Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"and the piano sounds like a carnivore..."

"Sing us a song, you're the piano man..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

Last Saturday, my wife and I took our kids out to eat at one of the many Korean restaurants in our neighborhood -- our 'hood being Seoul, you might say that it has a plethora of Korean restaurants -- and afterwards headed off for a good time in a noraebang bar, the Korean equivalent of a karaoke bar.

The kids had been pleading to go, but my wife had been stalwartly against the idea because it involved spending thousands of won! That does sound frightening, but for a man like me, willing to shell out 900 won for a Snickers bar, what's a few thousand more for a noraebang bar? Granted, the latter doesn't have that chewy, chocolaty, peanutty taste, but many good things don't -- like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, which is more crunchy than chewy. And bars do usually offer peanuts, right?

But I'm being a little misleading. The naoraebang 'bar' here in Korea, like the karaoke 'bar' in Japan, is more of box than a bar. One rents a room for an hour or two and sings along to videos that provide lyrics onscreen to accompany the music for whatever song one has selected. You probably already know this, but my Ozark relatives who read this blog might be wondering. Folks, just think Northeast Asian honky tonk. And don't confuse going noraebanging with going noribanging ... though I'm told that the latter sort of banging goes on in some noraebangs.

Be that as it may, my wife had already declared against any noraebanging that particular Saturday, but I thought a bit of singing sounded like a good family thing to do. I didn't, however, want to undermine my wife's resolution in front of the kids, so I did what we sometimes do to hide topics of conversation from them. I switched to German:

"Sollten wir singen gehen?" I suggested, which translates as "Should we go singing?"
Longtime readers will recall that my future wife and I met on a train in Germany, but I might have neglected to mention that we spoke almost solely German for the first three years of our relationship -- though her Deutsch was always far better than mine.

To cut to the chase, after a brief Teutonic conversation:

"Sollten wir?" she wondered.

"Ja! Gehen wir!" I affirmed.

"Es kostet Geld!" she objected.

"Geld! Schmeld!" I explained.

My reasons being sufficient, we informed our by now teutonically-suspicious Kindern that we would, after all, go to the noraebang.

We found one just a few steps down the street. My kids selected for themselves mainly Korean songs -- they especially love Super Junior's "Miracle" -- but for me, they particularly chose Billy Joel's "Piano Man." Both Sa-Rah and En-Uk love singing along to that with me, but En-Uk's pronunciation sometimes sounds more Korean than English as he belts out in his nearly inimitable way:
"...and the piano sounds like a carnivore..."

Hence ruining the song for me, a song that I'd otherwise loved since it first came out in my high school years. I now can't get this bastardized line out of my head, and every night, my kids insist on singing it with En-Uk's alteration as a bedtime lullaby though it sounds more like the stuff of nightmares. A piano can look rather like a carnivorous monster, what with all those gleaming white teeth and and upper jaw that could slam closed on one's fingers.

My kids have even added sound effects:

"... and the piano sounds like a carnivore--"



As the piano player disappears into the monster piano's capacious mouth. Seven-year-old En-Uk loves his version and the sound effects, but he now refuses to fall sleep alone.

And later in the night, after En-Uk has fallen into a peaceful sleep, I have to get up in the dark and pass by our own, silently waiting piano, obscured in shadows but its ivory keys nocturnally gleaming...

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At 11:36 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Do you remember the hymn that kids changed "the cross I bear" to "the crosseyed bear?"

At 3:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I remember that. I think that I was one of those kids.

And let's not forget "I led the pigeons to the flag of the United States of America."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:36 AM, Blogger stewdog said...

"And lead us not into Thames Station".

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The piano should sound like a symphony, and the microphone like a beer.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's right, Stewdog! Instead, lead us into James Station ... in honor of the King James Virgin.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:02 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Given Billy Joel's classical training, that piano should sound like a symphony ... but Billy's heart's with the carnival, and he'd "rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints / The sinners are much more fun."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thousands of won? You must have discovered a really cheap noraebang. We usually calculate the cost in tens of thousands of won.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, "tens of thousands" is also "thousands" ... but to be precise, we paid 15,000 won per hour.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:51 AM, Blogger Dorian Gray said...

What a cute story.
I am trying, in my head, to pronounce your kinder's names, but I can't.


At 3:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

DG, try this to see if it helps you with the pronunciation:

Sa-Rah (Sara) Ahyoga (Ah Yo Gah)

En-Uk (Een Ouk) Sequoya (Sequoia)

En-Uk's middle name is the same as the tree "Sequoia," but both of them in fact have Cherokee middle names, Ahyoga also being Cherokee.

As for their family names, it's "Hwang," for my wife and I chose her lovely maiden name (which Korean maidens keep even after marriage).

Hope that this helps...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:36 AM, Blogger Bill Vallicella said...

Forgive the insufferable pedantry, Jeff, but you have 'costet' where you should have 'kostet.'

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Bill. I don't know what came over me ... probably too many years of hearing Koreans say that Korea should be spelled Corea.

I'll correct it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:40 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

"say that Korea should be spelled Corea."
In my head I heard Corina, Corina...
The blues version, not Steppenwolf.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I always think of Chick Corea...

Jeffery Hodges

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