Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Too cool for Yule

Our two-and-a-half-week school break ends in two more days. I've faced my usual challenge, filling the time and trying to be useful while everyone I work with is off in Thailand or California or some equally mythic land.

It's been cold. How cold? Really cold. Colder than you're thinking. The penguins have been wearing booties.

Being so far from home, without family, is hardest at the holidays. My hashing friends and I did a pretty good job, though, in the Comfort and Joy department. There may have been adult beverages involved in some instances.

On Christmas Eve, DW (note: the hashers' names in this entry will be abbreviated to protect the delicate sensibilities of my readers) invited bunches of us to her apartment in HBC (Haebongchan, the foreigners' neighborhood right by Itaewon, Mt. Namsan, and the Seoul Tower) for a pajama party. She prepared stockings for her guests and she and others made wonderful, warming food. She's the kind of person who makes everyone feel welcome and cared for. 

 Couch potatoes? No, hashed potatoes.
Several of my friends stayed over, but I was only there for a couple of hours, because I'd promised my good friend Kat (Jedi, in hash nomenclature) that I'd attend her burlesque show at a bar in Itaewon. Kat and two of her friends put on a sweet, silly, somewhat sexy show. Kat did a Jessica Rabbit number; I hadn't known that she can really sing.

I'm used to a cat on my lap. A Kat? Not so much.

The part where she sat on my lap and sang to me (well, she sat on a lot of people's laps, but...) was fun and touching (not like that) and maybe a little unsettling, simply because she's one of my favorite people--vivacious and caring and just really alive in a way I've always been too inhibited to be--and she's a real friend; we've shared a lot over dinners and such. And she's less than half my age. And her boyfriend was sitting three feet from me. That's not to say I didn't like it, mind, in a not-at-all-dirty-old-man way...

I rushed home just before the subway closed for the night, slept a little, and headed out for Foo Foo's apartment by noon for the Pirate Santa Hash. I have to say, I get one good idea a year and this was it, with a week to spare. Simply because being alone on Christmas is so dreary, I set up a hashing/eating/drinking/sharing get-together. Everyone brought food and a gift, I had patches made...

 More like Pilates Santa, amiright?

...and prelaid a trail, we had a wonderful feast, and everyone slip-slid-away on the trail, opened a present, which could be stolen (well, a trade could be mandated) by the next person in line, and feasted. And laughed a lot. was there from noon to 10 p.m. with two dozen jovial hashers, none of whom could be bothered to change the DVD (so we saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas four times), and despite the frigid winds and icy sidewalks outside, it was warm and wonderful. What it was, was Christmas.

I went back to DW's to cap off the holidays. For New Year's Eve, she invited a few people over for Game Night. I took a few games and she was going to teach me to play Settlers of Catan. Things did not go according to plan; we ended up with another full house and somehow ended up playing Cards Against Humanity, which is Apples to Apples, but with offensive cards. I'd just played it the day before after the hash, so it got old quickly, as did my being hit on (It happened, I tell you) by a very drunk Irish girl who one of the guys invited in out of the cold. But it was nice to be with people as my 60th calendar year ended.

On New Year's morning, I magically turned 61 by the Korean method of counting, but I'm not Korean, so I'm still 59, which is plenty young enough to go back to DW's one more time for her marvelous mimosa-French toast-quiche brunch. This time, the turnout was more manageable, the food and mimosas were marvelous, and the holidays--and my appetite--got topped off just right.

On the non-holiday days, I've tried to keep busy, prepping for school, doing some writing and a lot of reading, cleaning house, reaching the end of the Internet. I've tried to get out twice a day, just because 24 hours with nobody for a cat to talk to and nothing but a cat to look at is so wearing. I usually only hash with my Yongsan Kimchi group on Saturday mornings, but with my extra free time I've been going to the Southside hash on Sundays as well.

I laid a really nice Southside trail, if I do say so myself, which I have to, because you won't, in my neighborhood...

which the pack...
...seemed to enjoy.

What with the holidays and my extra free time and desperately wanting to get out into the world to obviate Cabin Fever, I've hashed 17 times in the last seven weeks, through some of the bitterest weather I've known since the mid-90s, when I left Ithaca. I've slipped and fallen three times, once while running, once while walking and laying a trail, once while walking to the bus. (Conclusion: slipping is better than tripping; I'd rather fall on my hip than my eyebrow. Been there, dinged that, got the stitches.) But I didn't slip on the three-story, two-inches-of-ice stairs; why doesn't the whole world have a railing?

In hashing, you face some interesting challenges...
 ...and meet some interesting people, such as Foo Foo,
not at this moment doing a naked snow angel, on the right...
 ...and C3, newly arrived from Texas, whose rendition of such traditional Scots ditties
 as the Marine Corps Hymn and the Star Wars theme
 brought dozens of Koreans out to gawk and take video.

I also downloaded an Android app, Zombies, Run! It's an immersive audio program/game that uses the phone's GPS to measure how fast you're running and intersperses a post-apocalyptic audio story with your musical playlist. A couple of times in every run, your radio operator tells you that the zombies are approaching, and you have to sprint to keep away from them. The menacing, growling approach of the undead in your earbuds is a wonderful incentive to do speed work. I had to force myself to not go out and run with the zombies today; I'm old enough and wise enough (stop laughing!) to know that running for the fifth day in a row was probably a bit much for me.

When I haven't been running, I've made it a point to get out to the school, to E-Mart and Costco, to Itaewon, to the mall, to the movies--Life of Pi in 3-D is astonishing, by the way--just to spend a little time around people and to be out where it's blue overhead and white underfoot.

And now it's almost back-to-school time. In 36 hours, I shift back from wanting-to-be-with-people mode to wanting-to-be-alone.

As P!nk sings, "Leave me alone, I'm lonely."

I'm versatile that way.

Aaand here's another picture of me. You're welcome.


Truck said...

Smiles...I love this blog! You have a follower for life. I wonder if you can guess who this might be....he he he....

Stephen J said...

No clue, but I don't want to see you pickin' up the field mice and boppin' 'em on the head.

jacktuxedokat said...

Corn, you're a very well written and spoken (but the bloggers don't all know that) man and I can relate to the being away from loved ones for the holidays bit. It definitely is tough. I've been away for two years and it only seems to get more and more difficult. But it is so much better when spent with your best of friends. Hashing really is a whole lot of fun: the people are amazing and, hey, you're running!