Saturday, March 3, 2012

Today and the rest of my life

I just got back home and I want to get this down before the feeling fades.

I feel so alive, you guys. It's spring again today, temps in the mid-fifties, and sunny. I'm not fooling myself; I'm sure we'll have more cold and nasty stuff before the real spring, the one with the cherry blossoms, arrives. But right now it's gorgeous.

The hash this morning was a lot of fun, though it criss-crossed some earlier chalk marks and everybody got lost and either (raising hand sheepishly) faked the way back to the start or insisted on going back and finding the real trail and running the whole thing, which entailed... well, let's say it was a longer way than to Tipperary. But it was beautiful, good company, gorgeous weather, a lot of fun.

My plan, as I posted here, was to go on down to Songtan for the Osan Bulgogi hash, but we waited so long for our Yongsan Kimchi after-run circle to start, and it went on so long, that we clearly weren't going to make it down for the actual run. A bunch of us took two cabs to Nambu Bus Terminal, which is most of the way back from the YK location to my place, and when we got there, I decided I just couldn't justify the time and money investment to go all the way to Songtan. There would be a couple of hours of revelry that I'd have to leave early anyway to get home at a halfway-reasonable hour.

So, I said my excuse-mes and decided to walk the two miles home. The most direct way was up. I still had a lot of energy and decided I was going to go over, not around, the hountain.

***ATTENTION PLEASE: the big bumps in the ground here are called san, mountain, but most of them aren't any bigger then East, South, or West Hill in Ithaca. Too big to be a hill, too small for a mountain: hereafter, the proprietor of this blog is calling them hountains.***

Well, this one was a big hountain. My GPS watch pointed the way and when I got high enough I could see the LG Electronics building, the Hyundai and Kia headquarters, and the Hi-Brand (E-Mart) building that define my neighborhood. A hard climb, but I've had worse... but then... but then.

A directional sign pointed the way up to "SUBANG TOWER 500 M". I thought, hey, a quarter mile to a tower I've never heard of, only a bit over a mile from my place? This I gotta see! So after about 300 meters of uphill struggle, I found another sign, pointing to the right, "SUBANG TOWER 400 M". And then, 300 meters later (and higher) "SUBANG TOWER 300 M".

And finally I got to Subang Tower, which was not, as you might think, a tower. It was this:

I'm not quite sure what its purpose is, though often Koreans build cairns as memorials. I saw a couple of people walk around the pile, clockwise, methodically, so it may be a meditation aid or have spiritual significance.

I'm not sure how high Subang Tower is, but it's higher than the 70-story apartment building next to the Yangjae Cheon. So there was a view:
The green Frisbee-roof in the foreground is the Seoul Arts Center; I could also make out the Marriott Hotel, which is across the street from St. Mary's Hospital, the Han and a couple of bridges across it, and way off to the north, Namsan and Seoul Tower (which, contrary to what you have been led to expect, is a tower.)

And that's part of what made me feel so alive: the sense that this enormous city is mine. I've walked so much and run so much of it and ridden the trains under the places in between, it belongs to me now. We hashed through the wine festival, and the school saw Wyeths and Warhols, at the Arts Center; I visited the Buddhist temple just above it; I get my meds at St. Mary's; I've walked and run over the Han; and I've hashed many times and hiked once, on our first date, with Kyung, on Namsan. It's not my hometown, but it's my home.

And best of all, there are these peaceful trails up and over these hountains, all around and through the second-most-populous metro area on the planet.

But the best thing of all today came as I was descending the south slope toward home. Coming up, there was a man with three little kids, all five years old or not much more. The little boy broke out in a big grin and called, in English, "What's your name?" I said, "My name's Steve. What's your name?" He said, very proudly, "My name is Bak Jae Sung." I answered, "Hello, Bak Jae Sung!" and he smiled and smiled. The two little girls waved shyly to me and, when I high-fived them, giggled. Dad beamed. And I smiled all the way down the slope, which was so steep and rock-strewn that it needed every inch of the guide ropes strung up alongside.

When I got home, this guy was happy to see me:
I'm very fond of Tug, but he wouldn't voluntarily leave this apartment for any reason whatsoever, and I missed the wonderful dogs I've had in my life. Booker, Wylie, and Bodhi: not one of them would have missed this walk for the world and I wish any one of them, or as long as I'm thinking magically, all of them, had been with me.

I want to remember this feeling I have when I'm hip-deep in laundry and grading and the fifteenth TV showing of Iron Man 2 in a month.

It's nice to be alive, not just breathing, once in awhile. I will try it more often.

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