened them with ruler lashings or gym floor scrubbings because they couldn’t pay attention). For me, given my parents experiences, Teaching always carried the Texas dogma against academics — that they didn’t know anything other than books and were incompetent in matters of bidness. But I had not yet learned the lesson of 文武雙全. Or the omnipresence of mise-en-place.
Before I moved to Taiwan in 2009, I had some various and vague notion of pursuing a medical career. My senior year of college, my dad died of cancer in proper veteran teacher style — on the first day of Spring Break 2001, having left no lesson plans for the remaining semester. That loss, the grief and the bewildered disruption overturned 22 years of Liberal Arts, Literature, Languages, and Linguistics. On March 8th, 2001, I had completed my Philosophy and Spanish Degree credits. I was mopping up remaining credit hours, including my second semester of Mandarin. I had long ago deserted Continental Philosophy for a much more Cognitive Psychologically oriented approach to the discipline. My plan on March 8th was to spend a year in South Florida playing on the water with my girlfriend, then go to China for two years, then return to the States to attend Georgetown University’s Linguistics Master’s Degree program. I swear to God, contrary to other folks’ claims, I had a plan.
However on the evening of Friday, March 9th, my father, Richard McNally (ARMAC), suddenly died of cardiac and respiratory failure due to a nurse’s carelessness in properly administering a diuretic. He was 58 years old. He had been admitted for a chronic lower back pain that was unresponsive to pain medication. Unbeknownst to all concerned, ARMAC had a prostate cancer that had spread to his spine. In grim reality, the death that lashed out and crashed him down that Friday night also spared him months of painful cancerous dying. But I didn’t get to say good-bye.
On March 10th, I woke up to an 8:00 AM knock on the door from my girlfriend’s best friend. By 8:05, I had spoken with my mother. At 8:10, my roommate had rubbed his eyes awake and asked me what happened. I told him. He drudged back into his room and came out with a Lucky Strike and a bottle of Jameson. And so began the grief drinking. (You might as well hold on, dear reader, because there’s gonna be a lot of Drunken Kung Fu in this thing). I spent the next two weeks in Ft. Worth waking, funeraling, drinking — nothing more fun than maudlin grieving, right? I then went back to New Orleans to finish my last classes at Loyola and graduate. At the end of May, I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida. I had no fucking clue where to start looking for work. I went to college during the Dot.com Boom. The career advice consisted of study what you want, some tech company will just train you. But I graduated college in the dead assed middle of the Dot.Com Bust. Nobody was hiring soft-skills only Liberal Arts kids. I had no idea where to even begin to look for a job. My decision in June 2001 was to hell with all that teacher/professor swivel-hipped academia bullshit. I was going to become a doctor!
My reasoning was actually pretty sound. My father died because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis and a nurses’ failure to properly administer a diuretic. If I was genetically prone to many of the same health issues, then the only way of self-preservation was to study medicine and prevent such mistakes from happening to myself in the future or to other patients. In plucky boot-strap lifting fashion in July 2001, I wrote a series of cover letters and mailed them out to all the various HR departments of the hospitals and clinics in Palm Beach County. A few days later, I got a call from the Boca Raton Community Hospital (BRCH). The interview process occurred and I was hired as an out-patient scheduler for $9.00 an hour. I had health insurance and a tuition credit program. I was good to go. Next stop, become a unit clerk and enroll at FAU for the next school year.
And then 9/11 happened. I had to quit the hospital job because we only had one car. And life pretty much sucked for a year.
The failure to build momentum at BRCH was my first lesson into grinning, scheming reality itself and how to recover from failure. Sound reasoning was merely the bright lines on top of a well-intentioned road to hell. The actual physical working in a hospital or clinic, of being in a classroom for an additional 45–51 hours of credit, the MCAT, the admission process, plus piercing through the fog of bullshit that surrounds the whole paradigm of American Medicine, that’s a helluva lot harder than I was prepared to actually do. Medicine is a vocation and the call wasn’t screaming in my ear like it has to be in order to successfully become a doctor in the US. You can read kung fu training manuals all day, but you’ll probably just get punched in the face if you try to fight without doing the work. And I didn’t know if I was prepared to do the work.
In The US.
However, there were always badass medical schools with different entry requirements overseas… I had already lived in Mexico and really wanted to live in China. Figuring out a medical school in China seemed like a helluvan interesting way to learn Mandarin