He liked nothing more than slipping out the back of the Ritz Carlton and heading down Nonhyeon-ro, more alley than street, past the small bulgogi restaurant, and winding his way to Gangnam-daero 106, finally arriving on the great avenue, Gangnam-daero. It was buzzing with life at all hours, but in the early evening the Virgin Megastore was quieter. He’d slip in, ignoring the rock blaring on the first floor, the insane K-Pop on two and finally, passing through classical, arriving at the international section tucked away in a third floor corner. He’d rummage for Celtic CDs, certain he’d find things he never could get at home, for while Korea was so greatly influenced by America, Virgin, a good U.K. company, brought its CDs from England and sold them at surprisingly low prices. A bit of the ould sod in Korea, and hey, kimchi was once green right?
After years of embarrassment I have finally come into the light. It isn’t that my writing has improved, although I surmise that would be a narrow space to fill, or that I can now draw things that were once stick people and animals and things.
What has improved, and improved significantly is my singing voice, once a three note range, and one not known to music, but now I carry complex tunes to near perfection.
If you ask how this is possible, I will let you in on a secret, it is all in the audience, and mine is now limited to those stone deaf.
Music was so much simpler when I was younger, or so it seemed, artists came and went but we always knew who was who, and when a group broke up you’d almost hold your breath until a new group was formed by the lead singer or songwriter.
We missed the Zombies, but Rod knew where his silver was minted and Argent came along quickly.
The First Edition realized it would have only one, so Kenny Rodgers went solo and we all know that story.
And we learned never to turn your back on Clapton or Jimmy Paige, lest a new supergroup emerge when we weren’t looking.
Now music is populated by genres beyond my aural grasp, singers name Lil This or That, and I miss a world that revloved at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.
The problem, or one of them, is the lack of music today. We have all manner of what people call music, but not the music of the sort we need, needed once and found, as we stormed the bastions and bastards who mired us in war, who shunned darker brothers and sisters, who made alienable basic rights to half of us without rhyme or reason, save greed and fear of loss of status, power.
Where are the songs now, calling us, you, to regain the victories, no matter how small that we won with our sweat and often our blood, eroded or taken over time by those who live in the shadows, who crawl out in the dark, who dread the light we would so willingly shine on them again.
With the stroke of a pen, they enabled me to write the story, gave a framework on which I could hang all manner of dreams and assumptions, inviting a search I never quite got around to making.
I wandered the beaches of Estoril in my dreams, stalked the avenues of Lisbon, looking for a familiar face, but found only ghosts.
With the stroke of a swab inside my cheek, a vial of saliva mailed, the story came apart, and a new story slowly unfolded, gone forever was Iberia, replaced by Scotland and Ireland, Wales, Norway and Germany, and my dreams were filled with the music of the bodhran and Highland pipes.
There is an art to creating a mix tape, more so to day, when tape is usually only found in museums and antique stores.
Then you chose carefully aware of the sonics, aware of the limits on time, weaving a musical tapestry.
You can do a mix CD but everyone knows that with tape you listened all the way through, for fast forward was only for getting to the end of the cassette to play the B-side, and CD’s have no B sides to play.
I was only in jail once, then for four hours, no charges and my biggest fear was that my parents would find out, or the cops would determine that I was only 17 and breaking the park curfew was not even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me a ride back to the park, told me not to go in but I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. I assured them, I’d go home and get some slee before reporting to the University for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder if that was possibly the cell that Joe Hill occupied once, or just what other manner of criminal I might have shared space with, hopefully someone not merely charged with violating park curfew.