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I’ve still been way too busy this week, carving tombstones out of styrofoam, planning the haunted house, and making creative Halloween teaching materials for my classes.Tuesday night was Monday Night Football night. I made some fried chicken and brought it over to Brant’s house so we could teach Injoo about football. He showed up late because his mother was making sweet potatoes for us. That’s a new inside joke now. Whenever Injoo’s late, we say he’s making sweet potatoes.

Friday night, we celebrated Liz’s birthday. We wanted to try the new TGI Friday’s in Jungang, but they still weren’t open for business. It confused everyone with us when they were shooing us out of the restaurant, saying they were closed while it was full of patrons. But having worked in the restaurant business for a while, I realized they were having an invitation-only practice run that night. One of the patrons of Magic Castle, Insook, will be working there, and she wants us to stop by on Monday.

So we went to Outback instead.

::sigh::

We have yet to go to Outback where the service is any good. I’m tempted to write headquarters and tell them they need to be more aware of how their Korean operations are going. I know they have a similar system as Chili’s, where I worked for a while. And as much as I criticize Chili’s, I truly admire their system for waiting tables and getting meals out.

Our waiter Friday night had to be one of the worst ever. I could tell he was writing the orders wrong and getting way too confused. Brant told him to rip up the ticket and start over. We also ordered a pitcher of beer, but he kept asking us if we wanted the bucket-o-beer instead. We kept saying no, but Injoo and he kept talking to each other, and Injoo kept insisting on translating this special which we said repeatedly we weren’t interested in. I then made sure the waiter went over our orders again at the table. What we wanted was fairly simple. It was slightly unorthodox but not unheard of. Liz, Injoo, and I wanted appetizers for our main meals, and that just confused the heck out of this guy.

One system that is great in Korea that America should adopt is the bell system. Rather than call a waiter over or have the bane of dining, the waiter that hovers over your table, you just push a button, and a waiter arrives. This is not available at Outback. Compound this with an obvious understaffing problem, and it’s difficult to get drinks or even menus. It’s always a painful experience.

We got our real appetizers first, which was good. But then I saw our waiter coming with a plate and quickly turned back. It looked like it was Injoo’s order of riblets, but he realized his mistake in bringing them out too early and went back. After a long wait, he approached the table and said it was going to be seven more minutes. I could understand if the kitchen was backed up, but the place was only half full.

When the food finally came out, they had committed the ultimate sin. Brant cherishes his jacket potatoes with everything on them. Instead, he got a sweet potato with butter.

“How do you confuse a jacket potato with everything on it with a SWEET POTATO! I saw you write it down, “˜Jacket Potato.’ At what point did this turn into a sweet potato?”

The waiter kept bowing and apologizing. At one point he even got on his knee next to Injoo and begged for his forgiveness. I said that we have no desire for the poor guy to commit seppuku. The main part of an apology is the promise to not repeat the same offenses, and this guy just kept doing the same things over and over again.

Yeah, and on top of that, the food was horrible. Liz’s cheese fries were obviously nuked in a microwave instead of broiled in a salamander. My chicken wings were hardly the Buffalo wings the menu promised. They had no sauce and were coated in the same seasonings as the Bloomin’ Onion. We just scooted out of that place as quickly as we could.

Brant called it a night, and the rest of us went up to Magic Castle. There was no room at the bar, so we sat at a table. I told Silver that it was Liz’s birthday. Again, it was a series of events that I was not fast enough with the camera to record. The Magic Castle guys told me to go to the mic and announce Liz’s birthday in English after Rick announces it in Korean. Silver set up a table next to ours and created a “birthday cake” by stacking glasses and topping it with a cocktail that he lit on fire as the restaurant played the birthday song. To top it off, Silver took in some Bacardi 151, lit his finger by dipping it in the fiery cocktail, and blew a big fireball.

I’ve never seen them do that for any other patron. Those guys really treat us well.

Silver then gave Jeremy a shot in the mouth.

Oh, that sounded wrong.

Silver got the Bacardi 151, and poured a shot of rum straight into Jeremy’s mouth. Now THAT I caught on tape.

After the Castle, we hit the noraebang with Lee and his girlfriend in tow. Injoo fell asleep on the couch. He shouldn’t have had that last Screaming Blue Motherfucker. Liz started going a little wild and fun. She’d sing songs and switch the lyrics to say things like, “Injoo, I wish that you’d wake up.”

After a few hours, I helped Injoo up, and I escorted him and his bike home.

I myself did not remember drinking much, but I did wake up with a hangover. I had a person I had met online coming over later, where I would prepare a pasta in balsamic marinara sauce for her. I had to clean the apartment. I never have company. So I really scrubbed it down. And between the hangover, the bleach, and my emptying half a can of roach spray in every nook and cranny, I really got painfully sick. I almost passed out, and it caused me to be late meeting her at the subway station.

Her name is Eun Jung, by the way, and we wandered around Handaeap. A music festival was going on, and people were taking turns singing on the stage, like a big karaoke festival.

Help me, please!

We had some coffee at Portioli and got to know each other. We then walked around the area many times, talking. I finally braved the idea of returning to my chemical-laden apartment. We bought the rest of the ingredients and some wine. I borrowed a wine opener from Brant. I made her dinner, and she really enjoyed it. We had a good time.

Oh yeah, and she’s now my girlfriend. She’s very cool. She’s my age, mature, a career woman, she gets my jokes, speaks her mind freely, and is very beautiful. So we’ll see if we can maintain this relationship. We both know it’ll be hard since she lives and works in Seoul as a Japanese tour manager, and I, well, I chase kids and clean up their puke all day. And I live way out in the boonies. The good thing is that we’re both aware of how difficult it may be, and we both have agreed to make a conscious effort to make the relationship work.

Saturday was my youngest son’s, Zen, birthday. He’s six-years-old. I tried to call but couldn’t get through, as always. It’s frustrating.

Sunday night, Brant, Injoo, and I were invited to join Sung Hee and her friends for a birthday party”

We ended up sitting in the same booth we sat in Friday. We boys were late, and the girls had already ordered. Brant and I had gotten confused and frustrated that the waitress hadn’t given us menus to order our meals. We then realized that the girls did something naturally Korean, which was a great idea. They ordered a lot of food to eat communally. No one had his own dish. It was just a feast at your table. You know, that’s a really good idea the next time you’re out at Outback or your local TGI Chilibee’s. The service was still bad, but the food experience was much better. We saw the waiter we had Friday and were relieved that he hadn’t killed himself after that disastrous meal.

After dinner, we went to a board game café, another new experience. It was brightly lit and colorful. We sat around a table and were given a menu with various games on it. After ordering a game and some iced teas, the staff would come over with our game and teach us how to play it.

There were weird sounds going on around us. I then traced the sounds to these rubber squeaky mallets people used to bang on people’s heads when they lost. There was a group of teenagers next to us who were going to town, violently hitting this boy’s head with these mallets. It was merciless. But the boy didn’t seem too phased. They had other props such as rainbow wigs and silly hats.

Our first game was a card game where we would slap down cards of different types and numbers of fruit. If there were five fruit of the same type in play, the first to ring the bell at the center of the table would get all the cards. It was not a bad game, and there were subtle rules and strategies, such as the rule where we had to hold our earlobes with our bell ringing hands so that no one had a distance advantage.

After that game, we played Simpson’s Clue. The Koreans had never played Clue before, but Brant and I were old pros. We didn’t finish the game, though. It got too late.

I also recently found out that my brother Ben scored himself and his DJ group Penopticon a record deal through a company in England. The CD will be released in April 2005.

 

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