Monday, January 30, 2012

Tequila, the Russian, and Superstars

I had started drinking around four in the afternoon, which is not always a good decision to make. However it seemed like the thing to do, and I did it. Then I ended up passing out with a snoring dog until about eleven, when I woke up pretty much sober and thought I should go out. I expressed the intention to the Dog, who raised one eyebrow at me in a manner that very clearly stated “The fuck you say?” and went back to sleep.

At that point, though, I knew I was mostly likely going to go out. My heart was lonely, I needed the Lonely Hearts Club. So I threw on some clothes, left the Dog in possession of the bed, and hit a cab for a a bar.

The Lonely Hearts Club was exactly who I like it to be on a Saturday night. There was me, a small group in the corner drinking, and Hyun. That is pretty much all I need to be content at the Lonely Hearts. Hyun took a look at me and gave me the bottle of tequila and my shot glass, which I used to start taking care of the drinking problem.

Aside from the loneliness of my heart, my other purpose for the trip was to talk to Hyun about tickets to a show. This was most important since the show was happening on Wednesday and I wanted to be sure to be there. The last tickets did not work out so well, and I would be damned if I let another concert I really wanted to see in Seoul pass me by.

The difficult thing was the convergence of the show I wanted to see with the Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year would make traveling difficult. Traveling on the train at the best of times can be a pain in the ass, but for the New Year people had a tendency to book tickets on the train months in advance. Since the New Year was falling from Sunday to Tuesday, it meant a five-day weekend, and lots of traveling.

Apparently Wednesday was also a busy day because when I looked to get a ticket for the show I wanted to see every single train from 5a.m. to  midnight from Daegu to Seoul was sold out. Not just the high-speed train or the slow, no, there was not a train running on tracks that was not just booked but overbooked. These trains were going to run with people standing in the aisles. Every single seat, corner, booth, cubbyhole, and bathroom had been sold solid. I managed to score two reservations: one from Daegu to Daejon at six in the morning and one from Daejon to Seoul that would leave at seven and was feeling pretty clever.

Granted I didn’t want to go Seoul at six a.m. but I was not going to miss this show. At the Lonely Hearts I began to explain to Hyun my problem.

“I can get you a ticket,” he said, and heads to the computer.

Good luck with that.

Five minutes late.

“Holy shit, every train is sold out.”

“I know; that’s what I said.”

“I think I can still get you a later ticket.”

“If you can do that, than go for it. I’ll pick it up on Tuesday.”

The plan would be a Lonely Tuesday night meeting where I would get concert tickets, train tickets and prepare myself to the Wednesday concert.

Having arranged this I went back to my bottle of Jose, when the Russian (who had been drinking in the corner with his friends) finally spotted me. The friends had left. The population of the bar was now four.

“Sara! How are you?”

“I’m good. How are you? How is the KGB?” We have joked with the Russian for years that he is secretly KGB; however, while a joke, I think sometimes it is probably closer to true than we all like to believe.

“It’s good, it’s good,” he grabbed my arms and pulled me close and whispered in my ear “We almost lost the atomic bomb, da?” He pushed me away and ordered a drink.

“But you didn’t?” I asked.

“Didn’t what?” He smiled and nodded his head and two beers were set down: one for him and one for me. Mine went to Hyun.

“Etta James died.” I told Hyun.

“No. What?”

Hyun pulled out a vinyl copy of Etta James with a little band and we stared at it.

“I can’t play it, though; the needle is broken.”

“Seriously?”

“They are getting harder to get in Korea.”

We stared at the album and finally selected the blasphemy of pulling up some songs on the computer.

“Oh, this is good music,” The Russian said. “But, no, we need the record. Play the record.”

Hyun and I explained the problem again. The Russian, who was staggering drunk, listened but didn't really hear us. He listened and commented on how good the music was again, and then asked for the vinyl again, and Hyun and I did the same song and dance again, and we went round and round.

“No. Nyet. Play Jesus Christ Superstar! It is the best rock opera. We need rock opera!”

“I already played it,” Hyun reminded him.

“Play it again.”

“No.”

We three sat around the bar, while the second bartender cleaned glasses. We listened to Etta James, which turned into Billy Holiday, and Duke Ellington, and Ottis Redding, and Howling Wolf. We drank from our bottles and let our lives weigh on us and the wooden bar. There is never a trip wasted to the Lonely Hearts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liquid Christmas

We sat around well into our cups at the Christmas party, an odd assortment of attendees gracing the Irish with company for the Sunday holiday. The atmosphere was rather bohemian; while all of us were in some varying degree or other teachers, each of us had a unique penchant for otherness, whether it was volunteer work, art, math, music, acting, or writing.

I had worked hard to help prepare the food, the dinner, the finger foods, and the drinks that were going out throughout the evening, yet even so I hadn’t managed to get much to eat. This tended to happen when one got more wrapped up in service than the act of actually eating. Around nine I decided I really needed to have something to eat, to both help prevent alcohol poisoning and to assuage the general hunger.

The Volunteer had very nicely brought some homemade vegetarian chili for everyone. This seemed like the most workable idea. The only problem was the Volunteer had absolutely no tolerance for capsicum at all. Any pepper at all, black, white, and gods forbid red, would send her into spasms of pain. She just couldn't handle the stuff. I spooned some of the chili into a cup and immediately wanted it to taste more like chili. It wasn’t that the chili wasn’t good, it just lacked any kind of spice that I would associate with chili, and being Latino, there was no point in eating a chili that does not actually contain chili. The stuff was more like tomato soup with vegetables.

Fortunately for me I lived with the masochistic spice connoisseur, the One, who liked her chili not just hot, but mind blowing. The One’s favorite proclamation upon eating a dish that is “properly” spiced is “Oh, I can feel the wax in my ears melting.” Knowing about her addition for pepper that only those with steel stomachs would want to challenge to a dare, last Christmas I bought her a series of pepper sauces. These sauces were not just spicy. These sauces required me to sign a waiver to purchase extracting a promise that I would only ever use them as a food additive. The active ingredients brought the heat rating up to 600 times hotter than Tabasco, or registering in at 600,000 Scoville units for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing.

So it seemed the most natural thing in the world to add a touch of one of these chili sauces to the currently underchili-ed chili. I picked the Mega-Death sauce, as it would be hotter than the Sudden Death and sure to make the chili have bite. I put a bit of cheese in as well and about half a teaspoon of Death Sauce. Mixed, heated, melted the cheese and began to consume.

“Sweet gods what have I done?” Was pretty much the only exclamation I could make as my face started to turn red and I swallowed my drink a little more.

“That’s hilarious. You know how hot those sauces are,” said the Volunteer.

“Yes, but…” I was barely able to choke out words around the atomic explosion that had engulfed my mouth, “I didn’t think it would be this bad.” I manage to gasp out, while adding more cheese and a bit more chili to try to calm this thing down. It was too late; however, as it had already gotten out of control.

One of the house guests brought by the Volunteer came in to join the conversation.

“What are you laughing at?” he asked the Volunteer.

“I just think it’s hysterical.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I put some chili sauce in the chili to make it spicier,” I responded, while pounding the counter and gulping down some tequila.

“Here, have a spoonful,” I said, and passed him a bit to try.

Whether he tried it to be polite, out of curiosity, or out of inherent sense of masochism was unclear. He did; however, eat the spoonful.

“What…the…hell!”

“I know, right?” I asked as I continue to die trying to eat the chili.

“What is that?” I pulled out the bottle and showed him the heat rating. He read the description.

“600 time hotter than Tabasco.”

“Yes, the other one has Jersey Fury, but this one is made with Liquid Rage.”

“Liquid Rage. You gave someone with German heritage Liquid Rage. You really should have thought about this. There is no telling what I could now!”

We all started laughing.

“I may not be 100% German, but I’m pretty sure this was a bad idea. Liquid Rage, don’t you know anything about history?”

This brought the entire house down, as at this point everyone had entered the kitchen to watch us suffer over the chili. I got close to giving up.

“I think it’s trying to burn its way of out my stomach,” said the semi-German house guest.

The Irish was cracking up. The One explained that she had a sauce that was hotter.

“No thank you.” Was the chorus that rose up.

We poured more alcohol around to try to tamp the fires that were going on in our mouths, and the rest of the party joined in. Eventually I abandoned my cupful of Liquid Rage chili as being too much for my poor stomach to take, and tossed some tequila over it before heading toward a couch to try to calm the fire in my belly.

Fortunately, even though full of liquid rage, the semi-German made it through the night without doing anyone harm. However several thousand taste buds were killed for our entertainment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA

I didn't have time to complete the blackout on my blog, because

1) That coding took a long time.

and

2) I literally didn't have time

However I do think it is important that people be aware of what SOPA and PIPA are and why they are so dangerous.

Here is why.

I'm going to link to other peoples pictures of the SOPA protest on the web.

That's not my content; it's someone else's content.

In a world after SOPA and PIPA, post a screenshot of a website would be illegal and I could be sued.
Posting a screencap from a movie could get you in trouble. Forget about uploading a user made video to YouTube, or a fan movie that you made based on a popular concept.

It's a nasty piece of legislation and needs to be done away with.

Fight the power.

Wikipedia Blackout







This is what happens when you make the internet angry.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Escapism

I needed a chance to get out and get away. Having my own business was fun, making my own hours, deciding where I would work for the day. All good things, but after a bit you tended to see the same walls over and over again and you began to wonder what else you were living for. With that in mind I decided it would be a good time for a trip to do something else. Seoul was a good way to do something else and would get me out of the same place I felt like I'd been forever.

Traveling alone can be fun, but for this trip I thought it might be more fun with friends, so I sent some messages to the Artist, who agreed that a trip to Seoul might be just the thing. With that all settled we met in Seoul for a weekend of frivolity.

What I really needed was a vacation.

I got to Seoul early, checked into the room we would share, and finished up the end of my work for the day. The Artist managed to get herself across town to Gangnam to meet me and then we took some time out for a heated discussion about what exactly it was we were going to do for the evening. We thoroughly explored some potential options, before finally deciding that it would be useful to get ready to go out, and meet up with a buxom redhead for the evening. We had a lovely walk along a river in the night looking at an unexpected light show, a fabulous dinner at the one and only Margaritaville, and finished the night off by languishing in dance bars until we had officially shaken our  bottoms to a point of near exhaustion and had to adjourn back to the room for some much-needed sleep.

Gangnam was a bit of a departure from my usual hangouts in Seoul. This was a good thing as I still had my unending hatred of Seoul to deal with and really needed something different. Granted the problem with something different is that it came with not knowing where anything was. When we managed to get out of bed the next morning we thought it might nice to find some brunch. I used my new Korean smartphone to locate just such a place, but after a good hour and a half of walking and at least two taxis, we decided to call it quits and just find something, anything, to eat. The general problem with smartphones is they often tended to actually be smarter than the user, or in many cases, outsmart the user entirely. Such was the case with brunch.

The something we did find turned out to be a really nice sushi lunch in our own little private room. Up a flight of stairs we found ourselves cozily seated in a small room, with a tree, bamboo table, and pleasant light music. We had several dozen plates of sushi and were spoiled by the favorably lavish décor. While talking we made plans for the rest of the evening. The Artist knew of a little art/shopping district in Gangnam and we thought that might be a good way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

We used a variety of smartphone applications to figure out where to go, and a hop, a skip and a cab ride later were in Songtan, a small part of Gangnam and a perfect little street for exploring little boutique shops, jewelry, fabric, and fashion. We walked leisurely in and out of a variety of shops, enjoying the hand crafts on offer.

At one point we stopped into a little tucked-out-of-the-way art gallery to admire some interesting photo manipulations. The pieces were designed to give a sort of fish of a particular part of a landscape scene like a park. While fascinating, there was this part of me that couldn’t let go of a seeming lack of purpose in the work.

“It’s corporate art.”

“But it feels meaningless. What is the point of it?”

The Artist and I continued our art discussion as we wandered in and out of a variety of shops. Songtan had a nice variety and selection of stuff. I was really impressed by one ajjuma on the street that was making silver and bead jewelry. She was using various different precious stone beads to weave into her necklaces and bracelets. The works were absolutely exquisite, and also expensive. Had I had some excess of cash I might well have bought something, as sitting on the street and making jewelry all day is not exactly fun. Perhaps next time.

Songtan was interesting for its laid back, Soho-esque atmosphere; lots of places that sported a variety of handmade materials, a few things that were expensive imports, and lots of places with a variety of food, western and Korean, some of which could be termed expensive, a few that were not.

After some hours of perusing we decided to stop for a coffee and a wine. We sat to face the street and watch as a variety of people walked by. Discussing fashion choices, life in Korea, and sometimes just being still, enjoying that quiet company and lack of pressure that was sitting in a small café in Seoul with nothing to do and not a care in the world. The world existed to amuse us and we let ourselves be amused.

Eventually we also realized that we were hungry, so we began to explore with our magic technology dinner options in the area. With a place in mind that we weren’t sure how to find, we walked away from the café, to arrive, two seconds later in front of “Cork for Turtle, Mug for Rabbit.” I think it was the name that allured us more than anything else. Sadly after looking through the menu and the wine list we decided this was not exactly what we wanted.

What we wanted was a place where we could share a couple of dishes, get a bottle of wine for less than 35,000 won, and be generally pleased with the atmosphere, food, and décor. It was the perfect kind of mission for a lazy Saturday afternoon where we didn’t really want to have to settle on anything, but rather enjoyed the adventure of trying to find just the right place in this little unknown area.

We wandered back around the streets, in and out of the turning little alleys, asking for menus and wine lists, and then leaving when things were not to our tastes. It felt utterly snobbish and the height of hedonism, which made it even better. Sometimes it is nice to just reflect everything on a whim, or on a desire, because you can. The feeling of being able to bend life to your will is an alluring control, and one that, when life seems to spend all it’s time controlling you, is absolutely necessary.

Several menus later we stumbled across a small Italian place and walked in. I talked to the waiter (who was duly impressed with my Korean) and we found exactly what we had been looking for.  A place with a nice wine menu that wasn’t overpriced and two dishes we were both interested in sharing. We had a chicken salad that was absolutely perfect, accompanied by a nice cheese and dried meat plate that was absolutely huge! There were several different kinds of cheese, all in abundance, and the meats were a nice adornment for the red meat eaters. We were absolutely stuffed by the time we left, full of good food, good wine, and good company.

Having accomplished our goal we enjoyed the end of our evening chatting over a final glasses of wine in the hotel room before finally submitting completely to our whims, and our exhaustion. We both slept that wonderfully divine sleep of absolute fulfillment.