A Peninsula, Not an Island

“No man is an island,” said John Donne, the same guy who said, a little later, in the same poem, “Don’t ask (don’t tell) for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  Not that I’m a big John Donne fan; it’s very hard to read several poems that rhyme in a row, even though I’ve been writing too many of them in the past year.  The only reason I know those lines is because Martin Luther King mentions them in one of his speeches as a way to emphasize human interconnectedness.

King, of course, was a Christian in the true sense of the word, but he could have just as easily been a Buddhist.  If you don’t believe me, there’s a book called Jesus and Buddha:  The Parallel Sayings that shows how similar those two men’s teachings were.  Not to say that Jesus plagiarized Buddha.  That wouldn’t have been nice, and Jesus was a nice guy who finished first, overturning American football coach Leo Durocher’s cliche that nice guys finish last before Leo even had time to invent it.  No wonder Sarah Silverman says Jesus is magic.

Yesterday morning I awoke early with a hangover after my monthly drinking session (okay, bi-weekly, if you want to get technical).  I’d gone to bed late, at around three, not that I wanted to stay up necessarily, but I was waiting for my wife Jina to pass out on the bed so she wouldn’t give me a hard time for having partaken of (evil) spirits.

No such luck.  She was waiting for me with the light on, even after I’d spent a couple of hours watching You Tube clips of interviews with Philip Roth, different actors doing scenes from King Lear, and a nice interview with actor James Cromwell, who talked about what makes The Artist such a special movie.  It would have sounded self-serving coming from a lot of other actors, but I have a lot of respect for him, especially since he’s a vegetarian, as is Sir Pablo McCartney.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Monsieur Cromwell swore off meat after visiting a slaughterhome as a young man.  I’ve ingested a greater amount of animal protein since coming to Korea nearly seven lucky years ago, which may be why my heart has been acting funny lately.  (More than once in this city I’ve seen a truck with the slogan Kids Love Beef! painted on the side; that’s a great way to kill two beasts with one blade–meaning the steer you eat and the child you raze [sic(k)].)

Also worth viewing is James Earl Jones’ towering performance as King Lear, in which he lays into his icy-hearted daughter Regan for depriving him of his kingdom and his train (not that he can really blame her for the former, since he was dumb enough to give half of it to her, and the other half to his other reptilian daughter Goneril, leaving the only one who loves him, Cordelia, with bupkes; “excuse le faux pas du mois,” and pardon my broken French; I studied Spanish in high school).

I should have known I couldn’t have gotten away with putting away a few beers and a half-bottle of soju without Jina’s detecting it.  I knew I’d have to face the music eventually, even though she doesn’t let me listen to music anymore (not even Benny Goodman!  Must be because he was Jewish.  I was going to say, “But so was Jesus,” but I guess technically J. C. was Palestinian.  If so, his descendants could probably use his help about now).

She put on an impressive show, even for her, speaking in tongues while trying to exorcise me with a hand on my shoulder.  When I reminded her that she’s insane, she said she was only doing what she’d learned from her own mother and father, who’d picked it up from his mother, the still-surviving culprit of the ongoing crime being committed against me in my daily life, and the main thing that drives me to drink in the first place.

“I can’t stand the smell of your breath,” she said.

I guess I should have just crashed on the couch.  But she beat me to the punch on that one, which I suppose was just as well, since we don’t get along very well anyway much of the time, not even in bed.  It’s not my fault she’s prejudiced against snoring.

When I woke up at around ten-thirty, I had to do something about the headache.  I didn’t want to stay up, since I don’t get enough sleep during the week and have to use Saturdays to catch up (Sunday morning’s off-limits for sleep due to church), so I didn’t want to have to eat something in order to take a painkiller.  Somehow I managed to sleep again anyway.

But the headache was still there when I got up a few hours later.  Jina rose at about the same time.  When she want to use the bathroom, I retreated to the veranda, where I’d stashed a half-bottle of soju and a can of beer in a grocery cart.  Luckily, since we have two bathrooms, I was able to set the beer on the high shelf behind the window connecting the veranda to the bathroom.

That’s when Jina appeared, headed towards the very bathroom in question.  I’d been planning to take a shower, figuring the gush of water from the shower head would be enough to disguise the sound of the beer tab’s understated explosion.

What to do?  The jig was up.  She obviously needed to do number two, which was why she’d moved to that bathroom (why she went to the other one in the first place, I have no idea).  I’d also opened the window on the veranda to help the bathroom steam escape; the vent would likewise serve as an egress for the pending fecal aroma.

I waited for her to scream or hurl the chilled cylindrical aluminum projectile at my head when she came out of the bathroom, but she emerged without incident.  Perhaps she hadn’t pooped after all, since the toilet paper is on the shelf where I’d left the beer, and it would have been hard for her not to have noticed the offending item if she’d unwound any paper from the roll.

I was able to resort to the desperate measure of the hair of the god that bit me (bet you didn’t know Dionysus was a vampire), and I’ll be a monkey’s accountant if it didn’t work. I rinsed out the empty can and put it back in the grocery cart afterwards.

Living as a foreigner can be stressful sometimes, as well as lonely.  Although I’m generally gregarious and I love people because, as Ruth Gordon says in Harold and Maude, “they’re my species,” the nature of my situation isolates me in ways I wouldn’t be cut off back in the U. S.  I only mention this as a way of justifying the choice of this entry’s title, which is in part an allusion to Korea’s shape, along with the more obvious and perchance less subtle sexual innuendo.

I had to drink alone.  All my drinking buddies have left the country.  I went to a bar, but most of the customers were guys, which just reminded me of the old saying that a woman needs a man about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.  Not that I was planning on going astray; it just would have been nice to have some pleasant female scenery for a change.

And please don’t remind me that denial is not a river in Egypt.  Everyone with half a brain knows it’s in South America.


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