Saturday, August 30, 2008

Body Painting Festival and Daegu

Daegu somehow managed to get the World Body Painting festival to come for a visit. I discovered the event shortly upon my return to Korea from a my all to short holiday in Chicago while standing on the street in the middle of the bright morning sun and wishing to the merry gods that I was in air conditioning. Somehow even in my jet lagged state I managed to recall it during the following week and do some google searching to pull up the info.

After reading through the site in English I realized there would be a Body Circus/Ball in advance of the day shows at the stadium and the only thing I could think about that was that I wanted to go. So I made an appointment to pick up some tickets in person ahead of the party and in the meantime made do with trying to stay on top of everything else going down in my work life.

As the date approached I dealt the last minute franticness of a run to Seoul and arrived in the 'Gu at six in the evening and just ahead of my rendezvous with the Jamaican who was going to accompany me to the party.

Originally I intended to make a new outfit for the Circus but my idea and reality chose not to conicide. I wanted to be colorful and pink and the outfit I designed fell flat so I wore instead a pink silk blouse I had made some time ago thinking that it would have the appropirate amount of color and flow.

At eight I walked down to pick of the Jamican with a cheese sandwhich in tow since she had not eaten and I had only barely had time to eat. On the walk I gave her a scarf that I had found that just screamed it would match whatever she would be wearing and was rather mollified that the chamelieon scarf which shifted between pruprle and gold did just that.

I realize, that rather stupidly, I had a number of expectations. I should no better. I live in Korea. Korea will completely dash any hope or expectation that one has. What did I expect in going to the Body Painting Festival? Ahhh, so much. I wanted an evening to hang out with some like minded individuals from around the world. I wanted to meet lovely young models from Europe and watch them get painted. I wanted to see Daegu take of the conservative mantel that it is shrouded in for a chance to be free and unusual and unique in Korea for accepting the fair. So many mislaid expectations really.

What I got was reality and reality I should have been prepared for. When we arriaved early to get done up we discovered that being foriengn we really stood out in the crowd of upper class Daegu denzians. Somehow this party was full of the kinds of Koreans who attend black and white balls, and galas, and openings. This was immeditaly the opposite of the crowd I had anticpated. I thought with hope that perhaps as the evening wore on it might change. Then, since we were early, the Korean camera crews decided to fixate on both myself and the Jamican. She had the shorter end of the stick as she actually ended up being interviewed by one of the news outlets. I new better than to let that happen, but only barely. There were so many bright lights and all those bright lights were following us around. It was annoying. It was very Korean.

I won't get started about Korean media circuses here, because that is a conversation for an entirely different day.

As it was we finally managed to escape into the cool empty darkness of the ballroom. And that is what it felt like, empty darkness. Mind you it was somewhat crowded with the jet set Korean crowd, but those same jet setters stood aloof. This was not a group of people that let their hair or anything else hang loose. The artists entered the hall shortly after that, a smallish troupe of beautiful people with wonderful ideas and talent. As soon as they walked in and began to congregate the news crew swept over them isolating them. Watching this from the sidlines created a feeling of unease. I do love being in Korea, but this was not the best representation of Korea. Here is where the underlying unbalance of the culture stands out. Koreans staring lost at foriegners as if aliens have just touched down and invaded the planet. It's distracting. It's embaracing. And it is what it is, it is Korea.

The night could only be saved by the interjection of some alcohol and the hope for something magic. Fortunately, these things were coming.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Midnight Serenade

It was a last dinner at the Pakistani place. The Geek is scheduled to exit stage ROK in just a few days and so I had promised a last dance. We meet at my place say goodnight to the dog and hoof it across town for some damn fine vegetarian curry and what turned out to be a whole roast chicken for the Geek. A beer and fine dining later we were both stuffed to the gills and contemplating the looming evening.

"Lonely hearts?"

"Lonely Hearts."

So we step off a corner and into a cab and head in the opposite direction for drinking at the Lonely Hearts Club. H looks especially down tonight as he sets up for what will be a crowded Wednesday night.

"You okay?" I ask as I order a drink?

"Just...busy." Says H. I ask when Hyun will be in but that is to be much later. I notice the ashtrays piled up on the bar waiting to be dished out around the room so I play assistant bar back while H finishes up with the smallish crowd that has just entered.

The Geek and I sit and drink and enjoy ourselves while reveling about our past misdeed and the less than sane women we have both dated at one point in our life.

I laugh because it is amusing.

I laugh because I'm sad to see another friend going.

I laugh because I have five shots of tequila and the night is young.

I laugh because it's almost fall.

I laugh because I miss mountains and deserts in the cool night air.

We shove off so I can get home and get up early enough to make it in time for my job. The streets are cool and the rain is falling in a polite sprinkle.

"Do you mind if we walk back in the rain?" I ask.

"No, it's fine....Do you... Do you know that guy?" He turns and points to a guitar player standing under the protection of a doorway.

He waves at me. "Sara." I wave back.

We go over to say hello. I apologize for not being able to stay for the music.

"I can play you something now." He says.

"Been a while since I've been serenaded in the rain."

And so we stood in the chill midnight air getting mildly damp while the guitarist bends over his instrument to play me a tune. The music is light with a hint of ennui. Perfect the the neon melancholy that is sinking into me.

"It's beautiful." I say.

It's all so beautiful.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Say Hello....

To my little friend.

The executive Dildo whose features include:

Sleek Jet Black Marble.
A fox shaped base to stand on.
Slim white marbling to create veins.
More inches of amusement than I can possibly stand.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Antique Dildo Shopping

"So, tomorrow I'm going to go junk shopping for family," says the Geek.

"Sounds like fun." I reply.

"I'm trying to decide if one of those traditional stone dildos will make a good present or if it would just be a problem and make some friends. Jealous."

"Traditional Stone Dildos?" I ask.

"Sure, in the junk shops."

"I don't have a traditional stone dildo. Why don't I have a traditional stone dildo? I've gone shopping at lots of antique places and junk jobs. I've never seen a stone dildo. I want a stone dildo. I want a stone dildo now!"

"Um, you can come with me?" offers the Geek.

"Too right I'm coming with you, I cannot go another day without having my own stone dildo!"

And so it was the lunch was arranged I would have to live twelve hours without having my own stone dildo. At just after 1:00 the Geek came knocking and we walked out into the rainy Daegu after noon in search of lunch and the wily stone dildos.

The Geek was not exactly positive about the location of the shop we were looking for so after lunch and some coffee we wandered about downtown looking for the appropriate turn of to get to the street that had the store that theoretically had the stone dildos.

"This street maybe?" He says.

"Okay, let's cut down that street." He offers.

Finally we end up back on the main drag and like an oasis in the desert we stumble upon the antique shop that is the destination of our adventure.

"Like those stone dildos!" He says pointing at the sculptures that are featured prominently in the windows.

And sure enough there were the carved stone dildos in the window. The store was crammed with various kinds of stuff. Aside from the dildos we were swamped by antique gold, brass, and silver items. Icons, fetishes, Buddhas, knives, silverware, hash pipes, taxidermy, medical things. We even found a super 8 camera, an old phonograph with a large brass speaker cone, and a portable crank turn table. Lots and lots of assorted stuff.

In the end I poked through the riff-raff coming up with an nice stone dildo ("It's black," says the Geek. "It's the executive dildo." says me) a set of candle holders and a hair pin. Sundries were acquired for presents for the Geeks family and the two of us headed with our various bounties back into the rainy sweaty Daegu summer day to make what would could of the afternoon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


It started as it tends to start, with dinner. I'd hopped a train for Chicago earlier that afternoon so I would be downtown by six thirty and ready to meet people for dinner at eight at the Parthenon. The Parthenon, if you don't know, is the best place to go in Chicago for good Greek grub, assuming you are not going to they gyro shack around the corner from your apartment which can also be surprisingly good (this rule only applies to Chicago where you can get authentic Greeks in your Greek shacks). It depends on the Greek. It's the short ones that are bald, with with the handsome toothy smiles and the intense gazes that make the best foods. Fortunately they have these in spades in the kitchen at the Parthenon.

Before arriving I had changed out of Midwestern comfort clothing and into something appropriate for a hot day in the city. I went shopping at a book store in my pretty blouse and then grabbed a cab for the other side of town. I was early, as I knew I would be, but sidled up to the bar and ordered a drink. The bar at the Parthenon is set just aside from the restaurant so you can smell how good the food is while you are waiting. I suspect this is done to ensure that no one comes into the place and tries to leave without a full belly. It smelled lovely. The bartender brings my drink, looks down my blouse, and waves away my money.

"On the house." He smiles. I smile back and make the polite conversation that has just been purchased from me rather Korean style and wait for the arrival of the dinner party. Tonight we will have the Bard, the Chef, and the Balance whenever they all decided to show up. The bartender eventually sighs as more people come to patronize and he must officially work, I sip my drink and read a magazine while waiting for the others.

The Bard and the Chef come in and clap me around and ask when we have a table. I mention that I thought they had reservations. "I'll take care of it." Says the Chef, who then orders a drink and books a reservation for fifteen minutes later while she sips it at the bar.

"I hate waiting in lines." She smiles. Now with a table procured we set to waiting for the Balance and finishing our starter drinks trying not to rush it too much. Just as we settle in for the last few short minutes before our reservations kick in, the Balance walks in looking devilshly charming, and more drinks are ordered while we get seated. The Chef had brought a selection of wines for the evening but alas the corking fee put rather a stick in the situation which resulted in us ordering the house red to go with the food.

Arguments over food ensued. To get the family style menu or not.

"She's a vegitarian." Says the Bard with grace and pointing at me.

I smile, "Don't worry, I'm sure I can think of something."

"We can get the vegetarian family menu." Adds the Chef.

"I want gyros." Says the Balance. "We can get the gyros menu and she can get something else." Which made perfect sense to everyone there so in the end it was decided that the carnivores would have the family style menu which included gyros and the pork, and I would get some kolokythakia tiganita with skorthalia and dolmas for dinner and would share when it was possible in the other items on the family menu.

And so the feasting the eating, the drinking, and the random talking ensued. The discussion starts with foods, rambles into politics and then, as almost always happens if I speak up, dives straight down the gutter into hedonism. We all ate to exploding, and passed around deserts with coffee, baklava and some kind of greek pudding that I was sure would kill me (having only recently escaped from the allergery encrusted trip to the Midwest I was avoiding eggs and milk with a stronger passion than usual).

Having fully gorged ourselves on things like saganaki and roditis while being highly amused by the ambiance, among other things cheese on fire and the trotting through the entire restraunt of a recently barbequed pig (head and all), it was time to pay the piper and retire. It was agree all around that we would ajourn to the home of the Balance to continue in the drinking and the revelry until we could not do anything else. Alas, I took this a little too much to heart and blame the two weeks spent induling in allergies but without the drinking and the going out. So, as we entered the enclave and were each treated to our own libations of sorts I got a little head over heals in the good tequila and promplty had trouble following most anything.

We discussed life. We discuss evolution. The Balance ask "have you seen Waking Life?"

And so we take a movie break.

We discuss the themes. Suddenly sitting around the table with the Balance is less interesting than sitting outside on the hard cement and smoking all of us perched around each other.

We talk.

"At one point I think all of you have been attracted to me and wanted to fuck me." The Balance states as part of an argument on conflict. And I think to myself that is probably true.

"I have no problems with being a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." I say.

"There is no real hypocrisy." Tosses in the Bard.

And so it continues with a back and forth, each of us contributing in our own way, and each of us plunging into our own different degree of alcohol injection. The Balance takes it in stride and asks "How do I find Korean gamers?"

"In a PC bong," I answer. "Ask me when I'm sober, I'm too far gone now."

I return after a smoke upstairs and fill my glass to the brim and at this point all the good Greek food and undressing (having returned to my Midwestern comfort clothes some time prior) will not stop the full on avalanche I am taking into a bender.

I remember being carefully packed into a car and thinking that I might throw up.

I remember the Bard foisting me up the stairs.

And then darkness.

In my dreams I am chased by the need to find something at the edge of my reality, something to connect it all together. And like all dreams I chase it til I wake and then it's gone, eluding capture and leaving me to contemplate and want more.

Friday, August 08, 2008

In the Forests of America

It was green.

I remember that it was green. That is the beautiful thing about America and so many people take it for granted. It truly is beautiful. Beautiful and green.

When was the last time you walked in the woods? When was the last time you stood silent in the depths of green and understood the wonder that we have there.

Korea has it's green moments. There are mountains, there are trails, there is wonderful greenness there. It's true. The difference, in America you can have your green and your silence, your space, your freedom, be alone, or be alone with someone you want to be alone with.

In Korea you are never alone. I've gone to the woods in Korea. I've climbed the mountains. I've walked in the parks. And there is always someone there. An hajuma, and ajoshi, another foreigner, someone who wants to talk to you, to relate to you. Sometimes you just want to stop relating.

What I remember was that before I left America I got to experience green one last beautiful time. Green. Not alone, not empty green with no one there. But still, beautiful.

"Look it's a deer."

And I said, "It's beautiful."

There wasn't too much more talking after that.

And that was good too. It made it just as perfect as the woods can be.

"The space is perfect for it."

And I agreed.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Back in Black


I'm definitely back in Korea.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

When you can't cry...laugh

I hated having to do what I did yesterday. I know it was the right thing to do. I know that poor puppy was sick and the chances of her getting better were grim. I hated hearing it and having to walk her down that long hot road to go to puppy heaven.

I got back to Korea a few days ago and decided to give myself a night before I went to the vet to pick up the dog. Since I couldn't really leave any of my friends with a seizing dog for a month I made arrangements and paid a lot of money to put her up at the vet's office for the two weeks I was not in Korea. I paid a friend of mine some travel expense money to come out every night I was gone and take the dog for a walk. I tried to console myself that this was a good thing to do, that her chances of not being dead when I got back to Korea were better if she was with the vet.

About two days into my trip I get a note from my friend that I better call the vet and that the puppy is in a bad way. One very difficult call to vet later and I have mostly figured out that she had some major seizures and they bumped up her medicine again. There was not much else we could do. I was upset as I didn't want her to die in puppy prison. So I hoped she'd get better at least until I could get back to Korea.

When I did get back to Korea I went to pick her up. She was pretty out of it. She didn't recognize me at all. All she really recognized was that she was out of the kennel and really really wanted to go outside. I tried to talk to her but she didn't react. I touched her and she jerked away. I sat down and look at the vets and the three assistants all gathered around.

"What do you think?" I asked them in Korean.

Unfortunately they answered with a really long string of medical veterinarian Korean that I didn't understand.

"Okay. What next?"

The suggested I try to get her an MRI, but that meant getting her to Seoul which was going to be very difficult to do. We talked about that option for a while. Finally I decided it was time to ask the difficult question.

"Hangulma, mol-ya...should I consider putting her down?" I asked, full of nervous emotion.

The vets all looked at me.

"Down...down where?" They asked.

Okay, I think, that didn't work. So I tried again.

"You know, do you think she needs to be put down?"

They looked at each other again. "Down...under?"


"Um, Korean, I don't know...put her to sleep?"

They look at each other again.

"No sleep. You sleep?"

"No, she sleep. You know, put to sleep."

"She sleep okay."

We are still not getting anywhere. I realize it is an American convention that is keeping me from saying what needs to be said and all the euphemisms in the world are not going to help.

"Put down, put to sleep..." They stare at me and each other blankly, I take a deep breath while holding onto my zombie dog. "Should I consider...." another deep breath, "killing her." I make a cutting motion across my neck. It was the only way I could think of to try to say what I was saying.

"Oh, kill, yes, euthanasia. English moya, put down?" Great, I think we are discussing the potential death of my puppy and now it's an English lesson.

In the end we talked about the options a bit more, but even after everything there were not many good choices.

At least the next time someone has to come to the same place they will be able to be more polite when asking for the ultimate solution.