Thursday, February 28, 2008

Land of the Morning Call

I know I'm back in Korea because I've had three different arguments in a language I don't understand and have won each of them. Not from superior language skills, but because unlike Koreans I can truly tap into the deep dark center of my welling Latino distaste and get angry at people.



In Korea having a cell phone is an imperative. So I took a teacher new to Korea to get her a cell phone. We go to cell phone street to get the new phone. Cell phone street makes perfect sense to me. I remember taking a new teacher once to get a cell phone. We went to the district where I suspected a phone could be found he looked up and down the street.





“Is that a cell phone store?” he asked.





“Yes.”





“Is that another cell phone store next to it?”





“Yup.”





“Huh. Long live capitalism.”





Cell phone street is much more intense than the two shop pile up that long ago new teacher praised. Cell phone street is a row in Daegu that has not one, not two, but about 150 cell phone shops all right next to each other and each one vying for the attention of the passing walkers trying to push cell phones on them. I walk into one of the first shops on cell phone street and ask to get a prepay phone. This shouldn’t be difficult I think.





“Opseyo.” Says the shop keeper.





“Mo-ya? Ta Opseyo?” What the hell are you telling me, there isn’t a single prepay phone in your entire store.





“Nay.” Yes, go away crazy waygook, no cell phone here.





I look into the case full of bright colorful plastic cell phones.





“Issyo?” I point to the phone.





“An-day, opseyo!”





I point to the street outside. “PSP phone-a, odi-issyo?”





“Jiggim, opseyo!” Now no one has them. Basically he was telling me that in all of cell phone land there as not going to be a single prepay phone for me to buy for my friend. I stand and fight with him a little more that breaks into a moderate amount of Korean swearing. Good to swear in a language people find offensive again.





We move back onto the street and walk across into another cell phone store. I ask the same question again.





“Ya, ya, sure, okay, phone, okay, ya.” And the pretty Korean boy dressed like a reject from a boy band turns around and comes to us with a model. I ask if there are anymore and he is puzzled for only a second before he managed to find a few phones for us to browse through giving us choice and selection.





The other phone clerks have noticed our presence and come to stand very close and listen and watch.





“Mo-ya?” asks one pointing to my flute case.





“Flute.” I say in English.





“Fruit?”





We practice pronunciation for a few minutes, the non-busy clerks practicing the word chorally while their comrade who is demo-ing phones to the new teacher looks on.





“Ya, minchinya.” Hey you guys are crazy. We all just kind of smile and nod. I figure if I wait to long the free English lesson will turn into a free flute lesson. A cell phone is picked out and we head back out into the cacophony that is Korea on a Wednesday night.





I miss home. It’s good to be home.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is how it is.



This is how it is.







In the bustle there are a thousand faces and all the faces
boil down to one or two. The one or two are cherished. It starts that one enjoys
the faces, the site, the familiar presence.





There is a point where one becomes accustomed.





The boys sing and snap and dance and the player with the
green guitar woos my spirit if not my flesh.





And the faces blend.





Here they come to stay for only a moment. I hold them for
only a moment. Warm flesh pressed against mine, a fleeting glimpse of what
might be if I had more time.





She was from Trinidad she told me.





She was going to Pakistan
she told me.





And the come back.





And they disappear.





And they are never to be heard from again.





This is how it is.





Here in the moving place, where everything is constant flux,
constant emotion, constant turmoil. There is only self imposed stagnation and
everything else is the height of moving on. Will it move on? And if it does?





This is how it is.





They come, and they go, and there is nothing here to hold
onto that is the same. Each day that passes presses it’s imprint upon me so
that each day that passes I am changed. I come and I go everyday. I am here and
then I am gone. I travel on a long road and some days I am completely lost in
the journey.





And some days I wonder if it is worth being found.





This is how it is.





I say good bye. New adventures await. I’d ask what for me,
but already the adventures lie piled high behind think glass that will not
become transparent until I get close to time. So leave. Let the adventure
happen.





It’s a matter of timing. Bad timing? No, it’s a matter of circumstance.
My warming body lies in bed in wait for me. There will be smiles when I press
upon the cushions. What is it that I am so afraid of there?





This is how it is. This is how it will always be.





Saturday, February 23, 2008

Long Night Love Song

It is the same questions again and again and again. I don't mind answering the
question. Because I love the people who ask. And I missed them. I missed all of them.

"How long were you gone?"

"How was it?"

"How long will you be back?"

They ask and they ask, and we buy each other drinks, and laugh and slap
backs, and hug, and kiss and hold hands. I bury my head in the warm
soft hair of a hundred thousands loves who I have missed and who have
missed me.

"I thought you were gone for good?" Someone asks me during the night.

"How could I go for good?"

I miss and I miss. My nose is kept warm pressed against the fur body of
the mutant hairball that has taken over my apartment. My loves are
warming the bed and warming me. My heart is in expansion mode. The
feeling of being home.

There is a pang somewhere, a longing to combine these two worlds apart to attain perfection.

I will make do with half of what I have. My body swings warm and open and welcoming to my home and I come with it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Buddy Guy explains the Pussy

“Want to go see Koko Taylor?” the bard asks me from her computer on a Wednesday night. My last night in Chicago is coming up. We had discussed up on my arrival all the things I wanted to do while I was in the city. Between the two of us and several other good friends we had managed to cover pretty much all of it. I could have used more time with one or two friends flung far out of my vacation trajectory, but I managed with what I had to work with. I’d say I hit it head on. Or, in other words, “I came, I fucked, and I conquered.”

So it was arranged with the Bard that we would be joined by Young Kubrick and would head out on the last night to attend to the live blues music part of my vacation that still wanted to be accomplished. It was Friday night and we were going to Buddy Guy’s.

Buddy Guy is a legend. Buddy guy also runs Buddy Guy’s legends. You cannot do better for live blues music than the little blues bar that could on the end of the South Loop in the part of downtown Chicago that doesn’t really close. Once the arrangements had been made I packed my bags and checked them twice, got all gussied up (though I think the Bard yet again managed to outdo me [it’s the red hair]) and off we went.


The plan was simple. Get there early, eat fantastic food, get good seats, watch Koko, continue to make mischief elsewhere.

Kubrick joined us at 7 and we scooted down LSD to the loop to catch the music. There is a palpable thrum of excitement on the road, maybe it’s the last night in Chicago, maybe it’s the anticipation of the good music, maybe it just the company, maybe it is just going, it is exciting, it’s tense, and it all happens far to quickly for comfort.

We managed to park the car quickly enough and after that is was just a matter of getting in to have our good time. We walked down the crisp cold city street towards the club. While we hadn’t rushed we did manage to get in around 7:30 and figured that we had done a fairly good job of timing it. We continued to believe that until we walked into the bar and paid our tip to Koko’s Fund for Indigent Musicians. Somebody has got to help the indigent musicians. We looked around the stage. It was packed.

And not just a little packed.

There were so many people in that bar that it was barely standing room. While there were a number of tables, they were all full of people munching down on the various Cajun goodies that were to be had at Buddy Guy’s. There was not a seat at all on the floor for watching the show.

“What are the chances someone will leave before the show starts,” I ask.

The Bard just looks at me.

So we had back around the corner where we came. By the door there is a large bar full of people and there just happened to be a few empty seats at the end. There were empty seats at the end for a very good reason. From this position you could not see the stage at all. However, seats meant a place to sit and talk and eat while waiting for Koko and I didn’t mind at all if I had to stand in the back of the bar to watch and listen when she finally made the stage. So without much ado we all sallied up to the bar, ordered tall drinks and a menu, and made like we were hungry people.

Side Note: By the way, Cajun crawfish poppers are really, really, really good. My god the things I would do to people if they offered me Cajun crawfish. I guarantee they are probably illegal in six states and would get me stopped at the border before I could even enter Texas.

We ordered food and backed our faces, sharing things back and forth while drinking it up and enjoy the night. I was feeling rather content and full of good music and walked up to the get a few photos at some point. We kept moving back and forth and talking. We talked and talked and didn’t really look much as an older gentleman walked into the bar and sat at the chair behind us. It was one of the last chairs in the house and there was no view at all from there so it wasn’t really all that surprising that he picked that spot to sit in. We kept with the drinking while someone kindly took away our plates.

As with any bar conversation there are pauses and lulls, at some point I turned to the Bard not thinking and she said “Yes, it is, but that’s not the question you are going to ask.”

“What?”

“Yes, but that’s not the question.”

“What’s the question?”

“I’ll tell you in a second.”

I’m trying to figure out how much I’ve had to drink at this point because something has gone completely over my head. I turn to young Kubrick to ask him and he looks about as confused so both of us turn back around and focus on the Bard and try to figure out what is going on.

“Yes, it IS.” She says with intent.

We kept pressing for the question for two reasons. One, we are both foolish, and two, we are both very unobservant.

She finally gave us the question.

“Is that Buddy Guy?”

Suddenly a whole lot of pieces including my stomach clicked into place and I turned a surreptitious glance to the gentleman who is sitting next to Kubrick and noticed three things in succession.

He was drinking very expensive Cognac.

He had a diamond ring on one finger.

He had a gold and diamond ring on his ring finger with the initials BG.

What else can you do when you are sitting that close to Buddy Guy but to try to think of good reasons to have a conversation with him? As I was trying to work out how in the world I was going to work up just enough nerve to do this, several other older black gentleman walked into the bar and sat down next to Buddy and started talking, old friend. Buddy ordered a beer and a glass of ice, as did another of the gentleman, and they all sat, drinking and laughing and talking.

Kubrick was closer to the action and I was still trying to figure out how to work this. Finally it was decided that Kubrick and the Bard would go have a cigarette allowing me to save seats and be the poor lonely girl at the bar next to all the nice people that could have a conversation with me. And that would somehow become my in to talk to someone in the party and then hopefully talk to the man himself.

It never really works out that way.

I managed to hold down the seats and even get closer but did very little to actually get into the party of people talking except for introducing myself to a much older gentleman drinking beer on ice who was hard to comprehend and completely wrapped up in what he was doing. I was not doing so well until the second slightly younger gentleman took an interest when I said I was a teacher.

“Really, where you teach?”

“In South Korea.”

“Huh, he probably been there,” and he laughs and slaps Buddy Guy on the shoulder and I think yes, and I’m getting closer. It took a few more minutes of polite talking before the gentlemen sitting to the right of Buddy says, “I’m Koko’s husband.” That’s an in if there ever was one.

We continue talking, and he is easy to talk to. I tell him about using music from the city to teach English. I’ve used Koko Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Bill Broonzy, Bo Diddly, anyone I can think of from the city. One of my favorite things to do is expose kids to good music and you can’t get much better than Chicago blues. He told me about Koko, her touring, and that she was sick and wouldn’t be in tonight. He looked at Buddy Guy and told me, pulling Buddy into the conversation, that Buddy had given Koko away at the wedding.

“Really?” I say.

And I sidle over and stand between them both. Shaking hands, introducing myself.

“So where you from?” They ask again.

“Chicago, but I live in South Korea. Been over there for six years.”

“Shit,” Says Mr. Koko, “They ever hear of Buddy?”

“They tend to think good blues music is Whitney Houstan.” That has them both laughing and slapping the bar.

“What you think of the flight?” asks Mr. Koko.

“Nothing hurts your ass more than a 13 hour flight.” I say.

Buddy laughs. “That’s why if they want to see me they send a goddamn plane.” We all laugh together and get chummy. Mr. Koko recommends that Buddy come tour Korea. I say sure, and ask Buddy if he has a card. He does, and he hands it to me. I pass him back one of my own.

“So, I teach English using your music. If you were going to teach,” I asked them “what song would you use?”

They both kind of look at me for a second. I wait sure I’m about to be bounced out of the bar.

“Shit,” Says Mr. Koko, “I’d teach um ‘Don’t Give it up’.”

They both start laughing pretty hard at that one and I realize that I have missed something but I’m not sure what it is.

“Why is that?” I ask.

Mr. Taylor looks at Buddy, he just shakes his head and says “You tell her.”

“Cause of the pussy,” says Mr. Koko. Buddy laughs and slaps the table. “You all got the pussy, and we all want the pussy, but you can’t just give that shit up, ain’t that right?” he says to Buddy.

“It sure enough is. You can’t give up the pussy.” And I crack into a smile and laugh right along with them.

As the laughter died down a fan came up who had the temerity to want to get his instrument autographed by Buddy Guy and I gave up the floor. Instrument signing and shaking hands is one thing, but talking to Buddy Guy about pussy is far more memorable.

p.s. Yes the pictures of me talking to Buddy is fuzzy and hard to recognize but you can tell Buddy by the ring and me by the crazy hair. What do you want, she's a drunken Bard not a drunken photographer.

On on on

I should be in bed.

I have been up near to fifty hours with interspersed sleep in three hour clumps. The clumps are like madness that push and grate on my skin, dried out on the world and the world and the world.

I am pushing against it anyway.

Faces bobbing in crowds I recognize. I recognize my own face there. I see hearts content and the end of the rainbow. We are all tired. We all travel. We never get home.

When will this trip end, I think as I get into another cab, travel to another hotel, arrive at another destination.

The bed is lavish and huge, the bath is bigger than the room, and it swirls dramatically at the push of the button. Water runs and splashes on the floor as we bath each other and spill water across our bruises.

What happened here, is the question as bruises are discovered on my travel weary body. In the snow of Chicago that I had braved so well this winter I had not fallen at all. No it was a chili pepper that felled me.

That's the pepper.

And here, they ask, did you fall on a whip.

I try to remember, I think the whip fell on me, or maybe it was just one more lash of this trip taking a bite out of me. I can't remember how I got where.

Tonight I talk theory and execution. Tomorrow I talk theory and acquisition.

And eventually sleep. My brain screams get to bed, but the tired fingers work on keyboards and try to work it all out anyway.

Life as a lash and love the sweet splash of water on burned skin and all of it a swirl amid my travel fever....

On on on.

On on on.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Game is Balance

It was a game of pool.

The discussion was about pool and will. Pool as a metaphor for the universe, you apply your will and then chaos results from which you must make some sense and continue forth to apply your will again.

The pool table is small.

“I always played better on the one in the basement.”

“That’s because you learn all the tricks on that table, the pocket that is on a slant, the dip before the side pocket, where the curves are. It’s bad for playing pool.”

“But good in other ways.”

There was once a pool table that sat in a place that we had made into a coffee shop. I would sit and serve coffee to the various people who came in, we would talk, we would drink coffee into the wee hours of the morning, and we would sometimes play pool. There would be live music, there would be friends. On a busy night we might even have ping pong going as well.

Sometimes the pool table became the center of attention for other reasons. There were parties of varying colors or flavors. There was the lanky tall black haired girl who I thought of as the Spider, whose lips were lovely when full and round and whose back arched prettily against the green felt of the table.

I still think of her when I play pool.

The game continued long after the first few shots. As the game progressed so did the selection of sticks. Connoisseurs don’t play the game with what is provided. Connoisseurs amass baggage, a collection of pieces that will make for the perfect game. You may have something in your particular bag of tricks that other players find loathsome and few appreciate. It’s part of the game.

Part of applying will.

Will is the stick, the rod, the shaft, the tempered injection of substantial control. Logic, practice, experience guide the use of will, chaos is what happens later. This was a night of will. The game continues.

The strikes are well placed and leave an impression on the table. One has to admire and think about the next move. Balance each hit to move towards the inevitable conclusion. Look carefully at what is made, the patterns, the shapes, the design that happens even in the chaos. It makes me think of math teachers from my youth who tried to convince me that there is math in everything; the fluid geometry of moving things.

There is math in motion here. The fluid motion of finding the connection among a work of movable patterns and making it take shape. Looking at that table after the first crack has broken up the particles on the surface and moved everything about. Where will it go. If I hit it here will it sink? Will it swim? Will it stop too soon?

How hard can I hit it before I break my stick? How long can I hit it before I lose my will?

The game is balanced after the first two rounds. Neither of us winning or losing, I choose to press on because I hate losing. Or maybe I just wanted to see what else could happen when the game is played to a conclusion.

But like any good game of pool there is no ending, just more shifting about of the chaos.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Musical Vastness

Nights fueled with drinking and debauchery are the best kind.

I had previously arranged with Faust to go and experience all that is Vast. The group changed and changed until finally I found myself exposed and fielding a call from the bard that the ride was waiting patiently for me outside. I skipped out the door and down the stairs trying not to kill myself on the ice or the snow or the fun of the evening and ran towards the ride. Faust sat shot gun and his lovely girl friend of the fabulous bosom Audrey Hepburn was driving.

Chicago is lovely at night as we speed through the city, the traffic, the lights, the insanity of moving from one place to another, working our way towards the inevitable goal, music in the city. Music to divine by. Parking was found not easily but close, Audrey after some shaking back and forth with the car managed to fit into the spot with only a minor bump of a rear bumper. Being that this is Chicago it demanded that a person run across the street to let us know that the car behind us had been touch during our parking debacle. We knew this, but they ranted anyway.

“It’s okay, you should just know.”

“I know I already got out and checked, there is no damage and everything is fine.”

“Right, but you should just know.”

Faust and I sat white knuckled and stayed out of it letting Audrey handle it. Between the two of us I think it would have turned into a fight, but she’s cool under pressure and eventually smoothes it over to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Let’s go get pizza,” she says and we skip across the street.

Chicago pizza. We walked into the parlor that was full of load music and punks, and queers, and students, and pizza eaters. The pizza jockey behind the counter slings pizza dough into the air spinning a perfect circle that lands neatly over his upraised arm. It smells like heaven and flour and sauce and real cheese. It smells good and feels warm and I cursed myself for stupidly filling up on pita bread and spinach dip before leaving. Silly vegetarian.

The timing was right and as we left the parlor Chicago winter was starting to wake up from a slumber. “What the hell am I doing with all this warmth,” it said to the dark streets and the citizens sick of snow, “let it be cold.” And there was a gust of wind that froze the nipples off of all of us as we two stepped down the street towards the Double Door.

Our tickets were waiting inside wear soon we found ourselves poised to take in the band. We had spots close to the stage, drinks in hand, and the will to be there. Two groups were up before the Vast expansion of our musical horizons that we expected to see later. The first group was full of white suburban punk anger, shouting out their rage as they tore apart a trashcan with teeth and forhead, braining that poor aluminum something fierce. The screamed and people tapped their feet and jumped around.

We met the rest of the party while the punks screamed on page. We had Vanilla and J and soon to be followed by the Somaon who would be presumably be wearing more than the sarong he had wrapped himself in last time I had seen him. Vanilla was a wonderfully nice guy and J was even better. From head to two she exuded that kind of mysterious punky naughtiness that I aspire too. Maybe it was that or maybe it was the red fishnet stockings over her black garters and the fact that her skirts seemed to keep inviting my hand to find it’s way underneath.

Faust is the instigator, “you should show J your bracelets.”

I smile. And agree thinking later, but a few minutes later I’ve got myself locked around J and we are all tied up and ready to go. Her hand is warm pressed in mine and I like the feel of her wrist locked so close to mine. We play like girls will play and smile and are amused. I keep her all tied up for a bit until we twist the bracelet around so badly that I have to set her free or risk becoming forever intertwined. I suspect there are worse fates but we are here for the music.

The second band up is some grunge pop set that plays pretty music without really inspiring. We talk and laugh and enjoy ourselves and stake a claim to our spot even more firmly waiting for the main show.

Which was coming.

Which started with the half naked long haired Irishman who played violin joined very shortly by the only person we want to see, Jon Crosby, taking the stage, with his guitar and his back up and his voice. The voice walks in separate, it’s own special aura, taking it’s place in front of that microphone and preparing to wow the crowd. We are in awe before he opens his lips. He sings to us and we respond, we understand, we are musical creatures feeding on the only thing that will truly satisfy us tonight.

He sings to us….

Precious one, you have abandoned me
Oooh, so let me in
Because I'm out…

And we let him in. And we swoon. We jump, and we dance, and we laugh and we cry and we are united in our love and our deep desire swirling and changing like the lights on the stage. Fluid movement and everything lost and nothing and redeemed by the voice that leads us through the darkness. The debauchery was between our ears and mingled with the alcohol flowing between our lips and the vibrations of the instruments strumming through the air and between our legs.

The best kind of nights.






Vastness

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Monday, February 11, 2008

She Called it Murphy's Visa

The entire process at this point has been dubbed by Skimmel, Murphy's Visa. I think this is fairly appropriate considering all the difficulties that I have had with it.

To begin with I first had to go through getting all the documents mailed to Korea without making a trip home. Then my hold up at immigration in Korea to get out. Then the interminable wait for my Master's degree transcripts to show up (they forgot I ordered transcripts and didn't sent them until I called again a month later). Then submitting all documents to my school and waiting for the president's approval. Then waiting for that to go to immigration. Then finally to get my number. Then to realize I did not have any visa pages in my passport requiring an exorbitant fee to cut through bureaucratic red tape. Then finding out I would have to have a consular interview at the last minute.

Lucky for me they had an opening for the following day. So I went back up the way to my home base in the city. While I was walking to catch the bus the rain from earlier had turned into hail that was being blown by sharp wind into my face, rendering my umbrella stupid at best. I walked first across the street to get passport pictures and cancel and rearrange time for the volunteer work I'm doing. Then I got the bus.

As fate, or Murphy, would have it, my bus stopped about ten blocks from my destination forcing me to walk down the icy city streets towards home base. The snow was melting and everywhere was a deluge of ice water which quickly permeated the shoes and the socks leaving me chill, shivering, wet, and pissed by the time I got to home base. With a looming interview on the following day.

I spent the next three hours trying to figure out what to wear. I needed something understated, business worthy, and Korean style. Fortunately I'd been buying work clothing and had a few things but kept changing my mind and could not settle on anything. I raided Skimmel's closet and stressed and stressed some more. Finally I crashed going to sleep making two wishes for the following day.

For my interview I wanted two things. That my interviewer be a man, and that if it was possible, he be from Daegu.

To prepare for the interview I had to collect and print out all the documents I could find on my computer and packed these up in a bag. Of course the weather in Chicago, which had been schizophrenic for days, turned worse and I found that I was slated to hit Loop rush hour morning traffic in the middle of a blizzard. Lucky me.

I left adding an extra hour to my anticipated commute time which turned out to be a good idea, I was only mildly early for my appointment and walking into the consulate office looking less like a drowned rate and more like a professional teacher. I handed over all my papers to the official from the previous day, who needless to say remembered me, and had a seat.

My interview was for 10:45 a.m. I waited. As the time passed more waygooks came in and went through the same process of handing over papers and finally settling back to sit like me. I talked up the nice young girl who would be entering Korea to teach at a University, her first stint in education and Korea. I gave her my card and tired to give her some helpful preparatory information. We chatted and waited. I asked when she was scheduled to go in and she answered 10:30. I asked for the time and it was 11:00. Of course, we are on Korean time now.

After a while more of sitting and chatting up the group of hopeful teachers I was called first since I had arrived first. In my hand I took a folder that included photos of me in class, a resume, and copies of some papers and things I had written. While it was impromptu decided in the end to treat it like a job interview, and so did my best to be completely prepared for anything.

I walked in to see the consul a nice young man who smiled while the official rattled off quickly in Korea about my needing and interview and that I had been in Korea before and was confused about the rules. I smiled and pretended that I didn't know what she was saying.

The consul smiled at me.

I smiled back.

"So you have been in Korea a long time?" he asked.

"Oh yes, seven years almost."

"So you speak Korean?"

"Cho-gum. Hang-ul-ma, has-e-go-ita."

"Where did you teach?"

"Daegu."

"Kie-ri-yo? Daegu. Daegu is my hometown." Score two points for the various gods who have finally decided to give me a break.

"Where did you teach in Daegu," he asks politely.

I answered in Korean because I'm better at it then in English, and his eye practically popped out of his head.

"That is my school. That was my middle school. Ah jinja, jinja." He smiles and shakes his head. He says in Korean that it is too much. I laugh.

After that we talked about Daegu, where we like to go, the things we like to do in Daegu, where the best food is, the best view, the best shopping. My interview was finished. It turns out that he lived about five minutes from where I had been working for two years, and I know that area like the back of my hand. With each landmark that I spouted he would smile and exclaim and add something else.

In other words, I charmed the papers out of him.

I shook his hand as I left and wished him happy New Year in Korean, as it was the exact date of Sul-nul when I went to interview. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It took him only a second and he bowed deeply and returned the New Year's cheer.

The official who I had worked with told me to come back on Friday and pick up my visa. Finally, at long last, the whole thing was over. I went back out into the blustery Chicago winter which had decided to hold off on the scheduled blizzard. I managed to make it all the way back to home base before the snow really started to come down in a serious way. Apparently somebody finally liked me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dining at the Temple of Earthly Delights

More reasons why I love this city….

The dinner had been planned more than two weeks in advance for a Saturday night party of six in one of the swankiest downtown restaurants in Chicago. An upscale Mexican place, which amuses me to no end, but I'll do anything at least once, just to do it. I had arrived in the city bedraggled after another week of being on the road with nothing to wear that I thought would merit a dinner in the three figure range so I stopped a shop to try and find something.

I wanted something in red, bright, beautiful, blazing and fiery. Something nice and not subtle. It was how I was feeling.

"We don't carry red until fall."

"How about silk?"

"We only carry silk around Christmas, but you can check the clearance racks."

Right.

After an hour of searching and a quickly approaching dinner deadline I finally gave up on the notion of buying something new and nice to wear, as apparently there was nothing new and nice to be found. So instead I headed back to the dressing room and pulled out the only thing that might save my dinner which was a black velvet cross over top. This was about as shanzzy as I could pull off last minute, so I tossed it on, dabbed a little perfume, fingered my hair and headed for the door and a cab, which is almost as easy to come by in the loop as a cab in Korea.

At the restaurant I realized I was early and had to wait a moment for the party but as I looked up the street I could see a group of four of the most lovely people ever created. We had the bard who minxed down the road in black pants that circled off her legs like a dancer, emphasizing her delicate waist, and bringing the eye squarely to the black silk shirt tucked politely under a leather jacket and hiding her most amazing bosom. Next to her strode the Nordic God, in all his blonde haired flowing splendor, fashionably attired in a black trench and slacks and exuding an air of a Dionysian on a school day. Walking almost hand in hand with all of them was Pink Punk Riot sporting the wonderful dress down casual, in rolled cuff jeans, a striped men's blouse, and a tie. Somehow without the tie it would not have worked so well. The final member of the party and the only one wearing a nice pullover sweater vest was the Instigator, who had happily joined at the last minute. He exuded an air of Faust leaving swirling eddies of thought and mystery in his wake as he moved quietly down the sidewalk. Seeing a group like that walking towards you on the foggy snow covered city streets can have a real affect on a girl's sense of decency, but I managed not to swoon. I figured with this crowd there would be plenty of time for swooning later. And we hadn't even gotten to the food.

After short hellos and shivering in the Chicago night air we went in to find tables, get drinks and wait on the Balance who we expected to arrive at some point in the near future. Drinks, it was established, was the first order of business, and so we ended up with all manner of bright pretty drinks on our tables to go with our food, some margaritas and some colorful smoky beer the name of which I've forgotten. The Pink Punk could tell you the ingredients, the preparation method, and possibly exactly how the alcohol would catalyze in your system to turn your taste buds into divine instruments of orgasmic fluctuation, but I'm an artist and a writer. The best I can do is tell you it was red at the bottom, orange on top, and served in a glass that was ringed with smokey salt that flecked in colors in the red range with a few pieces of translucence and black to offset it. It was a beautiful piece of work and exactly what Pink Punk desired. I'm just happy I was sitting next to her when trying to figure out the menu as otherwise I might have been completely lost.

After a few more minutes of waiting and mostly drinking we saw the Balance walk in, dressed in a suit jacket, blue shirt, no tie, and all his beautiful self already worked up. "Tell me to dress up; I almost came in sweat pants."

The Balance ordered a drink. I forget the exact nature of the drink but that it would be strong.

"I'm sorry, the bar only has beer and tequila." Says the waitress.

"What?" The Balance.

"It's the world's most perfect bar." Says me.

The Balance is exactly what we had all been waiting for, the conversation starter and the one who could make it all work out across a table that was too big for the conversation we were going to have.

And that was what we needed; words to mingle with the sensations on our tongues. I shared appetizers with Pink Punk something served in three glasses, that included squid and which could be put on tortilla chips. For dinner I had a vegetarian Mexican pasty thing that was really quite delicious. There were various dishes had round the table and from the oohs, ahs, moans and sudden trips to change underwear I suspect that all of us were intensely satisfied by the arrangement of flavors on the plates and feelings in our tummies.

We passed samples back and forth to mingle the spices and the sauces so that before the dinner was finished each of us had a taste of the other. When it was time to order coffee our desert menus were refurnished. It was to our great amusement that at least three of us ordered the coffee that claimed to have Indian Work Ethic and African Strength, however I may be getting that confused. But who doesn't want more Indians and Africans in their coffee? There were also some alcohol infused hot chocolates to go around, and a few sweet cakes to be enjoyed. It was an evening with a cacophony of varied experiences, elements, ingredients, thoughts, and desires, culinary or otherwise, mixed, tossed, and served to each of us. The menu was designed for each of our own personal tastes, carefully balanced about. It is just our luck that the group, so designed by the Bard, all shared tastes so well.

It's the sort of thing I start to miss first when I head back to Korea, and just one more reason why I love this city.