I hope everyone appreciates the effort I'm making, here. Every time I elect to make Western food, I normally have to go all over town to round up the requisite ingredients. High Street Market in Itaewon has a lot of what I need; the local Costco has most of the rest. Today, I went to High Street to grab lasagna items; the mid-afternoon cab ride into Itaewon was awful.
The cab ride back to my place from Itaewon was, however, a unique trip: I got a ride from a guy billing himself as The Taxi Magician. He spends part of his day doing magic tricks, and when he's not wowing kids and adults, he drives around Seoul in a taxi whose interior has been decorated with hundreds or thousands of photos as well as Christmas-style lights (I don't know whether this was just seasonal). The Taxi Magician also had his animals with him: two rabbits in a box that I couldn't see because it was too dark, and a cute little budgie that sat perched close to the steering wheel, seemingly in command of the goings-on.
The cabbie is very proud of what he does; while we drove, he queued up a video of one of his TV performances (you can see it for yourself here). In this particular performance, the Taxi Magician first appears while pretending to be a Japanese man (he actually speaks Japanese, which makes the performance initially more convincing); the show's hosts then say a magician from China will next appear, but it's obviously the same guy. When it's time for the American magician to appear, the Taxi Magician comes out dressed as Uncle Sam and, knowing he can't pass for white, he simply dons a white Uncle Sam mask (actually, it looked rather red-faced to me). Although the magician's Japanese and Chinese skills aren't bad, his English is shaky, and the hosts tease him about his accent after he claims to be from America. (His Hitler-style Japanese mustache also keeps falling off, which becomes a source of humor.) In the end, The Taxi Magician reveals himself to be Korean to much "ooh"ing and "aah"ing.
The tricks the guy performed were nifty but familiar: I've seen quick-change feats and who's-really-inside-the-box numbers before. I did, however, like a trick he did early on while in the guise of the Japanese magician: he ripped paper into strips, magically turned the shreds into super-long strings of paper, stuffed the stringy paper into a soup bowl, poured hot broth into the bowl, and somehow transformed the paper into proper udon. One or two of the hosts took a bite to confirm authenticity.
It's not often you get to ride in a minor celebrity's cab, but there were are. I took some video of the cab's interior, which you can see here. Surreal.*
Mid-afternoon bled into evening, and after two super-long cab rides to and from Itaewon, I had to cab it to the local Costco for Shopping Trip Number Two. This ride also took twice as long (and cost twice as much) as usual; traffic on the Friday evening before Christmas was horrendous just about everywhere in the city. It was almost 8PM by the time I stepped into Costco, where I had to grab an assortment of cheeses (I'm making lasagna for a Wednesday luncheon at which my boss and coworker will be honored guests). I was unable to locate the huge bag of chocolate chips that I'd wanted for my "mouce" au chocolat, but I took care of that during my third shopping trip.
The third shopping trip took place inside my building, at the basement-level grocery. I bought a mess of ingredients for my big-ass Christmas meal, and also grabbed a bag of Hershey's Dark Chocolate Kisses to replace the semisweet chocolate chips I had wanted to buy at Costco. I don't think the kisses will affect the mouce very much: the recipe calls mostly for Nutella.
I had wanted to start my shopping much earlier in the day, but my intestines, once they realized I was on vacation, decided to act up, so I had to wait several hours before I knew it'd be safe to roam around outside. Yes, my guts rule my life. That's increasingly true for all of us as we get older. Ignore your tripes at your peril.
I'm tired, now, so I'll be hitting the hay soon and getting a very early start tomorrow. Much cooking and gift-wrapping to be done.
*If you're interested in hiring this guy for some event, he encouraged me to spread the word, so here's a picture of his card: