Karma’s about as religious as I get. Even though I think it’s an overly simplistic way to view the world, there’s nothing wrong with living your life with it as a guiding principle. I quit Spotify the other day after it sunk in that musicians don’t make any money from it. I had been mostly using it to play the new records of bands I love. Stupid and naive, really. I want my favorite musicians to make the best possible music they can, and giving them money is a good way to help make that happen.
A few days after I deleted it from my phone and my laptop, my boss gave me an iTunes gift card that I used to buy the records I’d been listening to on Spotify.
It reminded me of walking through Insa-dong in Seoul. It’s a tourist street, something like the Korean version of Barcelona’s La Rambla. Vendors and street performers. Souvenir shops. One day, when I had just moved into my apartment in Hongdae and I didn’t have anything on the walls, I went down there to have a look around. I had my camera and was photographing a man in traditional robes paint on a piece of parchment paper spread out on a flat rock. He painted in the traditional style, using calligraphy brushes, and he did it quickly. In a matter of minutes he had drawn the portrait of a man next to Hangeul written vertically down the side. A few people laid down 1,000 won notes next to the rock. I took another photo and walked on.
As I walked I thought to myself, if you’re not willing to give an artist a little bit of money for the entertainment he just provided you, then how can you expect anyone to pay you for what you do? So I turned around and went back. I laid down a 5,000 won note and as I went to walk away the man rolled up the parchment and handed it to me. “Give,” he said. I went home and put it up on my wall.
The iTunes cards were gifts for our second wedding. Our first we had because I was moving to America and I wanted Nammin to come with me as soon as possible. This one was because my health insurance company audited me regarding my dependents. We needed to prove we were married in America or Nammin wouldn’t have health insurance. Isn’t that romantic?
We spent last weekend in Denver, the city I associate with Neal Cassady more than anyone else. From a sidewalk table on Market Street, we watched the club valets next door rod each car they got in down to the nearby parking lot. Didn’t matter if it was a Mercedes or a Buick. Full speed down the street. The city smells like marijuana. Not just on the sidewalk or in the parks, but the odor of pot hangs over everything. Both would have made Cassady proud.
Our half-dozen tomato plants are yielding more fruit than we can eat. Times like this it’s hard to imagine escaping to the city.