The Ref

Seoul, South Korea. Spring 1997.

It took some doing, but JT and I finally got around to exploring the basement bar called "Green" near Omokkkyo Station. At one point before I arrived in Korea JT had followed a young hotty down there but was turned away at the door. Ever since he had been bugging me to take him there. And that is what I did.

Inside was pretty standard for a drinking establishment. Some tables in the center, some booths on one side, a sick Karaoke setup in the center, and some private rooms with frosted windows in the back. Semi-sexy videos played on the Karaoke screen, the clientele primarily male. We took up a booth that provided a nice view of the whole place and ordered some beers. An older hostess brought our drinks and a little dish of shelled peanuts. We could see no other working females.

After a couple lagers, I decided to get some buzz and energy up up in there. I got my Karaoke on like I do and the crowd responded. As soon as I took my seat again, 2 Korean gentlemen approached and asked permission to join us. One was a handsome, tall, slender guy who introduced himself as the owner. His mother was the primary hostess. And he owned a Japanese restaurant around the corner. In addition, he was a referee in the Korean National Basketball Association. He got it going on.

He invited us back into a private room where we could talk and enjoy some harder liquors. Four dudes in a private room with a bottle of whiskey and it didn't take long for the conversation to turn to ladies. A couple "one shot" cheers later and JT was prodding me to ask how he could get the Korean love he yearned for. That resulted in a long discussion (dissertation?) on the many flavors that were available. The Ref was very knowledgeable. In the end he mentioned that there was a place right next door that just might suit JT's more immediate needs. "One shot" again and off the four of us went.

Next door was a massage (안마) place that we walked past almost everyday on the way to Omokkyo Station. The Ref walked us in and up to the counter on the second floor. He told the girl why we were there. She picked up a phone and summoned the talent. Out from behind a curtain came 3 gals all wearing matching striped sweaters and black skirts. The Ref turned to me and simply said: "골라봐." I turned to JT and told him to choose. He chose. The Ref told me how much it was, I told JT, he pulled out all his cash and it was almost enough to cover the 145,000 Won fee (~$125 in today's money). The Ref pitched in to cover the rest.

The girl from the counter came around and took JT behind the curtain. The 3 of us that remained looked at each for a moment, then we left. Outside, I said goodbye to the Ref and his friend and went back to JT's apartment and passed out.

A couple hours later, JT returned all a twitter. I was a bit surprised he was back so soon; I thought maybe he'd put in an effort to get his money's worth. Giddy and giggly, he spared no detail. I will spare you though. Cliff's Notes: hot shower, robe, blind masseuse, striped sweater, junk scrub, double coverage, full service, out.

I never saw the Ref again.

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