“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut
I just want to make sure everyone knows the title is a reference to Kenny Loggins. A belated Merry Christmas to you all. I hope all my adoring fans and disgruntled foes had a wonderful holiday. I spent Christmas this year in Seoul, which, let me say, is by far one of the coolest cities I have ever been to. Of course there were inevitably a range of Seoul puns that were made–all horrible–some of which include: Satisfy my Seoul, Han Seoul-o, Seoul-d to the man in the scarf, give me the beat boys and free my Seoul, and a surreptitious tribute to Seoulange Knowles, which I refrained from sharing with my fellow travelers but now must confess lest I burst from repression. We stayed near the Hongdae District, not far from Hongik University in the Ed House hostel, a place that I highly recommend to anyone going to visit to Seoul given the location and fun, knowledgeable staff that work there. Having arrived on Christmas Eve, we thought maybe we would take it easy. It wasn’t that the flight was long or we were overly tired, but maybe out of pure custom we decided it would be better to practice some restraint. Well, spoiler alert, we didn’t. We hit the large street near the University lined with bars and restaurants containing foods we have been craving for months. Christmas eve dinner was pizza and a local beer sampler, which left me feeling like I was in New York; but no, folks, stay with me–Seoul. After that we decided to hit a pub called the Irish Baby Guinness, and I don’t think it is necessary to explain why we were compelled to enter. The bar was great. Guinness was on tap and the look on our Irish friend’s face when he saw an eccentric entertainer walk into the bar wearing a Guinness suit encapsulated in itself all the magic of Christmas. We eventually pulled ourselves away and were met at the hostel by some great folks who wanted to keep it going. It was an excellent Christmas Eve that had only a mildly crippling effect on Christmas morning.
Over the next few days we saw some of Korea’s both beautiful and tragic historical sights, and met up with some great friends who took us to lunch at a traditional Korean Market. There we tried new foods and drank Makkgeoli, a sort of rice wine that our new buddy Gil displayed should be consumed in one gulp.
A highlight of the trip was our tour of the demilitarized zone just below the border of North Korea. Our guide–who insisted upon being called Handsome Kim and was far too hilarious a person to be conducting a tour of the division between South and North Korea– provided us with some history of the North-South conflict, and painted a really good picture of the many infrastructural precautions each side has taken in anticipation of potential military dispute. For example, bridges that can be detonated to block invading tanks and miles of barbed wire and guard towers keeping watch of one another. It took some time to get to the actual DMZ, but once we did the atmosphere was tense and things were very regimented. We were able to enter the North-South negotiation room where we were granted access to cross the line into North Korea.
Later that night we met up with friends for dinner and an experience in the Gangnam District. We had traditional Korean Barbecue, Soju and Makkgeoli, and toasts ranging from Kampai and Geonbae to Sláinte and Santé, I even tossed in the old English cheers a time or two. Composure was compromised. Dancing resulted. A cab was taken from a destination back to its original point of origin (transportation is unbelievably cheap in Korea, by the way). Seafood that would be questioned under normal circumstances was consumed without reservation. And in the exalted words of Forest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.
This was a very different Christmas, but a memorable one with great people in a fantastic city. I missed my friends and family, especially since I am so accustomed to spending time with them during the holidays, but I’m looking forward to many holidays to come with the people I love.
Okay, dance update:
Earlier this month I found out that Japan had a no dance act. I asked myself if I was in Japan or in the tiny town portrayed in Footloose. If so, call me Kevin Bacon, because in an act of defiance I danced all night, pulling out every move I know and then of course recycling them over and over because I only know about three moves. By the end of the night the No Dance Act was repealed and I’m confident will be replaced with the Please Dance Act.
The holidays are a time that we are grateful for the people we love and things that we have. It’s a crazy time to be alive, so might as well chase the craziest of dreams, babe. I just want to say I’m thankful for my support system of amazing friends and family across the world who inspire and guide me everyday. If that didn’t make you cry, then I’m removing you from the list.
よいお年をお迎え下さい! Happy New Year!