Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

How I Became an Expat!


While working on my first post graduate degree, in the final semester I found myself forced  to take a job as a server.

My TA money could cover my tuition and books.  I still needed to come up with living expenses, so I went with what I was good at.

Those were hellish times, trying to carry a full course load, teach a couple of classes, while working splits in an English Pub.

I moved in with a married couple.  The wife knew I was looking for a decent place closer to the school, and offered me their spare room.

Within three days of moving in, she confronted her husband in the kitchen over breakfast while I was reading a rather weighty tome:

We aren't happy together anymore.  I don't love you.  It's time for us to part.

Within three minutes, her boyfriend of two years and his bud had cleared the place of all her shit.

Husband looked like a beached guppy.  I decided that hanging out at the library for a good twelve hours would be a fantastic idea.

He and I didn't talk too much over the next 4-5 days.  It was pretty easy to figure out: she had played me, using me as a bulwark against some of the more nasty shit that could ensue.

She asked me out for coffee to 'apologize'.  She couldn't even bring herself to pay the bill.  Guess I didn't figure too high in her book.

Working full time, I often found myself burning the midnight oil.  I'd get in around 11, read and write until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

Husband guy started bringing whores home.  He heard no sound from my room, usually because I was playing it quiet or because he wanted it to get back to her.

After three or four girls had come over, I decided to fuck with him: I walked out after the driver had left and he was bullshitting the girl.

Later I would realize this was very uncool for her.  I just wanted to mess with him.

Imagine my surprise when I see the top student from one of the classes I was teaching sitting there all slutted up.

I can't make this up.

I mumbled a sorry and retreated back to my room.

They smoothed it out and she earned her wage.

But she knew who I was.

What came next will take at least another post.

Of Whores and Grad Students

A few days passed before she showed up at my office: stunning, tall, slender and blonde. . . she truly was a beauty.

She came in and asked if she could speak with me.  I motioned to a chair, and before she could get started I said:

Your life is yours: what you freely choose to do to earn a living is not my concern.  What I saw the other night isn't going to affect your grades in any way; you've been at the top of the class since the beginning of term, there is no reason why that shouldn't continue.  I won't mention this to anyone, and I won't expect any 'favors' from you.

I caught her off guard with this.  Working the biz, I guess she had a hard time thinking that someone would let her have something for nothing.  She insisted that she at least take me out for dinner that night.  That's how we found ourselves at Mickey's by seven.

What transpired next was nothing that could fill a letter to penthouse.  I was a pillar of morality and ethical behavior.  I didn't flirt, didn't speak in innuendoes; I did get drunk on her dime though.  As the evening progressed, I started asking her questions on what it was like working the biz.

She was lucky that she had a fairly sizable stable of repeat customers.  A girl like that, I could understand.  The smart and sexy combination that made her was incredibly potent.

She had originally gotten into it to pay for school.  She pulled in about three thousand a week.  She knew she couldn't do it forever, and that the psychic toll was heavy, but she was smart with her money.  She didn't blow it on drugs or ridiculous amounts of clothes.  She said she lived in a modest apartment.  She invested what she didn't need for school into stocks and bonds.

Occasionally she took calls to fill in for other girls.  That was what caused her to show up at my roomates house that night.  Usually a driver came in, checked things out, and handled the cash.  It was his call whether or not the girl would go in.  Most of the guys she slept with as regulars were decent, good looking, professional.  But sometimes she would get someone nasty, hideous, fat.  If things got sketchy, she had a panic button she could push, and the driver would be there fairly quickly.  She never took drinks or drugs offered by her hosts unless she had known them for some time.  She was a cautious girl.

We actually became sort of friends.  She would stop by my office from time to time to chat.  We'd grab a coffee and shoot the shit.  I learned quite a bit about the biz from her.  On a lark I jumped at the chance to work as a driver for a few weeks to fill in for one guy who had messed up a leg skiing.  There I was chauffering around some of the hottest women in town.  It was a great experience, and I made over four thousand for a few hours every night, including tips from the girls.  Unfortunately my grades suffered during that time and I nearly didn't pass.  Luckily I had a great advisor who knew that something was up, didn't ask questions, and let a lot of things slide.

But all good things come to an end.  I graduated and was getting ready to leave town.  That last night was insane: she and a couple of other working girls I had gotten to know showed me around all the strip joints in a 20 mile radius.  They seemed to know everybody, and they paid for everything.  I had decided that I wasn't going to take my pants off, but when one of the girls teased me about being a fag, well I had to put an end to that by going home with one of the waitresses from the last place we hit.

She was talented.

I never slept with any of the working girls, although it would have been fairly easy.  Considering the way we had met, at first I thought it would just cause more problems then it was worth.   And I probably wouldn't have been let in the way I was.

I left for a sweet corporate job in a city 400 miles away.  I thought about her often, that tall slender blonde, but things got pretty hectic and crazy and I never had a chance to go back.  But what came next will have to wait for some other time.

The Sum of Not-So-Little-Things

Here there be sharks
After finishing the MA, I quickly scored a job in middle management of a midsize company in the town of my birth. 

Upper middle management baby!  No more entry level peon!

It was a sweet job that seemed almost tailor made for me, with a very nice pay package.

The fact that several distant relatives had worked there over the span of 80 years had nothing to do with it.

What I didn't know was that I was being parachuted into a shark pit.

Three other people had wanted the job, most prominently an Iranian who had worked at the place for over twenty years.  When I was offered the spot, he and the two others went out of their way to fuck with me hard.

With this going on, I quickly realized that two senior managers were embezzeling a ridiculous amount of money.  It was scandalous what they were getting away with, which was part of the reason everyone wanted my spot since it gave access to all that easy cash.

For the record, I never grabbed any; I merely collected evidence to cover my own ass since I thought I was being set up as fall guy.  As soon as I had proof that tons of cash was disappearing I approached a couple board members to let them know.

I was fired.

What I didn't realize was that everyone was getting a piece of the pie.  They expected me to just play ball, seeing as I knew everyone or knew someone who was related to 2/3 of the work force.

Deciding that the corporate world wasn't for me, I applied and was accepted to a doctoral program in a nearby city.

While all this was going on, my grandfather was getting on with dying.  He could barely walk, but still insisted on trying to get himself to the store to buy his groceries.  A stubborn bastard who built his own house and supported a family of six by the sweat of his brow, he still tried to get out and cut the grass.

He was like the old guys you see picking up cardboard on the streets of a Korean city: not all of them have to do it to make money, they just do it because they want to work until they can't.  My grandmother was also in fairly bad shape and he was trying to take care of both of them.

I started dropping in everyday once I got back to town, seeing as I lived about fifteen minutes away.  I'd take out the trash and deal with whatever other errands needed to be done, play cards.  He took a turn for the worse at about the same time that all this was going down.

I deferred my acceptance to the PHD to spend more time with them, and over the space of a couple of months watched them both die.

The funerals were a couple of weeks apart.   After, I decided to go walkabout. . .

Gone Walkabout

Leaving the town of my birth was hugely anticlimatic.

I loaded what I thought I needed into a huge pack and hit the road.  I didn't really know where I was going or why.  I just knew I had to go.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that I had to be back in three and a half months to start on my Phd.  But it was a thought that seemed to register more as a suggestion than a certainty.  What seemed more important was just to go.

I hiked for about a week, caging rides along the way.  It was on the seventh day that three Iranians stopped on the side of the road.  They didn't ask me if I wanted a ride, simply asked if I was ok, if I needed anything, maybe some money.  I was puzzled, even more so when they each handed me a dollar.  Then they piled back into the car and drove off, leaving me wondering just what exactly had transpired.

It was from this point that life seemed to shift and enter an alternate reality.

It started the next morning.  When I got too tired, I'd climb up the bank of the interstate, unroll my sleeping bag and crash until the sun seared the sleep from my eyes.  That morning I was woken by snuffling in my face and ear.  I bolted awake to catch two deer looking me over.  As soon as I awoke they tore off into the woods.  Not everyday that you get woken up by deer.  I packed up and decided to try my luck on the highway, despite it being 5 am.

I was still groggy and didn't notice that a car had stopped some way up from me.  The flashing lights finally caught my eye and I ran up to see Mr. Joe Preppy Average waiting for me in a nice Ford Super Duty.  This was a big truck.  He smiled and waved me in.

He asked me where I was going.  It just sort of came out, the whole situation of how I'd arrived at where I was, my job, my grandparents, even the Iranians and the deer.  I told it in a sort of detached way.  I said I just needed to step out for a bit, to go walkabout.

We got to talking about life and liberty.  Freedom.  We spoke of how freedoms were being curtailed, how laws were being put in place that made no sense save in the context of removing individual liberties.  Look at the laws regarding pot as an example he said.  I can buy cigarettes and booze wherever, but this benign substance is the one stigmatized.

I agreed.  I wasn't a huge smoker at that time, but he did have a point.  It wasn't a new idea of course, having read enough undergrad papers to hear of it again and again.

What threw me was when he decided that he was going to exercise his inalienable right to freedom and stoke one up right then. He pulled over at a rest stop and rolled this cannon of a jay.  Mr. Appears-Straightedge.  Ok.  Sure I'm game.  Pass it over.  It was 6:30 in the morning. 

It was one of the 'stondest' I've ever been.  I don't know how that pot was grown, but it was incredibly potent and totally fried me.  I slurred this observation out, which was met first with a smile.  Then: yeah I can grow some pretty good stuff he says.  In fact I have a grow op not too far from here.  But I couldn't take you there.  Well. . . 

It took a second to register what he had said.  Yeah I'd like to see that, this is some serious shit.

Ok, but if I take you there I'd have to blindfold you and recline the seat so nobody would see you.

This did freak me out.  This guy had just picked me up and gotten me seriously high, the Iranians, the deer . . . and then being asked if I'd allow myself to be blindfolded and brought to some unknown destination to see a secret grow op.

Sure.  Why not?

I used one of my socks to blindfold myself and laid the seat back.  The whole time I'm thinking American Psycho, and the relative position of the wheel in case I needed to grab it and drive us into a ditch.  When we finally pull up in front of a warehouse in a cottage district, I have a serious case of heebeejeebees.  He laughs at me and says cmon.  Inside, the warehouse is empty.  He takes me deeper in where there is only a non-descript windowless white trailor.  A huge power cord.  An odd hummmm.

He unlocks the door and I'm momentarily blinded by the glare.  Inside was beautiful: maybe 60-80 plants, sea of green, aromatic and close to harvest.

Inside his office he opens a small chest freezer that is nearly full of one pound bags of some of the most crystalized bud I've ever seen.  I sell this shit in major cities for about 800 an ounce wholesale.  I have 6 ops like this one set up in different places.  I have the truck and trailor as a front.  I run a moving business you see.  If things ever get too hot, I just hook the trailor up, clean out the freezer and I'm gone.  Nothing incriminating gets left behind.

The only thing that sucks is I can't have a normal life.  I have to look normal, but how easy is it to date or make friends?  Inevitably, you could trip up, or people start asking too many questions.  But if I can do this for a few more years it'll be freedom 45.

I sat stunned during most of this.  What could I say besides boring shit like "cool, man.  Wow.  Yeah that sucks."

While he speaks, he rolls another, much smaller joint.  When he's finished he lights it up, then hands me the bag that was sitting in front of him.  It's a one pound bag that contains about a half ounce.  It's a gold mine of tight little nuggets and shake.  Here, this might make your walkabout more interesting.  I simply say thanks and bury it in my pack.  We smoke and then leave.

He dropped me off by the turnpike and waved good bye.  I was fried until the early afternoon.  But hours of standing in the sun waiting for someone to pick me up finally took the edge off.  I had taken to thinking that maybe I should just head off to the main side road when finally someone pulled over to pick me up.

How I Learned to Love the Sun

While my brain was being cooked in the sun at the toll booth, my thoughts wandered spastically.  Eyeing the toll booth gate where the workers gave me the stink eye.  Off to the distance where some guys were roofing a house.  The highway signs that gave little clue as to where I actually was.  The fact that I only had enough food in my pack for a couple of days, and water for about the same.  What looked like a Safeway in the distance, a good 3-4 mile hike.  The asphalt shimmering.

I had started out on my walkabout with no clear goal, no direction.  I was ok with that, but I knew that completely losing myself in the road for an indeterminate amount of time wouldn't serve.  It was tempting, but I wasn't in the mood to become a Christopher McCandless.  I'd seen too many people come back from that trip a shadow.  Or not come back at all.

I needed to be free, but not so free I bugged out.  I needed to stay away from too many people for awhile, no big cities.  I've always been a bit of a country boy, prefering clean air and trees to boulevards and highrises.  As I came back down to earth, these thoughts crystalized into a plan.

I was going to head east.  There was a concert that I knew some friends were going to, so heading that way, somewhere where there was familiar, seemed like a good idea.  I didn't know when the exact date of the show was; I figured I had near two weeks.  This time if someone asked me where I was going, I could give a cogent answer without mentioning the personal.  I doubted I could be so detached about it in the retelling, and having some focus would sound better than: where ever.

I knew the concert was an outdoor camping thing, for which I had all the gear.  Looking at my map, I saw that I could get there by avoiding all major cities and all major temptation.  Invigorated, I stuck out my thumb.

And Waited.  Sat.  Stood.  Sat some more.  Drank water.  Waited.

Nothing.  Curious faces staring with apprehension driving past.  Some of them laughing.  An empty Coke can thrown at me.  No offer of a ride.

As the afternoon droned on, I felt myself sinking into the concrete.  I had to move, soon. I had passed the time watching those four guys roof a house about a half mile off.  They made good steady progress and had finished up by the late afternoon.  It was kind of disappointing when they came down, seeing as now I had nothing to focus on.  My feet were itchy, and I knew it was time to move.  I picked up my pack and started towards what I thought was the Safeway.

As I walked away from the tollbooth, I saw the roofers get into a beat up old Chevy Nova.  It belched a nasty black cloud when they started it up.  They seemed to hesitate when they got to the main road, then they veered left and drove to the toll booth.  They stopped.  Hey which direction you headed?  East?  Cmon in.

These four guys had been equally entertained watching me bake at the toll both for near four hours.  They decided to take pity and at least get me some way onto the interstate.  It seemed fitting in a way.  And it was good to finally be moving.

As soon as I got into the car I realized that I stank of ganja, and immediately got paranoid over the bag in my pack.  It took a few seconds for this fact to register with the guys in the car and a palpable silence followed.  I wondered how high I looked and wondered if that could explain why I hadn't been picked up for so long.  A couple of the guys were drinking beers.  They looked like the sort that might be alright with me pulling some out and saying hey my treat!  But there would be no some, only this huge bag.  I stewed.  To break the silence I asked hey was that a Safeway in the distance?  Naw, that's an office supplies warehouse.  So you guys finished that roof up good?  Yeah we finished it proper.  This is a nice car.  Yup.  Thanks.

The ordeal lasted about 25 miles when: this is our exit.  Good luck!

They dropped me off went on their way.

I immediately dug into my pack and found the bag.  It looked much bigger now in the light of the sun, more like an ounce than a half.  I took out a small amount and crammed the rest into an empty water container.  Wrapped it up in an extra pair of pants.  Washed my hands with soap.  The last thing I needed was to spend time in some county lock up because I had been the recipient of good fortune.  I wrapped the small amount in a baggie and stuck it in my pants.  All these precautions would prove a bit ridiculous considering everything that happened later.

The Long Walk

Once I had reorganized my pack and stuck my thumb out, I was surprised to get picked up in fairly short order by a ginger driving a big old Grand Marquis.  I felt maybe the gods were smiling on me.

Nice car I said, and thanks for the ride.

No problem.  You know, usually when I give someone a ride they offer me something in return.  You know, to show their appreciation.

Erm, I've got a couple of nice apples here I picked off a tree a couple of days ago.  Would you like one of those.

He laughed.  No I had something a little more fun in mind.  He runs a hand on my thigh and makes a fumbling grab at my crotch.

You know, I think I'm actually pretty much an ingrate.  You can let me off here.

He gets angry and seems to not want to stop the car.  For the second time in twenty four hours I entertain the notion of grabbing the steering wheel of a fast moving vehicle and veering it into a ditch.  Then, a sharp swerve to tear into the gravel on the side of the interstate.  Once out, he tears off throwing rocks everywhere.  Sorry I didn't make your day.

By this point dusk had settled.  I was hoping to get over to a major artery that would see me skirt a large city and have me heading in the right direction.  I caught a brief ride that generated an argument on the literary worth of anything by William Faulkner, and a drop off at the split of two main arteries.

Things were not shaping up. 

Especially when I made the mistake of climbing onto an overpass that I thought would take me to a country road that would shave about 30 miles.

It was getting late at this point, but for some reason I didn't feel like stopping.  I had been walking for near an hour at this point, and I figured I could get close to the country road and camp out somewhere nearby.

Once on the road, I could sense that I had made a mistake.  The road ahead was pitch black, shimmering lights in the distance.  It isn't that far, I can walk that.  Just stay in the middle of the road and focus on the lights, no problem.

I walked.  Total darkness enveloped me and started to play weird tricks.  The humidity and coolness suggested swamp on either side of the road, everything oddly silent.  No matter how long I walked, the lights didn't seem to get any closer.  I started hearing noises in the woods on either side of me, as if something was walking along, deciding what to make of me, a spirit of the land scoping me out, seeing what I was about and where I was going.  It hadn't decided yet, and the feeling fluctuated between extreme malevolence, indifference, a desire to hasten.  I felt it touch me, speak to me, telling me of fallen warriors who had not the sense to turn back even when they knew they had gotten onto the wrong path.  Don't make the same mistakes, go back, to the highway, the freeway, the way to ride.  Look back you can see it beckoning.  Go.  Run.  Here there be dragons.

About three hundred yards out, the light finally began to take shape.  When I came upon it, it was to find myself at the back entrance of a trailor park.

Out of the Maze

It took me a while to get my bearings: it was pretty late, I'd just walked through 3 and half miles of pitch black, roads seemed to go off in ever widening circles with no rhyme or reason.

I passed by trailors of all shapes and sizes; at first I couldn't decide whether it was an all season kinda place.  Miniature windmills, wells with little johnny fisherman, massive stone frogs, pink flamingoes, wind chimes. . . a bewildering cornucopia of lawn ornament kitch suggested permanence.  Every trailor seemed to have at least 2 or 3 pieces of lawn decoration.

One garden gnome sitting on top of a huge psychedelic mushroom made me laugh out loud.  I stopped when I realized that inside the screened porch an old couple were sitting enjoying the evening.

I realized I had no idea where I was going when after walking for 20 minutes I passed the same tripped out gnome.  The old couple in the porch were the only people I had seen out and about, so I went up and asked: excuse me, could you tell me how to get to highway ABC?

The old man laughed.  Well, you're quite a ways from there.  How'd you end up in this neck of the woods?  I explained how I'd climbed up onto the overpass and walked in, as that was the one on my map.

You walked all that in the dark?  Well, that overpass isn't on your map seeing as this is a small side road. You know what time it is?  Where you headed anyway?

East.  Something's telling me to go east, and I hope to meet some friends there.

Where you sleeping tonight?

Usually I just crawl up someplace quiet, unfold this foam and crawl into my sleeping bag.  Yesterday morning I was woken by a couple of deer.

He laughed.  Well that is something.  Look its kind of late now, why not sleep on the futon out here in the porch, its a nice night, and tomorrow I'll take you where you need to be.

That's mighty nice of you.  I think I will, thanks.

We talked for an hour or more about this that and whatever.  It was easy, friendly and relaxing.  We turned in.

Next morning I woke when I heard noise inside the trailor.  The sun had just cracked the sky.  The old woman came out with some bread, jam and coffee.  She also handed me a small bag.  Take this dear, it wouldn't do for you to be hungry on the road she said.

He helped load my pack into his truck. I was a good fifteen miles from the road I wanted, and he dropped me off at the crossroads.  Well this is where you need to be.  Good luck.

Hey many thanks.  That was mighty right of you to be nice to a stranger like that.

Think nothing of it, you look like a decent fella.  Just remember it and pay it forward when you find the roles reversed.  I will, and goodbye.

I grabbed my pack.  He honked and waved as he drove away.

How Jesus Showed Me the Way!

As I stood at the crossroads, I had an overwhelming sense that I was spinning my wheels.  There was need to make haste, to move, to get on with it.

I stood there for less than 5 minutes when what could have passed for a tripped out hippy school bus pulled over: hey you need a ride?

Why thanks.  I sure do.

On the bus was pilgrim Sunday.  Every single person looked like they had either time warped outta the 60's or the 17th century.

Say, I dig your style.

Thank you, brother.  We live with what's comfortable.

Yeah I can dig that.  Myself, I need to balance comfort with practicality, but then this sure is a nice bus.

Thank you, brother.  Where is your path taking you?

Now that is a good question, but I know I'm supposed to head east for now.

Then it is fateful we have met.  We are heading that way ourselves, to do god's work.


Have you brought Jesus into your life?


Um, well, I've heard of this Jesus guy, never met him.  Kidding!


I teased it out of them: they were a group that travelled from summer show to summer show, setting up a first aid tent for those in need.  If they happened to find any lost sheep, they brought them into a secluded tent for safety and comfort.  In the process they would share with them the joy and warmth that only accepting Jesus can bring.  They particularly liked those who were strung out on serious mind altering substances.  Two of the younger ones including the bus driver had been picked up that very summer under those circumstances.

The very odd and 'fateful' thing was that they were going to the exact same concert that I was.

I took an interest.  It wasn't completely utilitarian in nature, I was curious as to what methods they used.  I marshelled all my knowledge of the books or movies I'd read, skimmed, seen: Bible, Koran, Tao, Tao of Poo, Book of the Dead, Siddhartha, Fear and Loathing, the Graduate, the Godfather, The book of Thoth, random stuff on the Golden Dawn, Greek classics, Bukowski, the Book of Mormon, How I Learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. . . it was a spirited conversation, each minute bringing me closer to a shared destination.

I had a brain wave:

Hey, I'd like to continue this conversation and see the work you do.  I'd like to come in to the show with you, help you set up, see how things unfold.

They were hesitant.  They had heard enough to know that I asked too many questions, was confrontational and challenging.  So I leveled with them:

I feel that I am being called to go to this show, meet some friends, see what comes of it, then continue on my path east.

And that is how I ended up being the first person to set up a tent on the field to one of the biggest summer shows of 1996.


I had set my tent slightly back from the front of the first camp ground and waited.  Dinner came and went, a pack of instant noodles cooked on a portable gas stove.  The gates didn't open until the next day, and outside an impromptu party was going on.  I was sorely tempted to walk the couple of miles and join in; coming in I was sure I had seen my buddy near the front of the gate.  The impossibility of working that out was obvious, so I sat, smoked, smoked some more, and stared at the stars.

I knew the moment the gate had opened the next morning when the honking of horns and the rumbling of tires sprinting towards me filled the air.  As the first car approached, I almost keeled over laughing when I realized it was my buddy.  Instead, I stood nonchalantly, smiled and waved.  He pulled up a few hundred meters away: dude you don't want to pitch your tent there.  If it rains you'll find yourself in a lake.

Shock.  Disbelief.  WTFs.  The look on his face was priceless.  They had left three days prior to be one of the first at the gate, only to be greeted by a guy who seemed somewhat non committal on the phone a few days before.

You got my ticket bro?

The weekend was truly a blast.  Halfway through the first day I met up with some other friends, one of them K whom to this day I still consider one of my best friends.  She and I hung out, got lost, found, lost together.  I traveled around with different packs, sometimes solo.  I played and sang.  I drank, smoked, barely ate a thing.  Watched how tens of thousands of people lived.

I soon found I didn't need to use cash; I had another, far more valuable currency that I could trade for anything.  By the end of the weekend I had spent all of $12 on a tshirt and a bottle of water.

All good things they say.  That weekend still seems a blur    The last morning, K found me sitting on my blanket, my tent and gear all packed.  She looked at me curiously.  Then: I've known you for years bud.  Something's off.  What gives?

It didn't seem right to go on about everything that had happened to bring me to where I was at that point, what after the weekend we'd just had.  It was time to live, not to conjure up and become mired in the past.  But once called, I almost broke.  I couldn't quite get it out, the facade was cracked, there would be no detachment in the next telling of that story.  So I did what I do best:

I smiled, waved and said I'd meet up with her in a few days and fill her in on all the details.

Heading East.


When it got down to it, I didn’t know if going to see K was such a good idea.  I’d known her for years, consider her my best friend, but heading back that way would have consequences. 

These became apparent soon enough.  I lucked out and covered 800 miles in less than three days, expedited by the land. 

K and her man were surprised when I showed so early in the afternoon.  They welcomed me, I shared food, talked of the concert.  I told them what I could of my story, and when K’s man went out she asked:

So how are you?  

It had been awhile since anyone had asked me that.  I was steeled, hardened, everything is fine.

She looked right through me.

She knew, knew I needed time.  The thing we have most in common is intuition, something that can’t be stated in simple terms. 

Take the spare room, stay a while.  There are a lot of people here who would love to see you.   Unless you really need to be somewhere else.

You know, maybe I will. 

I went and bought some beer, food, smoke.  I’d gotten a taste, and liked what I found.  Staying a while was a good idea, amongst friends and those I loved.  I still had a couple of months before the PHD, and here there were books to read, people to see, time to sort things out.

I stayed six months.

Straightening Out!

It was the longest time I'd been unemployed in my adult life.  Even going to school I'd worked in bars, scored research or teaching assistant gigs, but this was something else.  I had some money and when that ran out I'd do some small shit thing like collect bottles or clean a theater to get enough for more beer or smoke.  It was truly a low point in a way, and looking back I know how lucky I am to have the friends I do. 

It wasn't one particular event that brought me back into focus; I just woke one morning and knew it was time to get back on that horse.  I was tired of leeching off of friends and doing shit with my days.  Within a couple of weeks I was tending bar at a trendy spot.  A few weeks later saw me prepping for classes I was to teach at a local uni.  Another few weeks and I was at banks discussing home loans.  I was working 60 plus hours a week and loving it.


Buying a house was a big step.  I knew that it meant an end to easy mobility; I'd gotten a good taste of walkabout, and knew there was still a big world out there with many interesting people to meet.  I chased these thoughts away with the specs on my new patio, whether I could make enough by renting the place out to buy a second house, what kind of car I should buy.   I was on the right path, doing it the way it's supposed to be done.  Life was swell.

And that's when M came back into town.


M and I had been friends for years, that kind of early college connection that could end up in at least a makeout session if the mood, temperament, and amount of liquor is right.  She sold herself as a good straight up Christian girl, a beast I generally avoided due to their lack of perspective and my own general intolerance at the time.

M was different from the standard Christian soldier, having a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, and I appreciated the odd mixture of things that should not be.  She embodied an aspect of Madonna / Magdalene that sets young men rutting, the standard saint during the day and whore at night, yet embodied in such a way that drew more than a gaze from this jaded soul.  It was potent, and I enjoyed the repartee. 

The conversation was often spiced and quick, but then would revert to lame tangents on church and boredom.  I'd extricate myself, and often weeks or months would pass before we crossed paths again.  This went on for years.

I never saw myself being with her, as I courted women who had settled what they were about, who knew their own self worth and pursued their desires.  M was stuck between flesh and communion.  Too many young men get caught chasing that kind of woman, thinking they will be the One.  It's a mug's game, a lesson the more astute learn in high school.  I saw how she played such boys, and teased her about her lack of faith and Christian charity.  After such a conversation, she would avoid me for weeks or months.  This went on for years.

I was on the friend ladder, wasn't interested in being anywhere else, and made no attempt to cross over. 

Until she came back to town after a year in Korea.

A Series of Small Flames

Waeg digresses for a moment or two, and thinks of where he is at now.  It's early February, 2014, and he knows all too well that some of his memories are hazy, and have been co opted to make more sense of what he is now.  What he speaks of he has written before, in diaries that have been lost, stolen, or hidden away.  Many of the stories he can't ever tell, as they can't be told in a way that makes sense to what he has become, nor to those he speaks with; in a moment of clarity, he knows that some of those he has met have told him this, as they would not make sense to most who would cross their path.

He has used the following line several times over the last while: I'd laugh if someone had come up 25 years ago and said I'd be where I am now, now.  He reminds himself that it isn't about trying to be what you once were, but living in a way that makes sense of where you've been and where you are, as it really is all you can do.  It always serves to know where you are so as to make sense of where you've been, and how you may remember what was to talk about where you're at.  And if you choose to challenge yourself, well that can make things excessively convoluted.  And he has promised himself to render it simple.

So on with the show:

Ji Eun had a body and presence that commanded attention, no matter how capricious that can be.  She had no idea how she enticed all, male, female, to think lascivious. . . of all the women he ceased contact with upon marriage she is the only one Waeg regrets.

Sol Hee worked hard to hit bottom, and did when she found herself knocked up by some married douche.  He lied about all he was, and she being smart enough to know better still dove in head first.  Waeg stopped taking her calls when they only became about a loan or maybe a box of food, with hints of exchange suggested.

Min Jung played the scene, but played it smart by finding those who claimed insight and general indifference.  Extensive plastic surgery made her almost unattractive for the guy digging the girl next door, but Waeg considered this mitigated by how she always paid for at least one bottle.  Where she is now is pure conjecture.

So Ra was so incredibly naive, it is a surprise she swam in the shark infested waters she did to exit unscathed.  A genuine nice girl, it still remains to be seen how her time in the pit will manifest.  Smart money from the Waeg says it won't, as she is impermeable. 

Bo Ryung knew exactly what she wanted, and had no dilemma in using all and sundry to get it.  When called on her perspective, she responded by dispensing with most of the glamor, and enlisting more than a few of the savvy to help marry into wealth.  Every now and then she lets Waeg know she's still paying attention.

No more reminisce.  Too much of that only distracts from the task at hand, invites melancholy; while indulging it would be fulfilling his 40% Adjusshi status, Waeg is not in the mood.  He smirks, random thoughts of age taking hold.  But another drink and reading something dry and academic should take care of that for now.  He cracks the bottle open and reaches for the nearest book.

He did listen to that Rihanna song about 50 times, as it reminded him of a time in Itaewon some time back; but now it helped him remember that it was time to add at least a page or two to the story that began long ago in a very different place.  He is tempted to post a pic of himself, as anonymity will soon be irrelevant, but he doesn't want to make himself too easy for the hateful noob who has yet to consider perspective.