Joseph Reyes


October 6

It’s Inktober, and once again, I drew all of the daily prompts in one complex drawing. It’s quite lazy, yes, but I’m a busy guy. Also, it makes for a fun version of I Spy.

I was a big fan of Terrace House. One of my favorite characters in the show was Lauren Tsai. Not only was she easy on the eyes, but she’s an actual artist who actually wanted to make it as an artist and not just ride on her looks or use the show to catapult her to other things (like so many people and “artists” on the show). To this day, I still follow her on Instagram and see that she continues to make art. Unfortunately, recently, she got her bag stolen in Palo Alto and with it her camera, iPad, and moleskin sketchbook. She doesn’t care much for the electronics but she’s offering a $10,000 reward for the return of her sketchbook. I do remember from a Q&A that she considers her sketchbook her most precious thing in the world, so I figure that explain such a high reward, plus I imagine she’s quite wealthy. I do hope someone finds it and returns it to her soon. But this whole incident does highlight the artist’s connection with their art... their drawings and their sketchbook.

Personally, I don’t keep a sketchbook with lots of drawings on me. I keep a sketchbook with one drawing, the one drawing I’m currently working on. That drawing will be there for days or weeks, but it’ll be just one drawing on the sketchbook. Once it’s done, it gets scanned, posted on Instagram, and I archive the original in my office with the rest of my past drawings. Then I start working on a new drawing on my sketchbook. I remember one time someone asked to look at my sketchbook, hoping to see a wealth of images and notes, only to be disappointed with just one sketch of a bullfighter. This drawing later one became a more complete and interesting piece, but there’s no progress or growth to be seen in my sketchbook. I am not as attached as other artists are to their sketchbook since it will always only have one work in progress, a work in progress that I haven’t fallen in-love with until it’s fully finished. And once it’s finished, I move on to the next. Now, would I be upset if my sketchbook get’s stolen? Of course. I would be heartbroken. But not enough to warrant a reward money in order to get it back. Not that I have $10,000 to spare for such an endeavor.

But I do understand the attachment to one’s sketchbook. It is personal. It serves as an outlet to some, heck even as a diary of sorts. Not only could it contain valuable and not so valuable art, but it also has thoughts, ideas, concepts that are priceless to the artist. In a way, I’m kind of jealous of those who actually keep good sketchbooks with such images and ideas. I’m not that kind of artist. I’m not that interesting of an artist. I don’t feel I have the need to bank my ideas and concepts on paper for future projects. Which in many ways make me feel like I’m a fraud. Why don’t I keep a proper sketchbook? I used to, back in art school. But ever since graduating, once I have an idea, it all gets immediately translated to a project. And all practice sketches and concepts gets trashed as soon as the image is done. Maybe that’s why I have trouble with artist’s block sometimes. I need to have a sketchbook, at least just to doodle around if needed.

The other day, I passed by an NFT museum. I didn’t go in. Judging from the outside, it looked like one of the saddest and most pointless place I’ve ever encountered. Aren’t NFTs supposed to be all digital? Then what’s the point in having them in a physical place? It’s not like they are original works or limited prints... they’re supposed to be all digital with an assigned number that makes them unique. But the digital originals are really no different visually than digital copies except for its blockchain ID. If anything, the most proper set-up to see these NFTs is through a computer monitor, maybe as a slideshow or something. With all of this in mind, I’m giving this NFT museum a month before it becomes a Starbucks or a Subway Sandwich restaurant.

The death of the NFT fad still hasn’t stopped scammers from trying to get me and other artists into NFTs however. Really, who falls for these scams? Even after all of NFTs’ value has plummeted to 2% of their starting price, why are people still pushing this?

September 20

Inktober is coming and the daily prompts have been released. I don’t have much time to finish up what I have planned for Inktober, but I’m quite excited for it. To the uninitiated, Inktober is when artists post drawings on Instagram based on daily prompts. So that’s thirty-one drawings for the month of October, pushing artists to be creative much like a school assignment. I kinda miss art school, so this is good for me as an exercise. It also gives me a break from thinking too much about what to draw. However, I tend to cheat every October. Instead of drawing one thing each day, I draw a complicated piece composed of all thirty-one prompts in one drawing. It saves me more time, I guess.

Thanksgiving (Korean Thanksgiving that is) is coming up next week, too. There’s a long five day holiday and I feel a bit uneasy about it. I’ve been trying to work as much as I could lately, and I’ve gotten used to the workaholic routine. It’ll be weird to have all of that time suddenly at the palm of my hands. And quite frankly, I’d rather be out at work earning money than having too much time at home trying to figure out how to spend money.

There’s a lot to be grateful for however. There’s friends and family in Canada, the States, and here in South Korea. There’s the fact that I’m still employed and just recently renewed my contract with my company. And there’s also my mental health, which I think has improved compared to last year. I’m still dependent on anti-depressants, but I haven’t really had many depressed jags or panic attack episodes in the past year. So that’s a win. I’ve been going to the gym daily, which kinda helps me stay busy and not be depressed, but that is no subtitute for going to a therapist. Unline man-o-sphere dude bros, I don’t treat going to the gym as temple. It’s just something I have to do in order to supplement therapy and also keep me from being obese.

Had a talk with a friend about aging. He seems to be in a delusion regarding our age. I told him we are old. We should own up to that fact. The image he has of us when we were younger, that no longer rings true, and young people look at us as older people... not hip, not fashionable, just cogs in the old people machine. I mean look at me. I work as a salary man in Korea. It’s not exactly the hippest thing in the world. And not what I dreamed of when I was in my teens. And all of those people that we once knew when we were younger. Well, they’re all metaphorically dead. They’re all grown old. Except for Chuku Uzuoro, a friend from Trinidad and Tobago. That guy looks good. He never gets old.

And speaking of being metaphorically dead, this reminds me of the Ship of Theseus. If you replace a part of a ship each day, do you eventually end up with a new ship, or will it still be the same ship? Well, our body’s cells die and regenerate constantly, and I read somewhere that we are essentially new people every seven years. This means that the old Joe has died and been reborn a couple of times. Same goes for all of the people around me. That means all of the people I’ve loved and all of the people I’ve been a jerk to in the past, they are literally gone now. So what does that mean? No guilt, no longing, for many of the things in the past are all literally gone by now. And to circle back to aging, that cool and hip Joe, if he ever existed, is also long dead. We have to accept ourselves as our new old self. 

October 23

Hey, how are you doing? I never really got an answer to that question, so I guess I’ll just update you on how my life has been since a long time ago. Well, first off, I’m still in Seoul. Officially, I work and live in Seoul as an editor, but I do a ton of other tasks around the office. I’m more like an English-speaking Swiss army knife working with different departments in my company regarding their English needs. Although I’ve been living in Seoul for a long time, my Korean is still quite basic. To be frank, I do not practice speaking, so I find myself lagging terribly in Korean skills. I still try and can get by with my basic skills, but anything deeper and I get lost. It’s been a while since I’ve been home in Canada. It’s not so much that I don’t miss Canada but it’s expensive to go home and my family is scattered everywhere. The last time my siblings and I got together was before covid. This was in Hawaii when my grandmother passed away.

Speaking of passing away, my mother passed away many years ago. It was pancreatic cancer. It was terrible. She didn’t have much time from diagnosis to her passing. I regret not being there for her throughout the whole ordeal. I did visit Canada a couple of times however, but I regret not doing more for her. Since her passing, there’s been an occasional void that is felt in our lives, and personally, I sometimes wake up emptier than usual.

I got married to a wonderful woman. She’s Korean. We get along just fine, but a part of me suspects that she drinks regularly just to be able to put up with my bullshit. I’m not saying that I don’t drink. I drink on occasion and could hold my drink well, but I don’t do it on a regular basis. I’m not saying we don’t get along well either. As I said, we get along just fine; it’s just that I’m full of shit. I love her and I love her family. I’m forever grateful that they welcomed me, a foreigner that barely speaks the language, as a member of their family. Her mother treats me as if I’m one of her children. God bless that woman.

I have no children. I don’t need nor want children. I am a child myself.

Art-wise, I’ve been doing shows and having my work in publications. I used to do shows once a year until recently. I’ve changed styles and I feel like there’s really no cohesion in current my pieces to make a compelling exhibit. I did publish three collections of my work during covid however. So yeah, I think I’m content knowing that when I die, my work can still be found out there. But while I’m still alive, my work can always be found here on my Web site and on Instagram where I’m more active. A couple of years ago, I got offered to do a residency in Bali, but it would’ve been too long for me to do and still be able to keep my job in Korea.

I don’t really go out much these days. If anything, I’m happier when I’m working knowing that whatever I’m doing is earning me money. I think I went out way too much when I was younger and wasted too much money. Now, I’m happy to just go home after work and maybe spend time in the gym. Yes, fortunately the building I live in at the moment has a gym in it. It’s quite convenient. And that’s not the only self-care I’ve been doing. I’ve also been seeing a therapist regularly to vent all of my issues. I would write more about it, but that would be too much information and frankly too long and boring, even for me. He helps me out a lot with my bullshit, but not everything. I still often wake up hating myself for one reason or another.

I don’t have many friends and don’t keep in touch with people from back then. This is what’s great about my therapist. He fills that need, and we don’t need to get drunk together. Anyway, I’ve lost touch with people. That’s why I was surprised that you found me here of all places. Well, I hope you’re doing well. 

November 13

Pa: Hey, son. How’s it going?

Me: I’m good, Pa. What’s up?

Pa: I’m good, too. However, I’m a little short on cash these days. I kinda need your help. Will it be okay if you send me some money, just to tide me over?

Me: Sorry, Pa. My wife and I have had fights about this before, and the answer will have to be no.

Pa: I’m sorry, son. I didn’t realize I was causing you trouble. Don’t worry about it. I just hope you and your wife are okay.

In a better world, this conversation would take place just the way I worded it. In a much better world, my father wouldn’t have to rely on his kids so much for money despite having a pension. He wouldn’t be jetsetting all over the world despite being broke. He would settle in Canada and have better relations with his kids instead of spending half the year every year in the Philippines doing who knows what. He wouldn’t retire at fifty three. He would have continued working until he got to a proper retirement age.

Instead, this is how the conversation really went:

Pa: Send me money.

Me: My wife and I have been fighting about this, and the answer will have to be no.

No hellos beforehand, and no apologies for the troubles he causes. He doesn’t even care how I’m doing. And all of the time I’ve been living here in Korea, not one time has he called me. It’s always me calling him. If I didn’t call him, we wouldn’t have a relationship, except for him messaging me and asking me for money.

I can’t help but compare him to my in-laws, my sisters’ in-laws, and my aunts and uncles. All of them are approximately the same age and they all work. My father-in-law, God bless him, he retired five years ago, got bored in less than six months, then went back to work. And instead of being a burden to his kids, he helps us out. He sometimes treats us for dinner, makes sure that my house is well-stocked with rice and kimchi, and sometimes even buys us groceries. And the thing is, my future will probably be like his in terms of not retiring. Only in my case, it won’t be a choice. My generation is screwed and I can’t afford retirement. I have no children, yes, but even if I did, I wouldn’t rely on them for my survival when I’m old and gray.

I don’t even have to go with my in-laws and my aunts and uncles to draw comparisons. If my mom was still alive, I’m sure she’d either still be working or finding something good to do with her time if she’s retired. She wouldn’t be burdening her kids. Instead, she would be helping them. She wouldn’t be escaping to the Philippines every time the weather in Canada gets a bit colder. Instead, she’d be staying in the country, making sure to spend the holidays with her family.

Instead, I’ve got a father who doesn’t even seem to care how I’m doing. Heck, he doesn’t even care to tell us how he’s doing! A week ago, he went to Italy on my sister’s dime. Italy! I don’t know, maybe he has a girlfriend there or something, but he doesn’t even tell his other children that he’s going there. He doesn’t even mention his trip when I called him. And again, this is a person who goes to Italy, Canada, Philippines, California... all in a year on my sisters’ dime. I got no patience for these shenanigans because A) he should really just be staying put in Canada. And B) the people who are are working, people like myself or my in-laws and others, we’re not jetsetting to wherever every year. Heck, our vacations and trips overseas are well-earned and thoroughly-considered affairs due to our budgets. And C) I would never pay him to visit Korea. Why would I? I should be spending that money on me and my wife.

But my sisters indulge him. Off he goes to Italy without telling all of his kids, but then brags about it to his friends and relatives. What will happen if he happens to have a heart attack in Italy? Who’s gonna identify and pick up his bloated corpse? And now he gets back and he’s all broke, and he asks his kids again for money. No word on how he’s doing. Just, “send me money.” What an entitled, prick!

So to whoever is reading this, God bless you if you have a better father than I have. Be grateful that you don’t have a parasite in your life. Not only is he not making his kids lives any better, he’s causing us so much embarrassment.