Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You saw Mommy doing what now?

Saturday night was Santacon Seoul, the local iteration of a worldwide event involving cheap Santa suits, songbooks full of irreverent-to-filthy carols, and copious amounts of liquid refreshment. In mid-afternoon, Zach, Chris, and I headed to Costco for candy (a shared bag of 300 chocolate coins for Zach and me, sixty bucks worth of Tootsie Pops and candy canes for Chris) and took a long, sardined bus and subway trip to the plaza by City Hall and the US embassy. Chris and Zach, being bolder/braver/crazier than I, pulled their Santa suits on right outside Costco and rode the whole way there passing out candy to... well, mostly to attractive girls.

Fortunately, it was unseasonably warm, unlike the conditions right now, when the wind chill is 7 Fahrenheit. (Pop quiz: think of an adverb and an adjective that begin with the letters "f-r-i-g".) But, as I say, on Saturday is was pretty balmy, just like us.

We met Tony, in his Santa suit, and his Korean girlfriend Olivia, very fetching in Santa hat and jacket, I struggled into my outfit, and we put on our beards and went to work. In the plaza, there's a big, brand-new statue of King Sejong the Great and, way behind it, an enormous ramp had been set up for a huge snowboarding competition. We had decided to start our Santacon several hours early, hoping to see some of the hotdogging action, but we never got near it.

The second we started ho-ho-hoing and passing out candy, we were mobbed. Kids' faces lit up, dads by the dozen asked us to pose for pictures with their kids, children (and a lot of grownups) eagerly reached for chocolates... have you ever tossed a few crumbs to a pigeon or a scrap to a seagull? You don't have one bird for long. I felt like Robert Pattinson at a Twilight convention.

Oh, it was terrific; the excitement on little kids' faces made my Yuletide bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow shouted out with glee... um. I'll start over.

It was so perfectly Christmas.

Zach's and my chocolate coins were gone in five minutes, but we still had people asking for photos and saying "Merry Christmas!" and smiling at the crazy Americans. After awhile, we retreated to a restaurant for a beer and some taters, then we caught cabs to Hongdae, the neighborhood by Hongik University.

Hongdae is every collegetown bar/restaurant/bar/shop/bar/coffeehouse/bar area you've ever seen, rolled into one. Santacon started at 7:00, at one of the three bars in the same building, called Ho Bar 1, Ho Bar 2, and Ho Bar 3. This event was at number three. That's right... the Ho Ho Ho Bar.

Yes, there's one guy in a banana suit. Just go with it.

We were among the first there, but Santas just kept thronging through the door. It quickly got packed, loud (deafening dance music) and smoky.

This is me at the Ho Bar. It was posted by someone else on Facebook and I can't seem to enlarge it, so you might not notice that the beer bottle's full of water. A regular Billy Bob Bad Santa, that's me.

It was kinda cool to see 200 Santas in a little bar, but after awhile the novelty wore off and it was just a packed, loud, smoky, red bar. Not my thing, really, though Chris and I did have a friendly darts game (he destroyed me, then was destroyed  in turn by a vivacious new Aussie friend named Kat...) 

I stuck around long enough to take part in the procession to the next bar. That was nearly as much fun as our afternoon adventure, 200 Santas parading along singing "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to the astonished smiles of the local college kids. The next gathering place was a more upscale restaurant/bar where perfectly nice Korean couples who'd come out for a quiet dinner were suddenly surrounded, like Moses, by a red sea. A loud, singing red sea. And, night owl that I am, 9:30 seemed about the right time for me to head home.

I took off the Santa suit, rolled it up inside its own belt, and caught the subway back. (Young woman on the platform, noticing the outfit I was carrying: "Part-time job?") Horrible, horrible trip home, seventeen stops, so crowded that for much of the way I had four strangers up against me. They were touching me at my northeast, southeast, southwest, and, I believe, west-by-northwest compass points. I hate being pressed up against strangers. When I got back to Gangnam Station, I was so tired and my knee so sore I just couldn't face another bus ride and I took a cab all the way home.

I found out later that, in addition to the raunchy songs and general debauchery that comes later in the evening, I'd missed a big fight involving two soused Santas and a special guest appearance by the police. Maybe Santa wears a red suit so the blood won't show.

Anyway, it was an enormous hassle to get there and back and the bar scene was no thrill, but the moments of Santaing, singing, hohoing, and giving candy to kids made it more than worthwhile.

Merry Christmas.

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