Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buddha, birthdays, bracelets, baseball



(This Buddha had the jewel in his forehead stolen sometime in the last TWELVE HUNDRED YEARS; the tiger's getting impatient, but they're not quite ready for the birthday party yet...)
Through a series of day-off swaps arranged at Heeduk's request and the big holiday this weekend ("It's Buddha's birthday, it's Buddha's birthday, and we would like to wish him all the very best..."), I ended up with yesterday (Tuesday), tomorrow (Thursday), either next Monday or Tuesday (not sure which yet) and next Thursday off. To tell the truth, working Saturdays, which all my non-LIKE friends have off, and Sundays, when absolutely everybody but me has the day off, is a pain. There's not a lot to do on the days I have off, when nobody I know is free. So I look for activities that will get me out of the apartment. I'm very fond of my furboys, but they're lousy conversationalists.

So yesterday, I went for a run outside! (I've always hated running on a treadmill, but that's where I do almost all my running now because it doesn't pound my knees.) Then I set of for Donghwasa Temple on Mt. Palgongsan.

I have become very fond of my wooden bead bracelet. It's actually a Buddhist prayer bracelet, it even has a little golden Buddha inside the capsule-shaped piece that comes apart to stretch the bracelet, but it isn't that for me. (Hey, if Madonna can shake her exoskeleton half-naked wearing a crucifix...) For me, it's a reminder of the serenity I feel when I'm out of Palgongsan, with the flowing water and the birdsong, and it helps me stay centered.

Anyway, I lost the bracelet on Monday, somehow. The fact that I lost it didn't upset me terribly, which is so unlike my old self. But I did determine to get another one, which involved a 20-minute bus ride downtown, a 40-minute ride to the mountain, and a steep 15-minute climb to the temple. That was worth it in itself for the quiet on the mountain. The bracelets themselves cost five bucks, so I bought a reserve too. By the way, it occurs to me that it might be a tad ironic that one of the things I've learned from Buddhism is a detachment from physical things, so I ran right out and got another bracelet... to quote good old Walt Whitman, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself." I've found that quote useful in innumerable ways. By the way, I'm sure that everyone's come to expect a parenthetical aside in every paragraph I write. (Here it is.)

I took the bus back to town and headed over to the ballpark. My first attempt to go to a game this year was not totally inerrant, as the game was in the sixth inning when we got there; this past Sunday, I showed up at 1:10 for an allegedly two o'clock start, entered a six-block-long ticket line that moved thirty feet in thirty minutes and gave up; the game was at five o'clock, at that! I don't get it.

So this time I got there at 5:15 for a 6:30 start, and it turned out I could have waltzed in at the time of the first pitch and picked any of 5,000 seats. The weather had been beautiful when I was at Palgongsan, but as the evening came, it got cool, windy, and intermittantly precipitatious.

So I sat and shivered a little in the sporadic rainage and watched three and a half hours' worth of sloooow baseball. The visiting team has the pathetic name of Heroes, and they're the only team in the league without a corporate identity. Perhaps depressed by this turn of events, their pitchers walked nine Samsung Lions and I swear to the ghost of Abner Doubleday they went to a full count on every single batter and threw over to first six times every time a runner got on. I was, however, filled with pride for the Lions (get it?! Gosh, I'm funny) when they won, 4-1.

I decided to sit in the midst of the rabid cheering section that is at every game, with the guy in the Lions uniform blowing his whistle, chatting up the crowd (that probably would have been more entertaining had I understood a single word), and leading cheers incessantly, the dancers, the guy beating the big Korean drum, and the fans constantly cheering, singing, chanting, and beating those inflated sticks together. Might as well get the full experience.

I realize that I just posted a couple of days ago about the status of women as shown by the dancers outside the stores, and it might seem a little hypocritical that I don't have a problem with the ones at the game. Do I contradict myself? Very well... ah, never mind. I do think that there's a difference between entertaining, and seeming to have a good time, when you're part of the attraction at a family event and endlessly gyrating in front of an eyewear store while nobody pays you the least attention. Maybe it's not a moral difference, but the dignity level somehow is higher. (And the little girls who got up that one time? Very cute.

By the way, I don't care if they fit Korean words to "Na na na na na na na na... hey, hey, goodbye" or Swanee River or Do Wah Diddy, but they could damn well leave This Land is Your Land alone.

After the crowd had performed each of those songs about eight times each, I decided that I preferred the American style of fandom, where you go, have a relaxed good time, talk to your neighbor, and actually pay attention to the game.

Does that make me a cultural imperialist? Very well, then...

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