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This confirms it, I’ve been outta
the USA way too long, or otherwise I’d enjoy this bar. It is filled with
Americans, the English menu is priced in dollars, Pearl Jam is cranking on
the stereo, and Mr. B is buying me drinks. As you might suspect, I ain’t
in China, and one look at the thick necks on the all-American crowd tells
ya that I’m just outside a US military base.
I’m in Seoul, Korea, and this bar
in the It’aewon district is rivaling the worst of Thailand in its pure sex
play. With girls calling us from every doorway we pass, and
‘massages’ offered by babushkas on the sidewalk, it took all of
my persuasive powers to keep my companions from disappearing into a random
I’ve run into two American
programmers from Japan, who, like I, have spent too long outside the US,
and are shocked by the very American surroundings. We’re out and about in
this bar with Mr. B, a random Korean who’s apparently a tailor by day and
a sleazy party-boy by night. Even though my disgust level is rising by the
minute, for the GI’s are doing the best impression of Redneck Americana
that I’ve seen in years, I’m gonna stay till our benefactor runs out of
See, it took me a hour to get
here, as the brown subway line drawn on the map doesn’t exist yet, so I
tried to walk it from the nearest station. Two big circles from two
different stations later, lost, pissed, and on the edge of going home,
only an odd desire to press on led me to It’aewon, and I’m not about
to repeat last night’s homeward journey.
After the endless lines of Korea
customs, where shuttle traders were shoving for position even before our
ferry from China made port, I went to the Taehangno University district,
looking to unwind with a few beers and decent music. What I found shocked
me, for this was not your usual cheap and funky poor-student zone.
No, at $4 for a beer while
lounging on pristine white couches, I knew I was in the wrong part of
town. trying to get home, I found that not a single taxi driver could read
the simple map on the back of my hotel’s card, and I would up walking the
four kilometers to my traditional Korean hotel early in the morning.
Tonight, I’m sucking down free
Koran Hite beer until one guy starts babbling about Fragile Rock and I
look up to see the Culture Club singing on the TV. Then, my 80’s
kid childhood comes back to me so strong, I have to flee down
‘Hooker Hill,’ diving into first taxi I see.
Luckily, this taxi driver
understands the map I gave him for my hotel and we speed home with other
hopefuls shouting their intended destinations at us as we pass. They’re
hoping the driver would follow the local custom of doubling up on fares,
but good for me he doesn’t, and I’m back home to tell you this tale by the
glow of the late night TV.