You Get Your Damn Hands Off Her: Things in Korea that Will Kill You

Or is it "keep your damn hands?" I can't be bothered to look it up. As you may have guessed, I'm going to try and keep the Crispin Glover-centric headlines going for as long as I can. And if you didn't guess, go ahead and read that last sentence a second time. Try to keep up from now on.
I was planning on making this a much-beloved recurring series, but as those who can scroll back through the annals of this site will attest, I tend to lose willpower and focus rather quickly and just unceremoniously drop them (see: Timecube/MLS preview). Instead, I'm going to try to write one handy field guide to not staying alive in the southern half of this peninsula. If you cross that 38th parallel, you're on your own, chief. I can't be held responsible for that shit. Anyways, at risk of me writing so many lists I start getting paychecks from, here, in no particular order, are Things in Korea that Will Kill You:

1. Soju - Everyone say hello to the national drink of Korea. It may look innocuous, but like a tiger hiding behind a giant picture of Tony the Tiger, it wants to follow you home and eat your family. Unlike other traditional forms of alcohol, which are distilled, brewed, fermented or created in some other way that God intended, soju is simply watered-down ethanol. Did I mention they add sugar for flavor? No, I didn't, because added sugar is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic thirty years after it sank.
A brief history: Soju didn't use to be a tool of the monkey god Hanuman designed to destroy humanity; it used to more like sake. Then, a rice shortage following the Korean war forced the government to make people stop turning all their rice into to liquor, as eating is somewhat more important. Hence, the near-gasoline that we all enjoy today. Oh, it also runs you roughly $1 a bottle.

Unoccupied Taxi Cabs - It's a common stereotype that people outside the United States and Western Europe drive like fucking maniacs. This is because, of course, that all stereotypes are true. But Korean taxi drivers take it to a new level. There is no more dangerous person on the road (in a country where a four-hour driving course earns you a driver's license) than a taxi driver with no fare. I have no real explanation for this; all I have are the numerous close calls I've had on foot and on bike with these reckless fuckers. They seem to become rational once more once they pick up a fare, and this probably has something to do with the law that states you owe the taxi driver no money if he gets in an accident. This isn't to say riding in a taxi isn't occasionally hair-raising. One of my first experiences was barreling down a two-lane country road at over seventy mph as the driver sat, turned around, laughing at me. Why was he laughing? Because my seatbelt was broken and wouldn't latch.

Holy Shit, the Yellow Dust - Around this time of year, Korea is treated to a fantastic "Howdy, neighbor!" from those ever-gregarious gents, the Chinese. It comes in the form of stifling, allergy-inducing and lung-destroying "yellow dust" (also commonly known as "Seriously, What the Fuck!!!??!?"). In years past, it was a mass of dust blown in off the Gobi Desert, but nowadays packs that extra punch of good old-fashioned Chinese air pollution. There's really not much I can say, I mean, just look at that goddamn picture.

Strong Dick! - This entry has as much to do with killing you as it does with that picture. I hope you respect the man with the cojones to type in "strong dick" to google image search, because that was a harrowing half a second where I was trying to decide whether or not to click. But I digress. There is a legend in Seoul of a taxi driver who goes by the name "Strong Dick." He has simple business cards that say his name and his phone number; nothing else. When you call Strong Dick (or, even better, accidentally hail him) he will take you to the shadiest red light districts that ever red lit. Stories abound of him trying to pimp his daughters, taking people who have lived in Seoul for years to places they couldn't locate the next morning and going by the name fucking Strong Dick. Along with eating dog, this man is at the top of my list of things to do in this country. And no, I'm not going to reword that.

Well, it's getting late here and I still have two lesson plans to write for tomorrow, so it looks like I'm going to have to continue this at a later date. I'm headed up to Seoul for St. Paddy's as well as to watch a certain man die in a marathon. So I'm sure I'll have something non-list related to write about by then. Will it be my favorite coked-out bartender? Or will it be the saga of me buying jeans OUTSIDE OF A STORE? Only time will tell...

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