ANXIETY IN GANGNAM | 2017
Updated: Jan 13, 2018
December 20, 2017
I’m going to be honest. Today was a rough day. I was not doing too hot. I was given about a five-day notice of my move to a new city for a new job. The one-hour drive up turned into a four-hour drive in a blizzard into Seoul. I was promised room and board upon arrival, they did not deliver. Imagine a halfway house and it’s cleanliness. Now imagine freshman year of college in the dorms. Now lay down in that dorm room in that filth. With no WiFi. No friends. No one checking in on you to see how you are holding up. Each day goes by, and everyday you wake up thinking that maybe today is the day. Maybe today I'll move into my new home, so I can start settling in. A place with a stove where you can cook that pasta for dinner to save $10 that day. To cook those three eggs for breakfast to save $5 for that day. A comfortable place to call home for the next four or five months.
The only other option is to stay in your four-bedroom apartment with the heated floors, and window covering the entire wall, only to risk that one to four-hour drive every winter morning and evening in your junk 2000 Kia Optima. Commuting is at least three-hours of driving a day. Not to mention you barely had an hour of free time before, when you weren’t commuting. Sometimes I step on the breaks, and they snag, fight back, not stopping. I don't know what is wrong with it, it would cost more to fix the breaks than what I paid for the entire car, but it gets the job done for shorter distances. And that's what I bought the car for, shorter distances, because I couldn't bring my own car with me. Even if I had the time to commute, driving is one of the most likely causes of death. To risk my life three-hours a day. To risk getting into an accident, and having to pay out of pocket for something that could have easily been avoided had someone just listened. But instead, someone is sitting behind a phone with a pen in his or her hand, signing my life and my savings away just to pinch a few pennies. Don't worry about my mental and physical well-being, I'll be fine. Helping others has turned into a charity, write it off on your taxes. Instead, when it comes to actually helping others, people care more about regulations, paperwork, and rules. Today, you can't even donate left-over food to homeless shelters because you might get sued.
Three mental breakdowns laters, I decide I needed a drink. Or five. I put on my black Under Armour leggings, my black Korean sweatshirt, my rubber-heeled black Spanish leather boots, red scarf and my long black wool coat. I’m currently living out of my car so my black outfit is really the only thing I’m wearing this week. I put on some dark MAC eyeshadow, liquid eyeliner, and Bow n' Arrow Kat Von D lipstick, looking shady af, hoping that I’d feel as fierce as I looked. I caught the subway to Gangnam station, because god forbidden I try to drive and find parking in the city.
I stand there at the exit of the subway on the wrong side of the street starring at the tall buildings looking for “the way”. I wasn’t looking for anything in peticular. It’s like going to Target, looking for that thing that you never knew you couldn't live without. You don't know what it is, but you'll know when you find it. Well I went to Gangnam looking for that ONE restaurant, with the long bar, and extensive mixed drink menu, and the perfect combination of food you'll start craving for the next year. A restaurant that has those delicate crystal clear wine glasses with that exact curve to its body, that makes the smooth wine hit your palette as if it were your first kiss. The wine hits the back of your tongue, only to flush the color up into your cheeks, spreading like candlelight lighting up your bathtub in the dark. Adding that certain oomph. The spark and joy it brings your taste buds. Yeah...anxiety made sure none of that happened.
I start walking one way, standing there looking down the street. It looked dead. I start walking the other way, turning my phone in different angles to get the arrow to show me in which direction was I walking. Ah, nope, the third way was it. I go back down into the subway to cross the busy street underground. I have just been craving bloody red steak lately. I wonder if my body is telling me to have a heart attack, or spend all my money. Either way, I'm not sure craving filet mignon has any benefits. I had one nice restaurant in mind, Butcher's Cut, I had hoped that there would be others like it in its area. Two blocks down, I head down a side street looking for hidden gems. I stand across the street judging the restaurants, none of them what I had imagined. The ambiance in them is kind of sad, boring, and quick. None of them scream, "travel an hour to come eat here!" On the corner on the second floor, the walls were glass, and lanterns were hung all around the restaurant. Asahi looks quaint, but I have no idea how to get up to the 2nd floor. I stand across from Asahi, starring at the building, strategizing. Wondering where the stairs were. Sitting comfortably at home now, I know it would have taken me maybe one minute to find the stairs. But in the moment, I thought, "fuck it, I'll just find another restaurant". I walk up the block, over the block, back down the same block I just went down, cut through a building, around the entire block now. I can't tell you how many times I walked around this one block in Gangnam. Butcher's Cut was NOT there. I got back to Asahi, still am too anxious to find the stairs. The Japanese restaurant across the street looks SO cute! It reminds me of an invisible building in Harry Potter that muggles can't see. It's a small one story building, not attached to anything, that stands out amongst the 40-floor buildings. It has curved wooden stairs that go underground. On the right side of the stairs, the wall is shelved with lights and bottles of Sake. I say "ONE please!" and hold up one finger. I startled myself, that came out WAY more enthusiastic than I felt. Downstairs, there are no windows, because the restaurant is underground. As I read the menu, I'm starting to feel claustrophobic without any windows. Nothing on the menu is what I want. The only alcohol they had were bottles of Sake, and one or two choices of beer. I had made a decision to eat here, so I needed to follow through with it. But I did not travel an hour to settle. So, I got up enough courage to put my coat on and walk out of the restaurant. I kept my head down, and when the waiters starred at me, I just smiled politely as I ran out of the restaurant. I would never see them again. I MUST find the perfect restaurant.
I had missed lunch because I was working, so I was starving. I was stressed out, exhausted, I had had three mental breakdowns and was crying all day. I needed some fucking food and a fucking great ass alcoholic drink. I kept settling. I decided to go back to the four-story food place, La Grillia, that was just around the block. I walk in, go up the elevator, ope, wrong floor. Let's look at this menu. Wow this restaurant is really dark. And really romantic. And I'm alone. And this restaurant doesn't serve only one person. Oh these people are getting in the elevator. I follow them. I have no idea where I'm going. I'll just go to the floor they are going to. 3rd floor. Oh, here is La Grillia! Let's look at this menu. Wow, this place is amazing! The wine glasses look so delicate. I bet the wine here is like $12 a glass. WOW, the pasta is pretty expensive. I can't spend this kind of money. What was I thinking? Sadly, I put down the menu, and feel homeless. Hopeless, homeless, pathetic, sad, and lonely. And not to forget, poor. Somebody feel bad for me. Okay, no one is even around. Does no one eat dinner? Why doesn't anyone like food as much as I do? Just leave, JUST LEAVE NOW. First floor. Pizza and beer. Look at the menu. Just fucking eat already! This is so expensive! I'm about to pass out if I don't get something to eat. I could keep looking for the perfect dinner for hours.
"Can I please have the pepperoni and mushroom pizza and a Stella please?"
I'm going to need a second dinner. This isn't enough food. Stella is the only beer they have here and it's $6. Well, this wooden table is nice! I sit down for about four minutes. Okay, that 20 degree gust of wind coming from the door opening and closing is not nice. Why does everything suck? I'm exhausted. I'm not looking forward to traveling on the subway for another hour back home. I slide down the table, closer to the other lady at the table next to mine, and sit on the opposite side so I'm facing the kitchen. Why is everyone starring at me? I start wondering about the guy who owned this place. Whose idea was it to make them wear fedoras? Who designed their white t-shirts? Why is the manager doing all the work? Why do I seem to be the only one eating in this city? They pour my expensive Stella into a clear plastic cup...but it still taste amazing. I'm just going to sit here for a little bit and savor my expensive beer from Spain. I miss Spain.
I give up the hopes of finding the perfect food and drinks, with the perfect ambiance. I just sit there, in defeat, eating a small brick oven pizza, and my Spanish beer out of the clear plastic cup, alone, with the workers trying not to stare at me. I keep hoping the doors won't open, but when they did, I would cringe from the burst of cold air that would hit me in my soul. I pull out my phone and start writing this story from the bar stool at the wooden table, feeling a little bit of inspiration to write. Dreadingly, I put my scarf and coat on, and walk out that door into the cold.
I walk past a large crowd of people, towards the subway entrance. Only then did I realize, that there was a perfectly straight line of Koreans patiently waiting to go down the escalator into the subway. I slowly walk down all the long corridors, past the shops and cafes, through the crowds, until I finally reached my train. Again, all the Koreans were patiently waiting in straight lines behind one another, to enter the train when the doors opened. It was surprisingly really nice. It was so refreshing to see a society, where people were patient, and considerate of others around them. It was nice.
Also, cover your mouth when you cough.