Monthly Archives: December 2015

What Do You Do?

Where to soothe the Blues

Where to soothe the Blues

If I were on Facebook these are the pics I would post to show everyone that my life is more full of carefree fun, great food, and friends than yours… after all, isn’t that the sole purpose of Facebook, to convince everyone that you are having more fun than they are… oh, and to share fucking cat pics? But this isn’t Facebook, this is life. And life is more complicated than a tweet or glamorous self-mythologizing FB post, isn’t it? Certainly it is more full of questions. I have one…

So what do you do when you’ve suffered a loss, when you’ve walked away from a crumbling source of comfort and you need to let go and move on? Me, I got together with a group of friends and went to the beach, you know, like Gidget would. WWGD… What Would Gidget Do?

I’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety and sadness lately, and more than a little anger, all over a friend I’ve known for many years. To be honest, I feel like I was handed a shit sandwich. It hurt, but I decided not to wallow in it, to get up and go. I have called in all my friends so we could get together and go do things, so they could come over and I could not be alone. Right now being alone would be death… or at least a really bad stomach flu.

Rather than curl up in the fetal position under my covers and wish I had a bottle of Black Velvet, I decided that the best revenge is living well, but I guess it’s not really a “revenge” situation, so let’s go with: “the best recovery is living well.” I’ve decided to change my life, stop fighting this hopeless situation I found myself in, and let go. I spoke to Ganesh and asked him to remove all obstacles between me and letting go, between me and healing the heartbreak. Taking part in my own obstacle removal, I’ve been traveling to Temples, meditating, and going out with friends, beyond that I am hoping to enroll in dance or language classes. I am coping by moving on and not looking back, no pining, no longing, and why should I? Not when I can go out and do this instead…

Punit, Wilson, Barefoot Justine and Niyama on the beach.

Punit, Wilson, Barefoot Justine and Niyama on the beach.

I look goofy as hell in that pic… but what the hell, at least my smile is huge. I mean… really, I look dreadfully wonky, but dreadfully happy, too.

Yesterday was just the climax of several days of starting over. Sunday I went to the Krishna Temple (there’s no Hindu Temple nearby), and had a lovely time. Monday I spent the day with Tanya shopping, eating and seeing “Star Wars” (Tanya’s also from the Indian restaurant where I seem to find not only curry, but all my friends). Tuesday my ex-student and friend Jenny came over to indulge our Simpson’s fanaticism, and yesterday Wilson, Niyama and I (all of whom I know from the restaurant) decided to go see former Andaz employee Punit, who is working in Jacksonville. What a day!

Without resorting to generalizations… oh hell, I’m going to resort to generalizations… I’m finding that it has been easier for me to talk to and relate to Indians. Why? Well, many reasons, but their culture, even for the non-Hindus among them, seems to open them up more, seems to make them more comfortable with duality, contradictions, and especially high emotion… and I am full of all three. Wanna see evidence of my generalization, just check out any Bollywood film… talk about emotional! I’ve noticed that in most Western films men only cry when it’s pivotal, and they can usually man-themselves-up and get out of it by getting angry and shooting someone. In Bollywood films, the men just cry when they need to, simple as that.

For a start Wilson, Niyama and I had a long drive to Jacksonville, and since I sat up front with her, Niyama and I had the chance to get to know each other better. Even though I live (and have all my adventures) barefoot, there’s still something exciting about getting into a car as a passenger barefoot and going off on a little road trip. Somehow it seems more adventurous and liberating when I’m not driving.

I realized I was in my element when they put on some music. Now, this is the part where I usually get vaguely miserable as I hate most of the music the people around me play, especially Hip Hop derivative American pop, Punk or Metal. No, not in this case, the music that came out was one of my Bollywood favorites, and each song after reminded me how out of place I feel in the shitty world of Western popular music. I even remember smiling and thinking, “Now these are my people.” I felt so wholly comfortable and engaged in who they were, where we were going, and what we were listening to.

We soon arrived at Punit’s place, and Wilson and Punit seemed to go off on their bromance, talking Hindi all the while, leaving Niyama and I the chance to bond. Personally, I loved that there was a small separation of the sexes, the men, Wilson and Punit, in one corner; the women, me and Niyama, in another, and all of it in good fun. That’s one more thing I don’t get about Westerners, this bit where the guys will treat a girl like one of the boys. I’m not one of the boys, I don’t wanna be one of the boys, I don’t want talked to like one of the boys, and around these guys I didn’t have to be treated that way, and I didn’t have to compete with them on that level… nope, no co-ed belching contests with these guys.

Punit has been a friend to me for some time, and even after he moved away to Jacksonville we have kept in touch. I think Punit and I bonded several months ago when he was struggling, so we’d take trips to the Temple. Getting to see him after so long was truly a treat. Punit is one of those lovely guys who has not let the child in him die… the man really knows how to play! And he knows how to draw that out of others without pushing them.

Punit & me...

Punit & me…

After struggling to get to lunch, we headed back to Punit’s and worked out what to do. In the end we decided to go to the beach. I’m not the biggest beach bum in the world, but once we got there and I looked out over the dunes to the open sky, I was totally at one with it. For the next hour or so we walked, talked and played, all barefoot in the sand.

Which feet belong to the white chick?

Which feet belong to the white chick?

I have to say, it was truly one of the more perfect days I’ve had in a very long time. I was able to simply give myself over to having fun, playing, and flowing with whatever was going on.

Unfortunately, in the middle of our fun, I walked off with Wilson and he informed me that he was moving on, probably to the Carolina’s. A tear rimmed my eye, but I just hugged him and told him how much I’d miss him. That’s the life of these guys who work in these restaurants, they seem to come and go, but I have to say that Wilson dumped the news on me in true Bollywood style, in a moment of joy with friends on a misty beach. That’s the way it should be done, isn’t it?

And speaking of the way it should be done, here we are, together, as I start over and refuse to give over to grief and anger, after all anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the darkside… I think Yoda may have said that. The Force, Karma, the Tao, whatever.

Upshot, 4 friends at the beach.

Upshot, 4 friends at the beach.

After our beach fun, we went out to the restaurant where Punit works and had the most amazing South Indian feast! The food was spicy and perfect, and thanks to Wilson, who remembered it was my favorite, we topped it all off with carrot pudding. It was hard going back to Punit’s place, knowing it was time to go, so we milled about in the parking lot for a good hour, hugs, kindness, and good fun, and for another day I forgot to hurt, and truly remembered what it feels like to be alive, to have friends, and to live a life.

but perhaps even better was the drive home in which Niyama and I really had a chance to get to talk and know each other, the overworked Wilson asleep in the back seat while we talked about art, culture and karma.

Best of luck Wilson, I’m really going t miss you! But thanks, thanks so much, and thanks for going out in such grand style, the way you told me will forever be as lovely a memory as our friendship. And the next time I’m going to say goodbye to someone, I’m going to make sure I do it at dusk on a beach.

Sungbo & Brian


Oh no… the Sungbo floodgates have opened!

I just remembered this story, which is actually far more about Brian than Sungbo, but for those of you who missed the first installment of the Sungbo story arc, I’ll set the stage. I had returned to South Korea for a second year of Korean food (that’s sarcasm, for those of you who haven’t had to endure the Korean obsession with their food). No, I had returned for a second year of teaching English in a private academy in Seoul, (actually, Incheon, if I remember correctly), but this time it was at a preschool, so the adventure was quite different than the previous year. This series of events must have come during the first or second week, and it centered around a birthday party. Every kid got a birthday party in the birthday party room, and our first victim was Brian, an otherwise happy and adorable child.

We sat Brian, the happy birthday boy, in the seat of honor behind the cake and gifts, a golden crown crafted of the finest cardboard perched atop his head like a coffee mug atop a cockeyed pile of books. Brian, so full of joy he just couldn’t contain his emotions–I guess–began wailing. It didn’t matter how big the pile of presents nor how perfectly crafted the flavorless Korean cake, he wasn’t having any of it. No one, not my co-teacher, not his own mother could stop the flow of tears and the siren song of his wailing.

The other children were all sitting around their paper plates full of party foods, mostly kimbop (a sort of veggie sushi roll), and small piles of orange this and bland that, enjoying the lovely party. I have to admit, I was a tad overwhelmed and spent most of the time in the back of the room wondering just what the hell kind of chaos I had gotten myself into, and seriously doubting my latest career choice. All the while the parents and teachers in the room tried to pretend that Brian’s ear splitting cries were the gentle sounds of a Carpenter’s song playing softly on the Muzak in the background.

For reasons I will never fully understand, Sungbo stood up, and with an obvious sense of purpose, walked to the center of the room, stood in front of the cake and barfed.

And that was the end of the party.