Well, what started as a pretty mundane Saturday ended with a bang.
I spent the afternoon being all domestic–laundry, grocery shopping. I did have a nice Korean lunch of cheese Raman and kimchi. Here’s a tip: Unless you have mastered using Korean chopsticks DO NOT wear a white shirt when eating Raman. I was all over the place and once I got a noodle anywhere near my mouth I sucked it up like spaghetti. I’m sure I was quite the spectacle, especially when I gave in and finished my bowl with the spoon. It was damn good and I have the evidence on my shirt to prove it!
Anyway I come home and I’m watching a little TV. There is something mysterious about my couch. It induces sleep. When I opened my eyes it was a little past 8:00. So it being Saturday night and all, I figured I would wander down to Sweet Caroline’s to quaff a brew or two. It was really cold last night and I was alone in the bar until about 10:30. The three sisters were really lamenting the slow night, because like most bars they rely on the weekend to turn a profit. I was not being much help in that regard because I drink draft beers at 3000 WON a pop, and I was drinking slow last night.
As I was saying, around 10:30 Rob comes in. I had seen him there before but never really talked to him until last night. He’s Army and has been in country about 3 months. So, Rob proceeds to buy a round for the house. As he noted, it’s all about timing and counting me and the sisters, it was only 5 drinks. About that time three Korean gentlemen arrived and the party began. I had met Mr. Chun previously and was introduced to his friends, something that sounded like Mr. Bob and the other name is lost in the fog of intoxication. Mr. Chun has just opened a gambling house (video poker and slots) and has invited me to visit, I promised I would. So we carried on a very friendly conversation with Mi Soon serving as interpreter. He asked my age (which is always a very important piece of information to Koreans. Has to do with status and respect and all that). Turns out I am three years older than him. So he goes on and on about how honored he is to have made my acquaintance and I of course responded in kind. Then he bought me a beer. Which gave me three in front of me. So, I had to get busy but after a series of toasts, I was pretty much caught up and I was starting to feel the glow of camaraderie (or the cumulative effects of the beers I had consumed). A group of Japanese tourists came in and filled up some of the tables in back, so the place was really jumping.
The Koreans (or at least the Koreans who frequent Sweet Caroline’s) are really into American music, especially classic rock and to a lesser extent country. I mean they KNOW the groups and songs and can sing along even if they have no idea what the words mean. For example, I had to explain the concept of seeing the world through rose colored glasses . Not sure how successful I was, but I got the obligatory head nod and “ne, ne” (yes, yes). Actually, the two best things about Sweet Caroline’s is the music they play and the popcorn. They have an extensive collection of CDs and vinyl and just about anything you want to hear they can and will play. I let them make copies of my Beach Boys, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Meatloaf CDs to add to their collection (hmm, was that illegal?). Sister (the oldest of the three, and everyone calls her Sister out of respect) makes popcorn the way grandma used to do it. In a cast iron skillet on the stove. Smells and tastes wonderful. Microwave popcorn is easy and quick, but good ol’ stove top popcorn can’t be beat.
Anyway, the Koreans were choosing songs from The Allman Brothers, Moody Blues, and Doobie Brothers. The place was rockin’. Then Rob buys a round of Soju. Soju is the national drink from what I gather. I have previously tried it in small doses. It reminds me of vodka, clear and pretty much tasteless. You drink it in shots. It goes down smooth enough, but kind of explodes when it hits your stomach. So then Mr. Chun buys a round of Soju shots. And of course, the only polite thing to do was for me to buy a round. And I am nothing if not polite.
Shortly thereafter the Korean gentlemen departed after handshakes and bows all around. The Japanese had left earlier unnoticed by me. So, it is back to me, Rob and the sisters. Rob somehow convinced me that another round of Soju was in order. And so it was done. Now, I will admit to being pretty much lit like a Christmas tree at this point. But if I had stopped then things would have been ok. Instead, sister Tami wanted to repay the generosity Rob and I had shown by buying a round of boilermakers.
I know of boilermakers (a shot glass of whiskey dropped into a beer glass and guzzled) , but have never been inclined to try one. First off, I don’t like whiskey and I see no point in ruining a perfectly good beer by dropping a shot glass of whiskey into it. But in the spirit of the moment I agreed to participate. Big mistake. I could only chug about half the beer, and when the whiskey went down my throat, it immediately came back up. With the semi-digested food from dinner that was lingering in my stomach. So I am standing at the bar with a mouth full of yuck with everyone staring at me. Now, the manly thing to do would have been to re-swallow. But gawd, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The restroom is outside the front door and as I made a beeline for it, some MPs were walking in. I blew past them and deposited the contents of my mouth into the sink. When I came back into the bar the MPs were gone. Rob was laughing and said that they took one look at me, turned around and left. Which is a good thing because it was now 1:30 am and the curfew still applies to Rob. He said I am so obviously a civilian that they must have assumed Rob was too (he was wearing a wool cap that covered the GI cut).
Anyway, sister Mi Soon gently suggested that perhaps I should think about going home. I took her advice, bundled up against the cold (which oddly enough I barely noticed) and did the 15 minute trek back to my place. Was able to put in the security access code for the front door in only two tries! I even managed to undress before I hit the bed. Woke up around 7:00, drank some OJ, took some aspirin, and went back to bed until 10:00.
And now I feel just fine. Well, the soju has a lingering effect on the stomach, so I have, um, been spending some time in the bathroom but otherwise everything is good.
I am now going to do some vacuuming and cleaning. My Sunday dinner will be spaghetti and garlic bread and a little Merlot. I am baking a carrot cake for dessert. And I think tonight will be a great night for sitting quietly in front of the TV. And napping on my sofa.
So, that’s my story from Korea for today. Hope you enjoyed hearing about it at least half as much as I enjoyed living it.