Until I actually learn Korean, there are some distinct advantages to not knowing the language.
One of these is that, especially with Jeju natives’ tendency to be passive-aggressive, I can get away with doing some stupid things because people would rather not deal with the hassle of trying to explain that whatever I’m doing is inappropriate.
I am NOT advocating here being a rude jackass. I don’t cut lines at the supermarket or moon people in public or anything like that. Usually what I’m referring to is something innocuous like crossing the street when the light is red or something like that (cars will almost always stop, motorcycles and pizza delivery people are what you have to watch out for, those guys won’t stop for anything).
On Saturday I was able to play piano twice in places where I probably had no business playing. The first was at a coffee shop with a really really nice grand piano and the lady behind the counter was clearly nonplussed but she didn’t do anything besides glower at me and continue to play the elevator music in the background.
Someone who spoke a little Korean tried to explain that I was a “professional concert pianist” (who only happens to know the Beatles? that was a stretch). I compensated the establishment by buying two (delicious) cookies.
Later on, after we got drunk, I went through barricades to get to a closed cocktail lounge to play piano at the Jeju Grand Hotel.
“Quick!” a friend shouted. “Play before they run and kick you off! He’s coming towards you!”
The guy coming towards me first tried to yell at me to stop. When I didn’t, he just kind of stared at me for a minute or two, then slowly stalked around the piano to where I had knocked over some band stands and then finally poked my arm and got angry enough to scare me away.
That Saturday was fun all around. Me and some friends went twenty stories up to the top of the Jeju KAL Hotel and ordered drinks while gazing down at the city below. I must say that while during the day Jeju looks like a giant concrete nightmare, at night it sort of looks like a generic city, which is to say tolerable for a skyline view.
We also went into another casino. In some ways I am the perfect casino customer because my entire goal is just to have fun and I like to make stupid bets, while the people who ‘win’ make boring, calculated bets and accumulate slowly over time.
On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll ever find myself being a compulsive gambler, because while it’s fun to be mindless every now and then, it’s just not stimulating enough to basically throw money on various gussied-up versions of heads-or-tails, where the house has a slight advantage anyway.
The only game that I have ever, and still could, spend hours playing and enjoying myself is poker, and it takes a lot for certain people to understand that most forms of poker are NOT technically gambling, or at least casino gambling.
There is money involved, but whereas most games are the player versus the house, in poker its players versus other players, and the house just takes a cut of the winnings, with no actual stake (at least in theory) in who is going to win.
Anyway, the Jeju Grand casino is shitty but it’s much better than the “Vegas” casino, which is smaller, tackier, and charges for drinks. The foreigners who come to the casinos seem to really enjoy baccarat, and I mean REALLY enjoy it. I saw Chinese/Japanese visitors dropping thousands of dollars (that’s US dollars, not won) on this stupid game.
I think most people who are spending that much money on a game like baccarat are either addicted to gambling or need to really consider why they’re giving away free money to a casino, as opposed to donating to charity or even just burning it for a laugh.
Next weekend is the lunar new year, and I’m going back to Seoul for it. I’m also happy to announce that my shower water has transformed from ‘sort of luke warm’ to ‘scalding’, which is a real nice surprise. I guess it pays to take care of your gas bills, after all.
Also, the Time Machine by HG Wells is a fine read for one afternoon (its only 112 pages).