Getting Your Inner Steve Jobs on in North Korea (Story #25)


Anyway, after walking what seemed like a lot of miles, we found our hotel.  They’re called Internationals here, or maybe that’s the chain.  Not sure. Let’s just say communication does not flow very freely here.

When we arrived, the escort knocked on what I thought was our room, a little too quietly at first and then way too loud.  Finally, a man came out, a pasty, white man with clown-red hair. His name was Ewan.  Like MacGregor? I asked, but he didn’t answer.  He just looked at me in this expectant kind of way.  I have no idea what he was expecting, but it seemed like he was expecting something.  What? I finally asked.  We don’t like Ewan McGregor here, he said.  We liked him when he was in small independent films, but then he went and made a mess of the Star Wars movies and hasn’t made anything good since.

I was about to counter.  It’s not that I love Ewan McGregor, but on principle-of-fact, he has made independent movies since Star Wars.  And on principle-of-principle, I don’t like to lose arguments that I can win.

Before I could say anything, though, the escort made this glottal-stopping sound a little like he was saying quick or queek, but I don’t think he was saying either.  Not sure if the sound was a word in any known language, but I could tell he was telling us to be quiet—that much was obvious.  In fairness, he’d told me at the airport to keep conversation to a minimum.  There’s a lot of spying here.  People, he told me, take words and twist them to serve their purposes.  So, OK, I thought.  Fine. It’s not like I need to talk to this Ewan-guy about another Ewan-guy, but then again, what could they, whoever they are, get out of that kind of conversation?

Hard to know around here.

A word about here—I think that’d be helpful.  I’m not really sure what to say other than that this place is really boring.  The buildings look like a kid without any talent or imagination made them.  The houses are small gray boxes topped by equilateral triangles made of shingle.  Colors, the escort has since informed me, are like words: they can be misconstrued and twisted into propaganda no one understands.  So everyone wears black—even Ewan—which made him look more like Darth Vader than Obee Wan—that is, if Darth had a bad dye job.

Now, a word about me: I’m sensitive. I like walks on the beach, and I’m looking for a girl to complete me.  Just kidding.  Really.  Not sure why I said that.  I’m trying to stay positive, I guess. Keep it light. But ok, here it is, the truth: I’m from a small town north of San Francisco where nothing much happens, which is why I’m not freaking out being here since this place kind of seems the same in that respect. As to why I’m here: I won an Internet sweepstakes.  You know the ones that pop up on your screen after you try to download a video illegally from China?  Most people close them out immediately.  And if you’re a PC, you probably are the type who then starts running one of those useless anti-virus programs.  I have a Mac, which maybe explains why I didn’t close the window telling me to answer four questions to receive a grand prize.

I don’t even remember the questions, though I think one of them asked me what kind of detergent I use—like it matters.  I answered.  Why not?  And then another pop-up window asked me for my address.  I know a lot of people would make something up, but I own a Mac, so I answered honestly.  And then, because I like to drink gin or vodka or peppermint schnapps while watching illegally downloaded videos, the next morning, I forgot I’d won and went about my business until yesterday, or maybe it was two days ago, I’m not sure how the whole international dateline thing works.  That’s when the escort came to my door.  He was wearing sunglasses and a black Cossack-thing, like Neo wears in the second Matrix-movie, and he asked if I was ready for my prize.  Because I have a Mac but make a PC-income and because an ex-hippie girlfriend once told me never to refuse gifts that the world offers up, I said, yes.  And then, he said, good.  And then I said, cool.  But then, he whistled and a bunch of guys came out of a car and the next thing I know I have a hood on my head and a gag in my mouth and am in a car and then in a trunk and, I imagine, on a plane. I didn’t freak out because the escort mentioned a prize and he seemed honest. Also, if someone’s got you gagged and hooded-up in a trunk, it’s probably best to hold good thoughts, which is what I did until the escort de-hooded and de-gagged me and welcomed me to the wonderful Republic of North Korea.

The problem now is getting home.  The escort mentioned in passing on the way from the airport that my prize only covered the trip here.  To get back, it seems I’m going to have win another sweepstakes, which isn’t easy considering Internet access is limited here.

I know a lot of people in my situation would fret. Ewan, another sweepstakes winner the escort told me, seems like a fretter. But what’s the point? If I can get my hands on some gin or vodka or peppermint schnapps, I’m golden.  Oh, and a computer, I’ll need that, too.  I won’t be getting a Mac, I imagine. But I’ve kind of internalized the Steve Jobs vibe, so I’ll figure out a way out. I’m DIY, baby. I’m a Mac-user even when I’m using a PC.

Take that, North Korea.  Take that!


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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2 Comments on “Getting Your Inner Steve Jobs on in North Korea (Story #25)”

  1. November 29, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    You’re funny.
    I especially liked the lines about internalizing the mac vibe and the ex-girlfriend and the geeky/hipsteresque pop culture references. Hope your narrator gets his hands on some schnapps soon.

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