Even though I drank my face and ass off the night before (see my St. Paddy's Day Eve story here) and woke up hungover as hell, I decided to brave the scary outside world and try to fight my aching headache, body-ache, and pride-ache. I would fight a booze hangover with more booze. Because I'm a fighter and fighters never quit.
A sweet old couple own a restaurant in my neighborhood and they serve some delicious food for about five American dollars. They serve bibimbap, which is rice mixed with vegetables, meat, or tofu. They also serve kimchi stew (pork and spicy cabbage). Most importantly, for this sort of situation, they serve something called Hae Jeung Guk, or "hangover soup." What's in it you ask? Well, if you're grossed out easily, you might want to skip this part. If not, hangover soup contains a lot of pepper and spicy stuff, some chopped cow stomach, and a shitload of congealed ox blood. A shitload.
After that delicious and life-saving meal, I cooled myself off with some self-serve frozen yogurt. You don't really realize how important frozen yogurt is until you move to a country where there isn't a lot of it: namely, Korea. Luckily, I've got a guy. Near my house.
After two solid days of drinking, then seeing an Irish guy spill his guts to me, it was my turn.Now that I felt great (or good enough) I started getting ready for the night. Did I mention I slept until about 4 p.m.? Well, I did. So I threw on my four-leaf clover socks, my shamrock handkerchief, and my emerald-colored Star Trek t-shirt. As I mentioned in my St. Paddy's Day Intro story, my dear mom loves St. Paddy's and supplies me with a ton of stickers, clothes, banners, and all types of other stuff that you probably walk around the party section of Target wondering, "Who the hell buys this crap?"
I took the long bus ride to Itaewon. If you've never been to Korea, you probably don't know anything about this area, but it's the foreigner area in Seoul. Itaewon is close to the military base, so they have all types of food, drinks, and clothes for anybody taller than the average Korean (just about anybody not from Korea). Oh and plenty of prostitutes. Also, foreign teachers like me enjoy going there because it's a fun place to drink and people-watch, but also, it can be a not-so-fun place to watch Americans make jackasses of themselves.
I walked from the bus to the bar. Even though it was only about 8 p.m., I'd already passed some giant piles of vomit, and some giant piles of wasted human life. My friends were already starting to get their Irish on, so I tried to catch up. I have a belief that if you drank big the night before, it doesn't really take that much to get going the second night in a row. Tonight, this was true.
My buddies asked about the rest of my previous night, to which I replied, "I don't want to talk about it." We downed some Guinness, whiskey, and margaritas (even though margaritas are Mexican and not Irish, they were green, so it fit for St. Paddy's) and decided this place was too crowded, so we did the logical thing and went to an even more crowded place.
I needed to piss so I slowly and as politely as possible made my way to the bathroom. I prefer to pee in silence; I'm not really a talker while I whiz. But, as generally happens in a bar, some dude walked in and slapped me on the back. Usually, this really pisses me off, but I heard something I'd never heard before. This guy said, "Oye! What's the crack-a-jay?"
"Are you from Ireland?" I asked.
"Aye. From Kilkenny. You're wearing the green, are you Irish?"
"Nope. But my mom loves this holiday. You know, it's always been a dream of mine to have a real Irishman say, ‘What's the crack-a-jay?' to me." (Crack-a-jay means "What's up?" in Gaelic. I read it in a book. Some folks shorten it as "What's the crack?" Which gets confusing if people think you're selling crack.)
"Oh, well, glad to oblige you sir. Happy Paddy's to you," he said.
I zipped my pants and washed my hands (cuz I'm classy). Then I dug around my pockets and found some of the four-leaf clover stickers my mom sent me. I waited for the Irish guy to get out of the bog (Irish slang is so cool!) and said:
"Like I said, my mom loves Saint Paddy and Ireland, and she always sends me stickers and stuff. She'd want a real Irishman such as yourself to sport some shamrock stickers."
When an Irishman gives you the greenlight, you take it. Then I put a sticker on his chest. He gave me a look. I kind of wondered if he was going to punch me. Some dudes don't like getting touched. Others don't like it when you're an Irish poser, kind of like those guys from the American burbs who play bagpipes, get shamrock tattoos, and tell everybody how much they hate the English.
A most unexpected thing happened. He didn't punch me or call me a "wanker Yankee." He broke down crying.
"This…(sniffle) is the nicest…(gurgle) thing anybody has… ever done for me," he managed.
"Uh. Give you a sticker?" I said.
"I'm so facking homesick you wouldn't believe. I miss my mother and father, my sisters, and even the shitty Irish weather. There's nothing facking green in this facking country and nobody knows what it means to be Irish except for you. I love you like me own brother, man. Give us a hug!"
I didn't really have a choice, so I hugged him and he cried on me for a while. I figured I'd continue the good cheer and try to do another nice thing.
"Uh, you want to be Facebook friends or something?" I offered.
"Nah. I'm leavin' this fackin' country in a few weeks anyway. I cannah hack it."
"Uh, do you want the rest of these stickers?"
"I couldn't take that from ya. You've already been far too kind."
"I've got like, three other sheets of them."
"Who the fack would I give them to?"
These wouldn't be the only waterworks I'd see tonight.
My friends laughed it up about my new "boyfriend." (I told them the Reader's Digest version.) We slugged a few more shots, and then our Korean buddy showed up, with not a stitch of green on him. I took the authority and made him look like a proper Irishman by giving him my shamrock bandana and a bunch of green stickers made in China, bought in the USA.
Then I felt a clap on my back.
"I see you're spreading more Irish cheer. Here's a pint, mate. Thanks again, for everything." It was the Irish sobber again.
"No problem. Luck the Irish to you. Cheers."
"You too. Cheers."
A week earlier my dear Grandpa Bob passed away, and I'd bottled a bunch of emotions. After two solid days of drinking, then seeing an Irish guy spill his guts to me, it was my turn.
"Friends, I want to make a toast. (Everybody kindly stood up.) My Grandpa Bob was a great guy. He taught me a lot about life, women, and everything. I can't really remember much about it, but I do remember one of the most important things I've ever heard in my entire life. And bear with me, I'm probably going to cry.
"My brother Kevin's graduation party happened around the time when I was about to move to New York. My mom was really upset. Since it was a graduation for him and a going-away party for me, my whole family was there. My mom felt awful that her babies were growing up and leaving. My Grandpa Bob put his big hand on her shoulder and said, ‘Betsy, every man needs an adventure.' (This is when I started to cry.)
I wear my Grandpa's advice around now. "I was pretty nervous about moving to New York, but that right there made me less nervous. And I've kept that quote in my back pocket the rest of my life. Without hearing that, I may have pussed out and not gone to New York. Or to Korea. Joined a Jiu-Jitsu gym. Started skateboarding. Asked out the girl of my dreams.
"Another quick story, one of my proudest moments was when I visited him a few years ago and he said, ‘There's a fine-looking Irishman! I knew you liked Guinness and I remembered, we've never had a beer together. So I bought some Guinness and I want to have a beer with my handsome and strong grandson.'
"We shared some drinks and some laughs. Even though he'd think it's a sin, in the old Ice Cube tradition, I'd like all of us to pour out some of our Guinness or whiskey or whatever you're drinking on the ground for my dear old Grandpa Bob."
I poured some of my stout on my own foot, but wiped my eyes first and ordered a few more drinks for my buddies. We met up with more people, ate some spicy-as-hell kabobs and drank more.
I kept thinking I saw the horrendous girl I met the night before so I kept trying to look really hard but not be seen. When a girl actually came up to me and started a conversation, I said, "Hold on. Didn't I meet you last night? Are you Nailin' Palin?" Needless to say, she wasn't too impressed.
Then my friends all started to pull the Irish Goodbye (an Irish Goodbye is when you leave without telling anybody—yay! More Irish slang!). Well, either they pulled the Irish Goodbye, or I don't remember them saying "goodbye." Or I said, "Fuck you I'm not leaving!"
Pretty soon it was just my friend Peg and me. Peg is dating one of my best friends, but also happens to live close to me. We shared some heart to hearts, which I also don't really remember, but I do remember saying, "Hey. I'm seriously, seriously, seriously not trying to pull anything here. But. I need a ride home. Will you take a cab with me? Please? I seriously seriously seriously need to get home. I swear. I'm not going to take advantage of you. Your boyfriend is like my best friend and I seriously…"
Peg just said, "Shut up. You're an idiot. I'll just have the cab drop you off at your home."
"No. I just want to sleep on your couch. There's no way I'll find my own way home."
"You're such an idiot."
I don't recall the cab, how much the fare was, or even if we talked or if I just slept. I do remember magically waking up on a couch I'd never seen before without a note. It took me a while to put things together. I was happy it was obviously a girl's place, then sad when I thought I might have accidentally banged my best friend's girl, then happy again when I realized my pants were still on, and then sad that I was alone again.
But, it made for a good weekend of drinking and I hope you liked the stories.