Thursday, December 25, 2008

Exit the Musician

The Musician was leaving and had promised me an espresso machine set. I love coffee and was happy to get the set but was saddened by the exit of yet another good friend. I reflect on this thinking when am I going to stop taking all this leaving and just leave myself? I think it's coming.

I was sitting at the Lonely Hearts Club the other night and thinking it's time to go. Making friends is getting harder every year. I feel like that guy in college who didn't have the good sense to graduate in four years and now is pushing the ten year mark and failing to understand why no one wants to talk to him anymore.

I've worn out my welcome, it seems.

So I met the Musician and his beautiful daughter for lunch on Saturday, which was my main event on Saturday. We went to the Canadian Mexican Restaurant (work that out) and talked for a while. We both get it both being older and being in Korea for a long time. The teachers are getting younger every year.

"Part of it is the immigration law changes," says the Musician.

"I just can't relate to these kids."

"I just want to be able to meet someone my own age. Do you know how hard it is to meet someone your own age that is not Korean?"

"Do you know how hard it is to sit down in a bar and discuss philosophy with a bunch of English majors?"

Sometimes it seems to me like the new crowd can barely tie their own shoes. These are people that were born in 1985. I remember, vividly, 1985. It's not a year I want to relieve. Yet 80's parties have become all the rage on dull nights in Daegu. When did this happen.

When did I get cantankerous. I don't feel old usually, unless I'm hanging out with someone who is 22, that works miracles on my sense of time. I was sad to see the Musician head out. Open Mic at the Lonely Hearts has gotten later and later until now must nights people don't start singing until almost midnight.

I thanked the Musician for the espresso machine and we walked through the park together with the daughter heading towards the great big bell.

Open Mic changed this week for Christmas so Tuesday night I went out to Lonely Hearts mostly for some quite figuring there would be no music before I wanted to leave. I was pleasantly surprised by the sudden opening of two young Korean musicians on their guitar. The first, a young lady, played some beautiful Korean tunes with such feeling. Her eyes closed the whole time as she skillfully plucked the strings, making her guitar sound more like a harp as she sang the mournful melodies, the shouting, clapping barking refrains.

She was followed by a young Korean guy who on occasion plays barbacks at the Lonely Hearts. He pounded out riffs and shouted, his voice raising, his music reminiscent of a Korean Curt Cobain for me. It was lovely.

I sat alone in my dark corner and listened, happy for the music.

The Musician flew out of Korea yesterday but the music and Korea will go on. I just have to find a new place in it again.

A new place that will have more espresso.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Backstabbing Bitches

I hate you economy.

No. I really hate you.

The economy hits Korea in very strange little ways that most people would not notice. Even foriegners here are in agreement that riding out the economic collapse in Korea is a might better then riding it out anywhere else. For the most part things have stayed exactly the same. It only really hurts the wallet if you do a lot of overseas banking. Generally it's not so bad.

But no, the economy finally decided to hit home for me.

And where? Where did the economy try to bend me over and make me it's bitch? Was it the fact that I have to send 600,000won out to get my $400 dollar student loan payment covered? Was it the fact that the cost of gas here is 8 dollars a gallon? Is it, perhaps, the matter of finding the regular bar trying to charge a dollar more for booze (when they pay three dollars a bottle for the same booze)?

No, no, you bastard economy you. That is not where you got me. That is not where you really made me notice. No, economy, you had the balls to hit me in the black market. And that, economy, is just a fight waiting to happen.

When you live in South Korea, like I do, you learn to give up a lot of things. For example you have to give up being able to shop for clothes or shoes. You can't go down to the market and get garlic. And forget about little things like say cilantro. I'd kill for cilantro. But you make do. You learn to eat your food seasoned only with red pepper. You make your own clothes. You get buy. One of the things that lets you get buy is the fact that even though it is expensive you can get coffee and cheese.

Now, please, do not insult me by thinking that when I say coffee and cheese I meant a selection. No, no, silly waygook. I mean I can get Folgers and Mild Cheddar. But they are real, dammit, and I like that. The Folgers costs me fourteen dollars for two pounds. For the 200 grams of cheddar cheese (imported from Australia and not too bad) I pay eight bucks. Okay, I can suffer this tiny humiliation as it allows me to have the things I want.

But you bastard economy. To get the coffee for a reasonable price I go to the black market. God Bless the GI's looking to turn a quick buck by selling PX goods to the street hajumas so they can overcharge me for coffee. I could buy coffee in Korea. But I refuse to pay25.00 for a half pound of coffee. I will not do it. So I go to the black market to get my goods. However on my most recent trip to the black market imagine my shock and terror and not being able to find a single jug of Folgers. I went up and down, in and out of the fifty or so shops that make up the illegal street market here, and not one of them had coffee. What the hell?

So I asked on of the ajoshis. "Yay, ajoshi, Ko-pi odi-issyo? Moya?" Sir, what, where is the coffee?

"Ko-pi, opsya." I don't have coffee.
"Onjay?" When will you get some?
"Moyla!" I don't fucking know.

So I kept wandering and kept asking. Finally I found an hajuma who explained it. The exchange rate. With the current rate of exchange GI's are losing money on selling to the marketeers. Which means less goods coming off base. Which means I can't buy coffee. I finally found an hajuma with some cans tucked into the back of her stall.

"Ol-ma?" I ask.

"18,000." She says. Eighteen Thousand Won, and with the current range of exchange that means I'm paying almost twenty two dollars for two pounds of coffee. I bought to cans. I will hoard them. You will not take me alive without my coffee.

Fine, fine, I have to pay forty bucks for a three months supply of coffee, okay. At least I can still get cheese.

But, oho, imagine my surprise when I went to the grocery where I buy my cheese and discover the only real cheese in the place now cost 15,000 (17 dollars for 200 grams).

That, I said...Fuck That!

I bought the cheege and left. I was said. I will miss cheese.

But you bitch economy you at least I have coffee while I wait you out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nervous Breakdowns

Nothing like the holiday season to put the nervous back in ones breakdown. I had been feeling tetchy all day and lot really sure why. Finally it built up to explosion point. This is when my roommate kicked me out of the house. "Leave, and don't come back til your drunk, your annoying the dog." The dog looked up at me and then ran under the bed so I suspect this was more or less true.

I figured why not so I determined where I might get some food changed clothes and left thinking that hitting a bar at ten in the evening on a Friday and seeing some people I know might calm me down. It probably could have gone better.

The nervous twitchiness did not stop after a drink and a game of pool in which I rain the table like a pro. Okay, I take a deep breath and try to remain calm. I hear pounding up the stairs and look up to see friendly faces. This will calm me down, I think.

And the friendly faces come over.

And each one takes a turn shaking my hand, or giving a hug, or kissing the cheek.

And then each one in turn asks me the same question regarding varying different people.

"Have you seen Australian Chickie?"
"Have you heard from Monolycus?"
"What is going on with Australian Chickie?"
"Where's Monolycus been, I haven't seen him in a while."

And suddenly for no apparent reason I feel that nervous pressure building up and now it has a focus. The focus is in the question. The nervousness is a result of me needing to be selfish for a minute and talk about me. The anger is feeling like every face I smiled at and hand I shook and hug I adminstered is only interested in seeing me for details I might provide about someone else.

I have another drink.

I play another game of pool.

A new player enters and sits down with his beer, he smiles seeing me.

"So Sara, talk to Australian chickie lately." 

And that is when I lost it. I started yelling, loudly, at the top of my lungs for a good five minutes. After yelling I realized too things. 1) I'm not less angry.
2) I'm being an unbearable cunt.

The second realization hurt more than the first. So I stopped. Finished my drink, said goodbye to the players and prepared to leave.

"You know, sometimes it helps to just punch somebody." says one of the blokes.

"True, but tonight one punch might not be enough tonight."

That wasn't true. It was just a build up that needed explosion. I should have gone home. Instead I went to the Lonely Hearts Club which was full of people on a Friday night. I met a musician I know and we talk music. Hyun poors me a comfort shot. I should probably go home I keep thinking.

Finally H, walks with me out of the bar. We make it to the second landing before I cry for a moment on his shoulder.

"You need to go home." He tells me.

"I know, but sometimes I need this too. This crazy. This insane. To make it all make sense."

It was three a.m. when I finally managed to walk through the door. The dog gruffed at me before rolling over and returning to sleep.

And I thought for a moment that while I had gone from angry to sad during the night mostly because I felt no one was caring about me I failed to realize that I was the worst offender for the evening. I wasn't caring for myself.

I woke up around nine the next morning. Slightly hungover, oddly refreshed. I needed a meltdown, I got one, and I truly felt better for it.

I spent Saturday night drinking water in the same bars and buying drinks for all the guys who didn't punch me during my abusive moments or kick me during the sad ones. Sometimes it takes a mild nervous breakdown to realize just how good your friends are.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Time Time Time

I hate this time. I am in that in-between space where nothing makes sense. It's probably the vertigo. For the last six months for some reason I am getting vertigo, this senseless spinning feeling. I am in the throes of passion this morning when suddenly I fall limp on the side and wait for the world to stop moving. I don't understand why the world is moving.

And they say the earth moves. But it was just my brain.

Spinning spinning spinning.

I went to the gym anyway, my head feeling like a lead weight the whole time, up down, up down. Now the spinning is a constant and everything spins.

I want to think but I can't think through the fog that is the floating of my head. I think to create, I think to dream, I think to paint, I think to write, but every movement makes me spin around and around. I watch the world move by me and I can't figure out how to make it stop spinning.

Which creates stillness. I can't work through the spinning so I am still. And being still makes me just as crazy as the constant motion. I am sea sick from static, but movement makes me nauseous.

I want to go down but the going down makes the world spin even further. I need something to do, I think, but staring at the screen and watching it flash is not helping. The sound of the sewing machine and watching the fabric it is unfocused reality. I can't make the seams solid anymore.

Maybe the vertigo is Korea.

I can't be sure. I know I want to go back to my passion and think the world will not slip away.

Friday, December 05, 2008

You know, sometimes...

There are days when I feel like I really should step up and explain things to Koreans.

And yet it just seems like it would ruin all the fun for me.

As an aside  apparently some parts of the profit are donated to World Vision Korea charity. Which is not a bad thing.

But really, someone might want to talk to them about their new slogan. As long as that someone is not me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Street Selling

One of the things I like best about Korea is that almost anywhere you go here you will run into someone selling something on the street. Unlike a big city in the states most of these guys are actually selling you something you need. I live close to downtown and it was a very common sight for years to pile into an area packed with retail shops and straight down the middle cart after cart of handbag, five dollar hat, watch, cheap jewelery, and other odds and ends.

* Day or night downtown Daegu was a bustle of capitalist wonderment. That was until about six months ago when the city decided to aggressively pursue removing the street sellers from the middle of downtown.

As you can see from this picture of Dong-son-ro (the main downtown street) there are electric wires all over the middle of downtown. The city has decided to bury the wires. Burying the wires will be a good thing long term for the city. It will make power more stable during the occasional bad storm and in general make things a touch safer. The light are basically being buried straight down the middle of the strip where the sellers used to place their carts. The pros and cons weighed it makes some sense to have the sellers move to different areas while the rewiring is completed.

However the way the city implemented the plan was not just to move the sellers for a few weeks or to rotate the sellers as the work was being done. Instead the police first forcefully removed many of the sellers from the street. This means in many instances moving grandmothers and grandfathers by force away from their shops. Secondly the city decided the sellers would no longer be allowed to sell downtown. The ripple, however, has effected much of the city and fewer street sellers can be found in many areas.

In Korea the sellers provide a valuable service. While I do live in a country that is within one of the top ten economies in the world there are still more than a few people in Korea who struggle day to day. These street sellers provide access to goods at prices far below what would be found in a market making it possible for many people to go day to day and live.

As I was taking the car pool home on Friday we hit a lot of traffic right around my place. At first it just seemed like a Friday jam. Then we noticed the riot police. I see the riot police now and then since I live in the area where most protests tend to take place. City Hall is hardly a block from my front door. However this was the biggest gathering of the riot squad I had yet seen. We passed seven groups as we drove down the road to my place.

The question was "Why?"

When I got home I asked the roommate and we were able to piece together from several Korean newspapers that what was happening was a massive protest of street sellers.

Over 1,000 sellers from all over the country had descended on Daegu for a day of solidarity to protest the removal and the restrictions being placed on sales. The group had gathered to march through the city, shouting, chanting, and broadcasting their message.

My roommate offered the best thoughts on the situation. "It's kind of surreal. You have these young kids basically telling their grandparents that they can't make a living. It doesn't make sense." The kids being the council men that have forced the sellers out of downtown.

The group stopped for a short while at the park across from my house, chanting, cheering, and listening as the speaker continued to speak out against the situation. There was a palpable energy in the are as the protesters squatted around, chanting and shouting in time, often raising their fist and beating the air in short triplicates at the appropriate time. I stayed as long as I felt safe. There is a reason the riot police were out. Of course the mass number of riot police were proportional to the size of the demonstration. The police do not like to be outnumbered and this demonstration is the biggest one we have had in Daegu since the presidential demonstrations this summer.

How it will turn out is yet anyone's guess. The construction will be finished in about two months. **

*photo by DSwede, Dec. 11, 2007
** Last picture is of the movement of the riot police across the street. The riot squad was out for ten blocks total. We estimated that there were probably about fifteen hundred police on the street if not more. It was a big gathering.

Friday, November 28, 2008

When will I stop feeling like a child...

My birthday was on Thursday and was pleasant enough. I went to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town. As this is the third time in a row I guess it's a tradition. I giggled when looking over the insanely expensive menu. I laughed and joked with my dinner partner. At one point I dipped my bread in olive oil and dropped it right down my blouse leaving a sticky trail of oily tartness in its wake as it slid down the ever so carefully exposed neckline.

"Graceful." Exclaims my date.

"Fuck off." I say, ever the lady.

We eat dinner and we joke and giggle. The Korean waitstaff stares at us from the stairwell through the entire meal and I can't help but to be amused. The laughing just doesn't seem to stop. I'm turning 32 and I feel far to fucking young to be turning thirty-two. Yet here I am.

Life goes on. I go to work, I teach classes. My students have looked at me as the eptitomy of old since I began teaching. I recall being at the middle school in Chicago and having some students asked how old I was. When I responded 22 they all looked at me and said "Damn, your like an old maid." I remember thinking they were only twelve and have no idea what they are talking about. I smiled and went on with my job. Now I am an old maid and I don't know how that is supposed to feel. I don't feel like an adult.

Confrontation with the flux of adulthood happens daliy. The decision to pay a bill, the need to travel to a doctor, getting health insurance, updating a resume, communicating with co-workers, meeting a deadline, making the right phone call at the right time, answering the question about specialized knowledge in my field. These are adult activities that I interact with on almost an hourly basis but they feel so outside of myself. Who is this person who is aging, do I know her, is she here, is she me.

I discuss with friends what to do about their lives. They come to me for help and advice. Should I date this one? Sleep with that one? Leave the other one? When has the relationship become so abusive it should be ended? What is important? What is more important, love or money? On and on. I meet this confrontations with what little I have some tools learned from my own therapy and a willingness to support whatever decision is made. But every time I'm asked, every time I listen, I can't help wondering if I"m not just playing at grownup by trying to understand. Do I reallly understand?

Here I sit at thirty-two. And I think about what I am not. I am not a mother. I am not rich. I'm not a doctor. I'm not well read. I'm not full of vibrant experience. I look at all the people around me and see the opposite, mothers, philosophers, educated peoples, and even those who have suceeded far beyond my wildest dreams. Where does it leave me? Who does it leave me?

Have I made a wrong turn?

I remember, when I was 25 having just arrived in Korea and finding myself suddenly befriending a guy I would call simply a jock. A stock broker running away from New York for a year of travel while he tried to figure out what to do with his life. He was 32. We talked often. I asked him about his future one night over drinks before we went to the crappy dance club that I enjoyed at the time. "I don't know, but I'd like to meet a girl, have a kid, you know."

I remember being incredulous. Why would you want to have children. You have an excellent life, plenty of money (enough in the bank to fuckoff in Korea for a year) youth and health, etc.

"But, you know Sara, after all this time I'm a little bored with it. A kid, that's something real. It's changes things. Makes life interesting again."

I sit here at thirty-two and I try to understand that sentiment. I still don't get it. I feel like I've only barely begun understanding how to live for myself.

And I'm an old maid.

And I have no idea when I will feel like I have reached that door marked adulthood and walked through. I still feel like a child newly hatched and constantly floundering in the big bad world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Commercial Break

The thing about being broke is there is a lot of time for self entertainment. In the last month I've steadily decline on my once during a week night out to going out just one night on a weekend. And since I'm at home more I'm either reading a book, playing with the dog or watching T.V.

I was listening to an article on NPR about the across the board finical collapse and how it would effect the day to day consumer. The question being how many people would cancel their cable service. The finical analyst came back that cable and premium cable would do well during the down turn. Primarily because it would be the primary avenue for escaping otherwise dreary existences.

Now, I sit at home and watch commercials. This one graced my tube the other night. Before you watch answer the quiz question. Then see how well you did.

I will say this, it's worth the basic cable service to be so entertained.

What beverage is this a commercial for?

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Happens When You Are Part of a World Wide Economic Collapse

The economy has been collapsing for a while now. While it is frightening to be sure the ways in which is hits the pocket book in the US are entirely different from the way in which it hits the pocket book in South Korea.

The Korean won sucks right now. And it sucks hard. Unlike you lucky people in the US though the won started to pull away hard and strong about five months ago which, long before John McCain suspended his campaign to save the economy. A strong won means that dollar to won conversion will be a severe money loss for me. With the one going up at times as strong as 1,500 won to the dollar I lose a lot of money. The current rate of conversion is about 1,300 to 1 dollar which is cutting my salary monthly by about five hundred bucks give or take. Combine this with the fact that in Korea gas was eight dollars a gallon before the won got strong and you have a recipe for all kinds of disaster. Suddenly everything costs more and everyone is losing money.

I head down to the Lonely Hearts club after two weeks of economy enforced solitude. I realized that the hundred a week a drop in a bar has suddenly become roughly a hundred and fifty. My house keeping service, my electric bill, my bandwidth, all of it seems a lot more expensive, but after two weeks of hiding and bowing to the pressure the intense expense I hit the Lonely Hearts.

Hyun is behind the bar. I ask him how it's going.

"The fucking economy sucks, man!" He says to me.

"Tell me about it."

"You know, last year, right, I put all this money in the mutal fund and now I'm losing money every day like crazy. I'm like what the fuck is going on. You have any money in the market."

"No, thank the merry gods, but I'm losing just the same."

"What's the problem?"

"I send money home I'm screwed."

"Yeah, no shit. I'm like, everything is so fucking crazy. What's the problem. I hate it."

"So, you going to take the money out of the market?" I ask.

"What's the point, I leave it in I might make it back. Can't do anything with it now, so you know. I just wait for the feel."

I understand and buy him a shot of tequila. He returns the favor and buys me a shot.

It's the little things though, that have hit in Korea. I used to eat crackers. Korea loves to over package things so in the crackers I would get you would get 9 crackers wrapped conveniently in a little wrapper. Then back in May I noticed a small change. Suddenly I kept coming up short. I thought it was me. I was just eating ninth cracker and not realizing it. Then I got obsessed with it. I started to count every cracker in a newly opened package. Sure enough I was now getting eight crackers in a pack. Then a month after the cracker number dropped the price of a box of crackers that used to contain 18 more crackers total went up by fifty won a box. More for less.

It's not just the crackers. Most everything here is imported from somewhere else. Rice, spinach, cabbage, these things are commonly grown in Korea. But there are many many things that I like to eat that are not grown in Korea. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, green onions, avocados, cheese, wine. Real cheese. Good wine. At the beginning of the year the Australian cheese I liked to get was six dollars for about two hundred grams. Now it's ten dollars. Vegetables were also sort of expensive, three or four dollars for something like a zuchini or onion, five for an avacado. Now the same items round up to ten. I've noticed more and more than when I buy fruits and vegetables I stake out the marked down foods first to see if I can find a pound of raw spiniach marked down to two dollars rather then regular price at four.

It's the little things.

I look at bills I have to pain the states, things I have no choice about sending money home on. If I want to get five hundred dollars home for my studnet loans I have to send six hundred and fifty thousand won. It leaves me with less and less every month. Less to the point where I realized I can no longer afford a vacation home in the winter and will possibly have to cancel a summer trip as well.

The suck continus long term. What I realize is that more than just losing a vacation my plan for a future exodus from Korea is currently looking bleak. The point of being in Korea is to save money. With the rate of conversion right now leaving would cost more than it is worth. So I start to think, in a year will it have recovered enough for me to leave? Or maybe two? Can I hold out here for maybe just three more years until things recover? Three more years when I wanted to be planning to return to the US in maybe 2010. I just don't know.

In the meantime I spend more time at home, less time out, and lose sleep over my steadily dwindling savings.

"So Hyun," I ask. "What do we do?"

"Eh, what the fuck, drink more, eat less."

Lonely Hearts, always know how to put things in perspective.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And because history is important to the future....

And sometimes after a gigantic event you just need a little laugh.

Yes. We. Did.

I had to work today when all I wanted to do was stay home.So it was that I was working at a student open lounge when at 1:00 this afternoon. I'd put a CNN live feed up on the screen but could get no sound.

There were no students when at the time when the announcement rolled across that CNN was calling it for Obama. There was no sound to hear when McCain stood up and conceded, and while he talked I had to try to pull my attention away to do the conversation thing that is my bread and butter. But all I could think about was that maybe it wasn't true.

I went to my last class and told my students. They had forgotten that I was from Chicago. Some thought Obama was from Canada.

Three hours later I walked in my door and turned on CNN, the first time all day I was able to watch election coverage with sound and start hearing what I had been seeing, making it real and tangible. I saw McCain standing and trying to be dignified while his supporters heckled and acted generally like spoiled children. I felt bad for him even as I appreciated what he had tried to do.

And finally, after a whole day of not being able to do anything but ride a charge of energy I got see Barack speak. And there I stood in my room, in front of my T.V. four hours after the election had been called, and almost three since he made his speech, I watch his face, listened to his words and I broke down and sobbed.

It still feels too good to be true.

At work one of the co-workers, a lovely teacher and, the only McCain supporter among us said as I walked to my last class "Oh, stop smiling, already." He was smiling too. "I know, I can't help it, I'm just so happy."

"You know, in all, it's okay. I understand. I'd be happy if it were my guy."

"I'm not sorry your guy lost, but you know, I just can't help being completely overjoyed my guy one."

"Today, I'm just happy it's over."

Today, I'm happy, elated, sad, confused, bewildered, and feeling oddly procreative.

But we did.

We Did.

"That's the genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."

We did. Now, we have work to do.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote: It's the Least you can Do!

Get out, go, vote!

I voted two weeks ago and a lot of people who were able to register have thanked me. I thank them for filling out those ballots and sending them back in. Everyone who filed from Korea, at least most of us, paid upwards of $20 dollars to send our votes back to make sure they were counted on time. When you think absentee ballot remember it includes teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, and other living overseas who have to pay to get their votes in and counted. We vote, why don't you?

Why vote? Well, let's let the video explain.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Medical Mayhem

I was working on a project in my room and the roommate was washing dishes, which was fine by me. I hate doing the dishes and if I don't have to more the better. I worked on getting my work done when suddenly I heard "Oh, mother...dammit, fucker!" I hoped up and ran for the kitchen just in time to see my dear roomie running for the bathroom.

"Are you okay?"


"Are you okay?" I looked into the water running over his finger and notice it is deep bloody red and the water was running fast.

"That does not look good," I said.

"You think, give me some tissue."

"I think you are going to need stitches."

"I'll be fine."

"You need to go to a hospital and get stitches."



"It hurts."

"Right. Hospital?"

"Dammit, okay."

I run to get my shoes and down the street we go to the biggest hospital in town. It's a block and a half from my apartment so we decided to walk in the cool night air.

"Are you feeling dizzy?"

"I'm fine."

"You've lost a lot of blood. How many fingers am I holding up?"

"15 million."

"Your delusional, not good."

We skip into the hospital and go through the front door but find that we are not in the right place so walk down another hall. And another. Finally the roomie sees the sign that says emergency and starts to take us that way, but the hospital is big and does not provide great directions. We end up at a map but not where we are going. Finally I ask a passing doctor who walks us out another door around a bend and towards the emergency room.

We walk up to the counter and my roomie hold out his hand. They direct us to another counter. Here the attendant speaks English.

The roomie holds out his hand.

"This hospital is too big," she says. "I'll send you to another just cross the street and get a cab and you will be there." She prints off a map for us and sends us on our way. We walk across the parking lot and wait at the light for the change to cross the street.

"I wonder how many people have died waiting for this light to change," says the roomie.

"You're not helping."

Finally we manage to get across, get into a cab and get on our way.

"Shit," he says.

"You okay?"

"It's bleeding a lot more all of the sudden."

"I know how to tie a tourniquet. You need a tourniquet?"

"How do you know how to tie a tourniquet?"

"Where I grew up we all had to take hunting safety classes, it was part of the basics."

"Okay, what do you need to tie a tourniquet?"

"I will need one of your shoelaces."

"What if I don't have shoelaces?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm wearing Velcro shoes," he says, "let's use one of your shoelaces."

"Nope, I'm wearing loafers. No laces."

"We are woefully unprepared."

"Yep, guess your going to have to die for our lack of quality footwear." We giggle as we move closer to the next hospital. When we get there we walk into a very small room with two attendants and place the bloody finger on the counter.

They don't speak much English but the problem is pretty obvious. They usher us into an emergency room that is empty but for one other patient. The doctor comes around and asks us what the problem is.

"Stitches peer-i-o-hada," I say "hako Tetanus."



"Oh, yes, tet-a-NUS-uh! Nay, okay."

He and the other orderly take the roomie away and ask him some questions which the roomie answers easily in Korean. They take him around and lie him out on a bed.

"Can I get you anything?" I ask trying to be helpful.

"Well, he is sitting on my arm for no readily apparent reason, but I think it would be rude to ask him to move." I smile amused and the orderly settles himself in.

The doctor looks up and says something but neither of us understand. "Moy-ya?" we both ask.

"You will be in pain." Okay, I think, he is in pain. Then I realize that he is about to administer the general anesthetic.

"Oh, fuck!" Says the roommate as the needle is introduced to his finger. I think, he will be in pain, how accurate.

All together it took about thirty minutes from arrival to exit for the stitches and the shots. My roomie is uninsured and had to pay a whopping fifty dollars to cover the stitching (16 dollars) the tetanus shot (25 dollars) and an antibiotic shot for good measure (10 dollars) and then about 17 bucks for the miscellaneous supplies.

"In the US we would have waited four hours and paid like 500 bucks," I say.

The doctor looks at  us. "My Englishee no good."

"Maja," I say, it's good. We smile and walk a few stitches heavier into the cool fall night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bloody Red Drapes

As it was said before I was working on a little crochet project for my wardrobe. While I love sewing my own clothes on occasion you need something else in the closet to spice things up. I'm working up to crocheting an actual sweater.

This piece was in the most delightful blood red acrylic yarn I found in a sale box at an hajuma's stall on yarn street in Seomun Market. This is pretty much the only district in town to find any selection. At the same time sadly the yarn can be really expensive going for eight to fifteen dollars a skein. Often I am rather pragmatic about it, look but don't touch, oogle from afar. It was the summer which helped me to keep my shopping under control but the color and the price were just too attractive so I ended up getting about six dollars worth, what she had in the bin.

As I started to work on this project I realized I was going to have to go back to the market. I got lucky and she had four more skeins in the same color at the same price and I had enough yarn to finish my wrap, which is as lovely as it is terrifyingly bloody.

It should prove to be nice and warm on a cold Korean night.

The funny thing about pieces like this is that they create their own mood. This makes me feel when I wear it as if I am somehow more vulnerable. Maybe it is the cape-like quality, how it pins my hands down keep them close to the sides of my body. Or they way it wraps over shoulders, breasts, arms, all together, trapping and bringing warmth all at the same time. Snug but not a cocoon; safe but without freedom. An interesting effect.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quiet Night at with Lonely Hearts

I couldn't deal with staying home any longer. The economy has been keeping me in doors but I decided it was finally time to take a trip to the Lonely Hearts. I hadn't been in almost a week which is a long time in my apartment with my dog. So I packed up my current crochet project and headed down the cool Korean streets.

The wind blows but not cool enough, the Koreans stare. Two children are playing at ten in the evening, the young girl who is standing smacks the face of the boy in the stroller. "I go" shout the mothers as they separate the children. The waning moon shines down in the glitter park as I walk through on my way to Lonely Hearts.

The bar is quiet and I'm the only one there.

"I saw them, I saw them" exclaims H.

"Was it good?"

"It was so good I pissed my pants." He plays a video of the concert on his phone, showing me exactly where he lost control of all bodily function for the beauty of a second in music.

He relates his story.

"I'm on the subway platform, and smoking, and then my friend says 'lool' and there they are. My cigarette it just burns to like here and then I run over and hug them and they signed my bag."

I pull out my crochet as the story goes on. Red red red bleeding all over the bar, a scarf of red for a night of blue, and lonely fingers weaving idle roads in the lonely hearts club.

H plays a tune from the show. I call out a band. H finds the band and pulls it up. We toss to each other back and forth, bands, and words, names, meanings half hidden behind our desire to fill the quiet with someone who can mean more then we mean.

A writer walks into the bar and orders a beer. "First time I've been alone in two weeks and I come here." H pours him a drink and we continue our musical serenade to each other.

"She keeps bees." I say.

"St. Vincent." He returns.


"Los Campesinos."

We go back and forth. The writer pulls out his black notebook and writes in in with a felt tip pen, pressure on paper and letters bleeding through. My crochet drapes the bar, my hands in motion and mind out of touch.

"First time I've been along in two weeks." says the writer.

"It's just a different kinds of loneliness." I say while the music fills the webs of silence weaving over us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making a List, Checking it Twice

On my weekends I tend to do a lot of work. This particular weekend I had offered my considerable talents for a speaking engagement on reading and writing. I figured why not and even though it would be a three hour trip to engage a very small group of teachers I felt it would be worth the effort. I made arrangements for a road trip and otherwise tried to enjoy my pleasantly light on work week.

Now here is the thing. Knowing this trip was three hours away one would think that it would be important to take certain things. Things like say my blouse and pants, my computer, my varying products, you know the stuff you need when you are doing the professional thing on  a weekend.  But somehow my day got rushed. I felt like I was out of it, it started to rain while I was walking home so I took off my clothes before packing and started to put things together. Among the clothing articles that had been removed was the pants that I was planning on wearing to the presentation the next day. Not a big deal, I knew where the pants where and placed them on top of my back pack so I could remember to bring them with.

After packing up a car, a dog, a driver, a backpack, and mp3 player, and other sundries, it was into the car and onto the road. The drive was mostly uneventful with some humor from David Sedaris to keep everyone awake. Even the dog was amused.

Eventually I ended up at the city in the middle of no where. It was nine in the evening I would need to sleep so I fired up a bottle of wine, the t.v. and found some dinner. All was going well and I was getting a little tipsy. I recounted to the Driver, "You know, I didn't get my pants out of the car."

"You want the keys."


So, a little tipsy I held the key. I stared at the key. I was daunted by the key. I starting laughing, a little half hearted giggle pre-hysteria laugh.

"What's funny?" asked the Driver.

"I was just thinking how funny it would be if I forgot to pack my pants."

"You did pack your pants, right?"

"Yeah, they were on top of my bag. I didn't put them in my bag, but I remember they are next to the dog case." So, after finishing my glass and close to midnight I wandered down to the car to find the pants. Only, I did not find the pants. I checked the front seat. No pants. I checked the back seat. No pants. I looked under seats. I ruffled through things. No pants.

Huh, I thought. I'm just missing them. I'll have the Driver come look.

So I walk back up to the room and open the door.

"Where are your pants," asks the Driver.

"Good question. I couldn't find them, but I know I packed them. You go look, it's your car." And I tossed the keys at the Driver. You must understand that among other things the car currently had a unicycle and an inflatable kayak stuffed in it so it was not impossible that I was just missing the pants. However after being gone long enough for me to finish a good half of my bottle of wine the Driver returned sans pants.

"Well fuck."

And now is when the fun begins. Because I live in South Korea and I'm not a size two. So after discovering that I have left my pants at home I have to figure out how to get a pair of workable black pants for a presentation and I will not have a whole lot of time to do it.

There is this odd thing about Korea. It's not that there are not fat Koreans, there are. There are Koreans who are a hell of a lot bigger than I am. The question here is "Where do these people shop?" I know from experience and I know from friends that a size 0-1 anywhere else in the world is an extra large in Korea. In the States I would have driven to any local Wal-mart and found what I needed in a regular section with no questions asked. In Korea I hadn't the foggiest idea.

The next morning after very little sleep (freaking night club district hotels) it was decided to try the Korean equivalent of a Walmart and hope for the best that they have a pair of pants in the size I was looking for. I had a rough idea of what I needed. The question was whether or not it could be found.

There is nothing more exciting then shopping for clothes in Korea. As soon as you start to look at clothes the retailers freak out. "Chingu?" For your friend? "Andi, na-peer-i-o-hada" No, I need these..."No, andiyo, andi," You, no, no no, get the heck out, no! The Jamacian once had a retailer refuse to sell her an eighty dollar dress because the retailer was convinced it would look bad on her. Not becuase it wouldn't fit but if she were the dress it might imply the store had things for regular sized women and that would be the deat of the store.

Knowing all this I went shopping anyway. Or rather, I poked and prodded the Driver who went shopping while I peered over a shoulder and tried to determine if the pants in question might fit me. Within twenty minutes we had managed to convince some nice sales lady to seach through the racks for the size that was required and oddly enough managed to find two workable contenders and a pair of sweat pants.

I hate sweat pants but bought the evil vile things as a last resort. Sixty bucks lighter I went into the bathroom, whispered a short prayer to the goddess, and started to wiggly my curvy ass into some pants. And to my surprise and amazement the first pair not only fit, but actually made my curey ass look FANTASTIC.

Somewhat relieved I tossed my paint spattered travel pants into the shopping bag and didint' even bother with the other pairs. I figured why tempt fate.

All things aside I looked professional, the workshop went well, and know one even suspected what an idiot I am.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Politics: Palling Around With Who Now?

You have probably heard, seen, or read in many different media outlets that the McCain campaign has stepped up its rhetoric an unleashed it's Pitbull Palin to make some grossly un-American statements about the opposing party for President.

Honestly, I think the attacks of the McCain campaign go beyond looking at character. Questions of character I could understand by trying to tie Barrack Obama by associating him with terrorists is unfounded. The fact that they are trying to make him into a terrorist is disturbing fear mongering of the worst level and any canidate worth his salt running for president should be above it.

But if you want to play the guilt by association game, then let's, for a moment, look at some other associations.

Palin's for example:

Ted Stevens: Currently Under indictment for violation of provisions of Ethics.

The Alaskan Independence Party: A group that advocates Alaska as a free country.

But, it's been said before Palin isn't running for president. She's just standing in glass houses throwing stones for her principal. Her Principal is John McCain.

So, who does McCain associate with?

McCain and G. Gordon Liddy

"Liddy, who worked for President Nixon's campaign,
was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for multiple crimes
in burglarizing the Democratic National Committee office in the
Watergate building--part of a broader plot to steal the 1972 election
through sabotage, illegal spying and other dirty tricks. He even
planned the murder of a journalist, though that idea was overruled.
Bombings? He proposed the firebombing of a liberal think tank.

Liddy, now a conservative radio host, has never expressed regret for
this attempt to subvert the Constitution. Nor has he developed any
respect for the law. After the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian
compound in Waco, he endorsed the shooting of federal agents: "Kill the
sons of bitches."

Yet none of this bothers McCain. Liddy has contributed thousands of
dollars to his campaigns, held a fundraiser for McCain at his home and
hosted the senator on his radio show, where McCain said, "I'm proud of
you." Exactly which part of Liddy's record is McCain proud of?"

You can listen to McCain's praise for Liddy here:

And McCain, John Singlaub and the US Council for World Freedom. John McCain was on the board of this organization. The same way that Barrack Obama served on the board of an organization with Ayers. If serving on the board means being good friends then this is completely relevant.

"But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League – the parent organization – which ADL said “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.”

John McCain Rick Davis and Raffaello Follier

"Raffaello Follieri, the 30-year-old Italian who used his purported ties with the Vatican to win entry into the inner circles of billionaire businessmen and top politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in connection with his business of buying property from the Catholic Church. Mr. Follieri, who not long ago was sharing a $37,000-a-month Manhattan penthouse with his then-girlfriend, actress Anne Hathaway, now faces 51 to 63 months in a U.S. federal prison under sentencing guidelines."

McCain and his campaign manager Rick Davis didn't sit across a board table from Follieri, they spent McCain's birthday in 2006 on Follieri's yacht.

I suggest that Senetor McCain get back to politics, get back to putting the country first, and get back to talking about how to fix our nations problems, rather then trying to tear down the man he sees as standing in his way to the throne. McCain's ambitions are at stake, maybe that's why this thing is getting so ugly.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On being non-Korean in Korean Medical land

The worst thing about not being Korean in Korea is that doctors simply don't get it. End of the day I'm from the good ole USA and that means a couple of things. First, even the lowest back-birth has some education in the field of medicine particularly in diagnosis. At an early age Americans learn to diagnosis illness, determine the cause, create a treatment plan, and then implement a treatment plan. This is a necessity because, as all Americans know, going to the doctor is too damned expensive or requires insurance and one are both will prevent going.

However being very well versed in the medical sciences we also know when it has become apparent that a doctor must be brought in damn the cost. You know how it is you are having a conversation with your neighbor....

"Bill, you think that bone should be poking through the skin like that?"

"Well, no Chuck, that looks like it might need a doctor."


"Bertha I been coughing up blood for a few days, what you think?"

"You try mustard?"

"Yep, lot's of mustard."

"Time for a doctor then."


"Joe, take a look at this rash will you?"

"Um, dude, go to a doctor, seriously, that's disgusting."

So, yeah, we know when it gets to a certain point that The Doctors Book of Home Remedies has been maxed out and it is time to hit up the local quake and get either a)antibiotics, b) the prescription for actual condition, c) a diagnostic to find out whats wrong, or d) surgery, jesus man it's freaking broken already.

As an American, when going to the doctor it is a safe bet that I have spent some time researching the possibilities of what is wrong with me (god bless Google and Web MD which saves Americans thousands in insurance and health care dollars each year). And yet, I live in Korea.

There is a basic Korean truth. Koreans don't know the first thing about the human body.

I had a girl in class once that was pale, flushed and running an easily 103 degree fever. She was shivering and sweating. I brought her personally to the office and asked that she be taken to a doctor. The teacher talked to her for a few minutes and then told me she wanted to go back to class. I was irate. She needed at the very least an IV and definitely something for the virus she was suffering from.

In other instance in the middle of summer I would excuse students to go drink water. I kept telling teachers that hydration would help calm the kids down and get them to concentrate. I was told that they kids had water at 10 am and should be fine after a day of sweating and gym at 2 for a class.

Had a kid with a broken finger. Took him to the office. Said, pointedly, "his finger is broken."

"No, it's not, he's fine."

He came to class the next day with a splint on.

This is Korea. Korean's don't really know if something is wrong until an actual professional diagnoses them. At the same time, while stubborn, Koreans will go to the doctor for pretty much anything. Docs are a three dollar visit with not waiting. You have a tummy ache, go to the doctor after work. Kid not well, take them to the doctor (after school, you leave classes only on fear of death). You have a runny nose, head to the doctor and get a three day run of antibiotic to clear that up. It's a little wacky.

Doctors here are also completely infallible. You go in, the tell you what is wrong, you thank them, pay them, and come back for every follow up visit they demand.

So imagine the surprise of the doctor I went to see on Tuesday when I practically begged for a blood test diagnostic.

Instead he told me I had an interesting story and he wanted to do some trials. At first I was all for it. What kinds of trials.

What he then lays out is the exact same "trial" I've been running on myself for the last six years. I pointed this out mentioning that I did not believe that his "trial" would be effective, that what I needed was to stop hypothesizing and to actually test some freaking theories. What was his response....

"Sara, Sara. You don't listen. I'm a doctor. Okay? First I will talk with some other Doctors about your problem."

I hold out my arm. "Take my blood. Please, run some kind of test on it."

"First I will discuss the case with another doctor."

I want to kill.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that illness in Korea is like Korea itself. It's homogeneous. Most people here get the same sick. Even major illness have consistency. Stomach cancer, gall bladder problems? Come to Korea you can't get better care. Have a strange disorder like say celiac disease? You will die before they figure out what is wrong with you.

It is both the blessing and the curse of the Korean system. Here I have full health care coverage for $25 dollars a month, no co-pays, or deductibles or premiums or being told what doctor to choose or confusing plans. I can walk into a doctors office and see someone within five minutes and pay three bucks for the visit no matter how long I'm there. For getting my prescriptions refilled or for other basics its no problem. For something that might be major, though, the cheapness and the ease truly fails.

And so here I sit a week later still wondering what is wrong and trying to find out if I can order home kits on the internet to test myself.

American medical know how, Korea style.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Politics: McCain and the Keating Five

If you are worried about money, or if the economy is the biggest factor to you in the election, I ask you to take a few minutes, sit down, and watch this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Really? One of those days.

The day is the beautiful fall day that Korea, with it's four seasons, aspires to have.  I was heading towards the primarily outdoor section of the market and it was lovely. I decided to have lunch outdoors with my favorite hajuma. She was happy to see me when I pulled up a side of bench next to another aging grandmother who was also stopping in for a bite.

She was happy to see me as I haven't stopped in to eat anything for a while and she set me up with a proper lunch. As I put my bags down the other hajuma started to talk to me around pieces of fish-cake and point at my bag. I can understand Korean alright when it is not obstructed by fishcake but I have no idea what she is talking about. Finally, she points to my bags several time and tries to get me to put them next to her, and I realize she is worried for me things. I place them between my feet and she relaxes. This was before the day exploded.

As we talk politely in Korean and I tell her what I've been doing someone else down the aisle eating and apparently having an early morning case of soju suddenly starts yelling loudly. It's hardly even noon and he can't stand up. The hajuma who runs the cart bar he is passing out at yells back at him. It finally ends with her grabbing him by the arm and dragging him up to his feet and down the street to deposit him in a cab. The hajumas lining the cart-bars smile and shake their heads in amusement. I finish my lunch and figure to head up to look at fabric and see if there is anything interesting.

What I found instead was more shouting as two of the hajumas who have shops in the fabric section are yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. It's loud and angry and violent, and you can hear it throughout. Others are doing what Koreans do in the face of that much anger, shaking their heads and waiting for it to pass. Finally one of the lone ajoshi retailers decides to step in and gently scolds them, and old grandfather asking his two daughters to calm down. It works to a point. One of the women finds a customer and tries to convince her to buy some fancy printed silk. The other hajuma gets on the phone and starts repeating the entire argument at the top of her lungs to the person on the other side of the phone.

I'm amused so take back to the streets. As I walk outside another hajuma starts yelling at a passerby who bumped into her stall. Some workers are yelling at cart bar owners of stands that are not appropriate. People are yelling and screaming all over the place. I finally start to have to wonder if everyone is off their meds.

After watching yet another fistfight break out I decide to call my shopping done and head home to sew some shirts in my nice, quiet scream free apartment. DefinitelyDefinately a better way to spend a fall afternoon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

John McCain: If I were a dictator

"If I were a dictator, which I will always aspire to be..."

Copy, paste, share this video. Everyone needs to know that this is something a person running to be president says.

Be afraid people.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boobs: I like it.

So, art being art I have to admit, I posted the picture I took of the piece called "Boobs" because I did like it. As I said when talking about it with the artist recently, "My take on it was that it challenged a preconceived notion of what is
not only acceptable but what is pretty/beautiful when taken out of

He was kind enough to send me the original artist statement to accompany the piece, it follows, reposted with his permission. Thanks Chris!  More from the artist at

‘BOOBS’ – art, obscene, or neither?

BOOBS is an exploration into
an ongoing debate over the display of the female breast. In one corner,
the nude is an art form that’s been around for centuries, which is
tastefully portrayed to preserve the model’s natural beauty while
allowing the artist to express themselves. In the other corner are
those that often consider the showing of a female breast to be obscene.
They may, for example, attempt to cover a statue that show anatomical
features; attempt to outlaw a person’s behavior, lifestyle or clothing
in the name of ‘obscenity’; or charge a person with a criminal act for
failing to comply with the expected behavior or clothing choice. In
other cases, a women breastfeeding in public or visiting a topless
beach has been the unwanted subject of this debate. All of these have
been done in the name of preventing ‘obscenity’.

Women are
subjected to this discrimination at an early age, when they may learn
from their parents that they must cover their chest, while the boys may
play shirt-free. Even as girls become women they may be made to feel
shame because they must be covered to be accepted.

exactly, is obscenity? According to one legal definition, obscenity
“refers to words, images or actions that offend the sexual morality of
its viewers” (1). The United States Supreme Court uses a three part
test that measures a materials appeal to the "prurient" interest (i.e.,
an unhealthy and degrading interest in sex), that depicts or describes
sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and that lacks serious
literary, artistic, political or scientific value (2). In 1964, Supreme
Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote, "I'll know it when I see
it” – a fearless, though useless, definition of obscenity. (3)

question asked by BOOBS thus comes into focus: Can you tell what is
obscene? Stripped of all other factors that may make breasts ‘obscene’,
can you tell which breasts are ‘obscene’ and which are simply attached
to someone who chose to have their picture taken? I doubt it – you may
be able to categorize a few, but the rest are difficult or impossible
to tell apart. Even I (as the artist) would have a difficult time
telling you where each photo was taken from.

These pictures were
gathered throughout the internet, on websites some might consider
obscene and on other websites displaying normal people displaying
normal anatomical features. Other pictures were gathered from websites
that consider the female form as art. Each picture was cropped to show
only the breast(s), then printed on a high-quality printer and arranged
in a random fashion.

In the end, BOOBS seeks to demonstrate
that breasts are nothing to be afraid of, nothing to discriminate
against (or towards), and nothing that deserves to be considered
obscene under the current definition. The body as a whole is a
beautiful creation – one that deserves to be seen in all its beauty.

(1) Quote taken from
(2) Ibid.
(3) Justice Potter Stewart, in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964).

piece has been uniquely created and numbered. There is no way I or any
other artist could precisely recreate any of these works. All rights
are reserved by Chris Backe, and images may not be reused or
republished without prior permission. For information about purchasing,
please contact Chris by e-mailing chrisinsouthkorea at gmail dot com

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eternal Relection the Replay

I made a Kimono blouse with Japanese silk for the party. The paintings I entered into the gallery show were wild expressions of emotion in color, action painting, expressive painting, desire painting. I felt wild and free making the work.

Oddly I felt less wild and free as I walked up the stairs to the show. It was early but the room was already starting to fill with people, a crushing press. I walked up the stairs to see the paintings in the gallery, to watch some of the reactions to the pieces as people walked around. I want to know if my emotion effects others as they look.

A run into many people. I run into many artists. I stand in front of a piece of dark work, beautifully executed sketch, ink on paper. A couple walks up behind me, first to compliment me on the blouse. I introduce myself as an artist.

"Really, I'm an artist too. I did the boobs."

There was a photo piece a collage of breasts.

"I did it for more reasons than just boobs. I mean, it's not that I just like boobs, I mean I had a reason. I mean, I do like boobs, you have great breasts." I smile. He asks to see my work. I take him down the hall and explain the pieces and he takes my picture in front of "Punk". I smile and walk away down the stairs to refill a glass and meet more people.

More come in, I run into new friends and direct them up the stairs, I get a glass and head back up drunk on the ego stroking moment. In the room with my paintings to girls sit dressed from head to toe as 1920's molls. They are lovely. I take their picture in front of my paintings. Surreal moment in the room that is so far from 1920's feeling.

Australian Chickie stands in front of my pieces. "I don't get it. I mean, it's good, but I don't get it." We move down the hall and stand in front of an interesting collection of nudes.

"I hate this." She says.


"Because, it's just...It's just not art. It's just someone with a camera. I don't think it's pretty."

"Look at the composition, the positioning of the body. Read the title, see the interaction between camera, model, photograph and the concept."

"It's just like porn. And I really hate that. That's just disgusting." She points to the breast collage.

"Why in the world do you like my art?" I ask her.

"I don't understand it. To me that's what art is. Something I don't understand."

I think about that as I walk back down the stairs and get lost in the crowd.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And they Said: The Artwork

My camera is now fixed. These are the five new pieces that went into the art show. Part of a series titled: And they Said...

And Ramon Said, "Transiency."

And Psyche said,"Psyche."

And Michael said, "Punk."

And Marla said, "Empty."

And Tom said, "Jesus."

Me at the Eternal Reflections 2 art show with the excellent graffiti art background. More to come on that end.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Korean Advertising, Gods Love It!

Okay, at first I thought this Ad campaign was kinda of stupid but enjoyable to watch.

And then I fell in love with the girl in the green shorts.

Now I want to eat something here, but I'm not sure it's the chicken. I did not think it would be possible to be jealous of Korean office workers.

But, man, I am right now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Like a Virigin

I got out with Pakistani girl who has returned from here year running a Korean Guest House in Islamabad. She's a young Korean girl, only twenty five, and I've been in love with her for about as long as I've known her. I take her to the Pakistani restaurant in town that she didn't know about it. She teaches me how to say the food is good in Pakistani and we eat until we both feel we can barely move. Stuffed on curry and nan we head downtown for a few drinks and to take in the live music at the lonely hearts club.

At the bar we sit and start out drinking still talking quietly amongst ourselves. We are early and the night is young. She complains about being an Hajuma and I tell her she is not. Her complaints of being old make me feel older. I buy another round and we settle in between her pigeon English, my pigeon Korean, and the music that overplays it all.

As the night moves further on we are joined for drinks by The Noise. I explain to Pakistani girl that The Noise produced a wonderful live noise show on Wednesday night. I enjoy noise music. We all three talk now as apples are passed around and cut up by the girl. It is at this point that the Old Friend enters the bar.

I was happy to see him. I was sad to see him. He was gruff, he was projecting anger. Maybe angry, maybe not, but it is impossible to miss that what those in his presence are to feel is anger. I'm not angry.

He joins the table for a drink. I ask him a question about how he is, and the response is gruff. I try then to talk to Noise, or Girl, but his presence is like a dead weight now at the table. My friend, the loneliest heart in the Lonely Hearts, with an anger so readable it is hard to deny. I try to believe that it is just an act, but am struck by the knowledge that eventually the act becomes the reality. If this is all that is seen, does it not become the all?

So I try asking questions, trying to engage in a conversation. Trying to move from anger to just general misanthropy which is both more interesting and slightly more palatable on a Saturday night. It's just not there. After four questions Anger responds "Why are you interrogating me?"

"I'm not, I'm trying to have a conversation."

"Maybe I don't want to."

"So why are you out tonight."

"To have my beer and go home." At which point the beer is downed and Anger leaves the bar.

And I fret. I personalize it, I make it about me, I wonder what I have done to cause this. It's irrational. I feel guilty. I worry. I spend the next two hours thinking about Anger rather than about the night, and the music, and what should be a good time. And I try to figure out why the Anger, but in the end all I can come up with is that I do not understand it.

I don't have life. I don't have the ability to be irrationally angry about life to the nth degree anymore. I've given it up to some extent. I still have my moments, but more and more I see balance with each passing day. And I think it is this that upset me most. I miss the varying facets of my Old Friend. The wit, the charm, the paranoia, the happiness and the sadness. I miss it all, so many sides of friendship, so many ways to interact. Now all boiled down to a single mote in this existence, the least interesting mote, the least relate-able.

The Lonely Hearts fills with more people and the Noise and I enjoy with the Girl the musical musings of a good Korean cover band. They play at some point Like a Virgin and as they all jump up and down and croon about how they will give all their love to a boy I think of it. To be Virginal, to understand and enjoy simple pleasures, to let go and indulge in what is being offered, all the experiences you can take it.

I think to myself, yes, to be Like a Virgin is a far better goal and one that is infinitely more enjoyable.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And they said....

When I reached the top of the stairs the door was open so I walked on in. I had a couple of bottles of wine and some crackers and cheese for dinner. I also had about three gallons of paint with me in the other hand and some new brushes.

The studio was full of people, the musicians who rent the back room and have built a recording studio were up and were going to be there for a late night jam sessions. They said my music would not disturb them. I said fine. Their being there was kind of annoying because it meant I couldn't strip down completely to paint but finally they all went to the backroom so I was at least able to change into something more paint worthy.

Paper stared at me, and I stared back.

The theme was slow in coming but it did come eventually and so I started to work on it. Words a collection of words from different people. The words became real and the real became the colors leaving my hands and imprinting on the paper. I asked for words and I thought of words. Psyche came to mind and she said herself, to think, to be, and so I breath life into color and color into Psyches word on paper. I think of myself and who I fixate on the most, the inspiration for my madness, I think a word Escape and so I bring it to life and let it flow over and under me and through my bones until I escape out of the colors and the mash up.

I sit with Ramon in the bar and we talk about a number of things, I ask him for a word and he says Transiency so I look at the paper and I will it into being, I find color and a muse it together, fusion, and fuck up, and freedom, and change, it all goes on the paper and comes out changed.

I asked around in the bar and Tom says Jesus, then he changes his mind, then he says, no, Jesus, and so I think about Jesus and suddenly the paper is alive with this word. Why Jesus, because it is the word that pops into being the start of so many problems, the answer for the problems of so many others. I think of my gods and their gods and I wonder about which gods will duke it out in the end to find their own personal Jesus. The thought of a god with a personal Jesus amuses.

Marla thinks on her word and her word is empty and so I grab colors and think, I can do empty, nothing, nowhere, here is empty, empty is when it call comes out, and there on the paper is a mass, a wall, and there is nothing but emptiness. John looks at the words and he says Mourn, and so I paint the loss, I paint to lose, I paint for the sadness and the lack and of all the pieces I put together it comes out the most violent and random. I look at the pictures today and think that it is not done yet. I will need to revise that word a bit more.

In all I have six words from six people, and I still want more.

If you had your word as a living representative, what would your word be?

*pictures will come but I have to get my camera fixed and my cell phone does not do great pictures of art.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rain Rain: Flashback

This happened about a year ago. Sometimes my life is more interesting then I am.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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