Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swine Flu = Seriously?

If you don't live in my particular neck of Asia, or at least somewhere outside of the continental United States, you have no idea just how nutty people are being about H1N1. I will grant you that people in the U.S. are a little nutty on their own about H1N1; my favorite particular brand of nut-tacular being Swine Flu parties, like chicken-pox parties but with the flu. Seriously?

At least, in that particular case, people are not going to insane lengths to try to avoid some kind of infection. Because, really, in South Korea it's gotten a little more than the usual brand of Korean crazy. I knew this was coming back in May when I went to Shanghai. Being that at the time I was suffering from catastrophic tonsillitis I admit to being worried about being quarantined when I hit China for having a fever. I took Tylenol on the plane and drank a lot of cold water and managed to get through Chinese customs relatively unscathed. I did may week of training, got a minor case of tonsil swelling, but was back to Korea before it got out of hand. On the way back I worried again about ending up in quarantine, but again had no fever, aside from having to fill out a detailed report about my health (have you had a fever in the last month? No, no, of course not), it was not a big deal.

Until about four days after I got home and had Korean CDC called me to ask if I was sick. I was actually sick at the time, but it was the tonsillitis again, so I said I was fine and life went on as usual. Until two days later at work when the CDC called the school office to check on my health. This was all back in May when swine flu was just starting out. And in reality I got lucky, I had a friend in China that did end up in quarantine after the guy on the plane next to him tested positive after landing in Beijing. That happened only about three days after my successful escape from Shanghai.

I put it out of my mind until the Boy returned to Korea from his summer vacation in Alaska and mentioned that at the airport they had everyone getting off the plane line up in rows to have their temperature taken. Rather than just passing through the screening cameras that test for body temperature, they were now physically testing every living body by sticking a thermometer in the ear and reading the temperature. When I left Korea for Chicago this summer I was worried about this happening to me when I hit the States, but surprisingly the U.S. seemed to be rather laissez-faire about the whole thing. I just walked into the country, did my month of teaching and returned to Korea. Granted on the return I did get ambushed at the gate by the Koreans with thermometers, and since I was still under the influence of tonsillitis I felt really uncomfortable about it, but what are you going to do?

After finally having surgery and feeling so much better about life in general I figured health was in my future and I was ready to put thinking about illness all the time behind me. However sadly it was not to be. It started around the beginning of the semester with the rumors. A number of universities in Korea were taking some very strange routes to prevent infections at schools. Some schools were refusing to let anyone into class until they had spent seven days in Korea at home in self quarantine. This seemed fairly ridiculous at first. And worse it applied mostly to foreigners, students and teachers, but not so much to Korean students.

The general myth, from May to mid-September, that was Swine Flu was a forefinger problem. Some schools and hagwons went so far as to forbid their teachers in June and July from "associating with other foreigners"*. Considering that most schools had no real control over a person's downtime this became a hot topic of foreigners associating with each other in bars and other places. It seemed like it couldn't really get worse from there, but it has.

Some schools and universities have instituted a policy of temperature testing daily before classes. This policy is directed only at foreign professors and foreign students. When I went to the Body Painting festival in Daegu sure enough there were two girls standing at the gate with a thermometer. The Koreans got their arm bands and walked on through, but my friends and I had to be tested to go in. They stuck the thermometer into the heads of two boys and then went for me and I said no. I wanted it cleaned. They wiped it off with the same piece of tissue they used on the two boys before me and I said no. Finally, one of them reach into the box pulled out the so-far unused cover and I consented, knowing that I'd probably be the only person that day since the first person to have a clean thermometer used on me.

I have a friend who teaches here mostly with adults. One of their students was a part of the Korean CDC who thinks that they way a lot of companies and businesses are handling the flu is just downright stupid. The best thing is to wash your hands every couple of hours, cough into your elbow, and otherwise live life. The constant temperature testing does little more than raise levels of hysteria while tripling the chances of a catastrophic infection of something else.

The other day one of the "class leaders" from some segment of the student body was running around sticking a thermometer into the ears of people in her "class" at random. Just in and out and in and out, no wipe, no clean, not sterilizing. That is far more likely to cause infections than to actually prevent anything. Further I found out yesterday that the school festival will be canceled because of the potential for students getting the flu. I figure my college students are much more likely to get the flu from just being college students; generally unruly, unwashed, bunch of germ bags that they are.

My special favorite, which I think shows just how silly Korea has gotten, came from the movies a few days ago. I went to see a show with a friend and just before the preview their was a Korean community service video. It begins with a Korean guy in the bathroom doing what Korean guys do in the bathroom. Aside from the urinating, he was touching his hair, blowing his nose in his hand, picking his nose, and doing disgusting things with that, and then zipping up and walking out of the bathroom. Cut from this to a Korean girl carefully laying toilet paper all over a seat which she eventually hovers over (I hate the alien space projectile hover peeing, by the way, just SIT DOWN), and then flushing and washing her hands compulsively like a doctor about to go into surgery.

Next seen she is walking out of the bathroom and up walks the urinating Korean guy with some kimbop. He breaks a piece off with his hand, puts in in her mouth, than squeezes her cheeks, rubs her face, making lovely dovey noises as they walk away hand in hand.

I laughed til I almost wet myself. At least the Koreans are starting to realize that it is not just about the cleanliness of the foreigners. Still, this whole thing is getting increasingly more annoying. It almost has me wishing for some kind of serious outbreak of something, like the first shot in the zombie apocalypse. In the meantime I continue to do my job, wash my hands, and stay away from the students who think projectile coughing is funny.

*So far at least one teacher has been fired over swine flu. Which is like the height of ridiculous. While I understand that the academy wants to have the best interest of Korean children in mind, that's just stupid.

The first case of H1N1 in Korea was actually brought over by a Korean.

So far there are just under 10,000 reported cases of swine flu, and 9 reported deaths.

For some perspective: According to the annual death report, the NSO said a total of 12,858 people, or 24.3 people for every 100,000 Koreans, took their own lives in 2008.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Nightclub and Decent into Darkness

We pile back into the elevator and head to the first floor of the hotel. We can all hear music thrumming in the background, that sort of off-dance techno base rhythm that makes a body full of booze want to move. We exit the hotel and it only takes us in our inebriated states about five minutes to figure out how to get to the nightclub in the basement of the hotel.

We walk in and head to another elevator, this one leading us downstairs. At this point Alice has nothing on us. We enter into a maze with Korean men in black suits running around everywhere. The servers all have earphones plugged in for wireless communication between them. The dance floor on the upper deck is full, but we are pushed and prodded down and down into the blue-lit neon-flashing spaces to land on red velvet couches.

We pack in and our Korean hosts tell us to order anything. “Anything you want, it’s not problem.” The menu is taken up, people order a bottle of Jack Daniels, and assorted beers and we sit and wait for a moment until finally the Russians decide that they want to dance. The dance floor as they move toward it is very crowded, but almost as soon as they step onto the floor, the music changes and as if by some signal all the girls who had been on the dance floor suddenly rush and sit down.

At this point most of the artists and my friends have gone up to dance now alone on the dance floor, their images being projected across several dozen small screens and one large screen into the bar. I’m sitting next to the Artist and lean in to scream and whisper into his ear “I’m an exhibitionist, but not quite that much of one.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

So I pull back out the bottle of tequila, while he fixes himself a Jack and coke and we watch the nightclub together. He asks me after a minute “What is with the girls?”

It’s at that point that it dawns on my just what kind of nightclub we are in. As we watch men in suits shuffle around to different tables. They grab two or three girls tightly by the wrists and drag them away. Occasionally they drag them to tables nearby and sit them down with two or three guys who are sitting, up to that point, sans female company.

“Ah,” I say, “it’s booking.”

I have to explain: booking is essentially what happens in a high-price, supposedly high-class nightclub. Girls dress up with their friends and go to the club for free. They put their name on the booking list. During the night, at any time, they are grabbed and dragged to a table of two or three hapless and lonely strangers. Once at the table they are expected to sit, drink, and generally make merry with each other. There is not real promise of sex, these are usually good girls, college students or girls out for the night who don’t want to pay much money. For the guys it’s a way to meet girls outside their social circle. However there is always an undercurrent of flesh for sale in these sorts of clubs. Especially the way the girls are getting dragged around, tossed, changed and exchange whenever they are not satisfactory to the male clientele.

The music changes, our group returns, and some drinking happens. I realize that I am nearing the end of my bottle of tequila, but not quite yet. However I am now feeling much more like dancing. And so is the Artist. Which results on us joining the group to dance on the dance floor. We also join Koreans, which I suddenly realize as I'm trying to dance are all standing lined up along the floor across from each other and mostly making an attempt at shaking but not really anything like dancing.

It dawns on me then through my haze that there really is some sort of magic button that requires girls to dance at a specific time, and that the dance requirement is generally fulfilled by girls standing across from each other on the dance floor and shaking awkwardly. This is quite in contrast to our gangle of people, who are all thrashing around, moving, shaking and truly enjoying themselves, or at least the amount of alcohol in the blood stream.

The Artist moves with the smooth sophistication you would suspect of someone coming from the German techno scene. The Misters Kim dance like Korean guys, creating a circle and dragging people in. The Irish is a combination of skill, understanding of what he is doing, and the completely wrong place to show of his swing-dancing moves. The Trainee....uh, the Trainee is beyond description. Perhaps one might say that it is the gyrating thrust of an overexcited and recently escaped inhabitant of a mental institution, but mostly I think it was just a bad case of White Guy.

The Korean Stepford-bots continue with their dance moves and eventually we march off with them at the next bell ring, poor more booze down ourselves, and repeat this pattern for goodness knows how long. Finally, the Trainee calls it quits and exits stage left or right. The Ukrainians and the Russian and Japanese artist have gone. I'm sitting next to the Artist when I realize pretty much everyone I know has left. And in this looking around it is then that I discover the Irish.

He is dancing with wild abandon on the dance floor, spinning, jumping, hopping about. He moves with the music, careless of everything around him, a moment of intense happiness, drunken revelry, and complete abandon. He is totally alone on the dance floor, dancing with himself to be sure. And also being broadcast on every screen in the nightclub. Including the large screen TV that I'm watching. I take a few minutes to try to figure that out before suddenly the song ends, the Irish bows.

At this point I figure I should probably figure out where people have gone or are going. Of course it is at this point that things start to get even vauger, but eventually I make my exit up the stairs and into the hall of never ending mystery that is the upper floor of the dance club. The space is a mixed up maze and in my drunkenness I'm even more mixed up. And somewhere in there the mixing becomes a state of being. There is nothing but memories swallowed by darkness, a slow suffication of thought, pulsation, rippling, rhythm of music and night and alcohol, and then quiet, and sleep, and nothing.

When I woke up the next morning my head soundly disagreed with me. It suggested through it's steady banging cadence that I might have considered stopping my adventure half-way through the bottle of tequila. Awaking again later on the couch to the ringing of my phone I answer to have the Irish ask "So, when are we meeting?"

"Didn't we have this conversation yesterday?"

"Yes, but now we need to get together to figure out what happened."

"We had an adventure."

"Yeah, but neither of us can remember all of it."

"You think I'm going to help. I lost my bottle of tequila."

"No, you drank your bottle of tequila."

"That explains so much."

I give him a time and roll back on my couch and wonder just how many details they can fill in. It was, to be sure, an adventurous weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Party in the Park

We were sitting on a hill a bit away from the Korean Pantera when the call came in from the Artitst.

“Alright, boys, let’s boogie.” We all jump up and grab our various different kinds of gear and head over to meet the Artist, who talks with us as he puts out the lights and finishes closing down the booth.

“So, where are we going?”

“Back there,” points the Artist and we follow him even further up the hill, toward the back of the booths and the tables that are at the back of the park. We can already see the Russian and Ukraine artists have made themselves at home, and so we all sort of roll up as a gang and make the general round of introductions. We meet the organizer of the event first, Mr. Kim in a sea of Mr. Kim’s. We shake hands and the Artist introduces me, the Irish, and the Trainee. We (being good lifers in Korea) all respond with appropriate hand shaking, bowing, and Korean greetings, which serve the purpose of making us all instantly acceptable to the Koreans hosting the event.

We all take various seats at various places. The Trainee manages to position himself rather near the cute female reporter (who I think was on everyone’s to-do list) and one of the other organizers. I was next to the Irish and opposite the Artist and the Israeli artist, and close to the Russians and the Ukrainian artist. The Japanese artists were at the other end of the table, and the rapid-fire conversation and drinking begins. The Artist is a soju man at this point, I pull out the bottle of Tequila. Like speaking Korean to Koreans, tequila also has the effect of making one very quickly popular, and in short order several shots are distributed around the group. We all proceed to get extremely drunk. At this point I’ve had enough tequila to know that it is time to start cutting my blood with a little water, which has the alternate effect of making me the person most likely to visit the bathroom a hundred times; which is noted upon and joked about by all the boys.

“Where are you going?” asks the Artist.

“The lady’s room.” I return.

“They won’t let you in.”

“Piss off.” Smiles all around.

Cameras come out so that our drunken silliness can be preserved. We learn that the Irish can’t figure out how to use a camera, that I have intense camera envy of the Artist's equipment, that the Trainee speaks all right German, and the Ukrainian speaks excellent Korean. The Russians speak mostly Russian, or occasionally some English to me. I offer the Japanese artists some tequila in classic Korean fashion and sit around long enough to demonstrate that I know how to say my name and where I am from in Japanese before sitting down to prevent further embarrassment.

The night is humid and moist, dark and starry. There is a beautiful vibe, that sort of quasi-sexual, pseudo-intelligent, meaningful, meaninglessness of large amounts of alcohol, art, and a day spent in the sun watching or working with lovely examples of naked humanity. I want to float away on it, I want to wrap myself around it and just fall into it. I wonder if I am passing out in a tequila daze. I wonder where we are going. The conversations have become myriad and drifting and I have trouble following one though to the end anymore. It’s a sensory overload of the best kind.

“I’ve forgotten how to speak English, you know,” says the Ukrainian. “I teach all my classes in Korean, and I don’t speak English at all sometimes.”

“Adventure,” drifts toward me on the wind.

“How long have you…”



“And then we will…”

I’m lost absorbing words and idle thoughts and amusements.

“So, are you ready to go?” someone asks, and I realize it is time for round three, if I think I’m capable of surviving it.

“Okay, where are we going?” I ask.

“We are going to the bus,” says the Artist; and explains from there to the hotel and from there to a nightclub.

“Is it all right if we come?” I ask again. I don’t want to impose, but at this point The Misters Kim are happy to have us continue to party with the group, and before you know it we are all walking together with various stuff in the direction of a bus that will go somewhere.

“It takes about forty five minutes,” explains the Artist. He sits behind me, and I’m in the front next to the Irish. The trainee is across from us and behind the Israeli artist, and the Russians, Ukrainian and Korean are in the back. We are all spread out and talking.

“You need a haircut,” says the Artist to the Irish.

I’m amused as I’m fairly sure I had sent the Irish a text message at some point earlier during the week that said “Get a haircut, hippy!” On the bus we talk about art and music, and the festival, comic books, and I think the impending zombie apocalypse. We suddenly hear from the other side of the bus something about Gaza strip and I send the Irish to smack down the Trainee from launching into a political discussion.

“No politics,” says the Irish.

“Was that politics?” asks the Trainee.

“Yes. Yes, it was.”

Fortunately at this point we have neared the hotel and disembark to make arrangements. The artists want a chance to go up to their rooms and change, tidy up, or shower, so it is left to the Koreans to wait with the add on waygooks as entertainment. Being the add-on waygooks we are happy to comply. Food and beer is ordered while the groups sits out on the deck of one of the the highest most overpriced bars in Daegu.

“Don’t worry about the cost. We are buying,” says one of the Kim’s.

It is agreed that this is a good thing. Talk and banter continues until we all manage to again finally be in the same place. And so, while people quickly finish beers it is announced that it is time for the nightclub.

Thus the adventures continue.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Farewell to Body Paints, Hello Alcohol!

"I don't think we are going the right way," I say as we continue to walk. We are about five minutes from where we have started, but I'm pretty sure we are not heading in a direction that is toward either beer or civilization.

"No," says the Irish, "this is definitely the right way."

"How do you know?"

"I have beer-dar."

"We are so screwed." And yet as we crested the next hill and turned the next corner, sure enough there was a bar awaiting us. And it was even the bar we were looking for.

"Magical," I say. "Let's get booze and food; we've got about an hour."

So in we go to the Wa-bar, which is sort of like a Korean bar meets a western bar that can be very popular with foreigners but is mostly just a good place to get booze. The boys order beers, I order a tequila, and we go through the menu trying to find things I can eat that the boys will enjoy. A cheese plate, some chicken, and a gigantic order of potatoes for the Irish later and we are settled in. Irish, who has been complaining about his dirty shirt for the last two hours decides to go into the bathroom and make a quick change into one of the free T-shirts we got for attending the Body Painting festival event.

He goes into the bathroom and when he comes out the Trainee and I are discussing the varying nature of Korean Wa-bars. We look at the Irish. He looks at us.

"So what do you think?" he asks as he settles into the bar.

The Trainee and I are both noticing two things. It's the same two things. I'm not sure which of us is going to snap first and mention the two things to the Irish.

"Well, I don't know about the fit, but your nipples are sure pert and firm," says the Trainee. Kudos for me for holding out.

"I don't know," I say, "I'm sure they could get stiffer."

"Let's find out," says the Trainee, holding his recently acquired cold beer up to the Irish's nipples. I grab my camera, as I want to preserve the evidence for posterity. Having ascertained that the Irish did in fact look tidier if with more nipple action we turned back to the matter at hand. Mostly drinking.

I turn to my tequila and take a sip.

"Ah, yeah, no." I call the  waitress over and ask her want kind of tequila they have given me and she holds up a bottle of Durango. I do not know where Durango comes from, or why it exists at all. I do know that it is pretty popular in bars here because it is cheaper than tequila. That is because Durango is Tequila-flavored liquor. I do not care for tequila-flavored liquor. I do not want to be served tequila-flavored liquor under most circumstances. I find the stuff evil. Add to that my recently developed issued with processing gluten and I have to be careful which booze I drink. I do better with something not from potatoes or rye, or wheat. Which makes tequila my drink of choice pretty much every day of the year anymore. And I don't know what 80 proof liquor is the basis for the Durango, but what I do know is I don't want to be paying to drink it.

Plus when the girl shoes me the bottle I note that there are several dozen dead bugs floating in the bottle of the liquor. Whee...

I call the girl over and show her the bottle. To which at first she is confused but finally understands my dilemma. I needed a reason to send the drink back that goes beyond my hatred of Durango. We ask if she doesn't have any tequila we can have. She points back to the Durango bottle. I ask for Jose, sweet goddess, just give me some Jose.

And they have Jose.

If I want to buy the bottle.

I'm not really fussed on buying the bottle to get the three or four shots I want. The boys try to convince me. Finally I ask how much. 70,000 won (80 dollars) for the bottle.

Uh-huh. I start to sulk.

"Just buy it, we will take it with," offers the Irish.

"I'll think about it."  I hold out for five seconds before slapping cold plastic on the table and spending 70,000 won on a bottle of Jose Cuervo. It seemed like a very good idea at the time. Food comes and is eaten, alcohol is drunk. I manage to dent about five shots into my bottle before we realize it is time to go and pack up to head off. In the packing I drop the bottle of tequila into my bag, along with a shot glass. May as well get my money's worth at this point.

We head out and back down the street, and over the hill, and through the woods, back to the festival and hopefully making it just in time to check out the art from the international artists. At first, probably because of the alcohol coursing through our veins, we thought it would be a good idea to go and try to offer the Artist a shot of tequila. But being that he is A) insanely busy and B) running
toward the stage, that gets declined pretty quickly.

We head toward the international tent again but only manage to run into the model finally finished and decked out merrily in her sinew; she happily offers to have her picture taken with me which I am eager to do. Granted I had the Trainee snap the shot and for some reason his steadiness was starting to wane as I got a couple of somewhat blurry photos of the event for posterity. We shuffle off down the hill a bit and grab some seats looking over the stage to wait for the next event. My phone rings and it's the Artist, so I tell the boys to stay, and head back to meet him at the tent. He explains that we have missed his part of the show, which I truly lamented, and the artists are now mostly finished but there will be some kind of after party.

I ask if I can come and am told yes.

I ask if I can bring the boys and am told to hold on.

Eventually it is all worked out and we manage to score invitations to the after party. The Artist says I'll get a call when it's time to meet and goes back to getting his gear packaged and put away. I head back to the boys, which sadly also means heading directly into the sound waves of the Korean band on stage that is belting out Pantera is if it's life depended on it. I'm not exactly sure why the band on stage was playing Pantera, but this was apparently very appealing. Nothing like a headbanging ajjuma.

Eventually even with the change from heavy metal Korean band to Koreans doing gypsy belly dancing we three decide that our eardrums can no longer take the damage and work our way back up the hill a bit to wait for whatever festivities are coming.

"Any idea where the party is going to be at?" asks the Irish.

"You know as much as I do."

"Could be fun," puts in the Trainee.

"It's sure to be an adventure." I say.

At this point we all sigh. Where has adventuring gotten us thus far?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Park and The Festivities Begin

The cabbie dropped us off at Woobang Tower Land, which is the biggest amusement park in Daegu.

"At least if we get bored we can do something else," quips the Irish.

I look around and figure we have to be somewhere close to the right place as I can see a number of signs for the Body Painting Festival on the road. After a few minutes we decide to ask yet another cab driver, which gets us a finger pointing in a particular direction. With that in mind we take stock of where we are (across from the theme park, near a bar) and start walking.

"Which way to we go?" I ask.

"No idea."

"That way?" points the Trainee.

So we start walking for no readily apparent reason into a slightly more tree-covered area in the park. We run into about forty Korean gentlemen drinking soju.

"Guys we are going the wrong way." I suggest.

"Nah, I've got nipple-dar; I'm locked in," says the Irish.

"If your nipple-dar is as good here as it is in a bar we are going to be hopelessly lost."

The Trainee laughs and we continue to walk in circles in the park, finally ending up at a large stadium-type place.

"And we are here!" says the Irish, triumphant.

I ask the guards in Korean and they tell us to come back at 7:00, as that is when the show starts. I ask them about the body painting festival and they respond by telling me we are in the wrong place and pointing toward the entirely opposite direction of the one we came from and saying that we wanted to go that way.

"Nipple-dar, huh?"

"What? It will be an adventure!"

"Adventure?" Hmpf, I scoff, and walk off, the boys following. Finally we see a large balloon banner and it is declared that we are near to accomplishing our goal. And so we are, at least, arrived at the festival. At this point it's about half-past three when we join the queue to pay for the tickets and head in with our sexy hot green arm bandages. Now that we can all find each other in the dark it is finally time to attend to the business at hand. Naked chicks! (There is some silliness at the front gate that will be discussed later, because it truly deserves it's own story.)

We walk the outside perimeter first and notice that there is Korean food for sale, lots of beer, some art work for sale, phones for sale, and a notable lack of body paint for sale. Sadly it seems that unlike last year, this year one would not be able to get their own supplies. Fortunately I had bought a bunch for last year as a stock up so I wasn't too sad about it. Having now checked out all the things that were without nipples we dived in for the entire purpose of the show. The art.

The first few tents had models taking off paint from earlier showings. Then we got to the actual tents where Koreans were painting up a storm for the competition that begins at 4:00. Several of the designs were lovely. Colorful paint on flesh. Bodies in motion moving with a vivid flow clothing that is not real, that is just an imagination, someone's thought created on a canvas that is always changing. It's beautiful because it will not last, it's the impermanence that makes it so powerful.

We keep moving, walking through the tents until we finally come to what is, in many ways, the highlight of the show, the international artists who have made a special trip out to do show pieces but not to compete in the show. They are judges, and each one of them is highly skilled at what they do. While the Korean artists are doing interesting work, this is really where the magic is happening. As it was we ran into my friend BodyMagick, who was in town for the show. The artists painting this particular day are Russian, Ukrainian, Israeli and German respectively. It was the German who I'd met during the last body painting festival and who I was happy to see returned to Korea to show off his appreciable skill. Of the pieces the guest artist was working on his and the piece by Sholomit the Israeli artist were definitely my favorites. Sadly, as is usually the case, the tent was absolutely swamped by Korean men and photographers making it almost impossible to get anywhere near the art.

The Irish manages to sneak up first and manages to check out the 3D body painting artwork that BodyMagick has for sale. The Trainee is stuck with me in the back but as the crowd thins, and BodyMagick strikes up a conversation with the artist, we are finally noticed.

"Are you going to stay back there all day?" asks the Artist.

"Well I don't feel like fighting my way up there."

"It's that difficult?"

So the Trainee and I manage to push our way to the front of the tent to get a better look at what the Artist is doing. It's amazing, phantasmagorical, a skull and muscle piece laid over skull and muscle. It's fantastically gory while being at the same time being impossibly beautiful.

What I manage to say is "That's really nice." I'm a poet.

The Artist manages to look up and finally notices the Trainee, and of course, can't help but notice the bandage on the Trainee's arm. He raises an eyebrow.

"Look, it's already been asked, twice and apparently it wasn't that." I say to the eyebrow.

"Well then what was it?"

"It wasn't that!" Cries the Trainee, who is perhaps getting a little sensitive at the moment for the constant accusations. "Look I was trying to impress a girl. It was a punching machine, and at least I got the top score."

"So, it was a girl, so one way or another it was a jerk." The Artist replies.

The Irish and I both laugh.

"I like him," notes the Irish.

"He's like-able."

We hang out at the tent for a few more minutes, distracting the Artists from his work, but eventually we head down to check out what is going on with the stage. As we sit to wait we notices an older ajjuma dressed in pink, or rather she notices us. She falls in love immediately. I get groped, the Trainee gets groped, the Irish gets groped, the whole time she is speaking to us in Korean and letting us know what she thinks about seeing us today. Apparently we have made her evening with our presence, which is always sort of nice.

She walks toward the stage as the loud music starts playing and just starts dancing away, happy as can be. She turns to dance her way back toward us, and as she does a nice security guard runs up to her to escort her to a seat. She sits next to us and offers us bread, which sadly we don't eat because we weren't really sure about the smell of said bread. Eventually she wanders off, hopefully to dance somewhere else; she deserved a dance.

After some time sitting we decide to head back and say goodbye to the Artist and head out for some drinking. The Artist is still at work on his superior design and informs us the completed pieces will be on stage at 7:30. We agree to head back and decide in the meantime to wander back to the bar that was in the direction of our original drop-off point.

"Does anyone remember how to get there?"

"No, but it will be an adventure," replies the Irish.

"This will not end well."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Boys

"When are we meeting?" was the topic of conversation on the phone early Saturday morning.

"When do you two get moving?" was my return question.

Finally the Irish and I managed to agree that we would meet at 2:00, which gave me some time to finish work on a writing project I'd taken on that needed to be out ASAP. I wanted to not have too much work hanging over my head as I planned for a weekend of something that was as close to hedonistic success as possible, and there is simply no way to do that if you have work waiting for you on Sunday.

So at two o'clock I found myself in the park near my house waiting for the boys. The ajjumas glared at me as I sat on my bench in my dark sunglasses and mostly see-through black top. It was a hot day, I was hot, and I was wearing a camisole so I felt like they could deal with it. Which they mostly did with an odd mix of grumps and stares.

Finally at ten after two I called the boys. Irish answers his phone. "We'll be late."

"I'd gathered."

"I have to put money on my phone, I'm still on Phone Street." There is nothing more tedious than Phone Street and trying to get money on a pay phone so I returned to my book, which this particular afternoon happened to be Gorgias by Plato. As I pondered the nature of a rhetoritician the sky finally darkened and I looked up to see Irish and the Trainee. The Trainee was a long-time friend of the Irish, taken under his wing sometime around when the Irish first hit country. The two had worked in another city together, and much to our amusement and dismay the Trainee still works in the other city.

His particulars in training are mostly teaching how to live a life with as many or as little rules as one would allow, while balancing girlfriends, booze, Pakistani food, kink, and adventure. So far the Irish had been a rather phenomenally bad influence on him and the introduction of the Trainee to me had really and truly only accelerated his slow decent into complete and unfettered libertine-ism.

Upon looking into the shadow that loomed over my book I took in the Irish and the Trainee, who for some reason had a soft cast on his right hand.

"What did you do?" I asked him. "Overexert yourself masturbating?"

The Irish laughs.

"He asked the same damn thing," says the Trainee.


"No. If you must know it was a girl."

"If that was a girl you're not doing it right." To which the Irish laughs and we both get blistering looks while the Trainee explains that in his desire to impress some girl somewhere he had played a game of what some might call skill, and what I just call stupidity, in which one punches a machine bag as hard as one can to see if the highest score can be attained. In his defense Trainee did manage to score the highest score on the punching machine while managing only to sprain and not fracture his wrist.

With that we walked out of the park and toward the cab.

"By the way, do you know where we are going?" I asked the Irish.

"Uh, no, I thought you knew where we were going?"

"I have a vague idea of where we are going."

"Don't look at me, I'm following you two."

Irish pulls open a cab door and we pile in. I start to say over and over again the name of the park that I think is having the body painting festival. Between the three of us, I know the name of the park, the Trainee knows how to say park in Korean, and the Irish is mostly useless but quipping it up at our expense.

"It will be an adventure," He reminds us over and over again.

The cabbie acknowledges after several attempts that I have said something he recognizes and starts to drive.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Let the Nipply Goodness Begin

Trust me, more to come.

World Body Painting Festival time again. I go for the nipples.

And the art.

The inspiration.

And the absolute fucking GENIUS!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Return to the Center

The seasons are changing. I go back to work but I don’t think about work all day. I think about that moment coming, when the day is finished, a solitude, a time to myself.

The bus ride is long. I am packed in with the forty or so Koreans who ride the bus. I look at the window. I think of my departure, of walking up the stairs and entering that room. The moments hesitation, the fear, the unwillingness that will be broken down on the course of two hours.

When I walk through the doors I can feel the crushing pound of the eyes on me. I know I’m being watched; it makes me uncomfortable as I take of my clothes. Exposing myself to the tangible pressures of that moment, but I do not abate. I continue, I am moving toward something.

And this is when it happens. When I free myself from my thoughts, and the watching, and just give up and give into what my body wants, in fact needs. I can fee the slow steady pressure of it building within. It starts in my toes and works its way up my legs. I can feel the tiny hairs on my calves standing up as it moves slowly up my body. My breath comes shallow and sharp, harder, faster. I move into it, letting go, letting my hands move they way they want to move, pushing forward, exhilarating in the shake of my hip and the subtle bounce of my breasts as I keep pushing.

I want. I feel the wanting; it builds in my as sweat starts to drip down my face, down my neck, down my back. My hair becomes wet and curled with it, my lips moist with the hot breath flowing deeper now. The omnipresent tingle in my legs is joined by the same in my arms and head. All moving down and towards the center. I can feel the gasping overwhelming desire for release. I keep pushing harder, closer. The final explosion that comes leaves me shaken laughing, moving harder despite it. And exhilaration that can be replaced by nothing else that I know.

I stop.

My feet hurt.

I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, my eyes seem to throb in rhythm, my hands are shaking, and I wipe sweat from my brow.

And I stop and thank the Merry Goddess for not being sick anymore.

And I stop and realize just how truly unwell I have been for so long.

And I stop and appreciate my freedom, and my living, and my happiness and my release.

And I think that after a day worrying about it so much, it’s good to get back to the gym.