from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #35: Recognition, It’s Not Just Me

with 2 comments

My vacation started yesterday. I finished work in the morning, went straight home and got back into bed. The benefit of having a “semi-basement” apartment is the blessed darkness. If I choose, I can be oblivious to the sun’s comings and goings. I choose to be oblivious.

With nothing but time, nothing to do and no money to do it, I was lying in the dark, half-heartedly wondering how I was going to spend my vacation when I heard the telltale low D-A-high D* from my phone.

I dug out my phone from the depths of my blanket and swiped it on. Nobody contacts me during the day but my eternal optimism, born of boredom, makes me a slave to my phone.

안녕하세요. 엔제리너스 *
**점입니다!! VIP제품교환
권이 도착했으니 수령해주
세요.

It was from the coffee shop, a message telling me to pick up my coffee vouchers as a VIP. There were hearts at the end of the message; I’d like to think that they were a result of me being a VIP as well. I’m a lazy-ass, dead-broke English whore and yet there are still places where I’m considered a very important person.

While I often get criticized by friends and co-workers for my hermit tendencies, this is the benefit of frequenting places you know where people know you. Once you establish yourself as a regular, you get taken care of. At the coffee shop, it’s not much—maybe an upgrade on my Americano, not having to wait my turn, an occasional bread bun, random promotional items. At the jazz bar, it’s a little more worth it—alcohol. Beer, hard liquor, cocktails for free or at a ridiculously discounted price. The poor man’s discount, I guess. The price of alcohol in Korea is outrageous, but I often leave the bar in good spirits with good spirits burning in my veins.**

For most people, the amount and nature of contact involved is not enough to fill that human need for intimacy. It’s only a smile, a hearty hello, and material gain but for someone like me who’s constantly poor and has intimacy issues, it’s all I need. It’s an unequal relationship, patron and customer. In some sense, they’re getting paid to be nice to you (customer service). But what is friendship but an unequal relationship with a purpose? (I know it’s a callous way of looking at such a wholesome concept. I’m a callous bastard. I’ll leave it at that for now.)

I’m on vacation and here I am in the coffee shop, writing, when coffee is a luxury for the penniless. As I write, I raise my cup in appreciation to the baristas who make it possible. Now all I need is to figure out how to get cigarettes for free.

* I don’t have perfect pitch so this is just a guess.

** I’ve used this expression before but, hell, there’s a severe limit to my creativity. Besides, I just like the expression. When asked how drunk they are, the Koreans often respond that they are drunk to a point where they feel good. It’s the apex of drunkenness that precedes the downhill which entails drunk holding hands or arguing or paying for sex.

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2 Responses

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  1. When do you get paid? We should drink soon. Drinking unleashes creative juices.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

    • Payday is this Saturday so maybe this Friday or next Monday. While drinking is conducive to my personal happiness, I don’t know if there is a connection with writing for me. It does unleash acidic, half-digested juices for me.

      holdenbeck

      June 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm


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