Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lipstick and rouge, Cafes of Daegu in a cooler season

I am sitting at Cafe Francesco in Chilgok, a district in Daegu that is more like a suburban hideaway in the mountains. There is no harsh reality, no metro to hear the panhandlers play for coins (though I know that most would prefer folding cash). There is a sort of pretense that plays out in the cafes. The absence of generations is evident. The crowds that frequent the cafes are usually the young students that come to congregate, giggle, and yes, be young. There is still a certain kind of sophistication that is blended in the cafes with the effort to emulate those that are around the world. What makes them Korean is that the menus seem to always have the phrase, "I'm sorry, we don't have that today."These cafes are not like the ones in more urban areas, that really have a cross section that filter through. No, the drama here are more like the kind of dramas you would see of the young and uncertain kind. The unknowing and inexperienced kind. Not much changes. No matter where you go, drama is drama. There are days where I do wish I had a remote that would enable subtitles, and others when I could just hit the mute button.
At another cafe, they have a running track that cycles jazz standards, I know because after about 45 minutes the same rotation starts again. It was a short lived love affair, the illusion broken with the third playing of "As Time Goes By". I wanted to say, "No Sam, please don't play it again." Time did go by, and I realized that nothing substitutes for the real sound of a languished saxophone player in a deserted square, playing under a street lamp in the dead hours of a cool Paris night. It is a cruel joy to witness and striking to hear the emotion of someone breathing those notes into life.
There is one thing I have noticed with all of these cafes. There is no Korean identity. Instead, they try to create an environment that is associated with either America or Europe. As much as they try, there can only be one Eiffel Tower. Nothing beats the original, or an original thought. That has been the puzzle for me, here in Korea. Koreans seem to want to be anything BUT Korean. Then I look around and realize now why only the young seem to be attracted to these coffee is precisely for that reason.
As I sit in a cafe, my thoughts are distracted, noting a map of Belgium, and wondering why the countries surrounding Belgium are spelt in English....

Here's looking at you with lipstick and rouge...kid.

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