Sweat, baby, sweat

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As the woman behind the counter at the Korean Consulate General office on Park Avenue in New York City asked for my visa application, I realized that, in preparation for bringing everything needed to get my E-2 work visa for my job in Busan, South Korea, I had forgotten perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle after the Notice of Employment from EPIK, and sweat began to rain down my face and pool in places best left unmentioned.

The woman, seemingly sympathetic, waved her hand and said, “no problem, you just fill out another” and handed me a blank visa application.

But, it was too late. Once the sweat begins, it won’t end until I am back outside in the quickly dropping icebox metropolis.

As the woman behind the counter at the Korean Consulate General office on Park Avenue in New York City asked for my visa application, I realized that, in preparation for bringing everything needed to get my E-2 work visa for my job in Busan, South Korea, I had forgotten perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle after the Notice of Employment from EPIK, and sweat began to rain down my face and pool in places best left unmentioned.

The woman, seemingly sympathetic, waved her hand and said, “no problem, you just fill out another” and handed me a blank visa application.

But, it was too late. Once the sweat begins, it won’t end until I am back outside in the quickly dropping icebox metropolis.

I was perfectly fine one late morning in June 2004 when, while pulling weeds during my brief tenure as a grounds caretaker for Deep Cut Park in Middletown, NJ, my boss handed me a gallon bottle of tap water and said, “maybe you should go inside and cool off for a few minutes.”

Yes, I was hot. Yes, I was getting a little tired, mostly from the boredom of pulling each and every little stinking weed from between the ornamentals at the entrance to the small, 53-acre garden park, but I didn’t think I was ready to pass out. The beads of sweat falling through the creases in my 25-year-old face as to look like I was bleeding tears told a different story.

I can work through strenuous activity with little to no perspiration. But, once the switch is switched, there is no turning back.

I sat down and began to fill out the visa application, wiping sweat on the sleeve of the new purple button down shirt I bought ($9.99 at J.C. Penney!) the night before for the “bookie” character in the Murder Mystery gig I had performed an hour before at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House on 51st. What is with that name, anyway? Ruth’s Chris? It’s very difficult to say. Being “the talent,” performers get their meals gratis. Mine was two four-ounce filet mignon tenderloins, rare, with jumbo shrimp. The sometime vegetarian in me cried a little with each soft, savory, succulent bite.

The shirt sleeves were quickly becoming soaked, aided by the fact I had slipped my sweater on over the shirt while at the restaurant to give any attendees that happened to pass by on their way to the bathroom the illusion I was someone else chowing down and not the man who had just been slipped a poisonous drink and had stumbled out of the room, choking. Choking on all this talent! Yeah? Am I right?!

I took off my coat (I had my coat on, too? No wonder I was sweating), rolled up the sweater and shirtsleeves and got back down to brass tacks.

Name of contact in Korea? Name of contact in Korea?? Who the hell is the name of my contact in Korea??

I began sweating again.

“Just put EPIK,” said the nice woman behind the glass, referring to my employer, the government-sponsored English Program in Korea. “That’s fine, that’s fine.”

I finished filling out the application, went back up to the woman and waited for her to look over everything to make sure it was in order. She said they would have the visa ready tomorrow to ship.

“Can I pay for shipping with a check?” I asked.

“No, sorry, only cash.”

I began sweating again.

After running downstairs to the Citibank in the building to pull out the required money, I realized it probably would be easier to just come back tomorrow since I would be coming into the city to see Colleen for dinner (my first taste of Escargot. Crying vegetarian). And $20 for another roundtrip train ticket is about the same as $18.30 for Express Mail. And the Murder Mystery folks are covering my train ticket today as a work expense anyway, so I’m breaking even.

After all that, I smile to the woman and decline the envelope, saying I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon. I nervously eke out a subdued “kamsahamnida” (thank you) and turn to leave, but not before a Korean woman in another line gives me a wide smile and nod. They say even the effort to speak another language is much appreciated, even if you suck at it. It’s true.

I exit the building, putting my dog-eared hat back on as the wind whips through the wind tunnel of surrounding skyscrapers. The sun is breaking through. It’s cold, but it’s a beautiful day.



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