Thursday, September 30, 2010

Montreal vs. Toronto meets Asia

A week after his plane took off, I’m finally through all my blogs. Alex spent a few days with me, helping me christen my new home. He booked himself a stop over en route from Tokyo, where he was helping a new music business sink its tentacles into the gaming world.

We flipped the usual Montreal vs. Toronto rhetoric away from Canadian cities, set our sights on discussing Asian nuance. So it became a trip a trip of how does Seoul compare. It started with a Western lunch, followed by a gallery of English-owned works, then an accidental trip to an ancient park, a Buddhist shrine, an aquarium, and lots of shopping.

It was the week of Chuseok, dubbed Korean Thanksgiving, so we partook in round after round of eating, drinking, joy. We ate Korean barbeque in the evenings when all the Japanese and Italian restaurants were shut down, Lotte burgers, and everything off the street. Chased that down with cocktails in plastic bags from Vinyl and cheap Korean beers in graffiti parks.

With all his bags packed up, we hailed a cab towards the mall. Underneath Yawoori we bought a ticket to the airport, and skipped up the steps to the Arario gallery to see the sculptures in its orbit.

Watching over the corner entrance, a blow up by Mr. Hirst. His shining plastic towers over a busy street of people rushing towards the multiplex and Mcdonalds. He calls it “Hymn” and the plaque claims he’s an art world jokester. Perhaps, but staring at the pricey replica of a toy of corporate design, we were not sure who is to laugh.

No time to ponder, we shot back down the steps to wait at the bus’ gate. So it pulled in and he got on with a hug. And off he went back towards the motherland where again some day we shall have another round.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Alex's adventures in fitnesss

Somewhere along the way, we realized we had not seen a single fat person. Maybe a handful that could be labeled Chubby, Big Boned, or Bigger. No one Obese. No XXL sized t-shirts. Not even for the tourists. One size fits all, and if you’re not lucky enough to fit it, you’ll probably need to shop in another country.

Some blame it on the diet, others genetics. But I’ve seen the locals scarf down plate after plate of carb-filled rice, noodles, red meat, and fish at all-you-can-eat diners, and have never listened with two ears to explanations using science.

No, it must be the public work out equipment. All along the creek that runs through my neighbourhood are plastic blue machines that let passers by lift whatever weight they can push down on it. After a gluttonous week in Seoul we walked by and gave it a try.

The reviews were good. But like the many other times I’ve participated in athletics, this was just an excuse to dress in sports wear and grin like an idiot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't mind me, just hanging out with some friends.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coex Aquarium

It started with the shark teeth. We whipped past the baby strollers to climb onto the toy shark statue, stuck our heads into the mouth and screamed. Jaws. All around us Asian children giggled, left dirty fingerprints on glass cages.

The Coex Aquarium. Hidden underground in Asia’s largest mall, the winding wonderland of fish tanks houses marine creatures and mammals, twenty five hundred tonnes of water. Electric eels, stingrays and starfish, penguins, prairie dogs, and bats.

The show off stingrays slurped up against the glass, lit up by silver light and the purple ceiling like some Proenza Schouler print dazzling. The fish swam in Coke machines and toilets, bed backboards and phone booths.

We wandered through the local fish chapter into a rainforest and through the tunnel. The light disappeared around corners, exploded into schools of silver fish. Sat down back against the glass, cranked neck up at the rainbow coral and let the sea life swim past, enchanted.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dinner with the devil

Outside the department store was a single sign of protest. In red sharpie on the tip of an umbrella of signs in Korean script were four English words. Lotte is like devil. That was all we could understand, but the message was simple enough: someone had it out for the conglomerate.

In the metro you can buy snacks from a Lotte vending machine. You can stay overnight at a Lotte motel, live in a Lotte Castle high-rise apartment, catch a film at a Lotte cinema, purchase Lotte insurance, buy groceries at Lotte Mart, and ride on roller coasters at Lotte World.

We chose to dine at Lotteria, the Asian alternative to McDonalds. On our way past the mall’s Women’s Trendy Zone to the racks of fake designer goods, we took pause to refuel. The family pack was a sample of Lotte’s load. Pepsi, lemonade, fries, a chicken sandwich, two mozzarella sticks, and the crown jewel of the meal: a half-fish half-bulgogi burger on a single bun.

The mozzarella sticks were delicious, but we left the half sandwich half eaten in its paper wrap. The meal was good enough grease but couldn’t compete with the street vendors, who sold corn dogs covered in caked-on crinkle fries. Nor could it compete with the previous night’s two Korean-style dinners (photos! it happened!).

But for what its worth, I’ve already been back to Lotteria for another quick, cheap dinner with the devil.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Power of Purity

The second we stepped out of the subway, we heard a Korean pop song. We were headed to City Hall to take photos in front of a mammoth of a photo collage of Koreans standing with arms in a question mark, happy on the street.

The space was already taken. We were still across the street when we heard our first hallelujah. It was that kind of pop show. In the dark damp plot of green grass in front of City Hall stage, a factory of individually wrapped Christian Koreans, bobbing up and down to the beat in their translucent plastic rain suits.

In between the Korean melody, inspirational messages in English letter blocks rolled across the screen. The Power of Purity, the crowd’s matching white t-shirts all read. They surged forward and shook with excitement, clapped hands above their heads.

Eventually we made our way to the photo walls we’d came for, but by the time we stood in front of each other’s cameras we had an unexpected expression of shock and pleasure written on the face.