Entries from December 19th, 2012

Where will they be safe?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I wrote the first draft of this post yesterday. It was a reactionary rant, days of pent up emotion, and when I decided to quit an hour later, I still felt no release.

Last Saturday, when I heard about the cataclysmic morning in Sandy Hook, I immediately thought of the kids I see everyday. I thought about my cousins at home and my friends with their new babies. These children. Children. As my aunt said yesterday over the phone, “Where are they going to be safe?”

The physical distance between Connecticut and Korea is huge, and soon time will make the tragedy seem remote for all of us who were indirectly affected. I worry about that, and I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the kids, the teachers, and the people who lost them. We will go about our daily lives, trying to compartmentalize the good and the bad, the immediate, the past, and the future. I think in a way, that’s where we go wrong. We too easily forget, and so history repeats itself. We forget compassion and what it means to think of others as much as we think of ourselves. We slip back into habitual behavior, behind a false sense of protection, and we forget that just as easily as it happened on Friday, it could have happened to us. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t have a suggestion beyond more compassion, for everyone. I absolutely don’t believe guns add anything positive to our world. Not for hunting, sport, collection, or protection. Talk of teachers being trained to use guns? A terrifying thought, and it makes me incredibly sad. But I don’t think the solution is as easy as outlawing guns outright. There’s a reason I don’t work in politics. My impatience, for one…

I think it’s time we all share responsibility for this. We’ve made our world the way it is. Who will make the change? If we don’t want this – and really who wants this? – we’ve got to start with something now. Maybe we start with compassion. I’m oversimplifying the issue, I know, but that’s okay. Compassion is doable, and we can do it better now.

Korean Barbecue

Monday, December 17, 2012

There is nothing – nothing – like Korean barbecue. Nothing melts away a week of tension like grilled meat and garlic and cold beer when everyone at the table plays a part in pulling it all together. I’ve mentioned this trio a number of times here, but usually without any photos. For awhile I’ve wanted to do a visual timeline of a typical barbecue dinner. Here’s what we put away last Friday night.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

I am an amateur cook, at the very best, and a champion eater on my worst day. Time spent in Seoul has made me better at cooking, eating, and being, or at least I like to hope so. My sense of space is still fucked up, though, and I attribute it to years of city living. What’s the remedy? Living on a dairy farm? Sounds nice, actually.

I recently paired with the talented team from Seoulist, an online publication with a focus on local art, excursions, food, and lifestyle. I obsessed about persimmons for a few weeks, and then I decided to write about it. A bread pudding flopped, a salsa sucked, and a persimmon and cinnamon curd looked like something a baby would produce. But the rest turned out, and it was a lot of fun. Here are some photo outtakes of the project. Have a great week, friends, and a great Sunday if it’s just starting for you.

p.s. you can view the article by clicking here.




in her shoes

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I’m sitting down in a big open space, a café with a drumset in the corner, exposed piping and dusty lightbulbs above, and a respectable disco ball directly at 10:00. The last time I was here, it was for a pop-up dinner put on by Linus Kim, who arguably makes the best smoked swine in the country. He also makes a mean pot of baked beans. You could hardly find an empty seat last time, but today, apart from a quiet and lanky barrista, I’ve got the entire room to myself. It’s just us, the disco ball, and a carrot cake with two slices missing. Make that three slices missing.

Last night, Helen and I went for a haircut and sushi. When she found out how much I was paying for a trim (which is half of what it costs back home), she was shocked. She insisted she take me to her place, where a cut costs as much as a matinee. What the hell, I thought. It’s just hair. We met near the fire station in our neighborhood, and she led me down a dark and dreary street. We must have passed a dozen salons on the way, and I began to think she had other ideas. But we found it, and we squeezed ourselves between four other ladies on the waiting bench. When Helen handed me a style book so that I could pick out a look that I liked, I flipped through the pages, turned to her, and, gesturing to the pictures, I said “Helen, I have complete faith in your judgment, but these are a little 1980’s, don’t you think?” So we settled for a trim.

There is a custom of eating in Korea where you hop to three places and eat and drink a little at each one. Il-cha, I-cha, Sam-cha, it’s called, and it means first time, second time, third time. We sat at a newly opened sushi bar and ate cho-bap, or sushi rice blanketed by raw slices of fish so fresh, I felt like we were committing some kind of crime. I guess there are people in the world who would agree that we were.

We moved on to an izakaya, a Japanese pub, for more beer and snacks. Helen ordered marinated mushroom caps, their cavities full with their own liquid, and skewers of grilled ginkgo nuts. I asked her if she’d ever travel to Japan. Because of Korea’s history with Japan, she said she probably wouldn’t. It’s amazing how we communicate given how limited we both are with each other’s languages. We talked about marriage, commitment, parenting, and teaching. She’s got a husband who adores her and a healthy, well-adjusted son, and she is so aware of her fortune. Yet she’s told me she envies my freedom. At work, Helen makes me feel like more of a human when I’m upset about how the day is going. I thank my lucky stars that we met. We are so different, and so similar.

When we left the third spot, we were both a bit tipsy, and it was cold. She asked me why I wasn’t wearing boots, and I told her I had trouble finding shoes that fit my larger-than-average feet, larger-than-average in Korea. Another shocking bit of information for Helen, apparently. Pulling me aside, she took off her own boot and insisted I try it on. I’d been holding my wallet, and I set it down on a table so that I could untie the laces of my shoe. I mean, why not. Her boot was too tight, and on her, my shoe looked like a ski, an arrow pointing forward from the bottom of her leg. We laughed, switched back, and walked for ten minutes until it was time for her to catch a cab home.

When I dug for my wallet at the door of my apartment building, it was gone. I quickly took an inventory of what was inside, remembering that I’d spent the last of my cash earlier (earlier, I couldn’t figure out how the hell that’d happened, and now I was relieved). I never carry credit cards, and my passport was tucked away at home. Things weren’t looking so bad. Also, my five senses were intact, and that was always good news. So I ran back to the spot where Helen and I had switched shoes. And there it was, my red wallet all alone and gleaming in the moonlight, looking totally untouched. Ginkgo is supposed to be good for memory, but I guess maybe when you pair it with beer, you come out even. Most of the time, even is pretty damn good.