Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Year Bites the Dust

New Year's Eve nearly turned out as Christmas and Thanksgiving did, with me sitting in my apartment all day practicing and watching movies. As 10pm rolled around and my "friends" were conveniently continuing radio silence, I decided to go find some fun or cause some mischief. As I had heard a rumor that there might be fireworks a few blocks from my apartment, I decided that would be my first stop. If I ran across nothing happening, I figured I could wander into a random Korean bar and drink my way into something interesting.

Well, I saw the fireworks a block away and they were arching over the streets. It was only once I got to that side of the street that I realized that citizens were firing off their own fireworks (which were purchased on the street legally for a small sum). As I rounded the corner and looked down Jongno, I realized I was on the wuss end. Further down the street was a fireworks scene that could have been pulled from "Saving Private Ryan." Awesome...I waded into the fray.

After a few blocks, I realized that I was in for more than a few sparklers. I had happened upon Seoul's version of Times Square in NY. There were very popular bands and singers doing their thing on a big stage set up in front of a traditional building. Actually, it was in front of a building that was the subject of my first picture on this blog. I was in the midst of a crowd so thick that I couldn't move freely in any direction. If I wanted to move a centimeter to the right, I would have had to shove someone out of the way. As it was, I was always touching no fewer than 4 people at once. That's how packed we were....Of course, the fireworks were going the whole time from the crowd. I had visions of a stampede running through my head. This was the kind of crowd that just asks for a horrific tragedy. It would be hard for any one to run, though. You've got to be able to lift your knee to actually walk, much less run. Yes...that packed.

I have many videos on my phone of the actual countdown and the the chaos that erupted after the turn of the new year. It's impressive. If I ever get the cord from my "friend," I'll try to post some of them.

After the show, I wandered around a bit. I went over to the man-made stream and its brilliant lights. Couples and families were walking around enjoying the atmosphere. Of course, I was just people-watching and delaying going back to my empty apartment with no television. I stopped for about an hour and a half to listen to a couple of young groups play traditional Korean drums. Now, anyone who has ever seen me happen upon a Berklee/Goddamn-Hippy drum circle knows that I like to have an aerosol can and a lighter free for those instances, but this traditional business is different. These guys are running a whole different operation. I got a small gist of what was going on, but I couldn't quite figure out the rhythmic patterns and cues. I'll have to get another chance before I leave.

As the last group had a small pile of cash from benevolent citizens, I decided that I should give them they money I would have probably spent on more nefarious activities. Hopefully they could use it to replace the head on the drum that broke tonight, or maybe they'll just blow it with a night out. Frankly, I hope they do the latter. They kept me occupied when I could have just as easily ended up miserable again. The kids were nice and a little surprised that I put down that much, but...well, they deserved it. It was much too cold to be out doing that. I wouldn't take my music out in that weather. Besides, for what appeared to be a bunch of junior high school kids, they were awfully good musicians.


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