When Fred and I were reunited in Japan after having lived apart for 18 months, we had to fall in love again. We already loved eachother as was evident during our wonderful idyllic visits in Lebanon, but we had to FALL IN love all over again to make living together on a daily basis work. And let me tell you, the first time was much easier!
When I walked into “The Gift Castle” in New York’s Time Square area, I wasn’t expecting much. Very much like all the other chintzy tourist souvenir shops that line the streets New York, it was full of… I’ll say, merchandise (if you have visited the Pioneer Woman’s blog from post number 6, then you will understand when I say Ree also has to deal with a lot “merchandise” from her cows, horses, and dogs!). But somehow I ended up going into “The Gift Castle” and finding my prince.
It was by complete accident that I went into Fred’s shop. I missed the last bus back to suburbia, and walked out of Port Authority looking for nothing in particular. I saw a sign for “novelty ID’s” and thought it might be cool to boost up my age a little. When I got to that sign however, it was in front of a seedy strip club and decided not to go in. The next decent store happened to be “The Gift Castle.” It was brightly lit, open 24/7, relatively normal looking patrons, and some skinny guy behind the counter. Good enough. They also had novelty id’s available that looked so “novel” that they wouldn’t fool my Korean grandmother into thinking they were some kind of valid form of id, but I had time to kill before the first early morning bus, so I decided to go for it.
Fred had just come from Canada when I met him. I mentioned before that Fred first entered into the United States on an airplane from Paris. He went to visit his favorite uncle who had left Lebanon years ago to live in Texas. This uncle taught him how to swim, took him on trips, and basically showed him how kids were suppose to have fun – an important value that is often forgotten during war. So when Fred showed up in Texas, he was expecting a warm reunion with his uncle, some long-needed guidance into adulthood, and most importantly, family love. Instead, he was greeted with, “What are you doing here?” To say the least, his visit was very short lived, and he found himself on a Greyhound bus to Montreal within days. And from Montreal he came to New York City where a friend of a friend was looking for help at a souvenir shop in Times Square.
As Fred was wiling away his early years adulthood in the laid-back, leisure/pleasure focused city of Montreal, I was being a typical suburban Korean-American school-girl. I worked hard to get into all honors classes, tacked up my Principal’s List awards next to my perfect attendance certificates, and went to the after-school SAT prep school I had been attending since Junior High. My favorite subject was Math (until Geometry, then I hated math, mostly because my teacher was a lush), English grammar was a hobby, and I excelled at Physics. I was in the National Honors Society and the Spanish National Honors Society. And to top it all off I was nearly invisible to all my classmates. I was just one of those typical smart Asian girls that teachers loved. I wasn’t quite smart enough to wow anyone with my intelligence, nor was I a stunning exotic beauty that could turn heads. I just kind of laid low, and went unnoticed by the vast majority of the school’s population.
So my excursions into “the City” probably would have surprised many of those who grew up knowing me. I prided myself in being the “good girl,” but honestly I always thought of myself as a tough city girl. Probably having spent my developmental years living in Queens had a lot to do with it, but I would say it was because I was tired of always being expected to be good, which to me equaled boring. Plus, my trips to the city allowed me to be the good girl, which despite being boring is something I did enjoy, while at the same time having some adventure in my life.
And it was good to be noticed when I was out in the city. My first kiss was at Macy’s Herald Square. I used to go there to play free video games in the Electronics Department. It felt nice to be chatted up by a cool city boy. But I had a policy to never pursue a guy whose opening line was one of the following questions:
1. Are you Japanese?
2. Are you Chinese?
3. Where are you from?
Number 3 is okay to ask, as most people are curious about what country you are descended, but not as an opening line. And I am very proud of my Korean heritage, so I found it insulting to be generalized as Japanese or Chinese. Though now Korea has made its mark on the world in all areas of culture and technology, back then Korea was much less well known than Japan or China. So it might surprise you that my suave International Man of Mystery opened with Number 1. And because of that, I immediately wrote him off… but he sure does have a way with words…