Hey all you denizens of Haebangchon. You have been noticed and some of you have even been found. I have taken notice. When you hit the main drag here—the boulevard of slapdash dreams—and turn your daily schlep of teaching English into a prance of taking the stage at Cannes or Coachella or bustin’ a move onto the set of Jersey Shore; your ticket has been punched because you have talent and it is a big talent.
I can’t stand to see you sitting in the cafes and vamping it up on facebook when all you need is a great cash influx: the seed money to your genius. No one is messing with your chi here. Whether you are an actor, artist, musician or quiz night marvel this is not a head trip: your time has come.
Remember the only difference between you and those swerving through the Brooklyn art cafes and open mics with their laptops in action is thirty thousand or so U.S. in the bank account. That is it and as every HBCvestite can tell us all: the Muse works in mysterious ways. The Nigerians have solved your most pressing problem! More specifically the ones hovering around your ‘hood. The ones who hang out in the PC Bang across from The Paris Baguette and on the club FM porch listening to African Queen and acting the menace. Well for one thing they recognize your genius as well as everybody else and their reputation as international troublemakers is just not the image they want you to have stamped on them. In fact, in celebrating that the Nigerian Embassy has just had its 50th anniversary in Hannam Dong, Seoul, the embassy has actually just kicked into effect a give-away program to help rehabilitate the image of Nigerians amongst all the white artists living or even just hanging out in Haebangchon.
The name of the four $50.000 (US) grants to be handed out is TOAST (to The One Art Speaks To). And by the way this is not one of those Nigerian scams—“419”— that are so prevalent on the Internet. No, the TOAST grants have all been vetted and four of you are really on your way.
Because you are an artist/’intellectual supreme there is no need for you to explain yourself with too much of a narrative, but I better lay it out who I am and how I am going to make it happen for you. You see I am tight with the local Nigerian community; from the time I was passing out Barack Obama buttons during the last US election campaign. The Nigerians would go flossing in their Sunday best up and down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and putting on the Obama button just went right with their best idea of a Sunday. And for now the present and the sake of your art, I have put my political hat back on. I am the ombudsman between you and the Nigerian money tree.
What’s in it for me you ask? I can’t wait to see you make chop suey takeout of the ropes and hoops that Korean immigration puts in front of you with their cannabis and HIV blood tests. Who do they think that they are? I guess the better question is don’t they know who you are and why are they not out there trying to discover you? The new Canadian Snooky and her partner, the latest and greatest New York Indie Guitar Player. And of course also out there in the magnetic field of waiting-to-be-discovered are the Kings and Queens of quiz night. Winning those pitchers of beer or bottle of vodka does help the budget for sure, but it is all different now. All of your hard work and that Zeus and Juno lightning bolt of talent you were struck with while still in the womb will soon be recognized! Soon you will all show us: the third grade teacher who tried to teach you to read, the junior high band teacher who hinted that your musical ability was about the same as your neighbor (remember he was the one who dared to make you practice together). The uppity high school guidance counselor who broke the news that some community colleges don’t care if you play hockey. And of course your parents who lost track of the conversations you were having with them even before you did. Soon you can show them all the money! And in the present situation when you stay home from your teaching job to see if the NHL has finally gotten round to drafting you? – UPDATE* The Nigerian TOAST grants will also now be awarded to a hockey player as pari-passu with the Korean government’s new measures to issue “talent” visas to attract cream of the crop foreigners
Or if the culture vultures at The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science have twittered you to the short list for your screenplay that is “coming soon”? You might well wonder how do I know about the screen play you are writing? Well, perhaps it’s just a hunch about the presence you have demonstrated here in the ‘hood. As far as the plot and setting or even the motif go, certainly it will have something to do with your high school or college career or even something as revolutionary as portraying to us something about the last time you saw your opposite-sex parent naked. And you are savvy to forget that you are living in Seoul, So. Korea, no one wants to read or witness on stage about how cultures collide. Forget that nonsense and hold off on letting me know any more details. And everyone else is just going to have to wait until HBO makes it into a pilot. In the meantime be content that when you are out on the streets or orchestrating your facebook page: everyone wants to be you. You are proof that a supreme belief in yourself really can pay off.
As I mentioned above and you knew all along, the world will soon know how vital and kick-ass your work is, but let me put out a little press release about you now for when you win the lottery. I hope that’s not too formal a request? Just jot a few notes down and post them on your facebook page and I’ll take it from there. Again, don’t stuff your head with too many details. Just keep waiting for that moment when you walk into Korean Immigration to announce to them that you are not an English teacher anymore: you are a star! You’ll be beyond happy to know that Korean immigration does not have a leg to stand on when you introduce them to your new visa status: cultural superstar. You bought it with your rich Uncle Sam and from the pure-hearted givingness of the Nigerian community. Deep down inside and then in their outward form even Korean immigration officials will bow down to you: for even they know how great you are.
By now it’s time to come clean on exactly who the trumpets of fame are blaring for. Which ones of you will become immortal and how this will happen. Well, now for one thing there will be five TOASTs awarded and it’s all a fair deal. We are going to have a lottery: one participant from the categories thought out above: actor, artist, musician or quiz night marvel and now of course: hockey player.
You must come to the HBC bar on Wednesday, January 19th at the full-moon stroke of 10 P.M. An old, stained black box will be placed on a three-legged stool. You will be given a square piece of paper to write your full name (stage names are certainly acceptable). And you’ll notice on the back of the paper squares will be circles of dark lead done with an industrial pencil and that’s just to keep the process legit and to know that no one can rig the game. No dot on the paper you draw? Then it isn’t authentic and you will be disqualified.
Who can draw? All of you in Haebangchon provided that you will—just for a moment—stop talking about how you can make people laugh, and not point out that the big painting on the HBC wall is yours, or can give up trying to have the bartender play your Shasta beats for everyone. I mean in my mind it’s all about cred, and cred is about paying your dues. So just hold on a little longer: the Nigerians will stay outside on the street (where they feel most comfortable). Mikey from the HBC will draw five names out of the black box and the Nigerian TOAST committee will smile then everyone will be upon you.