Sunday, July 23, 2006

coolness, freaks, and gay motorcyclists

What a difference the weather makes. Tonight's walk up Namsan, which started at 12:35am, got me up the mountain in 57 minutes, tying with my fastest time so far. A major reason for this is that the evening was relatively cool and windy, with very little humidity. I was tromping up the stairs with much less effort than usual. I also made it back home in record time, partly because I took the stairs back down instead of following the bus route downhill, which is what I normally do. I took the stairs down from the summit because I wanted to count them. The other night, I'd counted the steps up the Koreanische Philosophenweg and arrived at the tentative figure of 262. The climb up the final flight of stairs? 743 steps.


90 steps up the stairway from Huam-dong to Namsan Public Library.

262 large, oversized steps up the Koreanische Philosophenweg.

743 steps up from the park entrance to the summit.

A grand total of 1095 steps-- all part of a one-hour walk.

I doubt I could do 1095 steps all at once: as things are, I walk several minutes on more or less level (or downward-sloping) ground before encountering the next major set of stairs. The breaks are crucial: my rule is that I shouldn't stop, but that wouldn't be possible if I were faced with nearly 1100 steps, back to back.

Tonight's walk also featured my first freak. Some 20-something dude across the street from me, apparently reliving the 80s, was gamboling along with a boombox hanging loosely in one hand. He was ahead of me, walking in the same direction I was, but when I crossed the street to his side, he started pacing back and forth in an apparently indecisive manner, 5 meters toward me, 5 meters away, then back again. When I finally passed him, his zigzagging stopped and he began to follow me, though at a safe distance. Truth be told, I have no idea whether he was truly following me; for all I know, he was following the dictates of the voices in his head, and his decision to walk behind me might have had nothing to do with me. He stayed behind me for about five minutes; when I broke left to go up the Philosophenweg, he didn't follow. Maybe he knew those steps and thought they'd be too much of a chore, what with his heavy boombox and a skull full of demons.

My students know I walk up Namsan at night, and they always ask me whether I'm afraid to be out there. Thus far, I've answered that there's no one out at night to bother me; now, at least, I can creep them out with this story, which I'll tell in my usual bug-eyed, histrionic manner.

The last thing of note this evening (aside from the usual cats and earthworms) was the massive motorcycle gang that roared by me a bit before 2am as I was exiting Huam-dong and strolling back toward Ch'eongp'a-dong, where I live. As motorcycle gangs go, it had to be the gayest one I've ever seen: no one was wearing leather, none of the bikes were Harleys (or anything remotely resembling a hog), and most of the bikes had two male riders. The gang-- if "gang" is the proper term for what I was witnessing (maybe "flock" is better)-- had absolutely no aura of menace about it. The most audacious thing they did was honk their squeaky little horns when they passed by a parked police car. Just dudes in shorts and short-sleeve shirts. On thirty or forty tiny bikes.

Maybe this was the Korean version of the Shriners. Heh.

As I've said before-- every walk up Namsan and back is unique.


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