Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Room With A View

XTC--"Scarecrow People" (mp3)
The Yardbirds--"Shapes of Things" (mp3)

In this city of cryptic t-shirt messages like "Drop Knowledge Not Bombs," we live in a place called Human Starville. There is a job, perhaps a career, available for someone who would go around and correct the translations of the various signs. Coffee shops are among the worst offenders.

No one who works for this building speaks much English, which has made it difficult for Chief Negotiator Tommy to get us what we need. We started out on the 7th floor because they couldn't get the wireless to work. When they moved us up here, we discovered that it still didn't work, but the one next door did, so if we sat on the couch and leaned against the wall, we had Internet.

Outside the windows of the rooms on the lower floors are safety belts attached to cables. If there is a fire, one of the people in the room can wrap the belt around himself and jump to the ground, I assume at a controlled speed. Up here on the 24th floor, we do not have the safety belt attached to a cable.

On the bottom floor is the famed Cafe Servizio, a Korean attempt at an Italian cafe, a concept that is quite popular. At this point, I'd have to say the prevalence of these places is based on the notion that it's easy to recreate pasta, sauce, and pizza. The casear salad is good, though. Tommy and I like to sit down there in the morning and drink coffee, in the evenings and drink beer.

Our first morning here, someone threw a full plastic bottle of milk out of one of the upper floors. I'd like to think it was an accident. It hit two umbella-ed tables down from us with the sound and force of a gunshot. Bam! We did the instinctive, too-late duck move that people do when something blows up near them. There were a couple of Korean men a table away from where it hit. It freaked them out; the immediate knowledge that had it hit their umbrella, it would have killed one of them.

I don't really know who lives here or why. It is designed for long-term stay, so maybe people here doing business. We don't see foreigners in this building. What we do see are plastic surgery patients, women in particular, who wear duck-like masks with an opening for their mouths. This is a plastic-surgery city. The clinics where it can be done are everywhere and prominently advertised.

Whoever lives in this building (we never see the same people twice), we are apparently ripe customers for the pleasures of Korea. Regularly when we open the door, small cards advertising a particular woman, or a massage place, or a Korean food delivery place fall to the ground.

Beyond that, I'd like to tell you where we are, but I only know in the most general way where that might be. I can find it on a map. Unfortunately, cab drivers cannot. Seoul is hell for a cabbie; it's simply too big, too built up, too chaotic. Any time that we can remember, we pick up a card down in the lobby on the way out that says "Take Me To The Human Starville." You hand one of these cards to the cabbie and hope for the best.

"Scarecrow People" comes from the XTC cd Oranges and Lemons. "Shapes of Things" is classic Yardbirds, available on any number of cds and compilations. It was one of the favorite songs of my youth.


Hank said...

Ah Seoul. Good times!

Bob said...

I'm guessing, dude, that it's much more fun being here with Tommy D than it was with Kirk W.

Hank said...

No comment, dude.

How is the TV over there? All I got in my hotel was baseball, pro wrestling and some channel that showed a lot of Law and Order.

Bob said...

Well, as I'm sure Tommy D will confirm, there is (or was) European soccer in the wee hours of the morn. Yes, a lot of baseball, but a lot of Korean pop as well. And we get some kind of sobering, international version of CNN that offers a good deal of annoyingly-real news.

Bob said...

Hank, by the way, I'm working with two of your guys--Seung Moon (Chris) and Seoiyoung (Alex)--in a writing class. Chris is also working with me one-on-one to try to prepare for the study of literature. Good guys.