Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last of the Nowon old dogs

In continuing with the running theme since I quit smoking - this post is not my best work. I wrote it a couple months ago (hmm, I suppose I was smoking at the time, so maybe that excuse doesn't hold up. Fine. Instead of writing on Wednesday, I went to see The Expendables and then went out drinking.) and I never planned to post it, as some parts of it aren't exactly true. I'll write something much better next week, I swear.

There are two main convenience stores on my street. These are full service convenience stores, which in Korea means tables out in front for the express purpose of drinking beer at. The two stores are called GS and Mini Stop.

Two years ago, for the purpose of this here blog, I had to occasionally abandon these stores and retreat to another store a couple blocks away, which I referred to as “The Fortress of Solitude.” Creative, I know. The reasoning for the Fortress was simple - I couldn’t write at home (and usually, I still can’t) and I couldn’t write at the Mini Stop or GS. Writing at home sucks - I’m too easily distracted. Mini Stop and GS presented the same problem - there were simply too many people around every night. Mini Stop was the realm of my friends, while GS was populated by people that ranged from those I was less friendly with to those I had no use for at all.

If I wanted to write (one night a week), I went to The Fortress . If I wanted to socialize (many nights a week) I went to Mini Stop. Even if I went to the Stop alone and it was empty when I got there, generally somebody I knew would pass by within five minutes and sit down for a beer or twelve. In a city of tiny apartments, Mini Stop was like the local version of the social house in college that everyone hung out at on weeknights, weekend pre-games, and weekend after hours.

Before it got to be too cold to hang out there in November of 2008, the tables in front of the Stop were always occupied by Andy, Eric, Martin, Don, Ryan, Drew, Weston, and various other external cats that would cycle in and out. We had street cred with the owner and got the occasional freebie, including some cheap champagne for Ryan’s birthday. The graveyard shift guy regularly hung out with us and even came out to the bar with us on weekends.

I left the neighborhood first. That’s on me. I returned to America and presumably left the neighborhood forever. During my 8 month American sabbatical, Andy and Ryan left Korea, and Eric and Weston moved out of the hood.

I returned to Korea, to the same neighborhood, in the late summer of last year. I moved into a building that was half a block down from where I used to live. Everyone else remaining from the old crew lived there too. GS is in the building I live in now. As the unhip element that used to occupy GS had also left town in my absence, GS became the place to go. I happily returned to a life filled with nights spent on a plastic chair with a cheap beer in hand.

First Drew went back home. Then, it was other regulars that I didn’t know during my first Korean tour, like Ashley and Ses. Eric and Weston stopped hanging out in the old neighborhood as often. Don briefly got a job, getting him out of his months-long cycle of couch surfing at Martin’s place and my place. Like swallows to Capistrano, Don returned to his couch-surfing ways, but by this point winter had struck. Ryan came back to Korea, but lives across town. Don got another job, this time in the burbs, 3 traansfers away.

It got a little warmer. Once the mercury climbed up to 45 degrees in March, Martin and I started hanging out at GS again. We did so alone, none of the new foreigners had any interest in drinking beer at those temperatures. Weston moved back to the U.S. Then Eric.

Two weeks ago, it finally got warm enough outside for respectable people, people that aren’t Martin and I, to drink at GS. Still those blue GS plastic chairs remained empty, or occupied by 45 year old Korean dudes. I could write blogs out there unencumbered by social distraction, and did so, although I always hoped that somebody would come by and bother me.

Last week, Martin moved. He only moved a couple of miles away, but it still makes me the last of the old neighborhood crew. I was the first to leave, and now I’m the last to stay.

On a strange note, I’m writing this portion of the blog from the Mini Stop. I haven’t been to the Stop in months, but all of the tables at GS were occupied by Koreans. One table even had two hot girls in not much clothing. Wait a minute, what the hell am i doing at Mini Stop? Screw this convenience store memory lane horseshit, I’m going to go talk to those girls.


eric said...

greatest pangs of nostalgia i've felt in probably a year

twas a magical time at the mini stop.

Paul said...

So how come I never went to either of these places during my two trips to visit? Take me back to Oijeongbu for an order of pork stomach.