Sunday, July 25, 2010

a night in Seoul

Quite a night last night. Went for some coffee first and had some Patbingsu which I’d never had before. It was very good. It's a popular Korean dessert which is very nice during the summer as it is nice and cold and refreshing. It includes corn flakes, ice cream, 떡 (rice cake), fresh fruit, and quite often, ice shavings. Here's a pic of what we had. One mixes all the ingredients together and it's really really good, cold and refreshing during the wearying Seoul summer.

Just down the road from this coffee place was Chois' Tacos where we got some burritos. I dunno if I'd say it was the best burrito I've had in Korea-Tomatillo Grill is incredible, my couple of experiences at Dos Tacos have been wonderful, and the three times I've been to Taco Family in Itaewon have all been excellent, but it was a fantastic burrito. I think given the multiple times I've been to Taco Family and the quality of the food there, make it my highest-ranked burrito place. The only knock I'd give to Dos Tacos (and again, this is really nitpicking) was that the burrito I had there once was just a bit on the small side. Tomatillo Grill was just excellent. But Chois' Tacos, wow. All fresh ingredients, well-made, didn't fall apart. Just unbelievably good.

So then we went to a fine 술집 (bar) quite popular with westerners and 교보 (folks of Korean descent who have citizenship in another country) and ordered some fine Hite and played games and generally had a laugh. We played one game where this spring-loaded clown head was on top of a body into which one had to put some keys. The head would only come off if one put in the right key. If one lost, one had to drink. I lost four times and so, had to drink a beer in one shot four times. That was alright-in fact, as punishments go, it's one of the more pleasant ones. However, one guy, who I'll call M, couldn't handle his drinky. He ended up face down next to the porcelain god. He had been telling his new friend (who I'll call J) how much he loved him, would take a bullet for him, how he understood him for quite some time. Anyway, so J and I, after M had been in there a few minutes, go and check up on him (meantime I was kickin' ASS in darts, lol). M is a big guy, as tall as me but a bit slimmer. So he's in the cubicle, face down, totally gone. We give him some time, and we're standing around him, both of us, in this small cubicle. At one point I started telling J, in my best M imitation, just how much I loved him. Honestly, what is one to do to kill time while waiting for a passed out guy to hopefully come to? After about 15 minutes, we encourage him to get up, we try and pick him up (it's the only stall in the men's john and a guy has arrived and has to GO). Perhaps our attempt to pick M up catalyzed his digestive tract.....and he puked.

We hoped that might be the tonic he needed to get up, but no. So we leave the guy there for a few more minutes. It's next to impossible to pick him up because he's so big and with two of us in the stall, we can barely get the room we need to pick him up but yet he's big enough that two of us are really needed. We come back a few minutes later and try again. This time he's cursing at us and just when we nearly have him up (I grabbed him under the arms and just about have him up), he slaps J in the face. At that point, it just seems this is a losing battle. I put him down. So then, J's ex-girlfriend comes into the stall and using her feminine wiles, tries to be a bit more persuasive in separating him from the floor. However it becomes increasingly obvious that there's gonna be no moving him for now. M is quite content kissing the cold white floor, for now. So after waiting another 15 minutes, we don't know what to do and we go. Honestly, what are we supposed to do? We couldn't budge him, we didn't make him unable to handle his drinky. We found out that the staff roused him and put him in a cab later.

Anyway, so the mood of the group had soured a bit after this episode. We were annoyed we couldn't move M and there was the issue of the break-up of J and his girl (who I'll call H), which happened that night, and as we spilled out onto the barriers at the side of the road, the uneasiness was quite clear, at least to me. I tried to encourage everyone else to head off to another drinking establishment or hof or something coz J had told me he wanted to go. It was obvious it was going to happen sooner or later. J and H had to talk and they were in another place mentally from the rest of us, so it shoulda been wise to head out and find another place in Seoul that serves some grown-up beverages....but folks stood around, wanting to help the nice girl, and dissolve some of the tension that had built-up and make everything OK on this gorgeous clear Sunday morning. However, all the well-wishing in the world wouldn't make everything OK. J and H had to deal with whatever they had to deal with and it was helping no one for us to hang around. Anyway, finally the group was able to make its break and let J and H talk things out. We headed to a hof where we had some 오징어학오, 지긴학오, 소주 (chicken, squid, and soju). A good time was finally had by all although some of the group were fading by about 3 or 3:30 o'clock. Some of us lasted all through the night though, heavily fortified by soju. We stepped into Seoul's breaking light around 5 o'clock, somewhat drowsy, but vowing to do it all again, in spite of the negative parts of the night. It was a wonderful night in Seoul, a painful night, an enjoyable night, it was a night in Seoul.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just a few thoughts tangentially related to Korea......

  • So the other day, I was at the Itaewon subway station after getting some Mexican food and a nice Negra Modelo when I bump into this friend who I'll call Fred. He's an English guy and so as we wait for the train, we chat a bit. He then introduces me to his American friend who I'll call Steve. Fred explains that I am a curious English/American hybrid and Steve says that he doesn't hear an American accent. I nearly wanted to kiss Steve at that point but, uh, he wasn't my type, ha. So then Fred says to Steve, well, you can have him. So once again, I'm neither British enough for Brits, nor American enough for Americans, a point that was roundly re-asserted to me during the World Cup when I really didn't know which team's colors I'd wear. I feel British and my passport says I am, but let's be honest, I've lived in California nearly 20 years and I love the place and I don't sound particularly British, I don't think. I like lots of things that Californians like, in many ways I am a Californian. And honestly, I'd like to be able to vote. I've never voted in my life. But living 12 of my first 16 years in one country, in my case Blighty has an effect on a person. As they say, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. The norms and mores I absorbed as a kid were by and large British. I may not sound British, but I feel it, regardless of which passport I might hold. Honestly, the words of John Lennon's "Imagine" - "imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do..." is a really wonderful thought for me.

  • So I don't think I'll ever get fully used to the different attitudes toward personal space in Korea (i.e. people can practically get to first base with you and it's not supposed to be an issue if you're in a public space) but I have adapted to a large degree. However, something happened the other day that was just strange. I had been in the supermarket and was taking the escalator down to the street level. I'd just got on, was probably 5 or 6 feet onto it and some guy walks on and puts his back against my back and pushes his trunk against my trunk. It was a bit strange. I turned around slowly but deliberately so the guy knew I wasn't too please and the guy overtook me and went on his way. There was no one else on the 80-90 ft. escalator and he literally was pressed up against me. It was...well....I've been felt up, um, I mean, I've ridden the subway enough here, that it's not a big deal. It was just weird.

  • I have now seen lines onto the street for Taco Bell. The end must be near. Seriously though, in Itaewon, a Taco Bell has opened up. Those of you in Korea who think Taco Bell is some admirable iteration of Mexican food, ignore Taco Bell and across the street from it and down about 10 meters is a restaurant called Taco Family which is a fantastic Mexican joint. A wide variety of burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, chimichangas that are much heartier, bigger, and more satisfying than those served at Plastic Mexican Food Joint. The decor is that of a stereotypical Mexican casa, the ol' Mexico style. Anyway, the portions are thousands of times bigger and much more satisfying. They serve beer also.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How To Lose Weight (In Many Complicated Steps)

Yeah, diet and exercise is one way to lose weight, as is declining food and drink late and telling the nice barista that no, you don't want whipped cream on your Mocha FrappuCappuLatteccino. However, another way to do it...and of course this is totally wasting copious amounts of money on wine, women, and song (not necessarily in that order) rarely checking one's bank balance, buying drinks for strangers, picking up tabs, staying out in Seohyeon, um, going out evenings, keeping poor financial records, and one day waking up and realizing that one can't cut anything else of significance from one's budget and consequently, in order to ensure the viability of a forthcoming obligatory international trip, largely forgoing public transportation for several weeks and walking when one might have taken the bus or subway. Again....TOTALLY hypothetical, cough, cough.