After a few days in Youngstown, it was off to New York City for our final shots in Manhattan. It was difficult to get James Roehl (MARK) all alone so close to Ground Zero, but we did manage to get a few key shots for the film.
Is it even possible to have no people downtown? Sometimes we at Sangha Films think there are unknown forces helping bring some of our cinematic moments to life. You might call it the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We call it prepping to say action, running a small crew, and getting help blocking the on-rush of people who are waiting around the corner.
Our hotel was in Gotanda. It was about seven stops from Tokyo Station. I dug the room. It was just like my space apartment in Seoul. Everything was compact and ready for micro-living. Check out the entire kitchen and laundry appliances behind Sogee's excitement.
I run rampant across Tokyo. It is 9:45 a.m.. We must check out of the hotel at 10:00 a.m.. I will now discuss the trip in three minutes or less. That is all the time I have. Okay. Go. We have done a lot of things. Mostly, we ate strange things and got lost a lot. We came here without even bringing a map. I suppose it's what one would call a backpacking adventure. Sogee says she doesn't like these types of vacations. "Next time we go to Bali," she says. "I don't like this kind of trip."
I didn't argue with her. We got lost almost everyday. I also wasn't much of a communicator in Japanese. Loren Goodman told me to just use "Mas" and "Das" after everything. That really didn't work. I know that most Japanese end with those verbs, but I needed a bit more of the language to be fluent and express my innermost feelings. That's what I usually like to do on vacations. I go up to strangers and tell them about my childhood or my first sexual experience.
The three minutes has ended. I will write more in a cyber cafe...
I am so quiet these days. I suppose I'm recovering from working so hard on this film. I don't know. I just don't feel like doing anything. That seems a good attitude to adapt a screenplay. I'll probably do that this week. Who knows? Maybe, I'll find some more inspiration this weekend. I head to Tokyo. I've never been there. I've always wanted to go. My life is consumed with Akira Kurosawa films. I watch at least one a day. I think they are moving paintings. I watch them over and over again. I also like watching Toshiro Mifune. He is an excellent actor. I like to see his extreme facial expressions. I might write about my experience in Japan. I might just sit around and do nothing. I definitely feel like I'm in a perpetual daze of 1991 all over again.
Each week a few writers in Seoul are getting together to write comics, stories, or poems on a particular theme. This week when we got together we discussed near death experiences. Below was my week's installment. For some reason, I was interested in the master villain. I may write some more on this, but considering that I haven't written anything and it's almost Wednesday, I doubt it. Usually, I know when something launches long because that's all I do for a couple weeks. Looks like the search continues for the next novel.
Next Week's Writing Assignment: Getting Jiggy
I am not much of a hero. I wish I were. I wish I woke up in the morning with thoughts of “saving the world” or “kittens.” I wish I could look in the mirror and see something besides destruction, brimstone, and a pestilence so severe it peels the skin from human skulls to expose the hidden vanity and dishonesty that lies hidden beneath them. It would make life so much easier to see the “beauty of all things” or have a “poster of Gandhi” on my wall. Believe me. I might have had some semblance of a life that wouldn’t be consumed by how I could invoke a thirty year old curse passed onto me by a witch doctor in Haiti that would make my younger sister think she was a troll, or spend six months trying to hypnotize the students in Mercer County to commit mass suicide rather than studying for my SAT. I could have been a product of Pac-Man, Cheerios, Reaganomics, and the golden arches. Instead, I am hopelessly crippled by my deafening superiority to the insects around me. I sit by myself in the tall, overgrown grass by the bleachers at Roosevelt High and practice my Chinese. That’s the only thing that can soothe my criminal tendencies. Then I think about how I could conquer the world.
I have several methods to bring villainous thoughts into reality. In most cases, I free associate. I don’t mind map or filter a plan with the use of an outline. I just allow treachery to come freely without control. I see the Amoco on Route 6. I think “boom” or simply “get Max, the attendant, to check my oil, while I lift the latch that holds the hood of my car and let it fall on his fucking back and terminate his apparent uselessness to the world.” That’s one of the secrets to creating an effective and ruthless plan for destruction. It’s all about freedom. You can’t hope to melt off the fingers of everyone in your chemistry class by just rigging one Bunsen burner. You’ve got to have the creative freedom to max out the fuse box and pump acetone peroxide and silver nitride overnight into a U-tube, until the next morning, when a mild explosion sends seventeen useless bags of skin to Mercer Community Hospital.
Ruthlessness requires a singular mind that is not corrupted by frivolities that a hero might consider. I don’t sit around in the cafeteria and stare at the smoking hot babes and pretend to be shy because I’ve got some secret identity I’ve got to keep. No, fuck that. I watch how the lunch ladies get the contents for meatloaf from the yellow cabinets by the gas range. I make a note of the size of the bag. I take a few photos with a camera I’ve installed in the top button of my white Oxford. I navigate my way past the buffet line and ask “Miss Charlotte” – because that’s what she asks me to call her – what makes her tater tots so good, and like a dunce, she lifts the key ring from the nail sticking to the side of the fryer to open up the yellow cabinets to see “all them food stores” during her pathetic tour that takes all of about two minutes.
Ji-soo held her hand in the air to block the Sun that was shining through the window into the classroom and right in her view of Mr. Shepard. She shielded her eyes with both her hands before Mr. Shepard noticed her discomfort and reached up to pull the blinds down further.
“Ji-soo!” Mr. Shepard taunted. “You don’t have to go blind in my class.”
Ji-soo’s classmates giggled at the comment. Mr. Shepard was constantly making them laugh with his teasing. Ji-soo didn’t mind the attention when it was meant for her.
“I am already blind,” Ji-soo said calmly in Korean.
“What do you mean?” So-young, a classmate next to her asked in Korean. “You say such strange things.”
“I’m blinded by Mr. Shepard’s assets,” Ji-soo continued in Korean, and nodded towards Mr. Shepard’s backside.
So-young and the others in class who could hear Ji-soo’s comment glanced over at Mr. Shepard. His back was to the girls on that side of the classroom. Muk-Young, one of So-Young’s loyal supporters, gasped and then began to laugh riotously, stopping only to put her hands to her eyes, spreading them wider, and saying with a melodic croon: “Mr. Shepard’s assets!”
“Ji-soo is blind!” So-young exclaimed. “Blind with white fever!”
The other girls now joined in on the laughter. Several began to whisper among themselves and point in Ji-soo’s direction.
Mr. Shepard had already handed out the next day’s assignment. He was writing example sentences on the board.
“Let’s make sure you get your commas right for your self-introductions,” he announced. “I don’t want to see commas where periods are supposed to be.”
Ji-soo noticed that Mr. Shepard had red freckles on his nose and forehead. She imagined what a child might look like with him. She hoped it would have his blonde hair and strong thighs. She certainly didn’t want freckles on her baby’s face. Somehow she didn’t mind them on Mr. Shepard though. It was okay for him to be exactly as he was.
“Does anyone have the answer for number two? Ji-soo?”
“Um, yes,” Ji-soo said and glanced from Mr. Shepard to her paper quickly. “It’s—“
“Blind again?” Muk-young barked in Korean.
“Yes!” Ji-soo shot back at her, and then regained herself and responded calmly in English to Mr. Shepard. “The answer is “E.” Someone who is “anxious” is overly nervous or worried.”
“That’s right,” Mr. Shepard agreed. “Has anyone ever felt anxious before?”
Ji-soo poured hot water from the kettle on the stove into three short and rounded ceramic glasses on the black tray on the kitchen counter. She filled each glass before lifting the tray and carrying it into the dining room for her mother and father who were seated with dishes half eaten in front of them.
“I don’t see the point in going to the church one hour before the ceremony. No one will be there. It’ll be a waste of time,” Mr. Kim said to his wife in Korean. “We might as well arrive when the ceremony begins like everyone else.”
“If you do that, then all the seats will be taken,” Mrs. Kim replied.
“None of the seats will be taken. It’s on a Saturday morning. No one will be there.”
“Don’t you want to support me?” Mrs. Kim asked with an arched eyebrow.
Mr. Kim lifted some sprouts from the plastic container with his chopsticks and put them into his mouth. He chewed and looked over at Ji-soo.
“What are you doing today?” he asked her.
“I have to go to my English class,” Ji-soo replied. “Then I’m going out to meet friends.”
“Any word on schools?” Mrs. Kim asked.
Ji-soo shook her head. It had been time to receive word of whether she had gotten into any universities, but she had yet to hear from her top choices.
“Maybe, next week,” she said to her parents.
“I heard Min Hye had gotten into Seoul National last week. It’s strange that you have had no contact.”
“Maybe, I didn’t get into the school.”
“Oh!” Mr Kim gasped. “Don’t give yourself bad luck.”
Ji-soo grabbed a tea from the tray and sipped it quickly. It burned the tip of her tongue. She liked how her taste buds had no feeling for a moment. She rubbed the pain out against her teeth.
Ji-soo had been standing behind Mr. Shepard for only a moment. She was close enough to smell the aftershave she had tried to find in an international market in Itaehwon. It wasn’t “Old Spice” or any of the other brands the Pakistani clerk had behind the counter. It must have been a more expensive cologne from England, his home country.
“Ji-soo?” Mr. Shepard asked with one hand wiping the board. “Did you need anything?”
“Ye-yes,” Ji-soo stammered. “I need help with this sentence.”
Ji-soo held up her notebook for Mr. Shepard. She pointed to a sentence midway down on the page with the pen in her left hand. “That one,” she said.
“Ah, okay! Let’s see,” Mr. Shepard smiled and took the pen from her hand, moving it over the sentence. “Hmm. Looks fine to me, Ji-soo. Yes, it is. ‘The weather has grown colder since yesterday.’ It’s a nice comparison.”
Mr. Shepard handed the pen back to Ji-soo. She took the pen and held his hand in the process. She managed to grab a few fingers and held them tightly.
“Mr. Shepard,” she began, “I am not in high school anymore.”
“I know, Ji-soo,” Mr. Shepard said and took Ji-soo’s hand in hers to lead her to some seats in the back of the classroom. “You should have heard about schools by now. How’d you do?”
“I did—“ Ji-soo paused slightly. “I did well.”
“So you got into Seoul National? That’s great.”
“What is it?”
“That means that I won’t need to come to this class anymore. I got in. That was the agreement with my parents.”
“I think I understand. Well, you’ll definitely be missed, but you can certainly visit anytime you like.”
“Mr. Shepard!” Ji-soo suddenly shouted. “Mr. Shepard I have to make you—I have to show—“
Ji-soo pulled the zipper down on her jumper. Her skin was pale from lack of exposure. She had a brownish mole in the center of her chest. It was hidden slightly by a see-through black lace bra that peaked through the fabric as Ji-soo let the zipper go and the sweater swung open slightly.
“I am not a child,” Ji-soo said and opened her sweater. “I am here.”
Ji-soo pulled the sweater open a bit further. Her breasts loose in the bra peaked slightly outside of their cups. She noticed Mr. Shepard’s eyes dart towards them. She pulled her bra down slightly and massaged the edge of her nipple between her thumb and forefinger.
“Ji-soo, I am not sure why you’re doing this, Mr. Shepard exclaimed, and put his hands in the air to block his view “Whatever pressures you’re going through. I am sure—“
Ji-soo lunged close to Mr. Shepard and kissed him on the mouth. She put her nails into his back and dug deeply into the skin.
“Ji-soo, I’m not—“ Mr. Shepard managed to say and stepped back slightly. “Please, Ji-soo!”
“Don’t you want me?”
Mr. Shepard bent down in front of Ji-soo. He placed the sweater’s halves together and zipped them up gingerly, careful that the zipper wouldn’t catch against Ji-soo’s skin. He peered up at Ji-soo . “I’m sorry,” he said and dropped the zipper. “I am still your teacher.”
“Alan,” Ji-soo said. “Mr. Shepard—“
“I understand you’ve been under a lot of strain lately. I’m not about to let you jeopardize your good news. Please go home now. I won’t mention this to anyone.”
“But, Mr. Shepard! I know you feel the same way I do.”
“Ji-soo, I’m sorry.”
Ji-soo looked down at her fingers. They were trembling slightly.
“I am not a child, Alan.”
Mr. Shepard stood and walked towards the door of the classroom. He opened the door and waited for Ji-soo to approach...
NEXT WEEK: The Near Death Experience