South Korea

Part 1:  Conversations between me and my travel bag.

Me: Travel Bag?
Bag: Yes?
Me: How many pairs of underwear should I bring for a week in Korea?
Bag: I don’t know.  9?
Me: Can you fit 9 pairs of underwear, plus other clothing and some contraband alcohol products?
Bag: Sure, why not?  See, Charles, I’m a travel bag and I’m made to be filled with a variety of materials.
Me: That’s what she said. Ha.

Me: Travel Bag, can you please give me two matching socks rather than one gray sock and one tan argyle sock?
Bag: Well, that’s an interesting question Charles, but I think asking it requires a further analysis of why you can’t find two matching pairs of socks to begin with.
Me: Right, I get it, I’m not an incredibly organized packer, but I had to make sure I had room in the middle for that extra pair of shoes.
Bag: Uh huh.
Me: And sometimes you have to sacrifice organization for utility.
Bag: Sure, but sometimes you have to stop complaining or else you’ll get your hand zipped up.
Me: Huh?
Me: Ow!

Me: Travel Bag, where is my beard trimmer?
Bag: Well, Charles, it seems in your haste to flee America to go visit your ex-girlfriend, you’ve overlooked certain items that might have proved valuable throughout your travels.
Me: If I wanted an editorial on my forgetfulness or ability to plan effectively I’d…
Bag: You’d call up the boss who just laid you off?
Me: Come on, man, that’s a low blow.
Bag: I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.
Me: Hey man, just because you’re a bag and don’t have the mental capacity to forget things…
Bag: Oh I see, a dumb joke, you know my father slaved away as a hotel laundry receptacle so I wouldn’t have to endure racist remarks like that one.
Me: I heard your father worked in a whorehouse and specifically requested the sheets that had “extra vinegar,” if you know what I mean.
Bag: Don’t you dare bring my father into this!
Me: What? You brought him up!  Hey, where are you going with my left shoe?

Me: Listen man, we need to talk.
Me: I know you’re mad at me because of the South Korean cultural stigma that favors smaller bags.
Bag: Shut up, man!  Look at those bags!  That can’t be natural man, they have to have had some work done.
Me: Well, sure, all of you guys are fabricated…
Bag: Don’t get all religious on me, asshole.
Me: I’m just saying…
Bag: You’re just saying what the man has been saying for 80 years.  Fight the power!
Toaster: yeah!
Microwave: you tell ‘im!
Grocery bag: why don’t you try to carry your shit in your arms, dude?

Part 2: “The craziest thing about Korea is that it’s not really that crazy.”

I land in Korea and after a moment of terror during which I realize that I brought two bottles of beer to share with Meghan and the maximum allowable duty-free amount is one (they don’t check), I emerge from a sliding door into the area where Meghan awaits me, messy romance Meghan with her plaid shirt and her Mona Lisa smile hiding acres of entranced drama, where we embrace and move on.  She’s altogether the same as I remember but with a preponderance of Korean life-accessories.  A Korean apartment and a Korean shower.

Koreans believe that a fan, left on in a closed room, will cause a vortex resulting in an absence of oxygen and the asphyxiation of the room’s residents.  The Korean Consumer Protection Board has publicly listed fan asphyxiation as one of the most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries.

Meghan has one of the few fans in Korea sold without a precautionary built-in timer .  Meghan still has photo booth pictures of her and I kissing on her wall.  Meghan has a Korean boyfriend.

“She’s I-don’t-know girl.”  – Greg Larson.

Meghan used to say she liked how I was happy with where I was in life.  That even though I didn’t have the greatest job and wanted to do more, I accepted what I was doing and made the best of it.  That she wished she was able to be happy with what she was doing, rather than obsess about what she should be doing.  That always made me feel kind of dumb, despite the sentiment.  But I think it says more about what she thinks of herself.

We will always have our differences.  Times together are pleasant but also full of longing.  She frustrates me.  But I will always look at that stoic, teacherly smile masking those pale planes of despairing cheek and want to dive in, burning myself however deeply trying to solve them.  To save them.

Nights in Seoul are full of life.  Brash colors shine down from all angles, bars on the 5th floor of a building filled with 10 difference kinds of store and restaurant blare their Korean pop, daring you to venture down another identical alley-street – but once you go inside, the experience is something kind of uncanny.  An Alice In Wonderland themed bar/nightclub features employees (male and female) wearing bunny-ears and clientele crouched in plastic “caves.”  A Earl’s-esque Westerner’s bar blares dancey American pop as foreigners look for a connection.  There are no limes in Korea.  Vodka tonics and tequila shots come with lemons.

But tonight is about the fact that, when we’re wandering up an alley looking for a bar called “O.I.” or “Oi!” , we run into the Korean boyfriend (Dean) who quickly steps in between Meghan and I to kiss her on the cheek and then who stands quietly aside (James Dean?) as we all stare at one another and then part ways again.  He promises to call, which occurs 6 hours later when we’re standing outside, eating sausage (Jimmy Dean?) and looking for a cab home.  He’s upset that he hasn’t seen Meghan.  Understandable.

It’s none of my business.  I will enjoy Korea regardless of this man.  But it makes me think, who am I and what am I doing here?


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My life is about words.

word (n.) – a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.

My existence is based on the assumption that words are meaningful, distinct, and unique. Language is the same thing as culture. Memory is the same thing as conciousness.

rodomontade (n.) – boastful or inflated talk or behavior.

The entire artistic and other manifestations of human achievement can not only be summarized, not only defined, but encompassed by the idea of language.

“Hello? Yes, I forgot my mantra.” – Jeff Goldblum as “Lacey Party Guest” in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

I’m a sap who abhors the cliché. I’m a movie elitist. I’m a nerd. I want to be famous.

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