Adventures in Koreatown – Second Experience
Continuation of Episode 1. Not as many pics as last time because my card reader for my pro camera died. R.I.P.Some of the names have been changed….
A lot has happened over the past week and a half, so much so that I’ve barely had time to sit down and write of the goings-on of my new life in Koreatown. I’ll try to write as much as I can remember.
Monday was a bright, sunny day, with temperatures in the 70s, a norm in this part of California. I woke up early , a mission of exploring in mind. That didn’t really happen. I decided to work on the site some more and talk with my team, a distraction if you will. I’m still a little bit scared to get out and free roam by myself, so I tend to come up with excuses not to. That is, until I remembered I had a “date.” No, not the romantic kind: The Korean movie kind. Pam was on her way to see I Am with me and I hurriedly got showered and dressed as I waited on her text that she was nearby. Pam was a follower of 24-7KPOP and although we had talked for ages back and forth online, I had yet to meet her. This would be the first time I got to really hang out with a follower, other than Megan. As I grabbed a light snack she called me to let me know she was outside. I ran down the gazillion flight of stairs at my apt and greeted her, waving ecstatically across the street at me. Inside the car: Her husband Chai, who was Thai, his friend, and Pam and Chai’s son, named Kevin (my son is also named Kevin, so I felt an instant bond). We chatted a bit as we sought out the movie theater, which wasn’t far from my apt. This, however, didn’t prevent us from passing it up and having to turn around again to get back to it. The guys walked us up to the theater and quickly ran away as Pam and I started to gush over the Korean movie posters and movie trailers that played in the lobby.
Once inside the theater, most of the movie trailers were American with a few Korean ones sprinkled in. Just before the movie was to play, the lights came back on and the movie attendant that we had picked up our tickets from came into the theater to greet the audience in Korean and English and wish us a great experience at the theater. I thought this was a very nice touch. Then, the movie started and my love affair with SM Entertainment started all over again. Click here to read my movie review.
After the movie, Pam and I reunited with the boys and made our way to the parking garage, debating on what food we should eat. I leaned over the garage wall and realized I could see the Hollywood sign from there. This was to be my first clear view of the sign that didn’t involve being in a moving car. The decision was made: Drive around until we saw food we wanted. The thing is: Koreatown is filled with food options at every block, good food and great food. On a whim, we pulled into the business center across from the MBC studio and made a beeline towards a small Korean shop. As old-school Korean pop music videos played on the TV, we looked over the menu that was mostly in Korean. I forgot what I ordered but it was super delicious. It didn’t really have meat, so Kevin and I worked out an understanding and I got nearly half of his dumplings. Our friendship started over meat.
After my tummy was full, the group decided that the beach was the next destination. As Pam and the crew wasn’t from Los Angeles, they had no real idea how to get to the beach, so we embarked on a little adventure. Find the freeway. CHECK. Go south on the freeway. CHECK. Take the right exit. UM….NO. After going a ways I realized we could see the downtown skyline again. We were headed back towards my apt. We had inadvertently made a large square. We all decided right then and there we would try the beach again, the next time, but this time our adventures for the day were done. I was dropped off at my apt with hugs and goodbyes and promises to hang out again soon.
The next few days went by like a blur that I don’t quite remember. There was shopping, there was food, there was roommate drama. I’ve learned that Russians want respect and quiet yet don’t really return the favor all that much. One of the roommates was pretty cool but the other, shorter one was kinda a bitch and all the other roommates were starting to realize that. Suddenly, my internet was HER internet as well, which was hilarious to me. As someone that hadn’t given me money at all, she was piggybacking my internet connection like it owed her money. My repeated conversations with her yielded no results, as she insisted that she had a right to my internet. After I was kicked off of an internet session in the middle of working for the 30th time, I finally just imploded and turned off the hotspot. Our silent battle raged on.
In the meantime, I got to know the shops and places close to me. I went exploring late at night with a gay neighbor friend. We found a 24-hour internet café with snacks a block over and I peeked inside the subway station (yeah, I have YET to actually get on). Other places within a block of my apt: A Korean sauna (yes, like in KDramas), 5 gazillion coffee shops, a pizza place, 3 discount stores, and a liquor store. There’s a ton more but I have yet to walk into them. Almost every place, including the pizza place, is owned/operated by Koreans. I’ve learned to accelerate my Korean speaking skills so I kinda like to shock the owners by speaking a little Korean after they’ve had a long conversation among themselves in the language. They always seem shocked/happy and then you get to see the brief moment of worry as they backtrack the previous conversation in their minds.
Friday night sprung up and I realized I didn’t have any plans. A new friend got in touch with me and we decided to hang out and drink. He picked me up in his fancy sports car and we drove and talked, about everything from guns to relationships.Max* was in the military, a few years younger than me, and looked just like Vin Diesel, yet Asian. We ended up in the Hollywood Hills, where he sped through curves and hugged the tight roads to test his “baby” out. We parked for a bit at an overlook and I got to see all of L.A. and Hollywood below, twinkling lights and all. Eventually, we decided to head for the beach and sped onto the freeway, windows down, sunroof open, listening to some old-school Limp Bizkit. We made our way down the beachline towards Malibu and parked. We drank and watched Beerfest on his laptop and talked about anything and everything under the sun. It wasn’t until 6am that Max dropped me off at my apt. Those many flights of stairs were almost the death of me as I staggered into my apt and tried to stay quiet. As soon as I laid down, Art came stumbling into the apt as well. I got up and said hi and was soon pulled out into the hallway for a chat. Long story short: Art confessed. He was jealous I had been out all night with a guy. We had our first kiss then we both passed out on my bed and slept through most of the day.
Saturday was spent recovering. I didn’t do much but nurse a migraine and get rehydrated. Art and I talked and cuddled and all that stuff you probably don’t want to hear about.
Sunday was a Pam day. We had plans for the beach once again and we would not fail, dammit! As I got ready for her arrival, Art cooked breakfast and I sat and ate with him. As a ladies’ man of sorts, he was sure being super sweet. Pam texted me that she was outside and I flew downstairs and into her waiting arms! I gave Kevin a nudge as I climbed into the backseat of the car with him. Kevin slept and Chai, Pam, and I chit-chatted as we made our way down to Venice. We started to encounter more and more traffic as we got closer to the beach, occasionally standing still in gridlock for what seemed hours. I was starting to get hungry again and the whiffs of burgers, hotdogs, and whatever goodness that was being cooked in the shops beachside were driving me nuts. The guys hadn’t eaten either and we were growing more listless as we drove around for over 2 hours looking for a parking spot. Even the paid parking areas were full. After Chai freaked us out by pointing out a grown man dressed a clown that was probably selling crack, we had had enough searching and decided to give up on the beach.
Kim and Friends: 0
We decided we were going to seek out food and they knew exactly where: Thai Town. We jumped on the 1 and made our way to their favorite Thai restaurant. Chai thought he would dare me to try something he deemed “super hot” and was not phased at my urges that nothing was really “hot” to me because my tastebuds were born in Louisiana. He doubted me and smirked evilly as he planned what I should order. We arrived and sat down, eager for food and water. I had the “hot stuff” put before me and was watched closely as I tested it…..and kept eating. I had passed the test and all were happy. We dug into meatballs on a stick, the spicy salad I had, BBQ pork and rice, and a few other things I didn’t know the name to. Afterwards, we walked next door to the Thai market and I had a field day pointing out funny things with Pam. Flour came in small tight plastic packs that looked like kilos of cocaine. I had a good laugh with that longer than I should have. In the end, I only ended up buying a guava drink while the happy family had a whole stockpile of groceries. They don’t get to make the trip to the store that often, I was told. We made a quick stop at a Thai temple for Pam, where she sought solace and then promptly tried to steal as many temple cats as possible and try to lure them to the car. She didn’t succeed. Once again, I was dropped off at home with hugs and promises to hang out again and possible attempt the beach once more. I walked into the apt to see Art and his friend Javier playing cards. They had a beer waiting for me and soon I was involved in a game of Texas Hold’Em. Of course, I won.
Some of the interesting things I’ve learned while living in Koreatown:
1) You will find yourself speaking more Spanish and Korean than English, even if you don’t know these languages well. Most signs will be in either and almost every establishment is own/run by one of these 2 groups. There will be moments that will blow your mind, like a Korean store owner speaking Spanish fluently and a Hispanic worker in a café or restaurant speaking fluent Korean.
2) There will be no less than 3 helicopters circling around within 4 blocks of your apt, no matter where in Koreatown you are. This is on a nightly basis. I really don’t know why.
3) The streets will be just as dirty/even dirtier after the street cleaners come through.
4) You will be glad you don’t have a car if you watch your friends with cars move their vehicles every 2 hours. They even set alarms in the morning just so they can get up and move their cars.
5) Parallel parking involves squeezing in a small spot and physically moving the car in front and behind you to make space. One night from the fire escape I watched someone do this, much to my entertainment and horror.
It’s been a delicate balance, keeping my eye on 24-7KPOP and trying to eek out a life here. The team is pretty proficient at this point and keeps growing. As my presence is known in Koreatown, I’ve been contacted by a few important agency/Korean entertainment people to work with them and promote their events. It’s nice having that option now, as being here lends more credit to what I’m trying to do. I hired on 2 new correspondents in the Philippines, one in Australia, and already have on in Japan and one in Korea soon. Pam was added to the team as well. Christan has been hard at work and together we’ve secured Press Access to the upcoming large KPOP Concert in August. I am super excited, as this will only be my 2nd time actually representing my site in person as Press. That hasn’t happened since Las Vegas. It seems I moved to L.A. just in time, as more and more events are being announced in the area. Even Xia Junsu was in my ‘hood filming his new music video. Why, for the life of me I forget to go look for him, I cannot tell you. I just…forgot. The main scenes of his MV were only a few blocks away yet I didn’t know until after the fact. I will need to be more diligent about that in the future.
Well, Tuesday snuck up on me kinda fast. It had been established that Art and I were officially in a relationship. Since he works so much, his being a roommate had yet to make me sick of him. Javier joined us again as it was both of their days’ off and we were to play cards, hang out, and drink. Somehow I got suckered into a card game that I sucked at and ended up drinking far more than I should. Just when I was considering passing out, everyone decided it was a great time for Korean BBQ. We headed out on foot, walking block after block. I had no idea where we were headed but I was tired and needed to sit soon. As soon as we got to the very packed Korean BBQ place, we sat down to a ton of side dishes and immediately ordered our meat. I found out it was all-you-could-eat Korean BBQ and the 2 boys with me were my competition for the meat we were cooking. Even after I was full, more and more different kinds of meat kept showing up to be cooked. I had already ordered 3 extra bowls of rice and one additional order of kimchi AND radishes (in Korean) and then had to stop Art from ordering anything else. As I walked out and had a cigarette (don’t judge me) I noted something I had seen before but hadn’t cemented in my mind until then: Almost all Koreans smoked cigarettes, even the security guys that walked the parking lots and parked cars. Once the guys finally were pulled from the table, we stopped at a small little store where the guys bought more beer. The owner was Korean but had a conversation in Spanish with Art. Then, he turned and talked a little Chinese with Javier. He turned to me and I told him to ignore the dummies with me (in Korean). He was highly amused as the guys turned to me, really wanting to know what “babo” was. Javier guessed “chicken” and I told him he wasn’t far off. The three of us stumbled back the 10 blocks to the apt. I laid down to rest and ended up falling asleep. Art joined me soon after.
When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was super sick. I tried my best to feel better since I had an interview scheduled later that day. I ventured in and out of sleep and only really woke up when my phone rang. My interview was rescheduled for the next morning and I ended the phone call with relief. I got up and visited the food truck downstairs. [BACKSTORY: There’s a very nice Hispanic lady that runs a permanent food truck right in front of my apts. She sells everything from sodas, vegetables, ramen, snacks, and “real food” and she loves me to death because I’m always buying from her out of laziness.] I picked up some veggies and fruit and cooked lunch. The rest of the day blurred in and out.
Yesterday morning, I woke up early for my interview. Art woke up to find his car and actually hopped on his bike to get it (since you sometimes have to park very far off from the apt because of lack of parking). I waited outside of the apt for a long time, wondering where he was. I was going to be late. He called me to tell me he couldn’t find his car. He would continue looking. I stood out by the street, growing frustrated, watching the people in their business and work attire stream out of their apts and either into their cars or making their way towards the station. After almost 30 minutes, Art shows up and we speed towards Hollywood. I won’t go into specifics, but basically me being interviewed for one position turned into me being interviewed for 2 positions in the middle of the interview. Right in the heart of Hollywood: I want it!
Afterwards, Art and I came back to the apt and I made lunch. Since I didn’t feel so well, still, I laid down for a nap afterwards. I did a little work, some research, and then it was dinner time. Art cooked steaks and grilled onions while I made Mac N’ Cheese. With a ton of TONY’S. Yes, I had found some Tony’s seasoning and I was going to put it on everything! We ended the night with a movie and I went to sleep with my iPhone earbuds in, cranking up the KPOP. Had to tune out the city noises. I DID want to have my windows open, after all………..
More exploration and observation next week, I promise. Stay tuned!