Flat Stanley was wedged in a book. I’d never heard of Flat Stanley until somebody mailed him to TTD a few weeks ago. “You take him places,” she said, “and you gotta take a picture of him. Then you mail Flat Stanley to someone else, so he goes around the world.” It’s a cute idea, sort of like the garden gnome in the movie Amelie. If you’ve never seen Flat Stanley, he is a white man in a dress shirt and tie. He is called “flat” because he’s a paper cut-out. Maybe when I have some free time I’ll invent “3 Dimensional Sven,” an origami Norwegian boy in clogs. That sounds like a reasonable alternative to Stanley. To me, at least. Although he wouldn’t fit in a book.
“You know what might be fun?” I told TTD. “If we go to some touristy place and pretend we’re tourists. We can say we’re only here for a week. Who knows? We might meet some interesting people.”
TTD thought that idea sucked, but she did have to take a picture of Flat Stanley, and so on Saturday we went to Korea’s most popular tourist destination, Namsan Tower. We’ve been in Korea well over a year but, for unclear reasons (i.e. hangovers), we’d never made our way to the Tower. Flat Stanley was a good excuse.
Sis had been to the Tower before. In fact, she has a lock there. So it was TTD, Sis and I, headed up a mountain in a cable car, at 5 in the evening, with three goals: take a picture of Flat Stanley, find Sis’ lock, and see the city all lit up at night.
“Wow!” I said loudly so others could hear. “This is an amazing vacation. I’m so happy we’ll be in Korea all week. It’s really fun to be a tourist here!”
To my disappointment, nobody paid me any mind. I guess the only people who come off as being tourists are actual tourists. Shucks.
Namsan Tower is well-known for its locks, just as Korea is known for being a ‘couples society.’ Most places here are designed for couples (for instance, 90% of restaurants don’t even have single servings, they price and serve dishes for two people) and there are about thirty holidays for couples (Pepero Day, for example, where couples give each other cheap chocolate sticks). There are messages about love written all over the walls of coffee shops and PC cafes. It’s really disgusting and makes being single even more depressing. Not only am I lonely, I can’t order food.
The locks at Namsan Tower tie into this entire love/couple mentality. When two are in love (cue Prince song), they buy a lock, write their names on it, and put it on the deck at Namsan Tower, where it will stay forever, symbolizing their eternal ardor. Or, more likely, symbolizing nothing but getting the guy some booty that night. Anyways, Sis and her boyfriend have a lock up there, somewhere among literally thousands of locks. Some of the locks are brand new (yay! young people in love!) while others are old and rusted and look like they’ve been there for centuries (yay! old people in love!) (eww). I looked out at the vast array of locks and felt a little jealous.
“I’ll get a lock and put one up here in anticipation,” I told Sis. “I can get a good spot now. My future girlfriend and I can come write our names and draw a heart later.”
“That might be creepy, bro,” Sis said. “Especially if the lock is old and rusted by the time you find somebody.”
Sis looked around but couldn’t find her lock. I’d heard before that many couples lose track of their locks. “Are you sad because you can’t find it?” I asked her.
“No,” she said. “I don’t care.”
This is probably why I’m single. My neurotic ass would want to go see the lock every other day. I’d be calling up my girlfriend, “Hey, how about this weekend, we do dinner and the lock.” Then in the upcoming weeks: “Hey, how about a movie and the lock.” “Say, I could go for coffee and the lock, you?” “This weekend I want to do something special…I’m gonna take you on a beautiful, romantic getaway…after we see the lock.”
TTD didn’t help our four-minute search for the lock because she was too busy taking pictures of Flat Stanley. An hour or so had passed since we took the cable car up, and the sun had gone down. I went out on the (free) observation deck (as opposed to the one up the Tower, which costs money and was subsequently ignored) and looked out at Seoul.
It was maybe the most breathtaking thing I’d ever seen. Nature is okay, but to me nothing compares to a great city at night. And it’s even better when you’re looking out at a city you live in. I’ve seen Niagara Falls in Canada, the Christ statue in Brazil, Halong Bay in Vietnam, and the Lindsay Lohan Playboy spread. Nothing came close to making me feel like my beautiful city did.
Seoul. The place where I live. I felt alive and wonderful. Really and truly happy.
Flat Stanley is a lucky guy. He gets to come to Seoul and then head off on another adventure. I feel fortunate too. I’ve come a long way to get to here, and I can stay a bit. Flat Stanley is a tourist, and, lucky me, I’m just pretending.