Irreverent rants, hungover musings, too much salt...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Soju Vortex

It is simply impossible to stop drinking in Korea.

I know the owners of two bars in Kangneung. Both are within walking distance of my house. Both will give me credit if I have no money. I went out for dinner last night and woke up sometime late morning wondering what the fuck actually happened. The chopping board, cream cheese and condiments were sitting on my table, so I obviously had a late-night feast of which I have absolutely no recollection. Luckily there was no sandwich in my bed, such as the time I fell asleep while eating (actually possible) and woke up with the fucking thing all through my sheets.

Last night during dinner, my friend Alec made the mistake of throwing a lighter to a Korean opposite us rather then getting up and handing it to him. The Korean guy had to come over and teach Alec the correct technique, to a confused Alec who didn't understand a word the man was saying. After me explaining what the man meant, and Alec accepting full responsibility for his appalling act, the man sat down and invited his friend to our table. He asked us if we liked soju. I said a little, so he ordered three bottles of beer and two bottles of soju. He explained to us that as we were in Korea we had to drink soju. He also said the more we drink the more we will smile, and the more we smile, the happier we will be. In order to properly appreciate Korea we needed to be drunk.

See, alcohol is the secret of happiness.

He also explained that as he was older then us, it was morally illegal to not accept his relentless refilling and commands of ‘one shot!’ Eventually we extracted ourselves while walking was still an option, and bailed down the street before they could follow us.

We stopped in at my friends bar, Bumpin, and as it was dead quiet. Alec went home while I stayed and was plied with free tequila. I enquired as to the current state of my bar tab, expressed amazement that it was still not too bad, and left with the intention of going home.

To go home I have to walk past my other friends bar, Yazz. Well ‘have to’ is perhaps a little strong as I could have taken a more direct route home... Anyway, I get there and it’s closed, very surprising, but I know where they will be, so I head around the corner to a place I know they favour. Of course they are there, I am welcomed with open arms, they laugh and say things like ‘Hah! You always know where to find us!’, and then the bastards make me drink soju. I remember leaving the table, I don't remember going outside and I certainly don't remember walking home, making a sandwich, setting my alarm and getting into bed. The amazing thing is I woke up and I wasn't fully clothed, wearing my shoes on top of the doona sleeping with the light on in a pile of mashed sandwich.

And this was Monday night.

Problem is this seems to happen nearly every night. I start work at 2:00 so it’s entirely possible to binge and purge in time for class. I never intend this to happen but one thing always fucking leads to another, and the next thing you know I'm washing sandwich out of my hair, inhaling coffee, and applying eye drops to my brain.

Total strangers are always inviting me to drink at their table. I don't know if they can see a certain look in my eyes, or maybe I have an invisible sign over my head that says ‘pisshead’ that only other pissheads can see. And, 95 percent of Korean men drink absurd amounts of alcohol all the fucking time, late into the night, and when the sun comes up they go to a bathhouse to sleep on a plank of wood for one or two hours before getting up and going to work, where they perform neurosurgery or design missiles for 10 hours straight.

Then they start all over again.

I am trapped in a vortex I cannot escape from...