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1. If my Korean next-door-apartment-neighbor and I ever meet, and we somehow manage to understand each other, he’ll be like, “Hey, great singing!” and I’ll be all, “Hey, great puking last Tuesday night! Also, can I use your microwave?”

2. Remember Vine?

3. Where are all these engaged people coming from? (She’s engaged? When did she even get a significant other?) It is surely Spring.

4. No matter where I go, Bob Dylan follows me around and sings to me (figuratively speaking). It’s lovely to be sitting at my window at night, gazing out at the multitude of neon lights of Seoul, and think about how I listened to this same beautiful song in so many other beautiful places.

5. “It’s fine to be alone.” “Is it?”

6. No, I am not interested in buying expensive lotion-covered plastic wrap, thank you. Where are these things coming from?! Why?! Why?! 

7. I’m a pretty chill person. I don’t get upset easily. I don’t hold grudges. However, if you tell me you’re sending me a letter, and then 1 to 2 weeks pass, and I receive no letter, just know that I now hate you. Don’t mess with my heart like that! 

8. Be kind.

9. It’s 2014. We have all kinds of efficient, safe, comfortable ways to travel. So, why have you not left your mother country? Your homeland? Your place of birth? Sure it’s great. I get it. Guess what else is great? Basically everywhere else.

10. Recently I googled broheim to make sure I was spelling it correctly. I was.

Gold Digging

I have a craving. Sort of like when you’re all, “I really want pancakes for dinner! Someone make me pancakes!” in a really whiny voice, and you say it over and over again until someone serves you a plate of hot pancakes or hits you in the face so you stop using that really annoying voice. Sorry. I like pancakes.

Actually this is not about pancakes at all (although isn’t it really always about pancakes??). It’s about art. (Aren’t pancakes an art? Ok, I’ll stop.) It’s about weird art. How do you classify art as weird? I don’t know, you tell me. What does weird really mean, anyway?

You know. I’m not talking about lovely printed photographs, or museum art, or the odd-looking statues you can find in every large public park. Weird art. You know, like, I want to buy seven pairs of old shoes from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold and then cover them in gold flake and hang them up around town.

I want to paint a mural in the inside of an 19th-century abandoned funeral home. I want to watch people in costumes made out of car parts pretend to be sea monsters and battle each other while dancing around a stage made of recycled pallets and old tires. I want to have an indoor picnic in a room filled with a huge tree made out of cardboard. I want to hammer a pencil onto a wall. I want to throw an all-silver Andy Warhol party and eat food out of aluminum pans covered in aluminum foil while dancing under disco balls and bubble machines. I want to sit in a cafe sipping a latte and watch a man in a pig costume read me terrible poetry. This is all weird art shit that I’ve done with my friends.

Ok, so, now that I’ve moved halfway across the Earth, now that I’ve settled in, I’m ready! For weird art. (For pancakes.) For making things. For creating. I can’t stop! It’s a thing I do. It’s a craving I have.

Now, who’s in Seoul and wants to go on an adventure to find some spray paint?

 

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She asked me if I was doing alright; having a good time; not too overwhelmed; wanted some more beer. A grin sprung from my frown of a mouth.

“I’m great,” I said, as she leaned in closer to hear my response over the chatter of the restaurant.

“She’s shy,” another girl piped in.

“Not really,” the first girl shot back.

Not really. My typical response. Or maybe I more often go with, “Sometimes.”  I like to talk when I have something to say. Otherwise, I like to listen. Or not even listen; just sit there, as I did that night, surrounded by sound, watching, not comprehending, drinking my watery beer.

I don’t know how extroverts could survive in this city. Seoul. Maybe they plan weekly meet-ups at Korean-Irish pubs, and there they let out the bottled-up words they wanted to say on the street, on the subway, in the grocery store, to their own neighbors, to the nice-looking old lady sitting with her little dog on the park bench, to the 20-something boy in the cereal aisle in their local grocery mart.

Or maybe they speak in different ways — with their hair, like the Korean teenager with bleach-blond bangs, like the caucasian 30-something man I saw from across a busy street, sporting a bright-red mohawk. And with their clothes, opting-out of the apparent all-black Korean apparel fashion trend, and instead going for jeans, red converse, a plaid shirt, and a ball cap. He looks more American than any American I’ve ever seen, I thought to myself, glancing at him as we sat across from each other on the train.

It’s hard, even for me, the listener. It’s hard to listen when there is no sound, no quiet smiles, no polite small talk. It’s hard to sit, alone, in a subway car full of people who are also alone, each one diving nose-first into their cell phone screens– from the teeny-boppers to the grandmothers in jogging suits — or else taken out from the reality of the world in some other way: an ipod, a book, a nap. Sardine-pressed so closely to one another, yet so far apart; so alone. And there isn’t much else I can do but join them — ear buds in, book out, or eyes closed.

In a way, it is peaceful, and it does, in a way, feel like a community. But it also, in a way, makes me want to be loud. It makes me want to knock the phones from each of their hands, close their books, take from them their music. I want to yell at them, loudly or silently, tell them to look each other in the eye, to smile, to be people together, not just riders; living, not just moving through the motions (of the jerky subway car.)

I was writing a letter to a friend today (snail mail, anyone? Heard of it?) talking about how even when you live in foreign countries, there are times when it doesn’t feel foreign at all. And then there are times when your “immigrant” status hits you right in your face when you’re crossing the street. Oh wait, that was a guy on a bike. But you get my point.

Today something like that happened, but in a positive way. There I was, wandering around a Seoul neighborhood, with only a vague idea of how to get back to the subway station, searching for a “mart” (aka grocery store) that was bigger than the dinky one in my neighborhood. As I walked, reading the signs that were in Korean like I knew any Korean at all, I enjoyed the nice Spring morning, the weird spindly trees, and noted the location of the numerous parks and libraries and cafes I passed. I had walked up and down three of the four cross-streets near the subway station when I finally found a big ole Mart. I stepped inside, grabbing bananas and hot sauce! and tortillas! and wandered around in the refrigerated section. I was doing some more eye-skimming of Korean words: colorful bags of something that looked like potato chips, crazy-large bottom-feeder fish that were in giants tanks in the seafood area, some tiny bottles of Yakult.

While this gazing and wandering was happening, a song came on the radio and for some reason it caught my attention. The beginning was only melody, no lyrics, and my face crumpled in confusion. How did I know this song? I’m not yet versed in any K-pop, I don’t listen to the radio. I know approximately zero Korean songs. And then…

Paolo Nutini started singing to me in the middle of the snack aisle. In English! My head whipped back in silent laughter. I was just listening to this song, talking about this song to my friends! Good old Paolo. It was a beautiful moment; I could have cried it was so beautiful. But I didn’t. In that moment, there in that strange store in a strange neighborhood in a new country, I didn’t feel so far away from anything, I didn’t feel so foreign. And I may have danced a little after that, still wandering around my new favorite Mart, singing with Paolo and pondering buying a weekly supply of seaweed.

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1. I hope you are happy.

2. People are still living their lives even when you can’t see them.

3. You are beautiful, you know that. Tell me why you need to keep posting poorly-lit pictures of yourself to prove it.

4. Our planet is both the largest and smallest thing that exists; the largest hunk of rock you’ll ever live on, a tiny speck in the universe. You can be thousands of miles (kilometers?) away from someone, and yet they’re just at your fingertips, on your computer screen, in your pocket. Big and small, near and far, finite and infinite.

5. Yes, Frozen is amazing. But think of all the other great Disney songs young kids are missing out on! Someone dig out the Lion King/Aladdin/Little Mermaid VHS!!

6. If you appear to other people to be what you dream of yet becoming, what are you? Who are we all trying to be, anyway? Are we even trying to be anything?

7. For the love of all that exists, please can we stop saying “literally“?!! Even if you actually truly really mean literally. Just don’t. Get a thesaurus. Stop. Stop. Stop.

8. Someone save me from my apparently über-Canadian fate. Irish? Italians? French? Is anyone out there?! It’s me, Margaret. Wait, what?

9. It makes me sad that when someone asks a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, the only socially acceptable examples are, “A doctor? A lawyer? Scientist?” No one says artist, philosopher, barkeeper — whatever. It’s 2014 and we still can’t speak the truth.

10. You’re not alone. Even when it feels like it. Even when you physically are. You’re just not.

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Sometimes it seems all of life is a series of footsteps, a trail of footprints. A step onto an airplane. A step away; forward. A step in the same annual circle. A smile, a nod. A slowly darkening, wrinkling mirror.

What if one of the footprints you left on that beach years ago is still there? Somehow, somehow. Left alone by waves and wind and other sandy, stomping tourists. Anyway, it still exists there, somewhere, if only in your mind. Footprints like memories, memories like eternal footprints on places.

A face in the mirror. A different face, one that doesn’t belong to you; never did, though you lied to yourself, said it was yours. Happiness replaced by nothingness replaced by sadness. Memories like the trails of footprints left by kisses on your body. You still see them, still visible, they still exist there on your shoulder, on your cheek; you feel them, they live with you, walk with you.

A dull gray morning. Smog covers what surely once was something beautiful. The sun has risen somewhere but you can’t see it. Men drag their feet to work and you follow, the hand of some clock, the minute of some hour. You sit in your chair, gulping coffee, dreaming about the pajama pants left in a puddle at the foot of your bed. Hours later, you step back out into the world, back to those pants: more footsteps, more circles.

I am a calendar. I am a footbridge. I am the shoes I wore when I was four. I am your silly laugh. I am your nervous tic. I am that midnight tear-filled dinner. I am that bad joke. I am your harsh words. I am your silence. I am the warmth of the sun from that day on the beach years ago.