Met with friends John McCrarey and Young Chun today at Shenanigans, a pub/resto in Itaewon. John had brought several hard copies of Young's book (I hope to buy a signed copy myself at some point). We drank a bit at Shenanigans—John and Young with their beers, and I with my Coke. John and Young both knew (or knew of) folks at Shenanigans, and I got to meet one or two of these people myself. Young autographed a book for John, then we headed downhill to the Yongsan Garrison, where John wanted to take us to Oasis, the Mexican/BBQ buffet. We signed on, walked over to the Dragon Hill Lodge, and went downstairs to the buffet. We were given a seat close to the food, and after nibbling some preliminary nacho chips as a starter, we headed over to the buffet and attacked. I ended up getting two platefuls of dinner plus a plateful of dessert items; John ate significantly less than I did, but we were both impressed by how much food Young managed to shove down his gullet. For such a small, thin guy, Young could pack it away. I was impressed. Alas, he wussed out on dessert, so I think I still won in terms of sheer volume and calories consumed.
Conversation ranged over a variety of topics, not least of which was the back story behind Young's book. Some incidents, and some characters, had been left out of the telling, Young told us, so I don't feel at liberty to reveal those people and anecdotes here. I think, however, that there's enough extra material for Young to write a second book if he wanted to.
John had fun busting my balls about my internal contradictions. When I congratulated him on not doing the damn "V" sign when I snapped his photo, John admitted that he had done the "V" in other pics. When I made a face at his "going native," John pointed out that I was the one who was always talking about the need for expats to assimilate more into Korean culture. "We can't win with you," he joshed. Well, he had me there, although in my defense I'll say there are probably good and bad ways to assimilate. Heh. John also wanted to know why I found the small-town ambiance of suburban Goyang so nice and refreshing despite my having chafed at living in a similar small-town environment down in Hayang. That was a bit hard to explain, and I'm not sure I articulated my feelings that well during dinner. I think, though, that part of the appeal of living in Goyang is that I'm isolated from the rest of the Dongguk community. Even though I enjoyed being in an office with my fellow coworkers last semester, being apart in a satellite city of Seoul appeals to my natural introversion. I feel like a free agent.
Some war stories were traded; we talked a bit about movies and TV shows; I praised the pulled pork at Oasis, which really was damn good: the pork had that outer layer of "bark" that gives pulled pork its savoriness, and the inner meat was amazingly juicy and tender.
All too soon, dinner was over and it was time to leave. We all proclaimed ourselves stuffed; Young, incredibly, had somewhere else to be this evening, but he said he'd need some time to rest and digest before hitting his second meet-up. We walked toward Samgakji Station and went our separate ways. I was as bloated as an anaconda that's just swallowed a full-grown sow. All the same, when I got back to Goyang, I marched over to the local grocer, bought a 1.2-kilogram hunk of solid deungshim (pork sirloin, in this case; deungshim could also refer to beef sirloin), and stuck it in the freezer. Tomorrow, it goes into my newly purchased slow-cooker for several hours, after which it'll be shredded, honeyed, broiled, anointed with barbecue sauce, and made into my own homemade pulled-pork sandwiches. Oh, yes: I just said "broiled," didn't I? Well, tomorrow will mark my first-ever use of the oven that my buddy Charles had given me as a gift back in 2013.
Many thanks to John for funding tonight's dinner.
ADDENDUM: John's writeup of our meeting is here.