Two Tickets to Paradise
After hanging out with my Korean friend, Loy, I learned that the part of Seoul where I lived, northeast of the Han River, was referred to by most young Seoulites as North Korea. It is the old part of town where the buildings are low, the traffic out of control, and the night spots only for people with double chins and emphysema. Besides the time that I bumped into Loy in Apgucheong (the Beverley Hills of Seoul), I unwisely confined my nightlife ramblings to this part of town.
Out of the thousands of 17- to 30-year-old women I saw trudging drearily through the subway each day, it would be a stretch to call one of them pretty. Part of it had to do with the way in which they carried themsevles – downcast shoulders, crooked necks, imploded asses on breastless pudgy frames. I thought I made another scientific discovery – an indeterminate sex, a colony of Kleinfelters – whose only function was to work 90 hours a week and crowd the subway.
I am happy I didn’t come to Korea straight from Brazil where I taught English for several months. Were this the case, I would have gone into a state of shock upon seeing the women here, and may have possibly turned to drag to turn myself on. Fortuantely, I didn’t make this transition but it was mainly because I visited Seoul south of the river where I have since developed quite a fondness for Korean women (for back up, though, I bought a pair of size 12 stilettos and am now combing the outdoor markets for a fuschia sash and a purple pair of stockings – my tuck is impeccable).
Loy and the gang stay south of the River in the Apguejong area where the modern-day skyscrapers shadow the movements of twenty-something Korean yuppettes looking to climb the Jaebol ladder. Yes, Apgujeong is Manhattan. I lived in Staten Island. (As swanky as Apgujeong is, it can also be brutally expensive – a Heineken costs you $10.00. Let them laugh at my home in the North where a beer can be had for a third the price).
Though Loy went to Shanghai for three weeks under the shady pretense – 10% business, 90% pleasure – he left me in good hands with his friend IJ. IJ is the guy you call Friday night if you want to know which parties are going on. If there isn’t anything happening, he can whip something together on the fly.
It was Saturday night when I called him. He invited me to go “booking” with his friends. This was to be my first taste of the real Korean nightlife. I had heard the term a number of times in my stay. Nobody ever gave me a straight answer as to its meaning, but I had a hunch.
Prostitution has been part of history and humanity – when Grok returned from the forest with dinner, Illaa and Naara were waiting at the periphery in their new wooly mammoth sashes to woo him. And when we start colonizing Mars, sending people on 20-year missions to mine ice ore on Pluto, outer space whores – quite stellar, I hear – will be lurking like our modern day truckstop strumpets at the rocket fuel pump to waylay the weary, overworked cosmic-pilot.
Booking is Korea’s way of doing something that Brazil flaunts in the open, America keeps to the crack districts and Vietnamese massage parlour, and Amsterdamers call window shopping. My guess is here they hush-hush the act behind the pretense of a night lounge where the ladies come and sit next to you, express inordinate interest in the inner workings of your office politics and the hairy turns of your oh-so-action-filled work commute.
IJ told me I had to try booking. But I didn’t want to throw down all my money to get laid when I had convinced half the woman I had met that I was Brad Pitt’s younger brother. The spectacle struck me as absurd but IJ assured me that booking in no way translated to prostitution.
IJ gave the lowdown. He chalked up the booking method to the Korean Man’s insecurity – hmmm, it still feels like we are on the prostitution track. According to IJ, since guys are too shy to approach girls in a club, the waiters bring the girls to the guys’ table. If the girl likes you, she will stay longer then the complimentary ten-second handshake and greeting. Then you don’t have to pay her a single won for her company. If that were the case, my hunch was unfounded.
I headed with a group of seven eager Korean men down the stairs of a backside alley entrance to a booking club in Apgujeong. The club was large, with the type of high sponged sofa seating you see in P. Diddy videos – neon laser light tap dancer above the black marble – empty dance floor.
IJ assured me we came early to secure the best seats in the house. We found an extra sized booth that had a view of the whole dance floor through tinted black windows. At the center of the seating was a large black marble table with the sort of alcoholic cornucopia that lushes dream about and sea bound sailors long for – three bottles of Crown Royal whiskey, twelve bottles of Korean beer (ok, my alcoholic paradise has got a couple of snakes in the apple) and a half dozen bottles of the smooth, but oh so potent Korean rice liquour, Soju.
We toasted the beginning of the night with a shot of Canadian whiskey. It was slow at first with me scoping the club, chatting with the lads at the table. Soon the waiters starting bringing girls to the table. There are many ways a girl can approach. With the ruddy-face waiter dragging these women to the sacrificial lair, the scene had a Neanderthalic flair with Grok getting his way with Naara. Many of the girls quickly left the table as soon as the waiter’s attention was distracted in finding another lamb.
IJ reassured me it was all an act. The girls pretended they were being dragged to the gas chamber even if they actually liked the guy. But as the night went on and the girls become more drunk, the Oscar worthy performances were hardly worth an Emmy.
IJ also gave me bad news. Since this was a very Korean club, the women wanted nothing to do with Whitey. He sensed my dejection. Fifteen minutes later he said, “See that closed VIP door? There are about 15 girls in there. I am going to tell the waiter you are a stripper and he’ll tell the girls.” I really like IJ.
The plan worked. Within five minutes the waiter was ushering me into the room of eager Asian bachelorettes. I was now the sacrificial lamb. And this is what Giovanni-Milan’s male dancer extraodinaire encountered when he entered the small smoke-filled room of a dozen red-faced young Asian girls.
A girl at the mike wrapped up a few Korean pop songs with an atonal flourish and then demanded to know the low down on the male presence in the room – her accent indicated she was a Korean-American and her swagger an alpha female. “So you are from Italy. Well, let us see what you got.”
Twenty three eager pairs of eyes were on me. With enough Crown Royal to convince myself I was incredibly sexy, I let Giovanni out of his cage. Into a couple of hip thrusts and dirty shakes they were already demanding more. For some reason the girl at the mike decided to continue singing. She belted forth one of those songs where every other word is baby and the rest a mono-sylabbic bark of uh, ah, oh’s. If this didn’t kill my mojo, the fact that the birthday girl had become a frozen corpse as I closed in on her made me realize that a shirtless lap dance would be inappropriate. Sensing the futility of the situation and figuring that Giovanni had run his sexy course, the girl at the microphone said, “Ok. Thank you. That’s enough. Thanks a lot.” I decided to come back later now that I had broken the ice with a pelvic jackhammer.
I tried my luck on the dance floor. The club had started to fill up. Though I shaked down a nasty boogie, several girls I approached were not receptive. When I returned to the table I was not defeated but simply accepted that this wasn’t a club for Whitey. I sat with IJ and the boys as they chatted to girl after girl with a Korean beer in hand. I enjoyed the general festivity – and that’s when the girls starting sitting with me.
A good looking girl in black net lacing came over to me and showed she liked me by suggesting we take two shots. I learned she was 29 years old and a professional dancer. After a chat she talked to one of my Korean friends seated at the table. Another beautiful Korean girl approached me. I immediately liked her when she told me she thought I was crazy after seeing me boogying it down on the dance floor. Though her English was worse then the others, her bodily contact spoke volumes. I saw the first girl glowering out of my left eye. I felt I had to keep both love lines open. Soon a third girl came into the picture, following me into the bathroom with wide-eyed swooning. I was at a loss. What to do? The dance contest then began.
The floor was cleared. A forty-ish Asian man with an orange wig and pink sunglasses remained with mike in hand emcee-ing away in Korean. Suddenly the music burst forward. A sole female dancer appeared shaking her Shakira best for about fifteen seconds. The music stopped and the emcee gave her the thumbs up. She sat on the stage where she viewed the next series of participants.
The following two girls, though good, were not granted the stage-seating status. A Dutch guy who looked like a long faced Harry Potter didn’t even hear the first note before the orange wigged man told him to sit down. The crowd laughed and that was when it was my turn to redeem my white bretheren. With tank top on, I came out and started doing my crazy dirty dance. I was five seconds into it when the orange-wigged man pulled me on stage to join the Korean Shakira. One last girl made the cut before the finals.
The emcee said something in Korean while holding two tickets in his hand. He looked at me and said in English. “Two ticket, Thailand, winner!” Let the games begin. The girl chosen last went first. She ended with a nice display but I could take her.
The music started for me. I dug into a series of jumping leg splits with a couple of 180s thrown in for good twist. The crowd was roused. I had redeemed the white race. I felt confident. Shakira stood up began her act. She looked sexy out there – shaking her hips and pumping her butt. But the routine was one dimensional. I had her. I was going to Thailand!
The music was coming to an end – and then – and then – she took off her top, started shaking her breasts for the viewing pleasure of the whole club. I was not going to Thailand.
In response to the gang’s, “What happened?” I said, “She won, man. She flashed her chest and won.” IJ came down hard on me. “What’s wrong with you, man. You should have taken off your shirt. I can’t believe you didn’t take off your shirt. You should have taken off your shirt.” I was reprimanded for NOT taking off my shirt.
It didn’t end badly. The second Korean girl I had chatted with on the couch returned for some more flirtatious behavior. I left the club with her number. Hopefully, I will meet up with her later, although I won’t be taking her to Thailand.