Thursday, December 31, 2009

Post of the Decade

Nobody can agree on a name for this decade. I am not here to debate this matter. So far as this page is concerned, it’s the aughts. The aughts are really the ideal name for this decade, because it ought to have been good, but largely failed. Any decade in which somebody like George Walker Bush is the unquestioned most important person is a categorical failure. However, I am not here to debate this matter either. There are plenty of other blogs out there about what an abortion the aughts were politically, written by people that, say, read real newspapers. Today, I’m here to self-indulge, a longtime specialty of this space.

As I write this, it’s December 30 and I’m drinking $2 red wine, a variety foul enough to earn the name “Jinro,” made right here in the ROK. It tastes a bit like children’s grape cough syrup, a not horrible experience to be sure. The aughts began much like this. At the close of the nineties, I was fresh off my Euro study abroad adventure, had some sort of life plan, a girlfriend of sorts, and was generally at the top of my game. By the time the Superbowl rolled around in Y2k, the girlfriend thing was over, my roommate and buddy Dylan had taken off to Jersey, my mom had moved to Baltimore, my childhood home sold, and I had developed an unhealthy interest in a drink called Kentucky Deluxe, which is to whiskey what Jinro is to wine. The aughts had begun.

The Year 2000 got better, of course. I moved out of the horrible converted garage that Dylan and I lived in and moved in with a platonic ex-girlfriend. I stopped drinking 18 packs of Milwaukee’s Best by myself while watching The Price is Right. In May, my buddy Daniel moved back to Lawrence, followed by Dylan two weeks later. In June, I succeeded in picking up a foxy bartender named Jaimie (sp?), then had a short-lived relationship with a supercute but trashy girl that I worked with named Shelly. I took some trips, including the infamous Ozarks weekend and my second Euro-jaunt for New Years. Then, for some reason, I moved to Florida.

In Florida, I had no friends. I made $150 a week. I drank Silver Thunder, which is to beer what Jinro is to wine and Kentucky Deluxe is to whiskey. I didn’t have cable, couldn’t afford it. I drunk dialed people in Lawrence pretty much every day. If the person I was calling’s roommate answered the phone, I would often keep the unsuspecting roommate on the phone for half an hour. This couldn’t last forever, so I moved back home to Lawrence and picked up where I left off.

I left Lawrence again in the early summer of 2002. I embarked on a four-month, 30-state road trip. I planned to move somewhere new at the end. Chicago was the choice.

I love Chicago, but the Chicago era would prove to be the bane of the decade. I came to Chicago with two nickels to rub together, a Nintendo, and high hopes. My standard of living was just above gutter level my first year there. After a while, I carved out something resembling a real life. I had a “real” job. I became a member of the art museum. I got high speed internet. I bought a real bed. Things were looking up. Then came late-October-early-November 2004. The wheels fell off on another girl situation. I got passed over for a promotion at work. Bush got re-elected. All in a two week span. The aughts strike back. I took to drinking Skol vodka, which is to vodka what Jinro is to wine, Kentucky Deluxe is to whiskey, and Silver Thunder is to beer. I didn’t leave Chicago until May of 2006, but I checked out in November 2004.

Again, the aughts were by no means all bad. December 30, 2005 was a turning point of sorts. This was my last day working at my “real” job. The Chicago era was largely a death knell for travel, easily my favorite activity. In late 2002 and all of 2003, 2004, and 2005, I made one trip to Vegas, one trip to Maine, one trip to Florida, one long roadtrip between Kansas and Baltimore, four Christmas trips to Balto, and several trips to Lawrence. Pretty bland. In an over three year period, Maine was the one new place I went to, and Vegas and Indiana Beach were the only other places I went without the express purpose of visiting family or friends.

I’d long considered the late 90s as my golden age of travel, and though 96-99 still qualify as the greatest age of proper road trips, 2006-2009 easily qualifies as my own golden age of air travel. Over these four years, I’ve hit up (big breath) Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brugges, Brussels, Antwerp, Aachen (underrated, you should go), Cologne, Rothenburg, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Venice, Chicago (x4), Lafayette, Baltimore (a lot), DC (a lot), Lawrence(x5), Tampa/St. Pete (x5), Seoul, Fukuoka (x3), Hong Kong, Busan (x5), Jeju, Bangkok (x2), Tokyo, Manila, Boracay, Singapore, Penang (Malaysia), Gyeongju, San Francisco (x3), Vegas (x2), Tucson, Phoenix, New York, Philadelphia, and motherfucking Disney World. My flying codes in this latter part of the aughts would be:





That’s a lot of capital letters in a row. For the aughts as a whole, I’ve been to 20 countries, 44 U.S. states, 38 airports, and 24 major train stations. I’ve ridden on 30 city transit systems and flown on 14 airlines. I’ve flown business class for free to Tokyo and Copenhagen with miles. I’ve ridden bullet trains and motorcycle rickshaws. I drove through that tree in Northern California that people can drive through and walked across the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, both lifetime goals of mine.

I’ve had 12 different jobs during the aughts. The longest was for over three years. The worst one was selling art out of my car for 100% commission. The best one is my current gig. I’ve lived in 13 different apartments or houses in 6 different cities. These statistics are probably more telling than the travel stats as to why I’m so rootless and directionless. Yet, come tomorrow, I will have lived in one apartment in one city with one job in the teens.

Finally, a note on pop culture. The aughts have developed a reputation for a dearth of it, particularly compared to the truck full of awesome that was the 90s. In many respects, I agree, but the aughts have two saving graces - the internet (as in teh internets !!!!!11!!) and TV. I would argue that no decade could beat the aughts in the TV realm. The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Arrested Development, Family Guy, 30 Rock, South Park, The Office (when it had its fastball two years ago), and Scrubs crush any decade you put them against. Plus, there’s a whole slew of shows that I haven’t gotten into yet but I know I will love, like Friday Night Lights, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Always Sunny, and of course Lost.

If you are me (and I am) then this was a horrible decade for sports - almost. Nearly every team that I care about lost every year, usually badly. The highlight for the Royals was finishing in 3rd place and going one game over .500 in 2003. The only teams that I follow that won championships were the 2009 Kia Tigers and the 2008 Kansas Basketball Jayhawks. Yet, the Hawks saved the decade singlehandedly. The Jayhawks winning the title in grand fashion (lambasting North Carolina followed by an overtime win against Memphis in the best college hoops game of all time) was not only the best moment in sports in the aughts, but most likely the Greatest Moment In Sports In My Lifetime, Past And Future. Of course, I ended up witnessing this by watching the game on the internet, alone in my apartment in Korea. That’s the aughts in a nutshell. Despite a few of the greatest times of my life, it ought to have been better.

Thursday, December 24, 2009



I’m stuck in quite a rut. Y2K had the dreaded Malaise. Recent times have this:

Monday: I wake up at 1:45 pm, after a long night of watching football (football starts at 3 a.m, here). I watch the 4th quarter of the Sunday night game while eating cereal (probably Honey Nut Cheerios), and check on my fantasy teams. Shower at 2:40, go to work at three. I teach my classes, eat take-out Korean food at work, leave at 10, and go to the gym until it closes at 11. I watch two episodes of Arrested Development on my iPod on the elliptical or the bike. I go home, watch the Jersey Shore, the Simpsons, and Family Guy, then surf the net. I watch more football highlights. I don’t drink. I read before going to sleep at 4-ish.

Tuesday: I wake up at 1-ish (Monday night is the best to catch up on sleep) and watch the fourth quarter of the Monday Night game, generally live at this point. I do this while eating cereal, of course, usually Honey Nut Cheerios. I shower at 2:40, and go to work at 3. I generally listen to Monday’s fantasy football podcast while prepping for class (ie, playing Sporcle.) I eat a snack, fruit or a small sandwich at work. I finish work at 10, and go out to Metropolis bar for beers, wings (it is wing night, after all) and darts. I generally get fairly drunk, but I only stay out until 2 or so.

Wednesday: I wake up at 12:30 and go to the gym. I listen to Tuesday’s fantasy football podcast on the way and while on weight machines. I watch two episodes of Arrested Development on my iPod while on the treadmill or elliptical. I leave the gym by 1:45 so that I can get to McDonald’s before 2 for the lunch special. There’s always a line. I take my McDonald’s to go, and eat it at home while watching Monday’s Daily Show. I shower at 2:40, and I put my clothes into the washing machine and start it. I have a lot of free time at work on Wednesdays. I do every conceivable piece of prep work that I need to do for the next week. This takes approximately 20 minutes. I chat with coworkers for awhile. I listen to Bill Simmons’ guess the NFL lines podcast, and I go home to hang my laundry (no dryers in Korea) and to make dinner. I eat at home while reading (as my computer will still be at work at this time). I return to work, read fantasy football articles, and make waiver moves. After killing lots of time at work, I leave at 10 p.m. I watch Monday’s Colbert Report and Tuesday’s Daily Show. I drink a couple of large glasses of soju and OJ while doing so, then I work on blogs until I get distracted or until I get too drunk to continue.

Thursday: I wake up at 12:45 and go to the gym. I listen to Wednesday’s fantasy football podcast on the way and while on weight machines. I watch two episodes of Arrested Development on my iPod while on the treadmill or elliptical. I return home at 2-ish and eat cereal (generally Honey Nut Cheerios) while watching Tuesday’s episode of Colbert. I shower at 2:40, and go to work at 3. I edit last night’s blog and remove all the racial slurs. Much work is involved. At my dinner break, I go to the nearly cheap pizza place and order either a pepperoni pizza or a cheesy crust hot chicken pizza. The latter is more delicious, but it costs $2 more. I take my pizza home, and eat 5 slices while reading. I take my clothes off the drying rack and put them away. After finishing work at 10, I go home, and I watch Wednesday’s episodes of the Daily Show and Colbert. I consider not drinking, but I almost always have leftover booze in my fridge from Wednesday, so I almost always drink it. I clean my apartment, the main activity of the evening, so that it looks presentable should a girl see it over the weekend. I take out my recycling at 3 a.m. Before this, I drink every drop of booze in the house that is “almost” finished, so that I can recycle said booze’s container. A trip to the basement to drop off my recycling generally leads to a trip to the store to buy more beer to drink on the street. I can’t take it home, because then I would have to take the empty bottle back to the basement. That’s a lot of hassle. I go to sleep later than I intended to, usually well after 5.

Friday: I wake up at 12:47, like old times. I watch the second half or so of the Thursday Night NFL game. I plan to go to the gym, but it never happens. Instead, I eat cereal, generally Honey Nut Cheerios. I shower at 2:40 and go to work at 3. I have 5 consecutive classes on Friday, and I end up getting annoyed. During my dinner break, I sneak off to the gym. I listen To Thursday’s episode of the fantasy football podcast while working on weights, and I watch two episodes of Arrested Development on my iPod while on the treadmill or elliptical. I go to New York Hotdog, and order either a chili dog or a red dog, spicy style either way. I eat the hotdog with my three remaining slices of pizza at home while reading, then shower again, cursing myself for showering the first time. Showering twice in a day is a lot of work. I return to work and teach one more class, and I awkwardly invite my coworkers to events that I know they won’t attend. I finish work at ten and go home, but only to drop my computer off. I go out to the Nowon bars and meet up with people. Sometimes I talk to girls. This rarely goes well. I go home after four, for the sake of eating McDonald’s breakfast.

Saturday: I wake up late, like 3 or 4 p.m. Any number of things can happen during the day on Saturday, but often Saturday is a day to watch Thursday Night NBC shows and lay around. I listen to Friday’s fantasy football podcast at some point. I sometimes go to the gym. At night, I usually go somewhere in town, like Itaewon or Gangnam, but I sometimes go to Nowon bars. Either way, the ending is the same - McDonald’s breakfast.

Sunday: I wake up earlier than Saturday, maybe 2 p.m. I head out into town, or to the suburbs, usually to someplace that I’ve never been. I burn through as many Adam Carolla podcasts as possible. I wind up at Subway, and order a footlong chicken-bacon-ranch (it’s cheaper than regular chicken for some reason) on wheat with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, jalepanos, sweet onion sauce, and mustard - no ranch. I take it to go and bring it home. I eat it at around midnight while watching Thursday’s Daily Show and Colbert. I make additional fantasy football adjustments, then watch football at 3 a.m. until the game I am most interested in ends. I eat microwave popcorn. I don’t drink. The game that I am most interested never ends before 6:30. I get to sleep at 7 ish.



It seems that I am stuck in this rut, but forces for both good and ill are working to change it. Starting on Christmas Day, I have 7 of the following 10 days off. That should shake things up a bit. On the ill side, fantasy football is essentially over, as will be regular season football soon. I have to decide whether to pay $70 for an NFL playoff package, or if I should just watch the games a day late at the bar. On the mega-plus side, I just got my vacation time sorted out, and it will be February 26-March 7. Leaving the country will definitely shake things up. Also, then it will be March, basketball tourney time, spring retuning, and most importantly - Taco Bell coming to Korea. Life will be good.

Anyway, Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 7

A few of us guys (this was a Don-sponsored event, therefore by definition a sausage party) got together for Don’s birthday last Saturday. Six of us met up at Hooters (yes, Hooters) on the rich side of town. First, we were shocked to see an actual white girl working there - no clue how this happened, people can’t get visas to work at restaurants. Of course, because tipping is not customary in Korea, we kinda wished she had been our waitress, just because it would be pretty damn cool to not tip an American Hooters waitress and have it be socially acceptable. Alas, we had to get by in not tipping a cute Korean girl.

We realized we had a pretty motley assortment. Amongst us the five of us were a drunk that likes to get in fights, a gay guy, a 27 year old virgin, a Korean-American frat boy, a holy roller, and me, your humble narrator that enjoys passing out at Polly’s Kettle House. Really, only Don could bring together this sort of disaster. We drank lakes of beer at Hooters, then decided it was time to actually go out, cuz, you know, it was 9:30 pm. We moved on to the main event, Monkey Beach, a bar specializing in buckets, and then on to Itaewon.

In order to preserve plausible deniability involved for all parties, I won’t name names here, as I recall, to the best of my memory and what I have since been told, some of the shenanigans that went down.
-One of us pissed in a sewer right on the street with people passing by
-One of us pissed in an empty women’s room, but pissed all over the place, a total firehose job.
-One of us pissed in a stairway in a random apartment building
-One of us pissed into an empty glass AT THE BAR, not in the bathroom
-One of us almost got jumped by three dudes
-One of us had a 1 and 1 record in fistfights over the coarse of the night
-One of us puked out of a third story window onto a busy street
- One of us passed out in multiple bars
- One of us left early after losing a fistfight
-One of us was kicked out of a brothel three times in a quest for a freebie - by the same whore each time.
-One of us actually had the wherewithal to talk to a girl that wasn’t a waitress, bartender, or whore - but struck out miserably
-One of us “went home” at 3 a.m. or so, but further evidence shows that this individual was actually out at the bars, unaccounted for, until 6 a.m.
-Two of us finished the night at Polly’s. One of us was forced to buy a drink upon arrival, the other didn’t have to because, according to the bartender, “he already has one that he brought in with him.” Okay, that one was me. And once again, give it up for Polly’s - a bar that doesn’t require you (or in this case, me) to buy a drink because I already had one that I brought in from another bar.

That’s it. That’s seven. I hope you enjoyed this magical ride as much as I did. I’m taking next week off.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 6

I’m not writing much tonight. Mostly, I don’t want to step on yesterday’s post, which in my opinion was easily the winner amongst these 7 for 7s. I was planning to launch an additional blog here on Day 6, but its taking longer than I thought. I can say that it will be travelly, and largely a photoblog. Don’t worry, that does not mean that I will take myself seriously as a photographer for one minute, and I won’t, like, post close-up shots of food and flowers. Anyway, a couple random statements, then I’m out -

Korean beer really tastes awful two days after opening a pitcher (kinda like a Korean 40, but not necessarily intended to drink in one sitting - and drinking straight from the bottle is verboten). I’d throw it away, but I just can’t bring myself to waste beer. I threw away some fries today because I wasn’t hungry, and I felt bad enough about that.

I watched MTV’s new show, “Jersey Shore.” last night. Wow, what a train wreck. It’s all self-proclaimed guidos. One guy has nicknamed himself “The Situation.” Another guy actually has a tanning bed in his house.

I’m pretty sure I could never be friends with anybody that referred to themselves as “The Situation” at every opportunity, nor anybody that owned his own tanning bad.

I could also never be friends with anybody who said the following:
“My favorite beer is Bud Lite.”
“I grew up in Texas, but I’m a Red Sox fan.”
“That Luke Walton seems like a stand-up guy.”
Neither of these quotes have anything to do with the show, but I feel they are pretty much sure signs of baldfaced wrongness.

It kinda sucks how everyone has their profiles set to private. Sure, I do too, but I really miss the glory days of internet stalking in 2003-2007. There are plenty of people out that that I don’t want to bother friending, but still want to make fun of their pictures.

Finally, this will be the last post off this blog that feeds directly to Facebook. Please go to tomorrow for Day 7. While you’re there, why not bookmark it, or subscribe? I’ll even make a deal with ya’ll - if I can find a way to make money writing, then I’ll move back to America.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 5 - Mount Barmore

As a person who has spent his fair share of time holding down a bar stool, it should come as no surprise that I’ve met a lot of bartenders in my day. I’ve run across a lot of cool bartenders, a ton of forgettable ones, a few dicks, and thus far only one that had the audacity to kick me out. Today, to keep 7 for 7 alive, I’ll celebrate the best of the best, my own personal Mount Barmore.

First off, I’ll name some honorable mentions: Travis at Louise’s. Al at Holiday Club, Jon at Holiday Club, the fat door guy at Spy Club, the guy at Polly’s Kettle House who lets me bring in outside drinks, Katura at Holiday Club, Lavinia at Stonehenge, the hot bartender that I fell in love with at my hotel bar in Copenhagen, Joe at JJ’s Cathedral, Aja at Danny Rock, Marcus at Louise’s, Oojoo at Dragon, Tora at Dragon, Lime at Suyu Dragon, Judy at No Block, Tony at No Block, Carlos on the S.S. Oceanic, Suzie at Mothers, Chris at V, Karen at V, Dana at the Replay Lounge, Haya at Metropolis, Jick at Metropolis, and every airport bartender the world over. You are all testaments to your craft.

Next, I will name the super near-misses, who certainly would make the mountain if more than four spots were available:

Rawb at the Replay, Lawrence, KS - Rawb’s overall rockstarness in all things needs no introduction, his reputation certainly precedes him. Really the only reason he misses the cut is that he works, I dunno, like 3 hours a week, so he’s never around.

Jaime, Duffy’s, Lawrence, KS - Jaime was both really hot, and the only bartender I ever successfully picked up, so she has to make this list.

Andy, Metropolis, Seoul - I just haven’t known him long enough, but he’s a cool cat.

Mean, Noblock, Seoul - It was tough to not include Mean in the top group, his presence at the bar always raises things up a notch.

Myself, Tropicana Field, St Petersburg, FL and No Block, Seoul - Why not? I’m always good about hooking myself up with free drinks.

Inga, JJ’s Cathedral Irish Pub, Florence, Italy. I really hate to leave Inga out. If Rushmore had 5 heads, she would be in. Really everything one would want in a bartender - friendly, beautiful, smart, Lithuanian, liberal on a pour, and the only bartender I’ve ever met that actually refused a tip here and there.

Anyway, on to the point: naming Mount Barmore:

Olivier, Autry, Dave, and Rain. That’s the order of faces on the “mountain” (and thanks to David Canter for the shoop. The poorness in quality regarding the pictures is entirely my fault, these were the only photos of these guys that I had), and it also happens to be the order that I met them.

Olivier is the manager/owner of L’Arambar, a small bar on a backstreet of the 11th arrondissement in Paris. I met Olivier and became a regular of his bar in 1999, when I was studying abroad in Paris. L’Arambar was down the street from Hotel du Monde, the 1 star joint that our study abroad group was living in. Our neighborhood was extremely French and well off the tourist track, so most restaurants and bars were not used to dealing with Americans, particularly drunken 21-year-old Americans and a drunken 34-year old Cree. Cree and I discovered the bar on our third night in town. Olivier welcomed us in, and even spoke a bit of English (rare in this far-flung corner of Paris in those days.) and before long half the group hung out there regularly. I was there every night, and in fact I was often there two or three times a day to study over coffee (and maybe a little wine) during the afternoon. Even on big nights out in hipper enclaves of the city, we still generally ended up at L’Arambar for a nightcap.

We didn’t keep going back simply because of logistics. Yes, the bar was a two minute walk from home, but there were several similar-sized bars along the Rue de la Folie-Mericourt. We kept going back because of Olivier. Olivier did all he could to help us out. He helped us learn a little French (in fact, for a time, he refused to take my drink order unless I used French, but I think he got tired of that because my accent was so horrific) and introduced us to a number of French liqueurs. Of course, we did well for him too. Early in our 6 week stay in Paris, he told me that he planned to sell the bar and move to Spain in five years. Shortly before we left Paris, he told me he was now planning on doing it in three years. Looks like our study abroad group provided two years worth of profits in a little over a month.

Autry was a bartender at Louise’s in downtown Lawrence, but he no longer works there. I most likely met him in the year 2000, and I have been a Louise’s regular ever since (obviously only when I’m in town post-2002). I feel a bit self-conscious throwing out glowing platitudes here, as Autry is by far the most likely of these four to actually read this. Plus, as he no longer works at Louise’s, I can’t even get any free drinks out of it. Anyway, I’ll say this - in an overeducated college town like Lawrence, Autry is always the smartest (if not the most overeducated) guy in the room.

Dave is a bartender at the Holiday Club, a bar that sits on the border of Uptown and Lake View on the North Side of Chicago. I met Dave in 2002, shortly after I moved to Chicago. I lived in a tiny studio apartment a block away from the Holiday. I was dirt poor when I first moved there - no bed, a cardboard box for a coffee table, a Curtis Mathis brand 13 inch TV/VCR, no cable, no internet, no home phone, no air conditioner, and no job. Once I got a job that wasn’t a pyramid scheme, I was still only making $250 a month more than my rent (but probably spent $200 of that at the Holiday). Given my paltry furnishings, the Holiday was pretty much my living room. I had no qualms with going to the bar alone, because I could always shoot the shit with Dave once I was there. Whenever I had friends in from out of town, the Holiday was the one place that I made certain I brought them, and always on Dave’s shifts. In fact, when my buddy Daniel came into town for a week, he became a Holiday regular and hung out there with Dave and the other regulars in the late afternoon while I was at work. Charismatic bastard, that Dave.

A quick story about Dave - I went into the Holiday one evening straight from work. PBR pints cost $2.00, and I had $3.00 on me in cash and additional three in coins. I ordered a beer, paid for it with the paper money, hung out, traded jokes with Dave, chatted with the other regulars, blah blah. I finished my beer, Dave asked if I wanted another. I told him that I did, but I would have to pull a dick move and pay him in quarters. He laughed, said to save the quarters for something important like laundry or pool, and poured another beer. Upon finishing that one, he asked if I wanted another. I reiterated that I didn’t have any money. “I didn’t ask if you wanted to BUY another beer, I asked if you wanted to HAVE another beer.” I did. As it turned out, Dave gave me five beers on top of the one I actually bought. Generous bastard, that Dave. Once I started making a livable wage, I paid him back in tips, but then he would always respond with shots. A vicious cycle, really.

Rain is simply the best bartender in Korea. Of course, this is a country where a reasonable percentage of bartenders can’t master complicated concoctions like, say, gin and tonics. That said, Rain can mix an Old Fashioned that would make Don Draper smile. He’s a walking encyclopedia of mixoloxy.
Rain was a bartender/manager at Noblock near Nowon Station in Seoul, and it was he who gave me my shot on the other side of the bar. Turns out my lack of mixology knowledge and Korean ability were fairly detrimental to my bartending success. Now, Rain has moved on to greener pastures, opening his own bar, Mojito, a couple blocks away. On the plus side, Mojito is awesome, the first high-end cocktail/martini lounge in Nowon, with, in my opinion, the best drinks in Seoul, period. On the minus side, it’s really expensive, a once a month kind of bar, so I don’t see Rain so often anymore.

I met Rain in 2007, and I don’t know his real name. His name tag says “Rain.” All of our mutual Korean acquaintances and his fellow bartenders all just call him Rain. Then again, he doesn’t know my real name either, to him and the staffs of No Block and Mojito, I’m Jae-hak.

A short anecdote on Rain from just last night, and Rain’s only indirectly involved. Martin and I were out at Metropolis for wings and darts (Tuesday night, after all) and we noticed that a waiter that works at Mojito was at Metro for the same reason. He came up to us and bought us a round of shots, partly because he thought he somehow offended Martin last weekend, and partly just because of our association with Rain. Martin bought him a shot to return the favor, and then the Mojito dude bought us two more each.

Thanks to all the bartenders on this list - you have enriched my life infinitely while causing me to forget a large portion of it. I apologize to any bartender I may have forgotten that should be on the honorable mention list. I blame the booze.

My drink-making is so fast, the camera can't catch it

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 4

Looks like I’m more than halfway through this battle, which I suppose means I know + 7.14%. As it’s Tuesday, aka Wing Night in these parts, I opted to gather a few scraps from stories and posts that never quite made up an entire blog in and of themselves, yet have never been posted here before. It’s new material, again, so far as the public goes. Tomorrow, I swear, no more loopholes - I’m going with 100% new material that did not exist before this week. That was the plan tonight, in fact, but it turned out that I was roped into too many free whiskey shots at Wing Night, and I don’t want my 100% new thing to be half-assed (like the sports blog was).

On the U2 Bar in Busan, 4/08:
Strange things I’ve seen here - fan man, two Missouri “grads,” and some guy next to me at the bar angrily taking a document that was written in Japanese out of his satchel, scornfully looking at it, and putting it back in his satchel before storming off. He didn’t seem to be Japanese. Also, when I went to the pisser a few minutes later, I left my smokes and lighter on the bar, and somebody stole them. Two white dudes were hovering around my chair when I returned, and after inquiring about the whereabouts of my missing possessions, one of them gave me a different lighter and a different half pack of smokes (not my brand though.) It was like nothing else I’ve seen, as there were two of them, and one was bigger than me, yet they were both shitting their pants scared of me. I still don’t know if they stole my smokes, but if they didn’t, why would they give me some, and if they did, why would they give me some?

On my PL2 (low level) class, 4/07
So, I’m teaching one of my youngest classes, kids that are maybe 7 or 8 years old. The dialogue I am teaching them is “I like your (blank),” the example from the book being “I like your watch.” The book calls for a simple listen and repeat, with everybody repeating said phrase with its proper response (the response being “thanks.”) But, these little kids are smart, so I coerce them to say “I like your pencil case” or “I like your jacket” to each other.

Ten seconds into this, one of the two boys (the class is two boys and 3 girls) asks “teacher, what’s this?” (meaning, what’s the English word) as he stands up and points to his crotch. Before I could change the subject, the other boy yells out “Penis!” Immediately, the first boy says to the other, “I like your penis!” Class was pretty much over then.

On my early Facebook days, 5/08 (when I was still 100% Myspace and had maybe 4 Facebook friends. The good old days, really. I even set my official Facebook name as “Farty Fartster” back then. I miss it.)
I beat God of War 2 and finished watching every episode of The Wire and Celebrity Apprentice. I really don’t want to start a new video game on a Thursday, and plus I figure I’ll push off mastering Korean until next week. This means I pretty much have nothing to do, so I’ve been on the intertubes* a lot this week,

Tonight, I was perusing the Spacebook* and the Myface* for the first time in awhile. I hate the Facebook, and I only use it for nerdy geography games and to promote this here blog. I noticed a new feature on it tonight - “people you may know”. It’s based on mutual friends, of course. I perused the list, and it shows the potential intertubes friend picture, name, and location.
*these were all funny jokes back in 08

I actually knew, I don’t know, 87% of the people on the list. I didn’t friend anyone, of course, largely because I don’t want any social obligations on the Facebook, I just want to log in quietly every couple months or so to geek out to geography games and be done with it*. This “people you may know” feature did cause my own new nerdy and elitist geography game - judging my high-school and before acquaintances based on the city they live in now.
*really, i miss that

I come from Lawrence, Kansas, as do a large percentage of my acquaintances. This is a good starting point for this game, as the “winners” will be people living somewhere more impressive than Lawrence, and the “losers” living somewhere less impressive. Living in any major midwestern city (including KC) could be considered 1 point higher than living in Lawrence. Living in Chicago or a major coastal city could be considered a few points higher than Lawrence. Living in any Kansas town smaller than Lawrence, anywhere in Texas, or anywhere in Florida would be a point or two lower than Lawrence. Living anywhere in Missouri outside metro KC would be several points lower than Lawrence, as would anywhere in the south. Living in any Asian country outside of Korea would be several points up, Seoul would be at best a lateral move, and any other Korean city would be losing points.

On my filthy habit, 9/07

This doesn’t really fit in anywhere else, but the cigarettes in Thailand really annoyed me. Apparently, by law, they print grizzly pictures of smoker’s lungs and bad teeth and neck holes and whatnot. And yeah, I get it, smoking is bad. I never knew that, until the kind people of whatever Thai ministry determines these things decided to print these pictures. So the point of the boxes, clearly, is to make people want to quit. And for me, these pictures don’t They just make me more mad at the bullshit anti-smoking movement.

Look, again, I understand that I’ll probably die at 31*. But to the anti-smoking movement, I say, what’s it to you? Even if I didn’t smoke, I’d think the anti-smoking movement is a bunch of assholes. Any time a group has that much of an obvious ax to grind (the anti-drug people, the anti-abortion people, the NRA) I generally find myself falling in the other camp. Unfortunately, politically, the anti-smoking people tend to come from the progressive, lefty side of the aisle, which I generally fall in with. But, I just don’t see who you are helping when taxes jack smokes up to 8 bucks a pack. Demographically, smokers tend to be poor. So, when taxes are that outlandish, it creates and extraordinarily regressive tax. Smokers are generally addicted. They aren’t going to quit because the prices of smokes go up. They will just have less money for food or child care or whatever.
*Three months left to prove this right!

I would also like to note, why single out smokers with the pictures of the horrible consequences on the pack? I bought a bag of M&Ms at the same time I bought a pack of smokes in Thailand. Why not a picture of some fat bastard on the M&Ms? And later, I bought a beer. Why not a picture of say, me, on the beer bottle?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 3: The Souse

Today, I’m going old school. I promised all new original content, and technically this is. I originally wrote this post in a pocket notebook in May of 2007. It has never been posted, simply because my old computer broke in May of 2007 and I never got around to typing it up until now.

At the time of this writing, I was involved with a crazy (though hot) Korean girl, now known colloquially amongst myself and my friends as “The Souse.” I had just finished a date with her, if that’s the proper term, and was sitting at Dragon Bar (back when it was cool) in Nowon when I wrote it. Also, keep in mind that some of the lame pop-culture references would have been funny in 2007.

Original title: White Knight

Ai! Even now, it seems I can’t get over my knight in shining armor gene. Girls. Ai. Ar! I’m pretty much reduced to vague onomonopiatic pirate proclamations here. I got nothing, really. Girls are crazy.

I was ready for a conservative evening of beer, bland TV, and maybe the Drudge Report. Then, the girl I’m vaguely involved with calls me. “Come over.” “Come Here.” “I want to see you.” Look, I’m new at this being the mack shit, that’s really all it takes at this point. “I’m on my way.” “Don’t you live with your parents?” “Why don’t you come here instead?” Okay, I’m coming.

I got a cab. It took longer than I thought. Korean cabbies can be racist. Many don’t want to give us round-eyes a ride. She called me seven times in the next half hour. Seven. Should be a red flag. “I’m waiting for the cab, baby.” “I’m in the cab.” “I’m to Nowon.” Blah blah blah. Seven times. I motioned the international “crazy” sign to my gracious, non-racist cabbie. He laughed.

I get there. She is a fucking pile. I’ve seen her drunk before (more than sober, I suppose) but she’s a mess this time, staggering everywhere. She can barely stand up. It isn’t midnight yet. I know drunk. You know that. Two weeks ago, I blew a 0.4 in a Hongdae bar’s novelty breathalyzer. I was offended and ordered a tequila shot. My knees never buckled. I looked up blood alcohol content online. The internet said 0.4 = coma. I know drunk. This chick is beyond.

She tries to drag me to a love motel. I balk. I have an apartment a $4.00 cab ride away, I don’t want to pay for a hotel so close to home. Plus, I know she’s done. I like her, I wanted to bring her home, and I knew she would pass out immediately and I could write and watch TV and drink until 4 a.m. when I was actually tired.

She tries to pass out on the sidewalk many a time. I insist either I walk her home (to her parents’, like much of the world, unmarried Koreans all live with their parents) or that we go to my place so she can pass out there. Ultimately, she decides on her parents’. It’s a fight. She calls me bad and tells me to leave when she tries to sleep on the ground. Not going to happen, of course.

The lesson? Look, I’m... The notebook fades out here, as I got distracted talking to the cute girl tending bar at Dragon that night, and she’d fed me too many Long Islands. Take that for what you will. While writing a blog (at a bar) about how annoyed I was at a girl for being too drunk, I got too drunk to finish writing the story. Of course, it’s been over two years now, so I have no clue what I was going to say. I do remember that I walked her to her building and rode up the elevator with her, and she passed out while standing up/me holding her up on said elevator. I walked her to her door, and then hid in the shadows while she fumbled with the lock and ultimately got in safely. I definitely didn’t want to stick around with her by the door to meet her father. If I had, I presumed I would have to say something along the following: “Hi, I’m some foreign guy. Your daughter was like this when I found her, and I just wanted to make sure she got home safely. I appreciate your understanding in this matter, as well as your fluency in English. Thank you for not punching me in the face.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 2

Wow, did I really promise to write seven original posts over the next seven days? I think that was partly the soju kettle talking - it was at 6 a.m. or so that I wrote that, after all - and I probably would have been better off passing out at Polly’s than to issue such a ridiculous proclamation. I suppose the gauntlet has been thrown down, and I’m gonna have to follow through on this. Today, I’ll return this blog to its original roots - sports. Fear not, as I will not mention a certain golfer at any point. I’m angry that I even have to know about this whole thing, and wouldn’t if the Daily Show and Colbert hadn’t mentioned it.

College football remains its usual messy self, though I’ve given college football less thought this year than really any other I can think of. The wheels fell off for KU and Notre Dame two months ago. Firing Weis was the right move for the Irish, though I can’t say canning Mangino was necessarily the same no-brainer for KU. I haven’t read enough about it to give an informed opinion, but I definitely think that these accusations coming out this year had a lot more to do with finishing the season in a free fall than the actual allegations themselves. In Ressing, Meir, and Briscoe’s final year, missing bowl eligibility is pretty pathetic. Now rumors have attached both teams to Jim Harbaugh, the current Stanford coach. This gives me great joy, as I love Harbaugh, KU, and ND (football only) and hate Stanford and everything they stand for. The potential bowl match-ups look a little lame too. Cincinnati plays football? Who knew?

I have so little invested in college football this year that I’m actually much more excited about the soccer World Cup draw being announced than the pending college football bowl selection. While I am not a soccer fan by any means, I love the World Cup, and I woke up at/went to sleep at ridiculous hours in 2002 and 2006 to watch as many games as possible. As a sports tournament, the World Cup is second only to March Madness. Watching some kid from some random impoverished backwater country score a penalty to take out, say, Germany can’t be beat. The crowds and cheers elevate the whole operation, especially now in HD. Plus, the U.S. gets to start against England. Is there a country you would rather cheer against than England? Me neither, except maybe Switzerland. I’ve never trusted the Swiss. That said, US-England pregame hype will be much funnier than pregame hype against Switzerland would be, as the Swiss outlawed comedy in 1341. Moreover, I’m excited as hell to be in Korea (well, any foreign country with a dog in the fight) during the World Cup this year. I’ll catch at least one game in downtown Seoul on the giant video boards with two million other people.

On to the NFL. For a Chiefs/Bears fan such as myself, this is a pretty piss poor season. The Chiefs have shown some signs of life as of late (until getting lambasted last week) but the Bears look worse and worse each week. The Cowboys may be the worst 9-3 team of all time, and I look forward to them getting a 3 seed and then getting crushed at home in week one of the playoffs. Tennessee’s quest to win 10 in a row after starting 0-6 is another pleasant diversion that allows me to avoid watching the Chiefs or Bears.

Like a lot of people, I look forward to a few possible games that, knowing how these things work out, will never happen. Saints-Vikings in the NFC Championship would be brilliant, like a real-life version of the game that Homer Simpson watched the day he quit going to church (Oh doctor, that triple reverse ties the game at 63!). Saints-Colts, or even Vikings-Colts would be a helluva Superbowl, although I wouldn’t look forward to all the Favre hype that would be attached to it. Saints-Colts would be especially interesting if both are still undefeated, even if it is far-fetched. Unfortunately, more often than not, these types of games never happen. The Titans and Giants were the best teams in the league last year, so clearly both had to lose in the divisional round. The Bears and the Colts should have met after the 2005 season, as both incarnations were better than the 2006 versions that actually did meet, but the Colts missed a chip shot field goal and the Bears fell to a so-so Carolina team at home. 2006 should have been the Saints and the Chargers in the Brees Bowl, but both choked along the way. 1993’s semi-finalists included the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Cowboys. Instead of the Montana-Young match-up everybody wanted to see, we got a rerun of the previous year’s game, one of the worst in Superbowl history. Most famously, Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the year in the 1998 NFC Championship game and cost the football world a Broncos-Vikings Superbowl between two of the highest-powered offenses ever assembled.

I won’t bore you too much with my fantasy football teams (although I don’t know how that could be boring, as I find my leagues infinitely fascinating and worthy of focusing several hours a week on). I’ll just give my starting lineups for this week. In one league, I have Brees, Chris Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Cedric Benson, Donald Driver, Anquan Boldin, Jason Witten, and Cinci defense, and in the other I have Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Benson, Wayne, Sidney Rice, Roddy White, Tony Gonzales, and Cinci. Both teams are playing for a 1 seed in the playoffs this week. Both teams have kickers too, but I can’t be expected to remember which ones.

Lots of rooting interest today. I am, of course, most concerned with the Kansas Basketball Jayhawks (at the end of the day, the only team that matters) beating UCLA on the road, followed by my fantasy teams winning. Next, I want the Chiefs to win, only because it’s against the Broncos, and as little as I care about the 2009 Chiefs, I always want to beat Denver. Of lesser importance, I want the Titans to keep winning, plus knocking off the Colts would bode well for me fantasy-wise, and for the Saints to stay perfect. Finally, I’d like to see the Bears at least be able to contain the mighty Rams. I think this sums up pretty well what it is to be a Bears fan in 2009. The result of their game is the seventh-highest sports concern of mine on this given Sunday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

7 for 7

For shits and grins, I’m going to attempt a new challenge. I’m going to write (and post) 7 new blogs over the next 7 days. This will require a number of challenges, such as:

- coming up with stuff worth writing about

- not going to the bar on a couple days that I ordinarily do.

Well, really, it’s just those two. I’m not climbing Everest here. I can promise, however, that over the next seven days, I will produce at least one killer post and at least two awful ones. I won’t run any re-runs or other previously written content. I will also likely cut this blog off from Facebook, so you should really come to this page ( first in order to catch that one really awesome post and to make fun of those two really bad ones. Thus completes post number one. It wasn’t interesting, but as an introduction, it counts as neither of the two horrible posts that I’m promising you this week. Six more to go. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Subway Sunday

The Subway takes me all over town, every Sunday. By Subway, of course, I mean the sandwiches. Subway Sunday has become my answer to church over the last couple of months, and I’ve been surprisingly pious. It’s become a fairly productive habit too, as it does something that never happened the first time I was living in Korea - it gets me out of the house on Sunday.

I’ll get this out of the way first - I love Subway sandwiches. I love the Bell more of course, but Subway is the one fast food establishment that I’m okay with eating twice in the same day, or five times in a week, or other such extreme combinations. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat at McDonald’s twice in a day too, but one of those times has to be breakfast, which is a wholly different experience. I can (and have) go to Subway twice in a day and ordered the exact same sandwich both times.

Going to Subway in Seoul is a bit of a trick, however. There aren’t any near my place, the closest one takes 40 minutes or so to get to, so going out to Subway every Sunday is no small commitment, it requires leaving home for several hours. Fortunately, this dovetails well with my non-ending quest to walk everywhere, and I mean everywhere, in this enormous sprawling city. The subway rides to Subway are always long, but I also have a non-ending slew of podcasts to get through. Between Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla, Rick Steves, and fantasy football, I’m downloading upwards of 12 hours of new content onto my iPod every week, and I gotta listen to all that sometime.

The best part of Subway Sunday, beyond the podcasts and the delicious sandwiches, is that it draws me out into the city at least once a week. Monday through Friday, I’m never further than a 20 minute walk from my place, Saturday afternoon has proven to be the realm of veging out/crippling hangover, and Saturday night generally leads me to the usual places - Itaewon, Hongdae, Gangnam, Hyehwa (although coincidentally, all four of those places boast a Subway) to go to bars and clubs. In many ways, every Subway Sunday is the same, but then again, it’s the primary x-factor of the week. I never decide where in town I’m going on Sunday until I leave, and I don’t require the place I go to actually have a Subway, so long as I can hit it up somewhere on the way home.

Indirect Subway-seeking journeys have sent me on circuitous paths all over town. I’ve visited Yongsan electronics market. I’ve walked the length of Tehran Street, Gangnam’s strangely named skyscraper/business road. I had a massively long walk from Seoul Forest to, again, Gangnam station with a roasted chicken sub on the brain keeping me going. I also walked from downtown Seoul to Itaewon over Namsan Mountain, which finally connected the only portion of the city I had not walked between my current apartment and my first one. I went to Bundang, an hour and a half away, both to take advantage of their Subway outlet and to nerdily ride two of the remaining four subway lines in the whole country that I had not ridden before. I hit up Subway in Itaewon after my miles-long, 20+ store search for a new winter coat. I even went up to the Subway in Dongducheon, a place I visited largely because I had heard it’s horrible and filthy. It was, but it wasn’t as horrible or filthy that I’d hoped it would be , but because of its proximity to a US army base, it was the most “American” Subway I’d been to, with prices in dollars and more than one kind of cheese. Herein lies the one problem with Subway Sunday - it happens on Sunday. Even Itaewon is boring on Sunday evening. If I want to see Dongducheon at its filthy ghetto peak, I really need to go there on a Friday or Saturday night. Given the $40 taxi ride home that would require, I doubt it will ever happen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Indecision Clouds my Vision (2)

No Thanksgiving in Korea, at least in November. No turkey, no day off. Then again, I’m no huge fan of turkey, and I don’t care at all for stuffing or cranberry sauce, and I’m never in favor of having dinner at 4:30 p.m., so no big loss. In fact, my all-time best Thanksgiving involved no such things - it was in Florence in 1999. I ate pasta for dinner at 9 p.m., like any rational person would.

Anyhow, though I have to work at my actual job, I’m taking a cue from every other content producer in the world and taking the week off blog-wise. I’m re-running an old gem that came from my Myspace blog during my early days in Korea. I originally posted this on November 4, 2006, a scant 5 weeks into my Korean life. I’ll make a couple footnotes as well, anything 2009 will be in italics.

Indecision clouds my vision

First off, I need to point out that huge strides have been made in instant coffee since I last had it, probably in my Boy Scout days. Which is fortunate, as it is a necessity here, if one is to drink coffee at home. The combination of lack of space for a coffee machine in my tiny apartment, and prohibitive cost of coffee machines here (they are all like $150, I haven’t seen anyplace selling the classic American shitty $10 coffee machines that I have come to depend on) makes instant the only option.

Last night I went out with 3 other teachers to a local bar, a Brit, an Aussie, and a Canadian. We had a pretty enjoyable time, and all three are very cool, and I had a good time. Boring info there, I know. We talked about various travel things, as the three of them are all very well traveled, and I’d like to think I do all right myself, for an American at least. All three had been to Thailand and Hong Kong and Singapore* and other places like that that still seem exotic, even from Seoul. It has long been the common wisdom that Americans don’t travel enough, and though this did not come up last night, I am sure the other three all think this. As do I, largely, far too few Americans have passports, but then again, Americans get the shortest vacation time of and industrialized people, and it’s hard to see much of Europe or Asia or South America with a week off, and far easier to go to Vegas or Orlando and “see” all three.
* funny I should mention those three particular places back then, as I’ve since been to all three

What struck me as quite strange though, and perhaps this is an international phenomenon, is that the Canadian has never been to Toronto, the Aussie has never been to Sydney, and the Brit has spent less time in London than I have. So, I don’t know, make what you will of that. I am not talking shit, because, as I said, all of these people are very cool and I am glad they are working at my school*.
*I kept saying that “very cool” stuff because I was friends with them all on Myspace and knew they would be reading. Sycophantic move, I know. I can now reveal that they really weren’t the cat’s pajamas after all - as soon as I moved across town in January to take a new job, I was suddenly dead to all of them, and when I invited them to come out for my birthday via Myspace message (ah, 2007) none of them even responded. Again, my first job here was horrible, it had no redeeming qualities beyond convenient access to Burger King and cheap taxi rides to Itaewon.

So anyway, everybody was going home at 1:30 or so*, and I wasn’t really into going home. I bought a bottle of soju and took to the streets with the pod, kicking it old school. The problem with soju, of course, is that you should never start drinking it after having a couple beers. It just makes you nutty. You would think I’d have learned this by now**, but it just seemed like the thing to do***.
*on a Friday night. This was about as late as that group would ever stay out.
** Three years later, I still clearly haven’t learned this.
*** and it was. Again, my friends at the time were boring, I had no choice but to make my own fun. Going home at 1:30 on a Friday night in Seoul is like going home at 9 p.m. on a Friday in the U.S.

So, I walked down a random large street near my house that I had not been down before, rocking the pod and interested to see what was around. I ended up in a random party zone*, not far down the road. I had no fucking clue where I was, but it was 2:30 or 3, and this one random street was jammed with cars and cabs, and there were a ton of people on the streets and like 7 million bars around. So, I felt I’d walked the right way, basically. Another weird thing about Korea – on this little party street, there were all sorts of businesses open that you wouldn’t expect to be open at 3 a.m, like clothing stores and junk stores. Conversely, there were all sorts of businesses that you would expect to be open, at least they would be in Chicago, like a Dunkin’ Donuts** and a Burger King, that were closed. One bar, called the Stop Here***, (I didn’t, it looked shady) had it’s hours printed on the door. 6 p.m. until 11 a.m. Even I am not hard core enough to be out boozing still at, say 10:30 a.m.
*The random party zone turned out to be the northern portion of the Gangnam Station area, near the Kyobo building, and an area that’s decidedly unfashionable and boring compared to alleys a few blocks away.
**Korean Dunkin’ Donuts are not open late anywhere, I’ve since learned, something I’m actually happy about now. There is a Dunkin’ in the building that I live in now. I know from my last apartment in Chicago that if it were open late, I would be there 5 nights a week.
***It’s still there. I’ve still never gone in.

I headed to a bar* with seats in the windows that overlook the street, so that I can watch all the chaos of a Seoul party district from a prime vantage point. Plus, a fairly large beer was 2.50**, and it came with these weird, addictive*** crunch noodle snack things that I do not know what are called, but they serve them in a lot of Korean bars.
*Hof. It was a nice hof though, and sadly it’s gone now.
** The same sized beer costs $2 at any non-Gangnam hof in town, but since I lived in the general Gangnam area at the time, I thought this was cheap.
*** the addiction is over - I’m pretty over these things. I still don’t know what they are called though.

Anyway, I left the bar, still with the soju in tow, completely trashed, and I started feeling the urge to rock out, which, thankfully, I haven’t done in public in some time, probably due to owning a car. But, then the pod selected Faith No More’s “Falling to Pieces,” and it was no longer up to me. It was time to rock. So, it was 4 a.m, still lots of people out, I’m absolutely hammered, walking in the general home direction, in a part of the city I had never been to before, surrounded by people that I will never see again. So I wail along with Mike Patton, and even throw in a few random dance moves. I gotta say, it was fun. Fortunately, the road home was deserted of people, as it goes through a large construction project so there’s no retail or residential anywhere around. So I was able to sing like a madman the whole way back, until I got into my neighborhood, where I immediately stopped. Acting like a jackass in front of scores of drunken strangers or in a deserted area is one thing, but I didn’t want to do so within earshot of the neighbors*.
*comedic value aside, this is an ungodly bad paragraph. I’m always yelling at my students to not begin sentences with conjunctions, which is pretty much all I do here.

Post note, so I was walking to the grocery store today (after waking up at 3 p.m.) and I had the pod again, and maybe the third song it randomly picks out of 3500 odd songs, is of course, “Falling to Pieces.” I was tempted to rock out once again, but the moment passed. I think I’m staying home tonight*.
*I didn’t. Just checked my notes from that time, and I went out drinking in Gangnam both the Saturday I wrote this and the Sunday after. Interestingly, I did actually write and post this immediately after it happened. Maybe I should get back to that. The Myspace blog, for all its failings, did have an immediacy that this one rarely does.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

sporcle sporcle

No bar stories this week. Really, I’m kinda sick of the bar. In theory at least, as I am not sick of booze, darts, or ridiculous adventures. That part of the bar I like. I’m just growing weary of the obligation of it all. See, as an aging, single dude, I HAVE to go out every weekend night. If any reasonable number of girls went out on weeknights, I would be out every weeknight too. I don’t have to spend a lot of money, I don’t have to meet my friends, I don’t have to get shitfaced (although, as you know, more often than not all three happen) but I do have to leave home and get out there. Sure, I could hang around coffee shops during the day to try and meet girls, but that’s lame because a) coffee shops don’t serve booze. That, and coffee shops are not conducive to conversation with new people, they are simply places to stay in your group or to eavesdrop on other groups.

A reason it could be harder to leave the house is my new internet obsession. If not for the hours and hours of downtime to kill at work, it would be tougher to leave home. A few months ago, my buddy David turned me on to Not to be too hackneyed 90s about it, but don’t go there. Sporcle has completely ruined my capacity for killing downtime via reading or video games. It cuts into my sleep, it cuts into my TV time, and it totally eliminates the time I would otherwise be writing a brilliant unstarted novel.

Sporcle is, essentially, the ultimate game of categories. It’s nothing but lists in thousands of different categories under larger topics such as geography, history, music, TV, movies, sports, and others that I haven’t tried out yet. It asks a simple question, “Can you name xyz?” Examples include “can you name every US president?” (got 43, lousy Milard Filmore), “can you name all of the kings of France?” (didn’t do too well, but just typing William, Louis, and Richard with various Roman numerals got me pretty far) and “can you name the top 25 rushing touchdown scorers of the 2000s (did so-so, but even with my fantasy football background, it’s amazing how quickly I forgot about people like Rudi Johnson, Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, and Eddie George).
Not surprisingly, geography is the category that I really go after. Can you name the major American cities when given three suburbs of each? I could, easily. Can you name the largest 100 American cities (not metro areas) by population? I always come close, but I always end up leaving out some bullshit town like Garland, Texas or Chesapeake, Virginia. Can you name the three largest cities in each state? I thought I would do well there, but the second largest city in Utah is some new burb I’d never heard of, and a lot of places in New England and the South are too obscure for me. Can you name the 20 largest cities of Kansas? Illinois? I can. Any other state? Not so much. Russia? I don’t know why I even tried that one. Like you, I can name 3 Russian cities. Can you name all of the countries of North America (including the Caribbean)? Europe (including lots of former Soviet republics and ex-Yugoslavia)? Asia (with all the “stans”)? Africa? For me, as of today, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Can you name all the counties of the world? I’ve played that game a lot of times, and thus far haven’t won - Oceania always throws me off, and I always end up forgetting a couple random obvious countries like Hungary or Singapore.

Weak entry this week, I know. Of course, I blame the sporcle, as writing about it caused me to procrastinate during a post about procrastination. Got distracted, did the “can you name all the countries in the world?” 3 more times. It’s a 15 minute game. I got 193 out of 195 on one - stupid Tuvalu and Kiribati. Trust me, live your life. Do not go to

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Comps for the Weary

I’m old. This isn’t news. Recently, I’ve become dangerously close to becoming a real person. I eat vegetables. I’m eating McDonald’s and pizza slightly less (though I threw down both today). I thoroughly clean my apartment every week, even vacuuming. I recycle. I pay my taxes. Well, file my taxes. I just crafted a small “office” in my apartment so that I can stay home and write rather than go to the bar. Worst, and most embarrassing of all, I joined a gym a week ago, and I’ve even gone a few times. I swore to keep it on the downlow, but here I am, outing myself. I never planned to ever have a “gym” conversation in my life, but I’ve had roughly 4,000 in the last week. However, I promise you this: I will never, ever have a “gym” Facebook or Twitter (once I inevitably get into that) update. I don’t want to read other people doing this, and I know you don’t want to either. This is the last I’ll speak of it on a public forum.

Though it seems I’m losing my edge (if I ever had one) and becoming a real person, I can still fall safely into the cartoon character category. Case in point, as per always, last weekend. I had a reasonably quiet Friday, drinking till 4 of course, but no later, and not to such a massive degree as my primary goal was to avoid passing out in public. I even met a girl, but choked as only I can. She looked at me a couple times, came up to me from across the bar, bummed a smoke, and hung out while I proceeded to charm her by saying... nothing. “Um, so you teach English eh? Cool, uh, me too.” This is why I drink. You would too if you had to deal with me all the time. Later, I played her in darts, which gave me a great opportunity to be really tight and nervous and inevitably lose the game in a big way. I also had some cool banter like “uh, so where you from?” I was really shocked that she didn’t just throw herself at me after that. She left, of course, and I played my buddy in darts immediately afterword, played loose, and won - which mattered a lot since we’ve played over 9,000 times.

I woke up early the next day (2 pm, early for a Saturday) to go hiking at the mountain near my house with Don and Martin. Don had already climbed a different mountain earlier that day, so he was a bit behind on energy and ahead on booze due to his habit of throwing back cheap rice wine on the peak. Though he was his usual mountain-goat self during the hike, he quickly crashed upon our return, but got back up to go for dinner and drinks. We hit up a Korean restaurant in Nowon that we go to pretty regularly, and moved on to the usual bars. Other than our discovery of Mojito, bartender Rain’s new bar (which actually served limes, heretofore unheard of in Korea) the usual bars were ungodly dull. Realizing it was only 11 and the subways were still running, we headed to Hyehwa.

Predictably, Don (who moments ago was lobbying to go to Itaewon, a longer subway ride than Hyehwa) passed out on the train within minutes. Martin and I then had this exchange with him:

Martin: Wake up.

Don: (looks up at the station sign, sees “Hyehwa,” closes his eyes again) Wake me up when we get there.

Martin: We are there.

Me: Where did you think we were going?

Don: Nowon.

Me: We came here from Nowon.

Don: Okay, cool.

Don lasted about five minutes in Hyehwa. I bought him a coffee at a convenience store (and in a mistake I won’t repeat again, my first Smirnoff Ice since the year 2000, when it was cool to drink Smirnoff Ice. Awful, awful drink.) After all the mountains and rice wine, plus the later beer and soju, Don was done. He got back on the subway and went home.

Martin and I walked up and down the major nightlife street in Hyehwa, and realized it was, on this night, as lame as Nowon. All the foot traffic was heading for the subway stop, we were the only ones going away from it. It only took until the merciful end of my Smirnoff Ice for us to join the subway-bound crowd and make the obvious change of venue - to Itaewon.

Not surprisingly, Itaewon was rocking. It was just a matter of finding the right bar. After having no more than one or two drinks in several establishments, we ended up at the old game-changer itself sometime after 3 - Polly’s Kettle House. Last time I was at Polly’s, as you may remember from a previous post, the bar was so dead that it literally put me to sleep. True to the never-ending schizophrenic nature of the joint, this time it was packed, mostly with English-teacher types. A fairly cute skinny drunk blonde girl and her goateed, lerchy, douchy looking boyfriend were standing not far behind us, so of course we made fun of them (though not loud enough for them to hear). Tending bar was a Korean dude who spoke flawless English, and the cocktail “waitress” was either pre or post op, can’t tell which, but who was obviously (based on voice and Adam’s apple) a full-fledged dude at some point in his/her past.

Martin got up to take a piss. I talked to the bartender about my recent adventures at Polly’s. He said he had been working the night I passed out outside, but never noticed. The skinny blonde and the douchy lerchy guy hovered closer to Martin’s seat. Martin returned, asked the blonde to step aside so he could reclaim his stool, and then did so. She took some offense to this malicious act of seatbacks, reached back to South Carolina, and slapped him in the face as hard as she could. Then she poured his beer on him.

I was, of course, shocked, and immediately started lobbying the bartender to get him a new beer for free. He asked me about the confrontation, and my report, essentially, was “that bitch is crazy.” And she was. Martin, beer soaked and slapped, yelled at blondie to get the hell out of here, and she reacted by hitting him in the face. Repeatedly. Where was douchy lerchy goatee guy the whole time? Voraciously making out with the cocktail “waitress” at the next stool. Blondie started talking to me, rationalizing her actions, saying that she had the right to the vacant barstool. My reaction, reasonably, was just to tell her that she was crazy and to fuck off. Fortunately, she did, but not before giving Martin a fat lip and causing him to lose a contact, but luckily without slapping me too. Most bars would have kicked her out, but Polly’s isn’t most bars.

Again, Polly’s doesn’t disappoint. If not for places like that, where I can witness my friend get assaulted by a crazy blonde waif while her boyfriend makes out with a ladyboy, old age might really take hold, and I may be forced to consider buying mutual funds and more than one suit. My only complaint- not that they didn’t kick that crazy girl out, as that would be un-Polly’s-like, but that they never did comp Martin a beer after that ball of blonde crazy spilled his.

Friday, November 6, 2009

City by the sea

There’s a town by the sea where it’s warmer than here. Five star hotels surround the beach, and more importantly, $30 crash pads surround the five star hotels. Fresh raw fish, tasty Mexican, Indian, Turkish, American, Italian, Japanese, Thai, and Korean food is everywhere by the coast, and Filipino, Russian, and Chinese joints are a subway inland away. One could sit on the beach, throwing back booze and shooting fireworks, or hit up one of several trendy nightclubs and the casino. Or, with the time and the cash, do it all in one night. During the day, there’s the beach of course, several to choose from, and there’s the country’s best aquarium, mountains, temples, a cable car, open air markets, and one of the continent’s largest film festivals should you visit in October. Is it any wonder I keep going back?

I recently made my fifth trip to Busan. I don’t know anybody in Busan. There’s only one city that I’ve visited more times without having friends or family in said city - Las Vegas. Like Vegas, each trip has been a little different, but each trip has been somewhat the same. I’ve been to Busan twice alone, once with my dad, once with my buddy Don, and last time with a big group. Each trip has involved at least one night in Busan’s crown jewel - Haeundae Beach, the beach I referred to in the first paragraph. Yet, unlike Vegas, Busan is not a world class tourist destination, presumably because of the difficulty in getting to Korea to begin with. Plus, unlike southeast Asia, Busan is a seasonal destination, it’s too cold in the winter and (in my opinion) too crowded in the summer. Half a million Korean tourists plant their beach umbrellas into Haeundae’s one mile of sand every weekend in July and August - no thanks. The spring and the fall is when Busan really shines, when it’s noticeably warmer than Seoul. If anybody here in K-land happens upon this post and hasn’t been to Busan - go. This weekend. Hell, I haven’t been on vacation in nearly a month, I have half a mind to go too. Like last week, I’ll toot my own horn and post this link for another blog of mine, the last entry included the nuts and bolts of what to do in Haeundae.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone soft, on next week’s post, I’ll return to my usual vulgar narrative.

Samyeon doesn't dissapoint for nightlife

Don could find his beloved Red Horse beer on Texas Street

Beumusa Temple, in the mountains of Busan

The Old Man does fireworks on the beach

another shot of Haeundae

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Polly's, Self Indulgence, Kia, and Really Horrible Titles

I woke in the cold, outside of Polly’s Kettle House. There was a puddle of vomit nearby, potentially mine, but in this particular neck of the woods you never can tell. Polly’s, as I’ve mentioned before, is far from Seoul’s highest end bar, as their signature drinks are served in plastic bottles. Polly’s, because of their ridiculous cocktails and their precarious perch over the very hellmouth of Itaewon, is what we in the filthy drunk biz call a “game changer.” The musical selection is as unpredictable as the crowd, and the crowd is never the same. Sometimes, it’s only GIs. Others, it’s only white English teachers. Occasionally it’s filled with Koreans. Once in a while it’s an exclusively black enclave, a rarity indeed in this country. On particularly bad nights, the place is populated with nothing but overly flirtatious, closeted Korean gay men and trannie whores. On its best nights, it’s all of the above. On its very worst, well, it’s pretty much empty, with me passed in the cold just outside the bar.

Even though my idiot buddy left me wallowing on a concrete bench outside a seedy bar (or maybe he said he was leaving when I was still awake and I blacked it out, I can’t be expected to keep track of these sorts of things), I managed to wake up before the sun came up, nothing stolen, in order to quickly procure a cab to pass out in. Korean taxi drivers are generally honest to a fault, but every now and then I find an exception, and I suppose 5 a.m. in Itaewon is a pretty good time to hop into a shyster’s car. I woke up a ways into a ride, only to discover that we were on some freeway far from the usual road from the T’won to home. Taxi rides on this most plied of routes generally run $14-16, $18 if there are abnormal traffic patterns. My total this time was $25. I started complaining to the cabbie shortly before we arrived on my street, then gave him $20. He didn’t argue it, he knew he ripped me off.

The point of this anecdote? Certainly not that I’m changing my ways, although I hope to avoid passing out outside in a non-beach situation for at least the next three weeks. I suppose it could be that the honeymoon is over, long over really. I realized this a while ago, maybe a few hours after I posted my “Honeymoon” blog last month, as the wheels fell off in whatever girl adventure I was into at the time. Then again, I’m been here long enough now (two months) that any sense of newness would be impossible to maintain - now I feel like I never left. It’s not so much that I’m back to all my bad habits (though I am), but that I’m back to all my habits. Pizza on Monday. Hot Dog Tuesday. Cereal for breakfast before work every day. Up at 12:47 (although 1:22 is the new 12:47). I’ve also added the inconvenient wrinkle of Subway Sunday, as it involves me actually leaving my neighborhood on Sundays rather than laying around my apartment all day.

Still, I’m not going to drive this post off a cliff. I don’t want to write a “woe is me” entry anymore than you want to read one (unless, of course, any girls in Seoul happen to read this and dig that sort of thing, in which case, ah, woe is me). Just this week, I changed up my 2+ year food routine. No longer will I live under the rote monotony of a pizza-Monday hot dog-Tuesday existence. Nope, from now on I’ll enjoy the liberating freedom of Korean food Monday, wing night Tuesday (50 cent wings at the bar, plus it gives me another bar night) and the shocking new world of pizza on Wednesdays and hot dogs on Thursday. See, pizza night and hot dog night have to fall consecutively, because the pizzas at the cheap place I go aren’t very big, but they’re too big for one sitting. I have five of the eight slices on one night, then the other three slices with a hot dog the second. The hot dogs at New York Hot Dog prove to be the exact perfect size to account for the two fewer slices of pizza, plus the cheap pizza becomes inedibly disgusting after more than one day in the fridge, kinda like Shuttle.

I’ve been extraordinarily lazy with a few projects that I planned on working on once I got here, such as work on three new blogs (including, which only has two entries thus far). Plus, there’s learning Korean, joining a gym, quitting smoking, selling my screenplay, working as a professional travel writer, and becoming a chess master. That doesn’t even factor in Nintendo. I figure I’ll have some more time after the season finale of Mad Men, and far more once fantasy football season ends.

Finally, a public congratulations to the baseball world (okay, Korean [okay, South Korean]) champion Kia Tigers! For the first time since 1985, a baseball team that I care about took home the title. Kia was in the cellar in 2007 and 2008, but things turn around quickly in an eight team league. Best of all, they won with style, Game 7 ... well, I’ll let you watch. If you like baseball or sports in general, you’ll dig this clip.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So it's come to this....

Yep, a rerun. I'm dredging up my "Top 10 Overrated American Cities" post from my old myspace blog. My reasoning is hexfold:

- I want to start updating this blog at least once a week, and I don't have anything new tonight - I'm working on a couple pieces, but I won't finish anything this week. (and yeah, I'm aware that sportsthatareright is kinda jumping the shark here by virtue of the facts that a) I referred to a blog post as a "piece," b) I used the tern "jumping the shark," c) I'm running a rerun, and d) this list had a c and a d.

- This was one of my funnier posts on the old blog, though I don't necessarily believe in the contents of it gospel and verse anymore. I do stand behind everything I said about Texas though. I presume that this could be new material to a lot of people.

- To keep it real, I did minimal editing on this from its original form because, as always, I'm lazy. I changed the link on the Lawrence segment so that it goes to a page that actually exists, but the spirit behind the message remains. I removed a couple dated references regarding basketball and the 2008 election. Don't worry, they weren't interesting or funny. I also reversed it, going from 10 to 1, when the original went 1 to 10.

- This is probably the most caustic thing I ever posted, so take that for what it's worth. It's been a long week.

- I originally posted this in August of 2007. Because this puppy is two + years old, you can scroll down to my "Filthy Whore" post and see how much better I've gotten since I originally posted this.

- This post includes several quality jokes that I stand behind, surrounded by some horrible writing.

10. Lawrence, Kansas - not nearly as overrated as the other cities on this list. But oh, those Lawrence people are smug. They think Lawrence is the center of the world. Just look what this asshole wrote at It’s the kind of asshole that runs a link to himself.

9. Denver - I don’t ski. I don’t snowboard. Generally, I don’t like people that do. Also, my hatred of the Broncos knows no bounds.

8. Tampa - I had to pick a Florida city, and really, in a list of the top ten most overrated cities in the country, one could easily argue for a list of 10 Florida cities. Being that I don’t recognize Missouri as a state, Florida edges out Texas as my least favorite state. I’ve at least met cool people that were born in Texas. I’ve never met anyone cool that was actually born in Florida (largely because, like other places on this list, almost nobody is actually from Florida.) When I lived in Florida (if you can call it living) I did finally meet some people that were actually originally from said state (but not until I’d lived there several months) and they were terrible people. So, with the likes of Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Pete, and Tallahassee as potential choices, Tampa won out for a few reasons. Jacksonville and St. Pete are both afterthoughts, so neither can qualify as “overrated.” Remember, this list isn’t the worst cities, its the most overrated. Orlando is a one-trick pony, and does it’s trick (theme parks) pretty well, so it doesn’t fit here. Miami is certainly overrated, but due to the fact that it spawned Sonny Crocket and Vice City, it gets a little leverage, Plus, the Dolphins, though I hate them, are the only professional sports team in Florida that I recognize, as they are one of only two teams (florida has 9 total pro teams, 10 if you count University of Miami football) that predate my existence. Tampa is basically known for two things: athletes’ off season homes (which I don’t understand as Tampa is an ugly, landlocked city with bad traffic, and beachfront property is only 20 miles away) and titty bars, and they can’t even do that right, as the titty bars are also known for their six-foot rule, ie, you can’t come within 6 feet of the dancers.

7. Olympia, WA - this is a small town, maybe the smallest on this list, but it gets a steady stream of fans. Basically, this is the city you run to (or take the Greyhound bus to) if you just can’t hack it in the cut-throat world of Portland. I don’t understand the appeal here. I’ve been a couple times. Rains a lot, like the rest of the Northwest. There’s good beer, like everywhere else in the region. but the city sucks. It’s depressing as hell, and there’s nothing to do but drink (which I’m all for, but you can drink anywhere.) To me, Olympia seems like a place where nutty people go to hide from the real world (um, unlike, uh, Seoul) yet still live a short distance from a major city. It’s kind of the drop off point for people who don’t have the guts to move to Bellingham (which has a much more distinct edge-of-the-world kind of feel, and is therefore a much better place.)

6. Boston. Okay, so I respect Fenway park, Paul Revere, the walkable-ness of the city, JFK, and the fact that Boston has one of four decent transit systems in the U.S. (the others, New York, Chicago, and Washington do not make this list.) But the accent, Harvard, the Red Sox, Romney, and the overall douchiness of the citizenry easily puts Boston on this overrated list. On the Red Sox - they are a poor man’s Yankees, that is, if the poor man has five dollars less than the rich man. The Sox and the Yanks are the same thing. I hate this rivalry, as the only good thing that can come out of the 112 games they play against each other a year is injuries on both sides. By the way, same deal for Duke-Carolina and Denver-Oakland. They are all just evil versus evil. Yet, it’s socially acceptable to say you are a Red Sox fan and maintain that you pull for the little guy, that you like the underdog. Horseshit. The Red Sox are every bit as much of an Evil Empire and bandwagon organization as the Yankees, and cheering for them doesn’t give you street cred. On the plus side, Boston often gets a reputation as a racist city, and when I was there, I didn’t encounter anybody who seemed to be racist. Of course, I didn’t encounter anybody from any other races either. Boston has all the ethnic diversity of North Korea.

5. Houston. This just seems like hell on earth to me. So, there’s the smog of Los Angeles, the traffic of Atlanta, the culture and history of Phoenix, the humidity of New Orleans, the sprawl of Dallas, the public transit options of Kansas City, the crime rate of Baltimore, and of course, Enron! This is a city whose top tourist attraction is a fucking mall, probably because when you are inside the mall, it means you aren’t stuck in traffic, or worse, outside in the soul-crushing heat and humidity. Plus, this city is chock full of billionaire robber barons that wear giant cowboy hats as they make money hand over fist in the oil industry, doing whatever they can to fuck over you personally and the country’s and world’s best interests collectively so that they can buy another ranch. Texas executes a lot of fucking people, and these soulless cocksuckers would be a great place to start.

4. Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale/Mesa/whatever other suburb there got to 300,000 people today. I have no clue what the appeal is here. It’s 100 fucking degrees every day. Great. Where do I sign up? Let’s not forget that, even more than Portland, nobody is really from here. It’s one giant strip mall that went up in the last few years. The population has grown literally 10-fold in the last 50 years. There is no history, no culture, and the invention of air conditioning is the only reason the city even exists.

3. Austin. Yeah, everybody loves Austin, it’s the greatest place in the universe, and if you go there, you are guaranteed to go to some club, pay 5 bucks to get in, see a band nobody’s ever heard of that turns out to be better than the Rolling Stones, BB King, Radiohead, and Johnny Cash combined while you are being served free drinks by a waitress that looks like a slightly sluttier version of your ex-girlfriend who later takes you back to her place and then buys you breakfast and a new car the next morning. That’s the word on Austin. But, the fact is, Austin exists for two reasons, and two reasons alone: it is the capital of Texas, and home of the “University” of Texas. UT is a big part of my “superschool” theory (along with Florida, Ohio State, and USC) and I believe they will soon ruin college sports. These 4 schools have so much money to spend on facilities and “recruiting” that they will ultimately destroy the competitive balance of college football and basketball. That’s another story though. Also - capital of Texas? How can Austin be considered a cool place with that moniker? Maybe there was a neighborhood with some cool bars and clubs on the Death Star too, but it was still the fucking Death Star. Austin gave W his platform to lose the 2000 election and assume the presidency.

2. St. Louis. How could St Louis be overrated, nonetheless my second most overrated city? Well, if somebody considers St. Louis to be even the second worst city in the country, that person is vastly overrating St. Louis. It is a hellhole, and the worst city in America. Worse than Gary. Worse than Cincinnati. Let me put it this way - I’d rather spend a week in East St. Louis than a weekend in St. Louis. Why is St. Louis the worst?

- Cardinals fans are whiney idiots that still bitch about the Denkinger call. Look, so Jose Orta wasn’t safe, but he wasn’t the potential 3rd out either, and the pinch runner the Royals put in for Orta was ultimately thrown out at third later in the inning, so all things being equal, the hit was meaningless. The royals won, straight up.

- Like Grandpa Simpson, I don’t consider Missouri a state. After all, this is the region with the glowing distinction of being the only territory north of the mason-dixon line to consider ownership of human beings to be totally kosher, not to mention the fact that these pro-slavery assholes burned my hometown to the ground on more than one occasion in their “noble” plight to continue their right to own other humans. Some may consider Columbia or Jefferson City to be the center of Missourah, but i say it gets worse the farther east you go. Kansas City gets a pass, as the home of my pro sports teams, Buck O’neil, Charlie Parker, and the best BBQ in the world, not to mention the fact that they have “Kansas” right there in the name. After that, every city is worse than the city wast of it, making St. Louis the worst of all, jammed 250 miles into Missourian No-Man’s-Land.

- The Arch sucks.

- Every time I’ve been in St. Louis, it seems like somebody has tried to kill me.

1. Portland, Oregon. I don’t get it. Come the fuck on. When my dad visited Korea, he was on a flight that went from Tokyo to Portland. People in Portland aren’t real people, and they shouldn’t be able to fly direct to Tokyo. Really, the Portland airport should only have nonstop flights to Lawrence, Omaha, and Minneapolis.

The reasons for Portland’s overratedness are multiple. Nobody lives there but hippies and hipsters, nobody is really from there, and you can’t even pump your own fucking gas. Portland is often compared to Seattle, but this is not a fair comparison, as Seattle is a great city and beats Portland in every conceivable way. Even the “good” things that Portland is known for - coffee, music, microbrews (taken way too far in Portland as every single man, woman, and child in Portland brews their own shitty beer) started in Seattle to begin with before Portland ripped them off. Plus, Portland has to be the worst sports town in the country, with no NFL or MLB presence, or even any nearby college teams worth a damn (Eugene is 3 hours away, not close enough be “nearby,” plus the Ducks traditionally suck at everything except maybe hackie sack).

This may not technically be Portland’s fault, but I have no problem issuing the blame here. Portland’s largest suburb (across the river in Washington) is named Vancouver, and is like 300 miles away from the real Vancouver, and even on the same fucking road as the real Vancouver. Which meant, when I lived in Tacoma and I told people I was taking a roadtrip to Vancouver, they had to ask which one. Who the fuck would take a roadtrip to Vancouver, Washington? ( by the way - Vancouver would totally be number 1 if I were to make a list of the top-10 most overrated North American cities. Skiing and swimming in the ocean in the same day? Come the fuck on, Vancouver, your Canadian ocean puts even Lake Michigan to shame in frigitity.)

The one good thing I will say about Portland is that when one of my friends moves there, I know that I won’t have to bother visiting them. Just as nobody is really from Portland, nobody ever really moves there either. I know I’ll never have to visit anybody there, because I don’t think anybody has ever lived there for longer than 4 months. I think even the mayor of Portland (though from what I understand, the title of mayor in Portland has been changed to lama) is some dude from Santa Cruz or Olympia or something who just got into town 3 weeks ago and is crashing on his buddy’s futon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Filthy Whore

Last week, I was hanging out at a convenience store drinking with my buddy Martin. It was 3:30 in the morning. Predictably, a drunk middle-aged Korean in a suit came up to us. “Excuse me, you English teachers? See, my son is, um, studying the English, and...”

There’s a funny phenomenon over here. It’s illegal to give private English lessons with my visa type. Actually, it’s illegal to work any job other than the one I have, but I don’t think most employers are too concerned about whities like me picking up shifts at the Hyundai factory, so the law mostly boils down to teaching private lessons. Everybody is aware of this law, foreigners and Koreans alike.

Most neighborhoods in Korea are, at minimum, 99% Korean. My neighborhood, particularly my block, is unique in its prevalence of non-Koreans. We have an obscene amount of English academies here, and thus a big foreign population. The continued existence of not one, but two decent bagel places on my block speaks to this fact. Plus, this is also the only neighborhood in the country (to my knowledge) to boast a Pizza Hut, a Domino’s, and a Papa John’s. Hell, my hood in Chicago didn’t have all three. I’d venture to guess that upwards of 3% of the people in my hood aren’t Korean, making this a hotbed of English study. As a result, my block is a magnet for Koreans who want their kids to learn as much English as possible.

This juxtaposition of factors often results in me feeling like a whore. I don’t mean a selling-out to the man, corporate shill kind of way here, I mean a fucking streetwalker. I may as well get a micro-mini and clear heals. Selling English on the side is illegal. Lots of people live on my block so that they can get their kids maximum English. Thus, I have no shortage of propositions.

The Johns are just the type one would expect. To return to my original anecdote, the drunken businessman in question didn’t come right out and ask us to teach his son. He beat around the bush for a while. We’re wearing our micro-minis and clear heals in the form of our English conversation and white (it doesn’t have to be white here, just not Korean) skin. He doesn’t know if we’re undercover cops or if we’re the real deal, so he has to initiate conversation with us in a subtle way, but in a way that’s obvious enough that any proper working girl can pick up on his intentions from the beginning. Unfortunately, he took the wrong tack. See, Martin and I aren’t whores, we’re sluts. Buy us a couple bottles of soju without bringing up all the prepositions you intend to dangle, and we’re yours for free, at least for the night. Start asking about what we charge before we even offer you a seat, and you can keep walking.

As I’m writing this, I’m siting by myself at a table in a bar down the street from my house. Some random drunken businessman in a suit walked up to my table. “Are you here alone?” Yeah, I’m working. “Is it urgent? You should come to my table, drink there. By the way, you English teacher?” Maybe I will, only because I’ve wracked up a bit of a bill, and if I can have somebody pay it just by feigning interest in an English study proposition, well - a girl’s gotta eat, right?