Sunday, October 08, 2006

Asian Bird Flu

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. Above and beyond having to deal with returning to real life after my week-long vacation, combating the jet-lag that comes with having adjusted your body to a time zone 14 hours ahead of your own, and partying it up on the 4th in celebration of my 33rd birthday (pictures of which can be viewed here), I have also managed to be dog-sick this week. Of course since I am what can be kindly referred to as a jackass and I just returned from Asia, I am telling everyone that I have come down with the Asian Bird Flu. Regardless of what you might think this is funny, funny stuff. So I was talking to my dad on Wednesday when he called to wish me a happy birthday and made the ABF joke. His response, which was the best so far, was to ask if the Asian bird was worth it. And my answer should have been she certainly could be, but we’ll have to see what, if anything, comes of it. Of course one or two of you might be wondering, “Asian bird?” What the hell is James talking about? Clearly he has finally gone off the deep end (which I typed as depend, make what jokes you will) and wandered in to complete incomprehensibility. This could not be further from the truth. The secret knowledge that my dad has that you people lack is that I got asked out on a date while in Seoul.

That’s right. I got asked out. By a girl.

I met Joo Young in a bar the first night we went out in Itaewon and, to be completely honest, was a little besotted with her. We chatted for far too long and then again when Charlie and I went back to the same bar the next night. This sort of chatting is always a bit comical for two reasons. First I have trouble hearing where there is a lot of background noise, even if the noise is at a fairly low level, and guess what bars tend to have in abundance? That’s right, background noise. The second, and more important reason, is that I have trouble understanding people with accented English. No matter how good their English is, until I am used to their accent, I generally understand about every third word and just try to fill in the blanks. This usually works, however couple the whole accent thing with the pronunciation difficulties some Koreans have with English words and this inability of mine becomes almost debilitating. Thus I am sure some things were said that I completely missed. These issues notwithstanding I really enjoyed spending time with Joo Young and was completely surprised when she informed me that she wanted to take me out to lunch.

I don’t think I have ever been asked out before in my life. Usually women are much more subtle and being the barely self-aware lout that I am, I am not often aware enough to pick up on their subtleties. But enough about that, lets get on with the date!

The morning started with a bit of trepidation. I am always a nervous wreck before a date. The primary reason for this is that I feel like I have nothing interesting to say. I get very nervous around women I find attractive and when I get nervous I clam up. Apparently in Asia, when coupled with my stature, comes off as being a tough guy rather than a nervous wreck. Thank God for cultural miscues.

First we met at the Starbucks in Itaewon (I am somewhat bothered by how ubiquitous Starbucks and other American chains were in Asia). I was a little nervous as I might have been a little intoxicated the two times I had seen Joo Young AND the lighting in the bar was, well lets just say it was a bit dark in there therefore I was hoping she would recognize me as I could not be certain of my ability to pick her out of a crowd. Then she was about ten minutes late which allowed my nervousness, which was at the “Butterflies in the Stomach but I can manage this” level to advance to “Gordian Knot and I might crap my pants” level, more commonly referred to as Defecon 2. I went ahead and ordered a drink in order to cover up my loitering and wandering through the seating area. Besides Chai tea always helps clam my nerves a bit and having a drink in hand allows me to cover up an uncomfortable silence by taking a drink. Oh well, she eventually showed and the date was on.

Initially I was going to write a detailed account of the date. Let you know where we went (Deoksugung Palace) and what we saw (an exhibition of art by Edvard Munch and Felicien Rops and the National Museum of Art) but you know what? None of that really matters. All that matters is that I really enjoyed the time I spent with Joo Young and there is a foolish part of me that wonders if we could have anything more.

This brings us back to the question, “Was the Asian bird worth it?” And the answer is an unreserved of course she is. Regardless of what else happens I will always have the memories of that afternoon and in the end that will have to be enough.

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