Friday, January 15, 2010

Every story has its price

What’s the fair cost for a good story? By this, I mean what is a suitable monetary amount to be spent or lost over the course of an interesting event? Regarding this question, I am not concerned with other cost factors like public humiliation, injury, or loss of important relationships. This is a question that I’ve pondered for years.

Stay with me here.

Two examples: A) a Korean buddy of mine once told me a story about his first trip to Seoul (he’s from the provinces) and how he got tricked into going into a fairly shady nightclub. Sadly, I don’t remember the details, but at the end of the night he was forced to shell out $1,400. B) one of my all-time greatest stories comes from Mexico. I won’t recount it at this time, but I will say that it involved a cage, tequila, the destruction of my favorite pair of boxers, and obviously public humiliation. Yet, the fiduciary damage that I absorbed was a mere twenty dollars, making this tale quite a deal.

The point? Obviously, sometimes, interesting things happen only because somebody is willing to spend an extraordinary amount of money to create drama, and other times interesting things happen despite spending next to nothing. I suppose you knew this. I guess my real question concerns the fiscal worth of a story to the storyteller. I suppose I would pay, say, $640 for the permanent rights to my Mexico story. Of course, had I spent $640 the night it happened, it would take away from the tale. My Korean buddy would certainly prefer to have spent considerably less than $1,400 for his story, but had he paid much less, it wouldn’t be as funny.

My buddy Daniel is famous for living and creating interesting adventures that cost him next to nothing. Offhand, I can think of three classic Daniel stories that cost him less than $50 combined. My buddy Cree is famous for living and creating interesting adventures that cost him amazing sums of money. Offhand, I can thing of three classic Cree stories that cost him thousands of dollars. For sheer entertainment, I would give the nod to Cree for having slightly better stories. However, the average Cree story costs 20 or 30 times more than the average Daniel story, and they certainly aren’t 20 or 30 times better. My Korean buddy’s story is clearly a “Cree,” and my Mexico story is more a “Daniel.”

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

I’ve generally been lucky regarding wallets. Sunglasses, not so much. I’ve lost hundreds (probably an accurate number) over the years. Cameras have been a sticking point too. I’ve lost four of those. I’ve lost keys, I’ve lost packs of smokes, I’ve lost phone numbers. Pretty much, if it’s in my pockets, I’ll lose it eventually. Until Saturday, I’d only lost my wallet once, on the Orange Line El in Chicago in 2004 after getting smashed at BWI and my ensuing Southwest flight to Midway.

I lost my wallet at Gecko’s bar in Itaewon on Saturday night. I realized it a few minutes after leaving the bar, and quickly returned. I got it back, cards intact, but the “good samaritan” that turned it in to the bar liberated me of $130 or so - obviously the weight of which caused my wallet to fall out of my pocket to begin with.

Upon losing $130 for no good reason, I instantly thought of all the ways I would have rather lost the money. I could have gone to the track. I could have put it all in roulette. I could have bought this awesome $100 Lego set displayed at my local supermarket. I could have gone to Costco and bought a shitload of fancy cheese. I could have bought a pair of Levi’s (the going rate here). I could have bought 65 bottles of Jinro wine. I could have hired a maid for a month. I could have set it on fire for shits and grins. I could have (well, would have) spent it on booze.

Losing $130 is still no call to go home. I took out some more cash, and headed to The Wolfhound Pub with my buddies. While angrily pissing and moaning about my misfortune, I managed to meet a girl.

We got along swimmingly. For some reason, I spent the early portion of our conversation talking about “Spring Awakening,” a play that I was in in 1997 that is now a pretty big deal on Broadway (though from what I understand, our little student-produced job in Tacoma didn’t have a whole lot of bearing over the success that the show has experienced in New York.). She’s a Korean girl, but one that lived in New York for over a decade and spoke perfect English. She’s arty, creative, and western in mindset. She’s just the type of girl guys like me look for at an Irish Pub in Itaewon on a Saturday night, and she knew it. The Wolfhound closed. My buddies and I suggested a change of venue, and she and her friend were happy to go. It was 3:30 in the morning.

We stopped at a food stand, where a Korean dude she knew came buy and talked to her (in Korean, of course.) I assumed she would bail, but I wasn’t too invested and thus didn’t care. She didn’t leave. We went to The Loft (hardly Itaewon’s finest bar, but it was open and nearby) and I paid her cover, allowing her to drink all she wanted for free for the next... 20 minutes. The stupid Loft ends it’s Ladies Night promotion at 4 a.m. - bummer.

After getting situated, she forced me onto the dance floor and (ugh) coerced me to dance. Not too long into this, some other dude came up to her. This guy (another Korean) had cheesy DJ-style can headphones around his neck. He was not the DJ. I considered intervening, but again, I didn’t particularly care, or at least wanted to think that way. Eventually, he came up to me, apologized, and was never heard from again. Strange.

I’m not one to kiss and tell, but we started making out shortly after this. Then, things got ridiculous.

While continuing to make out, we both talked about being writers. I told her about this blog, but promised not to write about her. It would not be the last lie I told. She said she wanted to be famous. She said she would be famous, to remember her name. It would not be the last lie she told. She was, like I said, an arty girl in New York. We spent a considerable amount of time talking about New York and Hollywood.

I talked about how I knew people in Hollywood - clearly a total lie. A fun lie, nonetheless. I haven’t told that particular lie in years, and I feel as though I was a better person when I used to brag to girls about my false Hollywood connections. I didn’t mean to lie, of course. At the time, I think I believed it on some level.

Here’s the kicker. She told me that Bradley Cooper (y’know, from The Hangover) was her ex-boyfriend. By the transitive property of movies, I suppose that means I could hook up with Scarlett Johannson.

As her friend was still around, and it was really late, I decided to ask for her number. She was a kook, but she was a cute and interesting kook. She wouldn’t give it to me. She was still willing to make out with me, in fact quite eager to continue doing so, but she wouldn’t give me her number. This was an unprecedented development for me. I’ve never made out with a girl at the bar who later refused to give me her number. I didn’t know what to think of this. I offered to walk her home (she lived nearby), and she shockingly agreed to this. We left, but her friend back at the bar called her twelve seconds later, and she said she had to leave with her friend. She still wouldn’t give me her number. She said we’d meet again anyway, which I suppose could happen since Itaewon isn’t that big. She left with her friend (a chick, btw).
I found my buddies, and declared that shots and beers were in order, stat. After all, the whole time that I’d been talking to the girl, I’d nursed two drinks - one that came free with my cover to theLloft, and the other that she bought. It was 6 a.m., and I was nearly sober again.

During these late night/early morning drinks, I pondered this question: is the story of this wacky night worth $130 to me? Losing my wallet changed the trajectory of the night. Had it not happened, we probably would have never gone to the Wolfhound. Even if we had it wouldn’t have been at as opportune a time to meet that girl. Plus, my mindset would have been wholly different.

Fast forward to the cab ride home. The taxi dropped us off at McDonald’s at 7:30 a.m. (strangely, its still dark at 7:30 a.m. here in the winter) so we could get some hotcakes. As I was ordering my breakfast, the taxi driver came into the McDonald’s, came up to me, and handed me MY WALLET. Unbelievable. Twice in one night. There were a couple bucks poking out of the top, so I peeled them out and gave them to the cabbie in gratitude. He declined at first, then accepted the tip. Again, there is no tipping here. I ordered my hotcakes, then opened my wallet to pay - it was empty. I only had $20 or $30 on me at that point, but the cabbie made off with that. On the plus side, I had my wallet intact so I could pay for my hotcakes with a card. On the minus side, there’s simply no way this story is worth $160. Unless you’re Cree.

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