So another birthday has come. Older and maybe just a little wiser. Still refusing to act my age though, which for the curious is 51. No real insights or words of wisdom to offer up to you youngsters other than live each day with the goal of being happy. I’ve gotten better at that lately and I think accepting things for what they are helps me get by. There are many things in my life that would get me down if I dwelled on them. Like being here alone. But I choose to focous on the positives in my life and upon reflection I realize just how blessed I have been. My journey has taken some unexpected twists and turns, but from the vantage point of this milestone I recognize how lucky I am. Unworthy perhaps. Regardless, I’m holding on and enjoying the ride. I’m still curious and anxious to see what’s around that next corner.
I had a wonderful day yesterday (and into this morning) as my friend Duke and I celebrated our birthdays. I’ll share some tidbits and photos for those of you who are interested.
The birthday boys.
We started out at the National Theatre to see the stage production of Grease. I’d seen the movie a couple of times, but it was not high on my list of favorites. Duke had actually performed it in high school and college productions, so he was intimately familiar with the story and characters. Ji Young had no clue, thinking of Greece as opposed to Grease.
So, contrary to my earlier speculation the show was performed by Koreans in Korean. Since I didn’t really know the storyline nearly as well as I do The Wizard of Oz, I had a more difficult time following what was going on in the dialog. I had a general sense, but most was lost on me. Duke speaks decent Korean and he said they were generally true to the original. Ji Young really enjoyed it, saying the men in leather jackets and tight jeans were very sexy.
I of course could appreciate the dancing which was quite excellent. The songs were for the most part translated into Korean, but the music was the same. Duke said the translation was done quite well. Some of the songs were a hybrid of English and Korean. “Summer Love” and “Greased Lightning” were like that. I had to explain the meaning of greased lightning to Ji Young since the concept behind that idiom was unfamiliar to her. Oh they did one song that I don’t think was in the movie. Something about “sexy ass”. I surmised that from the ending of the song when the performer dropped his pants and mooned the audience. Strange that was.
The production values were very professional and it was kind of fun to see 1950’s American culture recreated on a Korean stage. There were murals of ’50s era icons, like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc. The stage floor had a large emblem for Rydell High School, although it was written as Ry Dell High School. There was also a recreation of what looked like a ’57 Plymouth (with the chrome and big tail fins) that was nicely done.
Anyway, the cast was quite talented and the song and dance numbers kept me entertained. I had to laugh at some of the costumes though. Not a poodle skirt to be found, and the women’s dresses were as much 40’s and 60’s as they were 1950’s. Most of the guys were wearing jeans and black leather jackets, but at the high school dance scene I saw a lot of polyester and 1970’s disco outfits. Ah well, small quibble. I did enjoy watching these Korean actors portray American bad boys. Just like seeing Koreans dressed up all urban and doing rap music always makes me smile.
Anyway, that’s my review.
Duke and Ji Young on the steps of the National Theatre.
We didn’t have an invite backstage this time, so this is the closet we got to the cast of Grease.
After the play we were ready for dinner. I’m still bad about names around town, but the restaurant was across the river near the JW Marriott. We caught a cab right outside the theatre and headed over.
On the way to dinner I noticed this bus. Sometimes living in Korea is like being in an alternative universe where things are very much like home, but still different. I mean, in this universe I am functionally illiterate since I can’t read or write Hangul, but this bus seemed familar. Except it’s a grey lion instead of a greyhound. Just one of those passing observations which probably means nothing to anyone but me. But there it is.
We dined at a traditional Korean restaurant. So, yes that meant taking off my shoes and sitting my oversized body on the floor. Actually, I managed that quite well this time, and had room to stretch my legs out as the need arose. What was interesting about this place was they had traditional Korean entertainment taking place as you dined.
What was the name of this restaurant you ask? Read it yourself (and then tell me).
When we first arrived we were seated on these pads around an empty space on the floor. When the food was served it was carried out on the table and set before you. First time I’ve seen that done. While we were waiting for our food, I snapped some photos of the entertainment. (I took these from where I was sitting because getting up and down wasn’t worth the effort. Luckily, we were close enough that the pics are too bad).
This performer was “singing”, although it was more of a chant/storytelling kind of thing with occasional howls and moans. That’s a poor description, because it makes it sound unpleasant. It was not bad at all. She was also very expressive with her hand movements. She was accompanied by one guy with a drum, which he hit a what seemed irregular beats (I could detect no pattern at least) but apparently there was a reason for the drum strikes at various points in the song/story. If I could have understood the words it might have made more sense of course.
Next were the women doing a fan dance. Quite pleasant visually. Reminded me a little bit of the Whirling Dervishes we saw in Turkey. Well, not really but I don’t have any other point of reference.
Then we were treated to a small “band” playing traditional Korean musical instruments. What was especially interesting was their song selection. Like that ancient Korean standard “Ob la di ob la da”. You may recall the Beatles also recorded this tune.
And then our table arrived (literally) chock full of Korean goodness. Actually this picture doesn’t do it justice, and a couple of items arrived after the table (and this photo). That was a lot of food! And we ate pretty much all of it. Yum!
My dinner companions, Duke and Ji Young. Despite his appearance, Duke nor I had as yet had our first taste of beer at this point. But we were getting ready to make up for lost time.
After our meal we headed back to Itaewon and Dolce Vita. I didn’t have my darts, so I used a set of Duke’s. I played like crap all night. Someone took this picture of me pulling my darts after a failed attempt to close the 16. Nice memory.
Tom arrived at Dolce shortly after we did to join the party. We have a Challenge League match later today. Here he is telling Ji Young that all he has to do is win one leg to clinch 3rd place. Well, he might win his leg, but he will have to beat me to do it. Which I guess is obvious, but I’m just sayin’ talking ain’t gonna win it, he’s gonna have to do it on the dartboard.
After a couple of hours of throwing darts, we moved the party up the street to the Bless U Pub. Here’s a photo of what we did there. Shots. Lots and lots of shots. And beer.
This is the guy who poured all those shots. Jin, the barkeep at Bless U.
Gina is the owner of Bless U and she bought a lot of the aforementioned shots. After the birthday song came the traditional birthday kiss. Just to be clear it was my first and only kiss of the night….
Evie (you remember, the star of Dorothy) was there with a group of her friends and joined us for a round of shots. Then she posed with me for this photo. She’s such a sweetheart. She even remembered my name!
And that is where the batteries in my camera gave out. I might have been wise to take that as a sign (or omen), but alas the night (morning) was not yet to end. Around 0230, someone had the bright idea of going to the noreebang to do some singing. Being well lubricated I joined the group and participated in butchering songs for a couple of hours. Afterwards, Tom (who is temporarily staying in the dorm at Smoo University) asked to spend a couple of hours at my place so he wouldn’t have to wake someone to let him into the dorm. So, we walked to my place in the rain (no umbrellas) and he cooked up some eggs and bacon (I was not in the mood to cook and he was the hungry one). We ate, he left, and I crawled into bed around 0600.
And today I feel like shit. Imagine that.
That’s the story of my birthday so far. I need to play that dart match around 1900 but otherwise I am going to stick close to home today. It’s all good, right?