Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My OKCupid Dating Profile

This is what you're missing, future lover!
My self-summary
I am so confident and sexy! I can do anything because I am so tall. I look good in a suit (see picture above)! The face I am making in the picture above is my sex face. I've had sex over a half-dozen times. I keep getting better at it too (humblebrag, amirght?!). I have symmetrical features and above average bone structure, and I am loyal too! Even though we haven't met in person yet I know we will be in love soon!

What am I doing with my life 
Ha! Irrelevant. Next question!

I'm really good at
Um um um I am good at doing nice things for you and then being really nice so nice and then you'll even feel guilty sometimes because I'm always nice (you don't have to be as nice it's okay) and anyway, you'll say, "Why are you so nice!" and I'll say, "Here's a dozen roses!" That's how I roll, always constantly forever!

The first things people usually notice about me
"When did you come here! I didn't even notice you were there all this time!" Hahaa - people don't even notice I'm there but I'm there! That's the first thing people notice! And then when I leave the party people notice that they didn't notice I left. They're like, "I didn't even notice you were gone the other day at that party." Weird, right?!

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
I'll like whatever you like, sweetheart (can I call you that, my lover?!)!

The six things I could never do without 
1. Seeing you, you beautiful sexy person you!
2. Getting your phone calls! Call me all the time! I'm waiting - hahaha - just kidding! Just feel free, whenever!
3. Kissing you on the lips! Mwah! I give the best kisses! Everyone loves them (girls I mean - lol)!
4. Your text messages! Text me whenever you're out so I know where you are, okay?! Otherwise, it's like you're cheating on me or something, haha - just kidding, I don't think that (but seriously if this is going to work I need you to text me back when I text you okay, it's really not too much to ask for, lol).
5. A picture of you! So when I don't see you I can still imagine you and talk to your picture. I can be like, "I miss you" to the picture, and then I'll do your voice too, "I miss you too, Tim" is what your picture will say and it'll be almost like the real thing when you're not around (please be around)!
6. Your commitment to this relationship.

I spend a lot of time thinking about 
What I would do without you in my life. Why don't you message me back? I've been waiting. I'll pay for dinner. I'll pay for our apartment. I'll pay for the wedding - haha - I mean not now, like in a couple months or whenever! I'll wait for you, baby, I'm classy and confident!

On a typical Friday night I am 
Waiting for you to change my life!

The most private thing I'm willing to admit
Not to alarm you but I have these really terrible night terrors sometimes so when we sleep together I might wake up and scream and kick like a crazy person - haha! Don't be scared when this happens, just slide under the bed and don't wake me up because I might have a heart attack! Also, I have terrible TMJ and my jaw locks open sometimes for hours at a time. You will have to massage the joints so my jaw can fall back in place. I don't like crowds or children, dogs, outside activities, hard work, your friends or family, and conversations. I love sleeping!...except when I have night terrors (as I've listed previously, you're paying attention, right, hahaha?! There's gonna be a quiz later - just kidding! I know you're reading carefully!).

I'm looking for 
You. You're perfect. More than enough for me! Just message me back already so we can start our lives (I'm not getting any younger and I'll have to make children soon)!

You should message me if 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Follow Your Dreams

Because they certainly won’t be following you! If you're not careful, you'll lose them in the chaos of the chase. Your dreams (and mine) are as swift as a king cheetah. If you're not resilient they will even lap you, smiling devilishly as you lag hopelessly behind.

Be warned: they will resort to cunning and mischief to evade you. They might dip into a crowd at a Farmer's Market or impersonate a row of mannequins at a storefront window, or drop down a manhole cover never to be seen again. Be vigilant, always.

Your Dreams are Masters of Disguise!
Your dreams will lie and cheat, even steal. They will spread rumors about you and your family. They'll call and tell you to meet them in a sketchy part of the city, and they'll never show up, but you won't leave the Currency Exchange for hours, just in case they'll come. Maybe now, you'll think. Maybe. Now.

It will seem that your dreams don't even want to be caught. That your dreams are conspiring against you. Or maybe even hate youI wish I could tell you otherwise, but there is plenty of evidence supporting this theory.

Like: when you were thirteen and you were walking with your dreams in the hallway, right after fourth period. You were carrying three of your textbooks and your dreams, without warning, knocked them out of your hands and the textbooks skittered down the tile floors. And everyone, even your dreams, laughed at you. Or when you were telling all your new friends in college about your dreams but then your dreams walked on by and they didn't even acknowledge you, they pretended that they didn't even know you at all. 

Your Dreams May Pulverize You! 
You must realize this. Your dreams are not your friends. Worse, your dreams are a bunch of jerks. If you try and corner them, they might just kick your ass. Be aware. Just because they flee doesn't mean they're afraid of you.

And flee they will. They will get further and further away from you with each passing year. Until you can barely see them in the horizon. This will confuse you for some time. You might even forget what your dreams look like and chase someone else’s by mistake. You’ll think you’ve caught your dreams but then you’ll realize that you’ve been working 9-5 at some dank office for six years and you’ve just been yelled at by your inept boss for the third time that day and when you finally recognize these dreams for what they are (not yours) and you confront them, you’ll only get quizzical stares that say, You really didn’t know?

"Certainly you knew that we were not your dreams?" 
So you’ll try to find your dreams again. You’ll post signs on telephone poles: Have you seen my dreams? You’ll go on the local news and demand that your dreams be returned to you. You’ll roar like a caged lion, full of rage and ferocious impotence.

You’ll grow to hate your dreams. You’ll never want to see them again after everything they have put you through. All that money you lost pursuing them, all that scrutiny from your family. All the light mockery you’ve gotten from your friends who constantly ask, How are your dreams doing now? as they down a cold one with you at the German bar across the street, nursing their own despair until they go back to their homes and quietly weep. 

But you’ll forget all that when, someday, your dreams creep up behind you and push you lightly at your shoulders. You’ll recognize their laugh first as they bolt out of your apartment. You won’t even consider staying on your couch and finishing that episode of Mad Men, you’ll know that you must follow these dreams before they leave your life again. Nothing else will be important at that moment. 

Because, really, think about it, is there anything more important than finally, just maybe, catching them? 

I say, good luck, friend. Go catch those asshole dreams. Send me a postcard, from wherever you end up.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lost and Hungry Under the Shadow of Chicago's Koreatown

Koreatown, Chicago
Here is my destination: Chicago's Koreatown. Or what's left of it.

It's not that Chicago has a shortage of Asians. On the Brownline to Kimball I'm counting five of various ages and temperaments (and, of course, nationalities), observe: a young woman in black business attire staring plaintively out the window; an old man sitting directly in front of me, legs outstretched, one earbud in his left ear, sunglasses hiding his exhaustion; a young girl in Ugg boats sipping an Orange Julius; an ancient lady, groves etched into her skin; and me. Ha. Look at that. I counted me.

So what's happened to Chicago's Koreatown? According to the 2010 census, there are about 60,000 Koreans living in Chicago. Seattle, a much smaller city, has a population of nearly 52,000 Koreans. There's been talk of a great Korean migration, of waves of Koreans leaving the mean city streets for quiet, serene Chicago suburbs. Koreatown, **Honory** Seoul Drive, is a reminder of what once was.

Where do the Korean-American Seniors go now? 
At the bookstore, the first thing the old owner says to me is, "We don't sell books in English." He is not being rude, just informative. He probably has gotten that question 1,000 times since he's opened.

I smile amiably and ask, "How did you know that I didn't know Korean?" He shrugs. I don't look even half Korean, so I'm not surprised by his reaction. And even if I did look Korean, I'm sure he could read my mannerisms as purely American. Or maybe I'm over thinking things.

Only in Korean
The bookstore has rows of Korean graphic novels grouped in complete series of fifteen to twenty. The bookstore is dimly lit, as are all the Korean shops I will enter. I have chosen this to be my first destination and I want to make the most out of it, holding the determination to make a purchase in order to sneak in another interaction. I pick two graphic novels! One is about a scantily clad secret agent/murderer with a thin blade that she revenges with (I assume). The other is absolutely beautiful and was hiding in it's own separate box on the floor (the whole series). The cover has a young boy with a spear and loincloth facing off against a ferocious tiger. There is expressive blue and and green water coloring on this cover that would look more at home at a modern art museum than on a comic book.

When I try to purchase these two, the old man shakes his head, no. He says, "I cannot sale these to you."

A part of me thinks: This is the moment.

This is where I confront Asian hypocrisy. Years of being told that I'm not Asian enough or not Asian at all by other Asians. This is where I get to say to him, to all of them, that though I may not know the language, my blood and my flesh is Korean. I can say to this man: I am of value, no matter what my background. I can say: you have no idea what I hold in my heart and you should be ashamed at refusing my money.

But before I can he explains what he's probably explained 1,000,000 times. These books are in a series and can only be bought in a series. The water colored series alone is $400.

I ask him to find me something cheaper. He pulls out a two-part series about secret agents pursuing a serial killer who travels by trailer (I believe). It is called, "Trailer". It is one of the most gruesome comics I have ever seen but I buy them for ten dollars. I ask him how long he's been in business. Over twenty years he tells me. I say, "That's awesome." He shrugs.

I ask him what happened to Koreatown. "Very small," is all that he'll say. "Not much here."

What will take the place of Koreatown? 
For a long stretch, I'm not finding anything Korean and I wonder if somehow I'm lost or if I've missed something in my earlier excitement. I'm hungry. My plan was to eat at a Korean restaurant but I'm not finding any, except one that opens only for dinner (it's 2:30). I'm so far down Lawrence that I'm finding more shops empty and abandoned, waiting for future occupations, a new wave of immigrants to fill in the shoes of the escaping Koreans.

I'm trying to think big picture but I'm unfocused because I'm so hungry and I'm imagining the bulgogi, the kimchee, the galbi that I have promised my stomach. I'm remembering the spicy fish soup that my mother makes when I come and visit her in Washington, which I don't know the name of but constantly crave.

New Chicago Kimchee is actually pretty old
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There is still kimchee in Chicago. New Chicago Kimchee, a small, unremarkable shop with stacks of boxes and one refrigerator housing the spicy fermented dish in jars. I still remember my mother's paranoia over kimchee's smell and shudder at the idea of bringing a jar home to my unsuspecting roommates. This is despite my belief that the smell of kimchee is not only pleasant but all together desirable and that someday someone really smart will make a spicy kimchee air freshener that you can take on your person and breathe in during moments of intense anxiety. I've read stories of people hating the cabbage smell and comparing it to feet. This is completely strange to me as I can only describe kimchee as smelling like kimchee.

I buy the smallest plastic container, about the size of my fist, and the Korean man there, in his mid-forties reading a newspaper, tells me that it is really fermented squid. Which I love. Yes, sir, I will buy this from you.

I want to talk to him but he's not very interested, though polite. I ask him how long the store has been here and he mishears me and says they'll close at five.

"How many years have you been opened?" I ask.

"Almost thirty," he says, and he goes back to his newspaper, our transaction complete.

And then I find it.

I already passed it once, didn't even notice it, and I know why. It's so clean. So new. It doesn't fit into my idea of this dying Koreatown so it didn't register in my mind the first time.

But I see it on the way back. SSyal. Bless you.

Ssyal is a Korean ginseng house that sits on the corner of Lawrence and N. Keeler Ave, more a part of Mayfair then Koreatown. This restaurant is immaculate, full of clean, minimalist whites and grays. Besides the food there is nothing here that screams "Korean", which seems intentional, an effort in inclusion. Ssyal looks like it was opened yesterday not twenty years ago (it opened in 1993). There's an old lady with curly white hair that greets me with a "How are you" when I enter, and a young man a little younger than me who brings me tea, and then, finally my food.  

A Korean woman with two young kids is eating to the left of me, but besides that we are the only customers. I note that they are speaking English at the table, though the mother talks at length with the old lady in Korean, who turns out to be the owner. The old lady asks the kids about their food, "Do you like? Is it good?" 

This picture shows how hungry I was
I'm so hungry when I finally arrive here that no picture I take does the place any justice. The picture above is what I order, a spicy fish soup served in a clay plot (but not the one my mother makes, just as good though, and yes, I've forgotten its name too). I devour it. This isn't a food review but let me tell you that it's fucking perfect.

Empty side dishes, or "Banchan"
The side dishes that accompany it I eat in their entirety (a mix of vegetables, including perfectly sour kimchee). Though the picture above is also horrible; my stomach is sated.

Ssyal, I love you.

When I've finished, the old lady talks with me. She asks me how the meal was and beams with pride when I tell her that I loved everything. I tell her how clean her restaurant is. She tells me that they have remodeled.

I don't ask her about what happened to Koreatown. By now I've realized that isn't the story here. The story here is that these businesses have survived for decades in an ever-evolving city. And maybe not even that. Maybe the real story here is that there is not one story that can encapsulate any community.

I want to hug the old lady on the way out. Even though she is at least twenty years older then my own mother, she reminds me of her because of her warmth and pride and probably because she has fed me Korean food. I settle for a bow, the warmest affection I will receive today.

I want to know what her individual story is. The individual stories and struggles of the Korean bookstore, and of New Chicago Kimchee. But they are little islands here in Chicago, difficult to enter. I think now is the time to try.

I left Koreatown with the realization that I hadn't just been hungry for quite some time. I had been starving.