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?