June 1st 2013
At City Hall area on a Saturday. You never know if another event might be going on. Its good to go early just in case there is something and you can move to another local. Today it was questionable. There was an arts and crafts event about halfway down the street. I hadn’t seen it earlier when I had come to scope out the situation. Now that I was set up I heard that there was also a stage. It was the age old question, “How close can you get before you are intruding on some else’s space. The general rule is that if you can hear them, you are too close. But that doesn’t necessarly work in Korea. People get much closer. With a festival it might be different. Afterall they are officially sanctioned. I decided to go for it anyway, because I didn’t want to spend another 30 minutes traveling and then who knows it could be the same or worse. I pulled out my horn vowing to play softly at least first.
I play a few songs and no one seems upset by that. A guy comes up and he seems drunk. Wow, its only 230 pm. He really wants to take a picture with me, which is ok but I have to say, “I don’t like be touched” which sounds kind of cold but ive had too many experiences where drunk guys will knock you either accidentally or on purpose. Better to be safe. Anyway, lets be real, we are not on touching terms.
As I play I can’t help thinking about the people walking by. Why don’t they stop and listen to me. I tend to judge them, which just takes me away from the music. It would be better if I just observed that they are listening without attaching anything to that. People are….just are
Maybe people are not good or bad…maybe they just …are…yet I watch myself judging people as they walk by
Some young kids walk up and their parents urge them to give me some change. It’s a kind of bravery test for the kids. Can you approach and talk to a foreigner? I can tell right away that these kids speak English. Maybe they go to an international school. They drop some coins into the hat. “Can I have your hat, instead”. The hat says “Hello Kitty”. That gets a silly laugh. “is your name Kitty?” More laughter. “…no sarah?” …”Sarah Kitty?” And is this your brother?” “Yes. I am Ben.” “Are you Ben Cat or Ben Dog?” “no just Ben.
“How old are you. I’m 8……or 9. “ Surprisingly I knew what he meant. He was 9 in Korean age and 8 in international age. Korea is probably the only county in the world that makes its people a year older than they are. It works like this. The day you are born you are 1. The next January 1st, you are 2. If you have the luck to be born on December 31st, on your second day in this world, you are also 2 years old. Go figure. “How old are you?” I am 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10” which was true.
“what do you think of the music?” “I like animals.” Do you like bouncing a ball?” At that point I bounce an imaginary ball to Ben and everytime it bounces, I make a note. La la la l a I bounce the ball. I try to get the boy to play along but it is too much for him. “Do you like animals?” he repeats. “yes I like bugs. Does that count?” “No.” “What animal do you like?” “I have a mouse.” “Wow, that is different.” The kids are nice, but I can see that deep down I can see they are monsters. Later, I am proved right. I start to play a song and Ben stands right in front of me and starts whistling a completely different song in an irritating in your face way. I knew it. Monsters. “No, you are a monster.” “No you are a monster,” “ no you are a monster.” This is a typical monster conversation. After I finished, surprisingly they asked me to play another song. I said I would if Ben promised not to whistle. He agreed and kept his word.
About halfway through a song, the old traditional Korean band that plays in front of the Deosugung Palace starts to march by down the street. Let’s play with the music and I start to play the traditional Korean song, Ariarang. The kids are scared. “What if the soldiers came at us, what would you do? I could play my sax and I could blow them away.” I keep playing yet I start inserting little bits of Old McDonald. The kids don’t know what is going on, but they know that something is going on.
When the monsters left I asked for a picture and got it. We took 2. A regular picture and a monster picture. They knew who they were. Bye monsters.
As I leave I say goodbye to the mother. “Good luck god bless you” She will need it, Im sure.
Shortly thereafter a quiet looking man walks by with a nice camera. I can tell by the way he works that he is a pro. Later I ask to see the pictures and I was right. They are very interesting and good. He sends me a few later. I ask for his Facebook address but he says he doesn’t have one. That is unusual these days especially in Seoul. He says he doesn’t like to socialize much. He prefers being alone. “So are you a wangta?” A wangta or a loner is about the worst thing you can be in group oriented Korea. Its even rarer that a person would admit to being that.
A couple, wearing couple shirts comes over and sits down next to me, He is eating a giant dessert waffle. The waffle is small about the diameter of a softball but its ridgers are quite wide. The young man is eating the waffle incredibly slow. After looking at them for a few seconds I understand why. They are sharing it. If he ate it quickly she would probably get angry. If it were me, it would be gone in seconds. I start to play the couples game with them. “I think you’ve been a couple for 3 months” “…no 3 years…more than 1000 days” How old are you?” “…maybe 25” Are you students?” “…no we have jobs…” I asked them about their couple shirts. How does that work? Did you call each other and say, ‘Hey lets wear stipes today.” No, We didn’t, we just wore them without thinking about it. “wow, that’s cosmic? What do you do?” “Im an engineer. What kind of engineer? I design engines. Really? Yes.” So you are an engine engineer?” Yes I guess. You are an engine 2eer” They ask me about playing on the street. “Street is like a theater…symphony is not. This is more alive. Anything can happen..” They are going underwear shopping after this. “…very cool…usually I don’t like shopping…but unhderwear maybe its ok. …honey are these ok….yes…….(with passion) try on another pair. Her name is Jeannie..and his He Jin. “…Jeannie …are you Genie? If I rub you can you give me what I want. …I want a beautiful girlfriend?…can you give me one in …126.96.36.199.1. “No she says….1 week…it will be a 1 week baby?” No I have a friend”…”really…ok”….”Whats your age?” its often the first question in Korea. My answer is not normal. “ It’s a secret”” …ok. your girlfirends age is secret to ..ok?” I agree and then imagine ….”my great aunt is single only 71….i will introduce her to frank…” I have to defend myself. “Age is not most important…some attraction is necessary.” The young man pipes in, “that’s why I love her. “ I see what he means. She is lovely. “I can understand why you love her, but what I cant understand is why she loves you.” He looks shot down so I have to add…ok….…hes kind of cute if you turn your head a little…oh my god…I like the glasses…glasses work…hes perfect” ….”yeah, she smiles. “He has a …nice warm smile…can I have him?” they are both a little shocked. “Noooooo” she recovers, he’s mine” Then quickly I have to add, “ ….I’m just kidding …I’m not gay…How about another song?”