Truth is, my vacation in Cambodia and Vietnam was so stunning, so mind-blowing, it’s hard to put it into words. I’m not even going to give it a go just yet. This post is about a weekend that lasted four full days, covered three cities and I’m not even sure how many events that absolutely rocked my status~ Yes, it was a 5 train, 4 sauna, 3 meeting, 2 evening show, and 1 achieved primary goal of getting to all people and seeing all things possible~ kind of weekend.
Typically, I’d finish writing in the notebook where I start, but as I’ve put over 12 pages into handwritten format, I’ll start putting it down here so that I can continue from where I left off, here in typographic form.
From the notes:
February 24th, Sunday, Itaewon Station.
I’m just now heading back from an incredible weekend that began mid-day Thursday from Gimcheon, where I live when I headed south-east to the city of Ulsan where I had plans to meet friends for a bit of an event. Taking the train is my favorite way to travel long distances in Korea, so I went to the station in town to catch one. A fairly uneventful ride in itself, it did offer the views I’ve come to find commonplace, but still enjoy. My train stopped in Dong-Daegu, or East Daegu so that I could transfer to another line as the train I was riding at first wasn’t going to take me all the way… Speaking of trains… I just took one to Samgakji Station where again, I wait for the connection… which is now arriving… That one brought me to my new way-station, Seoul Yuk, or Seoul Station if you like, where I will wait for my next train for the final leg in this epic loop ~ which last had us at a stop-over in Daegu headed East last Thursday. And that’s where I will resume from now.
As I said, my stop at Dong-Daegu was to facilitate a transfer, one from a Mugunghwa level train (regular) to a high-speed KTX line that would take me on to Ulsan. Of course I had a bit of time between the trains so I began walking around the concourse which is a grand installation of pillars, glass and shopping that an engineer somewhere is surely very proud of. As I walked, I not only enjoyed the creative design of the semi-circle shape of the overall environment, how it provided layer upon layer of relaxed spaces for people to sit, shop, congregate or walk, I also considered the shops myself, as I was a little hungry and I did have nearly half an hour to work with.
Eventually, almost all the way to the end of the ring of shops, I found a dumpling shop that was steaming a collection of buns and dumplings that seemed like the perfect answer to my hunger.
I sat down, ordered the variety set and enjoyed the collection of mandu set in front of me until it was time for me to go to my train. When I did, the race was on ~ we glided at over 300kmph on to our destination at the coast where I hopped out and caught a bus into the center of town. My intention was to catch up to an open mic session so that I could perform and record a few bits. It was incredibly fun.
I might as well have been licked clean by a team of nymphs, I felt so good with a microphone and a pair of guitarists who were completely into it. We simply rocked the night. I realize I shouldn’t equate musical performance with surreal pleasure so decadent, but honestly it is just heaven when it works ~ If only because it happens so rarely ~ or maybe it just feels as right as rain on a spring’s breeze. I performed at first with a friend who traveled with me in Vietnam and had already heard me sing, and I knew his guitar work, so we both went into the improvisation with a bit of knowledge for the other’s style, but ultimately it was improv and we had never played together before, so we had fun feeling it out as it went down.
I sat with a circle of friends who didn’t know me but we all had friends in common. As we had been sitting together before the performance, when I was finished I went back to visiting with’em. They were a fun bunch of folks, and I’m sure if I go back, we’ll enjoy each other again. The second guitarist for my second set was also really good. He and I hadn’t played together before, but what the hell, we had a good time. Now that I think about it, I remember jumping stage on him because he was floundering on stage, starting and stopping and obviously having a hard time figuring out what to play. But he was playing some really cool licks. Just chords really ~ and they needed to be hit like I did, so I did. We built about 6 songs there. Unfortunately I didn’t record our set. Too bad, one of the songs was a cherry. Oh well. It was a fine night. The bar owner bought me a tall glass of old scotch when it was over. That’s always a nice thing. So I ride with my buddy to his place on his scooter after the show and crashed out after a minute of thinking about it. Woke up recalling a dream in which I had magical children ~ it was pretty cool.
~ Right now, I’m in Seoul Station and I have to go down to the next train on the list of transportation used this weekend…
As I sit, I think back with a few moments to spare. This ride will last for the next three hours when I will step off to go home, taking a taxi to my apartment from the station so I can rest a bit from this trek. Tomorrow morning I will get up to go to work, but I don’t actually have any work to do there. I will be “desk warming” as it’s called, for the entire day since the students are on vacation and we’re getting new books next year, but they’re not in yet so I can’t even lesson plan. So I’ll work on graphics and create an environment for myself that is productive while sitting at my desk in my own way for the day.
But back to the story…
I set off for Seoul to meet with the folks that I’d arranged to meet and do the things I’d planned to do…
For Friday, my pre-built plan was a late afternoon meeting with a traveler from the US, a meeting at ten PM to discuss the Korea Burn and a jjimjill bang for the evening. Then on Saturday a lunch, an evening beer, and another meeting. Well, I met them all, and added even more.
Let us review.
Beginning with the travel, I’m already having an adventure. At 8:30 AM, I left my friend’s apartment in Ulsan for a local bus that could take me to a station nearby since the ride to the KTX train station would be an hour from there and the regular train would have been a fine way to travel at the time. However, when I got there, the ticket master told me that I would have to wait 2 hours before leaving, burn a transfer-stop half-way and the cost was only 3 dollars less than the high-speed train ~ ugh! I left. Went outside to the buses and found one that would take me to the KTX. An hour of reading Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols and I was there. Walked up and was told I still had to wait ~ The next three trains were nearly full with the first only having one first-class seat, the second completely sold out and the third with six seats left. So I decided I’d rather sit and wait for the 3rd train instead of taking the first-class (read: expensive) one figuring I had more time than money to burn at the time. So I sat down at a cafe and designed a poster for an event a friend is putting on soon.
(*Bam! Solid Graphix studies~~)
Ultimately, there was a time I got back onto a train to head north-west across the nation to find myself in Seoul. That time was mostly spent reading the Jung text I have. My writing from that trip reflected on creating a sense of ritual in my life and an interesting happenstance where an old friend asked for pictures of my tattoos so that she can design more for me. Now that’s a happy thing. I rather like the idea of her staring at my skin, considering her impact in the past, considering the future in a very real way.
My arrival in Seoul was early enough that I still had many hours until my first meeting so I imagined where a playground would be and decided on Hongdae ~ a neighborhood around a college which has a lot of interesting places. So I sat down in a cafe and worked on some graphics. I figured out how to have a smooth image manipulation of a complex gradient inside a clipping mask. Very happy about that.
Soon enough, I heard from the traveler and we met at the metro. He’s a US govt. analyst for the Dept. of Energy who is also a Burner and got in touch with me via the Burn Community.
We had good conversations on a number of topics and shared a few beers over a hamburger at a little boutique hamburger shop before he was off to meet another friend and I headed off in another direction. I then settled into a cafe for some tea as my mind was a little abuzz for the cap of a Jagger shot he shared as we parted ways. ~ A little peppermint tea was a perfect assuagement for my time in the next sitting. I found a cafe near the college and just parked for the next two hours, giving myself an hour for travel from where I was in the western reaches of the city to the area I was headed in the south east, near the omnipresent, internationally-known Gangnam neighborhood. I needed that time too. I eventually arrived 20 minutes late after initially arriving on time, but decided to wait at the station for a friend who was also coming to the meeting who was just a bit behind me, but would need to be guided from the station and so I waited. In that 20 minutes, I learned about Kobuki, the Japanese theater style that she’d mentioned in a text, via the Google access in my telephone. Great theater style! Must read more about it.
Today’s train ride inspired a nap.
As such I will put this down for a moment and begin again soon as my stop is approaching.
^And that was that for entry-one of the weekend…
Now typing from the computer~ Eumo Myeon, Gimcheon, February 27th.
We left off walking into a meeting~ This meeting is the first of what will surely be many meetings regarding the Korea Burn that will happen later this year. The meeting consisted of five individuals, all interested parties. The content of that meeting has been related in a format for another venue, and is not for this particular public venue, but suffice to say, it was a good meeting that covered many topics and was both useful and productive. From the meeting Shin (the most active Burner in the Korean Community) and I went back to Hongdae where I was looking for a place to crash and he was going to a show. As we walked past the show, which I didn’t know to be where he was heading, I mentioned it would be cool if we were headed there instead. He said that was where he was going and I was sold.
The front of the venue was like an old Catholic church with the stone carvings etc. and the music coming out was thick rolling beats of drum and bass that spelled good dancing on any night. We went in. He knew everyone in the VIP section and introduced me~ I was decked out in Buddhaful wear and the new cap by Hologram Raja, so one look at me and they were all impressed by this foreigner in their midst~ not to mention my shining smile~ We got drinks and spun around a bit. It was plenty packed~ ladies were dancing cool, fellas were there to cool the later hours when it was fade-out time. A few of the fellas invited me out for food and drinks about 4am, and so we went around the corner for spiced noodles and beers. Cool blokes yo~ Tattoo artist one, rock band manager another~ the other was just high for it being his birthday. We had a good time. My Korean’s good enough, their English, the same. It was a good time. Seriously, that night was fantastic~
Eventually it was time to head out, so I spun to the nearest sauna, which was ultimately full~ which sucked, so I hopped in a cab and went to one up the road. Jumped in the tubs, and at first sign of falling asleep, hopped out, went upstairs to sleep and noticed the time on the wall said 7:30am. Heh~ Okay~ unfortunately at 10am somebody came in and woke everyone up, so my day began then. Went down, tubbed again and met my friend in Itaewon for a lovely breakfast and chat.
She’s headed to Vietnam and it would be the last time I could see her, so we decided a while ago we’d have this lunch both to visit and so I could share my experience there with her to help out a bit. It was really nice. She brought me to a sweet little spot on the side of a hill that I got what amounted to a tip chilli with kick-ass bread and a cup of coffee. Well, she was meeting friends for an afternoon tubbing and board-game experience so she invited me along. Sounded good to me. Who doesn’t like going to a sauna three times in 24 hours? It was funny, one of those board-games that has monsters and points.
Afterward it was time for me to be headed somewhere with an invitation, so she joined me on to a ridiculously awesome micro-brew tasting event that had something like 25 beers, all free, in a basement that was basically showing off the location of a new spot that would be a new venue for drinking and food, starting after their cleanup from this event. It was a good time. I haven’t had well-crafted beers in a really long time. Going there was also me meeting up with a friend that I haven’t seen in years, so that was nice. She’s an artist I used to hang out with back when I was living in Gwangju. She’s been living up in Seoul for the last couple years now. From the beer-tasting, we stepped out to a poutine restaurant that offered me my first. It was good~ I liked it with pulled pork too. We put blueberry makkoli with it and called it a win.
My breakfast-date had to break off near 8pm and I went on with my artist friend to the next bar where another friend, one from the show in Ulsan, was planning on meeting up with us.
Needless to say~ we had a brilliant time~ ended up crashing in a jjimjil bang in Itaewon and eventually called it a trip the next morning.
Zam~~ and people wonder just why I laugh at my time here.
12 hours on trains or in train stations, half a dozen events, great people, saunas, all in one amazing weekend… Now do you understand why it’s hard for me to write regularly here?