Saturday, September 25, 2010

We've Gotta Stop Meeting Like This

It is 9:37 AM.

This is strange.

Well, actually, any time I sleep past 8 o'clock these days is strange. I am lying on my left side, watching the red digital numbers blink for seven minutes. There is a truly ugly lamp in my field of vision, as well as a half-eaten bag of potato chips and a small mountain of clothes that smell like cigarettes.

As I roll over, I remember how sore I am. And when I spot the fully-dressed, fully-comatose forms of Kris and Gustie I remember where I am. And then I realize I'm also in all of my clothes from the night before. Ugh.

The shower pressure sucks. I'm not confident I even got the first layer of sweat and smoke off of my shoulders. The mirror is completely fogged up, which is fine, because I'm sure I look like hell anyway.

This is going to be a long day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Chuseok is ending, and we're in denial. A night of rowdiness is in order, and Gangnam is where it's going to happen. It just happens to be the birthday of our new friend Kris, and we are more than happy to celebrate.

Gustie and I got the last two tickets on the 2 o'clock bus out of Icheon. That was the good news. The bad news was that the seats on the last row of the bus are horrible. There are armrests in inexplicable places, it is impossible to get comfortable, the afternoon sun is just a little too bright and the road construction is not helping the migraine that is slowly building behind my right eye socket.

But we get there.

Met up with Angie after some tribulation, hopped into a cab, and fifteen minutes later pulled up to the Tiffany Tourist Hotel. The front desk guy spoke pretty decent English, but probably not enough to make up to the fact that the lobby smelled like mildew and our room key weighed about a pound.

Sixth floor, room 601, looks like something out of a tawdry mid-century French sex novel, but at least there's two beds and one's a queen. Change of clothes, re-applied eyeliner and we're out of there. It's nothing much, but at least our sober selves thought ahead this time.

We meet up with the rest of the merry travelers off of Exit 5 at Gangnam Station and then set out to find some Turkish restaurant that was rumored to be in the area. Either this was a lie or our navigational skills leave something to be desired, because none of us had any Turkish food that evening.

But, then... shining, like a beacon in the night... a Mexican restaurant. Literally called "the Tacos". Yes, please. And twice.

(And yes, we ordered both the lemon and the lime margarita pitchers.)

After tearing into some chicken quesadillas and getting to know one another a little better, we began our little pub crawl. What's difficult about this is that we just ate, but Korea (being Korea) is sort of strange. There are a lot of bars here that will kind of force you to buy "anju" (or bar snacks) with your drinks, as kind of a profit-insurance, not-really-a-cover-charge-but-kind-of-is situation. So we actually had to go to a few different bars before finding some that weren't going to force us to squeeze a layer of Korean anju on top of the Mexican food-babies we were already carrying.

The first bar was pretty cool- very dark, long tables, gigantic big-screen TVs showing some Korean women's basketball. (They were playing Brazil.) I couldn't really say for sure all of the beverages consumed at Stop #1, but I do recall a ladies' round of neon-green appletinis that were incredibly sweet. Some beer, some Long Island Ice Tea, some other stuff... right before we left, the guys bought Kris a drink with a very dirty name. I shan't repeat it here, but it was lit on fire and that was exciting.

And then it was onward and upward. Problem was, 'upward' led us to a very strange bar. The place had plum-colored, crushed velvet-lined booths, with sparkling threads of beads that hung around every table, slightly obscuring the view of the (probably) dirty things that would transpire in (on?) them. We all sat, giggling uncomfortably, for about five minutes before we bolted.
We don't need any of that.

Finally. Another normal bar. And normalcy means the most gigantic, ridiculous pitchers of Miller I've ever seen. As well as at least two bottles of soju. I vaguely remember the sign on this place saying it was a "classy soju bar", but we were downing cheap beers like champs and the booths were held together with duct tape, so there you have it. My end of the table played a few rousing rounds of "Never Have I Ever". I won't name names, but someone's been arrested, and someone's had sex in an elevator. Scandalous.

By this point, we are definitely in the soju happy place, and we wanna dance. Gangnam was very accomodating. We troll over to this underground club called "Harlem" (all of the truly interesting stuff happens underground these days) and descend the black staircase into the middle of a club that looks like what I assume an acid trip feels like.

Let me try to set this up: when you enter the club, there is this gigantic, circular bar, that is fully lighted and changes color every two seconds. To the right is the dance area, with different areas of raised platforms. With poles. There's a live DJ somewhere, but I only saw him once, because this place has smoke billowing, and strobe lights flashing and more Korean club kids than you can shake a glowstick at.

We. Were. Psyched.

As per usual, the details all get sort of hazy after one has entered the Korean dance club. It's like a portal into the Twilight Zone. I remember meeting a lot of guys that were American military... some from Georgia, some from Texas, Louisiana, probably some other places. The bartender was from Omaha. I think.

At one point, an American guy named Fred introduced me to a nice, young Korean fellow named Leo. We danced for approximately four or five hours. In that time, I think I comprehended about four of his attempted English sentences, but he was a sweetheart.

As the night wore on, I was exhausted, bathed in sweat, and feeling every step of the mountain hike that Gustie and I had taken the day before. Thank God I was wearing boots, and not the prevalent four-inch stilettos. Sometime around 5 AM, half of the group left in pursuit of food, and Kris, Angie, Gustie and I held out for about another half an hour before it was time to call it a night.

Begin what was probably one of the funniest cab rides of my life that I remember none of.

And then one of the worst hangovers of my year which I remember all of.

Oh, Korea.

We've gotta stop meeting like this.

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