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Outside Posville

August 15, 2010

My daily post-school peregrinations bring me without fail to the café table in front of Yoger Presso, where I, stone-faced with actorly devotion, try to pound out whatever string of words will come to me in the moment, until I find myself interrupted by my own swimming head of distractions or by some friend or acquaintance passing by. The benefits of my café table outweigh these constant dangers for – as a fresh green café table amidst the filthied old turquoises of the GS25 and the heart-clogging reds of the NeNe Chicken – this spot is unique among spots, it is singular, and it allows me some symbolic space to do what I need to do: write.

The surrounding are unspectacular, people and object alike. A smattering of apartment complex foliage, small stunted trees and a smudge of shrubbery, the flora equivalent of a pampered miniature dog. A matrix of grey concrete squares – underfoot, overhead, on support beams surrounding and scaling the walls of Posville up its 25 floors – not to mention the identically colored stone rectangles of the TechnoMart across the street. And the people, who could be the same crowd in front of any GS25, FamilyMart or 7/11 in Seoul. A group of always-drinking ajosshis with their bottles of makgeolli, paper cups and bowls of microwaved ramen, businessmen with soft drinks and cigarettes, boy and girl with iced coffees, and middle-aged women with Cass. Turquoise table, turquoise table, turquoise table and me, at green table typing – a curiosity, but one who, by virtue of his unique position, is as often as not undisturbed, left to his seclusion among drunks and revelers and talkers.

Today it rains – there is no large umbrella for my green table, so small beads of water, only a sprinkling right now, begin to gather on my laptop. Eventually I am forced to an umbrellaed turquoise table, where the spell is broken, and within five minutes I am confronted with a paper cup of makgeolli and a garrulous old man, well-spoken in English, who loves to go on at length about his job as a wine expert, salesman, and professor. He enjoys talking to me especially, for as a Californian I am familiar with the wine hotspots of America – Napa, Sonoma, etc – and the grapes on offer there. Generous and interesting, it’s impossible to shut him up; after a little resistance I thank him for the makgeolli and return to my typing, my makgeolli untouched in its cup.

I hear him, steadily getting drunker, crescendoing in speech, punctuating the air with words and gestures and occasionally letting loose one of those throat clearing syllabic screeches that seems the point of pride of so many Korean men his age. From the words I can make out, he is going on at length about different alcohols (“mikju… wine… makgeolli”) to another older man with an army veteran cap and a orange polo shirt, who talks sparingly. And, for a brief bit, I heard my name – the man, who calls himself Alexander Cho (“Alex for short”) had recently introduced himself to me. He, gesturing to me and sign spelling on a napkin, slowly articulates “Jer-min-ahrr-ee-oh. G-E-R-…”

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