Saturday, November 28, 2015

Commuters

My walk to work can sometimes be very strange. There was recently an article about the main streets I have to walk through to get to my train station, which, more specifically include 125th street and the walk between 1st and Lexington Ave. It’s not the worst walk in the world, being just at about a mile from my place, but the stretch between 2nd and Lexington on 125th has been offputting for about a year now.

It noticed one night when I was walking home, people who were just entirely spaced out on the street. I noticed one guy who was standing, drooling and half asleep. My first thinking was that this must be heroin, as that is what it looked like to me. Apparently it’s not heroin, per say, though that is also a possibility in this area. It’s more likely that it is people using some sort of synthetic pot that has become very popular lately with the cheap drug crowd. It’s cheap, and like meth can be mixed from household chemicals. Good times.

This means that sometimes on my walk to work I see really strange things. Sometimes these things are disturbing, like the zombie people falling off park benches, lying against the sidewalk, all fucked out of their mind on some messed up drug. It tries my compassion to walk by this every day, but I have the awareness that there really is nothing I can do, which is an important knowing. There comes a point where one has to realize that there aren’t words, nothing to say, nothing to do, to make things better or improve another person’s life. You just have to keep walking.

And so I do. I keep walking no matter what I see. There are nights when it’s too much to walk and I might skip it and take a cab, but most of the time I walk. I walk right through it, knowing what I’m signing up for as I navigate the streets and the alleys.

On my walk this morning I come towards the corner of 2nd and 125th street, where I turn to head towards the train I need to catch. As I am approaching, I see a dollar bill stuck on the edge of the sidewalk, somehow on the curb but not being blown away. The sort of things you can’t avoid, I walk up to it and pick up the dollar, thinking to myself I don’t need it.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a homeless man walking towards me, he is shuffling, moving slow. I think he may have seen the dollar. The reality is that of the two of us, he is more need of the money. I turn towards him, extending my hand, the dollar in my outstretched fingers. He smiles, toothless at me, and reaches out his hand to take the dollar. Clearly grateful for the kindness. As he reaches towards me he grasps the dollar in his knuckles, his fingers stopping at the knuckles making his hand look like a paw. He nods his head at me and shuffles on.

I turn back to my walk. It’s getting colder in New York and as I walk I wonder about this man, how he lost his fingers and teeth, how he came to live on the streets. I wonder how he will get through winter.

I wonder if I will see him again on my early morning walk to work on some future state.

My feet keep pounding the sidewalk, I keep walking through the oddity of it all, watching the mysteries that are unfolded before me, leaving me only occasionally with answer, but always with more questions and more mysteries to be explored.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Airport Showers


Detroit was fun. Somehow, with all the flying that I do, I had managed to earn a medallion, which let me tell you, makes flying a LOT of fun. I also get special privileges for lounges. The last time I had a layover in Detroit it had been very painful. There is not a lot to do, not a lot of good places to eat, and basically I spent about three hours being bored. I skipped using the lounge privileges, even though I had them. This time, I was going to do that differently.

I looked up the lounges and realized there was one that included a shower and suddenly that seemed like a really good idea. I like showers and for some reason on my flight back I was sitting next to two people that basically never needed to move. This is all well and good, but my bladder was dying most of the flight and I didn’t want to touch myself anymore that feeling of being “unclean” was everywhere.

Having successfully navigated through security and the immigration, I found the location of the lounge and started walking that way. Lucky for me, this particular lounge was right at the end of the corridor that connected the international arrivals to the main airport. Perfect.

I went in and stated my request and was directed upstairs to talk to someone about getting a shower. The very nice lady behind the counter upstairs was only too happy to help me and before you knew it I had some luxury shower products and a nicely assorted private room to shower in.

I showered at the airport. It was glorious.

Some free booze and a little time waiting later and I was back in New York city, into the loving paws of a small dog and with an entire day off to recover from my trip.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finally! And Finally.

Having had my genius plan thwarted I went back down the street until I found an ajoshi running a newsstand and asked him in absolute Korean desperation to help me find Dongdaemun shijang. He pointed back the way I came and I almost wanted to scream. Instead I explained to him in what was becoming increasingly choppy Korean that I had already done that and I was totally lost and could you just PLEASE write directions for a tax and I will take a taxi.

He sort of raised an eyebrow like I’d lost my mind, but after buying a water and a few more minutes of cajoling he wrote directions on a sheet of paper. I walked to the next cross street, handed it to the taxi driver and told him that I know it looks stupid, but I’d pay him 5,000 won no matter what the fare. He just shrugged and finally, four minutes later I was climbing out of a cab at my destination. My heart was still racing, a part of my was rage angry, but after climbing up the steps, finding and escalator and going up, up, up into a fabric store that spans nearly three miles I felt much better.

Four hours, and about four hundred dollars later, I found my way out again. My backpack was full of fabric, I felt much better and in general a sense of being happy that I got to come to Korea if nothing else for this exact thing. This was what I wanted, and I was happy about it.

I walked from the fabric market towards the shopping mall that is Miglaore and had a quick snack of street chicken from a cartbar before finding a coffee shop to enjoy a coffee. Thinking about lunch I realized that I had no earthly idea how to get back to my hotel, but decided that with an internet connection I could probably fix that, so I grabbed a coffee and sat to bask in the free wifi. As I was trying to get online, I pulled out the card to my hotel, thinking it might have an address that I could use to get back to my hotel, and much to my surprise and happiness the card did one better with a map to the hotel being printed right there on the back.

Perfect.

I finished my coffee, carted my wares back to my room and spent the rest of my day chilling before the three days of wall to wall working would hit me. The work was work, I like my job so it was not so bad. Having no free time to myself sucked, but the entire trip was over so quickly that it was hard to lament it for long. Roughly 72 hours later I was back on a 15 hour flight and landing in Detroit before heading to New York.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Yes! No. Dammit.

I was near some sort of tourist attraction, the people’s park or some such and what I did see, to my surprise was a map. So, being ever the bold and undeterred tourist, I went to the map. I stood in front of the map determined to read the map. The map was in English and Korea which made it a bit easier to figure out. The buildings all jumped out and I recognized the names and the large skyscrapers in front of me. Good, I knew where I was. On the map as big as day was the market. Good, I knew where that was. It was just a simple matter of following the map until I got to where I was going. I figured that would be no problem.

With all the pep in the step that a hobbit might take into wandering a long road, I set out with purpose to find the market. I started walking in the direction indicated by the map. I crossed the large five lane highway to get to where I was going. Yes, I was going to find it.


This euphoria lasted for only a five more minutes when I realized I not only had not found it, but that I was now completely not sure where I was except that according to that map I should have been there by now. Fuck.

It’s 9 a.m. in Seoul Korea, the Koreans are sleeping, only the early morning ajoshis are at, and an ajjuma or two looking for cardboard. I don’t know where I am, I have not net signal, and I’m very turned around. Good times.

On the backstreets I stopped one of the cardboard collecting ajjumas and asked her if she knew where Dongdaemun-shjang was. She looked at me like I was stupid. This was not a good sign. Then she started saying something about it being on the other side of a hotel and pointing back the way I came. I figured okay and headed back towards the main street. I didn’t see a hotel. I did see a subway station. I knew that I was looking for Dongdaemun exit 8, so I headed into the subway and started walking towards exit 8. At this point I felt very smug with myself. Of course, the subway. Why hadn’t I thought of that first!

After walking what was at least a mile I found exit 8 and climbed to the top. Only to find that I was no closer to finding where I wanted to go, and if anything, I was even further away. The subway sign at the top of the stairs contained a map, and the map indicated that what I really wanted was exit number 8, which I happened to be standing in front of. Of course, this was a different exit 8, like an 8A, because of course.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

But, hey, while in Korea

I woke up on Wednesday morning, did all the work that I had to do that morning, and then suited up to leave the little officetel I was staying in. The officetel came with Korean style buffet breakfast so I indulged in kim-chi and muyguk and coffee and kim before heading out to find a cab and work my way over to Dongdaemun. I had looked up where to go online, since again NOT Daegu, I was not going to be able to direct my cab out of a paper bag.

Down the street from the officetel I landed a decent coffee, found an ajoshi, and told here where I needed to go.

“Yeah, sunsangnim, Dongdaemun jiachil yuk, pal bun, jusayeo.”

“Pal bun?”

“Nah, pal bun?”

“Ooooohhhh…pal bun, molagesyao?”

“Dongdaemun shijung, jiachil, pal, pal chil?”

“Dongdaemun, arrayo.”

We were off. I also know from the conversation that we were off but I was screwed. Driver was going to take me to Dongdaemun, but he was not sure where the subway exit I wanted to be dropped at was. That meant I would either make it to my destination or make it near my destination, but which was going to happen was entirely unclear.

Fuck.

I sat back and watched Seoul crawl by outside my window. The air was hazy, the country had been dry for too long. It was warm, not the sweat and pleasant chill of early October, but a more hazy lingering final days of summer. The air was smoggy and clogged, but I didn’t mind it. Korea was being Korea with all its smells and emotions and feelings and for the moment I was alone and content to be by myself and just be.

Of course, twenty minutes later I was being let out on a corner in the middle of Dongdaemun without the slightest idea of where I was, but also knowing this was not where I wanted to be.

Fuck.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Somehow...

Somehow, in October, I managed to go to Korea and back so fast that I barely feel like it happened. Unlike my last visit to Korea, this trip was not for pleasure but for work. There was a realization on this trip as well, that everyone I knew and love in Korea had almost entirely moved on. Transitions in their life, their situations, their relationships, and time the great and ever driving force of change, had moved almost everyone I know on to some place that I really couldn’t reach anymore.

This is not to say that I haven’t also changed. Change happens to everyone, and two years no longer an expat have had an impact. I am very happy I live in an international city where I can still feel like I’m in a place far away and my travel adventures have not come to an end. If anything the world is bigger now than it has ever been before. My life is not locked between Korea and America. There is a freedom in that.

Work was the point of this trip and though I have written much about the trip for work, most of it is exactly that. The tedium and boredom of working with no free time for myself outside the confines of being on, being forced to perform. Sometimes my performance met expectations and other times it did not. These are the hazards of doing nothing but work with no time to do anything but perform.

The best day I had in Korea was Wednesday before the madness really started. I flew on a Monday, landed on a Tuesday and had barely any time to catch my breath before it was in fact a Wednesday. This was my jet lag recovery day and I had only and exactly one thing I wanted to do and that was to go fabric shopping. Since I didn’t have time to go to Daegu, and really didn’t want to lug the bags around were I to do that, I went instead to Dongdaemun in Seoul. The big sprawling fortress of a fabric city with all its fixtures and notions. I was really excited about it and quite looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Right!

I have a blog backlog on my computer. I must post all the blogs. Also, I tried NaNoWriMo again. I sucked at it.