The Cherry Blossom Marathon


The cherry blossoms are almost all gone from Gyeongju, and have been that way for about a week now. I’d thought I’d gotten used to them after living here for how many years, but when my parents visited they seemed pretty awestruck by the snowstorm of blossoms falling wherever we went—the trees which looked like they’d been doused in a blizzard. Some cherry blossoms, some flowers were still hanging around Bomun Lake, where I went for a quick walk with my wife this afternoon, the first time we’ve been able to spend an hour or two together without having kids screaming at us in who knows how many months. There was definitely a bit of a flow of soul going on. Life seems almost effortless without small children. At the same time they’re well worth the trouble—you look at them, talk with them, and wonder how you ever existed without them for so long.

Still, one of them hit my face with his watch yesterday. I can’t even remember why. I think I had just told him that he was incredibly beautiful, actually. We were sitting outside in the wind and the sun, and he slapped my face, maybe even my eye, with his watch, just out of nowhere, and I was so angry I snatched it from him and threw it at a fence that was ten or twenty feet away, where the watch itself—this is difficult to describe—separated from the band and disappeared inside a patch of dry yellow grass.

I had just gotten through telling my son that day that I consider myself a pretty liberal parent, but I’m also willing to try more conservative methods if he keeps ignoring me. The boy is an expert ignorer. Maybe literally throwing his watch away counts as an example of a conservative parenting method. I regretted what I’d done a moment later, apologized to him, and then got up to look for his watch, which had utterly vanished inside the dusty grass, which was packed with—you guessed it, this being Korea—years and years of discarded candy wrappers and broken glass. An incredible amount of refuse was tucked inside, and it took me fifteen minutes—I checked my phone multiple times—to brush the grass into the wind and discover the two pieces of the watch and reunite them. The watch face was scratched, but it still worked, thankfully. That’s good old-fashioned Chinese craftsmanship. Later I asked my son what he would tell people if they asked him about his watch. Our conversation went something like this:

“Someone asks you what happened to your watch, what do you say?”

“It fell on the ground.”

“Why did it fall on the ground?”

“Because my dad threw it there.”

“Why did your dad throw it there?”

“Because I hit him with it.”

“Where did you hit him with it?”

“On his face.”

“Why did you hit him with it?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s my boy.”

Nine minutes until my half hour is up. What else can I discuss? I ran for almost seven miles this morning, which usually wipes me out for the whole day, but I’m feeling pretty good because my baby is taking care of my babies somewhere else, and will be doing so for another ninety minutes or so. I have to re-read the last few chapters of a book I was working on a month ago—I didn’t finish that sucker, it’s 350 pages long and when it’s finished it’ll be two or three times that length—because I can’t remember exactly what I was up to. I found a reddit group that requests reviews of books, I think it’s r/reviewcircle, and I’m feeling pretty good about that, since any cursory glance at my self-published books will show that getting reviews is hard. I may contact a Korea-related blog I like and see if they’ll let me post the first chapter of the new novella I’ve pumped out, once an editor gets back to me on editing it. Just kind of blabbing here. Six minutes to go.

What else happened today? During my run a young lady started to smoke me—I was running alongside the river—but even though I was almost finished and feeling pretty beat I picked up the pace and smoked her, in turn. I checked out of the corner of my eye a few times to make sure she stayed behind me, and she almost passed me a few more times, but I managed to keep up the pace for awhile, and pulled off an average pace of less than ten minutes per mile for seven miles, which is pretty damn good for me, although probably not for you.  It seems like half the battle of running faster is just running with other people who are as good or better than you. I know I tend to really slow down unless some kind of competition is involved. That’s also part of the reason marathons are so fun—being surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of gasping, sweating people, and you kind of naturally fall into place in the company of those who are at a similar skill level as you. I once just randomly joined a marathon that passed me while I was out on a morning jog, I found myself near the front of the pack I guess, because the people were just breezing past me. I was also wearing some huaraches I’d bought—not the ones I’d made from a carmat—and those really slowed me down, I’m sorry to say.

Time’s up. Six minutes to write that paragraph. Goodnight.