from the Korean Army to being published

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

Random #51: Back in Korea

with 6 comments

I hurried out of the baggage claim, past the sea of faces full of longing for other people, dodging and weaving through people trawling their carriers behind them, and stepped out the airport doors. I promptly dug into my pocket and pulled out a cigarette and lit up. Breathe in, breathe out.

I’d been looking forward to being back in Korea but I knew that it would be depressing. The sky above the airport in Honolulu had been a clearest blue; the sky above Incheon International was gray and dreary. I’m checking my messages on my phone when a young couple walks up and stops in front of me, inches from my face despite the excess of unoccupied space all around me. Welcome back to Korea, where the concept of personal space doesn’t exist.

As depressing as I knew my return would be, I realized in Hawaii that Korea is where I belong, at least for the time being. The reason is how I felt while in Hawaii and also how I spent the weekend I got back. I got home from the airport, washed up, and headed out to drink, returning home at a reasonable five in the morning. The next night, we drank until past seven. When we came out of the bar in Hongdae, the morning had dawned and yet the streets were still full of people at play. In America, I feel like a degenerate. Here, in Korea, I just feel like anyone else.

Not that I didn’t drink while in Honolulu. I’ve never had so much Coors Light in my life. I’ve never had Coors Light before but it was a lot. The nights usually ended early, around midnight, even when out downtown. The bars were usually mostly empty except for the Finals and an occasional birthday party. We’d head back to the house and drink for the last couple hours at home. I’d wake up around noon and have breakfast and a beer or glass of whisky before heading out to the beach. On the streets, there were no piles of vomit, only fresh-faced kids jogging or riding bikes or heading to the park. The only source of smoke to pollute the pristine sky was my own.

When we went to the beach park for a barbecue on my third night in town, I cracked open a beer and was about to take a sip when Sang stopped me and handed me a plastic cup. “Pour it in here. You’re not supposed to drink here.” Of course, I knew that drinking in public wasn’t allowed but it was a barbecue and what is a barbecue without beer? I felt like I was just a step above holding my beer in a crumpled brown paper bag.

On my second night back before heading to Hongdae, Mark and Hole and I met up at a park on the Han River to pre-funk. We spread out a mat and drank pitchers of beer in the open and despite the hour, the many dark silhouettes of other drunkards surrounded us. Welcome back, they seemed to say with their raucous laughter and drunken antics.

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6 Responses

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  1. Holden Beck = Charles Bukowski…?

    • Charles Bukowski happens to be perhaps my favorite author. I first read Factotum in the Army and I could relate to the drudgery of life and wanting to drown my sorrows at the bottom of a bottle. Too bad alcohol and women were unavailable to me back then. Now it’s just women that’re unavailable to me…

      holdenbeck

      July 12, 2012 at 11:15 pm

  2. But your tattoos belong here. Bareun saenghwal, fueled by Taco Bell.

    • That’s the thing, I ‘d like to think I live a bareun saenghwal. It’s just easier to convince myself of that when I’m here in Korea with the other drunks.

      I do wish I had discovered the Taco Bell near your place much sooner. I miss Chalupas dearly. And you guys, too. Ha.

      holdenbeck

      July 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      • If I could drink without a drastic drop in my productivity/health, I totally would tipple more regularly. It makes me a kinder, better person.

        We still have an extra room til mid-August…

      • You are definitely a kind and good drunk, which I believe says a lot about your true self. If only alcohol was conducive to productivity and health. Life would be perfect.

        I wish I could afford another trip to Hawaii but the stars related to my finances only aligned for that trip. At least for this year. I’ll just have to depend on Hole and possibly GK to keep my place warm at Little Seoul.

        holdenbeck

        July 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm


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