Sunday, March 25, 2012


I had my first massage today.

I had mixed feelings about it. I was meeting in Itaewon with the Kiterunnner for an early-afternoon late brunch/early dinner and we didn’t really care what we did at as long as it ended in wine. I’d just finished what would probably be my last work with the most recent group of teachers coming to Korea and I needed the wine.

I sat in the fancy French restaurant waiting for the Kiterunner. She had her own things going on. Her university was currently embroiled in the business of hosting diplomats, which always made things go haywire. Between her trying to figure that out and me with my book writing we hadn’t seen each other in ages.

As she walked in the door a bit after me I suggested the set menu, which would get us an all-too-good bottle of wine with free mussels.


We fired that up and enjoyed a potfull of muscles in blue cheese dressing with a bottle of wine that was certainly to hurt other people at one in the afternoon.

“What I really want is a massage,” the Kiterunner exclaimed.

“I’ve never had a massage.”

“We should do that. I just don’t know where to go, I mean, I know a place in Apujang.”

“Where is that?”

“On the other side of the river.”

“Let’s just go get more food and wine.”

“But a massage.” And truly it did sound like a good idea, even though I had never had one so I said, sure, why not, and we used our varying boxes of knowledge to look up places. Healing Hands won the round and it was just up the street from our lovely snack, so seemed the way to go.

“We have to go through the restaurant to get there?” she asked as we arrived. And yes, we did. We went up the third floor, walked in, and asked if we could get a massage. We were sort of in a bind since I had a train schedule to get to and had not made appointments, but to our luck there we had only a short wait and were able to get in on the couple massage rate.

When we walked in, confronted with the table in towels, I looked over at the Kiterunner.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”

“You put on the shorts.”

“Do I need to take of my bra?” I had already realized this would be a part of the deal, but I was having trouble acknowledging this particular part of the deal. The joys of early childhood abuse lurked in the background, but I refused to allow that to enter the realm of the current process.

“Yeah, take off the bra.”


Kiterunner suggested I put all things in a basket at the front of the table, so I did. I tucked my bag in a corner, climbed on the table with nothing but knit shorts on and tried to relax. That did not go so well. Issues being touched aside, my brain was just too busy to allow me to relax in full. I had thoughts of work float through; thoughts of the Irish and the One also tried to sit and spin, I tried to breathe, clear my mind. I chanted in rhythms and tried to think of anything I remembered about meditation from reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, but really, there was only so much you could do and if the mind refused to be still there you were. Above all I worked to not think about the thing that was really bugging me. The issue underlying all the other issues and tried as I might it was still there.

That was the thing about issues. We all had them. Some of us chose willfully to acknowledge that they were there and worked to root out their existence in our life. Others just  pretended they didn't exist and continued life around them as if the issue was not important, relegating the importance to nothing. It wasn't just nothing, though. Those experience shaped everything we did. Maybe it was my years at Shimer, maybe my years in therapy, or maybe it was just my years, but those experiences mattered. Knowing them, confronting them, experiencing them, it was all part of what a person had to do to become more whole, and without it a person was floundering, nothing.

So I embraced the memories and the lack of control and the moments that I thought would most assuredly break my down and make me snap, and in that single moment where I wanted to run out of room, all of it a mental combination of pain while the physical was nothing more than what it was supposed to be, there was a simple massage, and a good massage at that.

The girls who were conducting our rub had us sit up toward the end and as they beat off the last bits of stress they could find in our back they said goodbye and left us wrapped in towels.

“That was so necessary.” The Kiterunner piped up from next to me.

“It was.” And here I was. I had not told the Kiterunner aboutmy past, and in reality I don’t like to do it. Although I will talk about my past and my pain and my trauma with downright impunity it had never really been easy for me and I didn't like to think that past experiences beyond my control colored future opinions of me. However in that moment there was no way to avoid how my own personal past was encroaching upon my experience.

“It was good, but I don’t know if I would ever want to do it again.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Let’s discuss it over wine.”

We left the shop after a glass of tea, and I felt more relaxed and more tense. There was confrontation on the horizon and processing and reflection on those things that are physically necessary and those ridiculous memories that want to take unopposed grips. There was exposition that I would rather avoid, and the necessity to share, yet again, with someone who I must admit being bonded to.

“Let’s discuss it over wine.” I repeated and we exited from the warm and comforting aromatherapeutic den into cool chill air, with warm backs and decidedly more mellow attitudes, into brisk reality and early evening.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vinyl Willaims Shoegaze

I caught wind of a musical act coming to Daegu. The group was a young shoegaze band out of California called Vinyl Williams. I took some time to check them out on Bandcamp and was duly impressed with their work. A nice band, grooving music, and (for shoegaze) very nicely put together. I decided to pick up some tickets, even though it was a Sunday-night show.

I found out there would be presale tickets at the Holy Grill in its new location, so I walked over to find out if the rumors were true. Moose was behind the bar and happy to see me. We chatted a bit and finally worked out there were tickets. Since I was walking with the Irish we talked for a few minutes about the thought of buying one or two, and finally decided on two in case the One decided that she might want to come.

At home later there was some discussion and playing some samples for the One, who decided she would not only be interested in coming but declared the music sounded good. Score. We made plans for dinner and I spent some time listening to music and workingsince that is how I have spent the better part of the last three monthsand then, around 6:30 got dressed to head out to dinner and music.

I had always enjoyed dinner with the One, even though our relationship had been more strained than I would prefer lately. There was too much love there to completely give in to the sadness that comes when people change over time. Part of me blamed the age difference, the rest of me wondered if perhaps if I had not been generous enough. With music tickets and dinner in hand it seemed a good bet we would be able to at least bury hatchets and enjoy ourselves. Dinner was divine and included two bottles of wine, which (seeing as how I had no interest in drinking at the club we would go to) suited me just fine.

We ran down the chilly streets together arm in arm and giggling as we stumbled around 8:00 into the club and waited for the band to start. We met at the front of the bar a nice graying matron with a T-shirt, who we presumed to be perhaps the mother of one someone in the band. She was absolutely charming and we ended up picking up two shirts for the show. We took up places in the mostly empty place to wait for the main act.

The bar itself was spacious and a good place for a band. The band, itself was very well set up. With varying instruments and terribly young players, they took a great deal of time to set up. Behind the band they were flashing pretty lights and videos against the screen. A dreadlocked blonde came around with sun-kissed California lips to encourage our enjoyment. Mom made a pass again with special shoegaze glasses that we could use to view the show and make it even more trippy. The glasses, when on, made the entire room melt into a varying degree of fractals which give the wearer a feeling of tripping on acid without the work.
We bought a set and settled in for the wait. After a whileand consider that it was in fact a Sunday nightthe wait became a bit much and I finally prodded for when exactly the band would give us a start. The ticket collectors said soon, and within minutes the room was starting to fill with music. Droney, strung out, wild music. The wonderful essence of shoegaze music is that it allows for a wonderfully trippy feel while still being interesting. I was impressed that the band chose to put the vocalist in the back of the stage so the music became more of the focal point than the lyrics. The sun-kissed blonde leaned over a synthesizer and computer boards, staring at the screen through her shoegaze glasses to mix up the music.

The music swelled up, bigger, filling, a vibration that just moved through the crowd. With the shoegaze glasses we were invited to trip out and fall into the music without thinking. We spun around on faded melodies, dancing, and laughing, and giggling, and falling into each other with smiles in the dark bar. It was music for dancing to, music for swinging, spilling, and falling down into. We fell down and down, and spun into the darkness and crystal swirls of the evening as the band finished up the set.

As we spun out of the bar on whimsical lyrics, and into the dark night, we found ourselves giggling arm in arm toward cabs surrounded by diamond speckle lights and stars, and music, toward home.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012



Oh yes. That was what I wanted.

Of course I wanted other things as well. I had mussels in hand, but I needed fish and crab as well. One thing working against me was the time of night. I’d made this journey to the market in the late evening at roughly five o’clock. The market closed in the evening...sort of. Chilseong Market stayed open pretty much all night long. After the day market closed, and the night market (where you could go and get clams and seafood all night) opened. It was lovely, and I had done it before with a bunch of teachers visiting Korea, but I wanted to make my own seafood, so simply eating at the market would not do.

With the market quickly closing I headed over to the seafood area of the market. They had all kinds of fishpretty much everything you could possibly imagine. After a few minutes of browsing I found some really nice shark steaks for 10,000 won, so I picked those up. I kept looking for crab, but was not having any luck yet. The shark was a good score.

As I walked through the market the I found an ajjuma cleaning cod. She cut the heads off, cleaned the skin and boned it for a Korean man who was standing there waiting. Then she cut it into tiny little pieces. I was not so fussed on the tiny pieces, but I was thinking that the cod would go over well what the Irish would be eating at dinner.

I talked to the ajjuma for a few minutes and ordered up two fillets. She very kindly cut the head of a fish and started to put it together for me. Sadly, before I could stop her she cut it into smaller chunks. She then tossed some salt on it, and put it into a small garbage bag. I figured with a little cooking it wouldn’t really matter.

At this point I had mussels, cockle clams, shark, and cod. This seemed like a good start to my dinner, but it was getting late. I was expecting dinner company at 7:30 and it was almost 6:10. I was striking out on the crab, which was not making me very happy. I kept walking. I was walking through the seafood market and got close to the end, negotiating some shrimp with an ajjuma, when I saw it.


Not just a small amount of crab, either. I found THE crab shop. Here was a place where there were more then fifteen tanks, and each tank had a different kind of crab. They had king crab, blue crab, snow crab, you named a crab and they had the crab. They really knew what they were doing in the crab department.

I wanted crab.

The ajjuma and I got to talking prices.

The thing about king crabwhich weighs by itself roughly two kiloswas that it was not cheap. You were looking at paying about a hundred and twenty thousand won for just one crab. I did a price check on my phone for America and found that in the states the same crab was close to 180,000, and it was not live. Here I was looking at live king crab, drop-in-the-pot-and-die live, and for 120,000 that was not so bad.

She tried to sell me on some queen crab. We negotiated back and forth for a while, but finally I decided on the king crab. After a few more minutes the deal was done, and I walked out of the market with several things alive and dead and ready to be cooked up.

I got home and took most things out of the bag. The king crab, which was eventually named Eric, waited around while I made up some homemade bay seasoning. I marinated the shark, prepared a bolognese sauce for the mussels, and decided to just lightly cook the cod in oil with salt. I was getting everything ready and timing it all out when I got a phone call from the Artist. She would not make it before almost ten. I pushed everything back and tried to relax. While I wanted desperately to cook, I knew that eventually I would be able to have my seafood.

As she walked in I served up the first and second course, including boiled new potatoes and broccoli. As we finished I pulled the last of the drawn butter and dropped Eric into the boiling water as we all said adieu. Roughly twenty minutes later we sat around pulling off crab legs, and sucking the sweet and tasty meat out of the shell, until eventually there was nothing left of dinner but empty shells and flecks of fish with four smiling and very satiated diners around the table. All of us had had what we wanted, and I was the most happy of all, with the Artist on one side and empty crab shells on the other.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

Dinner Planning and Pansori

The Artist was coming to visit, which seemed an exciting occurrence, at least for me. I called her.

“Do you like seafood?”

“Of course.”

“Are you allergic to anything I should be aware of?”


“Cool. I’m going to make a seafood dinner.”

That was the idea I got in my head. I wanted a gigantic seafood dinner. I wanted it to be lavish and tasty and delicious and the best way to do that was to go and get fresh seafood at the best market in town. I’m a huge fan of Chilseong Market, which was one of the oldest markets in Daegu and the place to go if you wanted to buy fresh food and support the local economy.

Chilsung is technically oriented along where the old wall of the city would be near the Sincheon River. It almost never closed, and on the few occasions when it did you could almost certainly still find some ajjumas on the street selling things in front of closed stalls. It had everything you could want to buy, from fresh meat to fresh vegetables, and all the seafood you can think of in between. Seafood was my goal. I had made an earlier trip to the market and picked up fresh vegetables to go along with the meal, so what I really needed was fish and stuff.

Then it came to me.

I wish it had not come into my mind, but the more I thought about it the more I could not shake the thought.

I wanted crab.

I knew as soon as it came into my head that it was going to be bad. However, the thought was there, and it did not seem to be interested  in going anywhere else. I wanted crab. For this, I frequently blame the Bard and her infamous Mountain of Crab Night (just thinking about it makes me realize that I may not actually have written about Mountain of Crab Night, which is going to take some correcting at some point). As it was I wanted crab.

Mission in mind, I decided I would get an assortment of fish. I would get some clams and mussels and shrimp. And then I would get some crab. For most of what I wanted I knew right were to head. It was the crab that was going to be a problem, because I could not for the life of me think of where to go to get a nice bunch of crab, but I figured in Chilseong I’d have a good chance of finding it.

When I got to the market I started with my favorite fishmonger and got the mussels. I worked my way into the market to look for other things on my shopping list. After picking up a nice bunch of shrimp I ran inexplicably into a gigantic pansori concert going on in the market.

Pansori is a popular form of drumming and sing chanting in a very traditional Korean way. For some readily unapparent reason there was not one, but two entirely different pansori troops and they were on either side of the market. Both sets where banging their hearts out. One group had taken over my favorite mushroom stall, pulled the ajjuma up onto the table, and were dancing like crazy. The Koreans, however, even for all the amusement that was an impromptu pansori concert, still stopped to stare at me taking pictures of the show. At the second troop one of the gentlemen was wearing a plastic mask and carrying a strange toy gun. The whole thing was widely absurd and beautiful.

I danced and tripped along to the rhythmic chanting as I combed through the veggie and fish stalls to prepare for the meal. The show at one point started an echo-and-response challenge and I could hear the Koreans yelling at each other across the market as one group would start a staccato rhythm that would be taken up by the other troop further away. The troops seemed to circle about each other, play fighting in rhythm in the space across the market.

The ajjumas who were selling to me watched my nod and bop my head up and down and kept asking me, “Do you like it?” And I thought yes. Yes, I did. I thought it would be wonderful if more grocery stores had random pansori concerts.

However, I was on a mission and while momentarily distracted from that mission by the crazy atmosphere of a random afternoon concert, I would not lose myself too long in music.

The mission was on.

I needed crab.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


The singer took the stage and the music started in soft drifting notes and then it built and built. There was a moment when I had this horrible worry that Zack Cordon would disappoint. That a voice as interesting and melodic as his would not actually be real, that nothing could be that real. I was not disappointed. Not only was the voice real, but his entire being embodied a wonderful modesty of someone who was  truly surprised that people enjoyed the music he made as much as he enjoyed making it. The lilting melody that fell from his lips was transcendent.

The band with him didn't hurt. A combination of some guitar, ukulele, several brass instruments and and a drum made Beirut an absolute joy to watch on stage. I was mesmerized by the flashing of trumpets and just transported by the beautiful tuba.

The tuba was nearest to where I was standing and this was not a problem for me. I would call it impassioned tuba playing, playing the tuba like there was no instrument left in the world. It was beautiful and melodic and supported the band, and also lilted and took over the melodies and rhythms as if it was the bass in a jazz band. It transported the music and added to the lyric, making for the most warm atmosphere in which to receive Beirut.


The crowd swayed together as we listened, and at one point Zack implored for us to dance which started a frenzy of gyrating bodies to the sounds of the Gulag Orkestar. The young Korean hipsters, and the EPIK teachers, and even the old fogy lifers like me, were all jumping up and down and crashing into each other resplendent with free and happy joy.

It was one of those shows that could have gone on forever. When the show finally came to the end we screamed and stomped for an encore. It was the last show of the Beirut tour, which was possibly why he decided to give us not one, but forty-five minutes more of songs to sing along and dance to. And we did not disappoint him in our enthusiasm for the music.

We danced until we spun out and finally had to accept being expelled into the cold night. The temperatures in Seoul had dropped to below zero, and I wrapped up in my scarf for a slog back to the hotel that was not that far away from the venue. The cold could not penetrate the musical coat that was keeping me warm and I heard lilting tuba in my ear as I finally drifted off to sleep, much too late at night.