Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why do some people live like IRL doesn't matter anymore?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

*stares into mirror*
"I am happy today. And I am happy everyday, because my happiness is not conditional on any uncontrollable factors in life."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Ssam Bar wasn't just changing its menu. It rewrote the rules by which critically acclaimed restaurants were supposed to operate, stripping away comforts (chairs with backs, sound systems with a 'low' setting) and amenities (reservations, unshared tables), and gambling that everybody would be too stunned by the food to complain."

From the October 31, 2017, New York Times restaurant review: Momofuku Ssam Bar Keeps Evolving Under Singaporean Chef. By Pete Wells.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Seeing a slice of pizza = Wanting a slice of pizza.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"You should text me what you want to text him."

Said by the character Jake in the movie Sleeping with Other People.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"'It is all meaningless,' he says, and she does not know why it would mean anything, or why you would look for meaning in it, and she does not understand why you would want it to be anything other than what it is, or why you would want it to be about you."

From the book My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Page 126.
I've been cooking a lot more since I moved to my new place. My apartment in general is on the smaller side, but thankfully the kitchen is renovated with new appliances. It even has a window, which makes such a big difference when actually using the space. The last time I lived in New York with a kitchen window was in 2010, so things like natural sunlight and fresh air for ventilation charm me into staying in the room. It's like cooking and being in a kitchen feels pleasant again. 

My cupboards right now are really stocked with lots of different types of sauces. With my schedule being a bit open nowadays, I've taken to shopping for sauces as a new hobby. It feels like the most inexpensive way to get me out of the house sometimes, where I can feel productive while on a budget. I especially like finding things that are on sale, and it gives me a reason to peruse the aisles of far away (but uncharted) grocery stores. In a way, I think of each new sauce discovery as an investment. And it challenges me to create something with it later on. But as of late, pasta has been what I've been eating the most. The Eataly in Flatiron had a big promotion on pasta last month with some brands on sale for only $1, so I stocked up big time. I've gone through a good amount of my supply already, but I still have a shelf bursting with capellini, tortiglioni and chiocciole. 

Besides pasta, I've been cooking a lot of things that are easy to make. Things like roasted vegetables or other simple dishes are usually my go-to. And while it's been great eating like this so far, I woke up today with a real big craving for Korean food. And not anything that'd be served in a restaurant, but the simpler type I would've eaten on the fly at home when younger.

All I wanted was a big bowl of steaming rice to mix with a whole bunch of other Korean ingredients. I guess you can call it a version of bibimbap, but with whatever you want instead. There's nothing saying you need this or that. I was really in the mood for some fried eggs over easy mixed with gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, perilla, butter, and kimchi. 

I hadn't been grocery shopping for Korean stuff since I moved to my place in Harlem, and since I had the time to spare, I decided to go to the H Mart in Woodside today for a few basics. The prices would be cheaper there compared to the one on 32nd Street, and it's usually less busier. That location of H Mart is small but runs 24 hours. When I lived in Woodside, I loved dropping by on the way home from the subway to pick up beers and already-made food. It's interestingly also the first H Mart from 1982 that would eventually turn into the global grocery chain it is now.

All this trying to cook more at home had me thinking about the food from when I was a kid. It's like, where did that strong hankering for Korean food come from this morning? And why did it taste so amazing when I finally did eat it? And that's when I realized that my diet as an adult right now is the total opposite from when I was growing up. As a kid, my parents' home cooking of traditional Korean food ranged in all types of proteins and fresh vegetables. Practically everything was bought from the grocery store and cooked at home. But all of the non-Korean food we ate was usually processed. If we didn't buy it from Costco, it was most likely fast food we were eating. And if it wasn't from the drive-thru, we were most likely at a restaurant or ordering some takeout. I mean, sure, we cooked spaghetti at the house every now and then, but that doesn't count. The point is, because it's not as if my family were eating hamburgers and french fries over at someone's else place, the American food we ate in my childhood was never home cooked. And somehow, that script has totally flipped in my life today. I only usually eat Korean food in restaurants now, and find the majority of my home cooked meals to be conventional American dishes.

When I got back to Harlem with my bounty from H Mart earlier today, the first thing I did was wash the rice in the tin of my roommate's rice cooker. It had been so long since I washed rice with my hands like that, feeling the grains as they swam between my fingers. It all felt so cathartic and soothing in a way. After it was cooked and ready, I mixed it with my other ingredients before wolfing down the entire bowl of food. Everything tasted so satisfying with the kimchi and gochujang, and totally hit the spot. It's funny because the large bowl of rice mixed with stuff hit me in such a different way than a large bowl of pasta mixed with stuff ever would, and I had missed the feeling so much.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"I'm like, 'Sho. You. Right.'"

From the song Money by Leikeli47.
"My dreams give me wings."

From the song 2nd Fiddle by Leikeli47.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Been waiting for today,
but I don't know what to say."

From the song Waitin by Kelela.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Everything changed,
then changed again."

From the song To Find a Friend by Tom Petty.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Goodbye muffin top, and hello fall jackets!
Chillllllllll ouuuuuuuuuut.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

"'We're too old to think we'll meet again,' Less says."

From the book Less by Andrew Seen Greer. Page 157.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

"When you feel like letting go,
that's when you hold on to me."

From the song Hold On To Me by Hurts.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I look at the shiny surface of the Garlic Dipping Cup from Domino's, and know it's bad news. But I know I'm still going to eat it all.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Waking up to the news of what's happened in Las Vegas has been an absolute shock... it's complete madness and so hard to understand why this happened and all those lives were lost...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Leave love in the footprints."

Said by the character Ahmad in the movie Soul Food.

Monday, September 25, 2017

"He's a good guy. He's a really good guy."

Said by Grace in the sitcom Will & Grace. Season 4, Episode 15.
Limp.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Grace: So you guys are pretty close, huh?
Mipanko: As close as two men can get in 11 minutes."

From the sitcom Will & Grace. Season 3, Episode 2.

Friday, September 22, 2017

It's always so hard to remember how to spell or'dervs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Check out some fiction I wrote called On The Verge of Happiness. It's a short story, but I consider it more the first chapter of a longer story I want to explore. It's about a guy who works at a restaurant in New York. Inspiration for the story came from my days of working at an East Village restaurant, so I had a lot of fun with it.

**********************************

On The Verge of Happiness
Written by Tae Yoon
            
            “No, sir. I apologize.”
            Teo hunched over to show the customer other selections on the wine list. His back strained as the man took extra time reading it, pulling the menu deeper into the table to show his friends.
            “But you had it three weeks ago. Why isn’t it still here? Are people supposed to enjoy something and never expect to have it again?”
            This one’s new, Teo thought.
          He grinned and held steady on his legs as he again expressed his sincerest regrets to ease the situation. When the man was told they had unfortunately just run out the night before, he pointed at a random bottle instead before shooing him away. In actuality, it had been more than four months since the man drunkenly gulped down that wine on a miserable date. Teo knew better than to say anything, though. Customers didn’t dine there because they wanted to hear facts. They were only there to eat great food and have a good time.
            The dimmed restaurant bustled with excitement behind Teo as he entered in the order. The soft light of the screen illuminated his face, with a blaring chorus of a busy Thursday night dining room unfolding all around. Everyone was moving and hustling in some sort of celebration. There was a strong and momentous force created by the collective vigor of chewing, talking, laughing, and imbibing—producing an energy so palpable that even the staff could not stay idle.
            At first glance, the company policy of no uniforms made it hard to differentiate between customers and employees. But then it became clear from watching who was running around and squeezing through spaces that seemed to morph with every table change. Their stride included workplace nuances that repeated all throughout the night like an effortless performance. Used plates held behind one’s back were handed over to a faceless teammate like a baton. The same nightly specials were repeated with easing confidence since the chef always expected it to be the first thing that sells out. Jokes from customers that had been heard countless times before were laughed at with sincerity while thinking about the other four things that needed to be done in their section. The pride they all felt for their jobs was deeply connected to the dedication everyone put forth. And for each customer who walked in those doors, it was that feeling they wanted to be a part of as well.
            “I’m next,” singsonged Em. She used the glare near Teo to read over her order and made sure it was coursed correctly. The true beauty of her face surfaced from the computer glow, completely transforming her to the Em-at-Home or the Em-Out-With-Friends. All of the tables to her back would never have the pleasure of meeting those versions, but Server Em had her own special appeal.
            “Oh my god, I have a funny story to tell you later,” she said. She swung her head and looked over her shoulder. Even though it was extremely busy, Em’s tables were all easy to deal with. She was having a nice shift so far, and it’s always a pleasure to have a good day at work. She fought the urge to touch her hair as she waited for Teo, using one of the few still moments of her night to think about how much money she would be making instead.
            Teo finished up and stepped to the side as he dug into his apron for a wine key.
            “Me too!” he said before scurrying away.
            The wine glasses were the last elements to be gathered as Teo prepped for his table. Each one was carefully inspected under the only decently lit light bulb of the room right above the wine fridge. He wiped a smudge off one and gripped everything in his hands with a firm lightness. Here we go, he thought.
            When Teo got out of work, he walked over with one of his coworkers to their usual spot. Em and some others were already there waiting and most likely drunk and rowdy, soldiering on through the late night with fumes of excitement from hours earlier that were on their last leg.
            “Teo and Johnny are here!” screamed Em. She pumped her beer into the air and used it as an excuse to cheers the lively group, which moments before had been for her song coming on the jukebox.
            Everyone’s pockets were abound with fresh cash, desperate for a hole to burn. Teo joined in on the festivities like they were all seeing each other for the first time that evening, and incorporated himself into the natural rotation of buying a round of shots. The burning in his throat from tequila didn’t hurt as much as the one in his pockets. He sucked on the lime to forget about all the hard work he had put into his shift, and the money he was blowing from it.
            “Here Teo, this one’s on me,” said the bartender as he poured out two shots of bourbon.
            “Ben, I can’t, man. That’ll kill me.”
            Ben gave him a wink and held up a shot glass, alluring Teo to raise his own and clink in camaraderie. The lingering numbness in his throat made this one go down easier. He hated to admit it but Ben had been right. The alcohol felt nice, lubricating him enough to forget about the first shot and happily rejoin the gang.
            Teo marched towards the back of the bar where they had all settled. His arrival somehow gave a sense of completion to this motley crew, sliding in like the final ingredient of a dish now ready to be served. Each one of them complimented the next in variables that either instantly made sense or was always realized later down the line. There were about a dozen of them altogether in a constant flow of revolving conversation. Each added an anecdote here and a laugh there before being pulled or propelled to another. Their effortless merry-go-round of chatter dominated the entire space.
            Nearby tables studied them in curiosity and wondered who this diverse group of likeminded misfits were. Ben constantly fielded questions from customers at the bar about them.
            “They’re a bunch of friends who work together,” he would always respond with a smile. “They’re here all the time.”
            Teo and Em finally had a moment to chat after Johnny loudly proclaimed that he had to pee. He had stopped mid-sentence during his story about a drunken customer and stumbled towards the men’s room.
            “Okay, Em. So, that funny story. Remember that table last night, where that tall guy with his three friends got really drunk? And then he signed his receipt but left his credit card on the table?”
            “Tall guy...” slurred Em as she took another sip of her drink.
            “Yeah, you know! The cute one! They were sitting at Delta-West. He had on that shirt with the funny collar.”
            “Oh, yeah. Tall guy!”
            “Well, Lola worked a double today. And she said he came in during lunch to pick up his card, but ended up staying to eat alone. But then he got so drunk again and forgot it again! Isn’t that hilarious? It’s like, wow, I want to make it in life where I can do that, too.”
            Teo took a moment to ponder how that would be. To go eat at any restaurant he wanted at any time he felt like, that’s when he would know that things are good. This was especially true about having a leisurely lunch on any weekday. If he wanted pasta, he’d go have it. Or if he felt like eating Korean barbecue, he would. I have to make that happen, he thought.
            “So what’s your funny story?” he asked.
            “Funny story?” Em asked perplexed.
            Teo took another sip of his beer and waited for her to remember. He knew it would just take a second.
            “Oh! Funny story. Remember that interview I went on last Monday?”
            “The one you almost missed because you woke up late?” he chuckled.
            “Well, I didn’t wake up late. I was hungover, so I needed to sleep a little more.”
            “Sure. That one. Yeah.”
            Teo tipped the bottom of his pint glass into the air before grabbing Em’s hand. Her drink had been empty for some time and he brought her to the bar to get them both another. As they waited for Ben to finish pouring, Em remembered she was still in the middle of her story.
            “So, that interview. Well, I got the job! I’m moving to Pittsburgh in two months.”
            Teo’s face would have remained frozen in shock if it hadn’t been for Ben.
            “You got a new gig? Congrats, Em! This one’s on me, you guys” said Ben.
            Em smiled with complete jubilation and did a dance on the spot. For now, she hadn’t been planning on telling anyone other than Teo. But hearing her first congratulatory best wishes made the news finally seem real, and she pumped her body down low as Ben cheered on. Teo stayed absolutely still except for his eyes, as they followed her gyrations in disbelief.
            “Yeah. Cheers, Em.” he declared before downing his entire glass.
            Countless drinks later, Teo’s wobble gained strength only when with a cocktail in hand. He was oblivious to his state, and being steered by a voice who sometimes played substitute to his sober self. The kind of teacher who knew they would never have the same roll call twice. Where both curiosities and rages were explored, and choices were made that only left confusion in the morning. He had lost count on the amount of alcohol he’d consumed or the money he’d spent. But he was smiling and laughing and enjoying himself. And in moments like those, there was nothing else that mattered.
            When Teo woke up hours later, he was still drunk. The first thing he noticed was the silence as he darted his eyes around in panic. He was relieved to be in his own bed alone. But when he looked towards his clock, he screamed in alarm and ran for the bathroom. He was late for his lunch shift as the opening server, and knew how much trouble he would be in. This was a serious fuck-up even he was surprised by.
            As manic as he felt, Teo still was able to doze off on the subway ride. When he got to the restaurant, he squeezed by the host, Kristen, and the large group of customers who were clamored around her at the front vestibule. She screamed his name as she looked up from mapping out tables on her clipboard.
            “Oh, I heard about last night,” she giggled. “Damn, dude. Good luck in there!”
            Teo grimaced with a sigh before dashing inside to look for his manager. The same four-letter word repeated over and over in his head as he scanned the busy dining room. All of the servers, bartenders, and busboys were slammed with customers. None of them even had a chance to notice Teo standing there in the middle of it all. Maybe I can just go drop off my stuff and get on the floor without anyone knowing, he thought.
            Teo headed downstairs towards the lockers through the restaurant’s narrow staircase. When he got there, he was incapable of doing anything but standing absolutely still. He could smell last night’s booze coming out of his pores as droplets of sweat slowly dripped off his chin. His stomach gurgled from the jumble of everything inside it fighting to discharge from his body. The sudden nausea and exhaustion he felt had him fantasizing about making drastic changes to his life. He would quit drinking and finally get out of the industry. He would stop going out and get his shit together. He couldn’t remember how many times he had had this epiphany and made these promises to himself. But today was the final straw, he told himself. This is rock bottom, I can’t do this anymore, he thought.
            Teo rested his head on the wall of lockers as he closed his eyes to the world. The dim basement was still except for the silhouette of him doubled over in pain. The strong urge to either cry or get some sleep were equally fighting for his attention and depleted him of energy to think of anything else. Teo wondered how he would get through his double-shifts for the day as the throbbing in his stomach sharpened. Just thinking about having to be on his feet for the next 10 hours was already overwhelming. His thoughts were engrossed with only nightmare work scenarios happening: rude customers, the credit card machine breaking down, or fucking up an order to be reamed out by the kitchen.
            Without hesitation, Teo let out a rank fart that provided his first feeling of relief in the entire day. He sighed in comfort and managed to smirk with his eyes still shut.
            “That is so fucking gross,” said his manager, Lizzette.
            Teo squinted and focused in on Lizzette with his bloodshot eyes. He didn’t know how long she had been standing there with her arms crossed.
            “Oh my god, Lizzette! I’m so sorry. I know! I totally fucked up and let you down. I’m sorry for coming late and messing things up today.”
            “You’re actually early for work today. So go chill out in the office before you start as the closer.”
            Lizzette studied him with pity disguised by disgust. She had always liked Teo and knew he was sincere in his apology. He rarely had incidents like this at work while other employees made it a regular habit of theirs. But she knew dealing with this sort of behavior just came from being a restaurant manager. She had been there before in that same position, just like everyone else she knew. And Teo had lasted almost two years since being hired without a mistake this bad, so she had to give him credit for that.
            The presence of Lizzette put Teo at ease. Her voluminous curly hair in dirty blonde and large doe-like eyes suddenly made him feel better as she lead him towards the small office near the staircase. She unlocked the door in silence and quickly rearranged some chairs and containers to clear out a space in the corner. Items from an old lost-and-found box in the closet were laid out in layers with a generous pile at the very end for a pillow. Teo watched as Lizzette produced this makeshift bed with expertise. He had never seen this before, and had never heard of any of his coworkers talking about it. But this couldn’t be Lizzette’s first time doing this, he thought.
            Teo’s instincts immediately had him collapsing on the heap of strangers’ clothes. His eyes were shut before his body hit the ground. Lizzette watched him curl up in happiness from under the doorway before turning off the lights.
            “By the way, Em switched shifts with you. She came in early this morning to be the opener,” Lizzette said. “I’ll wake you up in an hour for your closing shift. Sweet dreams, Teo.”
            Teo’s entire lunch shift as the closing server went by in slow motion, and it forced him to endure every detail of it on a microscopic level. The way a customer’s nostrils flared when they pursed their lips to decide on their order. Or the amount of energy needed to yell “pick-up!” and dart to the pass in response to the expeditor screaming for help. The entire lunch service felt like an out-of-body experience with Teo’s head in a far away place. He used the little energy he had to simply coast for the next few hours.
            All of his fellow servers and front-of-house colleagues stayed out of Teo’s way and left him alone. Only a handful of them had lasted late until the previous night to witness Teo at peak blackout point. But gossip among restaurant workers traveled fast, especially if they were friends. The multiple group chats that existed within the different social circles among them had been on fire earlier in the morning. Everyone had been glued to their phones, texting one another with gasps and laughs on the various subway lines they took for their commute to the East Village. And when Em showed up to cover Teo’s opening shift, those working on the floor were quick to sneak a moment on their devices to share the news.
            The kitchen and back-of-house staff, however, were on Teo’s case. Most of them knew about what happened through the small tidbits of information a few of the servers had shared, and that Teo had missed his opening shift. They were practically watching him like helpless prey, salivating at the idea of having a reason to give him a hard time.
            And when Teo realized he had forgotten to enter an appetizer for a table’s order, the color drained from his face in fear. He added it into the computer system with his stomach in knots. He knew the kitchen would want to know why the dish hadn’t been entered with the entire meal to be coursed correctly. He also knew that he’d have to tell them he needed the appetizer on the fly, meaning another table would have to wait longer for theirs. This one small error had a cascade of consequences. The kitchen loathed mistakes like this.
            Teo reluctantly headed towards the pass of the open kitchen in the back of the dining room to go explain the situation. Customers all around were happily eating and enjoying themselves, oblivious to the danger Teo was walking into. The sous chef had an entire bird’s eye view of the restaurant, and was already awaiting him with the ticket in hand and grin from ear-to-ear.
            The expeditor always stood at the pass like a gatekeeper between the kitchen and dining room. They were one of the few employees who were a part of both the front-of-house and back-of-house, acting as a liaison for the two different worlds. Together with the sous chef, it was their job to make sure each plate that came out of the kitchen looked beautiful, while commandeering which dishes needed to be taken to which tables. The expediter, Noah, made eye contact with Teo as he slowly trudged along towards him and the sous chef. Knowing what was to come, Noah immediately turned to face the kitchen because he took no pleasure in witnessing Teo’s takedown.
            “Chef, I’m sorry but I forgot to add in the—“
            “Shut up! Stop coming in to work late and all fucked-up, you motherfucker! This is why shit like this happens, dickhead! Stop making mistakes and get your shit together! I don’t give a fuck about any excuses that are about to spill out of your dumbass mouth. You think anyone here gives a shit? You piece of shit motherfucker who can’t even enter in a goddamn order right!”
            Teo stood there as the sous chef continued to berate him without mercy. The entire kitchen staff had stopped what they were doing to merrily look on and snicker. They laughed at his ordeal and took pleasure in the sous chef chewing out someone who wasn’t one of them for once. It was way more pleasurable and entertaining. Teo understood this was how it worked, though. He had expected repercussions for what happened, and tried not to take things from the kitchen personally.
            He managed to survive the rest of the shift without any major issues. Teo recounted the money from his closeout for the third time before handing over his bundle of checks and cash to Lizzette. He was feeling slightly less hungover and more human at this point, and stood at the office door as she double-checked it all. He stared at the corner he had napped in just a few hours earlier, which was back to the way it always was. Lizzette gave him the thumbs-up while still looking down at her work, and said he was free to leave until he started his dinner shift.
            However, Teo did not move. He waited to think of the right words in expressing his gratitude for Lizzette’s help from the morning. It was the least he could do.
            “Lizzette, I just wanted to—“
            “Bye!” she said while still concentrated on her work.
            “But I just wanted to say thank you for—“
            Lizzette put her pen down and looked at Teo for the first time since the morning.
            “Teo, get out of here. Go get some air,” she sternly said.
            Teo bolted to a nearby park a few blocks south on Second Avenue. He plopped himself down on a bench facing an old church and tried doing some people watching. It was a beautiful spring day in the East Village, with hoards of revelers that would normally soak up his attention. But he couldn’t shake off the feelings that still enveloped him from his shift. This novel sensation of being the person everyone at work hated shook him. He felt drained of energy except for what was needed to have a complete breakdown.
            A dog sitting on the bench next to him locked eyes with Teo. It was grey and small with wiry hair, and Teo peered into its soul with envy. I wish I could trade places with you right now, he thought. The dog’s owner was playing a game on their smartphone with the sound blasting, and Teo looked harder into its eyes in hopes of finding the answers to fix his life.
            “Teo, that dog’s not going to tell you about what happened last night,” said a voice from behind.
            Teo turned around to see his coworker Lola holding two iced coffees.
            “Mind if I sit down?” she asked.
            Lola handed Teo his drink before digging through her purse for something.
            “Here,” she said before presenting his cellphone. “I found this on the table last night after you left.”
            Teo stared at it, absolutely frightened to check what was waiting for him. The rhythm of its beating heart pulsated throughout his body and made his hand tense into a clawlike form. He wanted to fly away and drop it into the ocean.
            “Fuck,” he angrily muttered.
            “Don’t worry, I didn’t go through or read anything. But you have a lot of missed calls and text messages.”
            “Fuck,” Teo sighed.
            “So, you want me to tell you what happened?”
            She secretly held back again on giggling as thoughts of what Teo did crossed her mind. Even when she first noticed him just now sitting on the bench while running errands before her dinner shift, she had burst out laughing. In fact, she had laughed so loud and heartily that she was sure Teo had heard her from across the street.
            When Teo lit up the screen of his phone, there were twenty-eight missed calls along with seventy-two unread text messages.
            “Fuck!” he screamed in frustration.
            Lola continued to quietly take sips of her coffee.
            “I charged it for you,” she said as an offering of good news.
            Teo rested his on head on Lola’s shoulder before thanking her.
            “Was it that bad?” he asked staring at nothing.
            “Yeah. It’s pretty bad,” she confessed.
            An hour after Em had made her announcement last night, Teo stopped what everyone was doing and gathered who was left of the crew. It was so late into the night that they were practically the last customers left at the backroom of the bar.
            “Hey! Hey! I have something to say!” he yelled.
            Including Lola, there were six of them sitting with their attention on Teo and Em. A wall of empty booths to their left and their right stood as a strong reminder of how much more livelier and fun the environment had been earlier. Each of them sat there on the edge of passing out. They were ready to go pee one last time before leaving (which used to be a reoccurring suggestion from Teo that that somehow became a way of life for them all), and then it would be time to go take the subway home.
            Lola had been the last to arrive from work that night and had just sat down with a new drink. In her condition, this cocktail was the one that would take her to the point of no return. It’d be the beginning of a second wind and where remembering things could possibly get spotty, which was the realm everyone else was already in.
            “What is it?” she screamed like a jerk before laughing and mouthing I love you.
            “My friend, Em, here. My good, good, friend who’s also my roommate! Well, this girl right here. I have exciting news about her!” he slurred.
            Even in their drunken stupors, the table noticed Em’s look of suspicion as Teo dragged her next to him. He put his arm around her shoulders as his cup dangled from the same hand. Its melted whiskey soda sloshed along inside as he spoke, truly coming close to spilling over only once.
            “Oh my god, Teo!” Em nervously laughed while clearly drunk. “You better stop!”
            “I just want to say congratulations, Em,” he continued.
            With her eyes half closed, Em pushed Teo’s arm off of her. She slowly sat at the edge of the booth seat where Lola was and moaned in happiness because she was finally off her feet. She sat at a slight angle with her back towards everyone, secretly mouthing “let’s go” with force to Teo as he ignored her.
            “Shut up, asshole!” she laughed. “I’m too tired. Let’s just call a car home already. I’ll pay for it.”
            “Everyone!” Teo continued. “Em got a new job and is moving to Pittsburgh!”
            Teo began clapping his hands at a speed that lacked in drumming up excitement about anything. His palms sometimes even missed, which only made Teo laugh and become happier.
            The anger in Em’s reaction came slowly as everyone at the table jolted a little more awake to congratulate her and ask questions
            “Wow, congrats! Where you headed?” asked Rhamon.
            “Is it another restaurant?” asked Mark.
            “That’s so cool, Em! Congrats!” said Lola as she gave her a hug from behind.
            Ian, Julia, and Santiago became full of energy and sat up straight again. It was their suggestion to get another round of celebration drinks that made Teo jump up from excitement.
            “Yes! Great idea! You guys stay here, I’ll get them!”
            The group’s attention turned to Em with a barrage of more questions.
            The fact that they all knew wasn’t what made Em uncomfortable, but she hadn’t planned on telling anyone else at work until her two-week notice. She had specifically told this to Teo earlier in the night, and could feel her sense of betrayal transforming into rage from the alcohol. She kept it together in front of everyone but also entertained the idea of smashing a chair over Teo’s head.
            She had planned for her remaining time in New York to be busy while preparing for the move, but that schedule for herself was now in jeopardy. Em had worked at the restaurant practically the longest out of everyone. This wasn’t because she was the oldest, but because she was one of the first hires. And over the years, she had accumulated a large amount of return favors in the form of covering shifts with the entire front-of-house staff. For Lola alone, Em owed her two dinner shifts and a lunch shift. But anytime Lola had needed help in having her shifts covered, there was always a reason why Em couldn’t. “Sorry, I have a family thing that day,” or “I so wish I could but I just can’t,” she would defensively insist. This is why Em had planned to act like it was a last-minute move. That would make it appear as if she barely had time to work her own normal number of shifts.
            Lola could sense Em’s anger as they waited for Teo to return with drinks. Everyone else was back to talking about a new employee while Em laser beamed holes into the back of Teo’s head. Lola pulled Em close to lean against her and put her arm over her shoulder as if she was hugging her again. She could feel the weight of Em’s upper body next to her and made sure to have a good grip.
            “Teo!” shrieked Em at the top of her lungs.
            Teo turned around from the echo of his name while at the front end of the bar. He gave a thumbs up and yelled, “Be right there! I almost got them!”
            He spun back around to the bar and continued pleading.
            “Come on, man! One last round, I swear, Ben. One, last one. Please. Please, please!”
            “Dude, you’re pretty gone. I can’t.” responded Ben.
            “Yes, you’re right! But everyone else isn’t. It’s just me that’s like this,” he petitioned. “And I’ll give you a crazy tip. Come on, it’s for Em’s new job. Eh? Yeah?”
            Ben finally said yes but refused to serve them tequila.
            “Absolutely no way. You guys are getting Polar Bear shots, and then I’m closing up. You got me?” asked Ben.
            “Yes! Thank you. Thank you, Ben!” Teo responded.
            By the time he returned to the table, nobody even asked what the shots were. They each grabbed one while Lola still held on to Em. Teo stood near the center of the table and lead the toast for everyone sitting down. Em slammed down her shot glass as everyone else thanked Teo for buying the round.
            “Okay, I got to go pee now,” Teo said before turning around.
            The conversation at the table continued as Teo took two steps forward with his back to everyone. He swayed in front of a nearby chair with Em’s open handbag on the seat and proceeded to inch closer towards it. Lola and Em watched it all unfold in slow motion as Teo unzipped his pants and started to urinate directly into the bag.
            While Julia and Santiago immediately pulled out their phones to capture it all, everyone else screamed for Teo to stop. Ben noticed all the commotion from behind the bar in the front area and jumped over the counter to start charging his way. Em couldn’t take it any longer and struggled to escape from Lola’s grip. She freed herself and stood strongly on her left foot as she kicked Teo in the middle of his back with her right. She sent him flying forward to knock out face down onto the floor.
            When they all gathered around Teo’s body, Ben got onto one knee to inspect him at a closer look.
            “Yup, this motherfucker is snoring,” he shrugged.
Live life in Airplane Mode.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

In spite of it all,
still inspire.
Freeze.
Choke.
Disappoint.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"All that I've got,
pieces and pages.
Talking a lot,
sorry I'm faded."

From the song Broken Clocks by SZA.
"Go Gina,
Go Gina."

From the song Go Gina by SZA.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Somewhere, it all went wrong.
Just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But if it's not on the Internet, then it never existed.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Why you bothering me when you know you don't want me?'

From the song Love Galore by SZA.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

"Nobody else will be there."

From the song Nobody Else Will Be There by The Nationals.
Happy Labor Day, America!

It's the unofficial end of summer this weekend. Goodbye hot weather and shorts. And hello to autumn and having to wear real pants again.

The summer went by so quickly. I can't believe I've already been back in town for over a month after spending two months away. Everything seems like a blur since returning. I was couch crashing and moving around the entire time. It was a lot of lugging my shit around, but it was also nice to see friends. Thankfully though, my wandering days are finally over because my friend Jess and I got a place uptown in Harlem. We've been slowly moving our stuff into the apartment and will be all settled in pretty soon. I'm excited to finally have a somewhere to call home again, it feels it's been too long.

I've been dog-sitting Oscar in the Upper West Side for the past few days. It's been great taking him for walks through Central Park and farther north. We took a long stroll through Morningside Park last weekend and that was really nice. There were tons of families and people there barbecuing and enjoying themselves. It smelled so good in the park.

It's Sunday afternoon right now, and I'm ready to head out soon. I've been sitting at Junho's place with the shades open and all of the lights off since waking up. It was raining earlier and is still a bit cloudy, but it's still a nice day. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

"New York isn't New York,
Without you, love."

From the song New York by St. Vincent.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wow, what's going on in Texas right now is heartbreaking. Much love and good energy to everyone there.

Monday, August 21, 2017

More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
More butter.
Totality.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Timeline of Streaming a New TV Show
Episode 1 - Wait, what's going? Yeah, I don't know about this show.
Episode 5 - Oh my god! I'm obsessed, love it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Letting go of what was thought to be the answer is like whoa.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

It's not about the taste. It's about the emotion. The memory that comes from it.

Monday, August 07, 2017

"It's never too late,
to be who you wanna be."

From the song Summer Bummer by Lana Del Rey.
"Blue is the color of the shirt of the man I love."

From the song Beautiful People Beautiful Problems by Lana Del Rey.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I'm back in New York after two months in Seoul...

I think I just need a really long nap.

Friday, July 28, 2017

"One thing I know for sure is that,
something just ain't right."

From the song One Thing by Luscious Jackson.
"Is it raining outside?"

The question I get asked daily right now during Korea's rainy season when I go to meet people. I'll usually answer with a polite no before explaining my shirt is drenched in sweat, not rain.
Summer sweat.
Steamy Seoul.
Scorching sun.
Strolling solo.
Soaked.
So sopping.
Smooth skin.
Sticky.
Same story.
Sigh.
Sluggish.
Savoring stolen sub-zero shivers.
Sanity.
Sleepy since sunrise.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Oh, the truth is a beautiful thing."

From the song Truth Is A Beautiful Thing by London Grammar.
Kalguksu is the ultimate Korean comfort food. Available at most general restaurants, it’s enjoyed all over the country as a cherished dish cooked with a mother’s love and care.

As a noodle soup made with a broth from beef bones, kalguksu has a wonderfully milky taste and rich quality. The noodles are handmade from wheat flour with the magic touch coming from pushing down on the inner wrist when kneading. It’s then cut into thick strands that are known for its dense body and chewy texture. Korean cuisine generally favors long strands of noodles, which are a sign of living a long life. So if your bowl has particularly longer noodles, it’s not only good for your stomach but an auspicious sign of what’s to come. What makes kalguksu especially standout from other soups made with a similar broth is the starch from the noodles that give it an extra heaviness, which is a divine combination. The first sip of the broth will immediately give that full-bodied flavor from the beef and carbs, hitting the palate like the most comforting hug from childhood.

There are many variations of kalguksu that are not made from a beef broth. The beef version is more commonly found in Seoul since cow products are more expensive to use as an ingredient. But another popular type would be dak kalguksu, which is made from chicken broth with hand-pulled shreds of meat. It’s often referred to as Korean chicken noodle soup, holding the same nostalgia as similar versions from other cultures. Haemul kalguksu is made with a plethora of seafood, and popular in the southern and coastal regions within the country. This kalguksu is often cooked in larger quantities in a single pot to be enjoyed family style. But the most common form of kalguksu has a broth made of out anchovies since it’s a more affordable base to use. Unless a restaurant specifies the type of kalguksu they’re serving, the anchovy is what’s most likely being sold.

What’s just as important about the kalguksu eating experience is the kimchi it’s served with. Unlike other Korean dishes, kalguksu is specifically eaten with fresh kimchi, also known at geotjuri. This is a type of kimchi that’s not fermented and meant to be consumed within a week of being made. Kalguksu aficionados will often rate their favorite restaurant of the dish by the quality of their geotjuri, since it’s often harder to mess up on a kalguksu recipe rather than one for fresh kimchi. Geotjuri tends to have more spices and seasoning than regular kimchi, giving it slightly more of a bite and clean spiciness.

Some Korean people also eat kalguksu on days they feel like having geotjuri, making the noodle soup the side dish to fresh kimchi. But the most popular time for kalguksu is definitely summertime. Korean people love to eat hot soups and stews in the scorching summer weather because they like how it warms their body up to sweat even more. There’s a Korean phrase often used to express their delight for moments such as this. It’s called “shi-won-ha-da,” which translates to feeling refreshed and invigorated. And it’s the expression often heard in kalguksu restaurants when the temperature outside is feeling tropical.
Big chain conventient stores in Seoul are best for when you’re drunk, broke, or in a rush. Or perhaps at any given moment, you’re living life to the fullest and achieving two out of three of these factors.

Found on just about any block here, convenient stores here are brightly lit, colorful, and attainable beacons of happiness that invite you in with their wide selection of products and services in strong air conditioning. Pantyhose, chocolate, T-Money cards, whiskey, or small items to make a last minute meal—you’ll find whatever you’re looking for. They’re open 24 hours and can be more comforting than any best friend ever could. Depressed and in need of some ice cream? A convenient store would say, “I got you, fam.” Depressed and in need of some soju? A convenient store would respond with, “Say no more.” Or depressed and in need of some delicious processed food? A convenient store would yell back, “Come on over!”

While the eating options there can be endless, there are two standout items that are mostly associated as Korean convenient store food: samgak kimbap and cup ramen.

Samgak kimbaps are triangular shaped kimbaps wrapped in plastic. Their specially designed wrapper is meant to keep the seaweed crisp until ready to be consumed. The plastic has special instructions and a tab you pull at that unwraps it in a way that’s super easy to eat. Under the seaweed is densely packed rice with a filling in the center that comes in a wide spectrum of flavors. They range in traditional fare such as spicy chicken or bulgogi, to more adventurous like spam with eggs or eel. With the average price for samgak kimbaps hovering around $1, they’re an all-time favorite for many and great for snacking on anywhere in thanks to leaving a minimal smell. In fact, they’re so popular and constantly being restocked that a specific time in the day is noted in their expiration date.

The second place champion of convenience store foods would be cup ramen. Cup ramen is the quicker and easier version of ramen, which is like using a microwave with no buttons. For cup ramen, instead of having to get a pot to cook your ramen in, you can simply pour boiling water into the makeshift bowl the cup ramen comes in. Whatever type of noodles you prefer or flavor you’re looking for, there’s a cup ramen out there for you. They’re also available in different sizes, providing options on the level of bloat you want to subsequently feel. Hot water and wooden chopsticks are a given at convenience stores, and a large majority will also have indoor and outdooring seating. That makes eating your cup ramen in peace while leaving no evidence behind as easy as slurping noodles.

With ramen practically being a national pastime in Korea, walking by a convenience store to get a quick glance of someone enjoying cup ramen here in Seoul is as common as seeing the shop’s lights on. The slight difference with samgak kimbap is that it’s more often eaten on the go. It’s no surprise though that these two products are the king and queen of convenience store grub because they’re the lightning versions of things that are already loved within Korean food. But whether you’re dining on the store premises or not, samgak kimbap and cup ramen at convenient stores are extremely satisfying bites that can be made into a full meal or hold you over until you eat again. And you can easily grab some banana milk, sausage, or countless other items to make it the full course banquet of your dreams.

Friday, July 21, 2017

iPhones sold in Korea always make a shutter sound whenever taking photos with them.

For locals here, there's no such thing as secretly sneaking a picture.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Adam's apple.
"And a lust for life,
keeps us alive."

From the song Lust For Life by Lana Del Rey.
"Most people live their entire lives, and never understand you can't always believe everything you think."

Said by Andy Andrews in Robin Roberts' Podcast: Everybody's Got Something. Season 2, Episode 5.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Build.
"For $9.99,
I'm perfectly disguised."

From the song Pink Sunglasses by Miranda Lambert.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It was Seoul Gay Pride this past weekend, and I was so happy to go check out the festivities.

When I got off the subway at the City Hall stop, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was elated to see people within the station with pride flags painted on their faces and other visible signs of support for the cause. But I have to be honest in saying that I was also surprised by the number of protesters I saw as soon as I surfaced above ground.

There was a large counter demonstration across the street from where the festival was being held. They also had a huge screen set up to broadcast whoever was speaking on the stage, and that made it both pretty visible and audible from the side where I was standing. At that moment I arrived, there was such anger and vitriol in that specific speaker's voice. I was truly taken aback by it. He was an older gentleman, angrily screaming at the top of his lungs as it echoed everywhere. I could hear the graininess that seemed to come from losing his voice as a result of yelling so loudly. Then on the side of the street where the festival was being held, all I saw was a wall of police officers standing on the sidewalk to keep other protestors from getting too close to passersby as they made their way towards the entrance. I could feel my blood boiling as I had to walk by them and listen to their furious shrieks and protests. They waved their big signs in the air and howled with passion while preaching about how LGBTQ people are less than. They showed so much rage, but everyone who had to endure their hatred did not. Most people simply ignored them or walked by with smiles and excitement for what the day meant.

When I finally made my way into the festival, the vibe was completely different from what was going on outside. There was nothing but love, happiness, and celebration. There were so many people, with a large presence of foreigners as well. Being within the space instantly made me forgot about all the mess that was happening outside, and I happily walked around alone to soak it all in.

The actual parade took place outside of the festival area on a main street of Seoul. And I was fortunate to have perfect timing to witness the entire thing. I can't tell you how moved I was in seeing the thousands of people marching. Young. Old. Straight. LGBT. Korean. Non-Koreans. The diversity in everyone amazed me. All I thought was, where are all these people living and going out to? I didn't realize there was such diversity here, especially among the LGBTQ community. There were way more people actually marching in the parade than watching it as a spectator, which only made me think that people didn't just want to watch it, but they instead wanted to be a part of the movement. Seeing it all almost moved me to tears. It was very emotional and heart-warming. It was parade float after parade float that was filled with swarms of joyful people in between.

Towards the end of the day, the feelings I had from seeing all of the protestors were overcome by the warmth and love I felt from all of the supporters. I have to say that the Seoul Police Department did an excellent job in maintaining order and keeping angry protestors from getting too close to festival goers. I was extremely grateful for that. Overall, it was a memorable Pride. Korean society still has a ways to go in regards to accepting LGBTQ people, but they're definitely on their way there. And the amount of love, support, and LGBTQ allies from the weekend truly did show that.
"At first, it feels good, savoring each bite, the world falling away. I forget about my stresses, my sadness. All I care about are the flavors in my mouth, the extraordinary pleasure of the act of eating. I start to feel full but ignore that fulness and that sense of fullness goes away and all I feel is sick, but still, I eat. When there is nothing left, I no longer feel comfort. What I feel is guilt and uncontrollable loathing, and oftentimes, I find something else to eat, to soothe those feelings, and strangely, punish myself."

From the book Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Page 170, e-book edition.
"Food was not only comfort: food also became my friend because it was constant and I didn't need to be anything but myself when I ate."

From the book Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Page 58, e-book edition.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

In Korea, there's always some drunk motherfucker in the background.

Sometimes, it might even be someone you know. Or maybe it's even you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

RuPaul and Michelle Visage laughing together on their podcast is everything.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"We could run."

From the song We Could Run by Beth Ditto.
Food truly does create the most amazing connections on a global scale.

I was hanging out at a restaurant last week in Hannamdong called Parc. Sitting there alone for hours with my laptop, I soaked up the energy and took notes on my computer while observing the spot throughout the evening. At one point during dinner service, I saw a set of two customers walk in together. I've always had a knack for faces, and instantly recognized one of them from back home in New York. She had been a regular at a restaurant I used to work at in Williamsburg years ago, and I couldn't believe that she was coming in to eat at Parc on the same day I was there to survey the place. I didn't approach or bother her until she and her friend were at the counter to pay after they had finished eating. I was in no way expecting her to remember me, but asked if she used to live in New York. She told me she still did and that she was just in town for a short while. I then proceeded to tell her that she used to come to my old work place in Brooklyn often and that I remembered her as soon as I saw her walk in to the restaurant earlier in the night. She then confirmed, yes, it was indeed her. 

Wow. Small happenings like these only help me realize that with clear eyes, there is so much to see and learn in life.
Some photos from my time in Korea so far.














Monday, July 10, 2017

Note to self: Do not panic when things don't go according to the plans you created in your head, which were more safe ideas nice to think about.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

From my days of living in Thailand, I still enjoy checking out free tv episodes that are offered every week on iTunes. I recently watched the first episode of Season 2 for Huang's World from VICE. And all I got to say is, mad respect to Eddie for the entire episode. I really liked it. Go check it out if you haven't already.

Friday, July 07, 2017

"Don't be afraid to catch feels."

From the song Feels by Calvin Harris.
TGIF everyone!

It's Friday evening here in Seoul, and I'm cooling off with my laptop at a cafe after walking around for hours. I was literally dripping in sweat when I walked in, so this air conditioning is giving me life.

I had lunch alone today at the Noryangjin Fish Market. This is a huge wholesale market that pretty much sells any type of seafood you could ever want. Because South Korea is a peninsular nation, seafood is a big part of the country's cuisine. And a place like Noryangjin is a great spot to access the most freshest kinds from the region that's available in Seoul. Fish, crabs, lobster, stingrays, live octopus, or whatever---this place has it all. After choosing whatever you like, instead of taking it home to cook, you can go to one of the many restaurants within the market that will prepare the seafood for you. You can get your fish sliced and served raw sashimi-style. Or maybe you want it made into a nice stew. Or perhaps you're craving steamed Dungeness crab along with some abalone. Or maybe some fried jumbo shrimp. Regardless of what you get, eating it within the market is definitely a fun and delicious experience.

I was craving some sea urchin, so I picked out 3 for ₩10,000 from a very nice vendor. She then directed me towards a small restaurant around that area of the market through a nearby alley. They took the spiny creatures from me to open up the shells and serve along with some standard side dishes traditionally eaten with seafood in Korea. I also ordered a pajun and large beer to complete my meal. My bill at the restaurant was only ₩22,000. So that makes the total price of my lunch under $30 for both the cost picking out fresh uni and enjoying it in the comforts of a restaurant with some booze. It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

I've pretty much lost count on the number of rubber bands for my braces that I've accidentally ingested while eating.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Loose leaf.
Happy 4th of July, America!

I spent the holiday alone getting some work done here and there. But I wanted to eat some good ole' American BBQ for lunch, so I headed to Linus' Bama Style BBQ in Itaewon. I had the pulled pork platter, which was pretty good and totally hit the spot. It felt nice being in the restaurant today because it was filled with other American customers who also seemed to have come with the same craving as me. It was a mixture of both young people and families among them who seemed like locals, in the military from the nearby American army base, or tourists. Being around fellow Americans was especially comforting on a major holiday like today, and reminded me of being back home in the U.S.

In general, I take the subway everyday here in Seoul. It's my major form of transportation. The trains are modern with full cellular and data capabilities, but the only bummer is that they stop running from midnight to 5:30am. One other major difference about the Seoul subway system in comparison to New York's is that each station here has floor-to-ceiling glass partitions at the edge of all platforms. The glass walls block any access to the tracks and only open where the subway doors open. That means angrily leaning over the edge of the platform like I do in New York to look down the tracks for the next train is impossible here. But stations in Seoul are equipped with tv screens that tell you how far away the next train is anyway, so that solves that. Another good thing about the glass partitions is that they also prevent people from falling into the tracks, or god forbid jumping in front of a train to kill themselves.

The other day, I was walking down the steps to a platform of a station when I saw a mass of people starting to walk up towards me. I knew the subway had just gotten there, and didn't want to have to wait for the next one so I darted towards the open doorway. I saw that the doors were sliding shut but didn't care and still went for it. The doors closed on me and I got stuck with half of my body inside the subway and other other half sticking out. Now, this happens all the time in the New York subways. And when it does, the conductor will quickly re-open the doors to allow whoever is stuck to get their whole body onto the train. Or if the conductor doesn't do that, other straphangers might help out by pulling the doors apart to force them open again (which usually always works). But when I was stuck between the doors the other day here in Seoul, it so did not go down like that.

From the shoulder down, it was the left side of my body that was sticking out of the doors. My tote was also in my left hand swinging in the air, so as I was trying to squeeze the rest of my body and bag into the train, I struggled to push through with the doors not budging. At. All. I looked around the subway cart in panic as I was fighting to get inside, and straight up made eye contact with all of the other straphangers who just sat there stoically watching me. It was a good ten seconds of my body in limbo as everyone just stared, but it felt like an eternity. Someone was even standing inside right at the door in front of me, but she did nothing but watch me scramble as well. And since the subway doors couldn't close with me jammed inside them, the doors of the glass partition weren't able to close either.

The conductor finally re-opened the doors and I managed to stumble inside feeling a bit frazzled. I looked around and felt this sense that people were looking at me like I had gotten myself into this mess, and I suddenly realized that they were right. In that moment, I became aware that commuters in Seoul don't stick their limbs or bodies between closing doors of the subway because that's just not how it works here. And I couldn't remember a single time when I had seen anyone else do that in the trains here. Well, phew. Duly noted, and lesson learned. Thankfully with my body still intact.
"We know the pain is real.
But you can't heal,
what you never reveal."

From the song Kill Jay-Z by Jay-Z.

Monday, July 03, 2017

"Here's to the ones who dream,
foolish as they may seem."

Sang by Mia in the movie La La Land.
Heart.
Start.
Art.
Shart.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

"Do you try on all your nights like this?"

From the song Slide by Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dongdaemun is a popular night market here in Seoul. I checked it out a few days ago with some friends who were visiting from New York.

We got to the market past midnight on a weekday, so it was pretty late and not that busy. One of my friends wanted to buy a whole bunch of socks, and we stopped at this vendor who had set up an outdoor shop at a main intersection. Since I was not interested in perusing their massive sock collection, I hovered around the other types of souvenirs and products that were on display near the area where customers pay. I immediately noticed the two women working the stand. They had to be in their 50's, and there was a heaviness to their demeanor. I couldn't tell if it was from them feeling exhausted after a long day of work, or perhaps from other stresses that were troubling them. But there was something about them that I couldn't help but curiously observe. One women was larger with short hair and round wire-framed glasses, we'll call her Lady 1. And the other was slightly more petite with wavy shoulder length hair, we'll call her Lady 2. I stood there practically right in front of them with only some products separating us, but they seemed preoccupied about something serious. And as I was pretending to look at the keychains and other knickknacks before me, Lady 2's cell phone rang. She turned around to face the large makeshift display made of metal-wire that was bountiful with inexpensive socks, and picked up the phone with her back to everyone else. When the phone rang, Lady 1's eyes widened. Lady 2 put the phone to her left ear facing slightly outward so Lady 1 could also listen in on the conversation. Lady 1 in turn put her arms around the shoulders of Lady 2 to get closer to the speaker, with the left side of her head resting on Lady 2's. They both stood there, practically hugging each other for comfort as the phone call started. 

Lady 2 did all the talking. Her voice remained strong as she spoke with pride and a bit of defiance. I have no idea what the person on the other end of the phone was saying. But Lady 2's responses were as followed. "I told you I would get the money, I just need more time." "Don't you think I would have paid you back if I had it?!" "I told you I'm working on it." "I don't have it right now. What else do you want me to say?" The conversation went on and on like this. As Lady 1 listened in, she signaled to Lady 2 that she had said more than enough. She tried providing moral support as Lady 2 continued to explain the same thing over and over to the caller. And repeatedly, Lady 1 motioned to end the call, suggesting there was nothing else left to say.

When Lady 2 finally did hang up, the both of them just stood there... embracing one another. They seemed emotionally drained as they consoled each other. But in that moment, I felt their strength. And it said so much about who they are. 

This is also when my friend was ready to pay, and she approached them with her multiple bundles of socks to tally up the final cost. That's when Lady 2 turned around to face us and help my friend, and I saw tears streaming down her face. But even as the tears continued to come down, she helped my friend with a wide smile and happy demeanor. And it made it all the more such a moving moment.

After my friend paid, we thanked the women and they courteously said goodbye and wished us well. These two women have been in my thoughts since this night, and I can't seem to shake off this feeling of wondering how they are. When my friends went back to Dongdaemun and to the same area of the vendor a few nights later to buy more socks, they said the women were not there...  wherever they are right now, I wish nothing but the best for them.
It's gotten pretty hot in Seoul. The humidity is at a point where I'm sweating just from walking outdoors. But I've miraculously been living without an air conditioner or fan at the place where I'm staying. I guess that's where booze comes in handy, because buying a bottle of soju is cheaper than getting a cup of coffee here and easier than thinking about the heat. Oh yes, that magic green bottle that now comes in flavors like grape and peach. It tastes just like candy, I swear it does. It's like the adult version that quenches your thirst to blackout and forget everything that's happening on the playground.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Writers writing about writers.
"She smiled. Leapt without looking."

Said by the character Mia in the movie La La Land.
"It's new every time. It's brand new every night."

Said by the character Sebastian in the movie La La Land.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"I wanna go somewhere where nobody knows. 
I wanna know somewhere where nobody goes."

From the song Highway Vagabond by Miranda Lambert.

This song is from Miranda Lambert's album, The Weight of These Wings. I love this album. I listen to it constantly. It soothes me. It's go-to music for stress relief. It calms me when I'm feeling like shit. It's completely transporting to a land of serenity and beauty when I feel chaos. The opening song of Runnin' Just in Case feels like the start to a beautiful journey. And the entire album has just the perfect mix of some upbeat songs to get me going as well. Even to have it on in the background while I work out my thoughts makes a world of difference.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It's Monday afternoon here in Seoul.

My sleep schedule has been really wonky the past few days or so, but I finally got a good night of sleep yesterday and am feeling a bit more clearheaded today.

I ate kalguksu last week at a place in Yeonhui-dong, and it was so good. Kalguksu is a traditional Korean comfort food that's pretty much a noodle soup. The broth can be made with a variety of things such as chicken or seafood, but I ate a version made from beef bones. I really liked it because the hand cut noodles are made from wheat flour, and I could taste the starch from the noodles in the soup. The combination of the thick, milky broth with slight depth from the carby noodles was straight up delicious. I'm still thinking about it even days later. Kalguksu is also traditionally served with fresh kimchi, which is supposed to be eaten within 7 days of being made and isn't fermented. I've actually always loved this type of kimchi my whole life, and preferred it to the regular kind. The entire meal just totally hit the spot.

But what I'm seriously craving right now is a decent haircut. I really need a good fade to feel freshened up and clean.
"Let's go, girls!"

From the song Man! I Feel Like a Woman! by Shania Twain.
"Fattier Pork Is Better Pork."

From the story title of a June 16, 2017, New York Times article. Written by Melissa Clark.
One word at a time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

If your cell phone is charged at 50%, doesn't that mean it's halfway charged or halfway empty?

I would say halfway empty because anything below an 80% battery gives me anxiety.
The one thing I'm not crazy about here in Korea are the typical bathrooms that are found in any common household.

They're modern in every sense of the word and even have electronic bidets that are fancy. But they usually don't have showers or a designated area for it. Instead, there'll be a handheld showerhead that's expected to be used in the middle of the bathroom or in a small corner of the space. Since there's no official shower area, the floor is made of tile that's meant to always get wet. That's the reason why a pair of rubber slippers will always be positioned at the door to help keep your feet dry. But I hate wearing those rubber slippers for some reason. It's a little annoying to put on every time I enter. Plus, I don't like thinking about who's worn them before and what they've done in them with their wet feet and all. At the place where I'm staying, I thankfully don't have to share the bathroom with anyone so I just walk around in it barefoot.
"And my darling, 
I'll be rooting for you."

From the song Rooting For You by London Grammar.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

It's Sunday evening here in Seoul, which also marks a little bit over my first full week in town.

I've spent a lot of my time eating and snacking on different things so far, ranging from street food to serious fine-dining. My favorite though has been the traditional Korean street food you'll find at almost any major subway stop or area. They're basically these tents or the backs of pickup trucks you walk up to and eat at while standing. You simply place an order for 1 serving of ddukbokki, kimbap, blood sausage, battered and deep fried squid/shrimp/vegetables, or fish cakes, and it's served right away. Everything is pretty much already made and ready to eat, but they'll quickly refry anything deep fried so it's nice and hot for you. And a small paper cup of the soup from the fish cakes will also be given for free as your savory beverage to sip on, so don't expect any water. This liquid will either be offfered to you directly, or you'll know it's self-serve by the ladle sticking out from the fish cake broth. Eating like this is great because I can have a feast on the cheap. Plus, it's also convenient for when I'm alone.

I've been particularly eating a lot of blood sausage called soondae, which I often crave in New York and have a small go-to spot in Flushing. But I do also need non-Korean food on a regular basis, so I've eaten great pasta and even the occasional fast food burger here as well. The dining choices are endless in Seoul, which is awesome. Another thing about Korean food culture is that they're absolutely coffee obsessed, so you'll find multiple cafes and Starbucks on any block. I personally avoid caffeine because it makes me feel crazy, but have had the occasional cup since arriving due to social situations. Korean people will meet for coffee at 10pm not for the caffeine, but just because it's an alternative to meeting at a bar in a culture that's so booze dominated. I've told myself no more coffee, though. My body just doesn't react to it well and I always end up feeling extremely wired and manic. The place where I'm staying at doesn't have wifi, so I have to go to cafes often for times I need to get online through my laptop. That's when I'll usually just order a tea to loiter for as along as possible, such as this very moment right now.

I had lunch this past Thursday at Jungsik, which is as fine-dining as you can get in Seoul. All of the food was spectacular, and the sommelier paired everything with some really great wines. A friend also showed me an area called Boseok-gil over the weekend, which means "jewelry road" and is a new neighborhood with a lot of small restaurants and cafes. It hasn't been completely overrun yet, which was a nice change to so many other main hotspots that are always packed with people and major chains. If you're looking to check out an up-and-coming area of Seoul, I definitely recommend it. My friend took me to a small Korean restaurant off Boseok-gil that's popular with young people for its newish, yet traditional, spin on Korean cuisine. It's called Jang Ggoma, and was super good. "Jang" translates to traditional sauces (think gochujang, ssamjang, etc), and "ggoma" means little kid. They don't have a lot of seating though, maybe 4-5 seats at the kitchen on the ground floor and less than 15 seats at a communal table on the second floor. You get to the upper level through a narrow staircase, and the communal table is made up of what used to be the door of a traditional Korean dresser made of beautiful mother-of-pearl. Eating there was such a fun and delicious experience overall.

I've been good with not going out at night or staying out too late because my main priority is getting work done. A lot of my friends and the people I'm working with drink daily until the wee of hours of the early morning, but I haven't done that yet. On the one or two nights I've gone out for a little, I've always tried to make the subway home before it stops running at midnight. But on those occasions, I will admit to ordering some Korean fried chicken near my place for when I do get off the train home a little tipsy. I think of it as my reward for getting back at what locals here would consider a modest hour.

Friday, June 09, 2017

"Your game is tired.
You should retire.
You're about as cute,
as an old coupon, expired."

From the song Swish Swish by Katy Perry.
Alone time is an absolute necessity.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

I had this dream last night, where I was trying to scream into my phone at a company because they had wronged me somehow. I was so livid, which was escalated even more because they had me on hold for over 4 hours. When it was finally my turn to speak to a representative, I choked and couldn't talk. I was trying to yell and shout my frustrations because I was so hurt and angry, but it was as if I had lost my voice. My rage had been boiling and become more intense over the time I waited and I obsessed about exactly what I wanted to say. But it came out as a whisper and at most, I was only able to say a few words. I kept having to try and clear my throat again, yet still, nothing. I actually woke up when I heard my own voice talking out loud.
People only want the good, the shiny, and the sparkling aspects of our lives.

But exactly how much of our day-to-day life actually consists of that? Life is not one, big Instagram filter. And that's what I'm determined to share here on my blog.