Korea – This is where I write now



This is where I write now, while a sciatic nerve stabs me in the back as I sip on cold beers at a picnic table outside a convenience store in Pyeongchang Dong. A chill in the air makes me shiver – just a little and it’s always pen to paper in these moments.

The fluorescent lights fire through the glass walls behind me that encase a cornucopia of noodles in small polystyrene bowls. A surly night-clerk with acne scars on his face nods the nod of a man trying not to fall asleep with his arms folded across his chest.

Two young girls at a small table inhale noodles behind the glass barricade while glued to their phones. They share no conversation – their TV dinners rest beside smaller screens, but the premise is the same. They look like sisters with matching glasses and similar haircuts, but I could never know. They could merely be friends Facebooking their way to internet-addiction camp.

A boarded-up house, filled with ghosts, sits across the street with cardboard boxes and bags filled with trash leant up against its walls disrespecting the angry spirits inside.

Ugly apartment blocks with rattling air-con units jut out from faux balconies like so many uncomfortable warts hanging off the facades of plastic lives.

The crates of empty rice wine bottles tell a story that is all new to me, but the smell of lager and cigarettes on my breath is just a twenty-year-old fable over-told and endlessly regurgitated. Faded and picked-at no smoking signs try to enforce rules that will forever be broken by the old boys drinking their evenings away from their wives and children.

The children that step out of luxury saloons want chocolate milk and strange plastic tubes filled with a cheese product labelled the same in a language I don’t understand. With different hand-writing comes a different tone – a schizophrenic orthodox writer wishing he was a southpaw so that he could confuse reluctant readers.

What is Korea? What is this part of the world? Almost two years on the continent and still not a fucking clue as to what is going on.

The cigarette packets emblazoned with cool gorillas wearing sunglasses and aloha shirts sling menthol by the kilo – dealers of death with a minty freshness. Just give me my pack of Camels and shut the fuck up.

Advertising has pretty young girls resting glasses of ice tea against their ambivalent faces on shelves surrounded by discounted products fighting off their expiration. The owner is apparently Chinese – cashing in on a franchise that destroys Mom and Pop stores all over the world. And I’m a guilty consumer of convenience. Make it snappy, just like everyone else I have no time – never enough time, and if there’s a queue of one people or more I will absolutely meander down the road to where I can find more convenient convenience.

This bath of white, electric light dilates the pupils of the staff turning them into zombie-like shells of walking human skin and the giant mountain mosquitoes are absolutely relentless. I need to piss, but my apartment is twenty feet away and that’s just way too inconvenient so I guess I’ll just piss myself.

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