Itaewon 5.1.13

Was going to meet a friend to see a friend play at All That Jazz, the oldest jazz club in Seoul so I figured I would go early and play street music.  It was in the Itaewon neighborhood, which is a special neighborhood in Seoul because its near the US army base. There are a lot of riskee things in Itaewon, like girly bars, gay bars, and clubs that are frequented by foreigners and Koreans who like to hang out with foreigners. I actually don’t like the sleazy atmostphere of Itaewon much, but I go there sometimes because my favorite jazz club , All That Jazz, the first jazz club, is there. Problem with Itaewon is that there is no really good place to play there. The main street is noisy and the sidewalks are noisy. I took it in stride though and found a place near the entrance to the subway station. Actually it was near the entrance to the elevator that takes special needs people down to the subway. There was a little recession there and I squeezed myself in there. Not ideal but since I wanted to play there I accepted it. Later as I was playing though, it was strange because all of these fringe people were stopping and walking slowly by me in their efforts to get on the subway;  really old bent over people, crazy demented people, very pregnant people, and young families with lots and lots of kids. It was a rather skewed view of humanity there in the crevice that I occupied. I made it a goal to make some of them smile, but its hard to get someone who is bent in half and shuffling to stop and listen for a second. It became comical. I was rewarded at times with a really young toddler who as they were climbing the ramp to the elevator would peak at me with the wonder of a fresh mind that sees something amazing for the first time (and at that age, almost everything is for the first time).

      As I started playing I had the terrible realization that my amp wasn’t working. Later I realized that it was just a matter of not having pushed in a button. But that day, I didn’t realize so I just played with a bad amp. It sounded like noise to everyone but me, because I could hear the bass, so I played along with the bass and tried to think about my sound floating over the bad sound as if was traffic noise. It worked and I started to enjoy the music.

                Funny how playing music on the street can get you out there. I met 2 people who I knew, one who I hadn’t seen for years…and another Toastmaster member I hadn’t seen for many months. Sometimes they are so surprised to see me. I didn’t know you would be here they say, as if it is the most serendipitous experience and in a way it is …for them…but not for me…because I am out there on display and this is what happens, and this is one reason why I like it.

                A nice couple stopped and really listened for a few songs with the intensity that I love. When that happens I play just to them, not looking at them but looking at their feet and when some really nice idea bubbles up I will look up and see them to see if they get it too….they do, often they feel the same thing I am feeling and that sharing is wonderful. Later I saw that same couple in the jazz club. They were real jazz fans.

As I was playing a poster woman came up. These are people who get jobs to put posters up all over the city. She looked like perhaps she was from Vietnam. She was so fast at putting up the posters it was amazing. She had amazing technique. She looked nice actually underneath all the old clothes and the baseball cap. I tried talking with her. She turned and looked at me for a few seconds and smiled, without losing a beat, and in 20 seconds she had 3 posters up and was gone. I reflected on how different our lives were.

At about 8:15, my friends showed up. They were surprised to see me playing on the street. “What are you doing here?” “Well I have to be somewhere don’t?”  I guess they were a little late yet they wondered why I was late too. I packed up and we walked over together. It was a great time at the jazz club. My friend Yun was playing and I had the idea to interview him for an article. There are many ways to express oneself. Maybe it was time for me to explore another way.   7




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