Sunday, September 7, 2008

friday night

i met a guy to talk about hangul for a bit, then i came home. dropped off my bags, putzed around on the computer for a bit (as i seem to do quite often these days. actually, i'm always putzing around on the computer--if i dont check my email for a few hours, im confused), then decided to go to a bar, but not that bar, have a beer and look over my hangul.

i went to rolling stone, it was pretty cool inside. nothing crazy, but not a dive either. korean dive bars generally only seem to have tables, and i like sitting at a bar, especially if it is just me. even if i have work to do.

at the bar, the bartender and the person sitting next to me start looking at what i am reading and before you know it, it is interview the westerner friday's at rolling stone.

the bar itself is shaped like |_____|. two guys one the left hand | send me a shot. and they are talking to me, and billy (all koreans who sell me alcohol are named billy?) keeps apologizing that he cant say more to me, tho he is clearly friendly. the other bartender is tall and beautiful, and kinda like a statue. nice, but doesnt say a word. the two guys who send me a shot, one is older, in a suit, the other is mid-30s with 'cocky korean hair'. what does that mean? if you were here i could point it out to you. you know how certain people in the states look like assholes/cocky version? similar idea. but, they both keep talking to me, so i slide over to where they are sitting.

'bring that shot glass.'

now, when i arrived i did a shot of jack and got a beer, again anticipating a quiet night of self-improvement.

the cockrean is kinda leaning into me a bit, slightly aggressive, but his older friend is super nice. and we are up to 5 shots or so of absolut. warm. warm absolut. the cockrean asks 'where are you here?' and 'why dont you have a name card?' (calling cards/business cards are very popular. not since the gays of baltimore have i seen people without any need for a business card carrying business cards.) the first time he asked about seoul i gave an honest answer (i keep getting asked that question, each time my answer fills out more*). by the tenth time i dont know what to say. his friend looks at me with 'i'm sorry' but it doesn't seem to deter his friend, even when he looks at his friend and puts his hand on his arm to say 'stop, please'. there is also a korean girl sitting on the main side of the bar. he keeps saying things to her in korean, and then motions at me. i know it is rude.

im nervous/anxious, not necessarily worried. i would be if i were in itaewon**.

eventually, a man named vick comes over. im sitting at the corner of the bar, and vick redirects my focus back to the main bar as that is the side he is standing on. he's nice too. actually, most people are very nice, or i am invisible. it breaks down along generational lines. generally the younger, as they have had more english, want to talk. except in pure public (like the subway) but that's the same everywhere ive been.

eventually the cockrean and the older guy leave. not before a few more shots of absolut. warm. warm absolut. the cockrean shakes my hand and hopes to see me around, but i dont really believe him. the older guy shakes my hand, again with apology in his eyes.

now that they are gone, i go sit with vick. he's on my right, the korean girl is on my left. rose, the korean girl, vick, and i talk about the cockrean. the female bartender is over with us too. rose proceeds to tell me that the entire time the cockrean was calling the beautiful bartender a whore and that she was ugly, etc. and, korea being korea***, he is a man in a bar, a paying customer too, so he is allowed. beyond that he was telling rose to suck my dick, etc.

vick and i have a skyline

vick says, 'there are two types of people in this world. the good and the not so good.'

'and major assholes,' i say, extending my arms wide for emphasis. we all laugh. rose translates for the bartender, she covers her mouth as she laughs.

'okay, there are three types of people in the world. the good, the not so good, and the major assholes. you owe me one.'

so i buy vick a beer, but he protests, but i buy vick a beer.

rose's friends show up at the bar. they are alumni from the school i teach at. rose is worried, she ditched these two and said she wasnt going out. its worse. one of them is celebrating a birthday. rose comes over, after i meet her friends.

'okay, so im really sorry about this, but since i told them i couldnt come out earlier, i told them that you are in from vancouver--i spent a year in vancouver--and that i didnt know you were coming into town, and--'

'got it. vancouver. no problem, my old friend rose.'


vick challenges me to darts, i wish he challenged me a few hours sooner, but i manage to win. rose, billy, the other bartender, and i think one other person? are playing a drinking game involving cards. its basically rock-scissors-paper (which is a big business in korea, pretty much every dispute can be settled that way) and whoever wins gets to draw the first card, and each person goes clockwise from there. i already forgot what the yell, and i mean yell, in korean, before they throw down their rock-scissors-paper. whomever has the lowest card loses. then drink. they drink a drink. they drink a drink of cass (beer), budweiser, and johnny walker black mixed together with a shot of fake lemon juice mixed in for good measure.

billy explains the card game, the camera has been drinking too

'people in korea drink too much,' says vick. he's been there before i got there.

'that looks disgusting,' i say.

'its not bad,' says rose.

they play a few more rounds. each time billy wins he yells, 'vinner!'

'do you want to play?'

'no, but i'd have a shot of johnny black'

'no, must play'

they play a few more rounds. each time closer to vomiting. rose loses again. she pays 5000 to not drink.

'thought it tastes good?'

'not anymore'

eventually, i play. i only have to drink twice. the game fizzles out. the entire time vick and i are drinking beers too. we have some beef jerky. korea has made being a vegetarian impossible. especially as they dont get the concept and push food on you all at once. then we have some squid. the squid is awesome. and its bar food. not quite dried, which i have had, but not like straight from the oven either. hard to explain.

it is a time of rapid expansion for the skyline

vick and rose tell me they have to go to work and school. 8am and 9am respectively.

'what time is it?'


'okay, im going'

im the only one who leaves.

*basically, i'm not getting into it now, as i have answered that question for a week. when i am talking about why i am in seoul--not 1 syllable, sorry to report--it seems more honest and forthcoming. writing doesn't allow for such transparency, i don't measure my words, and you cant edit speech like you can writing.

**itaewon is where the US army base is, and while you can get a custom-tailored suit and a whore for under 200 dollars, sometimes koreans can get angry at you. especially as the night goes on. i mean, like, what's the deal? its just flesh and textiles.

***i hope that isn't getting too far ahead of myself.


cf said...


i wonder at your willingness to say "no matter how far i go, it's all the same."

kevin.thurston said...

i just re-read it, i dont think that is a quote from this? you're the one with the advanced liberal arts degree, you tell me;)

cf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cf said...

it wasn't a quote from the piece, it was the general throw of the thing. i was wondering what your take was on things be more similar than different.