Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Naengmyong, maekju, and 10,974 days down the drain

You know that invisible sign I have over my head that reads, "Hasn't been drunk in _____ days"? Yeah, well, reset it... from 10,974 to 4. I had said for thirty years that I hadn't been drunk since my friend George's and my bachelor party... oh, chill, we weren't marrying each other... on May 12, 1979. I guess once every thirty years is okay... isn't it?

On Friday after work, my new friends and colleagues Tony, Chris, Zach, and Lauren (as ordered in the photo below) and I took the bus over to Bundang, the area where the school used to be, and drank and ate. And drank. And drank. And drank. And I could keep going, but I don't want my laptop to run out of pixels. There were gallons of maekju (beer) and shots of soju (aviation fuel mixed with sugar) and baeksaeju (like soju, but gold-colored and with some actual flavor). And there was a lot of food, some of it identifiable, and more laughs (I think I told every off-color joke I've heard since I first understood what the terms in the jokes were talking about-- that would be 1985 or so), and just so much fun. I completely blew away my self-imposed temperance rules and we all had a wonderful time.

The meat issue aside, as I've written before, this is a wonderful way to share a meal. Ninety percent of the food is just out there on the table, communally available, you cook your own food right in front of you (pork and sprouts and hot peppers and onions and cloves of garlic), nobody pours his or her own drinks and nobody's glass goes empty for long. We each had a wonderful little dish of onions soaked in a piquant wasabi juice, and Tony was kind enough to order for me, the veghead, some scrambled-egg soup and something that sounds atrocious but is delicious, naengmyong: ice noodles. Frankly, I thought I'd taken a picture of it for you but apparently my concentration wavered for some reason, as I don't have one. It's a huge bowl with kind of rubbery, thin, greenish-gray noodles, a hardboiled egg, some miscellaneous beanish things, and a lot of ice cubes. Disgusting, right? Actually, against all odds, it's wonderful.

Finally, we were ready to move on and against all odds I managed to stand up. I suggested we all go to a noraebang, a private karaoke parlor, and we had a great hour, fortified with another libation or four, sitting under the little disco ball and belting out Jump and It's My Life and Panama and Born to Run and Sir Duke and, well, the first few bars of I Believe I Can Fly, until I gently remonstrated with Zach for mellowing my harsh, upon which he saw the error of his ways.

Well, by the end of our hour there we were all pretty much quarter past drunk and I was ready to head home, but I had no idea how to get there, and a couple of the guys wanted to go to this other bar where there were pool boards and dart tables... I may have gotten that mixed up, I was pretty far gone... and after that somebody or other had the bright idea of having a pitcher of beer at some seafood restaurant where Tony ordered me a big bowl of watermelon balls and tomato slices floating in skim milk and ice. I'm not kidding. But by this time, for the first time in my life, I was actually full. of. beer. Couldn't take another sip.

We had started at 5:00 and it was 2:15 when finally Tony headed back home and the rest of us oozed into a cab for the long ride home, while Chris and Lauren conked out in the back seat. I'd never before actually watched any of my colleagues sleep together; is Penthouse Forum still in business?

At any rate, I'd had more booze than I usually ingest in five years, but my stopping drinking at the seafood restaurant, the long ride home, and my natural resistance to all kinds of moral turpitude allowed me to go to bed nearly sober and wake up without a hangover. The Age of Miracles is not over.

...by my count I need to not get drunk again until February, 2040 in order to beat my old record.

On Saturday afternoon, Zach, Tony, Chris and I went to a expat pub/restaurant, Gecko's, in Itaewon, the notorious foreign bed of iniquity. The place was flowing with buzz-cut young American soldiers and testosterone, but I was temporarily in gastronomic heaven to find that they had veggie burgers on the menu! I say "temporarily" because the burger turned out to be one of those beige monstrosities with grains freckling its surface, not a nice juicy fake hamburger as God intended. But it came with lettuce, tomato, onion, and ketchup, so it'll do.

I also had one beer. One. Then I headed back home via subway while the guys went out for more liquid refreshment.
For Sunday, I'd asked around about who wanted to go to the ballgame between the two teams that share Jamsil Stadium, the Doosan Bears (huzzah!) and the LG Twins (meh.) Tony, Nikki, and Chris said sure, they'd go, but didn't. Lauren said she'd love to but couldn't, but did.

It was her first time at a Korean game, and it's fun to go with a newbie. I've posted quite often about the spectacle of Korean games, so I won't, but a KBO virgin is always wide-eyed and grinning,.at the noise, the enthusiasm, the sheer energy of the crowd.
I will say, though, that the games at Jamsil, which is so much bigger and louder than the ballpark in Daegu, are exhausting. KBO games tend to run really long, with a lot of time between pitches and a lot of full counts, and it isn't the 25,000 people constantly chanting and singing and thwapping thundersticks that wears you down, it's the little kid right behind you. We left in the fifth inning, with our newly beloved Bears up 5-0; We taxied home, I stopped at E-Mart, went back to school for a half hour, walked home, and the game was still on; I got home just in time to see the Twins win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Four and a quarter hours for a nine-inning game.

I had a Coke.

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