Friday, May 15, 2009

This entry is about the Tao of Kim. Tao used strictly refers to Taoism, but used loosely, it means the way or the path. The Korean word for road, gil, comes from the Chinese character that is pronounced dào in Chinese. So this entry, then, is about the Way of Kim.

Background: I hadn't seen Kim in about a month before tonight. When I asked him if he was busy because he just recently seeing a girl, he replied instead by asking me to meet him at the bar across the street from my apartment. This was at 11 at night. This bar is expensive, but has very attractive waitresses, except for the one that glares sternly at us, as though she is aware of the absurdity of our conversation.

It's safe to say that I've never seen anyone wearing running shorts at a bar, certainly not at 11 pm, and certainly not in image-conscious Korea, where it's rare to see anyone wearing track pants in public. But, of course, this the Way of Kim. I vacillate between thinking that he doesn't understand social conventions and that he doesn't care for them. Whatever, the case, it takes a certain amount of confidence to walk into that posh bar with shorts to your mid-thigh, especially as a full-blooded Korean with the Resident Registration Number (the actual name for what I mistakenly called a national ID) to prove it.

I've learned a lot from friends that are far bolder, far more eccentric than I could possibly dare to be. If Andrew Fisher is reading this, I am eternally grateful to him for his penchant to engage complete strangers in direct conversation, which I think I have picked up. It's rare to see someone who will say exactly what is on his mind, even if it is sensitive, to a complete stranger. Seeing someone do it makes it okay for you to do it, and that's how I was able to invite myself to a wedding last fall.

What I've learned from Kim is to say and do exactly what is on my mind for the satisfaction it provides. It's frustrating to keep your thoughts to yourself. It's satisfying to say, without varnishing, what you're thinking, whether good or bad. Kim has told people that they're too fat to wear skirts, that their nose looks broken, that they are very sincere (a very high compliment in Kimglish) and so on. Kim also shared extraordinarily intimate details of his life with me the first time I met him and said "yeah, you look like a bear" when I said that I hadn't shaved in a few days. He also wears short shorts to bars, asks waitresses if the food he's about to order is delicious and blames all sorts of impertinent inquiries (the price of poisonfish, why North Korean waitresses are not singing to us) on his foreign friends.

This is the Way of Kim, but to be honest, every post about Kim adds one dimension to the infinite dimensions of the Way of Kim.

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