Last night was the first meeting of the translation team. We discussed goals and objectives for how we would go about collecting and selecting Korean authors.
"I want it to be fun. I don't want it to be work," Jim told us. "I just want to get together, drink beers, and have fun."
"That's fine," I said. "We will still have to decide on how we choose poets."
"I will go through the ones in here," Byron said, holding up a volume of Korean poetry. "I will translate the first couple lines, and then I'll give them to you guys. If you decide they work, then we'll contact the authors. If you decide that a translation is too hard, then you can do remixes."
"Remixes are fine," I said. "But I would like to do a traditional anthology first."
"You seem to have a clear idea of what you want to do with this thing. I just want to have fun. I want to get away from this anthology thing. Why call it an anthology? Anthologies are no good."
"I'm just using the word anthology. It will be considered one regardless of what name we give it. Let's not argue semantics. If you want me to refer to it as something else, then let's give it a title."
Byron and Jim discussed possibilities. I had a talk with SY about meeting with one of the preeminent Korean scholars in Seoul.
"Oh, he's nice," she told me. "I've met him."
"I can go with you."
"We can talk to him together."
"This is Korea!" Byron said loudly.
"What is?" I asked.
"Oh, we're just coming up with names for the book."
As we argued various points of responsibility to the Korean people - whether we would omit for taste or include for posterity - the topic of discussion slowly edged to the ease of letting it be what it would be.
"I would say," Byron gestured inlcusively with his hands, "We just go through, make these translations, and then see where we end up. We could have one book of remixes and traditional translations. Or," he smiled. "We could have two books."
"Yes," Jim nodded. "Let's just see where this goes."
"Yes," I smiled.
"Good," SY agreed. "Lets go eat."
We decided to go for lamb at a small Chinese place about 10 minutes away. Some of us, myself included, grumbled at the distance, but managed to have residual laziness placated once we stopped at an American goods store with a cornucopia of Western fare. All was forgiven once I saw oatmeal. I quickly made use of an ATM-shaped-phonebooth to get shaving balm, Eclipse gum (gum has no flavor in Korea), and my precious, Maple Brown Sugar and Oatmeal. I was in heaven.
"I'm in heaven," I told Byron.
"Yeah, man," Byron agreed in his Carolinan accent. "A lot of good stuff here."
After I stuffed my bag of precious goods into Byron's backpack, and we finally made a left-right-left and left again turn, we finally arrived at the lamb place. It was a nice little restaurant. There were several foreigners there, and a generous amount of fashionable Koreans, with bug-eye-shades and long hair cropped Dumb and Dumber style across the forehead, while the remaining locks lay over faux army fatigue jackets, high-heeled boots, and double eyelets (earrings) on every ear.
I admired the fashion statements while chewing the small morsels of lamb that were pre-grilled in the kitchen, and then put on skewers over a grille inside our table.
"Mine!" Byron barked, and snatched a skewer out of my hands. "Get your own!"
"Your mamma," I smiled. "She's mine."
"Man," B. smiled sheepishly. "Why you got to keep messing with my mamma?"
"I can't help it," I laughed. "She keeps messing with me!"
We laughed and had two plates of lamb, before our sitting limbs needed a refresher of movement and excitment.
"Let's go to the art bar that Jim got thrown out of!" Byron joked.
"Yeah, sure," Jim nodded. "Let's go!"
I got these pictures at the bar. They speak for themselves. But, to add a little clarity, the large man, Chang Yeun, is a heavy metal drummer from Sinchon. His crew of musicians wanted to discuss Western music with us. They also wanted to show Jim their wicked dance moves.
After watching everyone dance up a storm, we headed to Beatles, a bar covered in Beatles posters and memorabilia.
"We can have our Guiness," Jim smiled.
"Yes," I smiled back.
Probably one of the only bars in Seoul that offers Guiness on tap and a slew of records to choose from while sipping and chatting, it is definitely a great place to wind the night down. I enjoyed Chang Yeun's questions about music, Jim's choice to play Pink Floyd, and SY's incredible translation skills.
"He says," SY nodded to Chang Yeun, "That jazz drummers don't respect rock drummers in Seoul."
"Tell him not to worry about it," I said back. "Tell him if he concentrtes on himself and lets all this other stuff go, he'll be much happier."
"He says," SY translated. "That it's hard for him to communicate with Westerners in English. He says his English isn't very good and that makes him embarassed."
"No," Jim piped. "It's good! Talk in English!!"
"No," Chang Yeun laughed. "Not good."
"No good!" Jim disagreed.
Chang Yeun laughed again. Then he went into his view of English teachers and foreigners via SY:
"Most Koreans do not respect English teachers in Seoul. They have bad manners. This is not good. I have often talked to some Westerners and they'll just ignore me. They don't want to engage in any conversation. I find this frustrating. I want to talk about music and broaden my language and music skills. But, most of all, I just want to talk about what I love, music. Why are Westerners like this? Why do some of the teachers here ignore me or not take me sriously."
"There are good teachers and bad teachers," Jim explained. "You are sitting with good teachers."
"But some people ignore him," SY translated.
"I won't," Jim said and put a hand on Chang Yeun's shoulder. "I won't ever ignore you."
SY and I smiled at this gesture. Chang Yeun was also touched, "I feel very comfortable around all of you. It is much easier for me to say my English."
"Good," we all agreed, and lifted our glasses to mark the occasion.
"To us!" I said. "To music, to friends, to now!"
After a generous offer to play one final song, Beatles began to close up shop. We all stared around the bar and each other as Cindi Lauper's "Time After Time" soaked us with its nostalgia and beauty.
"Such a good song," Jim shook his head in amazement. "Cindi Lauper."
I woke up this morning with this song in my head. I figured I might as well learn how to use GarageBand and record it. Here is an early version. I'll add guitars and figure out the equalizer later. In the meantime, here's Transistor Radio, a shout out to "White Lines," 2 Live Crew, and the West Coast of Mars.
It's a nice quiet day in Seoul. Kayvon should be arriving any minute. In preparation, I managed to sweep, mop, and do the laundry - an old hospitality behavior that was burned into me by my mother: "Pirooz, is guest! Clean!!"
Last night I had the pleasure of re-visiting my middle school years with the film RAD - a tale about a small town hero who goes up against corporate big wigs with a BMX, love, and some killer moves.
After I saw "Back to the Future," I got a skateboard. It was a RAMP RAT. I tried doing all the tricks in the movie. I wasn't very good. I could only hitch rides on my dad's station wagon.
Then I saw "Rad." I got a yellow and black BMX right away. I liked the velcro foam on the handle bars. I liked riding real fast down the hill in Stuyvesant Hills.
Sometimes John and I would ride up to Wilmington Christian and ride down the grass hill to the bottom. We would try and pop wheelies. Then we would head back to his house. All the neighborhood kids would show up for a game of kick the can. I liked those days. I liked my BMX. I liked being 12.
It makes me think about girls. I like them too. I went out with 3 girls when I was 12. I stopped riding my BMX. I wore Polo cologne, and went to the St. Mary's basketball games. I picked up a blade of grass and spun it. I told the girl she won.
"Won what?" she asked.
"A kiss," I said.
Now I have my childhood in a game of tether ball. It bounces back to me for all my good ideas.
It looks like some of my early, early music material with musical group, Cecil's Water, is now up for sale on the net. Here is a track on a compilation from Bringin' Home the Bacon. I also found our first record, Fear Moves, on this site. I wonder who is getting the proceeds. It certainly isn't me.
In music related news, Kirkpatrick, one of the old rockers from Newark's early days is still going strong with Spindrift in Los Angeles. The group is now on a nationwide tour. If you like country western spoofs or spaghettis westerns, this band may be right up your alley. Try and catch them in these smaller venues before the inevitable.
What else? Well, B. and I did scour Insadong's art scene to recruit writers for the Korean anthology. We scored it fairly big at Boondagi, and found lots of other possibilities for recruitment. We will be going to some poet gatherings, and I will be sure to post films about the process. It'll be interesting - an artist and a former Army officer on a quest for hidden treasure. I wonder who will play Dr. Livingston.
I got a message from Loren. Hopefully, he will be out here soon. As far as other visitors, my best friend from high school will be heading in from Hong Kong. For those of you who know Kaivon, I'm sure you can imagine the fun him and I will have. I mean, the guy used to make goat noises in retirement centers, has driven across China on a motorbike, and helped Lycos get off the ground before the Internet was even in full swing. I'm hoping him + me + Jim + B will = a shindig somewhere fun. I'm guessing in around Sinchon, but a trip to Insadong would be just as fruitful. Only time will tell.
We went to the far North of Seoul to find the guitar shops. After haggling on prices, L. and I walked away with some guitars. Here I am on the return. L. captured it for posterity. The folks on the subway wanted to know when and where we would be playing.
"At Duksung yo-day," L. informed them.
Now I'm about to head out to the bookstore. We are trying to find young authors in Seoul. There is talk of an anthology a-brewing. I will spread more fire, if the kindling gets hot.
Some people need to feel like they're going to be taken care of. Some people expect this. The more an executive is capable of making their employees feel like they are there to make them happy in every way possible, the harder they will work and the less they will complain.
In my experience prior to being an executive myself, I had the pleasure in assisting some of the very best - Kromwalker, Fintail, Humtruck, you name it. One of the key ingredients intrinsic to them all, was the innate ability to make sure employees were given clear directions and treated well. They would often sweeten a work week with small incentives that would provide the opportunity for an open dialogue beyond office politics. "Let's get some coffee," one would say. "Come over for dinner," another would say. It was all very hi-diddley-ho and work would not be discussed. We would simply have conversations on day-to-day issues; family woes; dream adventures; or a friendly game of ping-pong.
These gestures opened our bonds of communication beyond corporate politics to our linked humanity as individuals. The executive could be a person, and the employee as well. Suddenly, we were not hierarchily displaced, but one in the same. And I would say the this feeling of being human in the workplace is the single most important thing an executive can instill. Just imagine how much value and respect this creates between employers and employees. It's remarkable and legitimate in any format; whether it be a crew of Intoslochecks, a retirement home, or your local five and dime.
We are all human. The more we acknowledge this as executives; the more our employees will see that their job is as important as any other, and that their value in the company is beyond hierarchy - it is in fact a community-centered function that operates more like a family; without the unnecessary extremes of love and approval that can makes certain family dynamics difficult.
Just got back from a night of dancing in Itahwon. They played Young MC, Madonna, and Vanilla Ice. I was in heaven, especially with my fantastic dance partners. I hooked up with a crew of Canucks full of love and absolute freedom. We did the running man, the old heart-thump-squeeze, and managed to grind it up when MJ's Beat It pulled us from our seats.
"Come!" they shouted to me. "You have to!!"
It's hard to say no to a gaggle of pretty girls, putting up their hands like hearts for you, saying they love you, and then literally pulling you out of your seat. There just wasn't any choice in the matter. Besides, it was Aretha going strong with a heavy backbeat looped under. I was already pulling the imaginary gear shift and waving people on the bus before the Canucks even got a chance to say, "Bus stop!"
"Shopping!" a girl with a CBGB shirt yelled to me, "Shopping CART!"
I watched as she hopped back and forth on her legs, while pushing an imaginary cart in front of her, reaching for an imaginary canned good, and placing it into the cart to the rhythm of "Just a little bit..."
We all copied the groove. Then I got into a heart-to-heart with a girl from London. She told me I was a worthy opponent. I smiled back at her. Then she pointed to the platform below her. "Go there," she said.
"What?" I asked.
"There," she pointed.
I stepped down and she jumped into my arms. I nearly fell over as I caught her and put her back on the ground.
"I wanted to test your strength," she explained.
I smiled. We chatted about our backgrounds. I told her I was Persian. She told me she liked Parsis and India. I dercribed the journey to Korea. She said she didn't want to talk about spiritual things. I bought her tequilas. She thanked me for the chat.
"It's was nice," she said.
"Yeah," I agreed. "When do you leave for Tokyo?"
"Tomorrow," she said. "Then back to London."
"Oh," I said. "London sounds fun."
"It's an interesting place. It has its own special flavor."
"Well, I'll have to come to visit then."
"How old are you?"
"Good," she smiled. "I thought I was too old for you."
"How old are you?"
"Younger," she smiled.
One of her associates came over and whispered into her ear. There was some business issue. "I'm having a chat here," I heard her say. There were more words exchanged, then she got up. "It was really nice talking with you," she said and held out her hand. "Yes," I said and shook it.
I walked back to my table. I wasn't there for more than 10 seconds before I was prodded by the Canucks to get her number. "Go!" they said. "Get over there!" I listened. I bought two tequilas. I walked onto the dance floor. I handed one to her. We drank without a word.
Yesterday I bought a guitar. It's purple with pearl inlay. I want to play it all the time. I even want to paint it.
"Don't paint it," a friend said.
"Why?" I asked. "Don't you like my paintings?"
"There okay," he said.
"You don't like my paintings?" I laughed.
"Well, they're all right. It's just that-"
"It's okay, L.," I smiled. "You don't have to like my paintings."
Now I'm going to the temple. I would like to play my guitar. I would like to talk to the blonde girl from London. I would like to sleep a couple more hours. But now I'm going to the temple.
I finally decided on Foreign Teacher's Liaison. I would prefer SPACE STATION AMBASSADOR, but the university may not have enjoyed this title as much as my colleagues and I, so without any further gilding of the lilly, I am now in charge of making foreigners happy. That seems like a good job to me.
"Where do I put my trash?" one colleague asks.
"Can I have food vouchers for my wife and myself?" another requests.
"When will you run everything?" Jim jokes.
I laugh. I remember my friend Xog in college. He jumped on top of my dorm bed and shouted, "Call me the governor!" He took finals of classes he wasn't registered for and then ran out screaming three quarters of the way through. He loved re-arranging the letters of signs to say obscene things. He wore penny loafers with the souls halfway off. He made me feel loveable.
Xog lost his father in a robbery in downtown Chicago.
He called me when it happened.
"Think of your mother and sister," I said. "They need you now."
He came to visit later. I took him around my hometown. I asked him to make me laugh. He told me about B. B. King:
"I went to a concert a couple years ago. I brought that record I showed you. You know the one where he recorded in a prison? I went straight up to him. I said, 'B.B. King you are the greatest thing to ever walk the planet Earth.' He smiled. Then he said, 'Boy, you swelling my head.' "
We walked to the home of THE PATRON SAINT OF VENDETTAS. He was sick and had not cleaned his home for the past two weeks. Xog and I made him soup and cleaned the house. X. called him the "prince of darkness." The PATRON SAINT told him to "get lost."
We walked to the grocery store. He kept calling the PATRON SAINT his "dark lord." He didn't mention what happened. He didn't talk about dropping out of school to help his mom and sister. He didn't feel bad when he cried in my arms. He was just who he was without excuses. He was the true AMBASSADOR. He was my friend.
BRENT BONACORSO AND JESSE ATLAS's short film trailer for Now and Nowhere is now up for view. I am very excited, not only because it looks so great, but also because the amazing Stacy Dacheux worked tirelessly on the initial screenplay. I can't wait to see this short in its completed form.
Jim and I hit Suyu in style last night. We were quick to show our prowess on basketball shoot-offs, and offer the lastest demonstration of the technical superiority of Korean mobile phones.
"Oh, look at that!" Jim said as I requested more light. "Look-at-that!"
As you can see from the pic above, it only took a moment for our Korean colleagues to provide us with a lighted backdrop.
"It's art," Jim told our colleagues, as he posed in full Goar regality. "Pirooz is making art."
Although it wasn't my intention, I would have to say these photos are exactly that. Notice how the various elements come together to show a thirty-something poet in his writing prime, while he utilizes the latest Korean terminology necessary for anyone who has a Korean girlfriend:
"Hung Bo Ka Yo," Jim texts in Korean phonetics to his absent gf. "I'm happy."
"Now write "you're special," I encourage. "Tick pee yal koo hya ha yo!"
"Maybe just 'special,' " Jim laughs.
"Yes," I agree. "That's enough."
Later, we learned a few other phrases from our teachers. Naturally, I wanted to learn how to say nice things like, "You are the best!" and "Good job!" I was glad our friends were patient enough to teach us.
"Che goo way oh!" I repeated to Jim. "You really are!"
"Oh, my," Jim laughed. "In two months, you're going to know everything."
I hope so. I don't see any point in not being able to speak this language. And luckily, Jim and I discovered an important step along this process when our colleagues showed us how Korean sentence structure followed a Subject-Object-Verb configuration, as opposed to the traditional Subject-Verb-Object procession of most Roman languages.
"That changes everything," Jim announced. "Every-thing!"
"Mmmm," I agreed. "That would certainly change things."
I poured another apple-flavored soju into my cored-apple-glass. I thought about verbs and objects for five seconds. Then decided it was too big for my mind to consider.
"To the Norabong!" I announced.
"Norabang?" One of our colleagues asked.
"Yes," I smiled. "You like to sing, right?"
"Then let's go sing."
We picked up beers at a local mart and managed to lose several dollars at a pick-up-prize arcade game, before Cyndi Lauper and "Sweet Home Alabama" were sounding out the main objectives of the night.
For those of you who are ready to contribute to your first feature film, Marlowe Fawcett (Indirect Films: London & Boulder) and Thomas Henwood (Six Day Productions: New York) are teaming together to bring us a feature on fertility and love. As Fawcett has expressed in a recent letter:
"...i'm really excited about this project for a number of reasons. mainly because the script is so good - i've been working with the writers for over a year now and though i've read the script dozens of times, i still laugh and cry at all the right points. but also because it's set in boulder and is a 30-something comedy about fertility: ie. great comedy material and i don't have to leave home to shoot it! we're aiming for this to be in the genre of 'sideways' and 'little miss sunshine', taking advantage of boulder's unique characteristics: great views, sunshine and quirky politics/lifestyles..."
I was a fan of Marlowe's first film, "The Other Half," and will be sending my contribution. If there are others who are interested in helping these producers bring their vision to reality, you can contact Indirect Films via their website. And, as M., lovingly told me: "...if [anyone] need[s] to big me up at all, check the following link for a trailer to my first feature, "the other half". it has sold over 70,000 dvd's in the UK and i'm currently working on a new soccer comedy for the UK distributor (Momentum Pictures) - this time a heist comedy!: *Trailer Link*..."
I wish these auteurs bon chance, easy shoots, and good weather!
The Patron Saint of Approval sent me this video. I was pleasantly surprised by the musical number. I take it the Saint knows my humor. It may please him to see this shout out now. It may also be beneficial for him to know that as a proud member of The Trapper Keeper Movement, such discussions on 80's popular culture and its numerical dissertations are high on the list for any devout member. Klaus Fenterhawk's satements in the latest issue of TKO proves this point with diligence and flair: "Trapper Keeper Movement members have been known to memorize Pi past 29 digits while drinking Tang."
I believe this is fanfare enough for all of us to enjoy the illustrious world of Zap, whether we believe in America's space program or not:
For those of you are interested in the interview process and its importance in today's literary world, you may find time between Tang shots to enjoy this article in Bookforum.
In the article, Keillor states that the world would be better served without parents who operate as a stereotypical gay male, and precludes this stereotype with another on how he sees a typical gay male:
Now there are some who have commented that Keillor is operating within the permissable bounds of satire within this article, but I find that very hard to believe. This is an opinion piece, and an ugly one at that. I am not even going into how he told a group of elementary school students (who were first generation immigrants) that "back in the day, we were cowboys and rode horses." That would be a bit too easy. But, for argument's sake let me just say in an overly, effeminate fashion, "Talk about wrong colors and standing in the background!"
I do believe Keillor made an effective argument for the frivolous use of U. S. funds, but to believe his statements on homosexuality and how "we all used to be cowboys" reflects an unseen, sideways humor would be "to look, like a fish, for a hole in the net," as the Somoan proverb goes. Of course, my proverb comes off a bit more colorful, without the requisite "whoopi-ti-yi-yo" or "clip-clops and whinnies" of my Cowboy ancestors. What can I say? Our writer from Lake Wobegon, has simply run his river dry to this American.
If you, or anyone you know, has a question about how "off the mark" Keiller's statements are, then send them my way. I have a copy of Huckleberry Finn on the floor - a work by a true American satirist, and one who would reply to Keillor with a bit more sass than I.
In my opinion, I believe Keiller's Lake Wobegon tales are fixed upon the Reaganomics of his time. Fortunately, like the Cold War, the wall has come down, and slights of government policy simply don't cut the mustard in contemporary American humor, which has moved beyond the dull knives of Small Town, America to the razor blades and machetes of Flarfists, Eminem, and yours truly.
Last night I went with D. to a Korean hot bath. We went into the very hot tub, the hot-but-not-kill-you tub, the dry sauna at about 63 degrees Celsius (154 degrees Fahrenheit), and then the freezing ice tub.
I nearly died during the transition. All the muscles in my back froze up and I went limp.
"What are you an ARDISHI?" D joked, calling me "old man" in Korean.
"Yes," I replied.
"Come," he beckoned, and led me to the showers for a cleaning. "You will get used to it."
"It's really great."
"Yes," D. agreed. "Very good for the body. It doesn't feel too cold or too hot."
"Do routines like this help you?"
"No," D said, and then paused for a moment. "Yes, sometimes."
"I think I'll do this once a week."
"Good," D agreed. "Then you can go sit on Sundays."
"Can I practice alone too?"
"Yes," D. nodded. "Just pick a regular time everyday. Then start with 108 prostrations. Then sit for half and hour."
"I think I can do it every morning at 5."
"Okay," D smiled. "Just make sure it is a realistic goal. Many people say they will sit twice a day, but then this is too much, so they stop and feel bad and stop practicing. So pick something realistic for you."
After the hot tub, D. and and I drank beck-soju, ate peanuts, and talked about the proper way to sit meditation.
"There are three things to sitting Zen," D. told me. "Posture, breadth, and mind."
"When you sit," D pulled his leg in the half-lotus position, "You sit in half lotus or full lotus. You put your right hand under your left, and then let your fingers [thumbs] touch. Then you put it right below your navel, your mudra. So that when you breathe, your stomach comes out to touch your thumbs."
"Got it," I said, imitating the posture.
"Now sit straight up. Let your back go straight, put your shoulders back, and imagine your head is being pulled by a string, up! Good! Now relax. You are holding the posture, but not to hurt yourself. This is very important."
"Now when you breathe, breathe with your nose. Let the breadth come in and then out. Your stomach should cave in with the breadth and then back out. Just breathe naturally."
I took a couple breadths. Then D. explained MIND.
"Last thing is mind. You want to let the thoughts come. You are soft focusing on the ground. Thoughts will come and go. It is like a cloud. The more you think about the cloud, the longer it stays. But if you notice the cloud and let it go, the cloud will go away. It is this simple."
"Sometimes there are tricks if it is difficult to let go of something. You can breathe in and say "doooon't," and then breathe "knooow" out. You can also count. Sometimes this is very hard. You have to remember the number. Sometimes you have to count again. But just count. No thinking. Just count. Pay attention to your breadth. This is it."
Later, D. and I talked about art and Zen. I told him how my writing and art had changed over time, and that I was worried that if I practiced regularly, I might not have a desire to do any."
"Clear mind is clear art," D laughed. "Unclear mind is unclear art."
"Mmmm," I nodded.
"It is this easy," he smiled. "Just do it."
"Why do you meditate?"
"For you," he smiled. "For you. This simple."
"Let me ask you, 'Why do you write?' "
"Um...I don't know."
"Good. This "don't know mind" is good. But ask this question: 'WHY DO I WRITE?' Also ask, 'WHO IS DOING THIS WRITING?' Do not use any words. "
"I will," I laughed. "Those are good quesitons."
[ I was very excited when D. agreed to printing our letters back and forth here. He was beautifully gracious. "Okay," he smiled. "If you want." ]
Kasey is hard at work trying to plan an avant garde literary event at alternativewritingconference.blogspot.com. If you have a chance to donate money, volunteer, or offer some feedback on the process, please go visit and say hello. I am sure if the community pulls together we can make Kasey's event a fantastic hurrah.
As far as names for the conference, I nominate K's RITING KONFRENCE. It's got a ring to it. Here's a drawing:
Ofelia Hunt is not inside a box. I can't wind her up. If I were inside a box, I would want Ofelia to put me in a meadow. I would want there to be tigers there. They wouldn't be too close though. They would be close enough for me to get scared, but not far enough away from me to not feel like a tiger. Then I would growl. Maybe, Ofelia would growl with me. We would drink Diet Cokes and talk about how Mars might be close enough for a launch. "I would go with you to Mars," she'd say. Then she would put me back in the box. I don't know what she would do after that. I'm not Ofelia Hunt. I love her stories though. They weld together reality and interior examinations unlike any other writer of her generation. You are at once intrigued, temporarily displaced, and hungry for more. Her most recent publication, My Eventual Bloodless Coup, displays her commitment to what she describes as her "lying" process and the potential for a "hyper-reality" to be traversed by her endless imagination.
Pirooz Kalayeh: I love how your characters see different possibilities outside of their current reality. What brought this choice about for you?
Ofelia Hunt: This is a difficult question for me to answer. I wrote an answer and then deleted the answer and now I'm writing another answer. I think there are three things, maybe. I, as a person, have often been caught up in idle thoughts and maybe start laughing to myself and then someone comes and wonders why I'm laughing and I can't explain it because it's not interesting to say it in words. I think maybe this happens with a lot of people and I think it is interesting. The second thing is lying. I think lying is very interesting and fun and sort of game-like. I come from a middlingly large family and we lie to each other all the time. The more elaborate the lie the better, and if we can convince someone of its truth... I think I want my characters to also lie in this way, to themselves, to each other, in their imagination so that everything is some level of lie. Maybe, and I'm just thinking this now, this imagination is the preparation for future lying, to the self, to others, etc... I think the third thing is that it's more fun to write, and more interesting to me.
Pirooz Kalayeh: It's interesting that you call your characters' imaginative dialogues lies, because they carry such a truth for me. It's like you said, "[We get] caught up in idle thoughts...[it] happens with a lot of people." Do you believe mapping out interior monologues will make your characters more human and real for your audience? Does it make it more real for you?
Ofelia Hunt: I think it makes it more real for me. I don't know if it's more real for other people. I think there might be a kind of weird reality to it, in that a person can relate, but maybe the writing goes a little too far, interior monologues that go on longer and maybe more detailed than is realistic. I think maybe I would refer to Stephen Dixon here who's often talked about as hyper-real [I may have made that up] and when I read Stephen Dixon, like in End of I or Interstate, I read these massive interior monologues that seem very realistic, very thought-like, and yet I know they go on much longer than I've ever experienced, and what I imagine any other person would experience. Of course, interior monologues in my stories are probably very different from Dixon's novels but I think maybe there is a similar idea - the taking of something realistic and then magnifying it in some way for effect. I find this entertaining, for me anyway. It makes the writing fun. Like, I'll be writing a story and then I start some kind of interior monologue and when I'm done I feel very satisfied and I re-read it and edit and I am happier. This is maybe the most fun part of writing a story for me.
Pirooz Kalayeh: Yes, I hear you. It reminds me of the songwriting process – when I’m working with a group of musicians there is a blissful freedom in letting the elements wander collectively before we assign any set parameters. In some cases, there never needs to be anything agreed upon, because everyone syncs up without a single word spoken. These moments are rare, but they happen quite regularly if the musicians are unattached to the outcome. Of course, writing is more solitary, and in so being, can cause a bit more difficulty when trying to tap into a rhythm. But I have experienced keyed-in improvisations, and have heard of others going through similar movements in their work. Is this what you are experiencing, when you talk about the “satisfaction” of a completed monologue? And, if so, do you ever set any parameters within your process about how you begin or proceed through the interior lies of your characters?
Ofelia Hunt: I think, yes, this could be a similar experience. Writing is a strange act for me. I never have a plan at all. No outline. Not even a general idea of what I want to "happen". So writing is a kind of improvisation. But much of it is sitting and staring at a computer screen, maybe reading a little, and always listening to music. When I'm writing these monologues, and also other parts that come very quickly, it's when I am so focused on the writing, the screen, the words, that nothing can distract me. I can no longer hear the music I'm listening to etc... This is very satisfying and I write large chunks very quickly. In the Bear Parade E-book, most of those stories are around 1000 words and they were all written at once, maybe over an hour or two, and then edited later, so maybe 1000 words is the upper limit of that kind of concentration. So a lot of writing for me is an attempt to get to that level of concentration where writing is very easy and enjoyable. I listen to music. I wake very early in the morning so there are no extraneous sounds, no outside distractions. As far as parameters, I don't set any, at least not consciously. I suppose I try to be consistent, if I've created a character and that character has certain traits, I stick with those, but it is never a conscious thought.
Pirooz Kalayeh: Is the novel you've begun to post on your blog also an attempt to reach this level of concentration?
Ofelia Hunt: I think yes, or, for me, all writing is me trying to get that level of concentration, because that is when I really enjoy writing. It is nice later, too, when you are finished and happy with what you wrote, but to be totally focused on writing is probably the best part for me.
Pirooz Kalayeh: You mentioned Stephen Dixon earlier. Does his writing carry this level of concentration for you? Is this even something you look for when you read other writers?
Ofelia Hunt: I don't know. I don't think that is something I could recognize in someone else’s writing. I think in my reading I'm looking for writing I enjoy or that makes me feel comfortable or excited, with a minimum of distractions.
Pirooz Kalayeh: What would you classify as a distraction?
Ofelia Hunt: There are only a few things. I think when the sentences consistently have too many extra words. Also when the writer tells me something I didn't need to know, too many details - I guess not trusting me to fill in the holes. And probably when I feel like the writer is trying to impress me with vocabulary.
Pirooz Kalayeh: It sounds like for all the lying you claim to do, there is a lot of integrity at stake in the writing you read and create. Is this something you've naturally gravitated towards? Was there a key moment for you where you're tastes suddenly shifted to include the level of concentration you speak of? And, if so, how much of a factor was integrity to how this came about?
Ofelia Hunt: I'm not totally sure I can answer that. I began reading when I was very young, but mostly mysteries and science-fiction novels. In high school I became suddenly fascinated by Kurt Vonnegut and read everything he wrote several times. I still liked the science fiction then. In my early twenties I thought it was important to read classics so I read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Beckett, Chekhov, Faulkner, Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf, Borges, etc. Some of this I liked, some I thought was very boring. I read like 1200 pages of War and Peace and then suddenly realized that I didn't care what happed next and quit. I tried to read anything mentioned in the books I read, so when I read that Vonnegut had read Journey to the End of the Night, I read 'Journey to the End of the Night'. I think after that the books I liked most were books that didn't distract me. If I read Steven King, I feel very distracted by extra words and maybe slick and neat trickery that feels sort of disingenuous. I feel the same with maybe Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum or something. I find Kerouac's 'On the Road' to be very distracting. I don't know if I can use the word 'integrity' anywhere here. In a way, I guess I think writers should be committed to their writing and make it exactly what they want it to be. I don't think that writing “lies” is necessarily lacking in integrity. I think Catch 22 is a very good book and it is all lies in its way. In Cat's Cradle the narrator says something about everything being a pack of lies near the beginning. I think that lies are interesting and maybe have a story of their own and that I can learn things from the lies people tell, maybe more than the truth that people think they tell. This may be where I become a sophist or a relativist or something because I feel like there is no one truth and that all people create their own truth through some kind of personal perception, frame of reference, context etc.... This is kind of a long answer. My short answer is yes and no. I think I have a hard time with the word 'integrity' because it implies to me a one-truth ideology (I don't know why this is) but maybe 'commitment' is the word I would use.
Last night I ate potato chips, two strawberry cookies, an ice cream cone, and a donut for dinner. It wasn't planned out very well, but the office assistants kept offering me gifts, and I was too tired to really be able to know what I was doing. Now I've learned an important lesson - do not eat when you're tired, and even more importantly, don't go out for the same reason. My tongue can be wickedly dangerous when it is left to hallucinatory fatigue. I am sure my colleagues enjoyed the various ramblings of a delusional cylon, but somehow I have the feeling my diatribe on Jesus and selling my services to the highest bidder could have been misconstrued. Of course, now I have learned another lesson. Stay away from the evil rice wine known as Soju. It only takes a couple glasses and, "my inflated ego," as a colleague so kindly put, may just think it's arguing the finer points of the Fleurs Du Mal, instead of holding court with a group of Korean women who don't speak English and are actually showing me how to belly dance.
I am pretty stoked. I can't tell you why here. I will tell you if you e-mail me, but even then I might just write LALALA a hundred times over. As far as other things, it looks like a piece from the Burt Kristbaum Adventures will appear in Opium. Other than that, I am hella tired. I've taught classes at 7AM all week, and I'm ready for a much needed break. I've got a painting to get to, and maybe a story or two to write. Jim and I are planning a night on the town for Saturday, so I'll post pics of our latest adventure. I will also be hitting the Hwa Gye Sah Temple on Sunday. I am not sure if it's for me, but when a Zen Master tells you to come, you can't help but think they might have a good idea.
Tao Lin is a complete original. He doesn't mince words and is not fond of cliches. The consummate innovator, he follows an "ideal" where each moment can launch him into anything and everything. From oupourings of emotion to the complexities of human frailty and aggression, his latest poetry books, this emotion was a little e-book and you are a little bit happier than i am, blend craft, humor, and integrity for an original experience and exciting arrival.
Pirooz Kalayeh: What brought you to writing? Tao Lin: When I was growing up my dad was friends with Ha Jin. Ha Jin came over for dinner sometimes. My dad was a physicist and Ha Jin was a writer. They didn't talk about their professions though. My mom was reading a book one day and I said, "What are you reading? Who is Ha Jin," and she pointed at Ha Jin. I was twelve or something. I think that is the first thing that made me think about writing.
PK: Did Ha Jin say anything to you?
Tao Lin: He didn't. He didn't say "Hi" or "Bye" or anything like that. If he saw me I just walked away quickly. I only remember one time I was walking through the kitchen and my dad wasn't in the room. Ha Jin was sitting at the dinner table. There was a giant vacuum cleaner and to get between that and the wall I turned my body. Ha Jin said, "Do you know that you walk sideways?" I said, "No." Ha Jin said, "You walk sideways like a crab." I said, "Oh," and walked away quickly.
PK: That's funny. I can also see it in one of your poems. The 'vacuum cleaner' disappears; a light goes on an off; and you use Picasso's head to cartwheel across two taxi cabs. That's what I love about your poems - the unexpected. It makes you drop what has happened before, but because you often repeat a phrase as a motif, it keeps the reader keyed into the multiplicity of connections you're making. It's almost like Gollum gone wild with multiple personality disorder, but there's you underneath the CGI of it all, pulling various gears and switches. How do you arrange this orchestra, Maestro? What goes into a Tao Lin original?
Tao Lin: I'm glad I have the power of multiplicity of connections. Gollum Gone Wild sounds like a good porn venture but ultimately redemptive. That sentence I just typed is good I think. I like it. I think I am different in each moment. In each moment I have an "Ideal," which is the poem that I would want to read most. So in each moment that is the poem I want to write. That is the most accurate answer I can give right now I think.
Ha Jin said in a lecture once that his favorite novel was The Human War by a writer named Main Ho. When he said that I felt really bad. I think a video series called "Main Ho Gone Wild" would be really good. Have you read any Ha Jin?
PK: No, I haven't. It's first sentences for me all the way. If I'm pulled in, then I will more than likely read the book. Right now I'm reading Lolita again. I'm taking it slow like Charlie eating his chocolate bar. I don't want to go too fast, but I do have Huck Finn on the floor, and a book by the great Tao Lin arriving any day. How about you? Are you devouring anything nutritious lately?
Tao Lin: I devoured organic pumpkin seeds, organic soy milk, organic frozen blueberries, organic bananas, an organic avocado with organic green onions and organic soy sauce, and organic almonds today and a soup. I think artists that are "devoted" to their art should focus on their own bodies. So they can live longer, have higher brain functioning, less physical distractions in the form of illness, disease, fatigue, cramps, pains, etc., and be able to focus better on their art. What do you think?
PK: I stay out of other people's business. It's healthier for me this way. I get to be in touch with me. That's a nice thing. Sometimes I climb the mountains or go out with friends. Sometimes I just stay at home and watch Battlestar Gallactica. I sit. I stand. I lie down. One day I will die. Now I'm going to watch Leonardo Dicaprio in Blood Diamond. He's a good actor. I like watching him convey his passion. He brings integrity to his roles. I like that. I also like finding that in people. It's nice when you get that from strangers or your very best friend in Seattle. I like people. They make me smile. I also like how your poems make me smile. a poem written by a bear made me laugh. i'll write another poem instead of looking for a job made me smile again. I liked how you changed the phrases to launch you into other emotions. The mix of humor, insecurity, desperation, optimism, and playful innocence commingled together creates such real, living beings out of your poems. Can you tell me what inspired this blend of emotion and language for you?
Tao Lin: I like people also. I also hate people with an intense but ultimately redemptive passion of ten thousand hamster friends. I hope you understand what I mean. Ha Jin wouldn't. I've enjoyed this interview so far. I like talking about Ha Jin.
I think my blend of emotion and language was inspired by Ha Jin. One of my favorite writers is Ha Jin. I've read his novel War Trash almost one and a half times. It's really nice. I mean it looks nice. It has a good cover.
PK: I saw Aguirre, Wrath of God back in 1996. I remember arrows. That's it. I also remember the friends who were with me. They had pretty strong reactions. One guy said he loved it. My girlfriend (at the time) hated it. I picked up a guitar.
Is that where "the ideal" for "poem written by a bear" came from?
Tao Lin: I had not seen any Werner Herzog when I wrote the bear poem. I don't think real bears are that depressed or cry when eating salmon, due to animal rights, of taking away the right of the salmon to live.
I saw The Land of Silence and Darkness by Werner Herzog a few days ago. It is about people who are deaf and blind. Herzog is a very good role model if you want to be a person who isn't dramatic. He chooses very undramatic people in very dramatic situations for his documentaries. I read Herzog's book of interviews. He doesn't complain and isn't dramatic. He said that what he wanted in his life was to find meaning, not to be happy. I want to read his book of interviews again.
I also saw Little Dieter Needs to Fly by Herzog. It was about a man who was very undramatic but who experienced a very dramatic situation. Herzog does documentaries on people who are focused on a goal and do not, really, have feelings, but only are tools to get at a goal. When suffering from severe loneliness or "terrible" circumstances these people do not become stagnant, depressed, or whiny and do not complain, brag, or anything like that but just focus on a goal.
People who are depressed should focus outward, on other people or on anything. Even if the depressed person is a nihilist, or something, and doesn't care about other people, he or she should still focus outward, if he or she wants not to be depressed anymore, because focusing outward is a good way to fight depression.
PK: I read your answer 34 times today. Then I thought about what I could say to you. I wanted to let you know about the monk I saw last night who said that “people need to concentrate on others," but who would probably say, “wanting anything is not going to get you happy.” This answer frustrated me. I had to teach a class. I felt fake, and my mind said, “You need to prepare for this class.” Then this feeling went away. I didn’t reach into my pockets to see what was inside them. I just said, “Okay, I can do that.” Then I went upstairs. I read your answer 5 more times. Then I decided I would prepare my classes. I went back downstairs. I printed handouts. I felt unprepared, then prepared, and then unprepared again. I went upstairs. I read “you are a little bit happier than i am.” I felt prepared. I thought about Byron Katie. She liked the question: “How do you know you don’t need what you want?” I liked her answer. “You don’t have it,” I said to myself. Then I felt happy, I looked at the roses I bought. They were blooming. I only watered them once. They looked nice. Then I thought about how your book reminded me of a diary, but that it was more than a diary, and that depression is believing a thought is real, and how you probably don’t believe every thought you have, but that it is real to have thoughts, so your book is very real. I liked your book very much. It is very different from the poems in “this emotion was a little e-book.” What was your ideal with “you are a little bit...?”
Tao Lin: I liked reading what you typed. Thank you for reading what I typed a total of 39 times. I liked what you typed. You didn't use any clichés of language or idiomatic expressions. Each word had meaning, on its own, and the meaning was what you wanted to express; there were no received phrases. Thank you.
I wrote "you are a little bit happier than i am" before the poems on Bear Parade. When I wrote "you are a little bit happier than i am" I hadn't read much poetry. I don't think I had read any contemporary poetry except maybe some of Matthew Rohrer. I didn't think any of the thoughts about "focusing on others" that I typed in my last answer when I was writing "you are a little bit happier than i am."
I've just started thinking those kinds of things recently. I used to think it was good to be severely depressed, because severely depressed people I thought were quiet, passive, unconcerned with material possessions, sensitive, very conscious of the effects of their behavior on others, and structured their lives so as not to interfere with anyone else's, and didn't mislead others. But I think those qualities are all independent of "severe depression." A happy person can have all those things I just listed.
I think my ideal was different with each poem in "you are a little bit happier than i am." Maybe for most of them I wanted to have it so after reading the poem I felt better, because of feeling less significant, in the universe, but not distortedly insignificant, just more accurately significant. The .0000000000000000000000001% or whatever it is of the universe that I am.
"This is Bo Zang," he told me. "He is from Lithuania."
"Hello," I said. "Nice to meet you."
"And this is Zen Master Wu Bong. He is living in France."
"Nice to meet you."
"That is my Korean name," Bo Zang told me.
"I would like a Korean name," I said.
"If you sit for 3 years," D smiled. "Then you can take your precepts and get a Korean name."
"Mmmm," Zen Master Wu Bong remarked. "Maybe, Bop Bo."
"Bop Bo," I repeated. "What does that mean?"
"It is like yuppy."
"I like that name. I would like to have it."
"Well," Bo Zang gestured. "If Zen Master says it, then I think this is your name."
D. and I sat in the sitting room with a few other foreigners at the Temple. Most of them had just finished a 90 day retreat. They were very talkative.
"I am from Newfoundland," one of the Buddhists told me. "It's on the far side of Canada."
"This is a Franciscan brother who has come to sit with us," D pointed out a nice, Scottish monk.
We all chatted about where we came from, and then discussed jokes from our native countries. Then our Dharma friend from Newfoundland told us about his retreats to the caves in Thailand.
"My cave was angled in such a way, that whenever it rained all my things would get washed away," he smiled. "It was very hard. There was also a man there who had not left his cave in 17 years. He just lied in a hammock and kept thinking."
This made us all laugh. D. then potificated on the practice rituals for those who want to be with people and those who don't.
"Maybe, the people who want to be alone, need to practice with others," he smiled. "And the people who need to be with people, need to practice alone."
Everyone nodded in respect to D.. Then D. and I made our way outside the Temple. He was set on taking me to a hot bath. "How do you expect to get Enlightenment if you don't go to the hot bath?" D laughed.
"Okay," I said. "Let's go take a bath."
We made our way down the hill from the Temple and stopped off for some palm rice wine. This was where D. and I talked about the "American Dream" and Los Angeles.
"In America," D. said. "There is a lot of this ME mentality. Everything is me, me, me. This is very different from other places."
"Yes," I said. "I noticed it in Los Angeles. Everyone was dreaming."
"Yes," D. smiled. "And you got out of it. This is good. You have the Dharma companions guiding you. Do you know this term Dharma companion?"
I shook my head.
"Dharma companion is like ancestors of the Dharma. They look out for you. They have brought you here. This is very good."
"Yes," I agreed. "Los Angeles was starting to get to me."
"My friend he was a musician in Los Angeles. He said everything is concentrated on the external."
"Yes, image is a big thing," I agreed.
"Now you are out. You must go sit every Sunday to make your center strong. Then when you make a mistake it is only a big mistake."
D. asked me about sitting with Brad Warner. He was very curious about him. "I would like to meet him," he said. "I like his book."
"He's a good guy," I said.
"Did you sit at any retreats with him?"
"Just one. There were kids playing in the playground outside. They kept yelling "Marco! Polo!!" Then when we were done sitting, Brad looked up and said, "Polo."
"Good," D. smiled.
"Yeah," I said. "He was a pretty serious guy."
"Good," D said. "Life is very serious, Pirooz."
I told him about how Brad was criticizing Ken Wilbur and the 15 minute Enlightenment ideas W. had been supporting as of late. "Brad says how you couldn't expect to lose weight after 15 years of being out of shape, so how could you expect Enlightenment to come as easily," I explained.
"Yes," D. smiled. He is wrong though. For some people, it is just like," D. snapped his fingers. "Just like that. There is no waiting. For others, it takes a long time. It sounds like he was commenting on the importance of sitting. This is good. But do not worry about when. Just practice."
"Only go straight," I nodded.
"Gooood!" D exclaimed. "Yes, you will go to these Sunday sits. Do not worry about the talk. Talk doesn't matter. Just sit."
"Okay," I said.
"Yes!" he exclaimed again. How old are you?"
"Oh, so young!"
"Mmmm. Yes you have a lot of time. You are young and healthy. Go with what happens. Just allow the moment."
We left for the hot bath soon after. We walked about 6 or 7 blocks only to find it closed. D. didn't know any others to go to, so we walked back to the Temple. He was set on making sure I got a taxi to get back to campus. He stood by the traffic light to watch for when it changed. As soon as it did, he shouted and pushed me.
I just hiked up the mountain again. It was nice. I picked up some roses for my room on the way down. I also got some fried potato thing from a street vendor. My choices were fried squid, crab, beans, or potatoes. I went with potatoes. I figured it would taste like french fries. I was wrong. It tasted more like a samosa without the spiciness. I ate it and felt a bit ill. That will be the last time I have one of those, I thought.
Now I'm looking over the Korean I was taught last night. I was in a Baskin Robbins with some of my colleagues who were native Koreans, and I figured I would pick up a funny phrase or two. "How do you say, 'I have super powers?' " I asked.
"That's so cheesey," one of my colleagues responded.
"How do you say it?"
"Well, there isn't really a word for superpowers that I know. Hmmm-"
"Then how do I say, 'I can give you superpowers.' "
"Oh, my God! Why do you want to say that?"
"Teach me, oh, wise ones."
My colleague wrote down the phonetics for me to say the phrases. I was ecstatic. I also needed one more line to make it complete. "Yes," I said. "It's almost ready. I want to say, 'I have superpowers. I can give you super powers. Walk with me.' "
"That's pretty funny," my colleague laughed. "Okay, I'm going to teach you a real cheesey way to say, 'walk with me.' It'll be like a soap opera."
I tried saying the phrases several times. My colleagues kept laughing. Apparently, my prononciation was a bit off. They rehearsed it with me, until I decided singing the lines would get me there faster. I was right. I even got brave enough to try it out after I was goaded by my colleagues.
"If you do it," they said. "Oh, if you do it."
I went up to the friendly Baskin Robbins vendors and tried it out. They applauded me. I tried it out on a frangrance specialist. She smiled. I tried it out on our colleagues at the apartments. They laughed for quite a while. Then I put it away, and decided I would use it only one more time ever in my life. I know who I will say it to. Hopefully, they will also smile when I say it.
I went hiking yesterday. It was nice to be up in the mountains. I didn't expect it to be. I was real groggy and fatigued. The mountain changed that though. As soon as I was halfway up, I felt pretty energized. I even talked a bit with my hiking partner, H. "You like the Mets?" I asked. "Yeah," he said. "That's nice," I smiled.
I didn't expect to do so much talking. I'm usually quiet and winded most of the journey. It's my eyes and ears that like to do most of the work. Something was different about the day though. It was - and this may sound a bit premature - lighter like a coil about to be released, like a sandwich uneaten, like a beautiful Spring day in Seoul.
I know it may be hard to believe, but it's true. We are into Spring about 20 days early here. Whether this is the responsibility of Al Gore or simply God playing the part of Al Gore in a movie starring Natalie Portman, I don't know, but I'm not going to complain, and if anything, I'm going to say, "Thank you," now to show my appreciation, and eventually get to the thump, thump, thump over what I want to tell you - I'm a tenor.
It's true. As we reached the bottom of the otherside of the mountain I began singing. It wasn't with my voice or anything. It was in my eyes and ears. They were excited about the Temple H. and I found. "Aren't you thrilled?" my eyes crooned. "Yes! Yes!! Yes!!" my ears sang back. And with my body following the melody, I sang my way into the temple. "Hmmm! Oh, yes! And yes or yes again!"
An old woman, who I suspect could hear my eyes and ears, saw me, grabbed my hand, and put a rosary of some sort in it. "Che, key, koom, che," she said, and moved her fingers over the beads. "You."
"Che, key, klam-"
"Che," I repeated.
We did this a couple times through. Then she smiled at me and patted me on my back. It wasn't until I was invited into another part of the Temple with H., that I found out exactly what this prayer was about. Apparently, H. and I had found a 100 year old Chondogyo Temple that was designated as the second most important historical landmark in all of Seoul. "Wow," H said, as he read the placard. "1912! I can't believe I've never seen this before."
"Mmmm," I agreed.
Thankfully, we were given a private tour and a nice little sit down with the leaders of the temple. They were gracious hosts, and very interested in giving us a better understanding of what Chondogyo was. They even gave H. and I a couple books. I read aloud to H., as we sat with the temple leaders drinking green tea: "It says here that, 'Great Master Su Un found the Way that leads to the salvation of the world is not found outside the self but from within the self in direct prayerful communion with Heaven.' "
"Inside," one of the temple leaders motioned to her heart. "Here. God."
"God is inside you," I said. "Yes, I agree."
"Bright eyes," she motioned to H., "Bright eyes."
"She says you got bright eyes," I smiled at H..
"Yes, yes," H. shifted nervously. "I got that."
"You," the woman pointed at me. "Pure."
"You pure. Clean."
"Yes," I smiled. "I am very clean. I am pure."
The temple leaders found this funny for some reason and laughed uproariously.
"You Christian?" A man who we were told was the Director asked.
"Yes," H. replied. "I am."
"Heaven in Christian," the Director gestured above him. "In Chondogyo, Heaven inside."
The old woman who had first approached me now had me go through the prayer again. She even got the Director to write it out for me in Korean. I laughed when he handed it to me, then scrawled the English phonetics as the old woman looked over my shoulder.
"Is this chon?"
"Chon," she agreed.
"Choo, Cho, Khwa."
The temple leaders had some other guests knock on the door. I figured that was our cue to skidattle. I gave H. a new song with my eyes and ears, and we were off, walking at a quick pace down the mountain. Every once in a while we'd stop to check out what the various street vendors were selling.
"What's that?" I pointed to some strange and foul smelling thing in a basket.
"Bundaegi," H. said, offering the Korean name. "Boiled silk worms."
"Yeah, they're as appetizing as they smell."
"You've had them?"
"You'll try anything once?"
"Not me. If it doesn't smell appetizing, I won't need to go through that."
H. and I made it back down to campus. We had some sushi at a quaint, little restaurant. We didn't talk much about Chondogyo or our experience. I was very curious though. "I wonder if I'll head back there this coming Saturday."
"Well, you can always google it," H. reassured with his eyes.