Things Around XI

Thursday | March 7th, 2013


Sometime in the third week in May of 2002, fresh off the boat and not a drinker, my dodgy roommate “Steve” and a coworker or two took me to a TOKYU HOUSE near Naedang-dong intersection in Daegu for my first Korean beer. One doesn’t willingly go to a Tokyu House. The beer is worse than piss and you can drink it all day and not get a buzz but you will barf a lot. There aren’t many Tokyu House hofs around and seeing one always brings back those first twenty or so nasty sips of CASS. This Tokyu House is in my neighborhood between the flat and the hanok. There is no temptation to go there, just a nostalgic pang of remembrance for that boy I was, wide-eyed, damaged, and empty—completely wiped of everything I’d been before I left Portland.


The function of the Korean Dabang still eludes me. I know the score: coffee + cutie + extra cash = sex. But it still doesn’t really compute. For one thing, Koreans have insisted forever that Dabang (다방, dah bahng, short a sounds, both) were a thing of the past. This is something that even Meow told me. When we moved to Gyeongju and I said there were Dabang girls in miniskirts and too much makeup zipping everywhere on scooters, she didn’t believe me. But, here it is, a Dabang there are two in this neighborhood. This one (above) can be seen out the back bathroom window of the old flat.

The missing part of the equation is that I’m not a Korean man. I haven’t grown up with Dabang culture and Dabang girls showing up at my place of work because the old timers called and ordered coffee. I’m missing that initiation experience of being brought into a generational fold. I’m missing the lingo, the actions, and everything that transpires in a transaction with a Dabang girl. The Western interpretations I might be tempted to bring into the discourse only quantify a Dabang as a den of prostitution—and doing that is ignorant of the country I stood in to take the picture in the first place.

I’ve joked with other friends married and not, but long timers who’ve put in their decade of working with and assimilating to this culture, about ordering coffee from a Dabang girl. One or two have even tried, but without the codes it’s a lost cause. Wives have joked about calling a Dabang girl to satiate our collective curiosities and close the loop of our understanding, but they too, lack the knowledge of how one procures such an exchange. As women and not ever being Dabang girls they are outsiders to this segment as we are.

Wikipedia does a terrible job of putting all this into context and makes Dabang sound like a boring version of Korean Starbucks. Ignorance is isolation.


Behold … the big screen tv graveyard. The trash piles in Daegu rival everything I saw in Shanghai and Gyeongju is sometimes only slightly better because it’s a tourist city. Living in Seoul for so long, I’d forgotten how Gyeongsanbuk-do folk just throw it all on a random corner or in the empty lot next door. Or the beach, like I saw and took pictures of in the summer of 2002 in Pohang (which is now a 25 minute drive from Gyeongju).

One of these tvs sat in the street for the longest time, presumbably to keep people from parking in that spot. Then, one day it was in the tv graveyard.

Daily Report

I didn’t sleep last night. I struggled to write or create a script that would grab an .mp3 from a folder, open it, insert markers in pre-determined places, split the audio file into eleven segments based on those

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Out beyond the fake lake (Bomun) for Christmas Day lunch at a place called the Healing Kitchen. It’s all farms and hilltops here. And roads to more farms and hilltops. Except for the noise from the cars, I

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The Fourth Wall

I’m here and alive. Ten days behind the reality of my written life, yet here and alive. TOEIC is the predominant motif of life from the end of the semester until … today. This is the end, after

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This Old Hanok

When we had the bathroom done, we wanted to design our own window for the part of the wall which straddles the storage space along the side of the house. This way we could have clean airflow through

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