Sitting in bed overlooking 6th from the fourth floor of my apartment building I’m determined to begin the Proustian exercise of recherch(ing) temps perdu (sans pneumonia and, of course, the cork lining). It has been almost two months since I returned from Korea and yet the memory of it still looms very large in my mind. Perhaps it’s the extra five pounds which I managed to gain (let’s be honest aggressively pursued, damn ramen) or the fact that Korean fashion has penetrated my wardrobe to such an extent that even now as I write these words I’m wearing my black nylon drop crotch pants, lovingly extended to me as part of my racing kit for the Korean marathon I declined to run (inclement weather conditions, read: negative 7 degrees centigrade). And now that The Piz is back in his proper place, strong-arming my thigh with all four legs and sleeping soundly, it seems as good a time as any to begin sorting through the dizzying melee that was Korea.
My month spent in Korea quickly accelerated shortly after my last blog post. With production tapering off, members of our Possible crew began to free up for extracurricular activities. I found myself retracing my steps along familiar train routes to play tour guide to Alex and the rest of the artists who had yet to see the light of day in Seoul. We returned to Myeongdong for the terrific shopping and to visit the Dog Cafe, which was sadly closed that day. Together, Alex and I braved Dondgdaemun, the dizzying 24 hour shopping district. Lisa and I returned to our favorite haunts Insadong and Itaewon for one last meal. And all of us, developed a drinking problem.
Aided by the countless underground/back-alley boutique bars that Asian countries are so famous for, a revolving assemblage of our little clan journeyed out each evening in freezing temperatures to enjoy Seoul after hours. By this time we had relocated to the Intercontinental, a Hotel closer to the concert venue at the Olympic Stadium. Now situated in Seoul’s Business District adjacent to, and possibly above and below, the sprawling grounds of the COEX Mall, our options for imbibing had quadrupled.
We would wobble out of the hotel, appropriately bundled for the evening, pick a direction and go. Smoke-filled dives with passed out Japanese business men, cigarettes still burning between their lips, lay just below ground waiting to be discovered. A clandestine Italian restaurant with steaming bowls of risotto al nero di seppie and fine Argentinean wines fed us til we could eat no more. Around the corner and down another alley, a sports-themed bar with florescent Hite signs in the window beckoned to us; and in we’d float like moths to a flame.
Further down the way and up a steep staircase a brightly lit restaurant offered drinks late into the evening and long after the other bars had closed. On the one and only occassion we visited this establishment we waited awkwardly in the silent dining room for our drinks to arrive. As we contemplated leaving to buy beer at the deli-mart next door, in flocked a noisy group of twenty-something Korean girls. They marched straight for a sliding door concealed in the wall and slipped into what must have been a private room. Moments later an identical group burst in from the cold and made their way into a different room, yelling orders for drinks and food to the nonplussed waitstaff. We, sipping Makoli and shooting shoju, listened to their drunken banter competing in the still air of the dining room and smiled to each other, ‘we’re in Korea!’
These shared moments of appreciation for traveling in a foreign land were often enjoyed with new friends. Among these acquaintances, a strapping young cowboy named Loren who never missed a chance to grab a drink after work. The back up band, shipped over from America and contracted for the entire world tour, mostly stuck together (and will continue to do so for the next year) but an ill-fated taxi chase through the streets of Hongdae brought us all a little closer. And perhaps best of all, the amazing local production crew of spirited Korean kids who could drink twice their weight in Korean liquor.
Before embarking on this journey, I was told that Korea “stays with you”. It most definitely has. It has taken this long to even consider returning to my blog as such a move surely confirms that I am in fact no longer in Korea, that this bright but brief chapter of my life has closed. Nevertheless, it’s time to forge on. And even though I’m Big in Seoul (it’s still true afterall) it’s time for me to shift my thoughts to the present and the great future beyond.