Saturday, September 29, 2007

Me Love Your Music Time

It's Sunday morning. I'm hungover and watching music videos. I figured I'd share my joy.

First up, I found this little beauty surfing you tube. These women are all probably old enough to be my grandmother a hundred times over, and yet, they are still drop dead sexy every single one of them.


I love things like that.

One that someone took the time to find all the pieces for the montage, but two, that the women are still incredible. I like it.

Moving on, since I was inspired to go seeking after the musical artist used I found this lovely piece of work. My dream office. I'm not sure if I want to work there or be the boss, I'm so torn.



Maybe just be in the typing pool.

I like good music in videos. I like beautiful, intense women in music videos. Probably while I like this, which also pays a nice homage to "The Hunger" which has perhaps one of the best lesbian sex scenes ever: Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Plus it has David Bowie .

Fun times.

Does anyone else remember that long cigarette holder of mine. Man, there are nights that I really miss that thing. I'll never find one in Korea.

I do love my music downloads. That said the following is the most evil and vicious add campaign of all time. Especially since I can't use napster in Korea.


Explain to me why I keep watching the damn commercials.





Now, in case after all that you feel that all I'm doing today is sitting around on my butt having a hangover I want you all to know that you are wrong. I was also brushing up on moves for my workout routine.


I'm so productive.

Don't ask which workout.
Happy lazy Sunday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mountain Climbing

This week is the harvest holiday in Korea. Five days off for me and some reflection later under the full moon.


The air is clean and crisp.

Today I went hiking to the Ice Valley in Miryang. The valley is covered in ice from the beginning of summer till the beginning of winter. A geological phenomena that keeps the area cool year round allowing the ice to form. According to the signs the opposite is true in the winter when the area becomes warm and steam can be seen.

I remember when I was a child in the mountains. I loved and hated the mountains. I loved the beauty, the energy they held. I enjoyed looking up at these mountains. I enjoyed seeing the green and feeling snug and safe in the heart of mountains. And I hated the mountains. I hated the mountains for making me sick, for making the asthma that I had my entire life suddenly a problem. I hated the mountains for holding me where I was, they were a tall prison I could not escape from.

And I miss the mountains. I love journeying into Korean mountains because they are so beautiful and so simple. Unlike the US however they are always full of people. You are never alone in the mountains. Today was no different, during the hike up I was passed by at least ten families. And on the way down passed at least a dozen more on the way up. Family holiday, family activities. Hiking is a popular family activity in Korea.

The hike was only a little more then half a kilometer straight up, but if felt like a lot more. There is a small temple and several open streams with water that is so sweet and cold it is hard not to stop and scoop up some and drink. The dog who was a happy traveling companion bounced about scaring anyone brave enough to come near him. The boy, who had driven for the expedition frowned at the number of people on the mountain. I frowned too. I prefer to hike in calm quiet with no interlopers but the animals, and the mountain.

There were mushrooms on the hills, and snail shells scattered about. The place felt strong of the Sang-shin, the mountain spirits of Korea. I passed a cove next to a small cave and I knew when I looked that this was a shaman’s place. A place where a practicing shaman would come and sleep for a week, or a month or half a year, to absorb the magic of the land and improve her craft. I did not disturb the earth. Korea’s magick does not call to me and I leave it be. I respect it when I call, because I must to reach my own magick, but I give Korea’s magick a wide berth otherwise.

There are still many shaman in Korea who work magick. I have stumbled on them accidentally and gotten many a nasty look. I have also watched reverently from a distance. I remember hiking up a different mountain once. A shaman was tucked down in the valley by the river. She had an alter that included among other things, candles, rice cake, and a pig’s face. A few feet from the alter with the waxy candles burned stood a Korean business man in a full length fur coat, he prayed to each of the directions as the shaman chanted over her alter. I looked up the ritual in my Korean mystic books when I got home. A ceremony to ask for money and prosperity in the upcoming year.

When the hike was finally fulfilled and the ice valley, more a gulch, high up on the mountain spread out before me, all I could see was rocks. The ice was hidden under the pile of stones. The stones protected by a gate on all sides, to prevent the tourists for turning the stones and digging up or taking away the ice. I was a little disappointed, but still satisfied with the hike.

On the way down I watched my feet click across the stones in my flexible sandals. I touched the trees and felt the spark of magick there and wished I could connect with it more directly. Now the full moon is shining and I will go and make what magick I can. I’ll leave the pig’s heads for the those other practitioners, tonight I’m too full of the day, all I need is some clean water and myself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Memorial for Don Henke

I never met him. I only ever talked to him through this online medium. But he was my friend. He read words I had written. Commented on the things I had done. He liked jazz and the blues and would talk to me about the music I listened to.

He liked to read my stories.

He liked my art.

I never had a chance to say hello to him in person, and the only time I ever spoke with him was briefly on the phone.

And now he has gone.

What is strange to me is how much I am affected by this. My relationship with him feels like my relationship with so many people I know. It feels like my relationship with my father. People I care about but never see. People that I only ever get to talk to because of the internet. Phone calling isn't always easy, and it's expensive. I have trouble getting to a post office and that's unreliable. So many people I know I only talk to through the web anymore, because that's the only way to talk to them.

I have friends I've made only because they like what I have to say or the pictures I make. I have a friend in Iraq who I have never met. A polite elderly chap who is doing whatever one does with the government when living in the green zones behind big walls. He reads my stories and sends me a note every now and again. And sometime I send one back.

And sometimes I forget and go months without saying anything until a car bombing somewhere makes me think I should write.

The fact that I never got to meet Don bothers me in a way I can't describe.

Maybe it is this feelings, this seeming emptiness and anger at a situation I have created for myself that makes me do the insanely stupid things I do. Like flying all over the country when I only have ten days of vacation. Or flying friends to me so that I can at least spend a few moments with them, make them real.

Everything I do is a quest for reality.

I live in South Korea, and I do not exist outside of this place. Some days I wish I could be in five places at once. Those are the directions my heart would tear me into. In Korea and those cities where my loves lie.

Today I miss everyone. I hope you are all well. I'm sorry I don't write more often.

Just as I'm sorry to hear about Don.

And even more sorry that I won't be able to go and say a proper fair well. He was a real person though, his words made him real to me. And it pains me that I won't have those anymore.

Goodbye Don.


Don's Jazz Review

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rain Rain

The rain has not stopped coming in Korea for a while now. Rainy season which is usually a few weeks from the end of July to the end of August has lasted well into September. People stay home in the rain, no one will venture out, the shops will close, you are stuck in, you cant help but to be stuck in. It just keeps coming down, hard, heavy, storm rains, and when the storm rains stop it continues with a light falling dampness, a misty disgusting, moist that pervades everything. My laundry hangs drying for a week and still is not dry from the lack of dryness in the air. After having spent the better part of a month in my apartment I could not take it anymore and began venturing out in the rain, damn the consequences. It was Sunday afternoon and I was going to give up and stay in, but then Monolycus called and I was prodded to get into a cab and meet him for coffee and a zombie movie.

I grabbed my smaller umbrella and opened the door, It was not raining at all and the streets were actually dry. I took this as a good sign. I felt silly for bringing the umbrella since I would maybe not need it. But not foolish enough to leave it at home with the dog. No, I took it anyway, grabbed a cab and went to a movie. The movie pleasant and when exiting the DVD bong it was starting to drip a little rain and I was glad for the umbrella. Dinner it was decided would be Italy Italy the design your own pasta place. We had a window seat about ten feet from a party of American GIs doing their best to give Americans a bad name. They were loud and unruly and try as one might to ignore them they made sure they could not be ignored.

At one point the Korean waitresses were consulting about what to do as people would come in, take one moment to listen to what was going on, and then turn around and leave. I almost wanted to go ask them to be quiet to help the horribly embarrassed Korean staff but in the end decided that this was a classic SEP and I need to relax and enjoy my dinner. Mono and I did try to have a conversation mostly about my lack of zombie preparedness and after eating decided to take a trip to the bar for some pool. At this point it had started to rain in true earnest. This was not a little rain but a nice steady streaming downpour of heavy rain.

I put up my umbrella as we started to walk down the streets the five blocks to the bar and the pool game. As we neared the bar we saw two of the other bar flies about to go up and then saw them standing in front of the bar without going up. It was then that my umbrella decided to spring a leak. This was not a polite little leak to be ignored. This was a hole that had a nice stream of water coming in on my head. I ducked under an awning and figured that once we got into the bar Id just wait out the worst of it and head home.

However the bar owner, after receiving calls from his favorite barflies, decided he was not coming in the rain. Are you people crazy? Theres a typhoon. Oh, well, that would explain the rain now wouldnt it. In my defense I actually knew there was a typhoon but it was not supposed to hit Korea, just lightly graze the southern coast then swing around and eat Japan, as typhoons are accustomed to doing on this part of the globe. However apparently the typhoon had changed courses a bit during dinner and now it was going to go pretty much over JeJu island and it was big enough that we were going to suffer for it. The eye was not going to pass over Korea, but we were going to see at least half of the storm pass over.

Fun.

It was decided to abandon the bar and go to another bar, but after walking the block in the rain with the rain pouring in my umbrella I decided that it would be a better idea for me to go home. I said goodnight to Mono and made my way with good haste to the nearest cab stand. On the way I passed an umbrella stand. I stopped for a second but then felt silly. Id be in a cab in a few minutes and then I would be home and wouldnt need the umbrella. So my head was a little wet and the splash back from the streets had me wet up the hips but not all the way wet, Id be fine.

I made the cab stand about two minutes later. There was a line. Not a little line but fifty Koreans all huddled together in the street trying to get a cab. This did not bode well. The Koreans were fighting for cabs. The line of people stretched two blocks up the street with people jumping in front of cabs to get them to stop. Cabs that already have passengers were slowing to take more going in the same direction. I waited a few minutes in the rain with the steady drip, drip, drip of the umbrella on my head and decided to walk up the street a little in hopes of better luck at the next cab stand.

There was no better luck and now the rain was not failing out of the sky but instead whipping around horizontally and I was getting soaked. I walked up to the bookstore and ducked under the awneing, dropped my umbrella and was immediately deluged by a waterfall of rain that I had failed to distinguish with my umbrella up. A whole in the awning. I was now wet like a drowned rat with a broken umbrella and no hope for a cab.

I weighed my option. I could try to hit a pc bong and wait out the storm but I was more then a little wet and did not want to sit around in an over air conditioned PC bong in the rain. I could go to a movie but same problem. There was not going to be a cab and I was so wet most of them wouldnt let me ride. I finally decided there was only one thing for it at this point. Id have to walk. I was standing in front of Kyobo bookstore and from this point my apartment was two miles away. Ive walked this route on several occasions in about twenty minutes. I knew I could do it. I would get wet, but decided to use the umbrella as a shield as much as possible from the rain.

The most important thing at this point was to get home, get changed, and keep my wallet as dry as possible. I was, as usual, carrying identification that I could not afford to have soaked. I started walking. It was cold, I was miserable. I thought about hitting the umbrella stand again, but a quick look down the street made me realize that walking down there would add extra time and annoyance to my walk and I wanted to walk fast. It was about 8:40 and I didnt want to get pneumonia.

At first it was not so bad, when the leak got to be to much I shifted I to my back. I knew I was going to get wet at this point so I would just shift my umbrella leak around choosing the lesser of evil places to be soaked through. I walked and shifted and walked and shifted. I entered the bell park and the water was starting to really come down. On the streets there was a pretty steady stream about ankle high. The storm drains were pumping water back onto the street. There was so much water and no where for it to go. I reached the long concrete skate park that surrounded the bell in the bell park. As I walked towards it through on the tree lined path I could see what can only be described as a waterfall. It was running with water into the street, fast moving water. Flashing flooding, I thought. But it wasnt quite that high and there was no choice, I had to get home at this point.

The water was ankle deep and I walked through it. The light to cross the road was blinking green and I wanted to run for it, but that would have been supremely stupid. First there was no way I was jay walking in this kind of weather, the cars were having trouble stopping. I could smell on the air the scent of engines that were choking up with water. I associate that smell with badness, a car about to go. I walked to the corner and realized I was just going to have to wait for the light. There is a tree and then some bumps to prevent sidewalk driving. I walked up to the tree and the water came up to my thighs. This was not good.

The water from the park was rushing in and the water was pouring on the streets and pooling up at the indentation where the crosswalk lowers to allow the handicapped to cross. It had become a pool. I huddled along under my umbrella feeling supremely unhappy and wanted to cry but figured it was pointless as it would just make me wetter. I waited higher up on the sidewalk for the light to change not wanting to wait in the pool. When the light finally did change I used the tree to balance so I would not fall off the sidewalk. I felt it out carefully with my foot. The timer came up on the light, I had twenty seconds to cross. I walked into the pool, up to my thighs, then it hit my waist. I actually felt quite scared and almost turned back but I had no choice at this point if I turned back there was no way to get home, I pressed on through the water. I made it to the halfway point of the street after ten seconds had passed and the water disappeared as I reached high ground and crossed just in time.

I was shivering and walking down the sidewalk. A manhole cover had turned into a fountain and was tipping and spinning, and spitting up water. I was still half a mile out from home but was on a slightly graded elevation now. From here on out I would see water on the streets but shouldnt see any massive pools. And I was lucky that I did not. It was just me and the horizontal rain, and the broken umbrella. I tucked my wallet under my chin since it was the only place dry and kept walking. Of course the rain and the stress and I had to pee. Nothing like a crisis.

When I got home with the typhoon drenching me I tossed my umbrella up to the storm a broken sacrifice to the thundering rains appreciation of its power. I ran for the bathroom leaving a strip of wet clothes behind me. My legs were burning from walking through the foul water so I turned on hot water and took a shower with an antibiotic soap in the hopes of not contracting anything too foul from my walk. By the time I excited the shower, now wet but clean, it was ten. In the time it had taken me to walk home it had only started to rain higher. A quick check of the news showed the typhoon coming almost straight over and a prediction of up to 40cm of rain expected before the morning came.

I let in the poor puppy who was as drenched as I was and gave him a thorough drying and we curled up in bed together and crawled under the covers looking for warmth. The rain poured all night and I could hear it and see it in my dreams. Rain and zombie dreams.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Conversations

The night is busy full of people. So many people. I go up the flight of stairs to the small bathroom there are two boys in the there. One disappears behind the curtain.

“Fuck Rugby, it’s gay.”

“Yeah, for sure.”

“Do you watch Rugby?”

“No.”

“It’s not a real sport. Like you know, a real sport, what kind of sport do you think is real?”

“Like shooting skeet?”

“Yeah, that’s real. I like to shoot. You shoot?”

“Yeah, All the time.”

“Where are you from?”

Minnesota. You?”

Canada.”

“Shit, really, I didn’t know Canadians shoot guns, you are all like, fags aren’t you.”

“Not really, we don’t watch Rugby.”

“Yeah, Rugby, it’s a gay sport.”

I’m amused and as the boys from Minnessota and Canada share stories about growing up with shotguns I push my way back to a seat and a drink, but the cluster and the crowd and the heat are unsettling for me, so I say goodnight to barman and leave the Lonely Hearts Club which is not so Lonely tonight. It is full of fools and I hit the streets, damp from passing rains.

I wear red, pretty, clothing, in the night it glows red, in the night it is so red, in the night I cannot hide, so I walk the gauntlet of Koreans on the street. Koreans in various states, Koreans forming circles for their own personal fight club. Men stand to one side and women to the other and they whisper as I pass. Two walk up and get in my way, a girl walking alone at two in the morning.

I’m from Chicago. I keep my back straight and my eyes forward. I walk slowly, no hurry, not afraid. I am completely aware of my surroundings. Two Koreans up front, getting ready to come and harass me, two girls behind me on the left, a man vomiting behind me on the right, I do no pay any attention to it and I am acutely aware of all of it. Another group of men up before I cross the next street, soon to the bar, I just want to get to the next place, friends, pool, good times at two a.m.

The stairs up are cool and the chatter that comes up is full of wit and wisdom.

Two men sit at a table.

“Good and Evil is a choice. You can choose to be good or evil, that’s what free will is all about. The problem is you don’t make a choice.”

“That’s bullshit, I made a choice, I’m good.”

“No, you like appearances. You don’t choose anything. You resent anyone who does.”

“Fuck choice.”

I choose to continue drinking vodka and listen to the conversations. I play a game a pool and win once, twice and then again.

The night wears on and I am left alone with the taller of the two men.

“And what else is there?” he asks me?

“That’s the thing. I’m not sure.”

“Is this it, is this all there is. I never thought this is where I would be, it seems so strange, that it should be, this isn’t…”

“It’s okay man. It’s okay, It’s Korea.”

“Yeah, I…hey, do you watch rugby?”

“No not really.”

“That’s cool, rugby is for fags.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

There and Back Again: A Dinner Tale

It is amazing how intensely simple things can throw one into a full on anxiety attack. It was a lovely Saturday night and I had spent the afternoon for the most part stitching up so new clothes, talking with friends, reading books, and laying about. Always a good way to spend a day and the evening was closing in. I wanted to get dinner and would have been happy to have dinner at home. On the menu it was decided was Korean Chinese that would be delicious a spicy chewy treat called kam-pong-gi. Its sort of like what a sweet and sour would be in the States except extra spicy.

I pulled out menus from the fridge to find a Chinese place. While there are many places that deliver to my apartment only a few are actually in the neighborhood and most deliveries take about forty five minutes. Thats fine, I dont mind waiting when the food is going to come to me. However you must also understand that I live in Korea. There are exactly four, and I do mean only four kinds of food that you can have delivered at anytime in Korea. The first is pizza. You can always get a pizza delivered and we even have Pizza Hut and Dominos with special Korean style pizza, pizzas with squid and garlic honey butter sauce. Pizzas with sweet corn but without pizza sauce; pizzas that are very doughy or pizzas that lack cheese. What do you want, its Korea.

If you dont want pizza then you can get chicken. Fried chicken and sometimes grilled chicken or what is occasionally called by Koreans barbecue chicken are treats that are not impossible to come by. Barbecue in Korea is more like chicken slathered in a paste made almost entirely from red pepper that uses a red pepper thinner with some corn starch. Mmmmmm, barbecue. Aside from a fried whole chicken you can also get barbecue or deep fried chicken feet delivered. If you dont want to eat feet and you are not in the mood for a whole chicken than you might just want to get straight down to it with some dok-dong-jjim which translates pretty much literally to chicken shit-house. Id paint you a mental picture but Im hoping you can figure out what that is.

While I like pizza on occasion and even enjoy a chicken now and then I wasnt looking for either of those. Since those are the top two deliverable foods the next is easy to guess and that is pretty much anything Korean. You can get your kim-chi jigae, or your bi-bim-bop. Kim-bop, dok-bo-ki, even chees dok-bo-ki, ramen, pajaen, kalbi (Korean bbq beef) and even pork cutlet are pretty easy to come buy. Unfortunately if Im eating in I dont usually want anything that is directly Korean. I can make my own Korean food if I want Korean, or I can go out. Why eat Korean food at home when you live in Korea, is what I usually tend to ask myself.

Having eliminated all the other options Chinese is the final thing that can be delivered. But Korean Chinese is very different from American Chinese cuisine in that it includes a lot of things you probably would not eat or extra helpings of grease. I had decided that what I really wanted was kam-pong-gi and jong-pong. Jong-pong is a noodle dish made with various kinds of seafood. It is determined by the restaurant making the food what seafoods you will get. Ive had places put sea cucumber, sea slug and what we call in Korea sea penis in my jong-pong rendering it completely inedible. Sea penis, we call it that because it looks like a penis that has been detached from the body and spends all its time slithering around in salt water, is not identifiable but it tastes foul. Sea cucumber is not much better and dont get me started about the slugs.

At this point time had passed and it must have been just a hair enough past 9:10 that the three different Chinese restaurants that I called were all no longer delivering. I consulted with the dinner partner and we decided to go downtown and try for Hong Kong which I knew would be open pretty much all night. Its a nice place and the food is good. So out the door we went to arrive at Hong Kong around 9:20. And they were packed. So packed that they would not seat anyone not in a party of four. Fine, fine, I had a backup plan.

There was this Chinese place kind of hidden downtown that I thought would do the trick. It would have food and looked to be a bit pricey which meant that would not pad their jong-pong with sea creatures from the blackest depths. It was about a five minute walk away. Upon our arrival a smiling and very friendly Korean waiter walked up to us. He had menus in hand. I was all excited. Then he crossed his arms in front of his body with this hands to make an X. The universal sign of there is no food here. I started to twitch, but figured maybe Chinese was just out for tonight so lets try someplace else.

Around the corner was the favorite dul-set chim-dok restaurant. Dul-set Chim-dok is a spicy chicken and noodle dish that is pressure cooked at about 750 degrees C in a caramelized sugar pepper sauce. Then this deliciousness is poured into a hot compressed plate where it starts to boil. When I first had it McGlynn pointed to the boiling dish it was served on and exclaimed "Don't touch that, you'd rather lick the sun." The taste is subtle and perfect with a mix of potatoes, onions, leeks, and even spinach that is so unusual in Korean cooking. It is in a single word: orgasmic. We got there and they have two sections. The section where you spend all night banging your knees against the table or the section with big comfy chairs where you can sit down and enjoy your food. Unfortunately for us the only section open was the knee biting section and I wasnt in the mood.

That was when I had my tantrum. I can be so fun when Im hungry and turned out of all my favorite restaurants. At this point I was inconsolable. I didnt want to eat. I was going home. I would stamp my foot, oh yes I would, and that would make it all better. These things are all, of course, not true. So the night wore on. For the next thirty minutes we went from favorite restaurant to favorite restaurant and all were either closed or so full we could not get a seat.

In the end we backtracked towards Hong Kong close to the Lonely Hearts Club and did what any American in their right mind would do at that point in the evening and had Italian. Afterwards I went to a bar where I drowned my sorrows in seven vodkas a few shots of tequila, some magnificent pool, and good company. I explained what happened to the barflies and they all nodded their heads commiserating in my misery. Everyone who has been in Korea long enough has been there. Pats on the back and drinks all around for the long trek of hunger the ex-pat will experience in Korea.

The next day I shook my fists at the gods and ordered Chinese kam-pong-gi at home. It was delicious.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Breakfast Story

I have been now in Korea a long time. A very long time. During that time I have learned to accept any number of things about Korea. One thing that I abandoned long ago was my love of breakfast. Breakfast does not exist in Korea. Breakfast in Korea is usually a spicy soup, meat, rice, kim (seaweed), and kimchi; or just rice and kimchi if you are a simple Korean. I like breakfast. When I lived in the states I was fond of toast for breakfast. I can buy bread in Korea, sure, but a toaster is almost sixty bucks and I did not feel the need to spend that much money on a toaster. 

There was one year where I decided I like toast enough that I would make it on my stove top. Perhaps you have done so before while camping or if your toaster was in the shop. Me, I did it because I like toast and there was no toaster in my apartment but there was an electric range at the time; as an aside, electric ranges suck. I would wake up early for work, boil a pot of water for my coffee and then while the stovetop was still hot I'd make toast. It was okay toast, but it was stovetop toast. It wasn't really ideal. It did not inspire in my a feeling of satisfaction, so I eventually abandoned the practice and developed a new breakfast. 

For the past three years now breakfast has been as follows: half a cup of strawberry yogurt (god bless Yoplait for selling in Korea), a slice of processes cheese (I'm allergic to the real stuff and there is no milk to be found in the processed stuff), and nine no-salt crackers (think Saltines only delicious). Add a cup of coffee (instant of course, I do live in Korea). Breakfast. It worked. It gave me the little bit of kick in the morning to get me to lunch and it felt like breakfast. Granted it's not a great breakfast, but it's something.
I'm a fan of breakfast I admit. I would love to be able to sit down and have some egg-beaters French toast with fake sausages. Or maybe some tofuda egg burritos, or a biscuits and non-sausage gravy, or waffles with strawberries, or egg-less omelets, or, or, or. Can you tell I have issues with breakfast? Okay, I have issues with breakfast, let me explain. 

I'm allergic to everything. 

Alright, not everything but I am allergic to eggs and non-processed milk. I have found that milk is mostly okay but it has to be processed, and the more processed the better. When coming into contact with real milk or eggs I generally tend to have my throat close up and I stop being able to breathe. Since I prefer breathing I mostly gave up a long time ago on being able to enjoy the breakfasts of champions and just figured ways to manage. While it does not bother me so much anymore, my inability to eat breakfast has certainly been the bane of many of my friends. I recall once receiving a phone call in the wee hours of the morning once while in school. "Sara, bring money we are going to breakfast." This meant a trudge in the snow down the street to Mc Donald's and the change from the change jar which was full (mostly of pennies) and the only cash I had to spare at the time. As we walked options were discussed. 

"What are you getting?" I asked. 

"I'm going to have the big breakfast. Mmmm big breakfast."

I pondered as we walked. When we arrived one big breakfast was ordered and the appropriate amount of combined change counted out. Then it was my turn. I looked at the menu full of icky, gooey, sticky, sweet, delicious plentiful breakfast objects. And I looked. 

And I looked. 

"Can I get a plain biscuit and a coffee?" I finally asked. That was pretty much all that was there that I could eat. 

Ah for breakfast. 

Toast, however, has always been my friend as a breakfast item. And I like toast. It's easy enough to get fake butter in Korea, but again for the lack of toaster. Once you have given up the dream of having toast it's easy to move on. And I had moved on until about a month ago when I was target shooting. 

I like to shoot things. I'm a teacher. This should be ample explanation. 

While I was shooting at the range and accumulating any number of massive points for doing so the Ajoshi, as he counted my points, whistled in amazement and pointed at the shelves above me. There were any number of items there ranging from 80 to 1500 points. He pointed out a few things to me, like the kim-chi keeper, the baby booster seat, the mixer and the, hey, wait a minutes, is that a toaster? It was a toaster. They had a toaster. I checked my accumulated points. I had six hundred. The toaster was nine. I thought about this, took my point card, thank the Ajoshi and left. 

I had not wanted a toaster in years, but suddenly I was fueled by the desire to own a toaster. I would win that toaster. 

It was a few weeks before I ended back up at the range. After a miserable day with my favorite, least favorite, student cussing me out in Korean and English, and administration jerking my chain, yet again, I decided some time at the shooting range was just what I needed. I ended up shooting up about twenty dollars worth of frustration and it was a good time. I also accumulated 295 points. I was just shy of my goal but since my eyes were also crossing I decided to put off the finale, the shooting to win of the toaster for the next visit. 

That next visit, as it happens, was last night. I brought the lone wolf, Monoylcus, along to witness the event. While he sat target shooting with a berretta I picked up my trust long range sniper rifle and put down shots. Since I don't own the shooting range I do not have control over the guns. But I could tell that someone had been using my favorite piece and the site was desperately unaligned. I plowed on regardless. I ended up shooting my worst night ever but it was still enough to land me with about three hundred points and more then enough for the coveted toaster. 

The Ajoshi, apparently, was just as excited as I was. He came over and nudged me mid shot and pointed to me point-tickets and pointed to the toaster and patted me on the back during another shot. While I finished up he dragged the toaster box down from the shelf and brushed off the dust. I turned in my points, had my point card updated and the points deducted, and was the proud owner of a toaster. 

It's a pretty toaster, all white with a little cover that goes over the slots. It has a timer. It can toast a bagel. I am ecstatic. I brought it home and set it up last night, looking forward to the toast I would have for breakfast. The first honest to goodness made in my own apartment with a real toaster toast I have had in six years.
I woke up bleary and in need of a shower. I set the pot of water to boil and eyed the toaster, excitement returning where sleep had taken it away. 

And then it hit me. 

I don't have any bread.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

On the Road to Shimer

The day prior was spent on and in Lake Michigan on the Indiana side. This was followed by the typically early wake up and some more sleeping and laying about and then a brunch-ish breakfast. On the drive up to Chicago, returning to the fabulous Ms. Skimmel's, Sam turned and asked "do you have anything you want to do on the South Side?"

There are lots of questions that one might enjoy hearing asked about Chicago. "Want to go drinking?" "Want to go eat?" "Want to go shopping?" "Want to go to the lake?" "Want to go listen to some music?" "Want to hit Evanston?" "Want to drive LSD?" "Want to go to a Museum?" "Want to go to a game?" "Want to go to boys town?" "Want to hit Belmont?" "Want to go to the Parthenon?" "Want to hit the aquarium?" "Want to go to a midnight marathon of Kubrick movies at the Music Box?" These are all perfectly acceptable questions to ask someone when you are heading in or out of Chicago. Asking "Anything you want to do on the South Side?" is just one of those question that would make any salted Chicagoan give you the look that says "'Da fuck?"

I'm not saying that there aren't some interesting things on the South Side of Chicago. Hyde Park is on the South Side of Chicago and aside from the Seminary Co-op you have some fabulous places to eat. The Dixie Kitchen, for one and there is that Jamaican place that does the jerk food name of which escapes me. And Hyde Park is pretty. It's a very pretty little part of Chicago all tucked around the UIC. Of course, you don't really want to be caught on the south side in the ten block radius that surrounds Hyde Park, Hyde Park being an island of suburban decadence nestled in the dark underbelly of Chicago.

And while I should have just given the "Da fuck?" look. I instead, asked a question.

"Where are we, again?" I had not been paying attention.

"Stony Island, just past 95th."

"Huh."

There is thinking.

">We could go to Shimer."

There are many a time I have often dreamt of going to Shimer, but rarely would I have thought to utter a response to a question like "Anything you want to do on the south side?" with the answer "We could go to Shimer."

But I did.

And we did.

Sam drove and we looked for signs for the IIT campus where our school had relocated. No longer really our school, I felt. More The School, the Shimer of my dreams now being nothing more then a collection of random memories for buildings that are occupied by people I will never meet. My school is gone, replaced instead by The School which has been relocated to somewhere on the South Side of Chicago. And now in a rented car, with a big orange dog, I was traveling to visit The School and I was not really sure why.

Curiosity more than anything else, perhaps. A confirmation of my fears. A longing. A chance to see something that had been missed. The sense of belonging to something again, even if it wasn't really mine. Shimer. Shimer. I dream a dream of Shimer.

It took a few minutes and some searching but signs were located, a general direction established, and a parking lot was found. The car was parked and the boy, the dog, and the girl got out and crossed the street to head towards a neatly clipped and manicured lawn with a few sprawling trees on a hot summer day. This was Shimer.

My brain railed against it.

This was not Shimer.

And yet, this was Shimer.

We walked together to the front entrance only to find it closed, so we turned down some sidewalks and found a path leading around to the back of the building, where we saw a sign. Shimer College. The door was propped open with a wooden doorstop. And for some reason it screamed to me that this was perfectly Shimerian. We walked through the door, our little ménage a troupe and found that the first thing to catch our eye was a bookshelf. "Take a book." Being that we are in fact true to our calling we stopped and looked through every title on that shelf to find what that might appeal. I picked up a tome on Education and Capitalism and regretted having not brought a book with me to leave. We walked in and found at the front desk a very attractive young girl full of piercings and I found this very comforting. It settled my heart for some reason that there would be some girl working admissions who reminded me of all the pierced out lovelies of my own Shimer generation. She was an amalgamation of myself, and Caila, and Psyche, and Layla, and Natalie (a little of Jason Stahl, but in a feminine sort of way) and a dozen others I could name. She had that sense about her and I recognized it. A feeling, a subtle shift in attitude, an extenuation of grace: Shimerain.

We asked for catalogs but the new ones were not available. She said hello to us, to the dog. We asked if we could go up. "Visiting Alums. Just want to see."

"Sure, sure. There's an elevator around the corner."

"Can we take the dog? He's also an alum."

"I don't think it's a problem." So the three of us found the elevator around the corner and went up to the second floor were Shimer, all the buildings collapsed into a small space, is now housed. The doors opened on a library. And this was somehow comforting. My heart was beating fast; thrumming pounding. Because as strange as this place was, as new as I knew it to be, it was in some small way still a part of myself. And that part of me that is full of Shimer and that will never be able to let Shimer, the education, the people, go; that part of me was called by this place. And that part of me responded to it like a home, an old friend.

The floor was cool and dark, most of the lights were off. Some of the doors were opened but most were locked. We walked through silently. Not speaking, just taking it in. There was a lounge called Cinderella and in the lounge there was a painting I recognized. I used to set up coffee service under that painting. It hung in Prairie House lounge, the tree in a field of muted colors. I talked under that painting. I read Hobbes under that painting. I bumped into Ariella (the littlest Amazon) one night doing a mailing for no readily apparent reason under that painting. She talked to me about getting paper cuts on her tongue. I'd once attended a breakfast where Steve blasted Jonathan Rickman as he served. I'd sat in this very room on many an after-hours night alone playing piano to ease my heart; to make me feel alive. It was not surrounded by the place I remembered, but somehow it felt right. It was a piece of my past and it pulled this place together and made it Shimer.

A few doors were open to classrooms so we let ourselves in. The classrooms were named names that brought just as much to my mind as the paintings. There was Infinity classroom where I drank cognac with my Hum 2 class lead by Sklar while reading The Brother's K. Wolf and Mas got wasted during the class. In the end Wolf walked singing at the top of his lungs towards the train to make sure Mas got on to Chicago where he needed to be.

There was Pi (or was it radical 2), you know the room at the top of the stairs on the right. Where the sound system was, a room where I had discussions with Nancy Rose and where David Shiner got so pissed after a day of silence while discussing the Iliad in IS 5 that he actually walked out on us. I can't really blame him for that as the class was truly abysmal that day. I blame the grayness of winter and the fact that at least seven out of twelve people had not done the reading. I do admit though that at the end of the course I found the Iliad was by far a much more engaging read then the Odyssey and have become quite enamored with it.

I was looking into rooms that were not the classrooms I attended, not the rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, the explosive halogen lamps burning last years dead mosquitoes; rooms thick with ancient smoke that no manner of non-smoking policy would ever remove; rooms with memories of a dozen other Shimerians before me who could argue that this place was there's; it wasn't 438, it wasn't Hutchins, but it was somehow still Shimer and it still felt like home. The octagonal tables finished where the paintings left off and I stroked the side of one and thought of some names and smiled to think these tables were still here.

It wasn't my Shimer.

There was no Shimer-Henge. There was no quad. There were no crappy pea gravel paths to cut a swath through the middle and connect buildings. There would be no trudging through the snow to make classes from one place to another. There was no gym basement to play pool in. There was no coffee shop to move from building to building to building. But there was a Young Chang piano that I had played till my fingers bled. There were pictures I remember staring at when my attention wavered after a night of too much reading and too little sleep. There were names that were familiar. There was Shimer. And it is Shimer. We walked through quiet, almost reverent, alone and opening doors and peaking in to see what we could see. A thousand ghosts and memories in every corner of this building that I had never been in before; all of it telling me that this was still Shimer.

It is still Shimer.

Of all the people who were angry about the move, and of the most stubborn, I did not think I could find anything redeeming in this place. So I made a pilgrimage to The School to be angry and to fuel my distaste and my rage. And it didn't happen.

It's not the same. I won't try to argue that it is. It's merely Shimer. Seeing it there whole and intact stole all my hatred from me. It's still Shimer.

The boy, the dog, and I walked down the stairs to find the Nubian pierced goddess of Admissions who was working on a Saturday. We asked for bookmarks and she gave us a stack; bookmarks to be used to promote Shimer, to keep it alive, to put new people and new memories into this new building. I want to keep it alive for the most selfish reason of all, because knowing it is there in some incarnation is easier then letting it go.

The journey the rest of the way north was spent silent for a while. Both of us lost in thoughts of our own Shimer, a little world that had been created there. Then came Skimmel's and coffee and the discussion of what we can do. "Anything you want to do on the South Side?" Yeah, yeah, there is.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mistress of Dreams

I was the Mistress of Discipline, the devilish maven of ceremonial procession. I was the Mistress of Ceremonies. I was the Question Bitch Goddess. I dared anyone to cross me. I walked in light mist to the Lonely Hearts club wearing purple velvet and carrying a riding crop. The night was deep dark, the dark that comes when the sky is full of clouds and the lights can't break through the fogs. It was beautiful and wet, and humid. I arrived at the bar, slapped the crop down on the table and asked for a drink.

The quiz is loaded on the projector for the bar rats and I wait for the barman to come in and provide last minute instructions. There is no answer sheet. We fiddle together for ten minutes and create and approximation that will confuse the drunks. My phone rattles against the bar. It's the Polynesian Love Slave. I'd decked her out in a wrap around sarong that fell to her waist, she was to come braless to entice the barflies with her nubile back, long hair up in a bun, and breasts dangling free and wild. She called in suck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

I needed the Polynesian Love Slave to change the slides. This was all figured out.

Fuck.

The barman says he will do it but that won't do. Tonight there is the Pixie Angel of Desire, Gun she is called, like the shot she fired into my heart. She sees me and hugs me and gives me a kiss. She whispers in my ear "Pakistan Girl is coming back to Korea. She wants to see you." My mind does back flips as I try to sort it all out, no Polynesian love slave, but the pistol whip and the Pakistan girl.

I call the Lone Wolf. Monolycus to my rescue. I promise a favor.

"You know you owe me?"

"Yeah, I know."

"I'm not going to forget."

"I don't expect you will."

Monolycus is taught to run the game on the fly. He strips down to a baseball jersey and long flowing blonde hair. He smokes behind the bar so the barman and the gun can serve the drunks while we serve the game.

I shout from the microphone for the needy to line up, the greedy to fork over money, and the teams to get the answer sheets we created on the fly. We get eight teams in all, a prize fit for the winner take all game, and we are off.

I start the game in my purple velvet calling the questions, directing the drunks. I banter with the hecklers.

"Please come to the front and get your answers sheets."
"Maybe if you go down first!"
"You can go down first but I don't come that easily."

"What should you cut off if it offends you? Your hand, your foot, or your penis."
"Shouldn't you say cock."
"There were at least three cocks in the Bible?"
"How many are in you?"
"Only the dick at the table, and his reach isn't that good."

The bar laughs and we continue in a bawdy repartee and I run the show. Korean girls line up in front of the screen and the crowd screams. I catch the girls with a look and shake my crop at them.

"If you don't move I will smack you!"
"Holy Shit, she has a real riding crop!"

The bar goes still the Korean girls run away, and a troupe lines up to get whacked for impetuousness. I call the game and collect the answers and go to score the round.

Mono and I talk as we score.

"Let me call the answers this time."

"Fine, fine, they are getting on my nerves anyway."

Mono grabs the microphone and is silky and smooth and handles the drunks with the hard won ease of the professional who might have played to a crowd of rambunctious Rocky rebels on a decades worth of Saturday evenings. He is impressive. I'm impressed and shocked to laughter. He rolls the crowd and the beg for more.

We switch off through the evening and he plays the finale and brings the house down.

The winners are called and they get their bounty. "Tradition," he says "dictates that I buy you and your assistant a drink." Mono bulks at being an assistant quickly. I get more tequila and he gets a shot and a beer. We drink with the winners. Leader of the Troupe exclaims "I have a third nipple!" and whips off his shirt. We stare at a mole in the middle of his chest and he says "go on, touch it."

I drink my drink and stumble into the foggy mist and fall into home. Mistress of Somnambulation, Mistress of dreams.