My birthday is New Year’s Eve, which is the best birthday in the world. Generally, everybody parties on my birthday and nobody works the next day.
Like I wrote last week, earlier on my birthday I taught bored university students for four hours and then wrangled some rowdy little kids who seemed to be ingesting nothing but dark chocolate and uncut Colombian cocaine.
So I was a little wiped out, but luckily slept during my two-hour train ride. Then I grew heated during my one-hour walk through the elements and thousands of people pushing and shoving so they could see some ridiculous idiot dressed up like a penguin ring an ancient Korean bell to celebrate the new year.
After that debacle, I slugged as much Korean sweet rice wine as possible and then bribed a taxi driver with a $20 to take me to the rowdy Korean university party area. Imagine Coachella with worse music, weirder clothes and more barf.
I paid the cabbie, then searched around, getting madder and madder at the lousy Korean version of Google Maps. I swear, if there was an app that told you that dog crap smelled like dog crap, it would be more useful than Naver Maps.
When I finally found the club, I paid a bouncer. When I tried to get in, a different one grabbed me and told me I had to pay. I pointed and just said I did. He said I was right, but I paid to go into the club upstairs, not the one downstairs. I didn’t figure like getting into anything, it was only about $5 and I really just wanted to see another friend and party-party-party. And, I really really needed to piss.
My old buddy and I hung out and talked about the good old days of our undergrad years, but she turned in early, at 5 a.m.
After searching for another old bro, I stumbled onto the place just as they were about to close. Luckily, my bud is a bartender and we took a shot. I hung out and watched them close the place down.
The good news is, when you know somebody who works in a bar, they usually know where the after-party will be. For us, it was just around the corner at some club. All his coworkers entered for free, but I had to pay another damn cover. Oh well, I wanted to hang out with the big boys and act like a big boy, so cover charges shouldn’t be such a big problem.
This place was way too loud and expensive for me, so we drank some shots and beers. If you’ve never been to Seoul during the winter, it’s cold, so I was wearing a big jacket. Since it was my birthday, I sort of expected some presents, but also brought gifts for friends — as well as stuff like a toothbrush for myself. I took both of those off, stashed them on the speakers and next thing I knew…I was dancing with a girl. Hooray 2020!
I guarantee my moves are embarrassing to watch, but I’d been drinking and never claimed to be a good dancer. I was just having fun. When I needed a beer refill, I checked for my bag and coat, but…
Holy shit! In a country where literally nothing gets stolen, somebody stole my coat and backpack on my 40th birthday!? I forgot the girl and searched the club. Then I saw my stuff with some guys sitting around it. I grabbed my goods, made sure everything was still there, bought a new drink and then stashed my stuff again.
As I looked for the gal I’d danced with, I saw some bouncers taking my stuff. When I approached, they kind of snarled at me. The thing is, I’m a pretty big guy and I used to be a bouncer. I wasn’t afraid of them. The current bouncers were both big guys and obviously not afraid of me. (If my buddy was around, maybe they’d change their minds.)
They wanted to escort me out of the club just because I didn’t rent a locker. Because of the language barrier, I didn’t understand any of this. But when one of them put a hand on my shoulder to get me to walk faster outside, I said, “Don’t touch me,” but probably not as nice as that.
Next thing I knew: scuffle. One guy tried squeezing my throat, but had obviously not been in enough fights to know that move doesn’t work. I shoved but didn’t punch — that could get me kicked out of the country.
The young me would have stayed and screamed or fought with the bouncers. The 40-year-old version just put his jacket on and left. My buddy came and explained the situation, but I didn’t care. He wanted to know where I’d stay the night. I didn’t know, but sort of had an idea, but also, it was about 7 a.m.
My final stroke of luck was the next intercity bus still had open seats. I bought a ticket, peed and then we were off. I slept the entire ride and then ended up eating a fast food burger for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The beginning of this decade hasn’t been spectacular, but hopefully it gets better and better.