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.