Saturday, January 13, 2007

YES! Big Hominid in the sex shop!

My buddy Tom has a "radio" show (actually a DMB cell phone broadcast) called "New Red English," which airs at midnight. NRE is devoted to teaching the raw stuff-- i.e., sex and scatology. Tom has already done several dozen shows, and is thinking of inviting me on one evening (actually, the shows are recorded in the afternoon, not the evening). This is relevant to later events, so please bear with me a moment.

I spent a good chunk of today helping my buddy out with his house-hunting, using my so-so Korean to bolster his so-so Korean as we tag-teamed various real estate agents, peppering them with questions about utilities, facilities, neighborhood shops, contractual issues, and all the rest.

In the evening, I had to go in the direction of Itaewon, to Hannam Market, to pick up some Metamucil for my recalcitrant ass. Tom said he needed to visit a sex shop he'd been to before in order to get props for his show, so we headed Itaewon-ward by subway and walked in the direction of the Itaewon Hotel. Don't ask me why a radio show needs props, but that's how it goes: Tom wanted sex shop items for his next broadcast. He was particularly obsessed with obtaining a double dong, i.e., a long, flexible dildo with "heads" on both ends for two eager vaginas to snack on at once. I think the idea is that Tom wanted to scandalize his producer, who is a woman.

While my blog is characterized by plenty of raunchy humor, I can't say that I've incorporated much raunchiness into my personal life. I've never actually been inside a sex shop before, this despite having lived in Europe, where sex shops are as exposed and ubiquitous as tits on a topless beach. This particular sojourn, then, was a first for me. Another cherry popped.

A shop labeled simply "Adult Shop" in English is located across the street from the Itaewon Hotel; we went up the narrow stairs and found ourselves in female heaven: the shop was pretty much wall-to-wall dildos, with plenty of other adult products thrown in: "Gimp"-style masks, leather bikinis, riding crops, whips, bondage gear, various creams and elixirs, and perhaps most humorously, boxes of batteries.

The old lady who ran the shop greeted us with a wide grin; Tom talked with her a bit while I simply drank in my surroundings. I think I'm going to tell my Smoo students about my adventures this coming week. Maybe not my high schoolers (the early-acceptance high school seniors whom we call shin-ip saeng, or "freshmen"): while I doubt these girls are as innocent as they portray themselves, it seems somehow wrong to write words like "dildo" and "butt plug" on the white board. I might risk broaching the topic with the girls in my Intensive 3 class; they seem sturdy enough to face such material without quailing or giggling, though I'm sure they'd rather talk about such things with a female teacher, not a large, leering male.

I eventually began talking with the shopkeeper. I asked her what sorts of people visited her shop and she immediately said, "Americans. Koreans never visit, though they sometimes send an American friend in to make a purchase." She expressed regret at not being able to speak English-- "It'd make things go a lot easier." So we talked about language learning. The shopkeeper scoffed at Korean kids who spend six months to a year outside Korea, then come back showing little to no improvement in their English. I told her that her generation (which is also my mother's generation) had done much better on that score: that was the generation of people who came to America to work, to survive, to start a new life, and many of those people now spoke English quite well, if not perfectly. Many foreigners coming to Korea these days also apply themselves to Korean study, and learn Korean more rapidly than previous waves of foreigners.

It was a strange talk to be having while surrounded by plastic dicks, but I imagine that, from the shopkeeper's point of view, the items in her store were nothing more than products for sale, no different from a grocery store or electronics mart. About three-quarters of the way through our conversation, some white dude walked up to the shop's door, saw me and Tom inside, and hesitated. He eventually worked up his courage and came in, but damn, did he look sheepish about being there. I don't blame him: I've seen the window displays of sex shops in places like Germany, but can't say I ever had the nerve to walk into them. Tonight's excursion was a plunge into another world, almost as though I had been sucked into the realm of the female id, a strange paradise in which disembodied penises, not angels, were the heavenly host.

Good night, sweet princess. And flights of dingles sing thee to thy rest.

Then, Tom's shopping complete, we got the fuck out of there. Tom said he would be going back tomorrow; the shopkeeper looked pointedly at me and said, "It'd be nice if you both came back." She was apparently relieved to have a "customer" who spoke some Korean.

This ranks among the strangest evenings I have ever experienced in Korea. My major regret is that Tom is a guy.


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