Thursday, August 5, 2010
A senseless act of beauty
Itaewon is a seedy part of town. It is here that American GIs troll the streets, looking for bargains, booze, and broads. Just a block or two from the main subway stop is a street affectionately *koff* known as Hooker Hill. There's an old business run up there - the oldest one. It is also the place where foreigners tend to congregate with the Mexican, Greek, and Turkish restaurants. There's a foreign grocery, English bookstore, and the old fast food favorites - Taco Bell, Quiznos, KFC. It is one of the few places where you will see black people congregate - the ones from Africa and the ones from North America. This is the place where Spanish is spoken next to Swahili next to Hindi, next to Tagalog.
Many Koreans won't go to Itaewon - it is dangerous they tell me. They have no interest in being a victim, so they stay away. I'm not sure how much is true and how much is conjecture, but I certainly hug my bag a little closer to my tummy and make sure I walk with confidence. Most places in Korea I don't worry about these things. I lose something? It gets found and returned to me. I drop something? It's still there when I go back to find it. But not in Itaewon. I'm Careful there.
Visiting a pub with a number of Koreans, we a beer, ate chicken wings, pulled pranks on each other and mostly, we laughed. Our group was three or four Korean women, a couple of 20 something Irish lads, a kiwi man, several Korean men, and me.
The laughter and fun was moved to the home of X, one of the (several) bad boys of the bunch. As we walked along the streets of Itaewon with it's smells and hawkers, it's lights and slutty clothes, somewhere along the way I notice a sunflower growing out of a grate in the street. The grate is there to protect the roots of the tree growing there. It's the randomness of it that captures and charms me. The lady who is selling tsaskes tells me that she planted it. There was no time to ask her why or when or how she came up with the idea.
There, in Itaewon, a little bit of joy grows. Some senseless beauty - ambiguous in its origin - is undoubtedly an act of power - power against seedy, power against violence - power against fear.
Grow an act of senseless beauty where ever you may.