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Observations 11/26

November 26, 2009

I always wonder what it is that pedestrians and shoppers are doing out in the middle of a weekday — why it is they aren’t working. I will stay carefully silent on the question of whether or not I am such a pedestrian on this Thanksgiving afternoon, or such a shopper-patron of a cafe in the area of the Hongik art university.

Were I one, peering through the large patio windows at a small tributary street and sipping on a buttery-smooth Americano, I would be witnessing three Hongik University girls posing for a college fashion shoot project on the brick sidewalk, the main model dressed in black boots and scarf, a thick over-sized bright sky-blue sweater of the kind in fashion in Seoul right now and tight pants which accentuate her hips like jodhpurs. She is smiling nonchalant and flirtatious at the bespectacled girl in a brown trench-coat directing her into various poses. A third girl seems to orbit around their separate centers of gravity, just outside of the frame of the photographer’s snapshots. She wears a gray sweater — she returns to her lunch as soon as her friends leave.

They leave the door open, a large raw plywood creation with “Push” printed in Helvetica white font on both sides, a sort of crowning touch to the fashionably modernist interior, with its monochromatic black and white decor and walls, exposed ceiling wiring and tangle of light cords dangling descending from the ceiling towards the mismatched and out-sized lightbulbs hanging like so many comic touches to the apparatus of a mad-scientist’s silent film creation. I sit near the open door at a black-topped table patterned with a graph-grid regularity of small circular indentations. Every object I own looks sleeker on this surface; my over-priced black MacBook; my Staedtler orange highlighter, topped with purple cap, nearly out of ink; my black iPod with aged-white headphones resting on a beaten up copy of Being and Time I aim to read, eventually, after I stop looking around me. In its curvaceous jet-black cup, my coffee has gone cold from the air from the door, though I have not.

The girl struts in front of the patio window, having returned changed into a thin, silky black blouse. She poses in the threshold of the cafe, the door still wide open. The girl in gray looks at her with discriminating interest. A old man in a neon orange crossing-guard vest cycles down the road.

Later, the interior, peaceful now after the departure of the posing girl and the settling of the two girls to lunch, is disturbed by two businessmen who rush in carrying briefcases and a scruffy hawker who approaches the girls with a black scarf in hand, bluntly facing the incredulous and threatened air they direct him. The two businessmen and the hawker leave as quick as they came, and the barista finally closes the door, that the cafe might finally warm itself with heated air and the jazz from its stereo. The girl in the gray and the girl in the trench-coat finish their lunch and take off themselves, and somehow I feel offended that they say no goodbye to me, though not a word was earlier exchanged between us.

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