Monday, September 19, 2005

Welcome distractions

Saturday wasn't so bad after all. In fact, I have to say that, busy though it was, I had a fantastic time. Let's see... I slacked off on doing laundry, deciding I could get by for a few more days. Instead, I went to the office and got a little bit of work done, then went to the church on campus to sing with the concert choir at the annual family weekend mass. Nice church. (If you know the Edgar Allan Poe poem about the bells, a line of which actually reads, "bells, bells, bells, bells," then you might find it interesting to know that the bells he was writing about were the bells of this church, since his cottage was, and still is, just down the street from the campus. Or you may not care. Either way, I thought I'd volunteer the information.) The singing went well, the mass was short enough, and I left the church and was returning to my office for a bit more reading when I got a phonecall from Chuck. He had arrived in town the night before, and he wanted to know if I felt lke joining him and his friends for some dinner and drinking. Dinner and drinking? Absolutely. Frankly, it had been a good while since I'd managed to undertake either of those activities... and with actual live people, even... so I jumped at the chace. Besides, I needed to see Chuck... sort of my infusion of home, which I think I've been needing for the last couple of weeks.

After a train ride on the Metro North and two subway transfers, I found myself in K-town, the Korean district of Manhattan. Chuck was waiting for me on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant where he and his friends were just getting started, so I seemed to have arrived just in time. When we walked in, I was introduced to two of Chuck's friends from college at UC Berkeley, along with one friend's wife, the other friend's girlfriend, and a childhood friend of the first friend... I didn't even try to keep everyone straight... all I knew is that there was plenty of food, plenty of drinking, and no one seemed to care what anyone's name was by the third or fourth round. After dinner had wrapped up, someone suggested that we go upstairs. Those who seemed to be in the know agreed enthusiastically. The way I rationalized it, these people were kind enough to feed me and liquor me up, so this upstairs thing was bound to be a great idea. How about those spur-of-the-moment decisions... you never know what you're walking into until it's too late.

We walked up the stairs to the next floor up, where we found a woman at a reception desk, then two indescript hallways, both lined with five or six doors each, all painted red and individually numbered. Someone asked me whether I had ever been to one of these places before, and my answer got caught in my throat... would saying 'no' cost me some kind of strange, drunken initiation process involving strippers and pieces of fruit? Okay, maybe my head was in a weird place at the time, but it was a legitimate fear from the looks of the place. We were lead to one of the doors which opened onto a medium-sized room; the lights were dimmed, and there was a multi-colored dancefloor light ball haning from the ceiling, doing its part to festivify the place. There was a rather imposing big-screen TV in the corner, and the opposite corner's walls were occupied by an enormous black leather sectional, in front of which there was a sizable square table. On the table were about five six-packs of imported beer, three large platters of snacks and three large, unmarked binder folders, chock full of white pages. I stood at the door, my eyes glazing over as they fell on those binders. Damn it. Suddenly, I knew exactly what this was. "Dear God," I thought, almost saying it out loud. "No! For the love of all things sacred, NO!!!!!"

Oh, yeah. I had walked into what I can only describe as a karaoke bordello. I knew Filipinos had it bad, but Koreans have taken it to another level. They like to do the same drug, but they have these parlors in which to do it among friends, in some privacy... sort of like an opium den. We got into the room, and the microphones appeared, along with a huge remote control used for entering song selections (not as compact as the Filipino magic mic, but apparently just as effective, and maybe even more so, given the drunken state of my company). Before I could voice any sort of protest, someone shoved a beer in my hand, flopped me into the sectional, and dropped one of the enormous binders into my lap. Then it began... the onslaught of songs by the likes of Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Guns n Roses, and other assorted hairbands from the glorious eighites. If there wasn't blood flying from people's mouths by the end of the night on account of all the screaming, I have no idea how. It was a screamfest unlike anything I've ever witnessed, and it became more and more boisterous in perfect correlation with more and more beer.

So, the big question... did I join in the baccenalean debauchery? Did I scream my head off with the rest of them?

Actualy, no. I drank the beer, ate the snacks, and laughed like a hyena, but there was no screaming from me. I did, however, sing a few songs. And yes, it felt dirty.

But, honestly, I preffer this incarnation of the crackaoke use/abuse. For one, it's behind closed doors, so you manage to salvage some of your dignity, and the whole world doesn't have to know you're an addict. Also, there's no stage involved, no DJ announcing the travesty about to take place, no audience to get nervous in front of... and, perhaps best of all, there's seemingly unlimited snacks and beer. I'm not about to start frequenting these houses of ill repute on a regular basis or anything, but I certainly consider this a more respectable incarnation of the ugly and tragic crackaoke abuse that marrs the lives of so many otherwise perfectly good and respectable Asian people.

After we had all had quite enough... about five hours later... Chuck and I went to the Sullivan Room, a bar on the other side of the city, where we met another group of Chuck's friends (what can I say... Chuck's just a popular guy). We danced for a while, but we both found that we were so foggy from all the drinking at the crackaoke den (and, of course, we were doubtlessly still reeling from the crippling physioloical effects of the crackaoke itself) that we sat down and bobbed our heads for a while, then left for pizza and finally decided, at aroung six in the morning, to call it a night. We went back to Chuck's hotel room, which was a pretty huge suite. Chuck, ever prepared, had the forethought earlier in the day to have them make the sofa bed up for me. Lovely. Of course, that's not the best part... right next to the sofa bed, at just the right angle, there was a large TV. With cable. Needless to say, I was a very happy, cable-ready camper. I fell asleep to CNN... beautiful, beautiful CNN.

We woke up at around noon, had some coffee, then left the hotel in search of a meal. We ended up at a nice little restaurant about three blocks from the hotel, where we had the pleasure of being served by an unquestionably adorable Scottish waitress. We chose a table in the outside seating section and took our time eating, chatting, watching pedestrians, and enjoying the weather. Before long, it was time for Chuck to head to the airport, so we said our goodbyes at the hotel. Off he went in a towncar, and off I went in a yellow cab... with two extremely large pieces of luggage.

Chuck had brought two bags that John had packed for me with things he thought I'd need. Apparently, John felt I was pretty damn needy. Both bags were huge, packed full of who-knows-what, and horribly unwieldy. When I got to my building.... my five-story-walk-up... I had to take a few deep breaths and think happy thoughts before embarking on the task of hauling these bags up to my apartment. I kept telling myself, amid the pain, sweat, grunts, groans, and thoughts of doing severe physical harm to John, that it would be worth it, that John undoubtedly packed things I simply couldn't live much longer wthout, that I'd feel completely gratified upon unpacking the odious bags. At long last, I made it to my door, got inside, dropped the bags, and deposited myself in front of the air conditioning unit in my bedroom, reacquainting myself with the sumptuous joys of sitting still and sucking oxygen. Finally, I could undertake the task of opening the bags and seeing what John felt was so bloody important that I have sent to me.

He did well. Very well. My fencing equipment, my recording interphase, a few stray little aesthetic items for my room, several DVDs I've been missing desperately, two bamboo flutes, a practice drum pad, some books of guitar chords and method, blank notebooks for composing... and, most impressively and importantly, my cuatro and my Baby Taylor. The cuatro is simply near and dear to my heart, and makes it possible to practice some of my songs that I simply couldn't play without it. As for the Baby Taylor, it's my favorite guitar in all the world, an instrument I can honestly admit to having a very special relationship with. I know it sounds strange, but you have to play her to understand. In a word, she's just amazing. She's little and unassuming, but she plays like velvet under your fingers... and man, what a sound.

Good thing I hauled those bags upstairs... thanks, John. Very well done.

After I finished unpacking, I went back into the city to meet up with Russ for some Malaysian cuisine. I ate chicken out of a pineapple. I don't think I need to add any more to that in order to make it interesting. For desert, we went down the street and ate at a cheesecake place; Chelsea Clinton had reportedly had their red velvet cake on her birthday, so Russ ordered that... you know... for Chelsea. As for me, I had the rasberry swirl... you know... for Tori. (If you understand that, good for you. If not, just know I'm an unhealthily devout Tori Amos fan.) We chatted, reminisced, then made some plans to meet up again soon and parted ways. I spent my subway ride back home with a smile on my face, reflecting on the weekend and, perhaps moreso, thinking about getting home and picking up that Baby Taylor. Funny, the things that bring us joy. For me, it's friends and music, and the moments their coupling always give birth to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very interesting episode and you can almost predict what I would say
I hope. I'll say it anyways as your mother first and a friend. I suggest a good night sleep daily is best for your stressfull lifestyle. Health is Wealth, is true and with it you can conquer anything that comes your way. You know what I mean,and Best of luck to all your endeavors.

Monday, September 26, 2005 8:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:38:00 PM  

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