How the ’Won pays tribute to democracyWhen it comes to democracy, Koreans are lucky. As we saw yesterday, democracy gives Koreans a day off, and a chance to sleep in before they go out and vote. This year, some Koreans ― the old ones ― were even luckier; they were told they could relax at home all day and let their freedom-softened kids decide who’ll run the country, as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would prefer.
Democracy, like everything else, comes from Greece. So you can thank Homer’s home for the extra day off this week, and for letting cretins like you worship Dionysus the night before and Hypnos the morning of.
Itaewon pays homage to Greece all the time. Walk west from the Outback steakhouse and you’ll pass a hip-hop shop called Zeus, then a handbag store called Narcissus. Further down, you’ll see the Olympic tailor shop and the Apollo leather shop. Down by McDonald’s is the Alpha custom tailor shop, and by the Hamilton is the Omega golfwear store.
On the east side of the main drag, you’ll find more Greek names: Helios pub, the Paris tailor shop and a karaoke place called Cosmos. Down by the Crown hotel is an antique shop called Sophia. And then you have the two big Nike stores.
Hooker Hill used to have a good juicy bar called Aphrodite, but it’s disappeared, as love itself tends to do. But nearby is one called Venus. (There are two other shops on the main drag named Venus; one sells lingerie, the other men’s shirts. For a good chortle, look at their signs and sound out the Korean transliteration for “Venus.”)
Two more juicy bars with Greek names are Ambrosia and Nymph. At Ambrosia, halfway up Hooker Hill, you’ll find a goddess named Mindy who’d make the best caryatid this side of the Acropolis, if anyone wanted to sculpt her. You can sit with her for a spell, but she’ll kick you out when a real customer (one with money) shows up. By way of warning, if you know your Greek mythology, file Mindy under “Tiresias.”
At Nymph, you’ll be tantalized by Gina and Jenny, two citizens whose virtues will be barely concealed by diaphanous dresses. They’ll philosophize you out of a glass of wine or three, until higher-paying customers appear, at which point they’ll vanish among the labyrinth of booths and private rooms in the back. Then you’ll be left with the lovely but stoic bartender Yumi, and the news on the TV.
Speaking of news, here’s some of the good kind: Itaewon’s first Greek restaurant opens today. Named after the Greek island Santorini, it’s off the alley behind the Hamilton Hotel, on the second floor of the building that houses the bar Bric-X. The owner of the new place, Irini Choi, is a real Hellenophile, and even a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. She says she may throw a grand opening party in a week or two. Hopefully, in the spirit of democracy, she’ll give the people what they want: free souvlakis, Greek salad and ouzo for a night.
by Mike Ferrin