See Michael. See how sweaty and happy Michael is next to band.
As the kind of unknown ukulele/mandolin/fiddle hipster nonsense I enjoy tends not to venture to China, a large part of my trip home was to include music. I feverishly scoured concert listings and venue websites looking for shows, gleefully snapping up tickets and planning my attack. If I am going to bother attending a concert, I generally want to attend it as hard as I can. I show up early, I grab whatever beers I need, and then I plant myself in the front row. My feet root to the spot, I set up a tent and a beach chair, and I settle in for joy directly in front of my eyeballs.
Here are a few amalgamated thoughts from the last week, in which I spent 4 of seven nights pressed sweatily against a speaker in a rock club.
– I am technically in the splash zone. The singer of this alt-bluegrass outfit sweats more than any human being I have ever seen. It has gone from endearingly human to actually disconcerting, and I wonder if I should get him a glass of water. He maybe has a condition. Should we be calling somebody? Getting him on an IV? On another night, Cary Ann Hearst also notes that she and her husband are getting pretty gross and that the front row can probably feel it. “But y’all look like the kinky types so I bet you don’t mind.”
Leave a light on for me.
Over a Skype call one day, my parents talked to me about a conundrum. Feeling a bit empty nest and wanting a change, they needed to decide whether to renovate the family home or pick up and move. I tried to be civil, to be cool and unbiased and give them my opinion in terms of finances, convenience, and property values. I think I tried to make mention of the housing market. I stroked my chin thoughtfully, as grown-ups often do, as though I was deep in consideration. As though I was weighing benefits and costs. I attempted to take part in the conversation as an adult among adults.
I tried, because in my head, I was sniffling like a little boy.
Swooping across oceans and continents every few months gives me some time to reflect on things. Sitting on a plane, or in the cavernous depths of an airport somewhere in Asia, I’m left with time to think. Usually to circle around why I’m getting on a plane, which I hate. What compels me to go through the horrors of international flight to go to other locations or, in the case of this last trip, back home? What is the drive that gets me to move in the first place? Why does anyone bother with planes and airports and security checks and 100 ml bottles and those horrific naked picture tubes if you plan on going within 500 miles of America?
Okay guys, you can go on break now.
When I decided to move to Korea, it was very hard to process the idea that the other part of the world would keep going without me. I’m not trying to sound remarkably self-absorbed, although that may be true, but it was difficult to conceive. Sure, people would get older, and taller, and gain a wrinkle or a grey hair or a tan in my absence. Hairstyles would change, weight would be gained or lost, coats of paint would be applied to walls. Time would obviously pass. But it was difficult to really believe that the lives of others I was so involved with would continue to forge ahead without me somehow involved in the mix.
Toronto: land of diverse food options.
How to summarize 2 and a half weeks home? The place that I grew up, where everyone I ever knew and loved lives? Where I did stuff, and saw people, and slept in a comfortable bed and had constant air-conditioning, and regular, unrestricted access to a pool? I could allow you to swim in the sea of my neurotics, on the mixed feelings I got about returning to Korea when everything at home just seemed so perfect (except for that whole, you know, joblessness thing). I could talk about how weird and how good it feels to be back in the adopted home. But food is evocative, and it provides me a nice narrative structure when I couldn’t hash another out, so here we go: Toronto in 11 meals.
The care package.
After considerable sturm und drang, I finally received my care package. Delayed by a flurry of emails, numerous uppings of taxes and duties, and some of the thickest, laziest bureaucracy I have dealt with, I finally convinced the Korean UPS depot to drop off the parcel at my school. It was shellacked in an unholy amount of packing tape, and it was just bulky and heavy enough to make lugging it home arduous, but it was in my hands. I covetously clutched it to my chest and hobbled the thing to my apartment, my fingers taloning into the sides as I went.