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Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Bar Fight Almost; Babylon Re-Revisited and Thoughts on Western Culture

It was April 1st and there was no huge pranks done here, no shame-laced shenanigans, no plotting of the like. I am still trying to get my bearings and usually antics never come into play til I'm well grounded in the atmosphere. But a group of us went out to this comedy night in a nearby city called Suyon or something of that ilk. It was at a bar composed of nearly all Westerners. There are so many of these Western bubbles buttressed and moated from the East.

In my company was Ari, this chill, laid-back Canadian who teaches at my school, and whom I spend alot of time with...and Anton, this large, crew-cutted, South African. I believe he was something of a serious rugby player until he injured his knee. Now he teaches kindergarten to Koreans. He's a guy's guy. A meat and potatoes fellow though as nice and affable as could be. We were to meet Ari's girlfriend. A girl that had accompanied him from Ontario 6 months ago. And with her we were to meet up with Cecilia, this other South African who is now about to leave Korea.It being April Fool's Day, they had a sort of open night mic. And any potential stand up comics could get up and give the audience their best delivery. All of them were teachers, like us, I believe. And I think most were from the states or Canada.

Though, the crowd was different. Usually this particular joint is crawling with English teachers, most of them elementary ed, where they assemble to clink their glasses and swap stories about difficult students. Though, mostly to empty those glasses after they've been clinked. But tonight, there would be a different pull. A bunch of American military were there. When we walked in the door, the table where Ari's girlfriend sat, Cecilia, and another friend of their's was swarming with these military guys. One of these guys who seemed to be busting out of his little shirt with his muscles was sitting at the table, with his counterpart, what looked like a Latina who likewise was busting out of her dress with her own ability to make curves (but not in the best places.) We met several of them. It was slightly awkward. I thought it would be funny if some brave comedian got up and just roasted these types of military men. Mainly because of how audacious it would be. Very Andy Kaufmanish and would probably wind up with a trip to the hospital.

The comics got up and one by one. But, as every stand up does, each displays his self-deprecation on stage. The first guy lambasted himself for not being able to get girls to sleep with him. This girl from New York got up and talked about her lesbian exploits in Korea. Another American with an Arab background made fun of his ethnicity. One way, by opening up his jacket and having fake explosives strapped to him. Still another guy, mentioned pornstars and trips to the strip club back home. I do not know. I never really found many stand up comics very funny; this only reinforced my opinion. Nearly all of it, is divided up between two styles. A) Whom have a slept with. Or B) Whom have I not slept with and why is that? Every comedian picks one. Sometimes mixing the two up. And then you get the 4 usual sterotypes that its become cliche. 1)The minority guys. In the states, these are usually either black, hispanic, or historically, Jews making fun of their own backgrounds. 2)The lesbian making fun of guys they don't like and the girls that they once did like, but now they've moved on. 3)The fat person..sometimes the worst self-deprecation hurled at themselves just to get people to laugh. 4)And the cynical, horny white guys who make fun of religion and anything else that could possibly be sacred under the sun. Outside of those, our society is so confining, we are not trained to laugh at.

Meanwhile, around the pub, the scene was getting a bit mixed up. People in the back were being loud and obnoxious among themselves, when they should know good and well that we all came to hear someone hold a mic and be loud and obnoxious as well. People were getting pretty tipsy. And the smoke in the place was curling up everywhere. Everyone, I mean, everyone felt the need to hold a cigarette. I don't know if they were really smoking, but just holding cigarettes. After the comic acts were over...thank goodness. Everyone began to want to find various means of forgetting the evening, and funny enough, emptying their wallets on this forgetfulness. So that when they wake up the next morning they wonder, through a clanging headache, just why their money is gone. I never understood this in our society, but people seem to love this effect. Some people live for it.

At my table they began to play a game where they filled a large glass with beer, then they placed smaller mugs around it. I was never in on the college frat boy scene, so this was new to me, it was called Quarters, and you'd flip coins off the table letting them bounce, and the mug that it landed in, had to empty their mug. If the coin landed in the big mug, then everyone gulped down their own glasses; whoever was slowest in emptying their own mug, had to then guzzle down the huge mug full of beer. This was one of those games designed to make you half-forget the evening. I opted out; I was content with the beer in my own mug. Instead of playing some stupid game that tells you when and how much to drink. Apparently, its a noticeable, and probably rare thing to not participate in drinking games. People are almost offended if you don't want to act like an ass with them. But deep down, at least with my new friends here, I think they respect me. I've had two people on two different nights, tell me this. But either way, around these parts, you have to consciously make a decision to have a cut off point if you don't want to wind up stumbling back to the bus or taxi. Its definitely an excercise in willpower and peer pressure.

Anyways, I was sitting there watching the game observing the people around me. Actually, I was getting beyond people-watching and began to get bored, and wishing that I had gone home earlier. Alot of the military men had left, and there were a few guys I'd never met, playing the drinking game with Ari and Anton. These other guys had horrible Bacchus luck and kept having to drink their mugs or the really big one. One guy was well smashed even before the game and was standing up yelling stupidity from the edge of the table. He was a half-Korean from Nebraska. And maybe the first antic it was funny, in a ridiculous sort of way, but then it just got annoying. However, attention began to turn to this little bitty guy. He had this lip ring and he was pretty drunk as well. He was from L.A. He slung his arm around me and wanted to know why I was not drinking the glass of beer in front of me, that one of the Army guys had left. I told him that I just didn't. Then, he told me that I should claim it. That I should "learn to be a man" or some such nonsense.

Now, hold the thought there. I bet you think you know what the potential bar fight is to be about. Either it is me getting hot at this little man and his remark, or maybe me succumbing to his suggestion and taking a drink only to realize that the Army guy had not really left and was just looking for an excuse to get into a fight. Oh no, none of these. Indeed its kind of funny that I even mentioned these military guys for the tale has nothing to do with them. And after this little guy, said this to me, I just realized that he was drunk, probably suffered from the Napoleon complex, and basically understood him like I understood my kindergarten students. Not to take him serious. But with my friend it was a different matter.

Not too long after, this little man gets up and staggers over to Ari who was not particularly sober himself, and begins to whisper something in his ear. I don't know what he said, but soon they were standing chest to chest. And Ari looked pretty perturbed. Both had their arms out and were gesticulating. Now, the funny thing is that Ari is not really an aggressive person. He's pretty laid back. The kind of guy whose description of anything good is "chill". And for the record, he's a Canadian. -Not the most hostile people in the world. He doesn't get into the whole dominate over other people thing. I mean, I've only known the guy for a few weeks, but I think I'm a pretty good perceiver of personality and Ari doesn't strike me as the type that has to go around proving himself by kicking people's teeth in. But then again, this little guy didn't look like a fighter either. And alcohol can make what lies dormant in a person come out.

They were standing there and you sensed that any moment the sky was about to drop out. Someone even moved the table that was nearby, especially the pitchers of beer. Ari's girlfriend, Sara, was anxious. Though not out of fear of what the little guy may do to Ari, but I guess out of the embarrassment that one's boyfriend got in a fight at one of the only bars you frequent in Korea. Women don't look at fighting the same as we guys do.

As for me, I saw no point in intervening. Though, Ari could definitely handle him, I never think that violence is the best solution, however drunk people will be drunk people. If they fight they fight. It'll be over in a minute. People will look and glare, the bar may lose a mug or two, and it will be embarrassing for the defeated (probably the little guy) but then people will return back to their loud talking and nervous laughter and forgetting the night, and forgetting the emptiness that hangs in the haze of the cigarrete smoke and in the echoes of the blaring music heard overhead.

They stood there locked in this strange sort of tension. Eventually Ari pushed the little man, he stepped back even hitting the wall behind him. But no swings ever happened. They stood taunted each other, I guess. Not really sure what the other meant. Later, Ari said that the guy approached him saying his name must've meant that he was from Saudi Arabia, and that he was "not one of us." (whatever that meant). Which is funny seeing how Ari is almost as white as I am. Anton, the jock South African was standing menacingly behind the little man, which still didn't persuade him to just walk off. But eventually, Anton convinced him to walk up to the bar with him and forget the whole thing. And the two of them sat up there. It looked sort of comical from far off. This large guy sitting next to this small man. Both of them talking. It wasn't til later that Anton told us about how this strange, small guy, had unzipped his pants at the bar, whipped it out and had started to pee a little right there at the bar. Anton got up and left when he saw the guy do this.

Earlier, Cecilia, one of the South Africans, asked me if I could sum up the night in 3 sentences what would it be. I refused because I couldn't take everything in at that moment, but mostly because I didn't want to offend. But now, looking back, I think it would be something along the lines of, "With alchohol people get stupid. Always obey the urge to possibly go back to one's apartment. And our society as a whole is in real F***** trouble."


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