Friday, February 27, 2015

It's amazing how really loving going to work in the morning changes your day.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Porn, it had been said, is a driver of technology.

Pornography has spurred the adoption of most tech innovations of the last generation. It helped hasten the growth of VHS tapes, interactive CDs and DVDs, and pretty much the entire Internet."

From the February 25, 2015 NewYork Times article Strippers Go Undercover on Snapchat, by Nick Bilton.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I haven't been able to fall asleep before 3am for the past few months or so.

Oh sleep, why do you taunt me?

Monday, February 23, 2015

A different approach is all it needed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yo, Pasta!

Don't just be kind to others. Be kind to yourself, too.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Even without the help of technology, the world is still small.

I went to Flushing a few weekends ago and took the 7 train there. The last stop of the E train in the city is near my place so taking that to 74th Street Jackson Heights was easy. Afterwards, when I was waiting on the 7 train platform to transfer, I noticed two guys standing not far from me because one of them was really tall. His brown jacket also helped make him memorable for some reason. I eventually continued on with what I was doing and forgot about them completely inside the rumbling 7 as I stood by the door's window to stare out.

It was about four hours later when I was back on the 7 train at Main Street to head home. I like to ride the second subway-car from the front whenever getting off the 74th street stop to go into the city. It's funny because after I exited the 7 and was heading to the staircase, I watched the same two guys from earlier step out of the first car of the subway in front of me. I immediately recognized the tall guy's brown coat and had myself a chuckle. As they were busy talking and not noticing me walking behind them, all I could think to myself were what are the odds.

But coincidences like that seem to pop-up every now and then, and it always reminds me of how connected we all truly are.

When my good friends Jenn and Daniel came to visit me while I was living in Korea years ago, my only English-speaking and American friend in Seoul was Hyunha. 

Hyunha had moved from the Tri-State area and arrived in Seoul after I did. She was living in Korea for the first time with her two daughters, who I was so happy to be able to meet as well. They were in grade school and attending international school to not only be submersed in Korean culture, but also spend quality time with their mom. Hyunha and I had met through a mutual friend from NYC, and we instantly hit it off. We had a lot of fun late nights of just talking and downing bottles of whiskey together as we traded stories and shared parts of our lives. 

It was soon after our first initial meeting in Korea that my friends Jenn and Daniel were coming to visit. Since moving to Seoul, I felt like I hadn't seen them in forever. We had also been roommates during my time in NYC before I left, and so my excitement to see them was boiling over. Their flight was scheduled to arrive at 5am, which left me no choice but to sleep at the airport that night. Back then, the only way to get to Incheon Airport from Seoul by public transportation was through an airport bus. These buses had multiple lines and picked-up from most places in Korea's capital city. The ride took about an hour, and the last buses usually scheduled to arrive at the airport were around midnight. 

When I picked a long bench inside the airport to sleep on, I only noticed maybe one or two other people also doing so. Surprisingly, none of the airport staff bothered us and we were all left alone as if we weren't there. I'm not sure if that night was an aberration, but there were multiple planes from JFK that all landed that night in Seoul around 5am. I got a spot at one of the many passenger arrival gates and watched as people strolled out one-by-one with luggage in tow. At one point as I stood there waiting, I noticed a certain man come out alone. His face immediately put me at alert, and I studied him carefully to be certain that I was thinking of the right person. 

The thing is, Hyunha might have not remembered it, but Korea wasn't the first time we crossed paths. I had seen her before in NYC many years back at a few house parties that our mutual friend threw. I can also recall seeing her with her husband, and he was the same man I had just seen walk out the airport gate alone. Running into him at the airport at that time was a complete shock to me. Because we had just met, I only knew in a general sense that Hyunha's husband at that time was coming into town. I had also just mentioned to her that some close friends from NYC were visiting, so neither of us ever thought there would be any sort of connection. 

I watched closely as he walked off to the side to make a phone call. I waited until after he hung up to approach him and say hi. He of course had no idea who I was because he didn't know my face, but eventually figured out what was going on. Soon after, my friends Jenn and Daniel arrived. When we ended up running into Hyunha's then husband later on, it was near a ticket stand for airport buses. The 3 of us had just learned that there were no buses for another hour and the lines of people waiting for them outside were getting long. That's why we were extremely grateful when he invited us to go with him back to Seoul in his taxi. He was in fact going to the neighborhood right next to where I lived and where my friends were also staying. The funniest part was when we were in the cab ride back and he called Hyunha to tell her what had happened.

A few months later when I eventually ended up leaving Korea (not by choice), I was waiting in the immigration line at Suvarnabhumi Airport to enter Thailand. I was there on a one-way ticket with what I planned to be a two-month stay since that's what my visa allotted. I was alone, on an extremely tight budget, didn't know anything about Thailand, and had no idea what I was going to do after exiting the airport. I remember the immigration area being very large and new. It's hard to recall what the reason was, but all of the stations were empty and the many rows of us in line had to wait for some time. I was fortunate to be first in the line all the way to the left and patiently stood with my immigration card in hand. My feelings anticipating that moment where someone would come and stamp my passport to send me into the unknown of Thailand was something I wasn't sure how to feel about.

That's when I heard a voice from behind me. "So, what kind of writer are you?"

On my immigration form, I wasn't sure how favorable "unemployed clueless loser" under occupation would sound. I was going to Thailand without any idea about anything, so I decided to put down "freelance writer" instead.

I turned around and saw a friendly looking guy. A part of it was funny because I could probably count on one hand the number of times in the past 6 months that I had had a conversation with a stranger in English, let alone an American. I told him I had studied writing in college and had worked in magazine publishing in NYC, on top of writing my own fiction on the side. He told me he was from Utah and worked in communications. He had currently moved to Vietnam for work and lived there with his wife. When he found out I had worked at an epicurean magazine, he mentioned that he had a friend who also worked at one. When he told me who it was, my jaw dropped because it was someone from my old job! This was someone who I not only had the pleasure of working with and getting to know, but also someone I respected immensely because they're such a great person.

The nice guy continued to tell me that when my former colleague went to Vietnam for their honeymoon, they had met up with him and his wife for dinner. This all happened during the time we still worked together at the magazine, and both of the couples had met through a mutual friend. Years later, after I had returned to NYC and was working in the office of a restaurant in TriBeCa, my old colleague came for dinner one night. I stopped in that evening to say hi, and it was was the first time we had both seen each other since I had left for Asia. Seeing them was great, and the amusing thing was that their dinner companion was the mutual friend who had introduced them to the man I met at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Before I left Korea for Thailand, I spent a long period of time being unemployed and looking for work. Since I really needed to earn money, I eventually ended up taking this part-time bartending gig. This was an opportunity that came my way through a friend who had nothing to do with the food industry, it was just a right-place-in-the-right-time situation. The bar I worked at was actually a gay bar in one of Seoul's two major gay districts, Itaewon and Jongno. The area of my workplace, Jongno, was known to be quieter and more subdued than Itaewon, the other major gay neighborhood of the city.

The bar that I worked at happened to be named after this indie American movie with somewhat of a cult following. The film is funny with a sexual storyline and takes place in NYC. Some of the characters are gay, giving the movie a large LGBT fan base. That's the reason why the man who first opened the gay bar named it after the movie, because he was a super fan. When he eventually sold the bar to the owner who would become my boss, the name remained and continued to shine bright in the white sign above its third floor windows.

The gay bar wasn't too big, and my boss was always there. On busy weekend nights, there would be three of us behind the bar, the third being another bartender who worked there full-time. I normally never came out on slower weekdays except for when the full-time worker had a day off. It was an early weekday like that when this fateful encounter happened, and I remember it like yesterday. The bar was completely dead that night until I saw a straight couple open the door to come in and sit at the bar. Now what made them so different and caught my attention was that they weren't Korean, but that they were caucasian.

That might not sound like a big deal, but having two patrons like them casually come for a drink at a random gay bar in Jongno was like seeing two unicorns walk in---it just seemed non-existent. The better news was that not only were they American, but they were also from NYC! Since my boss didn't speak english, whenever anything needed to be communicated to tourists or english speaking non-Koreans, it was my job to attend to them and make conversation if they were sitting at the bar. After the couple sat down and started drinking, I ended up talking with them for hours. She was currently living in China with her boyfriend and working as a university professor at a law school. The two of them had come to Seoul for a short vacation and their hotel for the night was nearby. The fact that they were even staying in a hotel in Jongno was a first for me because even though it's well-known, it's also a very old part of the city with no major hotels, skyscrapers, or hoards of young people partying everywhere. It's known more for having lot of beautiful and traditional houses called hanoks, and being close to the Royal Palace.

When I asked how the two of them ended up choosing this bar to drink at, they said they didn't know where else to go. They had been looking for a place, and decided on us because they saw the name of the bar and not only liked it, but was also intrigued (the bar name also used to be commonly used as a pejorative term in American culture). That night with them ended up being really fun, and conversing with the both of them was a blast. Bartending at the gay bar was a great experience, but I often had shifts were I just felt frustrated and down about life, not understanding why I was having such a hard time finding a job I really wanted. That's why when they even graciously left me a really nice tip, it totally made my day because typically in Korean culture, tipping is not a norm at all. We exchanged emails and I thanked them again so much for coming in as they left later that night. Meeting them at work had been such a refreshing breath of air for me, and I was so humbled by how nice they were.

Less than five months later, I was living in Thailand and went to the capital of Laos for my first-ever visa run. This was after my first 2-month visa had expired, and I went to Vientiane to acquire a new one at the Thai embassy there. This was the closest and most affordable-to-get-to Thai embassy from Bangkok, and getting there required an overnight bus or train to Nong Khai before crossing over into Laos.

On my first and only day of the trip, I wandered around Vientiane as I waited for my passport and visa to get processed. At one point, I am walking on a street along a big road when I see the same American couple from that night at work in Seoul walking towards me. We immediately say hi, and even took a picture together because we couldn't believe our luck. Out of all of the places to be on the planet at that very moment, we somehow ended up at the same exact spot in Laos together.

Who knows, maybe we will all somehow cross paths again. Fate is a crazy thing.
"If you let me in,
Here's what I'll do.
I'll take care of you."

From the song Take Care by Drake featuring Rihanna.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oh, what I would give to be swimming somewhere right now in warm and sunny weather.

Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll have a swimming-dream when I finally fall asleep sometime tonight.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"I know you get me,
So I let my walls come down."

From the song Teenage Dream by Katy Perry.
"'And to have in a city of eight-and-a-half million people,' he went on, 'just think of it, to have 11, 12 days without a murder; we had a couple days in there, I think, where we didn't have any shootings or stabbings, either. So, it's just a reflection of just how safe the city has become.'"

From the February 13, 205 New York Times Article, "Breaking a Record, 11 Days Pass in New York City with No Killings." Written by Al Baker.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This morning when I was waiting at the Park Place subway platform to go to work, I saw a group of young students on a field trip. My guess is that they were in the 4th grade, and they all looked so happy as they excitedly walked in a single file. Seeing them was really a lovely way to start my day today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

"The name's Cookie. Ask about me."

Said by the character Cookie in the show Empire. Season 1 Episode 5.

Monday, February 02, 2015

"I'm not on that now. I'm on something else."

Said by Amy Sedaris in her 4am tour of Greenwich Village on The Late Show With David Letterman. Air date May 14, 2004.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

It's great that in New York City, good conversation can unexpectedly pop up at any moment.

Last Thursday night, I had gone out to dinner and drinks in the East Village. It was past midnight and the streets looked absolutely beautiful from the heavy snow that was falling and covering everything visible to the eye. I parted ways with my friend after they hopped into a taxi cab on 2nd Avenue first. I caught one for myself soon after, and my nice driver started making conversation with me.

"Are you Chinese?" he asked.

"No, I'm Korean-American," I responded a little buzzed and with a smile.

He then apologized for asking me what he did, and I told him it was fine and not a big deal. Then he began to share with me about all the times he's mistakenly been asked by his customers if he is Indian, and how he always had to tell them no he's from Bangladesh. He described how it sometimes hurt him deep in his soul when people made an assumption with their question. He beat his left chest with an open hand as he told me about how proud he was to be who he was, and where he was from. His wife and children were all still back in his home country, and his description about how much he missed them made me want to tell his family about the great father he was.

After I shut the yellow taxi door while in front of my apartment building, I stood there and watched the car slowly disappear into the snowy night. And I wished him all the best.
"I want to die in the place that I own."

Said by the character Lina in the show Married on FX. Season 1 episode 7.