Sunday, November 02, 2003

abandon all Hope Markets, ye who enter here...

I won't be pimping at the Huimang Shijang on Sunday. In fact, I think I'm not going to be pimping at Insa-dong, either: other matters are more pressing right now than my budding career as illegal hawker of my own wares. Need to clean the residence, make it presentable before my temporary escape back to the world.

I was at Insa-dong Saturday afternoon and evening, from about 1PM to 3PM, then from about 7PM to 9PM. What with the long break and my general distractedness, I didn't sell anything (dammit). I did get another crowd to gather around while I talked about my artwork; I suspect they were just more interested in a foreigner speaking Korean. Same dynamic as described before: the most likely purchasers arrived in pairs or groups, never singly... except for one old guy who'd bought some art a few days ago. He was back this evening, quite drunk, and wouldn't shut up. I know he scared a couple potential customers away.

Mr. Jang was also back (the guy who wants me to teach him and his co-workers English and French). He ran away when the drunk old guy demanded that they go grab a drink, then crept back when the coast was finally clear.

Mr. Jang had taken down my birth information a few days ago so he could do an astrological reading on me. Luckily, I know all the relevant info, right down to the hour of birth, since our family made a fuss that I was born almost exactly six hours before one of my cousins, Jennifer, out in California. Mr. Jang's feeling, based on his reading, is that I'm going to become extremely successful, but not before age 37, which gives me another three years in the Ninth Circle of Mediocrity and Education Debt.


As you probably know by now, I don't subscribe to fortune telling, superstition, or any of the other pseudoscientific activities which Carl Sagan lumped under the rubric "bamboozlement." I'm 99% scientific skeptic. While I have a sense of wonder, I don't have a sense that I'm surrounded by ghosts, spirits, and mysterious powers. I don't see the world's happenings as hinting at some deeper meaning or "hidden harmony." I'm very iffy on the idea that "everything happens for a reason"-- in the sense intended by the people who see some sort of divine plan, or believe in "salvation history" or a Teilhardian "omega point."

And Mr. Jang, once he started guessing at my personal life, merely confirmed to me that his vaunted astrological reading didn't give him any more insight into my character or future than a nonastrologer would possess (or could guess at).

It started suddenly. We'd been talking about something else. Out of the blue, Mr. Jang asked,

"Do you have a bad relationship with your brothers?"

No, I said. I don't.

Which is true. Unlike the sometimes-frosty relationship between my Dad and his brother (long story, which I won't tell here), there's none of that between me and David and Sean. I worry about them constantly, miss them when I'm away for long periods, and honestly enjoy hanging around with them-- listening to Sean play the cello, kicking David's ass at "Halo," or munching on a Bacon Bleu burger at the Tombs with either of them (more likely David). Do we annoy each other, we brothers? Of course-- we're siblings. Siblings annoy each other all the time. Has it translated into some sort of deep resentment or sublimated hatred? Not at all. Next question!

"Do you have a bad relationship with your father?" Mr. Jang asked hopefully.

Again, no.

Same deal, but without the sibling static. Some might say I idealize my Dad, but a lot of sons do that. I do consider him the most authentically religious person I know, "religious" in the sense recognizable to people of Dad's generation, and meant in a very positive way. Despite all my schooling in the subject, I don't think I possess a hundredth of what Dad seems to just radiate at times.

Best evidence: all animals love Dad. I trust most animals' intuitions about people. I'm an asshole, and know this because not all dogs are friendly to me. Years ago I watched the world's angriest German shepherd actually calm down when my Dad merely entered the room (this was in South Carolina, at the house of Uncle Jay, then a relation, by marriage, to my friend Sam, but since divorced from Sam's aunt). Then, after calming down, the dog actually licked the back of Dad's hand. Dad's like that. He's Dr. Doolittle. Cerberus himself would probably trot over and beg Dad to scratch all three tongue-lolling heads.

Mr. Jang didn't go any further, which surprised me. You'd think he'd have wanted to ask about my mother, which would have struck gold-- not in the sense that our relationship is bad, but it's often strayed into the... operatic. I'll say no more.

Actually, no-- since I talked about Dad, I should mention something about Mom and religion. I think I've moved from Dad's style of religiousness to Mom's. Hers is a practical spirituality that has little to do with specific forms and beliefs. She's Presbyterian, like the rest of us, but that's more a matter of circumstance than of choice. I don't think she fundamentally cares which religious camp she finds herself in. To a certain extent, this is true of Dad as well-- he was a Catholic (and remembers his prayers in Latin), and went Protestant around the time I was born. But Dad's faith does contain more explict trappings of Christianity than Mom's does. Mom won't talk about God or refer to God, and so far as I know she has no habit of praying. I've found myself also taking that road as I get older. I never pray anymore-- haven't for years. When I was asked by our pastor to write and direct some skits for the church, I deliberately avoided the "G" word in the scripts. It's not a matter of growing "beyond" or "away" from the past, I think. As with my long-ago remarks on artistic progress, I don't think there's an appropriate spatial metaphor to describe this kind of internal change. I certainly don't see myself as having superseded Dad, for example, just because I took some courses. I might be able to quote scripture more readily than he can, and I might be able to set it in a historical context faster and do a more rigorous exegesis, but as the story goes, "You know the psalm, but you don't know the shepherd." That's my Dad. He knows the shepherd. Mom does, too, but in her own, very Korean way, I tend to think.

[NB: I know the shepherd's biotelemetry, for whatever that's worth.]

The other Insa-dong incident of note this evening was a weird debate I had with another old guy, a Mr. Jung Dae-won who knows a lot about America, but thinks he knows more than he really does.

"What are the time zones called!?" he demanded, eager to show off his own knowledge.

"Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific," I said.

"No, no no-- that's not 'Mountain,' it's 'Midwest.'"

"Midwest? I've never heard anyone call it that. Hm."

We actually argued about this. It occurred to me that Mr. Jung might not have been completely sober, either, but I wasn't sure. He seemed perfectly rational regarding everything else, but on this one point he would not budge. So it's Midwest Time, in case you're wondering-- not Mountain Time. I guess it's some vast right-wing conspiracy to make most of the country "talk wrong."

In conclusion-- no Hope Market tomorrow. Trip prep, and maybe a movie with Jang Woong and Bo Hyun if they have time (I wouldn't mind hitting that snail restaurant again, either). The movie? Possibly "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," currently in the Top 5 in Korean cinema, or "Identity," the Cusack/ensemble film. Aside from that, it's laundry, housecleaning, a shitload of ironing, and maybe another few brush works before I pack the kit up to take along with me.

Matrix note: it's coming out on the 5th here, like in the States. I guess they decided to forgo the one-week delay.

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