Monday, January 30, 2012

Tequila, the Russian, and Superstars

I had started drinking around four in the afternoon, which is not always a good decision to make. However it seemed like the thing to do, and I did it. Then I ended up passing out with a snoring dog until about eleven, when I woke up pretty much sober and thought I should go out. I expressed the intention to the Dog, who raised one eyebrow at me in a manner that very clearly stated “The fuck you say?” and went back to sleep.

At that point, though, I knew I was mostly likely going to go out. My heart was lonely, I needed the Lonely Hearts Club. So I threw on some clothes, left the Dog in possession of the bed, and hit a cab for a a bar.

The Lonely Hearts Club was exactly who I like it to be on a Saturday night. There was me, a small group in the corner drinking, and Hyun. That is pretty much all I need to be content at the Lonely Hearts. Hyun took a look at me and gave me the bottle of tequila and my shot glass, which I used to start taking care of the drinking problem.

Aside from the loneliness of my heart, my other purpose for the trip was to talk to Hyun about tickets to a show. This was most important since the show was happening on Wednesday and I wanted to be sure to be there. The last tickets did not work out so well, and I would be damned if I let another concert I really wanted to see in Seoul pass me by.

The difficult thing was the convergence of the show I wanted to see with the Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year would make traveling difficult. Traveling on the train at the best of times can be a pain in the ass, but for the New Year people had a tendency to book tickets on the train months in advance. Since the New Year was falling from Sunday to Tuesday, it meant a five-day weekend, and lots of traveling.

Apparently Wednesday was also a busy day because when I looked to get a ticket for the show I wanted to see every single train from 5a.m. to  midnight from Daegu to Seoul was sold out. Not just the high-speed train or the slow, no, there was not a train running on tracks that was not just booked but overbooked. These trains were going to run with people standing in the aisles. Every single seat, corner, booth, cubbyhole, and bathroom had been sold solid. I managed to score two reservations: one from Daegu to Daejon at six in the morning and one from Daejon to Seoul that would leave at seven and was feeling pretty clever.

Granted I didn’t want to go Seoul at six a.m. but I was not going to miss this show. At the Lonely Hearts I began to explain to Hyun my problem.

“I can get you a ticket,” he said, and heads to the computer.

Good luck with that.

Five minutes late.

“Holy shit, every train is sold out.”

“I know; that’s what I said.”

“I think I can still get you a later ticket.”

“If you can do that, than go for it. I’ll pick it up on Tuesday.”

The plan would be a Lonely Tuesday night meeting where I would get concert tickets, train tickets and prepare myself to the Wednesday concert.

Having arranged this I went back to my bottle of Jose, when the Russian (who had been drinking in the corner with his friends) finally spotted me. The friends had left. The population of the bar was now four.

“Sara! How are you?”

“I’m good. How are you? How is the KGB?” We have joked with the Russian for years that he is secretly KGB; however, while a joke, I think sometimes it is probably closer to true than we all like to believe.

“It’s good, it’s good,” he grabbed my arms and pulled me close and whispered in my ear “We almost lost the atomic bomb, da?” He pushed me away and ordered a drink.

“But you didn’t?” I asked.

“Didn’t what?” He smiled and nodded his head and two beers were set down: one for him and one for me. Mine went to Hyun.

“Etta James died.” I told Hyun.

“No. What?”

Hyun pulled out a vinyl copy of Etta James with a little band and we stared at it.

“I can’t play it, though; the needle is broken.”


“They are getting harder to get in Korea.”

We stared at the album and finally selected the blasphemy of pulling up some songs on the computer.

“Oh, this is good music,” The Russian said. “But, no, we need the record. Play the record.”

Hyun and I explained the problem again. The Russian, who was staggering drunk, listened but didn't really hear us. He listened and commented on how good the music was again, and then asked for the vinyl again, and Hyun and I did the same song and dance again, and we went round and round.

“No. Nyet. Play Jesus Christ Superstar! It is the best rock opera. We need rock opera!”

“I already played it,” Hyun reminded him.

“Play it again.”


We three sat around the bar, while the second bartender cleaned glasses. We listened to Etta James, which turned into Billy Holiday, and Duke Ellington, and Ottis Redding, and Howling Wolf. We drank from our bottles and let our lives weigh on us and the wooden bar. There is never a trip wasted to the Lonely Hearts.

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