Charlie Brown Trees, Unicorn Sleighs, and the Heart Shaped Umbrella (A Christmas Post)


Charlie one“I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” – Charlie Brown

It’s Christmas, and I’m broke. Y, my girlfriend, hasn’t let this alter her wish list. She knows what she wants. We’ve been together ten months, and she wants us to get couple rings for Christmas. Couple rings are a very Korean thing – when Korean couples get serious, they buy matching rings to express their love and/or signal ownership. The meaning of the couple ring is vague, they don’t signify that you’re engaged or anything, it’s more like in the ’50s when girls wore a pin to show they were going steady. And Y wants my pin, in the form of matching rings that she says will cost around $150.

asian santaSo it’s off to the mall we go. I’m anxious to get there, not because of the rings, but because I want to see if there’s an Asian Mall Santa. It’s juvenile, but the thought amuses me. I start thinking about how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would make a wonderful Santa Claus. They’re virtually the same person: they’re both fat, come from the North, live in secrecy, are surrounded by small people, and both of them have magical horned animals (If you haven’t heard, North Korea claims to have discovered a unicorn lair. No, I’m not making that up.) True, Mr. Kim is most famous for his nuclear weapons program, but who’s to say Santa doesn’t have WMDs too? Have we ever checked? I mean, what do you think little terrorist Al Qaeda kids want for Christmas? I don’t think the elves are making them wooden rocking horses.

That’s what I’m thinking about as Y and I start looking for rings. Kim Jong-Santa and his unicorn sleigh, flying around the world, giving good little children magical toys and spreading government propaganda. We hop from one jewelry store to the next. Each time, Y tries on rings and asks for the price, and every time the price is significantly higher than what we anticipated.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s $550.”

“I’m sure you’ll find another one to love,” I respond.

couple ringsPlenty of rings in the sea. Although it turns out all the good ones are (not surprisingly) out of my budget. The jewelry store owners all seem grumpy, Scrooges all of them, and Y tells me it’s because we’re looking at the most inexpensive rings, and they think it’s ridiculous. “They see a foreigner and they think he’s rich,” she says. “They think all foreigners are rich.”

The day comes to a close, and we don’t buy anything. I tell her that I love her, but I can’t afford these rings. Then I try to make it sound like we’ve done a public service, since my broke foreign ass has shattered the stereotypes the jewelers had and we’ve enlightened them. Yes, I couldn’t afford a ring, but at least I expanded cultural awareness.

Fast forward. Christmas Eve. Y and I are watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which she’s never seen. This is just the beginning. I’ve also downloaded The Snowman, The Grinch, Rudolph, Garfield’s Christmas, and about 30 other specials. I see her future, and it involves stop motion animation. But before we can get to the next special, she takes out a box and gives me my present. It’s a wallet with a change pouch. I didn’t expect anything.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything for her. Not a thing. What’s wrong with me? I’m the worst boyfriend ever, the boyfriend that stole Christmas.

I think she’ll get upset, but she doesn’t. She says all she wants is an umbrella. A heart shaped one. So the wet snow doesn’t fall on her. And she goes over to the computer so I can buy the gift online. The Internet, like Ernest, has saved Christmas.

charlie twoOnce, as a young man, I thought that I understood and could relate to the tree Charlie Brown buys in his Christmas special. You know, the little goofy one that helped teach Charlie the true meaning of Christmas. Over the years, I relate to it on a deeper level. Every holiday, it seems like the Charlie Brown Tree gets more and more important.

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” – Linus

No rings, that’s fine. There really is no Kim Jong-Santa, so we’ll make do with what we can. We’ve got the snow outside and eleven hours of cartoon specials. A heart shaped umbrella is on its way. And we’ve got another day to spend together, so we’re pretty lucky.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown tells me. Being able to find someone who needs you, just like he found that little tree.


Three Girls, One Cup


Medieval-woman-sweeping* This post has nothing to do with porn. If you arrived here via Google search, I apologize. I didn’t mean to mislead you.

I enjoy the time I spend in the lobby of the Gangnam dentist’s office. It’s nice, comfortable, a good place to read, the only distraction being the occasional sounds of drilling off in the distance. I imagine that it might be my girlfriend’s teeth getting drilled – perhaps I should rush to her rescue, James Bond style, kicking the drill out of the dentist’s hand and then blinding him by reflecting the big dentist light into his eyes with that weird mirror-on-a-metal-stick thing. Anyways, this is what I’m thinking while sitting on a big couch in the lobby.

Then something crashes. There’s a girl with an enormous shopping bag and she’s broken something, unaware of how deadly the sways of her bag are, the same way dogs don’t know that their farts smell. The dentist’s office had put out glass cups with colored beads in them, some sort of decoration, and the girl knocked one over. A staff person rushes to her, telling her it’s okay and allowing her to leave, embarrassed but uncharged. There’s glass and beads all over the floor, and I’m watching all of this like it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in years. Call it waiting room enchantment. Lobby boredom bewitchment.

First, Girl A runs up with a Kleenex. “A Kleenex?” I think. “What the hell is she gonna do with a Kleenex? It’s broken glass all over the floor. That’s like trying to suck a runny nose with a Dirt Devil.” She’s looking at the scene frantically until Girl B takes over, appearing at her side with a broom and a dustbin. Girl A  runs off, opening up the opportunity for Girl C to join in the fun. She takes the broom out of Girl B’s hand and starts sweeping the mess. Girl B stands there and watches. Then Girl A reappears with a mop. It’s insanity. I start expecting more girls to appear with whatever they can find – a swifter, a vacuum, someone drives up in a Zamboni, whatever. Eventually, Girl C sweeps the glass while Girl B holds the dustbin. It isn’t working, so Girl C puts the broom down and starts kicking the glass into the dustbin with her foot. Girl A comes back with a file folder and finishes the job, thankfully, by using it to complete the floor-to-dustbin transfer of glass. All of this takes about two minutes.

Yes, it seems silly, but I envy them. I couldn’t do it. This is teamwork at its finest. No judgement, everyone chipping in. I’d flip out: “Leave me alone! Get away from me! I’m not incompetent, I can sweep a floor!” I’d scoff when Girl C started using her high heel instead of the broom. But really, these three girls just demonstrated humankind at its best. No loss of patience, goal accomplished, everyone happy. It reminds me of all the Polacks it took to screw in the light bulb (3 to hold the bulb, 2 to turn the ladder). Suddenly, the image seems beautiful to me.

A confederacy of morons, all working together. Laugh at it if you want, but they had light. Meanwhile, the geniuses in government still can’t pass a damn bill.


Dig That Spider Coming Out of a Cup! – A WordPress Blog Stat Mystery


spider oneThere was a time, so many months ago, when I found myself obsessed with my blog stats. I know – it’s a shameful thing to admit. Now, when I say ‘obsessed,’ I really mean it. This was General MacArthur style obsession, Captain Ahab, Napoleon. I was obsessed the way great men become obsessed. The opposite, of course, would be how teenage girls have watered down the meaning of the word. “Oh my God, I used to be, like, totally obsessed with ‘N Sync!” And by that, the girl means she had the No Strings Attached CD and a poster of Lance Bass on the wall, which was taken down before he even came out of the closet.

That’s a different kind of obsession, and mine was worse, although maybe not as troubling. I’d keep my stats page up on the screen at all times, refreshing it every 30-40 seconds. I would also do dippy things in an attempt to detect or change trends, like trying to publish posts at different times of the day to see if the hits would go up (they don’t). In time, I mellowed out. Sure, I’ll check my stats once or twice a day, but it isn’t something I think about a lot. My obsession faded away, and I could once again turn my attention to more important things on the Internet, like Facebook and amateur porn.

spider twoAll that is to set up the odd thing that happened two weeks ago, noon on a Tuesday, when I very nonchalantly pulled up my blog stats. I usually have around the same number every day, and when my hit total came up for that particular day, I jumped back, startled. Okay, I didn’t really jump back, that was exaggeration for effect, but you get the idea. I’m not that easily rattled. I was really surprised, though, to see that my blog had already gotten over 1,400 hits.

“Dang, that’s pretty dope,” I thought. “How’d that happen?”

There had to be an explanation. I mean, let’s face it, my posts aren’t that good. I realized that most of these hits had come from the Google search. In addition, a vast majority of them – 1,251 to be exact – were for one single phrase.

Spider coming out of cup.

“What the hell?” I said to my girlfriend. “Spider coming out of a cup? I never wrote about anything like that! That was never even a tag.” How was it possible? As a rational human being, I knew that 1,251 different people couldn’t have Google searched “spider coming out of cup” and ended up at my blog. I thought about it, and then I realized why my original stat obsession had faded away in the first place.

spider threeI like my stats, and when I have good days, I like to think it’s because I wrote something worthwhile and, thus, I should feel good about myself. But the truth probably has much more to do with chance. How many of those hits are people who actually take the time to read a post? How many are accidental? How many are people who click on a link, stay for a second, and split? To go further, how many of my blog hits are even living human beings?

There was no way one person, or any amount of people, could have been responsible for the ‘spider coming out of cup’ explosion. The only thing that made sense to me was that some type of automated computer program somehow got stuck in a loop, and that’s how it happened. That’s my theory. In my all-time stats, ‘spider coming out of cup’ currently ranks as the 4th highest searched Google term, and the number hasn’t gone up by one single hit since I checked my blog at noon that one day. If you’re curious, here is the whole top five:

1. Sex

2. 90210

3. Gunther Von Hagens

4. Spider coming out of cup

5. Namsan Tower

Shit, how random! What a bizarre group of things, eh? I didn’t even write about number four at all, and apart from a few jokes (see porn gag earlier in post), I haven’t really written about sex, either. How do we, bloggers, really know who is out there and why they’re reading us? The Internet is one big, weird place, isn’t it?

spider fourThen again, I could have it all wrong. Maybe somewhere, sitting in a basement, there’s a guy who has spent the last two years meticulously searching out information regarding spiders coming out of cups. It could be spurred on by some sort of awful childhood trauma. No blog has been left unexplored. From morning until night, he keeps looking. Spiders. Cups. It never ends.

Now that, my friends, is obsession.


4 Bottles of Red Wine in Montmartre


montmartreOn my third night in Paris, I met a heavy metal dude from Scotland. He had long hair that covered the top third of his Iron Maiden t-shirt and hand rolled his own cigarettes. I’ve always secretly wished to be a heavy metal guy myself, to say “screw it all!” and walk around looking like I was in a Motorhead cover band. This guy I met in Paris was super cool. Laid back, with an intensely thick accent. We sat in the hostel bar and ordered bottles of red wine. One, two, three. The wine was causing us to be loud. It was after two in the morning and the hostel kicked us out, shoeing us off. We bought another bottle of wine and staggered down the streets of Montmartre. It was raining, lightly. The metal dude took out his phone and started playing “Surrealistic Pillow” through its small speakers. The music was soft, like we were in the parking lot of a Jefferson Airplane concert in 1968. We drank and sang. Ohhhhh you’re my, best – you ARE my best friend – we slurred the lyrics and swayed. Nobody else was out on the streets and it was dark. He smoked another cigarette and then he sat down on a bench and starting vomiting. I swigged from the bottle and told him it was okay. Halfway through the bottle, drunk as hell, I sat on the bench myself and puked wine all over the street. The metal dude laughed and we drank until the bottle was empty. I talked about going to Scotland. Why not? I’d always wanted to go to Scotland. And I’d have to see my new best friend in the whole world, the metal guy, couldn’t abandon him. He was thrilled. We started making plans. The rain picked up a little bit and we began walking back to the hostel, holding each other up. The next morning my head pounded, wine slamming my brain against the walls of my skull. The metal dude was leaving Paris, and he wrote his email on a little slip of paper, gave it to me, and about twenty minutes later he was gone and so was that little slip of paper because I’d lost it.

Ah well. Friends always seem to fade away, I’d just accelerated the process by losing his contact information. I didn’t even remember his name. I’ve had a lot of friendships drift apart after two, three years…this one was kaput after two days. Is there really that much of a difference? It occurred to me that I wouldn’t be going to Scotland, but damn, that was a hell of an exciting trip to plan. I went and saw Rodin’s Thinker and then the Eiffel Tower, and when it got dark, I sat in the hostel bar and found new people to drink with.


Monday Night Snow Fall


snow 2I’m meeting Y, my girlfriend, in the subway station at 6:45. It’ll be the first time I leave the apartment today. Y broke the door off the cabinet last night and I was supposed to fix it. I couldn’t. I figure I’ll say it’s because there’s a screw missing. Find that screw, and I’ll have the door back on no problemo. Two minutes, tops. Yeah, the screw is my scapegoat, and I’m thankful for it. I know that Y will see right through this, but I figure I’ll say it anyways. I must have some sort of excuse. It’s expected of me.

When she comes out of the subway station, I’m waiting for her. She looks lovely. Outside, Seoul has gone cold, winter jacket mean. Y’s face is reactive; she turns it away from the wind and scowls. I haven’t had my hair cut since September and we walk to a barber shop. There’s a spinning barber’s pole outside the place, pink and yellow, cartoon girls with big eyes going round and round. The lady inside sits me down and asks Y what she’s supposed to do to me. Y tells her something in Korean, relaxing in the seat next to me, and soon there’s hair falling from my head. I hate getting my hair cut, having to look at myself in the mirror, practically forced to, my heinous image inescapable; when it’s mercifully over, the lady asks me if it’s okay, and I, in turn, ask Y.

Afterwards, Y takes me to a restaurant where she orders us Canadian eel. We put the long, thin eels, dressed in red spices, onto a grill and cut them to shreds with scissors. The meat is chewy. Y’s ponytail has come undone; it’s losing its sense of order, a long strand of hair going down the side of her face. She’s got a yellow shirt on and a necklace with big white plastic pearls. I don’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful. We eat the eel with mint leaves and garlic cloves. I tell her she looks beautiful and she laughs.

Which, while not the intended response, is okay, since it emphasizes my point.

On the way back, it starts to snow. This is the first snow either of us has seen this year. Sure, it’s freezing cold and dark outside, but that’s all background noise. I feel so proud walking next to Y. I want to kiss her. It’s only a short walk home, and the snow falls softly down on her black hair.