Friday, December 14, 2007

What's in a bowl?

So what's so important about a bowl of Pho? Well, this bowl, properly pronounced, "fuh" is what drove me mad almost every time I tried to get a ration of it in Korea. Why, because in Korea, all food is Korean: Italian, Thai,'s all a Korean version of it's real self.

This is what happens in a country that has such a strong history and reputation for xenophobia. At first it's kind of entertaining when you get some serious looks from the locals, but then you notice that you're not being singled out for being American...just not Korean. And even when you are Korean as I noticed with most of my closest friends in Korea, you're just not part of the close inner-circle of the person across the way from you. Now, don't let history and present situation of Korea hoodwink you into thinking that Korea is the most anti-outsider nation in the world.

Other countries top that list: Russia, Iraq, China, Japan. China and Japan are just much more polite in how they reveal it...And, like all those countries, once you let them know you're really interested in them and their country, and not just for the money that can be you actually learn to enjoy the food and put in an honest effort to learn the language and understand the culture, any country can be very inviting: like I say most of my closest friends in Korea are Korean where I was introduced to family and made part of many.

...then there was this need for a bowl. "Oh, all you have to do is ask for cilantro," some friends would say. But, there's more to a bowl of Pho, and other dishes like bun thit nuong and others, that mean more than cilantro. There's cilantro, basil and mint. There's the manner in which the broth for the soup is prepared with special little spices my Vietnamese friends have yet to tell me, and the way you don't marinate the thin slices of onion--the way it's done for Korean galbi.

--NO! NO! NO!

And that's why I prayed that when I got back to San Fransisco, after almost year in Korea that Vietnam II Seafood Restaurant would still be at 701 Larkin in Little Saigon. It was and I was elated! Don't get me wrong. Korean food is great...and I'm already getting the pangs for the hot decadence that offers an endorphine high to fight the ill effects of Korean winters and summers...but four years living in Saigon as a kid, and one year in a Vietnamese prison helps a person appreciate the finer things in life...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"If you're going to San Francisco...remember to put a flower in your hair..."

Well, it's late. I just had dinner with my buddy, Joe McPherson of fame and new visitor from the New York Times, travel writer and culinary adventurer, Matt Gross...I'll let you get the full gist of that story in the installment to be done by him for the NYT.

As for me, I'm on a plane to San Francisco on Wednesday. It has been almost a year. Many thought I'd be back in the US by summer, and at one point, so did I. But, I've found the re-education of life purpose to be truly exhilerating. I came to write a movie script (I've written, two), met and learned a lot for five months from the Steven Spielberg of Korea, Kang Woo Seok (Silmido/Hanbando: Cinema Service/CJ), trained a number of ROKAR officers from second lieutenants to Colonels, and finally got a new business going: and after returning to San Francisco will by the next month make it down to LA and the world called "Hollywood" with a renewed sense of confidence in the words "success engineering".

Has it been worthwhile? Well, I can't help but wonder if this what my return from Vietnam would have been like had I had the maturity and wisdom only 43 years of life can give (I just had my B-day on Thursday) matter having, what many told me when I returned from that prison in Vietnam at the age of 19, lived the life of a man of 60.

I'm still processing everything, but I'm not losing any sleep on it the way I did when I finally came back from the war in Central America for the last time in 1989. No, this is much better!

Yes, Asia is no longer the Asia I remember from 1983 and '84, where we were still much into the adventure, tripping and trekking that "Vietnam" created during the 1960s and 1970s...the kind that led to the likes of Sean Flynn, Dana Stone, Tim Page, and Michael Herr: men who would be my heroes for nearly a decade of adventure, romance and writing, some who I would later be honored in calling friend (Joe Galloway, John Everingham, Zalin Grant) Asia that is at one point, sadly lost, and another that is thankfully almost forgotten....except for the need of human beings to try that which is new and exciting...a lost image that fills trekker catalogs and the mind of the brit author who penned Leonardo Dicaprio's filming flagship shot near Phuket: "The Beach".

Yes, my mind's in a spin and I know that my renewed interest in posting will be inspired by those thoughts in the months to come....Peace.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Lesson in Hangul!

Well, here I am in South Korea, otherwise known as the ROK, learning the language and the culture. Let me tell you it has been a real eye-0pener into many things, least of which is using Did you know that if you have an Internet connection here, eventhough you're set for English, you get Hangul, or Korean script?

So what am I doing here?

Getting my film writing and directing career going...and teaching at the Korean Army MIL INTEL Language School for a one year business visa, of course!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Are you in San Francisco on March 8th at 7 p.m.?

Much ado!

If you're in San Francisco at 7 p.m, Come on down to the Union Square flagship of Borders Stores. I'll be doing a presentation and book signing.

This will be my last book signing for Bamboo Chest and for a while in the US as I'm headed to South Korea!