Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Exploring the Depths of Psyche

There was no soft snow falling this time to crunch under the feet as I walked towards the pretty cabin tucked in the woods. But there was us, two silly girl bellies full of coffee and bad diner food, with tongues wagging and brains dripping effervescent incantations of our past and future selves. The cabin waited with its pretty chimney spire rising into the crisp star filled night and we descended giggling into the warm bosom of it.

She was Psyche, embodiment of reflection. Look here and find the answers to who you truly are; open your mind and your heart. Your heart that controls your mind, your love that is who you are; she sits before me dressed in warm colors with her legs laced up and her lips pursed and she smiles at me and I smile back.


We smear lotion on each other, covering our hands in it to fight the dryness. We pour libations into cups and I set tones of music swaying in front of the ancient log trap. The music sways us as we share sickly sweet cigarettes between us on occasions, filling each other with smoke, and magick, and breath licked by fire.

“I’m afraid of too much permanence.”

“I’m comfortable with permanence.”

“I like your shoes.”

“Let me put them on you.”

“They won’t fit.”

“Just relax and give me your foot.”

I complain as I hand her my foot and she rolls up my jeans, pulling off her long shoes and slipping them over my toes.

“The soul fits.”

“Yes, but the rest will be too small.”

“Stop fighting and let me do it.”

I give into her careful hands and let her wrap my legs with laces.

“You can make them tighter. I like that.”

We sit together like misplaced twins each with a foot bound up high and tight in black knee high boot. We giggle and enjoy what we have created. We drink and laugh and let the night fill us. We miss each other.

“Let’s get naked and go to bed.”

It was late in the evening at that point. We had talked our past to death and speculated on our future more than once. In some distant future we will move in together and make each other pregnant on the wonder and life of the world and our children who are the daughters of the earth will play together and wrap our hair in flowers and the grandchildren will laugh at us old ladies who are wedded to air and water, and will tell stories of the magick dripping from the ends of our graying hair, as we sit and giggle and watch them play still school girls in spirit if not in flesh. We become crones together and it does not phase us.

“Let’s get naked and go to bed.” Says one crone to the other.


“Good idea.” Says the ancient fleshed girl with tight skin and slender body, her turning towards the fairy circle that encases her bower. We each take our turns undressing and sliding under covers. In the cool crisp night, with nipples erect and prodding at each other as we wrap together and press close for warmth under the downy comforter.

“Your place makes strange noises,” I whisper into the soft flesh where her arm joins her body, my mouth close to her sweet smelling skin.


“I don’t notice that it does anymore. Sometimes the raccoons play on the roof over my head and that might wake me up.”

We are warm creatures and wrapped around each other we fall slowly into sleep, as our hearts race pressed so close and our tangles weave one way or the other, tangle and untangles, flesh pressed close in different ways at different times. The heat comes from something deeper, we make love in our dreams to old friends, our minds filled alternately with love, and life, and care for those who are not filling our bed this night. I think in our perfect world the two of us would have a bed big enough to fit thirty people, all of them in love with themselves, with each other, and with us, we would have an orgy every night and fill each other with a thousand different kinds of love as we kept everyone safe from the all the evils that nip constantly.

The night is filled with warm thought, caress, heartbeat and scent, soft touches, and dreams and kisses.

“What time is it?”

“Late, we’ve overslept. I think we have to get out of bed.”

“Mmmmm.”

“One of us is going to have to make the first move.”

The sun shines prettily through the cottage windows and the little forest the surrounds this place in the middle of the city. Dry leaves crunch underfoot as we walk arm in arm down the streets towards the train station, stopping only to make love to each other on the sidewalks as we continue to consider a perfect future and how to make it come about.

We leave with kisses and I miss her while her lips are still pressed warm on mine. This is always the way it is when you explore the Psyche. It fills you up with answers, makes new questions, and leaves you constantly wanting more.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's a Small World After All

So I jumped onto the bus.

At this point the only seats left were towards the back in front of several handsome and young black men. At first this seemed all well and good for the quiet trip I was taking. It would be four hours till the layover of two hours and then two more hours before my arrival. Not a long bus trip and I had saved myself a fair amount of money by traveling this way.

The young men of course, seeing me approach all stopped talking at the same time as I settled my bags into the seat and prepared to get comfortable and hopefully sleepy during the trip. We pulled away from Chicago on the brisk morning and I enjoyed staring out the windows at the passing beauty of my fair city.

As the bus starts to pull away the driver turns on the microphone to make the usual sorts of announcements. Don't smoke, don't drink, don't be too loud, put your earphones on, and no firearms. At this I hear from behind me "Shit man, all us nigger gonna have to get up off the bus."

I just sort of ignore that one and try to unclench from the sudden tension that has taken hold of me. I don't turn around, though there is a part of me that wants to turn around. This is the city, being anonymous it the only saving grace sometimes of being in the city. So I don't turn around. But I can't turn off my ears. Their conversation is loud and hard to tune out. It goes on for most of the ride.

(Please be advised this is a dialogue between the guys behind me and may include language some would consider offensive. I'm sure I was a little off put but being on a bus I had no where to go. You, on the other hand, could just go read something else now, but if you have become fascinated, enjoy.)




"So's anyway," I hear from the back, "I tol' the shortie he got to drop that shit."

"Yo, yo, he got the handprints off it first, yo? Poe-lice and track that shit."

"Yeah, yeah, ain't no thing. That was done and he dropped that shit."

"Who'd he drop?"

"It was Red."

"Shit, yo, you know the nigger who dropped Red?"

"Yeah, yeah."

"Man, small world. I knew that nigger before he got capped. From Seattle."

"Shit, yo, yous' from Seattle?"

"Yeah, man."

"You know Tiny Kevin?"

"Yo, yo, he's my nigger. Yeah, me and Kevin used to hang."

"Shit, I know the nigger who capped Kevin!"

They all turn around at the new voice that has entered the conversation.

"Yo, yo, what?"

"I know the nigger that capped Kevin."

"Shit, yo man, it's like a small…like a small gangsta world, yo."


If I thought it would be safe to go to the bathroom on that bus I might have considered peeing myself laughing but instead I turned up my MP3 player and just tried to take it all in.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus

It began with too much time on my hands and a need to move about the country. While I'm no stranger to flying I thought I might treat myself to the slightly more bohemian joy of flying across the payment aboard a bus. It's been a while since I'd taken a bus in America. When in college it was my primary mode of travel between places. Being that I was trying to conserve a bit of cash and the destination was not too far away I figured the bus was a great idea.

Being a dutiful traveler I booked my ticket online well in advance of an actual departure date, promptly forgot about it and got my drink on Chicago style with tequila, vodka, or cognac depending on the company. Time passes quickly though and before I knew what was going on I rolled up my air mattress on a more than bitter Chicago morning to catch the busses to the busses to the bus station for the bus. Lots of bussing in my near future, viva la vie boheme.

Fortunately I had decided to leave an extra hour early. Considering that I was commuting during rush hour that turned out to be very wise as the I ended up having only about an extra hour when I arrived at my destination, rather than an extra two. I pulled out purchased e-ticked confirmation numbers and prepared to get tickets to I could get on my way, standing quietly and still a bit out of place in line. Will I ever feel in place in America? I admit it gets easier with each passing day, but then with each passing day I just think about how much closer I am getting to my return to Korea. Escapist thinking? Maybe.

Called to the front I delivered my numbers, prepared to receive my ticket, find a bathroom and get a cup of coffee. A good number of things to do before getting on a five hour bus. The attendant punched everything in, smiled at me, and handed me back my papers.

"This ticket has been printed." She says stills smiling.

I stare blankly at her. I'm good at staring blankly. Have perfected it, in fact, to an art form after six years in Korea.

"It has not." I shoot back. Go me with the witty repartee.

"It has. You got it in the mail."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"Okay, assuming I did have a ticket printed that I did not receive what should I do?"

"Call the post office and find your ticket."

"I'm supposed to be on the bus in forty five minutes."

"Good luck."

So I turned around and looked about to find and see if I could get a second opinion. I was calm. I was actually scarily calm. I was the kind of calm I imagine must take over homicidal maniacs with a difficult victim, dead, scary calm. I found the customer service desk and walked up and explained again to them that I did not have ticket but the system seemed to think I did. I asked for advice on how to proceed.

"Call the post office."

"As far as I can tell, this is not a postal problem, this is a bus problem. Is there someone within the bus company I can call?"

"Oh, sure, here call them." So I took the number for the head office, scrambled to a pay phone and dialed.

I talked to a very friendly girl in India. I explained to her that I was trying to catch my bus which was now leaving in forty minutes and that I did not have a ticket and the system was confused. She asked for my information which I passed along.

"Your ticket has been printed."

"No, it hasn't."

"You should have gotten it in the mail."

"Well, I didn't. Is it possible for me to get a ticket now?"

"Oh, sure, just call the main office and they can fax over a letter to let you on the bus."

She hung up. So I went back to customer service and asked for the number for a main office which was passed to me. I then went back to the phone where I was informed by the hold message that it may take up to ten minutes for someone to help me.

Silly machine, it took twenty five.

"Hello, how can I help you?" I explained my situation in detail, including all numbers. "Can I put you on hold?"

"Sure, why not, I've been on hold for twenty minutes, what's a few more?"

After another ten minutes my bus was announcing the boarding. My assistant came back on line and informed me that the fax had been sent and I should go to customer service to get a ticket. I thanked her calmly and went to get the ticket.

"I have a number." I say, convinced, confident that said number, the number that showed I had talked to a real live customer service person, would get me a ticket.

"Did she send a fax?"

"Yes."

"I'll go back in a minute and check," says the attendant to me. Yes, of course, I smile. I am calm. I radiate a homicidal calm. I smile. I look at the clock.

"My bus leaves in five minutes."

"I'll go CHECK, in a MINUTE." She says rather huffily turning away to eat her chicken dinner at ten a.m. I stand there staring blankly. Calmly. I stare and I wait. Finally after polishing a few more fries she heads to the back and comes back.

I hear "last call" in the background.

"You're fax isn't here." I just smile.

She asks to see my number again and I pass it to her. She takes a deep huffy breath at me and throws a clipboard in my direction.

"Fill in the highlighted parts." The highlighted parts ask for basic information. The form is a complaint of failure in costumer service. I fill in the highlighted bits and she gives me a blank ticket. I turn and trot out the door as fast as my slightly heavy bag will allow for the bus which is shutting its doors.

They let me on. I was still very, very calm. The question is can I remain that way. This was only the beginning of the journey.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Bard, The Balance, The Farmer and the Devil, what could go wrong?

I love listening to live music in this city. It's the selection, variety. This is lacking in my lovely Korea, my homogenous hinterland far across the sea. Everything is the same, same, same so often that I wonder if there are any longer differences in the world. And then I come here and remember everything is different.



There will be more music, to be discussed later. Further reasons why I love this city: the people, and drinking with those people, and talking with those people.



"The sex conversation will be tabled until later." Is how the conversation begins while I sip a bitter martini with the Bard, The Balance, and the Farmer while we drink around a long table. "We await further company," says the Balance. And so we drink and begin our warm up conversation pushing constantly back towards sex with the fixation of a fiend.



Good conversation.



When the final member of our party arrives and sits around the square table the conversation can be had in earnest; and earnest will be had. The topics are a meandering mish mash of meanings that mean nothing unless you are the kind of person who can wallow in words and still tread. The mind, the body, the past the future.



"None of that matters because it's not important to me," says the Balance when I try to explain why I am employable in this country. And my anger spills over because he is right. I do so dislike being wrong.



We talk about music, movies, food, fun, drinking, we move back and forth between the stairs to smoke and the table to drink.



"I could smell the floor cleaner, don't you understand?" The Bard makes a beautiful point. We all nod our head solemnly because we can understand. We grok, this is a group of peers and we get it. And even though we get it we talk anyway because that is the best part.



I drink and ramble and rant in Korean. I stand on the stairs and realize that suddenly the hand in the back of my shirt is not mine. It's belongs to the final member of our party. The mauler. It did not strike me as strange at the time, nor does it now, it was part of the party, part the conversation, part of the mix. Alright, maybe a bit odd, I mean I was mauled, but the Bard came to my rescue by staking her claim to me that night and we all giggled and sipped our drinks and found our way to happy beds.





Drinking, revelry and mild debauchery, among the most fantastic reasons for being in this country with a fair certainty I should think.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Remembering how to Love

“I want to remember why I love this city again.”

That was my response to a question about how I wanted to spend my time on vacation. Unlike other vacations I’ve taken in the last few years, this one is extended. I don’t have any extra work I’m doing, I have got nothing but time. Time.

Time.

I’m not someone who does well with a lot of free time on her hands, so I make projects, figure out ways to keep busy, get things to do, make a schedule and stick to it. So we planned, Ms. Skimmel and I, we planned and we figured out what to do.


Part of the plan included live music. Must have more live music. I miss my music.

The ever changing state of Korea has fluxed out most of my favorite musicians. The faces change every ten months, and as the faces changes, so do the flavors, and so do the people contributing to the making of a happy open mike night. Right now there is hardly anyone playing at all in the Lonely Hearts Club. Those few souls who do choose to play don’t start until sometime after one in the morning and by that time I’ve fled to bed.

I miss the music.

And so while in this big and bountiful city I have demanded music. A return to the beautiful, the lovely, vibrant Chicago full of music.

The first stop on this trip took us to Martyrs. It is incandescent and lovely when we walk in. A bar that is seven times the size of most of the places I haunt in my far east. The bar is big wooden pillars, candles flickering, a slight chill from all the space, and a vast open stage that daunts the audience to do anything but watch and listen and enjoy.

Music was the order and music was why we went. On Monday nights the music is traditional Irish which is a flavor I haven’t heard live in quite some time. So we sit and order our drinks and a dinner and wait for the band.

Composing the band are two men, the first a bearded troubadour to sing and play guitar; the second a shorn Irish man with a proper fiddle to accompany. The announcement is simple, just the names. The rest is the music.

What lovely music.

I was mesmerized by it, in a way I have not been in a long time. There is a fantastical grace to the way the lyrics are delivered. This is reduction, a room full of sound coming from two instruments. A world created in the fingers and the lungs. This is entertainment of the most ancient kind, produced by our wit and our will, patience, practice, and commitment. It is not just about learning to do it so much as learning to do it well and being willing to share with others.

Definitely among the top ten reasons why I love this city.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Process of Integration

I am a swirls tonight.

I am past and future present.

I visit today the place where I worked when I first left college. My first adult job when I was little more than a child stuffed with too much philosophy and too much ego. Opinionated, broken, mangled girl who starved, begged, borrowed, stole to keep a job in which my annual yearly salary was less then seven thousand dollars.

I loved that job.

When I was finished I was finished and was sent away. And away. And away. I found nothing and distance. Distance. 6,000 miles between me and my past. All of my past.

Today I sit with faces that feel like friends, and family, masks not masks, real people that I see as more real now than once before. Their reality frightens me, and fills me, engulfs me. Home and not home. It is the feeling I have when I think about family. Today was my family reunion and I don't know if I succeeded or failed.

Shy, she is. Sara is too shy. She is withdrawn, where is the opinioned, the foolish, brilliantly vulgar? She is demur, she is apologetic. I watch this creature from without, watch as she casts her eyes away in conversations, bows her head at the slightest eye contact, reacts as a stranger. Her interactions are foreign and mark her as other. She is a stranger at home, afraid in her own skin. Her interactions are unnatural and forced. She has forgotten how to be natural. I don't like this Sara that I watch. And here she is. All grown up spineless.

I am not this, and I am.

There is no comfort zone here. Where is my place of being?

Force the proper cultural norm. Remember you are an American above all, vulgar, course, unpredictable.

And I'm not.

I visit today the first place that employed me seriously, the place that made my career, I see the perfection, I see the faults. I see time failing to march on. I see me failing to march on.

Why am I here?

Why will I go again?

Rain falling cold in the city damps my head and makes me uncomfortable so I pop into a convience store as I run down the streets of the loop towards Michigan avenue. The store is crowded huddle of rush hours trying to get out of the city dry. All stopping for the same purpose. I pick and umbrella, it is bright and red to counter my mood and the darkness of the storm that is falling on the city, the wind, the cold, the damp on my head.

"Bright red for the young lady," says the friendly old black teller from behind the counter.

I smile shyly and avert my eyes. I show him respect.

Before I reach the counter I know I have done something wrong. My interaction is mispaced for this now. I am out of step.

How do I mix in all the swirls, will it come with time, or will I continue insolvent?

On Flights and Flying

Flying is hell.


Flying is more hell when you had been out drinking the entire night before and have not been asleep in over 28 hours.

Flying is even more hell when you have all of this, on top of grumpy officials and then find out you are in the middle seat because you forgot to ask.

Flaying is ever further hell when you are ravenously hungry because of your hangover but forgot to mention that you needed a vegetarian meal option for your flights.

So I'm on the plane to Japan. This end of the trip was not so bad as it's only about an hour and a half to Japan. They serve food in the flight but I'm not biting into a meat roll stuffed with meat served with extra meet if I don't need to do it. I can wait the hour and a half and eat in Japan, and that is what I did.

But then in Japan I had trouble locating a place to eat. The McDonald's was easy enough to find, but that would not satisfy. What I wanted at this point was cho-bop and oo-dong. Cho-bop is Korean for sushi rolls and oo-dong is delicious soup. I finally found a little restaurant and at this point was not feeling cosmopolitan enough to try any Japanese so I just asked in English if they had sushi, which they did not.

I settled for seafood oo-dong which might have been better had it not included one of the largest tentacles I've ever been asked to eat. But I ate because I was hungry. My stomach did not really feel better. At this point I had less then fifteen minutes before the boarding of my next plane. For this trip I was working on roughly one to one and a half hour layovers between trips, so I didn't have a lot of time to fool around. I was having trouble finding the gate though.

Finally I stopped and asked a nice assistant to show me the gate number. I pointed to the gate number on my ticket, knowing that I was in the right area. A29, that's me. I was somewhere around A28 but could not for the life of my figure out where A29 was.

"That's your seat number."

"What?"

"That's not the gate number. That's your seat number. What is the gate number?"

I just kind of stared at her. This is probably where the bacchanalia that I had attended the night before became even more clearly a bad idea. I had no idea what my gate number was. And worse, I wasn't exactly sure how to figure it out all of the sudden. I had a cold weight of iron oo-dong in my stomach, but the attendant politely took my hand and lead me to a screen where I could find my gate number. Why I had not thought of that yet I blame on the vodka bleeding out of my system.

Gate number A5.

I'm on the wrong side of the airport. Yee-ha.

So I started to run down moving sidewalks and placated myself in the knowledge that at least I wouldn't be too unhappy about sitting for the next ten hours. I made the boarding call with a few minutes to spare and only as I boarded the plane did I realize that I had forgotten to get any food for the ten hour flight. I would have very little to eat on the plane, and now had nothing with me.

I got on the plane and found my seat. I was not surprised when it was a middle row seat. I was even less surprised when the rows was completely full. At this point, more than 32 hours after the beginning of my day, I was just too tired to argue about it. I put my stuff up and down, sat down, and prepared for the incredibly long flight. This was when I noticed something.

I was on an American flight. I had sworn after the last time I flew American that I would never do it again, but having been in a press to get tickets for this leg I took what I could get. My stewardess were all older American women, not the happy smiling bowing Asians that I usually saw on a flight. It's fine, I thought. At least it's not United. Cold comfort.

Again, my plan was sleeping so I tried my best to turn on, tune in, and drop out. After about two hours I woke from the stabbing pains. My back was killing me. This was highly unusual as the last few flights I had taken had not caused me so much back trouble. Sure, I'd be sore, but nothing like the pain I was feeling in my upper back. Towards my shoulders. Lots of pain. Pain that felt like muscle strain.

And then it hit me, I had lifted all those boxes up to my apartment in two trips. I had "put my back into it" a little too well. And now I was paying for it. The pain was intense and exquisite. Any thought I had about sleeping through the trip was quickly being chased from my mind. I took a couple of Tylenol as I always stow those in my bag. It help a bit. It thought about the hair of the dog until I realized that on this flight they expected you to pay extra for that.

What? This is a ten hour flight and I don't even get a complimentary wine? I've flown all the major Asian airlines at this point at least once; a few twice. On all of those flights there are certain things you can count on. Alcohol, water, and smiling pretty friendly attendants are on that list.

On this flight the attendants were gruff and surly, the food was abysmal, and the lack of alcohol was getting to me as it might have actually helped relax my back to have a bit of wine.

I tried to sleep and forget about it. I was bone tired and working on hour 36. It had only about five hours of flying left to go, but I was thirsty, so very, very thirsty. Finally I pushed the button. I needed to water. The red headed stewardess walked down the isle gruff and annoyed.

"What?"

"May I have some water please?" I asked as politely as I could over my sleeping seat partners and the roar of the engine.

"What?!"

"May I have some water please?" I indicated what I wanted by making my hand into a cup and pretending to drink.

She got huffy and walked off to get water.

I'm trapped in a flying tin can somewhere over the pacific ocean, I'm tired, hung-over, smell bad, hungry, dry, and thirsty. All I wanted was some water.

It was a hellish flight. The red head stewardess has to be among one of the worst people in the service industry I have every met. But the experience was surreal. The attendants would stop in the isle over serving food and bitch about the flight, complain about the passengers, their job, the food. After the several times I've taken this trip it was a real shock to my system. Finally it dawned on me. This was stewardess purgatory. This is where bad stewardesses were sent to die; abandon hope, all ye who fly this way.

When the plane hit the ground I had never been so happy to disembark. And I still had one more connection to make to get to where I was going. Immigration in the US is always tight but this was starting to border on downright impossible. I had an hour and ten minutes before my next flight would leave. I was tired, bedraggled, and starved and standing in a line for immigration that was ten people deep. I thought I had plenty of time…

It's almost over, I swear.



I had been on the road now for about 36 hours without sleep.

I'm tired of it.

In the line at immigration I racially profiled. I couldn't help it, I had a connection to catch in T-minus 60 minutes. I needed to get out of there fast, grab my bag, go through customs, and get down the airport for the final leg of the trip. So I racially profiled my line. I looked for the line full of mid-westerns carrying American passports. The kind of line that will through up no red flags. Aside from the one Bhatai guy at the front of the line it looked like a good choice. That's what I thought, but apparently I am alone in distinguishing Bhatai from Terrorist.

So I'm in the line, I am, and I ask the nice gentleman in front of me for the time. It's about twenty minutes to the hour. No problem.

Until the line stops moving. Problems with our religious friend who ends up getting dragged off to a second check point. We wait for the official to come back. And wait, and wait some more. In the meantime two lines run by women run smoothly through. Note to self, next time seek out the female employee line.

I ask for the time again, it's getting closer to ten minutes before the hour. My connection boards in forty minutes.

Immigration guy comes back. Yeah, finally. The line moves, still slowly, but I pass the country zone at noon still confident I can make it. I hit the line for bags and see mine immediately. I whisper nice things to the merry goddess and make to go through customs, breezing down the hall to the connections.

At the line for connections I hit snag number two. The line is painfully long and I have to put my bag through to be scanned for the next plane. I run up to an airport official and show her my boarding pass for the next flight.

"It leaves in 30 minutes," I say.

"Yep, you have 30 minutes, plenty of time."

I kind of gape at her, but swallow my tongue and hope for the best.

"Line B," she points me to the longer of three lines. Of course.

I wait in line. Patiently at first, less so as the time rolls on by and I'm no closer to the end. It's fifteen minutes to boarding and I'm still waiting to get my bag checked onto the next plane. Finally I stand at the front of the line only to be stopped and have the smaller line waved through. I want to scream, howl, shout about the unfairness, but now, I wait. Again. I'm just too tired.

I dash through the check out, toss my bag at the person scanning and make a break for the final line. The one that allows me into the airport. How many freaking lines do I have to go through? I think as I run up. I have my pass out, I run to airport official.

"My plane boards in 10 minutes. Can I get passed through?"

"Well," says our ever helpful official, "If you're running late you need to ask everyone in front of you for permission to go to the front of the line."

Here is the thing. I'm not running late. My plane was in on time, I was were I was supposed to be, I had hustled my ass down to immigration not even stopping to go to the bathroom because I didn't want to lose any time and figured I could hit the restroom when I got to the gate for my last transfer. I had done nothing to make myself late.

So I go to the next person in line.

"Flight boards in 10 minutes, can I go ahead of you?"

"Sure."


"Flight boards in 10 minutes, can I go ahead of you?"

"No problem."


"Flight boards in 10 minutes, can I go ahead of you?"

"Go ahead."


"Flight boards in 10 minutes, can I go ahead of you?"

"Don't see why not."

I stop to ask the next woman. The kind of woman I don't see in Korea very often, strong confident sexy black woman built like a Nubian love goddess.

"Honey, just go to the front of the line, nobody here is goin' stop you." She smiled at me and I smiled back. She had my back. How long had it been since some had my back.

I jumped to the front. Did the shake out of my clothing dance for the last scanner into the airport. As usual I fly with a minimal on me. No jewelry, hair in braids, no bra, slip on shoes, empty backpack containing only laptop computer. It makes going through a scan a breeze. I wait hopping from foot to foot at the end for my bag.

They scan it once, it comes out and they hold it.

"Um, we have to scan this again, the scan cut off."

"Seriously?" This has become the buzz word for the moment. Seriously, I want to shout, just open the bag, it's empty, the scanner is fine, there is nothing in the bag. But I say nothing and continue to hop. The backpack comes down the scanner, I toss in computer, and I'm off.

I run down the hall, up the stairs, check the gate number twice to be sure I know where I'm going.

A5, no problem. I see the sign, A5-A75 says the sign. I ride of the escalator feeling the luck. Finally, the gate is right there at the top of the stairs.


And I get to the top.

And it says gate A75 with an arrow pointing down a long hall that never ends. A hall that is about a mile long, if not longer. A hall crowded and packed with people milling about on the 1st all thinking about why the thought traveling today would be a good idea.

It is 1:20 and I have ten minutes.

Of course.

I run. I run down the hall, run down the moving escalators, run and run and run and wish for a sports bra as my backpack slams into my back, and I run, and I run, and I run straight out like my mother is chasing me, oh do I run. I hit the gate with three minutes to spare, long enough to empty my now full bladder before boarding.

I made it, I think.

One more hour and touch down.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The Russian cabbie picks me put to take me to my final destination. I tell him where I'm going.

"That's in the suburbs."

"No," I correct him. "It's in the city."

"No, no suburbs, I have to charge suburb rates."

"No, city."

"It's alright, I got it."

We start to drive. He talks the whole time to keep me awake because he is not quite sure were we are going. I let him, the entire time annoyed at the price. He takes the long way, it costs me twice what it should. I tip him anyway. Because I made it, because I don't have to spend the next twenty hours on a plane, because I can shower, and sleep and relax.

"Forget about it, Jake, it's Chicago."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Jack Bauer has got nothing on me, baby!

I'm SaraDevil, and this, is the longest day of my life. It started at 6:00 a.m. on December 31st 2007. And so it begins.

It was the day before New Year's that I lay in bed contemplating the upcoming trip and realized that the last thing I wanted in the entire world was to go to Seoul. I wanted a lot of things, but going to Seoul was really not on the list of things I to do. I really dislike Seoul and it never seems to stop. I looked at my pros and cons…

In Daegu there will be fewer people, most having gone to Seoul.

In Daegu most if not all of my friends live.

In Daegu drinking is cheap.

In Daegu I would have a room for the night.

In Seoul everything is more expensive.

In Seoul it will be packed to the max.

In Seoul I will not be able to find a place to put my bags for the night.

In Seoul I'm going to feel lonely.

In Seoul I have few friends, there are a few in Seoul, but as Seoul is huge they are all scattered into various burbs making meeting en masse difficult; and mostly I figured they had plans.

So I decided to stay in Daegu. My New Year's Eve day was intensely busy. First to wake, and coffee and shower; necessities. Then I tried to get a train ticket online but apparently my membership has lapsed. I did not want to wait til the last minute to get a ticket as I was not sure how many people might be traveling the next day. So after breakfast and a little piano practice to relax my nerved, I packed up my bag for work and hit a cab to the station. I picked up a ticket for the first train to Seoul. 6 a.m. on the 1st.

Following I went to work for the last day. The kids are on vacation so it was me picking up my stuff and turning in my work computer. I spent an hour backing up all the files and removing any miscellanea as would be appropriate. I packed up my six boxes of stuff. The six boxes were mostly filled with student survey's. I have something like ten thousand of the damned things from the last two years and I need them for my research. Survey's in the boxes, boxes, in a trunk, trunk back to my apartment for unloading. I have recently moved and now live on the third floor, so I went up the stairs and grabbed a big empty suitcase.

By packing the boxing in the suitcase I managed to move everything up the stairs in two trips. This was a pretty heavy task. I was working hard and I was just near my lifting limit which means that damned case must have weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 kilos, but I put my back into it. I should have thought about that more, but I just wanted to get the stuff up the stairs in as few trips as possible.

At this point lunch time had come and gone and I hadn't noticed. I had some cheese and crackers and decided I should really pack for the trip home. It took a bit but in the end I had myself all packed up and it was only starting to close in on seven o'clock. I tried to relax, I tried to read a book. I spent an hour getting my papers together for my new work visa and making phone calls on that end. I fielded a text message for plans and started to make arrangements.

I decided that if I was going to make it through the next two days I needed a nap. I laid in bed for a while but it just didn't happen. I was too tense and there was too much to go on. Around 9 I called a friend and went to dinner and from there to the bar where I arrived without much fanfare at little after 10:30.

There were not many people out at all, most being at the Lonely Hearts Club for live music. I don't like it when the club is so full that the hearts aren't lonely but rather crushed by the overwhelming press of people, so I avoided the club for Crew Bar. There we drank, we played pool and some kind soul decided to remind us that we were out to celebrate the New Year. We counted down at midnight but it was rather underwhelming amid the pool game, the drinking, and the general good feelings. I fielded hugs and kisses from friends and it started to close in on 1 a.m.

And that's when the alcohol kicked in.

A group was arranged to go to a nori-bang. A nori-bang is a singing room, karaoke if you will, but attended by you and your best friends. I became sort of semi-responsible for getting the group together, though I had not arranged the plans. The original organizers were there and I tossed in a group of a handful more. It took us a bit because several of the party were still drinking.

"Take it with you."

"What?"

I crossed to the bar and asked for plastic glasses which at this point were on proud display. The bar new this was coming and was prepared. I brought the glasses back and started pouring drinks into plastic cups so we could get the party on the road. One of the girls who is new to Korea just gaped in surprise.

"You can do that here?"

"This is Korea, you can do pretty much anything here." Famous last words?

The party rounded we hit the bitter cold Korean streets. So cold that after a few feet your hands were burning where they touched icy cold plastic encased alcohol, but I pressed the group on and down to the bong so that we could get our music on. As we piled into the room people worked out how to pick songs and I took a bathroom break. The group included two girls, one semi-new (the sorority girls) Korea, one I had met a few months ago (Sportie, very into sports) who still had not passed half a year, a group of about five lifers, and three GI's who'd managed to infiltrate our group. They kept referring to me by name, partly to fit in. Two were very likeable, and I was wary of the third, he was too frat boy, but for nori-bang it's always the more the merrier so why not.

I went down the hall and waited in the line of Korean girls for a few minutes of bathroom time. As I got back to the room, the room I hadn't managed to even get into yet I found the two nicer GI's standing outside.

"What's up?" I asked as I approached the door.

"It's the nipples."

"What nipples?"

"We just figured it would be better to wait outside."

I peaked through the glass walls into our room. The room was made of glass half fogged half not, with streaks of visibility. I looked into the room to find the sorority girl topless and in the warm embrace of the frat boy. I went to open the door and walk in but Sportie stepped out instead.

"I have a problem."

"Okay," I peak through the glass again.

"I'm not sure what to do, I'm going to the bathroom. If you can help my friend, somehow?" and she trailed off down the hall.

I walked in and climbed over the party to get to sorority girl. I whispered in her ear while she continued her tongue dance session.

"Honey, do you want to go home and fuck with the boy here?"

"Mmmm?"

"Do you want to go home with the boy?"

I have rules. One of those rules is not to interfere with two people who want to go home and bang each others brains out. There may be guilt, there may later be regret but each of us is capable of making those decisions, drunk or not. It's how we learn. At the end of the day I believe experience is the best teacher. If sorority girl really wants to go home with the frat boy I'm not going to stop her. She was already half naked in a room full of people at this point so I figure she had enough data to process this situation on her own. Frat boy let go of her for a minute and I repeated my question.

"Do you want to go home with this boy?"

"Why would I want to do that?" She looked around her in confusion. "Wait, where is my bra?"

Right.

So I grabbed a jacket and held it over her. Frat boy had the good sense to realize that he had pressed his advantage far enough that night and he exited stage left. I helped the girl find her shirts and told her to pocket the bra and then pulled her out and down to the bathroom. A few minutes later she exited the room and we discovered two things at the same time. One that the toilet was overflowing. Two, and what she didn't notice, was that her bra had fallen in. I pulled her out of the room and pushed her back towards the bong and Sportie. I called the bra a loss, hit the other not broken stall for my own personal relief, and then headed back to the bong where one of the lifers stood outside the door.

"I think I have a problem with my girlfriend."

I looked in the window to find that the girlfriend was under the sorority girl who was continuing her make-out session with a new found partner.

"Well fuck."

I walked in and there was Sportie.

"I think I need to go to the bathroom."

I walked over to sorority girl and asked if she was feeling like going home. To my surprise she said yes. After a few moments and some more untangling the girlfriend was freed, the sorority girl's purse was found, and she and Sportie took off stage right for home. I went back outside of the room for a second to find the two nice guys.

"We are sorry about our friend. I think we are headed out."

We exchanged hand shakes and seasons greetings and I went back into the room where I was finally able to get a song in. Of course, at this point we only had five minutes left on the room. I got my sing on and we left ourselves. I checked the time. It was now 3 a.m. I figured I could make the last two hours to the train so I went back to the bar where pool was played and I enjoyed some freelance tongue wrestling of my own before finally realizing that I was going to be late if I didn't get moving.

I grabbed a cab and hit my place at 5:30 a.m. Ran up the stairs, changed quickly out of my clothes, grabbed my stuff and down the stairs. The alcohol was not doing good things for my coordination at that point, but I needed to move. I ran down the street and flagged a cab to the station. I made it with five minutes to spare.

The day is not over yet.