By Tiger and Bear with illustrations by James Wilson
An introduction: Dancing with Nietzsche is based on mythical events.
It is neither fact nor fiction; instead it is an account of two performance artists named Tiger and Bear, who had been influenced by the old Korean folk story of the same name. The myth of tiger and bear tells of the birth of Dangun and the founding of what we now call Korea, a geographically and politically divided nation. The “performances” in the following story hold little relation to this original folk story
Act Four: The Hotel
Given the night’s events we felt it was only right to follow through and proceed to some form of after show debauchery. Determined to find a soiree of some description and resolute that we would not be returning to our room, we walked the white washed corridors of the hotel we’d been placed in, searching for some entertainment. After walking down a maze of corridors we latched onto a trail of cackling and guitars. We followed the sound to a door and began slamming our fists against it. A shy Korean girl answered.
“Party?” Bear asked.
Before she could even respond we barged past her, into what could only be described as the weirdest after-party in the known universe.
The room belonged to Sapphire Crucifix, a Korean folk rock band. The band appeared to be made up of students, with the exception of their flute playing leader; an emancipated middle-aged salamander who made it back to this life in an upright form. Clad in fire engine-red tracksuit pants that came all the way up to his arm pits, almost completely obscuring his brilliant white wife-beater vest. His worn face had all the hallmarks of a seasoned soju fiend. We knew straight away that we were in exquisite company.
There wasn’t much in the way of furniture, except for a few low tables adorned with cup ramen, dried squid and chocolate coated potato snacks. Beneath the nutritionally devoid surface were copies of the band’s self produced debut CD. The cover displayed a blue crucifix overlaid with some Chinese characters. There were also a few leaflets and fliers for upcoming concerts. Bear instantly walked over and began taking an interest in these reading materials.
After some brief mumbled and painfully awkward introductions we settled, the band sitting around the table, singing folk songs and swigging soju. Meanwhile, we sat opposite the tracksuit sporting psychopath, discussing the finer qualities of a unique genre of ethnic music commonly referred to as Peedo folk.
With our backs to the rest of the room I poured out shot after shot of soju, while Bear poured over one of the pamphlets that had caught his eye. The Peedo master knocked back the shots as quickly as they came, each time shuddering as his central nervous system was set aflame by the raw chemical alcohol. Gesturing violently with his flute he bellowed,
“Peedo folk has a long lineage…” he paused, momentarily staring into space, as if gathering some kind of twisted energy, “…it has gone in many directions, passed down through many generations…that is why we must keep our tradition alive!”
Despite being treated to various monologues in this vein we were still none the wiser as to what exactly Peedo Folk was, even after an hour of these quasi-lectures I had the notion it was the mediocre soundtrack that the wife-beaters and the flea-nitten in the room were just hooked on. Invariably when we attempted to ask one of the band members for a definition they only replied that we should listen carefully and the truth would soon confront us.
After one particularly lengthy outburst the master slowly lofted the flute above his head, candle light illuminating the shadows and hollows of his gaunt face. His followers suddenly fell silent and for a moment nothing happened. He bellowed something in Korean, the band members cheered, clapped, and launched into another song with renewed vigor.I glanced over at Bear, who was slouched over, still intently reading a leaflet he had picked up earlier. The front page described how the leaflet had been financed by a Christian sect who wished to spread a theory that bridged the creation myth of tiger and bear with the Old Testament.
The master slowly put his flute to his lips, yet before he could play a single note Bear raised his hand and interjected.
“Er, excuse me; I was wondering about your band’s name…I know you’re into Speedo folk and all that…”
“Yeah, but…well I mean…are you a Christian rock group or something?”
Suddenly stone cold silence descended. All eyes were on Bear and I.
The Peedo folk master spoke in a low and solemn tone.
“No, we have nothing to do with the church,” he said.
He leapt to his feet, brandishing his flute as if it were a dagger.
We both nodded glumly.
The pamphlet was torn from Bear’s finger tips and tossed into the darkness. The master gestured to one of the prodigies behind us. A dreadful and poisonous feeling began to form in my gut, like a serpent eating away at my soul or like the salamander was going to try to make me swallow his flute. Movement behind us, footsteps on the polished wooden floor. I realized the feeling was the premonition that they might actually rape us.
As the nauseating sensation in my gut intensified I wrapped my fingers around the neck of a soju bottle, reasoning that even if they were to pin us down I could disembowel or slit the throats of at least a couple of them with a broken bottle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the handle of what was most likely a pair of scissors slip down Bear’s sleeve and into his hand.
I sensed somebody was behind me. I gripped the bottle tightly, ready to strike it against the wooden floor and drive it straight into the master’s foul and disease ridden crotch.
Without warning an acoustic guitar was passed slowly over my head to the Peedo folk master, who took it by the neck and in turn offered to me.
“Please, calm our spirits with a song,” he whispered gently.
I cautiously relinquished my grip on the bottle and took the guitar by the neck and laid it across my lap. The master gestured and I slowly turned around to face the seated prodigies. I didn’t know any Peedo folk ballads, yet began to cautiously brush my hands over the strings, making chord shapes with my trembling fingers. I started to strum out a rhythm. Nervously I opened my mouth and a wavering voice began to emerge, cracked and croaky from cigarette and soju abuse.
“I have a kitten
It’s so fluffy and cute
My kitten got AIDS
How did my kitten contract AIDS?
He was such a good cat,
Good kitten, really, really good kitten,
Until he got AIDS,
Now he’s shit because he’s got AIDS,
Rapturous applause erupted from the prodigies, evidently appeased by my heart warming ballad. With a slight of hand Bear slipped the scissors up his sleeve and out of view. Evidently nobody’s throat would have to be carved open just yet.
More soju bottles were opened and passed around. Seals cracked, chemical alcohol sloshing to the bottom of shot glasses, promptly thrown into the back of throats. Pupils dilating, blood flowing into capillaries, speech slurring. A run, a skip, and a fall.
Then out of nowhere I blurted out something along the lines of “Let’s bring the party next door!”
The silence descended instantly; even more ghastly than the time before, exacerbated by the fact we’d managed to slaughter the mood again. We were stonewalled in front of a gallery of solemn Korean faces, all staring at us, eyes filled with pure terror. One of the back up singers spoke up in a shaky voice,
” You shouldn’t go there, that is where…the darkness lives…”
I looked over to Bear and stated laughing,
“Evil? We’ll show them evil. C’mon, let’s bring the party.”
“Let’s do it…” he mumbled.
As we walked past them the band only sat and watched in fear with a kind of fascination that people usually reserve for those who climb down from the subway platform into the path of an oncoming train. We passed through the patio doors and out onto the balcony I cast a glance back. The Peedo folk master was shaking his head.
The night air was thick and muggy, mountains lurking in the darkness on the horizon behind the hotel. The gap from one balcony was over a ten story drop. I shakily swung my knees over the side, held onto the railing and stepped over the gap. Bear followed, hiccupping, his tie flapping in the cool night breeze, the dark mountains anchoring the night sky.
There we stood on the balcony outside this new room. A strange red light filtered through the patio door. As we moved closer and attempting to peer through a bone rattling gusto of wind tore past, sending us both into a fit of shivers. Too boozy for hesitation I grabbed the door’s handle, slid it across and entered.