Friday, January 11, 2008

"A Diller, A Dollar"

"A Diller A Dollar"
Excusing my tardiness...
(Image from Museum of Childhood)

I've been away from my blog for over 24 hours, for I had to rush off to Kyung Hee University to pick up a package of books before heading on downtown to a meeting with my friend Myongsob Kim near Seoul Subway's Gwanghwamun Station for a quick bowl of haejangguk (해장국) -- a type of blood soup much loved as a cure for the common Korean hangover -- afterwards sitting with him for much of the afternoon in a nearby smokey cafe, editing a collection of essays on Northeast Asia's politics that Yonsei Press will be publishing very soon.

That cafe was a proper place for such an undertaking, for it was full of still-vigorous old men watching television tuned to political news. At one point, they all gathered closely around the set, intent on some report. I called this to Myongsob's attention. He stopped his editing and looked, then listened carefully. When the old men had again dispersed to their seats and their coffees, he explained that the news had been reporting on the Korean Supreme Court's decision that the investigation being conducted into Myung-bak Lee's role in the BBK scandal has been declared "partly unconstitutional."
"'Partly unconstitutional'?" I echoed. "What does that mean?"

"I don't know," he replied, laughing.

"It sounds like one of those Confucian compromises," I observed.

"Yes," he agreed, "it's a confusing compromise."
I looked at Myongsob, but decided against clarifying the point. He was now listening to the old men, who were discussing what they'd heard. After a while, he told me:
"The old men here know more about politics than I do as a Yonsei professor of political science. They've lived in this area for 40 or 50 years, working in government, and they know everything. They're talking about Lee when he first ran for the National Assembly and when he was Seoul City's mayor. It's fascinating."
Once again, I realized how much I miss out on by not knowing Korean, but I spared no time to dwell on this depressing thought, for we had to return to our last-minute editing, discovering once again the paradox first explored by the presocratic philosopher Zeno as we drew ever nearer to eliminating all errors but always finding yet another. At some point, we had to stop.
"It's a neverending process," I observed, "but we've corrected nearly everything."
Myongsob agreed, and we put away our finished work, drank one more coffee, and headed our separate ways. I took the subway to the Euljiro 1-ga Station (을지로입구역), got off, and headed for an underground restaurant that calls itself Carnestation to meet Gord Sellar and Charles La Shure for dinner and drinks.

I reached the place an hour ahead of time, so I looked around the underground area and found a nearby cafe serving good coffee, settled into a booth there, and finally looked at the books that I'd received that morning. Over a year ago, I blogged about Olen Steinhauer's fascinating first novel, The Bridge of Sighs. Ever since then, I've been meaning to read the entire series, a fascinating set of stories that combine elements of detective fiction, the spy novel, and the political thriller and that are set in an unnamed Eastern European country spanning its Cold War history from the end of World War 2 until the fall of Communism. I've only managed to get started on these novels, so I'll keep silent for the moment but return to them in a future blog entry after I've read them all and have something worthwhile to say.

The rest of the evening went by in a blur. I recall eating, drinking, and talking with Gord and Charles about a number of fascinating topics, and I seem to recall a lot of laughter, but my thoughts are a bit scattered, and I could use a dish of haejangguk about right now, so perhaps I'd better stop now and watch the snow falling outside my window.

Speaking of snow falls, you might remember this Snow Fall haiku...

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At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite my threats last night, I have elected to remain silent on the topics of conversation. I don't think I could live with myself were I to cause such irreparable damage to your reputation.

Much fun was had, though. Looking forward to Platinum.

At 3:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Oh, I see -- you don't remember either.

Seriously, it was fun, and I, too, look forward to Platinum . . . and perhaps, eventually, to Gold.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I remember... I've been trying not to, but it doesn't seem to be working.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Oh, you remember? So you claim...

Anyway, what could possibly damage the reputation of Gypsy Scholar among readers who know the reports from my hillbilly days?

Jeffery Hodges

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