Thursday, April 27, 2006

Seoul Food

Spend Sunday morning walking around the empty streets of Insadong taking pictures of Korean menus.

Words fail me.

For more photos from Korea VISIT HERE

Gratuitous cute baby photo

we interupt this blog with this gratuitous baby crumpet photo

soul to seoul

Korean Air has 3 flights weekly direct from Seattle to Incheon. McQuinn told me last time he was in Incheon people were shooting at him. Now it's the site to one of the most modern airport in the world. Stewardess reminds me of Virgin Atlantic (except none are blonde) - all are young, slim, pretty & perky. They also bow before the flight takes off. Er, OK. Lunch was bi-bim-bop with seaweed soup, very satisfying and gets you in the proper mind set.

Arrive at Incheon Airport, miraculously find the right bus to Insadong, then promptly gets lost when I arrive and took an hour to find my hotel. For the Seoul novice - it is a ridiculously complext metropolis where street names are meaningless and even native Koreans have no idea where they're going. The common thing to do is to meet at a local landmark, say, the Starbucks in Insadong or KFC in Seocho-dong. Check into hotel surrounded by a tour group from Japan, walk into room and phone rings 2 seconds later - it's Mark Russel wondering where the hell am I.

We meet at the MacDonalds down the block and dive into a restaurant where Ju-youn orders heaping orders of spicy pork and beer. Stomach grumble for the next 3 days. Move on to rock 'n roll bar drinking cheap Korean beer and listening AC/DC and Dire Straits. This is alright. Go home early 'cause I've been up for over 24 hours straight - can't resist and stop by Sal's favorite street food vendor for some ddbokki and mandu (I won't bother to explain). Home by 2:30am - earliest ever.

Next day head over to Sal, Susan & Peter's joint to rip some Armenian and other 3rd world country music. Sal just got back from Tajikstan, Afghanistan and one other stan and brought back various bad good Russian pop songs. Susan bake fresh chocolate chip cookies. Susan is a diplomat from Canada about to finish her posting in Korea and move to Cairo with additional supervision over Gaza Strip and Sudan. She does not tell her mother this little detail.

Lunch with Sal, JY, Luke & MiJeong in Itaewon for more spicy pork, stomach grumblin' increases. Spend afternoon in outdoor cafe drinking French wine and people watch (popular gay area with hot guys). Move to another bar with bare feet on sandy floor and drink Long Island Iced Tea while swapping iPod tunes with Luke - learn more about Canadian indie rock groups then I ever need to know. Stop by Canadian bar called Rocky Mountain (no kidding) and do two quick shots of tequilla, pack 5 people into a cab fit for 4 and our Korean friends pretend to not speak Korea. Dinner is spicy kimchi pancake then meet up with Mark at another rock n' roll bar in Gangnam to celebrate Mark's 10th anniversary living in Seoul. Mark is a Canadian writing for various Asian & Int'l magazines (such as Billboard and Time) on Asian movies & music. Travel to Hongik (university district) to look for this lesbian bar Mark's friend just opened. The place has great vibes and the owner is awesome. She used to date Mark then changed sides after. In addition to owning the bar she also fronts one of Korea's best rock group. We drink tea while munching on seaweed with spicy sauce.

Sunday. Go to local cafe to check email & update the blog. There is a self-service money refund machine when you return your to-go cup for recycling. Sal remark in America people will just steal the money. Sad but true. Lunch with Sally - who is Canada's agricultural minister - who has been working for years to get Korea to import beef from CAN but another case of mad cow disease the day before probably torpedoes the whole thing. Oh, when you enter the airport there is a cartoon on the giant Samsung screen showing germs killing cows. Not good. Lunch was famous mandu (dumpling) place run this 90 year old women who sits by the window sternly supervising much young women making dumpling. Spend afternoon on rooftop cafe drinking lemon tea while checking out latest teen fashion (mostly short denim skirt - Seoul is not even close to Tokyo when it comes to fashion)

Afternoon go to Itaewon and meet up with Howard - a great friend and flamboyant gay man (as defined by him constantly taking pictures of himself to check his hair) to go sauna. LOVE sauna in Korea. It's none of the tiny wimpy stuff in the west. These are behemeth structures with multiple rooms featuring different styles, cafe, manga library, big screen tv and heated tatames. Throughly refreshed and poisons released - promptly re-injures self when meeting with JY for dinner and some stupendously weapon grade spicy beef. Sal & I nearly keel over and was admonished by JY 'cause she didn't even order the hottest version. Go to bar and drink apple soju to detox and talk shop for 3 hours.

Monday. Work day. Travels around Seoul and getting lost with various publishers and retailers. Accidentally gets dropped off by cab in Youngsin electric mart - sort of Korea's Akihabara. Shameless droll over phones & laptop that we will not see for at least 3 years. Great lunch of seafood bi-bim-bop with the nice folks from Sigongsa. MJ take us to great dinner place where the specialty is seafood soup and snails pancake (delicious!). Travel to Gangnam to JY's favorite strawberry soju place where Susan treat us to stories of her exploits in Malawi (eating hippos for one) as we imaging things she will eat in Cairo. Finish the night at an outdoor tent bar where we drink soju out of bamboo with Sal, MJ & JY. Sweet.

Tuesday. Meeting with Seung-won, a top agent. Turns out she knows people from my wife's company Becker Mayer. Met at Insadong Starbucks which is the only one in the world where the logo is in the local language. Fabulous Korean fusion lunch at a place called Ming's Palace with Sal. The steamed pork just melts in your mouth. Great memory as I take the bus to Incheon, leaving my friends & colleagues in Seoul already looking forward to a return trip.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Baby Crumpet at three

Baby Crumpet turned 3 months old on April 19th.

She celebrated by sleeping in the crib for the first time.

The world is a happy place when you are three.

Sara from LA

Friend Sara Campbell came up from LA to visit - here she is with Baby Crumpet.

Sara & I go way back to the Atlanta Gang (Justine, Clare, Crystal, Kathy, Wally, Jason...etc.). We met up again in NY when she was living in Brooklyn. Now she is in LA handling PR for Starbucks and working on screenplays. We had dinner at Chez Gaudy - one of our favorite restaurant in Seattle - but this will be our last trip there for 21 years as they don't allow anyone under 21 (they made an exception for us that night). I wonder if I should leave a bottle of wine there?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Digital Exciting

Let's say you're disillusioned with the decadent life style of the west. Too much commericialism, blackberrys and people talking on mobile phones. You should go to Korea. When you come back you'll realize USA is a bastion of peacefullness and tranquility.

Korea is Neal Stephenson's wet dream. An example of progress by brute force. Their mobile phones have 8 megapixle cameras, 2 hours of HD video, satelite TV. You see people everywhere watching movies, instant messaging or playing a massive online game. Sometimes they even talk on it.

One of the great joys of Seoul is street food but even there you can find wi-fi (as Koreans annoy me with their ultra-thin, ultra-light laptops - which they use to stream Desperate Housewives). If I need to be embarrassed I can just go to a beach in LA.

For centuries the moniker in Korea was ''Land of Morning Calm'' but that is quickly being replaced by Samsung's slogan ''Digital Exciting''

Next: eating, drinking, getting lost, showering with other men and going to a lesbian bar in Seoul

Sona + Paul

Team Mia visited pals Sona & Paul Page in San Rafael. Since the Pages are thinking about having children we felt it was our duty to give them a reality check. Baby Crumpet complied with a full range of emotions - from super cute to pure rage. The fact that Sona & Paul then took off to Paris right after either means they're going to, hm, never mind.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Family in Bay Area

It's 8 in the morning and I'm sitting at a cafe in Insadong after an evening that ended up at a lesbian bar in Hongik. 'nuf said, moving on with the story.

Few weeks ago Team Mia went down to Bay Area to visit Grandma Dot, Uncle Lyman & his wife Doris. We spent a lovely day together that begun with lunch at the legendary Spinnakers in Sausalito, then dinner at the lovely Shanghai 1920 in downtown San Francisco. Shanghai 1920 is what you'd call Chinese fusion with dishes such as fried black cod wrapped with seawood and red snapper sauteed with cabernet reduction. Baby Crumpet slept through the whole meal as usual, except when we gathered at the end to take the family group photo (see above) that she let loose a nice stream of, hm, fluids & by products no longer deemed neccessary by her body and woke up screaming bloody murder. A frantic mission of diaper change & emergency feeding were administered by Big A while we drove our rental mini-van across Golden Gate Bridge, which strangely Baby Crumpet showed very little appreciation.

She has and is becoming an expert flyer, calmly enjoying the view out the window and paying attention to the safety instructions. Team Mia entertain ourselves by walking up & down the aisles looking for people to sit next to and watching their horrified faces (no, not a baby!). Baby Crumpet wisely avoid airplane food, knew she was smart.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Off to Korea!

I'm off to Seoul for a few days of business and R&R then to Hong Kong for a few days to meet up with my mom & brother. I'll be coming back to Seattle in a week with my mom so she can meet Baby Crumpet. I'll have much more to write about my time in Seoul and HK soon.

BTW - this is written on the Korean Air flight over the Bering Sea (there is wi-fi on the plane, yeah, I know)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Visiting friends in Boston

Baby Crumpet has friends in many places and none more than the Boston area.

Had lunch with the Allens (Kate, John, Sophia, Amelia, sister Cris & cats Olive and Sabine) out in Mansfield. The Allens were the original model parents that showed us it was possible to have kids and still have fun. They were my neighbors back when East Village still felt dangerous and we're still best friends after all these years. They're suppose to visit us in Seattle in August - can't wait!

Had lunch with the Salvatores (Bob, Diane & Bryan) out in Leominster. Didn't know that was the home to Johnny Appleseed & Robert Cromier. Hung out at Bob's house, met his various cats & dogs and admired the new Porsche (result of a visit to the Porsche driving school, guess he didn't avoid the gift shop on his way out). Bob is a New York Times best-selling author and an all-around awesome guy. Go read his books!

Had dinner with Christina Smith at the Parrish Cafe in Boston. The place is downtown hip without the pretense and has an ecclectic menu (egg salad sandwich is much better than it sounds; drinks frappe made with root beer was a crowd pleaser). Christina is planning a move to NYC in the near future to avoid any more New England winter. I can relate as the weather was super chilly that evening. Burr....

Had dinner with the McIntyres (David & Eva) in Medford. Eva is one of my oldest friend with a history that goes way back to junior high in San Mateo. They got married last summer in Napa Valley and are expecting their first child this summer. Wa ha ha ha ha. We went to Red Bones, a famous local BBQ joint and just stuffed ourselves with red meat & beer. The verdict? Not bad for Boston but not even in the ballpark compared to the real thing. Yup, I'm a BBQ snob and have not found anything I like north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Visiting family in Boston

Crumpet's reaction to her first ever airplane trip? Total snooze. Slept the whole way to & back Seattle/Boston. Not even bad movie Cheaper by the Dozen 2 can rouse her. Great little traveler she is.

Boston is where grandma & grandpa lives as well as her cousin Abigael (and parents Ivan & Heather - Big A's brother & sister-in-law). Lots of great meals ensue including an ''open house'' where all of Big A's old neighbors & high school friends came to visit. Great fun was had by all.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Crumpet is back!

We've been missing in action for a few weeks to make time for visting family in Boston & Bay Area + Da Mao squeezed in a business trip to Baltimore in between while Big A was busy with home renovation projects. Over the next few days I plan to post entries & photos from those visits and many, many more.

The Crumpet recently turned 2 months old and the big new development is she has begun to smile & a lot and focus on you (see incredibly cute photo). This has made the Liang household a very festive place indeed. More later.....