The wind blows through and things that do not creak, creak.
These sounds conflict with the words tumbling out of my mouth but also augment them. They embellish them, give them something like an old world feel, tales told around a campfire from a time long lost, but not forgotten: they make them echo, make them more or less real.
Before I fall asleep at night I tell you stories; bedtime stories, from me to the air above me and around me and drifting over to you. They are not great literature, to be sure; they are there to plant the seeds for ideas and dreams and assist in that warm feeling you get when you stretch in the morning, before you kick off your blankets and rise to make the coffee you want and meet the needs of the day. Dreaming and sleeping, sleeping and dreaming; the heartbeat that is nakedness pressed up against flannel and cotton and quiet laughter and how sunlight comes through the trees and makes the dust look like little stars and constellations and galaxies of the places far away and sitting right in your pocket. I know that you know; that the upturned face of a beloved can cause you to feel weak in the knees, can reduce you to tears, can make you forget about all the things that have caused you concern, can elevate you to an object of desire instead of just being an object, can make you feel so loved, can you make you complete, can cause you to pause and say: more please. Not to be selfish, not to be trite, not to be holier than thou: to be acknowledged as one who makes a difference who really, who truly matters. The night-time sigh of a friend, the crack of knuckles against the banister, the slow shuffle of feet against the linoleum; all the sounds of understanding and sweetness and light and quiet cries of birds against the cold.
You shouldn’t need a reason to listen to music.
The choice was the apparent melancholy/miracle joy of Sigur Ros or the straight ahead rock and roll, of well, Rock and Roll, Led Zeppelin to be precise. Choose the recent pass or dig all the way back to the sixteen year old dreams with Jim fucking Judy to Dazed and Confused. Walk or run, swim or drown. It is all about that one moment.
Grab it before it grabs you.
These shoes have a story. Scene: Kwangju, South Korea, Saturday, cold, sunny, windy; pre-winter. The girl with the shoes was maybe 16-17 years old. She and her mother were waiting to cross the street. You know how the crossing point of sidewalk slopes downwards, eliminating a drop, a reduced curb that makes it easier for those in wheelchairs to cross the street? This slope was enough to cause the girl a serious problem. The shoes were pitching her forward, enough that there was risk she would end up in the street and run over by your typically oblivious Korean driver. The girl backed up, slowly, and positioned herself behind a light pole, something rigid enough that she could steady herself with her bag-free hand. When the green walking guy came on, her mother uttered some phlegm laced command (probably: move your ass) to her child. She lurch-walked across the street, mother frowning, daughter with a half smile; your basic "I’m taller and younger and more beautiful than you... and you know it."
She was so wonderfully, ecstatically young. The set was over and she had played her heart out. She smelled of sweat and effort and something else; vinegar? Urine? Wait, that was it: sex is what she smelt of, recent and filling the air in its completeness. Doesn’t matter: her eyes were earnest and attentive and “...look here, don’t look at my breasts, here I am.” Her finger nails were chipped orange polish and dirt. There were still bits of silver duct tape stuck to the one earring on her right ear and more still stuck to the back of her belt; the back of her belt, where the handcuffs where in their happy “come and get me” location. There was very little tenderness in what she delivered that night. Oh and how that beautiful firebird played with the motorcycle machine head tuners; it was all of three chords and that little acid taste left in your mouth after you throw up. It rocked and rolled – no ballads, no hold me close baby: it was all in your face, roll around on the floor. She actually did roll around on the floor, for the twelve of us in her place that night. That’s right, the bar didn’t own that bar that night: it was hers, all hers. We were only visiting and blessed by her spit and sweat. Grinning and wiping my brow and looking for a bandana so I could wipe her face, my Veronica to her Jesus, of "who would have thought that summers spent in catechism school would have brought you to this place..."
What follows is a threaded discussion regarding a Christmas potluck dinner I want to attend. The names of the participants have been removed to save them any (in some cases, as I think you will see, additional) embarrassment and protect the innocent.
As I understand the potluck was supposed to be exactly what a potluck was supposed to be: bring what you can, within your personal capabilities and means. A note came out asking for people to submit what they were going to bring, so the gracious and generous host could prepare as appropriate. Through the unfortunate use of the “reply to all” button the following was leaked to all on the original mailing list.
No, I think you are right, the original plan was traditional style- but we all underestimated how many different styles of traditional there are. I'm making a traditional chicken-in- lieu-of-turkey roast with roast veg. It would be nice if we could get a bit of continuity going tho. THis is supposed to be a special meal- not a standard pot luck.
K., how about making a list of what kind of food would work and then divving up the list. Not meaning to be rude, but M. and I are bringing $20 worth of mixed nuts alone, plus olives and a roast chicken meal with homemade stuffing and vegetables and the best homemade cauliflower cheese....and I know that R. and J. have spent a bit of money on their contribution as well- other people replying are planning on hotdogs or a salad? Doesn't really go together too well. Not even starting in on the cost differences.
I do think it is fair that everyone put at least 15 000 into their contribution. THis is supposed to be a special, once a year gourmet treat. We need at least 5 roast chickens preferably with stuffing and gravy , at least 4 nice vegetable dishes- eg cauliflower cheese; S.'s secret carrots; maybe a broccoli dish; roast potatoes; roast pumpkin; another 2 or 3 potato dishes; maybe 1 green salad...........I would personally vote against potato salad. A raw veggie tray- we have ranch dip for Americans. We need bread- probably 5 of the big Homeplus baguettes. We need dessert- trifle if someone should know how and want to make it; homemade cookies....brownies....baked goods, nice ice cream-read: Baskin Robbins or similar. Gourmet snacks not pringles or GS25 supplies but good quality gourmet treats for before and after when we're playing games and doing secret santa- that is still the idea, right?
If you need a Christmas Nazi- M. will volunteer to drop the Christmas hammer and mandate that people step up and buy something nice.
I responded with...
“I didn’t know there were such expectations and associated rules. I thought the idea was to have a large group of people get together over a meal, with the emphasis on ‘people getting together’, as opposed to the menu. I’ve been in this country for about four months now and I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to meet some people and hopefully begin the foundation of some friendships. I sincerely hope that vision won’t change.
And ‘Christmas Nazi’? Look, I know the Seinfeld episode as well as anyone, but I personally find the need to have someone ‘drop the hammer’ offensive. Please understand that my contribution will be the best I can do under the personal circumstances I am faced with. Hopefully, what I contribute will not be construed as being cheap or insufficiently gourmet because of that.”
Then one of the “Christmas Nazis” responded, I am assuming, to me alone...
“Look dude....you don't even know us so it's a bit rude to be so judgemental. Christmas plans have been talked about for the last 6 weeks. Yes, Christmas is about getting together, but it's Christmas and some people have gone to a lot of effort to make something nice. We would appreciate it if everyone put in the same effort, as it's only fair. We're not asking folk to bring caviar, but just to spend about 15,000won and get something nice that they wouldn't generally eat on a day to day basis. It sounds like you're bringing chicken, so the 'drop the hammer' comment wasn't directed at you anyway. Quite a few people have suggested dishes more appropriate at a barbecue than Christmas dinner. We're not asking that people break the bank, we're just asking that we don't have some people cooking all day while others pick up Pringles and a bottle of soju on the way. Everyone here makes a decent salary so there is no reason to not have quality food on Christmas day, it's not about the money for many of the people it's about laziness or genuinely not knowing what is appropriate for Christmas dinner. Once again, this comment isn't directed at you as I don't even know you, but there is more going on behind the scenes that you don't know about.
The email about the Christmas Nazi was only sent out to the organizers and then seems to have been replied to and sent back out to everyone.”
Well, then: allow me to retort...
“First, I am going to assume that I have children older than you, so I am going to cut you a little slack. Secondly, a bit of worldly advice from someone who has been there: never send the first draft of an email, especially if it is an emotional one – could cost you later.
I am a meat eating Buddhist, so I might take a different stance on all of this as compared to others. If you consider my response to be rude, then so be it. No offense was implied or intended; far from it.
You’ve mentioned that original note was not directed at the general audience, more for the specific organizers of the event. Too late; welcome to the fairness and equalizer that is Reply To All. What now, now that the complete message has been delivered to the whole audience?
The way I see it, I and others were grouped, judged if you will, under a very broad statement – unfairly generalized, certainly not treated with any individual concern or respect. I took offense at that and voiced my feelings to the audience to which the offensive statement was delivered. You have granted me a reprieve from this statement by citing that apparently I will be bringing some chickens. Sorry, but does this judgement then make me more equal than others? If so, then I’d rather be found guilty.
You mention that the real issue is ‘about laziness or genuinely not knowing what is appropriate for Christmas dinner’. I’m sorry, again, but what constitutes an appropriate Christmas dinner? Are we talking a typical North America, WASP Christmas dinner? I am from North America and I have to admit I’ve seen a lot of different dinners over the years - hell, I’ve had a few where I didn’t have an appropriate Christmas dinner simply because of circumstances. Sometimes I was serving dinner to others, sometimes they were serving to me; life can be like that, you know? As for the laziness aspect – well, I’m not sure how you can judge that, except against your own efforts. Not that I think that is fair, but it may be the only thing you have left to use as a mirror.
There is no doubt in my mind that you will be expending significant effort, both time and money wise to deliver the best you can on Christmas Day. Thank you in advance for that – I am glad that you have the wherewithal and capability to do so. However, I would suggest you not use that effort as a benchmark for the judgement of the contributions of others. I mean, what are you going to do? Check receipts at door? Ask for video tape records of the efforts in others’ kitchens? I don’t think so; what would be the point? This is an open invite, something you cannot control; why would you even bother or worry about it?
Hopefully, we can all join together, share a few laughs and discuss the impending indigestion we will have from the many wonderful and varied foods we will have the pleasure to consume.”
As you would expect, Christmas Nazi (apparently Christmas Nazi number 2, as they are now tag teaming me) mailed me back...
“How can you not think this is offensive? How can you possibly think I have any interest in ‘joining together, sharing a few laughs and discussing the impending indigestion we will have from the many wonderful and varied foods we will have the pleasure to consume.' No, I doubt you have kids my age. How dare you make all these judgements about me when you don't know me or the details of the situation and you clearly have your ears blocked up with something that is stopping you from understanding what we are saying? Let's try this one more time- then I'd appreciate it if you'd leave me alone. I've met a lot of amazing people in my 22 years of living and working overseas. I've had a lot of great advice from people older and younger than me- yours doesn't impress, except in that I don't think I've ever been given advice in a more offensive way.
We had planned a Christmas meal at our house with our closest friends here. Kristi called us and asked for us to come to her house instead, in the interest of making Christmas a big "family' event. We abandonned our special Christmas plans, disappointing our friends, who wanted to make it a special occassion- you may or may not know- we don't get too many of those living overseas. K. assured us all she would organise it to be a special event. THen she sent out a general email and people started offering the exact same dishes they bring along to every BBQ we have out in the park in front of Homeplus over summer. S., whom I believe you don't know either, sent an email asking, in a muddled way as is her style, what the deal was with the odd offers. My reply was to K. and S.- and for the record I don't care if everyone sees it!!! Here's some advice for you- the people who matter will work you out for who you are and the others can go and ....you get the idea. I sent my email to back S. up. Instead S. threw me under the bus, sharply changing her tune and you jumped merrily onto a bandwagon you know nothing about with your great and ridiculous crusade as the equalizer and master of fairness imposing your misunderstandings as opinions onto people you haven't even met yet. Don't fool yourself. I'm not going to extensive trouble to deliver the best I can to you on Christmas day. I'm making an effort because I haven't had Christmas at home in over 7 years and some of my friends here are in similar situations. We wanted to make this a special one because we might not get another one together.
I don't think I need to tell you what I hope you will do with your chickens and your receipts.
To which I made my final response...
“I sincerely hope you find solace in the decisions you have made.”
But, wait, Christmas Nazi 2 wasn’t done...
“I found out last night that you are that boring guy I met at the String Bar Halloween party. I find a great deal of solace in the decision to have nothing more to do with you and your arrogance.”
Yippee – two less people that I have to include on my Christmas card list. And I guess I won’t be on theirs either – swEEt. And I guess I was wrong with my assertion that I have children older than Christmas Nazi 1 & 2 – to which I have but one thought: Grow. The. Fuck. Up. If anything goes down at the party I’ll be sure to fill you in, but you can imagine there is one side of the room I may want to avoid.
It was glorious. Classic old hotel of a thousand conventions and wedding receptions and Bar Mitzvahs and graduations and dreams and anxieties and heated arguments and contracts signed and relationships made and lost. A classic hotel of ceilings that were too high and brutally fuel inefficient and carpets that carried thirty year old stains because someone missed them during the hand and knees inspections that no longer take place because they can no longer be afforded because no one speaks the language of the King and Queen anymore; they actually need this job, not wanting it for their children or themselves. The bathtub was actually ceramic and the tiles were actually tiles and the chrome was clean to a fault and the soap was brand new and the towels as thick and fresh as you could hope they would be. The train ride to the city had lost its lustre, as much as the love making that afternoon had been more out of desperation than desire, love making that told more than the gasps and groans and rush to get up off the floor and inspect the mutual burn marks on the pointy extremities. Thankfully over before it began – who needs foreplay when you are angry and just want to get it over with and hope that maybe, just maybe things will be different and that the train wreck this union has become would somehow make it around the curve and not fall off the bridge, into the precipice, of how the inevitability of failure would be waving at you as you fell.
“Come wash my back... please.”
She smelt of baby powder and day old french fries; her skin was as soft as the base of some child's neck and when her gaze caught mine I went blind.