It takes a lifetime to die.
Sometimes I think I’m married to a Korean Christian Woody Allen in drag, if that’s not too much of a stretch (which reminds me of that hilarious song “Woody Allen Jesus,” sung by a British satirist whose name escapes me–something Minchin). Jina (wifey) is always heckling me about my health, so much so that it makes me sick.
Still, I have to admit, she may have a point. Not that her approach to life, poring over the Bible and muttering sweet nothings into her chosen deity’s enormous invisible ear, suits me, or that I would have any interest in longevity if I subscribed to her goody-two-shoes way of “thinking,” but on the other hand it probably is about time I gave up drinking for good (as opposed to, say, evil). Although I’m less apt to swill suds these days, since the one I share my apt. with is such a putz about getting drunk, it does take me longer to bounce back the morning after having emptied a few bottles of this or that human vegetable-making beverage.
Jina’s right that booze does do a number on my stomach, making it grumble and grow all at once. It’s hardly worth it to indulge in these covert alcoholic bursts once a week or so, when she’s not around, immersed in the SMERSH-like activities of her church (SMERSH was a KGB-like organization in the old James Bond movies and books; I believe it played a prominent role in From Russia, With Love).
For instance, on Wednesday night while she was away holding hands with the rest of Jesus’ weeping sheep, I bought a large bottle of beer and another one of makkgeolli (Korean rice wine–less potent than soju and less offensive to the taste buds) and went home to drink them while composing my last blog post. She called me to come meet her–as I knew she was going to–and I said I’d get there as soon as I could. Then I rinsed out the empties, put them in a plastic bag, and left them in the trash pick-up area in front of the building, but not before brushing my teeth and gargling with mouthwash–a futile endeavor, as it turned out.
As a born-again teetotaler who used to be a bad, if infrequent, drunk, Jina has some kind of alcohol-detecting instinct that’s intimidating to one who’s less averse to drowning in the drink. When I met her in front of the bakery/cafe up the hill, she noticed right away that I was not quite on an even keel. My face usually grows flushed from the foolishly befriended fuel. But when she asked me if I’d been drinking I lied to her anyway, just to be on the safe side. Surprisingly, even though she knew I was lying, she didn’t throw a fit. Must have been my lucky night.
Except that as we were walking down the hill in the aftermath of a snowstorm, I did a header and landed on my back. It happened so quickly it felt as if some invisible trickster had yanked a rug out from under my feet. Jina asked if I was all right. Apart from the pain I seemed to be. Got up, shrugged it off, and took Mitt Romney-like baby steps the rest of the way while she trailed behind, as she almost invariably does (if only because it gives her something else to complain about–got to keep that arsenal loaded).
(I shouldn’t have been drinking to begin with, by the way; I’d had a cold for ten days, which I still have, but decided to fight fire with fire. Sometimes I wonder if “health” is just a word, like “freedom,” “happiness,” or “endless love”–okay, so that’s a phrase, not a word.)
The next day after teaching a class in the morning I went to the U. S. embassy to have my passport renewed. It was a relatively simple procedure, or would have been, had I not been born with my head up my ass. I started to fill out the application on-line, but stopped when I came to the page asking where I wanted the new passport sent. I went and told the clerk I didn’t know my address (still haven’t memorized it after living in this apartment for two years–or is it three? Pathetic, or what?), then asked a young couple to keep an eye on the computer, leaving my passport on the table that bore the desktop unit, while I went back to the booth where I’d left my cellphone for security measures. There I called Jina, who didn’t answer the phone (still catching some z’s, no doubt). (She later told me my address is written on the back of my alien registration card–duh! If I weren’t such an idiot, I’d lament not having a brain.)
Back in the waiting room, I explained the situation to the clerk, who said I could just pick up the passport there in a few weeks instead of having it sent to my place in the mail. I went back to the computer, but found I was thwarted–the program wouldn’t let me advance to the next page without providing my address.
For the second time, I deleted everything I’d written on the first page, then went up to reschedule my appointment. The clerk said I could just write my address back in the U. S. Check. But the next page asked the details of my itinerary, and I have no immediate plans to leave the country. Since I couldn’t just skip ahead without writing something, I typed in “01/01/2013,” writing “Korea” as my destination (kind of an extravagant flight, considering I’m already in Korea, but bureaucracy works in strange ways. I imagine the airliner will take off space shuttle-wise–that is, vertically, and come down in a nose dive to Inchon Airport like a roller coaster in hell).
After I printed up the paperwork and turned it in to the clerk, I had to get change for a ten thousand won bill since the photo booth cost seven singles. I went in, sat down on the stool, and fed the bills one by one to the slot. A computerized female voice walked me through the procedure with compassionate patience. I hadn’t had time for a haircut, but had trimmed my eyebrows to appear more presentable. Should I smile? I thought. Jina had accompanied me when I had my last passport photo taken ten years ago, and I’d stretched my face out in a big fake smile that made me look like a dork. The homeless man’s hairstyle I had at the time didn’t help either. Good thing I never got drawn aside and interrogated during numerous trans-Pacific trips over the years for looking ridiculous.
I decided not to smile this time. The blinding flash made me feel like I was watching a nuclear explosion up close–twice. My expression in the photo is difficult to describe: slightly wall-eyed, marginally forlorn, pencil-necked, with graying temples. I appear on the verge of eating my lower lip. The sunken cheeks are tinged with pink on its way to becoming purple–the tattoos of perennial alcohol intake’s burst capillaries.
The one good thing about the photo is it might remind me not to drink anymore. Unfortunately, my short-term memory is such that the reminder probably won’t stick.
So touche to Gina for getting that one right. That doesn’t explain why she insisted on taking our students out for pizza yesterday evening, then after parting ways with them, having fried chicken for dessert. She even had bulgogi (marinated Korean beef) after that as a late-night snack. As I was getting ready for bed, I declined.
I’ve got to get back into an exercise regimen and cut out the crappy food–not just to spruce up my body, which might be a lost cause anyway, but so as not to die ahead of schedule. I’m not exactly optimistic about the world’s future; I feel like a dinosaur living at a museum in Disneyland. But things might get better in some ways, instead of just worse, so I might as well stick around for as long as I can, if only so my wife can keep shoveling the money I work hard to make into the vast yawning toilet of her church.