Still Flashing (Forward, that is...)

Jan 30, 2009

What it Means to be a Failed Koreanist, Part 3 (final chapter. for now...).

There on the kitchen window sill next to 집사람's Nike watch sits a piece of Korean traditional art. What makes it art? What distinguishes it from the cheap-o ones just like it that you can get anywhere in Land of the Morning Calm? I don't know. But I paid more money than I care to admit for this (and another one just like it) in Insa-dong many years ago. I gave one to a friend as a gift. The first thing he did was cut the string, open it, and look inside. I, on the other hand, have never opened mine. Ever. I think it looks cool like that. Sometimes I do wonder if there isn't some treasure inside (the Lottery numbers per chance?). But to quote JuJu Club lyrics completely out of context: "견뎌야 하겠지."

I've been to Jeju Island four times in three decades. Long ago I picked up this stone grandfather. He protects my house from his perch next to some old books I've read. He looks like he had a cigarette put out on his face, but that isn't what happened. I found him that way. He had a partner at one point, but I "lent" that one to a friend when she moved into a new apartment. I haven't seen that one in over 10 years. Perhaps I never will.

I used to think I was a mask collector. The wife doesn't think so. She thinks I am a guy with a few masks on the floor of a room that has a bunch of Korean books I never read. But I like books. And masks. The smaller four masks on the left side of the photo are hand made. One day in the future of this story, I'll eventually catch up to 1997 when I helped make these. A few culture-minded Korean fellows and myself would pile dried rice stalks in a big cauldron of water and burn the fire under it. After days of repeated boilings, the concoction would turn into a kind of sludge. We would pack the rice stalk sludge into molds to give them the mask shapes seen below. Dry. Paint. Sell. Repeat. Makes me nostalgic for Soju and persimmons (more on all that later. Much later).

I keep the drawer on my nighstand tied shut with a rope. I don't want the offspring or the woman to go poking around in the 짬뽕 of trinkets I keep ratholed in there. Here's a few highlights pictured:
-Tourist Map of BukHanSan on a bandana.
-Wooden Buddha wrist beads.
-Incheon Airport Ball Pen on a lanyard.
-School pin from somewhere called "금옥."
-Matchbox from Denny's in Seoul.
-An envelope of medicine from the corner 약국. I presented with diarrhea and vomiting. The first question they asked was, "Did you eat spicy food"? I said, "What do you think"?
-A box of "Fantasy" condoms I bought from a vending machine in a "여관" in Jinju city when I was there for my second 개천예술제.
-Hand carved mini mask on a hand dyed and hand sewn bolo--gifted to me by aforementioned culture-minded Korean fellow.
That is one deep drawer (figuratively speaking...)

That's all I have to say about that for now. This Failed Koreanist series had a good run, but now back to 1987 where this whole thing started.

1 comment:

ok korea said...

Rice stalks are the new paper mache? I must know more.

I like masks.