Friday, July 31, 2009

The Korean Word for Costco is Post Office...

Today was one of those days with so much to do...and a short time to get there. It was at this moment I forgot where I was and got into a taxi and simply said, "Post Office". I repeated myself a couple of times, and we were off....going cross town. I simply relaxed and thought that it saved me a from hailing another taxi. The alarm didn't go off in my head until...we arrived at Costco. Yes, even in Korea...Costco has survived where Walmart failed.

I motioned to my package...and signaled my disapproval...the driver looking more stuck than I was called out for help from one of the an episode of Cash Cab...only this time the driver was the one who needed to phone a friend. Costco was not the post office, but where we happened to be was near the airport. Ah, one beleaguered passer-by mentioned the main post office, pointing in the general off we went...where I was deposited by the side of the road looking for a way in.

So, in inappropriate shoes and all I tried to approached the building only to get 'jacked up' by a security guard...I gestured and pointed at my package and just as I was getting frustrated with the rent-a-cop....a postal van was pulling out of the gate. The postal worker saw my frustration...and flung the door open when I said two little words..."taxi driver'.
So, perhaps you are wondering what the big deal is about getting to the post South Korea they are not open during the weekends. After reading about the distress of the US Postal Service, always taking it for granted when they were open on Saturdays (then of course that meant that had to be the same all over the world)....wrong!! 9-5, Monday through Friday. This also applies to anything you need sent out by express mail. Kinkos?? FedEx??? DHL??? Mail Boxes, etc.? Fiction not least here in least NOT with the service hours you expect elsewhere. The only thing that is open 24 hours is a HomePlus and your local heart attack waiting to happen (AKA McDonald's). It had been a while since I had seen the EXCO, and it was the perfect day to snap a few shots. The weather was beautiful, clear, and the fountains were on.
The exhibition hall was getting traffic with the latest exhibits...

and I wasn't quite sure what this robot's purpose in life was. It wasn't functioning...or perhaps it was asleep...
But after all of the self created drama...caused by my procrastination...(yes...if it is something I don't want to is the last possible second....well, not last...but damn close) I had to photograph the statue again. There is no title...but something besides the naked form struck me as I looked up at this messenger. There are no arms, just wings. This winged messenger is never meant to hold anyone. It made me look at this statue in a whole new light.
After all...all I was going to do was mail a package...and I wound up the EXCO, pondering her form. Not a bad day at all.
Now, I wonder where the taxi driver will take me if I say Costco.....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Visions during a rainy season...

Having just survived my first belly dancing class and feeling that creeping feeling of smug self satisfaction...that is hard to resist. I pushed that feeling aside, and embraced the one feeling I wanted to get in touch with, what it feels like to see something come to life that you have secretly carried around inside. I stared at myself moving, as if I was outside of myself. Embracing not just the sensuality of the dance, or what it meant to me, but to actually see something else. An acceptance of my form. There was no measurement or comparison, just the woman who could have been anyone, but it was me.

This led me to the task I had set aside. My habit of cutting into pictures and words that I find along the way out of Korean magazines had grown into a stack big enough to expand my vision wall. No, not a board, but a wall to put up things that I see myself doing. I had always done this before with my writing, but now there seemed to be something more external, by actually seeing it before me...that seems to make it more tangible.

What I have seen this evolve into are places that somehow I feel I need to see with my own eyes. Some are places I have been to and others I feel like I am going to. It seems irrational, perhaps to others when you simply ask the question of what is possible within the time frame of your existence. To others, it could seem to be overwhelmingly narcissistic, arrogant, or even to the point of being lectured to. A 'good for you' attitude that can be stuffed with feelings of resentment.

There was something my mother had said about letting go of dreams that made me resist the idea with every fiber of my being, "You wake up one day and you say to yourself...that is all there is." I argued (which I am still known for), that was true for her, but it didn't have to be true for me. In a lot of ways I see how society does that to people. It tells them they can go no further and to accept their station in life. You go to work, you pay your bills and raise a family...just so they can do the same thing...contribute to the machinery of society.

So many have quested for things that will make them free. For many, freedom equates to money. When money is not enough, they quest for power over others. When that is not enough, well, perhaps they may turn to seeking other means of self actualization. That is, a huge if. If they stop worrying about themselves and their position in the world. We are a people of the more is not enough. However, I view the world as coming to terms with its consuming ways.

Do I regret the life I left behind? Do I miss it? Do I miss the people? Was this truly a quest to find myself?

Is it really just an extraordinary thing just to be happy? In these times, it might be considered to be a revolutionary art.

Whatever my reasons are...I am in love...with being alive.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Belly Dancing into my next year of life...

One week from Sunday, I will turn 43. That is fact and not fiction. I also realize that I am more fortunate than others when it comes to physical health and stamina in my age group...since the obesity epidemic has hit the West with both barrels. I have often looked at my birthdays as my New Year's Day...of what I want to do. Not that I have to wait until that day approaches on the calendar to start something new, but it is a time for me to reflect on what I haven't done yet....that I have wanted to do. That thought propelled me into a belly dancing studio.
As I was on my way to work, I happened to pause and look up...and see the unmistakable silhouette of a belly dancer that stopped me cold. All day long I waited for the day to be over with...not because it was the start of a weekend...but the start of something else. On the surface, this could be about just staying young...but isn't it really just a mindset. I do things all of the time that people say I should be able to do 'at my age'. Most of the time I find it is because other people just won't do those things for themselves.
Yes, an American in Korea, taking belly dancing an age when most have settled. I have committed to five months of lessons before I depart. The instructor doesn't speak a word of English, but I smiled. That doesn't matter. Dance is a language of the body. A universal one.
Somehow we manged to communicate all of the details to each other, concentrating on the other 70 percent of communication. I made a new friend today...who will be my teacher. If you want to look This is more potent than any plastic surgery or shot of botox. I don't care what the calendar is about doing everything you said you would.

Now, to master the dance of the seven veils.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just some the image

There is something to be said for trashing preconceived notions. We all have them, but I think I am pretty honest about mine. I have been taking my time with my explorations, because I love the contradictions of Korean culture. There is the obvious. There is the subtle. Of course, this could be said of many places...but not more than I have seen in Korea. In Seoul, which I have only briefly (and I mean a slight acquaintanceship with) touched...I am sure I might have a different feeling. But with Daegu, the most conservative city in all of Korea, I smile when I see something that just seems to totally rebel against established norms. Like the existence of piercing shops and tattoo parlours.
Of course I had to document the existence. I think, largely they are tolerated for the expat community. Rarely do you a young Korean sporting facial piercings or the exposed mid-rift. That doesn't mean that is a bad thing. It does mean, it is a hidden thing.
Like mural shows. Don't speak. Don't hear. Don't see.
Now...the above picture is for my male friends...the lovers of women. This is the trademark of a pizza place....that also delivers. I had to wonder what else they could be delivering, but I am certain that is better left unsaid.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls....

My fascination with death, is really not a fascination, but I look at how a culture buries people, I believe says a lot on how they view their heritage and their history. I had been to Bullo-Dong earlier in the year to view the mounds of earth. The absence of markers seemed to emphasize the universal truth that the trappings of life all goes away. Contrast these mounds of earth with Pere Lachaise, the famous cemetery in Paris, one of the first places I went to in see the Lizard King.
I know my fascination with Jim Morrison runs deep. It always had, as I was always drawn to a different set of musicians, even now...finding the jewels seems more difficult. Simon and Garfunkel...wrote the Sound of Silence, and somehow, whenever I hear the line "and the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls" I think of Jim Morrison...not a particularly great voice. His words and writing captured the turmoil of the age. The age of violence and searching of America. Much has been romanticized about this time, far different from the British Mod explosion that was in the UK...but America was ripping apart over drugs, the sexual revolution, equal rights, and a war that was labelled a conflict. No matter how you look at it...people were dying in front of Americans on the television during the evening news. It was a time of darkness and light. Where people clung on to hope and were hopeless.
I remember the day, walking in the past in the present...the small grave of Jim Morrison that existed despite his belief that doctors would find the cure for death in his lifetime. Perhaps it is through our recordings...our voices that keep us alive. In sound, in words, in be viewed not for the present...but for those who come after.

This weekend I had to come to terms with the completion of a work. Coming to terms with really identifying what the vision is to be, which can be at times a beautiful dance and a debate. A friend wrote to me about poets and prophets, I pondered his words...and still do. As long as poets exist, perhaps there is hope.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What are you trying to say?

Often I look at messages that people send out...and with my experience in South Korea, I just can't resist this urge to get out my virtual red pen. I have to stop and wonder if they have any idea what they are communicating to the rest of the world. The above image was snapped in a boutique area. You can feel the search for words to try to convey the drama of the designer, the grasping to be this formidable force. "He is Very Destruction". I was wondering what he was trying to destroy. If it was fashion itself...or his image. Such is the predicament of trying to tell your story in another language that is not your own. In English...wanting to appear other than he was...instead of using a simple the one I found etched on a table.
"I can..." and then you fill in the thought. Sometimes two words are just enough.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

When you get lost...just go somewhere

Do you ever wonder why we get lost sometimes? This is one of those times, where it really wasn't particularly urgent for me to be at a certain place, but I had to make a choice...give up and go home or change my plans. So just like the picture of the musician...sometimes you just have to play.
There is something to be said for the use of landmarks for directions, however when you use landmarks that coincidentally have a few of the same venues all within a block of each turns into a wild goose chase. Kind of like going to an intersection and seeing a Starbucks on each corner. Daegu is like that with their cell phone can have four of the same one not just at an intersection, but also up and down both sides of the street (just a bit of an over saturation problem).
However, as the rains kept coming down...I decided to find someplace to hole up for a bit...and perhaps listen to some music. After navigating my way through the umbrellas and construction areas without having my more practical shoes on, I spotted a place called Martini that had written above the sign...two key words...Live Music.
It was after all Saturday night, and the setting seemed to be a good one. Early enough in the evening to just relax and perhaps catch some entertainment. As I looked at the miniature piano and microphone...there was one thing distinctly missing...customers. I thought with hesitation if I should even go in...but no, immediately I was shown a chair right at the bar by the lovely and cheerful Betty who seemed pleased to practice her English.
As I settled in and gave my order we exchanged stories about our travels, life philosophies, and our observations about the Korean ways of doing things. It was honestly refreshing to hear her point of view of what it is like to be a part of the culture as a woman. She has a distinctly liberated view of how she wants her life to be.

The night was more entertaining than I could have possibly imagined. I was witnessing the real drama of this place trying to keep afloat. As a few customers filtered in and sat down, there was a small group of older (meaning my age) Koreans that ordered a bottle of Hennesey and started doing shots. I politely declined the drink when offered (Whiskey and I parted company a long time ago) and returned to the writing I was working on.

Betty came by and expressed curiosity over what I was working on and I happily showed her and she began to haltingly read the work. Somehow, it was at that moment where I no longer felt I would be lost in translation. So I offered to compose something for her, but she would have to give me the word.

The word she chose was emptiness...and the words flowed...
The Wholeness of Emptiness

The empty glass sits before me
the ice is gone
the alcohol consumed
pouring through me
the emptiness of you.

You were to be
something more than
you are.

An illusion that I dreamed
That you could complete me.
The reality that I had to see
The wholeness of the
emptiness of me
in your eyes
that no longer see.
And at the bottom I inscribed, "For Betty at the Martini Bar - 7.10.2009"

It was just a moment in time where you just play and you give what you can along the way. If you can, drop by the Martini Bar, and see Jasmine (Betty decided to change her English name) and Lee Hee Soo. And if you can play a bit on the piano...that would be just damn swell.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Road To India in Daegu

In downtown Deagu, I have really wanted to find a lot more of the unexpected...and there is a lot of choice here when it comes to food. Since I usually eat Korean food all during the week (yes a self-proclaimed Kimchi addict).I like to see if I can find something different. Oh, I am saving French cuisine for later. This time I wanted to see how Koreans served up Indian cuisine....and I found the road to India... This small marker near the foot of the stairs marked the road to India. I could smell the curry wafting down the stairs. However what I like about this little, unpretentious marker...was exactly what I was looking 'as is' appearance, humble, and hand painted.

The images of oil lamps, and eastern beauty made me smile. There was no conforming to a world view of beauty. Self contained feeling, just being as they are. What I loved about the art was it seemed not only sensual, mildly aggressive (as a display of defense), but also the feel of love for the female form. As much as I have studied the east (and hope for more stabilization within those countries), I find it as conflicted as the Korean culture is. Where the works of that Kama Sutra originated from and the origin of Tantra techniques, the human body is both celebrated and shrouded in a type of religious suppression. A shame in my opinion.
Despite the cracked paint, I smiled as I looked on this almost nymph like beauty going up the stairwell.
The interior was a mix of seating...private draped booths or couched seating with Hindi music in the background. You could meditate and eat at the same time. The menus were in Korean and English, with the wait staff having sufficient command of the English language. For those of you looking for some vegetarian options, they have well as one of the best tea selections I have seen outside of a coffee shop.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Blue Angel...for the love of art

Within moments of stepping out of the taxi, I read the words I have wondered about my whole life. These words caught my eye, perhaps because a dear friend of mine often spoke of how art is life to him....flowing through his veins. The maybe is a disclaimer perhaps, but every time I walked past this little art store it had been closed, that was until this past Sunday and I think I practically ripped the door off its hinges.
Blue Angel is not a gallery, but a small store with stacks of canvas that are painted by artists in the area. Some of the art incorporates a functional nature to it, such as their clocks, but mostly, the venue is packed with commercial pop art.
The one thing I did notice was the work seemed to be a blend of social humor....and still life. There was no real interview as we tried our best to communicate with each other, each smiling acknowledging each other as I navigated my way through the rich smell of canvas and paint.
This is the owner, Jay Kim. Who allowed me to snap a couple of quick pictures, and I think I mildly amused him with my enthusiasm. If you happen to be in Daegu...go to Blue is worth peeking through the stacks.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Taste of Happiness

You never know what you will find looking out a window. As I was at work, I saw something I never noticed before. A floor above me, on a rooftop, there it was...a sign of life....I strained to see what I could, and realized...I just had to find a way to get to the top floor.
So last weekend I went to seek out this place, and found the sign that showed me the way. What had tortured me was the wafting smell of this Bar-B-Que....perfect for the days of summer. I rarely eat meat of any kind, but this...was absolutely enticing.
The chicken...had the best blend of spice (ok, my friends who know me...this means hot), came served sizzling...the most perfect chicken I have had. Not breaded or deep fried...roasted in a huge (by Korean standards) oven. I sat early patron...service for one...pleasantly allowed to photograph my discovery to my heart's content. The owner was delighted at how I just simply seemed to be like a child who has been given the keys to their own candy store...and I roamed and appreciated everything they had done with this venue.
They managed to create an oasis on the rooftop...that held for me just an overwhelming state of calm. Here in Chilgok...I just simply enjoyed every moment and every matter how small.
I saw these masks...thinking how odd that they would be placed here. As I went out the door I had to turn back...and capture them...a throw back to when I performed as a youth. But, we all do play our roles in life...the ever changing stage. Yes, you can have a taste of happiness.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Independence on Dongcheon 4(sa)ro

It's the first day of July on the corner of Dongcheon 4(sa)ro. A corner that I walked by every day, until one day...a little store opened with a major brand name...but they provided a cafe type setting that was just enough for my imagination. To envision it as someplace else, somewhere else...enough of the props for me to absorb the scenery and to record the passers by.
Being a foreigner in the east, is like being given Cart Blanche, to be without restraint for social conventions. In this place, where I thought I really had accepted myself for who I was, I came to find out that I had not. My own self deception came flying back to me. How is this possible? When you are faced with the fact that I had to come to a place where I had no desire to fit in, to assimilate to their made me realize the shallow nature of my own culture. I cannot look like them, I cannot dress the way they do (or I can, but really I don't like their fashion), and the reality is it made me embrace my individuality even more.

This concept of what is beauty as defined by a western mindset...seems distorted. All of this self loathing that is a global disease. The size of an eye lid, the shape of a mouth, to whatever body part you choose to hate this week...keeps the cosmetic industry in business. I am not saying let yourself go to hell...but love the foundation pieces you have been given. We all seem to want to look like someone other than who we older...instead of just being.

Ah, that state of mind known as being content....realizing that for every feature of my body I have a story for it...and embrace what makes my unique. Ah...that leads me to Mindy...this little girl bearing a flag of Independence...and my increased self knowledge.
The one thing that never ceases to amaze me (and I don't think it will ever stop amazing me) is how through that reserved facade people stop, stare, and if they are really bold they will have conversations of simple greetings with me. This girl, who greeted me, "Hello my name is Mindy...I am fine are you?" And for some reason I didn't even think about the significance of the shirt...or the approaching Independence day...but still took it as a sign of welcome...acknowledgement to an American, who was sitting and recording the moment.

As moments do happen...suddenly and without a sound at times, but the important thing to recall about them is you choose whether or not they are of any significance to you.