Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tilt your head to see the scraper start in the sky.
63 Building, ground floor, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011


A crowd of stone creatures greeted us at the back alley into Insadong. Tigers, cats, dragons, and toga draped Romans, guarders of gardens and balconies alike. Up and down the street, the Korean flag.

Flags on post cards, key chains, coffee mugs, toys, shot glasses, and cell phone covers. Postcards of the Han river, women in Hanbok, ancient palaces and temples. On the sidewalk, Korean snacks, ice cream and yam fries.

The Emperor came by, his throne top the shoulders of his yes men. The sun cast its mid day shadow down the brims of the hats of the parade. The feet marched on past us, and we did a second take, wondering for a second when and where we were.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tiny towers

The CN tower stands one ruler tall, its lookout bubble the size of a baby fist. In the gift shop of the 63 Building, you can buy the CN tower for twenty bucks. Pieced together, it stands next to the world’s other famous towers, like a puzzle trying to walk.

Seoul is the 1925 Voisin For Paris, slabs of efficient modern concrete, and an echo of what might have been. We say sometimes it looks like the midpoint between a depressed futurist and a tired architect, both on lookout for upcoming dismal days.

The streets are abuzz with vendors and vibrant urban noise. But behind the 63 Building’s quiet glass windows, floating in a smoggy sky, the uniformity is bleak. The endless rectangles are the building blocks of child’s Lego uninspired.

Still, fingers pressed to glass and unending city, there is something in the awe.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Past future poems

We spent the morning in Namsangol Garden, where the ancients went to write poems. Overhead is Namsan Mountain, a stack of land that looks like the city pushed it up and into being, the last bit of un-built cosmopolitis in sight.

Namsan Tower stretched out over the reflection of the ponds. Old women sat on benches and watched the water stay very still. We wandered in and out of the five traditional Hanok homes taken here from around Seoul.

We read about the time capsule planted two decades ago under our feet. Pictured the city that changed from these Hanok houses to tall, urban sprawl in another 400 years. Exhaled with the vision of us three good and dead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Return to the cat café

A brown striped cat stretches his legs out, his lazy frame spanning two feet. The venetian blinds let in late afternoon, their shadows an echo of stripes underneath his purr. The paws of a fluffy white cat dangle over a table on the other side of the room. A third, thin haired cat bats at a toy ball.

We’re back at Gio Cat, a cat café in Hongdae. Three women are sitting, knees bent, in the centre of the room. They are wearing floor-length grey cotton skirts provided by the shop. Cats are crawling all around them, jumping towards swinging toys, and climbing up a carpet covered pillar to the roof.

If your apartment says no pets, sister has an allergy, or mom hates animals, this is where you go. It’s near dinner time and we just sat through a thirty minute wait at the door. All day people swing in and out of the shop, snapping pictures and playing with the cats.

We tour the room, stopping to meet every cat. On a place card laid out we learn all their names. When our drinks are done we wash our hands to leave. But before we go we shoot a look back to the brown striped cat. He is still deep in greedy sleep, happy as they come.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The truth about escape

All work no play, the weeks blend into themselves. So self prescribe vacation, medication, take a cab to the train station and leave. Two hours on the high-speed bullet to the beach.

Twirl dizzy through the markets, draped in new clothes. Stop for a beer every three hours, often at the same place. Watch the fleet of navy men come and go. The b-boys dance on the boardwalk, all is well.

Find sunburned friends at a bar up the street. Surprise them here, and listen to the shriek. Order shots for all and sing along the English words in all the Korean songs. Back to the beach, lie down and listen to the black.

But first one more water hole. Meet a girl who needs a hand to stand on top her seat. Push up her heeled feet and let the vacation dance.