My Ride in the Back of A Police Car; The Search for the House of Poets
So, I hopped on a bus zipping into Seoul and then descended into the subways. And emerged out in the sunlight and hit the pavement walking down the same busy street seeing what was there. But it eluded me. It was a hidden, unattainable fortress of serenity among the high rise aparments and frantic traffic. Besides, all things poetic are unattainable. And I really didn't know what I was looking for exactly. It could be anything from a library, or an academy of writers, to a cemetery, the exalted patrons of the earth buried into the mountains. Or maybe it was a real house where furrowed-browed poets dwelled, their dishevelled hair gleaming in a sunbeam.
It could be a strange strand of a martial arts school full of dreamy-eyed fighters who compose haikus while they break boards with their feet. They are trained to slit open a man's, no, better yet, a woman's heart with only a feather quill. They sit on the edge of a stream, instead of meditating, they daydream and contemplate the depths of the universe. They climb up waterfalls and embark into the clouds where they, in stealth and in passion, fight back the mists and the darkness and steal the light from the stars and on returning they string a a few words together. -I hope they had some one to do the dishes, the laundry, and pay the bills for them.
My head was full of such themes, when i didn't notice if I passed it or not. I kept on looking where the map indicated where it should be. But no where. There was this ancient temple standing on a hill, but I searched it, it was vacant and used to be the sight of the Eastern entrance into the city of Seoul in the 1400s. I asked a number of people nearby but no one knew. And then I walked into the police station, I decided that if anyone knew, they would. And traveling in various places around the world, asking the police can be one of the stupidest things one can do. You never know where you'll wind up or what you'll lose. In Russia, you avoid the police at all costs.
But no one in this police office could tell me where this place was located. But it confounded them. There were 4 officers in there, poring over maps, consulting who knows who on the phone. I think it gave them something to do, or they felt it a challenge of sorts. Just then 2 of them walked outside and motioned over to their car, and asked through mannerisms if I wanted to take a ride while they looked for this nebulous "House of Poets". Or at least, I reckoned that was what they meant.
They opened the back door for me and didn't get me that spill about watching my head. The first thing, I noticed was that there was no cage that seperated me from their throats. Then I noticed a part of an umbrella that I could easily get my hands on, handcuffed or not, and probably bust out the back window with. It made me think that Seoul's not all that dangerous. Like 10,000 Mayberrys stacked ontop of each other.
And then we cruised through these backroads, down these narrow streets almost alleywaus that winded up hills around all the apartment buildings. One of there names was "Moon" and the other was "Yun". Moon was about my age. He had a whistle around his neck. Yun was a bit older. Maybe middle-aged. They both knew a few more English words than I knew Korean. But communication was nearly impossible. I was having a thrilling time. And I hoped it lasted longer than just a short ride. I also, had this secret wish that they'd get some crazy call and they'd have to carry me with them as they chased down some criminal. But for the meantime, they'd turn at certain roads and I had no idea where we were.
Eventually, they came to another little police officer post. A door leading into a tiny office. One of them got out and went in, I guess to ask them about this place. But, I began to think that maybe there was something more in their ultra nice gesture of being both a taxi service and a tour guide for me. I think that they got some kind of kick out of driving a Westerner in the back of their car. It was as though they were showing me off. You know, they drove past this university area where all the students were walking about, their books in hand, and I could've swore that they slowed down. Okay maybe so as not to hit anybody, but also because they wanted to be a spectacle. You know get people talking. "Hey, did you see that blonde dude in the back of the police car. I wonder what he did. That's the way of our policemen. Nothing gets past them. Not even those with English speaking, main world-power passports."
And perhaps, the stop in front of the other police station was not for directions, maybe it was to brag to the other branch. The one that walked in, thrusts out his chest and scratches himself, "Boys, quit picking your nose and see what we picked up over in OUR jurisdiction. Yep, caught him embezzling 1.2 million dollars cash, he had 3 suitcases of cocaine in the trunk of his car; he was smuggling a Russian prostitute who is supposedly related to Putin. He had bodyguards all around him. 5 of them each about 300 pounds. But they were easily handled. Got a bruise on my shoulder, that's all. So what have you guys been up to? Eating donuts I see."
It was funny, when driving by people. I looked at them pleasantly. As though, we were all going on a picnic. I don't know what people thought. And not too long after riding around, we found the spot. There was this big black gate with some sort of house behind it. The both of them got out and I tried to follow only to be reminded that I was in the backseat of a police car; there were no handles on the inside of the backdoors. So one of the cops assisted me. The "House of Poets" was a museum for Korean poets. But it was closed on the weekend. It looked sort of stuffy and narrowly pedantic on the other side; not how I imagined it, of course. One of the cops pounded on the big black gate for me. But no one answered. Some one was in the middle of writing a couplet or maybe doing something tragic like sticking one's head in the oven to open the door.
The policemen then offered me a ride back to their station, which I was hoping they would for I was so zigzagged back from where I knew where I was at, that I would've been lost if left there. So we rode back and with a bunch of "Kamsa Hamnidas" and bowing I left them, deeming the Korean police to be the nicest in the world.