Monday, May 30, 2011

Flash Fiction - Festive

Good evening,

 Well, jet-lag has passed, a new job is lined up, and I just spent my weekend hanging out with a bunch of drunk anime geeks.

You know what else I did? This, which is based partly on a dream I had while overseas:


            The tetladon moulded the top of its head into the face of a laughing child again. As its stubby fingers scratched against the rubbery red carapace of its scalp, its pudgy and placid audience stood dumb-eyed, singing a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to the creature. The stout, red-shelled beast finally stopped. Aiming its second face at the tourists, it winced and pressed its digits against the sides of its head. The child’s mouth moved up and down. Applause followed shortly thereafter.
            Richard watched the display as he swept up discarded drink cups and bits of fruit paste. Lethargically lifting his broom and dustbin up, he took himself around to another tent to sweep up the fliers and bags and other bits of trash patrons left lying around. Waves of bipeds and tri-peds and quadrupeds passed him by, hand-in-hand or hand-in-claw as they lined up for games and overpriced foods. 
Bored, he wiped his brow and cast a quick glance at the twin dwarf stars orbiting each other. He looked over to see a balloon-decorated sevnan leering at the Ferris wheel in the distance. The blue and yellow-furred thing left him nostalgic. Save for its rows of vicious teeth and the long and flat horn that shot up like a knife’s blade from its scalp, it very much resembled a giraffe from Earth, a world he now missed more dearly than before.
He had been there for too long. The thrill of being on another world was gone. He needed familiarity, craved the mundane sights and sounds of his home-world. He missed long winters and the smell of diesel and skyscrapers. Moreover, pickles; pickled foods in general was illegal on all of Hastan. It was so small a thing, but all Richard could think of was how badly he needed a bowl of kimchi. 
            A flabby hand clasped his shoulder. He jolted and turned around. Turut, his supervisor, stood behind him with a smug grin. Dwarfish and rotund, the orange humanoid frog barely fit the bright red suit jacket, pants, and half-buttoned shirt it wore proudly. Adjusting the oversized top hat with its incredibly long fingers, the wide-eyed manager smiled from one side of its face to the next.
            “Good job cleaning the gazebos,” the swollen thing said, drumming its belly jovially. “I’ll need you at the bathrooms by the water slides in five.” 
“Yes, sir,” he said distantly.
One of the wide and long hands of Richard’s boss struck him across the side. “Clear your head, boy. I have the High Scanner flying in this afternoon and I need you at your best.” 
Richard nodded; Turut continued his speech, but he barely heard it. He cast a lingering glance towards one of the few humans on staff, a girl from New Jamaica working behind the sweets counter. Black hair fell loose over a round, dark face that lit up no matter who or what approached her. He couldn’t wait for his break, so he could chat with her and the couple from East Quezon about matters back home.
Turut caught his stare, and its fat mouth spread into a grin. The bulbous boss seized Richard’s arm, pulling the human away. “Oh-ho!” it said, leading him along, “I had a feeling!” 
As though slapped, the startled janitor jerked his head back, “What?”
“Love-struck for that dark girl at the concession stand, are you?” the thing chuckled, jabbing one of its long fingers into the human boy’s stomach. “Well stay clear of her, my child, for she’s a loose one, so Ahlmut tells me.” 
“I have,” he said, putting his hands up and remembering his formalities, “no idea, what you’re talking about, Good Turut. With all due respect, I –”
The thing did not hear him. “You know what you need? A Levennan girl.” 
“I’d rather not, Good Turut.”
“Why not? They’re not so different from Earth girls.” 
“Except for the metal diets and the ritual murders.”
“Those are East Islanders, and they’re silly. Levennan girls from the Hodak peninsula though? Slender and the colour of gems, attentive as can be? A boy like you would melt.” 
“I should get back to work before the High Scanner arrives, Good Turut.”
Dejectedly, his supervisor slapped him on the back and gave a nod, darting round a corner and leaving him alone. Richard sighed. He stared up at the double-stars once again and set off for the bathrooms. A tall manoid covered in body paint juggled live animals in front of a gaggle of children as Richard walked by and thought about kimchi.


Back in the saddle again.

See you next time,


EDIT: May 20, 2012. Made minor edits.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seoul Survivor, Part Four

I arrived back in town on Wednesday. I’ll spend this coming week recovering before I get back to Flashing Fiction and my usual nonsense.

So when I last left you all, I was talking about drunken hipsters, battlefields, and the long-legged beauties of Hanguk. Those of you who perhaps had a chuckle or two reading about my clubbing experience will be pleased to know that I hit the drum circle and Exit Bar once again. This time around, I shocked and awed many with my ridiculous movements, although the perspiration did not exactly win me many points with the opposite sex.

It did, however, win me points with a large and bearded American gentleman who decided to lock his lips on my shoulder and suck out some of my shirt sweat. Um.

Moving along.

On my final weekend, I was very active. Saturday, I saw my share of Hanok Village before walking to Jongmyo Park to visit temples and a horde of old people who had gathered to play Go and Mahjong en masse. Afterwards, I spent my last Sunday with Lord and Lady Herbivore, an Ecuadoran gentleman, and Commodore Getsmoney over by Noksapyeong Station. I made sure to walk to as many places as I could so that I could see as much of the city as possible before leaving town.

Monday was eventful as High Chancellor Manybitches took The Commodore and I to Noryangjin Fish Market with his parents. Seeing all of many forms of sea life caged and packed together was not nearly as unsettling as I thought it would be. No, my discomfort was reserved for the piles of shredded jellyfish, the catch of the day left bleeding to death on scales, the gutted octopi, and the smashed crab carcasses lining the ground. We had to select our own fish to be slashed up and delivered to us at one of the nearby restaurants. I personally will always remember watching the old woman we bartered with drag our selections away, shortly before beating the twitching mass of fins and tails to death behind her stand.

Food Chain: Deal With It.

Afterwards, The Commodore and I hit up the Coex Mall, the largest mall in all of Asia, and a labyrinth of stores, theatres, and food courts broken up by an aquarium-slash-zoo and, of all things, an airport terminal. Why? Don’t ask me; it has to go somewhere

Tuesday was bittersweet as it was my last day in Seoul. The picnic with The High Chancellor, The Commodore, and Duchess Sneakylegs under a bridge by Youido Park was nice and peaceful, and the walk I took around Dongdaemun’s relic exhibits was certainly eventful. Towards the end of the day, however, The Commodore and I realized that we had a Mission from God to complete:

Finishing Let’s Go Jungle! Lost in the Island of Spice.

Background time. Apparently some game company over in Japan wanted to go about making a rail shooter game that couples could play in an arcade, and discovered that non-gamers in the relationships always had trouble with gameplay mechanics like reloading or shooting everything on screen except for civilians, and set out to create a game that catered to that market. The result was Let’s Go Jungle, a strange mess of assault rifles with infinite ammo, swarms of giant insects, arachnids, and amphibians, and ridiculous acting. LGJ doesn’t pretend to be anything more than goofy fun, and it’s glorious.

However, the game has a peculiar little quick time event at the end where the couple squares off against a giant, mutated butterfly. Relieved of weapons, the couple is left with no choice but to hit the monster using a gem fired from a slingshot. Should they succeed, the day is saved; should they fail, the monster escapes and the couple... breaks up. No, I’m not joking. Well, needless to say, The Commodore and I discovered very quickly that we were not meant to be, and I went back to prepare for my flight.

The flight went as well as you would expect it to, I imagine. Turbulence still left me shaky and the stewardesses were just as massive teases as they were before. Film selection was as broad as when I left for Korea, so I sat through Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec (muh), Blue Valentine (whoo), and a Korean film called Troubleshooter (huh). Oh yes and apparently I was riding with some Korean pop icon, a poor man who was swiftly mobbed by local girls when I arrived back in town.

So that was South Korea. I had fun, and by gods am I going to miss the place. I’ve fallen in love with Seoul and I want to return someday – perhaps sooner rather than later. The people were (mostly) friendly, the food was good, the areas were fun and the streets were vibrant and safe. Granted, I’m already planning my next few trips – little solo adventures across the Americas and Europe – but I want to work towards returning to Seoul once again.

You’ve stolen my heart, you little minx; don’t think you’re getting away that easily.

Regular updates by the week of the 30th. For now, it’s good to be back.

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Minor, minor edits.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh hey I forgot to mention...

...that this month's Graphistrophic article is up and Adam decided not to tell me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Seoul Survivor, Part Three

Since Saturday night things have been more or less steady. On Sunday, Commodore Getsmoney and I met his associates, Lord and Lady Herbivore, by Noksapyeong Station for a day that involved climbing a whole goddamn mountain and eating fusion takeout by the park. Perhaps the highlight of that day was an overly-friendly old man coming up and trying to convince me that “Korean uwumahn is best uwumahn in all uwahrld.” We think he may have been in the mail-order bride business.

Monday saw The Commodore, The High Chancellor, and I taking in Thor, and then going separate ways during the evening. The Commodore saw The Lord and Lady while I hit Hongdae once again with The Brazilian and The Swede, wherein I did better at darts than I expected and got seized by a drunk. Said drunk approached me while The Brazilian was in the loo, and the conversation went like this:

“Harlo,” says the drunk.

“Hi?” I say back.

“Can you... ” he begins, trailing off. Then, a second later, he gripped my arms and mumbled, “Have a nice day” before stumbling off.

I wonder if he planted drugs on me somehow.

Tuesday saw me, The Commodore, The High Chancellor, The Duchess, and Lord Herbivore meeting for lunch before CG and LH took me to a museum and then I took myself to Bucheon for... basically nothing. I went there on the recommendation of someone I knew, someone who didn’t tell me what to see or do while in the area. Well done? Anyway, Wednesday was much more eventful, with The High Chancellor, The Commodore, and I spending the whole day together, raiding art galleries, harassing people at the royal palace, and then scaling another mountain so we could catch a look at the city skyline at night.

The past two days, meanwhile, were very war-related. I visited the Demilitarized Zone north of Seoul as part of a group tour, spending much of my morning being led around mine fields, barbed wire fences, and military-owned ginseng farmlands. I was also shown the third tunnel constructed by North Korean soldiers using only dynamite and determination, something that was intended to funnel spies and assassins from Pyongyang to Seoul. Thankfully, nobody told the North Koreans that if you use dynamite all the time, not only are farmers going to notice but eventually you’re going to mess up and hit a water main. Score one for common sense!

Then, today, I went to the War Museum of Seoul, which did its best to not tell anyone what the North Koreans were fighting for, what weapons they used, or what the current status of the conflict was. There’s great determination on the part of the South Korean government to make sure that the North Koreans stay mysterious and spooky in the public eye, it seems. Meanwhile, the museum itself held everything from memorials to weapons and old vehicles of past wars. Were I a war machines buff, or at least a G.I. Joe fan, my Hard would certainly be On. That said, there’s great pleasure in stalking around the inside of an old battleship and fiddling with the compasses.

Oh yes, and later that evening The Lord and Lady invited me out to Hyehwa, where drunken hipsters sang classic rock and I got a ride home from the surliest cab driver ever. My lack of understanding of the Korean language left him miffed, no doubt, especially when he picked up another passenger on the way to Hapjeong Station who shared in his mirth as he poked my leg and laughed raucously at my expense. Picking up multiple passengers is apparently illegal, and he’s also supposed to tell me about the translation services offered by each taxi. Thank you, Korea. Next time, I’ll walk.

I’ve noticed several things while here. Firstly, according to banks and airports, my name is either Robe or Rovert. I don’t know how this keeps happenings, but I have so many documents with my name misspelled on them. They always get my surname right, which is nice, but for some reason there hasn’t been a Robert in Seoul for many a century and now they don’t know what to do with me.

The other thing is that everyone under the age of eighteen greets foreigners simply for the sake of it. I was wondering why so many middle school youths were shouting “Harlo naise tuu meechoo” everytime I passed by. Apparently some of them dare each other to do it; not sure why, it’s not like I breathe fire. I also quickly learned that you can dumbfound them by talking back in Korean. One boy in particular blanched and ran back to his friends in a gesture that practically said “OH SHIT THEY’RE LEARNING OUR LANGUAGE! THEY’RE ADAPTING!

Lastly, the women have been checking me to a distressing degree. Apparently this has to do with my height, because some pop star or another went out and said that anyone below 180 centimetres is “useless.” Either way, it’s been bizarre. The Commodore noticed a woman on the train who would cover a blemish on her leg every time I lifted my head. Several fashionable twenty-somethings from the area scanned me up and down and shot friendly smiles whenever I passed. One young lady cast a lingering look my way before quickly turning her attention back to her boyfriend.

It’s unsettling and pleasing at the same time. The single man in my head is flattered by this, but his paranoid roommate is causing a ruckus. Is it genuine interest or are these girls just following a trend? How do I know they’re not doing price checks on my organs with their eyes? Which one of them is a North Korean spy, trying to recruit me to star in Kim Jong-Il’s last film?

Who cares? They have ridiculously nice legs.

Next time: Robert gets deported from Asia; yes, the whole thing.

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Minor edits.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Seoul Survivor, Part Two

I’m not going to lie; the last few days have been ridiculous.

My sleeping habits are so irregular here that it’s almost impossible to be fully prepared for everything I am experiencing. On my first night alone I found myself sleeping for only two hours while my insomniac friend Commodore Getsmoney slept soundly and snored like an entire lumber mill. It messed with my moods and led to some very fiery, tense moments between myself and my associate on Friday and even last night.

The good thing about these moments of weakness, though, is that they reveal all kinds of things about my own psyche and my own vision of self. More on that never, but in summary I may be coming out of this as a new man.

Let’s leave the introspection in the dust and talk about Seoul some more.

I’m staying in the party district of Seoul, a little area called Hongdae. There are a number of little shops and stores here and there, and a university lies around the corner but the two things you are going to see more than anything else are nightclubs and inebriated Koreans. On my first morning here, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a walk, finding myself flanked by discarded fliers, broken bottles, the odd puddle of vomit, and scores of clubbers scurrying back to their homes like vampires fleeing the sun. Fashion sense in this area ranges from the modern age to the space age, with hints of the 1980s lingering on the skin of young people.

I saw a man in denim coveralls and bright pink socks. The fact that nobody sent him home the minute he left the house should tell you something.

The Commodore and I have been seeing High Chancellor Manybitches just about every day so far. It’s actually astounding because I never saw him that often back in Canada so I guess this is a sign that he’s missed me too much. He even found it keen to introduce us to his girlfriend, whom I shall name Duchess Sneakylegs because she thought it fit to trick us into thinking she was a high school student. This led to the aforementioned fiery and tense moment between myself and The Commodore earlier, followed shortly by a heartfelt apology from the HC.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love the food here, and the graffiti. I’m particularly noticing a little cat face spray-painted across the side of many a building. I imagine that this is actually some kind of gang tag and were I to venture into the wrong area and remain there for too long then I would be set upon by gentlemen in hoodies and cat ears.

Yesterday was perhaps the most eventful day. I ended up taking a five hour walk from Seogyongdong to Youido in search of two things: a belt because my pants were so very loose, and a stone from a river. A friend back in Toronto wanted something natural and poetic and after combing the beach for a few minutes, discovered a heart-shaped little item that I quickly pocketed. Afterwards, The Commodore and High Chancellor then took me to the lantern festival parade by the artisan’s district where floats ranged from a fire-breathing Chinese dragon to baby Buddha piloting a helicopter.

I am not joking.

Then something I never thought I’d ever do in my entire life. After a brief argument with The Commodore, I ended up joining a Brazilian and a Swede to go out and hit the town. I got dragged into a drum circle by one of the squares and slam-danced with a North Dakotan and Nebraskan who were there for reasons I could not fathom, and then the three of us hit a small free-to-enter dance club and bar. Now, I don’t drink alcohol because I don’t need to be drunk to loosen up. As such, it proved way too easy for me to lose myself on the dance floor while drunken Korean girls felt me up and made out with each other – and with the Brazilian. He was swarthy like that.

Oh yes and at some point I forgot to zip up my fly so while I was prancing around I ended up freaking some poor girl out. Not my finest moment, but certainly one of the funniest. Thankfully, Robert The Second was not out-out, and was contained before it escaped.

The Swede ended up drinking himself into a stupor and left us to hang out with some particularly drunken Americans, returning later to vomit all over his own bed, but The Brazlian and I soldiered on. After a head-banging round while the venue switched DJs and assaulted our ears with some Rage Against The Machine tracks, I dragged myself back to the hostel. On the way over, I ran into two Koreans passing around a paper lantern.

I leapt up and accidentally spiked it into a large and drunken American.

I’m amazed I walked out of there with all my teeth. The guy was in good spirits and we shook hands and left on a truce. The Korean guy showed me the massive dent I left in his said to me “Hey powaahman you break my lantern but okay I break too” and then proceeded to spike it into a car. I told him he was beautiful and went home.

Afterwards I sent a long e-mail out to my mother and then drew a half-apology note for Getsmoney saying “YOU ARE AMAZING YOU ARE ALSO A PIRATE I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU”, placing a caricature of himself on the page shortly before passing out.

The mood is much better so far. On top of it all I feel a lot better about myself in general. I hope I don’t do anything to rock the boat over the next nine days because I know that if I do I’ll end up sleeping in a hospital.

Next time on I’ve A Nuke: Robert gets beaten up  by everyone forever.

EDIT: Fixed some spelling errors and explained one or two things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seoul Survivor, Part One

I slept for maybe four or five hours the night before. For me, this is a rarity. For my travelling companion, this is a blessing; insomnia does wonderful things for a man.

Officially, I have been awake for twenty six and a half hours. I don’t care. I’m thirteen hours into the future, and the future looks a hell of a lot like South Korea.

So here’s what happened: after an excruciating but entertaining day tallying votes for the Federal Election (Harper getting in was not my fault; blame everyone else), I came home to find my friend (whom I shall name Commodore Getsmoney) and his bags packed up and ready to go. We had been plotting this trip for some time after one of our number decided to fly overseas to teach English and reunite with his parents.  The drive to Pearson Airport was dreary, what with the rain and that horrible Frankenstein’s monster of a human being, that soulless automaton powered by your money winning a majority, but we tried to make the most of it. You know, as I personally planned my self-exile.

Let’s skip ahead and talk about vehicles. Specifically, how I cannot sleep in them. If the bumps and turns aren’t enough to keep me awake, then the lack of legroom will do the trick. Road trips are impossible for me; I need a bed to sleep in or I will not sleep. So, on a twelve hour flight I had no choice but to watch the in-flight movie selections of The Green Hornet (eh), True Grit (ah!), and Made in Dagenham (ohho). Repeatedly. In English, then again in the Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese dubs.

Wait, why Portuguese? Korea’s nowhere near Portugal, are there a bunch ofNO STOP TYPING FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS RARRARAAR

So The Commodore and I arrived and met our other friend, an old high school associate of mine whom I shall list here as High Chancellor Manybitches. HCMB has been expecting us for a year, and it showed. The man beamed like we descended from the heavens and was quick to load us up with transit cards and a quick tour of the surrounding areas by our hostel, treating us to damn near everything we could get our hands on.

On arrival at the hostel, I ended up discovering that the place had become a sort of chain and the first guesthouse was for one set of customers while another sat ten minutes from the initial location. Anyway, The Commodore and I ended up interviewed by two students/friends of the hosts who were going around asking foreigners their opinions on Korean culture, so I may be on Youtube and such an idea scares me down to the bone.

I’m only a day into my adventure in Seoul but so far I don’t mind the place. The venues have ridiculous names like SKIN FOOD and THE NO STRESS KITCHEN, and our hostel hosts are generous. I’m, of course, waiting for the hammer to fall but I hope it does not come to that.

Oh yes, and about our hostel: a clerical error resulted in Getsmoney and me sharing a room with only one bed. Guess who volunteered to sleep on the floor immediately after discovering this? Good thing they gave me another blanket to sleep on; I'm a hefty lad.

edit, May 05th 2011: noticed a half-sentence and finished it. hahahhahaha exhaustion

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Little edits.