Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Saturday Night Overun by Brits

"Everyone bailed on me. That's it; I'm going home and baking." I got the text from Quatermain around 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Originally I had organized an amazing dinner and party, but attendance dropped and I finally ended up canceling. Instead of cooking, I spent Saturday afternoon watching the newest Die Hard movie (seriously) and was contemplating spending Saturday evening alone—I had spent Friday night blogging and drinking martinis at the Antique Bar, so the alone time would be most welcome.

"Screw it; let's get dinner together."

"Do you know a place?"

"I always know a place." I enjoyed introducing Quatermain to my favorite restaurants in Daegu, and I was quite sure he enjoyed getting introduced to them. We planned to meet after I made a quick trip home to feed thel dog before the dog called Animal Services, and then met amidst the chilly cold downtown Daegu air.

I walked him over to my favorite new Italian place for dinner.

It was completely full (again), but the waitressunlike last time, when she kicked me out into the coldfound a table for us and let us sit down.

"The menu looks promising."

"More than promising."

"I like Italian. And I like people who know what they're talking about."

"I want mussels. And possibly calamari."

"I love calamari!"

Of course, after making the best-laid plans, we found out that due to our rather late dinner hour (and my complete inability to make a reservation for a place I didn't expect to be fully booked) I was not going to be able to get either mussels or calamari.

In the end we ended up with pescatori and moussaka, which were both most awesome.

"Let's have dessert." This was from me. (The Carb Monster had taken over my life a bit lately.)

"I don't know...oh fuck they have panna cotta."

"Their panna cotta is really good. I can't eat it because it would kill me, but it's good."

"Oh sweet, yes, they have affogato. I love affogato!"

"So let's get that," I encouraged.

"Do you like brownies?"

"I don't know; eating two desserts seems like a lot."

"But they are so reasonably priced."

"That's right; screw it, let's do it." We ended up with all three, which was worth it for the look on Quartermain's face as he put the panna cotta in the mouth.

"Are you gonna need a minute?"

He was nothing but smiles.

Afterward, after what was a short discussion, we hit Antique Bar and had martinis with cigars. We smoked and discussed how to end the evening. We finally decided that the best way to finish up would be a short trip to the Lonely Hearts, where it would be quiet and we would have a chance to sit, talk to Hyun, and listen to music. What we did not expect was walking in to find the bar overflowing with people. Hundreds and hundreds of new people. Where the hell did all these new people come from? Although the bar was packed, we were able to find a table in the back (in a corner of some note), and sat down for a little more smoking and drinking.

Quatermain excused himself to the loo and I settled in with my drink, watching the people. (It seemed like a thing to do.) As I was sitting, I suddenly found a very tall, very lanky boy standing in front of me. He was taller than even Quatermain—who matched my boy at around six-foot-something.

"Hi; I'm Joe, how are you?" He had a friendly, genial smile, and looked entirely vapid and honest, like he was no more than twelve years old. If it weren't for the height, he would have seemed far too young to drink. Quatermain joined us during our conversation and chatted him up for a second. As Joe walked away, Quatermain just looked at me.

"Well, he was a right tall fucker now, wasn't he?"

"He has in height what he likes in everything else."

"Too right. What are all these people doing here?"

"No idea. He's hagwon, not EPIK though."

The Lonely Hearts was alive with young twentysomethings, all of whom were clearly out of college for the first time; all of whom looked like poster boys and girls for the happy, teach-English-in-Korea life. It amused me to think about it. It also felt like half of them were from some part of England. I began to wonder if it was just me or if the Lonely Hearts had transformed into a dime pub in London.

"It's like we suddenly walked into a seedy London pub on a Saturday night," said Quatermain.

I smiled.

We continued to sit and sip and drink in the back corner as we were talking and watching the people. A band was announced, a couple set: girl with guitar and boy with bongos. All in all the music wasn't that badexcept for her inability to play anything but chords and the fact that she couldn't sing in key. We listened for a while, but as they took a break, we decided it was time to leave London and head back to Korea. We were greeted by chilly cold, brightly lit Daegu, and the promise of short cab rides home.

The dog was happy to see me, but demanded third dinner. I crawled sleepily into bed and ignored his pleas.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Like Apple Pie, Sexy Apple Pie



Quartermain liked to cook. In fact, I would say the way in which he described cooking took it from something one does for enjoyment and turned it into a sex act. Andlike so many of us in Koreahe did not have an oven.

It just so happened that I had an oven, and by some bizarre twist of fate I actually had two ovens, one of which was portable and I was not using. At some time around Christmas I offered the oven and it was accepted, and it only took about two weeks to actually remember to make sure the oven left the house with him.

After which, of course, I had to take him to the bakery goods supply shop to outfit him for cooking in the oven.

"I insist you keep me from spending too much money. Oh crap. What is that? I must have that! Oh, and that! Shiny. Fuck!"

Needless to say, since I was an enabler, I did not stop Quatermain from spending way too much money on baking goods. The consequence of which was now I had to see his goddamn pastry photos all the time.

"You know, I just made a French tart."

"That is not the kind of thing you can make and not share. All French tarts must be passed around."

"Are you demanding my tart?"

"Bring it to dinner and we'll all have some."

The verdict on the tart was that it was awesomely delicious. What I did not realize was that it was also a type of quichemaking it basically poison to me. Being adventurous anyway, I tried a bit of the crust. And had an asthma attack for the trouble. However, I declared it delicious.

"Haven't seen you in about a week. How about I come over tonight? I'll bring two flank steaks."

"Do so; the Irish will be pleased."

"That's right; you don't eat steak."

"Shouldn't stop you from coming over."

"All right, I'll bring pie."

Dammit.

No one seriously respected the fact that I was low carb. Or at least, there had been a lot of disregard over the last month. Bastards, all of those cake-slinging bastards, all of them. And so it was that I spent a dinner sitting around our smallish dining table with the Irish, Quatermain and an apple pie. Granted, my piece was not as large as the boys', but in the end I admit I ate the hell out of that fucking pie. I ate that pie so hard that the look on my face went from one of a simple dining experience to one where the watching boys probably would have preferred I had excused myself from the table to have such a private moment. I ate that pie like a starving person would eat a peanut. I ate that pie like eating pie was the culmination of the best sex ever conceived in the history of man. I got down on that pie.

This is what comes of giving British men ovens and pointing out the baking goods supply store.

It was worth it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Discussions over Food

"I'll make pie."


Dammit. 

This was what I got for making new friends. Especially very Dude-ish friends, which was truly, the only way to sum up the most recent entry into the mishmash circle of irregulars who moved in and out of my life. Truly this one had been met on Halloween, which was both so awesome and terrifying that I had no memory of a solid two-hour block of it. And on that fateful night, into my life entered, well, Allan Quatermain. I was fairly sure it was explained to me several times that this was not what he was going for when he set out to dress up for the evening, but I don't care. The British accent, the tall posture, and the dirty, battered leatherish hat did it for me. As far as I was concerned that costume was all Allan Quatermain. 

"That's not what I was going for, but I'll take it."

He entered with the most beautiful little Ladybug by his side, who later became known as Toy. 

"For you," she said as she stuck a little heart sticker to my face. She had many a little heart sticker to pass out on that night, and whether she had intended to or not, she had passed out quite a few heart stickers then, if only because she was the kind of presence that stuck to the heart, making a little blip there, a space for herself and not leaving. 

(Those little bits sticking in the heart are all the more poignant at the moment since she is so far away, a tragic separation I know all too well as I try not to dwell on my far-away boy, and one with just as close a finite deadline and date of return.)

Since Halloween, the door was opened and closed many times, bringing both the tall lanky one and the Toy in and out of daily interaction. Dinners, lunches parties, etc...etc...Such a long time had passed now. At a recent dinner when all our other plans fell through I announced to Allan Quatermain that I was going to write about him. 

"I'm thinking of calling you the Bolivian."

"Oh, it's one of those anonymous sort of things is it? Protect the guilty?"

"Not, really no. It's mostly that I'm going to write about you whether you like it or not, and since I don't ask permission, I figure I may as well give you some sort of protection."

"Fair enough, but why the Bolivian?"

"Seemed like a sort of thing." Honestly it was because I listened to so many stories about Bolivia, and honestly I would neither tire of them nor be dissuaded in the telling in any way. If anything, the talk of Bolivian sunrises on top of hostels and working in shady bars with a transient expat community made me want to go to Bolivia.

"Still doesn't seem quite right. Why don't you call me the Dude?" The fact that we share a love of The Big Lebowski was not lost on me. Neither was the fact that when I first watched The Big Lebowski he was all of ten.

Fair enough, actually, and it did suit him. However, even after discussion, he came into my life as Quatermain, and it stuck, so Quatermain he was.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bright Lights, Cold City

Friday night and I was at home alone.

I decided that would not stand; I would go out and get some sushi. I tried to rustle up friends on Facebook, but what I constantly seem to learn from trying to rustle up friends in Daegu is that most of the friends I have are on Facebook only and don’t actually exist in the real world.

After putting out a plea and getting no responses, I decided everyone could go straight to hell and I would go have a nice dinner of seafood anyway. Which I did, at the best little sushi place in all of Daegu. The Japanese chefs know me and love  me, so I got at least four free pieces of sushi, a sashimi mini plate,  and eel.

I love eel.

Afterward I still had no plans, so I decided to go have martinis at the best martini lounge in town, which satisfied my urge to say “Shaken not stirred.”

The entire time I sat at the bar, alone, a lone Korean business man sat very nearby. He looked up every minute or so and wondered about trying to start a conversation, but I was engrossed in writing, so he never got to the point of actually asking, which was fine with me.

As the hour grew later and tipped toward eleven, I decided it was time to pack it in and go home.

This time of year the streets of Daegu are cold and sharp and bright. Everywhere you look is a little too real, perhaps a consequence of the crisp cool air that magnifies everything it touches. The lights are burning, shining beacons that burn the eyes. As I approached a corner, I had a choice of turning into the thrumming noisy downtown and perhaps passing my beloved Lonely Hearts, or heading up and toward the back alleys, away from the noise and the alluring shininess of the Daegu nightlife.

I opted for the latter and wound my way through an alley I had not been down in quite some time. My mind was buzzing with just how muchand just how quicklythe city of Daegu had changed over the years. Bars that I have written of fondly have come and gone, as have restaurants and people. Places that were institutions were now under new facades and new operation. As my life kept changing and reinterpreting itself I wondered at the changes that were taking place. I was like this city that I loved, on this bright and cold night, feeling a little bit too real.

And inside of it, as I walked through cold streets and lonely back alleys, I began to feel less and less so.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dirty Beaches and the Complexity of Sound

They were young. And they were good, a lo-fi synth-pop group that was half English and half Korean. Their set reminded me of an old indie Korean band called Zzamm, a dreamy sort of set that I felt myself slipping into. The sound was good and they played the crowd well.

It sounded good, it sounded spacey, and given my position in front of the speakers the sounds went right into me. I had a nice zone out to the nice music. When I looked up, the room was more packed, the crowd well worked up. The Editor was smiling and jamming, the Kiterunner was taking pictures, and the Irish was asleep on the bar.

Worked for me.

I jammed out through the rest of the set, very much looking forward to Dirty Beaches. The sound of the Beaches is goodit’s indie low-fi, but listenable low-fi, unlike some I’ve been on the receiving end of. Mostly, I was there because of one very specific lovely song.



I waited and chatted to the Kiterunner through the stage setup, and chatted a bit with the Editor. She was beginning to worry about the state of our poor Irishman, who seemed very much to be dying at the bar.

“I think I might go and take him with me back to Itaewon so he can rest.”

“Okay, well let me know; I have the room key.”

It was at that point that Dirty Beaches started their set. They began with the first song on their most recent album, a slow, thrumming buildup to a wall of sound. It started with almost a wavering heartbeat of rhythm, then a tick-toc-tic of guitar as it drew you into it, which slowly became crashing waves of layers of sound.

At least, that was how it sounded on the album.

Sadly the basement bar venue did not really support this. At one point I could see [Artist name] raising his hand and forcefully indicating to someone to adjust the sound. I knew why he wanted it too, and it upset me. He was too good to be playing a venue better suited for some college indie band. He needed a stage and a sound engineer. I had to be honest, SuperColorSuper had truly let me down on this show. In all fairness, their Vinyl Williams show had been awesome, but the PS show had three opening acts and I couldn’t stay for PS because of the late hour (and Thursday-night schedule), so this was the second time they had let me down.

I stayed for the second song, but the sound did not improve.

“No, let’s go; this won’t do.”

The Irish looked particularly relieved and we all piled back out into the cold and caught a cab back to Itaweon, dropping off the crew at intervals until finally the Irish and I walked into a hotel room, said hello to a dog, and then both happily collapsed and passed out in our own rented beds. It was an adventure, and a worthwhile one, but a tiring one at that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where the Hell Are We Going to? Oh Well...

The cab was tight with all of us packed in. Between their Korean, the Editor and the Kiterunner got the driver to use the navigation to pull up the location of the show.

“It’s in a really weird neighborhood, I have no idea what kind of venue it’s going to be.”

“It’s cool. I’m sure it will be fine. I’ve been to SuperColorSuper shows before and they usually do all right,” I told the crowd.

“It’s probably going to be a dry show,” saidthe Editor.

Granted, with the free shots and the paid-for drinks and Moon Night, we were all doing pretty good booze wise. We were all also tired. While we might still be discussing what we were going to do when we grew up, it’s obvious that our age was getting to all of us. The minutes to midnight took more of a toll on us than the alcohol we had consumed.

The cab pulled up in front of a warehouse.

“This?”

I saw promotional signs.

“Yeah, look this has got to be it.” We piled out of the cab and walked down the stairs in the the obviously loud and packed basement of whatever factory. There are odd signs about everywhere for the bathrooms. The Kiterunner decided to brave a run for the bathroom while I got us all signed in. The Irish headed off with her, while the Editor headed in to grab a seat.

“Don’t you have CD’s?” asked a voice to the girl who was checking in the will call.

“I don’t think we got them.”

“They were in the bags. Do you have the bags?”

I looked up to see Dirty Beaches standing right there. The Kiterunner and the Irish were coming down the stairs just then. I pointed.

“That is who we are here to see.” He was obviously upset that his merch was not being set out and promoted; she seemed to be generally annoyed. And when I got into the venue I could see why. It was a dirty, dank, concrete subbasement of a warehouse that reminded me very much of my old art studio. It was also packed with people, smoking and drinking booze being poured at a makeshift bar. The second act was just setting up for their set.

We all pushed in and found a place to stand, crowding somehow around the bar for the set. The Irish got a beer, and while up for an adventure he looked visibly fatigued. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the Kiterunner making fast paper earplugs, and I realized I should probably join her in that (even though a Korean ENT once told me not to put things in my ears, which popped into my head at that moment). Before I had time to think about it, the Korean second act started.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Violet in Drag

Violet came over with a trayanother round, another free shot for me.

“Will you go?” she asked me.

“We will stay for the drag show and then go.”

“Oh, really, but timing?”

“It’s okay. Drag show, 11, yes?”

“Usually 11:30, but for you, 11.”

It was arranged then. The drag show would begin in ten minutes, we’d take in the drag show and then we would head out to the other venue for Dirty Beaches.

“Do you think that is a man?” asked the Irish.

The three of us just kind of gave him a funny look.

“What? She’s hot!”

That Violet was. A few minutes later, a drag queen entered the bar. She was a much more obvious drag queen, looking like a cross between Dolly Parton, Liberace, and Little Lord Fauntleroy.

“Now that is definitely a man, and not nearly as hot.”

We all giggled, then Violet gathered us for the drag show. “Come on, come on.” Our troupe took seats on the bench seat in front of the stage for the show. Violet did a very cute tease routine to some cute 50’s nonsense about being a pretty girl. We all clapped and whistled and she smiled as she moved through her act, polished and practiced. When the song finished we expected one more, but she came up to us instead and kissed me on the cheek.

“For you, now you go. Go.”

We thanked her, she issued hugs and kisses all around, and then we dashed back out into the night to get a cab for the other side of town.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle, What the Hell?

I disappeared to the bar and talked up the cute transgender bartender, who for lack of a better name I will call Violet, because she looked like a violet. She was wearing a cute, short-cut puffy prom dress, with impeccable hair and makeup.

“I like your style,” she said to me.

“I like yours.” I ordered a drink, and one for her. She giggled, said no, and then said yes and poured us two shots.

From her I got most of the story. The promotional crew for the show had not managed to seal whatever deal needed to be sealed with the bar, and so the show at the bar had been canceled. Instead Moon Night was going to have a drag show at 11:30. We were invited to stay. I got a free shot, bought another, and went back to the table with a round of drinks and explained.

“So what do we do?”

I thought about it.

“I really don’t know.”

“I say let’s go. We can at least try it,” suggested the Editor.

Kiterunner was less convinced. I looked to the Irish, who looked like he was about to fall asleep on the bar. Two days of running nonstop for meetings and social events had caught up with him.

“Do you want to come, or do you want to bail here and go the hotel?”

He paused but I could see a clear plan of bailing and going to the room forming.

“Bail.”

“All right, well, I’m in for it. What the hell, it will be an adventure.”

“Oh, I remember that all right,” said the Irish. “Fuck it, I’m in.”

My eyes twinkled.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Adevnture Begins

We found the Moon Night tucked into an alley where we would not have expected it. The first band was going on sometime between ten or eleven. The website was very unclear. We passed a foreigner in a T-shirt on the way in and I wondered if he was also going to the show. The bar was in the basement and the walls glowed a solid blue as we went down. Beyond the doors, to the inside, a black marble slab bar greeted us, set awash in the glint of light of a hundred bottles of alcohol on the shelves, and a mix of blue and violet lighting from around the bar.

The bar was, of course, totally empty.

“Do we have the right place?” the Editor asked.

“Yes; it said Moon Night all over everything.”

“Guys, I am not sure this is it,” from the Kiterunner.

“Are you here for show?” asked the barman.

There was a momentary wash of relief as I responded, “Yes, I should be on the will call.”

“Yeah, show cancelled, no show here.”

“Wait, what? No…That’s…”

At this point we were not the only foreigners piling into the bar staffed by a young bar man and a very cute-looking transgendered girl.

“What do you mean it’s cancelled? I have tickets,” The South African girl who had just come in shouted.

“I’m getting a beer.” The Irish went to sit in a corner booth. We followed  him in as he grabbed a table and we discussed what could possibly be going on. This required three out of the four of us to pull up our smart phones and go fishing on the web to try to find out what exactly was going on.

The Irish went off to chat up some of the other foreigners while the rest of us fussed about with our Korean and tried to get it sorted. The Kiterunner eventually pulled up phone numbers and made some calls, and between that and very recently updated information on the web we figured that the show has been moved.

To a location with exactly the same name.

On the other side of Seoul.

“What should we do?” Eyes turned to me.

“I’m gonna get a drink and talk to the bar and find out what happened.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Still Hungry, Still Wandering

Adventures, indeed. The bar was packed, answering before we could even get in that it was in fact a rugby night. The Editor knew the owner, so a few pleasantries and many apologies were offeredincluding the possibility of kicking some people out of seatsbut we decided against that and filed back into the cold street.

“So?”

The Editor was thinking; she knew Itaewon a bit more than the rest of us.

“I got a place. It’s not too far, but I know they won’t be really busy.”

Not really busy appealed, and so we all trailed along after her as she walked through the streets and led us on our way. I chitchatted with her as the Irish talked to the Kiterunner. Mostly our mouths were running to keep us from thinking about how cold we were, as it was bitterly cold and we didn’t want to think about it. A hop, skip, and ten-minute walk later and we were headed up to the second-floor dart bar.

“The food is a little hit or miss, but they have booze and it’s warm.”

“This is fine,” we practically said in unison as she introduced us to the bar. We would do well here. We walked into the brightly lit bar and right into the middle of a Journey marathon.

“I love Journey!” from the Irish as he began to sing and dancealong with occasionally touching himself. Right.

We ordered a variety of food, listened to the 80’s music selection that was being played, and talked. We discussed more politics, looked forward a little to the future, speculated what would happen, and what we would all do. There was something magical about sitting around with a group of people in their thirties and forties and pondering the question of what we would all do with our lives. At some point, long ago, we gave up ever finding out when we would become adults. We still wanted to know what we would do when we grew up.

The hours ticked away and it was getting closer to showtime for Dirty Beaches.

“Should we go?” I asked the Editor.

“Now would be good. It’s not too far, but if we go now we can get good seats.”

We bundled up and chased after her into the cold, one more time, down the narrow back alleys of Itaewon.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boobs for Good

“What do we want for dinner?”

“You are the one with the impossible diet.”

“I’m being flexible tonight,” I responded.

“Margaritaville?” the Kiterunner suggested.

“I’d rather use my breasts for the power of good not evil,” I shot back. I had a small problem with the Ville ever since one of the waiters fell in love with me. While it had advantages ( like never having to worry about getting a seat) the disadvantage was me feeling a bit like I was leading the poor man on.

“Other ideas?”

“French?” From the Editor.

“Ate there last night.” The Boy and I had eaten a fancy French dinner. I enjoyed it; he was mostly amused because I enjoyed spending way too much money on really good food.

“The Salad bar?” I tossed back. The Editor had introduced me to the Salad bar and I had become a fan of their very tasty chicken salads.

“Does anyone know if there is a rugby game tonight? If there is it will be full.”

We all looked at the Irish.

“Don’t look at me, I have no idea. I didn’t even know it was rugby season.”

“You are a discredit to your people,” I piped in.

“I try,” he responded, all charm.

“Well, let’s try it anyway, it will be an adventure.” I remember that line. Somehow it always felt like famous last words, but we ponied up and began the bitter cold walk through the streets of Itaewon toward the Salad bar.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Leaving and Shaking

Putting the Boy on the plane was sad.

So I had tried to schedule some things to do that would make me less sad. One of those was getting a room for two nights and planning to meet the Irish in Itaewon later.  He was in meetings all day and figured he could stay overnight in Seoul.

This worked for me too, and since the room had two beds it was even easier. A quick phone call later and the Kiterunner was in for a Saturday meetup. Then there was the Editor, on my radar for a while but new to my social scene; she would join the melee. Mostly, she was meeting the Irish, and I was just a happy addition.

Then I found out that Dirty Beaches were coming to Seoul. I liked the band, a little low-fi punk outfit out of Montreal with an all right sound, and they wouldas it turned outbe playing in Seoul that night. Seemed like a good bet. More emails all around and before I knew it I had four people signed up for a night of dinner, drinking, and concert-going. I worried a touch about the Irish as the music was not his particular flavor, but I figured if he didn’t mind coming out then why not?

The Boy on the plane, a knock on my door, halfway through a drudgingly boring report, a dog dropped off, plans to meet later, a nap. The nap was necessary, I had not slept the night before and without sleep I was fairly certain I would not make it to the show. I woke around five and decided to go have a drink and do some more work while I waited for the crew to meet up.

Not two minutes after sitting down in a bar did my phone ring.

“Where are you?” the Irish asked.

“Having wine. Where are you?”

“At the room.”

“Oh, dude, I just left.”

“I’ll come to you.” I did my best to explain where I was sitting, which was not a place where I intended to eat as the food was as expensive as the booze. Mostly I just wanted the wine and a nice environment. However that plan got shortly laid to rest when within a few minutes of my quiet glass of wine alone, I was surrounded by the entire motley crew.

The night began with politics. I knew it would and I tried to be patient through the politics. I did not drink a second glass of wine, although I considered it. Instead I waited for the politics to end, piping in when I was interested enough to say something, but mostly letting the Irish deal with the whole thing. Eventually we got hungry from all the talking and split a small salad four ways. Enough to wet the appetites and convince us to move.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Suit is the Thing

I kicked the Boy out of bed at six a.m. for the flight, even though he didn't get to bed until three. The point being that there would be one hopefully very tired and sleepy man on a plane who could basically just sleep through the flight until landing back in Chicago.

For the flight, one suit had been purchased. Granted, the suit purchase was also because a suit was needed in general. Nice black suit, good fit, looked fine. I snapped several pictures of the Boy in the suit.

"Oh yes, that is very much either a statesmen or used-car dealer. I can't decide."

He was not amused. When he sat down to put on his socks he complained,  "And now it's too tight."

"Babe, you have to unbutton your jacket before you sit down."

"Or the jacket could just be the right size and I wouldn't have to unbutton it."

"No, no, it's a thing. You have to learn to do it; here, watch. See, shake my hand; now use your left hand to casually unbutton your jacket so you can smoothly sit down. It will look like magic."

He paused.

"What if I unbutton my pants instead?"

"That will be less magical."

I stood across from the turnstile until his elevator to the train disappeared. I didn't want to do anything else that day. 

Packing

Packing.


The dog was not amused by all the packing. He sat in a sunbeam and watched as the Boy and I filled suitcases and tried to figure out what went where. 

Time for leaving. I was upset, but this is how it is for the moment and I had no choice. 

Things kept getting tossed about with desperate attempts to find all the things that needed to be found.

He stumbled across a G-string.

“Whose is this?”

“Uh...”

“Is it yours?”

“Actually, it is not mine." That G-string is part one of many of the unanswered questions about female clothing that ends up in my room.

“So you don’t know whose cut-up bra that is in the corner?”

“Uh…actually I do know where that come from.”

“And these?”

“Maybe it is better you not ask.”

He smiled. He kissed me. He held my head in his hands. He told me he loved me. And I know he does. 

A few more months and we would be back in the same space, one way or another.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Without Valentines

I went out to dinner the night before Valentines.

The night of I stayed in and made dinner for the two men that I held dear. Chicken Parmesan with a desert of whipped cream, blueberries, and strawberries.

Afterward we sat and watched Iron Man, as my love had never seen it, and it seemed like a good idea. I had wine and codeine to help with the migraine headache; the Irish had the better part of a case of beer.

The next morning I decided to make pancakes, which required a great deal of moving about in the kitchen.

"Morning," I heard from around the corner.

I walked into the Irish's room. "How did you sleep, love?"

"I think I drank too much."

"Why is that?"

"I woke up at 3 a.m. and had to vomit."

"Yeah, that's not good. I made pancakes."

"No."

And so it went. I sat on his bed in the morning light and I poured out caring for him. I was full of caring that morning, caring for the love who was about to leave, caring for my flatmate who I loved dearly, caring for a girl I wanted to spoil, caring, and caring...

I felt so alone in my outpouring of care. There were so few people in my life, but all those that were there, I cared for fiercely. The rest were puffs on the horizon of barely there. Sometimes I was worried that the lack of people meant a sort of loss that I could not recover from.

I have never been easy to be friends with.

I miss all my friends.

"I need to brush my teeth."

"You go to that. Let me know if I can help."

"I will."

And I realized that what I wanted most of all was to be useful to someone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Conversations Over Hoity-Toity Food

The Boy took me to a hoity-toity dinner the day before Valentine's day, because really, who actually wants to have dinner on Valentine's day?

We got there and he played with the little forks and spoons and all the assorted knickknacks of a fancy dinner.

"I'm pretty sure I don't need five forks."

"They are for the different courses."

"You know if you just mixed them all together you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble."

"Does it smell like grape juice?"

"It smells like very good wine."

"You mean very bad grape juice that has gone off."

"No, I mean it has aged just right and it smells wonderful."

"You know, there is something wrong with this dish."

"Why is that?"

"It is a salad."

"Yes, it's good for you."

"It appears to have fruit in it."

"Fruit is good for you, too."

"Salads should not have fruit. It tricks people into thinking a salad is food."

"Salads are food."

"They are bringing the ice cream a little early, don't you think?"

"That's not ice cream, that's sherbert. It's a palate cleanser."

"Wouldn't it be faster to just bring soap and water? That will get your palate and your plate clean."

"..."

I love my boy. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Running and Meeting and Dodging

Today I got to have a very unpleasant conversation after a day of being in meetings all day without food. This was becoming a trend and not one that I was overly fond of. The good news was that thanks to my low-carb diet I didn't actually get many hunger pangs, although my stomach did toil and trouble. The bad news was that not knowing I was hungry kept me from eating, which truly made my mood foul as the day wore on.

"I haven't eaten today."

"That's not good," he said to me.

"Yeah, I think..." I trailed off. I did this several times during the conversation. My brain felt like mush, and with the lack of food and nutrients I felt like I couldn't think. The world was a stupid fog. All I had was a bottle of water in my pocket.

"I need to eat something."

"How about duck?"

"Can't wait, food, I'll think of something."

I hung up, I liked the duck restaurant, and the one he recommended was a good one, but like many Korean-style barbecue places, you had to cook your own food; in the state of mind that I was in I was fairly sure that I could not wait for the duck to cook. Then I had an idea.

"Okay, my train gets in at 18:39, what about at 18:20 you go to the duck place and order food?"

"And then it will be cooking by the time you get there."

"Yes."

"Got it."

The plan almost worked out. I ran across four lanes of traffic as I neared the duck place to find one boy, one Irishman, and one empty grill.

"She's bringing it out now."

"Dammit."

I ate some salad and waited. When the magical try of raw duck did come it was practically dumped on the grill all at once. I waited.

It cooked.

Never was I so happy to know that food was done, but as soon as I was fairly sure that I would not get food poisoning from raw duck, I was all in. And it was, actually, pretty awesome.

I needed to stop having eight-hour meetings without food.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Past, the Present, the Future

I felt haunted by ghosts of a dozen past, present, and future lives, all at the same moment. There were all the ghosts of lives before...so many lives....some of them so long and dead and buried that to bring them up was to resurrect a past I didn't want to experience. They haunted me but they were mostly faded.

Then there were the ghosts of the present. The niggling little doubts of the last two or three years, the things that happened here and there that lacked closure. The life I have had and who I have been in the most recent time. Wondering what that meant and where it would lead, and I realized that closure didn't exist the way I wanted it to, and never will. Those ghost haunted me, but here was little to control.

Then there was the future. There were so many futures that I felt practically spread thin contemplating all of them. There were futures in Korea and futures that were not. There were other countries, there were single countries. New faces, old faces, new beds, old beds, new friends, new enemies, making new ghosts, creating new realities, and all of it was a foggy web of possibility. I pulled one thread and they all came closer. I let one thread go, and it tripped another wire.

Tonight I had dinner with my love and we discussed the potentialities.

"In the end it is all going to come down to you."

He said this to me and looked at me and I knew he was right. In the end I was the driving factor. I will make the decision and see what path I end up on. I was not sure which thread I would pull or how it would unwind. Where would it lead me?

Backward?

Forward?

Sideways?

Some days I woke up and wondered if I didn't need a ghost of a parallel dimension to haunt me and get me off my ass moving in an entirely wrong direction. I thought I could live with that as well. Wrong directions brought their's own challenges.

I was in the middle of all of it, the past, the present and the future and I simply didn't know where any of it would lead.

Best not to think about it.

I poured another glass of wine.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Say Hey Pokeamon Bad You Say Yo

That's me horribly butchering the Korean language. It's New Year in Korea, or Chinese New Year if you will, and everyone had closed up shop and was off celebrating dead ancestors. I spent the day thinking about a music festival I couldn't go to, a confrontation I didn't want to have Tuesday, and a stomachache that needed nursing.

What follows is why I wanted to go to Sasquatch.



That is all.

The upside of today was a boy taking care of me. I love that man.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Late Night Phone Calls

I had been on the couch most of the day with my love. Granted we left the house to eat, stop two being the restaurant I couldn't get into last Tuesday. We had good food. Spent the rest of the evening on the couch, which seemed like the best possible way to spend an evening.

I had wine, a boy, a dog, and a very good television show to watch forever and ever and ever. It was very domestic, actually. Although it was not really late or early; it was around midnight and I was getting ready to go to bed when my phone lit up.

I looked at the screen.

Hyunshick.

You had to wonder what it said about your life when your bartender called you at midnight on a Saturday. Were people worried about my mental health? Or my liver? Or both?

"Hi Hyun, what's up?"

"Sara, where are you?"

"I'm at home."

"Why?"

I didn't really know how to answer that question.

"What's up, Hyun?"

"Do you know about the Sasquatch?"

"The big hairy American monster that lives in the woods, or the music festival?"

"Music festival."

"Yeah, but I probably can't go this year." Two years ago I had tickets for Sasquatch that I had to sell because I was taking a job in New York. The job in New York was awesome and I had no regrets, but I was upset at not making the festival.

"Yeah, I want to go; can you get me a ticket?"

"When do they go on sale?"

"Like tonight, but I can't get a ticket. The lineup is amazing!"

"Okay Hyun, I'll look into it in the morning."

At that, I hung up and promptly went and passed out. I was up past my bedtime anyway. And like a diligent barfly I woke up the next morning and looked into tickets for the show. Then I tried to call Hyun for about five hours, but like a good bartender he didn't get up until four or five in the afternoon.

"Hey Sara, what's up! Did you get the tickets?"

"I looked into it."

"And..."

I explained the situation which was basically that he needed to buy the ticket and get international will call, but the way they were doing it you had to present a photo ID and the credit card of purchase to get a will-call ticket, so I couldn't buy it.

"Damn, but how did you get in?"

Right. The presale for the show was locked unless you had a password. I had a password.

"Here is the password."

"Wow, that is amazing; you should go."

"I'll look at the lineup and let you know."

I never should have looked at the lineup. Now I wanted to go more than anything in the world, but with the way things were going to go down over the next few days it was probably out. We shall see.

I really wanted to go.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Camera Time

I needed a new camera. I needed to stop debating this and just get off of it and buy one. The problem was my stupid phone. The stupid phone made it far too easy to just decide that I didn't need a new camera, but the phone was not really adequate for my picture-taking needs.

I was going through tons and tons and tons of old photos and realizeed that since my old Cybershot died an untimely death in 2010 I had taken hardly any pictures at all really. I would take them with my phone, but it was not the same kind of day-to-day tracking I used to do with my camera. I was not nearly as happy with the resulting photos, either, and I just desperately wanted to be able to take pictures on something that was not my phone.

I remembered my first crappy phone camera. It took me forever to be able to get pictures off the damn thing, but once I had figured out how to download through the Bluetooth I managed to get quite a few of them off. However, the quality was always a bit grainy, and they were never great pictures, just good pictures for being on the run.

That was back in, what, 2003? People were so impressed with the iPhone came out because it would be this magic box that played music and took pictures and be connected to the internet. The iPhone came out in 2008 and it was the next big thing. I had a phone that could do all of that roughly five years earlier, and without half the hassle. As it was, the surge in innovative technology had at once both drastically increased my dependence on technological devices (my phone) and reduced my dependence (no more ebook reader, camera, or MP3 player; all hail the phone). Having a smartphone replace so many other independent items had its perks, but the drawbacks were momentous at the same time.

I seemed to get less done. I took part in less, I engaged in less. I was always connected but I felt so disjointed. The phone was fascinating in it's ability to make me efficient but I missed out on so much more. I just never seemed to find myself really being a part of the world around me. The phone had become the focus and central core of my waking day. Constantly in touch.

It was time to turn off, turn out, and turn away, I thought. To re-clutter my life with digital doodads that made me happy and gave me a better sense of engagement in reality. I wanted a new camera.

I wanted a new MP3 player, and ebook, and other things.

Consume.

Consume.

Consume.

I just missed the act of choosing, perhaps. It was not all that much consumerism; while I liked having things, mostly I just missed the act of stopping and focusing on just one thing. The phone distracted me; it was too easy to take a picture and then instantly switch over to log in to Facebook and post said picture.

I needed a new camera. I started taking recommendations.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Staying or Going or Staying

The last few days had been nothing but the conversation that I have mostly wanted to avoid but couldn't avoid any longer.

Do I stay or do I go?

Mostly this had to do with Korea; it also had to do with opening my own business and whether or not I wanted to stay in the business I was in. Mostly I wanted to keep doing what I was doing, but maybe I would be happier doing it elsewhere. At the same time it was not a decision that I alone could make. It's one I would make in conjunction with the Boy and since the boy was on the ground there had been many a discussion.

It was looking more and more like the odds were in favor of expanding the roots and settling further into Korea. This had pros and cons. The pros were that I at least knew what I was doing here. The cons were that, well, everyone and their monkey in the States would throw a harangue at me.

(You people all need to visit me, anyway.)

One way or another decisions were going to be made.

It was funny to think about it, some eleven years later. I knew a lot of people who had made a life here, and to be sure I could make a worse life somewhere else. I liked Korea, I liked the work I was doing, and I had a pretty good balance of weird here. Could I make it work out? That was the question.

The business itself, that would have to change. Things could not continue the way they were now with me ending up happy in the end. Someone was going to be made unhappy, but that someone would most certainly not be me. In the meantime I would continue to explore additional options, not the least of which was a career switch that would put my educational interests in more of a corporate setting. I was entertaining the idea, but was not sure if it would be the right thing for me.

Who could know?

If you had asked me in 2002, after I got off the plane, if I would still be in Korea in 11 years, I'd have told you no. If you asked me right now, I would tell you no, but we would see how long that held to be true.

Staying...

Going...

Staying....

Going...

My mind was spinning back and forth on it. I had no decision, no made-up mind. It was all thinking, and playing, and finding ways to make things work.

There were worse countries to live in.

There were worse lives than mine.

At least the wine was good here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Being in Korea almost eleven years I have seen a lot of things come and go in Korea; however, some things I generally expect to stay the same. I figured I could always count on a DVD bang. The DVD bang, the classic Korean go-to place with a big screen, projection TV, and convenient selection of movies that start when you want them to start for a reasonable cost. Also, it was the cheap, easy way to rent a two-hour room, which was a favorite of college students who needed a place to get it on for two hours.

They keep the places clean and they have good sound systems, so even with the potential for weird, it was a nice way to experience a movie when you needed to. The goal was to go to dinner, and then go to a DVD bang to watch the final installment of the Harry Potter movie series. I had seen it, but a certain boy had not seen it. I managed to get a copy of us to watch at the house, but, considering how awesomely epic the last movie is, going out to see it seemed like a nice thing.

After dinner, I walked confidently into downtown to the DVD bang that I frequently walked by on the way to my regular coffee place. Then we walked in: signs where there, Harry Potter, all things pointed to yes. And then...

You know your Korean is getting better when...

"That sign says this is not a DVD bang," I said to the Boy.

"Yep; that sign says game center."

"Crap."

"Where do we go?"

"I've got no idea. I'm sure we can find another one pretty easily."

That is what I thought. It used to be in Korea you couldn't throw a cup of coffee without hitting a DVD bang (keep in mind there are about five thousand coffee shops in Korea, so that makes sense). Suddenly, on a Tuesday night in the middle of downtown Daegu, I could not find a DVD bang. That seemed not right.

So I asked a Korean, because that seemed like the right thing to do. She wasn't sure either.

Cold, raining, lack of DVD bang and Harry Potter delay.

We walked about eight blocks in the rain before we finally found a DVD bang. It was smaller than I had remembered, but still had a big screen and comfortable couch. After some deep searching we even found a copy of the Harry Potter movie in question.

It was nice; it reminded me of my first year in Korea, but it also made me appreciate how fast traditions change. Where would I go to enjoy a movie in my own private theater? Where would the college students go to get it on...?

I sometimes tire of changing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Adventures in Eating

The thing about being low carb was I really had to plan all the time for eating out anywhere. However, the Boy (currently in country) wanted to go out for dinner, which I agreed to. I was happy to not have to cook, but annoyed at being put on the spot for picking a restaurant. After thinking about it all day I decided on the new Italian place downtown. I worked out like a madwomen and then engaged in heading out.

We packed into the cab, talked about the varying decisions I am making in my career and finally arrived at the restaurant. Since the low-carb thing I'd gotten very picky about where I went. As a result, I knew all the chefs really well and they all had special dishes just for me. It worked, it also usually resulted in certain free things and lots of happy treatment. Of course, a core requirement was that wherever I went I had to have good wine.

The smell of the restaurant as we walked in was awesome. And it was busy. Really busy. Annoyingly busy. It is a small place. It was very busy.

Then my favorite waitress saw me.

"Hello! Oh...oh no."

This did not bode well.

"How many?"

"Just the two of us."

"Oh no."

"Really?"

"We have a party....and there are five people..." There was a moment of happiness and sadness. The happiness was that on a Tuesday night the place was hopping busy. The sadness was that the place was fast being discovered which meant it was going to get harder and harder to get a table.

"How long do you think?"

She just started smiling and shaking her head. This did not bode well. So we ended up walking out and down the street to the backup restaurant.

"Is it any good?" he asked me.

"I don't know; I don't want to go there."

"Why not? You said it was your second choice."

"It was, but also, I haven't been there so I automatically hate it."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"It does to me."

We entered the much larger and much emptier place. I didn't know the menu, and that was the primary reason for my unhappiness; however, the house wine was a nice French number, so I decided I could manage. Until, of course, the first thing I decided to order on the menu is not available.

I thought.

I thought some more.

After a while I ordered two things and figured I'd just have to deal with the fact that it would be a bit carb heavy. The food was fine, the wine did make it okay, and in the end it was not an entire loss to the evening. And, while annoying, I did at least find one more restaurant that I could sort-of eat at when I couldn't get into my favorite one.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Guitar Pick a Fight

I loved stomping on some one to get a guitar pick at a punk show. And stomp I did. I had been making hot fangirl googly eyes with the guitarist all night and he lobbed it right at me. But then this Korean girl tried to push me over to get it.

Needless to say, I won.


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Cultures Collide

I was still thinking about Patti Smith, and really, why shouldn't I be? One of my favorite moments from the show was during the encore. The show, while not super-well attended, was fairly full. Most of the audience was, surprisingly, younger Koreans. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that most of the young Koreans knew the lyrics to every single Patti Smith song, and in some cases better than I did.

Most of the set list was from three albums, Outside and Banga, with one or two of the more popular tracks from Horses. It had been confirmed by the Kiterunner that those were pretty much the only Patti Smith albums you could get in Korea. This was learned after a day she spent running around Seoul trying to find Patti Smith albums in the hope of getting them signed. Sadly she could only find the three, and in the end gave up.

The new album, Banga, was an interesting, more mellow collection of songs exploring spirituality, how we make our decisions, how we make choices, and the power we have to create change if we considered it. There was a lot about our freedom and how we inspire change between her songs. The title track, "Banga," was, as Patti put it, about a dog.


"Banga" was the first song in the encore, and since it came on the heels of "Gloria," we were all pretty excited and keyed up. In the song when she finally moved into the dog barking and howling it took very little for her to get the rest of the audience barking with her.

I barked, the kids next to me barked, the young American teenagers with their older rocker parents barked, and then I realized that I was hearing something really strange in the audience. Behind me, from young Korean rockers who had come out to sing along with Patti Smith were all barking, but they were barking in Korean.

You see, in Korean, a dog says myung myung. When compared with the more visceral animal barking from the handful of foreigners in the crowd in was highly amusing and really strange. It went on for a minute, until suddenly the entire crowd switched over in an instant and starting woofing up a storm in a more resoundingly real-world dog barking. The dog barking worked beautifully as a full-throttled gateway into "Rock n Roll Nigger", so I heartily approved.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Patti Smith

So far, my New Year's resolution to write everydayno matter whatis off with a whimper, not a bang. Don't worry, I shall unfuck that soon, as I have much to write and much to fill in, and I will make up for it. It's been a rough January and there is more coming up that I will need to talk about and discuss and let out.

I still need to finish a few bits and pieces from last year and I will.

But for tonight, I have my computer, and a glass of wine, and I have had a bit of sweet (although the low carbing is still going strong) and I am now reflecting on the beauty and wonderousness that is Patti Smith.



I tried to explain to the Boy how happy I was that she finished with "Rock n Roll Nigger," but the Boy did not quite understand why this would please me as much as it did.

"Wouldn't that be offensive?"

I tried to explain it.

"That's the point. That's the point. The point, that we are all outsiders. That as soon as you realize that there is something else, something other, as soon as you step away from that comfortable, happy cocoon we call reality, you are outside of it."

"Still seems kind of offensive."


Patti Smith, at 67, still commanded the stage. She was a powerhouse with her band. She was very much, now, the godmother of punk, and she embodied it. In her ratty blazer, white T-shirt,ed vest, and knit cap, her hair a messy wave, her voice was cutting, as raw as ever. She was everything I want to be when I was 67.

She spoke between songs, little vignettes, reminders of where the music came from, or a tie-in of where the music began, as she was singing off the new album.  She talked about singing at CGBG in the 70's, taking a smoke break out back and waiting for aliens. She sang a song to Amy Winehouse, which was both as fleeting and powerful as the career wasted by a woman who just couldn't get beyond herself.


And she talked to us. She asked us to remember that we were free; the bullets, and bombs, and politics were bullshit. That we were capable of changing the world. Part of me wanted to think it was an act, it was just for show, something, a thing, that was not real, and then, after singing one of the more poignant songs from Outside, her second guitarist came up and held her as she wept on stage in front of all of us, cryingstill clearly believing and clearly moved, passionate about her message.

Of the shows that I have seen, only Nina could claim to have outdone it.

I was moved.

I'm glad I went.

At the end of the show, the guitarist threw a pick in my direction, and with a foot-stomp I claimed it, although the Korean girl trying to pry my foot up off the floor wanted to argue. I didn't budge until the Kiterunnerwho had gone to see the show with mestood by my side and grabbed the thin chip as we made our escape.

"Where do you think she will go? Let's go find her."

The venue was sure, and we had no way of knowing if she had smuggled out in the thirty minutes it had taken us to get outside, or if she was still waiting for the pack down. Seoul had grown exceptionally cold, so we decided in the end to grab a taxi and head back for a drink.

Still feeling rock and roll, we ran after the first cab we saw, pissing off a great number of Koreans, but got the taxi nonetheless.

"I got rolled like three times tonight. Security was up in my face the whole time."

"What do you think that was all about?" I asked.

"Patti fucking Smith, man! We are all outside!!! RockinrollNigga!"