I just played host with the most to friends from
abroad, and I am emotionally and physically spent. Nam Jung Hyun, otherwise known as Johnny Blaze, was my friend and Korean confidant during much of my time spent in Pyoungtek, South Korea. Whether it was freakin brothers every which way on the basketball courts of American military bases, pounding edible natured items from Korean beer to kimchi, to dog meat (only twice), or pouring our sweat and souls through karaoke booth microphones, we did it together. With John came Armen, a Canadian who was freshly returned from a 3 year teaching stint in Korea and also a mutual friend and slaker of soju. The three of us had long ago forged ties of UJUNG, or friendship in that far away place.
The last time I had seen them was October 18th, 2006 when I was leaving my little Korean farming town called Pyoungtaek, later labeled the city of hot garbage in a fashion dripping with endearment. Fast forward 11 months of backpacking South East Asia and South America plus a few more of dinking around Seattle, WA trying to avoid breaking public intoxication laws, and there they were: left out in front of a Best Western in downtown Seattle where their bus from Vancouver, Canada had left them off. They were unmistakable. The freakiest of odd couples, Armen comparable with Lurch from the Adams Family yet slightly albino, and John comparable with Conan the Barbarian, just better English and a beer belly. Oh, and crazy hair. His hairline starts about an inch above his eye brows, and gives quilled animals everywhere a run for their money.
Seeing them together, engaging in a three way platonic man embrace, ushering them into my 96 civic, in Seattle...was just a high. A validating high; All too many times do you invest time and energy into far away friendships, sucking on that sour kernel of truth that you will probably never see these people again. Not being a gloomy gus, just speaking from a statistical probability
standpoint. But here they were, in my presence, eating my food, making me laugh, making me angry, going into my hot tub naked, making full on Korean meals with samgipsal and kimchi cheegay. We rode ferries together, watched NYE firework show meltdowns, played guitar hero incessantly, took in numerous American movies without Korean subtitles, spent a collective 34 hours driving in my car places, got parking tickets, and finally rocked the shit out of a local karaoke joint named the Mystic Unicorn.
With Johns adorable yet deplorable personality, his non-stop harassment of my cat, and all around sweet nature, my Korean experience was given a face to some of the people I know here in my home town. With Armens quiet riot persona and mannered personality, his unrivaled skill at rapping Eminem's Stan
(in all seriousness, he performs this song amazingly) my Korean experience was given a face. An
incredible week full of memories old and new, and their voices echo off the walls of my mind, already growing quieter and fading into silence. Catch you guys soon. Gombay
ps. Cheech, if the words of this entry meet your eyes, you were missed. Give me a call sometime.