Monday, February 23, 2009

Singing in the Rain

I decided to head out on Saturday night for a short drink and taking in the music at a different bar that has live music. In order to get over to Sugar Joe's I have to take a cab from my place, but I figure that was a small price to pay for the great live music that would await me.

It was raining all weekend and raining hard when I left the house. I was hopeful that I wouldn't have to wait long to get a cab. Usually it takes forever in the rain. However fortunately for me as I was coming up the corner a cab was coming around and he pulled over to the corner just in time for me to get in.

He was an older guy but seemed jolly enough. He had a little trouble understanding the location of my direction but after a fourth repetition he was able to say it back to me and he knew where I was going. So down the street we went. As we reached City Hall to make the turn towards the Uni where the bar was located the cabbie began to talk to me.

He asks me "Hanguk nori jo-a?"

I answer back in Korean that yes, I do like Korean music. He asks if I like Pansori which is a particular kind of Korean music, a traditional storytelling form. It's part art theater, part opera, and part endurance competition. A Pansori retelling can take upwards of twelve hours. At a live show the singer will ask the audience to engage. There are no breaks but it is okay to come and for the bathroom as necessary.

When the cab driver asked if I liked it I said yes and told him it would be okay to put some one. I really do enjoy listening to Pansori.

So imagine my surprise when he started singing. Loudly. While driving. And including the crane dancing arm movements with both arms. While driving. Down the wet street. He was actually pretty good however the surreal nature of being in a fast moving cab, while my driver is singing and dancing as the car speeds over a wet bridge was kind of, well, weird.

He first sang me the song of a warrior crossing the country fighting for the honor of his love. He explained this to me after he stopped singing and resumed driving. The second song he sang for me was that of the mountain spirits greeting the cranes as they came to Korea during the migration seasons.

I managed to get to my location without dying, warmed up for the live jam by my live singing car session, and I was damned amused. I have him a big tip.

If you are not familiar with Pansori you might want to check this out. While this guy is not my cab driver, he sounds very similar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dentist Hates

Hyunshick, proprietor of the Lonely Hearts kept me up till 4am. After a bottle of wine or so with friends who were leaving I was feeling to be in bed round 1 in the am. So sitting with Hyun over tequila at 3am was not really in the cards. Aside from the fact that it makes me loopy when I'm up that late and tipsy/drunk, combined with the drugs I've been on for oral pain it makes me downright intolerable. I've probably lost several close friends to my most recent bout of drunk, drugged up, incomprehensible, typing. Someone, please, take away my keyboard to prevent drunk typing in the future.

Alas, while there is no way to make up for drunk typing there is also no way to make up for the insane hangover that followed me into Monday morning. Monday when I went back to see my dentist.

I get to the office climb into the chair and wait. The Korean assistants are all laughing at me. I feel damned shaky. I take Hyun's name in vain. Seems like the thing to do.

While sitting in the chair the dentist comes in. He asks me to hold the mirror. Being a good American girl I do not want to hold the mirror. I do not want to see the problem. You explain it I listen and nod. That is how this works. Instead he forces me to take up a mirror so I can watch as he prods the inflamed flesh that is encasing my wisdom tooth and causing me no end of pain.

"Best thing, dissect the flesh. You feel better in maybe two days. Okay, what you think?"

"Okay," I say.

"Okay, we have to put in some drug. Important. So you don't have pain."

"No pain good." I think, more drugs! YEE-HA.

I don't think it was until about five minute later when I'm sitting in the chair and twiddling my thumbs that I start to wonder what I have said okay to. Dissect? My face? Can't be good.

A few minutes later some nice giggling Korean dental assistants come back and put things over my head and I promptly fall asleep, black out, or repress whatever they did. All I can recall is the smell of burning flesh and my desire not to know what was going on.

A few minutes later the dentist comes back and insists I look in the mirror again while he asks me to see. All I can see is blackened flesh. In my hungover state I try no to think about it. He says they will do the dissection now. I thought the ten prior minutes of playing around in my jaw was the dissection, apparently not so.

He leaves and the Korean assistants come back. And now, after the Novocaine and everything else they start to do things that actually hurt.

"Appyao?" asks the Korean assistant.

"Nay." I struggle to blurt out with my open mouth.

"Ma-knee Appyao?" she asks again. I cringe into my seat. Yes, it hurts a lot, thank you for asking could you please FUCKING stop.

A few seconds later she grabs my shirt by the collar and pulls me into sitting position. All I can see are stars. I can't be sure if it's the massive hangover, the Novocaine, or the pain. One or all are making me completely incapable of dealing.

"Okay, you go."

And she hands me my jacket and bag. It takes me three minutes to stand up. I know I was on a lot of drugs in reflection because I walked home in the minus 5 weather with 10 mile an hour winds and didn't realize that was bad idea. I got home, said hi to the dog and thought immediately, "Maybe bed would be a good idea."

I woke up two hours later and prepared for the next forty hours of teaching. Maybe I should have mentioned to the dentist before he cut out the chunk of skin over my tooth that I had to spend the next week talking for a living. It probably would not have helped.

This week has been painful.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Kind of Pain I Don't Enjoy

I woke up Thursday morning know thing that I was going to Seoul, that I had to make an early train, and that I would be attending a meeting. All of these things were fine and well. What I did not know was that when I woke up Thursday morning I would be in for hosting the toothache to end all toothaches. I felt it as soon as I moved out of bed and knew immediately that it was my wisdom tooth. I thought about it while showering and dressing, decided it wasn't quite as bad as all that and went to my meeting.

At the meeting it got worse but I plodded on and then went out to eat with my good friend. Eating in Seoul meant Mexican so I was very excited. Until I started to try to eat and the food did not taste good. This was not because the food was bad this was because the act of chewing was causing enough pain to conflict with any of the pleasure hitting my tongue. My thought to myself at this point was “fuck” my thought following this was “double fuck”. My final thought after lunch was “I'm going to see the Klimt show and I don't care if my tooth hurts and then I'm going to go hang out with Xanrex and have a real good time tonight.” My lunch date packed me in a cab and kindly told the cab where to take me and a few minutes later and a few won lighter I got out at the Seoul Art Center. By now my jaw was really throbbing but I was determined to have a good time.

The show was of course exquisite and did manage to keep my mind occupied for two hours but the pain was persistent and building. I realized that I was walking with my mouth half open because it hurt to close my teeth. I knew I was in trouble. When I left the show around five I decided that having a real good time would be getting back to Daegu and getting the bottle of Ambosol I knew I had stashed in Korea for emergencies. You cannot by Ambosol in Korea, you also can't get Chloreseptic or other fun things that numb out pain in the body. That is because when Koreans are in pain they go to a doctor. Medical care being affordable and the response time being quick there is not reason for over the counter remedies that take your mind of your illness. Instead they prefer to actually treat things here. Which is all fine and well unless you have a massive toothache and just want some immediate relief.

I called Xanrex from the train explained what happened and then happily completely passed out for the two hour ride to the 'Gu where I ran to a cab, ran up the stairs, ran to the bathroom, and openly wept over the bottle of numbing pain relief. And to my shock and horror it did not work. It numbed me out alright but I could still feel the pain. Indeed the pain started to get worse.

Being an American I decided to see what would happen with some wine and some sleep. The wine to take the edge off, the sleep to hopefully give the tooth time to heal up. I have wisdom teeth on both side of my lower jaw. I have not had them removed because it would be difficult. The one on my right side never bothers me. The one on the left flares up occasionally because there is a small flap of skin that it never broke free of and allows for the occasional inflammation. I'm used to this, particularly if I've been eating something like popcorn. In general a night of sleep and a hot tea bag will be more than enough to sort it all out and I wake up right as rain.

The next morning I woke up in pain. I still wanted to ignore it as not happening and so for about ten hours I worked, got other things done, made a shirt, and tried to forget that my mouth was killing me. At five o'clock on Friday night I knew that I needed a Doctor fast. The pain had gone from low level “kill me” to mind numbing “please remove the lower half of my face or my brain whichever will provide more relief”. At that point I did not have a dentist but the roommate did so a few minutes later I was out of a cab and up do a doctor I had never met.

Health care in Korea: Five o'clock on Friday night, no calls, no referrals. I walk in present my health card, fifteen minutes later I'm in the dentist chair and he is looking into my mouth telling my wisdom tooth is infected. I tell him I know this. He tells me I should have it remove. I explain that it can't be removed.

The problem is the tooth that likes to cause all the trouble has curved roots that have grown rather stubbornly together. Sort of like a claw that is just holding on in my mouth. To get the tooth out it would first need to be broken off, and then the roots extracted separately. Frankly I'd prefer not to have anyone break of anything in my mouth, thank you very much. I explained all this to the Dentist. He smiled and said I should get an X-ray because it might not be as bad as all that.

At this point all I wanted was a shot of some Novocaine but instead I got an assistant taking me over for the x-ray. She needed to put the plate in my mouth but I was having trouble opening it enough and the first one was no good. I told her to take her time, it was going to hurt either way so let's do it right and the second one turned out fine. As I was walking back to the dentist chair I noted that you could see the tooth all the way from the hall and the roots were quite clearly and distinctly curved together in a jaw lock of doom. I sat down in the chair and sighed. Two minutes later I heard the maniacal and what can only be described as sadistic cackling of the Dentist as he laughed on his way back into the room seeing my tooth projected. He sat down still laughing and then paused, wiping tears from his eyes, saying “Oh yes, that's a real problem. It's going to hurt like hell to get it out. When do you want to do it?”

I thought about this for a second. “Yeah. I'm not.”

Actually after he finished doubling over in laughter at my pain he made the best suggestion I've ever heard. My jaw is big enough to support the extra teeth so I don't need to have them removed necessarily. Instead I could have the small piece of gum that is over my wisdom tooth removed instead and see if that doesn't stop the problem. That was a genius suggestion and one that I will take him up on as soon as the pain in my mouth stops.

He gave me a prescription for the infection that included some pain relief things. I asked for a shot of Novocaine and he told me I would be fine once I got the prescription in me and told me to take some Tylenol if I was still in pain later. I prayed that whatever he had written out for me was enough because I was already taking a lot of Tylenol and it was not helping. Total cost of emergency visit to dentist, x-ray and drugs 15 dollars.

I popped the pills on the walk home still feeling awful but was pleasantly surprised when thirty minutes later I felt like I could live again. I was still sore but less mind crushingly sore. The pills wore off exactly five hours later. I made myself suffer the two extra hours to midnight so I could get some sleep. I woke up promptly at 5:30 am with a mouthful of exquisite pain. Right now as soon as the drugs wear off I know it because this pain is just not quitting. Last night I managed to sleep about three extra hours which must mean I am getting somewhat better, but it still hurts like a constant reminder of indestructible wisdom tooth.

In the meantime I cannot get the sound of his cackling laughter out of my head. It reminds me of Dave Shiner in the Little Shop of Horrors as the insane sadistic dentist taking psychotic joy in the destruction he would bring down on an unsuspecting victims jaw. For those of you not familiar with the amazing work of Dave Shiner I will leave you with this.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Klimt In Korea

Gustav Klimt created the most beautiful thing. He had a vision to create a Total Art that encompassed, form, structure and the complete exploration of the perfect state of the natural world. What he created was beautiful.

The show contained over two hundred pieces of his works, but only a few of what could be considered his major pieces, The portrait of Judith,  the Beethoven Frieze, and many of his beautiful landscapes. Such an exquisite use of color, form, structure, his vision on canvas, on paper, executed with joy, carelessness, love. I wanted to see some of his structural work and I wanted to see his landscapes but I wasn't really sure what I was going to see aside from Klimt. The announcement in the Korean newspaper was mostly in Korean so I couldn't be sure aside from the few pictures that I saw. 

So imagine my surprise when the show was composed the most of Klimt sketches. The rough drafts, the pencil sketches, sketches of the landscapes, sketches of his famous paintings before they were done, sketches his women, nudes, in any number of position. There were so many of them. I recognize the style, sketches on newsprint, sketches with blue pencil, or charcoal pencil, no erase lines, just thrown out and done. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

I stand in front of his pieces and all I can think of his fingers on the paper. I see the careless stroke, I feel the tension where his frenzy builds, where the image becomes more than just something he exacts on paper but something that stirs him, moves him, drives him. It's becomes more than the art. The shake of the hand, the line thrown off in a curly hear, a touch of shadow there, the caress of a finger, the artist caress. To draw to sketch so thoroughly that you don't just capture what you see but something deeper. This depth becomes the later recreation, the small part that becomes the larger piece. Here is the jumping off point, in this pencil on paper, the start. I think about my own rough sketches when the girls come to my studio and sit for me. It reminds me of Psyche sitting in my room nude and lounging in a chair while I picked out her nipples with my pencils.

But here was something more, mastery of it. To go from those throw off pieces, the pencil sketches and move towards his final larger works, to see the fresh touch of paint on canvas. The brush stroke, the fine lines of the hairs of the brush as they are pulled across the canvas, a dab of paint here, there, and another place to come together to make a whole piece. Exquisite.

It was overwhelming to stand in front of his pieces, even with Koreans jostling me on every side, confused by my desire to stand and stare, I was happy, content. The show runs through May and I'm going up again. And in the meantime I go back to the studio tomorrow.

*As a note we were not allowed to take pictures inside the actual show, but all the pieces here are currently in the show.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Case you Didn't Know

I was having some fun at immigration this morning and after managing to be successful I thought I might stop in to use the little girls room before I left.

And in the bathroom I learned something, cause sometimes Korea can be very informative. And here is what I learned.

Well one, of course, I obviously learned where the toilet is, but take a look at the picture on the door a bit more closely.

I think if it had not been for the insanely clear illustration I might not have done that correctly.

Some days I truly love Korea.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A pretty accurate rendition of what I do for a living.

I was having a conversation with the good friend Monolycus. We like to trade things that amuse us as English teachers. But occasionally we run across things that so eerily reflect life as an English Teacher in another part of the world.

Like this:

We reflected together. This is an excellent demonstration of how what we do around the world is a worthwhile endeavor.

That and I just love those dancing girls.

As Mono says: I can't learn a language if there aren't dancers.