My best buddy in 1997 was Bob Horne. He was a fat homely man with no hair on the top of his head. But he did have a cool orange-colored moustache and goatee which made him stand out in the crowd. Facial hair is frowned upon in Korea. If Vladimir Lenin had eaten too much cake back in the day, he would have ended up looking exactly like Bob Horne. Their similar facial features were quite striking.
I found him in his room on a Wednesday morning reading a horror novel which he had brought from America. He simply adored ghost stories. In fact, he had packed twenty-five of them in his suitcase before making the journey overseas.
I said, “Let’s go visit Yvonne and Brandon on Friday.”
He lit a cigarette called This and exhaled deeply. This remains a very popular brand in Korea. In fact, it’s the cig which everybody smokes. Back then, you could buy ten packs for less than eight dollars.
Bob said, “I’ll probably stay here and read.”
“You travelled all these miles just to lay in bed and soak up some pulp fiction?”
“I get what you’re saying, but Yvonne is a real fucking dick. He drives me up the wall.”
“He drives everybody up the wall, so it’s not like you’re special. Besides, he told me that he’s playing his guitar that night in some bar for free beer and French fries.”
“Free beer and French fries?” Bob started laughing. “No shit.”
“No shit. I’m dying to see that performance.”
He nodded. “I’m in.”
On Friday evening, all four of us caught a van down to Nonsan straight after work. The vehicle was driven by a Korean who was employed by Yvonne and Brandon’s English school. The journey took roughly an hour.
We talked amongst ourselves during the ride.
I said, “How are your living conditions?”
Brandon said, “Not that great. Our manager put us up in a love motel.”
Love motels are places where young Koreans go to fornicate away from the prying eyes of their parents. These rooms come equipped with large beds and huge wonderful showers. Plus they are reasonably priced. You can stay for about forty bucks per night.
I said, “Love motels rock. At least you don’t live in the ghetto. Me and Bob don’t even have a window to enjoy the sunshine.”
Brandon said, “I suppose you’re right. But I can hear people fucking all night long. It wakes me up. They squeal like pigs.”
Later, we went to the bar to listen to Yvonne strum his guitar. Bob and I sat at a table filled with Canadians. It wasn’t quite time for Yvonne to strut his stuff. He introduced us to his friends. The lot of them were wearing sandals with blue socks. Plus they were all sporting backpacks with a patch of the Canadian flag sewn into the fabric. It was very strange. I wasn’t familiar with Canadians back in those days. They seemed to look alike.
Yvonne said, “This is Buffalo and Bob. They’re both Americans.”
These weird birds immediately turned sour.
One said, “Thank God I’m not from the United States.”
Another said, “You should wear the Canadian maple leaf when you travel. You’ll get treated better by the locals.”
I didn’t make a big issue of their rudeness, but I did drink too much beer and soju. I was nearly blind drunk by the time Yvonne began his set. He started belting out a tune called Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot.
I shouted, “Sing for your supper, you ugly motherfucker.”
Then I started pelting the poor guy with snacks from the table. In fact, I managed to hit him right between the eyes with a peanut. Eventually, the owner of the bar told him to get off the stage.
Yvonne became very angry. “Because of you, I’m not allowed to perform here anymore. You’re a real asshole.”
I said, “I’m sorry. I was just kidding around.”
A Korean who witnessed the event joined us at our table. He spoke good English because he had actually grown up in Vancouver.
“The owner thinks Yvonne is causing problems and making everybody angry with his singing. He doesn’t want him to come back after tonight. You must all finish your beer and go.”
Yvonne said, “But I didn’t do anything.”
The Korean shook his head. “The owner insists that you find another place to play.”
Bob looked at me and laughed. “You act like a jerk, and he gets a permanent ban. Only in Korea.”
I said, “Do you want to catch a train to Pusan tomorrow?”
“Why Pusan? Why not Seoul?”
“Pusan sounds like pussy. And I could really use some pussy. My blue balls are killing me.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Why the fuck not?”